Friday, 30 October 2009

Alan Johnson Sacks Drugs Adviser

Alan Johnson became Alan Sugar today uttering the phase "you're fired!" at Professor David Nutt. What could he have done so badly to warrant this? He based his opinion on, dare I say it, scientific evidence before it goes through the New Labour washing machine on full spin. Alan Johnson said:
I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as Chair of the ACMD
No indeed, why on earth would you base policy on scientific evidence and advice? And why have people around you that would disagree, far better not to question anything, it can as this case shows, make your policy look populist and a little silly.

It's the role of the state to protect and inform, you achieve none of these points by not having an open discussion on drugs. How New Labour.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

MPs Kanye West Kelly's Expense Review

If your not familiar with the joke link

Yo Kelly. I'm really happy for you, I'm going to let you finish, but we had one of the best scams of all time.....

Cedit Cards Crackdown

These proposals were surprisingly released quietly, perhaps due to how late the government is in addressing this in the first place. The centrepiece of these credit card reforms is to outlaw customer repayments being used to pay off the lowest debt first, this obliviously leaves larger debts generating interest nicely for the bank, yet though common practise, they don't tell you that in the really small print.

Other proposed measures include:
  • Raising minimum monthly repayment levels to encourage people to pay off debt more quickly and so incur lower interest charges.
  • Banning banks from increasing credit limits without the prior consent of customers.
  • Restricting banks from raising interest rates on existing debt.
These are points that are hard to argue against, even though banks are trying. Yet if they're banned from belatedly punishing borrowers who turn out to be higher risk than they thought, it may encourage them to lend more wisely in the first place. Banks screaming about making sure credit is available, is all well and good now, after handing it out like candy on Halloween. Pushing them to be more upfront with people is an idea I support.

I would have liked to have seen the practice of selling on peoples debt to companies that specialise in getting to back, without warning or contacting the borrower addressed. For those that won't pay back debt this is a good tactic, yet it's not those people that this measure so often applies to.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Brown's Christmas Present

Isn't Brown that gift that keeps giving. After it was announced that economy shrank by 0.4%, which officially means that this is the longest recession since records began. Brown vowed to restore growth and reform the financial sector by Christmas. Isn't that like getting back the foot spa you gave someone else for Christmas last year.

I can't help but think though - why when writing out that big fat taxpayer funded cheque didn't he issue some terms? Banks sole purpose is to make money, they are by their nature greedy, a little native to be surprised when they get excessive. Which leads to asking why given the taxpayer is the main share holders in these companies giving out billions in bonuses, doesn't our representatives say something? I don't see the problem with a company that is part nationalised that the main share holder has a say over pay, particularly since that share holder was the one that propped their failing company up.

There is also at long last to be announced some consumer protection measures, which for a Tory Labour government is about time. This is really the way to reform the financial sector, empower the consumer. If the banks are foxes in charge of the hen house, arm those hens with tasers.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Baghdad Blast

Another bomb was set off in Baghdad today with devastating effect. Now I'm no explosives expert, but I don't see how this kind of damage was caused by a home made bomb. Which begs the question: where are they getting the explosives from?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

BNP On Question Time

Having just watched the well built up appearance of Nick Griffin on Question Time, I was stuck firstly by the anti fascist groups trying to stop Griffin entering the BBC and the programme going ahead. I seriously question their anti fascist credentials on seeing such video, perhaps reading up on what fascism is may help, as that just ironic.

I did feel sceptical as to whether the programme would really be a debate, but David Dimbleby kept it on track well, particularly since the audience clearly wanted to string up Griffin by his testicles. I would have preferred the programme to focus on questions covering a range of topics, yet it is inevitable that the spot light would fall squarely on the BNP. There was too much interest for it not to.

Jack Straw was the weakest link, the question of whether "the success of the BNP can be explained by the misguided immigration policies of the government" just floored him, combined with Griffin's comments on the Iraq War, Straw really showed that this government can't defend it's record. Which hardly puts them in a strong position to challenge the BNP. Bonnie Greer was wonderful, when Nick Griffin was up against her he was really shown to be second-rate. I loved that she lectured him on British history, inviting him at one point to go to the British Museum to understand more.

Out of every one on the panel though it was David Dimbleby that real shone tonight, he threw the incriminating material at Nick Griffin and pushed him to explain it. Those were the times that Griffin really looked awful, loony, racist and embarrassed. I don't think just this alone will expose the BNP or change the mind of their votes, mainstream parties addressing people's alienation will, at least this is a start though.

Vatican Wants Anglicans

Are you an Anglican dismayed at the growing role that women have in the church?

Are you disgusted by woman Bishops?

Do you feel it's scandalous that the church has become more accepting of "gays"?

Then join the Roman Catholic Church today.

Terms and conditions apply. See www.vatican/holysee/terms for details.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Just A Polite Note

I'm currently working quite long hours, so finding it difficult to find time and focus to write up posts. I hope to get back to blogging in a few days.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

37 Names

Since the last Prime Minsters Questions, 37 soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. 37 names were read out in parliament today by one of the men that sent them there, that's 37 families that will never see or speak to there loved ones again. In other news MP's are squabbling about money again, huddling around to talk about their favourite subject, themselves.

Alcohol And The Brain - Horizon

Horizon was really interesting last night, it was about our relationship with alcohol. It was strange listening to it be compared to a drug, as that's not really the way I've ever thought of it. Particularly strange having a scientist speak about the effect it has on our minds, it targets the same parts as cocaine and heroin, remarkable.

It's an interesting idea within the programme with regard to each of us having an individual relationship with alcohol, from and formed when we are young right up until we die. It made me stop and think about mine, which isn't something you usually do outside of hugging the toilet and vomiting.

It's viewable on iPlayer for the next 5-7 days.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Brown to Pay Back £12K

Brown is to repay £12,415 in expenses, I wonder what assets will he sell off to meet the bill?

Another Bet - Glasgow North East By-Election

In an attempt to turn around my betting fortunes my eye has turned to the Glasgow North East by-election, set for 12th November.

The seat

It's the former Commons Speaker Michael Martin's, who stood down disgraced and considerably more well off. In an area that has a high rate of poverty opinions are mixed, some having empathy for a local man saying he was a set-up, others that he's a greedy haggis.

The contenders

This seat is really a run off between Labour and the SNP. The other parties will take a vote share but this is essentially a show down between parties.

The outsider of interest is John Smeaton, who is one of the men who helped foil the Glasgow Airport terror attack. He standing as an independent for the Jury Team on a clean up politics ticket, he has a good back story and creditability. So he's likely to take some of the protest vote, something that the SNP would normally have to themselves.

The result

Michael Martin won the seat originally with a 10,00 majority, it's considered a rock solid Labour seat. Yet Labour dragged their feet over setting a by-election date, leaving the area without a MP for almost six months. Something the SNP are already exploiting to there advantage as "Labour's arrogance".

The SNP did win the Glasgow East seat right next door, which faces the same problems, yet they already had a foot in the door with the seats on the council. They also have to defend their government record as Labour will.

So in keeping with my betting on something that embarrasses the government, I'm going to bet on the SNP winning by a small majority, as I don't think Labour have done enough to keep hold of their core vote.

Update: for those interested in making a bet, the current odds and what bookies you can use can be seen here.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

MPs Expenses Are Back . . . . .

In a Parliament near you from Monday.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Berlusconi - Hold Me Close and Call me Papa

I always find articles about Berlusconi entertaining, from his choice of MEPs based purely on there previous modelling career, to his unbelievable comments made at inappropriate times. He's now describing himself as the most persecuted person "in the entire history of the world".

His completely non-dramatic statement comes as the courts have lifted a law granting him immunity while in office, he now faces corruption charges and trials. The BBC report that:
In an impassioned statement, he then mistakenly told reporters he had spent millions of euros on "judges", before correcting himself to say "lawyers".
A little Freudian slip there perhaps? I'm going to go out on a limb and say he's probably not going to see the inside of a jail cell.

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, which is a little unexpected, I certainly didn't think I would be writing that so soon. I'm left though trying to think of what he's done in actions that deserves such an award, when others like Morgan Tsvangirai are truly more deserving.

I do however agree with the Nobel committee's statement that, with regard to Obama:
Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.

The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations.

Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.
Yet aren't you just giving Obama the award for not being George W Bush? Yes Obama isn't a warmonger, he has opened dialogue of more than two syllables with other countries, understands that climate change might be little worrying and of course also partly closed Guantanamo Bay. Yet he also legislated for detaining people without trial, rather than put them on trial. Released memos that show the Bush administration was torturing people, but declined to prosecute them for crimes clearly committed. Has has called for nuclear disarmament while sitting on the biggest pile of nuclear weapons in the world, not one of which has been disarmed.

He speaks of shared values, all while you can still be thrown out of the military for the crime of loving someone of the same sex, when only a handful of states do same sex couples have the right to marry and he's yet to retract the state terror/spying policy brought in under Bush.

Yes his words are lovely, so now he's got the Prize, earn it.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Tories Conference Policy

I've been following the Tory Conference this week, after Cameron's speech it's time to write about this Conservative utopia they speak of. In a nutshell the Tories want to tackle welfare dependency, anti-social behaviour, boost business, improve the NHS and put a cap on some immigration, which are all traditionally Tory areas. Yet there are some interesting ideas scattered among what you would expect and some bizarre ones to.

All parties are looking at the public sector to save money, Lib Dems were the first followed by Labour announcing policy just before the Tories on freezing public sector pay, I wonder what effect that had on George Obsboure's policy, as his goes much further than Labour's. It would of course be good tactics for Labour to try to create a stand off between the Tories and the unions, not so good for everyone else though if it escalates.

Policy announced that did catch my eye is their tax break for firms created in the first two years of a Tory government. In principle it sounds a good idea, employees are companies biggest financial burden, thus take some of the burden away and make people easier to employ. Also tackling the state pension, this has to be addressed at some point, people are living longer combined with the cost of living having gone up. I would have preferred to have seen some policy that supports people in taking out a private pension though, as that's really the way out of this. Otherwise their could end up a bigger divide between those who could take out a pension and those that couldn't.

Their education policy i.e Troops to Teachers programme falls into the bizarre category, send the troops into schools? How sane, reasonable and not at all gimmicky. Though I'm not really taken with their education policy in general, not only does Michael Gove look like the Child Catcher but his policy is a little child hating to. Yet in fairness just getting politicians noses out of the curriculum would probably be enough to improve the standard of education.

Tory foreign policy looks like just Labours, only difference is the Tories might listen to people rather than just keep doing the same thing. As unlike Labour they've not committed themselves to a course of action. I am disappointed though with Hague on this point and concerned about his little EU fixation, by that I mean his deep, heartfelt hatred for the EU.

Cameron's speech itself was quite pointed in places, I felt he identified the problems with Labour well, perhaps however a little too well. Everything was so calculated and Thatcher like, I even thought at one point he was channelling her. Yet what Cameron does have working in his favour is continuity, unlike Blair he's not just telling one person one thing and another something completely different, while doing whatever he likes and smiling like a manic. Cameron does have a vision, I wouldn't describe it as utopian, yet I can think of far worst.

Update - You can read Cameron's full speech here.

Monday, 5 October 2009

In light of Not Getting Post For The Last Few Days

Touché Nick Newman.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Conservative Party Conference

As the Tories kick off their jolly good conference from Manchester, raise your port filled glasses to what could be an interesting conference. As Labour shreds itself up like a copy of the Sun newspaper and throws itself on the floor of media martyrdom, this leaves room for David Cameron to show he isn't just Tony Blair in a blue tie.

I'm hoping to see some substance, rather than just strategy and tactics from the Tories. Essentially I want to see the difference between winning the election and Labour just loosing it. Particularly since the Tories look to be the next government.

Harriet Harman - Fail

While Harriet was talking on her mobile phone, she crashed into another car and drove off after shouting - "I’m Harriet Harman, you know where you can get hold of me." Clearly not at the scene of an accident you're responsible for Ms Harman.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Lisbon Treaty - What Now?

Following on from by betting post, the Irish have voted "yes" to the Lisbon Treaty, I bet on a "no" vote. My Mum always said to be humble in defeat, humble is not quite what I'm feeling right now after loosing money. Yet what's important is what happens now for Europe, what the treaty means for Britain and the EU. In the interests of disclosure, I'm not anti EU but pro EU with reform, I don't feel the Lisbon Treaty as it stands reforms the EU, it's just another layer of complicated legislation and management.

Ireland now having ratified the treaty means there's only two countries left to do so, Czech Republic and Poland, they are expected to say yes and ratify by December. The purpose of the Lisbon Treaty is to replace previous treaties and streamline EU institutions. It does this by creating an European Commission, which will have an EU president, named by the EU governments and an EU foreign minister will take office along side the president*. This is where is starts to particularly effect Britain.

The name of the person thought to be the EU president in waiting is, Tony Blair. It's difficult to know if the British media are scaremongering or if he's really in the running, as opinion of him is hard to gauge across Europe. Some people though would argue that this good for British interest in the EU, I however would argue that Blair has never been good for British interest, anywhere.

It also has a national effect in that the Tories policy was to offer a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, if it's not in force by the election, it's unlikely referendum will be forthcoming under the circumstances. For David Cameron though this could become a much bigger issue, Euro-scepticism is a really divisive issue within the Tory party and among it's supporters. He has to keep the kettle from boiling over, the referendum was a good way to achieve that. Thus he may have trouble ahead.

For Europe at large the Lisbon treaty expands the EU's justice and police decisions it also creates a rights charter for things such as freedom of speech, religion etc, both of these Britain has opted out of. Which means such legislation will not have a direct effect, though in reality given how interlinked each country is, it's bound to have an indirect effect.

Consequently the Lisbon treaty will mainly in Britain, entrench peoples views and stir up resentment, it will be a centre point of rage for Euro-sceptics. Something that will have to be addressed at some point, I doubt our current government will be the one to do so though.

* For more details the BBC have a handy Q&A page here.