Thursday, 30 April 2009

Please Go Petition Tops No 10 Site

Oh come on people, the Labour Party didn't set up the Downing Street e-petition site so anyone can just drop by and heap even more abuse on the hapless Scot in charge. What it is there for is to engage voters in discussion on topics of concern and to show the Government our thoughts and what we would like to see done about them.
The person who created the 'Please Go Gordon' petition obviously thought he was raising a legitimate concern as did the 36,700 signatories that made it the most popular campaign on the Prime Minister's own website.
I expect that as news gets out about this petition, the number of petitioners will go through the roof and a petition will be raised urging the Leader to hang around a bit longer yet. Actually, there is one already and its attracted 31 signatories including a Mr Gordon Brown and a Mrs Gordon Browns mum.
The No 10 e-petition page was set up in 2006 and the Prime Minister's office responds to petitions with more than 200 signatures which may be interesting.
The Labour Party's other recent trip online was Gordon Brown making an announcement about his Party's expenses scandal on YouTube but that ended with user comments being switched off after a deluge of unsavoury comments.
Yes, it is funny and Gordon has been on the sharp end of a good shoeing recently but remember that he is going to be in charge for at least another 12 months yet so let's not peak too soon. We have to pace ourselves people.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Surviving Swine Flu

Admittedly i haven't seen anyone sporting one yet, but i just know that soon we are going to be sharing our pavements and town centres with twonks wearing surgical masks to fend off the Swine Flu.
The highly excitable media like nothing better than a good old fashioned pandemic with designs on wiping us all out and as the Ebola Virus and Bird Flu miserably failed to do it, they are pinning their hopes on this Mexican variant of infection to do it.
The World Health Organisation apparently has a 6 step grading for such events, and it is presently set at phase 4 but is nudging 5 which would indicate widespread human-to-human transmission.
As usual in the middle of a global crisis, we turn to breakfast show doctors to give us some perspective.
The good doctor reported that there are a few cases of this new strain in the UK but pointed out that approx 12,000 people die of plain old run of the mill flu here annually anyway. The US has reported it's first death courtesy of the Swine Flu which is not good but it would have to finish off another 35,999 people to just reach the heights of the deaths normal flu incurs.
So are the surgical masks going to top us prematurely pushing up the daises?
"A novelty red nose from Comic Relief Day would give just as much protection" said the Doctor, "If you have the infection it is a good idea to stop you spreading it around, but the infected water droplets from sneezes and coughs land everywhere so it doesn't stop you picking it up through other ways such as on your hands coming into contact with infected door handles and surfaces".
So there you have it straight from the mouth of a TV Doctor so it must be true, you not only look a tremendous twonk, but you can still get it just as easily as the rest of us.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Dealing With The Muslim Threat

Gordon Brown looked more troubled than usual as he entered the cabinet office and took his seat at the head of the table.
He gave a small sigh and shook his head slowly as he digested the headlines of the morning papers spread out before him. It wasn't good news, 'MUSLIMS RELEASED WITHOUT CHARGE. NO TERRORIST PLOT AFTER ALL' screamed the front page of the Independent.
'STUDENT'S INNOCENT' was the headline of the Guardian. 'MURDERING MUSLIM ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FREED' spouted The Sun.
The rest of the cabinet waited in silence until their leader neatly folded the newspapers and commenced the meeting.
Dismissing the usual pleasantries, he set about the burning issue of how yet more young men of Asian appearance had been arrested in a blaze of publicity only to be released days later without charge.
"We must be able to find some Muslims who are hell bent on blowing us up" he urged looking towards the Home Secretary "I go on TV and say how we have foiled an imminent terrorist attack and it turns out all we have is a bunch of Pakistani University students. Not one of them had the decency to have any incriminating evidence in his flat".
He stroked his chin and cast his one good eye around the room.
"The problem" he continued slowly "is that there isn't any obvious differences between peace-loving Muslim living here and rage-filled Muslims intent on causing murder and mayhem."
"I am putting forward a motion in the House of Commons this afternoon that makes it law that all angry Muslims harbouring ambitions to explode bombs in this country must wear a large 'I'm a Terrorist' badge on their jackets" spoke up the Home Secretary shuffling her papers and shifting the receipt for 'Debbie Does Dallas: The return' to the back of her folder.
Gordon smiled broadly, "Great idea, get 5 million of them ordered because the present policy of poking a gun in the face of anyone male and Muslim and dragging them off to the nick for 14 days of interrogation isn't working."
"Thinking outside the box a little" piped up the Secretary for something or other "We could always avoid arresting Muslims until we have some firm evidence that they are planning to attack us".
After the laughter had died down, Gordon Brown wiped the tears from his eyes and chuckled "But seriously, we need a policy that allows us to look as if we are doing everything we can to protect our citizens from the millions of Islamic fundamentalists bearing suicide belts residing here so we can bring in more draconian laws to clamp down on environmental protesters, bring in Identification cards and throw hecklers out of our party conferences".
There was a collective scratching of heads around the table and after a few minutes of silence Brown pushed back his chair, stood up and declared "Well I can't think of anything, so meeting over and Charles, send an armed SWAT team over to that Indian takeaway around the corner. We have to get lucky one day".

Friday, 24 April 2009

Obama Does A Khrushchev

On one side we have Joseph Stalin and on the other George W Bush. One was a tyrannical ruler responsible for countless deaths and widely blamed for destroying the country he presided over. The other was the ruler of the Soviet Union but both have something in common, they are being brutally exposed by the man who has taken over the hot seat from them.
Khrushchev's secret speech set about exposing Stalin and his cronies misdemeanors and tore down the image of cuddly Uncle Joe. Not that George W Bush could ever be considered cuddly but Barack Obama is doing a similar hatchet job on his predecessor and his associates.
With the release of the Bush administration torture memos, Obama is playing a clever tactical game of jerking the knife everybody had already stuck in Bush's stomach. By showing just how morally bankrupt and twisted the former Administration was, Obama's star can only rise globally as the antidote to Bush's poison.
The Obama administration is now set to intensify the torture debate to an even greater level by releasing as many as two thousand new pictures that had been blocked by the Bush administration, showing prisoner abuse by US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The original pictures from Abu Ghraib created outrage around the world when they came to light in 2006 but were described by the Bush administration as 'a few bad apples' and 'isolated incidents' at the time, also repeatedly stating that they didn't torture prisoners.
There is now growing momentum for an independent commission to investigate the Bush administration’s approval of enhanced interrogation techniques, known as torture everywhere else, which would incriminate the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
Tony Blair and his cabinet followers will be watching proceedings nervously because British involvement in the secret prisons and what went on in them is widely suspected despite frantic denials.
Maybe the consequences for their unlawful and illegal actions before, during and after the Iraq war is finally going to catch up with the Wars architects.

Disgraceful Treatment Of The Gurkha's

Near the Ministry of Defence Offices in Westminster there is a monument dedicated to the Gurkha Soldiers with an inscription that reads 'Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you'.
Oh yes, this country sees you as a faithful friend when you are fighting and dying for Queen and country but if you want to live here afterwards, we'd much rather you sodded off back to Nepal.
It is an absolutely outrageous decision from this Government, and it takes some doing for a decision to be considered outrageous when you think what this mob have gotten up to, to place as many obstacles in the way of retired Gurkha's who want to come and live in the country they fought for to make it practically impossible.
I cannot imagine that there would be one person in Britain who would not support the cause of the Gurkha's and i fully expected the Government to hold up their hands, admit that they had a moral obligation to the Gurkha's and throw open our doors to them. I should of known better really.
In my mind, if you are prepared to die for this Country then you should have the right to live in it and the next time our country gets into a scrap and comes knocking on the Gurkha's door to bolster our forces, we should get it slammed forcibly in our faces.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Reluctant English And St George

A few weeks back there was a story of a Sri Lankan born gentleman who now lives here in England and flies a Union Flag from his house and another flies from the back of his car when he drives to work at the local Post Office.
At work, he refuses to serve anyone who cannot speak English and at home he slavishly made his children learn every word of the national anthem.
Of course the right wing press took him to their collective bosom and held him up as how they would like all immigrants to act when they come to this country, to be English and proud to be so.
As admirable as it is for this man to be so enthusiastic for his new home, he couldn't be acting any less English if he tried.
Outside of a sporting event, the English Flag of Saint George or the British Union Flag is not flown from hardly anything outside of Royal Palaces and i would wager that hardly anyone under 16 knows all the words to the National Anthem.
Big shows of flag waving xenophobia and boasting about this island where we live is just is not the English way, we are much more comfortable playing down our achievements and cracking jokes about our failings then puffing out our chests.
Not that we are embarrassed, throughout history the English have made some important and vital contributions to all areas of human existence which we should rightly be proud of, we just don't trumpet it from the rooftops. I like that attribute in our English genes that shys away from boasting about our achievements and is quick to pull up short anyone who tries to put themselves above anyone else.
It just means that St Georges Day will pass by again with hardly a flicker of recognition or interest from the country he is the patron Saint of and we seem perfectly fine with that.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Budget Day Again

If you smoke, drink or drive, you must really hate Budget Day because when the Chancellor stands up today to present whats going up and whats going down to balance the books in the next financial year, its the fags, booze and cars that get hit every time. As someone who does all three, and usually all at the same time, i know i am going to have to dig a little deeper for the next twelve months.
During a recession, the problem for the Government is that after you hit these three soft targets, you haven't got anywhere else to go to raise revenue without resorting to spin, distortion or stealth and this Labour Party would never do that.
What we will get instead is cuts dressed up as cost cutting measures to save the country some cash. Back in 2003 they announced slashing 100,000 jobs in the Civil Service which must have saved them a few quid even if it means that the guy now dealing with your Tax Return has 15 minutes experience and you are either due a rebate of £150 or you owe them £7,987,045 and you have until Friday to pay up.
The obvious answer, obvious to me anyway, is that you can't raise the basic income tax rates because that would leave those on lower wages worse off and Brown must have learnt his lesson when he messed with the 10% band rate a few years ago and it ended up costing him more than if he had left it alone.
I would therefore put forward the idea that he whack the rich with heavy tax increases. Push the present 40% tax band up to 60% for anyone earning over £150,000 annually. Yes they may whine about it but they can afford it, a family living on minimum wage topped up by Tax Credits can't.
If Brown is determined to cut services, he could look to slash jobs in his own Government by getting rid of unnecessary and unwanted Labour politicians.
Want me to fetch yours and Jacqui Smiths coats Gordon?

Happy 83rd Birthday Queenie

It's Her Royal Majesty's Queen Elizabeth 2 Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the other Commonwealth realms 83rd birthday today. Happy Birthday Ma'am.
The common consensus seems to be that she looks good for an 83 year old and i admit that she does look particularly peachy and healthy although she does wear some strikingly silly hats which we could put down to cataracts or failing eyesight. Could be Prince Philip is too scared to say: "Lizzie, that hat makes you look like a dork' but she is the Queen and could have him dropped off onto a inhabited Island somewhere if he ticked her off.
The Royals do tend to live long and healthy lives, much to Prince Charles disappointment, but i know the Royal secret to living to a fair old age and looking an octogenarian picture of health. Do nothing.
That's the Royals secret. They do nothing whatsoever. Wave at the plebs lining the streets every now and then and remember to feed the corgi's while having your every whim seen to by an army of lackeys, but that's it.
Once a year she has to drag herself in front of a TV camera and waffle about her Commonwealth and what a good year it's been for her family and then she has the other 364 days, 23 hours and 45 minutes free to flounce off around the World and read about her Grandson getting drunk.
Happy Birthday Lizzie, and I'm sure you will have many more. Now get a job.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

How Do We Want To Be Policed?

With more videos surfacing showing police brutality at the G20 protests, there are questions being asked about how the police are operating in this country.
Firstly the case of Ian Tomlinson who died minutes after being the victim of an unprovoked attacked by a masked Police Officer with his identification number removed. A second postmortem on Ian Tomlinson showed he died from internal bleeding, not a heart attack as was first announced. The officer responsible is now being questioned under suspicion of manslaughter.
Then the Sergeant seen to slap a female protester around the face and knock her to the ground with his baton has been suspended. Now video of a riot officer smashing his shield into the face of a protester and officers punching demonstraters surfaces and these are just the ones that have been caught on camera.
Complaints of police beatings away from cameras at the sleep in Climate Camp abound and with the other footage to gauge opinion by, you have to come to the conclusion that police thuggery was rife at that event also .
Days after the G20 events, police carried out a pre-emptive raid on environmental campaigners and arresting 114 people believed to planning action at a coal-fired power station. Seems you don't even have to break the law to be arrested in this country anymore, you only have to be thought of doing something wrong at some point in the future.
Of the 12 students arrested in a blaze of publicity recently, 1 has been released without charge and counterterrorist sources admitted that despite intensive surveillance and exhaustive searches of addresses, they had uncovered no definite evidence for an alleged plot.
In 2006, Police apologised to two brothers wrongly arrested on suspicion of terrorism, one of whom was shot during the raid on their home and this came just after the tragic police debacle which ended up with the death of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles De Menzes.
Yes police do have a tough job but the thought that the police are going to start arresting people pre-emptivly or removing their identification numbers and cover their faces to hand out brutal beatings when they think nobody is watching is frightening. As is the thought that when they do get it wrong, they apply the whitewash and cover up any wrongdoing.
The head of the police watchdog, Nick Hardwick, has called for a national debate about police tactics in the light of all these events saying: "It's got to be a democratic political question about how do we want to be policed?"
Not with incompetence and brutal thuggery would be a great start.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Recession Brings Another Silver Lining

The only time hunting and bankers should be together in a sentence is if it begins 'Over seven hundred bankers were chased across fields today by taxpayers carrying heavy machine guns and rocket propelled grenades..'.
As that has yet to appear on the front page of the Independent, we will have to make do with the news that the bankers are refusing to sign up for the shooting season, forcing some commercial shoots out of business.
As if we needed another reason to hate the bankers, it seems that they were one of the largest groups that bankrolled the sick business of bravely blasting harmless creatures out the sky.
"Banks can no longer budget for it" said a shoot manager who had seen his business fold and faced a future in employment that didn't involve killing things for entertainment.
This recession has had a few silver linings and the closing down of hunting businesses is yet another thing to add to the woo-hoo list along with the fall of Estate Agents, SUV sales, Gordon Brown and the financial sectors abhorrent bonuses.
All i want to hear about now is the collapse of Manchester United, McDonald's and Celine Dion's singing career and i will consider declaring the recession a necessary evil.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Cuba Taking It Slowly

Despite pilfering all his best lines from Bob the Builder, Obama is continuing his unlikely success of making an American President popular outside of America with his decision to lift a wide range of sanctions against Cuba.
Always looking like a seemingly spiteful act to me, the embargo has lasted almost 50 years and the restrictions have been tightened and relaxed by individual Presidents as Fidel Castro sat around dodging assassination attempts and not shaving as White House residents came and went.
With the thawing of relations between the small Caribbean island and its powerful neighbour 90 miles away, there are going to be some winners and losers.
Cuba under Castro has been useful to the right-wing and American Presidents for decades, with the poverty in which many of its citizens live being the example used for the failure of Castro's socialist experiment.
When Fidel stepped down through ill-health last year, they lost their all purpose bogeyman to who they could always turn until another one handily cropped up somewhere else. Hugo Chavez is presently being lined up for the role but as he always gives better than he gets, he can't be relied upon to just suffer it as Fidel did.
During the last US election there was always mention of the large Cuban voting block in Florida which the political hopefuls had to appease. With a thawing in Cuban-American relations and Fidel no longer in power they stand to lose the status of being a consideration to those on the election trail.
Probably the biggest losers will be the Cubans themselves. Admittedly it is a poor country seemingly stuck in the 1950s but the opening of itself to the outside World will bring with it a new host of problems.
The Cubans will not be able to pick and choose parts of Fidel's Communism that it benefits from and introduce the parts of Western Capitalism that it wants, it will be consumed by privatisation, globalisation and western materialism.
The things that make Cuba a success, the low crime rates, superbly trained medical staff, literacy rates that stand amongst the best in the World and a 6th place for human well-being in the Happy Planet Index, will all suffer a drop in standards.
What Cuba will become if it fully opens itself up to us is just another country with a battalion of Starbucks, McDonald's, fast food outlets and the ebb and flow of the financial markets with its offer of loans and financial opportunities.
Fidel may have won his personal war with America, but Cuba should look at how the former Soviet Union countries imploded after Communism and how the financial system employed by the rest of the World is unravelling before our very eyes as an example of the double edged sword that throwing your lot in with the modern World entails.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Happy 60th Birthday Christopher Hitchens

I was lucky enough to cross paths with Christopher Hitchens on a few occasions back in the 80s and early 90s. We were both born in the same place and our careers and left leaning principles bought us and his brother Peter to the same places on occasions.
One of England's most famous and outspoken left wingers, he then went on to throw his dummy out the pram over the Salman Rushdie fatwa incident and defected to the right, a massive coup for that side of politics although they wisely kept him at arms length because one thing you could never do with Hitchens is slap a label on him.
Widely known and respected on the political scene, he recently came to attention again with his anti-religion book 'God Is Not Great' where he sets about dismantling the very idea of a Creator.
Even when he was a self confessed Trotskyite he was still not adverse to hammering the left over ideals he disagreed with and that has continued after his switch to the right with attacks on American involvement overseas and the right wing darling Ronald Reagan.
Another episode that bought him to attention was his argument that waterboarding did not constitutes torture but after being persuaded to experience it for himself, he concluded "if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture."
He may have his faults (heavy drinking, arguing with family members, an horrific need to obliterate anyone he argues with) but he is one of the most listenable speakers with clever, intelligent arguments even though they may come from the opposite side of the floor.
The right may lay claim to him even though he aims as many kicks in their direction as the lefts, but that's what is so admirable about him. He doesn't care what he says or who he says it to and i hope that he will go on throwing out his intelligently and well thought out barbs in all directions for many years yet.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Optimism is a banker ironing 5 shirts on a Sunday evening so the latest joke goes. Due to the economic situation and the battering Capitalism is taking, there has been a substantial rise in the numbers of books advocating alternative systems. Always wise for a chance to increase sales, the local bookshop has a display of just such books as you enter the store with the facial whiskers of Karl Marx and his Communist Manifesto most prominent.
Now if you are a Daily Mail reader or a member of the Conservative Party you will probably not be queuing up at the till with the mid 19th Century publication. You will be far too busy trying to pin the blame for Britain's ills on immigrants for that, but i would advise that if you are one of the recently disillusioned and have heard about this Socialism thing and want to find out a bit more about it, i wouldn't reach for the Marx/Engels book straight away. It can not be called, in any terms, a page turner and can be confusing for anyone dipping a toe into Socialist theory.
Luckily, there is a novel that i always recommend for anyone wanting to read more about Socialism and how it can benefit the everyday working person.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists written by Robert Tressell is a tale of a group of poorly paid workers who throw themselves into back-breaking work for low wages in order to generate profit for their masters.
The hero of the book, Frank Owen, is a socialist who believes that the capitalist system is the source of the poverty he sees all around him and tries to convince his fellow workers of the Socialist view only to find that they are trained by the very people they are making the vast profits for to distrust any alternative system and to rely on them to 'see them right'.
It was written in 1911, around the time of the Labour Party coming into existence and has been cited by many Labour Party members as the book that inspired them into fighting for a fairer society.
I can't recommend it strong enough as the starting point for understanding the Socialist viewpoint if you are one of those tempted by searching out an alternative view to the present system and are contemplating diving straight into the Communist Manifesto.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Public Boycott Of Israeli Goods Working

The left wing, Latte slurping Cafeista's have boycotted Israel products for a long time. Due to their inhumane treatment of the Palestinians, i haven't knowingly purchased anything with the label 'Product of Israel' on it for decades but considering most of what Israel exports to us is fruit, it has been easy to put back on the shelf anything from that country and pick up the Spanish variant.
It seems that more and more people are shunning Israeli products because the Israeli Manufacturing Association have reported growing concern that the public boycotts are impacting upon its economy.
Exports are down all across Europe it warns with the largest drop in demand coming from the UK, Turkey and the Scandinavian countries which has resulted in a 5% drop in the Israeli export economy.
Britain's largest supermarket, Tesco, has even set up a customer helpline for people to complain about it stocking Israeli products. Other supermarkets have also began the practise of labelling products from Israel and the Israeli settlements in the occupied territory which the IMA blame primarily for the dramatic fall. The thinking obviously is that now we can more easily see what products to not buy so pro-Israel groups in the UK are lobbying the supermarkets to see the practise stopped.
I fear that Israeli pear and avocado growers are going to have to tighten their belts for a while yet if the first few days of the new Israeli Government are anything to go by. Despite not winning the election, Binyamin Netanyahu has gathered together a right wing Government of dubious character including the vile Avigdor Lieberman who sits as the new Foreign Minister and has dismissed further talks with Palestine as fruitless and told the Egyptian President to go to hell.
As Mr Lieberman lives on one of the illegal settlements in the West Bank, it is hardly surprising that he is against handing back any land to the Palestinians also.
Even the pro-Israeli White House seem to be concerned by the direction of the extreme right wing Netanyahu era and has promised 'frank discussions' with the Israels new Government which is a nice change to turning a blind eye to its atrocities.
It isn't for me and my fellow Latte slurpers to urge a boycott of Israeli products, that is up to the individual, but it seems that those of us who do so in protest of Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank, it's working so keep it up and see if we can do what our politicians seem unwilling to do and show our deep displeasure with the countries treatment of the Palestinians by hitting it economically.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

21st Century Breakdown

As George said in Blackadder, I am as excited as a very excited person who's got a special reason to be excited.
Anyone with a pair of working ears can tell that musically speaking, the past few years has been as stony as a biblical execution but halfway through May, the 15th to be exact, things are certain to pick up because the excellent Green Day are releasing their eighth studio album.
With their last album 'American Idiot' doing so well and attracting a new generation of fans, it is surprising that they have taken 5 years to follow it up but if 21st Century Breakdown is anywhere near as good as the politically charged American Idiot, it would have been worth the wait.
The band do seem to divide opinion and of course, if it's a music debate involving attention-seekers ex-punks, you know John Lydon isn't going to be far from the action and sure enough, punks top banana slipped in a few words of his own when asked about Green Day, referring to them as "a wank outfit".
So Johnny may not be waiting in the queue on the 15th but many will, hopefully not out off by the press releases that claim the album is influenced by Queen, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, The Beatles, and The Clash. The public relation team may want to miss out those middle three bands in future releases.
It continues that "The Album follows a young couple, Christian and Gloria, through the mess and promise of the century so far. Musically, the album continues the rock opera style of American Idiot".
I'm sure that the argument about what genre they fit into will rear its head as usual, i would drop them into the tray marked Punk just for the style of music they play and the political message they now seem to carry but they could quite as easily be thrown into the box marked common or garden guitar band.
Anyway, i like them and especially admire the albums artwork which is heavily influenced by our very own grafitti artist, Banksy. We can just hope that the Album is more heavily influenced by Queen and The Clash than Wal Marts Bruce Springsteen.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Thug Officer Caught On Camera

Unfortunately Britain has its fair share of thugs and bully boys who lash out without provocation and bring fright to the general population. Of course we also have people who do that who are not police officers but once again the news is full of a police officer who for no reason, hit out at an innocent citizen only this time with fatal consequences.
When news broke that Ian Tomlinson had died during the G20 protests, the Metropolitan police put out a statement that they had tried to help the stricken man. Eye witnesses quickly came forward that told of police attacking Mr Tomlinson prior to his collapse and then the condemning video footage of Mr Tomlinson walking past a small group of police on his way home from work, hands in pockets and not even looking in their direction.
Without provocation, a policeman armed in riot gear and wielding a baton, hit him from behind twice across the back of the legs and then threw him violently to the ground.
Minutes later and 50 yards further down the road, Mr Tomlinson collapsed and died.
As we saw at the trial of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes when a catalogue of police errors led to an innocent man being slain in horrific fashion on a subway train, the MET are not slow when it comes to applying the whitewash although the Police watchdog has reversed its decision to allow the police to investigate the death themselves and have initiated a full criminal enquiry and ordered a second postmortem examination. The first attributed his death to natural causes.
I don't want to give the false impression that all the police are mindless thugs but stories emerge with frightening regularity of police brutality, racism and negligence. They do have a tough job controlling thousands of protesters at times but when you see officers in full riot gear wading into the crowd, courageously punching women and frantically wielding their batons you realise that once they think that cameras are looking the other way, they are as much thugs as the idiots smashing windows and throwing bottles.
At the Jean Charles de Menezes case the police tried to discredit and put out misinformation about the victim prior to the police trial, if they try the same trick with Mr Tomlinson it won't wash. I hope that they don't even begin to try and justify this because it is indefensible and with the faith in the police force to do the right thing already low, this officer should not only be drummed out of the force but face criminal proceedings.
Ironic that the worse violence came from the very people there to stop it.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Happy New Tax Year

It's April 6th and that can only mean one thing, Happy New Tax Year to you!
I made a recommendation on here a while back that we should be able to decide what our tax is spent on. The Government in it's wisdom ignored me and continue with its system of PAYE where tax is deducted at source and Self Assessment where we put our hands on our heart, cross our fingers and tell them what we earned and pay a percentage of that into the countries coffers.
I'm sure that it wouldn't take too much effort to include a list of things that we are happy to contribute towards.
A page of tick boxes were we can say yes, i don't mind my taxes going to pay towards the police force, National Health Service, Ministers porn film expenses or bonuses for the employees of banks who have screwed up our economy.
Truth is they won't let us decide because if it was left to us the Prime Minister's pay packet would consist of 37p and half a jammy Wagon Wheel. Jacqui Smith's would be a 25% off Man size tissues voucher for her husband and the rest of them a carefully folded P45 and an appointment at the job centre .
The Inland Revenue collects around £600bn annually although that is expected to take a hit this year as business fold, unemployment numbers rise and Gordon Browns gambles with billion pound handouts to the banks bite but he dare not tinker with the 20% and 40% tax bands just yet. He dare not tinker with much to be honest because he is in no position to claw back more tax from those of us still working but just wait till things improve.
He, or whoever is in power then, is going to risk whiplash by how fast they are going to up the percentage of tax we pay so make the most of it because all this cash and VAT cuts he is dishing out is going to have to be recouped in the future and we will have to pay it.
Alternatively he could just stop wasting our taxes on dodgy wars, bankers bonuses and Ministers obscene expenses claims because just like Mr Smith when he is sat at home alone with the Virgin Media remote control and the Adult Channel, he needs to get a grip.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

23? You're Past It.

The good Professors at the University of Virginia have made the discovery that mental powers peak at the ripe old age of 22. After that it's all downhill and it's a lifetime of trying to remember where you put your car keys and finding them in the freezer alongside your slippers.
I don't know many sub 22 year olds who are planning on ending World hunger or finding a cure for the common cold, most seem more obsessed with making sure their hair looks good and updating their facebook page and that's how it should be. I know there were people like Beethoven who had piano masterpieces under his belt by the time he was 5 or something but look at his hair, child prodigy maybe but a birds-nest of a barnet. William Pitt the Younger was making plans to run the country at 22 but died before his 50th birthday an alcoholic, unmarried and heavily in debt.
Saving the World from disease, writing classic novels or discovering the right order for MC2 and E should not fall to 22 year olds, it should fall to the older generation who have sowed their seeds and have spent a decade working as a janitor in a Patents Office.
Go off and enjoy yourselves 22 year olds and leave it to us oldies to make the discoveries and write the literary masterpieces but before you go, has anyone seen my house keys? I'm sure i had them a moment ago.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Afghanistan Becoming Obama's War

Obama has landed in Europe for the first time and as expected, the leaders are falling over themselves to be photographed with him and he must of thought so far so good. Listening to him speak off the cuff answering questions and not speaking from a prepared script has been enlightening, he tends to waffle and erm and err quite a lot which i wasn't expecting but that could be nerves, he did face some awkward questions. Particular favourite was the question from Nick Robinson of the BBC who told him that Gordon Brown placed the cause of the recession firmly on America's shoulders and asked him if he agreed. He wasn't expecting that and flapped around uncomfortably for a few minutes looking for a political answer which was that 'now was a time to look forward for a solution and not backwards at apportioning blame.'
Apart from that Obama was well received by the Europeans and even the Presidential style speech in Strasbourg began well. He received applause for his plans to eliminate nuclear weapons, close the Guantanamo Bay prison and tackle global warming. Where it all went quiet was when he mentioned Afghanistan and how it was not Americas fight alone and Europe should do more. The crowd of young Germans and French stayed silent as Obama went on to explain that winning the battle in Afghanistan was important for all our securities. The stony silence should send out a very important message to Obama, to us, Afghanistan IS very much America's war and a war that was a central plank in George Bush's disasterous War on Terror.
That Obama, who's rise to power was firmly on the back of his opposition to the Iraq War, is keen to continue the Bush foreign policy in Afghanistan and is happy to expand it with extra troops and raids into the Pakistan border areas, risks poisoning his presidency before it gets into its stride.
Afghanistan was, and remains, aggression against a foreign state intended to punish it for refusing to hand over the man behind the Twin Towers attack. It may have been turned into a humanitarian crusade afterwards but at the time America wanted to lash out at someone and the Taliban, who they were on friendly terms with previously, were it.
Eight years on and Bin Laden has managed to evade the full might of America and the few NATO allies on-board, the Taliban are resurgent and Pakistan has been dragged into the mix. As for the humanitarian angle, the weak Afghan Government are considering bringing in a law that rules women cannot leave their house without their husbands permission, can only seek education or visit the doctor if their husband allows it and wives are forbidden from refusing their husbands sex.
President Obama should take note from recent history and a stark example of how his Presidency risks being poisoned by his decision making in Afghanistan by another disastrous American foreign policy, Vietnam.
He may get support from his fellow leaders and a few extra troops from those wanting to pal up to the new President but the crowds silence said everything about how Obama continuing and escalating Americas war in Afghanistan is thought of outside of political circles and his actions threatens Afghanistan becoming Obama's War.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Moving On From Capitalism

History will show that the year 2008 was either the year the World big players finally moved to change the whole financial system to something a bit more stable and equal or they sat on their collective hands and allowed a crisis turn into a full blown humanitarian disaster.
Last year saw a food crisis which saw the price of staples rocket, stretching budgets even tighter for us in the West but proving devastating for those with barley enough in affluent times in places like Africa, Oil prices hit records high with knock on effects to the gas and electric industry which then passed on these price increases to consumers with two unprecedented price hikes in our utility bills.
Thirdly the credit crunch became a downturn which led to a recession and continues to gather speed at a frightening rate towards a full blown depression equal to that of the 1930s.
That is the way of Capitalism it seems, a period of growth followed by a devastating collapse every decade such as we see now and which i witnessed in the 90s, 80s, and 70s. The devastation of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, families broken up, health issues and standards of living crumbling come with every downturn.
The people at the top may lose substantial fortunes but it is always those at the bottom that are affected the worst, those who were already the worst off.
With the Worlds leaders meeting in London to plot a way out of this latest crisis, the question that arises most forcefully now is do we keep out heads down and just wait it all out before continuing on the same path as usual with all the highs and lows or do we reform or indeed scrap Capitalism and look to replace it with something else.
Beyond doubt is the fact that unregulated Capitalism doesn't work, humans are too greedy, selfish and self-seeking to be allowed to run a system for the benefit of everyone. The pockets are too deep for those at the top so there is very little left to trickle down. When disaster does strike whether by mismanagement, as with the financial markets, or because of reduced consumer spending, as is the case with the majority of the 8000 businesses that fold each week in Britain, it is those at the top who get the large payoffs with everyone else having to trudge along cap in hand to the Social Security Benefit Offices for the £60 weekly allowance to live on. It was John Smith himself, the father of Capitalism, who warned that in his system "the new unemployed would either starve, or be driven to seek a subsistence either by begging or by perpetration perhaps of the greatest enormities and want, famine and mortality would immediately prevail'.
That we need to reform the system is beyond doubt, what we change to is the larger question. To stay with what we have means tighter regulation of the banks, more accountability for their actions, no rewards for failure and an end to the obscene bonus and sky high wages culture. The trickle down needs to improve with an increase in the minimum wage to lessen the inequality gap between the top and bottom but most importantly, reverse the flawed privatisation system that profits only the few.
The alternative is to consign Capitalism to the dustbin of History and find a system that concerns itself more with equality, humanity, an even distribution of profits and is less liable to collapse with such alarming regularity and consequences every decade.