Sunday, 26 April 2009

Diana Watch

“The good thing about Science Fiction is that no one lives in Hampstead”
J.G. Ballard

Whilst I’m typing this I am watching the London Marathon at the same time and feeling a little jealous. I wish I had that sort of motivation. I managed 10 miles a couple of weeks ago but really must try harder.

There isn’t much news this week except for the budget but there have been one or two other things.
All of the terror suspects who were arrested following the terror chief/photo incident of last week have been released with no charges whatsoever. Gordon Brown claimed that the police and security services had saved us from a massive terrorist incident. It seems that they might not of. In fact they may have saved us from….ummmmm…..nothing. Well, some immigration offences may have occurred as they have all been handed over to the Immigration Services so that they can be deported.
The problem here is not that MI5 are arresting people who they think might be terrorists and getting it wrong, it’s a hard job, I’ve seen Spooks. No, the problem is the wall to wall coverage in the newspapers and on the 24hr news channels. Oh and comments from our Prime Minister. They manage to give the impression, whether it is true or not, that people are arrested and realised because they are a bit foreign looking and are unlikely to have done anything terrorist related. The constant coverage that claims that they are terrorists and then the coverage of their release and the criticism of the authorities undermines peoples confidence in our security services and breeds the sort of disconnect that is then covered on the news, usually as some sort of vox pop interview, as proof of the divide between “Muslims” and the rest of us. You are not helping, stop it.

South Africa has re-elected the ANC as its ruling party but luckily without the 2/3rds majority needed to emend the constitution. So what has happened since the ANC took over 10 years ago? Well, they had a health minister who claimed that beetroot and garlic would cure HIV, the murder rate shot up and the number of people living on under 1$ a day has doubled. I am, of course, not claiming that things were better under white minority rule because it wasn’t but it is not now a land of milk and honey.

As you know in Britain we really dislike a benefit cheat. Our right wing press spends many a column inch demonising those who claim for things that they are not entitled to. However our press seem to ignore those who have left our country and have retired to other countries. They ignore them when they are talking about immigration to this country and they ignore them when it comes to benefit fraud. A report out this week from the Dept of Work and Pensions claimed that £69 million was being illegally claimed by Britons living overseas. That is a lot of money. Benefit fraud is estimated to stand at about £800 million per year and nearly 10% of it is committed by people living abroad. Lets be honest, these are probably not young people. Old people can be bad to.

I suppose that we should at least mention the budget. The thing that a number of the papers and TV news concentrated on was the rise in income tax to 50% for those earning £150,000 or more. That would be the top 1% of earners than, so not that many people effected. The interesting point that I only heard mentioned once was that this was only for cash income. The government have left open the tax loophole that allows people to take some of their wage in stocks and shares and for the they only get charged capital gains tax at 18% so a lot of them will get out of it. They are trying to close some other loopholes though.
David Cameron railed against this tax rise saying that it would be bad for Britain but when asked if he would scrap it he said that it “wouldn’t be a priority”. So really you quite like it then?
The fuel price escalator has returned which had annoyed a lot of people but the Government are trying to put people off of driving. When fuel prices shot up a while ago the amount of petrol that was purchased fell. People drove less and walked more. Surely that is what should be encouraged? Just me then?
What I thought was a remarkable scheme was also announced by Mr Darling during his mercifully short speech. It was a scheme to find anyone under 25 who has been unemployed for about a year a job or a place on a training scheme. Come on, this is an incredible idea if it works. During the fast recession of the Tory reign, there were 2 by the way; unemployment was a price worth paying and a generation of young people were abandoned by the government. And whilst we are at it, unemployment is currently at it’s highest since 1997, or since the last time that the Tories were in power.

What neither party is willing to admit is that we have no way of knowing what effect Government actions have on the economy. The argument will be, we did this and it all got better but the counter argument will be if you’d done this it would have got better more quickly. The problem is that you can not prove either argument. The likelihood is that if we did nothing the economy would get better in the end. We will have a recession about every 15 years. That seems to be how that system seems to work. Gordon Brown did not end boom and bust, in fact he had no effect on it at all and possibly helping it to become a little worse but all the arguments are hypothetical.

And now the weekly awards,

The Award for Piss Poor Film Trailer Making Sure That I Don’t Go and See It, Of the Week,

This goes to “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”. The trailer is awful and it must have been the easiest film to write. The entire plot is lifted directly from “Christmas Carol” and they’ve merely changed the situation. Lazy.

The Award for Silly Names of the Week,

Channel 4 have a series called “Embarrassing Bodies” which sometimes helps to enlighten people about various dysfunctions of their bodies. Last week they really pushed the boat out and some researcher must have spent a lot of time trying to find a spectacularly inappropriately named Doctor. Ladies and Gentleman I give you a gynaecologist called Dr Slack.

The Award for Policy Hiding/Public Misleading Euphemism of the Week,

On the Today program David Cameron was talking about education and he used the phrase “introducing new providers”. I’m sorry? What do you think that means? “introducing new providers”, oh I get it, he means privatisation. Oh that would make sense. Government has to cut back so get some private companies involved. The thing is, it doesn’t work. There was an unsurprising report a couple of weeks ago about council provided home care. This is provided, almost exclusively, by private companies. It seems that corners were being cut and the care wasn’t up to standard. Of course it wasn’t. Private companies have to make a profit, that is the bottom line. There is no other point to them.

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