Saturday, 20 June 2009

Diana Watch

So I have decided that I will do the Sunday blog today. As I explained last week we are going to be in the Lake District on Sunday and it is our first wedding anniversary. Probably won't be able to do next Sunday either, will Twitter though, as long as there's something funny to say.

This week 2 people have sadly died and it was covered endless and with some degree of rather sick relish by the 24 hour news channels.
In Scotland a lady who was suffering from Swine flu, on top of several other serious medical conditions, died. For the rest of the day, despite the fact that there was no new information and with no respect for the bereaved, they carried on shouting “woman dies of swine flu.” She had also given birth prematurely. It was great for them, Monday was a quiet news day.
Late on Monday evening the Sky News “Breaking News” crawler appeared on the screen. The baby had died. So not only had the family lost the mother, they had now lost a baby but was the families sadness mentioned or considered? No, of course it wasn't. News is entertainment. We get to reveal in other people's suffering with virtually no emotional attachment at all.

Following the European elections something rather interesting can be seen. Despite the world's economic problems being caused by greed and rampant capitalism, we seem to taken a leap to the right. The groups that did best in the elections were the right and centre right parties. This is a very odd thing indeed. There are a few exceptions though, the various Green Parties have done quite well but it was mostly right wing parties.
Incumbency doesn't seem to have been on issue either. Here, Labour (very slightly left of centre) did very badly but the Conservatives, UKIP and the BNP did well, but in countries that had right-wing governments, the incumbents did well. You have to ask yourself why this is and I have to admit that I don't really know. Their ideas caused the problems but instead of moving towards a more caring, sharing socialist future we have, instead, decided to blame people. Not the people that actually caused the problems, oh no. MPs expenses, White Men. World Economic Meltdown, mostly White Men again. And do they blame the White Men (you know, with them being white men and all), ummmmm, no. Brown people and the foreign. Genius.
It shows an inherent laziness amongst us. We decided against facing up to our own mistakes and failings. We avoid the complicated and nuanced arguments about politics, immigration, the best way to run our economy etc. and just go straight for the blaming of people how's fault it isn't. Hmm, lack of leadership? Economic disaster? Voters leaping to the right? Please let us have learnt from history.

Across the pond (it's not a good phrase is it) and President Obama, or Daniel Son as he may now by known (it a fly catching/karate kid reference), announces big new, bold plans to regulate banking in the US. Over here on the other hand Alistair “suspicious eyebrows” Darling delivers a Mansion House speech which basically said, “You have all been very bad, don't do it again. No, don't worry I won't be changing anything. Carry on as you were.” Obviously I'm para-phrasing but you get my point. He also seems to be going back on promises he made at the G20 summit on Hedge fund regulations. We had the opportunity to change things and make them a little better and what did we do? Absolutely nothing.

And the Telegraph carries on, and on and on and on.

Some awards I think,

The Award for Deeply Strange Priorities of the Week,

This goes to The Daily Mail, who, on Thursday had a headline about their new campaign about wheelie bins. This was, according to them, the most important thing that happened the day before. Protests in Iran. Another ministerial resignation. The Chancellor and the Bank of England disagree over the best way forward for banking reform and policing of their risk taking. None of these things is more important than wheelie bins.
Whilst we are on the subject of the Mail, today (Friday) they have a poll on their website which asks “should gypsies be allowed to jump the NHS queues?” This was described on Twitter as the worst Daily Mail poll ever and was linked to so that we could all join in. When I voted the poll stood at 92% saying Yes. I don't think that it was all Daily Mail readers that were voting.

The Award for Best MP Expense Claim of the Week,

Parliament has finally published it's version of MP's expenses this week and most of it seemed to look like this ,(blacked out section didn't work on here)

Because it was censored so that we won't find out where they live or something. It hasn't really added much to the debate but it has shown us one fun little fact. George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor, claimed £47 for DVDs. Of speeches that he gave. On the subject of “Value of Money for the Taxpayer”.

The Award for the Most Stupid Place to Fall Asleep of the Week,

This goes to this girl,
she is Belgian and she went to the tattooist to get 3 stars tattooed on her face. The first of many questions about this story is, why would you get tattoos on your face? She explained to the man about to scare her what she wanted but his French was so poor that he didn't understand how many she wanted. She than managed to FALL ASLEEP WHILST HE TATTOOED 56 STARS ON HER FACE? How is that possible? I have some trouble sleeping in my own bed, let alone with a man who doesn't speak good French TATTOOING MY FACE!

Hopefully I will get back to normal soon, well I'll try, because you all seem to read and, maybe enjoy, this nonsense each week and for that I thank you. Might make it past 6000 reads on myspace this week!
Oh well, off to the Lake District. In a tent.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Diana Watch

Hello to you all. How are you today? Let's start with a joke, Nick Griffin of the BNP was deeply annoyed about the egg throwing in the week, “The bastards could have separated the whites first.”

OK, so it wasn't the best joke you will ever hear but it's quite funny. As I said in the week, he does have the right to speak but we also have the right to protest. Throwing stuff is, technically, assault so don't do that, no matter how funny it is. Significant Other suggested that there should be mass silent protests. Every time the little tosser opens his mouth in public there will be a small group of quiet banner holders. He can't complain about that and there is no chance of him casting himself as a victim as he tried after the flying raw omelette the other day.
He tried to claim that it was orchestrated by the main political parties trying to silence him. Has he not seen 24 or Spooks? Has he not read 1984? If that is his paranoid understanding of how the State silences it's critics I think it can be best described as quaint.
The election of the BNP MEP's was used by David Cameron to argue against Proportional Representation when Gordon Brown talked about electoral reform, because 65% of the population DIDN'T vote but of those that did, a largish proportion voted for Fascists. No,no Mr Cameron, you miss the point. The BNP got in because most people didn't vote. None of you got a popular mandate because most people stayed at home.
The challenge with PR is to motivate people to vote. As it stands many feel disconnected from politics, I don't why, surely these hard times should get more people engaged, anyway, so they don't vote and the minor parties whose only policies seem to be about focusing anger on people who aren't them, motivate their supporters really well. Your task is to get your people out to vote

The cliché is that a week is a long time in politics but look at the turn around, sort of, in Gordon Brown. We had the crushing defeat of both the Local and Elections and then the fun of the reshuffle. Various Ministers stropping out, some to spend more time with there families, some to spend more time with their stylists (although I really shouldn't mock Caroline Flint because I thought she looked great in her photos and she did her job well, can a woman not be clever and attractive?), others left thinking that many others would follow them out only to hear the sound of a slamming door and some giggling. I'm assuming that James Purnell feels a little silly now.
This week, however, the tide may have started to turn. There has been some quite good news on the economy, you remember that I assume? Worst economic crisis in living memory? Gordon Brown did well at the G20, could be said to have saved Western banking. This week we had manufacturing figures that showed that production was up 0.2% last month and the month before. There were figures regarding mortgage lending, up by between 14 to 17% on the month before. And then the slip that Gordon had been waiting for.
On Radio 4's Today programme the Shadow Health Minister, Andrew Landsbury, was being interviewed by professional interrupter John Humphries when he let it slip that the Tories would protect the NHS, schools and International Development but apart from that there would be 10% cuts in spending. A couple of hours before Prime Ministers questions and an open goal was presented to the PM. I would imagine that the smile on his face looked really rather sincere that day.
PMQ's was super fun. Watching anyone land, metaphoric, punches on David Cameron is always fun. I am not a Labour supporter but I am a Tory hater so anyone getting the upper hand on them will always get my support. Go Gordon, Go Gordon.

The Government did have one little problem this week in the form of the Law Lords. They ruled that Control Orders, the fantastic piece of law that says, ok we think your guilty but can't prove it but we will lock you up in your own house, where illegal. The part that they decided was illegal is the bit where you can be charged with something but not told what. Or told the evidence against you. But they believe that you did or might do something illegal, probably terrorist related, and the evidence was gained in a way that disclosure of it might endanger national security. You don't think locking people up with no charge or disclosed evidence against them might annoy them a little? And their friends? And family? Do you think that these injustices may help radicalise those who were getting moulded that way?

The Awards for the Week I think now,

The Award for not knowing what a song is about but using it on an advert anyway,

One of the best examples of this up to now was the BBC advertising itself using Lou Reed's Perfect Day. A song about heroin abuse I believe. That's how I want to see my national broadcaster. Oh and then they released it for Children in Need.
The winner is the new Heinz Baked Beans advert for their new little packs designed for microwave use. The song they have chosen to use is Ring my Bell. See, microwave finishes, little bell rings. What was that song, oh yes, You can ring my bell. I don't wish to come across as a joy-spoiler or that I take the music thing to seriously but it isn't about a bell. It's a euphemism. It's about rude things not baked beans from a microwave, unless of course Heinz are aiming at people who really like baked beans, I mean really like baked beans.

The Award for a bit late now of the week,

You may have noticed that the British aren't too fussed about their privacy are civil liberties. We love a CCTV camera because we have been told that it will make us safer. We love to be told by a Government that curtailing our freedoms and civil liberties with ID cards and databases and spying and holding on to email and phone information will completely stamp out terrorism, it will never happen. You can not be 100% safe and have any freedom. But, sorry to start a sentence with a “but”, I want to start my book with a “but” just to annoy people, you tell BBC viewers and listeners that there is a new 118 info service that is a mobile phone directory and they will be up in arms. Oh my, the vitriol aimed at this company via the medium of stroppy email and text to the BBC was immense. “it's an invasion of my privacy” was the major complaint. It really isn't. You can remove your number from the system and if someone wants to know your number the company will text you first and ask if they can pass on your number. Oh and there is the point that they got all the numbers from various websites that we had all used, entered our mobile phone numbers and then not read the small print when they ticked that they had read the terms and conditions. IT'S YOUR OWN FAULT PEOPLE! Only yourselves to blame.

I think that that will do for this week. Now I promised last week that we would all be back to normal and there would be a Sunday blog each week again. A small problem there because next Sunday is my first wedding anniversary and we will be in the Lake District, in a tent, not my idea. Significant Other wanted to go camping so camping we will go but I'm sure I will enjoy it. Will Twitter though.
Right off to Wimborne Folk Festival this afternoon and have been told by my friend that I'm not allowed to laugh at Morris Dancers, despite the fact that they are funny, and I must celebrate a life with bells on. Have a good week.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

BNP vs Eggs

Sorry there was no blog on Sunday. I had yet another computer problem. And then I was busy leaving my job and stuff. Ah well.

Now it seems that some of you didn’t vote on Thursday in the European election and because they use proportional representation that means that those of you who didn’t vote are now responsible for the BNP having 2 MEPs. It’s your own fault so you can’t complain.

For those of us who did vote and believe in freedom of speech today has thrown up one of those little debates that are sent to try us.
Legitimate MEP and convicted holocaust denier Nick Griffin wanted to hold a press conference outside of the House of Parliament to celebrate the fact that people in Liverpool couldn’t be bothered to vote but he was pelted with eggs by some anti-fascist group or other.
Now, whilst I approve of pelting fascists with eggs because it is very funny indeed, they also do have the right to have a press conference because some of you voted for them. They do have the freedom to say what they like (as long as it is within the law Mr Griffin) and this should be defended but people do also have the right to protest against them.

Shall we watch together as a tosser runs away form some eggs?

See, I told you it was funny. However this is not the funniest protest on YouTube. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you a press conference by Gary Kasparov set to music. Enjoy.

Hopefully I will get to a proper blog on Sunday as I have most of the month off so there are no excuses.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


So, I know that I have gone on about how dull the “expenses” thing is, and it is, but I feel that there is one part that is being ignored.
With the European and local elections coming up this week many of the writers in the press have been going on about the rise of the smaller parties and a swing away from the 3 main parties. They are most worried about the BNP and UKIP. Rubbishing the claims of the BNP is fun but it is also too easy.
We did get a campaign leaflet from them a week or 2 ago and it was hilarious. Pictures of some people, who tuned out to be actors, some not from round here, and next to them some text. The text was not attributed to them but it was next to their picture. And then half way down the back of the leaflet were the names of some wars that Britain has won. What on earth does that have to do with anything?
In one of their leaflets they did attribute a quote to some one. That some one was former Scots Guards NCO Stuart Walker, who found his picture on a BNP leaflet and a suitable quote attached to his picture. When he phoned the BNP office to complain he was told to “fuck off”. That will win over the voters.
The current campaign for donations on the BNP website describes this election as “The Battle of Britain” and has a picture of a Spitfire in its graphics. The BNP do know that not all of the people flying planes for us during that battle were English, don’t they? I mean I don’t won’t to rain on their parade or anything (well I do) but there were quite a lot of Polish men flying planes for us. In fact 133 men flew for the Allied forces and were responsible for 8% of all the German planes shot down (according to Wikipedia). Some of them were even Black. Ah, ill-informed racism. What fun.

UKIP, on the other hand, are a little bit harder to get at. Yes they all seem to be white, middle aged, middle class men but that’s not really a very good criticism. How about…..umm….. Fraud?
Ok, let’s start with fraud. In 2004 a few UKIP members were actually taken seriously enough to get themselves elected to the European Parliament (sorry about that, think that might have been the South West’s fault.) but the good times didn’t last long. Ashley Mote, for instance, was expelled from the party for benefit fraud, he was later jailed and Tom Wise is now facing prosecution for alleged false accounting and money laundering relating to his EU expenses. It’s that word again kiddies so let’s move on to that then shall we? UKIP Leader Nigel Farage (is that a made up name?) said in a debate with former Europe minister Denis MacShane that he, Mr Farage, (made up name) had claimed and received in the region of £2million since 1999 in expenses. I’m sorry, is that the pot calling the kettle black? £2 million? Ok it’s over 10 years but that is still £200,000 per year on top of his salary. He did, of course, justify this by saying whilst MEPs were "very expensive", he was entirely happy that the money had been used for the best of causes." I.e. his. When pointed out to him that his expanses dwarfed that of any UK MP, you know the ones he has been complaining about he dismissed this be saying that his behaviour “endemic throughout the European Parliament.” Well that’s ok then. Isn’t that the sort of answer that would have turned his chinless face red with anger if a London MP had said that?
He also employs his wife in his office and pays her from his expenses. Another thing that our MPs have been criticised for. You know it’s getting bad when the BNP can land punches on you.

So as we can see The Telegraph has only given one certain part of the story but claims innocence over criticism that it’s reporting has made people think about voting for a minority party. Vote Green if you want to make a protest, hell, vote Green because it is a good thing to do but please get out there and vote on June the 4th.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Diana Watch

“Alan Bennett didn't want it so he gave it to me.”

Hello again, sorry it's Monday and you're only just reading this. Well I'm sorry it's Monday all round really as I had the nicest weekend. We spent Saturday and Sunday at the Hay Literary festival at Hay on Wye. A lovely time was had by all, helped by the excellent weather. I was in Wales and I was hot. I'm not sure if this has happened to me before.
We went to 4 events during our time there. We spent to see the Early Edition with Marcus Brigstock. We saw Sarah Walters promoting her new book and significant other got her copy signed. Today we saw the philosopher AC Grayling talking about our declining civil liberties and Simon Schama talking about his new book at tremendous speed. All of them funny and entertaining. It is a bit middle class playground but if you can get past that a good time will be had, unless you are a middle aged, middle class bloke in a linen jacket because you'll fit right in.
We took a few pictures to try and capture some of the atmosphere, see what you think,

Marcus Brigstock and Friends
Having Lunch
No, it's a road
Sarah Walters
I wasn't looking
AC Grayling
even sign posts get cold
Simon Schama
Hay town centre

Because there has only been MP expense based news again this week I'm only going to do some awards,

The Award for Nice Thing For London to do of the Week,

Boris Johnson, not a man who I agree with that much although he is entertaining, is going to place 30 odd pianos on street corners around our capital city so that people can have a bit of an ivory tinkle when they want. How nice is that? Just leaving some pianos, bolted down obviously, for people to play.

The Award for Newspaper Phrase I Would Advice You Not to Google,

This goes to the News of the World who described Susan Boyle for Britain's Got Talent as an “Hairy Angle”. Don't Google this, it's not pretty, unless you like that sort of thing of course.

The Award for Most Embarrassing Data Loss of the Week,

This goes to the RAF who lost a hard drive earlier in the week. It contained the personal details of many of their staff. Now this would be bad enough, a military service loosing data, but it isn't that simple. The hard drive also contained RAF files on officers and their more interesting habits and personal peccadilloes. The files contain details of senior RAF staff who have had affairs and have been caught taking drugs and many other fun things. The files were, of course, not encrypted. Oh dear, oh dear. But it is very funny.

The Award for Advertising Campaign That Encourages the Biggest Waste of Your Money of the Week,

So this could go on the spray on hair I saw advertised on the channel “Dave” last week but there is one that is so ridiculous it can not be beaten.
Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the Volvic challenge. For those of you not familiar with this advert, some bloke says that he has been asked to drink a 1 and a half litres of water per day. You get a sort of video diary and he says he feels better at the end of the 2 week challenge. Now, there is nothing wrong with that. Being well hydrated is good for you. It aids weight loss, it's good for the skin etc. The problem is the nonsense ad speak at the end of the piece that insinuates that there is something special about Volvic that makes it different for other water. Well, yes there is. The price. The cheapest Volvic I could find was £2.20 per litre meaning that per day the Challenge will cost you £3.30. Tap water on the other hand, which has higher standards of cleanliness than bottled water, is about £1 per 1000 litres so drinking the recommended amount will cost you about 0.15 pence per day. £2.20 per day Vs £0.0015 per day. The choice seems pretty clear to me.

I'm sorry about the lack of proper news this week but I promise that I try harder next week, as long as we don't have to suffer MP's expenses too much.