Sunday, 14 December 2008

Santa's Sleigh Slain By Parking Ticket

There was a cracking article in Saturday's Sun about Santa getting a parking ticket. It seems that the festive fellows at NCP Services, who are contracted to enforce parking regulations in and around Nottingham's Tudor Square, slapped a parking ticket on a car belonging to Richard Walters from West Bridgford Round Table.

According to Mr Walters, he pulled over for a mere three minutes while he unhooked Santa's sleigh from the back of his car and pushed it onto the pavement. When he returned to the car, with a view, he claims, to taking it off to the car park having unhooked it's festive load, he was confronted by a parking attendant who was busily earning their little bit of corn by writing out a ticket for good old Rudolph Richard Walters. The Swine! BOO! HISSSS! Shame nobody got into the festive spirit by calling out "HE'S BEHIND YOU!" but we all know how quick of quill those dratted parking enforcers are, eh?

Of course, NCP Services have a slightly different perspective. THEY say the car MUST have been parked for more than the three minutes that Mr Walters proclaims because it takes at least five minutes to write out the ticket. They go on to say that the car was parked on some of those zigzag white lines just by a pedestrian corssing, where nobody is supposed to park, ever, ever, ever, was completely unattended and didn't have a sleigh next to it.

Hmmm, interesting. Parking enforcers are, of course, the scum of the Earth, lurking in shadows to mug perfectly innocent - or at least hassled, harried, hard-working, busy people who are just trying to get through the day - of an outrageous sum for daring to think about slowing down without paying the local tithe. They're over zealous, unpopular (for obvous reasons) and don't have anything else going for them, either, as far as I can tell. Certainly I wouldn't necessarily trust or believe one, particularly where bad publicity might cast them in a poor light.

BUT, and it's a BIG but, IF it's true that the car in question was parked illegally in a very dangerous position, I can't quite see what the problem is. Just because this car was used to convey a representation of a fictitious sleigh to a shopping precinct does not mean that its owner is entitled to break the law and / or put pedestrians at risk, no matter how minor that risk may be.

I've had two unpleasantly close encounters with my local (not Nottingham) Round Table in the past week, and this incident doesn't doesn't do anything to improve my rapidly dimming view of them. In my case, I was not at all pleased to find the self-righteous buggers blocking quiet side roads with their car-drawn sleigh. If I'm out and about on these cold winter evenings, instead of lurking in front of the telly with Mrs S, a smoke and a cold beer, it's because of necessity. I need to be somewhere, probably fairly urgently, and I do not want to find my route blocked by a bloody great sleigh mounted on the back a trailer being towed by a clapped out Volvo. Nor do I appreciate "HO! HO! HO!" as a response to my frantic gesticulations and demands to "Get off the bloody road, you daft old bugger!"

To cap it all, I really, REALLY, don't want to find the road and pavements infested by six - SIX, I COUNTED THEM - officious-looking individuals wearing high-visibility vests and carrying buckets with, I assume, a view to soliciting donations. What do they say to people? "Cough up, or we'll block your road some more?" Yes, I know the Round Table does some very good work, and, if I hadn't been in a tearing hurry (TWICE) I would probably have appreciated their efforts a little more - the sleigh + Santa was actually rather fetchingly done.

But I was, and I didn't, and if I find my way blocked by them again I will be even more pissed off with them than I already am. Just because they're doing "good works" doesn't mean they can inconvenience everyone else, or park illegally or dangerously, for that matter, either. It is not a licence to be a prat, or arrogantly disregard those of us who have different priorities, although I'm inclided to think the Round Table here, and possibly in Nottingham, may not see it that way. If they remember that, and behave accourdingly, they may find people are rather more willing to support them. If they don't, I fear their cause may find itself rather underwhelmingly endowed until they come to their senses.

Billy Seggars.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Hide And Smoke

There's a degree of unwarranted optimism in the British Government's latest pro health fascist, anti-smoking crusade: according to the Telegraph, Ministers have said that cigarettes displays will be banned from shops by 2013. Yet, I haven't spoken to anyone in the past few months who thinks the NuLab NutJobs will still be in power after the next election, or who thinks that the election can come soon enough.

With any luck, they'll be out on their ear long before they can impose this further example of Nanny State bullshit upon us, but some of their fellow hang-wringing Nannies won't be happy:

The Telegraph goes on to report that Dr Vivienne Nathanson, Head of Science and Ethics at the British Medical Association, said: "We don't understand this delay. While we accept that new shop equipment is necessary to implement the new rules we still believe the delay should be shorter and the date should be the same for all shops. This legislation is vitally important to prevent young people smoking so the sooner it is introduced the better.

"The BMA is disappointed that the Government is not planning to ban cigarette vending machines. We hope the proposals to make vending machines 'child-proof' will be rigidly enforced and that if they do not work then this issue will be revisited by ministers."

Really? I'm disappointed that the BMA still exists and that Nanny Viv is still killing time there instead of doing what she was trained - at taxpayers' expense - to do, namely, get off her soap box and start treating patients. I don't understand how the BMA can justify poking its collective snout into free choice of the British public, and do so in our name, yet. I suggest they mind their own business, and get a propper job (if they should turn out to be employable). If we want them, we'll send for them, and in the meantime they should stop bothering us.

The same goes for Harpal Kumar and his colleagues from Cancer Research UK. Kumar reportedly said: "We are very encouraged by the announcement to put cigarettes out of sight but disappointed that vending machines will still be available."

"We urge the Government to introduce these measures as soon as possible, and to consider further measures that are needed. In particular we hope they will work quickly towards developing and implementing tobacco control plans that are ambitious, comprehensive and well funded."

Just get on with the research, guys. That's what you're paid to do, isn't it? Although, I must say, it's taking you an inordinately long time to come up with viable solutions despite being ambitious, allegedly comprehensive and well enough funded to afford a high(ish) profile Chief Executive. Hmmm.

On the other hand, Stephen Robertson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium, seems to have his head screwed on right. He said: "This will hit small stores, which lack the space and resources, particularly hard.

"The Government is right to try to stop children smoking but banning displays in shops is just not the way. It will impose thousands of pounds of pointless refit costs on stores, ultimately met by customers, and create delays and inconvenience for customers and staff."

Absolutely right, Stephen. I don't want to be waiting in line in a small newsagent (not that there are many of them left) while the poor sap behind the counter has to keep scurrying into the back room to get smokes for his customers. And what's going to happen when someone asks for a brand that's out of stock? Into the back to check, back out front to report the absence of smokes, around the back again for an alternative, while the rest of us quietly fume.

No, this is stupid, pointless, Nannying legislation from a Government that just can't resist the temptation to interfere in every aspect of its citizens' lives. Just like every other change they've introduced since the hard of thinking majority imposed them on us in 1997. Still, not long now.

Billy Seggars.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Damian Green Scandal

The Damian Green scandal just isn't going to go away, is it? I've been avoiding the issue because, well, what can I say that hasn't already been said or at least thought by everyone who's read a newspaper over the past week?

For slow readers, the story goes something like this: officious looking bobbies from London's Metropolitan Police arrested Conservative MP Damian Green last week, detained him for 9 hours and searched his home, his constituency offices and, most controversially, his office at the House of Commons. Why would the rozzers do this, apart from the obvious reason that Green is an MP and therefore shady by definition?

Cast your mind back a few months to a time before the news was dominated by the credit crunch, when Gordon Brown-Trousers' job was in daily peril and the Home Office was being battered by a storm of dodgy revelations about illegal immigrants - how many were working in the security industry, one employed in the House of Commons, etc. The government, and particularly the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and PM Gordon Brown-Trousers, were being exposed as ever more incompetent, a laughing stock and a political liability.

Damian Green was, and is, the Conservative Shadow Immigration bod, and his was the delightful task of publicly humiliating the Home Secretary and Prime Minister. Information was allegedly passed to him by a mole in the Home Office, which he then felt obliged to reveal in the public interest, and quite right, too. As a member of the public, I found the revelations fascinating, though I'm afraid the news that the country was being run by a bunch of brainless incompetents didn't come as any surprise.

As you might imagine, Smith and her conies didn't like this one little bit. The idea that people - ordinary people, such as might vote in Parliamentary elections - should find out quite how badly their elected representatives were screwing things up was just unacceptable, and a police investigation into the leak was launched at the request of the Home Office. That led to the arrest of a civil servant, which, in turn, brought plod to Green's door.

It doesn't take a political genius to imagine the circumstances surrounding the investigation. Smith, in fits of indignant fury at being so soundly exposed as a prize prat, calls in the dibbles. As Home Secretary, she's responsible for appointing the Met's Commissioner - the then politically beleaguered and now ousted Sir Ian Blair - making her his boss, of sorts. Nobody ever kept their job by pissing off their boss, and Blair was badly in need of support at the time. Can it be coincidence that Green's arrest took place on Blair's last day in the job? Plod obliged by investigating the "leak" in the Home Office, suggesting that the much-vaunted "police independence" that Smith and Brown-Trousers keep harping on about is illusory, at best.

It must have seemed like an ideal revenge - an inconveniently well-informed MP arrested, the Tories humiliated and shown to be sleazy yet again, just as Gordon Brown-Trousers sucks his way into deeper financial ruin to the cheers of millions. Only it didn't quite work out like that, did it? MPs of all colours, particularly the wonderfully vicious Vince Cable, are outraged by the prospect of big booted policemen barging into an MP's office, not to mention the arrest of an MP on such a petty matter. They're all being very careful to stress that MPs are not above the law, but they're equally concerned that those laws should not be used to prevent an MP from exposing deficiencies in the government. That is the job of an opposition MP, and to interfere with that is a serious threat to democracy.

Of course, Smith, Brown-Trousers and all the other unsavoury characters involved in this saga deny any political motivation, but they would, wouldn't they? They even deny knowing about the arrest and search until after it happened. A look at their record in office, the company they keep, who they accept donations from and a host of other interesting news articles about their conduct is enough to seal their fate as far as I'm concerned - it looks to me like a stitchup that went very badly wrong and is going wronger by the day.

For a while, it looked like Gorbels Mick, Speaker of the House Michael Martin, Mr Sleaze himself, was going to carry the can for allowing coppers into an MP's office without bloody good justification. But now even he's ducked his responsibility, passing the buck to the Serjeant at Arms, Mrs Jill Pay. She, it seems, took it upon herself to let Smith's enforcers rampage around an MP's office on her own authority, without a search warrant. Can you say scapegoat?

Of course, Mrs Pay should have done no such thing, and plod should have advised her that she didn't have to. Then again, the Met is not famous for telling people what they can do, only what they can't, even if they have to bend things a little to get their own way, as this article in the Register points out [New Terror Guidelines on Photography]. Strangely, the Met weren't too keen on being photographed as they took Green's office apart, either, demanding that Andrew Mackay, Senior Parliamentary and Political Adviser to the Conservative leader, should go away and take the film crew with him, according to the Telegraph and this video:

Isn't it odd that police officers - whom we, the public, employ - don't like the public to see them working, and really, really don't like us to commemorate those rare occasions by snapping photographic evidence? Yet they watch us working, via CCTV and other means, 24/7 - all in the name of our own protection, of course. A little more in the way of transparency and a little less of the sweeping new powers to demand identity papers etc wouldn't go amiss there, I think.

Until this story broke, I've always been pretty tolerant of the Great British Bobby. They're not necessarily the sharpest knives in the draw, especially those commonly found on the beat, and they do have a liking for off duty beer and totty that puts most larger louts to shame. But, by and large, they're ok. They work hard as well as playing hard, job conditions are getting worse for them all the time, pay isn't great, but they do their best, such as it is. Can't fault them for trying, has always been my view, even if I was a little concerned about the extra powers they seemed to be acquiring.

But the revelation that accepting information that embarrasses the government from a civil servant can lead to an MP's arrest has changed all that. It seems that some elements of the police, at least, have given up on their duty to protect the public in favour of enforcing the political will of Smith and Brown-Trousers. Oh yes, there have been veiled hints that there was more at stake than just some toe-curlingly embarrassing immigration figures, but do we believe that when we consider who's making those allegations, and when? I don't, and I'm very much afraid that the il-judged actions of one or two over zealous bobbies have tarnished the cherished reputation of the British Bobby and damaged public trust in them.

Besides, Damian Green isn't the first MP to accept leaked information from a Government department and gleefully use it for political gain in the "public interest". Cast your mind back to 1985, when a much younger, far less grey and flabby Gordon Brown (this was before he shit himself over not calling an election) cheerfully told Frank Bough about information he'd obtained from a mole, just as Green has now been accused of doing:

Didn't he look smug? Haven't heard anything about the PM being arrested, though, despite his admission to doing exactly the same thing as Damian Green. Didn't Brown-Trousers think this interview would come back to haunt him? Did he and his cronies really think they would be allowed to bring the full force of the state down on an opposition MP in revenge for a little humiliation without the whole thing going badly wrong? Apparently so, clearly demonstrating that our government is not just corrupt, but dangerously stupid too.

Can we have an election now? Please? Before it's too late?

Billy Seggars.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Budget, Fudge It

Can there be anyone at all left in the UK who thinks the British government is anything other than a very sick joke? The news has been so universally glum of late that I really haven't felt inclined to blog about it. I can't imagine that there's anyone left to whom evidence that "The World's Gone Mad" would come as any surprise, and watching Gordon Brown-Trousers strut around the world stage as though he knows what he's doing is grim beyond measure.

In fact, the only thing worse than watching the blundering buffoon that is our Prime Minister pretending he's some kind of ... well, anything, really ... is watching other world leaders nodding sagely and following his lead. If any proof were needed that the world is not only mad, but in very deep shit and sinking further by the day, it is the sight of other countries so bereft of ideas that the best thing they can come up with is to copy Gordon Brown-Trousers.

Still, copying him they are, and it is surely only a matter of time before he begins to shift away from pretending to be the "saviour" of the economic world and positions himself as its leader instead. World President Brown-Trousers, anyone? It's a nasty, terrifying thought, and one upon which I will not dwell for now. Our lunatic government has no shortage of terrifying ideas, and the current economic crisis has become to financial sanity and the free market what perceived terrorist threats are to privacy and freedom - an excuse to sweep them aside in favour of New Labour imposed ideology that will not work and cannot be maintained without constant state intervention and control.

Of course, state intervention and control is no bad thing - as far as the state is concerned, anyway. For the rest of us, it's a bloody awful way to run a country, but our leaders want to try it all the same. Having mismanaged the economy to the extent where banks have run riot and gotten themselves into the mire, Gordon Brown-Trousers has grabbed control of a large part of the banking sector in the name of stability. Maybe it was necessary, maybe it wasn't, but it's done now and there's not much we can do to reverse it until Crazy Cameron moves in to Number 10.

But things aren't stopping there. Like all power crazed dictators, one taste of control isn't enough for Gordon Brown-Trousers, and in the past few weeks I've heard him issuing stern comments and veiled threats to other large industries too; he expects utility companies to cut prices, demands that fuel prices should fall, insists that credit card companies behave well and so on. I've no doubt that people who are seriously struggling under the economic conditions that Gordon Brown-Trousers, as Chancellor and PM, has created are delighted to hear the proposals, but they won't forget who created this whole mess in the first place.

Moreover, it's no way to run an economy. More and more state control, be it direct intervention or subtle nods and winks, gestures towards how the PM expects an industry to behave and will legislate to achieve if necessary, is a very bad thing. For one thing, the only way to maintain that control is to impose ever more of it. For another, Gordon Brown-Trousers has a reputation for micro-management, and it is his will that is being imposed on a supposedly free market. It seems rather unreasonable that a man who doesn't even have a mandate to govern should seek to control every little detail, particularly when the results of his actions to date are nothing short of chaos.

Then again, that missing mandate is what it's all about, isn't it? Gordon Brown-Trousers wants to be a LEGITIMATE Primer Minister, with his own mandate to govern instead of a second-hand, badly worn mandate wrested from the grip of his predecessor. Hence the economic hero act. We all know that he's no hero - in fact, his years at the Treasury have left the UK stunningly incapable of coping with an international economic downturn - but it's a chance for him to pretend to serve some useful function and he's hanging on to it like a limpet.

The plan is clear enough - be seen to take a tough line with all those industries that are daring to make a profit by charging people for services, especially those industries that are commonly perceived to be "over charging" or whose bills are a source of irritation for the public. Yes, that's going to cost some money in lost taxes, but hey, it's only money and no price is too high to pay for power, is it?

Next, make some sweeping changes to "stimulate" the economy. Cut VAT, for example, that will hit the headlines. Yes, it will cost a lot more money in lost taxes and won't make much of a real difference to real people on the real street, but it will make an impression. Any anyway, some of the lost money can be recouped by stealthily hiking duty on petrol, alcohol and tobacco, and some more can be clawed back by changes to National Insurance, hacking down the personal allowance and introducing a new tax band for "high" earners.

Then announce massive government borrowing on a scale never seen before. The numbers should be so staggeringly vast that critics will be stunned into silence and won't be able to point out that a) the Chancellor's estimates for economic recovery seem stupidly optimistic; and, b) this Government has never, ever been right about borrowing estimates in the past, always overshooting by some considerable margin so why should they be right now; and, c) these estimates are made by the same people who totally failed to estimate in the last budget, just a few months ago, that by the end of the year the entire economy would be utterly screwed and would need such radical measures to keep it out of total meltdown, despite the warning signs having been blatantly apparent for at least 12 months.

None of these measures will - or could - have any real, lasting beneficial effects on the economy, but they might - MIGHT - mask the symptoms of collapse for a short time. Just long enough, say, for the public to be fooled into voting for New Labour at a snap election to be held early next year. Of course, all that borrowing will have to be repaid, and that means taxes are going to have to rise pretty sharply for a long time, but the beauty of it is that this will pretty much have to happen whoever wins the next election. Money will have already been borrowed, spending will be under way and a new government won't be able to do anything about that without imposing yet more financial hardship on the UK.

So even if Gordon Brown-Trousers loses an election, his successors will be in a very difficult position indeed. Pre-emptive revenge, and an incentive, maybe, to stick with the current regime on the basis that the worst of the damage is (you hope!) already done and the promises of jam tomorrow might just be true.

Of course, this all seems pretty sophisticated thinking for a man who, only a few weeks ago, looked incapable of keeping his job or keeping out of trouble for more than a day at a time. It's hardly the PM's style, but it does seem remarkably like the devious, twisted plots reputed to spin forth from the now Lord of Darkness himself. And if HE - or other spin doctors - are behind these bloody awful policies we should be even more worried. For spin is just smoke and mirrors without substance, designed only to look superficially good.

Darling, at the behest of his boss, who, in turn, is dancing to the tune of a master spin doctor, has just made the biggest financial gamble ever - with our money, yet - and, when you look at the reasoning behind it, there doesn't look to be any financial justification for the bet, just political expediency.

Grim, isn't it? No wonder Britain is in such terrible shape, so badly positioned to cope with an unexpected (to the government) international economic slowdown, when the first - and only - instinct of its leaders is to make themselves look good and manipulate the situation to retain their grip on power.

Billy Seggars.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Unnatural Creatures - God Squad Bans Garden Gnomes, Plastic Flowers

I'm not a big fan of garden gnomes. I think they're tacky, pointless and, broadly, a waste of valuable garden space that could be used for something more productive. On the other hand, I also appreciate that some people like them, and I see no reason to frown upon their preference even though I don't share it.

I'm not a big fan of religion, either, for much the same reasons that I don't like garden gnomes, with the addition of pig-headed arrogance, mutton-headed stupidity and ostrich-headed denial of reality to the charge sheet. Again, though, I don't object to people carrying out their religious rituals as long as it's not harming anyone else and doesn't cost me any time or money.

Apart from their similarly pointless existences, you could be forgiven for thinking that there isn't much connection between garden gnomes and religion, and, generally, you'd be right. However, according to the Telegraph, the Diocese of Bath and Wells has forged a link between the two, albeit an unwelcome one. For those God (and aparently Gnome) fearing individuals have banned garden gnomes from the cemeteries under their control on the basis that they (the gnomes, not the folks from the Diocese - a distinction well worth making!) are "unnatural creatures". A spokesman for the Diocese said, "There is no such thing as a real gnome, so why should we have such unnatural creatures in churchyards."

Unnatural creatures in a cemetery, eh? Obviously, that will never do, and I expect to hear that the Worshipful Timothy Briden, Chancellor of the Diocese will be taking an equally firm line with all those angels, cherubs and other "unnatural" statuary that so inappropriately clutters up the region's dead body disposal sites. After all, whether you claim that angels and associated items of religious paraphenalia exist or not, you can't easily claim that they're "natural" creatures, can you? They're either divine or they don't exist!

So hop to it guys, and lets see the back of all those "unnatural" tomb decorations. Yes, I know, many of them are traditional, of historical signifcance and, when all's said an done, they're often quite impressive works of art. But I'm sure the under-smart, over-zealous minions of the Diocese won't let that impede their desire to follow Briden's new instructions. Whilst they're about it, they might like to consider removing Briden from his post, and, indeed, the post and the Diosece itself - purely in the interests of preserving an entirely "natural" environment, you understand.

This policy has to be one of the best examples of pot-kettle-black mentallity that I've ever seen, even in the context of normal background stupidity usually encountered in religious communities. Being something of a traditionalist (although not traditionalist enough to want or need any religious affiliations) I don't particularly like garden gnomes in cemeteries myself. But for an institution whose entire stock-in-trade is the furtherance of an unproven and inherently unprovable belief system to object on the basis that garden gnomes and plastic flowers are "unnatural" is ludicrous.

No wonder church attendance figures are falling - even the British education system is now incapable of producing citizens stupid enough get suckered in by this kind of argument! How long will it be before gnomes are joined in the nation's gardens by minature vicars, priests and other equally unnatural figures?

Billy Seggars.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Tea Up Pet

Think back to your school days. Go on, right back to primary school. What do you remember? The sounds? The smells? The images? The rituals? For me, primary school was a long time ago, but if I had to distil the tangled memories into a coherent impression it would be something like this: a rampaging hoard of barely controlled little gits screaming, shouting and fighting over the crayons, covered in glue, smelling of paint (and, in some cases, of wee) and eager for the bell to ring.

Teachers came and went - probably suffering from stress, come to think of it - but that was ok because they were all pretty interchangeable anyway. Sir or Miss, it didn't matter - they were just some harried and hassled authority figure whose will was only slightly important to most of the kids, and not important at all to some.

But, in their quest to impose education on the unruly mob, they had allies. The sneaks, the swots, the telltales and, chiefly, the Monitors. I have no idea if what passes for the education system in Britain today still uses the concept of Monitors, or whether they have been found to be old fashioned, useful, effective, and therefore unacceptable, just like the cane and the three Rs, but anyone old enough to have learned to spell at school will remember them.

For the rest, on the assumption that anything educational is unlikely to have survied in today's schools, they were kids who were given small, useful tasks to perfom on behalf of the teacher, usually as a reward for some kind of achievement or display of academic prowess - getting 10 out of 10 in a test, for eg.

The cynically minded will note the irony of this proposition - you work your ass off to do well, and your reward is ... more work. For somebody else, yet. Joy. The educational value of this life lesson cannot be overstated, teaching kids that, no matter how hard they work, most people will draw life's short straws.

But monitorship was highly sought after, a prized responsibility to brag about to your gran - "I've been made blackboard / stationery / bell monitor for a WHOLE WEEK!" Of course, that was in the days before the competetive instinct was expelled from our schools, to be replaced with lowest possible common intellectual denominator.

And anyway, even if some rebellious teacher were inclined to encourage competiton, it wouldn't be possible. Blackboards may have long ago been replaced by the politically correct chalkboards (no objection to "whiteboards" though, I notice) but can you seriously see health and safely regulations allowing a child to (gasp) step to the front of the class and (shudder) WIPE THE CHALK OFF THE BOARD?? What if they trip? What if they drop the board rubber? Who will train them on how to pick it up safely?

And as for dishing out stationery - are you MAD? What if they get a paper cut? Who's going to stick a plaster on it? Not the teacher, that's NOT ALLOWED. Bell monitor, then? HELL NO! Those old fashioned school bells with the long wooden handle that you need to shake to make a noise - they must have weighed, ooh, very nearly a fraction as much as those cans of pop we're trying to ban, what if they drop it? And the NOISE - might harm the poor little darlings' ears!

But, outside of our terminally diminished educational establishments, the concept of Monitors lives on, albeit in a twisted, politically correct, 21st Century way. Gone is the idea of teaching responsibility, of course, because, after all, nothing is anybody's fault in this day and age, so what do we need responsibility for? Instead it's been replaced with the petty authority so common in office managers, bus conductors and dog wardens everywhere.

Give such minds the opportunity to interfere with something, to gum up daily life with pointless rules, regulations, dos and don'ts and they're in Heaven - unlike the rest of us, to whom their pathetic power trips are more like Hell on Earth. And nothing seems to be sacred, nothing is beyond their desire to meddle.

Take the common cup of tea, for example. It's practially our national drink. Life could not carry on in Britain without it, and yet, even here, the Monitors are at work. According to the Telegraph, the quango Envirowise is calling on employers to appoint a "tea monitor" to make sure staff don't overfill the office kettle. Funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Envirowise estimates that in excess of 30 billion cups of water are needlessly boiled each year in British offices. It has advised that companies re-introduce tea urns and encourage staff to brew collectively, in tea pots.

They're mad. Barking mad. I wonder how many office eco-Hitlers will find themselves "accidentally" locked in the stationery cupboard over this one? But this doesn't seem to the full (or even close to full) extent of DEFRA's insanity. For, also according to the Telegraph, the lunatics running that particular Asylum are say that failing to notice your dog is getting fat, feeding it at the table and chocolate treats are all animal cruelty that could end up putting someone in jail under new government guidelines.

Now, I prefer animals to most people, and I'm all in favour of looking after them properly. But do people really need this sort of inane crap? Of course not. Bill Wiggin, Tory spokesman on animal wellfare called the proposals "absurd" and that's probably the biggest understatement of the century so far. Animals of all kinds have been living in domesticated harmony with humans for millions of years. Dogs, cats and just about every other creature known to man are treated as favoured friends in most households.

Certainly, it's helpful to know how to treat them, what's good and bad for them etc. But there are books, advice leaflets, charities and even vets for that. Do we need further legislation to tell us not to feed our dogs chocolate or keep cats away from washing machines? NO. Sure, there are stupid people who dry their cat in the microwave. But will a new law change that? If they're too dumb to know how a microwave works, what are the chances of them knowing about the law?

But other people will. They will look around at this increasingly petty minded, intrusive surveillance state, where anti-terror laws are invoked against people who let their dog crap in the street or put their bins out on the wrong day, where the Government wants to log every phone call they make, every web site they look at, every email they send, and store it in a database along with their ID card info, their health records and their DNA, and they will draw the obvious conclusion: Keeping Fido is just too much of risk and he'll have to go.

Loved and pamperd pets will be dumped, or destroyed, by the score as people realise that they are now just an invitation for politically corect loonies to have a pop at their owners. Far from protecting the animals whose welfare is supposedly so important to them, DEFRA, with this insane proposal is set to bring about their suffering and downfall.

Then again, that's been Government policy for all aspects of British life since 1997. No change there, then.

Billy Seggars.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Gordon Brown-Trousers Is Amazed

Gordon Brown-Trousers is a class act, isn't he? Today, it was confirmed - as if any confirmation were needed for anyone with any common sense whatsoever - that the British economy contracted by 0.5% in the last quarter. Just in case you missed the news reports, that's the first time in 16 years that the economy has actually shrunk, and it's a bigger contraction than even the most gloomy forecasters predicted.

Naturally, there's no suggestion that things will pick up in the next quarter. Far from it, in fact. All the predictions are that we're in for a very hard landing as the economy falls apart around us, and then a very long climb back to prosperity which may - it's not guaranteed by any means - first start to manifest in spring 2010. Unemployment will be rife, money will be in short supply, credit non-existent.

I predicted recession on this blog months ago, not because I'm an expert economist (anything but!) but because I could see the way the wind was blowing and how ineffectual Gordon Brown-Trousers' government was. The papers have been babbling about it in open panic for weeks, torn between terror and fascination as the banks and stock markets teeter on the brink of disaster. So how is it that Gordon Brown-Trousers, our Prime Minister and former (for 10 years!) Chancellor of the Exchequor, only managed to mention the possibility earlier this week?

And wasn't that sly mention done in a sneaky little way? In the Commons, he said, “Having taken action on the banking system, we must now take action on the global financial recession, which is likely to cause recession in America, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and – because no country can insulate itself from it – Britain too.” Or, in other words, he used one of the oldest tricks in the book to avoid amitting that Britain - the country he's supposed to be running - is in deep shit. No, it's a global problem, see? Look, all these big, important countries (though how France and Italy get into that list is a mystery) are in trouble too, so we're not alone and, most importantly, IT'S NOT MY FAULT is what he's actually saying.

Of course it's his bloody fault. He's been Chancellor since Tony Blair oiled his way into office in 1997, and is reputed to have been a micromanaging control freak to boot. Economic policy was his one and only remit (apart from plotting to overthrow his boss) for an entire decade. Who the hell else should we blame for Britain not having planned ahead for this eventuality? The fact is that GORDON BROWN-TROUSERS did not see this crisis coming. GORDON BROWN-TROUSERS did not act to reduce our exposure to the obviously deteriorating economic climate. And now the shit has hit the fan, coming as a massive surprise to absolutely nobody but GORDON BROWN-TROUSERS, and the rest of us have to pay for his mind boggling incompetence.

But it doesn't stop there. Yesterday, the only British Prime Minister ever to be likened to Mr Bean said, "This is a global financial recession and we're fighting it every way we know how, working with other countries, trying to get the banks moving here in Britain, trying to help people with mortgages, at the same time increasing the winter allowance for pensioners, the tax cut of £120 going to basic rate taxpayers. We're fighting this recession but we need other countries to work with us."

Every way they know how? Current policy is every way they know how? Oh BOY, no wonder we're in the shit, but that's not the point. Note, once again, the emphasis on international problems, and the need for other countries to work with us. We know what that's all about, don't we? When the wheels fall completely off and Gordon Brown-Trousers is sent packing north of the border by the very few people left in England who can afford a pitchfork, he can bleat "It wasn't my fault, all those other countries wouldn't co-operate. They wouldn't do what I told them to do. It's not my fault, it would have worked if they'd done it my way."

In further self-defensive bleatings yesterday, Gordon Brown-Trousers was heard to confess that the ever-deepending economic crisis has his "undivided attention" when he gets up in the morning and when he goes to bed at night. WHAT ABOUT ALL THE HOURS INBETWEEN? Besides, he's a bit bloody late. If the economy, rather than his misplaced schemes to become Prime Minister had had his undivided attention for the past decade, we might be in a slightly better position today.

It is, of course, a global problem. But it's been on the cards for months, if not years. A canny, PRUDENT Chancellor would have taken precautions to ensure that global problems did not become a local disaster. Instead, we're nosdiving into probably the worst economic downturn since the 1930s and Gordon Brown-Trousers' only responses are to introduce ever more governement intervention in free markets. Control of banks, demands for fairnes (?!?!?!) in stockmarket trading, insistence that fuel prices should fall... the list is endless.

Certainly, all of these things are desirable, but if government intervention in a free market - even a market in panic - is the price then it's too high. Like everyone else, I cringed at news of OPEC's plans to increase the price of oil, and thus fuel, although, in truth, Mrs S and I don't need to do nearly as much motoring as we used to these days. But, if Gordon Brown-Trousers trully wants to make life easier and cheaper for recession hit motorists, how about cutting fuel duty? A huge proportion of the price motorists pay at the pump is tax - both VAT and extra fuel duty - and the tooth-sucking one could ease the pain by cutting the tax.

But he won't do that, will he? No, he'd rather interfere, yet again, in the free market and try to force prices down. That won't - and can't - work. It's like pushing down air bubbles under freshly hung wallpaper - the more you try to push it down in one place, the more it pops up in another, leading ultimately to ruined wallpaper that STILL has bubbles under it.

Papering over the cracks and micromanaging the consequences has always been Labour's way, and Gordon Brown-Trousers' way in particular. Now, as he keeps on telling us, the bubbles are international and he just can't control the outcome any more. The price of his economic folly is now due - and we're going to have to foot the bill. Labour, be they old or new, have always been incapable of handling the economy, as history very clearly shows. It was inevitable that, once they gained office, they would utterly destroy the UK and its economy - the only mystery was how it would happen, how soon it would happen and how the hell the rest of us would survive the chaos.

Those who voted for the ever-grinning Tony Blair in 1997 and subsequently are now reaping the rewards of their foolish trust in a party of buffoons, and I can't say that I have much sympathy for their plight. In fact, I'd find it hilarious if only other, honest, decent citizens weren't forced to share it. Thanks a lot, guys.

Billy Seggars.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Gordon Brown-Trousers Writes A Letter

Gordon Brown-Trousers has made a mistake. I know, that's hardly breaking news - his entire career in government has been little more than cock-up after disaster, but this time he's excelled himself.

Most people will have noticed that financial turmoil stalks the land, and the prospect of a viciously deep recession is now rather more than a mere "prospect". And very few of those observant victims of New Labour's abortive attempt at government will have failed to fix the blame for this chaos squarely on our tooth-sucking Prime Minister. After all, he's been Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1997, although, in fairness, he probably spent a fair amount of his time at the Treasury plotting become Prime Minister.

Does that make him any less responsible for the mess he's made? Hell, NO. We all know that he has presided over the total destruction of the British economy, hitting hard working citizens in the wallet time and again to finance his crazy socialist schemes. But so smug, self-centred and arrogant is Gordon Brown-Trousers - the only PM ever to avoid calling an election in case he won it (with a reduced majority) - that he thinks writing a snivelling "trust me" kind of letter to the Daily Telegraph is going to make everyone forget the catastrophe he has brought upon them.

This mind boggling, nauseating attack on reality can be found here, for anyone sad enough to want to read it. IF - and it's a big if - they can get to the end of it without vomiting, or, indeed, at all, they should not fail to read the comments section. Those comments just about sum up national feeling about the Prime Minister in a nutshell - he's incompetent, foolish, arrogant, smug, deceitful, a disgrace, unfit to govern and unworthy of his office etc.

Yes, I know, many of them will have been posted by his political opponents, and so cannot be entirely trusted. But many will have been posted by ordinary men and women, whose lives, careers and futures have been ruined by Gordon Brown-Trousers and his systematic destruction of our once-healthy economy.

I'm not going to vent my own opinions on the way our land has been mismanaged and betrayed by NuLab - I've done that often enough on these posts for the general gist of my opinions to be fairly obvious. But, looking at the Brown-Trousers letter, a few points spring to mind.

Even the first sentence made me suspicious - the author (who I doubt was really Gordon Brown-Trousers) was clearly trying to establish a degree of commonality between themselves and the reader. Who would do that, apart from someone who really didn't have very much in common to start with? Still, there it was - the PM proclaiming the virtues of enterprise and the importance of taking responsibility.

Responsibility? Gordon Brown-Trousers? The man who, as Chancellor, was always nowhere to be seen when the political shit was flying? The man who wouldn't even be seen to sign the hated EU Treaty with all the other, equally scurrilous, European leaders? Yes, the very same. Responsibility my foot!

Then we have the bit about ancestral farming, that still goes on in his family, and the way it's made him appreciate markets. Yet more "common man" bobbins, of course, and nobody is ever going to believe that this foolish man has any love for markets of any kind. You see, the idea of a market - any kind of market - is trade. That means that people buy goods and services from other people. Money changes hands. Traders try to sell as little product as possible for as money as they can get, while buyers try to get as much product as they can for the least amount of money.

If either party has too much power or influence, the other suffers. But that very rarely happens for long, or at all. The dynamic interactions between buyers and sellers, their wants and needs in response to factors beyond the control of either of them combine to ensure that, for the most part, supply and demand settle at point roughly midway between the interests of both sides.

This kind of self regulation happens everywhere, in all free markets, all the time. It is easily influenced, often by rumour and suspicion, gut feelings and hunches, but is very, very difficult to control. The more politicians try to control markets, the more their natural balance is disturbed, leading to greater and more damaging swings. Meddling with them is financial folly on an unimaginable scale, yet that is exactly what Gordon Brown-Trousers proposes.

He wants to introduce the concepts of fairness, responsibility and co-operation to the market place. Aren't they there already, built into the very fabric of a market economy? Apparently, New Labour think not. The touchy-feely, warm-hearted New Labour bullshit is laid on with a trowel, but what it boils down to is yet more government meddling in things that do not concern it.

For example: "We celebrate those who profit from creativity and hard work but not those who make reckless gambles with other people's money. " Ah, right. And how do we tell which is which? Who decides what is reckless and what is merely insightful interpretation of market trends? Simple, I suppose - those who make money are creative, those who don't are reckless.

Or, to put it another way, fear of failure - of being thought of as reckless - will quickly become the prevailing reason for trading, or not trading, as the case may be. Celebrations in aid of creativity and hard work will be few and far between as the really smart operators take refuge in tedious, humdrum, SAFE transactions with no risk and no returns.

As for the financial mess that he can no longer hide under the rug, well, that's ok, it's not his fault. No, it's a global problem, from way beyond our shores. Nothing to be done but work together with other countries, do everthing Gord says, trust him, and all will be well. Crap. Utter CRAP. Yes, there's a global problem. But the UK is far worse affected than anywhere else. The UK is also the country under the Gordon Brown-Trousers oppressive heel. Coincidence? I think not, and neither do the commentors in the Telegraph.

So there we have it. Gordon's brave new world, where the timid thrive, anyone with any idea has already left the country and when we can't hide the problems anymore we blame them on the rest of the world. It's cosy, designed to appeal to world-owes-me-a-living benefit scrounging scum, but it's not cutting much ice with the rest of us. Gordon Brown-Trousers should sack his script-writer, and whoever advised him that exposing himself to such an unquenchable tide of ridicule as he has roused in Telegraph readers was a good idea.

I have my suspicions that they might be one and the same person, the newly resurrected Prince of Darkness. The question is, was it his idea or was he just powerless (or unwilling) to stop the PM from humiliating himself this way? Time will tell, but Tony Blair's remaining cronies must be clapping their hands in glee at the way Brown's unpopularity has been so ably - and legitimately - demonstrated in response to something that he purports to have written himself. BIG mistake.

Billy Seggars.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

In For A Penny, In For A Pounding

I love this story from the Telegraph about a church choir mistress who paid a hospital parking fine in pennies.

It seems that Susan Catcheside, 74, from Longney, Gloucester, had been visiting an 83-year-old friend at Gloucester Royal Hospital, when she copped for a £70 parking fine. Not being over well herself, the good lady apparently didn't notice that the parking space she occupied was reserved for permit holders, and fell victim to the local Gloucester City Council's cash acquirement scheme.

Her appeal against the Council's insatiable demand for cash was unsuccessful, and her only option was to pay up. Even though the Council pledges to only extort a mere £35 if victims pay up within two weeks, Mrs Catcheside was - quite rightly, in my opinion - enraged at the inhuman "Hitler-ite" actions of officials involved in this fiasco.

She determined to make the buggers work for their ill-gotten gains, and paid £35 fine in pennies. Well done, Mrs C! The Telegraph says she extracted 35 bags of pennies from her bank, presumably containing one hundred pennies each, which she took to the Council offices in a sweet jar in a wheelbarrow. Again, an excellent plan, in my opinion, but, in her position, I'd have made sure that some bags contained less than one hundred pennies, while others contained more - the Council would have received exactly the amount they had set out to deprive her of, but they'd have had to bloody well count it all, every penny.

The whole business of fining individuals who park at hospitals - and, come to that, imposing parking fees at hospitals at all - is nothing more than a scam, a means of parting the sick and their worried relatives from their cash at a time when they are most vulnerable. It is disgraceful, inhuman, unacceptable and I very strongly urge all who find themselves on the wrong end of such treatment to use any means at their disposal to make the experience difficult for the officialdom that preys so unjustly upon them.

As for Gloucester City Council, a spokesman said, "If she wants to pay in pennies that's fine. Cash payments are accepted." Yes, I just bet pennies are fine. In fact, right now, I should imagine that just about anything, including a reasonably believable IOU will do nicely. You see, accodring to this article in the Telegraph, they're a bit financially embarassed at the moment, to the tune of around £2 million invested in Icelandic banks. You know, those banks that have recently collapsed? The ones that it might have been just a little bit silly to trust with public money?

True, Gloucester City Council is hardly alone in such finacial stupidity, and its exposure to this kind of massive risk isn't on quite the same scale as that of other councils, but it was still a bloody stupid thing to do with two million quid, and you can see why they'd be out to, metaphorically, mug old ladies in hospital car parks with a view to making up the shortfall. Shame on them.

Billy Seggars.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Seeing The Light

Anyone remember this Reuters press release from March 9th 2007? It said, "BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European homes, offices and streets will have to use energy-efficient lighting by the end of the decade, EU leaders decided on Friday."

The name of the game was efficiency, of course. Being inescapably gripped by the madness of mental enviroism, the meddlesome bods in Brussels just couldn't resist the chance to impose yet more tree-hugging piety on their long suffering citizens. Like biofuel, energy efficient light bulbs were vitally important to the future of ... well, everything, really.

And now look what's happened. Last week, in the "ban the bag" Daily Mail, whose campaign to abolish the plastic bag has imposed mass inconvenience on supermarket shoppers up and down the land, I saw a combination of words that I never expected to see side by side - "harmful biofuels".

But it gets better. Today, most of the papers are featuring this little gem, as reported in the Telegraph: "Energy saving light bulb radiation 'could be harmful'." It turns out that CF bulbs - that's Compact Fluorescent for those of us not well up on enviro-speak - could be kicking out as much UV light (Ultraviolet) as a bright sunny day.

Boffins "don't think" they pose a risk of skin cancer, but then, boffins didn't think the Titanic would sink, either, and were pretty sure biofuel was a good idea before reality and human nature proved their naievety. Apparently, it's not all CF lightbulbs, though. No, it's just the funny shaped ones - you know, the prongs and whorly things that look like electric spaghetti. Those enclosed in an outer globe, that look like real like bulbs, are supposed to be safer.

The trouble seems to be that the things consume much less power (isn't that the idea?) and so don't get as hot as an ordinary incandescent bulb, leading people to bring them nearer to their person when used in reading lamps and desk lights. I can't imagine many people wanting to sit with a light right in front of them unless they have to, no matter how cool it may be, and the unwritten truth of the matter is that people have to - the quality of light these things put out is slightly worse than an ailing glowworm.

Consequently, people are sitting within 30 cms of these CF lights, and are turning red in the face as a result. Not, I hasten to add, as a result of embarassment at being found with one of those ugly, pointless things in their posession, but because they've been getting a tan from it. And that's not good, as this Jan 2007 headline from the Daily Mail shows: "Sunbed skin cancer danger has trebled." The article went on to say "The risk of developing skin cancer from using sunbeds has trebled in just a decade, experts have warned." Ergo, tanning = bad, no matter how it's achieved.

But that's ok, because similar experts today say, "We do not believe that these [CF] lights pose any significant risk in terms of skin cancer. This is precautionary advice and people should not be thinking of removing these energy saving light bulbs from their homes. We are advising people to avoid using the open light bulbs for prolonged close work until the problem is sorted out and to use encapsulated bulbs instead. In other situations, where people are not very likely to be very close to the bulbs for any length of time, all types of compact fluorescent light bulbs are safe to use."

Precautionary, eh? Oh, good, I'm glad about that. Of course, if there wasn't ANY risk, there'd be no need for precautions, would there? I'd suggest some slightly different precautions, myself.

1) Visit nearest shop still so non-PC as to be stocking incandescent bulbs - not all large retailers are massively influenced by hype, and there are still some around.
2) Buy all available incandescent bulbs - you'll be amazed at how cheap they are, compared to CF bulbs.
3) Return home, rip out all CF bulbs and replace with incandescent, remembering to wait until daylight or have a suitable source of light to hand while doing so - you will need to turn the lights off for this!
4) Pull out of Europe with speed, making it quite clear that the EU's head is so far up its collective legislative backside that it couldn't tell the difference between CF lights and incandescent bulbs at 3 cms, let alone 30.

Clear? Good. It's just a precaution, you understand, against the chance that the EU is advised, governed and run by utter morons, but why take the risk? After all, it took 27 of them to change a light bulb - how many will it take to change it back?

Now all we need to do is worry about those rising leccy bills, but I'm working on that...

Billy Seggars.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Raising The Dead - Peter Mandelson Returns

The return to government of the disgraced (twice) Peter Mandelson has produced some of the most sustained and vitriolic newspaper comments that I have seen for quite some time. Today, the Sun refers to him as Lord Stench, and the Daily Mail - fairly vibrating with righteous ire - ran the headline "Arise Lord Sleaze".

Of course, they both refer to the need to shoe-horn Mandy into the House of Lords so he can wiggle his way back in to Gordon Brown-Trousers' cabinet. That's hardly surprising, is it? Nobody in their right mind would vote for him, so the chances of the Prince of Darkness getting his old job back through the conventional, democratic method of being elected as an MP in a by election are effectively zero.

Still, nobody elected Gordon Brown-Trousers as Prime Minister, either, did they, so I don't suppose he'll be too worried about the undemocratic imposition of Mandy upon an already struggling nation. The plan seems to be to quash all the Labour in-fighting by recruiting Blair's henchman, suggesting that the former PM wants everyone, including the Blairite survivors, to unite behind the PM.

That's quite a tall order, and although calls for the PM's head are noticabley diminished this week, I doubt it can all be attributed to Many - the deepening fincial crisis has probably had a sobering effect on the more rebellious Labour MPs, as they begin to realise that they now have even less hope of finding a job when the lose their seats at the next election.

Whatever the tactical reasons for digging up the political corpse of Peter Mandelson's career, it's done nothing to improve Gordon Brown-Trousers' populatity. Everyone knows that they've been mortal enemies for years, and recalling him now looks far more like an act of total desperation than statesmanship. People also remember that Mandy stepped down in disgrace, not once but TWICE.

Anyone can make a mistake, and should be allowed a second chance. But two mistakes, both equally sleazy-looking, by one of the most influential figures in the government of the day are just not acceptable. To reward the perpetrator with a peerage and drag him back into government, on a generous salary together with other perks, smaks of rewarding sleaze and scraping the very bottom of a dirty barrel.

It's difficult to imagine anyone less likely to make a return to mainstream politics, or less welcome to do so, and the expressions on the faces of various TV reporters when his return was announced last week were a sight to behold. Even these erudite individuals were almost struck dumb by the sheer improbability of the story they were forced to report, and their staggered disbelief was, I am sure, echoed in living rooms up and down the land.

Only an arrogant, out of touch Prime Minister with no regard for the British population, or a PM at the absolute end of his tether, with no other options, would dream of making such an overwhelmingly unpopular appointment. Clearly, all of the above applied and the result is that we are now saddled, yet again, with Peter Mandelson in the cabinet.

I doubt he'll be there very long, though, and it will be interesting to see whether his departure comes through resignation (AGAIN), New Labour's landslide loss at the next election or the PM sacking him when he realises that he's after his job. But even when the odious man has been evicted, yet again, from the cabinet, he'll still be Lord M, entitled to hand around in the Lords doing nothing very much and getting paid to turn up. Nice work if you can get it.

Billy Seggars.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Crazy Cameron, Man With A Plan?

I have to confess that I didn't catch all of Crazy Cameron's big speech yesterday. The thought of spending over an hour watching his forehead waggling was just too much, so I chickened out and caught the highlights and media reports later.

I gather he made a big thing of Gordon Brown-Trousers' "not the time for a novice" jibe, as well he should have done. It was a typically foolish thing for the PM to say, leaving him wide open to the obvious response that the only experience Brown-Trousers has is of how to screw things up. We can live without the dubious benefits of that kind of experience, and, in contrast, Cameron's crew look positively appealing, novices or not.

Cameron seems to have taken aim at the things that really, really annoy Joe Public, too. Political correctness has run riot in recent years, and Cameron promised to control the Human Rights culture, reign in Health and Safety Madness and generally introduce some badly needed common sense into the proceedings. So far, so good, and he didn't look too bad on the economic front either, being careful not promise things that clearly can't be done - for the moment, at any rate.

Doing well, ticking all the right boxes, looking like a PM-in-waiting and yet, and yet... well, it's Crazy Cameron saying these things, isn't it? Let us not forget that until Gordon Brown-Trousers shot himself so effectively in the foot, Cameron was hated by his own party, and it was touch and go whether he would survive long after last year's conference.

He cycles to work and he's got a windmill nailed on his house. Yesterday's speech was rewritten to avoid too many swipes at the Prime Minister that would have made him look less serious and statesman-like in a time of economic crisis - scoring points by being seen not to score points, in other words. A few days ago he was offering to slap taxes on junk food to "encourage" people to eat healthy meals, and claiming to have taken up jogging and quit smoking.

You can see the pattern, can't you? And this is why I'm not convinced by this sudden commitment to common sense from a bloke who hasn't shown much interest in it before. He, or more likely someone in his party who actually reads the papers, has realised that the vast majority of people are totally fed up with political correctness, and he's seized upon it as yet another "niche" bandwagon to leap on.

For all his comforting words, Crazy Cameron lacks substance. Does it matter? Perhaps not, for the moment. Anyone will be a more welcome PM than Gordon Brown-Trousers, any party more popular than New Labour, and, let's face it, nobody could do the country more damage than Blair and Brown already have.

In other circumstances, Cameron would be a long way from being my first choice. But this isn't an ideal world and, depressingly, he's about the best of a very bad lot. Let him in, let him have a go, let's see what he can do. He might surprise us by being better than we expect. And if he doesn't, there's always William Hauge, waiting in the wings...

Billy Seggars.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Gordon Brown-Trousers Blames America

Well, hasn't it been an entertaining week or so on the economic front? Nail biting suspense over the on-again, off-again, maybe, maybe not $700bn bail-out failed to really grip my attention, for the very simple reason that I didn't think our American cousins would be so dumb - or so brave - as to bottle out at the last minute.

Clearly, Wall St was of the same view, expecting common sense (as defined by them, at any rate) to prevail over political showmanship, and history now shows that they were equally wrong. Banks wobbled, markets tumbled and politicians flapped impotently - gripping stuff, and some of the best TV drama (and comedy) I've seen in ages. President Bush's massive understatement, "We've got a big problem", soon followed by Paulson's press-conference impression of a panicking headless chicken was priceless.

None of that for the ever-dour Gordon Brown-Trousers, though, who knows how to grab a political opportunity in the midsts of chaos. Donning his serious face (as opposed to his more common "Oh shit, now I'm for it it" face) he first announced that he was "monitoring the situation closely" (no doubt waiting for someone to explain it to him) and then held possibly the most tedious press conference I've ever heard. I lost count of how many times he repeated the "do anything to maintain stability" line, but that was basically all he had to say, in as many different ways as he could dream up - which wasn't many.

Obviously, our tooth-sucking PM sees the potential to save his political skin in economic crisis, and he's playing the responsible leader / safe pair of hands card for all it's worth. Crazy Cameron seems to be doing much the same, claiming to put party differences aside during the crisis, and thereby striving to damage the PM's quest for crisis-solving glory. "Responsible opposition" my foot - he's just a bit more sophisticated than Brown-Trousers! They were both keen to say that the American disunity wouldn't be repeated here, the PM with a sucking sneer of "disappointment", Cameron rather more explicitly.

But today, according to the Sun, Gordon Brown-Trousers, the British Prime Minister (for now) went out of his way to blame America for the crisis, and demanded that they set about fixing it: "This problem started in America. They have got to sort it out. The Americans have a responsibility to the rest of the world."

Is he mad? Has he, once and for all, completely lost his ever-weakening grip? Firstly, the problem MAY have begun in the US, but he has been Chancellor of the Exchequer for nearly a decade. Is he really saying that, in all that time, he hasn't seen this problem coming and acted to safeguard British interests against it? If he hasn't, why hasn't he? If he has attempted to do so, what went wrong? Why have his other economic policies been such abject disasters?

Secondly, that's hardly the most diplomatic approach, is it? The US is supposed to be our ally and friend. Like all friends, they have some traits that annoy us a little, and I'm sure we drive them nuts in our own way too, but, when push comes to shove, our countries have always stood together and, I would hope, always will. Yet here is the mad man of Downing St pushing blame their way in order to cover up his own thoroughly inept time in office. What a wonderful man Gordon Brown-Trousers is.

Thirdly, as anyone who's been watching the international news for a week or so (and I assume that include the British Government) will have observed the barely controlled panic stateside. Their politicians are corked. They really, really don't know what to do next, what with economic catastrophe looming on one hand, and elections on the other, they're pulled in all directions and don't know what to do for the best.

Their constituents (most of whom probably aren't financiers) don't like the idea of bailing out Wall St, and I don't blame them. But, without a strong financial basis, the whole economy will quickly find itself in very, very deep shit, and THAT will impact upon everyone in the US and around the world. Their politicians know that, and they have a hard time knowing whether their duty lies to the folks who elected them, or the greater US and world-wide population.

Logical thought would soon resolve their philosophical difficulties, but that's not so easy to do when they're tired, hassled, confused and frightened. (Hint: the constituents who elected you are a subset of the greater US and planetary population, and by doing what is best for everyone, no matter how painful it may be, you are ultimately doing the best for your own constituents too. Of course, determining what IS for the best is the trick.)

Confused and frightened people get angry, and angry people make mistakes. How angry do you think they're going to be when they hear about the British Prime Minister, their alleged ally, trying to tell them what to do in a very undiplomatic way? How angry would we be if a US President told Parliament what it MUST do? How many fingers would be flipped towards Washington? And yet this, Mr Brown, who has conclusively demonstrated that he can't even govern a tiny island for a year without it becoming almost uninhabitable, has done to one of the proudest, most determinedly independent national governments on the planent. Oh, what a statesman he is.

I must apologise to the American people for our Prime Minister's appaling behaviour. I can only say that I didn't vote for him - in fact, NOBODY had the chance to vote for him, he just usurped the rightfully elected PM's authority, then chickened out of an election - and will not be voting for him EVER. Neither will many other people, although the way he's stage managing the current financial crisis seems to be regaining him a little of his lost popularity with the terminally stupid. That won't last long, though, once they realise he's manipulating them.

Until then, there's very little we can do but grab smokes and a beer and the wife and settle down to watch the fireworks as the financial Apocalypse looms. Next up, more hype for the bail-out, take 2. Best telly I've seen for years!

Billy Seggars.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

A Picture Of Health

Cigarette packets have long carried health warnings along the lines of "SMOKING KILLS" and other such dire doom-sayings designed to make us kick the habit. I've always thought they were fairly pointless, in that most smokers know exactly what they're doing, and have no intention of stopping, thank you very much.

On the other hand, they're relatively unobtrusive and might be a handy hint for the terminally clueless, 90,000 of whom have apparently called the NHS Smoking Helpline as a result. Good for them! If that's what they want to do, I'm really happy for them, though I don't see why they should need a health warning on the damn packet to motivate them.

But, like all do-gooding dimwits, the Department of Health can't be happy with this "success". Oh no, they have to go further. And so, according to the Sun, cigarette packets will soon be adorned with charming pictures of dead people and rotting lungs and other, equally pleasant images.

If ordinary people chose to thrust pictures of blood-and-guts surgery, or the occupants of mortuary slabs or similarly gory imagery onto their neighbours, questions would be asked about their mental wellbeing. Relatively healthy, not to say attractive bodies are consigned to the top shelf and hidden under plain wrappings lest Joe and Josephine Public should be led astray by the sight of boobs and biceps. But it's OK for the Department of Health to show us all these horrible pictures "for our own good" to "educate" us into giving up something that smokers enjoy and VOLUNTARILY choose to do, in full knowledge of the risks.

This constant interference with freedom of choice is not acceptable. Under New Labour, standards of education have declined to the extent that many people now cannot read, and this may go some way towards explaining the need for these pictures, but government - and medical - intervention in every aspect of our daily lives cannot be allowed to continue. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows what is, and is not good for them, what they should, and should not do. We are capable of making our own choices, and do not need the nanny state to impose its own choices upon us.

Sadly, even the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, is in on the act. He says, "I welcome the introduction of picture warnings on tobacco product packaging, which show smokers the grim reality of the effects smoking can have on their health. " Good GOD, we already KNOW you foolish little man!

Unfortunately, the CMO still seems to be under the mistaken belief that doctors must be taken seriously because they (think) they know what's good for the rest of us. And maybe (they're not smart enough to be more certain than "maybe") they do, on a technical level. But it is not their job to preach that knowledge to those who don't give a bugger. Their job - for which the taxpayer pays them rather more than they're worth - is simply to fix the resulting problems with speed and competence. Perhaps, if a few more of them got down off their soapboxes and back to work, they might be able to do that more effectively.

Billy Seggars.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Mending Ways

I'm a little surprised by this article in the Telegraph. Finding themselves short of cash as the credit crunch bites harder, people are - shock! horror! - repairing household items instead of replacing them. Judging by the tone of the article, the Telegraph's journalist, the spankingly named Harry Wallop, can hardly contain his amazement that people would bother to repair something as lowly as a toaster.

Why this should count as news, I have no idea. Doesn't everyone try to repair something, instead of replacing it, if at all possible? If not, why not? Isn't that the central point behind the environmentalist lobby's green - in every sense of the word - philosophy? And, much as it pains me to agree with the enviro-loonies, isn't it also behind the old saying, "waste not, want not"?

Perhaps the most obvious explanation is that people simply no longer have the skills, or the tools, to repair things themselves, and are forced to replace them instead. It may also be that the concept of a disposable society runs so deep that they just don't realise that repairs are possible. Damn great "DANGER, DO NOT OPEN, NO USER SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE" stickers on the back of many appliances probably aren't helping, either, and I have to wonder whether they are there for users' safety or simply to encourage more sales.

And yet, things were not always this way. I well remember both my father and my grandfather repairing things like kettles and toasters, and also confidently tackling other household repairs. They may not have been master plumbers, but changing a washer or replacing ball cocks was just a routine chore for them, as was servicing their own cars. Nor were these skills limited to them - the majority of their friends and family were similarly capable of handling such domestic repairs as usually arose, and there was a constant exchange of tools and advise between them.

That doesn't seem to happen amongst today's home-owners to anything like the same degree. Thinking about it, there is a distinct relationship between the age of the home-owners I know and their willingness and ability to carry out such minor repairs - the younger they are, the less likely they are to grab a screwdriver and try to fix things themselves.

Perhaps the credit crunch will have some unexpected benefits if it teaches these people the benefit of thrift. By repairing rather than replacing, they are (I suppose) helping the environment, saving money, learning a skill and, when the job is done, they will experience a sense of achievement that you just don't get by running out and buying a new toaster.

Go on, have a go. If it's buggered already, you can't make it any worse, can you? But PLEASE, when you try to fix something electrical, REMEMBER to unplug the power first - it might look harmless now, but if your repairs are successful, it might start working again unexpectedly!

Billy Seggars.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Of Fox And Fish And Gordon Brown-Trousers

An odd day on the news front today. According to the Independent, an online survey of grassroots Labour supporters shows that 54% of those who responded want Gordon Brown-Trousers to quit ASAP. I'm sure they do, but, in the wake of yesterday's polls showing 52% of voters currently favour Crazy Cameron's gang, it's hardly earth shattering news.

Then there's the Telegraph, reporting that "Dementia Sufferers May Have 'Duty To Die'". At least, that's what the headline says, but anyone taking the trouble to read the article will see that Baroness Warnock's comment are just a teeny bit misrepresented. What she actually said was "...if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they're a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die."

She added, "Actually I've just written an article called 'A Duty to Die?' for a Norwegian periodical. I wrote it really suggesting that there's nothing wrong with feeling you ought to do so for the sake of others as well as yourself." Despite her comments being severely criticised by various MPs, charities, campaigners and other assorted lowlife dimwits, I don't see what's so wrong with that.

I certainly wouldn't want to continue in a lifestyle that was an intolerable burden on Mrs S, yet that is the future that many of us will face. It is not callous or barbaric to consider the available options, and the good of all concerned - as long as it IS the good of all concerned, of course, and by mutual consent. It goes without saying that anything other would be entirely unacceptable.

It's ironic that this story should be featured on the same day that the Sun reports on a "New law to ban suicide sites". Apparently, do-gooding ministers, aided and abetted by so-called "parenting guru" Tanya Byron, are planning to amend the Suicide Act, 1961, to make it illegal to produce websites on the subject of suicide and, most importantly, how best to go about it.

Yet more small-minded intervention into our fundamental freedoms, I see, although I can't imagine many people actually needing to look up instructions on the internet before topping themselves - if they're that dumb, surely we should do the rest of the world a favour and let them get on with it! And on the subject of the rest of the world, there's no mention of how the ever IT-literate Ms Byron and her government buddies think they're going to enforce their law on websites hosted overseas. Yet more hype without substance from NuLab, I feel.

Of course, nobody is going to question them on this, because, again according to the Sun, one child in seven still can't even write its name after spending one year in primary school. Probably not, but I bet they've learned a lot about human rights, diversity, equality and claiming benefits. Still, not to worry. NuLab wants all brats to stay in some kind of education until they're 18, so they'll have plenty of time to learn how to write their names - although, having seen what they're actually teaching kids in schools these days, I suspect it won't be long enough for some!

On the plus side, we can take some comfort in the idea that stupidity isn't ONLY a British disease, as demonstrated by the case of a lad in India who got in a bit of a fix with a fish. Having been cleaning out the aquarium at his home, this young man, who's name and age are omitted from the Sun's article, had hold of a fish when the need to answer nature's call overcame him.

Pottering off to the potty, fish still in hand (like you do), he was understandably somewhat alarmed when the damn thing leapt from his grip and managed to swim into his penis. Yes, that's right. INTO his PENIS. After complaining of pain, dribbling urine and acute urinary retention, the lad was taken to hospital, where the fish was found in his bladder. The fish, which was presumably pissed off, was about 2cm long and about 1.5 cm wide, and is believed to have been a member of the Betta genus. The boy was offered counselling, though nobody seems to care about the fish. If it was a genuine mistake - and I can't help wondering how many people take a fish along for a wee with them - it will probably put the guy off fish for life!

Unlucky and unlikely wildlife is also the subject of the this article about a black fox, spotted in a churchyard up north in Chorley, Lancashire. The Sun and other newspapers carry pics of the previously unknown beast, looking both cute and devilish, and point out that, according to old wives' tales, such things bring bad luck. Certainly, having its mug all over the Sun will be bad luck for the rarity in question - you can bet the churchyard will be stiff with people eager to get a look at the poor bugger, and, as a result, it will be dead by the end of the week.

Isn't life wonderful?

Billy Seggars

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Deeply Brown

I wonder how long it will be before Gordon Brown-Trousers is the only person left in the British government? Today, the Telegraph reports that minister David Cairns has resigned in protest at way things are going in the Labour government.

Last weekend, various allegedly-senior Labour bods, none of whom I'd ever heard of, were fired for having the temerity to suggest that the Prime Minister should submit to a leadership challenge. And you can bet they're just the tip of the iceberg, the white head at the forefront of a festering boil of resentment that runs all the way down to the very bottom of grass roots Labour support.

How do we know this? Simple - Gordon Brown-Trousers and his supporters are telling us that they're just a few marginal malcontents who are way out of line with mainstream opinion within the party. They're saying this loudly and very, very often, so it can't be true, or even close to true. Besides, look at the opinion polls. Labour, largely as a result of Gordon Brown-Trousers' utter failure as a Prime Minister, are 20 points behind the Tories where, just one year ago, the situation was almost totally reversed.

Despite suspicions to the contrary, I suppose we must accept that politicians are people too, and their views won't be too different from those held by the population at large. After all, their views were once sufficiently aligned as to give Tony Blair a massive majority. The majority of the electorate has already decided that it doesn't like the way things are going, and it's entirely reasonable to assume that an equivalent proportion of unexpectedly-human politicians feel pretty much the same.

To deny the situation is pointless - nobody believes the denials, and it just makes Gordon Brown-Trousers look even more brown of trouser then he does already. But what can he do? If he agrees with his critics, he will be seen as even more of a wimp than he already is. If he submits to a challenge he will lose, and we all know how badly, and for how long, he schemed to become PM. Being ousted after just a few moths would be totally unacceptable to him.

As unlikely as it sounds, I agree with Gordon Brown-Trousers' statement, in his letter accepting the traitorous Cairns' resignation, that now is not the time to be focused on internal party matters. It really, really isn't. That sends quite the wrong message to the public - namely, that all Labour politicians are interested in is looking good and winning votes.

I'm sure that's true, but it's no way to run a country. Besides, a recent poll showed that, although most people don't like or trust the PM, they aren't all that keen on replacing him with another Labour bod either. That's probably because they've cottoned on to the self-preservation aspect of Labour politics, and will be glad to get rid of the whole lot of them at the earliest available opportunity.

The only possible hope for Gordon Brown-Trousers and the entire Labour party is to buckle down to the job in hand, and start fixing the mess they've got us into. With unusual insight, I think Brown-Trousers understands that, and is trying to at least look as if he's working on it. But his every effort is sabotaged by his own party. No matter what he tries, yet another disaster breaks out and focuses attention back on the ineptitude of his Government, and, therefore, of the Prime Minister.

The cycle repeats, causing more of his people to want rid of him and taking more effort to control, which, in turn, takes more eyes off the running-the-country ball, leading to yet more cockups. The fact that all the Labour Piranhas currently circling the embattled Prime Minister can't see that it's their own feet they're about to bite off just goes to show how unfit for government Labour is - and always has been.

I might almost feel sorry for Gordon Brown-Trousers, who is looking increasingly tired and ill in media photographs, but I don't. His own pride, arrogance and incompetence have brought him to his current, impossible position. He wanted the job so badly that he spent years scheming to get Blair out of the way - maybe Blair was unexpectedly smart enough to realise that Brown just wasn't up to it?

And now that he's got it, he doesn't know how to do it. He's bottled out of a general election that would have given him his own mandate to govern, sidestepped an internal leadership election, denied the British public a referendum on the EU Treaty, presided over the collapse of our economy, introduced or rubber stamped yet more legislation that turns the UK (what's left of it) into a surveillance state and watched as one department of his government after another has been engulfed in scandal.

It's undeniably true that Gordon Brown-Trousers is not fit to be Prime Minister. But he didn't create all of these disasters single-handedly. He needed help - lots and lots of help - from the rest of his government to so thoroughly screw things up. Instead of trying to pin it all on him, those same government bods should be trying to put things back together.

But they're not, and they won't, leaving Gordon Brown-Trousers no choice, if he retains any last vestige of sanity, but to sack the malcontents one by one as they break cover and before they have chance to resign. That way, at least, he manages to look like he's in charge, even though it won't be long before there's nobody but yes men left for him to be in charge of.

Still, not long to 2010 and a whole new governing party, eh?

Billy Seggars.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Thick And Thin

Here's some good news for those of us with a slightly larger than average waistline. Apparently, according to the Sun, thinking makes you fat.

More accurately, it's been found that students who are taken to a buffet after a serious mental workout consume far more calories than those who've spent the same time bumming around. Fascinating, though I'm a little surprised that the researches managed to find some students who were both able and willing to exercise their brains.

Still, taken to its logical conclusion, these findings seem to confirm the popular view that skinny, clothes horse type models and wannabes are, in fact, unlikely to have done any significant thinking recently. Equally, the more portly members of society should now gain richly deserved recognition as both physical and intellectual giants.

There are flaws in the theory, of course, but I like the correlation between increasing obesity in brats and ever-improving exam performance - even the most rabidly politically correct government minister probably wouldn't have dared to dream that one up! Now, if only they could explain why, over 50 years ago, sprogs sat - and passed - much harder exams than those with which we fail to exercise our childrens' brains today, and they still weren't fat.

Bit of a poser, that. Bit of a bloody mind bender. The obvious conclusion - that today's brats are lazy, gluttonous and stupid - simply won't do. It's one of those things that just about everybody knows without having to do expensive research, and is therefore inadmissible on the basis that it would put jobbing thinkers out of work. Or so they claim, while stuffing yet another doughnut into their face.

Billy Seggars.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Big Bang

Well, I've had a quick look out of the window, and I'm happy to report that the world's still there - madder than ever, but there nevertheless. It seems that today's on-switching of the Large Hadron Collider totally failed to bring about the end of the world.

That's probably good news, but did anyone really think the outcome would be any different? Tales of nuclear explosions and insatiable black holes springing into existence to consume the Earth - and mankind - were always going to be just that - tales! Scaring ourselves witless is one of humanity's most enduring traits, as the eternal popularity of ghost stories shows.

Once stories were of lost lands, mysterious continents where monsters roamed the Earth and the streets were paved with gold. But, in the 21st Century, very little of the Earth's surface remains unexplored and the chances of finding anything more monstrous than Gordon Brown-Trousers are slim. So we create new frontiers, new places for the unknown to terrify us, and, thanks to the education system, science is one of the biggest, scariest unknowns of all for many people.

It's easy to imagine a bunch of crazy boffins digging out a tunnel 17 miles long just so they can lose the whole planet into a black hole, and the total lack of understanding present in the majority of people means that they never get past the imagination stage. In the real world - which, admittedly, isn't inhabited by as many people as one might like - even the craziest boffin doesn't spend millions on making a black hole machine that's going to suck him in too.

But the number of people searching the web for things like "the world's gone end" is a pretty clear indication of how the public thinks - if it can be called thinking! Whether they would be more or less likely to find some useful information if they learned to spell is open to debate, of course, but when you consider that various loonies have been making death threats against the LHC scientists in a bid to "save" the world, it seems unlikely.

I slept soundly through the LHC activation, in the perfect certainty - bred of understanding - that I would not be hurtling over any black hole's event horizon today. Not so Rob Shaw and Laura Morris, who, according to the Sun, staged their own Big Bang to coincide with the big moment. There's nothing wrong with Bangs, and the Bigger the Better, to my mind. But I'm a little suspicious of Science student Rob's explanation:"We heard rumours the machine could wipe out the planet. So we thought we’d make the most of our last moments."

Awww, cute, what a way to go etc etc. But wait. Rob's a SCIENCE student. The Sun doesn't say what SCIENCE he's a student of, and it may well be that the British education system has sunk to levels where even SCIENCE students really don't know the difference between fact and fiction. But I'm still suspicious. Could it be that this wily boffin-to-be saw the opportunity for a little extra time with the lovely Laura, on the basis that the world was going to end? Does it really matter? Probably not, and, in any event, they seem to have enjoyed themselves - good on 'em, say I!

Billy Seggars.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Cant spel wont spel

According to the Telegraph, John Wells, Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London, thinks irregular English spellings should be abandoned because they "hold back schoolchildren".

Awww, the poor little darlings! If the dumb little bastards - and, increasingly, their teachers - can't get to grips with the basics of the language, we should dump them instead. But it doesn't stop there! In perhaps the finest ever argument against phonetic spelling, Prof Wells thinks it would be really, really cool to drop the apostrophe altogether and replace it with a space.

WHY? If, as he suggests, this is to make life easier for the brainless morons who don't know where to put it, won't that just leave them equally puzzled as to where they should insert the corresponding space? I'd have thought so, but then I'm not a Professor of Phonetics.

Come to that, what, exactly, IS a Professor of Phonetics, and why do we need one? His UCL home page is here, but it doesn't tell you very much. His personal biography page is slightly more interesting, but, although it's big on promoting what he does, and what he thinks he's achieved, it doesn't tell us why, or what use it is in the real world.

Which, I suspect, says all that needs to be said on the subject. The purpose of language is communication, yet natural languages, as used by real people, are inherently ambiguous. In the written word, punctuation and spelling moderate ambiguity to derive definite meaning from uncertainty. With definite meaning comes ease of unambiguous expression, allowing the accurate transmission of ideas from one person to another, and so the purpose of communication is fulfilled. Far from being an encumbrance to this process, correct grammar, spelling and punctuation are fundamental to its operation.

It is this essential tool that the learned Professor wants to sweep away, in favour of making life easier for the dimwits who don't know where to put an apostrophe, and who probably don't have anything of any significance to say anyway. And they say standards in education aren't declining!

Billy Seggars.