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.