Thursday, December 23, 2010
Spare a thought for those living in the US state of California who are complaining that a gallon of fuel for their vehicles has risen to the ridiculous price of three dollars (£1.79 in our currency).
While I was shelling out my £1.22 per litre (£5.44 per gallon) in my local Asda this morning, I was wondering how they get to suffer such hardship, while enduring such a great climate too.
I guess the main difference is they do not have a greedy government, who not only place a high percentage of tax on the fuel but also impose a tax on top of the tax!
As for the sunshine.....well I guess we don’t have enough to impose a tax on that quite yet!
If you are reading this Mr Osborne.......forget it!!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Is this the face of a fool or the face of a mischief maker?
Business Secretary, Vince Cable, who has long been respected for his forthright views on the economy and his personal reservations about his party’s power sharing coalition with the Conservatives, has been caught in a ‘sting’ by two journalists from the Daily Telegraph posing as single women from his constituency.
During their recorded meeting, Mr Cable is said to have described dealing with his coalition partners as like “fighting a war” and while talking of his options said: ”They know I have nuclear weapons, but I don’t have any conventional weapons. If they push me too far then I can walk out and bring the government down and they know that.”
Mr Cable is widely known to be disillusioned with recent political events, after being embarrassed by his party’s change of policy regarding the rise in university tuition fees and the resistance of the Conservatives to force action against the banks.
His biggest ‘sin’ however, was to boast he was personally at war with the Murdoch publishing empire and he would do everything in his power to make sure it was blocked from taking control of the BskyB satellite network.
The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have now announced that Mr Cable is to be stripped of his responsibilities for any decisions regarding media and broadcasting, although he will still keep his (much reduced) business portfolio. He is said to be feeling ‘foolish’.
A statement from Downing Street stated:
“The Prime Minister is clear that Mr Cable’s comments were totally unacceptable and inappropriate.”
But then he would say that. The PM has a lot to thank Rupert Murdoch for; after all, the publishing magnate’s newspapers backed the Conservatives in the lead up to last May’s elections.
So is Mr Cable a fool?
I find it hard to believe that someone of his intelligence and experience in politics would be tricked so easily by an audience of two women he did not know and to whom he was to make such unguarded and unwise statements.
Is he a mischief maker?
Well, if he had been sacked from his role in government, he would be free to form a splinter group of Lib Dem MPs; they are known to be tired of the way the Conservatives have been using their party to absorb the public’s displeasure following the coalition’s recent policy announcements. Had he been sacked, Cable could have forced an early end to the Coalition.
Whatever he is, he has now demonstrated all is not well amongst those public smiles portrayed by the Cameron Cabinet in the media.
Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband has today commented that these revelations prove the coalition is just “a sham”.
Give the man a cigar! That’s something many of us have known since May!
Friday, December 17, 2010
With the release of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, on conditional bail, the saga continues.
It is as confusing a situation now, as it was three weeks ago, when the news first broke of Sweden’s desire to have him returned to that country, to answer questions about his alleged sexual misdemeanors from last August.
Of course, we do not know exactly what those misdemeanours are, as no evidence has been produced, and no charges have been brought. There has not even been an attempt by the Swedes to travel over here and question him in this country. That alone seems a very strange thing. The extradition proceedings do, however, keep him inconvenienced and contained for the next few months at least.
This should please the US administration who are said to be investigating ways to have him extradited to America (he is presumably too ‘visible’ for rendition) for breaking laws they have yet to discover in their vast back catalogue of ‘catch all’ offences.
In reality, it seems he has done nothing illegal and certainly nothing different to any media organisation that would have been offered the same material for publication. Why then, is the US government so desperate to demonise him? Is it purely about saving face?
Personally, I don’t know if Assange is guilty of breaking Swedish law; no-one does except Assange and the women who have made the claims against him. Even the UK court that has been deliberating on his bail application has been kept in the dark about the details of the allegations against him. His bail request was opposed not by the Swedish authorities, as was first reported, but by our own prosecution service.
That fact alone sounds a warning bell. Is this case nothing more than an exploitation of our world respected legal process based on fairness and openness, for purely political ends?
The conditions of his bail state Assange has to stay at the same address, wear an electronic tag and report to the police once a day, until at least February next year. He is effectively under house arrest, while never having been charged.
I ask myself: if this situation had occurred in China, would we have been so accepting of the process?
The word ‘hypocrisy’ springs to mind.
Afterthought:A comment on the Wikileaks story from a reader of the Los Angeles Times makes a good point:
Accusations of sexual misconduct have always been the favorite tool of a person or group seeking to discredit another. People are always willing to believe the very worst when it comes to sexual matters
Thursday, December 16, 2010
A story in today’s Daily Telegraph reports that household electricity bills are likely to rise by around £500 per year to pay for the additional investment needed in green energy.
Britain is obligated to increase its share of energy from renewable sources from 3 per cent to 15 per cent to meet EU targets but of course, these targets have not just suddenly appeared, they have been ignored until the last possible moment.
Q. Why have the utility companies not been re-investing in green technology over the past years?
A. They have been too busy sharing out their large profits through the payment of bonuses and dividends to their shareholders (many of whom are from overseas)
Once again, it is us, the consumers, who will be picking up the bill.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Justice Ministry has announced the cuts it will be making to the courts system following the Coalition’s spending review. Justice Minister, Jonathan Djanogly used the customary LibCon ‘get out of jail’ excuse for the cuts saying the present system is “unsustainable”.
93 Magistrates’ courts will be closed along with 49 County Courts but according to the Minister, at least 85 percent of people would be no more than an hour’s travel away from a court if they made use of public transport. That’s good then!
The only flaw to that argument, is many of those who would be likely to appear in front of a magistrate or a judge, do not have the available cash to be able to afford the fare for an hour’s journey using public transport - they will just fail to turn up! The police would then have to waste their own reduced resources in following up and executing any warrant issued.
Those courts still in operation, will be under growing pressure from their increased workload, causing longer delays before cases can be scheduled for a hearing. Both the accused and the accusers are likely to have to wait much longer before justice can be seen to be carried out. Eventually, the system is in danger of becoming gridlocked and cases of being diluted.
The government has argued it will make a saving of at least £15m a year in the day-to-day running costs of courts and around £22m in maintaining the premises. Of course, they will also be able to claw back a considerable sum by selling off the buildings which housed those courts facing the axe.
Overall, though, the saving seems a pittance compared to the total deficit faced by us all. With jobs being lost daily and repossessions on the increase, crime is likely to be one of the only growth industries over the next few years.
Such ‘spreadsheet politics’ could eventually prove to have a greater cost than that we are already paying!
Friday, December 10, 2010
Yesterday, was the day the wheels could have come off the Coalition bus but it just managed to wobble home carrying a small majority of 21 votes.
Well, we think it was 21 votes, but after the damning report this week revealing we are behind countries like Poland, Iceland and Estonia in the international league tables of academic achievement, maybe we should ask for a recount.
Yes, the government managed to win the vote on increasing the costs of attending University and predictably, the ‘student’ demonstrations in Parliament Square against the rises in fees turned into violence once again.
Even the car of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla was attacked as they were being driven to the theatre for the Royal Variety Performance.
The Liberal Democrats have demonstrated they are not a party of unity - at least on the subject of student fees - as those of them who have accepted positions around the cabinet table voted against their own election promise to abandon fees altogether.
A spokesperson for London Mayor, Boris Johnson, reported that he is “appalled by the scenes of violence this evening… It is an insult to our democracy,”
Surely, though, while no-one really can leave yesterday's events behind without accepting a share of the blame for the violence, the real insult to democracy is a political party that either misrepresented itself to gain votes at the election or was naive enough to think its promises would be so easily forgotten just because its leaders decide to ‘see things differently’ now they have sold their principles for a seat at the top table.
It seems we are all still learning!
Saturday, December 04, 2010
I was led to the video below from the Liberal Conspiracy website because I was interested in witnessing the footage of a policeman punching a student at the recent demonstrations in London; I was not disappointed.
I found it horrifying to witness the pure aggression of the officers who were forming the line blocking the students’ exit route from the containment area, used as part of the controversial police tactic of ‘kettling’.
Keep watching, after the punch, to see the attitude of the officer with the moustache and baton.
The police should remember that accountability from video surveillance can work both ways.
Welcome to the future!
It is almost a week since the release, by Wikileaks, of around 251,000 ‘top secret’ US cables and I am feeling distinctly underwhelmed.
No wars have started, no foreign diplomats have been spotted fighting in the streets of foreign capitals and more importantly, nothing we did not already suspect goes on, has been going on.
Interestingly, the only violent reaction to the ‘revelations’, has originated from Canada and the US. The former seemingly advocating the assassination of anyone who has ever heard of the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and the latter calling for the death penalty, once the person who handed over the files in the first place is finally caught.
Of course, there has been pressure to close the Wikileaks site down using a denial of service attack from hackers, removal of hosting facilities from Amazon (it is now being hosted from Switzerland) and a termination of the Paypal account used to process donations from the site’s supporters around the world.
Oh yes and with rather fortuitous timing, Julian Assange has been accused of a serious sexual misdemeanor in Sweden. A formal request for his immediate arrest has been issued using the EU’s legal protocols. Interestingly enough, he has not been officially charged with anything and attempts by his lawyers to discuss the matter with the Swedish prosecutor have been refused. Hmmm…could this be attempted character assassination? So far, the UK police have not proceeded in carrying out the warrant.
Taken together, all of the above has done more to keep me interested than the actual files themselves. I have tried to read them from the many new Wikileaks locations this week, but have found they have a similar effect to Valium.
Perhaps the US would have been better advised to bite its tongue rather than appearing to declare open warfare against freedom of information.
God only knows how they would react over something serious - although we are never likely to find out with their communications being so protected - Not!!
Update: More details can be found on the backgound to the Swedish accusations against Assange here.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
According to a survey by MyVoucherCodes.co.uk of almost two thousand 18 to 35 year olds, 98pc said they think they'll still be in debt on their death bed.
Eight out of ten of those asked said they thought it was far too easy to borrow money through their bank, or on credit cards.
Other points revealed in the survey were:
54pc thought they would always need to borrow money in order to fund the lifestyle they wanted.
Just over half who owed money did not feel in control of their debt.
8pc admitted they had needed to ask for help with repayments from a friend or family member.
One in five also claimed they were not worried about the possibility of their debts being passed on to their next of kin.
Isn’t it good to know we'll be leaving this world in such safe and positive hands.