It’s All Over Now Baby Blue

20120811_083615I think many Britons will agree with me when I say that I am very sorry to see the 2012 Summer Olympics already over. The luxury to forget about Syria and the economy and all else for a fortnight, with the added benefit of a good cheer and success stories, the good spirit fuelled by many Olympic volunteers, the… Oh, it was just wonderful. The nation is suffering from post-Olympic stress syndrome. Others called it the Olympia Withdrawal Trauma, but it’s all the same: too bad it is over.

My only criticism is that the BBC focused almost exclusively  on events with British interest (plus Usain Bolt). Even the late night summary TV broadcast didn’t spend time on a brief summary of all else that happened on the day, even though a lot else had happened every single day. Hardly a mention of the handball qualifiers or the men’s modern pentathlon, and many other sports. Basically, they didn’t care unless there was a strong British Interest.

Not quite the best display of the good Olympic spirit by the BBC, who on all other accounts stunned with the comprehensive cover via a variety of media. There’s another chance with the Paralympics, but I think the broadcasting rights for that are with Channel 4, where we’ll be watching the finale right after the commercial break.

We only saw one event in person, the Men’s Modern Pentathlon: 36 brave athletes fencing, 200m freestyle swimming, show jumping on a foreign horse, 3x1000m running and shooting in a single-day competition over 11 hours, and it was great to be part of it. I never thought I could say to myself I’ve been there (even though the BBC didn’t mention it in the summary and Mo Farah won the 5000m gold at the time of the Pentathlon finish).

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Tea Minus Fourteen

DSC_0662It’s just under fourteen hours to the opening of the 2012 London Olympics at the time of this writing.

I didn’t care much about the torch relay until it came through our little Broadway, passing along the stores offering used washing machines, second hand furniture and cars. There had been a lot more people out that I expected; the street was actually lined with people several rows deep. The fine weather and the convenient 18:00 hour also helped of course, but the whole thing sparked some sense of hope with me.

Hope that the Olympic Spirit is finally out of the bottle and Londoners are ignited with a positive momentum.

At 8:12 today, bells will be rung all across the country for the three minute All The Bells piece conceived by Martin Creed, including Big Ben, the famous 13.5 tonne bell.

The show begins at 21:00 tonight. I find it all pretty exciting. T minus 14, 13, …

 

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Olympic Spirit

DSC_0409There’s a lot of Olympic spirit around in London these days. Trouble is, it is not the good Olympic spirit: Traffic will be a nightmare, the Olympic lane regulations are unclear, public transport will be at the brink of collapse. The weather is likely to frustrate, the security is in shambles, the general cost of the whole affair is high. Tickets are hard to come by and too expensive. The logo and mascot are an embarrassment. The games are too commercial, the beach volleyball ladies may not be playing in bikini due to low temperatures, and this, and that, and more.

The list of advance complains is almost endless. Not all without reason, but it can’t be helped now, can it? We’ve got them, like it or not, and any arrangements which might have been done better or different are what they are. I’d love to see the good British spirit arising from the pit of doom before the games.

We’ve been watching reports about runner Usain Bolt, cyclist Victoria Pendleton and highlights of many of the past modern Olympic games. To me, these are stimulating programmes. I don’t usually follow sports at all, but I certainly look forward to see how Usain and Victoria perform, and will enjoy watching many of the Olympic disciplines which don’t normally get a great deal of press coverage.

I, for one, look forward to the games. I hope so do you.

 

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Games Security

2010-12-27 019The Home Secretary Theresa May assures us that the Olympic games’ security will not be compromised by bringing in approximately 17,000 army staff to help out – why, I wonder, would the security be compromised, if you’d bring in the government’s very own experts in keeping people and country safe? This is by far the best use of the army this country has seen in a long time!

I can only hope that G4S, the company awarded the contract for Olympic security and paid £300 million for the pleasure, will compensate the taxpayer for services agreed but not provided. They have now said that they couldn’t train enough staff in time. Up to three weeks before the opening, they thought they could. Honestly. If they think they can hire someone as late as three weeks before the games, vetted and trained to the standards required in time, G4S might be the biggest security risk on site.

 

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Real-life Circus

DSCF3724I don’t know how much more of the Julian Assange circus I can stomach. Allow me:

He’s on bail by the British justice system. He breaches the Bail Act by walking into the London Embassy of Ecuador, asking for political asylum. He can’t leave the embassy for fear of being arrested (because he breached the British bail conditions). All this in order to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted over allegations of rape and sexual assault (which he denies). He fears that, once in Sweden, he might be extradited to the US, where he is wanted over espionage allegations, and he fears that the US of A may not give him a fair trial.

Come on.

He pleads not guilty over sex crime allegations, but makes every effort not to stand trial and see his innocence proven. He pisses off the US (and others) via WikiLeaks, claiming moral high ground all the way, and is now worried that they might be upset?

I’d really like to know which piece of the puzzle I am missing.

 

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The Impossible Defence

DSC_0764How on earth would anyone defend Anders Breivik, the Norwegian serial killer?

It is good and just that he is allowed a defender (actually, he’s got four), and it is good that he is allowed to speak out in his own defence, however disturbing his testimony might be.

However, if you were his lawyer, how on earth would you argue in your plaidoyer?

I don’t think insanity, or being influenced and misguided in some way, can explain or excuse the fact that he carefully planned and executed the killing of 77 people, with his only regrets being now that he didn’t kill more.

I suppose your task as a defender is to ensure that he gets a fair trial, to make sure that he’s been given the benefit of the doubt where applicable, to make sure judges and jury see the case from all sides, and that he is not given a sentence harsher than appropriate.

The mind boggles.

 

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Expert Advise

DSCF0200Britain, the Guardian tells me this morning, will also offer [Burma] support for better and stronger governance by training officials on sound public financial management, on the rule of law and strengthening parliamentary democracy, involving a parliamentary exchange programme.

Yeah right.

I think we could do with expert advise on sound public financial management and the strengthening of parliamentary democracy right here at home before touring the world and beating our chest like Tarzan.

Preposterous.

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Just The Way I Like My Taxes

DSC_0181The government plans to send a letter to each taxpayer, containing a breakdown how the money is spent. For example, a £25,000 income, before taxes, may produce £5,702.12 in taxes. According to The Independent, this breaks down as follows:

Welfare £1,901 33.3%
Health £993 17.4%
Education £743 13%
Debt £363 6.4
Defence £329 5.8%
Infrastructure, agriculture and industry £329 5.8%
Public order £284 5%
Other £227 4%
Government administration £125 2.2%
Housing £113 2%
Recreation, religion and culture £113 2%
Environment £96 1.7%
Overseas aid £57 1%
European Union £28 0.5%

The next step seems clear to me:

Dear Taxman, I shall write, at your earliest convenience, please split my funds and any future donations as follows until further notice, followed by my own fund split. Obviously, I’ll drastically cut the defence budget to boost investment in the environment , education and dept repayment. The 4% “other” will need a closer look, and more money needs to go into health and education in order to reduce future expense on welfare, and so on.

Obviously, your fund split will be different from mine, and I can’t help wondering: just like Wikipedia converges to truth by reflecting many voices, maybe our collective decision how to spent our own money would lead to a smarter way, and happier citizens.

Democratic taxes for everyone!

 

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Church And Other Disappointments

DSCF0354Ah, you had me fooled, Charlotte Church.

For a while, earlier in the month, I was about to applaud you for taking the News of the World phone hacking issue to the courts rather than accepting settlement from Rupert Murdoch. Fool that I am, I thought for once someone has a decent amount of morals, a spine, a sense for what is right and what is wrong.

No. An improved offer of £500,000 was what it took to satisfy your injury.

I realise now, reading the earlier article again, that you never claimed high moral standards, only a reported break-down in negotiations over the settlement pay-out.

Shame on you.

Not everyone can afford to waive an offer of £30,000, £100,000 or £500,000. But more or less everyone on the list of victims could have done without this pain killer; everyone could have done the right thing. None did.

Shame on you. All of you.

 

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Controlled Parking Zone?

parcometroThere’s a public hearing about a controlled parking zone (CPZ) in Hanwell town centre, are they nuts?

Oh no, they are not. Painting a few yellow lines, erecting a few new signs, and charging £75 per resident’s car per annum (£40 for a visitor’s permit), and cashing in on fines, is pretty attractive against any of the true solutions. Those include

a) create and maintain sufficient short-term car park space for shoppers and church goers or, more importantly,

b) make public transport so attractive that short term car parking problems go away.

This is not even a very well disguised money-making scheme for the council, given that there is no car park shortage in this area in the first place. The only occasional car parking problems arise from one of three local and easily identifiable sources:

  • Excessive praying at Our Lady and St Joseph can lead to a short-term car parking demand,
  • The car park at Gold’s Gym only takes a dozen or so cars, where the demand is probably three or four times that much at peak times, and
  • The Cambridge Yard building site brings work men during the day, and some stay in their cars over night.

Surely, church, gym and building site could be asked to make suitable provisions, and to encourage use of public transport. This is just the usual Ealing council hare-brained nonsense. All in favour of a cheap fund raiser for the council, without solving the actual problem, please vote Yes on the Hanwell CPZ Hearing.

Anyone with their head intact, please join me in saying No. You’ve got until December 23rd for the 120 seconds needed to fill in the form and return it in the free envelop provided.

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Hug a Hoodie!

Strada Interrotta Road SignPeople deserve the government they get, and they deserve to get it good and hard, H.L. Mencken said. Well. It’s a-coming. It’s coming at us, right now.

Britain is now preparing to pay the price for the questionable delights of having a conservative government. Punish them! Lock them up! Remove benefits from convicted looters and drive people into a full-time the criminal career!

While what happened last week is terrible, and terrible for all its brainless stupidity on the side of the rioters, what transpires now is just as bad, if not worse. Ed Miliband, the opposition leader, got carried away in the first adrenalin rush and joined in with the government. He’s now calming down and listening to some advisors, pleading that we should try and understand what has gone wrong in these children’s lives. He’s stands accused of being a hoodie hugger, what a joke.

Ed is now described as a political high-risk taker, basically because he expresses a desire to understand what went wrong. He’s far from knowing how to fix it, and he’s far from suggesting that tax payers’ money should be made available to help with the ground work: re-establishment of youth clubs, funding of street workers, improved housing, etc, etc.

It’s frustrating that the nation is happy to send thousands of troops out for murder, but it takes political suicide to even suggest spending a fraction of the same amounts of money to try to actually do something about the obvious social problem at home.

Over 2000 people have now been arrested in the wake of the riots. I don’t know what the ratio is, probable less then one in ten. That would mean that over 20,000 people were out and in some shape or form rioting. That’s far from being an entire generation, but surely is a big enough group to deserve immediate attention.

 

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Price-Fixing Fix-up F*-up

A knight on a horseThe Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has determined that Arla, Asda, Dairy Crest, McLelland, Safeway, Sainsbury’s, The Cheese Company, Wiseman, and Tesco co-ordinated rises in the consumer prices for certain dairy products in 2002 and, or, 2003. OFT awarded fines between 1.26 and 11.04 million pounds, adding up to a total penalty of almost £50,000,000.00 (BBC article here).

So, the radio presenter Liza Tarbuck wonders, where does all this money go?

It goes, business correspondent Pauline McCole explains, into the treasury’s bucket.

T’is a real shame. I am with Liza on this. These companies cheat the consumer and possibly the supplier, are being fined and we end up paying a new submarine with it? Or the MP’s duck house? Or the National Police Improvement Agency‘s (NPIA) £6.5m credit card bill?

I think any fines paid anywhere should be used in the context in which they arose.

Parking fines should go towards the provision and maintenance of adequate car park space, public transport and similar measures. Speeding tickets should pay for traffic calming measures. Drunk-driving penalties would go towards education, price fixing penalties towards housing and child support benefit. Fines for not paying child support should go directly into an account in the name of the child.

 

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