Problem Solved (One Down Two to Go)

badWeatherHere’s a brief update on yesterday’s post:

It appears that one of the three problems is solved, the problem of how to deal with the immediate riots happening all over Britain. Apparently, the revolution only happens after 17:00, in dry weather and, presumably, during the school holidays.

The best thing for now is a cold front with lots of rain.


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The Mind Goes Blank

stopYou will already have heard elsewhere about the current riots all over England. I don’t know what to say. I tried to describe my thoughts in today’s post several times and failed each time; there are just too many facets to the whole picture. I join the ranks of those looking at the situation and not knowing what to do:

The police can go in with force and trigger even more anger and violence. They can’t stand back and watch either. Somehow, the police needs to solve the immediate problem. At least in London they seem to have managed through the night at relative quiet, but other parts of England were on fire. Even once the immediate problems are solved and the streets safe again, one wonders what’s next:

We’d lock-up several hundreds of mostly young people, giving them a criminal record in the process. An 18-year old for looting eight bottles of alcohol and 50 packs of chewing gum. A 14-year old for stealing an armful of mobile phone equipment. Others took TVs and DVDs, more alcohol, tobacco and chewing gum. Many will be charged for arson, burglary, theft, disturbance of public order, assault, assault on police, possession of offensive weapons, … (the list continues).

Sensible people (including Camila Batmanghelidjh) suggested that budget cuts all over, closure of youth clubs and job cuts for street workers, general unemployment and so forth, all contributed to growing frustration, but one wonders what will help. Others counter that free education, healthcare, housing benefits, child benefits and whatnots are already provided for those in need. But, whatever your views are, you can’t take a megaphone and promise an angry crowd of petrol-bomb throwing looters Go back home and play with yourself! We’ll re-open the youth club some time in the next couple of months, then all will be well.

As a sofa- and self-appointed blog politician and critic, I am normally confident with my ingenious solutions. Here, however, I am at a loss how to solve the immediate problem, how to address the issues with the current generation, and how to avoid repeat performances in the future.


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Social is Good For You and Me and Everyone We Know

Some official-looking flags.

Welcome back. The concept of state is centred around the idea that all of us pay money into a pot, out of which certain services for the common good are being financed: Infrastructure such as roads, a decent public transport system, collection of household waste, schools, a postal service, – well. I know. You know. It’s a social thing, no matter how conservative you might be. S-O-C-I-A-L ain’t bad. It isn’t socialism, not communism. It’s actually a good thing. I know that you know, and you know that I do.

So, what are you waiting for? Go and tell them! ‘Coz them don’t know, them silly boys. Business Secretary Vince Cable’s latest foolishness is to privatise or sell Royal Mail, because it is allegedly dependent on an injection of private money and expertise.

So, let me see. We sell Royal Mail. Somebody takes over, invests in clever automatic sorting machines, lets a bunch of people go (at the expense of the welfare system), and makes a profit (to his or her benefit). Makes sense, huh?

This is alleged to solve the profitability problem and to resolve Royal Mail’s pension problem. It is also alleged to continue to provide affordable, reliable and inexpensive postal services in the big cities, the country, and the remote islands.

Yeah. I see now how it makes sense. Just like one and one add up to nineteen.

Stop having those reports made. Keep the money saved by not having someone analyse an idea that is too silly to begin with, and invest into buying an experienced leader and some beautiful sorting machines. Finally, remember that running a social service by the state doesn’t require making a profit. It is a service paid by us, run for us, not run for profit.

It’s not so difficult to understand, is it?


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Opportunities for Opportunities

linepainting Britain’s so-called benefit culture (a term mostly used by conservative politicians and journalists, I think, and not really generally recognised to be part of British culture) is said to cost approximately £60…80bn per year.

Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer is short on money these days, and keen on making popular move to huge media fanfare, politicians such as Ian Duncan Smith give us the same nonsense that we heard for ages again and again already:

Tough measures are required to prevent fraud, they say. Fair enough, I say. Serious punishment of fraudsters and benefit cheats is another popular request, and, since those high earners making these suggestions know best how it is to live on the breadline, cuts and reductions to the benefit system are also a common suggestion.

Crucial is of course not the nonsense that is suggested, but what is not suggested.

You can search long and hard, up and down for a politician who would dare to suggest increased investment into benefit and welfare programs. Maybe not by way of direct cash payout, but surely those in need for help primarily need help to help themselves. These are the things a government is supposed to specialize in: Create jobs. Create incentives to recruit people. Provide infrastructure that enables people to go to work: affordable public transport or affordable quality daytime child care come to mind.

First of all, it seems we need to invest and buy our politicians some common sense, and the decency to be a government for the people, for all of them, rather than govern their own careers.

I think you heard this lament before. This won’t be the last time though.


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George, On Air in Three – Two – One

flags In light of Britain‘s debt amounting to £893.4bn, our George announced drastic spending cuts and savings. £100m taken from Network Rail, £108m from London Transport, £5m from the Arts Council, and so the list goes on.

All amounts to £6.2bn. £893.4bn on one hand, £6.2bn on the other – hmmm. That’s not even 1%, and a lot of damage is already done to important public services.

Would it not be much nicer to make huge big savings with few cuts, instead of negligible savings many times over and over and over again?

Take Trident for starters. Something between £76bn and £130bn, plus the running cost of £1bn per year. A costly thread to peace, without any contribution to our safety or to protecting our way of life. Scrap it!

That’s what I call savings, and made for a good cause, too.

The war in Iraq is comparatively cheap (£1bn per annum), but still big savings compared to the populist £100m here-and-there approach. Round-up these savings by withdrawing from Afghanistan, and not engaging in the next game of guns somewhere. The world would most certainly turn into a safer place at the moment that we stop playing God in the middle east.

I don’t mean to pretend that I can solve the problem of the £893.4bn deficit, but surely if anything can solve it, then this requires bold steps rather than pathetic £6.2bn and a little show for the media here and there.

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A Unconvincing Argument

spring A convincing argument is something different than the comment my friend Nigel Bakhai, head of the local Liberal Democrats, produced in their February 2010 pamphlet.

The article comments on the planned closure of public toilets, and conversion of a couple of benches (typically only used by people holding beer cans from breakfast time onwards). Both are owned by the Lidl supermarket chain, who wants to replace the benches with trees, and probably assumes that the Hanwell Public Toilet Scheme (another Ealing Council brainfart) compensates for the removal of their own public toilets.

The Lib Dems’ article is entitled Inconvenient Truth. I was looking forward to find a good old rant over the fact that Ealing‘s current conservative council is asset-striping the borough, failing to provide basic public services (such as road surface maintenance or, indeed, the provision of public toilets, trees, benches, or aid for those in need), yet find it fit to refund £50 “overpaid” council tax to almost every household in the borough.

A great opportunity to make a point in case. Sadly, Nigel knew nothing better to say than “It is a shame to lose the toilets and seats, but especially as this area is not being put to better use apart from a few extra trees.”

Trees are important, Nigel. So are public services, and so is the care for this unfortunate ones beginning their day with a can of extra-strong lager.

It is early in the 2010 election campaign. Let’s hope Nigel picks up sense, strength, speed and arguments on the way.

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Welcome Back

DSCF7305 Welcome back. I am glad you’re still here, after such a long break. Let’s just say it was necessary, all right? Now, the fun goes on.


Because I have nowhere else to tell you about, that’s why. Everyone can have a go at a spoof election poster for the Conservative Party.

Brilliant; check it out.

The Independent writes today that the Conservative Party’s latest campaign poster doesn’t feature David’s photo; allegedly in an attempt to be less prone to caricature.

I say: Watch this.

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Please. Pretty Please

home Ealing Council, it its endless wisdom and in neglect to their duties, decided to pay back part of the local tax. The argument is that they have “too much money,” the neglect is that they fail to spend it on any of the necessary things. Apparently, they consider it a job done, and think of the elections ahead.

Any half-wit can create a sheer endless list of things in need of the council’s attention and money. Schools, places for the young and places for the elderly. Road surfaces and pavement, playgrounds, public libraries, parks. Support for the arts. Public toilets. Fly tipping and littering, drug use and crime. Public transport, alternative transport, alternative energy. Support for the elderly, the sick, the poor. Wherever you look or point, there’s is need for work being done and moneys being committed.

People of Ealing. Please take the £50 cash back payment, which is due to arrive in your bank account in December, and turn it into some local goodness.

I round mine up to the next £100 and make a donation to Groundwork West London, supporting them to continue doing what the council should do in the first place. Whether you round up the £50 cash back is your decision, and so is the choice of the charity or cause you chose to support, but please use the money for the purpose it was intended for in the first place: for the best of the borough.

Please, pretty please?


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Unite! Unite!

kidsInBorneo The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) ordered the far right-wing British National Party (BNP) to change its constitution; the restriction to allow new members only from “indigenous Caucasian stock” must be removed. People of all ethic backgrounds, including Black or Asian, must be allowed to join the BNP.

This is of course nothing but a farce. Or, is it?

I am calling all non-White members of the British public to join the BNP. Do it. Do it now. All you have to do is join, be united in the same goal, and outnumber the current BNP members. Then change the BNP’s constitution. Oh, and leadership, and name.

Oh, I see. I ask for unity. Bummer.

Plan B then. Let’s get a different electorate.


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The Winds of Change

henryMoore David Cameron is breaking the winds of change. I suppose there’s little to stop him now, following an eloquent speed containing lots of hollow phrases. Even though I hate the idea of yet another polished and styled politician leading the country, it is certainly time for a change.

Too bad there isn’t a real alternative to chose from.

Anyway, I wasn’t so much wondering about David Cameron but about Steve Hilton. I suppose initially, leading modern-time politicians and hopeful candidates had an advisor. A panel of advisors. An assistant. Maybe a press officer. A speech writer, and a campaign manager.

When did it start that hopeful candidates (and some of those elected) were in need of a Head of Marketing of the unquestioned calibre of advertising expert Steve Hilton?

I hate the idea that our modern politicians are all styled like one would otherwise brand a fashion accessory. Whatever happened to a convincing argument, a promising strategy, a steadfastness in certain principles of politics, humanity and morality?


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Stop it! My Head Hurts!

secondHome Stop it! My head hurts from shaking it in disbelief alone. I’m pretty sure that you heard that UK newspapers had (through some questionable means) acquired and published details of UP parliamentarians’ expense claims, causing a huge stir-up.

In short, many politicians of all parties are excused to having exploited an overly generous expense system. (Here’s the detailed breakdown.)

That alone doesn’t surprise me much. Neither am I surprised by what happens next:

Step one (public declaration):

I have done nothing wrong; all my expense claims were in line with the guidelines, and lawfully approved.

Step two: (thinking to self):

Hmm, there’s a lot of public pressure here. And actually, claiming for cat food really doesn’t look too good. Of for 18 months of a mortgage that had been paid off. Or for a second home, while my good wife, also an MP, also claims for a second home. Or for three different second homes within a single year.

Step three: (public declaration):

I insist that I have done nothing wrong, but I’ll repay a five-digit figure anyway, in order to restore my now falsely damaged reputation and integrity.

How can I trust a politician how can neither stand by the claims of rightfulness, or admit exploiting the system?

Some brought lame excuses of claims being made by accident or poor accounting. Some others even acknowledged inappropriate claims, or withholding taxes, offered repayment and think this is the end of it. If Joe Public ‘withholds’ £13,332 in capital gains tax (See Hazel Blears), it certainly won’t be done with “Oops. Here’s the money.”

Now it’s all the speaker’s fault. He let us do it, so his head must roll, appears to be the common logic. One cannot but shake the head in disbelief.

Anyone erroneously claiming £16,000 expenses on grounds of “poor accounting” is not fit for office in the first place, so how… Didn’t I tell you? I shake my head in disbelief so much that it hurts, and much of the nation seems to shake alongside.

But, where’s the fraud squad I wonder? Few seem to ask for it, and many seem happy with apologies, paying back, and a few scapegoat resignations. Now that makes me truly shake my head in disbelief.


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The Hanwell Public Toilet Scheme

rendevouzPoint Starting today, the press notice released on an unspecified day in March 2009 reports, Hanwell businesses will be taking part in a trial scheme to provide more public toilets in the town.

It means that four local cafes and bars will allow free and public access to their toilets. In return, each gets £600 per year to help cover cleaning and upkeep.

The truth is that these businesses aren’t so much taking part in a trial scheme to provide more public toilets in town, they are part of a scheme to help the council weasel out of their duties. £2,400 per year, a few hours of bigwig palaver and a new sticker in the window is going to be much less than buying and maintaining “real” public toilets. As such, the plan is admirable, but I can’t help thinking of my hair dresser.

In short, his argument is that he cannot allow public access to his toilets (only to a select few), because his facilities would otherwise be used to route drugs, weapons, and some-such.

If he’s right, those four businesses have just taken on a pretty big responsibility. I can only hope he’s wrong, ‘coz I can’t believe those four local businesses are up for the whole package.

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