Monday, 29 November 2010

I'm in exile in my home country

I was meeting a friend in Preston City Centre, just after the EDL/UAF demonstrations ended.  I managed by accident to be swept along in a mass of EDL supporters, as I tried to walk up Church Street to meet a friend.  The abhorrent racist shouting, the all-surrounding threatening behaviour, the sea of balaclavas and the abject hooliganism can't be described in enough realism to anyone who hasn't witnessed it first-hand.

At first, I was a little scared - they were your typical football hooligan look-a-likes, some wearing hoodies proudly describing them members of a "division"; which was interesting as surely a movement with such belief in "English Defence" shouldn't need to be divided?  There was a massive Lancashire Constabulary presence and my fears, once I got out of the thick of it were abated.  Then I wanted to feel angry, wanted to vent and rage and make them see they were wrong.  But that didn't arrive; sadness did. I felt deflated.

In that moment I started to feel ashamed that I was born in the same country as these people.  The Britain I grew up believing in was fair, just and welcoming.  The England I grew up in was tolerant, liberal and secular.  These people weren't from my Britain, my England.  They singled out a large portion of English society for hatred under the guise that they were protecting English Christian values.  Moreover, it was thinly veiled under a wash of political demands for protection of the Justice System, but hatred was there all the same - I saw two men have chanted at them "Fuck off Pakis" and "Burn a Mosque".

That's the key here, the right wing groups like the English Defence League and British National Party have a knack, no matter how "fair" they wish to appear, to attract those in society who wish hatred on others.  In essence, these parties raise a patriotic emblem and ask that the traditional way of life is adhered to; which I'm sure Americans, with their Constitution, would have no problem with.  However, there are those in these parties who use their banner - borrowed from the nation - to spout abuse, hatred and violence on others; which isn't very patriotic at all.

Given the example I witnessed in Preston on Saturday, I'm not English.  I'm not British.  I'm in exile in my home country.  That's why I felt so sad.

Monday, 15 November 2010

taking the piss out of public sector employees' job titles

I watched the Channel Four documentary, Britain's Trillion Pound Horror Story, this morning via 4OD.  It's made by the same chap (Martin Durkin) who made the similarly polemic The Great Global Warming Swindle, which ended up with criticism from OfCom.  It's sill available for a while if you fancy watching it and it's one of the first things on 4OD I've watched - I was impressed by the service, although split by adverts at an arbitrary point.

Our intrepid reporter asks inumerate people to
identify a large number for our amusement
In short, I found it rather dubiously one sided, making repeated reference to a figure of '£4.8 trillion' as the national debt, while not stating precisely where this figure was measured from - whereas the Office for National Statistics measures it as £1000.4 billion.  Agreed, it did show some of the other things that made up the discrepency, but not clear enough to warrant this figure to be totally beleivable.  The general theme throughout the show was that in the United Kingdom economy, most regions are 'overly' reliant on the public sector, which is something we all know of course.  In one segment, hand picked inumerate volunteers are asked to identify the figure of £4,800,000,000,000 on the side of an articulated lorry parked acorss a busy road.  This is of course to illustrate we can't comprehend the figure, but actually serves to show us that his real plan is to round up thick people in his lorry to sell on eBay.

[The following few paragraphs discuss the economics involved, skip ahead if you like to stay awake]

There was some good explanations of theory, albeit only shown from the perspective of the neoclassical camp, without any reference to the fact all theories in economics are assumptions based on very simple models - so while I'd encourage you to watch some of the 'science bits', I'd advise you to avoid them until there's a good source to counter argue the way they're portrayed here.  For instance, in one demonstration, a tax man visits a restauranteur and demands fifty pounds, which is then given as wages to the staff member who administers the tax return for the restaurant, who subsequently returns to the restaurant to buy lunch, spending fifty pounds.  Essentially, the point being made is that while the restauranteur has earned his money back, he's lost out because he's paid for the raw materials in the food and chef's time, for example.  However, this totally misses the point as taxation isn't taken as a one-off, it's measured against profits and while companies employ various techniques to reduce their tax burden, they pay it based on an annual figure.

Clearly only mechanics exist in the
private sector nowadays
The film at various points makes references to the public sector as akin to leeches, that they don't serve any purpose.  They're embodied in the graphics as faceless bowler hat wearing smartly dressed people, while front line staff - like nurses, doctors and police - are shown in different uniforms, albeit sexist as nurses always appear to be female or transvestites.  These faceless leeches are then shown to take money and spend in local services, like hairdressers, garages or electricians; which we are reminded are services impossible to export and should be considered as stealth employed by the public sector as they'd not have any custom if the public sector didn't employ as many people.  We are taken then to Newcastle, where our presenter informs us has a very high dependency on the public sector for employment: we are not informed why this is so and instead we're shown around Beamish Open Air Museum to show how it all used to be in the good old days of the Industrial Revolution.

That was when I lost all respect for the programme; the north-east of England is so dependent on public sector jobs because the Thatcher government closed the nationalised industries like coal mining.  So, a few years later when looking to expand your facilities, do you choose a relatively expensive to hire supply of labour where jobs are plentiful such as London or site your new offices where there's a lot of spare labour who you can pay less?  That's right, you'd site them in areas where lots of labour exists - it's two fold in effect, wages are lower reducing labour cost and also people in work would be on the dole otherwise.  It went on to say how terrible this situation is and then succintly offered no solution to a way out for these areas other than "it'll be hard for a bit, painful, but has to be done".

floating turd
Daily Mail readers will be in heaven
OK, so yes, it is useful as an opinion piece to get you thinking - but there's a turd in the water.  That turd is in the form of Kelvin MacKenzie in a triumvirate alongside Lionel Blair and Vanessa Feltz taking the piss out of public sector employees' job titles.  This is almost as Daily Mail television as you can get unless they themselves were to launch a channel streaming live deportations, police brutality of youths wearing hoodies and a regular update of the BBC Television Centre burning to the ground.  These people are employed, they're not on the dole and they probably didn't invent their jobs in the first place.  What exactly are the trio doing for lowering taxes?

Overall, I wish I hadn't watched it, but you can make your own mind up.  I did plan to write about the nasty horrible things they said about the NHS - but I fear that the inclusion of Mr. MacKenzie stopped me dead.  His face shows up throughout as a sort of modern day oracle, spoon feeding us his vast knowledge of economic theory via the medium of shouting at the camera about how there's no money.  If this show were a contestant on ITV's XFactor, its singing voice would start like a distant high-pitched alarm, then grow louder and louder while Simon Cowell told us how marvellous it was and rigged the result so it stayed in until we all killed each other.

touching a pig is immoral

A post under the guise of "Political Correctness Gone Mad".

Recently, a facespace post caught my eye: it was regarding the disbelief that the Early Learning Centre (ELC) didn't include a pig in a child's toy farm set on the NetMums website.
The offending toy set, without a 'piggy'.
"[I] noticed that there was a pig noise on the top of Goosefeather Farm but I couldnt find a pig ... I went through all the paper and boxes again, but alas coudn't find piggy. Checked the box and discovered that there isnt a piggy. Went online, nope no piggy. So I emailed ELC and the response that I had makes my blood boil. [Emoticons]

'However previously the pig was part of the Goose feather farm however due to customer feedback and religious reasons this is no longer part of the farm'

Now, let me make this perfectly clear. This has absolutely nothing to do with race, so nobody can accuse me of being 'racist'.

This is POLITICAL CORRECTNESS gone loopy. On what basis did they remove it???
This is as bad as no more 'baa baa black sheep' or other such things. Stuff like this is just insipid, it worms its way into every aspect of our lives and we just let it happen. Surely if someone has issue with a toy that they don't agree with, then don't buy it!
NetMums contributor Caroline

Sidestepping the foaming-at-the-mouth posting style, the missing apostrophes and the spelling mistakes for a moment; does Caroline have a point?

In short, I think, no.

For a start, the ELC aren't being overly PC - if they find their customers report they'd prefer not to have said animal in their toys, that's good for their business.  While I disagree with people who'd think touching a pig is immoral or against some foolishly held belief, it's their right to it being protected.  Just like they don't present your child with a cow clearly missing limbs or a farmer who has an unorthodox method of interlocking with a sheep: they'd loose business by including it.  So, Caroline, it isn't insipid it is just business sense.

The fact the toy farm building still makes a piggy noise means that the child may grow up to be mocked for thinking another animal oinks, but they're hardly going to develop into future serial killers because of it.  If you thought there should be a pig, fine, but it wasn't listed and perhaps the ELC should have made this a little more clear.  This smacks of the head scarf should be banned argument, who will immediately back track when they realise that banning of head scarves will mean a ban on all religious dress - including crucifixes.

In short, swallow some of your own medicine, Caroline; "Surely if someone has issue with a toy that they don't agree with, then don't buy it!".

Friday, 5 November 2010

Open letter to Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats

On the 6th May 2010, I voted Liberal Democrat as I have in every election prior – local or national – since I have held a vote, strongly believing that no vote is a wasted vote. I was filled with optimism on that day – your party, as ever, was the progressive party of choice, with views mostly allied to my own and in areas of disagreement your party argued their case to an extent I sympathised. I was brought up by my parents to believe that a right to vote should be cherished, to be something to never lose.

To this end, I travelled to the other end of the country to help a family member standing as a Liberal Democrat candidate for a local government position canvass, leaflet and advertise the party before the general election. I was a member of the party when I was younger and I hoped to be proud enough after 6th May to join again.

After the coalition was formed, I carefully listened to what the party were saying – given how distasteful I found the concept. Attempting to accept that the economic situation of the country was so dire that we would indeed have to be more realistic with planned items on the Liberal Democrat manifesto, I trusted that the party would ensure that a progressive theme was maintained and cut backs and revenues would fall on the richest first.

I believed in a progressive party, who would temper the Conservative ideology of reducing government back to a minimum. I thought my vote would protect thousands of people on low wages, look out for public sector workers and protect the economy from the banking crisis happening again and punish those who took risks. After all, it is the tax payer now footing the bill for a great proportion of the banking sector, it should not be the tax payer losing out. Your party, and you personally, stood on a promise to reduce, prevent or abolish tuition fees in higher education. Above all, your party was the party that I thought would not lie to me; with all the promises of changing politics for the better and making the electorate believe in politics again.

Now that you understand the reason I voted Liberal Democrat, I have a confession. I am now ashamed I voted Liberal Democrat on 6th May 2010. Since then, every announcement from the coalition has been wholly against why I voted the way I did. Your party has outright lied to the electorate over tuition fees, your party has been complicit in countless job losses in the public sector and you were sat there on the front bench as George Osborne MP announced cuts to hoorays and cheers by your new bed fellows.

While these feelings left me ashamed, they were nothing compared to an incident I now feel physically nauseous over. I voted in support of a party of xenophobes. Watching Question Time last night on BBC1, Jeremy Browne MP failed to illustrate any point of view without raising his voice and shouting another panel member down. While I concede Jack Straw MP was nearing the same style of debate, he now looks a rather more palatable option after what was said later on the subject of the treaty with France. I was disgusted to see the representative of the party I voted for stringing along a tirade of small-minded remarks about the French people. I sincerely felt at any mention of Germany, he would be goose-stepping around the studio complete with finger posed moustache.

I not only feel ashamed, I feel wholeheartedly sorry for the British people my vote was for your party on 6th May 2010 – my only comfort being the Liberal Democrat candidate in my constituency of Ribble Valley came a distant third and so I made a marginal difference to the outcome.

Please be aware that my cross will never again land alongside a Liberal Democrat candidate, and thank you and your party for ensuring that I have little interest in voting again.

I welcome any response, but do not expect one.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

somewhere in Nigella Lawson's straining brassiere

A review of Vampire Diaries (ITV2), based on a response originally posted to a friend's enquiry about said show's merits.

Apparently, vampires and related occult creations are full of the sexy.  We can determine this from the utter truck loads of it on the silver screen, your local Waterstone's and ancillary channels of terrestrial broadcasters' television listings.  The reasons for this are hard to pin down, but it is fair to assume it conditioning for the imminent arrival of Beelzebub.  Vote for that, Middle America.

So, on to Vampire Diaries.  From the little I was forced to watch the other day after I misplaced the remote during Celebrity Juice, and frantically threw around furniture to discover its location before my mind decided to labotomise itself in order to avoid further damage, I can conclude that it is a mixture of True Blood and The OC.  You probably may swap mentions of The OC with mentions of Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, Gilmore Girls or Hollyoaks - in short, we're talking most of E4's scheduling. For those not in the know about these inexplicably popular televisual experiences, I'll help by introducing an abridged description of each:
  • True Blood is based on a popular series of novels and well acted, well written and for the most part entertaining - just ignore all the hocus-pocus mumbo-jumbo stuff and you'll get along with it fine, I did and I hate this kind of rubbish normally.
  • The OC [Gilmore Girls, Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill..] is an American teen drama set in a warped reality bubble surrounding a script writer's internal frustration that he is horrifically ugly, unpopular and still lives with his mum; I say all this by assumption: I have never had the misfortune to accidentally watch the actual show, just trailers for it when I have had no V+ gold banked while watching something else on Channel 4.
So the ingredients are there for a deliciously well prepared, wholesome dumpling perfectly spiced by sexually liberated naked nymphettes living somewhere in Nigella Lawson's straining brassiere. Unfortunately, some snotty YTS kid made the stew it floats in; consisting of foetid road kill chunks, a ladle full of Sweet and Low sweetners, pooh flakes derived from a recent toilet visit and a dash of jizz produced when looking at the aforementioned sexually liberated naked nymphettes preparing dumplings.

Basically, you will find eye candy to perve over (but not enough nudity to really titilate), there's plenty of pointless camera spaffery to prove they're making an arty, edgy, teen-centric drama and a soundtrack of a whiney, nauseating middle of the road din. I didn't watch it long, but enough to ascertain that it probably has plot lines that are smugly surprising, omnipresent cliff hangers (OMG will they, won't they?!?!?) and the regular nonsensical twist.  All this and if anything appears impossible they have the comfort blanket that while The OC is based in a bubble of hyper-reality floating in a normal reality world, Vampire Diaries is that same bubble of hyper-reality surrounded by an atmosphere of complete bollocks.

{Originally posted to my facespace notes}