Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's good for the goose

Prime Ministers Questions today, and what a horrible thing that has become with the sneering public-school bullies on the government front bench. The topic of strikes was brought up in carefully placed questions by backbench lackeys with designs on a proper job, to which the Prime Minister said:
"Most of them did not vote for this. Only a quarter of union members backed industrial action"

Now. Some maths. Turnout at the last election was 65% - which wasn't bad actually, especially given the mess the Commons was in after expenses and all that. The Conservatives polled 36.1% of votes cast which means that 23.47% of all registered voters considered them their preference. That's less than a quarter. So by that logic, should the oft-mooted idea of making strike ballots illegitimate unless there's a minimum of 50% of registered voters back it - as opposed to a simple majority at present - then the same should apply when electing our governments. But wait, that was what AV was all about and who was the biggest voice against that? Oh yes, the Conservative party.

Also, the hated NHS bill wasn't in anyone's manifesto at the last election, so therefore absolutely NOBODY voted for that, but it seems it's headed for the statute book anyway. Yay for democracy!

Elsewhere in his denunciation of the rights of workers to withdraw their labour as a last resort in an industrial dispute, Cameron urged members to defy the strikes to avoid inflicting "pain" on hardworking people "who pay your wages". This is a common rhetorical ruse to make it sound like public sector workers don't pay tax and are all take, take, take. We don't "pay their wages", we pay general taxation, some of which goes towards paying for public services - things which are for the support and betterment of society - and those people who are paid to provide those services are also paying into the same general taxation pot. The completely unaccountable Taxpayers Alliance are big fans of this rhetoric as are many on the right, but the use of the pejorative figure, "The Taxpayer", has entered common parlance these days, as if everything that comes out of the public purse is the responsibility of a person rather than society as a whole. It's a cheap trick, but sadly it seems to work.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

All-purpose article for the local rag

This is one of dozens of articles such as this that have appeared in the local rag since the last general election. Here's another. And so on. Etc. So far, so banal.
In the interests of helping out - kindly soul that I am, call me Mr Big Society - I thought the Examiner could use a cover-all article to insert into their pages whenever Jason McCartney pops his head out to say hello. So here it is:

Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney visited a local pub/petting zoo/football match today to show his support
for/condemn cuts to services. "It's heartening/disgusting to see these hard-working families/layabouts doing so
much/little for the local community" said the former Calendar newsreader.

"I'm here at this church fete/disused warehouse/pie shop to totally support/denounce the latest proposals coming from Whitehall. Local people do/don't need a civil servant to decide what's best for them" he continued as he tried on a fireman's helmet/had yet another photo taken. "But one thing is clear; striking/protesting is not the answer".

"He was on the telly, so I voted for him", said one local resident.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Agent of change

I've had a funny old year work-wise insofar as I've now changed jobs - reasons too long and boring to go into here - twice. The first time took three months from leaving one to finding another, a period in which I sent out about 150 applications. The second time took two months and about 120 applications. Both times, I managed to get one interview from all those applications and by some twist of luck and fate, the one interview was enough.
What was different about both of those was that the application went to the company directly without the use of a recruitment agency.
There's a moral in the story there somewhere.


The Stone Roses are reforming and playing a couple of gigs not that far away. This is quite a big deal as they were bloody marvellous. So how to decide whether to go or not. Only one thing for it: lists.


Ian Brown never could sing
At £55 a ticket, it's a lot of money
It'll be full of blokes my age trying very hard to cling to last vestiges of youth, fruitlessly
It's a cynical exercise that serves only to pay off the mortgage/tax bills of some middle age men


It's the Stone Roses and they could well fall out again mid-song and that'd be funny

In short then, still not sure...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The obvious answer

'Government to tackle energy price rises' said the headlines yesterday. I'll confess to not reading on after that as it should be obvious what the body of the story was. The one sure-fire way to reduce energy costs is to nationalise the whole industry thereby removing the profit motive from the whole operation. So that's good news then isn't it.

They're not doing that?
Oh for fucks sake...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Listing heavily

So many things are going through my head that I can't quite focus my on any one thing. There's only one remedy for that and that's to make lists.

Things that are really winding me up:

  • Prices up 18%, profit margins up 733% in the same period. I maintain that anything you consider fundamental to your way of life - and taking electricity away would require a massive change in the way we all live - should be a public service, not a profit motive
  • Liam Fox, up to his fucking eyes on it
  • Oliver Letwin and his inability to shred
  • Unelected body passing mandate-free legislation to destroy something good that everyone benefits from
  • The BCCI
  • Libraries - it's not libraries themselves that annoy, rather the short-sighted closure thereof. They'll be extremely difficult to get back once they're gone.
  • Ian Duncan Smith's intemperate language as people who are bearing the brunt of someone else's problem take a stance
  • Another £75bn of QE that we won't get back
  • The failure of the Charities Commission's challenge to private schools regarding charity status and the fact they serve no charitable purpose at all, just use it as a tax dodge
  • Ian Ayre and Liverpool FC for their 'I'm alright Jack' attitude. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on
  • Cuts to our national broadcaster. If - a big if - you accept the need for cutbacks, then the things that other broadcasters do, and do well like talent shows, should be first to go and the things that other broadcasters can't/won't do should stay. Like BBC4, BBC6music, county cricket commentaries and many other things.

Things I'm not annoyed about:

  • The Blackberry outage. It was mildly inconvenient not being able to check twitter while I was in the pub on Tuesday night, but you know what, I managed.
  • Wayne Rooney's ban. Couldn't give a flying one

Things I'm actively happy about:

And breathe.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Won't get fooled again

A friend of mine* is an inveterate gambler. Horses, mainly, and every now and then he'll share one of his absolutely red-hot tips with everyone down the pub. At first, you'd listen intently, note the name of the nag on which his giro will be going this week, perhaps even put a couple of quid on it yourself. Occasionally, it would win, but those times were very much a rarity. More often than not, it'd limp over the line a couple of hours after the rest of the field and be so poor that you begin to think that you've been caught up in a massive scam. Eventually, you stop listening. At best, you'll nod and say "Yes, Limpy Geoff. 100/30. I'll get right on it" while having no intention of doing so.

Basically, this chap is behaving like a credit rating agency. After they told everyone that collateralised debt obligations - fancy packaged debt with lashings of sub-prime mortgage gravy - were a sure thing, what we should have done was stop listening, go put some more coins down on the pool table and leave them wittering away into their pints of cheap bitter. Instead, however, the world still hangs on the every word issued by these unaccountable institutions and panics/relaxes on the strength of how bad/good the news is. How anything or anyone who has proved to be so badly wrong in it's judgements and predictions is credited with so much trust is staggering.

* - I have no such friend. I made him up, but the point stands.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

A square yet to be circled

Help me out. How can these notions - lose unemployment benefit if you are deemed not to be looking hard enough for work and making it easier to sack people - exist in the same brain of an individual? They surely cannot be compatible.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who's teaching your kids?

The answer to that question may very easily be: nobody.
Surprised? You shouldn't be. It's been like this for approaching two years and is, I think, nothing short of a scandal and one that nobody seems to be aware of.
The rules changed under the last government. If there is an absence in teaching staff of less than two weeks, schools are no longer obliged to bring in a teacher to cover. Instead, they can employ what are known as cover supervisors. These do not have to be qualified educationalists - indeed, should a qualified person take on this role, they are under strict instruction not to teach - and are paid slightly above minimum wage. Their role is, basically, to make sure the kids don't kill each other, to do the work set for them with minimal disruption. Crowd control, essentially.
I'm not a parent - not about to be either - but were a child of mine to spend up to two weeks at a time not being taught anything, I'd be absolutely furious. This practise seems to have slipped under the radar. I only know about it as my significant other earns a wage as a supply teacher and her opportunities to work have been severely reduced as a result. Yes, this means I have a vested interest, but it's not that which riles me so. I think we're letting down an entire generation by allowing this to continue and that's way more important than what brand of food our cat gets this week.
So, parents. Find out how much time the pupils at your child's school spend being supervised rather than taught. Kick up a fuss. And let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ProGlide Challenge

Why does everything have to be a mission or a challenge in modern television advertising? Gillette are the current focus of my ire for their Fusion ProGlide challenge in which a bunch of blokes jump out of the back of a van and storm the changing rooms in a gym. This is already suspicious enough.

In there, three hapless stooges are shaving. Now, as anyone who knows me will attest, I'm not familiar with the inner workings of a gymnasium, but is shaving in the changing rooms that common? I suspect not, but would welcome insight from someone better informed. These shavers all seem to have dull blades, complaining as they do about the never-before-mentioned phenomenon of 'tug and pull'. Needless to say, adopting the new mega-blade razor solves this problem and all is well with the world.
But no. What those blokes are experiencing is a blunt razor. Put a new blade in and you'll be sorted boys. Or, if you're using disposables, lob it and get a fresh one out. You don't need five blades and an aloe vera moisturising strip. If your face is wet and you've got soap on it, it will neither tug nor pull unless you're trying to shave whilst wearing boxing gloves. And you don't need some weirdo and his mates bursting out of the back of a van to tell you that.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Never wrong

I have worked out the right's tactics, both here in Blighty and in the States. Probably elsewhere too, but we don't get to hear too much about that here.

Anyway, in attempting to never be wrong, they simply contradict themselves at every turn. 250 vote defeat in the Commons? Claim it as a win. Virulently anti-abortion? Claim you're pro-choice. Not got the support of any major medical union for your reforms of the NHS? Claim that you do with enough bluster as to make it sound believable. Free-marketeer? Claim welfare is a Ponzi scheme.

And on it goes.
The coalition government in the UK and the Republicans in the US are both masters of this, presumably on the basis that once it's written about, it can't be unwritten no matter how many contradictions are subsequently published. It's a cynical and depressing tactic and that's why it has a greater than 60% chance of working.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Misanthropic moments

Some days, I wake up and see the world like this:

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A march to save satire

The current government couldn't have been a more cartoonish set of old Etonians if they tried. Every policy is out of the Hooded Claw book of evil plans and every public utterance so unbelievably crass - witness Oliver Letwin's comments about people from Sheffield and holidays - that it's impossible to satirise.

Their supporters, too, are equally in on the act. Witness the pro-cuts rally whereby people who are completely unaffected by debt campaign against debt while condemning future students to enormous debt.

What they've done is take satire in-house, rendering thousands of satirists redundant. Those communities that rely on satire as their principle source of income are being hit tremendously hard. Satire mines and processing factories are closing at an alarming rate with no regard to the knock-on effects for the overall economy. If it continues at this rate, this country will be a net importer of satire well before the end of this parliament and, as we've seen with manufacturing, once those skills are lost, it's incredibly difficult to get them back.

I therefore propose a march to save satire from these people who don't really know what they're doing with it. The government and their supporters must be forced to use flowery, obfuscating language so satirists can go about their business as before and not be reduced to pointing at headlines going "look. Just... look".