Thursday, March 17, 2005

Electoral bribery

Yesterday's budget promised a £200 council tax rebate to pensioners. A handy bribe, with an election coming up. As Labour's Blogging Bromwich East MP notes, "Gordon Brown just gave 12,980 pensioner households in my constituency an additional £200, it's these days that make me realise just how lucky I am".

Yep, being in government is certainly an easy way to speed through bribes and corruption. The current issue of Private Eye notes the ongoing drama over postal vote fraud in Birmingham, noting that in last year's local elections "in the ward of Bordesley Green, up to 3,000 people had their postal votes forged and stolen by Labour supporters. The party won the ward with a majority of 441." The judge investigating has apparently stated that "I might come to the conclusion that this was a Birmingham-wide Labour party activity." Shades of Florida 2000, eh?

And as Chicken Yoghurt notes, this £200 to pensioners is a one off payment, purely for this electoral year.

In Tom Watson's constituency alone, this bribe is going to cost £2,598,000. How is this loss of income going to be covered without other ratepayers picking up the slack? Council Tax rises all round, then...

So, if they think about it for a moment, constituents will quickly twig that taxes will go up after the election and they'll end up worse off.

The pensioners in question will also realise that the payment is a one-off and they'll get hit for full-whack Council Tax next year (doubtless including above inflation increases, as per usual, to cover their earlier vote-winning bribes) with no corresponding increase in their pensions.

Nice one... Perhaps the words of Harold Wilson in the October 1974 Labour Manifesto might bear repeating: "We do not believe in electoral bribes - these are an insult to the intelligence and realism of the public."

The current Labour government, insulting the intelligence and realism of the public? Surely not!

(And this coming from someone who quite likes Gordon Brown...)

A reasoned American take on the IRA situation

In a comment to this post, a chap by the name of Ronnie in New Orleans, who has visited the site before on and off to have a few arguments with a wishy-washy liberal Brit, has a rather good summary of the attitude of many in the US to British exasperation over the lack of condemnation of the IRA as terrorists. As I've suddenly been inundated with work, I'll reproduce it here in lieu of any time to knock up something original. It deserves to be read more widely than just by those who click the comments link, after all:

It's not really hypocrisy, it's just reality.

As a French-Spanish Catholic with no historic or emotional stake in the situation in Ulster let me try to explain some of the problems that arise when you equate Arab terrorism against the US with Britain's problems with Ireland; and with expecting a proportional reaction from our government.

I don't think Brits in general have a real appreciation of the pure hatred, rancor, dislike, disdain, disgust, and just plain unfriendly feelings that many, and maybe most, Irish-Americans have for England. You could spend oceans of electronic ink explaining and deconstructing many of the arguments used to justify this dislike, but it won't change many minds. We have a large Irish Catholic population in New Orleans, one of our major old city areas is called the Irish Channel, but I had never really felt the weight of this animosity until I grew up and got into discussions with friends and acquaintances of Irish descent about issues related to the troubles.

It is also true that although many of the claims made regarding systematic genocide, forced starvation, and other government sponsored acts of slaughter are often exaggerated or untrue, Britain spent about 350 years or so cultivating this hatred by treating Irish Catholics as less than human. You got where you are the old fashioned way; you earned it. I don't think the same can be said for the US history with the Arabs. As a matter of convenience we have just become the hated symbol and religious whipping boy for the existence of Israel. If we would have attacked Tel Aviv instead of Baghdad all references to the Great Satsn would have disappeared as quickly as Europe's Jews.

I've been in a bar where people of Irish descent clapped and cheered when hearing of British ships being sunk in the Falklands. I've heard well educated people assert that Irish Catholics starved while the English refused to unload the grain ships sitting in Irish harbors, or sold the food on the European market... of orders given to British soldiers to crush the heads of Irish babies. And this is the "G" rated list.

At the local Celtic bar in the French Quarter rebel songs are sung with passion and meaning. I love the music but references to a "Thompson gun" sort of spoil the atmosphere. The music is good but the theme can really get tiresome. British friends come often to the bar with me because they like Celtic music, and comment that "nobody cares about that stuff anymore" though one of them did say the amount of it sung during the show was "sort of extreme." Wish it had been. Come back next week.

And this is in Southern, Conservative, Red State Louisiana. The Irish here are almost all Democrats, and represent a good portion of the Kerry support in the city during the last election. These are the folks the Brit media seems to think has all of the good sense and political nuance. Let me assure you they are not well intentioned toward Britain. Judge for yourself if that's good sense.

And there lies the problem. This is a visceral political issue for these folks, and they represent a substantial voting block, one that any politician, especially a Democrat, offends at his peril. Give some kudos to George Bush... he snubbed the IRA and in so doing forced the hand of Ted Kennedy, who would have looked to be a boot licker if he would have entertained Adams. The pull of the old hatreds is so great, however, that other members of the Kennedy clan did visit with Adams, I'm sure to tell him to lay low until the heat is off.

Is the IRA a terrorist organization? Of course.
Are they a bunch of armed criminals? Yeah.
Is Sinn Fein a political front for a gang of thugs? Sure.
Is Gerry Adams a murdering scumbag with a slick image? Absolutely.
Should SF/IRA be banned from fundraising in the US and have all of their assets seized? Yep.

But George Bush has only so much political capital to spend, and I doubt he will find it prudent to invest a large portion of it into an issue as peripheral to US interests as the Ulster/IRA/SF/GB problem, which most Americans who aren't Irish don't care about anyway. The most he can do is keep up the symbolic gestures. It will have some effect. I would sum up the prevailing independent opinion over the years as "they deserve each other."

I hope that's changing and I think it has to some degree. The stupid criminal acts by the SF/IRA coalition are having an effect on US public opinion since they can equate it to a criminal organization rather than a terrorist group. Americans are familiar with government limiting and punishing criminal organizations. It is all to the good that this is the way it is presented. Americans have long ago separated Italians from the Mafia, and the pursuit of the criminals no longer stigmatizes all Italians by association. Painting the IRA criminals as criminals is neither inaccurate or dishonest and will serve to separate the current crop of mobsters from Collins and Childers, as well as from good ole Paddy down the street. They're more like Capone. These guys are not insurgents, freedom fighters, or latter day avengers. These guys give rebels a bad name. They're just common crooks.

Up the Irish!
And the rule of law.

By -ronnie in new orleans-

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

£83.46 for each British citizen

That's how much the "War on Terror" has cost, according to the budget. £4.9 billion. That's £4,900,000,000 - a lot of zeros.

Would you look at that? This money could have been used to fund ID cards for every citizen, and still leave the government with at least £1.965 billion change.

In addition, the defence budget is being increased by £400 million. That could have paid for a new "super-hospital".

Taken as a whole, that £4.9 billion could have paid, let's face it, for a whole load of nice stuff. How about a digital set-top box for every British citizen plus change for a couple of pints? Actually, sod the digital box - how about 33 pints each?

They haven't quite got the right idea, this government. Who cares about far-off lands of which we know nothing? Get us all pissed - that's how you win votes.

Update: Well, I suppose it could be worse...

More on British vs. American attitudes to terrorism

Following this old piece of mine, an article in today's Times does much to help explain to Americans precisely why Britain has the attitude it does towards this whole "War on Terror" malarkey. I don't usually like Simon Jenkins much, but this is spot on.

I'll post the whole article in a comment in case it goes to the subscription site at some point.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

One English penny per EU citizen

That's all the Commission has allocated EU-wide for pro-constitution propaganda. (£5.5 million divided by an EU population of 456 million.)

Of that, £86,000 has been allocated to the UK (one tenth of one penny per British citizen, taking current UK population as 58.7 million). That is just about enough to buy two and a bit 30 second slots on primetime weeknight ITV (£36,000 for 30 seconds on Carlton) - only there wouldn't be any money left over to actually make the advert...

Oh, and lest we forget, Jack Straw has in any case ruled out any possibility of the government accepting any of this paltry sum.

Yep, we're simply inundated with pro-EU propaganda, aren't we? (The first link there is yet another wonderful example of the rabidly Eurosceptic Bruges Group spouting abject nonsense.)

More on this new drive (if such insignificant amounts of money can really be termed a "drive") here.

Doing the electoral maths

Well, it looks like the election will probably be called between April 4th and 7th. If you've been following the polls (latest: CON 34% (+4) LAB 39%(-3) LD 19%(+1)) or working out the odds (or taking others' odds), you're no doubt getting a tad confused.

There have been all kinds of scare stories that if you Back Blair, Vote4Peace, vote strategically or for someone else then the Tories may get back in. And that would, so everyone keeps telling me, be a disaster. Because yeah - Blair's crap and all, but the Tories MUST be worse than Labour, right? (Because, erm... you know, the sinking of the Belgrano was... erm... obviously far worse than anything Blair's been responsible for...)

Never fear. The Tories haven't got a hope in hell. Here - in insane detail - is why. Feel free to vote tactically, people. Give Blair all the bloody noses you want - votes is the only language politicians understand.

Oh and for the record, I am well nigh certain that - despite everything - Labour will still be returned with a majority in excess of 100 seats. And no, I haven't done the maths on that. It's just a slightly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Egotistical nonsense

I've just noticed that, six months after starting up a stat counter thing, this site has clocked up 51,000 unique visitors. Hurrah!

Pot, Kettle

The US calls on the EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organisation and label it a threat to international security.

Well yes, yes it most probably is both.

But isn't it a tad rich considering that it's taken until now for the US to start giving Sinn Fein the cold shoulder? Considering that one of it's most prominent leaders is a convicted terrorist who still appears to be making threats to the bereaved family of an IRA victim, might it not be about bloody time the US added the IRA to their list of terrorist organisations and finally cut off US funding to Sinn Fein?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Sorry people

Blogger is shit - hence the multiple posts. It's currently not letting me delete them (having delayed their posting by nine hours), and it wasn't really worth the bother in any case.

My bad. I hate the internet.

The propaganda question

They just can't win. After repeated fuss about how the Commission is funding pro-EU and pro-constitution organisations and material, they're now being attacked for funding their critics.

"The deputy head of the Liberals in the European Parliament, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, has said it is 'scandalous' that EU money has been used to fund the anti-globalisation movement, Attac.

"Ms Koch-Mehrin told FT Deutschland that there should be a change in the way EU support money is allocated.

"'After all, Attac is a massive critic of the EU', said the liberal MEP, who has written to the Commission asking how the situation arose."

What next? Should they stop paying anti-EU MEPs like Kilroy and the UKIP lot (who currently get £59,000 a year each)?

Meanwhile, Tim Worstall spots a nice bit of anti-EU propaganda hiding in the Mail on Sunday's crossword.

Quite why the Commission needs to fund its critics when the Eurosceptics have already got backers like Associated Newspapers and Rupert Murdoch, I have no idea...

Fuck the bid

Today London Mayor Ken Livingstone is in Brussels to promote the 2012 Olympics bid. Yet more wastage in pursuit of a project which will cost each and every London Council Taxpayer an extra £20 a year for the privilege of having their city plagued by garish advertising for the next eight years and then utterly congested for two weeks at the height of summer when the event goes ahead. Brilliant. Nice one, Ken.

Thusly, a shoddily and hastily put together little piccie thing:

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The more time people spend online, the more interested in politics they become

In the absence of any energy from me, check out Tim Worstall's latest Britblog Roundup - it features a couple of things from this very site, so it must be good...

Oh, and as us bloggers (and apparently our readers) are all so omphaloskepsisary, this article from the Sunday Times on the growth of e-politics may be of interest. Apparently, "the more time people spend online, the more interested in politics they become".

Either fascinating or a load of old bollocks, depending on your point of view.

(Oh, and in case you didn't spot it, today's Word To Make You Sound Pretentious was omphaloskepsis - the act of contemplating one's own navel, or navel-gazing)

Just past midnight update: Good, if entirely unrelated, stuff from The Obscurer - "nothing short of complete totalitarianism, a sort of The Prisoner meets 1984, can prevent terrorists from murdering people if they are determined to, and if the intelligence just isn’t available."

Oh, and if you haven't already, watch this.

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