Sunday, October 23, 2011

'Let The Children Live'

It's not been the best of weeks.

Essential building works being conducted in the house, which should have ended on Wednesday, are still apparently ongoing. It has been largely uninhabitable, rendering the effort to inhabit it unpleasant for everyone concerned. Indeed, at times it's felt that if a movie were to be made of our home life over the past week, of a mother, father and small son living in a cold property full of furniture swathed in dust sheets, it'd be called 'The Shining'.

This has meant that none of us have really been able to do the things we like doing in the comfort of our own home. It's taught us a lot of lessons about ourselves. Hopefully we can take them to heart. In my case, I had planned to blog a little more than usual, if only because Internet service is being switched off tomorrow. This means that any new posts that appear on the blog from now on will be written from other locations, and will appear at best infrequently. Please don't email me, because I won't be able to answer you.

Yet at 12.00 Mass today, God, in His sublime way, gave me a kick up the backside to remind me that no matter how unpleasant the past week has been, there is always some more unfortunate than myself.

We had a guest celebrant today, Father Peter Walters of the charity, 'Let The Children Live'. Father Walters, a convert from Anglicanism whose attitude to the aid establishment seems to be what I can only describe as benign exasperation, has devoted his life to caring for the street children of Colombia. He pulls no punches, particularly to a congregation in the country with the highest rate of cocaine consumption in Europe.

He is a passionate speaker, which makes him a compelling one. He certainly made a good case for supporting his charity to me.

Please support him and his charges


Sunday, October 16, 2011

On Disposing Of Your Constituents' Confidential Documents In Public Bins

I wonder if he'd ever have dreamed of doing that with paperwork from Rothschilds.


On Freezing Out Civil Servants

If a hypothetical Cabinet Minister, one who might both look and sound like he was the sort of wee boy who always stayed in the classroom at playtime in order to read 'The Lord Of The Rings', or to play 'Dungeons and Dragons' along with the rest of the nerds in Muck o' Pitbonkle, were to try to remove Labour appointed senior civil servants from his department, would that not amount to an attack on the integrity of the civil service?

Or could it be a much more profound, ideologically motivated attack not upon the Civil Service but on the state itself - to make the state so unattractive an employer to work for that nobody will want to work for it, thus causing the size of the state to reduce; or more properly, for the state to atrophy?

All very neoconservative, it seems to me; all very entryist. But then again it's entirely hypothetical.


Misconduct In Public Office?

"Misconduct in public office is an offence at common law triable only on indictment. It carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. It is an offence confined to those who are public office holders and is committed when the office holder acts (or fails to act) in a wayLink that constitutes a breach of the duties of that office" -

The Crown Prosecution Service.

Don't want to kick a bloke when he's down and all that, but doesn't seeking funds for a private company, even a non-profit one, when you're a member of the Cabinet fall within that definition?


Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Short Thought On Civil Liberties (As We Near The End Of The Blogging Road)

The Labour government of Tony Blair created over 3,000 new crimes.

This can only be described as government against the people, proscribing the people, attacking the people.

One of the little patterns that Western history has splashed onto the history books is that when an ideology is fresh and untested, it very quickly butts its head against the brick wall of events and then retreats to its natural limits.

The French Revolution's 'Grande Terreur' was the natural consequence of unbridled liberalism. Liberalism born of absolutism proved itself to be as capable of bloodthirstiness and score-settling as absolutism itself. When La Grande Terreur hit its buffers, less than two days after Robespierre was laughed at, so did liberalism, and for all practical purposes it's been on the back foot ever since, and don't let anyone tell you anything different.

Similarly, the oppression of the poor in the early to middle phases of the Industrial Revolution occasioned by self-serving readings of the 'Wealth of Nations' hit the buffers once that book's very obvious failings became clear. That moment came when the evangelical Anglicans of that period, the type deplored by the less reputable type of modern British historian, got wise to them.

So it is and will be with this attack on civil liberties. Under Blair, the Labour Party became a party of the right, intent on restricting the ability of labour to express its collective desires rather than promoting and encouraging it. They never saw a strike they didn't deplore. Yet even although many of Labour's natural supporters now seem to be almost as demented as Adam Smith in their pursuit of self-interest (a pursuit which is a feature of all societies blighted by failing public institutions and a consequent narrowing of what Francis Fukuyama and others have labelled 'the radius of trust'), I retain great hope that the Blair government's attack on civil liberties will go the way of La Grande Terreur and the dark satanic mills in the end; the people will see through it, and its effect will be nullified by that peculiarly British combination of obstinacy and apathy best described as 'Britishness'.

There is always hope.


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Men Behaving Badly

One doesn't really wish to kick a loyal son of South Lanarkshire when he's down, even a self-proclaimed Thatcherite one who might not hesitate doing the same thing to you were the boot ever to be on the other foot, but it's good to see that the 'Daily Telegraph' has picked up on what, for me, is the most disturbing aspect of the current unpleasantness surrounding Doctor Liam Fox.

That newspaper has picked up on the fact that Adam Werritty resided with Dr. Fox at the latter's flat in Southwark at a time when his mortgage costs were being picked up by the taxpayer. 'Resided' seems to be the best verb to use in this context, for Mr. Werritty cannot be described as having been a lodger, if only because the flat's then owner has indicated that he didn't pay rent.

Although one is fully aware that previous regimes for the claiming of parliamentary expenses were notoriously lax, by the same token it is staggering that it didn't occur to a person of opinions so emphatically right-wing as Dr. Fox's seem to be that he might have some moral obligation to minimise the loss that his arrangement with Mr. Werritty occasioned to the public purse. A loss was certainly occasioned, for Mr. Werritty received shelter at no cost to himself, his housing costs being borne by the taxpayer instead. Dr. Fox could have minimised this loss to the taxpayer by charging Mr. Werritty rent. He didn't do so. To my mind, this illustrates an inability to understand his own ideology so profound that it casts a very grey shadow over his judgment.

It all seems very redolent of the kind of relationship portrayed in the sitcom 'Men Behaving Badly'.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

March Them To The Cashline

Listening to an alleged tax avoider claiming that the motorway speed limit should be raised from 70 mph to 80 mph in order to bring people inside the law almost had me kicking the TV in fury.

This proposal is absolutely Thatcherite, red meat for Del Boys and rich ferals who regard compliance with the law not as a civic duty but as a lifestyle choice. Lives will be lost so that 'business' can be done even more quickly in the country with the most worker-unfriendly employment laws and longest working hours in the European Union (and the visceral hatred of the Conservative Party for people who work for a living is proved by its stated intention to revisit one of the Blair government's very few progressive measures, the reduction in the qualifying period for bringing a claim of unfair dismissal from two years to one; for people who claim their ideology requires the removal of restrictions on business, they show not the slightest hesitation in regulating those who have only their labour to sell).

A suitable response to such specious claims about speed limits would be to demand stricter enforcement of existing laws and tougher penaties on speeders, such as the confiscation of vehicles driven in excess of the speed limit on the motorway network and mandatory life bans for those found guilty of a third offence. To bring people into the law when the law in unclear is one thing, but to bring people who won't obey the law into the law, even when the law is flashed in front of their eyes in orange lights as the speed limit is on British motorways, is quite another. At that point, such people have won whatever game they think they're playing, because the law will always be changed to suit them and the rule of law has ceased to have any meaning.

However, it was doubly sickening to hear another alleged tax avoider mouthfart today from the Conservative Party Conference about the financial mess the country's in. Their brain may have been addled by the small talk of cravatted manacle salesmen and wannabe sanctions-busters, but the irony that the country's finances may be as bad as they apparently are - a myth I do not buy into - on account of our authorities' ludicrously lax approach to the payment of personal tax by the wealthy might have been lost on them.

No person who's used as a tax avoidance vehicle, either personal or corporate, should be permitted to even become a Member of Parliament for a period of five years after their use of such vehicles has ceased. Any Member of Parliament found to have used such a vehicle should be barred from the House until they have paid all sums that would have been or may be owing at the correct rate of tax, in other words of personal income tax, on sums which they have either paid themself or been paid as rather smelly dividends. As they are both income, salary and dividends should be taxed at the same rate and under the same rules. If this means marching ministers to the cashline to pay up so that they can continue in government, so be it. Similarly, no minister found to have ever used a tax avoidance vehicle should be able to claim their full pension, instead being able to receive one calculated to reflect their calculated failure to contribute; and let's face it, they probably don't need the money anyway.

Fish rots from the head down, says that rotting old Russian proverb; and I for one am damn tired of knocking my pan in at the bottom of the heap while the guys who make the rules also seem to be able to slide around them with no or few questions asked.

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The Predatory Pricing Of Nicotine Replacement Therapies

The braying donkeys of the British mainstream right, which is in fact a far right for all practical purposes, often bray at their opponents that if they are opposed to the business practices of supermarkets then they should not shop in them.

This begs the answer that the world the braying donkeys have helped create is one where there are few shops other than supermarkets, and that even their opponents have the right to eat.

Yesterday's storm in a whisky glass over a supermarket chain's apparent determination to flout the spirit of the law if not its letter, yet another example of a crappily drafted law having oozed out of the Queen's Scottish outhouse for no apparent purpose other than to cause confusion amongst those delegated with its enforcement and contempt amongst those upon whom it is supposed to be enforced, is not the worst example of antisocial business practice by supermarkets I have come across. The worst is one I have recently encountered myself.

I stopped smoking on 9th April this year but continue to use nicotine replacement therapy, specificially Nicorette 4 mg Freshmint gum, sold in packets of 105. These are not prescription medicines. I have purchased them at the branch of Boots on Crow Road, Glasgow at a price of £15.00 per box, if memory serves. I have also purchased them from my local supermarket, at an initial price of £10.00, again if memory serves.

However, the supermarket later cut the price for a packet of 105 Nicorette 4 mg Freshmint gums to £5.00. At the same time, it was retailing a packet of Nicorette 2 mg Freshmint gum, if I recall correctly also a packet of 105, for £8.00; more money for less nicotine, or, if you prefer, less money for more nicotine. At that point, I resolved not to buy anymore. However, my willpower has wavered. When I went to check this afternoon, it looked like the deals were off, and they certainly didn't have any packets of 105 Nicorette 4 mg Freshmint gums on display.

A medicine remains a medicine even when it does not require a prescription. I cannot see how that supermarket chain's decision to charge £5.00 for a medicine which sells for £15.00 in a pharmacy can be anything other than predatory pricing. The predatory pricing of goods that make you well is, to my mind, even more morally reprehensible than the predatory pricing of goods that make you ill. You stop taking the latter when you get ill, but need the former to restore yourself and will suffer more when the price goes up.

The only rational explanation I can think of for this apparently irrational pricing behaviour is that the supermarket might intend its customers to become accustomed to cheap nicotine, and when that's withdrawn they will have second thoughts about not visiting the cigarette stand. If that's the case, then the time has come for the operation of supermarkets to be licenced.