I went on holiday again (taking lots of little breaks this year) and naturally returned to a desk full of things to do. So haven’t blogged for quite sometime. Here’s some of the stories I missed.
A bit of oh laa laa
Of course a big story the last few days has been those photos of Kate Middleton. The royals are unsurprisingly up in arms about it. It looks like the French mag. at the centre of the storm is about to be sued and the Irish Daily Star might be closed down.
Now I have to say, I ain’t a Royalist, I don’t give a hoot but the Royal family and I personally reckon the UK would be far better off getting rid of the monarchy, as many other countries get by perfectly well without a load of upper class free loaders.
However, like anyone else, the Royals are entitled to some degree of privacy. Casing point if I went around photographing my neighbour’s topless with a telephoto lens, I think the cops would very quickly arrest me as some sort of perv. As Sienna Miller said at the Leveson inquiry, she would often be pursued down darken streets at night by 20 or more men and just because they had a camera and a press badge this was considered legal.
I mean let’s reverse the situation, suppose that someone took photos of the missus of one of these editor’s in the nip, or prince Harry took snaps of Berlusconi and girl friends at one of their bunga, bunga parties? Would they be happy about that? Actually, Berlusconi has gone to great lengths too protect his privacy….so it seems odd he’s determined to undermine the privacy of others.
Now I’m all for freedom of the press. But only when the matter in question is something that is in the public interest. Now while we can debate all day as to what is or isn’t in the public interest, I think its pretty clear that the shape of Kate Middleton boobs are not a matter of public interest, not when there’s a pile of other much more relevant stories that the newspapers could be focusing on (the economic mess, Afghanistan, the coalition’s austerity plans, Syria, global warming, take your pick!). If looking at pictures of women’s (or men’s) anatomy is your thing, there’s plenty of websites and top shelf magazines that specialize in that sort of stuff.
Phone hacking again?
The press involved here have tried to cover themselves by citing the security issues towards the royals. I mean what if it was a rifle rather than a telephoto lens?
I would note as regards this that one does not simply ring up Clarence house and ask them when Kate’s planning to get her kit off so you can be ready to take a few snaps. Nor could this have been a lucky spur of the moment shot from a passing tourist (who happened to be carrying a lens capable of taking photographs over a 600m distance). No, the photographer who took these photos was likely camped out for days (in camo we assume) waiting for these shots. That would have required planning and preparation, which means he must have known where the Royals were holidaying in advance. One thing that came out in the phone hacking scandal was how many celebs and politicians seemed baffled by how the press always seemed to know their movements in advance. We now know how they kept so well informed.
It is therefore very likely that someone in the press hacked the Royal’s, or they’re security’s, phone or e-mails. That is indeed a legitimate security concern. So if the press are so concerned with Royal security, then surely they’ll share that info with the relevant authorities.
Put up you’re Mitts
The gaffe prone Republican contender has put his foot in it again, claiming that 47% of Americans are dependant on welfare, and thus won’t vote for him. I would note that writing off nearly half of the US population is hardly a way to win friends and influence people. Also, as Obama has since pointed out, one is elected president of all Americans, not just the ones who vote for you. Had Obama just wanted to serve the Americans who voted for him he’d have pursued a very different, and indeed generally more left wing, programme of government.
Also as I have previously pointed out the biggest welfare recipient’s in the US are its corporations, for whom the US government is either their best customer, or indeed their only customer. Many of the red Republican leaning states are heavily dependent on welfare handouts from Uncle Sam. I seem to remember commenting on how in Colorado Springs, the very heartland of the Tea Party movement, 8 out of the city’s 10 largest employers are state related jobs. 25% of the county’s GDP is tied in some way to big government. It makes poor business sense to take your best customer and drown him in the bath tub. The loss of government subsidy to many Mid-west and Southern US states would essentially destroy the economies of these states, likely leading to mass migration out of them.
There is this myth in Republican circles of the self starter who stands on his own two feet without any help from government. The reality is, the US is as much a big government, centrally funded nation as any European country. And it always has been that way and it always will be. While we spend our public funds on important stuff like health care, they spend it on silly things like the world’s largest military or a vast interstate highway network or welfare to corporations.
Casing point, I had a conversation with one of these Tea Party nuts while on Holiday. He seemed to blame Obama for the deficit, even thought I pointed out that much of that blame when to Bush (e.g. the 2009 budget was submitted the year before Obama took office by the outgoing Bush Adm., it was only in that year that Obama got to make his mark on the 2010 budget). He seemed to think that Obamacare was going to cost the country billions….actually its scheduled to be be revenue neutral (once you factor in the fact it will lead too less people leaving work and winding up on welfare and thus paying taxes for longer). Finally he conceded that it was all about the principle of Obamacare…..and what about the principle of the vast subsidies that go towards many US corporations? (notably farming, defense, pharmaceuticals and ironically enough private healthcare providers). Or how about the principle of libertarians like him driving into Washington on publicly funded and heavily subsidized freeways to protest about high taxes?…..hint we pay a lot more in taxes to drive in Europe!
If the Americans wish to retain European levels of public spending then they need to raise taxes to European levels. If they want to cut it down, well then the only pieces of the US budget which you can cut that would achieve the sort of deficit reduction they hope for, are those very bits that benefit the rich and Republicans, i.e. all those military related jobs and contracts, making US motorists pay something a little closer to what we pay in Europe for the privilege of driving, cuts to agricultural subsidies, Medicare, etc.
Social welfare cuts (which Republicans favour instead) would cause enormous hardship, not produce any meaningful reduction in public spending. Indeed, the experience in the eurozone has been that they produce the opposite effect (depress tax receipts and strangle the economy). And furthermore, as these are mostly funded via social security contributions, cutting such spending might be illegal (as American citizens have been paying into the social security fun under the assumption that its purpose was to fund their retirement, dole money, welfare payments if they become disabled, etc.). There is nothing in the US social security act that says the fund is the Republicans own private piggy bank to be cracked open, anytime they feel like raiding it. Cancelling social security would also likely entitle every American who paid into the fund too a full refund of their contributions with interest (something that would likely bankrupt the US government many times over).
Consequently if Republicans (or Ron Paul supporters) what to talk the talk about deficit reduction, they had better be prepared to walk the walk. As I’ve previously pointed out, the only US president in recent history who presented a balanced US budget was Bill Clinton. And he did it by cutting back on pork barrel spending projects, such as the military, NASA, ACE, the DoE, etc. He also put up taxes (marginally).
As John Steward of the daily show points out in this video, there is also an invisible President Obama that only Republicans can see (evil twin?). Romney’s comments on the Middle East have also come in for criticism.
War on Drugs….we’re still loosing!
A victory was announced recently of the capture of a leading member of the Colombian Drug cartel. Unfortunately they forgot to mention that the rate of drug importation into the US has not slowed significantly and that this capture merely represents a changing of the guard, as Mexican drug cartels now largely control the trade and distribution of Cocaine and other narcotics.
While I certainly do not support the drug pushers (and Cocaine has got to be one of the worse possible drugs to mess with), but at the end of the day so long as there is a demand for drugs in the West, somebody will supply it. I would instead ask the question, why do so many people in the West feel the need to anesthetize themselves with large quantities of illegal narcotics (or indeed alcohol). To me drugs are a symptom of a wider social problem, not the problem in itself. Treating the symptom, while ignoring the underlying cause will not solve the problem.
Fit and proper?
The Murdoch’s and BskyB were in explicable ruled to be sufficiently fit and proper to own a broadcasting license. As I believe I pointed out before, if indeed the Murdoch’s do pass mustard here, what does one have to do to loose a broadcasting license? Would he have to start sacrificing babies first or something….actually I’m sure the Sun would just spin that as respecting his right to worship whatever religion he liked and then complain about freeloading single mums!
Jokes aside, consider the pressure the BBC came under over that whole Dr David Kelly affair and the so-called dodgy dossier. Multiple members of the BBC board of governors were forced to resign and all the Beeb did was publish something that we now know to be true (the question was whether they knew it to be so at the time and whether the reporter Andrew Gilligan just ranted on the basis of a hunch). Clearly there is disproportionate favouritism being shown here towards BskyB. And obviously the danger is that this sends a clear signal to al media outlets, such as the ones who just published those photos of Kate, that’s its business as usual and you can phone/e-mail hack away to you’re hearts content.
Lib dem’s make final pitch
Nick Clegg has made a promise to his party that he will not allow any further cuts to social welfare programs, unless the Torys agree to taxes for the wealthy. Now least you wonder why I’m not dancing an Irish jig about this, its just I’m reminded about how earlier in the week he said sorry for promising not to put up tuition fees. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me!
Consequently I suspect the devil’s in the detail. The Tories may well allow for some faux tax that will be badly written and easy for their chums to find ways around paying, and in return they get to impose yet further cuts in public spending. Unless the proposal is properly budgeted (i.e. we get a new tax raising £1 billion a year for £1 billion in spending cuts) then anything Nick says isn’t worth the paper its printed on. Sorry lib dems but you ain’t fooling anybody. And if you do come next election I think the line is: fool me a third time….am I feckin idiot? And the bad news for Clegg is that latest polls suggest, there won’t be many of them!
The UK government has also recently announced a cull of badgers to control TB in cattle. This naturally has the animals rights people up in arms. I’m inclined to argue that they may have a point. Before proceeding with such a cull, you need evidence that its actually going to work, and the evidence is at best inconclusive. Indeed when you factor in the harm to wildlife and the cost of hiring marksmen to do the shooting, I doubt that it works out as in anyway beneficial.
While farmers are certainly of the opinion that a cull is a good idea, this is a simple case of people coming up with ideas and ignoring the science. And if there’s one thing that government’s are supposed to do in such situations is not concede to the mob. They may as well try sacrificing a few chickens and see if that works. On the other hand, vaccinating the cattle would almost certainly solve the problem…