Random Thoughts

A few thoughts on various stories that have been doing the rounds the last few weeks…

Banning Marmite
Canada has taken to banning certain UK products, such as Marmite, Iron-Bru and Ovaltine. A similar policy exists in the USA. Such products are imported in small numbers by expats looking for a taste of home. Haggis has also been banned, so any Scottish Americans/Canadians would have been forced to go see some dodgy back alley dealer for their burns summer.

The Canadians and Americans both claim this policy is necessary due to reasons of “safety” and “environmental grounds”…and guns are still legal in the US and Canada :no:. So you’re saying that a can of Marmite is more dangerous than an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle? And as for the environment, Harper’s government is currently presiding over the Tar Sands, the biggest environmental crime in history, as its being called.

It reminds me of a similar scenario where Ireland was suing the UK government over Selafield and the various nuclear waste leaks from the plant. The response of the EU? To have a go at Ireland over the environmental consequences of our food additives, specifically types used to make lemonade red (its an Irish thing!) and pea’s that right shade of green. Go figure!

Then again, they say with Marmite, you either love it or you hate it – clearly the Canadians hate it!

Right wing nuts
As I mentioned in a prior post, we have the story of a Tory MP who decided to hold a Nazi themed stag do in a French ski resort. Apparently it never occurred to him that this might be deemed offensive :no: …same way in never occurs to Tories that some people on benefits sort of need them to avoid starvation. I mean those on benefits just spend all the money on booze and drugs…which they also steal…that’s what that C4 programme showed.

Climate Trolls
Of course part of the problem with right wingers is they have a nasty habit of jumping on the band wagon, following trends, repeating myths they’ve heard from somewhere without first performing some fact checking. I’ve pointed to some of these, notably with regard to immigration, before.

A good example, being that story doing the rounds a few weeks ago about the Russian Icebreaker stuck in ice in the Antarctica. Deniers quickly jumped on this as evidence of global cooling. Despite the fact that all the evidence points to the fact the planet is still warming, that while there’s been a brief extreme cold snap in the US, overall its been an unusually mild winter in the Northern Hemisphere and there has been record breaking heat waves in Australia (so bad that some Tennis players in Melbourne were hallucinating).

However the Beeb has an article out by a journalist who was actually on the ship. He points out that the ship’s getting trapped in the ice was more down to a number of factors, such as the decisions made by the captain, prevailing weather conditions and a certain element of bad luck. Needless to say encountering ice in Antarctica is hardly unusual. Furthermore sea ice represents ice that has broken off the mainland, i.e. ice that is the process of melting. While this is perfectly normal at this time of year (it being summer in the Southern Hemisphere right now), the effects of climate change has been to create some unusual conditions in this region.

The Ice breaker ultimately strayed much deeper into the ice pack than would normally considered wise, largely because it was encountering relatively thinner than normal ice, only to realise when the weather suddenly changed that they may have bitten off more than they could chew and getting stuck. So all in all, this is more evidence which proves warming, than disproves it.

Tories cook the books
Aware of their reputation as “the nasty party” the Tories have been trying to put a brave face on things. This week the released economic figures which seemed to suggest that people were better off with wages rising.

My response to that is to point out to them that their figures fail to account for an all important thing – inflation. Yes wages have gone up, but that’s because the cost of living has risen, indeed they are rising much faster in the UK than other parts of the EU. In part this is due to normal factors outside of government control, but also due to factors directly tied to Tory policy.

For example, by cutting benefits this forces the burden of paying for certain things that were otherwise free onto the general public. E.g. someone with an elderly relative who now has to look after them or pay for a private care home because the Tories cut that budget. Or paying for police time in the event of an accident (whether or not it was you’re fault). This in turn leads people to need that bit more in wages from their employer just to stand still.

This is why despite lower rates of take home pay, people in other European countries are often better off, as they get all sorts of things paid for, be it cheap subsidised electricity or public transport, better health care, cheaper petrol, etc. in return for paying a bit more in tax.

Also there is the issue of Quantitative Easing, which the Tories have kept going far longer than was sensible. As someone who goes between the UK and Europe regularly it is obvious to me that my UK pounds don’t go as far as they used to, largely due to the inflationary effects of QE. This means that anything we need to import into the UK, such as oil, industrial goods, commodities, etc. is that bit more expensive, with a knock –on effect on prices throughout the economy. Quite apart from the impact on savings and pensions, which is that they don’t go as far as they used to, meaning people need to save that more.

Which effectively means people are likely worse off, even if this tiny rise the Tories point to is true.

Putin’s his foot in it
Putin is in trouble over his government’s recent anti-gay policies. Indeed it’s worth noting that the principle criticism of these laws is that they are so arbitrary as to be little more than a meaningless excuse for the cop’s to arrest anybody (and Putin’s passed plenty of laws like that in his time already).

His response to this international criticism, was firstly to stonewall on the issue. Putting pressure on the IOC for example to toe the line and not allow any hint of protest against this policy. This reached the absurdity in which in true soviet style a Swedish athlete was threatened with arrest for her choice of nail colourings as it was thought it might be seen as a protest. Yes, a women can’t even choose how to colour her nails under Putin’s Russia.

Realising that these heavy handed tactics weren’t working, worried how it would look with the Winter Olympics coming up, and not wanting to do a dreaded U-turn, instead he tried his best to downplay the issue. He firstly suggested that gays would be welcome at Sochi…so long as they stayed away from children (i.e. falling for the long suggested stereotype that gay’s are more likely to engage in child abuse). Then Putin suggested that he likes gays, indeed some of his best friends are gay…would those be the ones he goes out hunting in the woods with his shirt off with! :))

Of course this comes across much like the classic line “I’m not racist or anything but I was reading in the Daily Mail the other day…”. |-|

The problem for Putin’s Russia is that his long standing policy of trying to use Soviet era polices to maintain order, a sort of “Compliant Despotism” is starting to come unstuck. His reputation as incorruptible, is being exposed as a bit of a porky thanks to various leaks, notably as regards the Sochi games in fact. At $50 billion 88| it’s by far and away the most expensive games in history…or the most corrupt! Then there;s the mysterious appearance of a massive palace complex near the Black Sea.

Also Putin’s regime have not understood that while the Czar’s and KGB could just sent dissidents away on a train to Siberia, in this era of globalisation and social media, that doesn’t quite work. The arrest of dissidents from the punk band pussy riot, Greenpeace activists protesting Artic drilling and Khodorkovsky all continued to make the news long after they’d been imprisoned. The original alleged crimes they committed were rendered meaningless as their imprisonment became the story, repeated across the world repeatedly, with Putin himself being confronted by this, either through the likes of David Cameron (who is not adverse to having a few tree huggers beaten up or arrested on trumped up charges) raising it, or through the businessmen for whom he depends on pointing to it as an obstacle to investment abroad.

He managed to avoid the embarrassment of the recent release of many activists by using the cover story that it was some sort of amnesty in advance of the Sochi games (ignoring the obvious that the last thing one does if you really believe these people to be dangerous is release them from prison before a major event). However I’m wonder how he’ll handle the next similar crisis.

Raining cats…literally!
In the UK its been raining pretty hard for several weeks now. Several parts of Somerset have been turned into mini-Islands due to the level of flooding (I didn’t realise there were that many gay people in Somerset! ;D). And in Surrey it would seem the weather has run out of rain and started resorting to raining cats instead.

A mini tornado is alleged to have lifted several feral cats off their feet and dropped them again. The reports are unclear as to whether said cats still landed on their feet, or whether any dogs also fell.

Creative punishment
A policemen is in trouble having been shopped by a suspect he was transporting for driving at 140 mph on a public road.

Rather than punish this cop, I’m wondering if this is the way to deal with speeders and other nutters on the road. Put ‘em in a car, not on a public road, but say a track, something like the Nuremberg ring and have a professional driver drive then around at +140mph 88|. We’ll see if they still want to go speeding after that! 😳

Tackling the London Vortex
The Today programme on Radio 4 briefly made mention of the so-called London vacuum, whereby London sucks in all the young people from across Britain to start their careers here, with the result that a disproportionate number of UK firms are based out of London, forcing others to relocate (or set up a London office), putting enormous pressure on London public services, housing and leaving other regions of the UK chronically short of skilled workers as well as taxpaying residents.

I see this myself, as there are several high-tech start up companies the uni has dealings with who are based out of London, even thought if you think about it an industrial estate near Birmingham or Manchester would probably be a better choice of location. However, they feel obliged to base themselves in central London, as so they can attract the right staff.

Anyway what was being discussed was various ways of encouraging de-centralisation and get firms to move to other cities. This is of course one of the justifications for HS2 .

My solution would be to employ meeter’s and greeters at London’s main train stations, preferably ex-cab drivers with a good cockney accent, whose job would be to approach anyone looking like they are moving to London (be it from Manchester or Belize), grap them and start smacking them about the head while say “are you flippin mad or wha” “move to London?” “Leave you’re nan back home with no one to look after her” “you’ll never own a house, not unless you’re some wanker who works in a bank or some pampered oil sheik” “spend the rest of you’re life payin half you’re salary for a shoe box in Chelsea” “never be able to afford to go out” “spend 2 hours a day standing on the tube”…Might get the message across!

Direction Easter eggs
Here’s something to try, go to Google maps (US site), set you’re destination as “The Shire” and destination as “Mordor”, indicate you plan to walk there.

Oddly enough there are places in the US called Mordor…Republican party HQ, NSA in Fort Mead, NRA HQ, etc. ;D

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