Rainy Days and Mondays…

8 June 2009

…always get me down, The Carpenters used to sing. I am not sure that’s what Channel 4 were thinking about when they commissioned their latest sculpture I saw outside their offices on Horseferry Road today, Monday.

The impressive sculpture, replicating the Channel’s idents, featuring a “you couldn’t tell from a different angle it’s a digit” gigantic Number 4’s, is made up entirely of umbrellas.

DSC00069

DSC00068

I did see that today’s Sun (or possibly Mirror) headline could have better referred today to Rainy Days and Mondays, being “countbrown” (referring to Gordon Brown’s expected relatively limited time left as Prime Minister. However I was disappointed that, especially after the European elections caused a further crisis for the PM they didn’t go the whole hog and recall Europe’s “The FINAL Countbrown”!

I cannot write much about politics these days, but couldn’t pass by the fact that not only did the Centre Right increase their control over the European Parliament, but also that the British National Part got two seats from the UK. The blogospehere’s now alive with shock, but perhaps we are the more politically enlightened who express our opinions online. And much has been blamed, particularly the Proportional Representation system which gives more ability for smaller parties to get into parliaments than the traditional British “First Past the Post” system. But the BNP seats say a lot about the attitude of the British public, increasing dissatisfaction of the white working class and, in some ways, are a successful result of a democratic system, albeit one where people have been so dissatisfied with Politics that they are apathetic to voting.

Proportional Representation also gave the Greens an increase in their UK vote, and gave two seats to the BNP. (An interesting aside: some countries (mostly smaller European countries) split their vote nationally, rather than by region. If the UK vote was split nationally it would look like this). But, whatever you think of them, it shows how the system can work for the smaller parties. The next task is re-enfranchising people with politics so they vote.

Advertisements

The Importance of Empathy

3 November 2008

Over the last week the crazy story around Russel Brand and Jonathan Ross’s [rather inappropriate] prank calls to Andrew Sachs has been raging. I won’t link to all the articles but you can see more here and here for latest.

Now I’m not here to defend them, and I’m not here to slate them. There has been much written about the history of how this came to be top of the headlines when the Congo’s falling into chaos, the global economic system continues to disintegrate and America could be about to elect it’s first black president (Cosmodaddy appears to have the whole history in the middle of his post), but in summary: two complaints when broadcast, Daily Mail picks up the story leading to thousands of complaints, reporting in less biased media leads to comments even from the Prime Minister…

But it did get me thinking…

Last week I went to see Now or Later at the Royal Court Theatre. Essentially a story about how to spin a story it revolves around the son of the soon-to-be President Elect of the United States and an out-of-context internet-rumour about him with a photograph to boot. The debates are fascinating and raise points on whether freedom of speech would be constrained by apologising for something which, to some people, would appear to be highly insulting.

I started to contemplate the obvious connections between the two. The play was esentially based around an out of context, hyped up internet-fuelled press-spun story of an how an inappropriate action could have offended, or been seen to offend, people who do not have the same fundamental beliefs. And there are undoubtedly similarities to the recent BBC debacle (despite the Brand/Ross debate being far less considerate/intellectual and, most damagingly, bullying of a person).

This led me to a conclusion – that actually what is needed is empathy (sadly after all of this thinking the Guardian beat me to posting a similar view on the issue) and there’s a fundamental lesson for us all:

In a fast-paced world based on an [some may say ‘Thatcher-capitalism’]  ‘every man for himself’ attitude it’s easy to be blinkered to how your actions may be seen (especially in a world where free speech can be so easily taken out of context). What we all (myself included) need to do is contemplate how other people may see our actions (out of context or not), and how it will make other people feel. In a fast-paced world where we communicate through keyboards, microphones, telephones, text and computer screens it is easy to be blinkered to the emotional implications of what we say or do. It harder – but important – not to.


Powell, Obama, McCain, Bush and Indigestion

19 October 2008

So Colon Powell has backed Barack Obama for US President. He had apparently been disturbed by the negative tone of Mr. McCain’s campaign, which has sought to promote the idea that Barack Obama is “palling around with terrorists,” as Sarah Palin so diplomatically put it (a Socialist palling around with terrorists nonetheless). Of course this is Sarah Palin whose foreign policy experience comprises her proximity to Russia (oh and Canada too) – although she’s never met Russian delegates (maybe she wouldn’t think Obama a socialist if she had?).

Not only that, but Palin has no idea what the Bush Doctrine is. Now then, Powell “once considered as a potential candidate for the White House himself, fell out with President Bush over being forced to make the case for Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq”. This is Bush, the conviction politician, who knew what he wanted and went for it – not because he listened to people, but because he listened to his gut:

Leaders make things happen and they don’t need to ask permission. Isn’t it the job of a good leader to think the big ideas, take the long view, and make his vision a reality? Well, yes, provided said leader has formed his thoughts through rigorous research, consultation with experts, and deep, careful thought. Bush’s method? “I’m not a textbook player,” he says, “I’m a gut player.”

So there we have it. Bush listened to his gut and went to war in Iraq. Great.

So there we go – Barak Obama who offers a “calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach” or McCain supported by pro-Iraq advisers – offering Bush’s gut something to think about. Surely, Dubbya, it couldn’t have just been indigestion when you were listening to your gut could it? I know who I’d be more inclined to believe.

—-

I think this review means I now have to read Bob Woodward’s “The War Within” – not sure if that’s a daunting or exciting prospect.


Credit Crunch – a father’s view

8 October 2008

My dad and I emailed today about money, savings, Iceland and the credit crunch… I loved his insight, so thought I’d share it:

Money’s funny stuff really…………..it doesn’t exist, unlike things!

The government did the right thing though overall for jumping in and nationalising [Bradford and Bingley], although if they had made the £50,000 offer to savers at that time they would not have needed to nationalise it. That’s what they’re doing with banks now, so that the nationalisation only happens if they reach the payout point (I think).

Really, it’s socialism by default [thelayoftheland note – not everyone agrees], which is excellent really. Now if they can re-nationslise the railways, power, and water, we’ll be laughing!!

Mind you, water is owned by the country…………………………………..but it’s France……..whoops. Le mess.

Vive la France eh?


It’s my duty to vote Tory

4 October 2008

apparently.

Prospective parliamentary candidate Margot James believes the Conservative Party really has changed its attitude to homosexuality… An “astonishing” number of target seats have picked gay candidates, she told a Stonewall fringe meeting at the party conference in Birmingham. “I have yet to meet another (gay) woman I regret to say – but we do have a marvellous number of gay men.”

Going on to talk about how, because gay people are less likely to have children they get less out of the taxes they pay she says we should have angst with Labour’s waste of our taxes. “There is so much wrong with this government’s policy, gay people should not just vote Conservative, they have a duty to vote Conservative”.

How dare this millionaire Tory lesbian, who has been heard saying that she hoped her partner’s name, Jay, would be mistaken for that of a man by reporters, tell me what my duty is. Her party responsible for some of the most homophobic, damaging legislation of recent times, which it can’t quite shake off. But she says they’ve changed. On the face of it they may have. But what of the blue-rinse brigade?

But my anger isn’t just directed to damage her party’s done in the past. It’s the narrow-minded blinkered view that, just because I don’t have children, it’s my duty to vote for a party that would spend my tax more wisely? I’m not going to pretend this thought hasn’t crossed my mind before but there’s something bigger than the individual isn’t there? There’s something more important about all these people on this island living together…

Some important things to consider: This country spends 0.5% of it’s GDP on the under 5’s, half as much as France who spend 1%, and Denmark spend 2% – helping children in their formative years to develop the skills that they’ll need as they go through to school and into work (it’s proven that these years are vital to development) to end cycles of poverty. And it’s not just the under 5’s, it’s wider spending too, schemes helping people get back to work, schemes giving kids something to do and some purpose. And what about Labour’s pledge to end child poverty, which is slowly succeeding?

It has been estimated that the UK Government needs to invest an extra £3bn a year in tax and benefits to meet the 2010 target of halving child poverty. Three billion sounds like a lot, but it is the equivalent of just 0.5% of total Government expenditure. In 2007, City bonuses totalled £14bn; BP made £3.44bn in three months this year while thousands up and down the country are plunged into fuel poverty… It’s not just about morals either. We cannot afford to not make this extra investment. The long-term costs of doing nothing are much greater with the TUC estimating that £40bn a year is wasted on tackling the consequences of child poverty. Child poverty limits children’s future life chances for employment, training, positive family and social relationships, good physical and mental health and longevity and it affects their childhood experiences profoundly.

Does she think this doesn’t affect my life? These are the people around me, these are the people who I share the street with when I walk along, these are the people I will rely on to contribute to society when I’m older, even contribute to my pension. It’ will cost me dearly, and society even more, if I – as a citizen (rather than a gay, childless man) choose to take the same individualistic narrow minded point of view as she does.

It will never be my duty to vote for any party – it will certainly never be my duty to vote for a party because of my sexuality. Especially one that has such a dubious homophobic history and tells me my duty is based on such a narrow minded opinion of life.


Howard hitches a ride

18 September 2008

Ride em Cowboy! The new Lloyds HBOS logo perhaps? Courtesy of the FT’s blogs.

Still, what could possibly go wrong?


Crash, Bang?

16 September 2008

I found this rather amusing video this afternoon… how to make light of a ‘bad situation’ perhaps (although vaguely reminds me of the Will and Grace scene with Al Roker)

Still if we’re all doomed, at least it’s a better way to make light of the doom than others are doing:

While there is a tendency among the self-righteous to criticise individual short-sellers who make money out of the misfortune of others, the fact is that those playing the stockmarket in such a fashion are merely a product of the system, rather than the catalyst behind the so-called evil. Once upon a time, stockmarkets were there to provide companies with a means to raise capital from investors; today’s financial world is a vastly different beast.

Nowadays, there is as much incentive to kick a company while it’s down as there is to support it when it is in ruder health; short sellers hover around a dying stock like vultures anticipating a feast, and every financial institution is as guilty as the next when it comes to gorging on the remains. Lehman Brothers’ demise is a case in point, as too is AIG’s seemingly impending collapse.

Time for a new world order?


%d bloggers like this: