31 October 2006

Green tax or just more tax?

Well, it looks as if my cynicism regarding the government's environmental policy was not entirely misplaced. While I agree with some of the statement the article makes, I do have some issues: specifically, the fact that Britain only contributes 2% of the global Carbon Dioxide emissions, and anything that it is done must be done globally. While this in itself is true, if the majority of countries acted in isolation, then the overall result will be the same. There is the issue of increased economic cost, but this government has not shown itself averse to increasing taxes at all.

I did find the accompanying article interesting reading. It sort of flies in the face of Capitalism being seen as the root cause of the environmental issues. It does beg the question why Greenies are almost without exception Socialist, though.

30 October 2006

Do the Swiss understand irony?

It was mentioned today in the Sydney Morning Herald that Sepp Blatter, the distinguished head of the football world governing body FIFA has apologised to Australia for the way they exited this year's World Cup. For those that didn't see it or have erased it from their memories, in stoppage time some Italian dived in the box when closed in on by Lucas Neill, which lead to a penalty and a very underserving ride into the quarter finals by Italy (along with their win, which was also undeserved IMO). Subsequent replays showed no contact whatsoever was made.

Ok, Blatter has the nerve to apologise for something that FIFA has consistently refused to do anything to fix? Perhaps if he could move his corpulent frame away far enough from the sponsorship trough so that fans can get to see the games live, he may be able to summon up the energy to fix the diving that has ruined the last two tournaments. Something that I have already ranted about.

Fix the diving, fix the unequal allocations of tickets and fix the bias of referees, then I will take anything that comes out of FIFA executives with something less than a Lott-sized grain of salt.

29 October 2006

Let's get cynical, cynical!

(With apologies to Olivia Newton John).
An article in today's Mail on Sunday has a copy of a "secret memo"* sent by the Secretary of State for the Environment to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This memo lists a number of measures that the government should consider introducing in order to make the general population more environmentally conscious. Let's take a look at some of these proposals and run them through the cynic's filter, shall we?
  1. Increase vehicle excise duty for gass guzzlers: hmm, ok I guess but there are some people (farmers, etc) that need such vehicles and why should they be penalised just because DINK1 and DINK2 each want an 4x4 drive to work? As well as raising the duty, why not make it claimable as an expense for those engaged in agricultural work, as long as it was under a certain age. This would give farmers a reason to upgrade to cleaner models, and penalise the urban off-roader (which is the true intent of the tax).
  2. Exemption from stamp duty for zero-carbon homes: fantastic idea, however I would also like to see greater rebates for those wishing to upgrade their homes, such as additional double-glazing, windmills or solar panels.
  3. Increased tax on aviation: no! economic growth in the airline industry can lead to greater uptake of newer models which are more efficient and less polluting. Just give airlines (and manufacturers) a reason to upgrade.
  4. Pricing to reflect enviromental cost: a nice idea in a utopian society, but if the government wants to encourage economic growth, raising prices will not achieve this unless salaries rise correspondingly - something that the government will not want.
  5. Public sector activities to be more environmentally conscious: nice idea, but I would have expected most sectors to be reasonably environmentally aware. The only exception would be the armed forces, and really there's not a lot that can be done without massive expensive.

All in all, there are some good ideas, a few not so well thought out ideas and a couple of mistakes. Putting my cynical head on, it is likely that the tax increases will adopted a lot quicker than anything that either provides rebates or increases public spending. One thing Gordon Brown is not averse to is putting his hand in the electorate's pocket.

* The classification of it is actually Restricted which is the lowest classified level for Government documents, but lets not get hung up on semantics here.

27 October 2006

Just a quick update

We had our broadband connection relocated to our study today. Now it means I don't have to perch over a laptop while Heather tries to watch America's Next Top Model or some such tripe (for an intelligent woman, she does like more than her fair share of reality tv).

Also got my mate coming over from Basingstoke for a pub crawl around Blackheath. Should be a messy night as Heather is away :)

Of course, we wouldn't want them having fun would we?

I was watching the news today and the Health Secretary of our wonderful government is proposing to increase the tax on alcoholic drinks, particularly alcopops, to discourage teenage binge drinking. Of course, the BMA are ecstatic about it as well, as it will reduce the number of casualties on Friday and Saturday nights due to drinking.

Here's a thought for them: It will not work! Irrespective of how much the drinks cost, teenagers will find a way to get the money. It may be working longer hours at their part-time job as they try to fund themselves through University, beating up old ladies or whatever. They want the drink, and they will get it. Sadly the nanny state cannot allow anyone to think and make decisions for themselves and Gordon Brown does not need a second invitation to raise taxes further, so it's I guess it is pretty much certain that the change will go ahead.
If the government were genuinely interested in the health and welfare of young drinkers, rather than taxing them, it would be better to spend more money on proper prevention. An increased police presence on foot at night would do a lot to calm people down, and if special constables are used, their costs are substantially less. Better education of drinkers can do a lot to reduce the alcohol consumption and this should be done at schools, colleges and universities as well as on TV.
Finally, 24 hour licensing laws need to be relaxed. In Sydney, a large number of pubs are open 24 hours and it avoids the desire for everyone to drink as many beers/wines/alcopops as possible before closing time. People will drink slower and therefore there is less likelihood of fights occuring due to excessive drunkeness.
But no, it's easier to just to tax everyone.

26 October 2006

It's a disturbing trend that has to stop


What am I talking about? Well, let me run you by a brief story: I was wondering around WH Smiths today looking around for something to read, as nothing on my bookshelves was inspiring me. Now, I have read some really bad stuff in my time (the Da Vinci Code being an example) and I have some stuff that although bad is a guilty pleasure of mine (the Sven Hassel series of books for example). As such, I will consider buying something that may provide me with some entertainment, no matter how bad it appears.

Today, however what I saw beggars belief; and that is not hyperbole. I was wondering around the biographies section seeking inspiration as I have read a couple and as long as the person in question I either respect or looks interesting, I will always give it a crack. The tome I saw today was the biography of someone that I neither respected nor did it look interesting. No, it wasn't GW Bush, it wasn't Blair, Major or any politician. It was Wayne Rooney's girlfriend and I am not kidding. Look, Victoria Beckham (hate her or love her) did achieve a degree of fame by being the near mute one of the Spice Girls. To the best of my knowledge, Ms McLoughlin's road to fame was to snog Wayne Rooney as a teenager. What on earth is there to say?

It's a sorry state of affairs when the wives and girlfriends of footballers (I refuse to use the acronym as it is another sign of society dumbing down) start getting as much or more attention than the players. In the same vein, there is talk about Frank Lampard heading off to Spain to play for Barcelona as his girlfriend is from that region and misses home. Given the success of every English player since Steve McManaman left Spain, if Lamps has any plans on having a future in football he might be advised to deal with the nagging.

25 October 2006

Curbing the Chelsea Tractors

A recent article on today's news highlighted that the borough of Richmond in west London was introducing increasing the price of permits for 4x4 cars in the borough to £300 per year and free parking permits if you have an electric car.

On the surface, it looks like a good idea - cuts greenhouse emissions, penalises those bad drivers who say that they need it to protect their children, etc. However, the fact that the parking permit for a Nissan Micra driver has risen, just goes to show the real motive for this: raising revenue.

It's a pity that governments, whether they are local or national, use people's genuine environmental concerns in this cynical matter. The fact is that if local governments were genuinely interested in reducing emissions, they would tackle their fleet of diesel-spewing, often dilapidated buses and either improve them or replace them with genuine greener alternatives.

If national governments wanted to reduce emissions, then they could better invest their energies in developing an integrated transport policy that made greater use of the rail networks (which incidentally need to be cleaned up first) and removing the reliance on road haulage, where diesel-powered vehicles burn up and down the M1 when it should be transported en-masse.

If a government is going to espouse socialism and social conscious at least follow the Scandinavian model of socialism. It may cost a fortune, but the services delivered make up for it.
Still I don't think there is a full set of balls in the government at the moment.

24 October 2006

Some people need more bran...

Because they seem to be full of sh!t :)

I am talking about the uproar surrounding Jermain Defoe's "bite" on the arm of someone who had repeatedly tackled him from behind, the last one being a two-footed tackle.

Yesterday's Telegraph covered it in an article that did not really dwell on it greatly other than to mention the incumbent Minister of Sport whining like a spoiled child to the FA (via the media of course) to do something about it. Contrast this to an article in the Sun where not content with publishing the picture again, they have a diatribe from Javier Mascherano claiming it the most outrageous thing he has suffered in the UK.

My biggest issue with the incident is not the biting; tempers get riled in all sports nowadays and people forget these sportsmen and women are only human. My issue is that the moment Defoe made contact with Mascherano, Mascherano immediately started rolling around in agony on the floor - it's the diving mentality in him immediately taking effect. It appeared to me that the intention was to get him red-carded. This is the behaviour that has to stop, as diving has ruined two World Cups but it doesn't look as if it is going to end any time soon.

And if that is the worse thing Mascherano has suffered, he should head to a few home counties towns and deal with drunken ASBO candidates on a Saturday night like the police force have to.

23 October 2006

A micro update

This posting is just to get me listed on the directory Technocrati. Technorati Profile. I wonder what it does?

20 October 2006

It's like Christmas early

Well, not quite.

We had our consignment arrive today from Australia. It had been in storage while we travelled and started its own journey itself at the end of August.

The guys from Allied Pickfords were scheduled to arrive at 10am, so we set the alarm for 8:30 to give us time to shower and get dressed. Heather came out of the shower first at 9:10 and 5 minutes later the guys arrived (nearly taking down a tree in front of our house in the process).

After reading about the troubles our friends had when they moved, I was a bit nervous about what state ours would be in. In fact, everything went really smoothly with only a couple of minor breakages, which hopefully the insurance will cover.

Our place is currently full of half-empty cartons as we did not bring over any wardrobes as our last place had built-ins. We have ordered some cheap junk from Argos, which should arrive soon. Until then, it's a bit more living like a backpacker (albeit with nice furniture, HD tv, etc).

Oh and happy anniversary Sophie and Paddy!

09 October 2006

Moving in...

Ok, so we are now in our new place. Unfortunately, our stuff has yet to arrive so we are sleeping on an air mattress and using an inflatable sofa as our only seating. On the plus side, our new high definition television has arrived so at least we can watch tellie, and 40-odd channels of it!

We are renting a 3 bedroom place in Blackheath, which is a really nice suburb in London - very close to the Canary Wharf and the city but green and picturesque.

When we walked across the common for the first time, I knew that this is the place I wanted to be when I saw the church sitting in the middle of it. Hopefully, it will be cold this winter and it will get covered in snow. That would be a picture worth recording.

Our stuff arrives sometime soon (we hope) so our sparse place will soon be a lot more homely.

08 October 2006

A new blog and a new posting...

Ok so I have been running my other blog for a couple of years now and although it's reasonably up to date, it is more geared towards holidays, rather than the routine of day-to-day life. So with that in mind, I have decided to fire up a new blog and keep it regularly updated.

This blog will be a place for me to keep a record of what goes on in our life, what (non-holiday) related activity we are up to and a place for me to vent my opinions on politics, world affairs, sport, etc.

Let's get cracking!