Friday, 24 September 2010

The Bleedin' Obvious

The BBC have an interesting report today.

And of course, by interesting, I mean completely fucking ridiculous.

The report says that the total worth of Equity ISAs - the Government's principal tax-free savings product - has outstripped the total worth of Cash ISAs.

Equity ISAs, for the uninitiated, invest in company shares, corporate bonds, gilts (Government debt - plenty of that around!), property and other things like that. Cash ISAs are effectively tax-free bank accounts.

Of course Equity ISAs are going to produce higher fund values than Cash ISAs. If you didn't get richer from investing, no one would bother, would they?

I find it vaguely astonishing that the BBC find such a fucking obvious finding to be newsworthy. Part of my TV licence paid for that.

Brought to you by the BBC. The bell-ends.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Religion and Logic

I was having a think the other day, as I often do.

Religion has been in the news a lot recently, what with the Pope's recent State visit and all. Personally, I found the whole thing quite entertaining - the primary reason being the attempts to stir up a hostile reception for a religious leader, only for him to be welcomed by the public reasonably well.

Pope Benedict's State Visit to Britain was the first for any Pope

One thing that has been brought to light by the Pope's visit is what he referred to as aggressive secularism - or militant atheism. They opposed the Pope's visit on the grounds that they do not agree with some things that the Catholic Church has done, and therefore it is bad.

Now, don't get me wrong - the Catholic Church is not a paragon of virtue. It has a bleak and troubled history, but that's because it's a human institution. The problem is not exclusive to the Catholic Church. I, personally, do not agree with their stance on contraception, homosexuality and equal rights. But do I oppose the Church's very existence because I disagree with them? No.

I find this emergent brand of militant atheism deeply disturbing - not because I am a particularly religious man, because I'm not. I find it disturbing because it is hypocritical - it accuses religion of brainwashing people into following an unwavering dogma, repressing freedom of thought and truth, and yet it does exactly the same.

They maintain that this brainwashing takes the form of convincing everyone that there is a single being responsible for the creation of the universe, and that it is somehow responsible for our actions and desires, guiding us through our lives in a great plan of infinite complexity which we cannot possibly understand. What a ridiculous notion, eh? Absolutely. Sky fairies and God delusions.

And I would absolutely agree with them... if they could prove it.

The absence of proof of the existence of God does not prove the non-existence of God. Atheism claims to be based on science. Science requires proof. Prove to me that there is no God.

If we cannot prove that there is no God, then atheism is simply the belief that there is no God. It is therefore a religion in it's own right, trying to secure it's own followers and destroy it's opponents, in the same way that Catholicism did in medieval times.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Bastard Parliament II: Expenses

I blogged last week on the problem of our Bastard Parliament - the fact that it can act as judge, jury and executioner.

An interesting item in the Telegraph has led me to continue on this theme. The MPs charged with fraud relating to their expenses - Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine - are appealing to the newly-formed UK Supreme Court (used to be the Law Lords in the House of Lords) to decide whether or not the court system has jurisdiction over their activities in Parliament.

That's right. They are having a hearing - a full court hearing at the highest court in the land, to decide whether the law actually applies to them or not. They claim that the assertion in the Bill of Rights that 'proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament' means they are effectively outside the law.

This little feature of the Bill of Rights is commonly referred to as Parliamentary privilege, and was included in order to prevent the Monarch from accusing Parliamentarians of treason or sedition if they criticised his (or her) actions. The last Monarch who did that was King Charles I, and it precipitated the Civil War.

It was not included to allow Parliamentarians to diddle the public and get away with it scot-free.

If the Supreme Court rules in the MPs' favour, it will effectively set a legal precedent whereby our elected representatives are exempt from the law. This is, in a modern democracy, absolutely fucking despicable. The only body that would be able to try them is Parliament itself - spot the vested interest, anyone?

 Bastards. Absolute fucking bastards.

They might try another bit of legislation, which might not be familiar to them:

'It is Provided, agreed, and granted, that all Persons, as well of high as of low Estate, shall receive Justice in the King’s Court'.

Or, in other words: no man is above the law, and justice is dispensed in the Court of the King. No Parliament mentioned.

This piece of legislation is the Statute of Marlborough 1267. It was signed by King Henry III, 400 years before the Bill of Rights, and it is still in force. Check the link if you don't believe me.

Our Parliament is an absolute bastard.

Kids and the Media

Two thirds of parents think that their children watch inappropriate content on TV before the 9pm watershed, according to BBC article.

I certainly agree. A lot of TV is either mind-numbing garbage simply designed to appeal to the masses to give them the circus element of their bread and circuses, advertising designed to psychologically condition into parting with your cash in exchange for a load of shit that you don't really need, or packed full of sex and violence with no artistic context.

That's why my kids rarely watch it.

Garbage in High Definition (not the TV, just the crap that's put on it)

Seriously. Has it not occurred to people to control what their children watch? My kids, when they watch TV at all, watch films that I have bought on DVD (or blu-ray, as I am a techno-snob), that are pre-approved by me. And they are limited to one a day. The rest of the time, they play with toys, or out in the garden, or read books, or all the other things that children used to do before we retired in fear and loathing of the outside world to the dark confines of our living rooms.

If you don't like what your kids are watching on TV, turn it off.

Just a thought.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Bastard Parliament

It's been a fun day for Parliamentary nonsense today.

Chris Bryant, a Labour MP, managed to get an emergency debate held in the House of Commons relating to the phone-hacking allegations, claiming that any attempt to breach the private correspondence of MPs amounted to contempt of Parliament. The matter has been referred to the Standards and Privileges Committee, who are launching an inquiry.

This, in itself, sounds fairly run-of-the-mill, at least in Parliamentary terms. There was some colourful language about the media barons as having 'no predators', and employing 'red-topped assassins' to take out politicians. Chris Bryant even tore into Kay Burley on live TV, which was actually quite entertaining.

One thing Old Holborn pointed out, though - Parliament does have teeth to defend itself in this regard. Contempt of Parliament is a crime, and the court to which you are presented to face charges is Parliament itself, which has the power to imprison you. Indefinitely.

The reason for this? Well, Parliament once sat as a court to execute a King. 500 years ago.

So, let this be a lesson to you. Don't get in the way of Parliament. That little brown building on the banks of the Thames can act as a court, creates the law and forms the Government.

In other words, it is judge, jury and executioner.  And if you piss them off, they can fuck you up.

What a bastard.

Office of Budget Responsibility Gets New Chief

The BBC have reported that George Osborne has appointed Robert Chote, former head of the IFS, as the new chief of the Office of Budget Responsibility.

I can't really complain about this appointment - although the IFS has touted itself as an 'independent' organisation, I have found its analyses to be decidedly left-leaning, especially with its recent criticism of the Emergency Budget as being 'regressive', whatever that means. If 'progressive' means 'socialist', as it seems to be used, then personally I'm quite happy for the Government's policies to be 'regressive'.

Osborne is the first Chancellor to submit to official independent scrutiny

Osborne's decision to appoint the former head of an, at best independent, at worst left-leaning, to scrutinise his own fiscal policy decisions certainly backs his statements about the OBR being there to independently review the work of the Treasury, rather than simply rubber-stamp it. This truly does end the Treasury's centuries-old vested interest in its ability to massage the figures for political ends.

All in all, a brave move.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

America's Problem with Islam

America seems to have an increasingly disturbing problem with Islam.

Latest polls indicate that approximately 1 in 5 Americans mistakenly believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. The idea that it was agents of Islam that caused the attack on the World Trade Center has led to an argument about the decision to build a mosque close to the site.

And now, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Evangelical Christians in Florida are planning to burn copies of the Koran in protest.

Now, I am not lining up to defend the 9/11 attacks - they were cowardly, heinous and despicable, and I understand how passionate Americans are about it - the UK has been the subject of terrorist attacks many times in my lifetime. But just because those that caused the attacks describe themselves as Muslims doesn't mean that Islam itself is inherently evil.

There is no justification for this

The Christian Crusaders used their religion as an excuse to wage war on the Holy Land. Genocide was committed during the Crusades, as hundreds of thousands were murdered in the name of God. But we do not regard Christianity as evil because of this. We recognise these events in context - that they weren't about religion at all, but power, authority and wealth.

These events need to be taken in context. Our enemy is a small, fanatical group of fundamentalists, who are using a warped interpretation of their religion as an excuse to justify murder and terrorism. Their actions aren't about religion - they're about power, authority and ultimately, wealth. They are the Crusaders of modern times.

The argument of these fundamentalists is that Western society despises Islam, and is out to destroy it, and that only by destroying the free world will they be safe. Rash actions like burning the Koran only reinforce that assertion.