Read Write

Making the world smile, one muscle at a time

What do we do about parking on pavements?

by Marrick on March 31, 2014

lougherroad

Playing devil’s advocate here. I was listening to the radio yesterday and I heard a proposal to stop people parking on pavements, because parked cars represent a hazard to disabled people, especially those with sight issues and those in wheelchairs. My first reaction was one of approval, but as I was driving down Lougher Road in Gorseinon, I got snarled up in a jam.

The normal practice in Lougher Road is to park on the pavement because the road is quite narrow and the pavements are wide. On this occasion, two vans had parked on the road, reducing it to single lane only. It took me just under 20 minutes to travel about 150 metres.

Imagine multiplying that by every road in the town. It would probably introduce gridlock.

That doesn’t get away from the simple fact that disabled are seriously disadvantaged by cars parked on the pavement, but what do you do? Do you accede to the natural inclination to make the pavements safe for the disabled and risk grinding the town to a halt? Do you introduce double yellow lines everywhere and stop people parking outside their own homes? What about the people who have mobility issues and need a car, so need to park outside their homes? Do we trade off their rights for the rights of other disabled people. What about working people who carry tools and equipment in their vehicles and having to walk a distance to a car park would be nigh on impossible? Where do we put the cars?

There are no easy solutions to this. The truth is, the car is a fact of life and for many (me included) an absolute necessity – I could not do my job without a car.

I’m in the fortunate position of having a drive upon which I can park my car, but the vast majority do not and if they need ready access to their vehicles, then banning parking outside their homes would be a severe impediment to their daily lives.

The only possible solution – and it’s only a partial one – is to reduce every road to a single track, make it one way and use the space gained for residential parking. Which is all well and good until you have a cul de sac. Unquestionably, something should be done to protect the disabled, but it’s going to take a bigger brain than mine to come up with an answer that’s fair all round.

Any suggestions?

Sometimes… they ARE all the same

by Marrick on January 25, 2014

UKIP voters often cite amongst their reasons: "I’m fed up with politicians, they’re all the same". So instead they vote for a former Conservative Party member, who is the son of an alcoholic stock broker, went to public school and became a commodity broker for Drexel Burnham Lambert, then Credit Lyonnais Rouse. In his first ten years as an MEP he claimed £2,000,000 in expenses. It’s nice to be different

Going nuclear

by Marrick on October 22, 2013

So, we’re handing billions to France and China to build something we used to build ourselves, then guaranteeing them a huge profit on the deal for 35 years. We will pick up the tab.
Three thoughts on this: hasn’t privatisation worked well eh? (answer = no). What has happened to the Tory’s free market principles? Why are nuclear energy subsidies (because that’s what this is) a good thing, but renewable energy subsidies a bad thing?
In the bad old days, the government would have told the CEGB, "build the damn thing" and being the single most efficient organisation in Britain, they would have.

Moreover, it would have worked and not caused a meltdown like Fukishima.

I asked a Tory apologist "What’s the difference between a guaranteed price and a subsidy?" Ten minutes of bluster later – "There isn’t an intrinsic difference, but governments don’t have to pay for the guaranteed price…" Who does then? "Ummmm, the consumer." You mean "us" then?

What it comes down to is: "the profit incentive" is nothing but a spin on the fact that WE have to pay extra. That’s all profit is – US having to pay extra. The same as "efficiency" is US getting paid less. The bottom line of privatised industries is ordinary people paying more for less and the workers in the industries getting paid less for their labour.

The Quarry by Iain Banks

by Marrick on July 27, 2013

The Quarry is Iain Banks’ final novel and is the story of Kit, an autistic teenager and his father Guy, who is dying of cancer. There are echoes of Frank Cauldhame (The Wasp Factory) in Kit, who provides the narrative voice for what reads like a rather rushed final chapter in the Banks canon and the bitter, anti-capitalist, anti-royalist, anti-British-society invective of Guy may be a vehicle for Banks own reflections on where we are. The bitterness seems very much at odds with the Banks persona, but there you are – perhaps the private, dying Banks felt he needed to rail against everything he saw as being wrong while he still had the chance.

I rather enjoyed it, despite it getting panned in the press. For sure, it reads a little like a first, or second draft, with dialogue dominating the proceedings, and with very little of the dramatic narrative for which Banks is rightly famed in evidence. In fact there are so few of the twists and turns I’ve come to expect from a Banks novel, that I could quite easily believe this was a good piece of fan fiction.

The story itself concerns the relationship between Kit and Guy, set over a long weekend during which Guy’s old university friends arrive at his crumbling home, ostensibly for one last bash with their old mate, but the sub-plot of a finding video tape they’d made of an orgy, which was supposedly in the possession of guy, and their motivations for wanting it destroyed is the unifying force and motivation for their actions.

There are some great moments, some touching scenes and some great black humour, but this will always be viewed as Banks going out with a whimper rather than a bang… He really doesn’t do himself justice. If you’re fan, as I am, you will read this with sadness, then pick up the Wasp Factory and start again, but read it you must.

I did not have lobbying with that Australian, says pudgy-faced Prime Minister

by Marrick on July 20, 2013

So, why won’t David Cameron confirm or deny that he discussed fracking with Lynton Crosby?

I’m not suggesting any impropriety, despite Crosby’s close association with the fracking industry and the sudden and unexpected tax breaks offered to them. Neither am I suggesting that fracking is dangerous and likely to cause damage to the environment including water contamination. What I would like to know is why the chief SB is being evasive about it?

And why is the chief SB also avoiding questions about Lynton Crosby and tobacco. For sure Crosby Textor represent Philip Morris and all of sudden the government backtracked on plain cigarette packages. It doesn’t really matter whether this will work or not, what does matter is whether or not the PM-SB discussed it with Crosby. Why is he avoiding saying whether or not he HAS discussed with him?

Crosby Textor also represents a drinks industry body that has campaigned against minimum pricing. Lo and behold, the Government formally abandoned a plan previously backed by Mr Cameron to set a minimum unit price for alcohol to combat binge drinking.

Of course Crosby "has never lobbied (the PM-SB) on anything", but he will not say if they actually "discussed" it.

And why does the Government’s long-delayed Bill to set up a register of lobbyists paid to lobby on behalf of a third party contain a loophole that would allow Crosby Textor not to join the list or name its clients?

Why is the government opposing a Labour amendment that would close that loophole, and force all professional lobbyists working in the UK to declare their full list of clients on a statutory register and the approximate value of such work; ensure the list includes people working for a governing party as well as the Government and avoid conflicts of interest?

Wrong time, wrong message, just plain wrong

by Marrick on July 1, 2013

"Ministers yesterday admitted they are powerless to stop any rise ordered by Ipsa, and party leaders may have to shame their MPs to turn down any inflation–busting pay increase."

Francis Maude speaking on Sky News: "It’s not in my control, it’s in the control of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. It isn’t even in the control of MPs themselves. What we do control, which is ministers’ pay, we are controlling rigorously and we are controlling and we are cutting back on the cost of running the government."

I happen to think MPs are underpaid, but now is not the time for a massive increase in their salaries. However, I do wonder at the statements by ministers who say they can’t do anything about it. Fannies. Make that Lying Fannies. I reckon they could easily get a majority to restrain this pay increase. Labour have already said they will vote against it en bloc, so I’m sure they would get support for a motion killing the rise from them. I’m equally sure that they could rustle up a few Tories and Liberals to get a Parliamentary majority.

So, why aren’t they attempting to stop it rather than wringing their hands and crying "woe is me"? Ed has said he will reverse it after the election, so why not stop it now?

The answer is glaringly simple: they don’t really care what the British people think. It’s all about the arrogant posh boys again. They posture, say the right things and then do nothing that will change the situation.

Take the economy: every man, woman and child in the country will tell you that the cuts are killing the economy and we need investment. As I have said time and again: if you want something to grow, then you have to feed it, on the other hand if you want it to die, just go ahead and starve it. Does it matter to them that people are struggling to make ends meet? Not really, because it doesn’t affect them. Those people at the tops of the big companies are still earning their fat salaries and it’s the unemployed and the poor who are suffering, i.e. not them. The “I’m alright Jack” theme of the current government is pervasive in society and unless the have-nots get up off their arses and do something about it through the ballot box, then we’ll have more of the same.

This follows quickly on the heels of a massive pay rise for the Monarch. Like them or loathe them, I’m sure you’ll agree this is the wrong time to give them a whopping big pay rise. But the Government just doesn’t care what we think, again because they are doing all right, Jack.

Then we had David Cameron criticising George Galloway for cosying up to dictators – which is pretty much accurate as far as I can see – but then he goes and spoils it all by playing pals with the thugs in Kazakhstan. His reasoning is “trade”.  He told the Guardian: "I am delighted to be in Astana today – the first serving British prime minister to come to Kazakhstan. Frankly such a visit is long overdue. The question should not be: why is the British prime minister in Kazakhstan? The question is: why has it taken a British prime minister so long to visit? Kazakhstan is on the rise – a dynamic country that is poised to become a high income country by the end of this decade." Let’s not be under any illusions, their President got 95.5% of the vote after his opponents declared they hoped he would win. This doesn’t smack of free and fair elections. Of course the motivation is profit and if this government is consistent in one thing, it always put profits before people. They’re all right, Jack.

The real problem of course is there are too many wealthy, comfortable clever people running the country. I remember once being told that we would better off if businessmen ran the government – how wrong is that? They are so divorced from the reality of living at the bottom that they will never appreciate the problems ordinary people face. What we need are more nurses, plumbers, fitters, railway workers, unemployed and pensioners in Parliament and fewer bankers, lawyers and businessmen.

The roadblock to this is the selection processes of the major parties. They tend to select clever, articulate and generally selfish individuals who have the drive and ambition to succeed at all costs. Consequently, they behave in a selfish manner in Parliament and who can blame them? So, changing the method of selection is key to developing a new political system, one that more fairly represents the ordinary people of the country, which is why the experiment Labour had of ensuring that women had better representation in Parliament by imposing quotas needs to be extended. If there can be quotas of women, why can’t their be quotas with other criteria? Sure it’s hard, but most things that are good will be hard at first and if it gets more ordinary people and fewer professional politicians in Parliament then where do I sign?

The biggest benefit of having ordinary people in Parliament is that when they say, “I’m all right, Jack” then they will mean us too and if we’re all right because they’re all right, then Parliament will have done it’s job: to serve the people. Just to make sure, I would ban MPs from serving more than two terms, prevent them from having second jobs, implement a right of recall and make their salaries a multiple of the poorest off in society (not the average, they can boost that by making sure the people at the top get disproportionately more).

Getting Parliament to do this is going to be tough. It’s the old Turkeys-Voting-For-Christmas syndrome. Which is why everyone and I mean YOU, should be getting in touch with the local party of their choice, joining and participating. The more of us who join the major parties, the better chance we have of changing them. Standing on the side-lines and shouting the odds is no longer an option, it’s time to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. There will be those who prefer ideological purity to taking back their party and that’s fair enough, if principles are something you value over the practical, then you carry on watching desperate people walk in front of speeding trains and echoing the minister’s “woe is me” mantra.

Me? I’m going to do something.

Ed: now is the moment

by Marrick on June 27, 2013

The Spending Review has not gone well with the public. After weeks of Labour slipping in the polls, and the gap narrowing between Labour and the Tories to 38/32 in one case, the overnight poll from You Gov has come up with this startling reversal:

From today’s Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 42

Conservatives 31

Lib Dems 11

UKIP 10

That would give Labour a majority of 112

We’re back to an 11 point gap and UKIP support is starting to fade. The drip, drip, drip of stories about UKIP from Smith Square is starting to tell and they’ve fallen below the Lib Dems for the first time in months. Ed Miliband has to seize the moment and change the narrative from compliance to attack. This is the moment when things can change, but only if we stand up to be counted. If we go on the offensive now and continue to build momentum the election is there for the taking. Labour is the government in waiting. It’s time to act like it.

The Osborne failure

According to the Osborne plan the UK economy was supposed to have grown by 6% by now, compared to the anaemic 1.1% we’ve seen over the past three years. Over the same period, Germany has grown by 2.9% and stimulus-friendly America by 4.9%.

The deficit is up, year on year. The national debt continues to rise. The chancellor will be borrowing £96bn come 2015.

Nearly every one of the Chancellor’s key indicators have been missed by some margin, despite all the targets being downwardly revised six times.

If ever there was an object lesson in failure, it is this hare-brained concept of austerity. It just doesn’t work.

Einstein is often credited with saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It wasn’t him, but nevertheless it is applicable in this instance – to continue to starve the economy is madness and will not work as advertised. Either they’re wrong and not admitting it, or there is another agenda at play here.

Shane Williams to retire “every season”

by Marrick on June 17, 2013

Shane_Williams“Retirement sucks,” says the man who is arguably Wales’s greatest ever winger, “but retiring is a different kettle of fish.”

“In fact, retiring is so good, I’m actually thinking of making it an annual event.”

The mercurial Wales back is arguably now more famous for his teary wave goodbye to his adoring fans than for the many brilliant tries he scored in career that no-one is actually sure has ended.

Now, the Welsh Assembly Government has stepped in and made August 1st a national holiday called “Shane Williams retirement day”. A spokesperson for WAG says Shane will be taken out on to the Millennium Stadium turf every year – where, before a packed house, he can wave goodbye once again, cry a bit, give a choked-up interview and bask in the love and adoration of a small, but perfectly formed nation.

Then, after a period of mourning, the length of which will be arranged with the WRU, coach Warren Gatland will call upon him to return to the fold and save Welsh and indeed, British rugby once again.

In a similar move, the RFU have decided to have Jonny Wilkinson kept in a large bottle of preservative for all eternity and occasionally fuel rumours in the London press that he will return to stem the tide of under-achievement bedevilling the English game.

Shane Williams is a legend of the game, whose reputation belies his diminutive frame and now he has added a new string to his bow as Wales’s own “man for all seasons”.

“Let’s be honest, it’s not like they’ve found a direct one-for-one replacement. George is a great guy, with bags of pace, but face it; he couldn’t send a whippet the wrong with way with just a nod of his head.”

Are there parallels between Thatcher and Cameron?

by Marrick on April 8, 2013

Thatcher

“Thatcher is dead, long live Thatcherism” is the toast in a thousand London clubs as hard faced bankers get all dewy-eyed and sentimental about the late Tory leader and the most divisive Prime Minister of the second half of the twentieth century.

In common with her acolytes, Cameron and Osborne, Thatcher was quick to give with one hand and take with the other. She reduced the top rate of tax from 83% to 60%, but at the same time got rid of the bottom rate of 25%, making 30% the base rate for everyone. Sound familiar?

The same tune was played out with VAT, a tax that disproportionately penalises the poor, she nearly doubled it from 8% to 15% (it later went to 17.5%). Labour temporarily reduced it to 15% again, but true to form the Tories increased it to 20%, despite vehement denials prior to the 2010 election, something which also had echoes in Thatcher’s first election campaign in which she flatly denied that she would double it as Labour accused.

The Tories have somehow acquired a reputation for being a tax cutting party, but history shows us this is not the case and they have nearly always been the ones to increase taxes, mostly on the less well off. As George Gilder (American Republican, techno-utopian) puts it in the 1982 edition of his American best-seller, “Wealth and Poverty,”

“The net effect of the Thatcher program has been a substantial increase in taxation on virtually all taxpayers.”

“The net effect of the Thatcher program has been a substantial increase in taxation on virtually all taxpayers.” George Gilder – American Republican author.

The exception, of course, being the very highest earners who got massive tax cuts.

Another strand of Tory mythology is their so-called economic competence. Let me give you one sentence. Under Thatcher, manufacturing output dropped 30% from its 1978 level by 1983 and unemployment reached 3.6 million.

Again this will ring bells with those of experiencing the depredations of the current regime.

There are four areas for which Margaret Thatcher will forever live in the consciousness of the working class of Britain: mass privatisation, the Poll Tax and its associated riots, the destruction of whole swathes of British society in her conflict with the miners and the sell-off of council homes.

Council house sales have ultimately resulted in homelessness, shantytowns, repossessions and negative equity becoming the norm for millions and house building is now at its lowest ebb since 1924. Social Housing, an idea that gave homes to millions of people who could not afford them otherwise, was destroyed by Thatcher by appealing to the lowest and basest of emotions: greed.

Now, most of the sold council houses are owned by private landlords and the tenants, who make up the most vulnerable members of society, are being squeezed by yet another Tory government with the execrable Bedroom Tax. The people who bought their council houses have long since sold them, and saddled themselves with debts. To quote the song, “they started out with nothing and they’ve still got most of it left”.

The Poll tax caused massive social unrest and ended in complete and utter defeat for the government, but not before whole sections of British town centres had been laid to waste by rioters protesting the unfair tax. Ultimately, it resulted in Thatcher’s ejection from office, but it revealed just how far she was prepared to go to shift wealth away from the ordinary people of Britain and into the hands of the wealthy. Even today, we have the ridiculous situation where mansions in the West End of London pay only £1200 council tax: if Thatcher could have had her way, that would have been reduced by a factor of ten.

There are echoes of this today with the Bedroom Tax. The idea that everyone should pay tax irrespective of their means is having its day again, and once again it is a Tory Government that is doing it. The Bedroom Tax is much more of a stealth tax though, the Tories have learned since Thatcher’s day and they no longer try to bludgeon everyone with their plans. Instead they have introduced it so that the most vulnerable and those least able to fight back are afflicted with this most wicked of taxes.

Thatcher laid waste to industrial Britain. As I pointed out earlier, she cut manufacturing output by 30% by 1983 and even today you can visit towns in the Welsh Valleys, the North of England and Scotland that are wastelands where dead-eyed residents eke out a brutal existence. She, more than anyone, gave birth to the desperate situations that the population of these empty towns find themselves in. The destruction of the mining villages, the wasting of manufacturing towns and the devastation of what were vibrant, confident and happy communities can all be laid fairly and squarely at the door of Thatcher. She replaced them with yuppies and deregulated financial services that had their inevitable boom and bust at the tail end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. The trillions of pounds that have been poured down these financial drains would have funded the NHS for twenty years, the entire education budget for forty years and the total job seekers allowance budget for five hundred years.

Margaret Thatcher conducted class warfare. That is the only way to describe it. It was brutal, primitive and depraved. She destroyed the lives of millions, while enhancing those at the very top of the tree. We are still suffering the massive increases of inequality under Thatcher: in the 1980s the gulf between the top and bottom 20% widened by a full 60%. It is to Labour’s eternal shame that they embraced this and failed to reverse it. It is true to say that there were only minor fluctuations in this gap under Major, Brown and Blair, but they did very little to reduce it significantly. BUT it was Thatcher who created it.

This is Thatcher’s true legacy: inequality, devastated communities, mass unemployment, higher taxation for the poor, the destruction of manufacturing and mass social unrest. If we allow Cameron and Osborne to emulate her, then more fool us, and welcome to serfdom.

P.S. I’m already fed up to the back teeth with the sycophancy. Give it a rest BBC.

PPS: Never forget: She was responsible for introducing section 28