May 092009
 

Occasionally after work, Mr Smug Git and I repair to the local watering-hole and, lubricated by a pair of pints, proceed to sequester the pub’s copy of the Sun and roundly take the piss until (a) we run out of beer money, or (b) he has to get on the train back home.

Yesterday, most unusually considering the front pages of all the other newspapers in Christendom, the Sun carried no mention on its own front page of MPs’ expenses. Instead, the top stories were something to do with footballers being rude to referees, and this:

DD-Day: THE SUN’S campaign to axe the Marks & Spencer bra tax ended in a stunning victory last night.

‘We boobed,’ say Marks & Spencer. ‘In these times of economic trouble, we won’t charge £2 extra for Bras of Unusual Size.’

The Sun’s ‘Hands Off Our Boobs’ campaign, which I managed to miss entirely whilst it was being waged, appears to have championed a bizarre cause, but now that I think of it, hurrah for the Sun!

Because, for what is not a particularly complicated or cloth-intensive garment, the simple brassiere is one of the most expensive pieces of women’s couture. A rapid search of the M&S website ‘by price’ reveals that the most inexpensive bra they offer at the moment comes in at £8. (If one desires the matching knickers, it’s a further £3.) By contrast, one can purchase two tops for the same price, at £4 apiece.

Good on the Sun, I feel, for ensuring that large-busted women are not penalised by a £2 extra charge. It is bad enough that women fork out for these ridiculous apparatus anyway; those blessed (by nature or surgery) with generous chests shouldn’t have to pay even more for what is, let’s face it, two little triangles of cloth connected by a bit of cheap elastic and wire.

Somehow, however, I doubt the Sun will espouse the other women’s cause that is truly outrageous: the blatantly sexist charging of VAT, however reduced, on menstrual items that only women need – but not, let us remember, on things like Jaffa Cakes.

Tell you what, Ms. Harman: instead of championing economically stupid plans that actually hurt women (over-generous maternity leave, flexible working hours, shoehorning females into top banking positions a la affirmative action, etc), why don’t you take a page out of the Sun’s book and get this tampax tax eliminated?

Apr 172009
 

with which I wholeheartedly agree. Replace ‘United States’ with ‘Britain’ and ‘Americans’ with ‘the British’ and it applies equally as well here.

I feel I must explain, at least to the small audience that is available to me, that the naivete with which people are discussing the tea party protests is distracting everyone from the meaning of those protests.

The people who went to those protests were not there simply because they don’t like Obama and they don’t like paying their taxes. There is something much deeper behind their revulsion–a revulsion I share.

The point is this:
American citizens spend half of every year working simply to make their tax payments. That is to say, all taxes combined (US, state, county, city, etc.) are so burdensome to Americans that they must spend literally half of their income paying them. I don’t care what you say about the cost of running the government, protecting our shores, or helping the poor. This is wrong.

It is interesting to note that we consider ourselves free and self-determined yet we are subjected to such staggering regulation of our lives. You can point to our material wealth and say, “you’re wrong… we have it great,” but you’re fooling yourself if you think that. Being free and being rich are not the same thing. Essentially, we’re rich because we’ve managed to fool the world into thinking our money is actually worth something…this is another story. What is really going on here is that our government has become so monstrously plutocratic and tyrannical that they feel they can start wars, spy on us, and abscond with half our paychecks. We are told to shut up and stop whining.

Well, I’m tired of being told that I should put my “nation” before myself. That’s obviously not what this is about. People who say that mean, “put the government before yourself–you are their property.”

I don’t care who the president is (they all manage to find a new and unique way to be absolutely terrible) and I don’t care what they promise us. I think that the feelings of the people at the tea party protests and my own feelings can be quite succinctly expressed:

All experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

I don’t suppose many people today would even recognize that text but be sure, were it written by someone today, its writer would be labeled an “extremist” or “domestic terrorist” and thrown into some dark prison. In its day, that text caused a war.

I urge anyone reading this (and believe me, I have no delusions that many are) to consider for a moment whether the life led by an American is a free life. Consider whether anyone can actually claim, under threat of force, half of all your labor. Can those people spy on you? Can force you to fight a war on the other side of the earth? Can they silence you? Can they imprison you? If not, can they stop you if you decide to rob them of their power? Can they stop a million like you? Can they stop 300 million belligerent Americans who know what freedom is and crave it?

I think not.

Having said that, I do not believe these tea party protests were at all effective. Sadly, a protest against the government and its atrocities is rendered impotent when the scoundrels who operate that government make speeches at the protest. Yes, I refer to the infamous Richard Burr who gave a less than stirring speech against Obama and his bailouts. Oddly enough, Mr. Burr voted for the original bailout. How disingenuous to oppose graft only when it’s politically expedient.

Thus, any effect the protest might have had was soundly negated. Especially since Fox News took it upon themselves to portray it as a partisan anti-Obama rally. I think they just like rattling our cages, to be honest.

Just remember, the struggle the United States face today is a lot simpler than economics, party politics, or monetary policy. It is simply a struggle for power between the People and the government. The only power you and I crave is power over ourselves but the government claims that power as well. I am not prepared to submit to them.

Remember, there is nothing patriotic about supporting the government. The United States government is not the United States themselves. We are. We are the country. Our homes and our neighbors are this country. Your choice is either loyalty to them or loyalty to the government. I know on what side I stand.

CARPE LIBERTATEM.

Mar 162009
 

Over at Don’s.

You remember Don, right? He does a pretty comprehensive job of it, I must say, picking up on such contentious, deeply-held prejudices of mine as ‘Jesus was no economist’ and ‘Human progress in the past 200 years has been outstanding.’

An amusing snippet:

I love the critique of Jesus’ understanding of economics and can only guess at the discussions on Team Libertarian which must have developed it.

“As a Christian and a Libertarian I am troubled. I have searched the gospels, and nowhere does it mention that deregulated free markets bring freedom by allocating resources efficiently or that cutting taxes generates more revenue as explained by the Laffer Curve”.

“Ah, that is because Jesus Christ had a pretty meagre understanding of economics, unlike Frederich von Hayek, Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan.”

That’s so completely me. (Actually, it is.)

He also suggests I spend less time reading Ayn Rand and more time reading the New Testament, so blogging will be light as I crack open my copy of koine and rediscover the underpinnings of Christian Socialism.

UPDATE: This whole ‘New Testament’ thing is proving riveting, and ideas are coming thick and fast. I might even write a sort of blog series called Libertarian Theology, explaining how Christianity and self-interest are entirely compatible and showing that Jesus was totally a libertarian. After that, perhaps I’ll embark on a Libertarian Theology: Islam, detailing the importance of the free market and the Laffer Curve in the early caliphates.

Mar 022009
 

Teaching a lesson on bias today, I gave my pupils a copy of Philip Pullman’s article in Friday’s Times. I’d link to it, but…

They read it carefully, some with dawning expressions of horror, and afterward we discussed his point of view and what influence he might be trying to exert.

At the end of the lesson, I said, ‘And do you know what? I read that article on the Times website at lunchtime on Friday. By Friday evening, it had disappeared.’

Silence.

Then:

‘Dude,’ said one of them, with a kind of appalled admiration; ‘Pullman’s right!’

[Another money-quote from the lesson today: ‘You’d think, if someone were going to be in government, they’d at least bother to have some brains.]

How is it that children barely out of nappies can understand the implications of this stuff, but the British people by and large cannot? What the hell?

Feb 232009
 

This article is on the front page of the print edition of the Times today, although not, oddly, on the website:

Plans to axe new laws that would increase costs for businesses, including enhanced maternity leave and tougher equality legislation, are threatening to blow open a Cabinet rift over how Labour should respond to the economic downturn, The Times has learnt.

The proposals, outlined in the Queen’s Speech just two months ago, and championed by Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, are at risk after Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, and the Chancellor called for a moratorium on any measures that would add to the current financial pressure on businesses. Right-to-roam legislation and powers to allow councils to ban alcohol promotions are also under threat as the Government prepares to gut its legislative programme in the face of the recession.

This proposal is so eminently sensible that I have trouble believing that Mandelson himself is the originator, but lo! Somewhere along the line, he twigged that imposing extra costs on businesses during an economic slump was a fairly counterproductive move.

But my delight continues to grow:

Senior figures say many of the policies targeted are those promoted by Ms Harman, who has argued Labour should take a harder line on those to blame for the financial crisis and do more to protect its victims.

Snigger, snigger. Looks like Harman’s intention to become party leader when Brown finally cracks – as signalled, apparently, by a critical speech to her constituents and speculated upon heavily last week in the blogosphere – is being nipped in the bud. Ah, the Machiavellian machinations!

Sources close to Lord Mandelson defended the move to stop the new laws. saying that proposals to enhance maternity leave were almost certain to be scrapped, as were new measures to ensure that government contracts were awarded to firms with good records on equality.

Some regulations, such as a ban on cigarette displays in small shops, have already been delayed.

And so, at long last, Mandelson is doing his job and defending the interests of the business community (though not, admittedly, of the banking sector). It’s a positive step at the very least; even more preferable would be not a moratorium on such intrusive social engineering but a stop to it entirely – but any move critical of the government’s zeal for excessive legislation is better than no move at all.

While Lord Mandelson has risen in my estimation this day, however, proof remains that many Labour MPs are still absolute tits (emphasis mine):

Jon Cruddas, an influential left-wing Labour MP, warned last night that the Government was split over how to deal with the downturn. He said: “If the most progressive of our policies are the first to go under the hatchet, that will cause deep unease across the party. Genuflecting to the free market got us into this mess and the solution is not more of the same. There is now a deepening ideological divide about what to do next.”

I wonder if Jon Cruddas MP ghost-writes for Polly Toynbee…