Archive for the ‘General’ Category

American mid-term elections

Friday, November 10th, 2006

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they've tried everything else."

Winston Churchill

Jack Straw

Saturday, October 7th, 2006

It pains me to admit this, but my admiration for the former dithering Home Secretary has sky-rocketed ever since he took the unusual decision to connect his mouth to his own brain, and not to the bible of No 10. His quest to ignite debate has probably exceeded all expectations and his provocative statements have cut straight to the heart of the cultural stand-off between "Bristishness" (whatever the hell that is) and Islam. And why the hell not? After all, he's only saying what most British people think. We've recently been conditioned to blindly "accept" different cultures and in these days of Islamic hyper-sensitivity, it's simply not PC to voice personal judgment anymore. The last thing we expected was for a political heavy-weight to light the fuse.

No doubt I'm probably going to hell for this (not to mention ruin any chance of indulging in 17 virgins), but if Jack can do it then so shall I.

I can't help it, but every time I see a Muslim woman wearing the niqab (et al) various thoughts start racing around my head: "poor sod, having to wear that ridiculous outfit", "it just smacks of male owenership to me", "I bet she's wearing a Wonder Woman's outfit under that", "maybe she's too much of a munter to show her face in public", etc etc. I was brought up to look people in the eyes and to engage with them using dialog in which the intricacies of facial expression are a crucial and integral part. That's not compatible with religious hoodies. And that's just how I feel.

A Muslim scholar from Jack's constituency of Blackburn came out with the predictable bollocks insisting that his comments were an "insult to Islam and to all Muslims in the world" blah blah blah. Well, Mr Angry Ranty Scholar, cultural misunderstanding works both ways and you're displaying an astonishing lack of understanding for ours: debate is not an insult, you'll find it's a pretty handy tool intended to build intellectual bridges.

If anything, the row has provided the British public with a suite of handy new nouns: how many non-muslims could tell apart a hijab from a niqab, jibab, abaya or even a chador? We've been familiar with burqas for a while and now we have a whole new range to enjoy! The point is that debate leads to education and that should always be valued.

Nobody is saying that Muslim women should not wear head veils, it's just that people in Britain just don't seem to like what they stand for. That's not an insult it's just an opinion.

Interestingly, Charles Clarke also seems to have turned agent provocateur having been released from the shackles of Home Secretary under His Tonyness, the King of Spin. Just as Boris Johnson has always done, open one's mouth just that split second before engaging the brain. It seems that these Home Secretary droids can only take so much spin and censorship – even David Blunkett's at it! Eventually they'll crack up, screw up and get sacked before spewing out a torrent of common sense, political insight and beautiful honesty.

What you get is genuine and stimulating debate. Personally, I love it. Can we have some more please?

Hug a Hoodie?

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

I've been pondering this Hug-a-Hoodie message from David Cameron ever since the media picked up on it a few days ago. I can see that it's a case of social inclusion and that all they want to do is blend in with us and not be stigmatised just by what they wear. Fair enough.

Well as it happened, I was lucky enough to find myself in a situation only last night when I could put this to the test. One of these so-called teenager "hoodies" decided to attack me for no apparent reason, which left me with a very upset girlfriend, a broken nose and about 2 litres less blood. Oh silly me, if only I'd hugged him instead! But my problem is one of timing: when exactly should I attempt this hug? Should it have been as he was insulting me? Or maybe just before the punch to my face, or perhaps just afterwards? Obviously the young fellow wasn't aware of my intentions to give him a loving hug, otherwise I'm sure he would have just left us both alone.

I could really do without being punched again over a simple misunderstanding. But you know what, I'm just not sure that Hugging a Hoodie is really for me.

Water, water everywhere…but not a drop to water my garden

Friday, May 19th, 2006

I live in a country that's surrounded by water, has a temperate climate that's usually damp, rainy and miserable and yet we're apprently having a drought. Well, not all this country to be honest, just the south eastern corner – the remainder of the country's drowning in the damn stuff. The organisation that provides my water is a private company called Thames Water, and they have imposed a hosepipe ban for the summer in order to preserve dwindling supplies. This is the same company who's profits have risen to £383m so far this year, directors bonuses increased from £228,000 to £615,000, the chairman gets a whopping £800,000 salary, the managing director £415,000 and so on. So why do we have a water shortage? Unusually low rain fall? Perhaps, but I suspect that loosing 946 million litres per DAY doesn't really help (staggeringly, that's a third of their entire supply! I can't think of any other industry that can loose a third of its product and get away with it).

There are serveral arguments that Thames Water use to wriggle out of this mess. "We're doing everything we can to replace the antiquated victorian mains network". There is a road just around the corner from my house that has been dug up for the past 6 weeks, courtesy of Thames Water. It's not a particulaly long road, perhaps a stretch 200m long, and is being dug up be a bunch of half-witted, fat-arsed workers with an average age of well over 80 – and who appear to have invested their salaries in PG Tips. It doesn't take that long to replace a water mains if you're serious about it. Another argument from the Water Mafia, is that they will not be able to secure financial investment if the company doesn't make an operating profit. What a load of bollocks. If they play by market rules, then they should live by them. As a "private" company they operate in a competitive market, which means that the consumers have a choice. It's not rocket science, it's called market forces, or that dirty word "capitalism". So do I have a choice of water suppliers? Of course not. Do my water bills reflect by reduction in service? Like hell.

Thames Water should take responsibility for running out of our water and sort this mess out. If it means the fat cats getting in their fat cars, filling it up with bottled Evian then that's what they should do. We've paid for it and they've lost it. My garden would weep at this situation, but sadly it's run out of tears.