Archive for February, 2009

Bobby gives the Republican response

February 27, 2009

For some reason, the Republican Party seems very eager to show off any minorities it has within its ranks at the moment.

Bobby Jindal, the Indian-American governor of Louisiana and a potential GOP candidate for the presidency in 2012, gave the Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union address.

People did not necessarily expect him to be in the same league of oratory skill as Barack Obama, but his performance has still been criticised from many quarters – on the right as well as the left. He simply sounds like such a geek. And on top of that his attacks on volcano defence spending are barmy. Has he never seen Dante’s Peak and that other film about a volcano-induced disaster….what’s it called….oh yes; Volcano.

Bobby Jindal is a staunch right-winger. Not only does he hate government spending (especially on silly ol’volcano monitoring!), he’s also opposed to abortion rights, gay marriage. What is he in favour of? Tax cuts, the Patriot Act, and “””intelligent design””” being taught in schools.

Also: he does a bit of exorcism in his spare time. Nut. Are Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin really the bright hopes of the Republican party? Excellent!

Captain Jako


Labour victory in budget vote

February 27, 2009

A quick update on the issue of free school meals in Islington. Last night saw a dramatic council meeting in the Town Hall. Apparently there were a lot of tears, tantrums and talks with lawyers!

I am very pleased to hear that the Labour group of councillors was able to pass its budget proposals – namely the provision of free school meals for primary school children in the borough – in the face of fierce opposition from the Lib Dem council.

Since the Labour plan also included cutting councillors’ salaries (amongst the highest in the country) it’s perhaps not surprising that the Lib Dems were very unhappy about this.

Lib Dem leader James Kempton has said he wants to see the vote overturned (because a Lib Dem councillor was ill and couldn’t attend the meeting, thus depriving them of a crucial vote). Pah!

If there’s any more news it will get posted here.

Captain Jako

Big losses, big bailout, big pension?

February 27, 2009

The former CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Sir Frederick Goodwin, wants to keep his hands on the mula – all £16 million of it in his pension pot.

Sir Fred being shred

Sir Fred being shred

Sir Fred, nicknamed ‘Fred the Shred’ due to his former reputation for efficiency savings, was knighted in 2004 for services to banking.

Back then I guess it looked like he had done a good job of making RBS into one of the largest companies in the world.

Since then, of course, it has needed billions of pounds of public funds to keep it running. Yesterday it announced a record-breaking loss. Perhaps Sir Fred’s contribution to the UK economy has not been so great after all.

The man clearly has no shame if he refuses to compromise over the disgraceful size of his pension. If the government cannot force him to do this, his knighthood should be revoked at the very least. Labour MP Gordon Prentice has suggested this and there are apparently several petitions going around on the subject.

Dave Osler has a post pointing out that those clowns at the Daily Telegraph are convinced that the real greedy pensions scandal is to be found in the public sector. (Well, lots of the banks are now partly in the public sector, but of course the Telegraph is picking on those real villains: the nurses, the teachers, etc).

Captain Jako

Unlimited Chavez?

February 26, 2009

Talk of the benefits of term limits on politicians reminded me that Hugo Chavez was recently successful in changing the Venezuelan constitution so that he can remain in power indefinitely.

Of course, hopefully he will try to stay in office through democratic means.

Hugo and Bobby M

Hugo and Bobby M

Hugo, however, has not always seen elections as the best path to power. He himself tried to lead a military coup in 1992 (albeit against a nasty regime). On top of this, he looks upon Fidel Castro as an inspirational figure, has praised Robert Mugabe as a “true freedom fighter”, and has tried to cosy up to the government in Iran.

Chavez chat of remaining in the presidency until at least 2030 is bonkers. I really don’t understand why so many on the far-left get turned on by him. Yes, he has used Venezuela’s oil wealth to fund welfare programmes and to bring about some redistribution of wealth, but there is something very cult of the personality-ish about the ‘Chavistas’ and his apparent conviction that Venezuela’s socialist revolution can only survive whilst he remains president (how convenient!).

I’m confident I speak for all the Paintbrush Collective when I say that Hugo Chavez does not get two thumbs up from us.

Captain Jako

Pick’n’mix no.2

February 25, 2009

Some lefties get nostalgic for the days when it was cool for young radicals to go abroad to fight against oppression and perhaps even to sacrifice their lives for a cause they believed in.

Here’s a report that suggests some are trying to follow in the foot steps of those heroic International Brigade volunteers…

…except instead of defending a democratic regime these young Brits want to see religious fundamentalism imposed upon a country. Instead of being inspired by principles of equality and common humanity these fellow citizens of ours are angry about Afghan girls being given the right to go to school.  

David T of Harry’s Place has posted on this here.

Trevor Phillips of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission recently proposed that MPs should be limited to serving a maximum of four terms. Phillips hopes that by increasing turnover of MPs we would see more minorities getting elected to Parliament.

It’s a worthy aim, but comrade bloggers such as Tom Harris MP, Sunder Katwala, and Luke Akehurst are sceptical.

In our political system where the executive is drawn mostly from the House of Commons, it doesn’t seem very sensible to me to place a strict limit on the amount of parliamentary experience that MPs can accumulate. Maybe if we the people are one day allowed to elect our representatives in the House of Lords we could place term limits on them.

And via Newer Labour, here’s a link to an article at Conservative Home! Now there’s something that doesn’t happen very often. Good on Tory Councillor Daniel Moylan for speaking some sense about the so-called Tax Payers’ Alliance and its fanatical hatred of public spending.

In Tavistock Square this afternoon I was confronted with a few hundred noisy students demanding the abolition of tuition fees, a free lunch, and an end to bad things happening in the world.

Free university education being enjoyed by a majority of young people is something we as a society should strive for. But in a recession I think there are more important things for the state to spending our taxes on – especially when universities are dominated by the middle-class.

The National Union of Students actually opposed this demo. No doubt the Trots who literally live for maching up and down blowing their whistles and waving their SWP flags have denounced NUS President Wes Streeting as a sell-out careerist. Well, here are some commies denouncing him.

Captain Jako

Shame! Government only 87% of the way to meeting its target!

February 23, 2009

The Tories are laying into the government over its “failure” on apprenticeships.

Soulds bad, doesn’t it? Especially when David Willets is saying it will take twenty years for the government’s target of 130,000 apprenticeships per year to be met.

But wait…how have they calculated it?

There were 112,600 apprenticeships started last year. I’d say that’s pretty good – we said 130,000 by 2011, and we’re 87% of the way there.

There were 111,800 the previous year – the year in which the pledge was made.

So, David Willets has taken the change in apprentices over a single year (and that a year in which Britain first entered an official recession since the early 1990s) and extrapolated that into a trend. If a man without a basic grasp of statistics can be revered in the Tory Party for having “two brains”, what does it say about the rest of them?

“Who would fight in a win between a baboon and a badger?”

February 20, 2009

David Cameron is due to visit Brighton today and local rag The Argus proposed to its readers that they submit questions for the Tory leader.

Predictably enough some excellent suggestions came flooding in. Here are some of my faves:

“Can I ask him what year Titian died?”

“Ask him why he doesn’t need to shave – is it electrolysis?”

“Is it possible for him to not look so bloody smug all the time and if yes, when does he think he may implement that? I’d suggest he does it as soon as possible as, until that happens, he has a rat in hells chance of getting to me even listen to him, let alone vote for him!”

“does he think there’ll ever be a boy born that can swim as fast as a shark”

“Could he deck a horse with one punch?”

“Does he watch Eggheads”

“What does Swan taste like?”

“Where are my pants?”

“Does he find it perturbing that there’s no finite decimal expression for the fraction one-third? I find it deeply irritating and there should be a law made about it.”

And the frankly intriguing:

“Who would fight in a win between a baboon and a badger?”

Big hat-tip to the ever-brilliant Popbitch.

Captain Jako

Gordon Broon

February 19, 2009

Jings! Crivvens! Help ma boab! The opinion polls are no’ lookin’ awfy happy for him ye ken, but at least Gordon Broon is still assured of decent press coverage somewhere.

Gordon Broon 1

I ate a delicious vegetarian haggis last night which reminded me that my agents north of the border recently sent down these cuttings from The Sunday Post and that I intended to share them far and wide.

Even with the economic crisis, the war in Afghanistan, and a resurgent Conservative Party, our Prime Minister still found time in his busy schedule to feature in the Broons’ Burns Night special.

I find it incredible that the mad genius who is responsible for writing the Broons’ storylines has taken so long to include Gordo as a character. But it is hard to keep up with Broons and Oor Wullie happenings when these comic strips are inexplicably unpopular down south, so maybe it has happened before and escaped my attention?

Those cowards at The Sunday Post obviously did not want to be seen as overly partisan (oh for the good ol’days when Labour could at least always reply upon having the majority support of Scottish voters) and so they’ve included Alex Salmond in the strip.


Apologies for fuzzy image. And for those not in the know, 10 Gleebe Street is where the Broons live.

Apologies for fuzzy image. And for those not in the know, 10 Gleebe Street is where the Broons live.

I feel that the plot’s plausibility has been sacrificed in exchange for political prudence. The theme of this Broons strip is a family gettogether to mark Burn’s Night – hence why nephew Gordo has been invited. So what is that Salmond eejit doing there?

Ach, michty me! It’s makin’ a nonsense of the whole thing!

Captain Jako

Trot ponce laments state bullying of weirdie beardie

February 19, 2009

Victoria Brittain, former associate foreign editor of the Guardian and one of the movers and shakers in what was the Respect Unity Coalition [sic], is angry about ongoing attempts to deport Abu Qatada.

She reckons that the government is motivated by “casual racism”. In her article there is strangely no mention of Abu Qatada’s well documented promotion of terrorism and association with Al Qaeda. For some reason, his views on the righteousness of killing Jews do not get a look in.

I appreciate that the UK immigration system can often be unjust and inhumane. I’ve written numerous emails to MPs and government ministers calling for reviews into rejected asylum cases. Only the other day at a campaigning skills event at university I heard about a fellow student who is due to be chucked out of the country before he’s even been allowed to complete his studies.

Looking at Victoria Brittain’s contributions to Comment is Free, however, the only asylum seekers I can see her defending are those who – like Abu Qataba – have got themselves involved in extreme Islamist politics. It would appear that no other cases are deserving of her attention and assistence.

The infatuation of supposed left-wingers with Islamo-fash goons is truly one of the most perplexing political phenomena of our age.

Captain Jako

Conservative ‘dimensions’ of poverty

February 18, 2009

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has predicted that the Government will fail to meet its 2010 child poverty targets, claiming that an extra £4.2billion will need to be spent on tax credits for these to be met.

With little in the way of new redistributive policies since Brown became Prime Minister and before, this was always inevitable. Despite good progress being made in the immediate years after 1997, the Government has been far too complacent and cautious in anti-poverty measures.

However, one interesting aspect of this debate is the Conservative response. Theresa May has claimed that “Simply relying on means-tested benefits to address the symptoms of poverty is an unsustainable approach…Instead we must tackle the root causes of poverty, such as educational failure, family breakdown, drug abuse, indebtedness and crime.”

Three things strike me. Firstly, she offers no evidence for her assertion that transfer payments are not an efficacious way to tackle poverty. In actual fact, the Government has had a lot of success using that tool. Let’s not forget that in 1997, one in three British children were living in poverty. One in four is far too many but we were starting from a very high base.

Secondly, many of her ‘root causes’ will take many years to tackle. Reconfiguring the school system will lead to displacement and educational disruption in the short term; family breakdown and drug abuse are cultural phenomena that a Tory government would have difficulty in legislating to prevent (the former) and difficulty in devising new policies that have not failed in the past (the latter). Whilst crime is (partly) a welfare issue, I don’t believe there is any evidence linking it to child poverty; and indebtedness is directly linked to personal finances so can only be reduced by families receiving a greater income (May: “unsustainable”) or mandating how families  spend their income (illiberal).

Furthermore, there is a nasty (another May quote I believe) undertone to what the Tories are saying. I will accept her point about educational failure but it is simply not true to say that “family breakdown, drug abuse, indebtedness and crime” are the root causes of poverty. 57% of poor children live in households headed by a couple and it is child poverty that often causes drug abuse and criminality in later life – not the other way round.

It seems that the Tories are more interested in either re-hashing a deserving/undeserving poor distinction (particularly abhorrent when we’re talking about children) or re-starting a war on single parents and the socially excluded by making them out as the authors of their own misfortune. Not only should the Government expose these reactionary sentiments, it should also get to work on an anti-poverty policy that combines massive increase in transfer payments (such as Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit) with action on the real ‘root causes’ of poverty: lack of decent affordable housing; insubstantial rights for agency and temporary workers; inadequate childcare provisions; and racism and disablism within the labour market.