Saturday, 13 August 2011

Think someone else is to blame for the riots - take responsibility - it's us!

The media and politicians (and the odd controversial historian) are pronouncing here there and everywhere on the cause of the riots.

It all seems to be about what we should do to or for the 'yoof' of today.

Well. "Bollocks to that" is what I say.

If you think you can sit comfortably feeling all innocent, then let's ask a few questions.

Do you park your car on the verge without any real need, just because it's become a habit?
If you do, that is vandalism. It's damage to public property we all share. No wonder people drop litter.

What about litter?  Drop any recently?

No? So far, you're squeaky clean.  Let's move on.

How about speeding? 

How often do you drive faster than 70 on a motorway in the wet, or drive far too close the the car in front?

If you do, that is reckless endangerment.

Okay... let's go a bit further.  Do you support a 'Premier' league football club?  What example to their players set to our youth?  Well... if you give them money, you're helping finance their ways.

Do you buy newspapers or magazines?  What's on the front cover?  Is it sensationalism?  Are you promoting exactly what these kids end up looking for: to be 'noticed'; to be big against feeling small.

Perhaps you are a policy maker of some sort, suggesting that children need to be 'educated' by testing them to hell so that all but a 'smart' few feel big and the rest need to find some other way to feel 'okay'.

The point here, is that those of us sat pronouncing on the 'yoof' are the example they follow, and the example we set is crap.

So, I say.  Before you take the authoritarian approach looking for how we can control the situation, instead, look first at how you might already control it far more than you're comfortable admitting.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

I just want to donate!

I've just been on Amazon, incidentally to buy a copy of Vince Cable's "The Storm" as, apparently, it's rather good!

After I'd placed my order, the order confirmation screen had a compelling advert from Unicef, looking for donations. I thought 'yes, I'd like to donate'.

So, I clicked on the advert and, encouragingly, I was presented with a single box to enter an amount, with a button next to it, saying "Donate". At this point I wondered if this was going to usefully allow me to donate via my Amazon account.

Alas, I wasn't! On clicking "Donate" I got presented with a form with lots of required fields to give my name and address, so that Unicef can presumably waste my donation sending me dead trees to ask me to donate again and again.

This is a common thing. I've been chased for years since giving a good sized donation to the Red Cross Tsunami Appeal.

So, what's this got to do with liberal democracy, the subject of this blog?

It's about choice. I would like to give a donation to a charity, not add myself to endless databases. I would like to give them money, not an even greater value of my time filling in forms and then later opening post and contacting them to ask the to stop sending me their contribution to the problems they claim they are committed to resolving.

Many many websites have a Paypal 'donate' button, and they make it easy to just send them your money, without the need for a marriage license (that's a rant for another day!).

So. Please please, all you charities. Let us donate!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Whose Law Is It Anyway?

Anyone who followed the recent Camp for Climate Action at Kingsnorth could have a range of views of the policing of that event. It could be anything from: “The police successfully prevented an extreme element from injuring protesters, police and horses” to “a legitimate and necessary protest went ahead despite an extreme element within the police force, who were committed to suppress it”.

For me, my experience of the policing of the camp is something I'm having some difficulty accepting. As a councillor in Cambridge, I work closely with the police and know the intentions of officers are overwhelmingly genuine.

My experience at the camp was therefore rather unexpected. In many areas, the police stopped even bothering to obey the law or justify their actions. They resorted to psychological measures, on most mornings at 5 a.m., assembling van loads of riot police at the gate as if ready to invade the camp. The most bizarre of these actions was to send a number of police vans down the road at 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning, sirens blazing. When the got to the gate, they stopped and played “The Ride of the Valkyries” (theme from Apocalypse Now) over their loudspeaker before silently disappearing back to their temporary tent city (complete with stables and a swimming pool).

Have I been asleep while law after law has given the police so much power and so little responsibility? Are our police so conditioned to obey from above that they'll willfully break the law themselves to carry out an order? I'm dumbstruck!

There is something that now seems more fate than mere coincidence. I went to the camp was to run a workshop. Titled “You call this democracy!”, it looked at how party funding, the voting system, and centralised government give so few people any real voice or influence over climate and social issues.

Looking back now, I didn't realise just how important a topic this is.

We Liberal Democrats, it seems, have a very big fight on our hands. That fight is to wrestle back real accountability and influence for the voters. If we fail, the likely prognosis is that we continue to slide into a scary police state. A state serving, not the interests of the citizens, but instead those of a self-serving few.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Not in my name...

I hope you'll take a few minutes to declare that this isn't in your name either.

Let's all unsubscribe.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Economic suicide: How to sink into the bog

Economists, like Vince Cable, and their imitators (think Mr G Brown and Mr A Darling ;), sometimes talk about "economic drag", or the economy getting "bogged down" and Tories have for years fought for low taxes on the basis of economic efficiency, but what is this "drag" they speak of?

Well, coming up, I'll talk about:

  • What it's not
  • What it is, and it's impact on our lives, our finances and our environment
  • Why lower taxes are what we should aim for, but not the starting point
  • Where we can start: Swapping the TV license to being either an income tax or a fixed component of local taxes (like the police); replacing council tax with something efficient to collect and administer
  • The stupidity factor: The 'drag' of thousands of tonnes of letters that cost more to send than the amount of money they relate to

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Liberal benefits? What!

Perhaps this is a bizarre subject to attempt the liberty test on, but it really is one worth putting the 'angry tax payer' hat on for.

Depending on the state of what we rather inaccurately call our 'economy', there will typically be a number of people earning, and paying taxes, and other people who are not earning, or earning less, and are receiving benefits.

This is one of those great sources of resentment, and a bit of a political hot potato. Those that are working and giving up some of their income in taxes, do so begrudgingly and usually with the complaint that it is too much. Those taxes get justified on the grounds of social welfare, compassion and ultimately, need.

If we consider unemployment, our welfare system aims, to a greater or lesser degree, to cover for the needs of the unemployed person and their dependents - needs such as: food; clothing; shelter and assistance in finding new work such as travel and training.

As Mr Angry Taxpayer, I'd want to ensure that my money is not being wasted - that my money is being spent on needs, and not on luxuries and excesses.

"No!", I hear the protesters shout, "You can't control how someone spends their money. They are free, not criminals" (criminals, ooh... there's another topic for another day).

Well let's look at this. Can I as a tax payer dictate that someone cannot buy, say beer, or cigarettes, if they are unemployed, and receiving benefits? Of course not. Our liberal society protects people's freedom of choice. They can do as they please within the law. They can spend their money how they please.

But wait! Their money? Who's money is it? The conventional story would be that originally, it's mine, the tax payer, and then, it's the government's, and then it belongs to our unemployed beneficiary.

Another way of looking at it is that it is never the government's (it remains the property of the tax-payer and they are being entrusted with using it for the purpose for which it was taken), and arguably, they should ensure that it is used for the prescribed purpose and nothing else.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Nick Robinson - Missing the point yet again!

"Cash for what?" says the BBC's Nick Robinson.

It's simple: "cash for status quo Thatcherism", that's what!

How can someone ask that question over a £600k donation? Yes, as one comment points out, it's the "you owe me" for some point in the future, but really it's more about someone maintaining the party spending race that is becoming like the US primaries.

Whatever party large donations are given to, it's:
  • cash for low tax for the wealthy
  • cash for giving the wealthy and large companies more control over planning and economic policy than local people
  • cash for keeping the poor enslaved by the rich
It's no surprise that the Liberal Democrat's are now the most socially progressive party, prepared to reign in the rich.

Why? Not only because the members of the party form the policy instead of some elite cabinet, but also, it has to be said, because they'd lose out far less than Labour and the Tories, who'd lose their huge donations from Lord "how did I get a peerage" Sainsbury and Lord "I'm not a tax exile, really!" Ashcroft.

It's time we ended this farce of a a supposed democracy and took back our control from these wealthy donors!

At the moment, it's only the Liberal Democrats that can be trusted on real reform:
  • reform of party funding to place limits on individual donations
  • reform of our voting system to make sure that every vote counts, not just the swing voters in marginal seats
  • reform of local government, putting funding and control back with the people instead of where it currently is: Whitehall.
  • abolition of the Dti (or whatever Prime Minister Bean renamed it to)