Islamophobia (Lifting The Veil)

On Saturday I had the pleasure to attend the launch of The British Legions 2015 poppy appeal.

For those that don’t know the poppy appeal helps raise money for veterans. Unfortunately in recent years the poppy appeal has been hijacked for the use of racist propaganda. Far right groups such as Britain First and the BNP are making claims that Muslims are offended by the poppy.

This is Crap. Muslims are not offended by the poppy as thousands fought with the British Empire in both world war one and two and Britain along with America, Israel and Saudi Arabia funded the Muslim freedom fighters in Afghanistan against the soviet union.

Muslims make up a valuable part of Britain and I am really starting to get sick and tired of racism that isn’t even factually accurate. The majority of Muslims I know wear a poppy with pride.

(A) Tax on Femininity

Women really do have it so much worse off than men. They go through nine months of hell just to keep the species alive and for every month that they don’t they are rewarded with a weeks worth of blood soaked agony and hormonal imbalance. And to add insult to injury when they try to do something to sanitise this geyser of haemoglobin that comes monthly they are taxed for the privilege.

Dubbed the tampon tax (although applying to all feminine hygiene products) this is a reduced rate of value added tax (VAT) set at 5% which is set by the European Union (not the UK government). Now after doing a quick sweep of the local supermarket (and being a bloke I may be wrong) but the average price for a tampon or sanitary pad is between £1-£3 depending on brand and the particular function.

Now assuming all women show a sense of frugality and get through 1 pack a month that brings in a total of £0.05 per woman per month in taxation. Or put into real terms the government brings in approximately £20 million in a fiscal year. £20 million is a lot of money and in callous terms I can see why any government would drag its heels when it comes to losing that amount of revenue, but this isn’t about the money its about the principal of the thing. Why should a whole gender be taxed for the process that keeps the whole human race alive?

I as a cynic can’t help but think that if it were men who were the recipients of mother natures monthly gift not only would sanitary products not be taxed but they would be free on the national health service and period pain would be seen as a genuine excuse to miss work, and I can guarantee that the lads down my local would be comparing flow as a badge of honour and swapping embarrassing stories “my flow was so heavy last night I thought I was gonna pass out from loss of blood” or something like “I was dancing with this fit bird in a club in my cream chinos and it started, completely ruined my calvin’s…top banter“. Not that I’m asking to receive a period any time soon.

now being completely honest I’m not a feminist (not a misogynist either for that matter) but even I think this is a pretty sexist way to raise money. If you feel like doing something about this why not sign this petition. And call on the European Union to stop trying to snatch money for an essential product.

American Presidential Candidates At A Glance

US_flag_48_stars.svg

Its that time again when the great circus that is American politics is looking for a new ringleader, the man (or woman) to try and get as many acts on message and in the right place at the right time. This is something that seems to happen every four years. I cant believe its been four years since the international community was treated to the absolute bore that was Mitt Romney going up against the political irrelevance that is the incumbent, President Barack Obama, a man whose greatest achievement in two terms of office has been a second term in office. But enough about the legacy of President Obama (or lack thereof) and on to the next inhabitant of the oval office.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney 2012
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney 2012

For those not in the know and who are we kidding there are many who just don’t care and have never bothered to look too closely into how these things are done. America is a two party state. Representing everything from the neo-fascist to the centre right is the The Republican Party (sometimes know as the GOP) and representing everything from the centre left to the borderline communist you have the Democratic Party.

The Logos of the Deomcrat's and Republicans
The Logos of the Deomcrat’s and Republicans

Now in order to select a presidential candidate both parties hold open primary elections where members of the party vote for who they want to represent their party in the final push for presidency. So the four main contenders on the side of the democrats are:


Hillary Clinton:
who was a former first lady to president Bill Clinton, she became the first first lady in history to hold elected office as senator for new york in 2000 and stood for president in 2008 (losing in the primary to Barack Obama), during the Obama presidency she served as Secretary of State until 2013. Mrs Clinton is avid supporter of women’s rights and is an active campaigner against wage inequality. (find more about their campaign here)

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

Lawrence Lessig : is an Ivy League academic, attorney, and political activist. He is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. (find more about their campaign here)

Lawrence Lessig
Lawrence Lessig

Martin O’Malley : has served as the Governor of Maryland and Mayor of Baltimore after beginning his political career as a Baltimore City Councilor in1 991. He is pro immigration and as governor, he made illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children eligible for in-state college tuition, and in 2012, he also oversaw the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Maryland. (find more about their campaign here)

Matin O'Malley
Matin O’Malley

Bernie Sanders: is the senator and former congressman for the great state of Vermont serving as chair of the senates committee for veteran’s affairs  between 2013 and 2015, and before coming to Washington was mayor of the City of Burlington, Vermont. Mr Sanders is known as a leading progressive voice on issues such as income inequality, universal healthcare, parental leave, climate change, LGBT rights, and campaign finance reform (find more about their campaign here)

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders

And here are the many more contenders for the Republican Nomination:

Jeb Bush: Former Governor of Florida, son of former president George Bush and Brother to former president George W Bush. (find more about their campaign here)

Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush

Ben Carson: Was the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland until his retirement in 2013, and is now an author and political commentator. (find more about their campaign here)

Dr Ben Carson
Dr Ben Carson

Chris Christie: Current Governor of New Jersey and former US attorney for the district of New Jersey. (find more about their campaign here)

Chris Christie
Chris Christie

Ted Cruz: Is currently a serving senator for the state of Texas and also a former solicitor General for Texas. He is pro outreach and thinks that growth and opportunity should be the hallmarks of a republican government. (find more about their campaign here)

Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz

Carly Fiorina: Former Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett Packard and former advisor to republican John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. (find more about their campaign here)

Carly Fiorina
Carly Fiorina

Jim Gilmore: Former Governor of Virginia and former chair of the republican national committee and former attorney general of Virginia. (find more about their campaign here)

Jim Gilmore
Jim Gilmore

Lindsey Graham: Current sitting senator for South Carolina and former congressman for South Carolinas 2nd and 3rd districts. (find more about their campaign here)

Lindsey Graham
Lindsey Graham

Mike Huckabee: Former Governor of Arkansas, former Chair for the national governors association, has previously stood in the 2008 presidential primaries losing to John McCain. (find more about their campaign here)

Mike Huckabee
Mike Huckabee

Bobby Jindal: Is the Incumbent Governor of Louisiana and a former US Congressman for Louisiana’s 1st district. (find more about their campaign here)

Bobby Jindal
Bobby Jindal

John Kasich: The Governor of Ohio and former member of congress for Ohio’s 12th district where he served as Chair of the House Budget Committee from 1995-2001. Before leaving Ohio for the capital he served with distinction as a member of the Ohio State Senate for the 15th district. (find more about their campaign here)

John Kasich
John Kasich

George Pataki: Former Governor fo New York, and member of the New York State Senate for the 37th district and former representative for the 91st district on the New York State Assembly as well as a former Mayor of Peekskill. (find more about their campaign here)

George Pataki
George Pataki

Rand Paul: Incumbent Senator for Kentucky since 2011. (find more about their campaign here)

Rand Paul
Rand Paul

Marco Rubio: US Senator for Florida, former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and former member of the Florida House of Representatives for the 11th district. (find more about their campaign here)

Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio

Rick Santorum: Is the current Senator from Pennsylvania and former chair of the Senate Republican Conference as well as a former Congressman for the 18th district of Pennsylvania. (find more about their campaign here)

Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum

Donald Trump: Conservative Billionaire Chair of the Trump Organisation and WWE Hall of Famer. (find more about their campaign here)

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

So ladies and gentlemen there you have it a quick rundown of whats happening across the pond, whose who and if you are left with any burning questions please feel free to comment.

(Tax) Credit Where Credit Is Due

Does it make me a hypocrite that I’m quite happy when my partner and I receive our tax credits every month but then I also think that tax credits are a monumentally stupid idea?

Let me spell it out: people work, they get paid, they get taxed and then taxes pay for healthcare, police etc. This should be the end of it. It doesn’t make much sense that people then get some of their tax back. Now a nice tax rebate is a lovely surprise, but a monthly credit at a set amount seems somewhat bizarre.
Now to those on lower incomes tax credits are a god send, a bit of extra cash each month to tide you over until payday. But surely it would have been better to pay lower tax in the first place rather have to go through an arduous application process in order to qualify for what is essentially a tax rebate.

The Conservative government have tried to change the system and end tax credits, and give the money back in the form of lower taxes and higher wages, not to mention all the money they would save in processing applications. The problem with this is that they tried to do it the wrong way round. By scrapping tax credits before lowering taxes people were not happy about the potential deficits in their monthly take home. And proving that Britain’s second chamber is not an anachronism and that unlike their elected representatives the appointed members the House Of Lords listen to the people. Thanks to the Lords the cessation of tax credits has been delayed. It’s clear that the upper house can see where the government has gone wrong.

My Fellow ‘Merkin’s

As a political commentator I’ve not been paying as much attention to the American Presidential Elections as I should have been, but thanks to the wonders of Sky television (which as of this week I now have) and The Daily Show I feel compelled to learn more…watch this space

Alrite Me Old China

President Xi Jinping
President Xi Jinping

Yesterday, the General Secretary of the Ruling Party of Peoples Republic of China, President Xi Jinping, began his state visit to the United Kingdom.  President Xi’’s state visit has including meeting Her Majesty The Queen and the royal household, an address to both houses of parliament and fish n chips in a pub.

Yesterdays address to the joint Houses of Parliament began with the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow speaking about the links that Britain shares with China and Asia as a whole, whilst tactfully not mentioning years of colonialism and The First Opium War, The Second Opium War, The Boxer Rebellion and The Korean War, all whilst praising President Xi’s progression of the Chinese economy and the work he has done to improve human rights.

Speaker John Bercow Looks On As President Xi Addresses Parliament
Speaker John Bercow Looks On As President Xi Addresses Parliament

Looking on from the audience the Prime Minister and The Leader of The Opposition who had been forced by protocol to sit next to each other looked as though the only thing stopping them from stabbing each other was the presence of witnesses.

When President Xi took the podium he began by thanking the Prime Minister for the hospitality that he has received whilst in the UK, echoing the sentiments of every visiting head of state since time began, speaking of the friendship between the peoples of Great Britain and of The Peoples of the Peoples Republic of China.  He went on to talk of building future links with Great Britain, and has actually put his money where his Mao is thanks to £30 billion of investments into UK industry that was announced yesterday morning ahead of his visit. He spoke of the history of China and showed off an impressive knowledge of the history of British democracy (putting my own knowledge to shame) saying that the Peoples Republic, like Britain has shown “[That] people are foundation of a country” and that people need to be taken care of in order to build something great.

President Xi then began praising the British legal system and saying that it has been a foundation of the legal system of the Peoples Republic of China, and then President Xi began talking of the history between The United Kingdom and The Peoples Republic of China, stating that Britain was the First Western Nation to recognise the new Peoples Republic of China under Chairman Mao Zedong and Britain was also the first nation to buy Chinese Bonds on the open market. Steering away from the topic of Sino-Anglo conflict President Xi went on to pay tribute to 24 Chinese nationals who fought alongside the British at Normandy and said “what’s past is prologue” and that Britain and China could look forward to much international cooperation.

The joint session of parliament was then closed by the Speaker of the House of Lords the Baroness D’Souza who praised President Xi’s record in government and paid tribute to the late Lord Howe for his work with Sino- British relations, before ending with the hopes that President Xi and his lady wife enjoy their fish n chips.

Now this was a lovely speech delivered in his native Mandarin and healthily looked forward to an idealistic vision of Anglo-Sino diplomacy but I couldn’t help feel that there was more not being said, human rights and opium wars aside China seems to finally be thawing towards the UK, giving billions of pounds in investment (not to mention the amount of our foreign debt that the Chinese own). It seems that whilst all this is going on there are still many great walls that will need to be overcome , China is still holding a grudge regarding the Dali Lama’s visit to Britain and even with billions of pounds and renminbi at stake will hundreds of years of empire building and colonialism be easy to put aside? Confucius say ” time will tell.”

House of Lords

Who wouldn’t love a peerage? Massive amounts of money just for turning up, the title, the respect and not to mention the cool robes for state occasions.

But its a pretty homogeneous bunch in the lords. There is one lord under 40. That’s not a good representation of the country though, maybe its time for an influx of young blood, Members of the House of Commons can stand at 18 and theoretically a peer can sit from 21, so why are there no peers age 21-40….maybe it’s time.

What Has Europe Ever Done For Me

eu flag

One thing that was a key campaign point during the general election was the question of The United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union. Now must people down my local haven’t got a clue what the EU is for and don’t have a clue what the EU does beyond straightening bananas. So here is a little bit of info that you can mull over before making a decision on referendum day.

  • The European Union is a socio-economic/ political union of 28 member states
  • The EU operates through a number of institutions and through intergovernmental decision making in order to form EU policy.
  • The institutions of the EU include the European commission, the European Parliament and the European Council, along with the Court of Justice of the European Union, The Council of the European Union and the European Central Bank
  • The EU operates a system of four freedoms, which mean the free movement of goods, services, money and European citizens between member states
  • EU policies seek to enact legislation in criminal justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development
  • The EU has a combined GDP of £12.5 trillion and is the biggest economy in the world.

    European-Union-Member-States-Map
    Members of the European Union

Now that’s all lovely talking about GDP and movement of capital but what has the EU ever done for the bloke (or the bird) in the street.  Well:

  • Easy travel, no longer do I have to fanny about in customs or worry if I’ve got the right currency because 19 European countries all take euro’s. On top of that if I were to get sick with some foreign illness, I wouldn’t have to worry about a hefty hospital bill like I would if I were in the states.
  • Food labelling, thanks to being in the EU I now know exactly what is in my food, and then its up to me to make the decision about eating it.
  • Paid leave from work. Because of the EU working time directive every British worker is entitled to 4 weeks paid holiday and 11 hours rest in every 24 hours.
  • Equal pay between men and women all came from European legislation
  • A minimum wage, whilst Tony Blaire and his descendents will claim that they introduced the minimum wage, which is nominally true, it in fact stemmed from a European directive .

and on top of all that the EU also pumps millions of pounds into depressed areas in the UK , without which trying to get public funding for anything in the South Wales Valleys of the North of England would be next to impossible.

Proper Preparation and Planning…

Proper Preparation and Planning Prevent Piss Poor Performance. This sounds good in theory however when it comes to planning its sometimes better to say, balls to it, do what you want then accept the consequences when it’s done. This seems to be a lot of people’s attitude towards planning permission, the attitude of its easier to say sorry afterwards than ask permission before hand.  What I’m talking about is the granting of retroactive planning permission.

If you build without planning permission you are breaking the law. Fact. However 79% of all breaches of planning law are either ignored or given retroactive planning permission.  So councils have two choices, either force the building to be torn down or grant planning permission retroactively.

I don’t want to see anyone put out of their homes by a trivial bit of law, but the fact remains that the law is the law, and those that break it should not get off lightly. Now in this time of council cut backs this seems to be the perfect opportunity for local councils to refill their vastly depleting coffers.

For every breach of planning law the guilty party should be issued with a fine for breaking the law, a provision which is catered for under the local government act, then, rather than tear down their property the guilty party would have to pay an application fee for planning permission and a premium for a fast tracked decision, and should also face fines for any other breaches of law that they may have committed (tree protection orders etc).

The knock on effect this would have would be more revenue coming into local government hands. But it would also be an easy way for building projects to progress, as large developers may decide just to take the financial hit, but at the same time it may prove enough of a deterrent so that people start obeying the law…could go either way, but it’s a debate worth having.

Political Heavyweights Fight For Mayoral Title

My Lords Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of all ages, LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE. It was yesterday announced that the Conservative Parties number one contender for the coveted title of Mayor of London has been selected. IN THE BLUE CORNER,  the current MP for Richmond Park,  the one the only Zac Goldsmith. And his opponent IN THE RED CORNER, the Member of Parliament for Tooting, Sadiq Kahn.

1
Sadiq Kahn MP and Zac Goldsmith MP the two front runners for the next Mayor of London

Other candidates include Green Party Candidate Sian Berry, Caroline Pidgeon for the Liberal Democrat Party and Peter Whittle for UKIP. Other declared party candidates include the always controversial George Galloway the leader of the Respect Party, Lindsey Garret of Something New, Upkar Singh Rai of the National Liberal Party and Paul Golding of the fascist paramilitary group Britain First, have all declared as candidates as well as a slew of independents.

So when the polls open it looks like Londoners will have a real smorgasbord of candidates to choose from, but the sensible money will be on either Mr Goldsmith or Mr Kahn.  But with policies from airports to zoo’s being debated who wins, you decide.