Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2002-01-31 Entry: "Long Drive Ahead"

Tomorrow sees me off to Leeds for a long weekend. Presuming my car remains healthy, I'm guessing on a three and a half hour drive each way, which won't be much fun, and is about my tolerance level for long drives.

Presumably I'll be spending the weekend consuming far too large quantities of alcoholic beverages, which considering my low tolerance of late might not actually be all that much...

Meanwhile, Dallas doesn't appear to be the only possible destination for my emigration to the USofA, as Boston was raised as a potential site yesterday. As the end of April seems to be a confirmed timescale for this, hopefully I'll know fairly soon. I've no idea what I'll be doing out there - whatever my branch of the Phone Company does at those sites - but presumably it'll be more of the same. Hopefully the learning curve will keep me amused for a sensible period (as otherwise I'm liable to continue in the current vein of spending ninety per cent of my day surfing the web and reading news). I'm planning to stick it out for a year or two though - at least it's an opportunity to get out there.

I think Boston would be preferable to Dallas - at least the weather is something I'd understand how to cope with. I'm not very good with hot weather, and we don't exactly get much of it in the UK...

Occasionally, I take a glance at the current commentary at Kuro5hin.org to see if there's any interesting opinions being stated. Two caught my eye this morning:

Double standards and exceptionism regarding Taliban POW was an amusing look at the legal status of the current Guantanamo bay prisoners. Ignoring my own vitriolic attack on their imprisonment a couple of days ago (which was as uninformed as many of the comments on this story are), the author does make a couple of interesting points. There is something of a double standard going on when the only US citizen captured gets full civil court treatment, and those of other nationalities are still in limbo as to their status or future trial arrangements.

The Imminent Demise of the United Kingdom - I had to comment on this story. It seems to have been written based upon knowledge gathered from news reports rather than from actual experience. It's therefore wrong in a number of points. The United Kingdom isn't in danger of imminent demise, although it could do with pursuing a more federal governing structure. Any changes of this nature however come up against a strange problem - they're really constitutional issues, and we don't have one. We're a monarchy, and as such the monarch has final say on any laws passed. Of course, the reality is that if the monarch ever interfered, the entire country would be up in arms - leave it to the democratically elected government to make the laws.

The biggest problem we have at the moment is that no-one seems to have a long-term vision of what the governmental structure should be - how much power do the regions have? What powers should remain at Westminster? Should we really be giving powers to Brussels so that the French can stitch us up with their strange foreign ways?

I'm all for devolving power to the regions, as long as a sensible structure is decided on and the right powers rest in the right place. I'm also (as previously stated) against any sort of reform of the House Of Lords. People aren't apathetic to government because we've got these hereditary peers. They're apathetic to government because nothing really changes. Services continue to be run down - we've gone from a government that wants to privatise everything in existence, to one that would like to centralize power but won't because they might get bad press from it - so they don't do anything.

Taking the absurd stance for a moment, if I were Prime Minister, my policies would be:

All elections should be by proportional representation.

The Wales, Scotland, and Ireland assemblies should have proper powers, including tax raising if they deem it necessary.

While we're at it, there should be an English assembly to deal with English matters.
Westminster would continue much as it is, deciding things that affect all parts of the Kingdom.

The House of Lords should be left alone and the hereditary peers should be congratulated for the good job they do.

Taxes should be raised to properly fund hospitals and education - this would include a top rate of tax of 50p in the pound and a slight increase in the basic tax rate.

Tolls should be introduced on all motorways, and the money raised should be earmarked for transport funding alone.

Bob Kylie (or however his name is spelled) should be allowed to run the London Underground however he wants - if he was brought in after successfully saving another underground system that was in trouble, he knows what he's talking about.

The Bank of England should be tasked with bringing the value of the pound down to a point where we can join the Euro. People should be given the facts and we should campaign to join.

Farm subsidy should be cut immediately - it'll put some farmers out of work and they'll almost certainly protest, but what can they do? After a small amount of pain we'll have a huge reduction in public spending and a viable agriculture policy that can compete with the supermarkets on their own terms.

Genetically Modified crops should be banned from the UK - the burden of proof should be on the companies involved to show that they are completely harmless before we allow them in; this should include long term human testing.

Cannabis should be legalized immediately. By allowing its legal sale we can collect taxation on it, and the drug dealers wouldn't be able to use it as a gateway to harder drugs. Taxation on cannabis should be at a similar level to cigarettes.

Tobacco advertising should be taxed - all money spent on advertising must be duplicated by an equal amount given to the health service.

Marriage as a government recognized institution should be open to gay couples. Ignore the church on this issue and make it available to gay couples. Then the law doesn't need any special clauses to protect unmarried relationships.

Which leaves law and order, foreign policy, and the military to sort out. Maybe I'll do that Monday.

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