Unfair budget

The BBC have a great story about this week’s budget where they show a graph of how much extra money you will have in your pocket based on what salary you earn. I can’t reproduce the graph here for copyright reasons so you’ll have to take a look at their page to see it.

There has been lots of discussion about how the tax system has been made simpler by the abolition of the 10% starting rate of income tax, which is fine, but when this is coupled with the other changes to taxation and National Insurance the net effect is that you are better off as long as you don’t earn under £17,000 a year.

The graph is pretty straightforward to create so I am sure that the Chancellor would have known what the net impact would have been on people of different incomes. If this is the case, I just don’t understand why he has done this – why would we tax low income people relatively more to pay for things that we theoretically all benefit from whereas we actually give more money to the richer in society? How is this fair? It’s even worse than the graph shows if you think how much the £131 loss is to someone £10,000 compared to the £198 gain to someone earning £43,000 – a 1.31% fall in income versus a 0.46% gain. I simply do not think this can be right – we shouldn’t be getting the poorest in society to pay more for benefits of government spending that we all share.

To top it all off, the chancellor dropped corporation tax for large companies from 30% to 28% and raised it for small businesses. It seems to me that, as I previously mentioned here, Noreena Hertz was right in her book The Silent Takeover that the role of the politician has been reduced to making the country a place to attract multinational corporations. Labour seem to be more and more in favour of following trickle-down economics – something that I just don’t buy in to.

A new Apple Crumble

I’ve now moved over from my old web host to a blog hosted on the WordPress.com site.  I’d been thinking about making a change for a while after reading Rob Newman’s web page about moving to an eco-friendly web hosting company.  I had a bit of a browse around but I couldn’t really see anything that was aimed at someone who wanted webspace primarily for blogging – ie quite cheap and with some kind of guarantee that Movable Type would work.  I had problems a while back with my current host when I upgraded Movable Type in that certain Perl modules that I needed weren’t available – it took a few emails to convince them that any good web host would accomodate installing the module I required.

Having thought about it even more, I realised that I’ve not had that much time to blog recently and I started to question the value I was getting.  I’ve written around 250 posts since April 2004 so at £105 for a year’s posting it has cost me over £1 a post!  It’s not that I can’t afford it, but with a baby on the way I’ve started to think a lot more about the fact that what I’m spending is longer really my own money any more.  Expectant put it very well in his post back in November and it reflects exactly how I’m feeling.  A free blog seems like the answer to me.

My first thought was to head to TypePad, which is a hosted version of Movable Type – the blog software I am familiar with – but it turns out that you have to pay quite a bit for that as well so I wasn’t saving that much cash.  A little more delving revealed WordPress.com – a free host – and it has been surprisingly easy to migrate over to this site.  Yes, it’s a little more limited in that I don’t have complete control over the site (or the code…or what types of files I can post…) and yes it’s ugly (for now at least until I can grab some of Mat‘s time to help me with the CSS that is), but it is free, has good features built in and seems to have a very enthusiastic and honest company behind it. Ultimately it should just leave me to worry about writing entries and not all of the other gumpf that goes with running a website which will be no bad thing as my free time gets limited when the baby arrives.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week fixing images, links, documents etc and moving the videos over to YouTube (which hopefully doesn’t impact the integrity of the original posts).  If you find a problem, please leave a comment or email me about it!  Thanks.

Backside firework prank backfires

Sometimes you can’t quite believe what you’re reading. Who on earth would be stupid enough to attempt something like this? Admittedly I saw a bloke once do this at Reading Festival, but I am sure that they were not the standard demonstration-type fireworks that he used…perhaps they were specifically made for that purpose.

Having a quick search on YouTube reveals that this is a more common pastime than you would first think. Has everybody gone completely nuts?

Speeding idiots

Speed camera aheadI’m always completely baffled when I hear of motoring groups being ‘outraged’ at the amount of money that is generated by speed cameras, such as in this article that appeared in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago. In my mind it’s pretty simple – if you’re going too fast, you’re breaking the law. How can it be any simpler than that? How can you even think about protesting a fine unless you know you weren’t speeding? Yes, we all speed a little – we’ve all gone a bit faster than we should do as we haven’t perhaps checked the speedo in a while, but wasn’t this covered when we were having driving lessons? I thought that the skill of driving involved being aware of what’s ahead of you, what’s behind you (yes, can you believe it – you have to look behind you for a bit!), who is indicating that they are intending to make a turn, what the conditions are and what speed you’re doing.

The paragraph that really made me mad was this:

‘Paul Smith, the founder of anti-speed camera group Safe Speed, said the haul was the latest example of “innocent” drivers being targeted. “I’m so angry to hear about this camera raking in so much money for the government, when scientific evidence shows us that fixed cameras like this one can increase accidents by up to 55%”.’

Scientific evidence, indeed. I had a look at the Safe Speed website and found it to be something of a joke. I mean, come on – “Road safety is complex, subtle and sensitive like a precision built clock” whereas “A speed camera is a blunt and heavy instrument, like a hammer”. In what way? They don’t really say. The strapline is fantastic – “You can’t measure safe driving in miles per hour.” Well, I have to disagree there and so do the research statistics – according to the Government THINK! Road Safety website. for the time period 2000 to 2004, excessive speed was a contributory factor in about 13 per cent of all injury collisions, 19 per cent of serious injury collisions and 29 per cent of fatal collisions.

George Monbiot gives an excellent opinion of this group on his blog – ‘Paul Smith and Safe Speed – the Self-Exposure of a Crank‘ which pretty much sums it all up for me.

Some serious munchies

I was sorry to read in the Guardian today that Golden Wonder, the crisp company behind such delights as Wheat Crunchies and Nik-Naks, has gone into administration. A sorry day for crisp lovers everywhere.

However, I don’t think I’m quite as sorry as some…the bottom of the article had the most eye-popping statistic – “Britons now eat over 10bn bags annually, the equivalent of 100 packs for each person every year and more than consumed in the rest of Europe put together.” Well, I don’t really eat that many, so some greedy monster must be eating almost 200 a year. That’s a lot of crisps!

90 days with no trial?

I know this is old news but I thought that this post was great – it shows just how the popular media can turn things on their head and distort what is really there. I personally think that editors at The Sun enjoy trying to shock the public and giving themselves a feeling that they can control the outcome of major events – remember the election that Labour should have won 13 years ago?

90 days is far too long to lock somebody up without any evidence of wrongdoing. I completely abhor George Bush and the rest of his cronies for what they have done in Guantanamo Bay and I’m convinced that Tony Blair is exactly the same. He really has got to go.