Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The house that looks like Hitler...

For a long time now, there has been one mystery that most bloggers have never been able to solve. The mystery in question is - what is the most stupid and utterly pointless story that the Daily Mail's website has ever run? There's no shortage of competition for the less than prestigious prize, but your Reaper thinks he has found the one. Spotted here.

Look at this picture of Adolf Hitler, plucked from teh internetz.

Now look at this picture of a house.

Do you see any similarity? Your Reaper notes that the illusive Daily Mail Reporter thinks that the two have more than a passing resemblance.

Baffled? You're not alone. Let's try and look at this screenshot from the article of the two pictures side-by-side. Do you see any resemblance now?

No, I still don't. Steven from London puts it best.

In an entirely unrelated development, here is a picture which doesn't show Lord Rothermere, the man who was once the proprietor of the Daily Mail and was instrumental in ensuring the paper supported his friend Adolf with headlines such as "Hooray for the Blackshirts", with Adolf Hitler.

And to make sure the message comes across loud and clear, here is another picture which doesn't show Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler. Oh no. Certainly doesn't.

That is all.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lockerbie bomber returning to Scotland for his own safety...

And other jokes, as seen on Sickipedia: (the above cartoon comes from The Indy)

"Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi has requested to be returned from Libya to a Scottish prison for his safety."

"Just got back to Britain from Libya, what a fucking nightmare! The constant threat of violence from gun-toting Arabs, a leader who's completely lost touch with his people, every white person in sight looking completely terrified and trying their best to hold on to their belongings and their lives, stuck in what is essentially a Muslim country with nowhere to turn. I wish I'd stayed in fucking Libya."

"I wish someone had thrown their shoe at Libya's defiant leader during his speech..... I would loved to have seen Gaddafi Duck!"

"BBC News: 'Libya is not Iraq, says PM'

Glad to see that David Cameron has such an in depth knowledge of geography."

"I don't see why David Cameron hasn't got British Airways in to deal with the Libya crisis. They're the real experts when it comes to airstrikes."

"Rebecca Black and Libya crisis in the same week, coincidence? Whenever there's a world atrocity, the U.S. always provide a distraction, this time by bombing Libya."
"Facebook has been blocked in Libya. Colonel Gaddafi likes this."

"There were a lot of proud Libyans flying the flag and demonstrating against Gadaffi in Leicester today. Not proud enough to fucking come off benefits and live in Libya though, obviously."

Hehe. Go see some more.

The camera sure adds weight onto Kate Middleton

Believe it or not, but you'll be able to download this song from either iTunes or Amazon from the 17th of April. The song is called "Fucksticks" by Kunt and the Gang. It's out on probably the best-titled record label I have ever seen - Disco Minge Records. This is one attempt to cash in on the royal wedding your Reaper doesn't especially mind, and he generally doesn't care about this at all.

Oh yes, one other thing. If you're at work, you probably shouldn't watch this until you get home.

The cuts protests (with a silent N)

Today, heaps of special interest groups protesters are descending onto the streets of London to protest at the government for having the sheer impertinence of wanting to reduce the amount of money it spends. The unions tell us that over 600 coaches full of people - if each coach were to hold 50 people, that takes the total up to about 3,000 - will be coming to the city, and they also inform us that so many people wanted to come and participate that they could not get hold of enough trains and coaches to take them to the capital.

Pardon my impertinence, but why does this provoke a similar reaction in your Reaper to the time Jacqui Smith said the public were excited and couldn't wait for ID cards to be introduced? Perhaps I'm just a mischievous sod.

Ed Miliband, he who was pictured the other day promoting British business by appearing in front of a giant photo of Chairman Mao, will be amongst the many boring people who have been drafted in to speak at the event.

There will also be appearances from Brendan Barber, the head honcho at the Trades Union Congress, and chances are that some token celebrities - Bob Geldof types, you know the ones - will make an appearance that few people will listen to and even fewer will care about. Goody gumdrops, I can hardly wait. Being talked at by a myriad of dull, rose-tinted Lefties - just the way I like to spend my Saturday afternoon.

I don't seriously think there's going to be any surprises today. We're told not to dismiss the protests as just consisting of the usual suspects, but we're never told any reasons why we shouldn't think that. We think it for one reason, and one reason only. Because the protests DO consist of the usual suspects, the usual dullards who hold rather a high opinion of themselves and are only there usually due to entirely selfish reasons. Only this morning in the car, I heard some student complaining that he's going to have to pay more for his university education. Somehow, this is linked to bankers getting bonuses, but no matter.

My heart bleeds for you, honestly it does. Why the hell should taxpayers have to pay for you to spend three years dossing around at university? You're the one who stands to benefit from doing it - or not, if you so choose - so you can fucking well pay for it yourself. If it was up to me, you'd be paying the whole lot yourself, and I don't mean just paying £9,000 per year either. We'd be moving to the US system. Still, let's ignore the fact it would actually be better for all of us if we did that simply to have a go at the coalition, eh?

Looking outside this morning, it's a nice, sunny day over here. Why not go out and enjoy it, instead of wasting time protesting over government cuts that mostly haven't happened yet?

The Budget that satisfied no one

Unfortunately, issues in your Reaper's private life continue to sap away at my ability to keep the blog filled up with new content at the moment. Hopefully, these matters will soon have been dealt with and the blog can continue as before. I'm also thinking about getting some new writers and making this into a group blog. More about that another day.

That said, it would be quite something if I wasn't able to get down some of my thoughts on one of the biggest events in the political calendar. I am, of course, talking about the Budget, which took place on Wednesday. This is partly for the benefit of Ken Clarke, who reportedly fell asleep as Gideon was speaking.

Regular readers will probably be aware that I don't think much of our current Chancellor and that I think even less of the Shadow Chancellor. When I sat down to watch it the other day, I wasn't expecting anything really radical or different. I'm a lot of things, but I'm not stupid when it comes to politics. We keep being told that the "room for manoeuvre" was limited because there was so little money available, for example. That's the narrative we're supposed to swallow hook, line and sinker. And just like most narratives, it's completely wrong.

Aside from this being the perfect time to try something radical or different - there's nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain, considering the economy is in such difficulty - it's also a ridiculous theory that assumes the answer to any problem is to throw money at it. Mind you, it's also an easy one to sell to the electorate, as all three of our main political parties will testify. Naturally enough, this Budget turned out to be just as predictable, mendacious and misleading as every other one that's ever taken place. The objective is the same old - yet another opportunity for the Chancer to dip his greedy hands into our pockets and extract more of what little is already left.

The tax on fuel, it appears, fell from 6pm on Wednesday. By how much? One pence. Yes, this is being stated with all seriousness. It's not some kind of twisted joke by a mischievous blogger. The Chancellor is cutting the amount that we pay on our already extortionately expensive fuel by a penny, and we're somehow supposed to be grateful for that. These people really do think we're stupid. What fucking difference is a penny per litre off going to make to people out there who are struggling with the increasing cost of living and depressed wages? It's the equivalent of saving around £1 for every 100 litres you put into your car. Wow, I get to keep a whole fucking quid, and Gideon expects me to be appreciative.


Perhaps the shameless cunt can therefore explain to me why I have yet to see a single retailer (and I know of many) who have yet to reduce their prices. Business won't pass on this fall, but you can bet that the next rise will filter through when oil prices start to look shaky again.

It doesn't get any better. Do you smoke? You'll be paying as much as 50p extra for your cigarettes tonight, thanks to increases in duty that were announced last year. Thanks for that, Darling. I don't smoke myself, but the way smokers are being treated like this is outrageous.

Only this morning, I was waiting to pay for a coffee for Miss Reaper and my eyes almost popped out of place when I saw the price of ciggies now. I used to work in a shop, and a pack of 20 Marlboro were about £5.20 back then, and they were amongst the more pricey at the time. Today's price? £6.85. No wonder smuggling is so rampant.

Funny how Gideon only does something about Labour's tax rises when it's politically convenient to do so, isn't it? No one's going to defend those God-awful smokers, are they? Do you drink? Well, you'll be paying more for your booze as well. All under the guise of protecting us from binge drinkers, the cloak that hides the reality that Government, as much as it hates the great unwashed having access to alcohol, they can't deny themselves all that lovely money taken in alcohol duties. Ever wondered why the Government never makes any serious attempts to deal with real binge drinking? There's a clue in here.

Borrowing was higher than planned in February - a record high unless I'm very much mistaken. So surely this was an ideal time to announce even more cuts in public spending, more areas where the Government was going to spend less money. Er... no. The opposite appeared to be true. Not a single new cut in spending was announced. Whilst we don't yet know if any are hidden in the small text - these things can take a few days to emerge - it's an utterly baffling logic. It also suggests that this Chancellor is nowhere near as good with money as is increasingly believed. If a household is spending too much, they cut back. If they're still spending too much, they cut back further. Why does the same rule not apply to governments?

Elsewhere, you'll get to keep the grand total of £8,075 per year before the Chancellor puts his thieving hands into your pocket to steal your money. Eight fucking grand - well, fuck me senseless with a rusty spoon! I'm sure that people can live on eight grand a year, can't they? How long would that last for someone who had a family to feed, a mortgage to pay, bills to pay? Not very long, and even less considering how the price of everything seems to be rocketing.

A right pair of wankers politicians yesterday
Labour say that Gideon has no idea how the poorest in our society are meant to be manage, in often pathetic and desperate class-based attacks. The implication being that Gideon is a toffee-nosed cunt with a silver spoon in his mouth. Which is true, but the modern day Labour Party, filled as it is with privately-educated millionaires who inherited their wealth aren't the best-placed to make that accusation. Not one of our politicians, cossetted away in the make-belief world that is Westminster politics, knows.

What do we need, I hear you ask? You criticise from your comfy armchair, but what would The Grim Reaper do? Well, it's actually a bed I'm sat on as I write this. But I digress.

Quite simply, we need a radical Budget with tax cuts, a real reduction in red tape instead of the synthetic one announced every single year, the abolition of National Insurance and a blanket 10% tax rate for anyone earning more than £20k per year, a total abolition of fuel duty, a reduction in VAT to around 5% across the board, and some enormous cuts in public spending. Could it be done? I see no reason why not, if the political will and support was there. It would upset all the special interest groups, but... stuff it. They've had their way for too long, and it's high time they admitted they'd failed and pissed off.

When do we want it? The sooner, the better. As much as I dislike this slightly cliched phrase, the revolution cannot come soon enough.

When will we get it? Not for a very long time, quite possibly never and definitely not now. In the meantime, Britain continues to lose out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Libertarianism and a perception of class divide

One of the charges often thrown at libertarians such as myself is that we are all rich individuals who only care about ourselves and think everyone else can go and rot. Your Reaper has never bought this argument. Obnoxio The Clown touches on this accusation in a recent post - am currently typing this on my phone, so will have to link to it later - where he eloquently explains he is not the heartless bastard he is sometimes (and unfairly) made out to be.

If anything, I would say that libertarianism is one of the most caring ideas that exists today, for reasons I'll explain shortly. First though, a more specific point. It's true that a number of prominent libertarian bloggers at the moment have done well for themselves. Old Holborn manages his own company, DK has done well from computing, and Obo has a pretty high-level job too, without going into details.

That said, as good as these three bloggers are, they do not represent all libertarians. It would be like me assuming that all Lefties are like Josef Stalin - granted it's an extreme example, but it's a ridiculous assumption that wouldn't stand up to any serious scrutiny. Yet it's okay to make it about libertarians. It's a very curious anomaly.

Your Reaper doesn't run his own company, he never has done and his spent almost his entire life doing minimum wage jobs. It's not that I don't want better - believe me, I do - but I'm still a young man. I'm a very different machine to the likes of Obo The Clown, so why do I find libertarianism so appealing?

I'll admit from the outset that I've made something of a political journey to get to this stage. I first became politically aware around 1995. I definitely remember the air of change that seemed to be in the air when Tony Blair came to power two years later. I became disillusioned with Labour pretty quickly and didn't believe a great deal for a while. All I did know was that I didn't like what any of the other parties had to offer. They all seemed the same to me, as if they were all based on an identikit template.

Around 2007, I started becoming aware of blogs, having first come across Iain Dale's Diary. That led to discovering some blogs which had perspectives I hadn't seen anywhere else before, and I liked what I was hearing. It made sense to me, and it was a refreshing change from the boring, tribal politics I had always known. The earthy language also appealed, I must concede. They weren't afraid to call a cunt a cunt, especially if the subject in question was a cunt. Which they often were.

Would I ever get disillusioned with the libertarian philosophy? Obviously, I'd have to be a fool to dismiss that out of hand, but I do not see it happening. As each day goes past, it makes more sense to me. It preaches messages that I like. It teaches respect for your fellow beings and treating them like adults, by letting them control their own lives. What other philosophy involes taking power and then leaving people alone to get on with their lives?

Dare I say, at the risk of sounding incredibly soppy, that there's something almost beautiful about libertarianism? Yes, The Grim Reaper dares say so.

Colonel Gaddafi and comparisons with the Northern Ireland troubles

Whilst eating his lunch on Sunday at Miss Reaper's granny's place - and a very nice Sunday lunch it was too - your Reaper heard a discussion on BBC Radio Ulster about the ongoing events in Libya. Most of us are probably familiar with this, and the largely supportive press that the conflict is currently receiving. Some of it is fawning to the point of nauseating - here's looking at the reporting of the war from The Sun, in particular.

A panel of people were on the programme giving their views on this, and other topical issues. Some of them were in favour of the conflict, others were more critical.

My view? I think this war is wrong, wrong, wrong. I think we have been rushed into a war by politicians who don't want awkward questions asked about them. I think the reasons being given will most likely turn out (again) to be disingenuous, and I think the fact Libya is an oil-rich country has more to do with the conflict than anyone is prepared to let on.

You may have worked out I don't buy the argument we are there to save lives. Aside from the fact we have no right to interfere in the running of a sovereign state, it will probably result in even more bloodshed in the long-term. We may prove popular initially, but my belief is it won't last. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong on that, and I think the way that Gaddafi is killing his own citizens is disgusting, but I fear we're just making a bad situation even worse through our intervention.

One of the comparisons made was that there were somehow similarities between the events in Libya and what happened in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. What was cited as evidence for this? Well, nothing really. It was claimed that Libya gave money and weapons to the IRA from the late 1970s onwards. Which is interesting, and has been found to be true. Unfortunately, there's a small problem here. Mainly that it doesn't prove any sort of similarity.

The events in Tripoli, such as the French carrying out air invasions, do not resemble anything that happened in Northern Ireland. I am no expert on the Troubles, but I'm pretty sure that there were no air strikes over Belfast from the IRA. I don't ever recall reading about air invasions in Enniskillen or Omagh during the height of the Troubles, nor any other town in Ulster. It's really quite a ridiculous comparison to make.

It descends further down into farce when you consider the Troubles were to do with persons wanting to create a united Ireland through the use of terrorism and violence. It definitely wasn't anything to do with getting rid of a dictator that was killing his own people and making them suffer. Whilst I wouldn't go as far to say that the comparison was offensive, it was a pretty dumb one to make.

Here comes the inevitable abuse from Republicans in Ireland who have completely missed the point and wish to swear at a supposedly English blogger...

Can Comic Relief REALLY stop children from starving to death?

Your Reaper, during the blogstipation of recent days, noticed that the Comic Relief marathon was on last Friday night. Around seven hours of entertainment, interspersed with lots of footage of starving children, was part of the offering from BBC One. There have also been numerous other shows about it during last week, and also Radio 1's The Longest Show Ever with Chris Moyles and Comedy Dave that went on for 52 hours. It started 6.30am on Wednesday and finished 10.30am Friday, and they raised around £2.4million for charity in the process.

Whatever you think of Moyles, and he's certainly a man with his detractors, I'd say that's an achievement he and Comedy Dave should be proud of. How the hell they kept going for 52 consecutive hours, I don't know. I couldn't have done it. They're pictured below, with Fearne Cotton in a swimsuit - their reward after a bet by Cotton herself that they couldn't do it.

Miss Reaper informs me that she's given money to Comic Relief this year, like she always does. She also told me she's had numerous debates with her work colleagues who insist that she's wasting her money and that nothing can be done about people starving to death. Do they have a point? Well, Comic Relief is still on air after all these years, so the problem clearly remains. Yet I can't help but worry about people with this attitude.

Let's get one thing clear at this point. I think that the fact children and people still starve to death in the world today, after all the advances humanity has supposedly made, is an utter abomination. It simply shouldn't be like this. I also despair that so few people in the world own so much and have so much. Hence why you have people in rich Western countries like ours who eat far too much, whilst those in many other countries can't even get hold of the most basic of food. However, is Comic Relief really the answer to this problem?

My fear is that the likes of Comic Relief are nothing more than sticking plaster solutions. It is a problem that is so large that no amount of charity can sort it out. Charity can be one of the most wonderful things in our world, but it does unfortunately have its limitations, like almost everything else in our world. The reasons that mainly African countries continue to have this problem is partly due to a lack of access to the world markets - mostly due to selfish Western countries putting up anti-competitive measures and restrictions in place. Countries like ours could really help out our fellow human beings by letting everyone access the markets and all the benefits it brings. No, the market isn't perfect, but is it really any worse than the current system?

The other problem, applicable in some cases more than others, is the way food is used as a political tool by regimes wanting to prop themselves up. It's more limited what we can do here. I wouldn't favour an interventionist policy of simply going to war with every regime we don't like and replacing them with despised puppet governments. Some may think that this is the only way forward, but I consider the idea quite mad. Aside from the cost being totally extortionate, it could exacerbate the problem. Replacing one dictatorship with another just means history will repeat itself, along with all its dire consequences. Give people the freedom that markets can offer, and you'll soon start seeing change, and long-lasting change at that.

So in summing up, I have nothing against Comic Relief. It raises a lot of money for good causes, and I have no problem with that. Indeed, I'm perplexed so many libertarians have an issue with it. It's not run by the Government or anything - it's charity, something I thought libertarians wanted to see more of, surely? That said, it's nothing near to being a permanent solution to the problem, though to their eternal credit, they are raising awareness to people of these issues in an entertaining, but also informative way. For that, they deserve a lot of respect.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Normal posting will resume soon. Your Reaper has just got rather a lot more than he'd like to deal with at the moment.

Bastard bollocks fuck shit arse cunt of a life.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Could Libya become David Cameron and President Obama's Iraq?

Your Reaper isn't asking the above question lightly. Certainly not when one considers the human cost that is going to be paid when the military action, which the United Nations authorised last night, takes place. The military action hadn't started when I originally wrote this post last night, although that has since changed. Let's go through a bit of background to my question first before we get to the real substance.

Cast your minds back to March 2003. The UN, on that occasion, could not agree on the need for military action. France opposed it for largely selfish reasons, though history shows they were probably right to do so. The war against Iraq itself lasted a fairly brief amount of time. Just three weeks later, the regime of Saddam Hussein had been toppled. It was after the war that the problems really started, problems which we are still dealing with eight years later. Even now, the country is still not fully at peace, though the situation is slowly improving.

For Tony Blair and President Bush, the war in Iraq was possibly the one defining event of both their presidencies. Both men were accused before the war of spending a vast amount of time on foreign policy issues because they didn't have much to say on domestic matters. Go forward eight years and we see little has changed. President Obama's time in office, which started so promisingly, is just grinding on slowly and without anywhere near as much reform from the increasingly frustrated Obama administration, whereas the Coalition increasingly has no idea how to get Britain out of the mess it's in.

As much as I loathe to agree with Labour on this issue, it's only answer to everything appears to be to just cut everything and hope for the best. It's all well and good to cut public spending, and it's something that I enthusiastically support, but without anything to promote growth in the private sector and to encourage jobs to be created, it won't lead to a lasting recovery - the sort that we desperately need. This is a big weakness for the Coalition, the one that could ultimately lead to its downfall. It's also the one which is simply not being exploited by the Opposition, nor by the largely supine press, much to the Government's advantage.

The war also led to a significant decline in popularity for Blair and Bush in the long-term, as the casualties stacked up and as the lies told to get us into the war were gradually exposed. Although Cameron and Obama aren't especially popular at the moment, I see little reason why history is not about to repeat itself. It seems the heir to Blair is determined to repeat his mistakes.

A war in Libya would probably be easy enough to win. Gaddafi, despite his protestations to the contrary, simply isn't as strong as he was in his heyday. His military would almost certainly be quickly reduced to a farce, much like happened in Iraq. Heck, we might even get a Libyan version of Comical Ali, Saddam Hussein's Information Minister who always had an over-enthusiastic spin for everything during the Iraq war, to keep us temporarily amused. Unfortunately though, I suspect the parallels don't end there, and more widespread levels of support this time will probably only provide us with a temporary buffer.

In Iraq, the population didn't like Saddam, but they didn't especially like the occupying powers of the Western world either. Cue the almost inevitable violence and killings that followed. Depressingly, I am unable to accept that the Libyans would feel any differently about their regime being toppled and then seeing they're stuck with a foreign power ruling over them. They may do at the moment, but it won't last. And why should it? History shows us time and time again that military rule just doesn't work. In the short-term, people will appreciate that the old, hated regime has gone, but that feeling doesn't last long. Want a more recent example? Look at Egypt. They may have got rid of Mubarak, but protests still go on amidst military rule.

Already, this issue is becoming polarised. It took a while for this to happen with Iraq, and seems to be happening at breakneck speed this time. Already, Tories are being wheeled out to support the military action, using shockingly similar defences to those Blair used. Already, Iain Dale has been complaining about Germany being craven by daring to abstain from last night's resolution - a pathetic stance. Already, I find both sides of the argument to be very tedious. It's at times like these I'm glad to be a truly independent voice.

The similarities with the Iraq quagmire are all there - only the names are different. Last time round, we had politicians with their rose-tinted glasses on, telling us that they knew best and that there was only one course of action. Can anyone honestly say that it's any different now? Mind you, I do wonder how exactly Call Me Dave is going to pay for this, and how the military are going to carry it out. Last time I checked, they were having their budgets cut.

At the current rate of cuts in defence spending, our contribution to the war will probably be two donkeys. With three legs to share between them. This is no way to fight a war, even if it is the wrong war to fight.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Princess Diana is still alive!

Sorry about that. Your Reaper came over all Daily Express-esque for a moment there. They must be pretty pissed off this morning, having noticed that their rivals at the Mail have got a piece about Diana in their paper.

Some bizarre woman called Monica Ali has written a book which proposes something that not even the most conspiratorial Express reporter ever considered. Previously, it's been claimed that Prince Philip was responsible for killing her, or that he was working with MI6 to get shut of her, or something.

In the book, she imagines what would have happened if Princess Diana had actually faked her own death and started a new life in a small town in North America. What she doesn't appear to mention is that Diana is now living with Elvis Presley, who is not dead, and Marilyn Monroe, who is also not dead.

It's a laughable enough theory, which isn't worth spending too much time thinking about. Mostly because there is one flaw with it. Princess Diana was a shameless publicity whore. She may well have used a fair amount of the media attention she got in order to get things done - nowt wrong with that - but she was a shameless publicity whore. Fake your own death and go and live in America, where you'd also be pretty well-known and recognised? It just doesn't make any sense.

If only Princess Diana was around to save us from these mad conspiracy theories!

Oops, another bout of Daily Express-itis there. I really should go and have a lie down.

Alistair Darling - desperate, but oh-so-incredibly boring

Your Reaper sees that the man who was once dubbed the most boring man in British politics - and continued to be surprisingly dull even when he was Chancellor - is in the news again.

Alistair Darling has informed us that apparently, during the height of the financial crisis, people were only two hours away from all of the nation's cash machines from switching off. He claims that the almost total collapse of Royal Bank of Scotland in 2008 would have spread to the other banks very quickly, and resulted in a domino effect, effectively destroying the banking system.

Strong stuff? It certainly is. So why is he only telling us about this now? This is, after all, the Chancellor who once admitted that voters were "pissed off" with the way Labour had handled the economy.

I've no problem with politicians using strong language. I wish it was something they did more, frankly. Wouldn't it be refreshing to hear Ed Balls making his tiresome class-based attacks on George Osborne by simply calling him "a toffee-nosed bastard" instead? No, the reason Alistair is telling us this now, when he's safely out of harm's way, is because... he's got a book to sell.

Surprise, surprise. Admittedly, the book doesn't come out until September, but he's already out plugging the damn thing. Tellingly, he backs up Ed Balls on a number of points in this interview. He tells us that Mervyn King, the Bank of England's governor, is uncomfortable about the increasingly politicised role that he leads, and the way he's allegedly being used by Tory ministers to defend their decisions. Something that Ed Balls has said on a few occasions, although Ed hasn't quite stated it so explicitly. He also makes the laughable claim Gideon could "crash the economy" by cutting spending back to 2007 levels, which they will be when this Government is done. Yet again, the hysteria amongst Labour's ranks seeps out for all to see.

Hopefully, his book might reveal whether there was any truth to the rumours about Gordon Brown's notorious temper, or whether he was indeed too "knackered" to enjoy a satisfying sex life with his wife when he was Chancellor. Piers Morgan will be reading the book, if only to find out...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In celebration of St Patrick's Day

One of your Reaper's brothers has an interview with Lucky McLucky. What more can I say?

* A tip of your Reaper's scythe goes to Grim D. Reaper.

What's the average price for petrol and diesel?

George Osborne probably doesn't know, because he's so incredibly rich. That's what Ed Balls is telling us. So, let your Reaper ask the Shadow Chancellor via Twitter if HE knows what the price is. Here's my tweet:

I'll let you know of any reply, though I suspect I'd be better off pissing into the wind.

Labour: increasingly desperate, increasingly pathetic

The good news for those of us like The Grim Reaper who don't like Labour is that they have been doing disastrously ever since losing power. Electing Ed Miliband as leader has made no real difference, and the party continues from one ineffective and slightly offensive attack on the coalition to another. Only earlier this week, there was the laughable claim from Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls that George Osborne was going to use the Japanese earthquake as an excuse to downgrade his growth forecast in the Budget next week. The claim was not only completely hollow, but just made Ed Balls look like a complete cunt. Which strangely enough, is exactly what he is.

Not even three days later, the Shadow Work and Pensions Minister comes to the fore with a pathetic attack on the Government's changes to the welfare system. She is effectively saying that there is an undercurrent of racism to the changes being made. How else can you interpret statements such as "they don't want black women, they don't want ethnic minority women and they don't want Muslim women living in central London"?

There are numerous valid grounds for attacking the government's reforms on benefits, but this definitely isn't one of them. Karen Buck, you are an utterly, utterly pathetic excuse for a politician. If you're going to accuse the likes of Cameron of being racists, have the courage to say so openly, instead of in a way that's designed purely to get you some publicity during International Wimmin's Week.

Naturally, there's also hopeless bleating about class. The implication once again is that the Tories don't understand the conditions which the poorest in our society live in. Which is correct, but also an attack which equally applies to Labour, a party stuffed full of millionaires who have inherited their wealth. Funny how Buck doesn't mention that, nor does she point out to the "arrogance and... ignorance" that existed during the 13 years in Parliament whilst Labour was in charge. It's pretty pathetic, and merely the latest attempt to demonise the Government on hysterical grounds.

Only a few weeks back, Chris Bryant (he who posed in this picture in his underpants, let us not forget) said that Britain was about to undergo “social cleansing” thanks to the coalition. I wonder how those who lived in Kosovo and experienced genuine cleansing would feel about seeing the term trivialised in such a crass manner.

Let us all hope that Labour continues down this route of making increasingly demented attacks on the Government. The Coalition may well be an utter sack of shit, but at least that will prevent Labour from ever getting the chance to ruin this country - yet again.

Bunga bunga! And other thoughts

Your Reaper can't quite make head nor tail of all this palaver that Silvio Berlusconi has found himself in. He is currently accused of paying for sexual relations with a girl under the legal age limit for prostitution in Italy, and the trial is due to start next month. If found guilty, he could face 15 years in jail.

He's also charged with abusing his position as the Prime Minister of Italy to have the girl in question - Karima El Mahroug - released from custody for a theft last May. Obviously, I have no idea whether there is any truth in these allegation, and it wouldn't be appropriate to speculate on that. The man's innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law, even if the man in question is an utter berk like Berlusconi.

The result of the trial not being until next month is fever-pitch levels of media speculation. Yet more women have clamed that Silvio Berlusconi paid to have sex with them. There's no less than 33 of them.

Yep, it's claimed he slept with 33 different women over a two month period. The Grim Reaper only has one response to that if it's true - wow. Berlusconi is a 74-year old man and I'd be more than willing to pay to read the story of someone who'd managed that. Though he'd probably never get away from the subsequent jokes about viagra, of course.

I've also found it hilarious that as all this goes on, Berlusconi's popularity in Italy continues to rise. Not fall, but actually RISE. Methinks that this strategy probably wouldn't work for all politicians, though. Not even discovering that he's been to "bunga-bunga" sex parties would help increase Nick Clegg's popularity, for example.

Berlusconi's own words on the subject are: "Do you really think all this is possible? I am 75 in September and even though I am a bit of a mischievous one... 33 girls in two months is too many, even for a 30-year-old. It's too many for anybody. Do you really think I am going to pay for sex with bank transfers? I am like a charity. I pay for surgery, dentist bills, university fees and anything else needed. Some of those bank transfers were to pay the mortgages of the parents of one of the girls. They were in dire straits.".

No, I don't know what to make of that either.

When you go into details about this, it just gets all the more odd. In a story that would be right up Teh Injunction Cat's street, long-lens photographs have previously appeared in a Spanish newspaper taken at Berlusconi's Sardinian villa with a number of young women. Some of them were topless. There was also a naked man in one picture, in The Guardian's words "in what appeared to be a state of sexual arousal". In other words, he had a boner. The man in question? None other than former Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek. Somehow, I can't imagine any of our former Prime Ministers being pictured with erections, and nor do I want to. No amount of mind bleach would wash that image away.

How's this all going to end, I keep asking myself. I don't know, but the only certainty is that it'll get a lot more entertaining and baffling before it does end.

On a final note for now, I notice one big difference between weather presentation on TV here and in Italy. Here are Manuela and Marianna Ferrera, two weather presenters over in Italy.

And what do we have in the UK? Ah yes...

Martyn Davies. A nice man and great weather presenter. But it's somehow just not the same, is it?

Oh wait, who's this?

Why it's Lara Lewington, formerly of Channel 5 fame. Certainly not to be sniffed at. Maybe we're not so different from the Italians after all.

It's not a good time to be a paedophile...

Your Reaper notices that the world's largest paedophile ring has been uncovered. It turns out the BoyLover website, which I ain't linking to, was being used as a cover for paedophilia. Secret systems were used by members to share images of children being sexually abused. In the UK alone, we are told there are currently 240 suspects. These people are supposedly some of the most respectable in the country - they include teachers and police officers. Around half of them have already been arrested in connection with the matter.

It shouldn't need stating really, but I had better make my views clear. This is the internet after all, and there are an awful lot of morons around. Exploiting a child for sexual gratification in whatever form is probably the worst thing that any human being can do. Not only is that child completely unable to defend themselves, but that child will also have to live their lives with something having tainted them so undeservedly at the start of their lives. Anyone who wishes to access child pornography, quite frankly, is evil in my eyes.

I get the feeling, however, that we won't be finding out the full scale of the paedophile ring or what went on inside it. Remember Operation Ore a decade ago? That was when an investigation found over 7,000 people in the UK who had used their credit cards to access images of child abuse on an American website. The names of a number of senior officials were on that list, including at least two senior politicians.

It's claimed on various tin foil hat websites that a D-Notice was placed by the Blair Government to prevent the full scale of this being reported. Might be more to do with these accusations being extremely hard to prove and the notorious libel laws in this country, methinks. Proving that someone is a paedophile or has been accessing child porn is difficult enough, and one wrong accusation would be enough to land anyone in serious legal trouble.

Mind you, if the press are now in a mood to start exposing paedophile rings, the British press could look a bit closer to home. Back in the year 2000, Hollie Grieg told her mother that she had been sexually abused by her own father, and her brother over a 14-year period. When the police investigated, it transpired that the father had offered his daughter to a paedophile ring. It's alleged that this paedophile ring involved a number of people who are very high-up in Scottish public life. That might be worth exposing. Albeit several years too late. Bar one or two articles in the News of the World back in 2009, the rest of the media has disgracefully refused to touch this story.

No time like the present, guys...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Still not passed your driving test after 90 attempts?

Your Reaper isn't one for telling others what to do, but I think there may be a hint in this story for someone. The Driving Standards Agency got a Freedom of Information request from someone or other - they're not named here, oddly - for details of the worst drivers in the country. All that we know is that the person who has taken the driving test 90 times, and failed 90 times, is a 26-year old woman who lives in South London.

You know, if you haven't passed your test after all that time, that suggests to me that you probably should give up. I accept that some people will take a couple of tries at the test before they pass, but 90 attempts is taking the biscuit. If you're living in the Southwark area of London and one of your young female friends is keeping a low profile over the next few days, fear of being outed in the press as the next Maureen Rees.

She was from Driving School fame, remember? Maureen will probably be delighted that there is now a person in the UK who is even worse behind the wheel than she is, although the protégé who is surely going to be named soon may wish to take the same route as Rees and use her forthcoming 15 minutes of fame to release a single.

By the way, if you thought the accompanying picture was a mock-up, you'd be wrong. That was the cover of Maureen's original song, released in December 1997 and also available to buy from Amazon via CD and also MP3. Your Reaper won't be buying himself a copy...

*Before anyone asks, The Grim Reaper passed his driving test the first time. Well, just. 14 minor faults in the end. One more and I'd have had to fork out for both tests. Prices are currently £31 for a theory test and £62 to test a car during the week, so that's nearly £100 a time. Hefty...

Steven Baxter? He'll always be Anton Vowl to your Reaper

Your Reaper tries to read a variety of bloggers who have all sorts of different viewpoints. I don't follow anywhere near as many Left-wing blogs as I probably should, the main reason being that many of them are incredibly boring and tedious and can't write for toffee. Of course, neither can The Grim Reaper, but thankfully, a number of people who read this blog might disagree with my assertion there.

Moving on steadily, one of few Leftie blogs I've always had time for was that of Anton Vowl. He's been blogging since 2007 and given the very high quality of the articles he published - the tone was always appropriate for whatever topic he dealt with - it was only a matter of time before Anton's work started being noticed by those higher up.

Eventually, he decided to out himself in Comment Is Free, revealing to the world that he was Steven Baxter, a journalist based in Bristol. According to him, he was "asked to appear on the panel at the Newsfutures blogging event in Bristol" and this led to him having a choice. Declining and staying in the shadows, or turning up and his identity being revealed.

He's also managed to get himself a gig at the New Statesman writing about media matters. Baxter produces pieces that wouldn't look out of place had they been written under the Anton Vowl name. Naturally, I congratulate him. If there's a media organisation out there that wanted to hire me to write for them, I probably wouldn't turn down the offer either. I'd love to be paid to write. Knock yourself out, spambots which will be trawling this blog - it'll make a nice change from the sets of emails claiming I've won a million pounds. I must be richer than Bill Gates if they're anything to go by.

That said, there's one thing going on now that just doesn't sit easy with me. Namely the way that the name Anton Vowl is gradually being phased out. Hasn't this name served you well enough over the last few years, Steven? When you look at the blog now, Anton's name is gradually disappearing, and this is a crying shame. The same on Twitter - the only sign that remains is of the distinctive monkey - Baxter says he bought this a few years ago whilst in Vietnam.

I asked him about the name issue on Twitter a few weeks ago - he told me something in reply about his dad reading his work and being proud of his own name. Which makes perfect sense, but... I can't help but think a perfectly recognisable name is being destroyed in the process. Bring back Anton Vowl!
If I had his blogging skills, I'd probably head over to Twitter and get a campaign going at this point...

A question to which the answer is Yes

Yesterday, your Reaper wrote a piece about Chris Jefferies. By my own admission, it was rather late, but that doesn't seem to have stopped it from being the most widely read post on the blog in the past fortnight or so, at least according to my statistics.

Anyway, Ambush Predator - who secretly looks like the kitten in this picture, but don't tell her I told you that - noted my update to the post, with the news that the Attorney General was considering banning the media from naming people who have been arrested but not charged with offences.

Miss Predator asks, quite simply:

"I wonder if they'll make a special exception for rape cases?"

Good question, and I think we already know the answer to that.

UPDATE: Yes, yes, I already know about the fail in the post URL...

They just couldn't defend the indefensible forever

Your Reaper couldn't help but notice this story on Mail Online today. It concerns a boy called Louis Peers. He's 11 years old and was born at Birmingham's Heartlands Hospital in December 1999. The birth was botched thanks to medical incompetence, and as a result, he's got what sounds to me like a fairly severe form of cerebral palsy. Not sure what cerebral palsy is? I'll just repeat this brief explanation:
"Celebral palsy is an umbrella term that's used to refer to a number of motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development. It's often caused by problems in pregnancy, such as being strangled by the umbilical cord or by being born premature. The word 'cerebral' refers to something called the cerebrum, which is a part of the brain that is affected, whereas 'palsy' refers to disorder of movement.
Let's take an example. Imagine that you have tripped over something and are falling to the ground. Under normal circumstances, your brain tells you to put your arms and hands out in front of you in order to protect yourself from such a fall. Someone with cerebral palsy could end up doing the opposite - though this won't apply in every case. Instead of putting their arms out, they could end up putting their arms behind them, because the part of the brain that should tell you to put your arms out in front isn't working properly. Does that make sense? Head over to Wikipedia if you fancy reading more on this."

The parents believed that the hospital had screwed up big time and contacted Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who put in a claim for damages in 2000. After eleven years, the matter has finally been resolved. The Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has admitted liability and will have to pay out £7million in order to help make sure he can be looked after during his life, thanks to their mistakes.

Now, taxpayers may think this is a very large amount of money, and they'd be right. However, in a case like this, the hospital have basically destroyed Louis's chances of having a normal life, and I think it only fair that the payout is so substantial. That said, I also believe they should apologise for arseing around for so long. They should be ashamed of themselves for taking so long to take responsibility for their own actions.

Taxpayers should be angry about this, but don't aim your anger at the parents. They've done the right thing. They deserve to be compensated for the disastrous mistakes made. Although no amount of money could put things right, it will help pay for his care - which is incredibly expensive, in the same way that life for anyone with a disability is more expensive than those without. Those of us who don't have any disabilities simply don't realise how lucky we really are.

No, aim your anger towards the Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust, who have made these mistakes in the first place. Feel free to tell them how they should have resolved this far, far sooner than they did. Go and let them know just what you think of them having to make this pay out following avoidable mistakes. I ask people to keep the tone respectable and polite whilst doing so, but let them know unequivocally what your view is on their shameful behaviour.

Will this payout set a precedent? Will anyone born with disabilities thanks to medical incompetence be able to take this route? It should, and it's something which should be encouraged to happen. If medics know that there's a greater chance of them ending up in court, and forces them to increase medical standards whilst at it, so be it.

In the meantime, perhaps they could put something on their website justifying the length of time that it took them to respond to this? Or do they also know, deep down, that there is no justification for it and are merely pretending this isn't happening and will go away?

Thinking about the Japanese earthquake

Your Reaper has been watching the news from Japan and neighbouring countries following the horrific earthquake last week - one of the biggest in history, unless I'm very much mistaken - and has wondered what on earth he can write about it. So far, I haven't touched the subject at all, and readers would be perfectly entitled to wonder why not. Although The Grim Reaper Writes isn't a news wire service, I do like to try and get my views on the big subjects up on the blog, so why on earth isn't there anything up about it? The reason, quite simply, is I haven't got the faintest idea what on earth I can write about it.

There are so many different angles that can be considered, it's really quite overwhelming. It's been front page news in the newspapers since Saturday, and it leads just about every news bulletin going. I could prepare a piece asking about the media coverage. I could try and slip in a jibe about how the Daily Mail's coverage of this is so much better than the Haiti earthquake, which they failed to put onto the front page even once - and the story was covered for almost a month.

I could prepare a piece asking what the implications are for the world economy following the earthquake. Japan is one of the major economies, after all. I could mention a report that says Japan was warned two years ago about its nuclear plants, according to WikiLeaks. I could also use it to compliment Julian Assange, whom I have previously referred to on several occasions as Julian Asshat, for putting out something useful for once.

Yet it just doesn't seem appropriate to write at length about that. Not when so many of our fellow human beings are suffering. The statistics are pretty terrifying. Around half a million people have been made homeless by the disaster, and tens of thousands could potentially die because of it. We may never know the exact number who have been killed following Mother Nature's show of strength. There are people out there who need help, and need it quickly. I would be more than happy to give some sort of donation in this case, for example.

The one thing, however, that overwhelms me about this is it's one of those times where the pictures speak more than words can ever say. Take a look at some of these scenes of carnage (pictures courtesy of AP, who own the copyright):

How on earth do you even begin to contemplate what must be going through the minds of those suffering individuals, who will see almost everything (and in some sad cases, literally everything) they have being swept away, having crumbled to the ground, having been lost? How do you begin to imagine what a person who has no idea whether their friends or members of their own family are even still alive is thinking or feeling? Then you see pictures such as this, following the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant, having to be tested in case they've got radiation poisoning:

Again, how do you begin to think about how terrifying it must be to think there's a chance you could get radiation poisoning? The fall-out from the Chernobyl disaster of April 26th, 1986 might be on their minds, and that still affects the world to this day, almost 25 years later. Admittedly, that was an extreme case, but we have little to go on. Although nuclear is one of the safest types of energy that exists, when things go wrong, they go wrong big time. The human cost, in terms of health, for those who are left after the disaster could be huge.

Write about it? I can't even contemplate it.

Yet amidst all the rubble, there are also touching scenes like this of two schoolboys being reunited:

It's a picture that says more than words ever could, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Other People's Grim Reading

Okay, here's a selection of stuff doing the rounds on the blogs.

Big Brother Watch have spotted that Wolverhampton City Council have been caught being less than careful with people's private data. What are the bets they won't be punished for their actions?

Devil's Kitchen wants Internet Explorer 6, first introduced to the internet all the way back in 2001, ditched completely. Even Microsoft want to see this happen, for goodness sake.

Dioclese considers Ed Balls and his latest comments to be in bad taste. I would just consider him to be an utter cunt.

Guido Fawkes reports on... well, a Tory MP which has been caught handling something, but not quite what the URL suggests. There's a serious point in there somewhere, though.

Man Widdicombe spots this piece by Vivienne Nathanson on Comment Is Free and promptly delivers a fisk. I don't normally like fisks, but his is genuinely worth reading.

Obnoxio The Clown wrote a few days ago about us libertarians, and how we're not the heartless bastards we're often depicted to be. As I've been away, I'm only getting to feature it now. Go and read it - your Reaper agrees with it entirely.

Original Cindy has a powerful video about bullying, and also provides some personal context. I was bullied at school myself, and have a fair idea what it entails. Not bullied at school? Count yourselves lucky.

Tim Worstall notices that The Guardian are talking about the amount of tax Barclays pays. Again. Whilst failing to declare that they themselves haven't been paying their full share of taxes. Again. Such wonderful hypocrisy.

Twenty Major features this portrait on his blog today.

What on earth is it about? Head over there to find out. Brief but it's probably better that way.

Witterings From Witney reports on proceedings from Parliament, which reveal a very interesting question regarding the Government's plans for an elected House of Lords. I suspect he may be right in that a Pandora's box is about to be opened, and not in a good way.

That's your lot for now!

Chris Jeffries - how quickly the press forgot about thee

You may have read in January that your Reaper had some serious doubts about the media's coverage of the Joanna Yeates murder.

Fairly early into the inquiry, it descended into farce when ITV News was banned from a press conference by a police farce that had a hissy fit because ITV News dared imply the investigation was not going well. The ban was quickly reversed after much criticism and after the police realised they looked like little girls by doing it.

In the meantime, the prime suspect of the murder was a man called Chris Jefferies. Now, as I understand it, being a suspect simply means the police think you've done something but aren't yet sure enough to put you in court. It doesn't mean you're guilty.

Under the eyes of the law in this country, you are innocent of a crime unless found guilty of it in a court of law. Fairly basic concept of law, I would have thought, and one that's quite easy to understand, oui?

Erm... no. Not to newspaper editors anyway. For days on end, they splashed on revelations about him. No stone from his private life was left unturned. And of course, there were the usual, tried and tested tabloid smears out aplenty. Namely that he was supposedly gay and a bit strange. Last time I checked, neither of those was a crime, but Dominic Mohan obviously knows better than I do.

It got so bad that the Attorney General had to contact the press to warn them they were getting dangerously close to breaking contempt of court laws. Something that both of the named newspapers below were found guilty of last week in an unrelated case, as it happens.

Last week, it was announced that he was no longer a suspect in the inquiry. So how has the press handled this news, after all the vilification they engaged in at the New Year? Very quietly, it seems. They didn't make much fanfare about it. Indeed, I actually missed it when it first emerged, and I only learnt about it a few days ago. It appears that the press either want to keep us in the dark about this - which would be utterly shameful behaviour - or they're burying their heads in their hands with embarrassment at the situation they find themselves in. Yet again, the British press isn't showing itself in the best light.

Of course, there may well be legal factors at work here. I have heard rumours that Jefferies is planning a number of legal actions against the press for their intrusive, malicious and potentially very prejudicial coverage of him. If these rumours are true, and I have no way of verifying them, then good for him. For all I know, he could already have initiated those proceedings. I simply don't know.

Regardless, I hope it's true and I hope he takes the likes of The Sun and the Daily Mail to the cleaners. They deserve nothing less.

UPDATE: I originally wrote this post on my BlackBerry, but just a moment ago, I came across this news. It appears the Attorney General is now considering banning the media from naming people who have been arrested but not charged. This is what happens when newspapers refuse to behave themselves - it just gives government an excuse to interfere. I hope they're happy with themselves.

What would the Twitter Fail Whale make of it?

It almost feels like I'm going on a little bit about the subject of libel at the moment, but your Reaper couldn't help but comment on this one. If someone thinks they've been libelled on Twitter, they can now sue you...

"A Welsh councillor has been ordered to pay what is believed to be the first libel damages to a political rival as a result of comments posted to Twitter. Caerphilly county councillor Colin Elsbury was ordered to pay £3,000 damages plus costs after using the social network to wrongly claim Eddie Talbot had been removed from a polling station by police during a by-election in 2009. Cardiff Crown Court made the order against the Plaid Cymru politician on Friday. He will tweet an apology and faces a costs bill of around £50,000 after acknowledging that he defamed Talbot... Talbot’s solicitor, Nigel Jones, predicted after the hearing that the damages award could open the floodgates to claims of libel on Twitter."

This kind of makes sense to me. I've never understood the rather commonplace idea that just because something is written on the internet, the law doesn't apply. If anything, we have to be far more careful. If a journalist gets something wrong, the newspaper or media organisation in question will defend them. If an individual on Twitter or a blogger gets something wrong, they're on their own.

Me suspects that Nigel Jones may really be onto something here.

* Image credit: The angry Twitter bird picture comes from Aaron Riddle.