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Smoke For Victory!

By Tom Papworth
June 30th, 2009 at 12:40 pm | 10 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

chinasmokeChina is often heralded as the new champion of free markets. And there is no doubt that it has some of the most liberal trade rules in the world. But sometimes adoration of the People’s Republic can lead commentators to forget that, even in the economic sphere, China is incredibly interventionist.

It also remains a textbook case of what happens when bureaucrats rule. But the latest proposal appears to truly beggar belief. In fact, if it did not appear in several independent sources, I would believe that it was a satire.

Chinese government officials have been ordered by the government to smoke more cigarettes to boost the economy. Departments whose staff smoke too few cigarettes will lose revenue that they would have received from state tobacco taxes; individual civil servants will be fined unless they smoke local brands.

The policy was originally introduced in Hubei Province, where local government agencies and institutions were given a target of 230,000 packs of locally-produced cigarettes a year, according to Hubei-based Chutian Metropolis Daily reported. This follows a policy earliest this year in Hefei province where civil servants were pressured to buy flats to keep the property market afloat.

So staggeringly stupid is this, that it seems almost nit-picking to point out two particular economic features of this. The first is the belief that increasing tax revenues will increase the economy. The second is the fact that protectionism appears to be emerging between Chinese provinces.

On the other hand, if bureaucrats are so stupid that they are ordering bureaucrats to smoke more, perhaps a Darwin Award is in order.

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Around the Stonewall

By Julian Harris
June 30th, 2009 at 8:34 am | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

The anniversary of the Stonewall Riots has been noted already in Lib Dem circles, and today Tristan Mills draws attention to a rather depressing reaction from a town in Texas.

ugandaAlas more examples of mindless homophobia from other continents speckle our media, and I’ve noticed two solely around the issue of football.

So yes, this is another football post. And there will be more.

The first of these sorry tales was reported in the Indie last week – a Turkish referee has been hounded out of the eastern town of Tabzon for having the temerity to favour sleeping with men.

Now today I read that Uganda’s national team boss Bobby Williamson is being pressured into supporting a code of conduct that condemns homosexuality.

Both stories tell us more about the regions of the world they occur in than the sport itself (allegedly homosexuality is illegal in Uganda). However, homophobia continues to linger in football throughout the world, with a notable lack of openly gay players even in the English game.

To end on a brighter note, stand-up comedian Doug Stanhope has a typically acerbic rant on the subject of gay marriage. His view: marriage shouldn’t even be legal per se. Take a butcher’s, here – click.

The New Labour Disaster in 4 minutes

By Angela Harbutt
June 29th, 2009 at 1:04 pm | No Comments | Posted in UK Politics

There has been quite a bit of discussion concerning the Liberal Vision video published here last week.

I have responded to some of the comments on the Lib Dem Voice website, (scroll to the bottom of that page for comments) if you are interested.

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Why I didnt support the first “Armed Forces Day”

By Angela Harbutt
June 28th, 2009 at 3:45 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

gordon-brown-hijacks-national-armed-forces-day-actI opened up the Sunday Telegraph of all newspapers this morning to be greeted with what amounts to 2 full pages of government propaganda with the headline “Nation salutes its heroes on the first Armed Forces Day”. They campaigned for it – so I guess they wanted to shout about it.

I didnt support it yesterday and I wont support it any time soon. Not because I am anti the armed forces. I actually think that, of their kind, they are pretty damn good.

I dont support it because this is just another example of the government hi-jacking a PR event to suit their own agenda.

This is the same government that skimped on equipment going into the Iraq war. Many deaths can be laid at the door of the then-chancellor Gordon Brown who refused the budgets necessary to keep these soldiers alive. This is the same government that has overseen record numbers of ex-soldiers ending up in custody. Ex-military personnel comprise by far the largest occupational group in the prison system – because there is no money to help them get over the trauma of war. This is the same government that wanted the inquiry into Iraq held in private – despite military leaders demand that they have their actions judged by the public. This is the same government that wanted to turn their back on the Ghurkas lest we forget.  I could not find any mention of any of that in the Telegraph’s patriotic report (please tell me if I missed it).

If this government cared that much about these people they would have done more – and do more – where it matters. Not create a tokenistic flag-waving  ”Armed Forces Day” in the hope that the remaining good will for the forces will somehow rub-off on them. With a few handy pictures of Gordon with the boys and girls in uniform along the way.

What is also disappointing is that the armed forces seem unable to stop the goverment using them for their own political ends. I understand that they crave a return to the warmth and respect that was once theirs without question. But they wont get it from me until they stand up to this government. Perhaps that we will see that during the Iraq inquiry (those bits we are allowed to see).Lets hope.

PS: Was it purely coincidence that the date chosen – 27th June, also marks the Day Gordon Brown became Prime Minister back in 2007? What a day to choose whoever thought it up!

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Could Milburn become even more anti-Brown?

By Mark Littlewood
June 27th, 2009 at 8:13 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

alan-milburnAlan Milburn won’t be seeking re-election at the next election.

He wants to pursue other stuff, spend more time with his family etc etc.

But might there be a last parting shot?

Now wholly unshackled from any obligations to back Brown’s dying government, might he even go as far as endorsing another party in 2010?

If Brown clings on until the electorate finally deliver their damning verdict, don’t bet against it.

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