Thursday, 30 December 2010

Top 10 albums of 2010

This year has been as average as last year was brilliant for new music.  Very few of the bands I love have released new stuff in 2010 so it has been disappointing.  However, the best in a bad year for me are as follows:

1) Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
2) Alkaline Trio - This Addiction
3) KoЯn - KoЯn III - Remember Who You Are
4) Stone Sour - Audio Secrecy
5) Hole - Nobody's Daughter
6) Drowning Pool - Drowning Pool
7) Stone Temple Pilots - Self titled
8) Soulfly - Omen
9) Rob Zombie - HellBilly Deluxe 2
10) BuckCherry - All Night Long (also most disappointing album of the year, after how good their previous two albums have been this was a major letdown)

Hopefully 2011 will be better!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Things that are annoying me re tuition fees...

For the record, I would have voted no because in my view it sets a dangerous precedent, well continues one, but the following things have annoyed me recently:
  • The Reporting.  There has been minimal distinction between a debt that must be paid back and the student debt which is paid back only on your earnings and is written off if you haven't repaid it within 30 years (don't know the exact time frame).  In addition focus has only been placed on the maximum fees that can be charged.  Hardly any coverage has been given to the fact that the poorest will be able to go for one or even two years for free because of this headline figure.
  • The students protesting.  Students will be better off under this system until they start earning ridiculous amounts of money (the sort of money that makes a person more likely to vote Tory anyway).  Those who have traditionally voted Labour or Lib Dem will in general be better off, or at least better off for longer and again only in a worse financial position if they are earning significant amounts of money - the sort of people that students would probably say should contribute more.
  • The students who are protesting also will have nothing change for them.  You can't tell me that all of them are protesting because they know how it will effect those who come after them.  Of course they aren't! 
  •  The NUS.  They have fanned the flames of these protests without really thinking things through.  Their preferable system is one which is unworkable.  Even the shadow chancellor knows it is (though his party have to be opportunistic and say that this is what they would prefer, despite launching the Browne report).  They should have acted more maturely and looked objectively at the proposal rather than calling for instant protests.
  • Finally.  The thing that has annoyed me the most is the rationale of the politicians or how they are explaining their proposals.  I wouldn't have been angry if the Liberal Democrats had come out and said
    "we have looked at all of the options available, as our coalition partners are unwilling to remove fees and wish to follow the Browne recommendations we have done our best to make the proposed legislation fairer and more progressive.  Students will have an extra £6,000 of income before they start paying back a penny of their fees.  In addition this loan from the government to cover their fees will be written off after xx years, so if a person doesn't earn enough to cover the cost then they will not pay it back.  In fact this will have the effect of any person earning £XX,000 paying back exactly the same amount as they would have done previously, albeit over a longer period.  Any student who earns on average less than this will be better off, any who earns more (for instance bankers) will be worse off."
    What I can't accept is the rhetoric that they have been forced to make this decision due to the financial circumstances.  This is wrong for a number of reasons.  Firstly there is always a choice, winter fuel payments could have been means tested, the tax brackets could have remained the same etc.  Secondly, and most importantly, this does absolutely nothing for the amount of money the government needs to raise now.  All that happens is rather than increasing the debt by creating an expense they increase it by creating an asset (as in theory they are expecting the money back).  This looks better for the overall debt position but is exactly the same.  The government wont receive a penny back towards these fees until 2016, and even then it will be receiving back less than it would have done under the old system.  It will only start to see a benefit when the students reach the stage when they would have previously paid off their debt.  In fact, even then it will have taken them longer to reach this stage so when taking into account the time value of money it will be longer still.  In my estimations, if someone constantly earns £40,000 from leaving university (unrealistic I know), it would not be until 2028 when the government would start receiving more than they would have done from this person.  Hardly a solution to the current financial crisis! 
So when I say I would have voted no, that is not because I believe this is a worse proposition than the current one, I would have voted no because: It does nothing to reduce the deficit; Most of the debts will end up being written off (having been a source of discomfort for students for 30 years when they needn't be); And it will open the way for fees to continue to increase, where as I believe in a token fee level with the remainder provided by the state.  I would not have voted no just because of a promise, things change and each proposal should be judged on it's own merits - which is why pledging is misguided.

"This Government does not believe that liberalisation and legalisation are the answer,"

The above quote from the current Home Secretary Theresa May pretty much says it all.  It really is astonishing that a government which has a party with Liberal in the name and a partner of the Conservatives with a small "c" are more draconian than any previous government.  Make no mistake the latest policy is very anti liberal and erodes even further into social freedoms. 

I rant about drugs a lot, but today there have been a fair few articles on these matters all worth a read:
Mark Easton for the BBC.

Mark Easton I find very good at highlighting issues, but the one I like the most is the Peter Reynolds blog.  Highlights the absolute hypocrisy of particularly Theresa May, but also the government as a whole.  
I also really like Decca Aitkenhead's interview with David Nutt.  He really isn't the most liberal, he is just sensible and highlights the fact that current policies aren't based on scientific evidence.  He is often held up as the voice of decriminalisation/legalisation but is actually far from it.  He even states that he'd rather ban alcohol and restrict use of lesser drugs.  The part I really like is:

He describes a truly surreal exchange with the then home secretary, Jacqui Smith, who told him: "You cannot compare the harms of an illegal activity with a legal one." But don't we need to compare the harms, he asked her, in order to see if something should be illegal? "And there was this long pause. And she said, 'You can't compare the harms of an illegal activity with a legal one.' And this is the problem. Many politicians seem to think that once something is illegal, job done. She didn't understand the paradox of what she was saying. So I think the home office were angry with me, and from that point on there were people out to get me."

Total hypocrisy there from the former Labour government, the problem is this government are even worse.  In one of the pieces the question is raised "What would they do if a safe form of ecstasy is found?" That is an easy question to answer, they would ban it.  The problem is that government after government are just looking for ways to control their populous and manipulate them.  

The only reason alcohol and to a lesser extent tobacco are acceptable is due to social history.  Governments are reluctant for people to find new ways of enjoying themselves.  

Hypocrisy annoys me.  Several of the leading Tories have admitted drug taking (But I didn't inhale your honour... yeah and Mike Ashley is loved by the Toon Army, pull the other one!) yet are reluctant to even entertain the motion that it may be better for their minions to be allowed to partake in this.  As such they allow policy to be formed by prejudice, ignoring both scientific and cost benefit analysis.  

Maybe one day we can have a grown up and sensible debate regarding a person's free will and how the state should not interfere in matters effecting ones self.  Maybe one day we will have government policies formed on reasoning and logic rather than sensationalist emotive tabloid headlines. Maybe one day people will be free from prejudice and judgement due to how they chose to live their lives.  Maybe one day people with drugs problems will not feel victimised and therefore will be able to come forward and get the help they need.  Maybe one day governments will stop wasting money on a policy that is completely ineffective at acheiving their rediculous aims.  Maybe one day people will realise that the best way to tackle drugs is education, making sure that people are properly informed and allowing them to make their own decisions.  Maybe I shouldn't be holding my breath.