The Plastic Hippo

September 30, 2010

Old Shep

Filed under: Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 11:39 pm

Animal lovers will know the anguish and the heartache experienced when a dearly loved and cherished family pet passes on. The twinkle in the eye may still be there, but the legs and tiny brain have given up the ghost. The time comes when a visit to the vets for the administration of a leathal injection becomes inevitable and we can reassure ourselves that it is in the best interests of the poor, suffering animal. The same can now be said of the Liberal Democrat Party in Walsall.

One of the shamefully few local poiliticians who bothers the internet, Liberal Democrat leader Ian Shires, has posted a piece that on his web site that suggests that Labour party members in Walsall have “overwhelmingly” rejected Ed Miliband as a party leader. The article describes Miliband Junior as “Red Ed” and goes on to say that David, the senior Miliband, was the smelly socks first choice. Quite why the normally cogent and sensible councillor for Willenhall North should resort to this level of invective bile can be best explained if we look at what the Liberal Democrats are thinking nationally.

They have jetisoned established policies that have been sacrosanct for generations and have exchanged any principles that they may have had for the keys to the ministerial jaguar. They, and their Conservative bed mates, are frightened of Miliband Junior and seek to nobble him even before he has begun. Senior David would have been prefarable because, in their tiny minds, he is just like us – stupid.

Ian Shires, who usually highlights serious local issues, has been forced into quoting various apologies and bogus justifications from the ridulous LidDem Voice web site and even quotes a failed LidDem parliamentary candidate who claims that the election of Miliband Junior will turn Labour voters LibDem. The abject collapse of the Liberal Democrat Party is more likely to turn Labour voters to the BNP or Monster Raving Loonies who, incidentally, have forced a by election in Rushall Shelfield.

If Elvis was still alive, he would have sung this song to the doomed Liberal Democrats.

(words & music by Red Foley)

When I was a lad
And old Shep was a pup
Over hills and meadows we’d stray
Just a boy and his dog
We were both full of fun
We grew up together that way

I remember the time at the old swimmin’ hole
When I would have drowned beyond doubt
But old Shep was right there
To the rescue he came
He jumped in and then pulled me out

As the years fast did roll
Old Shep he grew old
His eyes were fast growing dim
And one day the doctor looked at me and said
I can do no more for him Jim

With hands that were trembling
I picked up my gun
And aimed it at Shep’s faithful head
I just couldn’t do it
I wanted to run
I wish they would shoot me instead

He came to my side
And looked up at me
And laid his old head on my knee
I had struck the best friend that a man ever had
I cried so I scarcely could see

Old Shep he has gone
Where the good doggies go
And no more with old Shep will I roam
But if dogs have a heaven
There’s one thing I know
Old Shep has a wonderful home

September 27, 2010

Things to come

Filed under: Media,Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 1:39 pm

Strange happenings often engender even stranger conspiracy based explanations and the goings on during last week confirmed, in what is left of the minds of many, that the omens and portents are comparable to the four horsemen of the apocalypse galloping across the Arboretum ring road junction.

Electrical storms of biblical intensity coincided with Facebook crashing and Twitter being infected by a worm. The wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from spare bedrooms and that useful space under the stairs where the computer lives could be heard across a terrified nation. There were reports of a mysterious 3,000 mph jet aircraft low over Lichfield and, stranger still, a Liberal Democrat and former executive of a multi-national oil company now actually in government talked of attacking greedy capitalism. The end of the world must surely be imminent as Walsall council were discovered red handed trying to improve the bin collection service. Another council, Suffolk, finally admitted defeat and announced that it would outsource all of the services that are its job to provide. It will become a “virtual” council and be nothing more than a web page. Astonishingly, the refusal to do what it is supposed to do will result in only a 30 per cent budget saving. These prognostications, according to conspiracy theorists, cannot be blamed on unusual sun spot activity.

The plastic hippo can exclusively reveal that the real cause for doom-ridden prophesies was a crack that briefly appeared in the space-time continuum. Mercifully, a passing Time Lord managed to seal the crack and restore order allowing an old Etonian Prime Minister to talk of work shy benefit scroungers, Trade Union block votes electing a new Labour leader and the British press making weak jokes regarding the inability of foreigners in organising a knees-up in a commonwealth. However, the crack in time allowed a solitary news report – from the future – to find its way onto the internet. The article is reproduced in full here:

“Dateline: Walsall, May 30 2016, 6-00 PM.

There were angry scenes at an almost deserted full meeting of Walsall council last night as newly elected mayor Noddy Holder, sponsored by Rotframe Windows and Doors (call now for a free quotation – terms and conditions apply), struggled to maintain interest in local democracy.

Councillors complained that the meeting was scheduled at exactly the same time that the Murdoch Broadcasting Corporation were transmitting the latest episode of “Let`s Laugh at Stupid Ugly People”, the latest reality show to be broadcast by the corporation. Councillor Bruce Dancepartner, representative of the Tarmac and Amey ward, ask the portfolio holder for Media, Sport, Leisure, Slot Machines, Culture, Dog Fighting, Happy Slapping and Fun Fairs, Councillor Swiss Tony Inebriate, why the meeting had to take place at all. Councillor Inebriate had previously sent his apologies as he had to stay home to watch television.

Councillor Biddy Hearing-aid (Tesco South), via a video link from her home on the Algave, proposed that the new coalition government, headed by Prime Minister Nick Griffin and Deputy Prime Minister Nigel Farage, be congratulated on their legislation that allows rich people to pay no tax and poor people to pay more. She also welcomed the re-allocation of council tax banding to exempt very large and expensive houses and include cardboard boxes and bin liners.

Councillor Morris Spliffroller, elected in the Dien Bien Phu Horticultural Home Improvement ward, sent a text to the meeting praising the government for shutting down inefficient, wasteful and unnecessary quangos such as the NHS and things called schools.

Under new rules, Mr Roland Moustachewaxer, acting as a substitute for his father, Councillor Ronald Moustachewaxer currently undertaking a six month fact finding tour of Winson Green, said the people of the Serco Central and South constituency welcomed the food parcels and medication generously contributed to people within the ward from the government of Burkina Faso.

Councillor Zen Meerkat, representing the Tesco Buenos Aires ward, sadly still under a restraining order, attempted to address council from Lichfield Street by shouting through an open window. Sadly, his contribution was inaudible and was not recorded.

In his report on future development, Councillor Arsene Wanger, representing Tesco North, suggested carpet bombing Bloxwich with napalm as a catalyst for regeneration.

The meeting ended at 6-11 pm when His Worship the Mayor, sponsored by Rotframe Windows and Doors (call now for a free quotation – terms and conditions apply) invited elected members to a drinks reception in the O2 Mayoral Parlour sponsored by Fat Harry`s Topless Car Wash and Burger Bar.

Following the stormy meeting, Leader of the Council, Facebook Account #4329ss/001qzx and Chief Executive, Twitter MacAnorak, did not issue a joint statement.”

September 24, 2010

All the vice-presidents men

Filed under: Media,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 4:06 pm

Image credit: the author is no longer active on Flickr

Former executive editor and now the “vice-president at large” of the Washington Post, Leonard Downie Junior, does not like online news aggregation sites. Describing the operators of these sites as “parasites living off journalism produced by others”, the representative of the newspaper that brought down the corrupt Nixon administration has turned his fire on local news sites including, by implication, TheYamYam; the only credible source for news about Walsall.

DC is a long way from Walsall, but for such an influential and respected figure as Downie to launch this attack is proof, if proof were needed, that the printed media either simply do not understand news aggregation or deliberately choose to confuse it with something else. The bulk of his rant was directed at the Huffington Post, a liberal and rather successful US aggregation site, which Downie accuses of peddling predictable political prejudice “along with titillating gossip and sex”. This argument would be reasonable if it were posited by anyone other than a newspaper editor. Today (Friday), the Huffington Post gave prominence to the disturbing execution of a “low IQ” woman from Virginia who murdered her husband. The Washington Post also covered the story giving equal coverage to the news of the death of Eddie Fisher and his “scandalous marriages”. At the foot of the page is a “story” about a person called Katie Perry who has been edited out of an edition of the Muppet Show because her dress was too revealing. Click for more pictures.

In a world where freedom of expression is, or at least should be, a basic right, the printed press backed up with outdated legislation on libel, plagiarism and copyright find it convenient to place aggregation in the same box as individual blogs or comments on Twitter or Facebook. Indeed, today is the day of the appeal of a man convicted of making a joke on Twitter. The motivation behind this head-in-the-sand stance and the outburst from Mr Downie is more to do with commercial pragmatism than a defence of accurate, credible and verifiable journalism. As newspaper sales nosedive, even the most brutal of editors are beginning to notice the alarming increase in the number of former diligent and hard working journalist now flipping burgers, stacking supermarket shelves or establishing their own websites.

The redoubtable Arianna Huffington, founder of the HuffPo did not take long to respond to to Downie`s rant. She blogged:
“Once again, some in the old media have decided that the best way to save, if not journalism, at least themselves, is by pointing fingers and calling names. It’s a tactic familiar to school yard inhabitants everywhere: when all else fails, reach for the nearest insult and throw it around indiscriminately.”

As Downie himself points out, the press now reports news as entertainment and entertainment as news. This has left a vacuum that is being filled by news sites like TheYamYam which directs its readership to stories that are about and are relevant to the local area. Having had the predictable political prejudice, non-stories and fluff filtered out, the reader is linked to the fully acknowledged and fully credited source of the piece thereby generating more traffic to the original website. Hardly parasitic. Huffington said:
“People like Downie continue to confuse aggregation with wholesale misappropriation, which violates copyright law.”
The few remaining overworked hacks on our local papers might like to consider her words as they cut and paste biased press releases from interested parties and cobbled together nonsense gleaned from meaningless Freedom of Information requests.

TheYamYam also offers the equivalent of a letters page where local nutters, including the plastic hippo, are indulged in their misguided opinion that anyone is remotely interested in their deranged babble. Their comments, like letters to newspapers, do not reflect the editorial policy of the website. If Mr Woodward and Mr Bernstein were to investigate and comment on Twittering dogs, flash floods at the Manor hospital, an idiot drug dealer in Caldmore and the dire need for Walsall to smash Hartlepool, then they might get lucky and be published on TheYamYam.

It could be bigger than Watergate.

September 22, 2010

Mists and mellow fruitfulness

Filed under: Environment,Literature,Politics — theplastichippo @ 11:31 pm

Autumn Landscape at Dusk - Vincent Van Gogh

The Autumnal Equinox in the northern hemisphere takes place at 03-09 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) during the wee, small hours of Thursday 23 September 2010. On this day, along with the Vernal Equinox in March, the sun spends a practically equal period of time above and below the horizon and night and day are balanced.

The Zoroastrian tradition of ancient Persia holds these days as being especially significant. On these days the perpetual conflict between the earth, in the form of a bear, and the sun, in the form of a lion, is for a brief time evenly matched. A little bit like a political coalition where one side has ascendancy for a time only for power and influence to swing the other way as events unfold. But, our ancient ancestors would be truly terrified at the prospect we face today. The bear looks likely to snuff out the lion.

In other traditions, now is the time to celebrate the harvest and give thanks for a summer of plenty, especially with such an auspicious full harvest moon. For others, though, today is the day for bringing the winter duvet down from the top of the wardrobe and less hardy souls, unable to wait until October, will turn their thoughts to firing up the central heating and wondering where they put the de-icer. They might grumble that with only Samhain and Yule to break the monotony of long, dark nights and short, cold days before the sun returns at Beltane, day is unlikely to follow night.

Keats understood autumn and his poem describing the season contains more about growth, maturation and death than any torn up party manifesto. Those of us who have made jam using apples from the garden, blackberries from Merrions Wood and indecent amounts of sugar will enjoy the taste of summer in the bleak mid winter. With apples in the cider press and the elderberries a week or two away from being fermented into wine, this summer will be more than just a memory of political vandalism and the double-talk of those in power.

We may, of course, raise objections and issue fruitless comments that will change nothing. Keats ended his magificent celebration of autumn with these lines:

“Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.”

Let us hope we all make it to Easter.

September 20, 2010

Preparing for oblivion

Filed under: Education,Politics — theplastichippo @ 11:10 pm

There are still some people who chuckle in disbelief when John Humphrys, Martha Kearney or Eddie Mair begin a news item with the words “Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg”. Watching Clegg address his party for the first time since becoming DPM, giggles gave way to jaw-dropped incredulity as the wheels of the coalition bandwagon start to come off.

For decades, one of the most amusing political side-shows of the year was the annual Liberal Party Conference. The in-consequence and irrelevance of these gatherings was encapsulated in the national belly laugh produced when David Steel told the faithful in 1981 to “go back to your constituencies and prepare for government”. Now re-styled, re-branded and re-hashed as Liberal Democrats and actually in government, the party conference remains as insignificant and as meaningless as it was in the days when Liberal MPs could comfortably hold a meeting in the back of a Ford Zephyr. Then, grass roots members could pass all kinds of resolutions safe in the knowledge that actual power would never be theirs. Now, however, resolutions will be passed safe in the knowledge that the Liberal Democratic leadership will, in the name of pragmatism, ignore them.

Delegates in Liverpool rejected the coalition nonsense policy on “free schools” and academies. But even before the issue was debated, grandees with a comfortable seat in cabinet dismissed such belligerent militancy and, incidentally a manifesto pledge, as a distraction to the holy task of turning yellow blue. Set against the background of Libdem councillors defecting to Labour and against a lovely blue stage set, Clegg delivered a defensive speech in the manner of a married man caught philandering with a lady of the night. “Stick with us”, he pleaded, “we will change Britain for good”. Having reassured his family, he returns to his courtesan with a my-wife-doesn`t-understand-me look in his eye.

About half of his relatively short speech was given over to stating and re-stating to woeful economic situation inherited from the previous government and how the dreadful deficit has to be reduced as soon as possible. This is in marked contrast to what he and his party said in the run up to the election when he said in a televised debate that immediate cuts in public services would be disastrous and lead to double dip recession. He placed great emphasis on the irresponsibility of public borrowing and, rather disturbingly, compared our global economy to a household budget. He asked delegates if they expected their children to pay their credit card bills. Perhaps the Clegg and Cameron household budgets include nuclear deterrents, wars, universal healthcare and education but most of us are struggling with the mortgage, utility bills, food and clothing.

Having denounced reckless borrowing, our DPM was able to announce a new coalition policy that allows local councils to borrow money for new development in the hope of having the money paid back at some unspecified and uncertain time in the future. He also announced that the capping of local council tax by central government would cease. This was greeted with applause in the hall. After claiming that borrowing has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy, Clegg is devolving borrowing power to the likes of Walsall council who are about as financially adept as a drunken lottery winner or premier league footballer in a whore house.

The defecting Libdem councillors in Liverpool, Devon, Barnsley and Clegg`s own Sheffield constituency have spoken of their disillusion that party policy has been dumped in favour of the opportunity to order baked potato or chips at cabinet lunches. They had expressed the hope that Libdems in cabinet would be the conscience of the coalition but have now found that people who voted Libdem, actually voted Tory. In Wolverhampton, the Conservative Libdem coalition fell apart after Libdem Claire Darke defected to Labour. The coalition is back in place though after a mysterious Libdem party “facilitator” caught the first train from Euston to tell local councillors what to think.

Even formally loyal Conservative councillors are unhappy with the chaos masquerading as a moral crusade. The Tory deputy leader of Sandwell council, Elaine Costigan defected to Labour in protest against the deranged decision by Pipsqueak Gove to axe the Building Schools for the Future programme. Incidentally, Clegg said in his speech that capital programmes had not been cut but made no mention of BSF.

Should this unelected coalition government, brought to power without any mandate and with an agreement written by the permanent cabinet secretary rather than the party leaders. manage to survive its term until the next scheduled election, then the future for Clegg and the Liberal Democrats is at best uncertain. Even a watered down referendum on Alternative Voting is unlikely to save the DPM from a hastily arranged memoir and lecture tour and a cobbled together election campaign to enter the House of Lords.

Following his speech, the Liberal Democrats are running at 11% in an opinion poll, the equivalent of political annihilation. The unspoken message in the Clegg speech to party activists is; “go back to your constituencies and prepare for oblivion” and, for good measure, prepare for a good kicking in the local elections next May.

***Update***

Within hours of his speech denouncing irresponsible public borrowing, the Office of National Statistics revealed that the government borrowed a record breaking £15.9billion in August. So rather than reducing debt, Nick and his chums are increasing the deficit even as they slash and burn their way through public services. He is correct is stating that he is about to change the country for good as, if they carry on like this, there may be no way back.

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