Wednesday, March 21, 2007



British news is definitely different. In tone, and in substance. As in the States, we have our share of body-bag news, but thankfully only a case here and there, usually involving a knife. Always tragic, a reminder of the country's underbelly, not unique to this country or particularly news. As the adage goes, dog bites man -- not news. But man bites dog, that's news. The British specialize in the man bites dog type of news. Take the story of the vegetable thief -- national news. A court bans (BTW the British do a lot of banning) a man from visiting vegetable allotments. He had been caught raiding vegetable allotments down in Surrey, and selling the vegetables privately. Speaking of allotments, another item on the evening news it how long you have to wait to get one. Up to ten years in a place like London. These plots of land within a city are set aside for folk to grow their vegetables. Supposedly protected from development, they are now in high demand. A typical gardener is a woman, mother of small children, sick and tired of the flat tasting vegetables at the supermarket.
BBC news specializes in interviews with crazy ministers who talk your ear off for twenty minutes. As with Alan Greenspan, at the end of the interview you cannot figure out what they said, but it sounds important enough to change your life. Each time an obscure minister announces he is running for deputy leader of the Labour Party, it makes the news. You get to see the guy's baby pictures and the like. Not that the finalist is going to be Prime Minister, except conceivably in ten years time.
The biggest debate -- the British love debates -- is about climate change. Each party portrays itself as greener than the other one. (A bit of a change from US politics here). The Conservatives are the party who will tax the airline companies to discourage folk from flying so much. Vote for me, and you'll take fewer vacations!! Tony Blair (the Labor party chief) says he'll do better, and give tax breaks for "green" homes that produce less CO2. And, he'll change our light bulbs for us. Again, more talking by the end of which it's unclear what he said. Liberal Democrats --- they're a funny bunch, neither Conservative nor Labour.
Oddly enough, I never hear folk object to taxes. Paying them is pleasurable, like having sex. If it'll get them elected, politicians oblige. There's a belief that if we pay more taxes, the government will dish out more candy. It's partly true in that we get more back for our taxes here -- healthcare such as it is, social services, free buses for folk over 60, more comfortable jails. Back in the States where higher taxes mean more money poured into Iraq, the man is the street is naturally a bit pissed off at them.
Somewhere in among the local fairies live the Scottish Nationalists (SNP), who want to make Scotland independent, and keep all Poles out of Scotland. Like the pre-industrial fairies, they lack math skills, and present a rosy vision of a wealthy oil-nation free from English slavemasters who have kept the Scots down for eight hundred years. Unfortunately they don't believe geologists who tell them that the North Sea oil is in rapid decline, soon to evaporate. Seriously, if the SNP gets the majority in the Scottish Parliament, their greatest accomplishment is likely to be to send a Scottish Olympic team to London.
Who should I vote for this May when I vote for the Scottish Parliament? Send me your ideas. I've never voted in my life, and want my vote to count.

tell us about your other options! That's very exciting that (finally!) you get to vote!! (for somebody who will legislate against vegetable patch robbers!)
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