Monday, 20 August 2012

More on Mitt Romney - you couldn't make it up

Mitt Romney Republcian Presidential Candidate made the following comments while refusing to release his tax returns:

"over the past 10 years I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that."  ... "I’ve paid at least 13 percent and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent.”

he prefaced these words with:

“I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces – 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of six Americans in poverty – the fascination with taxes I’ve paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face. But I did go back and look at my taxes and" 

One wonders if Mitt will ever see the irony of what he is saying.   Could there be a link between a huge gap between what the Government spends and what the Government gets in in taxes because people like Mitt pay hardly anything?  Could there be a link between 1 in 6 Americans being in Poverty - but many of them paying a  bigger percentage of their income in Tax than Mr Romney does ?   Clearly if all Amecians paid just 13% tax, then the system is unsustainable.  I am not anti-charity - but I am uneasy when someone can afford charity only because of their unethical behaviour.

The top rate of tax in the USA is 35% - wow Mitt - you pay just 13%.  It may be worth noting that Mormons usually pay 10% of their income to the Mormon Church.  So when Mitt talks about his big contributions to charity - he is including that contribution to the Mormon Church.  Personally, I don't get why Churches are considered charities. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Hereditary Police Commissioners ?

Hereditary Police Commissioners ?

While our MPs are busy ensuring that their wont be any elections to the House of Lords - they have at least given the consolation prize of elected Police and Crime Commissioners.

Anyway, there hasn't been any great outcry over the dropping of elections to the House of Lords - even Liberal Democrats who are usually reported as ultra-in favour of an elected Lords don't seem too miffed.  The wiser ones
probably realise they do better under the current crazy appointment system than they would do under elections.

So in November you will be able to vote for your 'local' Police and Crime Commissioner.   I bet you haven't been so excited since you had the chance to take part in the referendum on the Alternative Vote system.

Oddly enough many of the arguments against an elected House of Lords apply to elected Police Commissioners. Well, probably not oddly, as politicians, like the rest of us, tend to be a contradictory and flexible lots
There is no great public demand for Police Commissioners, the existing system though illogical seems to work sort of OK, no one seems sure what the purpose of elections is when the are contested in huge constituencies where few people know anything about the candidates and most crucially what powers they have (virtually none)

Elections for Police and Crime Commissioners are already descending into farce.  Third rate ex-MPs who in the old days would have gone to the Lords or become an Euro MP can now sew up a £80,000 a year job on the basis of
the votes of a few hundred party members.

We know that the winner in Surrey will be the Conservative nominee just as we know Liverpool will elect the Labour nominee. Turnout is predicted to be so low that even Postal Vote Fraud will be OK as long a sit ups the turnout.

In contrast defenders of the Lords tend to be enthusiastic about the institution -  plenty of people think the totally and later mainly Hereditary Lords should never have been got rid of. Rather then elections, they warm to the idea of "experts" being appointed to the Lords.

So why not consider Hereditary Police Commissioners - and if they didn't want to take up the post they could appoint an expert in their place until they wanted to take up the role.  It would be alot cheaper than holding elections with a derisory turnout  for a post with no real power.

I am joking. Really Police and Crime Commissioners are a bad idea and should be scrapped.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Bloody Foreigners - More Books

Bloody Foreigners by Robert Winder

This book examines immigration to Britain since Roman times, highlighting the often immense contribution immigrants have made to what are often thought of as quintessentially British or English things.

Roman, Saxon, Jute and Dane, French Huguenot, Indians, Jews, Irish, Jamaican, the list goes on.

I thought the book was quite balanced - neither a rose tinted spectacles view of immigration nor a sub-BNP misery and woe.  Lucidly written with a balance of detail and broad sweep that gives a sense of understanding of the complexities involved.

More than anything one might conclude that immigration is neither inherently good or bad, but that it has always happened.

The country into which we are born is not something we control, so it is strange that some people make such a fuss about it.

Some of the treatment given to immigrants - or often off spring of recent immigrants has been appalling but generally, better than in most countries.

I wonder it there will be a companion book - because Britain own record of emigration to the rest of the world far exceeds the amount of immigrants who have come to live here.

How cruel is that ?

You might not wished to be diagnosed with the fear of long words - hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia :-) 

Harold Steptoe - The life of Harry H Corbett

The actor Harry H Corbett is instantly recognisable to many people as Harold Steptoe - I imagine that more people will recognise Harold Steptoe than will be able to name the actor who played the role.

Strangely, there hasn't been a biography of Harry H Corbett till now.  The attitude of Harry and his wife and family was to let his work speak for itself  -
Sadly this biography was rather prompted by a couple of docu-dramas which were very misleading. When Steptoe met son on Channel 4 and The Curse of Steptoe on the BBC.
The care taken by BBC is easily illustrated. They had the actor playing Harry H Corbett wear brown contact lenses - to hide his blue eyes. Harry had blue eyes - as any colour photo or colour episode would have shown !

One of the authors of the docu-drama discovered the 'shocking' fact that when Corbett and Brambell toured Australia they travelled in separate cars and had separate dressing rooms. This is given as evidence that they hated each other, rather than the more obvious conclusion that Harry travelled with his family and that as stars they would expect their own dressing rooms.

Despite entirely justified complaints that the programme was unfair and inaccurate, it took the BBC years to concede the obvious and grudgingly accept they were wrong.  Does it matter if these things are wrong ?  Even today Harry's co-star Wilfrid Brambell name is often given as Wilfred Bramble !   If Harold wins the Battle of Hastings - is that artistic license ?
Is Mel Gibson's Film Braveheart a film or a history lesson?

So Harry's daughter, the actress and author Susannah Corbett has written the book (The Front legs of the cow, ISBN 978-0-7524-7682-7 the History Press) 

It is an excellent book, well written and researched and comprehensive. May favourite discovery was that the film The Bargee - was originally given an X certificate :-O  by after cuts was releases as a U.  That such drastic editing was made makes me yearn for a directors cut, to see the original concept of the film.
The appeal of Steptoe and Son was enormous,  viewing figures of 27 million ! That puts it  up there with the Olympics opening ceremony, Royal weddings, etc

Was Harry H Corbett  trapped by the curse of Steptoe ?

There is a debate about actors and actresses and the 'dangers' of type casting and being for every associated with one role.  

I think the dangers are overplayed  - most actors wish to earn a living- they have lifestyles and usually families to support. To be cast as a major part in a long running series is usually seen as a godsend.

The evidence of Harry being 'cursed' by Steptoe is rather thin.  As he himself pointed out - "I had appeared a hundred times on TV in the six years before Harold Steptoe came into my life. And I can't count the number of parts I have played in the theatre."

He appeared in at least 32 films, and actually the money he earned from Steptoe and Son allowed him to have more choice about what other acting he did.

Harry wasn't the stereotype clown  that wanted to play Shakespeare - he was an actor, not a comic and he did play Shakespeare.  

I fear the reality is that it is the public as much as casting directors who type-cast actors.  In the USA, the film system was basically run on actors playing to type.  

Few actors are lucky enough to make a massive impression in more than one TV role.  David Jason - as Derrick Trotter, Granville, Pa Larkin and Jack Frost did it. 

Harry wasn't stopped from having a glittering film career by Steptoe but by the state of the British Film  Industry in the 1960's and especially 1970's.

However brilliant Harry was on stage - and everyone agrees he was brilliant - a few hundred or several thousand people could see each performance - minuscule compared to the number who saw him on TV.

I think the worse things about the 'curse of Steptoe' theory is that it rather belittles the towering achievement that Steptoe was.    For some people who work in Theatre or on Film, TV, especially in the 1960s and 1970s was seen as inferior. To me - it is neither better or worse, just different.   Steptoe was hugely influential on almost all the comedy and many drama shows that followed.  It is a fantastic legacy that can still be enjoyed today.