Philobiblon: Not the Budget edition

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Not the Budget edition

I listened to Gordon Brown's Budget speech yesterday, and David Cameron's response (whatever happened to the end of yahoo-boo politics? - he might have done himself good with his party members, but I doubt the country was impressed.) I was luxuriating in the thought that I wasn't that evening at a newspaper, and wouldn't be running around trying to match up case studies with their pictures, or trying to make sense of two sets of contradictory figures on tax on some form of investment trust I'd never heard of. Budget day is usually the worst day on a newspaper, and somehow I doubt the vast bulk of readers appreciate their 24-page lift-outs with lots of stuff that will probably have been proved wrong within a week, when everyone has read the fine print.

But I will comment on one, much-telegraphed, figure - the miserable, almost useless, rise of £45 in road tax for the worst-polluting vehicles. That is for most of them less than the equivalent of a tank of fuel, as a deterrent roughly the equivalent to being whipped with a wet feather. If you multiplied that rise by 10 it might start to have an effect, and I'ld judge, would be broadly popular. Even other drivers don't enjoy being bullied by drivers of near-tanks like the enormous Range Rovers.
Elsewhere, I'm sure I glimpsed a flash of pink and a whiggly tail flying past my window: The Times has a post-particularly nasty murder comment piece that doesn't say "lock 'em up and throw away the key". Camilla Cavendish writes that jails need to be turned into proper schools, quoting some interesting if unsurprising stats:

More than half of offenders are at or below the expected reading level of an 11-year-old. Nearly half were excluded from school. More than half do not have the skills required for 96 per cent of jobs, according to the Prison Reform Trust, and only one in five is able to complete a job application form.

Then, possibly the most important news of the day, although only the Independent has it on its front (web) page, there's been a breakthrough in research into rice blast fungus, which "destroys enough food to feed 60 million people".


Blogger clanger said...

"or even the genetic engineering of new rice varieties that are resistant to rice blast fungus"

So soon the developing world will obtain its most basic crop sourced from one large US corporate, in tandem with a proprietary, and complimentary fungicide. I wonder what zany brand-name they'll give it, and whether it'll have a logo, and a jingle.

Luckily genetically altered foods are entirely safe and never behave in ways that scientists don't expect, because we know everything there is to know about plant genetics, and Big Pharma only have our best interests, and combatting world hunger at heart. And they never cut corners in their research to save money, or fix research studies.

We've had an agrarian revolution (strip-farming the land, polluting the fields and waterways) an industrial revolution (polluting the air, land and sea). Think of the fun pollution we'll have with the genetically modified crop revolution.

Genetic engineering needs to happen in a sealed environment. Wasn't there once an international protocol on not releasing any genetically altered material into the wild? I guess they just forgot about that one. As yer do.

3/24/2006 07:57:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

To be fair that is not the _only_ usage being suggested for the new knowledge. Not that I disagree with you on GM: I can get into some really good arguments with former uni mates of mine (one of my deep, dark secrets is that my first degree is in agricultural science) - they tend to be frighteningly gung-ho on the subject.

3/24/2006 11:15:00 pm  

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