- Going bust for an education
- We don't want your vote
- BNP's new Euro-bigots
- 'Left-wing' xenophobia
- Bridges to nowhere
Going bust for an education
A record number of people are expected to declare themselves bankrupt this summer. Many of them will be students trying to get rid of their credit card, student loan and other debts. According to the Department for Education and Skills, 899 students and graduates became insolvent last year, compared with 276 in 2002.
Some students figure that the penalities of becoming bankrupt at the age of 21 are less than having a life-long debt. Especially while the government is, on the face of it, trying to make it easier to go bust. The Enterprise Act has cut the time in which most people can be discharged from bankruptcy from three years to 12 months.
But students should beware. Like homeless people who are deemed by the powers that be to have made themselves 'intentionally homeless' (e.g. can no longer stand sleeping on a sofa in someone else's home), people who make themselves 'intentionally bankrupt' (e.g. have no money and can't face paying off huge debts) will be severely punished. Such people could spend up to 15 years as a bankrupt.
Which means no mortgages, problems getting a job or a bank account, and no control over your personal finances.
We don't want your vote
Being young has always meant a lack of control over your life. True, at 16 you can have sex, go to work and pay taxes, join a trade union and buy liqueur chocolates! But you can't get married without your parent's permission. (But if you do get married, you are deemed totally mature and will be allowed apply for your own passport!) The Electoral Commission has just scotched the possibility of young people gaining more rights by recommending the voting age is not reduced to 16. Why? Because no other country does it, most British people don't want it and - probably more crucially - reducing the age will, they think, increase the number of apathetic voters and thus make the voting figures look even worse. Good arguments. Either, in general, sixteen year olds are mature enough to make political choices, or they are not. Clearly they are.
BNP's new Euro-bigots
Some people who stand for election can never be tolerated. The BNP has just announced some of its slate for the South East region in the June European Elections on 10 June. They include three former members of the UK Independence Party, one of whom is also a former Tory. The UK Independence Party has had some trouble in the recent years - fights, splits that kind of thing. Seems they are now sloughing off into the BNP, which is to be expected. Well that party has always had its fair share of racist bigots. This is alarming: the BNP may well pick up some UKIP votes.
The BNP, true to its new mainstream style, claims to be anti-EU but pro-European. According to one of the south-east candidates, Julie Russell, the BNP is anti-EU, but pro-European, but "for us 'European' also means 'white'". Julie, knows all about this because she works for the BNP as an international liason officer - that means hobnobbing with Europe's neo-Nazi/far right.
Sometimes the left is itself guilty of xenophobia. Recently showing at the Birmingham Rep was 'Follow My Leader', a satirical revue of the events leading up to and after the Iraq war. The revue included a song, in which the audience were invited to participate, called 'Let's All Hate America'. Hate America? Hate the millions of Americans who opposed the Iraq war? I don't think so. We remember the 'Yanks go home' chants of some parts of the peace movement during protests against US air force bases during the 1980s. These anti-American attitudes were stupid then and they are still stupid. They come from a left that almost ceases to see the working class, American workers included, as the agency for change in the world.
Bridges to nowhere
Hating everything that George Bush stands for is an entirely different matter.
His government will soon be building two magnificent bridges in Alaska - one will be taller than the Brooklyn Bridge, the other two miles long.
Outstanding engineering projects that improve the lives of millions? No. The bridges will link less than 100 people with other parts of Alaska. They will cost a total of $2.2 billion.
Why spend the money? Because Republican Don Young, Alaska's representative in Congress, also chairs the transportation and infrastructure committee. But, who knows, the willful building of seemingly pointless infrastructure might have something to do with Alaska's future, which if the Bush administration had its way will be drilled for oil until its eco-system collapses.