Category: Number Crunching

My Advice? Always Pick The Easy Targets

I was interested to see that MP Keith Vaz criticised the recent video game release Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – specifically one bit of it in which undercover soldiers pose as terrorists and are asked to help shoot civilians. He was, apparently, “absolutely shocked” by the violence.

He must, I suppose, be absolutely horrified every time he turns on the TV news or reads a paper, what with their constant reports on the war in Iraq – a war which he voted in favour of. Funny, you would have thought that he’d be against conflicts in which civilians might die, given he’s so worried about their welfare.

I’m also a little bit unsure how he got to play the game in question ahead of its release date (he was appalled about it prior to its release on 10 November), but then again, since Keith’s expense claims from 2004-2007 include £480 on 22 cushions, £2,614 for a pair of leather armchairs and an accompanying foot stool, £1,000 on a dining table and leather chairs, I suppose it’s not too much of a stretch to conclude he’s also got a time machine and games console as well. Maybe the expense claims for those items are still in the system.

After all, there’s no other way he could have come to an informed conclusion on the issue.

And I Won’t Be Surprised If The ‘Pretzel Fainting Incident’ Is Revealed, In His Memoirs, To Be Something Rather Different

It’s an embarrassing thing when a band or music artiste you like puts out a not-so-good album, especially if you’ve previously been vocal in praising them. And in much the same way, it’s awkward for people who’ve made allegiances to political parties or even particular politicians, only for them to do something boneheaded or prove themselves unworthy of that support.

That said, I think that the annals of history are unlikely to view George W. Bush as a very good president at all. In fact, all things considered, I think it’s probably very likely that he’ll be viewed as the worst president that the USA has ever had. And, to my mind, rightly so.

Putting aside the issue of the non-finding of bombs or similar in Iraq – let’s leave that as the GOP elephant in the room, as it were – and the fact that he permitted torture and detention without charge (both in contravention of the UN Declaration on Human Rights) on his watch, let’s look at the record from the only perspective which seems to matter to many people – that is, the economic angle.

When Bush entered office, the federal budget surplus was $127bn. Last year, the federal budget deficitreached $455bn, and is expected to top $1trillion this year. That’s not good, is it? Obviously, a lot of this has been caused by expenditure on … er, let’s say international diplomacy, but even more of it is the result of the current economic situation, much of which appears to have been caused by banks. Now, one might argue that this should be blamed by the banks, but if you’re in charge of a country, you have the power to regulate banks; if you don’t do so and it all goes round the U-bend, it’s about as surprising as … um, well, the last time this happened as a result of unregulated lending institutions lending too much money on bad mortgages. Those who don’t learn from history are indeed condemned to repeat it.

Anyway, it’s all too easy to kind of write off Bush as a joke president, and the last eight years as some kind of comedic aberration, which would be fine if it many of the consequences of the last two presidential terms weren’t so un-funny. Here, though, is my favourite Bush-era joke, courtesy of Alan Moore:
Q: What do you call an eight-year-old Iraqi kid with no arms, surviving family members, or unblackened skin below his waist?
A: I don’t know. I was shouting at the TV and I didn’ t catch his name.
Ha ha ! It’s hysterically funny, isn’t it? Now watch this drive.

So, I can’t say I’ll be sorry to see the man go, not at all – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I think Obama will be the cure to all ills, so please don’t go thinking that I hold any brief for the Democrats either. Though the fact Obama can string a sentence together suggests he may be nearer to the sort of candidate for the role that an electorate might hope for. And that, in essence is much of the reason why I’ll be pleased when Bush is out – there seems to be very little in his record which suggests that he’s fit to hold high office, and I think it’s a hard-fought argument to suggest that he’s the best man for the job, or the best representative of the USA. He’s supposedly quite charming in person, and great at the people-stuff, but that’s probably more appropriate for the mayor of a small town, or maybe the captain of a bowling league, if you want to play it safe.

None of this, I hasten to point out, should be construed as an attack on Americans per se – most USA-born folks I’ve ever met have been perfectly decent people, and their motivation and drive to better themselves (in whatever way they define that) is probably a lot stronger than that of the UK; M’colleague once pointed out the difference between the UK and the USA thus: “In the UK, if people see a Ferrari drive by, they’ll sneer at the rich swine. In the USA, people see a Ferrari drive by and decide they’ll work hard and buy one with the money they’ve earned”. A simplification, yes, but it’s certainly a difference that I’ve seen for myself, and it’s an admirable one. My point is, the american people deserve a better figurehead than they’ve recently had. Whilst I had serious reservations about John McCain’s running mate, the man himself seemed more plausible than Bush (when he spoke about war, he actually knew what he was talking about) – then again, even though he wasn’t elected President, he seems to be otherwise employed, playing Colonel Tigh in Battlestar Galactica.

Lots of words here on this subject, but for those of you who prefer political issues in numerical form, I’d urge you to have a look at the summary of the Bush era created by the US-based Magazine Harpers, which can be seen here. I would politely draw your attention to the amount of time he spent on, or en route to, holiday.

Speaking of things on the newsstands, the picture accompanying this post is the ‘variant cover’ of the current issue of Amazing Spider-Man, featuring President-as-of-tomorrow Obama. There’s been quite a bit of news coverage of this, for some reason, and when I went to my comic shop of choice the other day, I asked if they’d had much call for it. The chap behind the counter said yes, they had, but as it was a limited edition item, they’d run out almost immediately. “Quite a few people seemed to be buying it as a historic thing,” he said, “to note the event”. We agreed this was odd, as people could buy something a bit more immediately relevant, such as the newspaper that comes out that day. Or that week’s Time magazine. Though probably not, I’d like to think, the plate.

Numbers Which May Or May Not Be Relevant To The Current Fuss About Brand And Ross’s Phone Messages To Andrew Sachs

(Details of the fuss here )

– The age of Mr Sachs (78)
– Number of complaints received before press coverage (2)
– Number of complaints received after the Daily Mail covered the story (4700)
– Number of days which it took for the Mail to cover the story (8)
– Number of semi-dressed pictures of Andrew Sachs’s granddaughter in the Daily Mail coverage of the story (5)
– The salaries of Ross and Brand (seven figures and six figures respectively)
– Number of answerphone messages left (4)
– Number of people involved who left Germany in 1938 because of Nazi persecution of Jews (1)
– Number of newspapers involved who supported the Blackshirts and Nazis between 1934 and 1939 (1)
– Number of comedians whose apologies referred to Daily Mail support for Nazis (1)
– Number of uses of phrase ‘full transcript’ to describe an edited version of the messages (1)
– Number of times I laughed whilst listening to the podcast, prior to press coverage (>1)
– Probability as a percentage that there are more than two possible opinions to hold on this matter (>50)

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