VAT

Osborne - bit creepy

In the UK’s so-called Emergency Budget Chancellor George Osborne announced a rise in VAT to take to 20%. Only a couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister said there were ‘no plans’ to raise VAT, which is slightly irritating when it was clear that there were flames coming from David Cameron’s pant region.

We know that politicians lie – Lies lies lies doesn’t deal with politicians because it’s too easy, but we can deal with the principle of Value Added Tax.

We do have a problem with this term. Where exactly is the ‘added value’ when you pay more for exactly the same thing?

It’s accepted that death and taxes are two of the certainties in life – you can’t get around either of them unless of course you are Dr Who.

So what of VAT?

Here’s a quick history lesson.

A German industrialist Dr Wilhelm von Siemens came up with this bright idea early in the 20th Century. The Krauts waited for a while – presumably concerned about the bad PR it might generate – then in 1954 Maurice Laure, Joint Director of the French Tax Authority, introduced it to the French. In France VAT accounts for 52% of state revenues.

Ted Heath’s Conservative government followed suit in 1973 but resisted the temptation to make it quite so onerous. In Britain VAT accounts for one third of  revenues and not all products are subject to VAT – training bras and Jaffa cakes are exempt. Seems that if you are growing breasts or have a penchant for unfulfilling fare that doesn’t do well when dipped in a cup of tea, then you are quids in.

The Jaffa Cake was a bone of contention when the previous Tory government was in power, however. The then Government argued that the Jaffa was not a cake, but  merely a biscuit, which is in fact subject to VAT. McVities went to court arguing that the Jaffa was a ‘miniature cake’ and won the case. The biscuit company proved that the Jaffa was a cake, arguing that when it goes off it goes hard, whereas a bona fide biccy goes soft when it’s best days are over. Then they made a 12-inch Jaffa to just to underscore the it’s-a-ruddy-cake-for-goodness’-sake point.

After that McVities got on with the very important task of measuring the exact amount of ‘Hob and ‘nob’ in a Hobnob.

Hang on, where am I?

VAT.

Right, so what’s the point of this? Well, whatever the product there is no ‘value’ added in this tax: the reality is you get less value for what you paid for with this infuriating add-on.

So let’s just call this Added Tax or AT. It doesn’t sound so good, but it is telling the truth.

More Jaffa Cake news next week.

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Embarrassing bodies

Dr Christian Jessen: 'Right, let's check your bits out.'

In the UK, there’s a show on Channel 4 called Embarrassing Bodies – a kind of one-stop shop for people with dodgy things that even the most straight-talking matron might baulk at.

Essentially, EB is just an excuse to check people’s bits out. Every week unfortunates arrive at the Embarrassing Bodies roadshow with skin problems, smelly armpits and wonky/saggy boobs. Usually the EB team saves the best ’til last, usually featuring the woman with the dangly ladybits or the bloke with a nasty smell coming from deep within his underpants. In this instant, when main man Dr Christian Jessen has had a bit of a shuftie down the offending area, you can see him leaning back from the fug. As the aroma pervades the nostrils of the TV GP it’s clear that outright politeness and professional dictat are the only things that stop him saying: ‘Mate, for the love of God, buy a pumice stone and clean your knob up.’

It’s not much fun if you have a weak constitution: indeed, in a bid to research this further we logged on to the EB website and it makes interesting, yet uncomfortable browsing. If you want you can have a look at the.. um, Penis Gallery, or if you are feeling particularly brave you can check out the Vulva Gallery.

Think I’ll pass.

But the show is happy to soldier on, focusing on all manner of ailments and in our view the ultimate ‘embarrassing’ body surely had to be the man who came in and boldly professed: ‘I have a large penis’.

This cannot be a problem. People have their bell-ends injected with cow fat to make them bigger so one would have thought that this character was doing nothing more than showing off.

Jessen should have cuffed his ‘patient’ around the head and sent him on his way, but with a straight face he asked him to drop his trousers so we could all have a quick gander at this bloke’s petrol pump. When the man did get his weapon out there was indeed, a sharp intake of breath from the usually unflappable doctor. Either he was genuinely shocked at the dimensions of his patient’s saveloy or he had experienced a pang of jealousy. Anyhow, it was there to be seen in all its glory and truth be told, this lad had a whopper down there. You could have built a housing estate on it.

Embarrassing Bodies is not there to help the British public, nor is it there as some sort of public health service. Like most modern TV, it’s a freak show reliant on voyeurism. It is there to amuse and it lets the rest of us know that, whatever bits we don’t like about our bodies, there are those with far worse… or in this bloke’s, case, even better.

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Clowns – scary?

A clown with a blue testicle is not threatening

Anyone who tells you they think clowns are scary is talking balls. They think they are being entertaining by saying this. Dinner party bores say: ‘I have two phobias – Yoplait and clowns.’ Then his, or her, audience is supposed to question said attention-seeking idiot over this seemingly weird, yet irrational couplet of fears.

First up, a clown isn’t scary. Let’s say a clown was a serial killer. Yep, that is absolutely scary, but a clown without psychotic tendencies is just a bloke in a stupid suit.

If you really do have a genuine fear of clowns it’s important that you understand that you are perfectly safe if confronted by one because the chances of escape are quite high. Simply run away – the oversized shoes will prevent any attempts at hostage-taking.

A clown, as modern-day culture has realised, isn’t funny. Honestly, how many times have you laughed out loud during a clown routine? The people who do are merely being polite. Falling over and custard pie throwing lost its lustre many moons ago.

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Health magazines: six pack in 6 weeks?

Freak

Guess what will be on the front of next month’s Men’s Health magazine. Oh go on, just in case you’re wrong.

Well there’ll be a picture of a man, stripped to the waste with abs that you can play a particularly tuneful version of Chopsticks on.

Get used to it. It’ll be like that until we start building a small village on Mars. The only variable will be the claimed number of weeks it will take you to achieve such physical perfection. If Men’s Health is feeling particularly confident about the capabilities of its readership, it’ll tell you can get a six-pack within a month.

To do this, you will have lift a dead cow above your head 30 times at 30-minute intervals, while consuming a diet of chicken, raw fish, a few eggs, salad (without dressing), tuna, four cans of mackerel fillets in olive oil and a pint of haddock urine.

If you are thinking of achieving the washboard stomach in six weeks they’ll let you off the haddock juice and instead of the dead cow you can lift a two-seat sofa while standing on one leg. Men’s Health might throw a few lunges into the routine just to make sure.

A washboard stomach is only achieved if you are 21, a fitness instructor or a political prisoner. A DVD promising ‘miraculous’ results after a 30-minute workout repeated five times a week will ensure that your space-hopper shape will, at least, remain in check, but little else.

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General studies

I'm studying everything... generally

If you have a degree in general studies you are one of two things: 1) air or 2) thick. General studies is not a subject, it’s an existence. Imagine telling a prospective employer: ‘I’ve studied everything… of a general nature.’

People who enrol in general studies degrees need to be warned that they will embark on a three-year course that qualifies them for absolutely nothing and that they will have to take another degree after that to dilute the absolute pointlessness of this quite ridiculous subject.

According to the website worldwidelearn.com a general studies degree is a good introduction into the business world. It’s descibed as a ‘generalist’s degree, which is patently ridiculous. Then it claims: ‘It’s appreciated by employers for positions in which specific skills are not required…’

According to Education-Portal.com you can go on an Associate of General Studies and in this you can learn about philosophy (thinking), music appreciation (listening to music), politics (reading The Times every now and then), chemistry (drug taking), world geography (going on holiday), sociology (hanging out with mates), public speaking (talking), photography (only if you’ve got a cameraphone), women’s studies (going on the pull), creative writing (doing your CV), physics (spitting out of the car on the motorway), statistics (looking at your bank account), college algebra (going to the STD clinic).

Education-Portal.com says that by graduation day you’ll be computer literate (like everyone else leaving university), you’ll be able to write clearly (like everyone else), you’ll have some numerical skills (like everyone else), you’ll have a better understanding of world culture (like everyone else) and you have a more open-minded view of society (yep, you guessed it).

Education-Portal.com boasts that General Studies courses ‘…are a practical solution for students who want to explore college but aren’t ready to decide what to do with the rest of their lives’.

Presumably, once they’ve done that, they’ll decide to do something useful.

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Horse racing – entertainment

'Gee up Neddy... or it's the glue factory'

How disappointing it is when you flip through the channels on a dull Saturday afternoon to find horse racing is on… all the time. In the UK Channel 4 persists with this and it is a thoroughly depressing thing.

Horse racing has no place on television. It’s fine if you are in a betting shop but any TV channel that has dedicated half a day to this should consider reviving the testcard.

There are plenty of worthwhile arenas for horses: they are particularly good at eating straw and sugar cubes. They are also excellent at leaving piles of excrement on roads and they make mighty fine glue. A horse with an erection is untold fun. If you throw sticks at the offending appendage there’s a fair chance you’ll hit it. Hitting a horse’s boner is mostly definitely a ‘high five’ moment.

Horses are good at jumping over brightly coloured fences and fake walls, and having metal attached to their feet (how did horses cope before the iron age?)

Horses come in handy on the Queen’s birthday or for weddings when couples think it’s cool to go ‘retro’ and turn up in a carriage. A horse goes well with a cart, unless you decide to put the cart before it, but it makes up for that because it’s a nice expression. And Sunday lunch in France isn’t Sunday lunch unless there’s a bit of equine fare on there. Chewy.

A horse is useful on hunts but, remember, hunting’s bad and cruel. Horses make nice pets for rich people who don’t want to have a proper relationship with their children. Horses were also handy in the First World War and had a pivotal role in the Charge of the Light Brigade. They are also great for measuring power in cars and who can forget the cynicism – and the hilarity – of the naming policy behind the chosen mounts of 80s showjumper Harvey Smith? When was it ever a good idea to call a horse ‘Sanyo Music Centre’?

Horses should be used for all of the above, but getting a horse to run around a field encased by white iron railings carrying small, brightly dressed oompa loompas in the name of ‘entertainment’ is a very bad idea.

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