Archive for June, 2012
Uncle Vince Cable is something of a hero amongst the allotments gang. Slight overstatement perhaps, let us just say that he is the only current politician that we respect. He knows what he is talking about, is totally frank and is old enough to have experience. Wasted in the Lib Dem lot but he is clearly not driven by ambition.
Yesterday he, predictably, didn’t mince his words on the Barclays scandal. The financial sector is, he said, “a massive cesspit that needs cleaning up”. By way of support Mervyn King, Bank of England Governor, demanded a “real change in culture”, and Simon Walker, head of the Institute of Directors, called for a “total clear-out” of top bankers.
Who can disagree? It now appears that Barclays are not the only Bank involved in criminal behaviour, but that is irrelevant to the Bob Diamond situation. He must go if there is to be any hope of restoring customer trust.
But we codgers do disagree in that there is more than one cesspit, our whole top society now comprises a giant version. The Commons was mired by the expenses revelations and the scandals involving the Murdochs, Jeremy Hunt, Werrity and the rest. The Catholic Church was exposed for child abuse cover-ups and the Church of England ridiculed for indecision. The dark recesses of the cosy and corrupt relations between press, police and the Bullingdon set have shocked everyone. And now the banks, on whom we have to rely for probity, already reeling from their own monumental follies, are exposed as greedy, lying, arrogant incompetents with a sense of entitlement way in excess of anything the much attacked benefit claimants could ever dream of.
To a considerable extent the introduction of massive salaries and bonuses have influenced much of this. This development was triggered around twenty years ago by supposed successful reward-driven schemes in the United States. What they do today we do tomorrow, and it usually leads to disaster. In this instance no one realised that huge bonuses don’t cause people to work harder but to work differently. If someone offered you a million for selling in 12 months a pile of dodgy bonds, what would you do?
And right through our giant cesspit the belief that bonuses must be huge has flourished. Yesterday Vince Cable’s own department had to attempt to defend the decision to award Moya Greene, the head of state-owned Royal Mail, bonuses of £371,000 plus £38,000 in benefits and £200,000 pension supplement. Why? Because she improved Royal Mail’s financial performance by increasing the price of stamps from 46p to 60p for first class and 36p to 50p for second. The biggest imposition on the public for many years, the biggest bonus is a reward.
David Cameron and George Gideon Osborne have used the Barclays outrage to talk of the need for a complete change of culture. But, like Uncle Vince, they seem to believe that there is only one cesspit. It is the one they swim around in that needs a cultural change. And it can’t happen whilst they are in charge for to them big bucks are mere routine.
They simply cannot grasp that even the bonus they have just handed to the person they appointed to run our postal service is a figure that many take most of their lifetime earning.
Never mind, there is always the possibility of a Labour government. But wait a moment! Today’s headlines speak of Tony Blair making a comeback at Number 10. Since he was one of the diggers of the inital cesspit that is hardly a cheering thought!
THOUGHTS ON TRANSPORT; “A pedestrian is someone who thought he had put petrol in his tank”…..Sam Levinson “What do you think of Volkswagens? I’ve been inside bigger women”……Harry Kurnitz “My garage’s motto seems to be ‘if it ain’t broke we’ll break it”……Jerry Seinfeld “I’ve called my car Flattery because it gets me nowhere”……Henny Youngman “Wouldn’t it be nice if the wattage of a car stereo could not exceed the IQ of the driver?”…..Robert Maine “Sir, Saturday mornings, although recurring at regular and well-foreseen intervals, always seem to take this railway station by surprise”……W S Gilbert “Being on a cruise ship is like being in jail, with the added option of drowning”……Samuel Johnson “Doctors have a nickname for motor-cyclists; organ donors”……Cheryl Atkin
If our gang of old codgers is any guide there are a lot of angry people about right now. For some time Bankers have been near the bottom of the most trusted professions, now they have dropped below estate agents and politicians. Yesterday Bob Diamond said that “some people acted in a manner not consistent with our culture and values”. Wrong. What the whiz-kids did in regard to Libor was completely in line with the culture and values that people like him have created.
Visit any of the watering-holes in the City of London at about 4.30pm and you will be able to observe the gangs of braying, sharply dressed kids whose sense of entitlement is breathtaking. While people everywhere are losing their jobs because of the rash behaviour of the Banks, the Bolly keeps flowing for these arrogant yobs with posh voices. Contrition for all the damage they have done? Absolutely not. People like Diamond have driven them on, paid them obscenely high rewards and encouraged them to believe that their world is the equivalent to a casino.
Of course we now know that they have been busy not merely speculating but also behaving dishonestly. Public confidence in the banks is now zero and heads must roll. If Diamond knew about this he is a knave, if he didn’t he is an incompetent fool. So our dear leader was right to take to the air yesterday with his insistence that the man at the top must always accept responsibility for the misdeeds of his organisation. But David Cameron is guilty of hypocrisy.
Jeremy Hunt is still in his ministerial post despite the corrupt behaviour of his department in regard to the Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB. Instead of doing the honourable thing, he sacked his adviser, Adam Smith. The prime minister himself is still in his high office despite admissions – that had to be dragged from him under oath – that he was intimately involved with various senior News Corp executives at a time when neutrality should have been mandatory. And Andrew Lansley is still in his post despite deliberately misleading the public, and the medical professions, about his intentions to marketise the NHS by stealth.
Yesterday the British Medical Association passed a vote of no confidence in Lansley and demanded he resign. A few weeks ago the Royal College of Nursing did likewise. Lest you imagine that this is simply part of some academic debate about ingrowing toenails you should perhaps ask your doctor. Amongst other things he will tell you that the cancer network is being dismantled and funding for cancer treatments halved. The network has achieved wonders in recent years, one hospital has undertaken diagnostics, another surgery and so on. Individual centres of excellence have worked seamlessly to create a massive fightback against cancer. Is it any coincidence that the private sector is running a huge advertising campaign offering private treatment for cancer? Of course not.
Meantime George Osborne and Lansley are busy threatening hospitals with closure as a result of Private Finance Initiatives, PFIs, imposed on them by the previous government. PFIs were a disastrous idea aimed at keeping the cost of buildings off the national balance sheet. What they have actually done is to stuff the pockets of private ventures whose interest in patients is akin to Diamond’s interest in customers. And guess what? Osborne is still signing off PFIs, at the last count the coalition had imposed £17 billion’s worth.
On last night’s David Bumblebee’s Question Time, Tony ‘Baldrick’ Robinson lashed out at the astonishing decline in competence and integrity of Bankers, minsters..the whole establishment. It was refreshing. Bang on cue the loopy minister who tried to sell off the forests said that it was all the fault of Labour. At this, a lady in the audience asked “for how much longer are you going to blame them? You sought election on the basis of making improvements – when will you start?”
It is not over-dramatic to claim that all the people that once earned our trust - MPs, bank managers, solicitors, doctors – seem to have faded from our esteem. All we have left are posh rich boys who seem incapable of recognising that all that they say reeks of hypocrisy.
Pity that Screaming Lord Sutch is no longer with us!
SOME QUOTES TO THINK ABOUT; ”Television is for appearing on, not for looking at”…….Noel Coward “Never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television”….Gore Vidal “Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other”…….Ann Landers “On television you can say you’ve pricked your finger but not the other way around”……George Carlin “I don’t watch television. I think it destroys the art of talking abot oneself”……Stephen Fry “The first thing a comedian does on gettimg an unscheduled laugh is to verify the state of his buttons”……Alva Johnson “The worst words in the English language are ; ‘We have to talk’. Either that or ‘Whose bra is this?’……..Jerry Seinfield
Are we allotments codgers the only people still worrying about the effect of global warming? Probably not but world leaders certainly seem to have decided that wars and bailouts are infinitely more important. We expect little else from them, our biggest frustration is the view of so many that people who fret about bees and the like are anoraks. Our concern is that bees pollinate almost two-thirds of the things we eat. No bees, starvation all round.
We have gone to great lengths to plant flowers essential to the survival of bees and we take delight in spotting their arrival. Of course, as Chris Packham has shown in his excellent TV programmes, bees are part of an ecological chain so every aspect of wildlife needs help as we send in the bulldozers to destroy habitats. This is no longer a matter for nature lovers alone, our grandchildren need us to act now.
But such things seldom make the headlines. Whilst the natural earth is progressively hammered to death we read instead about politicians and city slickers. In fact, under the present government the two are really one. During the uproar about the mess that the banks have landed us in we were warned again and again that were we to upset the financial experts they would simply move elsewhere. The same stuff was wheeled out when details of the obscenely high bonuses and salaries of bankers and executives of FTSE top companies. Even the fact that they almost all practice tax-avoidance was justified. They will go elsewhere boomed George Osborne. To Greece perhaps?
The worst example of greed on a giant scale has featured in this blog on many occasions. Bob Diamond takes home salary and bonus payments that mere man simply cannot comprehend. He, we are supposed to believe, has made Barclays Bank a world leader. Hmm. Even if this were true it is hard to accept that his rewards, and those of his top executives, must equal the total rewards provided to thousands of banking staff.
Suddenly we learn something else. Not only has Diamond been pocketing money capable o making even a Premiership footballer go green with envy, he has been running an incompetent and dishonest organisation.
Barclays have been fined a record £290 million for distorting the cost of loans paid by millions of customers. It has been found guilty of repeatedly distorting basic financial data used to set interest rates on millions of loans and other transactions around the world.
The scandal relates to the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), the interest that banks pay on money they borrow from each other. The Libor rate is one of the basic pieces of information on which trillions of pounds of financial transactions are based. It helps determine the interest rate that is applied to loans, mortgages, credit cards and business loans. Regulators have concluded that between 2005 and 2009, Barclays traders and managers regularly made “false reports” in order to push up Libor and other interest rate measures higher or lower than its true rate.
E-mails show Barclays traders to staff, submitting Libor data, demanding manipulation of the figures. A typical one asked that “we go crazy with raising 3-month Libor”. The reply said “done, just for you big boy”. An external trader asked that the rate be lowered to save him “becoming a dead man”. Back came the reply “OK”, a response that drew an invitation to “come over and I’ll open a bottle of Bollinger”. And so it went on, deceit heaped on deceit and to hell with ethics and customers alike.
Diamond’s response to this latest outrage is to promise not to draw his bonus for this year. That still leaves him with a gigantic salary plus share options. The senior Lib Dem peer, Lord Oakeshott, probably spoke for most people when he remarked that if Diamond refuses to resign, the Board should have sufficient backbone to sack him. Oakeshott said that under Diamond Barclays had become “a casino that was rigging the wheels and loading the dice”.
This government has plunged new depths by allowing people such as Jeremy Hunt to dump blame on to junior staff, to fire them and to carry on in office Whatever happened to the principle that the person in charge is always responsible for what happens in his or her operation? If Diamond didn’t know, he was incompetent, if he did he was condoning criminality. Either way he must go.
The decent, hardworking banking staff at Barclays and the millions of its customers have been deceived, treated with contempt. The fact that other banks may have done the same is irrelevant.
All this came on the day that we were warned our contribution to the European Investment Bank is about to rise by another £1.3 billion as part of the EU efforts to save the Euro!
Stop the world, I want to get off!
SOME MEMORABLE QUOTES; “If you want to hurt your parents and are not brave enough to become a homosexual, go into the arts”….Kurt Vonnegut “People make a living donating to sperm banks. Last year I let £500 slip through my fingers”….Robert Schimmel “The easiest job I ever had was a store detective in a piano shop” ……Rainer Hersch “Awards are like haemorrhoids; sooner or later evry asshole gets one”….Fredderic Raphael “I never accepted a knighthood because just to be me is honour enough”….George Bernard Shaw “Computers are like humans, they do everything but think”…..John Von Neumann
There were blue patches of sky when we arrived at the allotments this morning. Psychologists have long studied the effect of various colours on the human spirit, all I know is that what my Gran used to describe as ‘enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers’ lifts our spirits enormously. Less so the hens, which staged a mass escape. But Albert’s giant-sized net quickly restored order. The people on ‘Springwatch’ may believe that urban foxes are a joy to behold, we know only too well what they can do to wandering chucks.
Some relief this morning at the news that George Osborne has changed his mind about the planned fuel duty rise. It may be churlish to wonder if ‘Gideon’ knows what he is doing, but it is only three days since both he and Justine ‘forest-seller’ Greening stressed the inevitability of the increase. The problem is of course that we have reached the point where we believe nothing said by politicians of any party. But there is one honourable exception.
At the last election five of us went along to an eve-of-poll rally. No, we were not enticed by the usual preaching to the converted nonsense, but by the guest speaker. It was Dennis Skinner, the man they call the Beast of Bolsover. Several of us do not share his political beliefs but to a man we admire his total honesty, his refusal to speak other than the truth. We were reminded of this by a rare interview with him by Decca Aitkenhead of the Independent. Rare because he regards interviews as “elitist crap”, self promotion.
The Beast is 80 now, and has been a member of parliament for longer than George Gideon Osborne has been alive. Having survived both cancer and heart bypass surgery, he remains to this day one of the most assiduous members of the House where his voting record is almost unrivalled. When the expenses scandal broke a glance at the records showed that not only had he not transgressed, he had made no claims whatsover. He refuses to discuss this, he has an almost obsessive aversion to anyone appearing to be ‘holier than thou’.
During Callaghan’s premiership he was invited to join the cabinet. He declined, telling ‘Sunny Jim” that he would be unable to adhere to collective responsibility given his insistence on always saying what he thought. From that day to this he is a daily fixture in the Commons, a scourge to ministers of all political persuasions.
When the Jeremy Hunt scandal broke he commented that; “When posh boys are in trouble, they sack the servants”. David Cameron rounded on him. Skinner was, the prime minister said, an aged dinosaur so old and irrelevant that he should collect his pension and crawl away. Many older people were deeply offended by this, but not the victim. In his interview Skinner says that Cameron should “keep on doing it..now and then you see the arrogance of the man, of the Bullingdon Club”.
The Beast was one of nine children to a miner and a washer woman. He grew up in a Derbyshire mining community. he ws brilliant at maths, able to recite times tables backwards at the age of six. He won a scholarship to a grammar school and proved to have the sort of memory that made exams easy, Latin especially so. But to his mother’s dismay, at 16 he left school and followed his father down the pit.
It was, he recalls, hard work, slavery. He still remembers running backwards through a tunnel, dragging a trolley, trying to carry an injured colleague to safety. He remembers the terror of plunging 800 metres down a mine shaft, the abrupt sudden halt, the shared fear. Most of all he remembers the shared comradeship, the code of behaviour that had every member of the shift prepared to put others first when danger struck.
Skinner became a local councillor, in 1970 he was elected to parliament. Constituents talk of him as their champion, a man prepared to take on anyone in the pursuit of justice. The only public recognition that ever came his way was an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party. It went into the bin. He is incorruptable, one of the few writers to even meet him by appointment tells of his refusal to allow his questionner to buy the coffee.
It goes without saying that he abhors the present posh boys and their disdain for working people. But that is not a political point for he equally condemned Blair’s dalliance with the powerful and rich. In fact he abhors anyone whose personal needs take priority over those who are struggling to cope. That takes in a lot of people and it would take many a coach to take his parliamentary enemies on a trip to Bolsover, in the unlikley event they would deign to go there.
But to us the man is a treasure, a rare creature in public life. You have no need to share his beliefs to admire his total honesty, what you see is what you get. Other names such as Foot, Benn, Thatcher, Grimond, Churchill come to mind. Like them or loathe them, you had to admire their total honesty, their refusal to bend either knee or truth.
This blog is not alone in constantly banging on about untrustworthy politicians. Today that is the view of most people. Oh for more Dennis Skinners. It is perhaps unsurprising that our dear leader hates him with an all-consuming passion. He sees him as common, uneducated, very old and an unpleasant hindrance.
What Skinner thinks of him is not hard to imagine!
SOME QUOTES FOR TODAY; “Everything takes longer than it should except sex”….Murphy’s Law “When you give a child a hammer everything becomes a nail” …..Leo Kaplan “More always means worse”….Kingsley Amis ”There are no exceptions to the rule that everyone likes to be the exception to the rule”…..William F Buckley “At bank, supermarket or post office, there is one universal law which we ignore at our peril; the shortest line moves the slowest”….Bill Vaughan “A motorist is a person who, after seeing a serious wreck, drives carefully for several blocks”……Jane Pickens ”They have eating dogs for the anorexic now”….Duke of Edinburgh to a blind woman with a guide dog “I couldn’t believe it when I read that 82% of men would rather sleep with a goat than me”……Sarah Ferguson “The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire”……Voltaire
Two sunny mornings on the trot. Blue skies make all the difference, suddenly life feels good. Even Albert was cheerful this morning, less so when someone mentioned that, no, this is not the start of summer, merely a brief interlude between monsoons. But for the moment our efforts at attracting bees are paying dividends. There were masses of them around the sunflowers and runner bean flowers. Incidentally there were also large numbers of sparrows, creatures we haven’t seen in this neck of the woods for yonks.
It is on such mornings that I reflect on the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even bother to turn up and discuss it at last week’s Earth summit in Rio. Those that did pledged only to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses. World governments, which have performed such miracles in developing stealth bombers and drone warfare, global markets and trillion-dollar bailouts are not even prepared to spend a tenth of the energy they devoted to these projects on defending our living planets. They have abandoned the fight to save so much of what we hold dear; the forests, the brooks, the wetlands, the coral reefs, the glaciers, the birdsong and the night chorus.
Just another example of the folly of so much being entrusted to politicians who think only as far as their next election. But at least we can all draw some comfort from doing our little bit to support wildlife. Every allotment, every garden can make a small contribution and, to quote the dreaded Tesco, every little helps.
What we cannot do anything about is the growing threat of terrorism by British, yes ‘British’, citizens. The chattering classes continue to bang on about innocent until proved guilty and human rights. Meantime, we had an update yesterday from Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5.
Giving the Lord Mayor’s annual Defence and Security lecture, he said that the so-called Arab Spring, so passionately supported by the British government, has opened up new bases for exporting jihad. In almost every uprising it is not democracy as we know it that has emerged but hardline Muslim fundamentalists, inimically hostile to the West.
The result is that the opportunities for British would-be jihadists to seek training in the art of terrorism have increased fourfold. Right now, Jonathan Evans revealed, several hundred Brits are making their way to Arab countries for training. All are known to the security boffins. Equally well known are, he said, individuals “working in back rooms in the UK on plans to mount credible terrorist attacks”.
So since we know the identity of most of these lunatics why leave them to their own devices? That is where Nick Clegg and all the bleeding hearts come into play. We cannot punish peole for intent they say, intent in itself is not a crime. So our whole legal structure is based on the principle that until they actually convert a bus load of innocents to body parts they cannot be apprehended. Result is that the security forces can only match cunning with cunning. Since 9/11 no fewer than 43 plots have been identified and thwarted. But the would-be perpetrators are still free to try again.
Sooner or later the security people will miss one. If we continue to handicap them with human-rights laws that is an inevitability. Surely the time has come to strengthen their arm. Why should it not be a criminal offence for any British citizen to attend al-Qa’ida training camps? Human rights? What about those of the proposed victims?
An emotional response in pubs and clubs across the country is that since these madmen love the Islamist states so much they should go to live there. But that is not an answer, these people are mainly British by birth. The multi-cultural society of which many are rightly proud has a flip side.. They cannot be deported, they belong here.
Yes there are sensible arguments about the need for better social conditions in our inner cities, where housing and employment failures provide breeding grounds for those who dream of Islamic domination. But we are where we are.
Perhaps our dear leader could take time off from talking about policies he may, or may not, introduce in four years time, to consider how thousands of deaths at the hands of the known enemies in our midst can be avoided.
On this issue at least he could rely on public support when Nick Clegg begins to rant about a threat to democracy. There is a greater threat!
THOUGHTS ON DATING; “When I first met Mr Right, I had no idea that his first name was ‘Always’ “……Rita Rudner “I’m a one-man woman. One man at a time”…..Mae West “I took up a collection or a man in our office. Sadly I didn’t get enough to buy one”…..Ruth Buzzi “I don’t know what went wrong between me and my girlfriend – or Tubby as I called her” …..Stewart France “To keep a man you must be a maid in the living-room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom. I hire the other two and take care of the bedroom myself”…..Jerry Hall “I think–therefore I’m single!”…..Liz Winston