Posts Tagged ‘According To John’
Over the period of a year the British weather provides a zillion twists and turns. After an appalling early winter we then had the equivalent of a monsoon, now we face a drought and watering has become a major task on all of the allotments. Since the nation has too few reservoirs for the population stand by for a hosepipe ban! Our climate is an unending series of the unexpected and so it is with the international news. Yesterday it provided a shock to beat them all when we learned of the death of Osama bin Laden.
For years his name has dominated our nightmares, suddenly he is dead and few will mourn his passing. But the circumstances surrounding his end at the hands of American special forces are mysterious in the extreme. So many unanswered questions are emerging, but to we chicken-keepers the greatest is the one surrounding his location. Having always believed that he was hiding out in remote caves and living the spartan life of stone-age man, it has been hard to come to terms with the revelation that he was living in a luxurious million-dollar-plus compound less than a mile from Pakistan’s main military academy in Abbottabad. Surely the local Pakistan authorities must have known that he was there?
Picture the scene. The compound covered an acre and was eight times the size of any building nearby. It had walls up to 18 feet high and these were topped with barbed wire. According to John Brennan, the chief US counter-terrorism adviser, it was clearly different from any other house in the area and had the appearance of a “fortress”. Mr Brennan went on to claim that ” it is inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to stay there for such an extended perod of time”.
Abbottabad is a military cantonment and the military is omnipresent. It has been described by reporters as the cleanest and most controlled town in Pakistan, one that is effectively overshadowed by the Pakistan military academy. It is impossible to believe other than that at least sections of the military had checked out a compound that stood out like a sore-thumb.
And it is the answer to all this that will show whether there is truly cause for rejoicing at what has happened. If, as seems inevitable, the Pakistan authorities were aware of bin Laden’s presence there are two possible explanations. The first is that in extending hospitality the Pakistan miltary or government were setting a trap in conjunction with the Americans. The second possibility is the extremely worrying one. Were sections of the military working in co-operation with the world’s most wanted terrorist. If this was the case it suggests that a nuclear-armed country is dangerously unstable.
Hopefully greater minds than ours are working this out. Right now the omens are not good for it seems reasonable to assume that if bin Laden’s presence was the result of co-operation the American’s would have warned Pakistan of their mission. They very fact that they didn’t suggests that there is significant mistrust.
Only time will tell. Presumably the Americans will deal quickly with claims that the man they caught and executed was not bin Laden. But it is less likely that we will get to know the truth about Pakistan’s role in all this. On this very point may hang world peace.
Meantime David Cameron is clearly right to warn that there are elements in this country that will seek revenge. Hopefully he has realised that this is therefore not a good time to proceed with massive police cuts!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; HAIR: “When red-haired people are above a certain social grade, their hair is auburn”….Mark Twain “The most delightful thing of being bald – one can HEAR snowflakes”…..R G Daniels “John McEnroe has hair like badly turned broccoli”…..Clive James “ I’ve got a hair in my mouth. That takes me back!”…..Lily Savage “The French invented the only cure for dandruff. It is called the guillotine”……P G Woodhouse “How would you like your hair cut? In silence”……Archelaus “My barber is an authority on everything except how to cut hair properly”…..William H Roylance “I refuse to think of them as chin hairs. I think of them as stray eyebrows”…..Janette Barger “My pubic hair is all over the place, like some bloody rockery plant”…..Victoria Wood “She was a redhead. No hair, just a red head”…..Les Dawson
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Albert Finney 2. Bishop Abel Muzorewa
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Of which country did Emilio Colombo become prime minister in the seventies. 2. In which film did Richard Dreyfuss play a ‘typical’ US teenager?
A flurry of snow triggered mass panic this morning. The fact that the December freeze was the worst for a century has not dispelled the paranoia and the chicken and ferret keepers alike see convinced that we will get another dose before the daffodils break surface. And you know what they say about being paranoid, it doesn’t follow that there isn’t something awful awaiting you. But for now a calm order has been restored and we were able to moan about something other than the Council’s invisible gritters. And what more topical subject could there be than VAT?
A couple of the gang once earned their crusts in accountancy and they are amazed that Osborne’s defence of the VAT hike has gone unchallenged. His case is that cash must be found to slash the deficit and no one is likely to dispute that. It is his argument that the only alternatives were National Insurance contributions or income tax rises. Rubbish is the view of my numerate pals. They contend that the chancellor is pandering to the powerful and by so doing has scored an own-goal. The VAT rise is unpopular and it will damage any green shoots of economic recovery. He is said to be cutting 500,000 jobs in the public sector, the VAT rise will make replacement posts in the private sector far less likely.
According to John and Alec the alternative was clearly to tackle the powerful, all the signs point to the coalition being scared of the big-spending lobbyists and particularly those in the financial sector. A couple of threatening speeches from Osborne and Cable were met with a barrage of threats about financiers heading for other countries and, hey presto, all is forgiven. The bonus tax levied by Alastair Darling was described at the time by most experts as too soft but compared with what is happening now Darling was the equivalent of Attilla the Hun.
Yesterday was a generally bad day for Mr Osborne. He returned from his widely criticised luxury Swiss ski break, which suggested limited self understanding, to find most of the national papers carrying adverts which portrayed him as ‘the Artful Dodger’, a campaign launched not by the Labour party but by the ’38 Degrees’ group which is non-political, already boasts 250,000 members, and alleges that the Chancellor’s family avoided £1.6 m.in tax Then he got himself into an awful knot in trying to explain why he believes that VAT is ‘progressive’ yet David Cameron sees it as ‘very regressive’.
Regressive indeed and the money that ministers are asking the public to raise could be raised in five minutes by calling the bluff of the richest section of the business community. So long as they shy away from this confrontation, and instead hammer the poorer sections of society, there will be widespread dissatisfaction. Few of us have the expertise of people like John and Alec but we know enough to realise that what is happening with banks is equivalent to pardoning the Great Train Robbers, letting them keep their loot, and applying a levy on everyone else to make up for the cash stolen.
The bankers have walked away from the debacle they caused scot free, with almost a trillion pounds of public money in their pockets. There was not so much as a compulsory lending ratio on their books. And the bankers rejoice. The big four are soon to reveal that some 200 in each of them earned over a million pounds last year. They have also rewarded themselves with personal bonuses of £7 billion over Christmas. That alone represented two fingers to the public and three times the money to be raise by the VAT rise.
There is no VAT or other transaction tax on banks. Money that properly belonged to share-holders and, in many cases, taxpayers , simply walked off the premises. It is as if a state-subsidised car manufacturer decided to allow its employees to take home half a dozen cars each Christmas!
Many of the cuts being applied by this government are justified for the waste of the previous regime was horrifying. Need an example? The multi-billion pounds NHS IT system that never worked will do to be going on with. But Osborne has fallen at an important fence. He needed to win over the public, to prove that we are truly all in this together. Visit any of the central London bars where the financial people gather and you will hear the popping of champagne corks.
They simply cannot believe that they have got away with it. And neither can the rest of us!
BUT IS AN AUSSIE THRASHING A GOOD THING?
England ended the day in a strong position at the Sydney Test. It is hard to know who to praise most in what has to be the fittest and most talented England team for many a year. The only slightly sad thing is that Paul Collingwood is nearing the end of his illustrious Test career, but there are a number of execellent young replacements waiting in the wings.
Australia seem to lack any back-up and, with the exception of the one brilliant spell by Mitchell Johnson, have looked a poor outfit. And that isn’t what devotees of Test cricket wanted to see. Yes, we longed for a winning series but we now worry about the effect of huiliation on Australian support through the turnstyles over the next few years. I worked in Australia and was surpirised to learn that not everyone down under is a cricket fan. Many are but I often sensed that the attraction was the regualar display of Aussie invincibility.
If the team continues for several years to look born losers will the support hold up? One prays so for already attendances at Test cricket in most of the other cricketing nations is falling away sharply. In India the crowds now turn out mainly for one-day cricket, Pakistan has real problems, West Indies have lost most of their support and even South Africa is seeing a swing to one-day.
The lifeblood of Test cricket has always been the Ashes but it is hard to see other than one-sided games for some time to come.
But our side can only play what is fielded against them and they have been magnificent.
SOCCER QUOTE OF THE DAY; Alex Fergusson was asked if given a gun with one bullet would he use it on Arsene Wenger or Victoria Beckham. He replied ” Could I not have two bullets?”
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Airey Neave 2. 1971 (February)
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who won the Nobel prize for peace in 1979 for her work in Calcutta? 2. Which country won 17 of 29 track and field gold medals at the 1972 Olympics?