Posts Tagged ‘Closure’
The allotments looked very like a scene from the Blitz this morning. The gale that roared had done its worst, and the storage areas looked like one of those Woollies sites in the days after their still lamented closure. As we set to work I noticed that Harry appeared to be in a particularly venomous mood and, in an attempt to pour oil on troubled waters, made a fatuous comment about global warming. But our havoc had nothing to do with his mood, he was fuming about Afghanistan. His grandson is out there on his second tour of duty and the family lives in a constant state of tension. This week has brought several more announcements of fatalities and, not surprisingly, those waiting at home continue to ask themselves what the war is actually about, and why we continue to gamble young lives on what is clearly mission impossible. Harry told me that often, in the dead of night, he asks himself over and over how the mindless slaughter can be brought to an end.
Now he has the answer and he is enraged. Some of today’s papers have told us what the government has failed to reveal. Millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money is being spent on paying the most violent of the Taliban killers £100 per month to stop fighting. All they have to do is complete a questionnaire explaining their reasons for joining the insurgency. They are then granted amnesty, allowed to keep their weapons, and encouraged to return to their local communities.
Of those already pardoned in exchange for a promise that they will undoubtedly keep only for as long as the pay continues to arrive, are at least 100 of the bomb-layers of Helmand, where nearly 400 Britsh troops have been killed and more than 5000 seriously injured and permanently disabled. Maj Gen David Hook is in charge of the programme of reconciliation. He previously served in southern Afghanistan and admits that he saw many horrendous examples of Taliban brutality which, he said, he would “personally find it difficult to forgive”. He goes on to remark that the programme will be difficult “for many British families to accept”. Some understatement!
The general has gone on to say that even if the insurgents who murdered members of the Grenadier Guards battlegroup at a checkpoint in Nad e’Ali in November 2009 come forward they will not be prosecuted. The idea of forgiveness is important, insists the general, and the UK has given £6.5 million to deliver peace in this way. In his interview the general draws an analogy with Northern Ireland and the policy of forgiveness applied there. It is a strange comparison for in Ireland British troops were protecting British soil, although even there forgiveness looked suspiciously like betrayal of those murdered.
Amongst the ‘great successes’ of the scheme previously hidden from us is the arrival in the Afghan governmnet of Maulawi Noor ul Aziz who proudly estimates that he ordered or took part in hundreds of attacks on Afghan and Nato forces. As a senior Taliban leader in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand many of his targets were likely to have been British troops. Yet he too has been granted amnesty. In an interview he talks as one might of a computer war game. He and his men had sown a field in Nad-e Ali with improvised explosive devices, planning to ambush patrols. In fact a Chinook helicopter landed nearby and he and his band detonated their bombs. He recalls that; “All the bombs went off and some of the foreigners were blown to bits and some were wounded. We were very happy with the result”. He sounds just the sort of man we should be paying wages to whilst he rests from his campaign!
To add insult to the injury that this scheme will cause to many a family’s spirits, we learn from Hanif Atmar, a former interior minsiter, that so far many of those being “forgiven and paid” are not genuine insurgents, and the scheme is “failing to undermine the rebels in their southern heartlands”. So not only are we paying leading murderers, but we are also giving rewards to people who have no influence on Taliban activities.
The truth of the matter is that, like the Russians before us, we are indulging in a lethal fantasy. The idea that the Taliban is a seperate entity opposed by the rest of the population is unreal. In many areas it is the community. Hard though it may be we have to accept we were wrong to become engaged there. Nothing we do will reduce the security threat to our island, indeed it is doing the absolute opposite.
There seem to be no depths to which our politicians will sink in their futile efforts to prove “victory” in Afghanistan. They continue to regard our young men as pawns in a game. But this is no game, almost 6000 families have already been sacificed to a greater or lesser extent. Generations will grow up and live their lives without the fathers they loved.
When the defence of our country is at stake our servicemen know that it is their duty to stand and, if necessary, die. The situation in Afghanistan is not in that category. Our troops should not be there and every month adds more blood to the hands of those that keep them there. And now we are handing over fool’s gold to those who delight in their murder!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. Alan Shearer 2. Play it 3. Judy Garland 4. Girls Aloud 5. Bart Simpson 6. Jose Morinho ( about Spurs v Arsenal) 7. Sydney 8. Terry Wogan 9. Lady 10. Radio Channels
SOME MEMORABLE QUOTES!!!!!!!!!!!! “Games are the kast resort of those who do not know how to idle”……Robert Lynd “Serious sport is war minus the shooting”…….George Orwell “The English football team – brilliant on paper, shite on grass”…….Arthur Smith “Well, either side could win, or it could be a draw”……Ron Atkinson “The manager still has a fresh pair of legs up his sleeve”……John Greig “Steve McCahill has limped off with a badly cut forehead”……Tom Ferrie “The sending off? Well, Jason McAteer would annoy anyone”…….Dave Jones “You’d think that if any team could put up a decent wall it would be China”……Terry Venables “Skiing? I don’t participate in any sport that has ambulances at the bottom of the hill”…..Erma Bombeck “I went to a fight the other night and a ice-hockey match broke out”….Rodney Dangerfield “It has been announced that Northern Rock has been sold to Virgin Mary”……Peter Allen on Radio 5 Live “We have to reduce our expectations and we have the players to do it”…….Steve McClaren on Radio 5 Live
Since you are reading this the odds are that, like we old codgers on the allotments, you have not yet reached the age at which you require what is laughingly referred to as care. Our theory is that keeping poultry helps to ward off that dreaded time since we have no option, even on foul mornings such as this, to rise from our beds and to put in a hard working session. But the years tick by and time passes quickly and doubtless some of us will one day find ourselves unable to cope. The father of one of our members last month celebrated his 100th birthday but, after a fall, has had to lose his independence. He is blessed with caring children but, in this new age of logevity, even they are approaching eighty.
Some ten years ago I was part of a Health Authority team that inspected nursing and care homes. At that time the prospect of ‘going into care’ was not too daunting. Many of the homes we visited were state owned and manned by professional staff. There were then a large number of private homes and many of them were new and, in some cases, very comfortable. I remember visiting one such and being shown into the en-suite room of a resident. He had his own possessions around him, his hobbies, his privacy and a relaxed atmosphere. I could settle for this, was my verdict.
Today the situation is very different. We have truly returned to the age of Dickens, one in which the prospect of death is a welcome one. We have all seen recent exposes on TV, each portraying cruelty of an extreme kind. Perhaps we reassured ourselves with the thought that these were the rare exceptions and would soon be sorted out by social services and the police, in the unlikely event that they had enough staff to take action.
But these were not the exception, they are the rule. The last government presided over the closure of most state-owned establishments and declared that the flourishing private sector would provide. Unfortunately it also drastically reduced payment rates, and the many companies providing high standards of care either went out of business or cut their costs dramatically. Since most of every enterprise’s costs walk through the doors that meant reduced staffing and reduced pay. The result is that few of the carers have any qualifications, and all earn less than they could pocket by manning a supermarket check-out. And many have English as a second language.
I wouldn’t have ventured this Albert-like tale of doom had it not been for a report published yesterday by charities Age UK and The Health Foundation. I wouldn’t have done so because you might well have preferred not to believe it, we Brits have quite a track record in shutting our eyes to the horrors in our midst. But the report, which is based on in-depth interviews with relatives, describes a general situation in which elderly people have been left crying out in pain, with others given the wrong drugs, while families were not told about the health of their loved ones and actively discouraged fom visiting.
Seven out of ten care home residents are victims of drug errors, with elderly people being given the wrong medication, or not being monitored for side-effects. The report highlights concerns based on snap visits. “People were screaming out for their drugs, people with cancer, all sorts of painful stuff going on. Staff had no time to read crucial information about the medical and welfare needs of residents, with constant interruptions making mistakes more likely”. On one visit there was ” one young girl for 15 residents all in pain, they had had no breakfast”. On another “sleeping pills were given out during the day, leaving residents unsteady on their feet. Creams were shared leading to infections”. Yet another saw a previously independent lady of 94 deprived of her medical prescriptions which she brought with her…”her eye drops for glaucoma, and cream and splints for arthritis were locked away. She became withdrawn and depressed and was forced to take antidepressants which she repeatedly said she did not want or need”.
There is also a good deal about the breakdown of communications between care homes and hospitals. One family reported being shocked when their mother went into hospital where the nurses said that she seemed confused. The care home staff had failed to enter any record of her having dementia. In another case an elderly resident was transferred by ambulance in a serious condition. Instead of daily paracetamol she had been given a high-risk drug and three members of staff had made a similar mistake in the space of one week. Another ambulance case involved repeated doses of codeine despite warnings on her medical records that the drug made her very ill.
Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the report is that most relatives and residents were only prepared to be interviewed on condition of anonymity. Almost everyone said that there was a real risk of reprisals against anyone found to have complained. In view of the summary that is less than surprising. Neil Duncan-Jordan of the National Pensioners Convention remarked that when you have a system that has badly paid, poorly trained staff administering to the most vulnerable and dependent people in society, those are the ingedients for a system to fail. “The accounts”, he added, ” are gut wrenching, you would think that in the 21st century we would have moved far beyond this”.
But we haven’t, in fact we have regressed. The elderly of today are receiving treatment barely better that that of Dicken’s workhouses. Times may be hard financially but something has to be done. A Conservative government – I have given up on pretending that the Lib Dems have any influence – is hardly likely to switch from Blair’s beloved private sector. It must therefore increase the rewards and increase the standards.
Can’t afford it? Perhaps we should look again at crazy actions such as those in Libya where we have already blown away, literally, almost a billion pounds. Throw in the huge amounts being paid to the EU, and the equally huge amounts lost through tax avoidance by the rich and the corporates and you have enough to build a thousand top-class care homes.
And in any case there comes a time when humanity must take precdence over money, when care for the vulnerable deserves more of a prime minister’s time than his media buddies and his smooth PR. David Cameron likes to talk of love, it is time that he showed some!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ; 1. A bear 2. Graham Hill 3. The Booker Prize 4. Reet Petite 5. A fish 6. Cat Stevens 7. Spring 8. Roots Hall 9. Both beheaded 10. Rattlesnakes.
Some of our allotment folk support a local charity which is striving desperately to raise funds to prevent closure of a day centre as a result of cuts. They have worked and lobbied hard and have so far raised almost £10,000. Unfortunately this is on deposit with Barclays in their ‘More for More’ savings scheme which is now paying an interest of 0.50 per cent. They carry on with their fund-raising and dismiss complaints about the derisory interest by saying that we are all in this together and no one can afford to pay out handsome interest. In my view they are being too kind by half for Barclays have just announced the pay deals for their bigwigs, and I can think of no better description than that used yesterday by the Lib Dem spokesman on finance, Stephen Williams, MP. He said that the deals are simply ‘obscene’.
The announcement shows that five of the top Barclays managers shared a payout of £110 million which is only marginally less than the bank paid in corporation tax for 2009. Despite profits in the billions the Bank manages to avoid paying tax to the exchequer despite feeling able to pay out a total of £3.5 billion in bonuses. Which raises the question of why, since they consider the payments as obscene, the Lib Dems continue to play along with the Osborne refusal to force the issue of tax.
The problem with numbers is that too many of them numb the senses, and most of us tend to sigh and agree that a tough approach could lead to the expensive whizz-kids heading for other lands. Cynics like me say let them go, they caused this mess and no one could possibly be worth the amounts they are pocketing. Yesterday the stars in question had to be escorted from Barclays’ Canary Wharf headquarters when protestors chanted in the lobby. they were mainly concerned with the failure of the this and other banks to pay full tax but were also quick to point the finger at greedy people who take home far more in a year than the vast majority earn in a lifetime.
We all knew that chief executive Bob Diamond pocketed £27 million for 2010 and we all knew that he has called for an end to ‘bank bashing’. We didn’t know that he is far from alone. His two highest paid managers, Jerry del Missier and Rich Ricci, were handed more than £40 million each after share deals came to fruition. Along with three others, they have also been awarded long-term bonus plans worth a combined £10 million – which could be worth three times that amount in three years time.
I won’t go on with the list, suffice to say the earnings by senior bankers are now in the realms of fantasy. What do these people actually do? They move money around, they speculate. But they are the only winners, by the end of last year £100 invested in Barclays shares four years earlier would have generated a loss of £47, while the FTSE index of major shares gained £26 during the same period. To quote another leading Lib Dem , Lord Oakeshott, “the capitalist model has broken down when shareholders get so little whilst managers grab so much”. Lord Oakeshott resigned as the party’s spokesman over Project Merlin, the final proof for him that Conservative ministers are in league with the Bankers.
Of course writing this will achieve nothing other than to release my rage. Even those on high who protest are dismissed by Diamond who told the select committee that the “era of remorse and regret with banking is over”. There has always been a tendency on the part of the have-nots to envy those who have. But suddenly the situation has gone far beyond that.
The very least that Barclays and the like should feel morally bound to do is to pay full corporation tax. Th every least the incredibly rich managers should do is to make donations to charities like those supported by my pals.
But neither will happen and it is no surprise that bankers are now top of many a hate list!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ” She got her looks from her father. He’s a plastic surgeon”….Groucho Marx “ The only parts left of my original body are my elbows”…..Phyllis Diller “When they tell me to get my nose fixed I say no. I can smell perfectly well with the one I’ve got”….Robert Mitchum “My boob job is the gift that keeps on giving. My ex bought them and my new guy enjoys them”…..Elaine Pelino “Gran used to take mum to the circus to see the fat lady and the tattooed man. Now they’re everywhere”….Joan Collins “Men who have a pierced ear are better pre[pared for marriage. The’ve experienced pain and bought jewellery”…..Rita Rudner
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1 Reginald Perrin 2. A corner shop
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which disease killed many typically British trees in the early 70s? 2. The lost city of Oplontis was discovered in 1973, where?
The sky is overcast but I am upbeat. For the first morning since Ethelred fled I have escaped chicken duties. How? Everyone has their price and Albert and Vernon responded so well to a bribe that they could be contenders for FIFA. For the price of a couple of CDs – Lady Gaga and Susan Boyle respectively – they agreed to stand in for yours truly who had been rather late to bed as a result of attending the Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s annual vounteers Party.
The Rosemere cancer service covers a large slice of Lancashire and Cumbria and is at the forefront of the fight against man’s greatest scourge. Last night voluntary groups handed over almost £75,000, the result of countless fund-raising events. One group known as the Adlington Witches has been a source of great inspiration to me. Their amazing efforts have resulted in vast amounts being handed over. Two of their members have experienced cancer but that has made them even more determined to step up the fight.
We all know from our homes that technology is becoming more sophisticated by the year. And so it is with clinical equipment. The NHS can never afford to immediately purchase every new piece of kit the moment it appears and that is where the Foundation, a registered charity, comes in. Its aim is to keep the Rosemere service at the forefront of cancer treatment. If you live in Lancashire or Cumbria and have occasion to be referred to Rosemere you can be sure not only of a relaxed, friendly and caring place but one using the very latest weapons against cancer.
Hundreds packed the Preston Grasshoppers impressive premises last night and the atmosphere was a unique one. Yes a good time was had by all but underlying it was a sense of unity, of committment to a single cause. During our passage through this life one in three of us can expect some experience of cancer. It was once the disease mentioned only in hushed tones. No longer! Across the country charities such as the Rosemere Cancer Foundation are taking the fight to the common enemy. And they are beginning to win!
The Rosemere Foundation is well known for its initiatives. The latest one involves a new approach to St Valentines Day. On February 14th a very special evening at Blackburn Cathedral will be the centerpiece of a campaign based on the belief that everyone, of every age, has a Valentine in their hearts. It will be in effect a campaign of love, yet another feature of a battle that will only end when cancer is finally defeated.
It was good to learn that many of those present read this site. It means that today I can thank them publicly for all that they do, and will do in the future. People such as The Adlington Witches remind us that there are millions of good people out there, millions of fearless fighters prepared to defy and overturn the odds.
STUDENT REVOLT IS ONLY JUST BEGINNING!
Michael Chessum is an organiser for the national camapign against tuition fees and has issued a warning that what he calls the “rebirth of national discontent’ is only just starting. He writes that direct action has empowered a generation of young people, many of whom voted Lib Dem because they believed that they offered electoral reform, an end to the “two-party suffocation” and , most important of all, because the Lib Dems promised – all of them – to vote against a rise in tuition fees. He adds that “new politics” now looks empty and the very fact that around half of the Lib Dem MPs ensured that the Bill was passed means that the student body is at war with Nick Clegg’s party.
Mr Chessum reports that right now 30 universities are occupied, and schools and FE students are coming out in support of each national demonstration planned. His response to Vince Cable’s belief that once the students understand the new proposals all will be well is that they have already read them and they don’t like them.The proposals, he argues, will put up barriers to access for poorer students who fear a lifetime of debt; they will hammer arts and humanities; and they will lead to the closure or merging of universities that are reliant on grants, most of which are disproportionately populated with students from less privileged backgrounds.
Above all, Mr Chessum argues, lies the fact that the reforms threaten to turn universities into businesses and students into compliant consumers. As the protests have shown, and will show, students are nothing of the sort!
The article by Mr Chessum has had wide circulation and ends with a rallying call. It will be the task of every student to oppose the wholesale marketisation of society and to be steadfast. History tells that repeal is a serious possibility. The poll tax was passed and defeated as was the French CPE (first employment contract). The fight now is to resist the idea that every aspect of human progress is linked to free markets and corporate interests. The case, he believes, is likely to spread to millions of ordinary working people “after Christmas”.
It is strong stuff and it is evident that the Lib Dem action has triggered something that none of us could have envisaged. Much will depend on public reaction and support. The irony is that if the mindless violence of the protests held so far is repeated the public will recoil. Violence may be the coalition’s only hope of the affair fizzling out!
And there are many signs of that happening right now. People across the country were outraged at the desecration of the cenotaph by Cambridge graduate Charlie Gilmore, someone clearly devoid of any self understanding. This lout clearly has no regard for the sacrifices made by millions of young men and women, many of whom were not as privileged as him. Had those who gave their lives to fighting Hitler failed this country, today would not be one in which people like Mr Gilmore were tolerated!
Sadly punishment is now a dirty word in Kenneth Clarke’s system of justice. Mr Gilmore will probably be required to write out 100 lines!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1 First women army generals 2. Rhodesia
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which two clubs took part in the longest ever FACup tie? 2. Who was prime minister of Israel in 1970?