Posts Tagged ‘Great Mysteries’
We allotment codgers love a mystery. Hardly a day passes but we mull one over, they can range from the latest Felix Francis whodunnit to what appear to be over-frequent visits by Jack Smith to Mrs Biggin’s semi. Today’s papers gifted us two mysteries to debate during our brew-break.
The first concerns The God particle, at least that is what the headline writers term it. There is near hysteria regarding the first glimpse caught by scientists of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle that is thought to underpin the subatomic workings of nature. We learn that physicists Fabiola Gianotti and Guido Tonelli were applauded and borne shoulder-high by hundreds of scientists yesterday as they revealed evidence for the particle found amid the debris of hundreds of trillions of proton collisions inside the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva.
Apparently the Higgs bocon is the signature particle of a theory of the origins of mass. Its name derives from Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University who first pointed out the need for the evidence that could be provided by the missing particle. It seems we are now one step nearer knowing where we came from, which will hopefully be more cheerful than where we are going to.
But after some debate we decided that this did not qualify for the Codger’s mystery of the day award on the grounds that we haven’t the faintest idea as to what they are talking about. To us the only mystery is why they bother and whether it justifies the fortune already spent on it. But who are we to suggest that cancer, climate change and such are of more immediate priority?
The second mystery of the day is the Big Society. We have never fathomed out what it is and were reassured today to read that the public administration select committee, having considered the matter at length, are no wiser than us. What is it, they ask. Nick Hurd, the minister for civil service appeared before the wise men and claimed that people fundamentally undertstand it. Having conducted research which showed that only one geezer in Southend had even the vaguest idea, the committee begged to differ. It demanded the appointment of a Big Society minister. That rather upset Mr Hurd, who supposedly already has that dubious honour.
Having read the report I am no clearer as to exactly what David Cameron’s dream is. But one finding by the committee did strike me as worthy of thought. Presumably a key part of this never-never land is volunteering, people coming forward to work for their community. The MPs pointed out that given that the government is financially screwing charities and self-help groups into the dirt whilst at the same time privatising local services previously under the aegis of local authorities, the likelihood of anyone volunteering is reduced. Who would be prepared to work for free for a private profit-making concern?
But is that really what this mysterious society is all about? In May, David Cameron relaunched the policy for the fourth time. If even the select committee is bemused perhaps he should have a go at launch five. Maybe it is all in some way connected with that elusive particle?
At least we have two good questions for next Friday’s quiz. We can be pretty sure that the only responses we will get will be ‘pass’.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE WITH THIS MIDWEEK ‘ON THE MAP’ QUIZ;
1. W hich South American city has a famous Copacabana beach? 2. The Bass Strait divides which two islands? 3. Which Middle East capital is known locally as El Qahira? 4. Where is the official country home of US Presidents? 5. Whose Vineyard is an island off Cape Cod? 6. Where was checkpoint Charlie? 7. Which US state has a ‘pan handle’ seperating the Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico? 8. In which two countries is the Dead Sea? 9. The site of ancient Babylon is now in which country? 10. On which river is the Aswam Dam?
OOOOOOOOOO ANSWERS TOMORROW OOOOOOOOOOO
Sunny Jim is one of the most popular members of our allotments gang. Born and bred in Barbados, Jim always sees the sunny side of life but one of the great mysteries of life is how he can bear our ghastly climate after, for so many years, coming to accept blue skies as a common occurance. This morning, cars on the nearby main road had their headlights on at 8.00am! Just the start for the latest saga of a Chancellor’s long list of platitudes and half-truths.
Interestingly one thing that none of them ever mention is the fact that 69% of the UK land is owned by 0.6% of the population. This small elite group swallows 43% of the EU common agricultural policy budget of £47 billion. Now that would clearly make a rather big impact if diverted into the national purse and it always puzzles me that both Labour and Conservative governments never consider it worthy of so much as a mention.
For most of us the common agricultural policy is yet another sign of EU madness, but we do tend to think approvingly of the amounts allocated to encourage farmers to maintain hedgerows and the like. But that is small beer and, almost unnoticed, huge amounts of taxpayer’s money are handed to a small clique of very wealthy landowners. The arrangement seems to be based on the peculiar assumption that the bigger the land mass owned by any individual the greater should be the financial no-strings-attached payout. Let me give you a few examples.
As chairman of Northern Rock, Matt Ridley oversaw the first run on a British bank since 1878, and helped precipitate the economic crisis that has impoverished so many. This champion of free market economics and his family received £205,000 from the taxpayer last year simply for owning their Blagdon Estate. But that is modest by comparison with Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian fixer at the heart of the Al-Yamamah scandal. He received around £1 billion from weapons manufacturer BAE and used the money to buy the Glympton estate in Oxfordshire. For this public service we now pay him £270,000 per annum.
But it is the aristocrats and utility companies that pocket the most of our largesse. The Duke of Devonshire gets £390,000, the Duke of Buccleuch £405,000, the Earl of Plymouth £560,000, the Earl of Moray £770,000, the Duke of Westminster £820,000.
The Vestey family pocket £1.2 million from their Thurlow estate. You’ll be pleased to learn that the previous owner – Edward Vestey who died in 2008 – managed his tax affairs so efficiently that in one year his businesses paid just £10. When challenged, he replied that; “We’re all tax dodgers, aren’t we?”. But it isn’t just the aristocrtas that pocket our cash. Yorkshire Water gets £290,000, Welsh Water £330,000, Severn Trent £650,00, United Utilities £1.3 million and Serco £2 million.
Funding all this costs each and every taxpayer £245 per year. And there are some juicy add-ons. Last night’s Panorama featured the scandal of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs), a licence to print money operated by people like Serco. When in opposition, Osborne and Cameron made great play of the fact that such schemes are aimed at deceiving the public. Private companies advance the cash to build hospitals and schools which they then own. The repayments are astronomic and invariably end with the institution in question up to its neck in debt and unable to provide adequate services. Since the election Osborne has continued to sanction dozens of such arrangements!
But back to the land payouts, which are the main treat for the already rich. I have listed some examples but others remain cloaked in secrecy For example, a company based in France called Syral UK Ltd receives £18.7 million fom the taxpayer. On its website it describes itself as a producer of industrial starch, alcohol and proteins. So far I can find no details of the land it owns to justify such a handsome hand-out.
The strangest thing of all is that the government continues to lobby in Brussels for changes to the common agricultural policy, but only focuses on one aspect. It warns that the proposed change to enable a limit to be imposed on payments to large landowners should be dropped. This, the government argues, “would impede consolidation”. It seems that 0.6% of the population owning 69% of the land isn’t equitable enough!
Surely the only subsidies that merit existence are those to small, vulnerable farmers. How on earth can anyone justify simply handing vast sums of money to the ultra-rich landowners? Even the claim that they are not damaging the environment are as daft as suggesting everyone who doesn’t commit a crime should receive a bonus.
This is a classic example of that biblical reference that unto him that hath shall be given. And before anyone rushes to suggest that people on strike are in some way demonstrating greed and self interest, they should perhaps look more closely at so many little-discussed schemes serving to increase the gap between rich and poor, schemes operated by both Labour and Conservative governments. A further article demonstrating how little tax these people actually pay might finally convince you that we are far from all being in this mess together!
Yesterday the death of yet another British soldier in Afghanistan was announced. It prompts one question. Is this the sort of society that our troops are making the ultimate sacrifice for?
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A hot and sunny morning on the allotments! We wandered about in a daze for this was a very rare experience, the sort of day when Blackpool beach sounds like a treat rather than the equivalent of Scott’s last journey. It was also the sort of day to trigger thoughts of cricket. Right now those are not positive thoughts, and I am not referring solely to yesterday’s bizaare Twenty20 between England and Sri Lanka. Pieterson and Morgan apart, this England side couldn’t have beaten a Co-op egg! Why players such as Bell are excluded is one of the great mysteries of the age!
But far more worrying is the gradual takeover of the administration of world cricket by India. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is cricket’s equivalent of football’s Fifa. In every sense! The ICC is already heavily influenced by the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), its present chairman is the former head of the BCCI, Sharad Pawar. Under the present rules there is a fixed term for ICC presidents and no one country can hold the office for two consecutive periods. At today’s ICC annual meeting in Hong Kong, India is proposing that once appointed a president can rule for life! Now that is even worse than Blatter at Fifa, he at least stages the occasional election, albeit a corrupt one of course.
Ridiculous, it simply can’t happen. Oh yes it can! As in the case of football many of the countries that vote scarcely play cricket. How can Argentina, Afghanistan etc be allowed to decide Test match schedules? But hovering in the background is Narayanswamy Srinivasan, the power in Indian cricket, the owner of Chennai Super Kings and the chief executive of India’s board. What he wants he gets. Remember the plan to reduce the next world cup to the top ten teams to eliminate all the one-sided and meaningless games that marred the last one? During a recent tea-break at a meeting in Singapore, the man of power talked to the various chief excutives who had just ratified the decision. When the meeting resumed the majority reversed the decision and the next world cup will be just as tedious as the last.
How is this overwhelming influence obtained? Geoffrey Boycott has no doubts. “Many countries that play cricket are frightened to death of India’s financial power. You’ve got TV stations queuing up in India to beam the coverage of their tours in to India and they pay a lot of money for that” says the outspoken Yorkshireman. He is clearly right, India has a vast audience for cricket and filming rights produce a bonanza for authorities often reduced to counting the piggy-bank.
So the odds are that this week will see a new order at the ICC with an Indian president taking the top job on a permanent basis. Two outcomes are obvious. The new umpires’ Decision Review System will be scrapped. It has proved popular with the fans but India has already refused to use it on the forthcoming tour of England. Of greater importance, there will be an eight week period each year when no international cricket will be allowed. This will give free rein to the Indian Premier League. That will be a financial body-blow to England. But even more important than that is the threat to good governance.
We all know from the scandal surrounding last year’s Test series with Pakistan that a cancer of corruption is spreading within the game. This emanates from Indian bookmakers who make fortunes, often in distinctly unethical ways. Millions of pounds change hands daily on such obscure things as the number of ‘no-balls’. The only body that can even attempt to keep this under control is the ICC. Need I say more?
The complex game of cricket is open to corruption like no other. It is already losing its reputation for fair play and a strong incorruptable ICC is the only hope. The idea that any single country should hold sway on a permanent basis is appalling, the idea of that being India, the home of cricket manipulation, even more so.
If this goes through Fifa will look a paragon of virtue by comparison. The English, Australian, New Zealand and South African delegations should walk out if necessary. That may only account for four votes but world cricket without the four would be less of a money spinner to say the least. India may hold all the power but matches played against Afghanistan and Argentina would soon show where the pulling power really rests!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Germany 2. Italy 3. Alan Titchmarsh 4. Gennell 5. Ernie Wise 6. China 7. Westlife 8. Potter 9. Holly 10. Colin Farrell.
HIGHEST SCORE SENT IN SO FAR; 8 BY J ROACH. HOW DID YOU DO?