Posts Tagged ‘Greed’
We old codgers like Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England. The sentiment stems from the visit some of us made to his inner sanctum when we ferried schoolchildren, who had published books on money management, to London. He talked to the pupils for half an hour or so, but I have to confess that apart from his stating that our financial mess was caused by greed, I understood little. However I do recall his mentioning Quantitative Easing (QE).
Now he has mentioned it again, in fact he has taken more action in that regard. Our old pal – codgers do tend to suffer from delusions – has just printed another £75 billion to add to the £275 billion that has already found its way into the hands of our esteemed bankers. Again one cannot help noticing that the talk is of saving the banks, not the economy.
Yesterday I happened to hear some called Sentence – I think that was his name rather than his mission – who last month resigned from Mervyn’s monetary committee. He said that QE is a major mistake, it won’t work. Some mistake at £275 billion! This prompted me to check out the view of as many experts -why do they all appear to be younger than Adrian Mole – as I could find in our soon-to-be closed library. Now I really have to depress you.
As best I can sum it up most of this stupefying sum has allegedly vanished overseas, covering bad debts, fuelling commodity prices, depressing the pound and increasing inflation. Meanwhile our economy has ground to a shuddering halt and inflation has hit record levels. It seems that QE is like filling a car with petrol when the tank is disconnecetd from the engine. It is, according to people who should know, a dreadful policy.
So, with George Osborne insisting that he will cut till he drops, our only counter-recessionary policy is one that appeases the past recklesness and present greed of bankers, in the certain knowledge that none of the proclaimed boost to domestic credit will go anywhere near it.
Armed with this acquired ‘knowledge’ I tackled the local bank manager, who from time to time wanders on to the allotments with his dog. I asked why it would not be better to direct the money straight on to the High Street, to revive demand by helping struggling businesses and the unemployed by building credit lines from the front line in the market place, rather than from top down. He suggested that a visit by the men in white coats may be imminent. “Leave it to the experts, Dennis” he said. That worries me for it was the self same experts that created our penury in the first place.
But he managed to worry us even more. He remarked that all pensions will soon be in deep trouble, apart from those of the public sector of course. Apparently the effect of QE is to drive down the interest paid on gilts. Pension funds rely on these and, given previous reductions, are already struggling. Now our local Captain Mainwaring cheerfully predicts that many will simply go pop. Ye Gods.
All of this has inclined us codgers to look at the gathering London ’99 per cent’ protest with a friendly eye. After all, what the growing numbers are claiming is that our society is run by the rich for the one percent out there who carry the same label. And when we read that Mick Davis, one of those who funded the ever present Werrity, receives an annual salary of £21.2 million, we knew that they were right. Throw in Osborne’s reluctance to tackle tax avoidance (which accounts for £100 billion), bank bonuses and the rest and you have the picture.
America is not without its economic problems too, but it is interesting to visit as I did recently. The only grumbles about different treatment of the haves-and-have-nots I heard related to race. In other spheres they have a far less elitist and confrontational approach. Sport provides an example. If, say, a baseball club makes a huge profit the Basball Authorities tax it and redistribute to other clubs. Small wonder that the American owners of Liverpool FC remarked that they much prefer the UK where “you keep every cent despite the fact that without the lesser clubs you would have no games”.
Right now in parts of the north-east, such as Consett, unemployment has reached 35% amongst the 16-24 age group. Local services have been emasculated and some, such as the youth advisory service, local bus service and civic centre closed. There we have the perfect recipe for civil unrest the like of which we haven’t seen since the 1930s.
Over dramatic? Then turn again to our old pal Mervyn. Yesterday he said: ” We face the worst economic prospect since the 1930s, possibly ever”.
Thanks Merv, but go easy on the QE!
TRY YOUR HAND AT THE MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. What type of animal is a Sooty Mangabey? 2. Which team lost the first FA Cup Final decided on penalties? 3. Whom did William 111 defeat in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne? 4. Who won “X Factor 2″? 5. In Old English which word meant a field? 6. What were the eldest sons of French kings called from the 14th century? 7. Ely stands on which river? 8. Which 60s singer married designer Jeff Banks? 9. In 1945, who became prime minister? 10. In which month in 2006 was “top of the Pops” aired for the last time?
Some of my pals on the allotment have renamed their former hero, Nick Clegg, Big Chief Red Face. Given to using names from long past Westerns, they used to call him New Way but now that they realise that should an election take place his MPs could hold their meetings in a telephone kiosk the mood of the born-again Liberals has changed. For my part I see reason to believe their despair a little premature for young Nick is hitting back at his Old Etonian gaolers. Today’s wheeze has hit the headlines and sounds good to me, albeit slightly impractical.
Clegg has let it be known that were the Lib Dems in power the soft treatment of the Banks by the Conservatives would be a thing of the past. Meantime he is advocating a giveaway of government-owned shares in RBS and Lloyds, worth hundreds of pounds to British taxpayers. Such a move would create 46 million shareholders and allow a form of collective ownership of the Banks. In practice no one is likely to sell their loot in the short term since the bank’s share prices have not yet recovered.
Clegg is aiming at good psychology here. Such a move would demonstrate that the British public, which funded the saving of the Banks, has not been overlooked or ignored. Their money has been used to the tune of billions and billions yet at present they have absolutely no say at all in what happens when normality is achieved. Under the Clegg plan everyone on the electoral register would recieve an estimated 1450 shares in RBS and 450 in Lloyds. Such parcels would be worth £770 on the basis of the current share prices and holders would be free to sell when, and if, the level of the government’s rescue purchase price was reached.
Meantime the theory is that, at last, the public would be in a position to stop the appalling extravagence and greed demonstrated by those who led the Banks to destruction. How a collective voice could appear from 46 million shareholders is less clear, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that some bright spark would come up with a mass transfer of proxies for annual meetings. If they did the disgraceful sight of executives paying themselves millions at the public expense would come to a glorious end.
I may be in a minority of one here on the muddy plot, but I believe Nick Clegg deserves credit for at least trying something new and for recognising that most people are sick to the back teeth of suffering hardship, whilst the incompetent fat-cats that caused the disaster continue to line their already deep pockets.
If he has any breath left after this sudden and unexpected kicking-over of the traces, Clegg might well cast a glance in the direction of Network Rail. It also relies on the taxpayer for its funding and received £3.7 billion last year from the Department of Transport. Its chief executive, Iain Coucher, stepped dwon last year after a controversial 3-year reign. The period was peppered with complaints regarding performance, and even allegations of the misuse of public funds. A review concluded that “Network Rail has insulated itself from real-time economics and political concerns leading to criticisms that it is arrogant or out-of-touch with the reality for the industry, passengers, government and taxpayers”. Anyone using our unpunctual, dirty and overcrowded trains will say amen to that, although given the botched up privatisation of the railways it is almost impossible for the long-suffering passengers to know who to blame.
But one thing is for sure. They will not be impressed by today’s announcement of a £1 million payoff for Coucher. Even the Transport secretary, Philip Hammond, was moved to say that this will “stick in the gullet” of taxpayers and fare payers who have just suffered further huge increases in fares. Perhaps the only surprise is that Coucher was not included in the honours list in the way that Stagecoach boss Brian Souter was. In the week he was knighted thousands of commuters were stranded for hours on South West Trains routes out of Waterloo and communication was so poor that many broke out of stranded trains. Oh yes, he also took the Department of Transport to court, winning tens of millions in extra subsidy payments.
The truth is that under the coalition the rich and privileged, and often contributors to the Conservative Party, have flourished whilst the rest of the nation has been hammered. I at least draw some comfort from the sight of Nick Clegg at last speaking out for the man in the street.
Who knows, my pals may one day dig their ‘I agree with Nick’ sweaters out of the attic!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. Mike Atherton played for which county cricket club? 2. Which were the initials of US President Jonnson? 3. In which county is Ashford International station? 4. Does a Pina Colada contain rum or gin? 5. Which word for a duty doctor is a Latin name for place holder? 6. Which country’s Rugby Union side are the Pumas? 7. Is a Dandy Dimmont a dog, a cat or a horse? 8. In which county is the stately home of Althorp? 9. Which controversial author used the initials for his first names David Herbert? 10. What sort of fruit flavour does Calvados have?
End of Easter break and end of sunshine! We sometimes underestimate the effect of that bright light in the sky on our moods, morale seemed to have dropped a notch this morning and Gaddafi, the bullying hen, received a less tolerant reaction when she staged her daily escape. The mood wasn’t helped by the news that the Banks have offset the reduction in their bonuses by an equivalent rise in salaries, but you have to admire them for their relentless pursuit of greed. Or hate them!
The story that really caught our eye when we retired to the allotment shed for a brew, was the one covering the Great Escape. Over a period of five months a team of insurgents dug a tunnel hundreds of metres underground through the brown soil west of Kandahar city and into Sarpoza prison in Afghanistan. And this was no ordinary tunnel, it was supported by Nato funded metal girders and concrete beams, and boasted lighting and air conditioning. It was large enough to enable the imprisoned Taliban notables to escape without even bending down, and 480 of them did just that.
One of the escapees said yesterday that the guards were ‘just sleeping’. They were, he said, “always drunk and regularly smoke heroin or marijuana”. The mass exodus occurred without any alarm, it was several hours before the authorities noticed that they were guarding fresh air. Now the large group of senior Taliban fighters have rejoined those doing battle with British and American troops who had sacrificed lives and much effort to their capture.
The episode really sums up the utter futility of our engagement in Afghanistan. It illustrates perfectly the fact that any notion of handing control back to the new Afghan government is nonsense. The moment we pull out the Taliban will take back control. And it will enjoy far more support than we are led to believe, does anyone seriously believe that a five month building programme, which involved tunneling under the main road, was not known to local people?
Another piece of news tells us that many of the Taliban killers facing our troops on a daily basis come from, er, London. WikiLeaks files obtained by the Daily Telegraph reveal that many of the terrorists were indoctrinated by extremist preachers in Britain. Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza, two preachers who lived here off state benefits after claiming asylum, are identified by the American authorities as the key recruiters responsible for sending dozens of extremists from throughout the world to Pakistan and Afhanistan via London mosques. The Finsbury Park mosque is described as a “haven” for extremists and served as “an attack planning and propaganda production base”. And by way of encouragement, fifteen of the released Guantanamo detainees described by the US authorities as “high risk” have been paid a reported £ 1 million each of our money in compensation. If it was portrayed in a novel one would dismiss it as too far-fetched, we are in the unique position of supplying both combatants in Afghanistan.
Some months ago I mentioned a new book written by Sergeant Pen Farthing, a Royal Marine who served there and endured horrendous problems, not least with the treatment of dogs by locals, hence the book’s title of ‘One Dog at a Time’. But for me the most telling aspect of this down-to-earth account is the author’s reflections on the conflict of cultures. The Taliban are not a uniformed easily identified army. They are the people, often the very people that our troops sacrifice everything to ‘defend’.
This war cannot be won, if the Russians ever proved anything by example it is that. The Great Escape shows that the supposed Afghhan government is incompetent beyond belief. It is time to bring every British serviceman or woman home and to concentrate instead on the enemies within our island.
Staying on will achieve only one thing – more coffins draped in the Union Jack!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; MONEY; “If someone says, ‘It’s not the money, it’s the principle,’ it’s the money”……Kin Hubbard ”A builder’s estimate is a sum of money equal to half the final cost”…….Neil Collins “I was feeling irritable and moody. It was that difficult time of the month when the credit card statement arrives”….Julie Walters ”I had my credit card stolen but I didn’t report it because whoever stole it is spending less than my wife”….Henny Youngman “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?”…..John Barrymore “If there is anyone to whom I owe money, I am prepared to forget it if they are”….Errol Flynn ”Money can’t buy everything. That’s what credit cards are for”……Ruby Wax “I once gave a waiter a tip. I told him never to step off a moving bus”…..Groucho Marx
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. The Battle of Salamis took place on a Greek island of the same name in the Saronic Gulf, about 16km west of Athens 2. The name Druid is derived from the word roots ‘oak’ and ‘knowledge’. The earliest references to Druids date from the 2nd century BCE.
TODAY’S QUESTIONS ; 1. Which newspaper introduced Rupert Bear in the thirties? 2 Which newspaper attacked Churchill with a front page banner headline “Whose Finger on the Trigger?”
Throw some tomatoes into a chicken-run and see greed in its most naked form. One will grab one and race off to the most distant parts where it will do a Bunter and race back to steal someone else’s titbit. But are they really that different to humans? I was pondering over the question whilst watching the hoo-hah and thinking about the apparent mystery of the group of GP’s that the government has wheeled on stage as a counter to the block condemnation of the Lansley privatisation plan for the NHS. Why would any doctor be in favour of a development that Dr Clare Gerada, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, yesterday warned will destroy the long-standing trust that people have in their ‘family doctors’. The answer is, I suspect, greed.
In January 50 GPs were invited to 10 Downing Street for a champagne reception. They are the leading lights of a body called the National Association of Primary Care which is officially non-political. Treading the corridors of power that evening was one Dr Charles Alessi, who two weeks earlier had penned a tabloid comment piece backing the radical pro-market plans of the Conservative part of the coalition.
And Dr Alessi makes no secret of his feelings. He has alreaday been accused of standing by whilst 500 jobs were axed at his local hospital in Kingston, Surrey. He is unrepentant and says that the changes at Kingston are a forerunner of things to come. He argues that hospital physicians are “over-treating” patients, too many people are being given drugs like those that stop elderly people going blind, a condition known as macular degeneration. But won’t patients revolt if they are not given the medicines they need? “Yes” is Dr Alessi’ view, ” it is pretty uncomfortable”. It seems reasonable to assume that Dr Lessi’s fellow champagne drinkers share his views, and although they are a small minority amongst the nations 38,00 GPs they are powerful allies of the beleagured Lansley.
Now let us be a little cynical for cynicism vies with greed amongst the human vices. If the scheme becomes reality, GPs will become the new rich. Kieran Walshe is professor of health at Manchester Business School and he has studied the likely financial outcome of GPs taking over the £80 billion NHS budget. He believes that GPs in a consortium could set up a private company which they own, and then get the consortium to contract out the comissioning of health care to that company. If that company can make savings by spending less on its patient’s care the surplus could then be distributed to the shareholders – the GPs.
Under this, or a similar arrangement, if a GP-owned company saves 5% of the budget each GP will receive £140,000. That apart each will receive £55,000 as a management allowance plus other payments yet to be determined. Professor Walshe believes that GPs will be in line to pocket £300,000, double the amount of a hospital surgeon.
We can safely assume that the carrot being dangled by Downing Street is a big one and we can safely assume that some will be tempted. But there will be a price to pay and I don’t mean simply hospital closures as private healthcare providers are brought in to ‘cherry-pick’ by commissioning consortiums. Far more horrendous will be the destruction of the doctor patient relationship. How will we feel if we suspect that our own doctor is denying us treatment to line his or her pocket?
This whole scene is building up to a huge confrontation unless the Lib Dems find their backbones. Whatever happens I would feel incredibly sad if someone I trust with my life can no longer be trusted at all. But at least that won’t happen, for my doctor, like thousands of others, has made clear that he will have nothing to do with such a brazenly unethical proposal.
Perhaps I should buy him some champagne by way of compensation for not becoming a Cameron crony!
QUOTES FOR TODAY; “Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defence”….Steve Landesberg “A lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on”….Winstin Churchill “A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a world of explanation”……Saki “There is nothing about which men lie more than their sexual powers. In this at least every man is, what in his heart he would like to be, Casanova”….Somerset Maughan “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election”….Otto von Bismarck ”I have too much respect for the truth to drag it out on every trifling occasion”……Mark Twain “There’s a perfectly good explanation for this, which I’ll make up later”……Mel Brooks “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember what you said”……Mark Twain ” A lie is an abomination unto the Lord and a very present help in times of trouble”……Adlai Stevenson “I told you a million times, don’t exaggerate”….Rik Mayall “It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie in his place”……H L Mencken
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Pittodrie, Aberdeen 2. John Peel’s
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Where was the liner ‘Queen Elizabeth’ destroyed by fire in the 1970s? 2. In which crime show did Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins co-star?
A mild morning for chicken-men but there was a palpable air of disappointment in the air this morning. A lot of the folk are cricket buffs and just weeks ago there was great rejoicing as England proved once and for all that the Australians can be beaten, hammered in fact. But yesterday they thrashed England for the third time in a week at the form of the game that many now favour. With the World Cup just around the corner England suddenly look like the gang of losers that we had come to know for so long. One reason may well be the incredibly long and taxing schedule. Who agreed to this, who really runs cricket these days? It is easier to say what runs it. Greed, that’s what.
But who runs Britain? Until recent times that was an easy one. The establishment comprised the government and its circle of contacts, the BBC heirarchy, the Church, the Bank of England, Royalty, big business, trade unions et al. But all that has changed and now there is a new power in the land, the press. One only has to note the muted reaction of every top politician to the Coulson affair to realise that something is not quite right. Up to now the pattern has been the usual Westminster one when it comes to scandals. The scandal itself, the uncovering, the refusal to resign, the resignation, the closure. At least that seems to be the hope.
But this time there should be no closure. Because the practice of often illegal surveillance by hacking into phones, using eavesdropping technologies and stealing documents continues. This isn’t just about Coulson, or the News of the World, or even Murdoch. Many other newspapers have been doing the same. Shrewd editors pass off the really dirty stuff to self-employed dirt diggers but they are happy to buy and publish the results. And politicians are running scared, the power of the press to influence the electorate has reached a peak.
Columnist Jackie Ashley tells of meeting someone recently who talked of good police contacts and offered to get hold of bank records of someone she was curious about. When she refused she gained the impression that her contact thought her unnecessarily fastidious.
But although others are also guilty, the chance of exposure of the new rotten world of press methods and resulting influence has arisen around the Murdoch empire. But who, if anyone, is sufficiently independent to really force through a total investigation? Certainly not the political establishment. Take a look at the guest list for any of Murdoch’s summer parties and who do you find? At the Orangery in Kensington or the Oxo tower you will have no difficulty in spotting Cameron of course but it is the other names that cause an intake of beath. Lord Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, both Miliband brothers, Ken Livingstone, Nick Clegg, George Osborne..not too much chance of any of them being over eager to bite the hand that feeds them.
These are merely examples of the close ties woven between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, when they were prime ministers, and Cameron now, and the Murdoch camp. There have been, and still are, private meetings and dinners, calls and much talk of mutual interests. The government of this country is in hock to the press, in terror almost.
Of course given indications of massive power, influence and dubious methods we would normally turn to the police. But as John Prescott is currently complaining they were remarkably reluctant to do anything when the news of phone hacking broke, in fact they didn’t so much as inform those whose phones were known to be hacked. Either the police themselves are now drawn into the web or they fear the leading politicians that are. Either way it is bad news for democracy.
We have moved into a digital age of exposure, most of it driven by the press. The time has come to shine a light on the one profession that has for so long been able to work quietly in the shadows. At one time press scrutiny was the only safeguard we had against corruption, now the press itself appears to be the major influence and yet escapes the full disclosure and scrutiny that it demands of those it decides to investigate according to its political leanings and ambitions.
Who is brave enough to stand up for democracy?
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “There are two types of people; those who walk into a room and say ‘Well, here I am’ and those who walk into a room and say ‘Ah, there you are”….Frederick Collins. “Is your husband religious? Oh yes, he thinks he’s God almighty”….Mrs David Frost. “He was a cock who thought the sun had come up to hear him crow”…..George Eliot. “But enough of me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”…Bette Midler. “Do you think you’ve learned from your mistakes? What mistakes”…..Leslie Caron “My greatest regret in the theatre was that I could never sit in the audience and watch me”…..John Barrymore. “He’s a self made man who worships his creator”….William Cowper…”Don’t be so humble. You’re not that great”….Golda Meir. “The nice thing about egoists is that they don’t talk about other people”…Lucille C Harper.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. India 2. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which US city was the Watergate building? 2. In which TV serial did Annie Sugden feature as a character?