Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Mentioning the unmentionable!

We codgers realise that today we are the youngest we will ever be, but the years seem to be slipping by at an ever increasing rate. We often cheer ourselves up by telling one another that we don’t look a day older without mentioning the unmentionable, which is that the reason for that apparent miracle is that we met yesterday. I was reminded of this when yesterday I bumped into a chap I worked with some thirty years ago. After some hesitation he remarked that I had changed almost beyond recognition, and I refrained from replying that he has changed so much that I didn’t recognise him at all.

Nowhere is the ageing process more apparent than with the young. Visitors sometimes recoil with amazement when meeting my grandchildren who they haven’t seen for several years. Because I see them every day I hadn’t noticed their transformation, although it had occurred to me that a subtle change has evolved. It seems but yesterday that I helped to look after them, in recent weeks they have looked after me. They used to delight in visiting the allotments to see the chickens, now they come less enthusiastically to pick the beans which, during my post-operation period, represents a task akin to re-roofing the hen-houses.

I was reminded of all this when, after this morning’s hen-cleaning – which has become for me a sort of spectator sport – Tom referred to unmentionables. There have always been subjects that remain in that category in the hut given the wide variety of views on such matters as religion and politics. The latter is no longer a sensitive issue since, in common with most folk, we no longer respect its practitioners or see ideological differences between the parties. But it was only when Tom pointed it out that we recognised that some subjects are never mentioned as the new age spin-doctors bombard us with sound-bites.

The example Tom had in mind was the colossal national debt. Hardly a day passes but our dear leader and his pals rattle off new evidence of the miraculous economic wonders wrought by Saint Osborne. They rely on the fact that most of us would prefer to watch paint dry to thinking about economics, and confine themselves to talking about the ‘deficit’, the gap between what the treasury rakes in and what the government spends. Householders can relate to that, but they also know that breaking even is not enough if you have mountainous debts incurring mountainous interest payments.

And that is where we as a nation are right now. In fact it is worse than that, the deficit is growing too. It is when you examine the reasons for Gorgeous George’s failure to honour his pledge to balance the national books that you spot the unmentionable. Tax revenues are down by 4.8 per cent on the previous year, and that is due to a further fall in income from corporation tax which has now sunk to £6.56 billion. Why? More and more of our largest companies are practising tax avoidance. In the fiscal year to date the Government has borrowed £37 billion, compared with £35 billion for the same four months of last year.

In effect the misery being imposed by schemes such as the bedroom-tax and disabled benefit cuts is having virtually no effect. Neither will they have so long as the companies that make their profits from sales to UK customers are allowed to avoid tax. And transferring ownership of our railways and energy suppliers to foreign interests, governments even, will only serve to make things worse.

Of course Westminster is not alone in the art of the unmentionable. In a few weeks time people in Scotland have to decide whether to remain part of the UK. We codgers tend to sympathise with the idea but where are the financial projections? The voters are being bombarded with talk of utopia from Alex Salmond and Armageddon from Alastair Darling, but the facts that really matter are clearly regarded as unmentionable. We entirely understand the wish to escape rule by a remote bunch of rich Old Etonians who have just one MP in Scotland. But does it make any sense to base such an important decision on whether the BBC will cut them off from the dubious pleasure of watching the Eurovision Song Contest and Strictly Come Dancing?

Meanwhile the media is understandably preoccupied with the hunt for the British Jihadists who executed an American journalist, and the continuing slaughter of the innocent in Gaza. But study the coverage carefully and you will spot the near-unmentionables. It is reasonable to assume that if both horrors were being committed by, say, Methodists, every editor’s pen would be pouring vitriol over the heads of the followers of Wesley. But Israel and the British Muslim communities are, it seems, unmentionable.

Even the ever-sparkling Alastair Campbell doesn’t seem to have cottoned on to the concept of the unmentionable. He has today called for action to tackle the “mounting crisis in the nation’s mental health”. No chance Alastair, when it comes to the unmentionable mental health services are top of the list.

But be of good cheer! The Bank Holiday weekend is here. Just don’t mention the weather forecast!
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QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” Violence is the repartee of the illiterate”….George Bernard Shaw.
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If it ain’t broke don’t mend it!

It feels good to be up and about again, and even better to be able to stand and watch as my fellow chicken-keepers chase the hens and, having failed to grab them correctly, end up with a flurry of wings accompanied by language that would have shocked my Aunty Ethel. As I stood there this morning I felt rather like Professor Sir Mike Richards, who yesterday pontificated about some of the hospitals he has inspected. As plain Dr Richards he was not renowned for his administrative skills, but now that our dear leader has elevated him to judge those of others he is transformed into the nation’s greatest expert. Perhaps we should both remember the old maxim that talks of them that can’t teaching.

We seem to have become a nation of meddlers. Back in the days of Clem-the-clam Attlee there were few government ‘advisers’, let alone an army of highly paid management consultants. Now Whitehall is awash with them and the result is constant tinkering with our institutions and services. The latest example concerns our GP services, which once provided excellent care for every family. Along come Lansley, Hunt and countless supposed experts and the tinkering begins. Now the service is in chaos, the GPs utterly demoralised and waiting times in the legendary London bus category. And today we hear that ‘failing’ practices are to be put into “special measures” with teams of yet more ‘experts’ parachuted in to put things right.

Who are these ‘experts’ in diagnosis who are freely available? When I chaired a Primary Care Trust I met some of them. They comprise doctors who have never run a practice, rather like football coaches who prefer to forget that they were never able to bend it like Beckham. The only way to restore our family doctor services to its previous glory is to stop meddling and to leave the only real experts to run their own show. The vast majority of GPs know when they need help, and would prefer to devote their time to treating their patients and keeping up to date with current research than to spend their days engulfed in bureaucracy and advice from people less expert than themselves.

It is not just in the field of medicine that a bloated top-down system of government is creating havoc. There is now quite rightly a growing sense of panic at the threat of Isis militants. David Cameron yesterday used a newspaper column to talk of the need to counter it both at home and abroad. But it’s one thing to sound like a statesman and another to provide a coherent, consistent and intelligent foreign policy that makes you one. The sad fact is that Western foreign policy, backed by Britain, has contributed to the conditions that have allowed Isis to thrive.

Our opposition to Bashar al-Assad in Syria allowed Isis to grow. While parliament refused to authorise direct intervention we encouraged the flow of money and arms from some of our Gulf allies. In Iraq our reluctance to contain the sectarian policies of Prime Minister Nourial-Maliki created the conditions for Isis to thrive there too. And our silence on Israel’s onslaught on Gaza has created emotional support for Isis throughout the Muslim world. Cameron inherited a foreign policy already in disarray after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there is substantial evidence that none of these errors of judgement would have occurred when the advice was provided by seasoned on-the-spot civil servants who drafted policy proposals for ministers. Like Blair before him, Cameron has surrounded himself with ‘advisers’ more concerned with political sound-bites than reasoned risk analysis.

So it is with the police. Experienced observers could long since have warned successive Home Secretaries that the leadership of the police was becoming enmeshed with vested interests and delusions of omnipotence. The ultimate shambles manifested itself in the Cliff Richard affair. Trust in the police has all but vanished, and now we are told that officers are to be disciplined. Too little, too late. The regular statements of trust drafted for ministers by political advisers now look what they were – political hogwash.

It occurs to us codgers that what has been lacking for some time is a brake, one that only MPs can provide. Back in the days when ministers were not surrounded by armies of advisers it mattered little that parliament closed for lengthy holidays. Now these increase the extent to which Downing Street becomes an executive hub, one populated almost entirely by political advisers in the Andy Coulson mode.

At the very least what is now needed is a formal standing committee present during holidays and empowered to hold ministers to account. We know several of our regions MPs well and they regularly tell us that they now feel marginalised and no longer able to bring influence to bear. A Labour MP told us that even the leader of the opposition now has a a large office of ‘advisers’, and no ear for his elected colleagues. A Conservative summed the dilemma up perfectly.

He told us that his government is now a London fixated clique of unelected ‘know-alls’. Someone should remind them, he said, that if something ain’t broke the best policy is not to mend it! Perhaps we need an anti-meddling law?
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QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it!”….Steven Wright.
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Just a pebble in the ocean!

Like Bovril a daily dose of boredom can change your life. Having been confined to the house for over a week now, I find myself seeking amusement in places that hitherto have passed me by in the manner of an HS2 train. Yesterday I actually read the hundreds of Spam messages that land in the comments box of every blogger. I counted twelve messages urging me to buy cheap jerseys, eight offering escorts not of the Ford variety, the same number introducing drugs that I have never heard of and handbags that sound too exotic for Wigan market. All lead with complimentary remarks about the blog, and I had to remind myself that I was but one of a million recipients. It is a fair bet that the writers of this universal rubbish are equally bored.

I also listened in to, rather than slammed down the phone on, a series of cold calls. Before the salesmen could get into their set patter I asked them why they earn their living working in call-centres. Most rang up on me, but one Indian gentleman told me that he had no other way to earn a crust than to spend his days ringing everyone listed on tabulations purchased from Barclays.

On a more positive note several of my allotments pals called in bearing veggies garnered from my plot. Amongst them was Harold, whose style of conversation always fascinates me in that every subject is accompanied by a detailed description. He told me that last week he drove over the Humber suspension bridge. It was, he told me, opened by the Queen in 1981 and was at that time the longest and most expensive single-span, concrete supported bridge in the world. It is, he added, unique in that it connects Willerby and Barton-upon-Humber, two places that no one wants to go to. And to think that I imagined it to be yet another feature of tedious journeys.

Things brightened up no end when I tuned in to the European athletics. Forty year-old mother of two Jo Pavey produced the performance of her life to win the 10,000m race. No weary acceptance of the ageing factor for Jo, this down-to-earth star has enough determination to achieve anything. But as she performed her lap of honour I did wonder if the sudden introduction to her life of hordes of idiotic autograph hunters and tabloid photographers just might trigger the realisation that fame can be a two-edged sword.

That certainly proved to be so in the tragic case of the much-loved Robin Williams, whose death has shocked us all. I have always wondered if most psychiatrists are barking, and their outpourings in this morning’s papers have reinforced that suspicion. The most eminent amongst them solemnly declares that external factors play no part in depression. I wonder if the grieving relatives of Stephanie Bottrill read that. Yesterday she committed suicide, leaving a note blaming the effect of the “bedroom tax”.

The ministers responsible for that penny-pinching illogical scheme won’t have read it. They, it seems, have other more important things to deal with. Such as supporting the new boss at Serco, the villains of the multimillion-pound offender tagging scandal, which was obliged to pay back £70m to the Government as atonement for over-charging. You would have imagined that, in the much lauded new world of competition, that would have been the end of contracts for Serco. But no, new boss Rupert Soames reports that the Government is “back on side”. Could that mean that the old-boy political network is back in action? Mr Soames is Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson!

But in the feeble minds of codgers such as us the appalling situation in Iraq continues to loom above everything else. One of Britain’s most respected commanders, Col Tim Collins, has compared the massacres in Iraq at the hands of Isis with genocides carried out by Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot, accusing the Government of failing in its “moral obligation” to intervene. Col Collins, famed for his inspirational speech on he eve of the 2003 Iraq war, says that politicians have “left for lunch” and warns that ancient civilisations will be “extinguished” unless Britain gives a lead by joining air strikes and providing arms to Kurdish forces. He also urges that troops be stationed in Iraq to help bring to an end the appalling atrocities being committed by the new so-called Islamic State.

Yesterday the humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate on Mount Sinjar where 30,000 refugees are trapped by the Islamic extremists. The United Nations warned that Iraq will descend into a “mass atrocity and potential genocide” unless “action is taken within hours”. Frankly the chance of the UN taking effective action within weeks let alone hours is minimal. Britain helped to create Iraq in 1920 and we do have a moral responsibility to help. We have used the Kurds as a public convenience for too long, now they represent the only hope of stopping the Islamist murderers, but their lack of weaponry prevents them from resisting as they would wish. Isis has the latest hi-tech weaponry in abundance, most of it supplied by the Americans and us to the Iraqi so-called army.

As you read this whole families are dying in despair, and arguably the greatest threat to world peace is being allowed to advance at will. What we have done so far amounts to what Col Collins describes as a “pebble in the ocean”, and what Cardinal Nichols, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England, has described as “not enough”. The failure to recall parliament is a national disgrace.

I have just been interrupted by an Indian lady inquiring about my vitamin intake. I told her that I lie in bed all day and have no need for such supplements. I added that I am thinking of setting up a call centre in Wigan. She rang up on me.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” Life is like opening a tin of sardines. We’re all looking for the key!”….Alan Bennett.
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Deaths, Prison and horse’s arses!

Albert tells me that, when cleaning out the hens this morning, my pals on the allotments could talk of little else but the tragic news of the death of Robin Williams. We have often recalled his brilliant performance in ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, ‘Good Will Hunting’, ‘Mrs Doubtfire and a host of other memorable films. This wonderful actor inspired and entertained millions over many years and had a worldwide fan base.

Early reports from California suggest suicide. It is so hard to understand how someone so universally loved and admired could reach such a situation but, sadly, depression can hit any one of us and the uplifting light of joy can find no way into the dark night of the soul. By coincidence I have just finished reading Sheila Hancock’s book about her life with John Thaw. He died from cancer but also endured a long battle with depression. Many of the best actors are at heart private people and one wonders if the constant pressure of public acclaim eventually overwhelms them, and turns an identity crisis into a living nightmare. We simply don’t know but for us codgers the world is a darker place without two men who so often brightened our mundane existence.

It is, as they say’ a funny old world. People we admired from afar are dying, madmen are slaughtering fellow human beings in the name of their imaginary God, Ministers are resigning because they see £120,000 a year as poverty, and man’s lack of respect for the environment is destroying the balance of the earth’s climate as the ice caps melt. But right now there are armies of ‘experts’ studying such things as the need to widen deckchairs to accommodate the ever increasing size of the human posterior. Perhaps they should advise the government to replace the ones they are rearranging on the decks of the Titanic?

Amongst the rearrangements is the Prison Service. A report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons tells us that the conditions in our prisons are “not acceptable in a civilised country”. Cells are “dangerously overcrowded”, and there is a total lack of rehabilitation. Staff cuts and privatisation have led to a sharp increase in inmate suicides. Inmates are locked up for 23 hours each day and the situation, says Nick Hardwick, is “horrible”.

People who study such things tell us that immigration is a major factor here. But whatever the causes for the rise in the prison population it is surely time for action. The possibility of rehabilitation is crucial, and locking up first-time offenders cheek by jowl with hardened criminals makes that near-impossible. Putting untrained employees of private companies in charge of chaos serves only to create even more chaos and lack of order.

Inevitably the chattering classes have been quick to come up with their solution – stop sending people to jail. What a wonderful message to would-be law breakers that is. The only logical answer is to build more prisons and to house miscreants in humane conditions in which they are no longer a danger to the public, yet still have the opportunity to reform if they are willing to do so. Yes, an expansion programme would cost money but, as with many essential services, cuts eat away at the heart of society.

Has any thought been given to converting the many empty tower blocks and outdated office blocks that we regularly see being demolished? Such sights have become a spectator sport. In our patch a large block built in the seventies has just been bulldozed to make way for up-market houses. Has any thought been given to tax avoidance which creates a huge void in the nation’s piggy-bank?

The answer is undoubtedly no. We live in a political system where the only motivation is to hype up the promises with the next election in mind. Have you ever wondered what society would be like if the only candidates were Independents, free of political dogma and unproductive point-scoring?

Dream on!
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SOMETHING YOU MAY FIND INTERESTING!
The American standard railway gauge (the distance between the rails) is 4’8.5″. Why this very odd number? Because that is how we build them in England, and English ex-pats designed the US railroads.
Why did the English choose the number? Because the people who built the first tramways used the same jigs and tools used for building wagons which used that wheel spacing. Why did the wagons have that spacing? Because had they used any other spacing the wagon wheels would have broken on some of the old long-distance roads in England, because that was the spacing of the wheel ruts
Who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built them for their legions. Roman chariots formed the initial ruts which everyone had to match for fear of wheel damage. Thus today’s American standard railway gauge is derived from the original specifications for a Roman war chariot.
Imperial Rome army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.
When you see a Space Shuttle on its launch pad you may notice that there are two big booster rockets attached to the side of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters (SRBs). They are made by Thiokal at their factory in Utah. The design engineers would have preferred larger SRBs but they have to be shipped from the factory by train. The line runs through a tunnel which is only slightly wider than the track width which, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses behinds.
So what is arguably the design of the worlds most sophisticated method of transport was determined over 2,000 years ago by the width of a horse’s backside.
It reminds us that horse’s arses control almost everything!
(With thanks to reader G)
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Government shows its true colours on tax avoidance!

Our bedroom ceiling features a lot of cracks. Hardly a world-shattering revelation with which to open today’s opus but presumably even Rebekah had days when real news was hard to come by. My enforced examination of the surface I once painted did prove one thing – we seldom notice the minute details that surround us. Now I am downstairs and have taken to examining the intricate surface of the flower vase, but being occasionally upright does at least enable me to avoid looking up at Albert, a posture I once assumed to be a physical impossibility.

He called this morning with tales of mud, feisty hens and battered roof panels. He handed over a box of chocolates from my fellow codgers. This breathtakingly unusual gesture was somewhat offset by the news that my chickens have become ‘mixed’ up with those of other owners, and I am wondering if that was Albert-speak for they have all escaped given the absence of my sheepdog Preston who has developed a remarkable capacity for patrolling the boundary edge.

None of which is remotely important but seemed a gentle way of moving into the increasingly appalling news from Iraq. It seems that Jihadists have massacred hundreds of non-Muslims, many of whom were buried alive whilst the assassins performed dances of homage to what is surely the strangest God yet invented by man. Meanwhile tens of thousands are trapped on mountains in searing heat whilst the UK government proudly boasts of aid drops comprising “1,200 reusable water containers and 240 solar lanterns which can be used to recharge mobile phones”. The UK strategy of benevolent detachment is utterly untenable.

The response of the Americans is equally pathetic. It is not difficult to imagine the feelings in Washington at the performance of the Iraqi £25 billion army which fled 1,300 fighters at Mosul in what Patrick Cockburn calls “one of the greatest military debacles in history”. But the fact remains that the botched war and “reconstruction” by Bush and Blair, and the recent flirtation with Syrian rebels has created a vacuum which has provided religious zealots with the opportunity to establish an extremist medieval caliphate, pursued with carelessly abandoned 21st century weaponry.

The Western powers started this and they must, however reluctantly, finish it. We have a straight choice between putting troops on the ground to create a safe haven or making empty gestures whilst one act of genocide follows another, and the middle east returns to the dark ages and becomes a base for Jihadist atrocities in this country and many others. To our eternal shame the people who supposedly run our island are on holiday!

But they have been active in a matter that concerns everyone of us. Tax avoidance is robbing the treasury of amounts far in excess of the savings being made from cuts to public services and benefits, and the pollsters have revealed that this is a major issue with the vast majority. This morning the right-wing press has been briefed to headline a supposed crackdown. Gorgeous George Osborne intends to extract inheritance tax before death from anyone using accountancy ploys to reduce payments when they depart for the wide blue skies up yonder. He may be right in principle although we should remember that such ‘offenders’ have already paid full tax on the money they wish to protect.

But why is there still a total silence on the majority of our large companies who make their profits from British customers yet pay little tax? The answer is of course that they have friends in high places. A few days ago the curtain of secrecy parted slightly.

Take a look at the latest peerages announced by our dear leader. The list is of course packed with party political donors, but some of the appointments tell us something more significant. Take as an example the peerage awarded to Joanna Shields, who is now the prime Minister’s digital adviser and chair of Tech City UK. Just one year ago she was in charge of Facebook in the UK. The media giant’s British operations paid just £238,000 in corporation tax the previous year, despite having UK sales revenue of £175 million. Ms Shields achieved this by diverting most of its sales via Ireland, where tax rates are lower. Before her years at Facebook Ms Shields ran Google’s European operations. That company has also been accused of avoiding tax in the UK.

Yesterday Richard Murphy, the tax specialist and anti-poverty campaigner, said: “It is surprising that David Cameron, who has made tax and transparency one of his highest priorities when president of the G8, has appointed a person as a peer who has been a director of companies that appear to have made tax avoidance and opacity their highest priority when pursuing their corporate goals”.

Surprising? Not really Richard. The wealth divide in Britain is greater than at any other time in the past century, and the rich folk stick together.

As Ms Shields is measured up for her ermine I find myself wondering just what those starving thousands make of their solar lanterns. And choke back tears of rage and impotence.
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QUOTES FOR TODAY; “Thousands of people, among them many Christians, banished brutally from their houses, children dying of hunger and thirst as they flee, women kidnapped, people massacred, violence of all kinds, destruction everywhere…all of this deeply offends God and deeply offends humanity”….Pope Francis in Rome yesterday.

“Taxpayers are understandably angry when they see companies not paying their fair share, and this appointment won’t sit well with many”….Andy Silvester, Taxpayers’ Alliance.
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The greatest threat to world peace since Hitler!

It is, I suppose, an idealistic fantasy, but I have always imagined the Government of the day to be responsible for the running of the country in the way that a Board of Directors runs a company. I was reminded of this when younger members of our tribe arrive to visit grumpy Grampy and reported that they had spent hour after hour locked in motorway tailbacks. it struck me as similar to a hotel allowing endless guests into their establishment without making any attempt to relate capacity to demand. I suppose the reality is that no one ‘runs’ the country, we simply elect politicians who spend the next five years bickering, seemingly oblivious to the logistical problems that beset everyone who fancies venturing beyond their front gate.

Which reminds me that i haven’t ventured beyond mine since my operation of a week ago today. My allotments pals pop in to exchange insults from time to time but, such moments apart, life has become somewhat boring. Others who have suffered similar fates tell me that this is the time for deep introspection aimed at working out the meaning of life, but I become preoccupied with less weightier issues, such as the disinclination of the Old Trafford ground-staff to cover up the renowned mud-patch on their outfield when the heavens open.

Even the news that Albert yesterday dropped a tray of eggs for the zillionth time when he was bitten by his own dog didn’t lighten my mood, proof positive that hilarity flourishes only in the company of others. But I did derive some small satisfaction at being right in predicting that the newly privatised Royal Mail would lose no time in cutting services. Yesterday it announced that the latest time for posting is being brought forward to 9.30 am. Wonderful – our postal services were sold off at £1.5 billion below market value and are now in the hands of overseas investors. The plan to invite Uncle Vince Cable to become the treasurer of our local cricket club has been abandoned.

Standing – or in my case lying – back from the real world does at least filter the news into what really matters, and what doesn’t. Today my narrowed eyes swept past tales of our dear leader and Rebekah’s horse and Boris hanging from a trip wire, to focus on what increasingly looks like the greatest threat to world peace since the corporal with the Charlie Chaplain moustache. We didn’t take him very seriously during his early mad rants and we all know what happened next. Now we increasingly hear, or see TV reports of, the equally mad voices of the jiadists. Already they have us referring tn the new Islamic State of Isis.

Right now wars are being waged around the middle east and the madmen are never far removed. When the so-called Arab Spring dawned the Western world rejoiced, only to find that the Muslim Brotherhood was not a sort of Lib Dem revival in robes. In Gaza fanatics have goaded Israel into conducting a massacre of the innocent which has rightly been condemned around the world, and in so doing has once again won support from even peace-loving Muslims. And we all know the story of the Bush/Blair invasion of Iraq.

And it is there that the greatest threat of them all is building. Religious minorities have been driven from their homes by Isis, a movement hell-bent on building a caliphate. Offered a choice between death or conversion, they have fled into the countryside to seek a perilous refuge in the wilderness. The Yazidis and Christians have become isolated on a mountain, suffering from starvation and dehydration. Unaided, they face certain death either by natural consequence or beheading if the fanatics arrive before they expire.

There has been an understandable reluctance on the part of President Obama to “return to Iraq”, given painful memories of the effort to build a nation there after the 2003 invasion. But it is precisely because the West played some role in creating the circumstances in which the Islamic State flourished – with a mix of too much action in Iraq and, arguably, too little in Syria, where the terrorist army was incubating – that it surely has a responsibility to act now.

And act they have with a combination of bombing and humanitarian aid. Sadly the time has come to stop Isis before its evil influence spreads out across large swathes of the world including the UK. Negotiations with people who believe that death is a ticket to paradise is futile. If we learned anything in the 1930s it was that unbridled fanaticism has only one antidote.

To this day historians still reflect on Chamberlain’s naivety. Let us hope that Barack Obama will not one day be similarly regarded!
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QUOTE FOR TODAY: “I will only shake my finger at him,” he said, “and placed it on the trigger”…Stanislaw J Lee.
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Unemployment down but where are the REAL jobs?

It is only when you are reliant on nurses that you realise just how important they are. Recovering at home has its benefits but there are inevitably moments when you feel the need for expert advice, and a call to the hospital nursing station is always met with patience and helpful guidance. Just as well since the chance of seeing a GP in our neck of the woods is akin to my getting to Old Trafford to gloat over the demise of the Indian batsmen. There is no doubt in my mind that the Coalition’s enforced reduction in nurse numbers in our large hospitals is a huge disservice to patients. Frankly I could never again vote for a party that contains incompetent nincompoops such as Lansley and Hunt.

And it is not only in healthcare that the present bunch of ministers has shown its lack of understanding of the consequences of its actions. Albert called this morning with a supply of beans, eggs and moans and told me of the grandson of one our allotments gang. Some three years ago he responded to government propaganda about the career prospects for social workers by enrolling on a university degree course. Earning his qualifications was a hard slog but, he imagined, the effort was worthwhile. Now he finds that there are no vacancies despite the fact that those social workers who have survived the cuts are overworked to a dangerous state, dangerous to their health and to the clients who desperately need their help. A vital service has been reduced to ruins to save costs dwarfed by the amounts denied the treasury by tax-avoiders and the hordes of £1,000-a-day management consultants covertly employed. Run the country? Employment may have fallen but where are the real jobs? Politicians would struggle to run an Eric Pickles chip shop.

Test match apart, the rest of today’s news isn’t too cheering either. The first public pronouncement by Education Minister Nicky Morgan tells us that the madmen who have conspired to turn many of the new Academies are also taking similar action in regard to nurseries, where toddlers are being indoctrinated with extremist views. Apparently there have been hundreds of complaints from worried parents, and the government has decided to withdraw funding from nurseries linked to radical mosques or run by organisations with extremist views.

Action surely needs to go further than this. Anyone even suspected of promoting such lunacy should be barred from holding office in any company or registered charity. Since any director of any company can be banned should his or her company be late in filing accounts, such action would hardly be draconian. And even if it was, the time to consign political correctness to the bin has arrived. If you doubt that take a moment to read this morning’s updates on what Isis, the heroes of these people, are doing to the Christian and non-Muslim communities in Iraq!

But despair not. Today we will learn that the cost to the taxpayer of the House of Lords is to take another boost. All of the political parties pledged to reduce the size of this institution of privilege, but the numbers of ermine-clad cronies continues to rocket. Amongst today’s new entrants you will find Ranbir Singh Suri, a jewellery tycoon who has personally donated £129,380 to the Conservative Party, and whose company has handed over a further £183,055.

Another major donor, Sir Michael Farmer, will also be taking the bow. He has donated more than £2.3m to the Tories. When Lloyd George came up with the wizard wheeze of selling honours he set quite a precedent, and we Brits treasure our old traditions. If Ed Miliband would only stop agonising over his appearance when eating bacon sandwiches he just might find that there are some pledges that, unlike his sandwich, might go down rather well with the disgruntled electorate.

There are some iniquities that beat even that in the twit-of-the-decade stakes. Today’s papers carry warnings from the society of beancounters that the gender pay gap will remain in place for another 60 years. Why? What is so complicated about making equal pay for equal work mandatory? Could it be that the people pulling the strings are men?

Never mind, it is time to draw the blinds to block out sight of what the Met Office tells us is to be the worst storm in living memory. Just a quick peek. How very strange, the sun is shining and all is well.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY; “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans!”…Woody Allen.
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Tony Blair in never-never land!

Another beautiful morning. When we arrived at the allotments the rows of sunflowers were beaming back at their God, and the masses of begonias were bathed in shining glory. At such moments we codgers are always reminded of the famous lines about Solomon in all his glory not being arrayed as such as these. It is quite a sobering thought that even in an age of a multi-billion fashion industry we mere mortals still cannot match the glorious splendour of plants that just three months ago were seeds capable of being blown away by the gentlest breeze. It always serves to reassure us that despite being scruffy we can still play a part in the creation of something that even Lady Gaga cannot outshine.

Having cleaned out the hens, and lifted another half-dozen rows of new potatoes, we settled on the wall alongside the shed for our tea and doughnut break. There was considerable amusement at the news that the officer in charge of police horses let slip the fact that Rebekah told him that the retired horse she acquired from them was for the use of David Cameron. Our hearts go out to our dear leader who this morning faces the dual task of persuading the decidedly reluctant Aunty Merkel to impose real sanctions on Vladimir Putin, plus explaining for the umpteenth time that he scarcely knew either Mrs Brooks or her horse. His life seems to be dogged by difficult women, and even the arrival of the thigh-flasher has done little to ease his burden.

But our butterfly brains soon alighted on weightier matters. Yesterday, whilst Ed Miliband was hob-nobbing with President Obama, his perpetually dark shadow Tony Blair was giving the inaugural Philip Gould lecture to a rapturous audience of former Blairites. As ever the former leader managed to convey the earnest air of a latter-day saint as he emphasised that young Ed must be prepared to leave his “comfort zone”. He wasn’t specific but there were some outside of the worshipping throng who wondered if he had one or two invasions in mind. They probably wondered too about his claim that money is not important, something so often asserted by those who have acquired enough to take over the Bank of England.

We codgers know only too well that there is much to be said for casting aside old grudges. But we find it hard to forgive our former hero for the lies he told at the time of his joint adventure with George W Bush. Millions died in the aftermath of the supposed quest for weapons of mass destruction and to his day the carnage continues in iraq, with the repercussions still haunting those charged with the security of these islands.

But peace comes at a price say those who still cling to the illusion that whilst wrong in substance, Tony Blair was right in principle. Peace? Try telling that to the people of Iraq. Yes, many were relieved to see the fall of Saddam Hussain but what they didn’t grasp was that there was no rational plan to avoid their tortured country from sliding into an age of brutality that even Saddam couldn’t match.

A few days ago we were chatting to a Church leader who has spent time in Iraq attempting to assist the large Christian community in the north. He told us that the last Christians are right now fleeing from places where their communities have lived for almost 2,000 years. All of them face a deadline for them to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or be killed. And this is no empty threat. Isis, the new brutal and fanatical extremist ‘army’, lives by its statement that for those who fail to comply “there is nothing to give them but the sword”. Already thousands have been slaughtered.

Isis now rules an area larger than Britain and has already ‘eliminated’ many of the ancient Christian communities of eastern Syria. Those leaving Mosul, captured by Isis on 10th June, in order to seek refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan are being stripped of all their possessions. Our informant said that every Christian stopped at a checkpoint were stripped of everything they were carrying, but it was a better fate than that of those who were executed. Meantime the ancient Christian churches have been ransacked and the ruins now fly the black banners of Isis and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self appointed Caliph and wearer of expensive Rolex watches.

The rapid elimination of Christians is not of course the only nightmare building in Iraq. Females are losing their right to education and much else, and repressive dress codes are being enforced. On the spot executions of anyone inclined to protest are commonplace and kidnappings, such as that of two nuns and three orphans when they stopped at a petrol station, are an almost daily occurrence.

None of which was the responsibility of Blair or Bush. But the carnage which they triggered achieved nothing and in retrospect has nothing to commend it. The only meagre consolation is that we learned an important lesson, we should not commit military action to societies that we simply do not understand. The idea that Iraq would hold elections with an equivalent of the Lib Dems accepting the outcome was naive beyond words.

So we codgers cannot find it in our ancient hearts to forgive Mr Blair, his copy-book is spoiled beyond any hope of a clean page.

Of much lesser moment are the deeds of the England cricketers, but they didn’t entirely escape our censure this morning. Some of us still help with schoolboy coaching and the first lesson always is that you should leave the high or wide ball alone on the grounds that if you don’t hit them you can’t be out. Yesterday a constant procession of England batsmen did and they were.

The word pathetic rent the allotments air twice this morning, but the cricketers at least will hopefully prove us wrong.
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QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” Frisbeetarianism is the philosophy that when you die, your soul goes up on a roof and gets stuck there”…George Carlin.
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Beware of the out-of-hours death trap!

One of the joys of being part of our allotments co-operative is the diversity of its members. We are all now retired and work together in common cause, but our backgrounds cover almost every class, race and trade. And most of us originate from other parts of the country, thus ensuring a wide range of accents. I was reminded of this when Tommy this morning embarked on another of his somewhat embroidered tales about his native Wolverhampton. The first record of a settlement in Wolverhampton dates from 985 AD, he said. At that time a grant of land was made to Lady Wulfruna by Ethelred the Unready, in recognition of her marrying his reluctant brother, Ethel the Unsure-about-him. It sounded as unlikely as a Nick Clegg promise.

It was another beautiful morning, the sort that has one wondering if all those soaking wet and freezing ones really happened. The bank of foxgloves at the far end of the site sparkled in the sun, and there were enough bees in attendance to create a beehive of Eric Pickles proportions. The long-hidden comet fish were dashing around the pond lilies, and even the chickens seemed to have caught the summer mood as they scratched furiously in search of any worm daft enough to sleep near the surface. We sat on the wall with our mugs of stewed tea and reflected that all was well with the world.

Well our small piece of it at least. Out in the ‘real world’ things are not quite so rosy. As we scanned the Sunday papers we quickly came down to earth with a bang. A record number of foreign criminals began legal action in an attempt to avoid being deported from Britain last year, a substantial bill chargeable to the taxpayer. More than 2,400 offenders lodged appeals against efforts by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to have them removed after committing serious crimes. Among them are five convicted of murder or manslaughter, fifteen rapists plus 35 sex offenders including paedophiles, and 120 violent offenders.

Most of the appeals are brought on human-rights grounds, mainly under article 8 of the European Convention which protects the “right to private and family life”. Typical of the majority who win the right to stay here is Harnault Hospice Kassi.
In 2011 he was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison after being convicted of offences including theft and conspiracy to steal. Police raids revealed credit cards, cash, mail, mobile phones, passports, electronic kit and computers plus credit card accounts set up using stolen identities. Although his marriage has since ended the courts decided that his human rights would be breached by deportation. The human rights of his many victims were not discussed.

But such matters are trivial in comparison with the words and deeds of British subjects now serving with the extremists in Iraq and Syria. Typical is Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 23, who left his family’s £1 million home in Maida Vale, West London, last year to join militant groups, telling his family that he was “leaving everything for the sake of Allah”. Now Bary, whose father is accused by American authorities of having been a senior lieutenant to Osama Bin Laden, has posted a series of warnings aimed at Britain. On Monday he used Twitter to say: “The days of Muslim silent oppression are over, the lions are coming for you filthy kuffs, beheadings in your own backyard soon. The black flag of tawheed (Isis) will fly on top of parliament…stay indoors and await the bombs you scummy pagans”.

It is hard not to despair. The reaction from the government is to prattle on about promoting British values in schools. That is undoubtedly a worthy aim but something more immediate is needed if our streets are not to run with blood. A good starting point would appear to be the reversal of cuts to police numbers and prison places, and legislation making threatening behaviour on this scale a serious criminal offence. Forget human rights and end talk of holy wars. There is nothing remotely holy about madness of this kind, and the vast majority of the nation is becoming very angry at being constantly vilified and threatened by demented idiots.

But meantime we have something more mundane but equally dangerous to worry about. When the last government relieved GPs of the responsibility for out-of-hours medical services it made a huge mistake. Some areas are fortunate enough to be still covered by a co-operative comprising local GPs. But most are not, and many are at the mercy of private sector deliverers who economise by employing as few qualified staff as possible. In such areas patients are advised to ring the latest version of NHS Direct and decisions are based on telephone conversations, a method of diagnosis that no self-respecting clinician trusts.

As an example of what is happening take the sad case of three year-old Sam Morrish. The little boy died just 36 hours after falling ill at his family’s home in Devon. His mother had taken him to the local GP, suspecting a chest infection. The GP said that there was no infection but by the next morning Sam’s condition had worsened. That evening he vomited what appeared to be blood and his parents rang NHS Direct. On being told that Sam was not passing urine the nurse appeared concerned and promised a call-back. But the nurse recorded the details wrongly on the computer and recorded the call as routine.

Becoming increasingly worried Sam’s parents contacted the local out-of-hours service, Devon Doctors. There an unqualified call handler directed them to a treatment centre in Newton Abbott. At the centre the family were placed in a queue. It was only when Mrs Morrish asked a passing nurse for help that an ambulance was called and Sam was rushed to Torbay Hospital. Even there he as not properly treated – he was not given antibiotics until three hours after they had been prescribed. He died from septic shock on December 23.

The NHS Ombudsman is about to publish his findings but one thing is clear. The out-of-hours service is unsafe and disorganised. In the absence of sufficient and immediately available GPs, the only safe service is that provided at A & E units, always provided that they have safe levels of staffing.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has met Sam’s grieving parents and, if he has an ounce of determination in him, he should surely insist that the out-of-hours service be reorganised without delay. So far he has simply focussed on the fact that the Labour Party made the first blunder. We know that but the lives of such as little Sam are infinitely more important than political points scoring!
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “How beautiful it is to do nothing and then to rest afterwards”….Spanish saying.
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Delusional greed is not a pretty sight!

The Grim Reaper visited the allotments last night. When we released the hens one didn’t emerge, and it was time for Albert’s hole-digging talents to be pressed into service. We never kill our chickens, our reasoning being that they have served us well with eggs and are entitled to a comfortable retirement. Eventually, like us, they die and odd though it may seem each passing saddens us. Yes we know that zillions of their fellow chucks line the Tesco shelves but ours are not anonymous members of battery farms, they have individual personalities and traits and some even have nicknames. Perhaps we codgers are all slightly mad, perhaps we are living examples of Britishness.

That being the case we should perhaps volunteer to help our dear leader who, in the wake of the possibility that children in Birmingham are being prepared for insurrection, has ordered that Britishness must be added to the national schools list of compulsory subjects. But what is it? The head of all the Cameroons mentioned fish and chips and football which seemed to us somewhat inadequate. Over our morning brew we came up with queuing, talking about the weather, moaning and arguing about Duckworth Lewis. Equally inadequate. Some of us recently visited the magnificent thousand-year-old Lichfield Cathedral, an experience that prompted someone to add Christian heritage to the list. But that is hardly likely to appeal to the PM’s target audience. Perhaps Britishness is best defined as being so dense that we don’t know what it is?

But we hope that the affliction of delusional greed doesn’t appear on the final draft. It certainly exists in our society, but we like to believe that it hasn’t yet infected those who wear flat caps or breed ferrets. Be that as it may, every day brings examples of contamination. It started within the bankers who chose to believe that the financial crash was not of their making, and that they deserved record bonuses for clearing it up. In fairness it must be said that maybe they caught the bug from MPs who had become so delusional that they saw moat houses as so key to their jobs that the bill must be passed on to taxpayers.

Today the headlines centre around the greatest greedy delusional of them all. Tony Blair is alive and well and busy amassing a personal fortune from lectures on the art of peacemaking. For some time we wondered just how he reconciled that with so many deaths resulting from his lies about Saddam’s supposed arsenal of weapons capable of flattening London. We realise now that he still sees what he did as a triumph, and he seems to have no recognition of the fact that no attention was given to an exit strategy before his pal George W Bush launched his ‘shock and awe’ campaign. Now Blair is urging missile and air attacks on the al-Qaeda madmen, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are interspersed amongst the innocents that they are murdering.

We are not unduly surprised by the final evidence that power corrupted Tony Blair and left him deluded. What does surprise and disappoint us is evidence that senior executives in our beloved NHS have also caught delusioni-greeditis to give it its full medical name. Nurses are under enormous pressure in many disciplines as a result of cuts to their numbers and escalating numbers of incoming patients, but despite this they have been denied a 1 per cent pay rise by the Department of Health. The pay band for most front-line nurses ranges from £21,500 to £27,900 and there are many instances of their struggling to pay household bills.

A freedom of information request to NHS provider trusts has revealed that pay for executive directors has increased by an average of 6.1 per cent, and a number of trusts have paid out bonuses of between £10,000 and £15,000. An example of what has been going on behind closed doors – the government has no direct control of Foundation Trust pay – is provided by the Oxford University Hospital Trust. There six executives received huge bonuses while the chief executive received a hand-out of between £40,000 and £45,000.

All of this largess comes from budgets already under real strain, and inevitably leads to yet more clinical staff cuts. And the average hospital boss takes home £164,000!

This is a classic example of delusional greed. Delusional because non-clinical manager’s contribution to patient care is limited to the control of administration and systems, arguably the weakest feature of the NHS. Every trust has more executives devoted to non-clinical work than is justifiable, and to compound the scandal every Foundation Trust has a part-time chairman on around £50,000 plus six non-executive directors each pocketing over £30,000. My own experience as an almost unpaid chairman of 12 years tells me that if the whole bunch vanished tomorrow they would not be missed.

It is very unusual for us codgers to criticise the NHS but these revelations have infuriated us. Thanks to the botched-up reforms imposed by Lansley and Hunt the NHS clinical staff are undergoing a living nightmare in which it is near impossible to fulfil their professional duties. We had foolishly assumed that the senior managers were making sacrifices too. What they have actually done is to abet the betrayal of those they supposedly support whilst thrusting their snouts into the trough.

No we can’t define Britishness but we hope that Mr Blair and the NHS lay bosses are not examples!
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Delusional, self-serving Blair is back. He backs democracy until it delivers results of which he disapproves”….Ian Birrell, Independent.
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Bush and Blair – the final condemnation!

Of such mornings is paradise made. Slightly over the top but arriving at the allotments in our shirtsleeves and seeing everything bathed in a golden glow lifted our spirits this morning, and served to remind us that the best things in life have no price label attached. Throw in the fact that tonight marks the start of weeks of wall-to-wall football on the box and you have a recipe for happy codgers, even allowing for the inevitable complaints from wives who incredibly prefer to watch the boys of Mrs Brown to those of Mr Hodgson.

Always the odd man out Albert was banging on about air travel when we gathered in the hut, having cleaned out the mutinous hens. His newly found preoccupation was triggered by his difficulty in renewing his passport, a prerequisite for heading off to New Zealand to visit his grandson. According to our dear leader the Liverpool office is busy right now, small consolation to Albert whose secret weapon, Mrs Albert, visited it yesterday. She was shown a pile of boxes which if stacked one on top of the other would constitute a danger to the near-empty 757s leaving Manchester airport.

But empty or otherwise today’s planes, according to Albert, represent a tribute to technology when compared with those of 1910 when Britain’s first commercial aircraft factory was established at Filton. There was produced the Bristol Boxkite which were used to launch routes going as far as the string would stretch. However, services were eventually cancelled when passengers became tired of having to climb out of a tall tree after every landing.

As with most of Albert’s tales this one sounded more the result of an over active imagination than research, and in no time at all he was talking to himself as the rest of us metaphorically applauded the government at the news that the number of people in work has leapt by 350,000 in just three months. It is of course true that the employment recovery is being fuelled by austerity with wages below inflation, but at last progress is being made. What troubles us is that many Conservative MPs seem incapable of recognising that the recovery is leaving in its wake a tide of poverty the like of which has not been seen in Britain for decades.

Yesterday Oxfam publicised its report on “Breadline Britain”. It featured zero-hours contracts, high prices, benefit cuts and energy prices. On Radio 4 the charity’s director said that there are families starving in Britain today. He spoke of children describing a “biting feeling of hunger” in their stomachs.

Within hours MPs such as Conor Burns and Charlie Elphicke reported Oxfam to the Charity Commission, and warned that the “lies” would alienate many Oxfam donors and supporters. The charity was, they ranted, playing politics. In fact it was simply telling the truth that most of us would prefer to be unmentioned. For more than 70 years Oxfam has lobbied governments of all parties. During the last Labour government, Oxfam criticised ministers over the Iraq war and refused to accept its “bloodstained” donations. Yes its work is political, but not party-political. We may not want to believe it but right now children are in poverty and the actions of such as Ian Duncan Smith have rendered them so.

It was the mention of Oxfam’s reaction to the Iraq invasion that reminded us that today brings reports from Iraq that finally confirm that what Bush and Blair did was a war crime of horrendous proportions. Blair won support for the invasion by lying about supposed weapons of mass destruction. They compounded that by brushing aside any calls for a strategy for dealing with the aftermath of an inevitably easy victory, and ludicrously claimed that Iraq would become a beacon for democracy and the rule of law in the troubled region. Over the years that followed countless lives were lost, including those of British servicemen. And £9 billion was spent.

With Blair and Bush consigned to history their successors perpetuated the illusion and we heard much about the exit strategy ending in triumph as the Iraq forces, now armed and highly trained, took over the security of the ‘rescued’ nation. Yesterday a horrified world watched as al-Qaeda-linked militants seized city after city and the new Iraqi army fled.

Saddam Hussain was a tyrant. But the idea that his removal would trigger a new democratic age was a fairy story. In reality it has made things even worse and served to bring terrorism to the streets of Britain. Politicians whose only motive was self-glory have sent young men and women to die in a country that they did not understand. The likelihood now is that the fanatics will spread their lunacy to the whole region, and their irrational and obscene beliefs to all corners of the globe.

The sight of Tony Blair posing as an envoy for peace is surely final proof that the world is slowly gong mad. As is the spectacle of our politicians wringing their hands. With the honourable exception of the Lib Dems each and every one of them supported the most ill-judged military action of modern history.
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I have always made the point that I do not particularly see the point of going back over these issues. I voted and acted as I did, and do not see the point of going over the history books”….David Cameron, 11/6/14
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Care homes – a licence to abuse and humiliate!

As we cleaned out the hens this morning there was a good deal of speculation as to why British troops are being flown out to take part in ‘exercises’ in Estonia. The official announcement talks vaguely of increased tensions with Russia, we suspect this is yet another example of politicians living in a fantasy world in which we still rule the roost. The situation in Ukraine is chaotic and extremely dangerous and frankly no concern of ours. That apart does anyone seriously believe that Vladimir Putin is going to be influenced by a nation that has reduced its armed forces to where they are dependent on part-time reservists?

One would have hoped that Iraq and Afghanistan had taught us an unforgettable lesson – never start a fight that you cannot finish. The many British families destroyed by those conflicts are entitled to believe that their sacrifice has at least prevented any more posing by armchair ministers. If we allow our troops to be drawn into yet another mission impossible, they will surely have the support of everyone in rising up in absolute outrage.

If our leaders have need of an outlet for their repressed aggression we suggest that they pay belated attention to the plight of elderly, confused and vulnerable people who have the misfortune to find themselves confined in a so-called care home. Once again it has fallen to the BBC to expose abuse, bullying and ill-treatment. Clearly the present inspection regime is totally inadequate for every time that the BBC employs undercover reporters their hidden cameras reveal treatment that would have shamed the Third Reich. Last night we watched pictures of residents being slapped and humiliated which shame Britain. Almost immediately employees were sacked, suggesting that the employers have no idea of what is happening in their own organisations.

Anyone who has worked with a victim of dementia knows only too well that it is a very challenging task, one that calls for dedicated and professional carers. Often the stress, and need for constant attention, proves too much for even the most caring family, and at that point they turn to the state for help. In the days when most residential places were provided by local authority Homes, this was usually provided by staff carefully supervised by qualified Matrons. Then came privatisation.

There are still some good quality establishments run by resident owners who are in touch with everything that happens, and take pride in providing what they like to describe as a home from home. Of course they too experience problems but, being immediately accessible to relatives, involve visitors in the solutions. Despite funding cuts many of them still organise trips and diversions to make life for residents as pleasant as possible.

But private owners are now in a minority. The much vaunted market has taken over and most Homes are part of large chains whose directors are located in remote head offices where profit margins are the only criteria. Minimal budgets are allocated to individual Homes, and staffing costs are cut to the bone and below it. The result is that employees are paid minimum wages, many are employed on so-called zero-hours contracts. They often get little training, and feel undervalued – not a good background for dealing with dementia or other complex diagnoses. Home managers are under constant pressure from centralised bean-counters and every day is a chaotic routine of dealing with crises, with little or no time left for supervision.

If care staff were properly paid with a reasonable workload and expert help and guidance to hand there is no doubt that care quality would improve. But that would involve higher costs and lower shareholder dividends. Unless state funding is increased the present penny-pinching and employment of anyone available at below a living wage will continue, and that inevitably opens the door for people entirely unsuitable for a caring role. Yes there are some decent, kindly people who do their level best, but there are also people of a darker nature.

We codgers fear above all else ending our days in a version of hell on earth. We therefore have a vested interest in demanding action. But we are sure that millions of compassionate Brits will echo our call. No one wants to see their elderly parents subjected to humiliation and ill treatment. Neither do they wish to hear mealy-mouthed politicians defending the indefensible, not least because millionaire ministers will never face such a nightmare.

If our treatment of the vulnerable is not to brand Britain as the most cruel in the developed world one of two things must happen. Either local authorities must be given the funding to reintroduce their own facilities, or private Homes must be properly funded and monitored.

The answer will be that times are hard. Yet we can still afford the much debated multi billion HS2, and we can still indulge the vast number of tax avoiders. And even Her Majesty’s opposition seems to have little to say about toleration of what amounts to mental and physical torture.

They probably consider that elderly people with dementia don’t vote. But their relatives and their disgusted peers do!
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “It is obvious that what is needed is better-quality training for carers and better pay. Their status should be raised to a professional level in line with nursing and teaching – then more dedicated people would be attracted to this essential work”…….Celia Bircumshaw.
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Troops betrayed by spineless ministers!

The latest demographic projections suggest that the number of people reaching a century will treble over the next ten years, and will continue to rocket after then. We allotment codgers are clearly fork-tongued since the reaction to the news as we cleaned out the hens this morning was one of great concern for today’s young people who will have to fund zillions of G4S care homes. In the next breath we were unanimous in our hope of being in receipt of a letter from King Charles the Umpteenth.

The next news snippet to catch our attention was yesterday’s letter to Health Secretary Hunt from the British Medical Association (BMA) no less. The medical profession is up in arms about Mr Hunt’s decision to block a 1% pay rise recommended by independent pay advisers. For such as junior doctors and newly qualified nurses it does seem incredibly harsh, but the BMA believes the decision is yet more evidence that the government doesn’t have a “meaningful and sustainable solution to addressing the funding gap in the NHS”. Without such, the BMA contends, the outcome of an ageing population will be that patient care will be at “serious risk”.

We naive codgers were under the impression that doctors were expert in diagnosing the future, but they do seem to have taken rather a long time in spotting the obvious. The NHS has been chaotically reformed from the top down, has suffered a £20 billion funding cut, and is receiving an ever-increasing number of older patients. Worse still it is in the charge of a Blue Peter presenter expert in making battleships out of bog rolls but decidedly less adept at running hospitals.

But at least none of that is surprising to those of us who have worked in the besieged NHS. What has really shocked us is the outcome of the so-called al-Sweady inquiry, named after a fatality in Iraq. So far some £22 million has been spent since the inquiry opened in March, 2013. It has sat for 167 days and heard evidence from 280 witnesses. The hyper-expensive affair has followed claims that British troops in Iraq killed up to 20 civilians.

Yesterday Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), the human rights law firm acting for the families of the alleged victims, suddenly announced that it was withdrawing the claims
since they now realise that “there was no evidence to substantiate the claims. To call this a scandalous waste of public money is an understatement, but even worse is the willingness of ministers to allow lawyers on the make to besmirch the reputation of British forces.

PIL is headed by the socialist lawyer Phil Shiner, who is well known for pursuing British soldiers through the courts over alleged war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. His firm has been paid millions from public funds and hundreds of claimants have been compensated to the tune of about £20 million. It is not difficult to imagine what happens when the ‘ambulance chasers’ transfer their UK tactics to countries where poverty is widespread.

Meanwhile, the relatives of six officers of the Royal Military Police killed in the town of Majar al-Kabir, north of Basra, have been denied a hearing of their own. It seems that the concept of justice is limited to Iraqi claimants who are encouraged to make claims, however flimsy the evidence.

No one suggests that all our soldiers behaved with total propriety in extreme circumstances, often in fear of their own lives. But the vast majority behaved bravely and with honour in what were often horrifying encounters. The relentless mud-slinging must stop. It is time to shut down what amounts to a blueprint for lining the pockets of lawyers by denigrating our troops who were sent to an impossible war by politicians.

David Cameron should stop issuing ridiculous threats to President Putin and his army, and look instead at the disgraceful treatment being dished out to our own army!
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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I don’t know what weapons will be used in World War 111, but I know that World War IV will be fought with wooden sticks!”….Albert Einstein.
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Not the best of days!

Like most of our trains I am running somewhat late today. As excuses go mine is a reasonable one, having spent several hours at our local A & E department. One of my allotments pals developed unexplained pains during this morning’s hen-cleaning and Albert and I quickly conveyed him to the service that Jeremy Hunt is so anxious to close. I am delighted to report that it all proved nothing to worry about.

One only has to spend a while in the waiting area to realise just how important this service is. Whilst we were there two ambulances arrived and the staff responded instantly, calmly and compassionately. There may or may not be truth in the claim that centralised emergency centres would be more cost effective, but the extra time taken to reach them could well represent the difference between life and death. It is surely time for every family in the land to tell politicians in no uncertain terms that they have no moral right to endanger life by playing idiotic political games.

Whilst waiting for what proved to be excellent news, we thumbed through the dailies. The latest report from Iraq did little to restore any faith we once had in politicians.The nation was taken to war on the basis of a barefaced lie and many lives have been sacrificed. We tend to forget that, with the honourable exception of the Lib Dems, the vast majority of Westminster MPs nodded through the Bush/Blair madness. Since then successive ministers have told us that the new Iraq is a better place as a result of the bloodshed.

Really? Last week al-Qaeda fighters seized control in Iraqi cities. The strength of the fighting showed the extent of al-Qaeda’s resurgence across western Iraq over the past year. The militant’s reappearance has terrified local residents many of whom remember the beheadings and brutal punishments that took place when al-Qaeda last had control. The death rate has returned to more than 1,000 per month and there are clear indications that the Nato-trained Iraqi forces are in deep trouble.

Mr Blair is busy making millions these das. Many believe that he should charged with war crimes. But he was only able to do what he did with the tacit support of the majority of the political parties. They will never be forgiven by grieving families.

Of lesser moment, but revealing all the same, are the 1984  cabinet papers released to the National Archives yesterday. They tell us that there were moments during the government’s bitter year-long struggle when the nation “stared into the abyss” and contemplated the use of troops as violence reached its peak.

Here we had a power-mad Prime Minister locked in near mortal combat with a power-mad union leader. Both had hidden agendas, the former wished to destroy the unions, the latter sought insurrection. In reality no one won for the coal industry was totally destroyed and the cause of legitimate union membership likewise.

In their different ways Iraq and the coal dispute provide us with one important lesson. We are ill advised to unquestioningly accept what the likes of Blair, Thatcher and Scargill tell us.

The emergence of powerful protest organisations such as 38 Degrees is surely to be welcomed and supported. Millions have supported them in their demand for openness on issues such as the NHS. In them, not in Westminster, lies the best prospect for real democracy!

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Princess Di theories refuse to die!

If our ‘mailbag’ is any indication we codgers are not alone in believing that our troops are being turned into the fall-guys for the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this mornings news of a long series of human rights investigations into alleged violations in Iraq have heightened our paranoia. As we cleaned out the hens this morning, we began  to wonder if any day now we will learn that the Taliban is to sue our commanders for infringing its human right to cut opponents into small pieces. But maybe it will hold back for fear of slowing down the talks aimed at restoring its right to resume control.

In fact it increasingly appears that the only people on earth to benefit from the wars born of political lies are the politicians. Of course we all hold Tony Blair responsible but we tend to forget that, with the honourable exception of the Lib Dems, almost the enture House of Commons supported his madness. Many of those MPs are still in office and they are about to receive a pay increase of 11 per cent. If it were not for their counterparts on the EU gravy-train we would think them somewhat greedy.

But their avarice pales by comparison with the EU’s foreign diplomatic service which, we learn today, is spending hundreds of millions of pounds on a vast empire of overseas offices staffed by bureaucrats many of whom pocket salaries and benefits totalling more than £150,000 a year. They are part of what is known as the European External Action Service which employs 3,417 staff, whose work duplicates the existing diplomatic service operated by member states.

In reality this is but the first step along the road to Brussels assuming control of foreign policy. But that is only the beginning of the next stage of the growing Superstate. RAF planes and other military assets are shortly to be handed over to European Union countries under plans for a “Euro Army”. Many Conservatives fear that our dear leader is on the verge of committing Britain to deeper military involvement with the EU and they fear that the step will be an irreversible one. They are probably right, the text issued from Brussels yesterday makes clear that member states must “improve the availability of required civilian and military capabilities”.

Bernard Jenkins, the chairman of the Commons public administration committee, says that “any Tory prime minister should be wholely opposed to what is clearly intended. To sign the UK up to this programme is not just another blow to the UK’s beleaguered defence industries but is another step towards a euro army”. Perhaps he should have a word with Nick Clegg?

But all this was somewhat overshadowed this morning when we learned of the launch of yet another police inquiry into claims that Princess Diana was murdered by an SAS hit squad. We knew that Scotland Yard had checked out claims published by Soldier N, a former Special Forces sniper. Now a new French probe is to be led by Sabine Kheris, a respected judge who has overseen many high-profile cases with international and political links. In other words the French are taking seriously the new allegations of blinding lights being shone into driver Henri Paul’s eyes.

We codgers have never believed the endless conspiracy chatter. But like an undiagnosed pain it goes on and on and we begin to worry. The implications for the establishment are too horrendous to contemplate and we prefer not to even consider it. But sometimes long-term pain cannot be simply wished away!

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THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Building democracy as an imposition from abroad is a form of imperialism!”….Lech Walesa Nobel Peace Prize, 1983.

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