You are here . on the pale blue dot

Blog notes

Anonymous comments for publication must include a pseudonym.

They should be 'on topic' and not involve third parties.
If pseudonyms are linked to commercial sites comments will be removed as spam.
The blog owner is unable to ‘unfollow’ Followers.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Jubilee Debt Campaign: Vulture Culture

Bankers are not alone in profiting on other people’s misery.

Vulture funds seek to profiteer by buying up the debts of heavily indebted poor countries at a cheap price, then trying to recover the full amount, often by suing through the courts. At least 54 companies, many based in tax havens, are known to have taken legal action against 12 of the world's poorest countries in recent years, for claims amounting to $1.5 billion. This means money released by debt relief is going into the pockets of wealthy investors, not spent on health and education. [Jubilee Debt Campaign]

Today the Vultures Bill passed its second reading, but the Tories slowed its progress. If you are not aware of the Jubilee Debt Campaign please check it out. It is worthy of support.


If I had received taxpayers’ money to ensure my survival through a severe financial crisis I would feel duty bound not to reward myself for success in advance of re-paying my debts, with interest, and certainly not if I were still making a loss. Not so Bankers.

They have regularly used other people’s money to line their pockets so manna from heaven is no more than they have come to expect. In their world, deductions precede credits in same day transactions, in advance if a payment is due on a non-working day, while credits have to await clearance for days even in this electronic age, often putting people in the red giving rise to unauthorised overdraft fees out of all proportion to the amount involved.

The Royal Bank of Scotland which is 84% owned by the tax payer has paid over 100 bankers a bonus of £1m or more, a sum more than most people earn in a life time of hard work particularly those caring for others.

To justify their greed Bank chiefs say they have to remain competitive. Not as competitive as the thousands they have put on the dole as they compete with one another for scarce, often low paid jobs to provide any income at all to support their families.

How kind of the Chief Executive of the RBS to waive his £1.6M bonus having to make do on his £1.2m salary. I see that the CEO of another huge loss maker, Lloyd’s Banking Group, is kindly waiving his bonus of £2.3m and the top brass at Barclay’s have given in to pressure to forgo their bonuses while still paying out £2.3bn to their staff.

The “loadsamoney” days of the yuppie were offensive enough; today’s extravagance at other people’s expense is an obscenity too far.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Don’t Care Hospitals

It is noticeable when driving in Britain today that our roads are unclean. I don’t throw litter out of my car window or drop it for others to pick up. I don’t know anyone who does but clearly there are many people who do. They don’t care and have little thought for others.

Even people paid to clean the roads no longer do the job properly now that they have been mechanised. Previously a man with brush and shovel cleaned the streets. Now street cleaning vehicles, probably air-conditioned, pick up litter just in passing, leaving behind what their brushes don’t reach.

The same attitude is evident in some of our hospitals where modern technology leaves patients wired to monitor everything but their general wellbeing. Wards have been left dirty causing serious, life-threatening infections while nurses and doctors have to be reminded to wash their hands.

In the worst cases patients have their food left out of reach with nobody to feed them, their prescribed drugs left on bedside lockers and their bedding in disarray resulting in undignified exposure. Having scraped congealed food from supposedly clean surfaces and excreta from under the finger nails of a “Barrier Nurse” patient – just a note on the door! - the findings of the independent inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust will come as no surprise to anyone who has been affected by the lack of care, especially of the elderly, in some British hospitals today.

Hospital Trusts may have become driven by targets and cost-cutting but as any ‘old-school’ nurse who was properly trained in nursing care on the wards rather than in college knows, many of the current problems are the result of changes in training and nursing practice.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Gay “Marriage”

Reports that Gay and Lesbian couples could soon be allowed to “marry” in church strike a wrong note. According to The Times, “senior bishops in the Lords have [said] that they will support an amendment to the Equality Bill next month that will lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises. The amendment would remove the legislative prohibition on blessings of homosexual couples and open the door to the registration of civil partnerships in churches, synagogues, mosques and all other religious premises.
Advocates of change will be quick to point out that a blessing is not a marriage but that will not stop a blurring of the ceremonies. In June 2008 The Telegraph reported that two male Anglican priests exchanged vows and rings in a ceremony that was conducted using one of the church's most traditional wedding rites. The report continued, “Although some liberal clergy have carried out "blessing ceremonies" for homosexual couples in the past, this is the first time a vicar has performed a "wedding ceremony", using a traditional marriage liturgy, with readings, hymns and a Eucharist.
The introduction of civil partnerships righted a serious wrong but that is what they are. To blur the distinction between a civil partnership and a religious ceremony in which marriage is proclaimed in the Anglican Marriage Service Preface as “the foundation of family life in which children are born and nurtured” is nonsense. Civil partners “in good times and in bad, may find strength, companionship and comfort, and grow to maturity in love” but they are not “married”.

Monday, 22 February 2010


public spirited, second class (rail) citizens prepared to work anti-social hours, usually away from home, with non-negotiable salary and restricted allowances, interested in an unique opportunity to help run other people’s lives.

Provided you are not a peer of the realm, ‘established’ clergyman or a complete lunatic (other restrictions may apply) with £500 to spare and you are a British, Commonwealth or Irish citizen you could consider election as a Member of Parliament for one of the 646 seats in the forthcoming General Election.

You must be over 18 years of age and be nominated by ten parliamentary electors of the constituency in which you wish to stand. By not submitting yourself to the rigours of any political party selection process you would be an Independent candidate joining other do-gooders with disparate ideas and no cohesive policy for restoring Britain’s greatness.

If you are an independent-minded eligible person who has not been certified insane and you have no hope of a peerage just find ten eligible voters to nominate you. Others, especially female candidates, may wish to apply to the Church of England where few restrictions appear to apply.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

“Political Stunt” v. Tory Stunt

The conference arranged by the Secretary of State for Health to help build a consensus on plans to pay for care of the elderly has been branded a “political stunt” by his Tory counterpart. Their preferred option was for a stunt involving a 'R.I.P. Off ' poster campaign to frighten people into believing that a no vote for them would result in a £20,000 “death tax”.

So we have another political football match being played out while the vulnerable have to watch from the side lines. As one old boy in a care home remarked on the BBC ‘News’ last night, we’ve worked all our lives paying taxes and insurance so the Government must provide care for us in our old age. True, but the problem of funding has to be addressed to achieve a consensus of all parties.

In that spirit reports suggest that the conference drew wide praise from charities, local authorities and experts who attended. The preferred option appears to be a progressive estate levy which takes account of people’s ability to contribute rather than the scare mongering £20,000 compulsory tax referred to in the poster campaign. But the Tory stunt had the desired effect. When asked, two-thirds of people favoured everybody contributing to the cost of those needing social care but when asked if there should be a “death tax” to pay for it two-thirds responded negatively.

That is no surprise but if they had been asked if they would rather pay a progressive estate levy than risk selling their homes to pay for nursing care no doubt there would have been a different response. But to be fair the Tories have offered an alternative, a voluntary insurance scheme! Fine for the super rich who can easily afford the insurance cover and get away without paying tax while the poorest are likely to lose out.

“Political Stunt” 1 – Tory Stunt 0. Time for a real consensus please.

Friday, 19 February 2010

6 o’clock shadow

To say that I was disappointed by the presentation of the ‘BBC News at Six” this evening would be an under-statement. It was more worthy of The Sun than the Great Britain institution it used to be. The pattern was repeated at 10 o’clock.

There were ten items in the bulletin including ‘The Weather’ giving an average time of three minutes for each item but as ever, not all warranted equal coverage. Quite rightly in my view East Enders was bottom of the pile with the often repeated clip of Den and Angie’s impending divorce looking rather hackneyed now that such events are common place in our modern society. To be fair I am not a fan of current Soaps. They compare miserably with At the Luscombe’s in the glory days of the wireless though Compact did make a valiant effort before becoming irrelevant when scenes of rape, murder and violence became the norm.

Plaid Cymru and the Green Party must have been over the moon to find themselves temporarily relevant on the National scene with the prospect of a hung parliament – the last thing we need. Coverage of the disturbing annual Japanese slaughter of dolphins came after that but before Prince William’s photographic achievements. At least that project was in aid of CRISIS so no complaints there.

Previously we had the latest from Afghanistan where our troops are putting their lives on the line but less important news now that closer to home there was a tragic family event necessitating focus on the now compulsory floral tributes left to wither and die on the pavement and supplemented by standard statements from distressed neighbours and their children as a substitute for direct intrusion into the family’s grief.

The third item covered funding for care of the elderly as though it were something that only happens to others. But it was probably placed correctly given the state of the economy and how best to deal with debt repayment. - Different advice had been offered by a group of economists writing to the Financial Times in response to advice to the Government from a smaller group who had previously advised the opposite. No surprise there when you can get 11 opinions from 10 economists.

So what more serious story could take us six minutes into the headline news? An ex-Gillette sponsored golfer making a fourteen minute apology for being caught playing in the rough. Carefully stage managed, only the select few were gathered for this sombre event. The rest, including the BBC reporter were kept half a mile away in which case he may as well have been in a room next door waiting to hear ‘the apology the world has been wanting to hear’. What world do these people live in?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Passion with Compassion

Over lunch with my fellow mature students recently conversation turned inevitably to politics, the Tories taking their usual lead with a provocative comment about all the ‘scroungers’ hard working tax payers have to support. Clearly not everyone needing support is a scrounger and not all tax payers are honest and hard working. In fact there are many who will avoid paying tax if at all possible – “How much for cash?” etc.

It is a sad fact that where compassion is shown time obscures initial ideals while some simply take advantage of the system. Now I have no desire to become embroiled in the abortion debate but I was shocked yesterday by the passion shown in some of the comments in response to Cranmer’s Blog (see left) under the heading “I’ve never voted Labour before”. Abortion replacing contraception is abhorrent to most people but back street abortion was not something to be proud of, neither was the cynical exploitation of unmarried mothers by some religious organisations ‘caring’ for them in squalid conditions and profiting from the ‘disposal’ of their children.

Moved by compassion yet revolted particularly by late terminations the choice must be agonising for anyone having to make it but to do so surrounded by hysteria is bad enough without turning it into a political football.

It’s a pity these people can’t agree to disagree like my mature fellow students.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Better dead than bare!

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that the use of airport body scanners in the UK may be unlawful because they
produce "naked" images of passengers. The Commission is especially concerned for the privacy of certain groups such as disabled people, the elderly, children and the transgendered community.

Previously the Commission worried about pictures of young children being viewed, albeit by specially trained operatives, as though terrorists are blessed with the highest moral standards which cause them to bomb only with integrity. Not content with extending the range of 'vulnerable groups' the Commission is also worried about how people are selected. - Avoid coloured people for fear of being thought racist and women for fear of being thought sexist perhaps? So that leaves not too young nor too old white males, provided they are not rather tall nor a bit short and likely to be picked on. Just average white males as ideal candidates then?

Can anyone seriously be more worried about a temporary, blurred image of the themselves being displayed on a security screen than the possibility of being blown apart in a terrorist plot? If the Commission is concerned on a point of law, a simple waiver will do me. Better a 'Human Right' to life than the 'Equality' of death.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Good motherhood is a step backward...

... according to the French feminist author and philosopher Elizabeth Badinter in reviews of her book Conflict, Women and Mothers. Reports suggest that she and her feminist friend, Sabine Salmon, president of Femmes Solidaire have little time for French schoolgirls who express the desire to stay at home rather than follow a career. "A very worrying indicator" was Mme. Salmon's verdict.

Mme. Badinter rails against the new image of the "ideal Mother" who breast feeds for six months before returning to work, rejects (on ecology grounds) disposable nappies and occasionally lets her baby sleep in her bed.

Feminists have a different thrust in England where, through WATCH (Women and the Church), they are currently busy emasculating the Established Church in the guise of equality (in Wales their Archbishop is doing the job for them) so perhaps girls here will be spared condemnation for using their own free will until that job is complete.

How long before the inconvenience of motherhood is completely avoided by conceiving in a dish and raising children like battery hens leaving 'mothers' free of maternal responsibility?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Let him burn!

Hindu traditionalist has won the right to be cremated in Britain on an open funeral pyre so that his spirit can be released into the afterlife. A few days ago Britain's first Asian judge said Sikhs should be allowed to wear their ceremonial daggers - known as Kirpans - to school and other public venues.

Muslims and Sikhs are of course allowed to wear hijabs and religious kara bangles respectively, but Christians may be asked to remove Christian crosses or hide them from sight for fear of offending non-Christians.

Great in Britain if you are one of the 6% belonging to a non-Christian faith.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Living in the past?

The Telegraph reports that "The BBC's [Muslim] head of religion has accused the Church of England of "living in the past" and said that the corporation should not give Christianity preferential treatment".

Fortunate for him that he enjoys the hospitality of a Christian country and is able to express such views but 'Living in the past' is not something Church of England bishops can be justly accused of, nor for that matter the bishops of the Church in Wales where their Archbishop makes a habit of saying that the church has to be relevant to society today. So relevant in fact that they no longer have room for their so called "traditionalist" minorities.

But now the bishops have been caught with their cassocks up. They have been so busy making their church relevant to society that it is now regarded as even less relevant than it was before. No surprise there then.


In his Blog the BBC's Head of Religion posted the following response to the Telegraph article:

"The Sunday Telegraph article quotes me as saying that the BBC should not give Christianity preferential treatment. The question I was actually asked was whether minority faiths should be treated differently from other faiths - to which I replied that all faiths should be treated in the same way and that I don't believe in treating any faith differently."

An interesting observation but does Aaquil Ahmed seriously believe that the faiths of 3% and less of the population should receive the same coverage as that of around 78% of the population?
The 2001 census figures illustrate the point:

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Short by Name, Short by Nature

"If I ruled the world
Every man would be
As free as a bird
Every voice would be
A voice to be heard
Take my word
We would treasure each day
That occurred..."

She didn't and she doesn't but Ms Short clearly enjoyed her round of applause after giving evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry. Only the second witness to receive that distinction. Could that be that observers have already decided the verdict they want to hear?

Monday, 1 February 2010

On Newsreaders and Weatherpersons

Perhaps I should have used the title "In Praise of Ben Brown". Increasingly irritated by current news/weather personalities, Ben stands out as an old school model which other media persons would do well to follow. His unassuming reporting and news reading present content without imposing himself. Come back Moira Stewart! Spare us from gesticulating somebodies, unable or unwilling to sit down. We even have some on the fringe channels with just one cheek wedged on a ledge and a laptop perched on a pillar for balance. But I am a BBC man at heart.
As an ancient Briton I have fond memories of those glory days when the original McDonald, McDonald Hobley, resplendent in DJ, and Sylvia Peters looking sufficiently alluring without having to glare seductively into the camera made watching television a pleasure without distracting irritants.
What has triggered this outburst? Principally gesticulating George, OBE - no, not 'other buggers' efforts' as some would have it but an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire no less, though a lot less than the later McDonald, Sir Trevor of the opposition channel.
Whether reading the news or reporting from afar the ever popular George waves his arms about like a graduate from the Toscanini School of Conducting, stabbing here, pointing there as though the news has no impact without his personal intervention. Now they're all at it. And what does he scribble on his script at the half-time break? Probably "Up yours Humphrys!" after the BBC's Rottweiler reportedly said, “You are on air for about four minutes by the time they have taken out all the filmed reports and everything else, reading from an autocue. It's not a job for a grown man, I'm afraid, or woman." Perhaps that is why George pads out his show by dismissing reporters with an "Alright [whoever]" after they've delivered their minor walk on parts. To conclude his bulletin we have a grinning introduction to the football item as if to say, alright we've got over the dull stuff, now for the really interesting bit before you have the news from where you are. Regional and local news perhaps?
And what of today's Weatherpersons? (I avoid the term 'Weatherman' because it will offend those of a delicate PC disposition while 'Weatherwoman' sounds too much like Wonderwoman. - Close!). Apart from the odd exception they illustrate the same flapping trend looking as though they went to a flying school for people with a speech impediment. Arms flying in all directions, they break their sentences into weatherspeak chunks as though two half sentences make for better weather than one. But can that be any worse than the inert who appears to have just got out of bed to deliver a monotonous confidential chat that leaves me groping for the remote? Come back Sian Lloyd, all is forgiven!