25 May 2018

Fatcattery

Image result for bt

The first in an occasional series on how the high heidyins tend to be a bit greedy.

From The Guardian (here):
Shareholders in BT may be under the impression their company had a lousy time last year. Investors did. BT’s share price fell by a third in a rising stock market and sits at its lowest level since 2012. The dividend was merely held, making a nonsense of the chief executive Gavin Patterson’s confidence a couple of years ago that double-digit increases were in prospect. Staff, too, may be less than cheerful. Some 13,000 are about to lose their jobs as Patterson confronts the fact that BT’s revenues are falling again.
But, no, it turns out that 2017-18 was a triumph, at least in the boardroom. The victory wasn’t the maximum possible under the terms of the executive bonus scheme but the outcome was “above target”, says the annual report. Even Patterson seems to have sensed that finding looks perverse because he volunteered for an “at target” score, meaning his bonus was £1.3m not the £1.6m that the mechanical formula said it should be.
Come on, though, awarding a £1m-plus bonus in these circumstances to a boss on a guaranteed basic whack of £997,000 is ridiculous.
I can think of worse adjectives than "ridiculous" ...

   

24 May 2018

Music of the day

To celebrate his 77th birthday:

Photo of the day

Boris in Peru:

Boris Johnson dances with teacher Adriana Pinedo during a visit to the village school in Santa Marta, near Iquitos in Peru

I am unable to confirm that certain of his cabinet colleagues indicated that it was the best place for him.

 

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The USA is irony-free?

The Guardian reports:
NFL owners have issued new guidelines that will see teams fined if their players or staff do not show appropriate “respect” for the national anthem. According to the new rules, “a club will be fined by the league if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem”.
The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, said the league had been “sensitive” on the issue. “We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,” Goodell said. “That’s all personnel, and to make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That’s something that we think we owe. We’ve been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.”
Is it just to inflict punishment on those who bravely exercise their freedom for motives which are otherwise commendable?

 

23 May 2018

The unwelcome guest

Send him to Scotland to keep him out of the way?  The Guardian reports:
Donald Trump is expected to head to Scotland after his visit to London on 13 July to play golf with a high quality professional golfer or possibly a member of the royal family.
The president is being offered a range of low handicap golfers as a part of a UK government bid to make the visit as pleasurable as possible for him.
Trump owns two golf courses in Scotland, and his visit to the UK following a Nato summit will give him a chance to relax in the surroundings that give him greatest pleasure. British officials have recognised he is a serious golfer and will need an expert opponent to keep him entertained.
The trip is likely to include a meeting with the Queen, but at the same time efforts are being made to ensure that he does not encounter a series of protests in London. One option will be for the president to meet Theresa May outside London, such as at the prime minister’s rural retreat in Chequers.
Do they think that he won't encounter protests in Scotland?

 

22 May 2018

Straws in the wind


Is the great deal-maker faltering?

The BBC reports that on the one hand:
US President Donald Trump has said there is a "very substantial chance" a historic summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un next month may not happen.
He said the North must meet conditions for the summit to go ahead though if it did not, it might happen "later".
He was speaking as he received South Korea's President Moon Jae-in at the White House.
The North has said it may cancel the summit if the US insists on it giving up nuclear weapons unilaterally.
while on the other hand:
Donald Trump once claimed a trade war with China would be "easy" to win. But consensus is emerging that the president is losing the first battles.
His team has been trying to hash out a deal to boost US exports, but multiple rounds of negotiations have yet to yield progress on key priorities, like protection for US intellectual property.
Now the conflict has Mr Trump taking fire at home from two sides: those worried he is provoking a damaging trade fight, and those who fear he will give in too easily.
Mr Trump, citing a large trade deficit and unfair rules in China, says the US is starting from such a bad position that the country stands to gain no matter what happens. 
Is it all going a bit pear-shaped?

   

20 May 2018

Etymology

Why does Scotland have earls while England has dukes?  It is partly because Scotland was never conquered by the Normans.

The word earl is derived from the Anglo-Saxon, a branch of the Germanic languages.  The Scandinavian cognate is jarl.  Scotland never had to cope with all these Norman nobles - dukes and counts - whose titles were of Latin origin (dux and comes) and who - after1066 - displaced the Anglo-Saxon earls in England.

But there was no feminine equivalent to an earl; so nowadays the term Countess is used.

Most of the words associated with royalty are also of Latinate descent: royal, majesty, prince.  Curiously, though, king and queen are of solid Germanic stock.

I thought you might want to know ...

   

Meaningless titles

Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Earl and Countess of Dumbarton, Baron and Baroness Kilkeel.

What's the point?

And how come the Welsh miss out?

 

Boiling the frogs

Theresa May is either being very clever or rather stupid.  But we seem to be heading for an ever softer Brexit.  The Independent reports:
The frog-boiling is going well. Theresa May has turned up the temperature another notch and Boris Johnson has still not jumped out of the pan. Nor has Liam Fox, Michael Gove or David Davis. 
At the meeting of the Brexit committee of cabinet on Tuesday, the prime minister came up with a plan so cunning no one could work out what it meant. She asked them to agree what would happen if there was no agreement about trade by the end of the transition period after Brexit. 
The foreign secretary grumbled a bit, but agreed with the prime minister that the UK would then continue to apply the EU’s common external tariff until a new arrangement was ready. Considering that the systems to do anything else could not be in place by December 2020, the end of the 21-month transition period after leaving the EU, this did not appear to be a significant moment. 
Indeed, as any new customs arrangements could not be put in place until well after the next general election in May 2022, it may well be the case that we are blessed (or doomed) to remain in the EU's customs/single market regime for the foreseeable future.  And the forces of inertia (better the devil you know and all that) may preclude any significant change in status thereafter.

But perhaps I am too optimistically counting my (chlorine-washed) chickens before thay have hatched ...

 

18 May 2018

Closing the door after the horse has bolted?

Theresa May is expected to approve the creation of about 10 Tory peers and hand at least one to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party in an attempt to improve her weak position in the House of Lords, which has already voted 15 times against her government over Brexit.
The elevations, which are expected to be announced in the coming days in Westminster, were immediately criticised by high profile remain Labour peer Lord Adonis as a desperate attempt by the prime minister to enlist people to boost her fragile position in the unelected upper house.
Tories tipped for elevation include former ministers Sir Eric Pickles and Peter Lilley. Adonis said: “This is a classic example of packing the Lords to try and make Brexit easier to endorse.”
There are at present 780 peers in the Lords, far too many of whom are placemen collecting their £300  a day just for turning up.  But if the Prime Minister wanted to bolster the Tories' presence there, it might have been more sensible to do it before the EU Withdrawal Bill reached the Lords.

 

17 May 2018

How is Brexit coming along?

Not so good.  The Guardian reports:
Last week, Corbyn broke with the habit of a lifetime by asking six short questions about Brexit and had the best PMQs of his time as leader. So quite understandably, he opted for doing the same thing this week. With precisely the same result. At this rate Wednesdays could become a cushy number for the Labour leader. Why bother to spend hours mugging up on the NHS or Windrush, when all you need to do is casually inquire how the prime minister thinks Brexit is coming along and then sit back and wait for everyone to start sniggering.
“How is Brexit coming along?” Corbyn asked. Theresa was completely blindsided by this. As if she had never heard of Brexit, let alone had a solution to it. Her mouth opened and shut as she waited for her voice to synch with her lips. Umm, Brexit, she said, stalling for time as she willed an electrical charge to fire up her circuit board.
...
Corbyn then further confused the prime minister by asking her epistemological questions on the nature of friction. How much friction was as little friction as possible? “The government has a policy,” the prime minister creaked, defaulting to her normal Maybot mode. A policy of having done almost nothing for two years. A policy of literally not having a clue.
Oh dear ...

   

16 May 2018

"O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?"

We've been here before, several times.  But nothing ever seems to change.  The Guardian reports:
Apart from the junior director who tried to speak against the delusion in Carillion’s boardroom, nobody emerges with credit from the two select committees’ post-mortem on the contracting firm. The other directors, led by chairman Philip Green, chief executive Richard Howson and finance director Richard Adam, were directly responsible for the failure because they were either “negligently ignorant of the rotten culture” or complicit in it. But the entire system of checks and balances failed.
The auditors, KPMG, were useless, as was the audit industry’s passive regulator. The government, in the form of the Crown Representative, was asleep. The Pensions Regulator was feeble. City advisers to Carillion were paid to be supine. Big shareholders were not inquisitive. None of those judgments will surprise those who followed the evidence sessions, but the MPs’ report will count for little unless it forces action from government.
Aye weel.  I'll not be holding my breath in anticipation of any substantial action from this government.


[Disclosure:  I was a shareholder in Carillion when it went bust and lost what to me was a considerable sum of money.  Serves me right for gambling against a rigged deck, I hear you say?]

   

Fantasy politics

It might be better to think a little, perhaps even take the odd decision, before scrambling to write up your conclusions.  But this government likes to put the cart before the horse:
Theresa May has announced plans to publish, ahead of a critical Brussels summit next month, a Brexit white paper setting out her priorities for Britain’s future relationship with the European Union.
In an attempt to get on the front foot in negotiations, the government will for the first time present a “detailed, ambitious and precise” explanation of what it hopes the final deal will deliver. The blueprint is expected to include a plan for a customs relationship that avoids re-establishing a hard Irish border, although the prime minister’s cabinet remains bitterly divided over how best to achieve this.
...
As well as customs, the white paper will cover the future security relationship, the financial services sectoraviation and fisheries. It will form part of ongoing negotiations with Brussels ahead of a political declaration in the autumn.
This might have been a useful exercise if it had been undertaken last year or, preferably, the year before.  But announcing a White Paper before you have decided what it should say is political folly.

   

Will no-one rid us of this turbulent plonker?



The Guardian has it in for Boris:
There was a time when the post of foreign secretary was considered one of the great offices of state. A person who could be guaranteed to remain calm under fire and take the heat out of global flashpoints. Someone other countries might take seriously and respect.
For reasons best known to itself, though, the Conservative government has abandoned any pretence of taking the foreign secretary seriously. Boris Johnson is now a one-man rogue state, free to do more or less exactly what he wants, safe in the knowledge that no one dares sack him. A latter-day Toby Young on speed who roams the world losing friends and alienating people at an alarming rate. His motto: there’s no bad situation that can’t be made worse.
Boris doesn’t hold with anything so old-fashioned as diplomacy. His mission is not the promotion of peace, it is the tireless promotion of himself. In Boris world, nothing really matters but Boris. Anything and everything is just leverage for his own career. A walking narcissistic personality disorder, the last remaining believer in his own genius who is oblivious to the destruction he creates.
 


12 May 2018

Photo caption of the day

Boris Johnson and Ivanka Trump
 Ivanka: ‘Not another creepy blonde with bad hair and a narcissistic personality disorder.’ 

From The Guardian (here).

  

Dither and fudge


This is becoming ridiculous.  It is now 23 months since the Brexit referendum and the government has yet to decide what it wants in terms of customs arrangements.  It has failed to agree upon either of the two latest options. neither of which is likely to command the support of parliament and neither of which is any case acceptable to the rest of the EU.  It is also extremely doubtful that either option could be implemented by the end of 2020 when the transitional phase is due to expire.

But, still, the Prime Minister kicks the can down the road:
Theresa May has divided her cabinet into two groups to fight out their differences over Britain’s post-Brexit customs arrangements, intensifying speculation that she is preparing to delay her decision on the issue.
No 10 sources confirmed that the prime minister had formed the working groups, which would report back on her preferred customs partnership model and the maximum-facilitation option at next Tuesday’s meeting of her inner Brexit cabinet.
Her senior ministers are split over how Britain should manage its customs arrangements with the European Union after it leaves the bloc, with the issue threatening to divide the cabinet and the Tory party itself.
Does anyone in government consider the needs of the country?  Or is it just personal and party survival and ambition?

 

10 May 2018

One more thing to add to the lengthy list



The Independent reports:
One of Donald Trump’s luxury golf resorts in Scotland has risked offending the natives by banning the sale of Irn-Bru.
Guests at Turnberry have been forbidden from drinking Scotland’s favourite soft drink over fears its luminous orange colouring might stain the carpets.
The ban came to light after guests at the five-star hotel on the Ayrshire coast requested Irn-Bru but were refused because of concerns about potential spillages.
The man is so not cool.

 

06 May 2018

Music of the week



 

Quote of the day

I have some sympathy for this guy writing in The Sunday Times:
Sometimes it seems as if half this shareholder’s investment decisions — whether to buy, sell or hold — are expensive mistakes. The difficulty is knowing, in advance, which half the next decision will fall into. No wonder City cynics say there are only two types of expert when it comes to stock market predictions. Those who don’t know and those who don’t know they don’t know.
That is why this column makes no claim to have a crystal ball and, instead, sets out to report the rough and the smooth of DIY investing. There’s no one else to blame when things go wrong, and the idiot responsible is staring back at you in the mirror every morning.
Been there, done that, got the t-shirt ...

 

   

Clutching at straws

Headline in The Observer (here):
Don’t laugh, but Scottish football really is on the rise after years in the doldrums
As John Cleese once remarked, it's not the despair. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand.

   

04 May 2018

Quote of the day

Ann Treneman in The Times (formerly a superb political sketch writer) bewails the linguistic fashions:
My word of the week is “woke”, which, when I was in New York recently, I kept seeing used in articles. It’s an African-American political term that, basically, means socially aware, as in a quiz called How Woke Are You?
Well, at this point, I’m woke enough to know that I may not be woke at all.
And so say all of us.

 

An old curmudgeon writes ...

Such a fuss over some young couple getting wed.  The Guardian reports:
The Desert Island Discs host, Kirsty Young, and The X Factor presenter Dermot O’Leary are to join Huw Edwards in fronting the BBC’s coverage of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The corporation has put together a more diverse presenting team than the lineup for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding in 2011.
Seven years ago, the Countryfile presenter Anita Rani was the only person from a BME background who was part of the core team fronting the main BBC coverage.
She will be repeating this role in just over a fortnight’s time, but will be joined by the Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba and the Radio 1 journalist Tina Daheley.
The final lead presenter of BBC One’s live coverage of the wedding on 19 May will be The One Show co-host Alex Jones, who was also part of the BBC’s lineup in 2011. But Fearne Cotton, who was criticised for her presenting style, misses out, along with Edith Bowman, Sophie Raworth and Fiona Bruce.
The BBC at its worst, fawning over royalty, while desperately seeking diversity/

 

02 May 2018

Crazy

The prime minister is cutting off her nose to spite her face.  The Independent reports:
Fresh questions have been raised over Theresa May’s hardline stance on immigration after reports emerged suggesting she had intervened to stop doctors from overseas coming to the UK.
The prime minister is said to have overruled other cabinet ministers arguing that more foreign doctors were desperately needed to help meet staff shortages in the NHS.
Despite pressure from the home secretary, health secretary and business secretary, Ms May is said to have refused to budge on rules that restrict the number of visas given to specialist workers from overseas.
Foreign doctors are not taking the jobs of British doctors and their arrival would obviously be in the interests of NHS patients waiting on operations or on GP appointments.  But Theresa May would rather see people suffer than breach a notional, ill-defined policy of keeping out the foreigners.

   

01 May 2018

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
The prime minister tries to sound thrilled by the future, but all the while her political body language cries out for the past. When talking about industrial strategy, she praises digital innovation. But her chief policy interest in the internet has always been how better to control it when terrorists and paedophiles thrive in its ungoverned recesses.
She says the things exuberant Brexiteers want to hear about the opportunities for Britain beyond the confines of the European Union. But she negotiates as if lost in a forest of terrible options, feeling her way to the path of greatest continuity. She is holding out for a way to change everything while keeping things the same, handling each crisis as it comes without dealing with the underlying problems, and so sowing the seeds of the next crisis.
Eventually the crisis will come that overwhelms her completely. But until then, May’s awkward political destiny is set: to be resisting and leading change at the same time; to be forced out into the world when she would rather stay at home; and to march reluctantly to a revolutionary drum when she looks as if she would rather be standing still.
 

The singing chief executive

Just a coincidence?   From The Guardian (here):
The chief executive of Sainsbury’s has been filmed singing “We’re in the Money”on the same day he announced a blockbuster merger with Asda.
Waiting to be interviewed by ITV, Mike Coupe started warbling one of the best-known songs from the musical 42nd Street. In the clip released by the broadcaster, he is shown singing: “We’re in the money, the sky is sunny. Let’s lend it, spend it, send it rolling along.”

30 April 2018

Two drowning men clutching each other

The BBC reports:
Sainsbury's has confirmed plans to merge with Asda, which is currently owned by US supermarket giant Walmart.
The supermarkets said that grocery prices would fall in both chains as a result of the merger.
Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe said the deal would lead to no store closures and no job losses in stores.
Aye, well.  Believe if you like.  I don't ...

[Disclosure:  I have owned a few shares in Sainsbury over the past year or two.  And a fat lot of good it's done me.]

Blowin' in the wind

Oh Bob, where did it all go wrong?  The Guardian reports:
Bob Dylan will next month launch a range of whiskeys, hoping to capitalize on growing demand for all things celebrity-tagged.
The 76-year-old singer and Nobel laureate has joined with liquor entrepreneur Marc Bushala to turn a deconsecrated church in Tennessee into a distillery. Their Heaven’s Door Spirits – a Tennessee straight bourbon, a double barrel whiskey and a straight rye – will first be available in Tennessee, Florida, California, Illinois, New York and Texas. A wider rollout will follow.
Dylan’s new project was announced on Saturday. “You don’t always find inspiration,” he mused in a press release. “Sometimes it finds you. We wanted to create a collection of American whiskeys that would each tell a story.”

   

27 April 2018

Amber explains

Image result for amber rudd

"Look, I know I said on Wednesday that we at the Home Office had no targets for immigrant removals.  And I think I believed it at the time.

"Then on Thursday I was forced to admit that there were targets but I explained that, although I was in charge of the Home Office, I didn't know about these targets.  Nobody had told me about them.  And I think I believed it at the time.

"Now those ghastly people at The Guardian have unearthed some memo which was sent to me and which reports on progress against the targets (which I said I knew nothing about).

"What's a girl to do?  Perhaps I could say that I never read the damn memo - but then they would say that I was incompetent.  And my officials would probably leak my reply to the memo.

"Maybe I could distract attention by saying something about a customs union after Brexit?  Oh no, I've already tried that, and it didn.t really work.

"Let's face it, I'm up shit creek without a paddle.  But something will turn up.  After all, I'm a Tory ...

 

Ineptitude

Wikipedia tells us that "the Peter principle is a concept in management theory.... It states that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate's performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and "managers rise to the level of their incompetence".

The obvious political example of this theory is the unfortunate Amber Rudd, floundering in a sea of incompetence in her role as Home Secretary.  As The Guardian puts it:
After the best part of two weeks trying to firefight the Windrush scandal, Amber Rudd is a shell of a human being. Devoid of honour and credibility, her ambition narrowed down to mere survival. Putting one foot in front of the other and keeping on keeping on. One day after another, one blunder after another. She now knows so little she can barely remember her own name. Or what her job is. Her incompetence is now almost total.
For her latest outing in front of the Commons to explain why she had told the home affairs select committee there were no targets for deportations, when a Home Office official had minutes earlier admitted there were, the home secretary came armed with the support of, not just her Home Office team, but also cabinet members Michael Gove and Sajid Javid and several dozen backbenchers. The Tories are desperate for her to keep her job. Not because they believe in her competence but because they know that if she goes, the prime minister is vulnerable.
In any other circumstances, Rudd’s defence would be fairly straightforward. It was nothing to do with me, guv. It was the fault of my predecessor, who was a bit useless. As this is denied her, she is left not waving but drowning. She began by declaring her undying love for the Windrush generation. The home secretary has been doing a lot of hand-wringing loving in recent days. But then she’s got a lot of loving to fit in to make up for the many years when she didn’t give a toss.
And she is not the only one in this government to appear utterly unsuited to her or his appointment.  Consider David Davis, the Brexit minister who said his department had undertaken Brexit impact statements when they clearly had not and who is obviously not up dealing with Michel Barnier.

But the clearest exmple of the Peter principle is the Prime Minister who arguably reached her maximum level of competence as a respected - if unloved - home secretary and who has fallen apart since securing the keys to No 10.

   

26 April 2018

Still digging

A generous interpretation would be that she just was not aware of the targets.  But it says volumes about her competence to manage her department.  The BBC reports:
The Home Office is to axe immigration removal targets - a day after Home Secretary Amber Rudd said they did not exist, the BBC understands.
Ms Rudd told MPs investigating the Windrush scandal on Wednesday targets were not set for immigration officials.
But after fresh evidence emerged overnight she was forced on Thursday to admit to MPs that "local" targets for "internal" use had been set.
...
The home secretary faced fresh calls to quit following her admission that the targets did exist and, according to union officials, are prominently displayed on posters at regional immigration centres.
She's toast.

 

24 April 2018

Perhaps Amber Rudd should stop digging?

Image result for amber rudd

No common sense.  Amber puts her foot in it once again.  The Times reports:
Amber Rudd was accused of trivialising a main Brexit issue after comparing a registration scheme for EU citizens to an account at a luxury fashion store.
The home secretary said that millions of EU citizens living in Britain would find the Home Office’s registration scheme after Britain left the EU as easy as setting up an LK Bennett account.
The women’s clothing chain, where a pair of court shoes sells for £195, is a favourite with the prime minister, who has a discount card for shopping there.
Like the overwhelming majority of UK citizens (and that goes equally for EU residents in the UK), I haven't a scooby-doo as to how easy it is to set up an account with L K Bennett.  Maybe Ms Rudd, a graduate of Cheltenham Ladies College, thinks that we all live affluent middle-class lives in the home counties ...

    

Eat your heart out Theresa May!

The menu for the Trump/Macron State Dinner:
Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford is serving up a three-part spread of largely American cuisine, with hints of French influences. The first course, using greens from the White House kitchen garden to represent a celebration of spring’s first harvest, will feature a goat cheese gateau, tomato jam, buttermilk biscuit crumbles and young variegated lettuces. Then, on to the main course: a rack of spring lamb and a New Orleans-inspired Carolina gold rice jambalaya — scented with celery, peppers and onions, and spiced with herbs from the South Lawn. Finally, the denouement will come in the form of a nectarine tart dessert infused with White House honey and accompanied by crème fraîche ice cream. No word yet on whether President Trump will ask for two scoops.