29 April 2013

Compare and contrast

Iain Duncan Smith encouraged better-off elderly people to pay back taxpayer-funded financial support that they do not need, such as the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes and television licences.
He urged those who can afford it to pay back the benefit, saying it was an "anomaly" that all pensioners receive universal benefits, no matter how wealthy they are.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph Duncan Smith said there is "no indication of change" to the current system, despite calls for an amendment to the payment system.
He told the newspaper: "It is up to them if they don't want it to hand it back. I would encourage everybody who reads the Telegraph and doesn't need it to hand it back."
Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, insisted he was neither encouraging nor discouraging wealthy pensioners to hand back their universal benefits such as the free bus pass, free TV licence or the winter fuel allowance.
He had been reported in the Sunday Telegraph as supporting the charitable voluntary move as a way of reducing the deficit, but on Monday he said: "I am not encouraging people to hand it back or keep it."
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This is a bit of a silly story, which people have tried to elaborate, when I didn't say very much at all.
"All I said in answer to a question, [is that] there's always been the position that if somebody wants to hand the money back if they don't use it that's up to them."But I'm not making that a policy position; it's just there, it's always been available for them to do – that's it."
Oh what a tangled web we weave ...

28 April 2013

Offending the monstrous regiment

Does the coalition government have a death wish?  The Observer notes:

Parents are joining forces with Britain's top nursery chains in a revolt against plans to reduce the number of carers required to look after babies and toddlers – amid stark warnings the safety of children would be compromised.
The two leading internet forums for mothers – Mumsnet and Netmums – unite this weekend with top private and voluntary sector nurseries to demand the reforms be abandoned.

Sir Humphrey would have suggested that a failure to consult adequately such powerful organisations as Mumsnet amounted to a very brave decision by Miniosters ...

27 April 2013

Quote of the day

Sir Mervyn King on putting Churchill on the fiver:

"It seems entirely appropriate to put Sir Winston on what is probably our most popular note," he said.
"Our banknotes acknowledge the life and work of great Britons. Sir Winston Churchill was a truly great British leader, orator and writer. Above that, he remains a hero of the entire free world. His energy, courage, eloquence, wit and public service are an inspiration to us all."
Well, sorry to be a wet blanket but does being a great war-time leader counterbalance his actions in sending troops against striking miners, in promoting the disastous Dardanelles campaign and in returning Britain to the gold standard with all its dreadful consequences?

Tragedy in the making

Cautiously and reluctantly, but inexorably, President Obama is teetering towards US military intervention in Syria.  He knows that nothing good will come of such intervention; yet, even with the examples of Iraq and Afghanistan, he appears unable to stop the maxhine.  He also knows that getting in will be considerably easier than getting out.  And he must be conscious of the difficulties of finding a form of intervention which will avoid making matters worse for the ordinary Syrian.

That is not to say that the Assad regime is remotely acceptable, even if there are other regimes in the world that are equally despicable.  Nor can I deny that the Syrian rebels deserve assistance, even if they have some dubious allies in the fight.

It may be a counsel of despair, but some issues are just intractable.  And perhaps there may come a time when the US has to recognise its limitations and stop playing the global policeman.


24 April 2013

Word of the week

To demise:  verb trans; meaning - to downsize, to lay off, to sack; as in "your job is being demised so that you can spend more time on the golf course"; source - HSBC

From here


22 April 2013

Did she have a headache?

Seems a bit rushed, somehow.  Where was the champagne and flowers?  Will scientists ever understand the course of true love?

Tian Tian, the UK's only female giant panda, has been artificially inseminated at Edinburgh Zoo after scientists scrutinising her behaviour decided she was exhibiting signs that were not "conducive to mating".
A team of experts monitoring Tian Tian and her prospective mate, Yang Guang, for the past week, opted to perform the procedure on Sunday as the female panda neared what is unromantically known as her "36-hour breeding window".


19 April 2013

See scientists ...

From the university department of the bleedin' obvious:

Crying babies really do calm down when they are picked up and cradled according to a study that has discovered a deeper scientific basis to a phenomenon that every new mother soon realises to be true.
Scientists in Japan have found that the heart rate of crying babies slows down when they are in put in the arms of their mothers and carried about 
(Did it occur to them to ask any mother?)


At last

The bible tells us that there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.  So I suppose that we should welcome the IMF's change of heart:
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said on Thursday that the poor performance of the British economy had left her with no alternative but to call on George Osborne to rethink his austerity strategy.Increasing the pressure on the chancellor to change course, Lagarde – who has previously given consistent and public support to the UK's deficit reduction strategy – said the fund had changed its stance as a result of weak economic figures. 
But, Lord, it has taken them a long time to see the light; and the damage done in the meantime is incalculable.

17 April 2013

Out of the woodwork

Here they come ...  Thatcher's funeral attracts the bad, the mad and the just plain wacky.  There is the former Vice-President Dick Cheney, the Iraq war architect who inadvertently shot one of his chums during a quail hunt.  Who is that warmonger over there?  Why it's Henry Kissinger, who caused the death of satire by being awarded the Nobel peace prize.  And the lady with the big hair is rightwingnut, Michele Bachman, who allegedly believes that President Obama is a socialist with anti-American views.

What did Thatcher do to deserve these mourners?


13 April 2013


So, they are looking for a middle way.  Well it won't work; the BBC should either play the song or not, then live with the accusations of a lack of respect or alternatively of craven toadying to the Tories.  Thia way, nobody will be happy.  The Guardian reports:
The new BBC director general, Tony Hall, appears to have caved in to pressure during the first major test of his tenure, deciding not to play the song Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead in full on Radio 1 after a furious reaction from Tory MPs and rightwing newspapers.
In a fudge likely to satisfy Lady Thatcher's supporters but criticised by anti-censorship campaigners, the BBC will play a five-second clip of the track – which is being pushed up the charts by anti-Thatcher protesters – in a news item during the Radio 1 Chart Show on Sunday.
The BBC has taken the unprecedented step of deciding to insert a news story into the show to explain to younger viewers [?] why a track from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz has suddenly leapt into the top 10. Radio  1 has a target audience of 16- to 24-year-olds, none of whom will recall Thatcher's premiership first hand.
To compound the error, they patronise listeners by assuming that they need to have the song explained.


11 April 2013

Not in Kansas now

Well, if you must, as it has reached No 10 in what used to be known as the hit parade:

05 April 2013

Is that it, then?

I am not usually a vindictive person but these incompetents appear to be getting off lightly.  The Guardian reports:

The three executives who ran HBOS bank in the runup to its near-catastrophic collapse have been slated for their "colossal failure" of management in a scathing report which calls for them to be held to account by the City regulator.
The highly critical account of the events that led to HBOS being rescued by Lloyds in September 2008 said the responsibility for the management failings rested with the former chairman Lord Stevenson, and the former chief executives Sir James Crosby and Andy Hornby, and says the bank would have gone bust even if the global financial meltdown of that year had not happened. The bank, formed out of Bank of Scotland and Halifax in 2001, racked up £47bn of losses on bad loans.
In a report entitled An Accident Waiting to Happen, the parliamentary commission on banking standards calls on the trio to apologise for their "toxic" mistakes which caused the downfall of the bank and prompted a £20bn taxpayer bailout.

So they might be barred from future work in the finance sector?  I'm not impressed (and who would have them anyway?).  Meanwhile they enjoy their fat pensions and their ill-gotten gains.

04 April 2013


I watched the Real Madrid - Galatasary match last night, as it happens, on an Al-Jazeera station.  There was, however, no escaping the ubiquitous Gary Lineker who introduced the programme, with his confreres, the super-intellectual Alan Shearer (as bland as ever), the slightly creepy Ray Wilkins (with his constant references to "these young men") and Michael Owen (actually quite good).  Does the BBC not pay them enough?

Good football match, though.

I felt slightly guilty about not watching Malaga and Dortmund, but they were not exactly the glamour teams on display.

Naughty boys

Do you suppose that SSE gives a hoot about being fined £10.5 million by Ofgem for prolonged and extensive mis-selling?  This is a company with a turnover last year of over £30 billion.  A fine of £100 million might have hurt them a little; a fine of £1 billion might have made them think more carefully before misbehaving in future.  A fine of £10.5 million - that's petty cash.

It's not a MAD world?

I am not entirely clear as to why North Korea might wish to lob an inter-continental ballistic missile (assuming that it actually had the capacity) in the direction of the UK, but Mr Cameron obviously takes the matter seriously:

David Cameron has warned against abandoning Britain's Trident nuclear submarine programme, claiming it would be foolish to do so due to the threats posed by North Korea.
The prime minister said the country should not be left defenceless when the "highly unpredictable and aggressive" regime in North Korea was developing ballistic missiles that he claimed could threaten Europe.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph,, Cameron said the UK needed to maintain the ultimate deterrent as much today as during the cold war.
"The Soviet Union no longer exists. But the nuclear threat has not gone away. In terms of uncertainty and potential risk it has, if anything, increased."
Cameron said Iran was continuing to defy the will of the international community over its nuclear programme while North Korea may already be building a nuclear arsenal.
"Last year, North Korea unveiled a long-range ballistic missile which it claims can reach the whole of the United States. If this became a reality, it would also affect the whole of Europe, including the UK."

I had been under the impression that Trident was supposed to be a deterrent; they would not obliterate us if  we did not obliterate them.  Given the threats to nuke our cousins across the Atlantic, North Korea clearly does not subscribe to that theory.  In these circumstances, what is the point of Trident?  Would it not be better to invest in one or two of these anti-missile systems that the yanks have sent to Guam?  Bound to be cheaper than Trident.