Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Thursday 30 June 2011

Greece- the beginning of the end?

The elected Greek Government has passed through their Parliament the new austerity measures demanded by the EU in return for the loan that would stave off bankruptcy. In other words, the elected Government of Greece cannot set the agenda of how the country is run, disenfranchising the people in a demonstration of Democracy that will make the Chinese, for example, smile. They have good reason to smile because they are buying cheep Greek debt and with it much needed influence and bargaining power. They are not the only ones.

During these difficult times, another group of people are doing well- the unseen and unheard of mega-wealthy financial institutions. These people are gradually, one-by-one,  bringing countries and indeed, continents under their control. National Sovereignties will be vulnerable, as in a war, but it will be a bloodless coup as Nations are brought to their knees by financial mechanisms, not armaments. I thought that Nigel Farage the UKIP MEP was correct when he warned that: 'we've had the Arab Spring: next will be the Mediterranean Summer'. Around the world, people are discovering that their lives are dependent on a few unelected groups that macro-manage the world's economy. Democracy doesn't feature in their agenda and only  money and its acquisition counts. Demonstrations do no good. Nobody is listening. In fact the more they see of public unrest the more they see their plans coming to fruition because: 'he who has the gold, has the power.'

Today public workers, schoolteachers, border agency personnel are withholding their labour as they go on a 24hr strike. As usual  it will do no good. I used to work as a civil servant, in fact I have a small pension and I would say to these people that rather than withhold their labour and inconvenience the very people who pay their salaries, they should decide for themselves whether or not the deal is satisfactory. If it is not then they should do what I did and resign. It is, to my mind, unfair that whereas an employee can withhold his labour, a company cannot withhhold their job.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Human Rights 2

On the eve of the strike by public sector workers, those at the UK border agency are promising that the countries borders will remain secure. Who are they kidding? Look at who they've already let in and I'm not talking about Islamic fundamentalist preachers, although that's bad enough.
The European Court of Human Rights have upheld an appeal by two Somalis against their deportation order. Despite their being found guilty of amongst other things, burglary and drug offences, the possibility of their being tortured on their return to their own country means that they cannot be deported under article three of the act. £20000 of public money was awarded to the prisoners to fight their case. You might guess that the parasitic HR lawyers will somehow make money out of the long suffering UK taxpayers.
Besides these two there are another two hundred plus Somali criminals who stand to benefit from this ruling.
What I want to know is why the UK taxpayers haven't the human right to be free of these people. The Somalis have arrived in the UK of their own free will. Nobody dragged them there. The UK taxpayers, through no fault of their own, are now lumbered with these criminals. Where are their human rights? What about the rights of the victims? Surely it's time the lawmakers stopped this nonsense and start siding with the good and innocent majority. No society can survive if the good are penalised and the guilty are tolerated. Why would anyone want to be good? You might say that people are naturally good, but that would mean that the lawmakers are taking advantage of their generosity, their benevolence to the point of mocking them.
It's time the European Court of Human Rights was disbanded and all the lawyers told to go and get a proper job, doing or making something worthwhile.

I know it's not very charitable but I sometimes wish one of these human rights victims would occasion actual bodily harm on those that subscribe to the HR act.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Ordure, ordure 2

Mr. Speaker:  Charles Fanshawe

Fanshawe (Conservative member for Bustington) : Does the Right Honorable gentleman agree with me that the contract drawn up by the last Government, in the final days of its administration, to build two aircraft carriers, the country cannot afford, in the then Prime Minister's constituency, should be questioned in law? The contract, almost unknown in commercial history, includes  a cancellation clause that, were it to be exercised, would  cost the British  taxpayer more than it would to build the ships ...

Mr. Speaker:  Ordure; ordure. I think the house has got the gist ...

Fanshawe: Shut up you silly man...

Mr. Speaker:  Ordure; ordure ... Sit down!

Fanshawe:  I won't. Does the Prime Minister further agree with me that this profligacy with the taxpayer's money was a gross abuse of power and insomuch as it is against the interests of the country and bearing in mind the economic situation, is tantamount to treason?

Mr. Speaker:  Ordure; ordure

Prime Minister:  I couldn't possibly comment ... Is he still a member-I haven't seen him?

Sunday 19 June 2011

Ordure, ordure 1

Mr. Speaker:  Charles Fanshawe

Fanshawe (Conservative member for Bustington) : The Prime Minister will have noticed the outrage that greeted the news that the Chief Executive Officer of Scottish Power has had his pay doubled to over ten million pounds at a time when the customers have been given a fifteen percent rise in their energy bills. A paramedic, starting out  in the National Health Service earns from twenty-five thouand. Who does the Prime Minister think deserves his money more and ... ?

Mr. Speaker:  Ordure; ordure. I think the house has got the gist ...

Fanshawe: Shut up you stupid, fatuous oaf ...

Mr. Speaker:  Ordure; ordure ...

Fanshawe: In an emergency who would the Prime Minister rather have near him and does he agree with me, there must be another way?

Mr. Speaker:  Ordure; ordure

Saturday 11 June 2011

Where do Labour Party interests really lie?

'because, although she hated the Labour Party she had much sympathy for the people they were traditionally meant to represent, the working class and held nothing back in her support of suitable charities for the poor and needy. This did not seem contradictory to her as she felt that the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party were a bunch of ‘inadequate, self serving wasters paying lip service only to their responsibilities’. She feared that if ever they took office, the old Labour values would be thrown out of the window and the members would use their powers mainly in the interests of both their family and their cronies. She even feared for the institution of Government itself.'

These words, so apt when we read today's newspapers about the profligacy, with tax-payers money, of the former prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and his acolyte Ed Balls and the present day jobs of former, sometimes disgraced ex Labour ministers who have taken advantage of their old posts to line their own pockets.

How prophetic are these words, penned by me in my novel, 'The Lamb at Nettlesham.' Written in 2008, it is available as an ebook. For more details go to:


I watched with interest the latest ITV drama, 'Injustice'.

The story centres on a barrister who through his eloquence and powers of persuasion convinces a jury to acquit a guilty man. Beset with guilt, he later administers his own justice by killing the man.

How strange that this programme should be aired so soon after I wrote on this blog that justice can be distorted by the skill of the lawyers using the framework of the law, rather than truth.

Did Tolstoy see it coming?

I have been reading 'Anna Karenina', a mammoth novel written by Leo Tolstoy  in the eighteen seventies. It is widely thought that the ideas and thinking attributed to one of his characters, Konstantin Dmitrievitch Levin,  reflect Tolstoy's own.

He wrote:
He (Levin) was writing now a new chapter on the causes of the present disastrous condition of agriculture in Russia. he maintained that the poverty of Russia arises not merely from the anomalous distribution of landed property and misdirected reforms, but that what had contributed of late years to this result was the civilization from without abnormally grafted upon Russia, especially facilities of communication, as railways, leading to centralization in towns, the development of luxury, and the consequent development of manufactures, credit and its accompaniment of speculation-all to the detriment of agriculture. It seemed to him that in anormal development of wealth in a state all these phenomena would arise only when a considerable amount of labor (sic) had been put into agriculture, when it had come under regular, or at least definite, conditions: that the wealth of a country ought to increase proportionally, and especially in such a way that other sources of wealth should not outstrip agriculture; that in harmony with acertain stage of agriculture there should be means of communication corresponding to it, and that in our unsettled condition of the land, railways, called into being by political and not economic needs, were premature, and instead of promoting agriculture, as was expected of them, they were competing with agriculture and promoting the development of manufactures and credit, and so arresting its progress; and that just as the one-sided and premature development of one organ in an animal would hinder its general development of wealth in Russia, credit, facilities of communication, manufacturing activity, indubitably necessary in Europe, where they had arisen in their proper time, had with us only done harm, by throwing into the background the chief question calling for settlement-the question of the organization of agriculture.
Later, he added, "yes, they (imported European advances in technology) draw away all the sap and give a false appearance of prosperity."

This struck me as painting a picture of nineteen century Russia that shows that things haven't changed much in the intervening time. Except that now, the equivalent in today's time of Russia's railways is the internet. For instance, cyberspace is now the main driving force of discontent in the so called 'Arab Spring'. It has raised the ambitions of the population, especially the young, of the middle-east countries to levels that cannot be matched because of the historic culture and present day reality of these countries. This will have a huge impact on how these and other, less advanced countries develop.

Interestingly, Tolstoy also pinpoints the problems caused to agriculture by 'manufactures, credit and it's accompaniment of speculation'. Although I believe he is wrong with respect to 'manufactures', do I detect in this statement an allusion to the pernicious expansion of Banks into spheres of business more akin to bookmaking than good practice, drawing money away from what is important- in his day, the production of food- to something more frivolous and presumably more profitable in the growth of stock markets and other financial instuments. In other words, the Banks were already distorting values one hundred and fifty years ago, values that today can be seen in uneducated (but good with figures) traders earning seven figure bonuses sat in air conditioned luxury, moving (not creating) money on a computer, whilst another works hard in sweaty conditions, over many hours in a week, making something useful for his fellow men, who can barely make ends meet.

It only demonstrates that mankind is not learning from its past. The same mistakes are being made because the same values always obtain, principally and namely some peoples' greed for power (wealth) overwhelming the need for real wealth creation through industry and not financial services, which merely concentrates existing wealth into the Bank's coffers.

There must be a better way.

Sunday 5 June 2011

Test Matches at Lords

The talk by the Sky sports commentators during lunch on the third day of the current Test against Sri Lanka was about the sense of playing two international matches at cricket HQ when the north of the country has none.

I would ask why play any matches on a ground where the wicket is so much in favour of the batsmen that huge scores are the norm and matches are invariably drawn. Since 2002, all matches versus Sri Lanka at Lords involve scores of over 500. Cricket fans should expect to see 300 runs and ten wickets in a day's play otherwise the match is a bore and the perception is that the game is biased against bowlers. Either the wickets need to be less 'flat' or the ball should be redesigned to give the bowlers more help. People should ask why in a full five day match, a result is not possible?

Why would anyone want to be a first class bowler, breaking your back to extract some life from a placid wicket with the result that your career analyses suffer irrevocably? James Anderson did well to be injured for this match, avoiding the pain of struggling in a one sided battle. I ask with scant hope of changing the minds of those who think of batsmen as the elite, the peers of the game whilst the bowlers are the working class machines who'se sole purpose is to feed balls for the amusement of the Gentleman. To my mind a ball that seams and beats the outside edge of the bat is every bit as exciting as a well stroked four.
Drawn Test Matches only hasten their demise as people are drawn to the one-day games.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Big Business and the abuse of power.

I used to work in the hospitality industry. I ran pubs as a tenant and owned a hotel. During our time in the industry I was in a good position to monitor how it changed as local breweries gave way to bigger British concerns and eventually to multinationals. When I began there was hardly any lager sold. It started in the late seventies with the popularity of the 'diabetic' lager Holsten Pils. It contained little or no free sugar, it having been all converted to alcohol. This led to the trend for higher alcohol beers and lagers and the importation of foreign brands. Traditional British beers fell into decline and the breweries either closed or were taken over by foreign and larger companies.The move towards bigger breweries was matched by a decrease in the quality of the service as tenancies were replaced by managed houses in a move to increase profitabilty and the return on assets.

This process is not confined to the breweries. This growth of successful multinational companies has, I believe, brought us to the point where their owners are so wealthy they are bringing about a polarisation of the community- the super rich and the others. The owners of big companies, including the shareholders, are making their money, increasingly taking a greater share of the proceeds in a process of sharing that increasingly favours the bosses. Of course it does, because the rationing of profits, wages earned are 'signed off' by executive directors that belong to the same elite club of higher echelon officers.

The disparity of those who have and those who haven't is growing at an alarming rate. And it isn't only in the West. The same phenomenon can be seen in the far east with the rise of the so called 'tiger' economies. There has been a huge increase in the number of billionaires in India and China and oligarchs in Russia. With this money comes power and with this power comes political advantage which begets more power and eventually more money. It is not surprising that the political classes are in thrall of those who run these corporations. Indeed, some political parties depend for their existence on funds from these sources. The point is this. How far do we have to go before the working classes, for want of a better word, decide that enough is enough. While they suffer with diminished wages, if they work at all, and higher cost of living the bosses award themelves higher and higher salaries or preserve for themselves comfortable nest eggs in case of company collapse.

This polarisation is best seen in the financial industry, where investment bankers take (earn is too nice a word) huge amounts of money for doing nothing productive. Now we see that a hedge fund has managed to ruin a care home business through greed. They bought Southern Cross an Australian company with huge property assets. The hedge fund sold off the assets and rented the property back, thereby releasing huge amounts of cash. Now, in the recession, as councils rein in their 'care' expenditure, Southern Cross is in financial difficulties. When will somebody do something about these greedy financiers? Through their greed, elderly and vulnerable people are put at risk.

Cadbury's, the chocolate maker of Britain's favourite 'Dairy Milk', was sold to Kraft, a huge American multinational, amid much talk of jobs being preserved. Far from this, plants have been closed down and production moved abroad, particularly Poland where the labour is cheaper. How did the Government, let alone the shareholders allow this sale? Are they all in the greed game together? You bet they are, but for how much longer?

I'm not advocating a Communist style uprising of the peasants (For that is what the bankers must think of the ordinary person); everyone is entitled to profit from their hard work, invention and enterprise, but where companies and institutions are so large that markets are distorted and Governments cannot influence them, (Indeed, there are some companies, so large, that their turnover exceeds the GDP of some countries) there needs to be a new way of regulating incomes and curbing power.

Not likely you say!  What then is the so called 'Arab Spring'? Is it not people fed up with the disparity between the exhorbitant lifestyle led by the country leaders and the hopes and aspirations of the populace? What is it that has caused people in the UK to protest strongly about the siting of yet another huge Tesco supermarket? Are they not saying that they don't want all the small local businesses closed down as they inevitably will be as the giant behemoth crushes all opposition with artificial low prices? Why are thousands of protesters camped in the middle of Madrid for weeks on end, calling for an end to endemic Government corruption and the Capitalistic cause of the current recession.

I believe it is the start and if push comes to pull, will the Government be able to count on the Armed Forces to help them after treating them so shabbily. We are not so naive as to believe that Camerons weeping heart appeal to their conscience with a 'Forces charter' is nothing more than attempt to keep them 'on-side'.

Unless changes are made to the way countries are governed and to the way that Capitalism is allowed to run unchecked to the ultimate end of monopoly by a handful of supergiant companies, like commodities trading group, Glencore, I believe the future to be dark. The people's illusion of freedom will be just another form of serfdom, as the very few exploit the rest of the world's population and the earth's diminishing resources.

Reclining seats- more problems

Two F-16s scrambled as United Airlines flight is forced into emergency landing... after passengers get into a fight over a reclined seat.

I can't say I'm surprised. I've felt annoyed with what I've previously described as aggressive seat reclining. This is the people in front who can't wait to jerk their seat backwards at every opportunity, whether you are still eating or not. Their disregard for those behind is downright rude.

Seats should not be reclined until lights out and those behind informed.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Oh! Frank Bough.

The town of Barnsley has introduced a ban on swearing in the town centre. The police have been given powers to fine offenders on the spot. Despite protesters saying this is just another money-making exercise, I believe it's a good move towards a no tolerance regime. Swearing is the first symptom of a trend towards greater disorder and violence, normally aggravated by drink.
I believe I'm entitled to have a voice in this debate, on account of my introducing a no swearing rule in our pub in Oxford. When we took over the premises, the public bar was, as a rule, but not totally, the preserve of men with a swearing tradition, revolving around the use of the 'f' word. Since we wanted a different clientele, one in which more women would feel comfortable, I instituted a ban, explaining to complainants that they would hardly swear so much in their mother's home and they weren't to do it in mine. Some left but many of those that stayed told me later that in some way they were relieved because they previously felt peer pressure to use the 'f' word in a demonstration of macho togetherness.
The result was a much friendlier bar in which men could bring their girlfriends and wives, often to take bar meals and thereby leading to greater profitability. The new mood also made it a better working environment for me, my wife and our staff.

I am, however, not insensitive to the argument that swearing can act as a safety valve. Although, no longer in the hospitality trade and quite elderly, I find myself swearing more than ever . The reason- 24 hour news with all the stupid stories, mostly concerning the injustice of the Human Rights act.
My children when they were young used to vocalise their frustration by exclaiming: 'Oh! Frank Bough', the name of a well liked sport's presenter of the time.