Forget Cyprus – Cameron is raiding British bank accounts

Rainy Days

Rainy Day Blues

The UK national debt stands at over a trillion pounds or around 88.7% of total GDP. That’s £18,506 for every man, woman and child in the UK, more than £40,771 for every person in employment. Every household will pay £1,918 this year, just to cover the interest

Party politics has become overblown rhetoric about cutting fast or slow but this is a smoke screen while the politicians get on with the real job of raiding our savings. If you don’t read all this article then at least skip to the end to read the extraordinary quote from last week’s Economist.

By rights, at the time of the credit crunch in 2008, the banks should have gone bust and three groups of people would have lost out. Those who owned shares in the banks, those who had entrusted the banks with investment money (often other banks) and those with savings in the banks of over £50,000 as this was the government backed deposit guarantee in place at the time.

This would have been bad but it would have been the most fair outcome because all three groups had chosen to entrust the bank with their money. Admittedly the savers did not think that they were taking a risk but what can you do? Shit happens. The point is that only people with a stake in the failed bank should have lost out.

Saving and investing is an intrinsic part of our economy and necessary for industry and to provide funds for people in retirement. The British government chose to bail out the banks because they judged that to allow the banks to fail would have wreaked havoc in the British economy and there seems to be consensus that this was the right thing to do. However, by doing this, everyone, including people with no investment or savings or any other relationship with the failed banks were forced to repay the debt.

On the face of it, share holders have only partially lost out as the value of their asserts declined but savers have not lost out and the bankers themselves have actually increased their remuneration with the idiotic assertion that we need them to steer a safe course out of this crises.

Meanwhile the British population are suffering a stagnating economy and cuts. This is, of course, fundamentally unfair.

Now the banks of Cyprus are in trouble and the European Union is trying a different tack. Cognisant of the fact that a lot of rich (and supposedly dodgy) Russians have money in Cypriot banks they are trying to force investors and savers to share directly in the cost of the bail out. This sounds reasonable but seems to be causing uncertainty which could lead to the turmoil that everyone agrees should be avoided. Perhaps the blank cheque bailout was the best option after all?

To protect savers and investors or not to protect them, that is the question. Should tax payers take on the debts of others or accept market turmoil by allowing the banks to fail?

Perhaps none of this matters after all?

It took Dr. David Starky on the BBCs This Week program on Thursday night to say what politicians of all stripes are keeping quiet about: the pound has been devalued 25% since 2008 by Quantitative Easing. Perhaps prompted by Dr. Starky’s forthright statement, last week the Economist put it more succinctly in an article entitled The Financial-Repression Levy:

“In the developed world total debt (including that of the financial sector, consumers and companies, as well as governments) is so high that it is implausible that it can be repaid via the fruits of economic growth. The debt must either be written off (defaulted on) or slowly inflated away. That means inflicting pain on someone: sorting out the crisis has been so difficult because no one wants to take the hit.

The Cypriot deal is a very clumsy attempt at a write-off. Your humble deposits are banks’ debts. So taking the deposits and using the proceeds to recapitalise the banks is a roundabout way of defaulting. But any form of outright default creates the potential for contagion.
Because it is more subtle, financial repression (any of the measures that governments employ to channel funds to themselves) is more successful. It was the way that many countries reduced their debt burdens after the second world war. It takes advantage of the phenomenon of money illusion: people get confused between nominal and real numbers.
The danger is that savers will eventually get wise to the erosion of their spending power….”

In short: we’re all shafted as the politicians take advantage of our economic naiveté to raid our savings and investments to repay the debts incurred by greedy bankers.

Oh Bollocks!

Saving is now a guaranteed way to lose money

Saving is now a guaranteed way to lose money

st malo beach

St Malo Beach

What happened to soap?

What happened to the soap?

What happened to the soap?

What’s happened to bars of soap? Time was when the supermarkets were full of soap. These days it seems that one can only buy what were previously regarded as specialist bars of soap; Wrights coal tar, Imperial Leather and the like. All at a high mark up. What happened to ordinary bars of soap? I guess we all know the answer: They’ve been liquified and are now sold as shower gel. But why?

I bought some gel to try out. I selected Original Source Mint and Tea Tree shower gel. The blurb states that they have crammed 7,927 real mint leaves into every bottle which is all very well but it has a slightly stingy effect on one’s nether regions.

I just don’t understand how one is supposed to apply the stuff. One squirts a dollop into one’s hand but as one tries to rub it on ones body it just runs off. At £3 for 2 125 ml bottles compared with £1.38 for 4 125 mg bars of Tesco Magnolia Bath Soap it’s a bloody stupid idea.

I guess it’s the marketing which makes us buy the stuff. We’re all susceptible to it. I just typed “shower gel” into and it displayed a large range of shower gels. One jumped out at me and I noticed a vague thread of thought which ran “Maybe I’ll try that one”. Which one? Nivea for Men….and why……well I can’t be certain but while typing this a Nivia advert came on the TV. Had there been a Nivea ad 5 minutes earlier?…… bloody marketing!



We happy few

Terry Thomas

Terry Thomas and Benjamin ZephaniahShopkeepers?

How I Killed Pluto is a book which tells the story of how the planet Pluto was demoted from a planet to a planetoid. The logic seems to have been that since the Kuiper Belt is comprised of planetoids and Pluto is part of the Kuiper Belt then Pluto must be an planetoid. – QED.

Only no. Not QED. The book tells how, some years ago astronomers thought that the universe consisted of stars which moved across the heavens together and planets which moved with reference to the background of stars. Planets could also be seen as discs whereas stars could only be made out as points of light.

Then, in 1801, Giuseppe Piazzi discovered Ceres.

I’ll let Wikipedia take up the story from here:

“Ceres was originally considered to be a new planet. This was followed by the discovery of other similar bodies, which, with the equipment of the time, appeared to be points of light, like stars, showing little or no planetary disc, though readily distinguishable from stars due to their apparent motions. This prompted the astronomer Sir William Herschel to propose the term “asteroid”, coined in Greek as ἀστεροειδής asteroeidēs ‘star-like, star-shaped’, from Ancient Greek ἀστήρ astēr ‘star, planet’. In the early second half of the nineteenth century, the terms “asteroid” and “planet” (not always qualified as “minor”) were still used interchangeably.”

Later, some pompous oaf decided that the star like planets were not planets at all – Ooh, no Mrs. how foolish to refer to them as planets when a planet has a discernible disc – The trouble with this argument is that, as telescopes improved it became possible to discern the discs of many objects including stars. So, should Alpha Centauri now be demoted to a planet?

For me, the whole wahala points up the obsession men have with categorising things. The average American supermarket carries 47,000 categories of product. Like an American supermarket, the universe is big and diverse but it is not full of different categories of identical objects. It is not full of things that are either Marmite or asteroids. In nature, at the super-atomic level, objects may be similar but they’re unique – like people.

It’s ridiculous but men get into heated arguments about such stuff. In 1799 a preserved platypus reached England and was regarded as a hoax because it didn’t fit an existing category but the platypus was rummaging around Australia long before men invented the categories of mammal, reptile and bird so the categories had to be amended. Categories, such as planets and mammals and Englishman, are artificial. They’re invented by humanity and imposed on the universe.

Identifying seems important to us especially when it comes to our own identity. Recently I read a definition of Englishman which stated: a man who lives in England. Broadly I agree. I say broadly because setting foot on English soil does not make you English anymore than emigrating strips you of that distinction.

A century ago Englishmen had a similar understanding of identify. An Englishman meant a man from England but, in those days, this overwhelmingly translated to white, Christian, English speaking and superior to everyone else. Today white and Christian is not a true representation of people living in England. As with astronomy and zoology so with cultural identity. We must redefine our definition to include the people who do live in England rather than trying to reject those who do not fit our old definition.

Not fitting the definition

neither a planet nor an asteroid

On Sunday, at an airport, I overheard a tall gentlemen with a turban and that accent that Englishmen develop after spending a long time in America. He raved about the English breakfast but, to me, his tone seemed false which wasn’t helped by his American pronunciation of the word “Tomato”. As with many Anglo/American expats he seemed  keen to prove his Englishness by his choice of breakfast.

Do we possess our identity or is it in the eye of the beholder? In a world of global travel, global brands and online “virtual communities” cultural identity is not as simple as geography. Englishmen of West Indian ancestry are no less English for embracing their cultural heritage but Englishman whose ancestry lies  in England are not bigots for taking pride in their roots.

The term English has different meanings in different contexts. Obviously English can mean a person from England but equally it can relate to cultural ephemera. A penchant for bland food, a style of curries, a certain humor, smugness. politeness. a propensity for getting drunk – Take your pick. This is not a problem and we don’t need politicians or pundits to define Englishness for us. Over time various traits die off, rub off on or are accentuated by new arrivals just as the traits of newer arrivals die off, rub off on or are accentuated by the general population. This should not be controversial. It  is only to state the bleeding obvious.

To insist that Englishness means no more than resident of England is as insulting as asking an Englishman of West Indian heritage to take the “cricket test” and as redundant as trying to fix Englishness to an outdated set of traits. England, like the rest of the world, is a miasma of waxing and waning cultural phenomena or memes. Bollywood, Cricket, Lamb Madras, Punk Rock, Henry VIII, Mini, The Turbine Hall, Mr. Shakey Hands Man, The Green Man, Brit Art, Banter, Spag Bol, suet puddings, Morris Men, Fleur-de-lis, Sunday joint, Ping pong, Routemasters, Nah mean, The Angel of the North, Spitfires, Ska, Cool, Pub grub, Hip Hop, the NHS, Football, the weather, Top Gear, The Queen Mother, Coca Cola and Titter Ye Not. All are bubbling away and, thank God, we somehow resist politicians of all stripes who attempt to steal the moral high ground by defining Englishness. Perhaps the best guidance for a of Englishness comes from Franky Howard: Please yourselves!

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Etiquette Confusion in Business Class

BA Biz Class

BA Biz Class

The new fangled seats in British Airways Business Class are, of course, utterly wonderful and fantastic. Aren’t they? Well, yes. Club World it’s called and you get champagne, a good meal and you can lie flat. Splendid. I had a window seat and had three separate portals to look out.

As I sat down I nodded and said hello to the woman in the next seat. Her seat faced forward and mine faced backward. I opened a newspaper and read while we waited. So this was all good …..only…..all the time……in my peripheral vision this woman sat staring almost but not quite at me. The thing is that our feet are narrower than our shoulders so the way they make these seats work is to pack you in one forward, one back, one forward, one back. In the end, you are rather close to the person beside you.

After a tiring journey to the airport, after the bureaucracy of security and the ghastliness of the shopping mall I look forward to the moment of take off when I am pressed back in my seat. Like a baby rocked in it’s mother’s arms I usually nod off to be awoken, once we’re in level flight, by an attendant with a cup of coffee or an orange juice.

Club Class

Club Class

But the take off was late. The announcement told us why, but like all aircraft announcements, it went on for so bloody long I phased out and couldn’t remember what it said. “Blah Blah Blah..on behalf of Captain Blah blah and our cabin crew are blah blah 26,000 feet blah blah…”

So, there we sat. Me and this stranger, both avoiding eye contact. What were the rules on such occasions? Who could raise the dividing barrier without appearing rude? Might the works of Jane Austen cast light on this new frontier of etiquette? I sat and ruminated on her works: “Every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies” – true but unhelpful. “..blah blah seatbelt fastened over your blanket blah blah…” On and on the announcement went. Why do air crew like to talk so much? “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal” – Also true after a tiring journey.

Eventually we trundled along the runway, accelerated and, as we took off, I experienced the reverse of my usual experience as the acceleration force tried to drag me from my seat. “Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure” – Without doubt…..I nodded off to sleep.

When I awoke we had been delivered from our dilema of manners. She had raised the dividing barrier while I snoozed – “Rude cow!” I thought to myself but at least now I could relax in splendid isolation. I looked around a bit. I felt a little like I was sitting at the end of a little corridor. Like I’d turned up late and they’d been so full that an attendant had suggested that: look if we bung a few cushions round the back of these seats by the window you can bed down there.

However, the techno-media malarkey has come a long way. These days, a large screen flips out while a controller with a full qwerty keyboard lets one choose from numerous movies, TV programs, music and games. I watched a mediocre rendition of Jack Keroack’s On The Road. Core blimey Mrs! That’s progress for you! Remember those old plastic tubes you stuck in your ears to listen to a selection of duff music or fantastic American comedy? You never heard those guys anywhere else! Gerard Hoffnung’s Bricklayer’s Lament or Bob Newhart’s Tobacco sketch! Fantastic! And the media tell us that stand up comedy started in the 80s. Pah!!

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