Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What in the name of Greek buggery?

Before I retire to bed, can I just shout at the world one more time. Let's all have a look at this story shall we?

Greece averted nightmare scenario - finance minister

So a 'nightmare' has been averted. Wonderful. Those Greeks who had nothing to do with this crisis must be sleeping tight tonight as they ponder the collapse of their country's financial system and the 10 or so years of austerity that they now face. That we also face. And for what? To prop up a currency, the Euro, that has everything to do with political posturing and nothing to do with economic reality.

Be sure, the Euro is ALL about politics, nothing to do with economics. Some very heavy-weight figures, past and present, from Delors to Legarde, Mitterand to Merkel have their reputations staked on this farce. It cannot be allowed to fail regardless of the pain and misery it will cause.

We all have to deal with banks - but we have to deal with them on planet earth; Euro nations don't. Say I borrowed £100,000 from my bank. After 6 months I am struggling to pay it back so I go to the bank. They will insist that I budget of course, cancel my mobile, cable TV subscription etc and if I show them the resolve required to get myself out of the sticky situation, they may be sympathetic. What they will not do is say to me "OK phylos, you're struggling to pay off this debt so we'll lend you another £100,000". It makes no sense does it? You and I can see that, but we don't have any political dogma to follow.

Greece never met the criteria for joining the Euro. Everyone knows that. But what they did, hand in hand with Goldman Sachs was to come up with a financial instrument called a debt swap. They hid I believe, about €2,000,000,000 (two billion) Euros worth of debt using this tool. Goldman made about half a billion in fees so they're happy. Euro politicians welcomed Greece into the fold not even bothering to cross their finger behind their backs. They were happy too. What on earth could go wrong?

Well now we know.

What disappoints me the most is that once, I was the most pro-European person I knew. I looked at the tired, complacent political system in the UK and saw Europe as a shiny new alternative. But, it isn't. It's the same old shit flushing down a different toilet. A little while ago, several countries allied and refused to sign off the European Union's audited budget for 2010. This was the SEVENTEENTH consecutive year that there have been major problems with signing off the accounts for the €150 billion that the EU spends each year. Reasons range from fraud to lord knows what. Around half of the money spent each year by the EU cannot be accounted for. Yet this institution now runs not only the EU, but directly runs Italy. There isn't a single elected politician in any significant political position in the Italian cabinet. They have all been parachuted in from Europe. The crappy European politicians that are happy losing the odd €100 billion down the back of the sofa. Greece faces the same future.

So what future do we face? Unrest? Revolt? Revolution? All I know is the Karl Marx is looking down from Highgate and saying "I told you this would happen".

What he won't be doing though is gloating.

On a Rotten System

Having spent a few days reading the 'topian back to myself and reflecting on the days when I could shoot off 1,000 words at the drop of the hat, it is no surprise to see so many of my posts rooted in anger. More accurately, impotent anger. Looking at the problems of society, pondering why nothing is done and questioning the motives as to why nothing is done. The pensions 'crisis' we keep getting told about for example. The crisis that according to Cameron (henceforth to be know as Dishface as I cannot bring myself to type his name any more than I can type Th#tch3r’s name) would bankrupt the UK unless urgent action was taken. This pensions crisis led to a major reform of public sector pensions, as we were told that the current cost projections were simply unaffordable. The reforms alienated 99% of public sector employees, led to strikes, demonstrations and ill feeling on all sides. Now the dust has settled, the Institute of Actuaries recently reported that the reformed system could end up costing the country MORE than the previous system. At the very least, the reforms are unlikely to save money in long-term.

So nice work Dishface. I’m sure you’ll contribute a few quid from your £30,000,000 fortune. As you keep saying – we’re all in this together aren’t we. (?)

There are many faults with 'the system'. Some of these are unavoidable of course. The price we pay to live in a society that is nominally at least, considered free. But I admit I am lucky. I’ve only been unemployed once in my working life of 30 odd years now. The system actually let me down then, taking 10 weeks to process my benefit claims. But I was living with a patient and understanding woman at the time or lord knows what would have happened to me. It is as close as I have come to becoming a statistic. Another homeless, unemployed mental on the street statistic.

But – and this will now become a very self indulgent rant – I have been let down again. By the police and the system that they are forced to operate under in this new austere climate. Let me say from the off, that I do not blame any of the individuals involved, but the ‘system’ (that word again) which they are forced to operate under.

A couple of weeks ago, a truck belonging to R****** F****** Services reversed out of a car park into the back of my car, parked outside of my house. I knew nothing of it, as I was at work 40 miles away. But a splendidly kind woman working opposite saw the incident and was thoughtful enough to take down the details of the vehicle concerned and pass them on to me. This was all reported on to the police and my insurance company. My car was fixed. I had to pay my excess of £250, but this would be recoverable. I’m also self employed so lost income when I had to take time off to complete the endless paperwork required by the police and when the car was picked up and returned. Overall I’m down about £800.

I received an email from the police this afternoon. They have received a very full and detailed witness statement, but unfortunately, my witness ticked the box saying that she would not be prepared to give evidence in court as to what she saw. R****** F****** S******* have of course denied any liability. So the police have advised me that there is very little chance that there will be prosecution.

Brilliant.

Decisions like this have a much wider implication on society. The driver of the vehicle which damaged my car could be sat in a pub now gloating about how he hit a car and has got away with it. Not even three points. He'll be laughing with his mates at the poor sap who has lost £800. His mates will tell their mates and a mind-set develops. One that convinces people that they can get away with this sort of crap.

Would it not be better for all of us if he was sat there saying "I tried to get away with it, but failed. The system caught me. Can you buy me a pint as I've lost my job?" Now I don't want to see anyone lose their job, but equally, should a guilty person not pay.

Has anyone else noticed that as your no claims bonus grows, your insurance premiums remain the same or even increase? Well, this is why. I have ranted many, many times about rights and responsibilities. Everyone knows their 'rights', but few understand that rights go hand in hand with responsibility. Until this is widely understood and, more importantly accepted, the spiral will continue downwards.

Think about it. You may be next.

Friday, January 06, 2012

A return?

Nearly. It's coming. It is! I promise.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Of love & leaving. And holidays.

The best and the worst thing about my job is that it brings me into daily contact with the human race. Fortunately I don't have to speak to them on the telephone, somebody else does that, but I do get to read their rambling, incoherent, poorly written letters. And I get some gems! I'm compiling a selection for your delight and delectation, but I had to share this one with you now.

It came from a chap who is claiming money from a failed holiday company. He'd submitted forms for two identical holidays a fact that he felt the need to explain...
I booked my holiday over the internet on the afternoon of 16 December. It was only when I printed off the receipt that I realised that I'd forgotten to include my girlfriend.
Who says romance is dead? Not Romeo here, for his true love is never more that a moment away from his thoughts. I feel all warm and fuzzy.

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Winter Wonderland

I was in Sainsburys yesterday, stocking up on Bovril, oats, Kendal Mint Cake – the sorts of things one needs to get through the nuclear winter we are currently in the midst off. As the greater populace are showing a distinct lack of the sort of determination that once built us an Empire, only about three members of staff had bothered to show up. Consequently, there were no proper tills open, just the self service ones I so despise.

Needs must however, so grasping my basket, I joined the rear of the shortest queue. I judged that I’d be queuing for around 20 minutes, so I began to examine the people around me. What else does one do in a queue? The chap in front of me didn’t have a laden basket like most of my fellow shoppers. He only had one item. A sachet of instant chocolate drink. Yes, just one sachet of instant chocolate drink. I like a chocolate drink as much as the next man, but clearly not as much as this man. How desperate does a person have to be leave the warmth of his home, venture out into the snow, queue for 20 minutes, then trek home simply for one mug of watery chocolate drink? I don’t think I’ve ever shown that degree of commitment to anything. If I’d caught his name I’d have nominated him for an OBE. I salute you sir.

Apropos of nothing, since quitting smoking a few weeks ago my body is expelling all manner of luridly coloured fluids and juices. I think I should keep it all in a jar.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Do it yourself

I’ve had cause, in posts passim, to moan about the appalling standard of customer service in this country before. Clearly I haven’t been listened to, so I’m going to have to do it again. Same shop though – Sainsburys.

Last time, it was because I was asked “Would you like any help packing?” when I was buying three items. They are now at the other end of the spectrum. Recently the Sainsburys in Reading town centre has had about half its checkouts removed and replaced with self service check outs. So you do your own scanning and bagging. It’s an obvious money saving rouse as the customer does what traditionally stores have had to pay people to do. I’ve used these machines before in M&S and found them satisfactory as long as there are staff about to help you. If you don’t put your goods into the bag quick enough the machines go “beep, beep, beep” and request you seek assistance. Buying wine? “beep, beep, beep.” Aspirin? “beep, beep, beep.” Bleach? “beep, beep, beep.” You get the idea.

This works in M&S as they have about one member of staff to four self service tills, but Sainsburys have about one for eight. Unsurprisingly, it was pretty busy there tonight after office hours. Or does the Reading store have a new manager with no retail experience as this flood of people seemed to have taken them totally by surprise. Is it “bring your child to work week” leading to the store being managed by 2 five year olds? (This will doubtless be the subject to a later post if any bloody children are bought in to my office, but we’ll cross that bridge at the time.) There were 7 or 8 people queuing for each bank of four tills and one harassed assistant trying to quell the beeps.

There was only one proper checkout open. It had seventeen people in the queue. I counted them. I think that’s a pretty clear vote on the popularity of self service checkouts. Will anything change? No.

This will soon be re-written and emailed to Sainsburys for their comments. I will of course share any reply. In fact, I can probably do that now…

Blah, blah, blah, disappointing shopping experience, blah, blah, blah, embracing new technology, blah, blah, blah, some difficulties in the transitional phase, blah, blah, blah, we welcome your money – sorry feedback… and so it will go on.

I went on as well. To Marks & Spencer. Their fine wines are very reasonably priced.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bullies

This annoys me...
Court jails Pirate Bay founders

A court in Sweden has jailed four men behind The Pirate Bay (TPB), the world's most high-profile file-sharing website, in a landmark case.
Forgive me if I'm wrong (yeah), but TPB aren't really a file sharing network if you boil it down. They are a glorified search engine for torrent trackers. The whole point about torrenting is that you are lifting stuff from somebody's computer, not a massive database of stored material, hosted, managed and distributed by The Bay. It's high-tech Socialism and it works. As does the more traditional Socialism, but that's for another day.

I know torrenting is illegal, which is why you'll never catch me doing it, so TPB are facilitating the sharing of copyrighted material, but I could just as easily search Google for say "30 Rock torrents" and guess what - I'd find links for 30 Rock torrents.

But Sony, EMI, etc didn't sue Google did they?

No.

Why?

Because Google are FUCKING MASSIVE, worth $$$$$$$ and probably have a pretty sharp legal team? I mean a better legal team even than Jacko's. Shit, I bet they even got Denny Crane leading. Best to pick on a bunch of geeky stoners who saw the whole thing as a bit of a wheeze right from the start, safe in the knowledge that, whatever the result their cult status would remain intact.

It's maddening. The best way to celebrate this victory for 'the man' is to, all of you, torrent at least one file. Now. Use The Bay, it's still live and as they say "Don't worry - we're from the internets. It's going to be alright. :-)"

Will this result stop torrenting? Yes. In exactly the same way that Bush/Bliar's war on terror has ended terrorism. Oh, hang on...

I can recommend 30 Rock by the way. And Boston Legal.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

More tea vicar?

"If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time." Bertrand Russell 1952.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

D Day

Yes, it's Transfer Deadline Day.

And once again, the mighty Spurs are being linked to every two-footed male from Fatty Foulke to some bloke who has a smooth bottom.

There's only one name on our lips though.

Come back Robbie Keane,
Oh, where have you been...

On a bench in Liverpool. Criminal.

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