Saturday, 3 August 2013

Pushback

A couple of stories in the news that show that the fat cat troughers aren't getting it all their own way must at least send a frisson of warning to all those still robbing public funds. In Caerphilly the then Chief Executive Andrew O'Sullivan and his mate were arrested for awarding both themselves and another score of top-troughers a gut-busting pay increase in the face of a three year pay freeze for the rest of the Council. Plod is not pursuing charges, the unlawful pay increases have been reversed and they've brought back the old CE rather than shoeing-in O'Sullivan's bent mate Nigel Barnett. 

And top-trougher Phillippa Williamson, who featured here as the work-at-home former SFO boss who paid herself a near half-million pound pension top up is today considering whether to pay the money back in an effort to avoid prosecution. New SFO boss David Green has written to three former senior managers  inviting them to return the money, but you can be sure it is more than a polite request. The move to find broken laws and thus get Plod involved is a smart one - and ex-SFO boss Phillippa will no doubt be considering the possibility of being arrested by grinning plods in a dawn raid on that idyllic Lake District hideaway of hers.

One problem remains; who will arrest the many top cops who have awarded themselves and their chums gut-busting pay and bonus deals that make the PM's wedge look like an office trainee's salary?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

And now the news in Slavic ...

Take a look at the war memorial below. It's pretty typical of many I have seen in Germany and Austria but a little different to those found in our English towns and villages. Typically, ours will have a substantial list of Great War dead and a shorter list, perhaps a third the length, of those that died in World War II. German memorials are reversed, the ratios of 2m military dead in WWI to 7m military dead in WWII shown by the red and green outlines. Many like this one will also have an auxiliary panel listing victims of civil war, Nazism, bombing or other. 

Reich losses in WWII were tremendous - and largely incurred in the East, in the great battles in Russia and in final defence of Germany. Even when the shooting stopped, the deaths didn't; half a million German soldiers died in Soviet POW camps, their names here amongst those in the block in the bottom right with no date of death. Germany is still building new war cemeteries in Russia, the current one to hold 400,000 dead - half the UK's war dead total for WWI. Of course the cost in Soviet and Russian lives was even more horrendous, costing whole generations. 

Now I'm certainly no historical revisionist and hold David Irving in academic contempt, but one can't help but pose the question to what extent Western Europe has gained from the German losses in WWII in emasculating the Soviet Union to a point from which it never recovered; and is the victory in 1989 that we ascribe to Thatcher and Reagan really due to Albert Speer and Wilhelm Keitel? 

Without those 7m German war dead, would we be hearing the news in Slavic? 

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

When did a Fire Engine last pass you on blues?

The banshee wail of emergency vehicle sirens is a daily occurrence here in London traffic, but when a colleague asked me yesterday of the last time a fire engine on 'blues and twos' had shouldered its way through the queued traffic, I couldn't remember. Police vehicles and ambulance vans and increasingly cars are common; a fire engine as rare as hens teeth. 

Of course it may be we just don't spontaneously combust any more, or set fire to chip pans, or chimneys, or use Naptha instead of charcoal on the BBQ. In which case Boris' planned closure of fire stations in London has some justification. Or it might be that they're quietly and discreetly attending the homes of Guardian readers in order to remove domestic appliances from their penises ... 


UKIP poll share holding

The latest Comres poll for the Indie gives:-
Labour - 37% (+1%)
Conservative - 34% (+4%)
UKIP - 12% (-2%)
Libdem - 10% (-)
Other - 8% (-1%)
With UKIP still pushing the LibDems out of third place, and the combined Conservative / UKIP vote share pushing Labour into irrelevance, the figures show strong and enduring support for the centre-right. Without an electoral pact between the parties this will not result in a government; we'll still get Miliband's Labour.

With Farage the party's one-trick pony petulantly opposed to potato-head rich boy Dave in a seemingly irreconcilable dispute, and barring the possibility of a fatal Boden shorts accident in Portugal, it's far from clear how people will mark their papers in papers in 2015. 

However, so long as UKIP keep hold of that third place, there will be sleepless nights on the Treasury benches.  

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Banks' greed feeds fraud

Hey ho. Your chances of being mugged on the way home from the station are now lower than ever, but the odds of someone hacking your bank account have never been greater. MPs may criticise banks for keeping quiet about the level of small-number frauds, but the banks have their reasons - and must make from increased sales more than they lose from this type of fraud. Let me explain.

It recently took a summons to the small claims court issued by me to my bank to finally sort their recalcitrance about taking the hit on a fraudulent transaction. For over a year they'd wriggled and twisted in blatant defiance of FSA rules. All quite deliberately. All the while the amount was in dispute it wasn't a liability - allowing banks to keep in suspense for up to a year the value of frauds they must write-off. And yes, in case you'd forgotten, a fraudulent transaction on your account is a crime against the bank, not against you; it's not your money once it's deposited, you're merely a creditor of the bank. So only the bank can report a fraud to the police - which, because they don't actually want a police investigation in many cases, they don't do. 

If you want to pay for an easyjet  flight online directly with your plastic, you'll need your 3-digit CVC. However, book the flight through one of the many 'B-to-B' agencies and just the card numbers and your address will do. And book a hire car through a nationally-known online agent in Paris and they won't even do an address check. Banks have left these doors open quite deliberately to make card transactions easier - but also making their money easier to steal. Never mind. First they'll try to charge it to you anyway, and perhaps a third of small scale fraudulent transactions aren't even noticed by people who don't check their statements. Then they try to impose unreasonable time limits for reclaim, or make up humpty-dumpty rules that won't stand up in court to wriggle out of responsibility. 

The truth is, if these frauds were really hurting banks they could tighten up the way they work overnight. In fact, they manage to pass most of the pain onto customers and retain the gain from increased business; in other words, it's sheer naked greed on the part of the banks that's fuelling the fraud boom.     

Monday, 29 July 2013

Still Swamped

It's damned easy to be laid back about immigration in small Suffolk market towns. The gentle burr of the regional dialect on the streets is never broken by barbaric Yoruba invective, and brownish and yellowish faces appear in just perfect proportions, as in a colouring-book on diversity produced by the Ministry of Migration. Here in South-East London we're still swamped. 'Swamped' used to be a no-no expression, but not any more. Here it's Nigerians; elsewhere it's Pakistanis, Chinese or Eastern Europeans. No-one knows quite how many, but they're filling the maternity wards, blocking transport with their buggies, needing dozens of new primary schools. About half of them (according to a Channel 4 / ippr study) work, pay taxes and contribute to GDP. And about half just consume housing, benefits and health care, adding nothing. Overall, GDP is increased - but per-capita GDP remains just the same. There's no real benefit.

Rather than start counting them, the government has hired a transit van with a sign on the back inviting them to go home. It's really not the answer. It's a tacky, clumsy suggestion that immigration is the fault of the immigrants, whom we should blame rather than the political class who are actually responsible. And of the politicians, Labour in particular - the party that betrayed this nation, trashed its people and trampled on its voters when it used open-door immigration as a clumsy, treasonous political tool. For that it must forfeit our votes forever.