Monday, 2 March 2009

Diana Watch

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I know it’s late but we spent the weekend in Kent again, I’ll explain why we are going there so often at a later date.
I want to start with a heart warming story from my hospital. One of our patients is a young man who is planning to marry in May but his consultant advised him that he would probably not live that long and he should consider moving the wedding forward.
As you can imagine a wedding is a hard thing to organise and suddenly being told to bring it forward too really quite soon presented the couple with a few problems. We have a fantastic social worker for those with cancer in our hospital and she started to make some phone calls. She phoned round all of the local cancer charities and within 4 days they had organised, between them, a venue and food and most of the other things for a wedding. There was still a problem however. The dress that the bride wanted was still on order and will take a while to come, so his consultant said, “Don’t worry about it. Go to the bridal shop, get any dress you want and I will pay for it.”
Now I am a slightly cynical man who has recently seen a not so good side to my beloved NHS but this, this beautiful gesture by everyone involved has restored my faith completely in my fellow man. It brings to my eye a small tear every time I either hear, or tell, the story. So hurray for people. Some of them are pretty good really.

It seems a shame to go on with the news now but that is why we are all here, if you not then do tell me why you are here and I will attempt to accommodate you.
We can talk about whatever you like, except celebrities obviously. If you haven’t actually done something important than I don’t care that you’ve have a new t-shirt. I like your song but I don’t care that you had a sweat patch on that new t-shirt on a hot day. Come up with a new theory on quantum mechanics and then we can talk, well you can talk and I will nod like a confused chimp not understanding any of the concepts that you are trying to explain.
As a normal brained human I have no frame of reference for these incredible ideas, oh and can some one ask Schrödinger to let that cat out of that box. Particle physics joke there. Not a good one I grant you but I bet you can’t think of a better one. How shame faced will I be if someone does e-mail me a better one? It’s a risk you take. Can I give you a couple of quantum physics’ facts? Actually I’m not going to wait for all 10 of you to answer individually because you probably won’t. I’ve asked you things before and none of you have got back to me so I’m just going to type them anyway and you can read them if you want. A cup of coffee weighs more when hot than it does when cold. You age faster at the top of a building than you do at the bottom. Time travel is not forbidden by the laws of physics. And my favourite is; the entire human race would fit in the volume of a sugar cube. It’s true. There is some much empty space in an atom, if you removed all that space, the entire human race would fit in the volume of a sugar cube.
The lack of reference points comes with the stuff about atoms existing in two places at once and atomic switching.

Oh yes news, I remember. I would like to start be congratulating the Government and the right-wing press on their excellent controlling of the news agenda, with a little help from the opposition parties. For a couple of weeks we have been thrown a single story about Britain’s financial problems to foam at the mouth about and, like good little Pavlovian dogs, we did. Firstly it was bank bonuses. You mention a banker’s bonuses in a crowd and you could guarantee that at least one person in the crowd would get so worked up that they would have a heart attack or a stroke; it’s like a fire in your head you know. It was quite entertaining really (the stroke causing bit) but it was an irrelevant argument (the bonuses bit). Most of the money being given in bonuses was given to counter staff and branch staff who had no part in the near collapse of the companies that they work for. They hit their targets and their contract states that they are entitled to a bonus. If I’d worked my arse off for £17,000 a year and met my, quite hard to reach, targets and then the Daily Express works it’s self into a frenzy over whether or not I should get my little bonus I would be a little disgruntled. “Well, its tax payers’ money” goes the argument, “and it shouldn’t go to rewarding failure”. Quite right too but John Major still got paid. Oh and how much tax does your papers owner, the pornographer Richard Desmond, pay? Well, your company is registered in St Hellier in the Channel Islands, above a small parade of shops I believe, in order to take advantage of the tax haven status of the Islands. Just a quick side note, 50% of the worlds tax havens are Crown dependences, i.e., we run them so they are our fault and problem.
In his personal finance Richard Desmond saves in quite a lot of tax. £13m in 2006 for instance by, legally, paying himself straight into his pension before the rules changed. So before you start lecturing us, have a look at yourselves. And this is the story that isn’t being covered by the Government, right wing media and, strangely, the BBC. Tax is one of the biggest problems with our nation’s finances, with massive amounts of money not being paid, but is the tide turning against them? Well, President Obama says he wants to close these tax havens. I do hope that he brings this up with Gordon Brown when he visits the White House this week. That won’t be too uncomfortable for Mr Brown will it?
This week’s attention drawing story is the pension pot of Sir Fred Goodwin, former chairman of The Royal Bank of Scotland. It seems that despite resigning from a bank that is now pretty much owned by you and me, he still managed to leave with a pension that will pay him about £650,000 per year. For life. Do you think he stole his stapler on his way out as well?
My, that is a lot of money and most of the press are frothing at the mouth and want blood, well some of the money back anyway. Now, it does seem that he has a pretty strong legal position for not giving any of it back, his contract says he can have it and some one in the Government signed of on it but yesterday Harriet Harman said one of the most stupid and scary things ever uttered by a Government minister, “it may be acceptable in a court of law but not in the court of public opinion and that is where the Government steps in.” Woah there Nelly! What’s that? It may be lawful but because the mob doesn’t like it then we’ll, as a Government, ignore the law? Is that what you are saying? In front of us we have a very steep, very slippery slope. Is it something that we want to try and stand on? Laws are ok as long as the Sun agrees with them? Is that is? I know you ignore certain international laws, you know, those petty little ones about war, more on that later, but this is quite a remarkable statement. I hope it was made in haste and it will be retracted. Whilst I don’t agree with the size of his pension plan, Sir Fred is entitled to it. His contract says so and, therefore, so does the law, you know, those things that you are supposed to up hold, what with being an MP and all. Oh, and a lawyer I think. Is my paranoid fantasy coming true? Massive surveillance, huge database keeping (and data mining doesn’t work) and now Government threatening to ignore laws that it decides that it doesn’t like right now. How do you think that would go down if say, umm…. Vladimir Putin said something like that; do you think that there might be a word or 2 from the Foreign Office?

Jack Straw has decided that he will not publish the minutes from Cabinet meetings that happened just before the start of the war in Iraq, despite a freedom of information request and the information commissioner tell him that he should. His argument is that it will undermine cabinet Government if people feel that their private views will be aired in public at some later date.
I can understand his point of view on this one but there are two important facts that he seems to be forgetting, 1, Tony Blair massively undermined cabinet Government by himself without any help from us, and 2, The papers refer to something, the invasion of a sovereign country, that may well be illegal under international law. That is really rather important Mr Straw. Is the Government withholding information about its illegal activates?
I’m in full on paranoid delusion mode this week but with good reason. Your Government admitted this week that when it said that it had not been involved in any “extraordinary rendition” activities in collusion with the U.S., it really meant that it had and was lying, a bit.

Despite the rantings above I am quite a good mood today, the sun is shining, I’m on holiday for a week and we are off to see the fantastic Elbow in Bournemouth tonight and Franz Ferdinand next week, which is nice. We went to see some more modern dance on Friday evening and I sort of enjoyed it. As you know I’m not super keen on modern dance but, using a scoring system based on the number of times I yawned during the performance, it was once by the way, I think that it went quite well.

Let’s do some awards,

The Award for Being a Brave Man or Clearing Looking For a Fight,

This goes to Peter Mandelson who wants to try and sell off some of the Post Office to a private company. No one is really sure why. The company started making a profit last year and selling it won’t help with the pension’s black hole that they have. Even Margaret Thatcher backed away from that fight.

The Award for What May Have Been Coincidence But it Doesn’t Look Like it to Me,

This again goes to Peter Mandelson. He was supposed to bring in the bill about the part selling of the Post Office in the second half of the week but it was suddenly bought forward and was introduced on the day that every news outlet was reporting constantly on the death of David Cameron’s son Ivan. Now as I say, it may have been coincidence…..

I think that will do for this week, hope you all have a nice week doing whatever it is you do. I’ve learnt to do hyperlinks now but I think you might have noticed that.

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