Saturday, 9 February 2013

The waste of waste

Finally, it seems, DEFRA are admitting what this blog has been saying for some years - that our entire domestic waste recycling regime is an utter waste of time and money. The EU Waste Framework Directive, the pernicious piece of nonsense behind the whole thing, sets targets for the government, through the local councils, for the percentage of waste that is recycled. Or, rather, intended to be recycled. For the measure is taken at the point of collection, not of disposal. As long as councils collect their quota of recycled waste, they can then send it all to landfill along with the rest of the waste. There are no targets for the percentage of domestic waste actually recycled.

So who benefits from this pointless legislation? Well, principally a German company called Schneider, Europe's largest roto-moulders of wheelie bins. The chances are at least one of the three wheelie bins you're likely to have cluttering your driveway was made by Schneider. And as the company hold all the patents on wheelie bins, they even make royalties when the bins are manufactured by other firms. Their triumph has been in Europe's decisions to equip each Eurohousehold not with one 240l bin but three 120l bins, whose carefully segregated contents are then all dumped in the same pile at the waste depot. So whilst the EU wants us on the one hand to dramatically curb our use of flimsy 5g plastic carrier bags, it legislates on the other to quadruple the use of plastic at 14,000g a time for new wheelie bins. There will soon be one 120l wheelie bin for every citizen in the EU; seven thousand tonnes of plastic, enough for 1.4 billion carrier bags, or 2,800 carrier bags for each and every citizen in the EU. You couldn't make it up. 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Rotten Stench of the New Establishment

When I think back to the satirical 'establishment' targets of the 1970s now I think only how naive we all were. The out-of-touch judges, bent coppers, pompous MPs, upper class twits, fat bishops and naughty vicars, corrupt councillors and opaque mandarins that we saw as an obstacle to a truly liberal, free, open and transparent society were in reality the dam holding back a whole new generation of the new establishment even more rotten, more corrupt, more self serving and less transparent than they were.

Several decades after Lindsay Anderson's 'Britannia Hospital' we have the reality of all our hospitals euthanising the old and inconvenient through the Liverpool Death Pathway; we also have 1,200 prematurely dead in Mid Staffs, not even, as that ghastly regime accorded the victims of the T4 programme, 'granted a mercy-death (Gnadentod) after discerning diagnosis' but killed though indifference and lack of care, stinking in their own faeces, dying of thirst, hunger and cold whilst their fat cat bosses enjoyed canapes at the opera, built extensions to their comfortable suburban houses and enjoyed the apres-ski on the slopes of Verbier.  

So they're now all on remand in jail awaiting trial, no? No. Not Dr Helen Moss, the Director of Nursing, deaf to pleas of junior nurses, acquitted by her peers. Not Martin Yeates, the Chief Executive, who left with a £400k goodbye. Not Sir David Nicholson, who ran West Midlands SHA, who has been promoted and now runs the entire NHS. And not Cynthia Bower, also head of the SHA, who beyond belief  now runs the Care Quality Commission. 

And while some 60 newspaper hacks were arrested in dawn raids and remain on bail for the suspected phone hacking of  third-rate tabloid fodder personalities, thieving MPs remain at large and immune from prosecution, robbing bankers enjoy their lives of luxury untouched by the law, incompetent mandarins who lose billions are rewarded with honours and pensions, corrupt councillors bluff their way through trouble and the whole generation of the new establishment who drink deep at the public tit, who seek power and reward without responsibility, celebrate their immunity from Justice. 

The rotten stench of the new establishment like week-old Mackerel does more than merely offend; it is repulsive, repugnant, indecent and unbearable.  

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Abnormal Sexuality

It is of course the hallmark of a post-enlightenment secular civilised society that except where actual physical or mental harm is caused to persons or beasts that those with abnormal sexualities should not be persecuted for their sexual fixations. The sciences of psychology and psychiatry have allowed us to understand, from a variety of viewpoints, that there are those whose mental development in this area is arrested at the stage of infant sexual narcissism and that their adult inclinations are therefore inverted. So long as such persons remain in the minority, their behaviour is by definition abnormal but in practice tolerated by the majority. In every other respect, most are entirely normal. 

The gay marriage business is therefore nothing to get particularly excited about. We will not be less tolerant of harmless sexual abnormality, Freudians and Jungians will continue their therapeutic psychoanalyses, psychiatry textbooks will remain on the shelves, the catechism and canon law of the Church will remain unchanged and the normal sexual behaviour of the majority will not be undermined. Most inverts will be sensitive to the reality of buggery still being offensive to many and will continue to be discreet. I'm sure we'll learn to live with it.

Come back, Sid

Vince Cable's idea of a popular privatisation of the government's 82% stake in RBS is not that daft. If discounted shares, currently at around the 330 mark, were available to UK taxpayers and pensioners at say 220, limited to 500 shares, offering the prospect of an immediate windfall even if sold straight away, a whole new generation may experience the 'Sid' effect. 

The British gas privatisation had effects far beyond the transfer itself. It brought the experience of share ownership to millions, who for the first time regularly scanned the financial page of the Sun and Mirror; it boosted home ownership, self-employment, investment and business confidence. Those who took their profit straight away and put it straight back into economic circulation also boosted GDP. And it made the government popular. 

Whether it would be worth the 20 seats held as Rotten Boroughs under our corrupt electoral system by Cameron's opponents is the question; and if so, whether a well-timed 'Sid' privatisation in the early Spring of 2015 is now on the cards ....

Monday, 4 February 2013

Electric Fence needs high voltage

The squirming of the banks as they do everything they can to avoid complying with Vickers is salutary. The British Bankers Association Chairman Anthony Browne has said "This will create uncertainty for investors, making it more difficult for banks to raise capital, which will ultimately mean that banks will have less money to lend to businesses". To a point, Lord Copper. 

Larger UK firms are currently sitting on something like £750bn of cash reserves, up to three quarters of it in overnight cash. Whilst this is partly down to the end of the old revolving credit lines with the banks and the uncertainties of the bond markets, it also reflects not only the inability of national governments to overtax commerce - golden geese can frequently just fly to alternative jurisdictions - but also the accumulation of battle chests to meet the wave of restructurings, mergers and takeovers that is overdue. 

When Browne talks about "lending to business" this is the sort of game the banks like to play - with stakes in the big-money, big-profit games of global acquisitions and mergers. He's certainly not talking about lending to small businesses and new startups, micro-enterprises and co-operatives - the sector that generates the highest growth and has the quickest impact on the economy and employment. This is best done by local retail banks, by local managers making loan decisions. 

And if the Vickers regulations restrict the banks from using retail balances to throw on the table as their stake in the big-boys' games of big-money business trading, then good. This kind of investment banking must stand or fall on its own merits, and its own ability to attract external investment for the banks' players to add to the stake. And if it takes a high voltage - an Act of Parliament that makes prosecution and imprisonment inevitable for breaking the rules, together with the compulsory re-structuring of bank operations - to electrify the fence, bring it on.