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Friday 23 February 2018

The stench of filth at the heart of government

Over my career I've been offered just about every reward and inducement you can imagine. As the bloke leading the contract award team and the bloke signing-off contractors claims and stage payments, and a lot of the time the bloke leading the design team as well, I am a natural target. Apart from end-of-job boozeups (at which I always contribute to the pot) I've turned them all down. One poor sod charged by his board with 'grooming' me grew desperate after I'd turned down Wimbledon, a hired superyacht, a table at the Cafe Royal and a tank driving weekend and asked me outright what it would take. "Your firm making the most advantageous bid to my principal" was my frustrating answer. I'm not a Puritan, it's just far easier to sleep at night if you're dead straight. Plus you get a reputation, and employers know they can trust you with their millions. 

I guess many of you feel fine about both taking advantage of such offers and properly representing your own side; I've been told many times that such things are just part of the mutual perks of business, just oiling the relationship. For others working in the private sector this may be true - I can only say I can't work with it. 

When of course those gifts, inducements and rewards are made to planners, government officials, elected ministers and those charged with stewardship of the public purse, I'm sure my view should prevail; there should be a zero tolerance of such things. This is not now the case. All that's required is that the recipient of such largesse declare it on a public register. Simon Jenkins in the Guardian exposes the threat to national probity of such corruption;
" ... the hospitality showered on (Westminster Council's Planning) committee’s chairman for 16 years, the amiable Robert Davis, was breathtaking. Five-hundred freebies, including 10 foreign trips, in just three years. At least 150 of these were from a who’s who list of property industry figures. Even Harvey Weinstein is on the list. Entertaining Davis was clearly a Westminster cottage industry. He can hardly have had time to down one glass of champagne before raising another.

The NHS is awash in inducements to doctors to prescribe branded medicines. Arms company boards are stuffed with generals. The banks that fund private finance initiatives keep the Whitehall doors revolving. Declarations of interest by members of the House of Lords read like a lobbyists’ congregation. It clearly pays companies to lobby. The irony is that it was David Cameron who made great play of curbing this in his Lobbying Act. It was, he said, “the next big scandal waiting to happen”. Yet the only scandal was how the act was watered down, and how Cameron’s transparency register for lobbyists was lobbied to oblivion."
Yep for the dilettante Eton-boy Cameron his chums always came first and controlling lobbying went the same way as Localism and all the rest of his early lies. If Blair is the father of fake news and unjust war, Cameron is the father of nepotism, cronyism and corruption. An honour for his hairdresser was a final finger thrust in the air at the rest of us. 

Lobbying carries the stench of filth into the heart of our democratic processes, feeding on the avarice, rapacity and vanity of weak and credulous people in public office. It leaves both the giver and taker beshitten. It must be ended. 

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Ignore fake Gouta 'outrage' - it's a smokescreen

With Agent COB revelations bubbling away as a foretaste of more news of Corbyn's past stupidity to come, as the deep establishment has now decided it's time to cut him off at the knees, it's a good time to take a look over to Syria. 

The manufactured horror in the Western media is peaking with 'humanitarian concern' over a rebel held pocket on the outskirts of Damascus. The press forgets that Russian-backed Syrian army re-taking of urban areas is brutal but thankfully rapid, with ground forces clearing house-to-house shortly after bone-numbing artillery and air attacks. Unlike US / Iraqi faffing about, with endless attritional bombardment including US White Phosphorus causing mass casualties because the ground forces won't risk themselves in combat. Not only is Syria's approach ultimately kinder, but the civilian population in the rebel area has already had every encouragement to move out into safety in the Assad-held areas but has chosen to remain. 

Media concern here is manufactured and is a smokescreen. Take a look at the current war map; ISIS have been all but vanquished, the Kurds have occupied territory from the Turkish border to the Euphrates, and the remaining US-backed Islamist rebel enclaves are shrinking. Assad must eliminate the rebel pockets around Damascus before a major offensive against the US / Turkish backed rebels holding land east of Latakia. We are now entering into the most dangerous stage of the war - in which Russian, Turkish, Iranian, Israeli and American ground and air forces are at high risk of direct conflict. 

 Der Spiegel has a good taste of the confusion now emerging on the ground;
What do a counterfeiter from Syria, an Iraqi-Afghan militia fighter under Iranian leadership and a Russian Cossack have in common? More than you might think. They all took part in a strange offensive involving around 300 men on Feb. 7 -- an attack force that was bombed by the U.S. as it crossed a pontoon bridge over the Euphrates River in an effort to capture one of largest natural gas fields in eastern Syria for the Assad regime. Located near the city of Deir ez-Zor, the so-called Conoco field had been wrested from Islamic State (IS) last September by Kurdish-led troops -- with the help of U.S. Special Forces who have been stationed in the area since then.

The Americans are using the Kurds to promote their own interests and the Turks, in addition to their own soldiers, are using anti-Assad rebels to fight on their behalf. Iran, meanwhile, has a diverse mixture of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani recruits under its command, in addition to its own people. Since 2013, the tens of thousands of troops under Iranian control have been propping up the regime of Bashar Assad. They are commanded, trained and financed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which wants to keep its Syrian ally in power at any price. One of these multinational Shiite militias was also involved in the attack on the Conoco gas field -- a collection of fighters straight out of a dystopian catastrophe film. 

Two local tribal militias also took part in the attack, including one controlled by counterfeiter Torki Albo Hamad. Once wanted in Qatar for murder and document forgery in Saudi Arabia, he was known in Syria for being the leader of a gang of highway robbers. In 2013, Damascus offered him money and impunity if he and his men would place themselves at the service of the regime.
This is the real story; the big boys are now playing out the end game for land, gas and oil, and our sucker media is just too easily distracted by planted fake news intended to turn our focus away from the important stuff. With the BBC still soundly smarting from the spanking it got over its wholly fake White Helmets reporting from Aleppo (there weren't any) they've fallen straight into this one. Perhaps when Czech intelligence officers branded Agent COB 'stupid' they didn't know he was representative of a whole cabal of 'stupid' at the heart of the British establishment.

Sunday 18 February 2018

Give to charity, but don't buy from an OXFAM shop

I am very grateful to commenters on here who have described how to donate efficiently and get aid to the people that need it. Just to prove their point I've been through the accounts filed for 2017 by OXFAM to find possibly the least efficient way yet devised of giving aid - buying those cute 3rd world sofa throws, gourds or greetings cards from an OXFAM shop or OXFAM online. Here's what happens to every £1 you spend:-

You Spend £1.00

Less 20% VAT*
Sub total

Less cost of trading
Less OXFAM admin costs
Sub total

Less 5% political campaigning


*VAT charged on gifts, cards, commissioned goods but not on donated items

Source: 2017 accounts submitted to Charity Commission

First point is that VAT is chargeable on all those commissioned gift items - but not on donated goods. So if you're buying an old frock rather than a new greetings card, the net will be bigger. Oxfam shops are really just PR - a subtle way of pretending that the charity gets most of its money from public gifts and donations rather than from central government aid. Once you take off the costs of running the shops and the website, and the costs of HQ staff and executives, you're left with just 12p of that £1.00. And then OXFAM skims off a further 5% for its domestic lobbying and anti-poverty campaigning - leaving just 11p to go on aid and development.

For anyone paying £3 a month by direct debit, your yield is a bit better. But be aware that OXFAM has 11 executives earning over £100k pa. Assuming they're all at the midpoint of the first £100k+ band, it takes 37,000 x £3 direct debits just to meet their salary bill each month. News that 1,000 folk have cancelled their DDs as a result of the sex scandal will hardly dent them - unless another 36,000 join them.

Looking at the figures really does bring the waste into sharp contrast. The lesson is, if you want your money to reach the people in need, follow the suggestions in the comments, and please, please, look at the accounts before you spend.