Author: Mark

The Cesspit That Is The British Establishment

The Cesspit That Is The British Establishment

Wow. What a start to 2022. We’ve got Prince Andrew in increasingly hot water for something to do with a young teenage girl, we’ve got known liar Boris Johnson having parties at Number 10 during lockdown and spinning and deceiving the the House of Commons on the subject, there’s a load of laws making their way onto the statute books in April that will further erode our democratic freedoms that are going unreported in the UK media, we’ve got Tony Blair still getting his knighthood despite a petition being signed against it by over a million people. It just goes on and on and shows no sign of letting up soon. I can only wonder what is next to come.

For years, we’ve all known that the establishment and ruling elite have complete contempt for the underlings, but never has this been more apparent than now. There is an air of “stuff you, what are you going to do about it?” floating around, and it stinks.

Most of stuff I highlighted in the first paragraph is making front pages around the globe, from the Far East to the States passing through Europe. We have become a complete laughing stock, and we are being derided globally. Yet, the Boris house parties and the new laws seem to be getting buried by our news outlets pretty quickly. Considering Boris’ attempt at an apology in the Commons yesterday was a pretty big thing, it has now been superceded in the newspapers by concerns about a Chinese spy infiltrating the labour party.

As I type, there is breaking news that the Queen has possibly revoked Prince Andrews HRH title, so he may have to face the music as a private citizen. At least the Queen can be trusted to read the room and act with decisive dignity. Shame the rest of the establishment can’t.

News was breaking today that one of Boris’ immediate family had tested positive for COVID and as such would be unlikely to be seen in public as a result. Self isolation for contacts of coronavirus cases is no longer mandatory, his spokesman said he would heed guidance to limit outside contacts as much as possible for seven days after the test. Convenient that, no? It’s meant that he has dodged a scheduled visit to a vaccination centre in Lancashire today where he would have had to face the media for the first time since his attempt at an apology yesterday.

You know what, I have a feeling that Johnson is going to get away with this and remain in post. It’ll be interesting to see where he is in six months time……

Vodafone, HMRC, Harnett and the Whiff of Impropriety

Vodafone, HMRC, Harnett and the Whiff of Impropriety

Over the last couple of years we’ve become increasingly used to people in positions of power in the UK government doing naughty things and not being held to account. There’s one incident that goes back over a decade that really gets me upset and if you are a UK taxpayer, then it should do the same to you. There’s a lot more detail than I am going into here, but this should give a fair idea of what has gone on;

Vodafone is one of the darlings of the FTSE and has often been in the news for its tax dealings. It is a client of an accountancy firm called Deloitte. There is one incident that I’m going to focus on and this happened in 2010 when a man called Dave Harnett was the Permanent Secretary for Tax at HM Revenue and Customs.

Vodafone owed over £7bn in tax at this point, which is of course a considerable amount of money. To put that into perspective, according to the ONS, the mean gross annual salary for full time employees in the UK for 2010 was £25,879. From that figure £6,097 tax and national insurance would due (this is deducted at source, the worker has no choice in the matter), and the employer has to pay £2,580 on top of this; a tax for employing the worker. So, for each person earning this wage, theirs, and their employers contribution totals £8,677. Vodafone’s tax bill is due on profits earned, and is equivalent to the contribution of 806,730 average UK wage earners tax contribution based upon my quick calculation. That is a considerable amount of people.

Now this is where things take a turn for the worse if you are one of those people that lose approximately 20% of their earnings to tax and national insurance at source without having any say in the matter. Vodafone play by a completely different set of rules, and it appears that they are assisted by the very people paid to stop them avoiding their tax bill.

During the 2000’s Vodafone was locked in a long running dispute with HMRC regarding the amount of tax that it owed, in April of 2007, the Director of HMRC’s Large Business and Customer unit was a man called John Connors, he defected to Vodafone in a move that stunned his colleagues leaving many feeling betrayed.

Dave Harnett and John Connors used to work closely together at HMRC, and as the dispute evolved, Harnett changed the HMRC team working on the Vodafone case, instead installing a team that he deemed to be more flexible. This team negotiated a settlement with Connors in 2010 whereby Vodafone would only pay £1.25bn instead of the £7bn.

In July 2012 Harnett retired from HMRC, and less than a year later started working for Deloitte (Vodafone accountants, see second paragraph above) in a very lucrative deal. At the time, the Prime Minister, David Cameron approved his appointment subject to six caveats, one of which was that Harnett did not draw on privileged information from his time at HMRC. I don’t really think that this is the problem, the damage had already been done.

Deloitte commented at the time that Harnett will work as a consultant to them advising foreign governments and tax administrations, primarily in the developing world as he has significant experience in advising such countries on the development of effective tax regimes.

That’s a bit of a giggle, really, isn’t it?

Arise, Sir Tony Blair

Arise, Sir Tony Blair

Well, Sir Tony (not Sir Anthony) has been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Sounds rather fancy, doesn’t it? Most noble, order etc. Apparently it’s the highest honour that can be bestowed upon him, and it was announced yesterday.

I wonder if, now that he is a bona-fide Knight, if he is going to go on a crusade, say, somewhere like the Middle East, or is that a bit passe, a bit noughties?

The garter bit will probably stick in Rupert Murdoch’s throat; the garter in question is possibly his ex-wife’s Wendy Deng’s. I need to be careful here, I’ve watched all available seasons of Succession, so I know full well what Mr Murdoch is capable of, and I’ve watched the karate chopping Deng in action too.

Well, on the back of this announcement, the shit well and truly hit the fan; the interweb thingy lit up like a Christmas tree again and the socials were particularly fascinating. The interesting thing is that in an era of soundbites, social media, very short attention spans and memories that have evolved over the 14 years since he left the office of Prime Minister, some of his policies and actions appear to have left an indellible stain upon not just the UK electorate psyche, but the global one. And this stuff being catapulted off the fan is not pleasant at all, no Sir (Tony). I’d happily get sprayed with it if it could save the several hundred thousand lives that were wasted in the pursuit of your policies.

This morning I wake to read another Knight, this one called Lindsay Hoyle, who is also the Speaker of the House of Commons, is vigorously defending the honour.

There are some wonderful quotes in there, he said he felt the honour, the oldest and most senior British order of chivalry, was “a fitting tribute”, “and I think it is respectful and it is the right thing to do, whether it is Sir David Cameron. They should all be offered that knighthood when they finish as prime minister.”, and “If you have been prime minister of this country, I do believe the country should recognise the service given. Absolutely. You finish in the office and when you’ve finished it is the respect that we give to those prime ministers,”, the final one; “It is not about politics. It is about the position they have held in this country and it’s the respect that we show to those and it is a fitting tribute,”

I’m in complete awe of these quotes and am sat slowly shaking my head as I type. If you get it, you get it. If you don’t, I cannot even be bothered to explain.

As the last few years have shown, the establishment is becoming more and more disconnected from the general public that they serve, they are becoming more and more ridiculous. How can these people take themselves seriously? They are obviously maintaining their vested interests, and the dishing out of awards for a long gone empire is embarrassing. Does Italy dish stuff out for the Roman empire wearing fancy dress togas? Does it heck. As I said, embarrassing.

Currently there is a Change campaign to have Blair’s knighthood rescinded with 120,000 signatures on it, and it is growing fast. It can be found here.

Over a million people reportedly took to the streets of London to protest against the Iraq war back in 2003, the figure was actually two million, but lets not split hairs. The BBC article from the time is here and makes interesting reading.

Lets see how many signatures this Change campaign gets up to and whether it gets ignored in the same way as the Iraq war protests. Please share the link.

Omicron Threat Overstated?

Omicron Threat Overstated?

Interesting figures being released in the UK, I lifted this from the Daily Mail:

There were 8,474 patients in hospital with Covid yesterday compared with 19,277 on the same day last year despite cases being much higher than they were at that time. The most up-to-date figures reveal there were 842 Covid patients in intensive care on ventilators – the lowest level in two months. Covid case numbers – which were updated for the first time since Christmas Eve – reveal 98,515 people in England tested positive yesterday. This is nearly four times higher than the 25,619 people who tested positive on the same day last year and is a considerable decrease on the 113,628 cases reported in England on Christmas Day. It is also lower than the 103,558 cases reported on Boxing Day. The promising figures highlight the vaccine’s protective effects against severe illness, as well as the mounting evidence that Omicron is a milder strain.

Interesting figures and what is particularly interesting is the last sentence. I think when you consider the evidence that was already in prior to Boris Johnson’s address on 12th December, it was pretty clear that Omicron is a considerably milder strain. The question is how much of a part does the vaccine play in preventing serious illness with Omicron.

Was the booster push really required? A lot of people have made a lot of money from this push over the last few weeks, not just Pfizer, but the private companies running the vaccine centres getting paid £12.50 for each shot administered whilst being staffed by volunteers and marines. There’s going to be more than a few people that have done very well out of this, I wonder if they will do the right thing as some companies did with the furlough cash and hand it back? I somehow doubt it…..

As an aside, I wonder how much longer I am going to have to endure shouty text messages telling to me to get a booster for like the one below;

I suppose they need to get shot of them now in case people decide that they don’t need them once they’ve had Omicron.

More Omicron Considerations…

More Omicron Considerations…

As I’m sure most people have been doing, I’ve been chatting with friends regarding the latest mutation of COVID; Omicron. Everyone has a take/opinion on it, right? None of us really have a clue as to what’s right, and what’s wrong, we have to trust the government, and the science. If we don’t, if we dare to question the official line, we’re getting shot down pretty quickly.

Apparently this variant originated in South Africa and the early indications were that it was causing very few hospitalisations and next to no deaths. In fact, it was said that the people being hospitalised, were generally being so for other conditions, and when admitted were being tested. Up until this point, they were unaware that they had COVID because the symptoms are so mild; said to be comparable to a common cold.

Shortly afterwards (towards the end of the first week of December 2021), President Putin referred to Omicron as a live vaccine because of the low risk of illness, it’s comparison to a cold, and the expectation of getting antibodies.

On 12th December 2021 Boris Johnson released a pre-recorded announcement telling people to get booster jabbed to defeat Omicron, in many people this created a panic, and a rush towards the vaccine centres.

The booster jabs are typically the Pfizer one, which has now been rebranded to Comirnaty, which sounds very similar to community depending on how you pronounce it.

Many people in the countries with an experience of Omicron considered the British governments response to this variant to be hysterical and completely disproportionate to the threat. This was mentioned publicly by some very well informed people towards the end of the second week of December 2021.

Todays UK newspapers (26th December 2021) are quite interesting, in particular, the Telegraph;

“One of Britain’s most senior health advisers has been accused of disseminating “dodgy data” that inflated the potential risk of omicron”

So, Jenny Harries allegedly supplied data that mislead over hospitalisations due to Omicron, essentially overstating the risk. This data indicated that there is a 17 day lag between patients being infected and requiring hospitalisation which was stated by Government minister, Sajid Javid. However, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the lag is actually 9-10 days.

“The latest UKHSA data showed that people infected with the Omicron variant were between 50 and 70 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital than those with Delta.

At the time of Javid’s claim last weekend, despite soaring Omicron cases, only 85 people were in hospital with confirmed Omicron – a figure that has since risen to 366.”

So, in the UK we’ve got Omicron infections up in the millions, the Government has said that of all the people that are suffering with colds, half could be Omicron, and we still only have a few hundred in hospital.

I guess the government will say it is because they did the right thing, followed the science, got everyone booster jabbed and managed the crisis so well.

Of course, it’s nothing to do with the fact that the variant in question is so mild, the majority don’t even know that they have it – vaccinated or unvaccinated. Check out what is going on in South Africa, only a 26% vaccination rate.

And the push for booster jabs, is that following the science because the statistics are starting to indicate otherwise. Who knows, this could have been known prior to Boris’ announcement on 12th December, but either way, it worked out pretty well for him deflecting some of the public relations mess that he found himself in.

To be clear, Boris Johnson has been proved time and time again to be a liar. This is accepted and on the record. Boris’ name and the truth don’t sit well together. There’s a wonderful Eddie Mair interview with him from 2013 where he was shown to have been sacked from two jobs because of his lies, and conspired to get a journalist a beating because of his running a story that upset one of his friends.

So, I’m daring to question what this government is putting in front of me regarding Omicron, and I’ll likely get shot down for it.

The McPlant Burger

The McPlant Burger

I had my first McPlant burger at the weekend, and it was a surprise. A complete surprise.

The McPlant has had a limited release in the UK within the last couple of months to much fanfare; it is a completely plant based, vegan friendly alternative to the standard McDonalds offering. I was aware of its existence, but living where I do, it’s not been available for me to try, and to be honest, I have been skipping the fast food scene for the last couple of months anyway as part of my live healthy, live longer phase. Kill me now.

So, at the weekend, I found myself driving in East London with a passenger that had a hankering for a fast food fix, so I duly pulled into the Bow McDonalds Drive-Thru to order. I was going to skip but the McPlant caught my eye, so I felt I had to give it a try.

I collected the order and pulled into a bay and got the box out of the bag. The size of the box was an immediate disappointment; it was roughly the same size as a Fillet o Fish box and the burger was roughly the same size. I was hoping for something of similar proportion to the Big Mac, alas, it was not to be. Upon opening and inspection, it looked like a regular burger; the patty, pickles, sauce, processed cheese and white bun, all looked reasonably normal.

Taking a bite, the taste was pretty good, I raised an eyebrow and started gibbering at my passenger in disbelief, I was expecting it to taste like crap. It wasn’t as far away from a regular burger as it could have been, the thing I really noticed was the texture of the patty, it was a fair bit mushier. Excitedly I kept waving the half eaten thing at my accomplice, offering it up to them to try some, saying that they wouldn’t believe how it tasted. They politely refused.

So, all in all, it is a more than passable effort. Okay, I was fairly impressed. Now the questions start to crop up in my mind; how the hell do they take bunch of plants, process it, and make a vegan product taste like one made from animal products? The mayo, the cheese, the meat substitute. Surely there’s a heck of a lot of layers of processing going on there? I just did a search for the meat substitute used in the McPlant, apparently it’s provided by a company called Beyond Meat. A few clicks shows what look like reasonably harmless ingredients, but a few more clicks shows that there’s a lot of strong opinions out there that they may not necessarily be as good for you as you would expect.

I’m not going to drill into this point, there’s no shortage of for and against opinions out there, and it will be one hell of a rabbit hole to disappear into.

We know that McDonalds isn’t good, wholesome food, we’ve seen films like Supersize Me, we’ve seen the hidden camera expose, we’ve seen the Jamie Oliver and his mate Jimmy’s documentaries, we’ve read accounts from disgruntled former staff about how the stuff is made. We know it’s nutritionally shit, we know it’s stacked with fat, salt and sugar, but because of this, it tastes amazing, and we know this. And for this reason, it is a guilty pleasure for millions of people nationally.

Things have changed over the last few decades, we’ve seen McDonalds stop frying its fries in beef tallow, and swap to vegetable oil, somehow, amazingly, they managed to keep the taste the same. Shocker. If you buy a Big Mac in the US that is made from US beef, then go to the UK and buy one made from UK beef, they taste almost identical. Shocker. There’s obviously some magic going on, what magic it is, I am not smart enough to work out, but it is clever stuff.

And now we have the McPlant, a pretty wholesome sounding name.

Until recent years, I have been a complete carnivore, I’ve not really given vegetarians or vegans much consideration. We were born with canines, right? Those lovely teeth for ripping flesh apart? This alone completely supported my position, meat is good, and it is an important part of the human diet. I’d walk across hot coals to get my hands on a perfectly cooked fillet steak.

A while back I was chatting to a vegetarian and they offered a compelling explanation as to why they choose to not eat meat, or flesh as they called it. I started to understand their position, and I got it. I won’t get into what that was, that’s for another time, but I got it. Since then, I have started to reduce my meat intake; I eat less, but what I do eat is better quality. It’s not been difficult to do at all.

This brings me to my point in an unfocused, meandering way;

These burgers, like the McPlant exist for a reason. People don’t want to eat meat, or animal products. But they are happy to pay over the odds for a highly processed product that is made to look like meat, smell like meat, and taste like meat, and it could possibly be less healthier than the meat alternative.
And it’s being served by an organisation that slaughters millions of cattle, pigs and chickens every year, and that has questionable environmental credentials.

Reflecting, I just don’t get it. If you’re going to go to all of that trouble, just eat the meat right? That’s what you’re hankering for, so stop the torture, just do it. Or don’t.

I don’t think I’ll be going back for a McPlant, as clever as it was. I don’t think I’ll be going back to McDonalds for myself at all.

Me and Mac’s are done. I can’t say that I won’t miss it, but it was fun whilst it lasted.

UK First Omicron COVID Death (continued)

UK First Omicron COVID Death (continued)

Almost a week later, the UK Government has still not released the details of what is so far to date, the UK’s first death with the COVID variant, Omicron. This contrasts the first UK death from first strain of COVID last year when the fact that the patient was “older” and had “underlying health issues” was revealed.

On 16th December an anonymous caller to LBC claimed that the victim was a male patient in their 70’s, and that they had refused the vaccine, and died in a Northampton hospital. The NHS have said that the death did not happen in Northampton. Clearly, the authenticity of the callers claims are questionable and cannot be validated.

Surely the simple and transparent thing for the government to do is release the information as everyone is asking? The question is, why are they refusing? In the absence of the details, people are drawing all manner of conclusions and rumour is rife.

More Government Hypocrisy

More Government Hypocrisy

The government will aim to provide rehab for 300,000 drug users who carry out half of all thefts, robberies and burglaries, Boris Johnson has said. He’s also mentioned removal of passports and driving licences.

from 06/12/2021

The Sunday Times reports all but one of 12 lavatory areas in Parliament that were tested showed traces of cocaine.

from 06/12/2021

Okay, so the government is looking into clamping down on drug use amongst Joe Public, I think most will feel that they may just want to start looking a little closer to home.

We’ve got Michael Gove who’s confessed to taking cocaine whilst working as a journalist, and our illustrious PM has joked about sorting the stuff, or was it icing sugar? And now the users of the commons toilets sound like they’re stuck in a snow drift.

I’d expect the Christmas parties that aren’t going to happen (just like last year’s ones), are going to be all nighters….

The Star Trek Discovery Season 4 Debacle

The Star Trek Discovery Season 4 Debacle

Star Trek Discovery is one of my guilty pleasures; it’s predictable, cheesy and sometimes downright cringe, but I like it.

There. I said it. I like it.

I was looking forward to the new season 4 and have been waiting for the best part of a year for it to air in the UK on Netflix, as it has done previously. It was due to premiere on Friday 19th November, but somebody at Paramount decided to pull it from Netflix a few days before and only show it in the few countries that have the Paramount+ streaming service. Everyone else had to wait until Paramount+ launched globally in 2022.

The fans went ape shit, and justifiably so. This resulted in Paramount doing a climbdown, and in the UK they made it available on something called Pluto TV the week after, a free streaming service. I’d never heard of the bloody thing, so I installed the Pluto app on my set top box in anticipation. What I came to realise is that the streaming on Pluto is free, but it is scheduled. On 26th November, if I wanted to watch season 4, I was forced to watch the first two episodes back to back between 9pm and 11pm. SCHEDULED!?

I’ve not watched scheduled TV streamed or terrestrial broadcast for years, and I can tell you, it was a bloody shock to my system. I was really not geared up for it. As soon as the first episode kicked off, my phone lit up like a Christmas tree. Everyone wanted to get in touch, and I had no pause facility on Pluto.

Eventually the phone was impossible to ignore and I completely lost my place in the show that I had eagerly anticipated. I won’t even start whining about the adverts – another thing that I wasn’t ready for.

There’s a lot of issues here, and I am acutely aware of mine; I should have thought ahead and silenced my phone and kept it out of sight. I failed to plan for the inevitable interruptions. I think this largely because I’ve allowed myself to become so conditioned into being able to have my media in whatever format completely on demand, as and when suits me. I get an interruption? I pause, attend to whatever has caught my attention, then go back to whatever it is that I am watching. I’ve realised that as a consequence of my digital life, I depend upon immediacy, and I have the attention span of a gnat. Also, that I need to stop responding to my phone the second that it chirps.

The really glaring issue here is Paramount’s greed. It’s pretty obvious why they have done what they have done, and it has backfired royally from a PR perspective. I would imagine a lot of people would have torrented the episodes, something that used to be huge years ago prior to the emergence of the streaming services.

For me? I’m voting with my feet, I’ll now part company with Discovery, after all, there’s plenty of fantastic stuff to watch, and I could really do without another streaming service.

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