Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Corporate Pension Script

CONWY, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 06:  In this ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

How to manipulate your employees and their pension.

Step 1. Complain about the cost of the final salary scheme.

Step 2. Close the final salary scheme to new entrants.  Do not under any circumstances admit that this act will lead to Step 4!

Step 3. Introduce a money purchase scheme for new starters to reduce corporate cost.

Step 4. Complain about the continuing cost of the existing final salary scheme.

Step 5. Highlight the differential of the final salary scheme to the money purchase scheme employees. Show how we have 2 groups of employees. Divide and Conquer!

Step 6. Ensure the aggrieved voice of the money purchase scheme employees is heard loudly.

Step 7. Suggest that in the interest of employee harmony the final salary scheme benefits are reduced to the legal minimum.

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Parasites in Ranchi #2: Unauthorised MeetingImage by premasagar via Flickr
Headline on the BBC News caught my eye this morning - Greece crisis: investors wait on deal details.

So there's a nation in trouble and investors are waiting on details. What details? The best way to aid the economy? The best way to work with the democratically elected sovereign Greek government?

No. A big fat No.

They're waiting to ensure that they get a good risk free return on their money at the expense of the Greek people. If Capitalism was invented today it'd be banned as immoral, genocidal and an environmental catastrophe in the making.

Another headline - Greek bonds rated 'junk' by Standard & Poor's

Global stock markets tumbled after Greece's debt was downgraded to "junk" by rating agency Standard & Poor's over concerns that the country may default.

It makes the struggling nation the first eurozone member to have its debt downgraded to junk level.

So if the artificial actions of middle class unelected white men are causing trouble by classing Greece's debt as 'junk' then why bother doing it? Credit ratings do not alter the factual situation one iota, but they do alter the outcomes of any action. So why do it? To create a situation where capital can make a profit at the expense of the Greek people.

How long will this vile system continue? Parasites the lot of them.

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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Lansbury's Lido on Twitter

I've created a new account on Twitter to link to this blog, wasn't really any visible link with my old identity.

So I'm now lansburyslido on Twitter. Feel free to follow me, and I've been following a fair few who may be reading this blog.  


What are we doing to Greece?

So in terms of capital Greece is having problems with paying off it's creditors. The countries in the Eurozone seem to be slow putting together a 'rescue package' and now all talk is of the IMF rolling in in as the knight in shining armour with a poison chalice of loans and repayment schemes.

But scratch the surface of any capitalist scheme and you'll find the real load carried - asset stripping, passing control to foreign investors, making the state dependant on unelected capital and the transfer of assets held in common to the capitalists. Oh, and the people pay with the attached 'austerity package'.

There's a good article by James Meadway on Counterfire, well worth a read. In fact I'll cut and paste some items from there to make a few points as the article is so well written! It captures and puts into words a lot of the anger and disgust I feel inside.

As of this morning, the effective interest rate on Greek debt, paid back over two years, stands at 38% - compared to 1.3% last November.

Typical capital response to 'problems'. Greece is in trouble so you screw them into the ground when what they really need is help. Loans are now attracting a massive 38.1% interest compared to 1.3%. So how doe this help Greece and her people? It doesn't. It's a mechanism to enrich those who have by taking from those who don't. It mirrors what we already see with personal debt with credit cards - what you have to repay depends on how much you have. The less you have the more you repay.

Credit rating agencies, which assess the ability of borrowers to repay their loans, yesterday downgraded Greek debt to ‘junk bond’ status. The cost of insuring loans to Greece against default has risen to an all-time high.

So the way in which the international community relates to Greece is dependent upon the status awarded to Greece by these unelected bodies called credit rating agencies. Our assistance is not based on need but on the estimated potential to get a return. In capitalism humanity is discarded.

‘Default’ can in practice mean many different things. The Greek government, and the major Euro economies, will be desperate to avoid a complete cessation of debt repayments. The damage to the credibility of the Euro itself would be immense.

So the reaction of international finance and countries is not in response to the need of the Greek people but a tool to retain the credibility of the Euro? God help us that these people are in such positions of influence.

The critical issue for the markets is the credibility of the Greek government to meet its debt obligations. They are demanding massive public spending cuts to pay for them.

Spending cuts. So we know see the usual method of enriching those with capital - they take from those without influence and power.

But IMF cash is no gift. It will be strictly conditional on the Greek applying exceptionally harsh austerity measures, like further wage reductions and redundancies, public spending cuts, and privatisation.

The aim of an IMF loan, as always, is to pummel an economy for international investors. It steps up the international pressure already applied to Greece.

Measures already promised, under EU supervision, include cuts of up to 30 per cent in public sector wages and pensions, and swingeing tax increases for ordinary people.

An enhanced version of what our political leaders in the UK are softening us up for. The people will pay. As always. Why is it never the financiers who pay? Why is it never the shareholders who pay? Why is it always the people? Because this is capitalism and this is how it has to work.

I think I'm going to stop here before I explode. We have already seen rioting in Greece and inside a part of me is excited by it. Would that this civil disturbance could spread and eventually lead to the dismantling of this evil system and it's replacement by one that works for the people.

Cant Pay, Won't Pay: Solidarity with the people of Greece - Join the Facebook group

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

How much do you really know about Iran?

Map flag of IranImage via Wikipedia

In our western media Iran is coming to the fore as the big, bad bogeyman of the Middle East. We're fed all sorts of mis-information by our pliable media so perhaps a good time to see how much you really know about Iran?

H/T to Ten percent for the questions.

Iran Quiz Questions :

1. Is Iran an Arab country?

2. Has Iran launched an aggressive war of conquest against another country since 1900?

3. How many known cases of an Iranian suicide-bomber have there been from 1989 to 2007?

4. What was Iran 's defense spending in 2008?

5. What was the U.S. 's defense spending in 2008?

6. What is the Jewish population of Iran ?

7. Which Iranian leader said the following? “This [ Israel 's] Occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.”

8. True of False: Iranian television presented a serial sympathetic to Jews during the Holocaust that coincided with President Ahmadinejad's first term.

9. What percentage of students entering university in Iran is female?

10. What percentage of the Iranian population attends Friday prayers?

11. True or False: Iran has formally consented to the Arab League's 2002 peace initiative with Israel.

12. Which two countries were responsible for orchestrating the 1953 overthrow of Iran's populist government of democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh, primarily because he introduced legislation that led to the nationalization of Iranian oil?

13. Who made the following address on March 17, 2000? “In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.”

14. Which countries trained the Shah's brutal internal security service, SAVAK?

15. Does Iran have nuclear weapons?

16. Is Iran a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?

17. Is Israel a signatory of the NPT?

18. Does the NPT permit a signatory to pursue a nuclear program?

19. Who wrote the following in 2004? "Wherever U.S forces go, nuclear weapons go with them or can be made to follow in short order. The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy. Though Iran is ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, most commentators who are familiar with the country do not regard its government as irrational. ... [I]t was Saddam Hussein who attacked Iran, not the other way around; since then Iran has been no more aggressive than most countries are. For all their talk of opposition to Israel , Iran 's rulers are very unlikely to mount a nuclear attack on a country that is widely believed to have what it takes to wipe them off the map. Chemical or other attacks are also unlikely, given the meager results that may be expected and the retaliation that would almost certainly follow.”

20. What percentage of Iranians in 2008 said they had an unfavorable view of the American people?

21. What percentage of Iranians in 2008 expressed negative sentiments toward the Bush administration?

22. What were the main elements of Iran's 2003 Proposal to the U.S., communicated during the build-up to the Iraq invasion, and how did the U.S. respond to Iran's Proposal?

23. True or False: Iran and the U.S. both considered the Taleban to be an enemy after the 9/11 attacks.

24. Did the U.S. work with the Tehran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq both before and after the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq?

25. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, who said the following? "The Iranians had real contacts with important players in Afghanistan and were prepared to use their influence in constructive ways in coordination with the United States ."

26. Who wrote the following in 2004? “It is in the interests of the United States to engage selectively with Iran to promote regional stability, dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, preserve reliable energy supplies, reduce the threat of terror, and address the ‘democracy deficit' that pervades the Middle East …”

You can find the answers at

I'm not trying to say that Iran is a kind of paradise amongst the maelstrom that is the Middle East, I know that there is real persecution of Christians there but we owe it to ourselves to find the truth. Easpecially the truth about the involvement of the UK with it's imperial adventures and corporate shenanigans in Persia.

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Monday, 26 April 2010

Respect sets coalition conditions

Respect – The Unity CoalitionImage via Wikipedia

The Respect political party has set out some conditions should it be asked to support a Labour minority government. They are 

  • troops withdrawn from Afghanistan
  • more council houses built 
  • electoral reform
  • an end to cuts

All admirable but I can't see New Labour going along with that. At least Respect has said that they would not back a Tory government "under any circumstances".

BBC News

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Party Manifestos

In order to cut through the election spin and soundbites I think I'm going to run through some of the parties' election manifestos to try and find out exactly what they say on some key issues.

The parties will be:

  • Labour
  • Respect
  • Tories
  • Lib Dems
  • Communist Party of Britain
  • Green Party

And the policies will be:

  • Economy
  • Equality
  • Defence
  • Private or Public control of key sectors
  • Housing

Let's hope I can keep the momentum up!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Tory Marriage Tax Plans

German woodcut of a medieval wedding ceremony ...Image via Wikipedia
So Cameron's been setting himself up as the defender of marriage with the release of his plans for tax breaks for married couples. Actually the plans were released by David Willets but Cameron is certainly nailing his colours to the mast. You can read the Tory release on their website.

So cutting through the bumf we can pick a few salient points out of this policy:

  • It's not just heterosexual marriage but civil partnerships as well
  • There's an upper limit on the main earners income to be eligible
  • The lower earner mustn't be earning more than £6,500 or thereabouts
  • It works out at a maximum of about £2.80 a week
  • It will be funded by a levyon the banks
Hardly worth getting up for methinks. Worth 10 Benson and Hedges a week to those eligible. Gesture politics at it's worst.

So what message does this not primarily convey in words? Lots and none of it too good. Listening to the radio this morning and one presenter made the point about widows and widowers.

What if you were a married couple, your husband was in Afghanistan and you received the news that he'd been killed by insurgents? The next bit of news would be a communication from the DWP that your tax break for married couples was being withdrawn and that you'd better not be too hooked on the Benson and Hedges you'd become accustomed to.

And if you are a couple who decide not to get married but are committed to each other? Well the Tories don't give a fig for your commitment.

Or your civil partner's done a runner? Tough!

The Tories have tried to grandstand to too many audiences with this one and it's going to bite them on the bum, bigtime.

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Friday, 9 April 2010

No Power Without Accountability

I grew up in a company town
And I worked real hard ‘'til that company closed down
They gave my job to another man
On half my wages in some foreign land
And when I asked how could this be
Any good for our economy?
I was told nobody cares
So long as they make money when they sell their shares

Can you hear us? Are you listening?
No power without accountability!

I lost my job, my car and my house
When ten thousand miles away some guy clicked on a mouse
He didn’t know me, we never spoke,
He didn’t ask my opinion or canvass for my vote
I guess its true, nobody cares
'Til those petrol bombs come spinning through the air
Gotta find a way to hold them to account
Before they find a away to snuff our voices out

Can you hear us? Are you listening?
No power without accountability!

The ballot box is no guarantee that we achieve democracy
Our leaders claim their victory when only half the people have spoken
We have no job security in this global economy,
Our borders closed to refugees but our markets forced open

The World Bank says to Mexico,
We’ll cut you off if you don’t keep your taxes low
But they have no right to wield that sword
‘Cos they take their orders from the chairman of the board

I hear these words just every place I go
Who are these people? Who elected them?
And how do I replace them with some of my friends?

Can you hear us? Are you listening?
No power without accountability!
WORDS: Billy Bragg (2002) MUSIC: The Blokes (2002)

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Thursday, 8 April 2010

We Can End This Rotten System

Image by Getty Images via Daylife
An interesting article in the Telegraph about a gentleman who saw the state that the financial markets were getting into, persuaded Goldman Sachs to design a form of credit swap (CDS), and made a mint. His method was so interesting that Goldman Sachs started using the same system.

So getting away from all the financial cobblers we have someone tinkering with an artificial construct, creating a new variation of that construct and making pots of money.

So in theory I can't see why it's not possible to tinker with the system so that every man, woman and child on this planet gets to share in this 'wealth'. I mean, we could eradicate poverty virtually instantly.

But it won't happen and the reason is human greed. If nobody is a loser then nobody can be a winner. To be a winner means that there has to be losers. For our capitalist system to feed the cult of mammon it has to keep a large portion of humanity in bondage. Only then can men stand proud on their hills of money and declare "I am a winner!"

Am I looking at this too simply?

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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Ruts - Babylon's Burning

And to finish off the trio for today, The Ruts - Babylon's Burning

999 - Homicide

Another group I saw sometime, somewhere. Classic song.

The Skids - Into The Valley

Saw them at Guildford University sometime back in God knows when. The songs almost survived the passage of time!

The General Election

So Gordo's set the date, the media has gone into a frenzy and already I'm bored. If there's one thing I can't stand it's the cult of celebrity and the media will be spinning out of control to bring us the 'character' of the party leaders. Truth is, I don't care. It's a turn-off. But the media really has no choice, as Neil Clark says on his blog:

For the sad truth is that the vote on May 6 will be the most meaningless poll in modern British political history.

In a country which takes great pride in its 'democratic' credentials, and which sees its divine mission as spreading 'democracy' across the globe, the British voter will be presented with a choice of three main parties advocating almost identical policies on the most important issues of the day.
You have it there, no difference except by degree. All the major parties are cooking from the same menu which is giving me indigestion. For the past 15 years there has been a powerful clique in Labour working to disengage the party from it's socialist roots. Can it ever recover? I don't know. But it's present policies are nothing compared to what Labour should be coming out with.

Control of the nation's infrastructure
Rebuilding our manufacturing base
An end to our foreign adventures
Building a representative Parliament
Increased public spending
Putting the blame for the financial crisis where it belongs
Tackling inequality and encouraging diversity
Repealing anti Trade Union laws
Rolling back Thatcherism and free reign capitalism
Higher taxation
Plugging the tax loopholes that the rich enjoy

Drop those policies in my lap and you have my vote. Come to me with spin and fake tan and you know where to stick it.

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Friday, 2 April 2010

Release from prison a 'miracle cure'?

So Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi was meant to have died from his prostate cancer several months ago, but is enjoying his birthday today. Whilst I wish him no ill, and indeed good health I do wonder what it is about being released from prison which seems to bring about miracle cures?

I'm thinking Ernest Saunders and his unique recovery from Altzheimer's. And now al-Megrahi. Perhaps this could be an alternative treatment available on the NHS?

A strange old world indeed.