Monday, June 15, 2020

The Ballad of John Newton


John Newton was the sea captain
Who wrote ‘Amazing Grace’.
He helped abolish slavery
But had another face.

Newton found God after a storm
Which almost sank his ship
As she returned to Liverpool
After a slaving trip.

Before then he’d been a trader
In the infamous trade,
When human lives didn’t matter
As money could be made.

One time Newton was sold as well,
To an African princess,
Who starved him and who laughed at him
And caused him great distress.

Freed by a friend of his father
He went back to the ships.
He got to captain his own brig
While making several trips.

He bought men, women and children,
And stowed them below deck.
He threw the dead over the side
And flogged and chained the rest.

The men he bought them from
Were African as well.
They didn’t care they’d turned black lives
Into a living hell.

Eventually he saw the light
And took another course.
BHe campaigned to end slavery
With William Wilberforce.

Newton became a clergyman
And a writer of hymns
But his past was always with him,
All his terrible sins.

So should we call him a hero,
Or forget time and place
And revile him for a slaver
And ban ‘Amazing Grace’?

PS: To those who say, ‘We don’t believe yer’,
I say, ‘Check out Wikipedia.’


Wednesday, June 03, 2020

China's Nazis

I wrote this article 12 years ago and things have got a lot worse since the Beijing Olympics:

The Olympic Games in China are the most disgraceful event of the year. We should not be supporting a corrupt and criminal regime just because it’s an economic superpower. 

Do not let anyone trot out the old nonsense about how this is all about sport and we should not try to mix that up with politics.

The fact is the Peking Olympics are about politics first, big business second with sport trailing a long way behind in the bronze medal position.

Every commentator, correspondent and corrupt apologist for China who defends participation in these games does so by arguing that they have nothing to do with the Communist regime which governs the country.

And in the very next breath they describe these games as China’s “coming out party” as one of the world’s great economic super-powers.

They can’t have it both ways. Either the Games are not about the host nation or they are a showcase which allows China to get down into the arena with the big nations and flex its drug-enhanced muscles alongside Japan, Germany, Russia and the United States.

To the Chinese Government, these Olympics are a virility symbol. China has conned its own people and the rest of the world into going along with its wicked charade of openness and decency. 

It must have been very much the same as this when the nations competed in Berlin in 1936 in front of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. 

There is very little difference between his dictatorship and that of Chinese President Hu Jintao who thinks we should avoid "politicising" the Games.

China is a police state. People are executed in their thousands every year, imprisoned without trial in their tens of thousands, denied freedom of speech in their millions. 

The apologists and quislings who want their freebie works outings to the Games – including the 437 BBC staff out there at our expense – argue it’s all OK because the standard of living is so much higher than it used to be. 

That’s true up to a point – though wages are low, pollution levels are at Victorian sweat-shop levels and rice has trebled in price. 

Of course, the International Olympic Committee is one of the world’s richest gravy trains. The Games tend to get sold to the highest bidder. Pockets get lined. Money is made. 

And money talks. We are so desperate for Chinese money we send out political leaders on grovelling expeditions to polluted outposts of Communism. They hold out their begging bowls, plead poverty and ask for investment in this country. 

We find ourselves celebrating the few crumbs from the rich man’s table when they knock out a few new MGs at the shadow of what was once the Longbridge car plant.

Meanwhile, this week 16 Chinese police officers were allegedly murdered by Muslim extremists, which conveniently helps to justify the arrest of 82 supposed terrorists last month and a further crackdown by the regime. 

It is quite possible the killings are genuine – though nobody should believe propaganda issued by the Chinese Government even if they see it with their own eyes. 

And nobody in their right mind would want to see Muslim fundamentalists make headway anywhere in the world. 

Yet we’re dealing with a country which locked up students after the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989 and threw away the key. Almost two decades later they’re still in prison – but such is the “openness” of this country that nobody even knows how many people have been deprived of their liberty after calling for more freedom and democracy in China. 

Amnesty International say that in the run-up to the Olympics, China has locked up, put under house arrest and forcibly removed people threatening the image of “stability” and “harmony” the regime the world to see. 

Chinese Communism is guilty of promoting civil war, starvation and atrocity in Sudan, suppressing Tibet and threatening Taiwan. 

I would like to see British Olympians come home crowned in glory. I shall probably watch some of the real track and field events and avoid the rest because they’re a joke whether they take place in Athens, Peking or London. 

I shall despise myself for giving even that comfort to the enemy. Because while China may not be threatening our lives or livelihood directly, it is a country we can’t trust and shouldn’t do business with. 

The Olympics are corrupt anyway. They’re all about who can take drugs and get away with it. Who can get the biggest sponsorship deals. Who can enjoy the most lucrative TV rights.
And I have no doubt someone in the Chinese Government is even now announcing: "The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn't separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That's why the Olympic Flame should never die."

These are noble sentiments. They help to explain why we should keep politics out of sport and enjoy the competition for its own sake.

Or they would help to explain it. Except for one small problem. These are the words used at the 1936 Olympics by none other than Adolf Hitler himself.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

The sick man of Europe

When this terrible crisis is over, I sincerely hope the National Health Service will not come out of it unchanged.
We have all been full of admiration for the doctors, nurses and other health workers who risk their own lives to care for others.
This should not blind us to the terrible failings in the NHS. Its organisation, management and infrastructure should not be allowed to survive unscathed.
For individual workers, this may well have been their finest hour. Never was so much owed by so many.
But this has not been the NHS’s finest hour. The selfless heroism of many health workers should not blind us to the bureaucracy’s fatal - literally fatal - ineptitude.
From before the crisis became a crisis, the NHS bureaucracy in all its bewildering variety has proved itself time after time to be inefficient, bungling, complacent, aimless and incompetent.
Of course, supporters of the status quo will argue first that the NHS has been a victim of cuts and austerity for so long it’s no wonder it wasn’t prepared. They will then claim the crucial decisions were made by politicians, as if that lets the bureaucrats off the hook.
The truth is, funding for the NHS has rocketed while efficiency has plummeted. Every extra £1 spent on the health service these days yields about 10p’s worth of improved services.
On almost all measures, we have one of the worst health services in the developed world.
Yet in the past few months Boris Johnson’s Government has been led entirely by the advice it receives from experts who work in the NHS directly or in one of its many service industries like Imperial College, London.
And that advice has been mixed, to say the least. First, there was no cause for alarm. Then there was a policy of herd immunity. Then there was lockdown.
These contradictory policies were based on flawed and contradictory expert advice. As a result we must endure the devastation of the British economy, with petrifying long-term consequences.
Meanwhile cancer patients and others with potentially fatal illnesses don’t even get to see a GP.
We were told testing was the ‘game changer’. Once we knew who had suffered the illness and who hadn’t, all would be well.
It turned out there were few reliable tests and the NHS had centralised the entire system in one location thus ensuring it would take forever to get any results.
To make matters worse, private companies and universities queued up offering help and were ignored. Possibly this was because of the inadequacy of the NHS bureaucracy, possibly because of a doctrinaire refusal to deal with ‘the private sector’ but, most likely, it was the result of a collective instinct to command and control everything even if it cost lives.
The slow and inadequate testing regime was blamed on Ministers yet they have given the NHS a blank cheque and complete freedom to deal with it. The failures lie at the door of the NHS’s overpaid executives.
The same applies to shortages of personal protection equipment. Why were there shortages?
It is more understandable the NHS might be tripped up by a shortage of intensive-care respirators but its attempts to acquire more were chaotic. Ministers, aware of the need, appealed to private businesses to make them. Many responded. Alas, again, the NHS failed to react.
Where, you might ask, were the highly-paid executives responsible for NHS procurement?
The health service employs more than 4,000 people in purchasing jobs, some of them being paid well over £100,000. Why did these executives fail to secure an adequate supply of PPE for their colleagues?
Of course, part of the problem with the NHS is the way jobs are dished out to superannuated politicians who get to sit on trust boards and pocket hefty salaries for doing nothing but attend a few board meetings to rubber-stamp the decisions of their managers. And the managers themselves have little or no experience of managing anything outside the health service.
That means they are often quite incapable of behaving in a businesslike fashion and plod on without imagination, ingenuity, creativity or any real interest in medical or financial improvements.
The entire lockdown was thrust upon us not so much to protect us from the virus as to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed with sick patients.
That’s understandable up to a point but, as a result, thousands of people with other illnesses are being neglected and driven to an early grave.
An adequate health service would ensure the cure does not cause more fatalities than the disease. Thanks to NHS failures, it is quite possible lockdown will eventually be seen as the greater of two evils.
At the moment, the whole country is in love with the NHS. We applaud and thank its workers every Thursday evening. We donate money. We admire health workers for putting their lives at risk to save ours (though the Covid-19 mortality rate among NHS staff is actually a quarter of what it is for the population as a whole).
But if and when this is all over, we must not be afraid to criticise the NHS. It led us into this war without adequate weapons to fight it and thousands of lives have been sacrificed as a result.
That is not the result of ‘austerity’ or ‘the cuts’. It is due to a whole catalogue of issues including, let us not forget, the health service’s success in keeping us all alive for longer than at any time in human history.
But the organisation has failed its staff and patients throughout the coronavirus crisis. If things get back to near-normal, we need to learn from our mistakes.
Above all, given we have one of the worst coronavirus mortality rates in the world, that means learning from other countries which do things better than us.
However much we revere it, the terrible truth is the NHS is the sick man of Europe.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Covid-19 is Green

For Greta
Things are getting better.
Is positively Green.
We can’t fly anywhere
Which means cleaner air.
It’s almost illegal to drive
So dandelions thrive.
We’re grudgingly free to take a walk
But don’t sunbathe or talk.
The police
Won’t let us out on day release.

Capitalism’s in shock:
Supermarkets are out of stock,
Food’s in such fashion
It’s rationed.
We aren’t allowed out
To shop, eat or otherwise flout
The incarceration
Of the nation.
So many people dying
Might stop the earth frying
And at least you can see
More whales in the sea.
The average woman or bloke
Is broke.
Jobs are being lost
But maybe it’s worth the cost
For Greta’s mission
Is lower emissions.
Now she’s got what she’s after:
Global disaster.
It’s obviously the solution
To international pollution.
This is the aim of environmental sages:
A swift return to the Middle Ages.



Friday, March 27, 2020


Not at all.
A bugger.
Is a menace.
A sticky wicket.
Makes you sick.
Riding a horse
Is worse.
You can’t drive far
In a racing car.

All we can do is talk
Or go for a nice long walk
And call it golf.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Wuhan Clan

The Chinese sneeze
Is such a tease.

You don’t know if it’s just a cold in the head
Maybe until you’re dead.

Panic-buying’s a necessary reaction.
At least we’re taking action

While Boris and co look panic-stricken
And several of their advisers sicken.

There is some refinement
To solitary confinement,

We’ve got whatsapp and such
To keep in touch

And from the cities to the sticks
There’s always Netflix.

Even so
There’s nowhere to go,

The Government says it’s best you
Stay at home or they’ll arrest you.

We have to eke out the days as a matter of course;
Unhappy couples contemplate divorce

And nasty germs spread and spiral
Like a Twitter tweet that’s going viral.

The Chinese sneeze
Has brought us to our knees.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Lying, cheating, money-grubbing bastards #9 Talktalk

Years ago it was decided that, to improve competition between broadband providers, customers would be able to keep their email addresses even if they switched to a new company.

It turns out you are subject to blackmail. We were originally with Tiscali, who became Talktalk. We were happy with Tiscali, increasingly unhappy with its new owners.

We switched to BT and later to Sky as getting decent broadband seems to be hard to achieve. But kept our original Tiscali email addresses rather than going through the rigmarole of changing them whenever we switched broadband provider.

Now Talktalk have held us to ransom and any saving we may have made moving to Sky is lost because we have to pay these Talktalk bastards £5 a month for the privilege of retaining our email addresses. And we can’t use Sky instead because they no longer apply email addresses (why? Who knows?).

The following exchange with what I assume is a person, not a machine, called Nobule brings you up to date:

Why are you still sending me threatening blackmail emails warning my email account will be axed if I don’t pay your ransom money when I am already paying and I have already complained once and received an assurance it won’t happen again?

Good Afternoon Nigel You are through to the Customer services and billing team , I do understand however please be advised that these emails are automated , please kindly disregard emails that do not apply to you .

Why can’t you turn off the automation? How can you justify this maltreatment?

Unfortunately I am unable to do so , Please advised if these emails are regarding the TalkTalk mail plus ?

They are although where the plus bit comes from I can’t imagine. Though you cannot be unable to turn off the automation, I do not believe you entire organisation is incapable of doing so and, if it is incapable, that is another good reason why I switched broadband provider some time ago though that decision was made because your service was so terrible.

Some time later....

I was talking to someone called Nobule about a complaint but she seems to have cut me off.

No reply.