The Plastic Hippo

October 19, 2012


Filed under: History,Politics — theplastichippo @ 1:49 am

As the level of sheer incompetence and shameless profiteering is revealed on an almost daily basis, this failing excuse for a government is relying more and more heavily on smoke, mirrors, bread and circuses. Sadly, the clowns around the cabinet table forgot the bit about providing mirrors and bread.

This week, we have been promised another circus with the promise of a national “celebration” to mark the start of the First World War and an awful lot of smoke being blown into the hornet`s nest of unemployment figures. Celebrating the outbreak of the most senseless and futile carnage ever to visit the planet might seem a little distasteful and rather disrespectful. Perhaps commemorating the end of the slaughter on Armistice Day 2018 might have been more appropriate but the tactics of war and politics are still formed on the playing fields of Eton and in the wreckage of restaurants in Oxfordshire. After all, Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, also known as “butcher Haig of the Somme”, was a member of the Bullingdon Club.

Haig, through incompetence and utter contempt for working class soldiery, presided over the destruction of a generation in the name of economic advantage. Born in Edinburgh, Haig the Butcher might have considered himself as part of the noble tradition of Scottish warriors such as William the Wallace, Robert the Bruce and, more recently, Alex the Salmond. Cameron`s big idea of celebrating 1914 is a charmless and fairly desperate attempt to deflect attention away from the recently agreed referendum on Scottish independence arranged for 2014 and focus on the UK election due in 2015. Alex the Salmond was equally desperate to have the once and for all ballot held in the autumn of the year that commemorates 700 years since the Battle of Bannockburn which saw Robert the Bruce defeat the English king and restore Scotland as an independent nation once again. Salmond, the pretender king, might be cynical in his choice of timing to coincide with a revival of Scottish nationalism but Dave has taken advice and has decided that the united nation needs another circus. King David wants us to wave our union flags to celebrate the deaths and impairments of the grandfathers and the great-grandfathers we were never allowed to meet. King Cameron would be happy to see the back of Scotland and the removal of millions of traditional Labour voters from the UK electoral role. Quick, look at the smoke, not at the mirror. The irony is almost sublime.

Nine years before Bannockburn, William Wallace lost the Battle of Falkirk and after being captured, was hung, drawn and quartered in London under the orders of King Edward Longshanks, the hammer of the Scots. It was not until 1707 that the Union Agreement between Scotland and England was signed which led to the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. You may recall the additional verse, now usually silent, to our National Anthem that was played so often during the recent summer of circuses.
“Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
May by thy mighty aid,
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
And like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.”

Way back in the first century BC, Roman tribune Gaius Sempronius Gracchus knew how to keep the plebeians happy and under control. Cleverly indentifying that all the common herd cared about was food and mindless entertainment, he offered them bread and circuses. More than two thousand years later, the current crop of unelected tribunes are attempting the same crude political ploy. Tragically, Cameron and his wealthy chums lack the guile or competence of dear old Gaius. Only Andrew Mitchell has the courage and honesty to speak his mind and call us plebs. With a cabinet packed with creatures who are compulsive liars, cheats and fraudsters, we come to the unemployment statistics.

The noble tradition of Hans Christian Andersen and the brothers Grimm is being continued by Gideon Osborne`s creation the Office for National Statistics. Unemployment has fallen by 50,000 scream the headlines. Austerity, buffoonery and profiteering is working scream ministers. Heavy weight “economists” like Stephanie Flanders from the BBC Conservative party press office describe a basket case economy producing lower level of unemployment as a “conundrum” and a “puzzle”. Erm…look at the figures Stephanie. 35,000 more people have decided to become self-employed in the hope of making a living in the tax free black economy championed by the Conservative government. The number of people on unpaid employment schemes has risen by 13,000. Not included in the ONS figures are the number of people with disabilities who, having been judged as “fit for work” by the criminally insane ATOS, have disappeared from the statistics and left to die. There are more than 10,000 people dead since this wretched government decided to punish the vulnerable and reward the rich. Also missing from the figures are the numbers of young people who have had benefits removed or the number of young people forced into slavery under the Workfare schemes to bolster the profits of big companies that donate to the Tory party. Most of the jobs “created” by the private sector are part-time and do not provide a basic living wage. The mirrors and circuses are there to allow the liars in government to sleep soundly at night.

Gaius Sempronius Gracchus, a plebeian who rose to be a Roman tribune, spoke for the plebs against the greed and power of the wealthy. His older brother, Tiberius Gracchus, had similar views but died at the hands of an angry mob armed with rocks and clubs and the patronage of the powerful and wealthy. Gaius himself fled Rome to escape murder and took his own life in an olive grove dedicated, ironically, to the Furies.

David Cameron: perhaps in your busy schedule, you should consider the fates of William Wallace and the Gracchus brothers.

October 15, 2012

Major Tom to ground control

Filed under: Sport,World — theplastichippo @ 11:04 pm

Any attempt at explaining the attraction of exiting a perfectly serviceable aircraft to trust your life to some fabric and string is certain to result in looks of incredulity from the majority of people who think skydiving is a bad idea. Perhaps, though, they should ask Felix Baumgartner.

Describing sport parachuting to a non-practitioner is a little like describing sex to a life-long celibate. Theoretically implausible, unpleasant and almost certainly dangerous, any sane carbon based life form would be wise to avoid both activities. However, in the flush of foolish youth, your humble correspondent clambered into a rickety Cessna and after affixing a static line to, of all things, the seat that the pilot sat in, embarked on more aircraft take-offs than landings. These were days long before “buddy jumps” and tandem descents and would-be Sky Gods had to undertake rigorous ground training, theory tests and the necessity to provide a note from your mum saying it was okay for her only son to throw himself out of an aircraft at two and a half thousand feet. The category system then used by the British Parachute Association set clear and observable criteria before skydivers could progress to freefall. Three consecutive stable static line deployments followed by three consecutive static line “dummy pulls” would allow the student a three second freefall during which the thrill seeker would be allowed to actually pull a rip cord and open a parachute

Only when the aspiring Icarus displayed the competence of the basics, was he or she allowed to progress to terminal velocity which, at about 10 metres per second squared, equates to around 120 mph and takes about 10 seconds to achieve. Only then can the human body perform some modicum of control as terra firma beckons. Landings, however, proved to be a different kettle of fish to a descending whale and possible pot of geraniums. Under a 28 foot canopy and being a large person, landings always, always hurt. The very first descent resulted in a broken toe not discovered until 12 hours later when the boot came off during a preamble to passion in a nice room in a seedy student house after a rather pleasant party. The instructor noted in my log book that I had “landed like a sack of spuds”. Later entries from instructors described the preferred points of contact for a parachute landing fall as “side of foot, calf, thigh, small of back and opposite shoulder”. My instructor entered “Heels, Arse, Head, Hospital.” Something had to be done so I took to landing behind a row of trees unobserved where I could deflate the canopy by pulling the back risers at about 100 feet before touch-down. Make a mistake and you break your spine, get it wrong and you die. Instead of correctly entering “wrong field” in the log book, the instructor entered “wrong county.” I scrimped and saved and finally managed to purchase a 34 foot low porosity cargo parachute with double L modifications which prevented further breakages. The landings still hurt so it was imperative that I should progress to a square ram air canopy that allowed stand up landings.

By this stage, I had achieved Category 8 and was allowed to self spot and undertake relative work in the skies above Shropshire. Relative work is when parachutists link up in the sky and grab hold of each others` arms, grin inanely and give a stupid “thumbs up” as they track away to deploy their parachutes. As part of a relative team known initially as “Two pints of lager, a pint of Guinness and a half of bitter shandy please”, we were spectacular failures. Being the biggest, my role was to “fly base” and remain in a stable spread position in an inflated flight suit and wait for the others to catch me up. It never worked. With the popularity of the Muppet Show, the fat man relative team changed their name to “Pigs in Space” and clinging to various parts of a succession of aircraft would utter this war cry as we threw ourselves at the planet. The name change was unsuccessful and we never, ever managed to recreate the shape of the Starship Enterprise. Flying a square canopy, however, was a joy and proved to be a blessing to the bone setters in a variety of hospitals.

There was, in a barren, deserted airfield at Tilstock near Whitchurch, a rather lovely Cessna 182 that had an engraved plaque that read: “Beware thine altitude, lest the ground riseth up and smitheth thee”. The plague was affixed to the dashboard of the aircraft and was the last thing the parachutist saw before exit. Wise words. On one occasion the same Cessna suffered an engine failure and it became necessary for the parachutists to leave immediately. This was not due to self preservation, but was intended to allow the pilot to glide back to the airfield without additional payload. As I left the aircraft, I told the pilot that once I had landed I would phone the RAC. He looked less than impressed but, fortunately, we all lived to another day.

I gave up parachuting because I had ticked that particular box. The gallows humour, the macho posturing and the butch testosterone had become boring. It is not brave to leave an aircraft, it is not brave to play rugby or be a politician. What is brave is to go to the edge of space and jump off. Felix Baumgartner has achieved something remarkable, something that defines human endeavour and something that we should celebrate.

His descent, after all, lasted a lot longer than sex.

October 11, 2012

You can come out now…they`ve gone

Filed under: Birmingham,Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 2:23 am

At the end of the political party conference season, two things have slowly but surely become blindingly obvious. Firstly, there is irrefutable proof that God does not exist and secondly, none of the political parties actually want to be elected.

After not winning the 2010 election, the Conservatives brokered a sordid deal with the Liberal Democrats with the promise of trinkets, milk, honey and a handful of shining beads. Clegg and his chums went from schoolboy in a sweet shop to haggard, abused whore in the space of months. Realising that they would never be free from their pimp, they have lost all self respect and continue to endure humiliation after humiliation knowing that they colluded in axing support for victims of domestic violence. They have nowhere to go and after being promised a sniff of power have traded a moment of false glory for an eternity of annihilation. With members leaving in droves and even if the party survives, the Liberal Democrats do not want to be elected.

The Labour party suffered a crushing defeat in the 2010 election and took an extraordinary amount of time to elect a new leader when the coalition was at its weakest. Eventually, the new leader was, to put it mildly, a bit of a disappointment. Only following two years of grooming by style gurus, voice coaches and instructions from media experts regarding which camera to look into, Ed Miliband emerged with the ability to memorise a speech and hijack an ancient Tory sound bite. The Labour strategy seems to have been to allow the Tories to screw up and not intervene. How else can we explain appointing Stephen Twigg to shadow the gaga Michael Gove on education when a very, very small piece of string with a knot tied at both ends would have been more effective? Labour has seen the future and do not want to be elected.

Grabbing their chance, the Conservatives rushed through legislation based on an ideological hatred for all things societal using the bogus justification of inherited deficit. Reducing the state and maximising profit for the wealthy few were the priorities. Cuts to public services and turning a blind eye to the excesses of greed were the orders of the day. After two years of austerity for middle, low and non earners coupled with tax breaks and bonuses for the rich, it doesn`t need the IMF to tell Cameron and Osborne that Plan A has failed. The Tories have had a look at the books and now realise that the future has no future. This might explain the parade of cabinet ministers in Birmingham making a succession of dreadful speeches designed to make them look ridiculous. Plan A has turned into a scorched earth policy of plunder and then destruction. The Conservatives do not want to be elected.

There is, however, a legacy from the 2012 Conservative party conference in Birmingham that will outlast the few inconsequential bits of raw meat thrown to the Tory rottweilers in Symphony Hall. Beating up burglars and offering dodgy share deals in exchange for maternity leave have already been forgotten even before the Virgin train conveying ministers back to London broke down somewhere south of New Street station. The Tories have proved that God is dead.

If, as some maintain, God sees, hears and knows everything and that he is both a merciful and vengeful God, then he must have been playing golf during the Conservative party conference. Given the level of lies, deception and unadulterated evil spouted in one of the finest concert halls in the world, the absence of thunderbolts, plagues of locusts and four horsemen charging across Centenary Square suggests that God is falling down on his job. If he is not prepared to do a job, then he is a slacker and a scrounger and is, therefore, surplus to requirements. Ministers leaving the ICC on Wednesday dared not look back for fear of being turned into a pillar of salt.

Of all the sinners, Cameron is the more sinned than sinning. His speech was an abomination against the truth. He said he had made “an insolvent nation solvent again.” This country has never been insolvent. He said he had protected the NHS from spending cuts. Wards and hospitals have closed and 5,500 nurses have been cut as Tory party donors profit from privatised hospitals. He again claimed that in spite of all the evidence that the deficit had been cut by 25 per cent. The deficit is increasing. He again blamed the previous government and said:
“Whatever the day, whatever the question, whatever the weather is: borrow more money. Borrow, borrow, borrow. Labour: the party of one notion: more borrowing.”
It does not instil confidence in a Prime Minister or a Chancellor of the Exchequer when that fact is that this government has borrowed more money than the previous government and so far this year borrowing has increased £10.6billion since last year. Are you listening to this, God?

Even given the cut and thrust of yah boo politics, Cameron has exposed himself as an utterly vile hypocrite. After claiming that “reforms” to health, education and welfare were successes, he went into man of the people mode. He told us that he wanted every child to go to Eton like he did and criticised “left wing” state education. He went into Tiny Tim mode and told us of a long walk with his late, disabled, stockbroker, off-shore tax avoider dear old dad. How ironic that the current ATOS disability assessments prove that dear old dad was not actually disabled because he could undertake a “long walk”.

But perhaps the most unpleasant aspect of this insulting speech was Cameron`s mercenary reference to his dead, disabled son. Even the most vicious of Cameron`s critics have avoided any mention of Ivan Cameron, a boy with cerebral palsy and epilepsy who died aged six. This has always been considered a private family heartbreak and is not the concern of politics or point scoring. Cameron has now changed that. The trembling lip and breaking voice might have been genuine, but to exploit this tragedy in pursuit of political advantage is despicable and indicative of just how much trouble Cameron is in. His government is systematically removing support from children like Ivan even though that same Disability Living Allowance was claimed by Cameron who remains the product of inherited wealth and privilege. Some of us do not have the choice between sinking or swimming. Some of us are drowning.

You can read the transcript of Cameron`s speech here.

October 10, 2012

Daft as a brush

Filed under: Birmingham,Politics — theplastichippo @ 12:41 am
Mr Mayor invites the cabinet to lunch

Mr Mayor invites the cabinet to lunch

Birmingham Tuesday: Boris had a haircut and behaved himself as cabinet ministers generated enough hot air to inflate Felix Baumgartner`s balloon. Day three of the Conservative Party Conference continued to entertain.

The fun packed day started with the disgraced Justine Greening who, happy to have been removed from Transport before the West Coast Main Line fiasco was made public, didn`t say very much at all about overseas development. At lunchtime we were treated to the entrance of the nation`s favourite buffoon, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who had the crowd in stitches with his jolly japes, quips and skits. It is astonishing to think that parts of the Conservative party would wish to see this inbred Bullingdon vicious idiot replace another inbred Bullingdon vicious idiot as party leader. It is doubtful that either of these products of inherited wealth has ever seen, let alone used, a mop or a broom. After all, aren`t these the things that the servants use? (more…)

October 9, 2012

How to corp

Filed under: Birmingham,Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 1:28 am
I`m a real boy

I`m a real boy

Along with death and taxes, the only other inevitability is the skill of a politician being economical with the truth. This week, if Birmingham had a face, its blue nose would be growing faster than that of Pinocchio.

We are only two days in, but the sheer quantity of porkie pies being flung around Broad Street and on the fringes of the Conservative Party Conference is already Olympian in scale and breathtaking in audacity. The conference was opened on Sunday, quite rightly, by the chairman of the party, the Right Honourable member for Welwyn Hatfield Grant Shapps MP. Shapps, you might remember, received tens of thousands of pounds in “donations” from property developers, mortgage brokers and an estate agency presumably to make his role as a shadow housing minister more bearable.

Then there is the curious tale of Michael Green, an alias used by Shapps for some very dodgy on line business dealings of his company “How To Corp.” Basically an internet pyramid selling scheme, his web sites made ludicrous claims of guaranteed wealth generation and used fictitious testimonials resulting in Google banning the sites. Perfect qualifications for the constitutional figure head of a British political party. After opening the conference on Sunday with his rather pathetic predecessor Baroness Warsi, herself no stranger to dodgy dealings, scowling with resentment in the audience, Channel 4 News challenged him regarding his alter ego Michael Green. Ladies, gentlemen and children, the Chairman of the Conservative Party:

Setting aside the vacuous, dogmatic and dubious nonsense spouted by William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith, two small, bald men and Eric Pickles, a large, bald man, all clearly compensating for something, the main event so far has been the speech delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As addresses to conferences go, this was a complete and utter disaster for the Tories. It was as if there had been an almighty train wreck in the tunnel below Symphony Hall that carries the West Coast Main Line north out of Birmingham New Street station. Osborne`s speech was so full of untruth, contradiction and meaningless drivel that a Virgin Pendolino forced up through the stage performing a double somersault and two half twists before crashing down on Gideon`s head would have been preferable to the audience witnessing the unpleasant spectacle of the holder of a senior office of state telling lies. The Chancellor, of course, received a standing ovation.

He suggested that Edward Heath was bad and Margaret was good. That was only a half lie, they were both bad. He said that he had promised to “repair our badly broken economy” and “that promise is being fulfilled”. Errm…no it isn`t. He said the deficit was down by a quarter. The deficit, the debt and government borrowing has actually increased and will continue to do so. He said that there are one million more private jobs. Okay, he might be correct on that one but these are part time jobs and Workfare schemes where one million young unemployed people are expected to work for free to increase the profits of large companies who might, or might not, make “donations” to the Conservative party. He said that the economy is healing. A few short hours later, when Gideon was tucking into the foie gras and Dom Perignon, the IMF publish figures that forecast the UK economy contracting by 0.4 per cent. Applying leeches will not halt a growing nose, Gideon.

Reasserting that “we are all in this together”, the Chancellor said:
“We`re not going to get through this as a country if we set one group against another, if we divide, denounce and demonise.”

After the lies came the scurrilous insults. After two and half years of complete incompetence, Osborne continued to blame Blair, Brown and Labour for financial mismanagement. No, honestly, he did. He defended the 50p tax cut. Then came attacks on fellow citizens who are “sleeping off a life on benefits” behind “closed blinds”. Who can afford blinds as the economy goes down the pan thanks to an imbecile with a private fortune and a trust fund from daddy? His big idea is for employees to be offered share options in return for giving up employment rights that have been fought for by previous generations. The right to join a Trades Union, sick pay, time off, a safe working environment, the minimum wage, the working time directive, the right to challenge unfair or constructive dismissal, paternity and more importantly maternity leave gone on a promise of share dividends from stock market gambling that caused the mess in the first place. George Gideon Osborne is an idiot and there is little point in going any further with what this moron said yesterday. For those with a strong stomach, you can read the transcript of his speech courtesy of the New Statesman.

We are only half way through the Nightmare on Broad Street. There are two more days of this risible pantomime to go which will feature some of the more outlandish and accomplished liars from the millionaire Conservative front bench. One can only hope that some wag at the International Convention Centre prints up a name tag reading “Michael Green” when the party chairman closes this latest summit of the Eton and Harrow mafia.

Grant Shapps wants to be a real wide boy. Just like the rest of the cabinet.

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