21 September 2009

Daily Chat 21/09/09

In 1827, near Palmyra, New York, Joseph Smith, Jr. was visited by the angel Moroni, who told him the of golden tablets inscribed with the story of Jesus's post-resurrection life among Native Americans.  Smith translated the tablets into the Book of Mormon.  In 1937, JRR Tolkien published a slightly more believable tale about a little man with hairy feet in The Hobbit.  Malta became independent in 1964 and Sandra Day O'Connor was approved by the Senate to become the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court of the US.

Born today:  H.G. Wells (1866-1946), Gustav Holst (1874-1934), Leonard Cohen (1934), Stephen King (1947) and Liam Gallagher (1972).

It is the International Day of Peace


  1. usually the anniversary dates dont mean much to me,,its a list of people i never heard of but todays is different

    the book of mormon i have read several times cover to cover

    HGWells is my favourite history teacher
    "an Outline of the History of the World"

    Holst wrote "the Planets" which i really like

    Leonard Cohen wrote the first songs i learnt from a song book,,

    where did these capitals come from ?

    king ,, never read one word
    gallagher,, never heard one song

  2. Carefully, Spuddy. That's some pretty indiscriminate use of the shift key, there.

  3. Great link, Montana! Everyone I know here is going to see him tonight, if he's ok - seems he left the stage unwell after only 30 minutes in Valencia.

    Have a good day/night whatever, I'm off to work.

  4. and that song (montanas link) was the first one i learnt from the book,, followed by this one


    learnt the whole album eventually,,pity i cant sing,, then again this one is almost talking

    the rendition you linked to Montana has a lot of mistakes in the guitar playing,,

  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y36zbbuX7w

    my favorite leonard

  6. youtube comment threads

    made by the same species as me,, ,,apparently

    hard to believe,, ,, makes cif look like shakespeare and swift by comparison

  7. It is the International Day of Peace

    Here's hoping!

  8. LordS,
    Just do as the man says and everything will be fine.

  9. youtube comments are a pretty sad indictment of humanity. Some of the things people come out with are mind blowing in their stupidity and malice.

  10. International day of peace and Leornard Cohen's birthday...a day worth celebrating then.

    Closing Time

  11. Happy birthday Leornard Cohen - I think I read somewhere that someone ran off with his pension fund and thus he is having to tour again.

  12. Scherfig - you were of course right about Cantona.

    The pain at his loss to Manc brings on a form of amnesia such that we find it best to pretend that he was never with us.

  13. deano30
    His accounant / financial advised *allegedly* fleeced him for megabucks; he had around $150k left when legal procedings began last year, which is frozen pending trial.

    Not fair. He's fucking great.

  14. Liam Gallagher is possibly the thickest man in rock, yet still looked absolutely the part - perfect - when I saw them last year at the roundhouse.

    This unfortunately, says it all about rock's limitations.

    Leonard Cohen says much about how "elevated" rock can be without disappearing up its own sunglasses.

  15. The pensions thing is mad Sheff. Something's got to give because the money just isn't going to be there.

    Happy Birthday Leonard. One of his novels describes the Jews as the conscience of the world, Canadian jews as the conscience of the Jews, the Cohens as the conscience of the Canadian jews, and a guy called Leonard as. . .

    He was joking of course but being LC people miss the jokes.

  16. Edwin

    I know - but it's impossible to give a stuff about senior execs when ordinary people are being so well and truly shafted in every possible way. Think we're allowed to indulge in a brief moment of schadenfreude.

  17. Yeah, sheff, it's gonna be tough for the likes of Stitzer to get by on less than £1.2m a year. I'm sure that the thousands of Maxwell employees who lost their pensions due to fat Bob's scam will have a lot of sympathy for Stitzer and his mates.

  18. Pensions according to the House Of Lords Law Lords really amount to "deferred pay".

    Given the contractual nature of the due payments I'm watching with interest to see how the courts are going to find the 'wriggle room' now being called for by the elites.

    If contracts can be retrosepectively unwound with ease it will be an interesting development.

    There are still some searching questions to be asked of the accountants and others as to where exactly the money for the pensions has gone?

    Anyone else follow Prem Sikka over on the Guard?

  19. Prem's article was superb i thought.

  20. Sikka is always worth reading, unlike most of the Guardian's hacks. Here's an excellent piece from over a year ago - Prem knows his stuff.

    The Conservative state we're in

  21. Yes, good article by PS - getting a bit of a pasting though and needs some alternative voices in support.

  22. Oh absolutely Sheff I have no sympathy for the bosses at all - just on council tax, the exec pension burden is HUGE. The point i was struggling to make is that their pensions will destroy the system.

    One exmaple I was given was of a Glasgow council exec who messed up big time and has still walked out with a mad six-figure pension that will just get bigger. And all out of council tax! - can't be sustained.

  23. Edwin - I'm not sure of the position in Scotland but English Council pensions are funded mostly by invested contributions - it is only in the event of shortfall that existing pension commitments fall as an additional burden on Council tax.

    True that typically Council's pay about 9% of their salary bill to a pension a fund and the workers make another 6% contribution each year. But that 9% is really part of wages that amount to deferred pay

    Sure given the existing state of the FTSE there may be some liability. But if the cyclical nature of the asset bubble swings back to shares the employers will want a pension holiday again

    I think the civil service pensions on the other hand are funded entirely from current taxation. We don't seem to hear too much about pensions for Judges and the like do we.

    The Taxpayer Alliance onslaught on Public Sector pensions is a worry and a clever distraction - away from tax havens tax evasion/avoidance questions and super bonuses etc.

    I'll try and find a link to a paper by Prem that is interesting

  24. Many thanks Deano - that's a very useful corrective to my sloppy statement! Think the Scottish system is the same. And you are right about the taxpayer Alliance also I am sure.

  25. Pension fund and budget deficits won't matter. The bastards will just create massive inflation and again it's those on the bottom who'll suffer.

  26. Thaum - I'm pretty sure you will be right with respect to the inflationary intent.

    Still we shouldn't miss the chance to point out that the likes of the Cadbury executives are boosting their pensions and bonuses at the expense of small children's pocket money! (And that from an ex Quaker company too)

  27. deano - civil servants contribute to their pensions, typically 3.5% of their salary, but the money isn't directly invested in a specific fund, it goes straight back to the Treasury, who then fund the pensions out of general tax revenue.

  28. That is correct, hank - pre 2007:

    The scheme was unfunded. Although all civil service salaries are reduced to allow for notional pension contributions, and many civil servants also have real pension contributions deducted from their salaries, the savings and contributions are pocketed by the Treasury and used to reduce current Government expenditure. Pensions are then paid out of taxation when they fall due.

    The shortfall is reckoned to be at least £600 billion at the moment. So that's my civil service pension fucked after 6 years of selfless effort (sort of). And guess what?

    Capita Hartshead administers pensions in payment and preserved pensions.

    Anyone familiar with that name?

  29. Cheers Hank

    I had it in my mind that some civil servants ( maybe it's the seniors like Judges) had a non contributory scheme

    Then there's the teachers - I think about 15% (6% from staff 9% from employers) of the payroll is provided on an annual basis for funding pensions but I don't think there is an actual fund as such - but I'm not 100% sure on that.

    That really amounts to most of teachers pensions being funded from the pay packets of currently serving teachers.

  30. "There are over 2,000 employers, .....the Teachers' Pension Scheme, who also play an important role in the scheme's administration.

    The scheme administrator is Capita Hartshead, a trading division of Capita Business Services Ltd. Part of the Capita Group plc.
    Registered office ......"

    I think Capita Hartshead is the new privitisaed agency that deals with quite a lot of the non funded public sector schemes??

  31. scherfig

    Capita - aye, heard of them - along with ATOS and Siemens they're on the government contract gravy train

  32. Capita are the ones who've done the major fucking up on the IT front, no?

  33. Scherfig

    "......the savings and contributions are pocketed by the Treasury and used to reduce current Government expenditure. Pensions are then paid out of taxation when they fall due."

    I would always prefer to say (in the propaganda war) that serving civil servants are funding their older pensioner colleagues by their monthly contributions from their salaries.

    We have to find ways of smacking it back to the taxpayer Alliance!


  34. Capita recently cocked up andoverpayed quite a few teachers pensions - they have corrected it now but many millions were non recoverable.

  35. £600Bn shortfall? Are you sure?

    Cable's new tax on £1m homes isn't gonna make much of a dent in that. Nice idea though and certainly puts clear blue water between the Libs and the Tories.

  36. Fuck the Taxpayers Alliance, sheff - they're just wankers. People always forget that a basic tenet of civil service pay was that it was lower than the private sector because the future pension was regarded as a part of the salary. It was basically work now, and you'll get paid later. Except maybe we won't, because they've spent all the cash. Bastards. Still, I may not make pension age anyway, so what's the point of worrying, eh?

  37. From the Daily Mash

    LIBERAL Democrat leader Nick Clegg will rally his party this week by outlining a series of things that are never, ever going to happen.

    In his keynote speech to the party's annual conference Clegg will claim the Lib Dems will hold the balance of power after the next election, despite a stunningly comprehensive lack of evidence.

    Julian Cook, professor of politics at Reading University, said: "We've reached that point in the year where you may see headlines such as 'Lib Dems to tax homes worth more than £1m' as if that's a thing that could happen, instead of what it actually is which is just some noises coming out of a hole at the front of Vince Cable's head.

    "You may also see stories about Mr Clegg rejecting an alliance with David Cameron, because obviously when the Tories win the next election with a majority of at least 60 seats the very first thing Cameron is going to do is offer Nick Clegg the Foreign Office.

    "Over the weekend you may even have noticed Mr Clegg abandoning his pledge to abolish student tuition fees and thought, 'oh dear, poor old students' before quickly correcting yourself and thinking 'oh, hang on, that doesn't make the slightest difference to anyone or anything. At all'.

    "In fact he may as well have said that he is abandoning his pledge to make your balls the size of pomegranates or cover China in a gigantic, Paisley-patterned table cloth."

    Professor Cook added: "The Liberal Democrats are actually very sweet. It's a bit like watching a child put on a pair of daddy's shoes, pick up his briefcase and clomp up and down the hallway pretending to be a 'businessyman'.

    "Then, of course, everyone has to sit down and discuss 'plolicies' while eating invisible cake and drinking a small, plastic pot of imaginary tea."

  38. Hank, 'The Government Actuary estimated that the unfunded liabilities of the civil service, teachers, NHS & emergency services schemes totalled around £530 billion in early 2006'


    Of course, this money is only theoretical anyway. It doesn't really exist, so who cares?

  39. Oh dear BB, that's a rather cruel article. Some of it may even be untrue.

    For example, Davey Cameron certainly seems to be talking up a coalition with the Lib Dems - did you see yesterday's Observer? What does Davey know that we don't, I asked myself at the time.

  40. SOS - anyone know how to override the pin on a mobile. I have inadvertently (and very stupidly) locked it and have forgotten the number. vodaphone systems are currently down so no help there. Bugger!

  41. Very funny, BB! The big problem they've got isn't so much credibility as an invisible leader. Clegg has been in charge for more than two years now and I bet less than 10% of voters could pick him out in an identity parade.

  42. Thaum - it is harsh but funny. I am a LibDem voter, for want of anyone else to vote for round here, but I did think it was hilarious, especially the "Daddy's shoes" paragraphs.

    If they cosy up to Cameron, though, I will be spoiling my ballot paper next time. Ugh.

    Sheff - if it is the Personal Unlocking Key number (or PUK code, as it is known) if you enter it wrong three times in a row it will lock your phone and you will have to wait to get a PUK unlocking code from Vodaphone. So don't keep doing it! :o)

    If it is your own personal pin code, I dunno if there is a magical over-ride depending on the manufacturer of the phone.

    Either way I think you will have to ring Vodaphone, love.

    *This message was brought to you by a former call centre supervisor for a Cellnet service provider*


  43. Tru dat, Hank.

    I want Cable as party leader. Then we would be talking turkey. I agree entirely with his plan to make people who own houses worth more than a million pay extra tax on them. In fact, I would be happy to revert back to the old "rateable value" system instead of the rates/poll tax hybrid bollocks that we have now.

  44. Scherfig, it goes against the grain to say it but it's inevitable that civil service pensions will have to be reformed in some way. Raising the retirement age when job opportunities for kids are scarce would exacerbate a serious problem so there's got to be another solution, and that probably means slashing the value of those pensions.

    It's gonna be one of the big tests of Cameron's govt.

  45. Also, if I were Chancellor of the Exchequer ,I would be looking at the Canadian tax system, which is on a sliding scale rather than two fixed tax bands. That seems to make far more sense too.

  46. BB, doesn't sound like they are interested, but since a Tory government is pretty much inevitable, it couldn't hurt to have a coalition government where the Tories at least have some control on their nastiness. One would hope.

    So grasping the nettle might be a slight improvement on not grasping it.

  47. Hang on. 3.5% of salary is the contribution civil servants pay into their pension?

    Bit different for other public sector staff, isn't it?

    Local government - 6% for most staff (higher % for senior managers)
    NHS - 6% for most staff
    Police & fire services - 12% (a proportionately larger contribution which is supposed to reflect both their shorter working lives and the higher risk of incapacity due to nature of job, etc.

    Just a thought ..
    and no, I don't begrudge anyone that's worked hard & paid in their share, a decent pension on retiring. My mum's pension as a public sector worker was less than £25 a month, she had earned every penny over 20 years, but as a 'manual worker' was only given the chance of a joining a pension scheme in the 1980s. I'm just puzzled at why there's a difference in rate of contributions between civil & public servants.

    It's the best way to look at it, same with the NHS & healthcare for older persons. It's not simply propaganda, it's also altruism - taking care of the generation before you.

  48. £600Bn sounds a lot - probably an accountants figure - the kind of sum required to convert a potential future liability into a fully funded scheme for every possible contingency.

    Smoke and mirrors jobby.

    What public sector workers want to start saying is something akin to:

    "Fuck this for a game of soldiers - if 15% of my pay packet saved and invested over 40 years cant get me half my final salary for a pension for about 20 years - then the fucking bankers are stealing my money and paying it to themselves in obscene bonuses." -

    "Where's me pension money gone you bastards" etc etc.

    Far too much ignorance and indifference about what really happens in the finacial sector.

  49. Hank, I certainly don't agree with raising the pension age, that makes no sense, but 'slashing the value of those pensions' doesn't seem to me to be a viable option. Let's not forget that these pensions have already been paid for by the workers in lieu of better wages, in some cases for 40+ years. I would imagine that any government which tried to sell the notion that pensions that been paid for and guaranteed could be defaulted on would result in millions of public employees downing tools.

    General strike, anyone?

  50. Not saying I agree with it, scherfig. Far from it, but it's bound to happen. There'll be some on the Tory benches who will be slavering at the prospect. And let's face it, there's not gonna be a mass outpouring of public sympathy for tax men and DSS staff is there?!

    Didn't realise that local govt workers pay a higher contribution, Ms Chin. Seems a bit unfair, unless they get a better package in return.

  51. hank
    I don't think they do get a better package, no. Am I right in thinking that pensions contributions are deducted from taxable income when they're taken from salary, but pensions when they are paid out are taxable as a sort of 'unearned income'?

  52. MsC - all pension contributions, whether public or private sector, get tax relief. The contributions are deducted and tax is paid on the remaining salary. And yes, all pensions are taxable as income, assuming that the personal allowances are used up. You don't pay National Insurance after retirement age though, so it's not all bad!

  53. Hank, I'm not anticipating huge support for much-maligned DSS staff etc, but I very much doubt that 6 million public sector employees would quietly accept legislation that effectively made their employment contracts worth less than the paper they're written on.

  54. No better package is some respects worse i.e. in local govt 40 years service gets half final salary 'cos scheme based on 1/80 per yer of service thus 40 years service = 40/80 = 1/2.

    Think MP's and guys like judges and some private sector schemes for the rich work on better ratios like for example 1/60 per year of service. Thus only 30 years of service (30/60 = 1/2 etc) required for half pay etc.

    Not a simple task to compare one public sector pension with another - there can be lot's of differences.

    Civil servants should argue that their schemes were not really unfunded - but as a paperwork transaction the Govt's of the past saw no sense in putting the pension money into private schemes and then paying interest on borrowings from the private banks for the money to build the power stations/railways/etc etc !

    Income form a pension is simply considered as income and taxable under the usual rules.

    Pension contributions recieve favourable tax treatment - thus an anuual contribution of £1000 to a pension scheme by a worker reduces his overall taxable income by £1000.

  55. Pensions ... hmmm ... personally I'd rather see the retirement age rise than pensions getting cut. People are generally living longer and these days, although whether or not that is a good thing is up for debate. (I'd rather lead a shorter, happier life.)

    I may be biased because I don't have a pension at all and will probably have to work until I keel over.

    BB - interesting letter in the Graun today re the Lib Dems, from Caroline Lucas - have you seen it?

  56. thauma, an extended working life is only of value if you happen to have a job that you actually like. 50 years pushing a mop or gutting a chicken doesn't appeal to that many, I wouldn't have thought.
    'Fries with that, madam? Fuck, there goes me teef again!'

  57. Scherfig - yeah, don't confuse me with someone who likes working for a living. I reckon it just beats shivering on your tod because you can't afford to heat the house, though.

  58. Thauma

    Its a problem I'm facing right now. Do i go on working (I'm over pensionable age and could stop) or give up and live on the state pension and the pittance I've got stashed?

    Christ knows how people live on the state pension - it doesn't cover the absolute basics these days.

  59. Sheff - my sympathies and, yes, exactly - that's why I'm against cutting the pension.

  60. sheff & thauma
    The low or non existent pensions for women, many of whom have had interrupted working lives for one reason or another so perhaps contributed less to the financial pot, are a big problem imho.

    I feel that Gordon Brown let older women down when he was Chancellor of the petty cash by deliberately blocking the Turner recommendations.

    I too will face financial problems in old age just as I have for most of my life - for example, I don't pay off my mortgage until I'm 67 because life circumstances made that the only option at the time.

    hank & deano
    Thanks for clarifying the tax position on pensions for me.

  61. thauma
    "don't confuse me with someone who likes working for a living. I reckon it just beats shivering on your tod because you can't afford to heat the house, though"

    LOL! Transposed into the past tense, that'll make a great epitaph for me tombstone (when / if I get one)!

  62. Interesting thread today. Firslty Jay, totally agree with you about the comments on YouTube, they are mad a lot of the time. And love Leonard Cohen. Listened to some Nick Cave for the first time in ages today - love The Ship Song.

    Re pensions - what gets me is this drive against public sector pensions when the average public sector pension is only something like 8k a year. We should be going for the big guys - in the public and private sector - who are getting 50/60k a year!

    I cannot believe the amount of people on Cif who scream about public sector pensions but do not even realise that their own companies have split schemes where the board keep their lovely fat, final salary schemes and the rest of the staff are shafted to provide that.
    To me it is not public versus private sector it is have's versus have nots.

    Thaumaturge - no one I know has much of a pension. We are all in our thirties (I know that gives us time) but none of us see the point when, unless it is a defined benefit scheme, you may as well just burn your money. And if you think, as I do, we are heading for another dip - a nice w shaped recession and then hefty inflation, you might as well spend it on nice stuff like wine and penny sweets.

  63. msChin - just read your comment. And do agree. My mum had time off to look after me and my sister and my dad who could not work for a few years due to TB. She has no state pension to speak of and a small private pension. Not fair.

  64. I suspect the answer is likely to found in combinations of things:

    part time working

    wealth redistribution and a serious plugging of tax avoidance/evasion

    more flexible housing stock - older people living alone or in couples really don't need three bed roomed houses. The maintenance and heating of which is simply a drain on modest pensions/incomes.

    The question of housing benefits supporting private landlords and providing them with effective pensions needs bringing into the discussion too.

    The Thatcher mindset of low taxes was always going to create serious problems longer term for ordinary folk. But they swallowed the propaganda wholesale not quite understanding that one day N Sea oil would run out and the banks would be robbed and they would have to foot the bill.

    The baby boomers seem to want it all these days - free care, no inheritance taxes etc.

    Something will have to give - but first we should concentrate on the tax avoidance/evasion/haven issues

  65. PCC - some of the really big cheeses get well in excess of £800K in pension alone - it really is obscene and of course they have favourable tax advantages to boost the pot.

    If you are paying tax at 50% it means that the other tax payers are giving/paying you 50% of you pension contributions if you are a really big earner!

  66. princessc
    Agree, interesting thread & agree about the unfairness of women's pensions especially for our mothers.

    As you're definitely not a retired banker, can you stand for election as ruler of the tax world, please?

    And another thing, MPs get pensions, but councillors don't. Even though both are elected to office. I'm not a councillor, btw, she adds hastily!

  67. I loved my job and wish I was still doing it. But my health failed, it happens.

    WE don't know what lies ahead do we? Thats the trouble. Personally I would be in favour of really decent state pension for all. But that's a pipe dream in the present economic situation and frankly under the present economic system its unlikely to happen either.

    Its the people who 'don't see why they should look after the old' that get me. Who the feck did they think looked after them for at least 16 years, often 21 years (if they went to college).

  68. Deano, I think the baby boomer issue is a big one. I have said this before but the generation that seemed so radical seems to have become so conservative. And by that I dont mean all baby boomers - my mum is still of the left and she is not minted or selfish. But I know so many of that generation who seem to vote against their kids and grandkids best interests just to get a tax break.

    It is the big pensions that are a killer to the economy. Not some government cleaner with 6k a year.

    But one thing I think is happening more and more is that people are turning against each other - so my generation is blaming the baby boomers (see above ha ha), whites are blaming ethnic minorities, men are blaming women in the workplace and none of us seem to be tackling those creating the problems - those at the top. That is why (despite thinking new Labour are beyond saving) I thought the rest of what Anne said in her ATL piece was so good.

  69. I shouldn't complain really, at least I've got a job and unlike Anne am pretty fit still (that was a bad break Anne).

    Still, At some point I'll have to move over and let someone else in - I do feel a bit guilty sometimes - job blocking - when so many younger people are desperate for some decent work. Have just got used to a modest but reasonably comfortable way of life and am not looking forward to being poor again.

  70. But sheff, you're able to provide for yourself & should continue to do so. Anne, on the other hand, should get more support from the state - after all, she has paid into the state kitty and we are working (and willing) to provide that support for her, by continuing to pay into the kitty while we can. Likewise princessc, by the sound of it. The old safety net principle, not the last minute lifebelt while you're drowning.

    deano's point about hogging the housing in old age is true, too, but you get attached to a place, invest emotionally as well as financially, so it's a tough issue with very human disbenefits as well as good financial benefits.

  71. Sheff

    It really would be a loss to society if you gave up your job; seeing as how I know what you do for a living I can say that hand on heart.

  72. It seems to me that the baby boomers (and I'm one of them being born in 1947) have deluded themselves.

    Many of them have convinced themselves that what fell into their laps through fortuitous circumstances (rising house prices, give away privatisations, the unexpected tax advantages that came from N Sea oil, often topped out with decent additional generous pensions etc etc) was "hard earned wealth".

    Many of these folk can still afford to add to their savings from their pension incomes !

    Bollocks - it was not wealth that was hard earned more often it was simply good luck of capital gains which were inadequetly taxed .

    Those younger people who were fortunate enough to be on in the last few years of the latest housing bubble are more aware that it had fuck all to do with effort.

    Loads of people were going out to work and struggling to make the same amount that their houses were allegedly earning by staying at home doing nothing!!

    Fucking economics of the mad house.

    But the baby boomers want to hold on to and pass their housing wealth to their kids if they have them rather than fund their care needs etc.

    What that means is that they want much of the tax burden of their health and care needs to be passed unfairly to a the next generation who will not have such easy unearned wealth falling their way - that's the greed and ignorance which is a worry. It's ok if your parents have good pensions and own their homes to pass on to you.

    Plainly not everybody born in the post war period is in the category of which I speak - but plenty are.

    The words to be looked at and talked about are the ones used by Sheff - "modest but comfortable" standards of livings.