Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Sunday: Banker Hunting Edition

Reclaiming Responsibility: Don your deerstalker and load up your shotgun. The now annual Banker hunting season is in full swing and not a hefty bonus, nor an errant Knighthood, are safe from the foxhounds of Cameroon opportunism or Milibandian rhetoric.

On Monday, Stephen Hester, uberboss of RBS at the moment, decided to waive his bonus worth a little under £1m. Now Hester runs RBS right now, when the bank is majority owned by the Government, from whom the money provided in the bailout kept the bank alive. Whilst it would have been nice if Mr Hester had somehow stumbled across his morals in the pocket of one of his briefcases and chosen to decline it voluntarily, the manner of the decision was somewhat brought on through a public haranguing. And quite right to, for the bonus for Chief of a lucky-to-be-alive bank like RBS was clearly absurd. Things aren't quite as bad as they were at the depths at RBS, but the money machine's certainly not pumping out profits like it used to.

Fred Goodwin was uberboss at RBS when the money machine was lubed up and spurting out profits like mass-produced chocolate biscuits. For that, they gave him a Knighthood. Fred Goodwin was also uberboss at RBS when things got uberbad. For that, on Tuesday, they stripped him of his Knighthood. The fall from grace puts him in the good company of Nicola Ceaucescu and Robert Mugabe in having been demoted from Knight of the Realm. Without wanting to draw a comparison between the scale of destruction caused by these three unhappy musketeers acts, there is a parallel in  the way that the awards were handed out by an easily impressed, cosy cabal of elites at the top of the British establishment, disconnected from both the  troubles and value-system of those commoners in the real world. One could almost say it makes the Honours system appear ridiculous.

Amusingly, both main political parties managed to find themselves straddling the fence on an issue on which there was only one side to be. Labour drew up Hester's Brucie-bonus contract and Knighted Fred the Shred for services to bad nicknames. The situation was basically all their fault. Ed Miliband, however, did a pretty good job of ignoring what he'd been involved in a few years ago and going successfully on the offensive. For the Tories, it provided some good headlines, and whilst some genuinely see the sense in the actions, stripping a rich man of  undeserved money clearly still rankles with many enough to provide some petty, whinging column inches for the Daily Telegraph. It is a strange world. Labour, former members of the Royal Society for Bonues and Knighthoods for foxes, and current members, the Tories, both sit smiling while the hounds tear the beasts apart.

Cool Fact of the Week: (Courtesy of Slate's Political Gabfest- well worth a listen, especially this being an election year) President Tyler, 10th President of the United States (1841-45), born 1790, still has grandchildren alive. Best of all, one of them thinks Newt Gringrich is 'a jerk'.

Setting an example: Seems like this was the week for the great and the good (or the deceitful and bigoted) to fall on their swords.

Chris Huhne has always been a careerist egomaniac, happy to trample upon anything in the cause of self-advancement. That seems to include both his marriage and the maxim that you don't lie on matters of a criminal nature. For the Lib Dems Huhne was like a dodgy kitchen appliance that was broken, but not quite faulty enough to get rid of. Finally, this week, it blew up on its own accord as Huhne was charged with perverting the course of justice by trying to pass his speeding points on to his wife. Whilst the Government made all the right noises about being sad to see him go, one senses that on both sides of the coalition the Champagne corks were hitting the door as it closed behind him.

Just an all-round good guy...
And then John Terry. Sir John Terry of Stamford Bridge. Is it possible to find anyone who isn't a Chelsea fan willing to say a good thing about John Terry? To be fair to Chelsea fans, quite a few of them can't stand him as well. Whether it's taunting American tourists at Heathrow in the aftermath of 9/11, carrying on affairs with teammates girlfriends, or racially abusing fellow professionals, Terry has always done his best to uphold the highest levels of coarseness, degradation and ignominy. This week facing a criminal charge of using racist language, and the terrifying prospect of the FA's justice system (in what othe profession could you make such overtly racist comments and keep your job?) he was this week stripped of the England captaincy. I fully believe in innocence until proven guilty but John Terry puts forward a good case for the opposite.

In related news, Harry Redknapp's tax evasion trial is drawing to a close.. What a wonderfully high moral standard the high-achievers of our society exhibit...

Six Nations Picks: Made before the weekends games

Final Table:
1. Ireland
2. England
3. Wales
4. France
5. Scotland
6. Italy

This weeks games:

England over Scotland: First the history. England haven't won north of the border since 2004. Scotland haven't scored a try against England at Murrayfield since 2004. If Scotland can keep it tight they could edge a kicking contest, but I fancy the new England crew, without the baggage of players of old, to put on a bit of a show and take a 10-15 point victory.

France over Italy: I know Italy won this fixture last year and that the plucky Romans keep improving but at the Stade de France I can't see anything other than a Gallic victory.

Ireland over Wales: Ireland will be out for revenge after their quarter-final defeat in the World Cup. A glance at the Heineken Cup quarter finals would suggest that Ireland have the strongest pool of talent to choose from at the moment, and I expect that to play out over the course of this Championships.

Made after the weekends games

So... were it not for a couple of questionable decisions by Wayne Barnes in the last 15 minutes of a match that brought the Six Nations to light, I'd be a perfect 3-0 after the first weekend. Bradley Davis deserved a red card, and even with a yellow he deserved to cost Wales the game through a moment of brute idiocy. It's a credit to the rest of the Welsh players that they kept at it, dragged themselves back into the game with a 14-man try, before, in a moment of cruel irony, Barnes gave them a penalty for a rather innocuous tackle on the returned Davis. As for Ireland, with eight minutes to go and a penalty just inside their own half against 14-men they should have kicked to touch. Sexton's speculative effort took time off the clock, but provided the Welsh team with a brief rest period instead of knocking them further on to the back foot. If he makes the kick fair play, but in the circumstances the option more likely to lead them to victory was to bury Wales deep inside their own 22.

Anyhoo, on to next weeks picks:

England over Italy: So the English didn't exactly impress the way I though they might at Murrayfield but they ground out the win. After a solid defensive performance, the Italian challenge should allow them to get a good workout on the offensive side of the ball and move to two wins out of two.

France over Ireland: Can't say we really learned much from France's performance on the weekend, but what we learnt from Ireland is that without O'Driscoll the midfield defence is liable to be punctured at any moment. Ireland have a terrible record on French soil, and I think weakness in the centres, along with the blow of today's defeat, tots up to a French victory.

Wales over Scotland- This fixture two years ago provided one of the best matches I've ever seen and on of the biggest sucker-punches I've ever felt. If Scotland could replicate their performance from that game, minus the last ten minutes, then the impotent performance against the English will be partially atoned for. Wales look impressive though. Up front they're solid, if a bit shaky in the lineout, and their backs play with an impressive mix of pace and force. A win in this could set up a cracking encounter at Twickenham in Week 3 between two unbeatens.

Musical Outro: So this Lana Del Rey. She may not be the self-made, self-financed, album recorded in her bedroom, video made on her laptop, story to make a hipster muso wet themselves. Her performance on Saturday Night Live was pretty awful, the majority of her album is pretty mundane, and her lips look like they've been fiddled with on photoshop. But... I really like this song:

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