Tuesday, 30 December 2008

psychological not physical or fiscal

As my friend pointed out in the last blog it only takes a little bit of thought to solve what seem to be insolvable problems. It just needs a bit of joined up thinking. I was amazed that the CEO of Barcklays was telling us all that the recession was going to get worse and more people would have their houses repossessed. Well maybe he can explain why in this state of credit shortage, ( I hate the expression credit crunch as it sounds more like a chocolate bar. It has been invented by a media spin doctor to make it seem easier to ignore), that as a head of one of the largest banks in the world doesn't he help by reducing the interest rate on credit cards. The interest rate is about 2% but credit cards are still charging in double figures. Why should they do this because of the domino effect. If they charged less interest then consumers would be able to pay off the amount quicker and like most people be able to spend more. Just because consumers are given the opportunity to pay off something doesn't mean that they will stop using it. In fact they could actually spend more, so helping the high street, which in turn would mean that more shops would not close, that more manufacturers could produce more and believe it or not but the mood of the country would have a sense of optimism. Instead of having a country that is looking forward to unemployment and poverty, it could be a counrtry that would actually spend its way out of misery. I know there is always inflation, but that has to do with money supply not the cost index. We now have a situation where private compnaies, stragely the ones that used to be government owned can now raise their prices regardless of inflation, countires can restrict the supply of oil, because the price is going down and yet the government seems to be obsessed by keeping inflation down. Its not wage demands that pushes prices up but the singlemindedness of ensuring the shareholders don't unlike, the rest of us, suffer.
I am always amazed that with the prospect of hordes of people who are about to be made unemployed and living off benefits that this could be solved by simple edicts. Isn't this why we pay the Bank of England, isn't this why we have a chancellor. You cannot have the double standards. Why should a bank be saved but a high street chain not? If you profess market economics then you should live by it.
Which brings me to the (yet again) idea of privatising the post office. Now let me see, when privatisation was first muted, it was going to be more efficient, cheaper and better for everyone. Well the trains are still not running on time, ticket prices go up every year above the cost of inflation and still have to survive on government money, energy prices have risen faster than anything and as far as I can tell the only people who have benefitted are the banks who took the commision for the sale in the first place. Now the post office. Are these policy makers mad? What will happen when it can't survive, will the government buy it back or become its major investor like the banks?
I understand that our nuclear weapons manufacture is now owned by a private company based in California. Well what is going to happen when they go under and decide to close the factory? We will have to buy our defence from a private investor. Has no one in the Ministery of defence ever read Catch 22. Its about the war being run by private enterprise. The days of imperialism to advance the aims of private companies are over. Some governments have not realised this yet but they will.
The air attacks on this mornings news in retaliation for the rocket attacks is the same as the economy. Its no good the Isreali government trying to validate their position as they have caused the situation. You cannot force people over decades into a corner and then expect them to curl up and ignore you. After years of demoralisation even an old prize fighter will still fight in some sort of self worth. The Palestinians don't have an army so they fight the way they can. The bombing of innocent people is wrong. It cannot be validated under any circumstances. David Ben Gurian said that the death of a martyr will bring a hundred recruits. Each death this morning will be a martyr. Peace like the recession isn't fiscal or political, its psychological. Its like learning to swim, if you believe the water will hold you up it will. If you believe that you will drown you will. Survival isn't about the physical its about a state of mind. If they want peace they can have it. All it takes is to change the mood from depression to optimism. We seem to have lost that understanding.

Monday, 15 December 2008

The Energy of Effort

Oil will run out (sooner rather than later) and last night on Top Gear James May drove a Honda 4 door saloon using a hydrogen fuel cell. If only someone else could see the line. Wave power (because it's free and we're an island. Wind power, because the places of natural beauty will be lost anyway without an alternative to fossil fuel (is there a reason we can just stick a small wind turbine on top of every single pylon in the UK and tap it straight into the national grid?). Solar power, because the sun still shines. Kinetic power, caused by millions of feet and cars and trains. Expended power (why aren't all gyms attached to the national grid, just look at all the energy being wated on those cycle machines, rowing machine and treadmills. Thermal energy for the millions of miles of black tarmac roads that criss-cross the country and are continually being resurfaced. Energy from solar collectors, bacteria feeding on sugar..... A journey of 1000 miles begind with a single step. If any Government or industry seriously cared enough then they would see the future and invest now. What a shame that short term greed and the lust for power outway the good of the people and the planet. I weep.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

MP Arrest

So Damien Green was questioned for 9 hours and then let go home. Questions have been raised in the House, David Cameron and various members of the front benches on both sides are demanding an enquirey. Good thing he wasn't black or a muslim then. After all with such a serious subject as passing government information to another could be construed under the present climate as terrorism. In which case he could have been held for up to 42 days or actually even longer if the authorities so want, but as an MP he was let go.
I hope the various political parties learn from this the next time they decide to erode our civil liberties any more. If it had been someone else they may still be languishing in prison. Waiting for a trial where no evidence would be produced but it would taken as read that it would endanger the country's security.
We now live in a climate of privelidge. If you work in a bank then we will help you out, if you work in Woolworths then it is market forces. Thats comforting for the 25,000 employees of Woolworths that are about to lose their jobs. Surely there has to be some consistency in these decisions.
I am also getting furious about the fuss that the government has dropped VAT. Great! They should have done this months ago when they were telling us that the recession was coming. Economic policy should have been put into place then not now. The idea that somehow paying 45pence in the pound is so bad, well it would be to all the newspaper editors who earn salaries in excess of £150,000. The trouble is that they still wont pay the full amount because they can afford accountants to get them out of paying. Of course they are all patriots as long as it doesn't cost them money.
How are we going to pay for all this borrowing the media cry? Well how about floating the shares of all the banks that we now own when the economy gets better. Simple economics really, so why does it take someone like me to know this but far more qualified people don't. I am expecting a new reality show to hit our screens soon; "I'm a wealthy banker get me out of the shit that I made for myself"
The trouble is that its not just us. Everybody throughout Europe and America is having a bad time. The world is falling apart because of a simple lack of common sense. Doesn't anybody realise that a housewife would prefer to pay an extra 2p on her tin of beans than have the threat of losing her house and job. Its up to her to buy or not to buy. Don't tell me about inflation when the utility companies, and the transport companies can put up their prices, the oil producing nations can hold back oil production because the price is too low. Not for us but for them. We have to pay the price for others greed, so its about time that the government and the financial services agency started having teeth and fining or even sequestering financial institutions that are being too reckless, and stop other institutions from profiteering.If you haven't realised that economics is the new weapon where have you been. Do you think that Putin is really just good mates with Chavez. Its imperialism by another name and that name is economics.
There are statutes to allow the government to do this. Thatcher brought them in in her religious war against the unions. Lets see a bit of muscle. Its ok to arrest and detain an MP, lets see some of the CEO's from the banks get arrested and have to argue their mistakes.
Just one final note. With all these economic problems going on, one of the services to get hit, because it always does is the Social workers. They have a shitty job and do it remarkably well in often very trying conditions. Occasionally and tragically things go wrong, as baby P. This is where we need investment, because if he had survived he would have grown up knowing only violence and the consequences of that with him as an adult do not bear thinking about. Three things.
1) more investment and communication with all the agencies. It wouldn't take much to have a single department made up of social workers, doctors and the police that social workers in the field could go to if they have any second thoughts but feel unable to progress the investigation any further.
2) Any act of violence that results in the permanent scarring or broken bones of a child be subjected to serious investigation. If it is proven that it was done on purpose then they should arrested and have a minimum sentence of 10 years. Those around the child are guilty if they have not reported or intervened. The French have a law which makes it so that if you see a crime happening and do nothing you can be prosecuted. It only takes one phone call and it could save a life.
3) lastly and by far the hardest thing is to start creating communities again. Everyone is so insulated. The way to do this is by stop having the climate of fear of repercussions. If a young person does something and you tell them off and they attack you, then they get 10 years in prison. If you are subjected to harrasment from family and friends then they will get 15 years in prison. There will always be those that won't take any notice, but I wouldn't like to go to prison for my mate's act of stupidity especially a longer sentence than the one he got.
Let baby P be known by his name. Not an initial. He deserves that after so many have failed him, he should have at least his name. I suppose they don't want to use it because it will embarass those connected with the family. Well maybe it should then it might not have happened in the first place. Resposibility should be rewarded those that shirk it should be despised.

Sunday, 26 October 2008


Why is it that so many people in both the government and the media are promoting the idea of a coming recession? We have had the govener of the Bank of England telling us for months that one is coming, the chancellor predicting that this is going to be the worse for years and all the economic pundits on tv and in the press rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect. Could it be that by telling everybody that they may lose their homes and jobs unless they curb their spending, though I think that even the the most stupid person in the street would realise that has nothing to do with the state of the economics of the world or the country. Its a really good distraction from the fact that capitalism is starting to implode. We are now seeing a state run banking system along the lines of a nationalist run mixed economy.
You see the big problem I have is that yes share prices are as low now as they were five years ago but no body mentioned a recession then in fact it was a state of elation. Now we have a state where in years first time buyers can afford to buy a house at a price they can afford. Isn't that what the government wanted a few years ago, so they were going to build affordable housing. Well now they don't need to.
The another problem I have is where has all the money gone? You just can't wake up one morning to find $60 billion gone and you don't know where it is. I understand that they have lent money as mortgages to people who can't pay it back but then don't they have the value of the house, that one presumes they own and then can't they rent it out to people who can pay a realistic rent so that some of the money can be recouped, if not perhaps instantly but certainly over a longer period.
The banks are still lending each other money at extreme interest rates. Surely there has to be a stop to this unless of course I am going to get my own investment through the government paid with a high rate of interest. Surely there has to be a unilateral ruling by governments to stop the same thing from happening again. While we are on interest rates why do credit cards have to be so high. Surely if the rate was lower then borrowers would be able to pay it off quicker so lessening the risk and then being able to use the card sooner to buy more things so helping the economy by keeping the shops alive.
I am concerned that the government can raise money to fund the banking system but have to rely on people selling poppies in the street to look after servicemen and women, who need to be treated with dignity and care. These men and women have put their lives in the hands of governments who for whatever reason have got themselves emersed in a war, and then when these brave people return they are treated like used consumer units. This attitude is so prevelent throughout the country. Soldiers sailors workers nurses teachers are all treated as units, not as living people. There has to be a shift in the mental picture of those in power and stop treating people, the citizens of this country as nothing more than statistics.
What do I mean by this, well the air ambulence service is kept in the air by charitable donations, yet we can spend millions on buying equiping and manning military helicopters? Its not just a single figure on a piece of paper its someones son, daughetr ,husband and wife that need to treated quickly and it is that person who may or maynot survive. Children are in danger from abuse yet the NSPCC is a charity. We are surrounded by sea and yet the lifeboatmen are volunteers.
I can understand why they probably want to stay out of the government hands as the first thing that would happen would be a whole set of rules enforced about what they can and cannot do, the costs would have to be looked at by a government inspector and they would have to have their own minister whose wages would buy a new boat for the RNLI. And then of course in a turn down in the economy there would have to be cut backs.
There has to be a radical shift in thinking. We cannot rely on the boom and bust of economics, or try to live by technology yet still maintain the victorian attitudes to workforce and employability. Workers now thanks to the last economic debacle are now serious stakeholders in the running of the banks and the country's economic affairs and if the chancellor and the banking giants think that the unions are content with being told thet there is no money to pay workers or expand the national areas of concern such as health and education, then they may just ask for their investment back. The government could always go and ask the ex chief of Lehmans. Poor thing after all he only has $310 million in the bank. I am assuming it wasn't his own bank.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

wierd and wonderful

As far as I understand it, fuel prices are going up because of the cost of oil, but OPEC announced that they are slowing down production of oil to stop the fall in price. Yet again its the the poor old man/woman in the street who is subsidising the shareholders. What's the government's great plan? Well they are getting the power companies and the tax payer to subsidise energy saving devices. A nice idea but with a flaw. If the householders can't afford to pay for the energy bill of £1000 a year then how are they going to afford double glazing even if it is subsidsed because they still have to fork out for the energy bill as well as the double glazing.
The prices should be capped and if the companies don't like it threaten them with nationalisation. You remember that. When we the taxpayer owned the company but then it was sold back to us even though we now owned it on the idea that the services would be more efficient and cheaper. Well that was a false economy and another blatent short term political expedient.
We have the chancellor and the head of the Bank of England and the head of the CBI all telling us that there is a recession coming, well what are they going to do about it. We pay them very large salaries to avoid these kind of situations not to state the obvious. If they can't do the job, or if they haven't got the correct experts to solve the problem , then get some.
I would like to know how it is that after the war in the 1950's, when there was very little, we had an education system to be proud of, a national health service that cared about its patients, streets that were safe, people that were polite and kids who repected their elders. Bus drivers weren't attacked and there was a minimal amount of paperwork. We are supposed to have progressed and in some ways we have. I can now order a variety of products on line, I can listen to any kind of music and the variety of foods and consumers goods are endless, but we seem to have lost our way somewhere along the way. We have exchanged our ethics for the equivilent of a pot noodle. We are supposed to be better off now than ever. No it just means that we can buy more things, but are lives are now hollow.
We have global warming, a mountain of rubbish that won't go away, a highly dangerous power source that we can't stop or close down, yet governments all across the globe are ignoring the facts because of political expediency. The idea that if we cap companies that are making too large a profit and that they will go away is rubbish. When America put the oil embargo on Cuba, it changed its whole policy on energy. I hope we might actually start thinking with our brains and not with our calculators.
The energy crisis is man made therefore it can be solved by man. The alternative technology has been around for decades but has been subdued by companies that have their own interests at heart. The food crises is not a new situation. Over the years poor wages and political policy has destroyed the farming across the country. This country can and has been self sufficient in food. The farmers have had a poor deal but they have also brought it upon themselves. They were quite happy to accept the European hand outs based on a policy of stupidity and progress. The same progress that has us now in the midst of an energy and food shortage.
Do you know what I doubt if any of the power company executives are going to turn their fires off and put on extra jumpers because they can't afford to heat their houses. Just remember when the government sit in their warm offices with computers on stand by and their ministers are driven home in their large cars, we the taxpayer fund that lifestyle. Not the bosses of the power companies but the man and woman in the street.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Sophie Lancaster

Two teenagers were given life sentences today for murdering 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster because she was a goth.
Passing sentence the judge called the murder a "hate crime" against completely harmless people because of their appearance.
Ryan Herbert, 16, who had pleaded guilty before the trial started last month, was jailed for life today at Preston crown court and ordered to serve a minimum of 16 years. His accomplice, Brendan Harris, 15, who was found guilty at trial, was given a life sentence with a minimum of 18 years.
Passing sentence today, Judge Anthony Russell QC, told the defendants he thought their behaviour in court had been unacceptable and described it as "swaggering".
"I noticed the wink that one of you exchanged with the public gallery when the murder charge was not proceeded with against you and that one of you thought it appropriate to shout out 'love you mum".'
Detectives investigating the murder criticised the conduct of the defendants and their families throughout the criminal proceedings as "appalling".
Harris and his mother were said to have been "laughing and joking" when they were first interviewed about the incident.
Harris, of Spring Terrace, Bacup, had denied the murder charge but pleaded guilty to assault causing grievous bodily harm to Maltby.
Herbert, of Rossendale Crescent, Bacup, pleaded guilty to murder and assault.
During the trial it also emerged that Harris had been convicted of kicking and stamping on a 16-year-old in April 2007. He and Herbert, who was also involved, were given six-month community sentences.
Brothers Joseph, 17, and Danny Hulme, 16, both of Landgate, Whitworth, near Bacup, and Daniel Mallett, 17, of Rockcliffe Drive, Bacup, all pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent on Maltby. They did not take part in the attack on Sophie, the court was told.

This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Monday April 28 2008. It was last updated at 17:35 on April 28 2008.

I have posted this section of the article because I do not want the names of these evil monsters to be forgotten. Sophie is dead and will never have the opportunity to experience all the joys and sorrows that life may bring. The chances are that all the convicted will be back out on the streets at some point, in the case of those who pleaded guilty to GBH probably in not more than 5 years. They will still have the opportunity to laugh and cry and experience. Will they ever feel regret? I doubt it. Will they ever feel remorse? Unlikely. So what will have been gained? Very little. This makes the whole situation even sadder. It also demands that we as a society look into our hearts and decide once and for all what the value of a life is. I, for one, hope that all those who were involved in this viscious, callous and cowardly attack have miserable lives full of pain and suffering.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Positive Discrimination

From the very outset there is no such thing as positive discrimination. If one group is being favoured it negatively discriminates against all others. The idea that women and ethnic minorities should be put above other groups is wrong. It creates a feeling of injustice. I agree that the world is an imperfect place but you can only gain a utopian society of equality through education, by the abolition through practice, that what we call bigotry, but really is just another word for ignorance.
All positions have to be based on the ability of a person to do the job. Being a woman does not mean that they have any special insight into how to run a company or be an MP than a man does, but its their ability to do the job in hand that counts. This new law does two of the most divise things that have happened in recent years. It discriminates against middle class white men, the majority of the working population, more by historical factors than anything else and it allows the ignorant to claim a racial argument. I agree that all people should be paid the same as anybody else for the same job, but introducing a quota system as they have in Norway can only create a feeling of unrest and disharmony. I bet the BNP could not believe their luck when this new law was first muted. This is their next election campaign already written for them.
This is not a utopian society, in fact as every day goes by it becomes more and dystopian, but this law will not help. Unless of course you take it to the fullest extent.
After all surely its discrimination for MP's to be paid for a second home. I don't and as I'm paying for theirs surely they could pay for mine. In a world of equality which this law pretends to be a key text, where does equality start and end. Surely all people who work in the public sector should be given the same opportunity to have their second home expenses paid by the state. I actually can't see why the government don't buy a block of flats or a gated community and house the MP's in it, so that when they are unelected they can take over from the previous incumbent. One in as one goes out.
I know this seems to be on the trivial side of things but actually its not. A great many people cannot afford to pay for the single dwelling that they are living in, without MP's bleeting about how hard done by they are. Their is a choice of profession like everybody elses. I know several people who live in one part of the country and have to travel regularly on business to other parts. Their company does not pay for a second house for them. They have to stay in a reasonable priced hotel.
Students have to stay in a hall of residence provided for by the university which they pay for. An obvious template if ever I saw one. They are secure and affordable housing for people to sleep, eat and study.
Students come in for a bit of bad press. It has been said that they are all too thick so that the degrees are being devalued, but then if universities are devaluing the degrees to keep their figures up due to market forces then why should the government complain. Its exactly what they wanted, that market forces dictate the level of the product. You can't complain on one hand that universities are manipulating results to keep student numbers up when funding comes from the government who dictate how much funding is allocated based on student numbers.
The governemt have to decide if education is going to be a degree factory or if its going to be something that is worth while and an investment in the future on behalf of the country. The government have lost the point of education. They know how much it costs but they seemed to have lost its value.
Education is now driven by paperwork and league tables and statistics. The trouble with all these things is that they are all perceptive based.
A school may well achieve high standing in the league tables, but some schools are producing some really good members of society who will build our houses, dig our roads, get up at 3 in the morning to enable others to get to work. They don't get involved in crime, drugs, or violent acts. They will go unflinchingly to war if asked but according to the governemt figures they are failures.
It seems very strange that in their strive to achieve excellence through legislation that ordinary people like me never seem to come into the good figures, in fact ordinary people like me are discriminated against, because we just get on and do the job, don't make fuss or expect anything other than we get. Now thats positive.

Thursday, 12 June 2008


As far as I understand it, the problem is that we are in a credit crunch and are trying to avoid rising inflation at the same time. As far as I understand it it was to avoid this kind of situation that the Bank of England became independent of government. So tell me why is everybody in such a bad way. When I first bought a fridge it cost an enormous part of my wages now it cost the same as filling my car twice with petrol. You can't ask people to keep their wages down while allowing prices to rise.
Gordon could ease the pain of the fuel crises by stopping the duty on the vat that we pay for the petrol. He could stop it for the time while petrol is above the pound mark. Ah I hear you say that means that we the tax payer will be susidising petrol companies. Well if you start making it law that imported cars must have bio-fuels only. If cars start to not use petrol then the petrol that would be used to run cars would become a surfiet and consequently cheaper. I realise that this may be fantasy in the short term but how about having some form of integrated thought, in other words joined up government.
There are riots in the streets in Europe due to food shortages, caused by the transport system falling apart due to the increase in petrol;. I hate to remind the students of history the last time there was a food shortage in Europe. If you think that the BNP are not going to take advantage of this failure in government, you are mistaken.
The answer lies in the governments hands. Reduce duty, get the Govenor of the Bank of England to resign. He should have done so after the Northern Rock debacle, and get someone in with radical ideas, after all how worse can it get, I suppose the trouble is in the past its always been the ploy to get out of an economic slump by having a war, well we've got one so we can't start another.
What the public ned to see is confident action. Stop keeping to a moribund policy that is obviously not working and adapt to the situation. I am sorry but when people are in threat of not being able to pay their bills,affording their mortgage and having to cut back on food, while a footballer has been rumoured to be offered 300,000 a week, something is radically wrong. If football clubs can offer such sums then two things are obvious, they are not paying enough tax or they are living on credit that they will never be able to pay back.
By the way can someone tell me what we are going to do with all the extra nuclear waste that the new stations are going to produce when they come on line. We can't cope with the ordinary waste that we produce. For the cost of one of the new power stations how about supplying every house with solar panels. Cheaper and healthier in the long term.
Though I do criticise Gordon Brown a lot, I must praise his unflinching stance on Robert Mugabe. The situation in Zimbabwe is unforgivable and should be ended, not by us but by the other African nations who should act not for economical reasons but humanitarian ones.

Monday, 2 June 2008

The economics of terror.

Now as far as I understand it Gordo wants to increase the holding period of terrorism suspects for a longer period. Why? Is it to prevent terrorism or to find out information. I am all for protection of people, all people civilians or military, but surely holding someone for a greater period of time will not prevent this. I remember the Bobby Sands fiasco, turned into his martyrdom, and how many recruits did the IRA get then. Surely the way to combat the kind of fundamentalist terrorism is to win hearts and minds, not lock people away.
But what kind of terrorism. The inmates of Guantenemo Bay, those who have been incarcerated fro years without trial, did they supply evidence to prevent a terrorist attack. The information they have must actually be well out of date now. By allowing this new law to go through it does nothing for the security of the country, though I think that bringing the troops out would go a long way to stop acts of terrorism on these shores. But it does bring me to a fine point of when is intellegence good. After all the whole point of us going into Iraq in the first place was based on intellegence gathered by the security forces that told of weapons of mass desrtuction, but that proved to be totally untrue. So if we beat someone to a pulp, put them before a military tribunal and try them is the information they give going to be any more relaible than that which the public were given to get us into the war?
Its a lovely diversion though isn't it. After all the economy is collapsing around our ears, food prices are going up, fuel bills are going up, the economy policies of the banks are proving to be more suspect than we could ever imagine, but what do the labour backbenchers complain about the detention of suspected terrorists for longer than 42 days. The whole idea of this being the most important subject in a world of chaos, is spin. We cannot afford to feed our old, we cannot afford to educate our young, but we can afford to fight an unwinable war and have our civil liberties eroded. When midwives are being made redundant in a baby boom,the security services have doubled their staff.
The problem is the hyperreality of the situation. We are so entwined with the idea of our civil liberties being taken over by Islam that we are more than happy to have a continuous war to defeat a strategy thatn any schoolboy historian will tell you is undefeatable. You want to defeat terrorism then persude the ordinary well meaning caring people of islam to ask questions of their elders. Please lets not forget that there are more Christians in Pakistan than Muslims here and if they start a jihad from the way they are being treated then all the large economies that have invested heavily in the third world will fall apart. Communism could never defeat capitalism, capitalism will defeat capitalism because it will eat itself, followed and encouraged by religious fundementalists who will show a better way. Why be poor and unhappy when a better world waits for you without the trappings of a western society. Afghanistan didn't just happen. Taliban didn't just appear one night and take over. It was a systemiatic mind shift by a people who had been betrayed by everything. After all Milton said he would rather be a master in Hell than a servant in heaven.

Monday, 21 April 2008


I find the whole credit crunch crisis a bit of a fiasco. The banks who lent money to people they knew couldn't pay it back if there was a downturn in the economy are now standing waving their hands in the air and with a look of suprise on their faces. Lets get this straight, there was a problem in the American mortgage market, that our banks invested in, so now the British taxpayer has to fork out money so that the banks can get their house in order and not go under. The poor low income workers who have had their tax doubled from 10 to 20 pence are subsidising the six figure salaried bankers whose fault it was in the first place, not because of them making an error of judgement but because of their greed. I see there are quite a few people in Wall Street who have lost their jobs over this but I bet none of them are the top MD's or CEO's. But of course if they leave having thrust the western world into financial chaos they will get a pay off that will be more than most of us earn in a lifetime.
We are constantly being told that we now have to be competetative on the world markets, though of course that doesn't include the railways which are still being subsidised by the taxpayer, or the building of nuclear power plants paid for by the tax payer, or the arms industry; so when the bank says sorry but your small shop has to go under because you can't meet your repayments, or your business is going under because of the interest rate rises we can expect a handout from the government can we? Don't forget that a couple of years ago some of the banks were making a $1billion profit. Where's that gone and why did they want so much more they were risking the whole of the western banking system to get it. They keep saying that tnhey didn't know that it would happen this way. Really that's what they are paid to do, as well as the governments experts.
Its about time that governments stopped looking at encouraging all these millionaires from Eastern Europe to settle here, or American billionaires to buy up football teams, as those kind of people will go where the best deals are anyway, but to start looking at us, the native population. I am tired of being told that I need to pull in my belt again and again, because of the economy, I don't see Manchester United or Chelsea having a wage cut for their players, I don't see the CEO's of the power companies having their wages cut. I know that Gordon Brown said that the MP's had to have a wage rise lower than inflation, but then I wish someone would give me £10,000 for a new kitchen, £6,000 for a new bathroom, plus expenses so I can employ my family to do my office work. What I do see are rising fuel costs both domestic and travel, rising food costs, I see a rise in the cost of actually getting to work by bus, train or car. I also see the government doing nothing about it except by hitting the ordinary man in the street.
Its not just economics its everything. Education may have two ministers but they still can't get enough common sense together to see that it makes more sense to get 10 teachers for the cost of a new superheadmaster, ( oh by the way when the idea was muted the salary was going to be £100,000 now its £200,000, Hows that for inflation?)
How about making the streets safe, by employing more policemen on the beat and paying them a decent wage (If MI5 can double its staff because of the terrorist threat then I think a local police station could get a few more coppers to combat the terrorism that goes on outside my house)
Stop spending money on Trident, (Does it work? Tell me when are you going to find out? And what will happen to the old missiles that are being replaced hardly green is it?) and start spending money on the NHS.
When I was a kid I really was proud of my country being first, the first to discover so many wonderful life changing inventions, things that helped us win the war like radar, micro surgery, Concorde. Now we are first in that we work the longest hours pay the highest for petrol, pay the most for food, prison population, alcoholic abuse; so many things that we are first at, that make me unhappy, though of course there is one thing that we are not first at, literacy, we come second to bottom on that after the USA. The country that got us into the economic mess we are in now. Dont tell me this is good for me, because I remember every prime minister telling me that we are in a strong position but we need to make cuts and pull in our belts for the future. Well the future is now, so don't piss down my back and tell me its raining anymore. Get your act together because what are you going to do when China's economy starts running out of steam and their is a civil war or a revolution. Its history repeating itself, look at France, at Russia, even to the revolution in Germany in the 20's which lead to the rise of the Nazi's. No good asking for a hand out then because you invested in China, because it will be all of us sinking.
Just one thing more, the colleges and universities will be able to charge what they want, some want to charge £7000 a year. Now if the government wants toget 50% of the population in higher education each paying £7000 per year then after three years with fees and living costs they will owe about £35000 or perhaps even more which they will have to pay back,on credit, which some wont be able to do so causing a shortfall in the credit supply causing another credit crisis. Now tell me how are these students who have to pay back these loans going to find the money for a deposit on a house,save for their pension,get their children through school and actually find enough money over for food? Of course they will get jobs because they will be a graduate. So will 50% of the population so the extra money a graduate should get by the mere fact they will have a degree will be devalued in a supply and demand market. Does nobody in the government read history. I realise that it's a diary of other peoples mistakes but look at the wall street crash, where the investors were out stripping the supply. If that happens then we will have meltdown within the education system like the banking system now.
To have the opportunity for education is a good thing, but some people don't want it and those that can't get it are going to be even more alienated than they already are. For some kids an ASBO will be their only qualification. Stop charging for education and putting ridiculous restrictions on funding, the RAE policy gives plenty of researchers lots of money but they can't teach and if anybody has read the most recent figures will know that law suits against colleges and Universities has rocketed over the past year, mainly due to the lack of teaching.
The army discovered that when it stopped having conscription they started to develop a better, more aware and smarter army, actually I am proud to say the best in the world, shame about the equipment, but thats another blog. Education should be the same. Its not about numbers its about quality. Its about investing in the future and lets not treat education like the mortgage market becuase if it goes bust there won't be anybody clever enough to bail us out.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Taking responsibilty

one of the problems that we have in this country is that people do not take resposibilty for their actions. The young have not been taught how to. Since we have given way to the idea that school children aren't being told when they fail, they have no idea when something is wrong. Everything is a level of being correct. Consequently they do not realise how to fail, and take the responsibilty for failing and violence is a failure.
An act of violence regardless of its cause in the 21st Century is wrong, but it seems to be growing. Acts of thoughtless violence through drink, drugs or even the pressure of life is often given as a reason. It's not, its an excuse. When I was young and I drank to excess, or even when I had one of the most stressful jobs going in publishing I didn't go out and hit someone, try to kill them, cut them up in my car or celebrated my obnoxiousness. I coped with it.
When I hear that some kids get into trouble because there is nothing to do, I just can't accept it. There is more for kids to do now than ever. When I was a kid, on Sunday's everything was closed, at some points during the day even the TV closed down. I didn't go out and cause trouble or vandalise anything.
When I see the kids who get into trouble at the age of 14, I think that my parents were both out working at that age. Both were learning their trade because it was impossible to keep them on at school because of the lack of money. They had to be responsible, to keep the job, to turn up on time to do a good and sometimes long days work.
I saw a programme about a woman who wanted to get everyone to stop using their cars for just one day. The answer from some of the parents was that they couldn't give up their cars in case it rained. I walked to school in the rain, the snow, the fog and believe it or not I didn't get a bad cold or seriously ill, I actually got used to bad weather, dressed accordingly and also got fit. These are the same parents who wont let their kids in a few years take responsibility. They will be the same parents who actually lie to their kids about their talents and then let them suffer a huge fall on talent shows. I actually like Simon Cowell and I would like to see more teachers take a page out of his book and be honest with the kids.
When I did teacher training I gave a boy a detention slip which had to be taken home to his parents for them to give permission for him to have detention. How ridiculous that was. When I was at school we had a detention that night straight after school. It was a punishment, instant and effective. The teachers took the responsibility for the punishment, not the parents and the kid took the responsibility for the crime.
We have become so intwined with political correctness that we now cant see the problems through the phrasiology. The idea that you can't mark a pice of work for a child in red in case it upsets them. Or as I heard recently you can't even mark the actual piece of work itself but supply a seperate piece of paper with the comments on, because otherwise it would be disrespectful to the student. Crap. It means they know its wrong and need to get it right next time. Learning to fail, which is something we all do, is a valuable lesson.
On that note I don't completely blame the kids, but I do blame the parents and actually I blame the governments as well. They lie, manipulate the statistics,give reasions that are only half truths and the deny they have done it, so where is the hope for the young when the people running the country can't take responsibility for their actions.
We live in a world where violence is celebrated, through films, sport, television especially reality tv and on the football pitch particularly, and then we say to the kids that violence is wrong. For some of the kids who see and take this kind of culture in, it is their only way of getting what they think is respect but is in fact derision. These are the future unless something is done. The idea that teachers and parents should be afraid of physical attacks from children is appalling. The parents should take responsibility for their children and the local councils should have to take control of those parents who think that its always up to someone else. Those kids that are sent to jail should meet the victims families and explain why they did it. Their parents should have to attend parenting classes to try an understand where they went wrong. Those that don't attend get arrested and are made to do community work. Not helping in a shop but maybe driving around a victim of violence for a week, getting their shopping, cleaning their house, or maybe being a bodyguard to some elderly resident who is afraid of being attacked. They created the problem now they must start cleaning it up.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The trial of those charged with the murder of Sophie Lanacaster has begun. For anyone who doesn't know Sophie was kicked to death in August last year by a group who had already kicked her boyfriend to the point of coma. The reason for this viscious and sustained attack was apprently because Sophie and her boyfriend were 'goths'. The defendants are all teeenagers bewteen 14 and 17.

One defendent has admitted murder and several GBH, but one is denying murder, hence the trial.

I am sad for Sophie's family; that any parent should lose a child is heartbreaking, but the circumstances are tragic.

I am incredulous; that any group of people could carry out such a cowardly and pointless attack.

I am angry; that there has not been a national public outcry.

It is time to take action. We cannot allow this kind of violence to continue. We seem to be breeding a generation that includes a class of individual whose only purpose is to inflict pain and suffering on others. Clearly they are being failed by their parents who must take responsibility for the moral welfare and consequently values expressed by these young people. It is time to either force this responsibility onto parents or remove their children from what is effectively an abusive environment. All agencies, school, Government, parents, voluntary groups must blanket children from an early age with the continuous message that violence is wrong. No ifs, buts or maybes; just wrong. The punishment for violence must be remedial and if the individual is unable to reform then the ultimate sanction must be removal from society.

If we cannot see the need to address both cause and outcome then we are inviting the onset of chaos; a society where violence rules and the brutal make life for everbody else miserable.

Action needs to be taken now. If you agree then write to your MP, or your local newspaper. Demand that those with the power raise this issue as a priority and involve all agencies in devising a planned approach to eliminate this problem.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

My colleague is correct in that anti-social behaviour should go punished. Don't forget that if they are not shown the errors of their ways then they will be anti-social parents of anti-social children. The idea that the police cannot do anything is prepostorous. With that amount of vandalism and anti-social behaviour going on then why not a task force to lay in wait and grab them in the act. If you show that any crime will not be tolerated then the community will follow. The idea that a thug can use violence to promote a level of fear for racist ends and yet the police take no action, is horrendous. Not got the resources then get them. They can keep soldiers in war zones thousends of miles away why can't they get the same resources to solve the problems in war zones here.
The new law about prostitution is obtuse. Lets make a disadvataged group even more scared of the police. I would love to know what the actual definition of prostituion is? Is it money or could it be in kind? If so then half of the women in the celebrity pages, ( yes we really have a lot in common even though I'm in my 20's and he is in his 80's, but just happens to be a billionaire), but joking aside, the problem, if there is one,of prostitution is that it is never going to go away. It needs to be properly looked at so that prostiutes can feel safe, from their clients, from pimps, organised crime and infection.
By fining the prostitute and the man never solves the problem. They should be given counselling and the opportunity to find alternative employment. Fining someone who has a drug habit doesn't make them give up they just need to work that much harder to get the money.
Its similar to the problem above, it needs a thoughtful approach to the problem. There should not be a no go area for anyone and the victims, in this case householders and prostitutes alike should be given protection and support.
I heard today that Gordon Brown is having a serious re-think about the super casinos in Manchester. Hooray. We live in a world where people are in serious debt and what do we want to do, give them an even easier way of getting into further debt?
I am unsure about the idea of the Mac A level, partly because it legitimises the idea of private education which is wrong, but it does allow for the whole aspect of the paperwork and qualifications that go with teaching to be brought into focus. I cannot wait until Offsted go to Mac College and ask to see lesson plans, programme reviews, marks and procedures let alone the documentation for the pastoral care. Like the police, education has become a self feeding buracracy. In the golden age of british education, the majority throughout the whole system from the infant to the graduate was free, the teachers most of which weren't qualified didn't take any lip, punishment was instant and without parents consent but had a discipline that enabled them to teach and more important for the children to learn. Now you have to pass qualifications that say you are a teacher, though it seems that most of these have very little to do with teaching but a lot about paperwork.
By the way, for those government ministers who think that health care should be going towards the American system, think of this, In this country we have to pay alot to keep our pets well. When my cat died it had cost me a small fortune in medication to keep him alive, until it was kinder to have him put down. That cost me £80. When grandad gets really ill and you can't afford the medication what are you going to do then, its not like a cat is it? I bet visits to Austria and Switzerland go up with a lot of old people going out but not coming back. Get my drift. I know the governement would say that wouldn't happen, but remember purchase tax that became VAT, that was only in place to pay for a war that eneded 60 years ago. Think on.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Antiscoial behaviour

From today's Guradian:

'Get them Polish out of your house or I'll burn it down'
When Ed Jones found a cheap and spacious house to buy in Salford, he thought his luck was in. Then a gang of teenagers took up residence on his doorstep. He got on with them well enough at first - but life soon descended into a cycle of vandalism, racist abuse and violence that eventually drove him from his homeEd JonesFriday January 4, 2008
GuardianThe location seemed perfect: a mile from the city centre, a priority area where millions of pounds of development money were pouring in. From the top of the street, you catch picturesque glimpses of Manchester. It was run down, yes, but there was a lovely old church up the hill and the surrounding streets appeared quiet. And the house was a snip, a four-bedroom terrace for £50,000, the price of a two-bed flat elsewhere at the time. So, in early 2005, I moved in. Big mistake.
There were early omens. One day, while I was renovating the house, I found that where there had been a 6ft-high double-brick wall surrounding the back yard, where it must have stood solidly for well over a century, there was now only a pile of bricks. I remember a sense of wonderment at the force it must have taken to demolish it, but let it go and had a fence built instead. While I was painting it, a passing, unsmiling neighbour commented, "That won't last" (though miraculously, in this case, it did).
Soon it emerged that property ownership in the traditional sense did not apply to my house. I had what amounted to joint tenancy with a gang of local boys who had taken up part-time residence on my porch and front steps, probably dating from the 18-month period the house had been empty before I bought it. The next-door neighbours advised me not to call the police on them; other people on the street told me that when they had done so, their tyres had been slashed.
I had lived in Hulme and Moss Side for most of my adult life, and in rockier times had done two years in jail, so I didn't anticipate anything I couldn't handle. I decided I'd try not to befriend the youths exactly, but at least to show them some kindness and tolerance in the hope that they would be more on my side than not, so that if there was any difficulty, we could sort it out between us. Initially, it worked, sort of. The group - wearing austere black sports clothes - were a gang of crisp-eating, spot-encrusted, monosyllabic thieves. There was no female accompaniment for these guys, whose average age was around 15. From my windows I often saw them with stolen motor scooters or cars. One night they took turns to spin a black BMW round and round the waste ground opposite, until a tired-looking policeman arrived (surrounding roads had been blocked off to prevent joyriding, making fast police access impossible).
Personally, I got on with the guys. They would knock sometimes when they got out of youth custody to tell me their jail stories and show me their war wounds. "How did you get that one?" I asked Martin one day, when he proudly displayed a particularly colourful post-incarceration shiner. "You gotta stand up for yourself in there, or they take the piss," he said.
Our relationship didn't stop them trying to break in through my back door one Monday morning when I was at work, battering it with a huge rock. Luckily, the door held - just, by the look of it - so I put up bars and an iron gate. Then they just disappeared. Graduated, I expect.
Kenny's crowd, who immediately took over the spot, were more colourful and came with several loud, underdressed girls who laughed and squealed a lot. I would come out some evenings to find a latticework of legs criss-crossing my porch. It hardly occurred to them to let me past. Kenny was 15 and liked to talk, mainly about the quality of the latest "weed". He often turned up in the early morning and sat there for most of the day.
They got drunk. There was noise sometimes, and always the smell of cannabis. They accidentally dented my car while fighting. They had "tunes" and porn on their mobile phones, and they dropped a cornucopia of litter.
Occasionally I did call the police, when things got particularly raucous, or when the "firebug", as he was known, scorched my phone lines. Generally they said there was nothing they could do unless I identified offenders in court, which wasn't always possible and in any case seemed unwise. The police didn't seem bothered.
Gino was the worst. He showed up only occasionally, but he drank heavily, begged favours compulsively and, Kenny told me, had stabbed his dad. When I was away, Gino and Kenny pulled the grille off my back window and broke in. Kenny admitted it one night when he was drunk and apologised, looking as if he was going to cry. He was 15 then, the youngest child of the most feared family in the area, so there was no way I was going to court with it.
One night I fell out with a 13-year-old girl who was a doorstep regular. She was drunk, banging ceaselessly on my door, and I shouted at her. When I appeared at the door the next afternoon, she rasped up some saliva and gobbed it across the porch where five of them were sitting.
I said something like, "Come on, Michelle, there's no need for that." She bunched her otherwise pretty face into a fist and screamed, "It's fucking Salford! I'll spit where I like!"
The phrase stuck in my mind as a testament to the culture of desolation that reigns in big swaths of Salford and Manchester. Michelle is 15 now, going to raves and taking ecstasy. "I love it," she told me recently.
The real shock came when I learned that a neighbour - whose little girl always waved to me and smiled from her own doorstep - had let Gino and Kenny store the stuff they took from my house in her yard until they could get rid of it. Sulking, I blanked her for months, until I discovered that she had the mental age of an adolescent.
"Mental problems" - and, indeed, bad health generally - were a theme in the area. Round the corner a young woman was going blind, owing to severe diabetes caused by eating nothing but sweets as a child. We secretly reported one couple because of the violent rows they were having in front of their two-year-old. A fortnight later the mother stopped me and said, "Someone reported us to social services."
"It wasn't me," I said.
"No, it was good. They've changed Darrell's pills. He's been much better since."
Darrell's younger brother also suffered from an acute form of depression. I paid him to fix my car sometimes, and Darrell to fix my computer. Gradually I discovered that nearly every house on the street had someone with mental health troubles. It was no secret: they chatted about one another's prescriptions.
During that first 18 months, youth diplomacy mostly did the trick. It was hard, but doable, and worth it because the house itself was so nice and spacious. When the lad from the big family who had broken in and later apologised got an Asbo banning him from the surrounding area, he and his friends stopped coming. It was quietish for a week or two; then a new group of teenagers took over the spot. And so it went on.
Then something nice happened. I found a Slovakian lodger and she brought in a couple of her friends. I had been lonely, and now the house was full again. Through my lodgers, I met a Polish woman and we became lovers. Eventually she too moved in. There was a buzz about the place. They were intelligent, considerate, hard-working people, a joy to live with, though they found it almost impossible to understand the culture of degradation around them. They found the deep sense of social neglect puzzling.
Looking back, I realise that this was the point where nuisance tipped into menace.
My car windscreen is smashed, for no apparent reason. The next morning, the same person comes back to do the side window. When I'm away, boys bang on the windows of the house, throw things at it and taunt my lodgers with racist and sexual insults. The young Slovakian woman calls the police; two officers turn up. One of them points at the culprits, who are still standing on the street within earshot, and asks her, "Was it them?"
She is horrified at the danger he has put her in and shakes her head. "No!" The youths laugh, the officers go. The taunts continue, only now my lodgers are more reluctant to call the police. But I find I am calling them more regularly, though secretly. I feel the change in atmosphere; it puzzles and frustrates me. There's more in the way of senseless vandalism, a remorselessness about it, and I'm less able to find out what is going on from the youths themselves.
The police hold a meeting about "antisocial behaviour" in the area. One of the officers tells me they are under pressure to clean up the area because of the development money that is pouring in. From my house, three of us attend the meeting, to find only five other civilians there. It is a forlorn sham. No one wants to be seen talking to the cops, and the police are surly and impatient.
It is around this time that I hear from a disillusioned police officer that Hazel Blears, MP for the area, has recently been at the top of our street with a police inspector having her photograph taken, claiming that the fight against antisocial behaviour in the area has been a success story. It all adds to the profound sense of dereliction. When I ask Blears to comment for this article, she says she's very busy but will get back to me. I've heard nothing more from her.
Youths smash the windows at the back of the house with stones and rocks. I put bars over the upstairs windows. A huge firework is thrown into the house through the back door. One of my lodgers is pelted with eggs on her way up the street and, once she goes inside, our front door becomes the target. My new car is vandalised. The drainpipes are pulled off the house. The porch is covered in graffiti, as are the windows. "Ed sucks Polish dick" is among the gambits. There's always some bother. I begin to show up on the police system as a repeat victim. They say there's nothing much they can do because they haven't got the resources, but they will increase patrols in the area. When I ask what that means exactly, the operator says they'll "drive past a few times".
The end comes one night after a nine-year-old and two 13-year-olds break the windows at the front of the house while my girlfriend's Polish friend is there in the room. The police take two hours and four calls to respond, by which time the boys have come back and punched out another pane.
Next day the neighbours tell me the house round the corner suffered the same fate a few days earlier. "There was Polish there too. They've moved out." Now I begin to see.
That night the house shakes with the force of bricks being hurled at the boards I've nailed over the front windows. The next night four youths knock on my door, 16- and 17-year-olds. When I answer, an older and much broader man appears from behind them and he is wearing a balaclava. He takes it off and makes a speech about how I "don't come from round here". How he's a working-class man and I've got no right to insult his comrades. I'd shouted at them the night before over the brick-hurling.
The younger lads try to drag me out of the house; I realise they are drunk. The man with the balaclava stops them. I realise he is sober. Momentarily, I feel safer. Then he punches me twice in the face - he is wearing special punching gloves with hardened knuckles stitched in.
He kicks me and bellows: "This is it, right? You've got two weeks to get them fucking Polish out the house or I'm gonna burn it down! Get it?" As I stand there bleeding, he points at me and says, "You're not bleeding" and launches into a tirade about how "these Polish" are "coming here and taking over". Turning to go, he points back at me and says, "I'm serious about them Polish - get them out!"
The next day, we comply with the order. The house, I now realise, became a serious target only when my eastern European lodgers moved in. This can never be sorted out by diplomacy or drive-by policing. It is simple racist fury and it isn't going to stop. I go too, of course. We leave a sign in the window saying: "Polish people have moved out."
Once we have gone, the police appoint a special officer to coordinate their response with extra patrols and increased cover. But the house was marked, and now it is empty. I stop by one day to discover that the rear fence has been pulled down and burned. The windows behind the grilles at the back are smashed, as are the remaining windows downstairs at the front. I board up the whole house.
Soon after, burning newspaper and fireworks are pushed through the letterbox. The police produce photos of 12 suspects in the earlier doorstep attack. None of the likely culprits is featured, despite my having supplied a first name, description and nickname for two of them.
The attacks on the house go on unabated. A group of youths pull off the metal gate from the back door and when a workman arrives to secure it, more than a dozen people surround his van, jump on it and stone it. When he flees, they kick in the back door and enter to break everything inside they can, hurling around lumps of concrete and tearing up cupboards. No one in the street calls the police.
The house is now on the market.
The feeling, now that I've gone? Relief to be getting out of Salford; something most of the young from my doorstep on that street will probably never do.
· Names have been changed
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

It is a sad comment on society today that a bunch of tennagers, many of who were clearly still of school age should be allowed to spend their time smoking dope, drinking and commiting acts of vandalism on someone else's doorstep. If the attitude is 'well at least they're not hurting anyone' then it shows how degraded we have become. I don't care what anyone does in their own home (as long as it doesn't involving harming anyone else - unless, of course, consensual) but people have to have a sense of community responsibility otherwise how can society function? First of all parents have a responsibility to bring their children up with a sense of social decency. Secondly schools and other authority groups need to be given the resources and support to instill scoial responsibility.

All this needs to be done with carrot and stick.

We cannot win a war against illegal drugs unless we make the risks unacceptable and the rewards for seeking an alternative lifestyle greater.

As for the man who shouted about the Polish (apart from the fact that he almost certainly has immigrant blood in him anyway), perhaps he should ask why UK employers can't find UK citizens to fill the jobs available. If young people choose to see no value in education then why should they complain about a lack of jobs. If it is down to peer pressure, or even a lack of parental support, then let social services take those children away, and not to the current squalid halfway houses that seem to form the backbone of this provision, but to centres with proper counsellors, mentors, psychologists and specialist teachers.

What is sadder than the deprevation and waste is the refusal of sections of the community to see that intervention is not about a 'nanny state' but about the state accepting responsibility when individuals will not.

Who won in this article, not the man who had his house 'stolen', but equally not the pointless wastes of space who still frequent the doorstep and still see virtue in mindless vandalism. Is it enough just to sit by wringing our hands with despair and secretly thinking 'at least that isn't me'? No, it is time for people to take action and if that involves a few home truths and a bit of extra money (funny how we're always able to find money for things like the olympics), then so be it.