Archive for welfare

There Are Times…

Posted in People, Society and Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by AF

I’ve always had what I regard as a fairly young outlook on life and in some ways I think (I hope) that’s true and will remain so. Nevertheless, there are times when I think I must simply be getting old.

Maybe it’s mainly the death of Ted Kennedy that has brought it home to me at the moment for it’s usually as a result of world, or at least national, events that I feel this way. Lately, though, I have to admit that I have a feeling of more general malaise about the world we live in, or more precisely, about people, than I once did.

When I was truly young (as distinct from just thinking I am), there were no PCs and you got your information from your daily newspaper, or the radio and some of it from TV. The difference was that, although disasters, wars and all the rest occurred, they were the exception, whereas nowadays such mayhem seems to be accepted as the norm. Additionally, newspapers (apart from the odd one or two that most people regarded as little more than comics) could be relied upon, as could radio and TV news – they were respected and prided themselves on the thorough quality of their investigative journalism and the accuracy of what they reported. Of course, there was naturally national bias, but it wasn’t a slur to call someone a patriot then either.

People cared more too, I’m sure. If you told his parents (who you probably knew personally) that little Johnny was being a little sh*t, they’d apologise to you, clip him round the ear and make him say sorry to you (or whoever) as well. Doctors also took a pride in the respect that people had for them. They would turn out at any time of any day or night to visit a sick patient, but then they didn’t have thousand upon thousands of people on ever increasing lists that they had to service for less and less money. Perhaps more importantly, they didn’t spend half their time (or more) filling in government forms in quadruplicate for the benefit of a pen pusher in some quango and half a dozen NGOs (naturally, since they didn’t exist, none of us was paying for those pointless exercises either).

I’ve loved PCs ever since they were invented and I got very involved in quite a lot of software development at one point. I love the Internet, but does my increasing sense of foreboding for the future of humanity have any substance, or is it just that we hear about these things more easily than we once did? Are we suffering from some sort of data overload, or are people really nastier, greedier, less caring and above all often simply less decent than they were fifty years ago?

Maybe we just never heard about it in the past, but a rotten politician, policeman, lawyer, banker, financier, schoolteacher, doctor, or other type of professional worker was an exception and a talking point for weeks if not months. Now it seems that the huge plethora of news organisations we have today struggle to keep up with all the shenanigans going on in almost every field of public life and service.

Ho, hum … I think perhaps I am just growing old. In a way, I almost hope so, because if that’s not the reason, then sometimes I really do fear for humanity. Ted Kennedy, you weren’t perfect, none of us is, but you were more decent than many men today and a statesman to boot. I think you might just be well out of this sh*t! The world we and our generation knew and sometimes loved has probably had its day and is now just as dead as you … RIP.

You Owe It To Yourself

Posted in People, Society and Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2009 by AF

This post over at the Mudflats begins innocuously enough…

“On my 21st birthday, I woke up in the morning and drove to Dairy Queen.  I got soft serve vanilla ice cream with strawberry topping and I ate it for breakfast.  Why?  When I was a child I asked once if I could have ice cream for breakfast, and my mother said, “You can have ice cream for breakfast when you’re 21.”  And so I did.”

But if you want to put some of the anger and hateful behaviour going on in America at the moment into perspective, then you owe it to yourself to take a few moments to read this post in full.


What Is It With These People?

Posted in People, Society and Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2009 by AF

I’m not American, so I tend to say little about US politics unless I feel it affects the rest of us and UK politicians just make me feel ill, so I don’t mention them much either. But there are times when I wonder just what this planet is coming to.

It’s a bit like when bureaucrats (oh, how I loathe some of them) get all officious in what is clearly simply an attempt to increase their own sense of self importance and in fact justify their own existence. But in this instance a small but significant number of apparently small-minded US citizens are playing constitutional Russian Roulette with their whole country – and that could affect the rest of us.

It may well be that President Obama is playing an astute political game of chess over his healthcare proposals and that what he finally expects to get is not what’s most obviously on the table at the moment. Furthermore, I think his policies are misguided in as much as, desirable though his ideas are in theory, reality rarely matches anything close to theory when any service at all is run directly by government. Basically, healthcare almost everywhere in the industrialised world requires a huge rethink, because most of us simply can’t afford to support a system that offers the sort of healthcare that is daily becoming more sophisticated and vastly more expensive.

Nevertheless, I really can’t see why seasoned politicians and activists (mainly on the right of the Republican Party) would even consider, let alone condone, the evil “rent-a-mob” actions that are clearly taking place at meetings designed to explain the proposals to (and discuss them with) ordinary people across America. What is the point of spreading the lies, filth and half truths that these people are using to cloud the issues they so violently disagree with? What happened to reasoned argument and sensible discussion? Furthermore, I find it absolutely disgusting that TV channels can buy into this vile behaviour in the manner that Fox News apparently is according to so many rational sounding posts on the Internet. Using the power of TV to spread that sort of hatred is entirely anti-democratic and, to me, totally abhorrent.

I think the worst thing about it all, though, is how far these people plainly are removed from reality. I can understand that things that I don’t give damn about are vitally important to others – that’s their right and mine too and they have a democratic right to hold their views and express them.

But politicians buying into this crap? Now that’s something else entirely and it shows a really frightening lack of understanding and caring for the good of the country. Such people can only be seen as chasing fringe votes – the votes of the nasty, bigoted minority who would brook no opinion other than the disgustingly vile opinions that they hold and wish to see forced onto all of us by any means they can achieve. That way lies pure dictatorship!

The right wing of the Republican Party does this time and again. They hounded Bill Clinton over Monica Lewinsky to the tune of millions of public dollars spent on a matter that, though possibly bureaucratically important, was entirely trivial to most Americans – which was proved when they re-elected him and showed quite clearly that they didn’t actually give a sh*t about his love life, or the spiteful values of the nut-jobs! More importantly, it all wasted an enormous amount of valuable time for themselves, their party, the presidency, the legislature and it severely damaged US standing in the world along with the wellbeing of the country and its citizens. Ultimately, because of America’s size, that affected all of us.

And now we have the Obama birth certificate thing…

Do most normal Americans actually give a toss? NO! Absolutely NOT! The fact is that a majority of the electorate voted him, the man they saw and connected with, into office and whether some ancient bit of paper may or may not have made him strictly eligible in bureaucratic terms is almost totally irrelevant now. The people wanted him, not even necessarily because they seriously expected he would be the Superman they hoped, but simply because he was a better bet than the sh*t that the Republicans put up as an alternative!

Republicans (and at heart I probably am more or less Republican in my outlook) get real! Wake up and smell the coffee! Instead of bogging yourselves and everyone else down in this mire of nonsensical crap, you need to work on getting the right people and the right policies in place for the next election, right now (note what happened to the Tories in the UK and the misery that has created for the Brits). Get rid of the wing-nuts! America – heck, the world – cannot afford for you to suffer such abject failure and obscurity as you are heading for at this moment!

Just for once, think of the people – think of your country first! All of it!

Blood Sweat and Takeaways

Posted in People, Society and Politics with tags , , , , on August 3, 2009 by AF
Sorry for the caps (shouting) in this piece, but this makes me mad as hell! I’ve just been watching this sort of reality programme on TV and I am almost ashamed to admit that I’ve turned it off. The fact is that I say I’m almost ashamed to admit that I turned it off is because I really am ashamed to be British after watching that! What a bunch of useless f*cking wimps!

The task, apparently, was to build a mud wall to keep the water in, out, whatever and they needed to do it quickly. But we had, “I don’t feel well,” and “There’s no proper bedrooms,” and “I normally work in an office,” and “Mummy usually does that,” and… blah, blah, blah.

For God’s sake! Get real! If you need to build a wall before the high tide of the week/month comes along and wipes it (and you) out, or the monsoon strikes, or the hurricane hits, it’s no f*cking use whatsoever whining, “But I’m not used to this.” IT HAS TO BE DONE! NOW! PERIOD!

These people live in a culture where there’s an excuse for everything and they have NO IDEA how much of the world survives! What a useless bunch we are. Brits are so used to complaining and making excuses and blaming someone else for the trials and tribulations of life that they have NO CONCEPT of how to work till they drop, or the task is complete – or else die or go without!

I’m sorry, but the old English gentleman’s standby of, “It matters not whether we won or lost, but how we played the game,” is just so much total BULLSHIT! In the real world, you won or you’re dead. That’s reality! Not all this shit we live by in the UK these days.

Brits: wake up and smell the coffee. THAT’S why we are a dying race, even in our own country!

Information Technology is Great – Isn’t It?

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2009 by AF

I sometimes wonder if the old saying that, “ignorance is bliss” wasn’t a lot truer than many supposed. It’s all very well us getting all this information, but in these days of tight schedules and sound bites it can get pretty confusing and occasionally dangerous.

The first difficulty comes from another quote which tells us that we (the UK and other English speaking countries) are divided by a common language – elevators and lifts, suspenders and braces, pants and trousers and so on… But it goes much deeper than that since, if you’re going to be bombarded with endless information, then you’d better make darned sure that you and the speaker attach the same meaning to the words, even if you’re all from the same country. Sometimes that’s down to what part of the country you come from and sometimes it’s also due mainly to the general level of education – or the lack of it, despite what it costs most of us!

For instance, take the word “pandemic”. Thesauruses tell us it’s an epidemic of a disease that is widespread, etc., but even that’s not strictly correct and it really only refers to anything (usually a disease or virus) instances of which occur globally, however infrequent or mild those occurrences may be – up to a point. To most of us though, when we’re told (endlessly on TV news and elsewhere) that Swine Flu is now pandemic, we instantly think of such diseases as the “Black Death” that wiped out something like two thirds of the human population of Europe several hundred years ago, or outbreaks of cholera, some past very virulent flu types and similar illnesses that threaten to spread like wildfire and destroy chunks of humanity.

In fact, although as with almost all viral diseases, it can result in serious illness or even death in those whose health is otherwise compromised and just a few isolated other cases that are not currently properly understood, the virus is, at the moment, often not that much worse than a common cold. That doesn’t mean it can’t kill those who are vulnerable, but it’s not that serious for most of us – particularly when correctly diagnosed, monitored and, if necessary, appropriately treated.

So, I don’t know how it went in other parts of the world, such as America and Australia, but the fact is that, because neither most politicians nor much of the media actually initially understood the true meaning of the word pandemic (and specifically how the W.H.O. uses it), they managed to create a huge amount of fear within the UK. Now, when the health authorities have failed abysmally to cope with the rush of people seeking diagnosis and treatment, they are telling us to calm down and not to panic!

Panic? You created it, guys! You deal with the consequences!

There was a time…

Posted in People, Society and Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2009 by AF

Either I’m getting old a lot faster than I thought, or large parts of humanity is in a tail spin that can surely only lead it to crash and burn.

I remember when, once upon a time, I used to sometimes think, “Maybe I’m losing the plot!”

Now I think, “Plot? What plot? There’s a PLOT?”

This from the UK Daily Mail…

A mother has been banned from a primary school after confronting a bully who used her five-year- old son as a ‘human punch bag’.

Christine Hart, 38, calmly asked the pupil to ‘please stop hitting’ her son Arthur after he endured months of bullying despite several complaints to teachers.

But a teaching assistant saw and hauled her off to the headmistress, who told her not to cross the school gates and to attend a hearing with the governors to discuss her conduct.

full story here

…says it all!

Really … I want to know … is it me that’s going nuts?

Where Do I Start?

Posted in People, Society and Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2009 by AF

I’ve just watched Question Time on the UK’s BBC TV. I recommend anyone who doesn’t know the programme and has never seen it (probably because the BBC, since it makes money from and has financial agreements with foreign companies, can often prevent those without a British IP address from seeing various broadcasts), to try to view it.

If you’re like me, you should probably start off by covering your screen with some kind of protective netting, or you’re likely to damage it when you start throwing things. But the fact is that, even when you dismiss (sometimes unfairly) the sound-bite politics and the facile, the stupidly liberal and the downright partisan remarks, there’s still one heck of a lot of, on the face of it, good sense that’s talked by both the invited audience and the panel of so-called experts.

And yet… and yet…

Good hearted people suggest endlessly that we shouldn’t have gone to war in Iraq, or Afghanistan and the problem with youth is that the troublesome minority feels no connection with society and we should do more to help them relate and we should have more, or less legislation and so on and on. Of course I agree with all those sentiments – in theory. But, if I could make just one plea to them all it would be to, please just stop and look at reality!

I’m as certain as anyone that the conflicts I’ve just mentioned were in many ways not about what was claimed at the time. Probably there was self interest over oil involved, but do you want oil, most plastics and fuel to be instantly cut off or the price to shoot up by ten-fold overnight? Think about it! It would mean the end of our civilisation as we know it. It really would! In time we’d probably work around it, but hundreds of thousands, maybe millions would starve to death in the West before we got through and the Taliban would rule planet Earth by then, or the Chinese, or a coalition of the two, or something else equally awful.

However, leaving aside the motive of self interest – Saddam Hussein was and asshole! It’s just a simple fact. We didn’t do any of it right and we’ve screwed up endlessly since, but the fact still remains, the guy was a total bastard and, whatever they think at the moment, the vast majority of Iraqis are better off without him. Then there’s the Taliban – they have to be some of the worst, bigoted, dictatorial, evil shit on the planet, so whatever happens to them, us, or even the innocents (in the short term) – those people are just vermin and have to be eradicated. There is no decent alternative!

Ideally, one might say that these sorts of operations should be under the control of the UN, but that is just a toothless talking shop that will wring its hands whilst millions are exterminated in periods of “ethnic cleansing”, genocide, torture and enslavement by vile regimes. Someone has to be a world policeman! In the absence of anything better, I would prefer it to be the West, rather than some Taliban warlord!

Then there’s the “youth of today” question. Of course the vast majority of young people are pretty much decent, upright citizens and morally a lot better than some of the bankers, financiers and similarly awful people who have landed us in our current financial problems through nothing more than greed. But (in the UK in particular and probably also in the US, plus to a lesser extent across Europe) PC legislation and out of control welfare, together with bigotry, corrupt and inefficient policing and inadequate educational facilities have produced a sizeable minority of mostly young vandals who would destroy our societies and everything we have and care about – terrorising the elderly, the young, families and decent people everywhere, spreading violence, drugs, rape, mayhem, murder and every other crime in a totally indiscriminate rampage.

Such young people often start off by being out of control as young as six, seven, or eight and then grow into teenagers and young people who just don’t give a shit about anyone or anything else but themselves, their own sense of self importance and their whims of the moment. It a small but growing threat that, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, you’ll be lucky not to wind up dead just because they think it’s funny, or you are not one of them, or you even are, but they don’t like you that day!

Make no mistake, WE created this problem with daft liberalism and silly PC legislation that was full of good intentions and almost no understanding of reality! But it’s much too late to try to put the clock back now. We can change the future, but we can’t put right the damage we already did, just by being nice to these people. I believe in the rights of every individual of a society at all ages. What I don’t believe is that there is such a thing as your human rights per se – to anything! It’s a nice idea, but totally impractical. You have the rights that the society you live in grants you and I agree there should be a degree of commonality about that in all societies (although there often isn’t). But, in my opinion, we all have a duty earn those rights by being decent members of that society.

It’s really very simple. It’s straightforward practicality and there’s nothing difficult or highly moral about it at all. If we don’t, any of us, contribute to and broadly support our society, then it will not be able to protect our rights within it, so we’re entitled to nothing. If we let it happen, those that will not join in and be involved with society could ultimately (quite easily) bring our whole civilisation crashing down – just like the Arab’s oil (or the withholding of it), or the Taliban’s evil lust for fundamentalist world domination by fear and indoctrination.

We should not let any of that happen! Doing nothing except wringing our hands at the unfairness of it all is NOT an option!

There Is a Problem

Posted in People, Society and Politics with tags , , , on July 6, 2009 by AF

Part 1:

I think there is a problem with welfare and, to me, it’s really just another example of government failure. That may be unfair and simplistic, but I think it’s still valid to say it because I feel it. In this case, I’m not blaming any specific government, although Gordon Brown is said by some to have almost single-handedly screwed up most of the UK’s public services with his love of red tape, targets, paperwork and quangos.

This is rather long, so I’ve split it into two parts and I should say, right here at the outset, that I don’t exactly have the answer to this either, but it’s my view that welfare is a problem because no government can be relied upon to organise the proverbial party in a brewery, let alone something as individually variable and important as welfare. All I want to do here is to try to identify the problem and hope that someone who reads this will have an actual solution.

So, for the sake of my argument, let’s take two hypothetical scenarios where stereotypical people lose their jobs …

  1. A middle income man who was a senior manager, is married with two children at private schools, a four bedroom house in a fairly well to do neighbourhood, two cars and a mortgage that would scare the hell out of most of us.
  2. A single mother of three children all at state schools. She is in her late twenties and living in a rented two bedroom house in a poor district. She has one fairly battered old car and she worked in a call-centre until she lost her job.

Which of those people most deserves to receive unemployment benefit? I suppose the simple answer you and most other people would give is, “both!” You’d be right, on the face of it, and I believe that is how it works – more or less – since they have both paid into the system. Anyway, it’s pretty much correct, at least under current legislation in the UK, assuming they were both sacked (that’s as far as I know, since I’ve never claimed any sort of benefit myself).

Let’s find out a bit more about these people, shall we? As far as I’m concerned, you could swap the financial status of my two examples and it would make little of no difference to this…

Man 1 … has done almost everything his middle class parents expected of him – went to university, got a passable degree, married a girl from the neighbourhood, had their two children three years apart and has been a model father and husband until he was made redundant by his employer who, incidentally, speaks very highly of him. Although their financial commitments are pretty high, they were affordable whilst he had the job he’d worked at for three and a half years. He and his wife even have two or three thousand pounds put aside for a “rainy day” and he did receive a small amount of money as redundancy pay.

Woman 2 … was left in the lurch along with the oldest of her children when her live-in partner left. They had been together for four years at the time. She has since had her second and third child by different lovers that, in her words, she thought at the time were going to be permanent in her life. She didn’t exactly have the best education during her formative years and the call-centre job was probably the best she’s ever had, or close to it. She has no savings and is desperate for money after losing her job of only four months.

So, do you think there is a significant difference yet in how much each deserves help? Some will, I’m sure, perhaps feeling that the man is better placed to manage his own problems and deal with this crisis on his own, but that’s about it, I imagine.

There’s more in part two and it doesn’t quite turn out the way some of you might think…