Monday, 31 December 2012

To new beginnings

Another new year is upon us with less than two earth hours remaining as I sit with a coffee waiting to see in 2013 (twenty-thirteen), a year some had believed would not come to be if the Mayan prophecy had anything to do with it.

Fortunately the mass hysteria surrounding the Mayan prophecy was a result of misunderstanding/ interpretation and here we are, approximately 7billion people, waiting for the dawning of a new year, according to our man made time devices. Some will be no doubt be drinking alcoholic beverages and singing merry songs, others will be laying wondering where their next meal will come from, all will be hoping that 2013 will bring with it better fortunes than the one that goes before it.

A strange custom of new year resolutions, which according to dates back 4000 years to the Babylonian times, whereby they made promises to earn favour from their gods and start off their year on a good foot, continues today with people making resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking...the list is non exhaustive, as you may well know having made them yourselves. 

More often than not today, they are of a self serving nature and are seldom kept. 

This of course is a wide generalisation and I am sure there are many out there who would disagree and tell of a long list of resolutions they have made and kept. What always irked me growing up however was why someone would wait until the new year, to make a change to something in their life that matters? I was once told that time is like a wolf, it is hungry, preys on the unsuspecting and does not stop. 

Life is a series of moments called now and in waiting all we do is to do ourselves a disservice. There is a saying that says there is no time like the present.

So it is with new years, millions of people across the planet will be plotting their to do lists for 2013 that the majority of which could have started at any time in 2012 if they chose to. To wait for the turning of a new year for some is but an excuse, for others a symbol of regeneration. What does the new year mean for you?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Peace poppy campaign ignites in Luton

The great poppy debate has been raging for decades with the sight of the red poppy seemingly becoming more of a politically correct statement rather than being one of true meaning.

In recent years we have seen the BBC rush to ensure Huw Edwards was suitably attired with a Red Poppy after a member of the public complained halfway through a show that he had not put one on and another presenter, Jonathon Ross had a poppy superimposed on his suit so as to be sure not to upset anyone.

In Luton on Sunday 11th of November the peace poppy row exploded in a show of aggression by Kevin Carrol of the EDL and Police Commissioner Candidate for the town against a local peace campaigner and his son.

Peace campaigner Marc Scheimann press secretary to Luton TUC, attended with his four year old son Luton Remembrance Day outside Luton Town Hall by the War memorial, after the two minutes silence, religious speeches of commemorance the parade marched away, Marc & Kiran Scheimann approached the rear of the memorial to lay a white peace poppy wreath. Each year since 1989, Marc has laid a peace wreath to remember his German and British grand fathers who both lost their lives on the two opposing sides during the World War Two, the reason for why he wears a red and a white poppy.

For twenty four years Marc has respectfully done this with the understanding of the Luton public without any problem, until this year when English Defence League deputy & far right British Freedom Party candidate for the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commission, Kevin Carroll made the exception. Waving a clenched fist and using aggressive gesturing he shouted at Kevin before speaking to three police officers that he hopes to lead after the November 15th elections.

Two Officers approached Mark and requested his name, address and telephone number, which he gave. They asked Mark to step back for a moment because they felt he was causing breach of the peace by his actions. Mark stated that it was only a very small minority of the public shouting and they were all connected with Kevin Carroll. After a few minutes Mark and his son laid their peace reef flanked by two police officers. They asked him to leave straight away but stated he had the right to have time to pay his respect and talk to members of the council including our two MPs. Mark feared for the safety of his peace reef so stood close by it with the two officers, one at each side.

Kevin Carroll approached Mark pointing with a closed fist and pointed at the wreath laid by Mark and his son.

A twenty something woman suddenly made a grab for the wreath, shouting and made a grab to remove the wreath from the wires. Mark dived forward letting go of his sons’ hand to fall on the wreath preventing its’ theft whilst the officers took no action.

Mr Carroll seeing that his hopes had been thwarted stated shouting again saying many times over: “You’re just a scumbag, you and the Wakehams (fellow peace campaigners) hate troops. 

“When I’m police commissioner, I will make sure you are locked up in jail for this."

Mark replied that he hoped Carroll would lose his deposit getting less than 5 % of the vote.

His actions and tirade clearly demonstrate if doubt ever existed that he does not just hate Muslims, but all people what ever the colour of their skin, who dare to hold an opinion different to his.

Is this the democracy that the people who we remember died for?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Slash and burn debate rages on

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have shown a change of tact this week in the build up to their lobby of parliament with their 'They slash, you burn' campaign that featured in a number of newspapers. 

The advert has caused ripples through various outlets, accusing the FBU of scare mongering and preying on the fears of the public. Andrew Haldenby from the independent think tank Reform has written a particularly vociferous article featured in the Telegraph against what he calls a "misleading campaign" by the FBU challenging the facts of their statements.

But before we get into the facts as Mr Haldenby likes to claim, let us take a look at Mr Haldenby and Reform itself.

Reform was co-founded by Haldenby in 2001, he later became director in 2005. More interestingly however and previously to his time with Reform, he worked at the Centre for Policy Studies and the Conservative Party (1995-1997) where he became head of the political section of the Conservative Research Department, with the responsibility of briefing the Shadow Cabinet Minister and Leader for key media interviews and appearances. Before even this latest outburst Haldenby has been a regular mouth piece for political propaganda for the Conservatives. Two previous articles that have featured in the last three years in The Telegraph show that Haldenby knows not to bite the hand that feeds. 

Of the NHS and cuts to medicine for patients Haldenby thought it would 'do' the NHS some good, adding this: "One NHS doctor described the list to me as follows: “Nothing worrying there – most are obscure drugs or very specialist or downright ridiculous – neutrogena, gluten free pizza bases". Anyone with even shred of knowledge (or decency for that matter) would have questioned the claim that a gluten free pizza base should not be on the NHS prescription list. There are a section of our society that suffer with something called Coeliac disease, which is an allergy to gluten and wheat, that could lead to bowel cancer if the individual continues to eat wheat based food. Gluten is basically the stuff that makes our bread chewy. At £2.98 for a loaf of gluten free bread that tastes like cardboard, I am sure you would appreciate a little help at the check out when food prices are already soaring beyond some peoples means to cope.

In Haldenby's other article, again in The Telegraph, he focused on the upcoming cuts prior to the last general election, where he stuck his flag firmly in the camp of 'cuts not taxes' in true Tory spirit.
He said: "The politicians will inevitably sugar the pill by talking about a reduction in "management" and "administration". In the past two days, David Cameron and Gordon Brown have promised to "protect front-line services", implying that it is managers, accountants, secretaries and so on who face the axe.
"Yet however appealing it sounds, this would be the wrong approach. 
"The waste in the public services lies, very largely, in that "front line". The NHS will become more efficient only when doctors and nurses are employed in different ways and its buildings used in different ways. A pledge to protect the "front line" will just compound the current problems
this kind of approach would make public services less efficient – which is why it hasn't worked in the past".

So there we have it, a brief history of Mr Haldenby and the rhetoric he sits behind, in a newspaper that gives him the right platform and audience he desires.

The FBU and its members have long made the claim that to do their job both safely and efficiently you need firefighters that are fully trained and fully equipped on fire engines. The fact of the matter is the cuts for the fire service since this unman dated government have been in office has been back loaded for the upcoming two years. The first two years of the governments cuts were only a small percentage of the proposed twenty five percent total by the government but the net result of this so far is the loss of 1457 frontline firefighter jobs across wholetime, retained and control. The potential cull of frontline jobs in the coming two years based on these figures will leave services decimated across the UK and severely handicap their resilience in dealing with incidents.

This may sound like some to now be the rhetoric and drum banging of 'the union' but unfortunately for the cuts deniers this is a message that has been echoed by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA).

CFOA are warning of 'a perfect storm' within the fire service as the government pushes ahead with its cuts agenda in a recent publication. In it they said: "That English FRSs are facing a 'perfect storm' of financial pressures which, if not addressed, may lead to a drastic reduction in firefighting capacity, increases in community risk, loss of vital prevention work and a threat to maintaining national resilience. This comes at a time when there is a high likelihood of an increase in demand for our prevention and response services as a consequence of an gaining population and as deprivation increases due to the economic recession". A damning report from a group made up of Chief Fire Officers from across the UK and one that supports the view and facts outlined by the FBU, which must be a first.

Still the debate rages and the FBU advertising campaign has divided opinion, but at least it has got people talking. The Department for Communities and Local Government have waded in on the issue, supporting Mr Haldenby's claims that the FBU are scare mongering with partisan campaigning.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said:
"The FBU is wrong and trying to scare the public with its partisan campaigning. It is disgraceful to suggest that sensible savings cannot be made in areas like procurement, joint working and tackling outdated working practices.
“Their wilful scare-mongering overlooks that fire-related deaths and arson have been falling and continue to fall.
"Every part of the public sector needs to play its part in cutting the deficit we have inherited from the last Administration. Contrary to the FBU claims, we have protected frontline uniformed services as much as possible. Fire and rescue authorities only need to make savings of 2.2% of their spending in 2011-12 and just 0.5% in 2012-13: there is significant scope to deliver these without harming the quality and breadth of the service that the public receive.” The omission here of course are the savings to made in 2013-14 but why would you arm the public with full facts?

The statistics now being thrown around are arbitrary, as is always the case with statistics, it depends on how you read and manipulate them.

The previous twenty four months may well have shown a drop in arson fires but is this because of the work done in prevention by firefighters and the support departments or because of the record breaking rain that has occurred during the holiday periods when most kids would have been out fire setting? No one set of figures can be used to prove or disprove a theory without looking at all the evidence at hand. Unfortunately this is not a scientific method or approach used by partisan governments or Senior Mangers it should be added. The DCLG claim that fire related deaths have been falling is also true, but again this statement has to be taken in context. Fire deaths have steadily fallen over the past thirty years, and yes firefighter personnel have also reduced in this period, but this is not to say that there is no correlation between the number of firefighters and the number of fire deaths. Key legislation has been implemented in this time that has helped reduce fire deaths, namely the Furniture and Furnishings Regulations 1988, Health and Safety Legislation and the Health and Safety Executive, all of which have been cut, compromised or relaxed.

Another issue with the statement that fire deaths have reduced is again with how a cause of death is established by a coroner. 

Two of examples are whereby a fire started by a child striking a match, resulting in the death of his brother and mother was recorded as a malicious fire by the coroner, another case where a man who had been drinking died as a result of injuries received jumping out of a window with his home on fire.

Add to this that the fire service statistics for rescues of members of the public are no longer recorded properly and Freedom of Information requests are required to collate the data, something that has created no end of work for the FBU and is a scandal in itself. Since 2004 the Fire and Rescue Services Act has made it a statutory duty for firefighters to rescue the public. This has formed the basis for role maps (that are open to interpretation) and a variety of incidents including (but not limited to) road traffic collisions and water rescue that we attend if called in an emergency. Some managers would have us do a lot more than this, some of which is clearly way outside our role maps.

In short accidental fire deaths represent a small percentage of the rescues carried out daily across the UK by firefighters.

Another omission from both Mr Haldenby and the DCLG on accidental fire deaths and the decrease in the number of them is the correlating INCREASE in the number of people dying when they do occur. Government statistics show that the number of people dying when a fire does occur is increasing and unfortunately we have had a number of high profile cases just this year that support this evidence. Alongside this there has been a general increase in attendance time of 20% as opposed to 10 years ago, which the government has blamed congestion for, but this increase in attendance time has occurred at both day and night attendance performance indicators. Is this due to the modernisation program embarked upon by management across the UK? Who knows, but what is certain is that some FRSs across the UK have dealt with this issue by increasing the attendance times for incidents, meaning that you and I will have to wait longer for a fire crew to turn up if we are ever in a situation unfortunate enough to warrant dialing 999.

Once again I would urge you to check those facts yourself. Ask a firefighter, go to one of YOUR community fire stations and ask the question. Email your councillor or why don't you contact the brigades themselves and see what they have to say.

Don't believe the hype, the media is manipulating you. Ask more questions.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

American custom launched in local schools

Picture from the Guardian
Year 7 students at Barnfield Academies West and South in Luton have been pledging to be good students at the start of each day.

The new phenomenon, reminiscent of a scene from a Hollywood movie, sees children stating a pledge, not of allegiance to the Queen, but to themselves and each other.

The pledge states: ‘I pledge to treat everyone with respect all the time, I pledge to work to the best of my ability, I pledge to attend all of my lessons on time and make sure that I am fully prepared, in this way I will be the best I can possibly be.’

The plan is for this to eventually be the custom for the entire school, as each year that leaves is replaced with a new intake, that will start the pledge from day one.

A Barnfield spokesperson said: “It has always been the case in all academies that we focus on traditional values in a modern context and we try to instill in our children the importance of enjoying school and achievement, but with respect for all.”

Friday, 26 October 2012

Local students hit by grading row

Students across the country are resitting their English GCSE’s next month following a national row over grading standards.

GCSE’s taken in June were graded lower than that of their peers a few months earlier in January. Students who received a D grade in June would have received a C grade at the start of the year.
Up to 100 of these will be students from Luton Sixth Form College.
A spokesman for Luton Sixth Form college said: “We are having to run an additional 3 classes this year, 15 in total, as opposed to 12 last year, as a direct result of students not getting a Grade C in this summers exam results”.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) as part of a coalition of councils, schools, and professional bodies are mounting a legal challenge against Ofqual and examiantion boards AQA and Edexcel.
Dave Mingay, Secretary of the NUT in Luton, said: “This is the next step in the campaign to rectify the huge injustice
suffered by many pupils, teachers and schools in Luton over this year’s English GCSE fiasco.
“Retaking the GCSE examinations is just not an acceptable option. In Wales the situation was resolved by the Welsh Government ordering a re-grading, not re-sits of GCSEs. If it can be done in Wales it must be done in England. This is such a manifestly unfair situation that the NUT has no other option but to pursue legal redress.”

If you have been affected by the GCSE grading row comment on NNI.

Picture from

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Workers rights continue to get slashed by the Tory Reapers

Workers rights are a small part of the much wider Human Rights (Article 23 of the U.D.) but are being literally torn up by the government.

Just recently (and without public consultation) the government amended the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (ERRB) at the last minute, at Report Stage, in the House of Commons which has resulted in the removal of basic rights for injured workers. The new clause, (61 of the ERRB) will mean that if injured due to a breach of an employers statutory duty within the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), they will be unable to enforce that breach in a court of law.

At present if an employer fails to operate within the regulations of the HSWA and an individual is injured as a result of negligence and/or breach of statutory duty, a claim can be brought against the employer. If the new proposed clause were to remain it would mean that an employer would no longer be liable in the civil courts for the criminal offence of a breach of the HSWA.

This will mean an employee will now have to prove in court that the employer was negligent rather than rely on the breach of the regulations themselves.

Meanwhile the Labour Party have challenged the amendment but after the vote on October 17th in the House of Commons, the challenge failed and so the bill, as amended, now sits with the other out of touch bunch at the House of Lords.

The government are justifying their lack of public consultation or impact assessment on a recent review of health and safety by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt. Professor Löfstedt recommended the abolishment of the strict liability provisions within the HSWA (where they do not have a defence of reasonable practicability) or that civil liability should be removed. Our government seems to be having it's cake and eating it by trying to do both.

The amendment is in regard to Section 47 of the HSWA which contains the assumption that regulations made under all aspects of health and safety regulations, carry civil liability for any breaches, unless otherwise expressly excluded. The government's amendment will effectively reverse that assumption and mean that no H&S regulation, under the HSWA or other, would impose civil liability, unless express provision was made for them to do so.

With the regulations not having any express provision and no proposal to amend them there will be no civil enforcement allowing the government to then create general defences that could apply to all H&S regulations and not have to insert that defence into every set. Clever.
This therefore has the potential to provide the power to impose a general defence of 'reasonable practicality'.

BIS minister Matthew Hancock said in the debate:

“We are ensuring…that there is a test of reasonableness for the actions of employers, so that those who have taken all reasonable precautions cannot be prosecuted for a technical breach.
“The definition of reasonableness will come from the common-law interpretation, and the concept is already well regarded and specified in law.”

The new section 47 will not have this affect, it will however allow the government to make changes such as this through further regulations.

What we are seeing now is another example of the government driving a train through the a century of legislation fought for by the people before us. 

The case of Groves v Lord Wimborne, 1898 and Strict liability was found when the Court ruled that "the defence of common employment is not applicable in a case where injury has been caused to a servant by the breach of an absolute duty imposed by statute upon his master for his protection."

Now without civil liability any injured person will have to prove that there has been a breach of regulations.

The future is uncertain for us all, we face the only enforcement being through that of the underfunded and understated Health and Safety Executive

The Tories and other right wing agenda setters such as The Daily Mail like to talk of how Labour are hostage to the 'Union Barons', yet it is the Tory led coalition government that is two-stepping along with the insurance industry, who coincidentally are a huge donor to the Conservative Party. Whilst Labour are not innocent in all this, the hypocrisy of the Tory statements regarding funding are not lost on us. 
The banking scandals that seem to keep erupting and being ignored by the larger public and the government in general are made more interesting with the revelation that the Conservative Party has tenuous links to the City's banks, which might go some way to explaining why it is us in the working class, and not them, that are paying for this financial crises. 

So much for being in this together.

The Conservative government so far have;
  • Forced through the Jackson reforms;
  • Removed most legal aid;
  • it is seeking to reduce the amount an injury victim can recover in costs to win a case even if the court rules those costs were necessary to win.
  • They want to stop injured people with cases under £5,000 in value getting the cost of the lawyer representing them; and
  • They are seeking to put all cases under £25,000 in value through an automated system that isn’t even working for road accident cases.
All these latest reforms will serve to do are penalise the vulnerable people in our society, making it harder to access justice for injuries caused through no fault of their own.

These revelations come against the backdrop of workers facing dismissal through capability without the safe guards in place to protect them from uncaring and impatient employers and the increase in pension age.

These are some dark times, maybe the view of dark satanic mills portrayed in Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony are not so far off the mark after all.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Local man talks harsh truths on world history

Former Luton Councillor Jim Thakoordin has been talking of the significance of Black History Month (BHM) at a speech made to Lambeth Council in London on October 8th.

In his speech Jim Thakoordin explained that BHM is not only of importance to black people but people of all cultures and backgrounds. Without knowing your history you cannot know where you are going.
Jim explains: ”The history of people from all cultures have been blurred to justify the practices of colonialism in the past. These wrongs have yet to be undone”

BHM began in America in 1926 and eventually came to Britain during the 1960’s and 1970’s Civil Rights activities. It has roots in the Trade Union movement with some of the first major BHM activity taking place in 1989 in Ealing, London, where speakers included then Labour Leader Neil Kinnock and the late politician Bernie Grant.

Jim, who has devoted his life to not just black workers rights but human rights, has also written a new book - 

Our Lives Our History Our Future. For a copy email: 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Advice on TV Licensing leads students down an expensive path

New students at University may find themselves in hot water over TV Licensing laws and I have found what this means for students in Luton.

Research commissioned by TV Licensing has found that students may be unaware of the laws they may be breaking with the streaming of live television on laptops and mobile devices. With almost half a million students heading off to University in the UK for the first time this year it is believed that 28% of these will wrongly believe that they do not need a license to stream live television on their laptop, whilst some 38% believe that they do not need a license to stream live shows on their mobile devices.

Victoria Sykes, TV Licensing spokesperson for London and the South East said: “Our new research shows how important it is for students to understand the law when it comes to watching live TV. We’re working with universities around the UK, including the University of Bedfordshire to ensure students who want to watch live TV can do so legally and with the peace of mind they are on the right side of the law. A TV Licence, at £145.50, can be bought online in minutes,” she added: “In addition, students who buy a TV Licence at the start of the academic year could benefit from a refund if moving home for three full months over the summer” she added.

Nik Taylor, editor of student community website The Student Room, said: “TV Licensing and The Student Room are keen to help students watch the TV they want, legally and anyone with questions about their TV Licence can get a clear, simple answer on the TV Licensing website. Students put off by the cost of paying in full can always opt to pay in instalments.”

However the statements made above do not explain the full story. 

A spokesperson from TVCatchup explained: "I dealt with this issue personally last year after I was contacted by some worried students after they received some scare tactics sent to them in a letter from TV Licensing. 

What I did was to approach TV Licensing with the scenario of a student using a device without batteries in student halls, with their parents having a TV License at their main permanent residency i.e. the family home. They confirmed that this student would not require a license under those conditions" he added "I personally agree with the concept of a TV License, but what I do not agree with is giving misinformation in order to scare students into to purchasing a TV License when, if they meet certain conditions, they do not need to purchase one."  .

In essence this means that provided your parents have a valid TV license and your device is not plugged into the mains, then you can stream as much live TV as you like. The statements made by the TV Licensing agency also fail to mention the fact that you do not require a license to watch programs that have already aired though on demand services such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer or 4oD. 

All this information can be found and accessed easily via the TV Licensing website:

To recap the three golden rules:

  1. Your out-of-term address is covered by a TV Licence
  2. AND you only use TV receiving equipment that is powered solely by its own internal batteries
  3. AND you have not connected it to an aerial or plugged it into the mains.

Happy channel hopping.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Hope floats, marching for an alternative.

People across the UK today took to the streets in another show of solidarity against the cuts agenda by this Tory led government, with calls for a 24hr national strike.

Estimates currently sit at around 100,000 people in attendance but this is a vast under estimation in some peoples opinion.

Having been at both today's march and the event in March 2011, I would say numbers were roughly the same, if not perhaps more. The march was still entering Hyde Park as the rally finished, some two hours after it had begun, with many more still straggling their way along the designated route long after it had finished. At one point the MET stated that the march stretched back as far as Victoria Embankment.

Familiar scenes of the Empires stormtroopers protecting Topshop from over zealous people were interwoven with the sight of new untouchable premises, namely Starbucks, who in light of the recent revelation of their tax dodging ways had platoons on every street corner to guard them. Funny considering the police are having their pension contracts torn up in front of them in the mean time.

At the rally itself there were a number of speakers, top billing was of course leader of the opposition Ed Miliband. In true Labour fashion he tried to hijack the movement with his rhetoric about spending our way out of trouble but once again confirmed what they stated prior to the event last year that whoever was in government would be making cuts. This was met with a chorus of boos from the public.

So what is our alternative Ed?

He did win some cheers by scoring cheap points off of the buffoon that is George Osborne and his first class rail ticket gaff, but if you cannot score a cheap point from the hierarchy of this government, you should not be sat in opposition.

Still, 18 months on and are we any closer to resolving this economic crises? Not the way our illustrious leaders are going at any rate. Growth is what they are all clambering for but you cannot have infinite growth on a planet with finite resources.

At a recent meeting in Luton prior to today's march Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins showed a graph, which he explained showed how a Labour government, post World War Two, got the economy back on track with investment in spending resulting in high levels of employment and a soaring economy. I have even heard this mantra repeated on the radio recently when an alleged expert claimed that we 'rebuilt Europe after the war, we can rebuild it through this recession'. What they are all failing to mention however is that after a war of that nature, where infrastructure is all but totally demolished and annihilated, then of course there will be a soaring economy and high levels of employment.

You have entire countries and continents to rebuild.

Today we are not in that situation, at least not in the UK, the same cannot be said for countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq but here, we do not have a total overhaul of our infrastructure to complete. The message on the march was largely of the usual party lines 'austerity is not working' and references to the fact that 'confidence in the market' has slowed. Though most people seem to be moving in the same direction there are no changes being asked for that will lead to real change in the way things are done.

The highlight of the day were the signs that centred on cutting back on military contract spending, these were backed up by signs from what some members of the right establishment would deem to be Hippies, who were calling for investment in renewable energy, which in itself would create a vast amount of jobs and at the same time go some considerable way to reducing the devastating effects that our thirst and lust for fossil fuels have on our lives and society. A loud and vocal out pouring occurred outside Downing Street as the march headed past the Prime Ministers part-time abode. I could not be sure if he heard us in his palace, in an undisclosed location.

Another world is possible if we want it but it is something we will have to work for. One way of achieving this is by economic withdrawal. It is not a new idea, in fact it is one that has been advocated for decades, by people far greater and smarter than anyone from NNI.

If you want additional information on how you can change things follow the links below.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Third time lucky?

Patience is a virtue and something I cultivated as a young boy courtesy of the guidance I received from my Grandfather. 

What he had not prepared me for however are the trials and tribulations of my lovely partner. 

Three times from three now she has managed to forget key items required to take and enjoy a break in a foreign country. 

Firstly there was the month in Berlin (that should been one week) for the marathon which resulted in having to pay an extra £400 at the Ryanair desk just to get the lady back home in time for work the next day.

Next up was 'money-gate' whereby having freshly changed up our savings into Aussie Dollars we headed to Heathrow the night before our flight to save an early rise and morning dash. This full proof plan was cut down within an hour off arriving when it transpired that Nicola had left her fiat currency on the kitchen work top in sunny Luton.

After a series of x-rated superlatives that Nicola herself used to describe herself and some tears, I sucked it up and made an SOS call to my mother. A four hour round trip to pick me up from Heathrow, taking me back to Luton to pick up the money and then all the way back to the airport again. To make matters worse I have had to endure the endless references to 'proper preparation and planning', that I have so often used in the past against the rest of my family.

Still, until today, the truth of that night has never been released, until now.

Lastly and most recently we have had 'coeliac-gate' on route to Paris. With Nicola being a coeliac (allergy to wheat and gluten) and myself being a vegetarian it pays for us to sort out meals for extended travel in advance. An evening and morning spent preparing rice, salad and sandwiches was ruined as we sat on the train waiting to depart and it dawned on Nicola that she had left her food at home. We were already running late to be in London to meet her friend for lunch. 
The next train was in nine minutes so I decided to run back to the apartment to get her food and try to return to the train station before our train left. Fortunately it was not too far and I have been training again more recently for a half marathon and managed to do an almost exact eight minute mile as by the time I returned to the platform the train was just about to finish boarding.

By now I was a complete mess, jeans big boots and a jumper are not exactly classic running gear unless you are evading the police. It was OK though because we were to be on time to meet Nicola's friend and have a quick coffee at least before we departed. When we arrived in the said coffee shop however Nicola's friend contacted us to say she could not make it. 

My dishevelled look was all for nothing, but my record for being a personal saviour remains in tact. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Time is our greatest commodity

Remember when detention used to be a punishment? A lesson in the most important aspect of life itself, that time is your greatest commodity.

Classic fifteen to forty five minute lessons in procrastination such as writing endless lines, only to have them torn up in front of you and (my personal favourite) the practice of putting up chairs and stools on tables quietly, have been replaced by isolation rooms. An isolation room is where said disruptive or unruly child is sent to a room to sit in a booth on their own and have work set to do.

To reach isolation room status you must have had the fifteen minutes with teacher, that by law they can keep you behind without notifying the parents, and not shown up. The child must then have not turned up for a forty-five to one hour detention with written permission either and so on strike three they end up in an isolation booth, which is similar to the booth you probably sit in at work...

Having stacked up the courage to not turn up to two or three requests for detention you would expect an isolation room to be like some kind of torture chamber where children would watch endless repeats of the periodic table song, alas no. It is not. The chastised students attend from 0900 until 1400 and then get to go home. The time in-between can be spent on a laptop catching up on the homework they would have been doing if they weren't getting themselves taught a lesson on Pro Evolution on line at home. Is this really the best we can do?

Where is the deterrent or life lesson in time wasting? It is almost an advert for unruly behaviour. "Act bad for three days, get Friday afternoon off free." The advert could read. It is almost kind of like "I can't believe it's not detention." Either way it almost makes me wistful to have my school days all over again because if I had known then that that was all the punishment I would get for not showing up to detention, there are a few teachers I would have perhaps been more honest about what I really thought about them and their teachings.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Racism sells, it always has.

Below is an article from Sky News on a series of adverts set to appear on billboards in New York's Subway. Words such as those to be used in this advert have been used throughout history to justify the slaughter and enslavement of innocent peoples for hundreds of years. 

Famously this occurred on the continent that is now called North America and saw the deaths of perhaps millions of indigenous people to the Americas. The civilised white man crossed great ocean spans and with it the supposed right to spread the way of 'civilisation' to people considered 'savages'. They did so by first the sword, then the gun and today, through debt slavery thanks to the World Bank and IMF.

Terms such as ‘savages’ have been used in more recent wars such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Words such as ‘gook’, ‘rag heads’ and ‘sand nigger’ are all commonly used by people inside and outside of the military to dehumanise and justify modern day holocausts. Where America and the UK have not actively taken part in modern day massacres they have played their part indirectly as part of a global, military industrial complex, which arms dictators, that our government have backed or put in place, who then use their weapons eventually on their own people, just as Saddam Hussein did in the 1980’s, right up until more recently in Bahrain as part of the Arab Spring. 

The military industrial complex is in full boom, war is good for business and it seems that the business currently is focused on suppressing your own people. Adam Thomas of UKTI DSO speaking at the Special Operations Forces Exhibition Conference (SOFEX) to Shane Smith of Vice News recently explained that the security industry is worth $180-190biliion and that their estimates for the next 4 years see this doubling to over $400billion dollars. By security they mean homeland security, border security, anti-immigration, anti-drugs, oil field security etc. This spending is estimated to be 2-3 times more than will be spent of defence tactical spending.

If they are spending it, it means they are using them and that is a terrifying prospect for us all.

"The right relationship is everything" JPMorgan Chase & Co

By Hannah Thomas-Peter, New York Correspondent

The head of a group that has won its fight to run controversial adverts in New York subway stations referring to some Muslims as "savage" has told Sky News that she will fight "to the death" for the right to offend people.
Pamela Geller runs the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI), which has taken out ads that read: "In any war between the civilised man and the savage, support the civilised man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."
The posters are due to appear in 10 New York City subway stations next week.
They were initially rejected by the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) because of the use of demeaning language.
But in July a Manhattan court judge ruled this was a violation of the first amendment rights of the AFDI and they should be allowed to run.
Ms Geller told Sky News that she was unconcerned the adverts might make the subway network a target for violence.
She said: "Were there similar ads on the London buses and trains on 7/7? You know there weren't.
"I will not abridge my freedoms so as not to offend savages.
"I won't take responsibility for other people being violent.
"I live in America and in America we have the first amendment."
Ms Geller, who is a prominent supporter of Israel, stressed that she was not referring to all Muslims as savages, only those who engaged in what she characterises as "Jihad".
She believes that America is under threat from some Muslims who wish to impose Sharia law on the country, and her group has launched similar campaigns before.
The release of the adverts coincides with widespread anger in parts of the Middle East over an anti-Muslim film made in the US and released on the Internet.
Next week heads of state from all over the world will be converging on the city amid heightened security for the UN General Assembly.
The Washington DC MTA has deferred the placement of the controversial ads "out of concern for public safety, given current world events".
But New York MTA Transportation spokesman Aaron Donovan said: "Our hands are tied."
There had been some suggestions that the city's transit body was trying to find a way to stop the adverts appearing.
However, another spokesperson for the MTA told Sky News it appeared the ads are definitely going ahead, although he was unable to say on which day, and at which subway stations.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, told Sky News: "Our basic position is that the first amendment means that everyone is free to be a bigot or even an idiot like Pamela Geller.
"We wish she wasn't provoking and inciting hatred, but in America that's her right.
"We encourage Muslims to exercise the same right to publicly denounce such adverts.
"The real danger is the spread of hatred in our society, which can lead to attacks on innocent people."

The banker never goes broke

If someone were to grab you in the street at night and rob you, you would like to think that once the crime had been reported to the authorities that the perpetrator would be arrested, tried by a jury and found guilty of their crime. So what happened with the banks?

Since 2008 we have had 4 years of scandal which has cost you and I billions of pounds, in fact depending on where you get your figures from it could have cost us as much as £1trillion. When you start to get to figures of trillions you must in your heart start to know that things have gone out of hand. Professor Brian Cox comically stated that we have 'spent more on bailing out the banks than we have on science since Jesus'.

Polly Curtis from the Guardian asked in September 2011 the following:

How much did the banking crisis cost the UK taxpayer?

Last December (2010), the National Audit Office published a second report into the costs of the bail-out. That report concluded:

The scale of the support currently provided to UK banks has fallen from a peak of £955bn to £512bn, but the amount of cash currently borrowed by the government to support banks has risen by £7bn [to a total of £124bn] since December 2009.
• Since 2007 the UK has committed to spending £1.162 trillion at various points on bailing out the banks. This figure has however fluctuated wildly during the period and by March 2011 it was £456.33bn. That total outstanding support was equivalent to 31% of GDP in March (2011)

The banks, bankers and their friends have taken money, your money, gone to the casino and gambled it away. Then to top it off and kick you a little more whilst you are down, they have been saved by us, with our money, again.

I wonder if you went to the casino and gambled all your money away and went bust would the bank give you another £250,000 loan so you could keep your home, or would they evict you and your family and sell it on for a fraction of the price to one of the many vultures that would no doubt circle?

Yet despite this not one of these lying gamblers have been arrested and dragged down to the Old Bailey to face charges for enslaving future generations to debt slavery. However we look at it the debt that these criminals have thrust upon us today will eventually rest on the shoulders of tomorrows children.

A documentary on Channel 4 in 2010 called Britain's Trillion Pound Horror Story estimated that our children, as it stands, will be in debt to the tune of £73,000 before they are even born, and you were going to worry about tuition fees?

They are stealing their future.

Worse than this, in some countries, the casino dwelling banking terrorists responsible for the global financial meltdown have actually been put in charge of pushing through austerity measures aimed at keeping their friends at the dinner table, eating heartily, whilst the rest of us scrimp and scrape to feed our young and put a roof over our heads. The Great Dictator, I mean actor, Barack Obama on the other hand has passed some of the most unnerving banking legislation, proving that he is a banking President and then rated himself 3rd or 4th best President of all time. Congratulations. You stole from your public to pay off the banks.

The greatest transfer of power and wealth from the poor to the rich has taken place on their watch, under our noses and yet still we take it.

This year also saw the Libor scandal hit the news. Fraud, whichever way you look at it, it is fraud. Bankers at Barclays colluded to fix the Libor rate how and when it suited them, noticeably around the period of the Lehman Brothers Collapse, following a chat with someone from our central bank, The Bank of England.

You couldn't make it up.

Yet still no one has been arrested and Bob Diamond, former Barclays Bank CEO who earned somewhere in the region of £100m in his time with Barclays between 2006 and this year, walked away with a £2million pay off, even though the Financial Service Authority had doubts about his appointment in 2010, to ensure his availability in the event that anything came up.

In the meantime these banking terrorists are in the middle of a printing frenzy of paper money, which only serves to increase the cost of living. Each round of Quantitative Easing devalues the pound already sat in your pocket.

"Give it up Ben (Bernanke) QE3 is a flop, you can buy up all of the agency mortgage backed securities in the world but as long as you are paying IOR at a rate that is way above market, all you are going to accomplish is to drive up commodity prices" Forbes 2012 ~ Louis Woodhill 

We face cuts to essential services, pay freezes and our pensions are being hijacked by governments we elect, to supposedly serve us, to pay for their mess. Whilst they are at it they pitch us against one another by playing public sector off against private sector. The reality is neither one of the people who work in either of these sectors caused this mess, yet we are being made to pay for it and we point the finger at each other whilst the people who are actually responsible sit on beaches in the Caribbean supping cocktails. Whilst we have had to learn to cope, make do & mend and get by, the number of millionaires in England has increased by 17% in the last 2 years.

It is high time we stopped believing the government and media lies, lies that it is our fault this depression is upon us. It is time that we pointed the finger, together, at the real people responsible; the banks, bankers, their government puppets and their special interest corporations. Which finger you point, I leave to you.