Great Expectations

DSC_0274Yoel replied and explained that there was “an unprecedented level of correspondence […] [expressing] concerns over this particular location.” He goes on explaining that we “face a serious issue with street drinking and the inevitable anti social behaviour that it causes in and around the [..] area …”

What’s the f* point, I wonder?

If nobody expects persons treated at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation site to be ex-drug users or ex-alcoholics, what’s the point?

I am also forever curious about the great expectations some people apparently have, and would have loved to find out if a group of former alcohol and drug abusers can live up to these. Are those people expected to roll around in the street, stark-naked? Shout obscenities? Lure the local primary school children into a life of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll?

I think I might have wanted to join in, at least in the rolling-around naked whilst shouting obscenities part.

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An Open Letter

DSC_0304I reported twice, so far, on the local rejection of plans for converting a run-down small office block into a place of rehabilitation treatment for drug and alcohol addicts. [one] [two]

Today, even the local Councillor for the Labour party beats his chest with the successful defeat of such plans, in form of a locally distributed pamphlet. Enough is enough! If the man doesn’t come speak to me, I need to speak to the man. And so we did. A copy of our message follows:

Dear Cllr Yoel Gordon,

Thank you very much for your letter with news about The Studios, Hanwell. Please allow us to express our deep regret and most heartfelt resentment about this affair.

We expected the local conservative representative to jump onto this particular bandwagon, the bandwagon put into motion by the local well-to-do not-on-my-doorstep party. She did. From a representative of the Labour party, we expect awareness of the needs of the society as a whole, though.

Maybe also a little bit of common sense.

You, and your “defending the communities” are actively helping to build a society nobody in their right social mind can wish to live in. The “anywhere but here” approach is an outright antisocial policy. We do not wish to be associated with such a policy.

A much needed drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility now needs to find another location (and probably face the same resentment again). In Cambridge Road, we are stuck with a derelict and (seemingly) partly unused office block, featuring a forecourt ideally suited for drug dealing in the evening hours. We almost wish the local dealers move their business there.

 

 

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The Thunder of Joy

DSCF0223The pontiff, the media across the board keeps telling us, the pontiff, they write, the pontiff shocked the world.

Have you been shocked by the papal resignation?

I have not. Surprised, yes. Astonished, yes. Thinking to myself this is the smartest thing the man’s done, yes. For this, and for this only, I respect him.

I am shocked how much of the media, through poor choice of a single word, or through a deliberate sick choice of a single word, creates the illusion that mankind is in despair. According to them, we are now a desperate, leaderless, horror-struck flock of lamb. For all I know, an old man who chooses to speak in Latin, who sees no issues blessing weapons but has nothing but an apology to offer for child abuse, who struggles to respect women, gay people, those who believe in something else, someone else, or nothing at all, who disagrees with contraception, prays for the poor while sitting on vast wealth, well, such a person does well to withdraw into private prayer, hidden from the eyes of the public.

Let him pray in private for the good old days of the dark ages to come back. Meanwhile us people of the 21st century can only hope for a modern, young, forward looking, tolerant pope. A black gay Buddhist red-haired single mother of mixed Muslim-Jewish descent might fit the bill.

I’m pretty sure that the stoke of lighting which hit St. Peter’s cathedral on the day of the announcement of the resignation was a thunder of joy by the Big Cheese himself. Or, more likely, it was just a lighting strike hitting the tallest building in the area.

 

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Fit Note? My Arse!

DSC_0802I didn’t need to see the doctor, but as last week’s feverish cold took its time, I took a moment to check the rules as to when I had to supply a sick note for work.

Fascinating fact #1: it’s 7 calendar days in the UK.

Fascinating fact #2: it’s not a sick note any more. It’s a fit note, supposedly confirming that you are fit to work or, as will be the case in almost all cases when a doctor signs such a document, it will confirm that you are not fit to work on medical grounds. Also known as sick.

I find that pretty annoying. Some political spin doctor thought it important to change the well-established name sick note into fit note. Something about the psychiatry of being positive, I guess. By the time this was discussed in all committees involved, by the time the decision was communicated with all parties and doctors involved across the country, plus the general public, by the time related documentation (and the new Fit To Work forms) was changed and printed, by that time, hundreds of thousands of pounds will have been spent on a change that makes no difference no whatsoever to nobody nowhere at no time.

 

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Real-life Circus

DSCF3724I don’t know how much more of the Julian Assange circus I can stomach. Allow me:

He’s on bail by the British justice system. He breaches the Bail Act by walking into the London Embassy of Ecuador, asking for political asylum. He can’t leave the embassy for fear of being arrested (because he breached the British bail conditions). All this in order to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted over allegations of rape and sexual assault (which he denies). He fears that, once in Sweden, he might be extradited to the US, where he is wanted over espionage allegations, and he fears that the US of A may not give him a fair trial.

Come on.

He pleads not guilty over sex crime allegations, but makes every effort not to stand trial and see his innocence proven. He pisses off the US (and others) via WikiLeaks, claiming moral high ground all the way, and is now worried that they might be upset?

I’d really like to know which piece of the puzzle I am missing.

 

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Expert Advise

DSCF0200Britain, the Guardian tells me this morning, will also offer [Burma] support for better and stronger governance by training officials on sound public financial management, on the rule of law and strengthening parliamentary democracy, involving a parliamentary exchange programme.

Yeah right.

I think we could do with expert advise on sound public financial management and the strengthening of parliamentary democracy right here at home before touring the world and beating our chest like Tarzan.

Preposterous.

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Hug a Hoodie!

Strada Interrotta Road SignPeople deserve the government they get, and they deserve to get it good and hard, H.L. Mencken said. Well. It’s a-coming. It’s coming at us, right now.

Britain is now preparing to pay the price for the questionable delights of having a conservative government. Punish them! Lock them up! Remove benefits from convicted looters and drive people into a full-time the criminal career!

While what happened last week is terrible, and terrible for all its brainless stupidity on the side of the rioters, what transpires now is just as bad, if not worse. Ed Miliband, the opposition leader, got carried away in the first adrenalin rush and joined in with the government. He’s now calming down and listening to some advisors, pleading that we should try and understand what has gone wrong in these children’s lives. He’s stands accused of being a hoodie hugger, what a joke.

Ed is now described as a political high-risk taker, basically because he expresses a desire to understand what went wrong. He’s far from knowing how to fix it, and he’s far from suggesting that tax payers’ money should be made available to help with the ground work: re-establishment of youth clubs, funding of street workers, improved housing, etc, etc.

It’s frustrating that the nation is happy to send thousands of troops out for murder, but it takes political suicide to even suggest spending a fraction of the same amounts of money to try to actually do something about the obvious social problem at home.

Over 2000 people have now been arrested in the wake of the riots. I don’t know what the ratio is, probable less then one in ten. That would mean that over 20,000 people were out and in some shape or form rioting. That’s far from being an entire generation, but surely is a big enough group to deserve immediate attention.

 

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Price-Fixing Fix-up F*-up

A knight on a horseThe Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has determined that Arla, Asda, Dairy Crest, McLelland, Safeway, Sainsbury’s, The Cheese Company, Wiseman, and Tesco co-ordinated rises in the consumer prices for certain dairy products in 2002 and, or, 2003. OFT awarded fines between 1.26 and 11.04 million pounds, adding up to a total penalty of almost £50,000,000.00 (BBC article here).

So, the radio presenter Liza Tarbuck wonders, where does all this money go?

It goes, business correspondent Pauline McCole explains, into the treasury’s bucket.

T’is a real shame. I am with Liza on this. These companies cheat the consumer and possibly the supplier, are being fined and we end up paying a new submarine with it? Or the MP’s duck house? Or the National Police Improvement Agency‘s (NPIA) £6.5m credit card bill?

I think any fines paid anywhere should be used in the context in which they arose.

Parking fines should go towards the provision and maintenance of adequate car park space, public transport and similar measures. Speeding tickets should pay for traffic calming measures. Drunk-driving penalties would go towards education, price fixing penalties towards housing and child support benefit. Fines for not paying child support should go directly into an account in the name of the child.

 

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Problem Solved (One Down Two to Go)

badWeatherHere’s a brief update on yesterday’s post:

It appears that one of the three problems is solved, the problem of how to deal with the immediate riots happening all over Britain. Apparently, the revolution only happens after 17:00, in dry weather and, presumably, during the school holidays.

The best thing for now is a cold front with lots of rain.

 

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The Mind Goes Blank

stopYou will already have heard elsewhere about the current riots all over England. I don’t know what to say. I tried to describe my thoughts in today’s post several times and failed each time; there are just too many facets to the whole picture. I join the ranks of those looking at the situation and not knowing what to do:

The police can go in with force and trigger even more anger and violence. They can’t stand back and watch either. Somehow, the police needs to solve the immediate problem. At least in London they seem to have managed through the night at relative quiet, but other parts of England were on fire. Even once the immediate problems are solved and the streets safe again, one wonders what’s next:

We’d lock-up several hundreds of mostly young people, giving them a criminal record in the process. An 18-year old for looting eight bottles of alcohol and 50 packs of chewing gum. A 14-year old for stealing an armful of mobile phone equipment. Others took TVs and DVDs, more alcohol, tobacco and chewing gum. Many will be charged for arson, burglary, theft, disturbance of public order, assault, assault on police, possession of offensive weapons, … (the list continues).

Sensible people (including Camila Batmanghelidjh) suggested that budget cuts all over, closure of youth clubs and job cuts for street workers, general unemployment and so forth, all contributed to growing frustration, but one wonders what will help. Others counter that free education, healthcare, housing benefits, child benefits and whatnots are already provided for those in need. But, whatever your views are, you can’t take a megaphone and promise an angry crowd of petrol-bomb throwing looters Go back home and play with yourself! We’ll re-open the youth club some time in the next couple of months, then all will be well.

As a sofa- and self-appointed blog politician and critic, I am normally confident with my ingenious solutions. Here, however, I am at a loss how to solve the immediate problem, how to address the issues with the current generation, and how to avoid repeat performances in the future.

 

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Social is Good For You and Me and Everyone We Know

Some official-looking flags.

Welcome back. The concept of state is centred around the idea that all of us pay money into a pot, out of which certain services for the common good are being financed: Infrastructure such as roads, a decent public transport system, collection of household waste, schools, a postal service, – well. I know. You know. It’s a social thing, no matter how conservative you might be. S-O-C-I-A-L ain’t bad. It isn’t socialism, not communism. It’s actually a good thing. I know that you know, and you know that I do.

So, what are you waiting for? Go and tell them! ‘Coz them don’t know, them silly boys. Business Secretary Vince Cable’s latest foolishness is to privatise or sell Royal Mail, because it is allegedly dependent on an injection of private money and expertise.

So, let me see. We sell Royal Mail. Somebody takes over, invests in clever automatic sorting machines, lets a bunch of people go (at the expense of the welfare system), and makes a profit (to his or her benefit). Makes sense, huh?

This is alleged to solve the profitability problem and to resolve Royal Mail’s pension problem. It is also alleged to continue to provide affordable, reliable and inexpensive postal services in the big cities, the country, and the remote islands.

Yeah. I see now how it makes sense. Just like one and one add up to nineteen.

Stop having those reports made. Keep the money saved by not having someone analyse an idea that is too silly to begin with, and invest into buying an experienced leader and some beautiful sorting machines. Finally, remember that running a social service by the state doesn’t require making a profit. It is a service paid by us, run for us, not run for profit.

It’s not so difficult to understand, is it?

 

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Opportunities for Opportunities

linepainting Britain’s so-called benefit culture (a term mostly used by conservative politicians and journalists, I think, and not really generally recognised to be part of British culture) is said to cost approximately £60…80bn per year.

Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer is short on money these days, and keen on making popular move to huge media fanfare, politicians such as Ian Duncan Smith give us the same nonsense that we heard for ages again and again already:

Tough measures are required to prevent fraud, they say. Fair enough, I say. Serious punishment of fraudsters and benefit cheats is another popular request, and, since those high earners making these suggestions know best how it is to live on the breadline, cuts and reductions to the benefit system are also a common suggestion.

Crucial is of course not the nonsense that is suggested, but what is not suggested.

You can search long and hard, up and down for a politician who would dare to suggest increased investment into benefit and welfare programs. Maybe not by way of direct cash payout, but surely those in need for help primarily need help to help themselves. These are the things a government is supposed to specialize in: Create jobs. Create incentives to recruit people. Provide infrastructure that enables people to go to work: affordable public transport or affordable quality daytime child care come to mind.

First of all, it seems we need to invest and buy our politicians some common sense, and the decency to be a government for the people, for all of them, rather than govern their own careers.

I think you heard this lament before. This won’t be the last time though.

 

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