Poverty

January 22nd, 2012

The government has cut benefits to those without children under 36 so that they are no longer eligible for sufficient Housing Benefit to pay rent on a 1 bedroom flat. They have to live in a shared house.

The BBC doesn’t mention this. It talks about a benefit cap for those getting over £26,000. There aren’t many people getting that much benefit. There are a huge and growing number of young people who are going to be made homeless by these less newsworthy cuts.

Why isn’t the BBC interested? Why doesn’t it mention this on the news story about benefits?

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War news

August 8th, 2011

Reading the BBC news website just now I was left with the slight feeling that I had been reading the war news. There were about 4 news stories about war, 4 of a riot, 1 of a diplomatic incident another of a torture camp and some about the stock market slide.

Admittedly we are involved in a couple of wars at least, but I was suddenly hit with the slightly paranoid suspicion that we are being softened up by the media with tales of war and bravery rather like the propaganda that flooded the media at the start of both the world wars.

Luckily that isn’t the case. Things are a lot different now. Before the First World War the rich were getting exponentially richer, the poor much poorer, there was a recession and there was a lot of trouble with people trying to get their freedom in various parts of the world. Many people saw war as a solution to their problems and some as a way of getting richer.

Fortunately at the moment war doesn’t look like a very good solution to anything. As for the rich getting richer, we all know how hard they have to work for their billions. I’m sure they all deserve to be even richer. Some of them even pay tax. But can we distribute part of the food we all waste just a little better?

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Are new workhouses on the horizon yet?

November 28th, 2010

The changed date in the reduction of housing benefits merited a small mention on the BBC news tonight. Over the last few months cuts to housing benefit and other payments that help the poor must have been given far less than a 10th of the coverage of the child benefit cuts.

The housing benefit cuts will affect some of the very poorest in our society in the most horrible way. The consequence will be homelessness and the split up of poor families. The effect of child benefit cuts on the richest 15% of our society will be trivial in comparison.

Coincidentally very few TV journalists will notice anything that happens to housing benefit. It isn’t a benefit they receive. Many of them may be affected by child benefit cuts. It looks to me like the priority any news story gets is decided by how close to BBC decision makers it gets.

We need to know

  • How many families will be made homeless by these housing benefit cuts?
  • Where will these homeless families go?
  • Why do the BBC give a far higher priority to a smaller benefits cut which affects their well paid decision making staff than to radical changes to the lives of the poorest in our society?
  • Who benefits from any of these cuts? The recipients certainly don’t. If no one benefits why are they needed?
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Impartial reporting?

January 8th, 2010

It looks like two Labour MPs who are on the way out sent a text message to every other Labour MP.

The media including the BBC seems to have managed to turn this into a story. For a while it was the main news item on the BBC.

The BBC call this batch of text messages a ‘Leadership Challenge’ and seem to be trying to convince us that this is in some way reasonable reporting. This text message is the sort of thing that happens twice a week to all the leaders all the time.

Am I missing something?

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Self service checkout

December 10th, 2009

There is an article on the BBC website about self service checkouts. Personally I try to avoid these as I can imagine a dreadful future where there is one low-paid, very bored shop assistant per supermarket and banks of self service machines. The BBC article seems to think I want someone to speak to. Maybe I do although I think not. Certainly I do want more people to be employed in person to person roles. Supermarkets, of course, might well prefer to get rid of expensive and inefficient humans from the checkout stage of a shopping trip.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8399963.stm

Oddly, during the weekly romp round the isles I do often think about ways of saving people from stacking shelves. I’ve never done it, so don’t know for sure but kneeling down to fill the lowest shelves and stretching to reach the highest seem like very dreadful jobs to me. Supermarkets on the other hand don’t seem as keen to automate this work. They seem to want a human to get all the stacked items lined up with mechanical accuracy. Shop assistants seem to spend ages stacking things neatly. As soon as they move away some customer comes past and disturbs everything. This seems to me to leave us with machines doing the human work and humans doing the machines work, or am I missing something?

Yes! This is the dullest blog in the world!

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I’m left wondering

December 6th, 2009

Supermarkets check to see what sells and then replace it. At least that is the theory. If it were true why would they ever run out of the stuff that we want?

I was reminded of this when I tried to buy semi-skimmed filtered milk the other day. It was the only sort of milk they didn’t have as they had run out. Of course like everybody else I bought some other milk, so the total sales will show that we use every sort of milk even though we only want one sort.

Most of us assume that supermarkets can work out how quickly things sell and then order more of the stuff that sells the most. This seems not to be the case. Maybe this is one of the reasons why so much food is wasted from our supermarket shelves.

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If anyone hasn’t noticed

December 3rd, 2009

Today is the 25th aniversary of the Bhopal disaster
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8390156.stm

It is estimated that 20,000 have died since the accident from gas-related diseases. Another 100,000 to 200,000 people are estimated to have permanent injuries
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster

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Local travel

November 16th, 2009

I’m lucky to live in a town with excellent buses. The bus company recently won UK Bus Operator of the Year.

One of the reasons this company is so good is the real time bus information provided at an increasing number of stops. Now you know how long you have to wait.

Not all stops have this real time information yet. For those that don’t you can text to see when the next few buses are going to turn up. If you have access to the web you can check before you set out. If you have an iphone you can even check bus times when you are out with the excellent free app at http://www.journeyon.co.uk/.

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Media’s self obsession

September 30th, 2009

The Philippines have just suffered a major flood and Samoa has experienced a tsunami. Labour are having their party conference.

Why then is the BBC main story ‘Brown loses Sun newspaper backing’?

Who cares about this tabloid’s carefully planned campaign? Why is that the most important news item and why is it more important than Gordon Brown’s speech? I’m also left wondering why Sun journalists were given more air time than the Prime Minister.

Is this another case of the media making the news or just a very one sided view of the world from the BBC?

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Overheard

August 27th, 2009

Slightly baffled when I saw a dog wearing what looked like a 10 year old child’s stripped t-shirt. I was just thinking how unusual that was, especially given it was one of the hottest days we have had this year, when I overheard the owner talking to another woman:
“Anyway SHE should be ashamed of herself – how enormous SHE is”.

Not quite sure why anyone should be ashamed because they are enormous but there we are. Anyone any ideas? Good that we are all different and all living on the same planet I guess. Slightly impressed that neither woman seemed to notice the bald fat man walking 10 feet in front of them especially as I am probably fatter than the enormous person they were talking about. For what it is worth I’m not at all ashamed about it – maybe I should be?

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Expensive Expenses

May 21st, 2009

William Hague was on the latest Question Time and I have just noticed the headline on the BBC website “Hague warns MPs of ‘fraud risk’ “. That made me laugh.

People have a right to be represented by their MPs. It seems to me that failure to represent us is far more serious than an inappropriate expenses claim.

Before worrying about moats and duck houses, first I would ask William Hague who is reputed to earn the most or any MP, about how much time he spends working in his other jobs. In 2005 the BBC said “William Hague earning up to £820,000 on top of his MPs’ salary” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4285709.stm

Nowadays Wikipedia gives
“Hague’s annual income is the highest in Parliament, with earnings of about £400,000 a year from directorships, consultancy, speeches, and his parliamentary salary. His income was previously estimated at £1 million annually, but he dropped several commitments and in effect took a salary cut of some £600,000 on becoming Shadow Foreign Secretary in 2005.

We don’t seem to be overly interested but many MPs are honest. Some are so rich they don’t need to bother claiming small amounts; they don’t even need to claim any expenses to carry on being enormously rich. It isn’t worth their time and it is easy for the rich to be honest. Some MPs are too busy to make a correct claim. Some just claim anything they can within the rules. But we seem to be pillorying all MPs irrespective of merit and putting them in the stocks at the behest of one particular daily newspaper.

The MPs I worry about are the ones who earn vast sums outside Parliament and are feathering their nests while we pay them to represent us. In this media controlled world I don’t see anything like the same hysterical fuss about this apparent and vast improvement of their earnings at the expense of their work as an MP.

Of course they are all working within the rules.

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Talkng the economy down

April 19th, 2009

The Tories have spent the last week indignantly spreading dirt about one of Labour’s ‘Advisors’ spreading the same stuff. I wouldn’t mind too much but the Tories have a long and ignoble tradition of doing the same thing; the infamous demon eyes poster, for example. It is just slightly surprising that most journalists don’t want to look into this hypocrisy too deeply. I’m not quite sure what is going on there.

More worrying is the latest Tory attempt to talk the economy down, because damaging the economy affects all of us. At least it would be important if they didn’t have George Osborne as their Shadow Chancellor. I think he went just a little far when he said Britain had

“The worst public finances not just in the world but also since the Second World War.” George Osborne, 19 April 2009

Does he mean worse than Zimbabwe or Somalia or the mess Iceland finds itself in?

I don’t see our banks utterly collapsed as the government saved them. True – they shouldn’t have needed to save them but eventually we even may make a profit out of them. And however you calculate our inflation it comes out at between 1% and 5% which is somewhat less than Zimbabwe’s levels reckoned at 231,000,000% in July 2008.

The CIA –usually a good site for facts – reckons UK public debt is at 44% and we are the 42nd in the world below Japan, Italy, Greece, Belgium, France, Germany, United States, Austria and Norway among others.

Still, our journalists aren’t going to be overly critical about this slight Tory inaccuracy. It doesn’t seem to be in their interest to mention facts or reality at the moment.

BBC’s attempt at reporting
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8006812.stm

CIA
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2186rank.html

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Free – why are people afraid of free?

February 17th, 2009

Many Content Management Systems (CMS) are free. That is, they are open source. That means free to everyone I know. People like me develop them for fun. Some people develop them to do something meaningful. Others because then they become very employable. These CMS aren’t branded with anything other than your branding; they don’t have adverts unless you want them to. They are usually easy to install and quite easy and free to use.

These aren’t grotty, not very good cheap Content Management Systems, these are the best and probably the most common in use today. You can and often will be asked to pay a lot of money for something a tenth as good. Frequently the bad web designer or developer may charge you for a free CMS. Of course, many people disguise what they are selling. The good developer wll charge you, but tell you what you are getting and what the options are.

I know this because I used to work for a place where we made small Content Management Systems for Local Education Authorities. This place charged a lot and its products were simplistic, hard to use and nowhere near as good as many of the open source or free products. The difference is that the company I worked for made a lot of money and the products are mostly now not used and are certainly not maintained. We charged for fixing anything that was wrong even if it was our fault. The open source products on the other hand are well maintained and are developing fast. Updates are free.

In recent times the most I’ve seen a company charge for a CMS is £40,000. It amazes me but people do pay this money but get almost nothing for it.

Depending on what you want, it is easy to install a free fully featured Content Management System for you in ten minutes. Deciding which CMS you want may take you a couple of days or even longer. It will probably take you about a day to learn to use it and a couple of days to use it well. Some of the most complicated systems can take a few weeks to get expert at, most just take a few days.

I and the many people like me make our money by advising you. We mostly make a reasonable and fair income. You pay for our expertise not our salesmanship and you save a lot of money and get a good product. Mostly you know how much you are going to pay upfront and you know what you are going to get at the end. We also charge for cusomising these products and making them closely fit you and your company. Usually this is just requires finding a theme or template you like and customising it. You may want a theme or add-on building from scratch. We do that too and you pay for our skill and time when we do this.

A while ago I went to talk to one company and should have walked out as soon as I got there. I’m not a salesman, I don’t wear a suit, but that is what they were expecting. Maybe I didn’t communicate properly but gave honest advice although it was obvious they weren’t interested. They preferred to pay a fortune for something they could have got free. But then they did get to talk to a salesman in a suit and being a company they understand salesmen in slick suites. Their site took a long time to ‘develop’ and I notice only a couple of months later it has gone live Soon they will have to pay for updates…

Why are they frightened of free?

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Optimism and poverty

January 22nd, 2009

It may just be what we see because of some the European press bias but a striking difference between the Obama election victory and the first Bush near win is that after Bush claimed the victory we had many news reports about a ‘not in my name’ site which contained some funny images . Obama’s triumph on the other hand seems to be welcomed by almost everyone. I even hear that he has almost 80% approval in the US.

Maybe the most important difference is that the most powerful country in the world, under Bush, decided not to engage with the rest of the world but still managed to go to war. Let’s hope that with Obama as president and a commitment to engaging with the rest of the human population the wars will end and peace break out.

Bush’s policies and backing of big business were largely responsible for the dire economic problems we now face and that is probably what he will be remembered for. But we mustn’t forget that under Bush, aid to Africa and other poor areas grew and reached higher levels than it ever had done before.

I for one hope that the economic problems and suffering that are taking place in the richest countries do not mean that the poorest countries will now suffer even more with cuts in aid. It would be good if the optimistic mood sweeping the rich countries bore fruit in the poorest.

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This year’s sensible theory

December 25th, 2008

Each year people start getting the ‘flu about the same time that they start putting up Christmas decorations.

Are Christmas decorations responsible for the influenza epidemic sweeping the nation? Does handling all this mangy years old tat scattered around shops, homes and workplaces spread germs?

As a person who coincidentally hasn’t yet got the ‘flu or any decorations I’d argue that there is some kind of link no matter how tenuous, so to be on the safe side I think we should ban anything festive at all.

If you want to join me in trying to ban Christmas next year, send me an email.

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