Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

A Good Friend Of Mine

I have had this friend essentially all my life.  We go back a long way, I’m a bit younger.  We both have Welsh roots.  Our paths have crossed in a variety of ways over the years but we’ve never for example worked together.

In my early years, my friend was always there for me, even on occasions when I wasn’t aware of the fact.  As I grew older, went through school, ‘O’ levels, ‘A’ levels, moved away for my degree, I did as every teenager did – became more independent, more self-absorbed and took things for granted.  My friend didn’t mind.  Still there in the wings, Mum and Dad and my friend got together frequently as my friend was eminently suited to bridging the generation gap.

I started off in work and visited my friend more frequently.  I became more reliant on my friend, suffering a loss of confidence and culture shock that my friend guided me through, supported me and was ultimately responsible for my improvement.  I am aware of that reliance, of the support I was given and of the unstinting loyalty of my friend throughout that period.

In the last decade, my friend and I have spent a lot of time together.  I have two children and both have been introduced to my friend, blissfully unaware of how much they actually owe my friend.  I hope that one day they get to know my friend, not in the way I did, but in a way that although my friend is there, my friend is a friend to them as well and that they need a friend like that from cradle to grave, free at point of contact and according to need.

My friend is the NHS and I would be lying if I were to say that I am not in tears once again at the thought of what my friend, my NHS, has done for me and mine, older, younger, in need or not.

My friend, my NHS now needs our support and help.  Under attack from the self-interest and greed of millionaires who think we should have different friends and we should pay them for the introduction and privilege, the knives are out to see off my friend, my NHS.

We can’t let that happen.  Everyone needs that friend, even when they don’t.

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Going Back To Bevan

I’m not going to go into this in depth.  For one, I might be the only one reading and it’s familiar ground…

On the Attlee landslide after the Second World War, despite a rebuilding programme where we stood shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world in pulling ourselves out of global austerity – now that sounds a bit familiar – he went ahead with his promises.

Social reform ahead of Churchill’s ill-conceived campaign on personality meant Clement Attlee got in with a free hand and proceeded to nationalise industry and utility, build houses and reform services.  He kept inflation low, unemployment was practically non-existent (labour shortages were frequently a problem) and legislation for secondary education becoming a right was ensured.

There weren’t materials to build houses but where they could, they did.  This Ministry was under the auspices of Aneurin Bevan and in the time they had, he still built over 1 million houses and rehoused millions as a result.  The nonpareil provision they made, though, is what should be the pride of every citizen on this country – the National Health Service.

You are born in this country, you die in this country and from cradle to grave, you have access to universal health care free at point of use and according to need.  It’s a simple concept – Bevan himself indicated that “no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means”.

That today is under threat.  Bevan created the NHS in 1948.  He resigned a ministry in 1951 when charges were introduced for prescriptions as it violated that principle.  That’s 3 years.  It has taken 60 years (yes, 60 years) for the successive inferior showers to dismantle what he wrought.

Why so long?  Because it’s right.  It’s just.  It’s fair.  And it’s ours.  It isn’t a political football, it’s a matter much more important than that; it’s life and death.  However, for the power-hungry people-hating politico, it is as Bevan states:

A free health service is pure Socialism and as such it is opposed to the hedonism of capitalist society

As a millionaire in the Cabinet, having sold off everything this country has and seeing the only source of further finance as the Soylent Green of the electorate who doesn’t want them, it’s up for grabs.

We have to stop them.  The only way to do that is to go back to the purity of the original idea, the 1948 beginnings.

We need another Bevan.

DWP, I Don’t Think You Have The Right

There was a partial victory when out of the government’s three slavery programmes, one had its policy rewritten one Friday so that it would drop mentions of how it skirted around Minimum Wage Legislation.  That wasn’t enough, though, and it was dropped within a couple of days.

The 16-24 year olds of this country could breathe easier – their first taste of work would not be slavery at a quarter of the going rate or losing that paltry quarter if they didn’t take it.

The 25s and upwards didn’t have the same luxury and remarkably, the disabled people of this country, that massive minority of people who are less likely to be in gainful employment, who work for less on average when they do and whose promotion prospects are less likely, they got to wear not the 8-week programme that the over-25s still had and the under-24s were out of, no.  They got to wear INDEFINITE slavery for what are ironically termed “benefit” (there is no benefit in being a pauper).

Now it is one thing to get these policies overturned but let’s move into the policy for a second.  Walk a mile in the shoes of someone who may not be well enough to walk that mile.  Let’s pretend we are one such “claimant” or “customer” or whatever the DWP calls “the great unwashed” these days.

You are mandated to work, you get sent to Workhouse A.  So does the thirty-year old non-disabled person next to you.

When you go there, you have a right, an inalienable right, to reasonable adjustments in the workplace.  Reasonable adjustments mean that an employer has a duty, with precious little by way of justification to be exempt, to ensure that the Spoonie (see previous blog post) is able to work with the same opportunity as a non-disabled worker or in this case, slave sent alongside him.  Any obstacle or disadvantage that can be offset and isn’t lends itself to a claim of discrimination on the grounds of disability that could end up at a disability tribunal.  There is no ceiling to what such a tribunal could award.

Now, the issue of reasonable adjustments only apply when you are aware that a worker has a disability.  If of course a worker has a disability and chooses not to disclose it, or disclose it in a limited fashion, then that is their prerogative.  Confused?  It’s a minefield, I know.  Here’s the example’s nub, though.

The DWP’s own internal policies will work on the premise that if you disclose to the DWP, it cannot extend nor pass on that disclosure without your permission.  The Data Protection Act of 1998 prevents public bodies from hawking sensitive information about you around.  There is no tacit disclosure, it is not something the body can assume; the disclosure is yours and yours only to make and you can choose as wide or as narrow as you see fit.  You need give no justification.  In terms of “sensitive information” it doesn’t come more sensitive than disability.  Furthermore, Article 4 and Article 8 of the Human Rights Act of 1998 may also come into play.

Article 4 relates to slavery and forced labour.  In the forced labour element, you cannot be forced to work under the threat of punishment that you have not agreed to accept.  I think sanctioning someone for declining the misery of unending workfare fits that bill.  Now, let’s add Article 8.

Article 8 is the right to private and family life.  Essentially you have the right to carry on your life privately without government interference.  That can be interpreted to encompass race, religion, sexuality but above all (yes, there is an overarching obligation) disability.  Your disability is yours.  The government doesn’t have a right to intervene in it, talk about it to its neighbours or pass it on to an employer determined to work you into the ground forever for pennies.  See the crossover with Article 4?

Now, Workfare.  The non-disabled 30-year-old can be sent on a finite scheme and suffer no sanction at the end.  At the same company, the disabled person can be sent on the same scheme forever and suffer sanction should they ever choose to leave or fail to discharge their “duty”.

That’s clearly unfair – indeed, I would say that opens up the floor to the fact that by demanding more out of someone with a disability, this scenario is clearly discriminatory – but what you should ask is this:

How did Workhouse A find out the disabled candidate had a disability?  If they didn’t find out from the disabled worker, who, given the choice of servitude/slavery forever or for 8 weeks, is not going to admit the condition that doesn’t  allow parole.  It can only be from a disclosure from the referring body, the DWP.

DWP, I don’t think you have the right.  I’d like to see the rationale that circumvents the legislation above because DPA98, HRA98 and EA2010 aren’t optional.  They’d better have a good answer.

To All The Spoonies – And More So, The Non-Spoonies

I’m sitting here tonight after drinking a 330ml bottle of beer of questionable Commonwealth provenance, slightly on the sour side for my liking but it’s a Sunday night, it’s just something you do, isn’t it?

Well no, it isn’t.  You see, there are millions of us out there in this country who may or may not term themselves “spoonies” but once they read the article by Christine Miserandino (as she was then) at http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory-written-by-christine-miserandino/ will realise their position in the cutlery pantheon, to stretch a theme a bit.

The fluctuating condition of course goes hand in hand with the Spoon Theory.  I have Crohn’s Disease and was unaware of the spoon family of which I was a member until today, pointed there by Sue Marsh, a redoubtable other Crohner (Crohnser?  Crohno?  “Crohnie” is the sort of thing we would find mildly amusing if just for the look people have on their faces if we were to say it.  You know the look – “that’s terrible, can I laugh at that without offending?”**).  If you aren’t reading Sue’s work, by the way, then you are missing an education and illumination in an area in this country where we are severely lacking.

Anyway, the Spoon Theory is something I had managed to address after a fashion over the years but never put it in anywhere near as tangible terms.  Having a fluctuating condition is just that – Spoon Theory gives you a finite number of spoons in a day, and that number, depending on the day, can go up and down.  The unrelenting joy (oh, the sarcasm is a by-product) of a fluctuating condition is that we never really know what today’s finite number is until we get it.  It’s not enough that we have to count them out, we don’t know how many we have to count out until someone fires the gun.

I used to struggle with a cloth-cutting analogy, but it was to illustrate the progressive bargaining you made when you started to lose, well, your “daily spoons”.  You’d snip a corner, let a small task slide, you’d still maintain a full piece of cloth, only smaller.  Then you’d do it again.  And again.  Before long you’re all offcuts and little cloth, still attempting to bargain with something that refuses to bargain.  Eventually, you have a piece of cloth where the offcut is bigger than the remaining piece.  How did it get that far?  Progressive bargaining.  You were cutting when you needed a needle and thread.

See, it doesn’t quite work?  I tried a graph analogy.  The non-Spoony has a workaday rate of 100.  The Spoony doesn’t have that.  We have a best number, the number that, when the drugs do work, the sun is out and we’re suitably rested, is what we take as our top figure.  It’s never 100 and will never be again.  Let’s say it’s an 85.  That 85 isn’t the norm.  The 100 for the non-Spoony is all but a constant.  The 85 is our best effort – it won’t be there forever, enjoy it for as long as you have it, pray for longevity.

When it drops, it drops on a curve.  The curve steepens over time if untreated, an 85 may go to an 84 overnight but further down, a 50 will drop to a 45 in the same spell.  Again, unwieldy, whereas the Spoon Theory puts it far more simply – your spoon count decreases at the start of the day.

The 85 isn’t for all either – one person’s 85 peak could be 20 points higher than a different person with the same condition.  We all get a different number of spoons at the start of the day.

The question that arises in my mind is just where on the graph, how many spoons, what size cloth do we all have at the start of the day?  How different is one day from the next?  Just how fluctuating is “fluctuating”.

Well, I’m in fair remission at the minute.  I would possibly give myself that 85 – can’t eat a salad or climb Helvellyn, will fall asleep on the bus but ideally nowhere else.  I was diagnosed in 1997, had been symptomatic for up to two years before.  I all but lost the next three years trying to trim that cloth, spending spoons I didn’t have as the medical team who look after me tried to stabilise me and cure an abscess that was there from ’97 and got to see the Millennium.

The thing about being diagnosed when I was is

  1. I was nearly 30.  My own experience before and after diagnosis is that the younger you were diagnosed, the worse you had it.  I was a fully-grown adult, didn’t suffer malnutrition through compromised dietary mineral absorption, hadn’t had my intestines shortened through surgical intervention.
  2. Medicinal advances were such that if there were ever a good time to get Crohn’s, the late 90s would have been it.  Surgery was still common, but medicine was making inroads beyond the relatively ineffective sulphasalazine and steroid roundabout.

The people who have told me over the years how rough I have had it faintly annoy me.  Yes, I don’t have the infinite spoons of the non-disabled but I’ve sat in hospital wards, clinics and treatment facilities and seen “rough”.  I have my problems, I’ve gone through the gamut of Pentasa, antibiotics (including one stint of two years of Flagyl which terrified everyone I know who drinks), steroids (both ends and even the odd jab – you know what I’m talking about), immunosuppresants (Azathioprine and all its inherent liver risks) and the MABs – Infliximab occasionally for several years until I developed allergens (never let anyone tell you anaphylaxis is a hoot) and now Adalimumab.  I suffer occasional mucus, no blood, no rashes, no “eyes”, no “joints” save for that I have mild psoriasis, I don’t have vomiting and my exacerbations tend to be in or near the large bowel.  Everything worsens when the numbers drop (joints, mucus) but CRP and mouth ulcers work as a solid early warning system for me.  “Rough”?  I have “manageable” and a wonderful team behind me.  The condition is rough but I am fortunately responsive.  Save for the three-year abscess, I’ve not needed cutting and my treatment regime has always had access to newer drugs that have kept me ahead of the advances of Crohn’s – medicine keeps finding new “spoons”. My hospital admissions have been few but sufficiently disconcerting.  I am well enough tonight to not need to weigh up the pros and cons of drinking a bottle of beer from Mauritius.

All luck is relative.  I consider myself lucky in that although the body I have that doesn’t work right, it will nevertheless submit to correction and management and do so for lengthy periods.  I consider myself lucky that I have one of the foremost teams in the country managing my condition – there are professionals and within those there are exceptionals and I am lucky enough to have exceptionals.  However, in a backhanded measure of luck, I am lucky enough to know what it is to be ill.  I am in remission but the odd thing about illness is when you’re symptomatic, you can’t remember what it is to be well.  However, in relative wellness, you never, never forget that Bank Holiday in 2002 where you were rolling around the bathroom floor praying to Satan and all his little wizards to take you now because this is beyond the pain anyone should ever have to endure.

Never forget that if you’re not ill and not a professional in the field, you will struggle to understand how a Spoony can “look fine” but be far, far worse off than the person next to you.

Never forget that in the UK, the NHS, the universal weapon we have that seeks to make us well as people under the premise Aneurin Bevan gave us – free at point of contact to all and according to clinical need – is under dire threat.  Its interest by definition is to see us well.  Any paid system has a defined interest in keeping us sick enough to generate business.

Never forget that Nye Bevan considered Conservatives “lower than vermin”.  They are the architects of the decline and demise of the NHS, and the Liberal Democrats, the allies of this vermin, are the equivalent party that dismantled the universal healthcare system that to this day is the only one in the the world to have been stripped from its citizens (Malcom Fraser did it in Australia in 1981)

However, if you’re to take one thing from this article, let it be this; we are still people and we do hurt, even if that’s not your intention.  Read the Spoon Theory.  It might shed some light on it.

 **Of course you can laugh at it.  We still have a sense of humour, you know.  We have to.

Spot The Difference

Paul Chambers and Jeremy Clarkson.  What’s the difference?

I’m going to guess “the unrelenting privilege of wealth”.  Here’s where we are.

Clarkson, with his Panini ’82 perm and his obnoxious racist twisted mug (he won’t be wintering in Cancún, kids), said this:

“I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.”

He was talking about a couple of million public sector workers who, on 30 November 2011, said “enough” and took unified industrial action on a scale never before seen in this country.  Personally, he can try.  Bring a gun, I’ll get my kids and we’ll see how we go.  You’d best have an awful lot of bullets, though, because there will be two million behind me and I reckon they’d see you die screaming for that murder you’re espousing.  And if you don’t kill me quickly I’ll be at the front of that queue for what you tried to do to before my kids.

Extreme?  Beyond the pale?  Well, it depends.  You see, Clarkson’s abuse was written off as a joke (despite the man having less laughter about him than Shakespeare) and Ofcom accepted it.  They had 736 complaints. 

The BBC, that second-to-last bastion of Oxbridge privilege, received 31,000 complaints.  That’s enough people behind it to give solid support and revenue to a Premier League football team.  The BBC failed to take any action against him save for arranging an apology that the imbecile will never mean. 

The Prime Minister took one look at his bank balance, saw how he voted, rang the newsdesk at the BBC, spoke to the Oxbridge editor and came up with the word “silly” to describe him.  That last sentence may not be true, but frankly, given Clarkson can issue death threats at will but not mean it, what is truth?

“But you’re over-reacting, it was a jape, a gag, he doesn’t really hate those people who allow him to fart around daily in a non-job on an obscene salary” I hear you say?  No.  I’m not.  See Paul Chambers.

Paul Chambers was the man who found himself subject of the TwitterJoke trial.  He lost his job after a prosecution because of a tweet he made when he was about to fly to see his new girlfriend in Northern Ireland and Robin Hood airport in the Midlands was closed because of snow. 

On Twitter, he has an audience of 690 followers – Clarkson, although on the failure that is The One Show, had considerable more viewing his assault on British family life.  Chambers tweeted the following – “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

One week later he was arrested by five police officers.  He was questioned for eight hours.  His computers and telephones were seized and in a conclusion worthy of Keystone, was charged and convicted of causing a menace under the Communications Act 2003.  He sent the tweet in January 2010 while the country was snow- and ice-bound.  He was convicted in May 2010, 18 months before Clarkson went for his rifle.  His clear incitement to terrorism meant that he was… fined £385.  Meanwhile, of the 4,000 twitterers who when they heard, retweeted his message and as such, published it themselves, not a one suffered arrest or sanction.  Serious stuff, obviously.  That’ll hit terrorism where it hurts – a week’s wages (according to the national average, not John Terry’s stack).

Even the law didn’t take this conviction seriously.  Common sense decreed he should appeal – all that time and effort wasted on 5 of the police force, 8 hours of questions and however much they went into when they investigated his PC and phones for a fine that wouldn’t buy you a decent TVNot content with the absurdity of the case so far, the court of appeal upheld the conviction.  No, really, they weren’t content with the law looking the ass it was already.  They wanted more.

And so having had Doncaster Magistrates’ and Doncaster Crown Courts have a play, it went to the High Court in February 2012, two years after the incident.  And judgement was reserved.  Clarkson walks free and uncharged, while Paul Chambers continues to wait for exoneration.

The difference?  BBC, government and the filthy stink of the overpaid, undertalented, untouchable celebrity gets one case laughed off.  Paul Chambers had none of that backing. 

No coincidence.

Control The Language, Control The People

I have a languages background.  One of the intriguing points that comes out of that is how language is used as a tool of suppression and suggestion, often to induce opinions.

“That’s not me” you say, but the odds are you’ll be wrong.  As an example, all who have used the phrase “the taxpayer” at all in recent months in particular, check out now.  The shadowy “taxpayer” is a paragon of virtue, a source of social inspiration on whom we all rely, to the point that if something is perceived as slightly ignoble, well, it’s a waste of “taxpayer’s money”.  And you swallow it, hook, line and sinker, despite it being the rallying cry of an increasingly dark government.

“Oh, government” you say, rolling your eyes at me because you fancy I’m going to go cabinet-bashing against those socially responsible millionaires in the hotseats doing a wonderful job for “the taxpayer”.  Well, no.  Suppression and misdirection of language goes back forever – the Spanish Inquisition burned books, French postal authorities would not deliver to an address in Breton, Franco suppressed Catalan, Basque, Gallego under pain of sanction and imprisonment.  There’s many other occasions but ultimately, since the Inquisition was not repealed until the 1830s, these are not going back to the days of the Dark Ages – this is a consistent modern history.

Well, you can judge a government by the language it uses.  “The taxpayer” we’ve already covered, but you can all but play “blackshirt bingo” with successive governments.  Here’s a few examples

  • “Affordable” – this is an almost mythical get-out for any claim on anything that incurs cost.  “Pensions need to be affordable” is the cry.  That they arealready affordable is not addressed because their response will state that
  • “Comparable with the private sector” – is cited as a benchmark.  Public sector pensions are of course an element of pay and plundering pensions is little more than a pay cut you didn’t have the balls to do on salary.  That and the pension in the already-affordable format is so unattractive to privatisation as although affordable, a private company will want to tear into that.  Maxwell, anyone?
  • “Choice”.  Choice in the market place might be sold to you as a positive idea but is it?  I don’t want choice in my health provider, I want treatment from someone who will look after me and try to make me well.  Any private provider has the vested interest of keeping me well enough not to die but sick enough to generate revenue.  That’s what “choice” means in healthcare – the government turns you into a tradable commodity while selling Nye Bevan down the river.
  • “Growth”.  No-one in government has ever explained the principles of “growth”.  The reason is because no-one knows what it actually means.  It’s a vague number that has even vaguer implications and will not impact on your buying milk for breakfast.  Very important in telling you that everything is peachy, even when it isn’t.
  • “Revision”.  Means “increase”.  Fares and fees, charges and tariffs have not been increased in thirty years but they are “revised” twice a year minimum.  And they never go down.
  • “Reform.”  The antithesis of “revision”.  Reform will involve job cuts, reduced funding or worse conditions for users and providers alike.  Reform’s ultimate goal is one single unit of industry providing everything (whether it be a machine or a human machine) for an increasing board of directors and shareholders while surviving on recycled air.

There is one that falls out of the frame.  That is “scrounger”.  The reason “scrounger” fails is because a scrounger is deemed to be someone who provides nothing, who merely takes without putting in any effort in creation of items or wealth.  The trouble with that definition, however, is that it is entirely interchangeable with “shareholder”.

The recent “argument” that has begun to surface is that “1% are providing 28% of the country’s tax” and they should somehow get thanks or relief for that.  This taxation is somehow seen as a blight on the 1%. 

The clear implication from that to me is that if in excess of one quarter of the nation’s tax is produced by one hundredth of the population, then there is a clear problem with salary and distribution of wealth.  I will quite happily see that reduced if it means that the telephone number salaries that allow such a taxation disparity are suitably addressed.  You don’t see that argument, though.  You get told “we’re earning to keep you, you ingrates, we should be allowed to keep more of our filthy lucre”.

The control of the people in presenting this anti-majority rhetoric then produces a remarkable example of brass neck.  The amazing “we’re all in this together” is used to strip every penny and more from those who need it the most.  Under the yoke of the words “contribution”, “equality” and “taxation”, “benefit” as if it is owned by someone else rather than it being an “allowance” to which your circumstances entitle you, the poor get the unrelenting privilege of becoming poorer out of some sort of sense of community.

The same sense of community allows MPs to make up their own salaries, run up expenses for their job in the way that you and I cannot and also court and be courted by business interests whose concern, when everyone else has to contribute more, suffer pay freezes and lose out through loss of tax credits, cuts in entitlement and increased pension payments, is in arranging a 10% tax cut.

We pay more, they pay less.  How does that work?  Well, it will stimulate growth (see above) and increase jobs, production, demand… 

No, what you are saying is it will stimulate profit for investment which you may then choose to invest.  Really?  Sorry in the face of the language, then, that I don’t trust you.  I’m not interested in your profit.  Your own arguments show your profit is “the taxpayer’s” expenditure and as such all profits should go to “the taxpayer”.  In those terms, I would retain current levels and demand you invest your profit now – or we’ll increase your taxation level. 

It surely follows that if tax breaks increase profits through investment, then it is investment that creates profits.  Invest now, therefore, from existing profit.  You’re a private concern, raise your funds privately.  Speculate to accumulate, as the saying goes.  Don’t try and take my country’s taxation to offset yours and stop thieving from the “scrounger” to pay the shareholder.

That’s such an appalling attempt at robbing the poor to line the wealthy coffers with silk that you’d have to subvert the language, subvert the people to try and wear it.

You end up believing your own propaganda while the great unwashed don’t and for some reason you all look surprised when people riot and loot.

Another post from DarkestAngel32. If you read this, pass it on – this is the reality you aren’t supposed to see.

darkestangel32

As the deadline for the Government to haul the Welfare Reform Bill through parliament draws dangerously close and its implementation looms large I want to make sure that YOU know how it might affect your life.

It is a government and media peddled myth that this bill is about the unemployed. It’s not. This bill will affect millions of employed people as well as millions of disabled adults and children. This bill is not designed to solve the problems of worklessness and benefit dependency as I will explain. this is about money, money for the treasury that none of YOU will see a penny of.

The Welfare Reform Bill will pave the way for Universal Credit which will replace the following benefits (of which some of YOU will be in receipt of)

Income Based JobSeekers Allowance

Income Support

Income Based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Housing Benefit

Child Tax Credit

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