Archive for June, 2011

re-think Education

June 29, 2011

In Tom Brown’s schooldays, an important character is a boy called Diggs, who has been held back several years.

It was recognised, at the time, that some people were late developers and that some would never pass through certain developmental stages.  Centuries of experience had taught the school system that which was later given a scientific basis by Piaget.

Even under the old eleven-plus system, this aspect was given a nod to, by the safety net of the thirteen-plus exam.

Unfortunately, State-run Education prefers that pupils progress by age rather than ability, because it simplifies administration and the calculation of school provision requirements.

Thinking about the recent news stories about classes, where pupils can not understand what is being taught them.  Thinking  about  a French Teacher, who, with sagging shoulders, commented that she was faced with another first year class, many of whom could not even cope with their own language, let alone learn a second one. Thinking about the fact that State Education was originally intended to keep pupils in school up to the age of thirteen and only originally intended to teach them the Three R’s.

Thinking about these aspects, perhaps it’s time to re-think State education again.

There is absolutely no point in forcing someone into a classroom to learn to read and write French (perhaps that should be a full stop?), until they have mastered the basics of their own language.

There is absolutely no point in forcing Pupils, who are not numerate, to try and cope with the Hard Sciences.

Some people will never pass certain developmental stages and trying to insist on targets, such as 85% of pupils achieving 5 GCE pass grades, can only be achieved, as has been shown, by lowering those standards to a level, which renders them meaningless.

Teach pupils up to a standard that they are capable of achieving, in subjects that they are capable of handling, regardless of chronological age. That way many of the problems faced by schools will fade. The majority of us are best motivated by achieving success and, apart from those who are pre-disposed towards psychotic behaviour (as per The Kray twins), only those pupils faced with guaranteed failure are likely to become disruptive.

Public sector cuts are not “FAIR”, Cameron

June 29, 2011

How can David Cameron call the Public Sector cuts “fair”.

 They may be necessary to pay off the banks.

They may be necessary to pay for PFI’s

They may be necessary to make donations to Spain, Ireland and Greece.

They may be necessary to support the Euro.

They may be necessary to pay for membership of Europe.

They may be necessary to maintain overseas aid

They may be necessary to bribe Pakistan etc.

They may be necessary to wage uncalled for wars.

They can in no way be called “fair”. 

Even the fact that private sector employees have been mugged by their employers and by Gordon Brown does not make it fair for Government to act in the same manner towards their employees.

David Cameron is demanding that some work  on for eight years longer than they contracted to do, when they signed contracts at the beginning of their working  lives.

He is demanding that they pay more towards their pension and that this pension will be half of what was agreed.

If a mortgage company tried this on, their offices would be burned down and most would call it justified.

These proposals are equivalent, in financial terms, to huge pay cuts.

The argument about people living longer is specious.

The Government has a huge army of highly skilled people compiling statistics and creating actuarial tables. Ministers would have been told decades ago, if the books weren’t balancing.

In practical terms, living longer doesn’t equate to maintaining the same efficacy as an employee.

Consider a fireman at sixty-eight. Will he still be strong enough to rescue you from a burning building?  Will he be quick-witted enough to tell when a roof is about to collapse?

Most 68 year-old male employees will be taking medications for heart, prostate and various other ailments, which will render them unfit for their duties.

The only benefit for the Government will be that they might cut their present £70 billion interest payments to, perhaps, a mere £60 billion.  

 (Figures: 750,000 to strike on a 32.4% turnout means we’re talking about 2.25 million. Suppose their average salaries are £20,000 p.a.  and you cut into that for an extra £4,000 “pension” funding. You get £9 billion)

 It’s my generation (the baby boomers, children of the heroes returned from the Second World War) that is being victimised here. But don’t worry, we will have turned our toes up by 2030, even if we do live longer than we are entitled to. It might even be sooner, if the NHS reforms go ahead.

Hackers are a national asset

June 24, 2011
19 year old Paul Cleary must be quite good at what he does, if his hacking of the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency was sufficient for him to be tracked down and arrested.
The depressing aspect of this story is that even if he is convicted here, those, who are supposed to represent our interests, will probably hand him over to the Americans.
Quite apart from the distastefulness of such disregard for rights of a British citizen, there’s the implied waste of national assets.
The American attitude to such people, based on past instances, is offer a choice between incarceration and collaboration. They sign them up and use their skills.
If we do hand Paul Cleary over to the Americans, he may well end up hacking the same computers, on behalf of the Americans.
At best Paul Cleary and other members of LuizSec have been annoyances.
Any Security networks that need to be kept safe, will probably have already been compromised by the CIA and their Chinese Government counterparts.
I, personally, wouldn’t give much hope for the integrity of S.O.C.A.’s files, considering the size of their funding and resources, in comparison with those available to the Russian Mafia,  Al Qaeda and most privately owned conglomerates.

Psychiatrists seek new funding source

June 24, 2011
The thrust of Robert Gore-Langton’s article was well directed but he might have expressed greater concern, if he had checked out the Royal College of Psychiatrist’s report “Our Invisible Addicts”, in more depth.
It seems to consist of the same basic structured commentary, re-written by three or four individuals.
Each one begins with the lament that there are problems with drug abuse amongst the elderly, often stemming from the vicissitudes of old age, such as redundancy and spouse loss.
Each one comments that the elderly are a growing proportion of the population and, therefore, their (the RCoP’s) future concern should be directed towards the elderly.
There is an explanation that the drug abuse refers to geriatric versions of Amy Winehouse, Pete Docherty and George Best characters with a reference to the physical problems such people are subject to, such as liver damage.
Each, then, expresses an apparently, reasonable, professional extrapolation that older people are already subject to physiological problems and so would be more vulnerable to such effects.
Each then steps out of the drug abuse scenario to focus on drink and the surmise that the present “safe” limits were based on young people and should be down-sized for their new target population.
The whole is then summarised with an extremely, highly worked out plan (it must have taken weeks of pre-conference meetings to construct) for screening the elderly, for drink related problems and proposing a whole series of training programs for medical professionals and for inclusion in college courses.
In Summary, the report  appears to be trying to make a case for setting up a whole new branch of NHS funding, presumably under the aegis of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, whereby GP’s would be required to assess all their growing army of elderly patients for possible increased use of alcohol.
The expected and  inevitable number of referrals would lead to a report of a “problem” rise in OAP drink based cases, with a few vignettes (the report’s word for cherry picked examples) thrown to the Media.
PsychiatristsI expect to see this report’s “findings” to be announced on a regular basis, every time that NHS budgets are being re-assessed.

Goodbye,COI

June 24, 2011
Will anyone really miss the COI.?
“Coughs and sneezes spread diseases” was quite good, but how many carry a handkerchief nowadays?
That campaign obviously didn’t succeed, especially when we regularly see Professional footballers “snotting”
Others, such as “amber, gambler”, “green cross code”,”Aids awareness and so on, have had minimal effect on public behaviour.
The only effective campaign that I recall was the “vote YES to the Common Market” and I don’t think Politicians would expect to get away with such flagrant deception, nowadays.

Surgeon who ranted at the PM and Clegg

June 24, 2011
I can’t say that David Nunn acted appropriately in regards to David Cameron.
However, wouldn’t we all prefer the Senior Orthopaedic Surgeon of the Department, in which we were a patient, to express more concern over our well being than that of politicians on a photo-shoot?
Perhaps David Nunn should have been spoken to about his manner but then he should have been spoken to before allowing his authority to be undermined.
The NHS reforms being introduced are allegedly about putting medical decision making into the hands of GP’s but here we have a man who appears to have been fighting a one-man campaign against administrators making medical decisions.
The Trust, presumably all worthy, non-medical and never to be named people, has won.
The Trust has suspended this man and now presumably has a basis for replacing him with a less troublesome more compliant and perhaps less well qualified, or experienced, person.
The Camera showed a man in a highly emotional state, “who ranted at the PM and Clegg”.
People in such Senior professional roles don’t get into such highly emotional states over a simple question of hygiene protocols. My impression is that this man was primed to go off and David Cameron might like to consider, who invited him to this venue and what their role has been.

June 23, 2011

Look around any City Centre and you’ll see that the biggest , most expensive buildings, in the prime sites, are Government buildings, Banks and Insurance Companies.

Short of a revolution, Government and Banks are safe from collapse but The Insurance companies aren’t.

Anyone, outside London, who wants to get about, needs a car and by Law, they need car insurance.

Insurance companies can, therefore ramp up car insurance  premiums, at will.

Some people have, already decided to risk prosecution for driving without Insurance (what are they going to do to those already on State benefits etc.? The prisons are full and fines are meaningless) but the majority of us will continue to struggle along, pretending that The Country works.

However, The Insurance Companies need to wake up to the fact that Health Insurance, Travel Insurance and even Home Insurance are luxuries.

Continually ramping up these premiums will see a sudden loss of business  and a collapse those, which rely on an over-taxed Domestic Market.

widdy at it again

June 23, 2011
I have very little patience with ex-Cabinet Ministers, who like Anne Widdecombe, repeatedly declaim that MP’s are not overpaid.

 

Even their basic pay of £66,000 p.a. for a 150 days of officially declared Parliamentary Session (many MP’s, of course, travel home on the Friday’s) is not so mean compared to the top of the range teacher’s, firemen and police (all candidates for downsizing) and especially not so mean compared to the soldiers getting limbs blown off, or the nurses tending them.

 

Undoubtedly the additional allowances all add up. I.e. To cover the costs of running an office and employing staff, having somewhere to live in London and in their constituency, and travelling between Parliament and their constituency.

 

The stench of the expenses scandal hasn’t gone away, it’s merely been sanitised, as her item on Frank Dobson moaning, about rental costs, points up.

 

No doubt all these extra’s will be excused as genuine, although many will remember the whispers of MP’s suggesting that they hire each other’s spouses to continue claiming them as staff.

 

I have no doubt that every MP in the Coalition will have some opportunity to take on extra Parliamentary responsibility (sitting on Committee’s that are mere talking shops, such as the one’s that have been deploring the abuse of pub licensee’s by the Breweries, for a several decades now)

 

Let’s not forget the generous pensions that they will receive, for even the shortest Parliamentary session and the briefest tenure in a post of responsibility.

 

One particularly nasty aspect is that of all the public sector workers that are due to be robbed of their final salary pensions, only MP’s have been allowed to retain their tax-free, final pension scheme.

 

No! Anne. MP’s are significantly overpaid and it’s improper of someone, who has had an easy ride through life to claim otherwise.

 

Easy, that is, compared to those having to cope from 16 years  to 70(?) years of age on wages less than she is probably being paid for being allowed to voice her opinions in this paper.

 

turn up the gas

June 23, 2011

 

What a surprise to find that Gas and Electricity prices will have to rise, because of falling profit margins.

 

Badgered, by the likes of Chris Huhne,  to  cut our energy usage and preyed upon by the privatised utilities, we are in a no-win situation.

 

The message is clear. Eat drink and be merry, because we’re going to get clobbered whether, or not, we turn our lights off.

 

We may as well avoid the stress and stop worrying about saving Gas, Electricity and Water.  

 

Use your utilities .

 

Relax in a nice hot bath, put the TV on full blast, turn the thermostat up and re-install the old, safer, filament bulbs and read your books without eye-strain.

 

You can’t save the planet, it’s Company profit margins that truly govern our lives, not Eurocrats.

 

In the final analysis, you may still be heading for the poor house but at least you’ll travel in comfort.

cheques

June 22, 2011

So the banks want to phase out cheques (checks for our American cousins).
Admittedly I don’t write so many cheques nowadays but I would rather keep them available.
Whilst Visa is more convenient, in that it can be used for small amounts and offers some protection against defaulting retailers (for goods over £100), it does have disadvantages.
When paying on-line, there is great degree of vulnerability for the consumer in that you are required to give away so much personal data and you are assured that your transactions, data, pins, passwords etc. are safe. 
As Sony and several others know this is simply not true.
Your details can be hacked and your identity stolen, which could lead to your bank account being ransacked, because, unlike the situation with cheques, criminals do not have to show their face to a cashier or CCTV, leaving the Bank free to claim that money taken from your account is your problem rather than theirs.
With a cheque, I can post a snail mail letter, or card, to those, who refuse to go on-line, or are too young to hold a bank account. For the famous but impoverished, there’s even the possibility that the cheque could be kept as a memento, rather than cashed.
These may seem trivial points to the Banks, who are fascinated by the possibility of using technology to cut costs and maximise profits but from the customer’s point of view it’s about having options.
Unless the Post Office re-instates postal orders, people will be forced to turn to High Street gift cards or other high cost alternatives such as Traveller’s cheques for certain transactions.
Charity raisers will find other ways of publicising their cause but these won’t be as fitting as a newspaper photo of themselves with a Giant presentation cheque.
Mainly, people will start using cash to a greater extent; especially as cash avoids the prying eyes of the Taxman and Benefits Fraud squad.