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Dean Wez - You’re not the problem, you just make it worse.

So I haven’t posted on here in a long time. I’ve been very busy, very tired, but mainly just a bit lazy. So I should probably be grateful to Dean Wez, because he’s just made me angry enough to kick me out of my procrastination.

Today, one of my Facebook friends ‘liked’ the following post by Wez, which is so horribly misguided that it would be funny - if it didn’t have 160,000 (and counting) likes:

.

Dear Mr Cameron - I need to buy a new gas combi boiler, but at over £1000 I can’t afford it, despite working 5 days a week, and here’s the reasons why (allow me to list just a few) >

PAYE
NI
VAT
Fuel Duty
Council Tax
Stamp Duty
Fuel Tax (utilities)
Car Tax
Insurance Tax
Tax on Savings & Investments
Airport Tax
TV license

and then I read this……

"Somali family on benefits handed keys to £2million luxury ‘council’ home a stone’s throw from where Tony Blair used to live"

Give us a break Prime Minister, we’re working our balls off for our government to ignore us, it costs more to live than the amount I earn. Quite frankly, this needs to change. The working men / women can only take so much!

I look forward to your personal reply.

Now it’s not the aversion to paying any kind of tax that’s so depressing and infuriating about this post, all sorts of people are having a hard time because of government taxation policies (mainly the lack of them!), but the penultimate paragraph involving a ’Somali family’ supposedly living in a £2m mansion.

The idea that poor people (Somali or otherwise) living in expensive houses have caused or significantly contributed to Wez’s boiler and tax problems is reactionary, misguided and feels a little bit racist… No prizes for guessing guessing where he got that particular idea then..

Step forward that paragon of offensive, bigoted nonsense: The Daily Mail.

I’m not going to waste much time picking apart this article because it does a good job of parodying itself, but suffice to say Arthur Martin won’t be winning any journalism awards any time soon. I’d be flat out embarrased to hand a national publisher a 600 word ’story’ in which the only sources are a couple of angry locals and a member of the taxpayers alliance (small letters intended).

The outpouring of hate underneath Dean Wez’s post, directed variously at foreigners, benefit claimants and politicians was unedifying in the extreme for Facebook inhabitants. It’s depressing people are so easily fooled into forcing the blame onto those unable to defend themselves.

It’s a bit of a trend at the minute, spewing your sob story onto a government or corporate facebook page in the hope of garnering a few thousand ‘likes’ - at first some of these posts had me nodding my head in agreement, and despite the ineffectual medium used, feeling a bit better about the level of apathy surrounding anything even slightly political (ie everything) in this country.

Things soon started to degrade though, the personal trials people were whinging about publicly started to edge away from the mildly plausible, slowly getting more outlandish until we arrived at the present situation where every day my Facebook feed seems to throw up a stream of outright lies from strangers (“I work 90 hours a week and pay £4000 in gas bills!”).

Raising complaints with those in a position of power is essential in any democracy, but “I have it harder than you” popularity contests on Facebook have absolutely zero chance of affecting anything, if only because they’re all diluting each other.



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Extensive Network of Corrupt Consciences

  Those with a week-long appetite for serious news and cutting edge commentary will have been delighted to see Rupert Murdoch launch his new Sun on Sunday yesterday with a decent estimated circulation of 3m copies - slightly more than the News of the World was managing prior to its demise last year. The new paper was noticeably softer in tone, clearly attempting to avoid simply being branded as the News of the World Two. This relative success was soured slightly though, by claims that the launch had been pushed forward to pre-empt potentially damaging testimonies at the Leveson Inquiry.

  Today’s explosive revelations by Deputy Assistant Comissioner Sue Akers may leave those who made such claims feeling vindicated. It wasn’t the now dead News of the World which bore the brunt of her allegations, but the very much alive Sun. Journalists at the paper, Leveson was told, had paid large sums of money to an extensive network of corrupt officials over a number of years - leading to several arrests at the paper earlier this month.

  This comes just days after reports that former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks had been given information by police about the original inquiry into phone hacking - suggesting an extremely unsavoury level of co-operation between the police and NI.

  The steaming torrent of ugly press for News International didn’t get any better as Charlotte Church left the Royal Courts of Justice this afternoon either. She had settled her phone hacking legal action with News International for a collossal £600,000 and then proceeded to take the company apart verbally in front of the TV cameras. Church said she was “sickened and disgusted” by the journalists who had bullied her mother into disclosing medical conditions, had illegally destroyed evidence and were not truly sorry.

  All pretty scathing, but nothing compared to the potential kicking NI can expect when the next wave of phone-hacking damages claims come to court - 56 in total including Peter Crouch, Chris Eubank and Cherie Blair.

  All this begs the question, what will The Sun do now? If they’re unable to gather their salacious gossip legally how can they continue to print their guilty pleasure, kiss and tell brand of newpaper? NI's attempts to tone down the new Sun on Sunday have left it reading more like a magazine than a weekly paper - something that one would hope couldn’t work in a daily format - and The Mail and Express have cornered the market in hate fuelled comment.
Who knows.. if every other avenue is a dead-end, maybe The Sun will have to resort to printing… *shudder* ..news!

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Express Shackles Scheme!!

  It perhaps comes as a bit of a surprise that it’s taken two huge, seemingly soulless corporations to act as the unlikely voices of compassion for unemployed people in the face of government aggression - even the most unrepentant tory generally tries to pretend that there is more to them than simply naked business promotion.

  Today Argos and Tesco made their displeasure at being associated with the government’s new “express work scheme” (read: “unpaid labour”) abundently clear. Argos has sought assurances from the government that young people who do not take up the placements will not lose their benefits, and Tesco has offered to pay placement workers - potentially undermining the scheme entirely by creating a lottery for paid and unpaid work placements. This from two retail giants usually found firmly on the other side of labour disputes.

  The government, for its part, kept up the well rehearsed spiel that these unpaid placements are voluntary (despite the fact that claimants can lose benefits if they decline them) and that the scheme will help the unemployed by providing otherwise inaccessible experience. Of course precisely what benefits a laid off carpenter (for example) might hope to get from 2 weeks experience stacking shelves in a supermarket has yet to be explained.

   Nick Clegg is quoted with the following, almost unbelievable comments, you can almost imagine him struggling to hold back a massive fit of giggles as he speaks:

"It is very simple. We say to employers, ‘Please take on these young people. We will pay them, through benefits, but could you please keep them on for a few weeks because it increases their chance of finding work’. "I have absolutely no qualms at all about the idea that rather than have a young person sitting at home, feeling cut off, lonely and getting depressed because they don’t know what to do with their lives.
"It is better to give them the opportunity for a few weeks to actually work, and of course retain their payment through their benefits."

Yep, that’s right - he really did say: “retain their payment through their benefits.”

  This attitude to the unemployed and the value of labour is designed to deflect attention from the government’s own economic mess. In a time of nearly 3 million unemployed it is not just ridiculous to blame the unemployed themselves for failing to find a job, it’s downright offensive. No back to work scheme or policy can put people in jobs that simply don’t exist - so let’s call this new coalition ruse exactly what it is: slave labour.

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Is Clarkson really just saying what people are thinking?

Clarkson on the One Show

Jeremy Clarkson’s outburst on the One show yesterday came as a bit of a surprise to me - partly as I just so happened to have the programme on in the first place so I caught it on the live broadcast - but mainly because of the smiley, brazen manner in which Clarkson blared out his anti-pleb diatribe. It wasn’t just the (not very funny) light-hearted suggestion that strikers should be executed in front of their families that elicited a raised eyebrow - even for Clarkson this seemed a bit of a stupid thing to say - but the disdain he showed prior to those comments when asked if he knew anyone who worked in the public sector.

"No of course I don’t!"

snarled Jezza with a curled lip and barely masked contempt,

"What, someone in public service? No, I don’t!"

I think he was showing perhaps a little bit more of the real Clarkson than I’m used to. His self-cultivated persona as a bumbling everyman - who might joke around and say the odd silly thing, but really is just an average bloke who says what everyone down the pub is thinking - was pulled aside for a few seconds, and the real Clarkson - the reactionary old man, disgusted at the thought of ordinary people standing up for their futures - was laid bare.

"I mean, how dare they go on strike when they’ve got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?"

demanded Clarko, which belied not only his complete lack of understanding of public sector pension arrangements, but also his disconnect from what most people would describe as work (to wit: not sitting on a sofa barking insults at the millions of people who actually do work very hard in airports, hospitals and schools).

So is he really just saying what everyone else is thinking? The evidence would suggest not, a BBC commissioned poll found that 61% of people believe that public sector workers are justified in going on strike over pensions changes - despite the obvious inconvenience such action will cause them. Even Sue Foster-Agg, the staunchly tory headteacher of The Vaynor First School, Redditch, who was praised by David Cameron for keeping her school open during the strikes earlier this year, said she would strike for the first time in her life as a result of the government’s failure to make any progress on pensions. Even my facebook feed, usually a hugely dependable mine of vitriol on any given issue, has been largely free of anti-strike rhetoric.

Admittedly, listing occasions when Clarkson has jammed his foot in his mouth is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, so perhaps, some say, such instances should be brushed aside as simply a stupid man saying stupid things. But when the stupid man in question is one of the BBC’s favourite recyclable faces, forever appearing on chat shows, panel shows, alongside his favourite back-slappers on Top Gear, and is earning £1m a year from the Beeb, there’s a question that really must be asked: Is the embarassment worth the money? Given Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand were both suspended by the BBC in 2008 for leaving naughty messages on an answerphone, a mere apology after the ruthless slander of millions of people seems laughable in comparison.

In 1998, when Clarkson debuted on BBC2, the straight-talking Sun columnist was riding a wave of popularity, which helped fuel a hugely successful relaunch of Top Gear in 2002. These days however our man is little more than a figure of fun for the rest of the public - his over-the-top rants serving as nothing other than fuel for the flames on his bonfire of dignity. It was quite a sight to watch Matt Baker and Alex Jones wincing with embarassment, as if introducing a senile and out-of-touch relative to friends.

Time to retire him BBC - it’s the humane thing to do!



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wearethe99percent:

Afraid to show my face due to protective order against my ex-husband. But I wanted to share our story. 

wearethe99percent:

Afraid to show my face due to protective order against my ex-husband. But I wanted to share our story. 

Reblogged from wearethe99percent


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Tessa Munt, environmental *cough* champion!

One of the key differences touted by the Liberal Democrats between them and their coalition allies is their preferred approach to energy production in the UK. Keen to distance themselves from the more hysterical, climate change denying wing of the tory party, the Lib Dems are proud to wear their green credentials like a badge of pride. Indeed, the Lib Dem website is quite explicit about their aims:

"Liberal Democrats believe there should be a massive programme of investment in renewable energy sources such as wind, wave and solar."

All very laudable stuff, and something many people, including myself, would agree with. But what happens when this policy comes face to face with the grinding, relentless pressure of being an incumbent party of government? Will they stand proudly for what they believe in, bravely confronting the hugely powerful nuclear and fossil fuel lobbies, and a right wing press in denial about climate change? Or would the policy go the way of so many other Lib Dem pre-election promises, sacrificed in the name of political expediency?!

To find out you could do worse than looking at the record of the new batch of Lib Dems in parliament, when faced directly with decisions about energy generation in their constituencies. Step forward Tessa Munt, MP for Wells in Somerset.

Munt has been fairly quick to enforce her green credentials since her election last year - ‘the environment’ is listed under political interests on her parliament.uk profile, and she sat on the Energy Bill Committee, scrutinising the government’s proposals for a shake-up of the UK power industry. A quick google search for ‘Tessa Munt power’ will return several articles about her battle to prevent pylons from a new nuclear power station going across her rural constituency.
So far, so green - but the inconsistencies in her approach begin to show when looking into her response to the proposed Pilrow wind farm in her constituency.

Munt was initially full of praise for the site developer’s open consultation process prior to the planning application, but things soon soured when she received (invevitable) complaints from Rooks Bridge residents worried that the windmills might spoil their view. Her subsequent U-turn was executed with all the precision of an aerobatics ace.

She released a second statement claiming that a ‘large number’ of people had contacted her to oppose the wind farm (although fails to clarify exactly how many people are a ‘large number’ in a constituency of 80,000), and that some properties near the proposed site (no mention of which properties, or how near) had recieved no information regarding the development, despite having already acknowledged the well publicised open consultation sessions run by the developer.
The statement is rounded up with the earth shattering admission that Munt is ‘not a scientist’ before going on to kindly advise the scientists and engineers involved in the project of ‘more appropriate’ alternatives:

"Proposals must be appropriate for the surrounding area. There are alternatives which could be explored like off-shore wind, tidal power and solar power, none of which would have the impact of this proposal."

Well.. it’s probably a good job she’s not an economist either, because the british renewable energy industry would be in tatters were they to follow her advice and solely pursue such expensive, and comparatively unproductive mediums.

The reason british renewable energy developers are primarily pursuing onshore wind farms is simple: they produce the most energy at the lowest cost, and represent the best value renewable for UK energy consumers.

It’s easy to see why Munt was so quick to cave in and sell her beliefs up the river - her seat rests on a wafer-thin majority of 800. Nevertheless, after this barefaced display of NIMBY-ism by the supposedly principled MP, she was pulled up by David Schofield, a resident of East Brent, for comments on her website espousing her support for wind power - the offending passage has now been altered.

So - the message from all this is clear:
Lib Dem MPs like Tessa Munt are fully in support of efforts to reduce our reliance on polluting fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power. They want to invest in renewables to combat climate change, and to put our energy industry on a sure footing for an uncertain future. But this is only the case as long as the energy is produced far away, expensively and unproductively, and doesn’t jeopardise their position in government.

How’s that for priorities?!



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Very lazy Tonks. She can’t be bothered to sit up and stop me from annoying her. Stupid cat.


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Too many children are being abandoned after exclusion from school.

Permanent exclusion of a child from school is an extremely serious decision, and one which can turn the lives of both the child and their family upside down. Department for Education figures show that in 2009/10 there were 5,740 children permanently excluded, including 230 aged seven and under - some as young as four years old. Despite this, the government’s Education Bill, announced in January and currently being debated in Lords Committee, is designed to make exclusion easier for schools, weakening exclusion appeal panels.

Parents of excluded children are faced with an enormous number of problems which can threaten their job, their family life, and most importantly their child’s development. And whilst official figures already show hundreds of infants are being removed from full-time education, a Centre for Social Justice report on exclusion published earlier this month, suggested that schools may have been keeping some exclusions off department figures by failing to follow correct procedures.

Kathy McKenna is a teaching assistant at Christ the King RC Primary School, Reading. In 2010 her partner’s autistic granddaughter Katie, five at the time, was removed from class at Southcote Primary School, Reading, within half an hour of arriving at her first lesson. Katie has a Special Education Needs (SEN) statement for her autism, but her mother was told the school couldn’t cope and she would have to try elsewhere.

Miss McKenna said: “She was there for 30 minutes and there was a phone call saying she’d had a tantrum and would have to be picked up, there was no formal process or letter, they just made it clear that they didn’t want Katie there.”

Reading Borough Council responded to a Freedom of Information request by claiming that there had been just two exclusions from Reading primary schools in the last five years, neither of which were from reception age or below, a claim which baffled Miss McKenna.

“I’ve been working in school for years, and even just the kids that live around near me, I know of plenty who have been kicked out of their schools,” she added.
Department for Education guidelines currently state that permanent exclusion is only to be used as a last resort if other means of behaviour improvement have failed. The exclusion must be considered and approved by the school’s governing body, a letter must be sent explaining how to appeal against the decision, and the local authority must ensure that the child is in full-time education within six days.

But thousands of children, many of whom have SEN statements, are falling through the net – leaving them facing an uncertain future, and parents feeling abandoned and helpless.

If a local authority cannot find a school for the child within the six days, they must arrange for alternative provision of full-time education. The latest DfE figures show there are over 23,000 children in England in alternative provision, with nearly 1000 under the age of five.

Department for Education spokesman Giles Mason said:
“The alternative provision that was decided on would depend on the needs of the child in question. For some this might mean a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) is the best option, for others education at home - it really depends on their situation.”

There are currently over 14,000 children in PRUs in England, but whilst most schools are segregated by age groups, PRUs often have large classes mixing children of various ages – and are primarily designed to cope with the behavioural problems of the larger numbers of excluded secondary aged pupils – they are certainly not the ideal place for reception aged children with SEN statements to receive the additional attention they often need.

Parents can also choose to educate their child at home, but there is almost no regulation of this provision, and very few safeguards to ensure the child is in fact receiving full-time education. An Ofsted report on alternative provision providers published in June noted that: “There are few requirements for providers of alternative education to register with the DfE or any other body. Consequently, many are unregulated and uninspected.”
But even these tens of thousands of children do not account for all those in between the margins, who often seem to have simply been forgotten about – an experience which resonates with Katie’s family.

“It was about six weeks before Katie was in any kind of education again. Her mum suffers from anxiety and didn’t know what she could do, and Reading Council wouldn’t allow me to speak to them on her behalf.

“Even after Katie’s mum wrote them a letter saying they could speak to me about school arrangements, it was a long time before anything got done. It was always me driving things, they rarely called me back and didn’t seem to care what happened,” Miss McKenna said.

Katie was eventually enrolled at the school where Miss McKenna works, which meant having to make a daily four mile trip across town. But even this came only after weeks of limbo, with no education or support for Katie’s additional needs.

Reading Borough Council responded to the claims of Katie’s family as follows: “The Council cannot discuss individual cases. There can be isolated instances however where pupils the level of a child’s learning needs do not become apparent until they begin school. Where this occurs the Council’s absolute priority is to ensure all necessary resources are quickly put in place to cater for the child’s specific needs. In some instances it can mean transferring the child to a school which is in a better opposition to cater for the child’s individual needs.

No official statistics exist to show just how many children may be in this situation, or how long it can persist. But with no provision of education, and no dedicated regulatory body ensuring that local authorities are pursuing a solution in each individual case, it is not hard to imagine that very many vulnerable children are having any chance of a normal life taken from them before they reach the age of ten. It is known by the government that this problem exists, and yet steps are still being taken to make exclusion easier for schools, while no attempt is made to even find out how many children have been, or will be, abandoned in this educational vacuum.

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Rail fare rises are not fair.

Sean O’Grady has written in today’s Independent that the proposed huge 8% rail fare rise is right. His explaination for this is that it is primarily wealthy business people who use the railway to commute from their lovely country piles, and that they should be the ones who foot the bill for increased costs, rather than taxpayers (who he characterises as a hard-pressed family in the midlands). Punitive fare rises, he says, will hopefully convince these priveleged commuters to move closer to their inner city workplaces.

Firstly, there appears to be a willful misinterpretation of how taxation works in this peice. Surely the whole point is that rich people, with the means to pay more, subsidise services to put them in the reach of those less well off? If Rich people simply cough up the cash when they buy a train ticket, how is that any different from rich people paying for the best healthcare?

I think it’s strange that O’Grady points out that the railways are primarily used by wealthy commuters without asking why this is. Does he think poor people (or people in the midlands) simply have no use for a train? The already extortionate rail fares over much of the country’s rail network (I say ‘much of’ because there is absolutely no consistency in pricing, rail companies simply charge more on routes where commuters are more reliant on the service, so will be forced to swallow the rises) have priced out a large swathe of the population from being regular rail users. The current price of a season ticket from Reading to London (a 25 minute journey) is £344 a month, how on earth can someone on the London living wage afford that? Simple answer: they can’t, so if somebody living half an hour away from London wants to pursue a career there, they need an entry level position to pay handsomely or agree to cover travel costs (which is extremely rare in todays job market). This means that only those with well paid jobs or rich families can pursue those dream opportunities in the capital, how is that fair?

Rail fares have gotten out of control. They are currently out of reach of the average person for regular use, and if price rises continue at this rate, soon even a one off trip will be an unobtainable luxury for many people. Bring back British Rail!



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Hello! My name's Jude Cosgrove, and this is my blog page, primarily politics based, but I may stray into music or football or whatever else is distracting me. My condolences that you've found yourself here, feel free to sign in and point out how much nonsense I'm spouting - I'm robust, I can take it!

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