Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Speed Limits in Lancaster

On the 14th June I wrote about a change of speed limit on the Greyhound Bridge in Lancaster and it has made the letters page in the local newspaper. On the 14th I concluded that a lowering of the limit from 40mph to 30mph was a good thing but one of the letters has the heading '30mph limit is barmy'. The author reckons that he can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that he has been able to drive at 30mph. You see we have a traffic congestion problem between Morecambe and Lancaster which has been described as the worst outside London (I reckon it's the worst full stop).

The author is confusing arguments. There is no need for a speed limit if there is a traffic jam. You only need to put in a limit when traffic is able to travel at that speed so it really is irrelevant what happens in a jam. I had written in a previous blog that the 40mph, meaning that traffic travelled much faster, and this was dangerous to pedestrians. He suggests that we close the road to pedestrians and cyclists. I agree with him that both pedestrians and cylists should prefer to use the footpath/cyclepath, however I have met people who do not use it for fear of mugging.

My main reason to support the lowering to 30mph is that 40mph is anomalous and drivers exceed the limit enough anyway. As it happens I travel this route on most days and on quite a few occasions I have seen drivers who do not appear to be affected by the new limit. It may sound as if traffic is not too bad on the bridge but if there is no queue of traffic on the bridge then there is always a queue when you get off.

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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Praise good behaviour

Jeremy Hunt has had to apologise after commenting that the terrible problems of "Heysel and Hillsborough in the 1980s seem now to be behind us". He was referring to the behaviour of the English fans at the World Cup, so the inference was that Liverpool fans were not behaving well. As bad behaviour played no part at Hillsborough it was natural that the relatives of those who were killed and those who were injured should feel insulted.

I do not think any insult was intended. He remembered footballing disasters and related it to the the English fans in South Africa. It is definitely thoughtless, but to equate thoughtlessness with insult is not quite the same thing even though people in Liverpool may disagree.

In the meantime let's not forget that English fans have behaved well and congratulate them for doing so. It is very easy to forget to praise good behaviour and very easy to condemn bad behaviour.

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Monday, 28 June 2010

Another blog about football

I suppose that I should stick with football today because of England's departure from the World Cup. Yesterday's blog was about footballers' attitudes and today I would guess that there are hundreds if not thousands of comments on the internet that have been written about technological advances on the football pitch. I am not too bothered about this myself. I am much more concerned with the attitude and ability of our players. We treat them with so much respect and pay them so much and this in turn raises our expectations. The bubble should have burst yesterday.

Our top players looked like amateurs, and these are people that are paid thousands of pounds per week. I often joke that if we paid them a little more then they could afford the time to be a little fitter, a little quicker, a little more skillful. The joke is wearing thin. Compare the salary of the England manager to that of New Zealand's who only receives a £20 000 salary.

If we are expected to cut back in so many areas then Premier League salaries would be a really good place to save money. I know we live in a capitalist system and the money belongs to the League and they can do with it what they like, but there are plenty of football clubs that are struggling and the bias towards our best players is clearly not working.

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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Get away with what you can

When the Brazilian footballer Kaka was controversially sent off near the end of their match against the Ivory Coast it didn't make a difference to the final score. It gave him a one-match ban and it is usually not good to loose one of your best players in the world cup finals but in this case Brazil were already through to the second round. It may even be useful to rest one of your better players at this stage in the competition. So my reason for writing this blog is nothing to do with Kaka's punishment, it is more to do with the punishment for the Ivory Coast player who went down in agony holding his face when he had been touched in the chest.

How are we to bring up children to do the right thing if the right thing is to win Oscars when playing football? This sort of behaviour tells us that it is right to get away with what we can, to ride roughshod over anyone whether they play football or happen to be our competitor in any aspect of life. I haven't read about any punishment but let's hope there has been one. At least I am hearing commentators saying it is wrong. Usually football pundits tell us players should fall over if they are touched in the penalty box. Surely players should fall over if they can't stand up.

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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Abortion news

Abortion has made the news recently because a report came out in support of not lowering the 24-week legal time limit for abortion because pain cannot be felt by the foetus. It seems the highly complex neural network does not connect to the pain centres in the brain. Of course there are exceptions that allow for abortion up to birth, e.g. if the child is disabled.

If you believe that life begins at conception then the debate is fairly simple. Abortion is taking a life. If you believe that the debate relates to whether the child could live an independent life from the mother then the debate gets so much more complicated. If you believe the debate relates to complex neural pathways then the debate gets really complex. I thought some pain was recognised at spinal level because we need to recognise pain quickly in order to defend ourselves from it.

If you want to make the debate really complicated then you have to decide what constitutes disability. A couple of days ago I saw someone with a disability who is an actor. He was talking about how we have come so far in the way we treat disabled people. We don't call them names now. However he recognised that the pendulum has swung so far that most people don't know how to mention disability. It looks like the pendulum needs to swing a bit further if we are allowed to abort disabled children until just before they are born.

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Friday, 25 June 2010

Retirement Age

I don't particularly object to working till I am 70. I believe that a role in life does us good and just because we get paid for something doesn't make it bad. Unfortunately there are many people who do not go out to work and enjoy it but they go to pay the bills. However I see most people dying with a house to pass on to their relatives. To me this makes us a fairly wealthy nation and if we have this wealth then most people could choose to retire early.

I am sure that in the 1970s the Daily Mail told me that I would retire at 50 (I'm nearly there) because of North Sea oil and instead of going down it looks like retirement age is going up. It would be nice if everyone had the opportunity to receive a pension at an earlier age so they could choose to give up work, but it would be even nicer if people didn't want to give up work.

Even if I could afford to retire I would choose to be active in employment. So wining the lottery would not do much for me. It's a good job I don't buy lottery tickets.

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Thursday, 24 June 2010

Keeping the cogs of industry moving

My recent blogs have been about the way we treat each other and how we have to put in place safeguards in case things go wrong. One example was a vending machine to tell hospital management exactly how their stock was used. It must cost a lot to run this system, so it must save a lot in order to pay for itself. This means that there are a lot of NHS staff who (what is the politically correct term for this...) manage to lose lots of equipment. This is my reading of the situation and it must be the same for a lot of the staff too. The system says we don't trust you. It's the same for anyone who clocks in. Whether they think about it or not there is an implicit mistrust that affects the whole of the nation. We are all guilty and need protecting from ourselves.

One mechanism to save us from ourselves is the legal system and our policies and procedures at work. I was recently told a story about someone who wrote a letter to their management. It was a private matter and one which they did not want publicising. A couple of hours later they found 40 or 50 copies of their private letter. It had been copied and left on a desk for anyone to read. The reaction when asked if they could be shredded was yes but not at the moment. They had to do it in their own time.

Now what would you do if you were in charge? A private letter of a personal nature has been left in a public place. I presume the first thing to do is investigate whether it is accidental or deliberate. I would guess deliberate because there was no need to make 40 or 50 copies and then leave them in a public place. So it looks like someone is deliberately making public information of a sensitive nature which could be hurtful. I would support an enquiry first and if my guesses are correct I would be thinking of a verbal warning. You see we do have managerial and legal methods of keeping the cogs of industry moving. However what was the answer this time? Shred them in your own time. Poor management affects us all.

Change the world.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Ringfence the NHS?

Yesterday I gave a very simple example of how the NHS could improve dramatically and would cost nothing to change. There is plenty of room for improvement. We have a highly sophisticated computer system that makes very sophisticated mistakes. Medical technology is putting up the costs but still we have appointments sent out to people who have died. The promise that we could walk into any NHS and all are details are there at the click of a button is just not there, and if it were then would it be a great advantage. Is it really worth the huge cost?

I am not convinced that the NHS deserves a ringfenced budget. I have taken a course with the Open University called Health and Disease, and there are people who argue that the NHS has done nothing to help the health of the nation. I do not take this view. If I am in an accident then I want to go A&E but I do take the point that many improvements in health are related to social interventions. Even the vast majority of physical illness is self-limiting - it gets better itself but we are finding more and more ways to treat injury and illness in a more expensive way.

I have heard a recent comment that 40% of GP visits are a waste of time. I well remember GPs complaining about the visits that they had to make. We can identify the use of individual swabs (see last Friday's blog). At least we have a better management system within the NHS, sorry, I mean more expensive.

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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

It ain't what you do...

I was talking with a friend recently who spoke about his serious illness a few years ago. If you know about oesophageal varices then you will now how serious it can be. Well my friend was in intensive care and was sedated. However he could hear and understand everything around him and this included two doctors talking about when they should stop treating him.

He couldn't speak or move but he was desperate to tell them that he was still here and wanted them to continue working on him. The point here is that the problem wasn't the job that the doctors were doing. It wasn't the treatment or even the fact that there is a limit to the amount of treatment that can be given. The point is that the way that you do something is really important, because it was this conversation that came to haunt him later.

You don't have to be a doctor on intensive care to appreciate what I am writing. In any work that you do or even in any social interaction it ain't what you do it's the way that you do it.

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Monday, 21 June 2010

More on academies

If you read my blog on the 27th May then you will know that I am not a great fan of academies. They are different because they allow for sponsorship which means that more money goes into the school and they can attract better teachers with higher salaries. They are all-ability schools and the criteria to become an academy also included such factors as the number of pupils who achieved good GCSE results. Where the results were poor then improvements could be made.

Now things have changed. There is no need to be an all-ability school. You don't even need a sponsor, and you don't need to be a school in which less pupils pass with good grades. I have previously written that improving the standard of some schools would put the others in a relatively (or even possibly an absolutely) worse position. Now the schools that do not become academies may be left behind. Where will this happen? In the areas in which parents are not as demanding and the staff are not as pro-active.

The rich will buy their education. The middle classes will demand their education, and the poor - well I'll leave you to decide.

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Sunday, 20 June 2010

You are under the limit if you don't drink anything

This week I heard about the possibility of increasing the restriction on the amount of alcohol you can drink before you drive illegally. After a drink the blood level of alcohol varies from person to person. It also depends on how much they have been eating, how long it has been since their previous alcoholic drink, their metabolism and many other aspects. The list was quite long and so was the confusion as to how much people could drink. However it was simplified by the police. You will be under the limit if you don't drink anything.

The trouble with an absolute ban on alcohol is that you are saying people cannot drive with any impairment in their ability. Why not ban anyone over 70 or 60 or 50 because their reactions are not as good as when they were younger. Their ability is not as good as when they were younger. What about a person who has a cold or any other temporary illness? What about anyone who feels unhappy or has something on their mind? Have I stopped everyone driving yet? An absolute ban on alcohol would mean an absolute ban on drinking for every driver as some alcohol may stay in the system for a long time.

As with any legislation, it is easy to see extremes when someone who is drunk should not be driving, and as with any legislation the tricky part is to know when to draw the line. The important thing is to win the hearts and minds of drinkers so that dangerous extremes are avoided. As you may have guessed, I do not advocate an outright ban but maybe there is a case for tighter restrictions.

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Saturday, 19 June 2010

Where there's blame there's a claim

Following on from yesterday's blog and how to save money in the NHS, you often hear about medical interventions that save lives or prolong life. I don't suppose it is rocket science to assume that if we are not dying from these complaints then we have to die from others. In fact if we are living longer then we are much more likely to live with chronic disease and put NHS bills up.

One example of an intervention that caused more morbidity is the safety belt legislation. When we could drive without a belt the chances were that we would die if we crashed. This is much less expensive than treating someone who lives but is injured. However I am not advocating that we lead a reckless life. If we didn't take risks then we wouldn't be alive, but our lives seem to be dominated by the need to eliminate risk. I heard a story a couple of days ago about a mature laburnum tree that had to be cut down because children played near it. Someone would be blamed if any child was poisoned by the tree. The trouble is that where there's blame there's a claim.

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Friday, 18 June 2010

The NHS Ministry of Truth

Locally the NHS has to save £3 billion over the next three years and the news yesterday showed us how this could be done. The NHS didn't call it "cuts" but preferred "savings". We could spend less and get more. Isn't life wonderful! Whenever I hear news like this I think of George Orwell's 1984 and the Ministry of Truth. It strikes me that I have been hearing these sorts of comments for years but we continue to pay more and more for less and less frontline services.

I was told last week that someone I know was retiring early as a receptionist in the NHS because it takes so long to make appointments. What is the use of technology that allows all the bureaucrats to see what is happening and doesn't allow patients to get appointments in a timely way?

On the BBC news it was mentioned that in the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital they have what looks like vending machines that record the use of pieces of equipment. It seems that every item (they mentioned swabs - swabs!) is registered to a doctor, a patient and a procedure. What sort of 1984 equipment is this? Are we really saying we can't trust our doctors and nurses with swabs? How much did this equipment cost? If we removed it would it save £3 billion over three years?

If you don't trust your professionals then you set up expensive equipment, procedures and management to monitor waste. Then you defend the system and expand it because it works so well and then you get the Ministry of Truth to give out encouraging figures that show improvements and savings.

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Thursday, 17 June 2010

Morecambe's future transport links

Last week we found out that the government's spending review meant that all major road-building schemes needed to be reviewed. Whitehall was no longer giving any assurances that the £140 funding for the Morecambe link road was available and the public enquiry that should have been held in autumn has been postponed.

According to Radio Lancashire yesterday, the number one transport problem is the Heysham link road. It looks like it is being cancelled after many years of preparation. I am not sure how effective the protestors have been but I guess it was cancelled purely because of the economic climate. Radio Lancashire told us that some say the road is vital for the local economy (include me in that) and others say it is simply unaffordable. I have heard arguments on environmental grounds, on the grounds that it would disrupt local residents, and that it would not solve the traffic problem but it was the number one Lancashire project so money was coming in this direction.

The local Green Party reckon that we don't need the link road. They only see a need for good transport infrastructure because of the Port of Heysham. Even if there was no other industry in need of a better link, the Green Party must foresee no future expansion for the port. For me it is quite easy to see what will happen. Whatever industry is based in the area will eventually get fed up with paying the extra costs of getting to the motorway. Would you stay in the area if you could significantly lower your costs by moving to another site? Industry would either move or close.

The Green Party think that the economic argument does not "stack up" or the road would have been built. I'm afraid this is an extremely naive point of view. Roads are not built because they are somehow economically viable. They are built because they are needed. What will happen is that Morecambe will go into decline but the Green Party doesn't have to worry about that as they don't have any councillors here. They think that a "priority" bus service will help solve our problems. Fortunately we have a good bus service now and it gets you quickly from A to B. Unfortunately the economic arguments for leaving your car at home and taking the bus do not "stack up" and even a free bus service does nothing for any business that needs a transport solution.

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Football heals wounds

I don't know if you are caught up in world cup fever but I have been watching matches whenever I can. Fortunately this meant that I only saw the first half of England against the USA. I enjoy watching the matches but I can't find the enthusiasm to jump up and down or do any chanting. However it is a fine thing if you can be enthusiastic about any sport or hobby. If you are delighted when a piece of leather hits a net then your life is the richer for it. I know there is a negative aspect to being a football fan and this is commonly the case when fans make the front rather than the back pages of the newspapers.

The best news for me is the way that players, and to some extent fans can enjoy the game together and shake hands after the match. This reminds me of the famous football match in World War I in which the French, Belgian and British troops played against the Germans. It is hard to fight and kill an enemy if you play football against them. As the WWI soldiers found out, it is hard to shoot an enemy who was in an opposition football team. Wouldn't it be nice to see a match between Palestine and Israel, or any two countries who aren't getting on too well?

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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Filter the junk

I received an email from the Post Office recently. It seems that at some stage in the past I have given permission for them to send emails to me. The irony of this situation did not pass me by because in the past they have put many things through my door and so much of it has been unrequested junk mail.

However this time there is a clear method for me to opt out of future emails. I thought that I would take a look at what they were sending and decide whether I should use the opt out. I did click on a link that would tell me how much it costs to send first class letters, but unfortunately the link that I had requested could not be found.

The procedure to unsubscribe was fairly easy to follow and I am pleased with the way gmail filters my junk emails. It it were only that easy to stop junk mail...

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Monday, 14 June 2010

No more excuses for bad driving

One of the reasons why adverts work is if people talk about the advert. I take photos at weddings and my best advert is word of mouth. There are quotes such as Brendan Behan's "there is no such thing as bad publicity" which make you think that it doesn't matter what you do as long as people talk about you. However I don't think Gerald Ratner would agree. If you have a reasonably good product or service then advertising will be successful and in these conditions the more people who talk about you the better.

Therefore it is with reservation that I mention a car company who advertise with the slogan "Mirror, Signal, Outmanoeuvre. If you buy a fancy car it should not be with the intention of outmanoeuvring anyone. Driving is not a competition.

Yesterday I noticed that the speed limit on the Greyhound Bridge in Lancaster had been lowered to 30mph. I am pleased because I have always felt that it was an anomaly and it was a stretch of road that drivers felt they could use like a motorway, except in this case pedestrians may be stood by the road. I also noticed many drivers dramatically exceeding the speed limits on Lancaster's side roads. Do they always drive like this or was it an atypical thirty minutes. At least they don't have an excuse that they thought it was 40mph because it is 40mph on the Greyhound Bridge.

Change the world.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

How to get on the news

You are in charge. You have employees and young children in your care and you hear that a former pupil is making serious threats to harm those who are in your care and there are more than 1000 pupils in your school. What do you do? A. Send everyone home immediately. B. Carry on as normal. C. Inform the police and take their advice. I think I would go for C.

This happened on Friday when a teenager threatened to kill others in a Newton-le-Willows school, and on the local news on Saturday I heard that one person had complained at the way the school had acted. The thing that made me write this blog was nothing to do with the facts of the case as I don't know them. It was the way that one person had made the news for having an opinion. It was something to do with the school informing pupils earlier. However I would guess that the school has no case to answer as they would have taken advice.

In this instance nobody was hurt and perhaps all the right procedures were followed. Maybe there is a time for criticism but I think we should know what happened first.

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Saturday, 12 June 2010

I'd vote for Diane Abbott

There was a question on Any Questions yesterday about who to vote for in the Labour leadership election. Well I don't get a vote and neither do most of the panellists but if I did have a vote it would be for the person who would be the worst leader because it is not my party. So it is with a great deal of caution that I hear of Eric Pickles endorsement of Diane Abbott. He has probably not helped her campaign a lot but with all the other candidates looking so similar maybe she has a chance.

How do you decide between all these similar candidates - pick the good looking one. (that was a joke)but it should be left to those who support the party. I have a similar reservation about open primaries for general election candidates. The Tories paid a lot of money last year to select a GP in Totnes. It was an expensive method of selection that would not work in most constituencies. It may well be that the Tories got the best candidate but there must have been some distortion in the figures by the votes of non-Tories. Distortion would have been much more apparent in constituencies where there are less support for the party going through the selection process.

As for the Labour leadership - I would vote for Diane Abbott :-)

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Friday, 11 June 2010

Morecambe Town Council

My opinions on Morecambe Town Council and the dominance of a party called Morecambe Bay Independents are well documented. Firstly, I am concerned that this party has not published its constitution. It acts like a party but gets elected partly because it opposes party politics. Secondly there is no effective opposition on the Town Council to this party with no coherent policies. Thirdly, the council has been very slow in getting its website working. On the 19th December last year I wrote a blog about the Council's website as I was picking up requests for information as I had written about the council previously and had been found on an internet search.

I am pleased to say that their website has moved on a little but one of the reasons for the slow progress has been related to the problems with the clerk to the council. My comments for the discussion board are still not published. At least we know that the delays are not caused by the ruling MBIs. Well in today's Lancaster Guardian I read that a standards watchdog is investigating six of the town councillors following a complaint from the former leader of this party. "She says the six councillors bullied a former town council clerk in emails and correspondence in private meetings and at meetings of the town council and its finance and management committee".

The article goes on to say that all six councillors deny the allegations but all six cannot say anything else because of the ongoing investigation. I understand the need for media coverage to be unbiased so that the investigation is not corrupted, but how does a complete denial of any wrongdoing not jeopardise any inquiry?

I don't know if the former leader of the MBIs is correct in her allegations but with effectively only one party in council it is going to be very hard to hear any organised support for her opposing view. Let's see what the standards watchdog comes up with. It seems we will find out within six months.

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Thursday, 10 June 2010

Toleration of "truth"

Very often a university degree does not give training for a specific job. If that were the case what would people with degrees in history or classics do for work? However a degree does give prospective employers an idea as to how the graduate can deal with problems that may occur in the workplace or how they would apply logic to issues that arise.

I recently read a comment that if everything somebody said was true then it cannot be an insult. It seems fairly obvious to me (philosophers look away now) that even if the truth is established then the truth may still hurt. It can still be an insult. In fact it is much easier to brush off an obvious lie for what it is. We may still be hurt by obvious lies but when there is an element of truth in what someone says then this can really hurt.

We all have body odour. Some may describe my smell in an adverse way and I may be hurt by their "truth". There are very few things that we know for sure in life. Scientists don't talk in exact figures, they talk about tolerance which is not a bad word for the way we should deal with the views of others when they appear to know exactly what is going on.

The moral of this blog is be careful about what you believe to be true, and even if you are sure of your position, be careful how you use your knowledge as you may upset people around you.

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Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Where to make the cuts

I was listening to Jeremy Vine yesterday and one of the discussions was about where we could make cuts in public expenditure. I didn't hear anyone asking for their benefit to be cut but it is not unknown for wealthy people to say they don't want universal benefits like child benefit.

If you don't go to a library then protecting the library service may not be your priority. I don't use libraries very often however I used to be a regular and I appreciate what they do. Their service is closely related to education.

Universal benefits are easy to apply and you don't get poverty traps when everyone gets the benefit however if we are to make deep cuts in expenditure then the argument for means testing gets stronger. One thing is for sure, if George Osborne consults the public about where to swing the axe he will at least have the support of those who suggested the cuts in the first place.

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Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Do you support AV?

We may be hearing more about AV in the near future so it is worth knowing what it stands for. The Alternative Vote system is system in which voters list their favourite candidates in order. This is fairly easy to understand even if it is more complicated to count. However there are some first-past-the-post winners who would win in exactly the same way with AV, and that is those who have achiever over 50% of the vote. If this is not the case then the candidate at the bottom of the list gets their votes redistributed to the other candidates.

The problem with this is it isn't proportional representation. It doesn't help candidates who have the greatest support but it does help the candidates who is the least unpopular. I suppose this is an advantage in that the elected candidate knows that they are not the least popular for most voters. There is also an advantage in that more voters have a hand in electing an MP but this is hardly a ringing endorsement of AV. If we are going to bother to change then we should have a system that can relate the government of the day with the number of people who voted for it.

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Monday, 7 June 2010

No need to increase income tax

I drove to Manchester yesterday and saw many cars breaking the speed limit. I saw one cyclist who happened to cycle past red traffic lights but for the first time in many months of driving I was not affected by motorway roadworks. I came home in the late afternoon and as I was on the m60 passing the junction for Old Trafford I noticed a huge queue on both exit slip roads. This was nothing exceptional as there was a match on. However one sports car drove past me at roughly 100mph but then had to join this queue. I must confess to an element of Schadenfreude but there was not much misfortune of others because this driver went straight past the stationary traffic and pushed in at the slip road.

There are not many times when you can break the speed limit on Morecambe roads but when I walk my dog in the late evenings I would guess that more cars than not are breaking these limits. There must be thousands of laws that are broken every day. We don't need to raise income tax. Let's just fine the people who break the laws.

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Sunday, 6 June 2010

Israel does not want peace

Isn't it amazing that ships are still sailing to Gaza with aid? They are willing to try to break Israel's blockade even though soldiers killed crew members earlier this week. Israeli soldiers boarded the Irish ship the Rachel Corrie yesterday and what struck me was the Israeli spokesperson who said that the lack of violence was proof that the recent deaths were not their fault. What it meant to me was that there are still volunteers willing to risk death.

It also tells me that if the aid ship is willing to sail past the Israeli navy then they are also willing to have their ship boarded in international waters. It means that they have no concerns about the validity of their cargo. They know that no weapons will be found and only legitimate aid is being carried. Israel says that the blockade is to prevent weapons getting through. How dare they stop humanitarian aid!

Israelis think that if they can take over the Rachel Corrie peacefully then they are blameless for the nine deaths on board the Turkish aid ship. It means to me that Israel has no desire for peace with Palestine.

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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Maybe it is time for a ban.

On Question Time this week there was a comment that mass murder may occur even if guns are not available. Personally I think it is a lot easier to kill people when you do have guns. Now YouGov have been asking if guns should be banned and 70% say that they should . At least that's what yesterday's headline in The Sun says. 'Ban gun say 70%'. In the body of The Sun's text you read 'seven out of ten Britons want a complete ban on guns or tougher firearm laws'.

Maybe I should not believe any part of the article, after all the text and headline contradict each other. However I think there is some truth there somewhere and I prefer to believe the text. In the last couple of days I have considered much more thoughtful responses to a ban. My reservations have been that it is not a liberal act to ban anything and secondly I am not sure if we have the ability to carry out a ban. Maybe it is time for a ban. I have received a couple of comments and one supports a ban and the other supports tighter restrictions. The problem with a restriction requiring more frequent checks on gun owners is that it would not have stopped the events of this week.

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Friday, 4 June 2010

The absurdity of murder

There are many professionals who will now be considering the causes of the Cumbrian murders. They will look for causes and methods to prevent further occurences. I gave a rather simplistic answer yesterday. If I thought that the spokesperson for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation was correct (if these were the only reasons not to ban guns) in justifying the continued private ownership of guns, then I would ban them immediately. I am generally against banning things but I would make the banning of guns an exception if I thought it was possible.

An alternative view to the cause of murder is put forward by Albert Camus in his book The Outsider. He believes that there is no logic and if you try to find the reasons for murder then you won't find it. The hero of his book, (if hero is the correct word) Meursault is a killer and Camus puts the murder down to the glare from the sun. He is tried and convicted but Meursault is not helped because he cannot express his emotions. Even if he could show remorse and explain his feelings I don't think Meursault's defence is particularly strong.

I don't agree with Camus. If you are one of the professionals searching for answers then please continue to do so. If we can learn any lessons then the world will be a safer place.

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Thursday, 3 June 2010

Could we produce a world with no gun crime?

No doubt the county of Cumbria is in shock following yesterday's events. It may be a beautiful and remote area but we know that nowhere is immune from such tragic events. I am not quite sure what advice residents could have been given when Derrick Bird was on the loose but some holidaymakers on a campsite were told to stay in groups. However if they stayed in groups then they could have been shot in groups.

There will be questions asked as to whether his victims were targeted or were they innocent bystanders. It may well be that he knew some of his victims and I am sure that we will find out eventually but it appears that everyone was at risk. There will be a thorough investigation as to what should trigger such action. This is a much more difficult question but it is the one we have to find if we are to prevent further occurences like this.

I am sure that there are many complex reasons why this man decided to go on a killing spree and there will be complex answers. I know some people don't like wishy-washy answers about psychological factors that may have triggered events. Well here is a non-wishy-washy answer. Ban guns.

Bill Harryman from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (that's good psychology, mix something bad with something good) told us on the BBC news yesterday that if we banned guns it would make a huge dent in the rural economy. Well economies change so that's not a problem. He told us that we would not be able to host the olympics ever again and we would stop British olympians (I have met one shooting medalist) from competing. Most importantly we would stop people owning an important part of their heritage. In short he reckons the banning of guns is not a solution.

No if I had to weigh up a world with no gun crime and all the things Bill Harryman says then I know which I would choose. My only reservation is could we produce a world with no gun crime?

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Don't shoot the Red Cross

Whenever you hear from an Israeli or Palastinian politician you get long emotional comments so I will save you a lot of time with this summary. The Gaza blockade started in 2007 and Israel says this is to limit the rocket attacks from the Hamas controlled Palastinian government. The blockade causes great hardship in Palestine but Israel has many reasons to blame Hamas for the lack of essential items getting through to those in need.

This leads me to the news about the flotilla of aid ships that were stopped on their way to Gaza. Who was the aggressor? Well if I were sailing my ship in international waters and someone told me to change direction then I would say my travels were none of their business. If they then sent soldiers on board I would feel threatened and may pick up sticks or whatever was at hand to defend myself. If the soldiers started shooting and killing my crew then I would surrender. However the actions of the soldiers were illegal.

The opposite view is that a deliberate attempt was made to evade a blockade which would allow further rocket attacks on Israel. Intelligence reports told the Israelis that the flotilla was carrying a cargo that was much more sinister than simple aid. Whatever the intentions of those who called themselves aid workers, they attacked the soldiers who were simply carrying out their duties to protect their citizens. It was inevitable that the soldiers had to defend themselves. This must be the case as deaths only occurred on one ship. The actions of the soldiers were perfectly legal.

I know which story I prefer. There is a siege going on causing great hardship. Occasionally those who are carrying out the siege suffer some losses. These two sides may consider themselves at war with each other but this weekend's action is like shooting members of the Red Cross on their way to help the wounded.

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Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Tne Latest Technology

I was walking past my local hospital last week and I saw someone carrying three computer monitors. I don't know how often he drops things but I thought he was taking a risk with expensive equipment. A much greater expense is the need for this technology in the first place. I remember one IT goal was to allow anyone to walk into an A & E anywhere in the country and their records could be instantly accessed. If you are that person then please post a comment. Unfortunately I am still hearing about hospital appointments going to people who have died.

When the computer age hit Fleet Street we heard that The Grauniad would no longer have problems with spellings. Well computers do not stop human errors, they just make them more sophisticated.

I do like the latest technologies. I could not have written this blog a few years ago. I think we will see improvements in service eventually but I just can't help thinking that small GP surgeries and small hospitals ran really well with pen and paper, and receptionists knew their patients by name and didn't have to ask for a fifteen digit identity number.

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