Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Not a national illness service

I received a letter from my GP surgery recently as I now fall into an age group which is offered heart and blood pressure screening. I had to phone up yesterday to make an appointment for a blood test. I don't often ring the doctor so this may be unusual but I got through in a couple of seconds but it took twelve minutes to get connected to an actual person. I had to pay to listen to music interspersed with a comment something like "your call is important to us". I heard it dozens of times but couldn't tell you what they actually said. The music wasn't brilliant either.

Why do companies ask you to pay to wait on their phone line? I wouldn't agree with them charging us for our calls but at least I would understand if there was a financial incentive for these companies to get us hanging on the phone, but I don't think this is the case with my GP.

Some may give the answer that it is an efficient way of diverting the call to the appropriate department, but it wasn't in this case and even if there are different departments then just give me the phone number of the appropriate department. When they are ready to speak with me and they pick the phone up then I will start paying. It is ironic that a screening process for high blood pressure may be a factor in causing high blood pressure.

At the risk of sounding too much like a grumpy old man I will finish on a positive note. I am pleased at screening initiatives and this fits with the name National Health Service rather than its usual role as a national illness service.

Change the world

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Two-year-old Reporters

It takes some bravery to stand up in court and tell people that you cannot write a team sheet especially when you are a football manager. However Harry Redknapp said "I am completely and utterly disorganised. I write like a two-year-old and I can't spell." He is brave because he did not need to use this sort of argument in his defence on a charge of tax evasion because I seem to remember that ignorance is not a defence in a court of law. He could have just said that he forgot. Maybe he is hoping for a sympathetic jury but I don't think he will find sympathetic opposition fans on the terraces.

I believe he is brave for admitting his ignorance and his inability to take professional advice. He is also brave because his defence is admitting that he is foolish. This made me wonder how you get a job as a football manager without being able to write a team sheet and without any organisational skills. Mostly I wrote this blog because of the last sentence on the ITV report. Harry "had not been paid for a newspaper column that he wrote for 18 months" Is it any wonder? He writes like a two-year-old.

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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Good idea boss

Homer Simpson gives Bart three pieces of advice that will get him through life. "Cover for me, good idea boss and it was like that when I got here" and it is the good idea boss that inspires this blog. It applies to everyone in work. All employees need to be diplomatic around their employer and it is not unknown for employees to butter up their managers. However this is not always the case and there are many reasons why some employees can't do this. Not everyone gets on with their manager. Some people don't even take jobs because they disagree with the aims of the company.

Could you have worked for Gaddafi or for Saddam? Conscientious objectors may object to working in the armed services but I am sure there are many more examples that are much more common. A friend of mine once described his role of filling bottles of branded beer and then switching bottles to a cheaper brand. The beer was the same but if people want to pay more for the same beer then it is up to them. However there is an element of deception in selling anything. Today I heard that I could go to a car main dealership and order a part which then comes from another part of town where I could have bought it at a lower price - hey that's capitalism for you.

I don't want to pick on Carol Vorderman but she was the first celebrity I though of in today's news articles about debt consolidation. Those who charge for this service are not getting a good press and it is easy to see why. You are in debt and then told to increase that debt so you can see more easily how your money is disappearing. It just isn't logical, especially to a mathematician. Did Carol decide that her boss had a good idea and those in debt may benefit from an increased debt? Well there weren't many on the BBC regional news this evening who agreed with her.

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Friday, 20 January 2012

It's called interference

There are still suggestions that Mustafa Ameen interfered with the scorecard when Amir Khan fought Lamont Peterson over a month ago. It may be the case that Mr Ameen was really helpful and corrected genuine errors in the scoring by WBA supervisor Michael Welsh during the fight. It may also be the case that something more sinister is going on.

I watched an interview at http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/boxing/16646592.stm and Mustafa feels that he should not have been described as a mystery man. Well he was to most people. At around one minute Mustafa categorically denies wrongdoing at any time in his life. On this basis alone I would not trust him. However I will give him the benefit of the doubt. He has done things wrong in his life but forgot about them during the interview. It is easy to pick holes in Mustafa's explanations but you can do that yourself.

The answer does not lie with Mustafa Ameen because he cannot tell us that he has authority to act in the way that he did. The answer does not lie with Amir Khan for the same reason. He simply does not know why Mustafa was assisting Michael Welsh. The answer does not lie with Michael Welsh either so it is no use interviewing him.

The WBA may be able to help but the answer lies with the International Boxing Federation. They should tell us why a man in a hat was assisting the supervisor. Who gave him the ringside seat? Who gave him the authority? If Mustafa's assistance is not authorised then it's called interference.

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Making The World A Better Place

There are times when we question whether we would intervene in an action when something is going wrong. A couple of years ago Boris Johnson made headlines because he helped in a mugging (in a good way) and there was a debate as to whether members of the public should get involved in crime prevention. The answer will vary from person to person. Some may think it is better to cross the road and look the other way. Others may think that something should be done if there is a reasonable chance of success. There will be others who would try to stop a crime even if they have a slim chance of success. Do you remember last year when a woman attacked armed robbers with her handbag? Alright she did think that one of the gang was being attacked but she didn't hesitate to defend this person and she didn't stop when she realised her mistake.

Yesterday we heard about a man who celebrated after leaving course with a suspended sentence. He was found guilty of being part of a serious assault in Manchester. The victim felt that justice had not been done but it would not stop him acting as a good Samaritan in the future. I don't know if justice was done but it is quite possible that celebrations are relevant and the sentence appropriate.

I did start this blog with the opinion that the public, like the victim, should get involved if they see something going wrong. If we don't then anarchy will rule. However the more I read the more I saw prejudice. It seems that if you have tattoos or if you publicly celebrate a non-custodial sentence then you should be locked up. The authors of the comments that I read felt it was appropriate to call the celebrant a thug and as an unemployed member of the public this somehow related to evil acts. How do we allow this standard of journalism?

The man who celebrated may not be a pleasant person, I don't know, but the only thing he has been convicted of is assault, and he has been sentenced for that. If the sentence was inappropriate, that wasn't his fault. Punching the air afterwards may have been inappropriate, but I think it's understandable under the circumstances, and it isn't a crime. Neither is getting tattoos, or drinking, or wearing a costume at Halloween, or eating a burger, or any of the other things he's shown doing.

My intention was to write about how everyone can act to make the world a better place and we should get involved if something is going wrong, but journalists need to take a lead.

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Saturday, 7 January 2012

Who supports whom?

A few days ago I added a comment to the Bishop of Lancaster's new year pastoral letter. He was asking whether the Church should continue to fund schools that are Catholic in name only. That answer is easy - the sign should come down and funding should stop. He also puts the more difficult question as to whether Catholics should support schools in which the majority are not practising Catholics. I posted an answer which mentioned the numbers, and the enthusiasm and motivation of those who are Catholic.

The question of church school funding came up at the hustings meeting at the last general election. I had presumed that it was common knowledge that church schools supported the state financially with parishioners part-financing them, but there was a common view that the state supported church schools. So which view is right? Bishop Campbell highlighted the financial assistance given to those of all denominations and none who belong to Catholic schools. At least one candidate at the last general election and some in the audience felt that the state was supporting church schools.

I think the answer lies in the child's perspective. They are receiving a public education in a church school. It is not a private education in which the state has to step in if the parents aren't able to pay. Catholics are expected to contribute to the funding of theirs schools, over and above the amount they contribute in taxes, which they pay at the same rate as those whose children go to secular state schools. In effect they pay twice.

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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Suarez needs to learn a lesson

I know that I have already written twice about Suarez but whenever I hear nonsense then I am inspired to write a new blog. Liverpool will not appeal against Luis Suarez's eight-match ban (see blogs from the 20th and 22nd December). It is obvious to me that regardless of intent (which I have no way of knowing) Suarez used a word many times that was perceived as offensive. Liverpool maintain that he is innocent. If that is the case then they should appeal. That is what the appeal process is there for. However Liverpool will not appeal because they fully support moves "to stamp out racism in every form, inside and outside the sport".

Liverpool are confused. They either think he is innocent, in which case they should appeal, or they think he is guilty and should not appeal on the grounds that they wish to "stamp out racism..."

Even worse, Suarez will "carry out the suspension with the resignation of someone who hasn't done anything wrong". Those who do wrong have their sentence reduced if they show remorse. Well he can't appeal for a reduction in the sentence on these grounds. Could the sentence be reduced on the grounds that he did not use that offensive word? I've not heard Suarez say this. Does he still think that this word is inoffensive in this country?

Liverpool feel that "the FA panel has damaged the reputation of one the Premier League's best players", when in fact the FA has been insulted by an organisation that will not follow the proper channels and prefers to criticise from the sidelines.

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Postal Votes Count Less

The thing that took my eye for the first blog of the year was an article in today's local paper about a by-election in Morecambe on Thursday 22nd December. The winner is quoted as saying how pleased she was that she "got 80% of the ballot box vote, although it was an extremely low turnout".

The results were 191:153:106 which means that the winner received less than 43%. I am not sure of the difference in value between the votes in the ballot box and those in the post but the winner attaches some importance to it. However she was right about the low turnout. I was at the count but I didn't hear the percentage turnout - 10.99%.

Here is the real figure. The winner received around 4.7% of the possible vote. 4.7% sounds a little different from 80% but it tells a much more important story. Does anyone know of a lower turnout?

Happy New Year