Sunday, 30 September 2012

John Terry's lucky escape

There are those who support John Terry and say that he is not a racist. There are those who feel that he did racially abuse QPR's Anton Ferdinand. I have heard that he was good friends with Ferdinand and he would not verbally abuse him Well he doesn't appear to be good friends with him now. If you have the money for the best lawyers then an element of doubt can lead to a verdict of not guilty but that is not the same as innocence,

I can't read lips and I have never read the actual words that were spoken. Most reports shy away from mentioning the actual words but I have almost seen the words in print except that many letters were shown as an asterisk. I would say that the expletives were deleted but you could tell what was said and it wasn't nice. Regardless of the words used, all you have to do is see the manner in which they were said. This was not banter between friends and if there are people who think that these words could be friendly banter then it is time to change their attitude.

It is also time to change the way that reports claim John Terry was cleared of racial abuse. He was found not guilty and even non-lip-readers know that racial abuse did take place. Football is competitive and aggression is needed but lines have been crossed and the wrong messages are going out. If this sort of abuse had happened in most other workplaces then suspensions and probable sacking would have followed.

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Monday, 24 September 2012

David Cameron supporting the wrong person

My summary from Welease Woger (see blog below) was that I had to agree with the Police Federation Chairman that the Andrew Mitchell outburst has raised doubts about the Government's relationship with the police service. Since then David Cameron has told us that Mr Mitchell took the right action by apologising. Well that's right but what about the more important aspect, the reasons behind the outburst that caused the need for the apology.

The chief whip told reporters he was sorry for not showing enough respect to the police, but also said that he "did not use the words attributed to me". If that is the case then he has insulted the police and then called at least one officer a liar. The words insult and injury come to mind.

It is good that an apology has been offered and accepted, but the accepted part is purely down to the good nature of a particular officer. It tells us nothing about whether Government ministers have any respect for the police service. In this  particular case we can be fairly sure that the word "plebs" was used as Mr Mitchell did not directly say that he didn't say it. He only said that he had not used the words that had been reported. So maybe the notes made by the officer had one word that was not remembered by the minister.

Many will feel that the outburst was simply a sign of frustration and has been blown out of all proportion. Well David Cameron now gives his full support to Andrew Mitchell which means things have escalated. We have a minister who looks down on the police and a prime minister supporting him.

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Welease Woger

There is a scene in the Life of Brian in which those at the back of the crowd can't hear what Jesus is saying. Somebody hears the words blessed are the cheesemakers but this doesn't make sense and another member of the crowd tells us that it's not meant to be taken literally but refers to any manufacturer of dairy products. In another scene Brian becomes Bwian and Roger becomes Woger and this causes misunderstanding.

Andrew Mitchell, the Chief Whip has caused misunderstanding too. He denied that he swore at a police officer but has apologised for not showing the police enough respect. Ken Clarke thinks Mr Mitchell is a "perfectly reasonable man" even though he had a "flare of bad temper". However it doesn't really matter what you think about a stranger who is insulting you. What matters is what has happened and Mr Mitchell has apologised.

What has he apologised for? He is said to have sworn and told officers to "learn your place" and "you don't run this government".  Mr Mitchell actually apologised for not showing the police enough respect as he swore in frustration at not being able to cycle through the main gates of Downing Street,

Mr Tully, the Police Federation Chairman believes this shows that  "there is an inbuilt dislike of the police service in general from the government". I hope the chairman is wrong and all it will take is for Mr Mitchell to tell us how the words that he uttered could be misinterpreted in such a profound way. I just can't think of any slight changes that would make Mr Mitchell's remarks sound reasonable and for that reason I have to agree with Mr Tully.

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Saturday, 22 September 2012

BT Fiasco Continues

I prefer to write about things that are important to many people. Well this is important to me and maybe to others but it is good for me to have this record of how many things can go wrong when changing my internet provider. I received a bill this week telling me that I was no longer a BT customer. 'Sorry you're leaving BT' was their headline. I was not aware of this as readers will know already that I have fought long and hard to gain a service from BT.

I phoned yesterday and I was assured that I was still a customer. It is a long story made longer by the system of speaking to someone on BT's phone. I had to input my account number twice so that their service could be an efficient service, then I had to tell the person my account number twice. At the end of this conversation I was reassured a little and I was asked if I found that person helpful. I said yes but the letter causing the phone call was the complete opposite.

I will look again for my online bill and broadband usage in a couple of weeks and see if it can be found. I may be phoning them again to find out how I can see my bill but when I phone up now I am getting automatic responses telling me that I have already phoned a number of times, How can automated responses sound sarcastic?

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P.S. It is now eight days later and I can log on to my account. That's good. Unfortunately I still can't access my broadband usage. as the connection was reset. I think that is another language for 'you can't see how much broadband you are using so we may charge you more at the end of the month'. 

I did try to check on how much I had used broadband yesterday but maybe in another week or two I will have access. After all, I only asked for BT's service in July.

P.P.S. It is now the 4th October. I still cannot see my broadband usage so I phoned BT again and after the usual options I spoke to someone at once! They were also very helpful and passed me onto the technical department and after only 27 minute I can now see that........the 'usage  monitor is currently undergoing maintenance. Please try again later'.

I have had emails linking me to my bills. Unfortunately the links were broken. I now find out that I have a bill that should have been paid a week ago - it is now paid. I thought I had set up a direct debit but it is now. The good news is that there was no sarcastic automated message telling me that I have phoned for help again. I was told that I had gone over my broadband allowance and been charged £5 extra. I can't see this on my bill. Dare I phone again?

Help for the Duchess of Cambridge

There is no doubt that the Duchess of Cambridge has had her privacy invaded when a photographer took the topless photographs. He was staked out for days with a long lens and the kindest words for him would be that he was a peeping Tom. Privacy should be protected for the Duchess and also for the Z list celebrity but how do you do this when there are newspapers and magazines that publish this sort of photo every day?

We get the media we deserve but regulation is so much better on television than it is in the papers than it is on the internet. On one hand you can turn the television off or not buy the paper or change the internet security settings but this isn't good enough because privacy is still invaded and many will still want to see those topless photos. Can we allow our media to hurt the feelings of others without punishment? Some will feel that it is the Duchess' fault because she knew that she could be seen from a public area. Some will say it is the magazine's fault for employing a Peeping Tom.

Although page three employs models there is still the problem of how we treat women. At best they should not be seen simply as an object of desire. At worst these photos inculcate misogyny. If you can't follow this argument then reverse roles and see how you would feel if you were only valued for your looks. I do not think of The Sun as a newspaper even if there is some news in it. The newspaper is not bought because it contains 'the truth'. More likely it is bought  because of page three. We get the papers we deserve but that doesn't mean that The Sun should be banned. However we should be leading people away from thinking that it is a newspaper. There are arguments that page three should be banned and I can understand these arguments, but then do you ban top shelf magazines? If The Sun were reclassified and sale was restricted to adults then sales would probably go up.

You don't change hearts and minds by banning things, but it is wrong to be a peeping Tom. It is wrong to have a 'newspaper' that thinks page three photos will keep up its circulation but injunctions won't help, reclassification of newspapers won't help. Specifically for the Duchess, a private area would definitely help. She has won a victory in court which still gives a profit to the media so stalking will continue. I am not a lawyer but it may help to go after the photographer with anti-stalking laws.

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Saturday, 15 September 2012

Job Cuts in the NHS?

My local hospital trust needs to save money. In fact it needs to save "£1 for every £5" spent to balance its budget within five years. So what is it going to do? What would you do if you had to cut back your budget by 20%? Well if most of my expenditure was on staffing then that would be the first thing I would look at but that's not an easy answer.

 There is a five-year plan to balance the books but they aren't sure yet what that plan is, but it is good to know that they have decided on five years. It is also good to know that they are going to ask the public because these financial difficulties have been caused by making services safe and the public aren't to blame for that. Well I can find those savings.

In recent years the biggest developments in the NHS have been with information technology along with huge costs. What are the benefits? Well doctors and nurses still use pens but additional records are placed on the computer. Appointments are made by computer. The additional records and appointments are available to others not on site. Management can be at a distance because of collective staff records. Diagnostic records may be shared with professionals throughout the trust and elsewhere. All sorts of information may be accessed at the press of a button.

Now think of the downside. It takes a second to give an appointment with a pen and paper. Computer training alone must be expensive but add on the costs of the soft and hardware. Have you ever walked into a computer room. It is hot. Add on the heating bill. We don't need instantaneous access for appointments. We just want to know our next appointment. We don't want professionals duplicating information expensively for the sake of the latest technology.

This view is not popular. It is opposed by the technology industry. It is opposed by all whose professional status is raised by association with the latest technology. However I don't want to walk into a casualty miles away and have all my details accessed immediately (with all the consequent risks to data protection).

I love computers. I'm using one now. What I don't like is the way they have added extra burdens. There are some aspects of technology that really make a service more efficient. When I go to a checkout and the stock levels are measured as quickly as I can pack my goods into bags. There are great improvements to the way lectures may be delivered, to access of information, and some information sharing is really useful. However there is too much vested interest in saying that record keeping improves with the latest technology. Reception and appointment services deteriorated greatly in proportion to technological advances.

I have more ideas to help my trust but it will take a radical view to appreciate that the techniques of the 80s are valid today, like ticking someone's name when they arrive in a building. I heard how management supported change with arguments like doctors in any part of the country will have instant access to everyone's detailed medical records. Arguments like every professional can have instant access to every diagnostic test. These arguments are specious if we are to save 20%. Why is it that I think we are heading for job cuts?

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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A Sorry Lot

I recently wrote about Hillsborough and asked the reporter to look at his own culpability for his article in the Sun. The reporter was blaming the editor, Kelvin McKenzie. Well today everyone is saying sorry including Kelvin. I have heard that his apology is seen as too little too late but at least he has apologised. He could have stuck with the line that this is what he had been told was the truth. We have known for a long time that his 'truth' was lies.

Everyone is apologising. The police, David Cameron, Sheffield Wednesday, as well as Kelvin. Apart from apologies today's news highlighted the shortcomings and failings in the emergency services. There was no evidence of any government trying to conceal the truth but how I wish I had been writing blogs in 1989 as I remember politicians confirming the failings, I remember them telling us how the fans were drunk and how they forced the gates. This may not be the same thing as concealing the truth but there can't be that much difference.

There is also the matter of how the coroner got away with telling us that all the deaths had occurred by 3.15pm and this in turn led to the verdicts of accidental death. Relatives were not allowed to see their loved ones but were asked about how much they had been drinking. Is there an apology from the person responsible?

There are many more questions to be answered but today has been satisfying for those in search of justice. I was starting to feel a little sorry for Kelvin because he is in the public eye as compared with the police officers who were responsible or the coroner or the reporter or many others. Then I thought what would Kelvin write about another editor who had been exposed in this way? I don't think he would be reticent in condemning his actions.

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Fairtrade, Gandhi and Radio Lancashire

I was a member of the audience in the Sally Naden show yesterday at Radio Lancashire and I can thoroughly recommend going to see a live show (is show the right word for a radio programme). There is no cost to attend and all I had to do was reply to an email. I went to see Chonkinfeckle, a duo from Wigan who play the ukulele. Sally also had two other guests, Bruce Crowther who spoke eloquently about fair trade and Fairtrade products. The third panelist had her own business that looked to promote businesses by quantitative and qualitative research as well as networking and I am sure a lot of other things.

I nearly managed to give a plug to the Morecambe Ukulele Club when Sally asked if anyone else played the ukulele. Unfortunately there were three players on the front row who had travelled from west Yorkshire. Still, I can give Morecambe a plug now.

I did enjoy listening to the music and I was also interested in what the panelists had to say. I am not a great fan of networking which strikes me as who you know not what you know. I don't particularly like the level of research or the context in which it is carried out. I feel that it leads to successful companies compounding their success to the detriment of the smaller competitor. Similarly I have heard that advertising may promote a particular brand but does not sell more of a particular product.

To summarise my dissatisfaction with this aspect of our society I would mention a comedy sketch from 'Come Fly With Me' a TV programme with David Walliams and Matt Lucas. They are working at an airport check-in and sell priority boarding tickets to everyone. If everyone had equal access to expensive research then everyone would be where they were in the first place but it would cost society so much more.

Bruce responded to the lady's role by saying that there are some aspects that were necessary because of accountability but he preferred Gandhi's attitude about doing something because it is the right thing to do. I have since looked up the quote and it is 'It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.

It is important to make a profit, at least occasionally. It is important to be successful in business but wouldn't it be nice that profit and success could be achieved simply by doing the right thing?

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Friday, 7 September 2012

Hillsborough Truth

The North West news today includes a story about the Hillsborough disaster because Harry Arnold, the reporter  who wrote the original article claims he was 'aghast' when he read that the title was 'The Truth'. He says that he wrote about allegations and it was a version of the truth. His article  had been written in a 'fair and balanced way'. It was only a 'version' of the truth. So what kind of truth had Liverpool fans urinating on a police officer? How much truth was there in writing about stealing money from dead people?

This version of the truth intrigued me. Let me use my imagination. Somebody spoke to Harry who said these things had happened and Harry thought it possible that the allegations were true. He looked to corroborate the stories and as they were made up he found no support. However the allegations had still been made and were worthy of the Sun newspaper. Harry's only problem was that it was one person telling him this and the evidence was not reliable.

Harry blames Kelvin McKenzie for writing the headline. I think Harry has to think long and hard about his own culpability. It wasn't a version of the truth Harry. It was lies. Don't just regret the headline, apologise for the article. Maybe Harry does apologise. I'll have to watch the BBC 1 programme on Sunday evening and who knows, maybe we will learn more about a cover-up on Wednesday when official papers will be released.

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Monday, 3 September 2012

Bad Timing

Oscar Pistorius has made the headlines by claiming that he was beaten to a gold medal by someone who broke the rules. His outburst came immediately after the T44 200m final and he has since apologised. Well that's what the headlines say but he has only apologised for the timing of his criticism. It seems quite a technical complaint in that the blades have to be in proportion to the person wearing them and he feels that the gold medal winner, Alan Oliveira had an unfair advantage.

I am watching the BBC 10 O' Clock news and again they say that Oscar is apologising but he isn't. Oscar felt that there was a technical problem and I understand that he did raise his concern prior to the race so maybe there is a communication problem as everyone else is saying that the winner won legitimately.

Maybe it is sour grapes or maybe it is a one-man quest for justice when everyone else is against him. Whatever it is it was certainly bad timing and we have an apology for that, but I can't help feeling that the apology should be about the insult to the winner.

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Saturday, 1 September 2012

Political Photos from London

I have recently been to London for a couple of days and you can see some of the photos that I took at

I know that events are particularly painful for those involved and even for those who just see what is happening on television. It was surprising then to see the smiling faces on the left. The only serious aspect was a sign that read 'Assad Stop Killing Children'.

The view of the Palace of Westminster is a little different because there are only five people in the photo and one vehicle. Well it was early morning.

I also took a look at the crowds outside the Ecuadorian embassy. There were around 15 demonstrators and a similar number of police officers. I asked one officer if he (Assange) was still in there then. She replied "I certainly hope so". I did get a supplementary question as to why it was costing £50 000 per day in policing. She hadn't heard about this so I put forward that she hadn't noticed this type of figure in her payslip. I would guess that a lack of knowledge of policing costs is now the standard reply considering that it was a police officer who accidentally revealed plans to arrest him 'under any circumstances'.

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How much do I charge BT?

First the good news. David phoned me on Thursday and he tried his best to reduce or remove the charges as outlined in my last blog entry. He couldn't change anything. I did ask about the deposit and how a credit check had caused this charge as I don't know of any previous debt. He told me that I was not a bad debtor but couldn't explain the reason for the charge. He was still looking for a better price for BT Vision when I had to tell him twice that there really was no reason to do so. I was going to go out and buy a recorder.

All I had wanted was the ability to pause live TV and to record those programmes that were not convenient for me to watch at the time. I had thought that BT Vision would provide me with this facility for £4 per month. It turned out that they tried to provide this with the ridiculous hidden costs of  £125 plus the £4 per month.

David did change my telephone number - well no he didn't. He was billing and it was the technical department that had to deal with me. Unfortunately they were busy and I was off to work and not able to phone them back until this afternoon. So, with an expected wait of 5 to 10 minutes I waited to speak to a real person and managed this after 15 minutes. They left me on hold for a further 10 minutes then told me that the number had to be changed by the billing department. He just had to check something. I did say that I had spoken to the billing department on Thursday and they wanted the technical department to deal with it. This didn't work and he put me on hold. After 33 minutes he had done his checking and repeated that he was putting me through to billing. I think I sounded like I was begging at this point as I repeated that I had spoken with them on Thursday.

After 40 minutes I spoke with someone from billing who dealt with my request for my old number within a couple of minutes and then told me it would take 24 working hours for it to be working. Now to me 24 working hours takes me to Wednesday or Thursday if you count a 9 to 5 working week from Monday to Friday. I couldn't believe this so asked what 24 hours meant. She explained that not all departments were working at weekend so I should have my old number by Monday evening, 60 of my hours and 24 of hers which must mean that her working hours are all the hours God gives but only from Monday to Friday. My call lasted 42 minutes.

It looks like I will receive a working landline not on the 9th August, but on Monday 3rd September, exactly six weeks after I requested it. She may have sensed my frustration (or it may be a routine question) and asked, for her personal feedback if I was happy with what she had done. I told her that she had been wonderful. Unfortunately she had no idea of the difficulties that I had encountered.

I have now bought a TV recorder for £89 and it does exactly what I want it to do. BT were going to charge me £35 for an engineer to visit me. I am going to provide them with a service by returning their BT Vision package when I get my number. How much should I charge them for a taxi to the post office and my time?

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