Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Hopefully the last blog about BT

On the 30th September I added a note to my blog entry about BT. My reservations about naming this company have long gone as so many things have gone wrong. This note said that I had set up a direct debit and was hopefully the end of many problems that I had had with this company. I won't repeat these problems except to say that I had been asking them for their services since the end of July and it still hasn't been sorted as I received an automated phone call today telling me that I hadn't paid my bill. I tried to set up a direct debit again but this time I was unsuccessful maybe because I already had one.

I searched my records as I was hoping to speak with a real person and then I phoned BT. It only took eleven minutes this time. After going through many options, giving my account number and waiting, the automated voice suggested that I phone again to the number that I had already rung. I decided to decline this invitation and kept on the line. A few minutes later I spoke with someone who asked for my name, my account number and confirmation of my telephone number. Am I completely wasting my time putting in automated information?

I told the gentleman that I thought that I had already set up a direct debit and I was now told that I had failed to pay my bill. His reply was "there is no direct debit - oh yes there is". He then put me on hold. A few minutes later I was told that the direct debit was already set up and he apologised for their mistake.

I have been trying to get a service from BT for five months. I don't have the service that I asked for and there are still problems with the service they gave me. I am tied in for 18 months - only 13 to go.

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P.S. I feel bad writing a P.S. to what should be my last blog about BT but I have wanted to check the amount that I have used broadband. I normally use around a third of my allowance but who knows? For the last two days I have read "The usage monitor is currently undergoing maintenance. Please try again later". I don't check that often but it would be nice to know.

P.P.S. It is now 29th and still no monitor.

P.P.P.S I received an email on the 2dn December to tell me that so far, November I had used  7GB of  my 10GB allowance. It is nice that they are thinking of me when I get close to my allowance but this was sent to me two days after November finished. I checked today (3rd December) and the monitor is still not working.

Add another P. I phoned BT on Thursday. I had received recent adverts about BTVision so I thought I would try again. However I am still a bad debtor and this time it is not a check internal to BT but an external company tells BT that I need to give them a £50 deposit. I won't be taking them up on their offer. I did ask about the usage monitor. It is not working but should be working by weekend. It is now Sunday evening at 10pm. It isn't working.

Monday, 26 November 2012

36 reasons to avoid debating female bishops

Yesterday there was only one question on the television programme The Big Questions (should that be Question), should Parliament force the Church of England to appoint women bishops? However the question was hardly discussed as most of the time we heard something about the recent vote at Synod that rejected women bishops and we heard a lot of insults. I counted 36 examples of rudeness, insults, derogatory jokes and generally unchristian attitudes and emotions but there could easily have been more and the programme only lasted 43 minutes.

Christina Rees, a lay member of the General Synod was extremely upset (1) this week and feels that the Church looks "appalling"(2).  Bishops, clergy and laity have all been betrayed (3) by the House of Laity. She, and those who agreed with her "walked the extra mile" to accommodate those who disagreed but still they didn't get the result they wanted. It seems that nothing (4) will satisfy those who want to keep the status quo.

There is a problem with toxic (5) conservatives (the c is small because it belongs to members of the Church) who are defining the Church by what they despise (6), and according to the Rev George Pitcher this includes homosexuals, women and people who aren't it (conservatives). When one commentator felt that these conservatives needed protection from being pushed out (if there were women bishops) Christina felt that the use of the word protected was offensive (7). Peter Hitchens called this a furious dogmatic rage (8). I wouldn't quite use those terms but certainly the debate was heated (9). Christina told Peter that he was absolutely wrong (10), so I suppose that makes Peter right. He went on to criticise the use of the word toxic as he sees reasonable arguments from both sides of the debate.

Christina asked the conservatives how they would compromise, but her own position was clear. She wants women bishops who are not second class(11). Christina refused to accept that she is a purist and told us that this label should go to those who oppose her views (12). Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin felt that "there would never ever be anything good enough for them (13)" - the opposition. "That's a fact" she added. Not only is this opposition toxic, offensive, purist with no intention of compromise, all these are matters of fact(14) and do not need debating. She wants a new vote which is simple and asks for women bishops. If other members of the Church don't like it then Nicky Campbell suggested they should leave but Rose answered by saying they should behave like adults and accept the decision.

According to Rose, nothing was sorted out 20 years ago when women were ordained to the priesthood. It was a silly fudge (15). Others were calling it compromise. Women remain as second class and she added "that's a fact" - end of debate (16). Rev Pitcher came back with a "how dare you suggest"(17) when referring to apostolic mission and Sacred tradition. I don't think he was trying to cause offence but he was having a good go.  Ben Bradshaw MP reckons that Parliament could well act in the next few months if nothing changes. This is because there is a unique relationship with the Church of England which allows it to make decisions about Sacred tradition.

Rose spoke about a biblical illiteracy(18) within the Church referring to those who did not agree with women priests. "What on earth (19) are you (these people) doing on the General Synod?" The situation is ridiculous (20). "It - does - not - make - sense"(21). Peter recognized that what was just said showed no tolerance at all (22). Rose dismissed her opponents with contempt (23). According to Peter this is the source of the problem. Ruth Gledhill from The Times thought that Peter's view should be dismissed because this was the pot calling the kettle black (24). She was saying ignore Peter's views because he is not worthy of holding any.

Peter was speaking again when Christina kept interrupting (25) and when challenged she told Peter that he kept talking nonsense (26). Shortly after this she tried to interrupt another speaker (27). She did manage to speak again and quoted Rowan Williams by saying that her opponents did not show trust in the Church (28) and if you do not trust someone what do you say next to them. I had thought the Church in its wisdom had kept the status quo and so this is where trust should lie and it is Christina who needs to show trust.

Ruth spoke about the flying bishops who care for Anglicans opposed to female clergy. The aside from Rev Pitcher was "or the flying bigots (29) as we sometimes call them". Shortly afterwards George asked Ruth to wait a minute (30), to which he received the reply "no you wait a minute"(31). It didn't sound very pleasant. One had been talking for a great deal of time (31) while the other had monopolised (32) this debate. Well done the two of you because that is quite a feat in a chat show, or it could be that they were just arguing on air.

Peter saw rudeness (33) towards the conservative wing of the Anglican Church over and over again, and as if to prove the point Rose told him that this was madness (34). At this point he did manage a "there you go again" (35). Christina added that the House of Laity was holding the rest of the Church to ransom (36).

In the last five minutes of the programme a member of the audience spoke about her ambivalence towards women bishops. She has a point. Christians must think that God must be wondering how rude his supporters can get. Rudeness, insults and derogatory jokes even if you find them funny are not a basis for Christians to debate the role of women as Anglican bishops.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

An ash tree disaster?

There are 80 million ash trees in the UK and it is estimated that 95% will be affected by the fungus Chalara fraxinea, I quite like ash trees. There are other trees with pinnate leaves that I happen to prefer like the rowan tree but the ash isn't bad. That is unless you live near them. They are huge with thousands of seeds that fall distinctively. Consequently those who live near ash trees think of them as weeds.

I used to live near them and my neighbours told me how bad they were. I didn't particularly agree but I did find a dozen of so small ash trees growing in my small garden and understood how they could be thought of as weeds. I didn't want any ash trees growing in my smallish garden and they were tough to take out.

So why are we importing ash trees? It can't be difficult for nurseries to grow them and we have 80 million already. Everything I read about ash trees tells me that we are facing a disaster. It can't be that bad can it?

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Fewer tariffs must be good.

The government says it wants customers placed on the cheapest available tariff and if you are paying more then you will be switched automatically to your supplier's cheapest rate.  Consumer groups warn that the plans could mean some of the cheapest tariffs on offer disappear. Well companies will want to  make what they consider to be a fair profit so they tell us that the government plans will lead to less choice for consumers.

Well I don't want a huge choice. I don't want to work out whether I am on the best tariff from the company that provides my energy. I don't want to compare the charges from my company and its rivals. For me four choices of tariff are three too much. It's not like going to a supermarket and comparing the price of a tin of beans with the rival supermarket and who does that? Supermarkets entice us with adverts and loss leaders and before you know it we are hooked. We go to the same supermarket(s) out of habit. Advertisers know the importance of image when we are buying anything. There isn't a lot you can do with the image of gas and electricity but if you can make people feel cosy with an image of an energy tariff then you will make more money.

If the choice of tariffs is reduced then that's not a bad thing. If we get value for money then that's a good thing.

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Nothing wrong with tax avoidance?

If some companies are avoiding corporation tax then there are those who say that they are doing nothing wrong. They say that any criticism should not be aimed at companies like Amazon or Google or Starbucks but at the government which allows avoidance. I have written previous blogs on the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Carr, and the latter at least decided that what he did may have been legal but it wasn't ethical.

In the case of Starbucks it may be that their coffee outlets in the UK aren't making a profit but how do they allow their traders in Switzerland to make a healthy 20% profit without seeing a bean? This type of avoidance needs a broader answer than that which may be supplied by the UK government.

The companies are saying that they have done nothing wrong. Where have I heard that before? Oh yes MPs said that about their expenses.

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Why did the otter cross the road?

The otter population is growing in the UK and has been welcomed back as they look lovely and mean that the environment is cleaner. They have been welcomed back so much that they are protected. Well they haven't been welcomed back by everyone. Did you know that otters kill for fun? If an otter family moves in then they can do a lot of damage.  They eat duck eggs and the ducks if they can catch them. Fish farms are vulnerable too.

Regardless of whether you like or loath otters there is no doubting that the otter population has increased dramatically and otter families are now seen in most rivers. In part this has been due to a decline in their natural predators, in part it is due to a much cleaner environment, and in part it is due to the release of otters bred in captivity.  In recent years the otter has received significant support and European law protects them from injury and from moving them from their holt. Even if you took the otter from its home, another otter would fill the void as they are territorial animals.

If you wanted to build a mooring and your land happened to coincide with a holt then all is not lost. Help is available from Natural England. Otters are adaptable and with that advice they will live nearby. I have walked across Morecambe Bay and seen a great deal of wildlife. It so happens that wildlife was most abundant near humans and there isn't much to see in the middle of the Bay.

They have found a family of otters near the prospective link road from Morecambe to the M6. This means that Natural England are advising the council as to what they have to do to continue building. This isn't the emphasis in recent reports. Those who oppose the link road see the otters as their saviour. At the very least they believe that the cost of delay should preclude the continued development. However, even if building stops then the County Council money will go towards a link road elsewhere. Ironically the protestors have cost the council much more money in delays than any otter.

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P.S. Today's news (20th November) is that protestors still feel that the otters are the excuse they have been looking for. It is a non-story. Steve McCreesh, director of the project for the council, said the otters are not living near the area of woodland which will be built on. "They are not actually living close to the construction site, there is no holt near the site," he said. Still, it didn't stop the headlines.

Any space left in Room 101

I like the Lancashire Tory PCC candidate's message that he will be 'critical but supportive' of the chief constable. Now critical usual means that you are finding fault but Tim Ashton must be talking about the less used definition of critical as 'expressing an analysis of merits and faults'. The trouble is that even with this definition critical and supportive just doesn't make sense.

I'd put the expression 'critical but supportive' in Room 101 along with 'zero tolerance'.

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A mandate to oppose democracy

I laughed out loud when I read that one ballot box in Doncaster contained five voting papers. And then it sunk in. We have replaced something that many people haven't heard of, the police authorities with something they don't understand partly because we haven't had commissioners yet. What is the difference between a Liberal Democrat, a Tory and a Labour philosophy on policing? I am sure that if I read out an election address from the vast majority of candidates then you would not be able to name the party.

There was no funding for a postal leaflet so most people had no in depth knowledge of the views of any of the candidates. The few that went to vote only saw the party name when they voted. The trouble is that there will always be some who blame the electorate. They will say that people are lazy for not voting and they are lazy for not taking the trouble to find out about the candidates.

My view is that this election was not advertised well and those who shift the blame to the electorate are those who are in power and looking to keep it. Who chose November? We did manage to get leaflets out in some areas but that could have been doubled if daylight hours were better. Who chose to forbid a postal leaflet? 

Now that the results are coming in and we have figures for the dreadful turnout they will then say that the people have spoken - they don't want to vote. Then they will tell us that we shouldn't bother with elections. It appears that they have a mandate for telling us.

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P.S. I'm not laughing now. One ballot box in Newport, Gwent contained no voting papers.

P.P.S. I now read that it wasn't an empty ballot box but nobody went to one polling station in Newport. Incredible. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Will the last reporter please switch the light off

If you have had any direct knowledge of a news report and then seen those reports then I would guess that you already know that reporters don't always get things right. Partly they get things wrong because they are human, partly because they are told the wrong information and partly because they have to sensationalise the story. So if reporters had to resign for getting things wrong then, to paraphrase a Sun headline, the last one resigning would have to switch the light off.

Sometimes human error may be so great that a resignation is justified, and maybe that is the case with the DG of the BBC but it seems to me that there are much bigger areas of concern. Steve Messham told the BBC’s Newsnight team that he was raped by a senior Tory politician while he was in care at the Bryn Estyn home in Wrexham. Let's presume that there is the slightest truth in his allegation even though Steve recognised that the name that was leaked was not the alleged aggressor. Steve must have got the idea that it was a senior Tory politician from somewhere, and there are reports that say the police themselves gave Steve the name. This name must have been burning inside him for months and years.

Then there was the police investigation which didn't put out the flames. Then there was a Newsnight investigation which didn't put out the flames.Nobody put him right. I am not excusing Newsnight as it is a pretty serious error, but they have interviewed a man who passionately accuses an unnamed individual but who remains calm enough to be interviewed.

I don't believe the stories that say Steve Messham is a totally unreliable witness. I thought there was some truth in his allegations when he said he was raped and before I saw his heartfelt apology I suspected that he had been paid to change his story. I don't hold this view now because I believe Steve told the truth. Abhorrent acts have taken place and I hope David Cameron's resolve that 'no stone would be left unturned in getting to the bottom of these appalling matters' will continue.

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Sunday, 11 November 2012

The System Isn't Good Enough

It was interesting to read that a group of local Quakers may spoil their ballot papers for the PCC elections http://www.lancasterguardian.co.uk/news/quakers-angry-over-police-poll-1-5107554
The headline for the article was 'Quakers angry over police poll' which is hard to believe considering that they are pacifists and lovers of peace and this includes the absence of anger. However I couldn't find fault with the article itself. As I write this blog the commemorations at the Cenotaph are just finishing and I noticed that Quakers were not represented. They probably think about war much more than the rest of us and they certainly made today's local news.

They are considering the validity of the election because of the lack of information on all candidates. Me too. I have read the election addresses on the internet for all four candidates in Lancashire but the vast majority will not know anything about the candidates apart from which party they represent. Many will not have the ability to access any further information. The Quakers are also concerned about the possible politicisation of the police. Me too. I would also add that corruption is simpler when power is held by one person. I wrote about this on the 24th June 2009. If you don't see how corruption is possible then simply consider the role of Mayor Quimby in the Simpsons.

All four candidates in Lancashire represent political parties. What does political ideology have to do with setting the priorities for the police force? What has party politics got to do with holding the chief constable to account? Local Quakers may spoil their ballot paper and there is nothing wrong with that. They will be saying that they want to vote but the system isn't good enough. There is no doubt that the system could be better.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Don't expect any PCC Surprises

Occasionally parliamentary elections throw up surprising results and an independent wins. The local media will be involved. Newspapers, radio and local television will highlight the story and as a consequence the national media will have picked it up too. You need an outstanding candidate and exceptional circumstances.

Now think about the PCC elections where the boundaries are so much larger. If any independent candidate has a chance of winning then we would have heard about it by now. It looks like the party machines are taking over which will be helped by the independent candidates all saying the same type of thing. They all want a more accountable police service. They all want to concentrate effort on crime against the individual. They all see victims as more important than the criminal. They all want to avoid secrecy. They are all competing against each other.

Any candidate with a long association with the police could be seen as the right person for the role. On the other hand they could also be in cahoots with the police service because of this association, and their emphasis may not be to give the public what they want but to give the police the support that they desire.

Who is this wonderful independent who is distanced from the police but knows exactly what they need and what the public desire? What sort of person would make the best candidate? Whoever it is it is looking less and less likely that any will be elected independently. I received a comment from my blog last week which asked how we can realistically vote for a PCC because voters know so little about the candidates. The answer is that voters will resort to voting with their party hats on.

The comment also mentioned the £5000 deposit. Well if any independent candidate wants publicity then they can throw their money away but they won't become a PCC. I may be wrong but I wouldn't expect any surprises at these elections.

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Monday, 5 November 2012

Another hush up?

Sexual abuse is alleged to have taken place in children's homes in north Wales during the 1970s and '80s and we know that an unnamed senior Tory politician is involved. Compare that with the Savile investigations. We not only know that the perpetrator was Savile but we have seen photographs of the arrest of Gary Glitter and Freddie Starr. Gary Glitter was filmed leaving his home and it wouldn't be difficult to identify the house. Freddie Starr lives in Warwickshire. I didn't know that and I am sure many more of his personal details are available in this technological age. Both have been released on police bail.

What is the difference between those involved in the Jimmy Savile investigations and those involved in north Wales? Both have household names but we don't know the name of the politician. Should we know details of those who are arrested? 

The alleged victims in north Wales don't think that they have been listened to, but even Jimmy Savile's relatives find him guilty. There may be more politicians involved in north Wales but nobody knows their names. Surely if we have learnt one thing from the Savile case it is that he got away with it because everyone hushed it up. If we know what is happening then maybe more victims would come forward.

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