Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Internet and Broad Band have taken a hold of my life. How has this means of communication wormed its way into every area of my existence? At work if the server goes down it limits my ability to record data; social workers, finance teams, payroll or clients call, and I'm unable to fully satisfy their queries.

When at home, whether it's leisure, disability campaigning tasks or trade union duties, the Internet drops, and I'm lost. Sure, I can use my mobile as a back-up; but I'm from a slightly earlier generation that cut its IT teeth on PCs, not really coming to terms with hand-held devices.

Anyway, my BT BB has been giving me intermittent service for some time. To add to my computer usage problems I discovered that even though MS Office 365 had emailed me confirming payment and renewal over a month ago, I was locked out of MS Word. On checking my bank statements I discovered that for some reason Microsoft had not debited my account - how I was still receiving all MS Office 265 products from 18th December to 19th January is a bit of a mystery.

But I now to the point of this Blog. Though I've been receiving a poor service from BT, I've kind of managed to grit my teeth and let it go. Today however, I really started to examine my dependency on the bloody Internet.

First I had no service. A BT engineer called, looked at my connections and decided the problem lay outside my home. So, about an hour later he called to let me know my system was up and running. 

Great. It's a cold rainy Sunday in January, what better way to wile away a few hours than to finish uploading the new copy of MS Office 365 that I'd purchased a couple of days ago - I forgot to say, due to the 'Grand Old Duke of York' performance of my BB the MS software had been loading since Friday evening.

So, phone and BB working I tentatively venture online. No sooner am I in than I get an instruction to reboot the iMac in order to complete the installation of the new software. Now you might recall I've been downloading this software since 6 pm on Friday evening. It is now 1.30 pm on Sunday. Remembering the advice from my councillor about sweating the small stuff I composed myself comforted that these small trials are sent to try us, and that life is too short to continually worry about such minutiae.

Composed, I instruct the iMac to Restart...

The iMac gracefully dies, leaving me peering at myself on a darkened screen.

Then life!

Up comes the Apple logo followed by the progress bar. The bar creeps along slowly adding white millimetres to its progress. Then, it halts, vanishes, leaving me once again looking quizzically at my reflection again.

Ah, but up it pops, back to life. This time I'm presented with a:

'Installation in Progress: Estimating time remaining' message...followed by: 'Completing Installation: About 27 Minutes Remaining'.

Not much I can do but wait. Returning to the machine 30 minutes later I'm met by 'Installation in Progress: Estimating time remaining'. Tentatively I sit watching the screen for some action. It's now about 45 minutes since I began the rebooting exercise. Ah, here we go, some action at last.

'Completing Installation: About 35 Minutes Remaining'. WTF! The fucking thing is going backwards. And so the drama continued - '16 Minutes Remaining'...'15 Minutes Remaining'...'13 Minutes Remaining'. Oh well, at least it's going in the right direction...Except it's not as the next message reads: '26 Minutes Remaining'.

Christ on a cross, not only is the 'small stuff' pouring from my pores, but the air is blue as I exhaust my extremely wide lexicon of expletives; and go back to invent a few more just to make sure my feelings are adequately expressed.

I'm now up and running, though I have a greatly diminished trust in MS and no faith whatsoever in those notorious daylight robbers British fucking Telecom.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Top bosses need only to work three days to 'earn' the average UK wage

It’s definitely the season to be jolly if you’re a Chief Executive Officer of a top company. Yesterday was ‘Happy Fat Cat Thursday’. And, it was reported that by the fourth day of 2018 that the bloated ‘earnings’ of top CEOs had reached the average UK pay of £28,758 – though ‘earnings’ is a very questionable term here.
Basically, CEO’s of the UK’s largest firms were paid on average £4.5 million each last year (all figures sourced from the High Pay Centre and HR industry body the CIPD).

The High Pay Centre calculates that the average chief executive earns 120 times more than the average employee working full-time. The calculation is based on executives working a 12-hour day, weekends and taking 19 days holiday per annum.

Using these calculations, in order to reach median full-time employee’s annual salary, top bosses need only to work 32 hours.

How can one person within any organisation be valued 120 times greater than that of the average worker’s full-time earnings? Sure, a CEO may work a longer week than the average worker, but working a 60+ hour week, this still cannot merit such a differentiation in pay.

As rich CEO’s tuck away scores of thousands of pounds each week, so some of their employees are forced to queue up for sustenance at food banks, face eviction, sofa surf from friend to friends’ homes. The wealth gap in 21 century UK continues to widen. It grows as the news of a royal wedding is lapped up by the gormless who refuse to rail against the obscenity of homeless people freezing to death on our streets.

There will be a demonstration organised by the TUC in March this year. We must come out in our millions to voice our anger at the growing poverty in the UK. Let’s frighten Theresa May into calling another General Election; and then vote in a progressive Labour government.

Monday, 1 January 2018

The curse of knife crime breaks into 2018

“And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
For auld lang syne.”

So, ends the song that traditionally heralds in the New Year. For many New Year’s Eve symbolises closing the door of a tired and spent old year while opening the door to a new year. A new year where better things are possible; a new year full of the promises that the old failed to deliver.

Yet, within the first three hours of the new year the police were called out to the Crystal Bar in Sheffield responding to a reported brawl at a Great Gatsby-themed New Year’s event. The brawl left five people with stab or slash knife wounds. Two of the men remain in hospital in a critical condition.

The news from London is even more depressing. Four young men ranging from 17 to 20 years old were killed in Norwood, Enfield, Old Street and West Ham on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Another man in his early 20s remains in hospital with critical wounds inflicted by a knife during the incident in Old Street.
Families, relations and friends of the dead and injured will begin this new year in a less hopeful way to the rest of us. Mothers and fathers will learn that their sons have been violently snatched from them. No happiness there.
But how do we as a society put an end to this scourge of violent knife crime? How do we stop young men killing other young men? How do we put an end to police officers knocking at the doors of families to inform them that their son has been stabbed to death because he was in the wrong place; or that he’d unwittingly disrespected another young man; or for any of a myriad of misplaced street faux pas.
Youngsters tell us they go out armed for self-protection. Protection from whom? Well, it’s protection from that other bloke who goes out tooled-up in order to ensure he’s protected from the other knife-carrying young man who himself argues that he is carrying in order to protect himself…
And so, this self-perpetuating defence is carried to the grave of one and into a prison cell for another. Mothers and fathers grieve, as a vacuum in their lives is created; while siblings stare into the space once occupied by their brother and wonder when will it end?
The killer sits in his prison cell trying to make sense of the tangled mess of his actions; questioning the unwritten code of the streets that make such demands of young men. Systems and procedures that call upon young men to prove themselves through violence in protecting territory, territory they don’t own, and by upholding respect codes of conduct they haven’t earned.

Young men, throw away your knives; dispel the idea that other young men, like you, are somehow your enemies. Instead look upon other youngsters who are also struggling to live in decent housing, get a decent education and find meaningful employment as your allies. Look upon poor people and those who live around you as your class peers.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Brexit Success: We're changing the colour of our passport

Since the country voted to leave the EU it has taken 18 months to reclaim the British passport and change from Burgundy to blue (the old passport was such a dark blue as to be usually mistaken for black). At this rate it'll take us decades to negotiate trading deals around the world.

Even if the UK goes its own way, the idea that we've got sovereignty over our parliament is patent bollocks. As long as the rest of the world, including the USA and Europe, operate neoliberal economies, we are ruled by capitalism. 

Leaving the EU will simply allow capitalism to operate easier. Employment rights will be whittled away. Health and Safety rules relaxed. Civil rights eroded. The NHS will become the Virgin Health Service. 

But none of this will hit the Farages of this world. No. 

But all you Brexiteers who work or depend wholly on a state pension and don't have private medical health insurance, you can rest assured. You can rest assured that while employed precariously with no H&S or equalities protection and without health insurance, that you'll have a lovely blue passport - if you can fucking afford one, or even need one as cheap flights to Europe end.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Bangor Winter Wonderland cancelled after complaints

You can't beat a bit of festive 'Ho-Ho-Ho'. Apparently, Bangor, Northern Ireland, Winter Wonderland was so awful the operation has been closed down and money refunded to anyone who attended the event at the weekend or was intending to visit.

People complained about the ice rink, which was made of plastic, smelling of chlorine. Which was hardly surprising when it was discovered that bleach was poured onto the surface to make it 'more slippery'.

Father Christmas somewhat burst the magic Christmas bubble with his painted-on eyebrows. If this wasn't bad enough, he needed to pull down his beard to speak to the children. One little girl wondering "Why can I see the elastic on Santa's beard?" The more worldly hardened of the children slicing through the magic of Santa Claus by shouting "He isn't even real!" 

There were no stalls open. And the inflatable castle lay flaccid, as airless as the whole experience.

One visitor likened it to 'Craggy Island Funfair', but without the fun, or the fair.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Sanction Damian Green if guilty of gross misconduct

The Damian Green issue like so many involving MPs is an issue of fairness, equality. Some years ago, Nadhim Zahawi, a Tory MP, was found to have charged almost £6000 against MP’s expenses towards a personal business. The business was a stable which is attached to his rural home. According to Zahawi he inadvertently combined his domestic electricity use with his business power usage.

Zahawi held up his hands pleading ignorance. Admitting he had made a mistake Zahawi promised to pay back the £6000 he had claimed. He then contacted IPSA, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, and apologised asking for an update of the correct procedure.

As we know, Zahawi wasn’t alone when it came to cheating on expenses. David Cameron, ex-Prime Minister, claimed £680 in MP’s expenses to clear wisteria from his constituency home. Iain Duncan-Smith MP, Secretary of State for DWP, claimed £39 for a breakfast even though the meal was priced into his hotel stay.

Boris Johnson has made numerous comments that by most people’s standards are racist; he has insulted the citizens of several cities; his reckless comments concerning a British woman’s activities in Iran that could put her at further risk.

The thing all these MPs have in common is that none of them were penalised for their misconduct. All of them, aside from Green, were found to have made fraudulent claims, yet none of them were prosecuted. No, they merely offered to pay back the wrongly claimed expenses.

Had they been benefits claimants would the DWP have treated them with such leniency? People claiming benefits have to operate within very complicated on-line systems to make claims. If they slip up when trying to access systems that all too often are alien to them, they are sanctioned.

Similarly, if a worker is found with pornographic material on their work computers the likelihood would be charge of gross misconduct followed by dismissal. Yet, an MP is found to have such material on his House of Commons machine, and no sanctions are applied.

Watching our elected politicians seemingly getting away with offences and misconduct not tolerated anywhere else hardly inspires confidence or trust in our parliamentary system. How is it that our law makers can plead ignorance of systems they legislate on, while their poorly educated constituents are sanctioned for misdemeanours.

Therefore, if Damian Green is found to have downloaded pornographic material on his House of Commons PC, he should face the same penalty that one of constituents would incur. MPs should not be above the laws and rules that they create and by the rest of us abide.