Black people are trying to tell us something important

Black people are trying to tell us something important, and it’s actually something we should know, because it is bleeding obvious. 
They experience discrimination differently to groups who can often look more like the general population, Jews being the most obvious example.
To suggest otherwise, and assert a false equivalence of experience is either antisemitic, rascist, or possibly both.

Do black graveyards get vandalised? I don’t know, but I suspect not like Jewish ones.
Do Jews often get stopped by the Met for “Driving While Jewish”? I don’t think so.

The Jews I know can walk around town and go anywhere I go without having a different experience to me.
That is not true of black people.
And certainly not true of people from the Far East around Southampton.

And that is what I think people like Abbot (& Winfrey) are trying to tell us. From their first hours on this earth, people who look different, such as black people, have a different experience compared to the more “normal”-appearing population, in places like the UK (and USA).
And it never goes away, and can’t be avoided.

Living in the UK, it is an experience I can only begin to imagine, and the rest of us should not tell black people what they experience, especially when it seems to deny much of it, and therefore belittle it.

Oh, and by the way, many Jews and others would say that the Jews are not a race, and therefore antisemitism is not racism.
And since I think they are distinct, but related, discrimination problems, it is unhelpful to treat them as equivalent; since possible solutions and remedies for the different problems are likely to be different.

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Refugees and Migrants as Political Pawns

Back in 1974, when I was visiting Israel, we managed to get to Gaza City, and then even drove around a refugee camp nearby (and yes, it wasn’t the safest thing to do).
It was really interesting to me to see what a “refugee camp” might actually look like. I was sort of surprised to find it looked quite permanent, and had electricity, and I could see TVs in the houses. (There were was no colour TV in Israel at the time.)
The main thought, however, was “Why is this a camp, and not a town?”, since it has been there for 26 years.

I had similar thoughts about Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

In the case of the Gaza camp, I worked out that it was likely that the camp had benefited from the 1967 war. Up until that time, it had been under Egyptian control, and apparently had few facilities. More recently, Israel had found it politically useful that the conditions should be better than they had been, providing water and power.
And so the living conditions of the thousands of people had simply changed.

The underlying reason for the earlier poor facilities, and that people were not permitted to move out, I think, was that all the Arab leaderships needed to have the displaced people obviously there, and in poor conditions – if they actually allowed them to have proper lives, then the argument that they should challenge Israel would dribble away, along with a little of the anger.

There is also the issue that if they allowed the displaced people to be citizens or at least have sensible status, then it would change the political make-up of the host country, but there are other things that could be done, I think.

And with sensible status comes the opportunity to be more economically active, reducing the cost to the host country:- a win-win.

So now, what about the UK?

Why have we got 117,000 asylum applications awaiting an initial decision in the UK, comprising around 143,000 people?

Primarily because it is politically expedient for the ruling party.

And like the inhabitants of Gaza camp and Sabra and Shatila, these people are suffering in much worse conditions that they might otherwise have, to serve the political agenda.

I think the government knows that pretty much the only thing it can talk about that will benefit it is migration. So it is in its interests to have a backlog they can point at, costing large headline figures for accommodation, and needing to discuss where they might be accommodated in UK settlements.

What we should be talking about is the utter incompetence that they have presided over such a backlog of people in an awful situation.

But if there had been an efficient Home Office immigration assessment system for the last 5-10 years, dealing effectively and in a timely manner with applications, a huge part of what the government talks about what disappear. And the human and national cost would go with it, as the migrants could be economically active, reducing the huge cost to the government.

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I have started to feel old

It isn’t the failing faculties and aching joints.
It’s the wankers who want to turn all the clocks back to when I was young.
Or stop them where they are, in some cases.

And I have realised that you need to be quite old to remember what it was like before we let the clocks run.
So I find myself reminiscing, like the old fart that I seem to be.


I don’t like abortion, and am glad I have never been faced with such a decision, and never want to be.
You have to be pretty old to have any sense of the days before David Steel’s Abortion Act 1967.
But the situation is so much better now than before.


You have to be even older to have experienced much travel before the UK joined the Common Market, in 1973.
Or to have bought or sold things between the UK and the mainland.
It wasn’t good, with visas and tariffs and all sorts of barriers; and we are starting to feel the pains again, and I sense it will get worse.


Wherever I went as a kid, there was routine denigration of homosexual people, in which I remember participating.
It must have been ghastly for the gay kids at my school.
I was 14 when the Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised some aspects of gay sex, although it made little difference to the attitudes, I think.
Then there was the “gay plague” of the 1980s, with the deaths and more discrimination – that was also a good while ago, I now realise.

Sex Equality

There have been numerous laws addressing sex discrimination since the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (which tells you just how unsuccessful each has been).
I remember women being refused signing contracts such as hire purchase or mortgage agreements, unless they could get their husband, father or even random male family member or friend to sign to guarantee them.
And outrageous behaviours and attitudes that would be shocking even now, being perfectly acceptable throughout society.


Perhaps all that needs saying is that all forms of racism were endemic – and legal.


It was just assumed you believed in (a CoE) god.


Failing your 11-plus and ending up in a Secondary Modern school was pretty much being placed in an underclass and a life sentence for no useful education, as far as I remember.
About 4% of kids got to go to university, which I think is too elitist.
But the poorer in that 4% did get a good chance of free university education.


Seeing a GP was possible, but could take quite a while.
Getting a hospital appointment could take months (like now).
You never waited less than several hours past your appointment time at the hospital to see the specialist (not like now)


I suspect public transport was better, but can’t compare with now.


There was far less variety available.
But it was hugely more expensive, as a proportion of household income.

That’s enough boring old fartism.

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The Rise of Incompetence

Somehow, actual competence does not seem to be a requirement for appointment to senior office, at least in the UK.

And I think it seems quite obvious if you look around, or examine most organisations in which you might work or study. Yes, there is the UK Prime Minister as the quintessential incompetent example, but I actually don’t think of any of the front benches as having people I can identify as having shown any competence.

And it isn’t just politicians. A sadly long litany of bankers has shown themselves to be unequal to the demands of their tasks. And I think that University leaders show the same lack of ability to do the work for which they are employed. Is industry well-managed? Well clearly major infrastructure projects aren’t.

Of course, there will be some exceptions, and we don’t see them because they don’t do things wrong, but I don’t think it is rose-tinted looking at the past to suggest that the past was a better place for competent management.

Prime Ministers: Johnson, May, Cameron, Brown, Blair, Major, Thatcher, Callaghan, Wilson. I think Blair (with Brown, perhaps) was possibly the transition, but going backwards from Major is just a different class of competence to our last three. And if I look back at VCs, it seems about the same to me. And all the people that supported them, in the cabinet or Deans etc.

Why? Whose “fault” is it?

Is it the Peter Principle at work? Perhaps a bit, but only partially (and if so. why not before?)

We have allowed ourselves to be seduced by a desire for a bunch of characteristics that mean that people are unlikely to also be competent.

We want leaders who will promise better things, of course, but how? The idea is always radical change. It is never that we could perhaps manage what we do more competently – if you suggest that, you lack “vision”. And that is the word that Really Pisses Me Off – “vision”. If anyone aspires to lead, and doesn’t have “vision”, they are completely discounted. And of course they need a 10-point plan too, which promises to change everything.

Did you notice there was no discussion about being competent to actually achieve the vision of the plan? Who cares? They have Vision.

Quite a lot of this comes out of the MBA world, I think. You can manage an organisation without knowing or understanding anything of its business. It isn’t just that, but it contributes.

The Civil Service used to be able to plug the gap in the leaders’ competence, but because recently the leaders have been so incompetent that they almost destroyed it, the Civil Service doesn’t have anything like the capability to work competently as it used to.

Oh, I should have mentioned targets. No discussion of whether the targets are sensible. How many Covid-19 tests did we need to perform by 1st April? Who cares? We had a target of 10,000, and so the question (to our leaders) is simply whether “they” achieved that. How many tests do we actually need by the end of the month? Who cares? We have a target of 100,000, so that’s all we need to know.

Quite often this is all referred to as “populism”. I don’t think that is right, and dangerously misunderstands, because it is a very deep change; and the intelligentsia (or Notting Hill Set or whatever) are probably more to blame than the rest of the population. They are the ones who promote this idea of vision and plan and organisational revolution and targets. As if that was all that is needed to run an organisation.

Perhaps ironically, it seems that the political system in China is delivering competent leaders in all walks of life, where the UK system has signally failed.

Gove put his thumb on it when he said UK people have had enough of experts; but that should have been taken to mean people feeling that we don’t actually need people who have expertise in running things effectively and competently.

But I think we are seeing that in fact we do, and now when we really need them, and we look around for them, we can’t find any.

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My Experience of the Privatised NHS is crap

So it seems it is often accepted as given that the patient’s experience is improved when NHS services are delivered by external contractors.
And there are all sorts of issues to do with money and stuff, which I will ignore for now.

But, having just waited more than 20 minutes on the phone to get an answer from such a contracted company, I thought I would rant about how the whole experience was worse than I get from the “normal” NHS.

My GP referred me for ENT investigation.
I ended up being invited for a consultation with someone from something labelled as “Community Outpatients”. It is not immediately obvious that this is a private company, especially given the name, but it is.
I had the consultation; some treatment was prescribed, along with a CT scan.
The CT scan was at RHCH (Winchester NHS Hospital). That was amazing:- the whole visit and scan was executed so quickly that I didn’t pay any parking charges because I was in and out in less than 30 mins., including the scan itself and walking the length of the site twice.
I then had another consultation with Community Outpatients (by telephone, in fact, but that isn’t unusual nowadays, my GP does that), and was told they were recommending I look at having surgical treatment.
So I have now been referred (you guessed it) back into the maintstream NHS to see a consultant at the RHCH.

So what has happened?
Privatised service: I will have had three consultations with three different consultants, and then an operation scheduled. And they can’t even answer the phone in a timely manner, or provide the records I need, by the way.
Non-privatised: (Typically) I would have two consultations with the same consultant and then an operation scheduled. And I can get through on the phone.

OK – not *such* a big difference, but the point is that it is different, and *worse*, not *better*.

And what really pisses me off, of course, is that my worse experience has cost the NHS *more* money. At the minimum, they have had to fund an extra consultation.
In fact, they will have also put some profit into someone’s pocket. I accept that Community Outpatients has managed some stuff, and therefore can be paid for management as well as the clinical stuff, but they are actually a big business making a chunk of profit from my taxes that are funding the NHS.

If you want to know, they are one of a number of subsidiaries of Concordia Health Holdings LLP, which is owned by two Mr Hurds from Nottingham, and which had a turnover of over £18M in 2016, with a gross profit of over £6M.

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“It’ll be alright”

And yes, I mean Brexit.

I heard this yet again the other night from a street interview on TV: we might have a bit of short term economic disruption, but it’ll be alright after that.

I mean, where does the come from? Since when did the the future of me, my children and grandchild(ren) depend on some vague conviction that “it’ll be alright”, without any decent study of the processes, and attempt to understand?

Being an old fart, I see this as part of the decline of society, and it isn’t just Brexit, of course. I have a sense that Trumpism is the same. People can’t be bothered (or don’t want to) think about and try to work out what will happen. They want something to change, and vote for something to change, and just do, confident in the ‘knowledge’ that “it’ll be alright”.

I suspect that the same is true of many of the credit bills being run up – I don’t have the money now, and I don’t know where it will come from in the future, but “it’ll be alright”. Although I have no evidence for that.

So what is going on?

Is it anti-intellectualism – we can’t trust those experts? I’m not so sure.

I have a feeling it is just that the world feels so complicated, that any attempt to actually analyse and predict just feels so hard, that it feels like it isn’t worth trying. It is much easier to believe that “it’ll be alright”, and just go with the flow.

Only, of course, the future won’t be like you want it to be just because that’s what you want.

I am reminded of when I used to play chess as a 12 year old, and why I stopped playing. It would get to the complex middle game, an hour or two in, and I would make a big mistake. I worked out that what happened was that I had been sitting looking at some difficult combination for a while, and it just got so hard, that I would just say to myself “Yeah, I think this move is OK – what could go wrong? Anyway, it’s only a game.” A few moves later I would have discovered what could go wrong, when I lost a piece, or whatever. This meant that I had to grind on for another two or three hours trying to rescue a draw, when what should have happened is that I won.

This is, I think, what is happening with Brexit and many other decisions being made – and, unfortunately it isn’t just a game.

And here’s some more from later:

In technology, the government is pathetic with this.
1. Let’s ban end-to-end encryption. But e-Commerce will die. Oh, it’ll be alright, someone will solve the problem.
2. Let’s have a backdoor in mobile devices. But it will put everyone’s data at risk. Oh, it’ll be alright, someone will solve the problem.
3. Let’s require ISPs etc. to log everything. But that puts peoples privacy and human rights at risk. Oh, it’ll be alright, someone will solve the problem.
4. Let’s require all porn sites to verify the age of uses. But all sorts of things might go wrong and are unpredictable. Oh, it’ll be alright.

And, as Steve Harris said, what about climate change, population growth, the end of high levels of employment.

I think what really pisses me off about it is the utter and outrageous irresponsibility of it all. The population elects people to spend their time understanding the consequences of actions. That is what they have to do. And so many just completely renege on the deal.

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More rich kids going to university

So they have noticed that the average income of the parents of graduating lawyers, medics, etc has risen sharply over the last 25 years. And they (BBC) interview two parents who say it is too expensive, the second of which says he sent his first daughter but can’t afford to send his second.

So what is the initiative to address the imbalance?

Let’s have lots of career advisors, outreach from universities, role models, etc. to change the expectations that kids from poorer homes have.

Excuse me, what is the main thing that has happened in the last 15 years? Tuition fees. What were the parents saying? The problem is money.

Were tuition fees or financial issues even mentioned in the subsequent discussion? No.

So lets have an army of people changing the expectations of kids from poor families that their parents can’t possibly match financially – that’s a nice recipe for familial harmony.

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The usual lie about privatisation

“It will give the Royal Mail greater commercial freedom and enable it to open talks with continental rivals” (Mandelson in Sunday Times, 2008-12-14)

Er, excuse me, this is not the only way. Simply changing the treasury rules, etc would allow this to happen. Any lack of commercial freedom is simply because the government imposed rules say that state-owned companies should not have commercial freedom.

Exactly the same could be achieved by running an organisation such that the government is the sole shareholder. In fact, I think the newly-nationalised banks are being run like this, and apart from the tendency of the government/shareholder to interfere, are not losing out on commercial freedom.

The usual canard.

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