Oct 262011

An update to my post on the letter my wife received recently relating to a series of medical tests she was advised she needed to take.  The most distressing part of this personalised mailshot was that she was informed she was at high risk of a stroke.

Although our next-door neighbours received no such mailshot, my mother – who is within twenty minutes walking distance from where we live – did.  My mother does not have insurance in her name with anyone – which is where we initially assumed my wife’s name and address might have been obtained.

So how, then, did these people get hold of both my wife and mother’s details?  From the electoral roll?  And how would one know who was at risk of stroke from the electoral roll? 

Is age information also provided and available to anyone who cares to use it for such purposes?  Is it acceptable in a democracy that third-party health providers can use such information to scarify us into paying out large sums of money for such tests?

I’m now inclined to believe that there’s quite a bit more to this than meets the eye.

What do you think?

Oct 262011

I read this over at Craig’s place today and felt a real shudder go down my spine.  His first paragraph starts thus but is not the bit that made me shudder:

I am not blogging about the EU summit. It is pointless. It will of course produce a communique to reassure the markets. It makes no difference.

The last paragraph finishes thus (the bold is mine):

That is why I am not blogging about today’s EU meeting or a specific statement of the US Federal Bank Chairman. They are all pissing into the wind that is shortly to be a tornado. I expect before I die I will see a genuine social revolution. I expect that, as always happens, middle class liberals like me will start by being elated by it, and end up being shot by those who seize on the change, to take their turn to use the power of the state to corner resources for themselves.

And now I hope you join me as you tremble.  And if you do not tremble, then you are still exactly as were the Jews when in the 1930s they thought it could not get any worse.

For it was then the turn of the Guardian to bring me this piece of news:

In a report seen by the Daily Telegraph and commissioned by Downing Street, the venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft suggests British workers should be banned from claiming unfair dismissal so companies can sack them and find more capable replacements, saying this would boost economic growth. The document has generated a furious response from trade unions.

As it might very well do so.

But even those supposedly on our side only speak of the morality of the issue as an afterthought.  Far more important for them is the health of our collapsing economy:

But Norman Lamb, chief adviser and parliamentary private secretary to the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said taking away protection from unfair dismissal would damage the economy because it would increase workers’ fears that they could be arbitrarily sacked.

Lamb, a former employment lawyer, said: “I think it would be madness to throw away all employment protection in the way that’s proposed, and it could be very damaging to consumer confidence.

“What we are talking about here is every single employee in the land being in a position where their employer could arbitrarily terminate their employment – and the impact that could have on consumer confidence, fear of losing your job, would potentially be very damaging.”

Only to lamely remember that:

“I just think it’s also not right to throw away that sort of scheme of protection.”

Almost a year ago I said the following:

It’s not that this Coalition government doesn’t have principles.  It does.

It just so happens that its principles are limited to two: sock it to the poor and train them to understand their only salvation is that of wage slave to the wealthy.  Problem is that innovation doesn’t work like that.  Ideas need space, confidence and trust to flourish.  Cameron’s understanding of the future needs of a society which adds value by generating and implementing ideas is so tawdry and basic that all he will achieve is a mass emigration of the clever to places where they will be better understood.

And as I continued by saying:

This government is not only going to show us how bad it is at the welfare state, it’s also going to show us how very bad it is at anticipating the needs of business – all business, that is.  Innovation does not come out of slotting bright and intelligent individuals into the round holes that already well-formed organisations are prepared to allow.  For true innovation to surface, everything must start from the ground up.  There must be that cycle of birth, growth and maturity which joining an existing organisation could never provide.

So it is that in amongst all the unrest of a capitalism going dangerously sour, we have the seeds of total collapse.  And our government’s response?  Invest in the future?  Look to release the imagination of the very best of our nations?  Consult and debate ways of ensuring we can all be in this together?

Nope.  Our government’s response is to make it easier to dismiss the workers who already fear for their jobs – and have already cut back on their spending.

I tell you what.  I jolly well do feel that it’s time to unfairly dismiss some of those government ministers responsible for this chaos.

Before closing up shop tonight, then, let us just run that idea past ourselves one more time.  Exhibit A – The Coalition Thesis: a stumbling capitalism is due to inefficient workers who are too confident of keeping their jobs.  Exhibit B – The Coalition Solution: a flourishing capitalism will come out of making us feel all awfully insecure so we stop all our spending out of fear.

And, in exchange, the proponents of all this tawdry politicking get a) to hang onto their jobs; b) assure their future employment; c) line the pockets of their pals in big business; and d) prance around on very public stages spouting the kind of disgraceful rubbish which makes me think Craig might – after all – one day turn out to be right.

This Coalition government isn’t only mad – it’s bad; isn’t only rank – it’s inefficient; isn’t only anti-good industrial relations – it’s anti-good business.

And if you don’t believe me yet, you better start soon.  Because if you don’t believe me soon – believe me, it’ll won’t be long before it’s far too late.

Oct 262011

A couple of pretty heavy pieces have got me thinking since lunch.  I still haven’t had time to make my Portuguese torrefacto americano, in fact.  So just talk amongst yourselves whilst I do.


There.  That’s better.  Refreshed and ready to roll.

My previous naivete spoke on the subject of love versus money.  Norman, as is his wont, is rather more practical when he says:

[…] Utopia, what do you think of that? Here I believe ways will divide: between (1) those who want to allow for utopia as a really really good, maybe close to perfect, future; (2) those (like me) who want to allow for the possibility of utopia only in the more limited sense of a much better world than we’ve got but still with lots of conflicts, problems, blemishes; and (3) those sceptical even of this, but who just think things could maybe be non-utopianly a bit better.

And here, though it may surprise you, especially in the light of how I think I feel about love and money, I am inclined to situate myself in the Blessed Way (3), as described above.

Meanwhile, a second piece which has had me thinking over the past couple of days is this one by Tim Worstall, on the subject of the Vatican’s call for an overarching organisation to control the evils of capitalism.  Tim fisks quite nicely the essence of the document (so I’d be inclined to actually read it before we continue) – before coming to the following conclusion:

[…] And that’s what the problem is. Not the desire to make the world a better place, but the idea that politics is going to do so. It’s this phrase that so grates:
the primacy of politics – which is responsible for the common good – over the economy and finance.

Given the spendthrifts, ogres, ignorants, panderers and outright thieves that actually manage to get into the positions where they can run the political process (yes, both democratically elected and self-appointed) we really don’t want to be giving them any more power: actually, we’d rather like to reclaim much of the power they already have, most especially over the economy and finance.

But surely this is giving up entirely on any chance of improvement.  Politics is but a tool.  It’s the politicians who are currently abusing it – perhaps with our connivance.  If we want to regain its utility, we need structures which tie politicians closer into the people they govern – which ensure the people they govern also become the governors.

We need enablers, not leaders; facilitators, not teachers.  We need to change how we use the tool – not disregard and dispatch it forthwith.


The nearest thing to a world order of sorts which my naive and settler-oriented mentality could happily deal with has actually already been written.  With grand imperfections, but a spirit I find pretty true, it takes me back to my times as a practising Catholic.  I still link to it from these pages because I still believe in its essential humanity.  And, if you’re at all interested, the document is still hosted on the Vatican’s own pages.  It’s Pope Paul VI’s “Encyclical on the Development of Peoples”, dated March 26th, 1967.

Yes, it’s clearly of its time and uses a language which often reminds us how many decades ago it was written.  But its heart – that is to say, the heart of the man who wrote it – is clearly in the right place.  And there isn’t much of that around at the moment.  After the sex-abuse scandals, the Spanish stolen-babies case and a multitude of financial irregularities, the institution of the Vatican is no whiter than the rest of us.

The rest of us with that casually spread blood on our hands.

And surely it’s time we properly asked why.

Oct 262011

I was having a generally sad and – in the end – inconclusive telephone conversation last night with a close friend on the subject of love versus money.  I saw love as being all-important.  My co-conversationalist – let’s call him Joey – believed that love was irrelevant; the rest of the world – the majority of the rest of the world, that is – tending to focus on money and its accumulation.  People, these days, seem to think a lot of majorities.  I suppose it’s one of the downsides of democracies where rights are better known than responsibilities.

Both of us stuck firmly to our points of view.  Joey looked to be a pioneer – I was clearly a settler.  Does this mean I’m not fulfilling my potential?  It’s true that I tried once or twice in Spain to build big ideas – and ended up on what, for me, was the very dirty side of business.  Mixing with men who frequented Spanish puticlubs (I never ended up having to – but did find myself forced to listen to their stories; and their stories were quite enough) was not my idea of good business environments.

Yet an atmosphere where women are verbally debased, or where relationships between the sexes become valued only in terms of the money they might generate, does seem to be fairly common in most of the locker-room type communication used across the world wherever business is done between powerful men.

And there are far more powerful men out there than powerful women.

And it’s not something I want to get involved in.

So am I a non-achieving settler?  Or, more importantly, is Joey the kind of pioneer who’ll manage to put me in my place; manage to prove me wrong?  Can business and moral practices go together?  Or are we all tainted by the Chinese sweatshops and suicidal factories which provide our grand corporations with all their massive and extraordinary cash mountains?

Is there a place for love in modern business – for unconditional relationships which work out and are actually productive?

Not according to Chris, there ain’t.

Sad bad day here in Chester.  Looks like the morning after, Joey won the argument after all.