Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Flu Jabs do not give you flu !

In my Facebook feed this morning was a link to this “News” story :Piers Morgan receives flu vaccine injection from Dr. Oz, then gets sick

The article relates that celebrity UK journalist Piers Morgan, appeared in US television having a flu jab, live, in an apparent attempt to convince the public of the safety and efficacy of flu vaccines; but that after the jab, he then came down with influenza – and concludes :

Millions of Americans now know that flu shots can make them sick, thanks to Piers Morgan

The author adds : It is difficult not to chuckle at the whole ridiculous charade. What was meant to further pull the wool over the eyes of gullible Americans literally blew up in the face of those that perpetrated it, as millions of Americans have now had their eyes opened to the fact that flu shots are dangerous and can, indeed, cause flu-like symptoms and other health damage.

Well excuse me if I don’t chuckle – excuse me if I go away and weep in despair at the sheer bloody ignorance of people who frankly don’t know shit from shinola.

When you get a flu jab you’ll get a leaflet tel you what it can do, and what it can’t do.

Typically a flu jab helps prevent infection from around three different strains of flu. It won’t prevent you from catching it – but it will dramatically reduce the chances. In the unlikely event that you do catch one of those strains of flu it’s likely that the effects will be less severe than if you were not vaccinated.

If you catch a strain not covered by the vaccination – of which there are many  – you will not be covered at all – and stand more or less the same chance of catching flu as you did before – however the strains in the vaccination represent the ones most likely to be caught at that time, and the ones most likely to cause a severe illness.

You can not contract flu from the vaccination – it’s not a live virus – this can not happen.

You can suffer from side effects from the virus – the most likely is a mild fever in the hours following the jab. From personally experience I can say that your arm’s a bit stiff for a day or two as well.

You could suffer an allergic reaction to the jab – the likelihood is tiny – far less than the likelihood of catching flu.

You could just conceivably contract Guillain-Barré syndrome – however the risk of this happening is no greater – and probably lower than the risk of contracting the same condition via catching flu – as a calculated risk it makes sense to vaccinate.

This information is well researched – it’s out there in Doctors’ surgeries, clinics, Health department websites – it’s very easy to find – It’s been researched properly and scientifically.

So what does Piers Morgan’s flu jab and subsequent illness show us ?

Well it shows he has a flu jab. It shows he lost his voice 11 days later.

And that’s it basically. It doesn’t show that he had flu, it doesn’t show that it was caused by the virus, it doesn’t show that the virus was ineffective.

All of the information we have from this report is absolutely consistent with the information that is routinely given out to people taking the vaccination

It would be as sensible to say :

Piers Morgan drank a cup of coffee on January 11th, and on January 23rd complained of losing his voice

- DO THE MATH –

Millions of Americans now know that coffee can make them sick thanks to Piers Morgan

And of course people will say – well how can you trust all that research and Government information ?

Right – Well maybe I’m a sucker for authority but I’d sooner trust the global research community and the US & UK Governments than “The NaturalNews Network”  which  “is owned and operated by Truth Publishing International, Ltd., a Taiwan corporation. It is not recognized as a 501(c)3 non-profit in the United States, but it operates without a profit incentive, and its key writer, Mike Adams, receives absolutely no payment for his time, articles or books other than reimbursement for items purchased in order to conduct product reviews.”

There are two sad aspects to this story, the first is that there will be people who will read this article and as a result will not be vaccinated against flu, and will die this year – because they catch flu.

The other is that yet again it becomes more difficult to argue coherently and sensibly about any subject, when large numbers of people around the world are either incapable of, or unwilling to critically analyse news information, to tell the difference between fact and opinion, and to carry out even the most cursory checks on the accuracy of information that they pass on. These are skills that are taught in primary schools – why can’t intelligent adults apply the skills they have been educated in ?

Most articles that come my way via Facebook are generally misleading or in some cases entirely untrue  – it’s seems sad that we’ve developed our technology to the extent that we can now use it to go back to the ignorance of the dark ages

What 'S' is it traditionally quite easy to tell from Shinola ? - well for most people anyway !

What ‘S’ is it traditionally quite easy to tell from Shinola ? – well for most people anyway !

January 30, 2013 Posted by | education | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So snow causes a few problems – stop whingeing about it.

snow

Every so often there is some snow in the UK.

Not very often.

Actually it would be probably better to say – about once a year, but actually not even as often as that, about twice every two years – but sometimes we go three or four years in between – we get some snow in the UK

And it usually causes a few problems – we get traffic snarl ups, road closures, public transport problems, and sporting fixtures postponed, Oh and we get schools closed and people sent home from school.

And every time that happens we get something else – people who whinge about how the snow causes so much difficulty when we have so little of it.

Predictable lines are as follows :

How is it that [ Canada / Russia / Germany / Norway / insert country that gets more snow than us ] can have [ 12 feet /  18 feet / insert improbably large depth ] of snow EVERY DAY for three years, and the trains aren’t even 5 minutes late once  – but when we get [ a few centimetres / millimetres / a light dusting / insert improbably slight amount ] of snow everything GRINDS TO A HALT

Back in 1963, our school never closed  – we used to walk to school through 100 foot high snowdrifts and if we were 2 minutes late our teacher used to hit us with a big stick and we’d say thankyou; but nowadays they close every school at the drop of a hat.

When Stanley Matthews wor a lad, they used to play football even when the snow was up to their necks; and the balls were made of pigs bladders filled with concrete; and the crowds were 80,000 strong, and sometimes it was so cold that they couldn’t move from the terraces because their feet had frozen to the spot; but they clapped every goal and then walked home forty miles in a blizzard; nowadays they call off every game at the merest hint of a snow flake.

You get the picture ?

Well the fight back starts here.

You want to know why snow causes problems ? Want to know why we don’t all have snow chains for our cars ? Want to know why we don’t grit the roads three or four times every night between September and May ?

Easy – it’s because it hardly ever happens, and when it does it rarely lasts longer than a day or so.

Want to save a bit of your car maintenance budget ? – Easy ! -  don’t get winter tyres or snow chains – I’ve never had any in my whole life – because I’ve never really needed them

Want to keep council spending down ? Easy ! – don’t waste it all on salt and grit that usually gets washed away before the snow lands, and tends to make everyone’s cars rust a bit quicker.

Want to keep your costs down in your football stadium ? Well postpone  a game or two every couple of years – and don’t switch that expensive under soil heating on.

Snow tends to give us all a bit of excitement once every blue moon, something we can tell our kids about in years to come. It really doesn’t inconvenience us much though in the long run.

So to answer the points above -

How come those countries can carry on when they have loads of snow ?  Easy – it’s because they invest a lot of time and effort in doing so – because it makes economic sense because they get loads of snow. We don’t – because it doesn’t and we don’t.

How come the schools stayed open in 1963 and they all close now ? Well lots of schools did close in 1963 – but many of them didn’t because most of their pupils lived within walking distance – which they had to because most people did not have cars. Today pupils can travel several miles to a school – and staff often travel far further due to the mobility – both geographical and social  – that the car has given us. The big problem in a school is ending up in a situation where you have children who can not be supervised properly because staff have been unable to get to work.. There is also a great deal of pressure on schools to let parents know a school is closed as soon as possible  – and schools do sometimes have to close on a probable threat of further snow rather than waiting for it to happen. My kids are now in the 6th form – I think this has happened maybe four times since they started school when they were 5. Hardly  a massive inconvenience – they loved every one of those “snow days”.

“Snow days” by the way is one of those expressions we’ve borrowed from the big snow countries – where extra days are built into the school year because they know that they’ll probably  have to close several times.

Snow Football

And what about the sport ? How did they they manage to keep going back then ? Well – they didn’t !

In the much talked about winter of 62/63 there was barely any Football, Rugby League, or Rugby Union played in England or Scotland between late December and February – some FA Cup ties were re-arranged more than 10 times.

In the UK only one Horse racing meeting took place in Scotland, with none at all in the other nations, between 23rd December and 7th March – with 97 race meetings cancelled.Today in 2013 on the day after the most significant snow falls of the year throughout the country, not a single Premier League or Championship match has been postponed – and fans have been able to travel throughout the country to watch those games, on motorways that have been open throughout the day.

So we do pretty well actually – we could do a lot better – but it’s really not worth it – it doesn’t happen often and it’s rarely around for long.

Now excuse me I’m off to build a snowman before it all melts

Stop Whingeing and enjoy the snow !

Stop Whingeing and enjoy the snow !

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Football, idle banter, news | , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook stories on Delhi Murdered Woman are not all they seem

A lot has been put on line already about the horrendous gang rape, and murder of  an Indian student in Delhi.

Many of you will have come across variations of this post which is pretty much “viral” on Facebook :

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 21.20.35

The post shows what appears to be, pictures of the Indian student – on the left lying in bed seriously ill after her assault, and on the right, wearing modern indian style clothing, and looking very attractive.

The accompanying text includes a graphic account of  the most violent rape imaginable – it’s all over the internet if you want to read it – I’m not going to repeat it again here.

Naturally many thousands – if not millions – of Facebook users, have shared this, and shared their disgust at violence against women in general, and this despicable crime in particular. It’s hard really to think of a reason why you wouldn’t want to share that.

Except … this is a woman who’s name has not been released. Which does make me wonder whether they would release a picture of her – which would make it pretty pointless concealing her name.

After a bit of scouting around on Google – I discovered very quickly that the picture on the left, really is a picture of the victim of a serious assault. It’s one Christo van Eeden a South African MAN – who was beaten by his mother’s ex partner in August 2010  Woman’s ex attacks her son

The picture on the right is interesting too. Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor has been relatively quick to point out that it’s not the girl in question. He claims that it’s a picture of an Engineering Student from Kerala Delhi gang-rape: Victim’s purported photo is of Kerala student, claims Tharoor .

 This may well be true – but what he doesn’t flag up is where the originators of the Facebook picture are likely to have found this picture. Well they could have found it in any one of hundreds of websites such as this one Desi Indian Aunties which feature the picture. (Scroll down to the bottom it’s the last picture in the October section)

The terms “Desi” and “Auntie” – appear to be a name for a particular brand of mildly pornographic pictures of Asian women, dressed in indian dress. This particular web site cites its purpose as follows  :

“This Blog is specially for aunty lovers and contains hot indian actress, celebrity, models, sexy babe, Real Life Photos of Desi Indian Girls and Aunties downloaded from internet posted by some one else. We are just helping to save your time and avoid searching everywhere.”

It is by western standards very mild pornography. Some of the sites which contain the picture are a little more explicit.

But let’s remember the Facebook posting  says :

“And oh yeah
SHE WAS A GIRL

But don’t worry
She wasn’t your sister
She wasn’t your daughter
But she could be. The brutality has to stop right here guys

Is this how we treat our women?”

And yet – the people who have faked this picture have gone to the trouble of downloading a picture from a website which promises “Hot Masala navel” and carries links to user submitted pictures like this one :

indian woman

It carries with it the following caption

(He wishes !)

(He wishes !)

It struck me having discovered this about the photographs that the graphic account of the rape was quite possibly ripped off from somewhere else too. I couldn’t find any evidence of that – but if it is accurate it begs the issue of where has it come from. Has it been made up ? Or is it based on police accounts of the incident.

If it’s based on police accounts then immediately it makes me wonder what on earth the police are playing at releasing such graphic descriptions in to the public domain before the alleged perpetrators are brought to trial. One Indian newspaper, the Daily Bhaskar is already attributing to the police, stories relating to the youngest of the six accused who is reported to be a juvenile :Delhi gang-rape: Juvenile raped victim twice; was most brutal among 6 men

“He might walk free in three months but he was the most brutal among six men who gang-raped the 23-year-old medical student in South Delhi on December 16.”
“According to the Delhi Police, the juvenile raped the student twice. Once she was unconscious, he extracted her intestine with his hands and suggested she be thrown off the moving bus sans her clothes, says the chargesheet that the police are supposed to file in court today.”

The police have released this information ? Really ? I do wonder – because extracting her intestine with his hands – even by the callous extremes of this crime – seems to a little far fetched.

All of which leads me to believe that chances of the people accused of this hideous crime getting a fair trial must be pretty close to zero. The world has already judged them guilty using trial by Facebook, after consideration of not very well fabricated evidence. If they were to be released in Delhi tonight there is every likelihood that they would be lynched.

And how would that kind of justice serve the dead woman, or those close to her ?

Even assuming that they really are guilty ?

The world is being found wanting over this case.

< Would you believe the first pingback i had on this was from a site which just lifted the text quoted from the ‘Aunty Lovers’ site. I despair sometimes >
< And several days later I find that today – 7th Jan – More than 9 people came to this site by searching for ‘Hot Indian Aunties lying naked on bed pics’ – sheesh ! >

January 3, 2013 Posted by | news, women | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Profiteering ?

Hut 4, sited adjacent to the mansion, was used...

Hut 4, sited adjacent to the mansion, was used during wartime for naval intelligence. Today, it has been refurbished as a bar and restaurant for the museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A quick blog this.

This afternoon I visited Bletchley Park – home of the legendary codebreakers – it was a Christmas Fair – mainly in aid of Milton Keynes College, and was quite a fun event.

While I was there we had a coffee in the Cafe in Hut 4 – one of the original buildings in which code breaking activity took place.

Displayed on the wall were several war time posters – which added lots of atmosphere : This was one of them :

2012-12-09 14.45.28

So the message in the war was clear – Don’t pay more than the legal price for anything – and clearly no worries about how big the state is, or going against the free market ethos.

When I went to the counter, I thought about getting a cold drink instead.

I was deterred though by the fact that it cost £1.30 for a 330 ml can of Diet Pepsi.

Currently the cost of 8 cans of Diet Pepsi in nearby Asda (less than half a mile away) is £2.00

That’s 25p per can. It could be a loss leader – but I suspect it’s not – 2 litre bottles can be had for £1.00.

This makes the price at Bletchley Park a 700% mark up on local market prices.

It just struck me as ironic.

English: Pepsi Cola and Diet Pepsi soda delivery

Pepsi Cola and Diet Pepsi soda delivery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

December 9, 2012 Posted by | idle banter | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Election Special

A coloured voting box

Did you vote yesterday ? You’re not alone !

I’ve decided I’m going to try and blog more often. Here’s my starter for 10 …

I’ve wrestled with my conscience about whether to vote in yesterday’s elections for Police Commissioners. It struck me right from the start that these elections would be marked by a mixture of total apathy, and by outright opposition. If I’d been keeping up to my blog I’d have been able to link to a previous post so that I could say “I told you so !”.

Well I didn’t keep up to my blog so I can’t, and I didn’t, but I could have.

It all seemed so obvious to me …

In the first instance,  the public simply don’t have the appetite for more ranks of elected officaldom. (As demonstrated by the widespread rejection of the option of having elected Mayors ). Democracy for the British people it would seem is about electing people with sufficient seniority to appoint other people that they choose on our behalf to do the donkey work for them.

And really, what’s wrong with that ?

I’m actually fine with that state of affairs.

Secondly – if you’re going to politicise any thing, then please do not make it the Police Force – it’s the last thing in the world that most people would want dominated by an elected official.

It feels very wrong in my own opinion – and also feels decidedly un-British. A bit like having a Sheriff in the Wild West.

I’m not actually sure where the idea came from – was it an issue in the general election ? If it was then I missed it. It seems we’ve had this wonderful idea dropped on us from on high – and unlike the idea of AV voting, and elected mayors, this time we weren’t given a choice of whether to accept this innovation to our democratic process – we were merely given the choice of who we wanted to do the job that had been invented.

Well I didn’t want anybody to do the job. OK – I’d prefer a Labour candidate. And I’d prefer any candidate that’s not part of a far right racist group. Really though – I’d prefer it if our time wasn’t wasted on this rubbish.

So what happened at the Ballot Boxes ?

Record low turnouts; very high numbers of spoiled ballots; and a high number of independents elected (it remains to be seen how many of them are well qualified ex-policemen, and how many are dangerous authoritarian nut cases – I’m hoping the former is the case).

We’ve also had the Electoral Commission announcing that it will launch an inquiry into the low turnouts, which they describe as “a concern for everyone who cares about democracy”.

So what does David “I’m in touch” Cameron have to say ?

David Cameron speaking after the election : “It takes time to explain a new post”

Well according to the BBC David Cameron said low turnout in a first-time election was expected. (which begs the question of why he didn’t address that before polling day). When told that ‘Numerous areas have confirmed turnouts ranging from 13-20%.’ – he said

“It takes time to explain a new post,” and he predicted voting numbers would be “much higher next time round”

What was that Prime Minister ? Next time ? Next time ? – are you having us on ?

I’m sorry Mr Cameron but you’ll have to do better than that.

Cast your minds back about a year – when various unions took ballots regarding strike action to protest against Government plans for public sector pensions.

A well reported one was this : Unison members vote for pension strike  which Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude responded to by calling on Unison members not to go ahead with a strike.

“Today’s Unison ballot received a very low turnout – with less than a third of their members even voting – which shows there is extremely limited support for the kind of strike action their union leaders want,”

So what he was saying was that despite the technical legitimacy of the mandate for strike action by Unison, they should not take the action because there was no ‘popular’ mandate – no ‘moral’ mandate if you prefer.

This on a vote of members who’d chosen to join the union, members who would not be bound by the result of the ballot; and who voted 78% to 22% in favour on a 29% turnout.

This equates to around 22.5% of the total eligible to vote. Admittedly it’s hardly overwhelming.

It stacks up well though compared to the Conservatives’ share of total possible votes in the 2010 general election – 26% – slightly more than 1 in 4 of the electorate.

And it looks very much like a landslide in comparison with the victory for new Conservative PCC  Matthew Ellis in Staffordshire. Mr Ellis described his share of the vote as “a decent mandate” – yet on the meagre 11.63% turnout his share of the vote amounted to just 6% of the electorate.

Rt Hon David Cameron, MP, Conservative Party l...

“You’ve all done very, very well !”

Mr Cameron when 6% is a decent mandate, then we have a problem. The process of appointing these commissioners needs, at the very least, to be suspended pending further parliamentary debate. While no one seriously questions the technical legitimacy of these elections, it’s clear that there is very little support for the new proposed Police Commissioners- how ill any one gain by imposing this measure on the public ?

Elsewhere all the elections went pretty much as expected. Two Labour holds in Manchester Central and Cardiff South & Penarth; from which precious little can be learned especially on the very low turnouts.

The turnout was more respectable in Corby where Labour’s Andy Sawford won with a large swing to Labour following semi-celeb Louise Mensch’s resignation recently.

It’s difficult to really divine what this means in national terms – it’s by no means an absolute death sentence for the Government – but it’s also still a pretty positive and healthy result for Labour.

What really struck me about the Corby by-election though was Louise Mensch staying

Louise Mensch MP, Corby and East Northamptonshire

Louise Mensch – It’s all about me ! (Photo credit: Stop Climate Chaos Coalition)

true to her media image by singularly failing to keep her gob shut.

Having ousted a Labour MP incumbent since 1997 at the 2010 general election, Louise handed a hard earned Conservative seat straight back to the opposition half way through the parliament. Perhaps she’d have thought today was a day to merely congratulate the victor, and offer some apology to the defeated Tory candidate.

Here’s what she said  :

Election result will not be a verdict on either Christine, or the Conservatives, but only on the decision I took to step down mid-term

Well get you Menschy !

Who the hell does she think she is ? Obviously she thinks she’s so important that the people of Corby will vote on no other issue other than her resignation – they won’t be bothered by the omnishambles of a Government, they won’t bother looking at what any of the candidates have to say – for any of the parties. No they’ll just be so furious at the loss of their darling Louise that they’ll take it out on her old party.

And with these words Louise once again illustrates that character trait running right through the Tory Party – the characteristically self-centred sense of superiority and elevated status which they feel is their entitlement. Perhaps if Louise had campaigned with Christine in Corby and told the pleb electorate to know their place and vote for who she told them to, then they might have won.

Finally we had the news of John Prescott failing in his bid to be elected as a Police Commissioner in Humberside. Conservative MP Robert Halfon exhorted to Twitter :

At least John Prescott didn’t get elected as Police Commissioner -#notalltoday’sTorynewsisbad

And yet even in this hashtag he is at least partially mistaken.

John Prescott’s defeat, was not achieved through the First Past the Post system. It was achieved through the AV system – that system that the country voted so overwhelmingly to reject, and which most of the Tory Party (including Robert Halfon) campaigned vigorously against – rejecting it as undemocratic.

English: John Prescott, British Labour politic...

A not so recent picture of John Prescott looking grumpy. The ones today were pretty much the same

On a first past the post vote, John Prescott would have been elected.

On a count of first preferences, winning candidate Matthew Grove’s 29,440 votes account for just 4% of the total electorate

Yet the Tories seem to be dancing in the street.

Do they even know what democracy means ?

Omnishambles !

Omnishambles !

Omnishambles

November 16, 2012 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wishful thinking on the Olympic clap-o-meter

Lots of activity on social networks tonight about current Chancellor & wannabe PM George Osborne getting booed before presenting a medal at the Paralympics, and ex Chancellor and ex PM Gordon Brown getting cheered.

Brilliant – sounds fantastic. Have a look at the videos and see what you think
Here’s George :

And here’s Gordon :

So what we’re seeing here, is (according to the twittersphere) George Osborne getting the most humiliating reception any politician anywhere has ever had. And Gordon Brown basking in the warm glow of the love that the nation has remembered that they have for him really and they want to have his babies.

Putting aside tribal loyalties though, Gordon’s applause is actually pretty much the polite Olympic/Paralympic cheer. Just about EVERYBODY gets one. If you want to know what a truly rapturous reception for a medal presenter (sorry flower presenter) is like, then the one that Sebastian Coe got before presenting Jessica Ennis’s Gold Medal bouquet took some beating (can’t find a decent Youtube video – guess you had to be there ! (I was !) )

Note that the guy who presents the flowers with Gordon Brown who no one has ever heard of, gets a cheer just as big as GB

Of course George Osborne did get booed. That in itself says something – no one else has been booed that I know of. But does it say much though ?

Booing the chancellor is a little bit like booing  Mr Punch – it’s a tradition – you could almost hear the giggles coming from the crowd.

I remember hearing bingo callers saying “Number 10 – Maggie’s Den” – and everyone in the room shouted back “Not for long !”

A few years later it was “Number 10 – Tony’s Den” – and guess what the response from the crowd was ?

This seems a lot like that to me – sure he’s unpopular – but most of the people booing there were just having a giggle.

This wasn’t a big deal. Not at all.

I sort of wish it had been though.

Meanwhile here’s Jessica Ennis getting her medal – I must have been so close to where this was filmed from, it’s surprising I’m not in the video. One of the best nights of my life

September 3, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Phonics – 100% successful ? I’m sorry but that’s simply not true.

I spotted this article on the BBC News website today :  BBC News – Teachers’ unions urge rethink of phonics checks –

Have a listen to the interview half way down the page. It’s an extract from the Radio 4 Today programme (18th June 2012), and features John Humphries interviewing both Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers & Lecturers, and Greg Wallace – an executive Headteacher of several prinary schools in Hackney, and staunch advocate of a phonics approach to teaching reading.

It really does make astonishing reading. It’s astounding when Greg claims that he does not know of the other approaches to teaching reading. How did he get through his teacher training then ? It was a compulsory section of my own Bachelor of Education degree.

It’s incredibly rude of him when he suggests that Mary is confused in her understanding of approaches to teaching reading. (Nothwithstanding her Ph. D. in the subject)

The part that is really unbelievably stupid though is when he claims that using  a phonics approach to teaching reading is the only approach that is 100% successful.

He argues that the word “round” can only be accurately decoded by knowing the sounds “r”-”ou”-”n” and “d” which makes phonics 100% successful.

Interesting that.

I wonder if that’s the approach my son took at the age of 2 when out of the blue he pointed at the name on the back of a Vauxhall car and said “Carlton”  ?

Or do you think he’d realised it was the same “picture” as on his Tot’s TV video ? – I know what my money’s on.

 

Have you ever wondered why “Manslaughter” means something very different, and sounds very different, from “Man’s laughter” ?

You have ? Well that’s because you don’t rely on phonics to decode words.

Anyone out there that lives in Milton Keynes ?

Specifically does anyone come from the Milton Keynes districts of Loughton, Woughton, or Broughton ?

Do you know how to pronounce those place names ?

You do ? Well that’s because you’re not relying on phonics to decode the words.

You don’t ? Well that’s because phonics is not 100% effective.

In fact there is only one 100% effective way to learn to read – and that is to memorise every word. Hardly a sensible way forward.

Most teachers know that we need a variety of approaches, and that some approaches are more suited to some children than some others.

T’was ever thus, and T’will ever be.

 

The districts in MK by the way are Loughton – with the -ought- as in out. Woughton – with the -wough- as in Woof ! and Broughton – with the -ought- as in court. If you don’t know the town you can only guess at the words.

 

 

 

 

 

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pantomime, Pasties and Election failures, some observations and a moan

Ed Miliband, British politician

Come on Ed Miliband - Surely you know what to do - don't you ?

This has been one of the weirdest 10 days or so in politics for some time, and pretty much all of the bad stuff has happened to the Tory led coalition government.

Pretty much.

The Budget was always going to be a toughie for George Osborne – but because everyone knew that, to an extent the disharmony arising from it was likely to have been discounted by the spin doctors in advance. So the Tory press were at the ready, ready to tell us  what a good job he’d done, protecting the most vulnerable in a time when nothing he did was going to please many people, but he’d done his best – blah blah …

It didn’t happen though.

He made a public relations catastrophe out of cutting the 50p tax rate (even though it’s deferred a year, even though it’s almost an article of faith for Tory rank & file, and even though it’s quite obviously been a hand grenade with a long fuse lobbed by Gordon Brown in the dying days of the Labour Government, designed to cause maximum embarrassment to the Tories).

Catastrophe number two – the Granny tax – minor adjustment leaving old people worse off – Most people didn’t really understand it – but the perception that the Tories value millionaires over poor pensioners (some pensioners are millionaires too by the way) did not go down well.

And of course Pasty-gate.  A relatively minor alignment of an anomaly in VAT – should have been able to have been broken in gently, should have gained fairly little attention, but no – it again emphasises the crass prioritisation of the needs of people who lunch at the Savoy Grill, over those who grab a snack from Greggs in their 30 minute lunch break, and then goes viral – helped in no small part by the laughably pathetic attempts to justify all their moves by the Tory spokespeople who were wheeled out. The arguments about who ate which pasty where, only serving to make the whole thing – and the whole government look more and more ridiculous, and by inference totally incompetent and unable to manage their own public image. The fact that probably the biggest losers as well will not be pasty-munchers, but the entrepreneurial owners of fast food sellers such as Greggs, was again not lost on the Tory press.

Then there’s the Dosh for Dinner with Dave debacle. There we are with the Tory treasurer caught in the act, pretty much with his metaphorical pants down. He knows the jig is up, and he walks, but it doesn’t stop the rest of the senior Tories (minus the PM of course who’s too scared to show his face) frantically trying to defend an undefendable position by doing what  ? Well by blaming Labour of course !

Oh yeah, this isn’t about selling your policies to the highest bidder, it’s about Labour getting all that money from the unions. Those big bad unions ruled by unaccountable despots who pay the Labour party to do what they want.

Well actually no it’s not, and the public for once aren’t falling for it, and to their credit neither are the normally sycophantic Tory press – Labour was formed by the Unions, donations to Labour are effectively the aggregation of the many thousands of large donations from working people which are passed to the party  - and they still add up to only a fraction of the sums handed to the Tories by their wide boy spiv friends.

Then comes the biggest own goal – Francis Maude,  who uses a strike ballot and an up-coming bank holiday as an excuse to panic the whole country into hoarding petrol. Despite the fact that there’s been no strike called, nothing to suggest an imminent strike, and it being very unlikely that one can be called before the holiday weekend.

Throw into that the fact that Unite are quietly and methodically inviting the employers to get in touch with Acas in order to mediate a settlement, and have published their ballot details – which are absolutely overwhelming and on a huge turn out, and the Government starts to look very foolish in deed.

So when in a hole, what do they do ?

Naturally they do what they’ve been trained to do : Blame the mess that Labour left.

Except this time it’s not being swallowed by anyone – even The Mail and The Telegraph are now openly criticising David Cameron and his chaotic management of what isn’t really any kind of crisis, but has turned into something that looks very much like one. The pantomime that’s ensued is reminiscent of the sleazy comic chaos of the worst parts of John Major’s government. A state of affairs that led in no small part to Labour’s landslide 1997 General Election victory under Tony Blair.

So a by-election in a safe North of England seat should be signed sealed and delivered at the end of all this stuff shouldn’t it ?

Well no.

It was George Galloway that won it – the same creepy egotist that sucked up to Saddam Hussein and Rula Lenska’s outstretched hand.

So how did that happen then ?

A shift in the Muslim vote? a misunderstanding of the depth of feeling over Afghanistan ? George’s brilliant oratory skills (please – it’s just not true)

Well I don’t really know – but what I do know is that it could only happen if Labour hadn’t royally messed up.

Respect ? Not from me !

When the Tories are in disarray & fools like George Galloway can still make a monkey out of Labour - it's time for some real leadership

What we have is a Government that is as unpopular as Thatcher’s  ever was,  as chaotic and sleazy as John Major’s government ever were. More than that though – where Margaret Thatcher’s unpopularity in some quarters was unbounded. It was matched by hero worhip in others. There’s no such mandate for David Cameron – he didn’t even manage an overall majority. Even the Tories don’t like him.

In contrast to Thatcher, The Cameron government sneaks in right wing ideological change in the guise of sorting out a fictitious “mess” left behind by Labour, or on a pretext of austerity. Margaret Thatcher didn’t do that – she said what she was going to do, and she went ahead and did it – to applause and boos in roughly equal measure.

In Dave Cameron’s pantomime though there are only boos – even his loyal Tory Press are now rounding on the Government incompetence.

Which makes it all the more worrying that Labour can’t hold on to a safe seat.

So at the end of this almost unprecedented period of British politics, I have unfortunately got to conclude that our leadership in the Labour Party is not delivering.

Ed Miliband – I will always be loyal to the party leader, and wish that the rest of the party would be too; but the Bradford West by election is one which Labour should and could have won. The conditions for victory could scarcely have been more favourable for the party.

So Ed, I think you really need to do something very dramatic now to inject momentum into the party’s fortunes. I don’t know what form that should take – but if we approach the General Election with the same kind of leadership that we approached the Bradford West by election , then we will probably lose it.

There are probably lots of lessons from the Bradford by-election – but one that is clear is this : However badly the Tories and Lib Dems mess up, and however un popular they are, it’s still no guarantee that Labour will benefit.

Please Ed. Get it sorted.

April 1, 2012 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

David Lammy doesn’t know the law on smacking children

MP David Lammy posing with an early medieval s...

Don't know what he's holding - hope he doesn't smack any kids with it.

UPDATE : Since clicking the ‘Publish’ button I spotted the article on Liberal Conspiracy which covers pretty much the same ground as this article – Give it a read, there’s a link at the bottom.

The Daily Mail in this article on David Lammy MP’s recent comments regarding the smacking of children, Labour MP: Smacking ban led to riots because parents fear children will be taken away if they discipline them perhaps goes overboard a little. I can’t help but feel though that David intended his words to precipitate just this kind of reaction – and I’m unsurprised by the Mail’s interpretation of his words. They may have got it a little wrong, but this gist of it is probably bang on.

I’m not going to argue about whether it’s right or wrong to smack children, or whether those of us who have been smacked as children are more or less likely to riot than those of us who were not.

I would like to set the record straight on what the Mail calls “The ban on smacking children” though

The Mail article states :

The Children Act of 2004, introduced by Tony Blair’s Government, removed the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’, meaning injuries as slight as a bruise can result in an assault charge. Guilty parents can be jailed for up to five years.

While Mr Lammy, (in his on-line web-chat for Mumsnet, says)

Parents in Tottenham continually raise with me the real pressures of raising children for example on the 15th floor of a tower block with knives, gangs and the dangers of violent crime just outside the window they say they no longer feel sovereign in their own homes and the ability to exercise their own judgement in relation to discipline and reasonable chastisement has been taken away from them. Its too easy for middle class legislators to be far removed from the realities of the typical single mum struggling with these issues and so in that context in the book I do say that we should return to the law as it existed for 150 years before it was changed in 2004.

The legislation currently talks about “a reddening of the skin” not completely sure how this applies to my own children! Previously the courts determined whether parents had used “reasonable chastisement” or “excessive force”.

So what’s the truth of the matter ?

Well the Children Act 2004 is apparently the relevant piece of legislation (to a point) http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/31/section/58 . It does remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement” in cases where a parent or guardian is accused of wounding, causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm or cruelty to persons less than 16 years of age.

The defence is retained though where a charge of common assault is made. This would be an assault which resulted only in bodily harm – not “actual bodily harm”. This is a lesser charge.

The statement in the Mail is misleading – an assault which caused a bruise, would have caused actual bodily harm – it would not therefore be merely an assault.

The key expression here though is “actual bodily harm”. What does it mean ?

The Children Act 2004 does not redefine this. It simply states the existing law. That’s right David, the one from over 100 years ago. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/24-25/100 –  specifically section 47 of the Act which has been interpreted by lawyers for a long time as meaning that :

Common Assault is one which causes only actual bodily harm – for example it might be a smack which leaves a mark, but which quickly fades, and is only transient.

Other assaults are more serious – as they involve ‘actual bodily harm’ – which although perhaps not permanent, has more than a merely transient duration such as a bruise, or a scratch.

The reference to “reddening of the skin” is used in the Crown Prosecution Service’s guidance on applying this law. http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/research/chastisement.html

The Charging Standard states that for minor assaults committed by an adult upon a child that result in injuries such as grazes, scratches, abrasions, minor bruising, swelling, superficial cuts or a black eye, the appropriate charge will normally be ABH for which the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ is no longer available.

However, if the injury amounts to no more than reddening of the skin, and the injury is transient and trifling, a charge of common assault may be laid against the defendant for whom the reasonable chastisement defence remains available to parents or adults acting in loco parentis.

Although this guidance is very influential it is not a definitive statement of the law. It is not as Mr Lammy says “legislation”  and in any case is used to clarify a law drafted in 1861 – the one which David Lammy wishes to return to – a time when relatively few people with black skin lived in the United Kingdom, and it was perhaps unsurprising that generalising statements were made. (I have unfortunately seen quite a few black children with reddened skin as well, but let’s not get sidetracked).

So to clarify if you have been accused of hitting a child in such a way that you’ve cut them or bruised them, then the defence that “I was only disciplining my own child as I believe any good parent should”  just will not wash – it’s no defence.

If however you’re accused of hitting a child in such a way that you’ve not left any mark that lasts longer than a few minutes (which presumably includes the red hand mark I remember vividly from my own childhood) – then you can say exactly that “I smacked my child because he was being naughty” – it is still legally a valid defence. It would be up to a jury, or magistrates to decide whether you were guilty. If indeed you were ever prosecuted.

The fact is that the Children’s Act, Section 58 is quite clearly NOT a ban on smacking. What it is though is a clear statement that smacking is also NOT something which would cause “actual bodily harm” to a child. Quite right too – Although the Mail talks of “injuries as slight as a bruise” – just ask yourself (especially if you’ve been smacked by your parents, or smacked a child yourself) – just how hard do you have to smack a child in order to leave a bruise ? I promise you, the hand print I mentioned earlier, left quite a mark on my memory – but it sure as hell left nothing to show for it on my leg.

The Children’s Act doesn’t take away any other defences either – so if you find yourself on the 15th floor of a block of flats and your 15 year old is coming at you with a knife, your defence is not going to be “I slapped him because he was being a tad rebellious” – it is going to be “I acted in self defence because I thought he was going to stab me”

So there is no smacking ban.

This stuff is easy to look up.

It’s even easier for David Lammy MP. That’s because he is a barrister. A man with a first class honours degree in Law.

Well you could have fooled me David.

January 30, 2012 Posted by | Family, politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We’re all in this together

I spotted two news articles today, which were reasonably interesting in themselves, but didn’t have me salivating with rage or frothing with indignation. Taking them both together though, they threw up a couple of interesting numbers.

The first article was this 37 Tory donors with a combined fortune of £10,258,000,000, have gifted the Tory party with £2,891,436 in the last 13 weeks. on Eoin Clarke’s blog “The Green Benches”  .

I’ll be honest, although I’m fairly left wing, I don’t hold that it’s immoral to earn money, or indeed to amass wealth, and if you’re wealthy, why not donate some to your favourite political party ? Seems reasonable.

I noticed on the list a couple -  Carol & Eddy Haley, – who have an estimated wealth of one and a half  billion pounds. An astonishingly large amount of money. I’m not going to speculate on whether they deserve it  – I’ve no particular reason to doubt that they do. I do know that they suffered a particularly nasty violent robbery some years back – for which they have my sympathy. They donated a large amount to the Conservative Party in the last three months – as they are entitled to I believe.

Elsewhere in the news we have the spectacular story of Annunziatino Attanasio Cardiff waterslide woman jailed for £20,000 benefit con who’s own home video of her lapping up a luxury holiday, and sliding down a water slide, when she was claiming the highest rate of Disability Living Allowance helped to land her in big trouble. She has been found guilty of fraud and has received a prison sentence. I could speculate about the fairness of this – but let’s not. I’m not going to second guess the court – she pleaded guilty and is therefore deesrving of the punishment meted out. She has after all diddled “the taxpayer” out of almost £20,000 over 5 years.

Hang on though – that number – almost £20,000 – actually it was £19,374 – and she was claiming the top rate of disability living allowance for 5 years ?

So forget what she’s done for a minute – that’s the amount that a disabled person – on FULL benefits, can expect to receive over FIVE years !

That’s right : £3,874 per year – £74.51 each week to live on.

£10.65 per day

Meanwhile, Carol & Eddy could if they so choose, place all their money in a savings account. Times are not great for savers, but they’d easily get an account that GUARANTEED them a return of 1.75% until 2015  Top Savings Accounts (They’d probably get a lot more, but let’s choose a low interest example for now).Then they could go to sleep, loaf around, slide down waterslides or do whatever takes their fancy – secure in the knowledge that their savings would  net them £26.25 million per year – or if you like, £504,807 per week

£72,115.38 per day

Now I know these figures are misleading a little – they’re liable to tax on all that for a start, and if they liquidised all their assets, which presumably make up that total, then the assets themselves would probably fall in value because of the very fact that they were cashing in.

However – the difference here is stark. The difficulty we have is not that the Haley’s are doing anything wrong. Nor that it’s wrong to prosecute those who defraud the benefits system.

But when a severely disabled person is only able to receive crumbs from the table – some   0.174%  of the income that a donor to the Governing party can receive  by doing nothing except put his money in the bank, then there is something wrong somewhere. The pretence that we’re all in this together is offensive, and the Government’s determination to villify and demonise disabled people is so very very wrong.

December 5, 2011 Posted by | Disability, news, politics | , , | 1 Comment

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