Thursday, November 20, 2008

End to Prostitution? Not another creative solution! by ranfuchs @ 20/11/2008 – 00:42:15

"Men caught paying for sex with women who are controlled by pimps will be fined ₤1000, and will be shamed publicly."
Well done creative thinkers.
If you read my blog, you may be aware that I strongly believe that it’s our duty to do all in our power to fight the horrendous crime of human trafficking. This is the main reason for this new legislation. But this is not the way.

After all, not even Iran, with death by stoning, managed to stop prostitution; can we? It will only make it impossible for men to report on such situations when they encounter them.

Can you imagine hoards of policemen hiding next to each prostitute to catch and fine her clients, instead of arresting the pimp and releasing the prostitute. After all, if they know which prostitute is employed by a pimp, why do they need to wait for her clients?

Once again, it's just another tax, a scheme for making easy money, without dealing with the problem itself.  When will the UK legislator start thinking about catching and punishing criminals and not how to fill their coffers?  When will human rights laws ensure that law abiding citizen are as protected as criminals?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Some more thoughts about Baby P

First, the Haringey council claimed it was not their fault, as correct procedures had been followed. So let me correct the esteemed council and tell them that procedures are not the right thing; procedure are a means to doing the right thing.

Second, Mr. Brown claimed that he felt sickened by the event and that he immediately set an inquiry, so people can feel safe about their children when looked after. Mr. Brown, again you are missing the point. Nobody feels safer because you have launched an inquiry. Besides, if you want to take action why don’t you make us feel safer by fighting crime, violence, and drunken behaviour. There is too much of it, and nothing is done about it. As sickening as this case is, it’s a reflection of what’s happening to society. So, Mr. Brown, don’t deal with this case, deal with its cause.

Third, some time ago I raised the question if there were cases where people should not be allowed to have children. It led to a heated debate --  many found the question a taboo. Some even compared me to the Nazis. So let me ask again, should Baby P’s mother be allowed to have more babies?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Crime and Robbery

My neighbour’s house got broken into. The thieves took money and jewellery.

The police came. They did a good job: they conducted lots of interviews, filled in many forms, and said that all goes on file. But when asked what the chance of getting the things back is, they admitted that the vast majority of stolen items are never found.

It was not the money that breaks my neighbour’s heart; it’s the sentimental value of some of the jewelleries; some given to her by her mother on her deathbed.

What does it say about us?

Police doesn’t have enough budget for proper investigation (why don’t we throw them a billion or so from the bank bailout?) and a great deal of their taxpayer-paid time is spent on non-productive paperwork.

While non-criminal are often fined for minor ‘offenses’, despite the increased crime (including violent crime) the legal system makes any effort to understand the problem of criminals, rather than the law-abiding victims. So even if my neighbours robbers are caught, they are likely to end up with minimal penalty.

We, those who grew up in a generation where good behaviour was respected and crime was heavily punished, may still believe that crime is bad. But what message does the young generation get? That crime is acceptable and excusable?

We are now blaming the greed culture we created for the latest economic crisis. It’s not long before we will be blaming the crime supporting culture we are now creating for not being able to walk in the streets unarmed.

The crime and gang culture is already here, but we still may have a chance to stop it. Tomorrow may be too late.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gallant Brown saves the day (and lives happily ever after)

Mr. Brown came with a rescue plan – good; because he did not have a choice.

Mr. Brown executed the first step of his plan – good; because this the first time I see Mr. Brown doing anything difficult.

Mr. Brown, arrogantly, told the world that he saved the world’s economy, and that the rest of the world should follow his example – can’t get much worse.

Mr. Brown, you, who helped put us in this mess in the first place, probably did the only things that may give us a chance to escape a total disaster. That what you did, gave us a chance. Your action, although necessary, is dangerous, and can backfire badly. No one knows how it will turn up.

To use an analogy Mr. Brown, when you are forced into a war, you stay humble. You should have learnt it from your mate Mr. Bush, who not only helped you put us where we are today, but also won the Iraqi war long ago – just before it turned messy. If you have not read history, just remember that Nixon won the Vietnam War, Bush won the Iraq war, that is, before they lost them.

So please, Mr. Brown do what you can to and get us out of the mess you put us in, but keep your arrogance aside, to after you have won this war. That is, when the troops come safely home. Because when you send troops out, you never know how nasty things can get.

Mr. Brown, I never really liked you as a prime minister, but I like you as a person less and less. BTW, kissing your wife on the stage to improve your public image is a cheap stunt. Few are blind enough not to think otherwise.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Iceland, terrorism and the emergence of racism

I got responses to my previous posting, blaming the Icelandic people for the current crisis. As it seems to be common theme, I feel that it warrants a new post.

I agree that it's only natural that you should feel frustrated when someone who owes you money does not give it back. But these ‘Icelandic pirates’, as some call them, did nothing that our own banks, and most other banks around the world did not do.

The Icelandic banks have never pretended to be safer than they really were. It’s not the role of the bank to tell us how safe it is. Banks are regulated by international standards, audited by international auditors, and rated by external rating agencies. All the above practices should be questioned. But as for the Icelandic banks, they followed these practices just like HBOS, Northern Rock or RBS; otherwise they would not have been allowed to operate in the UK.

This is commercial reality; when you lend money, there is always a chance that you will not get it back. The higher the risk, the higher the return, and if you want risk free investment, you get a low risk free rate.

Why do you think the Icelandic banks were so attractive? Because they offered higher rate. Why did they offer higher rate? Because, at the time, they were considered more risky than our own banks. They did not lie; they worked within the international and UK laws imposed on them. They did not even run into bigger troubles than our own banks; only that their government does not have the size of population it can tax to bail them out.

If it’s done illegally, there should be a court case and some may go to jail. If, on the other hand, it is done by the accepted commercial standards (as this is most likely the case now), then you become a creditor and stand in the queue together with all other creditors.

This, of course, is different when money is given by shark loans. Then if you can’t pay back you should expect to end with broken knees and new holes in your body. But is this the reason we created anti-terror laws, so that we can do whatever we want with anyone we do not like or have a dispute with? I surely hope not. I would not like to live in such a country. I don’t think most of us would.

As for the Icelandic people, the situation is devastating to them as much as the financial failure is devastating to the average person here. The crisis was caused by all of us, the governments and institutions of the developed world. The crisis will be felt by all of us, the tax payers of all these countries.

It’s only natural that in times of hardship racism and separatism raise their heads. I surely hope that this time will be different. Sadly, it does not seem so.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Letter to Mr Brown

Dear Mr. Brown,

For a man who started his PM role as a self-proclaimed financial prodigy, you seem to have little understanding of financial matters. And by this I am not referring to the financial turmoil itself. It was not your fault.

But in the same way, it was neither the fault of those you blame: the greedy bankers, the immoral short-sellers and the Icelandic government. It’s the blaming and threatening like a simple bully that makes me doubt your financial credentials. Prove me wrong!

Let me tell you why those you blame are not at fault. For decades now, governments all over the world encouraged greed. They loved quick earnings and the spiralling property value. It gave them the spending power they wanted.

In our culture, quick money has become the measure of success; insurance has become a way to make money rather than a way to protect those who suffered damages; fines have been used as a source of income for governments and councils rather than a way to deter crime and anti-social behaviours. So how can you blame us for greed? This is the way the government, you, and most of us, wanted it, choosing to ignore a basic universal principle – things do change.

Some call it Yin and Yang, and you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the wisdom behind the biblical story of Joseph who become second to king Pharaoh because he’d realised that bad years come after good ones, and that they needed to save resources during the good years to be used when things turned bad. In financial terms it’s called reduction of volatility. It’s also called the economic cycle. But if we kept increasing our debt – private and national – during the best of times, what did we think would happen when things turned bad? Did we really think it would never happen? My grandmother knew better, you should have learnt from her, and she wasn’t a financial genius.

You see Mr. Brown, there is no one to blame. You, together with us, preferred to ride the wave of mediocrity and the path of least resistance. Now we are reaping what we sowed.

One more question if you don’t mind Mr. PM; how did you reach the £500 billion bailout figure in only a couple of days? It can only be a very rough estimated, and if it is, I have some suggestions for you:

First, why don’t you use only £460B for the bailout, and keep the extra 40 to fix the education, and legal systems. After all, it was only money that stopped you from doing that earlier, and now you seem to have resolved the problem of raising money.

Second, can you please stop blaming the poor Icelandic government? Professionals at the government and councils put the money there because they got better rates. As professionals they must have known that higher rates meant higher risk. Did you really believe that a 300,000 fishermen country could guarantee UK savings? And besides, if you already raise £500B, why don’t you simply raise 501B and leave the poor Icelandic people alone. Neither you nor anyone else would even notice the difference. On the other hand, if you abuse terror laws, we will all notice.

And one last suggestion Mr. Brown, we all know that now, when we have less money, you are going to increase the taxes to pay for the bailout. I well understand that you have no other viable choice. But why don’t you start immediately by raising the tax on alcohol and tobacco instead of blaming supermarkets for selling it so cheap, and hence encouraging anti-social behaviour. Price of alcohol is not their moral responsibility, it’s yours, and you are given the opportunity to kill two pigs in one bullet.

Remember, it’s just too easy to find scapegoats. But they may only work in the short term. In the long term you reap what you have sown. The challenges you are facing are greater than any post-war prime minister had to face. So please stop finding blame, stop making empty phrases and gestures, and stop being hypocrite. Show us what a prodigy can do. This is your chance. There is nothing more anyone can ask of you.

Our beloved chancellor

In reference to the American multi-Billion dollar bank bailout, Mr. Darling reassured us that we will learn from the American mistakes as: “Nothing is worse than coming forward with a plan that isn’t sufficiently developed.” Words of wisdom Mr. Chancellor, but can you please explain why only last week, you had begged the Americans to pass this bailout?

He continued and said that “when WE take action, we take it quickly. Then it works.” I don't follow. Are you saying that the American action was not quick enough? Or else, how are you going to develop a plan sufficiently if you were to do it quickly. Or do you mean that if and when you decide to take an action, you will take as much time as you want and then do it quickly?

BTW, just in case you have not been following the markets; a day after this statement, the UK came up with a nearly identical bailout plan. So far, it has had the same degree of success – none at all.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Trust the news

An Afghan family with seven children receives benefits worth £170,000 a year, said the paper. Naturally, if the paper says so it might be true. But for a moment – just for fun – lets assume it is really the case. So, as benefits are tax free, this equates to £280,000 before tax.


As if it was not yesterday that Mr. Brown blamed the bankers for making too much money and not sharing OUR values. I wonder if it’s the fact that they worked for their money (if we call it work) that did not match our values and angered Mr. Brown.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The English Irish War

‘Saver can forget about 100% deposit guarantee’, said Brown, who at the same time blamed the Irish government, which offers guarantee, for pulling depositors money out of the UK.

As an ex-financial genius, Mr. Brown should know that it is still a free-trade, capitalist markets. When people don’t like what you offer, they go somewhere else. For years the UK has been doing just that. it was in our favour, after all. Now we feel the other side of the stick. No foreign government is to be blamed; we would have done the same. Again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trust the News: Education

“Primary schools should place just as much emphasis on children’s wellbeing and lifestyle as maths and English”, says the latest government report.

Considering that only a few weeks ago, another report claimed that our students miserably failing at math and English, I am not sure if the new one is bad news or good news. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Do you pay too much?

Last week three clients overcharged by their utility providers hit the news. The first was a North London woman whose water bill for her one bedroom flat was £6,600; the second was a pub owner who was charged £37,000 for his water use; and the unbeatable record belongs to a Cambridge woman who was charged £90m for her electricity bill.

Nobody takes such huge numbers seriously. We all know that errors do happen and cannot be avoided completely. However, if utility billing systems cannot detect such errors, it is very likely that they don’t detect smaller errors as well. That is, all of us are likely to be overcharged regularly.

Will you know if your electricity bill, water charge, or bank fees are off by 20 pounds? I would not even be surprised to discover that some companies deliberately add a few pounds to every bill they send. How would we be able to tell?

These huge errors, as ridiculous as they may be, highlight a fundamental problem we all have. Utility companies and service providers can charge whatever they want, and we, customers, at their mercy, will never know.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My dear cucumber

One good thing that came out of the hike in food prices is that the EU has agreed to ditch the law controlling the curvature of cucumbers. If you were not aware, until now it was illegal to sell bent cucumbers.

My xxx imagination is working overtime. How did such a law come into being? Who suggested the law in the first place, and what was going through his or her mind? So the good news is that now we can all choose our cucumbers the shape we like them.

Let’s not let the EU take away our most fundamental liberties. Well done Irish voters.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Dragon Den

At last! Giraffe milk has been pronounced Kosher by orthodox Jews. If you are not familiar with the term, Kosher is to the Jews what Halal is to the Muslims, that is, a set of arbitrary biblical rules that define what a Jewish person can or cannot eat.

So now I am planning to establish the first dairy giraffe farm in the UK. Investors are welcome. Please subscribe below.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Trust the news: crime and savings

"Automated phone system should be brought in to report crimes. This would save money and ease pressure on the police."
In a time when violent crime sores, the question should be how to prevent and fight crime effectively, not how to cut cost. After all, if cutting cost was our objective, we could get the police off our streets and let citizens defend themselves. Then to justify the money that goes to the legal system, we can arrest those citizens who harm criminals while trying to protect themselves. Alternatively, we can get rid of the legal system too. After all, if we can’t put in jails those sent there by the legal system, why bother at all?

Another option may be to privatise the police force. This seems to work very well in many third world countries. Pay your own policemen policy will clearly improve our GDP and create new business opportunities, especially if we make it tax deductible. If we save the government a great deal of money, don't we deserve some back?

On the other hand, why don’t we get rid of the government and use the money wasted on politician to pay the police. At least I know what the role of the police should be, something I can’t confidently say about the government.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Trust the News: House Prices

Expert forecast that house prices may fall 30% in the next two years. Do they mean that they will fall, they should fall, or maybe that they might fall?

I also wonder if these are the same experts that only nine month ago, when I moved to London, tried to talk me out of renting, claiming that: “house prices are sure to rise for at least eighteen months.”

We are lucky to live in a society in which we can express nearly any piece of nonsense that crosses our mind. I just wonder how much do you pay an expert to express his nonsense? Because the they nonsense they express seems no better than mine. Unfairly, I do not get paid for them. 

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Goodbye Ken (and thanks for all the fish)


Goodbye Ken. It's been long eight years; far too long. I just wish that you’d realized that you were not the person for the job far sooner.

It’s true that London had been booming during most of your reign, everyone with a property have become book-rich. Most of us, however, have far less to live on. It had nothing to do with you, it’s the global financial markets that made it happen. We neither blame you nor credit you for it.

London has become a rich city; too rich to care about those who do not have; who cannot afford private education; too rich to care about the environment.

Most of us have been paying for this richness by suffering soaring prices, deteriorating education, and worse of all, decrease in our personal safety. London has become a dangerous city, a city in which random violence can hit anyone, any time.

All these had nothing to do with you. These, as well, have been international trends we do not blame you for.

We do, however, blame you for not taking advantage of the good trends that brought nearly unlimited influx of money to the city, to fight the bad trends. We blame you for doing nothing that made the life of the average person better or safer; we blame you for not doing what is important for us, the citizens of London.

I don’t know if your successor will be any better. But I believe that if those elected knew that unless they demonstrated exceptional performance they are out – and not kept by inertia just because we are too afraid of the devils we don’t know – we would have a much better system.

So lets all give Boris a chance. And kick him quickly if he fails. The king is dead; let the new king prove himself worthy of our trust.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Should anyone be allowed to have children?

John Ward was compared to a Nazi after he wrote in his blog that people living on benefits should not be allowed to continue having children for the good of society.

Whether or not you agree with him, it still raises a moral dilemma that we, as a ‘free’ society refuse to face: “should anyone have right to have children?”

Let’s focus on question, rather than finding an escape path by referring to China’s one child policy or Nazi Germany. After all, we don’t shun breakfasts because Nazis had them.

Like it or not, our 'freedom' is always restricted. We can’t drive without a driving license; we are not allowed to drink before drinking age, and we can’t teach without a teaching qualification. These laws - justified or not - limit individual freedom to protect society's. So can't we consider situations in which we prevent people from having children?

What about extreme situations, like the mother that has killed three of her children in violence attacks, should she be allowed to have a fourth? Is the mother's right to have them succeeds the unborn children right not to be born to be sacrificed?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Trust the news

"Briton are increasing the number of long-haul mini-breaks they take"
Surprise surprise! Although I’d love to take a holiday here, I can’t afford it. Despite the cost of flying overseas going up, an overseas holiday is still much cheaper. Spain, here I come!

Trust the News

"One in ten British young people believe that George Bush is the head of the commonwealth"

I think it’s wonderful . After all, I would have never guessed that so many young people knew what the commonwealth was. By the way, I feel that it’s high time for renaming it to commondebt -- a far less misleading name.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Trust the News

"Teachers ordered not to risk touching children."

Teacher: can I speak with Ms. Smith.
MS: This is she.
Teacher: Rachel just had a little accident, and until the ambulance arrives, I need your consent to treat her and stop the bleeding.
MS: Sure sure, what happened? Is she OK?
Teacher: She’s losing some blood, so can you please give me your email address so that I can send you the forms so I can touch her.
MS: just go and treat her
Teacher: I am very sorry, but I need a waiver. You see we are restricted by legislation from touching anyone without written consent …

Sounds ridiculous?  Tell it to the good policemen that did not save drowning child, as by doing so he would have violated health and safety regulations.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The best prostitute award

What do we -- as society -- have against prostitution?

1. We all sell parts of ourselves -- body, mind, or spirit -- for money.
2. Unlike many other business (say my car mechanic) with prostitution you get what you pay for.
3. In other businesses you often feel that you got f**d (last night’s restaurant, for instance). With prostitution, this is what you pay for.

So let’s recognize prostitution for what it is -- an honest trade where you get what you pay for, and focus on that which is important: forced prostitution, and human trafficking should clearly top this list.

Friday, February 22, 2008

I am a bank owner!!!

Can anyone tell me what it means that Northern Rock will be bought into ‘public ownership’? Am I, as part of the public, an owner? Can I get dividend when the bank starts making money again? Can I  sell my shares, my part of the ownership?

What a misnomer; what a spin!

All it really means is that they will use my money to buy something I cannot use or enjoy. And some would claim that the capitalist democratic world is what we should impose on everyone.

God help them all.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Trust the News

Boris vows to drive out of London’s petty criminals. This is a great initiative, Boris, but can you start with the heavy criminals: rapist, armed robbers, and the like. They are the ones that worry me and my family the most.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Beautiful Spring Day

What do you do when you wake up on Sunday morning and discover that the weather is absolutely gorgeous? We decided to take the family and go outdoors to build dens.

Took about an hour of construction

 Not so impressive from the outside, but after all, isn’t this the essence of a den?

But really comfy inside

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Trust the News

"Heathrow crash jet survivors may sue BA."

This announcement came a few weeks after the passengers hailed the pilot, claiming  that they had not even been aware that a crash happened, until they left the plane.

Not that I mind that anyone sues BA -- I like them as little as the next person. But doesn’t it seem as if some vulture lawyers are doing their stir up? Let’s send them to Iraq, lots of stirring opportunities there, I hear.

Trust the News

"Hindus say: No. 10 just ignores us"
Guys, don’t feel too privileged. No. 10 ignores everyone. There is nothing special about you.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Trust the news

Nuclear clean up cost hit £73bn, was reported merely a few weeks after the government promised that 'Taxpayers will pay nothing to go nuclear'
Without expressing any opinion about nuclear energy, I still have 1uestions:

  • Will it be only future investment in nuclear that will not cost anything?
  • Will will the private companies running the facilities leave the nuclear waste in place for the time being, and bail out once they are asked to clean it, when it become too expensive -- just the way they did with the privatization of the trains?
  • Can we make official deceit illegal, punished by sending the offenders to Baghdad? It was their deceit that got us there after all.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Trains, privatisation and the feudalist society

Yesterday it took me three hours to get back home after work, instead of the normal 40 minutes. It was just another one of those train signal failure that forced me to take an underground to a different line, which took me to a different station, mot mine, but still a reasonable taxi ride from home.

Unfortunately, it’s not a rare occasion. Unfortunately, I know I won’t get compensated for the extra time or money I spent. Unfortunately, no one at work today agreed to put any money against me that such an occurrence will not happen again within a months.

The entire concept of privatisation of monopolies is senseless. Capitalism is based on competition. There is no competition to the trains. Without this, it is nothing but extortion:

  • Governments use tax payers tax to build the train infrastructure for the benefit of the tax payers.
  • Then the government decide they are more concerned about the quick money (to pay for Iraq war, for instance) so they forget that the tax payers paid for the train, and decide to sell it to the fat-cash-cow milking company that pays the highest bribe. (How can you sell something that belongs to the public, I am still not sure)
  • The fat-cow milkmen, who borrowed the money to buy the cash cow, is now committed only to its shareholders. But this is easy, as they have a monopoly, they do not need to invest, all they need to do is take apart, destroy, under invest, and squeeze.Commuters? What are they?
  • The utterly unhappy commuters are bad news before elections, so the government take the mandate away from the company, but leave them with the profits. After all it wasn’t public property anymore when they destroyed it.
  • The government now find a skinny cash-cow milking company, to turn fa.
Are we back to the feudalistic system, that nobody matters but the landlords?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Counting Birds by ranfuchs @ 26/01/2008 – 23:11:39

Not so long ago you could see millions of starling covering the sky.

Despite the bird flu, and some people’s idea to get rid of all birds wherever they are (and all animals if possible too) the annual garden bird count day was held today.

It was a warm, sunny day, just perfect for such an event, and we all enjoyed watching a large number of birds coming to our feeders. Not as many as the past-days flocks of starlings. I do miss the woosh they use to make and the amazing clouds they formed. But that was pretty happy not to have such a flock landing in my garden. By the way, does anyone know what happened to all these starlings?

What we did see was:

Goldfinches: 5
Black Cap: 1
Bull Finch: 1
Chaffinch: 12
Greenfinch: 4
Blackbirds: 7
Carrion crow: 1
House sparrow: 8
Great tit: 2
Coal tit: 2
Blue tit: 5
Starlings: 5
Dunnocks: 3
Robyn: 1
Wood Pigeon: 1
Collared dove: 2
Feral Pigeon: 2

Not bad for an hour of bird watching. Our feeders definitely do their job.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Trust the News: An inquiry into Iraq war will happen

Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown said that an inquiry into the Iraq was will happen eventually, but now is not the right time.

Your Lordship, now is never the right time. Unfortunately, now is the only time we have. So what is that you’re waiting for? Post-retirement inquiry? Post losing the next election? Or maybe that senility and old age will prevent those responsible from appearing in court?

The public was lied to. This is a fact. Public money was used for inappropriate purposes, this is another fact. And no one can give a single reason what the f*** we are doing in Iraq. If it was not the government but a private company, this would have been considered criminal and lead to jail sentences. But the government is immune, even against criminal acts.

You were not there where the decision was made, and cannot be blamed. It was not your government, but those who made the decisions are your peers. By protecting them you become accomplice.

So the earlier we know the fact, the better it will be for all of us. So what are you waiting for?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Poetry and Modern Education

A poem:

Rats racing,
Cats Chasing.
Birds flying,
Cats crying.
Child calling,
Milk warming.
Cats lapping,
Birds tapping,
Cats napping.

This is not my poem, but my nine year old son. It was his homework. He felt very proud. The teacher praised him, and he got the HP award. What a wonderful inspiration it was. But when he wanted to read his poem to the class, his teacher refused. She felt it would hurt the feelings of those who did not do so well.

Is this a new trend in education? Hide the good, not to discourage the majority?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Trust the News: Education and HIV

‘One in five is high-school children is unaware of the connection between HIV and sex.’

Math and science are on the decline, and so is English and History. So what do they learn at school?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Can you use a mobile phone? Why can't they?

Can use a mobile phone? Do you know anyone who cannot?

I didn’t think so. So let me tell you a secret. British services cannot.

I am not talking about the secret service here – they have been familiar with the technology since  007 – but rather about the other services.

Since I moved to the UK, we used dozens of services delivered to our house: from parcels, to handymen, from utilities to inspection. 

Some gave a great service ( – 5 stars)
Some were bad (why did it have to take six weeks to fix the still-under-warranty fridge? What was I supposed to do in the meantime?)
Some I could book immediately.
Others were nightmare to book (BT at top, Virgin not far behind).

But the one thing common to all was the way they scheduled their appointments. They would only agree to give a general time of their visit, like: in the morning, or around noon, or in the afternoon. Just like the days before the clock was invented -- after sunrise, the Bedouin say.

As a working person, I would ask them to be more specific. None of them would. This I could  accept, but what I could not was that when I asked them to call or SMS me just before they leave for my home. “Sir, this is not something we can do,” they would say.

Guys, what year are you living in? Making a telephone call is not something you can do? Is it because your servicemen or drivers don’t have mobiles, or is it possible that the convenience of your customer is something that you really can't be bothered with.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Martial arts and violence

My son was taking karate classes at his school. He loved it, he was good at it (genetic I suspect .) But when his friend's parents commented that there was enough violence in the world, and that kids should not learn martial arts, and his class mates were teasing him, he stopped. I can’t talk him into going back.

Isn't is amazing how much our life is defined by ignorance and stupidity?

Most traditional martial art are non violent. There is far less violent in a karate match than in a football match. Very little of the violence in our street is by martial artists. On the contrary, it has been shown that martial art training in violent neighborhoods reduced violence. This is for two reasons:

  • Traditional martial arts instill self discipline. “Be a devil for yourself and an angel for the other.” The gang culture in our streets is about lack of self discipline.
  • When people are confident (not arrogant) in their ability to defend themselves, there is less chance they, or people around them, will be attacked in the first place.
There are two type of non-violence attitude.
  1. You avoid violence for philosophical reasons, while knowing that in cases when violence is the only resort, you will not be afraid to use it. This attitude reduces violence. 
  2. You avoid violence out of fear. Being a cowed attracts violence. After all it does not take two to start a fight.
 If more people avoided confrontation for philosophical reason, out of choice, instead of running away from it out of cowardice, our streets would be much safer.I still hope I can talk my son into going back.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

School Bullying

Today’s paper reported on another school girl who committed suicide, allegedly as a result of school bullying.

I don’t know if the claim is true, nor do I know the statistics. But from my personal experience, school bullying is much more tolerated in the UK, than in any other country I’ve been.

I have three kids going to three different schools, and this is the fourth country we’ve lived in. We’ve always lived in similar type of suburbs, and sent our kids to similar types of schools. By all means, my three kids have encountered (fortunately, not first hand) more bullying here than in any of their previous schools.

The scarier thing is not the bullying itself, but the total inability of the schools stuff to discipline the bullies. Despite the fact that a single bully can make life hell for an entire class, school stuff is not given any means whatsoever to discipline them.

As one of the teachers said: “I don’t know why we need to sacrifice entire classes of good student for some hypothetical ideal of giving everyone equal opportunity. It doesn’t work.”

If at school you realize that bullying is not punishable, can we really complain about the level of violence in our streets?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The problem with chicken

Today I am going to talk about how we don’t make the difference we want to believe we do, and about chicken.

Let’s start with some unpleasant truth. Contrary to the old wisdom, saving pennies made nobody rich.

If your mortgage, taxes, car, rates and the rest of the big expenses consume 80% of your income, saving pennies on the 20% of your available income will, at most, allow you to rent a couple more bad videos per month, that’s it. Is it worth the effort?

In other words, too often we put too much effort into areas that, despite our best intentions, make no difference to anyone. To make a difference we need to first identify what really matters, and focus our efforts there.

Where do chicken fit into the picture?

In recent years, it’s become common knowledge how badly chicken, and other farm animals, are treated. If you’re not familiar with the issue, just imagine yourself taking a London rush-hour underground ride in the summer, for eighteen months, after which you will be slaughtered.

Sounds fun?

This is exactly what the chicken are complaining about.

Being conscious of such cruelty, many in the UK have shifted to free range eggs and poultry; and now about 60% of all eggs sold in supermarkets are free range. Yet, despite this shift, over 70% of all eggs in the UK are produced in old-style cruel batteries.

This is because, once again, we have been looking at the fringe of the problem – our home consumption, while the majority of eggs in the UK are not consumed directly by the household, but by the food industry.

Is your bread made with free-range eggs?

So if you are a free-egg enthusiast, unless you confront the industry labeling standards, and change the way you consume ready made product, consuming free-range eggs will mostly deal with your conscious and not with chicken.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Some interesting social trends have been on our news lately. Let’s look at some examples:

1. Social mobility in Britain is lower than other advanced countries and declining.
2. English education is on the decline and every year, and our students performance declines to international standards.
3. The UK has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate in the developed world

Let’s assume that these surveys (and many others) have been conducted properly and their results are reliable. Considering that these trends have developed under Labour government, whose prime call is to support of the middle and lower socio-economic groups, what can we conclude?

In my view there are only two possible explanations. The first is gross incompetence. That is, our politicians are too busy with politics that they have no time left for policies (assuming that they have the ability). Therefore, most policies we see are just done off-hand, normally as a knee jerk reaction.

The other option is sinister. Remembering that the highest rate of support for the Labour comes from lower socio-economic groups, to guarantee re-election, the government needs to ensure that these groups spread, or at least remains unchanged. Trying to improve their status will be cutting the very tree the government is based on, and must be avoided.

Every failure is a win someone’s win, every loss a gain. When you say that something is a failure, think who was the winner, and then you will have the complete picture.

Each of us should make their own mind which of the two options describes our government better, incompetent, or devious.