Thursday, 31 January 2008

Mental Health: Worm Has Turned

In Strange World Gets Even Stranger I described that Mrs Carr was unable to receive support from a voluntary organisation, a fact we found out about after months of believing help was at hand. Support was means-tested and no-one mentioned this throughout our application. Amazingly I was told that, as a carer, I was eligible for free respite for 2h a week - the voluntary organisation providing a companion for Mrs Carr.

This seemed strange: respite for a carer is free but support for a "patient" is means-tested. Weird! But there is more!

Not only is my respite free, the person provided for Mrs Carr is the SAME person who would have provided support had Mrs Carr been eligible. The only difference is that now this person will be more focused on companionship than on being a support. That's clear isn't it.

Don't get me wrong. I am delighted that, after more than 9 months, there is some form of help but ....... I am a beggar. We are beggars and anything which is offered we will accept willingly but we should not need to beg. We should be priorities to a caring NHS.

Priority? Caring?

We have seen no understanding, no empathy, no caring but we have seen obstruction and obfuscation and, I am sure, dismissal as troublesome "patients".

All family members are struggling: even the kids. We can see their stress and anxiety rise. Even I have moderate depression and have been prescribed anti-depressants.

But Mrs Carr!! Her (lack of) appropriate diagnosis and treatment is a shabby reflection on a so-called caring profession. Each of our NHS contacts would be shaken if they looked into the mirror and saw themselves as they present to us. I have no idea what is the rationale for their inaction but if only they could live Mrs Carr's life for a few minutes they would support our calls for urgent diagnosis and treatment.

We are all breaking apart under the strain.

The more I write this post the angrier I become and I realise that this post is too reasonable. Reasonableness runs through every word and this may have hindered Mrs Carr.

Our family's treatment, Mrs Carr's treatment at the hands of our NHS is not just shabby it is a FUCKING NATIONAL DISGRACE and the sooner these FUCKING BASTARDS get off their FUCKING ARSES and treat Mrs Carr properly the FUCKING better for us all.

The worm has turned!

UPDATE: After this outburst, I am expecting a referral to adult speech therapy for an expressive language problem!


Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Childhood Reminiscences No2 - Shops and Shopping

For this second reminiscence I describe shops and shopping around our house. The third part of this series will deal with the rise of self-service and supermarkets and shopping in areas away from residential areas.

Although my memories aren't as clear this week there is no doubt that massive changes did occur and have continued.

When I was young there were no supermarkets nor even a self-service shop . Food shopping was done either at corner shops or at the Co-op [the Cooperative Society]. Our local Co-op - and only the Co-op - we called "The Store".

The picture below shows the rough layout of corner shops around where I stayed - not to scale.

B Butcher
C Corner shop
F Chip shop
P Paper shop
PO Post Office


The two corner shops at
the top of the picture we didn't use: the rest we did to varying degrees.


Today the paper shop is still there or it was the last time I visited and one of the corner shops is now a chemist, all the other shops closed years ago.

Most of our food shopping was done at the Co-op - the store - where there was a butcher and grocer - although occasionally we used the butcher at the other end of the street. The corner shop on the same side of the street as our house we used for the odd item: in very much the same way we use corner shops now. Only very occasionally would any food shopping be done further afield. These were our shops.

Before we had a fridge my mother would buy the food for that day's dinner - normally from the store butcher. Butchers are one type of shop which have remained relatively unchanged in terms of dealing with customers but then all shops operated this way.

I should have mentioned that the Co-op paid a dividend in much the same way as loyalty cards do now. For every purchase we gave our "divvy" number - ours was 23402 - and the receipt was a small piece of paper about the size of 3 postage stamps. At the end of the year we queued at the main office and the divvy was paid.

What do I remember about these shops? Many of the corner shops were dull and dingy; biscuits were sold loose i.e the shopkeeper had large tins of biscuits and we would ask for a 1lb of biscuits or whatever and we were dependent on the shopkeeper to pick the biscuits; tea was loose - tea was THE drink; butter was taken from a block and "patted" into shape and cheese was cut with a cheese wire.

The chip shop: I remember my father commenting on how expensive fish and chips were compared to his youth. I remember bags of chips being 3d and 6d ( i.e 1.5 p and 2.5p).

The paper shop - and it was always a paper shop (still is), never a newsagent - always had the papers delivered on time. Every paper shop would have lots of paper rounds because deliveries were much more common.


If I was buying anything for myself I went to the corner shop on our side of the street. Common purchases were:
- Penny Dainty: a large toffee sweetie made by McCowans of Stenhousemuir. This was so large that if you put the whole toffee in your mouth both sides of your cheeks bulged. Therefore, we had to half the Dainty: the technique was to hold it as you would a domino, find a sharp corner on a wall and bash the toffee until it broke. Then it was safe to eat.
- Mivvi: an ice lolly with ice-cream inside. These were still available a few years ago. The shopkeeper called me the "Mivvi king": a name my mother was not happy with.
- lemonade of various flavours: Vimto, Dandelion & Burdock, American Cream Soda. No Coke anywhere.

I have a few relatively random memories which I dump now:

There were a lot of sweets which are not available now such as Fry's Chocolate Cream, Tiffin bar and Spangles.

There was no such thing as flavoured crisps, All crisps came with a small blue bag of salt but the bag was not sealed: the top was twisted.

Lemonade bottles were glass - in fact all bottles were glass - with a black screw cap with a reddish washer and there was a 3d commission for each bottle returned.

Many boxes were wooden and not cardboard and bags were of paper - not a plastic bag around


I have one more memory to share. My local butcher showed me and my best pal our first example of porn - and it was hard core. A black and white photo shown us surreptitously and never shown nor mentioned again.

Shopping was so simple 50 years ago: no big lists, no cars needed, just walk, buy and walk home.

Part 1 can be read here.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Suharto: On Our Knees and Beg Forgiveness

I have no time to post today but I refer you to an article in today's Guardian by John Pilger which describes briefly the west's shameful involvement in the brutal murder of the East Timorese by Indonesian troops.

For a fuller description of the British role read Chapter 21 in Mark Curtis' excellent book - Web of Deceit.

In one of my first posts I wrote about values as follows:

"Until death matters

Until truth matters

Until justice matters

Let us not proclaim our values

Let us get down on our knees and beg forgiveness
"


I could have written this about UK involvement with Suharto. Our knees should be aching.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Blog Reprise

My second reprise and first up today is the delicious and delightful Kylie's Arse. Rather inappropriately though this blog is - or rather was - left-wing. Unfortunately Kylie's Arse is no longer, there having been no posts since December: about the time she duetted with Leon on the X-Factor.

Despite the name and the political viewpoint there was an excellent post
How to Stop Talking Out of Your Arse in which insights painfully gleaned over a lifetime of politcal twaddle" were listed.

With Kylie's Arse on one knee I sit a "Fifties Chick" on the other. Swearing Mother starts with, "OK, so now you know I'm well over fifty, but please don't hold that against me. And guess what, being fifty plus isn't any big deal really. It just looks bad on paper. Of course, there are mornings when I wake up and think "Shit, I'm really old" but by the time I'm up and showered, have blow-dried my hair, put on some slap and a foxy outfit from one of my favourite non-geriatric stores (Hobbs, Zara or M and S on a good day) and spritzed myself with perfume, I am definitely hot to trot."
Read the full post here.

Hopi Sen writes: "Occasionally however, I’m confronted by an argument that suggests it’s better to lose an election than to win it. It’s a thought often expressed by bien pensant types, who, esconsed in comfortable studies, sipping on a warming cocoa (or possibly smoking a pipe) murmur that perhaps it’s a good thing to lose power by a slim margin, lest you lose it by a bigger margin later." The full post which expands the argument is well worth reading.

"Obsolete" - a new blog to me - features with two great posts. There are no synopses for these posts: it's better just to read them [The Political Tyrrany of Grief and
Scum-watch: Vengeance, Redemption and Hypocrisy].

Finally this week, Angry Steve complains about a domain registry with an unusual business practice.

Aargh - Shopping !


Just home after spending 3 hours in a large shopping centre today. Bought a book - didn't set out for that.

God, I hate shopping centres at the best of times but when they're busy then ..............

Today was busy! Traipsing round shops looking at whatever is being looked at is not for me but that I can just about put with. What I cannot hack is the walking: not that I dislike walking. If only I could walk but it's all slow, stop, start, bump, bore - endlessly. It's as though I am the only person who knows where they are going. I'm on a mission. Everyone else seems to drift. All I want to do is walk to where I'm going at my speed. Doesn't seem too much to ask but the Brownian motion of others foils me. They're the problem, not me. I hate them. Definitely nothing wrong with me!

Right, now that I've got that off my chest. I enjoyed today. No, I didn't. Well, I laughed when I saw a pink stretch limo stuck in a multi-storey car park. 90degree bends, tight corners. There was no escape unless they could move lots of cars. I wanted to see the escape but I was so desperate to get back shopping that I had to leave. Now I'll never know.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Broken a Barrier


My first 100 visitor day!

I know for many of you this would be no cause of celebration but for me WOW!!!!. This last week I've averaged out about 12 visitors per day and today seemed to be heading the same way. When I went out about 4pm I'd had 7 visitors but when I came in at 8pm I'd had 50 visitors.

Obviously someone must have linked to a post and, yes, there it was: every visitor clicked on the same page and was referred from the same site and one I hadn't heard of before - cursor.org which features "Media Patrol" which is a compilation of news and views. I struggled to find my link because neither my name or a post was listed. Eventually I found the link in the following paragraph.

"John Pilger emphasizes continuity in the 'danse macabre of US-style democracy,' and takes apart the sugar-coated election reporting [THAT'S MY LINK] of the BBC's Washington Bureau chief, who has reportedly "gone native," while former U.K. ambassador Craig Murray puzzles over the "growing weirdness" of U.S. political culture."

I was lucky to post about the same subject as Pilger. Within his article he had a real go at BBC reporting of USA policy and actions -
Justin Webb in particular - and, fortunately, I too had questioned Webb's objectivity.


I can't imagine why John Pilger and Craig Murray get mentioned by name and I don't but, hey, not bad company!!!

I know that this is a blip and tomorrow I'll be back to normal but just this once my post has reached out. Perhaps blogging isn't so bad after all.

Will someone please remind me of this when next I'm down about my blog?

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Circumstances Beyond My Control

Apologies.

I had hoped to post for the last couple of days but have been unable to do so.

I had a post on Europe mapped out in my head; I was going to post about Mrs Carr and the NHS but those are on hold for a couple of days.

I will post again asap. This is a slight delay only and is definitely NOT a hibernation. All being well a bit better I'll post tomorrow.

I should be able to visit blogs but I'm not sure I'll be able to comment.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Childhood Reminiscences No.1 - Household Appliances


This is the first in what I hope will become a mini-series as I think back about my childhood in the 1950's and 1960's in urban Scotland - times of immense change.

Over the years I realised that much of what was taken for granted in the 1960s was uncommon in the 50s hence this first post looking at household appliances which we take for granted now but back then .....

When young we did not have a: telephone, fridge or freezer, washing machine, television, central heating, electric blankets, gramophone, vacuum cleaner but, with the exception of central heating, within a few years, by the end of the 1950's, we had all these items. We did, at least, have an inside toilet, a convenience - yes, I know it's a pun - which some of our neighbours did not enjoy. As I sit and type this post surrounded by electric and electronic equipment I find it hard toimagine that in my early years we had virtually nothing although I'm sure all the appliances would be available for a price.

With no telephone at home, we had to use a telephone kiosk, the nearest of which was 5 mins walk away. It's hard to believe that we've moved from that to the overly ubiquitous mobile phone. Our first phone was a black bakelite model with no dialling - we had to go through the operaor for all calls.. Back in the 50's most phones, I think, were on party lines - ours certainly was - meaning that the line was shared with another person. If they were calling we had to wait. Sometimes we made a "mistake" and listened in to the other party's call!

I can't remember our first fridge arriving but I do remember, before then, the milk being kept in one of the colder rooms in a basin of cold water with a dishcloth draped over the bottles to soak up water and thus keep the milk cool. The butter too was kept in this cool room. Back then, all milk was delivered - ours was by the Co-op. Obviously, with no fridge all perishable shopping was done each day.

Before we got our washing machine the normal weekly wash was done in te sink in the kitchen but the spring-clean washing - blankets, beadspreads - was done in the wash-house which was attached to the house. Some wash houses were separate buildings. In the wash-house were two ceramic (I imagine) sinks with built-in washing boards and a concrete, I think, boiler. The boiler had a large bowl under which could be lit a fire. I remember the fire lit only once but just thinking about this makes me tired. How unbelievably hard-worked were mothers then!

Our first washing machine was a Hoover twin-tub which, as it name suggests, had two tubs: one for washing and the other a spin-drier. This must have been the second generation of washing machines because I remember my granny had a machine with one tub - for washing only - with a mangle attached to the side for drying the clothes or, at least, squeezing out a lot of the water.

No television for me as a young kid! It's amazingly hard now to imagine life without this tyrant box but then somehow we managed to amuse ourselves. I must try to remember what we did - I'll write about this in a later post. Eventually in 1956 our first TV arrived - black and white, of course- a Ferguson 14 inch. TVs were very unrelaiable than but were remarkably easy to repair. Normally a valve had blown but, with a few minutes work, an engineer had popped in a new valve. In a later post I may recall some of the early TV progammes I liked.

No central heating! In fact, we did without this until the late 1960s. I cannot imagine how we survived in a cold house with one warm room. I suspect that we have become softer over the years and our expexctations of warmth are such that a return to these days is impossible, although if fuel costs continue to increase rapidly we may well retreat somewhat.

A coal fire in the living room! This was THE source of heat in the house. Nothing compares to coorying around a roaring fire on a freezing day: this huge warmth wrapping itself around all of us. I remember in the mornings my father making up the fire to last through the day by adding dross and then pouring water over the fire to slow down the burn.

Witout electric blankets we used hot water bottles - still common today - but, before the rubber bottles we used ceramic bottles called "pigs". They would be placed upright which raise the bedclothes into a tent shape and thus much of the bed was warmed.

We had no source of music in the house other than the old valve radio, and not until about 1960 did we get a record player - a Bush 6 record player. Again, today there are so many sources of music that the younger generaton must find it hard to imagine survivng with no music.

The last appliance in my list is a vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately I can't remember anything about our first "Hoover" but I do remember rugs being hung on the washing line being beaten with what looked like a giant wicker tennis racket.

In future posts I will recall shops and shopping, the street environment, play, school, holidays and travel, and TV and radio programmes.

If you enjoyed today's walk through my memories please stop by again.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Dr Martin Luther King Jr

At this late hour, I have just read a very moving post by my friend Kevin of "Life has taught us".

Please visit Kevin and be moved.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Rolls at the Door


No, not bread rolls but a real Rolls Royce.

Not ours, of course. More than a tad expensive for us.

Not visiting chez Carr. We don't do visitors or rather visitors don't do us.

Doesn't belong to anyone around here and so must be visiting but whom?

Only one couple possible. There are often big cars there but not this big. Unfortunately they are our next door neighbours. Not my type at all! To call them aspirational is to understate. We don't measure up: we don't have their inane chit-chat, kids not polite enough, garden not kept up to scratch. Whatever measure one uses we're just not cut out to be friends. Mind you this suits us. Sunglassses worn in winter, sunglasses used as hair accessory in summer, fashion plate but not young enough. They're the kind of couple of whom my father would have said, "They think they're the whole cheese but they're not even the smell!".

Not that I've got anything against them, of course. I'm just not that sort of person.

But back to the Rolls. Of course it has personalised plates. Not having personalised plates on a Rolls is like going to Royal Ascot with top hat and tails but wearing pyjama trousers and slippers. Can't remember the plate - wouldn't be politic to list it here anyway - but it should have been, "P111OCK" because it takes one to buy one. One only has a Rolls to be seen. Having a Rolls is an ostentation. "Look at me! I'm loaded I'm everything you are not because you have a little car and I have this Rolls. I am a pillock."


Why do I tell this story? I have no idea. This seemed like a good starting point for a post.

Of course, I'm jealous. Not of the Rolls but of being rich enough to be able to afford one. If only we had this money! Shite! It's not fair that they have it and we don't. I've never wanted a Rolls but I've always wanted to have the money to buy one. Then I'd know that I could do most, if not all, of the things I wanted to .Some bloody wish this! I haven't come within a million miles of succeeding.

So until I can afford one, I'll continue to consider owners as "pillocks" and continue to be jealous.

Looks like being a long, long fit of jealousy.

Some bloody socialist!

All because a pillock parked his Rolls outside my house and this pillock decided to write about it.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Going up in the World!


Only a few days after writing about giving up my blog and I find this tonight!

A visitor from the USA searched Google.com for "tossers & wankers" and found me at No. 2. If only he had searched for "tosser and wanker" I would have been at No. 1.

Fame at last!

I know for many it will be hard to associate these words with my ever so erudite blog but, as any who read my recent post about Blair will know, my humour is childish and lavatorial.

Why "tosser and wanker"? You'll have to read here to find out.

Now there's a challenge most of you can, and will, refuse!

Blog Reprise


This is the first of an occasional series - Blog Reprise - in which I list posts which have attracted me - for any reason. With luck, I'll manage a Reprise every two weeks.

First up swearingmother with a post about trying to plan but missing out a vital component. I am very familiar with this problem. The post's last word sums up my feelings too.

Ruthie always writes with talent and passion. The highlighted post is an open letter to a couple whom Ruthie waited on. Ruthie was not best pleased!

Word Hokey Cokey had me laughing. Colin Campbell reported on a dictionary game in The Washington Post. Sit back and be prepared to laugh.

Kevin of "Life has taught us" recalls some childhood memories and the writings of Thomas Paine. There is so much wisdom in the writings of the long past.

The last post in this first Blog Reprise comes from a hard-working and committed Labour supporter, grimmerupnorth. In this post Susan writes about Tony Benn and his commitment to the values he holds dear.

If you want to recommend any posts for the Reprise just email me at the address in the sidebar.


Thursday, 17 January 2008

Mental Health: Strange World Gets Even Stranger


In October last year, I posted Mental Health: Strange World Gets Stranger" in which I said:

"'Shock and Dread' explained how we are fighting desperately for appropriate treatment but were consistently denied all save anti-depressants and a yet-to-be-received self-help book.

A few weeks ago I visited our GP about me; my stress; how I was struggling to keep going but had to keep going. Now I have an appointment with a Community Mental Health Nurse to assess my need for a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN). If successful I will accept help from a CPN. I will accept anything which will help me and my family.

Why is the strange world getting stranger?


Well, I was successful and I am now seeing a CPN to help me cope with my stress, anxiety and depression and Mrs Carr has still not been offered any support.

But there is more.

We approached a voluntary organisation in August (I think) hoping to get some residential support but our request was rejected because Mrs Carr's needs were too intensive for the organisation to support. Rather than simply walk away I asked if they would consider "at home" support and they were quite positive about this option and so a few weeks later we turned up for an interview. No promises were made but we were hugely encouraged. At last, it seemed that support - even if it were only a few hours a week - was available.

Some weeks later the letter arrived. Yes!! Suppport is there! All that was needed was for a worker to visit and devise a Care Plan.

Today we had that visit. NO support now available.

Why? Because more than 4 months after we made contact; more than 2.5 months after the interview, we were asked to complete a Financial Assessment and - surprise surprise - our savings are more than the £8000 cut-off and, therefore, we would have to meet the full costs. Now I can accept that there have to be rules - we always seem to be on the wrong side of them - but we were allowed to get our hopes up only to have them dashed so cruelly. We should have been asked about our finances right at the start of the process and we would have moved on but, having been told that support was allocated, we've had 2 months of thinking, "At last, help. We'll start to feel a difference".

We were told today that almost all applicants get their support paid because they are on some form of benefit. Do mental health problems not affect the middle classes? If not, where do they go for help? I wish I knew.


But there is more still.

Having lost out on support for Mrs Carr I was told today that I might be eligible for respite as a carer. A few hours later, the phone call: "Yes, You are eligible and we have a 2 hour slot available, 1 day a week, and when more slots become available you may get even more respite." A support worker will be with Mrs Carr and I am free to do what I wish and the support is FREE.

I accept, of course, but this must be a joke.

Mrs Carr is ill, there is support but we have to pay the full cost. I am her carer and I get FREE support.

Why is the strange world getting even stranger?


Obviously we will both benefit from this arrangement and we are both delighted but why is it so much easier for a carer to get help - that's twice now - than it is for the patient - sorry, service user - herself?

This strange world gets even stranger!


Monday, 14 January 2008

Bush!!!

Three mini-posts - about Bush's visit to Abu Dhabi - for the price of a large one! A bargain!


Bush
1

In a speech he said: "In a free and just society, every person is treated with dignity"

" DIGNITY" Guantanamo? Abu Ghraib? Waterboarding? Extraordinary rendition?

And there was I thinking these were all stains on the good name of the USA. Silly old me!!!

Is the man a fool?


Bush 2

In the same speech he said: "And in this fight [against the forces of extremism] our nations have a weapon more powerful than bombs or bullets. It is the desire for freedom and justice written into our hearts by Almighty God - and no terrorist or tyrant can take that away."

Whether he meant this or not, this will be read as "my (Bush's) Christian God will defeat your God".

Is the man a fool?


Bush 3

Transcript from interview with Bush in Middle East

Interviewer: "Do you think that the amount of baggage you carry to this region will limit your progress?"

Bush: "Hell, no! Airforce One can carry tons of luggage."

Is the man a fool?

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Blair on Europe: Brilliant but Meaningless


Tony Blair was at his artful best when he launched his leadership campaign for the EU presidency in Paris on Saturday night. I jest, of course. For "artful best " read "meaningless worst". That this criminal is free to walk the streets of Europe is bad enough but that he could come back to haunt us is unbearable but I must admit he is good at what he does and what he does is to utter words and phrases which initially seem hugely profound but later have an utter emptiness. But he does more than that. He introduces labels with which he can diminish any who disagree. There are plenty labels in the short extract below

According to The Observer Blair said globalisation was eradicating traditional party lines and class distinctions and rendering old political remedies obsolete. 'It's about today versus yesterday. Less about politics and more about a state of mind; open as opposed to closed,' he said. "Europe is not a question of left or right, but a question of the future or the past, of strength or weakness".

This is brilliant shite. It is utterly meaningless until one realises that it means whatever Blair wants it to mean on any occasion and it allows Blair to attach negative labels to those he wishes to attack. Let's pull out these labels and put them into the categories GOOD or bad according to Blair.

TODAY versus yesterday.
Less about politics and MORE ABOUT A STATE OF MIND
OPEN as opposed to closed,
not a question of left or right,
but a question of the FUTURE or the past,
of STRENGTH or weakness

He'll have a filed day with these!

Unfortunately, Blair is likely not to experience the labels I would like to attach to him: war criminal, imprisoned. Until then I'll have to make do with sex-toy salesman.

Blog on Last Legs


In my short blogging career, this blog has had 2 holidays, one death and one miraculous resurrection but the final bell is tolling now and will continue to toll until the end of January. Then, unless I can see some improvement in traffic, the blog will die its final death.

Continued blogging at current levels is pointless. Whilst I appreciate those who do call regularly, with traffic at less than 10 visitors a day, I'm virtually blogging into an empty and unresponsive space. I doubt many could continue long under those circumstances and I can't. In one sense blogging is lonely because each of us sits alone to type but blogging is also a shared experience of reading and commenting and being read and commented upon. I have found blogging to have been predominantly a lonely experience and, therefore, one I am unable to continue.

This may seem like a side swipe at those who do not visit but it is not. CalumCarr's Take, regardless of its inherent quality - if there be any quality - does not appeal to nearly enough readers to make blogging worthwhile. That's the bottom line. As with a business with few customers, a blog with few readers will fold.

The blog holidays arose because I couldn't devote the time to produce a blog I was happy with. That is not an excuse I can use this time: I'm not writing this under the stress of our home life, I'm devoting the time, I'm happy with the blog but the blog is not attractive to readers. There's nothing else I can do.

The following sentence I wrote in May last year: "I was hesitant about posting today because I didn’t want the post to be seen as an attempt to extract kind words and support. " I feel this today too. This isn't a trick. I'm blogging about how I feel. Really I feel like finishing up now. I would finish up now except I have two more posts in my head and just in case traffic picks up with the New Year some distance away.

The key question is, "Will the life support machine be switched off in 2 weeks?"

Blogpower - Best Posts of 2007 - A Compilation


I have a post in the compilation but there's no kudos attached: each BP member was invited to select his/her best post of 2007.

As one of the smallest, if not the smallest, blog in Blogpower any "trick" to increase traffic is worth taking hence my
entry. The full Compilation can be found here.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Blair and the Sex Industry

Today’s post comes with a warning.

If you are easily offended STOP here.

If you don’t have the same sense of humour as me, STOP here.

Good, that probably means that I’ll be the only person to finish this post which I penned originally in 2006 for the Guardians CiF page but I didn’t have the nerve to send it. Probably that’s where it should have stayed.

Anyway, the post starts below:

Much has been made today about Tony Blair’s £500k part-time job with J. P Morgan Chase. Rather than working in the financial sector there is a role for him which is more suited to his skill-range. He could do something for women: he could market his own brand of sex toys.

For the loyal Blairites there are Tony’s Ticklers: guaranteed to press all your buttons; to hit the spot in double quick time. You’ll squeal and squirm with delight and never ever want to get rid of it. You’d be horrified if you lost it or if someone suggests you throw it away because, for you, your Tony is the best ever.

For the non-believers, Blair has a product: The “Trust Me” range. Only too late you’ll realise that what you were sold has grown into a great big Whopper: much much bigger than you can cope with but you’ll be stuck with it no matter what you do. However desperate you are you just won’t be able to get away from it. There is no pleasure only pain. It goes on forever whatever you do. You pray it will stop, you beg it to stop, it says it will stop but it goes on and on and on….. and then, just when you were convinced you will die first, the toy stops and says,” I’ve shafted you for long enough.”

Then the toy’s appearance changes ....... into a great big useless clunking fist!!


Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Justin Webb and BBC Objectivity Questionable

Yesterday's Guardian carried an interview with Justin Webb, the BBC's Washington Bureau chief, in which Webb revealed that he had gone "native" to a degree which raises doubts about his, and the BBC's, objectivity in reporting US news.

I will highlight two points where his objectivity is questionable.

Firstly, he states:

""I'm a real admirer of American patriotism. It occasionally plainly leads them down terrible dark alleys and sometimes leads us to laugh at them, but I love the way their patriotism genuinely binds together small communities into the wider nation."

That US patriotism binds communities is more important to Webb than the "terrible dark alleys" they go down. What a euphemism! Lying to go to an illegal war, torture, kidnapping and transferring to foreign interrogation centres, denial of basic human rights, denial of due process of law. The truth, Justin! Tell the truth!

How can we rely on his reporting when the truth about these major issues is hidden alongside community patriotism?


Secondly, he mentions an on-air spat with Stephen Sackur - also BBC. The interview continues:

"On one occasion, Webb's frustrations spilled over into an on-air spat with a colleague. Two years ago he locked horns with former BBC Washington correspondent Stephen Sackur on Radio 4. In a look-ahead to the coming year, Sackur said that former UN human rights chief Mary Robinson had told him that post-Iraq America could no longer "take the moral high ground and lecture other countries on how they should impose human rights values". Webb's voice tautened with irritation. "That's absolutely ludicrous, though, isn't it?" he replied on air. "I mean the view in America of that kind of comment is just to throw your hands up and say 'For goodness' sake'. Look at the way that Iraq was run before the invasion, look at Iran now, and then look at America. I mean, can you seriously say that there's some kind of moral equivalence between the way they treat their own people and the way the Americans treat theirs?"

Speaking about the flare-up now, Webb says: "I felt that that was the high spot [in what he characterises as "soft anti-Americanism"]. Of course it was unfair on Stephen because I don't really know what his views are. But what Mary Robinson said about America losing its moral leadership really got me going. I mean, hang on a second, when you look at all the appalling behaviour that there is in the world, you know, in Sudan and all the things the Chinese and the Russians do, we need to keep a perspective. It's not a matter of airbrushing the things that America does do, but it's about placing them in a world context
."

These words and views could be those of Tony Blair or Bush's speech-writers. Webb is so uncritical and so accepting of the standard US government view.

He just doesn't get it, does he?

The US may well treat its own citizens better than many countries but having moral authority requires more than simply treating ones own citizens well. As the most powerful country, the US could carry moral authority but when a "country" ignores international laws, wages an illegal war, uses torture, kidnaps foreign nationals and flies them to other countries where the victims may be tortured, illegally wire-taps US citizens, it loses the moral authority to lead other countries to uphold standards. Not only has the US lost the moral authority, as Mary Robinson stated, the US, rather than being a beacon of the highest standards, gives the message to the rest of the world that anything goes. Whatever is required, do. Wherever laws constrain actions, ignore and do.

Webb has bought into the fake, blind and uncritical patriotism, apparently prevalent among a significant number of Americans, that the US is always a force for good and what the US does is always right.

True patriotism is not blind. True patriotism is not uncritical. True patriotism stands up against injustice.

If this article is a true reflection of Webb's views , it appears he has fallen for the fake, blind and uncritical patriotism and it is this which renders suspect both his judgment and reporting. How can the public trust the BBC's reporting of US news?


Update January 10
I had a look at Justin Webb's blog and another had left a very polite and respectful comment asking if he could be objective given his love of the USA.

I left the following comment but Webb's moderation appears to have captured and discarded it:

"Interestingly, earlier today - 9 January - I raised the same issue about Justin Webb's objectivity and used the same phrase as you (gone native) on my blog. Unfortunately I wasn't quite as polite about Justin as were you."

Come on, Justin! A teeny bit of criticism and it's gone. You're a sensitive wee soul, aren't you!


Sunday, 6 January 2008

US Action in Pakistan?

According to reports [1,2] the US is considering "covert military operations," against Al-Qaeda in tribal areas of Pakistan close to Afghanistan and AFP reports that the Pakistan military have reacted angrily to these reports.

If the US goes ahead with the plans, this will neither be like a re-run of Iraq nor a possible attack on Iran but will be much smaller. However, despite this, any military action in Pakistan would be symptomatic of all that is wrong with US foreign policy which seems to be predicated on the following beliefs:

- the goals of the US (as determined by the political leadership) take precedence over those of any other country or groups of countries

- the US has the right to take whatever actions (legal or illegal, military or political) which its leadership deems necessary to further the goals of the leadership

- the lives of non-US citizens are worth less than those of US citizens

The "up-front" reasoning, however, for US actions is that the US wants a safer and more prosperous world and this can only be achieved by spreading freedom and democracy across the world. This is, of course, bullshit. At best, the US (i.e. the US government) wants a safer and more prosperous US. What happens elsewhere is irrelevant provided it does not negatively impact on US goals.

Will the US go ahead with its plans for Pakistan? I don't know but if it does we can guarantee that there will be, what many in the West term obscenely, as "collateral damage". Innocent Pakistani men, women and children will die, will have been killed by US actions but that is a price which the US will consider acceptable because this is what happens in "war". Those of us in the UK shouldn't get too high and mighty about the US and "collateral damage". Our military too has killed innocents.

Any US actions in Pakistan will drive many to hate the US - not a surprising effect: in similar circumstance the same effect would be seen here in the UK or in the US. The end result will be more hatred of the US from some, more loathing of the US government from others and a less safe US.

Also reported [2] is that Barack Obama "repeated his endorsement of unilateral US military intervention in Pakistan if “actionable intelligence” exists. His Democratic rivals did not dissent." Therefore, this post is not just a criticism of Republican actions but also of the support given by leading Democrats.

Whatever words US politicians use to describe possible military action in Pakistan we can be certain that they will fail to use the correct words. They should be saying that the US acts like a powerful mobster who brooks no rivals, takes what he wants through force, takes revenge by force on those who annoy him and exploits the weak. The real US policy is a far cry from the "fairy story" of freedom and democracy but little will change until more and more stand up and say, "No more will you act in this way. We demand true freedom and democracy for ourselves".

Also, little will change in the UK until more and more of us stand up and say, "No more will you act in this way. We demand true freedom and democracy for ourselves".

No doubt I will be accused of being anti-American: an easy label to apply but totally false. I am opposed to many aspects of US government policy (and to much UK policy too) - no more and no less - and I will continue to highlight these regardless of the labels others attach to me.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Hannah's Story

Today I post another article from The Scotsman about the struggles of another sufferer of anorexia - Hannah Downie but Hannah is not just another sufferer, not just a statistic. She is a young girl who was desperately ill with a family who have been left to struggle with her illness.

This is like the dark ages. No treatment here! No beds here! Go home! Sent home ... to die?

Imagine being Hannah's mother: seeing her daughter at six stones, desperate to help her daughter, desperate to get her daughter to eat, desperate to halt the downward spiral but helpless because of the iron grip of the anorexia.

Imagine being Hannah's brother or sister: seeing the sister you've grown up with, played with, fought with and love, shrivel away to six stones.

Imagine being Hannah: terribly ill, doing terrible damage to your body but not ill enough.

Imagine all this and still there is no treatment.


Imagine the pot-bellied politicians playing their stupid political games discovering that their daughters were like Hannah. Suddenly this would be a priority because suddenly they would understand what it's like to be Hannah's mother or father or brother or sister and they would care desperately.

Pot-bellied politicians, imagine NOW what it is like being Hannah's mother and act NOW to save lives.


And now, after the lecture, the article about Hannah.


"Hannah Downie, 17, is seriously underweight. But despite the severity of her condition, doctors are unable to help her because of a lack of services in Scotland. The teenager has been forced to give up school because she is so ill and her parents fear she is losing a race against time to get the help she needs. Faced with the prospect of a daughter who refuses to eat, Barbara Downie, Hannah's mother, was told by doctors to treat the girl at home.

"I've run out of hope," the mother-of-five said yesterday. "Hannah doesn't want to eat. She's admitted she would happily starve herself to death. She needs proper medical help but she's not getting it. "The NHS doesn't have enough beds and they're dragging their heels about getting her into a private clinic."

Hannah, from Brechin in Angus, was a normal, healthy teenager, and weighed around nine stone until a year ago.
Her mother said she noticed a gradual change in her behaviour as she became more quiet and self-conscious. Her weight has now fallen to dangerous levels and she is at risk of heart attacks and osteoporosis. Hannah, who is 5ft 6ins tall, has been prescribed prozac and spends most of her time cooped up in the family home.

Her story highlights the growing problem of anorexia in Britain and the lack of adequate facilities. Experts insist Scotland trails behind England in its approach to treating people with eating disorders. Last July, Bryan Lask, professor of child and adolescent psychology at the University of London and one of Britain's foremost experts on anorexia and bulimia, told The Scotsman that the system for treating people with eating disorders in Scotland was "positively dangerous". And last June, a damning report into the death of Lindsay Weddell, who died aged 20 weighing just six stone after suffering anorexia, accused health boards across Scotland of failing to provide "vitally important" services for people with eating disorders.

The NHS in England must follow official guidelines for treating those with the illness, but in Scotland there is no specific advice for GPs and only two centres operated by private companies to treat anorexics and bulimics. There are no specialist adult in-patient beds for severely ill patients, yet in each GP practice there are estimated to be at least two people with anorexia and up to 20 with bulimia. Specialist care is delivered through private clinics in Edinburgh and Glasgow, costing around £3,000 per patient per week.

Ms Downie sought medical advice and Hannah was diagnosed with anorexia, but as there are so few NHS beds for anorexia sufferers, Hannah was sent home. Ms Downie says she can't afford to send Hannah to a private clinic. Hannah, who has a body mass index (BMI) of just 14.2, said: "I didn't feel good about myself. I thought losing weight would make me feel better. It hasn't. I just want all this to go away."

Around one in every 100 young people aged between 12 and 25 in Britain has anorexia. The incidence of bulimia is at its worst among college-aged people, where 4 per cent of the population has the disease. And the age profile of anorexia sufferers is falling, with the youngest recorded case in Britain just eight-years-old.

Diane Whiteoak, of the Huntercombe Hospital in Edinburgh which specialises in eating disorders, said:"A BMI of 14 or less is a very serious condition. It's at this point some people find themselves unable to function properly. People who live with anorexia can't live a normal life. It has a huge impact and causes upset [for] the people around them."

A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside refused to discuss Hannah's case, but said: "Any patient in Tayside clinically assessed as requiring inpatient care for an eating disorder will be admitted to hospital in the NHS or private sector." "


Would a child suffering from cancer or heart disease be treated in the same way as Hannah? No, of course not. There would be an outcry if a child with cancer was sent away from hospital to be treated at home and there should be an outcry about cases like Hannah's. Please shout with me.


I wonder how Hannah is now. I hope she has survived.

My heart goes out to Hannah and her family and to all who suffer with, or alongside, eating disorders.


Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Faltering Return

After two months off I'm taking my first faltering steps back into blogging. I wrote previously that I would return only when we had made progress with Mrs Carr diagnosis and treatment. I am breaking my word but I feel if I didn't return soon I would never do so. Therefore, I will try to blog occasionally and just see how things go. If there is an adverse effect on the family I will stop immediately.

Little has changed for Mrs Carr other than her eating disorder (ED) treatment starts this month. This might seem like major progress but the ED, we are certain, is only a symptom of a much greater and deeper issue and treating the ED without a proper diagnosis of the other issues could lead to a worsening of her condition. Hopefully, the treatment centre will realise this too.

Every day is a struggle but her fabulous counsellor is a magnificent help and early this year we hope to get some additional support from Social Services and voluntary organisations. How much, we'll have to wait and see.

Our Health board is either immensely inefficient or is playing silly buggers: we have waited more than 3 months and still there is no reply to our MSP's second letter. Their first reply took 6 weeks but 3 months ..... When our MSP returns I think I'm going to ask her to up the stakes a bit - whatever that is. Might be involving the appropriate Ombudsman or going to the press.

I wouldn't wish Mrs Carr's illness on anyone but there are times, I must admit, when I wish some of those who have been unhelpful - to say the least - suffered for long enough to realise the torture they are putting us through. Those politicians holding the purse-strings who deny adequate funding to mental health could also do with a short dose of her symptoms.

Would there be a change in attitude? You bet - unless, of course, they managed to beat the queues imposed on ordinary mortals. That couldn't happen, could it? That would be corrupt!