Saturday, 28 July 2012

London Olympics , where the workers lose much more than the competitors

Well, shame about Mark Cavendish, but at least he earns millions. So, less to complain about than ordinary workers getting screwed over by the Olympic racket.
Take Adidas, which put up an estimated US$122 to plaster its name all over the London Olympics, and expects to reap billions in sales in return.  And I bet they paid up that cash in advance, or far faster than they pay what’s owed to redundant workers in developing countries.
For example, it continues to refuse to offer just US$1.8 million in long-overdue severance pay to workers laid off from its shuttered Indonesian supplier, PT Kizone. Adidas stonewalled for 18 months while workers battled to get money they were owed under Indonesian law. Then after global pressure forced the company to meet with workers, the final offer was an insult: a food voucher for each worker worth just € 43 - roughly the value of a London 2012 t-shirt.
If Adidas can sponsor the Olympics, it can afford its obligation to workers. If you agree, sign the petition at demanding that Adidas pay laid off workers what it owes.
Then there’s the Olympic cleaners being accommodated in East London sheds. In a portakabin  village they sleep 10 to a room, share the toilet with 25 others and the shower with 75. Some women left, refusing to sleep in mixed sex cabins with men they didn’t know. Those that stayed have to stump up £18 a day, despite not working for the first two weeks. Heavy rain means a flooded site with many cabins leaking and crates for stepping stones.
Many of the workers were recruited abroad for the contract, despite the company’s promise that it would mean local jobs. Planning was granted and welfare conditions totally ignored by the council because the site is only temporary.
So, blatant exploitation in a time of crisis being sold as a ‘national event’, with some scumbags taking advantage of both local and worldwide unemployment. What a surprise.
If this sickens you too, join the call for decent accommodation for Olympic cleaners at .

Sunday, 22 July 2012

PR not news, monologue not debate

BBC Wales has an article about a Church of Wales survey into the future of their churches (see
Two things are interesting to me. Firstly, how similar the apparent picture is to that in the ‘recent’ Manx survey (i.e. a survey which was completed a few years back, and some edited highlights were partially revealed to us civilians recently). Secondly, why BBC Wales gave it prominent airtime.
As with the half-formed religious droppings we get in the nominally Manx media, nothing this ‘shocking’ about a major church denomination gets into the ‘national press’ unless that organization put it there and negotiated the manner in which it would be ‘independently’ reported. 
Sorry to burst anybody’s bubble here, but there are no dedicated reporters doggedly rooting out such stories and doorstepping powerful but embarrassed figures for a quote. The 21st century media business does not work like that.
If you compare what is happening locally, it is far more likely that the C of E’s PR merchant delivered a ready cooked ‘story’ to the radio news desk, who just reheated it before shoving it down the public’s throats. The purpose is to ‘spark public debate’ about how churches can survive in the 21st century. Except that the church involved has already had that ‘debate’ privately and internally and is not about to let us heathens make informed comment.
For a decade or more it has also been (1) negotiating with government over massive public subsidy and (2), at least partially with the feedback of those government negotiations advising ‘area management’ on spotting ‘business opportunities’(such as the closure of local shops, post offices and youth facilities) or heritage schemes where applications for grant aid and start-up business funding will be treated very favourably and churches dead from the ground up get ‘reinvented’ as ‘community facilities’. The community, of course, has no say in such matters – especially as a popular response might be ‘More bigotry and brainwashing on the rates? No thanks!’
The worst ones we see here include massive government help to renovate the empty cathedral as an 'educational resource' (offering very dubious exhibitions and materials, I might add) and another where government seem to be handing an awful evangelical outfit land zoned for social housing and community resources to build a church -cum-'community centre' (thus getting out of providing the town the real youth and community centre it has been begging for over two decades).
The new ‘voucher system’ for nurseries is, I suspect, another stitch-up. Note, for example, the well timed and ‘coincidental’ comments of the Mothers Union when key beneficiaries will include right wing churches, now actually being paid to abuse kids too small to crawl away.
When organized religion reduces itself to nothing but a tacky business I wish that just one politician or civil servant would have the guts to suggest removing the charitable status. Make them operate like proper businesses with proper legal checks and balances, and make them pay taxes instead of leeching off a disinterested public. 
Until I hear that suggestion made - and an opportunity to consider it seriously - this is not a debate but another monologue from a privileged party. That party has nothing useful to say and far too many opportunities to say it in a media closed to any genuine contribution from the general public.

Educational cream - rich, thick and a mental health risk

I have long suspected that private education - for all the massive fees and tiny class sizes - cannot deliver the goods. Seeing some of the ‘products’, you might also be forgiven for thinking they are increasingly havens for thickos too posh to be branded ‘special needs’. 
Like their forebears, once graduated such numbskulls get packed off to some far flung place where they can crash about and wreck lives without news ever leaking back here and ruining the family name. Certainly, there is always a risk they might retire here later and enter Manx politics – and some have – but as they will have civil servants to tie them into their chairs and spoon-feed them until they go totally gaga this need not worry us unduly.
After spotting this bunkum (see about an exercise to further line the pockets of a dodgy overseas mission I am surer than ever that my suspicions are correct. With even basic research they would have discovered that this orphanage - like other fronts for evangelical Christianity in India - is technically a criminal organization.
It will do no useful work, and like similar organizations in other ‘poor’ countries, actually prevent genuine local projects and government agencies from getting international funding. Such scams are only tolerated by the Indian government because previous attempts to crack down on faith-based fraud (most notoriously Mother Teresa’s misogynist, homophobic fundraisers posing as ‘homelessness shelters’ and ‘hospitals’) got them into trouble with the powerful political allies of the hatemonger.
Any worries I had that my child could lose out against privileged kids are over. If any parent is dumb enough to shell out several grand a year for ‘teaching’ of this quality, they also deserve to pay for the lifetime of care in a secure mental institution they have condemned little Tarquin or Tabitha to when they grow up.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Dying without dignity or choice

On Friday, (at about the time the island workforce was going home so nobody would be paying attention) the Manx government's Department of (ill) Health announced that their dodgy survey on ‘End of Life Care’ is done and dusted.
The title of the press release (‘Dignity and choice at the heart of Island’s first ever End of Life Care Framework’) is an outright lie. The plan offers neither to any dying person with more than a few functioning brain cells and the desire to actually choose, rather than be told, how to die. The opening sentence, in which it is claimed that the framework comes “after 18 months of a detailed research and analysis into end of life care elsewhere, as well as a review of the care available in the Isle of Man”, is also untrue. Even the briefest glance at the 38 page document reveals that SO did not happen..
Looking at some of the shady characters with cheesy grins on the photo accompanying the release, this should surprise nobody. Take a peek at  and see what I mean.
Turning to what is laughingly described as a ‘care plan’ itself (see ), as soon as I saw the quote from Cicely Saunders (the superstitious airhead behind the ’Hospice Movement’) I started to suspect how poorly this ‘survey’ was done. Any government publication which includes – anywhere - material from someone lauded by those notorious religious apologists the Templeton Foundation deserves to be treated with utter, utter contempt. Beside Saunders, other winners of the Templeton Prize include religious marketer and all round bigot Billy Graham and Mother Teresa, that notorious economic parasite on the poor and dying. I think you catch my drift.
But, being a proper researcher, I did try to set gut instincts aside, so then looked at what documents were quoted in the appendices. Sadly, the narrow, one-sided and utterly inadequate selection of ‘research material’ further confirmed my suspicions.
Then I checked the names on the ‘steering group’, only to find far too many names I’ve learnt to associate with an ability to swallow whole religious, pseudo-moralistic twaddle (and at least two who I know never take a moral decision without consulting a priest) or to bury anything resembling evidence that the government policy they are paid to produce might just be flawed.
The ‘plan’ runs to 38 pages, but I could summarize it in four sentences.
“We’re superstitious and so are most of our tunnel-visioned friends. We don’t listen to anyone else – especially if they have academic or professional experience which contradicts our childish beliefs. Dying? Not our problem, once we’ve milked you for all we can you’re on your own.”

Centres of Excrement

This (see ) worries me. Not a lot – yet – because over the years a lot of idiots have put forward a lot of grandiose schemes to ‘save’ Ramsey, which all fell flat.
Sometimes, it must be admitted, after conning huge wads of public money, and sometimes after wrecking sober plans for decent change which might otherwise have been considered. But they fell, because their proposers and sponsors were idiots so it follows naturally that their schemes were idiotic too.
So is this, because if lunacy was an Olympic discipline this fundament of faith-based folly could win gold without getting out of bed. Which many of their clientele don’t do too often anyway. In fact, judging from the scenes some days around their current den of iniquity the whole CotR empire may be built on tithes from the benefits of the permanently unemployable.
Which is why I worry at least a little. Because if they cannot put up the money for this project, then who is?
Without even digging, I can think of two local developers with form for pulling shady deals using religious groups as a front. In both cases literally millions in public funds and years of effort by public servants have been wasted already. I hope neither of them is up to their old tricks, because if they are the results will be a further disaster for Ramsey.
 But it beggars belief anyway that the Manx government is so willing to give away a valuable chunk of land which is supposed to be earmarked for social housing and community facilities.
And it is a massive insult that the simple and persistent request by Ramsey people for a decent community centre could be answered by letting a ragbag collection of right wing religious lunatics not only plan it, but control it.
Apart from anything else, the best rule of thumb a sane person can have for planning forays into local cultural life is to find out where batwits go to eat or entertain themselves, then avoid it like the plague.
Do you know anyone who has had a wedding reception or ‘charitable function’ at Mount Murray? What church do they and their guests go to?
I rest my case, but would you really want the entire potential for community life in your town controlled by some jazz-handing Jesus junkie clad in beige polyester?
If this freak show gets government help it won’t even be a case of “Will the last person to leave Ramsey turn out the lights.” 
Because there won’t be any lights to turn out. I wouldn’t put it past this lot to nick the light bulbs and sell the lamposts for scrap.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Art attacks

 I was struck by  the news (see that local artists are being invited to submit ideas for ‘public art’ in Laxey and Ramsey. In particular, I was amused by the time at which the government culture muppet planned to introduce the scheme.
Who but the usual gaggle of pensioners and dossers have time to meet some Arts Council bigwig mid-day? And who else would want to anyway?
Back in the 1980’s, I knew the few vaguely competent Manx art pros who still lived here, and they all had day jobs. That wasn’t because the general populace failed to appreciate the arts (not any more than the general populace anywhere else, anyway), but because the only commissions on offer were to produce ambient tat for yuppies or oil paintings of and for the same wealthy inbreeds who run this gaff today. If you were serious, or just had any self-respect, you produced if and when you could for patrons elsewhere and held down some rubbish job to feed your family. Most eventually moved away, leaving the field wide open for the idiot spawn of bankers who now hoover up contemporary art commissions (as none of them can even hold down a cleaning job in Daddy’s office, never mind take over the firm).
 So, looks like the Kulchur dumsters are about as serious as they ever were about tarting up the town. And…. oh Lawdy Lawdy…. we do got public art in Ramsey already!
For a start we have the infamous ‘Two crusties playing chess’ sculpture inside our dull if functional Town Hall (though if the sculptor had really been paying attention those fictional figures so finely rendered in stone from some quarry clearance sale would be doing the 10th century equivalent of grumbling about their benefits amongst discarded Special Brew tins, just like their descendants).
Then we have that odd and ugly ‘millennium’ slab outside Shoprite which nobody can figure out or find a use for. Presumably it is meant to signify something Christian (and could only have been approved by an entire committee of godbothering rednecks), but is more like a logo for a dodgy fascist cult - as conceived by the architect of a brutalist 1960’s multi-storey car park or council housing complex.
Oh, and never forget (if only we could!) ‘The Muriel’ in the picnic area by the Swing Bridge, which serves the same purpose as one of those ultrasonic devices meant to deter kids from gathering in public areas. It seems to work. You certainly never see anyone there under the age of 60 and mentally competent enough to dress themselves.
So, what do we make of this latest breathless announcement then?
Can either the talent of today’s generation of artists or the taste of today’s generation of culture bores bring something new and exciting to this town?
That would be a ‘No’.

Friday, 6 July 2012

My Tynwald Day - no mud, no parasites, no regrets

It has become almost a tradition that either on or just after Tynwald Day I come on here to report how bad it was.
 Sorry, not this year. As a matter of fact, I spent longer than usual in St. Johns yesterday and had a great time. Mostly because I was busy well away from the ‘official’ disaster zone. I spent the grand total of 15 minutes laughing at the usual sad collection of losers, shysters and bigots who these days frequent what used to be the ‘charities field’ drowning in mud behind the Tynwald Grandstand before wandering back down the hill, where both the drainage and the company were far superior.
I should explain that Amnesty International have never been welcome on the charities field. We have this annoying habit of pointing out what politicians in the real world get up to, and highlighting (not deliberately by the way) abuses by some of the dictators, corporate entities and military throwbacks the Manx government sees fit to invite to the ceremony in any given year.
Some years we struggled with mundane problems – like erecting our stall the night before, only to find it demolished by a passing burger van. Some years we even arrived to find ‘forces unknown’ had moved the entire stall to another spot, handily out of the eye line of that year’s royal visitor should she, he or it be guided around the field by a fawning minister. This was in the years when you just ‘booked’ your stall by queuing at the Wedding Cake after the announcement in the Examiner, so it was first come, first served for a decent spot.
Then government changed the rules, so only ‘Manx charities’ were eligible, with the other spots going to commercial enterprises who paid dearly for a day’s licence to distribute botulism - or just PR to cover up their participation in the decimation of emerging democracies. Amnesty is not a charity, and as being a Manx one involves collaborating with the Manx government (and in many cases accepting money in return for that collaboration) we never can be. For a year or two we piggybacked on the stalls of those more willing to put profit (or just survival) before principle, but we also had to tone down the campaigns so as not to discomfit our hosts.
This year we were part of an experiment – to put local groups who work in other countries and local residents with roots in other countries together – in the gardens behind the One World Centre. It worked well. For a start we got a much bigger space to work, close to decent amenities, and no censorship.  
Sure, I had a grandstand view of the religious bigwigs who water down or divert the potential for a project like the OWC as they sat around a picnic table pretending they had thought the whole day up. They did not. I can state that as a fact, having caused most of the publicity myself after working with two people who did put the day together as they were failing to get any.
Still, they are harmless – at least compared to the average civil servant – and some of them both mean well and do some good elsewhere. Certainly it was amusing that they carefully avoided the Amnesty tent, but if you are in the myth industry I suppose hard facts must be a terrible distraction - possibly even a sin.
There were two added attractions. One is that the worst evangelical drains upon developing countries declined the OWC invitation and stuck to the ‘official’ charity field, where they could grub for money without inconvenient evidence of the damage done in those countries by their US allies. The other was that we got to talk to people with first hand experience of the outrages Amnesty kicks off about. People, for example, who told stories about parents punished for opposing the Marcos regime, or who had relatives and friends who had seen the Lords Day Resistance Army in action.
I have more contact than most with new residents from lesser known countries, but I was still staggered at what a wealth of knowledge was revealed yesterday by some of the people who passed through our tent. If only we could get them into our schools instead of those neo-colonial chancers linked to religious oppressors our education department seems to prefer.
Eventually, both social change and education on the island will happen because of people like that, and not ‘the professionals’. It was such a joy and privilege to spend our national day with them - instead of being bogged down in the mud with those who hold us back.

Little white li(n)es

Ever since the story broke on Energy FM (see & I’ve been laughing at the mess the local semi-pro temperance industry has got itself into.  Now, those whose very income derives from a scam pulled by a few evangelical panhandlers a decade ago are joining in the ‘condemnation’ (see, which has me rolling round the floor one again.
I particularly loved: “The spokesman added: ‘If the Isle of Man had the highest level of cocaine use in the world per head of population, as suggested by the World Drug Report, drug-related crime would be extremely high to enable addicts to feed their habits.”
Why? Because the cocaine cult hit the island in the early 1980’s as a fashion brought here by young financiers and those in related trades. I even remember the wife of one up and coming legal professional sporting a cute little gold plated fingernail – which baffled her elders but was considered very amusing amongst her peers. By comparison, over-the-hill rockers came here to get away from such temptations.
 Coke just isn’t a housing estate kiddiewink sort of drug – even when international prices started tumbling. The only Class A which ever caught on locally outside wealthier circles was Ecstasy (which serious drug prevention professionals agree should never have been a Class A anyway) and even that only for a short period.
So, just to fill in the missing links here …..
Early in the last decade Manx evangelical klingons (who depend on government for handouts) were looking for a new scam at about the same time UK tabloids were kicking off about underage drinking, as well as dredging up that ‘silly season’ staple, D-R-U-U-U-G-G-S-S-S! “Bingo”, said aforementioned klingons (thought they couldn’t say that now, of course, as their latest scam is gambling addiction). Out of this came that panhandling pantechnicon we know and laugh at, the Chief Minister’s Task Farce on Alcohol and Drugs.
Almost every local professional directly involved with young people or health couldn’t keep a straight face around these wowsers, so they needed hard ‘evidence’ to justify their continued existence – not to mention the public subsidy of their church buddies. The answer was for the island to join ESPAD (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs), which sets a Europe-wide questionnaire every five years, carried out by ‘proper academics’ according to the same format in every participant country, then publishes the results.
 As I’ve mentioned before on here, for numerous reasons known to social science researchers ESPAD surveys have to be taken with  a large pinch of salt, and certainly cannot be taken as a ‘stand alone’ statement on youth drug use. For years, as it did not suit their purposes, neither the Manx temperance industry nor their civil service friends have acknowledged this. They still will not on other moral panics (alcohol, gambling…), and still deliberately choose badly structured ‘surveys’ by bargain basement academics well past their sell-by date to justify their continued, totally pointless, existence and claims on the public purse.
But I do not include David Quirk in my dismissal of total drivel produced by hardcore parasites. He came to his role well after all this dishonesty, and played no part in setting the original scam up. I’ve had a few dealings with him, and know him as an old school Labourite – a working man who went into politics to do the right thing for his community, and to my certain knowledge in his own time, unpaid, he still puts the skills of his old trade to use for old dears in emergencies.
David takes people at their word unless given hard evidence not to do so, and will be taking the word of government advisors - people who are supposed to be professionals - as true here. But as the ESPAD survey which the ‘new, improved’ DHA takes issue with is actually the second in which the island took part, and has been the basis of government expenditure on drug and alcohol ‘education’ and prevention for a decade, it is interesting that the DHA (without whose participation neither survey could have taken place) now dismisses the findings. On that basis, shouldn’t DHA executives – for example –offer to pay back the money given to the Drug Squad during those years?
I wait with amusement to see what ‘alternative’ survey the Manx amateur ‘substance-abuse-prevention’ industry will come up with now that they’ve shot their own golden goose. It has to (a) sound impressive (b) be comprised of statistics nobody can check and (c) according to parameters which can only conclude that we need a handful of clueless, god-bothering wasters who would be otherwise unemployable to run the ‘prevention industry’(rather than, say, qualified professionals with a background in medicine, nursing or pharmacy) . It also has to be produced in such a way that the findings can never reach academic researchers who might take an informed interest in comparative drug use in communities around the UK or world and the reasons behind that, who would immediately pull the methodology and stats to pieces and cause the Manx government further embarrassment.
Tough job, but I’m sure some bible-touting chancer can be found to do it.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Unintentional Comedy Week

You can tell Tynwald Day is approaching because government bodies – both local and national – have been pushing junk mail through our letterbox. The professionals’ are getting increasingly desperate for anyone at all to turn up to what they laughingly describe as a ‘programme of events’.
If yesterday’s entertainers in Strand Street, Douglas, are an example this is no surprise. I’m guessing that the white faced lads in stripey shirts were clowns, and not government advisors demonstrating their usual disorientation in time and place. If so, they were following what Alexei Sayle once called the Open University Theory of Comedy, which states that if you have a white face and baggy trousers you must be funny. As Sayle so rightly argued: “Didn’t work for Mussolini, did it?”
Unlike Manx public sector senior executives, of course, who would happily work for anyone and do anything, providing they get to arrange their own salary, expenses and pension.
I said last week that I see no point in looking in on the farce being played out on Tynwald Hill. From the comments on the IOM Newspapers site it looks like most of the Manx public agree. Similarly, in my (quite large) workplace I don’t know one person who plans to waste a perfectly good day off work watching one bunch of chumps in penguin suits watching another bunch of chumps playing out the disturbing arcadian visions of some Edwardian clergyman after too much  communion wine. George Bernard Shaw always said you should try everything once except incest and folk dancing, which rules out both Manx politics and Manx heritage as far as I’m concerned.
Both, sad to say, are equally in evidence judging from the other leaflet we got through the letterbox, threatening us with another Ramsey National Week. Everything from the opening attraction ( a photographic exhibition around Royal Visits to Ramsey which, judging from the Commissioners I saw sneaking out of the Ramsey Town Hall back door, I’m guessing involved surreptitious public outlay on alcohol) through to the closing event (Ramsey Songs of Praise and Blessing of the Lifeboat) is sure to have the ratepayers turning up in……oh….. their half-dozens.
Another highlight is 100 years of Manx Fairy Tales at the Methodist Centre, supported by the Ramsey Heritage Trust. So that’s a night of more supernatural whimsy dreamt up by the aforementioned Edwardian dipsomniacs at a church which no longer dares to even call itself a church, run by a few navel-gazing geriatrics who used their considerable political connections to deprive Ramsey of the last affordable venue for kids parties and fundraising events in order to pass around their old photos and whinge about how everything was better when they were young.
Of course it was. Because during their working lives anything in Ramsey for anyone under the age of 70 that was not closed through their daytime business incompetence was shut by their evenings of local governmental neglect.
You would think by now the organisers - a tight, self-interested collection of  bods whose tiny social circle and limitless daytime availability  means they can elect themselves on to every local and national government advisory committee going – might have got the message. Two weeks back, at a fundraising curtain raiser to the ‘main event’ held in the Town Hall, they were reduced to buying all the raffle tickets because nobody else turned up to find out what we are in for. At least, I take it that is why all the names drawn out of the hat were committee members.
By now some disgruntled plastic patriot will be asking why all us dissatisfied punters don’t try and do better instead of moaning. That would be because we’re not moaning, Dearie, we’re too busy laughing.
At both the sheer naffness of this and the Diamond Jubilee fiascos on the day after Tynwald and the fact that, in order for a fewTrumpton dignitaries and business bumpkins to have another chance to out-yokelise each other, everybody else gets two days off work and free of the lot of them.
At least these chumps got that right –  even if by accident.