Archive for February 2012

On Abortion

Go back a week and I can safely say that I hadn’t given the subject much thought beyond a perfunctory “her body, her choice”. As someone who won’t be having children, planned or otherwise, it was, for me, a issue of little importance. A week on and I still consider it unimportant but I have, as a result of circumstance, had to think about it.

What set the ball rolling was finding myself drawn into a conversation about what the libertarian position on the matter should be last Tuesday evening after the conclusion of February’s TFA’s Free Spirits talk.

In hindsight I shouldn’t have gotten involved as I didn’t realise how passionately the two individuals believed in their position and consequently I had my head handed to me. Not much of a shock frankly given my aforementioned disinterest in the subject and my general lack of debating skills.

Their contention was that life begins at the moment of conception and thus abortion violates the ‘do no harm’ principle. How much the fact that one of them is, as I found out afterwards, a Catholic contributes to his position or vice-versa I don’t know but life beginning at conception is, as I understand matters, a general tenet of that faith? No doubt if I am wrong on this someone (Demi?) will correct me.

I’m not going to attempt to argue against that view in this post simply because even I realise that it is a ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ discussion and so far no one has come up with an answer that a majority are happy with.

All I will do is note that the abortions in the UK are not legal after 24 weeks and point out that those children born before that point are usually not viable whilst those few who do survive spend a lot of time in hospital and are likely to have heath problems for the rest of their (possibly short) lives.

I didn’t however think too much more of the matter until Wednesday morning when the Telegraph led with the story that some doctors would agree to terminate a foetus on the basis of gender – a reason which is not allowable under UK law.

Once what passes for my brain cell had taken the time to digest this news, my general thought process was something along the lines of “we allow abortions on the basis of inconvenience, disability, health or because it wasn’t planned so what makes gender selection different?”

Yes, to us in the developed world it seems distasteful to relieve oneself of a pregnancy simply because of the gender of the unborn child but it seems more humane than the apparent murder of millions of young female children simply of the basis of gender – a practise which still happens in parts of countries such as India and China.

Gender selection aside however, abortion is not a new practice, with recorded instances dating back over 2,500 years. Even during the period in the US and UK when the practise was illegal, getting a termination was still possible assuming you knew where to look.

According to WHO figures almost half of all abortions taking place in the world, some 20 million, are in countries where it is illegal or unsafe to do so, resulting in no shortage of deaths and infertility. That is not to say that such outcomes are not possible in places where it is legal and/or safe but the numbers are tiny by comparison.

Thus I come down on the side of rationality. Regardless of the reasons involved, termination of unwanted pregnancies will happen whether it is legal or not. Therefore it makes sense for the practice to be as safe as possible for those who choose to undergo it – for whatever reason – and this is not something which can be achieved by making it illegal.

My experience of ‘Workfare’

The subject of Workfare has, thanks to apparent blunder by someone at Tesco, been making headlines for the last few days.

There are, of course, a number of different of views on the matter, from the hysterical accusations of slavery made by rent seekers through to the more rational arguments provided by others.

Whilst I have been unemployed a few times in my life (immediately after university and a couple of times thanks to redundancy) I have never, as yet, had to sign-on (I looked into it post-uni but I had too much in savings – my debts not being taken into account).

During the first of those post-redundancy spells, in early 2002, work was, for an IT person with little commercial experience, proving difficult to come by.

At the time Dad was in charge of running down a small Indonesian firm based in London which had been used by either former President Suharto or his allies to launder money. Using the contacts he had through this he got me a position which allowed me to gain more commercial experience.

Whilst I was in this ‘role’ I was doing 35 hour weeks, 0900 to 1700, and commuting from my parents home to their office, which was 12 mins away by train.

What was my pay for this?

£20/week – with no expenses.

Did I complain? No. I wanted the experience and wasn’t worried about how I got it. It got me out of the house, stopped me feeling sorry for myself and once a month I was even able to go out for a few drinks with friends – aided by the fact that the weekly season ticket meant that I didn’t have to pay the train fare into town.

It also helped me get a job with a proper salary as, rather than a blank space on the CV, I could put down that I was working and could demonstrate the lengths I would go to help myself – something employers (especially at the SME end) quite like.

The Cost of Alcohol

Our glorious leader is all over the MSM this morning as they wibble on about what they have been told he will say on the subject of alcohol and ‘its cost to society’ when he visits a hospital today.

According to this pre-announcemet announcement, in 2006/7 (I assume they mean 2006/7 tax year), the cost was £2.7bn.

Sounds a lot, yes?

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics the government raised over £7.9bn through alcohol taxes in the 2006/7 tax year.

Now I realise that it has been almost 20 years since I sat down to do my dumbed down GCSE Maths exam but as far as I can see that is a net income to the Treasury of approximately £5.2bn.

Might I therefore suggest that iDave takes his latest piece of stupidity and sticks it?

Me, myself and everybody else

The title of this blog, and the tagline which goes with it, is no accident. Originating from the Greek words misos (“hatred”) and anthrōpos, (“man, human being”), misanthrophy is defined as a hatred, dislike, or distrust of humankind – an attitude which sums me up very well.

Obviously this is a generalisation as it is, objectively, impossible to hate people I have never had the displeasure of interacting with. It is also not to say that I hate everyone I have ever met.

As unbelieveable as it might sound there are people out there I count as friends – though God knows why they put up with me. I do not however suffer fools. There is no gladly about it – if you give me cause to think that you are a fool (and the barrier is not a high one) then you can expect me to treat you with contempt. The more of an idiot I rate you, the greater the level of contempt you will receive. No one is spared… regardless of whether they are faceless organisations, politicians, people I only deal with occassionally, colleagues, former friends, or family – even if I do just about manage to pull my punches when dealing with the latter.

That does not however tell the whole story, as a recent tweet of mine makes clear:

I’ve realised I have two problems in life: myself and everyone else. This is, on reflection, a bit of a problem. #wellandtrulyscrewed

Yes, that’s right. In addition to my severe dislike of my own species, I am not a fan of myself.

Like Arnold Rimmer I am plagued by a sub-consciousness which apparently hates me and is known to play back the worst episodes of my life whenever it fancies – usually when things seem to be looking up. When it isn’t doing that, it is want to worry over some issues like a dog given a bone and will repeatedly come back to them long after they should have been put to bed. My internal critic is a hyperactive bastard who simply won’t shut up.

To make matters worse, it isn’t even consistent. Like a barometer my mood – and thus my tolerance level – varies. Sometimes I can be almost normal, other times (such as now) I am almost impossible to deal with to the extent that, when I realise, I hate myself even more and I find myself breaking down in tears at my own inadequacies.

Thus I am caught on the horns of a dilemma: if I withdraw from the world, I have to put up with my own self-loathing yet if I hide from that I have to put up with humanity.

There is, of course, a third altenative but whilst I have, to date, written three notes I have yet to summon up the courage and/or stupidity to actually follow through.

Of the three less than welcoming options, the most attractive one appears to be becoming a recluse. Having survived 33 years of myself so far I can at least take comfort from the thought that I am getting closer to the downhill stretch whilst it reduces the amount of stupidity generated by our species on a hourly basis I have to put up with.

Sadly my circumstances don’t make that possible at the present time.

Separated at Birth

Francois Baroin

Daniel 'I'm now rich enough to be a Socialist' Radcliffe

Daniel Radcliffe

Francois '9 Eurozone nations will implement a Tobin Tax' Baroin

Uncanny, yes?

Snow Clearance

In my corner of the South East we had 4″ or so of snow last night. As I live in a cul-de-sac there is not a snowballs chance in Hell that the local council will even try to grit or clear the roads and/or footpaths.

Therefore this year I invested in some rock salt, a snow shovel and went out to do the right thing.


Cul-de-sac before clearance

One blogger, with one shovel and 100 minutes of work later:

Cul-de-sac after clearance

The only downside was the number of my neighbours who walked past with even making a token attempt to acknowledge my efforts.

Fairness and Mr. Fred Goodwin

So, Fred Goodwin is a Knight Bachelor no more as the award, originally made by the then Labour Government in 2004, has “cancelled and annulled” on the advice of the Honours Forfeiture Committee.

Predictably the mob is happy with this bone that they have been tossed by the Establishment. Also happy is our current Leader of the Opposition, even though in 2004 the silly fool was a Special Advisor in the Treasury…

Mr Goodwin is not though the first person to be subjected to this. Indeed Wikipedia lists several hundred people who have had titles and honours attainded in the last 1,000 years.

Those not of the mob have called this a political decision and unfair.

If one is to only take the period since the end of the first unpleasantness then, yes, they’d have a point. Aside from a few exceptions who should never have been given a gong in the first place (Mussolini, Ceauşescu, Mugabe) the reason for each annulment (when given) is a conviction.

However that was not always the case.

Attainder was, until recent times, something that only affected members of the nobility with each level of the British aristocracy, from the highest (Dukes) to the lowest (Barons) as well as the commoners (Baronets) having, at some point, had several members of their ranks suffer this fate. The said unfortunate was often then executed, although some did not live to suffer the ignominy – having had the good sense to die on the battlefield!

They were almost always attainded for political reasons. Or, more accurately, one political reason: finding themselves on the wrong side of the monarch (or, in the case of those lost as the result of squabbles over the succession, the now victorious monarch).

This practice, with two exceptions, however died out some centuries ago, with no peer of the realm suffering such a fate between the end of the Jacobite Rebellion and WW1 when two Dukes (both descendants of the House of Hanover) picked the wrong side.

So, no, the cancellation of Fred Goodwin’s knighthood might not have been fair, it might have been* political (and, as pointed out at Anna’s, there are other, perhaps more deserving, candidates) but it is not unprecedented and the British State can do a lot given that bit of leeway.

* was

A benefits sob story

As the Welfare Reform Bill returned to the Commons, the BBC decided to take up arms against the proposed benefit cap on behalf of one family (comprising two parents and six children) who would be affected if they were limited to £26,000/annum.

That family’s income is helpfully laid out in the graphic below:

How one family on benefits spends £582.40 a week (or £30,284.80 a year)

Looking at their outgoings the first thing that struck me was the amount being spent (per week remember) on alcohol, tobacco and Sky TV. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against smoking, drinking and watching TV but I am not in favour of (involuntarily) paying for others to do so.

Assuming that the family visit the ubiquitous Tesco for their shopping, that the prices online match those in store and they are buying in bulk then we can estimate the alcohol and tobacco expenditure as such:

Alcohol: Between £18 and £24
Cigarettes: Between £60 and £70
Tobacco: £12+

You can probably do better if you shop around a bit but even at the lower end the estimate for alcohol and tobacco expenditure is £90+, rising to over £100 depending on personal preferences.

Add in £15 for Sky TV and that’s at least £105, which is well above the £82.40 the BBC reckons they would lose under the benefit cap.

The second thing that struck me about this sob story was the what the father does (or rather doesn’t) do for a living:

Raymond, a former educational software writer, has been jobless since 2001. His wife Katherine suffers from bipolar disorder with an anxiety disorder and is also unable to work.

Says Ray: “The market for my skills dried up ten years ago – there’s a total lack of work in my area of expertise.”

Seriously? Your skill-set has been obsolete for 10 years and you never even thought at retraining yourself into another area? Even with the dot com crash, it isn’t as if there has been a shortage of IT jobs (I assume that an ‘educational software writer’ has some programming skills) in the last decade.

And as if that wasn’t enough, my eyebrows almost shot through the ceiling when I realised that dear old unemployed Raymond and his disabled wife, already having six children between them from previous marriages, also have a 5 year old son as a result of their union.

No cutting your coat according to your cloth for these two. Oh no, the poor bloody taxpayer all the way it seems…

The father reckons that, as a result of the cap, I see eight people here having to choose between eating or heating.

I reckon he needs to pull the other leg, the one with bells on it…