Thursday, 15 November 2012

The White Man's Struggle

So I'm going to leave the heavyweight political stuff for a moment - and on a day of such political importance too! I know, I hear you ask "surely you can't be passing up the chance to write about the election of the year?" And I am. Because I couldn't give a fuck. In fact, worse than that, I don't want to vote. No, scratch that; I don't want there to be a vote on sodding police commissioners.

I think it is a shit idea. I don't think accountability is a shit idea. I think politicising the role is a shit idea. A really shit one. What they are really saying is the police service, like other public services is not accountable enough. Once you get high enough, it's hard to get booted out. You have to work really hard at it - you know, start shooting innocent civilians - that sort of thing. But their fix is not to look at the way that the public sector (civil service, police, military et al) promotes, demotes, apportions credit or blame, but instead to put a political figurehead at the helm and get people to vote them in and out.

Now I have no idea for what reason people are going to vote either way today. Some will know of the candidate and like the cut of his jib. Not many I would wager. Others will perhaps vote based on what little propaganda there has been about - and what similar claptrap it all has been. Who was going to put out a leaflet saying they would like to be lenient on crime, on the causes of crime, would like to increase red tape and make the community a less safe place? All total cock. Identical, total cock. No, most likely the Tory supporters will vote for the Tory candidate, the Labour supporters for the Labour candidate and presumably the Lib Dems just think we should all just get along in the shangri-la that exists only in their heads so probably don't need a police force let alone put forward a police commissioner candidate. So the result will have sod all to do with policing, though will have an impact upon it, and everything to do with current political sentiment. Which is pretty stupid if you ask me.

But that's not what I want to talk about today, because it's not really worth the internet paper upon which I have already written it. Nope, today I am gong to bang on for a good paragraph or two about the struggle of the white man - or more specifically the white bread man - against the sandwich Nazis…

I like sandwiches. I like toast. So, it seems do many people. My academic research for this post has been running for a decade or so. As such, it is the most deeply researched topic I have ever written about in this blog by pretty much ten years.

If you were to glance about in the supermarket on your weekly shop (by which I mean the proper, edge-of-town-high-street-murdering-uber-market supermarket that we are all up in arms about but shop at anyway because it's convenient and cheap), you would see almost an entire aisle of bread, I would wager. If you were to take an approximate calculation at the ratio of white to brown bread you would see in the pre-sliced 'Hovis/Kingsmill cuboid of bread in a colourful plastic bag' area, it's about 50:50. By 'brown' I also include granary et al - essentially a nice Nick Griffin-style definition of 'everything not perfectly white and pure'. In the 'fresh out of the in-house bakery' area it's probably 80:20 to the whites (oh, how Mitt Romney would love to see those stats).

I've been doing this for years. The ratios are pretty steady. Brown (or non-white) has been on the rise in the last decade or so as we try to eat more healthily, but it has plateaued. So, it logically follows that demand is about 50:50 at best (for the brown supporters).

Fine. Have your bread any colour you like - very much a personal choice. In a restaurant my wife will always choose the nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and sawdust bread roll on offer (which surely barely makes it bread under advertising standards rules?) whilst I rootle around in the basket looking for something a child would put Dairylee on at lunch break. I have no objection to the healthy stuff. I just think it tastes like old shoes (though new shoes are not on my delicacy list either). I want the one pumped full of sugar and bleached to within an inch of its life. It's like the Coke/Diet Coke idea. If you're going to cheat, cheat big. What's the point of fannying about with Diet Coke? It's still not good for you, but the added bonus is it doesn't even taste good. They do create an amusing line in television advertisements though. Either way, it's pretty clear half the people who want bread want white bread, and half brown.

So why are all the fucking pre-made sandwiches in the world made with brown bread?

Do people who buy white bread only make breadcrumbs or croutons with it? Or toast it and add butter? Or feed it to the ducks? Are only brown bread purchasers turning these bread slices into sandwiches? Surely I cannot be the only person who likes white bread and can't be bothered to make his own sandwiches? Who did this definitive market research? It must be out there, because you can't get a white sandwich for love nor money. Everyone buys into it; supermarkets, petrol stations, newsagents, the lot. Half an aisle of white bread. Half an aisle of brown bread. Brown sandwiches. Bastards. The lot of them.

Every now and again you find a solitary white sandwich in there, probably with a crap filling, like egg and onion. Who is asking for onion in sandwiches? Or salads for that matter, but I digress…?

It upsets me. As you can no doubt tell. We are being discriminated against. We, the proud, unhealthy, white bread eaters of this world. We 50%. Our demographic is being under-represented in the sandwich industry. We need to stand up for our right to a proper pre-made sandwich selection, before it's too late.  I think I know how the suffragettes felt now...

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Super-Sized Hospitals

You may have picked up on a theme in this blog that I think one should actually budget one's expenditure against one's income. This is as true for a country as it is for an individual. If you can't afford a new car, don't buy one. If you can't afford a new warship, don't buy one. Or of course, if you think you really need it (car, warship, whatever) more than something else, don't buy that instead. This is not revolutionary.

Which leads me to an article I saw recently bemoaning the fact that "hospitals are inadequately prepared to deal with extremely fat patients". Hospitals are probably inadequately prepared to deal with bombs going off outside them sending hundreds of victims to A&E simultaneously. Or some Hollywood viral epidemic. Lots of things really. Because they have budgets. Which we pay for. So they try to cover most eventualities, most of the time to give a good level of healthcare to the most people. That's the idea.

The article I read focused on a report in the Bulletin of The Royal College of Surgeons of England. It suggested many hospitals were in essence failing fat people - morbidly fat people - by not spending their (ironically) hugely bloated, but still limited resources on providing super-size stuff. Don't know about you but providing a bed that can take more than 28 sodding stone (the current limit of normal NHS beds), or as I like to call it, a small family, is lower down my 'to spend on list' than cancer treatment. So is providing wheelchairs which can take more than 25 stone. Or examination couches designed to take more than 21 stone.

There's certainly an argument that says taking a morbidly obese person to a veterinary hospital to be scanned in a horse MRI machine because they don't fit in the human one at the hospital is a good thing. That might be the kick in the capacious rear required to convince the person in question that losing weight might be an idea. But then I hear the caterwauling about dignity and human rights and other such tosh. You can see which way I lean but I certainly understand it may not all be black and white.

One can certainly argue over the fairness of costing the system lots of money (and thus costing the taxpayer lots of money) by intentional lifestyle choices. When it comes to obesity, you will get ill if you eat too much. Your body can't deal with the cholesterol, the fat, the extra weight on bones and joints etc. We aren't designed that way. And most people who are very fat (the vast majority - no pun intended) chose to be so. I don't mean they get out of bed and say, today I choose to be fat. I mean they choose to eat too much, too unhealthily and not exercise enough. There will be various reasons for going down this road, but it generally boils down to a choice.

It's about willpower. Go to any AA meeting. One of the keys to sobriety is acknowledging you can choose not to drink - you have the power, not the drink itself. Drinking or not drinking is the choice you make. Some will find it easier, some harder to make the 'right' choices. Some will be more prone to making poor choices, some will see it as the only choice, an escape - people who eat/drink/take drugs to get away from something. This is a running theme. The point still remains you intentionally do bad things to your body and John Q. Taxpayer picks up the financial bill.

As you see, the argument is not restricted to obesity, or even drugs and alcohol abuse. One could argue about the fairness of those others who place themselves in harm's way intentionally and expect the NHS to cover the costs - people who play contact sports, racing drivers, parachutists - you see where I'm going with this. The private sector answers this apparent inequality by assessing the risk of your need to claim based on your lifestyle and charging premiums accordingly. The non-smoking healthy jogger gets charged less than the free climbing coke addict. That's from each according to his likely need. That's not the NHS.

The NHS is about trying to fix people whatever, and if you pay your taxes but never need healthcare, bully for you, because you have your health. Which is very noble. But it's not affordable to provide 'total medicine' - every known cure, treatment and facility for everyone and hang the cost. So, I shall leave the question to you to mull over whether we are getting it right morally by funding unhealthy lifestyles. Are we encouraging this 'bad behaviour' by subsidising it? Maybe we have no right to say how people should live? Maybe we do if we are paying for that lifestyle? It is, I am certain, a divisive subject with good arguments on both sides.

What cannot be ignored though, is in a world where we cannot afford all things, we must prioritise. And I think there are going to be a great many things people want money spent on in the NHS before they want titanium re-inforced chairs for the obese. This is for the very same reason that increasing military funding in years when the nation is in no obvious direct threat is not a vote winner.

Especially today, Remembrance Sunday, we can see the gratitude and depth of feeling we in this country have for our servicemen, past and present. However, when it comes to Government spending almost everyone has an interest in the NHS (we all have a granny needing a hip replacement, or at least want to know there's an ambulance waiting to take us a well-equipped hospital should we have an accident), and 93% of us have an interest in public education (because that's where little Johnny will be going to school). But there are only about 150,000 military personnel in this country. When it comes to voting, we get selfish.

So I say, yes, we do need to recognise that our country's weight issue is spiralling out of control. Our morbidly obese has risen threefold in 20 years and is showing no sign of abating. We have huge issues will childhood obesity as we eat more unhealthily and become more sedentary with Xboxes beating playing in the garden. But whilst have to recognise the increasing girth of our population, I do not think the answer can be to simply accommodate it, not least because we have more important things to spend the money on, and not just within the NHS.

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Limited Benefit of Children...

I've been storing up a follow-up post on the issue of child benefit - much of my previous work is here. I'll do it quickly because I don't see the point of repeating everything ad infinitum. The crux of the matter is whilst you have a right to have as many children as your body will allow (note that it is not a  right to have a perfectly functioning body, including reproductive ability), should the state (by which we mean the taxpayer) pay for all kids you wish to produce?

This is the argument raised last week by IDS with the proposal of the two child limit on benefits. There are various caveats, exemptions and anomalies to consider. Not least, the limit of two is one just being proposed as an idea. It is likely that it would only affect newcomers, grandparenting in those already beyond the threshold. I could imagine complications when talking about families with multiple parents - whose kids count, who gets the money etc. Triplets are rare but you can see the problem they might raise. Nobody says this would be easy. Nobody says it would bring in a vast amount of money either. The point that IDS is trying to make (and will probably fail to knowing the Tory party's failure to score open-goal policy wins and the predictable left wing media hysteria) is that the Big Society is about fairness, about responsibility, about one's own actions, not just about how much you can take.

I'm, as you'd expect, with him on this. And so should almost everyone. The majority of people in the country work, pay taxes and to one extent or other, budget their money. Asking them for support for a policy that asks for those being given free money (and welfare is just that) to have to live within their means like they do, or do something in return should be an easy win. This could be limiting to £20,000 net the contribution to rent (which the average worker on about £26,000 gross could never afford) gratis from the Government. Or it could be asking those claiming unemployment benefit to do some voluntary work to break the unemployment cycle and put them on a path to work. Or it could be asking them to pay for their own children if they want to have lots.

But the country is apparently not all behind this rather sensible idea. Nope - and you may forgive my lack of surprise - I heard on Any Questions on Radio 4 quite the opposite. It turns out this policy is one designed to give children cancer. And to force them to spend time with Jimmy Savile. Or something like that. I definitely came away from the programme with the idea this was a deliberately cruel policy designed solely to punish children. Cock. A load of it.

The argument put forward (and raucously applauded by the bus loads of morons the BBC source for an audience) by Dr Katherine Rake of the Family and Parenting Institute was that cuts in child benefits are unfair because they fall disproportionately on the poor. Yup. Because rich people don't generally get welfare; poorer people do. They just pay for it. It is the exact argument used by Nick Clegg and any of his lefty loon pals in the Labour or Lib Dems when any cut of any size or shape is devised which might remove one penny from the purse of someone who is of a financially lower status. They always say "same old Tories, looking to take it first from the poorest, and never from the richest", or to use his favourite phrase "from those with the broadest shoulders".

What Nick et al never mention is that those with the broadest shoulders are already paying a lot. We have started with them. It's called progressive taxation. Those with broad shoulders are paying massive truckloads of money. Dr Rake, and countless others like her, maintain that taking money away from welfare is de facto taking money away from poor children. Yes. To an extent. But it doesn't mean any cut in welfare is punishing children. Poor people often have children. Like rich people. And all the people in between. If you make any cut in welfare you are removing money from many families with children. This simple and obvious fact cannot be allowed to be trotted out as if it is proof that all welfare cuts are evil just because naturally the parents of some children will have been given less money. An increase in the top rate of tax was not touted as a punishment on the children of wealthier homes - but money was being removed (even worse than just less given, surely) from the homes of children. Child cruelty no? Of course not. Just selective lefty bullshit about which children matter and where cuts 'fall'.

If we double the welfare bill overnight (to about £400 billion, or what would then be about 1/2 of all spending) and then took a single pound off, that cut would fall 'disproportionately' on poor families. That fact does not make it a bad policy decision. It is simply because they receive the benefits that others have generally paid for. How they use that money is up to them. There is generally more than enough of it there to keep children fit and well. Just because some people will misuse their handouts and thus punish their own children does not mean we should never decrease the amount of money we give them (see this argument over state-aid for the poor children of nuclear-equipped and space-age countries). It is a senseless argument that the left are yet to confront. Mainly because the right seem to be struggling to make them do so and put it in the right terms.

Cutting one's coat according to one's cloth means adjusting what you spend based on what you can afford. Both Dr Rake and Charles Clarke mentioned they agree with the policy, but when asked how they pay for the Labour-induced deficit, they predictably trot out the same old leftie mantra of not properly defending ourselves by not renewing our nuclear deterrent, or raising more taxes from their favourite golden goose - 'the rich'. This is not cutting one's coat according to one's cloth. The point is that we are spending too much. We need to cut spending. We need to cut spending. WE NEED TO CUT SPENDING. This is CUTTING one's coat appropriately.

We do not have enough money (cloth) as a Government to pay for everything we currently have chosen to spend it on. We clearly have no chance of overnight increasing our tax take by 15-20% to match our spending 'requirements'. So we need to decrease what we spend (our coat). Welfare is a fucking enormous bill. The biggest in fact. It was never intended in its present form even by the most left wing supporters of its creation. It must be reduced. It is costing every working person in this country nearly 1/3 of all the money they hand to the Government in taxation. It is as unhelpful as it is disingenuous of the Opposition (inside the Coalition and outside) to suggest that it shouldn't be reduced - and their reasoning of "not punishing poor children" is as incorrect as it is corrosive.

What is being proposed is a move towards a sensible, affordable rebalancing where welfare stops being a comfortable lifestyle choice. The sooner the Tories can properly explain to the population of this country that cutting one's coat according to one's cloth is about budgeting what to do with what you reasonably have rather than about working out where you can get more money to pay for unaffordable idealogically-driven policies, the sooner we might have a chance of returning to being a country of producers, not just receivers.