Government guidelines leave male abuse victims out in the cold

 

petitionEquality. It’s not just a word, it’s a battle. One that has raged since before we even knew how to say it. Whether it is based on our gender, race, beliefs, sexuality, hair colour…..we still fight to be recognised as equals even though many I listed here are affectations we are born with. We had no choice in. While open debate rages around the topics of the gender pay gap, equal employment opportunities and same sex marriage, there is another more disturbing discussion required that our own government seems intent on ignoring.

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Can we still call ourselves Great Britain?

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Right, I’m coming straight out with it – I’m embarrassed to be British.

A while ago I was staying in a hostel in New Zealand, and I saw a couple – blatantly American – checking in, trying to convince the receptionist they were Canadian. It wasn’t like the couple were going to get banned from staying there or anything, they just wanted it to be made clear – they were from Canada.  I ended up speaking with them a few hours later – nice couple, properly patriotic but at the same time embarrassed by what their country, or rather their President had been doing. It might be prudent to mention at this point that their president at that time was George W. Bush, so you can kind of understand their wishful anonymity, sad as it was to see. It was like watching a lion trying to convince the rest of the zoo he’s a vegetarian – cute but sad.

I’m embarrassed to be British, and for me that’s not cute. I was never the biggest patriot in the world to begin with, but watching the gradual and systematic destruction of our country’s values and ideals has made me realise just how great Britain is, or rather how great it used to be. And I’m not talking about the grand old days of colonialism and how our great nation ruled the seven seas. Our greatness came from our morals and beliefs. Unfortunately we have a group of people running our country who have done nothing but abuse the country’s systems, infrastructure and people, and then lie with the pretext that they are doing this to make the country better, safer and more financially viable. While I include previous governments in this, all the evidence from the Conservative governments recent activities suggests this is far from the case.

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There’s the tax credit cuts – something that David Cameron swore blind before the election wouldn’t happen. It hasn’t – yet – but not for the Tories lack of trying. When you parachute in as many of your honourary peers to vote for the cuts in the House of Lords, and it’s these lords who show they have more in common with the general public than those got voted in to power, then you must know something is wrong.

There’s the government secretly changing the rules – having recently altered their own ministerial code to effectively exempt themselves from international law. This mean that the UK is not obliged to observe any international laws or treaties that would prevent them from using military force in other countries. or even answering to a United Nations investigation believing that tax credit cuts are a human rights violation. This effectively means the government of the United Kingdom answers to no one but itself.

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There’s the recently passed Trade Union bill that will, among other things, greatly restrict the rights of professional individuals and their unions to vote on and participate in industrial action. It is also so draconian as to set back equal opportunities in the workplace, with women workers the most affected by the divisive bill.

There’s the Investgatory Powers Bill, or as it’s become known The “Snoopers Charter”. A piece of legislation drawn up by Theresa May and the Home Office that we are told is there to make us safer, by monitoring all of our personal communications. People are naturally sceptic of this, and the government has been accused legalising invasion of privacy. The act has been further questioned in light of the recent and horrific attacks in Paris by So Called Islamic State, with many noting that “keeping everyone’s online history for a year and passing that to the intelligence service will not make us safer.” Even IT business leaders have said it’s a “bad idea”.

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It will soon be a lot harder to vote the Tories out

There’s also the worry that the game is being rigged. Again, behind closed doors, this government is changing more rules, and this time it’s on how we as a nation vote. If you think they’re doing the sensible thing of scrapping First Past the Post in favour of proportional representation, I’m afraid it’s far more troubling. They are planning to cut the number of British MP’s, presumably under the cloak of streamlining the parliamentary system. This will also change how we register to vote, which has the potential to leave thousands of UK citizens unable to have a voice in an election. Effectively the Conservatives are making it more difficult for those citizens who are more likely to vote against them to vote at all.

Plus there’s proposed changes to the Freedom Of Information act, which will greatly restrict access to vast amounts of important data and will further entrench the government whilst covering up potential scandals. Remember the MP’s expenses story? That was published through gaining FOI. This new act will mean such stories that are well within the remit of public interest will be harder to divulge.

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And finally, my personal (for want of a better word) favourite: the NHS. The UK’s health service has been chipped away at since the 1980’s, and now it looks like rhyming slangs best friend and current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is packing the whole thing with political dynamite! He wants a 7 day NHS, he wants to reform the NHS, he wants to impose new contracts on junior doctors…..and there’s the final straw. 53,000 doctors, ranging from the “just out of uni” stage to the “about to be a consultant” stage, have said no, with 98% of those balloted (76%) of all junior doctors) saying quite clearly they are “prepared to take part in industrial action” – something that if the previously mentioned Trade Union Bill was currently law would be much more difficult, nay impossible. And before we start saying “how dare junior doctors talk about striking, they have a duty of care”, it’s worth noting that our police force got to this stage back in January 2015, for similar reasons. Plus given that further cuts to the force are on the Tory agenda, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear of more disquiet from our hard working law enforcers either.

Junior doctors have had enough because the contract being imposed on them – not offered to them – is unsafe, both for them and their patients. Mr. Hunt has said that he wants to negotiate, but has a funny way of showing it; from describing junior doctors as “militant” for balloting on strike action, to offering an 11% pay rise that is actually a 26% pay cut. The health secretary, aided by Conservative media cohorts Daily Mail and The Times, also tried to launch an ill advised smear campaign against British Medical Association leaders, which quickly fell apart (I mean Heaven forbid that medical professionals have interests outside of their career. MP’s would never do that #sarcasm.) There’s one thing you should never do if you’re going to pick a war of words and ideals with people: don’t start one with a group whose very job involves examining and scrutinising hard data and facts. It will win out against lies and spin every time.

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This isn’t another prolonged piece on the state of the NHS and defending junior doctors, because their doing a bang up job themselves. It’s just another piece in a very disturbing puzzle, and while what I’ve written here is by no means a complete picture, it must at least make you question the Conservatives true agenda for the UK.When you see the Prime Minister shaking hands with leaders of countries who have at least questionable records on human rights (China and Saudi Arabia) then you know that what it means to be British has changed for the worse.

Fear and lack of leadership alternatives got the Conservatives in to power, and now that they’re in they are doing everything they can to keep themselves there. They are taking steps to minimise any chance of a response from the public that disagrees with them, whilst making dangerous decisions on our behalf that may not affect us directly now, but may well affect the next generation. It’s not a dictatorship because it’s more than one person, but it’s pretty close.

Like I said, I’m embarrassed to be British.

 

When Apple and U2 Dropped A Free iBomb.

A few weeks ago I returned home to find a free copy of The Sun had been pushed through our letter box. I hate The Sun. It was the metaphorical equivalent of someone dropping a dog turd on our front door mat. A tabloid rag that I wouldn’t even use as toilet paper as I’d wipe more on than take off. I wouldn’t even burn it for fear of completely dissolving the ozone layer. I hate The Sun.

Now, replace “door mat” with “iTunes account” and “The Sun” with “new U2 album”. Does this sound at all familiar?

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Okay, yes, I am a U2 fan. I own all their albums, seen them on tour twice. They are my band. The Edge is my guitar hero. I’m not here to try to convince you to change your allegiances to the U2 camp. It’s a personal thing, everyone has different tastes, and every U2 fan knows that there are people out there who don’t like U2. Heck, U2 know people don’t like U2! Friends of mine have made it very clear to me that they hate U2. Reasons are numerous; they’re dull, boring, past their sell-by date, irrelevant. Most of it tends to revolve around lead singer Bono, who’s apparent Messiah complex makes people want to slap him repeatedly round the face with a trout. They bemoan The Edge’s overuse of guitar effects. That drummer Larry Mullen Jnr. is…short (?), that bassist Adam Clayton has the hairstyle of a weeble, Everyone has an opinion on U2, and that’s the point.

“Never before have so many people owned one album, let alone on the day of its release.”

When Apple dropped the new album Songs Of Innocence in over 500 million iTunes accounts in 119 countries, for free, the internet went in to meltdown. The technology giants were able to ride on the back of a buzz the size of which had not been seen in years, just in time for the launch of their new iPhone 6. U2 are probably the only act on the planet that can generate that size of interest  I talked this over with my wife, trying to think of other acts that could pull off a stunt like this, and the only other one we could think of was Coldplay – a four piece pseudo-rock band with an annoying lead singer and a penchant for stadium filling anthems. So diluted U2 then!

September 9th 2014 has gone down in music history, for different reasons depending on your musical persuasion. For U2 fans already with iTunes accounts, it was a Beautiful Day (B’dum-TSH!!) – a free U2 album a full month before general release. For fans without accounts, the perfect reason to get quickly online, sign up and grab a copy. For non-fans, a choice; give it a try, or delete it. Here’s where we need some figures. As of 22:00 on Sunday 14th September, U2 have 8 of their albums in the iTunes top 40 chart, with 26 in total immediately searched for and downloaded on the day the new album was launched. Whether these were existing fans broadening their collection or non fans intrigued by the new album or the bands back catalogue, we’ll probably never know.

As I mentioned there are those who don’t want the new U2 album, and social media has been awash with accusations against U2 and Apple of intrusion and violation. They feel like “a vegetarian being force-fed a burger”. Like “waking up with a large spoonful of Marmite in their mouth”.they want no trace of anything even remotely to do with U2, and demand to know how they can delete it. Now I wonder how many people went on to their iTunes account, desperate to remove Songs Of Innocence through changing some settings, and then caught sight of something else on the iStore? Perhaps another album, a single, a TV show episode, a film that looked good? How many people just logged on to iTunes, deleted the album, and logged off again?

This was about traffic, internet site usage – getting people back on and remembering iTunes. The tactic from Apple is nothing new, and one that many big name corporations use. Take telecommunication companies as an example. You’re paying for a subscription TV service, and a vague letter appears advising you the prices is going up. Maybe you call them to check, or because you’re annoyed. How dare they raise the price. This is where the trap is sprung. You called them, they explain the price increase in more detail. They review the service you have with them, maybe you’re “not on the best package for you”. You didn’t know you could get this, or this. Maybe they offer you a cheaper cost for staying with them for another year. Even if you just call, get the facts and hang up, you called them. You;re aware of them. They’re in your head.

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Genuine quote from Daily Mail about iCloud.

This is exactly what Apple have done, only they’ve taken it one step further. Musical acts releasing acts exclusively through iTunes is nothing new. Both David Bowie and Beyonce’ used the service as a launch pad for their most recent material, but you had to not only pay, but also search for them. With U2 that option was removed, and that’s the issue. There was no choice. Songs Of Innocence was there in your library without your consent, just waiting for you to download from the iCloud – a brave move considering the service had already generated headlines through the recent Celebrity Photo Hacking scandal, That iCloud (which hysterically the techno boffins at the Daily Mail were at pains to make clear is not a real cloud!) is not the most trusted piece of technology right now. You have to wonder, did something else happen when the iCloud dropped the U2 bomb? I’ve seen tweets not just complaining about the appearance of U2 but also the disappearance of all of their contacts off their phone.

U2’s lead singer wrote a very self-aware open letter on the bands website, describing the DNA of the band as “the desire to get our music to as many people as possible”. ITunes was the perfect tool to that end, but the music is just a side-effect. Good as the new album is (and yes, personal opinion here. But it’s a hell of a lot better than their last effort!) it is a by-product of this whole saga, The band have reached more people than any other act in history, whether people listen or not, and given most albums are effectively adverts for inevitable tours these days, the seed for record breaking concert sales has already been set. For Apple, they got under your skin. Aside from the iTunes store, you might not want an iPhone 6, or an iWatch (???), but you know they exist. That seed has been planted as well. To paraphrase Admiral Ackbar; “IT WAS A TRAP”, and it worked. The only way to not fall prey to it was to not open, or even have an iTunes account! Bono sings at the end of the new song Miracle (Of Joey Ramone), “Your voices will be heard”. Your voices were heard, predicted, and reacted to before you even shouted.

It now just remains to be seen if other acts try a similar method of reaching a new audience with their next release. Will the Rolling Stones try something similar? Will Nickleback do an exclusive free download of their next album and then arrive at your house to play it live in your front room?

I’ll leave you with that thought!