Archive for 25 June 2011

Give us the jobs

Former Assembly Member Jane Davidson’s husband Guy Stoate recently faced disciplinary action for calling a person who took up their freedoms to provide labour by crossing the picket-line a “scab”, weeks after telling me stereotypes were bad.

I think this could stand for something else; “social containment by the able bodied” (Scab).

Autistic people like myself have folders reflecting the number of jobs we have applied for, the numbers of interviews we have got, and the number of jobs we’ve been offered. Far from being “scroungers”, the first pile is so high it is off the scale, the second lucky to be half full, and the third near empty.

We struggle at empathy at the best of times. Dr Philip Dixon said of the Government in relation to the pension strikes: “They are just trying to strong-arm millions of public sector workers into what they want” (Western Mail, June 18). Should we feel sorry that they are going to have to work longer and get a less generous pension? People with autism can only dream of what they are being offered.

We have heard threats of “general strikes” to disrupt the country – well I say bring them on! The disabled people who are stuck rather than “scrounging” on benefits should now offer themselves to the management who once denied them a job, with them giving it to the able-bodied workers now striking instead. I, a four-times graduate, without the salary to match, will be applying for whatever hourly paid lecturer posts are going. If the UK Government means what they say about getting disabled people into work, then they should make it easy for us to cross picket lines and do the jobs we otherwise would be denied by the true Scabs, just as women were before WWII.

Growing online communities: Understanding the profile of lurkers

The following abstract was submitted to the Computers in Human Behaviour journal:

Increasing participation has long been seen as a way additional to new technology of helping online communities to grow. Online community managers may well advertise their website on other service platforms, but with up 90% of the visitors to their site being non-participants, referred to as lurkers, they could do no better than improving their website to tackle lurker fears.

This paper presents the ‘participation continuum’ for understanding why some users are posters, and do participate, and why others are lurkers, and do not contribute. The paper considers lurkers as victims of the failures of those manage online communities to encourage involvement from them by combating the fears they have. The main fears of lurkers are explored and solutions for overcoming them explained.

A later version of the paper was published by IGI Global as: “The Psychology of Trolling and Lurking: The Role of Defriending and Gamification for Increasing Participation in Online Communities Using Seductive Narratives.

The case of “Countess Bathrobes Heady and Others v. Freeman”

In this case, summed up by his Lord Sweet Justice Geoff T, the responding pressioner, Freeman of Llantrisant, was found to have breach the rules by committing a trespass against Bathrobes Heady the Countess of Manse, and her friends in the Council of Manse.

The responding pressioner was not granted a right to appeal.

Had he been allowed to appeal to the International Court of Bishopric Rights, the Court could have found that the trespass which bleasured Bathrobes Heady should be subject to the principles of diferance and be forever deferred.

The Court would have found that the malum reus by Freeman was in part a reaction to reaction to the malum reus from Bathrobes Heady, who disrupted Freeman’s ability to enjoy his rights as an individual as Bathrobes Heady and friends tried to impose an artificial value system onto him which Freeman could not accept.
The Court would then hear that the trespass of the arranging pressioner Bathrobes Heady against the responding pressioner Freeman, was in part due to the friends with whom she brought the case. Bathrobes Heady was treated unfairly be her co-arranging pressioners and sought to regain this control by attempting to control the actions and beliefs of Freeman who was a new member of the community of Manse.
The Court further heard that the Bathrobes Heady and her friends applied dissimilar conditions to Freeman as themselves, such as relating to denying Freeman’s rights to his customs whilst forcing him to accept theirs.

As Bathrobes Heady was not present, the Court ruled that the responding pressioner Freeman’s case is upheld, and that it was reasonably foreseeable that as a result of the malum reus against him that he would as a result of the injury bleasure others.
The Court therefore defers full liability to the Manse Governing Council who committed the original malum reus against Countess Bathrobes Heady.
HELD, In favour of Freeman of Llantrisant

When teachers get out of the way learners become independent

We have all seen the Apple advert where they advocate the benefit of the iPad is that technology gets out of the way and we can get on and do what we want. Reminded me of my the privileged education I forced out of the State.

At the private boarding school I went to, the only ‘chalk and talk’ classes were English, Mathematics and Science – And there were only two types of classes: Pre-GCSE and GCSE level.

Whilst my GCSE grades were all below C-grade this was more to do with the performance anxiety I have always had around exams interacting with my epilepsy so it was impossible. Years later when I retook the exams knowing I would be able to use a computer and after brain surgery for epilepsy, I got 3 As and 2 Cs. However, that was after I got my first degree, and I still have problems with exams today and choose degree courses where there is a small or no exam element.

The so-called ‘behaviour difficulties’ we may have experienced in state schools where we would have been expected to function in crowded classes where there was no individual and independent learning (IIL) were all but absent.

In this school we had a ‘merit system’ where an inappropriate behaviour was logged and if someone was found to have ‘trespassed’ against another they were given a ‘demerit’ for the period in the day it happened. If it was ‘six of one half a dozen of the other’ we both got demerits. If someone would not accept a ‘demerit’ (like a yellow card) and persisted they got a ‘sanction’ (like a red card). It was somewhat of a game, where because you couldn’t get ‘punished twice’, if you wanted something at the end of the week (like a computer magazine in my case) you would get a sanction so you were ‘grounded’, but not demerited and could still get the magazine. If however you wanted to go out that night you would accept a ‘demerit’! So the system wasn’t perfect.

The universities I have been to say they want to create ‘independent learners’ – but before I went to university I was already an independent learner. For the years I was educated at a private boarding school I studied mainly the things that interested me (within the framework of the National Curriculum), on my own in the same class as others working on their own and the teacher only came into play when we were ‘stuck’ or needed to know something else. What we learned was at the level we needed to develop ourselves and achieve the best education we wanted.

We were a true mixed ability class – we all became good at what we were best at which in so doing increased our competencies in the other areas that were taught, that is English, Maths and Science.

While I performed badly in my GCSE there was one thing I wanted – a PhD – and I would do whatever it took to get it. So in a sound-bite; I did a National Diploma, Higher National Diploma and Degree, before applying for the PhD. I didn’t get onto the PhD because my performance anxiety which interacts with my autism means I find it difficult to get past interviews, even for this one which was the qualification I most wanted. The person who got onto the programme withdrew and 9 years and 4 degrees later I am hoping the same fate won’t befall me, as I am now on a doctorate, and one which I want more than a PhD – A Doctor of Information Systems (DInfoSys).

Towards an economy with ZERO Unemployment

The reason many Conservative MPs want Unemployment is to reduce the bargaining power of the Trade Unions to negotiate up wages as there will always be a regular source of labour ready to take up the work the striking workers are in dispute over at a lower wage. With the European Union, if the fundamental freedoms were fully realised this would be unnecessary, as workers from across the Union would always be ready to provide labour more competitively so as to drive up production and consumption.

The thing that is crippling the UK economy is the ever rising welfare bill, with unemployment likely to be exasperated by the present government as a result of their drive to cut public sector spending. Even so, I have spoken recently of the need to provide out-of-work maintenance grants to people involved in sort term activities in the people sector, education and training, or raising a pre-school child. Perhaps instead of these as at present being paid on a means-tested basis out of taxing others, the student loan system could be extended to replace the benefit and tax credit system?

Rather than those without work being registered unemployed, everyone should have to register as a ‘Contingent Worker’ if they are not in full-time employment. This could be done using the Construction Industry Scheme, which could be renamed the ‘Contingent Worker Scheme’.

In fact, I worked in the construction industry at various stages between 1996 and 2010. In 2007 the UK Government found contractual loopholes to force registered sub-contractors (a type of contingent worker) to become employed, fuelled by a trade union campaign.

The construction industry is now in dire straits. Small firms forced to take on workers permanently are having to close down due to high overheads, and many of the people once registered self-employed and ready to take up work are now claiming welfare benefits after their jobs were made redundant.

Instead of “maintenance grants”, or “universal credits” a source of income called “repayable maintenance vouchers” which could be redeemed for cash to those people who take up education/training, are raising a pre-school child, or are providing work for the people sector. It could also be paid to people who fall below a certain income as reported by the Contingent Worker Scheme (based on CIS).  The “repayable maintenance vouchers” would be administered by an extended Student Loan Company.

When the Contingent Worker’s income goes above a certain amount, say £21,000 per year then they have to start paying their loan back, through the same system as the Student Loans repayments for those abroad. National Insurance which would fund public health insurance like the NHS rather than Pensions which should be administered through compulsory contributions to Individual Pension Accounts on the ISA model. Those who are paid ‘Gross’ through the CWS would pay Corporation Tax on their surplus, whereas those who are paid ‘Net’ on the CWS would have already paid tax at 20% or 40% as appropriate and would pay dividend tax on their surplus.

Moving away from the employee model with a simpler tax system based on that currently used for incorporated firms in the construction industry should allow for greater mobility and more competitiveness. Having people ready to take up work at any moment, even just for a day, will give more people the chance of which, and lead to a society where people can do the work they enjoy the most and are best at, wherever they want.

Rowan has a right to speak out

James Samuel Cole questions Dr Rowan Williams’ right to express an opinion on public policy relating to health and education.

However, I’m sure we can all recall from our school history lessons that it was the Church that was at one point the main provider of healthcare and education in this country.

Also, Dr Williams’ Church runs a number of specialist schools in England that have spawned Welsh Parliamentary and Assembly candidates. If the Church can be involved in increasing choice and standards in education, why not health? From a European perspective, I think we have an implied right to such choice. The European Court of Justice has ruled that our European right to provide services implies a right to receive services. Also, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that our right to associate with others implies a right not to associate with others.

Why should we be forced to associate with a particular GP or headteacher for instance just because the Government has partitioned the market so we fit within catchment areas? If, for example, the Church wanted to set up a school or hospital in Cardiff, or even Brussels, then those from anywhere in Wales should be able to spend public funds designated for their health or education to access it.

Give Respect Get Respect?

I phoned 999 recently to inform the police of a crime in action. They asked my name and I said, ‘Cllr Jonathan Bishop’. The officer said, ‘I don’t care about that, just Jonathan Bishop’. Shocked and appalled I made an informal complaint. The police got back to me today and apologised for the way I was treated. They pointed out that the officer was trying to say that it made no difference whether I was a councillor or not as the priorities are the same for all people. I didn’t expect otherwise.

She then said that in future salutations would be recognised. Before she put the phone done she said, ‘Thank you Mr Bishop’ – Can you believe it!

Looking at me looking at you: Meeting Deborah Theasby

Deborah Theasby may not be a name known to many, but if ever there was needed to be proof of my transitional flow of persuasion model it was her.

Whenever a new member joins an online community there is a disruption, as in most literary works. When I join a community there are never any formalities, I expect to be treated as an equal as if I had always been part of it. The type of online community character I am is the “Big Man”, which is a person whose presence is prominent due to the way they assert their beliefs as strongly held facts.

Little did I know, but there was already a Big Man in that community and her name was Deborah Theasby, or Debs the Complete Knitter from Yorkshire, as her friends call her. After nearly every comment I made, Debs took it upon herself to provide definitions of the terms I used based on her objective criteria not mine! As one of my fellow intellectuals will tell you, it is second nature to me to make and define or re-define words. I currently have a personal dictionary of my terms which is 20 pages long.

Not able to cope with the disruption I made to her status quo of being the last word on every subject, Deborah Theasby entered what I call the dilemma cycle where she create a false dilemma that if the people on the board weren’t with her then they were against her. Because she was no longer the sole authority Deborah Theasby who had been on various Mensa Boards since 1998, falling out with many when she couldn’t get her own way, submitted her resignation blaming me and another member called Mark.

Deborah Theasby, did what I call intellectualizing to perseveration. She couldn’t cope with the new status quo of there being more than one Big Man in the village, so she decided to quit. She then managed to get her husband, Geoff Theasby, to suspend me from the forum for two weeks. If there was ever a case of bias and conflict of interest then that was it. Deborah Theasby is like someone pre-school, if she can’t control which toys go into the dolls house she doesn’t want a dolls house. Deborah Theasby should realise that there is more than Mensa out there and she can’t be a big fish in an ever shrinking pond.

A right royal riddle

I don’t live on benefits
But I’m subsidised by the state

I don’t hold street parties
But one or two Garden Parties I do

I don’t live in a council house
But live for free as if I were to

Who am I?

Co-operative is key to future

May I give my heartfelt thanks to the seven councilors who supported councilors Stuart Fisher and Bob Fox’s nomination for me to be this year’s town mayor for Pontypridd.

To have 75% of those resisting the Old Labour ruling group to have supported me is a vote of confidence of a size I never will forget.

Whichever way the vote went, there would have been a co-operative party mayor that night, and I hope that fellow co-op part member Steve Carter – who was elected with 47% of the council member’s support – is able to hold back the dark forces of Old Labour, and act in the interests of the people of Pontypridd, and not the Labour group which co-opted him onto the council and which the Labour party refuses to recognize.

Thanks to New Labour, the people in England can now have schools run on the co-op model, where parents get to have a bigger say in the running of the school, and the money goes directly to the school without the need of the local authority to take its cut.

I hope now that the people of Pontypridd have a Co-operative Party Mayor and Assembly Member, the Old Labour way of dictating to the public will go, and the people will be allowed to take charge of their own affairs.

It St Clere’s High School in Essex can be an independent co-op and have 92% of pupils achieving five GCSEs at A*-C grade, why can’t Bryn Celynnog, Hawthorn High or the Welsh medium school on Campws Garth Olwg, be co-ops independent of the local authority?

Hawthorn High currently has A-Level grades of 92% A*-E. Just imagine what that extra money – currently paying the director of education’s wages – could do to help them go the extra mile? If these schools were all independent co-operatives, then it would be for the parents and students to decide the school’s name and the type of food it serves, and not the authoritarian LEA.

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