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Monday, August 25, 2008

Thoughts on tackling violent deaths after weekend of murder

Upsetting and depressing to see headlines declaring this was a weekend of murder - five violent deaths.

I've added some more information and research proving how greed in banking and business is creating knife crime, poverty and societal devastation (visit this link). Got to stop the evil in these people; they think it's ok to do this sort of thing.

Not sure it's worth talking about something heartening when there's now much pain, grieving and distress following the weekend wave of murderous deaths - but it's worth thinking how solutions can be found to save lives. I was watching an air ambulance tv programme. Helicopter paramedics saving a road accident victim from a likely death. Ten minutes to hospital after some expert flying. When we put our minds to it, us humans can apply best thinking and resources to save lives.

Let's keep up the massive pressure, campaigning and outcry about all violent deaths - knife, gun, savage beatings, whatever... always live and work in hope, faith and whatever else we can muster - massive amounts of these are good and needed!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Knives, guns - what makes people do bad... evil stuff?

I've spent a little time on this knife blog barking about 'pure profit' motives and how 'aggressive' business needs to change because they have quite a responsibility helping create a decent society and world.

Most important to highlight that this is not the same as one human being picking up a knife and deciding to put it into someone else (or shooting another person). No-one must do that; they are wrong to do so. What their punishment must be, god only knows.

Off on another ramble now... what makes people be 'poison'; what makes people bully others; when threatened by, say, 'something or other', why do some people feel inferior and react so badly (like get out a knife)??? Trying to get insight into the way people do bad, evil stuff - might lead to some useful knowledge...

Here's to a good bank holiday weekend in the UK now

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

England footballers fight knife crime - David Beckham, David James and Rio Ferdinand speak out

All of England's football team have launched an anti-knife campaign called 'It Doesn't Have To Happen'. Beckham is convinced the unified voices of footballers can persuade young people to stop using and carrying blades.

View the full BBC story visiting this link

View the website - 'It Doesn't Have to Happen'

If you're on Bebo, more information is here about this knife crime campaign

(Seems the web presence has been having some url changes but one of these links will work)

Launching the campaign prior to the England friendly warm up game before the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers, Rio Ferdinand recalled the time he attended the same school as Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death.

He said youngsters needed more initiatives to 'get busy'.

England goalkeeper David James said young people would do well to get more involved in sport, to focus on sport rather than thinking carrying blades was at all helpful or effective in building better lives.

Personally, I still think solutions to this UK scourge are much more complex, maybe mainly hampered by society offering very little to many young people who are almost powerless to aspire to better things. And while companies and organisations continue to be driven virtually solely by profit, the moral compass and landscape gets lost.

And it's not only young people struggling - you only have to look around and practically the entire UK working population is being crippled by massive rises in the cost of living, by corporations and governments sucking money out of homes like rivers running dry.

How can we inspire future generations when the current one that's in charge can't control the country's or world economics? And they're supposed to be the smart ones! Hardly a breeding ground for better things at present, perhaps.

It is also a concern at times that many better off folk such as business people, politicians and cash-rich organisations (some churches?), and especially the super-rich (like England footballers, I should point out), can prefer to focus on their own careers, lives and politics, while letting deprivation (such as knife and gun crime) develop and fester somewhere - as long as it is not in their backyard.

Hope I don't sound too negative - just think it's important to air some truths, surface some thorny issues to try to focus the debate around problem areas, develop priorities - not that I pretend to best articulate and fix this... I'm just blogging. But if you're not part of the knife crime solution, you're probably part of the problem.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Deep insight into the UK's knife crime problems

Simon Jenkins is often an excellent commentator. He writes in The Times - he has just highlighted a stack of (government-related) reasons why people arm themselves with knives, namely because of the utter failure of politicians, especially at national level, to better equip this country's towns and cities for the future.

With urban regenerations systematically failing and way behind the rest of Europe, our politicians are just crap leaders - their egos, their preoccupation with status and careers blinds them to understanding what this country would do better without... quite simply, we would do better without them at the helm.

But I think we've got to vote for change, use the ballot box - and protest if possible. We really don't want to wait for things to collapse by themselves, for things to get worse, for extravagance, complacency and self-indulgence in (central) government to continue. We must bring these things to a head somehow - but how?

Here's Simon Jenkins article - viewable on The Times site too.

There is nothing so absurd as a British politician pretending to be provincial. Last week those not on holiday went berserk rubbishing a think tank report said to suggest that northern cities be cleansed of talent and their populations moved to the south.

David Cameron, the Tory leader, in Carlisle at the time, described a report he cannot have read as “insane, barmy” and, for good measure, “total rubbish”. John Prescott, the former Labour deputy leader, bellowed from Hull that it was “insulting and ignorant”. Vera Baird, a minister, suggested it showed “vindictive antinorthern thinking”. The study said no such thing, but any stick will do to beat the dog of geographical stereotype.

Earlier this month Gordon Brown was on the same bandwagon, proposing to hold cabinet meetings in the provinces. The idea was worthy of the emperor Bokassa. Brown clearly envisages overjoyed peasants streaming from their hovels, wiping coal dust and tears from their eyes with grubby handkerchiefs. His richly apparelled cabinet, with gun-toting police and lobby reporters in attendance, would pass by as the people cried, “Thank you, dear prime minister, for so recognising our existence with your presence.”

The never out-dafted Hazel Blears has plans for ministers to “fan out” to meet “local people” (a hitherto unmet group) and hold cabinet sessions “drawing on the conversations”. Her image consultants suggest the British Legion in Swindon, the town hall in Grimsby and the Victoria centre in Crewe, I kid you not, as gritty venues. Actors would presumably be stationed at key points before the cameras to shout, “Bah goom, Hazel, tha’s got a reel tooch o’ the north abaht ye.”

I never cease to marvel at the patience of provincial England towards the insufferable patronage of London. Politicians step off trains and pat children on the head, saying, “There, there, it is not too bad living in Barnsley, is it?” - as if Barnsley were recovering from the plague. The idea of a lumpen electorate that can be appeased with such pap as a “listening visit” is classic top-down paternalism. But since the Irish, Scots and Welsh have won a measure of self-government, the people of England are politically in play. Henry James never spoke more true than that “all England is a suburb of London”.

The Policy Exchange report on Cities Unlimited is thoughtful. It seeks to analyse the “predict-and-provide” planning, coupled with letting the market rip, that has dominated government policy for decades. New building has indeed drifted south and east, while huge amounts of money have been tipped into demolishing and rebuilding “new Jerusalems” in the north and west.

This rebuilding has been public-sector-led, largely for housing and more recently for retailing and warehousing. The glories of Victorian urbanism, which might have created exciting magnets of city renewal, were destroyed and replaced by fast-decaying blandness. Nor is this confined to the north: see Southampton, Bristol and Plymouth.

The report concludes that “the policy of regeneration has failed”. The north-south gap in wealth and population growth has widened, as has the earnings gulf between London and the rest of England. This is supported by an Office for National Statistics report in June that showed London’s gross value added per head as 50% above the national average.

The policy has imprisoned millions in characterless housing estates, many far from city centres, from which they cannot find jobs, other than government ones. No amount of romanticism, or the pockets of liveliness in conserved areas of Newcastle upon Tyne, Liverpool and Leeds, can conceal this fact. Provincial urban renewal has been the greatest single failure of domestic policy in half a century, comparing starkly with regeneration in continental Europe and America. Since the start of deindustrialisation, Britain’s cities have lagged behind those of France, Germany and Italy in prosperity, appearance, self-confidence and public order.

The chief reason is not economic geography - the obsolescence of cities built to look to the sea or the coal fields. Such places in Europe and America have been equally ill-sited but have adjusted. The reason for peculiar failure in Britain has been the emasculation of local leadership and its replacement with central government dirigisme. The only parallel is with socialist eastern Europe.

The death of civic pride in England, engineered by governments of both parties, has collapsed the enterprise culture on which renewal depends. Provincial administration has become dependent on one central agency after another, culminating in the costly candy-floss of regional development agencies.

These overpaid bureaucracies stand pathetic comparison with the elected mayors of Barcelona, Toulouse, Munich or Milan, whose renaissance in recent decades has been rooted, as the report says, “in local leadership being taken for granted, where the locality not the nation state determines priorities, makes decisions and takes responsibility”.

In Britain, anonymous city councillors must go cap in hand to obscure officials to plead for grants, “portraying their pitiful state that would be transformed if only central government were to fund a business park, high-speed train, new town centre or cultural quarter”. No political leadership, no risk or enterprise, emerges from such a process. Yet fear of being thought “unprovincial” is leading Cameron to recoil from his plan to abolish the regional development agencies.

London’s preeminence may diminish with the recession in financial services, but its proximity to the continent, size and cultural vitality will always make it the nation’s first city. At the same time the former industrial regions cannot be written off. Their revival needs elected mayors (so revivifying for London) and an independent tax base. This is especially the case given the other side of the report’s coin. The concentration of development in the southeast by offering it more land would consign yet more of rural Britain to concrete.

Anyone flying low over the southeast has an overwhelming sensation of the vulnerability of its green acres. Anyone flying over the north of Britain is equally aware of the quantity of derelict and unused land. Mile upon mile of the Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire is industrial detritus. Were the free market a genuine one, these miles would be returned to farming. The emptying warehouses and hypermarkets would revert to countryside. But open space and greenery is no longer created, only destroyed.

That is why what is rightly called “town-and-country planning” exists. It is why the effort that has gone into the renewal of the urban Midlands and north cannot be wasted. The idea of more intensive development in the London region to allow its economy to boom is one thing, but rural Britain is becoming more desirable than urban. Rural land and house prices are rising, in the north as well as the south. Villages are sought by the wealthy, the telecommuter and the retired. That is why sacrificing the green belts anywhere to development would be crazy.

There is no evidence that the British people want such a sacrifice. They want the one thing government (and the opposition) refuses to give them: stability and pride in their community and the freedom and local taxes to govern it themselves.

More knife deaths - what to tell + teach the children?

More knife deaths this weekend - it's impossible to be unmoved (nor would we want to block out such emotions), even after years of writing this blog. In fact, to be honest, I'm always devastated by another killing or wounding - but it's a different scale to how it felt when Jacky Marshall died in my arms.

It's like there are two distinctions - one when you're involved in a stabbing or some kind of killing (perhaps this is the case in war too), and the other when you hear about it by news media, word of mouth, something like that. Very sad.

I was on holiday with my family last week. The kids club held a pirate fancy dress night and my two girls went straight for the eye patch, bandana - and plastic knife.

Remember, these were the two who were with my wife and I when knife-wielding killer Shane Freer rushed into the Chichester McDonalds and attacked Jacky.

So, they got these plastic knives and I found it unnerving as I examined quite an authentic looking fake blade. And kids were everywhere with 'em - pretend sword fighting, sneaky attacks, rolling on the floor.

I felt torn between wanting to stop it and then seeing this was just some fun play.

Now back at home, it does seem sinister that we let kids play this way. It's hardly fun to pretend to kill someone, yet kids do it all the time - war games, cowboys + indians, stuff they see on films etc.

But dramatic re-enaction can be a useful learning tool - though you need to debrief youngsters. My pirate fancy dress incident does highlight, I think, the importance of discussing knife and other weapon use with children at appropriate times.

It is wrong to kill or injure, except in self defence. And kids need to talk about that for it to sink in.

A friend of mine posted a comment to this blog - he doesn't allow his son to play with fake weapons, pointing out the issue is so serious that they are not things to be played with. Read his child knife crime post.

May eternal light shine upon the victims of violence this weekend - Connor Black (Manchester) and the 17-year-old Sri Lankan lad killed in Croydon (unnamed as I type this), and anyone else dying 'unnaturally' - such tragedies and accidents must be stopped, they are preventable.

And if anyone affected by knife crime reads this, do be reassured and comforted - if you can - that people are greatly concerned about this menace. There is much sorrow, frustration, unhappiness, but also determination, to try to stop this happening. From what I see now, much is underway to tackle a massive problem. I wish there was more I could say that could help you - but many of us do pray and press for change.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Business 'killers' - financial knife-type criminals at work every day...

There's no excuse for anyone hurting someone else, whether using knives, guns, fists - even poison tongues.

But business people, especially those at or near the top of the financial or wealth tree, need to realise the reponsibility they have to ensure a moral, accessible economic system that allows those in the poorer sections of society to aspire to better lives, to be able to do worthwhile work.

Instead, we can clearly see in the BBC article below how banks abuse their powerful place in society by an overt focus on profit at the expense of the society + customers they are supposed to serve.

It is crystal clear they primarily serve their own self-interest, their 'pure profit' over anything moral + human.

Here's the article - I've bold-ed the parts showing what a poor role model banks are compared to law-abiding, honest families and other people.

Looks like FSA leader Hector Sants is a man for the people - he seems like he can smell dodgy businessmen + right bankers (just as bad as knife crime stabbers in some ways)

Banks warned of economic worries

Banks should make plans based on the assumption the economic downturn could be as bad for them as the recession in the 1990s, the City watchdog has said.

The warning from FSA chief executive Hector Sants comes a year after the credit crunch officially began.

Mr Sants also told the BBC he had put pressure on most of the UK's big banks to raise billions in new capital.

That was so they would be robust enough to withstand the potentially severe financial pressures ahead, he said.

Pressure to raise capital

The recession and property market downturn of the early 1990s saw British banks suffer debilitating losses over an extended period.

On Friday it was reported that repossessions had risen sharply and that one bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, had posted the second-biggest loss in UK banking history.

In an interview with BBC business editor Robert Peston, Mr Sants was asked whether the difficulties for banks could be as bad as they were in the early 1990s, and whether losses on lending would continue to be a problem for up to three years.

He replied that he would expect banks "to plan on that type of assumption".

He said he had expressed his opinions "fairly forcibly" to banks that they needed to raise capital, so that they could be confident of weathering the economic downturn.

Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and HBOS have between them raised GBP20bn of new equity capital.

The credit crunch began when banks stopped lending to one another, and to their customers, in vastly reduced quantity to previous years.

This was because for years they had been raising funds to lend to us by selling bonds backed by risky US home loans given to borrowers on low incomes or with poor credit records.

As interest rates in the US rose and these borrowers began to default in record numbers, "the world's investors worked out that sub-prime wasn't pure gold but something a lot nastier and smellier than that", our correspondent said.

"Suddenly the collateral the banks had been offering was not very valuable - in fact many people thought almost valueless, which made it that much harder for banks to raise money," he added.

Bank bonuses blamed

Mr Sants said part of the cause of the economic mess was that bankers had been rewarded for taking foolish risks.

And he warned that if banks continued to reward their employees for doing dangerous deals, the watchdog would make sure that banks and their shareholders would be penalised.

He said there would be "consequences" for banks that pay employees too much for doing imprudent deals.

He also said in future banks must give greater consideration to the
downside of the risks they take and make provisions for that to
prevent a situation like the current crisis from being repeated.

To make sure banks are less likely to violently react in a downturn, Mr Sants warned consumers would have to accept less access to credit in the boom times.

"We want to create an environment where the right amount of credit is available to consumers, but not too much," he added.

-----------------------------------------

Very interesting to see that it's not just me seeing how greedy bankers and business is causing major misery, knife crime, poverty - and quite frankly - devastation. Here's a couple of experts speaking out to the BBC (visit this link for more). It isn't right and the taxpayer (us!!) is picking up the bill for their excesses. I'm about to investigate joining that group - the Taxpayers Alliance - if they put up candidates for Parliament, I'll probably vote for them too:

BLAME THOSE CLEVER BANKERS

Professor Peter Morici of the University of Maryland has been an adviser to the US Congress and government.

Wizardry. Alchemy. Lead into gold. Are these the playthings only of medieval fools?

The credit crunch tells us perhaps not. The Holy Grail of medieval science was to find the formula to turn lead into gold.

And why not? Wealth without work. Everyone was for that, but we modern folks know better. Or do we?

Today, globalisation is driving down profit margins in making everything, from steel to software. If you make a profit, soon someone in China will make it begone.

But deal-making, putting companies together and taking them apart, financing it all, offers great rewards.

Then there are the risks. Making risks evaporate in the morning sun, or the shadows of Wall Street, seems to be where the wealth lies.

Enter our financial engineers. They don't deal in metals or megabytes, they deal in companies that make them.

Combining them, financing them, taking them apart, putting them together again. That's the stuff of modern fortunes.

But what of those risks? The engineers that assemble these deals say all the risks can be laid off on other engineers and their clients.

And by investing in each other, everyone's money will be safe. Profits without risk.

They even thought they could do that with sub-prime mortgages - home loans to people who really couldn't afford them.

They bought each other's debt and erased one another's risk by dealing with one another in a giant chain letter. Until someone realised that what they were trading wasn't worth a hill of beans.

The house of cards has collapsed, but were these guys the fools? Or do true wizards live on Wall Street?

Perhaps they do, because the engineers have escaped with their big paydays and bonuses, and central banks like the Federal Reserve and Bank of England are underwriting the tab to foist the bill on all of us - the taxpayers.

Who are the fools here? Perhaps you and me. The engineers have turned worthless paper into personal fortunes by sticking us with the tab.

BLAME THOSE GREEDY BANKERS

Robert Reich, of the University of California at Berkeley, is a former US labour secretary.

Some greed is necessary to keep capitalism going. But too much greed will bring it down.

Even Adam Smith, the father of economics, understood that capitalism requires some degree of trust.

Yet the greed that's taken over our banking system is undermining the trust of investors, who are necessary if there's going to be any money in the banking system to invest.

Here in America, the authorities are now chasing down investment bankers who recommended their giant hedge funds to investors, even when the bankers knew the funds were about to implode.

Greedy bankers like them have been running a giant con-game. They figure if they can persuade investors to buy something that's actually worth nothing, it might appear to be worth something, which lets them persuade others to buy even more, because - after all - by this time lots of investors are buying it.

And then when the bubble bursts and investors lose their shirts, the bankers keep their fat commissions and a percentage of the upside gains.

But what they've left out of the calculation is the trust needed next time a banker claims something's a good deal.

You see, trust is a precious commodity. And it's eroding fast - which is why the credit crunch continues.

Now, we've been here before: the late 1920s and an anything-goes banking system filled with bankers ready to sell securities to the biggest sucker to come along next.

Wealth then was as concentrated as it is today; debt piling up as high as it is today; greed as rampant as it is today.

And then what happened? The bubble of all bubbles burst on 21 October 1929, ushering in the Great Depression.

Franklin D Roosevelt told Americans they had nothing to fear but fear itself. But the fact was, the financial system had let them down - and they wouldn't trust it again for decades.

Greedy bankers beware.




So if you work for a bank and see bankers being rewarded for dangerous deals, report it to the FSA. Or better still ring Crimestoppers - let's get these greedy business people making life worse for the rest of us, and helping cause inner city deprivation - and knife crime.

They may not hold the knife but they are at least partly responsible for the reasons why crime happens and blades are in people's pockets. Bankers.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Gordon Brown: local communities must fight knife crime

Prime Minister Gordon Brown says local communities must influence +
help change minds to make carrying knives unacceptable,

I'm on my mobile so difficult to copy links easily - story is on BBC
news website...

mark.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Remembering lives lost, the real people killed by knife crime

Not quite sure but when thinking about knife crime today, I started half-singing: "Destruction of men in their prime... whose average age was 19".

Some of the lines in Paul Hardcastle's number evoke much emotion about wasted lives... over something many didn't understand or want to be part of.

Can't help thinking how similar is that feeling to lives lost to stabbings :-(

See full lyrics: 19 - Destruction of men in their prime.

And then the radio launched into that sunscreen tune, and that hit home much harder. Do you remember it (full lyrics are here)...

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99 (or 2008?)

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…

And when I heard these words this morning, I thought those precious victims of knifings can no longer apply suntan lotion - never will be able to now.

I will dispense this advice now. Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh never mind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked…

Their youth is gone, existing no more, destroyed by the blade of a knife or bullet of a gun...

And so this tune continues for people who are still alive, not realising the poignancy of such lyrics to lives gone and those who mourn and remember them...

You’re not as fat as you imagine. Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.


Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.


Stretch.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.


Get plenty of calcium.
Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary...


Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.


Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people

think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own...

Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.


Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.


Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.


Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.


Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few, you should hold on.


Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.


Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Travel.


Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasise that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.


Respect your elders.


Don’t expect anyone else to support you.


Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.


Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85.


Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.


But trust me on the sunscreen…


This is about lives that are (still being) lived, I suppose. How lucky we are to be alive. And if you didn't feel like crying just once reading that and thinking about the terrible and desolate waste, emptiness and waves of inexplicable sorrow that knife crime brings to so many lives, play the song on YouTube here.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Three key ideas to help solve knife crime problem

Reviewing and reflecting on the blade problem, there are at least three key ideas that I can see worth focusing on, worthy of serious investigation.
  • Main one is that the issue of knife crime is more about the criminals than the knives. Somehow we have to reach them, consistently, persistently, never give up on getting to them (via law enforcement, education, whatever.)
  • Second, an idea I can see has mileage is to manufacture blades without points, preferably with rounded, blunt tips. That way wounding could be minimised (as much as possible).
  • Thirdly, selling knives in shops via cabinets removes the need for time-consuming paperwork or registration / licensing schemes - yet is a viable, workable solution that all retail stores selling any kind of blade could adopt.
Interesting to think these could be real solutions - anyone out there who can help drive them forward? Do comment on this blog, or better still, badger politicians, shopkeepers and other retailers.
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