Sunday, 30 August 2020

Republican Convention

Four years ago in his convention acceptance speech, Donald Trump promised that "the crime and violence that afflicts our nation will soon come to an end". In his inaugural address, he said that "this American carnage stops right here and stops right now". Three and a half years later, however, violent crime in the US is picking up in some cities and protests over police brutality have at times turned ugly. Hence, the president's argument has become that it's the fault of state and local Democrats - and voters can send them a message through Trump's re-election. Note Donald Trump is very good at blaming someone else.

The Republican Party has spent the past four days constructing a psychological bubble around the president, a more comforting reality sheltered from the tumult of the past six months.

The Republicans focused on the steps the president did take, such as banning some travel to the US from China [although commercial flights had already been stopped], streamlining and co-ordinating research into therapeutics, the just-announced $750m on new rapid-result coronavirus tests and talk of a coming miracle of American ingenuity [a vaccine] before the end of the year.

The main focus of the Republican convention, however, seemed to be to remind Americans of the economic accomplishments that took place before the pandemic - the 2017 tax cut law, renegotiated trade deals with Canada, Mexico and South Korea, and what was once record-low unemployment. There have been nearly six million cases of Covid-19 in the US, and more than 180,000 deaths. That is a cold, hard fact that Donald Trump and the Republicans spent the week trying to talk around.

During a speech read from a teleprompter, with little of the free-wheeling, stream of consciousness style typically associated with Donald Trump’s public remarks, he made little mention of the distress that has swept the country in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the more recent shooting of Jacob Blake, focusing instead on what he called the “anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters and flag-burners.” Joe Biden was mentioned 41 times in the speech, whereas Donald Trump was not mentioned once in last weeks Democratic Convention.

At the end Donald Trump looked worn out, not a good sign for the beginning of a campaign.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Democratic Convention

At 78, Joe Biden would be the oldest person ever elected to a first term as president.

While the start of the speech was somewhat rocky, Joe Biden not only settled into the speech but did something I did not think he could do: He was charismatic, forceful, emotional and powerful. Anyone who watched that speech would have no doubt as to whether Biden is ready, willing and able to do the job for which he is running.

However, Joe Biden did more than clear the competence hurdle. He delivered a speech aimed directly at the middle of the country, ideologically speaking. "This is not a partisan moment," Joe Biden said in the early moments of the speech. "This is an American moment." He repeatedly appealed to the common decency, humanity and compassion of all Americans.

He reminded people that we can and should be better than what divides us, that America could do anything it set its mind to. I will admit I did not think Joe Biden had it in him to deliver a speech that good. To be fair it was a little light on policies but it was full of a positive attitude that could move people forward. There was empathy for the public after he spoke of his loss of his first wife and son.

Choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate could be the most positive step forward. The former California attorney general has been urging police reform amid nationwide anti-racism protests. She repeatedly clashed with Mr Biden during the primary election debates, most notably criticising his praise for the "civil" working relationship he had with former senators who favoured racial segregation.

Kamala Harris was the front-runner to be Joe Biden's running mate pretty much since the moment the presumptive Democratic nominee announced in March that he would pick a woman to be on his ticket. She was a safe pick and a practical one. She is also now in the position to be the heir apparent for the Democratic Party - whether it is in four years because Biden loses in November or does not run for re-election or eight years if Biden serves two full terms.

Biden’s speech on Thursday [20-August-2020] capped off the Democratic national convention and was largely optimistic, laying out his vision for tackling several crises facing the country.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Exam Fiasco

Exams for students were cancelled earlier this year due to closure of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic, with ministers promising a fair system to assign grades to pupils who would have taken A-level and GCSE exams.

The government announced that Ofqual [the exam regulator] and exam boards would work with teachers to provide grades for students who were no longer taking exams this summer. The Department for Education said it would work towards ensuring students are given grades which “fairly reflect the work that they have put in”.

Official figures showed nearly 40 per cent of teacher-assessed grades in England had been downgraded by Ofqual’s moderation algorithm, sparking anger among schools and students. Gavin Williamson faced backlash over data which showed private schools had increased the proportion of students being awarded top grades by more than double that of state schools. Boris Johnson insisted the system had produced a “robust set of grades” and said students who were unhappy with their results could appeal or take a resit exam this autumn. 'Robust' being the new black.

That was last week, today [Monday 17-Aug-2020] the UK government has not only done a u-turn on A-Levels but also GCSE's which are not released until Thursday.

In what appreas to have been the most effective student protest ever, Gavin Williamson and Ofqual have apologised to students and their parents, as they announced that all A-level and GCSE results in England will be based on teacher-assessed grades.

Sunday, 16 August 2020


What does it do? When did it start? What is it expected to achieve?

It restricts people's movement. Businesses were closed, transport was taking over by the government due to the expected lack of use by the public. Large outdoor meetings were prohibited, all indoor meetings were discouraged and it was recommened that everyone stays in their own immediate bubble. Online shopping and deliveries took off.

On 23-March-2020 the Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a press broadcast and announced the start of lockdown. "China's first confirmed Covid-19 case traced back to November 17". The first confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were on January 29, when two Chinese nationals fell ill at the Staycity Aparthotel in York. All through February the government kept issuing messages about hand washing, staying indoors, only essential travel was allowed, for example emergency service staff.

The government started to produce messages, at first it was "Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives" this changed to "Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives". It seemed as though the first message at the beginning made sense and people understood, it was black & white, but then it became more grey and misunderstood.

Then the government created a 'Test & Trace app' so that when people went indoors they recorded their details and if coronavirus was detected during that period they would be contacted and told to go into self isolation. This has been a bit 'hit & miss' with less public participation than the original 'stay indoors' message. Officialy the line was "The service will allow us to trace the spread of the virus and isolate new infections and play a vital role in giving us early warning if the virus is increasing again, locally or nationally."

Lockdown was enabled to stop [or slow down] the spread of the virus, and it is possible that it has, but we have no results from a non-lockdown situation to compare it to, so there are two sides to the equation and it seems to be a personal choice which one you choose.

Presumably there will be a time when the government will announce "COVID is Over", everything will re-open, everyone will return to work, but how can that happen. No government has ever said "Colds no Longer Exist" or "Flu is Finished", so how can there ever be a time when this current crisis is over?

Sunday, 9 August 2020


Earlier this year my mother died.

I registered the death with the registra, where I recevied a stack of information of what to do next. One of the items she mentioned was "Tell Us Once". This is an excellent idea and it worked well. Then it went downhill.

I started to fill out a PA1P because I remember the last will Mother wrote named me and her younger brother as executors. Sadly the uncle died eleven years ago. I searched the house and spoke to the family solicitors, showing them a document which proved they had a copy of the will, however, they were unable to find it! I was unable to find a copy of the will in the house either. I spoke to my solicitor and she recommended filling out a PA1A.

Even though I know a will exists, I have to fill out official legal forms as though it does not exist!

As I continue with this form I realise I shall have to fill out an IHT400 [inheritance tax account] even though it is clear that breaching the tax threashold will be unlikely. I found out that I could send off a PA13 to have the will searched for, unfortunately, two months later and no response from HMCTS. Apparently coronavirus allows them to work at a slower pace.

The IHT400 isn't that simple, as I progress though the pages I find I need an IHT405 [Houses, land, buildings and interests in land], an IHT406 [Bank and building society accounts], an IHT407 [Household and personal goods], an IHT411 [Listed stocks and shares] and an IHT421 [Probate summary] 59 pages, that is £5.90 to print out at the local library, which has been closed since March.

As I fill out these forms I am acutely aware of giving false information and being accused of fraud because of all the discloures on the last page, however, when I approach financial institutions like banks and ask for balances at the date of death, I am met with "do you have grant of probate or a letter of administration?", erm no, that is what I am applying for!

Tuesday, 4 August 2020


I goto bed at midnight
and lie awake til one
at 8 a.m. I have to rise
sometimes before the sun!
I wish that I could understand
this stoopid sleeping plan
why goto bed when I'm not tired
and get up when I am?

Sunday, 2 August 2020


TikTok the Chinese owned app that may be spying on us, is apparently supplying our children with mindless videos of celebrities & people doing pranks.
After looking at this app for only five minutes, it was clear that this product has been solely created as a sales & marketing tool which provides relentless selling to viewers. To think that the average age of a viewer is a child, takes my breath away. I thought we had controls for this sort of thing!
The lifestyles portrayed on social media may look beautiful, but there is an ugly slant to TikTok and it is also more noticable today on Instagram. This relentless pursuit of influencers to get us to buy stuff we do not need is appalling.
The problem is shopping opportunities and how TikTok bombard young people with these sales in a way no consumer has experienced before. It is more voracious, more disguised and more targeted at the vulnerable. Of course what makes it worse, is that the money spendt is not immediate, it is all buy now, pay later, which is just a trap.
Rampant consumerism has never been a good thing and coming out of a pandemic we might all be involved.