Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Meaning Of 'Words Should Carry Meaning'

A final thought for 2011.

I mulled over why I used this as a title in my recent blog-post about my on-going complaint to the BBC about that programme they aired back in October. I had heard some version of it before elsewhere and I know exactly what it meant. Some googling reveals it is used in high-brow topics on sceptical, science and watchdog blogs, usually the topic being intellectual dishonesty.

Intellectual dishonesty as far as I can define it is when someone is trying to win, dispute or avoid an argument no matter the cost. This is not to be confused with the philosophical dilemma of Truth VS The Greater Good where to avoid harm facts must be withheld. Pictures of prisoners being abused in Abu Ghraib prison by US military personnel were in fairly wide circulation among those in the US media industry months before the story was finally broken to the public. Even the anti-war film-maker Michael Moore admitted he had seen them but didn't seize the opportunity. The reason was simple: this would have inflamed the insurgency and put soldiers not at all involved in the scandal in greater danger.

So in a nutshell: intellectual dishonesty is when that paradigm is taken and 'The Greater Good' means what ever agenda the person trusted to be honest is pursuing instead. The one problem with this is that anyone can accuse anyone of doing this. The BBC is frequently accused of it- too 'Left-wing' apparently, even though the revolutionary but (mostly)law-abiding activist Jodie McIntyre who had been tipped out of his wheelchair by an untrained policeman and dragged across the street with his legs trailing behind was given an interview far more interrogative and hostile than most of the Cabinet Ministers ever have. I don't see that as typically 'Left-wing', I couldn't even say it could be called neutral or non-partisan.

A different definition is given by the blogs I've read, one which doesn't simply describe what intellectual dishonesty looks like but what it actually does. There is it seems a consensus: intellectual dishonesty is ultimately when words have no inherent meaning.

When I first made a complaint about that programme I couldn't accuse the makers of intellectual dishonesty because in all irony; that term itself has been subjected to so much of its own active ingredient that it has become merely an opinion on which people can agree to disagree- the inherent meaning is lost and the accusation would instead be interpreted as bias. What stands out is how callous and careless the makers were with words, which goes for virtually all mainstream media reporting on social security recently and for their eventual response to my complaint. Their primary tool is meaninglessness itself, the reduction of everything into mundane and neutral modes, cliches and 'sides' in a debate. It seems rational that a platform for informing the public would allow them to come to their own conclusions but only after rigorously collecting the facts and arranging them into a clarifying rather than misleading or confusing context. But this is not what many outlets seem to do and unfortunately the BBC has recently been guilty of this: we instead are invited to come to our own conclusions after being bombarded with opinions supported with facts selected to support those opinions. That would be very difficult for news and current affairs outlets to do if words were understood beforehand to have inherent meaning that isn't subject to wider interpretation than that: they would have to choose words that correspond directly with the full evidence available to them or else they are outright lying.

From that programme, I used this claim by John Humphrys as one of my examples:
"So your local doctor no longer has the final say. More stringent tests have been brought in to flush out people claiming on health grounds when they shouldn't be."
I then specifically identified that Humphrys is making a claim that excludes anything other than the present tense in regard to GPs not having 'final say' on IB-ESA awards. He excludes very strongly that doctors did not actually have the final say in the past neither. He has outright claimed that doctors used to simply sign people off and they could then claim Incapacity Benefit. I did not mention it at the time, but for some reason he links this with the 'more stringent tests'. The response of the makers of the programme was a breath-taking assault on the idea that words have meaning, the first part:

"Claims for Incapacity Benefit were ultimately approved or not approved by the DWP..."
Which means therefore that John Humphrys statement was categorically wrong and misled the audience, no 'ifs' or 'buts'. They still try with a 'but':
"...but the weight afforded to a GP's opinion of a patient's state of health and suitability for work was much greater than it now is under ESA."
It might have been, but as usual no source for this new claim is given and it doesn't matter anyway because no explanation is given for why John Humphrys' "your local doctor no longer has the final say" and "claims for Incapacity Benefit were ultimately approved or not approved by the DWP" can both be truthful: they each exclude the other if their words have meaning.

The ideas that are prevalent about welfare reform and benefit claimants survive because intellectual dishonesty has corrupted almost everything. They make a mockery of those investigative heroes who do have to make serious Truth VS The Greater Good decisions, those choices which are genuinely difficult and are made with an expectation that the truth will eventually out anyway and it must be weighed up how much harm can be avoided with the choice to be made in the present.

The decision to make words meaningless is not difficult; cowardice never is.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Case #3: My Complaint Is Elevated To Stage 2

I've just received this e-mail from the BBC complaints department, clarifying for the first time that my complaint is now at stage 2 where it is a concern of the Editorial Complaints Unit.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Case #3: Words Should Carry Meaning

The BBC website has changed recently, including the complaints section. Whilst re-submitting my complaint about the BBC2 programme The Future State Of Welfare With John Humphrys for what I think is the fourth time now, I was prompted for my complaint reference number. This generated a pre-written response I guess which was associated with that reference number: for some reason my complaint appears to be classed as 'new homepage is rubbish' because that is what the BBC's database associates my reference number with.


I have submitted yet another complaint and made an e-mail to the Editorial Complaints Unit at the BBC, they are as follows-
-----------------------------------------------------------

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Case #4: The Rationale Of Maria Miller

This can't wait until I've had a few hours sleep.

Today our most magnificent Minister for Disabled People has this letter printed in the Independent in response to an article from yesterday which accidentally reported 95% accurate facts but speculated on the relevant date. She goes:

"The figures you quoted about 200,000 disabled children missing out on DLA top-ups from next April are incorrect (report, 12 December). There are no changes to DLA in April which would cause this to happen.At present the system of disability support is a tangled mess of elements, premiums and add-ons which fail to target support to those most in need, is highly prone to error and baffling for disabled people themselves.Our reforms will create a simpler and fairer system. More importantly there will be no cash losers at the point of transition to Universal Credit, and disabled adults in greatest need and some disabled children will actually receive more support than now.
Maria Miller
Minister for Disabled People, Department for Work and Pensions"
The figures are correct. Their reporting of the matter is accurate. Maria Miller thinks that just because they speculate about these changes coming in April (which may even turn out to be accurate) then that means she can claim the figures are wrong. She then kicks up the usual dust with the 'targeting most in need' canard where those most in need can mean anything. Miller certainly never specifies who that is and it's the major reason why many disabled people are filled with dread; we just don't know who will win the Coalition's deserving poor lottery. Miller knows exactly what she's doing, so she isn't a bullshitter but an outright liar, again. She's stopped being careful now because it's almost impossible to stop the Welfare Reform Bill at this point.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Case #3: Interns Should Not Argue With Autistics

The BBC finally sent me the following response to my complaint, which given the length of time it has taken them to 'research' and get back to me compared to how long it took me to research and get back to them, makes me wonder why I am jobless and people like this are not. Unless this is an unpaid and untrained clueless intern.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Case #1: I'd Be A Conservative If I Ever Met One

There are many different estimates for how much unpaid carers save the country each year; some include those receiving benefits, some exclude them and some only count them. A report this year produced the figure of £119 billion.

This is relevant because Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit have always been cost-saving: they enable individuals to live either on their own or with their families and carers rather than residential care, which was and is extremely expensive. Many of the people with fairly serious illnesses and disabilities do not even have carers and are saving even more money by being their own carers, enabled by DLA and IB/ESA. Take those benefits away and those people will find it much harder to look after themselves or be looked after by friends and family(it is a fact-free, insidious myth that people depend on the state as a substitute for family when the truth is that their resources are squeezed and they need support).

There will either be a humanitarian crisis, or the budgets for social and NHS care would have to be vastly expanded beyond what the DWP saves in order to pick up the pieces. You can not cut budgets for basic human needs, only shift the balance from one budget to another; someone must pay. The only question is who can afford what and how much?

Friday, 9 December 2011

Case #1: The BBC Whitewashes The Record

I made my first complaint about the BBC2 programme The Future State Of Welfare With John Humphrys the day after it was broadcast, as did many others- Friday the 28th of October. I think the majority of complaints for this programme were made that weekend. Unusually, it has taken an excessive amount of time for the BBC to publish their report of all complaints made for that month; usually they publish these reports for each month quite quickly. You can see that the report for January was published in February and the report for September was published in October. The whole schedule follows that pattern except for the report for October...which has just been published, on December 7th.

It is possible that the majority of complaints for TFSOWWJH were processed just at the start of November and therefore it will be subject to the November report, which could take also take an unusual span of time to come out. But the fact that the report for October was delayed by so much and makes absolutely no acknowledgement of the complaints received about John Humphrys' programme, combined with the BBC complaints unit continuing to stall in a proper response to my complaint about the lack of factual rigour in the programme, they are trying to bury the issue.

I keep reading through the transcript I made and each time I'm made more certain that no effort was made for factual accuracy, the programme lacks merit as a 'factual' programme and warrants an unprecedented full-retraction. I will pursue my complaint as far as it can go. In the meantime I'll be breaking my rebuttal of the programme into chunks as blog-posts. This will keep the block active whilst I plough on with this project. There's lots of other stuff I want to write about but this issue right now takes priority because a public service broadcaster should not behave like this, one of Britain's most respected and foremost critical TV journalists should not behave like this and those responsible for handling complaints should most certainly not behave like this.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Fluff: Keep An Eye On The Price Of Oreos

When Kraft bought Cadburys a while back, three things were obvious.

1. UK jobs would be lost.
2. Kraft would make promises not to make redundancies and close factories.
3. They would break every single one of those promises five minutes later, which they did.

It continues with Kraft just announcing they're cutting 200 jobs, which is bad news. But it is bad news in a 'good news sandwich' where the bad is announced in between two items of good news. The good news being that they are investing more money in improving stuff like productivity, energy efficiency, reduce waste and some other corporate-speak gibberish to convince us they are aliens. I'm not sure how productivity is increased by cutting staff numbers, unless they make the remaining payroll work more or they change the Cadburys recipes and methods and make them naff.

But the other bit of good news is this: Oreos will be made in Britain for the first time. The ones you've seen so far have been imported from somewhere, adding an extra cost. A packet cost 89p before the recession but now range from 99p to 119p. I expect that without the import costs, the price should come down once shops start stocking UK-made Oreos. But what are the chances? Will Kraft gobble up the savings for themselves or pass them on to Oreo munchers?

I'm going to make a prediction: yes. The price of Oreos will not go down at all and may even go up. Oreos will demonstrate why 'trickle down' economics do not work.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Case #1: Why He Was Always A Quiet Man

We're going to talk about thick people today. Yes, I'm very mean, but they're too thick to notice so don't worry, this won't hurt them. But we all know someone who is a bit slow on the up-take and not because of some audio or language processing delay, I mean their ability to grasp complex or abstract concepts is so in deficit that when they try to be clever, they end up saying something so stupid that temporarily, you also become stupid whilst you try to work out what sense it's supposed to make. A little while ago someone tweeted that they knew a person who works for the Secretary of State for Welfare, Iain Duncan-Smith. What they had been told was that the man was quite challenged, or 'thick as a plank'. The thought had never occurred to me before. Current ideas about the reasons for welfare reform included pure maliciousness, good intentions blinded by ideology and indifferent politics seeking good publicity. Now I can add 'they're just a bit thick' to the list after Iain Duncan-Smith went and confirmed the Twitter rumour.




Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Case #3: Something Stirs

Just received this message from the BBC:

"Dear Audience Member

Reference CAS-1110929-X07FRL

Thank you for contacting the BBC.

We wanted to let you know that we've received your recent complaint and will respond as soon as possible, however we hope you understand that the time taken to do so can depend on the nature of your complaint and the number of other complaints we're currently dealing with.

We issue public responses to concerns which prompt large numbers of significant complaints and these can be read on our website at:

www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

We would be grateful if you would not reply to this email - in the meantime, we would like to thank you again for contacting us with your concerns, we appreciate your patience in awaiting a response.

Kind Regards

Leigh Mallon
BBC Complaints"

Monday, 21 November 2011

Cassandra Syndrome

Most people are more edmucated than me, but few use Google so well. Google 'Cassandra' with 'Greek Myth' or 'Syndrome added in and you'll find that Cassandra was an oracle that offended the gods by predicting the future more accurately than a mortal should. As punishment she was cursed so that no one would ever believe her predictions. She didn't see that one coming, or did, possibly explaining why she milked her gift as much as she could before it became impossible.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Case #3: Time Is Up.

I have just submitted the following complaint on the BBC complaints form.

It has been over ten working days since I made my second complaint about this programme, due to the first complaint not being taken seriously. I was sent a response to that first complaint which was mostly a template response and it appears every one of the other 135 complaint writers received that exact same copy-pasted reply. This falls far outside the standards of best practices that should be expected from a public service.

All of the other complaints that I have read focused on the programme's bias. Mine did not; my complaint was entirely focused on the lack of factual rigour in the programme. This was not at all addressed so in my second complaint a provided a handful of examples with accompanying explanations of what I found to be wrong with them. I have waited patiently for a reply to this and today marks the tenth working day from which I submitted my second complaint. There has been no response and despite the number of complaints the BBC has not made a public response on the relevant webpage either.

Every error in the programme is serious and the errors in the programme are extensive and could not fail to widely mislead an uninformed audience who receive much of their information from the press, who frequently fudge facts and skew data, often at the behest of ministers advancing welfare reforms.

I will continue to pursue a proper response from the BBC on this matter and have begun work on a line-by-line rebuttal of the way the programme presents information, the publicly available information it omitted (such as the actual fraud prevalence and expenditure figures) and the outright inaccurate claims that were clearly not checked (no researchers are credited in the programme). If I continue to be ignored I will escalate my complaint as far as it can go.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Lord Freud, DLA Is Not Loosely Applied

In the debate during the Lords Committee session for the Welfare Reform bill yesterday, David Freud made the following comment:
"My Lords, the real trouble with the benefit is that it has been so loosely applied that it is impossible to take it fraudulently. I exaggerate slightly to make the point but that is the reason. The last time it was looked at in detail-I think it was 2004-5: I am plucking figures slightly from memory-I think there were overpayments of around £630 million and underpayments of around £250 million or £270 million. I am ahead of my team. It was around that figure. It was not because people were being fraudulent, it was just because it was no longer the right rate and you could not tell whether it had not been the right rate the day before or the day after. Fraud is not the issue with the DLA. The issue is the looseness of its application."

Request For Evidence.

I've seen conflicting reports about what happens when a person is turned down for ESA after an assessment and then they appeal. I know that typically a person turned down must claim Jobseeker's Allowance but I've read stories where people appeal and stay on Assessment Phase ESA(which is paid at the same rate as JSA) in the meantime but on the BBC East programme Inside Out yesterday the case study featured was moved onto JSA whilst waiting for an appeal. He was not permitted to keep claiming ESA.

If anyone knows why some claimants are said to be put on JSA whilst waiting for appeals whilst others stay on ESA in the Assessment Phase, I'd like to know. It's possible that they are all on ESA but because the rate is exactly the same as JSA, it's more simple to tell audiences that they are on JSA. I'd like to be sure though.

Monday, 14 November 2011

More than 140 complaints.

An update on recent events- I have not yet had a reply to my second complaint to the BBC over The Future State of Welfare and this Friday will be ten working days since I made it. They are supposed to respond before then. Also, I've heard that the number of complaints was high enough that the BBC are supposed to make a public response to it on their complaints page. They have done so for programmes dated more recently but have not done so for TFSOW. When/if I get a further reply I will seek a correction to this oversight. I will also be pursuing my complaint to the fullest extent and escalate it until the programme is either retracted in full or a prominent list of corrections is published on the BBC website alongside an apology and assurance that the programme will not be shown again without those corrections appearing on-screen during it. I've read the BBC guidelines focusing on accuracy and I believe the case is very strong that the programme failed to meet them and through that lack of rigour inevitably failed to meet the standards require to avoid bias. I am fairly sure at least one of those John Humphrys interviewed who featured in the programme may have learning difficulties and did not have an appropriate adult present, though I will not name them here. This put a vulnerable adult in a compromising position. I do not believe ANY of the benefit claimants featured in the programme were informed of the context of the programme and why their contributions were being sought. The programme did not treat the subject as controversial and failed to distinguish fact from opinion.

This isn't a full list of the issues I have with it, there are so many. I will begin working on a full line-by-line rebuttal of the programme when I receive the BBC response or when the Friday deadline expires, which ever comes first.

Why I No Longer Post At The Guardian.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/14/osborne-benefits-lib-dems?commentpage=all#start-of-comments

Reading the comments below the line, I get the feeling that the moderators just don't care. They want the website to be of Daily Mail quality from now on and persistent trolls repeating the same canards they've been corrected on dozens of times have free-reign where those who even slightly let their temper slip will have their posts removed. They get the community they deserve and soon the Guardian will have a sewer.

Case #4: What Harrington Won't Look At

The BBC must be trying to get back in somebody's good books after the atrocious double-whammy of The Future Of The Welfare State and Panorama: Britain On The Fiddle within a week of each other, timed suspiciously with the nearing of the Welfare Reform Bill's conclusion in Parliament. On Monday a local programme for the East of England, Inside Out will be investigating the appeals made against ESA decisions. They put an article about it up in advance on their website and it pretty much just recycles what everyone that actually gives a crap about the issue has known for over a year. The interesting bit is the response from Atos.
Inside Out asked Atos to comment on the high number of incorrect assessments.
The company said it focused on quality and satisfaction but it was "recognised by all parties" that the number of appeals "is higher than would be liked" but the total number of appeals was just 7% of all the assessments it carried out.
7%? I've heard this figure before but not for 'total number of assessments'. Previously it was the figure quoted for the proportion of successful appeals out of the total for ESA, a figure which I also thought smelled. Here's why.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Tabloid Logic: Analysis Says "Don't" It Really Means "Do".

Most readers of The Files will have seen or heard about the recent Mail and Telegraph articles reporting that X number of DLA claimants have never had a face-to-face assessment. Remember that ministers say they don't encourage the newspapers to behave in this way, Chris Grayling insists he's 'bemused' by it. But the Ad Hoc Analysis page on the DWP website exists for a reason.

Basically, from the moment they came into office (and like the Labour government before) they were briefing the press against benefit claimants. These were euphemistically called 'press releases' but they weren't in the DWP press releases on the website and some journos noted that they were on the DWP list for press releases but they weren't receiving these. The DWP it turned out was sending special 'press releases' to certain newspapers specifically because of their stance on benefit claimants. FullFact.org kicked up a fuss and eventually got the government to concede to make these releases public, which they did.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Scroungers Everywhere? Blame Kevin Bacon.

When something tragic happens and features in the news; a death due to an accident or horrific killing, there is virtually always a shining series of character witnesses giving statements. They speak of the victim as being wholly good. They were decent, generous, funny, talented, loyal and gave many happy memories. I'm not completely socially tone-deaf, but my ability to function depends on my ability to analyse things the way I do and there is something about the probability and coincidence that makes the obvious conclusion utterly ridiculous to the socially-attuned. I am bound to end up saying something extremely inappropriate and potentially offensive because I can't see any other explanation for how victims can consistently be angels.  

It makes me glad I'm an asshole.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Case #3: The BBC Fails To Answer My Complaint

I have just receive this e-mail from Stuart Webb at the BBC complaints office.

Dear Mr Dixon

Reference CAS-1069784-FX2C91

Thanks for contacting us regarding BBC Two’s ‘The Future State Of Welfare With John Humphrys’ on 27 October.

I understand you felt the programme was biased against the welfare state. I also note that you wished a transcript of the programme:

I'm sorry but it is not possible to provide a transcript as there’s no longer a central unit dealing with programme transcripts. Some programmes do provide them; if this is the case they will often mention the details at the end of the transmission and they will usually be found on the programme's website. Transcripts are not made automatically as part of the programme making process. Transcribing is very expensive and the licence fee cannot sustain it as an automatic service. As I am sure you will appreciate, the enormous range of programmes broadcast daily across the BBC's television and radio networks means providing transcripts for all of our output would be impossible.

We believe that 'The Future State of Welfare' was a balanced look at the benefits debate in the UK. The programme dealt with a difficult and important subject - and the strong opinions held about the issues raised by the current proposals for reform. The impact of current policy and proposed reforms was shown through John's interviews with individuals who have experience of the system both here in the UK and in the USA. The programme featured interviews with various individuals who claim different types of benefits, and gave them an opportunity to set out their views on the proposed reforms. John conducted these interviews with sympathy and sensitivity and enabling those affected to show how they felt the proposed reforms would impact upon their individual situations.

Both the BBC and John Humphrys consider the programme to be a success - it challenged preconceptions while remaining a balanced and accurate analysis of both emerging policy and public opinion in this highly contentious area.

We’ve registered your comments on our audience log for the benefit of programme makers, commissioning executives, and senior management within the BBC. The audience logs are important documents that can help shape future decisions and they ensure that your points, and all other comments we receive, are made available to BBC staff across the Corporation.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Kind Regards

Stuart Webb
BBC Complaints
It goes on to say that the sender is an outgoing e-mail account only and will not accept replies. No details are provided in case a person is unsatisfied with the BBC response, which I certainly am. Apart from the transcript, it does not discuss my concerns at all. I do not care about Mr Humphrys opinions, nor the opinions of anyone in the programme. I care only about the factual integrity and the rigour behind what little research went into it. The BBC rather than showing concern about alleged factual short-comings simply states that they are happy with this. This is shameful. My original complaint can be found here

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Words Laid Bare

What follows is the result of an effort to transcribe the BBC programme 'The Future State Of Welfare With John Hymphrys' by myself. The programme will no longer be available on the iPlayer an hour from now until it is repeated on broadcast television. Yesterday I began a rush with the little spare time I had to capture the words before they were gone and I can not hope that the BBC will release a transcript themselves as I asked when I made my complaint about the programme. There has been no response on the BBC complaints page yet.

I acknowledge that the copyright for the programme belongs to Matchlight, who made the programme for BBC Scotland. This transcript has been made in the absence of an official one being made available promptly after a request to the BBC and has been transcribed from a publicly viewable channel of Britain's public service broadcaster, for the purposes of critical comment and posterity. This transcription is my own work, but I acknowledge that the words belong to their respective originators with the exception that John Humphrys is credited as the writer of the programme itself and editorial decisions were made by persons working on the programme who are not necessarily featured in it, who decided what statements were fit for public service broadcast in line with the BBC charter. Any other copyrights or moral rights to contents of the programme are credited but are also included for critical comment made in good faith. If you are the owner of any copyrighted material within, please contact me at Arecbalrin@live.co.uk or in the comments below directly if you wish for it to be removed and state your grounds. This blog is hosted on Blogger, a US company under US jurisdiction and bound by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and this transcript is protected under Fair Use for critical comment. A DMCA notice falsely made in bad faith is under the penalty of PERJURY and counter-notices will be filed and further action taken to pursue costs and punitive damages to discourage DMCA abuse for the cause of censorship.

This transcript will be subject to future changes in order to comply with lawful and rightful requests and to clarify who is speaking and where. This is a preliminary groundwork to critically appraise the entire programme line by line as it is my belief that the producers and writer made it with no intention of exercising rigour and impartiality in the way they have presented benefit claimants, the Welfare State and the facts. The seriousness of these misleading propositions are not a hierarchy: they are all equally serious because they demonstrate a disinterested agenda not concerned with factual accuracy, context or fairness. They represent a consolidation and reinforcement of prejudices, stereotypes and myths which have dominated public discourse on social security policy in Britain for almost two decades. These have consequences that are not felt by their promoters, they are felt by the most vulnerable and marginalised in society who have the least means of opposing them. This transcript will be used in a line-by-line rebuttal of the programme's handling of the facts, it's premise, bias and the reputations of millions of people. For now this remains un-amended. The BBC is now included alongside the government and the official opposition in Parliament in Case File #1, examining the motives and intent behind welfare policy in Britain.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A Note On Synthetic Phonics

I've just glimpsed this report on the BBC website about criticism from academics and teachers of a reading text based on phonics.

Case #4: Maria Miller, liar?

Either a National Review on Disability Living Allowance is going to be published soon stating that DLA overpayments are £600 million because claimants are failing to inform the DWP of changes in circumstances(and explaining how they calculate that figure), or Maria Miller is a liar.

How does she differ from a bullshitter like John Humphrys? Well Humphrys doesn't know what he's saying, Miller I can say unequivocally does. The overspending due to fraud and error for DLA is £220 million. Maria Miller wants you to believe that is not representative of overspending in DLA. She wants you to have the number '£600 million' in your head in relation to DLA and overspending. Like with her claim about drug and alcohol addicts claiming more higher-rate DLA Mobility than Blind and Deaf people, she doesn't always state the clarifying point to get fact-checkers off her back(and they rarely are on her back when she's feeding these figures to our complacent mainstream media). Her garbage on that was subject to a fact-check by FullFact.org about it but it wasn't an outright lie. Miller has lied frequently about a lot of things, but never on the public record where she could be caught out. Until now.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Case #3: The British Bullshitting Corporation


Depending on the response to a significant number of complaints that are being made to the BBC, they may have to be included along with the Labour party in the case files investigating the motives, intentions and methods of the government and wider establishment in their actions towards social security. I have attempted to submit a complaint to the BBC but the webpage gave me no confirmation that it had worked and ended on step 4 of the form when it jumped back to step 1. On the third attempt it finally did confirm. The complaint I attempted to submit is as follows.
I am hoping that the BBC will make a transcript available for this programme as from start to finish it appears to deliberately mislead the audience. Few claims are directly asserted by the presenter, most are made by third-parties but which are not corrected and would leave most of the audience believing that such statements were in the programme because they were true. Of those claims that are made by John Humphrys, the majority are also untrue. I can not go into specifics because there are more omissions, half-truths and blatant untruths in the programme than there are minutes in it: more than one falsehood is promoted to the audience per minute. Clarifying the context missing from the programme would require a line-by-line rebuttal.

Every inaccuracy in the programme is serious. The sheer number of them demonstrate that there was no intention to be balanced or rigorous with this investigation of social security. Talking points which are common among government ministers and newspapers hostile to benefit claimants were presented as concrete facts and clearly were intended to advance the shared agenda of all of them towards Britain's existing welfare system.

Please provide a transcript so that all of the inaccuracies can be documented in full as soon as possible, with the hope that the BBC will look at them and consider whether an apology and retraction of significant portions or the entire programme itself are necessary.
The BBC may also be broadcasting the Panorama special 'Britain On The Fiddle' next Thursday, or the complaints may cause them to cancel it. It's a repeat and the episode doesn't seem to be available anywhere nor is there much information on it, but I expect I'll also be making a complaint about that.

John Humphrys Is Not A Liar...

...He just doesn't know what he's talking about.

Maybe though we need to recognise the difference between a liar and a 'bull-shitter', which is something which developed in popular culture in the years following the second Gulf War when an essay from 1986 by Harry Frankfurt was republished called 'On Bullshit'. In it the philosopher defined the two different distinctions between dishonest people. He put it:
"This is the crux of the distinction between the bullshitter and the liar. Both he and the liar represent themselves falsely as endeavouring to communicate the truth. The success of each depends upon deceiving us about that. But the fact about himself that the liar hides is that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality; we are not to know that he wants us to believe something he supposes to be false. The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it."

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Tabloid Logic: Modern Tents Are So Good They Are Always Empty

Tents are supposed to keep the weather out and the heat in. The key bit being the heat staying in or you might as well not have it. What they are made from hasn't changed much in recent years but the way they are made has, incorporating thread patterns on a minute scale to give the fabrics properties that wouldn't otherwise be possible. Cotton is known for being warm and is so because it catches air in tiny pockets, but that alone wouldn't stop enough heat escaping that it couldn't be visible on say a thermal imaging camera like the one used by the Telegraph(and now the Daily Mail) at the occupation outside St Paul's. Rather than using the properties of cotton to catch and store warm air in little pockets, it can be threaded into a form where it simply reflects that heat so in the case of a tent, the whole thing is a big warm air pocket. It's very efficient and some forms of it can actually reflect more than 99% of the heat back whilst still being a breathable material.

The Telegraph and the tabloids neglect to mention this, nor do they say if they actually went and checked some of the tents that showed up as 'cool'. A well-insulated house with furnaces burning can look empty on a thermal image where it is obvious to the naked eye that it is not. It's not really an interest of mine what the occupation does and what critics say, but if they're really having to scrape the barrel like this and rely on the basic scientific illiteracy of Britain(who also haven't watched Predator because they're hooked on the rubbish that passes for 'action' these days), then they are somehow managing to lose an argument they claim isn't even being had.

There is no way to tell from the images taken how many tents are occupied. It is the occupiers word against those that say thermal vision 'proves' the tents are empty with absolute certainty. 
 
EDIT: when I creep around sleeping people with my thermal vision goggles, I get arrested.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Panorama: BBC On The Fiddle

Some time ago the BBC current affairs programme Panorama did a 'special investigation' into benefit fraud in the United Kingdom. They tastefully called it "Britain On The Fiddle". I did not watch it and now I wish I did. It will be repeated either this Thursday according to the BBC website, or a week on Thursday according to the Radio Times. It could be both, Panorama seems to jump around the schedule though brand new episodes are shown on Mondays. The Radio Times listing for what is on around 8 o'clock on the date the BBC gives the programme as "The Future Of The Welfare State" with the same slot a week later being Britain On The Fiddle.

From what I have read, it is replete with its writer's opinions, loose with the facts and excessively sentimental and tabloid-ish. This is probably what caused me to avoid it the first time, but that was also before I began my efforts on understanding the welfare system and its history. It is it seems exactly the kind of  'docu-commentary' the BBC insists it does not make and leaves to Channel 4 to commission.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Hardest Hit (And A Banana-Shark)

The second Hardest Hit march is today and this time takes place around the country. Due to alarming things that alarm me, I will not be able to attend any event. It does however mean there is a chance of a spike in visits and I had hundreds in a few hours during the last one in May. This could mean that today I will get the 10,000th visitor.

Such a milestone justifies a celebration with a prize....

This, is a Banana-Shark. They are a real animal/fruit. They are not fake, they are not even Pokemon. This one can be yours. I don't actually have a Banana-Shark, I mean the picture can be yours. I don't have a physical picture of a Banana-Shark, I mean you may right-click and 'save as' this picture. Please only do this if the counter at the bottom of the page says you are the 10,000th visitor or that would be wrong. You would be stealing the hard-won glory of exclusivity from my 10,000th favourite person.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Free Dumb Informaton

Some disturbing developments have come to light, the facets I think will justify two separate posts. 

On the 8th of August the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) made a Freedom Of Information request to the Department of Work and Pensions, asking in details but seeking in general how many ESA claimants Atos Healthcare had assessed since the nationwide roll-out of the Incapacity Benefit transition to Employment Support Allowance 'began in April'. They did this because they are the contractors for government welfare to work programmes, namely the Work Programme and the almost completely unpublicised Work Choice (hint: they park all the most difficult cases on this in some desperate attempt to not let the Work Programme fail as badly as Flexible New Deal did). The context is that the prime contractors have taken a lot of heat recently because they are squeezing the sub-contractors and not referring clients to them. The indication is that the prime contractors themselves aren't getting enough referrals to cover their costs through the initial referral fees, so they wanted to know why the ESA Work Related Activity Group from which many of their 'clients' will come from isn't being filled up by the 1.4 million Incapacity Benefit claimants who should now be being transferred onto ESA.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A Year Of Consequences

Back in June something alarmed me. At Prime Minister's Questions Edward Miliband used all five of his permitted questions to ask the same one. Each time he did, David Cameron gave a response that could only mean he didn't understand the question, didn't know anything about the policy he was being asked about or both of those. The leader of the official opposition asked if the Prime Minister was aware that seven-thousand recovering Cancer patients would be kicked off contribution-based ESA after just twelve months under plans in the Welfare Reform bill. David Cameron seemed to think 'recovering Cancer patients' meant 'terminally ill'. The Prime Minister made this mistake five consecutive times in a row, even though Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan-Smith were sitting close enough to whisper to him where he was screwing up. Either they shared his ignorance or they didn't want to risk exposure to themselves and their plans in the house during PMQs. Or they hate David Cameron and secretly relished him making a fool of himself. Cameron compounded this ignorance, with arrogance; he actually acted as if though it was Miliband who was confused and didn't know what he was talking about.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A Familiar Scene

A while ago I made a speculative article about a piece in the Daily Mail reporting on twenty-three cases of benefit fraud being heard in a Birmingham magistrate court. I speculated that in order for such a piece to have been written the Mail would need to have known about these court appearances in advanced, considering they even had one of their own cameramen there to take pictures. Unless they check the courts pages of every local newspaper in England, it seems they did get a tip-off (which I finger the DWP for). The Mail expressed the usual outrage but none of the cases reflected outright criminality, many of them could have been errors caused by poor Jobcentre advice. The Mail also overplayed how many people were seen in the courtroom in one day and downplayed that this was because the DWP booked the court space as a bloc to save money. Those being prosecuted represented months of investigation in the entire area around Birmingham. I can be confident of this because the Mail weren't able to run a repeat of this story every week.

In fact, they've only just got round to doing it again and this time dubbed it a 'special investigation', this time with 8 people in the same court. Birmingham is perfect for this because it has a high population and a higher than average number of benefit claimants. Talk about loading the Mail loading the dice here and it's still taken them six months to get a sufficiently high number in court at once again.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Extremely Important: Emergency

Yesterday something happened in the House of Lords that the government weren't expecting. Whilst the chamber wasn't exactly flooded, opposition to the Welfare Reform bill was enormous. About fifty peers spoke and the vast majority expressed grave concerns about the content of the bill and the intentions of ministers. The government have been jarred.

Just a short while ago I received a link to this blog-post on Where's The Benefit explaining what was going on. The government are moving against the opposition and imposing damage control in the most underhand way they can. At 3:30pm today they will table a motion to move the committee stage of the legislative process to one of the smaller rooms in Parliament. They are doing this to limit the exposure and scrutiny of the bill.

The only way they can be stopped is to warn those in Parliament who oppose the bill or believe it must be scrutinised properly. The mainstream media aren't interested in this, but it is possible to get this issue to trend on Twitter and Facebook in the next half hour. Please go to Where's The Benefit and tweet and re-tweet the post, as well as linking it on Facebook.

This could decide the fate of the Welfare Reform bill.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Case #1: I Am The Lawd

At 3:10pm today the House of Lords will debate and vote on passing the Welfare Reform bill through its Second Reading. I will be one of thousands watching the horror unfold in slow-motion on the BBC Parliament channel. I do not expect the public school-boy behaviour that occurred when the bill was going through the Commons, but the bill's supporters will be no less vacant in their arguments. Yesterday though there was time after one debate for a question to be asked specifically about how Personal Independence Payment will affect Autistics. It happens 24 minutes in and Lord Freud had this to say:

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Case #6: I Have Foreseen It

Sometimes when I need cheering up, I'll have a look in the Daily Mail or some similar tabloid. Having direct first-hand knowledge of the research and figures that they cite when they cover the broad topic of welfare means every article on it they print is an invitation to rage at what appears to be persistent and deliberate lying. I still do get angry, but I also have a serene sense of bemused awe at the mental and mathematical gymnastics they need to perform to make the pre-determined story fit the facts. But that's the News.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Case #6: Pass It On...

The figures for all benefits as of February 2011 will become available in the next month or so and the DWP tabulation tool data has kept to a pretty consistent schedule so far. Today it has been reported that twelve doctors working for Atos Healthcare are under investigation by the GMC for conducting Work Capability Assessments in a way that it not in the best interests of people who were for at least one hour- their patients. Because of this I wish to highlight something that came to my attention a while ago but as far as I'm aware has only been talked about on The Files.

As of November 2010, just over half of all Employment Support Allowance claimants were in the Assessment Phase. Breath deep, take that in and seize hold of that slither of doubt in your mind saying there's something not right with that figure. This is not because a large number of claims have suddenly been processed (the influx from the Incapacity Benefit to ESA transfer began in April and solid data won't be available on that until February 2012 at least), because these are claims which are months, some even 2+ years old and they are still labelled as if they haven't yet had an assessment. Bare this in mind the next time a DWP press release and the tabloid cheerleaders say "X number of claimants closed their claim before or during assessment". If large numbers of people are kept perpetually in the Assessment Phase, of course that is going to make that much-hyped 'quit before assessment' figure more inflated and it is used to suggest a large proportion of claims are frivolous or fraudulent.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Case #5: DLA Is Bad News For The Coalition

Now is a good time to bury bad news.

With the rolling news media and print media being saturated by riots, everyone and their mother's theory for why there are riots (all of them are true, but unnecessary), has anyone been looking at what the government has been doing? I mean, apart from the holidays the leadership were very reluctant to leave. There are still ministers and civil servants busy doing their stuff. What have they been getting up to? I can't very well check everything myself, but I can look at what I know and started opening all my bookmarks and closing them rapidly as I glanced through them. Then I saw on the DWP ad hoc analysis page a report published on Monday- "Disability Living Allowance: Growth in the number of claimants 2002/03 to 2010/11". I've had some faux-conspiracy failures on applying Occam's Razor before, but though this came out on Monday the front page of the PDF is dated 'July 2011'. Maybe it means really late July though rather than it simply being the case that the government wanted to delay it while they were trying to hasten the Welfare Reform bill through the House of Lords (which failed and they had to delay it until Parliament opens again for business proper in September). But then I get through the thing and the author signs off the written part with:

This report was written around three months ago, when the Welfare Reform bill was going through it's Second Reading in the House of Commons (EDIT: then delayed again when the attempt to rush it in the Lords failed in July). Why has it taken all this time for it to come out? Maybe because whilst the author takes great care not to draw the ire of ministers in charge of Welfare reform, it mentions something I've talked about on The Files before: 

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

There Is No Reason

The reaction from certain folk, let's describe them with the inadequate term 'the Right' puts themselves in a bind. Virtually everyone can see that the rich misbehaved and caused an economic crisis. That consensus lasted about five minutes and with no one actually disproving it, it disappeared; the blame somehow got shifted to 'profligate spending' by government. The solution presented was austerity and the poor were taunted with the empty slogan "We Are All In This Together" sometimes accompanied by "There Is No Alternative". Translations:

We Are All In This Together - "There will be no exceptions, especially since the poorest will pay virtually everything."

There Is No Alternative - "It is not up for discussion. When we ask for your alternative we don't mean it and we're not listening, we're just being rhetorical and no matter how many times you state an alternative it doesn't matter. It just isn't up for discussion".

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Case #3: ....Or Sometimes Just Plain Stupid

I have received a reply from Maria Miller through my MP. Instead of addressing the point on case law history in DLA, she changed the topic to the matter of Blind and Deaf claimants recently being enabled to claim Higher-Rate Mobility and then didn't even answer that quite right. It is as follows, with liberties taken over my real name which is replaced with my many pseudonyms.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Case #3:...Which Is Why Bad People Are Also Nice

A not-small number of topics that I've wanted to write about have been delayed by circumstances becoming worse. My ability to cope has diminished. I don't know when I'll be able to concentrate on anything for more than five minutes again. To keep the blog semi-active, what follows is fairly recent correspondence with my MP, who is aligned with the Conservative Party.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Nice People Will Ruin The World

I'm currently writing an important blog-post (apart from this one) concerning Francis Maude's anti-fraud 'taskforce' about to be set loose on benefit scroungers. Like with all Coalition ideas that have escaped mainstream scrutiny, I've got a lot of original source material to look at before I can be secure in my points. My e-mail response to the National Autistic Society has received a reply that somewhat frustrated me. My e-mail was forwarded to the very nice Sarah Lambert Head of Policy at the NAS and she wrote the response back. I have determined that she is insufficiently aggressive to deal with the Coalition and DWP; she could benefit from converting and becoming a Scot (I am certain this is a religion and not a genuine nationality).

You decide for yourself what you think:

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Case #3: Digging Our Own Graves

I was contacted by the National Autistic Society concerning the testing trials for the PIP assessment; I had procrastinated and delayed my response so much that the deadline is in just two days and was just contacted again today. I have considered the subject carefully and sent a reply, which is as follows.
Hi, I'm sorry for not responding to your earlier e-mail although I really meant to. My name is ************** and I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome between schools in 1995. I also came to the NAS lobby at Portcullis House in March and met with my MP *************** (Conservative, ***********), Sadiq Khan (Labour, Tooting) and the Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller (Conservative, Basingstoke). I was very worried about what effect the lobby would have (or wouldn't have specifically) and I think events since then have confirmed my fears.

I do not wish to participate in the trials for the new PIP assessment, which is disturbingly similar to the Work Capability Assessment for ESA, a test one of it's own designers and the Citizens Advice Bureau described as "not being fit for purpose". I would also hope that the NAS reconsiders co-operating with the DWP and does not send them a list of names at all. I want to advance the following points-

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Case #3: Objective Lies Are Not Better Than Subjective Truth

I did not go to war and die for a government that believes the poor, sick and disabled are better able to pay for deficits and recessions than the Treasury can. I mean every word of it; I've never been to war, let alone died in one.

So why should I help them? They would have me rotting in a mental institution (if not for them being cut back) or dying of hunger on the street. My mother fears for what will happen to me when she is gone. Parents of Autistic children and adults across the land share her dread. I don't think that far ahead.

The Department of Work and Pensions has asked the National Autistic Society to help them fine-tune the draft assessment criteria for the Personal Independence Payment that will replace Disability Living Allowance in 2013. This will result in the caseload or expenditure being reduced by 20%. Given how ministers have been shamefully unclear about this, saying different things to different people, I think they will cut which ever brings the highest savings. The NAS believes the DWP are doing this in response to concerns expressed by the NAS. I think they are fooling themselves in believing any kind of concession has been secured and they have been naive to believe what Maria Miller has probably told them. It was always the intention of the DWP to test the draft criteria because that is what they always do with all draft criteria for benefits. Still they've been sending out e-mails asking for people who may be interested in doing trial assessments to get in touch by this time next week.

They will then hand a list to the DWP who will select from it how they like and contact people to arrange assessments. The public service contractor with no experience in diagnostics, disability or medicine that has been selected to run this is G4S. The assessments will run for one hour. My DLA assessment ran for three and a half hours the first time and two hours the second, so alarm bells are ringing for me already about the accuracy of the test and the quality of the personnel being used. This is what is meant by a 'more objective assessment'.

Most people don't know what subjective and objective mean, so they assume subjective is something to be suspicious about and is opinion-based and objective is more factual and evidence-based. No. That isn't what they mean and isn't how they are being utilised here. Something that is objective tends to be simple, empirical and observational. Subjective is complex, theoretical but most importantly: advanced and insightful. Data entry is a job that is inherently objective; a child or PE teacher could do it. The person who has to interpret that data is more qualified, on higher pay and talented even though their job is subjective: they are relying on years of experience and study to make determinations. When the Coalition said they were going to make assessments more objective and scoffed at the subjectiveness of what is currently in place, they were playing to prejudices among populists and anti-intellectuals in their political base and the wider population. It's why the Work Capability Assessment for ESA does not require an actual medical practitioner to run it, but it would be madness to overrule the experience and education of doctors and nurses in hospitals and replace their diagnostic methods with anything like 'an objective assessment'.


If I volunteer and get selected for a trial assessment, I'll be assisting in one of the most malicious attacks being committed in the Welfare Reform bill. On the other hand I'll have something to write about and will have scared the daylights out of a G4S employee with tales of my day-to-day living. But at this point I'm inclined to believe that giving the DWP data to help them tune the criteria will simply allow them to do it to serve their intentions, not alter what those intentions are. If they see a lot of Autistics being paid less benefits, they will be delighted, not shocked.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Case #4: The League of Shameless

Not only have they started conflating benefit fraud with fraud throughout the public sector after being caught conflating it with error, it hasn't made them apologise, it hasn't made them accept responsibility. It just gave them another excuse to cherry-pick something else, which in this case is to make an issue out of customer error costing more than fraud or official error.
Not both together you understand, that would be something tangibly real to be concerned about. No, it's higher than them both....separately.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Case #4: The Atos Cycle

Did you know that ninety-million percent of those trying to claim ESA dropped their claim before they could be assessed? Isn't that just the smoking gun (of a Texas Sharpshooter no doubt) that shows a huge number of claimants for disability and sickness benefits are fake? I mean you see in the figures how they run when they see an objective assessment of their supposed 'condition' is coming at them.

Note: some of the press releases which earned Chris Grayling a referral to the Cabinet Office for misconduct have disappeared from the DWP website, but aren't we lucky The National Archives are often over-looked and probably would have refused a request to remove stuff. No wonder Tim Berners-Lee suggested that everything the government has, they should put online. This is the missing press release for January, but the one for April is currently unobtainable. The difference between the missing January and April press releases and the February one (apart from it being only about the Aberdeen and Burnley IB-ESA transfer trials rather than nationwide figures) that is still available is that the missing two are the ones that attracted complaints. The Cabinet Office response to The Broken of Britain was that "Chris Grayling is the very model of a modern major general...".

EDIT: I make a terrible mistake and apologise. The links I had to the press releases were correct when I first had them but don't work any more. Further speculations I make about why the 'press releases are missing' are an epic failure to apply Occam's Razor on my part as I was unable to spot the press releases in the list on the DWP website after my links failed. The major point of the post, regarding the natural out-take of claimants coming off benefits not being factored in official claims of 'people who stopped their claim before or during assessment' and of the extraordinary number of ESA claimants in the Assessment phase- remain unchanged. Read on. 

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Case #3: A Brief History of This Week

The Work Programme has begun. Across the land the DWP press release is being regurgitated in the mainstream media, the same outlets who came so very late to the far advanced debate on welfare reform. Scrutiny has been small and confined to Comment pieces, with their limited influence on public awareness and opinion. There are so many Facts that should have been reported as News long ago but haven't. The Work Programme is presented as revolutionary, as new and by extension: well-intentioned.

I wrote a piece for Comment is Free, angrily rebutting these notions. The Work Programme is not new, it has no innovative ideas behind it, just tired old ones and it most certainly is not built upon goodwill towards those seeking work. It is little different to the model the Labour government used for the Flexible New Deal, which Chris Grayling vaguely but passionately criticised and I emphasise the 'vague' here because if he had gone into specifics they would have equally applied to the design of the Work Programme.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Case #1: Why Welfare Reform Will Be A Disaster (..for the Coalition)

Sometimes things blow up in your face, take an unexpected turn, like when you use your online pseudonym for some serious undercover investigative work but someone you know recognises you and calls your actual name very loudly across the room. Sometimes they go smoothly, random events line up wonderfully in your favour as if someone is playing Tetris with your hygiene on the day, that girl you like and the last strawberry she is eyeing up, which you get because you were closest. Sometimes both of these things happen together(that girl you like may sometimes yell your name followed by 'greedy bastard') and if you're the irritable sort, it's worse than if things just simply went wrong altogether.

That is what happens when I spend days hunting for legal cases concerning DLA and trying to write a summary of the effects that rulings have had in shaping it over 18 years, only to then discover halfway through a certain link which reveals Disability Alliance have already done it. I am reminded while using it of something that has gnawed at me for a while and that is what happens to these rulings when DLA is replaced by PIP? I asked one of the experts at Citizens Advice and she agreed it was very likely they would not be carried over to PIP. I mentioned this to my MP and he at least grasped the problem quickly: these decisions were often based on the Disability Discrimination Act, so if they are reversed due to DLA reform, they're simply going to happen again. These rulings against the DWP will be repeated and because of the precedents set down by the rulings last time, the claimants will almost certainly win. The DWP will then have to back-date all the withdrawn payments and will have incurred massive costs whilst saving absolutely 'zero bloody money'.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Factual Sodomy; Thrusting The Truth Where The Sun Doesn't Shine.

With The Hardest Hit protest march in London today, there has been a sudden spike in traffic to this investigation due to my shameless linking on the Guardian and other places. With this opportunity I felt the need to gather the evidence spread around the blog into one place to summarise certain Facts which are vital to the national discourse on social security for disabled people. At the end of this day, the hardest hit will be those taking the un-lubricated points of data in the tender nethers.

Disability benefits have not been uncontrollably rising in X number of years.

Click to enlarge
This first graph is taken from the Harrington Report, although it is labelled 'Incapacity Benefit' please be aware that IB was introduced in 1995, replacing Invalidity Benefit which is what is represented prior to that date. Invalidity Benefit rose suddenly when DLA was introduced, likely because increased awareness led to an up-take in what was an under-claimed benefit.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Case #3: Moral Kombat 2

There is something called 'Blogging Against Disablism Day' which I had not been informed about and so had no chance to plan this at all. No investigation, no data analysis or evidence-gathering. Having to report on disablism at such short notice eats into my self-management and makes everything I do and say rubbish. Complete rubbish. I'd better think of something good to do with disablism and quickly before you click 'read more'.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Case #5: Playing Simon Says With Disability Living Allowance

Remember this concept, in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court the said Yankee from the future, with advanced knowledge of astronomy persuades a crowd of medieval Daily Mail readers(or it could work on modern Daily Mail readers too) that unless they let him go he will blot out the sun. He knows that an eclipse will happen and when it does they will believe he caused it, not understanding the nature of his prior knowledge. The theme of prior knowledge of something being used to infer control over it is important to understanding what comes next and a possible prediction the ministers in charge of Welfare reform are probably aware of.

Disability Living Allowance was introduced in 1992 and some much-needed context on the Welfare reform 'debate' in Britain is provided by this 1997 BBC report, which I strongly recommend no one overlooks. These benefits didn't just drop out the sky out of the kindness of Tory hearts: they were replacements for previously existing benefits which in the case of Incapacity Benefit was intended to provide stricter criteria than Invalidity Benefit. It was a partial success: Incapacity Benefit has never gone up despite what this misleading graph from the Harrington Review says.

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

In Soviet Britain, Government Works For Contractors

When the Work Programme was announced to the press this week the press release states falsely and many newspapers copied that the Citizens Advice Bureau would be taking part as a sub-contractor. Chris Grayling is behind it unsurprisingly, not deterred by the fact that he has been referred to the Cabinet Office for breaching the ministerial code for putting out overtly political and misleading press releases through the DWP.

I was at CAB today and asked the boss about it and she was furious. They are aware of this and she explained what had happened.


Thursday, 31 March 2011

Moral Kombat

This is a post I made on Comment is Free in response to a CiF Belief article asking:

What are the ethics of welfare reform?
Comment is Free published two responses, one by Amelia Shellan and the other by Nick Spencer. Considering the importance of this subject right now, even though the question is general rather than specific to current welfare reforms going through Parliament, I thought I should make a response in the comment section. I re-post it here because I'm a view-seeking whore. 

It should first be said there is no 'holy grail' of welfare reform, there can be no welfare system on which an overwhelming majority of people can agree is fine. This is because there are two competing worldviews about it and I am going to be blatantly unfair to one of them because I think this perspective deserves it, it has earned it. There are those that believe in social security and those that plain and simply do not. In much of the west, those who are in favour have long won the argument and it's impossible to disagree; so most opponents sugar-coat their ideals by saying they want a welfare system but with exceptions, nuances and often dishonest, inaccurate and unbalanced conditions. If what they wanted were to be implemented, it would be as good as there being no social security at all. Hence when the usual justifications for reforms or opposition to greater social security coverage are trotted out: expense, fraud etc, numbers should always be demanded. In the case of fraud, if they are unable to say what level of fraud is tolerable(not to be confused with 'acceptable') or they say 'zero', then they are either not taking the subject seriously or do not actually believe in any social security system.


Friday, 25 March 2011

Turning Around 38 Degrees and Going Home

Just over two weeks ago, 38 Degrees published the results of their poll on what they should campaign for next.

They can claim some considerable credit for preventing the privatisation of forests and for raising awareness on library closures. 38 Degrees has considerable influence to mobilise people in public opposition, an opposition currently missing in Parliament. They were for many, the single greatest hope for punching much of the disability-denying parts of the Welfare Reform Bill into the dust, which wouldn't be difficult once it was publicised because the justification for reform of disability benefits is so delicate it might as well be made of talcum powder.

The most popular proposed campaign just a short while earlier was that of stopping the cuts to Disability Living Allowance. Then, 38 Degrees decided to open up the poll to a much wider number of people. Now, the direction of the poll was not being decided by those most informed of a wide number of progressive issues, but vested interests and campaigners for other things. This meant that DLA stopped being the top issue, the one that needs addressing most urgently as the danger is so near and affecting those with the least means to be heard in the media and national discourse. Once it has been done, it can not be undone and the government are trying their damn hardest to get it out the door before non-disabled campaigners realise what's happening and come to our rescue.


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A Well-Known Back Problem Called 'Psychosis'

Taxi drivers are great, as one-half of the demographic who should be running the country(alongside hairdressers) they are a mountain of insight, knowledge and ideas. How did the National Autistic Society manage to find me the one cabby in the whole of London who has no opinions? He stays so quiet it's like he's trying to protect a fabulous singing voice.

It was nice of them to pay for taxis to get us back to our respective train stations after they hosted the lobby session at Portcullis House last Wednesday, if you even remember me making a hoo-hah about it and writing of my encounter with Maria Miller the minister for disabled people. She's responsible for the pitiless attack on the disabled reforming Disability Living Allowance.

This cab driver was tranquil and at inner peace no matter how intensely I looked at his ear. He could have asked us what we'd been up to, how our day had been, what about these politicians innit? Nothing. His cab was a library with the bookshelves stuffed with carpet and curtains. Then my support worker(who was there to prevent me first from doing anything stupid and second to prevent anyone doing anything stupid with me) made life return to normal with "that woman looked...strange." She was talking about Maria Miller. "Maria Miller? Aye she did" said one of the people we were sharing the cab with. "She seems so youthful, but I can't tell why. It's her face, it's just very...."



Thursday, 17 March 2011

These Aren't The Voids You're Looking For

About seven hours ago I was in Portcullis House. The scanners having failed to scan, the camera unable to take a clear picture(my image on film or a screen will always appear as a black silhouette), I walked unhindered after using the Yorkshirian mind-trick through the building. If all you hear when a Yorkshireman speaks is an incoherent blurb that conveys some sense of injustice and distrust of foreigners(anyone not from Yorkshire) then it has worked on you and you have no recollection of what they've made you do or think. In all I got to meet with three MPs at the National Autistic Society's lobby session including my own. I had odds running in my head about who would actually turn up and Maria Miller the minister for disabled people was there; right at the end for 15 minutes. I knew everyone would want a turn with her, she knew everyone would want a turn with her and having had the chance to observe her personally I quickly cottoned onto something.

Maria Miller does the gish gallop, a verbal dance where you are made to listen to her and it's no longer a dialogue but a monologue. You're just a recipient of her message and she's just really trying to help you. Miller is in her comfort zone when she faces as few questions as possible and she makes it difficult for anyone to do so or elaborate or get clarification. She changes the topic, she decides the pace of the conversation and the premises on which a debate is based. She is very Cameron-like and quite a few people saw the resemblance.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Enemas of Enterprise

An old friend used to say money talks. Since he got counselling and some medication he no longer has those hallucinations. Money is though the method by which most people deal with most people. Those who do not wish to be materialistic wish they could stop caring about money, but they can't. There are orphaned kittens and they need money. Scientific research needs money. Even the Royal Mint needs money and they're minted. If you care about anything, you are forced by the direction of history and the fate of our civilisation to care about money; what it is doing, what it is being used for and why the American dollar note seems deliberately designed to send conspiracy theorists crazy.

Money, is a political issue. Money is the reason why we are 'all in this together' whether like it or not. Channel 4 are the first mainstream media outlet to finally arrive on the scene of the out-sourcing industry and are there to repeat the same things bloggers have been trying to raise awareness of for some time now. Last night's Dispatches reported on the rise of the largest private out-sourcing companies, who take-over public services and turn them into profit-making enterprises, still funded from the public purse. They cream off much of the savings as profit and when asked to lower their prices, simply cut their costs more and pass them on to others whether they be schoolchildren, prisoners or the jobless.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Case #5: How To Be Autistic

Stop standing up straight, start slouching and don't wash. It's not like anyone ever compliments you for doing the opposite; it's like they expect you to look smart, alert and neat for no reason at all. If you're reading this at the same hour I tend to write these dispatches, you're probably already there. That's the hard bit over, seriously. But be warned that to be Autistic is to be a one-legged man winning every ass-kicking contest and depending on whether you're Autistic or Neurotypical determines your interpretation of that metaphor.

If you're not Autistic you think this means a person of disadvantage able to do what they shouldn't be able to better than those conventionally thought to be better-equipped for it. If you are Autistic you will immediately have cottoned onto there being no ass-kicking contests that you have heard of and if there are any, no one goes to watch them. No matter how awesome you are, you have to be awesome by yourself.

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Empire Strikes Rich

Most businesses have narrow profit margins. A single McDonald's franchise outlet can have an annual turnover of up to five million pounds if they're in the right place, but this doesn't mean they're profitable; their running costs can almost overlap their income. They have high staff turnover, uniforms, utility bills, maintenance, franchise payments to the McDonald's company, Happy Meals are rumoured to be loss-leaders(get 'em young), a truly scary fast-deploying fire extinguishing system which almost literally causes involuntary evacuation of both the building and bowels. I worked in a McDonald's; it's like playing the Sims only you get caked in grease and cooked alive for miss-clicking.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

A Time And a Place To Break Cover

My sister took me to the Magna Science Museum in Rotherham last week. The site of a former steelworks closed in 1993 and converted into a family tour on what went into the record-breaking steel production and manufacturing innovations of the 20th century. Had I been born in another time, there would have been a place for me in South Yorkshire's factories but it was not meant to be. But before I'd even gone in I received a phone call.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Indiana Balrin and The Temple of Dumb

A note to those who don't know me from before the blog; I post as username Arec Balrin on the Guardian website. This is the second supplement from my article for Comment is Free.

The Phantom Menace in Starbucks Bin

When I wrote a piece for Comment is Free last month, there was more I wanted to write which wouldn't have all fitted in the main article, not by a long-shot. As all threads do, the thread in the comments below the line slowly died and fewer people read the supplements I wrote. I've decided to reproduce them here for recognition's sake as I can hardly stick them on a CV. Here is the first, the second will be posted tomorrow evening.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Distortion For Dummies (And a Reference for The Rest of Us)

In Case file #4 I asked you to remember something about Labour introducing the Pension Credit just as the first baby-boomers were beginning their retirement, which almost certainly would have pushed Income Support claims up as the over 60s made up more than half the claimants. Instead of Income Support, they would receive Pension Credit with the added benefit that the means-test would not punish them for having a bit of savings and look mostly at their income instead.

Friday, 25 February 2011

A Very Familiar Shapeshifter

It's about to happen, the signs are there that the Coalition is considering a PR attack on Income Support claimants or gearing itself up for one if that decision has already been made, just as what has happened with Incapacity Benefit, ESA, DLA and Jobseekers Allowance claimants. Income Support comes just behind Jobseekers Allowance in the IFS estimate of welfare spending for 2010.

It is as I mentioned earlier in the case, the only other benefit an unemployed claimant can live on. The claimant will either be a person on income-based JSA or ESA and with a low income, or they will be ineligible for them but otherwise not able to work either because they are pregnant, a carer or only able to work part-time. It's not the hardest benefit to claim(the honour held by Disability Living Allowance), but it is possibly the most complicated. It's ripe for plundering and there are few who understand it well enough to challenge what might happen to it. It's one thing to confess ignorance, but another entirely to confess defeat and I am loath to. It's simply not possible to become informed just by reading.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Footprints of Chicken Little

You're probably not a Yorkshireman. You might be, but statistics say that despite our virility non-Yorkshiremen outnumber Yorkshiremen by 1:1,140. The world is playing it safe.

You should play it safe too as you've already had quite a bit to read if you're following this investigation and could be in danger of having your non-Autistic non-Yorkshire brains give up on you. So from here this investigation will be broken up into smaller posts. First, let's look at the DWP figures(similar to the ONS figures) for Jobseekers Allowance in a time series. Go on, look at it.

Channel 4 Missed The Texas Sharpshooter

Let the manliness of the Texan never be called into question. Let him be elevated to his rightful place far above his peers, less he threaten you more politely than any man has ever threatened anyone. You should be scared for it is said that the Texas sharpshooter rarely misses and gun ownership in Texas is rather high.

But let is also be said that a Yorkshireman makes any Texan look like a gay vegan.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Long-term Joblessness, Never Knowingly Undersold

Case #1 is the investigation into the largest and most important mystery in these files: Why?

This question may be insoluble to Man or Machine, but not to species Homo Asperger. There has to be a reason why policy-makers for at least a decade now have followed a strategy that doesn't work, that enriches the contractors that feed off of it and does nothing for those it is supposed to benefit.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Who is Mason Dixon?(Autistic)

Mason Dixon, Autistic is a character played by the famous actor Arec Balrin, known for great Hollywood celluloid like The Hunt for Red October, Mercury Rising and Team America.

After finishing filming on Team America, Arec was replaced by an imposter and has not been able to find work since the doppelgänger brain-washed the world into believing he was the one-true actor. Now Arec has been on Jobseeker's Allowance and Disability Living Allowance since 2007 and in desperation has sought answers to questions that have vexed him as he struggled to find work.