Friday, 9 January 2015

Suey2y And A Circuit Of Binary Statements

Sue Marsh has accepted a position with the new Work Capability Assessment provider Maximus, who hold a number of government contracts. Anyone reading this probably already knows and already knows what their opinion is, based on what I have read elsewhere. I do not yet know what my opinion is and I'm writing this mainly to help me settle on it so I can resume focus. Here are a series of binary statements which can either be true or false, but I believe to be true. 

The world is 'black and white' in terms of what it is, what it allows and how we are able to describe it. 

Anyone that believes otherwise is not thinking clearly or has insufficiently developed communication skills for describing the world. 

They resort to cliches about 'shades of grey' to excuse themselves and to artificially create uncertainty to make others believe their position is understable. 

In fact, what is called 'understanding' is often just a philosophical acceptance that they can't understand something but will treat the matter in a way that maximises beneficial outcomes.

The inability of some to see the black and white world comes down to an inability to properly divide things which are unrelated and associate things which are related. 

"Has Sue made the right choice?" is a poor question.

Sue is a mother and a wife. 

Sue's first and primary responsibility is to her children, then her spouse. 

Sue's choice benefits them most and it benefits them more than if she had chosen differently. 

As a mother and a wife, Sue has made the correct decision.

Sue's primary responsibilities are not exclusive, they exceed but do not negate others.

Sue is a writer who did not choose but accepted the role of campaigner and figurehead to an influential and dynamic disability rights movement when she emerged as a natural leader.

Sue is aware that a great many people invested trust, goodwill, resources in her and her work.

Sue might incorporate that work which she was already spending much of her time on into the work she is going to be doing for Maximus. 

Both roles are only incompatible if Maximus asserts exclusive ownership of Sue's work.

Only if both roles are incompatible does Sue's position as a campaigner become compromised. 

Sue would not agree to a contract without reading and understanding it first. 

If the contract prevents any future campaign work, the value of the contract to Sue and her supporters must exceed that of future campaign work.

ESA and the assessment system are unfit for purpose. 

There is no political support for abolishing them.

There is no evidence that reforming them can improve them to a humane level.

There is abundant evidence that they are flawed in principle.

A humane level of treatment for claimants requires the system and its underlying premises to be abolished. 

This equates to there being no more contracts for assessing claims once that system no longer exists. 

This conflicts with Sue's new role at Maximus.

Sue's role at Maximus can not influence government policy.

Government policy is what makes the process what it is.

The government appointed two academics to perform roles similar to Sue's and they were first pressured secretly into changing their recommendations before having them accepted only in principle and almost none were put into practice.

Sue will resist to the point of being immune to such pressure from her employers and the government.

Sue does not posses the biases demonstrated by the government's reviewers, particularly Malcolm Harrington who stunningly argued with an Oncologist giving evidence over the(lack of) benefits of work for Cancer patients.

Maximus has a record which demonstrates a culture that is very much against disability rights. 

To Maximus, disability rights only exist when they align with the goals of Maximus. 

Maximus insists the role that Sue fills be 'results driven' and we are left to consider by ourselves what they consider to be positive 'results'.

Maximus' description of the ideal candidate requires them to serve primarily the needs to Maximus.

It does not call on the candidate to make the ethical case for business, but to make the business case for whatever improvements, without any specific mention of ethics.

Sue can not change the culture at Maximus, which is focused on the business case and requires her to consider things only from the perspective of a business case.

Maximus can not change Sue either. 

Sue is the product of her history, relationships, experiences.

Maximus as a company is blind to those sorts of things. 

Maximus is behaving consistently with a predictable mindset towards opposition by co-opting a pragmatist.

The benefit to Maximus, apart from Sue's skills if they choose to properly utilise them, is to isolate Sue the pragmatist from idealists and radicals. 

This works on the presumption that none among those margins can be effective like a pragmatist. 

This ignores that Sue is not the only pragmatist. 

This ignores that the movement developed in the UK has not formed into blocs and factions with exclusive boundaries. 

Someone can fall out with Sue over this, but not fall out with me and if I don't fall out with Sue, then that someone is not completely isolated from Sue. I fell out completely with the 'weekend warriors' of 38Degrees and UKUncut who respectively represent in my eyes a Labour party astro-turf campaign and a politically correct collective of comfortable middle-class Social Justice Warriors from Tumblr who abandoned disabled people when we most needed them and took undue credit when the media attention was there. I am not isolated from either of them though because of connections with people steadfast in their idealism and loyalty to those groups and the ones I associate with.

So is the overall answer a shade of grey? 

No, it's the sum of a few hundred completely binary statements, some of which I've managed to type. 

Sue's decision will do good for her and her family. 

Family matters and they have already suffered so much.

Sue's decision might not do good for the cause of disability rights in regards social security, individual prosperity and the welfare state.

It might not do harm either. 

Good things sometimes come from bad decisions, bad things sometimes come out of good decisions. 

This makes basing decisions too much on predicted outcomes potentially dangerous and unethical.

Dire warnings based on predicted outcomes should not therefore prevent a person from doing the right thing for the right reasons.  Vice-versa: doing something you know is wrong because of the promised good or avoided bad does not automatically translate into it being for the right reasons.

I do not know if Sue has chosen the right thing. 

I choose to believe she always does things for the right reasons.

Sue will remain a good person. Maximus will remain a bad company.


  1. So basically, Sue's decided to take the "fuck you buddy" route. It's all well and good waffling on about family coming first, but that was the sentiment of all those scabs who helped undermine the Unions, it's the sentiment of every tory who wants to dismantle the welfare state. Sue has had her mouth stuffed with silver and she'll gladly shut up while people are dragged through the same degrading, inhumane system that she was only too happy to criticise a few months ago. So great for her, she's getting over a grand a week to be a fig leaf for a company that would have been only too happy to kick her, and her family into destitution, now she can sit back in comfort, while thousands, and thousands of vulnerable people are put through the ginder.

    1. I don't find this persuasive, nor have concluded what is initially suggested with the 'so basically'. The more emotional a subject makes me, the greater my instinct to retreat to clarity. I have not witnessed Sue saying "fuck you buddy" to any of us or an approximation of it. A comparison of groups of people to a single individual doesn't produce measurable information. I don't understand why her criticising the system conflicts with taking a job which in its description requires the person to be critical of it. There would be no need for the job if there were not issues to be dealt with; the argument you've constructed there is confusing to me. I don't doubt that Maximus make their decisions strategically without regard to the moral standards of those outside of corporate culture; but I have yet to see a convincing case that they will benefit at the expense of others and that goes for Sue too. The eventual outcome is unknown, even to Maximus who appear to have gambled on one specific outcome which is competing with multiple alternatives and unknown probability. Sue may have made a similar gamble, hoping for a certain outcome that would be more likely to come about if she moved herself towards it. I find no moral flaw here, just a strategic one like the one Maximus appears to have made: banking on an outcome that may or may not happen.

    2. I find the 'fuck you buddy' argument highly persuasive.

      If Sue really was worth £75K, why had no other employer snapped her up long ago? Maximus' tactic was to demoralise the disabled community by taking out a highly visible campaigner. The job description was trumped up for the sole purpose of making Ms. Marsh an offer she felt unable to refuse.

      It's just possible that she may start popping up on Radio 4 or in the Daily Mail over the next few weeks, lecturing the public on how there are too many terminally ill people being placed in the SG instead of on workfare, and calling anyone daring to criticise the WCA an extremist. However if Labour win the election, this tactic may not go down quite as well, and she'll rapidly be sidelined.

      Frankly it looks as if in the longer term, Suey will basically be paid the cash (peanuts to a monkey for a company like Maxumus) just to sit at home in purdah. Well before next Christmas, she'll be redundant, back on benefits, and with all credibility utterly lost. Rendering her unemployable for life.

    3. If you find the argument persuasive, that is sufficient to persuade yourself. I can't rely on it because it strains my very limited cognitive resources to count it in the balance. Short of Sue actually saying 'fuck you' to someone, I can't see any decision she has made even being an equivalent to that because of the leaps in reason required. Yes, I believe Maximus more likely than not sees the job as serving a purpose other than it's own description and I have some fear that this means Sue will not be properly utilised. But I also believe Sue won't accept that and her new colleagues will not manage to justify decisions they could make with Sue involved. It is entirely possible that Sue may completely 'turncoat' and behave as you describe, there may even be parallel universes where it is even likely and even fewer where it actually happens. What I don't see is a chain of reasoning indicating why this is a reasonable conclusion though. Judgements based on predicted outcomes carry dangers, risks that must be justified if relied upon for consequential choices, yet I can think of precious few hypothetical circumstances where that can be done without accounting for how the supposed outcome happens. To say simply that it is possible is patently inadequate; if we made every decision based merely on what is possible then we'd exhaust ourselves with limitless impotent contingencies.

    4. ...On that point- it's kind of exactly what Maximus is doing: reacting to something that may happen if Sue were to remain a belligerent agent. The conclusion I'm drawing close to in my blogpost is that this is the case and they are spending resources however small relative to their capabilities to counter possibilities that are not fixed or limited.

  2. This is very refreshing and clarifying; thank you.

  3. Whatever the rights and wrongs of her taking the position, that is a done deal, and our permission is and always was redundant.

    What I object to now is that she continues to mislead supporters, many of them vulnerable, into believing that she can help them by affecting changes to the WCA. This is false. There is nothing she can do to fundamentally affect the WCA, which is Government policy, successive Government's policy, and will not be changed without orders from the minister responsible.

    Perhaps in a continuing attempt to wrong foot the opposition IDS will announce a change that was already wanted or planned anyway and credit her input as being the reason. Who know? we do know that change is not within her gift, and the fact the she has continued to claim she will change things from within leads me to doubt her motivation in relation to taking the position, and her past record; how much else of that was similarly disingenuous.

    These are not questions I would ever have asked of her without this cynical persistence to mislead.

    1. I believe Sue is sincere in her expressed view that she can improve the ESA claims process by working at Maximus, not trying to mislead. I just think she is wrong based on the existing evidence. She may even be banking on the Conservatives not being in government after the election, leaving Labour or a new coalition free to do what the Conservatives repeatedly refused to even discuss reasonably. That is me speculating though- no judgement in the here and now can be based on that.

      Now in spite of repeated reminders that the problem was not ultimately with the provider, the government seems to have just about got away with the spurious selling point that the WCA has improved and will continue to be improved by the change in provider. But the strategy Maximus has chosen is wrong, simply on the logic: limited resources however extensive are exhausted by trying to address a limitless number of possibilities. They already spent at least 30% of their allocation by under-bidding for the contract by £50 million, it's like they're really trying hard to be stupid. When I play a strategy game, I never commit a third of my resources to a single decision unless it means winning the whole game right there and then.

      The correct strategic decision when faced with multiple possible outcomes it not to try predicting the most likely or spread betting with contingencies. The correct decision is to rule out what is definitely not possible. Maximus has failed to do that and has done so by not listening properly to critics of the process who have made it clear that it is flawed in principle and design. The only thing Maximus can succeed in doing is proving that conclusion, backed by enormous qualitative and quantitative evidence, is in fact wrong or is undeniably true. Both outcomes are desirable- if the impossible is achieve and the process improved to the point of being humane, fair, workable, accurate and lawful, that's what we initially wanted and some have been waiting for since 1995. It can be done without the obstinate political resistance. If not, then it means that despite having been given every chance and the use of a prominent campaigner in a key position with a vested interest in pursuing that very goal, the government and contractor could not improve the system adequately because no one can.

  4. As I'm sure you know, Litchfield doesn't think the WCA can be improved any more and is unfit for purpose, but shamefully stops short of calling for its withdrawal.

    What's left is the cynicism of flowers, false clocks, and fake timetables to fool the victims into complying with their own destruction.

  5. I agree that Sue Marsh must always put her Family and herself first before others but that's where this argument falls apart?

    Sue has not said she's doing this for her family and herself, she's tried to insinuate that taking this job will enable her to alter things from inside instead of just saying this will improve her and her families everyday life?

    I know many campaigners who have worked as hard as Sue Marsh even harder but do not crave the limelight like she does, many fools regard her like a prophet, she is very good at manipulating people but not the ones that actually count?

    If this new employment improves her life and her family then good but please don't play the Martyr like she has plenty of times before? Tell it like it is Sue, your not going to do any good for the Sick & Disabled community by taking employment up with MAXIMUS, if you seriously think you are then maybe it's time you sought expert help????

    1. I can't work out what you are saying beyond being borderline abusive about Sue. This is not the comments section of some tabloid, it's not the place for some random emotive verbal diarrhea. Make a point clearly if you will, but unless it has the purpose of giving myself and others something to actually consider, it's just white noise.

  6. Doing something because it's best for your family doesn't relieve an individual of moral duty to the wider society. IDS is doing what's best for his terms of having a well paid job. The highly-placed people at Maximus are doing what's best for their families.

    This argument that Sue Marsh has no other considerations to make beyond her own family is facile. Furthermore, what is best at any given time may not prove so in the long run. Circumstances change, people become ill and need support who don't need it now.

    1. I do not make such an argument in my post, I specifically mention that whilst family obligation is primary it does not make ethics disappears.

    2. I didn't mean by you, I meant by the supporters of Sue Marsh who have used the 'best for her family' argument like a trump card in any exchanges on Twitter and elsewhere.

  7. I realise that you may very well not read this,given it is some time since you have made a blog.Allow me an attempt at catharsis.There has been a few times when my better half has become ill and the future uncertain.Indeed,any future at all in question.Well,the future is certain,now,and it is the end.How long ,we do not know.Once accepted,ironically ,although inevitably hearbreaking there is solace that preparations may be made.Not all have that dubious privilege.Far too young,so much more to give but no more pain or struggle.There is no God,I defy anyone to convince me otherwise.Left to rot a la IDS description but,excuse the swearing ,more fucking decent than he could even pretend to be,more contribution than ere the self proclaimed hard working taxpayer.Society is fucked when ignorance is celebrated over knowledge;when contribution is based not on real value but contrived ones regardless of positivity.Regards.

  8. She passed away peacefully,at home surrounded by me,mum and brother.If it had to be,it couldn't have been better.26th August,what would have been her Dad's birthday.I am a widower at 53.Avoidance of the sanctioning regime is my aim,but of course out of necessity I may be unable to avoid.I have reached the exalted heights of superscrounger.