Saturday, March 08, 2008

Monster [of a] debate

I watched Samantha Power, foreign advisor to Barack Obama, being interviewed on British TV one day last week and thought what a fresh faced and articulate young lady se was. Although it was obvious that she, hence Obama, had no real logistical plan for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq she did manage to answer questions relating to this topic quite well, without actually answering them. This can be frustrating for the electorate but it does bode well for a spokesperson for a future Presidential hopeful when put on the spot.

Now I don’t condone a politician or advisor for batting questions sideways, but when they sometimes speak the truth in a language that the electorate understands why do we then expect them to resign or retract what they have said even after an apology has been made?

If, in the heat of the moment or in a throw away statement, Senator Hilary Clinton is described as being a Monster why are we and the media as horrified as we appear to be?

I do not think that anyone believes her to be a green-eyed-furry-baby-eating kind of monster, we probably do not expect her to be the type of greedy, self obsessed monster that would sent its army into places like Iraq without a plan that goes any further than ‘winning’ the war.

You can be a ‘Monster’ of a politician, meaning bigger and better than anyone else, you could also be described as being a monster because you have already embarked on a course of knocking the other candidate within your own party, leaving the opposition, Republicans, to march onwards relatively unscathed [for now].

The Democratic party in the US are in a unique position in as much that they are about to provide either a Black or a Woman president, provided they stop all the public displays of dirty campaign bickering.

If the Democrats do not go all the way to the White House they have missed out on a Monster opportunity.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

How may I help you?

I am not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, I would not discriminate against any one due the colour of their skin or even on religious beliefs [which is more than I could say for some religious fanatics, however, I digress].

What I can say is that I am becoming increasingly frustrated by companies that insist on moving their call centres overseas, especially to India. Frequently I have to speak to someone who gets annoyed and frustrated at not being able to understand either what I am saying or nor I him/her.

This has happened on so many occasions that I am now considering moving any business I have, be it motor insurance, mortgage, internet provider, to companies that make it a policy to keep their customer services in the UK.

The cultural differences can be noted even during the short time it takes for me to make an inquiry with just such a call centre. I cannot believe how arrogant they sound, even though this may not be the case.

I was intrigued to see that a behind the scenes programme has been made about call centres, [Channel Four tonight at 21.00 pm] entitled Phone Rage. I only hope the programme makers show a typical call centre in India to prove my point, otherwise it will be full of wise-cracking Geordies, who are infinitely better at answering phones than any group of people I know. At least they treat me like a fellow human.

In fact I think we should move all call centres to the north of England as any rage will be taken out of a call the minute a northerner answers the phone.

Our IT department at work places all its calls through a centre in Newcastle and at the end of the call when asked ‘Is there anything else we can do for you today Paul?’ wouldn’t it nice to be able to reply ‘Actually, whilst I am on the phone I have an inquiry regarding my Car Insurance’ ‘Sure, I will put you through to Michelle who deals with Insurance, thank you for calling’ [Obviously omitting the infuriating phrase, ‘have a nice day’].

As it is I have had to speak to three different operatives to obtain a seven day drive away insurance cover note from the same company I have my current motor insurance with, which has resulted in me have two insurance policies running side by side for the period of seven days and means I have to go through the call centre again to cancel one of them. Not only that but also one department could’ve sent the cover note but only via fax, which meant the car could not be taxed, whilst the other could send it via post, with a four to five maximum postal period, whilst a third could sent it via email, but could not comprehend the idea that the Car Dealership I wanted it all sending to began with the Number O for Oscar and not 0 [Zero]. If the note arrives on time tomorrow it will be due to my persistence and not through any supposed efficiency on their part.

The next time I am informed that my call may be recorded for training purposes I may have to ask what form of training they are referring to, probably endurance training for the caller.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Religious bias

I have just read an article in the Guardian newspaper and I am not surprised to read that faith schools are siphoning the cream of the bunch for themselves and why shouldn’t they? They obviously want the best results from their students and the rewards it can bring by obtaining higher ratings in the league tables.

Despite evidence that this form of unfair selective process leads to school entrances not being reflective of the communities in which the school sits the leaders of religious schools will deny any ill practices.

I have a friend who is a very religious man and is on the board of governors at the faith school his children have all attended and he will passionately defend his belief in the benefits he believes schools such as this can bring. He will not openly admit it but he also believes that his school benefits from a below average intake of children from socially poorer families.

This is the same school that another friend of mine is so desperate to get her child into she is willing to attend Sunday morning service at her adopted catholic church. She is in essence pretending to be catholic in order to improve her daughter’s chances of being accepted into the school.

She is not the first parent to ‘change’ religion or convert just before the end of one academic period in their child’s life and neither will she be the last if the practice of selective discrimination is allowed to continue. If all schools were equal and religion were kept out of schools it would prevent some of these prejudges from preventing all our children from receiving the education they rightly deserve.