Saturday, August 2

Orthodox Jews vote for ignorance

I found this entire episode completely perplexing. So this is what I understand. The ultra orthodox Jews in Israel already enjoy a whole host of exceptions that are not available to other Israeli's. The fact that this kind of intellectual hypocrisy and stupidity is evident is not surprising, any country created on the basis of religion will keep on having to take decisions which make people turn around and say, "are you guys mad or what?". This intersection between religion and politics is always contentious, but certain decisions that the state makes can be seriously stupid.

So, in short, the Israeli government will be forced to fund the studies of 24,000 students who will now be exempt from acquiring any knowledge of useless and way too stupid subjects such as English, Mathematics, Biology, computers, etc.

We see this behaviour day in and day out. Every time a country steps into the religious arena, it creates a boo boo. (Not that education is a panacea, check this out, for all those who think that educating people will reduce support for terrorism, a recent survey found that Almost third of Muslim students on Britain's campuses believe killing in the name of religion can be justified) And I have no reason to believe that these ultra-orthodox Jews, with their "special" education, are any different.

But what about the state? Surely the state has a duty to make sure that all its students are educated? If you mistreat your child physically, the state will take your child away. But here we have a situation that some idiot seniors actually are forcing the state to keep their children in ignorance. I do not mind that they are home schooled or what have you, but here's the amazing thing, you not only force the state to support absolutely useless mouths but force the state to perpetuate that.

Here's a research paper from the Bank of Israel and Ben-Gurion University that I found (unfortunately in Hebrew, but the English abstract was alarming). I quote some excerpts:

Haredi poverty is exceptionally high, with a share of 20% of the Israeli poor and a population share half that size. Its major causes are very high Haredi fertility (a population growth of 6% p.a.), reducing household income per capita and the mother’s earning capacity; its independent education system’s neglect (particularly among boys) of materially important subjects for future earning capacity such as Mathematics, English and digital skills; and low labor-force participation of Haredi men, due to prolonged learning in religious seminars (Yeshiva), often deeply into the prime working age.

Some more background here, but it was seriously strange to read about how somebody can actively stop their children from learning and a supposedly liberal and intelligent state will allow hundreds of thousands of students to grow up ignorant and a drag on the citizens of the state going forward. Truly, sometimes religion does sound like a virus. Makes people do something very strange indeed.

Bad son of mine?

I know this is blasphemy, but I couldn't resist the pun!

If God is the vengeful chap he is supposed to be (I dont think so..) is this how he might punish his son? By striking the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil with lightning? That you are no son of mine?

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Thursday, July 31

Even more Govt Incompetence

Here's another spectacular from the government. I am going to copy and paste massively.

With Labour all at sea and rumours of mutiny clouding round Captain Gordon Brown, is his old flagship, HMS Tax Credits, heading for the breaker’s yard? Word is that many in Whitehall now believe that this once-vaunted policy is unseaworthy – so much so that insiders expect it to be scuttled by the next government. (Meaning the Tories? “Possibly,” says one senior figure. “Or possibly by a Labour prime minister who is not Gordon Brown.”) Snippets emerging from insiders suggest tax credits were doomed to disaster from their launch five years ago.
They were the brainchild of Mr Brown when he was chancellor. He wanted to end the stigma associated with benefits and bring everyone into the tax system under his ever more powerful Treasury. Tax credits started just before the Inland Revenue was merged with Customs. Who looked after the merger? As former top official Sir Richard Mottram pointed out to MPs this month, the man responsible was Sir Gus O’Donnell, then top official at the Treasury and now cabinet secretary. I am told Sir Gus sounded out various private sector men about his merger plans. One said they would not work, others said they might – but they did not want to be quoted officially. Sir David Varney, who had worked for Shell and for O2, commended Sir Gus’s report – and became the first chairman of the new Revenue & Customs.
The trouble was that the tax credits scheme meant HMRC also had to absorb a great chunk of benefits payments from the Department of Work and Pensions. I am told that senior people at DWP (Sir Richard was the top official there then) offered to advise but were turned down.
With no experience of dealing with the poor, at the end of the year HMRC started demanding money back from vulnerable families who had been overpaid in tax credits. Often people had no way of paying and found it next to impossible to appeal. Unlike DWP, which does not try to reclaim money when it has been at fault, the HMRC is reluctant to admit to official mistakes. By March this year HMRC was looking to claw back £2.8bn from claimants but £1.8bn of that is “in doubt”, meaning it will probably have to be written off. No wonder the National Audit Office has just “qualified” HMRC’s accounts for the sixth year running because of error and fraud in tax credits.
As Sir Richard told the MPs, the merging of HMRC was a “massive task of organisation and culture . . . and it was being done in parallel with implementing, in the case of tax credits, something that was of, well, doubtful implementability”.
To add to the chaos, Sir David agreed a deal with the Treasury involving rigid plans for cutting 24,000 HMRC jobs – more than a quarter. (I am told one private sector adviser said this was not so much a strategic plan as a set of assertions.) Sir David then left with part of his contract still to run. (Was he hoping to go to the Lords? Was he expecting another job offer? Speculation continues.)
Meanwhile I learn that plans to transfer yet more benefit claimants from DWP on to HMRC’s tax credits have been shelved (for good, according to insiders). The real victims of this gargantuan Whitehall mess are millions of hard-up families.
Now a feisty pressure group called Tax Credit Casualties, representing more than 1,000 families, is demanding an amnesty on all HMRC overpayments. Any precedent for such a thing? Just as tax credits were being launched here, Australia declared an amnesty on the overpayment of welfare benefits. Why? Anger at bullying, incompetent authorities – and an election coming up. Just like here.

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A spectacular example of Govt Incompetence

I could not help but just read this disbelievingly. I quote a horrible example

They all seemed to agree that there was too much “change at the top” in government with the machinery “in constant turmoil” and, as Sir John put it, “the most colossal risks are taken, absolutely walking off the edge of a cliff”. The trouble is that there is often a conflict between good management and politics – and few ministers have any experience of management.

Sir Richard, once the top official at the Ministry of Defence, had a corker of an example.“I remember, without giving names” – pity, that – “a secretary of state for defence where I was explaining to him that he was now responsible for a budget of £30bn and 400,000 people,” said Sir Richard. “He began to go a little bit, sort of ... green and he said in a very charming way: ‘But the largest number of people I have ever managed is three.’ I said to him – I am not being funny about this – ‘That is not a problem. We have a system here that will ensure that you can run the MoD. You will be responsible for a top team of 10, 15 or 20 people but you are not required to manage 400,000 people and £30bn. I am required to manage £30bn on your behalf’.’

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