Saturday, April 19, 2008


The EU is discussing possible legislation which could enable people to sue spiritualists and clairvoyants who get predictions wrong.
Presumably this would be aimed primarily at practitioners who give face-to-face consultations. But sharp legal minds adept at finding loopholes in laws could soon have field days nitpicking it to find a wider application.
Those highly paid astrologers who make daily paper predictions for every star sign, plus weekly telephone ones and annual long range forecasts at the start of each year might find themselves in not just in hot but lethally boiling water.
‘My stars said it was a good day for getting a new job and getting married. I didn’t get the job and my marriage was a disaster which ended in divorce,’ a plaintiff might tell a Court in a claim for damages for the pain and distress he or she believes was caused by a faulty forecast.
Lawyers could argue for weeks and months about the gullibility and naivety of a claimant and make much of many people’s need to blame someone else when things go wrong.
But there is also the matter of consumer rights. People who consult clairvoyants and astrologers are consumers of their services.
It would take only a single litigant to win one case to see astrologers written off as expensive charlatans. Their predictions, one of the most popular features in tabloid papers and magazines, would vanish overnight.
This would be a great sadness for the millions who find the stars compulsive reading which they promptly forget - though some top executives read their stars immediately prior to power meetings, Princess Diana consulted several astrologers and Nancy Reagan was reported to have put her trust in the stars.
But if you don’t want to go to Court, you might be entitled to a revised prediction.
The Daily Mail’s popular astrologer, Jonathan Cainer, was unable to give a satisfactory answer when asked on TV why he had not even seen a dark hint of trouble on the American horizon prior to 9/11. On BBC2 on New Year’s Eve he predicted a booming world economy in 2008 and a woman would be elected American President. Two months later he admitted in his column that he might have got it wrong about Hillary Clinton. So predictions can be revised.
The big problem with predicting the future is that even the most careful reading of the signs and the stars cannot tell exactly how it will turn out. Just ask that other bunch of astrologers, the economists who read the signs in the business world and almost invariably get their predictions wrong.
They didn’t see the sub prime problems, which were only a 3,500 mile ocean away, coming. So just how can a long traverse of Saturn millions of miles away in the remote universe or the Moon in Leo possibly signal it’s a good day to dig the garden without hurting your back?
If you think about it, our own pasts are a far better clue to the future than a clairvoyant’s or astrologer’s predictions. We all develop patterns of behaviour and are prone to repeat what we have done in the past. If we want to make the future different and perhaps better, that is what we need to change.
EU legislation which might enable people to sue over wrong predictions is the Nanny Superstate in overdrive and would only prolong the agony of disappointment. They should butt out and leave us to grieve privately over lost hopes before we get on with our lives.
Upstaged by the Pope, still in the long shadow of his predecessor, Tony Blair, and virtually unheard of by the American public, Prime Minister Gordon Brown struggled to get noticed in the US this week.
‘He is not yet an easily recognisable superstar like Thatcher or Blair,’ was how Sky News political editor Adam Boulton, who accompanied the PM on the three day trip to New York, Washington and Boston, diplomatically understated Brown’s invisibility.
‘But Mr Brown is pressing on doggedly with his charm offensive on the TV networks,’ added Boulton, trying to sound upbeat.
As the Mr Brown is totally devoid of charm, charging around television studios demanding air time is more like his style.
Rip off cowboy builders have long been notorious. Usually small time operators, they are likely to have moved on and left town before your house floods, the roof falls in or the whole building collapses as a result of their shoddy work at a rip off price.
The big time boys who build roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and public buildings think they are a higher class of builders.
But as this week’s Office of Fair Trading report reveals they are just a higher class of cowboys who have rigged bills, fixed prices and ripped off the taxpayer to the tune of £12 billion.
Like high class hookers, they get vast sums for plying the same trade as the poor workers on the street.
The Bollywood style launch in Bangalore of the Indian Premier League of Twenty20 cricket sounds the death knell for Lords as the grand home of the game and the beginning of the end for days long Test Matches.
This exciting, crowd-pulling game, which will make players as rich as soccer stars, will consign the Tests and probably one day cricket to history faster than the PC did the typewriter as the sport follows the economy powerhouse east. Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008


So many people tell lies on their CVs that Independent Television recently made a programme about it.
So many people tell lies on television that one presenter, Claudia Winkleman, is almost making a trade mark of it.
‘I tell lies,’ she regularly cheerfully admits, smiling sweetly.
At best, lies are intended to spare pain or are simply spin, putting the best face on the facts or what’s on offer.
At worst, as the TV programme revealed, they can amount to fraud and people get jobs for which they have no qualifications and could hurt others.
Some people become so convinced by the lies they tell that they come to believe them. The lies become the truth in their minds.
I have no idea if the current crop of candidates competing for Sir Alan Sugar’s £100,000 job in the new series of The Apprentice are telling lies or the truth when they talk about their skills.
What I do know is they sound so unconvincing that it’s hard to believe that they believe what they are saying and are not simply honouring the popular pervasive mantra of ‘being positive.’
Like candidates in previous years, all look young enough to have attended a course on how to market yourself to get a job.
There is nothing wrong with these courses - you get nowhere without marketing these days - except that they reflect the current preoccupation that marketing and selling yourself is often more important than the skills to do the job for which you are applying.
Style wins out over substance, marketing over job skills.
This may help to explain that when put to the test on various jobs in The Apprentice, much vaunted management, leadership and team playing skills seem to vanish and are replaced by outstanding incompetence and a total lack of intelligence and even commonsense - not to mention panic and loathing of one another.
Obviously, The Apprentice candidates are not the brightest people in their generation. If they were they wouldn’t be taking part in The Apprentice. Few people with real career prospects would risk throwing them all up to spend three months closeted in claustrophobic comfort with people they may come to hate - not to mention the humiliation which is the show’s stock-in-trade.
The Apprentice is simply a brilliant promotional vehicle for Sir Alan while the exposure of the frailties and weaknesses of the candidates, who will all bar one get fired, makes compulsive TV and Internet viewing.
They may also be blighted by the current obsession with instant fame and have put themselves up for the show in the hope that their 15 minutes of fame may open doors to other opportunities and a more enduring renown.
A psychiatrist who worked on the Big Brother series gave up the job when he saw the destructive effect it had on the lives of the competitors afterwards and the difficulties they had returning to obscurity after they had been booted out of the big house.
Unless there are contract clauses banning it, there is an excellent and equally compulsive viewing series to be made called After The Apprentice - exploring the effect appearing on the show has had on candidates’ lives. Now that prospective employers know their failings, has the show helped or hindered their job prospects?
I suspect it may have done them little good and the sad truth may be that not even a fee of £100,000 each to take part in such a TV show could compensate for the damage the original programme may have done to them psychologically and not that much help as they return to life as the losers most of them were from the beginning.
Apart from the tragic disappearance of their elder daughter, Madeleine, the biggest problem Kate and Gerry McCann now have seems to be their resentment they cannot control the media.
They want publicity but not if they don’t like what is reported about them.
From the start this unfortunate couple have enjoyed the unique benefit of top, high powered PR help - a chunk of it at taxpayers’ expense when Gordon Brown sent the then government spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, to Portugal to oversee the publicity and ensure a high profile for the ‘Find Madeleine’ campaign.
But since their successful libel action against the Express Group of newspapers and the hint more might follow, neither they nor Mitchell, who now works full time for Team McCann, seem quite so sure footed in handling the media.
One day this week Mitchell was saying there seemed little point in the couple returning to Portugal, where they remain official suspects, to stage a reconstruction unless there was the publicity benefit of it being broadcast Crime Watch style.
The next Gerry McCann's whining voice was bemoaning the possibility of a ‘media circus’ if they did.
And events seem to overtake them.
Off to Brussels on a high profile trip to impress the European Parliament with the need for an Amber Alert for missing children in Europe, they must have hoped for favourable publicity the next day. Instead what made headlines was a Portuguese police leak that the day she disappeared Madeleine had asked her mother why she and her siblings had been left to cry by themselves in the dark the previous night.
Mitchell had to play catch-up on the TV news, denouncing the leak as ‘a blatant attempt to smear them’ and demanding a full investigation and the Portuguese government ‘get a grip.’
If they want to keep their search for Madeleine in the news, the McCanns also need to get a grip, accept that not every story will be favourable to them and stop their unremitting efforts to try to control and manipulate the media. Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2008. All Rights Reserved

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