Monday, January 30, 2006

Seven sevens

Jonathan Calder at Liberal England has tagged me for the seven sevens thing that is doing the rounds of the blogs. Herewith my contribution:

Seven things to do before I die:

1: Ride a horse again
2: Move to Shropshire or New England
3. Get an office bigger than a broom cupboard
4. Fire a gun
5. Learn to waltz
6. Learn to ski
7. Buy a two seater sports car

Seven things I cannot do:

1. Waltz (or perform any kind of dance, actually)
2. Sing
3. Ski
4. Shoot
5. Afford a private education for my children
6. Find time to take a holiday
7. Tolerate socialism

Seven things that attract me to...Argentina

1. Space
2. Horses
3. Space
4. Gauchos
5. Space
6. Asados
7. Space

Seven things I often say:

1. Do you need your nappy changed again?
2. I'll take a look at it and get back to you
3. Booze up?
4. Marvellous!
5. You've broken it
6. Where's my....?
7. Go and get dressed! Now!

Seven books I love

The History of the Countryside (Oliver Rackham)
Nature's Keepers (Stephen Budiansky)
Lord of the Rings
Atlas Shrugged
Liberty & Freedom (David Hackett Fisher)
The Road to Oxiana (Robert Byron)
Eat The Rich

Seven movies I watch over and over again

I very rarely watch movies more than once, but here goes...

1. Spirited Away
2. Princess Mononoke
3. Pirates of the Caribbean
4. Much Ado About Nothing
5. Rio Bravo
6. Moulin Rouge
7. Red Sorghum

Seven People to join in too:

1. Cicero
2. Shuggy
3. Snafu
4. Outside story
5. Louisa Willoughby
6. Bloggers4Labour
7. Dr Crippen

Apologies to anyone who has already been tagged, or who finds being tagged entirely irritating.

First Home Improvements

I have been phoned regularly by a company calling itself First Home Improvements for a number of years. Despite entreaties to them to leave me alone, and regular complaints to the Telephone Preference Service I have been unable to get them to desist from contacting me. I have no idea what it is they are trying to sell me. As soon as you ask for their telephone number or for more details of who they are they ring off.

Anyone got any suggestions? Pay the directors a visit? Their offices?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A new kind of liberalism

Having watched the Lib Dems vote for the foxhunting ban and their enthusiasm for banning smoking in pubs, I've often wondered if some of them actually have any idea what the word "liberal" means. Confirmation that they don't came today in the Sunday Times:
The Lib Dems face a further blow with some Muslim members threatening to leave because of Hughes’s bisexuality. Last week Hughes said that he had had homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships after being confronted by a tabloid newspaper with evidence that he had telephoned gay chatlines. In previous interviews he had repeatedly denied that he was homosexual.
That a party which professes itself to be liberal can embrace homophobes is truly an indictment of the times in which we live. Whoever they are, they should be flung out of the party now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The most depressing comments thread ever

Harry's Place readers on the education white paper. The only reason state education is crap is that the comprehensives aren't comprehensive enough.

Realisation dawns for Libby Purves....

...or on the other hand perhaps it doesn't.

Libby Purves' opinion piece in the Times today tells us an interesting tale of victims of the NHS trying to help themselves by taking over their local cottage hospital in order to forestall its closure.
The community wants the little hospital; the PCT’s own consultation overwhelmingly proved that, though they staunchly ignored it. So the community — which has already raised hundreds of thousands to support it — proposes to buy the hospital outright. They would issue shares — untradeable, more like a loan note — against the property value. A charitable trust would run it, reserving the right to buy the shares back gradually. It would have a contract with the PCT to provide the beds it still wants; the remaining ones would be used for new services such as dialysis, hospice care and outreach chemotherapy, which would attract income under the new NHS principle of practice-based commissioning by GPs. A decent little hospital would be saved, in a very new Labour spirit of diversity and public-private co-operation, with the more affluent gladly supporting the rest by ethical investment. Which, after all, is how the great Victorian hospitals began.
I had always put Ms Purves down as being an old school statist bleeding heart, but her enthusiasm for this little private experiment suggests that a little light has switched on somewhere in the Purves head and she has started to realise that there are alternatives to state provision.

Unfortunately she still thinks like a slave:

So far, so good. But no official has yet said “yes”, let alone “yes please!”. Watch carefully now: see whether the PCT bureaucrats impede this daring plan because it undermines their desire to show that such hospitals are not necessary, and might raise questions as to why they couldn’t run it properly themselves. See whether the Health Secretary backs it as an example of local responsibility, or whether she pretends not to notice, afraid that a successful small hospital might rock the boat nationally. See whether — if the buyout happens — the new trust gets spitefully loaded with expensive mad regulation on purpose to scupper it. Watch closely. It’s not just about Suffolk.

Someone needs to tell her that if they wait for the bureaucrats or the politicians they will wait a very long time - the officers of the state are in it for themselves.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Was Oaten bugged by the Government?

Spy Blog seems to be putting two and two together and getting five.

Children's books

A couple of hours ago I put the elder baby Bishops down to bed and read them a chapter of the eldest's book. This turned out to be a simply dreadful, poncy, politically correct piece of greeny brainwashing. You can imagine the kind of thing: friendly trolls forming litter patrols to clean up the multicultural neighbourhood, "hey I know, we could recycle the glass", "Yes, and we could put the green stuff on Dad's compost heap!".

It's not what childhood is about really is it? Childhood is about magic, not about recycling. I hate, and I mean hate, children's books with a message, particularly if it's a woolly socialist message. Our local library has a choice of one kind of children's book and that is, unfortunately, woolly socialist. Something needs to be done and, abhorring violence as I do, I'm afraid that burning down the library is not an option.

So if any readers could help me, what are the best politically incorrrect children's books?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Are the wheels coming off?

Yesterday it was pulling the plug on PFI projects. Today it's pulling the plug on recruitment schemes.

Are the wheels coming off the NHS? I think so, but don't take my word for it:
The standard of health care, despite all the millions poured in by Gordon Brown, is worse than it has ever been in my lifetime. When I started as a doctor, I could genuinely say to patients that they really did not need private health insurance. Better bed and breakfast perhaps, but the NHS still delivered. Now I tell people to keep up their BUPA payments whatever the cost. Sell your daughters into the slave trade if necessary, but do not forgo private medical insurance.
Dr Crippen


And then there's this:

Flexi-work doctor scheme 'threat'
The British Medical Association said it could end up being scrapped because of the financial crisis
or this:

GP incentive payments bear no relation to health benefits for patients?
The British Medical Journal has reported that according to research published in the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy 2006 (11: 27-31), incentive payments in the new NHS contract for primary care bear no relation to likely health benefits for their patients. In fact, the report suggests that in some cases GPs will get paid more for treatments that save fewer lives than they will for treatments that achieve better results.
And these are just stories from the last couple of hours. The NHS is out of control, of that I have no doubt.

Brown operating to type

The Conservative's attempts to paint the Jelly-Bellied Flag Flapper as the roadblock to reform have gone quite well so far. Their cause is helped by the fact that he really is the roadblock to reform as is demonstrated by a short article in the Times "Public Agenda" supplement (not online).

A minor reform was proposed to allow people to register with more than one medical practice, the idea being that they would then be able to visit a doctor near their place of work. Pretty sensible stuff and it might even pay for itself with people no longer having to take half days to go the doctor.

Unfortunately for the thousands of people who might have benefited from this tweaking of the system, Jelly Belly says "no". Like the great lumbering roadblock he is, he is concerned that it would "exacerbate health inequalities and lead some surgeries to close".

He is a reactionary old flag flapper isn't he?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Financial control in the NHS

Here' s a little gem from the Times' report that the Dear Leader is going to pull the plug on lots of PFI projects because they look as though they will bankrupt the trusts.
“Ministers are considering how to make it clearer that PFI schemes have to make financial sense,” a source in the department said.
That the politicians in charge of the NHS feel they have to explain that financial viability is a factor to be considered in setting up a multi-million pound project is the most incredible indictment of the whole Stalinist system that is the NHS.

You have got to be a complete half-wit if you think that socialised medecine is the best solution for this country.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Jelly-bellied flag flapper

Jonathan Calder points out that Kipling would see Gordon Brown's recent attempts to wrap him self in the Union flag as evidence of his being a jelly-bellied flag flapper. And he's probably right. A number of commentators have pointed out just how un-British it all is but I am starting to wonder if they are wrong. The Scots, Irish and Welsh have always enjoyed a bit of flag flapping, both the jelly bellies and the rest. Their national days are a highlight of the calendar and their national dress comes out at the drop of a hat. Certainly a Scotsman in his highland regalia has all the swagger that Jonathan talks about.

Isn't it the English who are more reticent about their nationalism, confining it to sporting occasions and the occasional royal wedding? Scottish friends point out that the absence of English national dress is unsurprising: the full morris dancing regalia doesn't cut quite the right dash with the ladies, and there is little by way of tantalising mystery about what an Englishman is wearing beneath his dancing breeches. The English are more straightforward than that.

So perhaps there is nothing particularly wrong in Gordon Brown asking us to flap our flags together. He's a Scotsman and he doesn't understand. But don't expect the English to join in.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Smoking gun

On free speech

Disillusioned Lefty notes an amusing irony:
"Austria have locked-up a writer - David Irving - for disseminating his view that the atrocities of the Holocaust have been hugely exaggerated. Meanwhile, Turkish authorities have charged various writers and critics - including Orhan Pamuk - for recognising and writing of the horrific extent of the Armenian Genocide. Austria claim that in doing so, Turkey proves itself far too undemocratic to be allowed entry into the European Union. "


David Cameron says he's a liberal

Menzies Campbell says he isn't.

There is something deeply unedifying about listening to two socialists bickering over which one is a liberal.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How do you create bureaucracy?

In the comments thread on one of Dr Crippen's posts, I came across this gem:
I could have missed a post, but I'm staggered no-one has considered the bureaucracy involved in collecting relatively small amounts of money. Did I see someone suggest £5 per GP visit? I don't suppose Dr C remembers those days when Legal aid under the Green Form Scheme meant collecting contributions of a fiver? The paperwork was horrendous.
Now I'm used to the private sector so I'm a bit confused as to how it is possible to turn the collection of small sums of money into a bureaucratic shambles. I spend £5 most days of the week at my local shop without any paperwork being filled in at all. How is it possible to create bureaucracy out of a simple financial transaction.

OK - here's a trial system for the NHS to charge at point of consumption.

Patient: "I've got an appointment to see Dr Crippen at 9:30"
Receptionist: "That will be £5 please"
Patient: "There you go"
Receptionist: "Thank-you. Please take a seat."

There, that wasn't so difficult was it?


"Racial violence, aimed at destroying a simple act of love, defines Britishness as we know it"
Darcus Howe, quoted in the New Statesman.

There is no doubt that this kind of bigotry is very prevalent these days.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What is wrong with the NHS?

1. It's a monopoly.
2. It's free at the point of consumption so people use it frivolously.
3. It's a bureaucracy.
4. It's run by politicians.

There's a few off the top of my head. Feel free to add any more you can think of.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Are attitudes to the NHS changing?

I was struck by a comment in this thread on Samizdata which is perhaps typical of mainstream opinion on the state of the NHS.

Anyway, many political scientists now believe we are moving away from old-style left-right competition to a system in which parties generally agree on ultimate goals but compete on managerial competence. Delegating policy-making to swivel-eyed moonbats who want to privatise the NHS does not convey competence.
It's extraordinary isn't it that the UK is the only developed country which operates a fully state-funded healthcare system. It is also pretty much the worst healthcare system in the developed world. And yet someone who proposes privatising it is a "moonbat".

Don't think so Tomahawk.

Meanwhile, read what NHS Blog Doctor has to say on the subject.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

On private education

Marginal Revolution points me to an interesting article in the Washington Post on the rise of private education in India.
Something similar is happening to the Indian school system...Since the early 1990s the percentage of 6-to-14-year-olds attending private school has jumped from less than a tenth to roughly a quarter of the total in that cohort, according to India's National Council of Applied Economic Research.
For such a startling rise to take place in such a short space of time should give everyone involved in the debate over the government's education white paper pause for thought. There are a billion people in India. If a quarter of them are going to have good quality private education, that's 250 million highly qualified people entering the marketplace. The implications for the global economy are going to be profound - many of these people will be competing directly with the UK for high value-added jobs.

While the UK government dithers over last-century issues like equality, Indians have taken their futures in their own hands and are embracing private education, rejecting poor quality state teaching. And it's not just the wealthy:
James Tooley of the University of Newcastle in Britain has found that in some Indian slums about two-thirds of the children attend private schools, many of which are not officially recognized and so may escape the attention of nationwide surveys.
It's hard to see how future generations of UK graduates will be able to compete, saddled as they are with the state. This is only going to get worse now that Cameron's Conservatives seem to have rejected meaningful reform of the schooling system.

The only chance now seems to be for no frills private education (like the New Model School) to take off in the UK too. Anyone know how it's getting on?