If the NHS is ‘fair’, give me unfairness any day

Men without piles

Did I ever tell you about the time the National Health Service relieved me of my piles? It’s a painful story — and for many of you, no doubt, already far, far more information than you want. But I do think it goes a long way towards explaining our ongoing Eloi-like subservience to the great, slobbering, brutish NHS Morlock which we so rose-tintedly delude ourselves is still the ‘Envy of the World’.

Look, if you don’t want to read about piles (‘’roids’ if you’re American), I should skip on a few pars. The key thing to recognise is that from tiny beginnings, they mutate into an all-consuming misery. Enjoying a night in front of the TV? Yeah, but the piles! Having a relaxing bath? Yeah, but the piles! Fancy going riding? Eek! You can see why Napoleon — a fellow sufferer — felt compelled to conquer half the world. Anything to distract yourself from what’s going on down below.

So naturally when a surgeon relieves you of the buggers, you feel exceedingly grateful. I remember coming round after my op in my overstretched local hospital — King’s in south London — two or three years back, and thinking the thought that occurs to all British citizens at some time or another: ‘Gawd bless you NHS! You have saved my sorry arse!’

One reason for my gratitude was that the treatment was free. Gosh, I love being given expensive things for free, don’t you? I like it so much I think I’d almost rather be poor and get lots of free stuff than I would be rich and be able to afford anything I wanted. Free stuff — thanks, lovely Dan from Mongoose cricket bats — feels like a gift from God; proof that life isn’t quite as sucky and thankless and horribly unfair as you imagine.

Another reason for my gratitude was that I wasn’t dead. You do half expect it when you go into an NHS ward. You think, ‘Well if they don’t get my records mixed up with that of a patient marked “Incurable. Please put this man out of his misery now” (or, worse: “Penidectomy”), then I’m almost certain to contract MRSA, as virtually everyone does in NHS hospitals these days, and spend the whole of the rest of my life in a living death.’ (Not that I knew at the time I hadn’t got MRSA. I just took a lucky guess.)

And I suppose the final reason for my gratitude — as with my near drowning experience a fortnight ago — was the pure experience value. Lying in the beds either side of me were people you never get to share such intimate experiences with in the normal course of sheltered, middle-class life: people from the kind of families who mug you or knife you in a pub fight, only wearing their kindly, sympathetic human face because they’re ill in hospital and you’re ill in hospital and it’s all very bonding.

I think I might just have given you the three main reasons why so many British people are so infatuated with their beloved NHS: it’s free; it quite often cures you; it treats everyone equally. But does any of these put the NHS beyond criticism? I should say not, and let’s deal with them one by one.

(to read more, click here)

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Redfaced Greenpeace insists ‘we didn’t make it up’ – we just ’emotionalised the issue’ | James Delingpole

August 21, 2009

Here is a deliciously watchable video of Gerd Leipold, the leader of Greenpeace, squirming like a stuck pig under cross-examination by the BBC’s Stephen Sackur when accused of putting out scaremongering misinformation. (Hat Tips: Not Evil Just Wrong and Watts Up With That)

In a July 15 press release entitled “Urgent Action Needed As Arctic Ice Melts”, Greenpeace shrieked that there will be an ice-free arctic by 2030 thanks to global warming. Interviewing Leipold on the BBC’s Hardtalk programme, Sackur pooh-poohs this risible claim by pointing out that the Greenland ice sheet is a mass of 1.6 million square kilometres with a depth in the middle of 3 kilometres; and that it had survived much warmer periods than the present. He accuses Leipold of “misleading information” and using “exaggeration and alarmism”.

After initially trying to brazen it out, Leipold is forced to surrender when Sackur tells him he’s just come back from the Greenland ice shelf so he knows whereof he speaks.

“I don’t think it will be melting by 2030,” Leipold reluctantly concedes. “That may have been a mistake.”

But it’s OK for Greenpeace to make these, ahem, “mistakes” Leipold suggests because “We as a pressure group have to emotionalise issues and we’re not ashamed of emotionalising issues.” Phew. So, absolutely no need to apologise then, for fomenting the kind of nonsense which nudges political leaders into making costly, wrongheaded decisions, which damage the global economy, which hurt consumers, and which divert scarce resources from areas where they are most needed.

Later in the interview, Leipold recovers his poise sufficiently to demand that US and the rest of the world – as I’d probably put it if I were adopting the techniques of a Greenpeace press release writer – bomb their economies back to the dark ages, return their populations to mud huts and restore the barter system.

“We will definitely have to move to a different concept of growth … The lifestyle of the rich in the world is not a sustainable model,” Leipold said. “If you take the lifestyle, its cost on the environment, and you multiply it with the billions of people and an increasing world population, you come up with numbers which are truly scary.”

I really can’t decide which is more enjoyable here. The humiliation of Greenpeace’s worrying lack of scruples when promoting the “Anthropogenic Global Warming” myth. Or the sterling performance – and by a man in the pay of the BBC, for heaven’s sake – of Stephen Sackur in exposing it.

I do definitely know one thing though. Stephen Sackur is most definitely this blog’s official Hero Of The Week.

Related posts:

  1. Free the Greenpeace 30! (And spare us any more whingeing from Damon Albarn, Jude Law and that bloke out of the Clash)
  2. Greenpeace and the IPCC: time, surely, for a Climate Masada?
  3. Greenpeace goes postal
  4. Climategate: Greenpeace hoist by its own petard

 

Charlie Brooker on Hannan: not even close to being funny | James Delingpole

August 19, 2009

Charlie Brooker’s columns are so funny and brilliantly written they actually make you want to buy the Guardian. As a media satirist, he is second to few – right up there with Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris. When he mocked me mercilessly in print about a documentary on the Upper Class I made a few years back, I considered it the most tremendous honour.

Why is he so great? Well apart from his gloriously surreal analogies, his no-holds-barred fearlessness, his mastery of Swiftian invective and his cruelly brilliant sense of humour, he’s someone who really knows his stuff. When he has ago at TV and media culture, he does so from the position of someone who understands what makes good art and why quality is something we should always be striving for. (He did a fantastic TV essay once on Clangers and Noggin The Nog creator Oliver Postgate, so moving it made me want to weep). Which is why he can be so entertainingly harsh on anything that falls short of his exacting standards.

Here, though, he is on TV this week offering his considered view on Dan Hannan and the NHS. (Hat Tip: David S Taylor and Tory Outcast)

“Dan Hannan is a boggle-eyed, slap-headed, unpleasant, revolting, heartless, ****-brained, attention-grabbing, foetid excuse for a prick.”

Normally the joy of Brooker is that whatever he says, you think: “That’s so true.” But in this case it just isn’t. Or funny. And I’m really not saying that because I’m a friend of Dan’s. (There’s probably even a schadenfreude part of me which quite enjoys seeing the overexposed baldie being given his comeuppance) (xxxxDan). I’m saying it because, judging Brooker by his own high standards, it’s lame, totally uninsightful, woefully unamusing. And because, worst of all, it evinces exactly the kind of intellectually lazy, identikit-left, student-bar, group-think which Brooker is normally so quick to condemn and mock.

God how I would like to see Brooker satirizing his own performance here. By the end he’d feel so awful he’d never dare show his face on screen again.

 

Why are we still feeding our soldiers into the Taliban mincing machine? | James Delingpole

19th August 2009

The type of warfare all soldiers most loathe and fear is the type where you can’t shoot back. Every “Tom” relishes a firefight. It’s why he (or she) joined up. What takes its toll – as it did in Vietnam, and is now doing in Afghanistan – is the nerve-shredding anxiety of going out day after day on patrol knowing with near-certainty that somewhere on your route is the IED which is going to kill or maim you or one of your mates.

Talk to any politician who supports our Afghan engagement, and they’re quite likely to confide privately that the relatively small few deaths our military has suffered in Helmand is an acceptable price to pay for its front line role in the war on terror. I disagree. Sure the number of soldiers killed so far is quite small (we lost twice as many for example in the Fifties Cyprus “Emergency”) but what should concern us at least as much is the figure the MOD won’t give us: how many soldiers are being blinded, or losing arms or legs (sometimes both), or being otherwise maimed. The blessing of modern medical technology is also its curse: so long as they get to you in time, the military’s doctors can now enable you to survive the sort of wounds that given the choice you might not want to survive.

Why are we still feeding our soldiers into this Afghan mincing machine? I don’t mean “Why are we there?” – that’s a separate debate. I mean why are we adopting a strategy which seems to require tactics absolutely 100 per cent guaranteed to ensure that month after month (perhaps less in winter, when the fighting season stops) we get soldier after soldier coming back from Afghanistan, either in a coffin or crippled for life?

Reading the background to each new fatality is like experiencing Groundhog Day. Time and again it’s the same story: soldiers patrolling on a limited number of fixed (and easily recognised) patrol routes – “mowing the lawn” as it’s known – are either ambushed by the Taliban or blown up by one of several IEDs. During the evacuation of the casualty, another IED – cunningly placed for just this eventuality – takes out the rescue team. Carnage.

To lose one or two soldiers in this way might be considered unfortunate. But when you repeat the same mistake again and again, the phrase “Lions led by Donkeys”  comes to mind. And also “lambs to the slaughter.”

Don’t ask me what our exact strategy should be in Afghanistan. I don’t know. But whatever it is, as Richard North’s superb Defence of The Realm blog never tires of pointing out – simply cannot be one which requires our men on the ground to sacrifice their lives so unnecessarily. Obviously, we need more helicopters (to avoid the mined roads), more IED resistant vehicles (MRAPs) and as Gen Sir Richard Dannatt says today, more comprehensive surveillance. We also need many more men: a Coalition force level of at least 500,000 reckons an experienced former senior officer of my acquaintance.

What we most need, though, is understanding from our political leaders (less Brown, perhaps, who is beyond redemption, but at least from the coming Tory government) that this Afghan engagement is not something which can be brought to any even vaguely successful conclusion through half-measures.

Lt Col William Pender (rtd) nailed the problem exactly when he wrote to the Telegraph earlier this week:

The fundamental question, both for the Government and for Nato (if it is to remain a meaningful alliance), is whether defeat of the Taliban and establishment of a stable, long-term democracy in Afghanistan really is a vital interest.

If it is vital, then since national security is the prime duty of any government, whatever it takes in manpower – but primarily willpower – from all Nato member nations, must be allocated to fulfilling this aim. If this means putting economies on a war footing – fine.

If, on the other hand, these aims are merely desirable rather than vital – and with governments led by politicians with no personal military experience, and more concerned with interest rates, credit crunches and unemployment – why, let them say so. Then the nations that contribute combat troops can resign themselves to long-term attrition of their soldiers committed to an unwinnable war.

Or as one of the Toms sweltering out in Helmand might more succinctly put it: “Either **** or get off the pot.”

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No. 6 in Total Politics Media Blogs? Moi???

To my enormous surprise I’ve been voted number six most popular journalist blogger by the Total Politics website. Blimey! I thought to do well in these things you had to send round-robins to everyone on your internet mailing list urging them to vote – which I didn’t – so I can honestly say I’m gobsmacked. And delighted. And very proud to be part of such a winning team.

I think I’m right in saying (and I’m not going to double check in case it turns out not to be true) that we Telegraph bloggers had more names in the top 40 then any other organ. Leading us is the mighty Ben Brogan (number 2, only beaten by the excellent Spectator Coffee House), with boy Ed West fast up the rails at 24, the doughty Gerald Warner at 27, Bruno Waterfield at 31 and Ambrose Evans Pritchard at 39. My theory as to why this might be so? Because we’re all so ****ing sound, that’s why.

Anyway, thank you to those out of 1500 voters who nominated us. You have brightened my day and suddenly made it seem all worthwhile. Now all we need to do is change the government, change the country, change the world. Then we’ll be sorted.

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‘Dark Energy’ reminds us: consensus has no place in real science | James Delingpole

18th August 2009

So Dark Energy might not exist after all? Good. I’m delighted to hear it. Not that I have anything personal against this mysterious substance which until very recently scientists believed made up three quarters of the universe. (In fact if it does exist, I want some in a jar in my office. It sounds pretty cool).

No, the reason I’m pleased is because it shows the healthy, normal process of science in action.

Dark Energy was invented by cosmologists “to fit Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity into reality after modern space telescopes discovered that the Universe was not behaving as it should.”

“According to Einstein’s work, the speed at which the Universe is expanding following the Big Bang should be slower than it actually is and this unexplained anomaly threatened to turn the whole theory upside down. In order to reconcile this problem the concept of dark energy was invented”.

“But now Blake Temple and Joel Smoller, mathematicians at the University of California and the University of Michigan, believe they have come up with a whole new set of calculations that allow for all the sums to add up without the need for this controversial substance.”

“The research could change the way astronomers view the composition of our Universe.”

Or then again, it might not. Let’s just be grateful, shall we, that Temple and Smoller have been free to publish their research, without being vilified by the rest of the scientific community, risking their funding being withdrawn and being described as “dark matter deniers.”

As Aussie geology professor Ian Plimer points out in his excellent Heaven And Earth – global warming: the missing science, the row over whether Anthropogenic Global Warming does or doesn’t exist has led to a widespread public misconception about the process of science. It is not a static belief system but an ongoing learning process.

“Science is married to evidence derived from observation, measurement and experiment. Evidence is fraught with healthy uncertainties and scientists argue about the methods, accuracy and repeatability and veracity of data collection. If the data can be validated, then this body of new evidence awaits explanation. The explanation is called a scientific theory. This scientific theory must be abandoned or modified if the evidence is not repeatable or if the evidence is not coherent with previously validated evidence. With new evidence theories are abandoned or refined. A scientific hypothesis tests a concept by the collection and analysis of evidence. Hypotheses are invalidated by just one item of contrary evidence, no matter how much confirming evidence is present. Science progresses by abandoning theories and hypotheses and creating new explanations for validated evidence.”

In short, science is not, never has been and never should or can be about “consensus”. There is no consensus on dark matter. Anyone who claims that there is one on climate change or Anthropogenic Global Warming is living on another planet.

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Why I’m Richer for Being Poorer

The joy of making do.

Who’d have thought that scrimping and saving and eating leftovers could be rewarding? James Delingpole explains why he doesn’t miss his old, affluent lifestyle as much as he thought he would.

James Delingpole graphic

The best fishcakes I’ve ever eaten were the ones I had the other night. This had less to do with their culinary sophistication – just a bit of leftover cod, some mash, a little parsley from the garden, a sprinkling of flour and some salt and black pepper – than with how they made me feel. With each mouthful, I thought, ‘This is nice. This reminds me of when I was a child in the 70s.’ More importantly, it made me think, ‘Gosh. Aren’t I brilliant? I wonder how much money I’ve just saved?’

How different things are from two or three years ago. Back then, it would never have occurred to me to use up that paltry half dish of sorry-looking leftover fish. I would have said, ‘There’s barely enough to feed one there, let alone two,’ and slung it in the bin. And why not? Back in those days there was money to spare…

No, don’t worry. This isn’t another of those pieces arguing how wonderful it is, how chastening and good for the soul that we’re currently in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Speaking for myself – and I’m sure for most of you too – I’m finding the new austerity pretty grim. The daily gnawing anxiety; the cheeseparing; the constant ‘no you can’t have that’ to the uncomprehending children; the rows; the lack of holidays. This is not the life I spent the past 25 years working so hard for.

But this is not going to be a wallowing-in-misery piece either. If there’s one thing I have learnt amid all the teeth-grinding worry, it’s how remarkably adaptable the human spirit is. Sure, I’m not totally happy, but I don’t think I’m any less happy than I was when I had more money. Life hasn’t got significantly worse; it’s just different. Instead of enjoying the ‘lifestyle’ of a 90s professional, I’ve now gone back in time to experience the scrimp-and-save world of my grandparents.

(to read more, click here)

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How The West Was Lost (ctd): the Burkini | James Delingpole

August 16, 2009

The Burkini. You’d think it was a joke invention: a bit like the grotesque “Mankini” so hilariously sported by Sacha Baron Cohen on all those posters for Borat. What, after all, could be more absurd than melding the not-notably-sexy Muslim dress – the Burka – with the kind of achingly seductive kit worn by Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman?

But no, the Burkini is for real. It was designed by an Lebanese Australian Aheda Zanetti to enable women in thrall to extreme Saudi-style dress codes to go swimming on beaches and in public baths without incurring a beating or instant divorce from their characteristically tolerant and cosmopolitan menfolk.

“Practical and stylish,” is how they’re described on a BBC website. Hmm, up to a point. Practical if your primary goal is to protect yourself from box jellyfish stings; stylish, maybe, if your points of comparison are a gorilla outfit, or a Barbara Cartland pink dress, or a tent. But I do think we should be wary of viewing the burkini  in terms of a fashion story or an amusing novelty, when it also represents something more sinister. I’m sure the designer didn’t intend this, but the Burkini has become yet another weapon in the Islamist assault on Western cultural values.

When most of us think of militant Islam, we tend to think in terms of suicide bombs on London buses, planes flying into Twin Towers and 19-year olds getting their limbs blown off by Taliban IEDs. But as any extremist Imam could tell you, there are at least two ways in which a good Muslim can further the ongoing struggle to convert the whole world from the House of War (that’s the non-Muslim world) to the House of Islam (ie global submission to the will of Allah): one (see above) is by poison or the sword; the other is by honey.

So the Burkini is part of the honey campaign: all those parts of the Islamist war on the West that have nothing to do with killing people. This campaign includes everything from schoolgirls fighting legal battles (with the help of one Cherie Blair) to fight for their inalienable right to go to school dressed like a sack, to Muslim supermarket workers trying to dictate the terms of their employment (refusing to sell alcohol), to the ongoing campaign (apparently endorsed by our own Archbishop of Canterbury) for certain civil decisions in the Muslim “community” to be made under Sharia law. The goal is to establish the view that Islam is a religion should be allowed to trump everything, including the cultural norms of any non-Muslim society in which its adherents find themselves living.

Why should we care if women want to dress up in burkinis? Well we shouldn’t. It’s a free country. Where we should worry very much is when, in the name of weasel concepts like “tolerance”, “respect” and Multiculturalism, the wider society is bullied into adopting similar “Muslim” (ie Saudi-style, Wahhabist) dress codes too.

The Sunday Telegraph has provided three examples of this dangerous trend:

Croydon council in south London runs separate one-and-a half-hour swimming sessions for Muslim men and  women every Saturday and Sunday at Thornton Heath Leisure Centre.

Swimmers were told last week on the centre’s website that “during special Muslim sessions male costumes must cover the body from the navel to the knee and females must be covered from the neck to the ankles and wrists”

There are similar rules at Scunthorpe Leisure Centre, in North Lincolnshire, where “users must follow the required dress code for this session (T-shirts and shorts/leggings that cover below the knee)”.

In Glasgow, a men-only swimming session is organised by a local mosque group at North Woodside Leisure Centre, at which swimmers must be covered from navel to knee.

This is outrageous. A public swimming pool is not a mosque. It is a secular, leisure facility designed for (and funded by) the local community. If parts of that community feel unable to use those facilities for religious or cultural reasons, well that should be their problem and no one else’s. I dare say naturists object to the trunks/bathing costume dress code operated by local public baths, too. But I don’t think any of us would think that constitutes an argument for introducing special “Nudie” hours at local swimming pools, fun though that might be.

As I remember from my days living in East London (at the much lamented Haggerston Leisure Centre), it’s quite maddening when, after a hard week’s work, you suddenly find you can’t go for a Saturday evening swim because the pool has been set aside for the purposes of religious apartheid.

But apart from being annoying, it’s an absolute disaster for social cohesion. The reason for home-grown Muslim suicide bombers is that British Muslims are constantly encouraged to think of themselves as being different and apart from mainstream British society. Heaven knows it’s a message they hear often enough from their Imams. Is it really something they should be hearing from their local councils and swimming baths as well?

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Posted on 16th August 2009Author jamesCategories BlogTags , , , , , ,

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Reason no 12867 why not to vote Tory: the NHS | James Delingpole

14th August 2009

Britain’s National Health Service is an embarrassment to the Western world and the only thing that puzzles me more than President Obama’s admiration for this creaking, archaic, quasi-Stalinist, state-health-allocation relic is our future Prime Minister Dave Cameron’s.

At least President Obama has the excuse of being a Socialist. Dave Cameron is a Conservative. Supposedly. Yet listening to the Today programme this morning as his dreary, Pooterish Health Spokesman Andrew Lansley officially and emphatically distanced himself, Cameron and the Tory party from Dan Hannan’s “negative and distorted” view of the NHS, one did yet again find oneself asking the question: “Why the **** should we vote for these Blairite pantywaists? Does any of them – Hannan excepted – have a clue what are meant by ‘Tory values’?”

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Stephen Hawking would not have been left to die by the NHS | James Delingpole

August 14, 2009

Gosh, I’m not half enjoying all the horror stories American Conservatives are using to try to sabotage President Obama’s plans for universal healthcare. I particularly like the one about the Death Committee (do they mean NICE?) which sits to decide whether or not our elderly are to get life-saving treatment. But I fear the one about Stephen Hawking was pushing it a bit.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the Land of Freedom needs NHS-style universal healthcare like it needs an Ebola pandemic or Al Gore. But if you’re going to fight a propaganda war, I do think it’s important not to give ammunition to the other side. Choosing Stephen Hawking as your poster boy to ‘prove’ that President Obama’s healthcare proposals will be a disaster is probably not a good idea when a) he’s one of Obama’s “deep” admirers and is about to get feted by him at an award ceremony and b) when what you claim about him isn’t actually true.

No of course – contrary to the claim in a US business magazine – Professor Hawking wouldn’t have been allowed to die by the NHS if he had been British. We know this because he is, er, British and was being treated by the NHS for his Motor Neurone Disease long before he got famous writing the world’s most unread bestseller and became easily rich enough to afford private.

But I’m still not sure what this proves. The fact that Professor Hawking was not left to die by the NHS seems to me in no wise to demonstrate that our stagnant, creaky, wasteful system is not ripe for an overhaul. In one of the parallel universes possibly envisioned in his Brief History Of Time (don’t know: never read it; I’ve done War And Peace, though, which is a corker), it is quite possible that one Britain is running a much cheaper and infinitely more effective, Dan-Hannan-approved Singapore style health system; and that another Britain is abrim with splendid, clean, MRSA-free hospitals run by stern, buxom matrons and paid for by philanthropists who can afford to do so because of the splendidly low tax regime of a prime minister who very obviously isn’t Dave Cameron.

We just don’t know, do we?

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