Saturday, April 30, 2022

WEEKENDER: Doctors in Distress, by Wiggia

The last couple of weeks or so have seen the NHS pushing back on the fact its services are falling further and further down the quality ladder that we who pay for it have the right to expect.

We have had the GP on television defending the almost non-existent service by blaming overwork and burnout as being a big part of the problem; for a branch of the medical profession that has had two years of near holiday you have to have some gall to come up with that one.

And only this morning, the 29th, Dr Hilary Jones on GMB was talking about doctors saying 1 in 4 were suicidal or that they all knew someone in the profession that felt that way. I would suggest if that many doctors are genuinely considering suicide they are in the wrong profession. Dr Jones spoke of how they all love their jobs etc. etc. despite himself not practising medicine in any meaningful way since 1989, being permanently on television and spouting the government guidelines and spreading misinformation for the last two years, especially about numbers in hospital that had Covid and were unvaccinated.

Since returning to normal, i.e. the poor service before Covid, for many it has deteriorated further, yes there are (if you are lucky) still surgeries operating in a manner that benefits the patient but increasingly they are not, and one has to ask how come those can perform at a near normal level as opposed to the majority that can’t or wont.

The government statement that two-thirds of GPs are working just three days a week, confirms what many of us have observed; though there is no mention of those working just one or two days a week, and I do actually know of one of the single day variety, not every week but most: she and her husband, a surgeon, spent the best part of two years not working or just turning up now and again, and now normal service means he is away working while she does a day a week. My own designated doctor is now doing two days a week at the surgery, as against the previous one.

The same surgery has eight doctors on its books yet on the infrequent visits there by me and others only two plus a duty doctor can be physically seen to be there at any one time. The large waiting area with just three or four waiting gives lie to the phrase we are back to normal: pre Covid you could not get an appointment easily but the majority of doctors, not all, were in attendance and the waiting area full.

The same goes for nursing staff. Pre Covid they had two nurse practitioners and four nurses on duty most days; now, a visit for a blood test my wife has to have on a regular basis was with the only one on duty or working - she said it was because of Easter! And they now have no nurse practitioners.
Last time the staff were not seeing people for blood tests, health checks etc. they were out helping to give jabs to people for extra income…

We now have the BMA proposing that surgeries will only be open from Monday to Friday between 9 and 5. Ours is only open those hours now with a lunch break, so what is new?

Another doctor interviewed on TV used the 'burnout' phrase to defend the slating many GPs are now getting. When asked how that could be if they are only working three days he referred to 12 hour working days as the problem; that is still only a thirty-six hour week if true and hardly likely to create burnoout.

This all goes back to before the pandemic. Many GP surgeries, for lack of a better explanation, have used the pandemic as an excuse to cut back their activities further. Yes, we are lacking GPs on a ratio of doctors per thousand people as compared to our European neighbours; that is not the fault of the patient who still pays for an ever-diminishing service: governments are at fault for that.

You cannot have an ever increasing population without catering for it and successive governments have failed to do anything about recruitment and training of extra doctors for decades, and everything else; now that fact is coming home to roost.

But that does not give the current protectors of the infirm (!) the right to cut their hours as they already have and receive the same salaries courtesy of the same patients and tax payers. Much of this goes back to the contract that they got from Blair who just gave them everything they asked for without any questions asked or consequences.

With that in mind and the fact they are in the top flight of pay compared with their European neighbours what is the problem? It's not pay or hours any more. Being paid for patients on the books should be scrapped; our surgery with the same number of GPs on its books has an increase in patients over ten years of roughly 50% The complaint that patients waste appointment time with trivial problems or no problems is valid, but the doctors who complain of this have never pushed for an appointment fee that would weed out that particular problem; a fee like that is normal almost  everywhere else in the world and there are no problems getting an appointment.

The NHS gives the impression that it has no will to change in any way that will help the patient. It  continually blames underfunding which has been dealt with in previous articles by many who know more about it than I do. If there is no change in the areas that are continually highlighted it will simply disappear, or will it? Remember the 1.3 million who work for it.

So how about our elected representatives getting their collective fingers out of their backsides and doing something about it? Vague promises of more doctors in ten years' time does nothing for the poor sod waiting three years in agony for a knee replacement as in this area and not being in a position to afford to go private and have the operation performed by the same burnt-out doctor; at this moment in time there is something completely immoral about that.

Over the last few years I have  been able to give stories of incompetence at all levels in the NHS. The bureaucracy has increased at the expense of patient care and unneeded positions are still being advertised and filled, the money for which could be better spent. I have spelled out that side of things before, and so have many others.

The latest tale of woe came last week from a close friend of the wife who lives in north London where she has resided for over forty years. She never had a problem getting to see a GP at her local surgery until four years ago when they amalgamated with two other surgeries to create a ‘medical centre’ (oh, the familiarity!) since when she has to get through the gatekeepers in the morning and failing, try the following morning, ad infinitum.

She has been suffering from shooting pains in her back whenever she moves and can hardly walk. It has not gone away and after three weeks of this persevered on the phone and got a telephone appointment.
The doctor phones and she gives an account of the problem, he immediately says it’s arthritis; she replies I don’t have arthritis; he says oh, it is common in people who are getting old and suggests she rest, which because she can hardly move is what she has been doing anyway; and that was that, really.
No sending for examination or an x-ray which without even seeing someone in person would be the only way one could say that arthritis was the problem. This dismissive flippant dismissal with phone consultations is anecdotally becoming more common, making the process completely pointless.

Footnote to this: the pain did not go away, she went private for a consultation and was sent for an x-ray: no arthritis - a suspected trapped nerve, collapsed disc, but a scan will tell. This is the second friend who because of a useless GP has had to go private at that level to discover the truth about a problem. Not only is it not good enough and a disgrace but we who pay should be able to claim back the costs from the NHS for failing to do the job they get paid for in the first place. Once again in that same situation in many other countries they can claim because they have an insurance input; here we have to put up with whatever is deemed good enough at the time, which now is not much.

And can anyone tell me why the surgeries are still carrying on with all this mask insistence when my own experience at the local hospital and others shows many medical staff are not wearing them? We now, because of the media and endless NHS mandates, have a substantial percentage of the population that will be wearing masks forever. These same people actually believe that not wearing a mask is risking everyone else's health despite being triple/quadruple vaccinated.

Mark Steyn’s blistering opener on the results of booster jabs is worth watching. Several medical professionals and a statistician have attempted to query aspects of what he said but the essence of what he shows stands up.

And just why are young children being urged to get a jab for something that doesn’t affect them in any meaningful way with something that has no long term testing results and won't for some time?

On the same theme,  this has to be one of the scariest videos by a total waddock that I have seen, and there are plenty of them. He and the grinning selected nodding donkeys on with him are a total disgrace. This has to be one of the most insidious propaganda videos of recent times. We haven’t quite reached that level here but not from lack of trying; I have seen quite a few of our medical professionals even at the fag end of this pandemic still urging jabbing every three months into the future and mask wearing the same.

So once again the NHS rightly claims it needs more front line staff while refusing to reduce the over bloated bureaucratic areas, or consider any reforms. What with the country saddled with enormous debt and inflation now a major problem it could be that the NHS becomes unaffordable in its current form. A paring back to basic healthcare may be the only way it can survive and have any relevance to people, because in its current form it is rapidly becoming an irrelevant behemoth that still devours huge quantities of taxpayer money.

Friday, April 29, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Kate Price, by JD

 Music from Kate Price who is a hammered dulcimer player and vocalist born in Salt Lake City, Utah. Price's music fuses folk music with elements of classical, jazz, and ethnic music, using instruments from around the world.

This is her web page but it does not contain very much information and seems to have sort of faded away in around 2015 or 2016 so I have no idea if she is still recording and/or performing or if she has moved on to other ventures. I bought a couple of her CDs more than 25 years ago, can't remember how or why I found her music but it has retained for me its ethereal charm.

Sonatina Montenegro - from the album sleeve notes:- "... dedicated to the memory of Milan Obradovich, an elderly Montenegran villager who spent many years of his life in a concentration camp. He taught me many things - what it is to savor life, how to dance with joy and the healing power of love.

The first movement is a traditional song. The second and third movements are based on dance rhythms from Macedonia and Bulgaria."

Thursday, April 28, 2022

EMAIL FROM AMERICA (9): US medical price-gouging - you really want this for the NHS?

Tracking the chaos...

I came to the US from the UK in 1978 at age 21. Since I was relatively healthy growing up, I had only had minor experiences with the NHS, including a couple of visits to the emergency room for injuries.

I did see the mediocre treatment that my father had in an RAF hospital over 18 months of confinement in the 1960s, and remember by contrast the excellent treatment that my mother received when diagnosed with diabetes in the early 1980's.

All in all, it seemed to be a decent system for most people.

That is why I have been surprised to see so many negative comments about the NHS, and praise for private insurance.

All that I can do is to offer a different set of observations from my adoptive country.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), we had the following:
  • approximately 10% of the population too poor to afford insurance (and not granted it by their work), and too rich to be on Medicaid
  • some insurers kept up to 54% of premiums, with huge incentives to refuse payment
  • maximum lifetime benefits, amounting to 10-15 years of treatment for something like hemophilia
  • refusal to cover 'pre-existing conditions', which could include anything from pregnancy to cancer risks
The ACA has not been a panacea, but everyone now has access to at least a bad policy. All must cover pre-existing conditions, and do not have a maximum lifetime amount. In addition, children can stay on their parents' policies until age 26.

That said, the costs for some relatively simple events can still be catastrophic even with 'good' insurance, and medical bills still cause up to 60% of bankruptcies.

One remaining problem is that of 'out-of-network' providers. Suppose that you need to go to the Emergency Department, and go to the hospital which your insurance requires. Without your knowledge, any of the doctors who treat you might not be contracted with that insurer, and you could receive a bill, weeks later, for thousands of dollars.

Or, as happened with our first son, your specialist might charge an 'unreasonable' fee, which you would only find out long after the service is performed. Our eventual bill for a normal c-section was $10,000 because my employer had contracted with a mediocre plan.

Scroll forward to 2017, when I had heart surgery. The bill for a 3-day stay in the ICU was $150,000, not counting the surgeon, anesthesiologist etc. Luckily, I had good insurance at that time, and our cost was 'only' a few thousand dollars. A month later, my insurance changed, and the deductibles and co-pays for my rehab therapy alone were almost $10,000 in a few months.

Right now, we have excellent coverage, so covering my medications at $6,000 per month is no issue. A slight change, and the cost to me could be on the order of $1,000 per month, which is coincidentally the cost of those same medications to the NHS.

In short, the US medical system is phenomenal if you have enough money or just have minor health issues.

Sackerson adds: for more examples of the US medical industry's exploitative practices, see here:

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

How volcanoes ended almost all life on Earth


'Permian-Triassic Boundary, notorious for being the most devastating extinction event in the planet's history (95% of life wiped out in a geological blink). It is located at Austinmer, a coastal suburb between Sydney & Wollongong, Australia.' Source 

About 252 million years ago the Permian–Triassic extinction event killed off the majority of Earth's species on land and sea.

At this time most of the world's landmasses were gathered into a supercontinent (not the first) called Pangaea:

It's thought that the cause of the 'Great Dying' was volcanic activity in what is now Siberia (at the top of the above picture.) Great volumes of 'greenhouse gases' were released into the atmosphere.

As the atmosphere warmed up - some say to well over 100°F across Pangaea - so did the oceans. Warm water can hold less oxygen than cold, so oxygen levels dropped. Marine species in cooler areas north and south, which were used to oxygen-rich water, asphyxiated; tropical species, which had already adapted to cope with less-oxygenated water, were more likely to survive.

As the oceans became less hospitable amphibians, which had dominated the Permian period, were displaced by

'reptiles—notably the archosaurs ("ruling lizards") and therapsids ("mammal-like reptiles"). For reasons that are still unclear, the archosaurs held the evolutionary edge, muscling out their "mammal-like" cousins and evolving by the middle Triassic into the first true dinosaurs like Eoraptor and Herrerasaurus.' 

Ironically, an earlier mass extinction - 150 million years before the Permian-Triassic event - was caused by falling CO2 levels as a result of the spread of plant life:

'In the Devonian period the world was experiencing super greenhouse climate conditions. This means that it was very warm, there probably were no ice caps, there was a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (with estimates of 4,000 parts per million).

'"As plant communities expanded onto land to form the first forests, they depleted the carbon dioxide (CO2) that was in the atmosphere," Waters said. "CO2 levels dropped to 400 ppm toward the end of the Devonian. It got colder. There were glaciation events and the rapid change in the climate caused severe extinction in the tropics and the existing coral reefs became extinct." By comparison, the world's current CO2 level is very close to 400 ppm.'

The fall in CO2 levels is thought to have stimulated the development of woody plants and eventually trees. According to this video (see from 3:09), plants that breathe in CO2 through holes called 'stomata' gradually had to hold them open for longer to get enough of the gas; this also meant they lost more water through evaporation via the same holes. Woody structures were better at holding and transporting water though the body of the plants.

A lesson for us is that we need not worry about 'saving the planet' - life adapts. The question is, can we save ourselves?

P.S. This site says that an end-Permian-type ocean warming and marine extinction event is under way now:

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

EMAIL FROM AMERICA (8): Gerrymandering to get the Right result

Tracking the chaos...

Gerrymandering is the process of drawing legislative maps so that the legislators drawing the maps get to select their voters, rather than the usual definition of democracy.

There are several such strategies employed, most of which have been refined by the use of extensive polling and computer models. One is to 'pack' voters of opposing parties into compact districts, another to dilute the effects of those voters by dividing up the areas in inventive ways.

These can result in districts which look like squashed bugs or slime trails. For reference, here is Ohio's current map:
'...Under the House proposal, Akron would be divided into two districts with one stretching into Portage, Ashtabula and Trumbull counties, while another extends into several Appalachian counties south of the city. Both districts would favor Republicans...'

While the tactic has been used by both major political parties over the years, it has been polished to perfection by the GOP.

Such redistricting occurs every 10 years, after the census.

In North Carolina, the state supreme court has just struck down the new proposed maps, on the grounds that they violate the principle of 'free and fair' elections.

In South Carolina, a lawsuit against the new maps is moving forward. The claim is that the maps are racially gerrymandered, diluting black votes. This falls on the heels of comments recorded on the floor of the state house of representatives some years ago, in which exactly this approach was proposed.

In Texas, a lawsuit against their new maps is moving forward, also on the grounds of racial gerrymandering.

In Florida, Governor deSantis signed their new maps into law, despite a lawsuit. Among other issues, the new maps eliminated all black districts in the north of the state in both Congress and the state House.

In Ohio some years ago, over 70% of voters amended the state constitution, demanding that maps reflect as closely as possible the preferences of voters. Instead, the 5 GOP members on the redistricting commission have passed 4 separate sets of maps without either of the Democrat votes on the committee. All of them have been thrown down by the Republican-majority State Supreme Court. The maps give an advantage of 70-80% in seats to the GOP in Congress and the state House, while actual votes in the state are approximately 56% GOP and 44% Democrat. Lawmakers have protested the court's actions, and have proposed impeachment of the Chief Justice.

These are not the actions of a party which believes that they can win fair elections.

Monday, April 25, 2022

EMAIL FROM AMERICA (7): GOP wannabe Presidential nominees in crazy-policy bidding war

Tracking the chaos...

As the US lurches towards the midterms in November, the Republican governors of many states are outdoing themselves in extreme moves, trying to capture the nomination for President in 2024.

Currently leading the pack are Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and Governor Rick deSantis of Florida.

Some of the highlights in Texas include a very restrictive abortion law, which includes an incentive of a guaranteed payday of at least $10,000 to anyone who turns in someone else for 'aiding an abortion', such criminals to include taxi drivers. The accused party, according to the law, will still end up paying all legal fees, even if they are found not to be responsible.

In a similar vein, Abbott has declared that anyone who tries to help transsexual people is committing child abuse, and can also be turned in to the authorities for rewards.

To show his toughness on immigration, he assigned the Texas National Guard and the State police to patrol the border. To date, it has resulted in no major arrests, but has cost several billion dollars, five times the original budget. It has also resulted in many complaints from those on the border about the lack of actual support, and the suicide deaths of at least four guardsmen.

He has also required extra searches of the thousands of trucks coming from Mexico, resulting in backlogs on the order of weeks, meaning that the fresh produce in the vehicles is rotting and costing up to $8 million per day. The net gain has been a handful of trucks pulled over for safety violations, and no illegal immigrants intercepted.

Not to be outdone, deSantis started during the pandemic by firing a statistician who was releasing the actual figures on Covid deaths, rather than those which made the state look better. The suppression of data emanating from the University of Florida is still under investigation. He went on to hire an anti-vaccine doctor whose predictions and pronouncements on the pandemic have proven to be spectacularly wrong as state medical director. At the height of the resurgence, he threatened the cruise ship industry with sanctions if they insisted on Covid passports for passengers and crew. He backed off a little when the industry threatened to move its base of operations from Miami and other Florida ports to other states.

One of his next actions was to demand that the Florida legislature resurrect a WWII-era civilian guard of several thousand answerable only to him. That came on the heels of a new state law which allows people to use their vehicles run over people at protests without sanction.

His latest has been to sign education bills which opponents have dubbed “Don't say gay” and “Don't mention slavery”(including measures to fire teachers, of course). When the Disney corporation, Florida's largest employer, stated their support for gay rights, deSantis demanded that his legislature remove the 'self-governing' status of the 40 square miles of the Disney property.

This will mean that responsibility for all of the roads, water ways, policing, fire service, etc will fall to Orange County, as well as electricity and sewer service to 40,000 hotel rooms and thousands of businesses. Finally, several billions in bonds for the construction will also transfer to the county.

Is this the party of business or is the GOP set to implode?

Sunday, April 24, 2022

SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: Madrid's El Escorial, by JD

 A few brief impressions after visit to El Palacio de El Escorial (on a day in winter, hence the lack of 'real' tourists):

El Escorial is the palace built by Philip II of Spain and is situated about an hour's train ride to the north-west of Madrid and one winter's day we decided to go and do the 'touristy' thing and look around but this is not a tourist guide to the building, it is more of an impression of what we found there.

If you want the history etc then full details are here (in Spanish)

and here (in English)

The palace itself is huge and very impressive in every way; here you can see the scale of it:


First thing you see inside is a small display of architectural artefacts including some of the original drawings as well as a scale model of the wooden cranes used in the construction. It is easy to forget that before the industrial revolution everything had to be done by hand and lifting heavy stone blocks required a combination of hard labour and ingenuity.

The royal apartments are surprisingly small. The King's bedchamber is centrally placed within the building and very cleverly designed; from his bed he could see the surrounding countryside through two balconied windows and looking the other way he could see through his private chapel to the Basilica's high altar.

All of the rooms are beautifully designed, furnished and decorated but none more so than the Biblioteca. Despite a huge fire which destroyed part of the collection, there are still some 40000 manuscripts and books in Latin, Greek, Arabic and Hebrew. Some of these are open and on display in glass cases. The ceiling fresco is by Pellegrino Tibaldi 
and, in my view, is much more impressive than the other frescos elsewhere in the building.

The Pinacoteca (art gallery) is divided into four rooms and displays works from the 15th, 16th and 17th century including this wonderful masterpiece by Rogier van der Weyden:

When I saw this painting I almost fell over because of the disorienting use of colour - red, which is a colour that comes forward, is used as a background and the two foreground figures (and two others on separate panels at the sides of the main picture) are bluish grey which is a receding, background colour. It appears as though there are four statues standing in front of the painting. The effect is startling and is not seen to quite the same effect in reproduction. You need to go and see it for yourself but don't blame me if you fall over; you have been warned!

Down in the Pantheon are the tombs of Spanish kings and various notable figures of Spain's history including the famous Don Juan ( - the most handsome man in the world (so I am told!)

Part of the building is still used as a school and you have to admit that is one magnificent playground!

Shortly after this picture was taken an elderly tourist decided to join in, just to show these small boys how.... and with a muttered 'Dios mio' my compañera headed for the chapel to beg forgiveness for my foolish ways.

and only 6½ leagues and 1191 yards back to Madrid:

The return journey was my first and (so far) only ride on a double-decker train. Why don't we have things like that in this country?

Saturday, April 23, 2022

WEEKENDER: The Week That Was, by Wiggia

Holy Mackerel

In a week when anything seemed possible and nothing was impossible, a series of appearances, events and utterances kept us amused or confounded. Rick Stein was discovered to have been moonlighting as the Archbishop of York (see comments on this tweet); no doubt Stein’s familiarity with loaves and fishes clinch the deal.

Emmanuel Macron astounded almost everyone with his hirsute appearance in an open-necked shirt in an attempt to look sexy and down with the bruvs, but only managed to extract comments on the veracity of his rug.

From someone who gives the impression he is sneering at people most of the time, his recent speeches invoking the royal 'we' at every moment and his James Bond power play show he is rightly worried about winning a second term. He will win as France will either vote in ever smaller numbers and all the other parties will band together as usual to stop Le Pen getting into the Elysée and France will then moan about Macron for another five years; seems to be the pattern everywhere.

Boris has been keeping his head down in Ukraine. A direct missile strike would end all his problems about Partygate and lying to everyone continuously so maybe just maybe the wearing of a suit rather than the normal obligatory camouflage jacket could have been a desperate cry for help.

The odd cuff lengths if you're going out in style rather let the side down

Keir Starmer somehow gives himself immunity to any fines as his beer in hand photo was in a totally ‘different’ category to the ones that have landed Boris in the merde, but it won't do him any good banging on about Boris as it appears most of the civil service of whatever colour were partying while old people died on their own, and apparently we have all ‘moved on’; how convenient a war can be.

Two things from that photo are far more important than if he broke the rules: as in the Music Man that line 'medicinal wine from a teaspoon and beer from a bottle and we got trouble in the city' or something like that, how uncouth is drinking from the bottle; it creates the same reaction, as those old enough to remember, to the reaction to anyone drinking beer from a straight glass! Also, the vanity of the man shows, as he is wearing glasses, though never seen in public wearing them. So, two hugely important facts from a rather bad photo.

Elsewhere Priti Patel is attempting again to stop the flood of illegals crossing the Channel with a doomed attempt to send them all to Rwanda. She was seen inspecting a hotel room that looked suspiciously five star for such a destination; the only reference I have to a Rwandan hotel room is the film of the same name, not that I think she had that in mind... or maybe she did?

Priti Patel suffers like Macron from a height disadvantage. Her appearance on the rostrum in Rwanda was not helped in this area by her Rwandan official who appeared to be about 6’ 8” and the fact that next to him she looked like the second uncovering of a Russian doll.

After many criticisms of the plan Pritti said in effect, ‘If you can think of anything better tell me.’ Coming from the person in charge of all this and paid to do the job, she has so far been an abject failure, so perhaps Joe Soap in the job for a while would be an improvement.

Though to be fair, if one can be, she has to deal with a civil service that is a carbon copy of that in Yes Minister and despite supposedly being there to carry out the wishes of the current government does all it can to thwart it, whether it be migrants or Brexit; another part of the public sector that needs a total clear-out.

At the same time Border Force (time for a name change) is sending more and more personnel to ‘deal’ with the illegals crossing the Channel, while at the same time forcing legal travellers to wait for hours to pass through security to go on holiday at airports and traffic jams of lorries carrying essential goods are further held up at ports for the same reason.

Just a thought: if the Australian method of using an island has proved so effective why don’t we ask if we can share that facility? Hardly much further than Rwanda and we know it works.

As an aside, why do so many asked about Channel crossings use the ‘we must stop the crossings because of the danger of death’  as a precursor to whatever they say? These migrants pay to cross the  Channel and as with anything else in life they take that risk. It is their choice, they could always take the legal route and apply like everyone else to enter, but the deaths have been minimal considering the transport used and they are picked up outside Calais anyway.

Back in Ukraine Vlad, having failed in a short dramatic takeover has resorted to other methods to achieve his aim. The West in its desire to openly help Ukraine militarily is sending almost everything they ask for, all at great expense (not that that is a concern of modern government) to fight the evil invader.

Apart from Germany: because of the calamitous Ursula von der Leyen as minister of defence before she took the lead role in the EU, the German army has hardly anything left to send. The government has left it to the arms manufacturers to send stuff; not having anything left in their stockpile they are paying the arms manufacturers to send arms direct. I hope for their sake Vlad doesn’t decide this is a good time to invade Germany!

 If anyone has any idea what is actually going on there send answers on a postcard. Othe than slowly flattening the place he has achieved very little apart from condemnation by the West for everything he has done. Lots of sanctions, various European harbours filled with confiscated oligarchs' yachts, dozens of huge mansions are now standing empty (as many stood before all this kicked off) and no one knows what they are going to do with it all. Add to that the price of gas, minerals, fertiliser, grain - all either in very short supply or at stratospheric prices - and if you had arrived from planet Zog you would declare a score draw or worse at the moment.

The only person who has gained from this is Zelenskyy The war disguises a decidedly dodgy premiership where opposition is shut down along with any questions at his mysterious wealth in what is a decidedly corrupt nation; not that many from the West with ‘interests’ there are not as corrupt, but for now all that has gone away.

Still, assurances from all the big players that retribution is nigh is comforting as the leader of the free world exits stage left, or is it right, having shaken hands with the invisible man.

And you should never turn your back on the public, still …

Elsewhere in the USA the military are gearing up for a possible offensive…

(From 2016 but illustrative of how Woke has come to the Army)

This is probably a little unfair as the senior ranks have already made their minds up…

The Commander in Chief meanwhile was conversing with the Easter Bunny on future strategy, having told Putin ‘you don’t know what is coming’; this from a man who doesn’t know where he is going.

At the same time that 'Sleepy Joe' further confirms his total unsuitability for the job in hand, his understudy makes a play for the top job and fails, as she has done since day one…

We can’t finish the week without the heartfelt outpourings of the boss of Scottish Power revealing the ever increasing numbers of customers who have fallen behind with their energy bills. Naturally, with an October of further high rises coming this will for the first time actually mean many will have no choice but to choose between eating and heating; though with food and commodity prices also going through the roof the choice may not be that simple. For some, 'little is more' will become a distinct reality.

Across the pond one of the founders of the BLM organisation is cashing in on / with all the donations. As footballers here take the knee in a move to show their solidarity with their coloured brethren, the founder of the movement is showing some of that community are more equal than others…

Does anyone know if any of those millions have ever been distributed to needy black neighbourhoods or are the founders just building a giant personal property portfolio?

It goes without saying that a lifestyle of luxury demands a suitable toast at the table and what is better than a suitably labelled Pinot Noir to set the tone?

Letting your wine breathe takes on a whole new meaning!

On a local level we had a copy of the town council news letter arriving last week; one item caught the eye amongst the exciting news that another bus shelter had been refurbished. What was interesting about this proposal was what it didn’t say, i.e. what they were wanting to achieve in creating mayhem by closing a short connecting piece of road that runs past the school with two barriers manned by volunteers? No alternative routes, and I mean none are available, so that presumably the school run mummies can drop the little darlings off and pick them up without illegally parking everywhere as they do now or blocking private driveways on the nearest housing estate. If this is the object of the exercise it will cause chaos for the earlier reason and there are not enough parking spaces at the council offices currently used anyway so illegal parking will continue.

Without further info the legality of this comes into question, and as police are conspicuous by their absence dealing with the current parking on double yellow lines outside the school, who is going to enforce all this, other than volunteers?

They are having a consultation table (!) set up outside the school one day next week. Could be interesting, though the real interest is what idiot proposed this in the first place. It said in the preamble ‘if acceptable we will get used to it’; we of course is not those that propose this nonsense as they all live elsewhere; sometimes you just can’t make it up.

The sign off line to this proposal is 'we will help the environment'; I've never been sure what qualifies anyone that sits on local council committees but it certainly isn’t common sense.

Numbers of perfectly fit sportsmen are apparently keeling over at an unprecedented rate; a pure coincidence that it all started after Covid vaccinations of course and the authorities when asked say the number is in line with normal incidents; no doubt one day we will get the truth on that as well.

Meanwhile - and this is just football:

And lastly the Queen has had to suffer a surprise visit by the Kardashians complete with Netflix crew. Aa place on the balcony for the Jubilee celebrations is Harry’s hoped-for reward for this furthering his celebrity status as a, er, I have no idea. He also managed to use a well known Charles-ism, if that is a word, by describing the 95-year-old monarch as having ‘great form’ as if she was race horse; the Queen has always loved horses but has yet to identify as one; with what has gone on in the Royal Family in the last few years it would be better if the Queen appeared on the balcony alone or with a horse, she really doesn’t need the dysfunctional siblings anywhere near her.

Finally finally I leave you with this: Serena in goal would be good as getting a football past the Incredible Hulk would be difficult (plus she has great reaction speed); Lewis on the other hand I would suggest is not a football person, and dressed like that is more suited to a role in Madame Butterfly than standing on the terraces.

What the nation needs at this time is Tony Blair and a rousing chorus of 'Things can only get better; or is it 'build back better' now? On second thoughts, perhaps not.

Not bad for one week and I didn’t even have to try!

Friday, April 22, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Béla Bartók, by JD

It is good to get away from the famous names to explore the lesser known names of classical music. Even better when they draw on traditional folk melodies of their homeland so here is a selection from the Hungarian Béla Bartók.

Béla Bartók was born in the Hungarian town of Nagyszentmiklós (now Sînnicolau Mare in Romania) on 25 March 1881, and received his first instruction in music from his mother, a very capable pianist; his father, the headmaster of a local school, was also musical.

Bartók’s earliest compositions offer a blend of late Romanticism and nationalist elements, formed under the influences of Wagner, Brahms, Liszt and Strauss, and resulting in works such as Kossuth, an expansive symphonic poem written when he was 23.

Around 1905 his friend and fellow-composer Zoltán Kodály directed his attention to Hungarian folk music and, coupled with his discovery of the music of Debussy, Bartók’s musical language changed dramatically: it acquired greater focus and purpose. But as he absorbed more and more of the spirit of Hungarian folk songs and dances, his own music grew tighter, more concentrated, chromatic and dissonant – and although a sense of key is sometimes lost in individual passages, Bartók never espoused atonality as a compositional technique.

His interest in folk music was not merely passive: Bartók was an assiduous ethnomusicologist, his first systematic collecting trips in Hungary being undertaken with Kodály, and in 1906 they published a volume of the songs they had collected. Thereafter Bartók’s involvement grew deeper and his scope wider, encompassing a number of ethnic traditions both near at hand and further afield: Transylvanian, Romanian, North African and others. Bartók died from polycythemia (a form of leukemia) on 26 September 1945 in New York.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Today’s topic: what three words?

You’ll know of a simple, ingenious system called What3words. A trio of words will identify your location anywhere in the world to within 3 square metres; so useful in an emergency.

What if we try to do the same for a period of time?

For example ‘’ recalls an entire bygone age of collective identity and established authority. More precisely, Henry V’s '' pinpoints both time and place – Agincourt, 25 October 1415. 

The signing of the US Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia on 2 August 1776 is defined by 'life.liberty.happiness’ – a flag for the individual’s rights and self-determination, now tattered and fading in the scorching light of global money and power.

For here and now, ‘covid.mask.jab’ is weak, covering two years and much of the world.

What better combination would you suggest, for us or yourself?

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

WOKEWATCH (3): Saint Vlod and the Devil's Advocate

Before officially confirming someone as a saint the Catholic Church used to employ a 'Devil's advocate' who would argue against it, citing possible misdeeds and character flaws.

For some reason President Zelenskyy has been 'canonised' by the West following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, despite the years-long aggression of the Ukrainian government against the people of Donetsk and Lukhansk. Now either the latter are Ukrainians, in which case Zelenskyy has indeed been 'attacking his own people' (an allegation the Google Adsense Team forbids), or they are not, in which case Ukraine is guilty of the very thing of which Russia stands accused, i.e. 'waging aggressive war', which is against international law.

Zel is good-looking, superficially a charming young man and has excellent presentational skills; we had one of those in Number Ten a few years ago and one way or another we are still paying the cost. Our news media has fallen about Zelenskyy's neck like James I around Buckingham's, to a degree I would not have thought possible until the last few weeks. Will no-one here act the Devil's advocate?

Despite Silicon Valley efforts to block out coverage from the Russian side there are still voices querying Zel's saintliness. Here for example is The Grayzone, alleging his tyrannous behaviour:

'Zelensky has outlawed his opposition, ordered his rivals’ arrest, and presided over the disappearance and assassination of dissidents across the country...Western media has looked the other way, however, as Zelensky and top officials in his administration have sanctioned a campaign of kidnapping, torture, and assassination of local Ukrainian lawmakers accused of collaborating with Russia.'

Speaking of 'one less traitor' I am interested to learn more about what has happened, or will happen, to the two generals Zel sacked on March 31, calling them traitors:

The Daily Mail quotes him as saying 'Regarding antiheroes. Now, I do not have time to deal with all the traitors. But gradually they will all be punished.' 

Punished how?

Another site says he added... 'That is why the ex-chief of the Main Department of Internal Security of the Security Service of Ukraine, Naumov Andriy Olehovych, and the former head of the Office of the Security Service of Ukraine in the Kherson region, Kryvoruchko Serhiy Oleksandrovych, are no longer generals.' 

Naumov fled the country just before the Russian incursion; but will he be safe from further retribution?

Here's a curious vid that YouTube deleted but has reappeared on the, let us say more broad-minded, Brand New Tube; it is suggested that the white lines on Zel's desk are narcotics, though by today's standards in political circles perhaps that is unexceptional. I should like a translation of what he is saying, though:

Anyhow, I think it's rather too early to admit Vlod to the community of the saints.

Monday, April 18, 2022

What is a Conservative? by Sackerson

‘Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role,’ said Dean Acheson sixty years ago. 

Perhaps I can help.

Our greatness is not in Empire; not even in joining someone else’s, as we did so disastrously in 1973. You can tell it was an awful mistake by the way that around the time of the Maastricht Treaty John Major assured us we would continue to be ‘the country of long shadows on county grounds, warm beer, etc.’ He did pride himself, didn’t he, on being able to talk to the man in the four-ale bar (loading up on Hooky as old maids cycle past to Holy Communion.)

What could be a better role than ‘being at the heart of Europe’ and ruling us in conclave with bibulous bureaucrats? How about being the best-run country in the world? One that works for all its people, without the Blairite ‘many not the few’ garbage?

Please don’t splutter, but unions and the Welfare State did make a huge difference in their time. However, I’d like to suggest that paradoxically, the next step forward towards moderate prosperity for all is not on the traditional socialist path. 

Also sixty years ago was a speech by Hugh Gaitskell to the Labour Party Conference, warning against the enthusiasm for membership of the Common Market. He laid his finger on the tension in the socialist movement between international brotherhood and promoting the interests of working people at home; a tension that has never been adequately resolved and which has been clouded over with dreamy rhetoric from bloviators on both sides of the Commons debating chamber.

The key, I think, is in control of the rate of economic change. It is not in our interest to have a trade war with e.g China (even if we could do it); on the other hand, it has certainly not been in our long-term interest to let the World Trade Organisation break down all the lock gates on the money canal and see multinational businesses become insanely rich while Western workforces struggle in the mire left behind by the outrushing floodwater.

My understanding of Conservatives (not the ‘hard-faced men who had done well out of war’ but the ones who were brought up short by the 1945 landslide and realised that the game had changed) is that they would like a country in which individuals can improve their lives by industry and thrift. That involves setting rules for their economic environment so that it is possible to work and save money.

The Welfare State will crash if we allow claimants to multiply; we have to tackle economic immigration when there is so much structural unemployment and under-employment, and we have to tackle the latter by negotiating trade arrangements that allow for benefits on both sides. Is our political establishment sufficiently aware of how the system works, and could be made to work; and is it willing to tackle systemic challenges systemically?

If not, I have to be thankful that our airport is only twenty minutes away.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

WOKEWATCH (2): Private Eye goes partisan

In the days of Richard Ingrams' editorship no-one was safe from satire - not even Albert Schweitzer, at one time considered an uncanonised saint. Private Eye was a frequent flier to the libel courts; but the threat of criminal libel from Sir James Goldsmith decided Ingrams that the game was no fun any more.

Now, as regards Ukraine, it seems to have taken sides. It's not as bad as the Daily Mail, for me now unreadable (the articles by e.g. Ian Birrell deserve to be in some kind of propaganda museum); even The Spectator last week featured a cartoon cover depicting Putin's scowling Slavic head as made up of a mountain of skulls (some Russophilic commentators perceive Western attitudes as racist and have taken to referring to themselves as 'steppen*gg*rs.)

Coming back to the once-fearless Eye: perhaps Ian Hislop has been a 'safe pair of hands' for too long; perhaps he has become too comfortable, too occupied with other projects. Here are the relevant cartoons from issue 1570 (the one before this week's); judge for yourself who is getting the easy ride here.


A personal dig

Warmonger, butcher, N*zi and devil

A tiny tease for Zelenskyy

... Maybe I'm wrong; maybe PE will get round to doing a thorough feature on all the parties who have long been pushing for this dreadful confrontation; and a critical profile of Vlod. Maybe.