I identify as you. Now try arguing with me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Fake freedom: transport

Freedom is not simply a matter of personal choice.

Let’s take freedom of movement for example. Here is the unperson Laurence Fox being interviewed by the BBC at the 18 February Oxford protest against the Council’s ‘15 minute city’ proposals to limit vehicle movement:

The interviewer tells Fox it’s a choice: either allow the Council to promote clean air by these restrictions, or see motorists zoom around willy-nilly, polluting the atmosphere.

Fox points out that the fad for ‘clean air zones’ benefits the privileged who live and work in the expensive central areas; and that mothers dropping off their children at school will create more toxic emissions as they are forced to take the long way round via the ring road.

It’s a false dichotomy. Neither side mentioned the possibilities of public transport.

Years ago I visited a friend in Sheffield. At that time the bus system was generously subsidised so that one could travel into the centre for literally a few pennies - the onboard machine pressed the coins onto a paper ticket roll so you could see exactly what you used to pay the fare. The service was so regular and cheap that even car drivers used it instead, especially for an evening out to get full of Sam Smith’s ale.

Then came privatisation. Even now, some think every service would be better run as a business for profit; well, so are banks, and see where they have got us today. Nevertheless, the opportunities for the ambitious and greedy - and the friends they make in public office - are irresistible temptations to ignore the maxim ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

In Birmingham the system was well fixed when I arrived in the mid-Seventies. The Number 11 went 26 miles round the Outer Circle and was kept strictly to timetable by a ring of clocks on the route, into which the driver would insert a key to punch the internal recording roll at the right moment. We could forgive the driver his occasional stop at the pissoir on Hamstead Road, or nipping out for a packet of chips to put on the dashboard, or even his regrettable habit of leaving the bus door open in cold weather; the thing is, we got where we wanted to go, and arrived on time.

Then in the mid-Eighties such smoothly-run operations were disrupted by ‘deregulation’. Routes were cherry-picked and less profitable ones made less frequent. The Outer Circle clocks disappeared; and some directors made millions.

Now if public transport becomes more expensive and less regular, you are going to need and want a car even if you didn’t have one before. This becomes a feedback loop so that the bus service shrinks; and the social mix using it alters - the old, the poor, schoolchildren; it gets grungier and rowdier.

If cities want cleaner air and less crowded roads they don’t have to set up road blocks and charge for entry into ‘Clean Air Zones’ and fine people who forget to pay. Instead, they could run clean electric buses (and trams and trains) frequently, cheaply and at all hours. The cost of the subsidies would be more than covered by the economic and tax revenue boost as money saved personally by not needing a motor car could ‘fructify in the pockets of the people.’

Or is it that the hairy-eared tyrants in local and national politics prefer control, coercion and punishment? I fear it may be so.

Friday, March 17, 2023

FRIDAY: Music - and horse racing - for St Patrick's Day

This is a retread of a previous post which has been amended with a few additions and a few subtractions as some videos have disappeared and other references are a wee bit out of date.

St Patrick's Day once more so tonight's music offering is a celebration of all things Irish plus a few other non musical things.

The Dubliners - Whiskey in the Jar (best version!!!)

This is a song written by Dominic Behan who also wrote the more famous Mc Alpine's Fusiliers. Both songs were inspired by the many thousands of Irishmen who came to the UK in the postwar years to help with "Building up and tearing England down"...
A long time ago I spent a couple of years working for Wimpey and they did indeed have a lot of Irish working for them and they would all tell me that Wimpey was an acronym for We Import More Paddies Every Year!

Dave Allen on Death (funeral sketch)


"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

- James Joyce, 'The Dead'

So far we have had a taste of drinking and singing and dancing and death; another great passion among the Irish is horse racing andthis week there is the annual (temporary) emigration to England for the Cheltenham Festival, a week of racing at its best. Irish trainers and jockeys will, once again, win most of the races!

Among the leading jockeys in recent years has been Rachael Blackmore the first female jockey to win the Grand National at Aintree which she did in 2021. 

On Tuesday at Cheltenham she won a race in fine style on a horse called Honeysuckle and the reception she was given in the winners's circle was amazing. I have never seen anything like that before. There were so many people in and around the paddock she couldn't get the horse through it all. The Irish are very good at chaotic celebration!


Geesala Festival 2012

The Orange Rogue - Irish Harp & Hammered Dulcimer - Zekley

Nolwenn Leroy - Mna Na Heireann

Nolwen Leroy - Siuil A Ruin

Nolwen Leroy, by the way, is French but she is from Bretagne so that makes her a Celt. Bretagne's 'national' anthem is the same as the Welsh anthem but with different words.

The Irish...

Be they kings, or poets, or farmers,

They're a people of great worth,

They keep company with the angels,

And bring a bit of heaven here to earth


Galway Girl - Sharon Shannon, Mundy & Galway City

Friday, March 10, 2023

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Franklin sisters (Aretha & co.), by JD

I think most people will know of Aretha Franklin, often styled as The Queen of Soul. What is not so well known is that she had two sisters who were also singers, all three being daughters of the Rev C L Franklin who was pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit from 1946 until he was shot and wounded in 1979.

Franklin senior was known as the man with the "Million-Dollar Voice" and he and his daughters (as well as his sons) would sing in his church.

The recording industry is unpredictable such that only Aretha made a successful career in it; she would say that her elder sister Erma was a better singer and yet is relatively unknown.

So a brief selection from all of them including father.

Erma Franklin - Piece of My Heart (Video)

Erma Franklin - I Get The Sweetest Feeling

[Teenage] Aretha Franklin Sings Gospel!! 
(the backing singer here with the beautiful clear soprano voice is Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney)

ARETHA FRANKLIN "AIN'T NO WAY" (written by Carolyn Franklin)

It's True I'm Gonna Miss You

I Can't Help My Feeling So Blue

Aretha Franklin feat. Rev. Cecil & Erma Franklin

Rev. C.L. Franklin-Your Mother Loves Her Children

Monday, March 06, 2023

Cash for Ukraine: an alternative

Last year, the UK supplied £2.3 billion in military aid to Ukraine and plans to do the same in 2023. This is odd, because we have not declared war on Russia and Russia has not declared war on us.

It is also expensive. There were 32.2 million UK income tax payers in 2022 so for my wife and me those two years represent a compulsory joint contribution of £285.

That’s quite a lot for us and surely the money could be better spent on other official projects such as secretly euthanising my friends in hospital, employing the fascist 77th Brigade to spread disinformation on social media, and barricading urban streets to impede the free movement of the populace.

Please note, I call the 77th and their numerous ilk fascists because they are part of a system of oppression on behalf of corporate interests including not only the military-industrial complex but the government itself, which has become a monolithic corporation positively exulting in the nuisances it is able to visit on ordinary people - as we see from the Hancock Covidisaster emails recently leaked by Isabel Oakeshott.

Since killing Russians in Ukraine - and far more Ukrainians, to boot - is a sort of hobby or sport instead of a public necessity, it should be financed by its supporters on a voluntary basis: personal approaches by chuggers and churglars; internet crowdfunding; maybe even a telethon - ‘Fascists In Need’?

The spiel would be on traditional lines:
‘£x buys a bullet to fire into the femoral artery of a Russian prisoner of war; £y purchases a cubic yard of the concrete needed to block off fresh water to Crimea again; £z is the price of a roll of silk wallpaper to decorate a foreign bolthole for the former TV nudist comedian turned tyrant who is such a lethal ‘Servant of the People’ that he is running out of people to serve and has to send out gangs to forcibly recruit boys and old men.’
And then when they come along with GoFundMe we shall have the liberty to tell them to GoFu**Yourself.

Saturday, March 04, 2023

New on 'Now and Next': No Debate, No Democracy

 Here: https://rolfnorfolk.substack.com/p/no-debate-no-democracy

'People who complain about the power structure call in aid the notion of democracy and the will of the people. There’s a hazy notion of ‘hey, let’s all get together and do X.’

'No chance. Quite obviously the people love to quarrel about the smallest things, as we can see every day on social media.

'New technology brings in new modes of action...'

- continued as per the above link. 

Friday, March 03, 2023

FRIDAY MUSIC: A musical miscellany, by JD

A miscellany of musical delights for your entertainment and pleasure!

Tico Tico, ティコ・ティコ

4 Non Blondes - What's Up (Official Music Video)
1,471,217,029 views 23 Feb 2011 #4NonBlones #WhatsUp #Remastered

Eddie Buchanan & Love Machine Dancing In The Nude 1976

Bob Azzam "Chérie je t'aime" Ya Mustapha!! (1960) FullHD/HQ

Springtime For Hitler; The Producers

Public Image Limited - Hawaii | The Late Late Show | RTÉ One

Rita Moreno - Animal - fever.avi

Monday, February 27, 2023

Our Dying Rooms

 Is it incompetence or is it official policy for hospitals to kill the old?

Actually, not just the old. Long pre-Covid times, the wife of a friend of mine contracted an infection and was taken to hospital. When her husband got there he found her unattended and untubed in bed (this was when hospitals had beds.) She needed fluids to flush out the toxins, but had nothing and the nurses seemed unable or unwilling to do anything and there was no doctor in sight.

My friend is a big and - when he chooses to be - a formidable person; he said he wanted a line run into her immediately and made it clear he would be taking names and was prepared to inflict thorough procedural wrath if staff didn’t jump to it. I’m perfectly convinced that she would not be alive today had it not been for her lion of a man.

She was, I think, in her thirties at the time.

I’ve written before about another friend who didn’t feel safe in hospital and how his equally formidable brother had to push for him to get home again. It was a story of reluctance to treat, crucial X-ray evidence overlooked, prizing ward tidiness over patient nurture, staff clumsiness and failure to follow the post-operative programme set by the surgeon; of supplying equipment for use at home and then recommending it not be used by the family; of an incompetently monitored drug regime. He was a good, brilliant man and died prematurely, but mercifully in a hospice, at the age of 77.

Last month I lost another, also aged 77. He had been a keen skier and qualified instructor, but had apparently started to suffer from heart failure. I hadn’t known he was in hospital until his daughter messaged me to say he was terminally ill but was ‘being made comfortable.’

When I visited the ward I had to don a plastic gown and gloves: he now had c.diff. as well as his heart problem - acquired how? From where? His eyes were half open but unseeing; I told him about his just-born grandson and left a congratulations card; he seemed unconscious throughout until just at the end, when his eyes turned in my direction, but I’m not sure he recognised me.

The second time, a day or two later, I brought some flowers and put them on his chest, because I’d remembered that Bertrand Russell’s wife did that for her husband when he lay semi-comatose (his eyes welled up with tears; he eventually recovered.) Sadly in January most flowers have no appreciable scent, but it made no difference: my friend’s eyes were shut and he was breathing stertorously; he knew nothing.

Why did he know nothing? He was heavily drugged. I asked about hydration; the nurse told me all fluids were now withheld. He was dead a couple of days afterwards.

For that is the ‘care’ he had been receiving. The system previously known as the Liverpool Care Pathway became infamous, but all the NHS has done is to change the name to ‘end-of-life care’; I hope my friend’s daughter didn’t understand the implications. ‘Care’ is a vile medical euphemism - like the ‘harvest’ of organs from dead children, whose parents agreed to the use of what was misleadingly called ‘tissue samples.’

The patient is given powerful analgesics and allowed to perish from hunger and especially thirst; it is assumed that he cannot feel what would otherwise be the agonies of dehydration and of the consequent collapse of his organs.

And it tidies him out of the way. ‘Die faster, we need the beds.’

For in today’s soulless world, if we are nothing after we die, we are nothing now. We - and especially the old - are persons of no importance. You may as well put us out with the bins. All is okay as long as you use the right language, keep smiling and make sure the paperwork is straight.

The above cases are a pattern, and not localised: the examples I’ve given are from three hospitals in different parts of the country.

Yesterday I learned of a fourth, but one who got away, just. Another elderly man - a fellow writer and internet pal, very bright, widely experienced and full of life - was suddenly taken ill before Christmas and went into hospital in the east of England, to have emergency brain and bowel operations.

Actually, not an emergency; not at first. For when he was admitted unconscious, a different decision was taken; a Dying Room decision, of which he learned only a few days ago. Here is his account:

The wife received a phone call to be at the hospital, when I had been moved to [XXX], the following morning to have a meeting with the same doctor. She turned up at 10.00 but the doctor was not there: he had been called away on an emergency!

While she waited she found the room I had been put in, to find I was alone with no tubes, wires etc attached; very strange…

Despite her waiting for hours the doctor never appeared and another appointment was made for the following day.

She arrived with her friend, my neighbour and again the doctor was missing (?) She spoke to one of the nurses who was attending me and asked why there was no equipment attached to me; the nurse in a roundabout way said the doctor had removed the equipment and said no resuscitation (?)

Still no doctor, which annoyed the wife who started to ask questions. The nurse said she would try and contact him and would also try to contact his superior who was in the hospital that day.

Again, after hours, the other doctor turned up and after talking to the wife and nurses went in to see me. 15 minutes later he reappeared to say he did not understand the decision to not resuscitate as I showed more than enough life and had in my delirium attempted to get out of bed and leave!

He then arranged to take over my care with the two nurses who had been with me from the start and had me moved to a general ward. I was also for the first time given some food, which I had been deliberately starved of by the other doctor. The new doctor supervised me back to some sort of life and the rest is history.

The original doctor was not seen again in my vicinity. How come someone like that decides one's fate? If it hadn't been for the wife insisting on getting someone to look at me I would not be here.

I await further tales from these days when I was sedated or out of it; apparently there is more. One thing stands out: the good staff are very good but there is a percentage of those who should not be in the profession.

I was furious on his behalf and asked whether he would be making an official complaint. He replied:

My wife did consider suing the first doctor, but the advice was 'only if you have a recording of instructions.’ As he was not available at any time this would have been impossible and would have required statements from the two nurses which would not have happened. If she had been informed of the decision it might have been a different matter.

Naively I had thought that a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order (DNR) has to be agreed with next of kin; it may possibly have been like that once (remember how during the Covid panic there was a scandal about DNRs being completed without relatives’ knowledge?), but I’ve looked it up and it’s not so now.

However this goes beyond DNR: it’s ‘don’t bother.’ Perhaps the NHS should come up with a snappy mnemonic for the guidance of staff:

Do not feed and don’t hydrate
And then do not resuscitate

Oldies clutter up the place, costing money in pensions, healthcare and housing. Living too long in this country is a crime meriting capital punishment; but in the nicest possible way.

Compare that with the wonderful care Spectator columnist Jeremy Clarke, terminally ill with cancer, has received from the French medical system. Rather than face being culled here, I am beginning to give serious consideration to moving abroad, somewhere that has respect for life.

I understand there are lots of rubber boats going a-begging at Dover.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The magic solution to asylum seekers

The latest wheeze from the Government (temporary prop: R. Sunak) to deal with the huge backlog of asylum claims, is to rubber-stamp them via written questionnaires:

Asylum seekers involved will be sent a 10-page questionnaire to fill out and asked to return it within an initial 20 working days.

Some campaigners criticised the plans as “clumsy" amid reports that asylum seekers will be told to fill out the form in English.

The language barrier is unlikely to be a problem, even though this system is for applicants from ‘Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Yemen’ because - I guess - there will be an army of lawyers on Legal Aid who will compose the answers for them.

In any case, those applicants ‘usually have 95 per cent of their asylum claims accepted’ under the present arrangement involving face-to-face interviews.

Why do they come to us from so far away, though? Can they really be stopped?

It seems that despite what the Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on 2 January 2019 when he made a photo-op visit to Dover, international law did not then invalidate the claims of the rubber-boat people:

… there is no obligation in the Refugee Convention, either explicit or implicit, to claim asylum in the first safe country reached by a refugee.

On 28 April last year the UK’s Nationality and Borders Bill became law, aiming for tighter control, but the Law Society says:

We have significant concerns that a number of the act's measures are, or are likely to:

  • - be incompatible with international law

  • - damage access to justice, and

  • - negatively impact on the role of lawyers in immigration cases

In particular, we're concerned that penalising refugees who arrive in the UK via irregular means is incompatible with the Refugee Convention 1951.

In the year to September 2022, only 23% of asylum applications were refused at first; historically (2004-2020), three-quarters of rejected applicants have appealed and a third of those appeals were allowed; thus, overwhelmingly, applicants tend to succeed.

But in any case, foreign asylum seekers are only a small part of immigration to the UK: 6% of the total in 2019, 17% last year. Most immigration is legal.

Overall net migration in the year to June 2022 is estimated at 504,000; in 2019 some 14% of the resident British population were born abroad.

In addition, we have recently made welcome refugees from the war in Ukraine and opened the door for up to 5 million Hong Kong citizens ‘threatened by draconian security laws.’

As to ‘illegal’ immigrants:

there are between 594,000 and 745,000 illegal immigrants in UK. In contrast a total of approximately 30,000 people came in on small boats in the calendar year 2021 and of these only approximately 10% are illegal immigrants (90% are legitimate refugees with a legal right to asylum in UK).

So the images we see in the papers so often, of hi-viz-jacketed groups arriving by boat, are almost a distraction. If the Home Secretary ever actually succeeds in stopping the rubber flotillas, it will be little more than a PR victory to impress the British punters.

The real issue is official policy on immigration. The Government’s ‘New Plan For Immigration’, issued last March, opens with fine-sounding sentiments:

The UK has a proud history of being open to the world. Global Britain will continue in that tradition.

Our society is enriched by legal immigration. We are a better country for it.

We recognise the contribution of those who have come to the UK lawfully and helped build our public services, businesses, culture and communities and we always will.

Further in, it considers the challenges of illegal immigration, including criminal people-smuggling operations and the dangers to the migrants; but also says

if left unchecked, illegal immigration puts unsustainable pressures on public services.

Yet as we have seen, the total number of illegals in Britain, accumulated over many years, may be as low as one single year’s worth of net migration. The ‘unsustainable' pressures’ can hardly be attributed to the relatively small subset of ‘irregular’ incomers.

What’s the big picture?

Do we need, can we afford, the importation of people on the current scale? What are the benefits and disadvantages, long-term as well as short?

Is it an argument about demographics?

To sustain the country’s population at its present level, we would need an average birth rate of 2.08 children per woman; at the moment it’s 1.754. Without immigration, our population would gradually shrink. Would that be a good thing?

Why do we have so few children? Would we have more if houses were not so expensive and employment more abundant and better-paid?

Is the immigration issue merely a symptom of systemic economic failures that none of our governments in recent decades have addressed?