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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Healthcare on the Continent

Well, personal anecdote does count for something, doesn’t it?

France: I feel like death warmed up, and trot round to see the Doc. He decides a variety of tests are required including a full blood analysis of the usual things plus others I’ve never heard of. I go down to the local analysis lab and have the test. Two days later I return to the doctor for a discussion of the three-page printout of the results and the necessary treatment.

Germany 1): I go to the doctor here about my son. He decides that two specific blood tests are required. A nurse draws off some blood more or less at once and takes it to the lab at the end of the surgery. We wait for 10 to 15 minutes in the waiting room and get called back to discuss the results with the doctor. He tells me that one of the tests is negative but I should call back the next day to see about the second.

Germany 2): I fall down the cellar stairs pushing a heavy trolley which catches me a heavy blow in the ribs. I laugh it off but after a few days it is as bad as ever and more painful. I see the doc and he does a full scan of my chest with some fancy contraption in his surgery (many doctors even have X-ray machines on site), informing me that I have a large lump of congealing blood just under the skin which will not go away on its own and requires surgical removal. I also learn that the internal wound has not leaked into the chest cavity but that he can see rather too much fat around the liver …… he tells me I need a minor operation and should go the same day round to the hospital, which I do. At A&E, I wait 20 minutes and see a specialist who confirms I need this minor op. to to remove the blood, but though urgent it isn’t critical and can wait till the next day. I return the next day, wait about five minutes, then the anaesthetist explains the procedure and gets me to sign a form allowing them to put me under, which I do. Then I get undressed, onto a trolley, get an injection, fall asleep and wake up with a fresh scar. Five or six days later I return to have the stitches removed.

Germany 3): Last year I decided that I might be suffering from stress, an amazing bit of self-diagnosis which I will no doubt be told off for. At the Doc’s, he put a load of sensors all over my torso and head and hooked it up to some sort of computer. I had to lie there for 10 to 15 minutes, whereupon he came back, did a printout and looked at it. He told me I did have a somewhat high – but not alarmingly so – stress-level, but that he couldn’t be certain that this was abnormal for me. He told me it was no real cause for concern; blood pressure and other things were OK. He gave me some mild calmant or whatever (I forget exactly what) and told me to come back in a week’s time to do the test again for a comparison. He also asked me why I thought I might be stressed and the ensuing discussion lasted about 10 minutes, during which he gave me some practical advice about stress management.

How does it go over there in the UK?

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Britain, European Union

 

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EU hands out holidays paid for by taxpayer

Tens of thousands of political activists, including hundreds from the BNP, have been given free or subsidised holidays by British and European taxpayers.

Some excellent facts and stats from “The Daily Telegraph” today. “Stats”? Yes, we all know the soundbite, but as it happens, I am right off soundbites after the Blair years. Actually, statistics tell the truth, as long as you know and trust the source and how the stats were collected and prepared. Anyway, the reporter is Andrew Gilligan. Will he do?

I summarize the key points from the above article:

EU hands out hoidays paid for by taxpayer

Even as it grapples with the financial crisis, the European Union is paying almost £25 million this year to subsidise the trips, arranged through MEPs.

The BNP, which has two Euro-MPs, has made heavy use of the scheme to thank some of its most prominent members at taxpayers’ expense. One BNP official boasted that it was “a good way of rewarding our activists” that “didn’t cost the party a penny”.

The trips are ostensibly “study visits” to the European Parliament buildings in Brussels or Strasbourg, but the holidaymakers need spend only a fraction of their time at the parliament to claim the full subsidy, which can be collected in cash without the need for receipts.

  • One subsidised trip to Strasbourg last week, promoted by the Labour MEP Peter Skinner, lasted six days, with only a few hours spent at the parliament. The rest of the visit, according to a programme seen by The Sunday Telegraph, included a river cruise, a tour of the cathedral, a visit to the city’s Christmas market, champagne tasting, a battlefield tour in Ypres and sightseeing in Reims. Like most MEPs, Mr Skinner did not join the party, but hosted a free dinner for the participants. The cost of the six-day trip, including some meals, all accommodation, tours, coach and ferry, was £272. If booked directly, the hotels alone would have cost about £500 at this time of year. One of those who went on the trip, Juan Leahy, who works for Mr Skinner, declined to comment when asked if it was mostly a “holiday”.
  • One BNP trip, in March last year, cost taxpayers €10,791 (£9,775) for 44 participants, an average of £220 a head. It was free for those who took part, according to the organiser, Mr Butler, and even made the BNP a profit.“The subsidy is for a set amount,” said Mr Butler. “There is no provision to pay back what you don’t use. The organiser of the trip can use any residue for whatever he sees fit: this is quite legitimate.” Mr Butler said he had donated the profits to the BNP.In a report last month, the Court of Auditors, Europe’s spending watchdog, criticised this aspect of the scheme, warning that “the procedures in place do not require groups to provide evidence of travel costs, resulting in a risk of overpayment as most groups use cheaper collective transport”. The subsidy for the journey from London to Brussels amounts to £85 a head, but Eurostar offers a return ticket for £69, and travelling in a privately hired coach can cost as little as £25. According to the Court of Auditors, 78 per cent of the payments to trip organisers last year were made in cash. This “limited the possibility of applying internal control procedures”, the watchdog warned. Mr Butler defended the visits, saying: “Everyone had fun and it didn’t cost the party a penny. The trips are a good way of rewarding our activists for their hard work and dedication. Should we feel guilty for the Euro taxpayer? Certainly not.”
  • The European Parliament declined to give the number of British participants in the trips, but figures for the last available year, 2007, show that British visitors claimed €938,000 (£600,000) in subsidies.The cost of the schemes for all 27 EU nations this year is €29.7 million (£24.9 million), a 40 per cent rise since 2007. As Britain’s share of the EU budget this year is 12 per cent, taxpayers are contributing £3 million to the programme. The parliament said that better controls on the payments would be too “complex and time-consuming”.
 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in European Union, Politics

 

Gibraltar is an anachronism

It is nowhere written that the planet has to be parcelled up into “non-outrageous” states. If you propose to rationalize all the boundaries of the political world as it is now then you’re going to be very busy.

The current state boundaries exist through historical accident, and of course on occasion design – but not a design based on anything rational but that of conquest.

It is outrageous that a state can claim ownership of territory where other people live who do not want to belong to it. The Basque Country, Barcelona and many other areas should long ago have been given independence, if that is what the people living there want. What is more important, the “state” or individuals who have the right to a degree of self-determination?

It is also outrageous that some countries have a ludicrous amount of wealth from under the ground while others have none. All the planet’s resources should be shared out, just as the air we breathe is.

It is not the Gibraltarians’ fault that for a long time Spain was fascist, nor that during this time they got used to sorting their own affairs out thankyou very much. Nor indeed is it their fault that for much of the post-Franco era the Spanish state has been bullying, malicious, self-righteous and downright nasty towards the people of Gibraltar.

What the Spanish state should do is be nice and neighbourly and open up the border so that in time Gibraltar and Spain will be like Germany and Holland – no border crossings, gradual economic and eventually in a saner world political integration.

 
 

TODAY’S NEWS

As ever, lots to report in La Comedie Humaine:

The Italian ferry: it seems that the Captain ordered the ship sail close to the rock so that he could wave to someone onshore. And while he was waiting to get near enough to wave he was at the bar chatting up a dishy passenger. It has of course always been one of the many onerous duties of a liner captain to reasssure the passengers just in case they hit a reef and capsize, or in this case just BEFORE they hit a reef and capsize. In addition, the rock they hit “wasn’t supposed to be there.” I do hope the rock gets a jolly good kicking for moving out of position. One is tempted to say “Only in Italy”, but we have our share of lunatics, too.

The Royal Yacht. At a time of severe cutbacks and misery Michael Gove wants to spend GBP60,000,000 on a new royal yacht, thus qualifying for the “Tactless Waste of the Year Award”. The thing is, while the plebs might stomach this as a prezzie for the much-loved Queen, the sad truth is that she is getting on a bit and it is inevitable that the number 1 sprog will take over in the foreseeable future. Even for a staunch royalist the idea of the public purse shelling out sixty million quid for Charles and Camilla to cruise about in is a bit much to contemplate, while the ghost of poor “There-were-three-of-us-in-this-marriage” Diana stumbles bulimically along the vast, cold corridors of Buck House with the occasional stop to vomit up her breakfast.

However, regarding the cost, it is only THREE DAYS’ UK CONTRIBUTION TO THE EU, so we should perhaps get things in perspective.

The Labour Party’s woes rumble on. The problem with the endless mea culpae is that one is prompted to ask: “If now, then why not before?”, and as Eric Morecambe would have said: “There’s no answer to that”. In addition, they are forced into convoluted wordcraft to try to explain it away. I copied this from “The Independent”, so brilliant it is:

“If we were in government, we wouldn’t be cutting this fast or this much. But because the Government’s cuts are damaging economic growth, there will be fewer tax revenues and more spending on unemployment benefits, so even with their cuts, the deficit won’t shrink as fast as the Coalition wants. That means, by the time of the next election, the deficit won’t have been eliminated, which means, if we win, that we’ll have to make even more cuts. So we won’t be able to reverse the ones that have already been made.”

If you were a Labour canvasser, I suspect the front door would have been politely shut in your face long before you had time to get to the end of that explanation. Labour’s argument may turn out to be economically correct but politically it is almost impossible to sell. And from now on, the Tory or Liberal Democrat riposte couldn’t be simpler.

Each time a Labour spokesman opposes a Coalition cut, the minister will be able to say,”But you’ve now said you accept our cuts. Are you for them or against them? If you’re going to accept them in three years’ time, why not now?” At which point the Opposition politician can do little but squirm, particularly if the cut is a really noxious one.

Unfortunately, Ed and Balls just cannot argue their way out of the truth, which is that they are now A) accepting cuts but B) refuse to accept that Labour spent too much during the Gordon Binge Years. Even Chomsky and Wittgenstein woud have had trouble with this one.

I also note that Balls is now distancing himself from the unions. Good ploy – nobody ever got elected by sucking up to the Unions (See “Getting Elected for Idiots” by Tony Blair.)

SAF was good on Rooney: “He had his moments but can do better.” Why does this remind me of most of my school reports? Of course, we would have more respect for SAF if he could bring himself to tell the truth as he sees it. (Ís there a consultancy opening for Jeremey Clarkson here?) and go on to say. “Rooney is an overweight, stroppy overpaid tub of puerile lard whose career will be over before he knows it unless he gets his act together.”

Scottish dependence rumbles on, too – as it will for ever no doubt. Now it seems that Salmond wants to keep the currency of the detested southern bully until the time is ripe for Scotland to join the euro. Well, full Scottish independence always was a long-term project. Let’s hope they manage it before the Sun turns into a Red Giant.

Meanwhile the pesky eurodebts just can’t be summited or pledged away, no matter how many and expensive the former or solemn and repetitive the latter. A three-way poker game currently is going on in Athens between Baddies A (the hedge funds, who are supposed to take a “voluntary” loss of half their “investment” since if it’s not “voluntary” the game’s up and the French banks collapse); Baddies B (the EU/ECB/Goldman-Sachs/Merkozy troika (in reality quintet)) and Goodies A, the Greek people. As the Baddies outnumber the Goodies two-to-one and the former also have the German panzers on their side one doesn’t hold out much hope for the latter (Goodies, not Panzers), though of course only the plebs are good (as usual), the rest having stuffed the plebs, pillaged the EU grants and salted the proceeds away in Switzerland. Still, Greece may yet enjoy a Colonels’ coup with subsequent invasion by EU forces determined to reinstate the legitimate government of Greece. You know, the one led by the PM who falsified the statistics when Governor of the Bank of Greece so that his country could get into the euro and now imposed on Greece by the EU. And I thought the Anglo-Saxons were the champions of soap-opera.

The rail link? The Great, Good and above all Rich are up in arms about their homes in Middle England being blighted, even though one MP had the good sense to flog hers before the plan was announced. So far there is no word from Jeremy “Insult-the-Bastards” Clarkson, who I believes lives somewhere up there. Too busy slagging off Austria the last time I checked. A bit OTT this time, surely? Any country with Vienna, Salzburg, Schnitzel and the hills which are alive with music can’t be all that bad.

The USA? A moron looks like fighting Obama for the presidency. Sorry, that should be “Mormon” of course. I can”t see the rust-belt Bible-bashers voting for a Mormon, though a moron would clearly be no problem. And Romney apparently made his money asset-stripping companies and making its employees redundant. That will really go down well in the industrial heartlands of the USA once the Democrats focus on it, as they wisely haven’t – yet. Obama must be convinced God is on his side, which is a bit strange that he is likely to facve a Mormon. Is there in fact a word combining Mormon and moron? What about Mormoron?

Cleggo? Usually good for a spot of news, the main element of interest being whether he has managed to edge ahead of Ed Minubruder in the polls down in the 5% popularity bracket . Anyway, now he wants to force companies to sell shares to their employees, to turn the UK into “a John Lewis Company”. Great if you work for a decent firm, but what about the rest of us? Of course, the vast new govt organisation needed to monitor all this and the accompanying bureaucracy not to mention endless litigation will improve competitivity with the Chinese no-end and naturally help to build up an engineering industry to rival the Germans. Still, better to be fair and poor than unfair and rich,

Speaking of which slimy, evil, capitalist hell-hole (Germany) I actually saw a beggar yesterday. He was sitting outside the minimarket, strategically-placed so that you had to step over him to get a trolley. There is of course a major problem with male beggars. They almost always have a few beer-bottles lying around them and a fag between their lips, so you know damned well that the first thing they’ll do with your dosh is to replenish their supplies. Which of course, is bad for their health. So it is a bit of a poser, though one can just walk by arguing that one is in fact doing them a favour. Of course, one does not encounter beggars in socialist paradises,  where I believe that even the abject poor are terminally happy and – in Cuba’s case at least – spend their time joyfully playing beach-volleyball in the sun. Not that I’ve been to many socialist paradises, but that’s the kind of impression one gets from the cognoscenti, or should it be incognoscenti – or even non-cognoscenti?

SECTS? My own is going fine. I managed to double the membership yesterday, though that was only my seven-month-old grandson. When I asked him if he wanted to join my sect he said “Coo”, so I took that as a “yes”. Now I am sorting out an application for govt funds to start a faith school. It won’t be big, but that means I can be Principal, Secretary, Teacher, Spiritual Advisor and Caretaker all at the same time and pay myself five salaries. “You know it makes sense.”

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in TODAY'S NEWS

 

Today’s News

Today’s INSTANT QUIZ question:

In financial terms, what have the UK and Germany in common?

Answer, they have both sold debt at negative yield. That is to say, someone is paying these countries a small fee to look after their money.

Amazing. Despite its vast debt, the UK is seen as a safe haven compared to almost anywhere else ….. Oh dear – the evil Osborne, scourge of the plebs, must be doing SOMETHING right, but of course it’s probably for the wrong reason, like to protect his job or his cronies in the City and so all thought of Brownie points should be rejected even though Ed Minibrain is now putting his money into “reality”. That’s an idea – the Noo Noo Labour Party becomes a reality show!! They could sell it to the BBC to bring in some dosh …..

But I digress; re our 70 billion loan at negative yield, how Balls must be frustrated! How he must long to return to the good old Brown days of “Spend and Bust and Bollocks to Debt”

But the intriguing question is, who ARE these people with so much money they have nothing better to do with than pay to park it in a country’s bank? They clearly do not NEED this money, do they? On the basis of the immortal and sublime “To each according to his need”, I propose confiscating the lot and using it somewhere it is needed – in my bank account for a start.

Meanwhile, the great Cantona is going to stand for the French Presidency. Pity I can’t vote – he couldn’t be worse than any of the other tossers available. He had this brilliant idea some time ago whereby everyone should simultaneously withdraw their money from their bank. BRILLIANT! All the banks go bust in hours, all their directors go on the dole. No more disgusting bonuses and a rebirth for a moral and more importantly SANE banking system.

Sadly, like most great visionaries, Eric the Great is far ahead of his time. And what a poet! I remember that thing about a seagull …. brilliant.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in European Union, Politics

 

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Cuba & Revisionism

I don’t want to stray into a minefield, but the problem with Cuba is the self-denial of its protagonists. Nobody – least of all me – suggests that ALL has been bad since the revolution or indeed in the making of it. On the other hand, the protagonists seem incapabable of acknowledging that ANYTHING was or has been bad, such as – as Briggs has pointed out before – the brutality of Che Guevara or the ossification of Cuba’s society since the revolution.

An ossification the regime is now trying to put right, but they clearly cannot avoid the key question: If some economic liberalisation and basic freedoms are right NOW then why have they been WRONG for the last 50 years? Bit like the Catholic church and celibacy. The Pope CAN’T abolish this basic lunacy since it would prove they have been wrong for about TWO THOUSAND YEARS. It would also mean he has had a lifetime of self-restraint for NOTHING!!

As for the “key question syndrome”, I wonder if Balls is asking himself it in Labour’s case? If “reality” and financial restraint (which means of course the dreaded “cuts” they have been whinging on about since the last election) are correct NOW then WHY weren’t they correct for Labour’s Binge Years? In their case they could and should blame it on Brown, as I do, but I suppose thy don’t want to be “disloyal” – a bit like Stalin putting the fear of God into the Bolsheviks even after his death.

(I have decided to refer henceforth to the Labour years as “The Binge Years” since – like the Cultural Revolution, The Black Death, the Terror and so on the phrase is A) appropriate and B) sticks in the memory.)

Oh dear ……

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Morality, Politics

 

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Sarko’s Wagging Finger

 

Caption Competition?

Him;
“But you said you’d bail us out …….”

“But who else will save us from our own folly if not the Germans?”

“Come on Angela – hand over the money; you know it makes sense.”

“We must stick together against those Anglo-Saxons; it’s all their fault.”

“I’ll raise you one Tobin tax and two Greek Gauleiters.”

“Look Angela; there IS no Europe without France …..”

“Angela my dear. Germany may be bigger than us, but size isn’t everything.”(Ed. well, he should know.)

“If we just stick together, we should be able to bully the rest into submission.”

HER:

“Look; everyone knows you’re a stroppy, nerdish dwarf – let’s move on.”

“No Sarko – you DIDN’T win the war …..”

“Do I understand this right? What’s yours is yours and what’s ours is yours, too?”

“You wag that at me just once more and I’ll bite it off.”

“We don’t really want to make enemies of the UK, do we? Oh, sorry – silly question.”

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in European Union, Humour

 

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