January 2006

31 January 2006
The doctoring of the school league tables - I have some thoughts …link
28 January 2006
Quote of the Day

All men pay for sex, often with ear-ache, or with dinner, dresses, jewelry or just jobs around the house. The distinction between explicit prostitution and these transactions is one of fine degree only.

Chris Dillow.  Discuss, as they say.

26 January 2006
France and Britain: why did one revolution succeed and the other fail?

A recent Samizdata piece by Johnathan Pierce on the dreadfulness of the French Revolution got me thinking.

In the French Revolution you had an absolute monarchy, a cash crisis, the recall of an (apparently) defunct parliament, radical politics, regicide, terror and restoration; all of which elements were present in the English Civil War.  What I find curious is what happened next.  While Britain entered a period of (by most standards) internal stability, France went through the most amazing internal political chaos, with republic after empire after republic after monarchy.

So, why after their respective convulsions, did things go so well for Britain and so badly for France?

Was it geography?  Being a continental power is never easy - as the late Findlay Dunachie pointed out it means you need a large army and all the knock-on effects that entails.  But how would that explain France’s instability?

Was it something in the French character?  I don’t much care for explanations like this and, anyway, if true, where did it come from?

Was it, perhaps, nothing to do with the Revolution, as such, but bound up in the simple fact that France lost the Napoleonic Wars?  Could repeated failure on the battlefield explain repeated attempts at getting the politics right; in much the same way that unsuccessful football teams keep changing manager?  Perhaps, but how does that explain the events of 1830, 1848 - occasions where defeat was not present?

Could it have been the absence of a proper all-out Civil War - the theory being that such things resolve issues?  I could believe that if the English Civil War had actually resolved anything but it didn’t. 

Any ideas?

Strange Fact. Iranian President Ahmadinejad's surname means "oh, but he is drunk" in Flemish …link
25 January 2006
Quote of the day

As for the paucity of economic statistics for the colony, Cowperthwaite explained that he resisted requests to provide any, lest they be used as ammunition by those who wanted more government intervention.

From the obituary of Sir John Cowperthwaite, father of Hong Kong’s economic boom

Announcing Appendicitis Central

While out on Friday I came across some more appendicitis stories - maybe I’ll turn this into Appendicitis Central after all.

First up, what happened to an American friend of Michael Jennings at the hands of the NHS.  Once again, they missed it and by the time they got to it they had to hack quite a lot of his gut away meaning that for quite some time afterwards there were only certain types of food he could eat.  That pretty much put him off the idea of socialised medicine.

Secondly, what happened to a friend of Samizdata’s Philip Chaston.  This was in some out-of-the-way place in Italy.  They couldn’t speak a word of English but, yet, everything went fine.

Finally, what happened to our host, Christian Michel, in France.  It was near Christmas, and (I guess) about 40 years ago (Christian was 16 at the time).  Nobody wanted to operate but by Christmas Eve they had no choice.  The operation itself was unremarkable.  But when Christian came round it was midnight mass - all smells, bells and wafers.  In his drugged up state it took him a full 30 minutes before he realised that he was in fact still alive.

Anyway, if I am going to take this Appendicitis Central thing seriously I may as well do it badly and completely unscientifically.  So, have you, or do you know anyone who has had their appendix out?  I am particularly interested to hear from people who had their operations in the US or other exotic locations.  I would also be interested to hear from anyone who has a “good” appendectomy on the NHS (there’s got to be one).

The score so far:

UK: 0 good, 2 bad
Japan: 1 good, 0 bad
France: 2 good, 0 bad
Italy: 1 good, 0 bad

Update  I knew there had to one (good NHS appendectomy - see comments).  Seems rather similar to my own.  I also have a pretty large scar (two actually), so it looks like keyhole surgery isn’t being practised everywhere.  So, the updated table reads:

UK: 1 good, 2 bad
Japan: 1 good, 0 bad
France: 2 good, 0 bad
Italy: 1 good, 0 bad

In praise of Sven

What is one to make of this Sven business?  He saves our 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign and leads us to an unprecedented run of results which include victories over Germany and Argentina (twice).  Now, in a normal, rational world that should make the guy’s job secure. 

But this is no normal world.  This is FAland.  “Oh but, Sven is the Scandalmeister”, they say.  Until, that is, you look at what he is supposed to have done.  Banging Ulrika Jonnson and Faria Alam?  Hey, FA bods that’s what single men are supposed to do.  Claiming that managers take bungs?  Fuck me, you don’t say.  Or that David Beckham is unhappy at Real Madrid?  Ditto.

And now, for the pièce de résistance - they want to replace him with an English manager.  Now, I might understand if the Great One were still available but he’s not.  Hey, FA guys, take a look at the top of the table.  See any English-managed teams there?  No? I didn’t think so.  Hmm, thinks, maybe there’s a reason for that.  Hmm, like maybe the English are rubbish at managing football teams.

Really, the sooner the FA is parcelled up and sold to the Glazers the better.  They couldn’t do any worse.

Update  Seems that the FA is prepared to look at foreign coaches.  Don’t you just hate it when the facts get in the way of a good rant?

23 January 2006
Rail fares to rise? - I have some thoughts …link
22 January 2006
"So what does the Orange Book actually say?" asks Harry Phibbs. Quite a lot it would seem.
20 January 2006
I got into Grand Rounds (that's the weekly roundup of medical stories) last week but forgot to give them a name check. So, a week late, here we go.
18 January 2006
Three cheers for the robber barons …link
Poverty may not cause crime - but ugliness does. Oh boy, we're going to have fun with this …link
Quote of the Day

Personally, I think that “Terry and June” is very, very funny. I also like “Only Fools and Horses” and “The Paralympics”.

Noreen, working up to an attack on Fawlty Towers

17 January 2006
Intelligence, or lack of it, in politics - Chris Dillow on why smart people don't get ahead …link
“The party is now over” - UK taxes now higher than in Germany …link
15 January 2006
At risk of turning this blog into Appendicitis Central…

...here is a brief summary of what Jackie’s boyfriend, Antoine, told me (or, at least, what I think he told me) last night about what happened when he got appendicitis way back in 1985.

After spending ten hours waiting in Hampstead’s Royal Free Hospital’s casualty department he got to see someone.  It then took three doctors (one of whom got it wrong) for him to be diagnosed with appendicitis after which he had to wait another 12 hours for an operation by which time his appendix had burst.  He then spent another month in hospital recovering.

Boy, am I glad I got ill in Japan.

Wiki feedback

Due to an outbreak of Wiki spam I’ve turned off the ability for just anyone to create an account which in turn means that unless your name is Jax or Kieran you will not be able to leave a comment on any of the Wiki pages in the Talk/Discussion section.  The only alternative I can see is to create a special blog posting which will act as a sort of catch all for comments on the Wiki.  And this is it.  And, yes, I will link to here from there though it will be a slow process.

14 January 2006
Tony’s “Respect Agenda”

I have some (belated) thoughts.

Meanwhile, The Longrider is positively fuming, concluding:

...I look back at the euphoria of the 1st May 1997 - and realise now, that the best thing for Britain on that day would have been a Major victory.


11 January 2006
Croziervision Quote of the Day #2

I have rarely met a more obvious sign of a real estate bubble than when my [Shanghai] taxi driver explained that he owns four flats to speculate on increasing prices.

Johann Norberg before the Shanghai property crash.

Croziervision Quote of the Day

The overwhelming majority of patients are responsible about calling out a doctor. A persistent minority are not. Some people put more thought into ordering a take away Pizza than they do into calling a doctor. Of course you have to pay for the Pizza.

NHS Blog Doctor

08 January 2006
Normally, I link to the post rather than the blog, but as NHS Blog Doctor has, for the last hour, been making me laugh and scream in equal measure, I think I'll make an exception. (Hat-tip A Tangled Web)
07 January 2006
Cameron makes a mistake

According to the papers and what I’ve read, David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party wants to keep the NHS.  This has led to some pretty negative comment from, amongst others, Stephen Pollard, David Green, Melanie Phillips and Samizdata.  Their view (with which I agree) is that healthcare will never get any better so long as the state runs the show.

In other words, it’s poor economics.  But, I believe it also makes poor politics.

Why?  Because, I think the penny is beginning to drop with the British public about the NHS.  For the whole period of the Thatcher/Major government they were prepared to accept that the NHS’s failings were all down to something called “underfunding” which in turn was down to something called “those bastard Tories”.  However, for the last nine years we have had a government that is not only committed to the NHS but has had oodles of money to spend on it.  If there was ever a time when the NHS’s problems were going to be solved it was now.  But, they haven’t been solved and everyone knows it.  I get the sense from the people I talk to - and, yes, it is pretty unscientific - that the public are beginning to give up on the NHS.  Not its principles - people still like the idea of free-at-the-point-of-use and everyone being equal.  But they are beginning to despair of those ideas ever being combined with something remotely resembing quality.

I believe by the time of the next general election, the public will be prepared to listen to a politician who is prepared to tell them the truth about the NHS: it is bad, it is bad because it is run by the state and the only way it is ever going to get any better is if the state gets out of the picture.  So, by making his remarks now, Cameron has effectively boarded a political Titanic.  Oh, it’ll look and feel good for a while but eventually it’s going to take him to the bottom.

06 January 2006
I quite enjoyed my stay in a foreign hospital - but Noreen didn't …link
05 January 2006
Steyn on Sharia - and how it's coming to Europe. I have some thoughts …link
04 January 2006
The Japanese healthcare system

I went through my treatment in complete ignorance of Japan’s healthcare system.  Since then I’ve done a bit of research.  This is what I have been able to glean:

  • There is a mixture of public and private provision.  They all charge (in the first instance) full whack
  • Health insurance is compulsory and must be purchased either from the government or through one’s employer.  And it only covers about 70% of the cost.  In the Ishikawas’ case it is only 35%.  Their employer pays the other 35%.  The insurance costs themselves (according to the Ishikawas) are crippling.  This is because it is not proper insurance.  It is more of a Pay As You Go system like our beloved state pensions.  And like our state pensions they are paying for the older generation.
  • It takes twice as long to get discharged in Japan as it does in the West.  I can vouch for this.  At almost exactly the same age as I am now my father also went down with appendicitis though this time it was in France (we Croziers don’t do anything the easy way).  He was out in four days: I was out in eight.
  • Japanese doctors have a reputation for haughtiness - you know, not listening to the patient, not telling him what is going on, having a poor bedside manner etc.  This was not my experience.
  • The system is (apparently) starting to creak.  On the one hand, Japan has an aging population which means the bills keep going up.  On the other, because it is paying the bills, the government won’t pay for some of the more modern treatments.  Remind you of anything?

See here for more details.

03 January 2006
Rikugien, Tokyo - 3 December 2005


01 January 2006
There's a story in the Telegraph today about overcrowding on Britain's trains. This is precisely what you get when you have fare control. Answer? Get rid of it.