Sunday, November 04, 2007

Killed by a British hospital that just didn't care - a widow recounts her husband's final days

On the last morning of his life, Ian Luck phoned his wife from the hospital bed where, ten days earlier, he had been admitted for a gastric disorder. "He was crying so much I could hardly understand him," says Debra, his widow and mother of his son Ben, now nine. "Ian said he had spent most of the night in agony - the nurses had forgotten his pain-killing injections. "He was covered in his own vomit, he'd been sick on the floor, and when a nurse finally came, she told him he was 'disgusting'."

Debra will never forget that dreadful conversation in June 2002. Not least because just before he rang off, Ian said something so upsetting that it makes Debra cry to talk about it even today. "Ian had been bedridden for almost the entire ten days he'd been in the hospital," she says. "But he said if he could walk, he would have gone to the window and jumped out. He couldn't bear being in that uncaring place for another day."

Less than 24 hours later, Ian, aged just 37, suffered two cardiac arrests and died. A post-mortem showed that he had a ruptured oesophagus caused by continual vomiting. This rare condition causes massive shock and infection, which would have put fatal strain on the heart. According to medical experts, the most likely cause of Ian's excessive vomiting was a bleeding stomach ulcer, a condition that doctors initially picked up and treated. But when Ian's symptoms returned, they failed to carry out a simple exploratory process to diagnose further bleeding, which could have been treated with drugs or surgery.

As if his death wasn't tragedy enough, Debra is haunted by the misery, pain and squalor he endured at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, during the ten days before he died. "An animal would have been treated with more compassion," says Debra. "No one wanted to help us. Every time we asked for pain relief, or to see a doctor, we were told to wait, or that we didn't know what we were talking about."

The final day of Ian's life was spent in misery and humiliation on a geriatric ward, with uncaring nurses and doctors who failed to recognise that he was dying. He had been shunted there from his surgical ward, having been told his bed was needed for a more urgent surgical patient. "That day was a nightmare," says Debra, now 43. "I knew he was dying, his usual happy character had vanished, he was frightened and very low. He looked grey and clammy, his stomach was swollen, he was hallucinating and there was vomit all over his T-shirt. "As fast as I changed him he was sick again. The nurses were not interested in helping me.

"At one point, an old man fell out of the bed next to us and lay there, crying for help. When I ran up to the nurses' station to tell them, they said: 'Just leave him.' "I wasn't strong enough to help him by myself and it was 15 minutes before anyone came to lift him back into bed. He lay there calling for help next to my dying husband. "All the time I could hear the nurses chatting and laughing. It was frustrating, terrifying, horrible. "This was a British hospital in the 21st century, yet it felt as if we were in the Dark Ages."

A fortnight ago, after nearly five years of legal wrangling, the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust agreed to pay œ200,000 damages to Debra, and a further œ25,000 to her son, Ben, without accepting liability. Although she acknowledges the money will help make Ben's future secure, Debra is disappointed. "No one has been punished or sacked," she says. "No one from the hospital has offered to meet me and tell me how things went so wrong, let alone offered an apology. "For all I know, the same appalling standard of care is still acceptable in that hospital. If that is the case, then there will be more unnecessary deaths."

Sadly, Ian's story of uncaring treatment is one that is all too common in the NHS. While many nurses and other medical professionals rightly take great pride in the high standards of care they offer patients, too often we hear of similar stories of poor nursing. The recent scandal surrounding the lack of hygiene at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals - which led to 90 deaths from the superbug C. difficile between 2004 and 2005 - may have grabbed the headlines, but similarly shocking cases elsewhere in the country have surfaced with depressing regularity.

"Although Ian's story sounds dreadful, unfortunately it is not an isolated incident," says Vanessa Bourne, of The Patients' Association. "There has been a profound change in the nursing profession. Nurses no longer seem to want to care, or do the most basic forms of nursing. "Patients often contact us about incidents where they have been left with buzzers unanswered or in dirty bed linen. When they have broached the subject, they have been told off like naughty children."

Debra is emphatic about the "care" her husband received. "I actually feel that Ian was murdered," she says. "He died because people couldn't be bothered to do their job properly." Ian had suffered from gastric problems for two years. He was admitted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital several times in the first half of 2002 to replace the fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhoea. Ian underwent tests and was diagnosed with inflammation of the intestines and stomach, and then with Type 1 diabetes which, it was thought, could be exacerbating his problems. Finally, after a particularly serious bout of vomiting on June 12, 2002, and weak and unable to eat, Ian was again admitted to hospital. This time he had an endoscopy, where a tube with a camera on the end is passed down the throat into the stomach. "The doctor spotted he had quite a large duodenal ulcer, about 3cm in diameter, which he said might have caused the vomiting," explains Debra. "After six days in hospital Ian's condition slightly improved and, hydrated, he was allowed home."

The most common cause of a duodenal ulcer is an infection, which usually clears up with antiobiotics, but these didn't work, so the doctor arranged another endoscopy. On the morning of his appointment on June 20, Ben, who suffers from asthma, was wheezy, and Ian told Debra to stay with their son. He kissed them goodbye and headed to the hospital. It was the last time father and son would see each other. When Debra rang the hospital that afternoon, she was told Ian's ulcer had bled during the endoscopy and he'd had to undergo emergency treatment. "The surgeon told us that if left untreated, a bleeding ulcer was lifethreatening. But although Ian and I were frightened, he reassured us that we were on the surgical ward, right next to theatre, and if the bleeding started again we were in the best possible place to get it fixed."

But the doctor's optimism was not reflected in the remainder of Ian's care. From the day he was admitted to the day he died, Debra feels she struggled to get him even the most basic level of nursing care. "He was vomiting ten times an hour, and there were bowls around his bed to catch it," says Debra. "Often they weren't emptied for more than an hour and they smelled awful. The first time that happened I found a nurse and asked if she could empty them. When she said she was too busy, I offered to do it myself.

"What I've learned since is that his urine and vomit should have been monitored continuously. Both were vital to working out just how ill he was and whether he would need further investigations. The fact that no one kept a record probably added to his lack of correct treatment."

Debra found herself doing other basic nursing tasks, too. "Many times the vomiting came on so suddenly that Ian would vomit over his pillow, bed or T-shirt. It was often ages before someone came along to clean him up. I would arrive in the morning and he would have dried stains on his pillow or a filthy T-shirt. "I started bringing in clean pillow cases and changing them myself. I would leave him at night feeling guilty because I knew he wouldn't be looked after until I came back. "The next day I would walk up the stairs to his ward with my stomach in knots, terrified of what I'd find next."

And all the time, Ian was deteriorating before her eyes. "In the last two days of his life I saw only junior doctors. After four days in hospital he was so weak and he'd stopped eating or drinking because he felt too ill. If he did try to sip water, it would come back up straightaway," she says. The hospital continued to carry out tests. Ian had a CT scan, which indicated looped intestines, although later tests discounted this as a cause of his pain. One junior doctor casually mentioned to the horrified couple that Ian might have pancreatic cancer, although this was never mentioned again. Another junior doctor tried to put a tube down Ian's throat to drain his stomach but gave up after 20 minutes of Ian retching.

By June 27, Ian was receiving six injections of the painkiller penthidine, plus three injections of Maxalon, an anti-sickness drug, each day. Yet despite the battery of tests, there was no definitive diagnosis about whether the ulcer was still bleeding or if his symptoms were caused by something else. "I made two appointments to speak to a consultant during the course of those ten days," she says, "and both times he didn't turn up. When I tried to talk to junior doctors they were either too busy or didn't know enough.

"We had health insurance so I rang our local private hospital and they agreed to take him, but the Princess Alexandra wouldn't release him, saying he wasn't fit enough to travel. I felt at a loss about what to do next. "I really tried," she says plaintively. "But I shouldn't have let them brush me off; I should have shouted until he got the help he needed."

Indeed, according to Vanessa Bourne, making as much fuss as possible is exactly what you should do if you feel that your care is inadequate. "You have to stand up for yourself," she says. "A useful weapon is to state that you are keeping notes of everything. Speak to the sister, then the senior doctor. If they don't help, demand to see the chairman."

During the night of Friday, June 28, Ian was seen by a junior doctor who was sufficiently alarmed about his condition to request an examination by a consultant with a view to carrying out a laparotomy - an exploratory stomach operation. During the night the consultant did visit Ian. He requested more fluids but failed to order the laparotomy. Independent experts later found that had this procedure gone ahead, it probably would have saved Ian's life. The next morning another junior doctor was sufficiently concerned to call for another consultant review. This was never done.

"When I arrived on Saturday morning Ian looked dreadful," remembers Debra. "He was grey and clammy. I stayed for the rest of the day, nursing him, and went home scared."

On Sunday morning, after his emotional call to Debra, Ian was seen by the on-call physician, a geriatric consultant. After considering the notes of the two junior doctors, she found nothing that warranted immediate action. "When we arrived at the hospital around mid-morning Ian was lapsing in and out of consciousness," said Debra. "He was covered in vomit and had wet himself. I changed him, but when I asked for clean surgical stockings the nurse said there were none left in his size. "I couldn't change his T-shirt without help, because of his drip, but I was told by the nurse she was too busy and to leave him dirty."

As night fell, Ian told Debra to go home to Ben. "I was frightened to leave him, but he said he'd hang on until the morning ward round and a doctor would help him. I left in tears." An hour later, Ian was struggling to breathe. A junior doctor suspected a collapsed lung and, while undergoing a chest X-ray, Ian suffered a cardiac arrest and was resuscitated. However, by the time Debra and other family members arrived, Ian had suffered another arrest and died.

"My father was shouting at the staff saying they had murdered Ian," says Debra. "I asked to see a doctor who had been with him when he died, but no one came." Two days after Ian died, Debra told four-year-old Ben that his father had gone to Heaven. He was inconsolable and later saw a psychologist to help him cope with his grief.

A spokesperson for the Princess Alexandra NHS Trust said: "The trust looked into Mrs Luck's complaint thoroughly in 2002 and we have taken on board many of the issues raised, particularly with regard to communication between doctors, nurses and patients. "Since then we have introduced training both for nursing and medical staff and we continue to strive to improve in this area. "The trust offers Mrs Luck and her family best wishes for the future."

This is little consolation to Debra. "If I had that time again I would not let the nurses fob me off, or try to tell me that it was normal to leave patients in filth. "I wouldn't allow the doctors to make me feel I was being a nuisance. I would raise the roof until my loved one got the help he needed and I'd advise anyone else to do the same. "Ian was a kind man who enjoyed helping other people. It is a tragedy that when he needed help, in the very place he should have got it, there was none."


British grade inflation unmasked

The millions of pounds spent attempting to raise the standard of English in primary schools has had almost no impact on children's reading skills, according to a devastating critique on the education system. Pupils feel anxious about school tests and are losing their love of reading in the drive to improve literacy levels, according to a review published today by the University of Cambridge.

There was no strong evidence to support the Government's claim that national testing in primary schools drives up standards, the review concluded. It added that the current system could be giving up to a third of children the wrong grades. The researchers, who include some of the country's leading educationalists, called for a significant overhaul of primary school testing and recommended that national standards should be monitored using a sample survey of pupils instead of collecting results for every child in the country at ages 7 and 11.

The research by academics at the universities of Bristol and Durham and the National Foundation for Educational Research represents the latest findings of the Cambridge Primary Review, the biggest inquiry into primary education for decades. The Durham University study, led by Peter Tymms, concluded that the National Literacy Strategy, which includes the "literacy hour" daily English lesson, had made a "barely noticeable" impression on reading standards, which had barely improved since the 1950s.

The report said: "500 million pounds was spent on the National Literacy Strategy with almost no impact on reading levels." The apparently dramatic rise in primary school test results "exaggerated the changes in pupils' attainment levels and were seriously misleading". Professor Tymms has in the past criticised ministers for suggesting that tests do not reflect the true nature of rising standards. But the independent statistics watchdog has backed his conclusions.

Wynne Harlen from the University of Bristol gave warning in his report that primary school national tests were too narrow. "There is considerable research evidence that high- stakes tests put teachers under pressure to increase scores, which they do by teaching to the tests, giving multiple practice tests and coaching pupils in how to answer questions," he said. "There is firm evidence that this results in considerable stress for pupils." The report calculated that pupils spend about nine school days in Year 5 and 13 school days in Year 6 practising for and taking tests. "This is time that teachers and pupils could use in other ways," it said.

Despite these concerns, a third report in the series - this time from the National Foundation for Educational Research - found that standards in English primary schools compared favourably with other countries' results. In reading, English primaries are still in the top group of countries, outperforming France, Germany, Italy, and the US. In maths, there has been significant improvement from 1995 to 2003, with England surpassing schools in the United States, Italy, Australia, New
Zealand, Scotland, Norway and eight other countries. In science, English schools were also among the top performers in the world. [On the wishy-washy PISA critieria, maybe]

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that the testing system must be changed. "There is every reason to act to dismantle a testing system whose only effect seems to be to create stress for pupils and teachers," he said. Nick Gibb, the Shadow Schools Minister, said: "Millions of pounds have been spent on education but we haven't seen improvements. As a result, many children, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, are not getting the opportunities they deserve." But Lord Adonis, the Schools Minister, rejected the findings, stating that primary standards were at their highest levels. "This is not an opinion, it is fact," he said.


What the New Atheists Don't See

Theodore Dalrymple rightly says below that to regret religion is to regret Western civilization. I would add that it is to regret humanity -- for religion is in fact one of the things that distinguishes man from animals. One has to feel rather sorry for the hate-filled atheists Dalrymple discusses below. Atheism should be a relaxed and tolerant state. It certainly is with me and with the conservative atheists that I know

The British parliament's first avowedly atheist member, Charles Bradlaugh, would stride into public meetings in the 1880s, take out his pocket watch, and challenge God to strike him dead in 60 seconds. God bided his time, but got Bradlaugh in the end. A slightly later atheist, Bertrand Russell, was once asked what he would do if it proved that he was mistaken and if he met his maker in the hereafter. He would demand to know, Russell replied with all the high-pitched fervor of his pedantry, why God had not made the evidence of his existence plainer and more irrefutable. And Beckett came up with a memorable line: "God doesn't exist-the bastard!"

Beckett's wonderful outburst of disappointed rage suggests that it is not as easy as one might suppose to rid oneself of the notion of God. (Perhaps this is the time to declare that I am not myself a believer.) At the very least, Beckett's line implies that God's existence would solve some kind of problem-actually, a profound one: the transcendent purpose of human existence. Few of us, especially as we grow older, are entirely comfortable with the idea that life is full of sound and fury but signifies nothing. However much philosophers tell us that it is illogical to fear death, and that at worst it is only the process of dying that we should fear, people still fear death as much as ever. In like fashion, however many times philosophers say that it is up to us ourselves, and to no one else, to find the meaning of life, we continue to long for a transcendent purpose immanent in existence itself, independent of our own wills. To tell us that we should not feel this longing is a bit like telling someone in the first flush of love that the object of his affections is not worthy of them. The heart hath its reasons that reason knows not of.

Of course, men-that is to say, some men-have denied this truth ever since the Enlightenment, and have sought to find a way of life based entirely on reason. Far as I am from decrying reason, the attempt leads at best to Gradgrind and at worst to Stalin. Reason can never be the absolute dictator of man's mental or moral economy.

The search for the pure guiding light of reason, uncontaminated by human passion or metaphysical principles that go beyond all possible evidence, continues, however; and recently, an epidemic rash of books has declared success, at least if success consists of having slain the inveterate enemy of reason, namely religion. The philosophers Daniel Dennett, A. C. Grayling, Michel Onfray, and Sam Harris, biologist Richard Dawkins, and journalist and critic Christopher Hitchens have all written books roundly condemning religion and its works. Evidently, there is a tide in the affairs, if not of men, at least of authors.

The curious thing about these books is that the authors often appear to think that they are saying something new and brave. They imagine themselves to be like the intrepid explorer Sir Richard Burton, who in 1853 disguised himself as a Muslim merchant, went to Mecca, and then wrote a book about his unprecedented feat. The public appears to agree, for the neo-atheist books have sold by the hundred thousand. Yet with the possible exception of Dennett's, they advance no argument that I, the village atheist, could not have made by the age of 14 (Saint Anselm's ontological argument for God's existence gave me the greatest difficulty, but I had taken Hume to heart on the weakness of the argument from design).

I first doubted God's existence at about the age of nine. It was at the school assembly that I lost my faith. We had been given to understand that if we opened our eyes during prayers God would depart the assembly hall. I wanted to test this hypothesis. Surely, if I opened my eyes suddenly, I would glimpse the fleeing God? What I saw instead, it turned out, was the headmaster, Mr. Clinton, intoning the prayer with one eye closed and the other open, with which he beadily surveyed the children below for transgressions. I quickly concluded that Mr. Clinton did not believe what he said about the need to keep our eyes shut. And if he did not believe that, why should I believe in his God? In such illogical leaps do our beliefs often originate, to be disciplined later in life (if we receive enough education) by elaborate rationalization.

Dennett's Breaking the Spell is the least bad-tempered of the new atheist books, but it is deeply condescending to all religious people. Dennett argues that religion is explicable in evolutionary terms-for example, by our inborn human propensity, at one time valuable for our survival on the African savannahs, to attribute animate agency to threatening events.

For Dennett, to prove the biological origin of belief in God is to show its irrationality, to break its spell. But of course it is a necessary part of the argument that all possible human beliefs, including belief in evolution, must be explicable in precisely the same way; or else why single out religion for this treatment? Either we test ideas according to arguments in their favor, independent of their origins, thus making the argument from evolution irrelevant, or all possible beliefs come under the same suspicion of being only evolutionary adaptations-and thus biologically contingent rather than true or false. We find ourselves facing a version of the paradox of the Cretan liar: all beliefs, including this one, are the products of evolution, and all beliefs that are products of evolution cannot be known to be true.

One striking aspect of Dennett's book is his failure to avoid the language of purpose, intention, and ontological moral evaluation, despite his fierce opposition to teleological views of existence: the coyote's "methods of locomotion have been ruthlessly optimized for efficiency." Or: "The stinginess of Nature can be seen everywhere we look." Or again: "This is a good example of Mother Nature's stinginess in the final accounting combined with absurd profligacy in the methods." I could go on, but I hope the point is clear. (And Dennett is not alone in this difficulty: Michel Onfray's Atheist Manifesto, so rich in errors and inexactitudes that it would take a book as long as his to correct them, says on its second page that religion prevents mankind from facing up to "reality in all its naked cruelty." But how can reality have any moral quality without having an immanent or transcendent purpose?)

No doubt Dennett would reply that he is writing in metaphors for the layman and that he could translate all his statements into a language without either moral evaluation or purpose included in it. Perhaps he would argue that his language is evidence that the spell still has a hold over even him, the breaker of the spell for the rest of humanity. But I am not sure that this response would be psychologically accurate. I think Dennett's use of the language of evaluation and purpose is evidence of a deep-seated metaphysical belief (however caused) that Providence exists in the universe, a belief that few people, confronted by the mystery of beauty and of existence itself, escape entirely. At any rate, it ill behooves Dennett to condescend to those poor primitives who still have a religious or providential view of the world: a view that, at base, is no more refutable than Dennett's metaphysical faith in evolution.

Dennett is not the only new atheist to employ religious language. In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins quotes with approval a new set of Ten Commandments for atheists, which he obtained from an atheist website, without considering odd the idea that atheists require commandments at all, let alone precisely ten of them; nor does their metaphysical status seem to worry him. The last of the atheist's Ten Commandments ends with the following: "Question everything." Everything? Including the need to question everything, and so on ad infinitum?

Not to belabor the point, but if I questioned whether George Washington died in 1799, I could spend a lifetime trying to prove it and find myself still, at the end of my efforts, having to make a leap, or perhaps several leaps, of faith in order to believe the rather banal fact that I had set out to prove. Metaphysics is like nature: though you throw it out with a pitchfork, yet it always returns. What is confounded here is surely the abstract right to question everything with the actual exercise of that right on all possible occasions. Anyone who did exercise his right on all possible occasions would wind up a short-lived fool.

This sloppiness and lack of intellectual scruple, with the assumption of certainty where there is none, combined with adolescent shrillness and intolerance, reach an apogee in Sam Harris's book The End of Faith. It is not easy to do justice to the book's nastiness; it makes Dawkins's claim that religious education constitutes child abuse look sane and moderate.

Harris tells us, for example, that "we must find our way to a time when faith, without evidence, disgraces anyone who would claim it. Given the present state of the world, there appears to be no other future worth wanting." I am glad that I am old enough that I shall not see the future of reason as laid down by Harris; but I am puzzled by the status of the compulsion in the first sentence that I have quoted. Is Harris writing of a historical inevitability? Of a categorical imperative? Or is he merely making a legislative proposal? This is who-will-rid-me-of-this-troublesome-priest language, ambiguous no doubt, but not open to a generous interpretation.

It becomes even more sinister when considered in conjunction with the following sentences, quite possibly the most disgraceful that I have read in a book by a man posing as a rationalist: "The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live."

Let us leave aside the metaphysical problems that these three sentences raise. For Harris, the most important question about genocide would seem to be: "Who is genociding whom?" To adapt Dostoyevsky slightly, starting from universal reason, I arrive at universal madness.

Lying not far beneath the surface of all the neo-atheist books is the kind of historiography that many of us adopted in our hormone-disturbed adolescence, furious at the discovery that our parents sometimes told lies and violated their own precepts and rules. It can be summed up in Christopher Hitchens's drumbeat in God Is Not Great: "Religion spoils everything."

What? The Saint Matthew Passion? The Cathedral of Chartres? The emblematic religious person in these books seems to be a Glasgow Airport bomber-a type unrepresentative of Muslims, let alone communicants of the poor old Church of England. It is surely not news, except to someone so ignorant that he probably wouldn't be interested in these books in the first place, that religious conflict has often been murderous and that religious people have committed hideous atrocities. But so have secularists and atheists, and though they have had less time to prove their mettle in this area, they have proved it amply. If religious belief is not synonymous with good behavior, neither is absence of belief, to put it mildly.

In fact, one can write the history of anything as a chronicle of crime and folly. Science and technology spoil everything: without trains and IG Farben, no Auschwitz; without transistor radios and mass-produced machetes, no Rwandan genocide. First you decide what you hate, and then you gather evidence for its hatefulness. Since man is a fallen creature (I use the term metaphorically rather than in its religious sense), there is always much to find.

The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.

A few years back, the National Gallery held an exhibition of Spanish still-life paintings. One of these paintings had a physical effect on the people who sauntered in, stopping them in their tracks; some even gasped. I have never seen an image have such an impact on people. The painting, by Juan Sanchez Cotan, now hangs in the San Diego Museum of Art. It showed four fruits and vegetables, two suspended by string, forming a parabola in a gray stone window.

Even if you did not know that Sanchez Cotan was a seventeenth-century Spanish priest, you could know that the painter was religious: for this picture is a visual testimony of gratitude for the beauty of those things that sustain us. Once you have seen it, and concentrated your attention on it, you will never take the existence of the humble cabbage-or of anything else-quite so much for granted, but will see its beauty and be thankful for it. The painting is a permanent call to contemplation of the meaning of human life, and as such it arrested people who ordinarily were not, I suspect, much given to quiet contemplation.

The same holds true with the work of the great Dutch still-life painters. On the neo-atheist view, the religious connection between Catholic Spain and Protestant Holland is one of conflict, war, and massacre only: and certainly one cannot deny this history. And yet something more exists. As with Sanchez Cotan, only a deep reverence, an ability not to take existence for granted, could turn a representation of a herring on a pewter plate into an object of transcendent beauty, worthy of serious reflection.

I recently had occasion to compare the writings of the neo-atheists with those of Anglican divines of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I was visiting some friends at their country house in England, which had a library of old volumes; since the family of the previous owners had a churchman in every generation, many of the books were religious. In my own neo-atheist days, I would have scorned these works as pertaining to a nonexistent entity and containing nothing of value. I would have considered the authors deluded men, who probably sought to delude others for reasons that Marx might have enumerated.

But looking, say, into the works of Joseph Hall, D.D., I found myself moved: much more moved, it goes without saying, than by any of the books of the new atheists. Hall was bishop of Exeter and then of Norwich; though a moderate Puritan, he took the Royalist side in the English civil war and lost his see, dying in 1656 while Cromwell was still Lord Protector.... Let us compare Hall's meditation "Upon the Sight of a Harlot Carted" with Harris's statement that some people ought perhaps to be killed for their beliefs:
With what noise, and tumult, and zeal of solemn justice, is this sin punished! The streets are not more full of beholders, than clamours. Every one strives to express his detestation of the fact, by some token of revenge: one casts mire, another water, another rotten eggs, upon the miserable offender. Neither, indeed, is she worthy of less: but, in the mean time, no man looks home to himself. It is no uncharity to say, that too many insult in this just punishment, who have deserved more. . . . Public sins have more shame; private may have more guilt. If the world cannot charge me of those, it is enough, that I can charge my soul of worse. Let others rejoice, in these public executions: let me pity the sins of others, and be humbled under the sense of my own.

Who sounds more charitable, more generous, more just, more profound, more honest, more humane: Sam Harris or Joseph Hall, D.D., late lord bishop of Exeter and of Norwich? No doubt it helps that Hall lived at a time of sonorous prose, prose that merely because of its sonority resonates in our souls; prose of the kind that none of us, because of the time in which we live, could ever equal. But the style applies to the thought as well as the prose; and I prefer Hall's charity to Harris's intolerance.

More here

Times editorial: `Serious success in Iraq is not being recognised as it should be'

Post below lifted from Don Surber

Not the New York Times. Not the Los Angeles Times. Not the Washington Times. Not the St. Petersburg Times. Keep guessing. The Times of London editorializes:
"Is no news good news or bad news? In Iraq, it seems good news is deemed no news. There has been striking success in the past few months in the attempt to improve security, defeat al-Qaeda sympathisers and create the political conditions in which a settlement between the Shia and the Sunni communities can be reached. This has not been an accident but the consequence of a strategy overseen by General David Petraeus in the past several months."

Yes. We are winning. This isn't some no-neck blogger or goofball columnist. This is the best newspaper in the world saying this. The war is not won, but we are winning. The Times of London wrote:
"The current achievements, and they are achievements, are being treated as almost an embarrassment in certain quarters. The entire context of the contest for the Democratic nomination for president has been based on the conclusion that Iraq is an absolute disaster and the first task of the next president is to extricate the United States at maximum speed. Democrats who voted for the war have either repudiated their past support completely (John Edwards) or engaged in a convoluted partial retraction (Hillary Clinton). Congressional Democrats have spent most of this year trying (and failing) to impose a timetable for an outright exit."

James Clyburn was right. Victory in Iraq is a very big problem for the party of defeat. The cheese-eating surrender monkey has replaced the jackass as the party's symbol. That is not an improvement. The bottom line of the editorial is the bottomline of the war:
"The instinct of too many people is that if Iraq is going badly we should get out because it is going badly and if it is getting better we should get out because it is getting better. This is a catastrophic miscalculation. Iraq is getting better. That is good, not bad, news."

The entire editorial is here. I trust the Washington Post, which has supported the war through thin and thinner, will top that editorial on Sunday - if only to show its news editors who really is the voice of the newspaper.

British human rights chief to investigate immigrant preference in government housing

A new inquiry into whether immigrants jump council housing queues was announced by Trevor Phillips yesterday as the row over immigration policy intensified. The chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said there was a widespread public perception that new migrants were given unfair advantages to which they were not entitled. In a speech in Birmingham, Mr Phillips argued that rather than trying to suppress the debate, the Government needed to be better informed with robust, independent evidence. He announced that the organisation would work with the Local Government Association (LGA) to commission an independent study by “dispassionate academics” to look at whether the housing system was being abused to the detriment of anyone - including white families. “If there is evidence that it is, then we have the powers and the mandate to stop the abuse and we will do so. If there is no evidence then we can properly say that this insinuation should play no part in next year’s elections.”

David Cameron stepped up the pressure on the Government over the issue of immigration as it emerged that the number of British people in work has fallen in the past two years. Foreign workers wholly account for the rise in employment from the spring of 2005, official statistics show. In the latest challenge to ministers’ claims over the benefits of migration, a written Commons answer has disclosed that 540,000 nonBritons took up posts in this country, offsetting a decrease of 270,000 in the number of British workers over the same period. Mr Cameron accused the Government of panicking and repeated that he wanted a “substantial cut” in the number of nonEU migrants. “About 200,000 people, net, are coming into this country each year. I think that’s too high, and we would like to see a substantial cut,” he said. Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, challenged Mr Cameron to state what his annual limit would be.

While welcoming the Tory leader’s attempts to strip the immigration debate of “racial toxicity”, Mr Phillips did not agree with his proposals to cap immigration levels. “A general cap on migrant numbers will do little to solve [the] problems,” said Mr Phillips. “Shutting out the underachieving Pakistani, Turkish or Somali newcomers also locks out the hugely overachieving Indian or Chinese star pupil; and a cap would have little impact on the most worrying emergent group of underperformers – poorest white boys.”

Sir Simon Milton, chairman of the LGA, said: “The LGA is happy to support Trevor Phillips’s initiative. We think it is in the public interest. “If there are examples of people receiving unfair treatment on grounds of race or nationality, we want it out in the open.” Mr Phillips also backed the LGA’s demand for a 250 million pound emergency cash fund for local councils that are struggling with big migrant rises.


No comments: