Monday, December 31, 2007

Deadly equality in British socialized medicine

People are not allowed to help themselves

In still yet another shuddering preview of health under Hillarycare or whatever form of socialized medicine that the mainly Democratic candidates promise to impose on us, Britain's National Health Service has issued this truly Orwellian/Kafkaesque decree.
A woman will be denied free National Health Service treatment for breast cancer if she seeks to improve her chances by paying privately for an additional drug. Colette Mills, a former nurse, has been told that if she attempts to top up her treatment privately, she will have to foot the entire 10,000 pounds bill for her drugs and care. The bizarre threat stems from the refusal by the government to let patients pay for additional drugs that are not prescribed on the NHS.

Huh? And what is the purpose of this truly potentially deadly NHS policy?
Ministers say it is unfair on patients who cannot afford such top-up drugs and that it will create a two-tier NHS. It is thought thousands of patients suffer as a result of the policy..... The Department of Health said: "Co-payments would risk creating a two-tier health service and be in direct contravention with the principles and values of the NHS."

So instead of a two tier system, good (private) and bad (public), only one system--bad--is allowed in England with no role model for improvement (private). Death, in the holy pursuit of equality, seems to be the goal.

Other solutions are up against equally twisted negative rationalizations. And beware the politician who oh so sincerely promises that a similar situation could not happen here. Oh yeah? Surrendering to government for free treatment means surrendering freedom.

Having many friends and relatives, alas, afflicted with breast cancer, this article, and previous ones on socialized health posted here, and here, and here touch me personally and deeply. While these friends and relatives are in various stages of treatment--and sadly, a few are gone--not one seems to have been denied a beneficial treatment. For some reason, Michael Moore's film, Sicko, a paean to socialized medicine, failed to mention cases like this. He didn't so we must.


Why boys should be allowed to play with toy guns

Report from Britain

Playing with toy weapons helps the development of young boys, according to new Government advice to nurseries and playgroups. Staff have been told they must resist their "natural instinct" to stop boys using pretend weapons such as guns or light sabres in games with other toddlers. Fantasy play involving weapons and superheroes allows healthy and safe risk-taking and can also make learning more appealing, says the guidance. It conflicts with years of "political correctness" in nurseries and playgroups which has led to the banning of toy guns, action hero games and children pretending to fire "guns" using their fingers or Lego bricks.

But teachers' leaders insisted last night that guns "symbolise aggression" and said many nurseries and playgroups would ignore the change.

The guidance, called Confident, Capable and Creative: Supporting Boys' Achievements, is issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. It says some members of staff "find the chosen play of boys more difficult to understand and value than that of girls." This is mainly because they tend to choose activities with more action, often based outdoors. "Images and ideas gleaned from the media are common starting points in boys' play and may involve characters with special powers or weapons. "Adults can find this particularly challenging and have a natural instinct to stop it. "This is not necessary as long as practitioners help the boys to understand and respect the rights of other children and to take responsibility for the resources and environment."

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes says 'imaginary games are good for their development as well as good fun' The report says: "Creating situations so that boys' interests in these forms of play can be fostered through healthy and safe risk-taking will enhance every aspect of their learning and development." It cites a North London children's centre which helped boys create a "Spiderman House" and print pictures of the superhero from the internet. This led to improvements in their communication, ability to develop storylines in their play and skills in drawing, reading and writing.

The guidance is aimed at boosting boys' achievement. They often fall behind girls even before starting school and the trend can continue throughout their academic careers. Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said: "The guidance simply takes a commonsense approach to the fact that many young children and perhaps particularly many boys, like boisterous, physical activity." "Although noisy for adults such imaginary games are good for their development as well as good fun."

But Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The real problem with weapons is that they symbolise aggression. "The reason teachers often intervene when kids have toy guns is that the boy is usually being very aggressive. We do need to ensure, whether the playing is rumbustious or not, that there is a respect for your peers, however young they are."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) union said: "Many parents take the decision that their children won't have toy weapons."

Research by Penny Holland, academic leader for early childhood at London Metropolitan University, has also concluded that boys should be allowed to play gun games. She found boys became dispirited and withdrawn when they are told such play-fighting is wrong.


A dishonourable list (1)

A brief but biting editorial from "The Times" below about the annual British honours list (knighthoods etc.) just announced. I must say that an awful lot of nonentities have been gonged this year: Pop singers, actors, TV presenters, a rag-trader, a BBC apparatchik etc. Being already popular or being brown-skinned seem to have been major qualifiers. A more comprehensive commentary here

There are few more predictable annual rituals than the new year honours list. There are always a few well merited awards, valuable when they are given to people away from the public eye who would never dream of such recognition for the good work they do. But the list tends to be dominated by a mix of worthies and entertainers who ought to be content with the honour of banking large sums of money for their work. The latest list is little better. In the context of the refusal to honour those who put their lives at risk to save the lives of others on 7/7, it looks insulting.

Gordon Brown is in danger of promising much and delivering little. The prime minister made a song and dance about honouring members of the public who show bravery during terrorist attacks. As he put it in July: "It is right that we look at how our honours system can recognise those in our emergency services and members of the public who showed such bravery and heroism in the face of the recent terrorist attacks." That turns out to have been hot air. In reality, as we report, the Cabinet Office has actually turned down such nominations as undeserving.

Awards have indeed been made for behaviour on 7/7 - but to civil servants sitting at their desks co-ordinating the work of others. Heroes such as Tim Coulson, a teacher who smashed his way into a bombed Tube carriage, gave first aid, had a man die in his arms and was so badly affected by his experience that he has had to retire early, have been snubbed. Not one member of the public has been rewarded for bravery. Mr Coulson's wife was told by the Cabinet Office that "honours are awarded to people for meritorious service over a sustained period and not specifically for saving someone's life" - an explanation which contradicts the citation to the bureaucrats honoured for their co-ordination role on 7/7.

There have long been calls for the honours system to be reformed. Now the shame of these snubs to the brave brings dishonour to the establishment that bestows them.


A dishonourable list (2)

Rod Liddle offers a lighter version of the points made in the editorial above

Another year goes by and no bloody official recognition. Slave my guts out every week alerting people to the fact that Bono, Patricia Hewitt, Sting, the Milibands, Ruth Kelly, all doctors and most of the Conservative party are agents of Satan, all for no thanks. Not that one does it in expectation of ennoblement, of course. One does it, without fear or favour, for the good of the country. And for money, obviously.

But then you read the new year's honours list and discover, halfway down, that George Alagiah and Hanif Kureishi have both been bunged some Establishment bauble, and the rancour begins to build. Kureishi's got a CBE - for what? I mean, I have nothing against the chap. He's quite a good writer, in much the same way as Jimmy Carr is quite a good comedian and Bas Savage, of Brighton, is quite a good footballer. In truth, the three of them inhabit that vague, shadowy area where "quite good" merges imperceptibly with "actually, not very good at all".

Martin Amis, Iain Banks and, strange to say, JG Ballard have never been honoured - some people might argue that they have performed a greater service to literature over the years than Kureishi. Some people might even remember the name of a book one of them has written, which gives them the distinct edge over Hanif.

And then George Alagiah, recipient of an OBE - what's he done, exactly? Read the bloody news from an Autocue. Again, I have nothing against George, who seems a likeable chap. But his is an occupation that requires nothing in the way of skill, tenacity, intellectual ability or fortitude. All you have to do is sit there, read what's been written for you by some marginally postpubescent PC BBC monkey and try not to belch or snigger. A pig's bladder on a stick could read the news. Probably. You begin to wonder what honours are for.

Why, for example, has a person called Jazzie B been handed an OBE? Because he was the driving force of Soul II Soul, a mediocre Brit R&B band a decade or so back? Hell, is that all it takes? I could form a mediocre Brit R&B band tomorrow and so, I suspect, could you. If Jazzie B can get an OBE then surely So Solid Crew deserve knighthoods.

And then there's Kylie Minogue, who gets an OBE for shoving her arse in our faces whenever the opportunity arises, or for having successfully recovered from cancer, or for having taken part in an episode of The Vicar of Dibley. Gordon Brown recently published a book about what can be achieved by individuals who struggle against overwhelming odds to inspire and transform their communities. It was quite an uplifting book in a way. It's just that I never knew it was written with Kylie Minogue in mind, still less Hanif Kureishi. Are those the people he meant?


The Church that worships the environment instead of God is fading fast: "Last night, leading figures gave warning that the Church of England could become a minority faith and that the findings should act as a wake-up call. The statistics show that attendance at Anglican Sunday services has dropped by 20 per cent since 2000. A survey of 37,000 churches, to be published in the new year, shows the number of people going to Sunday Mass in England last year averaged 861,000, compared with 852,000 Anglicans -worshipping. [Out of a popoulation of 60 million]

Old Etonian wants the commoners to pay more for their chicken: "The television chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, known for his earthy approach to cooking and love of offal, is to launch a campaign for the middle classes to boycott cheap chicken in protest at the cruelty of battery farming. Fearnley-Whittingstall believes well-heeled consumers should be prepared to pay more for their chicken so that fewer birds are reared in overcrowded, unnatural conditions. Currently, less than 5% of chicken bought in Britain is organic or free-range, and critics believe shoppers place too much emphasis on simply finding the lowest prices. Organic chicken in the supermarket is about twice the price of intensively reared birds"

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