Monday, December 01, 2008

St Andrew's day

I mentioned yesterday that St Andrew's day is Scotland's national day and am pleased to report that Anne and I did do something towards celebrating it. We had Forfar Bridies for our evening meal and listened to Scottish music both then and afterward. And the songs we listened to were the in the main the old favourites that are so deeply felt among the Scots -- Scottish Soldier, My Ain folk, Loch Lomond, Skye boat song, Scots wha hae etc. etc.

I have spoken a little lately of how conservatives have few inhibitions about group loyalties (such as patriotism) and mentioned the Eton Boating Song as an instance of how such loyalties can be deeply felt. And I also noted at the time that loyalty or a feeling of connectedness to your own group does not necessarily imply contempt for other groups or a wish to dominate them. And the Eton Boating Song exemplified that well. And so does the Scottish song I put up yesterday. Although it is called "Scotland the Brave", it again contains no aggression or hostility towards others. It just talks about Scottish people and the beloved Scottish landscape. But it is still capable of bringing tears to Scottish eyes. The feelings it conveys are intensely felt.

So I am going to press the point a little further by putting up the words of another beloved Scottish song: Scottish Soldier. I am sure that any Leftist would immediatey assume that such a song must be glorying in the crushing, dominating and extermination of other people. But it does none of that. As a song about a soldier it does indeed refer with pride to his distinguished military past but the song is not about that at all. Once again it is about his memories of his own country whilst serving aboad and how his dying wish to be buried in Scotland was honoured.

Scottish Soldier

1). There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier
Who wandered far away and soldiered far away
There was none bolder, with good broad shoulders,
He fought in many a fray and fought and won
He's seen the glory, he's told the story
Of battles glorious and deeds victorious
But now he's sighing his heart is crying
To leave these green hills of Tyrol.

Chorus: Because these green hills are not highland hills
Or the Islands hills their not my lands hills,
As fair as these green foreign hills may be
They are not the hills of home.

2). And now this soldier, this Scottish soldier,
Who wandered far away and soldiered far away
Sees leaves are falling, and death is calling
And he will fade away, on that dark land
He called his piper, his trusty piper
And bade him sound away, a pibroch sad to play
Upon a hillside but Scottish hillside
Not on these green hills of Tyrol


3). And now this soldier this Scottish soldier
Who wanders far no more, and soldiers far no more
Now on a hillside, a Scottish hillside
You'll see a piper play this soldier home
He's seen the glory, he's told the story
Of battles glorious and deeds victorious
But he will cease now, he is at peace now
Far from these green hills of Tyrol


A point I was waiting for people to bring up was the fact that, right up to JFK, Leftists were patriotic too -- almost crazily so in the case of people like Theodore Roosevelt and the followers of Hitler. And Scots too are a very socialistic people. So how come they are so patriotic?

I think Obama worship gives us the answer. Because Leftists are more emotional, their POTENTIAL for group loyalty generally and patriotism in particular is unusually great. But the more there are things that they hate in the world about them, the more they are inhibited from giving rein to any such feelings. But when something arises that they can give undivided loyalty to, they go overboard -- as we saw in Fascism, Nazism and now in Obama worship.

So the Leftist is in perpetual conflict: He WANTS connectedness but so many things in the world about him are unsatisfactory to him that he ends up as a rejectionist rather than as a participant. In the past, it was only "The Bosses" who were the focus of his ire and he could kid himself that most of the people around him were not responsible for the "injustices" that bother him so much. Now, however, when it appears to him that even "rednecks" and "NASCAR dads" are on the side of what upsets him, he is completely alienated. He once felt that "the workers" were on his side and appointed himself as a spokesman for them. That illusion is now gone and the whole country is on the wrong track from his viewpoint. So how wonderful for him it was when the Obamessiah came along to rescue him from that dreadful dilemma and offered the prospect of reshaping the country into his desired mould!

In the case of Scotland, however, the old illusions live on. Scots still hate "The bosses" but most of all they hate England. The song that comes nearest to being their national anthem is "The Flower of Scotland". It was written quite recently but is concerned with something that happened in the 14th century! So what is going on? The secret is hatred of England. The event referred to is the Scottish victory over the King of England, Edward II, at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Very few English people would today know anything about the North/South wars of the 13th and 14th century but the Scots have not forgotten. So again for a Scot the enemy is externalized and he can happily be patriotic. Hitler found the Jews useful in the same way. The English are Scotland's Jews.

In case I seem to be just blowing smoke in saying above that Leftists tend to see patriotism as implying hostility towards others, I might mention that there is a very large academic literature in psychology which assumes exactly that -- starting with the work of Adorno et al. (1950). I might also mention that my own survey research into exactly that question showed repeatedly exactly what I have asserted above -- that patriotism does NOT in general imply hostilty towards others. See e.g. here.

Reference: Adorno,T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. & Sanford, R.N. (1950). The authoritarian personality New York: Harper.

Police state Britain: MPs want protection after arrest of Tory for telling truths Labour didn't want you to know

MPs demanded protection from a 'police state' last night after the heavy-handed arrest of a Tory frontbencher shocked Westminster. Extraordinary details of four simultaneous raids on immigration spokesman Damian Green's homes and offices raised urgent questions about the independence of Parliament. The Oxford-educated father of two girls, who denies any wrongdoing, was fingerprinted and required to give a DNA sample before being released on bail after nine hours.

Police seized his mobile phone, his BlackBerry, bank statements, computers containing confidential details of constituents, and were only prevented from carrying off legal documents by his wife, a barrister. Officers even leafed through the couple's love letters.

The tactics of Scotland Yard investigating a series of leaks that had no bearing on national security and served only to embarrass Labour were compared to those used in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Last night, the row between police and Parliament was turning into a political crisis for Gordon Brown, who faced accusations of standing by while the rights of MPs were being trampled. Ministers struggled to dispel suspicions that they knew in advance about the plan to arrest Mr Green, amid MPs' fears that the case marked another step towards the politicisation of the police.

The Tories issued a series of questions about the role of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said there were huge question marks over the claim that Mr Brown and Miss Smith had not been informed the arrest was about to take place. He said: 'It would be an astounding breakdown in the system of governance, and the linchpin doctrine of Ministerial responsibility, if Ministers were not, at the bare minimum, kept informed.'

MPs also demanded assurances from Speaker Michael Martin that he would defend their interests after it emerged that he authorised an unprecedented police search of Mr Green's office on Commons property. One called on Mr Martin to quit.

Publicly, the Prime Minister said only that his chief objective was to uphold the independence of the police. But his supporters accused the Tories of 'playing politics' with a routine police matter, and even suggested the Yard had undisclosed reasons to seize Mr Green. Thursday's raids, involving some 20 officers, were carried out on Mr Green's homes in west London and Kent, and his Commons and constituency offices. The MP was detained in Kent on suspicion of 'conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office' and taken to London by Yard detectives ten days after a Home Office official was arrested on suspicion of leaking sensitive documents.

Police are investigating Mr Green's role in four leaks to the media over the past year - two of them to the Mail - that embarrassed the Home Office. The operation was authorised by Met Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer. The Crown Prosecution Service was also consulted. Sources said Mr Green is suspected of actively seeking leaked information, not just receiving it.

Met Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, who has effectively been running the Met since Sir Ian Blair announced his resignation two months ago, was briefed by Mr Quick in advance. Sir Ian, who officially stepped down yesterday, was not aware of the operation. In the 30 minutes leading up to the raids, Sir Paul rang London Mayor Boris Johnson and Tory leader David Cameron. He also notified Sir David Normington, the Home Office permanent secretary, who claimed he deliberately did not tell Home Secretary Jacqui Smith until after the arrest. The news was relayed to Mr Brown about an hour later.

By last night, Mr Green's ordeal had provoked outrage across the political spectrum, with all parties rallying to his defence. Tory MPs threatened to disrupt Wednesday's Queen's Speech debate. Veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn said the arrest of an MP amounted to a contempt of Parliament. 'Once the police can interfere with Parliament, we are into the police state,' he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: 'This is something you might expect from a tin-pot dictatorship, not in a modern democracy.' Tory MPs contrasted the case with that of leaks of sensitive information to BBC business editor Robert Peston. They raised suspicions that a 'mole' inside Downing Street or the Treasury had passed Mr Peston a string of market-moving banking 'scoops'.

Former Tory leader Michael Howard pointed to Mr Brown's reputation for obtaining Government leaks when he was an Opposition MP. 'If this approach had been in place when Gordon Brown was in opposition, he'd have spent half his time under arrest,' he said. Miss Smith denied that ministers had been involved in any way in the arrest of Mr Green.


British Gestapo in trouble over attempt to prosecute outspoken politician

The British police are now so politicized that they have lost all respect for free speech and individual liberty. Their latest action is a blatant threat to whistleblowers. Note that this is not their first attempt to "get" whistleblowers. Their last attempt has just been thrown out of court as a breach of a right to free speech

SCOTLAND YARD was in turmoil last night after senior police officials criticised its new boss and admitted its handling of the arrest of a Tory MP had been "catastrophic". David Blunkett, the former home secretary, called on the cabinet to review the procedures that led to the police raids on Damian Green's home and Commons office.

As the political storm grew, MPs and civil liberties groups questioned the role of Sir Paul Stephenson, who took temporary charge of the Metropolitan police when Sir Ian Blair left office last week. Stephenson was regarded as the favourite to succeed Blair, but one senior police officer described him yesterday as "easy meat". A senior official on the Metropolitan Police Authority, the Met's watchdog, said his oversight of the police inquiry into the leak of sensitive Whitehall documents to Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, raised important questions about his judgment and cast doubt over his prospects.

The official said Stephenson should have told Sir David Normington, the Home Office permanent secretary [i.e. a bureaucrat] who called in police, that leaks of nonclassified information were not a matter for a police inquiry. Normington will chair the panel that will interview and vet applicants for the job of Met commissioner. The deadline for applications is tomorrow. The police official said: "Why didn't the Met just [tell the Home Office] to use discipline and misconduct rules instead of agreeing to a criminal inquiry? What this all hinges on is judgment and proportionality. Sir Paul has got a huge problem with this. "This is a big problem for the Met. They have managed to get every main political party and everyone in the media against them. For the Met it's catastrophic. I think this could damage Sir Paul's prospects."


Top British universities not impressed by students with soft A-levels

The stupid (but typical) epidemiological assumption below is that students who take soft subjects are just as bright as students taking harder subjects. But in fact, any reasonable system for selecting students on ability (even an IQ test or the American SAT) would result in students who had taken harder subjects being disproportionately selected

UNIVERSITIES are discriminating against pupils who take “soft” A-level subjects such as media studies and drama, without making the policy public, research has revealed. Top institutions, such as Oxford, Bristol and University College London, admit a far smaller proportion of applicants with qualifications in such subjects than the percentage who take them nationally. The proportion of successful candidates who have qualifications in traditional academic subjects, by contrast, is far higher than the national average. Publicly, universities claim that they give equal weight to each subject, unless specific A-levels are required by certain courses.

The research will be included in a report to be published tomorrow by the think tank Policy Exchange, which obtained data from universities under the Freedom of Information Act. Entitled The Hard Truth About Soft Subjects, the report argues that the policy affects state schools most because many have urged pupils to do softer subjects to boost A grades. Critics say universities should be open about which subjects are treated less favourably.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We need to know what the admissions criteria are two years in advance so youngsters know when they are choosing A-levels.” Anna Fazackerley, senior adviser on universities at Policy Exchange and the author of the report, said: “It is perfectly reasonable for universities to turn their noses up at certain subjects if they think the content isn’t up to scratch. What is not reasonable is that they should keep quiet about it.”

At University College London and Bristol University, biology, chemistry, physics, maths and further maths account for just under half of A-levels among entrants. Nationally, however, they constitute 24.1% of the exams sat. Just 0.8% of A-levels taken by students going to Nottingham and Warwick Universities are media, film or television studies - nationally the figure is 4%. At Oxford, more ancient Greek than media studies candidates were admitted this year.

John Denham, the universities secretary, said: “Universities are autonomous institutions responsible for their admissions policies. But each should be transparent about its policy.” Some universities, including Cambridge and the London School of Economics, publish “blacklists” of less academic subjects. All of the universities contacted by The Sunday Times this weekend denied any clandestine discrimination.


Be careful not to offend homosexuals, Catholic priests in Britain warned

Does that mean that they must not read from Romans chapter 1? Maybe it is really queer priests that they don't want to offend. There is said to be a lot of homosexuality at the Vatican

Roman Catholic priests have been banned from using 'heterosexist' language in their churches in case they offend gay worshippers. They have been told by their bishops not to assume that every churchgoer is a heterosexual and to reflect this 'in language and conversation'. 'Remember that homophobic jokes and asides can be cruel and hurtful - a careless word can mean another experience of rejection and pain,' say the bishops in a leaflet advising priests and worshippers how to be more welcoming to gay people. Priests are also encouraged to put up posters advertising 'support services' for homosexuals, a move bound to infuriate many Catholics who believe gay sexual activity to be sinful.

The advice was welcomed by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell as a 'positive initiative which will bring great comfort to gay Catholics and their families'. He said: 'Its sympathetic, understanding message is a big improvement on the past homophobia of some Catholic pronouncements on homosexuality.' However, he said the 'laudable change of tone' was undermined by the 'homophobic content of the Catholic Catechism' and by Pope Benedict XVI's opposition to gay marriage.

The advice was criticised by Lynette Burrows, a Catholic commentator, as 'pitiful'. She said it was ridiculous that Church leaders appeared to be ' grovelling' to a secular agenda. 'It is things like this that are enfeebling the Church at the moment - the concentration on things that don't matter and missing the things that do,' she said. 'What is pitiful as well as demeaning is that the Church is running after homosexual opinion but nothing is going to make homosexuals like the Catholic Church. 'This is because the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a disorder and whatever the bishops say will not change that.'


"Bloody" not suitable for children

"Bloody" is an extremely common expletive in Britain and Australia -- roughly equivalent to the American "Goddam":

"A cheeky ad by the Sun gloating about Britain winning more medals than Australia at the Beijing Olympics, using a twist on Australia "Where the bloody hell are you?" tourism, has been banned by the advertising regulator. The ad featured as a giant billboard on a truck comparing Britain's 19 Beijing gold medals alongside Australia's 14 with the strapline "Where the bloody hell were you?".

One complaint was received by the Advertising Standards Authority that the language in the ad was offensive and could be seen by children.

The ASA noted it was a take on the Australian Tourist Board's controversial ad campaign "Where the bloody hell are you?". However, the regulator considered the word "bloody" to be a swearword that it was "irresponsible" to reproduce in a medium where children could see it. The advertising regulator told the Sun not to use the word "bloody" on posters in the future.


So it needed only one person to complain???

Insane NHS bureaucracy

Paying government employees more seems to be their main aim in life. Too bad about getting anything for the increased pay

An NHS nurse has broken the 100,000 pounds sterling ($200,000) barrier for the first time as health staff cash in on generous incentive schemes. The nurse consultant in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, has doubled her basic salary of 50,000 by working overtime under an NHS initiative to bring down waiting lists. On this rate she would be hit by the tax raid launched by Alistair Darling against high earners - a startling indication of how public-sector workers have prospered under Labour.

Figures obtained by The Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act suggest dozens of NHS nurses now earn more than 60,000 a year. The incomes of hospital doctors have also rocketed, with many consultants' NHS earnings exceeding 200,000. One consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust was paid between 225,000 and 229,000 in the last financial year. A consultant at Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, earned 228,000.

Consultants' basic salaries are being boosted by bonuses, or clinical excellence awards, and by payments to bring down waiting lists. One doctor at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust was paid an extra 50,000 in the last financial year to help cut waiting times. Labour has promised to meet a waiting-times target of 18 weeks by the end of December. There are no set national overtime rates. They are negotiated between trusts and their nurses and doctors, and are not publicly available.

The generous payments are controversial at a time of economic hardship. The health department has already been accused of awarding unduly generous new contracts to NHS employees without achieving better treatment for patients. A recent report by the Commons public accounts committee found that a new contract for hospital consultants boosted their pay by 27% without any measurable improvements in productivity.

The disclosure of nurses' true incomes challenges the perception that they are all poorly paid. Last month the Royal College of Nursing, a nurses' union, claimed members were struggling to make ends meet. An appeal was launched last year to ask Premier League foot-ballers to donate a day's pay to a fund for impoverished nurses.

The nurse who earned between 100,000 and 105,000 in the last financial year is a "nurse consultant", one of the top grades of the profession, employed by the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust. The NHS employs more than 800 nurse consultants in England. Their roles can range from running clinic sessions advising patients on how to manage conditions such as diabetes, to performing minor surgery to remove cysts and moles. They also carry out research.

A newsletter published by the Rotherham trust last year said it had four nurses on this grade. It featured one nurse consultant, Julie D'Silva, who carries out endoscopies - internal examinations often inside the stomach. In another issue D'Silva spoke about her contribution to cutting down the waiting list: "We have put in a great deal of effort to deliver the best service we can to the people of Rotherham. However, we don't want to stop there and we hope that in time we will manage to get waiting times down even more."

This weekend the trust said that for reasons of privacy neither it nor D'Silva would confirm whether she was the nurse who had earned in excess of 100,000. A spokesman defended the extra payments: "The trust is very clear that these payments represent good value for money with real and tangible benefits to patients."

A full-time nurse consultant normally works about 37.5 hours per week. Under the European working time directive, nurses should not do more than 48 hours a week. The trust declined to disclose how many extra hours the nurse was working for her additional 50,000.

The FOI returns show many nurses have annual incomes in excess of 60,000. A nurse at Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust had an income of 71,000, while a nurse at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust earned 61,000. Official figures for September 2008 show NHS nurses had an average annual income, including overtime, of 31,600, while the average consultant salary was 119,200.

The British Medical Association, the doctors' union, advises members they can maximise extra NHS payments if there is no competition from private firms in the area. Consultants are estimated to be paid 600-900 for four-hour shifts to cut waiting lists.


Democracy defeats the British health Fascists

For now, anyway

MEASURES to help cut smoking and drinking are expected to be shelved this week because of fears they will alienate voters during the recession. Ministers have decided they cannot justify some of the more draconian measures to reduce cigarette and alcohol sales during the economic downturn. A proposed ban on shops displaying tobacco, and steps to force tobacco manufacturers to remove logos from cigarette packs are expected to be abandoned, along with proposals to stop supermarkets discounting alcohol.

The U-turn follows pressure from backbenchers and trade groups, who argued that there was little evidence to show the steps would have health benefits.

Last night the health department was examining whether any part of the proposed tobacco restrictions could be salvaged in time for Wednesday's Queen's speech, which sets out the legislative programme. It is understood, however, that ministers have reluctantly conceded there is not enough evidence to support the tobacco proposals and have concluded it would "not be in the nation's best interests" to press ahead.

Some in the cabinet feared the crackdown, which included packaging cigarettes in plain "vanilla" boxes with no branding, would jar with the key message about shoring up the economy. Senior Labour sources say the legislative programme is designed to appeal to "white van man"; that is, working-class swing voters who are more likely to smoke and drink.

The government is still expected to press ahead with plans to ban so-called "happy hours" in pubs and clubs.


British councils scrap paper recycling banks following slump in value of waste materials

Recycling banks are facing the scrapheap after a global slump in the price of waste materials. The credit crunch has seen demand for recyclable materials plummet. The market value of a ton of mixed paper has tumbled from 50 to less than 1 British pound. Some waste disposal firms say this makes running recycling banks uneconomical, since the end product is worthless.

In Somerset, Perry's Recycling - a company which supplies the county council's mixed paper recycling facilities - has cut 31 of its 117 banks. Similar firms across the UK could follow suit within weeks. The firm's managing director Chris Perry said: 'Economically, it just doesn't stack up any more. We've never seen a market crash this fast, so we're having to cut back where necessary and weather the storm.'

Somerset Waste Partnership, which manages waste and recycling across the county, said the recession has had a 'dramatic' effect on prices and led to the decision to axe the banks. Spokesman Mark Blaker said: 'They are being removed as a result of the credit crunch basically. 'Much of our paper goes to China, for example, to make cardboard boxes. But at the moment, those boxes are not being made and exported to America like they were, so what's happened here is a knock-on effect. 'Prices in the summer for recycled material were at an artificial high, which is why the drop seems so dramatic, but now the product's price is pretty much zero pounds.'

Recycling banks are worst affected by the drop in prices because their contents are ' contaminated' with other materials that are processed together. Other councils are having to make similar cuts in recycling. Derby City Council is reducing the number of large recycling points for bottles and glass from 27 sites to 17, though it said kerbside collections would be extended to compensate.

Households in Hertfordshire can no longer recycle food tubs and yogurt pots because the council's contractor cannot turn a profit on this kind of plastic. In Cambridge a waste-processing firm - unable to find any other market for it - has resorted to turning cardboard into compost for farmers. And in Oswestry, Shropshire, a mountain of recycled paper is sitting untouched because in the past month its sale value has fallen by 80 per cent.

More than half of Britain's eight million tons of mixed paper is exported to the Far East to be made into cardboard packaging for manufacturers. But demand has slumped and the Confederation of Paper Industries warns it is unlikely to pick up soon. Firms which run mixed paper recycling schemes say they have no choice but to axe some banks to save money.

Paul Bettison, of the Local Government Association's environment board, said Somerset was the first council to cut back on paper banks because of the global downturn. He added: 'Right now the credit crunch will certainly be a factor but it probably would have happened anyway because there people are relying more on kerbside collections.'


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