The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

Archive for March, 2011

31 March
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Personal Stuff – Family Move..

We’ve been out of the loop for a few days. Over the weekend we helped our son and his family in their house move from this in London

to this, in the countryside…

…and when you look out of the front door you see this…

We helped them empty some of the 10,000 boxes (well it seemed like that, most of them containing toys), sort out the kids for their new schools and find out how the electricity, water supply, drainage and central heating worked. What is always odd about buying a house (for most people by far the most expensive thing they will ever purchase) is that you usually make the decision after spending maybe just an hour or two looking it over so when you actually move in that’s when the exploration really begins.

But the new house has so much potential – a large garden, already well tended and an attached garage with room for two cars plus generous workbench space – ideal for our son’s pride and joy (at present lodged in our garage..lol..)

 Next to the garage is another outbuilding, currently a woodstore but easily converted into an office/spare bedroom. There is also space to park several cars (a nice change from the street only parking at their previous house) so hopefully by the end of the year they should be comfortably ensconced with a three year plan to turn it into a dream home – finances permitting!

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31 March
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Personal Stuff – Health…Some Minor Repairs To The Aged P….

The other day I went to  to our local hospital  for some minor repair work at Crawley’s Day Surgery unit. Arrived at 7.45am, general anasthaetic at 9.00am, recovery room 9.30am, reception ward 10.30am, picked up and driven home by The Lovely Mrs P at 1.00pm (with an assortment of drugs, dressings etc) – everything courtesy of our National Health Service (NHS)

I know a lot of my American friends, in their battle against ObamaCare, wield our UK NHS as a cudgel to beat up the enemy, using highly selective anectdotal “evidence” to highlight the shortcomings of a state controlled medical system. Now I, as a fairly cynical English version of Edward Abbey, would be the first to admit that the NHS (which ranks alongside the Chinese Army and Indian Railways in terms of employee numbers) can at times be unwieldy, inefficient and bureaucratic. But as a consumer my own personal experience has been predominantly positive both at my local doctor’s practice and hospital.

At my day surgery I treated with care and respect by all staff, given a full explanation of procedures, contantly reassured and everything possible was done to maintain my dignity without compromising the need to deal with my private parts.

Because the service is “free” (I know, I know I subsidise it via my taxes) I did not have to wade through mountains of  documents trying to persuade a cost conscious insurance company to pay the price of my treatment. Of course the NHS is cost conscious as well and there are certain procedures and drugs that have to be weighed against some sort of cost/benefit analysis (by the same sort of “faceless bureaucrats” who presumably also operate in US insurance companies) but in the vast majority of situations we don’t have to worry so much if a normal, everyday procedure uncovers the need for further treatment.

As I once said to my friend R A Mansour let every country decide for itself how it runs it’s own healthcare. Good Americans I respect and admire have fought hard against ObamaCare and I would be the last to advocate that the NHS is a model for export. On the other hand our system, for all it’s faults, has the support of the vast majority of people in the UK, whatever their political persuasion – which is why I get a little irritated when it is dissed from across the pond.

BTW – two factoids that are worthy of note:

  1. Private health insurance a la USA is alive and kicking in the UK and many employers include 100% premiums in their job packages (used mainly to jump the queue for routine procedures although NHS waiting times have reduced over the last few years)
  2. % of GDP spent on healthcare (admittedly from 2004 but still useful as a bench mark)…. USA 13.9, UK 7.5, weighted average across western world 8.3……issues here of value for money?
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31 March
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Video…Every Driver’s Nightmare – Meeting Another Vehicle Coming At You On The Wrong Side Of The Road…

In the UK we call them  lorries, not trucks and, of course, we drive on the left, not on the right, but whichever country you live in it must be a terrifying moment when you are on a dual carriageway and suddenly come face to face with a vehicle driving in the wrong direction….

The lorry swerved to avoid the car but jack knifed, overturned and ended on it’s side amongst the bushes, shedding 50 tons of cement bags. The car’s front was ripped off as it clipped the red lorry. Amazingly nobody was seriously injured so some guardian angels must have been working very hard that day.

Police have charged a 20 year old woman with dangerous driving.

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23 March
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Springtime in an English garden – “To cultivate a garden is to walk with God”

About 15 minutes drive from our house are the timeless gardens of Nymans in the village of Handcross, West Sussex.

Ludwig Messel, a wealthy stockbroker, bought the Nymans estate in 1890 and spent the rest of his life creating what became one of the most beautiful gardens in England. After Ludwig died in 1915 his son Leonard continued his father’s work and on his death in 1953 he bequeathed the estate to The National Trust.

When we arrived ealier this week the grounds were waking from the long sleep of winter and my wife captured these moments on camera.

It was the first warm day of the year so we walked into the woods on the edge of the estate

The starkness of the still wintering trees was reflected in the waters of the pool…

We strolled along a magical path…

Then up the hill towards a lonely tree..

To our left was the ridge that carried the road to Handcross with the tower on it’s crest.

Then back to the grace of the formal garden..

Echoing Wordsworth’s most famous poem

Around the corner another sudden blaze of colour….

…and past a door guarding a place of secret whispers…

…and every footfall reveals the tiniest emblem of nature’s rebirth.

It is remarkable that since Nymans Garden was created in 1890 it has seen only three Head Gardeners: James Comber from 1895-1953; Cecil Nice, who began working at Nymans in 1924 and succeeded James Comber as Head Gardener in 1953; and currently David Masters, who took over when Cecil retired in 1980.

Who cannot envy those three men for as we walked around the beautiful grounds we felt certain that Christian Bovee was right when he said “to cultivate a garden is to walk with God”
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18 March
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Cameron Injects a Little Steel Into Obama’s Backbone (And Someone Else Was Right As Well About NFZ)

After days of indecision and prevarication (much of it emanating from President Obama) the UN Security Council has authorised “all necessary measures” (including a No Fly Zone) to prevent the forces of the Gaddafi regime inflicting further violence on Libyans.

David Cameron will feel a sense of vindication tonight.

An idea which was condemned as sabre-rattling, unworkable and unnecessary has been agreed after days of intense diplomacy.

Moreover it could be said Cameron has injected a small measure of steel into President Obama’s backbone, because, according to Nick Robinson of the BBC, even up to the wire Obama was still “examining options” (often at the 8th hole)

No wonder yesterday’s White House press briefing included questions suggesting the president was “sitting on the fence”, “satisfied to follow not lead” and needed to make a decision (see transcript below). Leadership, the press pack were told by a defensive White House press spokesman, involves considering the mission, it’s likelihood of success and the risks it poses

Cameron, with President Sarkozy of France, has been quite consistent in his advocacy of some form  of international intervention since the very beginning of Gaddafi’s backlash against the uprising in Libya.

Cameron is not a particularly popular figure in the right blogosphere, mainly as a result of his decision to form a coalition government with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats after last May’s election which made the Tories the biggest party in Parliament but with no overall majority.

Working with the Liberals means that many positions that I and other right wing Tories hold dear (leave the EU, ignore the European Court of Human Rights, stricter immigration control etc) have to be left in abeyance. But that is because the enormous deficit left to us by Labour’s profligacy has to be number one priority.

As Churchill (a lifetime anti Bolshevik) said when he unconditionally offered British support for Stalin after Hitler’s invasion of Russia

If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons. 

So kudos to Cameron for doing the heavy lifting on Libya.

Of course, there is someone else who was treated with contempt and disdain when she advocated a NFZ even earlier than Cameron – but what the hell would she know about the world outside Wasilla?

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15 March
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“I would be honored to have her as my commander in chief”

At Politico Jonathan Martin delivers his regularhit piece on Sarah Palin (highlighted as a QOTD at Hot Air)

Palin’s flamboyant rhetoric always has thrilled supporters, but lately it is coming at a new cost: a backlash, not from liberals but from some of the country’s most influential conservative commentators and intellectuals. (Related: Sarah Palin charges critics with ‘blood libel’)

Palin’s politics of grievance and group identity, according to these critics, is a betrayal of conservative principles. For decades, it was a standard line of the right that liberals cynically promoted victimhood to achieve their goals and that they practiced the politics of identity — race, sex and class—over ideas. (Related: Republicans learn cost of attacking Palin)

Among those taking aim at Palin in recent interviews with POLITICO are George F. Will, the elder statesman of conservative columnists; Peter Wehner, a top strategist in George W. Bush’s White House, and Heather Mac Donald, a leading voice with the right-leaning Manhattan Institute.

Matt Labash, a longtime writer for the Weekly Standard, said that because of Palin’s frequent appeals to victimhood and group grievance, “She’s becoming Al Sharpton, Alaska edition.”

At the comments at Right Scoop “Bobby, US Army retd” provides an alternativepoint of view

She is “divisive” because the conservative movement is full of cowards who bend over because they are afraid of the left and the media. Why not fight against the smears? Why not fight for the truth? Instead conservatives run and hide and then wonder why even after 8 years of BUSH the country moved to the left!!!!!!!
While Governor, her state was one of 2 out of 50 that created net jobs. I COULD WRITE FOR HOURS ABOUT HER ACCOMPLISHMENTS, but it would not do a damn thing for people like Krauthammer and other fraud cowardly so called conservatives. How come the other intellectual governors that Krauthammer praises could not eke out some job gains? Odd huh?

WAKE UP!!!! Do you want to know why the jobs are gone? Do you want to to know why your nation is turning into a shit hole? IT IS BECAUSE OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. We let it happen. WE CONSERVATIVES LET IT HAPPEN BECAUSE WE SAT ON OUR FUCKING ASSES AND REFUSED TO FIGHT the left for the last 20+ years. Now Sarah is ready to fight, and most of us just let her go out there with no backup, no nothing. She is used as a human shield for LESSER MEN. She is fighting multibillion dollar left wing media companies and two hack political parties every fucking day of her life, and we cannot even muster a defense with the exception of a few websites and the OCCASIONAL defense on talk radio. PATHETIC.

I served in Korea and Vietnam in combat. When I say combat, I mean COMBAT. After that, I worked for the government “unofficially” (use your imagination.) I killed with my bare hands for this country and it makes me sick that even most of my fellow conservatives will not lift a finger to help her. If I was younger and still serving I would be honored to have her as my commander in chief. You can keep the phony tough guy men that get trotted out as candidates. I saw REAL leadership up close and I know what it looks like. Sarah Palin has “IT.” I saw men blown to pieces and other men who still ran forward with the entrails of their best friends still on them. My oh my, how far we have fallen. Those boys had integrity and valor. Today’s conservative movement by and large is not fit to shine their fucking shoes.

Read the rest here….no further comment required….and thanks, Smitty, for picking up Bobby’s cri de coeur at The Other McCain….you get a lot more traffic than me…

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14 March
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UK Govt Calls A Halt To Dumbed Down Schooling

A recent OECD report comparing educational attainment of secondary school students across the world in reading, mathematics and science saw the UK and the USA well outside the top ten.

The new UK government  was shocked by this report and believes that unless something is done to reverse this trend by 2030 Britain will have one of the most poorly educated workforces in the world.

Michael Gove, the Tory Secretary of State for Education, is convinced that British schools are not challenging their students and the educational establishment has placed too much emphasis upon keeping kids unpressured than preparing them for what is becoming a tough, unforgiving world. Although exam grades at 16 have “improved” steadily over the last few years Gove suspects that this has been achieved by lowering standards and allowing students to take mickey mouse subjects (Media Studies, Leisure Studies anyone?) instead of harder ones like sciences or languages.

Mr Gove believes that under Labour, many schools pushed children towards less academic qualifications and subjects to boost their league table rankings.

“Labour got its priorities wrong and said kids from poor homes could not do difficult subjects,” he said.

So he has introduced a new benchmark for comparing schools – how many students at 16 score grade C or above in English, Mathematics, a modern language, two sciences and either Geography or History.

Using this benchmark  only about 15% of all 16 year olds achieved a satisfactory standard

The OECD report reinforced this grim indictment of British secondary education

British schoolchildren are now ranked 16th in the world for science, 25th for reading and 28th for maths, according to the OECD’s 2009 PISA report. That compares with a 2000 PISA ranking of 4th for science, 7th for reading and 8th for maths. This is conclusive proof that Labour’s claim to have “improved” Britain’s schools during its period in office is utter nonsense. Spending on education increased by £30 billion under the last government, yet between 2000-09 British schoolchildren plummeted in the international league tables and are now ranked behind those of Poland, Estonia and Slovenia.

 Seeing the disdainful reaction of many Head Teachers to Gove’s proposals (reported approvingly by the BBC – surprise, surprise) one can see the reason why we rank so low. Gove is taking on an entrenched establishment that uses smug self congratulation to camouflage a default position of inertia. The scenario will be brutal and bloody but if he does not win, then within 20 years we will be on the level of Kyrgyztan or Azebaijan……

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10 March
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Newt Gingrich 2011: John Profumo 1963 – Two Very Different Concepts Of Repentance And Redemption

Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

The sharpened steel in the majestic, lyrical rolling thunder of the King James Bible gives out a clear warning to us all when we feel tempted to rush to judgement on the conduct of others. So when a man broadcasts the contents of his pleas to God who are we to comment upon the degree of his sincerity?

But words are easy. Action, surely, is a more acceptable currency.

Newt Gingrich has gone public with his own inner turmoil.

Newt Gingrich, who is expected to run for President tells The Brody File that he “felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness” over his past marital infidelity. And now that he’s at the grandfather stage he is “truly enjoying the depths of my life in ways that I never dreamed it was possible.”

In the end, the presidency is different than any other job. You’re looking for somebody who is going to lead the nation. You’re looking for somebody who should be, ideally, the unifier of the nation. And, you’re looking to somebody to whom you’re going to loan enormous power for four years.

Way back in the early 1960s a leading UK Conservative Cabinet minister, John Profumo, was caught up in a prostitute scandal. He immediately resigned, left politics and spent the rest of his life working for an obscure charity helping the poor and the homeless.

Following his exit from politics, Profumo dedicated himself to charity work in the East End of London, and was awarded the CBE in 1975…..

This morning, the former Tory minister and journalist Bill Deedes, a friend of Profumo, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “He atoned for his mistakes and I think will, on death, receive his reward for that.”

“The fact is what he did, and continued to do until quite recently, was a very long stint of social work for the poor of east London, and if that isn’t considered to be sufficient atonement for the mistake he made, then there is no such thing as forgiveness,” he said.

Two men who repented but with very different concepts of redemption

Which one would you trust?

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08 March
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BBC On Palin – Fairer Than Your Average US Media?

Being an Englishman and a political junkie I watch BBC Newsnight regularly. As with the US networks the BBC has an inbuilt left/liberal bias but, although you could never get an Obama/Clinton style love-in for Governor Palin, the recent Newsnight profile of her was reasonably fair.

Even anchor Jeremy Paxman, who can be witheringly sarcastic about politicians, described Palin as the best known woman in American politics without even a micron of snark.

Some kudos, as well, for Jackie Long because she got  interesting answers – and even the rather irritating “intellectually challenged” question did give the governor an opportunity to return  fire. The setting did not suit itself to “policy” questions so it had to be more about showing her as a person and she came across as bright, lively, attractive and normal rather than the image of someone from the Beverley Hillbillies that is often portrayed even in right wing UK papers like the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.

The interview with Sarah’s parents was incredibly touching and conveyed a beautiful picture of warmth and love. That they opened up to Jackie Long in such a way must be a tribute to her skill as an interviewer since the whole family is, for good reason, extremely suspicious of the media. Moreover the producers just allowed them to make their own case without “interpretation” or demeaning comments. My friend Cubachi  was more critical of the programme than I but she did admire the production values.

The vox pops were as to be expected though how selective they were is open to question but at least the reporter treated Tea Partiers and gun enthusiasts as normal folk rather than characters from Li’l Abner

I think the Shannyn Moore clip was priceless…maybe the BBC producers (hardly likely to be Palinistas) nevertheless recognised a kook when they saw one and gave her enough rope to hang herself.

The conclusion was that, although there are plenty of people who still have to make their minds up, Governor Palin is still a potent political force and should not be underestimated.

Not exactly an overwhelming encomium for the ‘Cuda – but quite a bit fairer than a lot of the stuff I have seen from American TV

One in the eye for George Will?

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08 March
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Christie Is A Much Better Governor Than You Were, Mrs Palin, Says Leading US Conservative Blogger

Ryan Streeter, one of America’s leading conservative commentators, once more tells the world that Sarah Palin needs to get back into the kitchen and leave important money stuff to the menfolk (specifically Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels and..surprise, surprise…Jeb Bush…)

Being a former Bush staffer Ryan Streeter is clearly just the guy to wax lyrically about fiscal rectitude. As part of his campaign to get Jeb Bush into the White House in January 2013 (and, no doubt, to get Mr Streeter back onto the government’s payroll) America’s top conservative blogger continues his campaign to derail Sarah Palin by bigging up potential rivals and this time it’s Coulter’s crush Governor Christie of New Jersey

Ryan Streeter reckons that Governor Palin’s fiscal record in Alaska does not bear comparison with Governor Christie

Her record as governor was fine, but it hardly looks courageous. Yes, she cut earmarks, sold the state jet, took a pay cut, used the pocket veto to cut funding, and socked funds away for a rainy day. But she also signed a big budget increase and went hunting for federal earmarks to the tune of a couple hundred million dollars while trimming them at home. Her record is more of a mixed bag than a model of fiscal innovation. Her comments  only invite more scrutiny of her record than she probably wants or needs right now.

Moreover she had it easier in Alaska because she was a Republican Governor in a red state

Courage manifests itself in various ways, one of which is bucking political opinion and pressure – which Christie has had to do in ways she hasn’t. New Jersey and Alaska are a bit different politically, to put it mildly

Excuse me?  For a guy who claims to be the greatest living expert on the GOP it seems strange that Streeter appears to have no knowledge of the Corrupt Bastards Club, Palin’s road to power as Republican outsider against the Murkowski machine or her fight against the Big Oil interests that dominated Alaskan politics for so long – or that at times the Alaska GOP establishment acted as a kind of unofficial opposition against her throughout her governorship?

But then can someone who values Ari Fleischer’s  opinion on the viability of a Palin candidature in 2012 really be expected to have done much homework on her? As for Streeter’s admiration of Christie as the great white hope of American conservatives it might be useful to follow Reagan’s maxim and trust and verify Christie on Obamacare, illegal immigration, gun control and the Tea Party.

Perhaps Streeter would also like to comment on the ethics of preferring to nail a Democratic mayor rather than a trafficker of underage sex slaves.

Motes, beams anyone?

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