Twice the Quality at Half the Price — the NHS in the UK


There is much to be said for the NHS, the brightest gem of the post war settlement.  And it is precisely the value for money the NHS provides which makes it such a target for wholesale or piecemeal privatisation.  The private sector (and many politicians aligned with an ideology which feels private sector good, public sector bad) find it difficult to accept quality service can be provided through the public sector when US style profits could be had.

Hence relentless attempts by successive governments to find rationale for involvement in varying degrees of private sector service providers.

quality health care please!

union-jack2-1

How do the Brits do it?  They made a healthcare system with twice the quality at half the price compared to the US (according to the Commonwealth Fund cost per person per year US $7960 UK $3487, developed country quality rank UK #2 US #7).  Simply, they do it by having original ideas and a willingness to adopt good ideas from other countries.

The National Health Service (NHS) of the UK was born in the aftermath of WWII.  Taxes pay for the system, which is free to citizens at the point of care.  Internally, the system is based on capitation — doctors and hospitals are paid by the size of the population they serve.   The system grew to be one of the highest quality and least expensive systems in the world.  In the 90’s it was bogged down by waiting lines and old…

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A Petition That Just Might Save the Post Office


The Secular Jurist

DeFazio’s “Save the Postal Service-Save American Jobs” petition reads:

About 80% of USPS financial losses since 2007 are due to a Congressional mandate to prefund 75 years of future retiree health benefits over 10 years. In 2012 USPS lost a record $15.9 billion, but $11.1 billion of that loss went to prefund healthcare. This must change.

USPS shouldn’t move to 5-day delivery. This would only save 3%, risk further revenue losses, and slow mail delivery.

USPS needs to re-establish overnight delivery standards to ensure the timely delivery of mail and prevent the closure of mail plants.

USPS needs to generate more revenue by ending a 2006 ban prohibiting USPS from offering new products and services.

Does the Administration support HR 630 and S 316 to make these changes, save American jobs, and allow USPS to remain competitive?

To get a formal response from the White House, the petition must gather

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Mapping hate speech: homophobia and racism on twitter | News | guardian.co.uk


Mapping hate speech: homophobia and racism on twitter | News | guardian.co.uk.

Interesting, but as presented, it doesn’t really give you an idea of the scale of the problem, only where it’s concentrated.  We don’t know if a large red circle represents 5000 hate mongers…or 50.  It may be the Guardian failed to fully report the data.

Skateboarders form village green preservation society for Southbank | UK news | The Guardian


Skateboarders form village green preservation society for Southbank | UK news | The Guardian.

Good luck to ’em; this is such a brilliant idea…

On Wednesday, lawyers acting for the Long Live Southbank campaignlodged an application with Lambeth Council to have the space registered and protected as a community space under laws designed to protect village greens.

They are confident that the undercroft meets the appropriate criteria under the Commons Act 2006 – namely that it is a place where “a significant number of the inhabitants of any locality, or of any neighbourhood within a locality, have indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for a period of at least 20 years”.

Whether London Borough of Lambeth accepts the case as stated remains to be seen.  There may be some cause for hope; Lambeth has some form in these matters, being a leading local authority in designating a local graffiti zone in Leake Street.

Noam Chomsky helped lobby Stephen Hawking to stage Israel boycott | World news | guardian.co.uk


Noam Chomsky helped lobby Stephen Hawking to stage Israel boycott | World news | guardian.co.uk.

Until there is justice Palestinians, which is acceptable and recognised as such by most Palestinians, this issue will not disappear.  What must be particularly discomforting for Israeli apologists is the presence of prominent secular and anti-Zionist Jews among the front echelons of the struggle as it is acted out in Europe and North America.

Does Beijing’s new People’s Daily building remind you of anything? | Art and design | guardian.co.uk


Does Beijing’s new People’s Daily building remind you of anything? | Art and design | guardian.co.uk.

Its state TV headquarters has been called the big underpants. Now China’s official newspaper has a phallic tower to match

Beijing’s building boom has already spawned a wealth of novelty forms, with a stadium in the shape of a bird’s nest, a theatre nicknamed the egg, and a TV headquarters that has been likened to a giant pair of underpants. But the official People’s Daily newspaper might have trumped them all with its new office building, which appears to be modelled on a colossal phallus.

Photos of the scaffold-shrouded shaft have been circulating on Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging site, to the authorities’ dismay, with censors working overtime to remove the offending images. “It seems the People’s Daily is going to rise up, there’s hope for the Chinese dream,”commented one user. “Of course the national mouthpiece should be imposing,” added another.

The 150m-tall tower, located in the city’s eastern business district, appropriately near OMA’s pants-shaped CCTV headquarters, is the work of architect Zhou Qi, a professor at Jiangsu’s Southeast University.

“Our way of expression is kind of extreme,” Zhou told the Modern Express newspaper, “different from the culture of moderation that Chinese people are accustomed to.” He explained the design was inspired not by part of his anatomy, but by the traditional Chinese philosophy of “round sky and square earth” – the tower tapers from a square base to a cylindrical top. He claimed that the elongated spherical form was designed to recall the Chinese character for “people” from above. The fact it might look like a male member from below was clearly a secondary concern.

Cleaner-minded commentators have compared the building to everything from a steel-framed penguin to an electric iron, a giant juicer and an aircraft carrier. But perhaps Zhou should take solace in the fact that his tower joins a long tradition in architecture – from the thrusting Dionysian columns of ancient Greece to the sturdy stone linga of Hindu temples.

Beyond the ancients, phallocentric design found fertile ground most notably in revolutionary France, where architects Jean-Jaques Lequeuand Claude Nicolas Ledoux were continually preoccupied with penile plans.

plan for Ledoux's House of Pleasure

Penile planning … Ledoux’s design for a House of Pleasure, 1773

In his unbuilt design for a House of Pleasure in 1773, Ledoux conceived a “lonely phallus”, lined with bedrooms along its length, culminating in a large ovoid salon at the head, while testicle-shaped galleries framed the entrance. A second design elaborated his allegorical ideas about sex, with private bedrooms arranged to “thrust out from the circular ring of the building, metaphorically representing penetration, the circular ring representing the vaginal passage and womb of the female,” according to architectural historian Paulette Singley.

France’s penchant for the priapic continued into the 19th century, promoted by figures such as the painter Jules Breton, who suggested that the Luxor obelisk in Paris be adorned with a suggestive female hand grasping its girth, and the Vendome column be embellished with a clambering naked woman. More recently, architect Jean Nouvel has seemingly been keen to maintain the tradition: both his Torre Agbar in Barcelona and the Burj Doha in Qatar have attracted sniggers.

But China‘s authorities have yet to see the funny side: searches for the “People’s Daily building” on Weibo are now simply met with the message “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results cannot be displayed.”

Robert Mugabe: from liberation hero to villain to redeemed father of a nation? | World news | guardian.co.uk


Robert Mugabe: from liberation hero to villain to redeemed father of a nation? | World news | guardian.co.uk.

Absolutely fascinating, this one.  Who’d have thought it a couple years ago?

The following scenario, once unthinkable, is now just conceivable. The Zimbabwean president will retain power in this year’s elections through fair means or foul; the poll will be relatively peaceful and deemed “credible” by the west; then sanctions will be lifted against Mugabe and his inner circle, ushering him back in from the cold.

This coincides with a subtle shift in the mood music around Africa‘s oldest leader. Domestic political foes have praised him. He recently enjoyed cordial meetings with Andrew Young, special envoy of the US state department, and civil rights stalwart the Rev Jesse Jackson. A documentary film, Mugabe: Villain or Hero?, has won sympathetic audiences in London. Most contentiously of all, researchers have begun to challenge the orthodoxy that Zimbabwe’s land reform programme was an unmitigated disaster.

Even non-supporters believe this reassessment is a necessary corrective after years of demonisation. “He was overtoxified in the first place,” said Petina Gappah, a Harare-based writer, lawyer and fellow of the Open Society foundation. “This idea of Mugabe as Hitler? He’s extremely charming and intelligent.

…and

Gappah said: “There will be no violence this year; they don’t need it. But I don’t think it’s possible to talk about the possibility of a free and fair election. A ‘credible’ election is the buzzword the diplomats use. The UK and US will accept a ‘credible’ one. It’s very likely Mugabe will come away smelling of roses.”

She compared the situation to Kenya, which this year “held a flawed election to fix another flawed election”. The outcome was victory for Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces charges at the international criminal court of crimes against humanity. But the west was quick to laud Kenya for a peaceful process and seems determined not to allow the new president’s past to get in the way of economic interests.

Britain’s high commissioner to Kenya visited Harare recently and it seems likely that parallels of realpolitik are being drawn. Zanu-PF was represented at a recent Friends of Zimbabwe meeting in London, whileMugabe has welcomed the re-engagement efforts initiated by the UK and the EU.

All this comes as one of the central pillars of the western critique of Mugabe’s 33-year rule is under attack.

In 2010, Prof Ian Scoones of Sussex University published a study that claimed the seizure of white-owned farms, which smashed food production a decade ago, had also bequeathed a positive spinoff in the form of thousands of small-scale black farmers.

It has been followed this year by a book, Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land, which concludes: “In the biggest land reform in Africa, 6,000 white farmers have been replaced by 245,000 Zimbabwean farmers. These are primarily ordinary poor people who have become more productive farmers.” Agricultural production is now returning to its 1990s level, they argue.

The reappraisal is hotly disputed. The MDC says that Zanu-PF cronies and supporters are the main beneficiaries, and the new farmers are still easily outnumbered by agricultural workers who lost their jobs – but the mere fact that land reform’s consequences have moved from conventional wisdom to a debate worthy of airtime is another step towards making Mugabe’s legacy less unpalatable.

Hiking Photography


Hiking Photography.

In which Patrick Latter demonstrates, once again, why his work is so popular…

yaletown, vancouver, british columbia (image: patrick latter)

yaletown, vancouver, british columbia (image: patrick latter)


cropped image of yaletown, vancouver, which demonstrates how much detail is available in the original above (image: patrick latter)

cropped image of yaletown, vancouver, which demonstrates how much detail is available in the original above (image: patrick latter)

IRS apologizes for ‘inappropriately’ targeting tea party groups during last U.S. election


The scandal isn’t they did it; the scandal is they felt the need to apologise. It’s not often the IRS has apologised for politically motivated targeting.  Nor is it self evident the targeting was inappropriate, given the antipathy of Tea Party enthusiasts to paying tax.