Right Thinking From The Left Coast
If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough. - Mario Andretti

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Fire Down Below

When does courage become recklessness?

A pregnant woman, her husband and their three-year-old son were killed in a house fire early yesterday as police who arrived before the fire brigade prevented neighbours from trying to save them. The woman screamed: “Please save my kids” from a bedroom window and neighbours tried to help but were beaten back by flames and were told by police not to attempt a rescue.

By the time firefighters got into the house in Doncaster, Michelle Colly, 25, her husband, Mark, 29, and son, Louis, 3, were dead. Their daughter, Sophie, 5, was taken to hospital and believed to be critically ill.

Davey Davis, 38, a friend of the family, said: “It was the most harrowing thing I have ever witnessed. Michelle was at the bedroom window yelling, ‘Please save my kids’ and we wanted to help but the police were pushing us back and not allowing us near. We were willing to risk our lives to save those kiddies but the police wouldn’t let us.

“Tempers were running very high, particularly with the women who were there, but the police were just saying we have to wait for the fire brigade because of health and safety.

“There were four or five police officers. They were here before the fire brigade. We heard the sirens and we came across to help but they wouldn’t let us.

“I thought the police were there to protect lives. At one time they would have have gone inside themselves to try and rescue them.

“When a family is burning to death in front of your eyes, rules should go out of the window – especially with kids. Everybody wanted to try and help.”

Now, when I first saw this story, my first instinct was to side with the angry neighbors. But the police also had a point-in a situation like that, more people might have died by trying to go in. The neighbors who tried to help couldn’t get in themselves, so how much more could the police have done? Bottom line seems to be, the cops had to make a judgement call and probably saved more lives in the end.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 04/01/09 at 12:43 AM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Eye In The Sky

The Nanny State takes to the skies.

Our movements are already tracked by CCTV, speed cameras and even spies in dustbins.

Now snooping on the public has reached new heights with local authorities putting spy planes in the air to snoop on homeowners who are wasting too much energy.

Thermal imaging cameras are being used to create colour-coded maps which will enable council officers to identify offenders and pay them a visit to educate them about the harm to the environment and measures they can take.

A scheme is already under way in Broadland District Council in Norfolk, which has spent £30,000 hiring a plane with a thermal imaging camera.
It said the exercise has been so successful other local authorities are planning to follow suit.

But critics have warned the crackdown was another example of local authorities extending their charter to poke their noses into every aspect of people’s lives.
Broadland, which covers towns including Aylsham, Reepham and Acle, hired the plane from a Leicestershire-based company for five days at the end of January.

The aircraft took images of homes and businesses, with those losing the most heat showing up as red, while better insulated properties appear blue.

The council’s head of environmental services, Andy Jarvis, said the original plan was to target businesses but it was realised the scope could be extended to include residental properties.

‘The project we put together was for a plane to go up on various nights flying strips of the district and taking pictures,’ he said.

In the 90’s you had the black helicopter crowd. The Brits didn’t need a conspiracy to turn into a paranoid society; just climate change. Great Britain really has turned into The Village, hasn’t it?

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/25/09 at 04:40 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Your Recession Is Their Depression

Well, this isn’t good news.

Russia’s dependency on oil is pushing the country’s economy into a tailspin. Oil peaked at $147 a barrel in July but has since plunged as low as $35 a barrel. As a result of the plummeting oil price and the global financial crisis, gross domestic product shrank by 8.8% in the 12 months to January, the rouble has lost one-third of its value since September and unemployment is expected to rise to 10 million by the end of the year. The Kremlin has spent more than $200bn of its reserves to cushion the devaluation of the rouble and avoid public panic.

Neil Shearing, emerging Europe economist at consultants Capital Economics, believes the situation is going to get much worse. “The news from Russia has gone from bad to worse in recent weeks. The economy looks likely to contract by 5% this year, which would be close to the drop in output witnessed during the 1998 rouble crisis,” he said, referring to the year when the government defaulted on its debts, sending shockwaves through the global financial system. “In contrast to the 1998 crisis, a weak external environment makes a sharp bounceback in growth unlikely.”

“The situation is worse than at the beginning of the 1990s,” said Ilya Roytman, president of IBR Consulting in Moscow, which helps companies such as Nestlé set up shop in Russia. “Before it was just in Russia. Around Russia there was a stable economic climate which helped us. But now there is a global economic crisis and because many governments have protectionist values it will not be possible to borrow resources.”

Unemployment is widely expected to soar to 12% this year from 6.3% in 2008 as firms struggle to access finance. “This will spell disaster for an economy in which private consumption accounts for over half of GDP,” said Shearing. About 500,000 Russians are waiting to be paid wages which are late and since inflation is running at 13%, their purchasing power is slipping rapidly.
....

With mass unemployment could come mass unrest. Several demonstrations have already taken place as hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs or had their salaries cut, but the authorities have been quick to shut them down.

“Authorities are absolutely terrified of social unrest, the idea of a spontaneous explosion of unrest,” said Dalziel. “If there were to be a mass demonstration somewhere, there could be a domino effect. I really don’t think anyone in authority knows what to do.”

A second Russian Revolution, or civil war? And this in a country which still has thousands of nukes.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/19/09 at 06:44 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Friday, March 13, 2009

When In Doubt, Project

Are we investing too much into the idea of Israel as the last bastion of civilization in the Middle East?

There are major differences in the way Americans view Israel—most are generally favorable—and the way Europeans view Israel—many are increasingly hostile to the Jewish state. Yet what unites pro-Israel thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic is a view of Israel as a representative of everything progressive and decent.

Across the West, more and more anti-relativist, pro-reason writers are projecting their fears for the future of civilization onto the Middle East, imagining that Israel, that last defender of old-fashioned national sovereignty, is fighting not only for its right to exist but for the continued existence of the ideals of the Enlightenment itself.

[...]

Worst of all, the “enlightened” pro-Israel lobby now presents the threat to Western values as a purely external one, emanating from the slums of Gaza or the towns of southern Lebanon or the radical mosques of Iran when, in truth, the Enlightenment is being corroded from within the West itself. In describing Israel’s wars with Palestine as a fight to defend “not just the West but civilization in general,” pro-Israel groupies are partaking in a political and theoretical displacement activity of historic proportion.

I’m all for supporting Israel when they’re actually being threatened. But what did Israel accomplish with its splendid little war in Lebanon? And what have they accomplished by continuing to try and occupy a slice of land nobody else really wants?

During the Cold War there was a tendency to make the Russians out to be much more powerful than they really were. They were portrayed as a dire threat to everything we held dear, when the fact was we were able to keep them in check because we were always able to destroy them twenty times over, and they knew it.

The problem with extending this type of thinking to a country smaller than Florida is that you raise expectations of what that country stands for. Israel has every right to protect itself. But the hard-line Israel “Supporters” seem to want to make Israel their pet cause for their own beliefs about the Middle East-many of which come from the fundamentalist viewpoint that Israel will be the key state in the coming battle for Armegeddon. If we’re ever going to have a realistic policy about the Middle East, it needs to be one that includes its neighbors who do happen to be our allies, or at least not our enemies. I’m sure most Israelis themselves would agree that they don’t want to be the symbols of any foreigner’s apocalyptic “Support”.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/13/09 at 04:28 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Cows Fart In Europe’s General Direction

So it’s come to this:

Proposals to tax the flatulence of cows and other livestock have been denounced by farming groups in the Irish Republic and Denmark.

A cow tax of €13 per animal has been mooted in Ireland, while Denmark is discussing a levy as high as €80 per cow to offset the potential penalties each country faces from European Union legislation aimed at combating global warming.

The proposed levies are opposed vigorously by farming groups. The Irish Farmers’ Association said that the cattle industry would move to South America to avoid EU taxes.

Livestock contribute 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The Danish Tax Commission estimates that a cow will emit four tonnes of methane a year in burps and flatulence, compared with 2.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide for an average car.

Let’s table the global warming discussion for a moment.  There is a big difference between livestock and cars.  We need cows to eat (although I expect the EU to start pushing for vegetarianism—for you know, environmental shit and stuff).  But we only need cars to get around and fool around with our girlfriends.  Or in most of our cases, just drive around.  Moreover, might be possible to make more fuel-efficient and less-carbon intensive cars.  That is, after all, the entire purpose of cap and trade—to push for technological development.  Well, that and fund stupid government crap.  But there’s no way, even with genetic engineering, to make a significantly less flatulent cow.  The only way to reduce our cow emissions is to ... get rid of the cows.

Exit question: who came up with this evaluation?  What government toady is in charge of figuring out precisely how much—to the nearest euro—to charge for a cow fart?  What if i give my cow Beano?  Do I get a fart credit?

So many questions on this subject…

(Cow-tip to Mankiw for the story.)

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/12/09 at 12:41 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kings Of Wishful Thinking

It’s an alternative to bailouts and nationalization:

For exactly two minutes on March 6th at 11.00am our consortium of psychics and healers will act as a channel for the positive thoughts of the entire country… With over 80 million people concentrating their mental energies at the same time on the same day, we will unleash an irresistible psychic force that will, quite literally, make our dreams come true.
....

It is a proven scientific fact that thinking about something often causes it to happen. Some call this quantum physics.

And some people call it nuttery. Maybe they should just stick with believing that nannystating will solve everything. It has about the same effect.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 02/18/09 at 03:04 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Monday, February 16, 2009

Federalizing Your Records

Speaking of expensive government databases that become public…

The boss of an NHS hospital has condemned the Government’s computerised medical records ­database, saying it has led to fewer patients being seen and cost his trust £10million.

Andrew Way, chief executive of the Royal Free Hospital, in north-west London, said staff were “incredibly disappointed”.

It is the latest row to hit the £20billion IT system which is intended to store the private health records of 50 million ­patients on a single computer.

Civil liberty campaigners have branded it “data rape” because sensitive information – details of mental illness, abortions, pregnancy, HIV status, drug-taking and alcoholism – will be stored on the care records system.

They say it is open to abuse because the police and other Government agencies will be able to access the records, claiming it is in the “public interest”.

Yesterday it emerged that pharmacists will be able to read the records, too.

Mr Way, whose hospital began a trial of the system last summer, said the introduction had caused “heartache and hard work” for staff. He said: “I have personally apologised for the decision to implement the system before we were really clear about what we were going to receive. I had been led to believe it would all work.”

He said £4million extra had to be spent to improve the system, with the hiring of 40 extra staff.

And £6million was lost because fewer patients were treated, meaning the Royal Free could not bill other parts of the NHS for work done.

A federal program to create electronic medical records is at the heart of Democrat efforts at healthcare reform and gets billions in the stimulus. They’re telling us it will save the money needed to finance vast expansions of Medicare.  But as I’ve argued before, it won’t save us a plug nickel, especially if it’s a government project.  Electronic records are not cheap to begin with and protecting sensitive information can be incredibly expensive.

Expect stories like this to hit the US in a few years.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 02/16/09 at 02:54 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

God Save The Butter

Now I know punk is dead:

It has been one of the more unlikely celebrity endorsements; John Lydon, a member of the seminal punk band the Sex Pistols, advertising Country Life butter. But it appears to have worked.

Dairy Crest today said the campaign, featuring a spiky-haired Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, dressed in tweeds, had helped lift sales of the brand by 85% in the most recent quarter. Lydon, once better known for sending chills down the spine of middle Englanders, now appears adept at sending them to the chiller cabinet.

But were the Pistols really all that anti-Establishment to begin with? Their main beef was with the hypocritical multimillionaires who were posing as aging hippies. They were never against making money themselves. So, more power to Johnny Rotten, for helping to bring capitalism back into music.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 02/04/09 at 05:01 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

We Heart Trade

It looks like the trade war has been averted:

The European Union warned the US yesterday against plunging the world into depression by adopting a planned “Buy American” policy, intensifying fears of a trade war.

The EU threatened to retaliate if the US Congress went ahead with sweeping measures in its $800 billion (£554 billion) stimulus plan to restrict spending to American goods and services.

Gordon Brown was caught in the crossfire as John Bruton, the EU Ambassador to Washington, said that “history has shown us” where the closing of markets leads — a clear reference to the Depression of the 1930s, triggered by US protectionist laws.

Last night Mr Obama gave a strong signal that he would remove the most provocative passages from the Bill.

“I agree that we can’t send a protectionist message,” he said in an interview with Fox TV. “I want to see what kind of language we can work on this issue. I think it would be a mistake, though, at a time when worldwide trade is declining, for us to start sending a message that somehow we’re just looking after ourselves and not concerned with world trade.”

Mr Brown does not want to join criticism of President Obama’s stimulus proposals, which he sees as vindicating his own, but the Prime Minister remains strongly anti-protectionist, resisting calls yesterday for more safeguards for British workers.

Trade unions demanded a tightening of the law on the use of foreign workers as hundreds again walked out at the Lindsey oil refinery in protest at the hiring of Italian and Portuguese workers, and energy workers around the country followed suit.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister refused to condemn the “Buy American” clause. When pressed, the spokesman said that Mr Brown had repeatedly made clear that he was opposed to protectionist measures. He would not say, however, whether Britain was lobbying the new Administration to drop the clause.

Brown deserves credit for resisiting union pressure in his native Britain. So common sense seems to be prevailing, at least for now.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 02/04/09 at 04:45 AM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Can I Buy A Vowel?

This isn’t good:

In a setback to the escalating U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, the president of Kyrgyzstan said Tuesday that his government will shut down the American air base in his country.

U.S. officials say that the Manas Air Base is vital to plans to send an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan, a linchpin of President Barack Obama’s efforts to pacify the country.

The announcement by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev came in Moscow, not in his own capital, and shortly after the Russian government reportedly agreed to lend Kyrgyzstan $2 billion, write off $180 million in debt and add another $150 million in aid. Although the Russian government didn’t release a statement about the decision, the timing and place of the announcement indicated that the Kremlin had been involved.

Forget, for the moment, the impact of this on our Afghan campaign.  What we have here is Russia buying off an ally in the War on Terror, trying once again to rebuild their empire.

It’s been suggested by some that this is Putin testing Obama.  Perhaps, but then was the Georgia invasion testing Bush?  I think we place too much importance in our own elections with regard to the rest of the world but it’s becoming clearer to me that the challenge of the next four years may not be in the Middle East, but in Russia.  Putin wants his Empire back, no matter who is charge.  The challenge is not to show toughness but to balance China and Europe against him.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 02/03/09 at 10:44 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Big Trouble In Smaller Russia

It looks like Uncle Putin is facing a bigger revolt than he expected:

As Russia’s economy begins to implode after years of energy-driven growth, Mr Putin is facing the germs of an unexpected power struggle which could hamper his ambition to project Russian might abroad.

Mounting job losses and a collapse in the price of commodities have triggered social unrest on a scale not seen for at least four years, prompting panic among Kremlin officials more accustomed to the political apathy of the Russian people.

The unease was deepened yesterday after thousands of protestors marched through the Pacific port city of Vladivostok and other cities, including Moscow, demanding Mr Putin’s resignation for his handling of the flailing Russian economy.

Up to one million Russians are estimated by financial analysts to have lost their jobs over the past two months, and the economy is expected to shrink by up to three per cent this year. Meanwhile the Russian rouble has been falling steadily against other currencies for months, making it the world’s third worst performing currency this year, and industry is disintegrating.

“I was furious when I heard Putin speaking fairy tales in Davos about how our economy is under control,” said Yevgeny Antipov, a 21-year-old student in Vladivostok, insisting that he was not afraid to be marching against the government for the first time.

“It is my duty to stand up for my rights,” he said. “I want to live in a good place. I want my children to grow up in a free country, not a gulag.”

Understandable sentiments-but here’s the ironic part:

Worryingly for the government, the rally was lead by the Communist party—which has been wary of criticising Mr Putin in the past—and a new grassroots movement called Tiger, which draws together a range of disaffected residents from Russia’s far east. Tiger is the kind of organisation that the Kremlin particularly fears, a civil rights movement with no political allegiance.

Who would have thought the day would come when former totalitarians would be protesting against totalitarianism?

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 02/01/09 at 09:09 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Putin, Nyet

It seems there’s trouble in Putinland:

Thousands of people have held rallies across Russia protesting against what they describe as the government’s mismanagement of the economy.

The biggest demonstration took place in the eastern city of Vladivostok, where protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

In the capital Moscow, police arrested a number of people at an unauthorised gathering by a radical party.

Meanwhile, government supporters also held their rallies across the country.

Protests on such a large scale were unthinkable just a few months ago as the economy boomed with record high oil prices and as the Kremlin tightened its grip over almost all aspects of society, the BBC’s Richard Galpin in Moscow says.

But now with the economy in deep trouble, there is real fear amongst ordinary people about what the future will hold, he says.

He adds that unemployment is rising rapidly, as are the prices of basic food and utilities.

So what happens next? More crackdowns, Soviet-style repression, and even more economic problems? And then what? This is not good.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 01/31/09 at 08:13 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In The Land Of Ice And Snow

Meet Iceland’s answer to Harvey Milk:

The current Minister for Social Affairs, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir of the Social Democrats, said she is prepared to assume the position of prime minister as long as she senses that her position is backed by sufficient trust.

Foreign Minister and chairwoman of the Social Democrats Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir proposed that Sigurdardóttir replace Geir H. Haarde, chairman of the Independence Party, as prime minister yesterday, Fréttabladid reports.

Sigurdardóttir said the idea had only been discussed with her yesterday morning.

Her first choice of a coalition is a minority government with the Left-Greens and backing from the Progressive Party. “Another option is a minority government with the Social Democrats and passivity of the Left-Greens and Progressive Party.”
....

If Sigurdardóttir does become prime minister, she will be the first woman to serve as prime minister in the country’s history and also the first openly gay prime minister in the world.

It would appear that, when your country is undergoing economic collapse, sexual orientation doesn’t seem all that important when you need a leader. American fundamentalists, please take note.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 01/27/09 at 04:52 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Sunday, January 25, 2009

“Globish, Motherf*cker, Do You Speak It?”

How do you know we’ve won the Language Wars? When the French admit they’ve lost:

Monsieur Nerriere is a retired French businessman who one day in the course of his work made a fascinating observation.

In a meeting with colleagues from around the world, including an Englishman, a Korean and a Brazilian, he noticed that he and the other non-native English speakers were communicating in a form of English that was completely comprehensible to them, but which left the Englishman nonplussed.

He, Jean-Paul Nerriere, could talk to the Korean and the Brazilian in this neo-language, and they could understand each other perfectly.

But the Englishman was left out because his language was too subtle, too full of meaning that could not be grasped by the others.

In other words, Monsieur Nerriere concluded, a new form of English is developing around the world, used by people for whom it is their second language.

It may not be the most beautiful of tongues, but in this day and age he says it is indispensible. He calls the language Globish and urges everyone - above all the French - to learn it tout de suite.

In his book Don’t Speak English, Parlez Globish, Monsieur Nerriere sets out the rules.

Globish has only 1,500 words and users must avoid humour, metaphor, abbreviation and anything else that can cause cross-cultural confusion.

They must speak slowly and in short sentences. Funnily enough, he holds up the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as an excellent exponent.

Many in France consider Monsieur Nerriere a traitor for promoting the dreaded Anglais, but he insists he is not.

He says the French have to recognise that the language war is lost.

“We’re just urinating on the ashes of the fire,” he says. We should look on Globish not as a triumphant cultural vehicle for les Anglo-Saxons, but as a tool, he says: essential but purely utilitarian.

Cultural purists will no doubt continue to complain, but the fact is, English has become the lingua franca of the business world. (It’s also, for that matter, why I still believe we’ll win the war over bilingualism in the long run here at home-if you want to succeed in this country, you still have to know the language).  So, yes, English is here to stay. Viva le Anglo-Saxons!

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 01/25/09 at 08:01 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Friday, January 16, 2009

No Breast Left Behind

Pay attention, folks.  This might be our future:

A council town hall is offering staff unpaid leave to have cosmetic surgery for procedures including breast enlargements, it has been revealed.

Council chiefs say cosmetic surgery is a ‘stressful experience and claim being ‘flexible’ about the matter would ‘generate goodwill’ among staff.

It means workers at Tameside council, in Greater Manchester, will no longer have to use up their holiday allowance for the operations.

Council bosses introduced their new policy - for all staff except teachers and other school employees - after a string of workers came forward demanding so-called ‘life-choice procedures’, such as breast enhancement and liposuction.

They’ll have to be careful administering this or it might bust their bank accounts.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 01/16/09 at 08:29 AM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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