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"Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice" - Adam Smith

Joke of the day

Written by Jokesmith | Tuesday 18 December 2007

A man making heavy breathing sounds from a phone box told the worried
operator, 'I haven't got a pen so I'm steaming up the window to write
the number on.'

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The New Puritans

Written by David Cuthbertson | Tuesday 18 December 2007

cigarette.jpgHalf asleep on Sunday night I was listening to a discussion on the radio about 'New Puritanism'. It's the ghastly mix of emerging social attitudes that says that it’s ok to bully people into thinking your way about anything 'bad' in others.

Take the smoking ban. There are, of course, those of us who believe that it is a load of authoritarian tripe, forcing the views of one group of people down the throats of others for no good reason. Then there are those who feel that people in public places shouldn’t be exposed to 'passive smoke' because it may damage their health. This is the old 'nanny state knows best' argument – we disagree,  but at least it's a coherent position. The New Puritans however took it one step further, banning smoking in private clubs for no better reason than they don't like smokers and don't think people should be free to choose whether or not to associate with them.

This attitude is showing up more and more and extends right to the top of government. The smoking ban, fuel taxes, 4x4 road tax, school until 18, bans on pistol-shooting and hunting with dogs, the old rules of John Stewart Mill that 'if something doesn’t hurt others you don't stop people from doing it', have been thrown out and replaced with, 'if something offends a leader writer in the Guardian then ban it'.

So if the country is now ruled by a 'Neo-Cromwellian' dictatorship of the 'liberal' elites, why did I fall asleep feeling so happy?

Well the thought occurs, every time in history that we have been taken over by a puritanical government it has been followed by a backlash of ridiculously hedonistic proportions. Think, Cromwell and the Restoration or Post-War Rationing and the 60s.

Viva, la revolution!

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Blog Review 449

Written by Netsmith | Monday 17 December 2007

Noting a truth about computer games like Sim City and Civilization. If you run your society as a high tax, high regulation one, it doesn't actually work.

A thought: was Mother Theresa greedy? Insatiably so? Yes, indeed she was and a good thing too.  

Bill Clinton is now claiming that Hillary aided the Northern Ireland peace process. Given that everything was done to make sure the moderates lost, this is a recommendation? 

(Sweary alert). If the alternative to climate change is eternal bondage to the State Carbon Police , well, which should we choose? 

George Monbiot's piece this morning is refuted here by another from the left. If carbon trading there is going to be of course it should be international. 

The perils of machine translation . Some way to go yet.

And finally, 80s pop music clearly suffered from an absence of the rock n'roll spirit and three more here and they could remake Rawlinson End.  

 

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A sickening policy

Written by Tom Clougherty | Monday 17 December 2007

stethoscope.jpgAccording to a front-page story in yesterday's Sunday Times, "A woman will be denied free National Health Service treatment for breast cancer if she seeks to improve her chances by paying privately for an additional drug."

Preventing patients from topping up their NHS care privately is standard practice in the UK, and in accordance with Department of Health guidance. The Department seems to think that you have to be either a private patient or an NHS patient, and that any mixing is unacceptable: "Co-payments would risk creating a two-tier health service and be in direct contravention with the principles and values of the NHS."

I find it sickening that the government persists in putting their Soviet-era ideology ahead of the health of patients (which is surely the ultimate principle and value of the national health service). Rather than challenging the wholly artificial and enormously damaging public/private divide in health services, they would rather we simply received a lower quality of care. Their position is immoral and impractical.

It is also incoherent. People can already pay for private rooms in NHS hospitals, and for other non-clinical benefits. If it's ok to pay extra for your own television set, why on earth should you not be allowed to pay extra for a better drug?

Most importantly, their position may be illegal. I was recently at a luncheon addressed by one of the UK's leading medical lawyers. His position was as follows: the NHS Act entitles you to receive care that you reasonably require. You can only be refused that care if there is some legitimate reason to do so. Limited resources is such a legitimate reason. But if you are willing to pay for an additional treatment yourself, resources are not an issue and no legitimate reason to deny the reasonably required treatment exists. Thus you should be free to top-up your NHS care with privately purchased treatment, without being forced to foot the bill for the NHS services as well.

Immoral, impractical, incoherent and possibly illegal. This is just the kind of thing we've come to expect from government.

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Joke of the Day

Written by Jokesmith | Monday 17 December 2007

A woman named Shirley was from Beverly Hills.
One day, she had a heart attack and was taken to Cedars Sinai hospital. While on the operating table, she had a near-death experience. She saw God and asked, "Is this it?"
God said, "No, you have another 30 to 40 years to live."
Upon her recovery, she decided to stay in the hospital and have collagen shots, cheek implants, a face lift, liposuction and breast augmentation. She even had someone dye her hair. She figured since she had another 30 to 40 years, she might as well make the most of it.
She walked out of Cedars Sinai lobby after the last operation and was killed by an ambulance speeding up to the hospital.
She arrived in front of God and said, "I thought you said I had another 30 to 40 years?"
God replied, "Shirley! I didn't recognize you!"

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A dereliction of duty

Written by Steve Bettison | Monday 17 December 2007

police_3.jpgLast week on Tuesday evening a mother of two was threatened with violence during a burglary, whilst her husband was away at work. This had happened before in the area, and not just on one separate occasion but on a total of 6 (5 of which happened to colleagues of the mother's husband). The organization which they work for is now looking into arranging their own private security service to guard the property of their employees when they are away. All of this raises a simple question: where were the police?

It is not hard to imagine that the police force in question may have gone out on strike early, but in fact they hadn't. They were doing exactly what every other police force in the UK does, reacting to crime, rather than preventing it. The police force in Britain today does little of what we would demand of them. This modern force, that we allegedly have at our disposal, has become not much more than a political puppet shackled by the minutiae of centralized bureaucracy. This is the main reason why they failed to piece together the obvious pattern emerging in the case of the above burglaries.

The police themselves are culpable of nothing less than a simple dereliction of their basic duty: to protect the public. We want them to patrol our communities and prosecute successfully those that commit crimes. The public of Britain would hardly be in the wrong if they demanded that the police, should they strike, stay out. If other organizations are employing private security services due to the shortcomings of the state run offerings, then let competition burst forth. We could then have communities policed as they demanded and not for some politicians folly, and a reduction in the council tax bill as a service is privatized.

And yes, in case you were wondering, the mother and father in question were Alex Curran and Steven Gerrard.

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Blog Review 448

Written by Netsmith | Sunday 16 December 2007

But, but, what are we going to tell the children? That Santa has been banged up for multiple violations of the law?

Not one of the legal profession's finest hours : the use of blogs to get cases from the relatives of accident victims. Inventive, certainly, but not perhaps something to be all that proud of.

(Sweary alert) Yes, there are those in the environmental movement who really do think this way

Some photos: bring on the global warming, please , and just how vicious is that Russian bear ?  

Why environmentalism is even better than Marxism! 

An amusing story of blogs and copyright. Start here then here . And just for good measure, the Britney Spears Guide to Semiconductor Physics .

And finally , what the police actually spend their time doing. 

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The vision thing

Written by Tom Clougherty | Sunday 16 December 2007

cameron.jpgThere is an interesting article in The Economist this week, which states "The Conservatives are doing well, but not well enough." That's probably a fair assessment.

The point is that despite the government's recent woes, and the sustained poll lead they have produced for Cameron's opposition, the Tories have not managed to really pull away from Labour. As The Economist notes, in 1995 Labour were scoring 60 percent, more than 30 percent ahead of the Tories. By contrast, Cameron's Conservatives are only averaging a ten-point lead, with 41 percent to Labour's 31. Of course, that is their best lead since 1992 and it represents a truly remarkable turn around from just a few months ago. But thanks to the structural unfairness of the British electoral system (the Conservatives need many more votes than Labour to win the same number of parliamentary seats) it is not yet enough to be sure of victory.

The main question for the Tories is, what can they do to propel themselves further ahead? The Economist points to two issues. The first is personnel - the shadow cabinet as a whole needs to perform better. Too many of them are completely unknown to the wider public, and do not seem to be particularly proactive. This is foolish: the Conservatives cannot simply hope for the government to lose the next election, they will have to work tirelessly to win it.

The second issue is policy. The problem is not, as is often suggested, that there isn't enough of it, or that it isn't detailed or radical enough. In fact, Cameron's policy commissions have provided him with a wealth of promising ideas, particularly on education and welfare reform (which may prove to be the most important challenges facing the next government). But what the Conservatives have not yet developed is an overarching theme or narrative that holds everything together and makes people understand just what a Tory government will be all about.

Ultimately, people vote for a vision, not for a handful of good policies. The challenge that remains for the Conservatives is making their vision the most attractive one on the market.

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Joke of the Day

Written by Jokesmith | Sunday 16 December 2007

One night a burglar was trying to break into a house. He was sneaking across the lawn when he heard a voice - "Jesus is watching you!"
He jumped, turnedaround, but he didn't see anything. So he startedcreeping across the lawn again. "Jesus is watching you!" He heard it again.
Now the burglar was really looking around, and he saw a parrot in a cage by the side of the house. He said to the parrot, "Did you say that?"
The parrot answered "Yes I did."
So the burglar asked, "What's your name?"
The parrot said "Clarence."
The burglar said "What kind of stupid idiot would name his parrot Clarence?"
The parrot laughed and said, "The same stupid idiot that named his Rottweiler 'Jesus'"

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Atheists are people too

Written by Steve Bettison | Sunday 16 December 2007

romney_3.jpgHow do you ostracise 30 million people? One simple way is to explain that, "freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom... freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone." This is what Mitt Romney fundamentally did when he uttered those lines in his speech on the presidency and its relationship to belief. The Economist this week draws attention to the fact that there is a forgotten mass of people within the US who's votes are hardly ever courted.

Currently around 10 percent of Americans class themselves as being agnostic or atheist, a figure that has doubled in ten years. Unfortunately for them though they are a disparate group, and they are increasingly being forgotten. Especially as politicians are becoming more than happy to clothe themselves in religiosity as a way of proving that they are trustworthy and honest. (Even though the innumerable scandals prove that many are ordinary fallible human beings.)

Those who have no religious belief need to join together and begin to ask tough questions of those seeking election to office. There is a rightful place in the political arena for them, especially as a voice against those who seek to hold back scientific advances in the name of religion.

Mitt Romney et al. need to realise, as George Bush did, that even people without faith are Americans and that they, and their views, need to be incorporated into campaigns and politics. Religious belief, or lack of it, should never be a reason for exclusion from the political process. Having said that, we are surely light years away from ever seeing an unbelieving president.

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