Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Calgary woman left to miscarry in crowded ER waiting room
A Calgary woman is looking for answers after suffering a miscarriage in a hospital waiting room.

She was three months pregnant with her third child. She says staff told her there was a shortage of beds and she'd have to wait.

"I don't know why it happened that way, but it was wrong," she said....

..."We should not be having such overcrowded waiting rooms in hospitals. The emergency room situation in this province is ongoing and the lack of planning is evident."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Too successful: the hospitals forced to introduce minimum waiting times
After years of Government targets pushing them to cut waiting lists, staff are now being warned against "over-performing" by treating patients too quickly. The Sunday Telegraph has learned that at least six trusts have imposed the minimum times.

In March, Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Health, offered her apparent blessing for the minimum waiting times by announcing they would be "appropriate" in some cases. Amid fears about £1.27 billion of NHS debts, she expressed concern that some hospitals were so productive "they actually got ahead of what the NHS could afford".

The minimum waiting times, however, dismayed Katherine Murphy, of the Patients' Association, who said last night: "This all stems from bad financial planning and management. No wonder there is a crisis. If staff are available for an operation, they should be utilised."

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, added that the minimum waiting times shed new light on the Government's target that patients should wait no longer than six months. "It is outrageous that the purpose of the Government's targets is not so much to drive down waiting times, as to impose a six-month wait."...

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Post-8/10 World
Just hours before the police arrested 24 British-born Muslims suspected of plotting to blow up as many as 10 airliners over the Atlantic, the British home secretary, John Reid, gave a comprehensive description of how Tony Blair’s government saw the war on terror. Reid, who probably knew the raids were coming, called international terrorism the gravest threat to Britain since World War II and attacked civil libertarians as people who “just don’t get it.” He highlighted a speech that Blair had made little more than a week earlier. Global terrorism, Blair said then, “means traditional civil liberty arguments are not so much wrong as just made for another age.”

If you wanted to figure out how the airline plot will change the West, Blair’s words would be a good place to start. Fiery speeches have abounded in the five years since Sept. 11 2001, but this is a radical departure. Blair was not trying to buck us up and steel our resolve by saying that we’re at war and that we’ll have to pitch in and sacrifice our liberties for a while. He was saying that war has shown many of our liberties to be illusory. The “civil liberties” we know do not bubble up from natural law or from something timeless and universal in the human character. They may be significant accomplishments, but they are temporal ones, bound to certain stages of technology or to certain styles of social organization. Maybe there was something like an Age of Civil Liberties, Blair was telling us, but it is over. ...

Driving with Cash
...A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that if a motorist is carrying large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. In the case entitled, "United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit took that amount of cash away from Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, a man with a "lack of significant criminal history" neither accused nor convicted of any crime....

Real Crime, Fake Justice
...Fraser’s lack of success in effecting any change in the criminals under his supervision, and thus in reducing the number of crimes that they subsequently committed, to the great misery of the general public, was not his failure alone but was general throughout the system. Even worse, he discovered that the bureaucrats who ran the system, and their political masters, did not care about this failure, at least from the point of view of its impact on public safety; careerist to the core, they were only concerned that the public should not become aware of the catastrophe. To this end, they indulged in obfuscation, statistical legerdemain, and outright lies in order to prevent the calamity that public knowledge of the truth would represent for them and their careers....

...By example after example (repetition being necessary to establish that he has not just alighted on an isolated case of absurdity that might be found in any large-scale enterprise), Fraser demonstrates the unscrupulous lengths to which both bureaucrats and governments have gone to disguise from the public the effect of their policies and decisions, carried out with an almost sadistic indifference to the welfare of common people.

He shows that liberal intellectuals and their bureaucratic allies have left no stone unturned to ensure that the law-abiding should be left as defenseless as possible against the predations of criminals, from the emasculation of the police to the devising of punishments that do not punish and the propagation of sophistry by experts to mislead and confuse the public about what is happening in society, confusion rendering the public helpless in the face of the experimentation perpetrated upon it.

The police, Fraser shows, are like a nearly defeated occupying colonial force that, while mayhem reigns everywhere else, has retreated to safe enclaves, there to shuffle paper and produce bogus information to propitiate their political masters. Their first line of defense is to refuse to record half the crime that comes to their attention, which itself is less than half the crime committed. Then they refuse to investigate recorded crime, or to arrest the culprits even when it is easy to do so and the evidence against them is overwhelming, because the prosecuting authorities will either decline to prosecute, or else the resultant sentence will be so trivial as to make the whole procedure (at least 19 forms to fill in after a single arrest) pointless....

...According to Fraser, at the heart of the British idiocy is the condescending and totally unrealistic idea—which, however, provides employment opportunities for armies of apparatchiks, as well as being psychologically gratifying—that burglars, thieves, and robbers are not conscious malefactors who calculate their chances of getting away with it, but people in the grip of something rather like a mental disease, whose thoughts, feelings, and decision-making processes need to be restructured. The whole criminal-justice system ought therefore to act in a therapeutic or medical, rather than a punitive and deterrent, fashion. Burglars do not know, poor things, that householders are upset by housebreaking, and so we must educate and inform them on this point; and we must also seek to persuade them of something that all their experience so far has taught them to be false, namely that crime does not pay....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Federal Pay: Myth and Realities
We've often heard that civil servants forgo higher private-sector salaries in order to serve the nation selflessly. Many federal bureaucrats are indeed hardworking, but new statistics show that they are anything but underpaid.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released data this month showing that the average compensation for the 1.8 million federal civilian workers in 2005 was $106,579 -- exactly twice the average compensation paid in the U.S. private sector: $53,289. If you consider wages without benefits, the average federal civilian worker earned $71,114, 62 percent more than the average private-sector worker, who made $43,917.

The high level of federal pay is problematic in and of itself, but so is its rapid growth. Since 1990 average compensation for federal workers has increased by 129 percent, the BEA data show, compared with 74 percent for private-sector workers....

...One sign that federal workers have a sweeter deal than they acknowledge is the rate of voluntary resignation from government positions: just one-quarter the rate in the private sector, the BLS data show. Long job tenure has its pros and cons, but the fact that many federal workers burrow in and never leave suggests that they are doing pretty well for themselves....

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

SHH... IT'S STARTING: Punchin' in the Rain
Movie musicals and kung fu epics rank low on the realist's list of favorite types of film. Nobody breaks into song and dance in everyday life, let alone whole crowds of jubilant, synchronized, and coordinated citizens. Likewise, when a group of guys in the real world want to cause you harm, they attack you en masse instead of thoughtfully permitting you to elegantly dispatch them one by one. But to gripe about vérité is to entirely miss the point. The pleasure of both martial arts and dance movies comes from seeing the human body at work. Nobody understood that more than Gene Kelly and Bruce Lee, two performers whose legacies occupy a middle ground that's not quite dance and not quite violence.

Both Lee and Kelly were small, powerfully built men, each five foot seven inches of hard-earned muscle. Both were incredibly competitive, natural athletes with an insatiable thirst for exertion, and both were blessed with the kind of charisma — equal parts looks, joie de vivre, and damn-I'm-good confidence — that transfers easily to celluloid. Both were also intensely masculine personas working against a stereotype of sexual passivity (Kelly because dancers were suspected of being twinkletoes, Lee because he was Asian), misconceptions they battled with every resource available, including shamelessly exploiting their own sex appeal.

Standards of studio decency probably prevented Kelly from stripping to the waist like Lee did on the flimsiest of pretenses (ripped the neckline of your black bodysuit? Too hot to fight Chuck Norris at the Coliseum? Well, that shirt's just going to have to come off!) , but the nude bodysuit Kelly wears in An American In Paris (1951) leaves nothing to the imagination. Dressed or not, Kelly had a sensual, blue-collar, unpretentious demeanor that took all the starch out of dance and made enjoying his films an acceptable enterprise for regular Joes.

But aren't we forgetting someone? It's impossible to talk about movement on film without mentioning Fred Astaire, and rightly so. To watch Astaire in action — especially at his prime in films like Swing Time (1936) or Top Hat (1935) — is to experience a vicarious weightlessness unrivaled by anything NASA can cook up. But he's an affable neuter, a perfect gentleman who's probably as blank as a Ken doll beneath his top hat and tails. Gene Kelly, the self-described Brando of dance (to Astaire's Cary Grant,) was physical, prowling and pacing in proletarian getups (like the very Stanley Kowalski t-shirt and jeans he wears to waltz with a mop in Thousands Cheer (1943)) with an undercurrent of animalism. He could dance just as well as Astaire and he telegraphed the same unabashed joy when he did, but his very he-man style carried a tinge of sex and violence that places him closer to Bruce Lee. ...

Smith and "PowerPointless" Modernity in the Church
Mason, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Smith is indeed recommending that we unload “the whole modern mind-set with its roots in the 18th century Enlightenment” and that we return in large measure to “traditional ways of knowing.” Yesterday I came across Debra Dean Murphy’s “PowerPointless” in Christian Century (July 25, 2006: 10-11). Here’s the gist of it with some comments here and there:...

US evangelist leads the millions seeking a battle with Islam
Anyone who wants to understand why Israel has such unwavering support from the United States should speak to one man.

Fiery television evangelist Pastor John Hagee has emerged as the rallying voice for thousands of American Christians who believe Israel is doing God's work in a "war of good versus evil".

When he strode on to a stage in Washington last month, he was cheered to the rafters by 3,500 prominent evangelicals - as well as by Israel's ambassador to America, a former Israeli chief of staff and a host of US congressmen of both parties....

...But today most of America's 60 million Christian evangelicals, who make up about a quarter of the US electorate and the essence of the President's "base", are behind Mr Bush's pro-Israeli position and are pushing for a showdown with Iran. As many as half of those are Christian Zionists.

Mr Hagee said: "What we have done is united all of this evangelical horsepower and said, 'We're not just going to Washington to stand on the grass and sing Amazing Grace. We're going into the halls of Congress to see the senators and to see the congressmen face-to-face and to speak to them about our concerns for Israel'."

His claim of political clout is no idle boast. The President sent a message of support praising him for "spreading the hope of God's Love and the universal gift of freedom". They met several times when Mr Bush was governor of Texas.

America has long identified with Israel against its Arab foes. This backing has been shored up in Washington by the influential Israeli lobby. It also reflects a cultural affinity which is greater in the wake of the September 11 attacks: for most Americans, Israel is on the front line against terrorism.

Another key factor in this bond, however, is Christian Zionism: a booming movement based on the idea that Israel's travails fulfil Biblical prophecy and are a forerunner of the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming.

As the head of Christians United for Israel, an organisation linking hundreds of US evangelical leaders, it is no exaggeration to say that Mr Hagee is one of Israel's most influential supporters.

Outside his mega-church is a facsimile "Wailing Wall". Inside on a flagpole is the Israeli flag and tributes from Israeli visitors, including prime minister Ehud Olmert, who came several times when he was mayor of Jerusalem.

In his recent book, Jerusalem Countdown - A Warning to the World, Mr Hagee seeks a showdown between Islam and the West. "This is a religious war that Islam cannot and must not win," he writes. "The end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching... Rejoice and be exceedingly glad the best is yet to be."...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Secret Society
My favorite conspiracy theory is the one that says the world is being run by a handful of ultra-rich capitalists, and that our elected governments are mere puppets. I sure hope it’s true. Otherwise my survival depends on hordes of clueless goobers electing competent leaders. That’s about as likely as a dog pissing the Mona Lisa into a snow bank.

The only way I can get to sleep at night is by imagining a secret cabal of highly competent puppetmasters who are handling the important decisions while our elected politicians debate flag burning and the definition of marriage.

It’s the only explanation for how the governments of the world could be staffed with morons and yet everything still runs okay, sort of. Granted, things aren’t perfect, but when you hear our leaders talk, you have to wonder why our energy policy doesn’t involve burning asbestos on playgrounds. There must be some competent people pulling the strings behind the curtain, adjusting the money supply, twiddling with interest rates, choosing the winners for American Idol, and that sort of thing. ...

Lobbying for Armageddon
In a perfect world, a reporter at last week's press conference with George Bush and Tony Blair would have asked Bush, in the presence of his principal European ally, if he believes the European Union is the Antichrist....

...At the center of it all is Pastor John Hagee, a popular televangelist who leads the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. While Hagee has long prophesized about the end times, he ratcheted up his rhetoric this year with the publication of his book, "Jerusalem Countdown," in which he argues that a confrontation with Iran is a necessary precondition for Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. In the best-selling book, Hagee insists that the United States must join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West. Shortly after the book's publication, he launched Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which, as the Christian version of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he said would cause "a political earthquake."

At CUFI's kick-off banquet at the Washington Hilton, attended by over 3,500 members, Republican support for both Hagee's effort and his drumbeat for war with Iran were on full view. Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman told the group that "no regime is more central to the global jihad" than Iran. Just two days before, Newt Gingrich and John McCain made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to sound the same message, leading Benny Elon, a member of the Israeli Knesset, to comment to the Jerusalem Post that their remarks originated with Hagee. Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback also addressed the group, and Bush sent words of support to the gathering. Republicans, and even some Democrats, spoke at CUFI events to show their "support for Israel." But while public and media attention was on the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, Hagee's focus continued to be on Iran....

...When addressing audiences receptive to Scriptural prophecy, however, Hagee welcomes the coming confrontation. He argues that a strike against Iran will cause Arab nations to unite under Russia's leadership, as outlined in chapters 38 and 39 of the Book of Ezekiel, leading to an "inferno [that] will explode across the Middle East, plunging the world toward Armageddon." In Hagee's telling, Israel has no choice but to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities, with or without America's help. The strike will provoke Russia -- which wants Persian Gulf oil -- to lead an army of Arab nations against Israel. Then God will wipe out all but one-sixth of the Russian-led army, as the world watches "with shock and awe," he says, lending either a divine quality to the Bush administration phrase or a Bush-like quality to God's wrath.

But Hagee doesn't stop there. He adds that Ezekiel predicts fire "upon those who live in security in the coastlands." From this sentence, he concludes that there will be judgment upon all who stood by while the Russian-led force invaded Israel, and issues a stark warning to the United States to intervene: "Could it be that America, who refuses to defend Israel from the Russian invasion, will experience nuclear warfare on our east and west coasts?" He says yes, citing Genesis 12:3, in which God said to Israel: "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you."

To fill the power vacuum left by God's decimation of the Russian army, the Antichrist -- the head of the EU -- will rule "a one-world government, a one-world currency and a one-world religion" for three and a half years. (Hagee adds that "one need only be a casual observer of current events to see that all three of these things are coming into reality." The "demonic world leader" will then be confronted by a false prophet, identified by Hagee as China, at Armageddon, the Mount of Megiddo in Israel. As they prepare for the final battle, Jesus will return on a white horse and cast both villains -- and presumably any nonbelievers -- into a "lake of fire burning with brimstone," thus marking the beginning of his millennial reign.

Hagee doesn't fear a nuclear conflagration, but rather God's wrath for standing by as Iran executes its supposed plot to destroy Israel. A nuclear confrontation between America and Iran, which he says is foretold in the Book of Jeremiah, will not lead to the end of the world, but rather to God's renewal of the Garden of Eden....