Wednesday 31 December 2008

Happy New Year.

Can't say as I'm surprised by this:

DAD-of-two Stewart Fleming grips his head in pain as he waits to be seen in A&E — but he died after being ignored for SIX hours.

Clearly suffering, Stewart was clutching a note from his doctor saying he must be seen IMMEDIATELY.

But the railway signalman, 37, was left to die as a deadly virus ravaged his body and one by one his organs collapsed.

He was not admitted until six hours after arriving at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, Kent, by which time it was too late.


Heartbroken Sarah, from Rainham, Kent, added: "There are so many questions. Why wait three hours for triage when his doctor had already done it and put it in writing?

"We should not have had to queue. He should have been dealt with immediately. I was with Stewart when the GP called the hospital.

"He typed us a letter and told us to go to A&E and hand this letter over. He said Stewart would be given a bed and treated immediately.

"But when we got to A&E it was full to bursting. I walked to the front with the letter and told them what the GP had said but I was just told to go to the back of the queue. ... I was told we had to go through the normal process, even with the letter from the doctor. We got to A&E before 5.30pm. He was finally called through to be examined at 11pm. ..."

Been there, done that — though thankfully without the death. It used to be the case that GPs could write letters to hospitals telling them to admit a patient. This appears to be one of those things that has been quietly got rid of in the name of reform. But no-one seems to have told the doctors, which is why they're still writing the letters. The last time this happened to us, we learnt our lesson: if there's anything wrong with you, don't go see your doctor, as that's just time wasted. Get straight to A&E and into the queue.

I might add that six hours is pretty quick these days. Vic once waited twelve.

Anyway, firstly, I'd like to say that, even by modern bureaucratic standards, this statement is a lesson in crass callous nastiness:

A spokesman for the Medway NHS Foundation Trust said it was "saddened to hear of the death of Stewart Fleming".

The spokesman added: "Mr Fleming came to Medway Maritime Hospital's Emergency Department on a day when it was experiencing long waits due to a high number of admissions.

"The situation was not unique to Medway — hospitals across the country were all experiencing a rise in demand for their services at the time."


Secondly, this is being reported all over the place, of course, and every report I've seen mentions the six-hour wait, what with it being the whole point of the story. Except the BBC's:

An inquiry is under way into the death of a man after a two-hour delay in him being seen by an A&E unit in Kent.

I'll print the rest, what with the BBC's well-established reputation for stealthily editing their reports after criticism without changing the "Page last updated" bit — for lying, in other words.

The Medway NHS Foundation Trust said it was saddened by the death of Stewart Fleming, 37, of Rainham, who attended with a suspected viral infection.

It said he attended the Medway Maritime Hospital on 15 December at 1816 GMT and was seen by a triage nurse at 2020 GMT.

It said the unit had been experiencing long waits due to the high numbers of admissions.

Mr Fleming's family has expressed concern at the way in which his case was handled, saying he had a note from his GP requesting immediate admission.

The trust said it was currently investigating the case internally and it urged the Fleming family to make contact so discussions with them could take place.

In a statement, the trust added: "The situation was not unique to Medway — hospitals across the country were all experiencing a rise in demand for their services at this time."

There are two explanations for the BBC's reporting a six-hour wait as a two-hour delay. First, there are the times given in their report: they could be measuring the time from arrival to triage and ignoring the four-hour wait after triage. Or they could be looking at the official N"HS" target for A&E waiting times, which I think is four hours (though I admit I haven't checked it recently) and implicitly accepting the Government's line that that is acceptable: so a six-hour wait is only a two-hour delay, because a four-hour wait wouldn't be a delay at all. But, when I say there are two explanations, I really mean that there are two excuses the BBC can offer if they get questioned over it. There's only one explanation for their fundamental dishonesty: they see part of their mission as being to promote the NHS.

Even when it kills people.

Evil consumption.

OK, OK, it's more bloody Mark Steyn, but the man just keeps making good points.

"Retail Sales Plummet," read the Christmas headline in The Wall Street Journal. "Sales plunged across most categories on shrinking consumer spending."

Hey, that's great news, isn't it? After all, everyone knows Americans consume too much. What was it that then Sen. Obama said on the subject? "We can't just keep driving our SUVs, eating whatever we want, keeping our homes at 72 degrees at all times regardless of whether we live in the tundra or the desert and keep consuming 25 percent of the world's resources with just 4 percent of the world's population, and expect the rest of the world to say, 'You just go ahead, we'll be fine.'"

And boy, we took the great man's words to heart. SUV sales have nose-dived, and 72 is no longer your home's thermostat setting but its current value expressed as a percentage of what you paid for it. ... Americans are driving smaller cars, buying smaller homes, giving smaller Christmas presents.

And yet, strangely, President-elect Barack Obama doesn't seem terribly happy about the Obamafication of the U.S. economy. He's proposing some 5.7 bazillion dollar "stimulus" package or whatever it is now to "stimulate" it back into its bad old ways.

And how does the rest of the world, of whose tender sensibilities then-Sen. Obama was so mindful, feel about the collapse of American consumer excess? ... The message from the European political class couldn't be more straightforward: If you crass, vulgar Americans don't ramp up the demand, we're kaput. Unless you get back to previous levels of planet-devastating consumption, the planet is screwed.


Fighting to make the world better.

I would like to sincerely thank the American armed forces for giving to the English-speaking world this figure of speech:

There was no running water, no electricity but what a portable generator provided. The toilets were Turkish-style — position your feet and squat over the hole — and equipped with what they call "John Wayne toilet paper" because it's rough and tough and don't take shit off nobody.


Verbing weirds language.

Came across a great new word at work the other day: "front-ending". Even in context, I have no idea what it means.

Merry Christmas, by the way.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

The room.

This is Saishunkan Cosmetics. And it's just incredible.

Interviewing is based almost solely on character and values, with experience and degree being very low on the list. All new employees must work in the kitchen to learn about service. All new engineers or non-"communicators" must first work as a communicator in the call center, for a year. Even with that they still have a long line of potential employees wanting positions.

Every employee is reviewed by multiple managers to ensure a balanced perspective. A new hire has no goals, and is judged 100% on character. After the first year the person is judged 80% on character and 20% on achieving goals that the employee sets. The percentage continues to shift until directors are judged 80% on goals. By then they assume that the character of the person has been proven. Involuntary turnover has been zero... for ten years.

... Each year the company takes every employee, all 1,000 of them plus representatives from suppliers, to Las Vegas. From Japan! ... The company puts them in very nice hotels, the Wynn this year, so the employees can experience and learn from the best customer service.

There's a lot of genius going on here on all sorts of levels. I've tried to pick out one particular angle, but, really, go read all of it. Every sentence contains a revelation.

This has to be my favouritest bit of sheer perverse cleverness:

They operate a daycare for their employees and initially it was free. However they found that employees refused to complain about a free service, and the company wanted complaints in order to improve. Therefore they started charging $10 a month, the employees then felt they could complain about issues with the daycare, and the company was able to improve the daycare.


Proof-readers not automated out of a job just yet.

Mark Steyn makes a good point about the bail-outs:

You know, it's very interesting to me, speaking as a foreigner, but the Americans always talk about the Great Depression. In other countries, they talk about it as a depression. It started in 1929, the worst was over in three or four years. What prolonged it in the United States was both Herbert Hoover and FDR overinterfering in the economy to impede recovery. That's why it's a Great Depression in the United States and it's just a depression everywhere else.

And so does Glenn Beck:

I speak to so many people who have come from Cuba or Russia or Poland or France, anywhere, and they come over here and they say, what are you guys doing? We've seen this movie before. This doesn't end well.

They're speaking on Glenn's radio show, and it appears that some sort of fallible voice recognition technology is being used to transcribe Glenn's shows onto the Web. With this utterly marvellous result:

I notice, if you believe what you read in the Israeli papers, that Obama has essentially hold the Israeli government he accepts the reality and the inevitability of an Iranian nuclear bottom.

How am I supposed to sleep now?

Bad language.

A sign in the toilets on the HSS ferry from Stranraer to Belfast reads:

To operate the flush system, press button and then release.

Personally, I'd word that as:

To flush, press button.

Are people being taught this in school these days? Never be concise. Add extraneous detail. Ramble. There's a lot of it about.

I especially like the "and then release". Without that instruction, how many people would end up stuck in the toilets, endlessly flushing?

For sheer poetic bizarrity, though, that sign is trumped by the one they've stuck on the hand driers in the Stranraer terminal:

Move hands and comfortable hot air will be sent out automatically.

I can't even decide whether that's stupidity or genius.

The nature of the enemy. Again.

You'd think most people would have figured this out after the Salman Rushdie affair, but no. It's been seven years now since you'd think even the thickest might have managed to pick up the gist of what's going on, but no.


Doctors working in a hospital where all the bodies, including that of the terrorists, were taken said they had not seen anything like this in their lives.

"Bombay has a long history of terror. I have seen bodies of riot victims, gang war and previous terror attacks like bomb blasts. But this was entirely different. It was shocking and disturbing," a doctor said.

Asked what was different about the victims of the incident, another doctor said: "It was very strange. I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was yet traumatised. A bomb blast victim's body might have been torn apart and could be a very disturbing sight. But the bodies of the victims in this attack bore such signs about the kind of violence of urban warfare that I am still unable to put my thoughts to words," he said.

Asked specifically if he was talking of torture marks, he said: "It was apparent that most of the dead were tortured. What shocked me were the telltale signs showing clearly how the hostages were executed in cold blood," one doctor said.

The other doctor, who had also conducted the post-mortem of the victims, said: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again," he said.

Mark Steyn:

The [New York] Times was being silly in suggesting this was just an “accidental” hostage opportunity — and not just because, when Muslim terrorists capture Jews, it’s not a hostage situation, it’s a mass murder-in-waiting. The sole surviving “militant” revealed that the Jewish center had been targeted a year in advance. The 28-year-old rabbi was Gavriel Holtzberg. His pregnant wife was Rivka Holtzberg. Their orphaned son is Moshe Holtzberg, and his brave nanny is Sandra Samuels. Remember their names, not because they’re any more important than the Indians, Britons, and Americans targeted in the attack on Bombay, but because they are an especially revealing glimpse into the pathologies of the perpetrators.

In a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing great power and wealth, the “militants” nevertheless found time to divert 20 percent of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city’s poor in a nondescript building. If they were just “teenage gunmen” or “militants” in the cause of Kashmir, engaged in a more or less conventional territorial dispute with India, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay? Dennis Prager got to the absurdity of it when he invited his readers to imagine Basque separatists attacking Madrid: “Would the terrorists take time out to murder all those in the Madrid Chabad House? The idea is ludicrous.”

And yet we take it for granted that Pakistani “militants” in a long-running border dispute with India would take time out of their hectic schedule to kill Jews. In going to ever more baroque lengths to avoid saying “Islamic” or “Muslim” or “terrorist,” we have somehow managed to internalize the pathologies of these men.


Monday 8 December 2008

Welfare and farewell.

Regular readers may remember Monty the dog. Well, he's not with us any more. He was a lovely dog, friendly and gentle and affectionate and harmless, but he was also thick as a plank of mince and built like a bear-ox cross, and he simply needed a different home to the one we could offer him. He was extremely good with Daisy when she arrived, but only as long as he remembered she was there. If she happened to be positioned between him and food, he couldn't be relied upon not to knock her over or step on her. Furthermore, it was pretty much impossible to lock him up when need be, due to his ability to bite through steel. So he had to go. Which was a shame.

But, what with him being just lovely, we were damned if we were going to do what his previous owners had done and just ditch him and wait for the authorities to kill him. So we spent many months — nearly a year, I think — trying to get a dog home to take him in and try to get him rehomed. And we ran into a bit of a problem.

The problem is that Monty is part staff. Dog homes, we found, don't want to go anywhere near staffs, even though they're one of the most popular family pets in Britain, on the grounds that they're technically a type of bull terrier and all bull terriers are, apparently, impossible to rehome. After waiting on Assisi Animal Sanctuary's three-month waiting list for over six months then discovering that they'd "lost" our details and we'd somehow been removed from the list, and just generally getting fobbed off and mucked around by them, it eventually dawned on us that they simply weren't going to take him. Even if it were true that Monty were unrehomable (and, as you'll see later, it certainly wasn't), they still call themselves an animal "sanctuary". Surely part of their job is to look after the animals who can't be rehomed? I might add that we were offering to pay his upkeep — the problem was that he had turned out to be unsuitable for our house and family, not that we couldn't afford him. Taking in Monty would have cost them nothing, which is a hell of a lot less than most of their dogs cost them.

The Dogs Trust were much the same: they put us on a waiting list that failed to get any shorter with time. While we were on both organisations' waiting lists, we happened to know other people who had to get their dogs rehomed for one reason or another. Both organisations took these dogs pretty much immediately, with no apparent waiting list at all. We realised that it was just a scheme to keep bull terriers out. Why they couldn't just tell us up front that they won't take certain breeds instead of screwing us around, I don't know. Like Mid-Antrim Animal Sanctuary did: I rang them and the woman who answered the phone just told me straight out that they wouldn't touch a staff cross because they're "unrehomable". Clearly having some difficulty with the implications of the word "sanctuary".

In the end, we tried telling both Assisi and the Dogs Trust that things were getting desperate (they were) and that, if Monty couldn't be rehomed soon, we'd have to have him put down (we wouldn't). Both of these caring animal-welfare sanctuaries responded in the same way: Go ahead. I was quite shocked by that, I have to admit. Assisi in particular have an excellent reputation round these parts and are many people's favourite charity because of all the good work they do for animals. Turns out, when it comes to dogs with any amount of bull terrier in them, Assisi would rather they were killed than have them come anywhere near their precious home. I'll not be giving any money to them again.

And then I discovered East Galway Animal Rescue.

It's a dog home run by one Sarah Gunther. She specialises in looking after bull breeds, for three reasons. Firstly, because of what I'd just discovered: that the other animal sanctuaries won't touch them. If you want to save dogs' lives, they're the ones who need saving. Secondly, because she firmly (and correctly) believes that there's nothing inherently psychopathic about any particuar breed of dog and that demonising the so-called "dangerous" breeds lets dangerous owners off the hook while scapegoating innocent animals who have just done what they've been trained to do. Thirdly, 'cause she loves them to bits.

So I drove Monty down to Sarah's place in the depths of Galway and left him with her. It was an interesting experience. Sarah appears to have about a zillion dogs. She keeps them in her stables, outhouses, kitchen, living room, and anywhere she can find a bit of space. She'll take any breed, but most of them are bull breeds, with a fair few pit-bulls. Anyone who thinks pit-bulls are inherently dangerous should visit Sarah and see her young son playing with a roomfull of them. She's a political activist, fighting the demonisation of dogs and the attempts to ban supposedly dangerous breeds. She told me that she regularly goes to court, both as a breed-identification expert and to testify that pit-bulls aren't inherently dangerous and that therefore, when one does attack someone, it's the owner who trained it who should be punished. She is not at all popular with Irish dog-fighting gangs.

And she confirmed what I'd guessed about the other animal homes: they don't want bull breeds:

Every week I get calls from other rescues because they have one *of those dogs* and they cannot keep it because *you know why*. No, I don't know WHY and frankly I am getting really riled up. More and more Animal Welfare Orgs are buying into the media hype about APBT, more and more shelters are turning APBT away and more and more pounds here in Ireland destroy dogs because of their looks and wont even consider to put them up for adoption or releasing them to rescues. It STINKS in the world of dog rescue!

To me a dog has always been a dog, regardless of its breed or looks. Being primarily a Bull Breed Rescue, I have never turned a needy dog away when I had the space, I have had collies, greyhounds, great danes and God knows what else here. But try to place an APBT in another rescue and you start to despair.

It is a sad state of affairs indeed if even your *own* people believe the propaganda.

And, while, I was there, I met this guy.

PEOPLE INVESTIGATION A click, a call.. and for £300 we buy angelic pitbull puppy BANNED because it will grow to be a killer
By Daniel Jones And Simon Lennon

A week after little Archie-Lee Hirst was ripped to death by a savage dog, The People bought a banned pitbull terrier with worrying ease.

A quick search on the internet revealed hundreds of online adverts from across Britain for the terrifying fighting dogs.

Sorry, is he terrifying or angelic? Well, Daniel Jones and Simon Lennon clearly couldn't figure that out either, because, having published their front-page expose of the appalling availability of these inherently dangerous killing machines, they decided that he was just too damn cute to do what they were legally required to do — have him put down — and so smuggled him out of the UK to Sarah. When I met him, she was calling him Killer. I gave him a hug. He was very wriggly. I was in severe danger of drowning in spittle.

The dealer they bought Killer from, name of Andre, was not only a criminal but also just plain wrong.

Pulling three puppies from under his coat, grinning Andre boasted: "They are fully pit. Look at the teeth."

Asked if they would fight, Andre said: " Trust me. If I put them face to face now they'll start on each other. They are brothers but they want to kill each other. That's how much they like fighting."

When I met Killer, he was in a room with four or five other dogs. He was wagging his tail a lot. Although I do love the idea of taking three dangerous dogs, guaranteed to turn into killing machines if they clap eyes on each other, and putting them under your coat.

Killer has changed his name to Raymond now, and he has his own website, so you can keep up with his progress as he lives up to his pit-bull reputation by frolicking with children and sniffing flowers.

Oh, and you know how long it took Sarah to rehome Monty the "unrehomable" dog? Three days. He's now living the life of Riley, eating shoes with a rottweiler in Aberdeenshire. I get the occasional missive from his new owner: she and her son love him to bits.

If you're going to give some money to a charity, you could do a lot worse than EGAR. Any money you give Sarah is guaranteed to go on dog food and dog medicine and no advertising or PR consultants or awareness campaigns or anything like that. She's doing good.

Thursday 4 December 2008

Not so much a prediction.

It seems to be generally acknowledged that David Cameron will be our next Prime Minister. Everyone talks about it in terms of when, not if. It's just taken for granted that the Tories will win the next election; a foregone conclusion.

Well, I've seen all this before, in 1992. No-one in their right minds seriously thought that Major might win that election.

I'm not saying the Tories can't do it. They might well. But I think it's easy to overestimate their popularity when that's being reported through the prism of the media. David Cameron is very media-friendly. There's some evidence that he's less popular with the Tory base than with BBC staff. And he's trying to appeal to the electorate by making the Tories as much like Labour as possible. That's a tricky game, that, and likely to create misleading poll data. In fact, it was after the '92 election that quite a bit of research was done into why polls can be so wrong. What one research team discovered was that the wrong question was being asked. "Who would you vote for if the election were today?" gets people to reveal which party's policies they like the look of, but it misses the tribal factor that exerts more influence on people than they realise when they're in the booth alone with their ballot paper. "Which party do you most associate yourself with?" is the more revealing question.

Thing is, people will vote for the party they associate themselves with if they vote. If Cameron persuades a lot of traditional Tories to stay at home, and if a bunch of Labour supporters who've been telling the pollsters that they'll vote Tory go and discover at the last minute that they just can't bring themselves to do it, then the Tories will lose. And are either of those things unlikely? I certainly don't think so.

Like I said, they might do it. But I just wanted to go on record, so that, if they lose, I can say I nearly told you so.

And I do hope they lose. I can't stand Labour, so don't want to see the so-called Opposition rewarded for turning into Labour, which would leave us with a two-party one-party state for decades. Give the people a choice.