Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Bicycle skid marks

Andrew Rawnsley asks, "was Andrew Mitchell stitched up?"

The police log, the leaking of which to the media fuelled the clamour for Mitchell to quit as chief whip, claimed that his swearing shocked "several members of the public". Yet the CCTV footage appears to show there was no crowd watching at the gates of Downing Street: there was just one passerby at the time of the incident. While we still cannot be absolutely certain what transpired that night – there is no audio – the footage does not appear to suggest a serious altercation. The supposed independent eyewitness who came forward to corroborate the log's version of events – a fatal development for Mitchell – is said to be a serving copper who was not at the scene.
Emphasis added. Because if this turns out to be true, it is a case of false testimony by a police officer.

There was a good comment to the above article from PolishMark:

A small incident, yes, but with serious ramifications. This is starting to look like a police conspiracy to remove an elected politician from Government. You don't have to like the Government to be concerned by this.
There was also a good visual comment from Guido Fawkes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
The worst massacre of children in modern US history: Bath School, Michigan, 1927

I find it strange that this dreadful crime is so little known; I first read of it only within the last few years. Perhaps this is because Wikipedia and many other sources refer to it as the "Bath School Disaster", as if it were a natural catastrophe, rather than what it was, a mass murder. Worse may have happened in the Indian Wars, or in the various other conflicts during the early history of the European presence in what is now the United States, but the premeditated murder of the children of Bath Consolidated School was the worst such killing in the US in time of peace.

From the Wikipedia article Bath School Disaster:

The Bath School disaster is the name given to three bombings in Bath Township, Michigan, on May 18, 1927, which killed 38 elementary school children, two teachers, and four other adults; at least 58 people were injured. The perpetrator first killed his wife, and committed suicide with his last explosion. Most of the victims were children in the second to sixth grades (7–14 years of age[1]) attending the Bath Consolidated School. Their deaths constitute the deadliest mass murder in a school in United States history.

The bomber was the school board treasurer Andrew Kehoe, 55, who was angry after being defeated in the spring 1926 election for township clerk. He was thought to have planned his "murderous revenge" after that public defeat; he had a reputation for difficulty on the school board and in personal dealings. For much of the next year, a neighbor noticed Kehoe had stopped working on his farm and thought he might be planning suicide. During that period, Kehoe carried out steps in his plan to destroy the school and his farm by purchasing and hiding explosives.

Kehoe's wife was ill with tuberculosis and he had stopped making mortgage payments; he was under pressure for foreclosure. Some time between May 16 and the morning of May 18, 1927, Kehoe murdered his wife by hitting her on the head. On the morning of May 18 about 8:45, he exploded incendiary devices in his house and farm buildings, setting them on fire and destroying them.

Almost simultaneously, an explosion devastated the north wing of the school building, killing many schoolchildren. Kehoe had used a timed detonator to ignite dynamite and hundreds of pounds of incendiary pyrotol, which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months. As rescuers gathered at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and used a rifle to detonate dynamite inside his shrapnel-filled truck, killing himself, the school superintendent, and several others nearby, as well as injuring more bystanders. During rescue efforts at the school, searchers discovered an additional 500 pounds (230 kg) of unexploded dynamite and pyrotol planted throughout the basement of the south wing. Kehoe had apparently intended to blow up and destroy the entire school.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newton, there have been widespread calls for gun control. It is worth noting that two of the most deadly massacres of children in the US, the Bath School massacre and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, among the 168 victims of which were nineteen children under the age of six, were carried out with explosives.

"Who are you to judge me ... I remain a free man"

Gérard Depardieu says he will give up French passport over tax rises, reports the Guardian:

Gérard Depardieu has said he is handing back his French passport and social security card, lambasting the French government for punishing "success, creation, talent" in his homeland.

A popular and colourful figure in France, the 63-year-old actor is the latest wealthy Frenchman to seek shelter outside his native country by buying a house just over the border in Belgium in response to tax increases by the Socialist president, François Hollande.

The prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, described Depardieu's behaviour as pathetic and unpatriotic at a time when the French are being asked to pay higher taxes to reduce a bloated national debt.

"Pathetic, you said pathetic? How pathetic is that?" Depardieu said in a letter to the weekly newspaper le Journal du Dimanche.

"I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned," he said.

The full text of his open letter is given in the Le Journal du Dimanche (Le JDD). M Depardieu finished with a fine flourish:
"Therefore I ask, who are you to judge me, Mr Ayrault, prime minister of Mr Hollande, I ask, who are you? Despite my excesses, my appetite and my love of life, I remain a free being, and I will remain polite."

Saturday, December 15, 2012
The sadness seemed to seep out of the stones

Among the many newspaper reports from Connecticut on the massacre of children in Sandy Hook is one in the Times by David Taylor, remembering an earlier crime:

Sixteen years ago I witnessed the same phenomenon in Dunblane where another school lost a group of children. The sadness seemed to seep out of the stones of the Scottish town after Thomas Hamilton opened fire.
From what abyss does such a crime come? I was searching on the internet for the words of the 130th Psalm, De profundis clamo ad te, domine - Out of the depths I cry unto thee, O Lord - and found the letter written from prison by Oscar Wilde which was later given the title De Profundis by his literary executor. I have not yet read it all but the opening words resonated for me because of the contrast between the depths of grief (Wilde describes hearing the news of his mother's death while in prison) and a happy season:
. . . Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain. The paralysing immobility of a life every circumstance of which is regulated after an unchangeable pattern, so that we eat and drink and lie down and pray, or kneel at least for prayer, according to the inflexible laws of an iron formula: this immobile quality, that makes each dreadful day in the very minutest detail like its brother, seems to communicate itself to those external forces the very essence of whose existence is ceaseless change. Of seed-time or harvest, of the reapers bending over the corn, or the grape gatherers threading through the vines, of the grass in the orchard made white with broken blossoms or strewn with fallen fruit: of these we know nothing and can know nothing.

For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow. The very sun and moon seem taken from us. Outside, the day may be blue and gold, but the light that creeps down through the thickly-muffled glass of the small iron-barred window beneath which one sits is grey and niggard. It is always twilight in one's cell, as it is always twilight in one's heart. And in the sphere of thought, no less than in the sphere of time, motion is no more.

Inevitably on a blog such as this in a world such as this there will, and should, be discussion of motives, diagnoses, policies; debate about what should and should not be done. For us outside, motion will begin again.

Monday, December 10, 2012
I am not making this up

Burton Roll Out 'Arthur Scargill Clothing Line' Inspired By Trade Unionist Leader.

Seen via what I intially thought was a first-class joke article in the Guardian. But the only joke in the piece is Aditya Chakrabortty's gullibility regarding TUC "research", for, verily, Burton menswerar really is offering the discerning customer a 'vintage-inspired fashion-aware range', designed by Liam Hodges include casual and formal design, woven and jersey, and knit, 'accessible to the everyday guy'.

Hodges’ winning designs take inspiration from the miners’ strikes of the 1980s and took into account production practicalities – from factory capacities to UK-sourced yarns.

"I was reading lots about the miners and watching documentaries. What I've created draws on classic garments from that era, updating them with modern jackets,' Hodges said.
The next step for the brand simply must be haircare.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Ann Clwyd: my husband died like a battery hen in hospital

Ann Clwyd has said her biggest regret is that she didn't "stand in the hospital corridor and scream" in protest at the "almost callous lack of care" with which nurses treated her husband as he lay dying in the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

Clwyd, the Labour MP for Cynon Valley since 1984 and Tony Blair's former human rights envoy to Iraq, told the Guardian she fears a "normalisation of cruelty" is now rife among NHS nurses. She said she had chosen to speak out because this had become "commonplace".

Describing how her 6'2'' husband lay crushed "like a battery hen" against the bars of his hospital bed with an oxygen mask so small it cut into his face and pumped cold air into his infected eye, Clwyd said nurses treated the dying man with "coldness, resentment, indifference and even contempt".

Owen Roberts died on Tuesday, 23rd October from hospital-acquired pneumonia.

For what it's worth, my own experiences of watching people die in NHS hospitals have been around as good as it is reasonable to expect such a thing to be. However this is not the first such blast of raw emotion directed against the NHS from a bereaved relative that I have read, merely the first from a Labour MP.

To take another example, Anthony Browne, former health editor of the Observer, and former passionate believer in the NHS, wrote:

Last week's report into the case of Thomas Rogers, the 74-year-old grandfather who bled to death after lying undiagnosed on a trolley in an accident and emergency ward at Whipps Cross Hospital for nine hours, is shocking. What is even more shocking is that it is hardly unusual. Equally awful stories worm their way out past NHS obstruction every week. And nothing changes.
He was right about nothing changing; the "last week" mentioned in the article was in 2001. I have reposted that article several times over the years. It does not stop being relevant, alas. Again, for what it's worth, my own experience of Whipps Cross Hospital was quite a lot better than that - I take a forgiving attitude towards the fact that the midwife had to run out into the corridor and yell, "Where's the fucking obstetrician?", given that they were trying to deal with multiple women in labour. Things tend to get fraught anywhere when there is a crisis. However the deaths of Mr Roberts and Kane Gorny, who died of thirst due to neglect, or the baby Edward Brown, who was born and died in a hospital toilet while nurses declined to assist because they did not have the training, did not happen as a result of any overwhelming crisis. Whether the problem is that efforts to make nursing more academically prestigious have made some nurses believe it is beneath them to supply the most basic needs of patients, or increased paperwork, or some other factor, NHS nursing care seems to fail more often than it used to. It cannot be because of "cuts". The last financial year for which there was a reduction in the percentage of central government expenditure devoted to the NHS was 1996/97. And that was one of only seven decreases in all the years since 1950/51. No government has dared blaspheme against the state religion.

Saturday, December 01, 2012
Now they are trying to silence fictional characters

I am not often found defending the BBC or its offshoots, but this is just out of order.

The Welsh Government (for so the lads with the office on the fifth floor of Tŷ Hywel have styled themselves since May 2011 - there's posh for you) demanded that the Welsh-language TV station S4C give the government a right of reply and refrain from ever repeating an episode of the soap opera Pobol y Cwm because a fictional character said the Welsh government "doesn't have the backbone" to cull badgers.

Quite rightly, S4C repeated the programme as scheduled.

Like anyone else, the Welsh government has the right to complain if it believes that the BBC has failed in its statutory duty of impartiality as a tax-funded broadcaster, and that includes complaining about fiction. I did so to the point of exhaustion here. But what gave the Welsh Government the impression that it could try to impose impartiality right down to the level of re-writing the script for a particular actress in a soap opera?

The Leveson Report, probably.