Decisions: Good and Bad

English: Ameren lineman practicing a rescue.

English: American lineman practicing a rescue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Right and wrong. Often we think of them as the two sides of a coin as it were, and often they are, but are they always? Let’s dig a little deeper here.

As a power lineman, and as an electrician I often deal with power that is concentrated enough to kill you quick. Not that it’s always in the line of duty.

Many years ago, a woman friend of mine had a TV fall into the bathtub with her child. The child was killed. It was called a horrible accident, and it was. Or was it? She knew, or should have known that you don’t let electrical appliances get anywhere near the bath, yes some, such as hairdryers are less dangerous because of safety regulations but still, you are taking a risk. And a CRT television (which was the only kind then) is very high on the list, risk wise. There are very high voltages and some are stored for a time. Bad news. She lost the bet. Sadly, although nothing could replace that child, neither could she have another. And so a woman who by most measures was a pretty good mother, is now childless. But it really is her fault, because of her carelessness. But I did and do feel sorry for her as well as the child.

Another story which I’ve told before

They were lucky but, every time Chris looks at his buddy, he’s reminded. Just as that woman in the first story is every time she sees a small child. We say it so often but do we believe it Actions have consequences. Believe it, they do.

And as a responsible supervisor, it is entirely my responsibility to make sure my crew is safe, from hazards known and unknown. Acts of omission can be (and often are) just as bad as acts of commission

I’m very glad neither of those accidents are on my conscience, I’ve been in a measure lucky but I was also taught to be careful, and what can happen when you are not. And yes, I do have some scars from near misses, both physical and mental. We do our best, that’s all we can do.

Church-of-EnglandWhat started me thinking about this now was that yesterday, my co-author Jessica’s fiancé was ordained a priest in the Church of England. And yes, I am extremely happy for them, and even more for the congregations that will have their services over their lifetimes. But what made me think about those stories above is this.

A few months ago, a young woman came to his rectory because she had heard she didn’t need an appointment to talk to a curate. She was in trouble, she was single, and she was pregnant and she didn’t want to be. But let us let Jess tell the story herself, because she was there and she shared with us then. Please do read it, it is here.

It is a remarkable story isn’t it? Especially the part about how she knew she had done wrong, what we would call grievous sin, although that term had no meaning to her.

And that is something that Jess and I have talked about with each other. In the United States, nearly everybody has some passing familiarity with Christianity, it may be entirely wrong, and yet, as a rule people, while they may think us judgemental (and sometimes we are) and with our noses in other people’s business (ditto), they have an idea of what we believe. In Britain, I gather that is not nearly as true. It is entirely possible to grow up and live your life without ever once coming in contact with Christianity. How that interacts with having a state church, I have no idea but, in any case it’s sad.

Most of you know that I consider abortion to be nothing less than infanticide, a fancy name for murdering your child, and I do.

But here’s the thing. In my examples above the actors knew what they were doing, they made an informed choice. In the case of Jess’ friend, she really didn’t. [As an aside here, she has become a stalwart member of the congregation, helping to run a homeless shelter, and very happy in her new-found faith, or so Jess tells me. I admire her greatly, and pray for her often.] But in Britain as in America, for a large part of the population, abortion is a convenience, used to avoid problems in your career and in your love life. In truth that was the case here.

But here, God in some hidden recess of her told her that she had sinned, and from what Jess said, I would guess that she was close to the point of adding suicide to her list of sins. I don’t know if you have ever been close to that black place of despair, I have, a couple of times, and one does not come back without help, of a friend, of a counsellor, or a pastor, and /or God himself. But if you do, you tend to come back stronger.

And that, my friends, is why I don’t condemn people. I do not know what they know, nor do I know how they reached their decision. This young woman reached out to those who were supposed to help her, and they were too busy, but she persisted and found a willing ear in a CofE curate. he listened and sympathised, as was right because he couldn’t make the decision for her. He moved her enough for her to want to see him after her abortion, and in that meeting, the three of them, plus God himself, saved that woman’s life. But reminding her that while those of us that are guilty (and that is all of us) must not cast the first stone, Jess’ friend as well as the woman at the well was instructed (as are we) “Go and sin no more“.

And the way I remember that is to always remember that one can only make decisions based on the knowledge that one has, if we have more complete knowledge, and they ask us, we must share our knowledge (and belief) but we may not, and even God does not, force them to use our knowledge. We all answer individually.

ABC= Always Be Careful

High-voltage lines for the long distance trans...

High-voltage lines for the long distance transportation of electrical energy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s that time of year again out here, we’re well into harvest, and everybody concerned is going full-out trying to keep up. That means nearly everyone is working till they get stupid. That’s the term I use when you keep going until you’re so tired that you’re not thinking clearly anymore. It tends to be endemic this time of year around farms, and with those of us that work in the industry.

I don’t condone ignoring safety rules but, I recognize it’s going to happen sometimes, and yes, I’ve done it too. But the thing is, I’ve been doing this work for nearly 50 years, and have pretty much of an instinctive knowledge of what can happen. I also know that some rules are not to be broken ever. If you think you know which, you don’t, so don’t break any of them.

By the way, I find that the older I get, the fewer I break, and then only for very good reasons, and not shutting down your operation is not one of them. About the only reason to for me anymore is to rescue somebody, and that I have to think about. Because it’s not going to help them if I kill myself trying to rescue them, is it? And with electricity it is quite easy to kill yourself.

In this first video, although it’s filmed on an industrial panel, it’s at a level that is available in your panel in your house. I know a lot of you like to do your own work. In truth, I’m sympathetic but, if you don’t know what you’re doing without guesswork, call a professional

Trust me, I’ve seen it in real life and you don’t want to! Luckily it was on a small irrigation pump but it was bad.

Look Up for Safety’s Sake

If your working with portable grain handling equipment, or even harvesting equipment sometimes, you can get much too close to overhead power lines. the only real solution is to pay attention This video is of a twig falling across the most common distribution voltage in the United States

You do not want your auger playing twig in this scenario. Along with that and besides winter is coming with ice storms and such, what should you do if a power line falls on your vehicle? Don’t know? Here’s a video that will show you. Watch it all, it’s important.

Remember that because it could quite easily save your life.

In fact, if you see any kind of wire laying on the ground, stay away from it, and keep others away and call the power company or 911 If you’re around industry or even a fair number of systems on the farm, you know that a lot of electricity is used at what we call 480V. It’s the most efficient overall voltage for commercial and industrial use. But it also can be a very dangerous voltage. Here’s another video

I saw a similar video years ago where the cover of the panel was blown clean across the room. There is an incredible amount of potential energy there. This is a demonstration by Progress Power of some of the things that can happen around power lines

Those of us in the industry have spent thousands of dollars on tools and education about these hazards and our rules change nearly every year as we learn more. If your interested, this video talks about some of the research that is being done

But, in truth, what makes a safe job, is safe workers. I can provide you with enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to make you unable to walk across the room. But if you are overtired, impaired, or just plain careless, it doesn’t matter. Sooner or later, this is going to happen, and I or somebody like me is going to have to explain to your loved ones why you will never be coming home again.

So whether you’re a practicing professional or simply a consumer always

Be Careful Out There.

ps. You may have noticed that I never mentioned OSHA in this article. There’s a reason for that. I find some of their rules and paperwork requirements as nonsensical and burdensome as any of you. And if you read here often, you know how much I resent intrusive government. But, in today’s world, if you are a practicing electrician or lineman, OSHA is your friend. Far too many companies can not see beyond the monthly bottom line, and in a production environment, they will push you to violate every rule and procedure and even your common sense. Without OSHA you have very little protection from them. It’s definitely imperfect protection with our corrupt government but it’s the best we’ve got for now. In the last analysis your safety and that of your crew is, as it always has been, your responsibility. Nobody else’s.

A Snake in the Stubble

center+pivot

A center pivot system

Back in the day, I spent some years as a pivot tech. It was pretty interesting, there’s more technology in there than I would have guessed. It’s also a good way to get your exercise when you consider that the average machine is a quarter-mile long.  The dealer I worked for sold between 50 and 100 machines each year and they all had to be installed along with whatever options the customer had bought. That can range from a pressure switch to being able to control the entire machine from his iPhone, so it did have its moments.

But a lot of the time it was merely the pressure to get them hooked up. We rarely built the machines, contractors did, there just wasn’t time. We usually built one or two a year just to keep our hand in, but between wiring, and repairs, and even grain handling equipment we usually had other ways to spend our time.

We had one year where whoever the contractor had doing wiring, had a habit of nicking the wires at the motor. These machine use a specific style of cable, which has a corrugated metal shield, to help protect from lightning, and they are rather difficult to strip. And if you were careless, you would nick the insulation on the individual wires, most likely you wouldn’t notice it either. And he didn’t. And when we went over these machines at first start, before we turned them over to the customer, we didn’t either.

Valley-Irrigation-visual

A center pivot control panel

But eventually, a nicked wire will burn off, stopping the motor. And, of course, it has to do with starting and stopping as well as running time. So the motor the furthest out, which works harder burned off first. Yay! By the time this started it was the middle of July, the corn was head high, and it was 90°+ and usually the pivot had been running so the local humidity (and mud) were plenty high. It’s an easy fix, usually though, restrip and reconnect the wire, although occasionally you’ll have to replace a motor. The hard part is walking anywhere up to half mile through the cornfield to do so. Fun days. So the next year we decided to wire our own machines.

Which was fine, of course it was, I was one of the people who pushed for that decision. But that also meant quite a lot of work for us to do. At every tower there are 30 wires to be connected plus odds and end, and some other stuff at the pivot point. When you’re rolling along, it takes about 15 minutes per tower, and with me it was mostly helper work, while I did the ends of the underground, panel options, and pivot point. When I had a helper, of course, which wasn’t always.

Anyway, one day we were doing this, on the way into the field, I had dropped my helper at the end tower, and he was working his way in, while I worked the pivot point, this one had a generator so it was somewhat quicker to wire, and I was doing the collector ring, which is that dome-shaped device on top, which allows the machine to go around in continuous circles, without tearing out its wiring.

I’m moving along when I hear this excited shout. I look around, and my helper is about four spans out, and dancing like a crazy man. So I get down to the ground and in my pickup, turn around and go bouncing down there, as fast as I can. That means about 30 miles an hour across a ridge tilled field. In a ridge tilled field, the ridges are anywhere from 18 to 24 inches high and 30 inches apart. It’s not a comfortable ride, slowly, let alone at 30 miles an hour, even with a pickup that weighs something over 9000 pounds.

A ridge tilled field

A ridge tilled field

Of course, I figure he’s managed to hurt himself, although the way he was dancing around, I was pretty sure he hadn’t fallen off the tower, which is the easiest way to get hurt. But, he hadn’t. When I slide to a stop, he runs around the back of the truck and grabs a shovel. He then proceeds to very energetically hack at the ground. By the time I get out, he’s pulverized about 3 square feet, and running out of breath. So I ask him what all the excitement is, cause I haven’t a clue.

He tells me that he finished wiring the tower box, and was coming down to do the motor, when he jumped off the base beam, (that’s the horizontal tube that holds the tower and the wheels). It’s a fair jump, many machines, like this one have 38″ tires, which puts that beam at about mid-thigh. When he hits the ground, something by his foot got his attention. Yeah I would say it did, it takes a fair amount of volume to attract the attention of someone doing something about 1100 feet away, even in a quiet field. But, he managed to make me think something was seriously wrong at that distance.

So, I clamped one hand on the steering wheel, and one on the cab roof to try to keep from getting a concussion as I flew across the field, so that I could watch him turn a 30 inch or so rattlesnake, into hamburger.

He had landed about three inches from its head, and what attracted his attention was its irritated rattling. But it paid for its irritation with progress…

with its life

Industrial Prosperity, and Safety

Accession No.: 07_07_000093 Call Number: no. 3...

Accession No.: 07_07_000093 Call Number: no. 35 of **M.450.172 Lithographer: Bufford, John H. Title of Lithograph: Jim Crow Jubilee Composer: Clapp, Augustus Title of Composition: History ob de World Place of Publication: Boston Publisher: Geo. P. Reed Date: 1847 BPL Department: Music Flickr data on 2011-08-05: Camera: Sinar AG Sinarback 54 FW, Sinar m Tags: Minstrelsy, dc:identifier=07_07_000093 License: CC BY 2.0 User: Boston Public Library BPL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s cover some ground today shall we, on a couple of fronts.

First this caught my eye this yesterday morning over at RedState. Wm Craig wrote this. I haven’t quite decided whether I completely agree with his points, or think its more of an anti-American coincidence. I’m also not convinced that it’s not a distinction without a difference. Here’s part of it, but do read it all, it makes a lot of sense.

Fredrick Douglas Republicans. That title caught my attention, and made me realize that I am overdue fulfilling a request. I have three points to make. First, just distrusting, despising or disputing President Obama is not a solution for this country. We first must understand what the Democrats are doing and how our preconceived notions may in fact be facilitating their success by our resistance. Second we must work to change the message and expose the Democrats for what they are, what they have been and where they are taking the country. Finally, we need a solution that works in both the Red and Blue states and in the big blue cities. A republican solution to the problem of prosperity for all. I will begin by reproducing the comment originally posted on WCP’s Watercooler about Louisiana State Senator Elbert Lee Guillory’s reasons for changing parties.

I know everyone talks about how “liberal” Obama is, but his “liberalism” even Socialism seems to be one of those things that he lets people conclude and encourages. But the truth is that his behavior is more like Jim Crow Democrats than Leftists. This patronage economy, with big banks and wall street getting rich while the population is segregated and intimidated into submission with the help of Eric Holder is a lot like the government that George Wallace and Bull Conner grew to power within.

One of the odd things we have let happen is to assume that Jim Crow laws were about keeping blacks alone in place. Actually then as now, everyone had a place. And the laws were about keeping everyone in that place. Whites (meaning WASPS) “colored” which included just about every immigrant group (Irish, Italian, Arab,and a whole range from Spanish speaking countries here and abroad) Jews, Arabs, Indians, Asians and of course blacks. Remember the sign said “whites only” not “no blacks”. That is a very significant difference. And each group was pitted against the other, kept in line by attacks through fear and intimidation. Look at what happens to black conservatives, it happened to non-colored liberals under Jim Crow.

The point is, while we are jousting with windmills of false socialist or leftist constructions the real danger is that we are being segregated, intimidated and manipulated into compliance with a very well established crony capitalist system of elite, manor politics.

Black people who can remember Jim Crow days might think, it is our turn on top. But the truth is, most whites suffered under Jim Crow, their options, their place in the world defined by a very few people who manipulated everything to insure their own power and to feed their greed.

Obama is not acting like a leftist, he is acting like George Wallace.

Obama needs us to think he is a leftist, because it our opposition to him on those grounds that gives him the support of the leftist and socialist supporters. But his behavior is not socialist. Socialists build factories, and coal plants.

Continue reading An industrial nation of prosperity, opportunity and achievement. | RedState.

One of the themes we as conservatives keep getting beat over the head with is our dislike for OSHA and its apparatchiks, and no, I won’t apologise for that. Nobody, and I mean nobody has done more in the last 20 years to cause jobs to go overseas than OSHA. I’m not saying that workplace safety isn’t important, cause it is. But you know, if a company is to be profitable long-term, it can’t go around killing and maiming its employees.

Yes we’ve all read about the heartless railroads in the golden age. But like everything else, there are at least two sides to the story. Remember, except for a few outstanding railroads, read that as Pennsylvania, Burlington, and maybe New York Central, these road were all wildly undercapitalized, usually by British firms. Remember also that railroad cars were much smaller than even the semi-trailers we are used to, so there were a lot of cars. Same thing in locomotives.

So given the givens as my chemistry teacher was wont to say, how much do you think it cost to equip every rail car and locomotive in the country almost simultaneously with air brakes (which are still expensive, ask any truck driver) and the Janney automatic coupler. In 1880 dollars, I’d guess about $250-300 per car and there were thousands of cars. And if you put a train together without an air system in the middle, you don’t have brakes on the train behind that car, and if you reshuffle the train to put it at the rear, you’re going to be very inefficient. Same thing with the couplers.

So the thing is, like everything else, there is a cost benefit ratio involved here. Workplace safety is always a priority, at least in any field with skilled labor. One of the thing that OSHA has done is remove that responsibility from the employers, it’s assumed if you follow OSHA that you are doing it right, and so innovation ceases because innovation is never government approved, and therefore you are sticking your neck out and God help you if it doesn’t work.

This came to mind yesterday as the London Daily Mail had an article on a safety magazine for workers on the Great Western Rwy. (UK). Here’s a bit of it.

Health and Safety in the workplace began with an illustrated magazine for workers on the railways 100 years ago this month, according to a historian.

The magazine paved the way for today’s health and safety laws, said Dr Mike Esbester, of the University of Portsmouth.

The feature attempts to inform workers for Great Western Railway of the dangers they face in August 1913.

Modern attempts to inform workers of the dangers they could face at work began with this illustrated magazine published in 1913Modern attempts to inform workers of the dangers they could face at work began with this illustrated magazine published in 1913

The railway workers were reminded to carry out their work as safely as possible, whether crossing the railway line, wearing goggles to protect their eyes or loading and unloading goods.

Having studied the evolution of health and safety messages over a century, Dr Esbester says that the country has seen enormous changes in the way we have been ‘taught, cajoled, encouraged and warned’ by the authorities to safeguard ourselves.

He said: ‘Before 1913, safety warnings to workers were very top-down and text heavy.

‘August 1913 saw an entirely different tone and style, it was a massive change.

The railway workers were reminded to carry out their work as safely as possible, whether crossing the railway line, wearing goggles to protect their eyes or loading and unloading goods
Of course, like most academics, he and the paper both fail to note that this was done on the railway’s initiative, not because the all-wise government told it to.

Good workers have always been rare, and worth protecting, Government has made that job harder, not easier

Safe or Productive?

I’m an electrician, and a power lineman. It’s what I always wanted to be. If you’d like proof, there are family movies of me at four years old, in company jacket and hard hat, pantomiming the motions of climbing a pole on hooks. I knew how to use the equipment of a power company by the time I was ten, and wired my first building when I was thirteen. I know every cycle of the electric code since 1968. It’s a major part of who I am. In truth, many men dream of Ferraris, I tend to dream of bucket trucks.

Yesterday, I was flipping through (whatever the equivalent is for a PDF) one of my supplier catalogs. Nearly 500 pages of the stuff that makes it possible to keep your lights on. Except it’s not, not anymore. There’s maybe three hundred pages of things that make people like me more productive. The other nearly two hundred is stuff mandated by the government, that impedes my work, or simply costs me, and therefore you, money.

But there’s twenty pages of stuff the government makes me use to try to keep a half asleep motorist, who’s texting while driving, from running over me, including those reflective and gaudy shirts we all wear. The way I learned to climb poles (the same way my dad learned by the way) is now illegal, because, horrors, you could fall. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing intrinsically wrong, in being conspicuous when we work along the road, nor is flame and or arc resistant clothing a bad thing, even if it does materially increase the incidence of heat stroke. And by the way, we didn’t have this problem when we wore 100% cotton and wool.

Incidentally, are you aware that my company, like most contractors, will no longer, for any reason, work on energized panels, even though we know, through experience, that we could save half to three-quarters of the time spent troubleshooting, because often in a dead panel, we’re just guessing. But the way the law is now, we can’t. First we have to be qualified, which is nowhere objectively defined, then we have to have calculated, by a licensed engineer, (none of whom will do it, because of liability, and because the client won’t pay the cost) the arc flash energy available. Then if by some miracle, we have that information, we have to have the appropriate clothing and personal protective equipment. That last statement includes everything you are wearing, and some of them preclude you complying with other parts of the law. The personal protective equipment includes hard hat, safety goggles, face shield, and rubber gloves, shirt, pants, jacket, underwear, and your boots, all suitable for the hazard. Then the work has to be performed with insulated tools.

All in all, instead of the two hundred dollars of clothing and equipment a competent man needs to troubleshoot this panel (he does need more available, sometimes) we have now gotten to the point of the romantic knight in his plate armor that fell off his horse and can’t get up. Why? Because after spending about ten thousand dollars on this stuff, I’m so clumsy, and I have so much sweat running through my eyes, that I can’t see what I’m trying to do, and I can’t hold on to anything smaller than my arm anyway, so I try for about a half hour, and by then I’m bordering on heat stroke.

That’s why I don’t do it anymore, it’s the best part of electrical work for a good electrician, but it’s over. Oh and by the way, according to the American court system, because I was in that panel room (assuming I’m qualified to be there, whatever that means this week) every mistake made in that panel room since it was designed to build widgets for World War I is now my fault. I’m required to fix them, nobody is required to pay me for fixing them, and they won’t. And so I, like most electricians, will no longer do industrial work, for any amount of money, and fewer and fewer are doing commercial as well, and for the same reasons.

And if that isn’t enough, if something does go wrong, fingers point and the lawsuits begin before the wounded are at the hospital but, we all know who’s going to get the blame, the one who can’t afford the $1000/hour attorney, that’s who. When he loses, he’ll declare bankruptcy because he doesn’t have several million dollars in the bank, and somebody else’s insurance can pick it up.

So, I’m a representative of an industry, the electrical utilities, that were so safe that when the Occupational Safety and Health Law was passed (late 60s or early 70s) they simply adopted our safe practices but, now, we are forbidden by law from doing our work in anything resembling a productive manner. Why? because every time somebody gets hurt, we write a new regulation, irregardless of anything that was in place before, to prevent an accident from occurring that in 90% of cases was the fault of the guy (or girl) who got hurt.

And that is what happens in the real world when you make the competent work with the incompetent. Work, productive work, is done by people who know what they are doing, if you are going to make it safe for idiots, you are going to make it impossible for the productive ones to stomach, and they will vote with their feet.

Don’t believe me? Ask around, if you are a Fortune 500 hundred manufacturing firm, how many electrical contractors will work for you. I bet it’s less than a dozen, and I’ll bet I can find 10 for each of them that is more competent, who will refuse to work for you. Because big business in America is run by accountants who can’t see past the end of the quarter, and legal departments who only know how to blame everybody else. It’s to the point that on a two man crew, the paper work is a full time job, that doesn’t tend to work out well.

And that, my friends, multiplied by however many trades there are, is part of why nothing is manufactured in America anymore.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began. 
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire, 
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins, 
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn, 
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Health care, scandals and myths

NHSStafford scandal: Let’s face the truth about our uncaring, selfish and cruel NHS – Telegraph.

[This is a joint piece, with input from NEO]

The story outlined in this article is unbelievable – yet true. What is all the more unbelievable is that the author of this report says no one should be made a ‘scapegoat’, and puts the blame on ‘systems’ and ‘cultures’.

Someone recently said that the National Health Service (NHS) was the closest the British now have to a religion. At the opening ceremony of the Olympics there was a section given over to celebrating the NHS. We are always being told it is the ‘envy of the world’, and in something close to brainwashing, any criticism of it is usually quickly closed down by the media. We’ve been fed a version of its history which tells us that before it poor people were toothless and dying in the streets for lack of money, but that now it cares for us all regardless of cost on a basis of ‘need’ only. It is, in short, the last argument left for socialism. That may be why so many in our media circles refuse to see, even when they get a report like this, that their story no longer holds water.

There’s no such thing as ‘regardless of cost’. The NHS is the largest employer in Europe. Every doctor and nurse in every hospital, every porter, every workman in hospitals, every local doctor, every midwife and social worker, they are all NHS employees. The bill of this is huge. Whether, as some say, it is £100 billion, or £101.5 billion, it costs each of us about £1500 a year.

The BBC, funded by a compulsory tax on every household with a TV, tells us how wonderful it is and how much better than what the Americans have. It is certainly true that no one in the UK needs to worry about paying if they get ill. The NHS will take care of you – the problem is not the money, it is the ‘care’.

Across the last couple of decades our nurses have become much better qualified – they now have to be graduates. It is also true that across that time the standard of actual care has gone down, and they are now seriously suggesting that nurses need to be taught how to care. As in any nationalised industry, there are ‘targets’ to be achieved, and the report into the Staffordshire scandal shows how these, rather than patient care, became the primary concern of the managers and staff.

So yes, if you get ill the UK, you can see a doctor for free (although you will have to pay nearly £8 for any prescription medication he gives you), and you are operated on and cared for for free (that is you’ve already paid it in taxes). All of that is excellent, but it all costs, and clearly costs more than the hard-pressed taxpayer can afford. As in any large organisation with many employees, keeping an eye on the budget is difficult, and there is no doubt that the costs of medical care have escalated, and will continue to do so.

Whether scandals such as this one will actually make people in the UK wake up to the reality of the NHS I doubt. But as anyone who has been ill in Germany or Sweden will tell you, there are better ways of doing these things. It is here that the myth of the NHS does the greatest harm. Any politician who suggests the thing needs root and branch reform is branded a heretic – when in fact he may well be saying no more than a truth which the media do not want to hear.

From the point of view of the United States, it is a reminder that some of the examples called in aid in favour of Obamacare need more analysis and less sentimentality.

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