The Storm that Closed England

From Peter Hitchens:

It wasn’t snow or ice that paralysed much of Britain during the past few days. It was lawyers. A great swirling storm of ambulance-chasers long ago descended on this country, blanketing common sense under a thick layer of solidified, litigious drivel.

I strongly suspect it was a terror of litigation that caused me to be trapped pointlessly for ages in an immobilised train on Thursday morning and then forced me into a huge diversion to get to work four hours late. At one point, as I rambled round Southern England in rattling carriages, I wondered if I might have to go through the Channel Tunnel to get to my desk.

I had assumed that some astonishing unexpected weather bomb had caused my problems. But when I looked into it, I found that a few miserable deposits of snow and ice on the platforms of Paddington Station in London had led to the closure, for several hours, of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway system.

How Brunel, that mighty engineer, who never saw an obstacle without wanting to overcome it, would have snorted with derision. I later checked with the Met Office, and they said the weather stations in Central London had reported no significant snowfall on the night before.

When I put this to Network Rail, they sent me a long statement repeatedly claiming they had faced ‘extreme conditions’ and offering this excuse:

‘The station was not temporarily closed because of snow. It was temporarily closed because a combination of snow, strong wind and freezing temperature created sheet ice on the platforms and areas of the concourse creating an unacceptable risk to station users, particularly passengers disembarking trains.’ They sent me pictures, showing a few pitiful patches of snow, as if these were evidence of a major crisis. I am not convinced. I think they are evidence of a fear of litigation.

As for ‘extreme conditions’, what can they mean? Those of us old enough to remember the genuinely devastating winter of 1962-3 know what cold weather can do here. Then, there was a 36-hour blizzard right across the country, with 80mph winds creating 20ft snowdrifts.

The upper reaches of the Thames froze solid enough for a car to be driven across the river at Oxford. Even the salt sea froze four miles out from Dunkirk and a mile out from Herne Bay in Kent. The snow lay without a break for two months.

In the North of Scotland, temperatures got below zero Fahrenheit, what we would have called 35 degrees of frost (minus 19.4 on the boring, crude Celsius scale), which is really cold.

That was a crisis. This isn’t. But a terrible fear of being sued has turned it into one, helped by the intolerant and stupid Green Dogma which has closed and demolished most of our perfectly serviceable coal-fired power stations and brought us close to a totally needless gas shortage. Count yourselves lucky we still have some coal generation left, or there would have been serious shutdowns last week.

More at the link, of course.

Sound familiar? I sat here listening to the British domestic radio as they panicked during the storm, and chuckled at them as effete poofters, but after reading Hitchens, it’s not really very funny anymore, because it is America too. When every decision is driven by fear of litigation, and make no mistake, in business nearly all of them are, the insurance companies insist, they are not being made for the best interests of the corporation, the employees, the vendors, or the stockholders. They are being made in fear, to avoid lawsuits, no matter the harm to the real stakeholders.

Fear is also what drives the kowtowing to the left. It can be as picayunish as that the CEO won’t get invited to the right cocktail parties, or the perhaps legitimate fear of political action, or other actions that hurt the company, but as some, like the NFL have found, not taking action can have repercussions as well. If you want the big bucks of being a corporate officer, well, sometimes, you just have to suck it up and do the right, or as we’ve seen the last few weeks, the wrong, thing. Opposing the great middle of the United States again, attempting to confiscate our arms, will have a cost, it always does. I wouldn’t call us vindictive, I would call us just, and over the last 75 years, if we’ve learned only one thing here, it’s that you are either with us or you are against us. Both sides have costs and opportunities, but for me, it will be a while till I fly on Delta again, at least if I can help it.

It’s also a mechanism to avoid responsibility, of course. If your insurance company, or worse your lawyer, who was trained primarily to break deals without penalty, advises you don’t do something, well there is your excuse. And remember, no one ever found it difficult to stand around instead of doing what they should be doing (or even what they shouldn’t be doing).

So how do we (and the British for that matter) fix it? Or should we? Seems to me some sort of tort reform is in order, to make it considerably less lucrative to the lawyer to sue companies and people for stupid stuff. That would be a good start.


Parry, and Thrust Home

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but after the horrific murder of 17 people, aided and abetted by the incompetence of the FBI and the craven cowardice of the Broward County Sheriff and some of his deputies, the left has found that the absolute refusal of the normals to talk about so-called gun control, until the present laws are enforced, and likely not then because there is no need, is infuriating.

So they have decided that the way to make things happen is to use sympathetic people in charge of corporations, to essentially ban us from commerce. Well, they can try, but, if we are wise, there will be a price.

Delta Airlines has decided that the NRA no longer qualifies for group airfare rates. Under current law, they can do this (more later). But companies based in Georgia probably shouldn’t do such things.

Oops! That just might leave a mark on Delta shareholders.

That’s how it’s done. Good job, Georgia.

Not surprisingly Colonel Schlichter is walking point on this one.

We’re now supposed to give up our guns because it’s the 21st Century, people, and the cops will totally protect us and oh, you can’t dare criticize the FBI for failing to disarm yet another ticking time bomb and what kind of crazy nut would expect a police officer to actually confront a gunman?

Show of hands: Who thinks this stops, even slows down, once those mean old not-actually-assault weapons get banned? That liberals have taken a hard stand in favor of cowardice does not exactly fill one with confidence that once we give up our Second Amendment rights that we’ll be safer or freer. […]

Conservatism is not a suicide pact, and our principles are not a mandate to unilaterally disarm. We need to make them hate the new rules. Maybe they won’t learn anything, but at least they won’t win by cheating.

The liberal elite is using its social and cultural ties to those at the helm of big companies to essentially blacklist the NRA, and thereby the tens of millions of Americans who support gun rights. But oppression is oppression whether it’s done by a government bureaucrat or a corporate one, and our principle of non-interference in business assumes business stays out of politics. But now National, Hertz, and others are cutting ties to the NRA, and liberals are advocating banks do the same. Their intent is clear – what they can’t do in politics they will simply do by not allowing the representatives of people whose politics they don’t like access to the infrastructure of society. And we’re not supposed to do anything about it because, you know, free enterprise and stuff.  You know, our principles. […]

No. They are exercising political power. We have our own political power, and we need to exercise it – ruthlessly. The first step is an executive order at the federal level directing that no federal contract can go to any company that discriminates against an organization based on its advocacy or exercise of an enumerated constitutional right. We wouldn’t allow a company to do business with our federal government if it discriminated on other grounds, so why should we do it discriminate on political grounds? Why should taxpayers be subsidizing people who hate them? When those government employees start walking past the Hertz and National counters, the liberal jerks who run those companies are going to find that they’re posing and posturing has a price.

Next, Congress needs to pass a comprehensive non-discrimination regime designed to protect us into law and allow individuals and entities the right to sue any business that discriminates on the basis of the advocacy for exercise of any constitutional right. We need to make sure there are huge penalties for non-compliance – how about $1 million a day? We also need attorneys’ fees provisions for the plaintiffs as well, because we want to turn lawyers into bounty hunters seeking out these posers who are doing so much damage to our society by collaborating in the suppression of speech that the elite does not approve of.

And that is pure and simple lawfare with malice aforethought. It is also what has been done to conservatives in this country for decades. Why do it? Because it works. And because it is targeted, like a rifle, on a specific target, and not simply an IED. And most of all, because freedom itself must not go quietly into the night.

Frankly, I’m not, and I suspect COL Schlichter isn’t either, all that enthused at picking a fight against American businesses. But, I’ll pick that fight in a heartbeat against anybody, or any group, that thinks it is going to deprive me of my God-given rights. And that definitely includes those rights enumerated in the US Constitution.

Saddle up.


The Triumph of American Oil

If you remember the cold war, America won it when we buckled down, built up the military threatening the Soviets when technological change they couldn’t deal with, and simply outproducing them into bankruptcy and defeat. It was even good for our economy.

In spite of the last administration, we’ve done it again. We have routed OPEC, the middle east, with the exception of Israel, is beginning to recede into the medieval meaninglessness that it had until the Great War. How did we do this? The Spectator knows.

[T]here are a couple of articles, one at the New York Times and the other at Reuters, which are required reading for anyone who isn’t aware of perhaps the greatest American economic victory in recent times.

There was a War for Oil, for the benefit of our friends who remember fondly the protests from the previous decade, and we won — without firing a shot.

We’ll borrow a bit from the Times to offer the gist

A substantial rise in oil prices in recent months has led to a resurgence in American oil production, enabling the country to challenge the dominance of Saudi Arabia and dampen price pressures at the pump.

The success has come in the face of efforts by Saudi Arabia and its oil allies to undercut the shale drilling spree in the United States. Those strategies backfired and ultimately ended up benefiting the oil industry.

Overcoming three years of slumping prices proved the resiliency of the shale boom. Energy companies and their financial backers were able to weather market turmoil — and the maneuvers of the global oil cartel — by adjusting exploration and extraction techniques.

After a painful shakeout in the industry that included scores of bankruptcies and a significant loss of jobs, a steadier shale-drilling industry is arising, anchored by better-financed companies.

With the price of West Texas intermediate crude above $65 a barrel, a level not seen in almost three years, the United States is becoming a dominant producer. It is able to outflank competitors in supplying growing global markets, particularly China and India, while slashing imports from the Middle East and North Africa.

A few years ago, the U.S. oil patch came under attack by OPEC, the international cartel of state-owned Third World oil companies from places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Iraq, Nigeria, and several others. OPEC decided to ramp up production despite a relatively soft global demand in an attempt to drive the myriad of independent companies which make up a huge chunk of the American shale production sector out of business.

It was a war. There isn’t really a better way to describe it. And there were casualties. Lots of them. Tens of thousands of Americans lost their jobs, and a large number of those independent oil producers got introduced to the bankruptcy laws.

And unlike those cartel companies run by flunkies of the local potentate, the U.S. oil industry couldn’t run to the government for sovereign wealth fund investment or some other bailout. Instead, they had to find a way to survive.

They did. U.S. shale won the great global oil price war, because eventually the Saudis and the others couldn’t afford to lose money on oil they were dumping at garage sale prices when selling that oil was the major means of funding their welfare states.

Production went down. Prices went up — a little. But the old dynamic, in which OPEC could set its own prices by a vote of the oil ministers, was broken. Back to the Times

“OPEC missed the point,” said René Ortiz, a former OPEC secretary general and former Ecuadorean energy minister. “They thought they could recover the U.S. market by bringing the prices down. Now the U.S. has gained the leading position in the world oil market regardless of what OPEC does.”

“This displacement of Saudi oil, Nigerian oil, Libyan oil and Venezuelan oil,” Mr. Ortiz concluded, “was never anticipated.”

A week ago, OPEC leaders met in Oman to discuss a probable extension of production cuts into 2019 to support prices. Their biggest obstacle is the United States.

Shale plays are much different animals to the gigantic prospects which used to dominate the exploration of oil. A relatively small, independent oil company can drill and produce using modern hydraulic fracturing methods in a short period of time and for a lot less initial investment than in the old days. What that means is when the price of oil ticks up, the shale players in places like the Eagle Ford, Permian Basin or Bakken fields can execute very quickly to get production on line. So while the old dynamic used hold that OPEC would turn their spigot on and off at will, this time turning the spigot off ultimately resulted in losing market share to American oil.

This year it’s projected the United States will produce more oil than ever. We’re likely, by the year’s end, to be churning out more than 10 million barrels a day (the Energy Department thinks it’ll be as much as 11 million barrels a day) — which could put us in a position to surpass the Saudis as the second-largest oil producer on earth. The Russians still lead the world, for now, in that number, at about 10.9 million barrels a day.

In 2010, U.S. oil production was 5.5 million barrels a day.

Quite a lot more at the link, but the key thing is. Never, ever bet against free men who want to make a buck, or ten. It’s one of the ways we’ve built the modern world, and also part of the reason it’s more peaceful (overall) than before. Prosperous people tend to not want to break the china in a bar fight.

Healthcare Reform, American Style

The £ Daily Mail (and all the other papers) has a story about an 81-year-old woman who died at home while waiting over four hours for an ambulance. Terrible story and made worse by the obfuscation and hiding behind excuses of the emergency services, not to mention the NHS. Which as usual in failing to plan for a busy winter, planned to fail, well I was going to say the customer, but that is inaccurate, the customer of health care in Britain is not the sick person, it is the NHS itself, and or its various unions. The sick and injured are merely a vehicle to suck money out of the taxpayers.

They have a kerfluffle every winter about long wait times, for ambulances and Accident & Emergency beds, and then the weather gets a bit warmer and it’s all forgotten till next year. Oh, except for demanding still more money from the taxpayer, for gender changing amongst other things.

American healthcare is insanely expensive, but it is quite a lot better than that, but it has been tending in that direction. A drift badly exacerbated in the last decade by Obamacare, but we haven’t reached the nadir that the British have. The American Spectator has noticed a trend, and Hunt Lawrence and Daniel J. Flynn wrote about it.

By the time Congress gets around to reforming health care, the private sector will have already done so.

The pending acquisition of Aetna by CVS Health indicates as much. This purchase follows Amazon’s forays, both sub rosa and in plain sight, into the medical industry. CNBC reported in July, for instance, on Amazon’s top-secret project codenamed “1492,” which allegedly seeks to revolutionize such healthcare fields as telemedicine, electronic medical records, pharmacy benefit management. As the name indicates, Jeff Bezos believes the project changes everything.

In a world in which Google develops cars and Elon Musk seeks to colonize Mars, Amazon’s project makes perfect sense. And let’s face it, any field with as much waste as healthcare appears ripe for the efficiency of an Amazon.

And expect CVS and Amazon to face competition.

Surely the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Apple — all vying to become the world’s first $1 trillion company — join the fray. Companies, like bank robbers, follow the money. Healthcare overflows with it.

What does the Amazonization of medicine look like?

Alexa and the Apple Watch may replace the personal physician. Amazon’s medical service may monitor health data, including exercise, regular checkups, and prescriptions. Alexa figures to direct patients to clinics and emergency rooms, as it already does, as needed. Hospital, drug delivery, and doctors’ efforts will be sourced and paid by Amazon’s medical service.

Apple currently researches a way to monitor blood sugar levels through its watches. Microsoft and Google just invested heavily in the startup DNAnexus, described by as “a network of enterprises to effectively gain insight from large genomic and biomedical datasets.”

I, like I suspect many of you, am not overly comfortable trusting my medical data to Google, Microsoft, and Apple, individually or together. But I think I can overcome that easier than ending up with a US version of the NHS.

I grew up in a world where if you needed to go to the doctor you went, without worrying about the cost. An office call cost ten dollars as I remember, and knowing Doc, I’m pretty sure if you couldn’t afford it, he never bugged you. Drugs usually came from Doc (what were probably samples that the drug companies gave him) in any case, they were free. I suppose at some point he would write a prescription if you were going to need a drug long-term, but nobody was considering medicating boys for being boys in those days, so that wasn’t my problem.

That’s all very well, and even sort of exciting, but I think the real solution is putting the health care consumer (Patient, you and I) back in control. Why did Doc in my childhood charge ten bucks for an office call? Because that what the market would bear. At $15, a fair amount of the community could not have afforded him, and at $5 he could not have kept the lights on.

In those days, insurance did not pay for office calls or drugs, and so it was on you to get the best deal. And you get to define what best means for you, it may not mean the same for me. Now, when the government or insurance is paying many of our countrymen simply go to the ER, thereby exercising the most expensive and least effective model of health care.

Yes, Britain has a similar problem, because its NHS doctors are majority part-time at this point, and so they are chronically short staffed. I’d guess it doesn’t do a lot for their competence either. You know, practice makes perfect and such.

As we (if we) continue to deregulate the healthcare field, we are likely to find exciting opportunities to improve care while reducing our cost. That is what market forces do. And the little bit of market still in our healthcare is why, even with our nosebleed prices, our healthcare is far superior to the Stalinist NHS.

But, we can do far better.

Friday Change of Pace

Let’s talk about something completely different this Friday. There’s plenty of bad news out there, but it’s Friday, and I’m not in the mood.  Cheryl Magness wrote an article for The Federalist the other day, that tickled my fancy. Let’s have a look…

Robert Herrick, in his classic carpe diem poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” called upon youth to “gather ye rosebuds while ye may” because “having lost but once your prime / You may forever tarry.” With all due respect to the poet, I am not convinced “That age is best which is the first.” In fact, I have argued one’s fifties may well be the best, bringing with it an increase of wisdom, time, respect, and self-awareness that can lead to great contentment.

I realize I am painting with a broad brush and there are certainly exceptions. No age is immune to life’s crud. There is also undoubtedly at mid-life a certain sense of urgency, of time running short, that can lead to that phenomenon known as a “mid-life crisis.” It is often stereotypically depicted as the normally staid, dignified businessman who suddenly shows up on a motorcycle, freshly tattooed, with a much younger woman on his arm. But real mid-life crises, as opposed to those of the cartoon variety, are way more complicated.

Not a Mid-Life Crisis But a Mid-Life Launch

Looking at the many 50-somethings (and beyond) I know, I am not seeing mid-life crises as much as mid-to-late-life launches, manifested in renewed levels of personal energy, interest, and excitement. I know multiple people my age who are moving across the country, buying their dream homes, taking on new jobs, and immersing themselves in fresh (or long-delayed) interests, passions, and goals.

That’s not to say there aren’t struggles, some of them devastating and life-altering. But amid the struggles, there is a level of carpe diem I can’t say I’ve seen in my peers since my twenties. It is thrilling, and I love it.

Strikes me that there is a lot of truth in that. If I look back at my own 50s, that was when I started to not worry so much about the future but to again have outside interests. I must say though, it has accelerated in my 60s. I have my projects, that need doing on schedule, I have the blog, and have several things going on, but increasingly, if I don’t enjoy doing it, I don’t do it.

With exceptions, of course. I’m a better cook than I ever was, but mostly I grill a piece of meat – why? Because I can’t be bothered for one person. Things that must get done, get done, but there is also time to visit, and increasingly work (such as I choose to do) more resembles design and.or consulting. Part of it is the old eyes, that don’t see well in a box a foot off the floor, but more of it is a disinclination to do it.

It’s also fun that finally, I can buy some of the things I lusted after as a kid, not so much the Lotus, I could barely get in one when I was in college, no chance now, I’ve outgrown it. But I have scrounged around and put together an engineering drawing set that would have cost multiple thousands, in the 60s, and that I drooled over then in catalogs – now I have it, and yes, I enjoy drawing. Even if, as an artist, I’m a good engineer. But it is fun to draw with the drawing machine, especially with the engineering pens (yes, they are a bit of a pain as well). More fun, I think, than on the computer, although I enjoy both, I think better on paper.

There are other things I want to do, I’d like to travel some, especially to historic sites, and yet, I’m not very fond of travelling alone, so we’ll see. I’ve always wanted to live well out on a ranch or farm, increasingly I think neighbors should be kept a proper distance away, preferably at least couple of miles (Get off my lawn!) 🙂 I’m working on that, don’t know if it’ll happen, but keeps me occupied.

So, I think Cheryl is right. From the fifties on it just gets better. We no longer have to prove anything to anyone, more than ever before (since we were kids, anyway) we can follow our interests without thought of how they’ll affect our career, we’ve been there and done that, and bought the suits to prove it, jeans and t-shirts are more comfortable, aren’t they? And the suits are in the closet for when they are appropriate.

Don’t know about you, but I’m grateful to be in my 60s, can’t think of anything that would even tempt me to be in my 20s or 30s again, it’s better now than it’s ever been.

Have a good day!

Week in Pictures, Single Payer Edition

A sad start to the week for pictures this week, Charlie Gard died yesterday, a week short of his first birthday.

Farewell Charlie, and Rest in Peace.

He will be long remembered, and both he and his valiant parents remembered in many prayers.

On the other hand, the feckless GOP in the Senate seems to want an American equivalent. Or perhaps they are simply greedy enough to forget who they work for

Apparently, Hillary wrote a book, not that anyone really cares.

In other news…

Look closely, I swear she has a gun! 🙂

As usual, mostly from PowerLine

Have a better week!

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