More Aging

I’m just watching the weather forecast on the BBC’s 24 hour news channel. Obviously this isn’t quite the big leagues, so we’re getting one of the backup forecasters; perfectly capable and assured, just not one of the A list. Perhaps that’s why he looks to be about 15, an impression not helped by the suit he appears to have borrowed from one of his mates. I don’t have the manual of aging to hand, but I think this must be at least a couple of steps beyond policemen looking young. What next, youthful sprightly milkmen?

Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged with

Aryan Prophylaxis

I recently watched a documentary about the stripping of Jewish wealth by the Nazis running up to and early in the second world war. One of the companies it looked at is Fromms, currently the second largest condom manufacturer in Germany* and at one time the largest. In 1916 Julius Fromm invented a way to make seamless condoms. Until that time condoms were moulded, which made them both thick and seamed (ribbed, but not for your pleasure). In fact, and brace yourself for this, they were sufficiently resilient that they were reusable.

By 1938 it was obvious to Fromm that it was time to leave, so he put his business up for sale for a million Reichsmarks – somewhat less than the business was worth, but not a terrible deal. Perhaps because all the potential purchasers also knew that change was coming he was unable to sell ‘legitimately’, and in the end was forced to sell to Hermann Göring’s godmother, Baroness Elisabeth von Epenstein. Let me repeat that; Hermann Göring’s godmother used to be Germany’s biggest condom manufacturer.

(*i.e. they are the second biggest company. I have no information about the size range that they offer.)

Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged with

Evil Eye

Not sure how much I’ll be blogging over the holidays, so I hope you have whatever you would consider a great Christmas/festival of your choice. And in the meantime I leave you with this, which might just be the most awesome thing that has ever existed.

Consumer Waste and Cognitive Dissonance

It’s my son’s birthday today, and while we tend to get good middle-class people’s presents (lego, books, etc) we’re not immune to the lure of cheap plastic/die-cast crap. So he’s currently playing with a battleship complete with ‘realistic’ jet aircraft (not that any of them could realistically land on a battleship, but he doesn’t seem concerned with that).

Whenever I see tat like this, particularly on those unhappy occasions when we buy happy meals with their uber-crap, I wonder about the people who make them. I’ve only worked for three manufacturing companies, and two of those were beer and steel, which are practically staples. But the third was clothing, where taste was involved, and I often speculated on exactly what taste was being exercised as a tacky shell-suit or size 24 skimpy nightie passed through my hands.

Imagine, then, how much more puzzling it must be for someone who is working slave-like hours for negligible pay to attach a flimsy plastic rotor to a badly cast toy helicopter that a child somewhere will play with for 11 seconds before losing it in the car on the way back from McDoughBoys. Imagine how much more disconcerting it must be when the worker is a child who can see the fun inherent in that toy, even as they lack the imagination or experience to see the crushing desperateness of their situation.

There is no conclusion to this little rant. Not buying these gee-gaws might take that child out of the factory, but it’s more likely they’ll end up combing trash piles than attending school, so trying to make a little difference may be worse than meaningless without making a big difference too. I guess you get to decide.

Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged with

European Health Care

The EU is floating a plan to allow EU citizens to get health care in any member country if they are facing undue delays in their own country. Some Labour MPs are concerned that this would lead to an internal market that could kill the NHS.

My guess is that they can see a system where the NHS transforms into a giant, centralized HMO, paying for and managing services provided by private companies. Initially these would be based overseas, but it’s not much of a step to see the companies setting up in the UK initially to serve foreign ‘customers’, but in due course changing opinions to the point where they could take UK patients.

Terrifying, isn’t it? To be honest the only real fear here seems to be the fear of change. There are clear frictional costs involved in getting treatment overseas, so establishing these businesses will be a marginal activity. And if the NHS is better than the alternatives (which, presumably, it must be in the Labour politician’s eyes) then the only way it can lose is through government intervention that overwhelms that advantage. And Labour would never do that, right?