Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sick Britain: Too dangerous for firefighters to climb ladders

Firefighters have backed out of a long-standing agreement to take down their town's festival bunting because health and safety rules no longer allow them to climb ladders to remove it. Green and white flags are still fluttering over the streets of Ampthill, in Bedfordshire, four months after the annual gala day. The town council has insisted that Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service must go through risk assessment procedures, despite their expertise with ladders. "Yes, it sounds like the world has gone mad," said Graeme Smith, deputy chief fire officer. "Firefighters will climb ladders to rescue people from burning buildings, but not to remove bunting after a festival.

"One is a 999 job, where to save lives we will take calculated risks. The other is a property maintenance job, which is covered by standard health and safety rules that we would have to abide by, the same as everyone else. That could mean closing the road and using a platform to reach the bunting. "Unfortunately, if we went down that route people might ask why we are paying firefighters to use our top-level rescue equipment to remove a few flags, when a local contractor could do the job just as well."

The regulations no longer allow the use of ladders to hang or remove decorations, and the work must be done by technicians using hydraulic platforms. Specialist testing gear must be used to assess the safety of bolts anchoring decorations such as Christmas lights, and lampposts have been deeemed unsuitable for hanging decorations. Mark Smith, a councillor, former mayor and member of Ampthill's festival committee, said in his blog: "The festival committee has always appreciated [the firefighters'] assistance in the past and is working towards getting them down, although I still find them quite cheery."

He had, however, received complaints that the bunting was starting to look tatty. Residents used the online Ampthill Today forum to express their bemusement. Charlie Garth wrote: "What the blazes? I'm sure our brave firemen aren't frightened about falling off a piddling little ladder. They have never looked afraid of heights to me. "After all, they are used to climbing giant turntable ladders with choppers in their hands and rescuing cats from the tops of tall trees."

The costs associated with safety testing and installation of decorations have influenced plans to mount displays of Christmas lights for traders' groups and local councils around the country. An increasingly litigious culture had caused the cost of liability cover to rise, the Association of British Insurers said. In turn, insurers were insisting on sticking to rules by the letter, and rising insurance premiums to cover Christmas decorations were becoming too high for traders and local councils to meet, the Federation of Small Businesses said.

In Clevedon, near Bristol, North Somerset Council told traders that lights could no longer be attached to lampposts or buildings, making a display unworkable. In Sandwell, West Midlands, traders were told that lights could not be hung across roads in case the cables broke. In Bodmin, Cornwall, the council faces a 1,200 pounds bill to train two workers to test all 150 bolts holding lights or cables, using a cherry-picker. On top of that the council must cover wages and the cost of hiring the equipment, and shut town-centre streets while the work is done. In Dereham, Norfolk, traders face a bill of more than 10,000 pounds for Christmas lights. Health and safety issues have contributed heavily to the cost.


That's 'hate speech,' you religious creep!

For decades now the left has issued hysterical pronouncements to Americans, warning that conservatives and Christians were out to silence their First Amendment free speech rights. With talk radio under assault by Congress itself, maybe it's time to examine their claims. After the leftist hysteria is cleared away, what are we really looking at?

Publicly funded chocolate syrup orgies on stage, the figure of Christ or the Virgin Mary immersed in urine, and most recently the famous Leonardo Da Vinci painting, "The Last Supper" portrayed as a homosexual orgy. These are all examples of the speech we'd have to do without - if obscenity were not "protected speech."

There's a reason, of course, the left has fought so hard to protect obscenity as "free speech": If it weren't for obscenity, what would the left have to say to America? Their arguments about the real issues are incoherent and infantile. Their "facts" are grounded in lies and based on coerced "research" - all publicly funded, of course - where only the politically correct line of research stands any chance of being funded. In the end, the left's most earnest and emotive appeals might as well be based on the side effects of whatever drug they happen to be abusing today; they make that much sense.

So how does the left deal with real debate? Well, think back in history. How did Stalin, Hitler and Mao deal with debate? They killed it. Problem solved. That's exactly what the left - using their bought-and-paid for surrogate mouthpieces in the Democratic Party - are doing right now in the United States Congress. "Hate crimes" - ordinary, unpleasant actions that happen to be directed against the left's favored icons instead of the rest of us - have already been expanded to include "hate speech." (Some of the animals on the farm are more equal than others.)

What's hate speech? It's anything the left wants it to be! And at the top of their list is speech that tells the truth about just who and what the left really is. In other words, because the left cannot counter the reasoned arguments conservatives have mounted in favor of public policies the left finds disagreeable, discussion of these topics is to be labeled "hate speech" and is therefore off limits. Problem solved.

Think that border-jumping illegals should become citizens the old-fashioned way - by following the immigration laws? "Why, that's hate speech, you filthy, stinking bigot!" Demanding that public officials follow the law or be punished? "You can't say that!" Do you think God is less than fond of homosexuals preaching in the church pulpit or frolicking around the marriage bed? "Hate speech," you religious creep. Don't you know we can't talk about that? Yes, whatever the left's pet perversion du jour is, suddenly discussion of that perversion's benefits to our culture will be - you guessed it! Hate speech.

The next step, of course, is quite predictable. The left has been using this tactic for decades. The "dialogue" goes like this: "There doesn't seem to be any opposition; we haven't heard any complaints. ... I guess if no one seems to object ..."

You get the picture. With no possibility of debate, Americans are going to love every bit of the left's filthy, degenerate agenda, wrapped in the "hate speech flag" of whatever Democratic political figurehead bent over the farthest for the left's latest "blessing." Thus, in the minds of the left, right is wrong, black is white, up is down and two plus two equals whatever you think it should, little Johnny. Self-esteem is all that matters, you know. "As a man thinketh, so he is."

And so it is that in the hands of the left, political speech - which the Constitution went to great lengths to protect (for it is the lifeblood of a free society) - becomes illegal. On the other hand, base, vile and degenerate behavior - both verbal and physical - become protected speech, wrapped in the mantle of the Constitution



By Jeff Jacoby

In civilized circles it is considered boorish to speak of Jews as Christ-killers, or to use language evoking the venomous old teaching that Jews are forever cursed for the death of Jesus. Those circles apparently don't include the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, an anti-Israel "peace" organization based in Jerusalem, or its founder, the Anglican cleric Naim Ateek.

Sabeel and Ateek are highly regarded on the hard-line Christian left, and regularly organize American conferences at which Israel is extravagantly denounced by numerous critics. So far this year, such conferences have been held in Cleveland, Berkeley, Calif., and Birmingham, Ala.; another begins Friday at Boston's Old South Church.

Just as critics of the United States are not necessarily anti-American bigots, critics of Israel are not necessarily biased against Jews. But Sabeel and Ateek's denunciations of Israel have included imagery explicitly linking the modern Jewish state to the terrible charge of deicide that for centuries fueled so much anti-Jewish hatred and bloodshed. "In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him," Ateek has written, envisioning "hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily."

In a sermon titled "The Massacre of the Innocents" Ateek similarly condemned the "modern-day Herods" in Israel's government -- a reference to the evil king who the New Testament says slaughtered the babies of Bethlehem in an attempt to murder the newborn Jesus. In another sermon, Ateek portrays Israelis as having "shut off the Palestinians in a tomb ... similar to the stone placed on the entrance of Jesus' tomb." In Ateek's metaphorical telling, in other words, Israel is guilty of trying to murder Jesus as an infant, of killing Jesus on the cross, and of seeking to prevent his resurrection. To use "this imagery in reference to the Jewish state is inexcusable," says Dexter Van Zile, a layman in the United Church of Christ who serves on the executive committee of Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East. Millions of Christians would doubtless agree.

Writing in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies in 2004, Adam Gregerman observed that "liberation theologians" like Ateek and others whose work has been published by Sabeel "perpetuate some of the most unsavory and vicious images of the Jews as malevolent, antisocial, hostile to non-Jews.... These critiques lead to a demonization of the Jews.... As such, liberation theology impedes rather than fosters any serious attempt at understanding or ending the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians."

Exemplifying Sabeel's grotesque demonization of the Jewish state is the theme of its Boston conference: "The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel." It is hard to imagine an uglier slander. Apartheid was the racist and dictatorial system through which South Africa's white minority government ruthlessly repressed the country's large black majority, systematically denying them political rights and relegating them to third-class education, housing, and employment.

Israel, by contrast, is a flourishing democracy based on tolerance, individual liberty, and the rule of law. Israeli citizens of every race, ethnicity, and religion -- and both sexes -- exercise the right to vote and enjoy identical civil and political liberties. Within Israel's parliament, about 1 member in 10 is Arab; there is even a mosque within the Knesset for the benefit of Muslim parliamentarians.

Arabs and other non-Jews serve in Israel's government ministries and foreign service, on its courts, and in the military. From the Arab beauty who was crowned Miss Israel to the country's Arab soccer stars, from Israel's lively Arabic-language media to the Arab students in Israeli universities, the evidence of Israel's democratic equality is overwhelming and ubiquitous.

It is true that in response to deadly terrorist attacks by Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel has been forced to adopt stringent security measures, such as the protective fence between the West Bank and Israel proper, or the checkpoints at border crossings. These are unpopular and inconvenient, but they have saved many Israelis -- Arab and Jew alike -- from being murdered or maimed. Checkpoints and fences can always be removed when the bombings and incitement end, but lives lost to suicide bombings can never be replaced.

None of this is to say that apartheid doesn't exist in the Middle East. In some Arab and Muslim countries, harsh discrimination against non-Muslims, women, or homosexuals is enshrined in law. But rather than explore such all-too-real apartheid, Sabeel's conferees instead denounce the freest nation in the Middle East. As they gather in Boston this week, they might reflect on the words of Martin Luther King: "I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world," King declared in 1968, less than two weeks before his death, "and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy."

The dogmatic religion behind most "racism" accusations

James Watson, the geneticist who helped unravel the structure of DNA, came under fire for saying that Africans are not as intelligent as Westerners. Aside from his remarks being deemed baseless and unscientific, he has quite predictably been labeled "racist." Why, some thought police even want him charged under Britain's Orwellian "racial hatred laws" (Watson is conducting a speaking tour in Britain presently). He has apologized, and averred, "I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said."

In light of this tendency to apply the "R-word," one that claims as victims late sportscaster Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder, manager of the Cincinnati Reds Dusty Baker, former baseball commissioner Al Campanis, late NFL player Reggie White and many others, I have a question. What is "racism"?

Is it simply voicing beliefs about differences among races? Am I a racist if I say that blacks have darker skin and frizzier hair? No, I suppose not. What about if I point out that blacks commit a disproportionate amount of crime and that 70 percent of black children are born out-of-wedlock, versus 27 percent for whites? Well, in our culture that is borderline. But why? On what basis should we determine what is "racist"?

One might think that pointing out negative characteristic qualities or the weaknesses of a race makes a person a racist, but even this cannot be so. After all, we take pains to emphasize that sickle cell anemia is unique to blacks and that they are more likely to develop heart disease. Then there is the fact that Tay-Sachs Disease is found only among certain distinct groups, mainly Jews. In fact, were we to claim that these crosses are borne equally by all, we would be labeled "racist" for ignoring what ails minorities. It would be said that we really didn't care if they lived or died. This gets confusing, though; on the one hand we're castigated for pointing out differences, on the other we're complimented for doing so.

It might seem that we mustn't bring to light differences when doing so can lead to discrimination, but not so fast. When we emphasize the fact that only certain groups suffer from certain diseases, they receive attention and funding that others will not. Moreover, showcasing disparities in performance among the races has long been used to justify quotas and set-asides.

So, this is where one must start to think that there is more here -- or less -- than meets the eye. Is it that we cannot point out differences which, when brought to light, can lead to discrimination that doesn't benefit politically-favored groups? Ah, now we're getting somewhere. That certainly is part of the equation. What, though, should be our standard? Well, it cannot be discovered by analyzing what has been said about Dr. Watson but, rather, by what is usually left unsaid. As was the case with the reception given to The Bell Curve, critics tend to take the position that the issue should not be raised, much less debated.

And that brings us to the crux of the matter. All intellectual inquiry, be it scientific or philosophical, should be a search for Truth. This search must be sincere and remain unfettered by agendas or dogmas, and we do otherwise at our own peril. This is why the politically correct thought police are so destructive. When they criticize a man like Watson, not only do they rarely say his statements are untrue, but the Truth of the matter doesn't even seem to enter their minds. No, it doesn't because they are blinded by their agenda.

Oh, having an agenda or hypothesis doesn't make them unusual, but an intellectually honest seeker of knowledge will alter his hypothesis when the data contradicts it. To these folks, however, their agenda is deified and takes precedence over Truth; thus, when the Truth contradicts their agenda, instead of altering the latter, they simply suppress or rationalize away the Truth. Or, that is, anything they may fear is Truth.

It's ironic, too, because these leftists are the same people who usually condemn Christianity for stifling scientific enterprise (a false claim). How many times have we heard about Galileo (his story has been mischaracterized)? But who is stifling scientific inquiry and open debate now? Even more egregiously, these modern-day inquisitors would imprison those who violate their dogma. They have become guilty of what they decry.

The Truth is that the outrage here isn't Dr. Watson's remarks; they're either true or not. What's outrageous is that we're suffering under the yolk of those to whom Truth means nothing -- the practitioners of a dark faith. They don't care if a statement is correct, only whether it's politically correct. They hate the Truth when it contradicts their agenda, and they'll stop at nothing to still the tongues of those who would dare voice it. Racists? These miscreants are infinitely worse. They are Truthists.

And what is the Truth about racial differences? For one thing, is it logical and rational to claim that, except for appearance and a few diseases and conditions of the body, every group is the same in every way? This is the left's implication, and it's absurd. It seems especially odd when you consider that most of these inquisitors are secularists who subscribe to the theory of evolution. Yet, despite their belief that different groups "evolved" in completely different parts of the world, operating in different environments and subject to different stresses, they would have us believe that all groups are identical in terms of the multitude of man's talents and in every single measure of mental capacity. Why, miracle of miracles, all these two-legged cosmic accidents, the product of a billions-of-years journey from the primordial soup to primacy among creatures, whose evolution was influenced by perhaps millions of factors, wound up being precisely the same. It's really the best argument for God I've ever heard, as such a statistical impossibility could only exist if it was ordained by the one with whom all things are possible.

Lastly, if we really care about a race's welfare, shouldn't we "diagnose" its condition -- whatever that condition may be -- properly so that its gifts may be best utilized, its inherent weaknesses best mitigated and its problems best remedied? If this makes sense with physical crosses such as sickle-cell anemia and heart disease, it makes sense for all crosses, be they spiritual, social or, dare I say, intellectual. Stating this isn't wrong or racist, and it shouldn't be repressed. And as Dr. Watson might say, that's something you don't have to be a Sherlock to understand.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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