Monday, July 19, 2010
British PM David Cameron launches his Big Society
LBJ's "Great Society" was a name for a vast expansion of welfare so the name chosen by Cameron for his big idea seems rather inpropitious. That he means well there is no doubt but meaning well does not always turn out well. As far as I can see, his scheme is simply to turn over more powers to local government -- and many would say that British local governments have performed even more poorly than the British national government. At least Cameron is piloting his scheme first -- a very wise move
Local communities will get the power and money to run bus services, set up broadband internet networks and take over neighbourhood recycling schemes under a mass transfer of power from the state to the people, David Cameron will announce today.
In his first major speech on the theme of the “Big Society” since winning the election, the Prime Minister will announce the “biggest redistribution of power from elites in Whitehall to the man and woman on the street”.
Mr Cameron - who is keen to present his administration as offering optimistics new policies that are not just about cuts - will say that the “liberation” of volunteers and activists to help their own communities is the vision which drives his premiership.
As part of his drive to roll back the reach of the public sector, the Prime Minister will attack the previous Labour government for turning state employees into “disillusioned, weary puppets” and communities into “dull, soulless clones”.
He will announce that four areas in diverse parts of the country have been chosen to form a “vanguard” in realising his dream of “people power” in which individuals rather than the state come together voluntarily to solve their problems.
The four – the greater London borough of Sutton and Cheam, the leafy Berkshire council of Windsor and Maidenhead, rural Eden Valley in Penrith, Cumbria, and the metropolitan city of Liverpool - were chosen after they petitioned Downing Street to start their own projects.
They will be the first to be invited to submit applications to the Big Society Bank, a fund which will allocate the proceeds of dormant bank accounts worth hundreds of millions of pounds to help set up volunteer schemes to improve communities.
In a speech in Liverpool – where local people have asked to act as volunteers at a museum in order to extend its opening hours – Mr Cameron will set out how his grand vision of a Big Society would create communities with “oomph”.
Stressing how much concept means to him on a personal level, he will say: “There are the things you do because it’s your duty … But there are the things you do because it’s your passion,” he will say. “The things that fire you up in the morning, that drive you, that you truly believe will make a real difference to the country you love. And my great passion is creating the Big Society.”
During the election campaign, Mr Cameron faced accusations, including from senior figures from within his own party, that the Big Society concept was too vague and intangible to attract voters. Polls showed that two out of three voters had not even heard of it.
But Mr Cameron hopes that putting flesh on the bones of his vision will persuade critics that it can be shared by millions of ordinary Britons who care about their community and are tired of having so many aspects of their life dictated from the centre.
He will say: “The Big Society is about a huge culture change, where people, in their everyday lives, in their homes, in their neighbourhoods, in their workplace, don’t always turn to officials, local authorities or central government for answers to the problems they face but instead feel both free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities. “We need to create communities with oomph – neighbourhoods who are in charge of their own destiny, who feel if they club together and get involved they can shape the world around them.”
The four pioneer communities will be helped by dedicated civil servants who will give expert advice if they encounter legal problems or bureaucratic obstacles. Officials will also identify local residents with a particular aptitude for taking part in Big Society projects – they will then receive training to become community organisers, motivating their neighbours to take part in action schemes.
They will also be able to draw on the Big Society Bank, which, Mr Cameron promised, would use “every penny of dormant bank and building society account money” to help finance social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups. Accounts left untouched for at least 15 years will be channelled to good causes. Over time, Mr Cameron said, the Bank would provide “hundreds of millions of pounds” to Big Society projects, with money starting to be distributed from April.
The four vanguard communities have asked for help to set up a variety of different schemes.
Windsor and Maidenhead has already experimented with a project under which local residents were rewarded with financial incentives to improve recycling rates. Phil Redmond, the television executive who created Brookside, Channel 4’s long-running soap opera set up in Liverpool, is behind the scheme for volunteers to staff a local museum outside of office hours.
There are also plans for council budgets to be given directly to the residents’ groups of individual streets to decide how to spend the cash.
Local transport services, including bus and tram groups, could be commissioned by the communities themselves, who would be able to set timetables and improve reliability rates.
One group has asked for the power to buy out local “assets,” including a rural pub.
Another project involves bringing internet broadband to a local community.
Mr Cameron will say: “They’ve all got one thing in common: a firm commitment from this Government to help them realise their dreams. “If there’s a problem or obstacle or bureaucratic log-jam, they will be there, on hand, to help break them down and get things moving. “As these four areas move ahead with their plans, yes, there will be problems – financial problems, legal problems, bureaucratic problems. “Yes, there will be objections – local objections, objections from vested interests. But you know what? We’re happy about that.
“This process is all about learning. It’s about pushing power down and seeing what happens. “It’s about unearthing the problems as they come up on the ground and seeing how we can get round them. “It’s about holding our hands up saying we haven’t got all the answers – let’s work them out, together.”
However, Ed Miliband, the Labour leadership contender, claimed that the Big Society was a means of enabling the Government to cut vital public services. He said: “Cameron’s government is cynically attempting to dignify its cuts agenda by dressing up the withdrawal of support with the language of reinvigorating civic society.”
Muslim drivers refuse to let guide dogs on board British buses
Blind passengers are being ordered off buses or refused taxi rides because Muslim drivers or passengers object to their 'unclean' guide dogs. One pensioner, a cancer sufferer, told how had twice been confronted by drivers and asked to get off the bus because of his guide dog, and had also faced hostility at a hospital and in a supermarket over the animal.
The problem to carry guide dogs on religious grounds has become so widespread that the matter was raised in the House of Lords last week, prompting transport minister Norman Baker to warn that a religious objection was not a reason to eject a passenger with a well-behaved guide dog.
While drivers can use their discretion to refuse to carry non-disabled passengers with dogs, they are compelled to accept guide dogs under disability discrimination law.
Yesterday both the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the National Federation of the Blind confirmed the problem was common, and, according to the latter organisation was 'getting worse'.
The tension stems from a strand of Islamic teaching which warns against contact with dogs because the animal's saliva was considered to be impure, the Muslim Council of Britain said. It urged Muslims to show tolerance and common sense over the issue.
'We need to be flexible on this,' a spokesman said. 'Muslim drivers should have no hesitation in allowing guide dogs into their bus or car. 'If a dog does lick you, it's not the end of the world. Just go home and wash yourself.'
George Herridge, 73, a retired hospital maintenance manager, told the Daily Mail he was 'stunned' to be twice asked by bus drivers to leave their vehicles because of his guide dog Andy, a black Labrador.
Mr Herridge, who lives with wife Janet, 69, in Tilehurst, Reading, said that on the first occasion two years ago, he got off at the request of a Muslim driver because some Muslim children on board were 'screaming' because of the dog.
He found himself in a similar scenario in May last year, when a Muslim woman and her children became 'hysterical'. Mr Herridge this time refused the driver's request to alight. He complained to the bus company which launched an investigation. It later informed him the matter had been dealt with 'internally'.
Jill Allen-King, spokesman for the NFB, said she had been repeatedly left on the kerb by Muslim taxi drivers who refused to take her dog. One cab driver told her he would have to 'go home now and wash myself' when she tried to enter his car with her dog.
Mr Baker yesterday warned bus and cab companies that, while there were within their rights to ask a passenger to leave if the dog was causing a nuisance, it was 'much more questionable to be asked to remove a dog for religious reasons'. He added: 'One person's freedom is someone else's restriction.'
In 2006, Muslim minicab driver Abdul Rasheed Majekodumni was fined £200 and ordered to pay £1,200 costs by magistrates in Marylebone, central London, after being prosecuted for failing to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act when he refused to take a blind passenger because her guide dog was 'unclean'.
U.S. Atheists Reportedly Using Hair Dryers to 'De-Baptize'
Rather silly but another demonstration that it is OK to mock Christians -- but say anything against Islam and you're in trouble
American atheists lined up to be "de-baptized" in a ritual using a hair dryer, according to a report Friday on U.S. late-night news program "Nightline."
Leading atheist Edwin Kagin blasted his fellow non-believers with the hair dryer to symbolically dry up the holy water sprinkled on their heads in days past. The styling tool was emblazoned with a label reading "Reason and Truth."
Kagin believes parents are wrong to baptize their children before they are able to make their own choices, even slamming some religious eduction as "child abuse." He said the blast of hot air was a way for adults to undo what their parents had done.
"I was baptized Catholic. I don't remember any of it at all," said 24-year-old Cambridge Boxterman. "According to my mother, I screamed like a banshee ... so you can see that even as a young child I didn't want to be baptized. It's not fair. I was born atheist, and they were forcing me to become Catholic."
Kagin doned a monk's robe and said a few mock-Latin phrases before inviting those wishing to be de-baptized to "come forward now and receive the spirit of hot air that taketh away the stigma and taketh away the remnants of the stain of baptismal water."
Ironically, Kagin's own son became a fundamentalist Christian minister after having "a personal revelation in Jesus Christ."
Child carers with criminal records get the OK from Australian "Anti-discrimination" tribunal
Here's betting that the tribunal members would not expose their own children to such people
A foster carer who assaulted a child, a school hockey coach who hid drugs internally and a man who threw a molotov cocktail into a home have been given blue cards to work or volunteer with children.
They are among seven Queenslanders with criminal convictions who were rejected for blue cards by the Commissioner for Children and Young People, and then won them after appeals to a tribunal this year. Two of the seven people now considered safe to work with children have spent time in jail.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decided in each of the cases, which were made public last week, that the Commissioner was wrong in finding they were "exceptional cases" for refusal.
Children's Commissioner Elizabeth Fraser said she was reviewing the Tribunal's decisions, and was considering appealing some if there were legal grounds.
In 2009-10, 230,867 blue cards were issued, while more than 650 people were prohibited from holding one.
Thirteen people who were refused blue cards successfully appealed, eight lost their appeals, and 12 others lodged appeals but then withdrew them.
The foster carer was convicted of common assault and put on a six-month good behaviour bond in 2008 for punishing an eight-year-old girl in his care using a rubber thong and a belt, leaving bruises.
School sports coach Laura Thompson, 20, was convicted in 2008 of possessing ecstasy and cocaine, which she had secreted internally to avoid police detection. She was fined $750 almost three months after she was issued with a blue card, which was cancelled last year.
Former Broncos player Fletcher Holmes, 22, was in 2006 convicted of assault occasioning bodily harm in company and put on two years' probation. He also has been on probation until this month for common assault for touching a female under her skirt, and had drink driving and unlicensed driving convictions.
Others who obtained blue cards on appeal were:
Richard John Waldon, 33, who had 15 convictions, including throwing a molotov cocktail into a home, extortion, assault and stealing; and
John Drinkwater, who served three years in jail until 2008 for throwing petrol bombs into an occupied house and making extortion threats.
Two other mothers with lengthy drug use histories and convictions also were issued with blue cards.
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.
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