Monday, September 20, 2010

Bonfire of elf 'n' safety: British Prime Minister plans to tear up regulations which 'have become a music hall joke'

David Cameron is to unveil sweeping changes to ‘mad’ health and safety rules which are putting a massive burden on British business and public services. The Prime Minister will launch a bonfire of rules and will declare war on the mushrooming compensation culture at his party’s conference next month.

A whole slew of regulations on police, teachers and ambulance workers will be lifted so they no longer face the threat of being sued for making common sense decisions. Mr Cameron will tear up Labour rules which have been blamed for creating a culture where someone must be to blame for every mishap.

Teachers will no longer have to fill in reams of ‘risk assessment’ forms before taking youngsters on school trips, and killjoy council officials will find it much harder to ban firework displays and street parties.

Ambulance-chasing law firms will also be targeted. Personal injury lawyers will face restrictions on advertising and the fees they can charge.

And Mr Cameron wants to slash red tape which means even ‘low risk’ work places like offices are subject to the same tough rules as factories. A government source said: ‘The PM thinks the current health and safety rules are mad. The system needs drastic reform. ‘What we are determined to see is a great extension of personal freedom, at the same time as a rolling back both of the state and the power of the courts.’

The changes are contained in a report by Margaret Thatcher’s former trade secretary Lord Young, whose 40 recommendations will be published at the Tory conference. He is expected to conclude that a barrage of legal cases have made health and safety laws ‘a music hall joke’.

Earlier this year, Mr Cameron told the Daily Mail that the health and safety obsession had ‘encroached into various different parts of national life, whether it’s stopping Bonfire Night or stopping an ambulance getting to an emergency. We need to deal with it all in a comprehensive way. ‘We all want our children to have great experiences outside the classroom, whether it’s visiting museums or farms or geography field trips or residential courses.

'We want all the things we had in our own childhood to be available today. There is a worry that it’s becoming too difficult to do because there are too many forms to fill in, too many risks to assess.’ He added: ‘We do have a good record of health and safety at work in this country, and we have a low level of industrial accidents and that’s important. ‘You can deal with this problem without jeopardising that at all.

'The neurosis comes from excessive litigation fears, unclear law, mission creep, Europe, town halls. It’s all of those things and we have to deal with each one. That’s what we will do.’

The changes aim to exempt the emergency services from lawsuits or prosecution for breaching health and safety laws when they are taking necessary action or risking their own safety to help others or stop crime. The rules will include part-time police officers.

And it says claims should no longer be considered by courts after ‘Good Samaritan’ situations which have seen people sued for trying to give first aid. It will mean people will no longer be able to be sued for causing a personal injury through no fault of their own, when they had been trying to do the right thing, or had been trying to stop someone else injuring themselves.

There is likely also to be crackdown on lawyers’ ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements, which encourage lawyers to take on speculative lawsuits because they can demand huge costs from defendants like the NHS if they win. Personal injury law firms will be limited in what they can say and what sort of advertising they can engage in.

Other changes would see success fees charged by lawyers in ‘no win, no fee’ agreements no longer recoverable from defendants – instead they would take their cut from the victim’s pay out.

Judges would also be given the power to cap the costs individual claimants can recover in personal injury cases.

Lord Young would also like to see a reduction in the huge number of risk assessment forms that teachers have to fill in before going on trips. There will instead be a simple consent form for parents to sign.


Will all we have turn to dust and ashes, just like my Soviet roubles?

Britain cannot go on as it is. Either our dominant elite will recognise that their ideas are wrong, and must be changed. Or a series of avalanches will sweep away our comfortable lives. I think I know which is more likely. Catastrophes do happen, and people survive them after a fashion, though their lives are never really the same afterwards.

The post-1968 ruling class are so convinced of their own rightness that I can no longer believe that anything will persuade them they might be even a little bit wrong.

And once again I am reminded of the complacent fools’ paradise that was the Soviet Union in its last years. Somewhere I still have the bank book I acquired in communist Moscow, after a lengthy interro­gation about my class background. In it are recorded the few hundred roubles I deposited there and will never see again. But Russians often had many thousands stored away. All of it was dust and ashes when reality finally burst through the broken Iron Curtain. Great mountain ranges of savings were abolished in an evening, as the currency was ‘revalued’ out of existence.

Supposedly generous health schemes collapsed – though in truth they had long been short of drugs, especially painkillers and antibiotics, and the filthiness of the hospitals had been a grave danger to recovery. Jobs that had been meant to last for life were abolished, and the places where those jobs were done vanished. Pensions went unpaid or became valueless.

The money, the jobs, the Welfare State were all based on an illusion. When the illusion became unsustainable, they crumbled.

Well, how can we afford to carry 1.5 million people who have never worked? How can we afford to house jobless migrant families in Notting Hill grandeur? How can we sustain the enormous NHS which we gorged with cash in good times, while quietly loading it with enormous long-term debts to finance a building splurge?

None of this is real. Our economy continues to function out of habit and faith rather than because we are paying our way in the world.

Our state education system is a gigantic international joke, so bad that the remaining employers here would mostly much rather hire Poles with hardly a word of English than the products of our anarchic classrooms, where multitudes have ‘special needs’ and failure is the only thing that is rewarded.

The people who said that manufacturing doesn’t matter now admit they were wrong, but that does not bring back the lost factories. The North Sea money that carried us over much of the worst is nearly all spent.

We have acquired a Government whose main reason for existence is to protect the status quo, which hates to think and which loves to pose – but to which there is no sensible opposition.

Only a contrite confession of failure, combined with a readiness to reconsider every policy from welfare to crime to schools to immi­gration, could possibly avert the great smash which seems increasingly likely to me. We had our first warning in the failure of the banks. What will follow, if we pay no attention, will I think be worse.

The sly, dishonest propagandists who claim that the ‘War on Drugs’ has failed really do need to explain what war this is, exactly, and when it was ever fought. Look at the pathetic case of George Michael, who – drugged out of his mind with supposedly harmless, supposedly soft cannabis – drove his powerful spoilt brat’s car into a shop.

It occurs to me that he could just as easily have hurled his machine at a family with young children, or have caused a gory pile-up on a motorway. Those unmoved by this possibility might look at the man himself, a pitiable husk whose long-term admirers must be increasingly embarrassed by him.

And is it not reasonable to suggest that much of this folly, crime and degradation results from his repeated use of drugs which are supposedly illegal? Yet what has happened to Mr Michael when he has been caught breaking that law, as he has been over and over again?

Meaningless ‘cautions’, that is what – though his case has not been so spectacular as that of the ‘singer’ Pete Doherty, who has been in court for drugs offences so many times that the Criminal Records computer overheats when his name is fed into it.

If these famous people were properly punished, and if the police did not constantly seek excuses to fail to do their jobs, then we might actually have that war. And we would have much less drug use.

Laws that are enforced are effective. Look how quickly the market traders of Britain surrendered to kilograms after the prosecution of Steve Thoburn. When did you last see anyone smoking on an aeroplane, where such an act can have you led off the flight in handcuffs?

Meanwhile, those which are not enforced are worthless – like the non-existent ban on using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, which the police cannot be bothered to put into effect.

Let us please have a real war on drugs, especially on the brain-wrecking poison cannabis, the dangers of which have been concealed by decades of falsehood. There will of course be casualties. But, as the wretched George Michael has shown, there are plenty of casualties now, when no war is taking place.

Christians cannot be right about anything these days. If Stephen Fry had remarked that returning to Britain via Heathrow was like arriving in the Third World – which it so often is – then his worshippers and sycophants would have said what a clever and original thought it was.

And BBC Radio 4, or Radio Fry as it should be renamed as he is on it so much, would have hired him to make a series of programmes about the awfulness of airports, to be delivered in that insufferable, giggly golden syrup voice of his.

But when a Cardinal says the same thing, he is denounced by all Left-thinking people for racism, even though there is not the slightest evidence that any such thought had crossed his mind.

It is the slovenly shabbiness, and the general feeling of arriving somewhere worse than the place that you have come from, which is the problem with Heathrow and many other places in this country too.

Once the police forces of this country could have relied on fierce public support against cuts in their funds and manpower. Now I think they will get very little.

For years I have said they should sell the helicopters and fast cars and get back on foot. I said they should reopen police stations and man them. I said they should remember that the middle classes are their friends. And almost all I heard in return was moaning that I was anti-police and unfair to a fine body of men. Piffle.

The police forces of this country have broken their covenant with law-abiding people and now they lack friends when they need them most. If they had listened to me instead of being so sensitive, this would not have happened. Flattery is not the same as friendship, and criticism is not necessarily hostile.


British council treats HETEROsexuality as abnormal

Town Hall bosses are asking staff to take part in a 'heterosexuality quiz' so they can gain a greater understanding of what it is like to be gay. The quiz, devised by managers at Buckinghamshire County Council, is part of an equality and diversity course called 'Respecting Sexuality'.

Questions, which are described as a 'twist' on those routinely asked of homosexuals, include 'What do you think caused your heterosexuality?', 'Is it possible your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?', and 'If you've never slept with a person of the same sex, how do you know you wouldn't prefer it?'

The course, which encourages staff to 'have a better understanding' of the challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender colleagues, includes a film which follows the experience of four fictitious employees.

The film is said to 'build in intensity' and can provoke a variety of reactions. Trainers' notes state: 'Initial reactions to the stories vary widely, with heterosexual (straight) people often dismissing the stories as exaggerated or rare and homosexual (gay people) immediately recognising the issues and emotions explored here as honest and relevant.'

The Buckinghamshire council course is just one of a series of publicly funded equality and diversity sessions uncovered in a series of Freedom of Information requests by The Mail on Sunday.

Cardiff, Slough and Cheshire West and Cheshire councils have also incorporated quizzes in their sessions. In Slough, employees ask colleagues questions from a specially prepared grid such as 'Can you sing a few lines from a Supremes song?' and 'Do you read The Guardian?'

Staff at Cardiff City Council are challenged to name the inventor of the 'great British classic car the Mini', and to identify the symbol used to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Matthew Sinclair, director of the TaxPayers Alliance, said: 'With huge pressure on the public finances, and council tax nearly doubled over the last decade, it is vital that councils show they can start cutting back on waste to keep down taxes and avoid unnecessary pressure on services.

'To see councils wasting money on such a ludicrous, politically-correct exercise in that environment is disgusting. 'Ensuring that councils don't discriminate doesn't require such insane attempts at a superficial understanding of different communities.'

A spokesman for Buckinghamshire County Council said its quiz was devised to help staff in its adoption service. He was unable to say how many had taken part or at what cost.

'The questions from the quiz are not used as a quiz directed at individuals, but some of the questions are used as a tool during the course to provoke the attendees' thought process and to enable the attendees to put themselves in someone else's shoes,' he added.


The Right to Blaspheme

A Response to the President on Ground Zero, the Koran, Gitmo, and 9/11

Islam has been the talk of the country. In New York, a jihadi-sympathizing cleric with shadowy foreign connections seeks to put a mosque near Ground Zero. He forewarns: if he does not get his way, “anger will explode in the Muslim world.” In Florida, a Yosemite Sam-type pastor wants to conduct a public burning of the Koran. As with the beer summit, President Obama has managed to embroil himself in these local disputes –– thereby nationalizing the debate. His series of statements have been nothing more than boilerplate leftist dogma, proving a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of this war, and the issue at hand.

On the Ground Zero mosque, Obama said:
… If you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site.

We are not at war against Islam. We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts… And fortunately, the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world are peace-loving, are interested in the same things that you and I are interested in…

… We’ve got millions of Muslim Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They’re going to school with our kids. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. They’re our coworkers. And when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?

I’ve got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan in the uniform of the United States armed services. They’re out there putting their lives on the line for us.

This is all straw-man stuff. No American denies the legal right of Muslims to practice their faith or construct a house of worship. Freedom of religion is our constitutional idea, after all. It can’t be found in the Koran. Most of those protesting the mosque’s location would not support the government intervening to rip up this local real estate contract. Rather, their opposition stems from the inflammatory intentions of the mosque’s founders. So they are making themselves heard. The majority of Americans oppose the mosque not due to bigotry, but because they believe tolerance is a two-way street. And tolerance with the Muslim world has fallen victim to diminishing returns. We would not build an Enola Gay tribute museum in Hiroshima–– and then subtly forecast indiscriminate violence on Japanese civilians if our plans were not approved. Nobody likes being spoken to in that tone. We are no different. Whether the mosque gets built or not, it would have been nice to have seen Obama take this posture.

Obama then turns to Islam. He speaks of our Muslim friends, coworkers, our kids’ schoolmates. “I’ve got Muslims” in the armed services, he says. But we know all this. We know there are good Muslims. We’ve long ago accepted this fact. We’re passed it. Our concern is with the Muslim world’s interpretation of Islam, as a whole. There are many verses and stories in the Koran and Hadith that promote violence against non-Muslims in the name of Islam. An unsettling number of the planet’s Muslims accept this scripture as literal and obligatory. That is a real world-impacting problem with which the United States has not yet dealt. We say they’re distorting their religion –– when the evidence suggests they are heeding it. We say this because we do not want to fight that war; their war. But that war, their war, exists. We may be unwilling participants, but we are participants nonetheless.

Like Bush, Obama refuses to take on Islamic doctrine itself. Perhaps that shouldn’t be the job of the president, but someone has to do it. Continuing to define “Islam” as all good-things-Muslim –– friends, coworkers, algebra, the magnetic compass, etc. –– and insisting all bad-things-Muslim have nothing to do with Islam, even if it can be recited in Islamic text, is an intellectually dishonest stance. Our enemies view this naivetĂ© as cultural capitulation and for it loathe us even more.

On the Koran-burning pastor, Obama said, “The idea that we would burn the sacred text of someone else’s religion is contrary to what this country stands for. It’s contrary to what this country, this nation was founded on… And it’s also the best imaginable recruiting tool for al-Qaeda.” Obama called the possible burning a “stunt” and “a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda.”
So on the one hand, at Ground Zero, we believe the Islamists’ legal right to intentionally offend us should override consideration for the sensitivities of 9/11 families. On the other hand, in Florida, we believe the importance of respecting the Islamists’ sensitivities should override the constitutional right of a citizen from free expression, albeit offensive. According to the administration, burning the Koran is un-American. What if the pastor were instead burning the American flag in protest? Would he be barred from doing so, or would upholding his right to free expression — to burn the symbol which gives him the right to do so — be considered the most American of ideas? You see where I am going. Offending people through free expression is as American as apple pie. It isn’t principles we are adhering to — it’s submission to Muslim intimidation. It’s cowardice.

Obama brought up Guantanamo Bay, yet to be closed. “You know,” Obama told the press, “al-Qaeda operatives still cite Guantanamo as a justification for attacks against the United States.” So now potential prisoners are allowed to justify their crimes due to the existence of prisons? Ed Morrissey phrased it succinctly: “We opened the Gitmo facility after 9/11… was that a preemptive strike against opening Gitmo as a detention facility?” The jihadists will always find a grievance to murder non-Muslims, whether it’s Guantanamo or female bartenders. This effort to recite our adversaries’ talking points is sheer masochism. Let’s start talking more about what it is our enemies must and must not do in order to assuage our anger at them, rather than they us.

During his September 11 address, Obama echoed a similar theme. “The perpetrators of this evil act didn’t simply attack America; they attacked the very idea of America itself,” Obama declared at the Pentagon, continuing:
We will not let the acts of some small band of murderers who slaughter the innocent and cower in caves distort who we are… They may wish to drive us apart, but we will not give in to their hatred and prejudice. They may seek to spark a conflict between different faiths, but as Americans we are not — and never will be — at war with Islam. It was not a religion that attacked us… it was al-Qaeda, a sorry band of men which perverts religion.

And just as we condemn intolerance and extremism abroad, so will we stay true to our traditions here at home as a diverse and tolerant nation. We champion the rights of every American, including the right to worship as one chooses — as service members and civilians from many faiths do just steps from here, at the very spot where the terrorists struck this building (emphasis added).

Those who attacked us sought to demoralize us, divide us, to deprive us of the very unity, the very ideals, that make America — those qualities that have made us a beacon of freedom and hope to billions around the world. Today we declare once more we will never hand them that victory. As Americans, we will keep alive the virtues and values that make us who we are and who we must always be.

Such sentiments appear reasonable on its surface, but consider the mindset — and the message — at its core. President Obama seems to think the purpose of this war is our not offending Muslims. He seems to think the first thing we ought to be doing is countering al-Qaeda’s propaganda that we are a racist country, intolerant of Muslims. He points to al-Qaeda’s grievances and threats and implores us to treat our Muslim countrymen with equality.

Obama has it completely backwards. This war is not about proving to the world that al-Qaeda cannot change who we are. We prove that effortlessly every day. No, quite the contrary; this war is about changing them, encouraging a culture of tolerance over there. This war isn’t about refraining from giving offense to Muslims, lest we blaspheme their religion and end up dead. No, this war is about proclaiming our right to say, or criticize, or mock, or blaspheme whatever we wish free from the threat of murder.

That is true equality: demanding the Islamic world conducts itself in the same manner we conduct ourselves; requiring Muslims to react the same way Jews, or Christians, or Hindus would react should their beliefs be ridiculed by a cartoonist, or director, or South Park writer, or comedian, or pastor. Accepting Obama’s premise — if it offends Muslims, don’t do it, say it, or write it — is the real inequality and prejudice. It holds Muslims to a lower behavioral standard. It epitomizes the soft bigotry of low expectations.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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