Wednesday, December 22, 2010
An anti-business bigot goes too far
British PM David Cameron strips Vince Cable of powers over Rupert Murdoch 'war'
A HUMILIATED Vince Cable was left clinging to his Cabinet position last night after David Cameron and Nick Clegg saved his career for the sake of the coalition.
The Business Secretary was deeply damaged after it emerged he had boasted to undercover reporters that he was waging a war against Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, the parent company of The Times and The Australian.
But even while Dr Cable survived in the Cabinet, albeit stripped of his role overseeing media policy, questions remained about his judgment and impartiality.
Bernard Jenkin, the Tory chairman of the Public Administration Committee, suggested that Dr Cable may not be suitable for the role: "The comments underline what many of us feel is a similar campaign against the City and the banks which is equally prejudicial and not in the public interest.
"If this is driven by the same kind of prejudice, it is not clear that the national interest is being served."
John Whittingdale, the Tory chairman of the Culture Select Committee, said: "If Vince Cable was a typical member of the coalition, he would not still be in office. He is meant to take decisions in competition policy free from political calculation, but his comments make it plain this was not the case."
Privately, some Tory ministers also suggested that the Business Secretary's comments were "resigning territory".
On a dramatic afternoon in Westminster, it emerged in a leak to Robert Peston, the BBC business editor, that Dr Cable had told undercover reporters he would seek to block Mr Murdoch's attempt to take a majority stake in BSkyB for political reasons, in apparent breach of his legal obligation to act impartially.
"I have declared war on Mr Murdoch, I think I'll win. I didn't politicise it because it is a legal situation," he said. "His whole empire is now under attack."
Within hours, David Cameron and Nick Clegg punished the Business Secretary for suggesting that he was prepared to compromise his impartiality in judging an pounds 8 billion takeover. He was stripped of responsibility for policy decisions relating to the media, broadcasting, digital and telecoms sectors.
Summoning Dr Cable, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister gave him a double rebuke, later issuing a statement calling the comments "totally unacceptable and inappropriate". However, the decision to keep him in place as Business Secretary prompted accusations that they were putting politics before good government.
Dr Cable is popular and trusted by Lib Dem activists, and his departure would have caused angst among party members, even though Downing Street aides did not dispute the affair raised questions over his judgment.
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, called for Dr Cable to be dismissed, saying that he appeared to have breached the ministerial code on objectivity in decision-making: "David Cameron has made this decision not because it is good for the country but because he is worried about the impact on his coalition of Vince Cable going."
Details of Dr Cable's intervention emerged after Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg had spent 90 minutes at a joint No 10 press conference to fend off questions about Dr Cable's claims that he would quit the Government if he were "pushed too far". News Corp said it was "shocked and dismayed by reports of Mr Cable's comments. They raise serious questions about fairness and due process."
Women can't have it all: Female academic says those with top jobs only end up with 'nominal families'
Some women might want it all. But a report by a leading academic claims they never will. Those who try to combine high-powered jobs with having children really only end up with ‘nominal families’ with whom they spend little time.
Dr Catherine Hakim concludes that the battle for sexual equality is over and any pay gap is down to women’s lifestyle choices. She added that there was no popular support for ‘social engineering’ of the kind used by Labour to try to push mothers into work and persuade fathers to spend more time looking after children.
Her report calls on ministers to drop policies pushing for flexible working hours, more time off for fathers, and more places for women on company boards. It comes after the publication of figures that show there is no longer a pay gap acting to the disadvantage of women among people under the age of 30. After 30, women gradually earn less than men. The age at which pay rates diverge between the sexes is the same at which most women start to have families.
Dr Hakim, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics, said: ‘In Britain half of all women in senior positions are child-free, and a lot more of them have nominal families with a single child and they subcontract out the work of caring for them to other women.’
Her report for centre-right think tank the Centre for Policy Studies will say equal opportunities policies first introduced in the 1970s have now achieved their aims.
Dr Hakim’s paper says the pay gap has not disappeared because women have chosen the jobs and careers they want rather than those that feminists – and politicians sympathetic to feminist arguments – believe they should have. She criticises the widely-held assumption that women want to be financially independent from men and hold the same ambitions and career aims.
Her report also criticises the notion that ‘family-friendly policies’ help businesses achieve profitability. She says there is no difference between men and women managers, and that success in business for either sex depends on commitment to work and the willingness to put in long hours.
More disgusting bureaucracy
Two Men Fined After Rescuing Deer From Icy River. Officials didn't like being shown up for the pansies that they are
To many people, Jim Hart and Khalil Abusakran are heroes. When the two men from Maryland, saw a deer stranded in the icy waters of the Patapsco River, they did what few others would dare. With an inflatable boat, the duo ventured out and rescued the animal before it perished in the frozen stream. But, after they and the deer returned to shore, it wasn't a hero's reception that awaited them -- instead, the two men were slapped with fines for not having life-jackets aboard their vessel.
Last week, 911 operators began receiving reports of a deer stranded in the middle of an icy river, some 50 feet from shore. A fire crew and Natural Resources officers were dispatched to the scene, but it wasn't immediately clear what the best mode of operation would be used to rescue the rapidly fading animal. Officials worried that the river's current might have been strong enough to jeopardize their efforts.
Meanwhile, motorists and spectators began gathering at the scene, though no one appeared to be offering any real help. A few people were simply lobbing sticks and rocks towards the animal in hopes of freeing it, but it proved not to be enough. That's when Jim Hart drove by and noticed the commotion. "I saw something moving," he said. "I saw them trying to break the ice."
Khalil Abusakran, who was also passing by the area, decided to stop, too -- and he just so happened to have a rubber boat in his truck. Perhaps realizing that time was of the essence to save the deer, and frustrated with the pace of rescue crews to solve the matter, Jim and Khalil teamed up and stepped in to do their part.
Natural Resources Police Sgt. Brian Albert explains, to The Baltimore Sun: "The Fire Department was kind of game-planning what they would do. With Natural Resources Police, we will attempt, but we are not going to risk a human life for a deer life, as cruel as that may sound. ... I'm as sympathetic as the next person on that deer being in the water, but when you weigh the risk to the reward, I would probably decide not to try to rescue that deer.
Undaunted, even after they were advised by officers that they shouldn't venture into the river without life-vests, Jim and Khalil paddled out to free the deer from the patch of ice it was stuck in. With shovels and oars, the two men managed to loosen the ice, freeing the animal from certain death and allowing it to escape back into the woods. That's when Khalil realized more than one life was saved that afternoon -- the deer appeared to be pregnant.
But, upon returning to shore having completed their brave mission, Jim and Khalil got more than a pat on the back from authorities. Natural Resources officers promptly served each with $90 fines for not having personal flotation devices on board their boat.
It may seem strange that the duo received a punishment for the helping hand they lent the deer, but for Sgt. Alberts, they got off easy. "They could have been arrested and taken before a commissioner," he said. "Our officer erred on the side of the least invasive action that he could take at the time."
According to The Baltimore Sun, several individuals have volunteered to pay the fines and have the matter be finished -- but the pair plan to fight the charge in court.
Playing games in dark too dangerous, British Court of Appeal tells scouts
Children's groups have been warned not to play games in the dark after the Court of Appeal upheld a compensation award to a scout injured during night activities.
In ruling that playing ball games at night created an unacceptable risk to youngsters, the court upheld a £7,000 compensation payout to a former scout, who was injured during a game called Objects in the Dark.
The Scouts Association had urged the court to overturn the award, arguing it would make it harder to draw youngsters away from computer screens and televisions. But Lady Justice Smith and Lord Justice Ward, dismissed their appeal.
They ruled that Mark Barnes, of Castle Bromwich, West Mids, had been a victim of negligence and that playing the game in the dark had created an unacceptable risk.
Despite expressing "instinctive sympathy" towards the Scout Association, Lord Justice Ward said that "scouting would not lose much of its value" if such games were played with the lights on.
In a dissenting ruling, Lord Justice Jackson found that it was not the function of the law "to eliminate every iota of risk or to stamp out socially desirable activities".
At an earlier hearing, the court was told that Mr Barnes, now 22, had damaged his shoulder during the game at the 237th troop's hall in Castle Bromwich, in 2001. The activity involved running around a pile of wooden blocks in the middle of a room then, when the lights were switched off leaving only a residual glow from emergency exits, rushing into the centre to pick up a block.
The scout left without holding a block would be out. The activity was a variation of the Scout Association Handbook game “Grab”, which followed the same rules but with lights on. This was done to “spice” up the activity, the court heard.
Mr Barnes, then 13 and captain of the county rugby team and described as a "big lad", had damaged his shoulder when he slid into a bench. An MRI scan in 2007 disclosed a "permanent impaction injury", which meant he would always suffer pain when the shoulder was under stress. Despite being able to continue playing rugby, the transport coordinator was awarded £7,322 in January.
The Scout Association, which had criticised the payout as a damaging example of the "nanny state", was ordered to pay costs and was refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. A spokesman said: "The safety of our members is our top priority and we will be considering the judgment in detail."
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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