Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Britain's "elf n safety" [Health & safety] police

Richard Littlejohn

They are almost certainly motivated by the natural tendency of public officials in general and the police in particular to constantly seek extra powers and to cover their backsides whenever there is the remotest possibility that something might go wrong.

Today, that mentality manifests itself in our hi-viz jacket culture of risk aversion to the point of mental illness. Councils routinely ban Bonfire Night parties, either on spurious public safety grounds or because they contravene ‘smoke-free’ environmental policies.

Police close roads for hours after minor car accidents and turn every skid-mark into a ‘crime scene’.

No area of human activity is exempt from the tentacles of elf’n’safety.

Traditional pastimes are outlawed or severely constrained by rules, regulations and arbitrary ‘guidelines’ enforced with Stalinist zeal.

The problem is compounded by ‘no win, no fee’ ambulance-chasing spiv lawyers, who pretend there’s no such thing as an accident and ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’. The fear of being sued for com-pen-say-shun petrifies private companies and public bodies.
We are plagued by over-policing and hysterical health and safety

We are plagued by over-policing and hysterical health and safety

This column has made a reasonable living over the years documenting the wilder excesses of elf’n’safety insanity. And I’m pleased to report there seems to be no shortage of material. I could fill this page week in, week out with the latest lunatic examples. The dilemma is usually what to leave out.

For instance, a golf club in Scotland has just been forced to pay £120,000 because it didn’t have sufficient signs warning players about flying balls.
Niddry Castle Golf Club, in Winchburgh, West Lothian, was sued by Anthony Phee, who was hit in the eye by a wayward drive from fellow golfer James Gordon.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that Mr Gordon was 70 per cent responsible for the incident, but that the club had to bear 30 per cent of the blame because it had failed to post a sign warning players that they could be struck by balls.

Even though Mr Gordon shouted ‘fore’ — the traditional warning of a wild stroke — he was found guilty of negligence and ordered to pay Mr Phee £277,000 damages for his loss of sight in one eye.

The judge also ruled that the club was liable ‘for their failure to place signs at appropriate places’.

Mr Phee is naturally entitled to sympathy and some financial redress for his injury. That’s what insurance is for. But all the warning signs in the world would not have prevented him being hit by Mr Gordon’s mis-struck ball. It was an accident. And accidents happen.

Don’t be surprised, though, if some killjoy now demands that all golfers are forced to wear hard hats, safety goggles and hi-viz jackets at all times when out on the course. That’s if they don’t want golf banned altogether.

Elsewhere, in Lymington, Hants, one of the world’s oldest cricket clubs has been ordered by its local council to spend £50,000 erecting safety nets around its entire boundary and designate a person to patrol the perimeter shouting warnings about the dangers of flying cricket balls.

If it refuses to comply, the club — which dates back two centuries — has been threatened with eviction. So it now faces either bankruptcy, to cover the cost of the netting, or being kicked off the ground where it has been playing continuously for 175 years.

It almost goes without saying that of the estimated 1.8 million balls bowled at the ground in those 175 years, not a single one has ever struck a spectator or passer-by.
At this rate, they'll soon be banning all sports, short of tiddlywinks

At this rate, they'll soon be banning all sports, short of tiddlywinks

That didn’t stop Councillor Penny Jackman insisting: ‘The plain and frightening reality is cricket balls have been landing at great speed a matter of inches from unsuspecting people.’

During a heated meeting, Mrs Jackman was also overheard saying to a colleague: ‘Oh, let’s just shut the buggers down.’

There speaks the genuine voice of elf’n’safety — the genuine voice, in fact, of all authority in this country.

This has nothing to do with safety. It’s about throwing their weight around, showing us who’s boss, finding out what people like to do and then stopping them doing it.

At this rate, they’ll soon be banning all sports, short of tiddlywinks. And even that has its inherent dangers. Better safe than sorry, eh?

‘Let’s just shut the buggers down.’

Sounds about par for the course.


Lesbian Couple May Sue Christian Baker Who Refused to Make Their Wedding Cake

Victoria Childress, a baker located in Des Moines, Iowa, may be facing legal action after she declined to create a wedding cake for a lesbian couple who were seeking her services. Her decision not to bake for the women, she says, was rooted in her Christian values.

Trina Vodraska and Janelle Sievers claim that they were shocked when they approached Childress, the owner of Victoria’s Cake Cottage, and she declined their business. “It was degrading, you know, it was like she chastised us for wanting to do business with her,” Vodraska said.

While the subject matter was clearly uncomfortable, both parties claim that the original conversation they had was cordial. Childress explained to the women that she was unable to provide the cake due to her faith. She claims that she was very pleasant and that she didn’t speak rudely to them.

“I didn’t do the cake because of my convictions for their lifestyle. It is my right as a business owner,” she explained. “It is my right, and it’s not to discriminate against them. It’s not so much to do with them, as it’s to do with me, and my walk with God and what I will answer (to) him for,” she continued.

But the dialogue between the two parties may end up landing Childress in the courtroom. has more about the legalities surrounding same-sex marriage in Iowa:
Same-sex “marriage” was legalized in Iowa in 2009 by the state Supreme Court, and a 2007 state civil rights act disallows discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in matters of employment, education, housing, and public accommodation.

LezGet Real, a web site that focuses upon issues of interests to lezbians, adds:
The couple released a statement calling Childress a bigot and saying that “Awareness of equality was our only goal in bringing this to light, it is not about cake or someone’s right to refuse service to a customer.”

The Iowa Civil Rights Act was amended in 2007 to include sexual orientation, and the couple have not said if they are willing to file a complaint under that law against the baker. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission has declined to confirm or deny whether they will launch an investigation. The law allows exemptions only for religious institutions, and not for individual businesses.


Garland, Texas wants everybody’s house keys

Garland wants to be your boss, your big brother, your nanny, your wet nurse and your house sitter all rolled into one.

Heather Fazio, Texas Libertarian Party Membership Coordinator, issued the following Action Alert about Garland's city council meeting scheduled for November 14:

Council is requested to consider the recommendation of the Building and Fire Code Board and the Plumbing and Mechanical Code Board to adopt the 2009 International Fire, Residential, Building, Energy Conservation, Plumbing, Mechanical, Property Maintenance and Fuel Gas Codes along with local amendments.

What this means, Fazio explains, is that the city wants to make it mandatory for everyone to place a key box, like the ones used by real estate agents, on all doors to local businesses and homes so the Fire Department, or whomever they appoint, can enter your home or business at any time.

If you have a gate, they want a copy of that key too. "If you refuse," Fazio says, "the City will be able to refuse services, i.e., let the fire burn!"

What do these citycrats think they're going to accomplish by poking around in your home whenever they wish, whether you're home or not? Fire departments have had their own key to the door of your burning structure for decades; it's called a fire ax.

Do you have a problem with your front door getting splintered so fire hoses can reach the flames eating up your house? Or are the firefighters getting too lazy to swing an ax at your door? Just too much work? Afraid someone might accidentally get too close to the ax blade and get nicked?

The area Drug Prohibition Enforcers already have a key to your front door too. It’s called a battering ram. Are they finding it too strenuous to actually bust open a door with their ram before charging into a private residence at 3 AM so they can shoot the family dog and terrorize everyone in the house just to serve a misdemeanor pot possession warrant at the wrong address?

Some libertarians suspect this is a proactive code violation scavenger hunt designed to generate tickets that translate into big bucks for the city's coffers.

They'll say it's for the children, for our safety, for the environment. As they always say when they're about to rip off our rights.


Occupy movement: All process and no principle

If the occupiers are so opposed to ‘the one per cent’, why do they keep ripping off its soul-destroying managerial style of politics?

For some time now, it has been clear that politics is lost for words. Both establishment politicians and radical protesters share a political vocabulary that is denuded of principles and meaningful content. Instead of talking to people about their beliefs, elite politicians modestly refer to their ‘agenda’ or ‘project’. In turn, the protesters currently occupying public spaces in New York, Madrid and London make a big deal of their refusal to formulate political demands and principles.

Of course, sometimes it is difficult to find the right words to formulate policies and objectives relevant to our times. Even the most far-sighted political leader would feel severely tested by the scale of the problems thrown up by the current global crisis. But at least a sense of responsibility would force such principled leaders to struggle to find their voice and formulate some semblance of a way forward. All we get from politicians today is a pro-forma communiqué and a promise of another global conference of world leaders. Tragically, this affliction of political paralysis has become contagious and now envelops the whole of public life.

While the political elites pretend to have a plan and avoid facing up to the consequences of the fact that actually they lack ideas, their opponents in the Occupy movement make a virtue of having literally nothing to say. Even more striking is the affirmation that such a reluctance or inability to formulate political demands receives from the media. One commentator after another insists that the protesters are doing something far more important than coming up with political demands. They are ‘raising questions’, ‘serving as the conscience of society’, ‘demonstrating the idealism of youth’, ‘highlighting problems’, ‘creating democratic spaces’ or ‘providing an alternative form of organisation’. Or in Labour leader Ed Miliband’s words, they are reflecting a ‘crisis of concern’ apparently shared by many millions of people. It seems that the inability to formulate any solutions to the predicament facing humanity is a marker of virtuous and moral behaviour these days.

Anyone who asks what the protesters actually want is dismissed as a hopeless simpleton who fails to grasp that incoherence and inarticulateness are the new chic. In fact, given that the protesters are now supported by everyone from political leaders to bishops, and by every media outlet from The Times to the Guardian, with ‘the 99 per cent’ even in the running to become Time’s Person of the Year, it seems that inarticulate posturing is super chic. ‘Those who deride [the protest] for its lack of concrete demands simply don’t understand its strategic function’, lectures Gary Younge of the Guardian. Apparently its strategic function is to confront the ‘task of creating new possibilities’. It is as if the chattering classes have decided that the emperor’s clothes are not only terribly fashionable but actually represent the height of taste.

Processed politics

The clearest sign that the vocabulary of politics has become emptied of meaning is the ascendancy of process in public life. In effect, in recent years the political process has mutated into processed politics. Today, the language of public life is dominated by the rhetoric of process. Terms like ‘empowerment’, ‘support’, ‘inclusion’, ‘exclusion’, ‘transparency’, ‘accountability’ or ‘best practice’ all refer to institutional and organisational matters. The most significant expression of the shift from a political to a managerial style of authority is the fetish of governance. Once upon a time, governance referred to the act of directing and governing. Today it refers to the management of rules and processes. According to one definition, governance is ‘the systems and processes concerned with ensuring the overall direction, effectiveness, supervision and accountability of an organisation’.

The impoverishment of the language of politics, or what the Australian social critic Don Watson describes as the ‘decay of public language’, reflects the erosion of a normative framework for the conduct of public life. It is when ideas about right and wrong, and when the question of what we should value cannot be taken for granted, that process comes into its own. The proliferation of rule-making within institutions and in all domains of human experience is an inexorable consequence of the hollowing out of a moral and political vocabulary. From the standpoint of governance, there is no normative expression of right and wrong; all that counts is whether the correct process has been followed.

The supremacy of process elevates people from making judgments about what is good or bad, right or wrong, a moral way to do things or an immoral way. It also disassociates people’s actions from their consequences. Instead of leaders, we now have the institutionalisation of mentoring. Contemporary political mentors, who are everywhere in the political sphere, do not lead – they ‘facilitate’ and ‘enable’.

The governance of protest

Protesters, like the targets of their actions, have also lost the capacity to express themselves in a moral or political way. The idealism and passion of young activists has been absorbed into a preoccupation with how to organise themselves. So a statement issued by Occupy Melbourne says: ‘We envision a politics of self-determination and direct democracy without the need for representation.’ From this standpoint, radicalism has more to do with the rules of organisation rather fighting for certain objectives.

The obsession with rule-making and process within the Occupy movement is now discussed as the defining feature of this new radicalism. One of the websites supporting the occupations declares that ‘the non-hierarchical decentralised structure, the inclusiveness and cooperation, are staples of the occupations’. Time and again, the occupiers boast that they are leaderless and non-hierarchical. Indeed, they have invented rules for achieving consensus without the need for political debate or an old-fashioned show of hands. Instead, agreement or dissent is expressed through silent gestures, such as waving your arms upwards to show consent or downwards to signal disagreement.

Processed protest can be seen in its most caricatured form in the Spanish Indignados movement. Their manual, titled How to Cook a Non-Violent Revolution, contains an organisational chart that is so intricate it would make the most bureaucratic bureaucrat proud. It describes the importance of having a Communication Commission to interact with the media and an Outreach Commission to engage with other assemblies and institutions. The Group Dynamics Commission is a heavy-duty body responsible for dreaming up new rules that assist ‘the consolidation of a group consciousness’. It ‘prepares the methodology to be followed in assemblies’ and draws up ‘moderation arrangements, floor times and systems for taking the floor’. The Respect Commission is charged with ‘conveying the importance of a respectful campground atmosphere’. There are literally more than a dozen other commissions and workgroups to oversee the governance of the Occupy camp in Spain.

What is desperately sad about this protest movement is the almost spontaneous manner in which it has internalised the ‘best practices’ of process-driven managerialism. So when Occupy London needs to respond to an event, it follows the practices routinely used in private and public sector ‘away-days’. At such events the pretence of participation and engagement is maintained through the phenomenon of breakaway groups. Likewise, at the occupation outside St Paul’s Cathedral the ‘general assembly’ of campers splits up into groups of 10 to discuss whatever issue is under consideration. In both instances, the manner in which a discussion is conducted trumps any consideration as to its content.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the organisational models adopted by the protesters is just how much they mirror those of ‘the one per cent’ they claim to despise. Consider the Occupy movement’s continuous celebration of non-hierarchical organisation. A regular reader of the Harvard Business Review would be quite comfortable with such advocacy of non-hierarchy. Numerous articles in the Review, with headlines such as ‘To Be A Better Leader, Give Up Authority’, clearly express the view that good business practice requires a non-hierarchical culture. These days, companies brag about their non-hierarchical business structures and non-hierarchical teams.

Although it is outwardly radical, contemporary protest culture has in fact adopted the procedure-oriented approach of the very establishment it claims to be protesting against. Paradoxically, it has embraced one of the least attractive features of contemporary Western public life, which is the tendency to look for organisational solutions to what are in fact political and moral problems. The most disturbing thing about today’s religion of governance is its addiction to rule-making. The institutionalisation of process inevitably begets more rules. It creates a demand for auditors and new processes to ensure that the proper processes are always followed.

When process turns into an ideology, it is only a matter of time before it becomes an instrument of deception and dishonesty. In the public sector, people can cut corners so long as they make sure that their paper trail is up to scratch. And in the new protest camps, the performance of non-hierarchical rituals allows a group of unacknowledged, unrepresentative ‘leaders’ to set the political agenda. Paradoxically, the protest-chic of the street exists in a symbiotic relationship with the process-chic of the boardroom.



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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