Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Bureaucracy is strangling Britain
Our great projects are being stalled by endless consultations and grinding bureaucracy
By Boris Johnson
Well isn’t that just brilliant? Isn’t that grand, eh? We have always known that Peter Mandelson was a modern Blackadder — the only politician who actively rejoices in his reputation for being as cunning as a fox who has just been appointed the Regius professor of cunning — but this takes some beating. Old Mandychops has pulled the rug out from under HS2 — the very scheme he helped to invent in the last days of Gordon Brown’s government.
It turns out the whole thing was a gimmick. They didn’t have a clue about the economic case for the gigantic new railway. They hadn’t even vaguely tested whether anyone wanted to get to Birmingham a full five minutes faster, or whether they would be just as happy with their laptop and internet connection. They just plucked it from the air, because it sounded like a bold and forward-looking wheeze for the manifesto of a washed-up government.
But as a general principle it is obvious that both London and other cities would benefit from better and faster connections. The problem, as Peter Mandelson has indicated, is cost. This thing isn’t going to cost £42 billion, my friends. The real cost is going to be way north of that (keep going till you reach £70 billion, and then keep going). That is why the Treasury is starting to panic, and the word around the campfire is that Lord Mandelson is actually doing the bidding of some fainthearts in Whitehall who want to stop it now – not the first or second Lords of the Treasury, clearly, but the bean-counters. So there is one really critical question, and that is why on earth do these schemes cost so much?
Doug Oakervee is a brilliant man to have in charge of HS2, and if anyone can deliver it, he can. But he is dealing with a system of building major infrastructure projects that is holding this country back. Talk to the big construction firms, and they will tell you the problem is not the cost of actually digging and tunnelling and putting in cables and tracks. Those are apparently roughly the same wherever you are in the world.
It’s the whole nightmare of consultation and litigation – and the huge army of massively expensive and taxpayer-financed secondary activities that is generated by these procedures. It is the environmental impact assessments and the equalities impact assessments and the will-sapping tedium and cost of the consultations. Did you know that in order to build HS2 we are going to spend £1 billion by 2015 — and they won’t have turned a single sod in Buckinghamshire or anywhere else?
That is a billion quid going straight down the gullets of lawyers and planners and consultants before you have even invested in a yard of track. To understand the prohibitive costs of UK infrastructure, you need to take this haemorrhage of cash to consultants, and then multiply it by the time devoted to political dithering.
Look at the Turks. They have decided that they need a new six-runway airport at Istanbul, so that they can take advantage of the growing importance of aviation to the world economy. They are almost certainly going to do it for less than 10 billion euros, and long before we have added a single runway anywhere in the South East. Or look at Chep Lap Kok, the airport Doug Oakervee built for Hong Kong. The authorities announced it in 1989 — and opened it nine years later! If you want to get a sense of our sluglike pace in the UK, we announced Heathrow Terminal 5 in 1988, and it took almost 20 years to create; not an airport, just a new terminal, for heaven’s sake (and if anyone thinks the advantage of a third runway at Heathrow is that it would be a “quick fix”, they frankly need their heads examining).
Other countries have clear plans for their infrastructure needs over the long term, and the talent and managerial firepower is being moved from one to the next. We don’t have a plan; we have a list of schemes, each of which causes politicians such heeby-jeebies that they waste billions – literally – in optioneering when what they need to do is decide on the right course and crack on with it. We have proved with Crossrail and the Olympics that we have the expertise to deliver big infrastructure projects. But time is money: we spend far too long on bureaucratic procedures and then enormously multiply that expense by a political failure to blast on with the task in hand.
The result is that we are being restrained from giving this country the improvements it needs at an affordable price. We are like Laocoon wrestling with the serpents, or like some poor bondage fetishist who has decided to tie himself up in knots — and then realised, too late, that he has gone too far. We tug at our bonds with our teeth and pathetically hope the neighbours will come. Of course they won’t! Our neighbours are out there investing in airports, while we are investing in consultants.
Banning the term 'gay’ is an insult to free speech
Michael Gove, the impressive Secretary of State for Education, has just decreed that the term “gay” cannot be used as an insult. It’s “outrageous and medieval” to do so.
I wonder what he’d have done at the fabulous wedding we attended, last Saturday. A young guest in morning suit used his iPhone to snap a friend in similar attire. He peered at the result: “Oooooooh you look sooooooo gay!” The word, clearly, was interchangeable with “naff” and “chav”: but henceforth, if Mr Gove gets his way, would it land the boy on a sinister register of “hate speakers” – disqualifying him as an applicant for just about any job?
Only the day before, as he faced UK immigration officials, Mr Tony Miano had been afraid of precisely that: was his name on a secret register, and would he be stopped from leaving the country? The American street preacher had been arrested outside Centre Court shopping centre in Wimbledon on July 1. He had been reading from St Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, which condemns homosexuality. A passer-by called the police. Three officers arrived and arrested Mr Miano, a retired deputy sheriff from California, for disorderly conduct.
The irony of being marched to the Wimbledon nick after having spent 20 years as a law enforcer was not lost on Mr Miano. He told me over the phone: “The booking process held no surprises.” He had his DNA and fingerprints taken (and was relieved of his wedding ring) and was then locked up in a small cell for seven hours.
In the police station, he was granted his request for a Bible and for a lawyer from Christian Concern, a group that fights cases involving religious freedom. Then the police asked if he’d ever feed a homosexual, or do them a favour.
“I said yes, of course: the Bible taught that I should love my neighbour as myself,” Mr Miano told me. “The policeman asked if I believed homosexuality was a sin and I realised that I was not only being interrogated about what had happened but about what I believed.”
Mr Miano could have pointed out that, while preaching at the shopping centre, he had condemned pornography and slushy novels, too; but it was clear to him that the police were only interested in one “thought crime”, just as Mr Gove seems only interested in one kind of insult. You can believe that homeopathy cures ailments but not that homosexuality is a sin.
You can call someone a bigot, but not say something’s “gay”.
Homophobia deserves to be condemned. But muzzling freedom of speech is the wrong way about it. When the Government decided last January to drop Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which criminalised “insulting language”, the move was hailed rightly as a victory for free speech. But if Mr Gove now says that he supports free expression only if it doesn’t offend gays, he undermines the gains made in ditching Section 5.
He also sets an alarming precedent. Tolerance will come with caveats, freedom with clauses. Today, Mr Gove and his Government prioritise the gay lobby; tomorrow, it could be the fat lobby to persuade the authorities that discrimination against their members damages pudgy youngsters growing up in a climate of hostility. We’ll inhabit a world where people cannot say “fatty” or “fatso” for fear of ending up on a secret register or in the Wimbledon nick.
In the end, Mr Miano was released without charge. He asked if he could keep the Gideon Bible that he’d received in prison. When it turned out to be the only copy, he asked if he could provide a few more. The following day, he dropped off 10 copies of the Good Book at Wimbledon police station.
That’s tolerance for you.
Is Paula Deen the Worst American Ever?
As practically everyone knows by now, multimillionaire TV chef Paula Deen was yanked from the pinnacle of free-market success after admitting to a lawyer taking a deposition in a racial and sexual harassment lawsuit (already Orwellian) that she had used what is referred to as “the N-word” some 25 years ago.
“The N-word”? Here we give the Victorians a run for their word-mincing money. The offending word, of course, is “nigger,” and no matter how ugly it is, it is hardly taboo when a quick search of iTunes pulls up 2,000 entries for sale featuring the term.
According to the deposition, Deen said the word when telling her husband about the man who had stuck a gun to her head during a robbery at the bank where she worked years ago. She also admitted to using the slur at other non-specific times but said, “It’s been a long time,” adding: “That’s just not a word we use as time has gone on” (unless “we” are in the music business).
So, like President Obama on homosexual marriage, Deen claims to have “evolved,” or at least learned some manners. Nonetheless, her admission disqualified Deen from further participation in public life – at least according to the titans of corporate America. En masse, they ended their lucrative business relationships with Deen. Food Network cut ties with her. Then Smithfield Foods. Major retailers – Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, J.C. Penney, QVC – announced they would no longer sell Paula Deen merchandise. Random House also canceled Deen’s forthcoming cookbook even as it was already, in pre-release, the No. 1 top-selling book on Amazon.
Watching Deen’s long fall is almost unbelievable. Judging by these swift, unforgiving actions by corporate America, there is nothing worse than what Deen did (said). That would include, for example, giving aid and comfort to the enemy in North Vietnam while American POWs were being tortured by captors in Hanoi, and while other Americans were still fighting and dying during the Vietnam War. This, of course, is exactly what actress Jane Fonda did before amassing her own exercise-based media empire.
I couldn’t help noticing that in the same People magazine issue that features a Deen cover story (“Inside Her Fall”), actress Winona Ryder offers readers a list of her favorite books. One happens to be “My Life So Far,” a memoir by Jane Fonda. Ironically, Random House is Fonda’s publisher. Another Ryder must-read is “Scoundrel Time,” a memoir by writer Lillian Hellman, who admired and even shilled for Stalin, the Soviet dictator who killed some 20 million people.
Fonda and Hellman, however, make public-square-approved bedtime reading. It is Deen who is anathema, now and probably always. Why? Whether she is as far left as Fonda and Hellman, Deen is no conservative – the most common cause of cultural leprosy. What gives?
The answer lies in the superpowers of the left to shape and guide our responses to all cultural stimuli, something I discuss at length in my new book, American Betrayal.
Deen, 66, may have supported President Obama in 2008, but she is an old, white Southerner, which, in good, ol’ fashioned Marxist-Leninist terms, is still a class of person best defined as “enemy of the people.” Detestable. Expendable. Throw her under the “limousine liberals’” limousine while they, admiring enemies of the Constitution (or U.S. troops), whiz by us in cultural camouflage all the way to the reliably capitalist bank.
And speaking of the reliably capitalist bank, don’t forget Alec Baldwin. The notoriously bad-mouthed actor (and left-wing People for the American Way board member) volcanically erupted on Twitter recently, hurling expletive-laced homosexual insults at a journalist. However, Baldwin, too, remains a public-square-anointed one, apparently secure as pitchman for Capitol One.
It gets more ironic. Also out this month is a Town & Country cover story about Armand “Armie” Hammer, the 26-year-old star of a new Lone Ranger movie. The headline is, “Lone Ranger in Love: He’s from an American Dynasty, but for the New John Wayne, Money and Fame Aren’t Everything.”
American dynasty? The new John Wayne? Young Armie, of course, has nothing to do with the formation of said dynasty, and probably less to do with the writing of the glossy headline. In short, Armie is beside my point, which is this: The Hammer “Dynasty’s” formation was anything but “American” given its deep, twisted roots in Soviet wheeling and dealing.
Armie’s great-grandfather was Armand Hammer (1898-1990), a legendary Soviet “agent of influence” whose fortune began to accrue while in effect laundering money for Lenin’s nascent Soviet Union – no fan, of course, of the bourgeois likes of Town & Country. Then there’s the magazine’s invocation of John Wayne, a legendary patriot and anti-Communist. So outspoken was Wayne, film historian and Wayne biographer Michael Munn tells us, the actor was actually targeted for assassination by Stalin. p>
Town & Country’s headline isn’t just an example of tone-deafness. By such discordant chords, our history is written over and forgotten, leaving us oblivious to everything – except, of course, that Paula Deen is a racist.
Political Correctness Is Cultural Marxism
The excellent AT article "Conservatives Pushing Back" by Bruce Walker explored what we conservative thinkers (We are, after all, American Thinkers) have known for quite some time: political correctness (PC) is to culture what Marxism is to economics. To recognize that fact arms us with what we need in order to push back. As Walker says (emphasis added), "[t]hese marketplace ballots are the key not only to the survival of a non-totalitarian America, but also to the final defeat of those whose minds and wills are chained with hard, cold manacles of leftism."
Walker's article is (pardon the pun) right on the money. So, in an effort to further understand PC, exploration of its similarities to Marxism is in order.
Karl Heinrich Marx (1818-1883) was a German socialist. Marx's social, economic, and political theories proclaimed that societies progress through class struggle. His focus was upon economics, so Marx concentrated on the conflict between an ownership class that controlled production and a proletariat that provided the labor for production. He referred to capitalism as the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie." The proletariat, the oppressed workers, were supposed to be the beneficiaries of a social revolution that would place them on top of the power structure.
Marx's key concept was "class struggle." That's where PC comes in. PC seeks to impose a uniformity of thought and behavior, just like Marxism, on all Americans and is, therefore, quite totalitarian in nature. PC is, in concept, similar to Marxism, but its focus is upon culture, rather than economics, as the class struggle environment.
PC, just like Marxism, forces people to live a lie by denying reality. PC takes a political philosophy and says that on the basis of the chosen philosophy, certain things must be true, and reality that contradicts its "truth" must be forbidden -- eradicated since it disputes PC, exposes as untrue what PC says is true. People are reluctant to live a lie, so they use their eyes and ears to see reality, to say, "Wait a minute. This isn't true. I can see it isn't true; the power of the state [PC] must be put behind the demand to live a lie." Marxism, by denying economic reality, did exactly the same thing.
PC, just like Marxism, has a method of analysis that always provides the answer it wants. For PC, the "answer" is found through deconstruction, which takes any situation, removes all meaning from it, and replaces it with PC's desired meaning. Walker references this point when he says, "[T]hat her [Paula Deen's] devout Christian faith is more the real target than past use of an unhappy word which did not keep Robert Byrd from remaining, by election of his fellow Senate Democrats, the most powerful Democrat politician in America."
PC, just like Marxism, depends upon defining what it considers good and bad groups. It defines good groups as "victims" of bad groups. The victims can never be anything but good, regardless of what their actions may be. Witness what the Black Panthers did in Philadelphia, PA in 2008 and 2012. Any group identified as good by PC (homosexuals, blacks, Hispanics, illegal immigrants, feminist women, mentally and/or physically challenged people, the poor, environmentalists, the list goes on and on) must be shown deference, both physically and linguistically. They must not be offended, must not be insulted.
Any group identified as bad by PC, such as white males or any Christian group, can be offended. This offense, PC practitioners say, "makes up" for past offenses certain to have been committed in the past by bad groups. And what's worse is that the PC practitioners get to define the offenses committed by the bad groups. This situation, by definition, is a "self-fulfilling prophesy."
Rush Limbaugh, in 2010, said, "Our politically correct society is acting like some giant insult has taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards." The PC crowd labeled Limbaugh's statement offensive and insulting. Imagine that. Limbaugh was just "calling a spade a spade." Like it or not, PC cannot prevent mental retardation, cannot alter reality. But that doesn't stop them from trying.
PC, just like Marxism, depends upon expropriation. PC is literally taking over our language, and woe be unto him/her that dares speak the truth. When Marxists took over Russia, they expropriated the bourgeoisie by confiscating their property. Similarly, when PC takes over our culture, quotas are set. The so-called bourgeoisie are told whom they can and can't hire, and in what quantities they can hire. As an example, see what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is currently up to. And let's not forget affirmative action, a system of expropriation if there ever was one, another PC favorite. When a black or Hispanic student (or some other "victim"), who isn't as well-qualified as a white student, gains university admittance through affirmative action, the white student's admittance is expropriated.
PC, just like Marxism, has a single factor explanation of all of history. PC says that all history is determined by power, by which groups have power over which other groups. Nothing else matters. Period. PC is all about gaining power for the good groups that it defines. To further that goal, PC literally rewrites history. And PC says that the Bible is actually about race and gender. Nothing is beyond the PC crowd.
As an example of what PC has done and is currently doing, examine the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case/trial. First, always PC, Dear Leader Barack Hussein Obama said, "You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." Then, ever PC NBC doctored the 911 recording; thus, "NBC created this false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman's own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create the illusion of statements that Zimmerman never actually made." Here is what PC tried to do before the trial. "Many viewed the early lack of charges against Zimmerman as unequal justice for a black victim. More than 2 million people signed an online Change.org petition demanding 'Justice for Trayvon Martin.'" Now, the prosecution is trying to say that Zimmerman is a liar, that his injuries were not life-threatening. I'm quite certain that AT readers can cite numerous other examples.
The U.S. has become an ideological state, a country with an official state ideology and history that has been defined by PC. People convicted of "hate crimes" as defined by PC are currently serving jail sentences for political thoughts contrary to PC. And it's only getting worse -- PC continues to spread.
Marx believed his ideology, his economic system to be true. But, reality contradicted his system. His ideology did not adjust to reality. Hopefully the PC ideology will soon suffer a similar fate. It is, as Walker points out, a corrupt ideology. The only problem is that we will have no country, will have an economic disaster once people are confronted with reality, when enough people say, "Wait a minute. This isn't true." Meanwhile, the Democrats/Progressives/Liberals who will not adjust to reality continue the PC ideology. And they have convinced the MSM and enough low-information voters to continue to empower them as all three groups continue to ignore reality.
Charlton Heston once said, "Political correctness is tyranny with manners." Tyranny, yes, but practitioners seem to have forgotten the manners part.
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, 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. Email me (John Ray) here.