Sunday, September 17, 2006


It has no sharp edges and contains no electrical wires. But health and safety officials have launched a crackdown on what they say is the latest dangerous item of homeware - the doormat. More commonly associated with the humble role of being somewhere for visitors to wipe their feet, council chiefs have raised the mat's status to that of 'tripping hazard'. Now they have banned the floor furnishing and ordered tenants to remove the offending items or risk having them taken away. But residents who have received the ultimatum dismissed the idea as "ludicrous".

Bristol City Council sent a letter entitled "Health and Safety Issues - Hazardous Mats" to thousands of tenants living in flats and high-rise blocks. It reads: "During a routine Health and Safety inspection of the block, it was noted that loose mats were present in hallways/corridors outside of people's flats. "These represent a 'tripping hazard' and should be removed immediately. By all means have your own mats inside your front door but please do not leave them outside, creating a risk to others. "Therefore, I am requesting that if you have a mat outside, it is removed by September 18th. Any mat remaining in the hallways/corridors after this date will be removed and subsequently disposed of."

The order has been dismissed by residents as the latest example of over-zealousness among health and safety executives. Retired gardener Roger Perry, 62, said he had no intention of giving up his door mat. He said: "This is absolutely ludicrous. The council says mats are a hazard - god only knows how. I've lived here 13 years and never heard of any accidents. "It's like Big Brother watching us. I'm keeping mine here to see what they do. It only cost a couple of quid, but if they take it, that's theft."

His neighbour, Albert Peacock, 82, said: "I'm not moving my mat for anybody - it's a non-slip mat. "I bought it for my home like everyone else and it's staying. It's our responsibility to keep the corridor outside tidy and our front doors clean. "If the council are worried about people tripping, they should concentrate on mending the pavements."

Tory councillor Mark Weston said the policy was "ridiculous" and "a total waste of time and resources". But Bristol City Council insisted doormats could pose a hazard if there was a need to evacuate a council-owned building. A spokeswoman said: "We know that asking people to remove mats is not popular, but it is important that corridors in council properties are kept clear, as they are a means of escape from fire. "Mats are a trip hazard, particularly as many properties are occupied by older people or people with disabilities. "This is not a new policy, it has been around for the last 20 years at least - but on a recent inspection we noticed some mats had crept back so we've reminded tenants to remove them."



It's all a bit rich being hectored by celebrity hypocrites. The activists who preach loudest against the so-called evils of modern democracies should be exposed. In these secular times, celebrity-styled and self-appointed moral guardians have long replaced church leaders as the average person's guide to the higher moral ground. Al Gore and his message on climate change is but the latest.

In Australia to promote his film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore was given extremely soft interviews by Kerry O'Brien on The 7.30 Report, Andrew Denton on Enough Rope and Fran Kelly on Radio National. All ABC interviewers accepted Gore's preaching without substantial query.

The problem for moral guardians is that often they take the high moral ground while simultaneously dealing in much of what they condemn. It's called double standards. And right now the world of commentary is full of them. In his film, to be released in Australia tomorrow, the former US vice-president lectures at length on the need for all of us to change our lifestyles to save the planet. We are sitting on a time bomb, he tells us, a planet heating to such an extent we have just 10 years before the apocalypse. We have a choice he says - "to bring our carbon emissions to zero". We must use renewable energy and clothes lines, drive hybrid cars and cut back on consumption.

But a zero carbon emission is not a choice Gore has personally made. He owns three homes, one of which is a 930 sq m, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville and another a 370 sq m house in Arlington, Virginia.

In spite of readily available green energy, in both Nashville and the Washington DC area, writer Peter Schweizer (USA Today, August 8) has revealed "there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy". Gore usually travels to promote his film in a private jet.

Governments and citizens around the world must heed the message that carbon emissions need to be reduced and that the earth is warming to levels that cause concern. No doubt in that. But the hype of Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and his own performances in its support have given him guru status. Surely the least a guru can do is lead by example.

The hypocrisy industry is alive and well in secular democracies. Decades of campaigns from animal rights protests to anti-war marches have offered some notable Americans not only celebrity status but even comfortable incomes. This is the lucrative humbug Schweizer exposes in "Do As I Say (Not As I Do) - Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy".

Take Michael Moore, documentary film-maker and guru of anti-Americanism and fashionable leftist causes. His hallmark characteristic is hero of the little man against the big corporations. He talks often of growing up in the working-class, wrong-side-of-the-tracks rust belt of Flint, Michigan. Flint has become a trademark for Moore - on his email address and website. In fact, Moore grew up in nearby Davison, the son of a middle-class General Motors worker who owned the family home, drove two cars and played golf after work in the afternoons. Moore has a penthouse in New York and an extensive property on Torch Lake, Michigan, made of 70-year-old Michigan red pine trees. In spite of his so-called green credentials, he was recently cited by local authorities for despoiling a wetland in an attempt to extend his private beach.

Moore's image exudes the ordinary guy, the man who can hack it rough with no interest in consuming goods. He derides the elite for their excess and need for luxury. This is the same man who couldn't drink Poland Spring when backstage and had to have a ready supply of Evian. The same man who demanded he travel the country in a private jet and a fleet of four-wheel drives for his most recent book tour.

The hypocrisy industry has caught a number off guard in the fashionable global warming pronouncements. Barbra Streisand took neighbour and photographer Wendell Wall to court after he took shots of her at a car dealership looking at four-wheel drives, a clear contradiction of her plea a few months before for Americans to get serious about reducing fuel emissions. She had him arrested, pressed charges that led to bail being upped to $1 million so that he was held for three days. When the matter came to court, Wall was recognised to have been doing nothing offensive and he sued the sheriff's department for violation of his civil liberties, which was settled out of court.

Schweizer's study of the rich and hypocritical is full of such stories - of how those who preach loudest against the so-called evils of modern democracies have the biggest skeletons in their closets. Legislators such as Democrat congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, one of the wealthiest on Capitol Hill, an anti-nuclear and environmental campaigner who owns and invests in property where environmental regulations are ignored.

Teddy Kennedy, whom Schweizer calls the king of liberal hypocrites, is fulsome in his appeals for greener choices. Yet the Kennedys, led by Ted, continue to oppose a wind project off Hyannis where they sail, even though the project is way out to sea. And as Ted preaches against oil companies, the Kennedys have invested in oil in Texas for decades, and even own the drilling rights on land that is not theirs.

Let's save the planet by all means - but let's not be fooled by those who preach loudest but do not practise what they preach.


Imams urged to correct false use of Koran

More blunt talk to Muslims from the Australian government

Australia's Islamic clerics have been urged to help correct the false use of the Koran by terrorists to justify their evil acts. The Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Robb called on some 100 Australian imams attending a government-sponsored conference to denounce the extremists' misrepresentation of Islam. "We live in a world of global terrorism where vile acts are regularly being perpetrated in the name of your faith," Mr Robb told the two-day conference which started. "Because it is your faith that is being invoked it is your problem. "You cannot wish it away or ignore it just because it has been caused by others."

The taxpayer-funded conference, which was intended for earlier this year, was initially the brainchild of the now divided Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. But organisation of the event was handed to the Muslim Community Reference Group members by Mr Robb after the AFIC failed to get it going. A number of hardcore Islamists have accepted invitations to attend.

Mr Robb urged delegates to preach to young Australian Muslims about the real meaning of the Koran. "I say to you speak up and condemn terrorism," He said. "I know many in your community are doing this .. but too many are silent."

Mr Robb also said it was essential for imams to have effective English language skills. Some 50 per cent of the 360,000 Muslims in Australia are under 25 years of age, and most were born in Australia with English as their first language, he said. "For imams to present Islam in a truly Australian context especially to second and third generations Australian Muslims, it would seem essential that imams be able to speak effective English. "The fact that I needed to have my address translated into several languages very clearly highlights my concern," Mr Robb said. The conference continues for the rest of the weekend.


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