Sunday, June 22, 2008

Amazing: Britain to mandate annual "safety" inspections of all garden trees

At huge overall cost

Homeowners face having to pay a specialist to inspect their trees under a safety regime drawn up by one of Britain's most respected watchdogs. The British standard for tree safety inspection would require all trees to be checked by a "trained person" every three years, with a still more rigorous "expert inspection" by an arboriculturist every five years. Tree owners will also be obliged to conduct a "walk-by" inspection themselves once a year.

The drive to make all trees subject to inspection is being led not by the Health and Safety Executive - which opposes the move - but by the British Standards Institution (BSI). Highly respected in the building and engineering industries, it is better known for its views on the composition of cement than on the health of trees.

Its proposals come despite the low risk posed by trees to the public. On average six people a year are killed by falling trees, making the probability of a fatal accident less than one in two million. This compares with 647 deaths from tripping down stairs or steps.

Under the health and safety principles that have governed trees for 60 years, the risk they pose is "tolerable", and no inspection regime is necessary if the probability of death is less than one in one million each year. But the BSI was prompted to act after several legal cases appeared to challenge the existing regime. In 2006 Gary Poll, a motorcyclist, collided with a fallen branch on a road in Somerset and made a claim against the landowners. The judge ruled that if arboriculturists had been called in, the accident could have been averted.

But critics say that the BSI is overreacting and fear that a tree standard would spawn a new industry of tree inspection - a bonanza for arboriculturists but extra cost for homeowners, local authorities and landowners. Many tree surgeons do not currently charge to inspect garden trees because it normally leads to work. Tree Care, a company in West London, is typical. It does not charge for inspections and quotes but the charge for the most basic work is 160 pounds. However, some companies who work for large landowners do offer an inspection service. Prices start at 300. However, those consulted by The Times yesterday said that if they were being called out for numerous routine inspection visits they would have to charge about 70 pounds a time, or more if they had to climb the tree.

The tree standard is currently a draft, subject to public consultation, but many tree owners are not sure how to make their views known. The new British Standard would cover trees growing anywhere near where the public had access, or within falling distance of man-made structures such as other properties. It also covers areas where "branch shedding or whole tree failure could potentially cause severe harm or loss of life".

A recently established risk watchdog, charged with halting the march of the "nanny state", has intervened to try to get the BSI to think again. The Risk and Regulation Advisory Council said that the level of risk posed by trees did not warrant a national inspection regime. "The risk from trees has not increased. We believe the existing legal principle effective for the last 60 years is sufficient," Rick Haythornthwaite, the council's chairman, said. "This is a perfect example of how the pressure to regulate to minimise public risk can lead to wholly undesirable outcomes if left unchallenged."

He also accuses "risk entrepreneurs" in the tree industry for seeking regulation to maximise the perception of risk. "The result is a set of standards for which they are perfectly placed to provide profitable solutions," he said.

A spokeswoman for the BSI defended its decision to set standards for trees. "We issue standards in all sorts of areas, including businesses such as estate agents," she said. "We hope to issue the standard early next year and everyone is able to comment on the draft up until July 31."


Oil Drilling and the Collective Madness of the U.S. Congress

There is something pathetic about Americans begging the House of Saud to produce another 300,000-500,000 barrels of oil per day, while in mindless fashion repeating the mantra, "We can't drill our way out of this problem" - as if anyone suggested absolute oil independence was the goal rather than more supply to deflate tight conditions that encourage speculation. Americans, who invented the oil industry, are beginning to resemble H.G. Wells' Eloi in our refined paralysis.

Exploration and oil production are an issue that is absolutely explosive for Democrats, given their perennial resistance to ANWR, coastal and deep ocean drilling, tar sands, shale, liquid coal, and nuclear. And the irony is that their opposition to drilling - dismissing each potential find or field with the reductionist "it would be only 500,000 barrels," "a mere million barrels," or "just a few cents off a gallon of gas" - is classically illiberal to the point of either callousness or abject madness.


(1) Social Justice: The poorer, inordinately in far cheaper 2nd-hand used gas guzzlers, who have less access to pricey new hybrids and imported small cars, are hurt the most, especially those in rural communities without mass transit.

(2) The Environment: Given the demands of two billion users in China and India, the world is going to go after oil, whether we like it or not. U.S. oil companies and American environmental legislation are the most ecologically friendly in the world. Each time we refuse to pump a barrel of oil, someone else in this fungible market will - and with far less concern for the health of planet Earth. Again, there is something appalling in de facto saying to others - "Drill off your coasts and in your fragile deserts and beside your lakes so I can fuel my Lexus SUV and Volvo - and cherish the comforting thought I would never do that in my ANWR."

(3) National Security: At $140 a barrel of oil we have little influence in warning the world about Iranian nukes, or Middle-East money leaking to Islamic terrorists, or Saudi-funded madrassas, or the cynicism of Hugo Chavez or Russian strong-arm tactics toward Europe; at less than $50 the world begins to appear far less dangerous and far more rational.

(4) Financial Sanity: U.S. exporters are doing brilliantly, with help from a weak dollar, but our efforts to produce and sell abroad are increasingly all for naught, given the enormous cost of imported oil. Each time we invest American know-how and expertise in selling abroad a skip-loader or bushel of wheat or new software program that once explained our national wealth, we simply buy another barrel of foreign oil at $140 that often costs the far-less-adept less than $5 to pump. In contrast, the tens of billions we would save by even shaving 3 to 4 million barrels per day from our imported appetites would radically redefine both our trade balances and the dollar.

(5) Alternate Fuels/New Energies: No one is talking about more the return of Hummers and Escalades or a mythical $2 a gallon gas. Rather, with demand down, and the public aware that oil is finite and will remain tight, drilling provides a needed window to transition us to electrical plug-ins, biofuels, fuel cells, etc. without endangering our national security - or going broke or seeing a nuke go off in the Middle East.

(6) Food versus Fuel: I don't understand in moral terms how worrying about the terrain in 2,000 acres in a multimillion-acre Alaska trumps diverting one-fifth to one-fourth of our corn acreage away from animal and human foods to produce transportation fuel. People worldwide are in dire straits, given rising food prices, while we, in anti-humanistic fashion, complain about the view from Santa Barbara or a herd on the tundra.


Quebec Judge Overrules Father's Decision to Ground His Sixth-Grade Daughter

So much for parental rights and responsibility in semi-Fascist Canada

A Quebec youngster has used the courts to avoid parental discipline in a "landmark" case. The 12-year-old girl, who is too young to be named, went to court to force her father to overturn his decision not to allow her to go on a school trip. Her father had decided to ground her after he found out she had posted photos of herself on a dating website against his wishes. The sixth grader then took her father to court, arguing that his punishments were too severe.

Madam Justice Suzanne Tessier of the Quebec Superior Court ruled today that denying the girl permission to go on the school trip was an excessive punishment. The girl's lawyer, Lucie Fortin, said, "She's becoming a big girl" and described the school trip as "a unique event in her life", the Globe and Mail reported.

In arguing the case, Fortin cited Sections 159 and 604 of the Quebec Civil Code, which allow minors in some circumstances to initiate court proceedings relating to the exercise of parental authority. Section 159 is used in "extreme circumstances", such as cases of parental negligence.

The father's lawyer, Kim Beaudoin said that her client is "stunned by this situation. He feels like he's lost his daughter". He is appealing the court's decision.

Although the child got what she wanted, others are saying that court has blazed new paths into the very heart of the family, which compounds the growing threat of state interference in private life in Canada. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, called the decision "another chilling precedent", saying that it was so outrageous that it sounded like a parody. "This judge needs to be grounded and sent to her room," Mohler wrote. He points out that the rules the girl broke, and which the court has helped her to flout, were put in place for her own protection. Police have identified online dating sites as a common window through which sexual predators gain access to children.

"For years, we have been warned that the courts were poised to usurp parental authority. We have seen chilling judicial precedents and the encroaching reach of bureaucrats and government agents...Parents are supplanted by professionals who are 'experts' in raising other people's children." Mohler notes that the reaction in Canada is one of growing outrage.

The Ottawa Citizen quoted Gene Colman, a veteran Toronto family lawyer who founded the Canadian Journal of Family Law, who said, "It sounds unbelievable. I've never heard of this before."

Ottawa family lawyer Fred Cogan said, "I think it's state interference where the court shouldn't be interfering." "I've got six kids," Mr. Cogan said. "I certainly wouldn't want a judge watching over everything that I do, and I wouldn't want my kids being able to run to the judge."

But it was Lorne Gunter, writing in his regular column for the National Post, who had the strongest words, rebuking Judge Tessier for not laughing the case out of court. Gunter quotes Fortin saying of the girl's school camping trip, "For me that was really important." Gunter responds, "So what? Just who are you? Are you the kid's parent? Are you a relative of any sort? No? So why, then, does your opinion matter? And if it does matter, how is court action appropriate?"

"Here is a father who has full-time custody struggling to keep his daughter from getting caught up in the whole world of Internet predators, while also dealing with all the issues of discipline and conflicted loyalties that arise from divorce, and now the court has made his task far more difficult." "Even if his punishment is an overreaction, unless the judge wants to take over raising his daughter directly, calling all the shots, making all the emotional, on-the-ground, late-night decisions, the judge should butt out."


The real war on Islam

There is a real war on Islam. No, it's not waged by Israel, the US or the rest of the western world. It's waged by radical Islamists who are hijacking their religion and seeking to make the whole world into an Islamic Caliphate.

Islam is a religion like Judaism, Christianity or other religions. Previously, the Muslims were seen as desert people. Then because of the radical Islamist bombings, kidnappings and hijackings, it became associated in some people's minds with terrorism. Most people understand that radical Islamist terrorism doesn't represent all of Islam.

The political correct liberals have called Islamophobes, bigots or racists anyone who doesn't want to put up with the threat of radical Islam even though they're not talking about Islam when talking about the threat of the radical Islamists.

Many people don't understand the plight of the moderates, as they battle with the radicals for the control of their religion. While there are moderate Muslims who battle with radicals tirelessly to prevent it from being hijacked by the radicals, there are also Muslims who pretend to be moderate. The Muslim Brotherhood has pretended to be moderate while supporting terrorism on Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood's goal is the to have a Fundamentalist Sunni caliphate dominate the world. While some factions of the MB use terrorism,at least some factions of the Muslim Brotherhood have used the political process to achieve their goals. The Muslim Brotherhood has the same goals and interpretations of Islam as Al Quada. But unlike Al Quada, the Muslim Brotherhood also uses the political process.

Al Quada's goal is also to have a Sunni caluphate dominate the world. But Al Quada only engages in terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood funds and incites radical islamist terrorism. Radical Islamist indoctrination is the cause of all suicide bombings including the Palestinian ones. The male suicide bombers [the majority of suicide bombers] believe that they'll go to heaven and get 72 virgins after they die for Allah in fighting the infidels. The women suicide bombers such as the Palestinian ones also believe they're fighting for Allah and that they'll go to heaven. However, they believe they're one of the virgins. They do it for honor.

Poverty is a contributing factor to the cause of suicide bombings. But it's not the root cause. When it comes to the cause of Palestinian suicide bombings, despite the opposition to the Israeli occupation and policies, it plays a small role.

The first suicide bombings happened in the early '90's when Israel was gradually trading land for peace to prepare for a gradual creation of a Palestinian state and while Israel was preparing for peace. A huge series of them happened in 1995 and 1996 when 98% of the Palestinian people were no longer under Israeli rule. The suicide bombings resulted in the Likud leader Binyamin Netanyhu's election victory because the Israeli public saw him as someone who could provide some security.

When Israel fought back when Netanyahu was Prime Minister, terrorism decreased. From 1967 until 1987, only a handful of Palestinians became terrorists. Life in the Palestinian territories was still pretty normal. The economy in the territories improved. Israel was still unpopular politically, as most Palestinians preferred to live under Arab rule. Israel sought to trade land for peace and had no peace partner.

In 1987, there was the first intifada, which got more Palestinians to go fighting Israel. Then came Oslo. The Oslo peace process resulted in more Palestinians supporting and seeking to become terrorists. While Israel complied with their agreements, the Palestinian Authority violated their agreements. Their widespread propaganda called for terrorism and the destruction of Israel. Suicide bombers were [and are] portrayed as heroic shahids and the propaganda stated that suicide bombers were holy Islamic fighters who were fighting off the evil Jewish infidels from Palestine, which, according to the propaganda, includes modern day Israel.

When restrictions are more harsh, which result from terrorism, terrorism decreases. The security fence has helped to dramatically decrease suicide bombings. The 2005 disengagement from Gaza resulted in rocket attacks escalating. As radical Islam promotes suicide bombings, moderate Muslims claim it contradicts Islam because Islam forbids suicide.

The extreme left has collaborated with the radical Islamists because of their hatred of the US and the west, which led to their hatred of their ally Israel, which ended up being the US's important ally and agreeing with the US on most [though not all] issues. The PC propaganda in Europe is far worse than America. Not only are you a bigot, racist and/or Islamophobe if you want to fight the Islamo-fascists, but the PC nonsense there says that the west's [especially America's] foreign policy has treated their Muslim citizens and the ones in the Middle East so badly that they had no choice but to bomb innocent men women and children in cold blood.

In America, at least there's more toleration for the side that says that radical Islamists attack us because we're infidels and that we have to fight them. Yes, President Bush is right that they hate freedom. It's a major obstacle to their totalitarian goal. Their beliefs contradict the basic concepts of freedom and democracy. They stone people to death. They'll kill you for converting from Islam to another faith. Their evil Nazi-like ideology hates freedom.

According to the PC in Europe, radical Islamist terrorism is seen as something terrible but also something coming from them because of the desperate conditions created by their governments. People killed for expressing their views that radical Islamists hate and seen by them as anti-Islamic are killed. If you say that you won't tolerate it and you need to fight for your freedom and democracy, according to the PC propaganda system, you're a bigot, a racist or an Islamophobe.

The PC system has made it okay to bash every religion excluding Islam. But if you give any criticism toward Islam, then you're a racist. To the European PC system, the killing of people by radical Muslims are seen as people who got what was coming to them because they were spreading anti-Islamic bigotry. The PC in Europe portray Israel as an imperialist nation that wants to take over Palestine and oppress it's people for the heck of it, creating desperate conditions there for terrorism on Israel. According to the European PC, the Israelis had what was coming to them, as terrorism there is seen as the only weapon to fight Israeli oppression. The PC propaganda portrays Israel as a proxy to US imperialism. The conflict in the holy land and the US-Israel relationship is far more complicated than how European PC liberals portray it. Yet that's exactly what a totalitarian dictatorship is. You kill innocent people in cold blood because of their views and you justify it by saying they're too dangerous.

The PC is not actually helping Islam. It's allowing Islam to be hijacked. Anyone who says the truth about what's going on is a bigot, a racist or an Islamophobe. Many victims of radical Islam are Muslims. Real moderate Muslims understand the threat and are trying desperately to expose the threat. Radical Islamists claim that the infidels [especially the Jews and Christians] are fighting a war on Islam and that it's their duty to spread jihad until Islam conquers the world.

The radical Islamists are a huge global movement. It's not isolated extremists. It is true that it only represents a part of Islam, a part that is trying to hijack the religion. Only extremely few of the Fundamentalist Christians as well as the Kahanists [the Kahanists are condemned by most Jews, most Israelis and the Israeli government] i.e. the ones who truly are isolated extremists, are Islamophobic.

The radicals are helping to build up their case by their terrorism, even though it's still just a few isolated nuts, who spread racism against the Muslims. There are different types of racism, many that are bigger than the anti-Muslim or anti-Arab one. Islamo-fascists and Islamo-Nazis are legitimate and accurate terms when meaning the radical Islamists. It doesn't mean Islam. They're very politically incorrect. But the radical Islamists really do hold fascist and Nazi like views and claim to be doing their attacks in the name of Islam.

The Nazis believed that Aryans were superior to everyone else. Radical Islam feels the same way about the Muslims. The Nazis persecuted and put into concentration camps non-aryans. Non-Muslims are getting persecuted by radical Islamists. In their society, they'd be persecuted. They both want to make global empires, Hitler an an Aryan one and the Islamo-fascists, an Islamic one.

When Hitler was threatening the world, the world was asleep. The same thing is happening today. Both ideologies hated the Jews. Hitler's holocaust helped find him allies in the Middle East. It was one of the factors that gave him allies there. Radical Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Arab nationalists such as the Baath party and the Free Officers collaborated with the Nazis. Al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader also collaborated with them. Al-Husseini commanded two Bosnian Muslim SS divisions. He supported Hitler's holocaust on the Jews and said to "kill the Jews wherever you find them."

The radical Islamists are publicly speaking about their evil goals as Hitler did in Mein Kampf, which, along with the protocols of the elders of Zion, which is a well-known anti-Semitic hoax, are becoming best sellers among radical Islamists and to many anti-Semites in the Middle East. It's becoming a best-seller in the Middle East. I'm not saying most Muslims in the Middle East have it or believe it. Many there do believe it. Anti-Semitism in the Middle East is becoming a big issue.

While the world condemned the Danish newspapers for making fun of Muhammad with political cartoons, which caused there to be riots, Arab newspapers have for decades and still do today have anti-Semitic political cartoons. When people are attacked for talking about violence in Islam or for saying something they dislike, it does send the message, whether it's true or not, that Islam is violent. The moderate Muslims are heroically fighting the radical Islamist ideology and should be supported. The moderate Muslims are even risking their lives to expose the radical Islamists, which shows how courageous they are.



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, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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