Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Illegals leaving Britain because the NHS is so bad

Looks like the NHS is good for something after all!

ILLEGAL immigrants are sneaking OUT of Britain because they are sick of our weather and hospitals. Border officials yesterday revealed they are collaring a rising tide of failed asylum seekers who flee because life here is not cushy enough. Most escapees caught in the last few weeks are from hellholes like Iraq and Afghanistan – where temperatures rarely drop below 35°C. Many planned to head to balmy Italy after rumours of an amnesty for illegal immigrants. But they changed their minds when right-wing PM Silvio Berlusconi was re-elected and launched a clampdown.

Chief immigration officer Les Williams said: “We have recently noticed people trying to leave the country. Some said they wanted to go to a warmer country as they are fed up with the English weather and their treatment on the NHS.”

A colleague told how he caught four Iraqis trying to sneak through Dover’s port. He said: “They were sick of the rain and cold and wanted to go somewhere with a bit more sun. They also complained they could not get appointments to see a doctor or a dentist. It’s all a bit rich really.”

Three Afghans were arrested just weeks ago when they were injured trying to sneak out on a Polish timber lorry. The trio were formally deported. The Sun revealed in December how pregnant Polish immigrants were heading home to give birth because prenatal care was better in Poland.



Gordon Brown is poised to scrap a series of unpopular tax rises as part of sweeping changes to stave off a dangerous revolt over the rising cost of living which last week dealt Labour its worst electoral hammering in 40 years. Today the Prime Minister will respond to a growing suburban uprising by signalling moves to help motorists and other consumers. His intervention comes amid a fresh assault over the 10p tax rate change, which backbenchers warn could destroy his premiership.

Frank Field, the renegade ex-minister who forced Brown into offering compensation for the abolition of the 10p rate, said dismal local election results had shown poor families did not trust the Prime Minister to deliver on what Field described as an 'Alice in Wonderland' scheme to give them their money back.

The question of the Prime Minister's leadership was also raised openly for the first time since the vote; Labour backbencher Graham Stringer said ministers were privately discussing whether there should be a challenge to Brown. The Manchester Blackley MP told Sky News: 'I think Gordon is going to be the leader of the Labour party. There is no real tradition of regicide. But it would not be true to say that these conversations aren't going on between ministers and Labour backbenchers about whether there should be a challenge. There is a public display of loyalty and there is private despair.'

Last night Downing Street sources hinted the 2 per cent rise in fuel duty due in the autumn may not go ahead, in a concession to tight household budgets. Asked if it would be scrapped, a senior source said: 'We could do that, although it would not have any effect until October. We will reserve judgement until later this year.'

Brown is also expected today to highlight the role of the Competition Commission investigation into supermarkets in protecting families from high prices, promising that ministers will ensure stores do not keep prices artificially high. Ministers also want Brown to rethink green taxes - including motoring charges and proposed 'pay as you throw' schemes for household rubbish - and to sideline his passion for Africa and the climate to focus on domestic worries.

Internal polling in London found Ken Livingstone's green policies, such as new charges for gas-guzzling cars, alienated older voters, while the environment was at best a low priority for others, suggesting that, as families' budgets shrink, so does their willingness to pay to save the planet. 'My colleagues will say Labour has got to be brave on green issues, but the public are really feeling the pinch,' said one senior minister. Downing Street sources hinted last night that trials of household-rubbish taxes may never be widespread, adding that Brown was 'fairly sceptical' about the idea.

More here

A comment on Britain's new Conservative hero

By veteran British conservative columnist, William Rees-Mogg

I followed the local elections in London and in Somerset. If one had to choose a mayor of London from the characters in Shakespeare's plays, there is no doubt one would have to choose Falstaff. He combines a big personality, a shrewd intelligence, a certain reputation where women are concerned, an eye for the main chance and an enduring warmth. So far, London voters have consistently voted for the candidate who most resembled Falstaff in character; Boris Johnson is now closer than Ken Livingstone, who has never been sure whether he was playing Falstaff or Jack Cade.

The most successful mayors of New York, such as the great wartime mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, have come out of the same mould. They have given personality to a great city. I doubt if Boris will ever be called "the little flower", but he will personify London. He will also add to the innocent amusement of the nation.

I expect him to be a good mayor; he is highly intelligent, basically good-natured and a surprisingly skilful politician. David Cameron will find him a nuisance from time to time, but he will be amply rewarded in additional votes. Boris Johnson may make it fashionable to vote for the Conservatives; he makes Toryism fun.

I'm certain he will not change. He was a contemporary of members of my family when he was at Oxford; I have heard him being discussed for the past 20 years. In that time he has not changed, and I cannot see why he would change now. One can safely disregard the stark warnings of those who have never liked him. He poses no threat except to political rivals and to attractive young women of nubile age.

Boris Johnson has done something very important. He has won London for the Conservatives against the most skilful London politician since Herbert Morrison, who led Labour in London to the great 1945 victory. London is the leading city of the nation and by far the wealthiest. It is always a strong influence on British politics. London usually leans to the left, as most big cities do. Only an exceptional Conservative politician can take the lead in London and deliver the big city for his party. Boris's London victory makes an overall Conservative victory at the next election far more likely. I do not expect the Conservatives to throw that away.


If you want to be green - kill a cow

Some wisdom from the new Mayor of London below

Stop, stop. I can feel the guilt building up already. I can feel the self-loathing welling in my skull, the horror at my appallingly affluent consumerist lifestyle. In just a few short months, I will be taking the whole family off on holiday again, and once again our plane will contribute to the cat's cradle of CO2 that is swaddling the globe. Out of the nozzles of the Rolls-Royce turbo jets the lethal vapours will spew into the defenceless stratosphere, and, far beneath us, a startled look will pass over the features of another poor polar bear as he plops through the deliquescing floes.

I must atone! I must make a sacrifice! I must offset my emissions and appease the great irascible Sun-god as he prepares to griddle us all. I had heard somewhere that you could be "carbon-neutral" by planting trees before you fly. That's right. Shove in a few poplars, I was told, and bingo, you can feel all good about your skiing holiday or your winter break in Tunisia.

So I dialled up the eco-websites and - what's this? It turns out they have got it all wrong! Guilt-stricken Western holidaymakers and others have so far paid œ300 million to have trees planted in their name by carbon offset companies, and the whole thing turns out to be a complete nonsense. It now appears the scientists think the trees just make things worse. Far from soaking up your share of CO2, most trees in non-tropical areas are thought to trap heat and thereby increase global warming.

Aaaargh! Bad trees! Killer trees! But what can I do to exculpate my sin? Here I am, a caring, modern, green politician, proposing some time before the end of this year to take about six people in a plane for no better purpose than simple recreation. Like Tony Blair, I must deal with the hate and rage of the new green puritans; and also, it goes without saying, I genuinely want to make amends for any damage I am doing.

So I have done my homework, and I have come up with a far more effective solution. As ever, I have consulted the ancient texts, and have been reminded that the Greeks and Romans were also convinced of the importance of making a sacrifice before any tricky voyage. You will recall that the Greek task force for Troy actually killed Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, in the hope of guaranteeing good sailing weather - with bad consequences for Agamemnon's conjugal relations.

Now we are only taking a family holiday, and I don't think Zeus or Jupiter would desire anything so extreme. A single cow would be about right. If I were an ancient Roman setting out on a family holiday, I would get some old milker and do her up as if for a party. She'd have her hair washed and combed and cut, and there would be ribbons and purple woollen fillets about her horns.

Then my chums and I would decently cover our heads and we'd drone loads of stuff in Latin and chuck some sacred meal about the place; and then one of us would hold a handful of food under the poor old girl's nose, and as she bent her head to snuffle it up we would take this - praise be! - as a sign that she had assented to her death, and at that auspicious moment she would be whopped hard on the side of the head and her throat would be cut; and then Jupiter would nod, and Olympus would tremble, and the whole family would be able to go off on holidays with a clear conscience.

And the funny thing is that, if we wanted to pay our debt to the great green earth-goddess Gaia, and neutralise the ill-effects of going up in a plane, then, as far as I can see, killing a cow is still exactly the right thing to do, two thousand years later. I mean it. There are 1.3 billion cows on this planet, and every year each cow produces about 90kg of methane, and as greenhouse gases go, methane is about 24 times worse than CO2 in sealing the heat in the air. According to a recent report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, agriculture produces 18 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent - and that, my friends, is more than is produced by the entire human transport industry. Think of it: for every cow you killed, you would be ridding the world of 90kg of methane a year - easily enough, surely, to justify an Easyjet flight.

Now it may be that you are repelled by the idea of killing a cow, and you may think that the poor farmers will only be driven to breed a new one to replace it. But there are still plenty of other things you could do that would make more sense than planting trees with these carbon offset companies. You could make sure that your house was properly insulated. You could turn down the central heating and wear more sweaters; and if you really wanted to tackle global CO2 emissions, you would campaign for nuclear energy, since power production is responsible for 24 per cent of global emissions. Or better still you could help do something to stop Third World countries from burning the forests, which produces 18 per cent of CO2.

But, of course, people aren't interested in these kinds of facts. They want the religion. They want the sweet moralistic feeling of telling someone to stop doing something. They want to be able to rage about Chelsea Tractors and Tony Blair's flights, and they want to give vent to their feelings of disgust at the whole triumph of Western consumerist capitalism; and what worries me is that, in the end, the moralising mumbo-jumbo becomes more important than the scientific reality.

We face huge decisions, such as whether or not to allow scientists to use human genetic material in animal cells; and I want those decisions taken on the basis of whether or not the advance can help cure disease, not on the basis of "Frankenbunny" headlines.

We should cease our pagan yammering for sacrifice, and look at what the science really demands. It is a sign of our terrifying ignorance that so many would still prefer to plant a heat-producing tree than see the wisdom of the ancients, and kill a flatulent cow.


Watch the web for climate change truths

Writing in the Daily Telegraph (reproduced below), Christopher Booker gives a lucid summary of recent pesky findings

A notable story of recent months should have been the evidence pouring in from all sides to cast doubts on the idea that the world is inexorably heating up. The proponents of man-made global warming have become so rattled by how the forecasts of their computer models are being contradicted by the data that some are rushing to modify the thesis

So a German study, published by Nature last week, claimed that, while the world is definitely warming, it may cool down until 2015 "while natural variations in climate cancel out the increases caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions".

A little vignette of the media's one-sided view was given by recent events on Snowdon, the highest mountain in southern Britain. Each year between 2003 and 2007, the retreat of its winter snow cover inspired reports citing this as evidence of global warming. In 2004 scientists from the University of Bangor made headlines with the prediction that Snowdon might lose its snowcap altogether by 2020. In 2007 a Welsh MP, Lembit Opik, was saying "it is shocking to think that in just 14 years snow on this mountain could be nothing but a distant memory". Last November, viewing photographs of a snowless Snowdon at an exhibition in Cardiff, the Welsh environment minister, Jane Davidson, said "we must act now to reduce the greenhouse gases that cause climate change"

Yet virtually no coverage has been given to the abnormally deep spring snow which prevented the completion of a new building on Snowdon's summit for more than a month, and nearly made it miss the deadline for œ4.2 million of EU funding. (Brussels eventually extended the deadline to next autumn.)

Two weeks ago, as North America emerged from its coldest and snowiest winter for decades, the US National Climate Data Center, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a statement that snow cover in January on the Eurasian land mass had been the most extensive ever recorded, and that in the US March had been only the 63rd warmest since records began in 1895.

While global warming enthusiasts might take cheer from the NOAA's claim that "average global land temperature" in March was "the warmest on record", this was in striking contrast to a graph published last week on the Climate Audit website by Steve McIntyre. Tracking satellite data for the tropical troposphere, it showed March temperatures plunging to one of their lowest points in 30 years.

Mr McIntyre is the computer expert who exposed the infamous "hockey stick" graph - that icon of warmist orthodoxy which showed global temperatures soaring recently to their highest level for 1,000 years. He showed that the computer model that produced this graph had been so designed that it would have conjured even random numbers from a telephone directory into the shape of a hockey stick).

On April 24 the World Wildife Fund (WWF), another body keen to keep the warmist flag flying, published a study warning that Arctic sea ice was melting so fast that it may soon reach a "tipping point" where "irreversible change" takes place. This was based on last September's data, showing ice cover having shrunk over six months from 13 million square kilometres to just 3 million. What the WWF omitted to mention was that by March the ice had recovered to 14 million sq km (see the website Cryosphere Today), and that ice-cover around the Bering Strait and Alaska that month was at its highest level ever recorded. (At the same time Antarctic sea ice-cover was also at its highest-ever level, 30 per cent above normal).

The most dramatic evidence, however, emerged last week with an announcement by Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that an immense slow-cycling movement of water in the Pacific, known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), had unexpectedly shifted into its cool phase, something which only happens every 30 years or so, ultimately affecting climate all over the globe. Discussion of this on the invaluable Watts Up With That website, run by the US meteorologist Anthony Watts, shows how the alternations of the PDO between warm and cool coincided with each of the major temperature shifts of the 20th century - warming after 1905, cooling after 1946, warming again after 1977 - and how the new shift to a cool phase could have repercussions for decades to come.

It is notable that the German computer predictions published last week by Nature forecast a decade of cooling due to deep-ocean movements in the Atlantic, without taking account of how this may now be reinforced by a similar, even greater movement in the Pacific.

Mr Watts points out that the West coast of the USA might already be experiencing these effects in the recent freezing temperatures that have devastated orchards and vineyards in California, prompting an appeal for disaster relief for growers who fear they may have lost this year's crops. Mr Watts's readers are amused by the explanation from one warmist apologist that "these natural climate phenomena can sometimes hide global warming caused by human activities - or they can have the opposite effect of accentuating it".

It is striking, in view of the colossal implications of the current response to "the greatest challenge confronting mankind" - as our politicians love to call it - how this hugely important debate is almost entirely overlooked by the media, and is instead conducted largely on the internet, through expert websites such as those run by Mr McIntyre and Mr Watts.

On one hand our politicians are committing us to spending unimaginable sums on wind farms, emissions trading schemes, absurdly ambitious biofuel targets, and every kind of tax and regulation designed to reduce our "carbon footprint" - all based on blindly accepting the predictions of computer models that the planet is overheating due to our output of greenhouse gases. On the other hand, a growing number of scientists are producing ever more evidence to show how those computer models are based on wholly inadequate data and assumptions - as is being confirmed by the behaviour of nature itself (not least the continuing non-arrival of sunspot cycle 24).

The fact is that what has been happening to the world's climate in recent years, since global temperatures ceased to rise after 1998, was not predicted by any of those officially-sponsored models. The discrepancy between their predictions and observable data becomes more glaring with every month that passes.

It won't do for believers in warmist orthodoxy to claim that, although temperatures may be falling, this is only because they are "masking an underlying warming trend that is still continuing" - nor to fob us off with assurances that the "German model shows that higher temperatures than 1998, the warmest year on record, are likely to return after 2015".

In view of what is now at stake, such quasi-religious incantations masquerading as science are something we can no longer afford. We should get back to proper science before it is too late.


Can schools teach kids to think?

The introduction of `thinking skills' in British schools treats educational thought as a learned behaviour. But children are not dogs to be trained.

From September 2008, pupils starting secondary school in England are going to be taught to think. This begs the question, what have schools been doing up until now? Nevertheless, from now on young people are to be explicitly taught thinking skills. It is tempting to believe that this will result in the opening up of a new world of intellectual possibilities for young minds. but paradoxically, it is more likely to convince teachers and pupils alike that thinking is a conditioned reflex that just needs to be trained.

The promotion of the teaching of thinking skills is not new to education. The UK government has been encouraging the uptake of these ideas in secondary schools, as part of its attempt to drive up standards, for the past five years (1). But now the skills-based approach to learning has taken centre stage with the launch of the new national curriculum for 11- to 14-year-olds. The UK Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) published a `framework of personal, learning and thinking skills'. As the QCA says, this will give young people the skills `to enter work and adult life as confident and capable individuals'. According to the framework, pupils are to be encouraged to become `reflective learners', `creative thinkers', `team workers', `self-managers', `independent enquirers' and `effective participators'. This is the language of management training, not education. Deriving from the government's obsession with making education relevant to the perceived needs of business and society, the introduction of the explicit teaching of `thinking skills' is a political project.

The new national curriculum presents school education as a series of outcomes (2). Each outcome is explicitly a vision of the type of young people the QCA thinks society needs and wants. The actual subject matter of education only comes as an afterthought, hidden as a set of abbreviations in a minor strap line under `statutory expectations'. Clearly, according to the QCA, education is not about the transmission of knowledge. In fact, knowledge either gets in the way of learning transferable skills, or subjects are included only because they allow skills to be developed.

But surely introducing the teaching of thinking skills in the curriculum will improve pupils' chances of a good education? I beg to differ - for two reasons. First, the attempt to train pupils to think is based on a cognitive model of the human being as a biological machine. The attempt to teach thinking skills implies that thought is a learned behaviour, like a dog learning a trick. Once the trick is learned, apparently it happens automatically and, by definition, needs no further thought. The promotion of thinking skills is an attack on intellectual life, on thought itself.

Secondly, the promise of thinking skills is a hollow one. Even in its own terms, the development of thinking skills is about conditioning individual behaviour. It reduces the scope for creativity, the very thing it aspires to promote. We can't conjure up good ideas just by sitting down for half an hour and thinking about creating new ideas. The best that the thinking-skills approach has to offer is the illusion that good ideas are already there, just waiting for us to find them. This traps thought in our own heads. Creativity, like thought, is the result of an active engagement with society and with ideas themselves, not the action of a single mind trained inside a classroom environment.

During a recent training day for schoolteachers, I was asked to take part in an exercise based on (3) the approach to problem-solving developed in the book Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono, a well-known British physician, author, inventor and consultant. For this exercise we were given a problem and a card with one of the six hats explained on it. Each hat involves taking a different perspective (not necessarily your own) when discussing the problem at hand. The perspectives ranged from emotional, critical, objective, positive, creative to organisational. By discussing a problem from all these different perspectives, we are meant to arrive at `the answer', if it exists, in a faster, more systematic fashion.

The exercise was trivial, but what struck me was the introduction of de Bono into the classroom. Again, this is explicitly the language of management training rather than education. From this management perspective, knowledge is not considered to be very important. After all, business and management decisions are not made in the pursuit of knowledge - rather they are made in order to develop a position that can be defended and acted on. In the business world, once a decision is taken it must be transparent and accountable. Above all, decisions must be taken positively and leave no room for criticism. That is fine for management circles - but it is the very antithesis of the intellectual pursuit of knowledge, which must be more open-ended, more falsifiable, more open to continuing debate and development. De Bono made his name in the field of management consultancy - and what does that have to do with education?

De Bono himself is explicit about his suspicion of intellectualism. He says: `A true intellectual has as deep a fear of simplicity as a farmer has of droughts.' (4) His approach is the solution of problems in simple terms in the here and now. His approach is completely divorced from the intellectual tradition of human thought. In fact, argument and criticism - the tools of philosophers and thinkers in any serious field of knowledge - are to be dispensed with in the de Bono outlook, since they apparently lead to a `dangerous arrogance'. Instead, de Bono wants us to focus on positive, creative thinking and, as he calls it, `operacy'. By `operacy', he means `the skills of doing'. He warns us: `On a personal level, youngsters who do not acquire the skills of operacy will need to remain in an academic setting.'

It is no surprise, then, that de Bono is a fervent critic of school-based education. His books on education stress that his methods and not formal academic education are the real key to success. As he says in Teach Your Child How To Think, `Do not wait for school to do it. Where is "thinking" in the curriculum?' (5) He will be pleased to see that thinking is now included in the new national curriculum, and it's the kind of thinking he will approve of - a pared-down, simplistic view of thinking as a means to solving problems and `being creative'. In other words: anti-intellectual thinking.

Why are explicitly anti-intellectual thinkers like de Bono being included in school-training exercises and the development of the new curriculum? Why is thinking being taught as a skill separate and distinct from the pursuit of knowledge and education more broadly? These are worrying developments indeed, which are likely further to corrode excellence and ambition in British schools, and churn out children who are `skilled' but not very thoughtful or truly reflective. The paradox is that now, when we have all become obsessed with education, formal education is being torn down brick by brick. Learning about the intellectual tradition from which this society emerged is the best way to give young people a sense of where and who they are. This in turn will give them the basis upon which to struggle for a better society. No amount of empty-headed `brainstorming' sessions is going to bring about those kinds of ideas.


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