Sunday, October 12, 2008

Britain's candyfloss garbage collectors

"Health and safety" again. Just an excuse for an arrogant bureaucracy that cannot be bothered to do the work that people have been forced to pay for

A council is refusing to empty wheelie bins if they are left on gravel driveways - in case they injure binmen. Bosses at West Wiltshire district council fear stones could become trapped in the wheels and cause the bins to topple over. Only months ago the same council refused to empty wheelies which its binmen could not pull using just two fingers.

The latest policy came to light when binmen repeatedly refused to touch the bin left out by Mark Birkett, 38, in Trowbridge, because the wheels were on his gravel drive. Mr Birkett said: 'I can pull it 30ft down my drive but they cannot pull it just a few inches over gravel. 'They only have to pull the bins literally a couple of inches over the gravel and it is downhill. 'But I was told they would not be pulled across the gravel for health and safety reasons', Mr Birkett said.

'I laughed at first. I just could not believe it. I think these health and safety rules are bonkers.' 'I have to submit to these rules or else my bins are not emptied.'

Councillor Ernie Clark, who took up the case, said: 'It is health and safety gone mad. It is lunacy. It is not really even gravel. It is gravel compacted into a hard surface.' Following complaints, the council says it will now collect bins from loose driveways so long as they are the other way round with the wheels on the pavement.

In June, binmen in Warminster refused to empty a green bin because they could not lift it with two fingers.


Bureaucratized Britain again

Good Samaritan threatened with arrest after organising whip-round for oldster's $230 penalty fare. The conductor should be fired for sooling the police onto a kind man

Lena Ainscow was forced to hand over 115 pounds after a train conductor said she boarded the wrong train. Mr Wrigglesworth, a 32-year-old stand-up comedian from East London, intervened to help the pensioner and pleaded with the train guard for leniency. When he was told he should not interfere, he started a whip-round among fellow passengers.

He said: 'I couldn't sit there and let this helpless woman deal with it on her own. I got a paper bag from the buffet car and told the other passengers that if we all gave 50p or one pound we would get the money in no time. 'Everyone was happy to help and someone even put in 30 pounds.'

The ticket was duly bought, but when Mr Wrigglesworth got off the train at Euston he was met by transport police officers. He said: 'Thankfully a couple of the other passengers helped to explain. Once the police had been put in the picture they walked away.'

Mrs Ainscow said: 'Tom really spoke up for me - he was marvellous. The train was only half full. I don't know why the manager had to make me buy another ticket. 'It was a simple mistake - and not mine either.' Her daughter added: 'Tom has restored my faith in mankind. He was an angel. I dread to think what would have happened to my mother if he hadn't been there.'

A spokesman for Virgin Trains said: 'We apologise for the distress caused to both passengers and have launched an investigation into the incident.'


Scottish government soft on illegals

The policies advocated below come from the new Scottish Nationalist government and tend to show that even a Nationalist government is still to the Left of Britain as a whole. Overall, Scots are an immovable Leftist lump in Britain -- reminiscent of Jews in the USA

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill clashed with senior immigration officials yesterday over the impact that major reforms to UK asylum law would have in Scotland. Setting out the Scottish Government's "clear lines in the sand", Mr MacAskill said he was opposed to detaining children prior to removal from the country and wanted to see asylum seekers integrated into communities from "day one" of their arrival in the UK.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Scottish Refugee Council in Glasgow, the minister also backed the idea of allowing people to work while their asylum claim is being processed.

His stance is likely to inflame tensions between the devolved administration and Westminster, which has reserved power over asylum and immigration issues, ahead of an overhaul of legislation which is intended to simplify decades of separate laws covering both issues.

As part of the consultation on the Immigration and Citizenship Bill, due to be laid before parliament early next year, First Minister Alex Salmond has written to the Home Secretary to push for a "flexible" approach which would take account of Scotland's situation and ensure its effect on devolved areas of responsibility were highlighted, Mr MacAskill said. He added: "We welcome moves to speed up the immigration process and bring greater transparency. But we have to ensure that Scotland's particular needs, as well as values, are taken account of. "Asylum seekers and refugees who move to Scotland bring with them valuable skills and experiences and it makes sense for us and for them to utilise those."

The Justice Secretary also disclosed that the Borders and Immigration Agency (BIA) is working with the Scottish Government, SRC and councils to pilot an alternative system of removing families whose asylum claims have been rejected to avoid the need to lock them up in removal centres such as Dungavel, in Lanarkshire.

Lin Homer, BIA's chief executive who attended yesterday's conference in Glasgow, said she welcomed consultation and was open to the idea of regional variations in applying UK asylum policy - an approach which she said had already borne fruit with the establishment of the regional BIA covering Scotland and Northern Ireland. But she added: "We're not after a position where there are basic differences in how asylum applicants are treated in the system depending on where they enter. That seems to go against their human rights and the basic principle that you have to be consistent across the piece."

Ms Homer said the UK Government was opposed to allowing asylum seekers to work while their claim was being processed and wanted to ensure they integrated into communities only if they received approval to remain in the UK. But she claimed BIA has had notable success in bringing down the time it takes to process asylum claims and was now on target to finalise 60% of claims within six months by the end of the year.


Down with the filthy rich misanthropes

Recent events confirm that anti-human super-wealthy capitalists are in the vanguard of climate change hysteria

Many green activists and commentators think that anyone who dares to criticise the apparent consensus on the science and politics of climate change must be in the pay of big business. In truth, as a meeting in London on Monday night powerfully illustrated, the megabucks are really on the side of those who think humanity is screwing up the planet.

The event was the launch of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. Like a few people, I assumed that the `Grantham' bit referred to the birthplace of an earlier promoter of climate change fears, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. In fact, it refers to the wealthy chairman of GMO, a large investment management company: Jeremy Grantham. Grantham has donated 12million pounds to the London School of Economics (LSE) to fund the institute. He has also forked out another 12million to Imperial College London for the similarly named Grantham Institute for Climate Change (1)

No wonder, then, that the chair of LSE, Howard Davies - once the head of the Financial Services Authority and a former deputy governor of the Bank of England - was more than a little fawning over the `extremely generous' Grantham. The new LSE institute will be headed by Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the UK government-commissioned report, The Economics of Climate Change, published in 2006. The Stern Review argued that the costs of reducing CO2 emissions to avoid climate change would be far lower than the costs of failing to take action, using assumptions that attracted considerable scorn from other economists (2). With Lord Nick at the helm, we can be sure that the institute will not be a hotbed of climate scepticism but rather will be intellectual armoury for those who want to clamp down on economic development.

Stern was the main attraction at the launch on Monday, but Grantham's introductory remarks were the most illuminating: they provided a startling insight into the pessimism of today's super-rich. Grantham declared: `Climate change is far and away the most important issue in finance, in government, in life in general. I believe firmly that Malthius [sic] was right. he just got his timing wrong. We're engaged in the third great die-off since the beginning of the earth. The first was definitely caused by a meteorite, the second one probably was, and the third one has been caused by the effect of humans hitting the earth about as powerfully as a meteorite. We've been around for about 500,000 years and for 99 per cent of that time, we were a pretty harmless species. We ended up with about 15million people, 5,000 years ago. Then, in the final one per cent of our lives, we went from 15million to six-and-a-half billion. Needless to say, we can't repeat that multiplying effect.'

Grantham went on to say that most of this `action' had in fact occurred over the past 300 years, with the boom in population coming about as a result of what he described as `the unfortunate hydrocarbon revolution'. Presumably, he was referring to the benefits of coal, gas and oil which have allowed billions of people to live in relative comfort to a ripe old age for the first time in human existence, at least in the developed world. However, such trifles are of little concern to a man whose company handles $150billion of assets. At a time when greens ask why their critics take money from big business, it is just as relevant to ask why famous universities like LSE and Imperial are tugging their institutional forelocks to a moneybag misanthrope like Grantham. (Though with the humanity-hating John Gray also on the LSE staff, Grantham must seem like a little ray of sunshine.)

For Grantham, the idea of setting up the LSE institute came after `the penny had dropped that the hard science was slowly and finally winning an uphill struggle against what we in the US call "the deniers", who have been a powerful and effective lobby. Now the war, the frontline, is really in the economics and the cost of all this. There, the opposition is much more formidable. There are serious, respectable, well-respected economists who disagree with the good guys. They are completely misguided, but they are respectable.' Note the implication that those who have criticised the science of climate change are anything but respectable.

There is no doubt what direction this institute will take. The Stern Review was a hugely important piece of advocacy research, precisely designed to counter all those foolish types who believe that spending a fortune dragging society towards some kind of low-carbon future might be irrational in the absence of viable technology. Now the war on the `misguided' will have the backing of the LSE's reputation, too.

The notion that it is climate change sceptics who have been buying influence looks pretty shabby when viewed in the context of Grantham's remarks. The world of climate change hysteria has numerous big political backers, like Thatcher, former US vice-president Al Gore, and current British prime minister Gordon Brown, who commissioned the Stern Review when he was chancellor of the exchequer. High-level figures in the upper echelons of many big firms - including fossil fuel companies such as Shell and BP that have faced so much criticism from greens - have declared that climate change is the number one issue facing humanity. Multibillionaire Richard Branson, airline boss and wannabe spaceline boss through Virgin Galactic, declared last month: `To my mind there is no greater or more immediate challenge than that posed by climate change.'

Then there are those whose wealth is inherited, like Zac Goldsmith - worth roughly œ300million - who publishes the Ecologist magazine, and David de Rothschild, a member of the super-rich banking family and author of the personal austerity guide, The Global Warming Survival Handbook (4). For a long time, the money and the influence have been on the side of the greens. Not the smelly, unwashed treehuggers, of course - posh though many of them are - but the ones walking the corridors of power in politics and business.

One greenie with influence who has been in the news rather a lot lately is the US treasury secretary, Henry Paulson. The man in charge of saving the US banking system has apparently spent $100million of his personal wealth on environmental causes - with the whole lot, some $700million, promised to conservation when his body decides to `bail out' from this mortal coil (5). And Paulson is not only generous with his own cash: as boss of Goldman Sachs, he persuaded the board to hand over 680,000 acres of forest in Tierra del Fuego owned by the bank to the Wildlife Conservation Society, whose board of trustees includes Paulson's son, Merritt

It may not come as a shock to find that those involved heavily in the unproductive, if still important, sphere of finance should believe that there is little point to the human race. When you are a member of a strand of society that is widely regarded as parasitic on the rest, the notion that the whole of humanity is parasitical on the planet is not a huge intellectual leap. But once you have ruled out suicide as an option, you need some reason to keep going. `Saving the planet' has become a mission statement both for the pointlessly rich and the political class. As former UK chancellor Nigel Lawson noted in a talk at the LSE bookshop in July, people `want to believe there is more to life than everyday getting and spending' - and that includes the fabulously wealthy and the politically ambitious.

It's not just a matter of finding a worldview to provide a sense of purpose. In the midst of a financial crisis, some might argue that environmental concerns should be the last thing on our minds. But along with his blunt demand that Europeans must cut their per capita CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 (for Americans, he argued for a 90 per cent cut), Lord Stern also suggested on Monday night that perhaps the way out of the financial crisis was to embrace the environmental outlook. Renewable energy and energy conservation, green manufacturing and a low-carbon infrastructure could be just the ticket, he suggested, to boost the economy. Far from being anti-growth, he said, going green could be good for our wallets as well as our conscience.

It is certainly true that there are plenty of eco-entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on our fear of the future, doing everything from building windmills to trading carbon emission licences. But it seems unlikely that an emphasis on reducing the human impact on the planet, rather than expanding our capacity to generate wealth and provide for the billions of people living on next-to-nothing, could be in the interests of anyone but the new green elites. No wonder they're splashing the cash.


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