Friday, July 09, 2010
New British PM talks big about power to the people
You might be forgiven for flying your Gadsden flag over this but will it actually happen? Sadly, this is Britain and we have heard it all before: From Tony Blair. If it brings any changes at all, it is most likely to mean more power to local busybodies. But I hope I am wrong
David Cameron will today promise to 'completely change' the way Britain is run by giving people real power over schools, hospitals, police and other public services.
The Prime Minister will outline what is being seen as a 'Blair-plus' reform agenda as he insists the coalition is not only interested in paying off the country's unprecedented budget deficit.
The Prime Minister will promise to 'turn government on its head' by taking power away from Whitehall and devolving it to people and communities.
The Government, he will say, intends to introduce 'competition and choice' throughout public services - a pledge that echoes the failed ambitions of 'ultra' supporters of the former prime minister Tony Blair, including Alan Milburn.
State monopolies will be smashed, with charities, businesses and even individuals invited to run schools, back-to-work schemes and other public services.
The coalition also favours the principle of paying providers by results to drive up performance.
It will combine this with its own 'big society' agenda, which will empower individuals by giving them more local democratic control - through elected police commissioners and more local referendums, for instance - and introducing transparency, so they can see how their money is being spent.
Every Government department will be required to publish a plan setting outs its priorities and 'measurable milestones', so anyone can check whether they are meeting their commitments. So-called 'structural reform plan' will replace Labour's old, top-down systems of targets and central mismanagement, the Prime Minister will say.
Speaking to an audience of 450 civil servants at a conference in London, the Prime Minister will say: 'People are making a big mistake if they think this Government is just about sorting out the deficit. 'That's not why I came into politics. It's not what the coalition came together for. We came together to change our country for the better in every way: the best schools open to the poorest children, a first-class NHS there for everyone, streets that are safe, families that are stable, communities that are strong.
'These ambitions haven't died because the money is tight. The real question is: how can we achieve these aims when there is so little money? How can this circle be squared? 'The answer is reform – radical reform. We need to completely change the way this country is run.'
Mr Cameron will say he is not criticising everything Labour did - but insist they went wrong with their 'top-down, controlling, bureaucratic' approach to public services. They created a system of 'bureaucratic accountability' in which almost everything was measured or judged against a set of targets and performance indicators, monitored, measured and inspected centrally.
'That was the past. Now we have a new government. A new coalition government, with a new approach. We intend to do things differently, very differently,' Mr Cameron will say. 'If I could describe in one line the change we plan for the way we approach public services, and reform generally, it's this: we want to replace the old system of bureaucratic accountability with a new system of democratic accountability – accountability to the people, not the government machine.
'We want to turn government on its head, taking power away from Whitehall and putting it into the hands of people and communities. ' We want to give people the power to improve our country and public services, through transparency, local democratic control, competition and choice. 'To give you just one example: instead of teachers thinking they have to impress the Department of Education, they have to impress local parents as they have a real choice over where to send their child.
'It really is a total change in the way our country is run: from closed systems to open markets, from bureaucracy to democracy, from big government to big society, from politician power to people power.'
Transportation Stupid Agency
Once again, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has distinguished itself as guardians of our security for airline travel. Certainly, in a post-9/11 world we have to expect that there will inevitably be some level of security to guard against terrorism. But you have to wonder what the "S" in TSA really stands for. Consider these two news stories from late June.
First, it seems that TSA needs to learn a lesson or two in common courtesy when it comes to airline passengers who are amputees (although some might say that’s true more generally). According to amputee Peggy Chenoweth who was flying with her 4-year old son:
"I had just been put in the plexiglass screening booth – which I expected. My 4-year-old son was made to sit across from me, crying because they would not let him touch me. Everyone was looking at us. Then the TSA agent asked for my prosthetic leg. I knew they could wand my leg, but he insisted on taking it from me. And if that wasn’t humiliating enough, he asked for the liner sock that covers my residual limb, saying I had to give it to him. I felt pressured to give him my liner even though it is critical to keep it sanitary. I was embarrassed to have my residual limb exposed in public."
Although TSA claims to have procedures for properly screening disabled passengers and that "under no circumstances is it TSA’s policy to ask a passenger to remove his/her prosthetic during screening," three-fourths of those surveyed (7,300 amputees out of about 1.7 million in the United States) by the Amputee Coalition of America said they were unsatisfied by their most recent airport screening experience. Among the complaints:
* Not being screened by a TSA agent of the same gender
* Not being allowed to have a caregiver accompany them into the screening room
* Being forced to lift their clothing during random checks for explosives
* And some amputees have had to submit to an inordinate number of x-rays to get through the screening process:
o Jeff from Denver: "TSA confiscated my vacuum system required to fit my prosthetic legs. I told them I need those tools to put on my legs. Without them, it can’t be done. They eventually gave them back after I boarded the plane, but it would have been more appropriate to have a conversation with me about it and let me know. Had they not given the tools back, I could not have put on my legs for my entire trip. This was the worst of my many TSA experiences, but because I fly a lot, I am also concerned about the level of radiation to which I am exposed. I have had as many as 20 exposures during one trip."
o Leslie from Minneapolis: "While I consider myself a seasoned amputee traveler, my situation brought me to tears for the inequity that I experienced because of having a prosthetic leg. I was led to a small room without being told where I was going and my husband wasn’t allowed to accompany me. Ten X-rays were taken of my leg, so I was concerned and inquired about the amount of radiation, but was given no answers. The TSA screeners made me stand on six unsecured, stacked storage bins. I told them it wasn’t safe – I only have one leg."
How hard is it to come up with a standard procedure for passengers with prosthetics? First and foremost, such screening needs to protect those passengers’ privacy – as well as accommodating their unique situation, such as allowing a caregiver to accompany them. It would seem that a simple wanding of the prosthetic to detect for suspicious metal would, in most instances, be enough to determine whether a more invasive search (such as running the prosthetic through x-ray) is warranted. And if for some reason it becomes absolutely necessary to remove a prosthetic, it could be chemically swabbed to detect explosives.
To be fair to TSA employees, a big part of the problem is lack of training – as well as proper supervision to ensure proper procedures are being followed. Compound that with the fact that being a government employee (or contract employee) largely means following all the rules and regulations without leeway for interpretation or the ability to use judgment. Or put another way, common sense is often not allowed to prevail. Indeed, it can be cause for punishment.
Speaking of common sense, how about the fact that 6-year old Alyssa Thomas is on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) infamous no-fly list? According to a TSA spokesperson, "The watch lists are an important layer of security to prevent individuals with known or suspected ties to terrorism from flying." Since Allyssa was allowed to fly on the day the Thomases were told that her name was on the no-fly list, she clearly isn’t a threat. But even though the Thomases have appealed to DHS to have their daughter’s name removed from the no-fly list, they’ve been told that nothing in Alyssa’s file will be changed. [This is exactly why Senator Lautenberg's (D-NJ) proposed legislation to prevent people on the no-fly list from being able to purchase a firearm is a dumb idea, not to mention unconstitutional – unless there are other legal reasons, such as being Osama bin Laden or a convicted felon, other than being on the no-fly list.]
This is what $7 billion (TSA’s annual budget, which is part of the $55 billion Department of Homeland Security budget) of your tax dollars buys you. Transportation Stupid Agency.
Britain has a small conservative political party called UKIP which wants Britain out of the EU. I agree with them. I think NAFTA would be a much better fit for Britain. Anyway, UKIP have a brilliant speaker named Nigel Farage. Ironically, he is a member of the EU parliament! He knows how to give them what for, however. His latest speech there is about the fact that the EU parliament has a presidency that changes every six months and it has just become Belgium's turn to preside. Mr Farage is NOT impressed by Belgium! Fun video here. I think he is even more outspoken than Sarah Palin!
Another triumph of U.S. airport security: "In what’s being called ‘an incredible comedy of errors’ that has embarrassed U.S. officials, four semiautomatic pistols belonging to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bodyguards vanished after arriving at New York’s JFK Airport, the New York Post reports. A source characterized the hunt for the 9mm Glock 17s as ‘priority No. 1 in American law enforcement.’ The paper says the pistols were among seven guns in the bodyguards’ luggage that arrived at dawn Sunday on an El Al flight from Israel.”
3 years down the track, there’s no recovery, just more hard times ahead: "Yes, there have been times when the economic data looked promising. During some weeks first time unemployment claims have been down. The economy has grown between two and three percent some months. And there have even been some months when new home sales have swelled and the prices of houses in general have increased. But the fact of the matter is that the worst of the crisis is yet to come and of course like the initial crisis which has lasted for close to three years already it will be Washington’s fault.”
The rout of Obamanomics: "In February 2009, I published a commentary in the Wall Street Journal entitled ‘Reaganomics v. Obamanomics,’ which pointed out that President Obama’s economic policies were exactly the opposite of President Reagan’s. I predicted that as a result they would produce exactly the opposite results. Art Laffer has produced a far more sophisticated argument advancing a similar analysis. But the June unemployment report released last Friday shows an economy doing much worse at this point than even I expected.”
Rogernomics needed in Britain: "Full marks to the dynamic Simon Walker of the British Venture Capital Association, who brought his fellow New Zealander Sir Roger Douglas over to explain how to turn around a failing economy and overblown government That’s what he did as NZ Finance Minister in just three short years in the 1980s. Even though he was a Labour Minister, he ripped into trade protections and subsidies, ended exchange controls, cut the deficit, halved income tax, let markets and not the state lead development, and brought honesty and transparency to government accounting. His key messages? Act decisively, and act quickly. You only get one shot at this. Don’t give the special-interest groups time to band together and drag you down.”
Fear of China is overblown: "‘When the Chinese become our overlords, will they be benevolent overlords — or horrific taskmasters?’ The Daily Show host Jon Stewart made that joke three years ago, but American anxiety over China’s rise is more intense today. The good news is that our anxieties are often misdirected — we fret more about dying in rare plane crashes than in common highway accidents. Is the current Sinophobia also overblown? When I give talks about my new book on China, people often ask me fearful questions about everything from Beijing’s large holding of US Treasury notes to its military buildup. I try to put their anxieties in perspective with these five points.”
Repeal the drinking age: "Somehow, and no one seems to even imagine how, this country managed to survive and thrive before 1984 without a national minimum drinking age. Before that, the drinking question was left to the states. In the 19th century, and looking back even before –– prepare yourself to imagine horrific anarchistic nightmares — there were no drinking laws anywhere, so far as anyone can tell.”
New York Times cluelessness, Part IX: "Okay, I admit I haven’t counted the exact number of stupid New York Times stories that I’ve blogged about, but it’s roughly nine. This time they ran a big story about Wal-Mart Inc.’s Sam’s Club: introducing a program in which it facilitates loans for shoppers of up to $25,000, backed by the Small Business Administration. … The Times suggests that such ‘facilitation’ is an exciting new sales promotion: retailers are taking matters into their own hands. … taking bold steps. … What? What’s bold? This is just crony capitalism. Sam’s Club uses government to help itself, and compliant government rips you off. If Wal-Mart really wanted to loan its customers money to help them buy stuff at Sam’s Club, fine. But why the heck is the SBA involved? It’s involved because we sucker taxpayers allow the SBA to reimburse up to 85% of the loan if a borrower defaults. Sounds familiar (remember Fannie and Freddie’s guarantees?).”
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 12:24 AM