Saturday, August 16, 2008

Life In A Socialist Nanny State: When Petty Bureaucrats Have Power Over Life & Death

As this poster makes clear, the old warnings were nothing if not prescient.

Consider this scenario. A boat used by a local unit of eleven Coast Guard volunteers is awaiting repairs that are not scheduled until mid-summer. The volunteers decide to pay $4,000 out of their own pockets to have the repairs made immediately so that the boat will be available during the summer vacation season. Nonetheless, the Coast Guard is in no hurry to inspect the boat and, despite the repairs, keeps it listed as out of service pending an inspection scheduled several weeks down the road. The boat is still awaiting safety inspection when a life and death emergency strikes.

A girl is pulled 150 yards out to sea by a rip tide. There is a good chance she might drown.

The volunteers radio HQ for permission to launch. Permission is not forthcoming.

The volunteers "loose radio contact" with HQ. They launch their boat.

They save the girl's life. All return safely to shore.

What happens next?

The answer to that question depends on where you live. If you happen to live in socialist Britain, where the state now has ever expanding authority over every aspect of your life, then the Maritime & Coastguard Agency impounds your boat and threatens you with discipline. The fact that the boat had been repaired is meaningless without their beauracratic imprimatur - which they will only damn well get to when they decide they have the time. The fact that a girl's life was at stake is, on their scales, of lesser importance.

There really is an ever widening gap, actually its a canyon now, between the rank and file of Britain - who in fact are the heirs of William the Bastard, Nelson, and Churchill - and the chattering class who hold all the reigns of power in Britain - and who are the heirs to Robspierre and Marx. Here is the story from the Times - and my hats off to the leader of this Coast Guard unit who "lost radio contact" and launched to save this girl's life while MCA looked through its inspection records:

A volunteer coastguard crew face disciplinary action after going to the rescue of a teenage swimmer in a boat that had recently been repaired and was awaiting a seaworthiness inspection.

The four crewmen were on duty at Hope Cove in South Devon when the 15-year-old girl was swept out to sea by a powerful rip tide. They braved heavy surf to launch their 17ft rigid inflatable.

The girl was rescued by a diver and the coastguard crew brought her ashore. But within hours their boat had been confiscated and the station officer and his crew had been threatened with disciplinary action.

The boat had been out of service since June and the 11-strong crew, fed up with waiting for it to be repaired by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), spent £2,000 of their own money on the work. But the repairs had yet to be approved and the boat - which has rescued more than 120 people since 2000 – was languishing in the boathouse at the pretty fishing village awaiting a further inspection.

Ian Pedrick, 49, the station officer, radioed for permission to launch the boat because the girl was already 150 yards out to sea but the crew lost radio contact with coastguard headquarters at Brixham and went ahead with the rescue. [Heh]

Within three hours the boat was towed away by a senior MCA officer and is now locked in a garage at their office five miles away in Kingsbridge.

Mr Pedrick, who runs the Hope and Anchor pub near the beach, said that he had been ordered by the MCA not to comment on the incident.

Dave Clark, aged 54, a recently retired coastguard, said: “Everyone in the village is very angry. They feel the crew are being punished for trying to save a life.

“The boat at Hope Cove is vital because it takes 25 minutes for the lifeboat to get from Salcombe and a swimmer could easily drown. When the MCA withdrew the boat in June they said it would be for six weeks but the crew wanted it back as soon as possible so they paid for the repairs themselves.

“They were then told it had to stay off service until it was surveyed and that would have taken it out for the whole of the summer season. Anyone would have done the same thing when they saw the girl in trouble.”

A spokesman for the MCA said: “The health and safety of the boat crews and those who they may render assistance to is of paramount importance.”

He added: “Search-and-rescue effectiveness will not be compromised by the suspension of the general purpose boat. These general purpose boats are additional facilities and are not generally used as part of the first response to an incident.

“We have identified serious breaches of health and safety procedures and they are currently being investigated. The boat has been stood down for a further eight weeks while we investigate the possibility of repair or replacement.”

Read the entire story. This is, at its very basic, a contest between Soviet style state bureaucrats who want to exercise complete power and control and people who, in the traditions of Western civilization, are willing to exercise individual responsibity. Roland White, who did an article on this issue some months ago, hits precisely on the nature of the problem - the division of power between individuals and the state:

Having conducted a thorough risk assessment, I must warn you that the following item may have an adverse effect on your blood pressure. It is a familiar tale of life under the health and safety terror. If you feel like banging your head against a wall upon reading it, please wear the appropriate protective helmet.

The stories are legendary: school trips have been cancelled; children are forced to wear protective goggles while playing conkers; pantomime actors have been told not to throw sweets into the audience; and no self-respecting bag of nuts now comes without the warning: “May contain nuts”. The good news is that somebody has at last decided to take action. The bad news is that it’s Gordon Brown, who never takes even the slightest of political risks without a full safety harness.

To judge the extent of the problem, perhaps you would care to join me on the cliff edge at Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Cleveland, from which 13-year-old Faye Harrison was clinging by her fingertips one cold day last January. Imagine Faye’s relief when the coastguard arrived in the reassuring shape of Paul Waugh, a rescue volunteer with a dozen years’ experience.

Deciding that it would take too long to fetch the proper safety equipment, he immediately climbed down to help her. It was a big risk but by that time Faye was clutching at tufts of grass with nothing but the icy sea below her. . . . For the next half an hour he clung to Faye until they could be winched to safety.

You would think the Maritime and Coastguard Agency would have celebrated another job well done, wouldn’t you? But what happened instead was an internal inquiry into a breach of health and safety regulations. Paul resigned from the service in disgust.

. . . [Sir Norman Bettison, chief constable of West Yorkshire] accused the “health and safety Taliban” of stopping police from serving the public. He recalled the incident in Oxfordshire in 2004 when two women were shot at a barbecue party and died because police and ambulance crews had been ordered to stay at a safe distance. “I can tell you, as a police professional with some experience of firearms incidents, that it is the health and safety zealots who are responsible,” he said.

That incident was the tip of a very large iceberg. Little by little health and safety is chipping away at life’s small pleasures. Just last week Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, reported that teachers were reluctant to take students on geography field trips. Not long afterward, an amateur dramatic group in Cornwall revealed that it had been ordered to keep two plastic swords and a popgun under lock and key after performances of Robinson Crusoe.

Everybody probably has their own example: just down the road from me a little playground – nothing more than a couple of swings – was closed because the parish council could no longer afford the insurance.

. . . To save us from this rising tide (at least until the coastguard can bring their safety harnesses) Brown has done what all politicians do in a crisis. He has set up a committee. . . .

Can the real problem be solved by a committee? No, because the real problem lies at the heart of modern politics: dividing the balance of responsibility between the individual and the state. Can you and I risk fairy cakes at the WI fete, or must the law decide that our health must come first and ban such items? Or, if not ban them, make it too expensive to insure the fete? [emphasis added]

If you look at it that way, Brown is not best placed to provide the solution: he is part of the problem. Last year it was revealed that Labour has added an average of 2,685 new laws and regulations each year since coming to power in 1997. You cannot even enjoy a glass of wine at home now without feeling the righteous wrath of Dawn Primarolo, the health minister. . . .

Read the entire article. As I have said many times, Britain of today is a laboratory experiment on the ill effects of socialism grafted on top of the traditions of Western civilization. The experiment is becoming more unstable by the day.

In the meantime, if you happen to go swimming in Hope Cove and suffer an emergency, your life depends on your ability to keep your head above water for half an hour to an hour, until an officially inspected rescue boat from the MCA is able to reach you. At least for the next eight weeks. Until the MCA conducts their twenty minute sea worthiness inspection of the Hope Cove boat.

(H/T Brits At Their Best and an Englishman's Castle)


KG said...

The situation in New Zealand and Australia hasn't reached the full-blown madness of Britain, but it will.
The rule of law is now utterly meaningless, since effectively any little weasel apparatchik can order citizens about, spy on them and invade their privacy on the slightest pretext.
What to do? No major political party offers relief from this, not least because it suits them very well to have a captive, compliant population.
The only possible answer is civil disobedience on a massive scale, a revolt so huge that our lords and masters will be powerless to do a damn thing about it. Any brave individual standing up to these fascists will be picked off for little gain.
Civil disobedience first. If that fails, then insurrection and civil war. Ugly as the prospect is, the choice will be between civil war and the hope of liberty at the end of it...or slavery, the life of the battery hen with the added insult of paying our jailers from the sweat of our own brows.

feeblemind said...

A few years ago, a prairie fire broke out in the National Grassland near Valentine, NE. The locals, as they always do when there is a prairies fire, rushed to the scene to put out the fire. At the scene of the fire there were two gov't employees watching the fire while eating lunch. They explained to the locals that the Feds would put out the fire, but it could not be fought until they went to a meeting to plan strategy for fighting the fire. After lunch. Well, the locals put out the fire and then found themselves in trouble with the Government because they were not 'qualified' to put out fires. No Government training you see. I fear we are not that far behind the UK.

Soccer Dad said...

I watched Ghostbusters last night with two of my children. Reminds me of the EPA guy.

Ymarsakar said...

Hrmph, and people continue to wonder why I support the execution of bureaucrats as a discipline solution.