The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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Postmodernism is fundamentally frivolous. Postmodernists routinely condemn racism and intolerance as wrong but then say that there is no such thing as right and wrong. They are clearly not being serious. Either they do not really believe in moral nihilism or they believe that racism cannot be condemned!

Postmodernism is in fact just a tantrum. Post-Soviet reality in particular suits Leftists so badly that their response is to deny that reality exists. That they can be so dishonest, however, simply shows how psychopathic they are.


31 October, 2012

More on anti-Branson bias in the British bureaucracy

Envy of success is very British -- and Mr Branson is very successful

The Transport Department was biased against Sir Richard Branson’s bid to continue running the West Coast mainline, a damning interim report into the fiasco reveals today.

The independent investigation into the scandal highlights ‘significant errors’, ‘weak governance’, and a ‘flawed process’ in which ‘bidders were treated inconsistently’.

The contract to run the West Coast mainline franchise for 13 years was originally awarded to First Group over Virgin.

However, a legal challenge by Sir Richard cited significant flaws in the process forced the Government to abandon the decision and re-run the bidding.

The findings vindicate charges by Virgin and others revealed in the Daily Mail that there was an in-built bias against the Virgin bid which has been characterised as ‘ABB’, or ‘Anyone But Branson’.....

Derogatory emails about Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains were allegedly sent between civil servants.

The messages were between a dozen staff at the Department for Transport, which has been accused of allowing the development of a culture characterised as ‘ABB – Anyone But Branson’.

The Government awarded the new £7billion franchise to FirstGroup, but cancelled it before the planned handover in December after Sir Richard’s Virgin group, which offered £700million less, made a successful legal challenge on the grounds that the Government ‘got its sums wrong’.

An insider revealed: ‘There is electronic e-mail traffic between the officials. In some of them Virgin is referred to in derogatory terms. Some people sent these messages, others received them.’

Virgin executives had long been concerned about the perception of an ‘anti-Virgin’ bias and culture within the department characterised as ‘Anyone But Branson’.

Industry insiders said Whitehall officials – some of whom had worked for more traditional train operators – disliked the firm’s maverick approach.

There was allegedly deep resentment when Virgin renegotiated the terms of the West Coast franchise in 2006 on terms which ‘nailed them to the floor’.

‘Some people in the department felt they were stitched up,’ said one source. ‘It’s a catalogue of calamities.’

Three civil servants have been suspended by the Departmernt as a result of the fiasco.


Half of all burglars are not sent to prison in Britain, even though most have many prior convictions

Burglars with a string of previous convictions are being spared jail, prompting calls for Ministers to toughen up on sentencing.

New figures show the average burglar now has 12 break-ins to their name, the highest number ever recorded. More than 3,000 convicted last year had been found guilty at least 20 times before.

Despite this, half the burglars were given fines or community sentences rather than being sent to prison.

The revelation has led to demands that the Government honours its promise to get tough on law and order, after Prime Minister David Cameron encouraged homeowners to ‘bash a burglar’ and said all community sentences should have a ‘punitive’ element.

The statistics were uncovered by Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, who said: ‘Anyone who has ever had their home burgled knows the terrible pain and misery this violation of private space causes.

The figures I have obtained confirm that the vast majority of burglars have committed numerous previous crimes, often with inappropriate sentences handed down. This will rightly shock Mail on Sunday readers.

‘Victims of burglary will ask why our criminal justice system is failing them. But for 29 months of David Cameron’s Government, all we’ve seen are stunts, smokescreens and rehashed announcements.

‘We won’t stop burglaries by cutting police officers and reducing the power of judges.’

Burglary has been high on the political agenda for the past two months since a couple were arrested for fighting back against intruders who broke in to their isolated cottage in Leicestershire.

Andy Ferrie and his wife Tracey spent almost three days in police cells after Mr Ferrie blasted the gang with a shotgun, but the threat of charges was eventually dropped. The case prompted a vow by Conservative Ministers to clarify the law to give householders the right to defend their property against intruders unless they used ‘grossly disproportionate’ force.

The most senior judge in England and Wales, the Lord Chief Justice, has said burglary is a crime against the person as well as their property because it destroys victims’ peace of mind. But there was controversy last month when Judge Peter Bowers, sitting at Teesside Crown Court, told a burglar he would ‘take a chance’ and spare him jail, adding that it took a ‘huge amount of courage’ to break into someone’s house.

Figures released to Parliament by the Ministry of Justice show just how few burglars are jailed, despite many of them being career criminals. Of the burglary cases in 2011 where offenders were sentenced, just over half were sent to prison.

Others were fined, given absolute or conditional discharges, or community or suspended sentences.

In total, 3,437 burglars sentenced last year had more than 20 previous convictions to their names – twice as many as a decade ago.

Although thousands of burglars were spared prison, the total number of houses being broken into has fallen by half in recent decades, mainly as a result of better home security, dropping to 245,317 in 2011-12.

Nick de Bois, the Conservative MP for Enfield North and a member of the Justice Select Committee, supported Mr Khan’s call for tougher measures. He said: ‘The figures show that soft-touch sentencing for repeat offenders does not work.

‘If a criminal is given a second chance and goes on to burgle people’s homes again, they should face a long jail sentence.

‘Community sentences and short jail terms are not working.’

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘We are tackling the shamefully high reoffending rates by introducing a rehabilitation revolution.

‘Breaking in to someone’s home is a serious crime, and burglars face sentences of up to 14 years, or life sentences for aggravated burglary. There is also a mandatory minimum three-year sentence for offenders convicted of a third domestic burglary.

‘Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for the independent judges.’


War on 'holiday camp' jail perks as British Prisons Minister calls for privileges to be earned through hard work and good behaviour

Outrageous prisoner perks look likely to be axed in a shake-up of cushy jail rules.

A full review – the first for more than a decade – will examine the lax regimes which allow inmates to lounge in their cells all day, watching daytime TV or playing video games.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright told the Daily Mail he was worried too many inmates were routinely handed ‘privileges’ they should have to earn through good behaviour and hard work.

He said: ‘I want to ensure that the public have confidence in the prison system. 'It is crucial that they are assured that any privileges earned in prison are gained through hard work and appropriate behaviour.’ ‘I am looking closely at the policy around the incentives scheme for prisoners, which has not been fully reviewed since 1999.

‘There may be clear and important operational reasons for this policy but I want to be clear that these incentives are pitched at the right level and that they have credibility with the public.’

Currently, prisoners enter jail on a ‘standard’ regime, which automatically gives them certain entitlements, including in-cell television.

They are only bumped down to the basic regime if they step out of line. Each prison devises its own scheme for how privileges are handed out.

Inmates can ‘earn’ entitlements to in-cell television, more visits, higher pay when they work, the right to wear their own clothes and access to their own money. Inmates are offered a string of digital channels, including BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV3, Viva – a music channel – and Film 4. Prisons that are run by private companies, of which there are 11 in England and Wales, may provide Sky TV in prisoners’ cells. Some 4,000 convicts are understood to enjoy the perk.

One option under consideration would be to start inmates on basic and force them to work for extra perks.

The move marks a break from Mr Wright’s disastrous predecessor Crispin Blunt who was pilloried over his decision to allow taxpayer-funded prisoner parties and comedy workshops inside jails.

There have been complaints that prisons have become too soft and young criminals treat them like a ‘holiday camp’.

Brooke Kinsella, the Government’s knife-crime adviser whose 16-year-old brother Ben was stabbed to death in North London, said it was time jails were turned back into ‘places of punishment’.

Edward Boyd, from the think-tank Policy Exchange, says that perks such as free gym use and televisions in cells should be made available only to those inmates who work.

He called for all prisoners to be given access to work and for those who refused to have their privileges downgraded or removed.

Mr Boyd said: ‘Prisons are in desperate need of reform. The cornerstone of reform must be hard work.

‘It will make prison not only a better deterrent for criminals but also a far more successful intervention to stop future criminal behaviour.’

Recently a watchdog warned that too many prisoners were idling in their cells watching daytime TV, while prison workshops were left empty.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said that on a visit to Britain’s largest jail, Wandsworth prison in south west London, workshop facilities ‘stood almost empty and too many staff appeared indifferent about the prisoners in their care’.


Trend to ban Halloween is mixed bag for American educators, parents

The one time of the year when kids are free to dress up as monsters, superheroes and reality TV stars while eating candy until their bellies hurt is on the endangered holiday list in communities around the nation.

Citing cultural issues, safety and even the economy, schools and towns across the country are banning Halloween plans. But the backlash isn't just coming from children. Many of their parents say the war on Halloween has gone too far.

“There will be no costumes, no candy bags and no parties,” said Skokie, Ill., District 69 Superintendent Quintin Shepherd, in a letter to parents. “Many students cannot afford costumes and there is an economic disparity. We also have students that are unable to participate for religious or cultural reasons.”

Parents and students say Halloween is a secular holiday, and one which allows children to express their creativity through costumes and designs. Some parents and students even joined together at a park near the school as a show of protest.

“Why suck the fun out of school?” one student posted online on the school's website. “Halloween isn't a religious or political holiday; it's only about having fun.” “It’s the best part of the school year,” posted another student. “Everyone dresses up and gives out candy. How can that be bad?”.

Administrators say school is not the place for Halloween, and at least a few parents in Skokie agree. “We'll take a personal day with my children away from school expressing ourselves through costume and possible Satan worshipping,” wrote one poster on the District 69 website.

Nationwide, over the past year, about a dozen schools tried to ban costumes, parties and/or parades, but some were clearly spooked by the backlash from the community, and gave up the battle.

In Levittown, Pa., the annual Halloween parade at Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School that’s been in place for decades was cancelled, until the vocal outrage of dozens of parents led school officials to reinstate it.

“I’m so sad. I have my Power Ranger costume all ready,” said third-grader Julia Schall. “Will we still get candy?” said worried fifth-grader Eric DiGon.

In Portland, Ore., principal Brian Anderson told parents he banned Halloween because he worried that students whose culture or religion didn’t allow them to celebrate would feel excluded from the others, especially as more and more immigrants with different cultures arrive in this country. “We’re pushing our traditions on an ever-changing population,” he told the local newspaper.

Said parent Sue Afryl, “What this ban is teaching is intolerance…. By banning one or all we teach not to be accepting of cultural and religious beliefs other than our own... They have now taught intolerance! A lesson no child should ever be given.”

For those who support the ban, it's not just the cultural concerns, it's also the message being sent to children who have Halloween as an excuse to consume large amounts of candy. “We already have an obesity problem among American children," said one school nurse who didn’t want her name used.

In addition to cultural, religious and cost concerns, Shepherd also blamed the ban on the federal “No Child Left Behind” Act, apparently claiming the holiday could take valuable time away from preparing for standardized tests.

“While education can be, and is, creative and fun – we must respond to the current national reality of high stakes testing," Shepherd told FoxNews.com "Until NCLB is rewritten into legislation that is reflective of individual student progress and achievement, the consequences will continue to become more severe.”

In many cities, towns and school districts, Christmas and other specific religious celebrations around December are being called by the more generic term of “holiday” celebrations. Now with the non-religious holiday of Halloween being banned, critics call it “political correctness gone too far”.

“Schools have taken away other holiday recognitions as well," complained Afryl. "They've banned the pledge of allegiance to our flag and country, and have omitted the word God. Whether you believe in something or not, is it correct to ban it? Is it right to suppress it?”



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


30 October, 2012

Bureaucratic hatred of Branson again

He's too successful for the bureaucrats so they will do anything to take him down a peg or two. They tried to take his trains away but he routed them with legal threats

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has lost out to his arch-rivals in a battle over air routes to Russia. But watchdogs say passengers will benefit through cheaper and more 'dynamic' fares and that British Airways and easyJet's plans were 'likely to deliver the greatest benefit to consumers'.

The tycoon learned tonight that his airline Virgin Atlantic had been rejected by aviation regulators in a fight to operate UK to Moscow flights.

With more flights now available between the UK and Russia, British Airways, easyJet and Virgin had been vying for the right to fly on the London-Moscow route.

The Civil Aviation Authority ruled that BA, which already operates to Moscow, and easyJet should be allowed to take up the Moscow flights - meaning that Virgin had missed out.

The decision follows the Department for Transport ruling in August that FirstGroup rather than Virgin Rail should take up a new 13-year franchise on the West Coast Main Line.

Sir Richard launched a legal challengers against the ruling and the DfT has now scrapped the West Coast bidding process, suspended three civil servants and asked Virgin to carry on for the time being.

The CAA's two-from-three decision came after what is known as a scarce capacity hearing at which a panel of CAA board members considered the arguments put forward by each of the applicant airlines.

The panel decided to allow BA to continue to operate the services it currently operates from London Heathrow to Moscow's Domodedovo Airport and to grant easyJet permission to operate between London Gatwick and Moscow Domodedovo.

Iain Osborne, the CAA's director of regulatory policy, and chairman of the panel, said: 'On balance, allocating scarce capacity to BA and easyJet is likely to deliver the greatest benefit to consumers.

'EasyJet's proposal will introduce an innovative product into the market and has the potential to deliver the greatest dynamic fare benefits for consumers.' He added: 'We concluded that easyJet's proposal would introduce a distinctly different product into the market and would stimulate innovation on the route as a whole, as well as satisfying and stimulating consumer demand that is currently under-served, in particular, people who prefer or are content to use Gatwick.'

The CAA said easyJet was expected to begin operating services to Moscow from early 2013. The CAA understands that BA will continue with its current schedule.

EasyJet said it would operate an Airbus A320 on two services a day between Gatwick and Moscow. Each aircraft will have 180 seats and the airline expects to fly more than 230,000 passengers in its first year of operations.

EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said: 'We are delighted to have been awarded the rights to fly between Gatwick and Moscow. 'We believe this is the right decision for consumers both in the UK and Russia.'

A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said: 'We are very disappointed with the result of the CAA hearing which we believe flies in the face of what the consumer wants and our economy demands.

'Data shows that passengers travelling between Moscow and London want to use Heathrow airport and not Gatwick, long haul connectivity is far greater via Heathrow and this decision will also reduce capacity between the two capitals.'

'We are perplexed by what we consider a very short-sighted decision. We will review the CAA's report in full before considering all of our options.'


British council plans to remove Mr and Mrs titles from all documents to protect city's transgender community from offence

A city is proposing to ban titles such as Mr, Mrs, Miss and Ms in case they offend the transgender community.

Councillors in Brighton will vote on the proposal to remove the words from official forms and paperwork after complaints that they forced people to ‘choose between genders’.

The proposal is backed by Brighton and Hove City Council deputy leader Phelim MacCafferty, who has called the titles 'useless'.

But the new proposal has been branded 'political correctness gone too far' by an opposition councillor who says the idea is 'ludicrous'.

Brighton is known for its diverse community, and the council plans seek to scrap 'useless' titles after a study into the transgender community

A scrutiny panel will put forward a number of recommendations, including the scrapping of Mr and Mrs, to the council for approval in December.

Green Party deputy leader Coun. MacCafferty said: 'Trans people aren't necessarily male or female and sometimes they don't want to be defined by their gender.

'Putting Mr and Mrs on a form is completely useless. 'This is an issue that concerns most institutions from banks to mobile phone companies. 'Why is Mr on my debit card, for instance? 'I don't understand why it is there. 'We should at least examine the issue and we will have the recommendations early next month.'

Coun. MacCafferty said the change would be 'done sensitively' and with the backing of the public.

Brighton is recognised nationally for its its diversity, with the city's Primary Care Trust estimating that one in six people is estimated to be from the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community.

LGBT activist Steph Scott said: 'Being called Mr or Mrs forces me to choose between genders. 'It's assuming people live in a binary world where you're either one thing or another and it pigeonholes people.

'I think it's a good idea to expand across the city because it's about getting people to be aware that gender isn't just male or female.'

Dawn Barrett, Conservative councillor for Hangleton and Knoll, said: 'It's completely ludicrous and shows a complete lack of respect. 'How are they going to address letters properly? This is just political correctness gone too far.'

The Trans Equality Scrutiny Panel was set up to examine issues affecting transgendered people's safety, welfare and job opportunities.

It includes chair Coun MacCafferty, Conservative councillor Denise Cobb and Labour councillor Warren Morgan.

The panel visited support groups across the city in July to hear about the issues facing the trans community and will present a set of recommendations to the council in December.


One in four British criminals go straight back to crime and 1,000 are on the run from jail

One in four criminals went straight back to crime, according to new figures which the government admitted are ‘shameful’.

And almost 1,000 offenders have been recalled to prison but are still on the loose.

The figures are particularly embarrassing for ministers coming just days after David Cameron’s crime and justice speech in which he promised a ‘rehabilitation revolution’.

Almost 50,000 offences were committed by offenders who had spent time in jail last year. Labour claimed the government’s justice policy is ‘in tatters’.

In 2010, a total of 497,969 offences were committed by 173,274 offenders.

More than half (55.3 per cent) of the offences were committed by 78,149 offenders with 11 or more previous offences.

More than 50,123 of these involved 10,000 offenders who had previously been jailed more than 10 times.

For criminals leaving jail, the reoffending rate was 47.5 per cent, up from 46.8 per cent in 2009.

Among adults jailed for less than 12 months, 57.6% went on to commit another crime.

Meanwhile, separate figures showed more than 150 violent criminals and sex offenders are at large in the community despite breaching the terms of their release or committing another offence.

A total of 988 criminals had been recalled to prison but not put back behind bars by the end of June.

These include 17 killers - 16 of them murderers - 11 rapists and at least four paedophiles.

Some 379 have been on the run for more than five years, the figures showed.

A MoJ spokesman said: ‘We are tackling the shamefully high reoffending rates in this country by introducing a rehabilitation revolution - offenders must be punished, but we must also deal with the root causes of offenders' behaviour so they don't return to crime.’

The Prime Minister used a major speech to declare he wanted to break the cycle of reoffending by the end of 2015.

All but a small number of high-risk prisoners would receive help to turn their lives around.

But Labour’s shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: ‘This Government’s justice policy is in tatters. David Cameron's latest re-launch 29 months after first becoming Prime Minister won’t change these appalling figures.

‘He should be aggressively addressing the scandalous rates of reoffending rather than stunts. Cutting police and probation, reducing Judges’ powers and reducing help to victims shows how out of touch he is.’


Mandating 'tolerance' through hate speech laws is no tolerance at all

There is a common mantra among certain groups of Americans today that tolerance is wonderful and is something we should strive for. Hate speech must be stopped. Open-mindedness is ideal.

These are some of the most intolerant people that live in this country.

They don’t stress tolerance like the hippies did in the 1960s and ‘70s, which was sort of harmonious anarchy where everybody loved one another and there was no war. No, today there is very much a war — a war on hate speech led by the government’s mighty warriors for political correctness. It is an odd paradox that those who preach tolerance are really agitating towards a much less tolerant, less free society.

Tolerance as action may be fine. For example, we tolerate all religions in the U.S. as long as they aren’t harmful to others. We tolerate free speech as well, provided it does not directly incite violence.

The real problem arises when policymakers begin petitioning for anti-hate speech laws and regulations. This is where the real intolerance starts, and where the fundamental menace of totalitarianism lies.

There is no reason people should tolerate anything that runs contrary to their values. As long as they are not infringing upon the human rights of others, we must dispel the notion that personal intolerance is inherently bad.

It is the job of the government to be tolerant of the people and to keep them safe; it is not the job of the government to force tolerance upon the people.

Real tolerance isn’t necessarily the understanding and acceptance of all views, but rather the freedom to peacefully do and say as one wishes without being persecuted.

There is some amount of violent rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle, but only the Left has the hubris to scream “hate speech!” and “intolerance!” while chasing away Ann Coulter in a shrieking riot of death threats. The American Left is extraordinarily intolerant of conservative stances.

And this is fine, as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of conservatives.

Nobody has to “tolerate” other people’s opinions. In fact, I encourage intolerance of anything a person believes deeply to be wrong. I encourage rational discussion and argument and deeply-held, adhered-to systems of values.

The difference — and this is an enormous difference — is one of freedom.

Should the government prohibit hate speech? If so, how would they draw the line?

A recent offensive 13 minute video that some claim incited the riots in the Middle East has led to calls for the maker to be arrested and for laws banning hate speech to be passed.

This goes against the very fabric of our country. When a government begins to legislate tolerance its decline is inevitable, for it has fallen into totalitarianism.

We have not quite reached the point of legislating political correctness, but the forces emphatically pushing for big government grow ever stronger and ever more intolerant of those who value freedom.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


29 October, 2012

An insubstantial screech from a politically correct Tory

He is a Warmist and an antisemite. How correct can you get? That he is associated with British Conservatism is a good commentary on the enfeebled state of British Conservatism. His argument against real conservatism below is remarkably gauzy. It seems to be no more than an assertion that the present British PM once got it right!

He headlined the article below as "Cameron should beware the Australian master strategist". If the heading is his own and not by a sub-editor, one wonders why he highlightred the nationality of the strategist. Did he intend to evoke old-fashioned contempt for "colonials"? Given his bigotry towards Israel, that thought does occur

By Peter Oborne

It has become commonplace to assert that there is a problem at the heart of the Government. Almost everybody says that it has become very hard to get a decision out of 10 Downing Street, while many ministers moan about incompetence and a lack of political direction. Even David Cameron seems to have woken up to this. Not merely that, he also appears to have alighted on the solution in the shape of Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist who masterminded Michael Howard’s 2005 general election campaign, and secured Boris Johnson’s election – and re-election – as London mayor.

The Conservative Party is now pleading with Crosby to come back, take control of political strategy, and fight the next election on their behalf. It is reportedly ready to offer him as much money as he wants, and even allow him to bring his own team with him. It is easy to understand this desperation. In a world largely populated by imposters and nitwits, Crosby is competent and strong. He has personal authority and vast experience. There is no doubt that he would bring a steadiness and direction that, so critics assert, has eluded the Government in recent months.

Yet I believe it would be a sad moment if Crosby became the Conservative Party’s strategist, an outcome that – if the reports are right – now looks almost inevitable. I acknowledge that the return of the Australian would certainly mean the restoration of good order at the top of the party. It might well mean a dozen or more extra Conservative seats at the next election. But it would also signal the end of everything that David Cameron has tried to stand for in his seven years as leader.

To understand the scale of this betrayal it is necessary to go back to Michael Howard’s 2005 general election campaign. Cameron started that election as Howard’s protégé, head of policy, de facto electoral strategist and chosen successor. By the end of it, he was none of those things. The reason was Lynton Crosby, and his insistence on placing crime and immigration at the heart of Howard’s campaign. The strategy was successful in the very important sense that the Conservatives gained 40 seats on a practically unchanged share of the vote, in an election that was stacked against the Conservatives. But the Crosby/Howard approach was all but disowned by David Cameron, who devoted more space to international development than immigration in his personal campaign literature in his Witney constituency.

When Cameron ran for the Tory leadership after the election, his campaign was an almost word-for-word repudiation of the 2005 election strategy. He emphasised green concerns, foreign aid, public services and the reinvention of the Conservative Party as outward-looking and generous.

By contrast, Lynton Crosby had concentrated on the visceral issues that have been proven to bring out the core Conservative vote. This is how he has always operated – and he should under no circumstances be underestimated. He is the genius behind the most successful Right-wing politician of the last quarter-century, Australia’s John Howard, who was elected four times between 1996 and 2004, and remains the second longest-serving Australian prime minister, after Sir Robert Menzies. Working for him, Crosby developed what opponents labelled “dog whistle” politics – campaigning techniques which sent out a covert message. John Howard’s enemies claimed that this was sometimes implicitly racist.

Michael Howard’s Conservative campaign of 2005 asked the question: “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” Party literature, poster and TV campaigns contained such slogans as: “It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration”, or “How would you feel if a bloke on early release attacked your daughter?” Critics once again said that some of this was implicitly racist – a charge which Crosby would angrily deny, and which is impossible to substantiate.

It is certainly the case, however, that Crosby’s campaigns involve a set of sharply defined, Right-wing messages in which law and order and immigration tend to play a very prominent part. Boris Johnson’s recent lurch on immigration – having been very liberal about it, he suddenly highlighted it as a campaign issue during this year’s London mayoral election battle against Ken Livingstone – is a case in point. It was probably down to Crosby. With him out of the way, the Mayor has now reverted to his instinctive liberalism.

Some people admire this kind of hard-edged politics; others don’t. There are arguments either way. The point is that the David Cameron of the 2005 Tory leadership election didn’t, and nor did the David Cameron of the 2010 general election. So the Prime Minister will be making a powerful public statement if he hires Lynton Crosby. He will be making what effectively amounts to a public recantation. He would be following the path of his immediate predecessors (Howard, Duncan Smith, Hague), each of whom set out by tacking towards the centre, but ended up focusing on the core Conservative vote.

There is no question that most of the party would welcome this, and for understandable reasons. The return of Lynton Crosby would signal a new grip at the centre and – just as important – a new ideological rigidity. Ever since he became Prime Minister, David Cameron has been accused by activists and MPs of abandoning “true Tory” values and selling out to the Liberal Democrats. So the appointment of Crosby would come as an almighty reassurance to the Right-wing faction which now dominates Conservative Party discourse. But it would also mean a terrible defeat for everything that Cameron has stood for as leader.

When he emerged seven years ago, he offered the hope of a new, less rebarbative Conservative Party. This did not mean a betrayal of Tory values, as Cameron’s critics have unfairly claimed. On the contrary, the new leader was defining himself as part of a pragmatic, “one nation” philosophical tradition which stretches back through Macmillan and Baldwin to Disraeli and Burke. Cameron’s finest moments have come when he has been true to this ancient pragmatism, whether with the speech that won him the leadership at the Tory conference in 2005 or his “big, open and comprehensive” offer to Liberal Democrats immediately after the 2010 general election. He has been at his worst when he has turned his back on Conservative insights, as when he entered into his sordid little deal with News International.

Three weeks ago, at conference in Birmingham, the Prime Minister returned to the roots of “one nation” Conservatism with the finest speech of his premiership. That speech highlighted the three missions of his administration: educational excellence, welfare reform and economic stability. To restore strength and direction to his Government, he need do no more than concentrate on those three policies. There is no need to hire an Australian political strategist and lurch off to the Right. That would also not just puzzle the electorate; it would be untrue to the Prime Minister’s political vision, and deeply inauthentic.


Incest – a favoured cause of Britain's old Lefties

By Damian Thompson

My article last week about the radical Left’s defence of paedophilia in the 1970s provoked all manner of paroxysms from today’s Lefties. How dare I blacken the name of Hattie Harman by pointing out that she became legal officer for the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) soon after it campaigned for a more relaxed approach to sex with children?

But I had private communications, too, from people who encountered the “libertarian” Left during those years. “In the late Sixties and early Seventies, I worked at a school operated by the Inner London Education Authority,” wrote a retired schoolteacher.

“The teachers there were almost all Marxists or, as they would have said, Maoists. They were supporting an initiative to lower or abolish the age of consent, which they said was just a way for the upper classes to keep the working classes in their place. According to them, children were sexual beings who had a right to express their sexuality. I was one of the few parents on the staff and said that this was just an excuse for dirty old men to abuse children… I was told that I was brainwashed and bourgeois.”

Another correspondent asked me to take a closer look at the NCCL Report on Sexual Offences (1976), which argued for a fundamental rethink on the subject of incest.

Yes, you read that right. Decriminalising incest was one of the pet causes of the brothers and sisters of the extreme Left represented by the NCCL. This is from its 1976 report:

“For hundreds of years the crime of incest has given rise to such intense feelings of revulsion that public discussion on the subject has often been ill-informed and irrational.” Note the distinctive finger-wagging.

“The present-day case against incest is firstly, that genetic damage may result in the offspring and secondly, that an incestuous union is disruptive of the union of the family.” Fortunately the NCCL was on hand to brush away these fusty prejudices.

“Recent studies” didn’t support the idea that incest caused genetic damage, it said, “and it is in contradiction to the practices of successful animal breeders. In any case the advent of reliable contraceptives and safer abortion weakens this argument.” So if a man had sex with his sister, he should use a condom or arrange for an abortion.

As for the effect of incest on families, “incest is not the cause but one symptom of a disrupted family… In our view, no benefit accrues to anyone by making incest a crime when committed between mutually consenting persons over the age of consent.” An age of consent which the NCCL wanted to lower to 14, incidentally, though only to placate public opinion: “It is both logical, and consistent with modern development, to suggest that the age of consent should be abolished.”

NCCL is now better known as Liberty and run by Shami Chakrabarti, Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University and secular saint of the Guardian/BBC conglomerate. I’d be interested in her take on this chapter in her organisation’s history. Has anybody thought to ask her? She likes to talk.

But what happened to the woman who was general secretary of the NCCL when these stomach-churning views were expressed? Did she retreat into the grumpy subculture of ageing Marxists?

Not quite. Like a number of Callaghan-era hard Leftists, she reinvented herself as a New Labour loyalist. Indeed, the Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt (for it was she) served as secretary of state for health from 2005 to 2007. Though, to be fair, I don’t recall her saying a single word about incest.


Royal Australian Air Force warns military personnel not to send gift-wrapped presents to Afghanistan

THE Air Force has warned staff against wrapping gifts for military personnel serving overseas in Christmas paper due to "cultural sensitivity".

A Flight Lieutenant based at RAAF Base Pearce near Perth sent an email to staff and cadets encouraging them to send Christmas care packages to Australians deployed in the Middle East Area of Operations this festive season.

After the usual warnings about not sending alcohol or pornography and some helpful gift ideas the officer offered the following packaging advice.

"Contents should be securely wrapped in stiff brown paper (no Christmas wrapping due to cultural sensitivities, please) and clearly addressed to: Australian Defence Force Member AFPO 60 Australian Defence Force NSW 2890."

Presumably he was concerned that bright paper featuring Santa Claus, a reindeer or baby Jesus might offend some Muslims.

Defence said it did not even have a policy on Christmas wrapping paper, but was aware of the "cultural sensitivity" issue. "We are aware of advice posted on a Defence web site and are taking steps to correct the information in the public domain," it said.

It is not clear if it was aware of the comments before News Limited asked several questions about the email late last week.

Opposition defence personnel spokesman and former army officer Stuart Robert said someone had lost the plot. "This is a case of political correctness gone mad. The Grinch this Christmas will be the government if it doesn't right this wrong," Mr Robert said. "On the back of 'no beer for Christmas' it's now no Christmas for Christmas."

The now infamous email told RAAF staff that the most popular gifts for troops overseas were; "Lollies, beanies, gloves, hand cream, chap sticks and lip balm, crossword puzzle books, newspapers (any date), magazines, including sports, Women's Day, home and gardening, Street Machine and similar. Packets of cappuccino sachets, Tim Tam biscuits and Christmas puddings."


Australia: Criminals reoffending while doing community service

CRIMINALS sentenced to community service are committing crimes every month while they should be cleaning up Queensland.

Shock figures show 62 per cent of offenders, or 1147 of 1840, broke the law while on the orders in the past financial year. That's almost 100 a month.

Instead of working in jobs such as sorting clothes at Lifeline, and council natural revegetation and graffiti removal projects, they've been caught committing fraud, breaking into homes, stealing cars, assaulting police and using drugs.

They originally fronted courts on assault, stealing, prostitution, vandalism, graffiti, drug and traffic-related charges but were spared jail time.

Despite committing crimes and being sent back to court, many remained on the orders.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers told The Sunday Mail criminals were "making a mockery of the system" and called for harsher penalties.

Since 2008-09, 77 per cent of people on community service reoffended 6018 out of 7772.

Twenty per cent of orders were terminated in 2011-12 after people failed to meet court-imposed conditions.

The overall order completion rate was 2102 of 3499 orders or 60.1 per cent.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said in a statement: "It is always concerning when offenders treat a community service order with contempt and it is something I will continue to monitor."

Queensland Corrective Services manager of operational practice Jo Dansey said the reoffending was a concern but it was a reality when there were no supervision or intensive rehabilitation programs involved.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


28 October, 2012

Britain's Gestapo in WWII

There is nothing to prevent it from happening again. It was supported by both political parties and continued even after the war was over. So wartime pressures may have initially been an excuse but are no excuse for its continuation

Is this a Nazi? No. It is British torturer Colonel Robin Stephens

Britain has a reputation as a nation that prides itself on its love of fair play and respect for the rule of law. We claim the moral high ground when it comes to human rights. We were among the first to sign the 1929 Geneva Convention on the humane treatment of prisoners of war.

Surely, you would think, the British avoid torture? But you would be wrong, as my research into what has gone on behind closed doors for decades shows.

It was in 2005 during my work as an investigative reporter that I came across a veiled mention of a World War II detention centre known as the London Cage. It took a number of Freedom Of Information requests to the Foreign Office before government files were reluctantly handed over.

From these, a sinister world unfolded — of a torture centre that the British military operated throughout the Forties, in complete secrecy, in the heart of one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in the capital.

Thousands of Germans passed through the unit that became known as the London Cage, where they were beaten, deprived of sleep and forced to assume stress positions for days at a time.

Some were told they were to be murdered and their bodies quietly buried. Others were threatened with unnecessary surgery carried out by people with no medical qualifications. Guards boasted that they were ‘the English Gestapo’.

The London Cage was part of a network of nine ‘cages’ around Britain run by the Prisoner of War Interrogation Section (PWIS), which came under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Military Intelligence.

Three, at Doncaster, Kempton Park and Lingfield, were at hastily converted racecourses. Another was at the ground of Preston North End Football Club. Most were benignly run.

But prisoners thought to possess valuable information were whisked off to a top-secret unit in a row of grandiose Victorian villas in Kensington Palace Gardens, then (as now) one of the smartest locations in London.

Today, the tree-lined street a stone’s throw from Kensington Palace is home to ambassadors and billionaires, sultans and princes. Houses change hands for £50?million and more.

Yet it was here, seven decades ago, in five interrogation rooms, in cells and in the guardroom in numbers six, seven and eight Kensington Palace Gardens, that nine officers, assisted by a dozen NCOs, used whatever methods they thought necessary to squeeze information from suspects.

So, how can we be sure about the methods used at the London Cage? Because the man who ran it admitted as much — and was hushed up for half-a-century by an establishment fearful of the shame his story would bring on a Britain that had been fighting for honesty, decency and the rule of law.

That man was Colonel Alexander Scotland, an accepted master in techniques of interrogation. After the war, he wrote a candid account of his activities in his memoirs, in which he recalled how he would muse, on arriving at the Cage each morning: ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here.’

Because, he said, before going into detail: ‘If any German had any information we wanted, it was invariably extracted from him in the long run.’

As was customary, before publication Scotland submitted his manuscript to the War Office for clearance in 1954. Pandemonium erupted. All four copies were seized. All those who knew of its contents were silenced with threats of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

What caused the greatest consternation was his admission that the horrors had continued after the war, when interrogators switched from extracting military intelligence to securing convictions for war crimes.

Of 3,573 prisoners who passed through Kensington Palace Gardens, more than 1,000 were persuaded to sign a confession or give a witness statement for use in war crimes prosecutions.

Fritz Knöchlein, a former lieutenant colonel in the Waffen SS, was one such case. He was suspected of ordering the machine-gunning of 124 British soldiers who surrendered at Le Paradis in northern France during the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. His defence was that he was not even there.

At his trial, he claimed he had been tortured in the London Cage after the war. He was deprived of sleep for four days and nights after arriving in October 1946 and forced to walk in a tight circle for four hours while being kicked by a guard at each turn.

He was made to clean stairs and lavatories with a tiny rag, for days at a time, while buckets of water were poured over him. If he dared to rest, he was cudgelled. He was also forced to run in circles in the grounds of the house while carrying heavy logs and barrels. When he complained, the treatment simply got worse.

Nor was he the only one. He said men were repeatedly beaten about the face and had hair ripped from their heads. A fellow inmate begged to be killed because he couldn’t take any more brutality.
All Knöchlein’s accusations were ignored, however. He was found guilty and hanged.

Suspects in another high-profile war crime — the shooting of 50 RAF officers who broke out from a prison camp, Stalag Luft III, in what became known as the Great Escape — also passed through the Cage.

Of the 21 accused, 14 were hanged after a war-crimes trial in Hamburg. Many confessed only after being interrogated by Scotland and his men. In court, they protested that they had been starved, whipped and systematically beaten. Some said they had been menaced with red-hot pokers and ‘threatened with electrical devices’.

Scotland, of course, denied allegations of torture, going into the witness box at one trial after another to say his accusers were lying.

It was all the more surprising, then, that a few years later he was willing to come clean about the techniques he employed at the London Cage.

In his memoirs, he disclosed that a number of men were forced to incriminate themselves. A general was sentenced to death in 1946 after signing a confession at the Cage while, in Scotland’s words, ‘acutely depressed after the various examinations’.

A naval officer was convicted on the basis of a confession that Scotland said he had signed only after being ‘subject to certain degrading duties’.

Scotland also acknowledged that one of the men accused of the ‘Great Escape’ murders went to the gallows even though he had confessed after he had — in Scotland’s own words — been ‘worked on psychologically’. At his trial, the man insisted he had been ‘worked on’ physically as well.

Others did not share Scotland’s eagerness to boast about what had gone on in Kensington Park Gardens. An MI5 legal adviser who read his manuscript concluded that Scotland and fellow interrogators had been guilty of a ‘clear breach’ of the Geneva Convention.

They could have faced war-crimes charges themselves for forcing prisoners to stand to attention for more than 24 hours at a time; forcing them to kneel while they were beaten about the head; threatening to have them shot; threatening one prisoner with an unnecessary appendix operation to be performed on him by another inmate with no medical qualifications.

Appalled by the embarrassment his manuscript would cause if it ever came out, the War Office and the Foreign Office both declared that it would never see the light of day.

Two years later, however, they were forced to strike a deal with him after he threatened to publish his book abroad. He was told he would never be allowed to recover his original manuscript, but agreement was given to a rewritten version in which every line of incriminating material had been expunged.

A heavily censored version of The London Cage duly appeared in the bookshops in 1957. But officials at the War Office, and their successors at the Ministry of Defence, remained troubled.

Years later, in September 1979, Scotland’s publishers wrote to the Ministry of Defence out of the blue asking for a copy of the original manuscript by the now dead colonel for their archives.

The request triggered fresh panic as civil servants sought reasons to deny the request. But in the end they quietly deposited a copy in what is now the National Archives at Kew, where it went unnoticed — until I found it a quarter of a century later.

Is there more to tell about the London Cage? Almost certainly. Even now, some of the MoD’s files on it remain beyond reach.

The Cage was not, however, Britain’s only secret interrogation centre during and after World War II. MI5 also operated an interrogation centre, code-named Camp 020, at Latchmere House, a Victorian mansion near Ham Common in South-West London, whose 30 rooms were turned into cells with hidden microphones.

The first of the German spies who arrived in Britain in September 1940 were taken there. Vital information about a coming German invasion was extracted at great speed. This indicates the use of extreme methods, but these were desperate days demanding desperate measures. In charge was Colonel Robin Stephens, known as ‘Tin Eye’, because of the monocle fixed to his right eye.

It was not a term of affection. The object of interrogation, Stephens told his officers, was simple: ‘Truth in the shortest possible time.’ A top secret memo spoke of ‘special methods’, but did not elaborate.

He arranged for an additional 92-cell block to be added to Latchmere House, plus a punishment room — known chillingly as Cell 13 — which was completely bare, with smooth walls and a linoleum floor.

Close to 500 people passed through the gates of Camp 020. Principal among them were German spies, many of whom were ‘turned’ and persuaded — or maybe forced — to work for MI5.

Its first inmates were members of the British Union of Fascists. Some were held in cells brightly lit 24 hours a day, others in cells kept in total darkness.

Several prisoners were subjected to mock executions and were knocked about by the guards. Some were apparently left naked for months at a time.

Camp 020 had a resident medical officer, Harold Dearden, a psychiatrist who dreamed up regimes of starvation and of sleep and sensory deprivation intended to break the will of its inmates. He experimented in techniques of torment that left few marks — methods that could be denied by the torturers and that civil servants and government ministers could disown.

These techniques surfaced again after the war in a British interrogation facility at Bad Nenndorf, a German spa town, in one of the internment camps for those considered a threat to the Allied occupation.

In the four years after the war, 95,000 people were interned in the British zone of Allied-occupied Germany. Some were interrogated by what was now termed the Intelligence Division.
In charge of Bad Nenndorf was ‘Tin Eye’ Stephens, on attachment from MI5, and drawing on his Camp 020 experiences. An inmate recalled him yelling questions at prisoners and then punching them.

Over the next two years, 372 men and 44 women would pass through his hands. One German inmate recalled being told by a British intelligence officer: ‘We are not bound by any rules or regulations. We do not care a damn whether you leave this place on a stretcher or in a hearse.’

He was made to sleep on a wet floor in a temperature of minus 20 degrees for three days. Four of his toes had to be amputated due to frostbite.

A doctor in a nearby hospital complained about the number of detainees brought to him filthy, confused and suffering from multiple injuries and frostbite. Many were painfully emaciated after months of starvation. A number died.

The regime was intended to weaken, humiliate and intimidate prisoners.

With complaints soaring, a British court of inquiry was convened to investigate what had been going at Bad Nenndorf. It concluded that former inmates’ allegations of physical assault were substantially correct. Stephens and four other officers were arrested while Bad Nenndorf was abruptly closed.

But there was a quandary for the Labour government. The political fallout could be deeply damaging. There were other similar interrogation centres in Germany. From the very top, there were urgent moves to hush things up.

Stephens’ court martial for ill-treatment of prisoners was heard behind closed doors. He did not deny any of the horrors. His defence was that he had no idea the prisoners for whom he was responsible were being beaten, whipped, frozen, deprived of sleep and starved to death.

This was the very defence that had been offered — unsuccessfully — by Nazi concentration camp commandants at war-crimes trials. But he was acquitted. The suspicion remains that he got off because, if cruelties did occur at Bad Nenndorf, they had been authorised by government ministers.


A Dinosaur who did well

Stanley Johnson's ideas make him a dinosaur by modern politically correct standards but the quality of his children speaks for itself

The man responsible for launching Boris Johnson and his look-alike siblings on the world is holding forth on the modern obsession with parenting. 'I was brought up on a farm,' he says. 'Sheep have lambs, cows have calves, humans have babies. You don't spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring them up.'

He sounds positively affronted at the very idea of parents agonising about the best way to raise a family. 'I didn't give it any thought at all, absolutely not.' This seemingly laissez-faire approach to parenting has proved remarkably fruitful.

Stanley Johnson has raised six staggeringly bright children, all of whom got into Oxbridge: Boris the London mayor; Rachel the journalist; Leo the eco-entrepreneur turned film-maker; Jo the Conservative MP; Julia the singer and Latin teacher; and Max, who has just joined Goldman Sachs. With little parental interference they have all grown up to be bright, funny and fiercely ambitious.

Rachel, editor-in-chief of The Lady magazine, has written a chapter in her new book, How Rude: Modern Manners Defined, that advises the world to 'unparent' — to stop being so hands-on and fussy with our children and to follow the example of her own parents.

She attributes the success of the Johnson children to benign parental neglect. 'My father was more proud that he had never been to a parents' evening than the fact that all six of his children got into Oxbridge,' she says.

The Johnson childhood she describes was one of minimal TV, grim, chilly holidays spent collecting firewood on windy Exmoor and bouts of corporal punishment. Despite such privations, she advocates her parents' hands-off approach as typical of a lost ideal of restraint and good sense.

Her father recognises much of what Rachel describes in her book, but fiercely objects to her claims of corporal punishment. 'I can imagine a smack if they ran into the road, but that was that,' he says.

Stanley Johnson, 72, traveller, environmentalist, novelist and political animal, became a father at just 24. It was the Sixties and when it came to being a parent, he recalls, 'things were much easier then'.

'When Alexander [Boris is his second name] was born, I was on an academic scholarship in America,' he says. 'For four months we travelled around the U.S. in an air-conditioned Chevrolet Bel Air.

'Boris had just been born and a week or two later we set off. Then you could just put the baby on the back seat — it was much easier before health & safety.

'You could have a lunch in a restaurant, leave the baby on the back seat in the car park, come back and he was still there. It was all perfectly straightforward!'

Stanley is not trying to claim all — or any — credit for his progeny. 'Let's be fair, I've had two wonderful wives who have done all the things that wives do, so I have been fantastically lucky,' he says.

His first wife, Charlotte, with whom he is still friends, lives in Notting Hill, West London, and is a talented painter and mother to the eldest four Johnson siblings. His second wife, Jenny, is mother to Julia and Max.

Education was paramount when it came to the children. Stanley says he was always around for the big decisions, such as whether to send one of them to boarding school. 'There are some aspects of education that are too important to be left to mothers,' he says half-jokingly.

But he is dismissive of the idea that having six children go to Oxbridge is in any way noteworthy. 'It never struck me that was particularly remarkable,' he says. 'What do you expect if you send your kids to Eton and St Paul's? I assumed that's where they would go.'

The odd thing about the Johnson parenting technique is that it was part laid-back and hands-off, and part pure 'Tiger Father'. Extremely high expectations were a given.

His youngest daughter Julia once said that if they ever came second in Latin, their father would say: 'Who came first?' It became a standard catchphrase in the household, and a vigorous deterrent against being anything except top.

The six children were fiercely competitive, and when Jo got a first at Oxford, which Boris had failed to do, Rachel famously rang him to break the 'terrible news'. Boris set a formidable academic standard, and his siblings vied to match or beat his achievements.

Stanley describes his eldest son as 'the great prodigious tree in the rainforest, in the shade of which the smaller trees must either perish or struggle to find their own place in the sun'.

He is unrepentant about creating a competitive atmosphere. 'Why shouldn't they come top — if they can't, who can?'

Stanley went to Exeter College, Oxford — on a scholarship to read Greats (classics) — but today he laments the state of schools and education. He worries that there are fewer and fewer opportunities for bright children whose parents can't afford the fees of schools such as Eton and St Paul's.

'The political point is that the schools where you can send your kids are fewer than they were 50 years ago because you hadn't had the closure of the grammar schools then,' he says. 'Now everyone is scrabbling around for places.'

He believes, as Boris does, that the demise of grammar schools 'was a big mistake. The Tories should reverse their policy and support and expand them'. He is also evangelical about the role good schools can play in children's upbringings.

'I would argue that parenting is far too important to be left to parents,' he says. 'What on Earth do they know? Whereas, in fact, there are some perfectly good people out there who are doing perfectly good things at schools. Let them get on with it.'

When the Johnsons weren't in school, they were engaged in 'cut-throat mealtime quizzes', as Julia describes them, or engrossed in books.

Stanley recalls taking them on safari once in Africa and pointing to a leopard with its kill in a tree — a very rare sight. When he turned around, Boris, then ten, Rachel, eight, and Leo, six, were engrossed in their books and barely looked up.

As for TV, it was limited and hardly worth the trouble. 'On Exmoor, where we sometimes spent the holidays, it was quite a complicated thing getting the generator going,' says Stanley.

'You had to go out to the barn, squirt something called Easy Start into a cylinder box and start turning a handle. If you did get it going then it was a black-and-white TV that flickered like mad. I vaguely remember Dixon Of Dock Green.'

Given that his offspring's childhood involved bucolic holidays in one of the most beautiful parts of the West Country, he doesn't buy Rachel's thesis that they had a tough upbringing. 'They never had to spend a day shearing, for example,' he says. 'The operations of a sheep farmer's calendar — lambing, docking, shearing — all those things require sheer physical toil. I very much doubt that any of the kids ever had to do anything like that.'

And what about the allegations of unaccompanied childhood travel? Rachel recalls that she and Boris, then ten and 11, crossed Europe alone — leaving Brussels, where Stanley was an MEP, and making their way with their trunks by trains and ferry back to school, dodging sweet-proffering paedophiles along the way.

'I can't see anything wrong in that,' says Stanley.

'OK, let's talk about the paedophiles. Don't you think people exaggerate this whole thing?

'Why is everything jammed up around Primrose Hill in London at 4pm? Because it's all these mothers driving. What on Earth is wrong with kids walking to school? When we lived in Regent's Park, Max walked to school at the age of nine.'

There was certainly no pandering to childhood whims. Rachel remembers a total lack of choice in all matters, apart from what to read. Certainly, there was no picking and choosing at mealtimes.

'Quite right, too,' says Stanley. 'When I grew up on the farm, you had eggs for breakfast and eggs for tea — you might have something else in the middle of the day.'

He looks at me in disbelief when I admit I sometimes give my children a choice. 'Are you saying that kids now say I won't have this or that?' he asks. 'Good God, I wouldn't put up with any of that!'

His family ate out only once, at a Happy Eater on the A303 where the children were allowed to choose spag bol from the children's menu.

'The whole concept of restaurants!' Stanley muses. 'It's taken me a very long time to get used to the idea. 'I go back to my childhood on Exmoor. In the Fifties and Sixties there were no restaurants there. And if there had been, you wouldn't have been seen dead in them.

'If a farmer wanted a drink, he went to the pub, but he certainly didn't go to the pub to eat. It is a bizarre development that you can't have a drink in a pub because everybody is having a meal.

'The reality is that if you are bringing up four, or six, children, you are not going to go to restaurants.'

When the family went on ferries, Stanley booked the cheapest crossing in the middle of the night, with no cabin. 'We slept in the car and Rachel is probably right in her recollection that even in the front seat I used to put my pyjamas on.

'I've just been sleeping in the desert in Turkmenistan, where I was following the footsteps of Tamburlaine the Great, and I don't like waking up in the previous day's clothes. So I dare say I did that in the car, which she rightly remembers as being an Opel Kadett.'

And is it true he never went to a parents' evening? 'I went to one, though I only lasted 15 minutes. I wouldn't have made a habit of it,' he says.

'Though I did once address the girls of St Paul's on the subject of birth control when Rachel was there.' (The first four of his books were about how to control the world's population.)

Stanley couldn't resist a joke: 'I said to the girls: “The crucial thing in life is to control your fertility, even if it means putting a book between your legs!”'

When Rachel was older, she threatened to stay on a kibbutz with a handsome Israeli shepherd rather than go to Oxford. She was put off by her father's response down the phone from his office in Brussels: 'Great scheme!' The effect, as she tells it, was to take the fun and glamour out of the idea immediately.

She must have inherited her nomadic instincts from her father. After failing to win Teignbridge for the Tories in 2005, Stanley spent a few years globe-trotting in search of endangered animals and vanishing tribes. His entertaining new book, Where The Wild Things Were, chronicles his travels.

Remaining in one place has never appealed to Stanley. His first wife complained that they relocated 32 times during their marriage. 'What's wrong with that?' he says.

And when it comes to the modern business of 'self-conscious parenting' — agonising about every mealtime and trip to the playground — Johnson is also pragmatic.

'Basically, we're all just trying to get through the day, aren't we, without a disaster? It's true with our children and it's true of marriage. 'People think that the object of the exercise is to be happy. What total garbage that is. Why on Earth should it be?

'I would have thought the object is for people to stretch themselves in every possible way in accordance with their abilities. 'Now we seem to be transfixed with the idea that we need to produce a happy child.'

So, happiness may be optional — but coming top is a must. Bear that in mind the next time Boris denies he wants David Cameron's job.


‘Republican F**got!’: GOP Campaign Worker Beaten, Hospitalized After Alleged Anti-Gay Attack?

(Apparently you can not be a gay Republican)

Kyle Wood, a full-time volunteer on Wisconsin Republican Chad Lee’s House campaign, was reportedly savagely beaten at his home on Wednesday. The openly-gay Republican is claiming that his sexuality was the basis for the attack. Wood detailed the assault, which landed him in the hospital, in an interview with conservative news outlet The Daily Caller.

“I was getting ready for work and there was a knock at the door,” Wood said in an e-mail interview. “I opened it, and a guy wrapped a ligature around my neck, slammed my head into the doorway, and smashed my face into a mirror, telling me ‘You should have kept your [f**king] mouth shut.’”

According to Wood, the violence didn’t end there. The assailant apparently continued beating him, while claiming that the victim was previously “warned” (we’ll come back to that in a moment); the attacker also “kidney-punched” him.

The attack initially left Wood unable to move portions of his body. In addition to a concussion, his eyes were also swollen shut and he had markings on his head and neck. The official incident report reads:
A 29-year old High St. resident contacted the MPD Wednesday morning to report a battery inside his residence. The victim said a man entered through an unlocked door around 8:00 a.m. and attacked him. He said nothing was taken. Investigators believe this was not a random crime. The victim was treated at a hospital and released.

But let’s get back to the aforementioned warning that was mentioned during the alleged assault. Wood believes that the comment was made in reference to graffiti that the victim found on his car a week before the incident. According to Wood, the messages on his car read, “house trained republican faggot,” “traitor,” and “ur like a jew 4 hitler.”
Click here to find out more!

The DC reports that Wood believes that initial comments were clearly linked to the attack. Furthermore, the vulgar comments were references to his job with Lee (Lee’s opponent, Mark Pocan, is openly gay as well). Prior to the attack — but after finding the messages on his car — the campaign volunteer responded to the perpetrator on Facebook, writing, “You can think whatever you like about me, but I will not be bullied into voting for a gay man simply because I am gay.”

The Cap Times has more about how authorities are currently viewing the case:
“We try to protect victims’ rights and privacy,” says police spokesman Howard Payne.

“The detectives have been out this morning and into the afternoon hours interviewing individuals trying to find out who this suspect is,” he says.

He says police don’t believe it was a random attack.

“We believe there was some connection of some sort the existed between the victim in this case and the assailant,” he says.

He wouldn’t say if the case was being investigated as a hate crime.

“Right now we’re not at liberty to say because we don’t know,” he says. “We won’t know if that was the case until we develop a suspect.”

Police in Wisconsin are currently continuing their investigation, as Wood is recovering and claims that he will not be “intimidated or threatened into abandoning” his values.


IN: Atheist group sues state over “unconstitutional” marriage statute

An atheist organization claims Indiana’s marriage statute is unconstitutional because it doesn't allow nonbelievers to be married by their own leaders, but state officials say the group is divorced from reality.

The New York-based Center for Inquiry claims in a federal lawsuit that Indiana Code 31-11-6-1 violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment since it sets clear preference for religious individuals over those devoted to the “pursuit of ethical alternatives to religion.” The group says it filed suit on behalf of members John Kiel and Michelle Landrum, who plan to wed in the next six months.

“You can have a ceremony as a nonreligious person and have the marriage solemnized by someone in the government, but the issue is that a person of faith can have a leader of their world view solemnize that marriage that the nonreligious do not have,” said Paul Fidalgo, communications director for The Center for Inquiry. “They are looking to win that right, to have it solemnized. That’s the key word.”

According to Hoosier State law, marriages may be solemnized by a member of the clergy or a religious organization such as a priest, a bishop, an archbishop or a rabbi, as well as government officials like a mayor, a clerk or a clerk of the circuit court. It also specifically names the Friends Church, German Baptists, the Baha’i faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and imams of a mosque as groups who can conduct marriages in the state. Nowhere does the statute list "secular celebrants," or anyone else whose status is based on their disbelief in a creator.

A ceremony solemnized by secular elected officials - even if they happen to be atheists - is not acceptable, according to the suit, for several reasons, including limitations on time and places where the marriage may occur, unwanted governmental overtone and a lack of personal connection to that official.

“As an organization, the Center for Inquiry desires that its secular celebrants perform weddings for all those who request such wedding, both members and nonmembers,” the lawsuit reads. “The Center for Inquiry-Indiana believes this to be an important community service for persons desiring to have a meaningful, but nonreligious, wedding.”

The Center for Inquiry, which was founded in 1991, is an international nonprofit group that claims "tens of thousands" of members nationally, including approximately 230 in Indiana who pay dues. Kiel and Landrum, who now live in Kentucky but are members of the group's Indiana chapter and plan to wed in Marion County, Indiana, say they want their ceremony performed by Reba Boyd Wooden, a Center for Inquiry "secular celebrant."

“They adhere to the values of the Center for Inquiry and secular humanism and reject the position that morals and ethics are imposed from a supernatural source,” the lawsuit reads. “However, they are committed to living meaningful ethical lives consistent with their personal beliefs and philosophies.”

A U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of Indiana heard arguments Monday, but gave no timetable as to when a ruling will be issued.

Bryan Corbin, a public information officer for the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, told FoxNews.com that the state opposes an injunction, noting that the purpose of the statute is for the state to regulate marriage while accommodating religious groups and providing alternatives for nonreligious groups.

Corbin, who declined to comment due to pending litigation, provided a copy of a brief filing by the Attorney General’s Office earlier this month that argues there’s no constitutional right to solemnize marriages.

“In this regard, it is important to bear in mind that nothing precludes plaintiffs Landrum and Kiel from celebrating their marriage with exactly the ceremony they see fit, and nothing prevents CFI-trained celebrants from ‘presiding’ over such weddings,” the document reads. “All CFI-trained celebrants are barred from doing — unless they qualify under the Solemnization Statute — is signing the marriage certificate as the solemnizer.”



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


26 October, 2012

Labour Party increase in welfare payments 'cost families £3,000 a year' and promoted 'destructive' behaviour

Labour's increase in welfare spending cost every household an extra £3,000 a year in tax and promoted ‘destructive’ behaviour, Iain Duncan Smith will say today.

The Work and Pensions Secretary will claim his radical reforms of the benefits system are inspired by its founder William Beveridge, who warned in the 1940s that even those in need should never feel income from the state can ‘come from a bottomless purse’.

In a keynote lecture in Cambridge, Mr Duncan Smith will insist that although the Coalition has already trimmed £18billion from the vast welfare bill, further changes are needed to drive out ‘perverse incentives’.

He will insist it is unfair, for instance, that the pension credit system means hard-working people who try to save can find themselves retiring on the same income as their neighbour – someone who has not saved a penny but is eligible to claim.

‘What kind of a message does that send out?’ Mr Duncan Smith will ask. ‘It tells people on low incomes that it’s not worth saving – it’s not even worth working. Just sit back and wait for the government to pay out when you retire.’

He will also suggest workless families can no longer expect ‘never-ending amounts of money for every child’ and confirm the Government intends to restrict housing benefit to the under-25s.

Under Labour, he will say, spending on benefits and tax credits rose by over 60 per cent – spiralling even before the recession, when growth was booming, jobs were being created, and welfare bills should have been falling.

By 2010 the extra spending was costing every household in the country an extra £3,000 a year in tax, helping to increase the budget deficit.

‘We were unable to pay our way, with an economy built on debt and consumption,’ Mr Duncan Smith will say.

‘Some 4.6 million people – 12 per cent of the working age population – on out of work benefits. One in every five households with no one working, and two million children living in workless families – a higher proportion than almost any country in Europe.

‘This culture of entrenched worklessness and dependency was not just a product of the recession. There were over four million people on out of work benefits throughout the years of growth.

‘Under the previous Government whilst employment rose by 2.4 million, more than half of that was accounted for by foreign nationals.’

The welfare system became one of ‘Byzantine complexity’, with more than 30 different benefits, Mr Duncan Smith will say. Disabled people alone were entitled to a ‘complicated muddle’ of seven additional payments, three different premiums and four components of the main out of work benefits and tax credits.

The incentives in the system are being changed so that ‘it acts as a springboard rather than a trap, rewarding those who move into work’.

Speaking to Cambridge Public Policy, a think-tank linked to the city’s university, Mr Duncan Smith will say he takes his ‘lead from Beveridge’. ‘As Beveridge said: “The insured persons should not feel that income [from the state] can come from a bottomless purse”,’ he said. ‘Especially so, when the economy isn’t growing as we had hoped, the public finances remain under pressure and the social outcomes have been so poor.’


British PM insists prisoners will not be given the vote

David Cameron was at war with his own senior law officer last night after insisting that prisoners would not be given the vote.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve was said to be ‘furious’ with the Prime Minister’s stance. Last night there was speculation that Mr Grieve could even resign his Government role if the Prime Minister fails to respect the ‘rule of law’ and do as he wishes.

The Prime Minister told MPs that Britain would not capitulate to demands by the European Court of Human Rights for inmates to be enfranchised. He told MPs: ‘No one should be in any doubt – prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government.’

His comments were seen as a swift slap-down for Mr Grieve, the Cabinet’s most senior legal adviser.

Only minutes earlier Mr Grieve had claimed that Britain’s reputation would be damaged if it did not adhere to the ruling by Strasbourg, which dates back to 2005.

Mr Grieve, who claimed it was technically possible for Britain to be booted out of the Council of Europe, said: ‘The United Kingdom has an enviable reputation in relation to human rights standards and adherence. ‘I have no doubt that it would be seen by other countries as a move away from our strict adherence to human rights laws.’

Mr Grieve argued that refusing inmates the vote ‘would be costly to the United Kingdom’ as Strasbourg would almost certainly award them compensation worth tens of millions of pounds.

Mr Grieve added that, while the Government could choose not to pay, that ‘would be a further breach of the obligations’. He added: ‘The issue is whether the United Kingdom wishes to be in breach of its international obligations and what that does to the reputation of the United Kingdom.’

The remarks by Mr Grieve infuriated backbench Tory MPs. They insist it is nonsense to suggest Britain could be thrown out of the Council of Europe, which has failed to suspend the membership of countries such as Russia and Turkey which are guilty of flagrant abuses of human rights.

MPs also point out that the overwhelming majority of MPs voted last year to maintain the UK’s historic ban on prisoner voting and say Strasbourg must respect the sovereignty of Parliament.
So what will happen next?

The latest day of drama over prisoner voting was prompted by claims that the Government was prepared finally to reach a settlement with Strasbourg.

To the anger of Tory MPs, it was reported that Mr Grieve had persuaded Mr Cameron of the need to introduce a Bill giving at least a limited number of convicts the vote. But the claims were immediately rejected by Number Ten and insiders at the Ministry of Justice.

Later, at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, Mr Cameron said: ‘I don’t want prisoners to have the vote, and they should not have the vote. ‘If it helps by having another vote in Parliament on another resolution to make absolutely clear, to help put the legal position beyond doubt, I am very happy to do that.’

A Tory source said Mr Grieve had gone public with his concerns after becoming frustrated with Mr Cameron’s refusal to accept his advice on prisoner voting. He is backed in the Cabinet by former Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.

The source said: ‘For Dominic the rule of law is the key issue. The legal advice is very clear that the UK has to abide by the court’s ruling. There are different ways of doing it, but we cannot just say no – it may be popular politically in the short term, but legally it is madness and even the popularity of it may fade when we start having to pay compensation to murderers.’

A senior Government source insisted that Mr Cameron’s stance did not conflict with the Government’s legal advice. The source said: ‘The Attorney General’s arguments are slightly difficult to penetrate – he says lots of different things. ‘The focus has been on his concerns, but he does point out that parliament is sovereign and that there is flexibility in this.’


Dutch children could have three or more "parents"

Dutch kids may soon be able to have three or more mothers or fathers after the government said it was seeking to enshrine parenting rights for the Netherlands' 25,000 children in gay families.

"The justice ministry is going to investigate and see what the possibilities are for recognising three parents or more per family," ministry spokesman Wiebe Alkema told AFP on Wednesday.

The left-wing Green party, but also the Liberal VVD and the Labour PvdA parties that won last month's parliamentary election, requested the report with a view to amending a lesbian parenting bill currently before parliament.

The Netherlands was the first country to legalise gay marriage in 2001 and when a gay or lesbian couple has a child, another parent is by biological necessity involved.

But, said Green MP Liesbeth van Tongeren, it is also essential to recognise the rights of non-biological parents, including step-parents.

"Currently parenthood in the eyes of the law is almost always the consequence of biological parenthood," her party said in a statement, stressing that "this does not represent the diversity of families in the Netherlands."

"Often enough, the father of a child with lesbian parents also plays a role in the life of the child," she said.

"How a family lives is more important than the biological lineage," Van Tongeren added. "The bill should take into account what's best for all concerned."

There is currently no legal recognition in the Netherlands for a child's step-parents or for sperm donors who would like to be involved in the life of their child.

Junior justice minister Fred Teveen noted in parliament however that there were potentially many practical objections to changing the law and that he would await the report's conclusions.

Official statistics say that by the end of 2010, 14,813 homosexual couples were married in the Netherlands, where around a million of the country's 16.7 million inhabitants are homosexual, according to gay rights group COC.


A War on Religion? (Or... bye, bye freedom of conscience!)?

In today’s increasingly secular society, the threat to religious freedom comes not at the point of a sword, but from imposed values at odds with the truth that there is a Creator who has given us certain inalienable rights that government is supposed to secure, not supplant. People of faith in America may not be seeing squads of soldiers pounding on their doors in the dead of night, demanding that they renounce their faith or be dragged off. But they are being confronted by lawmakers, bureaucrats, regulators, human rights commissions, and even college deans demanding that they submit to so-called “neutral laws of general applicability” that venerate such concepts as toleration, non-discrimination, and “choice.”

“And it’s okay,” say these modern arbiters of twenty-first century enlightenment, “if you don’t want to comply.” But the catch is that you won’t be able to earn a living in your chosen profession, or you may have to pay a fine, or your club or association or church will simply have to meet somewhere else away from the rest of “polite society.”

Yes, today’s barbarians seek not to end the free exercise of religion with a single knock-out blow, but rather to strangle it until it either cries “Uncle” or suffocates.

In this essay I offer a quick overview of how today’s threats to our religious freedom play out in the issues of life, marriage and sexuality, and the freedom of association.


The key targets of the Left with respect to the rights of conscience in the health-care field have been nurses and pharmacists who object to being involved in abortions or providing contraceptives, including possible abortion-causing drugs, because of their deeply held beliefs that pre-born lives are sacred.

In Illinois, just last month, a state court of appeals upheld the right of some pharmacists to refuse to provide the Plan B contraceptive, which is believed to be a possible abortifacient. Although Illinois has a “right of conscience” statute covering pharmacists, you may recall that former Governor Blagojevich issued a mandate ordering pharmacists to provide Plan B, and if they had religious objections to doing so, they should “find another profession.” The Illinois courts disagreed.

In the state of Washington earlier this year, a federal district court found a free exercise violation in that state’s attempt to enact rules that would force pharmacists to likewise provide Plan B and other drugs in violation of their conscience rights. The trial judge noted the close cooperation between the governor’s office, the state pharmacy board, and Planned Parenthood to create a rule whose “predominant purpose” was to “stamp out the right to refuse.”

Nurses with religious objections to participating in abortion procedures at state-owned or state-supported hospitals have also been threatened with loss of their jobs. In one case from Mt. Sinai hospital in Brooklyn in 2009, a nurse was required to assist in an abortion procedure against her conscience, and the federal courts denied her any legal remedy whatsoever. A state lawsuit is pending. In another case arising at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 2011 involving 12 pro-life nurses, it took the quick action of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to stop the strong-arming by hospital administrators.

Most disturbing of all, the federal government has now taken a prominent role in threatening religious conscience rights on a nationwide scale. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has issued what has become known as the “HHS mandate”—a definition of the “preventive services” under the 2010 law known as the Affordable Care Act. The HHS mandate requires most employers to provide employee health plans that include coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives—including Plan B, Ella, and other possible abortion-causing drugs—and even abortion counseling. The mandate includes only a weak “religious” exemption from the mandate’s requirements that appears to cover only churches, leaving most other religious institutions, religious non-profits, and secular for-profit businesses under compulsion to comply. Heavy fines await those employers who refuse to comply.

The mandate’s deadlines for compliance (the first of which passed on August 1, 2012) have forced religious employers of all types to initiate lawsuits seeking protection for their conscience rights. Already over 30 lawsuits have been filed involving over 90 plaintiffs. Rather than recognize the overwhelming tide of objections to the mandate’s impact on conscience rights, the Administration has doubled down, filing motions to dismiss these lawsuits on standing or ripeness grounds.

In the case of one secular company, however, the administration’s hardball litigation tactics have proven ineffective. Hercules Industries is a Denver heating and air conditioning company owned by a Catholic family and run according to the owners’ faith principles. The owners object to the mandate’s sterilization and contraceptive requirements, which violate Catholic doctrine. The company was able with ADF’s help to obtain an injunction this past July against the mandate’s enforcement, at least on a temporary basis as the company’s lawsuit proceeds. The government argued that a secular company, such as Hercules, by definition “cannot engage in religion,” even though the owners’ faith principles are evident throughout the company’s corporate documents and policies. Federal district court judge John Kane called the question of a corporation’s religious rights an “issue of first impression,” but if it is resolved in Hercules’s favor, the judge held that the mandate would likely violate the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 1993, RFRA prohibits the federal government from imposing a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion unless it has a compelling interest, and the burden is imposed using the least restrictive means available.

As more employers face compliance deadlines or monetary penalties, and the administration refuses to budge on the mandate, look for even more legal challenges to be filed.

Marriage and Sexuality

In the area of marriage and family, there is no doubt but that the increasing proliferation of so-called non-discrimination laws, civil unions, and same-sex marriage has resulted in the denial of religious liberty. Just ask Catholic Charities, which, since 2006, has chosen to get out of the adoption business in Boston, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Illinois rather than be forced to place children with same-sex parents as required by the laws of those jurisdictions.

In New Mexico, a husband and wife photography business was fined over $6,600 for refusing, on religious grounds, to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony. Although New Mexico has neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions, the state’s Human Rights Commission held that the couple violated the state’s non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation, and refused even to consider the couple’s religious liberty claims. That case is currently at the New Mexico Supreme Court after losing in two lower courts, and I’m hopeful that ADF is going to pull out a victory there.

In New Jersey, a United Methodist facility known as Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association was similarly charged with violating the state’s non-discrimination laws for refusing to host a civil union ceremony in its beachfront pavilion in 2007. That case is still ongoing, but part of a state tax exemption was also revoked from the facility for its action. Take note of the tax exemption issue. If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land by edict of the Supreme Court next year, watch to see what happens down the road to the 501(c)(3) exemptions of those organizations whose beliefs and practices contradict the new reality.

In Vermont, Illinois, Hawaii and elsewhere, bed and breakfast inns run by people of faith have been targeted for discrimination complaints and lawsuits because the owners have refused to rent rooms or facilities for civil union or same-sex marriage events.

The federal courts’ recent treatments of associational freedoms focus on religious groups on college campuses as well as the rights of churches to meet in public buildings and hire their ministers without government interference.

Public colleges and universities have for a long time been a hotbed of political correctness. Whether it’s out and out hostility to religion by professors, or speech codes, or disputes over campus club membership restrictions, there is no end to the possibilities for attacks on religious freedom on campus.

In 2010, the Supreme Court got involved in a case over the associational rights of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at the UC Hastings College of Law involving the club’s requirements concerning biblical belief and sexual behavior outside of the biblical definition of marriage. An LGBT group on campus complained, and the university then denied CLS official recognition. Although the facts and legal arguments are too detailed to present here, the bottom line is that the Court upheld what is called an “all comers policy” that the University had imposed on its campus clubs: all comers, regardless of whether they agree with a club’s foundational principles or not, must be allowed to join and even run for leadership positions. Since CLS could go off campus and enjoy all the associational freedom it desired, Justice Ginsburg held, its First Amendment rights were not violated. Being “banished” from campus life now seems to be the price for exercising your freedom of religion.

The Bronx Household of Faith has been in a long-running battle with the New York City Board of Education over the rental of public school facilities on weekends for church services. New York receives about 10,000 requests from community groups each year to rent out school facilities for evening and weekend events. Since the early 1990s, the City has been doing its best to deny churches the right to meet in its schools, alleging supposed “separation of church and state” problems. For about 17 years and counting, ADF has been defending this poor little neighborhood church against the ever-changing policies and arguments of the Big Apple. The church has lost in court on its viewpoint discrimination claim, but policy changes over the years now mean that though the City could still win under the free speech clause, it could lose under the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment, according to a federal district court judge’s recent ruling. Stay tuned.

Finally, last January, in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. EEOC, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the federal government’s incredibly wrong-headed argument that the First Amendment religion clauses do not protect a church’s ministerial hiring decisions. Chief Justice Roberts charitably referred to the government’s argument as “untenable” and “remarkable.”


In a world where the government believes that the First Amendment’s religious freedoms don’t apply to churches, religious organizations, non-profit and for-profit businesses, health-care providers, and anyone outside the four walls of a church building, we are all at risk. In a world where such people and organizations are relegated to second-class status off campus, or told to find a different line of work, or find a sign on public facilities that says “religion not welcome here,” we have entered an era not of tolerance, but intolerance.

On a hopeful note, we should thank legal organizations like ADF for defending us against the rising tide of laws, regulations, and policies that have the effect of infringing our religious freedoms. But we can’t leave it all up to them. We need to link arms and do the necessary grassroots-level work necessary to shore up our religious freedom at national, state, and local levels.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


25 October, 2012

Elected police bosses coming in Britain -- despite much elite disquiet

With three weeks to go until the first elections for police and crime commissioners (PCCs), the public is at last beginning to hear about this major reform. TV adverts, cunningly placed during Downton Abbey, have alerted Middle England. Information is being despatched to every household. The media has stopped complaining about the lack of coverage and started to cover the story. The Prime Minister has urged people to get out and vote.

In a less-than-principled stand, the Labour Party, who opposed PCCs at every stage, are fielding candidates. Even the Liberal Democrats, despite their attempt to sabotage the reform by delaying the poll, are bravely contesting half the seats. More than 50 independents have thrown their hats into the ring.

In this fervour of democracy, one voice dissents: Lord Blair, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has told people to stay at home. He claims that a single individual cannot represent one police force area. Yet this is apparently not too big a task for one chief constable. Lord Blair himself headed a force of 55,000 people, serving a population of 7.4 million, with a budget of £4 billion. But perish the thought that the people should be given a say.

There’s something particularly distasteful about an unelected peer unsuccessfully seeking to halt a democratic reform, then urging the public to boycott the ballot box despite the parliamentary vote. Lord Blair is a member of the once-governing class who felt no need for public consent and who regard popular views as dangerous. His like ran the quangos of the land, presiding over a public that could not possibly be trusted to take decisions for themselves.

Well, good riddance to them. There’s an obvious reason why we need the police to be accountable: you can’t choose your force. Increasingly there’s choice over your local school or GP. But the police are a natural monopoly. If you live in London you get the Met. If you lived there between 2005 and 2008, you got Ian Blair. And there wasn’t a thing you could do about it.

But then along came Boris. With the democratic mandate of a newly elected mayor, he swiftly despatched his police chief. No wonder the victim opposes this policy. And that’s the power of the reform: it puts the people in charge. It makes the police accountable for their actions and, in turn, the elected representatives who supervise the force have their feet held to the fire.

Interminable objections were mounted to this change. It would politicise the police, critics said, though my experience was that chief constables were as skilful political practitioners as my colleagues in the Commons. They usually ran rings round the chairmen of local police authorities, who the public had rarely heard of. The chiefs will find it harder after next month.

There are plenty of checks and balances. Chief constables will remain operationally independent. No politician should have the power to demand an arrest or investigation. PCCs will swear an oath of impartiality, undertaking to serve all without fear or favour. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary will continue to watch over forces.

But the most powerful safeguard of all is that the public will be connected with their force. Decisions about whether to increase the amount we all pay through council tax for policing will no longer be taken behind closed doors. Big questions about whether to engage the private sector to deliver behind-the-scenes policing services will have to be settled in public. I think that letting companies do back-room tasks more efficiently is the way to protect the front line. But it will be Commissioners who decide.

The subtext of opposition to these changes is that the police don’t need reform. But it’s very hard to look at the tragic story of Hillsborough, or failings to investigate child abuse, or the murky business of phone hacking, without concluding that a powerful searchlight needs shining in some dark corners of policing. Any public service that routinely leaked confidential information to the press would give cause for concern. When that organisation is entrusted to uphold the law, yet some of its officers see nothing wrong, we have a problem.

This is why the new College of Policing, which will set standards and guard integrity, will be so important. Police officers should be trusted as professionals, able to exercise discretion without the bureaucratic interference that has kept them off the streets, but then held properly to account.

It’s true that crime is down – inconveniently undermining Labour’s sole policy on policing, which is to oppose cuts. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, would rather you didn’t know that her party is quietly committed to cutting police budgets, too. That would mean fewer police officers. But it’s not something she whispers while she’s locked in the embrace of the Police Federation.

In fact, across the 41 police force areas, good people are standing and they deserve attention. These are candidates with local roots who care about their communities. Their decisions over the next four years will matter. That’s why people should ignore the ill-intentioned advice of Lord Blair and exercise the precious right of democracy on Thursday, November 15. Those who hold power over the people should be accountable to the people.


The Twittermob is watching you, too

The twitch-hunt of far-right nutjob Nick Griffin over one daft tweet has frightening implications for us all

Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right British National Party (BNP), currently has 19,356 followers on Twitter. Given the events of the past week, it seems many of these are not following Griffin because they enjoy his rants on anything from fracking to Islamists. Rather, the majority are following him in order to monitor his newsfeed, seemingly just waiting for an opportunity to report him to the police for offensive tweets.

Griffin’s latest misdemeanour was to tweet part of the address of two gay men who had won a court case against a couple of Christian B&B owners who had refused the men a room. Griffin then suggested to his followers that they might like to cause ‘a bit of drama’ outside the gay couple’s home in Huntingdon. So did any Twitter followers turn up? No – they were too busy shopping Griffin to the police.

One of the quickest off the mark was the Labour LGBT campaign group, which claimed to take ‘genuine offence’ at Griffin’s tweets. Labour LGBT tweeted: ‘If you agree Nick Griffin has just breached Sec 127 (1) of the Communications Act 2003 (see link), report him!’ This was retweeted by over 400 individuals, with the group sending interested individuals to the Metropolitan Police website where Griffin could be reported for a hate crime. A full-blown twitch-hunt had begun, with the hashtag #bangriffin heavily used. And almost 40,000 people signied a petition to ‘Get Griffin off Twitter’ for ‘publicly tweeting the address of a gay couple and inciting protest outside their home’.

The National Union of Students (NUS) joined in, posting a statement that the reporting of hate crime should be ‘encouraged’ and ‘the NUS LGBT campaign welcomes the police investigation into these tweets and will be monitoring the situation on behalf of our members’. The LGBT office of campaign group Hope Not Hate wrote an open letter to Cambridgeshire police stating: ‘In Nick Griffin’s tweets he seeks to incite violence against the gay couple.’ Griffin’s Twitter account was suspended and Cambridgeshire police declared that it was investigating Griffin.

Without doubt, tweeting the address of a gay couple, and threatening to give them ‘a bit of drama’ in the form of a demonstration, is an idiotic thing to do. But did anyone really think that a militant wing of the BNP was going to swoop down to Huntingdon and pay the sixtysomething gay couple a visit? Certainly not the couple themselves, whose chilled-out approach – as Brendan O’Neill has pointed out in his Telegraph blog – contrasts sharply with the hysteria of the Twittermob. Any demo, the couple said, would be a ‘damp squib’. Furthermore, ‘it would be difficult for people to gather as we live in a small village and there’s nowhere to park’.

Such cool reasoning was not shared by members of the Twittersphere, or by some gay-rights campaigners. In the words of a spokesperson for gay-rights group Stonewall, Griffin’s behaviour was ‘beyond words, unbelievably shocking. It is a real example of the hatred still out there towards gay people.’

‘Out there’ - it is a revealing phrase. It seems that this Twitter-stoked furore is not just about the loon Griffin, who has for many years developed notoriety for spouting offensive rubbish. It speaks also to the fear of some sort of silent, bigoted majority that Griffin supposedly represents. All it takes, it seems, is a tweet from Fuhrer Griffin and the gay-bashing hordes will arise. They won’t, of course, because they don’t exist. Yet, that someone widely known as a bit of a nutjob is seen as a ‘real example’ of hatred towards gays says more about a culture of offence-seeking than actual attitudes towards homosexuals in twenty-first century Britain.

It appears, however, that Cambridgeshire police has decided not to press charges against Griffin. And his Twitter account has been reinstated, albeit with the offending tweet deleted. To Griffin’s delight, he’s even attracted 3,500 extra followers on the back of the publicity. This time, it appears Griffin lives to tweet another day.

But the furore provoked by a few words online, coupled with the Twittermob’s censorious desire neither to debate nor countenance protest, speaks volumes about the increasingly intolerant nature of the Twittersphere. In its hounding of Griffin, the Twittermob is sending a frightening message: we are watching you, too. Conform or else.


EU is forced to abandon plans for women to take 40% of company board seats after lawyers argue quota would be illegal

A European Union plan to force companies to allot 40 per cent of board seats to women by 2020 has been dropped at the last minute, after lawyers argued strict quotas were unlawful.

Men currently represent over 85 percent of all executive posts in the European Union, an imbalance some prominent women in EU institutions are trying to correct, but their efforts have run into widespread opposition.

Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, has been struggling to overcome obstacles to her draft proposal for binding gender quotas, and had to scale back the plan after lawyers in the Commission said its main tenet was unlawful.

Ms Reding had wanted to push a binding 40 per cent quota for women on company boards, enforced with sanctions. And earlier drafts of her proposal showed that she wanted a quota to be enforced by 2020.

But officials say that has now been diluted in the proposal, which was still being drafted ahead of a vote by the 27 EU commissioners later on Tuesday afternoon.

The EU's legal service said countries cannot be obliged to reach the 40 per cent female quota, but can ensure that more is done to address gender bias on boards.

Previous drafts outlined hefty sanctions for companies which were not meeting the quota. In a recent version the size of such sanctions has been left to member states to decide.

Supporters of Ms Reding's plans say men could also benefit from the corporate gender push.

If a man who is out of work on paternity leave for a year is up against a woman in a job interview who had been in work for a year, then the man could get priority, one official said.

Many of the EU's 27 member countries have already said they will not support Ms Reding's proposal, and their opposition has also contributed to the softening of her position.

A recent survey of female workers in the UK showed the majority did not aspire to become directors.

The survey of 547 female workers, by the Daily Telegraph found, only four per cent aspired to join the board with a similarly small proportion saying they were looking to become chief executive.

While some other female commissioners say they agree with the proposal's objective, some say its unwieldiness and subsequent unpopularity could kill off much-needed debate on gender inequality.

Five of the commission's nine female commissioners are against the proposal a commission official said while several of the male commissioners, including Finland's Olli Rehn and Michel Barnier of France, are in favour.

Dutch commissioner Neelie Kroes is set to vote against it. Her career has spanned several company board positions and two tenures as a commissioner.

But despite the difficulties Reding's proposal faces, the gender debate has been high on the agenda of other EU institutions.

Members of the European Parliament economics committee on Monday rejected the appointment of Luxembourg's Yves Mersch to the ECB Executive Board, because no women had been considered for the post. While Mersch is still expected to get the job, members of the Parliament believe the stand has put the issue under the spotlight.


Hotheads and no 'home training'

In case you're one of those people who values your sanity and seeks to preserve it -- which means you avoid most of what is on the Internet -- here's what happened: Artis Hughes, a 59-year-old bus driver for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, hit 25-year-old Shi'Dea Lane with a right uppercut that would have done former heavyweight champion George Foreman proud. Under normal circumstances, many -- and I'm hoping most -- people would be adamantly opposed to a man hitting a woman, especially with a hard, potentially jaw-breaking uppercut. But what happened on that Cleveland bus back on Sept. 18 can hardly be described as normal, which is why the incident is chock-full of fodder for newspaper columnists.

Lane boarded the bus and didn't pay her fare. That led to what is called a "beef" between her and Hughes. Lane grabbed Hughes by the neck and spat in his face. That's when he got up out of the driver's seat and cold-cocked her.

It's a sign of the times that there were several on the bus who had their cellphones ready to record the entire incident, which brings me to my first point. The video shows Hughes and Lane threatening physical violence against each other, and the situation was clearly quickly spiraling out of control. Instead of whipping out their cellphones to record the confrontation, why didn't at least one of those geniuses call the police?

That brings me to my second point. Many have expressed sympathy for Hughes, the bus driver. Sorry, I'm not one of them. As a bus driver, his first priority should have been the safety of the passengers. HE's the one that should have called police. And just how did getting out of his seat to pop Lane's face inside-out contribute to passenger safety? Lane is not completely to blame. Hughes did his part to escalate the confrontation, by threatening to bring his daughter and even granddaughter to the scene to beat up Lane. And wisecracking about a scar on Lane's face was completely uncalled-for.

But then we come to my third point: Lane, who's a real piece of work. In addition to threatening to beat up Hughes, Lane called him the dreaded "b" word. Then she called his mother the same thing. After Hughes punched Lane, he threw her bodily off the bus. Lane rushed back onto the bus and continued the fight, ratcheting up the expletives. Hughes was no longer just the "b" word; now he was the "n" word too. Lane told Hughes that her boyfriend -- her "n---a," in Lane's elegant phrasing -- was going to beat Hughes up. Totally ghetto.

Fourth, can anyone say "home training"? Because that's what was completely lacking in this situation. When I was growing up on Baltimore's west side, "home training" was a phrase I heard all the time. Whenever we'd see someone acting disgracefully or inappropriately, we'd shake our heads and lament the offender's lack of home training. "No home training" was how we put it.

Hughes showed little home training, Lane absolutely none. In fact, if home training could be measured on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being no training at all, Lane would send the scale's meter well into double-digit negative numbers.

Still, the main fault lies with Hughes. At 59 years old, his should have been the wiser head that prevailed. He grew up in the era when black Americans (both Hughes and Lane are black) talked about "home training" all the time.

I wouldn't expect Lane, born circa 1987, to know anything about home training. Unfortunately, neither does Hughes.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


24 October, 2012

Lesbians Launch Discrimination Complaint Against NY Farm Owners for Refusing to Host Their Gay Wedding?

Two New York women who say they were turned away from a potential wedding site because they are lesbians have filed a discrimination complaint.

Advocates say the complaint filed with the state Division of Human Rights is among the first of its kind since New York legalized same-sex weddings last year.

Melisa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy, of Albany, say they filed the complaint Oct. 11 after Liberty Ridge Farm told them they could not use the site for their wedding next summer.

“When we asked why [the owners told us], ‘That’s what my husband and I decided. We’ve been married a long time and it’s great you’re getting married and all, but you can’t do it here,’” McCarthy told WNYT-TV.

The farm has had a growing presence of weddings on its premises. This year, alone, 15 nuptials were booked. But with gay marriage being so new in New York State — and with this being one of the first cases of alleged discrimination – there’s no telling how the legalities will play out.

Despite critique, owner Robert Gifford is adamant about not hosting gay marriages at Liberty Ridge. “I think it’s our right to choose who we market to, like any business,” he said in an interview with WNYT last week. ”We are a family business and we just feel we ought to stay down the family path.”

A spokesman for the owners of Liberty Ridge Farm says the couple acted in line with their values. Jason McGuire, of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, says the owners feel that their rights are being violated and that they will contest the complaint. While the law has an exemption for religious halls and membership organizations, the farm doesn’t fall under these categories.


The 1st Amendment gives them freedom to practice their religion

How the British bureaucracy works

Whenever I catch a spokesman on the radio whose salary comes out of the “public purse”, ie my wallet and yours, and who is defending a controversial decision to pay the new “Head of Talk” or “Head of BBC Trust” (or whatever it is they call the Director-General now) a high-Roman opulence of salary and perks, his reasoning is always the same.

Staggering salaries are a necessary evil at the BBC (or at Ofqual or Ofsted, or anywhere else in the public sector) because these humongously well-paid public servants would earn much, much more if they worked in the private sector. Sometimes, as the defender of the day goes on and on, defending the indefensible decision of the day, I catch myself thinking: “Ooh, I wish I worked in the private sector…”

Until I remember that I do; and always have, throughout my life, except for one short stint when I left a posh glossy for the Radio Times simply because the BBC literally doubled my salary. When I opened the letter that said “You got the job”, I fell on the floor laughing hysterically. It wasn’t a job – it was a six-month contract – but I was paid my erstwhile annual salary for the six months. And the next six! And the next! I only stayed a year and a half because I didn’t like all the low-level corruption and petty expenses-fiddling. (If you can’t add up it’s hard to fiddle expenses. Still, it makes you jolly cross when others blatantly do.)

Weirdly, Jeremy (public servant) Hunt’s attempt to explain his doctors’ (public servants) competency checks on the wireless yesterday sounded so creepily simplistic that it baffled me. “Every doctor in the country, and that includes foreign doctors who have come to practise in the UK, will have to undergo an annual appraisal,” he said, while I shouted “How much will that cost?” “and those appraisals will be reviewed every five years and then the GMC, which is the regulator of the medical profession, will decide whether there are concerns, and where there are concerns, there’s a process” – Me: “How much?” – “that doctors will go through. It’s really designed to pick up any problems before they happen.”

On and on he went, about giving doctors a chance to bring their skills up to speed (presumably by retraining them at public expense? Before making them redundant, also at public expense?): “And at the end of the day, if they’re not able to do that, the end of the road would be that they’re prevented from practising.” By the GMC? Isn’t that a publicly funded body? It is. And in 2010, its “staff costs” for 605 people were £34 million. Lord, are we going to have to quintuple the annual emoluments and packages?

What concerns me is that if there is going to be revalidation of doctors, surely there will be a need for a publicly funded regulatory body – let’s call it Ofdoc – to oversee the process of revalidation and check that the annual checks on competence have been competently carried out? And the regulatory body will need someone to head it, most likely a female, because there is always pressure to feminise this overwhelmingly male Government (more power to their blokey elbow, say I). Let’s call her Cynthia – in fact, let’s call her Dame Cynthia because if not now then soon such a high honour must be due – who will be expensively procured (these things take time, especially if you’re a public-sector headhunter), and bountifully paid.

I’d imagine there would be an unimaginably large (to most people) package of, say, £400,000 a year, a) because she will need to be “lured” with a fat wodge from her current job, and, b) because she could easily earn that much or scads more in the private sector. And let’s not forget that at every new layer of bureaucracy, somebody – and isn’t it most likely to be McKinsey? – will need to get their consultancy fees. I think we can agree that consultancy fees are always a given in the public sector.


Billy Graham: Vote for Biblical Values This Nov. 6

Is Billy Graham getting political? That’s what some are wondering with the release of a statement from the man who is arguably the best known evangelist in the world:
I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who support the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.

The statement is notable because the 93-year-old preacher has steered clear of politics during his long and illustrious career.

Graham is informally called the “Pastor to Presidents,” because he has met with every sitting president since Harry S. Truman. Many, including Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton sought his counsel, and he has enjoyed a close relationship with the Bush family.

Some even speculate that Graham has been a resource for both parties because he avoids, and maybe even transcends, politics. It’s undoubtedly true Graham has tried to stay out of the political arena.

For example, on his website, in response to a question about why he does not speak out more on political issues, Graham offered the following answer:
Over the years, I have tried to avoid getting involved in partisan politics -- and on those few occasions when I may have stepped over the line (at least in some people's view), I regretted it later. As an evangelist, my calling has been to preach the Gospel to as many people as possible, and I have always wanted to avoid putting up any unnecessary barriers…

Graham cultivated this philosophy over nearly 70 years of ministry, which makes his recent words even more startling.

So is Billy Graham getting political? The answer is “no.” Rather, he is getting biblical.

The Bible identified these as moral issues long before the political experiment we call “America” even came into existence. It is politics that has expanded into the realm of morality, and not vice-versa.

People who have followed Graham’s career should not be surprised by this. When an issue is about morality and doing what is right before God, Graham has not shied away.

For example, his Christian beliefs catapulted him into the civil rights movement in America. When he noticed his crusades were often segregated, Graham took steps to combat what he saw as clearly wrong. On one occasion, in 1953, he tore down ropes that organizers had used to segregate the audience, and increasingly spoke against the practice. In 1957, he invited the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to join him in the pulpit during a 16-week revival in New York City. And when King was arrested in Birmingham in 1963, Graham posted bail for him.

As he did back then, Graham is speaking on moral issues of the day—except this time around, the issues are the sanctity of life and the preservation of the true definition of marriage.

He is not poking his finger in anyone’s eye or calling names; that has never been his style. But Graham understands that these are moral issues, about which the Bible speaks clearly, and also sees how radical efforts to redefine marriage harm religious freedom. And he has undoubtedly seen the cases brought against people of faith for not embracing the new and surprisingly intolerant message of “tolerance.”

Traditional religious faith, with its notions that certain behaviors separate us from God (dare we say “sin”?), are now the wrong answer and no longer a view to be tolerated.

Graham’s religious beliefs, shared by many, have not moved. Instead, the radicalized politics of moral issues have become a battering ram against his beliefs.

So take heart; Billy Graham is not getting political. He is speaking with clarity on the profound moral issues at stake in this election, and the voice that has counseled presidents, world leaders, and so many millions, is now happily speaking to our nation again.


Australia: Must not be critical of whites who claim to be black

Gerard Henderson

"There are people who get jobs, and are claiming benefits, who claim to be Aboriginal because they have a great-great-great-great grandmother or grandfather" ... Aboriginal boxer Anthony Mundine.

I'm with boxer Anthony "Choc" Mundine - in his most recent battle, at least. Last Thursday, during a media conference to publicise his forthcoming International Boxing Federation world middleweight contest with Tasmanian Daniel Geale, Mundine questioned his opponent's Aboriginal identity.

Mundine said he "thought they wiped all the Aborigines from Tasmania out" and added Geale had "a white wife and white kids". He later apologised for both statements. However, he did not resile from his comments about identity and declared yesterday: "There are people who get jobs, and are claiming benefits, who claim to be Aboriginal because they have a great-great-great-great grandmother or grandfather. That, I think, is wrong."

Mundine's recent comments about Aboriginality have been denounced by journalists and others, most notably by the Tasmanian indigenous activist Michael Mansell. He linked Mundine's attitude with that of the Ku Klux Klan and claimed his position resembled a "neo-Nazi type of thought". According to Mansell, Mundine is in need of re-education since his comments were "worse than what Andrew Bolt said" last year.

Mansell is an extremist, as is obvious from his statement that Mundine is not welcome in Tasmania until he issues a grovelling apology. Yet Mansell's position reflects a pattern in left-wing thought in recent years to call for the silencing of opponents from both the right-of-centre (like Bolt) or even the left-of-centre (like Mundine).

In his rush to censor Mundine, Mansell seems to have forgotten that, in the past, he himself has raised the issue of Aboriginal identity. On August 26, 2002, Four Corners ran a program titled "Blackfella, Whitefella" concerning disputes in Tasmania as to who was indigenous. Mansell told the reporter Quentin McDermott anyone who wanted "to participate in elections that are set up for Aboriginal people … should be able to satisfy the criteria that they are, in fact, Aborigines".

That was a decade ago. Now Mansell says calls for individuals to meet certain criteria before claiming to be indigenous is profoundly racist. What's changed? Well, it's possible that the likes of Mansell have taken comfort from Federal Court Judge Mordy Bromberg's decision in the 2011 case of Eatock v Bolt concerning what were called "fair-skinned Aboriginal people".

Bromberg found Bolt had made a number of factual errors in his comments on the "fair-skinned Aboriginal people" whom he had offended. But the judge went further by criticising the "tone" of Bolt's columns in the Herald-Sun, which had included "mockery and inflammatory language" and threatened "social harmony". Yet Bolt's comments last year were not more threatening to social harmony than Mundine's outburst last week.

Moreover, there is an issue of social policy involved. Professor Henry Reynolds stated it when interviewed by Four Corners in 2002. He argued that when "identity becomes the basis for a claim on the rest of us - that is, on the state or on the taxpayer - we all have to be concerned".

Last week, after upholding complaints against the broadcaster Alan Jones, the Australian Communications and Media Authority entered into an agreement with 2GB. As a result, Jones will be subjected to a form of re-education. He will be trained on "factual accuracy" and broadcasting "other significant viewpoints".

It's true 2GB has not one left-of-centre presenter for any of its key programs. But it's also true the ABC has not one conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its prominent outlets. What's more, senior ABC management refuses to correct errors in documentaries broadcast on the ABC - as I have documented on my Media Watch Dog blog. Yet there is no call for the ABC to be re-educated with respect to fact-checking or to present other significant viewpoints.

It's surprising just how many academics and journalists are seemingly indifferent to demands to limit free expression. On October 12, Lateline ran a debate between Rod Tiffen (who was a paid consultant on the media inquiry of Ray Finkelstein, QC) and Campbell Reid (from News Limited).

The presenter Emma Alberici agreed with Tiffen that there was no big deal in the fact the ultimate sanction recommended by Finkelstein was jailing journalists - since editors could simply do as they were told by the proposed news media council. So, that's all right then, apparently.

Despite the fact there would be no right of appeal against a decision of the NMC and despite the fact the NMC would be chosen by senior academics who have historically been deficient themselves in overseeing plurality in the social science departments of universities which, like the ABC, resemble conservative-free zones.

Sure, Mundine may have offended some last week. But he did strike a blow for free speech in a society in which there is a growing demand to censor unfashionable opinion.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


23 October, 2012

BBC covered up pedophilia among its staff

A typically Leftist lack of moral anchors

The BBC was yesterday plunged into its ‘worst crisis in 50 years’ after damning emails revealed the full extent of its cover-up over the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Newsnight editor Peter Rippon stood down from his role after it emerged that the corporation had repeatedly ‘misled’ the public over why it axed an exposé showing that the DJ was a prolific sexual predator.

A bombshell Panorama investigation to be screened tonight alleges that Mr Rippon was under huge pressure from his bosses to drop the Newsnight investigation into Savile in late 2011, shortly after the star’s death.

This was despite him being warned by journalists that doing so would cause ‘substantial damage to the BBC’s reputation’ and lead to allegations of a ‘cover-up’.

BBC director-general George Entwistle – at the time the head of BBC Vision – was also warned that he might have to change his Christmas TV schedule if the Newsnight investigation was broadcast, because it could undermine glowing tribute programmes to Savile that had already been planned for the festive period.

Veteran BBC journalist John Simpson tells Panorama: ‘This is the worst crisis that I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC.

‘I don’t think the BBC has handled it terribly well. It’s better to just come out right at the start and say we’re going to open everything up and then we’re going to show everybody everything.

‘All we have as an organisation is the trust of the people that watch us and listen to us and if we don’t have that, if we start to lose that, that’s very dangerous.’

Officially, the BBC will wait for the outcome of an internal inquiry into why the Savile investigation was dropped before any decisions are confirmed about Mr Rippon’s future.

But last night it emerged that he agreed yesterday to step down from his role with immediate effect, and is unlikely to return to Newsnight. At the moment he has technically ‘stepped aside’ and it is likely he will take time off for some weeks before returning to the BBC in a different role.

Panorama’s extraordinary revelations will be broadcast tonight, less than 24 hours before Mr Entwistle faces a grilling by MPs over the scandal. MPs are also considering calling his predecessor, Mark Thompson, to give evidence.

Panorama tells how after Savile died aged 84 in October last year, Newsnight spent six weeks investigating allegations that the Top Of The Pops presenter abused pupils from Duncroft school in Surrey at the height of his fame in the 1970s. BBC journalists spoke to women who claimed they had been abused or had knowledge of abuse at the school, which shut in 1980.

The Newsnight reporters who led the investigation told Panorama that Mr Rippon had initially been enthusiastic about the programme, praising as ‘excellent’ their discovery that in 2007 the police had investigated allegations of child sex by Savile.

But Newsnight reporter Liz MacKean said Mr Rippon suddenly went cold on the story, a switch she was convinced was because of pressure from above him at the BBC.

A few days later the BBC’s head of news, Helen Boaden, told Mr Entwistle – who was at that time head of BBC Vision – about the Newsnight investigation and warned that if it went ahead it might affect the Christmas TV schedules.

Newsnight producer Meirion Jones, who was leading the Savile investigation, told Mr Rippon that the BBC would be accused of a ‘cover-up’ if they dropped the story, leading to ‘substantial damage’ to the BBC’s reputation.

But after the Crown Prosecution Service told Newsnight that the reason it did not prosecute Savile in 2007 was because of lack of evidence, Mr Rippon decided to pull the investigation, explaining he did not think the story was ‘strong enough’.

The Newsnight journalists were furious because the story was never meant to be about the police investigation, but about Savile’s abuse.

Miss MacKean said: ‘The story we were investigating was very clear-cut. It was about Jimmy Savile being a paedophile and using his status as a charity fundraiser and television presenter to get access to places where there were vulnerable teenage girls he could abuse.’

She told Panorama that she has also been extremely unhappy about subsequent repeated ‘misleading’ statements by the BBC about their reasons for dropping the programme.

Savile was labelled ‘one of the most prolific sex offenders of all time’ last week after police revealed he may have abused up to 200 victims.

Detectives are preparing to arrest the star’s suspected accomplices as part of the investigation, and plan to question surviving celebrities and former BBC staff linked to him.

Those who face questioning may include paedophile pop star Gary Glitter, real name Paul Gadd, who is accused of raping a girl of 13 in Savile’s BBC dressing room.

Separate and less serious allegations concern comedian Freddie Starr. Starr, 69, yesterday again angrily denied claims he groped a 14-year-old girl after a Savile TV show.

The BBC has announced two inquiries, one into its culture and practices, and another probing why Newsnight dropped its film.

Mr Entwistle, Miss Boaden and Mr Rippon last night declined to comment on the Panorama programme.


British Scout Association to clamp down on the use of nicknames 'because it encourages bullying'

He is the Chief Scout, helping to promote the benefits of the great outdoors to teenagers across Britain. But Bear Grylls will now fall foul of new guidelines from the Scout Association, which has banned all nicknames in a bid to reduce bullying among its young members.

The organisation founded by Lord 'B-P' Baden-Powell believes that giving children nicknames could encourage taunting and bullying.

Training sessions are being offered to new and current leaders, who have also been warned not to use the shortening technique amongst themselves.

It is particularly concerned about the use of nicknames which focus on an individual’s physical characteristics – such as their hair colour, height or weight. So traditional nicknames such as 'ginger', 'lanky' and 'tubby' would be likely to be frowned upon, the Daily Telegraph has reported.

The association’s chief 'safeguarding' officer Sam Marks drew up the plans. He told Scouting Magazine: 'Bullying can advance gradually and can start with something as simple as a nickname.

'Research and experience all highlight that name calling – whether it be nicknames or harmless taunting – is often the largest form of bullying. 'Many nicknames come from someone’s appearance to something they’ve done.

'We don’t have a black and white list of approved nicknames. 'If someone is called Frederick and you call them Freddie then there is no problem with that.

'But you need to ask why that person has a nickname – if it is because they have red hair or are fat or they have a funny face, or because they did something funny and it stuck with them? They might be quite embarrassed by that.'

Mr Marks continued: 'It is in response to industry standards – all the anti-bullying work mentions name calling and teasing as the main form of bullying.

'Nicknames may be slightly different but again the research suggests that often a simple nickname can lead on to further name calling and teasing and that is why there has to be caution.

'It is about getting the adults to think about their behaviour and how they are role models, because what they do, the children may do. 'If adults don’t use nicknames then the children are less likely to do so.'

TV adventurer Bear Grylls, who gained his nickname from his sister when he was just one-week-old, took over as the youngest chief scout ever in 2009, aged just 34.

At the time he explained why he took on the role: ‘In short, because I love adventure and I love hanging out with good friends. 'For me this is what Scouting is about.’

The founder of the movement himself was an advocote of nicknames, gaining a number throughout his life but most famously BP - not only his own initials but those of the scouting motto 'be prepared'.

He also had a caravan and a car nicknamed Eccles and Jam Roll.


Must Religious Organizations Be Required To Admit Non-Adherents as Members?

About five years ago, I had the privilege of making a presentation before the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a European intergovernmental organization established to protect, among other things, international “human rights.” While there, a prominent European atheist group also did a presentation claiming that churches across the world are violating the rights of atheists by excluding them from church membership.

Of course, this was news to me. So I listened.

Their argument went this way: governments subsidize churches directly through tax support, such as in Europe, or indirectly through tax exemptions, such as in the United States (which is false, of course). Since atheists pay taxes, they argued, they can’t be excluded from full church membership and participation, at least not on the grounds that they don’t believe in God. To do so constitutes unlawful discrimination on the basis of religion and a violation of their human rights—again, at least according to them.

Now, at the time, I frankly thought this argument laughable. However, with the passage of just a few short years, what seemed absurd then is gradually becoming reality through the use of so-called “anti-discrimination” regulations targeting Christian ministries. Assuming there are indeed bona fide societal justifications for “nondiscrimination” regulations, their application to churches or Christian ministries turns the essential nature of “Church” on its head. And since we know that ideas expand to the limits of their own logic, any acquiescence to the notion that a body of religious adherents cannot remove non-believers from their membership poses an existential threat to that religious body.

A few actual examples make my point. In the UK, the University of Exeter has sought—unsuccessfully for now—to ban the Christian Student Union from campus on the grounds that it requires members with voting rights and leadership positions to be—drum-roll please—professing Christians. This is a Christian student group founded over 50 years ago for prayer, discipleship, and ministry.

In the U.S., in the state of Washington, I represented a Christian student club named the Truth Club, which was established to promote Christian virtues and moral behavior. Incredibly, a public school banned the club from campus because the club required that its officers and voting members be professing Christians.

More recently, Vanderbilt University has interpreted its own “anti-discrimination” rules as requiring Christian student groups to open their membership and leadership positions to non-Christians. As a result, more than a dozen Christian groups have been denied “on-campus” recognition.

So what’s wrong with this? At a minimum, most Christian religious ministries exist for the purpose worship, devotion, and promoting their religious views. The government’s efforts to coerce such Christian groups to admit to membership individuals whose motives and goals are antithetical to the very religion for which the group was formed will guarantee, over time, the destruction of the religious group.

And what possible governmental interest could be served by requiring Orthodox Jews, for example, to admit non-Jews to their leadership, unless the goal is destruction of the religious group? Could the government require Islamic societies to admit non-Muslims, such as Christians or Jews, to their membership?

Wouldn’t that be an interesting lawsuit?

Yet this is precisely what government “anti-discrimination” requirements are imposing on Christian ministries, particularly at our universities. At bottom, requiring that non-adherents be permitted to lead or vote for leadership sets the stage for their complete loss of identity and utter destruction.

Atheists of whatever stripe certainly have a right to be treated fairly under the law, but they don’t have a special right to invade and destroy religious organizations with which they disagree.


Freedom of Speech Is Never Safe, not even in America

John Stossel

But freedom of speech is never safe, even here. Many colleges now impose "civility codes." Civility is nice, but enforcing a "civility rule" against offensive speech would put an end to lots of useful provocative speech. As a University of North Carolina student put it, "A picture of Mitt Romney would offend 70 percent of residence hall students."

Taping my Fox Business Network show at UNC, I also learned that the college, to "protect" women, had dropped the word "freshman." The PC term is now "first year." UNC also decreed that no student may "implicitly" or "explicitly" ask for sex. (Then how do students get it?)

Since sexual activity on campus continues, it's clear that such rules are often ignored. But there is danger in selectively enforced rules. They let authorities punish those with unpopular ideas.

While in North Carolina, we ran across other assaults on freedom of speech. Steve Cooksey started a blog about low-carb nutrition, which included "Dear Abby"-style advice. The state told him that giving such advice without a license is illegal! Cooksey stopped, but enlisted help from the Institute for Justice, the libertarian public-interest law group. Together they sued the state for the free-speech violation. Unfortunately, a federal court dismissed the suit, saying that since the state took no formal action, Cooksey was not harmed. IJ will appeal.

My staff ran his advice by a Harvard nutritionist, who said it was reasonable. But even if it wasn't -- even if it was stupid -- people know that there's plenty of garbage on the Internet.

"Why is it against the law to tell people to avoid grains?" Cooksey asked. "To tell diabetics to reduce carbs to help them normalize their blood sugar? Why is that wrong?" It's "wrong" when politicians are eager to control everything -- even speech about food.

IJ lawyer Paul Sherman said "it would cost Steve thousands of dollars, and take years of his life, to get the dietitian license."

Not only that, it would take 900 hours of apprenticeship even after Cooksey got his degree.

"Anyone who wants to can write a book about nutrition. What the state of North Carolina has said is that you can write a book about nutrition, but if you want to give one-on-one advice to someone, that's categorically forbidden."

Sherman points out that licensing rules keep getting more intrusive: "Fifty years ago, only 5 percent of the American population needed a license from government to work in their chosen occupation. Now that number is 30 percent."

Often licensing is imposed because established businesses want to protect their incomes.

"The story that we see again and again is that the industry itself is the one who's calling for regulation," Sherman said. "It's not that the public is afraid that people like Steve are giving dietary advice. It's dietitians (who) don't want Steve competing with them."

Sherman says North Carolina is about average in terms of unnecessary regulations. It takes $120 in fees and 250 days of classes -- a total of two years -- to be able to cut hair legally. It takes three years to become a landscape contractor. Such rules are a reason unemployment stays high.

And there's no proof that the rules make us safer. "A dozen states don't have any licensure requirements for nutritionists," said Sherman. "Are people in those states more in danger than people in North Carolina?"

I supported occupational licensing when I was a young consumer reporter. But now I've wised up. Now I see that it doesn't protect consumers. Competition and reputation are better protection. When you move to a new community, do you choose new dentists or mechanics by checking their licenses? No. You ask neighbors or colleagues for recommendations, or check Consumer Reports and Angie's List. You check because you know that even with licensing laws, there is quackery.

Licensing creates a false sense of security, raises costs, stifles innovation, takes away consumer choice and interferes with the right to earn a living.

And now I see another reason to object to it. It collides with freedom of speech.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


22 October, 2012

You thought the whole 'EUSSR' thing was over the top? Have a look at this poster

Leftists just close their minds to Soviet abuses. Denial is essential to them

I used to find the EUSSR trope tedious, but now…

Take a close look at this promotional poster. Notice anything? Alongside the symbols of Christianity, Judaism, Jainism and so on is one of the wickedest emblems humanity has conceived: the hammer and sickle.

For three generations, the badge of the Soviet revolution meant poverty, slavery, torture and death. It adorned the caps of the chekas who came in the night. It opened and closed the propaganda films which hid the famines. It advertised the people's courts where victims of purges and show-trials were condemned. It fluttered over the re-education camps and the gulags. For hundreds of millions of Europeans, it was a symbol of foreign occupation. Hungary, Lithuania and Moldova have banned its use, and various former communist countries want it to be treated in the same way as Nazi insignia.

Yet here it sits on a poster in the European Commission, advertising the moral deafness of its author (I hope that's what it is, rather than lingering nostalgia). The Bolshevist sigil celebrates the ideology which, in strict numerical terms, must be reckoned the most murderous ever devised by our species. That it can be passed unremarked day after day in the corridors of Brussels is nauseating.


British PM promises to seek 'retribution' against law breakers in new anti-crime crackdown

David Cameron will ditch his ‘hug a hoodie’ image on law and order tomorrow and promise to seek ‘retribution’ against law breakers.

After a week that has left him reeling – over energy policy, George Osborne’s train ticket and Andrew Mitchell’s resignation – the Prime Minister hopes to repair the damage with the announcement of a new crackdown on crime. Measures will include:

* Fines for prison bosses who fail to stop criminals re-offending after release, in a new ‘paid by results’ system.

* Life sentences for gun-runners who supply lethal weapons to gangsters.

* An ‘element of punishment’ in community sentences, which have been dismissed as a soft option by Right-wingers.

* Possible axeing of the custom of giving all prisoners £46 cash when they are freed from jail.

* Curbs on ‘cushy’ jail regimes where prisoners can spend all day watching TV.

Details of the new initiative emerged on the day anti- Government protesters clashed with police as 150,000 took to the streets in London, Glasgow and Belfast.

In his first major speech on law and order since becoming Prime Minister, Mr Cameron will unveil a new law and order slogan: Tough But Intelligent.

He will refuse to apologise for taking a more authoritarian approach on the issue, declaring: ‘Retribution is not a dirty word.’

The term is likely to prompt uproar among liberal law-and-order reformers with its Old Testament connotations of righteous vengeance.

Mr Cameron’s initiative will be seen by many as proof that he has finally abandoned the so-called ‘hug a hoodie’ policy associated with him when he became Tory leader in 2005.

The phrase was coined by former No. 10 spin doctor and ex-newspaper editor Andy Coulson, who was forced to quit his job in Downing Street over the phone-hacking scandal.

Mr Cameron denied making the remark, but it summed up his attempt to ditch the traditional Conservative ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ image on crime. Later he was jeered at by tagged thug Ryan Florence on a visit to a Manchester council estate.

His new policy, to be announced after a symbolic visit to a prison tomorrow, is closer to ‘mug a hoodie’ than ‘hug a hoodie’.

However, cynics may say the phrase Tough But Intelligent is merely a reinvention of Tony Blair’s famous slogan Tough On Crime, Tough On The Causes Of Crime.

The change in emphasis was signalled last month when Mr Cameron replaced liberal-leaning Justice Secretary Ken Clarke with hardliner Chris Grayling.

Mr Grayling’s pledge to give householders new powers to defend themselves against burglars earned him cheers at the Tory Conference.

Now he plans to expand the role of private prisons and save more money with a ‘paid by results’ policy to try to curb the re-offending rate.

Under the scheme, successfully trialled at Doncaster prison, private contractors such as G4S and Serco will take over jails under Government supervision.

But they will receive the full fee for their contract only if reconviction rates for prisoners within a year of release fall by five per cent.

The idea is based on work by the Centre For Social Justice, the reformist Christian think-tank set up by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, to expand the role of private providers in the rehabilitation of offenders. Mr Grayling described recently how he had ‘pioneered the use of large-scale payment-by-results contracts to help the long-term unemployed’.

He added: ‘It is a simple proposition, really. ‘You decide what works best, and we pay you when you are successful. I plan to bring that same approach to prevent re-offending.

‘We will allow nimble private and voluntary sector providers to innovate, to find the right mix of training and mentoring, to do what works in ensuring that those leaving prison and community sentences do not re-offend.’

Mr Grayling says he is determined to ‘break the cycle of re-offending’ in which we ‘release young people on to our streets with £46 in their pocket, to go back to the same places where they offended before and where the same people are’ – and end up back in jail.

The Justice Secretary says he will be ‘tough’ as well as ‘smart’ by introducing a new ‘two-strikes-and-you’re-out’ rule, under which criminals who commit a serious violent or sexual offence for a second time receive an automatic life sentence.

Other plans include ensuring that there is more of a ‘punitive’ element to community sentences.

‘Some criminals think they have got off scot-free if they get a community service and can spend the whole time drinking coffee with a probation officer,’ said one official. ‘We have to stipulate that there must be a degree of punishment. It won’t exactly be hard labour like the old days but they will have to clear up graffiti or do something rigorous.’

Today, Home Secretary Theresa May is due to outline details of a new life sentence for gun-runners. She is determined to smash the network of importers and dealers who feed firearms to criminal gangs by introducing a new offence of ‘possession of an illegal firearm with intent to supply’ which will carry a maximum life sentence.

The longest sentence for black market dealers under present firearms law is ten years – less than the longest sentence that can be delivered to cannabis smugglers.

Judges hand down an average sentence of just under three years for gun dealers. The law change will mean that gun-runners will now face the same sanctions as major heroin and cocaine dealers.

A Home Office source said: ‘Dealing in guns is dealing in death. Those who supply illegal firearms are just as responsible for the violent consequences as the person who pulls the trigger’.


British supermarkets will be banned from discounting multiple bottles of wine

How ridiculous. This is normal commercial practice for almost any product

Most supermarkets offer significant discounts for customers buying bottles of wine by the dozen or half-dozen. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, for example, regularly offer a 25 per cent discount for six bottles of wine.

Ministers believe such promotions give customers a financial incentive to purchase more alcohol than they intended to buy and should be banned.

The plans, being driven by David Cameron, have raised fears that middle-class households will bear the brunt of measures supposedly aimed at troublemaking youths and other anti-social drinkers.

The measures will include a new minimum price for alcohol as ministers try to reduce what they say is irresponsible drinking.

They say new curbs on sales are required because of the growing problems of crime and illness caused by alcohol consumption. The most recent figures show the NHS treats more than 1.1 million people every year as a result of the effects of alcohol.

Political attention has focused on the Coalition’s alcohol pricing plans but insiders say that for many middle-class households, the proposed multi-buy restrictions will have a far greater impact.

One Government source said the plans could prompt a backlash.

The source said: “People shouldn’t think this is just about yobs getting drunk in parks and kids preloading before going out — this is going to affect respectable middle-class people popping into Waitrose for a couple of bottles of sauvignon blanc at the weekend.”

Even if Mr Cameron’s preferred price of 40p per unit is adopted, it is unlikely to affect most wines and beers on the market. For example, the new minimum price for a bottle of wine with a 12 per cent alcohol content would be £3.60.

Supermarkets such as Waitrose do not sell any bottles of wine for less than that sum.

By contrast, they often offer shoppers discounts for buying wine in bulk.

The proposal is unlikely to affect wine clubs. However, it is unclear how retailers that specialise in bulk sales — such as Majestic — would be affected.

Mr Cameron is understood to be strongly personally committed to the coming curbs on alcohol sales, although some of his colleagues are concerned that the measures will prove to be unpopular and ineffective.

Before the Prime Minister removed him from the Department of Health last month, Andrew Lansley was resisting Mr Cameron over alcohol sales, delaying the start of the consultation exercise.

Mr Lansley’s successor, Jeremy Hunt, is understood to be supporting the Prime Minister’s agenda.

However, the proposed alcohol restrictions have raised concerns inside the Government that the policy will have the heaviest consequences for middle-class voters who often vote for the Conservatives.

The British Retail Consortium has described the Government’s plans as “a tax on responsible drinkers” and the drinks industry has accused ministers of unfairly targeting law-abiding consumers. The Government has expressed concerns about middle-class adults jeopardising their health by regular drinking.

A strategy paper this year warned that it had become acceptable to use alcohol for stress relief, putting many people at “real risk of chronic diseases”.

Mr Cameron this year backed a 40p minimum unit price, but it is understood that the Home Office will next week seek views on a range of options for a minimum price for a unit of alcohol. The Home Office estimated that a 40p floor price could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol-related deaths per year by the end of the decade.

Some medical experts want a higher minimum price, and the consultation options are expected to range as high as 50p per unit.

Next week’s proposals will apply only to England and Wales. The devolved administration in Scotland has passed legislation to set a 50p-per-unit minimum.

That decision is facing a legal challenge from the European Commission, after Bulgaria — whose wines would be affected — said the Scottish price rule would breach European free trade laws.

The Scotch Whisky Association is also attempting a legal challenge to the Scottish plans, seeking a judicial review of the legislation. A court hearing is due to start later this month.


Don't expect consistency from the tolerance lobby

McCaskill's name you might be able to place. She's been in the news lately. She's the chief diversity officer for Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., but her job status is in limbo. When the petition to have Maryland's same-sex marriage law put on the November ballot to have Marylanders give it either an up-or-down vote, McCaskill signed it.

Somehow officials at Gallaudet got wind of McCaskill's action. When they did, they put her on (wink, wink) "administrative leave." And no, neither the Maryland nor D.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has come rushing to her defense.

Groups opposed to Maryland's same-sex law have called for McCaskill's reinstatement. And, to their credit, so have groups and individuals in support of the law.

But the damage has been done. Supporters of same-sex marriage might be supporting McCaskill now, but what they should have done, and done long ago, is chide those supporters of LGBT rights for the cavalier, careless and downright arrogant way they toss around the word "bigot."

Opposed to same-sex marriage? Then, in the eyes of some in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and their supporters, you're a bigot.

When Maryland state Del. Emmett Burns unwisely sent a letter to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti urging him to silence one of his players who supported same-sex marriage, it inspired punter Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings to send Burns a profanity-laced email.

What was one of the things Kluwe called Burns? Why, a bigot, of course. And what do all right-thinking people do with bigots? Why, fire them from their jobs, of course. Why should bigots be allowed to make a living?

Remember those days of yesteryear, when bigots were REALLY bigots? That's changed considerably, but, to be fair, those in the LBGT community and their supporters aren't the only ones responsible for the change. All kinds of people throw the word "bigot" around. It's done so much that the definition of the word has been reduced to what Ambrose Bierce called it in his "Devil's Dictionary," published in the early 20th century. "Bigot: one who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain."

That's precisely where we are today. McCaskill is on (wink, wink) "administrative leave" because of her opinion on a controversial topic, and for no other reason.

Six years ago, Robert J. Smith was fired from his job on the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for pretty much the same reason. The man who fired Smith, former Maryland Gov. Robert J. Ehrlich Jr., is a conservative to moderate Republican. And, to his credit, he didn't whip out the "bigot" card on Smith.

But Ehrlich did fire Smith for what the then-governor perceived as his not being onboard with the Ehrlich administration's commitment to diversity. Ehrlich made a bad call then, and it's still a bad call today.

Smith was a regular panelist on a show in the D.C. area. One day he made the mistake of telling listeners how he truly felt about the issue of homosexuality. "Homosexual behavior, in my view, is deviant," he said. "I'm a Roman Catholic."

He later explained: "The comments I make in public outside of my job I'm entitled to make [and] have absolutely nothing to do with running trains and buses and have not affected my actions or decisions on this board."

The issue wasn't how he felt about homosexuality, but whether he made decisions that adversely affected gays and lesbians in his job as a WMATA board member. He didn't. Smith was fired for the same reason McCaskill is on (wink, wink) "administrative leave" -- for having an opinion that members of the LGBT community and their supporters don't entertain.

There was a time we called that McCarthyism. What should we call it today?



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


21 October, 2012

The Left's redwashing of the First World War

I often point out that it was Tirpitz and his rapidly expanding "Kriegsmarine" (navy) that drew Britain into WWI so I am pleased to see the same point below. The battle of Jutland showed that the British fears were well-founded. Admiral Scheer and the Hochseeflotte ran rings around the huge British fleet -- JR

As Richard Holmes once wrote: “The Western Front smoulders darkly in the middle of Britain’s national consciousness, like some exhausted volcano whose once-deadly lava still marks our landscape.”

The centenary of the start of the Great War approaches, and the Government has already announced plans to commemorate the event in which close to a million Britons lost their lives. The think-tank British Future has also called for special events, such as the closing of shops and flags flying at half-mast, which I think is something we should all get behind.

Why is it important we commemorate the war? Out of respect for the men who died, of course, and to help us appreciate that we are free because of them. But these moments of collective national mourning are also important events in an atomised society, and give us a sense of togetherness and the sacred (and because this was a war in which troops from all over the Empire fought for Britain, it’s something that the children of immigrants are part of too). They are certainly not for glorifying war.

Not everyone is so keen on the idea, of course, and this has much to do with the argument still raging over the justness of the war. Seumas Milne of the Guardian is horrified:
This wasn't a war of self-defence, let alone liberation from tyranny. As the late Eric Hobsbawm sets out in his Age of Empire, it was the cataclysmic product of an escalating struggle for colonial possessions, markets, resources and industrial power between the dominant European empires, Britain and France, and the rising imperial power of Germany seeking its “place in the sun”. In that clash of empires, Europe devoured its children – and many of its captive peoples with them.

Every generation sees the past through its own eyes, obviously, and the current view of the First World War was shaped first by the anti-war plays of the early 1930s and then by the 1960s, by the works of AJP Taylor and Alan Clark and by popular culture such as Joan Littlewood’s 1963 production of Oh! What a Lovely War! (and Richard Attenborough 1969 film).

In more recent times, Blackadder Goes Forth has helped to cement the idea of “a war which would have been a damn sight simpler if we'd just stayed in England and shot 50,000 of our men a week”.

But Hobsbawm's and Milne’s view says more about late 20th century Leftist anti-imperialism than the actual lead-up to the Great War, which in the West had little to do with empire. Britain was dragged into this conflict not because of imperialism or capitalism but fears over Germany’s navy, which threatened the British Isles. As many an imperial people have found, the British will sacrifice their safety and wellbeing if it suits them, but they will not compromise the security of the home islands.

The paranoia that began to overcome the British public in the first years of last century reflected a genuine fear of German invasion, with books such as Erskine Childers’s Riddle of the Sands, Walter Wood’s The Enemy in our Midst, Captain Curtis’s When England Slept and William Le Queux’s The Invasion of 1910. There was also the Zeppelin hysteria, with German airships being seen by credulous members of the public all over the British Isles.

The British did not go to war over some sausage factory in Tanganyika.

Neither is it fair to claim that it was an unjust war. Such is the unambiguous evil of the German regime of the second war that it’s largely forgotten that Germany in 1914 was a militaristic Right-wing dictatorship led by a monarch of unsound mind. The German military command bore most of the responsibility for starting the conflict; in contrast almost no one in Britain wanted a war, and the Liberal Party agonised as events pushed the country into helping France (especially as the French had moved their Navy on British assurances). Germany’s regime made it clear it intended to invade Belgium – how could any country interested in its own safety allow a neighbour to be occupied by the region’s strongest power?

An interesting counter-factual is what might have happened had Wilhelm’s father Kaiser Frederick III lived longer. This “Barbarossa of German liberalism” planned to reduce the monarch’s power and turn Germany into a British-style parliamentary democracy, and it seems unlikely that a social democrat-dominated Germany would have followed such an aggressive, undiplomatic European policy.

As it is 900,000 British soldiers were slaughtered, which remains a tragedy incomprehensible to us, but while we can criticise the Army’s conduct of the war, to suggest that all those men were killed for “colonial powers and markets” is to redwash British history.


Rowan Atkinson: we must be allowed to insult each other

Rowan Atkinson has launched a campaign for a change in the law that bans "insulting words and behaviour".

The Blackadder and Mr Bean star attacked the "creeping culture of censoriousness" which has resulted in the arrest of a Christian preacher, a critic of Scientology and even a student making a joke, it was reported.

He criticised the "new intolerance" as he called for part of it the Public Order Act to be repealed, saying it was having a "chilling effect on free expression and free protest".

Mr Atkinson said: "The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult."

Police and prosecutors are accused of being over-zealous in their interpretation of Section 5 of the Act, which outlaws threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour, the Daily Mail reported.

What constitutes "insulting" is not clear. It has resulted in a string of controversial arrests.

They include a 16-year-old boy being held for peacefully holding a placard reading "Scientology is a dangerous cult", and gay rights campaigners from the group Outrage! detained when they protested against Islamic fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir over its stance on gays, Jews and women.

Mr Atkinson said he hoped the repeal of Section 5 would pave the way for a move to "rewind the culture of censoriousness" and take on the "outrage industry - self-appointed arbiters of the public good encouraging outrage to which the police feel under terrible pressure to react".

Speaking at the Westminster launch of the campaign, he added: "The law should not be aiding and abetting the new intolerance."

He was joined by Lord Dear, former chief constable of West Midlands Police, and former shadow home secretary David Davis.

Mr Davis said: "The simple truth is that in a free society, there is no right not to be offended. For centuries, freedom of speech has been a vital part of British life, and repealing this law will reinstate that right."

The campaign has united an unlikely coalition of support including The Christian Institute and The National Secular Society as well as Big Brother Watch, The Freedom Association and The Peter Tatchell Foundation.


Frogmarch to ruin: 'I've lost home and partner and could go broke, says boss who humiliated thief

A Businessman who marched a thieving employee to a police station with a sign around his neck says his actions have left him on the verge of bankruptcy and cost him his relationship and home.

Simon Cremer, 48, frogmarched Mark Gilbert through a town centre after he discovered the sub-contractor had written an £845 company cheque to himself.

Mr Cremer was later arrested for false imprisonment – which carries a maximum life sentence – although the case was dropped.

But his ‘victim’ received only a police caution and went on to launch a civil case against him. Mr Cremer agreed to pay £5,000 in an out-of-court settlement but has been told he has to pay £40,000 solicitors’ fees on top.

The stress of the case led to the collapse of his relationship with long-term partner Karen Boardman, 48, who was recovering from a double mastectomy after developing breast cancer.

The couple sold their home at Little Maplestead, near Halstead in Essex but Miss Boardman, who put up most of the money for the three-bedroom house, was left with negative equity. Mr Cremer said he is now paying her £400 a month to make up the shortfall.

‘I am disgusted at the whole thing. The legal system is wrong,’ flooring company boss Mr Cremer told the Mail yesterday.

‘I don’t think Mr Gilbert should have had the right to sue me. I was the one who was wronged in the first place but it is me who is suffering.

‘Yes, I took him to the police station, I hold my hands up to that. But it has cost me everything.’

Mr Cremer provoked a wave of public support for his actions when he subjected Gilbert to the 350 yard walk of shame through Witham, Essex, in September 2008. Around his neck on a piece of cardboard was the message: ‘THIEF. I stole £845. Am on my way to police station.’

But the decision to make an example of him backfired when he and three colleagues found they were facing a range of charges including false imprisonment. The criminal charges were eventually dropped but Gilbert – who claimed he was only taking wages he was owed – lodged a case for £40,000 damages, saying the embarrassment of being paraded had left him too traumatised to work for two years.

He also claimed he had feared for his life after he was allegedly tied up and bundled into a van before walking the last stretch of the journey to the police station. Mr Cremer, who has two grown-up daughters from a previous relationship, agreed to pay £5,000 compensation but was horrified by the £35,000 legal bill that came with it.

‘A barrister heard about my case and worked on my behalf for free. He got £9,000 taken off the bill in 2009,’ he said. ‘I still couldn’t afford to pay that because business has been tight. Now, after a lot of wrangling, the bill has gone back up to £40,000 because they are charging interest.

‘I had no option but to agree to this last week. They wanted a £10,000 lump sum and £1,000 a month but finally agreed to £5,000 and £500 per month.

‘It will probably bankrupt me, to be honest. What happened didn’t affect my business – every single customer supported me.

‘But the recession hit them and that hit my business. I used to turn over £300-400,000 a year but last year that was down to around £75,000 and my profit is normally 25 per cent of that net.

‘On top of that, my relationship with Karen broke down in May last year. It was getting too tough for her. ‘She was left with negative equity after the house was sold for about £300,000, so I am helping her out.’

Miss Boardman lived in a rented house after selling her home and has now moved in with a new partner.

The GP’s receptionist said: ‘Simon overstepped the mark but he didn’t deserve to lose everything. It’s wrong that a criminal has been able to claim compensation.’

Witham Tory MP Priti Patel said: ‘This case has clearly had a devastating impact upon Mr Cremer and that is just dreadful. Common sense should have prevailed in the way it was handled in terms of the criminal process and civil complaint.’

Gilbert, 43, who moved from Colchester to Bristol, after receiving the caution, was unavailable to comment yesterday.


Woman's $55,000 award for slipping on gumnut overturned by Australian court

The modern doctrine that someone else is always responsible takes a tumble

QUEENSLAND'S highest court has overturned a decision to award an elderly woman $55,000 after she slipped on a gumnut while visiting family.

Florence Agnes Welch was 76 when she fell while walking down the stairs at Tim and Jane Graham's Brisbane home in 2006.

Ms Welch slipped on a gumnut that had fallen onto the step from a nearby tree. Ms Welch, who is Mrs Graham's aunt, sued the couple and NRMA Insurance.

Brisbane District Court judge Bill Everson found in Ms Welch's favour in May, ruling that the Grahams "were negligent in failing to provide and maintain a safe access to the house via the stairs by taking the appropriate steps to ensure that the stairs remained free of gumnuts". He awarded Ms Welch $55,000 in damages.

However, the Grahams took the matter to the Court of Appeal in Brisbane.

In a judgment handed down on Friday, the court overturned the original decision on the grounds that Ms Welch knew about the presence of gumnuts on the steps and that the risk of injury was small as the steps were regularly cleaned.

The court ruled it was impossible to have native Australian trees in suburban surrounds without the possibility of seed pods on walkways.

The court found it was unreasonable to expect homeowners to trim or remove all trees that posed any remote risk.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


20 October, 2012

Top British female lawyer's career in tatters after assault conviction for pulling her 11-year-old daughter's hair during tantrum

A top barrister's career was under threat today after she was convicted of assault for grabbing her misbehaving daughter's hair.

The woman, 47, snapped after the 11-year-old started hitting her and trashing their home during a row over a sleepover, Burnley Magistrates' Court heard.

The youngster had earlier rung the police because she was furious at not being given money for a taxi to a friend’s house.

After officers came to the family home and told the girl off for the call, she began throwing clean and ironed washing down the stairs and repeatedly hitting her mother in the face with a jacket.

The unruly schoolgirl then slammed the lounge door so heavily that a chair smashed into a wall and knocked over a shelf, spilling DVDs and ornaments onto the floor.

The lawyer, who has been both a prosecution and defence barrister for 17 years, eventually lost her temper. She lunged forward from her own chair and grabbed the child’s shoulder-length hair, accidentally ripping out some strands, which were caught by her costume jewellery ring.

Today the barrister - who cannot be named for legal reasons, to protect the identity of the child - was facing a disciplinary hearing before the Bar Council after she admitted assault at the Lancashire court. She sobbed as she was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £85 costs.

Her counsel Mr Sephton Lee told the court that it was the barrister's birthday on the night of the assault earlier this month.

Mr Lee told the court: 'She had no plans to go out and celebrate. She had been drinking and perhaps it is fair to say that during the course of the evening, she drank a bit too much.'

He said the daughter had 'a bit of a tantrum' after returning from a friend's house and was demanding to be given money to go back there by taxi.

When she didn’t get any cash, the girl secretly rang the police. Officers arrived and spoke to the mother and daughter before admonishing the daughter for calling them.

Mr Lee added: 'Police clearly had no concerns about the daughter’s welfare or the mother’s level of intoxication before they left.'

The solicitor said the girl continued to misbehave until the mother got out of her chair to stop her.

He said: 'It's against all this background, she accepts she lunged forward towards her daughter and she accepts she grabbed her daughter’s shoulder-length hair.

'It would appear she has pulled some hair from her daughter’s scalp. It’s believed a costume jewellery ring which she has on her finger caught on her daughter’s hair, causing hair to get caught up in the ring and that was how the injury has occurred.'

'This was not a deliberate, intentional, malicious assault on her daughter. The mother was arrested, taken to the police station and interviewed and during the course of that interview, she expressed deep remorse and regret and she has asked me to apologise unreservedly to the court today.

'She is well respected by her fellow practitioners and the judiciary.

'There is no suggestion whatsoever that she is an unfit mother, quite the reverse. This is a tragedy for everybody, certainly for the girl and her mother.

'This is an isolated incident, when a loving, caring mother pulled her daughter’s hair in circumstances where, we would say, her daughter was behaving badly.'

The court heard that the lawyer had informed the Bar Council about what had happened. Her law chambers continue to support her and she will be travelling to London in the near future to account for her actions before the Bar Council.

Mr Lee said : 'The Bar Council will no doubt take a dim view of this matter and her ability to earn a living as a barrister may well be in jeopardy. This has been a very difficult case for the mother. These proceedings and the conviction today are significant punishment.'

Passing sentence, District Judge Nicholas Sanders told the woman: 'This is a tragic case on many levels.'


Britain’s high-tech Thought Police

British authorities target bloggers, tweeters, and t-shirt wearers for speech crimes

"What country has just sentenced a man to eight months in prison for wearing an anti-police t-shirt, and another man to three months in prison for telling an 'abhorrent' joke on Facebook? Iran, perhaps? China? No, it’s Britain."

Something has gone horribly wrong in Britain in recent years. The birthplace of John Milton (“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience”), and John Stuart Mill (“Every man who says frankly and fully what he thinks is so far doing a public service”), has become a cesspit of censoriousness.

The frequency with which the police and legal system now throw into jail anyone judged to have committed a “speech crime” is alarming.

On October 11, Barry Thew, a 39-year-old man from Manchester, was sentenced to eight months in jail—eight months!—for the crime of wearing a t-shirt that said, “One less pig — perfect justice”.

He donned the t-shirt just a few hours after two police officers were shot dead in Manchester, on September 18. Some members of the public took offence at his flagrantly police-baiting tee, complained to the cops about him, and before you could say “Fuck da police” Thew was being found guilty of committing a Section 4A offence under England’s Public Order laws—that is, he “displayed writing or other visible representation with the intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress.”

On October 8, Matthew Woods, a teenager from Lancashire, was jailed for three months for—get this—writing jokes on his Facebook page.

Currently, a five-year-old Welsh girl called April Jones is missing. Woods decided to make some jokes about this, writing on FB stuff like “Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid?” and “I woke up this morning in the back of a transit van with [a beautiful girl] — I found April in a hopeless place.”

Funny? No. Criminal? Apparently, yes. For telling these tasteless jokes to the infinitesimally small number of people who can see his Facebook page, Woods was found guilty under the Communications Act 2003 of sending “a message or other matter that was grossly offensive.”

The judge described Woods’ “crimes” as “abhorrent.” I find the state’s imprisonment of a teenager for telling jokes infinitely more abhorrent than Woods’ sad stab at creating lolz.

These are only the most recent incidents of people being banged up for saying “grossly offensive” things. Last month, Michael Coleman, a member of the right-wing British National Party, was given a suspended eight-month prison sentence and 240 hours of community service for using the word “darkies” on his blog.

He blogged about what he stupidly considers to be “the difference in personality, perceptions and values of people of darker races and ourselves” and said Britain’s current immigration policy amounts to “darkies in, whites out.” For this, for expressing his petty prejudices on a little-read blog, he was found guilty of racially aggravated harassment. The politician who brought the case against him said his crime was to express views that are “not acceptable to the overwhelming majority of local people.”

Social-networking sites are being subjected to the most stringent censorship. In July, a 17-year-old boy was arrested and questioned by police after he sent insulting tweets to British Olympic diver Tom Daley. The 17-year-old was spared jail but was issued with a “harassment warning.” In March, a 21-year-old student called Liam Stacey was sentenced to 56 days in jail for making crude jokes on Twitter about a then very ill footballer called Fabrice Muamba.

Last year, following the summer riots that rocked many English cities, two young men were jailed for four years for setting up a Facebook page called “Smash Down Northwich Town,” a reference to the town in Chester where they lived. The page was all about how cool it would be to have a local riot. No one accepted their invitation to riot, though; there was no “smashing down.” Yet still the two men were convicted of a public order offense, criminalized for being fantasists effectively.

I guess we should just be grateful that The Clash were never banged up for likewise giving voice to riot fantasies in their 1977 hit “White Riot”: “I wanna riot, a riot of my own.”

Now, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the body responsible for prosecuting crimes in England and Wales, is holding a series of meetings to clarify the law on tweetcrimes and FB misdemeanors, and to decide when it is legit, and when it isn’t, to bring criminal charges for trolling or inflammatory speech online.

I can save it a bucketload of time by telling it right now when charges should be brought against web-users for speech-based affrays: Never. Ever.

Speech is either free or it isn’t. And if it is, then that means everyone must have it—not just nice people, but also nasty people; not just the right-on, but also the racist; not just well-educated judges who use their free speech to spout BS about how abhorrent certain jokes are, but also immature tweeters, Facebook saddos, and unpopular bloggers who use their free speech to insult minorities or make bad gags about missing girls.

Granting the state the power to determine what is abhorrent and what is acceptable, which thoughts may be expressed publicly and which may not, is a dangerous game. At the moment, the state might “only” be locking up racist joke-tellers or teenage buffoons, but who knows who else might fall foul of today’s self-styled shapers of public morality. Blasphemers, perhaps? Queen Elizabeth-bashers? Sexist porno makers?

Allowing the state to determine the rightness and acceptability of words and ideas doesn’t only lead to gobsmacking levels of censorious authoritarianism—it also robs us, the public, of our right and our responsibility to work out what is true and to challenge what feels like dross in the arena of public debate. As John Milton put it 350 years ago, “Let Truth and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”

The most worrying thing in Britain right now is the rise of the idea that individuals may be rightfully harassed and punished by the state if they hold views that are “not acceptable to the overwhelming majority of people,” as was said of the racist blogger.

That’s the end of eccentricity right there, of any element of danger and daring in public discourse. If being unpopular is seen as a sufficient justification for being arrested and put on trial, then who will ever dare put their neck on the line and say controversial, offensive, properly interesting things? The top-down enforcement of thought-policing doesn’t only mean we will see fewer racist ramblings and less teenage stupidity—it also means there’ll be less intellectual risk-taking, and a stifling culture of back-watching conformism.

Besides, society has no right to punish people just because the overwhelming majority of people don’t like what they say, as John Stuart Mill argued decades ago: “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” Absolutely. Free all Britain’s tweeters, t-shirt wearers, and bloggers now!


‘Hate’ Laws are Criminal

The end of freedom of speech began with the invention of "hate crimes" as a means to deter and punish crimes committed against an individual or members of a designated or protected "minority." Hate crimes had their conspicuous genesis under the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which criminalized actions against individuals because of their race, color, gender, or national origin. This was the first major step away from treating individuals as individuals, and not as members of groups or tribes, and away from objectively defined crime.

Following it was passage of the Federal Hate Crime Law of 1969 (18 U.S.C. § 245(B)(2)) which, among other things, clarified or buttressed the definition of resistance to law enforcement officers, including preventing individuals from voting or the like because of their race, color, gender, and so on.

It was followed by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which increased the penalties for "hate crimes."

This in turn was complemented with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, signed into law by President Barack Obama. (Incidentally, this law was a rider to the controversial National Defense Authorization Act for 2010.) The Act's name refers to two individuals, one a homosexual tortured to death in Wyoming, and a black man who was tied to the back of a truck in Texas and then decapitated. In neither state existed a hate crime law relevant to their groups, and the perpetrators of both crimes were tried under normal capital crime law. The formal name of the Act was a gratuitous sop to special interest groups for political advantage.

The problem with the idea of a "hate crime" is that it appends an irrelevant motive to an action that would otherwise be treated as a felony, and makes the motive a felony, as well. Further, "hate crimes" are complemented by another invalid concept, "hate speech," also elevated to the status of a felony, that is, a crime. While criminal actions cannot be divorced from motives, up until recently motives were not punishable as state-defined and state-enforced crimes, only the fact of a criminal action. That is, a criminal action would be the initiation of force against an individual. The end or purpose of the initiation is irrelevant. It could be robbery, rape, or simply the malicious infliction of pain in revenge or as a means of visceral restitution.

This dangerous and totalitarian idea of "hate crime" has naturally migrated into the realm of speech. Now the act of expressing a "negative" stance on Muslims, homosexuals, and other "protected" groups is treated as a "hate crime" compounded by the crime of "hate speech." Both notions seek to punish the contentsof an individual's mind. However, no matter how repellant those contents, they can never be objectively known, not even when a defendant describes them. To make the contents of one's mind a legal liability, is a form of thought control.

There is a double standard in force, however. Rappers can denigrate women freely with as many obscenities as are in their vocabulary. Muslims can call for the death of anyone who "denigrates" Islam or Mohammad. Rappers are defended by the First Amendment. Muslims screamers and sign carriers are also protected by the First Amendment, regardless of how outrageously homicidal or offensive or intimidating their rhetoric, but exempted from being charged with "hate speech" because they are now a special "protected" class who are merely expressing their "pain" and "offended feelings." Muslims are even excused from actual crimes such as physical assault with wrist-slaps, even though they may have employed "hate speech" in the commission of a provable crime.

But Bryan Jennings, who got into an argument with a Muslim cab driver, and who expressed his feelings about the cab driver, was treated as a felon. He was fortunate that a judge ruled on the matter on a technicality created by a clueless and victimhood-seeking Muslim.

Muslim organizations such as CAIR and its numerous ideological affiliates such as ICNA (allied with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC) wish to convert the First Amendment from a guarantee of freedom of speech to a punishable "freedom from speech" tool to silence criticism, whether that criticism takes the form of scholarly disquisitions or crude cartoons or just plain from-the-gut expressions of dislike or fear of Islam and Muslims.

The concepts of "hate crime" and "hate speech," together or separately, are a form of totalitarian gangrene spreading throughout America's judicial system. Does anyone else see where this is leading?

The notion of Orwellian "thought crime," once regarded as an impossibility in this country, has in fact taken root, doubtless fueled by political correctness and politically correct speech and group warfare, with the consequence that more and more Americans - dare we say it? - are afraid to think. Because to think is to court disaster and put oneself in a potential state of double jeopardy. This is dependent on whether or not they even know there is an issue.

So, why bother to think?

Dark Ages do not just suddenly happen. They begin when men begin turning off the lights of their minds. There is only one duty an individual is obliged to fulfill, and that is to think, and that is for his self-preservation. Neglect that duty, or abdicate it, and one's life may or may not be preserved at the whim of another.

However, let's run down a short list of various notions of criminal law and how restrictions on freedom of speech can be rationalized and imposed by the state using criminal law at the behest of Muslims, their Islamic mouthpieces, and their "civil rights" advocates. Insofar as Islam is concerned, "hate speech" or a "hate crime" can be anything from satirizing Islam, Mohammad, or Muslims in a cartoon or video, to burning a copy of the Koran, to telling a Muslim to "go back where he came from," to innocuous jests, to writing a learned and critical treatise on Islam.


Attack on conservative judges

Selective outrage has long been the professional left’s stock-in-trade, but the over-the-top invective hurled at U.S. Court of Appeals judge Brett Kavanaugh this week has exposed something darker and more sinister than garden variety political hypocrisy. This smear is the latest flanking maneuver in an often-overlooked (but rapidly unfolding) front of Barack Obama’s “War on Capitalism” – the attempted castration of judicial review.

Angry that overreaching regulations promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were struck down by Kavanaugh’s court, liberal columnist Steven Pearlstein penned what at first glance appears to be a boilerplate “kill the messenger” piece for The Washington Post, where the longtime leftist masqueraded for many years as an objective “journalist.”

But Pearlstein’s assault isn’t just a hit piece on a potential conservative Supreme Court nominee – it’s an effort to intimidate Kavanaugh (and other federal judges) into surrendering to the Nanny Statists currently running this country into the ground. Make no mistake: This is no conventional judicial character assassination – it is a carefully crafted instrument of political propaganda aimed at advancing the unchecked regulatory authority of an oversized, overreaching and overbearing federal bureaucracy.

“Kavanaugh is nothing more than a partisan shock trooper in a black robe waging an ideological battle against government regulation,” Pearlstein inveighs, accusing the judge of turning the courts “into just another dysfunctional branch of a dysfunctional government.”

Dysfunction? Consider this: Kavanaugh was nominated for his seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals by former president George W. Bush on July 25, 2003 – yet was blocked by Democrats on exclusively partisan grounds for more than three years. And now liberals want to play the “dysfunction” card against him?

Evidently. In fact according to Pearlstein, Kavanaugh’s refusal to rubber stamp Obama’s EPA overreach makes him a “judicial radical” in need of being reined in by “more intellectually honest conservatives” on the bench.

Pearlstein – who once referred to opponents of Obamacare as “political terrorists” – does his best to characterize Kavanaugh’s ruling as judicial activism run amok, but the facts of the EPA case simply do not support his conclusion. In attempting to subject states to new environmental penalties that far exceeded their culpability, the EPA plainly violated important language of the clean air statute – and Kavanaugh’s court ruled accordingly. In fact the EPA overreach was so galling that it was struck down on its face – as opposed to being classified as an “arbitrary or capricious” exercise of agency authority. In other words the government’s efforts to regulate which way the wind blows (and to fabricate untold costs associated with it blowing) constituted an unlawful usurpation of authority – not enforcement of the law.

Pearlstein also neglects to mention that the one judge who dissented in this case – Judith Rogers – has a history of “radical” activism far worse than anything he’s attempting to pin on Kavanaugh. In 2005, for example, Rogers wrote the court’s majority opinion in AFL-CIO v. Chao– a ruling that completely ignored statutory language on labor union disclosure requirements in favor of an invented standard that was infinitely friendlier to corrupt labor bosses.

This ruling occurred while Kavanaugh’s nomination was being stonewalled, incidentally.

So – was there a similar “judicial jihad” outcry from Pearlstein when regulations aimed at exposing union corruption were struck down? Of course not: Because that component of the “regulatory state” did not conform to his leftist ideology.

In this case ideology is everything.

Obama’s “War on Capitalism” includes a “War on Coal,” and the EPA is simply doing its part to make this energy source so expensive that other government-subsidized options become economically feasible. Obama’s administration couldn’t get a carbon tax pushed through Congress, so it is attempting to accomplish these objectives through regulation.

Will the left’s judicial smearing achieve its objective – advancing the ongoing crusade against what remains of the American free market?

It already has. Look no further than the recent “switch” committed by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, whose fateful decision to appease this mentality turned what would have been a 5-4 ruling overturning “Obamacare” into a 5-4 ruling upholding the constitutionality of this abomination.

No wonder leftists like Pearlstein are doing everything they can to bully other judges to submit to the political correctness of the moment, defined by people like Steven Pearlstein.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


19 October, 2012

Heading towards a society where soldiers are too scared to fight, teachers too timorous to teach, and police officers too cowed to tackle crime and disorder

Peter Saunders

Seven British soldiers serving in Afghanistan are facing a murder charge for shooting and killing a Taliban insurgent following a fire fight. The details of what happened are sketchy and the case is sub judice, but on the face of it, it seems odd to prosecute soldiers for killing insurgents when that is precisely what we sent them to Afghanistan to do.

The UK newspapers these days are filled with such oddities.

A 52-year-old female deputy head, confronted by a six-year-old who sat on the floor and refused to go into class, picked him up under his arms and dragged him in. She was dismissed.

So too was a 59-year-old male teacher who reacted to a pupil throwing a milkshake over him by aggressively pinning the unruly boy’s arms by his side, and forcibly pushing him into his chair.

The police, too, are in trouble for doing their job. At an unruly demonstration in London a few months ago, one officer shoved a man who had been told to move. The man (who turned out to be an alcoholic) fell to the ground, cracked his head on the pavement, and later died. The officer was dismissed from the force and put on trial for manslaughter (the jury acquitted him).

This week there was a report of another officer being dismissed after 12 years of service. He had arrested a youth with a long record of troublemaking, brought him to the station, and ordered him to turn out his pockets. When he refused to do so, the officer pushed his arm up behind his back and forced him over the desk.

Reading this last case put me in mind of the 1982 essay on ‘broken windows’ policing by Wilson and Kelling. What everybody knows about this essay is its recommendation of ‘zero tolerance’ – stamp down on the small infractions and you’ll stop the big ones from developing. What is less often remembered is the authors’ crucial insight about the traditional role of the police.

Policing, they say, used to be more about maintaining order than solving crimes. Police officers traditionally enjoyed discretion to nip trouble in the bud. A ‘clip round the ear’ was often more effective than a formal arrest and charge. But any copper who tries that nowadays will lose his or her job and quite probably end up in court.

Our problem is that big state bureaucracies – the army, schools, police – find it difficult coping with individual initiative or making room for commonsense. My favourite sociologist, Max Weber, recognised this when he distinguished ‘formal’ from ‘substantive’ rationality. Bureaucracies, he warned, are driven by formal rules. This leads to an emphasis on box-ticking, even while the substantive purpose for which they were set up goes unrealised.

Weber thought we can do little about this, for the only alternative to dull, bureaucratic conformity is dilettantism. But sometimes we need people to turn a blind eye, to fudge the strict interpretation of rules, to seek out the grey areas. Otherwise, we’re going to end up with soldiers too scared to fight, teachers too timorous to teach, and police officers too cowed to tackle crime and disorder.


Christian's salary cut because he criticised gay marriage on Facebook: Punishment over 'homophobic' comments could cost him £60,000

A Christian housing manager had his salary slashed after allegedly being ‘entrapped’ by a lesbian colleague into criticising gay marriage on his private Facebook page, a court heard yesterday.

Adrian Smith, 55, had posted a link to an article about plans for civil partnership ceremonies in churches with his own comment: ‘An equality too far.’

After a lesbian colleague asked if that meant he didn’t approve, he posted that he could not understand ‘why people who have no faith and don’t believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church’.

Another colleague complained that the comment was offensive, despite having not seen the post, and Mr Smith was disciplined and had his post downgraded and his salary cut by £14,000.

Yesterday the married father-of-one launched a court battle to overturn the decision and win back lost earnings. They stand at nearly £4,000 for the past 18 months, according to his legal team.

However, his future lost earnings which he could seek to recoup should he fail to overturn his demotion are likely to be at least £60,000.

It is the latest in a series of claims by Christians that they have been discriminated against for expressing their beliefs at work.

Mr Smith, of Tottington, near Bury, who attends an evangelical church in Bolton and preaches part-time, posted a link on his Facebook page to an article about gay ‘marriage’ on the BBC website in February last year. Under the headline ‘Gay church marriages get go-ahead’, Mr Smith had posted: ‘An equality too far.’

The hearing was told that of Mr Smith’s 200 Facebook friends, more than 40 worked with him at the Trafford Housing Trust. On his profile he gave his occupation as housing manager at the trust, which runs Trafford council’s housing stock. Later that day, a lesbian colleague with whom he was friends on Facebook, Julia Stavordale, 56, responded: ‘Does that mean you don’t approve?’

A day later, Mr Smith responded: ‘No, not really. I don’t understand why people who have no faith and don’t believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church. The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women.

‘If the State wants to offer civil marriages to the same sex then that is up to the State; but the State shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.’

Later that week another colleague, Stephen Lynch, who was not friends with Mr Smith on Facebook, complained about the post, despite not having seen it.

The trust’s ‘equality and diversity lead’, Helen Malone, referred it to ‘service leads, neighbourhoods’ Debbie Gorman. Mr Smith was suspended on full pay from his £35,000-a-year post while an investigation began. Miss Stavordale backed the complaint, saying the trust should ‘throw the book at him’ and he was ‘blatantly homophobic’.

The following month, Mr Smith was found guilty of gross misconduct by ‘assistant director, customers’ Mike Corfield for a breach of trust disciplinary policies. Because he gave his job as a housing manager on his Facebook profile, his comments could be construed as representing trust policy.

He was told he faced dismissal, but because of his eight years’ ‘loyal service’ he was instead demoted to money support adviser on just £21,396-a-year.

That reduction was to be phased in over 12 months but, although Mr Smith’s appeal was rejected, that period was doubled to 24 months.

Yesterday Mr Smith came to court with his claim for breach of contract and loss of earnings up to his planned retirement date of 2017 – likely to be as much as £60,000.

Mrs Gorman, Mr Corfield and Mr Barrow – each of whom swore oaths on the Bible – all stood by the decision to demote him at the hearing before the High Court sitting at Manchester Civil Justice Centre.

Hugh Tomlinson, QC, representing Mr Smith, said that in response to his ‘uncontroversial comment’ Mrs Gorman launched a ‘Leveson-style inquiry’.

He suggested Miss Stavordale’s questioning of Mr Smith’s views on Facebook were an attempt to ‘entrap’ him’. He argued that Mr Smith’s comments were clearly his personal views and he told Mrs Gorman: ‘The whole thing is a huge and extraordinary over-reaction.’

Last night Miss Stavordale, 56, who no longer works for the trust and was not called to give evidence, told the Daily Mail that she had not tried to entrap Mrs Smith.

Mr Lynch, who is understood to live with a male partner, was not at home. Mr Smith is being supported by the Christian Institute. The case is due to finish today.


Christian B&B owners who refused bed to gay couple ordered to pay £3,000 in compensation

A devout Christian bed and breakfast owner who refused a bed to a gay couple was today ordered to pay them more than £3000 in compensation.

Michael Black, 64, and his partner John Morgan, 59, began a legal battle soon after they were told they could not sleep together at the £75-a-night Swiss Bed and Breakfast in Cookham, Berkshire in March 2010.

Owner Susanne Wilkinson told a court she was serious about her Christian beliefs and had also stopped unmarried heterosexual couples from sharing a double bed.

Christian B&B couple Susanne and Michael Wilkinson who were at court earlier this week because they wouldn't let a gay couple stay in a double bed in their B&B

But a judge at Reading County Court ordered her to pay £3,600 in damages for discriminating directly against the couple, who have been together for eight years.

Michael and John’s claim, funded by pressure group Liberty, was made under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and argued that it was unlawful for a person providing services to the public to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

After the ruling Mrs Wilkinson, who lives with husband Mike, said: 'Naturally, my husband and I are disappointed to have lost the case and to have been ordered to pay £3,600 in damages for injury to feelings. 'We have the option to appeal and we will give that serious consideration.

'We believe a person should be free to act upon their sincere beliefs about marriage under their own roof without living in fear of the law. 'Equality laws have gone too far when they start to intrude into a family home.

'People’s beliefs about marriage are coming under increasing attack and I am concerned about people’s freedom to speak and act upon these beliefs. 'I am a Christian, not just on a Sunday in church, but in every area of my life - as Jesus expects from his followers.

'That’s all I was trying to do and I think it’s quite wrong to punish me for that especially after enduring over two years of vile abuse and threats. 'We find this a strange justice in a society that aspires to be increasingly tolerant.'

Mrs Wilkinson's legal costs were paid by The Christian Institute, a national charity that endeavours to protect the civil liberty of Christians.

Spokesperson Mike Judge said: 'Mrs Wilkinson’s B&B is a business but it’s also a family home. 'The law should be more flexible in allowing people to live according to their own values under the own roof. 'A bit more balance is needed rather than allowing one set of rights to automatically suppress another.'

In 2008 civil partners Martin Hall and Steven Paddy launched a county court claim against Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the owners of the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Cornwall.

They won £3,600 in damages because their human rights were breached by the guesthouse’s refusal to give them a double room, but the case is now going to appeal at the Supreme Court.


The First Freedom

Emmett Tyrrell

I am grateful to George Washington University professor of Law, Jonathan Turley, for pointing out that a growing number of world leaders find the First Amendment's right of free speech to be an inconvenience. He cites, for instance, U. N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's warning that "when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others' values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected." Turley makes the valuable -- and if you think about it, obvious -- observation that free speech becomes intolerable not when it is used recklessly but when one person or a group of people object to its use, especially when they object violently.

Thus the Secretary General's neat formulation utterly collapses when, say, some heiress to Mother Teresa asseverates in public that "God is the source of all good." It is a harmless utterance, until some indignado, say, a venerable witch, gets wind of it and objects with hurt feelings or, more preferably, with violence by burning down Mother Teresa's chapel. Possibly this Mother Teresa happens to be influential worldwide and she has a whole string of chapels to burn down, possibly some are diplomatic installations. Free speech is difficult to limit. Without limiting it, it can be disagreed with. It can be ridiculed or it can be ignored. But as soon as we come up with some nice neat formulation for limiting it, a la Ban Ki-moon, along comes a mob of brutes and they put free speech to the test. Under the Ban Ki-moon formulation free speech gives way. In fact, it is extinguished.

That was the lesson from the eruption of violence around the globe to the idiotic YouTube masterpiece of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, "Innocence of Muslims." In America hardly anyone saw it. In the Arab world my guess only the makings of a small mob or two saw it. Yet it was used as a pretext for violent protest and thus for such lawyerly poppycock as was spewed by Ban Ki-moon. And there are others. Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia has said, "Our tolerance must never extend to tolerating religious hatred." Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has delivered an equally muddled declaration on tolerance and free expression, arguing for the adoption of a U.N. resolution that would simultaneously guarantee "the right to practice one's religion freely and the right to express one's opinion without fear." Try enforcing that resolution in Benghazi, Madame Secretary of State.

Freedom of speech is being diminished, says Professor Turley, "not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony." I am not sure they are "well-intentioned." Rather I consider them the fatuous efforts of politicians intent on riding out the storm. They hope the enemies of freedom will be placated temporarily or at least until the politician retires. I am not so sure they will get their way. As Turley says, there are thousands of cuts. Eventually free expression could be extinguished.

He cites opposition to blasphemous speech, to hate speech, to discriminatory speech, and to deceitful speech. That accounts for a lot of "paper cuts." The aggrieved groups keep growing and the defenders of free speech keep fighting off ever more enemies. Now we have the opponents of unhealthy diets opposing commercial free speech. We have already disposed of tobacco advertising. Will chocolate be next?

It seems to me freedom of speech must be absolute. Let anyone say anything they please. Let Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, or whatever his name is, make any film he desires. We do not have to watch it. We can protest it. We can ridicule it. We can even ridicule his idiotic name, replete with its redundancy. Call it hate speech if you will. Call it discriminatory. Just let free expression reign. As for the mob that protests him, so long as they do not break the law, they too are free to utter whatever they want in public or in private. That is the way we should do it in America. It is, as we say, the land of the free. Keep the lawyers, the busybodies and the government away from the First Amendment. That is the American way.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


18 October, 2012

Being straight no longer normal, Australian students taught

STUDENTS at 12 NSW high schools are being taught it is wrong and "heterosexist" to regard heterosexuality as the norm for human relationships.

The "Proud Schools" pilot program, implemented in 12 government schools in Sydney and the Hunter, is designed to stamp out "homophobia, transphobia (fear of transsexuals) and heterosexism".

Teachers are given professional development to learn to identify and stamp out any instances of "heterosexist" language in the playground, such as "that's so gay".

But at least 10 Liberal MPs are "extremely concerned" about the program, and will complain to Education Minister Adrian Piccoli this week.

The program defines "heterosexism" as the practice of "positioning heterosexuality as the norm for human relationship," according to the Proud Schools Consultation Report.

"It involves ignoring, making invisible or discriminating against non-heterosexual people, their relationships and their interests. Heterosexism feeds homophobia."

The program should "focus on the dominance of heterosexism rather than on homophobia," according to the minutes from the Proud Schools steering committee on March 22, 2011.

The $250,000 pilot program was initiated by the Labor government but Mr Piccoli has overseen its implementation in terms three and four this year at six high schools in Sydney and six in the Hunter.

"It is envisaged that this program will be made available to non-government schools as well," he said last year.

Upper house MP Fred Nile yesterday attacked the program, calling it "propaganda" and promised to raise the issue in parliament.

"I'm totally opposed to the brainwashing of high school students, especially when they are going through puberty," Mr Nile said.

"Homosexuals at most make up 2 per cent of the population - I don't know why the education department would give priority to promoting this (program).

"We will have more confused teenagers than ever ... children should be allowed to develop themselves."

In June, Mr Piccoli pledged the government's ongoing support of the pilot.

But last night his spokesman distanced the Coalition from the project, saying it was launched by his Labor predecessor Verity Firth in 2010.

"Minister Piccoli has continued to support the initiative. Professional learning is being developed to assist schools provide a safe and supportive environment for all students. All schools encourage their students to speak to each other and treat each other in a respectful manner."

He said any material prepared by a "third party" would not be approved for use in NSW.

The pilot drew on a similar program in Victoria, the "Safe Schools Coalition" to "support sexual diversity" in schools, which holds that gender and sexuality are not fixed but fluid concepts. In Victoria, each participating school is advised to erect a noticeboard specifically for gay, lesbian, transgender and "gender-questioning" young people.

Mr Piccoli's spokesman said Proud Schools was not based on the Victorian model, and noticeboards would not be required in NSW.

A Proud Schools consultation report also recommended that schools review existing PDHPE programs from Year 7 to "incorporate learning about same-sex attraction and sexual diversity".

The program was based on LaTrobe University research that schools are the "primary site of homophobic abuse".


Banned! Yard chief lays down the law on tattooed officers as those who can't cover them up are banned from joining the force

Good to see such "incorrectness" and disrespect for "diversity"

Police recruits to Britain's largest force were banned yesterday from having visible tattoos in a sweeping reform of its public image.

Scotland Yard Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said body art that can be seen by the public 'damages the professional image' of the service.

And he ordered a 'tattoo amnesty' in which anyone who already has marks on their hands, neck or face must declare them within weeks or be sacked.

The ban comes amid increasing concern among senior ranks nationwide over complaints from crime victims that some young officers appear 'thuggish'. They are particularly worried about the trend for tattoo 'sleeves' in which wrap-around tattoos are inked along the arm.

But rank-and-file representatives claim associating tattoos with criminals is old-fashioned and police should reflect the public they serve.

One Police Federation official said: 'If tattoos are offensive they should be covered but there is a bit of a generational attitude to them. 'Some see them as artwork and some don't. Tattoos are popular with high-profile footballers and pop stars. Many people we deal with also have them.'

Mr Hogan-Howe announced the tattoo diktat in a message to all 52,000 officers and staff yesterday.

He said: 'All visible tattoos damage the professional image of the Metropolitan Police Service.

'This corporate announcement discusses a specific requirement from the Met dress code policy in relation to the display of tattoos. 'With effect from the date of this announcement, tattoos on the face, or visible above a collar line, or on the hands are not permitted. All other tattoos must be covered.

'The Met is aware that some officers and staff already have prohibited visible tattoos. These are defined as tattoos that cannot be covered by everyday clothing.

'It will be a requirement, by the Commissioner, that all officers and police staff with existing tattoos defined as 'visible' must register such tattoos as a formal written declaration to their line manager before November 12.

'Any officer or member of police staff who fails, without reasonable excuse, to declare and register an existing visible tattoo will be liable to disciplinary action. 'Such a failure is liable to be considered to be gross misconduct.'

Police officers are banned from having offensive tattoos, including ones with discriminatory, violent or intimidating slogans.

Many forces say they will deal with tattooed recruits on a case by case basis, with the quantity, size and prominence of markings taken into consideration.

But the Met is believed to be the first force to actively ban people with visible tattoos of any kind from joining the frontline.

The 'tattoo amnesty' means officers who already have such tattoos will not be able to secretly add to them without breaking the new rule.

Met officers have already questioned how officers from islands in the South Pacific where cultural tattoos are common will be affected. And they highlighted that many servicemen may find they are unable to join the police after leaving the Armed Forces.

Last year, Ian Pointon, chairman of the Kent Police Federation, said tattoos can act as an 'icebreaker' when dealing with the public. He said tattoos can be a 'good way' of opening a line of communication with the public and do not carry a stigma.

Lionel Titchener, 59, founder of the Tattoo Club of Great Britain, said he has tattooed dozens of police officers during his career.

He said: 'I'm based in Oxford and when Thames Valley Police changed their badge we had a lot of people come in to have it done. 'I've tattooed police women as well. Often they go back to work and their colleagues turn up a few days later asking for the same thing.

'It's an old-fashioned attitude to ban tattoos, so many have them done now that people do not look twice. It's very strange thing to do in 2012.'


Recycled rhetoric in Britain

Nothing new at all -- on either side of politics

In his speech to the Labour Party Conference earlier this month, leader Ed Miliband declared he was going to ‘do something different today’, to ‘tell you my story. I want to tell you who I am. What I believe. And why I have a deep conviction that together we can change this country.’ Such self-conscious attempts to give identity to hollow political leaders of tired political parties in empty political contests are now a ritual in British politics.

Every political leader in recent years has overstated his vision as a new vital force. Yet each attempt to do so belies the narrowing of political discourse, the hollowing out of ideas, and the terminal vacuity of today’s political poseurs. The spectacle of Miliband delivering a personal statement was nothing new at all. Like many political leaders before him, he was forced to talk about himself because he had nothing else to say.

Miliband is not the only leader to have emphasised his humble origins to claim that it gives him insight into a divided Britain. Nor is he the first to try to revive Victorian prime minister Benjamin Disraeli’s idea of One Nation politics. John Major also sought to reverse the Conservative Party’s decline by reinventing Disraeli, claiming in 1996: ‘Decent homes, rewarding jobs, a good education, shares, quality of life. Giving more people those opportunities is what One Nation Conservatism is all about.’ Five years earlier, and just prior to an unexpected election victory that produced a government hobbled by constant in-fighting, he, like Miliband now, paraded his humble roots. For Major, that meant Brixton and grammar school rather than Miliband’s Hampstead and a comprehensive school

The two fundamentals of Miliband’s speech are the same as Major’s. Twenty years separate them, but both consciously eschew the socialism that we might imagine their backgrounds would make them sympathetic to. Both claim that their origins give them insight that people from more privileged backgrounds cannot develop. Both claim to be able to unite Britain. And both emphasise merely basic educational standards as the means to economic recovery. Miliband wants to offer ‘that 14-year-old who is not academic’ a ‘gold-standard vocational qualification, a new Technical Baccalaureate’, which is ‘a qualification to be proud of’. It is as if nobody had thought of it before. Yet Major said in 1996: ‘Some children will choose to learn vocational skills. I’ve had enough of people who look down on those children and treat them as second best… So practical skills are being put on an equal footing with academic subjects… The old divide between universities and polytechnics has gone.’

The observation that very little separates political leaders is not new, of course. But the motifs repeated over the past three decades of Britain’s political history are stark, and begin to offer a clue as to what might be going on.

At the Conservative Party conference in 2009, David Cameron’s Big Society idea was being hatched. He would put ‘Broken Britain’, he said, ‘back on her feet’: ‘Do you know the worst thing about their big government?’, he asked of New Labour. ‘It’s not the cost, though that’s bad enough. It is the steady erosion of responsibility. Our task is to lead Britain in a completely different direction.’

But the idea that the state had deprived people of ‘responsibility’ was something Tony Blair, of New Labour, had emphasised just five years earlier. In 2004, he announced a strategy that he claimed was ‘the culmination of a journey of change both for progressive politics and for the country.’ He added: ‘It marks the end of the 1960s liberal, social consensus on law and order… It was John Stuart Mill who articulated the modern concept that with freedom comes responsibility. But in the 1960s revolution, that didn’t always happen… Here, now, today, people have had enough of this part of the 1960s consensus…. That is the new consensus on law and order for our times.’

Even that was hardly new, though. At the Conservative Party conference more than a decade earlier, John Major had taken issue with people who believed that ‘criminal behaviour was society’s fault, not the individual’s’. Major, too, emphasised responsibility: ‘Do you know, the truth is, much as things have changed on the surface, underneath we’re still the same people. The old values - neighbourliness, decency, courtesy - they’re still alive, they’re still the best of Britain… It is time to return to those old core values, time to get back to basics, to self-discipline and respect for the law, to consideration for others, to accepting a responsibility for yourself and your family and not shuffling off on other people and the state.’

But even a decade before Major’s speech, Margaret Thatcher told political interviewer Brian Walden: ‘I think we went through a period when too many people began to expect their standard of living to be guaranteed by the state, and so great protest movements came that you could, by having sufficient protests, sufficient demonstrations against government, get somehow a larger share for yourself, and they looked to the protest and the demonstrations and the strikes to get a bigger share for them, but it always had to come from the people who really strived to do more and to do better. I want to see one nation, as you go back to Victorian times, but I want everyone to have their own personal property stake.’

For Thatcher, ‘one nation’ meant harking back to Victorian Values. Major similarly sought to get us Back to Basics. Blair thought that this could be achieved through his Respect Agenda. Cameron ordered the creation of the Big Society. Each leader promised that they could encourage personal responsibility, which would in turn transform British culture, end dependence on the welfare state, and reverse economic woes.

In spite of such ambitions, however, governments have found it increasingly difficult to let people actually take responsibility for themselves. The welfare state has not diminished, and endless policy initiatives find new ways to intrude on private life. As early as 1997, the then Labour government conceived of a ‘Quality of Life Barometer’, which would measure the government’s performance in improving individuals’ subjective sense of wellbeing - a project now more fully realised by the Lib-Con coalition’s Happiness Index. Political leaders who emphasise personal responsibility don’t even trust the people to look after their own emotional lives, let alone smoke or drink in public or find their way out of dependency on benefits.

Miliband’s grand projet - One Nation - doesn’t even bother to rebrand the nineteenth-century idea with a new name. Nor does he even attempt to give it substance. Instead, he merely offers a list of grievances, attached to his personal history. ‘That is who I am. That is what I believe. That is my faith’, he urges.

Today’s politicians have become increasingly hollow pastiches of their predecessors, echoes of long-passed political moments that ring around a public space as empty as the vision of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. Unable to conceive of new political ideas, they recycle a diminishing pool of insipid slogans that they wave at the country’s very real problems. The constant refrain of ‘One Nation’, ‘personal responsibility’, ‘sense of wellbeing’, ‘rebuilding Britain’ and the rest belies the paucity of ideas about actual development. Instead of building things like roads, industry and homes, modern leaders emphasise instead restraint, austerity, and external crises that are beyond our control - the global economic crisis, climate change and terrorism - which might let them off the hook.

Instead of answering the question ‘Who am I?’, the answer to which may be spun and invented to suit any given moment, it would be far better if politicians answered a far more difficult question: ‘What will I do?’ The fact that they have no new answers to that question is the real message of the party-conference season.


Companies Are Evil, So It's OK to Lie about Them

President Obama presented himself to the nation in 2008 as something new -- a change agent who would bring fresh ideas to our national challenges and solve problems in a post-partisan, unifying fashion.

In fact, as some noted at the time, his ideas were decrepit hand-me-downs, about as novel as disco or the leisure suit. He is a conventional, left-wing statist, George McGovern with a bigger smile, eager to bring ever-larger segments of American life under tight government control and direction. As for unity, his presidency has set new records for contemning the opposition -- a disdain histrionically pantomimed by Joe Biden.

Obama's deep hostility to the private sector has been evident throughout his presidency and popped up like verbal ticks during the first debate. He warned against putting seniors "like my grandmother at the mercy of the private insurance system." Those companies, he added knowingly, "are pretty clever about figuring out who are the younger and healthier seniors." He trotted out his old warhorse about companies "getting tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas," and he claimed that Obamacare protects people from "being jerked around" by insurance companies.

So hostile is the president to insurance companies that he stooped to misrepresenting the facts of his mother's illness and death the better to paint them as malevolent. In a 2008 debate with John McCain, Obama said this: "For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they're saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don't have to pay her treatment, there's something fundamentally wrong about that."

As Janny Scott, a former New York Times reporter, revealed in her biography of Stanley Ann Dunham Obama, it didn't happen. Mrs. Obama's medical expenses were paid for by CIGNA. There was a dispute with the company over disability insurance, but the company never attempted to deny coverage for her cancer treatment. When the White House was questioned about the Scott account, a spokesman did not dispute it, saying that it was all a very long time ago.

Obamacare was designed by people who believe passionately that private companies must be strictly controlled and regulated by Washington bureaucrats, who will run things far more humanely and even more efficiently. Mr. Obama cited the bogus statistic that Medicare has "lower administrative costs" than the private sector. This is specious. Medicare's administrative costs are spread over several different agencies. The IRS collects the taxes that fund the program, the Social Security Administration collects some of the premiums paid by beneficiaries, and the Department of Health and Human Services handles accounting, auditing, fraud and other issues.

Additionally, Medicare's population is older and sicker than the typical insurance pool. Their medical costs are accordingly higher, so as a percentage of total spending on the patient, Medicare's per patient administrative costs will be smaller. But that isn't because Medicare is more efficient.

This is not to say that insurance companies are virtuous. They are simply businesses, doing what makes sense for their customers and shareholders. It would never occur to Barack Obama that the best way to go after insurance companies whose behavior you dislike is to provide competitors. No, his plan, now just beginning to sting, is to create 159 new bureaus and agencies, and 11,327 pages of new regulations (so far).

Any first-year economics student could have predicted what happened last week in response to one feature of the law. Obamacare requires that companies with 50 or more full-time employees provide health insurance or pay a fine. A restaurant chain that includes Olive Garden and Red Lobster (not one of the 1200 well-connected companies and unions who've received waivers) announced that it will be placing more of its 180,000 employees on part-time status -- thereby diminishing the salaries of thousands of people.

The Obama Administration will perhaps regard this utterly predictable response (and this is just the beginning) as "jerking people around," and may, if reelected, issue regulations making it illegal to change an employee's status from full-time to part-time. That's how statists operate. Try firing someone in France -- which is why jobs are so scarce in France.

And so it will go, with the federal government chasing after private industry with more and more restrictions and penalties -- never seeing that they are circling the drain.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


17 October, 2012

Colonel’s class on radical Islam leaves career in limbo

When Army Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley last year began teaching a class to fellow officers on the dangers of radical Islam, he seemed to have landed in a perfect spot.

A highly rated armor officer who saw combat in Iraq, Col. Dooley planned to instruct for several years at the Joint Forces Staff College within the National Defense University, then seek command of a combat battalion — a ticket to better postings and higher rank.

Today, Col. Dooley finds himself at a dead end while being targeted for criticism by American Islamic groups, at least two of which are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates universal Islamic law.

More important, Col. Dooley’s critics include ArmyGen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In a news conference with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in May, Gen. Dempsey, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, publicly excoriated Col. Dooley’s training materials as being unfair to Islam and “academically irresponsible.”

A month after Gen. Dempsey’s rebuke, a general on his Pentagon staff ordered Col. Dooley to be removed as an instructor “for cause.”

As a result, regulations called for Marine Lt. Gen. George Flynn to order the National Defense University to produce a negative officer evaluation report on Col. Dooley — a career ender.

Richard Thompson, president of the nonprofit Thomas More Law Center, is representing Col. Dooley in an appeal against the negative report. He said the Pentagon is trying to appease the Muslim Brotherhood.

“What happened here was this whole idea of political correctness deterred the ability of our military to speak frankly about the identity of the enemy,” Mr. Thompson said in an interview. “Once you allow political correctness to overwhelm our military, then we are really going to have an impact on our national security.”

Congressional letter

Mr. Thompson said the university simply could have informally counseled Col. Dooley to change some of the material, which the officer would have done. Instead, Gen. Dempsey and others chose to “throw him under the bus in public” and “damage his reputation,” the lawyer said.

Col. Dooley’s evaluation report last year, while he was teaching the course, lauded him as a superb officer.

In addition, the course and the materials in it had been approved by the National Defense University, whose guidance to instructors says that “no subject or issue is considered taboo.”

On Aug. 29, two raters at the university issued a negative officer evaluation report, as ordered, ruining any chance for Col. Dooley to make full colonel and effectively cutting short his professional upward path.

That action prompted two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee last week to send a letter to Gen. Dempsey asking why such harsh action was taken.


U.S. to End Pro-Democracy Broadcasts in Russia

America’s broadcast voice in Russia will soon be silenced following Moscow’s ratification of a new law that will force a legendary broadcasting company to abandon the Russian airwaves.

Radio Liberty (RL), a division of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE), recently fired a large portion of its staff after the passage of a Russian law prohibiting foreign-owned media outlets from broadcasting on AM frequencies.

The unexpected mass layoffs came as a shock to RL journalists and Russian human rights activists alike, and spurred accusations that the Obama administration is kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin as he seeks to silence the democratic voice that helped topple communism.

“The timing of it, the way it was done, and the lack of explanation” sends an unfortunate message, said David Kramer, president of the human rights organization Freedom House. “It creates the impression, whether intended or not, that the U.S. is pulling out [of Russia], and that’s not the impression we want to leave.”

On Nov. 10, RL, known by locals as Radio Svoboda, will cease its AM broadcasts after nearly 60 years on the airwaves.

During that time, RFE-RL fought communism from behind the Iron Curtain, where its pro-America broadcasts provided an alternate source of news for Russians interested in a Western perspective.

The station’s American overseers have announced that Radio Svoboda, which reaches an estimated 150,000 listeners daily, will turn exclusively to the Internet where it hopes to reach a younger generation of Russians.

The new broadcasting law, spearheaded by Putin, orders companies that are more than 48 percent foreign-owned to leave the Russian airwaves. It comes on the heels of the ouster of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a nonprofit aid group recently banned from operating in Russia.

Soon after the radio measure was approved, RL axed the majority of its veteran reporters, radio hosts, and editors—a move viewed as suspicious to many on the inside. A handful of additional RL staffers quit in protest following the firings.

Experts fear that the disappearance of RL’s independent voice from the airwaves will allow Putin’s regime to further tighten its grip on the flow of information in Russia.


If we are the new Elizabethans, then conservatives are the new Catholics

I recently read Ian Mortimer's A Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England, which includes a chapter on religion in this period. It illustrates how during the 16th century the acceptable range of religious beliefs changed rapidly in a short space of time.

Anti-Catholic hostility steadily grew, inflamed by the Pope’s declarations against Queen Elizabeth. In 1571, Parliament passed a new act making it high treason to claim the Queen was “a heretic, schismatic, tyrant, infidel or usurper”. It became illegal to import papal bulls, crucifixes or rosary beads.

Just as in later secular regimes where the old religion was suppressed, ordinary people could end up in serious trouble if they said the wrong things. Essex tailors George and William Binkers were hauled before magistrates in 1577 for saying that the Host became “the very body, flesh and blood of Christ.” John Howard was also summoned to court for stating that “it was never merry in England since the scriptures were so commonly preached and talked upon.”

The situation intensified in 1580, when scholars from Douai set up an illegal printing press in Oxfordshire and 100 Jesuits arrived with the mission “to preserve and augment the faith of the Catholics in England.” From then on anyone trying to persuade people to join the Catholic Church was guilty of high treason and executed, whilst anyone missing an Anglican service was to be fined £20 per month.

After 1593, Catholics could travel no more than five miles from home without forfeiting all property, and had to register with local authorities in order to obtain a licence if they wished to go anywhere. Things had changed a lot since 1564, when half of all justices of the peace had hesitated to swear Oath of Supremacy.

I grew up in a mixed Anglican/Catholic household, but until adult life I probably held the standard Protestant Whig view of our history; that Protestantism freed the English from Papist tyranny, which is essentially alien and un-English.

Yet, a lot of that is myth. James I was as much an absolutist as any continental monarch, and absolutism was seen as the future. England’s constitutionalism may have been helped by some of the radical elements of Protestantism — and the literacy it encouraged — but it was formed in a Catholic country. The men who signed the Magna Carta then 40 years later held meetings that came to be known as Parliament were all Catholic. As for the Protestant work ethic, Flanders seems as hard-working as Holland, and Bavaria as Saxony. Would a Catholic England have been that different? The only difference in a world in which England had remained Catholic would have been, as someone once quipped, that Ireland would have been Protestant.

There are some parallels with our own time. Protestantism at the start of Elizabeth’s reign was a minority faith, and when Henry VIII had broken with Rome it was only practised by a small number of radicals around London and Cambridge. But they were a highly-motivated, disproportionately well-educated minority, and once given power were able to inflict a cultural whitewash on England’s Catholic heritage. This was physically manifested in Thomas Cromwell’s wrecking of the monasteries, an act of cultural vandalism that resembles the actions of the Taliban. The Protestant radicals, crucially, were better able to manipulate the medium of the day — print.

If you look at the present day, cultural changes that have occurred under the second Elizabeth have shifted the acceptable range of beliefs within a generation. A number of opinions that were almost universally held during the last London Olympics might get you sacked today, or possibly investigated by the police.

When bishops talk of the “persecution” of Christians they are being hyperbolic. Christians really are persecuted in places like Pakistan or Iran, but what they mean is that the Anglican supremacy has been replaced by an atheist one, and that people who don’t believe in its articles of faith, whether it be gay marriage or multiculturalism, face legal harassment and social handicaps.

Today’s new puritans maintain that they are fighting for equality rather than control, but this is as much of a delusion as the idea that they are “rational” (and people who think they’re rational and others aren’t can be quite dangerous). We could have “procedural” secularism, in which the state allows people to worship and does not have favour any religion in particular, but when two sets of beliefs — sexual equality and traditional Christianity — have such opposing belief systems, the state has to favour one. That’s what it has done on things such as adoption agencies; it’s not quite the same as being squashed underneath seven hundredweights of metal, but we live in more peaceful times, and no one wants to lose their job or funding, especially when the state is so much larger today.

Although most people are quite moderate on the “culture war” issues, just as in the 16th century the most fanatical are also the most vocal and determined; like in the 16th century they understand the media of the day, television and radio, better than conservatives. That is why, just as in the 16th century, it is used to spread relentless propaganda against the old society and faith. (Another parallel is the physical vandalism of the 20th century that tore down so many beautiful buildings that reminded people of another era.)

And just as in the 16th century, they use the law to exclude people with whom they disagree, people who do not swear the 21st century equivalent of the Oath of Supremacy – the Oath of Diversity.



Ann Coulter

Liberal racism sightings have become like a lunatic's version of "Where's Waldo?" Kevin Baker of Harper's magazine says Romney's referring to his "five boys" in last week's debate was how he "slyly found a way" to call Obama a "boy." Says Baker: "How the right's hard-core racists must have howled at that!"

MSNBC's Chris Matthews says the word "apartment" is racist because black people live in apartments. He also says the word "Chicago" is racist because -- despite its well-known reputation as the home of Al Capone and the Daley machine -- a lot of black people live there, too. (And don't get him started on "Chicago apartments"!)

As we go to press, Matthews is working on an exciting new hypothesis that peanut butter is racist.

Meanwhile, my new favorite actress, Stacey Dash, sends an inoffensive little tweet supporting Mitt Romney and is buried in tweets calling her "an indoor slave" and a "jiggaboo," who was "slutting (herself) to the white man." (And those were just the tweets from the Obama 2012 Re-election Campaign!)

Could we get an expert opinion from Chris Matthews or Kevin Baker about whether any of that is racist?

It's a strange thing with liberals. They spend so much time fawning over black nonentities -- like Maya Angelou, Eugene Robinson, Barack and Michelle Obama, and Rachel Maddow's very, very, very special black guest Melissa Harris-Perry -- that, every once in awhile, they seem to erupt in racist bile to restore their mental equilibrium.

After President George W. Bush appointed Condoleezza Rice the first black female secretary of state, she was maligned in racist cartoons portraying her as Aunt Jemima, Butterfly McQueen from "Gone With the Wind," a fat-lipped Bush parrot and other racist cliches.

Kevin Baker didn't notice any of that because he was working on his theory that referring to your sons is racist.

When Michael Steele ran for senator from Maryland, he was depicted in blackface and with huge red lips by liberal blogger Steve Gilliard. Sen. Charles Schumer's Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee dug up a copy of Steele's credit report -- something done to no other Republican candidate.

Is that more or less racist than Romney mentioning his sons? More or less racist than the word "apartment"?

Mia Love, a black Republican running for Congress in Utah had her Wikipedia page hacked with racist bile, heavy on the N-word. Her campaign headquarters has been bombarded with racist graffiti and slimy mailings with pictures of Klansman next to photos of her family.

Some would say that's even more racist than Romney talking about his sons.

On less evidence than the birthers have, liberals slandered both Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain with the racist stereotype of black men as sexual predators.

As the preceding short list suggests, liberals usually limit their racist slime to conservative blacks. But not always.

In 2008, Bill Clinton said of Obama "a few years ago this guy would have been carrying our bags." Democratic Sen. Harry Reid praised Obama for not speaking in a "Negro dialect." Joe Biden complimented Obama for being "clean" and "articulate."

Did I mention that Kevin Baker thinks that Romney referring to his "five boys" is racist?

Two years ago, liberal newsman Dan Rather said the criticism of Obama was that he "couldn't sell watermelons if you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic." (I immediately called for Rather's firing for that, and then remembered that he didn't have a job.)

Last week, Rather won the 2012 Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement from Washington State University. That's not a joke -- or at least not my joke.

Meanwhile, evidence of alleged Republican racism invariably consists of tenuous connections and apocryphal signals normally associated with schizophrenics and sufferers of "Thrilled Leg Syndrome."

Since February 2008, the primary evidence of racism has been failure to fully support Obama's election, policies or re-election. As Slate magazine's Jacob Weisberg put it during the last presidential campaign, only if Obama were elected president would children in America be able to "grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives."

I wish I had a nickel for every kid who's come up to me in an airport and said, "What I wouldn't give to be able to think of prejudice as a non-factor in my life ..."

Curiously, liberals weren't concerned about what children in America would think if Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court nomination had been defeated. No, only electing the most liberal person ever to seek the presidency on a major party ticket would prove that the country could "put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race."

The left's racial demagoguery worked: In 2008, Obama received a larger proportion of the white vote than any Democrat running for president in nearly 40 years. (Though he tied Clinton's 1996 white vote record.)

And look how well that turned out! We haven't heard another peep about racism since then.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


16 October, 2012

Alert over 'Kafkaesque' secret justice system that would allow British government 'to play national security card' to avoid scrutiny

A secret justice system ‘straight from the pages of a Kafka novel’ is planned by ministers, an influential report has claimed.

Controversial proposals to conduct court cases and inquests behind closed doors would allow the Government to ‘play the national security card’ to avoid being scrutinised, said Amnesty International.

The group’s 50-page dossier is a withering assault on the Justice and Security Bill, due to be debated imminently by the House of Lords.

Critics including the Daily Mail and civil liberties groups have campaigned against the plans.

It has raised fears that inquests into police shootings, soldiers killed by so-called ‘friendly fire’ and other hearings with the potential to embarrass the Government will be shrouded in secrecy.

Some campaigners have gone so far as to say that the legislation is a threat to centuries of legal freedoms and even our democracy.

Under the Bill, judges will be able to listen to more civil cases in secret without claimants being permitted to hear evidence.

Amnesty International’s Alice Wyss said the Bill posed ‘a real threat to the principles of fairness and open justice’.

She said: ‘It’s already bad enough that secret procedures have been allowed to creep into the justice system but the Government is now trying to extend secret justice to an unprecedented degree.

‘It wants a system where it can simply play the “national security” card whenever it wants to keep things secret.

‘Evidence that is kept secret, lawyers that can’t talk to you: it’s a secret justice system straight from the pages of a Kafka novel.

‘This Bill will enable the Government to throw a cloak of secrecy over wrongdoing.’

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘Nothing that’s currently heard in open court will be heard in secret in future.’


Venezuela: the left’s heart in a heartless world

The Western left’s bizarre love affair with the Bonapartist Hugo Chavez speaks volumes about its intellectual disarray and desperation

For an insight into the collapsed standards, declining intellectual rigour and desperate opportunism of the modern Western left, look no further than its fawning over Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. In the past, much of the left - both the radical sections and even some of the stuffy Stalinist crowd - was highly critical of the Bonapartist antics of populist Latin American leaders. They critiqued the way these leaders mobilised the masses to give their narrow, bourgeois, largely state-orientated policies a gloss of legitimacy or the appearance of revolutionism. But now, so isolated is the Western left, so bereft is it of a domestic constituency or anything approaching a political plan, that it sees in Chavez’s twenty-first-century Bonapartism something ‘genuinely progressive’.

This week, Chavez won a fourth term as president of Venezuela. He did not repeat his landslide victory of 2006, instead winning a safe but not-especially-astounding 54 per cent of the vote (on a turnout of 81 per cent). His supporters among Western radicals immediately went into hyperbolic hyperdrive, talking about the ‘revolution’ that Chavez has led in Venezuela and commending him for ‘challenging imperial domination’. Chavez’s posturing against US influence in Latin America and his implementation of social-assistance programmes for the Venezuelan poor are variously described as ‘radical’, ‘progressive’ and part of his broader ‘profoundly revolutionary struggle’. He is compared to Simon Bolivar, the nineteenth-century political leader who liberated much of the Latin American continent from Spanish rule, or to Che Guevara, the more recent Argentine radical beloved of t-shirt sellers in hipster communities across the West.

Yet these accolades for Chavez tell us far more about the state of mind, and deep, existential needs, of the disarrayed left than they do about any revolution taking place in Venezuela. Because in truth, Chavez has far more in common with the populist style of the nationalist leadership pioneered in Latin America by Juan Peron, whom the left castigated for his exploitation of the masses, than he does with yesteryear’s revolutionaries. Juan Peron was an Argentine military leader who, after playing a role in the army’s 1943 seizing of power from the corrupt regime of Ramon Castillo, was elected president of Argentina in 1946, 1951 and briefly again in the 1970s. His rule - which came to be known as Peronism and was influential among populist left-wing leaders in Latin America - consisted of a combination of anti-Western actions, concessions to the working classes and the poor in the form of higher wages and trade union recognition, and populist demagogy. Through this process, Peron was able to build up an impressive mass base of support for his pursuit of nationalist capitalist development in Argentina.

Peron’s political approach was archetypal Bonapartism - the name given by Marxists to leaders who take and secure power when no single class is in a position to do so; leaders who try to use reformist measures to win the radical support of the more populous classes. That is, the Bonapartist style can emerge when the capitalist class is too weak to exercise power in its own name and when the working class is too immature or lacking in political leadership to do anything about it. In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx describes how, following the defeat of the working class in the European revolutions of 1848, Louis Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon, seized power in France on the back of the lumpenproletariat (or what the decidedly un-PC Marx described as ‘the scum, offal, refuse of all classes’). At a time when the working class had been roundly beaten and much of the European bourgeoisie was, in Marx’s term, in a state of ‘ruin’, Louis Bonaparte was able to depict himself as being above the class struggle and to ride to power through populist appeals to an ‘indefinite, disintegrated mass’ - the poor, disaffected, lumpen. In a modern-era spin on such Bonapartism, Peron in 1940s Argentina built his political success on mobilising sections of the working classes and exploiting the backwardness of Argentina’s then largely new and fast-growing proletariat, creating a base upon which he could create a ‘New Argentina’ and pursue a nationalistic form of economic development.

Of course, Peron’s rule was not without substance. There was a strong sense of national independence under Peronism, a certain amount of redistribution of wealth, the state-assisted creation of trade unions, increased social welfare. However, in a signal of Peron’s fundamental remove from the classes he claimed to represent, when Argentina hit rough economic waters in the early 1950s, and went in search once more of foreign investment, the Peron regime was quite happy to force down the wages it had previously raised, attack trade unions, and crush the workers who went on strike in response to these developments. There followed a foreign-backed coup in 1955, the fleeing of Peron, and years of dictatorship.

Chavez’s Venezuela has many Peronist elements, except Chavez is an even more unconvincing leader of the workers than Peron was. Echoing Peronism, Chavez’s Venezuela is likewise built upon the populist mobilisation of large sections of the poor by a fairly narrow stratum of society that presents itself as being fundamentally above the old competing classes. Chavez’s rule is likewise underpinned by frequent posturing against external powers and foreign ‘neoliberalism’ (though the so-called imperialists Chavez faces are a very pale version of the ones Peron took a stand against in the immediate postwar period); it also pursues the redistribution of wealth to a certain extent, and has developed social-welfare programmes (though Chavez does not pursue meaningful capitalist economic development in the way Peron did); and Chavez’s regime is shot through with populist demagogy, where Chavez has proved himself far more adept at tapping into the passions and prejudices of certain sections of the public than he is at laying out a convincing radical political programme. Both Peronist Argentina and Chavez’s Venezuela saw huge growth in the state and state expenditure.

But there is one enormous difference between the Peronist periods of the past and the Chavez era today - and that is in the response of the Western left. Much of the left was stingingly critical of Peronism. In a 1958 essay titled ‘What is Peronism?’, published in American Socialist, the Polish-US communist Bert Cochran described Peronism as ‘essentially a pragmatic manoeuvring between social classes at home and between rival powers abroad, concocted into a pseudo-ideology by grandiloquent rhetoric and noisy demagogy’ (1). In the 1970s, a socialist essayist described how Peronism, far from being revolutionary, was ‘fundamentally reformist, emphasising harmony of interests between classes and the role of the state as the neutral mediator between capital and labour’; Peronism actually ‘prevented social conflict… from getting out of control’. Across the Western left, there were serious critiques of Peronism, whether devastating ones or simply disappointed ones; certainly there was very little naive talk of Peron leading a ‘profoundly revolutionary struggle’, as many Western radicals now claim about Peronite Chavez.

This points to a dramatic change in the Western left, to extraordinarily lowered horizons and a dearth of critical thinking among modern radical writers and activists. The Western left’s uncritical embrace of Chavez is driven first by its desperation to find some evidence, somewhere, that old-style left-wing rhetoric still has purchase. With left-wing ideals in disarray around the world, and with the Western left increasingly alienated from and disappointed by its allegedly apathetic domestic populations, left-wingers fantasise that Chavez’s Venezuela is keeping the socialist dream alive, offering ‘lessons to anyone interested in… new forms of socialist politics in the rest of the world’. Venezuela has become a kind of haven in a world that the left finds increasingly heartless, or just confusing. And secondly, the left’s enamourment of Chavez is informed by its increasingly uncritical attitude towards the state. For a left convinced that change is impossible without the leadership and favour of the state, which now views the state as the main agent of progress, Chavez’s state-orientated policies can seem exciting, even ‘revolutionary’.

In essence, then, there is a double self-deception in the Western left’s love affair with Chavez. It is deceiving itself about the reality of what is happening in Venezuela. And it is deceiving itself about, and intellectually distracting itself from, the profound crisis of radical thought that is widespread in the world today.


Free speech rights in flux in Australia

Everyone has their own little megaphone and when herded together the noise can be louder than the racket from the most strident demagogue or shock jock in earshot. Now the law is being asked to step in and draw some lines in the sand, or on the wall, or in the cloud, or somewhere.

In England the Department of Public Prosecution and a bunch of "stakeholders" - lawyers, journalists, police - are trying to come up with guidelines as to what constitutes "offensive" communications on open or social media networks.

In our own lively backyard, the NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, has commissioned a "working group" to examine the impact of social media on the sanctity of the criminal trial process and what can be done about it.

These are examples of authorities flailing about and trying to look as though they are doing something. Whatever emerges by way of worthy recommendations, it is unlikely that this genie is going to get back in its bottle.

In Canberra, our High Court is being asked to decide where the freedom to speak stops, particularly when it comes to the implied, but not enshrined, constitutional right of free speech on matters of government and politics.

For instance, does a person in breach of a council bylaw have a right to preach fire and brimstone god-bothering sermons on the street, to the annoyance of shopkeepers and shoppers?

Even more "out there", does the constitutional protection extend to someone, who in defiance of the criminal law, sent offensive and distressing messages through the mail to the relatives of Australian soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan?

These are two actual cases heard this month by the same bench of the High Court (French CJ, along with justices Hayne, Heydon, Crennan, Kiefel and Bell). The decisions in both are reserved.

In the offensive letters case radical Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis was found guilty in April last year of using the postal service to cause offence and to menace and harass. In this instance it may have been difficult to glean the precise meaning of the letters but there was the suggestion that the dead soldiers were murderers. Amirah Droudis was charged with aiding and abetting.

Apart from the relatives of dead Australian Defence Force personnel, letters were also received by the relatives of an Austrade official who had been killed in the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta on July 17, 2009.

There was lots of argument around what constitutes offensiveness. In its submission the Commonwealth said the mail could have provoked retaliation, including "civil commotion or riot".

David Bennett, QC, for Droudis, said "it is very easy to discard what one doesn't want to read". In that sense he was suggesting that not reading the letters was akin to turning off the radio if Alan Jones got on your wick.

But are these distressing letters on political matters constitutionally protected or, put another way, did this part of the criminal law dealing with offensive articles in the post exceed the legislative power of the Parliament because it infringed the implied right of free speech?

The trial judge thought the legislation did burden the freedom of communication about government or politics, but that it was nonetheless reasonably appropriate. The Court of Criminal Appeal basically agreed.

Now it's the High Court's turn, and it has the last say.

The Adelaide preachers Caleb and Samuel Corneloup have had a better run in the courts so far. An Adelaide City bylaw was used to stop the brothers Corneloup proselytising in a loud and aggressive manner in Rundle Mall. No one in Adelaide is allowed on the streets to "preach, canvass or harangue" without a permit.

The Corneloups won in the South Australian District Court, and the City of Adelaide lost an appeal in August last year, when the full Supreme Court found the bylaw was inconsistent with the implied constitutional freedom of political communication. The preaching, it appears, contained a good dose of political content. Again, the High Court will have the last word on whether the bylaw is an unreasonable burden on free speech.

What is refreshing is that these two cases, which are at the forefront of a free speech advance party, don't involve the new media. The "champions" are users of snail mail and street corners. How fitting it is that these overlooked communication devices are at the cutting edge of free speech jurisprudence.

Justice Michael Kirby has been relatively quiet since leaving the High Court but he was momentarily revived in the course of this bout of litigation. Here he is in an earlier free speech case. He's worth quoting at a little length because he rings a few bells for me:

"One might wish for more rationality, less superficiality, diminished invective and increased logic and persuasion in political discourse. But those of that view must find another homeland. From its earliest history, Australian politics has regularly included insult and emotion, calumny and invective, in its armoury of persuasion. They are part and parcel of the struggle of ideas.

"Anyone in doubt should listen for an hour or two to the broadcasts that bring debates of the Federal Parliament to the living rooms of the nation. This is the way present and potential elected representatives have long campaigned in Australia for the votes of constituents and the support of their policies. It is unlikely to change.

"By protecting from legislative burdens governmental and political communications in Australia, the constitution addresses the nation's representative government as it is practised. It does not protect only the whispered civilities of intellectual discourse."


Abusing the logic of human rights in Australia

Andrew Baker

Welfare reform is now a human rights abuse, according to the welfare lobby and the special interest groups they represent.

At the heart of the matter are the Gillard government’s reforms to Parenting Payment, which will move tens of thousands of parents of school-aged children onto the less generous Newstart Allowance, which also has tougher job search requirements. The reforms were passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

This move will save taxpayers more than $700 million over the next four years and will improve the incentives Parenting Payment recipients have to move from welfare to work.

However, these sensible and relatively modest reforms have been branded a potential human rights abuse worthy of the United Nations’ attention by the welfare lobby, led by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the welfare-dependent parents affected by the reforms.

They argue that the government’s legislation violates Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which states that everyone has a right to social security, including social insurance.

Additionally, the welfare lobby alleges that the government’s reforms violate the ‘principle of non-retrogression,’ which means if you have a right, that right cannot be reduced or removed.

By combining Article 9 of the convention with the principle of non-retrogression, the welfare lobby has added 1 + 1 to get 3.

A right to social security plus the principle of non-retrogression supposedly means if you receive welfare payments (in this case Parenting Payment), you can’t have that payment removed or reduced, which is what would happen if Parenting Payment recipients are moved to Newstart Allowance. Hence, the welfare lobby concludes, the government’s reforms are an abuse of human rights.

Clearly there is some very dodgy logic being employed here.

First, the right to social security is not being violated – people are simply moving from one social security payment to another – in this case, from Parenting Payment to Newstart.

Second, the principle of non-retrogression is not being violated – the right to social security as outlined in Article 9 is not being reduced or removed at all. The reforms do not ban or prevent people from receiving welfare – the only change is to the welfare payment they receive.

Third, Article 9 is being interpreted incorrectly – if you accept that everyone has a right to social security, it does not follow that everyone, or even a particular group of people, has a right to a specific payment paid at a specific rate – in this case, Parenting Payment.

Individually, each of these points repudiates the welfare lobby’s claims that the government’s reforms are a human rights abuse. Together they smash the claim out of the park.

Parents of school-aged children who move from Parenting Payment to Newstart Allowance should not be branded as victims of human rights abuse. What they really are is just another special interest group wanting to take more money out of taxpayers' pockets.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


15 October, 2012

A day of judgment for Britain's liberal bishops

The strangest thing happened last week, though few people noticed it. America officially ceased to be a Protestant country. According to the Pew Forum, the percentage of Protestants has dropped to 48 per cent, down from 53 per cent in 2007. That’s a huge shift.

But, before Catholics start punching the air, let me point out that the percentage of Catholics has been flatlining for years at 22 per cent. The big jump is in unaffiliated Americans, including atheists – up from 15 to 20 per cent. These “Nones”, as pollsters call them, are laying waste to the religious landscape of the United States. And Britain.

Here’s the question that intrigues me. Once the old, routine churchgoers have died off, and now that “None” is the default position for liberal-minded young people, what will the churches of the future look like?

We’re beginning to find out. More to the point, the clapped-out Anglican and Catholic bishops of the English-speaking world are finding out, too – and it’s giving them nightmares.

Those youngsters who once went to church out of obligation are now spending Sunday mornings in the supermarket or the gym (body worship is a flourishing faith). That means that the only young people in the pews are true believers who really want to be there.

If you’re a “go-ahead” bishop, vicar or diocesan bureaucrat, this is a scary development. You’ve spent your career reducing the hard truths of Christ’s teaching – such as the inevitability of the Last Judgment – to carbon-neutral platitudes. Suddenly, the 20-year-olds in your flock are saying: no thanks, we’ll take the hard truths. Eek!

In the Church of England, young evangelicals are embarrassed by the thespian agonising of Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury. If there’d been a hand-wringing event at the Olympics, he’d have shattered all records.

In the Roman Catholic Church of England and Wales, the disconnect is even more stark. Young Catholics take their cue from the traditionalist Pope Benedict XVI, rather than from dreary bishops who only occasionally wake from their slumber to mumble something about renewable energy. (Remember Jack in Father Ted? You get the picture.)

Also – and I can’t tell you how much pleasure it gives me to report this – the Vatican has pulled a fast one by appointing two new diocesan bishops, Mark Davies of Shrewsbury and Philip Egan of Portsmouth, who are in tune with conservative youngsters rather than an English Catholic bureaucracy run by crypto-Marxist megabores trained in the public sector.

Bishop Egan has only been in his post for a few weeks, but already he’s been telling orthodox young Catholics what they want to hear: that they should adore the Blessed Sacrament, advertise their faith by making the sign of the cross, and even keep a rosary handy in the car. Cue barely suppressed shrieks from the old guard in Portsmouth, whose “director of liturgy”, the composer Paul Inwood, writes cod plainchant decked out in the harmonies of a 1970s cocktail lounge.

None of this should surprise us. When religions come under attack, they attract believers who invest in their more dogmatic, countercultural teachings – and who deliberately raise the degree of tension between themselves and society. There are few things more countercultural today than Bible-based evangelicalism or strictly orthodox Catholicism. For decades, Liberal bishops have droned on about how they wanted to draw young people back to church. But I don’t think this is what they had in mind.


“Tolerance is the basis of all our freedoms”

In a free society, everyone, even those we consider repugnant, must have the liberty to express themselves and their ideas

Frank Furedi

About three years ago, I was giving a lecture in Amsterdam. In the course of the lecture, I told the audience that if you believed in freedom, if you believed in freedom of speech, it meant that you should be able to say whatever you wanted and society did not have the right to censor the content of whatever it is you wanted to say.

An example I gave was the way that in many parts of Europe, Holocaust denial is deemed to be a crime. Even though a lot of my family perished in the Holocaust, I still feel it was totally wrong to suppress an idea bureaucratically. It is far better that it be debated, argued over and ultimately discredited. And at that point this guy gets up, puts up his hand, and says: ‘I’m really glad you said that Professor Furedi. I’m a Muslim and I too think it’s wrong that a Holocaust should be denied. The only thing I think should be censored is when someone like the prophet Muhammad is criticised or questioned. That should not be allowed.’

A week later, I was in Berlin on the same lecture tour, and a Jewish person got up to say almost the opposite: that it was perfectly okay to criticise the prophet Muhammad, but it was totally immoral that the Holocaust should be denied. And that’s really when I decided to write my book on the issue of tolerance. It became very clear to me that in many parts of Europe, tolerance basically meant tolerating the ideas that you agree with, but at the same time being intolerant of the ideas you disagree with. I thought it was important to explain why it is that European societies find it so difficult genuinely to be tolerant.

Tolerance is a very difficult accomplishment, it’s something you have to struggle with. To be genuinely free, and to be committed to freedom, not just on a rhetorical level but in real-life terms, is not an easy project to carry out. And I think that one of the problems we have in our society is that we are continually finding it difficult to be truly tolerant. We always find good reasons as to why some views are beyond the pale: they cannot be said, they cannot be expressed, while others are totally fine to communicate.

Recently, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, there was a very interesting exchange in the aftermath of all those Muslim riots about the American film that criticised the prophet Muhammad. The presenter, John Humphries, was talking to a Muslim speaker, and he put it to him that in the UK we believe in free speech, and yet we feel intimidated and scared to criticise the prophet Muhammad because Muslims react by burning down embassies and killing people. The Muslim speaker, who was defending some of the people who had been rioting and demonstrating, pointed out that in the UK there are, in fact, limits on free speech, like criticising troops in Afghanistan or speech that incites hatred of religion.

So, a Muslim speaker was defending the intolerant demonstrators for going around killing people and beating people up, but his was the same moral claim as that made by John Humphries; they were equally intolerant. We may believe that our society is liberal and tolerant, but when we scratch the surface, we always find good reasons why we shouldn’t listen to somebody we really dislike.

An objection I hear frequently is: ‘Why should we tolerate intolerance?’ The assumption is that tolerating views that you don’t agree with is like a gift, an act of kindness. It suggests we’re doing people a favour by tolerating their view. My argument is that tolerance is vital to us, to you and I, because it’s actually the presupposition of all our freedoms.

You cannot be free in any meaningful sense unless there is a recognition that we are free to act on our beliefs, we’re free to think what we want and express ourselves freely. Unless we have that freedom, all those other freedoms that we have on paper mean nothing.

Throughout most of human history, tolerance was not even seen as a virtue. In fact, until about the seventeenth century, the main virtue was to be intolerant. And most philosophers, for example Catholic and other religious thinkers, actually boasted about the fact that society was intolerant of any disrespect for religion. To be tolerant was seen as a sign of moral weakness. Only the really weak, pathetic individuals could be tolerant. Why would you tolerate a view that you held to be abhorrent?

The first person in the world who put forward an argument for tolerance was the liberal philosopher John Locke. I give his brilliant essay, On Tolerance, to all my students and friends to read whenever I see people being a little intolerant. But even Locke gave two cases in which we should not be tolerant. Firstly, tolerance could not extend to Catholics in England, because Catholics were not loyal to the king, they were only loyal to a foreign power: the pope. He also said that there could not be tolerance for atheists, because atheists are loyal to nobody. So even Locke had reservations as to how far tolerance could go.

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that some of these ideas about tolerance were further developed. For example, you had with John Stuart Mill the idea that people not only had freedom of conscience, the freedom of belief, but also freedom of speech. Freedom of conscience meant nothing, he argued, unless you had the freedom to communicate that belief. The only way that your moral autonomy, your integrity as a human being, could be realised was through the capacity to speak out freely about what you believed and to take responsibility for the words that you expressed.

For Mill, it was far better to allow people to express erroneous opinions, and even lies, than to suppress them. Because it’s through having to struggle with erroneous opinions and lies that real clarity is gained, that individuals manage to work out for themselves what is right and what is wrong. Nothing can be worse than passively accepting an opinion that someone gives you, and merely repeating what society holds to be right. If all you do is mouth what society tells you to say, it becomes entirely external to yourself, you really are not a human agent.

These points still stand today. If we are truly to be free, moral beings, then we must demand tolerance for all – even for those who hold views with which we strongly disagree.


No ‘victims’ veto’ on press freedom

Celebrity demands for British PM to back state regulation of the press have revealed the true mission of the Leveson inquisition

Being a victim of historical phone-hacking by the News of the World (deceased) entitles you to public sympathy (less so if you are a PR-hungry celebrity in the first place of course), and possibly to redress through the courts.

What it does not entitle you to is any sort of veto over the future of a free press in the UK. Yet that is what the celebrity anti-tabloid crusaders, and the illiberal campaigners who use them as voiceover artists, now clearly expect as a result of the Leveson Inquiry.

Hacked Off, the campaign for statutory regulation of the press, has written an angry letter to prime minister David Cameron demanding that he agrees to pass a new law to police the press if and when Lord Justice Leveson proposes it in his report, expected out next month. Anything less, it makes clear, would be a ‘betrayal’ of the victims whom Cameron promised to satisfy. The letter is signed by the usual celebrity suspects - Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan, Charlotte Church, Jude Law, JK Rowling, Max Mosley, etc - alongside more sympathetic figures such as survivors of the 7/7 London bombings and members of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

The outraged Hacked Off letter was written in response to press reports suggesting that Cameron might reject statutory-backed regulation even if Leveson backs it. In the most revealing passage, the signatories express their anger at backtracking remarks from the prime minister’s spokesman, suggesting that Cameron ‘had not intended to give a veto to any particular victims over the new system of regulation’. This is the ‘betrayal’ they are really talking about. They believe the prime minister promised to allow the victims of phone hacking an effective veto over the future shape of press regulation, and expect him to fulfil that pledge.

This ridiculous letter has done us all the service of spelling out what the entire Leveson Inquiry has really been all about. It was never about phone-hacking. That should have been left to the police to investigate (which they are doing on an irrationally grand scale). Instead, those historical offences linked with one (closed) tabloid newspaper employing a single private detective were turned into the pretext for Lord Justice Leveson’s judicial probe into the entire ‘culture, practice and ethics’ of the British media.

The Leveson Inquiry/inquisition has been a mission to purge the ‘popular’ press, using high-profile victims as human shields, high-ranking celebrities as voiceover artists, and high-minded talk of ‘ethics’ as a code for advancing an elitist agenda: the ‘ethical cleansing’ of the media. Thus the demand from the crusaders today is not for redress for the individual victims of specific offences, but for the government to set up a state-backed regulator to tame the entire press industry and wash the naughty newspapers’ mouths out with soap.

If it was not so serious it would be laughable to see the celebrity crusaders insist that Cameron must approach Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals with ‘an open mind’. There has been little sign of any such openness in their evidence to Leveson and public pronouncements, with Grant accusing the tabloid press of nurturing ‘a culture of pure evil’ and Coogan dismissing press freedom as ‘a lie’ made up by newspapers, while their snooty supporters in the liberal media declare that tabloid hacks are ‘a different breed’ and ‘not like us’. A more narrow-minded display of respectable bigotry would be hard to imagine.

Behind all the talk of protecting ‘ordinary people’, the elitism of the tabloid-bashing crusaders also shines through in the Hacked Off letter. Written in long-winded legalese by the campaign’s lawyers and academics, it refers to the celebrity signatories, without explanation, as ‘the Module 4 CPVs’. Who or what these might be, we ‘ordinary people’ can only wonder. It turns out to mean the Leveson Inquiry category of ‘Module 4 Core Participant Victims’, which might leave most none the wiser. This coded talk confirms that the letter is part of a closed elite discussion about how far to turn back the clock on the historic struggle for a free press.

What is most disturbing about this, as it has been all along, is not actually the antics of such risibly puffed-up characters as Hugh Grant or Steve Coogan. It is the extent to which the supposedly liberal-minded journalism academics and civil liberties campaigners who hide behind them have gone over to the other side in the culture war about press freedom. As ever, the shrillest voice demanding statutory regulation around the PR letter was not Charlotte Church but Brian Cathcart, the left-wing journalist-turned-professor of journalism who drives Hacked Off. Some might think that the way such people have abandoned the defence of press freedom in its hour of need is the ‘betrayal’ we should be worried about.

Campaigners for tougher press regulation have expressed their disgust that Cameron should be wavering on statutory-backed regulation for ‘political reasons’ to do with opposition within his government, and demanded that the new system of press regulation must be kept ‘free from politics’. What they mean, of course, is that politicians should intervene, but only to do as they are told and pass laws to set up a powerful new policeman of the press.

Nobody wants to see politicians regulating the press. But some of us think the idea of the press being policed by judges or ombudsmen or other unelected, unaccountable state-backed apparatchiks is just as bad, if not worse – at least we can still get rid of politicians if we object to what they do. Worst of all is the notion of a regulator handing an effective veto over a free press to any self-proclaimed victims of media misdeeds. That sounds like a sort of celebrity Star Chamber to decide what is fit for us to read and write, just as the King’s Star Chamber had to licence everything that was printed in the past.

It would be little wonder if the prime minister was having doubts about the prospect of statutory-backed regulation of the press. Setting up and operating such a system of indirect state interference could turn into a nightmare. This is of course Cameron’s own fault, having painted himself into the corner by setting up the Leveson Inquiry with carte blanche to give the press a kicking in the first place. In response to the letter, Cameron again indicated that he would agree to Leveson’s proposals so long as they were not ‘bonkers’ or too ‘heavy-handed’.

In any case, as we have argued on spiked, the ‘alternative’ proposals for a new system of ‘self-regulation’ are little better. They would set up an ‘independent’ regulator with more powers to investigate, expose and punish newspapers than those currently enjoyed by the ‘heavy-handed’ police teams.

All sides of the debate remain too much in thrall to the celebrity crusaders because they have accepted the central myth of the post-hacking furore: that the press is too free to be run wild and must be subdued and sanitised. It is high time those who care about the future of freedom of expression in our society raised a banner to declare that the press is not nearly free or open enough, even before a new regulator wades in.

Freedom of the press is for all, involving the right both to publish what you see fit and to read, see or hear all that you choose. That is far too important a liberty to sacrifice to anybody’s demands for special treatment and protection. There are many problems with the UK press. But the solution is never less freedom.

A free press must mean one that is free, not from being judged or subjected to the normal criminal law, but from being restrained or punished on the grounds of taste or ‘decency’ or offended feelings or outraged sensibilities. The misuse of our freedom by some is not an excuse for allowing the authorities to misappropriate it - or high-profile victims of phone-hacking to claim a veto over it. That would be seriously ‘bonkers’.


Spy writer Jon Stock: How I survived an online literary mauling

Far from throttling serious criticism, internet reviews can be helpful to authors

The review headline didn’t exactly mince its words: “Stock: misogynist and serial killer”. It was posted on Amazon at the weekend, in Britain and the United States, across all three of my recent Daniel Marchant spy thrillers. The wording was identical for each review and in each case the reviewer awarded me one star – the lowest. Ouch. That will teach me to look at my reviews. But as any author will tell you, comments on Amazon and on literary blogs are important and should not be ignored.

Sir Peter Stothard, chairman of this year’s Man Booker prize judges, thinks otherwise. Earlier this week, he warned that the burgeoning amount of internet chatter about books was damaging literature. “If the mass of unargued opinion chokes off literary critics… then literature will be the lesser for it,” he said. “There is a great deal of opinion online, and it’s probably reasonable opinion, but there is much less reasoned opinion.”

Tell me about it. And yet, although I am still smarting from my vicious mauling, many online reviews and blogs are written by educated lay readers sharing their views for the benefit of potential book buyers. They lie outside the clique of newspaper reviewers and, read alongside other genuine reader reviews, they can be more illuminating.

To be fair to my latest Amazon reviewer, she is not your average punter. She is a professor of English at the State University of New York at Geneseo, and her review was 700 words of well-reasoned, if flawed, criticism. I know this because I tracked her down. Without wishing to sound like a serial killer, I track down all my hostile reviewers, sooner or later, particularly the anonymous ones (although I’m still working on “FleetStreetMan”). In this age of “sock puppetry”, when authors attack each other online under false names, it’s a necessary part of the job.

Creditably, my reviewer not only used her real name, Julia M Walker, she also provided an email address. The online world would be such a happier, more informed place if everyone was obliged to put their real name beside reviews or comments. At first, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say to her, given that she was “deeply annoyed and mildly furious” with me. Her chief gripe was that I had bumped off the two lead female characters in my trilogy. “Stock kills them both, even as each expresses remorse for her treachery, thus remaking the paradigm that’s been around since Boccaccio, at least: a good woman is a dead woman.” To rest her case, she had dug out and read an earlier novel of mine, The Cardamom Club, in which, er, the lead female also dies a horrible death.

I realised she was on to something. That evening, over a quiet supper, I discussed the review with my wife and explained what a misogynist was to the children. “Four novels, three dead women,” I said, quoting from the review. No one could argue with that. But, despite the one star, Prof Walker had found much to like in the books. The Indian elements were “fascinating”, Marchant was “vintage damaged-but-true with some interesting bits” and my female head of MI5 “gets better as the books go on”. I was also flattered that she had bought and read the entire trilogy in one sitting. I felt that she was someone I could do business with.

So that night, when the house was quiet, I wrote to her, explaining that she was, of course, entitled to her opinions and that she perhaps had a point about the dead women. I also asked if she might consider writing an individual review for each book, rather than using the same blanket comment for all three, as I thought this was unorthodox and unfair. The first two, Dead Spy Running and Games Traitors Play, had been widely reviewed and could look after themselves. Her comments would sit in the context of a range of other online opinions. But Dirty Little Secret had barely set out on its journey into the world, and hers would only be the second review on Amazon.

She couldn’t have been nicer. We had a civilised exchange of emails (“It’s great that the already dead ex-girlfriend in your next book won’t die again”), agreed on the cravenness of anonymous reviewers, and she offered to withdraw her review from Dirty Little Secret, “the one I like best, despite its passing strange conclusion”. And although she mainly teaches Milton, she also runs a course on thrillers and has promised to put Dirty Little Secret on the syllabus for the next class.

For me, the whole exercise was an example of the internet working as it should, a place where people with wildly differing opinions, in this case about books, can engage in constructive dialogue. The literary critic, as championed by Sir Peter Stothard, has its place, but so do online reviewers, even the hostile ones.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


14 October, 2012

Vicious British bureaucrats determined to "get" Branson -- even if they had to make up and misapply the numbers in rail bid

Branson is Britain's most prominent businessman -- and far too successful for socialist bureaucrats. But their nasty little fraud fell apart when threatened with exposure in court

THE Government lost or failed to save key calculations underpinning its decision to award the West Coast rail franchise to FirstGroup, a report commissioned by the Department for Transport shows.

The study from accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers highlights crucial flaws in the handling of the bid that led to last week's decision by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to pull the contract.

They include the absence or loss of vital computations showing how civil servants arrived at their decision and the failure to examine the risks around GDP forecasts for the final three years of the contract.

The DfT appointed PwC in late September to re-run the numbers on the rival West Coast bids after Virgin Rail, the losing incumbent operator, applied for a judicial review of the process.

Heavily redacted copies of PwC’s report were handed to the bidders earlier this week as the Government provided initial feedback on a decision that has left the taxpayer with a bill of at least £40m to reimburse bid fees and seen the suspension of three civil servants.

One insider said: “It looks like they ran the numbers and didn’t save the results. PwC tried to repeat the outputs and it couldn’t.”

It is unclear whether officials failed to save results, lost key calculations or deleted some of the workings behind their decision.

The report also shows the “GDP resilience model” was not properly applied for the last three years of the contract, while the DfT made errors confusing real and nominal inflation.

It is in the final three years to the end of 2028 when there is a ramp-up in payments to the taxpayer from FirstGroup’s £13.3bn bid.

Last week Mr McLoughlin admitted “mistakes were made in the way in which inflation and passenger numbers were taken into account, and how much money bidders were then asked to guarantee as a result”.

The PwC report shows revenue forecasts were not correlated with how many passengers could actually fit on the trains.

A DfT spokesman said: “We are not going to give a running commentary on what went wrong.”

A FirstGroup spokesman said: “The DfT has provided us with information and we are working through it.” Both PwC and Virgin declined to comment.


Disabled boy, 18, allowed to fall to his death because health and safety fears meant carers could not restrain him

"Health and safety" is a standard excuse for employee laziness in Britain, even when it leads to death

A disabled boy fell to his death because care home workers were too afraid to restrain him over 'health and safety' fears.

James Dean Brotherhood, 18, had brain damage and was susceptible to blood clots following treatment for a brain tumour, which was removed when he was eight.

But despite his medical history and the evident danger, carers at a specialist unit stood by and watched as James pulled himself up onto a windowsill with his wheelchair still strapped to his back.

The teenager fell and hit his head - and within hours was dead. His family have now received a four-figure payout.

When asked by a coroner why he did not intervene in the moments before the tragedy, one of his carers wrongly stated the home had a 'no restraint policy' due to health and safety rules.

Following the out of court settlement, James’s mother Suzanne said: 'If a toddler ran out into the road, would they have stood by and let them get run over by a car?

'His carers said they didn’t want to move him or stop him because they were scared they might get hurt, but one of them was a 6ft bouncer - it was simply ridiculous.

'After the accident, I was told that he had suffered a slight knock but in the inquest I discovered he had received a severe blow to the head.

'There were three carers in the room at the time and they just stood next to him and watched him for several minutes before he fell.

'They should have just grabbed him and stopped him from doing it, then my little boy would still be here.'

Mrs Brotherhood added: 'If he had died from the cancer I might have been able to live with that, but knowing his death was preventable has made it impossible for me to move on.'

After his death, bosses at the Aarons Specialist Unit, in Loughborough, sent his family a £12 cheque for James’s funeral flowers after the inquest in May.

Now, the home’s owners Rushcliffe Care have agreed to pay Mrs Brotherhood and her ex-husband Dean, 46, an undisclosed sum, although they continue to deny any responsibility for James’s untimely death.

An inquest in May this year heard how three members of staff were with James when he pulled himself up on a window frame to try to see a motorbike outside.

He was still strapped into his wheelchair and the hearing at Loughborough Coroner’s Court heard his carers tried to persuade James to climb down but at no point did they physically intervene.

In evidence, they said there was a 'no restraint' policy and that health and safety regulations prevented them from stepping in.

Senior care assistant Dale Watret told the inquest that he was in the room with James when he climbed on the windowsill, but he could not physically step in to get him down because of a health and safety policy.

Mr Watret said carers were told to talk to patients and distract them from behaving in ways that might cause them to harm themselves.

Mr Watret, who is no longer employed by Rushcliffe Care, said he shouted for help.

Coroner Robert Chapman asked Mr Watret: 'Why didn’t you grab him?'

Mr Watret replied: 'Health and safety policy states you don’t catch anyone to break their fall.'

Mr Chapman asked if that was the firm’s policy. Mr Watret replied: 'It’s health and safety policy all over the country, I am led to believe.'

He told the inquest he was concerned about being injured himself.

Mr Watret said: 'I was asking him to come down. The back of his head hit the floor. It happened so fast. Everything after that is a bit of a blur.'

Coroner Robert Chapman recorded a verdict of accidental death caused by bleeding on the brain.

At the time, he said: 'The issue I find the most difficult to deal with is that for one or two minutes James was holding on to the window frame with his wheelchair strapped to his back.

'The staff realised it was dangerous. No attempt seems to have been made to take simple action to intervene.'

Darren Carnwell, a senior manager with Rushcliffe Care, which owns the unit, said staff should have been trained to physically intervene 'as a last resort'.

Mr Chapman also said James’s care plan meant he should only have been in his wheelchair when being moved around the home, but staff members with him when he fell did not know that.

He said he was further concerned James was not always made to wear a protective helmet, as his care plan suggested.

Following the payout, Neil Clayton, a specialist in medical negligence and care home neglect with Harvey Ingram Shakespeares solicitors said: 'This was a tragic accident that would have been avoided if Rushcliffe Care’s staff had used basic common sense.

'There were several opportunities that were missed to prevent James climbing on the window and to get him down safely once he had done so. I hope that lessons have been learned and that an awful event like this will never happen again.'

When Mail Online contacted Rushcliffe Care a man, who refused to give his name or his position in the company, said they would not be giving any comment on the case and hung up.


Houston Man Receives Visit from FBI after Photographing Clouds

The war on photography never stops. The guy only got off because he had an "official" reason to take his photos

A man who snapped photos of a brewing storm last month received a visit Friday from an FBI Agent, inquiring why he would want to take such photos.

Michael Galindo explained that he was simply volunteering for the National Weather Service.

And FBI Agent David Pileggi seemed to be satisfied with that response.

But Galindo was left wondering whether he now has a permanent FBI file.

“He told me, ‘you’re not a threat and you are doing a public service but just be careful next time,’” Galindo said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.

The problem arose because Galindo happened to be taking photos near the Lyondell Refinery outside of Houston on September 13, even though he was never standing on the refinery’s property.

Someone from the refinery spotted him and called police, whom apparently arrived after he had left.

Police then contacted the local FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which bills itself as “nation’s front line on terrorism.”

“I was pretty freaked out when he came but I had no idea what it was about,” said the 26-year-old man. “The worst thing I’ve done is get speeding tickets, but I haven’t gotten one in three years.

“He said I was spotted near the refinery but I couldn’t even remember doing that. I thought it had to be somebody else.

“It wasn’t until he mentioned my camera that I made the connection.”

Galindo told the agent that he volunteers for a NWS program called Skywarn that trains citizens to monitor the weather in the name of “protecting lives and property.”

He said when he pulled off to the side of the road and began taking photos of a brewing storm and potential tornados, he didn’t even notice the refinery, but made sure there weren’t any “no parking” signs around.

“I told him I had been looking for a clear line of site and I had found it,” he said.

Although Pileggi seemed a little surprised by that response, he pulled out a three-page document and began asking questions off it, inquiring whether Galindo had ever been in the military or had ever traveled overseas and about what schools he had attended in the past.

“I wasn’t sure what that had to do with anything,” Galindo said.

The 20-minute visit took place less than a week after a scathing report was released on the inefficiency and ineptitude on urban fusion centers, such as the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Homeland Security Bureau, which was monitoring my Facebook page because of my blog, as well as the Houston fusion center, which produced a video depicting photographers as terrorists.

Joint Terrorism Task Forces are a little different than fusion centers but they both operate under the Department of Homeland Security and are under the assumption photographers are terrorists.


Australia: Uproar as students dress as 'traditional' Aboriginal people

The publication of a photograph of university students at an official college function dressed up to look like "traditional" Aboriginal people, with their faces and limbs painted brown, has forced an internal investigation and rapid re-education program.

The eight female students from the co-educational Cromwell College within the University of Queensland were depicted in the photo - taken last Tuesday - with wild hair, holding sticks and wearing material fashioned into makeshift loin cloths.

The photo made its way on to online social networking sites and quickly raised the ire of a number of indigenous Australians from around the country.

At least one contacted the college and the university directly, sparking the investigation.

"Think #racism and #blackface are unacceptable in Australia? ... Let UQ and Cromwell College know," one Twitter user wrote yesterday. Another posted the photo again with the words included: "University of Queensland Cromwell College for aspiring racists everywhere."

But the residential college, which is associated with the Uniting Church and was founded in the 1950s, said the students acted out of ignorance, not malice.

The Cromwell College principal, Ross Switzer, said he had called a meeting of the entire college body last night and spoken to the young women involved in the photo. He described their behaviour as "a young person's uneducated approximation of Aboriginal life".

"They were not aware of the blackface mocking or demeaning indigenous people," he said. "They were trying to give a tribute to indigenous Australians, not mock or demean them.

"I know that ignorance is no excuse for that behaviour [but] it was ignorance rather than an attempt to laugh at indigenous Australians."

Mr Switzer said the photo was taken shortly before an annual college dinner celebrating diversity across the world and that he had, since last night, organised cultural awareness training for his 250 residents.

The dinner was centred on Thanksgiving in honour of the college's exchange students from the US, he said. However, the group of young women dressed to depict Aboriginal Australians went to the most trouble with their outfits, he said.

The Diversity Council Australia said the incident showed a deep ignorance of Aboriginal culture and religion in Australian society.

"I think is a societal thing," chief executive Nareen Young said. "Because Australia denied Aboriginality for so long, the understanding of the religious and cultural significance of ceremony isn’t in the community."

Ms Young, who has an indigenous background herself, said Cromwell College responded appropriately yesterday by promising to bring in cultural awareness training. It also needed a reconciliation action plan, she said.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


12 October, 2012

Egypt's Christians - Distraught and Displaced

Reuters reported last week that "Most Christians living near Egypt's border with Israel [in the town of Rafah in Sinai] are fleeing their homes after Islamist militants made death threats and gunmen attacked a Coptic-owned shop." Photos of desecrated churches and Christian property show Arabic graffiti saying things like "don't come back" and "Islam is the truth."

All media reports describe the same sequence of events: 1) Christians were threatened with leaflets warning them to evacuate or die; 2) an armed attack with automatic rifles was made on a Christian-owned shop; 3) Christians abandoned everything and fled their homes.

Anyone following events in Egypt knows that these three points-threatening leaflets, attacks on Christian property, followed by the displacement of Christians-are happening throughout Egypt, and not just peripheral Sinai, even if the latter is the only area to make it to the Western mainstream media. Consider:

Genocidal Leaflets

On August 14, El Fegr reported that leaflets were distributed in areas with large Christian populations, including Upper Egypt, offering monetary rewards to Muslims who "kill or physically attack the enemies of the religion of Allah-the Christians in all of Egypt's provinces, the slaves of the Cross, Allah's curse upon them..."

As a testimony to just how safe the jihadis feel under Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi-who just freed a militant jihadi responsible for the burning of a church leaving several Christians dead-the leaflets named contact points and even a mosque where Muslims interested in learning more about killing Christians should rally "after Friday prayers where new members to the organization will be welcomed."

On the same day these leaflets were distributed, a separate report titled "The serial killing of Copts has begun in Asyut" noted that a Christian store-owner was randomly targeted and killed by Salafis.

Muslim Attacks on Christian Properties and Persons

For months, Arabic-Christian media have been reporting ongoing stories of Muslim "gangs" and "thugs" attacking Christian homes, abducting the residents, including women and children, and demanding ransom monies-not unlike what is happening to Christians in Iraq and Syria. In one particular case, the Muslim gang attacked the home of a Coptic man, "releasing several gunshots in the air, and threatening him either to pay or die." The gang "picked this specific village because Copts form 80% of its inhabitants." Such reports often conclude with an all too familiar postscript: Christians calling police for help and filing complaints, all in vain.

A Coptic Solidarity report from August 20 titled "Copts in Upper Egypt Attacked, Beat, Plundered," tells of just that-how Christians are being beat, their businesses set on fire, and their properties plundered (see also here and here for similar reports). Likewise, according to Al Moheet, a new human rights report indicates that, in Nag Hammadi alone, there are dozens of cases of Muslim gangs abducting Christian Copts and holding them for ransom. Concerning these, the Coptic Church is daily asking for justice and receiving none.

Christian Displacements

The exodus of Copts from their homes also has become an ongoing crisis, so much so that a recent statement by the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt lamented the "repeated incidents of displacement of Copts from their homes, whether by force or threat." The statement also made clear that what happened in Sinai is no aberration: "Displacements began in Ameriya, then they stretched to Dahshur, and today terror and threats have reached the hearts and souls of our Coptic children in Rafah [Sinai]."

Indeed, back in February, a mob of over 3,000 Muslims attacked and displaced Christians in the region of Ameriya, due to unsubstantiated rumors that a Christian man was involved with a Muslim woman. Christian homes and shops were looted and then torched; "terrorized" women and children who lost their homes stood in the streets with no place to go. As usual, it took the army an hour to drive 2 kilometers to the village, and none of the perpetrators were arrested. Later, a Muslim Council permanently evicted eight Christian families and confiscated their property, even as "Muslims insisted that the whole Coptic population of 62 families must be deported."

A few weeks ago in Dahshur, after a Christian laundry worker accidently burned the shirt of a Muslim man, the customer came with a Muslim mob to attack the Copt at home. As the Christian defended his household, a Muslim was killed. Accordingly, thousands of Muslims terrorized the area, causing 120 Christian families to flee. One elderly Coptic woman returned home from the bakery to find the area deserted of Christians. Rioting Muslims looted Christian businesses and homes. Family members of the deceased Muslim insist that the Christians must still pay with their lives.

The same time the media reported about the displacement of Christians from Rafah, a quarrel between two school girls-a Christian and a Muslim-ended when several "heavily-armed" Muslims stormed the home of the Christian girl, causing her family and three other Christian families to flee the village. When the father returned, he found that all his saved money and possessions had been plundered. When he asked police for help, the officer replied, "I can't do anything for you, reconcile with them and end the problem."

Indeed, this has been the same attitude of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood led government: in all of the above cases, the government looked the other way, or, when called on it, denied reality. Thus the Coptic Holy Synod made it a point to assert in its statement that "nearly one month ago the media had published the violations against the Copts but the Egyptian authorities have not taken the necessary measures to protect the Egyptian families, who have the right to live safely in their homes." As for the Rafah incident-the only incident to reach the mainstream media-Prime Minister Hisham Qandil denied that Christians were forced to flee, saying "One or two [Christian] families chose to move to another place and they are totally free to do so like all Egyptian citizens."

Such governmental indifference is consistent with the fact that, despite promising greater representation for Egypt's Christians, President Morsi just broke his word by allowing only one Copt-a female-to represent the nation's 10-12 million Christians in the newly formed cabinet.


A cesspit: BBC Chairman's damning verdict on Savile abuse scandal and the cover-up by TV bosses

The Jimmy Savile scandal was branded a ‘cesspit’ yesterday by the BBC’s own chairman. Lord Patten admitted that heads could roll if corporation bosses were found to have acted improperly. He said he feared that the television and radio star may have been helped in his sordid sexual exploitation of teenage girls by other BBC employees.

Lord Patten also suggested the BBC was likely to broadcast a prime-time apology if the inquiries into Savile came back with damning findings.

Yesterday the former Tory MP asked director-general George Entwistle to review the corporation’s guidelines on child protection following what he called the ‘appalling’ allegations of sexual abuse against Savile.

He also said an independent inquiry at the BBC, supervised by an outside figure, should be started as swiftly as possible following a police investigation into Savile’s activities.

Former patients at Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire and another in Leeds yesterday claimed they had been assaulted during visits by Savile in the 1970s and 1980s.

Teenagers in wheelchairs and others recovering from cancer were among those said to have fallen victim to the DJ.

One claimed nurses told young patients to pretend to be asleep whenever the star visited their wards.

And in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, his elaborate tombstone was removed from a cemetery at midnight out of respect for ‘public opinion’.

Police have said they believe Savile was a ‘predatory sex offender’ who could have abused up to 30 victims over a period of more than 40 years beginning in 1959.

Lord Patten and others at the BBC are still struggling to explain who knew what and when about the decision to drop a Newsnight investigation into allegations against Savile.

On Sunday former director-general Mark Thompson, who left his post last month, said he had never heard any rumours or received any complaints or allegations about Savile when he was in charge.

But yesterday Lord Patten – who said he himself first heard about the Savile allegations less than two weeks ago when he read about them in a newspaper – insisted said Mr Thompson had been made aware of the Newsnight investigation last December by director of news Helen Boaden. When asked to confirm that the former director-general knew about the investigation, he said: ‘Yes’.

His comments were later retracted by the BBC Trust, which said he ‘misspoke’ on the matter.

When asked if he was convinced there were not others taking part or helping Savile with these type of activities at the BBC, Lord Patten said: ‘No’.

He also said that bosses could lose their jobs if they were found guilty of impropriety over their handling of the issue.

Addressing a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch yesterday, Lord Patten began with the words: ‘I would like to say one or two things about the appalling allegations and the cesspit of the Jimmy Saville allegations.’

But later there were tough questions for him to answer about how current BBC director-general George Enwistle could oversee the organising the independent inquiry when he was one of the executives facing questions about what he knew.

Mr Entwistle was one of the executives who were told about the Newsnight investigation into Savile last year, although it is denied he knew the exact nature of the allegations.

There had been criticism that the BBC had ditched the investigation on its Newsnight programme late last year because it would have run counter to other celebratory shows about the once popular presenter which were then being prepared for broadcast.

But Lord Patten said yesterday the editor of Newsnight was ‘not leaned on’, and no BBC executives had intervened.

Earlier this week Mr Entwistle made an apology to Savile’s victims during an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme and said there would be an inquiry to follow the police investigation.

Lord Patten said yesterday: ‘The BBC has in place child protection policies, processes, guidance for us by all staff on and off the premises and independents making programmes for the BBC.

‘We’ve asked the director-general to assure us that those policies are up to date and fit for purpose that they’re effective in protecting minors and under-age children.

‘We’ve also said that we want to be satisfied on the arrangements in place for dealing with sexual harassment, bullying and whistleblowing and we want to be sure that those guidelines that do exist are gold standard and up to date and comply with current best practice.’

Lord Patten suggested that the internal inquiry will not look at the editorial decision by Newsnight, saying he did not want to question the ‘journalistic integrity’ of people.

But insiders admitted yesterday that it is likely to look at what bosses did with the information contained within it when they were made aware of the allegations.

Asked what would happen if any current BBC employees such as the director general and other executives were found to have acted improperly, Lord Patten said: ‘You would not expect any employee of a newspaper or the BBC to survive if her or she was found to have behaved improperly.’

He said he was sure the BBC inquiry will look into allegations made by other presenters such as Liz Kershaw, who revealed she was groped by a colleague while she was on air.

Scotland Yard has formally recorded eight criminal allegations – two rapes and six indecent assaults – against the former Top Of The Pops presenter so far in its Operation Yewtree investigation.

And Greater Manchester and Tayside Police became the latest forces to receive complaints of abuse by Savile, who died in October last year. Greater Manchester Police said allegations about his activities have followed day after day following an ITV documentary which aired last week.

Jimmy Savile is today lying in an unmarked grave after a dead-of-night operation to remove his £4,000 headstone at the request of his family.

Undertakers worked in the dark to rip out the giant memorial and have said it will 'be broken up, placed in a skip and used as landfill'.


Signs of the times: British deaf people drop hand signals that use slanted eyes to describe the Chinese and a limp wrist for gays

Pressure to avoid offending minorities has caught up with Britain’s 150,000 users of sign language for the deaf, according to a Government-funded report.

It found that younger deaf people have changed the way they give the sign to say someone is gay, or to describe Chinese, French and Jewish people.

The old gesture that meant gay – a flicked limp wrist – is now considered offensive among some users of British Sign Language, researchers at University College London said.

Similarly it is no longer acceptable among politically correct deaf people to give a slanted eye sign to indicate something Chinese, nor to mime a hooked nose to mean a Jewish person.

Over three years, scientists at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre at UCL filmed the signs for more than 100 words used by 250 people in eight cities.

Centre director Professor Bencie Woll said: ‘The younger deaf community doesn’t use these old signs because of a clear process of political correctness, in the same way that the hearing community no longer calls gay people “pansies” or “queer”.’

Young deaf people have also dropped the sign of twirling an imaginary moustache for France, said the researchers.

They sign a gay person with an upright thumb on one hand in the palm of the other, wobbling from side to side, and India is signed using the triangular shape of the subcontinent.

Professor Bencie Woll, director of DCal, said that the changes to sign language were much like the changes to spoken English

She said the change in sign language has been faster because when signers began to communicate over the internet they could see for the first time how 'foreign signers referred to themselves'.

She told the Guardian: 'The younger deaf community doesn't use these old signs because of a clear process of political correctness, in the same way that the hearing community no longer calls gay people 'pansies' or 'queer',' she said.

'But what the hearing community doesn't understand about sign language is that even though the traditional signs are now considered offensive, they are not producing a real-life insult when they are used because they are not just visual representations of a concept.'

The revelation follows a study by the British Sign Language Corpus Project which has been studying how deaf people use sign language.

They have filmed and interviewed 249 deaf people from eight cities across the UK.

Dr Kearsy Cormier, who was in charge of the three and a half year project, hopes that deaf children will benefit from the findings.

She said it would give deaf people a better understanding of regional variations in sign language. An online dictionary is expected to be created following the research.

However, there are concerns among the deaf community about these changing signs and new political correctness.

Gwilym Morris, from the deafness cognition and language research centre (DCal) at University College London, told the newspaper: 'We are nervous about this being seen as another example of political correctness because the changes are more about evolution rather than dictat of some body that approves language.'

Those who took part in the survey, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, were filmed in pairs and had to recount a personal experience, engage in a 30 minute conversation and participate in an interview on language awareness and attitudes.

They also had to elicit 102 signs known to vary across the UK.


Left Wants Multiculturalism to Trump Free Speech

Victor Davis Hanson

The American Left used to champion free expression. We were lectured -- correctly -- that the price of being repulsed by occasional crude talk and art was worth paying. Only that way could Americans ensure our daily right to criticize those with greater power and influence whom we found wrong and objectionable.

When 1950s comedian Lenny Bruce titillated his audiences with the F-word and crude sex talk, liberals came to his defense. They reminded us that vulgar speech is not a crime: The First Amendment was not just designed to protect uplifting expression, but also rarer blasphemous and indecent speech.

For liberals, the burning of a flag on campus and the full frontal nudity of Penthouse magazine were also First Amendment issues.

When artist Andres Serrano photographed a crucifix in a jar with his own urine ("Piss Christ"), the avant-garde Left not only protected Serrano's constitutional right to offend millions, but also saw no problem in the U.S. government subsidizing the talentless Serrano's sophomoric obnoxiousness.

But the worldview of the Left is self-contradictory. One of its pet doctrines is multiculturalism -- or the idea that non-Western cultures cannot be judged critically by our own inherently biased Western standards.

Female circumcision or honor killings in the Muslim world don't merit our attention in the way that a woman's right to free abortion pills from her Catholic employer does in the West. When it comes to the Middle East, we neither criticize strongly enough the region's sexism, homophobia or racism, nor do we defend without qualification our own notions of free expression as inherently superior to the habitual censorship abroad.

Fear plays a role, too. Championing the right of Andres Serrano to show his degrading pictures of Christ wins liberal laurels. Protecting novelist Salman Rushdie's caricatures of Islam might earn death.

The Obama administration went to great lengths to blast -- and even arrest -- an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian for posting on the Internet a juvenile movie trailer ridiculing Islam and offending Muslims. After riots across the Middle East and the murder of the U.S. ambassador in Libya, American officials did not wish to concede that radical Islam hates the United States -- even when Barack Obama is president. And they did not want to admit that their own lax security standards, not a film trailer, led to the horrific murders in Libya, or that in an election year their Middle East reset policy is in shambles.

No obnoxious American in the last half-century -- not Larry Flynt, not Daniel Ellsberg, not even Julian Assange -- has warranted so much condemnation for his antics from the president of the United States, the secretary of state and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as have one crackpot preacher in Florida and an inept Coptic film producer.

Outraged Arab-Americans in Dearborn, Mich., demonstrated in favor of anti-blasphemy laws last week. They demanded an end to any expression that they find religiously offensive -- and thereby prove to be embarrassingly clueless as to why many in their communities left their own homelands to come to America in the first place.

The new Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, recently lectured the U.S. on its decadence and wants a global ban on the caricaturing of Islam. He, too, forgot why he once fled to the United States to be educated, employed and to freely say things that would have gotten him killed in his native Egypt.

Another Egyptian immigrant, frequent CNN and MSNBC guest pundit Mona Eltahawy, recently spray-painted over a public anti-jihadist poster that she disliked. In her world, defacing public property is OK if by her own standards she judges it offensive. Eltahawy, like the Dearborn protestors, is oblivious to the fact that her self-appointed censorship would soon turn her adopted country into just the sort of intolerant society from which she, too, fled.

It is past time for U.S. officials to insist that our traditions and laws apply equally across the board, regardless of where we come from, or what we look like, or the anger and danger we incur from abroad.

Schools could do better by cutting back on their multicultural classes and reintroducing study of the U.S. Constitution. All immigrants need to pass a basic test on the Bill of Rights as part of winning citizenship.

"Speaking truth to power" is not Sandra Fluke grandstanding to ovations at the Democratic convention on behalf of government-supplied free contraception. It is instead our elected officials reminding rampaging Middle Eastern terrorists and bigots that they will not alter our Constitution -- and better not try.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


11 October, 2012

British homeowners win right to use lethal force on burglars: 'Disproportionate levels of violence' backed

The long campaign to give householders the right to use maximum force against burglars will end in victory today. Chris Grayling will announce he is changing the law to allow people to use ‘disproportionate’ levels of violence to protect themselves and their families.

The Justice Secretary said it would ‘dispel doubts once and for all’ over the right to fight back against intruders. The new rules could, in some cases, allow for lethal force.

The move is designed to remove the threat of a burglary victim being arrested – let alone charged – if they use violence to drive the intruder away or stop them from advancing through their home.

Currently, householders are entitled to use only ‘reasonable’ force.

The change satisfies the demands of MPs and campaigners since Norfolk farmer Tony Martin was jailed for shooting dead a burglar in 1999. The call for action gathered momentum after the murder of financier John Monckton, who died from stab wounds in his Chelsea home in 2004.

Last month a judge warned that burglars who break into country homes can expect to be shot at by their victims if they are licensed gun holders.

There have been a string of changes to the law in recent years – including one made by Kenneth Clarke last year. But ministers have always stopped short of delivering on the right to use ‘disproportionate force’.

The decision by Mr Grayling to try to change the law as soon as possible sets down a marker that he intends to be a tough Justice Secretary.

It will mean someone who is confronted by a burglar and has reason to fear for their safety, or their family’s safety and in the heat of the moment uses force that later seems ‘disproportionate’ will not be guilty of an offence. This could include the use of lethal force. Only force which is ‘grossly’ disproportionate will not be permitted.

Mr Grayling said: ‘Being confronted by an intruder in your home is terrifying, and the public should be in no doubt that the law is on their side. That is why I am strengthening the current law. ‘Householders who act instinctively and honestly in self-defence are crime victims and should be treated that way. ‘We need to dispel doubts in this area once and for all, and I am very pleased to be delivering on the pledge that we made in Opposition.’

The demands for change began when Mr Martin was imprisoned for killing one burglar and wounding another who entered his Norfolk farm.

More recent cases suggest prosecutors and judges have been giving greater weight to the legal right of householders to use ‘reasonable force’ to defend themselves.

Last month Judge Michael Pert QC spoke out after a lawyer demanded leniency for a criminal who, he said, had been hit with a shotgun by Andy Ferrie at his home near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, in ‘a form of summary justice’.

The judge replied: ‘If you burgle a house in the country where the householder owns a legally held shotgun, that is the chance you take. You cannot come to court and ask for a lighter sentence because of it.’

Mr Grayling’s move follows changes made by his predecessor Ken Clarke, which removed a legal requirement for householders to retreat.

Guidance for police has also been changed to encourage fewer arrests of those defending their home.

Mr Grayling will also introduce measures to make sure every community sentence contains a proper punishment.

They include a requirement to include a punitive element in every community order, a power to impose location monitoring and the removal of the £5,000 cap on compensation in the magistrates courts

Mr Grayling said: ‘We inherited a weak, “soft-option” programme from Labour, which saw offenders working only minimal hours or simply not completing their sentences. ‘Yes, we should rehabilitate. But criminals also need to receive a proper punishment.


£11,000 for a policewoman's hurt feelings: Yard must pay for taking away her sniffer dog when she fell pregnant

"Discrimination" gone mad

A policewoman who had her favourite sniffer dog taken away when she became pregnant has won more than £11,000 from Scotland Yard.

PC Katherine Keohane was so distressed after being told that one of her two dogs was to be taken that she broke down on the train home, prompting a member of the public to call police to report a crying pregnant policewoman.

She sued the Met at an employment tribunal after her dog, Nunki Pippin, was allocated to another officer when she became pregnant for the second time in less than 18 months.

PC Keohane, who still works for the Met, was awarded £9,000 for ‘injury to feelings’ and a further £2,584 for loss of overtime as a result of the decision.

She said the reallocation of Nunki Pippin would ‘greatly affect’ her role as a drugs dog-handler and would adversely affect her promotion prospects and her chances of paid overtime.

PC Keohane joined the Met’s dog support unit as a narcotics dog-handler in 2005. She was allocated a ‘proactive’ dog – one used to detect illegal drugs, firearms and cash, and to carry out searches – called Borg Warf. In 2008 she was also allocated Nunki Pippin, a ‘passive’ dog able to detect the presence of drugs by sniffing someone. Both dogs lived at home with her.

In April 2009 PC Keohane, who is married to a dog handler, told her boss she was pregnant with her first child, due that September. She was allowed to keep her two dogs during her pregnancy and maternity leave.

She returned to work part-time in February 2010. By this time the Met had changed its policy so that part-time officers would not normally be allowed to keep two dogs, but PC Keohane was still allowed to keep both of hers.

In October 2010 she told her bosses she was pregnant again and was informed that Nunki Pippin would be allocated to another handler because of a shortage of passive dogs.

Giving their reasons, her bosses noted this was ‘the second occasion within 17 months’ she had given notice of pregnancy. The reasons also referred to the dog’s inactivity for nine months due to her first pregnancy.

In October 2011, Nunki Pippin became available again and PC Keohane, who was still on maternity leave, asked if the dog could be returned to her. After being asked when she intended to return to work, her request was turned down and the dog was reallocated to another officer.

PC Keohane brought tribunal claims of, among other things, direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

The tribunal at Watford found in her favour on those claims, saying it was influenced by the references to her pregnancy during the decision-making process and the apparent pressure she had been put under to return to work after her second child was born.

Tribunal chairman Judge Michael Southam said the reallocation of Nunki Pippin risked affecting PC Keohane’s status as a dual dog handler and her career prospects, and meant she lost the opportunity to earn overtime on her return to work.


HuffPo Publishes Racist List

How else would you characterize a list with this title: "The 15 Most Overrated White People"?

Could you imagine a similar post about black people? Not that it is difficult to imagine who would belong on it – Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Michael Jackson, Danny Glover, Snoop Dogg, and Halle Barry all come immediately to mind as contenders for inclusion. But actually composing such a column and then getting it published would be beyond consideration – after all, such a thing would be considered utterly racist. So why the double standard here?


Australia: Conservative doubts on storing digital data

OPPOSITION communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has given a thumbs down to the government's plan to allow greater interception and retention of private digital information.

Mr Turnbull said although he did not want to pre-empt the findings of a parliamentary inquiry, he had "very grave misgivings" about the proposal, which would give government more ability to monitor and gain access to data.

"It seems to be heading in precisely the wrong direction," he said, delivering the Alfred Deakin Lecture in Melbourne.

"As the digital age shifted us from a default position of forgetting things to one of perpetual memory, we should be restoring as far as possible people's right not just to privacy, but to be able to delete material as they have been able to do in the analogue world."

Mr Turnbull said under the government plan internet companies would be required to store parts of everyone's data, but clarity was lacking as to what would be kept.

Nor had there been an explanation of the costs and benefits of this "sweeping and intrusive new power", including what, if any, cost was ascribed "to its chilling effect on free speech".

It had not been said whether any gains in national security or law enforcement - which were asserted as justification for the changes - would be monitored and verified.

Mr Turnbull said that, as a matter of principle, "if I am lawfully entitled to burn copies of the letters I have written to you and the letters you have sent me in return, why can I not do the same to my emails?

"If I can throw my diary and my photo album in the bin, why can I not delete my Facebook page?"


Secret proposals threaten the end to a free, open internet

Comment from Australia

It is the "most important meeting you've never heard of" — a behind-closed-doors battle for control of the internet that one of the web's founders fears may "put government handcuffs on the net".

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations organisation representing 193 countries, is reviewing international agreements governing telecommunications with a view to expanding its regulatory authority over the internet.

The ITU will hold a summit in Dubai in December where member countries will negotiate a treaty (last updated 24 years ago in Melbourne) that sets out regulations on how international voice, data and video traffic is handled.

The ITU, founded in 1865 at the dawn of the telegraph, presently focuses on telecommunications networks and radio frequency allocations but some members such as Russia, China and Iran will use the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to try to expand the treaty to include internet regulation.

Secret WCIT proposals from several stakeholders have been leaked on the website WCITLeaks.org, giving rise to fears from civil liberties groups and the technology industry that the days of a free, open internet are coming to an end.

Chris Disspain, chief executive of Australian domain name administrator auDA, said moving from the current multi-stakeholder model to a government-centric UN-run model would "stifle innovation", be non-inclusive and result in new binding regulations on member governments.

"What it could mean is a whole series of ... new regulations reached by consensus or horse trading amongst governments, with no input from the community, on such things as data retention, censorship, usage, charging models, all sorts of things," Disspain told Fairfax.

Disspain, who is a member of the UN Secretary-General's Internet Governance Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group, said he was aware of European telco proposals for the ITU advocating the move to a user-pays model for services such as email.

He said at the UN, many proposals get "nodded through because people can't be bothered objecting" and there was a risk that "active governments like China and Iran and Russia" who were pushing to control the internet "may end up winning the day".

The issues will be discussed in Canberra tomorrow and Friday at the first Australian Internet Governance Forum.

Google Australia, one of the forum's sponsors, said the internet risks becoming a "slow and stale shadow of its former self" and it would use the event "to draw attention to global threats to the web's freedom from undemocratic and totalitarian regimes, using the ITU to drive their agenda, and the risks for Australia".

Kurt Wimmer, partner with Washington law firm Covington & Burling who has consulted on internet governance issues since the 90s, touched down in Australia yesterday ahead of this week's Canberra forum.

He told Fairfax decentralised regulation of the internet had been "more of a feature than a bug" and he worries the ITU proposal will legitimise the internet censorship conducted by some countries.

"It also hurts someone in Australia who is then unable to communicate effectively with a growing number of people on the internet who are going to be fenced off by these country-by-country systems," said Wimmer, former senior vice president and general counsel for newspaper group Gannett.

Washington DC-based Tom Wheeler, who previously worked in telco policy for three decades including as CEO of the US Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), called the Dubai summit "the most important meeting you've never heard of".

"What's really afoot, however, is an effort by some nations to rebalance the internet in their favour by reinstituting telecom regulatory concepts from the last century," he said.

"It is a struggle between nation-states — and their vassals — created in an era when networks aggregated economic and political power, and the new era in which the network's distributed architecture has a disaggregating effect on both economic and political power."

He said countries such as India, South Africa and Brazil would attempt to grab a piece of the internet's revenue in the same way they can apply tariffs and other regulations to those connecting with their telephone networks. Other countries like China and Russia would seek to place controls on the freedom of the internet.

"Seemingly benign proposals to allow for regulation related to 'crime' and 'security' would grant international imprimatur to the exertion of control over internet content," he said.

"The recent sentencing of Russian punk rockers Pussy Riot is illustrative in this regard. The Putin-protesting group was sentenced to jail for being a 'crude violation of the social order', a legal construction that WCIT could permit to be extended to the internet and justified as 'within international accords'."

Vinton Cerf, Google's chief internet evangelist who has been recognised as one of the "fathers of the internet", wrote in The New York Times in May that the internet stands at a "cross roads" and any attempts to make it a more closed, controlled medium could "wreak significant social and economic damage".

"The decisions taken in Dubai in December have the potential to put government handcuffs on the net," said Cerf. "To prevent that — and keep the internet open and free for the next generations — we need to prevent a fundamental shift in how the internet is governed."

He said of the 193 member countries, 40 censor internet content (up from four in 2002), and at the conference repressive regimes had an equal voting power to everyone else. Heavy lobbying was going on in secret discussions.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said last June the goal of Russia and its allies was "establishing international control over the internet" through the ITU. Other countries including China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have also submitted proposals to the UN for international internet regulation.

It is easy to see why Google is freaked out. Wheeler said the European Telecommunications Network Operators were lobbying to regulate "over the top" internet users which he said would add new regulations to companies like Google, Netflix and others who use carrier networks.

"It is another last-ditch effort to return to the day when regulators protected carriers from the nasty realities of innovation and competition," he said.

The US, which already has a significant influence on the internet and its core infrastructure, wants to maintain the status quo. US ambassador Terry Kramer, who will head the US delegation to the ITU conference, told reporters this week that doing nothing "would not be a terrible outcome at all", arguing the internet should be left as free and open as possible.

"We need to avoid suffocating the internet space through well-meaning but overly prescriptive proposals that would seek to control content or seek to mandate routing and payment practices," he said.

"That would send the internet back to a circuit switch era that is actually passing in history."

A spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the multi-lateral forums that currently govern the internet have delivered us the "internet as we know it" and "to change the existing arrangements a strong case would need to be made".

While not specifically mentioning the ITU treaty, Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull came out in support of internet freedom in his Alfred Deakin lecture at the University of Melbourne on Monday night.

He criticised the Australian government for its attempts to control the freewheeling internet, previously with its internet filtering policy but now with proposals to store all Australians' internet usage data for two years.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


10 October, 2012

A Conservative superstar

He's famously "incorrect" and spontaneous but lots of Brits seem to see that as a breath of fresh air. Despite his often unkempt appearance he was recently named as the most respected man in Britain -- and he got a rockstar reception at the annual conference of the Conservative party

Boris Johnson last night launched a crowd-pleasing demand for a return to grammar schools. The London Mayor sought to boost his standing with the Tory faithful by announcing his ‘strong belief in competitive education’ and selective admissions.

It is the first time in more than a decade that a Conservative heavyweight has advocated a return to selection. Mr Johnson, who does not control the capital’s schools, again hinted at his prime ministerial ambitions by saying he was not able to shape party policy in education ‘yet’.

He was given a rock star reception at the Birmingham conference.

A crowd chanting ‘Boris, Boris, Boris’ gathered at New Street station when he arrived by train and he faced a scrum of delegates and media at the conference hotel.

At a rally in his honour attended by around 1,000 grassroots Tories, Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m a strong believer in competitive education. What was the Olympics? It was a pageant of competition. We should be allowing children to compete academically.

‘I personally have no objections to selective admissions at some stage.’

He said ‘some people object’ to the 11 plus, which divides pupils at that age, but he said it should be possible to select at later ages. And in a clear hint that he wants a wider national role, Mr Johnson concluded: ‘As far as party policy is concerned I’m not in a position to do this – yet.’

He also said he would continue to speak out in favour of a new hub airport, an idea the Coalition has punted into the long grass.

His provocative intervention on education may not please David Cameron, who decided against reopening the grammar school debate back in 2007.

But not everyone has been swept up in Boris-mania. Veteran minister Ken Clarke today said Mr Johnson had to grow up. 'If he really wants to be a prime minister for serious reasons and not just getting his picture in the paper more often, he really does have to settle down and demonstrate he can seriously deliver on some complicated subjects,' he told a meeting hosted by Channel 4 on the fringe of the conference.

He added it would be 'disastrous' if Mr Johnson could not get the 'fashionable' speculation under control.

Health minister Anna Soubry also played down the idea that the public was gripped by Borismania: 'Not one person in my constituency ever has said anything to me about Boris.'

But the Boris Johnson circus still threatened to overshadow the main keynote speech today from Chancellor George Osborne.

Mr Johnson refused to say if Mr Cameron was a better Prime Minister than he would be, insisting the claim was ‘unverifiable’.

And the London Mayor used his newspaper column to claim the government had left the 'struggling middle' feeling 'utterly ignored.

Last night he addressed hundreds of supporters at a rally organised by the ConservativeHome website under the triumphal banner 'Re-elected and Olympotastic'.

He was careful to praise Mr Cameron, and said he was one of the first Tory MPs to back him as party leader.

The London Mayor said the Conservative party had to remain squarely on the centre ground and claim back the One Nation mantra from Ed Miliband.

But he refused to rule out publicly challenging policy drawn up by the coalition. Mr Johnson said: ’Of course I am going to fight what I think might be ill-conceived Lib Dem plans for a mansion tax when I read about it.

'Of course I am I going to continue to lobby for a long overdue solution to our aviation capacity problems.

'No-one, as a result of that, should have any cause to doubt my admiration of David Cameron. 'He, George Osborne and the government are doing exactly what is needed to clean up the country and the mess Labour left.'

The success of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games on his watch has boosted Mr Johnson's popularity just as Mr Cameron's has waned.

Mr Johnson joked: 'I sometimes think after the great success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is we need more things like it. What's next? The Politicians Olympics.'

'Jeremy Hunt would be wanging the bell end. Me for the zip wire, Seb Coe for the 800m, William Hague for the judo. 'And Ed Miliband for the high jump.'

The remarkable scenes as Mr Johnson arrived in Birmingham contrast with the low key arrival of Mr Cameron at the conference centre on Saturday and confirm Mr Johnson's reputation as political box office winner.

Asked if he was in Birmingham to make trouble for Prime Minister, Mr Johnson replied: 'I'm here to support the party.' He ignored further questions as he was chased through the hotel.

Then today he will make a more traditional speech from the main conference stage.

Mr Cameron has been repeatedly forced to answer questions about the threat to his leadership posed by his old schoolfriend from Eton.

This week the PM said he 'was relaxed about having the blond haired mop sounding off from time to time' after Mr Johnson challenged him over Europe, aviation policy and tax.

On Sunday a a survey by pollsters Opinium for The Observer gave Mr Johnson him a net +30 rating among voters, compared to -21 for the Prime Minister.


Nine in ten Scots 'living off state's patronage'

Almost nine out of 10 Scottish households take more from the public purse than they contribute in taxes thanks to a “rotten system” of state patronage, the Tory party conference will hear on Monday.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, is to highlight official figures showing that only 283,080 households north of the border – 12 per cent of the total – pay more in tax than they receive in public services.

She will tell delegates that, because the public sector is seen as the key provider of everything from housing to employment, state spending now accounts for more than half Scotland’s wealth.

She will blame Alex Salmond, the SNP First Minister, and his Labour predecessors for nurturing a “corrosive sense of entitlement” among voters that has prevented her party making a comeback in Scotland.

Miss Davidson will argue this Left-wing “stranglehold” suits Labour and the SNP but has made it difficult for the Tories as so many voters are reliant on the public sector for their household income.

But the Nationalists described it as her “Mitt Romney moment”, in a reference to the Republican presidential candidate’s comments that 47 per cent of Americans pay no income tax and are dependent on the state.

According to the most recent figures, Scotland contributed 9.6 per cent of Britain’s tax take and accounted for 9.3 per cent of public spending.

Her strongly worded attack on state patronage follows David Cameron’s warning to the Scottish Tories last autumn that they had no excuse for their dismal election performances.

But Miss Davidson will tell the conference that Scotland’s “staggering” and “frightening” reliance on the public sector must be taken into account.

“The rotten system of patronage, which denies so many people real choices in their lives, has created a corrosive sense of entitlement which suits its political gang masters,” she will say.

Referring to her party’s dismal election record, the Scottish Conservative leader will conclude: “If the gang master state is the only provider people can see for their housing, education and employment, it’s no surprise those who seek to break the stranglehold find barriers in their way.”

Anyone who challenges the status quo is deemed an “enemy of the state”, she will argue, before claiming this is the real reason some political commentators have written off the Scottish Tories.

She will argue that Labour and the SNP still blame her party for problems that are their responsibility, pointing out that the former has been in control of some of Glasgow’s most deprived areas for decades.

Miss Davidson supported her claims by publishing figures from the Office for National Statistics, which showed the average Scottish household consumes £14,151 more in public services every year than it pays in tax.

Even the families in the middle income groups consume around £20,000 more in state spending than they contribute.

However, those in the top 10 per cent pay £17,205 more in tax than they receive in public services.

Kenny Gibson, a Nationalist MSP, described it as Miss Davidson’s “Mitt Romney moment”. He added: “At least Mitt Romney only insulted around half of Americans, while Ruth Davidson believes almost 90 per cent of Scots do not 'contribute’ to society.”

Miss Davidson will also tell English party colleagues that their support is required if the Unionist campaign is to win a decisive victory in the referendum on independence, something she will argue is necessary if the separatists are not to try to hold another vote soon.


Scotland was not always a nation of parasites

The Scots were a nation of strivers, until the state promoted a toxic dependency culture

In 1926 my father, aged 19, left an Aberdeenshire farm to be a rubber planter in Malaya. Apart from a year back home after enduring a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, he didn’t return to live in Scotland until he was almost 70. He was dismayed by what he found. It seemed to him that the Scots were no longer the hard-working, energetic and self-reliant people they had been in his youth. Instead they were given to self-pity and the belief that the world owed them a living and the state would provide.

There were exceptions, of course. The oil-rich north-east was not short of people starting their own businesses. But in general he believed that the Scots were sunk in a dependency culture, and this depressed and irritated him. He was out of sympathy with modern Scotland, though he was quite typical of his own era, when the Protestant work ethic ruled and the judgment “he’s done well for himself” was an expression of approval.

My father wouldn’t have been surprised by Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, asserting that only 12 per cent of Scottish households make a net contribution to the economy, and that Scotland is suffering from the “depression of dependency which has held our country back for so many years”. He would probably have approved. Admittedly, Miss Davidson’s eye-catching figure looks a bit dodgy. I think she is lumping in everything that people receive from public services, which, of course, includes education and the NHS. It depends how you measure these things, and the household figure might not be so very different in the rest of the UK.

Nevertheless, both my father and Miss Davidson have a point. Scotland was one of the places, along with the North of England and the English Midlands, where the Industrial Revolution took off. It was also at the same time a pioneer in devising means of providing capital for industry and business; it was a Scottish bank which invented the overdraft and Scots who invented investment trusts. A favourite text for Presbyterian sermons would be taken from the Parable of the Talents, where the servant who buries his talent in the ground is condemned while those who put their talents to work to create more wealth are approved and rewarded.

Scotland in the 19th century was a meritocratic country, a place where poor boys who applied themselves did well. The great civil engineer Thomas Telford was the son of a shepherd and apprenticed to a stonemason. A favourite school-prize book was Self-Help by Samuel Smiles, with its message that hard work and enterprise would be rewarded by success. By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, Scotland was one of the industrial powerhouses of the world.

That last sentence is both true and misleading. The income was very unequally distributed. If the story of Victorian Glasgow, and indeed Scotland, is one of triumph, of an expanding economy, of wealth on a previously unimagined scale, it is also a story of degradation and misery, of the harsh exploitation of man by man. A Victorian reporter investigating social conditions in Glasgow could scarcely believe that “so large an amount of filth, crime, misery and disease existed in one spot in any civilised country”.

It was intolerable. Social action was taken. The state set in to repair the damage that free enterprise had done. The provision of housing, for instance, became a municipal responsibility. By the 1970s a higher proportion of Scots lived in publicly owned houses than in any country west of the Soviet bloc.

There was another side to the coin. The heavy industries that had created the wealth failed to meet foreign competition, and went into decline. The reliance on heavy industry meant that Scotland missed out on the new light industries that brought prosperity to the south of England. From having been aggressively enterprising, Scotland became defensive, engaged in damage limitation. The idea that industrial regeneration was impossible without state-provided finance and regulation took root. Individualism was suspect, communal action approved. Even the Scottish Tory Party never embraced Thatcherism, to my father’s contemptuous dismay, for he recognised in Mrs Thatcher’s message the self-reliant Protestant work ethic that had been instilled in him as a boy.

A good society seeks and achieves a balance between individual and social action. The excesses of the money markets show the dangers of rampant individualism and of the belief that greed is good; the somnolence of an unenterprising culture is the consequence of relying too heavily on the state and the public sector, and lands people and communities in the dependency trap. Ruth Davidson exaggerates, but she is right to draw attention to the absence of vigour and self-belief in much of Scotland, where the balance between individual and social action has been tilted away from the former.


Getting people off welfare is NOT uncaring - it's a moral duty and the only way to save us from fiscal suicide

There is no subject about which more lies are told than benefits and welfare. It is as though the truth is simply too terrible to state.

In the U.S. last month, Mitt Romney was widely said to have blown his chances of beating Barack Obama in next month’s presidential elections after the release of a video in which Romney said that 47 per cent of Americans pay no income tax and so would probably not vote for him anyway.

The response to this comment was not to address the catastrophic social problem Romney was highlighting, but to scorn him for mentioning it.

As so often, what was regarded as a ‘gaffe’ was simply a rare political truth. It is one we ignore at our peril.

The fact is that Britain, America and Western Europe as a whole are now permanently balanced on the edge of a financial precipice.

Yes, one reason is the disgraceful behaviour of parts of the financial sector, and another the collapse of the eurozone. But even if the 2008 banking and subsequent euro crises had not happened we would still be plummeting towards economic apocalypse.

The reason is as straightforward for the nation as a whole as it is for any household: we spend more money than we earn.

In national terms, that is because the number of people who make a net contribution to the economy keeps shrinking while the number taking more than they give keeps growing.

Chancellor George Osborne and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith should be applauded for trying to tackle this with their welfare reform programme.

They were right when they stated in yesterday’s Mail that they were bequeathed ‘the worst economic inheritance in living memory’ and right to announce a further £10?billion in welfare cuts.

But, as both men well know, they inherited not only an economic but a moral catastrophe as well.

Just how large a catastrophe was revealed yesterday when the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank released a report of devastating clarity. Its figures — based on those from the Office for National Statistics — show that more than half of the homes in the UK are now a burden on the state.

The cost of benefits payments and services received outweighs the taxes gained from at least 53 per cent of households.

In other words, more than half of the households in Britain make no net contribution to the state, because they receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes.

In Scotland the situation is even worse, with only 12 per cent of households — just over one in ten — paying more to the state than the state pays them.

Little wonder that George Osborne spoke up yesterday for the strivers in society, for ‘those who want to work hard and get on’, and who are fed up with being the providers in a nation where most people are takers.

This horrific situation has not crept up on us slowly. Rather, it exploded during the last Labour government’s time in office. Prior to its post-2001 debt-spree, fewer than 44 per cent of households made no net contribution to the state. That figure had increased by only 0.7 per cent since 1979.

But the Labour government had a cynical agenda. Voters who are reliant on the state are unlikely — as Mitt Romney pointed out in the U.S. — to vote Tory, or at least for people who would take those benefits away.

The Labour government deliberately built up a huge, Labour-voting client base by making thousands more households reliant on the state. And this — it must be remembered — did not happen during a recession. It was during a global boom, when private enterprise was thriving.

All logic should have dictated that fewer people, during such a period, should have been dependent on the state.

At the same time, tens of thousands of jobs were created. But they were not filled by British workers. The Labour government invited hundreds of thousands of foreign workers to come to this country and fill nearly all of those vacancies.

By importing a new working class, they made many among the traditional working class unemployed and state-dependent.

As a result, by keeping such people in a benefits limbo, the number of households which took more in benefits than they could pay in tax rocketed.

Today, the Labour Party claims that the solution to our economic woes is to further tax the minority who already pay their way — in order to sustain the ever-growing number of people who do not.

They seek to punish those who make a net contribution in order to reward those who do not. It hardly needs to be said that this is a recipe not only for fiscal, but national, suicide.

This week, the Conservative Party has its chance to grab the nation’s imagination and try to ensure there will not be a future Labour government that could plunge us ever further into a culture of dependency.

First, they must continue to remind voters of the economic mess left by their predecessors.

The Labour government not only failed to mend the roof while the sun shone, it spent taxpayers’ money bribing people not to notice the roof was caving in.

At a time when Ed Miliband and, more particularly, Ed Balls are intent on rewriting history on this score, it is essential the electorate is reminded of this point, time and again.

Second, the Conservatives must better explain their vision for the future of the welfare state. Iain Duncan Smith cannot do this alone. The party must make it clear that the Tories do believe in the welfare state — but not the one of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s creation.

More importantly still, they must explain the moral case for getting people off welfare and into work.

Across Western democracies, the Left has nearly bankrupted countries because it has succeeded in promoting a particular lie.

It is one based on emotion, and specifically on the idea that it is ‘uncaring’ to try to wean people off lives of welfare dependence.

In fact, the very opposite is true. While, of course, it is essential to protect the most vulnerable in society, it is positively immoral to condemn those capable of working and contributing to society to a life of dependence on the state.

Just as the Left forever talks about lives being ‘saved’ by welfare, the Conservatives must explain how millions of lives are wrecked by it, and many millions more are only half-lived.

Finally, the Conservatives must explain that this social tragedy cannot be remedied within the five-yearly electoral cycle.

Policies must be adopted that tackle the generational nature of the problem: spelling out how welfare-dependent parents are more likely to produce welfare-dependent children in a cycle that is as destructive as it is expensive.

What the last Labour government did was wicked. It borrowed money for handouts to bribe the electorate. And the grotesque amount of debt it amassed in doing so will hang over generations to come.

Unless we now act firmly and decisively, more than half of the households in this country will remain enslaved to welfare dependency, and lumber those not yet born with the debts to pay for it.

The success or otherwise of the Tories in spelling out that message in the coming days will decide more than which party comes to office in 2015.

It will determine what kind of long-term future — if any — we have as a country.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


9 October, 2012

An observant Jewish atheist

This is not as strange as it would be in a Christian. Christians define themselves by their beliefs but Orthodox Jews define themselves in terms of obedience to "the law" (halacha). So it is what you do rather than what you believe that makes you a Jew

It’s not everyday that one meets a non-theist who differentiates himself from the outspoken atheist activist community. It’s even rarer to locate a non-believer who actually attends a house of worship on a regular basis.

However, these are exactly the attributes, among many others, that TheBlaze encountered in Dr. Jacques Berlinerblau, the director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University and the author of the new book, “How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom.”

To say that Berlinerblau’s views are unique is an understatement. While he is Jewish in heritage, the professor considers himself an atheist. When asked to recap when it was that he realized his lack of a belief in a higher power, Berlinerblau said that there was no “epiphany moment.”

While he was careful to distinguish that not all post-Holocaust Jews were non-believers, he noted that the traumatic world event in which millions of individuals were exterminated, made God a difficult concept for some to embrace, particularly in the event’s aftermath.

Berlinerblau connected these themes to his own upbringing in the 1970s. “Like many Jews of that generation, I had a bar mitzvah,” he explained, going on to say that it was often easier to sell kids in his generation on Jewish culture than it was on God.

Now, remember that tidbit about Berlinerblau attending synagogue? TheBlaze asked him to explain why he still goes to a house of worship, despite actively embracing his non-theism.

“I have a tremendous debt to Judaism, to my parents — to the history,” he explained. “It feels all very very natural. I have children who I want to be Jewish [too].”

Naturally, one wonders how the professor’s world-view is impacted by these divergent ideologies. Specifically, with dueling theological constructs coloring his experience, one ponders which wins out. On the atheism front, Berlinerblau said that non-belief has “very, very little” impact on his worldview.

He then went on to describe how he frames the current breakdown of secularists — a designation that will be helpful to anyone attempting to better understand the atheist frame-of-mind.

“I think there’s two general categories of atheists. A lot of American atheists today are like refugees from very severe fundamentalist homes and they believe that these homes were abusive, that there was brainwashing and intolerance in others,” he explained.

For these individuals, the atheist movement is “a place of refuge.” The second group takes a very different stance and finds itself unmoved and uninvolved with the atheist activists’ (the first group) more abrasive tactics.

“There’s another strain…[those] who don’t live their atheism out on their sleeve, because they never had to,” Berlinerblau noted. “They never found religious people to be particularly oppressive or diabolical. The conflicts never occurred probably because they were living in a state of equality with these folks.”

As for this first group, Berlinerblau had some tough words, at least in terms of the tactics they use to progress their non-belief. In the end, he likened some activists’ activities with those embraced by the Christian right in America, claiming that he “sees parallels between the two groups.”

“I’m a Washingtonian. I wouldn’t go about it the same way,” he said of controversial actions taken by secular groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), American Atheists and others. “The courts are moving away from all-out separation. I understand why they (atheists) do what they do — I’ve often asked the same question of the hard, Christian right.”

Citing one example, TheBlaze asked Berlinerblau how he feels about American Atheists’ battle against the Ground Zero cross. The educator’s advice to secularists is to “let it go.” “There’s no threat of establishment there. Everyone understands many non-believers, Muslims and Jews died there [too],” he said. “I don‘t think it’s necessary to get involved in that atheist activism.”

To the chagrin of atheist activists, Berlinerblau also noted the “anti-intellectualism” that some atheist leaders embrace, admitting that, despite being a non-believer, he has been hard on this cohort.

“They don’t understand the history of religion, so they tend to make sweeping generalizations about religion which don’t really pass muster,” he said.

In his new book, “How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom,” Berlinerblau discusses many of these issues. Rather than allowing semantics to run amok, the author told TheBlaze that he wants to explain to people that “secularism” isn’t about taking God away from people — and it’s certainly not about persecuting the religious. Instead, it’s about ensuring freedom from and of religion.

And as a surprise factoid, Berlinerblau claims that it’s actually an ideal with roots in Christian lineage. If there were no Protestant Reformation, he claims there would be no secularism. He even refers to the phenomenon as “a protestant invention” and “gift.” Secularism, according to the dictionary, is defined as, “the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of religious element.”

“What I’m trying to explain to Christian folks is that secularism is far from being [foreign],” he explained.

The professor expands the aforementioned definition in the following words and explains how he believes it should be introduced and practiced in public life:

“Secularism is a political philosophy which is preoccupied with and often deeply-suspicious of any and all relations of government and religion. That doesn’t mean strict separationism — that is one strain. There are other ways of being secular. My personal preference is for a soft separation, not a hard separation. Government argues for accommodation, which is actually a form of secularism. Its argument is that, as long as the state establishes no one religion, it has every right to engage with religion and do so regularly.”


Why Liberty Requires Christianity

The article below makes a good case but I don't entirely agree with it. See here and here.

In an age that seems to believe that Christianity is an obstacle to liberty it will prove provocative to insist, contrary to such belief, that Christian faith is essential to liberty’s very existence. Yet, as counter-intuitive as it may seem to disciples of the progressivist zeitgeist, it must be insisted that faith enshrines freedom. Without the shrine that faith erects to freedom, the liberties that we take for granted will be eroded and ultimately destroyed. Faith preserves freedom. It protects it. It insists upon it. Where there is faith there is freedom. Where faith falters, so does freedom. This truth, so uncomfortably perplexing for so many of our contemporaries, was encapsulated by G. K. Chesterton when he asserted that “the modern world, with its modern movements, is living on its Catholic capital. It is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom.”[i]

One of the truths of Christendom which lays the very foundations of freedom is the Christian insistence on the mystical equality of all people in the eyes of God and the insistence on the dignity of the human person that follows logically, inexorably and inescapably from such an insistence. If everyone is equal in the eyes of God, it doesn’t matter if people are black or white, healthy or sick, able-bodied or handicapped, or whether babies are inside the womb or out of it. It doesn’t matter that people are different, in terms of race, age or innate abilities; they are all equal in the eyes of God, and therefore, of necessity, in the eyes of Man also. This is the priceless inheritance of Christendom with which our freedoms are established and maintained. If everyone is equal in the eyes of God and Man, everyone must also be equal in the eyes of the law.

If, however, the equality of man is denied, freedom is imperiled. The belief of Nietzsche, adopted by the Nazis, that humanity consists of übermenschen and untermenschen, the “over-men” and the “under-men,” led to people being treated as subhuman, worthy of extermination and victims of genocide. The progressivist belief of Hegel, adopted by Marx and his legion of disciples, that a rationalist dialectic, mechanistically determined, governs the progress of humanity, led to the deterministic inhumanity of communism and the slaughter of those deemed to be enemies of “progress.” The French Revolution, an earlier incarnation of atheistic progressivism and the progenitor of communism, had led to the invention of the guillotine as the efficient and effective instrument of the Great Terror and its rivers of blood. The gas chamber, the Gulag and the guillotine are the direct consequence of the failure to uphold the Christian concept of human equality and the freedom it enshrines. In our own time, the same failure to accept and uphold human equality has led to babies in the womb being declared subhuman, or untermenschen, without any protection in law from their being killed at the whim of their mothers.

Apart from the connection between freedom and equality, the other aspect of freedom enshrined by Christianity is the freedom of the will and the consequences attached to it. If we are free to act and are not merely slaves to instinct as the materialists claim, we have to accept that we are responsible for our choices and for their consequences.

Before proceeding to the paradoxical relationship between freedom and responsibility, let’s return to the philosophical ramifications of materialism, which is to say the removal of God from the picture of reality. Materialists are forced, if they are honest enough to follow the logic of their own first principles, to believe that none of us are free but that we are all slaves to our biologically determined instincts. For all such materialists, commonly known in today’s jargon as the new atheists, there is no such thing as freedom. It is an illusion. Considering the historical record of old atheists, such as the terrorists of the French Revolution, the communist revolution and the Third Reich, it is not likely that these new atheists, with their belief that we are all slaves to our genes, will prove any better in the defence of freedom. Why should they defend something that they don’t believe exists?

In contrast to the atheists’ philosophical acceptance of slavery, the insistence of Christians that we are all equal and that we all possess freewill can be seen as truly liberating. Yet the paradoxical reality is that freedom is not free. It comes at a price. As already stated, freedom is inseparable from responsibility. If we want to reap the rewards of our good choices we must be prepared to pay the cost of our bad ones. It is for this reason that Edmund Burke insisted, quite correctly, that liberty must be limited in order to be possessed. If liberty is not limited it will be lost, or, to put the matter another way, the taking of liberties by some leads to the taking of liberties from others. Rapists and murderers and thieves should expect to pay heavily for the abuse of their freedom and for the taking of the freedom of those with whom they took liberties.

This is all very well and may be taken to be self-evident. Yet the whole of contemporary society and the whole of contemporary politics seem to be based on a denial of this fact. On the so-called “left” of the political spectrum the philosophy of the libertine is in the ascendant. This is the belief that we should be able to do what we like with our bodies and the bodies of others and to hell with the consequences. If we become pregnant, we can kill the baby. If children are abused by dysfunctional parents doing their own thing in dysfunctional relationships, so be it. Nothing, least of all children in the womb or in the home, must get in the way of the right of “adults” to do what they want with their lives and their bodies. Children are the new untermenschen. Broken in mind by the broken homes and broken relationships of their libertine parents, they are the forgotten ones. They are voteless and voiceless in a culture of death in which they are increasingly seen as an expensive inconvenience. This was the sense in which Oscar Wilde lamented that anarchy was Freedom’s own Judas, betraying liberty with a lustful kiss.

So much for the libertines of the so-called “left.” On the so-called “right,” as a so-called alternative to left-wing libertines, are the right-wing libertarians, who support the freedom of pornographers to corrupt everyone they touch, the freedom of drug pushers to deal death to vulnerable youngsters, and the freedom of global corporations to rule the world unhampered by political or economic constraint.

The libertines believe in Big Government to ensure that they can continue to take liberties by taking the liberties of others, specifically in recent years by taking the liberties of Christians who wish to live in accordance with their anti-libertine consciences. The libertarians, on the other hand, believe that Big Business should be left free to use the bullying powers of the economies of scale to destroy small businesses. Libertarians believe that huge corporations should be free to take liberties by taking the liberties of small corporations, turning downtown into ghost-town.

Faced with the choice between the libertine and the libertarian we should echo the words of Mercutio and call down a curse upon both their houses. Instead of choosing between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, or Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber, we should choose the faith that leads to true and lasting freedom. After all, as an idiot[ii] once said in an entirely different context, we have nothing to lose but our chains.


BBC faces its rottenness at last

George Entwistle, the BBC Director-General, has confirmed the corporation will hold an internal inquiry into the Jimmy Savile abuse allegations and a toxic culture of impunity among presenters during the 1970s and 1980s.

In an interview with the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Entwistle said he would "Take it further and ensure that any outstanding questions are answered properly."

There was, he said, an "enormous obligation" on staff members who had evidence of Savile's abuse of children to come forward.

He apologised on behalf of the BBC for the allegations initially made in an ITV documentary last week, which have since seen tens of women come forward with accounts of molestation and assault at the hands of the deceased Top of the Pops and Radio 1 presenter.

Entwistle said: "These are awful allegations that have been made, and they are criminal allegations. The women involved here have gone through something awful, and something I deeply regret they have had to go through.

"I would should like to apologise on behalf of each and every one of them."

He added that the police investigation currently underway would have to be completed before the BBC began an internal inquiry into how Savile was allegedly able to molest children on its premises.

"We need a comprehensive examination of what went on here. At the heart of what went on are a series of criminal allegations about the behaviour of Sir Jimmy Savile," he said.

"The way to deal with those is to make sure the police, who are the only properly constituted authority for dealing with criminal investigations are allowed to make the enquiries they need to make."

It was, he emphasised, "Critically important that we put the BBC at the disposal of the police."

George Entwistle has been Director-General of the BBC for less than a month, and was formerly head of BBC Vision.

His handling of the Savile allegations and complaints by female presenters will be seen as the first real test as head of the corporation.

Entwistle conceded that his scope was limited during the criminal investigation, and said: "The BBC does not have the capacity to compel people who no longer work for it to give interviews... or to secure evidence forensically."

"It is vital we do nothing that would compromise a criminal examination of events."


Maternity leave is 'burden' on women

Sheila Lawlor, director of think tank Politeia, says maternity pay is a 'great burden' on women and businesses in the UK and should be scrapped - or few women will ever reach the boardrooom.

Conservative support from women voters has been slipping, despite the raft of family-friendly measures with which the Coalition has continued where Labour led.

"Family-friendly" has become a cliché for a direction of political travel, which politicians have accustomed the voters to expect. So it would be a brave politician who questioned the most well-established plank of family-friendly policy - maternity leave.

Under present UK law, women who give birth can take up to a year’s maternity leave, for six weeks of which they are paid 90pc of their usual salary, though after that the rules vary and it’s around £135 a week or less.

However, maternity leave is creating a great burden on many women and businesses. The legislation puts employers off employing women. Companies are reluctant to give jobs to women of childbearing age.

We have to abandon what is wrongly called 'family -friendly' legislation, including the sole option maternity leave.

Most ordinary women in most ordinary jobs do badly when they take advantage of family-friendly legislation. It takes longer for them to catch up on earnings when they return and they don’t accrue pension rights while they are away.

Yet the PR still paints a pretty picture. A happy new mother "visiting" work with an adorable baby during leave, then returning full- time, supported by the family-friendly state to live in Scandanavian-type serenity. But the reality is often very different.

The mother abandons her job for a fixed term. Her income probably falls sharply after the first six weeks. She returns to work, bolstered, she thinks, by the option of seeking parental leave or "flexi time", and in-work tax credits if on low pay.

But these statutory provisions and benefits create a perverse incentive in the short term to return to work against what may be longer term interests.

The decision to return to work or not is difficult and individual: personal inclination, family income, circumstances, job, costs at home and of childcare. No blanket bureaucratic rule of work-life balance can cater for individual circumstance.

The care of a young child is particularly worrying for the mother and she should be left to reach such a decision without being bribed or influenced by a highly politicised culture. If she decides to go along with that culture she may be poorer in the short and longer term.

She has lost out on experience and on pension, and when back at work catching up she must add the worries of caring for her vulnerable baby. Pay and promotion prospects may well not match those of colleagues who have not been away. She may even have to change from full time to part time work.

The evidence is that the hourly pay of mothers with dependent children is less than that of working fathers, compared with what they had before their children. After each birth women returning to work have low wage growth, and the pay difference does not start to shrink for 15 years.

Family-friendly law is really family and female-unfriendly. Current arrangements at maternity too often lead to a downward spiral of earnings and career, a life of near-dependency on the state for top-ups of one sort or another and probably an impoverished old age.

Why not offer those new mothers who don’t want to return to work right away or a year’s maternity package, the chance of a career break instead to coincide with their children’s early years, with retraining for work once the youngest goes to school –a pattern used for many female GPs?

The Government must steel itself against the short-term solution and the escalating demands from the leftist lobby, including the latest EU plan for female boardroom quotas.

These lead to short-term fixes which can be bad for women, short and long term.

The Conservatives are a party of the long term: working lives will be longer; tax and benefit systems must take account of different career patterns; above all women must be treated as individuals with long term interests - with lives, families and yes, jobs, which should enrich rather than impoverish them over the longer term.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


8 October, 2012

Don't sell jam in recycled jars... by order of Europe: Tradition of selling home-made preserves 'breaches health and safety rules'

They are the backbone of church fetes, village fairs and jumble sales all around the country.

But the thousands who regularly sell their home-made jam, marmalade or chutney in re-used jars may have to abandon their traditions after a warning that they are breaching European health and safety regulations.

Legal advisers to Britain’s Churches have sent out a circular saying that while people can use jars for jam at home or to give to family and friends, they cannot sell them or even give them away as raffle prizes at a public event.

The circular from the Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service, which is chaired by the Bishop of Exeter, is pointedly headed: ‘Please take note: this looks like a spoof but it’s not.’

The advisers say the rules that are being breached are the snappily-titled EC Regulations 1935/2004 and 2023/2006, which prevent containers being re-used unless they are specifically designed for that purpose.

The Women’s Institute said it was offering similar advice on the re-use of jam jars to its 210,000 members. A spokesman said the news could send ‘a tremor through middle-England’ and the organisation was braced for a flurry of inquiries.

The Food Standards Agency said the rules had been introduced because there was a risk of chemicals leaching out of old containers and contaminating food, though it added that it was not aware that re-used jam jars were a safety hazard.

The agency said it was up to local authority environmental health officers to enforce the regulations, and penalties can reach a maximum of a £5,000 fine, six months’ imprisonment, or both.

The news will alarm the growing number of jam-makers inspired by model Kate Moss, who makes damson jam out of fruit from her Cotswolds estate, and the Duchess of Cambridge, who keeps pots to give away to friends.

Mary Berry, the star of the BBC’s The Great British Bake Off, said: ‘This is absolutely stupid. It is just going too far. ‘We are encouraging people to save money by using fruits to make chutneys and jam, and if they have to buy new jars it will become much too expensive. It’s daft.’

The rules are also causing consternation in churches that rely on the hundreds of thousands of pounds raised from fetes and bazaars.

The Rev Derek Williams, a spokesman for the diocese of Peterborough, said enforcing the rule ‘would be a blow to fundraising events for all sorts of voluntary organisations’.

He added: ‘It’s quite ridiculous, as selling home-made jams and chutneys has always been a traditional and important part of fundraising for church groups and others. ‘Older people in particular, or those not terribly well-off, have never been shy of making a few pots and giving that away. ‘People will offer their home-made jam when perhaps they can’t give anything else.’

Mr Williams said he had never heard of anyone falling ill from eating jam from a re-used jar, adding: ‘There must be a sensible balance between health and safety and something that has happened without incident for centuries.’

Canon Michael Tristran, of Portsmouth Cathedral, said: ‘On realising this was not a belated April Fool’s joke, I was very anxious, not only from the fundraising point of view for all our churches, but also because it goes against the green agenda of recycling.’

The WI said anyone using old jars should sterilise them by washing them and drying them in an oven on a low heat.


A guide to post-modernism and political-correctness


Once many years ago in the past century the post-modernists and the post-structuralists talked about there no longer being a need for a single Big Narrative, a monolithic explanation for everything, usually meaning a Eurocentric, colonialist, imperialist, Orientalist, Judeo-Christian or female-hating male or homophobic discourse. Everyone else had their own positions, or positionalities, and everyone else had the right to their own opinions, except, of course, white, male, Jews, middle-class, Christian, Europeans, straight people and so forth. Now, however, everyone has their own narratives, and everything in life is a journey that one takes on their own-since we cannot say his or her, but only some de-sexed pronoun in the soul-less pseudo-plural of them and their-and in a quest for the supreme happiness of all existence, chosen victimhood. Once they have achieved this coveted position in the world of politically-correct values where everything is determined by gender, race and ideology, they can claim their entitlements. That goal recognized as the ultimate in human rights, then all means are permissible through acts of mass terrorism, glorious suicide-murders and sustained street-rage. The narrative is perfected and completed once it is on U-tube.


With this word, instead of debate, dialogue, argument or negotiation, the selected and completed victims can approach the politically incorrect remnants of civilization and tell them they are wrong, superseded, and about to be exterminated. The ideal form of conversation in this sense occurs when one person talks to themselves, that is, when they are absorbed into their own identity, and thus what once distinguished each individual from all others now becomes the collective self of a deterministic unintelligent biological or socially-constructed self (or selfish gene). All differences of opinion also disappear because, since there is no single truth-the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth-there is only the voice of victimhood crying out from the wilderness of what used to be history. The present is the ever-renewed and repeated instant of opinion, attitude and positionality. The conversation is also the explosive moment of mass destruction when he and she, they and us, now and forever more meet in one big bang of purification and martyrdom. After that, only the vast nothingness of reality television.


Where ever you look in academia and the media, everything that people do is a project, on the surface of thing, merely an organized programme or undertaking, but in many, and soon perhaps most instances, it means an ideologically-driven attempt to occupy the space in which the last remnants of civilization can be found. The project is the projection into areas of scholarly debate and scientific inquiry the essential truisms of post-modernist practice (another word to examine soon), these dogmatic, unquestioned and authoritative statements include the plurality and fissuring of truth, the rejection of rational paradigms for measuring the truth-content of archival documents and public monuments, the standards by which artistic merit can be assessed (not accessed, another buzz word), and the role of individual responsibility in the application of truth and justice in the world. The projectile is a weapon of mass destruction, a radioactive time bomb set to destroy all concepts of time and space by scattering coherent thoughts into a chaos of incoherent instants of feeling and attitude. Political rhetoric at the Untied Nations Genial Assembly now consists mainly of projectile vomiting.


This seems to be the post-modern dumbed-down version of Marxist praxis. While a musician used to prepare his or her performance piece through repeated playing or a dentist carry out his or her technical treatments, it is now possible for each artist, in whatever medium chosen, to speak of what they do as a practice, and for scholars to carry out their projects with the ideological tools of their practice. There is no sense left in the word of repetition for improvement and refinement of skills and understanding, no qualitative demonstration of art and intuition, only a mechanical performance (which by the way is also a buzz word). No one need do anything to be recognized as an artist or a human rights lawyer or a civil servant: just say you are practicing.


As a noun, research is what one uses to discover facts and test them against contexts of viability. The search is carried out in the field-or the wild nature of unexplored space-or in the laboratory where clinical controls and measurements can be repeated by objective means, or even in archives, libraries and private collections of written and orally recorded data can be read, analysed and interpreted. However, to research, as a verb in itself without a subject or an object, but merely a free-standing and yet ideologically determined event, means to be thrust into a swirl of on-going projects and practices merely to confirm and valorize what is already known. That is why on research grant forms the applicant is asked to state the expected results and social benefits of the pre-ordained results: the value of curiosity to know, the possibility of negative findings, and the excitement of entering the unknown are dismissed from serious attention.


Now that truth and identity have been relegated to the category of social-constructs, the term construct no longer means something built by deliberate plans, executed by skilful hands according to previous directions, or held in memory as a model of excellence and imitation. Just as the normative structure of sentences has become an incomplete passive voice or the replacement of active persons by vague feelings and attitudes floating in the middle of empty space, the active intellect disappears from time and place, its milieu, and is silent in the mental arena of thought and passion, its mentality, so the world is filled up with indeterminate, amorphous and ephemeral constructions.


Long, long ago, when scholarship was taught and composition was a course in universities, students learned how to make footnotes, construct bibliographies, and tell the difference between hints, allusions, references and citations in direct and indirect discourse. Today there is only a blur called referencing, which can mean anything from to point towards something out beyond the immediate range of sight or the page one is examining to listing sources or indicating a particular passage cited.

Footnotes-so much better than end notes-served several purposes, the primary one being the description of the precise text cited in the body of an essay or book, so that a reader could go to that same article or book, open to such a page, and find the point indicated; therefore the annotation gives all the information needed to find the original text-the author, editor, translator; as well as the edition, printing, and first publication date.

Today, since we have obliterated the past and denied the relevance of contexts, it is important to find, stuck in the middle of a sentence, a parenthetical name of an author and a date, but the name is incomplete, the date only signalling the edition or translation cited, so that superficial readers will think that Freud wrote in 1962 or Shakespeare lived in 2007, and chronological order, comparison of different schools of interpretation are elided. Allusion by part of a sentence or a single word becomes confounded with distant echoes of ideas and concepts, while parodies, pastiches and burlesques cease to exist as distinct modes of responding to other times and places. Hints, clues and oblique traces lose their specificity, and all intellectual subtlety and nuance sinks into a slough of despond.


For those who have studied the history of religions and are familiar with various Eastern Churches, there is no difficulty in understanding the term icon from ikonia, a religious image that focuses attention on and can act as a transmission point of spiritual things. Then along comes the home computer and people start to see icons on their screens, so much so that every image is or picture is an icon. But then there is a leakage between these two uses of the term, and an icon becomes the most important, the most illuminating and the most identifying of pictures possible, a sign, emblem or signature image of whatever it is you wish to celebrate. It has come to be a synonym or a substitute for brand, symbol, and trademark. As so often, then, when a word can mean anything and everything, it soon means nothing; and when that happens, there are no longer other words available to use for the subtle shadings of meaning you wish to have, for the different kinds of experiences in life one passes through on the long journey from birth to death and beyond. Notice that I do not reference any particular person who is researching this topic.


In ordinary parlance, a performance is an enactment, a spectacle, a show, a dramatic or musical performance. Yes, but now, alas, nothing is what it seems, and the performative means something that through its embodiment in action and its recognisability as image, undercuts its own reality. The sense of a practiced, perfected public showing of what was created in private and honed into shape by the individual human mind or a small group of experts, now has become everything that everybody does at any time.


Libraries used to have accession departments that searched about, found books, purchased them, and then sent them on to the cataloguing department. One could also gain access to someone or something that was difficult to find and approach. Access, in those far off days of civilization, connoted a process and a deliberate attempt to come into contact with something or someone through the use of skills, knowledge and influence. Now in a world of computer models for everything, everything is accessed because it only means to have, to hold and to use. Moreover, people no longer use the word for a process or a thing but for an abstract or ephemeral quality, as when you access health care (whereas you used to visit the doctor) or access information (where once you looked information up in a book) or access your identity (meaning somehow that you look in the mirror of your chosen ideology and recognize the socially-constructed self you lost because of your victim status).


"The Guardian's" struggle with antisemitism

History embarrasses them but they cannot help themselves

The Guardian made an unusual admission this week. In a piece titled “On averting accusations of anti-Semitism,” the paper’s Readers’ Editor, Chris Elliott, acknowledged (or at least partly acknowledged) that The Guardian had a problem with anti-Semitism.

The paper likes to think of itself as a bastion of liberalism, fairness and anti-racism, and most Guardian staff would probably acknowledge that anti-Semitism is one of, if not the, most deadly forms of racism in history.

“Guardian reporters, writers and editors must be more vigilant about the language they use when writing about Jews or Israel,” wrote Elliott.

He added that Guardian writers should have avoided “references [this year] to Israel/US ‘global domination' and the term ‘slavish’ to describe the US relationship with Israel; and, in an article on a lost tribe of Mallorcan Jews, what I regarded as a gratuitous reference to ‘the island’s wealthier families’.”

However, Elliot added, “I don’t believe their appearance in The Guardian was the result of deliberate acts of anti-Semitism: they were inadvertent.”

I worked with Elliot in another context earlier this year and found him to be a fair-minded editor. But, being very much a “Guardian man,” he may not fully realise that the examples he cites in his piece are only the tip of the iceberg. The coverage of Israel in The Guardian and other British and European newspapers is all too often tinged with anti-Semitism.

Perhaps more damaging than the overt examples of The Guardian’s anti-Semitism that Elliot provides, is the paper’s long track record of being at or near the forefront of efforts to demonize the Jewish state: its decades’ long policy of greatly exaggerating any wrongdoing by Israel while ignoring, downplaying or even romanticizing attacks on her.

So, for example, while The Guardian has run highly provocative and unfair headlines such as “Netanyahu turns to Nazi language,” (July 10, 2009) or “Israel simply has no right to exist” (Jan. 3, 2001) and while its writers have used very insulting terms such as “proto-fascist” (Feb. 12, 2009) to describe the Israeli cabinet, the paper takes a very different approach to those who have murdered Israelis.

It ran a front page article, for instance, describing Yasser Arafat (known to many as the “father of international airline terrorism”) as “cuddly” and “erotic,” adding that “the stubble on his cheeks was silky not prickly. It smelt of Johnson's Baby Powder” (Nov. 12, 2004).

Hamas master terrorist Nizar Rayan, who directed suicide bombers (including his own son) to murder and injure dozens of Israeli civilians, and who described Jews as a "cursed people" whom Allah changed into “apes and pigs,” was portrayed in The Guardian as someone who was “highly regarded” and “considered a hero” (Jan. 3, 2009).

The paper’s deputy editor Katharine Viner (best-known for co-writing the propaganda play “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” and twice named as British Newspaper Magazine Editor of the Year), wrote in The Guardian about Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, who hijacked and then blew up TWA Flight 840:

“The gun held in fragile hands, the shiny hair wrapped in a keffiah, the delicate Audrey Hepburn face refusing to meet your eye.”

I don’t think the families of Khaled’s many victims would have compared her to Audrey Hepburn.

When The Guardian does report on anti-Semitism, it often “balances” this with coverage that is highly insensitive to Jews. For example, when marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, The Guardian published a lead editorial, titled “Holocaust Memorial Day: Eternal memory” with an accompanying commentary by former Oxford University professor Terry Eagleton, in which he justified suicide bombing “in Israel” and likened suicide bombers to their victims. (Unsurprisingly, the piece was reprinted the following day in the Saudi paper Arab News and appeared on radical Moslem websites.)

Taken singly these examples may not denote anti-Semitism, but collectively they amount to a pattern that comes close to doing so.

Indeed it is not surprising that, with its skewered, often inflammatory reporting on Israel, The Guardian has become the paper of choice not just for liberals, but for anti-Semites to leave comments at the foot of articles on its website.

Israel should by all means be criticised. Indeed Israel as a democracy welcomes criticism.

The Israeli media is one of the most self-critical in the world. It scrutinizes Israeli society, including its security forces, to a much greater extent than any British paper has scrutinized the conduct of the British military in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere; or the New York Times has scrutinized the conduct of America’s armed forces in Afghanistan.

The Guardian should not hold Israel up to impossibly high standards. It is no good publishing blatantly untrue headlines replete with historic anti-Semitic motifs (such as “Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs”) even when the paper later changed the headline online, citing “a serious editing error.” (“Corrections and Clarifications,” The Guardian, December 22, 2009.)

Such headlines and reporting should never have appeared in the first place.


Do Democrats Own The Terms 'Racism" and "Lying"?

Democrats have run a number on Republicans. They have skillfully captured certain words in the American lexicon and redefined them, applying Democrat-themed meanings for the specific purpose of cowing Republicans into silence and submission. I have watched the escalation of this vocabulary abuse for almost a decade, and I am sorry to say, this particular Democrat scheme is working.

Republicans seem afraid to speak the unvarnished truth about Democrat party leaders for fear of reprisals in the mainstream media, an organization that has repeatedly proved that it is indisputably in the tank for Barack Obama.

What are Republicans afraid to say?

Republicans seem afraid to say that Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States, seems to be a racist and a liar whose clumsy, inexperienced efforts at leadership have put our nation's economy and our citizens' safety in jeopardy and has proven incompetent and unfit for office.

Meanwhile, Democrats seem quite comfortable throwing labels of "racism" and "lying" about freely when they attack Republicans, comfortable in the knowledge that no Republican dare do the same. With full support and acquiescence from a compromised media that long ago lost its objectivity, charges of "racism" and "lying" have morphed into an Orwellian fog, becoming purely political terms to browbeat Republicans, allowing Democrat leaders to dodge the discussion of tough issues.

Americans have seen "racist" tendencies from Democrats who reflexively jump to the assumption that any white Republican who disagrees with Obama's failed policies is doing so because Obama is a Black man. Meanwhile, many Democrats openly support Obama for the simple reason that he is Black. Furthermore, Obama's surrogates are quick to circle the wagons and level accusations of "racism" should anyone point out their obvious, raced-based prejudices.

When Obama was elected president by a majority of Americans, it sure seemed that the race-baiting which went on during the 2008 campaign would finally have to be put to rest. But, in the past three years since Obama's election, the "racist" moniker seems to be flung about with even more frequency than before the election.

In addition, too many Democrats have shown that they do not understand the definition of racism and, instead, seems to think that racism is a one-way street-that it only exists as a White against Black issue. In reality, any person who immediately assumes that a person's actions towards them are solely based on one's ethnic origin may be exhibiting symptoms of racism.

Still, almost anyone who criticizes Obama and the Democrats' failed policies is labeled as a "racist". When Black Republicans, such as me, criticize the president's failed policies, Democrats know that the "racist" moniker won't work, so instead, we are attacked as "traitors to our race", or the media tries to portray us as stupid or corrupt.

But if a president's policies are bad, if they fail to achieve their objectives (such as Cash for Clunkers, Cash for Caulkers, green energy investment initiatives, the "summer of recovery" or the Stimulus) is it really "racist" to criticize the policy or to think that the American people deserve better-even if the policy is advocated by a Black man? Is it "racist" to criticize the president because he has failed to submit a viable budget to congress for the past four years, or just incompetence on the part of the president?

The president also seems to be a liar. According to Webster, a liar is "a person who tells lies", who deliberately "makes an untrue statement with the intent to deceive; to create a false or misleading impression."

Isn't that exactly what Obama has done when he says: he didn't really know or hear the Rev. Jeremiah Wright preach anti-American sentiments, or when he writes about events that are patently untrue in his autobiography, Dreams of My Father, or when Obama deliberately tells lies about Romney and Bain Capital, or when Obama deliberately lies about the debt ceiling, or when Obama tries to claim the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya was not terrorism?

What about other Democrat leaders? Such as when Harry Reid claims that Mitt Romney didn't pay his taxes? Or whenEric Holder says he knew nothing about Fast and Furious? Or when Elizabeth Warren claims she is part Native American so she can game a hiring system which is tilted in favor of quotas and minorities?

In the past three and a half years, Republicans have worn out the pages of the thesaurus looking for euphemisms for lying. Republican punditry, speeches and writings are chock full of alternatives: mislead, mischaracterize, misrepresent, untruth, misspeak, prevaricate, fabricate, story, taradiddle, fairy tale, inaccurate, falsehoods, dishonest, distortion, whopper, canard, deceit, stretching the truth.

Supposedly, according to Republican "strategists", using the word "lie" is too direct, too brutal, too hostile and might coarsen the dialogue between political parties. Using the word "liar", they contend, would lead to vicious attacks from the mainstream media and would cause Republicans to lose respect or votes or the moral high ground. But, I would hate to hear what these Republican pundits think is too coarse or too harsh, if they think that the attacks from Democrat leaders over the past few years have been friendly banter.

When did our country slip so far, fall so low, that we have become so handcuffed by political correctness that we are unable to call a thing by its true name? Socrates understood that watering down one's language does not change the truth or make it more palatable, just more confusing.

Our founding fathers understood that too. Our founding fathers were some of the most courageous and least politically correct folks of their century (think Ben Franklin).

Their willingness to speak the truth as they saw it may be one of the reasons why they had the courage to attack tyranny and hypocrisy and hold up the flawed policies of a greedy and ignorant king for the world to see, and in doing so, lay the foundations for the greatest free government in the history of the world.

Republicans need to stop being cowed by rants of "racism" and they need to stop trying to find ways to soften the reality of Obama's widespread and repeated deceptions.

Perhaps Wednesday's debate might be a great place to start.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


7 October, 2012

Strategies of denial in progressive-left Jewish discourse

Mike Lumish outlines below some dysfunctional behaviors that Sigmund Freud would readily recognize. Freud was of course Jewish. Freud however tried to work out why people behaved so irrationally. Mike has not yet got to that point so one hopes to hear from him when he does.

An obvious explanation is that Jews hate their hereditary status as outsiders and so try to make themselves into insiders. But that could lead them into being conservatives. Why Leftism? One reason is that Leftists are full of hate towards the world about them and many Jews hate the world that has made them outsiders. So Jews and the Left have something intrinsically in common. I could go on but suffice it to say that the mental dysfunction described below does need a lot of explaining.

Perhaps the most astonishing fact about the current political moment is the chilling indifference of progressive-left Jews to the anti-Jewish/anti-Israel behavior of the Obama administration. As an American apostate from the political left, due, at least in part, to Barack Obama’s veiled hostility to the State of Israel, I am constantly amazed at the strategies of denial in progressive-left Jewish discourse. In order to put a happy face on the Obama administration, and thereby keep Jewish American voters in line, various rhetorical strategies are employed. These include, but are not limited to, ignoring obvious truths, denying obvious truths, minimizing obvious truths, diffusion of responsibility, and the lowest of all, defamation of character.

Ignoring obvious truths

Obama wrecked whatever potential there may have been in the peace process and then blamed the Israelis for his own failure. He ushered the Muslim Brotherhood into power in Egypt and then said, in effect, “Oh, well. Egypt is no longer an ally. Not an enemy, really, but not an ally.” Obama is perfectly fine with the idea of a Judenrein state of Palestine and feels that he has the right to tell Jewish people where we may, or may not, be allowed to live, and thus build, in both Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.

These truths are obvious and entirely ignored among “progressive Zionists” in the United States.

The very first tactic that is used on the Jewish left to protect Obama is simply to ignore inconvenient facts. It is unfathomable that American Jews would vote for an American presidential candidate who believes, in the manner of some 14th century Italian potentate, that he has the right to dictate where Jews can live. The reason that so many American Jews will vote for Obama is because they simply ignore very significant and obvious and inconvenient truths.

Denying obvious truths

When “progressive Zionists” cannot ignore obvious truths, because people like me point them out, they often simply deny obvious truths. This is a very common strategy within Jewish-left discourse when it comes to any number of things including, for example, the fact that the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction (BDS) the State of Israel is a sub-political movement derived from the progressive-left itself.

I feel considerable sympathy for Jews on the left who favor Israel, because they are spit on daily by their anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic “friends” within their own political movement — and I say this as someone who comes out of that movement. The progressive left has become a hotbed of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism, and Jews who choose to participate in such venues are subject to perpetual harassment. They are constantly called out for supporting the allegedly racist, colonialist, imperialist, militarist, apartheid — and did I mention racist? — state of Israel, and yet, they mainly remain loyal foot-soldiers to the very political movement that acts in opposition to Jewish well-being.

What I have sometimes found is that when called upon to explain just why they continue to support a political movement that has no interest in supporting the Jewish people, they simply deny the obvious truth.

I have been told by exceedingly intelligent Jewish people on the progressive left who follow the Arab-Israel conflict that BDS is not a movement of the left.

The claim is laughable on its face, and yet, progressive-left Jews will make that claim in order to spare themselves embarrassment.

Minimizing obvious truths

A slightly more sophisticated tactic is to simply minimize obvious truths. When confronted with the obvious fact that BDS and anti-Semitic anti-Zionism is, in the West, mainly a product of the progressive-left, the tendency is to minimize. Jewish progressives will tell us that it’s only a fringe of the fringe that are anti-Zionist. A few people on a few websites are nothing to be concerned about, we are assured. Yet the truth of the matter is that anti-Israel bias is rife throughout the Western academe and media. The problem is not a matter of a few fringe websites, nor even major progressive-left websites that peddle anti-Zionist hatred, such as Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, or the Guardian, but also universities such as Yale that cancelled the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) or Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, which both recently hosted anti-Zionist conferences.

Thus, progressive-left Jewish apologists endanger world Jewry by pretending a clear and present danger is nothing to really be concerned about.

Diffusion of responsibility

This one tends to be used when criticizing Obama’s dysfunctional relationship with the Jewish State of Israel. Obama wrecked whatever potential there may have been in the peace process by demanding “total settlement freeze” even in areas of Jerusalem which, it was widely acknowledged, would remain part of Israel in any future agreement, such as Ramat Shlomo. What I am often told when this issue is raised is that Obama’s policy on the “settlements” is no different from that of his predecessors. George W. Bush, they will say, also opposed Israeli construction in the “West Bank,” as did Bill Clinton.

This is diffusion of responsibility. The claim suggests that even if Obama did demand “total settlement freeze,” such a demand is fully in keeping with American foreign policy going back many presidential tenures. Of course, what it overlooks is the fact that it was the Obama administration that made “total settlement freeze” a prerequisite for negotiations with the Palestinians. It was Obama, and no one else, who pulled the rug out from under negotiations before they even began.

Defamation of character

Now this one is my all-time favorite. As any religious defector can tell you, there is nothing that brings out the malice like religious apostasy. And just as this holds true for many religious people, it is most certainly true for very many political people, as well. For many years I was part of the American left, and I still hold to many “progressive” political positions. I favor a woman’s right to choose an abortion and I do not care if 37 of my gay neighbors all decide to marry one another, so long as they invite me to the barbecue. I opposed the war in Afghanistan, and particularly in Iraq, and marched against them perpetually throughout the Bush years.

And then one day, while listening to anti-war speakers in Civic Center San Francisco, I looked up and saw a banner with a Nazi swastika entwined in a Star of David. It was then that I finally realized that the progressive movement held a poison at its core.

I have not been to an anti-war rally since.


Bureaucratic hatred of a great British entrepreneur behind rail contract fiasco

Derogatory emails about Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains were allegedly sent between civil servants under investigation over the shambles of the West Coast mainline franchise.

The messages were between a dozen staff at the Department for Transport, which has been accused of allowing the development of a culture characterised as ‘ABB – Anyone But Branson’.

The emails were allegedly sent between those responsible for overseeing the franchise bidding and other decision-makers connected with the route.

The Government awarded the new £7billion franchise to FirstGroup, but cancelled it before the planned handover in December after Sir Richard’s Virgin group, which offered £700million less, made a successful legal challenge on the grounds that the Government ‘got its sums wrong’.

Last night an insider revealed: ‘There is electronic e-mail traffic between the officials. In some of them Virgin is referred to in derogatory terms. Some people sent these messages, others received them.’

Virgin executives have long been concerned about the perception of an ‘anti-Virgin’ bias and culture within the department characterised as ‘Anyone But Branson’.

Industry insiders said Whitehall officials – some of whom had worked for more traditional train operators – disliked the firm’s maverick approach.

There was allegedly deep resentment when Virgin renegotiated the terms of the West Coast franchise in 2006 on terms which ‘nailed them to the floor’. ‘Some people in the department felt they were stitched up,’ said one source. ‘It’s a catalogue of calamities.’

Officially, the ‘flaw’ at the centre of the investigation stems from the way the level of risk in the rival bids was evaluated.

Mistakes were made in the way in which inflation and passenger numbers were taken into account, and how much money bidders were then asked to guarantee as a result.

But Sir Richard told the Daily Mail that officials failed to play fair. He said: ‘First Group were given information Virgin was not given. And some of the information was not given to everyone equally. ‘But to the credit of the new minister, he said they were 100 per cent guilty and were dealing with it.’

Three civil servants have been suspended over the fiasco, which is expected to cost taxpayers more than £100million after new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin pulled the plug on the whole process a minute after midnight on Wednesday.

The news caused First Group’s shares to plummet by 20 per cent, wiping £240million off its value.

Sir Richard said Whitehall had accepted that First Group’s successful £7billion bid for the 15-year franchise was ‘five times riskier’ than Virgin’s by demanding a £200million guarantee – compared to just £40million demanded of Virgin.

But if the Department had properly followed its rules, the Government should have demanded a £600million security.

Commenting on the First Group passenger projections made and accepted by the transport department, he said: ‘You would have had to pile people on the roof of the train like in India to get anywhere near that.’

He said the ‘feedback’ he was getting from the Government was that they wanted him to continue running the line ‘for the next 12 to 24 months’ until the next franchise bidding got under way.

A DfT spokesman said: ‘There is no culture of bias against Virgin at the Department for Transport and we have seen no evidence to suggest that there is. ‘We are also not aware of any email exchanges that are derogatory towards Virgin or suggest that officials have acted in any way other than impartially and in good faith.’

- Justine Greening was told about an ‘error’ in the Government’s handling of the West Coast franchise within hours of a legal challenge being launched by Sir Richard, it emerged last night.

An aide to the former Transport Secretary said she had been informed of a problem with the bid shortly after the Virgin boss started legal action on August 28.

One week later, she was promoted to International Development Secretary in David Cameron’s first reshuffle – leaving successor Mr McLoughlin to make a humiliating climbdown this week when the full scale of the department’s failings emerged.


Tax-dodging BBC fatcats

Tax is good -- unless you are the one paying it, apparently

The BBC hands out 25,000 contracts a year that can help its workers pay less tax, MPs reveal today. The off-the-books arrangements create ‘suspicions of complicity in tax avoidance’, according to Commons spending watchdog Margaret Hodge.

The workers include 4,500 presenters and backroom employees paid through ‘personal service companies’ that allow them to limit substantially their tax liabilities.

That figure – revealed by the BBC last night – is much higher than previously thought and covers 400 stars paid at least £50,000 a year. Of these, 148 are news presenters such as Fiona Bruce and Jeremy Paxman.

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander told the Daily Mail he expected the corporation to take ‘swift and decisive action’ to address public concern about the tax arrangements.

Thirteen thousand of the off-the-books contracts are for on-air roles. The BBC stressed that most are normal freelance contracts, rather than personal service company deals.

The corporation, which said the 25,000 figure includes individuals with multiple contracts, has launched an internal review into the issue, while insisting it has done nothing wrong.

But MPs last night said they were shocked by the scale of the issue at the BBC. In a damning report, the Commons public accounts committee said it was alarmed the Corporation could not ‘provide any assurance that these individuals are paying the correct amount of tax’.

Mrs Hodge, the chairman of the committee, said the practice, which has been uncovered elsewhere in the public sector, ‘generates suspicions of complicity in tax avoidance and fails to meet the standards expected of public officials’.

The Labour MP added: ‘We were shocked to discover that the BBC has about 25,000 off-payroll contracts. Some 13,000 of these are for individuals who are on our screens and on the radio every day. They are the public face of the BBC.

‘Avoiding tax and national insurance when paying public sector staff is almost always staggeringly inappropriate. ‘The public sector must maintain the highest standards of propriety in its employment practices if it is to show leadership in the fight against tax avoidance.’

Mr Alexander ordered a crackdown on the use of personal service companies in the public sector after it emerged that 2,400 senior civil servants were employed in this way.

As an independent organisation, the BBC is beyond the scope of the Treasury review, but Mr Alexander has written to the Corporation’s new director-general George Entwistle asking him to follow suit. He told the Mail: ‘We took swift and decisive action to improve tax transparency in central government. I see no reason why, just like we have in central government, the BBC shouldn’t be able to provide assurance that its employees are paying the proper amount of tax and NI.

‘With a new broom at the top of the BBC there is an opportunity to look again at this issue. I look forward to seeing the findings of their review.’

So far the BBC has moved just two workers on to its payroll as a result of its investigations.

Those employed through personal service companies are responsible for ensuring they pay the right amount of tax and national insurance because it is not deducted from their salary at source.

Unlike normal freelance contracts there is no liability against the BBC if a mistake is made.

MPs heard evidence that the BBC requires some on-screen stars to set up these arrangements – a claim disputed by the corporation.
Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander told the Daily Mail he expected the BBC to take 'swift and decisive action' to address public concern about the tax arrangements

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander told the Daily Mail he expected the BBC to take 'swift and decisive action' to address public concern about the tax arrangements

The BBC denies that the arrangement reduces its tax bill or that of top stars. It claims the practice is standard in the industry and reflects the fact that many presenters have other outside earnings.

The Commons inquiry was launched in the wake of controversy over Student Loans Company boss Ed Lester’s employment through a personal service company without tax being deducted.

Following a review, the Treasury disclosed in May that more than 2,400 Whitehall staff, each earning more than £58,200 a year, were being paid directly and without PAYE deductions.

But the public accounts committee warned that the Treasury’s review of off-payroll arrangements had been ‘limited’ because it did not cover the wider public sector like local government, the NHS or the BBC.

Mrs Hodge said the committee suspected ‘many individuals and employers in local government and in the health service do not pay their proper tax and national insurance contributions’.

In a statement last night the BBC said: ‘We note the conclusions of the PAC report and will respond to the points raised as part of our detailed review of tax arrangements.’ A spokesman added: ‘The BBC pointed out that this relates to 25,000 contracts and not 25,000 people, and that in many cases an individual – such as an occasional contributor to programmes – could be issued with a contract each time he or she is booked to appear.’

They made us do it, say the BBC stars

Mr Paxman has said it was not his choice to be paid through a private service company.

The Newsnight presenter insisted the BBC had ‘required me to form a company if I wanted to continue to present Newsnight. It claimed it had been told to do so by the HMRC’.

Antiques Roadshow presenter Miss Bruce said she had formed a company because ‘it was a stipulation laid down by the BBC’.

Last year tax inspectors launched just 23 investigations into breaches of the law surrounding personal service companies – down from more than 1,000 a year a decade ago.


A Straw Man Is Beating Republicans

Liberalism is in ascendency in the world due in large part to the huge success it has had fending off criticism by employing the straw man technique. Any who disagree with the progressive agenda are accused of being cruel, insensitive, out of touch, racist, or elitist. Progressives successfully turn policy disagreements into diatribes about how awful their critics are. And it's working- big time.

Using a straw man refers to the practice of responding to criticism by rewording your opponent's argument into one that has an obvious flaw, and then attacking the flaw and claiming victory.

A good example is the reaction to an increasing number of school districts that are offering free breakfasts to students regardless of income. Some disagree that the expense is warranted. The straw man technique is to restructure the criticism from whether or not the plan is warranted to the assertion that critics disagree with feeding hungry poor children. The topic quickly becomes the progressive's incredulity at the fact that conservatives want poor kids to starve, not why the district should conserve precious benefits by limiting them to the needy. Conservatives usually back off in fear of being disliked, and there goes another progressive victory.

Victory in battles like this is why the liberals are entering the golden age of their power. Those who teach our kids, write our textbooks, edit our newspapers, produce our newscasts, direct our movies, and run our city councils are mostly liberals. That's where the real power lies -- not in who wins the next election. Each year, our society is exposed to more liberal ideology and less conservative thought. We can expect the shift to the left to continue as long as the left's ideas are left standing unchallenged.

Nowhere is the straw man technique more obvious that in the debate on the recent health care bill. It's the same old story: Republicans disagree with a liberal health plan, so the liberals restructure the criticism into the conservatives saying that they don't want any of the uninsured to get coverage, and you get articles that say things like "[t]his is the shameful reality behind the GOP's rhetoric on health care. Republicans don't want to spend a penny to insure the uninsured." Classic straw man. Notice that this technique takes the examination of the liberal plan off the table and focuses all discussion on how horrible conservatives are. You're either with them or against humanity.

The technique is often so obvious that it's surprising that it still works, but you can't argue with success. Consider the recent response to Republican opposition to the policy of forcing insurance companies to provide birth control at no charge. Surprise, surprise: the liberal response at the convention was the predictable straw man technique. It was said that "an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms ... in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don't." Wow, those people sound horrible, don't they? What kind of monsters would want this? Conservatives.

A popular straw man technique going today is to simply state that "[t]he Republican response to pleas to help the poor is to say you're on your own." It is incredibly effective. That way, anyone who opposes any social spending has an animus against the poor. It redirects the argument from whether the policy is a good idea to one about how we can ever have a fair society if conservatives are around.

It's easy for the progressives to feel like elitists, because in their minds their opponents are some of the most heartless bastards ever to walk the earth. After all, if the progressive's claims are correct, then conservatives hate blacks, the elderly, the poor, the environment, kids, women, the middle class, and most woodland creatures.

The straw man also works great in response to voter identification laws that require voters to show photo ID. The proponents of such laws are classified as racists who want to disenfranchise blacks -- and it's easy to impugn blatant racists. The predictable liberal response includes "Romney's support for voter suppression laws disrespects the group's [i.e., the NAACP's] entire legacy." Here they go again: if you are in favor of requiring voter ID, you favor it because it denies the vote to the poor. But since ID is required to apply for food stamps, does that mean liberals are in favor of starving the poor, blacks included? Turnabout is fair play.

The straw man method works every time, and as long as only progressives use it, they'll have an unfair advantage. Why ask why it works? The fact of the matter is that this is our new reality, and we have to learn to deal with it. In the future, Republicans would be well-advised to respond to the play, not the player; when they see a straw man coning after them, they should say so, and then shift the discussion back to the issue at hand. Or they are going to need some straw men of their own.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


5 October, 2012

Some Stark Intolerance by ‘progressive’ Jews

I made my own comments on this yesterday on TONGUE-TIED. I find it hard to get past the religious aspect of this -- the fact that the only person in the shul who was faithful to the Torah was Michele Bachmann. Do the self-righteous homosexuals in the congregation ever read the Torah? Bachmann is a better Jew than they are (Leviticus 18:22). Their "faith" is just Leftism. They profane the faith of the children of Israel by calling themselves Jews. They are just play-acting secularists

While most of the Jewish world generally considers Yom Kippur as being a time for setting aside grudges and petty dislikes and undertaking a little personal introspection, a bizarre series of events seems to have unfolded around a non-Orthodox congregation in Chicago, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and the Yom Kippur Kol Nidrei service.

The former Republican Presidential candidate and long time supporter of Israel had reportedly taken up the invite of the President of AIPAC to accompany him to the Kol Nidrei service at Anshe Emet Synagogue. However, when the protocol was followed of announcing Michelle Bachmann’s presence at the service a murmur of disapproval was heard amidst the congregation and a number of congregants even walked out of the service. Later, several members of the community registered their strong opposition to Bachmann’s presence at their service, with one same sex couple claiming that they would refuse to attend services the following day, presumably on account of the Congresswoman’s views on same sex marriage. One has to wonder if they threaten never to return every time a reading from the Torah takes place, given its position on the subject.

Of all those whipped up in the outrage, the most vocal opposition seems to have come from a young man called Gary Sircus who by all accounts found the demonic forces of Michelle Bachmann so overpowering that in his own words “The holiness of the room and the holiness of the evening was greatly diminished for me, if not completely destroyed”. Indeed, it seems that for Sircus the holiness of the day had been rendered so tarnished that he evidently felt compelled to forgo several of the religious prohibitions associated with the day and promptly went out and donated funds to Michelle Bachmann’s Democrat opponent that very same evening.

Yet, perhaps it is unfair to question Mr Sircus’ talk of holiness, for it appears he saw his mission against Michelle Bachmann in quasi-religious terms, claiming “Bachmann actively campaigns against virtually every principle on which my faith is grounded.” Even more startlingly, in an email he sent out as part of the campaign he has launched to win funding for Bachmann’s opponent in the wake of her synagogue visit, Sircus stated: “Even though I do not vote in Minnesota, please do everything in your power to take away this evil woman’s soapbox.” The assertion that Bachmann should be considered ‘evil’ does not go completely unsubstantiated, however, for as Sircus explains “Our congregation values and embodies tolerance, compassion, respect for individual rights, intelligence, science — all of the things that I think Michele Bachmann stands against”.

Just on a side, it would be fascinating to hear from Gary how exactly he squares these allegations of Bachmann’s mission against her twin enemies; ‘compassion’ and ‘intelligence’, with her having fostered 23 children and her tireless campaigning to ensure that schools give a genuinely academic education, against attempts to reduce them to places of mere vocational training.

Anyway, what is so striking about these comments is that having identified Michele Bachmann as a force for absolute evil in the world, the more familiar relativist sentiments also clearly raise their head. The fashionable talk of tolerance often suggests the possibility for allowing for all viewpoints, all identities and all people. Except, that is, for those individuals who will not likewise commit to this same worldview; those such as Michele Bachmann, who has as a believing Christian and opponent of radical Islam made clear that there are some things that should not be tolerated so lightly. And so the tolerance professed by communities such as Anshe Emet, with its prominent LGBT population, appears to be rather a sham tolerance, a tolerance that extends only so far as to those individuals who share the values of the community, as Sircus makes so clear in his remarks. He may talk of tolerance and compassion as being values embodied by the community, yet it seems that in practice Congresswoman Bachmann was deemed worthy of being afforded neither of these sentiments. Similarly, while he spoke of the community’s purported support for individual rights, when it came to the right of freedom of religious and political conviction, clearly Michele Bachmann could not expect to enjoy such rights and still have her presence at the synagogue tolerated.

Gary Sircus could not have been clearer than when he qualified his actions with the statement that “she is not simply someone with whom I disagree, but symbolizes and promotes a brand of politics that is in tolerable.” And clearly many others felt the same when they put their money where this rather intolerant mouth is and joined in donating to Bachamann’s Democrat rival as an apparent act of punishment for her having visited their community (with donations from the Chicago area to the Democrat candidate in Minnesota reportedly having increased 400%).

The idea that tolerance means accepting those who have a view that runs counter to and even offends your own would seem to be an anathema to so many self-titled liberal Jews. That is not liberalism. Not in any meaningful sense as most people would understand it, certainly not as the liberal thinker John Stuart Mill would have understood it. Going on a witch hunt against those who dare to show their face at your community while holding opinions different to your own is not liberalism, its fanaticism.

It is curious that having reached out in this way to another faith group and to a community that is so actively supportive of LGBT groups, Michelle Bachmann is not cheered but is instead chastised by this supposedly liberal community. Were Michelle Bachmann to never visit other faith groups or were she to have visited a deeply conservative Orthodox congregation instead, she would doubtless have been criticised by the very same Anshe Emet types. It is as if there is nothing that Bachmann can be allowed to do that might risk redeeming her somewhat in the eyes of progressives. As an evangelical, Tea Party, Republican woman she must remain perpetually vilified and accept the likes of the ever compassionately tolerant Gary Sircus branding her as evil.

What is certainly not the least troubling aspect of this whole affair are the comments made by the congregation’s Rabbi, Rabbi Michael Seigel, who explained without any apparent tone of irony; “I am aware of the fact that our congregation’s policy in regards to public officials clearly caused pain to some members of our community on the most precious day of reconciliation on the Jewish calendar…That we regret deeply.” Yes indeed, Yom Kippur is a day of reconciliation. But why was it that Michelle Bachmann, an evangelical Christian, seized on this opportunity for reconciliation with another faith group and a community associated with LGBT, while ‘progressive’ Jews used this as a chance for rapprochement, hostility and launching a further attack.


Geller Agonistes — Truth in Advertising About the Jihad Against Israel

Andrew Bostom uses a lot of hard words below but his message survives it. ("Agonistes" is ancient Greek for "warrior" but the allusion is probably to "Samson Agonistes" by Milton)

All of us who cherish Western free speech, particularly when it elucidates irrefragable truths, owe an enormous debt to journalist and author Pamela Geller.

With courageous tenacity, and unflappable poise (listen to former New York Governor David Paterson's own eyewitness account of her appearance at the New York Metropolitan Transportation [MTA] Authority board meeting, 9/27/12 ), Ms. Geller obtained permission to post advertisements in the New York City subway system that appositely characterize the Palestinian Muslim-and larger global Muslim umma's-annihilationist jihad against Israel.

An earlier advertising campaign allowed by the MTA promulgated the ahistorical, Islamic supremacist narrative: that all of historical Palestine remains the "fay territory," or booty, of its 7th century Muslim jihad conquerors who massacred, pillaged, deported, and enslaved the indigenous non-Arab Christian, Jewish, and Samaritan communities; ignored the fact that in 1922, 78% of the League of Nations Mandate for a Jewish Palestinian homeland was arbitrarily used to create a Judenrein by law Muslim state, i.e. "Trans-Jordan" (see contemporary Jordan's law no. 6, sect. 3, April 3, 1954, reactivated in law no. 7, sect. 2, on April 1, 1963; p. 119, n 82); claimed that since 1948, Israel's defensive wars of survival deprived the would-be murderous Palestinian Muslim community (abetted by Muslim nation armies, and jihadist volunteers, in the Middle East, and beyond) of some of the remaining disputed territory, while being responsible for "4.5 million Palestinian refugees"- at least six-fold the actual number of perhaps 750,000, and oblivious to the fact 900,000 Jews in Muslim lands, well removed from the battlegrounds in historical Palestine, were simultaneously made refugees via murderous pogroms, expropriations, and expulsions, between 1948 and 1967.

Geller crafted a response to these mendacious anti-Israel ads, and overcame the MTA's initial refusal to post her ad, with a successful legal challenge. The anti-jihad ad (just below) paraphrases Ayn Rand's astute, if blunt comments about Palestinian irredentism during a 1979 appearance onPhil Donahue's show, while, affirming, correctly, the jihad war being waged against Israel.

The jihad pathology identified and held up for opprobrium in Geller's ad was captured in this graphic discussion of jihadist carnage "celebrations" by the Palestinian Muslim masses, excerpted from Dr. Raphael Israeli's 2003 bookIslamikaze-Manifestations of Islamic Martyrology:
...few outsiders have paid attention to the makeshift stage, erected at the terminal of those processions, which bring to their climax the celebrations. Often the latest target they destroyed, for example an Israeli bus loaded with dozens of passengers on board, is meticulously reconstructed in paper, cardboard and cloth, painted so as to imitate the original, and then set ablaze to the lunatic cries of delight of the watching crowds. All the while, the perpetrators of the actual horror against the real Israeli bus, or more often their successors, who wished to cultivate the "heritage" of the deceased Islamikaze, run around the stage in frenzy, shoot long bursts in the air as if possessed by some other worldly power, shout blood-chilling war cries, repeatedly invoke the Power of Allah, smash the burned carcass of the bus and stab with bayonets the "remnants" of the slain "passenger," whom they, or their fellow kamikaze had earlier slain in reality.

Even these horrendous scenes, taken from a different reality than the one known to civilized people, can be "improved upon" by the Hamas. In Nablus, during the Palestinian Intifadah that broke out in October 2000, a most disturbing "exhibition" was presented to the general public in the city public square, which showed in inhuman detail the replicas of blown-up limbs and body pieces of Israelis who had perished in a restaurant by Hamas Islamikaze. It was only the reports of the deeply disgusted foreign correspondents, and the protests of the Israelis who did not want to relive that horro by seeing it replicated on the screens, which convinced the Palestinian Authority to move the exhibition indoors, not to close it down, and arrest its promoters.
Moreover hard data confirm the ongoing implacable, murderous irredentism of Israel's Palestinian Muslim "peace partners."

During July 2011, American pollster Stanley Greenberg reported the findings from what was described as an "intensive, face-to-face survey in Arabic of 1,010 Palestinian adults in Judea-Samaria, and the Gaza Strip."

Here are the two most salient, pathognomonic survey results which further validate the underlying veracity of Geller's anti-jihad ad:

First, 73% of the Palestinians surveyed agree with the annihilationist dictates of this canonical hadith (the words and deeds of Islam's prophet Muhammad which have a weight often equal to the Koran), quoted in the Hamas Covenant.

As characterized in the hadith, Muslim eschatology - end of times theology - highlights the Jews' supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl - the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ - or according to another tradition, the Dajjâl is himself Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions maintain that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan, or Jerusalem, wrapped in their robes, and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered - everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree, as per the canonical hadith (Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985) included in the 1988 Hamas Covenant (in article 7). The hadith - which three-fourths of those surveyed agree should be acted upon - is cited in the Covenant as a sacralized, obligatory call for a Muslim genocide of the Jews:
...the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah's prayer and peace be upon him, says: "The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,' except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews." (Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985)
Second, 80% agreed with the quoted sentiments expressed in article 15 of the Hamas Covenant (subtitled, "Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine is a Personal Duty"), which describes classical jihadist theory - including jihad martyrdom (i.e., homicide bombing) operations - as well as its practical modern application to the destruction of Israel by jihad, and the need to recruit the entire global Muslim community, or "umma," in this quintessential Islamic cause:
The day the enemies conquer some part of the Muslim land, jihad becomes a personal duty of every Muslim. In the face of the Jewish occupation of Palestine, it is necessary to raise the banner of jihad. This requires the propagation of Islamic consciousness among the masses, locally [in Palestine], in the Arab world and in the Islamic world. It is necessary to instill the spirit of jihad in the nation, engage the enemies and join the ranks of the jihad fighters. The indoctrination campaign must involve ulama, educators, teachers and information and media experts, as well as all intellectuals, especially the young people and the sheikhs of Islamic movements...

It is necessary to establish in the minds of all the Muslim generations that the Palestinian issue is a religious issue, and that it must be dealt with as such, for [Palestine] contains Islamic holy places, [namely] the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is inseparably connected, for as long as heaven and earth shall endure, to the holy mosque of Mecca through the Prophet's nocturnal journey [from the mosque of Mecca to the Al-Aqsa mosque] and through his ascension to heaven thence. "Being stationed on the frontier for the sake of Allah for one day is better than this [entire] world and everything in it; and the place taken up in paradise by the [horseman's] whip of any one of you [jihad fighters] is better than this [entire] world and everything in it. Every evening [operation] and morning [operation] performed by Muslims for the sake of Allah is better than this [entire] world and everything in it." (Recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and Ibn Maja). "By the name of Him who holds Muhammad's soul in His hand, I wish to launch an attack for the sake of Allah and be killed and attack again and be killed and attack again and be killed." (Recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim)
The actual Palestinian Muslim jihad savagery, and its equally heinous, continued, and widespread promulgation with an Islamic religious imprimatur, is far worse than conveyed in the ad's comparatively staid language.

Free speech champion Pamela Geller, in the words of the late historian and human rights activist David Littman (quoting his beloved Shakespeare's Henry V, Act 3 Scene 1), has "shown us the mettle of her pasture." All who wish to protect freedom of speech must share the burden of its defense, or this bedrock Western freedom will disappear, trampled by Sharia supremacists and their morally cretinous non-Muslim abettors.


The inverted snobbery of the British Labor Party leader relies on a deception

Some comments below by a British woman who went to a real "comprehensive" school, which makes her a "compster". Such schools vary a lot according to their catchment area but their reputation is for bad pupil behaviour and poor intellectual standards. They are Britian's principal taxpayer-supported schools. They are rarely a starting point for a lifetime of achievement

My privately educated mate has lovely manners and first-rate grammar. But in suffering, in bitter experience, I am his superior and I carry that knowledge like a knife. This is where Compsters score: lacking playing fields, we have never been under any illusion that life is cricket.

Ed Miliband made a big issue of his school in his acclaimed “One Nation” conference speech. “I went to a comprehensive,” Ed said. About 15 times. Unlike the Labour leader, I don’t believe that a choice your parents made for you merits applause. It’s the choices we make ourselves that prove who we are.

Anyway, it’s pretty pathetic that Ed should need to boast that he went to the same sort of school as 93 per cent of Britons, isn’t it? But then it’s pathetic that, in a modern democracy, only eight out of 31 government ministers are fully fledged Compsters. Ed set out to convince people how ordinary he is compared to the “born-to-rule” elite to which Cameron and Clegg belong. Hugging his invisible hoodie to his skinny frame, Pleb Ed pointed out that he had once lived among us at Haverstock Hill Comprehensive in north London.

What Ed forgot to explain is that he is the scion of leftist intellectuals, another kind of social – or socialist – elite. Around the Miliband dinner table in Hampstead, young Ed would say, “I must switch on the television set and discover who shot JR.” And old dad Miliband would snort: “Dallas is American hegemony in action, son. Beware Sue-Ellen, that sensual-mouthed, lipsticked lackey of capitalist running-dogs!”

No wonder Ed was thrilled to go to Haverstock with local oiks who thought Marx was a mate of Spencer. There, he could enjoy the educational experience on offer to any bright, hard-working child in an inner-city comp – being picked on, thumped, and sent on his way with cheery cries of “F--- off, Brains!”

On Twitter this week, the novelist Jojo Moyes recalled her own experience at the same school: “Crossing the playground [at Haverstock] was like crossing No-Man’s Land. Have been in less frightening riots in the Falls Road [Northern Ireland].”

Pleb Ed recalled no such grim scenes; they would have complicated a feelgood speech. He said only that Haverstock was “a really tough school” and he was grateful for the chance to “meet kids from all walks of life”. And be stabbed by them.

“I wouldn’t be standing on this stage without my COMPREHENSIVE education,” hollered Pleb Ed. That’s a lie, and a cowardly one. If your father can wangle you work experience in Tony Benn’s office, then you are not a bog-standard Compster. If you grow up in a book-lined Georgian villa, you are born to a life of privilege most Compsters can only dream of.

The tragedy is not that Miliband is a hypocrite who uses his biography selectively to curry favour with the masses. That’s now standard political practice. No, the tragedy is that Ed actually went to the kind of crap school thousands of kids have to put up with, but ideology prevents him telling the truth about it.

In his new memoir, Last Man Standing, Jack Straw displays rather more candour. He confesses that inner-city schools “had become less pretty than many on the Left were prepared to admit”. Comprehensives, says Straw bluntly, were the brainwave of “elites planning for other people’s children”.

Shamefully, Pleb Ed’s speech contained not a single word of praise for Labour’s academies programme, which has done so much to bring back discipline and raise standards in secondary swamps. Instead, he took some cheap shots at Michael Gove, who is trying to build on that good work.

Pleb Ed should ask himself why the present head of Haverstock admits his school is no longer chosen by middle-class parents. Teachers who were allowed to be frightening; setting and streaming which permitted the geeky Miliband brothers to learn away from disruptive kids… over the years, such things were banished by Labour in the name of progress, which stymied the very children it was supposed to help.

If Ed Miliband is serious about the One Nation idea, he could start by admitting that too many comprehensives, like the one he attended, are failing and that every child deserves the education enjoyed by those lucky enough to be at private school. Then he could throw his party behind city academies and any kind of educational provision which gets results. Scorning elitism when you are the product of an elite yourself is no kind of lesson to teach our young people.

At which point, the resident public schoolboy would probably sigh and say: “An nescis, mea puella, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur?”*. To which I would reply: Speak English, you posh git!

Did I mention I went to a comprehensive?


Western Courts Bend to Islamic Practices

Judges' consideration of Shari'a when deciding cases may be the most alarming avenue by which Islam influences Western legal systems, but it is not the only one. With increasing regularity, Islamic practices sway the administration of courtrooms, affecting when sessions are held, who must rise, and what attire is permissible. This trend should not be overlooked. Courts that yield to Islamic norms, even in mundane matters, encourage Islamists and cast doubt on the future of equal rights and responsibilities under the law.

Ramadan. The Islamic month of fasting can require significant shuffling of schedules by devout Muslims, but are secular courts obligated to alter theirs? Some answer in the affirmative.

Muslim convert Mark Edward Wetsch is one recent beneficiary. Charged with robbing 13 Minnesota banks, he objected to a hearing set for July 20, 2012, the first day of Ramadan, and asked that it be pushed back for a month. Though Judge Jeanne Graham initially declined the request, he persisted. Ramadan means "not engaging in conflict and argument," but rather taking part in "work to reconcile differences and seek peace," according to a motion filed on his behalf. "Clearly, a contested hearing in which the government is making allegations against Mr. Wetsch and he is fighting against [them] causes him to engage in conflict and argument." Graham relented and issued the desired continuance.

The U.S. military court that will try five al-Qaeda terrorists accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks bent to similar sensitivities this year. After turning their May 5 arraignment into a circus, the jihadists sought to postpone a hearing scheduled for the week of August 8, near the end of Ramadan. James Connell III, a government-compensated defense attorney, stressed in a filing that "the last 10 days of Ramadan commemorate the night God - Allah - revealed the Holy Quran to the Prophet Mohammed." Hence, "these 10 days are the most holy period of the Muslim calendar and are typically observed by fasting, prayer, and seclusion." Despite having previously ruled out Ramadan-related extensions, the judge, Colonel James Pohl, agreed to a delay. Connell was relieved: "It's very difficult to pay attention to sometimes intricate legal proceedings when you haven't had any sleep and you haven't had any food." (In one bright spot, Pohl rebuffed a petition not to hold hearings on Fridays, the day of communal Islamic prayers.)

Such Ramadan accommodations are not new. Four years ago, a French judge postponed a trial after a lawyer complained that "his client, a Muslim, would have been fasting for two weeks and thus, he said, be in no position to defend himself properly," in the words of the BBC. "He would be physically weakened and too tired to follow the arguments as he should." (Note that Muslims have played professional football during Ramadan fasts, so it is not obvious that ordinary Muslims are incapable of sitting in a courtroom.) A prosecutor denied that Ramadan had anything to do with the change, but others believed it to be the sole viable explanation. Fadela Amara, a Muslim then serving as urban affairs minister, decried the "knife wound" to France's separation of religion and state.

Of course, scheduling controversies are not exclusive to Islam. In 2011, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court had "abused its discretion" by rejecting an Orthodox Jewish plaintiff's motion to suspend a malpractice trial for two days due to Shavuot, during which his faith would preclude him from working or having work done for him. However, the decision stands out because many other U.S. federal and state courts have found no abuse of discretion by judges who did not grant similar Jewish holiday requests. If a continuance of one or two days is not automatic, then certainly the bar should be that much higher for a month-long Ramadan break - especially when its religious necessity is far less concrete than the work proscriptions characterizing strictly observed Jewish holidays.

Rising for judges. Standing when a judge enters and leaves the courtroom is a centuries-old tradition conveying respect for authority and maintaining order. Those who fail to rise may be cited for contempt, but some Muslims are challenging this point of protocol.

The most important U.S. case has centered on Amina Farah Ali, a citizen and Minnesota resident who, along with a second woman, faced federal charges of funding a Somali terrorist organization; both were convicted last autumn. After Ali did not stand at a pretrial hearing, Judge Michael Davis warned that all must do so. Unlike other Muslims present, she refused again and again for the first two days of the trial, prompting Davis to issue 20 contempt citations carrying jail time. The defendant said that because Islam's prophet had told his followers that they did not need to honor him in that way, it would be wrong of her to stand for anyone but Allah. An appeals court threw out 19 of the citations in June, determining that an ultimatum to rise "substantially burdens the free exercise of religion" for her. It instructed Davis to consider her rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which declares that religious exercise can be curbed only if the government has a compelling reason. On September 18, Davis reinstated contempt charges but then quickly "purged" them, dropping the penalties. While there are precedents for religious exemptions from the standing requirement, involving Quakers in particular, Ali's case opens the door for a very different group: American Islamists eager to thumb their noses at the secular legal system. Expect more such incidents in the U.S.

Comparable conflicts have erupted elsewhere. Several radicals later found guilty of shouting hatred at British troops during a 2009 homecoming parade would not rise at their trial, because "in Muslim countries it is a grave and cardinal sin to show respect in this way to anyone other than God himself." Although the UK is not a Muslim country - at least not yet - the judge caved, acceding to a compromise whereby they could enter the courtroom after she did. Accused terrorists are not big fans of the standing requirement either, as seen in 2007 at the outset of proceedings against nine men from Sydney, Australia, charged with plotting attacks. According to one account, the judge "was not concerned by the refusal but suggested it might not be a wise course of action when the trial started," for jurors could take a harsher view. The jihadists got their comeuppance regardless: all eventually pleaded guilty or were convicted.

The issue has extended to lawyers as well. Mohammed Enait, a fundamentalist attorney in the Netherlands, initiated a long dispute over his resolve to stay seated on the grounds that all are equal before Allah. Mixed messages ensued. A court in 2008 approved an exception for Enait, but it was reversed. Meanwhile, the bar association reprimanded him, but an appeals tribunal voided it, referencing his "sincere and authentic religious convictions."

Clothing. Common sense dictates that face veils (niqabs) should not be welcome in a court of law, where security is critical, participants must be identified, and some judges and lawyers use facial expressions to analyze the veracity of statements. Yet none of this has slowed the push for concessions.

The good news is that most witnesses wanting to wear niqabs are turned down, as demonstrated by examples from Australia, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, the temporarily uncovered women often are allowed to testify with backs to the audience or from behind screens - an accommodation in and of itself. Also of relevance, judges have been known to expel women in niqabs from public seating areas, with recent ejections in France, where face-concealing attire is now broadly restricted, and Sweden, where safety concerns were voiced at a hearing related to a plot to kill cartoonist Lars Vilks.

The bad news is that there have been leaks in the dam, with the potential for more. Three years ago, a woman became the first in Denmark to give evidence from underneath a niqab, after briefly revealing her face to a female judge for identification purposes. A 2012 decision by Italy's Higher Judicial Council clears the way for veils to be worn as long as they "constitute a legitimate exercise of the right to profess one's own religion" and meet the subjective criterion of not "causing disturbance to the regular and correct court proceedings." Indeed, judges in most jurisdictions are not bound by rigid guidelines. For instance, following Judge Paul Paruk's dismissal of a plaintiff's case in 2006 because she would not testify with her face showing, the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed only that lower courts are to "exercise reasonable control over the appearance of parties and witnesses." A judge more in thrall to multiculturalism could have acquiesced to the niqab - just like the Danish one did.

A Canadian case that began in 2007 is among the most pivotal. At its center is a sexual assault complainant, N.S., who wished to testify against two male relatives at a preliminary inquiry while wearing her niqab. The accused men objected, insisting that they would need to see her face to evaluate her claims, and Judge Norris Weisman noted that N.S. was not veiled in her driver's license photo. Weisman determined that she must remove the niqab, but this order was quashed by the Ontario Superior Court and the Court of Appeal for Ontario. The latter extensively acknowledged the religious rights of niqab wearers in the courtroom, though it did admit that in some circumstances a defendant's right to a fair trial could require a witness to bare her face. It sent the issue back for reconsideration and urged "constructive compromises," including such possible arrangements as a female judge and an all-female courtroom staff. The Supreme Court of Canada heard testimony last December, as N.S. was still seeking an order entitling her to take the stand covered. Its eventual ruling may shake up the niqab debate in that country and beyond.

Even the jury box can be a place of controversy. In March, a UK judge took the "extraordinary" step of prohibiting a niqab-clad woman from serving. Muslim leaders condemned it as bias, but one could argue that she actually benefited from a new shade of courtroom accommodation that rescued her from the unpleasantness of jury duty: forget about dropping the veil and just go home. Will more Muslims be inspired to arrive in niqabs, hoping to escape their own obligations?

Although most wrangling has focused on face veils, mainstream Islamic attire occasionally stirs the pot. Allowing judges to wear headscarves (hijabs), which could preempt the desired image of religious neutrality on the bench, is an issue in Europe. A state-appointed body recently recommended that Norwegian judges be permitted to don them, while the topic formerly roiled the Danish government. Lawyers also have been involved in such disputes. In 2009, an appeals panel of the Dutch bar association ruled that the same Mohammed Enait introduced above could wear a "Muslim hat." As for others with business at the courthouse, the U.S. state of Georgia has led the way in officially relaxing restrictions on headgear to accept apparel worn for religious reasons, following the 2008 arrest of a woman who refused to remove her hijab at a security checkpoint; the shift has aided Muslim men as well.

Finally, no discussion would be complete without mentioning Cheryl Bormann, a Pentagon-paid civilian attorney who has covered her hair when representing one of the accused 9/11 planners. She requested that the court order modest dress for all women participating in the Gitmo legal process - "out of respect" - so pious terrorists are not compelled to look away "for fear of committing a sin under their faith."

Additional concerns. Prayer-related concessions are a source of growing discomfort. A court building in Dsseldorf, Germany, ditched crosses but installed footbaths for ritual washing; the need is said to have arisen because Muslims were cleansing their feet in toilets. The anti-military protesters who managed to remain seated at their UK trial "were given an extra 20 minutes on top of their lunch break to go to pray at a mosque," according to a Daily Mail article, and "a separate 'quiet' room [was] set aside for their regular prayer intervals." Early this year, the Associated Press noted in passing that a federal judge presiding over a sex trafficking case in Tennessee was "allowing the defendants to take scheduled Muslim prayer breaks during the proceedings." Deferential inaction also assisted the alleged 9/11 conspirators in using prayers to disrupt their arraignment.

Another jihadist testing the limits of accommodation is Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist facing a court-martial for murdering 13 people at Fort Hood. Contrary to Army regulations, Hasan began sporting a beard at pretrial hearings in June, sparking a protracted legal battle. "In the name of almighty Allah, I am a Muslim," Hasan explained to the judge, Colonel Gregory Gross, on August 30. "I believe that my religion requires me to wear a beard." However, prosecutors suspect that he simply intends to make it harder for witnesses to identify him. Gross ruled on September 6 that Hasan will be forcibly shaved if he does not shave himself - a decision that has been appealed, thus further delaying his trial and, with it, justice for his victims.

Last but not least, recall the infamous, decade-old British case in which a judge banned Jews and Hindus, as well as anyone married to them, from sitting on the jury that ultimately convicted Muslim cleric Abdullah el-Faisal for promoting the murder of those religions' followers. Though the bizarre move was more of an insult to Jews and Hindus, portraying them as completely emotional beings, than a sop to Islam, nobody should assume it to be the only time that a court will employ creative means to segregate Islamists from the groups they despise.

Demands for courtroom accommodations of all types show no signs of diminishing. Given their success in advancing the Islamist cause, why would they?

Unlike believers of various faiths who aspire to fulfill purely personal religious needs, Islamists view concessions as stepping stones to supremacy. Practitioners of cultural jihad understand how obtaining special privileges that appear minor on an individual basis can yield fundamental transformations in the aggregate, eating away at the bedrock principle of equality under the law and establishing that adherents of Islam are more equal than others. This phenomenon is particularly damaging when it takes place inside the courtroom, the venue in which that law is administered most visibly.

Judges must be mindful of this Islamist campaign of inches. Deference to Islam in any aspect of the legal system calls into question its impartiality as a whole, thereby sapping public confidence in the institution and making it an even more attractive target. Excessive accommodations also communicate a troubling message beyond run-of-the-mill weakness. Professor Barry Rubin's remarks on the Amina Farah Ali case put it best: "If Muslims are told that the state accepts the argument that Islamic law is recognized as superior to state law . they are being taught to be political Islamists."

Surely we have enough political Islamists dreaming of our defeat and dhimmitude as it is.

Update: Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes points out another interesting example of accommodation not included above. In 2004, a federal judge in New York allowed a Muslim, Rafil Dhafir, to avoid a strip search before entering the court for his trial. Dhafir had argued, in the words of the Syracuse Post-Standard, that "Muslims must never appear naked in front of anyone except their spouses."



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


4 October, 2012

He hated Britain and excused Stalin's genocide. But was he a traitor too?

Hobsbawm (born Obstbaum -- meaning "Fruit-tree") himself was not so surprising. He was after all just another Leftist Jew. There is a lot of fanatical Leftism among Jews. The elitism of the Left seems to appeal to them. And Obstbaum's elitism is noted below.

But it is the adulation he was given that is problematical. It vividly reveals the nihilist values of the British Left

On Monday evening, the BBC altered its programme schedule to broadcast an hour-long tribute to an old man who had died aged 95, with fawning contributions from the likes of historian Simon Schama and Labour peer Melvyn Bragg.

The next day, the Left-leaning Guardian filled not only the front page and the whole of an inside page but also devoted almost its entire G2 Supplement to the news. The Times devoted a leading article to the death, and a two-page obituary.

You might imagine, given all this coverage and the fact that Tony Blair and Ed Miliband also went out of their way to pay tribute, that the nation was in mourning.

Yet I do not believe that more than one in 10,000 people in this country had so much as heard of Eric Hobsbawm, the fashionable Hampstead Marxist who was the cause of all this attention. He had, after all, been open in his disdain for ordinary mortals.

Hobsbawm came to Britain as a refugee from Hitler's Europe before the war, but, as he said himself, he wished only to mix with intellectuals. `I refused all contact with the suburban petit bourgeoisie which I naturally regarded with contempt.' Naturally.

If the name Hobsbawm rings a bell at all, people might recollect that it was also the name of Julia Hobsbawm, a PR expert who, in collaboration with the future Mrs Gordon Brown, was one of the spin doctors who sold New Labour to this country.

There is a world of difference between the ideology of Julia's sleek, modern New Labour ideas and her father's hard-nosed Stalinism, but one of the things they had in common was contempt for `ordinary people'.

Eric Hobsbawm took part in one of the most extraordinary conversations ever on British television. Speaking in 1994 to the author Michael Ignatieff about the fall of the Berlin Wall five years earlier, the historian was asked how he felt about his earlier support for the Soviet Union.

If Communism had achieved its aims, but at the cost of, say, 15 to 20 million people - as opposed to the 100 million it actually killed in Russia and China - would Hobsbawm have supported it? His answer was a single word: `Yes'.

Just imagine what would happen if some crazed Right-winger were to appear on BBC and say that the Nazis had been justified in killing six million Jews in order to achieve their aims. We should be horrified, and consider that such a person should never be allowed to speak in public again - or at least until he retracted his repellent views and admitted that he had been culpably, basely, wrong.

Yet the awful thing about the phenomenon of Eric Hobsbawm is that the exact opposite to this is what happened.

He was awarded a Companion of Honour by Tony Blair - one of the highest accolades it is possible to bestow upon a British intellectual. A professor of history, he was regularly lionised on the BBC and in the liberal newspapers as our `greatest' historian.

It is true he modified his hard-line support for Stalin and his death-camps as the years went by. The elderly Hobsbawm was not the same person who, in 1939, co-wrote a pamphlet defending not only Stalin but Hitler, too - and justifying the Nazi-Soviet pact to carve up Poland and dominate Eastern Europe.

But as far as the history of the 20th century was concerned, he never learned its lessons. The tens of millions dead, the hundreds of millions enslaved, the sheer evil falsity of the ideology which bore down with such horror on the peoples of Russia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Germany, never occurred to this man.

He went on believing that a few mistakes had been made, and that Stalinism was `disillusioning' - but that, in general, it would have been wonderful if Stalin had succeeded.
In 1939 Hobsbawm co-wrote a pamphlet defending not only Stalin but Hitler, too - justifying the Nazi-Soviet pact to carve up Poland

In 1939 Hobsbawm co-wrote a pamphlet defending not only Stalin but Hitler, too - justifying the Nazi-Soviet pact to carve up Poland

Any barmy old fool is, thank goodness, entitled to their point of view in our country. Unlike Stalin's Soviet Union or Hitler's Germany, Britain is a country where you can more or less say or think what you like.

What is disgraceful about the life of Hobsbawm is not so much that he believed this poisonous codswallop, and propagated it in his lousy books, but that such a huge swathe of our country's intelligentsia - the supposedly respectable media and chattering classes - bowed down before him and made him their guru. Made him our `greatest historian'.

The truth is that, far from being a great historian who sometimes made mistakes, Hobsbawm deliberately falsified history.

In his book The Age Of Extreme, published in 1994, he quite deliberately underplayed the Soviet Union's attack on Finland in 1939-40, saying it was merely an attempt to push the Russian border a little further away from Leningrad. He also omits any mention of the massacre of 20,000 Polish soldiers by Russian Secret Police at Katyn.

In the same book, he dismisses the appallingly violent suppression by the Nazis of the Polish resistance in the 1944 Warsaw uprising - when a complacent Soviet army ignored desperate pleas to come to the Poles' aid - as `the penalty of a premature uprising'.

These are not mistakes - they are wicked lies.

In his 1997 book On History, he wrote the following: `Fragile as the communist systems turned out to be, only a limited, even minimal, use of force was necessary to maintain them from 1957 until 1989.'

This again is a blatant lie. A huge and ever-growing Soviet armaments industry ensured there was continued violence in most of the major trouble-spots of the world through those years before Communism collapsed.

Thanks to the provision of Soviet support, weapons and armour, there was continued violence in Africa and, closer to home, in Ireland, where the IRA used Soviet arms.

Ask the inhabitants of Prague, where Soviet tanks rolled into the streets in 1968, if they agreed with Hobsbawm that this was `minimal use of force'.

Ask the millions of people who were taken from their homes by KGB thugs and forced to live, often for decades, in prison-camps throughout the Gulag, whether force had been `minimal'.

Nor were Hobsbawm's rewards merely the sycophantic praise heaped on him by Lefty academics and silly chatterers at London dinners. Having cultivated his group of Left-wing prot‚g‚s at Birkbeck College in London, where he dominated the history department and went on to become President, he was showered with accolades by academics of the Left.

In 2003, he won the Balzan Prize for European History, worth one million Swiss Francs - about half-a-million pounds at that date. The Leftist Sir Keith Thomas, a former president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, was on the board that awarded him the prize.

There is also an intriguing question which hangs over Eric Hobsbawm. When he was at Cambridge during the Thirties he knew Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess and the other Soviet agents, who were recruited there by Marxist academics. Was he ever an agent himself?

In extreme old age, four years ago, Hobsbawm attempted, under the Data Protection Act, to read the files kept on him by MI5. When talking about this, he used a very revealing phrase. He said he wanted to find out who had `snitched on him'.

It was always asserted by his pals that Hobsbawm was harmless, that he was not a traitor to Britain, and that he had certainly not recruited traitors.

But if that was the case, why did he use the word `snitched'? Why did he not say: `It was monstrous that MI5 spied on me, and I'd like to see what is contained in the files'?

Instead, he implied that he had done something of which the authorities were entitled to take a dim view - possibly something actively criminal.

We, the petit-bourgeois of the suburbs whom he so despised, shall probably find out the truth one day.

Hobsbawm himself will sink without trace. His books will not be read in the future. They are little better than propaganda, and, in spite of the slavish language in the obituaries, are badly written.

What his death tells us, however, is that the liberal establishment that really runs this country has learned no lessons from history. It is still prepared to bow down and worship a man who openly hated Britain - and who knowingly wrote lies.


Prominent British do-gooder was a pedophile

From the first moment I saw anything of him, I felt that he was "bent". And I was apparently not alone in that. But his position with the BBC and his "charitable" works kept everybody silent. A picture of the thing below -- JR

Esther Rantzen uses a striking phrase in her on-screen response to allegations, to be broadcast tomorrow, that her friend Jimmy Savile, the DJ and charity fundraiser extraordinaire, traded on his celebrity status to sexually abuse underage girls. "We all blocked our ears to the gossip," says the chastened founder of ChildLine of her broadcasting colleagues. "In some way we colluded with him as a child abuser."

It is that question of collusion that goes to the heart of the allegations - which Rantzen says she accepts as true, but which Savile's family vehemently deny. In the case of young girls in Rochdale who were groomed and abused by a gang of perverts, it was the police and social services who stood accused of collusion - for their failure to take seriously the allegations made by those girls when they first reported their ordeal to the authorities.

And in the ongoing scandal of paedophile priests in the Catholic Church, it is bishops, cardinals and even popes whose judgment is criticised. By sweeping reports of abuse of children under the ecclesiastical carpet and transferring deviant priests to other parishes, they were, it has been suggested, colluding in these appalling crimes.

But with the allegations against Savile - who, according to the documentary, abused and raped underage girls on BBC premises, in his trademark Rolls-Royce and, in one instance, in a caravan after he had made a "celebrity visit" to the girl's school in Surrey - the circle of those guilty of collusion by silence or inaction is potentially much wider.

Paul Gambaccini, once a colleague at Radio 1, has said that he has been "waiting 30 years" for these charges to surface against Savile. Another veteran broadcaster, who spoke to The Daily Telegraph but asked not to be named, confirms that, in BBC circles, "it was always said that Jimmy likes them young".

One interpretation is that Savile's inappropriate behaviour with youngsters had repeatedly raised eyebrows at the corporation, but no one ever saw fit to do anything about it because, in his heyday, he was just too big a star. This version of events has been rejected by BBC spokesmen. They say there is no record of complaints being registered, and cite "editorial reasons" for the recent shelving of a Newsnight investigation containing similar allegations to those about to be broadcast on ITV in Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile.

Back in the early 1990s, I had a good friend who was an investigative reporter with the Sun. She spent weeks following up reports of Savile's inappropriate behaviour with young girls; eventually, though, the paper's management told her that the material she had assembled would not be printed, "because it is not what the public wants to read".

Gambaccini seems to confirm this memory. Savile, he says, played the popular press "like a Stradivarius". If he got a hint that they were planning to publish abuse allegations about him, he would warn that, if the story appeared in print, his extraordinary fund-raising efforts would be brought to an end. And his charity work was considerable: he is estimated to have raised £40 million for good causes over his lifetime, notably by running a series of marathons (his last was in 2005 at the age of 79). The National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Broadmoor Hospital and his home-town Leeds General Infirmary and University of Leeds were among recipients of his largesse.

Such efforts won him universal applause, but he was always a little too eccentric to merit the tag "national treasure". Something about him, if we're honest, made us slightly wary. In a 2000 BBC documentary, for instance, Louis Theroux took us inside Savile's Scarborough home and the wardrobe where he lovingly preserved all of his mother's dresses. In a filmed conversation, Theroux touched on the question marks about his behaviour and obtained what appears to be Savile's only public reply to the allegations.

"The rumours were well known, even then," recalls Theroux today, "but he did say something about it being a case of when you are a 'single fella' in the public eye, people would make malicious assumptions about you. And I remember he told me that his way of dealing with that was to say he didn't even like children, which is perhaps more significant with hindsight than it felt at the time. But that was his line, how he dealt with it. And without credible evidence, that was as far as I could go."

And so Savile continued successfully to silence the whispers. The fact, for instance, that he was interviewed under caution in 2007 as part of an investigation by Surrey Police into abuse of young girls at Duncroft Approved School in Staines has only come to light this week.

Indeed his defiance may even have enhanced his reputation. Here was an elderly man, still exhausting himself raising money for good causes, being dogged by unsubstantiated and unpublished gossip. He could present himself, as he did to Theroux, as a victim. When he died in October last year, crowds queued up to process past his gold coffin at a wake held in a Scarborough hotel: a final act of eccentricity by this devout Catholic, or a last attempt to cover his tracks?

"There is still a lot of denial about child abuse," says Chris Cloke, head of child protection awareness at the NSPCC. "I have been working in the field for 20 years and, though progress has undoubtedly been made, there are still too many instances where children are not taken seriously when they reject the pressure not to tell and actually report abuse. And among other parties, who may have known about it, or suspected it, there is too often an attitude of not telling because they're not sure, or it is all rumour, or because - and this comes up often - they think someone else is dealing with it."

This may explain why so many people who knew Savile now seem unsurprised by the charges made in the documentary presented by former detective Mark Williams-Thomas. Challenged as to why they are only speaking up now, after the star's death and when he can't sue for libel, one of his alleged victims replies that she felt no one would believe her, given his reputation with the public. As Esther Rantzen comments: "We made him into the Jimmy Savile who was untouchable".

The programme will, at least, put an end to that. Those who were aware of Savile's penchant for young girls, however, quote in mitigation the context in which his activities took place. His peak as a DJ coincided with a time when he and his fellow Radio 1 presenters were treated by fans as pop royalty, on a par with their favourite bands.

"I can't comment on the charges made against Savile," says Simon Garfield, author of The Nation's Favourite: The True Adventures of Radio 1, "but it is certainly true to say that in the 1970s and 1980s, DJs on the station were mobbed wherever they went. Once they got to present Top of the Pops as well, it happened more. There were as many groupies throwing themselves at them as there were for the pop stars."

Some of Savile's colleagues exploited their seat on a station with 20 million young, impressionable listeners. Chris Denning, one of the launch team in 1967, was convicted of gross indecency in 1974, the first of a string of convictions here and in Eastern Europe for abuse of young boys.

There were some rudimentary safeguards in place: you had to be 18 to get into the studio for Top of the Pops. Yet compared to today's standard procedures, this was another age. Cloke believes that much has changed for the better. "We have, hopefully, got past the old stereotypes of what a child abuser looked like - a man in a dirty raincoat. But assumptions still are made about being able to spot abusers. Most people, for instance, think they will be strangers, whereas abuse often happens within families, or with individuals in positions of trust."

The current storm around the allegations against Savile, however they are resolved, will, Cloke feels, make a contribution if it leads to all of us taking more seriously allegations made by children. "What we need to be very clear about is that there is never, ever any excuse for child abuse. Every time that we introduce the idea that there are excuses as to why an abuser acted as they did, we deter other children who are suffering abuse from speaking up."


The Vilification of Freedom of Speech

Slate joined the tut-tut mob of dhimmified American pundits and commentators by endorsing the abridgement of the First Amendment, at the behest of thin-skinned, super-sensitive Muslims, in its September 25th article, "The Vile Anti-Muslim Video Shows That the U.S. Overvalues Free Speech."

Slate is proof that the Internet isn't wholly a refuge from the Mainstream Media. It has its complement of liberal, leftist and myopic sites that range from banal to bizarre to outlandishly vitriolic. It isn't immediately apparent in the Slate article, written by Editor Eric Posner, that it denigrates not only the First Amendment, but anyone upholding its sanctity, because it took him ten paragraphs of irrelevant commentary to reach the conclusion that the First Amendment is ready for a tweaking and perhaps even a rewrite that would favor Muslims and Islam.

Robert Spencer zeroed in on the key statement in the Slate article in his Jihad Watch article of September 26th, and dismisses it with brevity. He quotes from Slate first:
"That's because the First Amendment protects verbal attacks on groups as well as speech that causes violence (except direct incitement: the old cry of "Fire!" in a crowded theater). And so combining the liberal view that government should not interfere with political discourse, and the conservative view that government should not interfere with commerce, we end up with the bizarre principle that U.S. foreign policy interests cannot justify any restrictions on speech whatsoever. Instead, only the profit-maximizing interests of a private American corporation can. Try explaining that to the protesters in Cairo or Islamabad." (Bold emphasis is Spencer's)

Spencer: "In other words, surrender before they hit us again."
That's all that need be said.

Spencer handily runs other publication over the coals in his Jihad Watch/Atlas Shrugs article, "The Suicide of the Free Press," on how and why other publications are picketing against the First Amendment. Citing the example of the Los Angeles Times' Op-Ed by Sarah Chayes, a career do-gooder currently with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Spencer asks:
But the larger question is, why is the Los Angeles Times coming down on the side of restrictions on the freedom of speech in the first place? Are they not aware that such restrictions, if implemented, can and probably will be used against them? While the Los Angeles Times editors are no doubt serene in their certainty that they will never print anything that will insult Islam or Muslims, there could all too easily come a time when a governing authority deems something they have published to be "hateful" or even "deliberately tailored to put lives and property at immediate risk," and - if free speech by then has been restricted - that will be the end of the Times as an outpost of the free press.
Further, there is Posner's "profit-maximizing" qualifier coupled with the "interests of a private American corporation" that reveals Slate's anti-capitalist leanings. We'll leave that alone for the time being, although it would be interesting to know why Posner thought it necessary to say that and not something to the effect, "Only the speech of private individuals can be restricted or interfered with in political discourse," because it boils down to the same thing: restrictions à la carte. And what has "commerce" to do with the issue? I don't think Posner agrees with Ayn Rand that freedom of speech is dependent on the status of private property. So, one can only scratch one's head in trying to comprehend the legal universe Posner occupies and speaks from.

President Barack Obama said at the U.N. that "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."

Or criticize him? Or resort to Charlie Hebdo level cartoons? Or to awful video trailers whose Muslim funding is just now coming to light? (See Walid Shoebat's revelations here; apparently the "Innocence of Muslims" has a not-so-innocent pedigree.) One might be tempted to say, "Nor should the future belong to those who slander Jesus. Or Ayn Rand. Or any one of H.L.Mencken's dead gods." But that would be conceding the premise that speech about these figures ought to be "restricted."

Sorry, old chap, but the future belongs to me, a slanderer, mocker, blasphemer, and critic of Muslims and Islam and its pedophilic icon, Big Mo. What's the government going to do about it? Ask Huma Abedin to send some ski-masked jihadist thugs to beat me up? Give me the Daniel Pearl treatment? Or perhaps Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will request that a joint DHS/TSA Swat team swoop down on me and take me in for questioning.

Posner opined that Obama's speech contained "a strong defense of the First Amendment." In fact, it was one of the most tepid but insidious "defenses" of an American freedom on record. Why? Posner is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. He ought to have noted the quid pro quo which Obama had no business offering the United Nations, the OIC, the world that doesn't like our First Amendment, and Muslims: You stop slandering Jesus, we'll stop slandering Mohammad.

That's tantamount to agreeing to give the school yard bully your money and your lunch, and he agrees to stop giving you a black eye and dunking your head in a commode.

Muslims won't stop slandering other creeds' icons - try and stop them- but how does Posner propose to stop the slandering, libeling, or mockery of Mohammad, except by applauding the criminalization of speech at the behest of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the United Nations, Hillary Clinton, and anyone else who doesn't like the First Amendment?

The criminalization of speech about Islam is a proposed exercise in people management and Platonic guardianship by elitists ensconced in the ivory tower of indemnified statism. It is supposed to combat violence and bridge the gap between Western and Islamic civilizations. But Islam isn't a "civilization"; it is an ideology hell-bent on conquest. But as Daniel Greenfield points out in his essay, "Muslim Multiculturalism and Western Post-Nationalism" notes:
The left's post-national identity is based on a secular political multiculturalism. Islam's post-national identity is based on a religious theocratic multiculturalism. The left has heresies that it prosecutes as hate crimes and Islam has heresies that it prosecutes as blasphemy.

Progressives have been always too stupid to understand that the consequences of their progressivism in undermining the current, more advanced, phase of human society is the restoration of reactionary social and political systems. In Russia, the Bolsheviks toppled an intermediary government and restored a Czar named Stalin and feudalism under the name of collectivism, to the proud cheers of the world's leftists at the progress they were making. In the Arab Spring, they brought back Islamism and they have brought it back in London and Sydney, and Paris and New York as well.
My advice to Eric Posner: Think about what you're asking for. You just might have your way. But, you may regret your not being able to say what you wish to say about anything. Criminalizing speech about Islam doubtless will set a poison pill precedent to criminalize speech about anything the state deems protected, sacrosanct, and not open to discussion.

You may someday need to shout "Fire!" and won't, because you've surrendered your right to. To you, it won't seem practical. Or right. You've "progressed" to a more "mature" standard of speech. Besides, it would be against the law. Shouting "Fire!" might provoke someone to throw a Molotov cocktail.

You would be hard-pressed to prove to the authorities that it wasn't your intention to provoke the thrower of the Molotov cocktail. You would protest: That was his action, not yours. You were merely trying to save lives. He was trying to take lives. How awful! Still, your action "triggered" his action.

You would be held responsible. The law would say so. Hands behind your back, please. These are plastic cuffs, and won't hurt a bit.


Conbservative Dutch MP postpones Australia visit after delaying tactics by Australia's Leftist government

Anti-Islamic Dutch politician Geert Wilders has postponed a visit to Australia because of delays in obtaining a visa, despite today's announcement that his application would be approved.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said he had decided to issue a visa to the controversial MP, declaring Australia's democracy is strong enough to withstand a visit by the "extremist commentator".

Mr Wilders was due to speak at events in Sydney and Melbourne later this month at the invitation of the Q Society, which is concerned by what it calls the "Islamisation" of Australia.

But the group says "extraordinary delays" in getting a visa have forced Mr Wilders to delay his visit until mid-February next year.

"Minister Bowen's (announcement)... is too little too late," the Q Society said in a statement.

"When Mr Wilders' visa may be issued is still uncertain; it could be tomorrow, it could be next week, it could be a week after the scheduled departure.

"Q Society asks Minister Bowen why, after lodging papers in late August, has his visa still not been issued?"

A spokesman for Mr Bowen says Mr Wilders was advised by email this morning that his visa application had been approved.

Q Society's spokesman Andrew Horwood has told the ABC that Mr Wilders' speaking tour may now be expanded to include Perth given the strong public interest.

"We've been really inundated by what I'd call the silent majority in Australia who've been looking back and concerned about what's been happening," Mr Horwood said.

Last month, the ABC's 7.30 program reported the processing of the Dutch MP's visa had stalled because it triggered a notification on the Movement Alert List - a database of people of concern to Australia.

It meant his application was held up at the Department of Immigration headquarters in Canberra while more thorough checks were done.

But Mr Bowen this morning announced that after long and careful consideration, he would not be intervening in the process to stop Mr Wilders coming to Australia.

"I've taken the view that he's a provocateur who would like nothing more than for me to reject his visa so that he could become a cause célèbre ," Mr Bowen told ABC radio's AM program.

"I'm not going to give him that opportunity to be the cause célèbre for his cause which is radical and extremist.

"I think our society's robust enough, our multicultural is strong enough, and our love of freedom of speech entrenched enough that we can withstand a visit from this fringe commentator from the other side of the world.

"We should defeat his ideas with the force of our ideas and the force of our experience, not by the blunt instrument of keeping him out of Australia."

As one of the world's most prominent anti-Islam campaigners, Mr Wilders has attracted controversy in many parts of the world.

In 2009 he was refused entry to the UK but later appealed and won.

He was also tried and acquitted in the Netherlands on hate charges over his controversial public comments.

The website for the Q Society, which invited Mr Wilders to Australia, states that: "Aggressive or stealth proselytising and brazen imposition by Islamic organisations and Islamic religious fanatics were our 'call to arms'".

And it has accused the Federal Government of "kowtowing to Islamic supremacists".



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


3 October, 2012

"Anti-fascists" are killing free speech

Activists who call on the state to arrest and imprison 'fascists' for their speech crimes should look up irony in the dictionary

‘This court decision should be celebrated by all anti-racists and anti-fascists… to ensure that the only place fascism has in this century is in history textbooks.’

Are Britain’s anti-fascist groups so blinkered, so convinced that the state is on their side and that they are the bearers of the Truth, that they can make statements celebrating the curbing of someone’s free speech without even the slightest twinge of irony? That statement was made by the North Staffordshire Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, in response to the news that Michael Coleman, a former far-right British National Party councillor in Stoke-on-Trent, had been given an eight-month suspended prison sentence and 240 hours of community service for the crime of posting his thoughts on his blog.

It is true that Coleman’s thoughts were unpleasant and that not many people will share them. Writing on his blog in the aftermath of last year’s rioting in English cities, Coleman claimed that ‘London darkies have reacted with violence’. ‘The darkies have exposed their true nature in siding with criminality’, he said, before elaborating at length on his belief that the ‘darker races’ are very different to the paler races.

His nauseating comments were spotted by a Labour councillor, Joy Garner, who is currently standing for election as Staffordshire police and crime commissioner. She dobbed him in to the police. ‘I make no apology for having been the individual who initially raised this with the police’, she boasted on her website. She said the problem with Coleman’s blog posts is that the ‘overwhelming majority’ will have found them offensive. ‘I will always defend the right to freedom of speech, but as with all rights, with it comes responsibility. It can no way be accepted as responsible to use language characterising an entire race as being more predisposed to crime than others.’

So Garner will always defend the right to freedom of speech so long as the speech expresses something she finds agreeable. If your words don’t conform to what Garner considers ‘responsible’, then the debate is over and the police will be asked to knock on your door.

This is what happened with Coleman. He was summoned to a police interview and was charged with ‘intending to cause racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress by displaying writing, a sign or other representation, which was threatening, abusive or insulting’. On Friday, at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, Judge Robert Trevor-Jones sentenced Coleman to eight months’ imprisonment (suspended), claiming that his words had the potential to ‘fan the flames’ in Britain following the English Riots. Clearly, in the judge’s view, Britain’s populace is so riot-prone, and its white working classes so latently racist, that one poorly written blog post could be enough to unleash violence.

The councillor and the judge’s belief that they have the right to determine what kind of speech is acceptable is chilling, and unfortunately increasingly widespread in political and media circles today. Yet how many social, scientific, political and cultural revolutions might have been halted in their tracks if earlier generations had applied the Garner logic of criminalising ideas that the ‘overwhelming majority’ find unacceptable?

One of the most depressing aspects of this all-out attack on freedom of speech and political expression is that a former far-right councillor has now been granted access to the moral high ground. The censured Coleman is posing as the defender of democratic values, pointing out that: ‘Posting an article on a personal blog could never be construed as harassment, not in a free country. This is political correctness in law form… My forefathers fought in two world wars to protect the freedom we have today. I will be damned if these hard-won freedoms will be taken away in the twenty-first century.’ He has a point. It’s just worrying that it has been left to him - a far-right activist not very interested in liberty - to make it. Such has been the left’s abandonment of the ideal of freedom of speech that it can now be co-opted by elements on the hard right.

You’d think it would be unnecessary to have to point out to liberal campaigners who want to shut down ‘fascists’ that one of the first things Hitler did when he came to power was clamp down on freedom of speech and the press. They should heed the arguments put forward by the Stoke-on-Trent daily newspaper, the Sentinel, which pointed out that ‘what was a good day for Coleman’s political opponents might turn out to be a very bad day for British liberty’.

But Garner, it seems, has no intention of taking free-speech pleas on board. If she manages to become police commissioner in Staffordshire, she plans to take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to ‘hate crimes’ on the grounds of ‘race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex or gender identity’. Such hate crimes also include speech crimes, like the ones committed by Coleman. How far will such zero tolerance go? How long before fat people, gingers or ‘chavs’ are included in the list of people Garner wishes to protect from offence? There would be no offensive blog posts, no edgy jokes, no inconsiderate public banter.

Free speech is not divisible; either we have it - all of us, including people who don’t like ‘darkies’ - or we don’t. Given that free speech is the very cornerstone of a proper democracy, the criminalisation of Coleman raises an important question about who poses the greatest threat to democratic values these days: is it a moronic BNP member, or a potential police commissioner and her supporters who seem keen to punish anyone who says something they find offensive?


British mother who was jailed for slapping children is freed after judge says her actions were 'similar to those of many loving parents across the land'

A mother jailed after her children told social workers she smacked them was freed from prison last night. A judge said her actions were no worse than those of ‘many loving and caring parents throughout the land’.

He criticised the junior judge who had jailed her for 18 months and ordered that she should be released immediately.

The decision at the Appeal Court came after the mother, who cannot be named, admitted ‘excessive chastisement’.

Police discovered she had slapped her sons on three occasions over a seven-year period and also once banged two of their heads together.

One of the children was 15 at the time she slapped him. Only one of the incidents caused physical injury, a bruised ear.

The case highlights the draconian penalties that parents can suffer if they breach strict laws that ban the smacking of children.

Anyone found to have hit their child hard enough to leave a mark can be jailed for up to five years under laws brought in by the last Labour government.

Lord Justice Elias, who sat with Mr Justice Coulson and Mrs Justice Thirlwall, said: ‘An offender must be sentenced only for what she has been found guilty of. This was plainly an unhappy home but she is not being sentenced for being a bad mother or an incapable mother or of being incapable of controlling her children.

‘Only one of these offences caused physical injury. The other incidents are similar to actions taken by many loving and caring parents throughout the land in moments of stress.

‘They may regret it afterwards, but parenting is a difficult skill.

‘It is said that the judge gave insufficient weight to her previous good character and was unjust in saying that she had shown no remorse, because there was evidence she was very upset at the time.’

The Appeal Court judges were told the woman, who is in her 30s and from a town near Cardiff, was jailed in July.

Judge David Wynn Morgan, sitting at Cardiff Crown Court, handed her an 18-month sentence after she admitted four counts of cruelty to a person under the age of 16.

She was investigated by police after one of her sons falsely told social services that she attacked him, leaving him with bruises.

The child later admitted this was a lie to get more contact with his estranged father.

However, officers discovered that she had slapped her 15-year-old son in the face during an argument in 2010 and also slapped two of her sons in 2003. In a fourth incident the struggling mother also banged the heads of two her sons together after she broke up a fight between them.

Her barrister, Ruth Smith, said she ‘couldn’t cope’ with her children and the only injury which was caused in all of this was a bruised ear on one occasion.

She added that there was ‘clear evidence she had been a victim of domestic violence’ herself and appealed for leniency.

Ordering the woman’s release, Lord Justice Elias added that the sentencing judge ‘took his eye off the ball’.

He said: ‘There were occasions when the children had made allegations which had subsequently been disproved.

‘We think that the premise of the sentence imposed by the judge was incorrect. If he had focused on the particular incidents, only one of which caused physical injury while the others may be seen as chastisement going beyond its bounds, a sentence of 18 months was too long.

‘We think the right thing to do now would be to give her a sentence of five months imprisonment that would secure her immediate release. ‘No valuable purpose would be served by keeping her in prison any longer.’

Under a 2004 law introduced by Labour, a smack should cause no more than the reddening of the skin. Senior politicians including Boris Johnson have attacked the current law as ‘confusing’ and said it undermines the role of parents.

Former education minister David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, said he believed the ban contributed to last year’s riots in London and elsewhere through a lack of discipline in the home.

He called for a return to Victorian laws on discipline, saying parents needed to be able to use corporal punishment to control unruly children.

The 2004 law says anyone who causes injury to their children with a smack is guilty of actual bodily harm. But, in 2007, a senior judge said parents should be allowed to slap their children when chastising them.

Lady Justice Hallett made the comments as the Appeal Court upheld a ruling that a couple accused of slapping and kicking their daughter could keep their three children. She said: ‘Reasonable physical chastisement of children by parents is not yet unlawful in this country.’


Troll-hunters are the real menace to the internet

Yes, online trolls often ruin debates and annoy the hell out of people. But it is their censorious critics in the media who truly harm internet culture

Anyone who has spent any time on the internet, which is pretty much everyone, will know that there are a lot of World Wide Weirdos out there. Loitering in online discussion forums or skulking in the Twittersphere, they’re always ready to rage, primed to bash out a 140-character screed or INAPPROPRIATELY CAPITALISED PARAGRAPH on why everything in the whole world sucks, especially YOU. If you’re lucky - and by lucky I obviously mean unlucky - they will email you directly to tell you you’re a cunt, that your teeth should meet their cricket bat, and that the reason you are so stupid is because you were raped by a priest. That has happened to me - no, not being raped by a priest, but finding those messages stinking up my inbox.

That’s life in the internet age, I suppose, and yes, it can be annoying (especially when you see that there are 700 comments on an article you’ve written, but then discover that 692 of them were written by the same three people arguing until four in the morning over whether ‘ZaNuLabour’ or the ‘ConDems’ were the most evil government). Yet it turns out that, amazingly, there is something even more irritating on the internet than these so-called trolls. And it’s the troll-hunters, the celebs, commentators and coppers who have made it their business to chase down trolls, expose them to public ridicule, and sometimes even haul them before a judge. Okay, a troll can sometimes ruin a half-decent online debate or dent a journalist’s sense of self-worth by sending him a snotty, borderline obscene message *sniffle* - but that’s nothing compared with the potential impact that troll-hunting is having on the free flow of ideas and argument on the web.

Trolls - defined by Urban Dictionary as people who ‘post a deliberately provocative message to a message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument’ - are rarely out of the news. From the 17-year-old twat on Twitter who sent stupid messages to British diving champ Tom Daley to the fashion among celebrities for ‘confronting one’s troll’, trolling is a hot topic. The idea that the internet is awash with spectacularly uncouth provocateurs is gaining ground. Much of the commentary on the trouble with trolls could easily double up as a rough draft for a movie about a Martian invasion, with its claims that these message-board botherers are ‘besieging our culture’ and ‘invading’ the internet.

Inevitably, following the pleas from everyone from MPs to celebrities to hilariously spineless journalists that Something Should Be Done about trolls, the law is now sticking its nose in. Louise Mensch, chick-lit novelist turned part-time politician turned full-time wife of Metallica’s manager, demanded action against trolls after she was bombarded with threatening messages by a 60-year-old freak in a beard. Anti-troll action is already being taken. Earlier this year a Welsh student called Liam Stacey was imprisoned for two months for trolling the then very ill footballer Fabrice Muamba. Tom Daley’s troll was arrested in a dawn raid, because apparently sending 140-character insults to a pretty diver is as lethal as having a bomb in your shed or a Kalashnikov under your bed, the sort of things that normally earn one a knock on the door from the Old Bill at 6am. And now we’re informed that Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions is planning to issue ‘guidelines’ for prosecutors on when ‘criminal charges should be brought’ in relation to trolling incidents.

Well, I can save the DPP the bother of having ‘a series of roundtable meetings with campaigners, media lawyers, academics and law enforcement bodies’ by telling him right now when prosecutions should be brought against people for writing things on the internet - never. It is none of the law’s business what you or I or the unbelievably annoying hoggers of online message boards say. Thought, speech, belief, debate: these are not arenas in which the state should have authority. You might not like what people say on the internet, or how they say it, but tough. If I went into a bookshop and tore up all the tomes I find annoying or offensive, half the shop would be in ruins - but I don’t do that because a) people would think I was mad, and b) I recognise that freedom of speech means being surrounded by, and sometimes subjected to, ideas or outlooks that make you feel uncomfortable, even nauseous. That’s actually one of the best things about free speech - it stops you becoming intellectually complacent or smugly dogmatic by opening your eyes and ears to other, sometimes outlandish ways of thinking. If a bookshop, or the internet, was restructured to make it agreeable to my tastes alone, I’m sure I’d like it for a while, but in the long term my brain, or what John Stuart Mill called my ‘mental and moral powers’, would become knackered through lack of exercise. I’d basically turn into an idiot.

Many troll-hunters claim they are only calling for civility, not conformism; they aren’t censuring people for their views only for their sometimes OTT vulgarities and borderline harassment. This is highly disingenuous. Because one of the most striking things about the troll-hunting lobby is how much it conflates irrational prejudice with what it considers to be undesirable political views, treating both as things that ought to be cleaned up and potentially banged up. So a Guardian columnist recently wrote about ‘Islamophobic’ trolling on the internet, which he said includes everything from online racists referring to Muslims as ‘goat-fuckers’ to ‘progressives’ prejudice’, such as when trolls ‘slam Islam as oppressive of gay and women’s rights’. Hold on - branding Muslims ‘goat-f*ckers’ is clearly just a bonkers prejudice (though even that should not be banned), whereas criticising Islam for being repressive is the expression of a political view. In depicting certain, un-PC critiques of Islam as ‘trolling’, troll-hunters explicitly attempt to delegitimise political views they find distasteful.

Likewise, last year a group of feminist writers launched a campaign to tackle ‘misogynistic trolling’ on the internet, which apparently includes everything from ‘threats of rape’ to comments that are ‘strongly and personally antagonistic towards feminism’. Here, something that is potentially the business of the law - the threat of rape - is lumped together with something that is an entirely legitimate intellectual pursuit: the ridicule of feminism. Increasingly, everyone from Louise Mensch’s emailing stalker (who really was a threatening harasser) to people who simply spend their days in online discussion boards ‘denying’ climate change can be branded a ‘troll’. What we’re witnessing is a pretty Orwellian conflation of potentially physical menace with unpopular political views, the mashing together of irrational harassment with the expression of a political outlook, so that it all becomes ‘trolling’. When even political positions like ‘progressive prejudice’ or ‘antagonism towards feminism’ can be called trolling, it seems pretty clear that a deep and profound censoriousness is at work here, and that the invitation to the DPP to clarify when people may be prosecuted for spouting off on the internet is an even more worrying prospect than we thought.

There is a really weird inversion of reality in the trolling debate. Celebrities with massive public platforms and journalists with prominent soapboxes from which to proclaim their beliefs are depicting themselves as the poor little victims of the mob, effectively, of ordinary people who, horror of horrors, now have the ability to express themselves instantly. It all rather echoes the upsurge in intolerant handwringing that followed the development of the printing press, when God-botherers in pointy hats effectively said: ‘You mean the little people will be able to read books?!’ Today, troll-hunters are really saying, ‘You mean I have to put up with the little people telling me what they think, being abusive, and expressing thoughts that me and my friends have agreed are obnoxious?!’ Yes, that’s right - you do.


The Internet doesn't need more regulation

Two cases on data roaming and net neutrality deal with similar economic issues: Will more regulation improve the market for Internet-based communications?

Last Thursday, the D.C. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on whether to uphold the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called “data roaming” rules, which would impose new open-access regulations on wireless broadband companies. The issues at bar—including whether imposing such a requirement on an Internet carrier amounts to “common carrier” regulation—are similar to the issues the court will face when it rules on the FCC’s net neutrality regulations next year. The economic issues in the two cases are also closely related: Simply put, will more regulation improve the market for Internet-based communications?

The case for a heavier government hand is grounded in the idea that the U.S. market for broadband services is insufficiently competitive. As a result, critics say, the United States is lagging behind the rest of the world, and broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have incentives to discriminate against their competitors. But the facts don’t support either argument.

According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), nearly nine out of ten U.S. households have a choice of fast broadband connections from at least two wireline broadband providers. Consumers clearly know they have choices: According to the FCC, one out of six switch companies every year, and 37 percent switch every three years. The numbers are even higher for wireless: Somewhere between a fifth and a third of all subscribers switch carriers every year. For context, that means consumers switch carriers about twice as often as they switch operating systems (e.g. from iPhone to Android or Windows).

Competition is intensifying with the rollout of 4G wireless networks, which are delivering speeds of up to 12 Mbps, fast enough to compete with landline connections.1 At least six major mobile providers are in the process of deploying such networks.

The fact that consumers can and do switch providers helps explain why ISPs are constantly upgrading their networks. According to the FCC, during the last year, “the actual increase in experienced speed by consumers was even greater than the increase in advertised speed—from 10.6 Mbps to 14.6 Mbps—an almost 38 percent improvement.” 2 The fact that consumers have choice is also evidenced by the fact that ISPs are among the biggest ad spenders. If you have heard the terms U-verse, Xfinity, and FiOS, it’s because AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are all among the ten largest U.S. advertisers.

What about the international comparisons you’ve read so much about? The facts are that there are more homes connected to optical fiber in the United States than any other Western country, that the United States has the world’s largest and fastest cable modem networks, that the United States leads the world in the number of 3G wireless subscribers by a wide margin, and that nearly half of the world’s next generation wireless 4G subscribers are Americans. In short, the United States is a world leader on every front.

Critics like to draw comparisons with small, densely populated countries like Hong Kong and South Korea, where big government subsidies combined with low build-out costs led to early deployment of fiber networks. But that was then and this is now. According to recent testimony by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, more than 80 percent of U.S. households have access to 100 megabit or faster Internet connections (from the cable company, the telephone company, or both), a statistic which puts the United States “at or near the top of the world.”

The United States is also at or near the top when it comes to consumer satisfaction. According to the FCC, a remarkable 93 percent of U.S. consumers are satisfied with their home broadband service, and more than half are “very satisfied.” UK regulator OFCOM reports that more U.S. consumers are “very satisfied” with their fixed and mobile broadband providers than in any other country surveyed.

Supporters of the FCC’s rules are hard pressed to point to any actual examples of market failure. The major wireless companies had negotiated data roaming deals even before the FCC issued its new rules; and when it comes to net neutrality, the only example of an actual problem (a small North Carolina company temporarily blocked access to VoIP services) occurred more than seven years ago.

Value creation in the Internet ecosystem depends on firms working together to generate the products and services consumers want. Broadband networks are only valuable when combined with content, devices, applications, and other broadband networks. The more compelling these combinations of products are, and the more seamlessly they work together, the more people will sign up for broadband connections. Arguably the biggest development in the mobile broadband world this year is the release of the iPhone 5, which will dramatically increase the demand for the mobile carriers’ new LTE networks.

Handwringing aside, in the real world ISPs aren’t likely to discriminate, even against their competitors. Consider, for example, the success of Amazon, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, and other over-the-top video distributors (OVDs). Despite the fact that these firms compete directly with ISPs (like Comcast and Verizon) for video revenues, their traffic continues to flow unimpeded over the Internet, and OVDs are growing by leaps and bounds. In November 2011 alone, 167 million unique online video viewers streamed 21.9 billion videos.

Open access is not the exception, it’s the rule: Broadband ISPs carry traffic that “competes” with their own products every day, from ring tones and music to map applications and online games. They do it for the same reason that Microsoft makes a version of Word that runs on Apple computers, and that text messages originating on iPhones can be read on devices that run on Android and Windows: Consumers expect it.

In its reply brief in the net neutrality case, the FCC claims the authority to engage in “prophylactic” regulation—as well it might, since it certainly hasn’t demonstrated the sort of market failure that would justify government intervention. To the contrary, the Internet marketplace has been working just fine without the FCC’s new rules, and it will continue to do so if the court wisely decides to strike them down.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


2 October, 2012

Misuse of the term "Islamophobia"

Below is a transcript of an ABC (Australia) interview with Clive Kessler, an Emeritus Professor in Sociology at the University of New South Wales and a long-time observer of Islam. When I knew Clive he was married to a very assertive New York Jewish lady who (frankly) gave me the horrors so I am surprised and pleased to see him speaking out on this. He is not the doormat I thought

Andrew West: The United Nations General Assembly gets under way in New York this week. Sometime during this session there’ll be a push by the 57 member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to make blasphemy an international criminal offence. Now this has long been a goal for many Muslim countries. But it’s got new impetus after an amateur film mocking the Muslim prophet Muhammad was posted on the internet. Since then a French satirical newspaper has also published some cartoons that depict Muhammad as naked. And in Australia some serving and former soldiers have posted anti-Muslim comments on a website.

The response from the worldwide Islamic community to all these events has ranged from violent, even deadly protests, to a Pakistani government minister offering a bounty for the death of the film maker, to the more general charge of Islamophobia. But is Islamophobia a reality or a myth? One expert says the term has been used to silence debate about Islam. Indeed writing in The Australiannewspaper recently, Clive Kessler called it a moral bludgeon. Clive Kessler is Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales. He’s an expert in the sociology of religion. He’s spent 40 years studying Islam, especially in Asia and specifically in Malaysia and he challenges the idea that Islamophobia is rife.

Clive Kessler: I think we have to look at the term itself. A phobia is an unfounded irrational baseless fear. The term Islamophobia is all too often used by zealous defenders of Islam as they understand it to silence the voicing of views that are uncongenial and unwelcome to them. And we cannot I think, have a situation where the term Islamophobia is used as a silencing device.

Andrew West: Well I think you’ve said in The Australian that it’s a moral bludgeon.

Clive Kessler: Well that’s what I mean by an attempt to silence people and silence the proper public discussions of issues. But let me take it a step further. We have to recognise that we stand now at a point where the inheritors of a legacy of civilisational rivalry, I won’t say conflict of civilisation but civilisational rivalry, between the world of Christianity, Christendom, and the world of Islam, for a number of centuries, through the crusades, through the colonial period and since then, and there is a legacy of fear, mistrust on both sides. And those fears, that mistrust, those resentments, those anxieties must be acknowledged, must be dealt with rather than all discussion of them being silenced with this moral bludgeon.

Andrew West: Do you think though we often confuse Islam and Islamism—and a distinction has been drawn—do you recognise a distinction?

Clive Kessler: I do. Whatever Islam as a religion and a civilisation may be, we are now in a historical situation where after a century or two of the subordination of Islam, many Muslims in the post-colonial era have now come out and wish to reassert themselves in history, reassert Islam in history. Among some people that is a quite proper and properly conducted enterprise. But among some, the notion of Islam itself becomes ideologised, we might say, becomes a sacred cow, and many of the people who see themselves as simply rallying to the defence of Islam are promoting Islamism as a political agenda.

Andrew West: Is it the case Clive, that you can criticise a political agenda—so in a sense you can criticise Islamism as a political extension of the religion—but if you criticise the religion itself, that’s when people get, you know, very defensive and accuse you of Islamophobia? Is that the problem?

Clive Kessler: That is it, yes. And I do not wish to see any faith community maligned, impugned, publicly humiliated. Under a proper ethic of multiculturalism one doesn’t do that sort of thing. But at the same time we have to recognise that there are a number of difficulties, particularly in the relationships among the three Abrahamic faith communities—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—the dynamic of whose inter-relationships, not just as religions but as civilisations, have shaped the contours of much of modern world history. And we cannot deal with the history, to which we are heirs, unless we get back to understand some complicated things about all of those three faith communities as religions and the dynamics of their civilisational interaction.

Andrew West: Well your piece in The Australian, it’s very measured, I mean, you make the case that one must come to this debate with clean hands, but that’s impossible isn’t it?

Clive Kessler: To be specific about this, let me say that Judaism emerged in the world conceiving of itself simply as monotheism. When Christianity came along it had built into it an attitude towards Judaism, that it was now the true Judaism and the first Judaism, the first dispensation was superseded. It has no inbuilt doctrinal view however of Islam. Islam came into the world self-consciously in its own understanding as the successor, the completion, the perfection of the Abrahamic faith, of the monotheistic revelation. And it has built into it, certain key attitudes towards Christianity—a scepticism towards the whole doctrine of the trinity, as to whether Christ died on the cross—and certainly a number of very decided views about Judaism, not so much born of doctrinal difference but born of the politics of inter-relationships between the community, the faith community of Muhammad and the Jews of Medina in the prophet’s lifetime.

Andrew West: Yes. You make the very strong point in this article that the Islamic writings are indeed infused with a quite dark view of history at times.

Clive Kessler: There is a view built into Islam as a religion and into the civilisation born of it, that it is the completion of the Abrahamic faith, that all that is good in Christianity and Judaism lives on within Islam, perfected and uncontaminated and uncorrupted. That which does not live on—that which Islam has not taken—is inherently erroneous, corrupted and to be repudiated. Now this then gets to the nub, I think the core, of much of the issue about Islamophobia. Many aspects of the civilisation of Islam become subjects of contention but none more so we know, ever since The Satanic Verses, than the status of the prophet Muhammad himself.

Andrew West: So why is that Clive?

Clive Kessler: The crucial thing about Islam is the status of the prophet Muhammad, that according to Islamic doctrine, the Koran is the divine, the word of God himself, that was then injected into the world through the medium of the prophet Muhammad and that is why any questioning of the prophet Muhammad calls into question the whole project of Islam itself.

Andrew West: Does the status of Muhammad, who was a warrior, does that in a sense, shape what are often considered to be warlike or very aggressive defences of him?

Clive Kessler: Certainly there is the notion that the reputation of the prophet must be protected. And certainly Islam came into the world as a success story. It came within a century of the prophet’s death to rule most of the known world. It lived in the world on its own terms. It wrote its own script. Now this was a very complicated process. Standard Islamic historiography says this was all done by…in peaceful ways that war and the sword were no major or key part of the whole project. So anyone who raises those questions about whether the spread of Islam was entirely peaceful is seen as impugning Islam and the prophet.

The problem for modern Muslims is, that for the last two or three hundred years, ever since Napoleon landed in Egypt, the civilisation of Islam has been in some sense a wounded, a violated civilisation that has not lived in the world on its own terms, but has had to live a historical script written by others, that has yearned to live in the world once more on its own terms and which in our present age is seeking to assert itself in that way.

So the consequence in places such as Australia in particular, outside the Middle East, is that Muslims are minorities living with a majoritarian complex born of the long history of Islam’s civilisational ascendency. And that means that many Muslims find it difficult to abide by any public criticism or comment about Islam or Muhammad that they find uncongenial. And that’s when the charge of Islamophobia is habitually raised.

Andrew West: Well in your article you say the term Islamophobia is used indiscriminately. But that implies there is occasionally or from time to time, a legitimate use of it. When would you say the term was used legitimately?

Clive Kessler: I don’t like the term Islamophobia in general but this does not mean to say that I think that Muslims do not have an entitlement to voice their sense of dignity and to say when they feel that the interfaith ethics of a multicultural society have been violated. And I think we all have to be sensitive to those concerns with all faith communities.

Andrew West: Do these protests that have broken out around the world, in the light of this comic film and now we’ve got a new batch of cartoons in a French newspaper—but these upsurges of anger occur periodically—do they suggest though, an immaturity in a reaction to a perceived insult of the faith?

Clive Kessler: They represent a quite, one might say, visceral, an understandably visceral response to the feeling that Islam has been impugned because the prophet Muhammad has been mocked. When I was a small boy growing up in a rather Jewish neighbourhood our local non-Jewish butchers always put pigs’ heads in the windows of the shops and stuck oranges or apples in the heads. And this was truly shocking to most Jews in the neighbourhood but they never said, look, out of deference to our sensitivities they shouldn’t put those pigs’ heads in the windows, after all 40 per cent of the people in this neighbourhood are Jewish. They said, look if we have a problem, that’s our problem; it’s not our society.

And yet you’ll get exactly similar feelings both in Malaysia…in New York there was a recent case in Staten Island and even here where people will say, in our neighbourhood there are so many Muslims here, you shouldn’t be selling alcohol. Or you shouldn’t be selling pork chops. Why? Because to do so, is to confront us with something that we as Muslims find unpalatable or uncongenial and in some sense multicultural ethics require you not to do it. Now this is a case then, I would say, where similarly Muslims have to say, this is a problem of our sensitivities not of everybody’s. But the notion that the world must accommodate to those attitudes, among Muslims is, I think, very often a case of diasporic Muslims seeing the world and responding to things that do genuinely upset them. But responding to the problems of their minority situation through the prism, through the lens, of a majoritarian worldview that is the historic legacy of Islamic civilisation.


Australia's Leftist government has no problems with jihadis but a big problem with critics of jihadis

Six weeks ago, the leader of the [Dutch] Party for Freedom (PVV), which until recently held the balance of power in the Dutch parliament, applied for a visa to visit Australia. His name is Geert Wilders.

Members of his staff and security detail were granted visas after three days. Wilders received nothing. He is still waiting. The Dutch media are waiting for the insult the Gillard government appears to be preparing for a member of the Netherlands' parliament.

The Australian organisers of the Wilders trip are resigning themselves to being out of pocket by at least $10,000 if the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, continues to stall. The trip was going to be cancelled yesterday but the organisers have decided to hold for a few more days. After six weeks of silence, the federal government hasn't had the courage to deny Wilders a visa. It prefers the back door.

This confirms, as if any more confirmation were needed, the gutlessness that lies at the core of Australia's multibillion-dollar debacle on border security, where the thin blue line on border integrity has been turned into a wide yellow streak. While the government blusters, the people smugglers keep thriving and the cost of processing asylum seekers soars well beyond $100,000 per person.

Wilders is an elected member of parliament, has never been convicted of a crime and is an outspoken defender of pluralism, democracy, feminism and freedom of speech. He believes these bedrock liberal values are being eroded by a steady, incremental challenge from Muslims in Holland. He now lives under constant police protection. Four prominent critics of Islam in Holland have been assassinated or threatened with death in recent years.

Wilders argues that the root cause of growing ill-liberalism in Holland, and also in Belgium and France, is driven by strict adherents of Islam. He does not think the problem is confined to an extreme fringe. Rather, he sees the stresses between Muslims and non-Muslims in Holland as rooted in a general insularity among Muslims because Islam is not only a religion but a social, legal and political system that gives Islam primacy over the state.

Wilders was to have given speeches in Sydney and Melbourne in two weeks, sponsored by a private group, the Q Society, which was funding his visit via private donations and ticket sales.

The Gillard government appears intent on stopping this visit, even though it recently granted a visa to an Islamic fundamentalist, Taji Mustafa, a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group implicated in the violent demonstration by several hundred Muslims in Sydney two weeks ago, while Mustafa was visiting the country. The Arabic script on headbands and T-shirts worn by many demonstrators were variations of the theme of jihad, such as "We are your soldiers, Muhammad".

An apologist for jihad was allowed into the country to speak while a member of the Dutch parliament has been stopped.

When the Minister for Immigration was asked in Parliament on September 17 why he had a approved the granting of a visa to Mustafa, he said: "Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been proscribed in Australia and nor has it been proscribed in the United States or the United Kingdom. This entry permit was issued in accordance with the normal procedures for British nationals … I conduct myself … in accordance with my responsibilities under the act. To do otherwise would be to open the Commonwealth to potential overturning of the decision and a potential very serious compensation case."

The reason for the Gillard government's willingness to find a cheerleader for jihad acceptable while an elected MP and cheerleader for Western values is tacitly deemed unacceptable would lie partly in a dramatic change in demographics under Labor. This, too, is a subject about which the federal government maintains a deafening silence.

During the five years of federal Labor governments, the ramp-up of immigration and boat people arrivals has helped a historic surge in the Muslim population of Australia, from about 350,000 to 500,000. The number of Muslim permanent residents has risen 75 per cent in the past decade. Labor holds several electorates in western Sydney with significant Muslim populations.

In 1972, when Labor introduced formal multiculturalism under the then minister for immigration, Al Grassby, Muslims represented just 0.2 per cent of Australia's population. This percentage has risen more than twentyfold in the ensuing 40 years. Grassby's reputation has been disgraced by revelations about his numerous links to Italian organised crime.

This would not surprise Wilders, a trenchant critic of multiculturalism, whose policies are much further to the right than those of the Coalition. The PVV rose to prominence after he expressed alarm about problems associated with the rapid growth of the Muslim population, which now exceeds 1 million in a country of 16.7 million and is growing about four times faster than the non-Muslim population.

Meanwhile, back at Australia's border debacle, the Gillard government refuses to embrace policies that have proved to be effective such as temporary protection visas for asylum seekers, or to set up an advanced interception line off Sri Lanka. So the boats keep coming - another three over the weekend with 333 asylum seekers - while the government expends $1 billion a year servicing its own impotence.


British over-40s denied free IVF can now sue NHS thanks to new law to prevent age discrimination

Since IVF is expensive, the NHS is broke and more than 85% of procedures for over-40s will be wasted, this would be one of the more deplorable uses of anti-discrimination laws

Women in their 40s can sue the NHS from today if they are refused free fertility treatment. A new law allows patients to take legal action if they are denied health care on the basis of age.

It is largely intended to protect the elderly from being written off by doctors because they are deemed too old. But the Government has confirmed that the same rules apply for IVF, which the health service currently restricts to women aged 23 to 39 [As it should].

The NHS rationing body NICE is considering raising its upper limit for treatment to 42 but a decision is not expected until next year. Some health trusts simply set their own rules and refuse to pay for IVF for anyone over 35.

Health minister Norman Lamb said older women refused treatment could take their NHS trust to court and challenge the decision. But they would need to argue that the treatment would be effective in spite of their age, and there is no guarantee the court would reverse the decision.

There is widespread evidence that a woman’s fertility declines quickly in her 40s, so the chances that treatment will be successful are slim. Each course of IVF costs the NHS about £3,000. Only 17 per cent of women aged 40 to 42 having the treatment become pregnant, and the odds decrease further with age.

Mr Lamb, the recently-appointed minister for care and support, said: ‘If an older woman sought to argue she should have access to treatment on the NHS she can challenge it, but she would have to show that the upper age limit was not objectively justified.

‘What I’d say generally is that if people in any condition feel that a judgment can’t be justified, and feels arbitrary, then they should challenge it because we should always be making our judgment in the health service on clinical need.’

The Mail is aware of at least one woman who is preparing to take her primary care trust to court after being refused IVF because she is deemed too old. This trust, NHS Oxfordshire, will not fund treatment for anyone over the age of 35. The woman concerned is 38.

The new age discrimination law allows elderly patients, and their relatives, to claim compensation if they have been subject to poor hospital care.

They may also take legal action if they believe they have been refused life-saving cancer treatment, hip replacements or cataract surgery because doctors think they are too old.

Patients, or those acting on their behalf, will first have to complain to the hospital and if they are not satisfied, to the health service ombudsman. If they are still unconvinced that appropriate action is being taken against staff, they may go to a county court.

Depending on the severity of the case, patients and families could receive compensation, although ministers do not yet know how much will be awarded.

Mr Lamb said: ‘It gives legal force that people have to be treated as individuals, and not written off because of an arbitrary age limit.’

It is not clear what will happen to doctors or nurses accused of age discrimination but they are unlikely to be face immediate disciplinary proceedings.


U.S. Government Choosing its Religion?

Alan Sears

An intrinsic tension exists between religious freedom and the machinations of government. This is largely because neither men nor the governments men form are wholly free from evil. Thus James Madison’s timeless statement in Federalist 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

However, this intrinsic tension is distorted and magnified when the government starts choosing religions it will protect and religions it will allow to be sacrificed in the name of egalitarianism or as an attempt to make up for some past grievance.

We see this currently in the way in which officials from the U.S. government are tripping over themselves to apologize for a movie trailer deemed offensive to the Muslim community, yet these same officials have no qualms trampling the consciences and faith tenets of Christians and Orthodox Jews throughout America via the abortion pill mandate.

In other words, they fight for one religion while treading on others.

They have literally chosen religious winners and religious losers, and as a result, Christian business owners and employers face an uphill battle when it comes to religious liberty.

The mandate requires employers to pay for insurance that covers contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients for their employees, whether it violates the employer’s faith or not. And far from trying to defend the consciences of those who disagree with the mandate, government officials have actually criticized those who claim their religious freedoms are being diminished.

For example, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said those who want “to use the excuse of religious freedom” in opposing the abortion pill mandate are actually trying to undercut “women’s health.”

That’s quite a bait and switch when you think about it—Pelosi completely sidestepped what is clearly an assault on the Christian faith and framed opposition to it as an attack on women.

Yet, when a movie trailer allegedly hurts the “religious feelings” of groups outside of Christianity, the filmmaker responsible is taken from his home in the middle of the night, interrogated, and warned against a repeat offense.

This duplicity is the result of our government choosing religions it will protect and religions it can afford to sacrifice—yet this is not something the government is supposed to be choosing.

The solution to this problem lies in the First Amendment, where the Founding Fathers made clear, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The letter of that amendment prevents Congress from choosing religious favorites on a de jure basis, while the spirit of that letter prevents the kind of de facto choosing we are seeing with the abortion pill mandate.

This is not just about choosing faiths or denominations—but about choosing what you are allowed to believe and to hold as a serious enough belief on which to act.

It’s seldom good to pick favorites. And this is especially true when the entity doing the picking is the U.S. government.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


1 October, 2012

Pathetic: Atheists ape religion

With apologies to apes. I live in a country where church attendance is small and the normal social assumption is that the person you are talking to is not religious. It is quite common for Christians to be regarded as a bit defective in fact. But nobody parades their unbelief and Christians are treated with normal politeness. So the characters below seem very childish and insecure to me, even though I am myself an utter atheist. Why make a fuss about something you DON'T do? Have they not got something positive to recommend them? -- JR

Atheists are looking for cohesion. Like their theistic counterparts, many secularists, particularly those in the activist community, are on a constant path to seek others who view the world through their lens of non-belief. As history has shown, one of the most common ways that a collective defines itself is through symbolism (we’ve examined atheists’ use of symbols in the past). While Christians often wear crosses and Jewish adherents embrace the Star of David, atheists have a symbol, too – the scarlet letter.

Religion News Service’s Kimberly Winston covers the atheist activist movement’s use of the red “A” — a literary symbol that may be familiar to readers who have studied Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” While, in the book, the letter was meant to shame the main character, Hester Prynne, some non-believers are embracing it as a public sign of their non-theist views.

The red letter “A” is, thus, being placed on jewelry designs so that atheists, like Christians, Jews and other faith adherents, can showcase their non-belief for the public at large.

The letter, which isn’t necessarily an official symbol of the atheist movement, originated in 2007, when the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science implemented its “Out Campaign,” Winston reports. The purpose was to encourage non-believers to “come out” to those around them about their non-belief.

While not officially sanctioned (after all, there’s no central leadership in the atheist activist community), the symbol continues to be one of the more prominent images embraced by the community at large. In fact, Amy Roth told Winston that the scarlet letter is “the most recognized symbol in our community right now.”

Roth, an atheist based in Los Angeles, incorporates the “A” into Surlyramics, the non-theistic jewelry line she launched. The artist brings these items to atheist conventions and meetings and sells them on the Internet as well.

In her article, Winston highlights 26-year-old Danny Samuelson’s story. Samuelson, who resides in Orange County, California, wears a pendant with the “A” around his neck daily.

“I am telling people I am willing to discuss this, that this is how I am and you have to accept this,” he told Winston. “I am essentially othering myself to show that normal people with normal lives and problems are atheists.”

Earlier this month, Business Week tackled the issue of product markets for non-believers. While the focus was more general, some fascinating questions were asked, particularly when it comes to the growth of the atheist movement:
Is there a market for merchandise for the godless? Retailers who cater to evangelical Christians with items including books, apparel, gifts, and Bibles represent $4.63 billion annually, according to the Association for Christian Retail. Those who sell to nonbelievers tend to be small business owners who are true nonbelievers. While bumper stickers and T-shirts are obvious favorites, books about evolution, educational games for children, and science-themed jewelry also hold appeal, says Derek Colanduno, an Atlanta computer programmer who hosts a podcast for skeptics. [...]

The relative newness of the modern freethought movement, a collection of secular-minded organizations and nontheistic individuals, is partly responsible for the immaturity of the business market. It was Internet message boards, blogs, and podcasts that brought together younger skeptical and science-minded individuals to establish communities and attend regular conferences, says Colanduno. “Before the Internet, it was the old guard, the old white-haired men meeting in peoples’ basements,” he says.

As the secular movement grows, jewelry, bumper stickers, books, films and other related items will likely become increasingly popular. Previously, the market was spread out and not cohesive, but with the Internet bringing non-believers and entrepreneurs together, there’s potential for growth.

Just as Christians who seek community also tend to purchase faith-based products, secularists — as evidenced by Samuelson’s reasoning for wearing an atheist pendant — will also look to purchase items that reinforce their views.

In the end, the overall scenario is interesting as are the prospects, but, for now, the majority of jewelers and companies remain small businesses who are using conferences, web sites and social media to tout their products.


British government attempts to bypass hungry local bureaucracies over residential construction are too little too late

The Government's recent announcements on changes to planning are to be welcomed, but they represent a very half-hearted attempt to reduce the disincentives to construction (it's a shame that they also came with dollops of more spending as well). Contra the Local Government Association's propaganda, it is quite clear that it is the planning system which is the principal contributor to Britain's dire shortage of housing. As I recently pointed out, it is this shortage which explains the lack of affordability of housing - both for purchase and rentals, not to mention the vast economic distortions which this constrained supply creates. These initiatives - where they are not entirely misdirected - are tiny compared to the scale of the problems.

But what government giveth, government also taketh away. This take away is in the form of the Communities Infrastructure Levy, which was introduced in 2010 (stemming from the Labour Government's 2008 Planning Act) and is gradually being implemented. The CIL permits local councils to levy an infrastructure charge on developers in order to fund the demand for new infrastructure created by their development. Unfortunately, CIL does not replace the pre-existing Section 106 Agreements under the Town and Country Planning Act (1990) - often used to subsidise 'affordable housing' - but instead is supplementary. The Section 106 Agreements were rather arbitrary whereas the CIL will at least have the benefit of transparency as it is simply levied on a pre-determined rate per m2.

According to the Department of Communities and Local Government's information: 'Under the system of planning obligations only 6 per cent of all planning permissions brought any contribution to the cost of supporting infrastructure, when even small developments can create a need for new services. The levy creates a fairer system, with all but the smallest building projects making a contribution towards additional infrastructure that is needed as a result of their development.' Immediately we should observe an issue; if the CIL intends to increase the amount of contributions derived from developers then this can only represent a further disincentive to developers to build housing. Whilst there is great stress laid upon the need for Councils to balance the CIL - the rate of which is determined by the individual Councils themselves - with the economic viability of development, this effectively means that Councils can determine how much profit any developer can make. The CIL is expected to derive an extra £1billion p.a. by 2016 for spending on infrastructure - which must represent an additional tax of £1billion on development. This hardly seems likely to encourage something that is in short supply and seems to run contrary to the Government's own stated policy aims.

There are also some rather more unforeseen and pernicious effects of the CIL, as recently reported in the Sunday Times [Homes section 2/9/2012]. Firstly, certain councils appear to be using the CIL and Section 106 to raise revenues in the face of tightening from central government and the decline of the volume of housebuilding, especially as the rates are discretionary.

However, like most regulation and taxation the CIL will hit the small man the hardest - in this case, self-builders. As the CIL is levied on any building over 100m2 it may render many self-builds financially unviable according to the postcode lottery of charges. In the worst instance Wandsworth has set rates at over £500/m2 - given that the average self-build is 200m2 the additional costs are hugely disproportionate to the infrastructure demands of any one household. Again, encouraging self-build was encouraged by the Government, particularly by out-going Housing Minister Grant Shapps. Whilst self-builds account for less than 10% of UK house build, disincentivising them is hardly going to help our dire housing situation.

Of course, there is much more that could be said here regarding the distortionary impacts of government control of infrastructure and planning on the housing market and the resultant difficulties the UK experiences in providing sufficient supply of housing. In this limited space it is sufficient to say that this is an ill-conceived policy that should have been scrapped by the incoming Coalition Government. Instead, it is being turned into a means of making up the shortfalls in council funding at the expense of further residential construction. What we have here is a classic but all-too-typical case of Governments advocating and attempting to stimulate via spending a desired behaviour in one area whilst at the same time Government is disincentivising the very same behaviour by another method. Additional infrastructure construction - if it must come from Government - should instead come from existing budgets by eliminating the vast amount of wasteful spending that local Government currently engages in.


Couples who share housework divorce more: study

Norwegian researchers have concluded that the more work a man does in the home the higher the risk that a couple will get divorced, explaining the correlation as a sign of "modern" attitudes.

The divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 percent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

"The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate," Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled "Equality in the Home", told AFP.

Researchers found no, or very little, cause-and-effect. Rather, they saw in the correlation a sign of "modern" attitudes.

"Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage" as being less sacred, Hansen said, stressing it was all about values.

"In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially. They can manage much easier if they divorce," he said.

There were only some marginal aspects where researchers said there may be cause-and-effect.

"Maybe it's sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity ... where one person is not stepping on the other's toes," Hansen suggested.

"There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight," he added,

In Norway, which has long tradition of gender equality, childrearing is generally shared equally between mothers and fathers (in seven out of 10 couples), said Hansen, speaking notably from a park where he was minding his children.

But when it comes to housework, women in Norway still account for most of it in seven out of 10 couples.

The study also pointed out however that those women were largely satisfied with the situation, and their overall happiness was very close to those women who lived in "modern" couples.


The worst possible option, except...

A comment from an Australian Leftist lady. She comes to a reasonable conclusion

Freedom of speech: it is one of those concepts that sounds delightfully simple, until it's put to the test. And of late, locally and around the world, it's been put to the test again and again.

Should freedom of speech be afforded to a bunch of American bozos putting together an extremely bad fake movie apparently designed specifically to enrage a group of extremist lunatics in the Middle East?

And should it be extended to a group of fools who choose to protest in a Sydney park against the American filmmaking bozos with equally provocative placards (some carried by children) calling for the beheading of infidels, despite the fact that no one in Australia has anything at all to do with the bad fake movie?

The urge to restrain such crackpots and provocateurs is understandable. Muslim extremists cause pain and damage to their more moderate colleagues. Idiot American filmmakers trigger violent events that cause real people to lose real family members. Is the harm they cause really outweighed by the abstract benefit of a generalised right to freedom of speech, especially when there isn't a shred of anything else - logic, good sense, artistic merit, nice shoes, ANYTHING - adding further weight to the let-them-speak case?

The US President, Barack Obama, speaking during the United Nations general congress last week, answered pretty much in the affirmative: Yes. Idiots get free speech, too.

But for Mr Obama, the freedom of speech question isn't simple either. His own government takes a much harder line, for example, against whistleblowers in its ranks than did the government of his predecessor.

Julian Assange was fairly swift to point this out in his own UN address, pictured, last week, which was delivered via a wonky video link filmed in front of the latest of what must be a dwindling supply of new backdrops in London's tiny Ecuadorean embassy.

Mr Obama, Assange said, had "done more to criminalise free speech than any other US president".

But Assange's free-speech story is complicated, too. He's holed up at the embassy by grace of the Ecuadorean President, Rafael Correa, who himself has used legislation, specially crafted defamation laws and police to shut down critics in his own country, and would give Mr Obama more than a run for his money in the repressive-president stakes.

Assange has, moreover, got his own TV show on Russia Today, a Kremlin-backed cable channel and propaganda arm set up by Vladimir Putin in 2005.

Russia Today would never in a blue fit broadcast any of the stuff WikiLeaks has released about the Russian President, and yet Assange is happy to use a platform entirely based on repressive government information control to broadcast his own stuff.

See what I mean? It's complicated.

What would Assange make of Putin's own most famous critics - a trio of young ladies who donned coloured balaclavas and barged into a Russian Orthodox cathedral in Moscow to perform an anti-Putin feminist punk song earlier this year, now in prison?

Said Mr Putin of their arrest: "The state is obliged to protect the feelings of the faithful." This has not always been the Russian government view, of course. But it suits the circumstance, even though the Pussy Riot ladies are only marginally more outlandish than the Russian President himself in their talent for attention-grabbing stunts.

(Earlier this month, Mr Putin disguised himself as a giant bird and boarded a hang-glider in order to drift over Siberia and encourage a group of endangered white cranes to migrate to warmer climes for the winter. The outfit required the President to wear a special beak, but Mr Putin did not allow photographs of himself in a beaked state to be published, because he's not a fool or anything.)

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has just fined one of its own members for insulting a fellow MP in a debate. The UK Independence Party leader, Nigel Farage, told the European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, that he had "the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk".

He also suggested that Mr Van Rompuy's native Belgium was "pretty much a non-country"; the European Court of Justice last week upheld his €3000 ($3712) fine.

Freedom of speech - it's simple in theory, but endlessly complicated and distorted by a million other factors of politics, circumstance, or the belief that you're restricting it for the best possible reasons.

In the end, freedom of speech is like democracy: the worst possible system, except for all the others.

Attempts to curb freedom of speech for entirely excellent reasons are the most tempting of all: the shutting down of hate speech, for example, or the protection of society from extremes.

Human nature is to insulate ourselves against nasty shocks. That's why we invented insurance. But you can't insure against genuinely irrational human evil, any more than you can against stupidity or malice.

Which is why the bottom line on freedom of speech must always be: sometimes you just have to suck it up.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


Examining political correctness around the world and its stifling of liberty and sense. Chronicling a slowly developing dictatorship

BIO for John Ray

Sarah Palin is undoubtedly the most politically incorrect person in American public life so she will be celebrated on this blog

I record on this blog many examples of negligent, inefficient and reprehensible behaviour on the part of British police. After 13 years of Labour party rule they have become highly politicized, with values that reflect the demands made on them by the political Left rather than than what the community expects of them. They have become lazy and cowardly and avoid dealing with real crime wherever possible -- preferring instead to harass normal decent people for minor infractions -- particularly offences against political correctness. They are an excellent example of the destruction that can be brought about by Leftist meddling.

I also record on this blog much social worker evil -- particularly British social worker evil. The evil is neither negligent nor random. It follows exactly the pattern you would expect from the Marxist-oriented indoctrination they get in social work school -- where the middle class is seen as the enemy and the underclass is seen as virtuous. So social workers are lightning fast to take chidren away from normal decent parents on the basis of of minor or imaginary infractions while turning a blind eye to gross child abuse by the underclass

Gender is a property of words, not of people. Using it otherwise is just another politically correct distortion -- though not as pernicious as calling racial discrimination "Affirmative action"

Postmodernism is fundamentally frivolous. Postmodernists routinely condemn racism and intolerance as wrong but then say that there is no such thing as right and wrong. They are clearly not being serious. Either they do not really believe in moral nihilism or they believe that racism cannot be condemned!

Postmodernism is in fact just a tantrum. Post-Soviet reality in particular suits Leftists so badly that their response is to deny that reality exists. That they can be so dishonest, however, simply shows how psychopathic they are.

Juergen Habermas, a veteran leftist German philosopher stunned his admirers not long ago by proclaiming, "Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [than Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."

The Supreme Court of the United States is now and always has been a judicial abomination. Its guiding principles have always been political rather than judicial. It is not as political as Stalin's courts but its respect for the constitution is little better. Some recent abuses: The "equal treatment" provision of the 14th amendment was specifically written to outlaw racial discrimination yet the court has allowed various forms of "affirmative action" for decades -- when all such policies should have been completely stuck down immediately. The 2nd. amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed yet gun control laws infringe it in every State in the union. The 1st amedment provides that speech shall be freely exercised yet the court has upheld various restrictions on the financing and display of political advertising. The court has found a right to abortion in the constitution when the word abortion is not even mentioned there. The court invents rights that do not exist and denies rights that do.

Consider two "jokes" below:

Q. "Why are Leftists always standing up for blacks and homosexuals?

A. Because for all three groups their only God is their penis"

Pretty offensive, right? So consider this one:

Q. "Why are evangelical Christians like the Taliban?

A. They are both religious fundamentalists"

The latter "joke" is not a joke at all, of course. It is a comparison routinely touted by Leftists. Both "jokes" are greatly offensive and unfair to the parties targeted but one gets a pass without question while the other would bring great wrath on the head of anyone uttering it. Why? Because political correctness is in fact just Leftist bigotry. Bigotry is unfairly favouring one or more groups of people over others -- usually justified as "truth".

One of my more amusing memories is from the time when the Soviet Union still existed and I was teaching sociology in a major Australian university. On one memorable occasion, we had a representative of the Soviet Womens' organization visit us -- a stout and heavily made-up lady of mature years. When she was ushered into our conference room, she was greeted with something like adulation by the local Marxists. In question time after her talk, however, someone asked her how homosexuals were treated in the USSR. She replied: "We don't have any. That was before the revolution". The consternation and confusion that produced among my Leftist colleagues was hilarious to behold and still lives vividly in my memory. The more things change, the more they remain the same, however. In Sept. 2007 President Ahmadinejad told Columbia university that there are no homosexuals in Iran.

It is widely agreed (with mainly Lesbians dissenting) that boys need their fathers. What needs much wider recognition is that girls need their fathers too. The relationship between a "Daddy's girl" and her father is perhaps the most beautiful human relationship there is. It can help give the girl concerned inner strength for the rest of her life.

The love of bureaucracy is very Leftist and hence "correct". Who said this? "Account must be taken of every single article, every pound of grain, because what socialism implies above all is keeping account of everything". It was V.I. Lenin

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

Germaine Greer is a stupid old Harpy who is notable only for the depth and extent of her hatreds