Friday, January 05, 2007

50 pound fine for British boy who fed seagull

A schoolboy has been given a 50 pound littering fine - for feeding half a chip to a seagull. Jack Double, 14, was handed the on-the-spot fixed penalty by two council litter enforcement officers.

He said: 'I was walking along with a bag of chips on my lunch break when I bit into one and found it was really hard. 'The other half was green so I just threw it to a seagull.'

Jack refused to give his name to the officers but they followed him back to Chantry High School in Ipswich where staff identified him.

His mother Mandy has written to Ipswich Council to appeal against the fine, describing it as ridiculous. Three weeks earlier Jack was awarded a certificate by an enforcement officer in the same area, commending him for putting his rubbish in a bin.



Whether it changes or not, and whether or not the nationalists succeed in their determined drive for independence and sovereignty, no one can argue against the authenticity of a Scottish national identity. The history of the Scots goes back some 10,000 years and they established a vigorous, powerful, independent kingdom that played a prominent role in European affairs for nearly 400 years (from the victory of Robert the Bruce in the Battle of Banockburn in 1314, to the Union with England in 1707). The Scots have produced world-famous poets and musicians and economists and theologians and research scientists and monarchs, with folk music and distinctive styles of dress that are recognized around the world.

Compare the rich history and unique culture of the Scottish people with another contemporary nationalistic movement that hopes to create an independent state in 2007, or very shortly thereafter: the Palestinians. In fact, even the briefest examination of the contrast between Scottish and Palestinian nationalism highlights the fraudulence in current claims (honored by enlightened souls like Jimmy Carter, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and even the America-hating Scot, George Galloway) that Palestinians mean to "restore their ancient homeland."

What ancient homeland, exactly? Scottish monarchs like Mary, Queen of Scots and Macbeth have been celebrated in story and poetry and song around the world. Palestinian nationalists can hardly point to comparably famous "Kings of Palestine" for one obvious reason: no Kingdom of Palestine ever existed, other than the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judea, or the short-lived, Christian Crusader kingdom based in Jerusalem. From the time that Kingdom fell to the great Kurdish leader Saladin in 1187 (less than 100 years after its founding) no independent governmental entity existed in the area of Israel and the Palestinian territories until the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. For that reason, history records no kings or princes of Palestine, nor even governors and viceroys, who were associated with a nationality identified as "Palestinian."

And what about other famous Palestinians through the millennia-the architects and scientists and writers and spiritual leaders? Among proud Scots, the world has recognized the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, Adam Smith, John Knox, David Hume, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, James Watt, Alexander Fleming, Andrew Carnegie and many, many more. If even the most devoted supporters of Palestinian nationalism were asked to identify a famous representative of that nationality who had gained notoriety prior, say, to 1950, who could they name? If a people who claim that their origins stretch back into "the mists of time" can't identify a single famous figure as one of their own - no, not one -- what does it say about the authenticity of their historic nationality?

The absence of any notable figures in the arts and sciences, religion or politics, who were known to history as "Palestinian" isn't just a reflection of the fact that the Arab villages like Al Quds (Jerusalem), Hebron and Yaffo represented under-populated, destitute backwaters in the larger (and culturally dynamic) Arab world. It's also an indication that the people who grew up in those dusty settlements in the ancient Holy Land of the Bible never identified themselves as "Palestinian." They were content to see themselves as Arabs, part of larger Islamic empires like those of the Caliphate, the Mamluks, and the Ottoman Sultanate. The ethnic identity "Palestinian" didn't exist - and the term "Southern Syrians" continued to characterize the inhabitants of the Holy Land up through the early twentieth century.

In terms of identifying famous (or notorious) Palestinians through the long march of recorded time, the one name that inevitably emerges is the late Yasser Arafat-despite the fact that he was born and raised in Egypt and educated in Kuwait, and his "Palestinian roots" have always looked questionable. Serious challenges as to his origins also surround the late Edward Said, an Arab-American scholar who spent nearly all his life in New York City but chose to identify as a Palestinian.

But both of these famous figures achieved their notoriety, and sought to label themselves as "Palestinian" after the deliberate creation of the synthetic Palestinian identity, confirmed with the official launch of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1965. Prior to that time, the leaders of the populous, local Arab communities in Gaza and the West Bank (which had been annexed by Egypt and Jordan, respectively, in 1949) made few demands of their Arab overlords for a separate state to express their distinctive national aspirations. The insistence on an independent Palestinian Arab state (offered explicitly as part of the UN Partition in 1947, but peremptorily turned down by all Arab leaders) only became a fixation on the world scene after Israel's victory in 1967 gave the Jewish State control of the Arab communities in the West Bank and Gaza.

During the first Arab-Israeli war, even as hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees fled from their homes to escape the raging conflict, these "Palestinians" hardly viewed an independent state and an expression of local nationalism as a necessary element in solving their problems. In the summer of 1948, after Israel's declaration of Independence, the UN dispatched the Swedish nobleman Count Folke Bernadotte to the region to try to negotiate a truce. During his visit, he wrote in his diary: "The Palestinian Arabs had at the present no will of their own. Neither have they ever developed any specifically Palestinian nationalism. The demand for a separate Arab state in Palestine is consequently relatively weak. It would seem as though in existing circumstances most of the Palestinian Arabs would be quite content to be incorporated in Transjordan."

These incontrovertible facts about the fraudulent nature of Palestinian nationalism help to explain its frenzied and fanatical characteristics. Ambrose Bierce defined a fanatic as "one who, when unsure of his argument, redoubles his intensity." With no distinctive history to fuel their pride, no great achievements or figures from the past who connect with their group or to lend dignity to their claims, today's self-defined "Palestinians" rely on crazed extremism - suicide bombing, training children to slaughter, and an utter refusal to compromise -as a means to forge their identity.

By contrast, the modern Scottish nationalists have never resorted to murderous violence or extreme demands of any kind in their drive for independence. In a sense, their peaceful determination to re-establish their own state reflects the secure, organic, authentic nature of their national identity. On the other hand, the Palestinian predilection for bloodshed and self-destruction stems from the flimsy, dishonest basis of their claims to nationhood.

More here

"Convict Quotas" Coming to DC?

Post lifted from Amy Ridenour

Not a joke. DC employers may soon be required to hire ex-cons. From Legal Times (subscription required), December 11:
Ex-convicts would be protected from employment, housing, and educational discrimination as the newest protected class in the D.C. Human Rights Act under a bill the D.C. Council unanimously approved on first reading last week.
Making criminals a protected class. Oh, that's rich. Now DC employers will be vulnerable to lawsuits for not hiring ex-cons. Some interest group (taxpayer-subsidized, most likely) will figure out what percentage of the DC population has ever been convicted of anything, and any employer who doesn't have at least that percentage of ex-cons on his workforce will be vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits. De facto "convict quotas." The lawyers get thirty percent.

Anyone who thinks I am kidding, think again. Members of other "protected classes" bring suits on that basis, and a certain class of trial lawyer (the technical name is 'bottom dweller') is always looking for new reasons to bring lawsuits. If this bill passes and remains in force, "convict quota" lawsuits would not be immediate, but they are probably inevitable.

It gets worse: In an effort to avoid convict quota lawsuits, employers will seek out convicts. Hoping to stay safe and alive themselves -- not to mention avoid lawsuits that may occur should the ex-cons they hire commit crimes while on their clock -- employers will bid hard against one another for the non-violent ex-offenders. Small businesses; businesses just starting up and businesses without much ready cash will be forced to meet their quotas by hiring the folks who come cheapest -- the people who were convicted of violent or otherwise especially loathsome crimes.

Fortunately, day care and elderly care centers are big-margin businesses, so they'll probably be able to afford to bid for the embezzlers and check-bouncers. (Not.)

I wonder which sort of ex-offender will apply for jobs at security firms. Burglars?

At a certain point, it could become profitable for would-be employees to become convicted for a little crime -- something that results in probation, maybe; nothing too inconvenient -- in order to get oneself "protected class" status.

One of the sick jokes about D.C. is how much money former Congressmen can make when they sign up with lobbying firms. The joke is about to get sicker: Ex-lawmakers with criminal records now may even get more.

More details...

From a Legal Times (subscription required) October 30 article by Brendan Smith, we learn the unsurprising name of the sponsor of this unanimously-adopted legislation, and more. I recommend the entire article, which has more detail than copyright law permits me to reprint, but here are excerpts:
D.C. Council member Marion Barry's record of public service spans five decades, yet many people still remember him for that grainy FBI surveillance video showing him inhaling from a crack-cocaine pipe in the Vista Hotel in 1990...

...Barry is now pushing a bill that would add rehabilitated ex-offenders to the already-expansive list of classes protected from employment discrimination under the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977...

...Five states ban discrimination against ex-offenders by both public and private employers under certain circumstances. But Kenneth Saunders, director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights, says he doesn't know of any state that has added ex-offenders as a protected class under human rights law....

...Barry says many employers, including the D.C. government, discriminate against ex-offenders, in part because some businesses are "myopic in their thinking."

"The way the American justice system is supposed to work is, you've served your time, you've paid your debt to society, and that should be it," he says. "This is a new day in the nation's capital. We're not going to have discrimination of any kind. If you do discriminate, you're going to pay for it..."

...The D.C. Chamber of Commerce, which represents about 2,000 members, has some concerns about creating a human rights class for ex-offenders, but the chamber has not lobbied for or against the bill, says spokesman Chris Knudson...

...Jamie Fellner, U.S. program director of Human Rights Watch, says she supports adding ex-offenders as a protected civil rights class, but Human Rights Watch has not endorsed that position because "it hasn't come up."

"As a practical matter, many people today with criminal records face the same kind of off-the-cuff discrimination that people have faced because of race or sex," she says. "It shadows your life. It's like wearing the brand A on your chest, the scarlet letter..."
Yes, a scarlet letter. One a person pinned on him or herself.



By Jeff Jacoby

"The execution of Saddam, a human-rights monster, turned his unspeakable record upside down." So we are informed by Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch, which issued a statement calling the monster's hanging "a significant step away from respect for human rights and the rule of law in Iraq."

You may not agree with that -- you may be one of those squares who think the death of a mass murderer makes the world a better place -- but Tim Hames does. A columnist for the Times of London, Hames declared himself over the weekend with "those who find the notion of this execution offensive." He recognizes that "the evidence of Saddam's atrocities is overwhelming," but, like Dicker, he is sure that the government that hanged the dictator did something as evil to Saddam Hussein as anything Saddam did to his innumerable victims. "Mainstream middle-class sentiment in Europe," Hames tells us, "now regards the death penalty as being as ethically tainted as the crimes that produced that sentence."

*As ethically tainted.* Got that? The quick and painless death meted out to the Butcher of Baghdad after a reasonably transparent trial is morally equivalent to the horrific brutalities that earned him his nickname.

The chronicling of those brutalities will go on for years, but here is a reminder -- one minuscule fragment of Saddam's record, plucked almost at random from Kanan Makiya's 1993 book about Iraq and the Arab world, *Cruelty and Silence*:

"Children who would not give their parents' names to soldiers" -- this was in 1991, during Saddam's suppression of the Shi'ite uprising -- "were doused with gasoline and set on fire. Some were tied to moving tanks to discourage sniper fire from the rebels. Security forces also burned entire families in their houses when they would not give or did not know the location of the head of the household. . . . Some rebels, it has been alleged, were forced to drink gasoline before being shot. It appears that instead of crumpling into an undramatic lifeless heap, the victim explodes and burns like a torch for a short while. "

If "mainstream middle-class sentiment in Europe" equates burning children alive with hanging the man responsible for burning them, then mainstream middle-class sentiment in Europe, to quote Mr. Bumble, "is a ass -- a idiot."

And so you might conclude from the headlines and the official European reactions to Saddam's death. "The EU condemns the crimes committed by Saddam and also the death penalty," said the spokeswoman for Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign-affairs chief. "Europe condemns death penalty," announced the German paper Deutsche Welle. The British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, let it be known that "the British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else . . . regardless of the individual or the crime." Dutch and Belgian officials called the execution "barbaric." The Vatican declared it "tragic."

With opposition to capital punishment so firmly entrenched in Europe's worldview, it came as no surprise to learn that US officials tried in vain to convince the UN, the European Union, and a host of countries to assist with the tribunal that judged Saddam. "They all refused," the Boston Globe reported last week, "because they opposed the tribunal's use of the death penalty."

But what if Europeans don't oppose the use of the death penalty? When the German magazine Stern commissioned a poll on whether Saddam should be executed, it found 50 percent of Germans in favor and only 39 percent opposed. A poll conducted last month for Le Monde found that most Americans (82 percent) favored hanging Saddam -- as did most Spaniards (51 percent), most Germans (53 percent), most French (58 percent), and most Britons (69 percent).

In fact, once you get past the leftist elites who run the media and staff the foreign ministries, other industrialized nations may not be nearly as implacable in opposing the death penalty as we're commonly told. "Polls show that Europeans and Canadians crave executions almost as much as their American counterparts do," wrote Joshua Micah Marshall in The New Republic in 2000. "It's just that their politicians don't listen to them."

In Canada, for example, support for reinstating the death penalty ran between 60 percent and 70 percent. Two-thirds to three-quarters of Brits, about half of Italians, and even 49 percent of Swedes (according to a 1997 poll) felt the same way. "There is barely a country in Europe," Marshall concluded, "where the death penalty was abolished in response to public opinion rather than in spite of it." "Mainstream middle-class sentiment" abroad, it turns out, may not be such an ass after all. When normal men and women in Europe look at Saddam's hanging, they, like us, see an act of moral hygiene. If their politicians and journalists see something different -- well, what else is new?

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