Monday, February 04, 2008

Britain has just legalized polygamy

For the benefit of guess who? Interesting that they can do it without reference to their legislature. Britain is adopting more and more characteristics of a Fascist State

Husbands with multiple wives have been given the go-ahead to claim extra welfare benefits following a year-long Government review, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. Even though bigamy is a crime in Britain, the decision by ministers means that polygamous marriages can now be recognised formally by the state, so long as the weddings took place in countries where the arrangement is legal. The outcome will chiefly benefit Muslim men with more than one wife, as is permitted under Islamic law. Ministers estimate that up to a thousand polygamous partnerships exist in Britain, although they admit there is no exact record.

The decision has been condemned by the Tories, who accused the Government of offering preferential treatment to a particular group, and of setting a precedent that would lead to demands for further changes in British law.

New guidelines on income support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) state: "Where there is a valid polygamous marriage the claimant and one spouse will be paid the couple rate ... The amount payable for each additional spouse is presently 33.65 pounds." Income support for all of the wives may be paid directly into the husband's bank account, if the family so choose. Under the deal agreed by ministers, a husband with multiple wives may also be eligible for additional housing benefit and council tax benefit to reflect the larger property needed for his family.

The ruling could cost taxpayers millions of pounds. Ministers launched a review of the benefit rules for polygamous marriages in November 2006, after it emerged that some families had benefited financially. The review concluded in December last year with agreement that the extra benefits should continue to be paid, the Government admitted. The decision was not publicly announced.

Four departments - the Treasury, the DWP, HM Revenue and Customs, and the Home Office - were involved in the review, which concluded that recognising multiple marriages conducted overseas was "the best possible" option. In Britain, bigamy is punishable by up to seven years in prison. Islamic law permits men to have up to four wives at any one time - known as a harem - provided the husband spends equal amounts of time and money on each of them.

A DWP spokesman claimed that the number of people in polygamous marriages entering Britain had fallen since the 1988 Immigration Act, which "generally prevents a man from bringing a second or subsequent wife with him to this country if another woman is already living as his wife in the UK".

While a married man cannot obtain a spouse visa to bring a second wife into Britain, some multiple partners may be able to enter the country via other legal routes such as tourist visas, student visas or work permits. In addition, officials have identified a potential loophole by which a man can divorce his wife under British law while continuing to live with her as his spouse under Islamic law, and obtain a spouse visa for a foreign woman who he can legally marry.

"Entry clearance may not be withheld from a second wife where the husband has divorced his previous wife and the divorce is thought to be one of convenience," an immigration rulebook advises. "This is so, even if the husband is still living with the previous wife and to issue the entry clearance would lead to the formation of a polygamous household."

Chris Grayling, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said that the decision was "completely unjustifiable". "You are not allowed to have multiple marriages in the UK, so to have a situation where the benefits system is treating people in different ways is totally unacceptable and will serve to undermine confidence in the system. "This sets a precedent that will lead to more demands for the culture of other countries to be reflected in UK law and the benefits system." Mr Grayling also accused the Government of trying to keep the ruling quiet because the topic is so controversial.


How Anti-Terror Laws Threaten Free Speech

Restrictions of all sorts have multiplied in the heightened security environment of the last six-and-a-half years, so it should be no surprise that, around the world, legal restrictions on speech have tightened. Since 2001, there has been a clear trend toward prohibiting speech perceived as supporting terrorism, and toward barring the dissemination of materials--including books, videos, and other forms of written and graphic communication--that are believed to be of use for terrorist activity.

International protections on free expression in no way restrict governments from criminally prosecuting direct incitement to terrorism--speech that directly encourages the commission of a crime, is intended to result in criminal action, and is likely to result in criminal action--whether or not criminal action does, in fact, result. (In the United States, where the Constitution imposes stricter protections for expression than found elsewhere, the courts have required that the prohibited incitement present a risk of "imminent" criminal action.) Yet the legal trend globally is not only to criminalize direct incitement to terrorist activity, but to criminalize indirect incitement--to prohibit speech perceived as justifying, defending, or "glorifying" terrorism. This, from the standpoint of free expression, is problematic.

The British government has been a leader in this effort. Not only has it passed new domestic laws to regulate speech, it has pressed international institutions to take up the issue. In September 2005, the U.N. Security Council adopted a UK-sponsored resolution that purported to repudiate "attempts at the justification or glorification (apologie) of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts." Although the resolution used the term incitement, rather than indirect incitement, its references to justification and glorification suggested a broad understanding of the term.

Earlier that year, the Council of Europe, a European human rights body, adopted a Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism with similarly expansive language. The treaty requires states to criminalize "public provocation" of terrorism, a crime that could include indirect incitement. The convention defines public provocation as the public dissemination of a message "with the intent to incite the commission of a terrorist offence, where such conduct, whether or not directly advocating terrorist offences, causes a danger that one or more such offences may be committed." Note the clear erosion of the incitement standard: There's no need for the message to directly encourage terrorism, and rather than having to be "likely" to result in criminal action, it's enough that the message may "cause a danger" of such action.

A Global Survey

Let's review a few examples from different countries to get a better sense of what kinds of statements these laws tend to cover:
*. The UK's 2006 counterterrorism law criminalizes any public statement that is intended to encourage, or that recklessly encourages, acts of terrorism, if the statement takes the form of "glorif[ying] the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts or offences" and is such that the audience "could reasonably infer" that what is being glorified should be emulated. (A 2000 UK law already specifies that "inciting another person to commit an act of terrorism" is a criminal offense, one punishable in the same manner as the offense that was incited.)

* Under Zimbabwe's 2006 counterterrorism law, a person who "solicits, invites, or encourages moral or material support" for a designated terrorist organization commits an offense.

* The United Arab Emirates' 2004 counterterrorism law reportedly provides for up to five years of imprisonment for anyone who promotes verbally or in writing any of the offenses set out in the law.

* Bahrain's 2006 counterterrorism law includes extremely broad and vaguely-drafted restrictions on expression. The law provides that: "Whoever uses religion, religious buildings, public places or religious festivities to propagate provocative appeals or extremist ideas, or holds notices/posters, or puts up graphics, pictures, slogans or signs that might create fitna [disorder] or insult monotheist religions, their symbols or their believers, or harm the national unity or social peace, or destabilize security or public order shall be punished by imprisonment and fine or one or both penalties." The legislation also provides that anyone who "promotes or approves, in any way" of a terrorist act faces imprisonment.

* El Salvador's 2006 counterterrorism law prescribes a five- to ten-year prison sentence for anyone who publicly justifies terrorism.

* In Australia, the 2005 Anti-Terrorism Act bars organizations from advocating terrorism. An organization is understood to advocate a terrorist act if it: 1) "directly or indirectly counsels or urges" such an act; 2) "provides instruction" on how to commit such an act, or 3) "directly praises the doing of a terrorist act in circumstances where there is a risk that such praise might have the effect of leading a person T to engage in a terrorist act."

* Turkey's 2006 counterterrorism law imposes criminal penalties on those who "make propaganda for a terrorist organization or for its aims." The law provides for harsher penalties for those who do so using the media. A Council of Europe expert committee has criticized the provision, finding it to be "ambiguous and written in wide and vague terms."

* Under French and Spanish counterterrorism laws, which predate the September 11 terrorist attacks, the act of justifying terrorism (apologie or apolog'a) is a crime. The difference between the two countries is that such prosecutions are quite common in Spain, whereas they are extremely rare in France.
What these laws generally have in common is broad language, which may in some instances cover legitimate political speech, and which gives prosecutors enormous discretion in deciding when and if to bring a case.

Possession of a Map Without an Excuse

In some countries, moreover, not only is it illegal to express views deemed to support terrorism, it is illegal to possess materials that support terrorism. Again, the UK has taken the lead in this area, both in passing legislation to restrict the possession and dissemination of such materials, and in prosecuting alleged offenders.
* Under the UK's 2000 counterterrorism law, the possession of articles connected to terrorism--including terrorism-related publications or videos--is a criminal offense, as long as there is some minimal showing that the person's possession of the items may be related to plans to commit terrorism. Specifically, the law provides that: "[a] person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism." * Another provision of the same UK law criminalizes the possession of documents containing information "of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." This extremely broad provision--which could otherwise bar, for example, possessing a map of London--also provides that a person charged with violating the law may defend against prosecution by proving that he has "a reasonable excuse for his action or possession." * Finally, the 2006 UK counterterrorism law criminalizes the distribution of "terrorist publications," defined as publications that either glorify terrorist acts or are made available "wholly or mainly" because they would be useful in the commission or preparation of terrorist acts.
Preemptive Action against Terrorism

The reasoning behind such laws is understandable. Governments want to stop terrorism before it occurs; indeed, they would prefer to deal with the problem before the potential terrorist gets anywhere near the stage of actually planning violent acts. Some proportion of the people who communicate support for terrorism, or who read terrorist publications, may one day be moved to action.

Still, a spate of recent prosecutions in the UK does little to instill confidence in these laws. Defendants have included a couple of 17-year-olds, and a young woman known (for her poems) as the "lyrical terrorist." Are such people really a threat? It's hard to tell; the problem with preemptive action is that it's based on prediction. And while some number of adolescents may go from downloading Al Qaeda videos to actively supporting terrorism, the gap between the two activities is large.

By wasting scarce legal and prosecutorial resources going after speech, rather than action, governments may be doing more harm than good. The defendants in such cases no doubt see them as political and religious persecution, and their families, neighbors and larger communities may agree.


The FEC vs. Free Speech

A rich person, acting alone, can spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose a candidate, without government interference. But the government will interfere plenty if two, or more, less wealthy people cooperate to match what the rich person spends. Individuals who cooperate to express opinions about candidates have to consult lawyers and accountants, file reports with the government, and potentially face large fines. They will also be limited to contributions of $5,000 each, while the rich person, acting alone, bears none of these burdens, and can spend millions. When it comes to political campaigns, one rich person has more rights than an infinite number of poor people.

The federal government has a special gang it uses to control the right of people to cooperate to express opinions about candidates. It's called the Federal Election Commission -- FEC for short. The FEC is made up of exactly 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans. Its members never face a public election. They are appointed by the President, and approved by Congress. The FEC's partisan composition reflects its partisan purpose.

The FEC is a cartel, designed in fact, if not necessarily with the intent, to protect incumbents from challengers while insuring that neither major party gains a legal advantage over the other. This is the reason for having exactly 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans. There is no odd-numbered vote to break ties. The FEC serves as legislature, judge, jury, and executioner -- dictating the fate of all those who join together in cooperation to express opinions about political candidates. The FEC recently made use of its legislative powers to silence and control a group known as was created by a group of cooperating individuals to endorse or oppose candidates based on their positions regarding . . . yes, you guessed it, the FEC. accepts contributions only from individuals, not corporations or unions. It neither contributes to parties nor candidates, nor coordinates with them. It is totally private and independent. And yet, the FEC has asserted -- legislated? -- that it has the power to regulate this group. This assertion of power by the FEC is not a final ruling, but it has already had the force of law. has decided to submit to FEC governance in order to avoid legal penalties later. The FEC has effectively hobbled a critic of the FEC. No legislation by elected representatives was required to achieve this outcome. No due process in a court of law was needed to reach this verdict. Instead, it was achieved by the vote of six unelected people with a direct interest in the outcome.

There are two Constitutional problems here . . .

First, the First Amendment dictates that Congress can make no laws "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble." If Congress can't make such laws, neither can it authorize an agency of the Executive Branch, such as the FEC, to make them.

Second, the FEC, along with many other federal agencies, writes the regulations they enforce. This is unconstitutional. If the First Amendment never existed, the FEC would still have no legitimate authority to regulate political speech. That's because regulations are laws, and the Constitution requires that all laws be written by Congress.


Do-gooders discover that even kids are not a blank slate!

No mention of genetics below, of course. Most personality traits, including aggressiveness and impulsiveness, are inherited so the chances of your changing them are very slim -- no matter what you do and no matter at what age you do it. But the Left and the do-gooders like to dream on about their ability to change people. That you cannot, the study below shows

PARENT training programs don't reduce reduce behavioural problems in toddlers, an Australian study shows, suggesting they may be a waste of time and money. On average, behavioural problems afflict every seventh child aged four to 17, previously studies have shown.

Aggressive or extremely defiant youngsters are said to have externalised problems, while those of kids who withdraw, or suffer anxiety and depression, are described as internalised. Troubles in childhood often have serious personal, social and economic consequences later in life, experts say. Left untreated, about 50 per cent of preschoolers with behaviour problems develop mental health problems, including depression. Besides the direct cost of treatment, there are social costs as well: unemployment, family stress or violence, drug use and increased crime have all been linked to behavioural difficulties very early in life.

One approach is to deal with the problems as they emerge through counselling, drug treatment, or psychiatry. But this is expensive, and not always effective. Another tack is to try to nip the problems in the bud by discouraging the kind of parenting that can lead to troubled behaviour, such as unduly harsh discipline and unrealistic expectations.

For the study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers enrolled 300 mothers and their eight-month old tots in the Melbourne area into the training program. Unlike earlier studies, this one looked not just at high risk families, but a representative sampling of parents and children from poor, middle income and wealthier families. The scientists, led by Harriet Hiscock at the Centre for Community Child Health in Parkville, Australia, compared behaviour of the test group over an 18-month period with another set of mothers and kids who did not receive any special counselling.

The results showed very little difference between the two groups. Mothers in the program were somewhat less abusive and acquired more realistic expectations of how quickly their children would progress. But there was no significant difference is the level of behaviour problems in the children, or in the mental health of the mothers. "The outcome at two years are insufficient to support widespread introduction of a very early universal programme to prevent behavioural problems in toddlers,'' the researchers concluded.



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, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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