Sunday, February 03, 2008

Jury to decide if British mother threw away an apple core

A young mother-of-three is to be tried by a crown court jury after being accused of throwing an apple core from her car on to the pavement. Kate Badger, 26, denies the littering charge but also claims the nature of the accusation is "ridiculous" because apples are biodegradable. She has accused Wolverhampton city council of wasting taxpayers' money by pursuing her through the courts

The council said it took a tough line on those who dropped litter and it would be up to a jury to decide if she was guilty. The council originally wanted simply to issue a 60 pound on-the-spot penalty for the alleged offence, said to have been committed on March 19 last year while Miss Badger's Volkswagen Golf was parked on a street in Wolverhampton town centre. Miss Badger refused to pay and the local authority took her to the magistrates' court, where she chose to be tried by a jury in a crown court.

She faces a fine of up to 20,000 pounds or six months in prison if she is found guilty of the charge, which states that she threw "controlled waste" from the car. A guilty verdict could see her separated from her sons Christopher, eight, Daniel, five, and four-year-old Callum, and the council could also recoup its costs from her.

Yesterday, Miss Badger, a company promotions co-ordinator, was bailed unconditionally by Wolverhampton magistrates until a hearing at the crown court on Feb 6. She is accused of "knowingly causing the deposit of controlled waste, namely an apple core, on land which did not have a waste management licence".

Miss Badger, who lives in the city, said after yesterday's hearing: "I refused to pay the 60 fine because I didn't throw the apple core. "I think it is a ridiculous charge because apples are biodegradable and it is not as if we are talking about a huge bag of rubbish." She added: "The council has taken it to court and they have been to photograph my car. I'm being treated like a criminal." She said she did not believe dropping an apple core was worthy of the court's time.

However, a spokesman for Wolverhampton city council said: "Authorised officers of the council can issue 60 pound fixed penalty notices to anyone seen dropping litter. "A fixed penalty notice is issued in preference to a court summons for littering offences as there is no criminal record recorded if the fine is paid and the penalty is less than that of a conviction for littering. "In 2007 we collected almost 3,000 tons of rubbish from the streets. "Litter is a priority for our residents. It is they who want to make streets tidier and therefore we take a tough line on those who litter."


Life requires a GOP president

There is nothing like the prospect of losing to focus one's mind. That might explain the dynamic at work in the East Room of the White House on the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. After President Bush's brief remarks, the first response I heard from pro-life leaders and activists was, "Wow." And the second. And the third. The president was interrupted by applause so often he was barely able to deliver his remarks. And once it was over, he was so electrified by the crowd that he worked the room as if it were a political rally - something I've never seen at one of these quick, official, fairly routine events.

Across town an hour or so later, another pro-life gathering was being held at the Family Research Center. Here, Bush was being criticized for his lack of leadership - there is more he could be doing, more he could have done. Fair enough. Each of the leading presidential candidates was also criticized for having either that same lack of leadership or a hostility to the anti-legal abortion position.

In separate conversations about the state of the presidential race, multiple well-informed conservatives told me of their affinity for Barack Obama. He's a likable guy. He has a sense of humor. He has a beautiful family. They hate the dirty tactics of the Clinton campaign against him - using his middle name, Hussein, against him; whispering untrue rumors about his past; trying to hang him on confessions about his past. All of this, understandably, makes Obama a rather sympathetic figure.

However, when pro-life conservatives flirt with a Democrat and beat up on Republicans - including a president who has promoted a culture of life - they ignore the stark political realities they face this election cycle. I know I have also done my share of criticizing. There are some real concerns for a pro-lifer when looking at John McCain, who supports embryo-destroying stem-cell research. However, I also know what the alternative would mean.

While in the Illinois legislature, Obama voted "present" on a Born-Alive Infants Bill. What this means is that when he, as a state legislator, was presented with the reality that babies who had survived abortions were being left to die, he would not raise his hand to provide those children legal protection. His reason: He didn't want to cede ground to crazy pro-lifers. He warned: "Whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the Equal Protection Clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a - a child, a 9-month-old - child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place."

This floors his opponent in the Democratic primary, Hillary Rodham Clinton. She is outraged, however, not in the way someone devoted to human rights and protecting the most vulnerable would be, but in the way a radical, pro-abortion feminist would be. How dare he not oppose the bill. "A woman's right to choose . demands a leader who will stand up and protect it," one Clinton-mailing said.

The fact of the matter is, if you oppose abortion, you want a president who is committed to protecting the lives of the most vulnerable among us. You're free to complain that Mitt Romney was once on the other side even if he's since led on life issues and better articulated his reasons for why he opposes "Brave New World" projects, like Harvard's effort to clone, than most politicians are able to.

You're free to complain that Bush should have done more, that the Bush administration didn't demonstrate as much proactive leadership as you'd like. But know that the White House will not be an incubator for a culture of life if Obama or Clinton becomes president. Remember that in the last Clinton administration, a ban on partial-birth abortion was vetoed three times. Know that neither an Obama nor a Clinton administration will invite pro-life marchers to the White House on the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision and declare, as Bush did: "We aspire to build a society where each one of us is welcomed in life and protected in law. We haven't arrived, but we are making progress." To the country, at a time when public opinion is turning as Romney did, there are clear choices. A President Clinton or Obama would be a big baby step backward.


Europe's undemocratic new "treaty"

Although in the aftermath of the Dutch and French electorates' rejection of the proposed Constitution New Labour did promise to hold a referendum, it has always been reluctant to test the public on this issue. The pretence that the Lisbon Treaty does not represent a fundamental change to the make-up of the EU allows New Labour ministers to wriggle out of their earlier commitment to a referendum. Through representing the Lisbon Treaty as a relatively minor technical amendment, various European governments hope to depoliticise this important change to the way that the continent is managed. Distancing the EU from public debate, and elevating it over the people's say-so. that appears to be the main tactic of EU supporters these days.

Many observers have commented on the so-called `democratic deficit' that afflicts the European Union and its institutions. Even some of the EU's most ardent advocates are frequently embarrassed by its bureaucratic, top-down approach. Nevertheless, these advocates have little inhibition about doing whatever it takes to insulate the institutions of the EU from popular pressure.

I am constantly struck by the way that numerous `democratic' thinkers focus their emotional and intellectual energies on denouncing the allegedly `anti-democratic' impulse of those who rejected the Constitution in 2005. At least Jurgen Habermas, the pro-EU German political theorist, had the good grace to praise the French for their `bravery' in holding the 2005 referendum. Others have dismissed the gesture of consulting public opinion with open contempt. With a deeply patronising tone, the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk remarked that `if you don't believe that the mood of the people is something akin to the mouth of truth, then a referendum is a mistake, not only for formal reasons but also in terms of political reality'.

According to Sloterdijk, the French plebiscite opened `the way for xenophobia to articulate itself'. It seems that when people are left to themselves, to express their views as they see fit, what tends to come out of their mouth is not `truth' but `xenophobia'. In the same vein, the French critic and philosopher, Paul Virilio, claimed that `under the appearance of democratic openness, the French referendum on the European Constitution increasingly appears as a denial of democracy'. From this perspective, it seems that `democracy' is something that should be left to those who know better than the public; the `democratic' ideal can apparently only be realised by the highly educated wing of the EU political oligarchy.

The most striking thing about the elites' current promotion of the Lisbon Treaty (or the Not-The-Constitution) is not simply the cynical and disdainful way in which the case for a referendum is dismissed; even more significant is the fact that there cannot really be a substantive debate on the Constitution, for the simple reason that there is no coherent pro-European outlook to motivate the people of Europe.

Observers often confuse the pro-EU sensibility of the oligarchy with a pro-European outlook. In truth, support for the EU is driven predominantly by pragmatic and instrumental concerns rather than by a fundamental adherence to any European ideal. For example, in the UK, there is a notable absence of any expression of a mature pro-European standpoint. `One of the problems for the Blair government has been that in opposition Labour never worked out what being pro-European meant', writes a former economic advisor to Downing Street (1).

Even in Germany, where the political class has embraced the ideal of European unification to compensate for its loss of authority after the Second World War, the EU is regarded instrumentally - as an institution that's `good' because it works rather than because it has a profound meaning to the people. Rhetorical commitment to the `European ideal' notwithstanding, there is little content to the cosmopolitan discourse on Europe. Indeed, every time the term `European ideal' is used, the oligarchy risks being exposed as an emperor without clothes.

Despite appearances, the political oligarchy is not passionately pro-European. It lacks a political language or any ideals that might give Europe some meaning. That is why those who celebrate and uphold the EU are not necessarily pro-European. National governments are happy to participate in the EU because it relieves them of the need to take direct responsibility for many policy initiatives and measures. Frequently, they can shrug their shoulders and say: well, these policies emanate from a technocratic, supra-national body, the EU. In earlier times, national governments jealously guarded their policymaking processes and prerogatives. Today, they are eager to subordinate themselves to EU protocols, and to `share' authority with others.

The voluntary relinquishing of sovereignty by European elites does not show that they are high-minded, forward-looking, enlightened internationalists. Or even that they are fervently pro-European. It merely shows that an insecure oligarchy is happy to work through institutions that allow it to disavow full responsibility for its actions.

The real challenge facing those of us who are genuinely devoted to European culture and civilisation is not right-wing populism, xenophobia or small-minded parochial nationalism. In so far as those sentiments exist, they are often a response to the contemptuous manner in which popular aspirations are dismissed by an oligarchy that passionately believes it knows what is best for the people. Those who are devoted to European ideals must take a more critical stance on the EU. It is not good enough to point up the EU's `democratic deficit' or its bureaucratic practices. We need to put forward a compelling case for holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, and for its rejection by the people.

Even more importantly, we need to engage our publics in a mature discussion about the European Union. In the end, the biggest threat to democracy is not the EU itself but the mood of apathy and disengagement that it fosters throughout the continent.



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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