Sunday, November 02, 2008

British "security" stupidity again

Schoolboy, 15, held as terror suspect after taking photos of railway station for school project. The British police are the ever-present terrorists

A schoolboy was held as a terrorist suspect by police support officers - for taking photographs of a railway station on a geography field trip. Fabian Sabbara, 15, was dressed in his school uniform when he was stopped by three police community support officers for taking photos of a station on his mobile phone. He explained he was taking pictures, as well as pedestrian counts and a traffic survey, as part of a GCSE project.

But PCSO Barry Reeve told Fabian, from Cheam in South London, to sign forms under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows police to stop and search at random anyone they suspect of terrorism. The pupil from Rutlish High School, Merton, was forced to comply or face arrest after he was stopped at nearby Wimbledon railway station.

After the incident, his mother Clare and father Felix contacted police to remove any record of the incident against their son's name - but were told it had to remain in place for six years. Scotland Yard have since wiped the record from their database, but Mr Sabbara, 48, an audio-visual installer, said the incident could have affected Fabian's future employment chances. He said the matter had also sparked fear at Fabian's school, where trips had been banned over concerns that pupils could be stopped by police for taking pictures.

Mr Sabbara said: 'Fabian was just a 15-year-old boy trying to do his school work. He had done nothing wrong. 'The point is, if this incident had remained on file it could affect him in years to come when he applies for jobs such as the RAF. 'Also if there was a terrorist attack at Wimbledon station he would be a suspect. It's just ludicrous. 'There needs to be more common sense when applying this law.'

During the incident Fabian, among 55 pupils who had split into groups, had to sign a form titled 'Stop-and-Search Terrorism Act'. Metropolitan Police spokesman Beverley Kassem said officers did not search him and no further action was taken. She said: 'Police have met with the boy, his family and representatives from the school to discuss the incident and reassure them of any concerns they may have. 'As a result of this meeting, schools and police will work closely on future school trips in the area. 'The record of the stop on the stop-and-search database has been removed.'

Merton Council cabinet member for children's services Councillor Debbie Shears said: 'We understand this incident has been resolved directly between the police, the school and the pupil's family. 'School trips are an integral part of a student's life and we are working with both schools and police to see what sort of guidelines need to be developed and put in to place.'


National identity is resurgent

By Sir Christopher Meyer, British Ambassador to Washington, 1997-2003

Those who think that there is such a thing as progress in international affairs - that we are capable of learning the lessons of history - have been brutally disabused by the Georgian crisis. You can have all the rules you like to discipline international behaviour; but they are not worth the paper they are written on if they run against fierce nationalisms and ethnic passion.

Ethnic and nationalist rivalry is as old as sin, and as inextinguishable. As a diplomat in Britain's Moscow Embassy during the Cold War, I spent time in two of the Caucasian republics, Georgia and Azerbaijan. They were then under Moscow's heel as part of the Soviet Union. Their loathing of Russians was palpable. At the time of my visits, Stalin, a Georgian by birth, was still officially a non-person, airbrushed by his successors from the annals of Soviet history. But in defiance of Moscow his portraits could still be seen in Georgian state farms and government offices. I asked a Georgian official why this was so. "Because he killed so many Russians," came the sardonic reply. The feeling was mutual. Later in Moscow I related my Caucasian experiences to Leonid Brezhnev's interpreter, Viktor Sukhodrev. "That's no place for a white man," he said with his impeccable North London accent (he had equally good American).

Recent events have shown no weakening in these ancient hatreds. But the Western powers behaved as if caught on the hop. Last year a French diplomat warned me that once Kosovo got its independence (itself the unnatural product of Balkan hatreds), Russia would feel free to make its move in Georgia. And so it has come to pass. As a Times leader put it recently, history has resumed, leaving Francis Fukuyama, the apostle of its end, trailing in its wake. But Professor Fukuyama was adrift from the very start. Once the iron fists of the former Soviet Union and Tito's Yugoslavia had been removed, nationalist and ethnic tensions broke surface with the murderous velocity of the long suppressed. Contrary to what David Miliband has been telling us, the glacial years of the Cold War were "the period of calm". The years since have been marked by the constant turmoil of history's march.

Globalisation and interdependence were supposed to have swept aside these ancient feuds and rivalries. Theories of the postmodern state now abound. Tony Blair preached how national interest would be trumped by the spread of "global values". This is self-evident rubbish. For here is the paradox of the modern world. Money, people, culture, business and electronic information cross porous frontiers in ever-increasing volume. But as national boundaries dissolve in cyberspace, so everywhere the sense of nationhood and national interest strengthens. Five minutes in Beijing, Washington, Tehran or Moscow will tell you that. What is the European Union if not the 21st-century arena for the intense and competitive prosecution of the national interest by its 27 member states?

It is useless to say that nationalism and ethnic tribalism have no place in the international relations of the 21st century. If anything the spread of Western-style democracy has amplified their appeal and resonance. The supreme fallacy in foreign policy is to take the world as we would wish it to be and not as it actually is. In Britain's case, the delusion is compounded when we are powerless to effect the outcome we desire. This has been particularly the case with Russia, where we have managed to be both impotent and provocative. If we really want to put a halt to bad Russian behaviour, let us do so where we can make a difference, and where it is justified - starting with the expulsion of the vast nest of Russian intelligence officers in London, as Labour and Conservative governments did not hesitate to do in the 1970s.

We can foolishly downgrade national interest within the armoury of British diplomacy, if we wish. But we had better not underestimate its driving force in the international behaviour of others. That is the road to dangerous miscalculation.

Take Russia, China and Iran. Each seethes at the recollection of what it considers historical humiliations visited on it by Western powers. For all three the beginning of the 21st century has opened opportunities for payback - for getting respect as a nation (just look at recent Russian newspapers). You don't have to like or approve of these regimes. But not to understand their histories is not to understand the mainspring of their external policies - in Russia's case its determination to rebuild its greatness, dismantled, as millions of Russians see it, by Mikhail Gorbachev and his Georgian Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, aided and abetted by the West. I would bet a sackful of roubles that Russian foreign policy would not be one jot different if it were a fully functioning democracy of the kind that we appear keen to spread around the globe.

What is to be done, as Lenin once put it? The first thing is to sweep away any rose-tinted illusions left from the Blair-Bush era. For the democracies of North America and Europe, relations with Russia are always going to be awkward and bumpy, at best co-operative and adversarial in equal measure. The fall of the Soviet Union did not wipe the slate clean. The Russia that we are dealing with today, with its fear of encirclement, its suspicion of foreigners and natural appetite for autocracy, is as old as the hills, long pre-dating communism. It is a Russia that will never be reassured by the West's protestations of pacific intent as it pushes Nato and the EU ever eastwards.

Most important of all, Russia and the West need to draw up rules of the road for the 21st century. Mr Miliband and others have condemned the notion of returning to the geopolitics of the Congress of Vienna which, in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars, divided Europe into spheres of influence between empires and nations. They perhaps forget that what was agreed at Vienna held at bay for almost a century a general European war.

Something similar is needed today, based again on spheres of influence. Nato must renounce the provocative folly of being open to Georgian or, worse, Ukrainian membership. This strikes at the heart of the Russian national interest and offers no enhanced security to either Tbilisi or Kiev. As for Russia, it must be made unambiguously clear where any revanchist lunge westwards would provoke a military response by Nato. This may sound shocking and anachronistic to the modern sensibility. But, there is no other way to remove the scope for miscalculation, the mother of far too many wars.


It took an oldster to set an example to a cowed British public

It reminds us of what Britain once was before the Leftist takeover of British law. If either of the robbers below were to complain, it would be the oldster who would be prosecuted -- for "assault

As he waited at the bus stop William Grove, 84, was anxious about his civic responsibilities. He was due to be opening a community hall for a lunchtime gathering of his fellow pensioners. But as he paced the pavement his attention was drawn to a commotion outside the nearby jeweller's. Along with dozens of shoppers, Mr Grove saw the two balaclava-clad men smashing sledgehammers against the toughened glass windows.

"At first I thought it was a prank and that there were hidden cameras," he said. "The sledgehammers were bright orange - but when I realised it was real I went over." As scores of more able-bodied passers-by looked on, Mr Grove, who served in the RAF and helped to train the Indian Air Force, made his way towards the Ernest Jones shop in Richmond, southwest London, as fast as his legs could carry him.

"My plan was to carry out a move I had been taught in the Forces and wait for others to help. I was going to grab his head and put my knee in the man's back before grabbing him round the chest, holding him until others intervened," he told The Times. "It's unarmed combat. You creep up behind somebody and grab them. One of them had his arm through the window and I knew then that he was partially disabled. There was no way he could swing the hammer and he had to be careful about getting a severe arterial wound. I was going for his head rather than his balaclava."

But the raider's balaclava came off in his hand and the would-be robber turned, preparing to attack his assailant, only to be shocked to find it was a grey-haired pensioner. The two men ran off, dropping their sledgehammers and leaving behind the balaclava. "As soon as this happened I think they were both so taken by surprise at what I did that they just ran off. I didn't have time to be scared, it was all over in about two minutes."

The hero of the hour then turned to the gathering crowd, smiled, ambled to the bus stop and stepped on board: his crime-fighting cameo on Thursday was over. Mr Grove, a former civil servant, said he had to rush off as he was late for a meeting and, as he had the only key, he did not want people to have to wait in the cold.

Nick Thompson, a 35-year-old IT technician who works opposite the store, watched the drama unfold. "It was a busy day on the high street and there were crowds of shoppers watching. But these days people don't want to have a go in case a robber has a weapon. Everyone was standing back when this old guy at the bus stop decided he was not just going to stand there and watch. He went over and started flapping at one of the robbers. "He grabbed him from behind around his shoulders and managed to pull his balaclava off his face. The robber turned around and saw the old guy and just could not believe his eyes. He could not believe that somebody that age had taken him on. If it had been somebody younger, he probably would have whacked him. "If he had hit the old man with the sledgehammer he could easily have killed him. The old man risked his life against someone much younger and bigger. He is a hero."

But Mr Grove insisted that he was no hero. "They were just incompetent," he said, before adding: "The bravery thing has been exaggerated, please play it down." And in what is probably the last straw for the robbers Mr Grove also walked away with a Rolex watch - courtesy of the jeweller. Mr Grove said: "Well, I will probably raffle it. I have a perfectly good clockwork watch I inherited from my father, and it keeps perfect time."

Police are looking for two black men aged between 18 and 20.


Exposing a cult

That Mother Teresa was a lot less of a saint than is popularly believed has been mentioned before (e.g. here) so the following is not a great surprise

Malcolm Muggeridge's documentary about Mother Teresa, Something Beautiful For God, changed at least two lives: his own (the journalist famously converted to Catholicism afterwards) and that of Southern Highlands teenager Colette Livermore.

Livermore was a studious, confident and not especially religious school captain type, bent on becoming a doctor. But seeing Something Beautiful For God, and television images of the famine in Biafra soon after, changed all that. In 1972, at the age of 18, Livermore shocked her family by donning the blue-bordered white sari of Mother Teresa's order, the Missionaries of Charity. "Trust me to express teenage rebellion in such a submissive way," she says wryly.

As a nun, Livermore lost her name, her possessions and nearly all contact with her family. For 11 years, she helped the poorest of the poor in places as diverse as Manila's "garbage mountain", Bourke, Papua New Guinea and Calcutta, receiving notes from Mother Teresa bolstering her faith or admonishing her "pride". In 1983, Livermore left the order, driven by a crisis of faith and a frustration at its methods, especially the way it discouraged independent thought.

Soon after, she began to write down some of her experiences, based on her diaries and letters. She gives the impression that the act of writing was part memoir, part therapy. "I found the whole thing so paradoxical, and so confusing, because I'd given my best to Mother Teresa's order and it had just gone pear-shaped," Livermore says.

Twenty five years after Livermore left the order, her book has been published. Hope Endures, Livermore believes, is the first inside story of a Missionary of Charity. "There are quite a lot of people that have left and I don't think their stories have been told, really. I just wanted to talk about it, and to talk about the difficulties and the constraints and the paradoxes within the order."

MCs are expected to love and serve the poor, live like them and, in Mother Teresa's words, obey commands from superiors "promptly, simply, blindly and cheerfully". Livermore found it increasingly hard to equate unquestioning obedience with goodness, especially when orders were wrong or illogical.

From the start it was a hard life. After catching the train from Moss Vale to Melbourne to begin her training, Livermore was handed a bucket (for washing, bathing and housework) and ordered not to talk between meals. Every day began with prayers at 4.40am. As she progressed towards becoming a full, "professed" Missionary of Charity, she was given a new name, Sister Tobit, and haircut, a ragged crew-cut, a blue-bordered white sari - and a wire chain with inward-pointing spikes to wear around her waist ("to share the sufferings of Christ and the poor").

The MCs' individual identities, even individual thoughts, were stripped away. Reading her book, I venture, anyone who wasn't aware of the order's good works and Christian philosophy might think . She finishes the thought for me. "You'd think you were in a cult," she says.

These days Livermore is a GP on the Central Coast but she says she had trouble settling into civilian life. She originally wanted to call her book Emerging From Mother Teresa's Shadow. Even 11 years after the death of "Mother" (as Livermore calls her), her shadow looms large. Livermore has proved her resourcefulness and intelligence working - as a nun and more recently as a doctor, in some of the most difficult places on Earth - but she speaks softly, in sentences that often trail off or end in nervous laughter.

She flips through photo albums full of brown-eyed children, sisters in saris and missives from Mother Teresa. "That's the one when I left saying that she thought it was the devil going as an angel of light and all that sort of thing," she says. "This one's, 'Come back home and I'll send you to Africa, where the suffering of the people will help you . I'm sure it's the devil, the father of lies, with his lies trying his best to destroy your beautiful vocation."'

It's odd to read such sentiments, written in the strong, round hand of the woman most likely to become a saint, while sitting on a Central Coast sofa beside their mild-mannered recipient. Some of the letters are a far cry from Mother Teresa's "angel of mercy" image. So was Christopher Hitchens's diatribe, "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa In Theory And Practice", right?

Livermore bridles. "I thought his book was quite unfair. I think Mother was a woman of integrity . He thought she was a hypocrite and she was dishonest and all that sort of thing. I don't think she was at all. I think she thought that God could use anybody to do good: God can use Judas and God can use Pilate, so God can use the guy in Haiti [Baby Doc Duvalier, from whom Mother Teresa accepted contributions]. "I don't think she was disingenuous at all. I think she was very sincere and I think she was following the maps as she saw them, but - I know it sounds presumptuous - I thought those maps were wrong."

Those maps also led Mother Teresa to "a very lonely and dark place", a trial of faith. "She talked about the terrible pain of loss, of God not being God, of God not really existing," Livermore says. "She said that there were so many questions but she couldn't really explore them because of the blasphemy . She was scared to explore them."

Livermore was suffering her own crisis as she worked with the poor, saving some and watching helplessly as others died of dysentery or tuberculosis. There were "amazing moments" but also frustrations. She came to resent the lack of training; rules that frowned on going for solitary walks or reading newspapers (MCs had to maintain "custody of the eyes") - and, especially, how any questioning was criticised as "pride". "You had to keep quiet, you had to suppress your intellect. Mother said that God uses the weak to confound the strong and the unintelligent to confound the knowledgeable, so it was almost lack of faith to try and use your head."

When Livermore was working in Manila, a rule was introduced that no new admissions could be made on a Thursday. When a desperately ill child turned up on a Thursday, Livermore was rebuked for trying to help. Her agonised letter to Calcutta got a reply telling her it was her duty to say yes to her superior and no to the person in need. Livermore begs to differ: "To me, you have to always keep the inner self in there, you have to have a life congruent with your beliefs, your own moral compass."

She was working in Bourke when she resigned. Her mother picked her up in Dubbo and took her home. It took Livermore a long time to feel comfortable in Western clothes, especially trousers, even when she enrolled at university in Queensland to study medicine.

The book makes it clear that Livermore had doubts from the start. So why didn't she leave the MCs earlier? "That's been a bit of a mystery to me," she says. "I think it was because I was in a place where I couldn't have access to outsiders to give me my bearings. It was almost like brainwashing, that I thought that this was God's will for me, that God called me to do this, and that if I left I'd be somehow cut off from God's will or something . I don't really know. Maybe I just didn't have enough strength of character to leave."

Afterwards, her faith fell away gradually. She was in Rome when Mother Teresa was beatified - a "catalyst" in her decision to write a book. She thinks there needs to be a discussion about the Missionaries of Charity "because if Mother Teresa becomes a saint, it will be solidified in stone. Everything will be hard to change because she's a saint. I just thought it should be discussed or examined or talked about, because it seems to me there is such a paradox between the image of compassion and the fairly non-compassionate attitude within the order." Mother Teresa requires another miracle to be eligible for sainthood. "And I'm happy for her to become a saint," Livermore says. "We just need to explore the paradox a bit."

Today Livermore is an agnostic who retains a sense of wonder. She believes she did good work as a nun and that the MCs continue to do much good. Although she regrets not having children, she says she had gained much from her 11 years in the order. What sort of things? "The suspicion of too much materialism and too much consumerism . and the fact that I think we have to keep on looking beyond our gate, beyond our comfort zone, to the other side. I think we're all getting a bit insular and looking after No.1," she says. "Belief is a sort of catalyst to get you beyond yourself."

She still admires the order's idea "that the sacred is in the poor and the marginalised" and worries that, if society as a whole loses belief, it will lose its sensitivity to such people. "I did quite feel my loss of belief, actually, because to me that's what gave me hope - hope that there'd be ultimate justice and hope that these kids that died, that there'd be some justice for them."

What form does hope take for her now? "It takes the form of just trying to enjoy what beauty there is. I think you find hope in the people you love and who love you, and beautiful things, and making differences in small ways."



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), 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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


No comments: