Monday, February 16, 2009

'We can't move on... they're our children,' say the Websters as they reveal the appalling anguish that arrogant British social workers have visited upon them

Last Wednesday morning, a letter arrived at Mark and Nicky Webster's house. It was a report of sorts about their five-year-old son, telling them that he was doing well at school, had just learned to ride a bicycle without stabilisers and that he wasn't fond of sprouts. The timing could hardly have been more poignant. Such newsletters arrive on their doormat sporadically, as do separate ones relating to his older brother and sister. For Mark and Nicky, they are what passes for `contact' with their three eldest children. They always make agonising reading. But last week's update arrived on the morning the couple received a Court of Appeal judgment that could mean they never see their children again.

It is a bitter blow to their long-running battle with the legal system that saw their children, who can only be known as Child A, B and C, taken and forcibly adopted in what has since been described as a `gross miscarriage of justice'. The medical evidence on which the adoptions relied has been discredited and the proceedings - heard in just one day in 2004 - described as `cursory'.

Yet last Wednesday, Lord Justices Wall, Moore-Bick and Wilson concluded that the Websters, from Cromer, Norfolk, are `too late' to appeal to clear their names and that the `peculiar finality' of adoption means it is not in their power to overturn the order. The court cited only two circumstances under which an adoption might be reversed - if the adoptive parents had won the child fraudulently, or if the natural parents had not been properly informed. As it stands, Mark and Nicky have been the victims of neither fraud nor a slip-up in bureaucratic niceties. Their parental rights, they were informed, have been `extinguished'.

Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, Nicky says: `Wednesday was a very difficult day for us. It was like bereavement after a long illness. You know it's coming and you try to be prepared but when it happens, the reality of it hits you. I just wept as I read the judgment. `We just found it so puzzling and disappointing. How can they say there's been a miscarriage of justice but there's nothing you can do about it? It's as though we're in prison and we've been acquitted of the crime but then told we've got to stay where we are and serve out our sentence. `The judges and Norfolk County Council are already talking about what lessons can be learned from this. The judges say that if they overturned the adoption, it will lead to some sort of social chaos, as if we have to be sacrificed and "get over it" for the greater good. `They are all so keen to draw a line and move on. Well we can't move on from this. We can't "move on" from our children.

`And on another level, not being able to clear our names means that Mark and I are both listed as Schedule 1offenders. That can cover anything from smacking a child to murder. `We only discovered this when Mark was looking into being self-employed as a taxi-driver. He was told that an advanced Criminal Records Bureau search would be done, it would bring up the Schedule 1 listing and he wouldn't be allowed to drive children unaccompanied. `This isn't over for us. Not by a long shot.'

The appeal court judgment is as troubling to read as each judge professes it was to write. It affects not three but four children. Soon it will affect five as Mark, 35, and Nicky, 29, are expecting their fifth in less than two months. Until then, their shattered `family' consists of Child A, B and C - now nine, seven and five respectively - and their youngest brother, Brandon, almost three.

In his lengthy explanation of his reasons for denying the Websters' application, Lord Justice Wall describes the council's `belated recognition that they are fit and able to care for Brandon', as, `the only mitigation from [the Websters'] point of view'. He writes: `The children concerned have been denied the opportunity to argue that they should grow up together with their parents as a family. That is deeply worrying...

`For Mr and Mrs Webster...the case has been a disaster. For Norfolk County Council...the case has been a worrying and deeply regrettable experience, not least because in the result a family which might well have been capable of being held together has been split up.

`For the medical profession, the case has been a painful learning experience and a further illustration of the proposition that things may not always be what they seem...for the Family Justice System in general, and for this court in particular, any miscarriage of justice - or potential miscarriage of justice - is both regrettable and embarrassing.'

Mark and Nicky have several rather more robust turns of phrase to suggest. According to Nicky: `What's happened isn't embarrassing or regrettable. It's outrageous. We know that Social Services have a difficult job to do but something went catastrophically wrong here and it's not good enough to conclude that nobody is accountable.' Side by side in their living room, a space cluttered with Brandon's toys and bulging legal files amassed over the years, the Websters are a couple consumed not only by their desire to reunite their children - for their children's sake - but by their compressed rage at the council's refusal to admit any error or offer any apology.

Mark says: `They've been asked directly, if you knew then what you know now would the children have been adopted? `And they will not answer. They say it's impossible or inappropriate. I want Lisa Christensen [Director of Norfolk Children Services] to answer it straight. Does she now think we are child abusers?'

As for Nicky, she says: `We've had the courts and the social services saying that they have massive sympathy for us. Well we don't want sympathy. We want justice. `I can understand the children's interests coming first but it seems to us that the adoptive parents' interests come before ours and that we're the bottom of the heap. `We're told the children are loved and I do feel for the adoptive parents. `But it beggars belief that social workers can just take our children and we can never see them again when we have done nothing wrong.'

Mark adds: `Perhaps it would be easier if the adoptive parents would work with us in some way over contact but they won't. They said in court that the children have been in their adoptive home for three years now and it would be emotionally harmful for them to go back to us. `But our daughter was with us for four years before she was taken. She's spent more of her life with us than the adoptive parents.'

The family's ordeal began in October 2003 when Nicky took their second son (Child B) to hospital with a painful swollen leg. He was found to have several metaphyseal fractures - a type of break doctors said could be caused only by physical abuse. A nightmare of council intervention followed. Though the police pressed no charges, the family had no Social Services record and none of the others were injured, all three children were placed in foster care.

Barely six months later, in a hearing lasting just one day, the children were permanently removed from their parents' care. They were swiftly put up for adoption, with the youngest being placed with one family and the older two with another.

But it was the imminent birth of the fourth child, Brandon, that brought the shocking realities of that original case to light. Terrified that Brandon would be taken into care at birth, the Websters fled to Ireland. The council followed them, sending social workers to Ireland even though they had no jurisdiction on Irish soil. The next month, the couple returned to Britain, having agreed to care for Brandon in an `assessment centre' where the way they looked after him would be observed by social workers. But as soon as the family touched down on British soil, the council sought a gagging order preventing all media coverage. The Mail on Sunday, along with the BBC, launched and won a landmark legal battle to be allowed to report what followed.

In November 2006, two legal victories were won. They would, the Websters firmly believe, determine Brandon's fate if not that of his siblings. The first was Mr Justice Munby's decision to lift the gagging order, the second was to allow the Websters to instruct new experts. In February 2007, an interim court hearing informed the council it could not rely on the previous abuse findings to prove that Brandon was at risk and further expert witnesses were sought.

Just days before the hearing in June 2007, the council dramatically withdrew its application for a care order for Brandon. Had Mr Justice Holman been happy to rubber-stamp their request, that would have been the end. None of the findings of those experts would have been aired and the paucity of the original evidence would have remained buried. Instead, he heard arguments for all parties and the truth about Child B's fractures and the unforgivable extent to which the Websters were let down by medical professionals, social workers and lawyers emerged - and with it the dangers of a closed-door system of justice.

The solitary medical expert called as a witness was, the judge noted, `not really the right man'. The health visitor who was the only care worker with direct experience of the family was not called, or even asked to make a report. She opposed placing the children on the `at risk' register. But, shockingly, her view was quashed. Her team leader informed her the `medical evidence was overwhelming', and she should agree with her. In fact, the overwhelming medical evidence now shows that Child B's fractures were the result of normal handling of a child with an underlying bone fragility caused by scurvy. This was not due to neglect but to Child B's eccentric diet. He was lactose intolerant and suffered a severe food aversion disorder, which meant he refused solids. As a result, his diet consisted almost entirely of soya milk, woefully nutritionally inadequate but, crucially, sanctioned by the family GP. The consequences for his developing bones - and ultimately his family - were devastating.

Today, Mark and Nicky depend on those sporadic letters from the adoptive parents for news of their eldest children's lives. They haven't seen photographs of them, though Nicky is certain she would know her own children. The children themselves have `sibling contact', three times a year. Nicky says: `I find it very difficult to think of the little one by himself. From birth, all he had known was life with his brother and sister. It must have been so awful for him to be by himself. The two older children have each other. But how can it be in their interests to see each other so rarely? What must they think? What are they being told?'

On the sunny June day in 2007 that the Websters took Brandon home, they vowed they would keep fighting for their children. Mark described that victory as `partial vindication'. Mr Justice Holman concluded: `The gravity of the case is obvious. People will say, "How could this have happened?"' Yet almost two years later, this modest couple find themselves once more in that awful limbo of `partial vindication'.

They have taken on the might of the Establishment but they are no closer to a satisfactory answer as to how this could have happened and perhaps one step further away from their children. The court of appeal has acknowledged an injustice but offered no judicial remedy.

In his judgment last week, Lord Justice Wall was critical of Judge Barham, who heard the original case, saying anyone `might be forgiven for thinking [he] had already made up his mind'. He said he was `unimpressed by a number of arguments advanced by the local authority' and acknowledged that Mark and Nicky `will not have the opportunity to clear their names', referring to this as `unsatisfactory'. Yet he concluded: `In any system operated by human beings, mistakes will occur, whatever systems are put in place to reduce or eliminate them. In the present case, I am satisfied that everybody acted in good faith.'

Put bluntly, the conclusion seems to be that much went wrong but nobody was really to blame. Three children have been wrongly taken from their innocent parents and from each other, while a fourth and fifth have been denied knowing their siblings. But it can't be fixed.

The professionals on whose opinion these children were taken, the lawyers who failed to seek the correct expert witnesses and the social workers who refused to consider any option but non-accidental injury and suppressed alternative opinion, are all protected by the cloak of anonymity. Their questionable judgment cannot, in effect, be questioned.

Norman Lamb, Liberal MP for North Norfolk, who has championed the Websters' case, says: `The justice system must be capable of clearing the name of these parents. It is wholly wrong, immoral and unacceptable that it cannot. Make no mistake on this. There must be no doubt that, had the plethora of medical reports been available then, those children would not have been taken from their parents. `It is just intolerable that the county council will not concede this point. There needs to be a full apology. If it chooses to say "we acted in good faith" but recognises in light of further evidence that a grave injustice has occurred and that this family has been pulled apart unjustly and "for that we are deeply sorry", then so be it. 'But it appears to be acting defensively, as if its interests are more important than those of the family. `This is an ordinary couple and they are owed that very basic recognition of the injustice dealt to them.'

Last night, speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Lisa Christensen stopped short of the apology for which Mark and Nicky long. But, asked whether she still believed that they were abusers she conceded: `We will never know conclusively what caused Child B's injuries. However, the judgment makes it clear that there may have been a miscarriage of justice and I share that view.'

Mark and Nicky are considering their position. Mark says: `We're so grateful for all the support we've had from the public. `We don't believe we would have got Brandon if it hadn't been done in public with their support and scrutiny. `We are fighting for our children to know the truth, to know us and to know each other. Every day we talk about the reality that we might not see them until they're 18 and they come looking for us. 'One day there might be a knock on the door and our children standing on the doorstep. What will it do to them to learn the truth then? `But we'll welcome them in and we'll show them all the paperwork and they'll know we fought every day until we saw them.'


Women less tolerant of each other than men are, study finds

So much for the "Sisterhood"

Women are less tolerant of each other than men are, according to a new study which may explain why some women prefer to have a male boss. The research, published in the US journal Psychological Science, found that women formed a negative view of their peers much quicker than men did. The team from Emmanuel College in Boston asked male and female college students to rate their room-mates under different scenarios.

When asked to judge how they would rate their room-mates if they carried out a single fictional act of negative behaviour, after they had been otherwise completely trustworthy, women were far more likely to be critical of them. Men, on the other hand, were much more tolerant. Women were also more likely to switch to a new room-mate than men were.

The authors, led by associate professor of psychology Joyce Benenson, concluded that women were harsher on their peers because they expected more from their same-sex relationships than men did. They wrote: "Women may simply weight negative information more heavily than men do, because negative information disrupts the establishment of intimacy, which serves a more important function in same-sex relationships for women than for men."

While the study did not take place in the workplace itself, it would appear to back up previous surveys that have found women prefer to work for a male boss


The Persistence of Ideology: Grand ideas still drive history

Noting the Leninist elements in Islamism, the evangelical elements in Environmentalism and the psychological needs that drive them all

By Theodore Dalrymple

In 1960, the sociologist Daniel Bell published The End of Ideology, in which he argued that ideology-understood in the sense of a coherent, single-minded philosophical outlook or system of abstractions intended as much as a lever to change society as a description to explain it-was dead, at least in the West, and in the United States in particular. A combination of democracy and mass prosperity had "solved" the political question that had agitated humanity since the time of Plato. There were to be no more grand and transformative, if woefully erroneous, ideas; all that remained was public administration, with, at most, squabbles over small details of policy. The new version of the old saw, mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body, was a capitalist economy in a liberal democratic polity. That was the lesson of history.

In 1989, as the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were reforming-indeed collapsing-so rapidly that it became clear that Communism could not long survive anywhere in Europe, Francis Fukuyama went one step beyond Bell and wrote an essay for The National Interest titled "The End of History?" In this soon-to-be-famous article, later expanded into a book, Fukuyama suggested that the end of ideology that Bell saw in the West was now global. By "the end of history," he did not mean the end of events, of course; one team or another would continue to win the Super Bowl, and there might yet be wars between national rivals. But broadly, history had given its lesson and mankind had taken it. Henceforth, those who resisted the march of liberal democracy were like the Luddites, those English workers at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution who smashed machines, blaming them for destroying the independent livelihoods of workers at home.

At the end of his essay, however, Fukuyama-more concerned to understand the world than to change it, by contrast with Marx-implicitly raised the question of the role of ideology in the world's moral economy. With no ideological struggles to occupy their minds, what will intellectuals have to do or think about? Virtually by definition, they like to address themselves to large and general questions, not small and particular ones: as Isaiah Berlin would say, by temperament, they are hedgehogs, who know one large thing, not foxes, who know many small things. Fukuyama admitted that he would miss ideology, if only as something to oppose. "I have ambivalent feelings for the civilization that has been created in Europe since 1945, with its North Atlantic and Asian offshoots," he wrote. "Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again."

As it turned out, of course, we did not have long (let alone centuries) to suffer existential boredom. Our dogmatic slumbers-to use Kant's phrase for the philosophic state from which reading David Hume roused him-had barely begun when a group of young fanatics flew commercial airliners into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, thus demonstrating that pronouncements of the death of both ideology and history were somewhat premature.

In truth, we should have known it, or at least guessed it, without needing to be reminded. Fukuyama's concluding sentences contain a hint of the psychological function that ideology plays. It is not just disgruntlement with the state of the world that stimulates the development and adoption of ideologies. After all, disgruntlement with society there has always been and always will be. Dissatisfaction is the permanent state of mankind, at least of civilized mankind. Not every dissatisfied man is an ideologist, however: for if he were, there would hardly be anyone who was not. Yet ideology, at least as a mass phenomenon, is a comparatively recent development in human history.

Who, then, are ideologists? They are people needy of purpose in life, not in a mundane sense (earning enough to eat or to pay the mortgage, for example) but in the sense of transcendence of the personal, of reassurance that there is something more to existence than existence itself. The desire for transcendence does not occur to many people struggling for a livelihood. Avoiding material failure gives quite sufficient meaning to their lives. By contrast, ideologists have few fears about finding their daily bread. Their difficulty with life is less concrete. Their security gives them the leisure, their education the need, and no doubt their temperament the inclination, to find something above and beyond the flux of daily life.

If this is true, then ideology should flourish where education is widespread, and especially where opportunities are limited for the educated to lose themselves in grand projects, or to take leadership roles to which they believe that their education entitles them. The attractions of ideology are not so much to be found in the state of the world-always lamentable, but sometimes improving, at least in certain respects-but in states of mind. And in many parts of the world, the number of educated people has risen far faster than the capacity of economies to reward them with positions they believe commensurate with their attainments. Even in the most advanced economies, one will always find unhappy educated people searching for the reason that they are not as important as they should be.

One of the first to notice the politicization of intellectuals was the French writer Julien Benda, whose 1927 La trahison des clercs-"the treason of the clerks," with "clerk" understood in its medieval sense as an educated person distinct from the uneducated laity-gave a phrase to educated discourse. Today, people most frequently use the phrase to signify the allegiance that intellectuals gave to Communism, despite the evident fact that the establishment of Communist regimes led everywhere and always to a decrease in the kind of intellectual freedom and respect for individual rights that intellectuals claimed to defend.

Benda meant something much wider by it, though support for Communism would have come under his rubric: the increasing tendency of intellectuals to pursue lines of thought not for the sake of truth, or for guiding humanity sub specie aeternitatis, but for the sake of attaining power by adopting, justifying, and manipulating the current political passions of sections of humanity, whether national, racial, religious, or economic. The political passions that Benda most feared when he wrote his book were nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism, which then had plenty of intellectual apologists, and which indeed soon proved cataclysmic in their effects; but really he was defending the autonomy of intellectual and artistic life from political imperatives.

That ideological ways of thinking have survived the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union would not have surprised Benda. The collapse did severely reduce Marxism's attractiveness, and despite decades of attempts by intellectuals to dissociate the doctrine's supposed merits from the horrors of the Soviet system, it was only natural that many people believed that the death of Marxism meant the death of ideology itself. But as Benda might have predicted, what resulted instead was the balkanization of ideology-the emergence of a wider choice of ideologies for adoption by those so inclined.

The most obvious example of an ideology that came into prominence-or better, prominently into our consciousness-after Communism's fall was Islamism. Because of its emphasis on returning to Islamic purity, and its apparent-indeed noisy-rejection of modernity, most people failed to notice how modern a phenomenon Islamism was, not just in time but in spirit. This is evident from reading just one of Islamism's foundational texts: Sayyid Qutb's Milestones, first published in 1964. The imprint of Marxism-Leninism is deep upon it, especially the Leninist component.

Qutb starts with cultural criticism that some might find eerily prescient. "The leadership of mankind by Western man is now on the decline, not because Western culture has become poor materially or because its economic and military power has become weak," he writes. "The period of the Western system has come to an end primarily because it is deprived of those life-giving values which enabled it to be the leader of mankind." Since, according to Qutb, those "life-giving values" cannot come from the Eastern Bloc, he thinks (like Juan Domingo Peron, the Argentinean dictator, and Tony Blair, the former British prime minister) that a Third Way must exist: which, he says, can only be Islam.

Just as in Marx only the proletariat bears the whole of humanity's interests, so in Qutb only Muslims (true ones, that is) do. Everyone else is a factionalist. In Qutb's conception, the state withers away under Islam, just as it does-according to Marx-under Communism, once the true form is established. In Marx, the withering away comes about because there are no sectional material interests left that require a state to enforce them; in Qutb, there is no sectional interest left once true Islam is established because everyone obeys God's law without the need for interpretation and therefore for interpreters. And when all obey God's law, no conflict can arise because the law is perfect; therefore there is no need for a state apparatus.

One finds a unity of theory and praxis in both Qutb's Islamism and Marxism-Leninism. "Philosophy and revolution are inseparable," said Raya Dunayevskaya, once Trotsky's secretary and a prominent American Marxist (insofar as such can be said to have existed). And here is Qutb: "Thus these two-preaching and the movement-united, confront `the human situation' with all the necessary methods. For the achievement of freedom of man on earth-of all mankind throughout the earth-it is necessary that these methods should work side by side."

Like Lenin, Qutb thought that violence would be necessary against the ruling class (of bourgeois in Lenin's case, unbelievers in Qutb's): "Those who have usurped the authority of God and are oppressing God's creatures are not going to give up their power merely through preaching." Again like Lenin, Qutb believed that until human authority disappeared, the leader's authority must be complete. Referring to "the Arab" of the Meccan period-an age whose moral qualities he wants to restore-Qutb says: "He was to be trained to follow the discipline of a community which is under the direction of a leader, and to refer to this leader in every matter and to obey his injunctions, even though they might be against his habit or taste." Not much there with which Lenin could have disagreed. The British Stalinist historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote of himself: "The Party had the first, or more precisely, the only real claim on our lives. . . . Whatever it had ordered, we would have obeyed."

Qutb is as explicit as Lenin that his party should be a vanguard and not a mass party, for only a vanguard will prove sufficiently dedicated to bring about the revolution. And like Leninism, Qutb's Islamism is dialectical:
[Islam] does not face practical problems with abstract theories, nor does it confront various stages with unchangeable means. Those who talk about Jihaad in Islam and quote Qur'anic verses do not take into account this aspect, nor do they understand the nature of the various stages through which the movement develops, or the relationship of the verses revealed at various occasions with each stage.
Compare this with Lenin's Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder:
Right doctrinairism persisted in recognizing only the old forms, and became utterly bankrupt, for it did not notice the new content. Left doctrinairism persists in the unconditional repudiation of certain old forms, failing to see that the new content is forcing its way through all and sundry forms, that it is our duty as Communists to master all forms, to learn how, with the maximum rapidity, to supplement one form with another, to substitute one for another, and to adapt our tactics to any such change that does not come from our class or from our efforts.
There are many other parallels between Leninism and Qutb's Islamism, among them the incompatibility of each with anything else, entailing a fight to the finish supposedly followed by permanent bliss for the whole of mankind; a tension between complete determinism (by history and by God, respectively) and the call to intense activism; and the view that only with the installation of their systems does Man become truly himself. For Qutb's worldview, therefore, the term Islamo-Leninism would be a more accurate description than Islamofascism.

Qutb was a strange man: he never married, for example, because (so he claimed) he found no woman of sufficient purity for him. You wouldn't need to be Freud to find the explanation suspect, or to find his reaction to Greeley, Colorado, in 1950, where he spent time on a scholarship-he saw it as a hotbed of unrestrained vice-somewhat hysterical, a cover for something seething deeply and disturbingly inside him. Devotion to an ideology can provide an answer of sorts to personal problems, and since personal problems are common, it isn't surprising that a number of people choose ideology as the solution.

Ideological thinking is not confined to the Islamists in our midst. The need for a simplifying lens that can screen out the intractabilities of life, and of our own lives in particular, springs eternal; and with the demise of Marxism in the West, at least in its most economistic form, a variety of substitute ideologies have arisen from which the disgruntled may choose.

Most started life as legitimate complaints, but as political reforms dealt with reasonable demands, the demands transformed themselves into ideologies, thus illustrating a fact of human psychology: rage is not always proportionate to its occasion but can be a powerful reward in itself. Feminists continued to see every human problem as a manifestation of patriarchy, civil rights activists as a manifestation of racism, homosexual-rights activists as a manifestation of homophobia, anti-globalists as a manifestation of globalization, and radical libertarians as a manifestation of state regulation.

How delightful to have a key to all the miseries, both personal and societal, and to know personal happiness through the single-minded pursuit of an end for the whole of humanity! At all costs, one must keep at bay the realization that came early in life to John Stuart Mill, as he described it in his Autobiography. He asked himself:
"Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?" And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, "No!" At this my heart sank within me: the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down. All my happiness was to have been found in the continual pursuit of this end. The end had ceased to charm, and how could there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have nothing left to live for.
This is the question that all ideologists fear, and it explains why reform, far from delighting them, only increases their anxiety and rage. It also explains why traditional religious belief is not an ideology in the sense in which I am using the term, for unlike ideology, it explicitly recognizes the limitations of earthly existence, what we can expect of it, and what we can do by our own unaided efforts. Some ideologies have the flavor of religion; but the absolute certainty of, say, the Anabaptists of M_nster, or of today's Islamists, is ultimately irreligious, since they claimed or claim to know in the very last detail what God requires of us.

The most popular and widest-ranging ideology in the West today is environmentalism, replacing not only Marxism but all the nationalist and xenophobic ideologies that Benda accused intellectuals of espousing in the 1920s. Now, no one who has suffered respiratory difficulties because of smog, or seen the effects of unrestrained industrial pollution, can be indifferent to the environmental consequences of man's activities; pure laissez-faire will not do. But it isn't difficult to spot in environmentalists' work something more than mere concern with a practical problem. Their writings often show themselves akin to the calls to repentance of seventeenth-century divines in the face of plague epidemics, but with the patina of rationality that every ideology needs to disguise its true source in existential angst.

For example, a recent column in the Guardian, by the environmental campaigner George Monbiot, carried the headline the planet is now so vandalised that only total energy renewal can save us. Monbiot, it is true, does not offer us heaven on earth if we follow his prescriptions; only the bare-and by no means certain, for "we might have left it too late"-avoidance of total biological annihilation. But behind Monbiot's urgency, even hysteria, one senses a deep lust for power. He cannot really believe what he says, for starters. "Do we want to be remembered," he asks rhetorically, "as the generation that saved the banks but let the biosphere collapse?" If it is really true that we must either have "total energy renewal" or die, however, we cannot be remembered as the generation that let the biosphere collapse, for if we let it collapse, ex hypothesi no one will be around to remember us. This reminds me of patients I used to see who would threaten suicide, in the clear expectation of a long life ahead, unless someone did what they wanted. And though Monbiot says that it is uncertain that anything we do now will make any difference, he nevertheless proposes that every human being on the earth follow his prescriptions.

The environmentalist ideology threatens to make serious inroads into the rule of law in Britain. This past September, six environmentalists were acquitted of having caused $50,000 worth of damage to a power station-not because they did not do it but because four witnesses, including a Greenlander, testified to the reality of global warming.

One recalls the disastrous 1878 jury acquittal in St. Petersburg of Vera Zasulich for the attempted assassination of General Trepov, on the grounds of the supposed purity of her motives. The acquittal destroyed all hope of establishing the rule of law in Russia and ushered in an age of terrorism that led directly to one of the greatest catastrophes in human history.


Australia: Lesbian case a dangerous precedent for medical profession

WHEN judges hand out damages for the birth of a child, it is a sign that society is in trouble. It suggests that some of us have become so self-obsessed that we have forgotten that the arrival of a new human being is a cause for celebration, not litigation. Many parents - and would-be parents - will be angered by this decision. But it is really a cause for pity.

What sort of mother runs off to court because she has two children instead of one? And what sort of court believes it has the capacity to restore the supposed injury caused by the arrival of a child?

Lawyers and doctors should be very worried by this ruling. It suggests that the law of negligence is in deep trouble - at least in the ACT Court of Appeal. For reasons that have not been made public, the territory's top court has taken the law of negligence and stretched it to breaking point. The Court of Appeal has overturned a compelling decision by Justice Annabel Bennett, who is also a well-regarded judge of the Federal Court. Bennett had refused to give one dollar to the greedy women at the heart of this case. Bennett based her decision on a close analysis of the facts. She found that the obstetrician in question, Sydney Robert Armellin, had conducted himself reasonably. He had not breached his duty of care.

The mother in question, Ms G, received two embryos instead of one because of flawed communication in the system used by her fertility clinic. But Armellin, in Bennett's view, was not at fault. Here's why: Ms G had changed her mind about the number of embryos she wanted implanted. And she did so in the operating theatre after earlier signing documents agreeing to have ``one to two'' embryos implanted.

When Ms G told Armellin she wanted one embryo, the doctor believed this information was not new. He thought it had previously been conveyed to the clinicians who had prepared the implant. The doctor believed Ms G would have conveyed this information during the clinic's pre-surgery procedures. In fact, Ms G had failed to take part in those procedures. It is a great pity that the Court of Appeal has not yet explained why it believes Bennett and Armellin were wrong. When it does, it had better be good.

Unless the court has extremely compelling reasons, it looks as though the real victim here is the obstetrician. If this decision stands, the ACT has a choice: change the law or accept the fact that this branch of medicine will rarely be practised in the nation's capital.



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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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