Monday, March 23, 2009

New rights spark ‘nanny state’ row in Britain

Ministers are to introduce new “human rights” covering housing, healthcare and education in a move critics fear could lead to a massive and costly expansion of the welfare state. Plans for the new bill of rights will be unveiled tomorrow by Jack Straw, the justice secretary. He will suggest that new entitlements such as rights to good healthcare, education and freedom from poverty could be added to traditional freedoms such as trial by jury and free speech.

The new rights would be offset by responsibilities, such as a duty to look for work in return for receiving benefits or to look after one’s children.

Tomorrow’s green paper is expected to face attack from those who believe such reforms are a distraction from the task of battling the recession.

There will also be fears that the plan would be another step towards a “nanny state”, providing further lucrative work for lawyers who have cashed in on the 1998 Human Rights Act.

David Heathcoat-Amory, a Conservative member of the Commons European scrutiny committee, warned that the introduction of “socio-economic rights ” would herald increased power for the state and restrict reforms. “I very much doubt Margaret Thatcher would have been able to carry out the reforms she made in the 1980s if the institutions she reformed were covered by some kind of bill of rights,” he said. It is understood several cabinet ministers privately urged Gordon Brown to scrap the plan.

Straw’s deputy, Michael Wills, writing in today’s Sunday Times, insists the recession has made a bill of rights more important. He says: “Better articulating the responsibilities we owe and the rights we have is not an alternative to decisive action on the economic front but an essential complement to it.”

The Human Rights Act, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, has been much criticised, particularly by Tories. In his article, Wills says the government has no intention of scrapping the law. He says there may well be a case for not making the new rights enforceable in the courts, but adds: “Words have power in their own right. They can move us and mould our society even though they are not law.”


The Great Betrayal

On this sixth anniversary of America's invasion of Iraq, there is finally a consensus among supporters and opponents that we’ve won the war. The surge that Bush launched and Democrats opposed has been successful and, as a result, Iraq has become a Middle Eastern democracy, an anti-terrorist regime, and an American ally. It would be hard to imagine a more remarkable turnabout or a more comprehensive repudiation of conventional political wisdom. Yet this has not led to a comparable reappraisal by critics of the war of their previous attacks, or to any mea culpas by Democrats who launched a scorched earth campaign against the president who led it, and continued it for five years while the war dragged on

The Democratic attacks on the war described America’s commander-in-chief as a liar who misled his country and sent American soldiers to die in a conflict that was unnecessary, illegal and unjust. This made prosecution of the war incalculably harder while strengthening the resolve of our enemies to defeat us. It is time to re-evaluate the words and actions of the war’s opponents in the stark light of a history that proved them wrong.

In the fall of 2002, a majority of Democrats in the Senate joined Republicans in voting to authorize President Bush to use force to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein. In July 2003, only three months after Saddam had been removed, the Democratic National Committee launched a national campaign which accused President Bush of lying in order to trick Democrats into voting for the war. It was the beginning of a five-year campaign designed to paint the president as the liar-in-chief and America as a criminal aggressor, and the military occupier of a poor country that had not attacked us.

What had changed in the intervening three months to turn Democrats so vehemently against the war they had authorized? The answer can only be found in domestic politics. In those three months, an unknown antiwar candidate named Howard Dean had taken the lead in the primary polls and was looking like a shoe-in for the Democratic presidential nomination. As a result rival candidates who had voted for the war, including eventual nominees Kerry and Edwards, changed their positions 180 degrees and joined the attacks on President Bush. Naturally, the Democrats couldn’t admit their attacks were motivated by crass political calculations. Instead, they claimed that they had been deceived by the White House which had manipulated the intelligence on Iraq, persuading them to support the war on false premises.

This allegation was in fact the biggest lie of the war, since Democrats had full access to all U.S. intelligence on Iraq through their seats on the congressional intelligence committees. This intelligence was available to them, in advance of their vote to authorize the use of force. In the months and years that followed, the Democrats added other false charges -- that troops “killed innocent civilians in cold blood,” were “terrorizing kids and…women,” and had committed atrocities comparable to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime.” They rejoiced when news reporters leaked information about national security programs designed to combat the terrorists – and thus destroyed them. They held up funding for American soldiers on the battlefield, attempted to cut off all funding, and when that failed, tried to tie funding to a timeline that would ensure America’s defeat. They openly accused uniformed officers like General David Petraeus of lying about conditions on the ground and hoped against hope that “this war is lost, and the surge is not accomplishing anything.”

Dissent is legitimate in wartime, but the Democratic Party’s opposition to this war went far beyond dissent into unprecedented territory. Fortunately, the Bush administration was able to retrieve its own mistakes and its domestic opponents to win a war that Democrats said was unwinnable and (despite their own authorization) shouldn’t have been fought in the first place. But it was no thanks to the Party that now occupies the White House that this American war was won.


Australia's secretive internet censorship

The censorship is offensive enough by itself but the veil of secrecy over it is an open invitation to abuse by bureaucrats and politicians

SECRECY, said British judge Sir John Chadwick, is the badge of fraud. He was speaking in the context of financial fraud but it seems equally to apply in Australia where governments wear the badge while robbing us of our freedoms, all the while pretending to do precisely the opposite. We have over the past decade descended down a path of official deceit where governments erode our freedoms of association and expression while making it an offence to speak of their fraudulence.

It began in the hysteria of a post-9/11 world when the Government stole our presumption of innocence and the protections of habeas corpus under the pretext of protecting us, and then made it a crime to speak about its trespasses. Demonstrable incompetents were empowered to bang people up and, if their blunderings found nothing criminal, to release them under an oath of secrecy and pain of punishment if they revealed what had been done in the name of national security. Secrecy became an end to itself, behind which the Government and its minions were able to hide their worst excesses and intimidate their victims.

Now, under the pretext of protecting us from corruption on the internet, a government of a different colour hides its abuses of power behind another veil. And it threatens punitive damages against anyone who lifts the veil and exposes its stupidity.

Anyone who gives more than a passing thought to their rights should have been long concerned over the Federal Government's nobly declared but ill-considered and illiberal plan to filter the internet. More specifically, they should have been outraged over the Government's blacklist of 10,000 sites which were to be added to another 1300 identified by the unelected and faceless Australian Communications and Media Authority to be filtered out of our consciousness.

Just what might we be protected against? We may never know. The ACMA list was said to be mainly of child pornography sites, but last year Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy could not even define the grounds for restricting the 10,000, although they were supposed to contain "illegal and unwanted content". Now we learn the ACMA list of banned sites has mysteriously grown to more than 2300, with no public inquiry and no rights of appeal. Worse, we are not allowed to know what is on the proscribed list and anyone who wants to rescue us from our ignorance is threatened with up to 10 years in jail.

An outfit called Wikileaks put online a leaked list of what purports to be the banned list, including entirely innocent sites and blameless individuals. For its trouble, it was threatened with huge fines and placed on the blacklist. Conroy denies the veracity of the list but we may never know because it is a dark secret shared by the Government, the ACMA and a favoured few who stand to get fat by perfecting the internet filter.

For all Conroy's denials and sanctimony about irresponsibility, the expert opinion is that for the national filtering scheme to work the Government, through the ACMA, will have to be party to the distribution of possibly salacious, hurtful and erroneous information to a select few private companies.

And we, the people whose freedoms are curbed, will be forbidden under pain of penalty from ever knowing or speaking of what is hidden from our eyes.

What next? Who next? This is an assault on our freedoms, an insupportable presumption of power by government and its unelected officers that begins to erode freedoms guaranteed since Magna Carta. It is a Kafkaesque exercise in mindless tyranny that is unworthy of one of the world's oldest, proudest and previously durable democracies. Secrecy may be a badge of fraud. It is also the flag of frightened men.


Australia ready to boycott Durban II

Australia said it will boycott the Durban II anti-racism conference unless the heavily anti-Israel conference draft document is changed. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in federal parliament March 12 that Australia would join Israel, Canada, the United States and Italy in withdrawing from the United Nations-sponsored conference pending a revision of the text of the draft documents for next month's conference in Geneva. “If we form the view that the text is going to lead to nothing more than an anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic harangue and an anti-Jewish propaganda exercise, Australia will not be in attendance,” Smith said.

“We will give the working group every opportunity to revise the text in a qualitatively improved way to ensure that that does not happen, and we will make our judgment at a time of our choosing when we have given all nation-states concerned the opportunity to add qualitatively to the text to enable it to form the proper basis of debate at the conference," he said.

Numerous Jewish representatives have lobbied the federal government to boycott the April 20-24 conference, which they fear will be a reprise of the U.N. World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that took place in 2001 in Durban, South Africa. Israel and the United States walked out of the conference, which they criticized as an anti-Israel hate fest.



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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