The steady erosion of British liberties by Britain's Leftist government
It's the little things, always the little things, that get you in the end. For me, it was having to be police checked to take my child on a school trip to our local High Street. Sure, I realise that for quite some time the usual suspects have been banging away about erosion of our civil liberties, but it's easy to turn a blind eye when you are not being actually arrested. Laws were being passed one after another, changing our rights. But, to be honest, most people just don't understand or have enough time to read the small print of legislation. Not even the MPs who vote it through.
A lot of the time we feel it is nothing to do with us. We noticed the smoking ban as we huddled under patio heaters, but took little notice of the odd person being locked up for 28 days for having a beard and having looked at some odd websites. We have become so inured to the continual health warnings that emanate from this Government of puritans that sometimes I think our culture of public intoxication is, in itself, a simple form of resistance to it all.
We were led to believe that the world changed so much after September 11 that endless checks on freedoms were necessary. We were scared and therefore allowed security to trump liberty, as there is no liberty for the dead, is there? We accepted this notion passively but are now agitated in airport queues. I always struggle with the difference between lipstick and lip gloss as a matter of national security. The armed police stalking around frighten rather than reassure me. Now, they have the right to stop and search anybody and any car in designated areas, but I do not feel safer.
Should I want to protest about this, I could, of course, go on some kind of demonstration, as long as I pre-arrange it with the police and if I make sure that I do not go within 1km of the Houses of Parliament. This is part of another ridiculous new Act. And there is a law that means that if I took a picture of a policeman standing still I could be liable for a ten-year prison sentence. Why? We are now all suspects and subject to a massive amount of surveillance. Thousands of CCTV cameras record endless footage. They don't prevent crime but blurrily remind us that no space is unobserved. We have sleepwalked into a society in which, because technology watches us, we no longer watch out for each other.
All of us will have felt the chipping away of small freedoms. I was astonished to know that because I had more than 20 people to my last party it was legally classified as a rave. At my age! Read the Anti-Social Behaviour Act of 2003. But even to spin a few records in a pub one now has to declare what kind of music will be played. It's a kind of insanity. Mozart or basement? You can see how racially sensitive this legislation is.
Perhaps, though, freedom of expression and of association are rather vague terms until some New Labour apparatchik starts reining them in, all the while talking to us as if we were five.
This weekend, all over the country, The Convention on Modern Liberty organised a series of events to discuss these issues. Have we left it too late? I think not. Now is the right time to put our feet down. Why, for instance, must I be made to think of myself as a potential paedophile, rather than a parent? Something has gone badly wrong. Culturally we could read the runes. Although we have less faith in politics and institutions than ever before, they have been shoring up their power.
Simultaneously we have been bombarded by advice from lifestyle experts. Smoking, eating and drinking are no longer regarded as private choices but subject to public scrutiny. Much of what we do is bad for us. Television reinforces this with experts who make people examine their own faeces or get `made over'. We have not been nannied but bullied on to the naughty step, forever infantilised.
More seriously, we have been lied to. While freedoms have been curtailed at home we have flown people round the world to be tortured. In the dying days of this administration, Jack Straw and David Blunkett have been wheeled out to tell us that comparisons with a police state are crazy. No one is saying that, we are simply staging a fight-back.
Liberty does not belong to any particular party. The Convention on Modern Liberty brings together Left and Right in a powerful coalition. Something that has been fairly abstract in people's minds is being made real. And part of that is surely connected to the economic downturn. Every day it becomes more clear that where this Government, and indeed the one before it, should have regulated our monstrous financial institutions, they didn't. They gave them freedom. The free market, remember, would save our souls and supposedly our public services. Now it all looks crazy because instead they over-regulated everywhere else. We cannot know the data kept on our own children. Surveillance is hard-wired into every aspect of our lives.
All this is done because we need protecting, not only from terrorists and criminals, but from ourselves. The truth is, though, no one feels more secure, they just feel their liberties shut down bit by bit. As Joni Mitchell sang all those years ago: `Don't it always seem to go / That you don't know what you've got till it's gone.' But we are starting to know, because though we feel bewildered by all the jargon and legalese, we feel in our bones we are losing what made this country great. Times have changed, yes, but ancient and hard-won freedoms, which may make things difficult and messy sometimes, are part of our quality of life.
The challenge for the next Government is how far it is prepared to restore what has been lost. Freedom is not a theory, it's a practice. It is precious. We don't need protecting from ourselves. We need protecting from those who would take away our freedom. The enemies of freedom have shown themselves to be not simply murderous bombers but smiling legislators who know what is best for us. In the name of keeping us safe, they have imprisoned us. Time to break out.
Sharpie Sharpton's protection racket
Businesses pay up or face demonstrations against them
Anheuser-Busch gave him six figures, Colgate-Palmolive shelled out $50,000 and Macy's and Pfizer have contributed thousands to the Rev. Al Sharpton's charity. Almost 50 companies - including PepsiCo, General Motors, Wal-Mart, FedEx, Continental Airlines, Johnson & Johnson and Chase - and some labor unions sponsored Sharpton's National Action Network annual conference in April.
Terrified of negative publicity, fearful of a consumer boycott or eager to make nice with the civil-rights activist, CEOs write checks, critics say, to NAN and Sharpton - who brandishes the buying power of African-American consumers. In some cases, they hire him as a consultant. The cash flows even as the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn has been conducting a grand-jury investigation of NAN's finances.
A General Motors spokesman told The Post that NAN had repeatedly - and unsuccessfully - asked for contributions for six years, beginning in August 2000. Then, in December 2006, Sharpton threatened to call a boycott of the carmaker over the closing of an African-American-owned GM dealership in The Bronx, and he picketed outside GM headquarters on Fifth Avenue. Last year, General Motors gave NAN a $5,000 donation. It gave $5,000 more this year, a spokesman said, calling NAN a "worthy" organization.
In November 2003, Sharpton picketed DaimlerChrysler's Chicago car show and threatened a boycott over alleged racial bias in car loans. "This is institutional racism," he bellowed. In May 2004, Chrysler began supporting NAN's conferences, which include panels on corporate responsibility and civil rights and a black-tie awards dinner to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Last year, Sharpton gave Chrysler an award for corporate excellence.
In 2003, Sharpton targeted American Honda for not hiring enough African-Americans in management. "We support those that support us," wrote Sharpton and the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, president of NAN's Michigan chapter, in a letter to American Honda. "We cannot be silent while African-Americans spend hard-earned dollars with a company that does not hire, promote or do business with us in a statistically significant manner." Two months after American Honda execs met with Sharpton, the carmaker began to sponsor NAN's events - and continues to pay "a modest amount" each year, a spokesman said.
Australian police cover up ethnic violence again
Police and cinema chiefs have clashed about outbreaks of violence that have resulted in a critically-acclaimed film about Lebanese gangs being pulled from theatres across the state. The Combination has been dumped by all NSW Greater Union cinemas - the second blow for the movie's makers in just four days, after one of its stars was sentenced to almost six months in jail for a violent assault not dissimilar to those the film depicts.
At least two incidents at its Parramatta cinema complex had compromised the safety of staff and moviegoers, Greater Union's Robert Flynn said yesterday. A sold-out screening of the film was nearing completion on Saturday night when an altercation between a number of patrons began and then spilled out on to the street - apparently sparked after a girl asked other patrons to be quiet. On Thursday night a guard was hospitalised after he was assaulted for asking a patron to stop smoking.
Police and the cinema operator disagree about the seriousness of the incidents, The Australian reports. "A fight broke out. It went into the foyer, over the aero-bridge, and our security (footage) shows police arriving," Greater Union spokeswoman Melissa Kesby said. "We have people being put in police cars on the security footage. "A staff member was hit in the head. We can't understand why police are saying that nothing happened, because that's not what our staff said."
A spokeswoman for NSW police said: "Police were advised (on Saturday night) there were four people involved in an altercation, and perhaps 50 onlookers. Police got the call at 17.38, and were there at 17.39, and there were no signs of that incident."
Meanwhile film's writer and actor, George Basha, who plays a Lebanese-Australian fresh out of jail, said the decision to pull the film was "discriminatory". "You've got 300 or 400 people in the cinema, and then you've got three or four kids, 15 and 16 years old, making a nuisance," Basha said. "The cinema is saying they were smoking in the cinema, and there were fights breaking out ... I've seen fights happen. I'm pretty sure those films didn't get closed down."
Leading film critic, David Stratton, told The Australian the movie had "a powerful message". "It points out the problem with violence," Stratton said. "It's an excellent film, an important film. It seems to me to be an extreme reaction, a knee-jerk reaction. "It's akin to shooting the messenger. Good films are meant to provoke and challenge, and that is what this film does."
Film distributor Allanah Zitserman from Australian Film Syndicate said the decision to scrap screenings at all NSW Greater Union cinemas was upsetting for the cast and crew. "The film has done exceptionally well so far, it's been selling out in these areas," she said. "It's particularly devastating because here we have an Australian film that's connecting with audiences, touching a nerve and three days into its release it's been pulled because of a small group of troublemakers who've spoiled it for everyone else."
The company hoped to hold talks today with Greater Union about overturning the decision.
Homebirths may be pushed underground by Australia's meddling socialist government
Something that the human race has done since pre-history is suddenly wrong
Hundreds of women each year who choose to give birth in their homes are likely to face greater medical danger for themselves and their babies with the introduction of regulations that could force the practice underground. From the middle of next year, midwives will be required to hold professional indemnity insurance as a condition of practice, under the Rudd Government's plan to streamline registration requirements for all health professionals.
No commercial insurer has been prepared to offer an insurance policy to an independent midwife since the medical indemnity and wider insurance crises of 2001. When the new regime comes into effect, it will no longer be legal for these uninsured independent midwives to attend home births. The only exception will be if the midwife is employed by one of the very few publicly funded services, thought to be fewer than half a dozen nationwide.
Although the number of women giving birth at home is tiny in Australia - just over 700 in 2006, or 0.26 per cent of all births - this represents a committed group. More than 50 per cent of submissions to the federal Government's recent maternity services review came from women calling for greater support for homebirthing services, which claim up to a 10-fold greater share of births in some overseas countries such as Britain. Since 2001, an estimated 150 midwives have provided homebirth services to women, at a typical cost of between $3000 and $5000, but without rebates from Medicare or private health funds, and without insurance cover that would give recourse to compensation should anything go wrong.
Midwifery experts, consumer advocates for homebirthing and even some obstetricians are calling for the problem to be sorted out before midwives are forced out of homebirths. Sarah McLean, a volunteer with the Homebirth Access Sydney consumer group, is pregnant with her third baby and is planning to deliver at home. She said the prospect of losing the option of homebirth was "quite devastating". "It's ridiculous to effectively make homebirth illegal, when other countries like Britain have publicly funded homebirth programs," Ms McLean said.
Caroline Homer, professor of midwifery at the University of Technology Sydney, said the "worst-case scenario is that women would be unattended" when giving birth. "Another scenario is that the midwives will continue to practise under other names, but there won't be any standards of care, and no peer review or evaluation, because it will all be in secret," Professor Homer said. "Removing independent midwives and saying we won't do homebirths won't solve the problem; women will continue to have babies at home."
Obstetrician Andrew Bisits, director of obstetrics at Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital, said there was no reason that the federal Government should not support midwives' indemnity costs as it already did for obstetricians and other doctors. Between 2003 and 2006, the federal Government subsidised doctors' premiums to the tune of $54.39 million. "If that's denied, you will have a number of people going underground, making these very fragile, secretive arrangements," he said. "It's much more sensible to be positive about it."
Homebirth supporters had been hoping the Maternity Services Review would solve the problem by recommending federal support for midwife indemnity. In the event, the report said homebirthing was "a sensitive and controversial issue" and the "relationship between maternity healthcare professionals is not such as to support homebirth as a mainstream commonwealth-funded option (at least in the short term)".
Evidence for the safety of homebirths is disputed. US research published in the British Medical Journal in 2005 found low-risk women giving birth at home with midwife supervision had lower rates of medical interventions, such as the use of forceps, and no greater risk of their baby dying either during birth or soon afterwards.
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.
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