Monday, May 25, 2009

Hey! A great new way to discourage crime. The latest from Australia

Just one more of a long line of futile do-gooder fantasies -- This one emanating from the Leftist bureaucracy of Queensland, apparently. Like all such programs -- such as the famous Barlinnie Special Unit -- they tend to create a less stressful and pleasanter atmosphere for inmates and warders alike -- but they do not reduce rates of reoffending and they are costly. They also require especially dedicated staff to work at all. Story of the admittedly brave dreamer behind the Barlinnie experiment here

Convicted criminals are enjoying days out on the Great Barrier Reef, fishing and surfing trips and oyster-gathering at the beach as a reward for good behaviour in a taxpayer- funded program aimed at keeping them out of jail.

Attorney-General Cameron Dick yesterday told The Sunday Mail he has ordered an urgent review of the Government's multi-agency programs that offer offenders a stint in rehab instead of jail.

Drug and alcohol-addicted offenders in the programs have faced court charged with crimes including domestic violence, assault, drug possession and public drunkenness. Offenders are given free surfing lessons on the Gold Coast, fishing trips off Townsville, and crab and oyster hunting near Cairns. The recreational and cultural activities are delivered by non-government agencies in a bid to encourage a new life away from crime and drug and alcohol addiction.

Mr Dick said he was concerned by the recreational content of some programs, and it did not meet community expectations. It was unacceptable for Drug Court offenders to be involved in the activities, he said. "While I'm no expert, I'd like to see more sensible, practical forms of rehabilitation," he said. "I don't think it's what the community expects offenders to be involved in, and neither do I. "I've spoken to my director-general, and I've made it abundantly clear to her that I don't want this to happen again."

Victims of crime and the Opposition slammed the activities, saying the soft approach was a slap in the face for victims. Gindaja Treatment and Healing Centre at Yarrabah, south of Cairns, operates five beds for clients diverted from jail in a $900,000, three-year pilot scheme for men convicted of alcohol-related crimes [i.e. blacks. Yarrabah is a black settlement].

The centre's chief executive Ailsa Lively told The Sunday Mail a cultural program includes trips to beaches to collect oysters, crab-hunting and fishing. Participants are also given accredited training, literacy and numeracy lessons, and taught to sew and tend vegetable gardens. "They're given an opportunity to go back to their roots because they forget about all of their cultural needs when they're caught up in alcohol," she said. "A lot of people - indigenous and non-indigenous - do recreational activities".

Rehabilitation service Ozcare has a program for criminals from the Drug Court and offers fishing trips in Townsville and days at the beach for clients in Cairns. "We've got elements in the programs that are part of the therapeutic and recreational streams," northern region manager Coralie Friend said. "They can't participate in recreation until they've done chores such as keeping the house clean, doing the washing, and grocery shopping. "Recreational activities are things that will use their energy, things they can practise and afford in their life once they complete the program. "It includes normal stuff like fishing and going to the beach. It's an excellent program."

Brisbane's Paul Stanley, who set up a support and education foundation after his son Matthew died after being bashed outside a party in 2006, was disgusted by the soft treatment. "It's another slap in the face for victims," he said.

Opposition police spokesman Vaughan Johnson demanded a review of the program. "It's a blatant abuse of taxpayers' money," he said.

The above story by Gavin King appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on May 24, 2009

British academics urged to defend free speech without limits

Thoroughly admirable views but he's pissing into the wind in Britain

The concept of academic freedom is "impoverished" and under threat at a time when the vogue is for arguing that freedom of speech must be limited to protect certain groups. The warning has been issued in advance of an International Academic Freedom Day organised by the campaign group Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF).

The group's founder, Dennis Hayes, argues that "there are no high-profile defenders of 'absolute' free speech and academic freedom". He points out that Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, is "fond of noting that there are limits to free speech" and that the British Library's Taking Liberties exhibition included a section on "Free speech and its limits". "No defence of unqualified free speech comes from where you might, however naively, expect it," he says.

He also suggests that the argument that limits are needed to protect groups from threats by racists, fascists and extremists implies that these groups are vulnerable, a view that amounts to contempt, he says.

Dr Hayes concludes: "Academics have a choice. To become another profession with no 'noble' goals or to accept responsibility to defend free speech and academic freedom and hope to make the ivory tower a beacon for the defence of freedom in wider society."

Dr Hayes made the argument in a special edition of the British Journal of Educational Studies, which will be launched on 20 May at an AFAF seminar chaired by Ann Mroz, editor of Times Higher Education.

The AFAF has declared this date (the birthday of the political philosopher John Stuart Mill) International Academic Freedom Day. It is asking academics and students to hold seminars, discussions and protests on the topic.


Overgoverned Britain

We need a real life Howard Beale. Remember him? He was the fictional American television newsreader played by Peter Finch in the film Network. He became so frustrated at the refusal of anyone to listen to reason that he invited viewers to open their windows and yell into the streets: "I am as mad as hell and I am not going to take it any more.''

Let's face it: we are even madder than that; and not simply because we have found out that our MPs – or some of them at any rate – have been siphoning off large sums of our money to subsidise a lifestyle most of us can only dream about. We were already mad; we were just waiting for something to happen on which to vent our anger.

Normally when the British get irritated, we respond with a resigned and embarrassed shrug rather than shout and bellow. We are not like the French who take to the streets at the drop of a hat to chuck cobblestones at the police. But our characteristic mildness as a nation is being tested to destruction by our politicians – whether in national or local government – who have forgotten that if they must interfere in our lives, to do so only when it is absolutely necessary. We have the worst of all worlds – not only are we over-governed; we are badly governed as well.

We are snooped on more than the average North Korean, harried by marauding armies of parking enforcers and wheel-clampers; pestered by health fascists and safety obsessives and shaken by speed humps. If we smoke we are told where to puff; it we drink we are made to feel guilty; if we drive a big car we are pariahs; if we hunt we have been turned into criminals; if we make an "inappropriate" remark we can expect a visit from the police; if we stand up to hooligans we can end up in court.

Innocent people have been put on a DNA database meant for criminals and will stay there for some time even after the European Court of Human Rights said they should come off – which is a bit rich given that this government introduced the Human Rights Act in the first place to wave its progressive credentials around. Our children are all to have their details placed on a database known as ContactPoint because one appalling set of relatives killed a little girl who should have been watched by social services. For the failings of the system, all children have to be considered potentially "at risk".

In addition, we are all to be considered potential suspects in a crime, too. Why else would the government want us to be on an identity register, other than to know where we are all the time? And why should it? I have nothing to hide and I have nothing to fear but I fail to see why that means I should be on a state ID database.

How has all this come about? A clue can be found in the expenses crisis that has engulfed Westminster. MPs have simply not being doing their jobs properly. They are there to hold the Government to account but have allowed a torrent of legislation to pour forth. They have spent too much of their time thinking up ever more imaginative ways to claim their generous allowances. They have given up their primary task.

This Government has brought in more legislation than any of its predecessors. Since 1997, the Home Office alone has introduced 50 Bills, launched more than 100 consultation papers, made at least 350 regulations and created an astonishing 271 new offences. Overall, more than 3,000 new criminal offences have been created by Labour – 1,000 of them punishable by imprisonment.

Here are just a few of the things you could do before 1997 but can't now – many of them, it must be said, forced on us by EU directives, though our government in most cases agreed them.

Smoke in a pub or on a railway platform in the open air in the middle of the countryside, or at a covered bus stop, or in your own car if it is used for work, or in your own house if it is used as an office where outsiders may come.

Own a horse, donkey or Shetland pony without possessing a passport carrying a picture of the animal.

Ride off with a pack of hounds in pursuit of a fox or stag.

Play the piano in a pub without an entertainment licence.

Stage more than 12 events a year at, for instance, a school or church hall at which alcohol may be served without a full licence.

Set off a firework after midnight or be in possession of a firework if aged under 18 at any time other than the period around Bonfire Night and New Year's Eve.

Own a pistol for any purpose, including sport target practice.

Stage a protest of any sort, even if alone, within 1km of the Palace of Westminster, without the authority of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Fish in the River Esk without authorisation.

Enter the hull of the Titanic without permission from the Secretary of State.

Import into England potatoes which a person knows to be or has reasonable cause to suspect to be Polish potatoes.

Obstruct the work of the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

Imbibe an alcoholic drink on a London Underground train or bus.

Keep a car on your own driveway without tax, even if it not being used, without filling in a form.

Sell a grey squirrel (though you can kill one).

Labour has created new offences at twice the rate of the previous Tory administration, which was bad enough in this regard, and it has done so at an accelerating pace. Now you may support some or all of these new laws. What cannot be denied is that we have had a frenzy of law-making that has changed the character of the nation in a way that many of us neither expected nor wanted – even those who voted Labour (especially those who voted Labour, perhaps).

What is that drives the legislative mania of modern governments? Will any of them really, truly commit themselves to stop frustrating the activities and livelihoods of Her Majesty's law-abiding subjects with unwarranted interference, intrusiveness and incompetence? Have they no sense of history, no philosophical framework within which they can understand the point at which government activity must end and the private citizen begins? They have lost all concept of the impact of excessive law-making on the freedom of the individual.

The expenses crisis has merely brought all this to the surface: resentment against a Government that raised taxes after promising not to and then wasted billions of pounds on failed IT systems and top-heavy administration; incredulity over ministerial claims that crime has fallen when we can see with our own eyes that it hasn't; frustration at the inane regulations, the unjustified use of fines and charges, the bloody-minded parking restrictions, unreasonable European directives, multiculturalist busybodies, and the vast, overpaid and largely useless quangocracy disconnected from the rest of us.

It has all gone on for too long and the people to blame are those who failed to put a stop it: our MPs. That is why we are so angry about duck islands, bath plugs and second-home flipping.

Nadine Dorries yesterday said that the second-home allowance was an entitlement which MPs were encouraged to claim and everyone at Westminster and in the media knew that. She suggested it was unfair to criticise MPs since they were only enhancing an income most people would consider inadequate. Well, the public did not know any of this and this conspiracy against the voter has been busted wide open. We are as mad as hell so shout it out the window. You know you want to.


Netanyahu's peace plan

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's visit with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday was a baptism of fire for the new premier. What emerged from the meeting is that Obama's priorities regarding Iran, Israel and the Arab world are diametrically opposed to Israel's priorities.

During his ad hoc press conference with Netanyahu, Obama made clear that he will not lift a finger to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And acting as Obama's surrogate, for the past two weeks CIA Director Leon Panetta has made clear that Obama expects Israel to also sit on its thumbs as Iran develops the means to destroy it.

Obama showed his hand on Iran in three ways. First, he set a nonbinding timetable of seven months for his policy of appeasement and engagement of the ayatollahs to work. That policy, he explained, will only be implemented after next month's Iranian presidential elections. And those direct US-Iranian talks must be given at least six months to show results before they can be assessed as successful or failed.

But Israel's Military Intelligence has assessed that six months may be too long to wait. By the end of the year, Iran's nuclear program may be unstoppable. And Iran's successful test of its solid fuel Sejil-2 missile with a 2,000 kilometer range on Wednesday merely served to show the urgency of the situation. Obviously the mullahs are not waiting for Obama to convince them of the error of their ways.

Beyond the fact that Obama's nonbinding timeline is too long, there is his "or else." Obama made clear that in the event that in December or January he concludes that the Iranians are not negotiating in good faith, the most radical step he will be willing to take will be to consider escalating international sanctions against Teheran. In the meantime, at his urging, Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House International Affairs Committee, has set aside a bill requiring sanctions against oil companies that export refined fuel into Iran.

Finally there was Obama's contention that the best way for the US to convince Iran to give up its nuclear program is by convincing Israel to give away more land to the Palestinians. As Obama put it, "To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians, between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat." This statement encapsulates the basic lack of seriousness and fundamental mendacity of Obama's approach to "dealing with a potential Iranian threat."

Iran has made clear that it wants Israel destroyed. The mullahs don't care how big Israel is. Their missiles are pointing at Tel Aviv, not Beit El. As for the international community, the Russians and Chinese have not been assisting Iran's nuclear and missile programs for the past 15 years because there is no Palestinian state. They have been assisting Iran because they think a strong Iran weakens the US. And they are right.

The Arab states, for their part, are already openly siding with Israel against Iran. The establishment of a Palestinian state will not make their support for action to prevent Iran from acquiring the means to dominate the region any more profound.

On the face of it, Obama's obsessive push for a Palestinian state makes little sense. The Palestinians are hopelessly divided. It is not simply that Hamas rules the Gaza Strip and Fatah controls Judea and Samaria. Fatah itself is riven by division. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's appointment of the new PA government under Salaam Fayad was overwhelmingly rejected by Fatah leaders. Quite simply, there is no coherent Palestinian leadership that is either willing or capable of reaching an accord with Israel.

As for the prospects for peace itself, given that there is little distinction between the anti-Semitic bilge broadcast daily in Gaza by Hamas-controlled media, and the anti-Semitic bilge broadcast daily in Judea and Samaria by the Fatah/Abbas/Fayad-controlled media, those prospects aren't looking particularly attractive. That across-the-board anti-Semitic incitement has engendered the current situation where Hamas and Fatah members and supporters are firmly united in their desire to see Israel destroyed. This was made clear on Thursday morning when a Fatah policeman in Kalkilya used his US-provided rifle to open fire on IDF soldiers engaged in a counterterror operation in the city.

Given that the establishment of a Palestinian state will have no impact on Iran's nuclear program, and in light of the fact that under the present circumstances any Palestinian state will be at war with Israel, and assuming that Obama is not completely ignorant of the situation on the ground, there is only one reasonable explanation for his urgent desire to force Israel to support the creation of a Palestinian state and to work for its establishment by expelling hundreds of thousands of Israelis from their homes. Quite simply, it is a way to divert attention away from Obama's acquiescence to Iran's nuclear aspirations.

BY MAKING the achievement of the unachievable goal of making peace between Israel and the Palestinians through the establishment of a Palestinian terror state the centerpiece of his Middle East agenda, Obama is able to cast Israel as the region's villain. This aim is reflected in the administration's intensifying pressure on Israel to destroy Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.

In portraying Jews who live in mobile homes on barren hilltops in Judea and Samaria - rather than Iranian mullahs who test ballistic missile while enriching uranium and inciting genocide - as the greatest obstacle to peace, the Obama administration not only seeks to deflect attention away from its refusal to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is also setting Israel up as the fall guy who it will blame after Iran emerges as a nuclear power.

Obama's intention to unveil his Middle East peace plan in the course of his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4, like his decision to opt out of visiting Israel in favor of visiting a Nazi death camp, make it clear that he does not perceive Israel as a vital ally, or even as a partner in the peace process he wishes to initiate. Israeli officials were not consulted about his plan. Then, too, from the emerging contours of his plan, it is clear that he will be offering something that no Israeli government can accept.

According to media reports, Obama's plan will require Israel to withdraw its citizens and its military to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines. It will provide for the free immigration of millions of Israel-hating Arabs to the Palestinian state. And it seeks to represent all of this as in accord with Israel's interests by claiming that after Israel renders itself indefensible, all 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (including Iran) will "normalize" their relations with Israel. In short, Obama is using his peace plan to castigate the Netanyahu government as the chief destabilizing force in the region.

During his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu succeeded in evading the policy traps Obama set for him. Netanyahu reserved Israel's right to act independently against Iran and he conceded nothing substantive on the Palestinian issue.

While itself no small achievement, Netanyahu's successful deflection of Obama's provocations is not a sustainable strategy. Already on Tuesday the administration began coercing Israel to toe its line on Iran and the Palestinians by engaging it in joint "working groups."

Then, too, the government's destruction of an outpost community in Judea on Thursday was perceived as Israeli buckling to US pressure. And it doubtlessly raised expectations for further expulsions in the near future.

SO WHAT must Netanyahu do? What would a strategy to contain the Obama administration's pressure and maintain international attention on Iran look like?

Under the present circumstances, the Netanyahu government's best bet is to introduce its own peace plan to mitigate the impact of Obama's plan. To blunt the impact of Obama's speech in Cairo, Netanyahu should present his peace plan before June 4.

Such a plan should contain three stages. First, in light of the Arab world's apparent willingness to engage with Israel, Netanyahu should call for the opening of direct talks between Israel and the Arab League, or between Israel and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, regarding the immediate normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab-Islamic world. Both Obama and Jordan's King Abdullah claim that such normalization is in the offing. Israel should insist that it begin without delay.

This, of course, is necessary for peace to emerge with the Palestinians. As we saw at Camp David in 2000, the only way that Palestinian leaders will feel comfortable making peace with Israel is if the Arab world first demonstrates its acceptance of the Jewish state as a permanent feature on the Middle East's landscape. Claims that such an Israeli demand is a mere tactic to buy time can be easily brushed off. Given Jordanian and American claims that the Arab world is willing to accept Israel, once negotiations begin, this stage could be completed in a matter of months.

The second stage of the Israeli peace plan would involve Israel and the Arab world agreeing and beginning to implement a joint program for combating terrorism. This program would involve destroying terror networks, cutting off funding for terror networks and agreeing to arrest terrorists and extradite them to The Hague or the US for trial. It should be abundantly clear to all governments in the region that there can be no long-term regional peace or stability as long as terrorists bent on destroying Israel and overthrowing moderate Arab regimes are allowed to operate. So making the implementation of such a join program a precondition for further progress shouldn't pose an obstacle to peace. Indeed, there is no reason for it to even be perceived as particularly controversial.

The final stage of the Israeli peace plan should be the negotiation of a final-status accord with the Palestinians. Only after the Arab world has accepted Israel, and only after it has agreed to join Israel in achieving the common goal of a terror-free Middle East, can there be any chance that the Palestinians will feel comfortable and free to peacefully coexist with Israel. And Israel, of course, will feel much more confident about living at peace with the Palestinians after the Arab world demonstrates its good faith and friendship to the Jewish state and its people.

Were Netanyahu to offer this plan in the next two weeks, he would be able to elude Obama's trap on June 4 by proposing to discuss both plans with the Arab League. In so doing, he would be able to continue to make the case that Iran is the gravest danger to the region without being demonized as a destabilizing force and an enemy of peace.

Whether Netanyahu advances such a peace plan or not, what became obvious this week is that his greatest challenges in office will be to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons while preventing the Obama administration from blaming Israel for the absence of peace.



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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