Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The petty dictators of Britain
A blind man of 75 has just been fined by council wardens for failing to clean up his guide dog's mess. Albert McFall, from Renfrew, Scotland, was handed a £40 fixed-penalty notice, even though he had no idea his golden labrador, Copper, had just done his business on a piece of waste ground.
How was he expected to know, let alone pick it up? He's blind, for heaven's sake.
The guide dog should have been a clue. So should Albert's registered disabled armband and the dog's fluorescent harness.
He couldn't even read the penalty notice given to him. Admittedly, dog mess is a nuisance, but this was on a large patch of waste ground, not on the pavement or in a children's playground. Albert said: 'I know rules are rules and I shouldn't be treated any differently to the next person, but this is totally unbelievable.' He said he would have accepted a warning, but the wardens were interested only in taking his name and issuing a fine.
What kind of heartless moron refuses to make allowances for an elderly blind man, even if he has technically committed a minor offence?
But 'rules is rules' is the bleat of the tinpot tyrant down the ages. Albert's experience is entirely consistent with the elf 'n'safety and proof-of-identity madness I get sent to me by readers every week.
Alice O'Brien, from Bognor Regis, emails to say she had a jar of Marmite confiscated at Gatwick on her way to a holiday in Turkey - just another small example of the way in which anti-terror measures are used to persecute the law-abiding.
In Havant, Hants, a teenager was prevented from buying a bicycle puncture repair kit on the grounds that he might be a glue-sniffer.
Even though 17-year-old Daniel Cottrell was accompanied by his father, the assistant at the 99p shop still wouldn't sell him the kit. The owner of the store said he was acting on police advice.
There is no application of intelligence, or common sense, in any of these cases.
Doesn't it occur to the shopkeeper, or the idiot Plod who issued these 'guidelines', that if Daniel really was a glue-sniffer he'd buy a big tub of glue, not a puncture repair kit?
I could fill the column with this kind of lunacy, week in, week out. We are inclined to laugh it off, when we should be burning down government buildings.
Infuriating as it is, this petty-minded punishment culture also extends to more sinister assaults on civil liberties, from trial without juries, detention without trial, to DNA databanks and the establishment of a surveillance state more extensive even than Eastern Europe under the communists.
Almost no area of our lives, no innocent everyday human activity, is immune from interference. We are the most spied upon, bullied nation in the so-called 'free' world.
A vast standing army of officials has been recruited to enforce an exciting range of fines and sentences introduced for the thousands of new 'offences' created by Labour.
Only yesterday we learned that people are being urged to snoop on their neighbours and report any ' environmental crimes' they observe.
Hull City Council is asking householders to fill in 'diary sheets' recording the times and dates fellow residents put out their rubbish.
This will mean that anyone caught putting their bin out before 7am and leaving it on the street after 7pm on the appointed day of collection could be fined a maximum £1,000.
We've already had people getting criminal records for the heinous crime of leaving their dustbin lid open by a couple of inches, or putting the 'wrong' kind of rubbish in their recycling container.
Elsewhere, anti-terrorist legislation has been used to trap parents suspected of manipulating school catchment areas to try to secure a decent education for their children.
If you give anyone in authority any power whatsoever, especially if it comes with a uniform or a hi-viz jacket, they will always, always abuse it.
So while the new Government gets to grips with tackling the economic wasteland inherited from Gordon Brown, there is another equally pressing task.
Labour's police state, the entire apparatus of the punishment culture which has been imposed ruthlessly over the past 13 years, must be dismantled.
The coalition is committed to scrapping Labour's ID cards scheme. But that is only a start. The new Government should go much, much further.
David Davis, the former shadow Home secretary, resigned his seat in the last Parliament and forced a byelection to protest against Labour's attempts to establish a totalitarian state.
He has paid a great political price for his stand on principle. It soured his relationship with his party leader and cost him the Home Office, now occupied by Theresa May, the Conservative member for Russell & Bromley.
But if Cameron can manage to form a coalition with the duplicitous Liberal Democrats, and bring political opponents such as Frank Field and Will Hutton on board, he can surely find it in his heart to bury the hatchet with Davis.
Why not set up a grand committee under Davis charged with dismantling Labour's illiberal police state?
I can't see Nick Clegg objecting to anything dedicated to restoring civil liberties.
Picking apart Labour's punishment culture will be even more difficult than restoring an economy reduced to a toxic wasteland by Gordon Brown's deliberate, reckless profligacy.
But no one wants to live in a country where neighbours are encouraged to spy on each other by the Town Hall stasi and a 75-year-old blind man is persecuted for failing to notice that his guide dog has done a whoopsie.
British police forces have more bureaucrats than police officers
Two police forces have fewer sworn officers than other staff and the trend is gathering pace, the Police Federation says today. Northamptonshire Constabulary has 1,319 staff and 1,301 officers, while in Surrey there are 1,938 staff and 1,824 officers.
The federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, says the use of such staff, who cannot arrest or be moved to other roles in an emergency, puts the public in danger.
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, called on the Government for an independent review of policing and said the public should be asked what they want from the service. “At a time of financial restraint across the public sector, a rise in police staff numbers is absolute nonsense when the public want more police officers on the beat,” he said.
“Instead we have increasing numbers of unaccountable, unidentifiable police staff who do not have the flexibility or resilience to give what is needed as an emergency service.”
Researchers examined the number of officers compared to other staff from 2000 to 2009 at all 43 forces in England and Wales. They found the average ratio in 2000 was 2.3 to 1, but by 2009 it had shrunk to 1.4 to one.
Many chief constables have removed police officers from a range of jobs which, they say, can be done by others. The most prominent such staff are police community support officers but police officers are also being removed from custody suites and other behind-the-scenes roles.
Mark Rowley, Chief Constable of Surrey, said: “We see the police constable as the professional expert around which successful policing teams are built and we have increased the use of support staff ensuring police officers make the most use of their high levels of skill, experience and powers. We have achieved more for less with this approach.”
Peter Fahy, Greater Manchester’s Chief Constable, said many forces invested in support staff to take the “administrative burden” away from officers.
He added: “The resilience of policing comes from the teamwork of police officers and a host of other roles. The public is now better protected and we have seen significant reductions in crime. Police officers are better trained and better prepared to deal with unexpected and unplanned events.”
The population implosion
Comment from Miranda Devine in Australia
To mark the 50th anniversary of the Pill this week, 1960s sex symbol Raquel Welch blamed the oral contraceptive for the breakdown of marriage, decline in moral standards and rise of promiscuity.
"One significant, and enduring, effect of the pill on female sexual attitudes during the '60s, was: 'Now we can have sex any time we want, without the consequences. Hallelujah, let's party!' " she wrote in an article for CNN.
The 69-year-old actress said that she felt it was her duty to "speak up" and wave the "red flag of caution" because she used to be a sex symbol.
But what she didn't mention was the impact on birth rates and the associated demographic disaster the world is hurtling towards.
As the tattered sexual revolution spawned by the pill hits middle age we can see the consequences of unmooring sex from the possibility of children, and the rejection of the age-old imperative to be "fruitful and multiply".
The result is a so-called contraceptive culture, societies which regard children and childbearing as a nuisance, a burden and an expense, rather than a blessing. We seem trapped in the mindset of past doomsayers, from Thomas Malthus to Paul Ehrlich who claimed in his 1968 book The Population Bomb that the greatest catastrophe facing mankind is too many people. Today, the pervasive misanthropism of the modern green movement holds that every new human is a burden to the planet, just another carbon footprint to be resented.
There is even a green charity in the UK, PopOffsets, which has people offset their carbon footprint by funding projects to reduce the number of babies in places like Madagascar.
But, as the US conservative writer Don Feder told a group of young men from the University of NSW's Warrane college on Wednesday night, the precipitous decline of birth rates by more than 50 per cent worldwide since 1979 signals a looming "Demographic Winter".
Whereas in 1979 the average woman on the planet had six children, today she has 2.8, and declining, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects publication of 2006.
There are 6 million fewer children aged under six today than in 1990. "It could be the greatest crisis to confront humanity in this century," says Feder, my former Boston Herald colleague.
The Demographic Winter will spark "wars and international conflict on a massive scale". Nations without enough young people to man armies will fall prey "to those who have a cause to advance".
In much of the developed world, birth rates today have sunk to below replacement levels of 2.13 children per woman.
Contrary to popular opinion, these trends of the past 30 years are being mirrored in the developing world, in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
"Barren wombs and empty cradles" are a phenomenon of both the Christian and Muslim worlds. Even Iran has retreated from its baby boom of the 1980s, with the fertility rate of 6.5 collapsing to 1.7. The same trend can be seen in the once fruitful United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Lebanon. The world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, has a birth rate just above replacement, at 2.31, according to the 2009 CIA World Factbook.
The birth rate for Muslim immigrants in Europe may be higher than the countries they come from, leading to the widely predicted Islamification of the continent in the next 50 years. But it is nonetheless declining.
Despite recent small gains, Australia's birth rate of 1.78 is still below replacement, below China's 1.79. Britain is worse at 1.66, Canada at 1.58, while the US is at 2.05. Germany and Russia are at 1.41, above Italy and Spain at 1.31. Catholic Poland is languishing at 1.28.
Japan, at 1.21, has lost 24 per cent of its people in 20 years. By 2050 there will be two senior citizens for every child.
The highest birth rate is in sub-Saharan Africa with Niger at 7.75, Uganda at 6.77.
In the Anglosphere, New Zealand has the highest birth rate, at 2.10, and a tradition of cherishing babies in hundreds of tiny ways - from restaurants with high chairs to nosy questions of newlyweds to official street signs pointing to baby health clinics. By contrast, in Australia, children are regarded as nuisances, with complaints about monster prams and bitter competition for space in Sydney parks. Attitudes may make a difference.
Feder attributes the Demographic Winter, at least in the West, to the "me generation" selfishness of the '60s sexual revolution, and 43 billion abortions worldwide each year.
"Today for the first time in history just under half of the world's population uses some form of contraception … We don't ask if sex has an emotional or moral component, or if it serves a higher purpose, only if it's safe."
Unlike Malthusian environmentalists, he insists "people are the ultimate resource". The population explosion of the past 200 years - from 980 million to 6.7 billion - fuelled "every human advance from the Industrial Revolution to the computer age [and the] phenomenal growth of productivity, prosperity, scientific advance, health and general human well-being."
Today's children are the "workers, employers, producers, innovators, caregivers and taxpayers of tomorrow".
As fewer babies are born and people live longer, we face the perfect demographic storm, with the greying of the population stressing welfare and health systems, which are funded by less tax from a shrinking workforce.
It's a warning for Australia. If the shadow cabinet this week did put the kybosh on Tony Abbott's suggestion of a $10,000 baby bonus for stay-at-home mothers, it was a shortsighted victory for fiscal rectitude.
Abbott's proposal for a parental leave scheme guaranteeing working women wages so they can spend time with their newborns was similarly scorned earlier this year. But as we saw with the baby boomlet associated with the 2004 baby bonus, governments can influence family choice. Abbott seems to be rare among his colleagues as a politician who understands the dangers of the Demographic Winter.
An Obvious but Muzzled Truth: Islamist Terrorism
If you want to watch someone squirm, take a look at the two-minute videotape of Attorney General Eric Holder dodging Republican Rep. Lamar Smith's question of whether "radical Islam" motivated the Times Square bomber.
Holder, who last year called America "a nation of cowards" for refusing to talk frankly about race, plainly didn't want to say what is plain to everyone else, that Faisal Shahzad, back from five months in Waziristan, launched his terror attack because of his Islamist beliefs.
Holder is not the only one who wants to shield us from this obvious truth. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, questioned about the bomber's motives, said he might have been acting out of opposition to the health care bill. Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein said he might have become unhinged by the foreclosure of his Connecticut home.
Similar dignitaries have advanced similar theories. The Christmas underwear bomber, Barack Obama initially said, was an otherwise unspecified "isolated extremist." Fort Hood killer Nidal Hasan, we were told by journalists, may have been a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder -- although he never saw combat. Back in the George W. Bush years, we were told that the gunman who started shooting at the El Al counter at LAX had just chosen his target at random, and The New York Times found nothing significant when the Mumbai killers targeted a Jewish community center.
Why the reluctance to state the obvious truth, that we are under attack from terrorists motivated by a radical form of Islam?
My theory is that these well-intentioned folk see the American people as a Howling Mob. They think that if Americans find out that Islamists are attacking us, they will go out and slaughter innocent Muslims. They think that Americans are incapable of understanding the simple truth that while most terrorists are Islamists, the large majority of Muslims are not terrorists.
Of course, the evidence is that Americans are quite capable of holding these two ideas in their heads. Even after Sept. 11, there were only a miniscule number of attacks on Muslims, and many more Americans went over to their Muslim neighbors and offered to help if they had any trouble. They didn't even need to hear the almost instant assurances from Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush that all Muslims were not terrorists to bake a cake and bring it over.
The Howling Mob theory explains a lot of otherwise puzzling things. It helps to explain why Janet Napolitano's Homeland Security Department, tasked with finding possible terrorists, set about tracking disgruntled military veterans and gun owners. Just the kind of people who turn into a Howling Mob!
It helps to explain journalists' desperate search for racist epithets at Tea Party gatherings -- and their lack of interest in the actual violence that has been common at rallies against the Arizona immigration law and antiwar marches. It helps to explain the Justice Department's decision to drop the case against the New Black Panthers who were violently intimidating voters in Philadelphia on Election Day.
It helps to explain why Solicitor General Elena Kagan was willing to work in the Clinton White House after Bill Clinton signed the law banning open gays in the military -- a law Kagan has said she detests. Hey, he was just trying to propitiate the Howling Mob.
It should go without saying that it's ridiculous to believe, as many liberals do, that just about everyone west of Manhattan and east of Hollywood likes to go around wearing white sheets. On a novel issue like gays in the military, many Americans have been moving away from Clinton's 1990s position and toward Kagan's, even while they move away from her views on other issues like abortion.
As it became obvious that the Democrats' health care bills and the Obama big government programs were opposed by most Americans, some liberals resorted to a variant of the Howling Mob theory: Americans were against these programs because they didn't like having a black president. This, despite the fact that Obama was elected by the largest percentage margin in the last 20 years.
When you see a smart man like Eric Holder saying stupid things, you know something else is going on. You're seeing a high official who regards most of us as cowards, who believes the truth could make us a Howling Mob. Does Barack Obama feel the same way?
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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