Friday, May 21, 2010
Tax and the City
By Dr Jeremy Sammut, in Australia
To borrow a line, I want to tell you about a girl. We shall call her ‘Isabella.’ Isabella is a high school teacher at a public school. I know what you’re thinking and you are not entirely wrong.
She believes NAPLAN [school performance indexes] is a disgrace that punishes disadvantaged schools and that Deputy PM Gillard is a sell-out. I’m working on her on that and other fronts, because she is not a lost cause. At university, she protested against the construction of freeways on environmental grounds, but has since learnt-by-doing that freeways are a faster way to get to work without wasting hours each week in traffic.
Recently, Isabella made an interesting point for someone with a left-of-centre perspective on an old issue. As a dedicated and hard working educator, she mentioned how much of her modest salary is confiscated as income tax.
Not that she was complaining. You see, she wants to live in a welfare state in which everybody receives enough income from the government to keep body and soul together and keep people off the streets.
What was annoying her was the number of beggars constantly on show in the Sydney CBD. Show is the right word. These beggars come complete with cardboard accounts of tales of woe and kneel on the footpath with heads bowed in supplication.
This struck Isabella as un-Australian and a betrayal of the social contract she willingly supported. As she put it, she pays her taxes so fellow citizens don’t have to debase themselves by seeking ‘alms for the poor,’ and, therefore, resents being expected to feel guilty as she had already given at the office.
She suspected (rightly) that since even homeless people can claim benefits, these people are undeserving of a few loose dollars and cents more. She also has an old-fashioned respect for work, which led her to a profoundly un-Left conclusion. If the beggars can put so much thought and effort into their daily performances, why can’t they put the same energy into finding a job?
She also wondered what the police are doing and why these people are not moved on. This is a very good question.
The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated May 21. Enquiries to email@example.com. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.
Rape case defendants to be given anonymity in Britain
Amazing that this long overdue measure is at all controversial. It is just an extension of "innocent until proven guilty". Many innocent men's lives have been ruined by pre-trial publicity -- even after they are acquitted . And false rape accusations are a regular occurrence in Britain, due to embarrassment about unwise sexual decisions
Defendants in rape cases are to be granted anonymity in an unexpected move that women’s groups immediately branded an insult.
The announcement over anonymity for defendants in rape trials turns the clock back 30 years to the 1970s, when the Sexual Offences Act introduced anonymity for those accused of rape. It was later repealed. Officials said that details of the change had yet to be decided. It is expected that the ban will be lifted after a suspect is convicted.
The proposal provoked anger among campaigners. Ruth Hall, of Women Against Rape, said that the decision was an insult and a backlash against the rising number of rape reports. “More attention needs to be paid to the 94 per cent of reported cases that do not end in conviction rather than the few that are false,” she said. “If men accused of rape got special rights to anonymity, it would reinforce the misconception that lots of women who report rape are lying. False rape allegations are extremely rare but receive disproportionate publicity.”
A report by Baroness Stern earlier this year recommended that independent research should first be done into the scale of false rape allegations.
The Tehran regime throws off the mask to reveal the vicious brute beneath
But Leftists will continue to believe what they want to believe
Five young Iranian Kurds were executed last Sunday in summary trials reminiscent of the era that immediately followed the fall of the Shah and the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. Even according to government-backed press, the victims had been kept incommunicado for most of their imprisonment and had little or no access to lawyers — a violation of Iran’s own laws.
Gone are the regime’s efforts at keeping up pretenses, at casting itself as the authentic but misunderstood regional democracy. The evolutionary clock, which the West briefly believed to have been ticking in Tehran, positively wound down last week. Tehran’s Neanderthals bared themselves to reveal their ancestral constitution, acting precisely according to the dictates of their immutable, reform-defying DNA, and resumed bloodletting.
Iranians who remember waking up in late February and March of 1979 to the startling images in their morning papers of bare-chested corpses with unzipped trousers — executed atop the roof of Ayatollah Khomeini’s residence the night before — recognize the biological references of the last few lines.
Fear of collapse for Iran’s regime is always measurable by the number of heads that fall. Last week, Tehran’s paranoia shot up on the scale, and so, five were executed. It’s the kind of tragedy that can best be relayed with simplicity, even austerity, which Iran’s foremost contemporary poet, Ahmad Shamlu, once captured in the opening lines of a poem:
The news was brief
They were executed.
And so, they were: Four men and one woman, a beloved 34-year-old teacher and social worker among them. Two were allegedly members of an armed group, though the evidence against them was not presented at the trial. Against the other three, the charges added up to a vague allusion to “intent.” They had surely been tortured, for the authorities refused to return their bodies to their families. Besides, they know that there is nothing like a coffin to draw out Iranians to the streets by the thousands.
What distinguishes this particular round of executions from others in the past few years is the swiftness by which it was carried out. Not even the families of the victims had been informed of what was coming. Dispensing with previous, albeit hollow, decorum, the regime refused to abide by its own constitution and go through the motions of a trial. There were no efforts to disguise the process as fair, not even by the shabby internal standards. Unexpected as they came, the executions were meant to deliver the nation a jolt, a reminder that Tehran has shed all civilized facades. It was a brazen display to which the opposition leader, Moussavi, referred in a statement as the end of the judiciary in Iran and a clear sign that the court systems are nothing but an arm of the state.
The enmity between Iran’s regime and the Kurds is as old as the regime itself. The Ayatollah never had any use for ethnic diversity. When, in the early days after his rise to power, it became clear to him that the Kurds were not about to jettison their distinct heritage for the sake of his dream of a united Islamic front, he called for jihad against them, which he waged both within Iran and beyond, even in Austria and Germany, where prominent Kurdish leaders were assassinated.
But this latest round of executions is about more than the old enmity with the Kurds. It is Tehran’s signal to the nation about what to expect in case of any forthcoming unrest in the weeks ahead, as June 12th marks the first anniversary of 2009 elections.
There is an alarming twist to this particular maneuver. Though the executions are clearly meant to force the Green activists to abandon their anniversary plans, the victims were not Green activists. Tehran would not risk shedding the blood of the Green leaders and hand a coffin to the already charged masses. Instead, it is doing what it has always done best — it leaves those in the spotlight unharmed to chase the vulnerable who are in the shadows.
That, too, is an old pattern of the regime’s — a maneuver that was first tested in November of 1979 after the takeover of the American Embassy. When the world’s gaze was fixed on the gates of the embassy where the 52 diplomats were locked up inside, the regime rounded up newspapers and arrested, imprisoned and executed the opposition. Today, once again, Tehran is rounding up old enemies, ravaging the most vulnerable — Kurds, members of the religious Bahai minority, homosexuals, the old political opposition not associated with the Green movement.
And what ought the rest of us who reject such savagery do? For the moment, as the families of the dead are denied the right to mourn their loved ones, we must first heed our most primordial intuitions: Say prayers and hold vigils in their memory. Together, we must deny Tehran the luxury of shadows. We must illuminate all dark spaces, the anonymous faces, by remembering.
Not another 'hollow charade'
Jeff Jacoby gets a bit optimistic below
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO law professor Elena Kagan was right to complain, in her now-famous 1995 book review, that ever since the failed nomination of Robert Bork, Supreme Court confirmation hearings have been reduced to "a vapid and hollow charade, in which repetition of platitudes has replaced discussion of viewpoints." She was correct when she insisted upon "the essential rightness -- the legitimacy and the desirability -- of exploring a Supreme Court nominee's set of constitutional views and commitments" and lamented that "the problem is not that senators engage in substantive discussion with Supreme Court nominees; the problem is that they do not."
Above all Kagan was on the mark when -- in describing the content-free confirmation hearings of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer -- she wrote that both nominees knew that "the safest and surest route to the prize lay in alternating platitudinous statement and judicious silence," and commented: "Who would have done anything different, in the absence of pressure from members of Congress?"
Alas, what Professor Kagan endorsed so forthrightly 15 years ago, Supreme Court nominee Kagan disavows today. Gone is her appetite for "substantive discussion with Supreme Court nominees" -- vanished, it seems, when President Obama named her solicitor general, and it became clear that she herself would be on the administration's shortlist of potential nominees to fill any Supreme Court vacancy.
"I'm not sure that, sitting here today, I would agree with that statement," she told Senator Orrin Hatch, when he asked about her 1995 call for probing nominees' views on controversial judicial subjects. "I wrote that when I was in the position of sitting where the staff is now sitting and feeling a little bit frustrated that I really wasn't understanding completely what the judicial nominee in front of me meant and what she thought."
Is that it, then? Is there nothing to do but resign ourselves to yet another "vapid and hollow charade" of a Supreme Court confirmation? Must we prepare once again to endure the long-winded pomposities of the Judiciary Committee hearing room -- the harrumphing about "stare decisis" -- the posing of questions to which senators expect no meaningful answers -- the bobbing and weaving by the nominee, who piously declines to give her opinion on the most salient legal issues of the day?
Enough already. The Constitution conditions the confirmation of Supreme Court justices on the Senate's "advice and consent" for a reason, and it isn't so that senators can preen on TV. The moment Kagan dons that black robe, she will become one of the most influential people in the United States. Long after most of the senators who vote on her nomination leave office, she is likely to still be putting her stamp on every area of American law and life -- from capital punishment to campaign finance, intellectual property to immigration. She will be invested with sweeping power for the rest of her life, and will effectively answer to no one in exercising that power. To cloak her with such authority without finding out what she would do with it is egregiously irresponsible. It ought to be unthinkable.
Kagan was right in 1995, and not just about "the legitimacy and the desirability" of investigating a high court nominee's substantive views on legal and political controversies. She was right as well when she observed that only "pressure from members of Congress" can keep nominees from spouting platitudes and ducking tough questions. It's time -- long past time -- for Congress to apply that pressure.
The framers of the Constitution expected senators to do more than rubber-stamp presidential nominations. The fact that Ginsburg and Breyer were waved onto the court without being grilled on their views was not a good reason to do the same for John Roberts and Sam Alito. Nor should Sonia Sotomayor have been allowed to avoid serious scrutiny of her judicial philosophy and beliefs.
Kagan's nomination is an opportunity to correct course -- a chance for the Senate to resume its constitutional function as a check and balance on the judiciary. Senators should let it be known that they will no longer confirm any Supreme Court nominee who refuses to give substantive answers to relevant questions. There is no divine right to a seat on the highest court in the land. Too much is at stake for yet another vapid and hollow charade. If anyone knows that, it's Elena Kagan.
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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