Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The end of Big Brother in Britain: Terror laws, stop and search and council snooping to be curbed

A bonfire of draconian anti-terror laws was promised by Theresa May yesterday to reverse the 'substantial erosion of civil liberties' by Labour ministers. The Home Secretary said powers that could be scrapped or scaled back include 28- day detention without charge, control orders, stop and search and Big Brother snooping by town halls.

She also pledged a sweeping review of laws that allow the arrest of people who take pictures of police officers or hold peaceful protests without permission outside Parliament.

There will be a new drive to kick out foreign terror suspects who use the Human Rights Act to frustrate the deportation process, and an investigation into allowing intercept evidence in court.

Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions and an outspoken critic of the last government's legislative record, will lead the review.

In a statement to MPs, Mrs May said she wanted to correct 'mistakes' made by Labour, which was allowed to 'ride roughshod' over Britain's hard-won freedoms. She added: 'National security is the first duty of government but we are also committed to reversing the substantial erosion of civil liberties. 'I want a counter-terrorism regime that is proportionate, focused and transparent. We must ensure that in protecting public safety, the powers which we need to deal with terrorism are in keeping with Britain's traditions of freedom and fairness.'

The review was a key plank of the coalition agreement published after the Government was formed in May. It has already promised a Freedom Bill and introduced legislation to scrap ID cards. But the most controversial aspect of the review is likely to be 28-day detention of terror suspects without charge. This could now be returned to a fortnight.

However, Labour is certain to claim officers are being denied a vital power while the threat of a terror attack remains extremely high.

Scotland Yard boss Sir Paul Stephenson said it should not be revamped, adding: 'It would be a huge mistake to go back and talk about the number of days. We must not get sidetracked on the number of days, rather than dealing with the issues and consequences.' Pending the review, the 28-day limit will stand for six months.

Ministers will also face challenges in scrapping control orders, which allow the house arrest of terror suspects who cannot be deported or jailed.

There will be a drive to secure agreements to deport foreign suspects placed under the orders by reaching deals with their homelands that they will not be ill-treated. This would stop courts blocking their removal on human rights grounds.

But, for British fanatics, the alternative is hugely expensive 24-hour surveillance. The review should also lead to the dismantling of Labour's most controversial laws.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, used by town halls to spy on dog foulers and people suspected of cheating school catchment area rules, is likely to be scaled back. Councils will have to seek permission from a magistrate to use it, and only for serious crimes.

The stop and search of people without reasonable suspicion, which is already under an interim ban, is likely to be ditched.

The right to protest close to the House of Commons without prior police permission -restricted by the last government, is likely to be restored.

Shadow home secretary Alan Johnson condemned Mrs May's statement as an 'immature and partisan attack' on Labour's record. He said many of the measures under review were supported by all parties following the 'horror and carnage' of the 7/7 attacks on London in 2005. He warned that the 'threat faced then has not diminished'.

Labour claims the coalition is making life easier for terrorists. But civil liberties groups say that by imposing severe restrictions on the rights and freedoms of British citizens, the last government was itself handing a victory to the extremists.

Shami Chakrabarti, of Liberty, said: 'This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform counter-terror measures and bring them within the rule of law.'


Burqas officially banned in France

BURQAS are officially banned in France after the French National Assembly passed the bill with only a single vote against it.

If approved by the Senate and Constitutional Council the law would impose a 150 euro fine or a lesson in citizenship on any woman wearing the Islamic all-body veil in public.

Men caught forcing a woman to wear it, could face a one year jail sentence and pay a 30,000 euro ($37,000) fine.

Although France has the largest Muslim community in Europe, there are believed to only be 2000 women who wear the burqa.


There's more to faith than tolerance

The complexity of religion seems to escape understanding by modern writers. Take, for example, Stephanie Dowrick's article, "Sufi tragedy should be remembered". She mourns the 40 latest victims of Taliban attacks in Pakistan and implores us to remember the tragedy beyond the forgetful cycle of news-worthiness.

Dowrick concludes by urging more tolerance by religious fundamentalists who, she says, should follow the examples of their (in this case, Islamic) liberal counterparts. "It is characteristic of all religious fundamentalists to believe they have a monopoly on truth, and that their views are endorsed by God," she writes.

Precisely right. "It is crucial that the fundamentalists of any faith do not dominate and distort our thinking about what religion is, both the harm that it can cause and the healing that it can achieve," Dowrick continues.

What is her answer? That religious people need to be more liberal. Dowrick is espousing the common, and distorted, view, that the secular world knows exactly what religion should be "on about".

"No religion is bad", they say, "as long as they are liberal, and do not impose upon my desires to do whatever I want with my life".

The assumption here is that the liberal view (this often skewed word is, in this case, used to mean that people should be left to their own devices as long as they don't harm others) is the only correct one, and that religions need to get in line and not be intolerant.

Dowrick is right to condemn murder — by anyone. But to take this terrible tragedy and conclude that all religions, when pushed to their extremes, are similarly despicable is illogical, and shows an innate misunderstanding of the teachings of those religions.

The Christian faith (to which I make no effort to hide my affiliations) is often pressured to water down its core messages to appeal to the liberal mind-set.

You see, Christians don't believe in tolerance. That is not to say those who inflame hatred towards gays, or other religions are not behaving atrociously (their behaviour is not endorsed by Christian teaching). Actually the Bible says we need to do better than tolerate — we need to love our neighbour.

Isn't that exactly the aspect of religion that liberal thinkers want to celebrate above others? It is, but not if they understand loving others as "being nice, and not saying nasty things about their behaviour and state as humans".

Loving others, from a Christian viewpoint, means sharing truth with them. This is done through actions: caring and serving individuals and the community; and through speaking at the right times: stating what is wicked and needs to change about people and the world. If you knew someone was on the path to ruin, would it be loving to let them continue on that path? Or would real love intervene and implore them to change their views?

Fundamentalism, at least to me, means believing that something is right and something else is wrong. That doesn't mean endorsing violent coercion. Yet nowhere in the Hebrew/Greek Bible does it endorse this behaviour, and neither does the Koran endorse violence towards those who are not aggressive first.

Let us join in condemning those who would kill others for self-elation. But let's not be arrogant liberal thinkers who suppose we have a greater understanding of what religion should look like than those religions themselves. Dowrick, from what I can tell is neither a bad writer nor a particularly arrogant one, and I do not wish to over-emphasis our differences here.

Rather I want to use them to point out that tolerance isn't a particularly good ideal. If we measure ourselves by the biblical standard — that anyone who holds hatred for his brother in his heart is guilty of murder — then it becomes apparent that intolerance is practised not only by the religious.


Welcome to adland, where all men are morons

Comment from Australia

It was a few years ago that I first noticed men were being depicted as idiots in advertising. I'd put the issue aside, but Sarah McKenzie's article about the sexism of the Brut aftershave campaign brought it all crashing back.

I have no doubt that women have historical and ongoing problems about their portrayal in advertising, particularly being sexually objectified. I remember such scandals as the sexist Windsor Smith shoe ads, which showed women placed close to men's crotches as if about to perform a lewd act. But along with the creeping sexualisation of women has come the creeping moronification of men. If the default position in advertising for women is sex object, then the default position for men is that of imbecile.

Men used to be depicted as heroic characters in ads, products being the rewards for their manly efforts. "You got to work it hard, to be a Solo man. You're gonna take the lead and let the others follow," crowed the voice-over as our champion braved rapids in a canoe to be rewarded with a frosty, refreshing Solo at the end. "You can get it walkin'! You can get it talkin! You can get it working a plough! Matter o' fact I've got it now! Victoria Bitter! . . ." went the beer ad, run along with images of hard-working men engaged in back-breaking, yet satisfying, endeavours, the VB being the prize for their labours.

Today's ads don't seem to give a tinker's cuss about the nobility of men's endeavours. Men are no longer heroes but consumers. Worse, they're idiots. They might as well be saying, "Hey, dickhead! We don't care about your job and who you are! You're a worthless, interchangeable cog in the capitalist system! Catch!" as a six-pack is hurtled towards some poor bloke's melon.

Just as the soul-destroying messages in women's magazines are crafted by their female staff, so too are the negative messages about men crafted overwhelming by men in advertising agencies. For some reason, they have deduced that delivering a psychic kick to men's testicles is the best way to sell a whole host of products.

"Darwin was right," our faceless adman might say, "men are descended from apes! APES!"

"So let's treat them as the knuckledraggers they are," his pony-tailed sidekick might respond.

So it goes. The evidence is everywhere. Take the hapless boyfriend in the feminine hygiene ads who is too stupid to know what a tampon is or who runs away to the bedroom and refuses to come out until his girlfriend stops talking about them. Or the sap who wonders what "being regular" means in that cereal commercial featuring comedian Julia Morris, only to be told he doesn't get it. (If he gets bowel cancer that'll teach him, the stupid fool.) Or the ads where men's love of cars is treated as some kind of male-specific mental illness, his wife/partner rolling her eyes as he waxes the hood. Or the insurance ad where the bloke wouldn't know his arse from his elbow if a cyclone wiped out his uninsured home — fortunately his clever wife is there to help the simpleton understand. Even that "small penis" anti-speeding ad demeans men . . . and quite frankly wants to make me speed even more in revenge.

(One suspects that advertising targeted at the rich and wealthy has a somewhat more respectful tone: "Hey moron! You've made millions in computer software! Now buy this Learjet, you unreconstructed ape!" is unlikely to work with Bill Gates and his ilk.)

Then there are the dads – those chumps stupid enough to provide for their family and perpetuate the human race. Ad after ad depicts dad as some kind of daggy embarrassment, a Neanderthal more comfortable in the shed working with his tools or back in the Stone Age. Thank God mum is here to meet all of our emotional needs, prepare our food and discuss important life issues in baffling code ("I found something in your room"). Need more proof? As my friend Graham suggested, just take a look at what is written on the back of one syrup tin: "Pancakes — easy enough for dad to try!". Men built the rockets that went to the moon, but in 2010 man is barely intelligent enough to open a tin of pancake syrup.

In fact, there used to be a Japanese sitcom whose title translates roughly to "Stupid Dad", the story of a middle-aged Japanese salaryman who works himself to death in the traditional Japanese manner, only to be regarded as an idiot by his wife and family.

That's how modern advertising regards men – as an ageing salaryman unworthy of respect and who will buy any crap, no matter how it is pitched at them. Surely we deserve better.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or 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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