Sunday, July 18, 2010

Margaret Thatcher's family are 'appalled' at upcoming film about her life

The film, which is expected to star Meryl Streep, shows the former prime minister as a dementia-sufferer looking back at her life with sadness

Although the prospect of Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher may have pleased some admirers of the Conservative former prime minister, her children have been horrified to discover more about the film.

Mandrake hears that the screenplay of The Iron Lady depicts Baroness Thatcher as an elderly dementia-sufferer looking back on her career with sadness. She is shown talking to herself and unaware that her husband, Sir Denis Thatcher, has died.

“Sir Mark and Carol are appalled at what they have learnt about the film,” says a friend of the family. “They think it sounds like some Left-wing fantasy. They feel strongly about it, but will not speak publicly for fear of giving it more publicity."

Cameron McCracken, the managing director of the film-maker Pathé, confirms: "It is true that the film is set in the recent past and that Baroness Thatcher does look back on both the triumphs and the lows of her extraordinary career.

"It is a film about power and the price that is paid for power. In that sense, it is the story of every person who has ever had to balance their private life with their public career."

He says Lady Thatcher's health will be featured, but insists that it will be “treated with appropriate sensitivity”. He adds of the film: “Although fictional, it will be fair and accurate.”


Burka ban ruled out by immigration minister

I suppose he's right. I'm British enough to see his POV. You don't promote tolerance by being intolerant

Britain will not follow France by introducing a law banning women from wearing the burka, the immigration minister has ruled. Damian Green said such a move would be “rather un-British” and run contrary to the conventions of a “tolerant and mutually respectful society”.

He said it would be “undesirable” for Parliament to vote on a burka ban in Britain and that there was no prospect of the Coalition proposing it.

His comments will dismay the growing number of supporters of a ban. A YouGov survey last week found that 67 per cent of voters wanted the wearing of full-face veils to be made illegal.

Mr Green used a wide-ranging interview with The Sunday Telegraph, his first since taking up his post at the Home Office in May, to issue a “message around the world that Britain is no longer a soft touch on immigration”.

He said the summer would see a major crackdown on the main streams of illegal immigration — including sham marriages, illegal workers and people trafficking — and confirmed that this autumn the Government would set an overall cap on migrants entering Britain from outside the European Union.

His firm decision to rule out a burka ban will disappoint some Right-of-centre Tory MPs, including Philip Hollobone, who has tabled a private member’s bill that would make it illegal for anyone to cover their face in public.

Mr Hollobone, the MP for Kettering, said this weekend that he would refuse to hold any constituency meetings with women wearing burkas.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) has also supported calls for a ban after last week’s vote by French parliamentarians to outlaw full-face veils, including burkas, in public. Deputies in France’s National Assembly backed the ban by 335 votes to one.

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, has revealed he is not in favour of an outright ban on the burka – but adds that they should not be worn if doing so “compromises public or personal safety, endangers national security or impedes professional or social interaction”. In an article for The Sunday Telegraph he says: “In those circumstances, it is difficult to see how it can be allowed.”

Mr Green said he did not think that the French vote for a ban would have an impact on immigration into Britain. “I stand personally on the feeling that telling people what they can and can’t wear, if they’re just walking down the street, is a rather un-British thing to do,” he said. “We’re a tolerant and mutually respectful society.

“There are times, clearly, when you’ve got to be able to identify yourself, and people have got to be able to see your face, but I think it’s very unlikely and it would be undesirable for the British Parliament to try and pass a law dictating what people wore.

“I think very few women in France actually wear the burka. They [the French parliament] are doing it for demonstration effects “The French political culture is very different. They are an aggressively secular state. They can ban the burka, they ban crucifixes in schools and things like that.

“We have schools run explicitly by religions. I think there’s absolutely no read-across to immigration policy from what the French are doing about the burka.”

Mr Green’s comments came after the new head of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told The Sunday Telegraph that Britain was the most welcoming country in Europe for Muslims. Farooq Murad pointed to the spread of mosques and sharia, or Islamic law, as positive signs of the greater freedom Muslims are given in this country.

He warned that any moves to restrict the expression of Islam by banning the veil or blocking the building of minarets would alienate the Muslim community and threaten social cohesion.

Mr Murad, who last month succeeded Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari as secretary general of the MCB, said: “Life in Britain is much more welcoming and healthy for Muslims than in other European countries. “There’s a great British sense of fairness and justice. We can have great pride in what a tolerant country Britain is, looking at the growth of mosques, and how nearly more people eat halal meat than don’t.”

On immigration, Mr Green said the Coalition’s aim was to put “steady downwards pressure” on immigration from outside the EU so that net immigration fell “to the tens of thousands” by the time of the next election, expected in 2015.

He ruled out an amnesty for illegal immigrants. “There will not be an amnesty under this government: my Lib Dem colleagues have accepted that … just looking around the world that would send a terrible signal.

“Out there in other countries there has been the view that Britain’s borders are not very well defended and that if you can get into this country it’s relatively easy to operate here, to work illegally and so on. We’ve got to change that perception around the world.”

Steady pressure on numbers to reduce net immigration substantially over time was the “best way to restore public confidence”, he said.


How Jon Gaunt became a free-speech martyr

A British High Court ruling against the ‘shock jock’ confirmed that the state can pick and choose what we’re allowed to hear

Even idiots should have the right to free speech. And idiots don’t get much bigger than Jon Gaunt.

Jon Gaunt – ‘Gaunty’ as he likes to be known – is about as shocking as UK ‘shock jocks’ get, which is not terribly shocking. He’s been the presenter of noisy phone-in shows for the BBC and Talksport and a columnist for the Sun (where he now presents an online-only talk show). Like many ‘shock jocks’ – he apparently dislikes the label – he has appointed himself as the voice of the common man. ‘My whole career has been aimed at talking to people who aren’t represented in mainstream media and aren’t involved in the democratic process. I’ve always seen myself as some sort of conduit for them to speak’, he told the Independent in 2008. ‘My audience are ordinary guys and women who are struggling to turn a pound.’

Gaunt sees himself as an antidote to a self-important metropolitan elite that ignores the interests of the majority of the population. It’s no wonder that Gaunt rose to fame under New Labour, a government that provided plenty of evidence for the view that those in authority liked nothing better than to dictate the lives of ordinary people and screw over the little guy.

But while the assumption that the country was being run by a bunch of little Hitlers was the subtext of every Gaunt show, his career took a nosedive when he said as much out loud. In November 2008, Gaunty interviewed a councillor from the London borough of Redbridge, Michael Stark. The borough had just adopted a new policy that only non-smokers would be allowed to foster children.

Gaunt – who spent time in care as a teenager himself – was livid with the idea, describing Stark at various points during the discussion as a ‘Nazi’, a ‘health Nazi’ and an ‘ignorant pig’. (As it happens, Gaunt had good reason to be incensed: refusing to allow smokers to foster children potentially denies kids something approaching a stable home life while turning smokers into second-class citizens, all on the flimsy basis that passive smoking is a health risk for children.)

However, despite the fact that he apologised both to listeners and to Councillor Stark on-air shortly afterwards, Gaunt’s tone was deemed to be unacceptable by station bosses and he was fired from his show. In May 2009, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom ruled that Talksport had been in breach of broadcasting rules. Ofcom also censured Gaunt for his comments, noting that it ‘considered the language used by Jon Gaunt, and the manner in which he treated Michael Stark, had the potential to cause offence to many listeners’.

This week, Gaunt lost an attempt at the High Court to have Ofcom’s ruling overturned. Gaunt, backed by the civil liberties group Liberty, argued that such a ruling could have a detrimental effect on his freedom to speak freely on air. The show was clearly a political one and, Gaunt’s barrister argued, regulators should be particularly wary of interfering with the content of political programmes. Ofcom retorted that its ruling was ‘directed to the bullying and insulting of the person being interviewed, a form of expression which contributed nothing to any political or policy debate’.

If Gaunt’s interview style is irritating, the High Court judgement is downright unedifying, coming down to m’luds’ Media Studies 101 analysis of the interview and whether it was offensive or not. For example: ‘we consider that to call someone a “Nazi” is capable of being highly insulting. It may be that the first use of “Nazi” and the soon to follow qualification had some contextual content and justification. It came after a reasonably controlled introductory dialogue and was not expressed with undue vehemence. Just as the claimant’s use of the word in his newspaper article had a contextual content and was not unduly offensive, so this first use (offensive though it was) may be seen as an emphatic and pejorative assertion that Mr Stark was, in the matter of smoking and fostering children, one who imposes his views on others.’ And so it continues, with the conclusion that Ofcom was right to censure Gaunt.

The ruling is extremely problematic, as it makes the courts the final arbiters of what is appropriately robust debate and what is offensive. It will surely have a chilling effect on the willingness of broadcasters to take risks in political discussions. It should not be the place of state-appointed bureaucrats to decide what should or should not be heard or how interviewers go about their business. On the basis that interviewers should not hector their guests, John Humphrys – a man who would never knowingly allow an interviewee to finish a sentence – should now be sacked from Radio 4’s Today programme. While this is certainly an attractive idea, it’s also an authoritarian one.

Yet this is exactly the attitude taken by many lawyers. For example, civil-rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy has argued recently in a House of Lords debate on a bill to amend Britain’s notoriously illiberal defamation laws that ‘Libel reform must be coupled with reform of press self-regulation’. In other words, press freedom should be given with one hand and taken away with the other, with state regulators deciding what is and is not acceptable.

Of course, there is a problem of powerful press barons and media owners being able to dominate the terms of debate to the detriment of those who have far less money and influence – though it is a problem that is routinely overstated. But undermining the capacity of the media to hold politicians to account doesn’t help.

Worse, the regulations that Ofcom enforces – as now backed by the courts – treat viewers and listeners as idiots who cannot figure out for themselves what to make of heated debate. When Gaunt referred to Stark as a ‘Nazi’, this was a childish reaction, but it is surely obvious that Stark is not actually a Nazi. We can figure such things out for ourselves. We don’t need the paternal hand of the state to decide that for us.

Instead of nit-picking over heated radio interviews, the interests of robust debate and free expression would be better served by abolishing Ofcom and allowing us – the viewers and listeners – to make our own minds up.


Civil Rights Violations a Concern of the Right only?

(Very strange accusation. One normally hears the opposite)

That certainly seems to be what the Washington Post is suggesting. In reporting on the unfolding scandal surrounding the Department of Justice's "handling" of the New Black Panthers/voter intimidation case, the Washington Post writes about how the case "riles the right."
A 2008 voter-intimidation case has become a political controversy for the Obama administration as conservative lawyers, politicians and commentators raise concerns that the Department of Justice has failed to protect the civil rights of white voters.

It's interesting to me that the Post singles out "white voters," when no "conservative lawyers, politician or commentator" has made that assertion. The charge is that the New Black Panthers were intimidating voters--a clear violation of the law, regardless of their race. Period. Why is it a violation of whites' civil rights? Just because the violators are black?

Isn't it possible that any other ethnic group could've also been intimidated by uniformed men standing in front of polling places weilding weapons?? It seems like the Post has freely made some unwarranted assertions about the case while it's being investigated.
Conservatives complained last year when Justice officials narrowed the case, dropping the party and one of the men and focusing only the bearer of the stick. Department officials have said since then that they did not have sufficient evidence to pursue the case against the other defendants. Justice officials who served in the Bush administration have countered that the department had enough evidence to pursue the case more fully and called the decision to narrow it political. The matter caught the attention of some Republican lawmakers, who held up the confirmation of President Obama's assistant attorney general for civil rights for months asking for a congressional review of the case.

The conflict intensified last week when former Justice Department lawyer J. Christian Adams, who was hired during the Bush administration and helped develop the case, told the Commission on Civil Rights that he believed the case had been narrowed because some of his colleagues in the civil rights division were interested in protecting only minorities.

Regardless of what party you belong to or what ideology you might subscribe to, the accusations being made about the Justice Department are very serious. Why is it that the media is reporting on the case through an ideological and racial lens?

If it had been armed, militant whites "standing guard" at a polling location, would that change the circumstances of the case at all? Of course not. But since the case is revolving around black defendants, why is the media--and the Obama administration--seemingly so eager to dismiss it all as just a political squabble and not as a serious judicial matter?

Strangely enough, it's the exact same manner in which Media Matters is spinning the story. In fact, Soros' MM praised the Post for revising their headline to reflect a more politically divisive story. Way to go, Washington Post.



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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