Wednesday, September 29, 2010
New British Labour party leader talks out of both sides of his mouth
Union power yes and no. Budget cuts yes and no -- etc.
Ed Miliband attempted to shake off his ‘Red Ed’ nickname yesterday – insisting he would not back ‘waves of irresponsible strikes’ or oppose every spending cut proposed by the coalition. He sought to put some distance between himself and the union barons who enabled him to inflict a stunning defeat on his elder brother David.
Mr Miliband wanted to portray Labour as the ‘optimists’ who could change the face of Britain. But he immediately prompted confusion over his position on public finances, saying the ‘starting point’ was the last Labour government’s plan to halve the deficit – but then opposing a list of coalition cuts.
He suggested the deficit should be tackled more slowly than Labour had previously proposed to avoid damaging the economic recovery. He added that it was ‘not responsible, it’s irresponsible’ for the Government to call a halt to school building projects or to deny Sheffield Forgemasters an £80million taxpayer-funded loan.
The new Labour leader insisted he was ‘serious’ about reducing debt, and admitted the party would have been making cuts if it was still in power. ‘There will be cuts and there would have been if we had been in government. 'Some of them will be painful and would have been if we were in government,’ he told the conference.
Despite his attempts to shake off the ‘union puppet’ jibes, Mr Miliband’s debut conference speech was shot through with left-wing rhetoric. The new leader said he would back the unions’ key demand to improve rights of temporary and agency workers. He also backed union calls for a so-called ‘living wage’ of £7.60 an hour, which would effectively raise the minimum wage by 30 per cent.
He hit out at executive pay, suggesting that it should be capped, and also suggested there should be limits to Britain’s flexible labour market rules, which unions claim allow employers to exploit staff.
But as he delivered his message on strikes, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, joint general secretaries of the giant Unite union, sat grim-faced. Mr Simpson was caught on camera mouthing the word ‘rubbish’.
Mr Miliband said he would not support a return to 1970s-style industrial chaos threatened by some unions. He said: ‘I have no truck, and you should have no truck, with overblown rhetoric about waves of irresponsible strikes. The public won’t support them, I won’t support them. And you shouldn’t support them either.’
But he left the door open to supporting individual strikes, and union leaders later appeared to be relaxed about his rhetoric.
Mr Miliband also lavished generous praise on the union movement for its work – leading the Tories to warn last night that it was still unclear whether Mr Miliband would stand up to his union backers or ‘pander’ to them.
The coalition’s plans to slash the number of prisoners won support from Mr Miliband, who ignored warnings from senior Labour figures about going soft on crime. He said he would not oppose Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s contentious cuts to short sentences.
Only hours before, Alan Johnson, the shadow Home Secretary who backed David Miliband for the leadership, had given a coded warning to Ed Miliband not to turn his back on tackling crime. But a defiant Mr Miliband said Labour should become the party of civil liberties again – despite its support for draconian DNA databases and ID cards.
Criminals must stop dodging the blame: Britain's black archbishop wants tougher prisons
Criminals should not make excuses for their wrongdoing, the Archbishop of York said last night. Instead of blaming their background, poverty, drink or drugs, they should face up to the cost of their crimes, Dr John Sentamu, the Church of England’s second most senior figure said.
In a tough speech on crime and society, the archbishop said prisons were necessary and condemned the way some offenders are rewarded in jail by being given cable TV and computer games.
But he called for more education in prisons, the jailing of fewer women and lesser criminals, and greater use of ‘restorative’ justice in which the offender gets a chance to make up for his or her crime.
Dr Sentamu acknowledged that some might be more likely to go to jail because of their neighbourhood, poverty, joblessness, drugs or alcohol. But he said: ‘We cannot simply blame society for the rising numbers we see going to prison each year. ‘We are accountable for what we do and what we are – in spite of all aids or hindrances from outside. ‘We are all too prone to find fault with the circumstances in which we find ourselves and this becomes our ready and familiar excuse when our conduct is found wanting.’
He said that since the 1980s there had been a steady drift towards personal interest at the expense of duty. ‘It seems that in modern culture, the rights of the individual are now paramount. But you cannot have rights without obligations and responsibilities. ‘We need to get back to valuing ourselves and our neighbours and understanding that there is a cost involved when a crime is committed – a cost to the criminal, a cost to the victim, and a cost to the community.’
Dr Sentamu said some offenders need to be jailed, and some should never be released. But he added: ‘We need to get away from the Victorian bang ‘em up culture that has been prevalent over recent decades.’ Backing the idea of community punishments, he said: ‘We need to think of a better way to tackle the underlying problems that have contributed to the choices criminals make.’
However, he continued: ‘It is common sense to say that criminals should not be rewarded for being in prison. ‘It is patently not right when we read stories of institutions that offer inmates such things as cable TV and PlayStations, and other non-essential items that many outside of prison cannot afford for their families despite working hard and sticking to the rules.’
The views of Dr Sentamu carry weight because of his long experience in dealing with the aftermath of some of Britain’s most disturbing crimes.
He was a key member of the Macpherson inquiry which produced the influential report into the 1993 murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. He was also involved in reviews following the murders of Damilola Taylor in London and Letitia Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis in Birmingham.
Making Muhammad safe
For the past decade Islam has been suffering from fear almost everywhere you look. Arab countries are afraid of being invaded by the U.S. in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. Sunni Muslims are nervous about the rise of Iran to a nuclear state dominated by Shiites. But on a far more personal level, everyone is afraid to say anything about Muhammad that would inflame the faithful. I've experienced this recently myself. On tour for a book about Muhammad — one that I wrote primarily to tell Westerners that the Prophet led an exciting, inspiring life — the first word that comes up in every interview is fatwa. The first question is "Aren't you afraid to write this book?"
Every religion takes sole possession of its founder. That's what makes it strong. That and claiming that your version of God is the only correct one. But nobody who writes books about Jesus or Buddha does so in fear. The irony is that the stronger the faith, the more open it is to intolerance. Fundamentalist Christians believe that everyone else is an outsider to the true faith, including other Christians. But Islam has become locked down to an extraordinary degree. Those of us who want to write as sympathetically as possible about Muhammad, without giving in to official hagiography, are warned off. We are made to walk on eggshells. Saddest of all, those Muslims who are pleased to see a novel about Muhammad's life scan it nervously to make sure that nothing is out of place.
Isn't it time to make Muhammad a safe topic? The Danish cartoonist who lampooned the Prophet stepped into taboo territory since Islam forbids any physical depiction of him. But Islamic art over the centuries has come to terms with the strictures against painting portraits and taking photos of people's faces. Adaptation means survival, and those forces in Islam that don't want to adapt, far from preserving their faith for eternity, are endangering it.
The irony of the situation is double, actually. Muhammad recognized Jews and Christians as people of the Book, along with Muslims. They are not outsiders but fellow worshipers. Islam was meant to be an umbrella that includes them and tolerates their faith. So the fundamentalist streak in Islam isn't true to the spirit of the Prophet. The very notion that the Koran should never be translated from the Arabic and never commented upon was born (so far as I can ascertain) among his followers after the Prophet's death. As a result, the other people of the Book have passed through reform movements and adaptations that have been denied to the Muslim faithful.
Surrounding the Prophet with veneration is one thing. We can all understand and respect that. But surrounding him with threats, a kind of theological barbed wire, is another thing. It isn't acceptable to the outside world, and moderate Arabs would be well served to speak out against it. I don't mean to dictate to anyone how they should follow their religion. But we've come to an impasse if no one is allowed to speak the truth about Muhammad or comment upon his life. As long as freedom of thought is considered the enemy, the Islamic world will be embroiled in fear forever.
Ultimate evil calls for ultimate punishment
by Jeff Jacoby
ELECTED OFFICIALS don't usually acknowledge wanting to torture people in dark alleys, so it made news recently when Boston Mayor Thomas Menino expressed such a wish during a talk at Emerson College.
Menino had been speaking about the murder of Richel Nova, a Domino's pizza delivery driver who was brutally stabbed to death after being lured to an abandoned house in Hyde Park on Sept. 2. The suspects charged with Nova's late-night slaughter -- two [black] teens and a 20-year-old -- are accused of lying in wait with knives, stabbing him repeatedly in the chest and throat, and rifling his pockets for money as he lay dying. Then, prosecutors say, the three drove off in Nova's car and ate most of the pizza from its blood-stained box.
It was a horrific crime. And it hit Menino especially hard since Nova's two daughters, 20-year-old twins Marlene and Michelle, had worked the last two summers in his City Hall office. The killers were "animals," the mayor said, and he couldn't fathom their wanton cruelty. "Maybe you guys can tell me," he said to the Emerson students, "what do they think when they do that? Don't they think life is worth anything?"
A student asked Menino whether the three suspects ought to be tried in a state that, unlike Massachusetts, authorizes the death penalty. "I'm not in favor of the death penalty," he answered. The death penalty is "a hot-button issue that doesn't solve anything. . . It's unfair. I just don't think the death penalty is the way to go."
Then came the rumination about torture. "If I saw these guys in a dark alley, I'd like to have a fight with them," the mayor said. "I'd do some things that would be worse than the death penalty. . . . I would slowly torture them." Predictably, Menino's words generated some criticism -- one former prosecutor warned that they would "make it very difficult to select an unbiased jury" -- and in short order he retracted them. "I would not torture anybody," he told WBZ Radio. "I do regret it, yes, I do."
But the mayor took back the wrong words. It is his blanket opposition to the death penalty he ought to rethink, not his healthy and perfectly understandable urge to give Nova's killers a taste of the unspeakable evil they inflicted on their victim. It may not have been very genteel to speculate out loud about making the perpetrators suffer, but Menino was only giving voice to an innate and normal human craving: the desire to see justice done, to see those who prey on the weak or innocent get what they deserve.
Of course we don't permit individuals -- not even mayors -- to carry out such urges. An essential function of our criminal-justice system is to prevent self-appointed vigilantes from taking revenge on those who commit savage crimes. A civilized society understands the hatred and revulsion and thirst for vengeance such crimes can inspire. But it insists that punishment be meted out only by the state, not by outraged private parties -- and only after due process of law, complete with a fair trial, an impartial judge, the right of appeal, elaborate protections for the accused.
And punishments that fit the crime.
It is all well and good for Menino to publicize his fury at what was done to Richel Nova; I wish he were as vehement about every murder. But ultimately it is what a society does to murderers, not what its politicians say about them, that lets the world know what it really thinks about their crimes. Our attitude toward acts of evil is revealed in the punishment we mete out to those who commit those acts. Greater crimes call for greater punishments, with the very worst punishment, death, reserved for the very worst crime -- deliberate, cruel murder. Like it or not, a criminal-justice system in which no murderer, however vicious and calculating, can ever forfeit his life conveys the message that murder is not all that terrible.
How, Menino wonders, could the pitiless savages who murdered Marlene and Michelle's father be so callous about human life? No doubt he would ask the same about those who massacred four human beings -- including a 2-year-old -- in Mattapan yesterday. "I would slowly torture them," he fantasized at Emerson. But in real life, the mayor doesn't want even the bloodiest savages to face anything worse than prison. Perhaps, between visiting crime scenes and attending funerals, he should consider what happens to a society in which murderers have a greater right to life than their victims.
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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.