Saturday, October 30, 2010
At last Britain's woken up to the grotesque irony that so many on welfare are better off than hard working families...
Boris Johnson wants David Cameron’s job, and there is almost nothing London’s Mayor will not say or do to get it. On Thursday, he delighted Labour and enraged fellow-Conservative ministers by declaring on BBC Radio London: ‘We will not accept a kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London. ‘On my watch, you are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have put down roots.’
This was Johnson’s response to the Government’s plans to cap housing benefit for every family in the land at £21,000 a year (or £400 a week).
He has since sought to fudge his views, blathering that he supports the Government’s benefit reforms. But no one seriously doubts that the Mayor has chosen to defy Downing Street in order to appease his own constituency.
Even by understated official statistics, more than a third of today’s Londoners were born in another country, so Britain’s capital has become an international city or a foreign one, according to your point of view.
Many of its lower-paid residents receive welfare payments including housing benefits. If the Government imposes its planned cuts, such people will become implacable foes of the Tories, if they are not already.
Implausibly, Boris Johnson is making common cause with the Left-wing commentariat, who are spitting with rage about housing benefit. ‘Do they know what they are doing?’, Polly Toynbee fulminated in the Guardian this week. Under a headline of grotesque hyperbole which disgustingly referred to a ‘final solution’, she asked of the Coalition: ‘Are they incompetent bunglers or do they mean to clear low-earners out of the country’s prosperous districts? ‘This will become a cut that brands this Government… so extreme and random as to who will be evicted that the political noise will rise to ear-splitting decibels.’
In the case of housing benefit, the Toynbee-Johnson argument is that London is an extraordinarily expensive city, in which the poor must have assistance to live, unless we want to expel them.
This is where the Mayor’s ‘Kosovo’ taunt springs from. Humanitarian considerations aside, many relatively humble jobs, from bus-driving to street-cleaning, must be done by somebody. Since their wages will not cover private-sector London rents, it is in the public interest for the public purse to help with their housing costs.
Some of this is true. But the foes of reform ignore a critical truth: like all things, housing benefit must stop somewhere. The numbers have gone crazy. Some families are costing the taxpayer not £20,000 a year, but £30,000, £40,000, even in one supreme case £104,000 a year.
Any working citizen willing to pay even £20,000 to rent a property — which is not a deductible expense — would need to be a higher-rate taxpayer and commit almost £40,000 of his income to do so.
Do Boris Johnson and Polly Toynbee want us to house those who cannot afford their own accommodation at a cost which no middle manager or police superintendent or even junior banker could afford? Yes, they do, and their view is — to borrow a favourite Boris word — bonkers.
The £21 billion national cost of housing benefit for people of working age has risen by £5 billion in the past five years. David Cameron says the budget is out of control. Most of Britain, the hard-working families whom Gordon Brown so often cited but cynically pillaged, wholeheartedly agrees.
When the Exchequer pours money into the private market on this scale, it fuels demand, inflating still further the shocking cost of homes in Britain. Unless the Chancellor ends the state’s unlimited liability to house people wherever they choose to pitch camp, as part of his crusade to roll back the welfare system, there is no prospect of reducing our awesome national deficit.
We know that bankers’ follies triggered the financial crisis, but these merely exposed the scale on which Britain has been living beyond its means. The Exchequer has been giving sums of money to less well-off people, the underprivileged as they used to be called, that are far greater than the country can afford. Now the compassion racket has hit the buffers.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt received a barrage of abuse from the Left, and was denounced on the airwaves for a supposed ‘gaffe’, for suggesting last month that before having large families, people should consider whether they can afford them. Yet to most people not living on benefits, Hunt was stating the obvious.
Why do most mothers confine themselves to two or three children? Because they do not think they can afford decently to rear more. This is honourable as well as sensible.
Yet the entire welfare system, including housing benefit, is run on the basis that almost unlimited assistance is provided in accordance with the size of a recipient’s family. If you have four, five or six children, you will be allocated more generous accommodation or larger private rental subsidy than if you have only one or two. This may be humane, but removes the smallest incentive towards responsible family planning.
In every supermarket we see teenage mothers — many of them single women — with pushchairs, for whose lifestyle choice we pay the bills.
Most of us warmly applaud a government which, at last, is telling beneficiaries of welfare: your rights are not unlimited. Your actions will have consequences. If you choose to have a large family on a small income, you will pay a price for doing so which may include missing out on a new flat-screen TV.
Under the terms of the Government’s proposed new housing benefit rules, subsidy will be capped at £400 a week for a four-bedroom house; £340 for a three-bedroom one; £290 for a two-bedroom; £250 for a one-bedroom dwelling.
In the eyes of most of us, these are still very large sums of money. They may not make it possible for people to live in Westminster or Chelsea, but few of us regard it as a civil right to be handy for Harrods.
Moreover, the cap applies only to accommodation provided in the private rental market, and not to publicly-owned housing — of which there is still a large stock in London.
Social lobbyists claim that imposing these new limits next April could result in 82,000 evictions from central London, imposing special hardship on children obliged to move school. I shall be astonished if such a large enforced migration proves necessary. But in any event, most of us take for granted the necessity to move home if our circumstances change.
Most of London’s young middle classes now live south of the Thames or east of the City, because they cannot afford the sort of homes in which their parents lived, closer to the centre. Nobody seriously suggests this is a social injustice. The new generation is simply adjusting to economic realities.
Leftist hysteria about the Coalition’s spending cuts, which may spill over on to our streets if union leaders and Guardian columnists have their way, is founded upon a demented belief that Britain can continue indefinitely writing open-ended cheques to the less well-off.
They ignore the fact that, even if George Osborne achieves his full programme of spending reductions, in 2015 Britain’s budget will be marginally higher than it is today, albeit without taking account of inflation.
The proposed half-million shrinkage of the state workforce — which causes relentless hand-wringing on the BBC — will remove only half of the extra million public sector employees recruited by Gordon Brown over the past decade.
There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Polly Toynbee and her kind in their concern for Britain’s underclass, though the charge of champagne socialism sticks pretty hard on anyone who, like herself, owns a villa in Tuscany and educated her children at private schools.
But David Cameron’s Government is surely right to fight such people to a finish in the battle to curb the excesses of the Welfare State. We need more competition at every level of society and a stronger link between effort and reward....
There are bound to be cries of anguish from the losers and their Labour Party shop stewards. But it is dismaying to see a prominent Tory such as London’s Mayor lending comfort to the other side.
The wife of one of his old school headmasters said to me some years ago, when first he gained fame: ‘Boris Johnson will never get to the very top, because he is always playing to the gallery.’
Boris is a brilliant ‘turn’, beloved by many people who do not have to live or work with him. But he is not, never has been, and never will be a serious person like David Cameron. Johnson’s cleverness is devoted to the single purpose of manic self-promotion.
He is a chancer, albeit a witty and talented one. That is why he broke ranks with the Prime Minister on Thursday’s Radio London programme, and why he may well lob more such grenades in the future.
Cameron is taking a huge political risk in the national interest, while London’s Mayor seeks to advance, or at least protect, his own career. I know which of the two I want to run Britain, and it is not Boris.
The retired nurse who was the mastermind behind a vicious and ruthless IRA-style gang of animal rights fanatics
To her neighbours in Littlehampton, Sarah Whitehead was a pleasant, if slightly dotty, former nurse. While surrounding homes in the West Sussex town were well-kept, the 52-year-old let her garden become overgrown — providing private sanctuary, she said, for all manner of unwanted pets, from guinea pigs to rescued dogs.
By day, the dark-haired woman was often seen out walking her dogs with a younger, blonde companion — her lesbian partner. By night, she was heard talking to her assorted animals in the garden.
‘She was always polite and would nod hello,’ says one neighbour. ‘We knew she kept loads of creatures in her back garden, but she really did try to keep herself to herself. She was a bit odd — but no odder than half the folk you meet.’
To add to the impression she gave of being a harmless, quintessentially English eccentric, she was also known by the nickname ‘Mumsy’ to her wide circle of young friends, who visited from around the country.
But all this was a cynical, well-rehearsed sham. For there was nothing remotely maternal about Sarah ‘Mumsy’ Whitehead. From her home, where she used sophisticated computer technology to plan attacks, Whitehead was one of the key figures behind a shadowy group of animal rights fanatics who waged a campaign of terror against anyone connected — however tenuously — to any forms of testing on animals.
In a network that stretched from southern England to Europe and the U.S., Whitehead was part of an alliance of extremists who dug up human remains, smeared enemies as paedophiles and even targeted couriers and caterers supplying Home Office-licensed laboratories.
This weekend, as Whitehead begins a six-year jail sentence for the campaign of terror (and she is already complaining to prison officers about being made to wear leather shoes) the full details of her double life can be revealed for the first time.
Whitehead’s capture — along with the jailing of former tailor Greg Avery, another leading activist — has provided an unprecedented insight into the secret world of these fanatics, who for years have evaded arrest by operating in ‘cells’ and undergoing extensive training in how to avoid police surveillance.
‘They studied the structures of the IRA and also held regular training sessions at safe houses, where they were told how to spot undercover officers and ensure they weren’t being followed,’ says Andy Robins, the dog-loving detective who arrested Mumsy and her followers after a five-year undercover operation, codenamed Achilles.
‘Sarah Whitehead was a corrupting influence on younger members,’ adds Robins. ‘She was a mother figure to some of the others, hence the nickname. But she was also utterly committed to her cause.’ All the youngsters worked alongside Whitehead in Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), a seemingly respectable pressure group formed in 1999. SHAC volunteers even became a feature of the British High Street, where Whitehead and her fellow volunteers collected funds and tried to recruit new members.
Up and down the country, volunteers also distributed shocking pictures (later found, in fact, to include material from illegal labs in the Middle East) of alleged cruelty at Huntingdon Life Sciences, the subject of SHAC’s increasingly aggressive campaign.
Employing 16,000 people, Huntingdon is the largest private company involved in testing medicines and chemicals on animals, with its global headquarters in Cambridgeshire. The company says that its research breakthroughs have saved and enhanced the lives of countless human beings.
Publicly, Whitehead and other members of the group preached non-violent protests against Huntingdon. But privately, they were secretly plotting ‘operations’ — including fire-bombings and acid attacks — on all aspects of its business, with the aim of forcing it to close down.
The strategy was straightforward: any businesses with any connection to Huntingdon, including even sandwich delivery men and cleaning firms, were warned in telephone calls to sever all ties.
If the warnings went unheeded, anonymous letters were sent to the neighbours of these ordinary businessmen and women, warning that they were convicted paedophiles and could pose a threat to children. Mud stuck. Some Huntingdon employees were forced to leave their homes. In what amounted to blackmail, the targets were offered a deal: stop working with Huntingdon and your name will be removed from websites and the attacks will stop. Facing ruin, many local businesses did just that.
The violence worked. SHAC was raising £3,000 a week in street donations alone, meaning Mumsy Whitehead and leaders of the group could be full-time activists.
Huntingdon was in meltdown, with staff leaving and suppliers refusing to deliver. The share price collapsed — from £300 in the 1990s to 3p in 2001. Even banks refused to lend money to Huntingdon, fearing violent repercussions and attacks on staff.
But with the exception of a handful of arrests during demonstrations, the people behind the campaign remained elusive, as Mumsy and her confederates were using computer encryption programmes to communicate and co-ordinate attacks.
With the attacks escalating, culminating in the case of a guinea pig breeder having a relative’s remains dug up from her grave, a special police unit — led by Andy Robins, a veteran investigator of serious crimes — was set up in 2005 to try to penetrate the group.
Surveillance of a safe house in East Peckham, Kent, provided the first tantalising breakthrough: this was the venue for secret meetings of animal rights fanatics from around the world. Police were astonished as they recorded more than 300 activists arriving at the building, which was surrounded by open Kent countryside.
There, the activists — from the U.S. and throughout Europe — pooled their resources, sharing knowledge about the latest police tactics as part of a global strategy to keep ahead of the authorities.
Then, crucially, further surveillance led police to the secret hideout of the group’s inner sanctum — and the place where ‘strategy meetings’ were held every three months to plan attacks on the latest targets. These took place at a secluded cottage in Little Moorcote, near Fleet in Hampshire, which was owned by Greg Avery, the founding member of SHAC who was convincted last year for his part in the conspiracy and is now serving a ten-year jail sentence.
Under cover of darkness, police experts installed bugging devices and video cameras to discover whether the group was as non-violent as they publicly professed to be. Liaising with the FBI, who were also investigating American activists funded from Hampshire, the UK police team then sat back, watched their video screens — and waited.
The breakthrough came on Easter Sunday, 2008 — the date of a crucial strategy meeting. As well as hearing details of attacks being discussed, encrypted emails were also decoded.
One, which referred to the activities of related animal rights group the Animal Liberation Front, read: ‘Last night a team of ALF volunteers offered their “free vehicle servicing” to a farm situated in a small Dorset village. A large and fairly new animal transporter used for taking animals to their deaths was given a complete makeover.’
The email continued: ‘All tyres slashed, sand poured into the gas tank, locks glued, windscreen wipers glued to windscreen, door mirrors covered in black spray paint, windscreen covered in the word “scum” and the rest of the lorry left with messages such as “killers” and “ALF watching you”.’
While the involvement of Avery was known to the police — he had previously been arrested with bomb-making equipment — this was the first time Mumsy’s importance became clear. They discovered the other leaders refused to make any decisions unless she was present.
And her view was straightforward: that all methods, including violence and intimidation, should be deployed to drive Huntingdon out of business. In one taped conversation, Whitehead described the people working there as ‘animal abusers with blood on their hands’, adding that she was happy to put the welfare of animals ahead of people.
Nor did she confine herself to attacks against Huntingdon. In a recent case, she stole Freddy, a Beagle puppy, from a nearby back garden, claiming the animal was being abused by his owners. In reality, the complaints about the dog were from a neighbour who hated animals. The RSPCA had even checked on Freddy, declaring him a healthy and happy puppy, after he was bought as a pet for a little boy and his twin sister. Whitehead, who was convicted of that theft, refuses to this day to say what she did with Freddy.
As well as plotting attacks with other members of what police call SHAC’s ‘secret inner sanctum’, Mumsy was also given a crucial role in recruiting ‘fresh skins’ — new activists, many of them teenagers in search of a cause. At recruitment stalls set up across the country, Mumsy’s age and unthreatening appearance were useful in reassuring recruits that the campaign was entirely legal and respectable.
Among them was Alfie Fitzpatrick, the wealthy son of a company director who had studied at private schools in Switzerland and lived in a sprawling home with his parents near Solihull.
After agreeing to give money to the cause, 21-year-old Alfie often met Mumsy and other leaders of the group at their secret headquarters in Hampshire. He was one of five younger activists sentenced this week with Whitehead.
While he was not part of the violent attacks plotted by the leadership, which also involved fire-bombing homes of those connected to Huntingdon, Alfie was part of a sophisticated system that groomed the next generation of urban terrorists. Indeed, when police raided the safe house, they removed so many boxes of files and computer equipment that they had to open a mothballed police station to store all the evidence. The records detailed plans to recruit the next generation of activists and even revealed that the funding for U.S. operations has all come from Britain.
So is Mumsy contrite? Hardly. In a letter to supporters, Whitehead — now prisoner number VM7684 of Ashford Prison — writes: ‘Prison life very easy. We get vegan toiletries and treats on the canteen, making life very good. ‘But I hate every second that is wasted in here when I could be out fighting for the animals, but every day is a step nearer to joining you all.’
As for Andy Robins, the detective who finally nailed Whitehead and the other members of the gang, he refuses to get drawn into the politics of animal testing. ‘This is nothing to do with animal rights — this was a criminal conspiracy, involving blackmail and violence, designed to create a climate of fear among their victims.’
He added: ‘There’s no problem with peaceful protests, but we can’t tolerate people who use crime to force their targets into submission. That just cannot be right, and I’m pleased to see Whitehead and the others behind bars.’
An indictment of the anti-war movement
Demands for the prosecution of Tony Blair only legitimise the use of international courts against weak states
When he was the UK foreign secretary, the late Robin Cook famously said of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it was ‘not a court set up to bring to book prime ministers of the United Kingdom or presidents of the United States’. Yet, as former British prime minister Tony Blair finds whenever he makes a public appearance these days, it is now quite the fashion to call for Western leaders to be indicted for war crimes by the ICC.
Denouncing Western leaders as war criminals certainly sounds radical, but an accusation of criminality is a poor substitute for political argument. Worse, it obscures the negative role played by international war crimes trials, and even lends legitimacy to the thoroughly undemocratic idea that heads of state should be subject to some ‘higher’ judicial power.
War is now routinely treated as primarily a legal, rather than political, issue by both sides of the debate. Western politicians make the argument for war on legal grounds, claiming that intervention is necessary to halt crimes against humanity or to enforce compliance with UN resolutions. Anti-war campaigners, on the other hand, call for those same politicians to be indicted for war crimes.
Blair, of course, is the paradigm case. His government championed the 1998 Rome Statue, the treaty inaugurating the ICC, and within two years the UK had launched military operations – in Kosovo and Sierra Leone – that ended with leaders from those states standing trial in international courts. Now Blair has to cancel public appearances, as happened in London last month, because of protests by anti-war activists who say that he is ‘the real criminal who should be jailed’.
One such activist tried to perform a ‘citizen’s arrest’ on Blair during a recent visit to Dublin, and thereby became eligible for a prize – offered by Guardian columnist George Monbiot – for anyone attempting this sort of stunt and gaining media coverage. Other, similar campaigns appear to be pressing charges in earnest: the Blair War Crimes Foundation, for example, petitions both the United Nations and the ICC for Blair to be indicted. Over the summer, it even appeared for one, mad moment that this position might have accidentally become government policy, after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg - standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions - described the Iraq war as ‘illegal’. Commentators and lawyers rushed to offer their opinions on whether ‘Clegg’s gaffe…could strengthen [the] case for involvement of the international court’.
Are they serious? In 2007 the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, reportedly claimed that he could envisage a scenario in which Blair and former US president George W. Bush could one day face charges at The Hague. It is difficult, however, to match Ocampo’s powers of imagination: the court’s rules make such a prosecution virtually unthinkable.
There are three sets of circumstances under which the ICC can launch a prosecution: it can be invited in by a government which has ratified the treaty setting up the court (as in the ICC’s current prosecutions in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic); it can have a case referred to it by the UN Security Council (as with its prosecution of Sudanese president Omar al Bashir); and it can launch an investigation on its own initiative (as it has done in Kenya), but only in relation to states which recognise its jurisdiction and only where national courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute.
There is also a further catch: the UN Security Council can halt any investigation it does not wish to see proceed (initially for a year, but renewable indefinitely). Permanent members of the UN Security Council – such as the United States or Britain – are never likely to face prosecution, and could stop any investigation dead in its tracks.
No doubt many of those calling for the indictment of Western leaders are fully aware that this is never going to happen; they seek only to make a point about the double standards of Western governments. Given that the foreign-policy rhetoric of Western politicians has been laden, in recent years, with grandiose claims about rights, justice and a ‘rules-based system’ of international relations, it is important to point out that these politicians blithely flout international law when it suits them.
Unfortunately, however, endorsing the idea that political leaders should be held to account by the ICC actually strengthens contemporary justifications for military intervention.
A legal licence to intervene
Perhaps surprisingly, advocates of the ICC are themselves quick to denounce the double standards it embodies. The prominent human-rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, for instance, describes it, in his book Crimes Against Humanity, as ‘a court of a curious sort, where superpowers pull the strings (through the Security Council) yet at the same time…refuse to support it’. What needles the court’s supporters is that the US has so far refused to ratify the Rome Statute, on the grounds that it recognises no higher authority than its own national sovereignty. The US ‘refuses to be bound by international human rights law’, complains Robertson, but it ‘demands the prosecution of foreigners who violate it’.
Protestors who call for the indictment of US or British leaders echo this complaint, yet the problem is not that powerful states overvalue their national sovereignty, but rather that they devalue the sovereignty of weak states. Instead of calling, entirely unrealistically, for the ICC to prosecute Western leaders, anti-war critics would do better to challenge the idea that the court should be able to override any state’s national sovereignty.
One of the great myths about the ICC is that it represents a step toward a more peaceful and orderly world. What it actually represents is the overthrow of the principles that underpinned the post-1945 UN system: sovereign equality and non-interference in a state’s internal affairs. These principles did not, of course, eliminate conflict or remove real inequalities of power, but they did mean that external intervention was widely understood as illegitimate. Despite limitations, the recognition of formal equality was a tremendous advance for countries that had previously been mere colonial possessions of the Great Powers. This historic achievement is now dismissed by the likes of Robertson as ‘the petty notion of sovereignty’.
Since the early 1990s, the presumption has instead been of sovereign inequality, whether justified in terms of a ‘right to intervene’ or a ‘responsibility to protect’ – rights and responsibilities that in practice belong exclusively to those powerful states able to exercise them. The legalistic tenor of the discussion masks what is really at stake: it is notable that many of those who became sticklers for the law in 2003 (including some of those now calling for Blair’s indictment over Iraq), were eager to support the equally illegal Kosovo war in 1999. Blair’s government is long gone, but its talk of human-rights enforcement and an ‘end to impunity’ is unfortunately still with us.
War-crimes courts effectively provide a legal licence for intervention: during the Kosovo conflict it was the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that gave NATO a judicial seal of approval, by indicting the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, at the height of the bombing campaign. Now, the ICC’s supporters see the potential for this sort of thing to go much further. Robertson has argued, for example, that instead of justifying the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan in terms of national self-defence, the US should have invoked the ‘more permissive legal justification’ of ‘action to prevent and to punish “crimes against humanity”’. Similarly, he advised that, instead of all the flannel about weapons of mass destruction, the coalition’s cause in Iraq ought to have been Saddam’s crimes against humanity. It is not clear how either war would have been any better if carried out within this ‘permissive’ framework of human-rights enforcement.
Equally, it is not clear how imposed ‘regime change’ would somehow be acceptable if carried out in line with an ICC prosecution – yet that is what enforcement of the court’s arrest warrant against Sudan’s head of state would amount to. Indulging in fantasies about the indictment of Blair and Bush concedes the idea that international courts should rule on the legitimacy of national leaders. While that is a remote prospect for Western countries, it is a very real proposition for states on the receiving end of ‘international justice’.
Rather than hiding behind the law, we need to develop political arguments against war and intervention. A good place to start would be to oppose the ICC and other international war crimes tribunals in facilitating interference in sovereign states.
The mythical requirement to separate church and State
Politics is not the only place where some pretty brassy statements have been made and repeated so often that some people have accepted these brassy statements as being as good as gold.
One of the brassiest of the brass oldies in the law is the notion that the Constitution creates a "wall of separation" between church and state. This false notion has been so widely accepted that people who tell the truth get laughed at and mocked.
A recent New York Times piece said that it was "a flub of the first order" when Christine O'Donnell, Republican candidate for senator in Delaware, asked a law school audience "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" According to the New York Times, ?The question draw gasps and laughter" from this audience of professors and law students who are elites-in-waiting.
The New York Times writer joined in the mocking response to Ms. O'Donnell's question, though admitting in passing that "in the strictest sense" the "actual words 'separation of church and state' do not appear in the text of the Constitution." Either the separation of church and state is there or it is not there. It is not a question of some "strictest" technicality.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution about a "wall of separation" between church and state, either directly or indirectly.
That phrase was used by Thomas Jefferson, who was not even in the country when the Constitution was written. It was a phrase seized upon many years later, by people who wanted to restrict religious symbols and has been cited by judges who share that wish.
There was no mystery about what "an establishment of religion" meant when that phrase was put into the Constitution. It was not an open ended invitation to judges to decide what role religion should play in American society or in American government.
The Church of England was an "established church." That is, it was not only financed by the government, its members had privileges denied to members of other religions.
The people who wrote the Constitution of the United States had been British subjects most of their lives, and knew exactly what an "established church." meant. They wanted no such thing in the United States of America. End of story-- or so it should have been.
For more than a century, no one thought that the First Amendment meant that religious symbols were forbidden on government property. Prayers were offered in Congress and in the Supreme Court. Chaplains served in the military and presidents took their oath of office on the Bible.
But, in our own times, judges have latched onto Jefferson's phrase and run with it. It has been repeated so often in their decisions that it has become one of the brassiest of the brass oldies that get confused with golden oldies.
As fundamentally important as the First Amendment is, what is even more important is the question whether judges are to take it upon themselves to "interpret" the law to mean whatever they want it to mean, rather than what it plainly says.
This is part of a larger question, as to whether this country is to be a self-governing nation, controlled by "we the people," as the Constitution put it, or whether arrogant elites shall take it upon themselves to find ways to impose what they want on the rest of us, by circumventing the Constitution.
Congress is already doing that by passing laws before anyone has time to read them and the White House is likewise circumventing the Constitution by appointing "czars" who have as much power as Cabinet members, without having to go through the confirmation process prescribed for Cabinet members by the Constitution.
Judges circumvent the Constitution by reading their own meaning into its words, regardless of how plain and unequivocal the words there are.
The Constitution cannot protect us and our freedoms as a self-governing people unless we protect the Constitution. That means zero tolerance at election time for people who circumvent the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. Freedom is too precious to give it up in exchange for brassy words from arrogant elites.
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.