Sunday, January 09, 2011
Uniforms worn by British police give a good clue to their mentality
Britain's most senior policeman has launched a stinging attack on the ‘paramilitary style’ uniforms being worn by many forces. Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Met, spoke out against the all-black kit favoured by an increasing number of constabularies.
As Scotland Yard prepares to police the Olympics next year, Sir Paul said he wanted his officers to look like ‘traditional British bobbies’ – complete with white shirts. He has no plans to introduce the so-called ‘boys in black’ uniforms being worn in forces such as North Wales, Sussex, Kent, Surrey, Hampshire and Thames Valley.
Critics have likened them to the black uniforms worn by followers of fascist Sir Oswald Mosley in the 1930s, who were known as the Blackshirts.
Sir Paul, renowned for his traditional views on policing, stopped short of making that comparison. But he made it clear he believes black uniforms send out the wrong message. He said: ‘I’m not awfully keen on ever-more paramilitary-type equipment on our streets. On occasions, we look paramilitary enough now. Frankly, that worries me. ‘I want to continue to look like the British police officer whenever we can.
‘It’s one of the reasons why I’m very passionate about continuing to make sure Met police officers look like Met police officers in white shirts, and not awfully keen on the move in other areas of the country towards different sorts of uniform that look more paramilitary.’
In an interview with LBC Radio’s Nick Ferrari, Sir Paul went on: ‘I want cops in London to be reassuring, not oppressive.’
As more forces adopt the all-black uniforms, a fierce debate has raged in Police Review magazine about their suitability. Over the past few years, critics have included senior officers such as Barry Taylor, then speaking in his capacity as Association of Chief Police Officers’ spokesman on police uniforms. He said: ‘I am not in favour of black shirts because of the political connotations. It gives the wrong impression, which we should try and avoid where possible.’
When North Wales Police announced its officers would be adopting an all- black look, David Jones, the Tory MP for Clwyd West, said the move would give officers ‘a sinister, unfriendly appearance ... a fascist, militaristic appearance’.
However, the black look has proved popular where it has been adopted. Brian Stockham, of Sussex Police Federation, told Police Review the uniforms, consisting of a black polo shirt and black combat trousers, were ‘eminently sensible’.
But Scotland Yard said in a statement: ‘Whilst uniforms must equip officers with the tools they need to be safe and effective, it is also important officers on London’s streets look traditional and approachable.’
Doing the terrorists’ dirty work for them
Nathalie Rothschild reports from Sweden where lawmakers are exploiting people’s fears to curtail liberty
It’s not surprising that Swedish newspapers’ reflections on 2010 focused heavily on the threat of terrorism. After all, in early December Sweden experienced its first suicide bombing when an Iraqi-born Swede blew himself up on a busy shopping street in Stockholm. A couple of weeks later, Swedish and Danish authorities foiled an alleged terror plot aimed at ‘killing as many people as possible’ at the offices of Jyllandsposten (the Danish daily that published the infamous Mohammad cartoons in 2005). Three of the five men arrested for plotting a massacre in the style of the 2008 Mumbai attacks were Swedish citizens.
These Scandinavian militant Islamists thankfully failed to orchestrate bloodbaths – the suicide bomber himself was the only fatality on 11 December, and the five suspected cartoons militants were arrested before they could carry out any attack. Yet it looks like they have been successful in another respect. Because in 2011, Sweden looks set to be infused with a climate of fear and illiberalism as politicians and lawmakers lobby to extend the state’s surveillance powers and to clamp down on freedom of expression and association. All in the name of preventing terrorism. In short, Swedish society itself is pursuing what was surely one of the aims of the failed Islamist militants: to instil a sense of insecurity and paranoia across society.
In the wake of recent events, several politicians, law enforcers and commentators claim that draconian surveillance laws are now necessary in Sweden. They are effectively exploiting the fear and nervousness that the public understandably feels in the aftermath of terror plots. They are seeking to add moral weight to illiberal laws which will have severe long-term consequences for Swedish citizens’ liberties – while doing little practical to stop terrorism.
The fiercely debated ‘FRA law’ – anti-terrorist legislation passed by the Swedish parliament in 2008 despite a groundswell of public opposition – gave the Swedish intelligence bureau, Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the right to intercept all cable communications crossing Sweden’s borders. In short, FRA was given the right to snoop on every single email, telephone call, facsimile and SMS message that arrives in Sweden. The police and the secret services agency Säpo, however, were blocked from directly intercepting cable communication.
The controversial law, nicknamed Lex Orwell, sparked weeks of heated debate. The opposition party, the Social Democrats, pledged to block the centre-right government’s proposal to extend the snooping powers to Säpo; indeed, one of the cornerstone policies of the red-green alliance (the Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left Party) during the 2010 general election campaign was to tear up FRA. However, after the Stockholm suicide bombing, Morgan Johansson, the Social Democrat chairman of the parliament’s justice committee, said his party would agree to the extension of surveillance powers to Säpo. He also said the FRA law should not be ditched, after all. ‘We should not whip up fear, but we should take the threat seriously’, he told parliament.
The FRA law represents a severe infringement on Swedish and foreign nationals’ right to correspond freely and without fear. It reveals the extent to which terror-prevention measures are driven by a cavalier attitude towards people’s liberties. Apparently we should be prepared to give up our liberties without resistance just in case it might help in some way to shed some light on alleged criminal activity.
But FRA itself recognises that it can only gather a fraction of the digital communication that occurs every day in Sweden. As reported previously on spiked, the purpose of the FRA law is to ‘map external threats’; so, under this law, only communication from abroad can be intercepted. Yet it is technically impossible to differentiate between domestic and international traffic. Many Swedish companies and organisations have web servers that are based overseas, and often emails sent between individuals in one country are routed via another.
As Magnus Nilsson, president of the Social Democrat Student Association, has pointed out, ‘FRA gives us a false sense of security and moves us a step closer to a more and more controlled society’. Once the idea that the authorities should be able to snoop on us all has been enshrined into the law, then the limits to what communication can and cannot be intercepted are, as we have seen, likely to be stretched.
And in Sweden, it’s not just private correspondence that is up for grabs in the aftermath of December’s foiled terror plots – freedom of association, freedom of speech and the freedom to move around without being gazed at by the authorities are also under threat. Bo Huldt, a professor in security policy at the Stockholm-based National Defense College, points out that: ‘Routines will be sharpened and that’s something we will all have to accept… It may mean restrictions for us all regarding where we can move around, how many people can attend meetings or gatherings and more police presence at meetings.’
The trend for monitoring people’s meetings and sharing of ideas has already been set: a new terror-prevention law was introduced in Sweden on 1 December 2010 criminalising public incitement, recruitment and education ‘for the purpose of terrorism and other serious crimes’. The law is designed to meet the requirements of the European Council’s convention on the prevention of terrorism. As similar laws in Britain have shown, these measures tend to blur the boundaries between speech and action, between thought and deed, as anything from championing Hamas to speaking ill of the West can be categorised as speech that ‘incites terrorism’.
Politicians and law enforcers are letting a handful of individuals restrict all Swedish citizens’ liberties. Essentially, they are doing the terrorists’ jobs for them by helping to create a paranoid society in which everyone is a potential suspect, in which our right to communicate without fear of snooping, to associate with whomever we want and to attend demonstrations and meetings as we please is being suppressed. The alleged terrorists thankfully failed to kill anyone – but courtesy of Swedish officialdom, they succeeded in changing Swedish society for the worse.
Australia: Politically correct confusion over male nurses
Commonsense seems to have been lost on all sides. Of course male nurses (the straight ones anyway) are better equipped to handle aggressive patients
QUEENSLAND'S mental health hospitals are at the centre of a sex discrimination row after bureaucrats ordered male nurses to handle dangerous patients instead of their female colleagues.
A leaked memo reveals Queensland Health has been attempting to stop the practice becoming the norm at two of its main mental health facilities out of fears the department is breaching anti-discrimination laws.
The move comes after a male nurse complained to management that he was being discriminated against and prompted the department to seek legal advice on the matter.
But female nurses who account for most of the workforce, and some of whom have been bashed so badly one had to eat through a straw fear they will be harmed as patient shackles and door locks often don't work properly. Some managers demand they muscle up and do their job.
In a December 13 memo obtained by The Sunday Mail, Darling Downs-West Moreton Health Services District mental health executive director Shirley Wigan told staff at Toowoomba's Baillie Henderson Hospital and The Park, west of Brisbane, to follow the Anti-Discrimination Act.
"There may be instances of directions being provided around managing . . . aggressive behaviour which suggest that some managers prefer male nurses over female nurses," Ms Wigan wrote. "There should not be a standing order in any facility that female nurses should not respond to aggressive patient situations. This must be assessed on a case-by-case basis."
But a second complaint lodged by a female staff member claims the memo was dangerous because it was clearly common sense to make it normal practice for males to handle violent patients. The complaint argues that the Anti-Discrimination Act allowed an exemption to keep staff safe under workplace health and safety. "The number of vicious assaults has increased due to the negligence of management and senior medical staff to provide a safe working environment," the complaint reads.
Queensland Health acting district chief Peter Bristow yesterday noted the workplace health and safety clause, saying the matter was up for discussion among staff. "This is designed to give staff an opportunity to express their views, and seek a way forward which is acceptable to staff, and in keeping with the law," he said.
Queensland Nurses Union state secretary Beth Mohle said no one should be put in an unsafe situation but that rostering meant this would be inevitable for females.
In Sydney last week, a male nurse died after allegedly being stabbed by a mental patient, and his young female offsider was also stabbed.
Financial Info: Banned in Boston
"Banned in Boston." Those words became a catch phrase in the mid-20th century, as the city was notorious for suppressing works by authors such as Ernest Hemingway, H.L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis.
Back then, Massachusetts's obscenity laws were written to authorize the banning of books, plays and movies considered dangerous by powerful paternalistic groups such as the Watch and Ward Society. As late as the mid-1960s, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a ban of the 18th-century English novel "Fanny Hill," only to be reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Memoirs v. Massachusetts (1966) case.
Today the Bay State is a liberal bastion, so you might think that "Banned in Boston" is an anachronism. But on Thursday the state's highest court will consider a case involving censorship of truthful speech. The target of state Attorney General Martha Coakley and this modern Watch and Ward Society: financial information disseminated to the general public by a hedge fund.
In 2007, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin sanctioned the hedge fund Bulldog Investors for making an illegal public "offering" under the state's securities laws. Under state (and federal) law, alternative investment vehicles such as hedge funds can generally offer their securities only to "accredited investors" who meet certain financial conditions such as having $1 million or more in net worth.
Massachusetts doesn't contend that Bulldog signed up any investor who didn't meet the law's definition of "accredited investor." Rather, it charges that Bulldog's "offering"—in the form of a website with information about the fund's performance and philosophy—"fail[ed] to properly restrict access by prospective investors."
The Bay State is not contending that any information on Bulldog's website was false or misleading. Instead, in echoes of the state's puritanical censors of the past, officials are trying to suppress truthful information because it "arouses" the public. The website, they say, "even though not couched in terms of a direct offer," may still "condition the public mind or arouse public interest in the particular securities."
The legal team for Phillip Goldstein, the cofounder of Bulldog, will argue that Massachusetts' broad definition of "offering" violates the First Amendment. Among his lawyers is Laurence Tribe, the liberal Harvard Law professor who has just finished a stint as senior counselor for access to justice in the Obama Justice Department.
State Attorney General Coakley, for her part, has implied in a brief that the First Amendment doesn't apply to securities laws. "Widespread concerns . . . exist about extending the First Amendment to securities regulation," her brief states. It cites the controversial California Supreme Court ruling, in Kasky v. Nike (2002), that "differential treatment of speech about products based on the identity of the speaker is inherent in the commercial speech doctrine." This view subjects speech to a highly subjective test of how much it benefits a speaker financially—rather than whether it actually advocates a commercial transaction.
A friend-of-the court brief filed by a group of financial researchers (including this author) explains why Ms. Coakley is mistaken. The brief states that "making truthful information about lawful activity accessible to journalists, academics and others who wish to receive it for noncommercial reasons is noncommercial speech regardless of who is speaking."
The brief adds that even if the information on the website were deemed "commercial speech" entitled to less constitutional protection, "regulations that restrict public access to truthful information about a lawful product or service are unconstitutional."
The U.S. Supreme Court decided in Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Reilly (2001) that a Massachusetts rule aimed at preventing tobacco ads from reaching children violated the First Amendment because it blocked too much speech to adults. And the state itself has a website advertising state lottery tickets, even though their purchase is restricted to adults.
In this case Massachusetts is treating a whole class of non-wealthy adults as children who can't be trusted with basic information about how hedge funds work. In the name of protecting investors, Ms. Coakley and Mr. Galvin are actually perpetuating problems—namely lack of transparency in the hedge-fund market and inequality of information among investors—so often decried by politicians.
For these reasons, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court should think long and hard about whether it wants the "Banned in Boston" insignia appended to financial speech in the 21st century.
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.