Thursday, March 24, 2011
British homeowner who put up security gates after series of burglaries ordered to tear them down because they are 6in too tall
A control-freak council
When businessman Robin Arnold installed security gates to protect his home, he never expected to end up hauled before a court. But the father-of-eight is facing prosecution because his local council has ruled the top of the gates should be a different colour and the height must be reduced by six inches.
Mr Arnold, 63, installed the gates in 2008 after a series of break-ins at his home in Stockport, Greater Manchester. But he didn't apply for planning permission for the gates and a retrospective application, and subsequent appeal, were refused.
The 5ft 6in gates are black with golden arrowheads, but Stockport council says they should be slightly smaller and the arrowheads black.
Mr Arnold, managing director of a restoration company, has refused to make the alterations, saying his gates are no different to others in the area. And when he ignored an enforcement notice sent in December the council began a prosecution against him.
Mr Arnold said: 'I will be among thieves and burglars. It's absolutely ridiculous it has come to that, but there are times you have to stand up and be counted and show up foolish attitudes for what they are. 'The council is gambling on a successful prosecution with taxpayers' money when people are losing their jobs. All I'm trying to do is protect my home and family.
'There are numerous designs and colours of gate in the area and some are bigger than mine. If I lower the height it will be easier for thieves to jump over them.'
Mr Arnold, who lives with his wife Julie, will appear before Stockport magistrates on a date yet to be fixed. He lives in the Davenport conservation area where planning laws are tighter to protect the neighbourhood's character.
A council spokesman said it had agreed to let the gates remain if the alterations were made. He said a similar arrangement had been made with other residents, who agreed to changes and were allowed to keep their gates. He added: 'We aim to resolve breaches of planning control through negotiation. This matter has been on-going since August 2008.
'The council has been extremely flexible, but in the interests of fairness to other residents who have followed the correct procedures, we have no option but to take action against a continued breach of planning control.'
Human rights laws result in a tripling of sham marriages in Britain
Human rights rulings by judges have led to a tripling in the number of suspected sham weddings. The courts have repeatedly weakened rules designed to prevent non-EU immigrants from marrying solely to remain in the UK. In four years, cases have risen from 282 annually to 934 – or 18 every week.
And the Human Rights Act has left the Home Office with no option but to scrap all remaining legal safeguards against fake ceremonies within weeks.
Mandy Brammer, a registrar in Brent, north London, tells tonight’s BBC Panorama programme that up to 2004 'we’d have waiting rooms full of people, all of whom were trying to arrange a sham marriage. There’s every likelihood of going back to that situation'.
A legal crackdown was introduced by Labour in February 2005 after the number of suspected sham ceremonies – often arranged by criminal gangs who could earn £10,000 a time – reached 3,700 a year. The clampdown, which reduced this figure by 90 per cent, was targeted at those who marry Britons, or EU citizens with full residency rights, to gain permission to remain indefinitely.
Migrants were forced to seek a special certificate to marry if they lived outside the EU, or had only limited rights to live in the UK. Those with only three months leave to stay were routinely refused on the grounds that the ceremony was intended only to avoid removal from the country.
In 2006 the courts ruled the entire system was unfair under human rights law. Two years later, the House of Lords found the rules to be a breach of Section 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to marry. It meant people could no longer be denied a certificate to marry based on the length of time remaining on their visa.
Since then the number of suspected sham ceremonies a year has rocketed, from around 300 to 900. Now, following further human rights rulings, the Home Office will shortly scrap the certificate system altogether. Under the current system, it receives 20,000 applications for certificates of approval each year, with officials refusing only one in 20.
Immigration Minister Damian Green confirmed that the human rights judgments had left the Home Office unable to keep or replace the certificate of approval. He said it would be replaced by a system of 'enforcement' and 'education'. 'We will not tolerate immigration abuse, including sham marriages.
'The UK Border Agency investigates all reports of suspected sham marriages – and recent enforcement action has resulted in 155 arrests. 'The most effective action is to increase our enforcement efforts and work closely with registrars and churches to identify marriages that may not be genuine.'
Registrars will be trained to look for suspicious activity, and anybody involved in fake ceremonies will be arrested.
Recent cases include the prosecution of Rev Alex Brown, who was jailed for four years after being found guilty of carrying out the biggest fake-wedding scam Britain has ever seen. He abused his position at his Victorian parish church in the seaside town of St Leonards, East Sussex, to marry 360 illegal immigrants to complete strangers. Between 2005 and 2009, Brown married up to eight couples a day and was found guilty of breaching immigration laws.
Anti-Iraq War Bush-Haters Squirm to Justify Libya
"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation," then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said in December 2007.
What a difference a change of job title makes.
"Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates three weeks before President Obama ordered a no-fly zone over -- and other military action against -- Libya.
Like many anti-Iraq War/Bush-is-a-warmonger critics, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., supports the Libyan action. Bush-hater Rachel Maddow of MSNBC rationalized that unlike the bloodthirsty President George W. Bush, you see, Obama ordered the military into action under a different "narrative" -- that is, reluctantly and without zeal. Understand?
The non-unilateralist Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama, unlike Bush, sought no congressional war resolution. Obama, therefore, ordered military action against Libya "unilaterally" -- without the congressional approval that he once argued the Constitution demanded.
As Obama further explained in his December 2007 statement, "In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent." So a president, according to Obama, does not need congressional authority -- provided the action involves "self-defense" or "stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
What is the "actual or imminent threat" to America posed by Libya?
Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, spooked bleep-less after our invasion of Iraq, surrendered his WMD. The dictator admitted Libya's complicity in the bombing of the Pan Am plane over Lockerbie and paid financial settlements -- after which the U.S. removed Libya from the list of terror-sponsoring states. The U.S. imports less than 1 percent of its oil from that country. What threat to national security?
Fast-forward to March 2011. Rebels threaten to topple Gadhafi's brutal regime. But the dictator fights back, and unless stopped by outsiders, his military appears poised to put down and slaughter the rebels. Enter Obama. "We cannot stand idly by," he said, "when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy."
Obama thus approves this act of war -- for humanitarian purposes.
But Iraq's Saddam Hussein created a far greater humanitarian nightmare. "The Butcher of Baghdad" slaughtered, at minimum, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis -- far more people than were killed in Bosnia and Kosovo, where President Clinton ordered military force for humanitarian reasons. Yet, when weapons hunters found no stockpiles of WMD in Iraq, the dwindling number of pro-war Democrats turned against the war -- never mind the sickening sight of thousands of Iraqis found in shallow graves.
If U.S. foreign policy dictates intervention during humanitarian crises, why stop with Libya? Why start with Libya?
The list of brutal thug leaders is long. Nearly 40 percent of the world's population lives under un-free, often brutally repressive, governments, and another billion or so people have only partial freedom.
Humanitarian in-harm's-way deployment of the military is treacherous and unpredictable. Consider Somalia ("Black Hawk Down" Battle of Mogadishu in 1993); Lebanon (241 servicemen, mostly Marines, killed when terrorists blew up their barracks in 1983); and Bosnia/Kosovo (President Clinton promised troops out by Christmas 1995).
The purpose of the military is to act on behalf of our national security. We are not the world's hall monitor. Bush-hating Iraq War critics used to say stuff like that -- along with "war is not the answer."
Now, let's revisit the reasons for the -- as pre-President Obama called it -- "stupid" war.
Obama, like virtually everyone else, assumed Saddam possessed stockpiles of WMD while actively pursing a nuclear capability. President Bush sought and obtained congressional authorization. He called Saddam's Iraq a "grave and gathering threat" to our national security.
Ninety percent of Americans, in the dark days following Sept. 11, 2001, expected another attack within a year -- except perhaps this time with chemical or biological weapons. From the "oil-for-food" program, Saddam stole money, possibly re-routing it to terrorists. He financially rewarded families of homicide bombers. We learned, following the Persian Gulf War, that he was much closer to achieving nuclear capability than previously thought. Saddam kicked out the U.N. inspectors sent in to verify the promised dismantling and destruction of the weapons.
That Saddam possessed stockpiles of WMD, having used chemical weapons on the Iranians and his own people, was not in dispute. All 16 U.S. intelligences agencies thought so "with the highest probability." France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, China, Israel -- and even Saddam's own generals -- assumed Iraq possessed WMD. Even U.N. weapons inspector and Iraq War critic Hans Blix thought Saddam likely possessed these weapons. As Blix admitted at a 2004 University of Berkeley forum: 'I'm not here to have gut feelings. But yes, in December 2002 (three months before the invasion) I thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.'"
Call Libya the Obama doctrine: non-national security, non-congressionally approved military attacks are perfectly legitimate for humanitarian reasons. Except not for Iraq under President George W. Bush -- who awaits his apology.
NYT whitewashes Muslim extremist
It doesn't set out to do so, but an exhaustive profile of an Islamic cleric in Sunday's New York Times magazine makes the depth and severity of radicalization among some young Muslim Americans very clear.
Reporter Andrea Elliott devotes nearly 8,500 words to Yasir Qadhi, in the article "Why Yasir Qadhi Wants to Talk About Jihad." It casts a picture of a very conservative but generally peaceful Salafi Muslim. As such, he is cast as the ultra-conservative Muslim antidote to al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is credited with inspiring everyone from Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and would-be terrorists Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Faisal Shahzad.
But Qadhi, dean of academic affairs at the Houston-based AlMaghrib Institute, rarely is shown aggressively challenging the radical ideas that fuel violent jihad. If anything, he agrees with them, including a notion that the U.S. is at war with Muslims. That message is considered among the most forceful in radicalizing young Muslims into supporting violence.
Like his students, religion is more than a personal belief system to Qadhi. He would like to see "the world … fully adhere to his faith," the story says. He won't say whether he considers attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to be legitimate jihads.
It is due to a delicate balancing act, the story explains. If he speaks too openly about "what kinds of militant actions are permitted by Islamic law," he risks being labeled unpatriotic and possibly even prosecuted, Elliott writes.
When he tells his students to use the power of their votes and their voices, they push back, wondering if that's enough to meet their religious duties.
A female student criticized Qadhi for providing "wishy-washy nonanswers." And she was not persuaded that there are more peaceful ways to pursue jihad. Elliott described it this way: "Being martyred in the battlefield, she said, is 'romantic,' while 'lobbying your congressman is not.'"
He is shown arguing why the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing of a commercial airliner was wrong under Islam. "There were even Muslims on that plane!" he said. "I mean, what world are you living in? How angry and overzealous are you that you simply forget about everything and you think that this is the way forward?"
But he acknowledges being hesitant to take on some of his students' positions forcefully out of fear he'll be dismissed from their consideration. His students are well educated and seemingly comfortable economically.
But they struggle with the proper Islamic response when America is waging war in Muslim lands. America is a newly hostile country for Muslims, the story says.
"They have watched as their own country wages war in Muslim lands, bearing witness — via satellite television and the Internet — to the carnage in Iraq, the drone attacks in Pakistan and the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo," Elliott writes. "While the dozens of AlMaghrib students I interviewed condemned the tactics of militant groups, many share their basic grievances."
The Times profile notes Qadhi already is derided as a "sellout" on some jihadist web sites. The result, however, may be that he fails on both sides.
In an example not mentioned in the article, Qadhi was unable to state a clear position on the January assassination of a Pakistani governor who was openly critical of that state's blasphemy laws. In an online posting, Qadhi republished an article by a Pakistani writer.
Salman Taseer's murder by a bodyguard was an issue with "many facets and perspectives to consider, and it is simply not possible for an outsider (as we all are here in the West, even if some of us originate from Pakistan) to fully understand the nuances of the situation," Qadhi wrote.
The Pakistani writer offered a "very balanced" assessment, Qadhi wrote, acknowledging "(t)here are clear elements of truth on both sides and clear elements of exaggeration and extremism on both sides as well."
According to the writer Qadhi cited, the issue should be discussed dispassionately.
"Representation from different schools of Islamic thought should be gathered," he wrote, "and, together with legal experts, a solution should be sought whereby, at least, the misuse of this law for personal gain or revenge should be curtailed."
Neither writer came out and called the assassination wrong and unacceptable in a modern, civil society.
Vague messages from Qadhi are numerous. In the profile, he advises an audience to heed the law of the land. But, Elliott writes, "their 'responsibilities would be different'" if they lived in Palestine or Iraq. "He did not elaborate."
It is not the only time he has advised people to obey the laws of man even if that means tolerating something they might otherwise act against. In a video posted to YouTube in March 2008, Qadhi responds to a British television program which sent undercover cameras into mosques, finding that "a message of hatred and segregation is being spread throughout the UK" by groups considered moderate and mainstream. That included messages "condemning British democracy as un-Islamic and praising the Taliban for killing British soldiers."
Qadhi accused the producers of editing statements to make them look worse than they were. One part apparently dealt with intolerance toward homosexuals. Islam considers that a sin, Qadhi says in the YouTube clip. "It is a crime against Allah… Are we going to do something against homosexuals? No, we are not. This is not our country. This is not our land," he says. "But we're allowed to speak against it, are we not? Our country has promised us the right to freedom of speech."
Elliott does address blatantly radical statements Qadhi has made in the past. That, he tells her, was "the old me." While he maintains an ultraconservative religious viewpoint, he said he moved away from the violent jihadist perspective.
He traveled to Auschwitz and Dachau last summer, telling Elliott the experience compounded his shame over past remarks about the Holocaust.
Elliott makes a point of showing ways in which Qadhi is like most other Americans. He lives in Memphis, "a long way from the centers of Islamic thought ," calls people "dudes," drives a Honda and enjoys Popeye's "popcorn shrimp and gravy-slathered biscuits."
But he still sees the United States as hostile toward Muslims, Elliott writes, saying those like him, "who engage in controversial rhetoric are treading on thin ice" legally. That was Qadhi's reaction to the conviction of a former mentor, Ali al-Timimi, on terrorist-related charges. Days after 9/11, Timimi urged a group of followers to travel to Pakistan for military training from the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba so that they might fight U.S. troops as they invaded Afghanistan.
Elliott minimizes the facts in the case, ignoring the Lashkar training and saying the men merely "practiced shooting at a paintball facility." Presiding federal Judge Leonie Brinkema emphasized that connection when she sentenced Timimi to life in prison. "I don't think any well-read person can doubt the truth that terrorist camps are an essential part of the new terrorism that is perpetrated in the world today," she said. "People of good will need to do whatever they can to stop that."
As Elliott's own newspaper reported, Brinkema rejected the argument that Timimi was punished for his words alone. "This was not a case about speech; this was a case about intent," Brinkema said, finding Timimi meant to incite others to violence against the United States.
After the conviction, Qadhi called Timimi "one of the more sophisticated voices of reason representing orthodox Islam in the Western world" and decried his trial as a "witch hunt."
That Qadhi seems to continue believing Timimi did no wrong in inspiring people to commit violence leaves open whether he is an authentic voice in opposing violent jihad.
Also left unanswered is whether his approach to radical Islam is effective. Abdulmutallab attended AlMaghrib's summer institute 18 months before trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane with explosives sewn into his underpants. He had access to the teachings of both Qadhi and Awlaki and chose Awlaki's side.
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.