Thursday, April 21, 2011
Chilling effect of Euro judges: Britain's public safety being put at risk by human rights court, warns top Lib Dem lawyer
Rulings by unelected judges in Strasbourg are having a ‘chilling effect’ on public safety in Britain, a senior government adviser warns today. Lord Carlile, a Liberal Democrat peer, said the European Court of Human Rights had placed itself on a ‘collision course’ with the UK Parliament.
In particular, he attacked the way the European Convention on Human Rights was blocking the removal of foreign criminals and terror suspects. Lord Carlile, a Home Office adviser on terrorism, said: ‘A narrow interpretation of the convention has had a chilling effect on deportation, and thereby on public safety.’
The fact that such scathing comments are being made by a Lib Dem grandee will reopen the controversy over human rights law.
Prime Minister David Cameron promised to reform the law in opposition, but he has since been frustrated by his Lib Dem coalition partners.
The peer made his remarks in the foreword to a new report by Tory MP Dominic Raab, an expert in international law who led the backbench revolt against prisoner voting. The pamphlet, for the Civitas think-tank, calls for urgent reform of human rights legislation to keep European judges from deciding British law.
Mr Raab says that, by granting prisoners the vote, Strasbourg went beyond simply interpreting the convention, which was deliberately worded to allow members states to disenfranchise criminals. Instead, Strasbourg is now ‘making law’. As a result, Mr Raab says democratic policy-making increasingly stands at the mercy of unelected judges.
He writes: ‘The judges have assumed a legislative function, fully aware that there are limited means for elected governments subject to their rulings to exercise any meaningful democratic oversight over them. This judicial coup represents a naked usurpation, by a judicial body, of the legislative power that properly belongs to democratically-elected law makers.’
Mr Raab, a former chief of staff to Attorney General Dominic Grieve, calls for the UK’s Supreme Court to be the last court of appeal, rather than Strasbourg.
He also wants the Human Rights Act to be amended to ensure Strasbourg rulings involving the UK are subject to a debate in the House of Commons. This would be coupled by a political commitment by the main parties to permit ‘free votes’.
Mr Raab also attacks human rights laws which prevent the deportation of criminals and terrorist suspects. Last year, more than 200 foreign convicts evaded removal on the grounds that it would infringe their right to a ‘family life’.
Cases included Iraqi Mohammed Ibrahim, who knocked down 12-year-old Amy Houston and left her to ‘die like a dog’ under the wheels of his car. He was driving while disqualified, and after the little girl’s death he committed a string of further offences. An immigration tribunal ruled that – because Ibrahim had children while living in Britain – he had a right to a ‘family life’ in the UK.
Mr Raab says: ‘The massive expansion of human rights law threatens to frustrate Britain’s ability to deport convicted criminals and terrorist suspects. The goal-posts keep shifting, because of unaccountable judicial legislation – especially the expansion of claims around the right to family life.
‘Britain has lost a degree of control over its borders, which inevitably means we are importing more risk. This has contributed to the growing terrorist threat.’ Mr Raab calls for the law to be changed so the right to a family life is no longer a bar to deportation.
Do You Feel Like We Do?
The culture has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. Some of the changes have been so subtle as to be almost undetectable. But one change has been so dramatic that few people could deny or ignore it –although opinions vary as to the desirability of its effects on the larger culture. The change I am talking about is the increasing tendency of people (especially men) to share their feelings instead of their thoughts when discussing intellectual matters.
This trend is especially noticeable to those of us who grade papers for a living. Recently, I was reading a case brief in which a student kept telling me what he felt the Supreme Court case meant and what the Court felt about the legal issues at hand. In his defense, part of the problem is that Supreme Court Justices do sometimes inject their feelings into Court decisions. Some, like Anthony Kennedy, mindlessly emote about one’s right to “define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life.”
But the problem extends far beyond the study of the law. English department are becoming increasingly entrenched in a postmodern worldview that considers the endless study of personal narratives to be a legitimate source of intellectual inquiry. The disdain for generalizations is rooted in a professed belief that there simply are no general truths. I say “professed” belief because the English professors don’t really believe what they are saying. They believe that at least some of the things they say are generally true. Otherwise, they would not be professors.
Even today’s honors students are prone to back their positions with thoughtless emotion. A student in one of my honors classes justified her support for affirmative action by saying “I just feel so strongly about issues of social justice.” I asked her whether she thought it reinforced racist notions of black intellectual inferiority.” Her response: “But I just feel so strongly about issues of social justice.”
This endless emoting colors the debate on a variety of issues outside the classroom. Speaking of color, I recently joked that we are on the verge of bringing back “colored” restrooms as our campus becomes more and more segregated. This prompted a call from a black female student who went on and on with a detailed emotional account of what it felt like to be black on a predominately white campus. After about fifteen minutes on the phone I just hung up. I wasn’t being rude. She was yelling. Besides that, I felt like I was going to puke. I guess I have feelings, too.
The most dramatic display I ever witnessed in this regard occurred at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) shortly after a speech I gave on the topic of campus speech codes. During the Q&A, one student asked whether I supported reinstating slavery. Another student asked whether I was in favor of straights beating gays with baseball bats. My responses to both questions were similar: I asked each to sit down after letting them know they should be ashamed of themselves for asking such absurd (and accusatory) questions.
The response to my response was interesting. First a young man got up and told me that he felt I had been too harsh on the two women who had accused me (respectively, but not respectfully) of supporting slavery and aggravated battery. When I asked whether he had a substantive remark he sat down. But he got up again, stood in front of the microphone, and shared his feelings about my rebuke of the two aforementioned women.
A few minutes later, he made his way to the microphone for the third time for another emotional outpouring. Then, after the speech he interrupted my book signing to share his feelings for a fourth time. It was really weird. I mean, it felt really weird. And my feelings count, too.
I walked out of the auditorium that night surrounded by five armed police officers. We passed a glass display case that had been shattered by students who spray-painted a swastika on the flyer advertising my speech. Just as we were passing that shattered monument of left-wing emotional sensitivity an assistant dean caught up with me. He shook my hand, and thanked me for coming to UNH. But then he ruined the moment by saying that he felt I needed to be “more sensitive towards the students who did not share (my) views.”
I guess some college administrators feel a need to protect students who throw bricks through display cases and spray-paint over speech that offends them. Personally, I think they need to be incarcerated.
That night at UNH a good discussion of an important topic was hijacked by self-absorbed students who could not stop talking about their feelings. One could almost say that higher education is over-run by students who are possessed of an endless range of emotions and a boundless desire to share them with others. But one emotion is notably lacking from their repertoire: Humility.
It’s really easy to sit around and talk about your feelings. It means never having to defend an idea on its own objective merits. It means our nation can continue to feel smarter while its collective mind continues to atrophy.
Anti-Israel BS: Labor's infected and the Greens are gangrenous
Conservative Senator Eric Abetz comments on anti-Israel attitudes in Australia's Green party and also in the Labor party
Last night at a meeting of the Marrickville Council, the council voted eight to four to not pursue its boycott of Israel.
Marrickville Council's abortive attempt to implement the Global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (GBDS) campaign against Israel in Sydney's Inner West should be a wake-up call. The moment to turn this objectionable campaign around should not be lost, else we will see more loopy home-grown forays into foreign policy. While this campaign may have been temporarily halted at a municipal level, it has gained considerable ground within Australia's unions.
In moving her motion at Marrickville Council, Greens Councillor, Cathy Peters noted that the BDS campaign had the support of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, the South Coast Labour Council, and various state branches of the ASU, Teachers' Union, LHMWU, CFMEU and MUA. In fact this is only half the list.
Branches of the AMWU, CEPU, ETU, FSU, HACSU and RTBU, along with the Geelong Trades Hall Council, Newcastle Trades and Labour Council, Queensland Council of Unions and Unions ACT, have also lent their support to this campaign.
This support ranges from in-principle backing, through active involvement in the BDS campaign, to pressuring the ACTU and Labor Party to support the BDS movement.
To give you the flavour, the Victorian Trades Hall Council last September resolved to:
Promote this campaign within the community, work with unions and other organisations that support the campaign to maximise its effectiveness" and to "provide reports to Executive Council at 6 monthly intervals and will include information on the effectiveness of the campaign (Sis Halfpenny and Bro Cragg will be the responsible officers).
The BDS campaign in Australia has a more sinister side. The Australian BDS movement, which promoted Marrickville Council's BDS intiative, is conducting a campaign of direct harassment and boycott against Israeli linked businesses.
For over six months the cosmetic company Seacret has had its shops picketed by screeching BDS activists because it is allegedly `profiteering from resources in the land stolen by Israel'.
Cosmetics companies L'Oreal and Jericho have also been targeted for similar reasons, as has Caterpillar because its bulldozers are used by Israeli authorities.
These highly-charged "actions" by BDS protestors are disruptive and intimidating. As Michael Danby said of Marrickville Council:
Are they now going to paint the Star of David on shops selling Israeli products?
Now is the time for Australia's political leaders to act if we are to halt this extremism.
To his credit the AWU's Paul Howes has taken a strong stand against the BDS campaign taking root in the unions. He has rightly concluded that it is just the first step in of a broader campaign enlisting `useful fools' to demonise all Israel and attack its legitimacy.
But to date the ACTU has been conflicted on the issue. It must take a stand. It must come down hard on the Sister Halfpennys and Brother Craggs in the union movement who think that they can implement foreign policy out of Trades Hall.
This situation would never have been allowed to get so far out of hand under Bob Hawke.
As far as Labor is concerned, Kevin Rudd and Craig Emerson did not hesitate to lambast Marrickville Council over its BDS policy.
However, Labor still has a lot to answer for. Four local Labor Councillors voted for the policy and NSW Labor directed preferences to the Greens Mayor of Marrickville, Fiona Byrne, when she contested the seat of Marrickville at the recent state election.
Meanwhile Labor has the internal problem of Labor 4A Just Palestine - an anti-Israel group which supports the BDS campaign - convened by David Forde, who could be preselected for the Brisbane seat of Stretton.
But if BDS has infected Labor, it's positively gangrenous in the Greens.
Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon shepherded the BDS policy through the NSW Greens state council. The policy called for all Australians and the Australian Government to boycott Israeli goods, trading and military arrangements, and sporting, cultural and academic events.
Greens Leader, Bob Brown, failed to condemn Marrickville's BDS policy during the NSW state election; he opposed a Senate motion condemning it; and has subsequently tried to diffuse responsibility by blaming the Labor councillors on Marrickville Council.
Nevertheless I congratulate Greens Leader Bob Brown and Prime Minister Gillard for heeding calls to pull their councillors into line - albeit they should have done so long before now.
So where to now? Firstly, Labor, the Greens and the unions must be honest about the extent to which the BDS movement has taken root in their parties and set about countering it.
In light of the rebuff to Marrickville Council I will amend my motion, to be considered by the Senate when it returns in May, so as to give Labor and the Greens the opportunity to acknowledge that Israel is a legitimate and democratic state and a good friend of Australia, and to condemn the BDS campaign wherever it has taken hold.
It is only by subjecting this objectionable BDS campaign to public scrutiny that we can make Marrickville Council's reversal on this issue a watershed in this debate.
ALG Blasts White House Executive Order Silencing Dissent
Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson today condemned a draft executive order by the White House to compel companies to disclose donations to non-profit groups that might make independent expenditures during an election cycle.
The executive order would apply to “[a]ny contributions made to third party entities with the intention or reasonable expectation that parties would use those contributions to make independent expenditures or electioneering communications.”
“The White House cannot arbitrarily amend federal contractor requirements without a vote in Congress. This is an end-run around the constitutional process, with the Obama Administration once again attempting to implement administratively what it cannot achieve legislatively,” Wilson declared.
He explained, “In this case, the White House could not get the DISCLOSE Act passed, and so the draft executive order compels federal contractors to publicize donations to third parties that make independent expenditures in election cycles that are otherwise shielded from public scrutiny under federal law.”
Wilson added, “It’s nothing more than a cynical gag order issued by executive decree with no basis in the duly enacted laws of the land. As part of the contract-awarding process, the White House wants to know who is giving to whom and will surely make decisions based on that knowledge.”
The executive order would apply to any donations in excess of $5,000 in a given year. Any contractor that donates in excess of the specified minimum to an organization that engages in express advocacy of a candidate would have their names submitted to http://data.gov.
“These disclosure requirements, as intended and designed, will have a chilling effect on speech, which is why they previously have been found to be unconstitutional,” Wilson said, pointing to Supreme Court precedent protecting anonymous donations made to groups that solely make independent expenditures in NAACP v. Alabama (1958).
Then Justice John Marshall Harlan’s majority opinion stated, applying the First Amendment via the Fourteenth to Alabama, “We hold that the immunity from state scrutiny of membership lists which the Association claims on behalf of its members is here so related to the right of the members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in so doing as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“There is no question that individuals’ speech is stifled by excessive disclosure requirements on independent expenditures. The Obama Administration is once again attempting to shame and intimidate certain corporations, groups, and individuals from saying anything about elections. Free speech is now an executive order away from being abolished,” Wilson said.
Wilson concluded, “It is outrageous that Obama is making political contributions a criterion for getting a contract with the federal government. This is corrupt Chicago-style politics at its worse.”
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.