Monday, June 13, 2011
British photo phobia still going strong
Mother handcuffed, arrested and locked in a police cell... for filming council meeting on her mobile phone
A mother of four arrested and handcuffed after filming a council meeting on her mobile phone may take action against police for their 'heavy handed' approach.
Jacqui Thompson, 49, of Llanwrda, near Carmarthen, West Wales who is campaigning to keep a day centre open, was put in a cell and claimed she was only allowed to leave the police station after giving a written undertaking not to repeat her conduct.
Mrs Thompson said yesterday that at the police station she was told to remove her shoes - and even her wedding ring. 'I can’t think why,” she said, “I had to put water on my finger to prise it off.'
Mrs Thompson, who runs the Carmarthenshire Planning Problems blog, had been attending a meeting of the county council at Carmarthen in west Wales which was discussing the day centre. The council chairman asked Mrs Thompson to leave when she began filming, and when she refused four police officers - two men and two women - arrived within minutes, in two cars.
'It was a complete over reaction, I wasn’t interfering with the meeting. Two officers grabbed me, took me outside the door of the public gallery and handcuffed me. I was searched, my mobile phone taken, then I was driven 30 miles to the police station at Llanelli.
'I remained in handcuffs then I was processed and put in a cell for two hours. I was worried about meeting my 14-year-old daughter from school but luckily someone had contacted my husband, who was able to make arrangements,” she recalled.
News has quickly spread on Twitter and internet blogs, with supporters voicing anger at her treatment.
Mrs Thompson, who is a community councillor at Llanwrda, said: “It’s not illegal to film meetings and I wasn't making any noise. “If someone displayed enough interest in our community council meetings to want to come and film, I would really welcome it. “It would open up what we talk about to the public. But the county council doesn’t seem to be interested. “They are quite happy for people not to know what goes on at all.”
She added: “I’ve consulted my solicitor who has written to Dyfed Powys police to seek an explanation. I may take action because what happened was an affront and quite unnecessary in a free country. 'I only signed the undertaking because I was under duress and I’m wondering whether this was legal. They said that otherwise I would have to be kept in overnight to await a court.'
Her husband Kerry, 47, a forestry contractor, remarked: “I’m appalled by what happened to my wife, and so is everyone locally. 'People have been saying that if you report a burglary the police come next day yet they can send four officers within minutes just because my wife is filming councillors on her mobile phone.'
A Dyfed Powys police spokesman said: 'At approximately 10.20am on June 8 officers were asked to attend at County Hall, Carmarthen, to deal with an incident involving a woman in the public gallery.
'On arrival officers spoke to a 49-year-old woman but she refused to co-operate and she was then arrested to prevent a further breach of the peace. She was later released with no further action.'
The Welsh Assembly have said it is up to individual councils in Wales to decide for themselves whether to allow live blogging, tweeting or filming at meetings.
David Mamet launches tirade against 'antisemitism' of British writers
Chicago-born Jewish playwright says books, plays and essays by contemporary British authors are full of anti-Jewish 'filth'
Leading US playwright David Mamet has launched an attack on the British literary establishment over what he claims are inherently antisemitic attitudes. Many contemporary British authors who write in the liberal tradition, Mamet said, produce plays, books and essays that are full of anti-Jewish "filth".
Speaking to the Financial Times, the Chicago-born writer expanded on the reasons behind a political conversion that was first announced in a piece for the New York journal Village Voice, headlined "Why I am no longer a Brain-Dead Liberal", in 2008.
Asked whether he felt Europe was more sceptical about Israel than the US, the writer said: "There is a profound and ineradicable taint of antisemitisim in the British."
Although Mamet admits to owing a great educational debt to English literature, he accuses classic novelists such as Anthony Trollope and George Eliot of using "stock Jew" characterisations. "And the authors of today," Mamet adds, "I'm not going to mention names because of your horrendous libel laws, but there are famous dramatists and novelists over there whose works are full of antisemitic filth."
The creator of Glengarry Glenn Ross and American Buffalo has just published a non-fiction account of his journey from the political left towards rightwing views. His new book, The Secret Knowledge, is a polemic that targets fundamental tenets of leftwing thinking, from the value of a liberal arts-based education to the importance of environmentalism.
"My revelation came upon reading Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom," Mamet says in the book. "He wrote that there are no solutions; there are only trade-offs – money spent on more crossing guards cannot be spent on books. Both are necessary, a choice must be made, and that this is the tragic view of life."
Mamet said that for him the "paradigmatic Brit as far as the Middle East goes" is TE Lawrence, author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom and remembered for his portrayal in the film Lawrence of Arabia. "Even before the oil was there, you loved the desert," Mamet told the FT. "But there is a Jewish state there ratified by the United Nations and you want to give it away to some people whose claim is rather dubious."
Mamet's new book praises Sarah Palin's political approach and calls the decision to build an Islamic centre in the vicinity of Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Centre, "a cultural obscenity".
African-origin Leftist thinks she should be allowed to use racial abuse against an Indian woman in Britain
African resentment of Indians seems rather common -- perhaps because the economic success of Indians shows that black failure is not the result of skin colour
The row happened on February 24, 2009, during a Bristol City Council budget debate. Top of the agenda was the city’s Legacy Commission that had been granted £750,000 of taxpayers’ money to fund ethnic minority projects and was created in part to atone for Bristol’s historic role in the slave trade. Shirley, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, believed passionately in the initiative.
During the debate, Mrs Jethwa, who moved to Britain from India 24 years ago and whose husband Nick is of Ugandan origin, stood up to say she did not agree with spending public money ‘righting the wrongs’ of past centuries.
‘When Jay spoke against it, I was upset,’ says Shirley. ‘She said that she didn’t receive any special help when she moved here, and didn’t need it, but just got on with things. I was shocked. I thought that as an immigrant herself she would have had more empathy with other ethnic minorities and more understanding of the issues that they’re facing.
‘When I stood up after her, I said, “In our culture we have a word for you, and I am sure many in this city would understand ‘coconut’.” I hadn’t planned to say it – it just came out in the heat of the moment. Council meetings are often very heated, with insults flying around.
‘Of course I shouldn’t have used that word, but to me it meant that she was denying her cultural roots, rather than anything racial. It wasn’t about the colour of her skin, or about her behaving in a white way.’
Despite Shirley’s protestations, when used as a derogatory term, the word coconut does have racial implications and it is little surprise Mrs Jethwa was offended. However, she did not actually hear the insult at the time because of the din in the chamber – she watched the incident later on the council’s webcam footage.
Two days on, Shirley received a call informing her that a formal complaint had been made against her. She responded by sending Mrs Jethwa an email apologising unreservedly for her comment, but did not get a reply. Following an official complaint from the Conservative Party, Shirley was told there would be an internal council investigation.
‘I was very upset when I realised Jay was going ahead with the formal complaint,’ she says. ‘What saddened me most of all was that I’d been delighted when she was elected to the council four years after me, because another woman from an ethnic minority was joining me. Now the only two female ethnic minority councillors were having this very public row. It wasn’t what I’d envisaged at all.’
The findings of the internal investigation were published four months later. Senior council solicitor Shahzia Daya wrote: ‘My conclusion is that although the term “coconut” undeniably has a racial element to it, its use in this particular context does not constitute racial abuse.’
She went on to say it was ‘offensive and insulting’ and that Shirley should be suspended for a month, but no further action should be taken. That August a local government tribunal overturned her suspension.
‘I breathed a sigh of relief and thought the incident was over,’ says Shirley. ‘It had been very stressful, but I thought I could put it behind me. When I received a call that November from the police saying I was being investigated, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t understand it at all. There was no need to take it that far when I’d already apologised.’
A complaint had been made by a member of the public, Christopher Windows – a Conservative activist who is now a Bristol councillor. Shirley was interviewed under caution by the Avon and Somerset Police hate crimes unit on December 7, 2009.
Under the Public Order Act 1986 – established to prevent the incitement of racial hatred, whether by Islamic fanatics preaching hate or marches by the far Right – she was charged with racially aggravated harassment.
Last July, after being found guilty, she was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £620 costs. ‘I was devastated by the verdict but I wasn’t surprised,’ she says. ‘I had the feeling the judge wanted to make an example of me.
‘Appearing in court was the most horrible thing that’s ever happened to me. Before that, I’d kept telling myself that surely it would be dropped, but in court it hit me that it was real – I was really being accused of being a racist. When the verdict came, it was official. The feelings of sadness and shame and humiliation overwhelmed me.
‘I’ve never been in any kind of trouble before and for someone who’s spent decades working to make a difference to ethnic minorities it’s especially hurtful. I used to spend all day every day going to people’s houses, listening to their problems and trying to help. It makes me feel like it was all for nothing.
‘The saddest thing is that I’ve met people who have experienced racial violence and verbal abuse, and I feel my punishment diminishes what they’ve been through.’
Shirley believes her experience illustrates that a dangerous emphasis has been placed on political correctness in modern Britain.
‘I understand that the law is there to protect people from prejudice but I feel we’ve reached a point where people are terrified to say anything at all if it involves another culture or race for fear it is misinterpreted. If people don’t feel they can speak out, it is dangerous.
‘I think my punishment was so extreme because the case was public, so the police and the Crown Prosecution Service felt they had to respond in a way that proved they were taking it seriously. But the wrong people are being prosecuted just to make a point. ‘I also worry that what happened to me will set a legal precedent that will pave the way for more of these sort of cases.’
The incident also led to Shirley being subjected to a barrage of racist abuse. ‘I received letters calling me a wog and the n-word and I had to remove my website from the internet as people posted vile comments on it, one of which said I was a monkey,’ she says.
‘My solicitor gave all the material to the police but nothing was done about it.’
Shirley credits her daughter, who is 27, and two sons, aged 22 and 18, with keeping her going, along with support from friends and strangers. ‘I received a lot of messages from people saying how silly the case was, which helped when I was at my lowest,’ she says.
She plans to continue with her community work as a church minister but she is despondent that her career as a councillor, her proudest achievement, is at an end, as she decided not to stand in last month’s elections.
‘I was proud to be a member of the council because I wanted to be a role model to young people from minority backgrounds,’ she says. ‘Now, my biggest fear is that, in spite of everything I’ve done, the only thing I’ll be remembered for is the coconut comment. I just hope people forgive me and allow me to move on.’
The CPS said: ‘In this case, we determined that a prosecution was in the public interest because it alleged an offence where the suspect demonstrated hostility towards the victim based on discrimination against the victim’s ethnic origin.’
Australia's Green/Left is politically correct but is losing the ordinary voter
James A. Falk comments on the recent electoral wipeout of the Labor party in the Australian State of NSW, Australia's most populous State. The polls are suggesting a similar wipeout Federally in due course. (Note that the major party of the Right in Australia is called the Liberal party)
AT the recent NSW election every pundit was surprised by the Liberal performance in the once safe left seat of Balmain. None of us working on the campaign were the least bit surprised.
On the ground it was clear the Green-Left had embraced policies that isolated them from the interests of the broader community. They tried to minimise that disconnection by hiding behind the word progressive, as if it were a magic label that could make up for incompetence and for regressive policies divorced from ordinary people. We can see exactly the same failures and propagandising at the federal level.
Except now Labor figures such as Senator John Faulkner and Rodney Cavalier claim that the ALP needs to build policy that its members support, and to engage more closely with left-wing intelligentsia. Which is the exact opposite of the lessons of the NSW election.
During the Balmain campaign Green and ALP stump speeches were long on labour history and alarmist, intelligentsia-driven claims. There were even references to Gough Whitlam and H. V. Evatt, relevant a mere 40 or 60 years ago.
But their grand rhetoric of values and history simply wasn't matched by the quality of their contemporary policy, management and delivery.
And it cannot be, because the policies both the Greens and Labor membership consider central cannot deliver what ordinary people need.
That's why long-term Labor voters thanked me for talking about how to get our unskilled workers into paid employment, and about how to maintain the possibility of social welfare in the face of fiscal limits. And why NGOs providing disability and family services were vehement in their support for getting the public sector out of the way.
All these constituents were scathing about the Green-Left's policy inertia and focus on old battles and irrelevant questions. Rather than providing answers to these long-term problems, the Greens and the ALP have delivered little in NSW except managerial incompetence and gestures pandering to the faddish views of exactly that class Faulkner wants to empower.
This has continued in the failures of the Gillard government, the political tin ear of the Greens and the ludicrous preaching of the Cate Blanchett enviro-ad. The progressive mindset is sliding further and further from the practical concerns of ordinary voters.
Incompetence hits at the heart of progressive claims. Contrary to Green-Left spin, government waste is a social equity issue. Every government dollar wasted is a dollar we can't spend on early intervention in learning disabilities, or respite care, or social housing.
Progressives consistently claim that addressing this waste somehow hurts the poor. But it is the waste itself that is most damaging to those who rely on government, because it reduces what government can do to make a real difference.
And there is nothing compassionate about failing to deliver the housing, health services or child protection that people need, and then failing to take the hard decisions to fix things.
This progressive resistance to innovation in government is regressive in the extreme. It privileges old-school means over the end of delivering opportunity for all.
Ironically, it is a blind conservatism that strangles our capacity to deliver services to the people who need them. Above all else, ordinary voters are directly hurt by grand progressive gestures designed to meet the momentary fads of upper-middle income earners. Too often the progressive gesture is paid for by the poorest of our society to the benefit of some of the richest.
That is especially true of Green subsidies and regulations, most visible in our rising electricity prices. As former Labor senator John Black found, inner-city Greens voters are by far the highest income earners of any of the major parties.
Fairfax columnist Elizabeth Farrelly writes that policy must diminish our standard of living and if it doesn't hurt, it won't work.
If it's in the Green cause, it is clear that the financially comfortable are quite happy pulling up the ladder of opportunity behind them. According to Faulkner, Bob Carr, Steve Bracks, and others, ALP troubles arise from any of poor spin, the NSW power sale, internal conflict, the influence of machine men, or inadequate internal democracy.
Conspicuous by its absence is the admission that their core agenda already responds to the ideological interests of a progressive class.
That class is contemptuous of suburban values and aspiration, embraces green conventional wisdom about the evils of industry and capitalism, and is willing to sacrifice the opportunities of the less-connected to the false certainties of 1950s class conflict. These failings are why the Liberals gained all of the swing away from Labor in one of the safest Green-Left seats in the country, and why we won the Balmain primary vote at the last state election for the first time in history, and why the Greens gained virtually nothing.
Until progressives realise that too many voters view their policy mix as pandering to old prejudices and to a wealthy minority, all the internal reform and celebrity advertisements in the world will make no difference to their long-term decline.
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.