Monday, July 18, 2011
British Town hall snoopers get personal in intrusive 'diversity' questionnaires
Millions are being bombarded by town halls with intrusive questions about their private lives. People are being routinely grilled about their sex lives, disabilities, religion, ethnicity and employment. Questionnaires are often sent out unsolicited after someone contacts the council with a complaint or for advice.
Some authorities are spending tens of thousands of pounds a year on printing and postage at a time when they are cutting frontline services.
The practice fuels the controversial multi-million pound equality and diversity industry in local government, where hundreds of officials are employed on generous salaries and gold-plated pension schemes.
A snapshot survey of councils by the Daily Mail found that around 85 per cent of those that responded send out the forms, despite the fact they replicate much of the information gathered in this year’s census.
Questions include whether householders are bisexual, gay, lesbian or straight, whether they have a long-term illness or disability and how this affects them, and their ethnicity. Other sections gather information on employment status and age.
They are despatched by councils under a requirement to ‘promote and ensure’ diversity under the Equality Act 2010, which was brought in by the last Labour government and consolidated numerous legislation including the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
Yet there is considerable confusion over whether the gathering of such information is a legal requirement. Some councils believe it is, yet others said they did not send out the forms.
The Mail contacted 30 local authorities and had responses from 14. Of these, 12 said they used the forms to gather information on residents, including Labour-run Luton borough council, Tory-led Southend council and Tower Hamlets council in London, which has an independent elected mayor.
If the proportion were applied across England and Wales, it would mean 359 of the 419 local authorities request information from residents.
John O’Connell of the TaxPayers’ Alliance accused council chiefs of wasting funds on the ‘irrelevant’ and ‘bizarre’ schemes. ‘Spending reductions have to be made and this is exactly the sort of thing that can be cut with no effect on services,’ he said. ‘Central government must remove ridiculous statutory burdens from councils but in the meantime local authorities should ensure that they aren’t doing more than is absolutely necessary to comply with barmy legislation.’
A spokesman for the Home Office, which is responsible for the Equality Act 2010, said: ‘There is nothing in the legislation that states these forms have to be sent out.’
Grandmother Richenda Legge was so outraged when North Norfolk District Council sent her an equality monitoring form after she rang to complain about her bin collections that she shredded it. ‘I really saw red when I read the question about my sexual orientation.
There was a choice including heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual,’ said Mrs Legge, 56, who lives with her husband Bill, a retired engineer, in Beeston Regis.
‘As it happens, I am happily married to Mr Legge. But I can’t see what any of this has to do with the fact that my rubbish wasn’t taken away. At a time when the council is making cuts it seems an absolute waste of money to send out things like this. There was even a reply-paid envelope.’
Helen Eales, leader of the Tory-run council, admitted the forms were ‘intrusive’ and served ‘no practical use whatsoever’. She said: ‘The rules state we have to demonstrate that we are being fair to everyone. But I fail to see how knowing that a transsexual called us about their wheelie bin would help us in any way.’
Wanting a traditional Christian church service is "bullying"?
A vicar was forced out of his rural parish when his ‘bullying’ congregation rebelled against his attempts to modernise the traditional Christmas service. The Reverend Jonathan Cruickshank fell out of favour with church wardens after introducing modern hymns to the service and welcoming those who didn’t attend the church all year round, a friend said.
A whispering campaign then apparently began behind his back, with villagers claiming he had abandoned tradition in favour of ‘happy-clappy’ informal services.
He and his wife Pauline left the parish in May after claiming they were ‘not made to feel welcome’ during his two-year tenure at the three churches in Holbeton, Noss Mayo and Newton Ferrers near Plymouth, Devon.
The Bishop of Exeter, Dr Michael Langrish, wrote a letter to the three congregations, blaming them for creating a ‘culture of bullying’ that drove Mr Cruickshank away. He wrote that this would ‘never be acceptable within the Christian church’ and blamed people working to ‘different agendas’ for the problems.
A friend of the vicar, who did not want to be named, said: ‘The wardens call the shots and Jonathan simply fell out of favour with them. ‘These people are traditional and don’t like change. At the end of the day, they run the church.
‘He made the Christmas service more informal by introducing modern hymns and welcoming people who don’t come to church all year round. ‘The wardens didn’t like this and a whispering campaign started behind his back. ‘People started to get the idea in their heads that the old order of service was being ditched in favour for a more “happy clappy” service, but it wasn’t like that.
‘The bishop had asked Jonathan to try to modernise the church and he was just following orders while trying to be sympathetic to the traditional values of the church.’
Bishop Langrish’s letter was recently read out to the stunned congregations in Holy Cross, St Peter’s and All Saints churches.
It said: ‘It’s clear there are a number of issues which need to be addressed if the church in this area is to move on and fulfil its purpose of furthering God’s mission. ‘It is very difficult for a parish priest to be an effective minister when different places and people are working to different agendas.’
The bishop said he was looking for a new priest who had the skills and experience to ‘address these issues’. A member of the congregation said hearing the letter was ‘quite a shock initially because it was a letter really condemning the parishes and the way they had obviously treated the outgoing vicar’.
The village, which has a population of around 1,100 and house prices averaging £400,000, tends to be home to retired executives and businessmen.
Mr Cruickshank, a former Royal Navy chaplain, is now the vicar of St Peter’s Church in St Peter-in-Thanet, Broadstairs, Kent. He described his vocation in life as ‘reaching out with tender, loving care to welcome all to the Christian faith and to teach and grow that faith for all ages’.
If the Labor Party leader is such a hero, why won't he tackle the REAL threat to our way of life - the BBC?
By Melanie Phillips
By common consent among political commentators, Ed Miliband’s lamentable leadership of the Labour Party has been miraculously transformed by the News of the World scandal.
With the Prime Minister seemingly paralysed by his unwise friendships with now-compromised News International executives, the Labour leader has been making the political running.
He has achieved this through the simple trick of demanding what had already become inevitable, such as the resignation of Rebekah Brooks or the termination of Rupert Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB. The result is that the formerly reviled Miliband has gone from zero to hero.
Apparently intoxicated by the novel experience of not being scorned, he has now ratcheted up his demands by calling for News International to be broken up.
But far from reinforcing his newly-discovered statesman credentials, this merely exposes his agenda as callow and partisan. For sure, the News of the World did things that were wrong; and when the full extent of this behaviour is established, those responsible should be held to account, however high up the chain of command they happened to be.
But why should it follow that News International should therefore be broken up? After all, it is possible to imagine that everyone involved in this affair — including the entire Murdoch clan — might be replaced by people with totally clean hands to run the company.
The reason, says Miliband, is that Murdoch has ‘too much power over British public life’. But this is transparently disingenuous. For there is a media oligarchy which exercises far more power in Britain than News International. And that is the BBC.
The BBC’s monopoly over the media is indeed a running scandal. After all, just imagine if News International had been given the legal power to levy a tax on everyone who bought a newspaper in order to fund the Murdoch empire.
People wouldn’t stand it for a moment. It would be considered an utter abuse of democracy. Yet that is precisely the privileged position the BBC occupies.
Ah, say its defenders, but the BBC is a public service broadcaster, and therefore of course merits a public subsidy as a great British institution which must be preserved at all costs.
Well, that argument just won’t wash any more. For the BBC wraps itself in the heroic mantle of a public service remit which it has systematically betrayed.
That remit was to educate and elevate public taste, as well as to entertain. But for years now, the BBC has instead been playing to the lowest common denominator, competing in the ratings market as ruthlessly as any commercial broadcaster.
In addition, it has also used its public subsidy to gain a wildly unfair competitive edge, with an enormous market share in television, radio and on the internet which has crowded out smaller competitors. Ofcom figures show that its share of TV news is more than ten times bigger than Sky’s and that BBC websites have ten times the market share.
Indeed, since it is a direct competitor of BSkyB, the disproportion and relish with which the BBC has been reporting the News of the World scandal — allowing it on some current affairs shows to drive out all other news — leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. Moreover, the BBC’s role in all this is even more questionable when you factor in the real reason for Miliband’s double standard.
For his motives surely have precious little to do with any criminal behaviour or monopoly power. No, the real reason is that for the past three decades the Left has been desperate to bring Murdoch down. For such people, he is a hate figure of diabolical proportions. The venom and hysteria he inspires are truly irrational. He ignites passions far more incendiary than are generated by any tyrant or war criminal. Indeed, to them the Left turns a blind eye, while treating Murdoch as if he dismembers babies before breakfast.
The reason is that he acts as a kind of lightning rod for Left-wingers — the object of a massive displacement neurosis arising from all their rage and disappointment, not least with themselves.
For example, both Left-wing newspapers and the BBC blame Murdoch for the decline of standards in the media, from high seriousness to celebrity culture and tacky trivia.
But at the BBC, that was the result of its own misguided response to the explosion of digital channels and the arrival of a cornucopia of broadcasting choice. And even high-minded newspapers such as the Guardian decided more than two decades ago to fill their pages with trivia because they judged that the general public was becoming dumber and shallower.
No, Murdoch’s real crime in the eyes of the Left-wing intelligentsia is simply that he has stood in the way of their total capture of the culture.
The dominance of Left-wing ideas has been such that even among so-called conservatives, many of them have become accepted as mainstream. And one of the most powerful architects of that shift has been the BBC.
Even its own executives have sometimes been forced to admit that, far from the objectivity required by its public service remit, the BBC generally subscribes to a Left-wing ‘group-think’ which dictates the agenda both in its journalism and entertainment programmes.
With some honourable exceptions, whether in its drama, comedy, news reporting or current affairs, the BBC’s output rests upon certain articles of faith.
For example, traditional Christians are all fundamentalist bigots; the science of man-made global warming is settled; opponents of mass immigration are racist; Eurosceptics are swivel-eyed fanatics; and all who oppose these opinions and more are Right-wing extremists. And then to add insult to injury, the BBC forces people to pay for the privilege of being told day in, day out that their own views are stupid or prejudiced.
What’s more, such is the enormous power and influence of the BBC through its reputation for trustworthiness and fairness that it has arguably moved the very centre of political gravity in Britain to the Left.
By contrast, Murdoch’s popular papers have tended mainly to follow public opinion once voters’ minds are made up. So they respond to and then amplify what people already think. But for the Left that is anathema, because nothing can be allowed to disrupt the great project to tell people what to think and shut down all opinion to the contrary.
Murdoch’s empire has acted as at least a partial antidote to that agenda by defending America, Israel and the interests of the West. Which is why he provokes near-apoplexy on the Left. And which is why they are all slavering at the prospect of bringing down a media organisation which provided an element of competition to the true monopoly of the BBC and the Left-wing intelligentsia.
The great irony, of course, is that for all those years while this scandal was taking place, the Labour Party fawned over Murdoch and his lieutenants. While he was riding high, none of them saw fit to challenge the power they now purport to find so unacceptable.
Only now Murdoch is lying bleeding on the ropes does Miliband flex his puny muscles. And they call that leadership.
The Murdoch empire may need to be brought sternly to book over the hacking scandal. But the media monopoly that really has undermined and demoralised British society and deserves to be broken up is the BBC. And that is one monopoly over British public life which Ed Miliband unsurprisingly finds to be no abuse of power at all.
Not Cruel and Unusual, but Costly, Punishment
Democratic California state Sen. Loni Hancock is pushing legislation to end California's death penalty. "Capital punishment is an expensive failure and an example of the dysfunction of our prisons," she explained in a statement. "California's death row is the largest and most costly in the United States. It is not helping to protect our state; it is helping to bankrupt us."
You have to hand this to death penalty opponents: For decades, capital punishment opponents have tried to thwart California's 1978 death penalty law with frivolous appeals that clog courts, delay punishment and burn through taxpayers' dollars. They now have been so successful that they can argue that California's death penalty doesn't work and costs too much.
Hancock is right about the dysfunction. Since 1978, California has executed 13 inmates, even though juries have sent close to 800 inmates to death row. California's lethal-injection protocol has been on hold since February 2006, when U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel stayed the execution of convicted rapist/murderer Michael Morales, lest Morales suffer any pain.
Death row inmates are likelier to kill themselves than they are to be executed. A new report published in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review notes that 78 inmates died on death row from natural causes or violence.
The report also lays out the costs of the death penalty. If you take the $4 billion it estimates that state and federal taxpayers have paid since 1978 to administer California's death penalty and then divide that number by 13, you find that each execution cost $308 million on average. The report estimates that the death penalty cost Californians $184 million in 2009.
In response to the report, Hancock put together SB 490, which would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole. Hancock spokesman Larry Levin explained that the death penalty has been a "third rail" of California politics, but with the report's new numbers on the law's price tag, "we saw a moment."
One of the report's co-authors, Loyola law professor Paula M. Mitchell, told the Los Angeles Times she wants to abolish the death penalty. The other, Judge Arthur L. Alarcon, was on the three-judge panel that denied the appeal of Robert Alton Harris, who killed two 16-year-old boys before his 1992 execution.
On the one hand, the report does a solid job quantifying how much taxpayers must pay for the death penalty. Mitchell and Alarcon even found numbers that estimate defense costs for inmate appeals -- an average of $635,000 on federal appeals alone.
On the other hand, the authors gloss over the role of frivolous appeals and bonehead rulings by federal judges. The report states that federal courts granted new trials or penalty hearings in roughly 70 of 100 now-disposed cases. That means federal judges have overturned juries in cases reviewed by state courts in 7 in 10 cases.
Kent Scheidegger of the tough-on-crime Criminal Justice Legal Foundation puts the onus on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where too many judges are "simply looking for a reason to reverse."
When I asked Hancock whether the 9th Circuit's 70 percent reversal rate bothers her, she answered, "No, not if they're following the law." And: "Thank God we have a constitution. We're not one of those countries where they cut off hands and execute people without due process."
Don Heller wrote California's 1978 death penalty ballot measure. He now opposes capital punishment. A former prosecutor, he told me that he "evolved" in private practice after dealing more closely with defendants and seeing too many "pretty inept" lawyers representing capital cases. He concluded, "We're just spending way too much money for a system that has flaws in it."
In a letter to Hancock, Scheidegger hit the report for leaving out the savings of the "plea bargain effect," i.e., when murderers plead guilty -- forfeiting the chance they might be found not guilty at trial -- in order to avoid capital punishment. "What would happen to those cases if there were no death penalty?"
And what happens when California's death row lawyers discover they've got time on their hands and a receptive audience in the 9th Circuit? Next argument: Life without parole is too expensive.
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.