Friday, July 27, 2012
British cab drivers being forced by town halls to spy on customers by recording all conversations in their taxis
Town hall bosses have been forcing taxi drivers to record all conversations in their cabs, it emerged last night.
In an alarming extension of the Big Brother state, CCTV and microphones had been installed in all cabs under the control of Southampton City Council – but yesterday the Information Commissioner ordered it to end the policy, claiming that its official snooping had ‘gone too far’.
Southampton began forcing local taxi drivers to record conversations between themselves and passengers in 2009, claiming it would provide greater safety for both parties.
Embarrassing footage is certain to have been captured of passengers worse for wear or making intimate phone calls.
In other parts of the country, including London, it is recommended that cabs either install CCTV systems without audio recording functions due to privacy concerns, or use a system which triggers audio recording only in specific circumstances for a short period, such as if the driver has pressed a panic button.
Southampton’s officials claim they view the footage or download recordings from cabs only if a complaint is made against a driver or when police request it while investigating a crime, and other town halls had been intending to copy the scheme.
However, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham, responding to a complaint by a passenger, said most people expect privacy in the back of a cab, and that while CCTV can still be used, recording conversations must stop.
He added: ‘By requiring taxi operators to record all conversations and images while the vehicles are in use, Southampton City Council has gone too far.
‘We recognise the council’s desire to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers but this has to be balanced against the degree of privacy that most people would reasonably expect in the back of a taxi.’
Southampton officials said they may challenge the decision. If successful, it would raise the prospect of passengers being snooped upon across the country.
The watchdog also revealed a similar scheme in Oxford would have breached the Data Protection Act, and that the local authority has now suspended the policy.
Nick Pickles, director of the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘Recording every minute of every passenger’s conversations in taxis is an unjustified and intrusive measure.
'What is deeply concerning is that two councils have made huge errors of judgment in pursuing audio recording in taxis and that is an issue the commissioner needs to urgently address.
Southampton City Council began enforcing taxi drivers to record their passengers - claiming it would protect both parties
Southampton City Council began enforcing taxi drivers to record their passengers - claiming it would protect both parties
Mr Graham said that images should be recorded only where it is ‘clearly justifiable’ while audio recordings should be made only ‘on very rare occasions, for example where there are a high number of serious incidents and where recording is triggered due to a specific threat’.
Jacqui Rayment, Southampton City Council’s deputy leader, said: ‘We are disappointed with this decision, as it is about safety for both the drivers and passengers.
‘Data is encrypted, kept very securely and only downloaded if there is a specific complaint against a driver or if the police request access in order to investigate an alleged offence. We are currently taking legal advice on the next steps to take, including appeal.’
More diversity not a fix for disparity
There's not a shred of evidence that discrimination is behind gross statistical disparities
Academic intelligentsia, their media, government and corporate enthusiasts worship at the altar of diversity. Despite budget squeezes, universities have created diversity positions, such as director of diversity and inclusion, manager of diversity recruitment, associate dean for diversity, vice president of diversity and perhaps minister of diversity. This is all part of a quest to get college campuses, corporate offices and government agencies to "look like America."
For them, part of looking like America means race proportionality. For example, if blacks are 13 percent of the population, they should be 13 percent of college students and professors, corporate managers and government employees. Law professors, courts and social scientists have long held that gross statistical disparities are evidence of a pattern and practice of discrimination.
Behind this vision is the stupid notion that but for the fact of discrimination, we'd be distributed proportionately by race across incomes, education, occupations and other outcomes.
There's no evidence from anywhere on earth or any time in human history that shows that but for discrimination, there would be proportional representation and an absence of gross statistical disparities, by race, sex, height or any other human characteristic. Nonetheless, much of our thinking, legislation and public policy is based upon proportionality being the norm. Let's run a few gross disparities by you, and you decide whether they represent what the courts call a pattern and practice of discrimination and, if so, what corrective action you would propose.
Jews are not even 1 percent of the world's population and only 3 percent of the U.S. population, but they are 20 percent of the world's Nobel Prize winners and 39 percent of U.S. Nobel laureates. That's a gross statistical disparity, but are the Nobel committees discriminating against the rest of us? By the way, in the Weimar Republic, Jews were only 1 percent of the German population, but they were 10 percent of the country's doctors and dentists, 17 percent of its lawyers and a large percentage of its scientific community. Jews won 27 percent of Nobel Prizes won by Germans.
Nearly 80 percent of the players in the National Basketball Association in 2011 were black, and 17 percent were white, but if that disparity is disconcerting, Asians were only 1 percent.
Compounding the racial disparity, the highest-paid NBA players are black. That gross disparity works the other way in the National Hockey League, in which less than 3 percent of the players are black. Blacks are 66 percent of NFL and AFL professional football players, but among the 34 percent of other players, there's not a single Japanese player. Though the percentage of black professional baseball players has fallen to 9 percent, there are gross disparities in achievement. Four out of the five highest career home run hitters were black, and of the eight times more than 100 bases were stolen in a season, all were by blacks.
How does one explain these gross sports disparities? Might it be that the owners of these multibillion-dollar professional basketball, football and baseball teams are pro-black and that those of the NHL and major industries are racists?
There are some other disparities that might bother the diversity people. Asians routinely get the highest scores on the math portion of the SAT, whereas blacks get the lowest. Men are about 50 percent of the population, and so are women, but there's the gross injustice that men are struck by lightning six times as often as women.
The population statistics for South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont show that not even 1 percent of their population is black. On the other hand, in states such as Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, blacks are overrepresented.
Finally, there's a disparity that might figure heavily in the upcoming presidential election. Twenty-four out of the 43 U.S. presidents have been 5 feet 11 inches or taller, above our population's average height. That is not an outcome that would be expected if there were not voter discrimination based upon height. Mitt Romney is 6 feet 2 inches tall, and Barack Obama is 6 feet 1 inch.
How Jewish anti-Israel activists are gaining influence among Christian groups
At the Pittsburgh General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) earlier this month, a motion to adopt a boycott of three companies for doing business with Israel was hotly debated and narrowly defeated. At this Christian gathering, a group of "young Jewish activists" provided important "testimony" supporting the motion to isolate and demonize Israel.
These were the "Jew-washers" - very visible actors in many such political attacks on Israel, particularly in Christian frameworks. They are influential beyond their actual numbers, providing a convenient means for cleansing such actions from the stains of double standards, demonization and sometimes anti-Semitism against the Jewish state of Israel, and even Judaism itself.
According to one media report from Pittsburgh, "These activists were mostly affiliated with Jewish Voice for Peace, a small but vocal left-wing advocacy coalition that many describe as a 'fringe' group... Commissioners said their personal testimony helped undercut prevailing rhetoric on the mainstream Jewish perspective."
In fact, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is far from the Jewish mainstream. It is a fringe of a fringe - a small anti-Zionist group, whose finances are unclear, but are almost always found at events where Jew-washing is used, particularly when boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns (BDS) are at stake. Their motivations, like their financing, are unclear and irrelevant - the fact that they provide a useful cover for non-Jews to justify gratuitous Israel-bashing is what counts.
A few days after the PCUSA vote, the Church of England met and voted to support a leading anti-Israel activist group, with the misleading name of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel. EAPPI, a World Council of Churches project, supports BDS and - in line with BDS tactics - consistently demonizes Israel using accusations of "apartheid" and "war crimes." EAPPI calls the security barrier - which has saved countless lives - "evil" while ignoring the wave of suicide terrorism that murdered and maimed thousands of Israeli civilians.
In this case, the Jew-washers included the marginal UK group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, which publicly supports EAPPI and the Church's action.
How does Jew-washing work? The EAPPI example is telling. Prior to the Church's vote, the BBC hosted a debate on July 8 between the motion's sponsor, John Dinnon, and a representative of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush. Dinnon said, "Jonathan is just one individual as well as is the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chief Rabbi. But then you have, there are many Jews who are contacting us and saying that they think [EAPPI] is a good organization. In fact it was founded by Jews and Christians in Geneva, about five Jews were involved in setting it up."
It is in this manner that Jew-washers provide cover for Israel-bashers. Dinnon's undefined "many Jews" and his "five Jews" that he claims helped establish EAPPI somehow outweigh the millions of Jews who would find EAPPI and its activities both immoral and dangerous. Jew-washers help Dinnon make the absurd claim that the Board of Deputies, with its 183 constituent member organizations, are but a few unrepresentative "individuals."
In many cases, Jew-washing is also used to whitewash the blatant theological anti-Semitism that accompanies the church-based BDS attacks on Israel. One example is Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian group that is very influential in those mainline churches active in the BDS wars. Its theology includes supercessionism - a reading of the New Testament that considers the Church to have superseded the Jewish people in God's promises - and deicide - the charge that "the Jews" killed Jesus - that served as the basis for centuries of anti-Jewish persecution.
Giving Sabeel a thorough Jew-wash is JVP's Rabbinical Council, which in its "Statement of Support for the Sabeel Institute" acknowledges "the more radical incarnations (sic) of some of [Sabeel's] theological images."
Yet, Sabeel's frequent denigration of Judaism as "tribal" and "primitive" and comparisons of Palestinians to Jesus on the cross put there by the Israeli government's "crucifixion machine," does not seem to affect JVP's rabbis, who assert that it is "a mistake to dismiss Palestinian Christian theology wholesale."
While the Presbyterians' two-vote defeat of the BDS motion did not give credence to the fringe Jew-washers, many church delegates apparently did. As one participant noted, "The young Jewish voices were the voices that stuck with me..... I understood that they represented a minority. But sometimes small minorities tell us uncomfortable truths."
Perhaps, but small minorities also tell gross untruths. There is nothing heroic or brave about Jews giving a "kosher hechsher" to movements and ideologies such as BDS that seek to undermine the right of the Jewish people to sovereign equality. Let us call this activity by its rightful name: Jew-washing, and give priority to countering strategically and consistently its deceitful methods and destructive intent.
Public discourse, without the 'hard zinger'
by Jeff Jacoby
WILLIAM RASPBERRY, who died of cancer last week at age 76, was a Washington Post columnist for 40 years, 35 of them on the op-ed page. It was a long a career, over the course of which, as he wrote in one of his final columns, he had lost his early appetite for "delivering the hard zinger" and come to value persuasion over polemic.
"I found myself trying to write," he said, "in such a way that people who didn't agree with me might at least hear me." As public discourse grew increasingly shrill, Raspberry worked to understand the views of those he disagreed with.
Fairness didn't mean humorlessness. Some of Raspberry's best -- and funniest -- columns were those recounting his arguments with an imaginary cabdriver, through whom he voiced plausible objections to his own positions.
Often these dealt with touchy subjects. A 2000 column headlined "Separate but Equalizing" opens with the cabby needling his famous columnist passenger -- both of them black -- about how civil rights liberals who once fought for color-blind integration now advocated loudly for color-conscious "diversity." Raspberry tells him that while black institutions in generations past were the product of segregation -- "we started them because white people wouldn't let us in theirs" -- black organizations today, such as the National Association of Black Journalists, were vehicles of minority empowerment.
"Let me see if I get this," Raspberry's cabby says. "If white people start white organizations, that's segregation. If minorities start minority organizations, that's diversity. That it?" Back and forth they tangle, and by the column's end Raspberry has conveyed his stand on a divisive racial issue, while simultaneously making it clear that people of goodwill could see the issue very differently.
One of the lessons a life of opinion-writing had imparted to him, Raspberry observed in 2006, was that "it is entirely possible for you to disagree with me without being, on that account, either a scoundrel or a fool."
But that's a lesson Americans find it harder than ever to grasp. What Raspberry called "the open warfare that now passes as political debate" has grown ubiquitous. Every development must be given a politicized, partisan spin, preferably with an assumption of the other side's bad faith. News cannot break without being instantly deployed as a weapon in the culture war. Forest fires break out, and partisans start sniping over climate change. An oil spill befouls the Gulf Coast, and the talking heads swiftly hurl recriminations about government regulation.
Nothing and no one is immune from exploitation. On Monday evening came word of the death of astronaut/physicist Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. Within an hour, Daily Kos writer Dante Atkins, a Los Angeles Democratic Party Central Committee member, had taken to Twitter to attack US House Speaker John Boehner and the National Organization for Marriage. "Just so everyone knows," Atkins wrote, they "don't think Sally Ride deserved to marry the person she loved." Did she deserve to have news of her passing instantly recycled into political ammunition?
No sooner had the death of NASA astronaut Sally Ride been reported than her memory was being exploited for political ammunition.
The most recent obvious illustration of the rush to politicize tragedy was, of course, the political grandstanding that followed the carnage in Aurora, Colo. Particularly egregious was ABC newsman Brian Ross's slanderous speculation on "Good Morning America" -- on the basis of nothing more than a common name on a website -- that the theater massacre might be the work of a Colorado Tea Party member. Ross's recklessness was inexcusable (and ABC later apologized). But I found it nearly as dismaying that when I heard from five conservative friends about the atrocity in Aurora, the very first words each spoke to me were not an expression of horror or grief, but some version of: "Did you hear what Brian Ross said? The mainstream media is despicable!"
Politics is important. Without the peaceful clash of political ideas in the public realm, our democratic liberties couldn't be sustained. Like anyone who makes a living commenting on public affairs, I understand that our political beliefs and our moral self-image are entwined, often quite emotionally.
But there are limits, or should be. "Sometimes There's Nothing Wrong with Politicizing a Tragedy," Time magazine's Michael Grunwald wrote the other day. But when human sorrow becomes just another reason to impugn the politics of those we disagree with, how are we a better or healthier society? There is more to public dialogue than "delivering the hard zinger." Bill Raspberry understood that. If only more of us did.
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. 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.