Sunday, July 15, 2012
A new extreme of British authoritarianism
Under legislation by Tony Blair's Labour party, unsurprisingly. But it is so British that the Cons/Lib government is energetically enforcing it
It beggars belief, but it can now be a criminal offence to use words like Games, Gold and Summer – or even a picture of the London skyline. The reason? An outrageous abuse of our laws to protect the profits of Olympic sponsors...
In passing the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act of 2006, the Blair Government granted the organisers remarkable concessions. Most glaringly, the Act is bespoke legislation that breaks the principle of equality before the law.
For it has given privileges to the Olympics and its sponsors and to them alone. The Games’ organisers can protect the Olympic trademarks, as any other organisation can protect theirs, but they can also control the use of words any business or shop, for example, may or may not associate with the Games. Along with bans on the use of the Olympic name, rings, motto and logo, the organisers have appropriated ordinary language.
At the organisers’ behest, the Government told the courts they may wish to take particular account of anyone using two or more words from what it calls List A: ‘Games’; ‘Two Thousand and Twelve’; ‘2012’; and ‘twenty twelve’.
And the judges must also come down hard on anyone, even a charity, who takes a word from List A and joins it with one or more words from what is List B: ‘Gold’; ‘Silver’; ‘Bronze’; ‘London’; ‘medals’; ‘sponsors’; and ‘summer’. Common nouns are now private property.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games does not stop there. To cover all eventualities, it warns everyone in Britain against creating an ‘unlawful association’ with the Games, which can be done without even mentioning the forbidden words!
Even the London skyline, believe it or not, is out of bounds if it is combined with, for example, an image of a runner carrying a torch.
My beef is not with Britain hosting the Games. It is with the heavy mob which warns that to use banned words or images relating to the Olympics, however obliquely, infringes the exclusive deals of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Adidas, Dow, Samsung, Visa and the Games’ other multi-million-dollar sponsors.
And the punishments will not just be damages in the civil courts. The state has granted the police powers under the criminal law to enter ‘land or premises’ and to ‘remove, destroy, conceal or erase any infringing article’.
Its motives are clear enough. The Olympics want to ban the often witty attempts by businesses to annoy the official sponsors with ‘ambush marketing’. My favourite ambush was at the 1992 Winter Olympics, when American Express plastered ads in the streets of the host city saying, ‘You don’t need a visa to visit the games’ — which Visa had, of course, sponsored. Visa could do nothing about American Express’s cheek then.
Now the authorities will meet similar attempts to spoil the sponsors’ party with punishments in the criminal courts.
The Olympics first introduced tight restrictions on ambush marketing at the 2000 Sydney Games, but it was Britain’s 2006 Act which allowed for heavy-handed policing.
According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the law does not discriminate between multi-nationals, which can harm major sponsors, and small businesses, which harm no one.
To concentrate on the interests of sponsors, however, is to miss the fanaticism of the authoritarian mentality behind the Games. Priests sacrificed oxen and rams to Zeus and Pelops at the ancient Olympics.
Their successors sacrifice the freedom to speak and publish to the gods of corporate capitalism and international sport. They regard encroachments on their holy space, however trifling, as a modern version of sacrilege. Thus trading standards officers in Stoke-on-Trent told a florist to take down its floral Olympic rings. Offending rings of sausages vanished from a butcher’s window in Dorset.
The owner of underwear shop JJ’s Lingerie in Leicester, meanwhile, was ordered to take down her window display of five mannequins wearing sports bras and modelling hula-hoops in the colours of the Olympic rings.
And, to underscore the true lunacy of this draconian edict, consider the case of 81-year-old grandmother Joy Tomkins, who had to withdraw a doll she had donated to a church sale because the jumper she’d knitted for it showed the Olympic rings.
It is not only the rings. The Olympic organising committee warned estate agents in the West Country they must remove Olympic torches made from old ‘for sale’ signs — or face ‘formal legal action’. In April, the University of Derby, fearing legal action, took down three colourful ‘Supporting the London Olympics’ banners it had printed to celebrate the passing of the torch relay.
More heavy-handed still, at a rehearsal for the torch relay in Northumberland in March, Aidan Kirkwood, a recuperating Afghan war hero, was ordered to cover his trainers in white stickers. The reason? His shoes bore the logo of a rival to the official Olympic sponsor Adidas.
And so the relentless interfering goes on.
When the British Sugarcraft Guild asked the authorities if it might run a 2012 cake decorating competition, it thought it was making a modest request. The Guild was not even going to sell the cakes afterwards. No matter. Only official sponsors could decorate cakes with Olympic symbols, the organisers ruled.
Such narrow-minded strictures are not mere protection of a brand, but evidence of a restless fear of losing control that borders on the paranoid.
Earlier this week, Goldman Sachs published a report on the Games which suggested that economic growth will be boosted by 0.3 to 0.4 per cent in the third quarter thanks to spending by tourists visiting London. If they are right, it could spell the end of the double-dip recession. But are they being too optimistic?
For the Olympics won’t let commerce join the party. Even the official suppliers to the Games — the builders, surveyors and electricians who have made the event a reality — cannot mention their connection in promotional material, for fear of trespassing on the sacred space the sponsors have paid the International Olympic Committee so much money to ring-fence.
I said earlier that all businesses and organisations protect their trademarks, and so they do. But who takes it as far as the Olympics? The All England Club does not threaten shopkeepers who put tennis displays in their windows in Wimbledon fortnight. Not even the Cuban Communist Party claims the right to regulate images of Che Guevara.
The constraints will only grow tighter. You will be able to pay with Visa cards at Olympic events but not MasterCards. You will be able to drink Coke but not Pepsi.
If you fancy something stronger, Heineken will be served in the bars on the Olympic site, having bought the Olympic ‘pouring rights’ for an estimated £10 million. However, John Smith’s bitter and Strongbow cider, although brands owned by Heineken, are not included in the deal and so must be sold as plain ‘English ale’ and ‘English cider’.
At Lord’s, the Olympic archery venue, Marston’s Pedigree Bitter — sponsors of the England Cricket Team — is to be unceremoniously ousted. The real ale will be replaced with — you guessed it — Heineken lager for the duration of the Games, and any photos of Marston’s brand ambassador, the cricketer Matthew Hoggard, will have to be covered.
If the restrictions on drinks sound extreme, rules about what you can eat are even worse. Spectators learned this week that McDonald’s has been telling the organisers to ban 800 food retailers at 40 Olympic sites from serving chips with their meals.
The Olympics’ ‘sponsorship obligations’ to McDonald’s — whose French fries are clearly so tasteless they cannot stand competition — meant that only fish and chips were spared the prohibition. (Not even the Olympics dare ban the national dish.) It was only the protests of workers at the Olympic Park that forced McDonald’s to back down on Thursday.
Whether stewards will turn away spectators if they arrive in clothing branded with the logo of a rival to an official sponsor like Adidas is an unanswered question. Certainly, officials will punish an athlete who, deliberately or not, exposes the logo of an unauthorised company (other than, for example, runners being allowed to wear branded racing spikes).
Modern athletes can afford a fine. But what of the Olympic bureaucrats’ warning to spectators that they must not ‘broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet’?
In the age of instant uploads from iPhones to Facebook and Twitter this is an absurd restriction that is likely to boomerang back into the organisers’ faces. The web has made fools of those like the footballer Ryan Giggs who tried to enforce unwarranted controls on information. It is my sincere hope that bloggers and tweeters give the International Olympic Committee the same treatment.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing is rightly angry that the taxes of the small businesses and shopkeepers it represents have paid towards the £9 billion cost of the Games, yet they are not allowed to use the Olympics to seek custom as they could use Wimbledon, the Queen’s Jubilee and every other national event.
But all this raises a more profound point about corporate power in the 21st century.
The Olympic organisers dismiss everyone seeking to exploit the Games — from High Street butchers to rival multi-nationals — as ‘parasites’, an insult they really should not throw around since it is they who have allowed the fat and sugar pushers of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola to purchase a parasitical association with athletics.
In reply to that dismissive put-down, the Institute of Marketing says there must be limits to what money can buy. Sponsors should be able to garner good publicity from an event, and protect their investment, of course.
But a free society should not allow them to occupy every possible avenue of commercial advantage as if they were dictators in a totalitarian state, rather than merchants in a democracy.
Despite protests by the Institute at the highest level, a complete monopoly on the public consciousness is what the sponsors of the 2012 games have bought — with the active support of the British Government.
Therein lies the true scandal of the 2012 Olympics. Ministers should have told the organisers that Britain is a free country, and that they cannot turn officers of the law into McDonald’s, Coke and Visa’s private police force. Instead they have given private interest a free pass.
For a few weeks in August, Britain will be a corporate dystopia, in which agents of a sporting behemoth will ban the normal and, until now, legal marketing of products, and seek to stop file-sharing on social network sites.
Yet Britain’s lawyers have shown no desire to warn the Olympic organisers that they just can’t do that here, and for a depressing reason: Article 10 of the Human Rights Act protects free speech, but in case after case the judiciary has ignored it.
The Games will provide a further illustration of the weakness of our protections against oppressive power.
It will demonstrate again that Britain is a country where freedom of speech is praised in theory but suppressed in public. Only this time the whole world will be watching as we let intolerant men push petty censoriousness to a record-breaking extreme.
In 2005, Britain boasted that it had ‘won’ the Olympics. When the Games begin, it will become clear that the Olympics and its corporate sponsors won Britain.
Parents' fury as teen who raped girl, 4, is allowed to return to his old school with victim's brother
Judge blames "society"
A teenager who raped a four-year-old girl he was babysitting will return to his old school and share its corridors with his victim's brother. The victim's parents are calling for the 15-year-old sex attacker to be moved to another location after he admitted the crime but avoided jail last week after he blamed his hormones.
Her older brother is also due to attend the same school in Cambridgeshire next year and will face bumping into him between lessons.
The devastated family, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also live in the same street as the child's attacker. The victim's mum said today: 'I don't want him at the same school as him but I can't move him way from his friends. I just can't do it. 'Believe me I want everyone to know he's there and to write it across the front of the school but I can't.'
Another mother, said: 'I can't believe that the person in question has been allowed back into the school. 'As parents we were not told about it, which I am furious about.
'I feel my daughter is at risk. I am so angry and shocked by what's going on. Whoever's decision it was to place the attacker back at the school has a lot to answer for.
The culprit, who was a family friend, was asked to look after the little girl for two hours while her parents attended their son’s Christmas play. While they were out the babysitter raped her.
The victim, who has since turned five, later told her father she had been attacked by the teenager who told police he 'lost his mind' because his 'hormones took over.'
Judge Gareth Hawkesworth was slammed for failing to imprison the teen attacker after he admitted the rape in court last week. The judge instead laid the blame at the hands of 'society and the world' for allowing the teenager to become corrupted by online porn.
One parent from the Cambridgeshire school, which cannot be named for legal reasons, said: 'A lot of parents know who he is. 'He should be moved out of the school and taught somewhere else or at home even. “
The little girl’s parents had trusted the quiet but 'normal kid' to watch her for a couple of hours in return for £10 pocket money.
But when they got home the victim’s Dad was getting her ready for bed when she revealed the babysitter had played a game, promising to reward her with chocolates. It then came out he had abused her.
The teenager admitted the offence when he was later confronted by the victim’s family.
'I should want to rip this boy's head off - but I think I let my daughter down,' the guilt-ridden father said last week. 'I blame myself because I left her in a room with him and made the wrong judgment.'
'Our daughter was just four years old and so small for her age, she was still wearing age two to three clothing. He was a lot bigger than her,' her distressed mother added.
No-one at the attacker’s school was prepared to comment on what safety measures would be in place for other pupils. But a spokesman said: 'It would be wholly inappropriate to comment on arrangements for an individual pupil. 'The school’s focus will be on ensuring it continues to meet the educational and well being needs of all pupils.'
Pastor imprisoned for supporting spanking
He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him -- Proverbs 13:24
A Black Earth church pastor who taught his flock to discipline their children, some as young as 2 months old, with wooden spoons and rods was sentenced Friday to two years in prison.
Philip Caminiti, 55, was pastor of Aleitheia Bible Church, which meets in the homes of its members. His lawyer, Yolanda Lehner, asked that he be given probation.
But Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said the sentence, in part, was intended to send a message that child abuse will not be tolerated and to prevent Caminiti from once again teaching members of his church to spank their children with wooden objects to cure them of selfishness.
"What is important to me," Sumi also said, "is there was and continues to this day no expression of remorse or repentance for the consequences of those actions, or what the whole chain of events has led the family and the community through."
Caminiti was found guilty by a jury in March of eight counts of conspiracy to commit child abuse for teaching church members what he said was a literal interpretation of discipline prescribed by the Bible, on children who were between the ages of 2 months and 5 years.
The practice, intended to teach children to behave correctly, was stopped after police intervened in November 2010.
"The children were beaten for of all things doing what children do, and that is crying," Sumi said.
Caminiti will be on extended supervision for six years after his release from prison. Despite objections on constitutional grounds by Caminiti's lawyers, Sumi ordered that he not have any contact with the Aleitheia Bible Church and have no leadership role in any church.
While that barred Caminiti from having contact with members of his extended family who are church members, Sumi did allow him to be with his wife, their children and their grandchildren. She turned down a request to delay his prison sentence until after an appeal of his case.
Assistant District Attorney Shelly Rusch asked that Caminiti be sentenced to five years in prison and 15 years of extended supervision, calling him "the spoke in the wheel of this conspiracy."
She said Caminiti is unlikely to change despite his criminal convictions.
Lehner said she remains incredulous that Caminiti was even charged with a crime. "The whole thing has become much more flammable than I anticipated," she said. "I really do feel like I've stepped into the Spanish Inquisition."
She said that since his arrest he has not promoted corporal punishment, has done everything that was asked of him and does not deserve to be imprisoned.
Atheist files complaint over Lancaster County restaurant's church-bulletin discount
He can complain but I doubt that the owner is under any legal obligation to do differently
For more than a year, Prudhomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen in Columbia, Lancaster County has offered a Sunday special: Diners who bring in a current church bulletin receive 10 percent off the purchase of their dinners.
But, the promotion has rubbed some people the wrong way, including John Wolff of Manheim Twp., Lancaster County, an atheist and member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Wolff, who said he's never been to Prudhomme’s, recently filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission claiming the 22-year-old restaurant should not give discounts based on religion. “I bear them no ill will but they shouldn’t be pushing religion,” Wolff, 80, said.
The restaurant’s co-owner, Sharon Prudhomme, said she’s not about ready to pull the plug on the deal, which was designed, to drum up business.
She said many in the community, including pastors and ministers, are regular customers at Prudhomme’s, known for its Louisiana cuisine such as catfish po boys, alligator platters and crawfish.
“I thought ‘How can I boost our Sunday sales for dinner?’ And, I thought ‘Well you know what we have a lot of folks who go to church who come in throughout the week,’” Prudhomme said.
Shannon Powers, spokeswoman for the Human Relations Commission, confirmed the complaint had been filed. Prudhomme’s has 30 days to submit a written answer to the complaint, she added.
Over the past couple of months, Prudhomme said, she received two letters and a phone call from the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanding the restaurant end the promotion.
The Madison, Wis.-based group works to educate the public on matters relating to promoting the constitutional principle of separation between church and state. It filed suit over the Pennsylvania Legislature's naming 2012 the Year of the Bible.
“I just kind of blew it off. Gosh, I have more things to concentrate on,” Prudhomme said of the letters.
As for the phone call, Prudhomme, who does not attend church due to her work schedule, said she told the group she operates an independent restaurant and suggested non church-goers can pick up bulletins from any church and bring them to the restaurant to cash in on the discount.
“We’re the most unprejudiced of all. I don’t care if you are purple or polka dot. The only requirement we have is men must wear sleeves,” she said.
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.
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