Thursday, September 27, 2012
Obnoxious plans for secret justice coming unglued: British Liberals unlikely to back Bill after party vote
That Britain's Conservatives are supporting this shows how spineless and unprincipled they have become
Nick Clegg suffered a humiliating setback yesterday when his party conference voted to scrap controversial plans for a major extension of ‘secret justice’ courts. Delegates in Brighton voted overwhelmingly for the widely criticised Justice and Security Bill to be abandoned.
The move means Lib Dem peers are almost certain to refuse to back the legislation in the House of Lords.
The Daily Mail has led criticism of the Government’s plans to allow so-called ‘closed material procedures’, in which cases are conducted entirely in private, in any civil hearing.
Defendants or claimants will not be allowed to be present, know or challenge the case against them and must be represented by a security-cleared special advocate, rather than their own lawyer.
Currently, such procedures are used in only a tiny number of immigration and deportation hearings, but the Government wants to extend them across the civil courts.
Mr Clegg has forced the Government to make a number of concessions, including abandoning the idea of extending secret justice to inquest hearings.
But critics say the proposals still represent a fundamental breach of traditional principles of open justice, and accuse the Government of allowing the security services to dictate the legislation.
Spy chiefs were deeply embarrassed by civil court claims against them by terror suspects, which had to be settled out of court rather than having sensitive intelligence material discussed in open hearings.
Last night Lib Dem members voted through a motion calling on their MPs and peers to ‘press for the withdrawal or defeat’ of the Bill, even in its amended form.
Baroness Ludford, the party’s European justice and human rights spokesman and a London MEP, said: ‘Our party’s core values are at stake on this Bill. Standing up for all the proud traditions of our common law system – open justice, the rule of law, accountability of the state for human rights abuses, redress for victims – is essential.’
She added: ‘Secret courts could mean impunity for state officials complicit in wrongdoing like torture.
‘If a government puts material before a judge in private, it can’t be called proper evidence. Material which is unchallenged can positively mislead. ‘We can and should trust judges, not the state, to distinguish between genuine national security interests and attempted cover-ups.
‘Nick Clegg said we should distinguish those policies we would die in the ditch for from those we could compromise on. Please jump into the ditch on this one, Nick.’
Lib Dem peer Lord Strasburger said the proposed legislation was ‘hopelessly flawed and beyond repair’, adding: ‘This Bill is bad for transparency. It’s unfair, it’s illiberal.
He added that Mr Clegg would now have to tell David Cameron that the party would no longer support the legislation as it made its way through Parliament. Parliamentary candidate Jo Shaw told the conference the families of those killed in the Hillsborough disaster could just as easily be excluded from court hearings as victims of torture under extraordinary rendition.
‘Evidence that has not been seen and challenged by the other side is not evidence at all. ‘Secret justice practically isn’t justice. It’s a dangerous perversion of justice.’
Sources close to the Lib Dem leadership suggested last night it would seek further changes to the legislation.
Lord Wallace, a government law officer, said: ‘We will continue to work with parliamentarians from all sides, to ensure that the principles of open justice are protected.’
Army reservists are suffering 'outrageous' discrimination from 'despicable' British employers, says Duke of Westminster
Army reservists are suffering “outrageous” discrimination from “despicable” British employers who are refusing to hire them because of their service in the armed forces, according to the former head of the Territorial Army.
The Duke of Westminster, who as a two star major general quit as the army reserve’s commander earlier this month, said that foreign firms were much more likely to release staff to serve with the Army Reserve than “English companies”.
In his first interview since leaving the TA after 42 years’ service, the Duke also suggested there should be new National Insurance tax breaks for companies which employ reservists.
He also shed light on his plans for a £300million rehabilitation centre for wounded soldiers in the Midlands, disclosing that it could also include a new Government centre to research how to private sector back to work more quickly after illness.
The army is facing its biggest overhaul for decades, with 20,000 regular servicemen losing their jobs by 2020 and the loss being in part made up by a big boost in the number of TA battle ready soldiers, up to 30,000 from 20,000 today.
However, attempts to recruit are being hampered by employers which are discriminating against new recruits because of concerns about time off to train or to be deployed overseas in Afghanistan for months at a time.
The Duke told The Daily Telegraph in an interview on Monday: “There is undoubtedly positive discrimination against someone who at interview says he is in the Territorial Army.”
Application forms routine asked “Are you in the Territorial Army”, when employers were not allowed by law to ask if an applicant was pregnant, black, white or a Muslim.
He said: “Why is it there? It is the most outrageous form of discrimination. It is like asking – ‘do you play golf at weekends?’ It has been mentioned to me by my soldiers on more than 100 occasions.”
Foreign companies were far more willing to make staff available to serve in the TA than "English employers", he said, suggesting existing rules about discrimination should be tightened up.
The Duke, Britain’s seventh richest man with a property empire worth £7.35billion, suggested cutting National Insurance bills which take reservists onto their payroll. He said: “It will cost hardly anything.”
The Duke’s ideas – including renaming the TA as the Army Reserve - are likely to be considered in an MoD review into the future of the Territorial Army next month.
His focus now is to raise funds for a new £300million Defence National Rehabilitation Centre in the east Midlands, to replace an existing armed forces rehabilitation centre in Surrey.
The Duke bought the 145 hectare site, including Stanford Hall, for “rather more than” a reported £6million and is actively fund-raising from private donors.
He said: “I want to create a feeling that when a wounded solider goes there [he thinks] ‘Wow, someone is going to look after me’.”
The Duke added he had no regrets about quitting the TA, which he commanded between February 2011 and the beginning of this month.
He said: “I am not one to hang on to be a general for the sake of being a general. There are more generals than there are dukes anyway.”
Let your children go tree-climbing: National Trust attacks British parents who mollycoddle
Children are being cut off from nature by mollycoddling parents who refuse to let them play out in the rain, climb trees and get dirty, according to a National Trust inquiry.
In a report out today, the charity urges parents to give youngsters wellies and a raincoat and send them outdoors to build dens, make mud pies and go bug-hunting.
It warns that children are increasingly leading ‘sedentary and sheltered’ lives due to health and safety fears, the rise of indoor entertainment such as video games and the decline of outdoor activities in school.
Council bureaucrats and police sometimes have ‘negative attitudes’ and regard outdoor play as ‘something to be stopped rather than encouraged’. But parents are the most powerful influence over their children’s exposure to nature and the countryside, the two-month inquiry concluded.
Interviews with groups of children found that many had picked up messages from their parents that the outdoors is dangerous and they shouldn’t go out in the rain in case they ‘slip or catch a cold’. Activities such as climbing trees were also seen as too risky.
Only older boys were regularly allowed out without an adult, with others closely supervised, according to the interviews conducted by research firm Childwise on behalf of the Trust.
Grandparents also have a role to play, according to the inquiry, since they are likely to have spent more time outdoors as children and could pass this on to younger generations. The National Trust inquiry, which canvassed the views of organisations and members of the public as well as children, also found that youngsters’ time is ‘over-scheduled and pressured’ – often with activities that cost money.
‘The power of family life in shaping children’s experiences was perhaps the most emphatic message underlined by respondents,’ the report said. The inquiry was launched following the publication of a report in March, commissioned by the Trust, which found that children’s health and well-being was being damaged because they are losing touch with nature.
Stephen Moss, the naturalist and broadcaster who wrote the report, warned that youngsters were suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’ and growing up ‘a generation of weaklings’.
Feminist Fantasies (the Latest)
The very unpleasant "Eve" Ensler. Someone once married it, believe it or not
Certain feminists, like children discovering that certain words shock their mommies, like to talk dirty. Or at least naughty. Naomi Wolf climbs on this bandwagon once more with her eighth book, "Vagina: A New Biography." She joins aging shock jock ("jockette"?) Eve Ensler in shouting the word in a marketplace crowded with female monologues.
Wolfe, who helped Al Gore with his "earth tones" to make him more attractive to women in his presidential quest in 2000, imagines that she has grown up now and seeks to prove it by "liberating" a certain word in the female anatomy.
Contemporary feminism sprang from the heads of smart women who, like Athena, sprang from the head of Zeus. They changed the way women asserted themselves. Some of their rhetoric suffered from hyperbole, about bra burnings and witch sightings, but the most credible of the sisterhood addressed legitimate complaints about prejudice against women in the workplace and the objectification of women as sexual objects in cultural stereotypes.
Wolf's new revelations are what's wrong with so many contemporary feminist perceptions that gain such easy attention (and notoriety). Middle-class women have attained so much of what they sought in work and love, for better and for worse, that they've become sexual satires of themselves. They cheerfully gave up childhood dreams of a knight on a white horse, but they're disillusioned and unhappy now when they find themselves on an old gray mare in the rodeo of life.
As a revolution, it produced low-hanging fruit, ready for the picking, and the revolution coincided with the development of the pill, which gave women the ability to determine whether they would bear children, when and how many. The changes didn't usher in a perfect culture, as revolutions rarely do, but women got a new way to think of their bodies, their abilities to work outside the home, and how they could combine work and nurturing. This inevitably opened Pandora's box, letting loose all manner of new and unexpected vices, abusing language and love.
Naomi Wolf gives her repetitious sexual signature a patina of faux scholarship, claiming insights in the tradition of transcendence, described by William James in "The Varieties of Religious Experience," the moments of glory articulated by the poet William Wordsworth (when he finished his dance with daffodils) and the sublime as achieved through meditative states, such as those of the Dalai Llama. That's quite a tradition for someone with a taste for displaying sexual habits.
The experience of the mystical, transcendent and shining elevations that enable a woman to connect with the divine, or "greater self," Wolf writes, is available to all women in their "multi-orgasmic capacity." She writes: "Producing the stimulation necessary for these mind states is part of the evolutionary task of the vagina. Philosophers have spoken for centuries of a 'God-shaped hole' in human beings -- the longing human beings feel to connect with something greater than themselves, which motivates religious and spiritual quests."
If this argument sounds like a late-night skit for "Saturday Night Live," it's not. She is deadly serious about her spiritual "journey," and one reviewer, Toni Bentley, tartly observes that "so many women are taking journeys these days that I am surprised anyone is ever at home."
The reviews of "Vagina" are often coupled with discussions of Hanna Rosin's much-publicized book "The End of Men and the Rise of Women," in which she describes how the "new woman" has become the man she once railed against. As women become the dominant sex in education and in the workforce, they find their opposite sex, no longer so opposite, reduced to a passive partner.
Although Rosin argues that the heartaches of women in the college "hookup" culture are exaggerated, she concedes that two-thirds of the women in one survey of 20,000 only wished their last hookup had turned into something more than a one-night stand. They hope, wistfully and often desperately, that they will still marry and have families. This is evidence that some women reflect seriously on the nature of their trade-offs and the changes wrought in male-female relationships.
All this data, of course, must seem superfluous to women of other cultures, particularly women in Muslim cultures, where many must conceal their bodies, often in heavy wool armor, lest they unleash uncontrollable lust in their men. American society remains in the vanguard of women's rights in a democracy where we don't (yet) have to apologize for free speech, no matter how far-fetched or even irresponsible the speech may be.
These ladies overstate their case to the point of becoming foolish and even ludicrous, but Naomi Wolf, Eve Ensler and Hanna Rosin expose one great lie broadcast in the current presidential campaign. There's no such thing in America that could remotely be called a "war on women."
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.