Monday, December 17, 2012
Nigel Farage, Britain's most "incorrect" politician
For most of the time since he became UKIP leader six years ago, Farage has been treated by mainstream party leaders as a cross between a saloon bar bore and a clown. Not any more. The former City trader’s aim of getting the UK out of the EU, once derided as fantasy, now looks feasible. His party has knocked the Lib Dems into fourth place in polls.
And unashamed Thatcherite Farage has seized on the gay marriage row to woo more disaffected Conservatives.
Some Tory MPs say UKIP’s growing popularity makes it impossible for David Cameron to win the next Election. Any idea of a Tory/UKIP pact to stop Conservative votes bleeding to Farage was killed off last month when Cameron repeated his claim that UKIP is full of ‘loonies, closet racists and fruitcakes’.
‘If he wants to give us back-handed insults like that let him do it,’ barks Farage. ‘We will not be doing business with that man while he is leader under any circumstances. End of.
‘There isn’t a Tory Party any more, it’s gone. Cameron’s got rid of it. It’s now just another brand of social democracy.’
Farage left the Conservative Party 20 years ago, predictably, over Europe. When I suggest he is an old-fashioned Tory at heart, he objects: ‘I’m not old fashioned.’
He admits that ‘in its early days, UKIP attracted all sorts, religious fanatics and others’ who were seen as ‘homophobic, the BNP in blazers’. But the racists and bigots are gone, he claims. And, buoyed by the rising anti-EU sentiment and disaffection with the three main parties, terrier Farage is yapping at the heels of the big beasts, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband.
He has shrewdly cashed in on their united support for gay marriage and claims he is in talks with unnamed Tory MPs about defecting to UKIP.
‘All this talk of equality and fairness goes in one direction. Gay marriage is illiberal because we are forcing millions of people to do something that is anathema to them. Tolerance is a two-way street.’
Has he ever been to a civil partnership celebration? ‘No, but I wouldn’t have a problem in doing so.’
Does he agree with the Tory MP who said parents wanted their children to be straight not gay? Farage, who has two sons and two daughters by his two marriages, replies cheerily: ‘I don’t think I’d rush to the whisky bottle and revolver. It wouldn’t be a problem!’
Does it worry him that if he took more Tory votes, he could help socialist Miliband win power?
Farage replies with his trademark bluster and bravado. ‘What power? I spent 20 years working in the City and understand power. ‘As I always say to people, I worked damned hard right up until lunchtime every day!
‘It doesn’t matter a damn whether Cameron or Miliband is in Downing Street, we have given away the ability to run our own country. ‘Would I have a guilty conscience if the UKIP vote kept Cameron and his SDP Tory Party out and put Miliband and his SDP Labour Party in? None whatsoever.’
He is scathing about last week’s EU summit –when Germany and France speeded up moves towards an economic union, with Britain and non-euro nations on the sidelines. He denounces Cameron for acting as ‘cheerleader in an attempt to snuff out European democracy’ by not objecting to it. And in near apocalyptic tones, Farage suggests it could lead to a repeat of the events that sparked the Second World War. ‘We are heading down a road which will end in violence on a huge scale.’
With a German-run EU? ‘Yes. What we learn from modern history is that if you attempt to impose on people a new nationality, new flag, new anthem without their consent and impose an economic project doomed to failure, desperate people do desperate things. You create the very nationalism you were trying to stop in the first place.’
Farage says he saw a glimpse of it at the European Parliament last week when the EU’s anthem, Beethoven’s Ode To Joy, was played. ‘I looked around that room and I saw them standing ramrod straight to attention and I thought, “Bloody hell, that is scary.”’
He denies comparing it to the rise of Hitler, but adds: ‘This is the new nationalism. For German politicians in the European Parliament it is acceptable to be deeply patriotic about the European flag and not their own. Germany, Italy – there are many countries who feel they are rubbish and they rather like a flag they can be proud of and an anthem they can stand up to. The European project is now a project of nationalism – and it is very dangerous.’
Farage’s talk of European turmoil has baffled and enraged the EU’s po-faced ruling class, and he adds: ‘I think political extremism will grow everywhere, I really do.’
US, UK, Australia refuse to sign internet treaty
An attempt by governments to establish a worldwide policy for oversight of the internet collapsed after many Western countries said a compromise plan gave too much power to United Nations and other officials.
Delegates from Australia, the US, UK and other countries took the floor on the second-last day of a UN conference in Dubai to reject revisions to a treaty governing international phone calls and data traffic.
"It's with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the US must communicate that it's not able to sign the agreement in the current form," said Terry Kramer, the US ambassador to the gathering of the UN's International Telecommunication Union.
"It is greatly disappointing that a consensus could not be reached," Australia's Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said in a statement. "Australia worked hard to develop suitable text for the International Telecommunications Regulations that would have been acceptable to every member state. Unfortunately, this was not achieved."
While other countries will sign the treaty on Friday, the absence of so many of the largest economies means the document, already watered down to suit much of the West, will have little practical force.
Though technologists who had raised alarms about the proceedings preferred no deal to one that would have legitimised more government censorship and surveillance, the failure to reach an accord could increase the chance that the internet will work very differently in different regions.
"Maybe in the future we could come to a fragmented internet," said delegate Andrey Mukhanov, a top international official at Russia's Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications. "That would be negative for all, and I hope our American, European colleagues come to a constructive position."
Delegates from the US and other holdout countries said they would continue to press at other international gatherings for unified support of what they call a "multi-stakeholder model," in which private industry groups set standards and play a large role in the development of the medium.
Countries that had been seeking an expansion of the ITU role reacted with bitterness to the failure to reach a consensus.
Tariq al-Awadhi of the United Arab Emirates, head of the Arab States' delegation, said his group had been "double-crossed" by the US bloc after it had agreed to a compromise deal that moved internet issues out of the main treaty and into a non-binding resolution that said the ITU should be part of the multi-stakeholder model.
"Unfortunately, those countries breached the compromise package and destroyed it totally," said Awadhi. "We have given everything and are not getting anything."
Awadhi said the treaty should cover all forms of telecommunications, including voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and internet-based instant messaging services. "They are using telecom network and using telecom services," he said.
Kramer said the US had negotiated in good faith but that there were several issues that made agreement impossible, including the resolution's recognition of an ITU role.
He said a section on reducing unwanted emails known as spam, for example, opened the door toward government monitoring and blocking of political or religious messages.
The turnabout was a defeat for ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure, who had previously predicted "light-touch" internet regulation would emerge from the conference.
But he said the 12-day meeting "has succeeded in bringing unprecedented public attention to the different and important perspectives that govern global communications."
The treaty is scheduled to be signed at 1.30pm GMT on Friday (12.30am Saturday AEDT).
All Americans at Risk from Anti-Terrorism Law
by ALAN CARUBA
While Americans were going about their lives Wednesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), said to provide the government with great means to fight terrorism.
One of its provisions would permit government law enforcement authorities to detain terror suspects without trial and thus eviscerate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution that protect citizens "against unreasonable searches and seizures" and to ensure that "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a grand jury..." with some exceptions.
On December 14th, Politico.com reported that "the measure split Democrats right down the middle, with 93 voting in favor and 93 against legislation that President Barack Obama tactily endorsed earlier in the day be retreating from a veto threat." Civil liberties and human rights groups "were in a furor Wednesday night over Obama's decision to drop his veto threat following changes made to the detainee-related sections of the bill."
Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch said, "By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law."
In Michigan, its House of Representatives unanimously voted to oppose NDAA 107-0. Its bill asserts that no state employee or agency would assist the federal government-in any way-in the detainment of people under the 2012 NDAA. The Obama administration has reportedly aggressively argued in court that the executive branch has this power. It does not. NDAA not only is unconstitutional, it poses the greatest threat to individual freedom every proposed by the government.
A law suit was instituted in March against NDAA and it was initiated by leading members of the nation's left. They include Michael Moore, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Noam Chromski, Naomi Wolf, and Cornell West. The suit was brought against President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, House Speakers, and Department of Defense representatives for "injunctive relief barring the implementation of the National Defense Authorization Act's ‘homeland battlefield' provisions for indefinite detention and suspension of Habeus Corpus.
Chris Hedges, a New York Times reporter, said at the time that "I have had dinner more times than I can count with people whom this country brands as terrorists. But does not make me one," warning that "if there is no rolling back of the NDAA law we cease to be a constitutional democracy. Totalitarian systems always begin by rewriting the law. They make legal what was once illegal."
"Crimes become patriotic acts," warned Hedges. "The defense of freedom and truth becomes a crime. Foreign and domestic subjugation merges into the same brutal mechanism. Citizens are colonized. And it is always done in the name of national security. We obey the new laws as we obeyed the old laws, as if there was no difference. And we spend our energy and our lives appealing to a dead system."
The lead attorney, Carl Mayer, said, "The Homeland Battlefield Law is as Orwellian as its name implies. America is not a ‘battlefield'; it is a democratic republic. This law is unconstitutional because it violates the free speech and due process rights of American citizens."
The issue of lost rights and protections is beginning to manifest itself in the public forum. In a column published in the Washington Post in January, JonathanTurley, the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University, identified the many ways the civil liberties we take for granted have been rolled back in the wake of 9/11. They include the assertion under both President Bush and Obama to assassinate any citizen deemed a terrorist or an abettor of terrorism. Both assert indefinite detention and the president may now order warrantless searches, the use of secret evidence, and secret courts, as well as immunity from judicial review. This is not just unconstitutional, it is totalitarianism in bold letters.
A former member of the National Security Agency, William Binney, recently warned that all Americans are under virtual surveillance. Binney said that "the FBI can access the emails of virtually everybody in the nation." The former director of the CIA, Gen. David Patreaus, discovered that to his dismay.
On May 16th, an Obama-appointed judge, Katherine B. Forrest, blocked the section of last year's NDAA that purported to ‘reaffirm' the 2001 authorization to use military force against al Qaeda. The judge agreed with the plaintiffs that the relevant section of the law was "not merely an ‘affirmation." Judge Forrest pointed out that a variety of other statutes permit the detention of those engaged in terrorism or its support.
The wording of the law passed by the House reinstates the provision to detain anyone the federal government deems a terrorist threat for any reason, including as Hedges pointed out, having dinner with a suspected terrorist.
Does it come as any surprise that, on December 31, 2011, President Obama signed the NDAA, codifying indefinite military detention without charge or trail into law for the first time in American history?
Sad to say, the Bush administration asserted similar claims of worldwide detention authority to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody. The ACLU, a liberal organization, is on record saying that "any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA" adding that "the breadth of the NDAA's detention authority violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war."
When those on the far left line up against such a law, you have to know it is noxious, unconstitutional, and a threat to the life and liberty of every American. It is nothing less than a form of Nazism.
Something might be rude but it shouldn't be a crime
David Penberthy comments from Australia about anti-discrimination laws. Australia’s Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has proposed changes to the country’s Racial Discrimination Act. Under the proposed amendments, the list of offensive actions is greatly expanded by expanding the jurisdiction into shops, workplaces and sporting clubs. Discrimination is proposed to include "political opinion" as a ground on which people can be discriminated against. This change makes even innocent political expressions potentially offensive
In the movie The People Versus Larry Flynt, the American pornographer and founder of Hustler magazine argued that anyone who believed in free speech should support his cause because "I'm the worst", and that as someone at the squalid outer limits of taste, he needed to win in the Supreme Court to affirm the sanctity of the First Amendment.
The weird thing about Australia right now is the types of laws which are being canvassed won't affect the most extreme, offensive and inflammatory sentiments or forms of behaviour, such as Larry Flynt's repellent concept of satire, but could actually snare behaviour which is quite mundane.
You could go through the once chart-topping LP by a largely harmless nut such as Rodney Rude and draw up a handy checklist of aggrieved groups who could have a humourless moan in a court of law under Canberra's beefed-up anti-discrimination laws.
The immediate past chief justice of NSW, Jim Spigelman, is such a level-headed and reasonable person that he is known in legal circles as Gentleman Jim.
Spigelman is now the ABC chairman and he gave a terrific speech this week looking at how, under the proposed changes, it will become unlawful to offend people.
"We would be pretty much on our own in declaring conduct which does no more than offend to be unlawful. The freedom to offend is an integral component of freedom of speech," Mr Spigelman said. "There is no right not to be offended.
"I am not aware of any international human rights instrument or national anti-discrimination statute in another liberal democracy that extends to conduct which is merely offensive."
If you think back over the life of this toxic and dysfunctional Parliament, where minority government has flushed out conduct on both sides which is way out of step with the way most people behave, the language of politics has become more heated than usual.
JULIA Gillard has been labelled JuLiar, called a witch, a crook, a feminazi; Tony Abbott has been labelled a misogynist, a negative, policy-free fraud, the Liberals accused of dealing with scumbags to pursue the AWU story, and so on.
I am not sure whether any of this language is desirable.
But I am convinced that none if it should be actionable, as all of it has the capacity to offend someone.
And the moment we start letting people try their luck in court because they have their precious feelings hurt, we are heading down a pretty disturbing path towards state-sanctioned limits on what passes for conversation.
There are already limits to what we can and cannot say through the common law, with defamation being a very popular and often lucrative way to take action if you feel you have been hard done by and can convince a judge or a jury of your peers of that fact.
One of the most inflammatory moments of this year was the absurd and violent protest by the ratty minority within Sydney's Lebanese Muslim community, who thought that belting cops was a reasonable response to the screening of a film overseas ridiculing their prophet. These blokes were clearly deeply offended. So much so that it was offensive to the rest of us.
We don't need our government treating us like those nuts in Martin Place, who clearly devote much of their time to being offended.
The long-standing advice to calm down, keep things in perspective, or lighten up should hold more value than any government-mandated attempts to make sure no one ever says anything offensive, ever.
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, 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.