Wednesday, October 31, 2012

More on anti-Branson bias in the British bureaucracy

Envy of success is very British  -- and Mr Branson is very successful

The Transport Department was biased against Sir Richard Branson’s bid to continue running the West Coast mainline, a damning interim report into the fiasco reveals today.

The independent investigation into the scandal highlights ‘significant errors’, ‘weak governance’, and a ‘flawed process’ in which ‘bidders were treated inconsistently’.

The contract to run the West Coast mainline franchise for 13 years was originally awarded to First Group over Virgin.

However, a legal challenge by Sir Richard cited significant flaws in the process forced the Government to abandon the decision and re-run the bidding.

The findings vindicate charges by Virgin and others revealed in the Daily Mail that there was an in-built bias against the Virgin bid which has been characterised as ‘ABB’, or ‘Anyone But Branson’.....

Derogatory emails about Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains were allegedly sent between civil servants.

The messages were between a dozen staff at the Department for Transport, which has been accused of allowing the development of a culture characterised as ‘ABB – Anyone But Branson’.

The Government awarded the new £7billion franchise to FirstGroup, but cancelled it before the planned handover in December after Sir Richard’s Virgin group, which offered £700million less, made a successful legal challenge on the grounds that the Government ‘got its sums wrong’.

An insider revealed: ‘There is electronic e-mail traffic between the officials. In some of them Virgin is referred to in derogatory terms. Some people sent these messages, others received them.’

Virgin executives had long been concerned about the perception of an ‘anti-Virgin’ bias and culture within the department characterised as ‘Anyone But Branson’.

Industry insiders said Whitehall officials – some of whom had worked for more traditional train operators – disliked the firm’s maverick approach.

There was allegedly deep resentment when Virgin renegotiated the terms of the West Coast franchise in 2006 on terms which ‘nailed them to the floor’.

‘Some people in the department felt they were stitched up,’ said one source. ‘It’s a catalogue of calamities.’

Three civil servants have been suspended by the Departmernt as a result of the fiasco.


Half of all burglars are not sent to prison in Britain, even though most have many prior convictions

Burglars with a string of previous convictions are being spared jail, prompting calls for Ministers to toughen up on sentencing.

New figures show the average burglar now has 12 break-ins to their name, the highest number ever recorded. More than 3,000 convicted last year had been found guilty at least 20 times before.

Despite this, half the burglars were given fines or community sentences rather than being sent to prison.

The revelation has led to demands that the Government honours its promise to get tough on law and order, after Prime Minister David Cameron encouraged homeowners to ‘bash a burglar’ and said all  community sentences should have a ‘punitive’ element.

The statistics were uncovered by Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, who said: ‘Anyone who has ever had their home  burgled knows the terrible pain and misery this violation of private space causes.

The figures I have obtained confirm that the vast majority of burglars have committed numerous previous crimes, often with inappropriate sentences handed down. This will rightly shock Mail on Sunday readers.

‘Victims of burglary will ask why our criminal justice system is failing them. But for 29 months of David Cameron’s Government, all we’ve seen are stunts, smokescreens and rehashed announcements.

‘We won’t stop burglaries by cutting police officers and reducing the power of judges.’

Burglary has been high on the  political agenda for the past two months since a couple were arrested for fighting back against intruders who broke in to their isolated cottage in Leicestershire.

Andy Ferrie and his wife Tracey spent almost three days in police cells after Mr Ferrie blasted the gang with a shotgun, but the threat of charges was eventually dropped. The case prompted a vow by Conservative Ministers to clarify the law to give householders the right to defend  their property against intruders unless they used ‘grossly disproportionate’ force.

The most senior judge in England and Wales, the Lord Chief Justice,  has said burglary is a crime against the person as well as their property because it destroys victims’ peace of mind. But there was controversy  last month when Judge Peter Bowers, sitting at Teesside Crown Court, told a burglar he would ‘take a chance’ and spare him jail, adding that it took a ‘huge amount of courage’ to break into someone’s house.

Figures released to Parliament by the Ministry of Justice show just how few burglars are jailed, despite many of them being career criminals. Of the burglary cases in 2011 where offenders were sentenced, just over half were sent to prison.

Others were fined, given absolute or conditional discharges, or community or suspended sentences.

In total, 3,437 burglars sentenced last year had more than 20 previous convictions to their names – twice as many as a decade ago.

Although thousands of burglars were spared prison, the total number of houses being broken into has fallen by half in recent decades, mainly as  a result of better home security, dropping to 245,317 in 2011-12.

Nick de Bois, the Conservative MP for Enfield North and a member of the Justice Select Committee, supported Mr Khan’s call for tougher measures. He said: ‘The figures show that soft-touch sentencing for repeat offenders does not work.

‘If a criminal is given a second chance and goes on to burgle people’s homes again, they should face a long jail sentence.

‘Community sentences and short jail terms are not working.’

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘We are tackling the shamefully high reoffending rates by introducing a rehabilitation revolution.

‘Breaking in to someone’s home is a serious crime, and burglars face sentences of up to 14 years, or life sentences for aggravated burglary. There is also a mandatory minimum three-year sentence for offenders convicted of a third domestic burglary.

‘Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for the independent judges.’


War on 'holiday camp' jail perks as British Prisons Minister calls for privileges to be earned through hard work and good behaviour

Outrageous prisoner perks look likely to be axed in a shake-up of cushy jail rules.

A full review – the first for more than a decade – will examine the lax regimes which allow inmates to lounge in their cells all day, watching daytime TV or playing video games.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright told the Daily Mail he was worried too many inmates were routinely handed ‘privileges’ they should have to earn through good behaviour and hard work.

He said: ‘I want to ensure that the public have confidence in the prison system.  'It is crucial that they are assured that any privileges earned in prison are gained through hard work and appropriate behaviour.’   ‘I am looking closely at the policy around the incentives scheme for prisoners, which has not been fully reviewed since 1999.

‘There may be clear and important operational reasons for this policy but I want to be clear that these incentives are pitched at the right level and that they have credibility with the public.’

Currently, prisoners enter jail on a ‘standard’ regime, which automatically gives them certain entitlements, including in-cell television.

They are only bumped down to the basic regime if they step out of line. Each prison devises its own scheme for how privileges are handed out.

Inmates can ‘earn’ entitlements to in-cell television, more visits, higher pay when they work, the right to wear their own clothes and access to their own money.  Inmates are offered a string of digital channels, including BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV3, Viva – a music channel – and Film 4. Prisons that are run by private companies, of which there are 11 in England and Wales, may provide Sky TV in prisoners’ cells.  Some 4,000 convicts are understood to enjoy the perk.

One option under consideration would be to start inmates on basic and force them to work for extra perks.

The move marks a break from Mr Wright’s disastrous predecessor Crispin Blunt who was pilloried over his decision to allow taxpayer-funded prisoner parties and comedy workshops inside jails.

There have been complaints that prisons have become too soft and young criminals treat them like a ‘holiday camp’.

Brooke Kinsella, the Government’s knife-crime adviser whose 16-year-old brother Ben was stabbed to death in North London, said it was time jails were turned back into ‘places of punishment’.

Edward Boyd, from the think-tank Policy Exchange, says that perks such as free gym use and televisions in cells should be made available only to those inmates who work. 

He called for all prisoners to be given access to work and for those who refused to have their privileges downgraded or removed.

Mr Boyd said: ‘Prisons are in desperate need of reform. The cornerstone of reform must be hard work.

‘It will make prison not only a better deterrent for criminals but also a far more successful intervention to stop future criminal behaviour.’

Recently a watchdog warned that too many prisoners were idling in their cells watching daytime TV, while prison workshops were left empty.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said that on a visit to Britain’s largest jail, Wandsworth prison in south west London, workshop facilities ‘stood almost empty and too many staff appeared indifferent about the prisoners in their care’.


Trend to ban Halloween is mixed bag for American educators, parents

The one time of the year when kids are free to dress up as monsters, superheroes and reality TV stars while eating candy until their bellies hurt is on the endangered holiday list in communities around the nation.

Citing cultural issues, safety and even the economy, schools and towns across the country are banning Halloween plans. But the backlash isn't just coming from children. Many of their parents say the war on Halloween has gone too far.

“There will be no costumes, no candy bags and no parties,” said Skokie, Ill., District 69 Superintendent Quintin Shepherd, in a letter to parents. “Many students cannot afford costumes and there is an economic disparity. We also have students that are unable to participate for religious or cultural reasons.”

Parents and students say Halloween is a secular holiday, and one which allows children to express their creativity through costumes and designs. Some parents and students even joined together at a park near the school as a show of protest.

“Why suck the fun out of school?” one student posted online on the school's website. “Halloween isn't a religious or political holiday; it's only about having fun.”  “It’s the best part of the school year,” posted another student. “Everyone dresses up and gives out candy.  How can that be bad?”.

Administrators say school is not the place for Halloween, and at least a few parents in Skokie agree.  “We'll take a personal day with my children away from school expressing ourselves through costume and possible Satan worshipping,” wrote one poster on the District 69 website.

Nationwide, over the past year, about a dozen schools tried to ban costumes, parties and/or parades, but some were clearly spooked by the backlash from the community, and gave up the battle.

In Levittown, Pa., the annual Halloween parade at Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School that’s been in place for decades was cancelled, until the vocal outrage of dozens of parents led school officials to reinstate it.

“I’m so sad. I have my Power Ranger costume all ready,” said third-grader Julia Schall.  “Will we still get candy?” said worried fifth-grader Eric DiGon.

In Portland, Ore., principal Brian Anderson told parents he banned Halloween because he worried that students whose culture or religion didn’t allow them to celebrate would feel excluded from the others, especially as more and more immigrants with different cultures arrive in this country.  “We’re pushing our traditions on an ever-changing population,” he told the local newspaper.

Said parent Sue Afryl, “What this ban is teaching is intolerance…. By banning one or all we teach not to be accepting of cultural and religious beliefs other than our own... They have now taught intolerance! A lesson no child should ever be given.”

For those who support the ban, it's not just the cultural concerns, it's also the message being sent to children who have Halloween as an excuse to consume large amounts of candy.  “We already have an obesity problem among American children," said one school nurse who didn’t want her name used.

In addition to cultural, religious and cost concerns, Shepherd also blamed the ban on the federal “No Child Left Behind” Act, apparently claiming the holiday could take valuable time away from preparing for standardized tests.

“While education can be, and is, creative and fun – we must respond to the current national reality of high stakes testing," Shepherd told "Until NCLB is rewritten into legislation that is reflective of individual student progress and achievement, the consequences will continue to become more severe.”

In many cities, towns and school districts, Christmas and other specific religious celebrations around December are being called by the more generic term of “holiday” celebrations. Now with the non-religious holiday of Halloween being banned, critics call it “political correctness gone too far”.

“Schools have taken away other holiday recognitions as well," complained Afryl. "They've banned the pledge of allegiance to our flag and country, and have omitted the word God. Whether you believe in something or not, is it correct to ban it? Is it right to suppress it?”



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 POLITICSDISSECTING 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


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bureaucratic hatred of Branson again

He's too successful for the bureaucrats so they will do anything to take him down a peg or two.  They tried to take his trains away but he routed them with legal threats

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has lost out to his arch-rivals in a battle over air routes to Russia. But watchdogs say passengers will benefit through cheaper and more 'dynamic' fares and that British Airways and easyJet's plans were 'likely to deliver the greatest benefit to consumers'.

The tycoon learned tonight that his airline Virgin Atlantic had been rejected by aviation regulators in a fight to operate UK to Moscow flights.

With more flights now available between the UK and Russia, British Airways, easyJet and Virgin had been vying for the right to fly on the London-Moscow route.

The Civil Aviation Authority ruled that BA, which already operates to Moscow, and easyJet should be allowed to take up the Moscow flights - meaning that Virgin had missed out.

The decision follows the Department for Transport ruling in August that FirstGroup rather than Virgin Rail should take up a new 13-year franchise on the West Coast Main Line.

Sir Richard launched a legal challengers against the ruling and the DfT has now scrapped the West Coast bidding process, suspended three civil servants and asked Virgin to carry on for the time being.

The CAA's two-from-three decision came after what is known as a scarce capacity hearing at which a panel of CAA board members considered the arguments put forward by each of the applicant airlines.

The panel decided to allow BA to continue to operate the services it currently operates from London Heathrow to Moscow's Domodedovo Airport and to grant easyJet permission to operate between London Gatwick and Moscow Domodedovo.

Iain Osborne, the CAA's director of regulatory policy, and chairman of the panel, said: 'On balance, allocating scarce capacity to BA and easyJet is likely to deliver the greatest benefit to consumers.

'EasyJet's proposal will introduce an innovative product into the market and has the potential to deliver the greatest dynamic fare benefits for consumers.'  He added: 'We concluded that easyJet's proposal would introduce a distinctly different product into the market and would stimulate innovation on the route as a whole, as well as satisfying and stimulating consumer demand that is currently under-served, in particular, people who prefer or are content to use Gatwick.'

The CAA said easyJet was expected to begin operating services to Moscow from early 2013. The CAA understands that BA will continue with its current schedule.

EasyJet said it would operate an Airbus A320 on two services a day between Gatwick and Moscow. Each aircraft will have 180 seats and the airline expects to fly more than 230,000 passengers in its first year of operations.

EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said: 'We are delighted to have been awarded the rights to fly between Gatwick and Moscow.  'We believe this is the right decision for consumers both in the UK and Russia.'

A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said: 'We are very disappointed with the result of the CAA hearing which we believe flies in the face of what the consumer wants and our economy demands.

'Data shows that passengers travelling between Moscow and London want to use Heathrow airport and not Gatwick, long haul connectivity is far greater via Heathrow and this decision will also reduce capacity between the two capitals.'

'We are perplexed by what we consider a very short-sighted decision. We will review the CAA's report in full before considering all of our options.'


British council plans to remove Mr and Mrs titles from all documents to protect city's transgender community from offence

A city is proposing to ban titles such as Mr, Mrs, Miss and Ms in case they offend the transgender community.

Councillors in Brighton will vote on the proposal to remove the words from official forms and paperwork after complaints that they forced people to ‘choose between genders’.

The proposal is backed by Brighton and Hove City Council deputy leader Phelim MacCafferty, who has called the titles 'useless'.

But the new proposal has been branded 'political correctness gone too far' by an opposition councillor who says the idea is 'ludicrous'.

Brighton is known for its diverse community, and the council plans seek to scrap 'useless' titles after a study into the transgender community

A scrutiny panel will put forward a number of recommendations, including the scrapping of Mr and Mrs, to the council for approval in December.

Green Party deputy leader Coun. MacCafferty said: 'Trans people aren't necessarily male or female and sometimes they don't want to be defined by their gender.

'Putting Mr and Mrs on a form is completely useless.  'This is an issue that concerns most institutions from banks to mobile phone companies.  'Why is Mr on my debit card, for instance?  'I don't understand why it is there.  'We should at least examine the issue and we will have the recommendations early next month.'

Coun. MacCafferty said the change would be 'done sensitively' and with the backing of the public.

Brighton is recognised nationally for its its diversity, with the city's Primary Care Trust estimating that one in six people is estimated to be from the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community.

LGBT activist Steph Scott said: 'Being called Mr or Mrs forces me to choose between genders.  'It's assuming people live in a binary world where you're either one thing or another and it pigeonholes people.

'I think it's a good idea to expand across the city because it's about getting people to be aware that gender isn't just male or female.'

Dawn Barrett, Conservative councillor for Hangleton and Knoll, said: 'It's completely ludicrous and shows a complete lack of respect.  'How are they going to address letters properly? This is just political correctness gone too far.'

The Trans Equality Scrutiny Panel was set up to examine issues affecting transgendered people's safety, welfare and job opportunities.

It includes chair Coun MacCafferty, Conservative councillor Denise Cobb and Labour councillor Warren Morgan.

The panel visited support groups across the city in July to hear about the issues facing the trans community and will present a set of recommendations to the council in December.


One in four British criminals go straight back to crime and 1,000 are on the run from jail

One in four criminals went straight back to crime, according to new figures which the government admitted are ‘shameful’.

And almost 1,000 offenders have been recalled to prison but are still on the loose.

The figures are particularly embarrassing for ministers coming just days after David Cameron’s crime and justice speech in which he promised a ‘rehabilitation revolution’.

Almost 50,000 offences were committed by offenders who had spent time in jail last year. Labour claimed the government’s justice policy is ‘in tatters’.

In 2010, a total of 497,969 offences were committed by 173,274 offenders.

More than half (55.3 per cent) of the offences were committed by 78,149 offenders with 11 or more previous offences.

More than 50,123 of these involved 10,000 offenders who had previously been jailed more than 10 times.

For criminals leaving jail, the reoffending rate was 47.5 per cent, up from 46.8 per cent in 2009.

Among adults jailed for less than 12 months, 57.6% went on to commit another crime.

Meanwhile, separate figures showed more than 150 violent criminals and sex offenders are at large in the community despite breaching the terms of their release or committing another offence.

A total of 988 criminals had been recalled to prison but not put back behind bars by the end of June.

These include 17 killers - 16 of them murderers - 11 rapists and at least four paedophiles.

Some 379 have been on the run for more than five years, the figures showed.

A MoJ spokesman said: ‘We are tackling the shamefully high reoffending rates in this country by introducing a rehabilitation revolution - offenders must be punished, but we must also deal with the root causes of offenders' behaviour so they don't return to crime.’

The Prime Minister used a major speech to declare he wanted to break the cycle of reoffending by the end of 2015.

All but a small number of high-risk prisoners would receive help to turn their lives around.

But Labour’s shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: ‘This Government’s justice policy is in tatters. David Cameron's latest re-launch 29 months after first becoming Prime Minister won’t change these appalling figures.

‘He should be aggressively addressing the scandalous rates of reoffending rather than stunts. Cutting police and probation, reducing Judges’ powers and reducing help to victims shows how out of touch he is.’


Mandating 'tolerance' through hate speech laws is no tolerance at all

There is a common mantra among certain groups of Americans today that tolerance is wonderful and is something we should strive for. Hate speech must be stopped. Open-mindedness is ideal.

These are some of the most intolerant people that live in this country. 

They don’t stress tolerance like the hippies did in the 1960s and ‘70s, which was sort of harmonious anarchy where everybody loved one another and there was no war.   No, today there is very much a war — a war on hate speech led by the government’s mighty warriors for political correctness. It is an odd paradox that those who preach tolerance are really agitating towards a much less tolerant, less free society.

Tolerance as action may be fine. For example, we tolerate all religions in the U.S. as long as they aren’t harmful to others. We tolerate free speech as well, provided it does not directly incite violence.

The real problem arises when policymakers begin petitioning for anti-hate speech laws and regulations. This is where the real intolerance starts, and where the fundamental menace of totalitarianism lies.

There is no reason people should tolerate anything that runs contrary to their values. As long as they are not infringing upon the human rights of others, we must dispel the notion that personal intolerance is inherently bad.

It is the job of the government to be tolerant of the people and to keep them safe; it is not the job of the government to force tolerance upon the people.

Real tolerance isn’t necessarily the understanding and acceptance of all views, but rather the freedom to peacefully do and say as one wishes without being persecuted.

There is some amount of violent rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle, but only the Left has the hubris to scream “hate speech!” and “intolerance!” while chasing away Ann Coulter in a shrieking riot of death threats. The American Left is extraordinarily intolerant of conservative stances.

And this is fine, as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of conservatives.

Nobody has to “tolerate” other people’s opinions. In fact, I encourage intolerance of anything a person believes deeply to be wrong. I encourage rational discussion and argument and deeply-held, adhered-to systems of values.

The difference — and this is an enormous difference — is one of freedom.

Should the government prohibit hate speech? If so, how would they draw the line?

A recent offensive 13 minute video that some claim incited the riots in the Middle East has led to calls for the maker to be arrested and for laws banning hate speech to be passed.

This goes against the very fabric of our country.  When a government begins to legislate tolerance its decline is inevitable, for it has fallen into totalitarianism.

We have not quite reached the point of legislating political correctness, but the forces emphatically pushing for big government grow ever stronger and ever more intolerant of those who value freedom.



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 POLITICSDISSECTING 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


Monday, October 29, 2012

An insubstantial screech from a politically correct Tory

He is a Warmist and an antisemite.  How correct can you get?  That he is associated with British Conservatism is a good commentary on the enfeebled state of British Conservatism.  His argument against real conservatism below is remarkably gauzy.  It seems to be no more than an assertion that the present British PM once got it right!

He headlined the article below as "Cameron should beware the Australian master strategist".  If the heading is his own and not by a sub-editor, one wonders why he highlightred the nationality of the strategist.  Did he intend to evoke old-fashioned contempt for "colonials"?  Given his bigotry towards Israel, that thought does occur

By Peter Oborne

It has become commonplace to assert that there is a problem at the heart of the Government. Almost everybody says that it has become very hard to get a decision out of 10 Downing Street, while many ministers moan about incompetence and a lack of political direction. Even David Cameron seems to have woken up to this. Not merely that, he also appears to have alighted on the solution in the shape of Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist who masterminded Michael Howard’s 2005 general election campaign, and secured Boris Johnson’s election – and re-election – as London mayor.

The Conservative Party is now pleading with Crosby to come back, take control of political strategy, and fight the next election on their behalf. It is reportedly ready to offer him as much money as he wants, and even allow him to bring his own team with him. It is easy to understand this desperation. In a world largely populated by imposters and nitwits, Crosby is competent and strong. He has personal authority and vast experience. There is no doubt that he would bring a steadiness and direction that, so critics assert, has eluded the Government in recent months.

Yet I believe it would be a sad moment if Crosby became the Conservative Party’s strategist, an outcome that – if the reports are right – now looks almost inevitable. I acknowledge that the return of the Australian would certainly mean the restoration of good order at the top of the party. It might well mean a dozen or more extra Conservative seats at the next election. But it would also signal the end of everything that David Cameron has tried to stand for in his seven years as leader.

To understand the scale of this betrayal it is necessary to go back to Michael Howard’s 2005 general election campaign. Cameron started that election as Howard’s protégé, head of policy, de facto electoral strategist and chosen successor. By the end of it, he was none of those things. The reason was Lynton Crosby, and his insistence on placing crime and immigration at the heart of Howard’s campaign. The strategy was successful in the very important sense that the Conservatives gained 40 seats on a practically unchanged share of the vote, in an election that was stacked against the Conservatives. But the Crosby/Howard approach was all but disowned by David Cameron, who devoted more space to international development than immigration in his personal campaign literature in his Witney constituency.

When Cameron ran for the Tory leadership after the election, his campaign was an almost word-for-word repudiation of the 2005 election strategy. He emphasised green concerns, foreign aid, public services and the reinvention of the Conservative Party as outward-looking and generous.

By contrast, Lynton Crosby had concentrated on the visceral issues that have been proven to bring out the core Conservative vote. This is how he has always operated – and he should under no circumstances be underestimated. He is the genius behind the most successful Right-wing politician of the last quarter-century, Australia’s John Howard, who was elected four times between 1996 and 2004, and remains the second longest-serving Australian prime minister, after Sir Robert Menzies. Working for him, Crosby developed what opponents labelled “dog whistle” politics – campaigning techniques which sent out a covert message. John Howard’s enemies claimed that this was sometimes implicitly racist.

Michael Howard’s Conservative campaign of 2005 asked the question: “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” Party literature, poster and TV campaigns contained such slogans as: “It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration”, or “How would you feel if a bloke on early release attacked your daughter?” Critics once again said that some of this was implicitly racist – a charge which Crosby would angrily deny, and which is impossible to substantiate.

It is certainly the case, however, that Crosby’s campaigns involve a set of sharply defined, Right-wing messages in which law and order and immigration tend to play a very prominent part. Boris Johnson’s recent lurch on immigration – having been very liberal about it, he suddenly highlighted it as a campaign issue during this year’s London mayoral election battle against Ken Livingstone – is a case in point. It was probably down to Crosby. With him out of the way, the Mayor has now reverted to his instinctive liberalism.

Some people admire this kind of hard-edged politics; others don’t. There are arguments either way. The point is that the David Cameron of the 2005 Tory leadership election didn’t, and nor did the David Cameron of the 2010 general election. So the Prime Minister will be making a powerful public statement if he hires Lynton Crosby. He will be making what effectively amounts to a public recantation. He would be following the path of his immediate predecessors (Howard, Duncan Smith, Hague), each of whom set out by tacking towards the centre, but ended up focusing on the core Conservative vote.

There is no question that most of the party would welcome this, and for understandable reasons. The return of Lynton Crosby would signal a new grip at the centre and – just as important – a new ideological rigidity. Ever since he became Prime Minister, David Cameron has been accused by activists and MPs of abandoning “true Tory” values and selling out to the Liberal Democrats. So the appointment of Crosby would come as an almighty reassurance to the Right-wing faction which now dominates Conservative Party discourse. But it would also mean a terrible defeat for everything that Cameron has stood for as leader.

When he emerged seven years ago, he offered the hope of a new, less rebarbative Conservative Party. This did not mean a betrayal of Tory values, as Cameron’s critics have unfairly claimed. On the contrary, the new leader was defining himself as part of a pragmatic, “one nation” philosophical tradition which stretches back through Macmillan and Baldwin to Disraeli and Burke. Cameron’s finest moments have come when he has been true to this ancient pragmatism, whether with the speech that won him the leadership at the Tory conference in 2005 or his “big, open and comprehensive” offer to Liberal Democrats immediately after the 2010 general election. He has been at his worst when he has turned his back on Conservative insights, as when he entered into his sordid little deal with News International.

Three weeks ago, at conference in Birmingham, the Prime Minister returned to the roots of “one nation” Conservatism with the finest speech of his premiership. That speech highlighted the three missions of his administration: educational excellence, welfare reform and economic stability. To restore strength and direction to his Government, he need do no more than concentrate on those three policies. There is no need to hire an Australian political strategist and lurch off to the Right. That would also not just puzzle the electorate; it would be untrue to the Prime Minister’s political vision, and deeply inauthentic.


Incest – a favoured cause of Britain's old Lefties

By Damian Thompson

My article last week about the radical Left’s defence of paedophilia in the 1970s provoked all manner of paroxysms from today’s Lefties. How dare I blacken the name of Hattie Harman by pointing out that she became legal officer for the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) soon after it campaigned for a more relaxed approach to sex with children?

But I had private communications, too, from people who encountered the “libertarian” Left during those years. “In the late Sixties and early Seventies, I worked at a school operated by the Inner London Education Authority,” wrote a retired schoolteacher.

“The teachers there were almost all Marxists or, as they would have said, Maoists. They were supporting an initiative to lower or abolish the age of consent, which they said was just a way for the upper classes to keep the working classes in their place. According to them, children were sexual beings who had a right to express their sexuality. I was one of the few parents on the staff and said that this was just an excuse for dirty old men to abuse children… I was told that I was brainwashed and bourgeois.”

Another correspondent asked me to take a closer look at the NCCL Report on Sexual Offences (1976), which argued for a fundamental rethink on the subject of incest.

Yes, you read that right. Decriminalising incest was one of the pet causes of the brothers and sisters of the extreme Left represented by the NCCL. This is from its 1976 report:

“For hundreds of years the crime of incest has given rise to such intense feelings of revulsion that public discussion on the subject has often been ill-informed and irrational.” Note the distinctive finger-wagging.

“The present-day case against incest is firstly, that genetic damage may result in the offspring and secondly, that an incestuous union is disruptive of the union of the family.” Fortunately the NCCL was on hand to brush away these fusty prejudices.

“Recent studies” didn’t support the idea that incest caused genetic damage, it said, “and it is in contradiction to the practices of successful animal breeders. In any case the advent of reliable contraceptives and safer abortion weakens this argument.” So if a man had sex with his sister, he should use a condom or arrange for an abortion.

As for the effect of incest on families, “incest is not the cause but one symptom of a disrupted family… In our view, no benefit accrues to anyone by making incest a crime when committed between mutually consenting persons over the age of consent.” An age of consent which the NCCL wanted to lower to 14, incidentally, though only to placate public opinion: “It is both logical, and consistent with modern development, to suggest that the age of consent should be abolished.”

NCCL is now better known as Liberty and run by Shami Chakrabarti, Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University and secular saint of the Guardian/BBC conglomerate. I’d be interested in her take on this chapter in her organisation’s history. Has anybody thought to ask her? She likes to talk.

But what happened to the woman who was general secretary of the NCCL when these stomach-churning views were expressed? Did she retreat into the grumpy subculture of ageing Marxists?

Not quite. Like a number of Callaghan-era hard Leftists, she reinvented herself as a New Labour loyalist. Indeed, the Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt (for it was she) served as secretary of state for health from 2005 to 2007. Though, to be fair, I don’t recall her saying a single word about incest.


Royal Australian Air Force warns military personnel not to send gift-wrapped presents to Afghanistan

THE Air Force has warned staff against wrapping gifts for military personnel serving overseas in Christmas paper due to "cultural sensitivity".

A Flight Lieutenant based at RAAF Base Pearce near Perth sent an email to staff and cadets encouraging them to send Christmas care packages to Australians deployed in the Middle East Area of Operations this festive season.

After the usual warnings about not sending alcohol or pornography and some helpful gift ideas the officer offered the following packaging advice.

"Contents should be securely wrapped in stiff brown paper (no Christmas wrapping due to cultural sensitivities, please) and clearly addressed to: Australian Defence Force Member AFPO 60 Australian Defence Force NSW 2890."

Presumably he was concerned that bright paper featuring Santa Claus, a reindeer or baby Jesus might offend some Muslims.

Defence said it did not even have a policy on Christmas wrapping paper, but was aware of the "cultural sensitivity" issue.  "We are aware of advice posted on a Defence web site and are taking steps to correct the information in the public domain," it said.

It is not clear if it was aware of the comments before News Limited asked several questions about the email late last week.

Opposition defence personnel spokesman and former army officer Stuart Robert said someone had lost the plot.  "This is a case of political correctness gone mad. The Grinch this Christmas will be the government if it doesn't right this wrong," Mr Robert said.  "On the back of 'no beer for Christmas' it's now no Christmas for Christmas."

The now infamous email told RAAF staff that the most popular gifts for troops overseas were; "Lollies, beanies, gloves, hand cream, chap sticks and lip balm, crossword puzzle books, newspapers (any date), magazines, including sports, Women's Day, home and gardening, Street Machine and similar. Packets of cappuccino sachets, Tim Tam biscuits and Christmas puddings."


Australia: Criminals reoffending while doing community service

CRIMINALS sentenced to community service are committing crimes every month while they should be cleaning up Queensland.

Shock figures show 62 per cent of offenders, or 1147 of 1840, broke the law while on the orders in the past financial year. That's almost 100 a month.

Instead of working in jobs such as sorting clothes at Lifeline, and council natural revegetation and graffiti removal projects, they've been caught committing fraud, breaking into homes, stealing cars, assaulting police and using drugs.

They originally fronted courts on assault, stealing, prostitution, vandalism, graffiti, drug and traffic-related charges but were spared jail time.

Despite committing crimes and being sent back to court, many remained on the orders.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers told The Sunday Mail criminals were "making a mockery of the system" and called for harsher penalties.

Since 2008-09, 77 per cent of people on community service reoffended 6018 out of 7772.

Twenty per cent of orders were terminated in 2011-12 after people failed to meet court-imposed conditions.

The overall order completion rate was 2102 of 3499 orders or 60.1 per cent.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said in a statement: "It is always concerning when offenders treat a community service order with contempt and it is something I will continue to monitor."

Queensland Corrective Services manager of operational practice Jo Dansey said the reoffending was a concern but it was a reality when there were no supervision or intensive rehabilitation programs involved.



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 POLITICSDISSECTING 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


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Britain's Gestapo in WWII

There is nothing to prevent it from happening again.  It was supported by both political parties and continued even after the war was over.  So wartime pressures may have initially been an excuse but are no excuse for its continuation

Is this a Nazi?  No. It is British torturer Colonel Robin Stephens

Britain has a reputation as a nation that prides itself on its love of fair play and respect for the rule of law. We claim the moral high ground when it comes to human rights. We were among the first to sign the 1929 Geneva Convention on the humane treatment of prisoners of war.

Surely, you would think, the British avoid torture? But you would be wrong, as my research into what has gone on behind closed doors for decades shows.

It was in 2005 during my work as an investigative reporter that I came across a veiled mention of a World War II detention centre known as the London Cage. It took a number of Freedom Of Information requests to the Foreign Office before government files were reluctantly handed over.

From these, a sinister world unfolded — of a torture centre that the British military operated throughout the Forties, in complete secrecy, in the heart of one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in the capital.

Thousands of Germans passed through the unit that became known as the London Cage, where they were beaten, deprived of sleep and forced to assume stress positions for days at a time.

Some were told they were to be murdered and their bodies quietly buried. Others were threatened with unnecessary surgery carried out by people with no medical qualifications. Guards boasted that they were ‘the English Gestapo’.

The London Cage was part of a network of nine ‘cages’ around Britain run by the Prisoner of War Interrogation Section (PWIS), which came under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Military Intelligence.

Three, at Doncaster, Kempton Park and Lingfield, were at hastily converted racecourses. Another was at the ground of Preston North End Football Club. Most were benignly run.

But prisoners thought to possess valuable information were whisked off to a top-secret unit in a row of grandiose Victorian villas in Kensington Palace Gardens, then (as now) one of the smartest locations in London.

Today, the tree-lined street a stone’s throw from Kensington Palace is home to ambassadors and billionaires, sultans and princes. Houses change hands for £50 million and more.

Yet it was here, seven decades ago, in five interrogation rooms, in cells and in the guardroom in numbers six, seven and eight Kensington Palace Gardens, that nine officers, assisted by a dozen NCOs, used whatever methods they thought necessary to squeeze information from suspects.

So, how can we be sure about the methods used at the London Cage? Because the man who ran it admitted as much — and was hushed up for half-a-century by an establishment fearful of the shame his story would bring on a Britain that had been fighting for honesty, decency and the rule of law.

That man was Colonel Alexander Scotland, an accepted master in techniques of interrogation. After the war, he wrote a candid account of his activities in his memoirs, in which he recalled how he would muse, on arriving at the Cage each morning: ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here.’

Because, he said, before going into detail: ‘If any German had any information we wanted, it was invariably extracted from him in the long run.’

As was customary, before publication Scotland submitted his manuscript to the War Office for clearance in 1954. Pandemonium erupted. All four copies were seized. All those who knew of its contents were silenced with threats of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

What caused the greatest consternation was his admission that the horrors had continued after the war, when interrogators switched from extracting military intelligence to securing convictions for war crimes.

Of 3,573 prisoners who passed through Kensington Palace Gardens, more than 1,000 were persuaded to sign a confession or give a witness statement  for use in war crimes prosecutions.

Fritz Knöchlein, a former lieutenant colonel in the Waffen SS, was one such case. He was suspected of ordering the machine-gunning of 124 British soldiers who surrendered at Le Paradis in northern France during the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. His defence was that he was not even there.

At his trial, he claimed he had been tortured in the London Cage after the war. He was deprived of sleep for four days and nights after arriving in October 1946 and forced to walk in a tight circle for four hours while being kicked by a guard at each turn.

He was made to clean stairs and lavatories with a tiny rag, for days at a time, while buckets of water were poured over him. If he dared to rest, he was cudgelled. He was also forced to run in circles in the grounds of the house while carrying heavy logs and barrels. When he complained, the treatment simply got worse.

Nor was he the only one. He said men were repeatedly beaten about the face and had hair ripped from their heads. A fellow inmate begged to be killed because he couldn’t take any more brutality.
All Knöchlein’s accusations were ignored, however. He was found guilty and hanged.

Suspects in another high-profile war crime — the shooting of 50 RAF officers who broke out from a prison camp, Stalag Luft III, in what became known as the Great Escape — also passed through the Cage.

Of the 21 accused, 14 were hanged after a war-crimes trial in Hamburg. Many confessed only after being interrogated by Scotland and his men. In court, they protested that they had been starved, whipped and systematically beaten. Some said they had been  menaced with red-hot pokers and ‘threatened with electrical devices’.

Scotland, of course, denied allegations of torture, going into the witness box at one trial after another to say his accusers were lying.

It was all the more surprising, then, that a few years later he was willing to come clean about the techniques he employed at the London Cage.

In his memoirs, he disclosed that a number of men were forced to incriminate themselves. A general was sentenced to death in 1946 after signing a confession at the Cage while, in Scotland’s words, ‘acutely depressed after the various examinations’.

A naval officer was convicted on the basis of a confession that Scotland said he had signed only after being ‘subject to certain degrading duties’.

Scotland also acknowledged that one of the men accused of the ‘Great Escape’ murders went to the gallows even though he had confessed after he had — in Scotland’s own words — been ‘worked on psychologically’. At his trial, the man insisted he had been ‘worked on’ physically as well.

Others did not share Scotland’s eagerness to boast about what had gone on in Kensington Park Gardens. An MI5 legal adviser who read his manuscript concluded that Scotland and fellow interrogators had been guilty of a ‘clear breach’ of the Geneva Convention.

They could have faced war-crimes charges themselves for forcing prisoners to stand to attention for more than 24 hours at a time; forcing them to kneel while they were beaten about the head; threatening to have them shot; threatening one prisoner with an unnecessary appendix operation to be performed on him by another inmate with no medical qualifications.

Appalled by the embarrassment his manuscript would cause if it ever came out, the War Office and the Foreign Office both declared that it would never see the light of day.

Two years later, however, they were forced to strike a deal with him after he threatened to publish his book abroad. He was told he would never be allowed to recover his original manuscript, but agreement was given to a rewritten version in which every line of incriminating material had been expunged.

A heavily censored version of The London Cage duly appeared in the bookshops in 1957.  But officials at the War Office, and their successors at the Ministry of Defence, remained troubled.

Years later, in September 1979, Scotland’s publishers wrote to the Ministry of Defence out of the blue asking for a copy of the original manuscript  by the now dead colonel for their archives.

The request triggered fresh panic as civil servants sought reasons to deny the request. But in the end they quietly deposited a copy in what is now the National Archives at Kew, where it went unnoticed — until I found it a quarter of a century later.

Is there more to tell about the London Cage? Almost certainly. Even now, some of the MoD’s files on it remain beyond reach.

The Cage was not, however, Britain’s only secret interrogation centre during and after World War II. MI5 also operated an interrogation centre, code-named Camp 020, at Latchmere House, a Victorian mansion near Ham Common in South-West London, whose 30 rooms were turned into cells with hidden microphones.

The first of the German spies who arrived in Britain in September 1940 were taken there. Vital information about a coming German invasion was extracted at great speed. This indicates the use of extreme methods, but these were desperate days demanding desperate measures. In charge was Colonel Robin Stephens, known as ‘Tin Eye’, because of the monocle fixed to his right eye.

It was not a term of affection. The object of interrogation, Stephens told his officers, was simple: ‘Truth in the shortest possible time.’ A top secret memo spoke of ‘special methods’, but did not elaborate.

He arranged for an additional 92-cell block to be added to Latchmere House, plus a punishment room — known chillingly as Cell 13 — which was completely bare, with smooth walls and a linoleum floor.

Close to 500 people passed through the gates of Camp 020. Principal among them were German spies, many of whom were ‘turned’ and persuaded — or maybe forced — to work for MI5.

Its first inmates were members of the British Union of Fascists.  Some were held in cells brightly lit 24 hours a day, others in cells kept in total darkness.

Several prisoners were subjected to mock executions and were knocked about by the guards. Some were apparently left naked for months at a time.

Camp 020 had a resident medical officer, Harold Dearden, a psychiatrist who dreamed up regimes of starvation and of sleep and sensory deprivation intended to break the will of its inmates. He experimented in techniques of torment that left few marks — methods that could be denied by the torturers and that civil servants and government ministers could disown.

These techniques surfaced again after the war in a British interrogation facility at Bad Nenndorf, a German spa town, in one of the internment camps for those considered a threat to the Allied occupation.

In the four years after the war, 95,000 people were interned in the British zone of Allied-occupied Germany. Some were interrogated by what was now termed the Intelligence Division.
In charge of Bad Nenndorf was ‘Tin Eye’ Stephens, on attachment from MI5, and drawing on his Camp 020 experiences. An inmate recalled him yelling questions at prisoners and then punching them.

Over the next two years, 372 men and 44 women would pass through his hands. One German inmate recalled being told by a British intelligence officer: ‘We are not bound by any rules or regulations. We do not care a damn whether you leave this place on a stretcher or in a hearse.’

He was made to sleep on a wet floor in a temperature of minus 20 degrees for three days. Four of his toes had to be amputated due to frostbite.

A doctor in a nearby hospital complained about the number of detainees brought to him filthy, confused and suffering from multiple injuries and frostbite. Many were painfully emaciated after months of starvation. A number died.

The regime was intended to weaken, humiliate and intimidate prisoners.

With complaints soaring, a British court of inquiry was convened to investigate what had been going at Bad Nenndorf. It concluded that former inmates’ allegations of physical assault were substantially correct. Stephens and four other officers were arrested while Bad Nenndorf was abruptly closed.

But there was a quandary for the Labour government. The political fallout could be deeply damaging. There were other similar interrogation centres in Germany.  From the very top, there were urgent moves to hush things up.

Stephens’ court martial for ill-treatment of prisoners was heard behind closed doors. He did not deny any of the horrors. His defence was that he had no idea the prisoners for whom he was responsible were being beaten, whipped, frozen, deprived of sleep and starved to death.

This was the very defence that had been offered — unsuccessfully — by Nazi concentration camp commandants at war-crimes trials. But he was acquitted.  The suspicion remains that he got off because, if cruelties did occur at Bad Nenndorf, they had been authorised by government ministers.


A Dinosaur who did well

Stanley Johnson's ideas make him a dinosaur by modern politically correct standards but the quality of his children  speaks for itself

The man responsible for launching Boris Johnson and his look-alike siblings on the world is holding forth on the modern obsession with parenting. 'I was brought up on a farm,' he says.  'Sheep have lambs, cows have calves, humans have babies. You don't spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring them up.'

He sounds positively affronted at the very idea of parents agonising about the best way to raise a family. 'I didn't give it any thought at all, absolutely not.' This seemingly laissez-faire approach to parenting has proved remarkably fruitful.

Stanley Johnson has raised six staggeringly bright children, all of whom got into Oxbridge: Boris the London mayor; Rachel the journalist; Leo the eco-entrepreneur turned film-maker; Jo the Conservative MP; Julia the singer and Latin teacher; and Max, who has just joined Goldman Sachs. With little parental interference they have all grown up to be bright, funny and fiercely ambitious.

Rachel, editor-in-chief of The Lady magazine, has written a chapter in her new book, How Rude: Modern Manners Defined, that advises the world to 'unparent' — to stop being so hands-on and fussy with our children and to follow the example of her own parents.

She attributes the success of the Johnson children to benign parental neglect. 'My father was more proud that he had never been to a parents' evening than the fact that all six of his children got into Oxbridge,' she says.

The Johnson childhood she describes was one of minimal TV, grim, chilly holidays spent collecting firewood on windy Exmoor and bouts of corporal punishment.  Despite such privations, she advocates her parents' hands-off approach as typical of a lost ideal of restraint and good sense.

Her father recognises much of what Rachel describes in her book, but fiercely objects to her claims of corporal punishment. 'I can imagine a smack if they ran into the road, but that was that,' he says.

Stanley Johnson, 72, traveller, environmentalist, novelist and political animal, became a father at just 24. It was the Sixties and when it came to being a parent, he recalls, 'things were much easier then'.

'When Alexander [Boris is his second name] was born, I was on an academic scholarship in America,' he says. 'For four months we travelled around the U.S. in an air-conditioned Chevrolet Bel Air.

'Boris had just been born and a week or two later we set off. Then you could just put the baby on the back seat — it was much easier before health & safety.

'You could have a lunch in a restaurant, leave the baby on the back seat in the car park, come back and he was still there. It was all perfectly straightforward!'

Stanley is not trying to claim all — or any — credit for his progeny. 'Let's be fair, I've had two wonderful wives who have done all the things that wives do, so I have been fantastically lucky,' he says.

His first wife, Charlotte, with whom he is still friends, lives in Notting Hill, West London, and is a talented painter and mother to the eldest four Johnson siblings. His second wife, Jenny, is mother to Julia and Max.

Education was paramount when it came to the children. Stanley says he was always around for the big decisions, such as whether to send one of them to boarding school.  'There are some aspects of education that are too important to be left to mothers,' he says half-jokingly.

But he is dismissive of the idea that having six children go to Oxbridge is in any way noteworthy. 'It never struck me that was particularly remarkable,' he says.  'What do you expect if you send your kids to Eton and St Paul's? I assumed that's where they would go.'

The odd thing about the Johnson parenting technique is that it was part laid-back and hands-off, and part pure 'Tiger Father'. Extremely high expectations were a given.

His youngest daughter Julia once said that if they ever came second in Latin, their father would say: 'Who came first?' It became a standard catchphrase in the household, and a vigorous deterrent against being anything except top.

The six children were fiercely competitive, and when Jo got a first at Oxford, which Boris had failed to do, Rachel famously rang him to break the 'terrible news'. Boris set a formidable academic standard, and his siblings vied to match or beat his achievements.

Stanley describes his eldest son as 'the great prodigious tree in the rainforest, in the shade of which the smaller trees must either perish or struggle to find their own place in the sun'.

He is unrepentant about creating a competitive atmosphere. 'Why shouldn't they come top — if they can't, who can?'

Stanley went to Exeter College, Oxford — on a scholarship to read Greats (classics) — but today he laments the state of schools and education. He worries that there are fewer and fewer opportunities for bright children whose parents can't afford the fees of schools such as Eton and St Paul's.

'The political point is that the schools where you can send your kids are fewer than they were 50 years ago because you hadn't had the closure of the grammar schools then,' he says. 'Now everyone is scrabbling around for places.'

He believes, as Boris does, that the demise of grammar schools 'was a big mistake. The Tories should reverse their policy and support and expand them'. He is also evangelical about the role good schools can play in children's upbringings.

'I would argue that parenting is far too important to be left to parents,' he says. 'What on Earth do they know? Whereas, in fact, there are some perfectly good people out there who are doing perfectly good things at schools. Let them get on with it.'

When the Johnsons weren't in school, they were engaged in 'cut-throat mealtime quizzes', as Julia describes them, or engrossed in books.

Stanley recalls taking them on safari once in Africa and pointing to a leopard with its kill in a tree — a very rare sight. When he turned around, Boris, then ten, Rachel, eight, and Leo, six, were engrossed in their books and barely looked up.

As for TV, it was limited and hardly worth the trouble.  'On Exmoor, where we sometimes spent the holidays, it was quite a complicated thing getting the generator going,' says Stanley.

'You had to go out to the barn, squirt something called Easy Start into a cylinder box and start turning a handle. If you did get it going then it was a black-and-white TV that flickered like mad. I vaguely remember Dixon Of Dock Green.'

Given that his offspring's childhood involved bucolic holidays in one of the most beautiful parts of the West Country, he doesn't buy Rachel's thesis that they had a tough upbringing.  'They never had to spend a day shearing, for example,' he says. 'The operations of a sheep farmer's calendar — lambing, docking, shearing — all those things require sheer physical toil. I very much doubt that any of the kids ever had to do anything like that.'

And what about the allegations of unaccompanied childhood travel?  Rachel recalls that she and Boris, then ten and 11, crossed Europe alone — leaving Brussels, where Stanley was an MEP, and making their way with their trunks by trains and ferry back to school, dodging sweet-proffering paedophiles along the way.

'I can't see anything wrong in that,' says Stanley.

'OK, let's talk about the paedophiles. Don't you think people exaggerate this whole thing?

'Why is everything jammed up around Primrose Hill in London at 4pm? Because it's all these mothers driving. What on Earth is wrong with kids walking to school? When we lived in Regent's Park, Max walked to school at the age of nine.'

There was certainly no pandering to childhood whims. Rachel remembers a total lack of choice in all matters, apart from what to read. Certainly, there was no picking and choosing at mealtimes.

'Quite right, too,' says Stanley. 'When I grew up on the farm, you had eggs for breakfast and eggs for tea — you might have something else in the middle of the day.'

He looks at me in disbelief when I admit I sometimes give my children a choice. 'Are you saying that kids now say I won't have this or that?' he asks. 'Good God, I wouldn't put up with any of that!'

His family ate out only once, at a Happy Eater on the A303 where the children were allowed to choose spag bol from the children's menu.

'The whole concept of restaurants!' Stanley muses. 'It's taken me a very long time to get used to the idea.  'I go back to my childhood on Exmoor. In the Fifties and Sixties there were no restaurants there. And if there had been, you wouldn't have been seen dead in them.

'If a farmer wanted a drink, he went to the pub, but he certainly didn't go to the pub to eat. It is a bizarre development that you can't have a drink in a pub because everybody is having a meal.

'The reality is that if you are bringing up four, or six, children, you are not going to go to restaurants.'

When the family went on ferries, Stanley booked the cheapest  crossing in the middle of the night, with no cabin.  'We slept in the car and Rachel is probably right in her recollection that even in the front seat I used to put my pyjamas on.

'I've just been sleeping in the desert in Turkmenistan, where I was following the footsteps of Tamburlaine the Great, and I don't like waking up in the previous day's clothes. So I dare say I did that in the car, which she rightly remembers as being an Opel Kadett.'

And is it true he never went to a parents' evening? 'I went to one, though I only lasted 15 minutes. I wouldn't have made a habit of it,' he says.

'Though I did once address the girls of St Paul's on the subject of birth control when Rachel was there.' (The first four of his books were about how to control the world's population.)

Stanley couldn't resist a joke: 'I said to the girls: “The crucial thing in life is to control your fertility, even if it means putting a book between your legs!”'

When Rachel was older, she threatened to stay on a kibbutz with a handsome Israeli shepherd rather than go to Oxford.  She was put off by her father's response down the phone from his office in Brussels: 'Great scheme!' The effect, as she tells it, was to take the fun and glamour out of the idea immediately.

She must have inherited her nomadic instincts from her father. After failing to win Teignbridge for the Tories in 2005, Stanley spent a few years globe-trotting in search of endangered animals and vanishing tribes. His entertaining new book, Where The Wild Things Were, chronicles his travels.

Remaining in one place has never appealed to Stanley. His first wife complained that they relocated 32 times during their marriage.  'What's wrong with that?' he says.

And when it comes to the modern business of 'self-conscious parenting' — agonising about every mealtime and trip to the playground — Johnson is also pragmatic.

'Basically, we're all just trying to get through the day, aren't we, without a disaster? It's true with our children and it's true of marriage.  'People think that the object of the exercise is to be happy. What total garbage that is. Why on Earth should it be?

'I would have thought the object is for people to stretch themselves in every possible way in accordance with their abilities.  'Now we seem to be transfixed with the idea that we need to produce a happy child.'

So, happiness may be optional — but coming top is a must. Bear that in mind the next time Boris denies he wants David Cameron's job.


‘Republican F**got!’: GOP Campaign Worker Beaten, Hospitalized After Alleged Anti-Gay Attack‏

(Apparently you can not be a gay Republican)

Kyle Wood, a full-time volunteer on Wisconsin Republican Chad Lee’s House campaign, was reportedly savagely beaten at his home on Wednesday. The openly-gay Republican is claiming that his sexuality was the basis for the attack. Wood detailed the assault, which landed him in the hospital, in an interview with conservative news outlet The Daily Caller.

“I was getting ready for work and there was a knock at the door,” Wood said in an e-mail interview. “I opened it, and a guy wrapped a ligature around my neck, slammed my head into the doorway, and smashed my face into a mirror, telling me ‘You should have kept your [f**king] mouth shut.’”

According to Wood, the violence didn’t end there. The assailant apparently continued beating him, while claiming that the victim was previously “warned” (we’ll come back to that in a moment); the attacker also “kidney-punched” him.

The attack initially left Wood unable to move portions of his body. In addition to a concussion, his eyes were also swollen shut and he had markings on his head and neck. The official incident report reads:
    A 29-year old High St. resident contacted the MPD Wednesday morning to report a battery inside his residence. The victim said a man entered through an unlocked door around 8:00 a.m. and attacked him. He said nothing was taken. Investigators believe this was not a random crime. The victim was treated at a hospital and released.

But let’s get back to the aforementioned warning that was mentioned during the alleged assault. Wood believes that the comment was made in reference to graffiti that the victim found on his car a week before the incident.  According to Wood, the messages on his car read, “house trained republican faggot,” “traitor,” and “ur like a jew 4 hitler.”
Click here to find out more!

The DC reports that Wood believes that initial comments were clearly linked to the attack. Furthermore, the vulgar comments were references to his job with Lee (Lee’s opponent, Mark Pocan, is openly gay as well). Prior to the attack — but after finding the messages on his car — the campaign volunteer responded to the perpetrator on Facebook, writing, “You can think whatever you like about me, but I will not be bullied into voting for a gay man simply because I am gay.”

The Cap Times has more about how authorities are currently viewing the case:
    “We try to protect victims’ rights and privacy,” says police spokesman Howard Payne.

    “The detectives have been out this morning and into the afternoon hours interviewing individuals trying to find out who this suspect is,” he says.

    He says police don’t believe it was a random attack.

    “We believe there was some connection of some sort the existed between the victim in this case and the assailant,” he says.

    He wouldn’t say if the case was being investigated as a hate crime.

    “Right now we’re not at liberty to say because we don’t know,” he says. “We won’t know if that was the case until we develop a suspect.”

Police in Wisconsin are currently continuing their investigation, as Wood is recovering and claims that he will not be “intimidated or threatened into abandoning” his values.


IN: Atheist group sues state over “unconstitutional” marriage statute

An atheist organization claims Indiana’s marriage statute is unconstitutional because it doesn't allow nonbelievers to be married by their own leaders, but state officials say the group is divorced from reality.

The New York-based Center for Inquiry claims in a federal lawsuit that Indiana Code 31-11-6-1 violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment since it sets clear preference for religious individuals over those devoted to the “pursuit of ethical alternatives to religion.” The group says it filed suit on behalf of members John Kiel and Michelle Landrum, who plan to wed in the next six months.

“You can have a ceremony as a nonreligious person and have the marriage solemnized by someone in the government, but the issue is that a person of faith can have a leader of their world view solemnize that marriage that the nonreligious do not have,” said Paul Fidalgo, communications director for The Center for Inquiry. “They are looking to win that right, to have it solemnized. That’s the key word.”

According to Hoosier State law, marriages may be solemnized by a member of the clergy or a religious organization such as a priest, a bishop, an archbishop or a rabbi, as well as government officials like a mayor, a clerk or a clerk of the circuit court. It also specifically names the Friends Church, German Baptists, the Baha’i faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and imams of a mosque as groups who can conduct marriages in the state. Nowhere does the statute list "secular celebrants," or anyone else whose status is based on their disbelief in a creator.

A ceremony solemnized by secular elected officials - even if they happen to be atheists - is not acceptable, according to the suit, for several reasons, including limitations on time and places where the marriage may occur, unwanted governmental overtone and a lack of personal connection to that official.

“As an organization, the Center for Inquiry desires that its secular celebrants perform weddings for all those who request such wedding, both members and nonmembers,” the lawsuit reads. “The Center for Inquiry-Indiana believes this to be an important community service for persons desiring to have a meaningful, but nonreligious, wedding.”

The Center for Inquiry, which was founded in 1991, is an international nonprofit group that claims "tens of thousands" of members nationally, including approximately 230 in Indiana who pay dues. Kiel and Landrum, who now live in Kentucky but are members of the group's Indiana chapter and plan to wed in Marion County, Indiana, say they want their ceremony performed by Reba Boyd Wooden, a Center for Inquiry "secular celebrant."

“They adhere to the values of the Center for Inquiry and secular humanism and reject the position that morals and ethics are imposed from a supernatural source,” the lawsuit reads. “However, they are committed to living meaningful ethical lives consistent with their personal beliefs and philosophies.”

A U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of Indiana heard arguments Monday, but gave no timetable as to when a ruling will be issued.

Bryan Corbin, a public information officer for the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, told that the state opposes an injunction, noting that the purpose of the statute is for the state to regulate marriage while accommodating religious groups and providing alternatives for nonreligious groups.

Corbin, who declined to comment due to pending litigation, provided a copy of a brief filing by the Attorney General’s Office earlier this month that argues there’s no constitutional right to solemnize marriages.

“In this regard, it is important to bear in mind that nothing precludes plaintiffs Landrum and Kiel from celebrating their marriage with exactly the ceremony they see fit, and nothing prevents CFI-trained celebrants from ‘presiding’ over such weddings,” the document reads. “All CFI-trained celebrants are barred from doing — unless they qualify under the Solemnization Statute — is signing the marriage certificate as the solemnizer.”



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 POLITICSDISSECTING 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


Friday, October 26, 2012

Labour Party increase in welfare payments 'cost families £3,000 a year' and promoted 'destructive' behaviour

Labour's increase in welfare spending cost every household an extra £3,000 a year in tax and promoted ‘destructive’ behaviour, Iain Duncan Smith will say today.

The Work and Pensions Secretary will claim his radical reforms of the benefits system are inspired by its founder William Beveridge, who warned in the 1940s that even those in need should never feel income from the state can ‘come from a bottomless purse’.

In a keynote lecture in Cambridge, Mr Duncan Smith will insist that although the Coalition has already trimmed £18billion from the vast welfare bill, further changes are needed to drive out ‘perverse incentives’.

He will insist it is unfair, for instance, that the pension credit system means hard-working people who try to save can find themselves retiring on the same income as their neighbour – someone who has not saved a penny but is eligible to claim.

‘What kind of a message does that send out?’ Mr Duncan Smith will ask. ‘It tells people on low incomes that it’s not worth saving – it’s not even worth working. Just sit back and wait for the government to pay out when you retire.’

He will also suggest workless families can no longer expect ‘never-ending amounts of money for every child’ and confirm the Government intends to restrict housing benefit to the under-25s.

Under Labour, he will say, spending on benefits and tax credits rose by over 60 per cent – spiralling even before the recession, when growth was booming, jobs were being created, and welfare bills should have been falling.

By 2010 the extra spending was costing every household in the country an extra £3,000 a year in tax, helping to increase the budget deficit.

‘We were unable to pay our way, with an economy built on debt and consumption,’ Mr Duncan Smith will say.

‘Some 4.6 million people – 12 per cent of the working age population – on out of work benefits. One in every five households with no one working, and two million children living in workless families – a higher proportion than almost any country in Europe.

‘This culture of entrenched worklessness and dependency was not just a product of the recession. There were over four million people on out of work benefits throughout the years of growth.

‘Under the previous Government whilst employment rose by 2.4 million, more than half of that was accounted for by foreign nationals.’

The welfare system became one of ‘Byzantine complexity’, with more than 30 different benefits, Mr Duncan Smith will say. Disabled people alone were entitled to a ‘complicated muddle’ of seven additional payments, three different premiums and four components of the main out of work benefits and tax credits.

The incentives in the system are being changed so that ‘it acts as a springboard rather than a trap, rewarding those who move into work’.

Speaking to Cambridge Public Policy, a think-tank linked to the city’s university, Mr Duncan Smith will say he takes his ‘lead from Beveridge’.  ‘As Beveridge said: “The insured persons should not feel that income [from the state] can come from a bottomless purse”,’ he said.  ‘Especially so, when the economy isn’t growing as we had hoped, the public finances remain under pressure and the social outcomes have been so poor.’


British PM insists prisoners will not be given the vote

David Cameron was at war with his own senior law officer last night after insisting that prisoners would not be given the vote.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve was said to be ‘furious’ with the Prime Minister’s stance.  Last night there was speculation that Mr Grieve could even resign his Government role if the Prime Minister fails to respect the ‘rule of law’ and do as he wishes.

The Prime Minister told MPs that Britain would not capitulate to demands by the European Court of Human Rights for inmates to be enfranchised.  He told MPs: ‘No one should be in any doubt – prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government.’

His comments were seen as a swift slap-down for Mr Grieve, the Cabinet’s most senior legal adviser.

Only minutes earlier Mr Grieve had claimed that Britain’s reputation would be damaged if it did not adhere to the ruling by Strasbourg, which dates back to 2005.

Mr Grieve, who claimed it was technically possible for Britain to be booted out of the Council of Europe, said: ‘The United Kingdom has an enviable reputation in relation to human rights standards and adherence.  ‘I have no doubt that it would be seen by other countries as a move away from our strict adherence to human rights laws.’

Mr Grieve argued that refusing inmates the vote ‘would be costly to the United Kingdom’ as Strasbourg would almost certainly award them compensation worth tens of millions of pounds.

Mr Grieve added that, while the Government could choose not to pay, that ‘would be a further breach of the obligations’.  He added: ‘The issue is whether the United Kingdom wishes to be in breach of its international obligations and what that does to the reputation of the United Kingdom.’

The remarks by Mr Grieve infuriated backbench Tory MPs.  They insist it is nonsense to suggest  Britain could be thrown out of the Council of Europe, which has failed to suspend the membership of countries such as Russia and Turkey which are guilty of flagrant abuses of human rights.

MPs also point out that the overwhelming majority of MPs voted last year  to maintain the UK’s historic ban on prisoner voting and say Strasbourg must respect the sovereignty of Parliament.
So what will happen next?

The latest day of drama over prisoner voting was prompted by claims that the Government was prepared finally to reach a settlement with Strasbourg.

To the anger of Tory MPs, it was reported that Mr Grieve had persuaded Mr Cameron of the need to introduce a Bill giving at least a limited number of convicts the vote.  But the claims were immediately rejected by Number Ten and insiders at the Ministry of Justice.

Later, at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, Mr Cameron said: ‘I don’t want prisoners to have the vote, and they should not have the vote.  ‘If it helps by having another vote in Parliament on another resolution to make absolutely clear, to help put the legal position beyond doubt, I am very happy to do that.’

A Tory source said Mr Grieve had gone public with his concerns after becoming frustrated with Mr  Cameron’s refusal to accept his advice on prisoner voting.  He is backed in the Cabinet by former Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.

The source said: ‘For Dominic the rule of law is the key issue. The legal advice is very clear that the UK has to abide by the court’s ruling. There are different ways of doing it, but we cannot just say no – it may be popular politically in the short term, but legally it is madness and even the popularity of it may fade when we start having to pay compensation to murderers.’

A senior Government source insisted that Mr Cameron’s stance did not conflict with the Government’s legal advice.  The source said: ‘The Attorney General’s arguments are slightly difficult to penetrate – he says lots of different things.  ‘The focus has been on his concerns, but he does point out that parliament is sovereign and that there is flexibility in this.’


Dutch children could have three or more "parents"

Dutch kids may soon be able to have three or more mothers or fathers after the government said it was seeking to enshrine parenting rights for the Netherlands' 25,000 children in gay families.

"The justice ministry is going to investigate and see what the possibilities are for recognising three parents or more per family," ministry spokesman Wiebe Alkema told AFP on Wednesday.

The left-wing Green party, but also the Liberal VVD and the Labour PvdA parties that won last month's parliamentary election, requested the report with a view to amending a lesbian parenting bill currently before parliament.

The Netherlands was the first country to legalise gay marriage in 2001 and when a gay or lesbian couple has a child, another parent is by biological necessity involved.

But, said Green MP Liesbeth van Tongeren, it is also essential to recognise the rights of non-biological parents, including step-parents.

"Currently parenthood in the eyes of the law is almost always the consequence of biological parenthood," her party said in a statement, stressing that "this does not represent the diversity of families in the Netherlands."

"Often enough, the father of a child with lesbian parents also plays a role in the life of the child," she said.

"How a family lives is more important than the biological lineage," Van Tongeren added. "The bill should take into account what's best for all concerned."

There is currently no legal recognition in the Netherlands for a child's step-parents or for sperm donors who would like to be involved in the life of their child.

Junior justice minister Fred Teveen noted in parliament however that there were potentially many practical objections to changing the law and that he would await the report's conclusions.

Official statistics say that by the end of 2010, 14,813 homosexual couples were married in the Netherlands, where around a million of the country's 16.7 million inhabitants are homosexual, according to gay rights group COC.


A War on Religion? (Or... bye, bye freedom of conscience!)‏

In today’s increasingly secular society, the threat to religious freedom comes not at the point of a sword, but from imposed values at odds with the truth that there is a Creator who has given us certain inalienable rights that government is supposed to secure, not supplant. People of faith in America may not be seeing squads of soldiers pounding on their doors in the dead of night, demanding that they renounce their faith or be dragged off. But they are being confronted by lawmakers, bureaucrats, regulators, human rights commissions, and even college deans demanding that they submit to so-called “neutral laws of general applicability” that venerate such concepts as toleration, non-discrimination, and “choice.”

“And it’s okay,” say these modern arbiters of twenty-first century enlightenment, “if you don’t want to comply.” But the catch is that you won’t be able to earn a living in your chosen profession, or you may have to pay a fine, or your club or association or church will simply have to meet somewhere else away from the rest of “polite society.”

Yes, today’s barbarians seek not to end the free exercise of religion with a single knock-out blow, but rather to strangle it until it either cries “Uncle” or suffocates.

In this essay I offer a quick overview of how today’s threats to our religious freedom play out in the issues of life, marriage and sexuality, and the freedom of association.


The key targets of the Left with respect to the rights of conscience in the health-care field have been nurses and pharmacists who object to being involved in abortions or providing contraceptives, including possible abortion-causing drugs, because of their deeply held beliefs that pre-born lives are sacred.

In Illinois, just last month, a state court of appeals upheld the right of some pharmacists to refuse to provide the Plan B contraceptive, which is believed to be a possible abortifacient. Although Illinois has a “right of conscience” statute covering pharmacists, you may recall that former Governor Blagojevich issued a mandate ordering pharmacists to provide Plan B, and if they had religious objections to doing so, they should “find another profession.” The Illinois courts disagreed.

In the state of Washington earlier this year, a federal district court found a free exercise violation in that state’s attempt to enact rules that would force pharmacists to likewise provide Plan B and other drugs in violation of their conscience rights. The trial judge noted the close cooperation between the governor’s office, the state pharmacy board, and Planned Parenthood to create a rule whose “predominant purpose” was to “stamp out the right to refuse.”

Nurses with religious objections to participating in abortion procedures at state-owned or state-supported hospitals have also been threatened with loss of their jobs. In one case from Mt. Sinai hospital in Brooklyn in 2009, a nurse was required to assist in an abortion procedure against her conscience, and the federal courts denied her any legal remedy whatsoever. A state lawsuit is pending. In another case arising at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 2011 involving 12 pro-life nurses, it took the quick action of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to stop the strong-arming by hospital administrators.

Most disturbing of all, the federal government has now taken a prominent role in threatening religious conscience rights on a nationwide scale. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has issued what has become known as the “HHS mandate”—a definition of the “preventive services” under the 2010 law known as the Affordable Care Act. The HHS mandate requires most employers to provide employee health plans that include coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives—including Plan B, Ella, and other possible abortion-causing drugs—and even abortion counseling. The mandate includes only a weak “religious” exemption from the mandate’s requirements that appears to cover only churches, leaving most other religious institutions, religious non-profits, and secular for-profit businesses under compulsion to comply. Heavy fines await those employers who refuse to comply.

The mandate’s deadlines for compliance (the first of which passed on August 1, 2012) have forced religious employers of all types to initiate lawsuits seeking protection for their conscience rights. Already over 30 lawsuits have been filed involving over 90 plaintiffs. Rather than recognize the overwhelming tide of objections to the mandate’s impact on conscience rights, the Administration has doubled down, filing motions to dismiss these lawsuits on standing or ripeness grounds.

In the case of one secular company, however, the administration’s hardball litigation tactics have proven ineffective. Hercules Industries is a Denver heating and air conditioning company owned by a Catholic family and run according to the owners’ faith principles. The owners object to the mandate’s sterilization and contraceptive requirements, which violate Catholic doctrine. The company was able with ADF’s help to obtain an injunction this past July against the mandate’s enforcement, at least on a temporary basis as the company’s lawsuit proceeds. The government argued that a secular company, such as Hercules, by definition “cannot engage in religion,” even though the owners’ faith principles are evident throughout the company’s corporate documents and policies. Federal district court judge John Kane called the question of a corporation’s religious rights an “issue of first impression,” but if it is resolved in Hercules’s favor, the judge held that the mandate would likely violate the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 1993, RFRA prohibits the federal government from imposing a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion unless it has a compelling interest, and the burden is imposed using the least restrictive means available.

As more employers face compliance deadlines or monetary penalties, and the administration refuses to budge on the mandate, look for even more legal challenges to be filed.

Marriage and Sexuality

In the area of marriage and family, there is no doubt but that the increasing proliferation of so-called non-discrimination laws, civil unions, and same-sex marriage has resulted in the denial of religious liberty. Just ask Catholic Charities, which, since 2006, has chosen to get out of the adoption business in Boston, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Illinois rather than be forced to place children with same-sex parents as required by the laws of those jurisdictions.

In New Mexico, a husband and wife photography business was fined over $6,600 for refusing, on religious grounds, to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony. Although New Mexico has neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions, the state’s Human Rights Commission held that the couple violated the state’s non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation, and refused even to consider the couple’s religious liberty claims. That case is currently at the New Mexico Supreme Court after losing in two lower courts, and I’m hopeful that ADF is going to pull out a victory there.

In New Jersey, a United Methodist facility known as Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association was similarly charged with violating the state’s non-discrimination laws for refusing to host a civil union ceremony in its beachfront pavilion in 2007. That case is still ongoing, but part of a state tax exemption was also revoked from the facility for its action. Take note of the tax exemption issue. If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land by edict of the Supreme Court next year, watch to see what happens down the road to the 501(c)(3) exemptions of those organizations whose beliefs and practices contradict the new reality.

In Vermont, Illinois, Hawaii and elsewhere, bed and breakfast inns run by people of faith have been targeted for discrimination complaints and lawsuits because the owners have refused to rent rooms or facilities for civil union or same-sex marriage events.

The federal courts’ recent treatments of associational freedoms focus on religious groups on college campuses as well as the rights of churches to meet in public buildings and hire their ministers without government interference.

Public colleges and universities have for a long time been a hotbed of political correctness. Whether it’s out and out hostility to religion by professors, or speech codes, or disputes over campus club membership restrictions, there is no end to the possibilities for attacks on religious freedom on campus.

In 2010, the Supreme Court got involved in a case over the associational rights of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at the UC Hastings College of Law involving the club’s requirements concerning biblical belief and sexual behavior outside of the biblical definition of marriage. An LGBT group on campus complained, and the university then denied CLS official recognition. Although the facts and legal arguments are too detailed to present here, the bottom line is that the Court upheld what is called an “all comers policy” that the University had imposed on its campus clubs: all comers, regardless of whether they agree with a club’s foundational principles or not, must be allowed to join and even run for leadership positions. Since CLS could go off campus and enjoy all the associational freedom it desired, Justice Ginsburg held, its First Amendment rights were not violated. Being “banished” from campus life now seems to be the price for exercising your freedom of religion.

The Bronx Household of Faith has been in a long-running battle with the New York City Board of Education over the rental of public school facilities on weekends for church services. New York receives about 10,000 requests from community groups each year to rent out school facilities for evening and weekend events. Since the early 1990s, the City has been doing its best to deny churches the right to meet in its schools, alleging supposed “separation of church and state” problems. For about 17 years and counting, ADF has been defending this poor little neighborhood church against the ever-changing policies and arguments of the Big Apple. The church has lost in court on its viewpoint discrimination claim, but policy changes over the years now mean that though the City could still win under the free speech clause, it could lose under the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment, according to a federal district court judge’s recent ruling. Stay tuned.

Finally, last January, in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. EEOC, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the federal government’s incredibly wrong-headed argument that the First Amendment religion clauses do not protect a church’s ministerial hiring decisions. Chief Justice Roberts charitably referred to the government’s argument as “untenable” and “remarkable.”


In a world where the government believes that the First Amendment’s religious freedoms don’t apply to churches, religious organizations, non-profit and for-profit businesses, health-care providers, and anyone outside the four walls of a church building, we are all at risk. In a world where such people and organizations are relegated to second-class status off campus, or told to find a different line of work, or find a sign on public facilities that says “religion not welcome here,” we have entered an era not of tolerance, but intolerance.

On a hopeful note, we should thank legal organizations like ADF for defending us against the rising tide of laws, regulations, and policies that have the effect of infringing our religious freedoms. But we can’t leave it all up to them. We need to link arms and do the necessary grassroots-level work necessary to shore up our religious freedom at national, state, and local levels.



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 POLITICSDISSECTING 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