Wednesday, January 30, 2013

British government is forced into a "secret justice" U-turn after protests in House of Lords

Kenneth Clarke will today perform an embarrassing U-turn over his plans for secret courts.

The former Justice Secretary will announce that judges will be given full control over when to hold secret hearings – overturning the original legislation which would have allowed ministers to take these decisions.

He will also introduce changes to enable judges to revoke secret courts at any point in proceedings.

A source last night confirmed that the Cabinet minister will lay down amendments to the controversial Justice and Security Bill to ‘reflect concerns’ made when the legislation was discussed in the Lords in the autumn.

Despite Mr Clarke’s capitulation, critics including Tory MP David Davis are likely to argue that the proposals are still a threat to centuries-old liberties.

And yesterday it emerged that another MP is planning to lay down further amendments after calling the Bill ‘neither just nor secure’.

The Government argued that plans to allow some courts to sit in secret to hear evidence from spies were vital for national security.

It said the moves were essential to allow the state to defend itself in civil cases – notably against accusations of being complicit in torture – without having to disclose sensitive intelligence material to claimants.

But in November, the Lords inflicted a series of defeats as rebel Tories and Lib Dems joined Labour to oppose the changes.

Today Mr Clarke, who despite being no longer Justice Secretary  is still guiding the Bill through Parliament, will lay down a series of amendments giving in to the peers’ main concerns.

The main changes are that judges, not ministers, will have the right to decide what is heard in secret – even in cases of national security – and will be given the power to revoke ‘closed material proceedings’ at any point.  And plaintiffs in civil trials will be granted the right to request a secret hearing, not just the Government.

The proposals have come in for serious criticism from many Conservatives worried about the implications for civil liberties.

A report published on Monday by senior Tory MP Andrew Tyrie and leading QC Anthony Peto said the plans would undermine centuries of open justice.

They said that, unless the Government rewrites its proposals to hold court cases covering national security behind closed doors, it risks eroding Britain’s moral standing in the world.

‘The Government must make major changes to the Bill or risk prejudicing both Britain’s system of open justice and our moral standing in the world,’ it added.

MPs will scrutinise the legislation line by line this week and are expected to report to the Commons by mid-February. Mr Tyrie, who also chairs the Treasury Select Committee, is planning to table amendments of his own, including restricting the powers of judges to order secret hearings.

He also said the Bill should have a clause limiting the life of the legislation to five years and said parties excluded from the hearing should receive a summary of the national security-sensitive material.

He added that, when secret hearings are approved, judges should be able to use their discretion in balancing justice and national security to determine whether evidence should be disclosed.


"High speed rail" coming to Britain  -- very slowly

A sad comparison with the past

Should ministers have been expecting acclaim yester- day following the announcement of the high-speed rail link extension, they will have been sorely disappointed.  For instead of praise, they were greeted by a chorus of disapproval.

Some critics complained that the £33 billion HS2 project — which aims to carry fast trains between London, the Midlands and the North — is too costly for a time when the Treasury is mired in debt.

Others worried about the environmental damage and the blight on property values near the proposed route.

The Government’s claim that the line will re-balance the economy between the North and South has also been met with angry scepticism.  Indeed, some say that it could have precisely the opposite effect, enabling the capital to draw in more commuters from further afield.

But there is a fundamental problem with the planned North-South rail link: why on earth is it going to take so long to build?

According to the Government’s timetable, the first section, running from London to Birmingham, will not open for at least another 13 years.

And the second section — connecting the Midlands to Leeds and Manchester — will not be ready until 2033, two decades hence. Britain won two world wars in less time.

This lack of urgency dramatically contrasts with the dynamism shown by our Victorian forefathers, who first built the railways in the 19th century.

With a sense of boldness that is too often absent today, they constructed a vast network of lines, viaducts, bridges, embankments and stations that was the marvel of the world and helped to cement Britain’s position as the leading global economic powerhouse.

The creation of the Great Western Railway is a classic illustration of this innovative Victorian spirit.

The project was masterminded by the brilliant Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He was only 27 when he was appointed to the job of chief engineer for the railway, yet in just five years, beginning in 1835, he constructed a new line from London to Bristol — undaunted by any obstacle in his path.

At Maidenhead, his railway crossed over the Thames on a viaduct of brick arches whose vaults were so shallow that, according to his detractors, they were certain to collapse.  The bridge still stands as solidly as ever, easily bearing the weight of inter-city trains.

Similarly, at Box Hill in Somerset, he was confronted by the problem that his proposed route had to go through solid stone.

With typical enterprise, he used gunpowder to blast his way through part of the hill, then assembled an army of men equipped with picks and  shovels to excavate the rest of the tunnel.

Unlike today’s high-tech engineers, the men had to work by candlelight and relied on steam pumps to remove the water that sometimes threatened to engulf them.

It is said that a tonne of candles and a tonne of gun-powder were used every week in the construction of the Box Hill tunnel, the longest in the world when it opened in 1840.

For all Brunel’s astonishing gifts, which were also reflected in his construction of the pioneering Clifton suspension bridge over the river Avon, he was not a unique figure, but  part of a truly wonderful  19th-century culture of drive and innovation.

Compare the leisurely programme for the construction of HS2 with the zeal shown by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the chief engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works in London, at the height of the Victorian era.

Deeply concerned about the spread of cholera through the capital because of primitive, stinking drains, he embarked on the creation of a huge network of sewers.

In just six years, from 1859 to 1865, he built 450 miles of sewers under the capital (the proposed HS2 route covers just 350 miles). It was a tremendous feat that involved the use of 320 million bricks.

Bazalgette insisted on approving every design himself, even down to the diameter of individual pipes. It is a tribute to his diligence that the system still works so well.

The same flair and energy can be found in Thomas Telford, whose masterpiece was the magnificent suspension bridge over the Menai straits. Opened in 1826, the bridge linked Anglesey to North Wales for the first time.

It can be found in epic structures such as the Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland, designed by Sir Benjamin Baker. With its unique design of huge cantilever arms supporting the span of the 1.6 mile-long railway, it was the first major structure in Britain to be built of steel. Yet it still took less than seven years to construct.


Antisemitism in Ireland

Sarah Honig, a recent Israeli visitor to Cahersiveen, a charming little town in County Kerry, wrote yesterday in the Jerusalem Post of being asked in its main street for a donation by three teenage boys carrying large signs saying "Free Palestine".  When asked from whom Palestine was to be freed, they replied "The Jews". "Are you sure", she asked, "that this money wouldn’t fund terrorists and murderers?" She was thrown by the response: "What do you have against Palestinians? What have they done to you? They are only against Jews. Jews are evil." One of them helpfully added that the Jews "crucified Our Lord".

Honig then met the teacher, who explained he had brought them out during school hours as part of a class project "to further a humanitarian goal" by inculcating a commitment to charitable work. He "nodded in agreement without a word of objection" when she told him of the children’s remarks about Jews.

Those of us who publicly address the one-sidedness of the Irish take on the Middle East are used to ill-informed and/or bigoted politicians and activists (particularly but not exclusively republican or of the Left), but the Catholic Church has been having a pernicious effect too, particularly through its official overseas development agency, Trocaire, an Irish word meaning compassion.

The charity was launched in 1973 by the Irish bishops laudably to "give whatever help lies within its resources to the areas of greatest need among the developing counties", while domestically making "us all more aware of the needs of these countries and of our duties towards them." Nowadays it is more fashionable and majors on gender equality, Aids, climate change and human rights, with particular emphasis on the rights of Palestinians.

Trocaire’s blatant bias on Israel was addressed in an article a week ago by Richard Humphreys, a Dublin Labour councillor and one of the few dissenting voices . He discussed its relevant on-line educational pack for secondary schools, which had a Palestinian flag on the front page and inside two harrowing stories of Israeli wrongdoing through Palestinian eyes. There was no mention of rocket attacks on Israel: the blocade of Gaza was designed "to punish Hamas". "The more I read of the Trocaire pack, the more it seemed to be a case of four legs good, two legs bad. Palestinian victims and Israeli oppressors."

When he made contact with Trocaire he was told they had withdrawn the resource for review and had decided not to revise it but instead to focus on the issue of boycotting produce from Israeli settlements. Because there is nothing on labels to distinguish settlement goods, this in effect means a boycott of all Israeli produce.

Why, asked Humphreys, should Israel be singled out? "Do Trocaire really believe that Israel is the worst human rights offender on the planet?" Did the country get no credit for its record on the rights of women and gays, on free speech and on religious freedom, which so contrast with the Palestinian regime. Now Christians are under attack in the Arab world, he suggested, "you would have thought that persecution of Christians would be a bigger issue for the Catholic bishops and their aid agency".

I don’t know if the Carersiveen school had made use of the Trocaire educational pack, but it’s a fair guess that they had. Certainly, its pupils’ campaigning zeal can only be heightened by the charity's call to lobby retailers to boycott Israeli goods. The Irish bishops, who are mostly punch-drunk since the child abuse scandal and few of whom seem brave, either approve of their charitable funds being spent on anti-Israeli propaganda rather than saving Christians from persecution, or are hiding under their collective duvet.

It’s no wonder that the Israeli Foreign Ministry sees Ireland as the most anti-Israeli and, indeed, anti-semitic, country in Europe.  The bishops should be ashamed that – in the name of compassion – they allow their charitable arm to disseminate hatred.


The 'Pansi-fication' of the Male Left

Leftist, liberal, and progressive men are ushering in the greatest pansi-fication and weakening of our nation in the modern era.

Awkwardly refusing leadership in times of real crisis, the men of the left, are allowing women and children to literally be the mouthpiece and driving force behind the cause. They do so dishonestly, disingenuously, and they do so without discernment.

In recent days the president hid behind the letters of four children that he claimed, "were really smart" to help shape his approach to reforms he claimed constitutional authority over, to implement in response to recent shootings. (Not ever having it cross his mind that perhaps the co-equal legislative branch of government was designed for such purposes.)

The letters asked him the penetrating policy questions like, "Will you please stop all gun violence?" Or, "Please get rid of guns, 'no guns, no guns, no guns, no guns.'"

Yet the executive order wand he waived will likely increase gun violence, at least on law abiding people.

Also this week Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta--no doubt acting on behalf of the President--decided unilaterally to push the women of America into front line combat roles in our nation's wars. Note that it is a man who unilaterally makes the decision, without input of military leaders, or the vote or voice of women in America at large.

I spent hours of broadcast time this week, on my daily radio show, (that reaches in excess of 300 cities) asking the women of America their thoughts on the decision. Of the hundreds of email, phone calls, tweets, and facebook messages returned I could not get one woman--not one--who would personally say she was willing to go. And in overwhelming ratios--last count close to 29 to 1 women believed it was not even proper for women to be put into combat scenarios. I might also add that amongst the responses included, were a large percentage of active duty women.

This week also noted the 40th commemoration of the historically laughable piece of adjudication known as Roe v. Wade. A case so thoroughly debunked on its grounds that law schools across America poke mockery at it's existence. Nonetheless the fraud of judicial activism that it is, continues to be celebrated as an important step for women... but mostly by men.

"Reverend" Harry Knox of the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choice, being foremost among them.

"Reverend" Knox claimed this week, "The right to abortion has given women enhanced spiritual development and more joy in life." He added, "That by supporting legal abortion, the RCRC is picking up the mantle God is calling us to carry."

That's right folks, the good "reverend" is saying abortion makes life peaches for the lady-folk, and that by advancing the killing of the pre-born he's doing God's work.

Evidently the "reverend's" perspective as a man, runs fairly counter to women in general. On Friday, with no prearrangement at all, I opened up my phone lines and allowed any woman the right to say anything they wished to the "reverend" directly. Over three hours, all but one woman had actually had an abortion. None who had, confirmed Knox's assertions. Only one supported Knox--but not in the literal meaning of what he said--but by claiming that he must have been taken out of context. (That woman later admitted that she supports abortion on demand, though she has never had one.) You can hear the stories of these women here: Hour 1, Hour 2, Hour 3. (They include women whose husband had forced them to get an abortion, and a woman who had been twice raped by her father at 13 and 14 and was forced to have consecutive abortions by the same father.)

It was a heart-breaking reality to see this man, "Reverend" Knox, lie about how women truly feel about abortion--especially given the reality that in 98% of all abortions women indicate that a man in their life is the primary reason they are choosing abortion as opposed to welcoming an innocent child into this world.

Also publicly defying Reverend Knox's absurd, distorted, deceptive, lies were the ladies of "Silent No More." These are post-abortive women who led the more than half-million throng in this week's March For Life. It is also important to note that the March For Life this year, at close to 600,000, out paced the 400,000 who turned out for President Obama's inauguration.

I am not sure why they are doing so, but it is clear that the men of the political, theological, and cultural left have become weak of mind, will, and temperament. Hiding behind the legitimate but uninformed voices of children to put anti-consitutional reforms into place on the issue of keeping our society safe, hiding behind political correctness that argues for sameness instead genuine equality to protect our nation from its worst enemies, and claiming God would be pleased, when women themselves know God's truth otherwise, in the killing of their own children--the men of the left resemble nothing like men at all.

Rather they most strongly resemble a strange effeminate characteristic. Weak when God made them strong. Dumb when God designed them to discern. And dishonest when our culture needs them to be truthful.

They are in short very little of anything God made them to be, and it is the women and children in our nation and in our future who will suffer most!



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


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