Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Queen a gay rights champion? I don't buy it

The Queen signs a new Commonwealth Charter today, declaring: ‘We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.’

‘Other grounds’ is interpreted to be a reference to gays and lesbians, whose sexual activities are punishable by death, life sentences or flogging in 41 of the 54 Commonwealth nations.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay and lesbian pressure group Stonewall, reacted by calling the Queen ‘a feminist icon’ who has taken ‘an historic step forward’ on gay rights.

But another gay rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, points out: ‘In truth, the Commonwealth Charter does not include any specific rejection of discrimination based on sexual orientation. This was vetoed by the homophobic majority of member states.

Peter Tatchell, a lovely chap

‘While I doubt that Elizabeth II is a raging homophobe, she certainly doesn’t appear to be gay-friendly. Not once during her reign has she publicly acknowledged the existence of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] community.’

Will the new Commonwealth Charter’s anti-discrimination provisions make much difference? Or, like the contents of the Queen’s Speech at the beginning of every parliament, are they merely a description of what the powers-that-be would like to achieve?

We never make the mistake of thinking the Queen is personally attached to any of the policies she describes in Parliament. Why imagine it’s different with the Commonwealth? There must surely be occasions when she thinks ill of the policies her government has asked her to outline. But I can’t think of a single occasion when her mask has slipped.

As a Palace spokesman says of today’s announcement: ‘The Queen does not take a personal view on these issues. The Queen’s position is apolitical, as it is in all matters of this sort.’

The monarch began her reign in the pre-gay rights era, when homosexuality was an underground, illegal activity. Now, all discrimination against homosexuality is illegal.

In her lifetime, it has moved from being an aberration to becoming an official third sexual preference.
Ben Summerskill reacted to the Queen's comments by calling her 'a feminist icon' who has taken 'an historic step forward' on gay rights

Ben Summerskill reacted to the Queen's comments by calling her 'a feminist icon' who has taken 'an historic step forward' on gay rights

Indeed, HM’s current government is making homosexual marriage legal. Does HM approve?  We’ll never know.

In any case, when the Queen acceded to the throne in 1952, homosexuality was not the monolithic concept it is today. Then, there were degrees of homosexuality, from slight to extreme, and little public pressure for any change in the law.

Her Majesty will have known homosexuals — and have been close to some of them — throughout her life.

It’s said she occasionally went incognito to a cinema near Buckingham Palace with a certain unmarried courtier. Her late mother’s household staff was evidently composed of  disputatious, confirmed bachelors whom the Queen Mother addressed starchily one morning: ‘There is one queen in Britain today who has not had her breakfast.’

I don’t think much discrimination has ever been practised against homosexuals in the Queen’s household. But there isn’t much she can do about homophobia in her larger  family — the Commonwealth — other than to articulate the desires of those who run its day-to-day affairs.

Apologists for the Commonwealth nations which execute, jail or flog homosexuals say they do so under their colonial-era laws. But this is nonsense.

Millions of Africans abominate homosexuality without having to rely on old laws they’re free to repeal. If they won’t allow the Queen to mention homosexuality among her Commonwealth’s new list of proscribed discriminations, there surely is no early prospect of them changing course.

Bigging up HM as an enemy of homosexual discrimination could easily backfire, reducing her influence rather than enhancing it.


British welfare minister slams bishops: There's nothing moral about trapping people on benefits, says Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith was embroiled in a battle with the new Archbishop of Canterbury last night. The Work and Pensions Secretary told Church leaders there was ‘nothing moral’ about their opposition to flagship welfare reforms.

He reacted with fury after the Most Rev Justin Welby led an uprising against the Government’s plans to limit benefit increases to one per cent a year for  the next three years.

Mr Duncan Smith, a devout Roman Catholic, insisted it was neither fair nor moral to trap millions of families on welfare payments which made it not worth their while seeking work.

The intervention of 43 bishops threatens the biggest row between the Government and the Church since the Coalition was formed in 2010.

Mr Duncan Smith is understood to be particularly angered because at a private meeting last week the new Archbishop made no mention of his concern about the benefit cap, let alone the Church’s plan to launch a public assault on it.

The Coalition has announced that increases in out-of-work benefits and some tax credits will be limited to one per cent for the next three years, a move which will save more than £2billion a year.  Traditionally, benefits have been increased in line with the rate of inflation.

That prompted uproar last year, when the formula meant their value increased by more than five per cent at a time when many working families had to contend with pay freezes or below-inflation rises.

The Coalition’s Welfare Uprating Bill, passed by a big majority in the Commons, will affect single parents on benefits most. They will lose on average £5 a week.

Working households receiving state support in the form of tax credits will be an average of £3 a week worse off, though the Treasury insists this will be more than cancelled out by record increases in the basic-rate income tax allowance.

A letter signed by 43 bishops and endorsed by the new Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York claimed that capping benefit rises would have a ‘deeply disproportionate’ effect on children.

The welfare bill will be debated in the Lords next week and bishops in the house have tabled an amendment in an attempt to exempt all child-related benefits and tax credits.

Archbishop Welby, in his first significant political intervention, said the reforms could push 200,000 children into poverty, adding: ‘As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish.

‘It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel and housing.

‘The current benefits system does that, by ensuring that the support struggling families receive rises with inflation.

‘These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the Government.’

He added: ‘Politicians have a clear choice. By protecting children from the effects of this Bill, they can help fulfil their commitment to end child poverty.’

Mr Duncan Smith, hitting back, said the Government’s legislation was ‘about fairness’.

‘People who are paying taxes, working very hard, have hardly seen any increases in their salary and yet, under the last government, the welfare bill rose by some 60 per cent to £200billion,’ the Work and Pensions Secretary said.

‘That means they have to pay for that under their taxes, which is simply not fair. That same system trapped huge numbers, millions, in dependency, dependent on the state, unable, unwilling to work.

'What is either moral or fair about that?  ‘There is nothing moral or fair about a system that I inherited that trapped people in welfare dependency. Some one in every five households has no work – that’s not the way to end child poverty.  ‘Getting people back to work is the way to end child poverty. That’s the moral and fair way to do it.’

Labour enshrined in law its measure of poverty – 60 per cent of median earnings – in law, and used tax credits to try to push families just over the line. Incredibly, nine in every ten families with children ended up qualifying for credits.

The last government set a target to reduce the number of children living in relative income poverty to 1.7million by 2010/11. This was not met, with a total of 2.3million that year.

The Coalition has now agreed to tear up Labour’s definition – insisting that basing it purely on a crude measure of family income is perverse, when other factors can be just as critical in determining children’s life chances.

Mr Duncan Smith suggests broader ways of calculating child poverty – including whether or not parents are in work, educational failure, family breakdown, problem debt, gambling and poor health.

He insists that giving a family ‘an extra pound in benefits’ does not address their problems – and can even push a family further into difficulty if a parent spends the cash fuelling his or her dependency on alcohol or drugs.

Justin Welby’s attack on the welfare reforms is the second time in recent years that the Church of England has become embroiled in a political row.

In June 2011 his predecessor as Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, took David Cameron to task, questioning the democratic legitimacy of many of the Coalition’s flagship policies.


Beggar your neighbor?

Neighborhoods Seek to Banish Sex Offenders by Building Parks.  Restricting the sex offender classification to actual rapists and pederasts would solve much of the problem

LOS ANGELES — Parents who pick up their children at the bus stop in this city’s Harbor Gateway neighborhood say they often see men wearing GPS ankle bracelets and tell their children to stay away. Just up the street, 30 paroled sex offenders live in a single apartment building, including rapists and child molesters. More than 100 registered sex offenders live within a few miles.

So local residents and city officials developed a plan to force convicted sex offenders to leave their neighborhood: open a tiny park.

Parents here, where state law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or a public park, are not the only ones seizing on this approach. From the metropolis of Miami to the small town of Sapulpa, Okla., communities are building pocket parks, sometimes so small that they have barely enough room for a swing set, to drive out sex offenders. One playground installation company in Houston has even advertised its services to homeowners associations as an option for keeping sex offenders away.

Within the next several months, one of Los Angeles’s smallest parks will open here in Harbor Gateway, on a patch of grass less than 1,000 square feet at the corner of a busy intersection. But even if no child ever uses its jungle gym, the park will serve its intended purpose.

“Regardless of whether it’s the largest park or the smallest, we’re putting in a park to send a message that we don’t want a high concentration of sex offenders in this community,” said Joe Buscaino, a former Los Angeles police officer who now represents the area on the City Council.

While the pocket parks springing up around the country offer a sense of security to residents, they will probably leave more convicted sex offenders homeless. And research shows that once sex offenders lose stable housing, they become not only harder to track but also more likely to commit another crime, according to state officials involved with managing such offenders.

“Putting in parks doesn’t just break up clusters — it makes it impossible for sex offenders to find housing in the whole city,” said Janet Neeley, a member of the California Sex Offender Management Board. “It’s counterproductive to public safety, because when you have nothing to lose, you are much more likely to commit a crime than when you are rebuilding your life.”

Restrictions on where sex offenders can live, which have been passed in most states, have already rendered most residential areas in many cities off limits.

The number of homeless sex offenders in California has increased threefold since 2006, when the latest residency restrictions were passed, and a third of sex offenders on parole are now homeless, according to reports from the Sex Offender Management Board.

The others cluster in the few pockets where they are still allowed, like Harbor Gateway, a working-class neighborhood that stretches south of the main part of the city along Interstate 110.

Because of continuing litigation over the residency restrictions, it is unclear exactly how many of the sex offenders living near the new Harbor Gateway park would have to leave the area, or when. Currently, all sex offenders, even those whose crimes were not violent or against children, must register for life in California, but only those on parole are prevented from living near parks and schools. About 3.5 percent of paroled sex offenders commit a new sex crime before the end of their three-year parole period, according to a 2008 Sex Offender Management Board report.

The pocket park policy has been an unmitigated political victory for Mr. Buscaino, who easily won re-election to the City Council on Tuesday. The park’s groundbreaking last month became a neighborhood celebration, complete with a marching band and residents who loudly cheered Mr. Buscaino and other local officials.

“I think it’s great,” said Patti O’Connell, 58, who lives a block from the park. “I just feel sorry for wherever they’re moving to. It’s scary that there’s sex offenders all around with all these little kids here.”

And Mr. Buscaino is moving ahead with plans to squeeze even further the areas in Los Angeles where sex offenders can live.

Two more pocket parks are planned for another neighborhood in Mr. Buscaino’s district, in hopes of breaking up a cluster of sex offenders who live there. He also hoped to bar sex offenders in Los Angeles from living near day care centers and after school programs, as other cities have already done.

The park in Harbor Gateway will cost only about $300,000, because the city already owns the land. But one of the other new parks, which will be three acres, will cost the city about $6 million, including buying the land.

Mr. Buscaino said he supported housing for sex offenders, but said the pocket park would improve the quality of life in Harbor Gateway.

“Let’s house them, absolutely, but not in a high-population area like this one,” he said.

Many of the sex offenders who live near Harbor Gateway have been placed there with the help of parole officers, precisely so they would not end up on the street.

The landlord of some nearby apartments where dozens of sex offenders on parole live, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said that keeping paroled sex offenders together in transitional housing actually kept the community safer because it places controls on them even after they leave prison.

The doors are locked by keypads so that officers can regularly check on the parolees, he said. Residents are under strict curfews and are not allowed to drink, use drugs or view pornography while living in the apartments. If they violate those rules, parole officers can send them back into custody.

“People come out of jail, and they just become homeless,” the landlord said. “They have no food, no money, no anything. What’s the possibility then that they’re going to reoffend? They can add all the parks they want, but they still have to go somewhere.”

In some urban areas, however, there is already nowhere left for sex offenders to legally live.

In Miami, dozens of convicted sex offenders camped under a bridge, unable to find any other shelter, until the encampment was broken up several years ago. Another camp in Miami, where a dozen offenders slept on the sidewalk, was dispersed last year when Marc Sarnoff, a city commissioner, had three pocket parks built in the neighborhood.

Mr. Sarnoff said he did not know where the offenders ended up.

“There has to be a strategy in place so they don’t just live on the sidewalk,” Mr. Sarnoff said. “We need more resources in place so these guys don’t reoffend. But that’s beyond the city’s resources. It has to be at the state level.”


A Venezuelan Student’s Reflections on Hugo Chávez’s Death

On Tuesday, the Venezuelan de facto regime finally came to terms with its citizens.  After 87 days of disappearing from the public eye, the Politburo finally announced that the despot is officially dead.

As much as I would like to, I cannot offer my condolences.

I do not wish to deceive anyone.  The only sadness I felt with Tuesday’s news was propped by fear of manifesting myself publicly; fear of repression from his successors and his followers who received the news by rioting and turning to violent sprees.

I am sad about my country’s subjugation to the arbitrary whims of one man.  I’m sad about the exile of friends, family, and countless political refugees.  I’m sad about a cheated people, used to forgiving lies.  I’m sad about the treatment of political prisoners – Simonovis, Judge Afiuni, and all those in similar situations.  I’m sad about the countless mothers who’ve lost their children to a rampant violence promoted by the regime’s indifference towards crime.  I am sad about starving Venezuelans seeing their savings evaporate with inflationary policies that enrich the Boligarchs (the Chavista elite).

I am sad about the censorship that keeps us perpetually uninformed.

That man, whose death was confirmed on Tuesday, has already caused me much sorrow.  Perhaps the list is too long for his death to be included in it.

Venezuela has not become another country since then, nor will it become one tomorrow.

This is merely an opportunity to oust a regime that has oppressed and cheated Venezuelans for 14 years.  Let us hope the leaders in both sides rise to the occasion.  I doubt they will.

One thing I cannot deny:  with the absence of this despot, the world is now a better place.

Since socialism plagues an impotent opposition as much as it does the ever-powerful and totalitarian Chavismo, I expect no real change to occur – at least not now, at least not for the better.

But there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel:  despite all adversities, SFL’s network is rapidly growing in Venezuela.

What started in 2011 as a small reading group of libertarian students has become a solid movement of liberty activists. We’ve held reading groups, film forums, and debates. We’ve covered entire universities with huge-print libertarian quotes. We’ve held political orientation quizzes and explained the philosophy of liberty to hundreds of students. We consistently challenge statism from within.

For the second year in a row Estudiantes por la Libertad held a series of events commemorating the fall of the Berlin wall; expanding from one university in 2011 to four in 2012.  One of these was a public university with militant communist groups that interrupted our activities with dissent-smashing teargas (to which I’ve just about become used to by now).  Notwithstanding, the events received widespread positive feedback engaging hundreds of students while promoting free speech. (By the way, if you’re interested in holding similar events check this out our SFL’s Free Speech Week resources.)

In January, we held SFL’s first under-the-radar conference.  We had to abstain from any public promotion in order to avoid drawing attention.  All speakers, students, and sponsors found out about the conference through word-of-mouth.  For additional security, the event had to be held in an undisclosed location two hours away from Caracas.

Even under these circumstances, the first Estudiantes por la Libertad Conference was a huge success, secretly gathering 58 students interested in promoting an idea that to the eyes of the regime is considered “imperialistic,” “subversive,” and ultimately “dangerous”: the idea of liberty.

If the idea of liberty is so strongly engrained upon human nature that it can even permeate the Orwellian ambiance generated by Venezuela’s deceased oppressor; then, the idea of liberty can rise anywhere.  We just need the principled leaders to bring them forth.

That is what SFL is all about.  That is why we’re launching an executive board for Latin America.  That is why we run our Charter Teams Program throughout the world.

May we shed not tears for tyrants but stand boldly against the repression they stood for.



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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