Tuesday, June 04, 2013
A Congressman's Racial Slur
Today we start with a quiz. Two politicians, one black and one white, have a disagreement on an issue. One airs an opinion, and the other responds with a racial insult. What will happen next?
A) The politician who used the racial insult will be roundly and widely denounced and forced to resign from office.
The answer is: It depends. It's impossible to determine the correct answer without knowing whether the epithet came from the white politician or the black politician. In a society that treats racism, correctly, as a grave offense, it shouldn't really matter. But apparently it does.
If you don't believe me, consider the case of Illinois' U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, a black Democrat, and Sen. Mark Kirk, a white Republican. Kirk has been urging law enforcement agencies to destroy Chicago's biggest gang by arresting its members -- all 18,000 of them.
It's easy to spot possible flaws in this proposal. There is no jail in Chicago big enough to hold all those arrestees. There are not enough police in the city to carry out such a massive detention. There is no reliable membership list to make sure that only the guilty get picked up.
It would cost a lot of money -- Kirk wants the federal government to provide $30 million for the task. It would divert cops from just about everything else they normally do.
Some of these defects obviously occurred to Rush, who found no merit in the idea. "It's a sensational, headline-grabbing, empty, simplistic, unworkable approach," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. All fair points, made in perfectly acceptable language.
But Rush wasn't content to stop there. Kirk's proposal, he declared, is "an upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about."
After reconsidering, Rush issued a more temperate statement, expressing his sincere regret that Kirk's "current plan does not include the option to create jobs, provide affordable and safe housing, quality health care and improve schools in urban areas." But on the topic of the senator's pale complexion, Rush saw no need to amend or retract his words or apologize for them. (His spokesperson did not return my calls asking for comment.)
Nor did the Sun-Times treat the comment as scandalous. Kirk's spokesman ignored it in a mild statement, saying, "The senator will continue to work with Sen. Durbin, Mayor Emanuel, law enforcement and the entire congressional delegation to keep Illinois families safe."
But consider how things would have gone if it had been Kirk instead of Rush who made an insulting racial comment -- not even the N word, but something less offensive.
I won't attempt to come up with a hypothetical equivalent, since ethnic slurs are really not my strong suit. But it's fair to assume that if Kirk had used any sort of pejorative racial term to refer to Rush, he would have soon been renouncing it in a desperate attempt to save his political career.
It's true that Kirk grew up in comfortable circumstances, attended outstanding institutions of higher education and lives in a serene suburb where African-Americans are thin on the ground. So calling him a highborn dilettante unversed in urban problems is not outrageous, though it is irrelevant.
After all, I would guess that on the West Side of Chicago, there are black residents who wouldn't mind seeing thousands of gang members locked up. It would not be surprising to hear sentiments similar to Kirk's coming from black conservative political figures -- such as Herman Cain, a tea party favorite, or Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who has a near-perfect rating from the American Conservative Union. Rush didn't question Kirk's expertise when he voted to expand background checks for gun purchases, which Rush also supports.
For Rush to now dismiss Kirk because of his background is no more legitimate than it would be for Kirk to remind everyone that Rush was a leader of the violent Black Panthers and spent time behind bars on a weapons charge. Neither approach addresses the real problems of crime in Chicago.
The congressman has every right to decry the substantive shortcomings of Kirk's proposal. But those shortcomings would exist regardless of who made it. What he has no business doing -- what no one has any business doing -- is using patronizing language that disparages an entire race.
Rush wouldn't quietly endure insults like that directed at him. They are no more tolerable coming from him.
Britain's social work Gestapo again
Secret court jails father for sending son 21st birthday greeting on Facebook after he was gagged from naming him
A father has been jailed at a secret court hearing for sending a Facebook message to his grown-up son on his 21st birthday. Garry Johnson, 46, breached a draconian gagging order which stops him publicly naming his son, Sam, whom he has brought up and who still lives with him.
In a case which is certain to fuel concerns about Britain’s shadowy network of secret courts, a judge sent the former music executive to prison for contempt at a closed-doors family court hearing in Essex at the beginning of last month.
He was not arrested by police or even represented by a lawyer.
The order silencing Mr Johnson – which follows an acrimonious divorce eight years ago – means he cannot mention either of his boys, 21-year-old Sam and Adam, 18, in public, even by congratulating them in a local newspaper announcement when they get engaged, married or have children in the future.
The extraordinary gag is set to last until the end of his life, although his boys are now adults. Last night they condemned their father’s jailing as ‘cruel and ludicrous’.
After their parents’ divorce, the two boys chose to live with their father, following a series of rows with their mother over her new boyfriend.
But within a year of the divorce, Mr Johnson’s ex-wife made allegations to Essex social workers that he was neglecting the children and not feeding them properly at his smart family home.
An investigation by social workers cleared him of any wrongdoing and said the boys were fine.
A year later, in 2006, she made further allegations to social workers that he was mentally unfit to care for the boys.
Medical documents shown to the Mail by Sam and Adam reveal that Mr Johnson was examined three times by a local psychiatrist hired by social workers. The doctor wrote to social workers saying:
‘There is no evidence of mental illness. I cannot understand why there are concerns about Mr Johnson’s mental health.’
Social services refused, as a result, to get involved.
In 2007, the ex-wife started private care proceedings to remove the boys from their father. A judge put the boys under a ‘living at home with parent’ care order.
It meant they would continue to live with their father, but under supervision by social services.
This care order was accompanied by the gagging order to stop an increasingly anguished Mr Johnson talking about the case publicly. Even naming his sons in the most innocuous circumstances – such as on Facebook – became a contempt of court.
The care order on Sam expired on his 18th birthday three years ago. The one on Adam in October last year when he reached 18. Normally, a gagging order imposed by a family court judge on a parent expires at the same time as a care order on the child. This one did not.
Mr Johnson was imprisoned at the height of the Mail’s campaign against jailings by this country’s network of secret courts.
The secretive family court system, which jailed Mr Johnson, deals with custody wrangles, children’s care orders and adoption.
Mr Johnson received a letter in late April from Chelmsford County Court officials ordering him to go to Basildon Magistrates’ Court building on May 2 for a hearing regarding his children.
He was not warned he might face imprisonment or that the hearing was about his Facebook message, posted on Sam’s birthday a few days earlier on April 23.
On arrival, he was escorted by court security guards to a private room in the building for a half hour hearing under family court rules before His Honour Judge Damien Lochrane. He was not warned that he might need a lawyer.
At the private hearing, Mr Johnson learned he had breached a gagging order, imposed by the family courts in 2007, by sending the Facebook message.
He informed the judge that he had had four heart attacks and was awaiting a triple by-pass operation. But he was sentenced to 28 days’ jail and sent down to a court cell to await transport to Chelmsford prison.
In the court cell, he had a heart attack caused by the shock. Rushed to a local hospital by ambulance, he was then shackled and handcuffed to a bed while on oxygen and receiving morphine.
A team of prison officers were put on 24-hour shifts beside his bed to make sure he did not escape.
He recovered and was sent to prison two days later, serving two weeks of the sentence before being released. Details of the horrifying case were made public to the Mail by his sons, who are not subject to any gagging order according to their Essex-based lawyer, Alan Foskett.
The jailing provoked a horrified response from MPs last night. John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP who has campaigned against the secret courts, said: ‘This is yet another example of how the secret courts are stopping freedom of speech. I have never heard of a gagging order of this kind going on into adulthood. This is a surreal case.’
Mr Johnson’s local MP, John Baron, said: ‘I have helped Mr Johnson and his sons – who always wanted to live with him – over several years. To find he has been imprisoned for sending a birthday message to one of them is troubling.
‘Whilst I appreciate the need to protect children, the family court system often ignores the legitimate wishes of families. This needs to change, and quickly.’
Sam, a telesales manager and former professional footballer, said last night: ‘My dad is a good father and has never been in trouble with the police. He was treated like a criminal. This ludicrous gagging order should not exist and must now be lifted.
Both Adam and myself are adults. This cruel ruling is now hanging over my father to silence him about the sons he loves for the rest of his life. That is a terrible thing in what is meant to be a free country.’
Mr Johnson was imprisoned a day before senior judges, on May 3, reacted to the Mail campaign by saying they planned to stop courts jailing defendants in secret for contempt.
The Ministry of Justice this week said that it does not count up people jailed by the family courts because the numbers are ‘so small’.
A spokesman said of the courts: ‘It is very rare for anyone to be imprisoned for contempt of court and it only ever happens in extreme circumstances when a person has continually disregarded legally binding requirements made by the court and clearly communicated to them.
‘A person accused of contempt of court will always be given their full legal right to defend himself or herself at a hearing will always be heard in an open court.’
However, it is estimated by campaigners and MPs that up to 200 parents a year are imprisoned for contempt by the family courts. Because of the controversial secrecy rules, some have been sent to jail for discussing their case with MPs or charity workers advising them.
Human rights fraud
He may not be much of a comedian, but he's certainly having a laugh: Paul Shiner and The Great Human Rights Swindle
For the past decade, Phil Shiner, head of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), has made a handsome living suing the British taxpayer - at the British taxpayers' expense
For the past decade, Phil Shiner, head of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), has made a handsome living suing the British taxpayer - at the British taxpayers' expense
Human rights lawyers are not famous for their sense of humour. So it was something of a surprise to learn that the sour-faced solicitor Phil Shiner lists comedy as one of his hobbies.
For the past decade, Shiner has made a handsome living suing the British taxpayer — at the British taxpayers’ expense.
Shiner is head of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) — not to be confused with the post-punk band Public Image Limited (PiL), put together by Johnny Rotten after the self-immolation of the Sex Pistols.
Rotten once starred in a movie called The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle. If Shiner is ever immortalised on the silver screen it should be called The Great Human Rights Swindle.
Shiner’s firm specialises in bringing actions against the British Army.
I first crossed swords with him on TV during the Iraq war when his representatives were harvesting claims in the back streets of Baghdad and Basra. PIL is a yuman rites version of one of those Blame Direct outfits who advertise on daytime TV.
Have you been tortured by a British soldier? You could be entitled to com-pen-say-shun.
Shiner is always on the lookout for a jihadist with a grievance which can be used to discredit the Army and win some hard cash. Unlike Blame Direct and the rest of the ‘no win, no fee’ brigade, Shiner gets paid win, lose or draw.
He is bankrolled out of the legal aid budget.
Over the years he has secured £3 million compensation for his clients, mostly foreign nationals who have alleged abuse at the hands of British troops in Iraq.
His work won him the prestigious accolade ‘Human Rights Lawyer of the Year’ in 2004. I bet that was a fun night.
We don’t know how much he has earned, but legal aid fees clocked up in cases filed by PIL must run into millions.
And at a time when the Government is attempting to bring under control the burgeoning £2 billion legal aid budget, Shiner continues to thrive.
As part of the proposed £350 million cuts, members of middle-class households with an annual income of £37,000 will no longer be entitled to legal aid for a whole raft of civil claims, including debt and divorce.
Yet the funding for firms such as PIL to bring claims for damages on behalf of foreign nationals over incidents alleged to have taken place thousands of miles away would appear to be unaffected.
This week Shiner turned up on Radio 4’s Today Programme peddling his latest crusade for truth and justice. He was given a prime platform by a gleeful BBC to denounce ‘Britain’s Guantanamo Bay’.
Shiner claimed that dozens of Afghans are being held in a ‘secret prison’ at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province.
He demanded they should be brought before a court or released. He said: ‘This is a secret facility that’s been used to unlawfully detain or intern up to 85 Afghans that they’ve kept secret, that Parliament doesn’t know about, that courts previously when they have interrogated issues like detention and internment in Afghanistan have never been told about — completely off the radar.
‘It is reminiscent of the public’s awakening that there was a Guantanamo Bay.
‘And people will be wondering if these detainees are being treated humanely and in accordance with international law.’
This must be where Shiner’s legendary sense of humour comes into play. He should know full well that this isn’t a ‘secret prison’. And he is aware that the Army has been trying to get rid of these prisoners for years.
Back in 2010, Britain wanted to hand over the detainees to the Afghan justice system. Eventually the High Court in London ruled that they could not be transferred to the Afghans because they might be tortured, which would breach their yuman rites.
Far from being ‘detained unlawfully’ they are being held in British custody on the specific orders of a British court.
You’d expect Shiner to know that. Because in 2010, the original Camp Bastion case was brought by, you guessed, one Phil Shiner. On legal aid, natch. So how does he explain telling the BBC this was a ‘secret camp’, ‘off the radar’, that the courts haven’t been told about?
Now, three years later, he’s heading back to court to argue that the detainees should be put on trial or set free.
Talk about playing both ends. Like Boris Johnson, Shiner appears to be pro-having cake and pro-eating it.
But thanks to the success of his earlier lawsuit, the High Court has ruled the prisoners can’t be entrusted to the Afghan legal system.
Since Shiner doesn’t approve of military justice, that means they would have to be released back into the local community, where they would be at liberty to resume their terrorist activities.
In comedy, as in life, timing is everything.
Just a week after a British soldier was murdered by Islamist terrorists on the streets of South London, this is an odd time to argue that we should be releasing their comrades-in-jihad on to the streets of Afghanistan to kill more of our troops.
Whatever happens next, one thing is certain: yet again the final bill will fall to the mug British taxpayers.
Shiner may not be much of a comedian, but he’s certainly having a laugh. And the joke’s on us.
How far does 'marriage equality' go?
by Jeff Jacoby
IT WAS DURING oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, one of two same-sex marriage cases the Supreme Court took up in March, that Justice Sonia Sotomayor raised the inescapable question, the one that has always loomed over the campaign to radically redefine marriage: Where would the changes end?
"If you say that marriage is a fundamental right," Sotomayor challenged Ted Olson, the lawyer urging the court to invalidate California's Proposition 8 defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, "what state restrictions could ever exist?" If the Constitution won't permit marriage to be limited to spouses of the opposite sex, then how can it allow "state restrictions with respect to the number of people … that could get married" or "the incest laws?" Presumably states would still be free to ban child marriages, she said, but other than that, "what's left?"
In other words, if it's arbitrary and unjust to forbid same-sex marriage, isn't it just as arbitrary and unjust to forbid plural marriage? Or sibling marriage? Once the right to "marriage equality" is enshrined in law, how could any union of consenting adults be denied a marriage license, regardless of traditional norms or definitions?
There is nothing new about this concern, of course. Opponents of same-sex marriage have sounded it for years. Frequently they were accused of pandering to bigotry, or engaging in slippery-slope hysteria. "This is not an argument, it's a panic," wrote Andrew Sullivan, one of the earliest champions of same-sex marriage, in 1996. "To the best of my knowledge, there is no polygamists' rights organization poised to exploit same-sex marriage to return the republic to polygamous abandon. Indeed, few in the same-sex marriage camp have anything but disdain for such an idea."
Sullivan's mocking putdown may have been effective a decade and a half ago. Even now many gay-marriage advocates are inclined to smear as "haters" and "homophobes" those who warn that the drastic revision of marriage won't end with same-sex weddings.
Yet today the avant-garde of "marriage equality" has moved far beyond merely demanding that two men be allowed to marry, or two women.
"Let's not forget that the fight doesn't end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy too," wrote Jillian Keenan in Slate last month. "Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less 'correct' than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults."
Keenan's view may not yet command majority support, but her essay is calm, thoughtful, and well-argued, and Slate is a popular, mainstream liberal journal. Her arguments for legalizing multiple-partner "marriages" come across not as scandalizing or outrageous, but as—familiar. After all, they're just a logical extension of what by now is the well-known case for same-sex marriage. For years, Americans have been instructed that the marital laws should be inclusive and nonjudgmental, that people should have the right to marry whomever they love, that only a bigot or a reactionary would deny a marriage license to Heather's two mommies. Why should anything change if Heather has three mommies and a daddy?
Isn't "marriage" is whatever consenting adults say it is?
In a lawsuit underway in federal court, Kody Brown and his four wives are challenging Utah's anti-bigamy law. "The Browns wanted to show people that a plural family is not a monstrosity," George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told the judge. The ACLU has long opposed "all criminal and civil laws prohibiting or penalizing the practice of plural marriage." Utah's law may be safe for now, but it will only grow harder to make a principled case that "marriage equality" should be denied to anyone for reasons of tradition or morality.
And you don't have to be a social conservative or an opponent of same-sex marriage to realize it. Sotomayor, an Obama appointee, is one of the high court's staunch liberals, but she knows that the logic of "marriage equality" — of declaring that marriage can mean whatever consenting adults want it to mean — is a lot easier to unleash than to call back. Increasingly, many gay-marriage activists embrace the idea that even more dramatic changes, and the undermining of still other family norms, are to come. It is to Sotomayor's credit that the prospect gives her pause.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.