Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Clueless About Columbus
By Michael P. Tremoglie
Columbus Day was first celebrated by the Italian immigrant population of New York City on October 12, 1866. The Italian –American population of San Francisco celebrated it in 1869. It was not until 1905 ( or 1906 or 1907 sources differ), that a state, Colorado, observed a Columbus Day and in 1937 FDR proclaimed October 12 as the Columbus Day federal holiday.
Today Columbus Day is disparaged by liberal multiculturalists who distort the history of Christopher Columbus and they have been doing so since 1992.
An October 2, 2003 post to the Portland Independent Media Center addressed the issue of Columbus Day by saying “Columbus was a slave trader (he kidnapped them and then sold them to the portugese (sic)... he was also responsible for the deaths of over fourteen MILLION carribean (sic) islanders while he was the governer (sic)....” (italics mine)
The references to the kidnapping of slaves and the fourteen million deaths while Columbus was governor are anti-American shibboleths. The figure of fourteen million was not from any census data I could locate. Historian David Henige’s book “Numbers from Nowhere” addresses this issue of the fantastic number of Native American deaths attributed to Columbus. Essentially, he says these figures are more from anti-European and anti-American bias than scholarship.
A decade earlier in 1993, in Philadelphia, a leaflet was distributed to an elementary school class by their teacher. It was titled: “Gifting the White Man..Despite the Betrayals. " The document stated: “Far from being the savages Christopher Columbus described in his log, native peoples of the Americas were advanced in many ways -- and were more civilized than their discoverers. From the moment Europeans set foot in the West, the world has been enriched by Indian achievements and wisdom. In return, native peoples have been paid back with five centuries of cruelty, betrayals, and relentless attempts to take their lands and destroy their culture. “
The paper then lists in two separate columns: “ Indian Gifts to White Men “ and “ White Man’s Gifts to the Indians.” Under the column of Indian Gifts is government. According to the leaflet’s authors, “ The American Federal system derives not from Europe -- whose nation's knew nothing of democracy -- but Indian tribal organizations..”
Europeans knew nothing of democracy? Obviously, these revisionists did not know that democracy is a Greek word. They obviously never heard of Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Burke, deGroot, or Plato.
Under the column of “ White Man’s Gifts,” there is a chronology of atrocities and betrayals. Consider the following: “ 1492 -- Columbus discovers America and immediately enslaves native peoples. On Haiti Indians over 14 were required to bring a certain quota of gold or their hands were cut off.”
The whole paper is rife with distortions. It is designed more to incite than to inform-- more propaganda than history. The proof is in the identity of the authors. This is revealed in the last paragraph that refers to a political action group known as the Native American Rights Fund. Obviously, the handout is nothing more than a fund-raising letter distributed to elementary school students by a Philadelphia schoolteacher as a history lesson.
The multiculturalists would rather perpetuate the myth of the Noble Savage. This is deceitful. Warfare and conquest of foreigners was a common practice among Native Americans – even those with whom Columbus first came into contact.
If the multiculturalists wanted to be fair and balanced they should teach about the practice of human sacrifice by the Aztecs and the practice of cannibalism by the Caribes. Indeed our modern word “cannibal” is derived from the mispronunciation of the name Caribe by the Spanish.
As British historian Hugh Thomas points out in his seminal work "Conquest," the Taino Indians of Cuba had conquered and enslaved the Ciboney, who had displaced the Gauanhatabey. The Tainos in turn dreaded the Caribs, who had already conquered the Igneri. Yet, the multiculturalists do not teach such things in school. If they did it would discredit their actual objective, which is to demonize Western culture.
If multiculturalists really want to educate students about slavery, then they should teach not only about the enslavement of Native Americans and Africans by Europeans, they should teach about the enslavement of Native Americans by other Native Americans. They should teach that slavery was practiced among the Aztecs, the Incas, and the Mayas, as well as Tlingit, the Haida, and other tribes.
If multiculturalists really want to educate students about slavery, then they should teach about the African roots of the transatlantic slave trade. They should teach that slavery was a well-established practice in Africa before the Europeans were involved. They should teach that Africans enslaved one another.
Cicero once said, “The first law of the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth…there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice.”
If multiculturalism is intent on elevating some cultures at the expense of others, it should be abolished. Until multiculturalist historians heed the words of Cicero, the PC torchbearers will continue to divide rather than unite.
Air hostess refuses to hang up Army Ranger’s jacket
A US Airways flight attendant had the brass to prevent a decorated Army Ranger from hanging up his uniform jacket in a first class closet.
First Sgt. Albert Marle asked a flight attendant if she would hang up his coat on a four-hour flight Thursday from Portland, Ore. to Charlotte, NC, said Charlotte TV station WSOC.
But Marle was traveling coach — and the closet was for first class passengers, the airline said. “If the space is available, our Crew will allow you to use,” the airline said in a tweet meant to explain its closet policy.
But that’s not what the flight attendant told Sgt. Marle, passengers told the TV station. Instead, she simply said, “Our airline policy says I’m not going to do it, so I’m not going to do it,” recounted first-class passenger Brian Kirby.
“I was really appalled at not only the way she looked at him but the way she spoke to him in an angry type of attitude,” said Kirby.
Marle did not raise a fuss, and did not comment to reporters. But others on the plane complained on social media.
“We hold all those serving our country in the highest regard and apologize for any offense caused,” the airline said Friday in another tweet. It said it is reviewing the incident.
How UK liberals helped police hack the press
As further revelations of the police hacking journalists’ phone records come to light, it is tempting to update an old warning to the UK’s liberal political and media class: ‘First they came for the Sun, but you did nothing, because you hate the Sun. Then they came for Mail on Sunday, but you did nothing, because you hate the Mail papers possibly even more than the Murdoch press. Then they came for…?’
But in fact that wouldn’t be fair. Because our supposedly liberal-minded politicians, media and lobbyists did not ‘do nothing’ as the police targeted the tabloid press. No, they were far worse than that. They encouraged the authorities to take firmer and more wide-sweeping action against the popular press, using the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World as the pretext. They even pressed the police to use the full force of the ‘national security’ Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to pursue the Murdoch press and tabloid journalists.
Now these same public figures are apparently up in arms about the Met’s use of RIPA secretly to hack into journalists’ phone records, protesting that these are the methods of a police state. If so, it is a police state that was armed and invited to curtail press freedom by our illiberal liberals.
We now know that the Metropolitan Police hacked into the phone records of the Mail on Sunday, and trawled through thousands of calls made from that paper’s news desk. The secret police did it in order to track down the confidential source of a big MoS story, about Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne getting his then wife Vicky Pryce to take the blame for his speeding offences.
These revelations follow hard on the heels of the Met’s admission that it hacked the phone records of the Sun news desk and its political editor, in order to hunt down and sack the officers who gave the paper the ‘Plebgate’ story about Tory cabinet minister Andrew Davies – even though prosecutors admitted that the whistleblowers had committed no crime and had acted in the ‘public interest’.
That Sun case confirmed, as we said on spiked, that phone-hacking is officially deemed neither a crime nor a scandal, so long as it’s the secret police hacking the Sun. The MoS hacking case shows how the Met have gone further still.
To hack the Sun, the Met got around the legal niceties of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), which involve a tiresome process of asking a judge for permission to access phone records, dealing with the other side’s lawyers, and probably having to accept the protection of the journalist’s confidential sources. To short-circuit all that nonsense, the Met ignored PACE and went straight in with RIPA, which allows them secretly to access phone records and identify sources simply with the legal ‘authorisation’ of a police superintendent. So that’s all right then.
In the case of the Mail on Sunday, however, the Met made the mistake of going through the PACE procedures. The judge agreed to grant them access to the call records, but ruled that the name of the source must be ‘redacted’ – blacked out – from the documents. Police ignored that caution, moved the goalposts, and used RIPA secretly to trawl through thousands of journalists’ calls and identify the MoS source. Britain’s secret police insist that this was all legal (if not entirely above board). No doubt the Stasi could have said much the same thing.
These revelations have unsurprisingly scandalised prominent liberal-minded politicians, media people, and civil-rights lobbyists. Yet they should hardly be surprised. After all, it was these same spokespersons for our liberal elite, filled with fear and loathing of the popular press and the populace it appeals to, who demanded that the state crack down on tabloid journalism in the wake of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Are they really naive enough to imagine that the police would only accept and act upon their invitation like gentlemen? Pigs might fly first.
Leading Labour MP Keith Vaz now protests that the police phone-hackers have ‘struck a serious blow against press freedom’. Noble words. Could this be the same Vaz who, as chairman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee of MPs, lambasted the Met from 2011 onwards for ‘not doing enough’ to crack down on the excesses of tabloid journalism? Indeed it could.
Elsewhere the Liberal Democrat conference has adopted a policy of reforming RIPA and other laws to restrain police action against the press and ‘protect responsible journalism’. This apparently liberalising motion was drafted and pushed by the former Lib Dem MP Evan Harris, now the parliamentary lobbyist for the tabloid-bashing Hacked Off campaign and PR suck-up for Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan. Having championed the authorities’ crackdown on the ‘irresponsible’ popular press, Harris and Co. seemingly worry that the Met might act against the sort of well-behaved journalism of which they approve.
Perhaps as bizarrely, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and his star writer Nick Davies have also complained about the police attacks on tabloid journalists’ sources. Davies, who led the crusade to expose and punish hacking at the NotW, says that the police have ‘cheated’ by using the RIPA to hack phone records. It’s just not cricket, you chaps!
Yet as Davies makes clear in his recent self-congratulatory tome, Hack Attack, his role throughout the phone-hacking scandal was to act, as my review on spiked put it, ‘as the Provisional Wing of the Metropolitan Police, urging them to crack down harder on the Murdoch papers and informing the Met that a stricter interpretation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) would enable them to arrest more members of the press. Which seems a novel interpretation of the journalist’s role of “speaking truth to power”.’ Having eventually accepted the lead that he offered them, Davies of the Guardian now appears surprised that the Met have gone even further than he suggested in using RIPA to treat tabloid journalists like jihadists.
Meanwhile Liberty, the UK human rights lobby, has expressed half-hearted support for the ‘Save Our Sources’ campaign launched by Press Gazette in response to the Met hacking revelations. This might be more convincing but for the fact that Ms Liberty herself, Shami Chakrabarti, sat as a handpicked panellist alongside Lord Justice Leveson throughout his inquiry into the ‘culture, practices and ethics’ of the UK press.
It was the Leveson Inquiry, a showtrial in which the tabloids were found guilty before proceedings began, that gave the green light for the state to launch its war on the press, rounding up 63 tabloid journalists, many of whom are still facing the threat of legal action years later. Yet all of the alleged liberals who worshipped at the feet of their good lord justice Leveson, and demanded that the police and courts take action against that ‘different breed’ known as tabloid journalists, now protest that the authorities have taken up their invitation with such gusto by hacking in search of sources.
As Sun editor David Dinsmore puts it, in an interview to be published shortly on our Free Speech Now! site, their attitude brings to mind Michael Caine’s famous admonition that, ‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’.
The lesson of all of this is not that the Met has gone ‘too far’ or ‘cheated’ in its use of RIPA. It is that press freedom is an indivisible liberty that we defend for all or none at all. You cannot pick and choose which bits of the media you want to be ‘free’. And that in practice the state will only ever ‘support’ a free press in the same way that a rope supports a hanging man. No agency of the state, from the police to parliament, the courts to a judge-led inquiry, can be trusted to protect the freedom of the expression and of the press that is the lifeblood of a civilised society.
Despite the best efforts of the secret Met hackers on his behalf, Huhne and his ex-wife were both eventually jailed for their attempt to pervert justice. On his release, the former Lib Dem minister moved into a column at the Guardian, where he took the liberty to blame his downfall on… an anti-democracy conspiracy by the Murdoch press and the Mail group. Wherever could the police have got the idea that it was all right to treat the tabloids like terror groups?
Two cheers for the Tory war on the human rights Act
UK human-rights law doesn't need to be reformed – it needs to be abolished
On Friday, the UK Conservative Party caused a furore with its proposals for changes to Britain’s human-rights laws. It was frontpage news, and the tabloids went to town. ‘End of human-rights farce’, said the Daily Mail; ‘Human-rights madness to end’, said the Daily Express; the Sun even referred to ‘the hated Human Rights Act’. On the other side of the human-rights debate, the former Conservative attorney general, Dominic Grieve, who was sacked in July’s reshuffle, described the proposals as ‘almost puerile’, and a Guardian editorial defended the Human Rights Act against the Tories’ new proposals, calling it ‘a civilised and a civilising law’. Human rights, it seems, are today considered either toxic or the hallmark of a civilised society.
The key point to grasp about human-rights laws is that they are gateways for judges to play a political role. Under existing human-rights law – as established in the Human Rights Act, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law – members of the public can take public bodies to court for failing to respect or uphold their human rights. Once a person’s grievance against a public body gets through the gateway, it becomes a judicial function to determine whether the body is or isn’t in breach of human rights. This decision will be made by judges exercising an extraordinary degree of latitude. The political gateway function explains why views on human rights tend to be polarised. The human-rights lobby is wary of democracy, lest the majority should oppress a minority, so it sees the judiciary as a necessary means of fettering majoritarianism and of safeguarding civilised society. On the other hand, vesting judges with a political role is something that many people find wrong in principle.
Even if the point of principle is ignored, the recent history of judicial political interventions has caused many to question whether judges should have been given such formidable powers under the Human Rights Act. The human-rights lobby has cheered each time another issue has passed through a human-rights gateway to be overseen by judges. Assisted suicide, extradition, care-home admissions, local-authority domiciliary care, prisoners voting, suing the Ministry of Defence, suing the police and welfare benefit reforms are just some of the many issues that the judiciary is now empowered to rule on under the rubric of human-rights law.
A number of recent policies that were, effectively, created by these judges have been received as absurd. The best known absurdity being the recent ruling that UK law on prisoner enfranchisement is unlawful and, say the courts in Strasbourg and the UK, should be changed. But there have been many other examples of problematic human-rights judgements, such as: when the courts have claimed that dementia sufferers receiving good care are living in ‘gilded cages’; when the courts allowed the police and the Ministry of Defence to be sued for negligence; and the attempts by some judges to nudge parliament to legalise assisted suicide.
It was clearly time for a backlash. The Conservative Party has recognised that human-rights laws have grown like Topsy and need to be reined in to establish an appropriate demarcation between politics and law. To this end, the Tory policy takes aim at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which has meddled in so many political issues. The Tories are proposing that the ECHR’s rulings should only have an advisory status. And if this arrangement proves to be unacceptable to the ECHR then, the policy paper says, ‘the UK would be left with no alternative but to withdraw from the ECHR’.
But it isn’t just judges in Strasbourg whose powers the Tories propose to clip. The current practice whereby almost anyone with a grievance against a public body can turn it into a human-rights claim would be tackled with four measures affecting UK judges. Firstly, the Tories propose to prevent acts of parliament from being effectively rewritten by judges. Secondly, they propose to limit the use of human-rights laws to ‘the most serious cases’. Thirdly, rights will be balanced against responsibilities, so that, for example, a foreign national who takes the life of another person will not be able to resist deportation by relying on the human right of respect for family life. Fourthly, human-rights laws will be limited to dealing with issues arising in the UK, so as to prevent British armed forces overseas from being subject to persistent human-rights claims.
The human-rights lobby responded with apoplexy. And, in their attempt to shoot down the Tories’ plan, human-rights proponents used the arguments they are most comfortable with: legal ones. A string of practising and academic lawyers claimed the proposals were legally incoherent. Within 36 hours of the Tory announcement, the Labour Party deployed its big bazooka: an opinion from two ‘eminent QCs’ from Matrix Chambers who claimed the proposals were ‘wholly unworkable, legally contradictory and inherently inconsistent’. The implication of these legal critiques is that Britain, a supposedly sovereign state, should not be allowed to have an elected government that has the power to rein in human-rights law. It is a telling feature of the human-rights lobby that it is quite comfortable with the anti-democratic stance on which its legal arguments are founded.
No doubt the Tory proposals would give rise to legal issues, although it should be noted that Britain’s best-known commentator on the law, Joshua Rozenberg, said the proposals were ‘legally coherent’. Far more interesting, however, are the political principles that inform the Conservative proposals.
From a political perspective, the proposals are muddled. Human rights either have a special constitutional quality or they don’t. The European Convention on Human Rights, which the Tories propose to retain in a new British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, is aimed at setting out rights that should always be applied. The Conservative proposals attempt to square the circle. On the one hand, the policy claims that ‘protecting fundamental human rights is a hallmark of a democratic society’, and yet, on the other hand, the Tories propose to deny these ‘fundamental human rights’ to persons with human-rights violations that are not deemed ‘serious’, or to claimants who have breached their responsibilities.
This muddled thinking disappears once it is accepted that today’s notion of human rights do not warrant a special constitutional status. Contrary to what the Tories claim, human rights are not ‘a hallmark of a democratic society’. There are certain rights that may warrant a special constitutional status, namely rights that constrain the state’s power so as to ensure the liberty and freedom of the citizen. These are civil and political rights such as free speech, the right to a free press, freedom of conscience, the right of association, the principle of innocence until proven guilty, and the right to have any guilt determined by a fair process. Each of these rights, in a democracy, could have a special constitutional status on the basis that without them democracy is abridged.
But the human rights that have developed under the ECHR do not underpin democracy. Take for example, control orders, or TPIMs (Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures) as they are now. It is an affront to democracy that anyone can be held under house arrest without being found guilty of a crime. It is a power that the state in a democracy should not possess. Yet, despite numerous human-rights challenges to control orders, the notion of indefinite house arrest for an innocent person was found to be compatible with human-rights laws. Following various human-rights challenges in 2007, the then minister of state for security, Tony McNulty MP, was correct to claim that the courts have ‘endorsed the principles of the control-order regime’.
Or, take the case of free speech, which John Milton famously described as the liberty ‘above all liberties’ and which is appropriately codified in the American Bill of Rights, whereby ‘Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press’. Human-rights laws have not prevented parliament or public bodies from abridging freedom of speech. They have, for example, upheld hate-speech laws; failed to prevent the exclusion or deportation of religious fanatics; and have allowed for the banning of allegedly anti-gay Christian adverts.
Instead of underpinning democracy, human-rights laws undermine it. Far from constraining the state to make democracy possible, human-rights laws seek to transfer issues from the political sphere, where they are subject to democratic accountability, to a legal sphere that is beyond democratic accountability.
A politically coherent human-rights proposal would recognise that human-rights laws are inherently problematic. And it would recognise that, whereas there are some civil and political rights that are hallmarks of a democratic society, the human rights that have developed under the ECHR certainly do not have that required quality.
We must brick-in the human rights gateways so as to deny judges the ability to play a political role. The new Conservative proposals, however, argue instead for them to be narrowed, to be tilted in a different direction, and for the gatekeepers to be UK judges rather than European ones.
Despite its political flaws, the Tory policy could sound the beginning of the end for the human-rights discourse that has developed almost without challenge over the last decade or so. The human-rights lobby has rarely been challenged on its open-ended theory ‘that every human being is entitled to fundamental rights simply because they are human’. This ‘theory’ allows its adherents to widen the gateways ad nauseam.
Having, since 2000, encouraged judges to create so many ‘fundamental rights’, the human-rights edifice stands discredited, and could easily topple. Even signed-up members of the human-rights lobby find it increasingly difficult to justify many human-rights judgments which stray away from issues of ‘fundamental rights’ and which express contentious political perspectives.
The human-rights discourse has always been an elite project of the middle class: lead by lawyers, championed by some judges and cheered on by campaign groups, all of whom have little purchase with the rest of society. As one of the project’s leading lights, Professor Francesca Klug, pointed out: ‘The reality is that it [the Human Rights Act] has never been sufficiently “owned” by British people as truly “theirs”.’
As the human-rights lobby has grown, the gateways through which judges can make laws, with little or no popular support, have widened. It’s time that these gateways were closed. It’s possible that the Tories’ latest proposals for changing human-rights laws could, despite some muddled thinking, be the beginning of the end for the human-rights discourse. In the cause of democracy, let’s hope so.
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 and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.