Thursday, December 17, 2015
UK: The great public backlash over bid to curb freedom law: 30,000 people submit views to government review
Ministers have been hit with a huge public backlash over plans to neuter the Freedom of Information Act, the Daily Mail can reveal.
Some 30,000 members of the public, campaigners, civil society groups and journalists have submitted their views to a government review of the legislation.
Such is the scale of the response, the review has been put back by several months so they can be considered.
From a sample of responses, the public is overwhelmingly supportive of the Act.
Yesterday the Mail revealed how public sector bureaucrats are demanding the transparency law be reined in to stop the flow of revelations about scandals in the NHS, police, town halls and education.
They complained that the Act was too expensive and that key services such as elderly care would suffer unless it was curbed. But, alongside their submissions to the Commission on Freedom of Information, are those from thousands of ordinary people who are outraged by the threat to the law.
A sample of the submissions published by the Commission online include former public sector workers warning about the importance of FoI in preventing cover-ups. Others point out the scale of spending by taxpayer-funded bodies on spin and marketing, which dwarfs the costs of FoI requests.
The Commission panel, many of whom are no friends of FoI, is examining ways to restrict the public’s right to ask for data held by government and other public bodies.
It was due to report by the end of November. But the scale of the submissions means it has been delayed by months. Officials are now planning a series of evidence hearings at the end of next month.
Jeanetta Shearer, a retired GP practice manager, wrote: ‘Without scrutiny, it becomes possible to maintain secrecy over information that is merely embarrassing or shows people in positions of trust or power in a poor light.
‘Secrecy often becomes a goal in its own right, covering up all manner of misdeeds.’ Robbie Guillory wrote: ‘As the old saying goes “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and having the FoI taken away from the public, or hidden behind a pay-wall, is a good way to continue that corruption.’
Roger Saxon wrote: ‘These bodies spend vastly more on non-statutory advertising and PR. Public information is the lifeblood of democracy, not just an optional add-on that can be suppressed because it costs a small amount of money.’
Another submission, from James Pragnell, said: ‘Charging for information would be tantamount to censorship for people who could not afford the charges.’
Patrick Twist made a similar point, adding: ‘Of course there is a cost to providing that service but it is no more a burden than the cost of employing a nurse is a “burden” on the NHS.
‘I consider it highly likely that any costs of complying with FoI requests are more than made up for by the savings made through the uncovering of waste and fraud.’
Tim Davies said: ‘FoI requests should not be viewed as a “burden”: they are the very template of a genuinely democratic society.’
Jill Sanders, from the Friends of Hurst Park, wrote: ‘I have worked in a large local authority; I have seen how most senior officers disapprove of FoI and consider it an imposition. All the more reason to protect it: for the common man.’
Gavin Barker, a former civil servant added: ‘The public must have a right to know what is done in their name – always. That is the necessary burden borne by public departments in any genuine democratic system.’
The panel is led by former Treasury mandarin Lord Burns.
In a statement published on its website he said: ‘I’m pleased to have received approximately 30,000 submissions of evidence from individuals, campaign groups, journalists and civil society organisations from all over the country.
‘Given the large volume of evidence that we have received, it will take time to read and consider all of the submissions.’
Cruz: Obama ‘More Interested in Promoting Homosexuality in the Military Than He Is in Defeating Our Enemy’
Morale in the U.S. military has “plummeted” in recent years because President Barack Obama “doesn’t support our soldiers,” won’t even name the enemy “radical Islamic terrorism,” and is “more interested in promoting homosexuality in the military” than in “defeating our enemy,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
During a conference call with Bishop E.W. Jackson of the National Emergency Coalition (NEC), Senator Cruz said, “You look at the military and one of the things we’ve seen is morale in the military under the Obama administration has plummeted, and it has plummeted because you have a commander-in-chief that doesn’t support our soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines."
“You have a commander-in-chief that doesn’t stand up against our enemies, that won’t even acknowledge or say the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’” said Cruz. “And you have a commander-in-chief that treats the military as a cauldron for social experimentation.”
“He’s more interested in promoting homosexuality in the military than he is in defeating our enemy,” said the senator.
“So, for example,” he added, “the military is now focused on trying to promote transgender soldiers. The role of the military is not to be some left-wing social experiment.”
“The reason we have the brave men and women who sign up as servicemen and women to defend this nation is to stand for our values, to protect our safety and security, to protect innocent men and women, and to stand up and defeat our enemies,” said Cruz.
In conclusion, he said, “I would stop the shameless politicizing of our military to push a left-wing agenda that is contrary to the values and contrary to who we are as an American people and a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values.”
Tyson Fury: falling victim to PC tyranny
It’s an outrage that the police are investigating Fury’s beliefs
If you were in any doubt that Britain is skating perilously close to tyrannical territory, get this: the boxer Tyson Fury is being investigated by police over his comments on homosexuality. Fury, a Manchester-based boxer who became the heavyweight champion of the world at the end of last month, is a born-again Christian. He thinks homosexuality is sinful. In a recent newspaper interview he compared it to paedophilia. And now, after receiving a complaint from a member of the public at 10.30 this morning, Greater Manchester Police will put him under the spotlight to determine if his words constituted a hate crime.
To put this another way: in 2015, in a nation that claims to be liberal and democratic, a nation which just last week launched missiles attacks on ISIS to demonstrate its love for liberty against ISIS’s desire to traduce our enlightened values, a man is being investigated by the authorities over his beliefs; his convictions; his deeply held faith. The police are opening a file on Fury, not over any physical act he carried out, not for robbery or assault or affray, but because he thought and said something that many people disagree with.
British politicians wring their hands over Saudi Arabia’s arrest of blasphemous bloggers or ISIS’s severe punishment of those who doubt the Prophet. Yet at the same time they give the nod as police investigate a man who dares to hold to Biblical scripture on homosexuality. In fact, they wrote the very hate-speech laws that allow those judged to be overly Godly, too Biblically literal, to be investigated for ‘hate crimes’. Is this not religious persecution, too? The potential punishment of someone for believing in God in a particular way? Sure, Fury won’t be flogged or even jailed, but the principle is the same here as it is in Saudi Arabia: officialdom presumes it has the tyrannical authority to question and punish individuals for what is inside their minds and hearts.
Some will say that Greater Manchester Police’s opening of an investigation into Fury is, at this point, a formality. And that’s true. Every complaint of a ‘hate crime’ must be investigated by the cops. Yes, it takes just one person phoning them up and saying, ‘Someone said something that I think is a hate crime’, for the police to poke their noses into our speech and ideas. The police might later decide that there’s no case to pursue against Fury and leave it at that.
But it is outrageous that they have even opened an investigation. It’s not enough for them, or us, to say, ‘Hate-speech laws demand that every complaint be taken seriously and that’s why we’re looking into Fury’; we should campaign to abolish any law that empowers the police or any other wing of the state even to think about feeling someone’s collar simply because he holds unpopular or strange or non-mainstream beliefs and has the temerity to express them.
The police probe into Fury’s comments confirms that hate-speech laws facilitate actual, old-fashioned, moral censorship. Apologists for hate-speech legislation claim it’s only about tackling explicitly racist or bigoted comments. (As if that wouldn’t be bad enough: racists and bigots should be as free as everyone else to express themselves.) But hate-speech laws also punish moral convictions, religious beliefs, political speech. In Europe in recent years, Christian pastors have been arrested for denouncing homosexuality; people have been fined for describing the Islamic ritual slaughter of animals as ‘barbaric’; columnists who want to stop immigration have been grassed to the police. These are viewpoints, whether you like them or not, and they’re no business whatsoever of officialdom. The Fury case should remind us that one man’s hate speech is another man’s belief system. Fury really believes homosexuality is sinful. Deal with it.
The spread of hate-monitoring, which is just a fancy term for thoughtpolicing, represents a reversal of the Enlightenment we’re supposed to be defending against Islamists and nihilists. Post-Inquisition, the great English jurist Edward Coke insisted that ‘No man, ecclesiastical or temporal, shall be examined upon the thoughts of his heart’. Today, a man is being investigated over the contents of his heart, over his expression of faith. Loads of people are. There should be a lot more anger about this. If the police make plans to go to Fury’s home to question him, there should be people outside, stopping them, pushing them back, expelling the state from the realm of belief and speech.
Our Timid Military Leaders
By Walter E. Williams
This month, President Barack Obama's defense secretary, Ashton Carter, decreed that there will be 220,000 combat military jobs offered to women — including in Army special operations forces and the Navy SEALs. He said, "They'll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat ... and everything else that was previously open only to men."
Technological changes since the time of the M60 Patton, embodied in the M1 Abrams tank, mean that a woman can probably drive a tank. But what if track pads or a tank track has to be repaired in the field and under enemy fire? Such repairs pose a significant physical challenge to men, who generally have far greater strength than women. Will our military leaders relieve women from such a task, claiming that demanding equal performance creates a "disparate," sexually discriminatory impact?
Then there's hand-to-hand combat training, which comes near the end of the Army's basic training. Recruits spend a few hours facing off against each other in pugil stick bouts. Pugil sticks are padded training weapons used since World War II by each branch of the military to train service members for hand-to-hand rifle and bayonet combat. The object of the training is to subdue your opponent. Women are at a severe disadvantage because upper-body strength really counts.
Given the timidity and character of today's military leaders, I predict several possibilities: Training with pugil sticks will be banned, or servicewomen will train only against other servicewomen, or, if the training is integrated, servicemen will be court-martialed if they knock out or knock down a servicewoman. Even if our military leaders fudge this aspect of training, what happens in actual combat when hand-to-hand skills are called upon? I wouldn't be surprised if today's military leaders call for an amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions to make the hand-to-hand killing of a female fighter a war crime.
What about other training standards? The Army's physical fitness test in basic training is a three-event physical performance test used to assess endurance.
The minimum requirement for 17- to 21-year-old males is 35 pushups, 47 situps and a 2-mile run in 16 minutes, 36 seconds or less. For females of the same age, the minimum requirement is 13 pushups, 47 situps and a 19:42 2-mile run. Equal fitness standards would wash most women out.
"USMC Women in the Service Restrictions Review" found that the average woman has 20 percent lower aerobic power, 40 percent lower muscle strength, 47 percent less lifting strength and 26 percent slower marching speed than the average man. Women are less likely to be able to march under load — 12.4 miles in five hours with a 71-pound assault load — and to be able to crawl, sprint and negotiate obstacles with that load and move a casualty weighing 165 pounds or more while carrying that load.
There are other differences between male and female troops. Women are twice as likely to suffer injuries and are three times more undeployable than men. Servicewomen are four times likelier to report being ill than servicemen. The percentage of servicewomen being medically unavailable at any time is twice that of servicemen. Then there's pregnancy. Each year, between 10 and 17 percent of servicewomen become pregnant.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of military social engineering is the cover-up of failure. Officers who criticize double standards or expose official lies and deception about servicewomen's performance risk their careers. Those official lies and deception will eventually reveal themselves with unnecessary loss of lives on the battlefield.
Finally, the Selective Service System's website (http://www.sss.gov) reads: "While there has been talk recently about women in combat, there has been NO decision to require females to register with Selective Service, or be subject to a future military draft. Selective Service continues to register only men, ages 18 through 25."
How can that, coupled with reduced performance standards, possibly be consistent with the Defense Department's stated agenda "to provide a level, gender-neutral playing field"?
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.