Tuesday, December 01, 2015
UK: Multicultural bookkeeper is jailed for three years after stealing £250,000 to pay for his daughters’ private school fees and luxury holidays
A bookkeeper who stole £234,000 from a solicitor's firm to finance his daughters' private-school education has been jailed for more than three years.
Ian Emmanuel Thomas, 53, defrauded Croydon's Cook & Partners for seven years by banking cheques meant for the HMRC into his own account.
He then used the payments to cover his mortgage, to go on lavish holidays and to cover the costs of schooling for his two daughters.
The court heard how his crimes - which he tried to pin on the office manager - were only discovered when the firm installed a new fraud system. One of the partners faced bankruptcy as a result.
Thomas, from Ashford, Kent, has now been jailed for three years and four months after pleading guilty to theft and false accounting between March 2003 and August 2010.
Jailing him at at Inner London Crown Court, Judge Owen Davies said: 'It's got to be prison. Clearly this was a breach of trust.
'The fraud was extremely simple. Pre-signed cheques were filled-out by you to yourself because you wanted to send your daughters to a good school, have holidays and pay off the mortgage on your home.'
He added: 'The effect against the firm has been devastating.'
The court heard how Thomas, who worked at the firm since 1986, was trusted to use the firm's money to pay suppliers and the VAT bill by cheque.
But he would instead make the cheques out to his own bank account, while writing on the stub that it was for a verified organisation.
After being caught in 2010, Thomas admitted taking money for two years. But when he questioned by police in 2012 he tried to blame the firm's office manager and did not plead guilty until the first day of his trial.
The court heard how, due to his fraud, the firm also faced conduct proceedings in front of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA).
They were fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £15,000 costs which left partner Ian Douglas - said to be suffering 'acute and chronic stress' - facing bankruptcy.
The second partner, Christopher Cook, has had treatment for depression and the fraud was said to have had a 'major impact' on his health.
Thomas has now been ordered to pay £260,000 compensation following a County Court court brought by the firm.
The court heard Thomas has also been banned from ever working in a solicitor's firm again.
His lawyer Mr. Azize Chelliah had pleaded for the judge to give Thomas a suspended sentence but Judge Davies said the offence was 'much too serious'. He told Thomas: 'You blamed a person who was blameless and the nightmare of every solicitor is being taken to the SRA.'
Politics and What Remains of the English Language
By Victor Davis Hanson
Here is a list of a few trendy words, overused, politicized, and empty of meaning, that now plague popular communications.
“Intersection” How many times have we read a writer, columnist, pundit, or job applicant self-describe himself with this strange word? Here's an example: “Joe Blow is a social theorist working at the intersection of class oppression, racial stereotyping, and transgendered emergence.”? Or: “Amanda Lopez writes at the intersection of Latina identity, Foucauldian otherness, and social media.” Most of the time “intersection” exists only in the grandiose mind of the writer. It is a patent though feeble attempt to become a threefer or fourfer on the race/gender/generic victim/revolutionary activist scale. The intersected topics are individually irrelevant -- and all the more so when cobbled together. The use of "intersection" is a postmodern way of plastering bumper-sticker narcissisms without writing, “I am an identity-studies person without much knowledge of literature, history, or languages, but am desperately trying to convey expertise of some sort by piling up a bunch of pseudo-disciplines that credential my victimhood activism.”
“Diversity” The noun was rebranded in the 1980s, and does not mean what it by nature should -- “a range” or “multiplicity.” No one furthers the goals of “diversity” by ensuring plenty of conservatives, liberals, radicals and reactionaries on campus, or welcoming lots of Christian fundamentalists as well as atheists and Muslims. The word instead is a euphemism for non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual, non-Christian, and non-liberal. It is a relative and entirely political noun. The University of Missouri football team can both be 52% African-American and proof of diversity, even if African-Americans make up less than 12% of the population -- in a way that all white and elderly Democratic primary candidates are honorifically diverse by virtue of their homogeneous left-wing politics.
Three other observations: First, racial and ethnic diversity, without assimilation and integration into one culture, and when identity becomes essential rather than incidental to a nation (i.e. a salad bowl society rather than the melting pot), leads to Armageddon, whether in Austria-Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, or Iraq.
Second, the word gained careerist currency because of the bankruptcy of the idea of affirmative action, after it became impossible to explain and thus defend racial set-asides. Who can define the proper DNA that makes one deserving of admissions and employment reparations: 1/4 African-American, but not Punjabi or Egyptian? Hmong, but not Japanese? Oaxacan, but not Castilian? Muslim, but not Mormon? An indigent Appalachian, but not Eric Holder’s son? As a result, universities had to lump everybody deemed non-white together as they pleased and called the catch-all result “diversity” -- regardless of class, income, status or history. If one wishes someone non-white to be hired on the physics faculty, then a South Korean immigrant green-card-holding PhD counts as diversity, in a way that his son would not qualify for traditional affirmative-action status as an 18-year-old applicant to UC Berkeley. Diversity lowered the affirmative-action bar and the natural consequence of vagueness were the fantasies of Elizabeth Warren, Rachel Dolezal, Shaun King, and Ward Churchill -- all professed to be diverse, but all without proper certifications of affirmative-action status.
Third, no one outside the campus much believes in the inherent advantage of diversity/diverse, as least as opposed to united: The Diverse States of America? Diverse Airlines? The Diversity Way? Diverse Technologies? The Diverse Auto Workers?
“Privilege” It certainly no longer means honor or pride (e.g., “It has been my privilege to know you”), but has degenerated into a word of disparagement, used mostly with “white,” as in “white privilege.” And so privilege so often means nothing other than a way for mostly upper-middle-class white kids on campus to feel that they will have fewer problems if they “check” their privilege by reeducation-camp-style confessionals. There are perhaps 230 million “white” somebodies in the United States. The idea that a guy selling cars in Toledo has some intrinsic edge over Valerie Jarrett, Jorge Ramos, or Beyoncé because he is slightly pinker is ridiculous. Don’t take my word for it: when President Obama blasted the “clingers,” his subtext was that poor white uneducated and supposedly superstitious people did not and should not enjoy the privilege that he as an Ivy-League, arugula eating, and golf-putting elite enjoyed. Usually “privilege” is a preemptory word: if you are wealthy or at least middle class and you do not wish to be assessed on your work and achievement, then you accuse others (usually rivals or superiors) of enjoying insidious “privilege” which otherwise explains your own happiness over your perceived lack of parity. Privilege is always asserted, never defined or analyzed.
“Swag” I mention this curious slang only because it has left street parlance. (Is it short for “swagger,” or some sort of acronym denoting sexual preference?)
Swag certainly has left its Nordic root of “sagging/rocking” and entered the language of the First Family. One has swag apparently in the sense that although thoroughly conventional in dress, language, income, status and career, one still has found a demonstrable way to denote that he is authentic, as in cool, hip, in with it.
Swag is supposedly attained by ever so slight adjustments in vocabulary, fashion, or comportment that do not threaten an otherwise studied conventionality. Swag is a reflection that one worries that he has lost the authenticity and legitimacy that helped him win conventionality, and from time to time feels it is career wise to swag his roots, both to fulfill psychological needs and to practice a studied otherness in case its easy demonstration might come in handy in the future. An otherwise slothful lion in the zoo has swag when he growls at an obtrusive onlooker. I suppose when I was farming and occasionally had to drive my decrepit Dodge 1974 pickup, with shovels, broken concrete pipes, valve castings, and bags of quickset in the back, into the faculty parking lot, I could be said to have had ag swag? Barack Obama is said to swag when he uses contrived street parlance when hanging with his basketball heroes.
In other words, swag is essentially a neurotic tic.
“Hurtful” is a strange word that certainly does not fit any standard, identifiable definition of experiencing genuine mental anguish or physical pain, as in it would be hurtful when stung by 6 wasps, or it would be hurtful should someone call you a SOB and then dare you to do something about it. Instead, it has become an entirely subjective term, useful for the enhancement of victimhood leading to envisioned concessions. Again, hurtful is a generic, catch-all adjective. A teacher whose speech is declared “hurtful” is usually not able to be charged with being “racist,” “sexist” or even “obnoxious.” Instead, hurtful is a word of first resort when there is no clear evidence that one has suffered racist or sexist attack, but is unhappy nonetheless for vague reasons. Presto, one finds another’s speech or behavior hurtful, a charge that allows all sorts of fantasies and speculation. Did his teacher’s unspecified “hurtful” behavior or language involve donning a Klan hood or employing “homosexual” instead of “gay”?
Hurtful is a useful political adjective because de facto it implies damage done, in the passive rather than active sense. An “obnoxious” person radiates his toxicity, and a “hater” projects his hatred. But hurtful (“full of hurt”) is entirely, not partly, in the eye of the victim, who alone decides what particular speech or act hit the target and drew blood.
“You are a nice girl” does not qualify as obnoxious or hateful speech, at least as so recognized outside the minute confines of the media-studies department. But it is probably “hurtful” speech, since some one can argue that “nice” and “girl” are proof of condescension and designed to hurt one by deliberately stereotyping her in some sort of subordinating fashion. In a nation of victims, almost anyone can find anything “hurtful” given that it requires no definition. The adjective is also passive-aggressive: a college student can confront a professor, unleash a string of obscene invectives, and then claim his attack was found to be “hurtful” because he had to make it. Storming the library, pushing around students, and insulting them could be “hurtful.”After all, why does an aggrieved group have to be forced to such heroic but nonetheless distressing dramatics?
What Has Happened to Language?
This tiny vocabulary sampling reflects another recent epidemic of victimhood, as the English language is further squeezed and massaged to create reality from fantasy.
First, over a half-century of institutionalized equal opportunity has not led to an equality of result. Particular self-identified groups feel collectively that they are less well off than others and are bewildered that this is still possible, since they can point to no law or custom that precludes their opportunity by race, class, or gender. Therefore, inventing a vocabulary of grievances is far more effective in gaining concessions than self-criticism and self-reliance are in winning parity.
Second, in an affluent, leisured and postmodern society of $300 Jordan-label sneakers that sell out in hours, big-screen televisions at Walmart that become prizes for warring consumers on Black Friday, and over 50% of the population exempt from income taxes, it is becoming harder to define, in the material sense, oppression-driven victimhood. In such a world, even multi-billionaire Oprah has difficulty finding discrimination and so becomes reduced to whining about a perceived snub in a Swiss boutique that sells six-figure purses. Language is pressed into service to create victims where there are few, but where many are sorely needed, psychologically -- and on the chance such a prized status might lead to a profitable trajectory otherwise impossible by passé notions of work and achievement.
Hater Deblasio is Ruining Christmas
New York Mayor Bill Deblasio is hated by most reasonable New Yorkers, who see his 60s style liberalism as a threat to the stable, civil New York City that was built by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his sustained by Michael Bloomberg. There's a growing sense that his inability to aggressively handle quality of life problems will lead New York back to the bad old days.
In some parts of New York, it's already happening, just in time for Christmas:
"Vagrants are urinating in the street, hassling passers-by for cash — and now they’ve ruined Christmas in The Bronx.
The annual outdoor Christmas tree lighting in the borough’s famed Little Italy section was canceled because the soaring panhandler population forced the sponsors to spend so much on security that there was no cash left for the celebration.
“It’s unfortunate,” Frank Franz, treasurer of the Belmont Business Improvement District, told The Post. “It was a very expensive event, so we canceled it.”
The BID, he said, had to weigh the price of public safety against that of the holiday festivities, which cost about $15,000.
“Every neighborhood should be concerned about the safety and the quality of life of their neighborhood. There’s always been homeless around, but now you’re seeing an increase all over the city,” he said about the sharp rise of aggressive panhandlers"
Australia: Same-sex marriage debate goes to the heart of our democracy
Can state recognition of same-sex marriage be reconciled with religious freedom?
The calculated assault on freedom of religious liberty in Australia is rapidly gaining pace with the focus in Tasmania where the Catholic Bishops of Australia now face formal action on the grounds that their defence of traditional marriage contravenes anti-discrimination law.
This action — an effort to deny the Catholic Church the right to ventilate its social and religious views on marriage as a union between a man and a woman — has become a test case. The issue is manifest: it is whether existing law and current public opinion can censor or partially silence the churches from full public expressions of their beliefs.
For Australia and its alleged open spirit of debate, this is an unprecedented situation. It reveals an aggressive secularism dressed in the moral cause of anti-discrimination justice but with a long-run agenda that seeks to transform our values and, ultimately, drive religion into the shadows. The vanguard for this drive is the same-sex marriage campaign.
The Tasmanian action before the state’s Anti-Discrimination Commission highlights what many parliamentarians and journalists have preferred to deny: that the campaign for same-sex marriage threatens to infringe the rights of the church and religious freedom. Sustained denials of this proposition by many pro same-sex marriage politicians are untenable given the evidence to the contrary.
Their denialism is based in several different notions — a desire to make the same-sex marriage transition as fast and smooth as possible, a naivety about its meaning and a more disreputable sentiment, namely, a quiet acceptance that same-sex marriage as an ideology must strike against freedom of religious conscience.
With the Turnbull government upholding the previous pledge of the Abbott government to conduct a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage the immediate issue is whether advocates of traditional marriage will be inhibited and intimidated in making their case in a campaign. This would be an extraordinary situation for the country. Yet it has a logic flowing from the Tasmania case.
The greater danger, however, lies elsewhere. It is whether the terms and conditions under which same-sex marriage is legislated in this country is founded in a new intolerance against religious freedom. The refusal of many federal parliamentarians to confront this issue honestly is a conspicuous feature of the public debate.
The churches, belatedly, are rallying on this issue. The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, said in his recent Acton Lecture that Pope Francis had identified “respect for the democratic ideal of religious liberty as an essential precondition of peaceful coexistence”. Going to the heart of the issue, he quoted the Pope that “religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere” and must be preserved in the public square. Yet this is the exact point of the ideological attack.
Fisher’s lecture sketches the cultural crisis the church sees as a potential outcome for Australia — that in 10 years religious schools will be forced by law to teach a gay-friendly concept of marriage in conflict with their beliefs, that clergy will face fines and possibly imprisonment, that faith schools and teachers will be mired in legal threats for “hate speech”, that religious organisations will be compelled by law to extend spousal benefits on a same-sex basis and will have lost their charitable status and that all businesses will be compelled to provide services for same-sex marriage, regardless of their beliefs.
Referring to the decision of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission, prominent Jesuit and law professor Frank Brennan, who accepts same-sex marriage will be legislated, tells Inquirer: “To date, the bishops have spoken cautiously and respectfully. They know their views are not in fashion. It is ridiculous to have a national debate on a plebiscite stifled by assertions that church teaching on marriage is offensive to some individuals and likely to cause offence to a reasonable person.
“Debate should not be put on hold while the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Board decides whether it is arguable that a reasonable person might be offended. The board is not the thought police or, at least, it shouldn’t be. Those who take offence are those who think churches should butt out of all moral debate in the public square. On this one, we should all let a thousand flowers bloom.”
This is a contest over power, ideas and law. With the Catholic Church deeply compromised and unpopular because of the child sexual abuses and cover-ups, it is vulnerable to a calculated strike by parliaments and anti-discrimination boards using the cover of same-sex justice to achieve a quantum reduction in religious freedom and a pivotal change in the norms of our society.
The complainant in Tasmania, transgender Greens political candidate, Martine Delaney, said the church’s 15-page pastoral letter, “Don’t Mess with Marriage” authorised by the Catholic Bishops of Australia was “insulting” and “offensive”. Tasmanian law has an exceptionally low threshold for unlawful conduct under anti-discrimination law and therefore is the ideal jurisdiction to intimidate expressions of faith.
Australian Marriage Equality, the main lobby group for same-sex marriage, has given robust support to the complaint. “This booklet denigrates and demeans same-sex relationships and will do immense harm to gay students and students being raised by same-sex couples,” AME national director Rodney Croome said in June.
“The Catholic Church has every right to express its views from the pulpit but it is completely inappropriate to enlist young people as the couriers of its prejudice. Any principal or teacher who exposes vulnerable children to such damaging messages not only violates their duty of care but is a danger to students.”
Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks found the Catholics bishops and Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous have a case to answer. Procedures are under way that could involve a conciliation process and, if that fails, then a hearing before a tribunal.
Porteous has said the federal debate about marriage “has significant implications for the future of our society” and tells Inquirer his intention is to ensure the Catholic community “understood where we stand on the issue of marriage’’.
“It was not my intention to offend,” he says. “Rather, it was and is, to express the teaching of the Catholic Church. I regret if offence has been taken by individuals and will work with the commission to resolve the matter.”
The pastoral letter was distributed to parents of Catholic school students. It defends existing Australian law, including the Marriage Amendment Act of 2004 and the Catholic sacrament of marriage. The letter begins with a declaration that the Catholic Church opposes all forms of unjust discrimination. It says gay people must be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity” and “every sign of discrimination” against them “should be avoided”.
The letter says a struggle is now under way “for the very soul of marriage”. It says “the union of a man and a woman is different from other unions — not the same as other unions”. Accordingly, it is “unjust” to assert there is “nothing distinctive about a man and a woman, a father or a mother”. For the church, marriage is both a natural and holy institution. It argues the importance, as far as possible, of children having both a mother and father.
It says if the law changed, then our culture would teach marriage was merely an emotional bond rather than a union founded on sexual complementarity. It warns that in this situation, people who adhered to the natural definition of marriage “will be characterised as old-fashioned, even bigots, who must answer to social disapproval and the law”. Finally, it lists a series of examples from abroad showing that even if same-sex marriage law has an exemption for ministers of religion, freedom of religious conscience is gradually being eroded.
AME’s repudiation of this letter as an acceptable “public square” document reveals the sheer extent of the deadlock in the same-sex marriage debate. The consequences far transcend the definition of marriage itself. Same-sex marriage is provoking an upheaval about freedom of conscience, religious liberty and the norms that govern our democratic discourse.
The same-sex lobby believes such an authorised letter of church teaching constitutes prejudice, an offence against gays, a danger to children, denigrates same-sex relationships and should not be tolerated under anti-discrimination law.
In short, it is unacceptable for the Catholic Church to make its case because that case is offensive. Ultimately, this is the bedrock position. In Tasmania the church is now fighting for the right to expound its beliefs in the public square. The culture of repression sanctioned by anti-discrimination law continues to grow.
Its impact is already marked. Many people will not defend existing law or the centuries-long traditional concept of marriage precisely because they are accused of prejudice or offending others. Brennan’s point is correct: in its essence this is a campaign to force the voice of the churches from the public square on the grounds of offensiveness.
Anti-discrimination laws vary across the states. The extent to which they can be harvested once same-sex marriage is legislated is difficult to assess and, in some states, the churches may still sit on solid ground. But there can be no doubting that among same-sex marriage activists, the political will exists and the pathway is apparent to silence opponents. One upshot is that Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman has said he will review Tasmania’s law in the light of recent events.
What is required, however, is a new approach to the same-sex marriage debate. That approach has been best articulated by Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, who said some time ago that in this transition, support for same-sex marriage and support for religious freedom should enjoy equal status. This would be the response of a tolerant society. It has not been the approach of the Australian parliament.
The legislation of same-sex marriage means the laws of the state and the laws of the churches (at least most churches) will be in conflict over the meaning of marriage. This leads to the question: how tenable will this historic difference be? And it prompts another question: is the push for same-sex marriage founded in tolerance or intolerance? The evidence is mixed and varies from person to person, group to group.
What is undeniable, however, is that marriage equality is a powerful ideology and ideologies rarely stop short of complete victory. Can state recognition of same-sex marriage be reconciled with religious freedom or is the erosion of freedom of religious conscience an integral step on this journey?
These are the real issues at stake. The country deserves more than weasel words from its politicians and hollow crusading from its media. Don’t be fooled, yet again, by phony assurances that Tasmania is a one-off, means nothing and will be easily settled. It is, rather, a signal that issues without precedent for our democracy are being put on the table.
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.