Saturday, December 31, 2011

And The Guardian says this like it's a bad thing

What worries me is that The Guardian seems to think this is a bad thing:
Britain's "benign, tax efficient" property laws have encouraged super-rich foreigners to buy up more than £4bn of luxury property in London this year. A string of property experts said the world's super-wealthy were flooding to London to buy £40m homes "without giving it a second thought". In total foreign buyers bought up £4.3bn of prime central London property this year, compared with £2.1bn in 2010, according to research by Savills, the estate agent.

You can tell it's a bad thing by the scare quotes around benign, tax efficient. It gets worse too:
London property was also viewed as a "safe haven" in times of strife in the Middle East and former Soviet Union countries, according to Barnes.

Buyers also favour London because of the excessive paperwork and legal technicalities of buying expensive properties in New York and much of Europe.

Just such horrors, eh? We've managed to create a system whereby those who have the wealth to go absolutely anywhere at all voluntarily decide to come to us? In fact, they decide to purchase, for very large sums of money, our exports?

For that's what such purchases are, exports. They are goods that are no longer going to be enjoyed, consumed, by native Brits and in return native Brits have been given piles of money with which they can buy whatever of the world's joys and riches they care to consume. In this respect flogging Johnny Foreigner a flat in London is no different from shipping him a car from Birmingham, a pork pie from Melton Mowbray or a loan syndication from Shoreditch. It's an export and isn't The Guardian the paper that continually bemoans our failures at exporting?

And the last line of the quote does amuse greatly. The po-faced disdain at the idea that deregulation, not having reams of paperwork, might be a good idea and encourage people to do things.


Convicts in Britain who are spared jail go on to attack 50 people every day

Thousands serving community sentences commit violent and sexual crimes

Fifty people a day suffer a violent or sexual attack by a convict spared jail in the ‘soft’ justice system. Victims include young children assaulted by paedophiles, figures released by the Government show.

They reveal that every year more than 18,000 convicts given a community punishment commit a sexual or violent crime within 12 months of being sentenced. Had they been sent to jail, the offences – which could range from rape to common assault – need never have taken place.

The revelation, in response to a Parliamentary question by Tory MP Priti Patel, will cast further doubt on the effectiveness of community sentences, which Justice Secretary Ken Clarke wants the courts to use more. It came as separate figures showed that more than 43,000 criminals given community sentences broke them in the year to July 2011. A total of 43,521 had to be tracked down and sentenced again.

Miss Patel said: ‘This will do nothing to reassure the public, and in particular the victims of criminals who have been spared jail. The Government can’t stand by and watch.’

A scathing report by the Policy Exchange think-tank found that instead of being supervised while they do hard work on their community sentences, burglars and robbers were working in charity shops or making costumes for the Notting Hill Carnival. Some convicts were working with animals on farms or serving lunch at old people’s clubs. Others were found filling envelopes or sorting jewellery.

Within a year of completing such schemes, criminals had committed a further 250,000 offences in total.

Mr Clarke, who needs to reduce the record prison population, wants the courts to use community sentences in greater numbers. To persuade magistrates to opt for the punishment rather than jail, he is promising that convicts given a community sentence will be made to work for a minimum 28 hours, including ‘hard manual labour’.

The figures supplied to Miss Patel on sex attacks and violence show that in 2009, the latest period for which statistics are available, there were 18,133 attacks, including 172 sex attacks on children, by convicts who had been given community sentences in the previous 12 months.

They are the latest evidence of ‘soft justice’ to emerge in recent weeks. Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that tens of thousands of habitual criminals escaped jail last year despite having more than 15 previous convictions. Overall, serial offenders accounted for more than a third of the 294,000 cases ending in convictions in the adult courts last year.

Yet barely a third of those with more than 15 previous convictions were jailed. Of the 103,175 cases involving serial offenders, just over 36,000 resulted in immediate custody. In 4,579 cases, offenders were released with a police caution despite their lengthy records. Almost 11,000 cases that reached court ended in a conditional discharge, with another 16,000 offenders being let off with a fine. Just over 20,000 cases ended in community sentences, while another 8,000 resulted in suspended jail sentences.

The figures also reveal that the police issued more than 100,000 cautions to adult offenders last year, more than half of them to individuals who already had a police record.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Reoffending is falling and the overwhelming majority of people sentenced to community orders, or handed out-of-court disposals, do not commit further offences. If they do they face a potential prison sentence.

‘Despite this, we believe that levels of reoffending in this country are too high, which is why we’re determined to break the cycle and address the root causes of this behaviour.’


Capitalist ghetto is a pathway to tolerance

In the market for 500 knock-off Tag Heuer watches? A container-load of inexpensive African style clothes? A leather-bound Koran or a Bangladeshi curry? Head to Chungking Mansions, just up the road from the ritzy Peninsula Hotel on Hong Kong's famous Nathan Road.

Shunned by Hong Kongers and unnoticed by most tourists, Chungking Mansions is a meeting place for developing world traders, a clearing house of cheap Chinese goods, and an African and South Asian outpost in the heart of Kowloon.

The building's true importance lies not in its cosmopolitanism but in its thriving economy. Hong Kong's uniquely laissez-faire attitude - the city is rated by US think-tank The Heritage Foundation as the freest economy in the world - makes Chungking Mansions' brand of low-end globalisation possible.

Such globalisation looks shabby alongside the glitzy shrines to global capitalism across the harbour in Causeway Bay. But for consumers in the developing world, the influence of Chungking Mansions is profound.

Gordon Mathews, the author of the new book Ghetto at the Centre of the World, and a Chungking Mansions devotee, might just be the first ever anthropologist to use the term "neoliberal" approvingly.

African and South Asian traders - well off in their own countries but poor by Western standards - come to Chungking Mansions to take advantage of Hong Kong's lax immigration laws and porous borders, dreaming of the riches they can make taking cheap Chinese goods to sell in their impoverished and economically backward home towns. Fortunes are made and lost in the long hallways and hidden stalls of Chungking Mansions, where guesthouse rooms go for as little as $US13 a night and competition between the wholesalers on the lower floors is fierce.

Mathews estimates that 20 per cent of the mobile phones currently used in Africa were sold in Chungking Mansions. Large traders use the building to make contacts on the mainland, shipping containers of phones, clothing, watches and even cars directly from factories in Guangzhou to Nairobi or Lahore. Smaller traders carry a few hundred mobile phones in their luggage, hoping to make enough profit to cover their airfare and fund their next trip back to Hong Kong.

Immigration officials turn the other cheek when traders repeatedly cross the border on tourist visas. Police largely allow illegal workers to man Chungking Mansions' restaurants, guesthouses and phone stalls, intervening only when there is a complaint or a violent crime. Copy goods (such as "Sory-Erichssen" mobile phone handsets) are bought and sold; authorities only intervene if there is deception by the seller.

Like elsewhere in Hong Kong, business is the top priority.

The attitude of the Hong Kong government stands in stark contrast to the corrupt and statist administrations that traders must negotiate in their home countries. Many of the small-business people who pass through Chungking Mansions operate on the fringes of legality, not because they deal in illicit substances or are inherently criminal, but because local restrictions mean they must smuggle Chinese goods across their borders contravening import bans, or pay off crooked customs officials.

This, Mathews says, is the coal face of the protectionism versus free trade debate: where some new regulation can make the difference between a small trader being able to feed his family or go out of business.

Goods are usually of inferior quality or shoddy imitations of Western brands. But for the poor end-consumers in African villages, they are often the only conduit to the globalised world. A young Kenyan woman may never be able to afford a Nokia phone, but she can use her "Nokla" to communicate with her family, pay her bills, and perhaps start her own small trading business. This, says Mathews, "is the ultimate significance of these traders: they bring at least a facsimile of global goodness to the world's poorest continent".

Ghetto at the Centre of the World focuses not just on the traders but also on the guesthouse owners, illegal (or semi-legal) workers, asylum seekers, restaurateurs and tourists who congregate and often live in Chungking Mansions. Here, in a place where business matters above all else, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, Ethiopians and Somalis peacefully coexist in a way they never could at home.


Losing the War of Ideas due to Incompetence

By Isi Leibler, writing from Jerusalem. Leibler is a former prominent member of the Melbourne Jewish community

In the war of ideas, we operate under huge handicaps. Our adversaries attract sympathy as underdogs, yet carry enormous economic and political clout and effectively control international institutions like the UN. In addition, they have hijacked NGOs purportedly promoting human rights, yet are at the forefront of racist campaigns to demonize and delegitimize us. It is disgraceful that many western journalists collaborate with them.

Australia has consistently maintained a staunch bipartisan friendship with the Jewish State since its creation. Under the current Labor government headed by Julia Gillard, it remains, like the United States and Canada, one of the few countries where Israel still gets a fair hearing.

On November 26, John Lyons, the accredited Jerusalem reporter for The Australian, the leading national daily, wrote a 3000 word feature lambasting alleged inhumane Israeli treatment of Palestinian children.

Although The Australian has a consistent record of being fair and open-minded in relation to Israel, this was a classic compendium of anti-Israeli vilification, reminiscent of the wildest distortions and fabrications contained in the Goldstone report.

The sources attributed were the usual Israeli demonizers – B’Tselem, Public Committee against Torture in Israel, Yesh Din, and in particular, the organization Defense for Children International (DCI) represented by Australian lawyer, Gerald Horton. Lyons also interviewed a spokesman for ‘Breaking the Silence’, the discredited group which paved the way and actively collaborated with the Goldstone Committee, providing ‘evidence’ which, after investigation, proved to be largely unsubstantiated and was even significantly repudiated by Goldstone himself.

Lyons, who the IDF provided with unfettered access to closed courts, portrayed youngsters in shackles and weeping mothers observing swift justice by ‘brutal’ Israeli military authorities. He described IDF courts as a “Guantanamo Bay for kids”.

He quoted at length from DCI’s Horton, who referred to “385 sworn affidavits” alleging the worst imaginable atrocities, including beatings, torture, intimidating children with savage dogs, electric shock treatment, and every conceivable horror. He even referred to an “interrogator from Gush Etzion” who specialized in threatening children with rape.

If only a tiny proportion of these allegations contained a kernel of truth, we would have good reason to be concerned. But as in previous horror stories, I have every confidence that the evidence is based on testimony which will once again prove to be overwhelmingly false. We need only refer to the Mohammed el Dura fraud, the Jenin “massacre”, the Goldstone allegations of “deliberate” targeting of civilians in Gaza and other charges leveled against us, that months later, were shown to have been outright lies.

Not surprisingly, the marathon feature by Lyons created a considerable stir in Australia.

Australian Jewish leaders and pro-Israel activists promptly requested the Israeli embassy to respond with information for rebuttals from the Army, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister’s office. Direct representations were also made to Jerusalem. For weeks, they were told that the authorities were reviewing the matter but no reply was forthcoming. One unofficial response idiotically suggested that the best approach to such a hostile article was to ignore it and it would blow over.

On December 17, the failure to respond resulted in a second article by Lyons, regurgitating what he had written previously, informing readers that Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was deeply concerned over the report and had instructed Australia’s diplomatic representatives to initiate a formal inquiry with the Israeli authorities. It is common knowledge that Rudd is personally keen to distance Australia from Israel in order to curry Arab votes for Australia’s candidature for a UN Security Council seat. But he would not have had credible grounds for initiating such an inquiry had the Israeli authorities provided a meaningful response.

Only following the Australian decision to investigate the matter, did the IDF spokesperson belatedly issue a bland legal statement, outlining the reasons why in this context, the custody of minors did not violate international law.

It may be difficult for those living in Western countries to comprehend the concept of jailing children for throwing stones. However, stone throwing has emerged as a staple component of terrorism and to some extent a wretched form of identity for Palestinian youth.

It should also be appreciated that stones are hurled equally at innocent Israeli civilians as well as soldiers, and in addition to maiming and scarring, have proven to be lethal. Only recently, Asher Palmer and his one year old son died after a stone smashed the windshield of his car.

Yet despite this, the reality is that as a deterrent, only a tiny proportion of stone throwers are being prosecuted. Otherwise, the Israeli jails would be overflowing with them.

The issue is additionally complicated because children in Israel are not tried under the same laws as apply to territories over the green line which, not having been annexed to Israel, operate under Jordanian and British mandatory laws.

Any Israeli official with a modicum of political sensitivity should have stressed that child terrorism represents one of the most reprehensible aspects of the Palestinian culture of death and criminality.

From kindergarten, Palestinian children are brainwashed into becoming martyrs by killing Jews in order to fulfill their Islamic obligation to expunge Jewish sovereignty from the region. Aside from continuously being employed as human shields, they are frequently exploited as suicide bombers.

The monstrous massacre of the Fogel family in March, which included the beheading of an infant, was perpetrated by a Palestinian family group which included a minor.

But what is both incomprehensible and disgraceful is that until now, the IDF response has still failed to repudiate the real source of concern – the outrageous lies and defamations concerning the torture of minors.

The response to the libels contained in Lyons article should have pointed out that many of the NGOs demonizing Israel are the same ones which provided “testimonies” about Israeli atrocities and war crimes to the Goldstone Committee which were subsequently demonstrated to be fabrications.

They should also have asked why Lyons did not query the failure of the defamers to raise these accusations in the appropriate Israeli tribunals such as the Supreme Court which even has a controversial record amongst Israelis for intervening in IDF related matters.

What is wrong with the IDF, Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Department? Do they really believe that they can ignore such vile accusations in the mainstream media of a friendly country? Their deafening silence even led to an editorial in the local Jewish weekly, the Australian Jewish News, foolishly asking whether “God forbid”, the “country we cherish” enabled “the torture of children”.

If this is how our senior military and government offices deal with such issues, it is high time to demand accountability.

It is the Prime Minister’s Office office which carries the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that such matters are efficiently handled. Binyamin Netanyahu, more than most politicians, has a genuine grasp of the crucial importance of the war of ideas. If his office is not fulfilling its obligations in this area, he must, as a matter of urgency, personally intervene to guarantee that government information offices are staffed by personnel who are sufficiently competent to confront such issues in a skilled and professional manner.



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, GUN WATCH, 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 Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Girl Scouts Book Refers Readers to Liberal Group Media Matters to Clear Up ‘Media Misinformation’

In 2010, the Girl Scouts of the USA published a book called “MEdia.” The publication, designed for girls in grades six through eight, is a guide that apparently offers insight into how young people should process and understand the media messages surrounding them.

Considering the pervasive nature of popular media, this seems like a viable tool. However, there’s a problem — the book refers young readers to Media Matters for America as one of the primary sources for debunking lies and deceit.

On the surface, “MEdia” seems like it’s an excellent resource (and in some ways maybe it is) that encourages self-reflection and skepticism — two very understandable and useful tenets. But on page 25 of the book, a very curious recommendation is given.

Under the headline, “Consider the Source,” text encourages girls to go to the George Soros-funded Media Matters for America web site to clear up any media misinformation they might encounter. It reads:
The Internet is a breeding ground for “urban legends,” which are false stories told as if true. Next time you receive a txt or e-mail about something that seems unbelievable, confirm it before you spread it.

The fact-checking site investigates everything from urban legends to “news” articles and posts its findings. Media Matters for America ( gets the word out about media misinformation.

Considering Media Matters’ far-left attachments and its less-than-objective views, one wonders why the book’s authors, Wendy Thomas Russell and Sarah Goodman, would include this as the sole source for getting “the word out about media misinformation.”


One in three on jobless benefits has got a criminal record: £2bn cost of handouts to underclass is revealed for the first time

One in three people claiming unemployment benefit is a convicted criminal, figures show. Taxpayers are funding around £2billion a year in out-of-work payments to nearly 1.3million people with criminal records, including £1.2billion to those on Jobseeker’s Allowance. The rest of the money is paid to offenders who claim income support as lone parents or receive Incapacity Benefit and its replacement, Employment Support Allowance.

The figures lay bare the degree to which an ‘underclass’ that drifts in and out of criminal activity is using state handouts to bolster its income, while often continuing a life of crime.

It is the first time a Government has ever bothered to work out how many benefit claimants have a conviction. The Department for Work and Pensions compared welfare rolls with information on convictions held by the Ministry of Justice and payments information from HM Revenue & Customs.

Officials found that of the 1.2million total claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance open on December 1, 2010 in England and Wales, 33 per cent were made by offenders.

In total 26 per cent of the 4.9million people claiming some sort of out-of-work benefit were offenders who had received at least one caution or conviction between 2000 and 2010. Of those, 5 per cent of the total claims were made by offenders who had been released from prison over the past ten years.

That means 1.3million offenders were claiming out-of-work benefits, including 245,000 who had served a custodial sentence.

Experts and MPs expressed amazement that the figures were so high and called on the Government to tackle the criminal underclass and help those who genuinely want to turn away from crime into the workplace.

Tory MP Philip Davies questioned whether the benefit payments are legitimate. ‘Given that so many of these people are criminals, it makes you wonder how many are actually seeking work and available to work,’ he said.

‘It appears that the taxpayer is paying twice. We are being attacked on the one hand as victims of crime and on the other we seem to be paying for them to go out and commit more crimes.’

Examples include Harry Singer, an unemployed man who claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance while he conned £90,000 out of an NHS trust.
Singer, 54, claimed he helped 2,000 smokers kick the habit in six months in his role as a ‘stop smoking adviser’ in West London. He was paid £45 by Kensington and Chelsea Primary Care Trust each time he submitted a form signed by a supposed smoker saying they had received six sessions of counselling, then quit smoking.

But a court heard he had tricked people into signing up. Many had not given up smoking, had quit years ago or had never smoked at all. Singer, of Earl's Court, south-west London, was jailed for 18 months in 2008.

In a further sign of the way a life on benefits can go hand in hand with a life of crime, the researchers found that 51 per cent of offenders sentenced or cautioned in England and Wales in the year ending November 2010 had claimed one of the main out-of-work benefits at some point in the month before they were sentenced.

One in four offenders claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance at some point in the month before sentence.

Two years after being released from prison in 2008, 47 per cent of offenders were on out-of-work benefits and three out of four offenders made a new claim to an out-of-work benefit at some point between 2008 and 2010.

On average, offenders leaving prison in 2008 spent 12 of the next 24 months on out-of-work handouts – meaning the taxpayer was funding them half the time.

Gavin Poole, executive director of the Centre for Social Justice think tank, said there was a need for a complete overhaul of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act to end the spiral of criminality and benefits claims. He said: ‘There is an element in our society, who are engaged in criminal activity, who simply don’t want to work. There are others who are denied access to work because of something they have done in their past.

‘It goes to show that this country is picking up the cost of crime in several ways. There are the benefits bills and the cost of getting people back to work.’

Employment minister Chris Grayling said that he will bring forward plans next month to target offenders for special treatment. He said the figures ‘underline why we have said that Britain needs a rehabilitation revolution, and particularly to help former offenders into sustained employment. ‘We are committed to delivering much better back-to-work support for ex-offenders, and will be giving more details of our plans shortly.’

Almost 3,000 crime suspects – including alleged sex offenders, robbers, burglars and drug dealers – escaped justice last year because of blunders by officials. Figures show that 2,883 cases brought by the Crown Prosecution Service were abandoned either because the CPS did not get the case ready in time, files had not been received from police, or police officers due to give evidence did not turn up at court.

The CPS said discontinued cases represented less than 0.3 per cent of the one million cases it handles every year.


Single-parent Britain: One in five children lives with just mum or dad - more than in most of Europe

A higher proportion of children are being brought up in one-parent families in Britain than in any other major European country. One in five live with a single mother of father – a far higher ratio than in France, Germany or Scandinavian countries.

And while the number of married families in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, stable cohabiting relationships are also less common here than in other countries.

The figures, produced by the EU’s statistical arm, come at a time of increased efforts to downplay the importance of marriage by politicians and campaigners who oppose tax breaks for married couples.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has declared that ‘strong relationships between parents are important’ but the state should not use the tax system to favour a particular family set-up.

The figures from Luxembourg-based Eurostat suggest that strong relationships outside marriage are uncommon in Britain but that the decline of marriage has meant life with a single parent for millions of youngsters. These children are more likely than others to suffer poor health, do badly a school, and go on to less successful adult lives.

According to the breakdown, 20.8 per cent of children in the UK were living in single parent families in 2008.

In just three countries were children more likely to live with one parent: Estonia and Latvia in Eastern Europe, and Ireland, where the number was 23.2 per cent. It is believed the surge in Ireland is a result of generous benefits to single parent families and high immigration.

The proportion of children in single-parent families in the UK is roughly 50 per cent higher than in France and 35 per cent higher than in Germany.

The breakdown also makes it possible to check the share of children of single-parent families against those who live with married or cohabiting parents.

Around two thirds in this country are living with married parents, the analysis shows.

Apart from the small Eastern states of Estonia and Latvia, only France and Sweden have a smaller percentage of children in married families. But in both, children are much more likely to have cohabiting parents in a stable relationship.

Critics of cohabitation maintain that most such relationships are short-lived and many end by leaving behind single-parent families.

Those who want the Government to support married couples said yesterday that the figures proved the impact of tax breaks and the benefit system.

Researcher and author Patricia Morgan said: ‘You can look at these figures and see immediately which countries help couples through tax and benefits.

‘In France, people get help if they draw up legal family contracts. In Germany, Holland and Italy, married people get tax relief and tax relief for children. Even in Sweden, where they do nothing for married couples, they do not help single parents, and they expect them to work. ‘By contrast, our system encourages transient shack-ups. Even cohabiting couples get no help at all.’

Jill Kirby, an author on family development, warned: ‘Unless our Government acts to implement pro-marriage policies, the gap with the rest of Europe will continue to widen.’

Despite David Cameron’s pledge to introduce tax breaks for married couples, several Whitehall organisations are supporting cohabitation.

The Office for National Statistics is downgrading its publication of figures on marriage to give equal prominence to cohabiting families. And the Law Commission, the Government’s law reform adviser, is calling for legislation to help cohabitees settle inheritances and take out insurance policies.


The rise of pernicious laws that criminalise law-abiding Britons

By Simon Heffer

Yesterday, more than 300 hunts met all over the country, six years after foxhunting was supposedly banned by Parliament.

Two Government ministers, including Jim Paice, the man now responsible for administering the ban, marked the occasion by saying the law is unworkable.

Hunts still chase foxes. When they catch them, the quarry is killed either by a bird of prey or by a huntsman with a firearm, who shoots it. Both means are entirely legal. If the intention of the Act was to prevent these vermin from being killed, it has failed.

Yet it remains on the statute book, and is one of several measures that criminalise people who are no threat to society. It reflects one of the most poisonous attitudes of the modern state, that it is considerably easier to prosecute and punish harmless people than it is to pursue serious criminals.

It has, for example, also been reported this week that last year more than 400 families are thought to have misrepresented or lied about their addresses in order to get their children into a decent, or half-decent, state school.

This is technically a criminal offence, and people have been prosecuted for it: people who did not seek personal gain, but simply sought to do the best for their children in a society where the state disgracefully does not provide good schools in many parts of the country.

It is quite right for the state to prosecute motorists who drive at 40mph in 30mph limits on housing estates where children might be playing, and near schools, but it even more zealously prosecutes those who drive past speed cameras in 70mph zones in open country at 80mph and are doing no harm at all.

This is a two-pronged problem. It is partly the fault of the civil servants who draw up laws, and who (unlike in previous generations) are insufficiently well-educated, and apolitical, to ensure their measures have no unintended consequences.

But it is also the fault of the police who implement the law without discretion or, often, much good sense, when they would be better employed directing their firepower at those who justly deserve it, and against whom society cries out to be protected.

A fine example of this was in Kent a few years ago, where two young policemen pulled over an 82-year-old man for driving slowly in the small hours of Christmas morning.

They thought he was driving slowly because he had been drinking. He was, in fact, returning from Midnight Mass, and driving slowly because he was in a narrow residential road with cars parked on both sides. And he was 82. When he remonstrated with the policemen who pulled him over, and pushed one of them in his exasperation, they arrested him for assault.

Their Chief Constable, who might have hoped his officers were out preventing serious crimes, of course supported them to the hilt. That, I fear, is the sort of country we live in.

The hunting ban is perhaps the most fatuous, and most glaring, example of the passing of a law that is not only largely unenforceable, but also intensely partisan and which criminalises perfectly harmless people. There are many problems with this law, so I must be content with listing just the most obvious.

First, there was the misunderstanding, by largely urban campaigners and the gormless MPs whom they influenced, about what the fox is really like. He is vermin. He is a vicious predator.

He does not just eat poultry and wildfowl and attack domestic pets such as rabbits and cats. He has even been known to go into houses and observe babies’ cots, with a view to working out where his next meal is coming from.

Much of the rural economy is damaged by the existence of the fox, which is why farmers are so glad to see him controlled. It is why the hunt was always welcomed — as it still is — over many estates, because it drove foxes elsewhere and killed many of them.

It is also why foxes are now shot and poisoned in large numbers, because the population is not controlled as it once was by hunting.

One gamekeeper I know told me that far more foxes were being killed on his estate now than before the law was passed, because he no longer left them for the hunt — and foxes, unchecked, do severe commercial damage to estates that run shooting syndicates, by eating pheasant and partridge eggs and chicks.

Second, much of the drive against hunting was rooted in the notion that it was an exclusive pursuit of the wealthy upper classes. It amused Labour activists to have a parliament controlled by their party pass a law to make the lives of their class enemy a misery.

In fact, hardly any hunts these days are the province of what the Left would caricature as braying toffs. Most people who hunt are middle-class. Most hunt followers are working-class, and it is hunt servants who have often been subject to police investigations when bodies such as the RSPCA have managed to manufacture a case against a hunt.

But prejudice helped this naked piece of class legislation reach the statute book. Under the Act — which came into force in 2005, ate up more than 700 hours of Parliamentary time and was seen as a weak sop by Tony Blair to keep his urban backbenchers on side to do his bidding over the Iraq War — it is now illegal to hunt a fox ‘intentionally’.

As things stand, all hunts now follow the trail of a man-made scent put on a rag and laid down by a rider who leaves the meet 20 minutes before the hounds. But if the hounds should meet a fox and eventually corner it, then it may be killed legally by a bird of prey or a huntsman with a firearm.

Sometimes the dogs do accidentally kill a fox that would be shot anyway: the RSPCA, which in recent years has become a Leftist front organisation, then urges prosecution of the huntsman or Master of Foxhounds responsible, purely to prove its utterly pointless point.

This has brought about the new battle, involving anti-hunting groups undertaking surveillance to make sure the hunts are acting within the law. It has also brought about the devouring of hundreds of hours of already stretched rural police time, and hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money to bring cases to court, very few of which have been successful.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Justice, for all Hunting Act prosecutions since the 2005 ban, of 181 convictions only six relate directly to hunting with hounds.

How much longer can this sort of thing go on? The Government has said it will make time for the hunting ban to be debated in Parliament, and the sooner it does, the better. The present system is a nonsense, a waste of police time, and it threatens the liberty and livelihoods of tens of thousands of rural dwellers, as well as helping the fox head for extinction in the countryside as it becomes ever more ruthlessly controlled.

We have lived through an era when the urge to criminalise and restrict has constituted a serious and unwarranted assault on our civil liberties. A supposedly liberal Government should not tolerate laws that make criminals of the law-abiding — and the hunting ban should be the first to go.



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, GUN WATCH, 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 Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

The idea of a memorial for the St Paul’s protest plumbs new depths – even for the C of E, says James Delingpole.

Maybe they could commission it from Tracey Emin, this “memorial tent” they’re thinking of putting on permanent display inside St Paul’s Cathedral in honour of the Occupy protesters. Or, if that sounds too obvious, maybe they could get Jake and Dinos Chapman to do a diorama of 10,000 bankers having their arms and legs ripped off in ironic homage to Goya’s Disasters of War. Or how about a gigantic, jewel-encrusted dog-on-a-rope from Damian Hirst? Or an installation by Chris Offili of dirty needles, condoms and unsold copies of the Socialist Worker sitting on a pile of elephant poo?

Whatever they decide on, this much is clear: something must be done to honour the defiance, tenacity and heroic soap-shunning of the protesters who’ve spent the past few weeks camped outside St Paul’s. We learn this from no less an authority than the Bishop of London himself, speaking on Christmas Day as he presented some of the protesters with a big box of chocolates: “The canons have been very imaginative and consulting with the protesters about how to leave a legacy of the protests. We are looking for ways of honouring what has been said when the camp moves on.”

Thus Dr Richard Chartres, third most senior clergyman in the Church of England (after the Archbishops of Canterbury and York), doing a bravura impression of Peter Simple’s barmily progressive Bishop of Bevindon, Dr Spacely-Trellis. The only giveaway is that Chartres forgot to slip in the phrase “in a very real sense”. Otherwise, the impression would have been note perfect.

What’s particularly depressing about this episode is that Chartres is supposedly one of the Church’s more traditional senior clerics. If this is the line the Church’s reactionary old school is taking, imagine what insanities its more progressive elements are yearning to impose on us. Presumably they won’t really feel that justice has been done until St Paul’s has been razed to the ground and replaced by a permanent Anti-Capitalist Peace Camp.

As Time magazine claimed, 2011 may have been the Year of the Protester. But it was also the Year When The Church Of England Lost The Plot Completely. All the signs were there in October when, instead of seeking immediately to evict the rabble that had forced St Paul’s to close for longer than it did even during the Blitz, the Church instead decided to cosy up to the protesters and “feel their pain” – and thus prolong the occupation. But even by the modern C of E’s dismally inept standards, the Bishop of London’s yuletide surrender-monkey offering really does plumb stygian new depths of abject inanity.

Does the Bishop of London seriously imagine that Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece will be enhanced or edified by erecting a permanent memorial to a motiveless bully mob of Leftist agitators? Has it not occurred to him how oddly this might sit in a church which houses the tombs of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, men whose service to the nation consisted of rather more than snarling slogans for three months? Is he not aware that St Paul’s purpose is not merely to act as a political playground for the smelly, activist few, but as a historical monument to be enjoyed by the many?

Probably Dr Chartres is aware of all these things, for he is not stupid. Also – as I noted when he presided over my daughter’s confirmation last year – he is capable of addressing the numinous with deep conviction and authority. But, unfortunately, he happens to be part of an organisation that has long since lost its original raison d’être. Today’s vibrant, forward-looking, ecumenical Church of England has much more to do with diversity outreach, climate change, grievance nurturing and banker bashing than it does with religious worship.

It’s this lack of genuine religious conviction, I’m sure, which explains why the C of E has got itself into such a muddle over the occupation of St Paul’s (and the occupation of Bristol Cathedral where the protesters are replacing tents with wooden structures so that they can stay all winter).

Had it stopped to consider for a moment, the Church could have found plenty of Biblical authority not to endorse the Occupy protest movement. It could, for example, have pointed out that though Jesus drove the money-lenders out of the Temple, this was because of his objection to the commercialisation of the house of God rather than because of a principled rejection of all forms of capitalism.

And true though it may be that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus had none of that inverted snobbery you find in the Occupy movement or the C of E. As the tales of Jairus and his daughter, Zacchaeus the tax collector, and the Centurion’s servant all indicate, Jesus was just as comfortable doing outreach work among the rich and powerful as he was among the poor and needy. But to understand all this would involve a certain familiarity with the New Testament. And I’m not sure that the C of E bothers overmuch with that old-fashioned stuff these days.


Archbishop of Canterbury blasted for comparing rioters and bankers as politicians urge him to focus on religion

A minister hit out at the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday for comparing City bankers to the rioters who tore apart Britain’s cities over the summer. Coalition trade and investment minister Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, who is also an ordained minister in the Church of England, said bankers had changed their attitudes since the crash of 2008.

His comments come as a growing chorus of leading politicians urge the Archbishop to concentrate on spiritual matters and leave the politics to them.

Dr Rowan Williams raised eyebrows on Sunday by saying the rioters were no worse than the bankers and that ‘bonds of trust’ had broken throughout society.

In his Christmas sermon, he said: ‘Whether it is an urban rioter mindlessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark.’

But the Government hit back yesterday, with Lord Green saying: ‘I think a lot has changed since 2008 actually, and I think there has been a lot of soul-searching in the financial services industry, quite rightly too. ‘There are clearly a lot of current challenges but at the level we are talking about has there been an attitudinal change? Yes, I think there has.’

Lord Green, a former chairman of HSBC, said the Government would need to remain ‘watchful’ to stop ‘backsliding’ by the City. But he said it was wrong to single out the financial services industry for criticism.

He said: ‘It is important not to treat banking like some special mysterious art, banking is a business and all businesses face this question – what is your contribution to human welfare and to the common good.’

Lord Green’s case was bolstered yesterday by figures from the independent Centre for Economics and Business Research, which showed the City bonus pool has been cut by 40 per cent since the crisis of 2008. During the last Labour parliament the pool averaged £9billion. Under the Coalition, the average for the last two years has been £5.5billion. The average bonus paid has gone from £9,053 to £5,465.

Lord Green’s intervention pitches the Coalition into a fresh conflict with the Church of England. It comes just days after Prime Minister David Cameron launched a veiled attack on Dr Williams’s forays into politics.

In a highly personal speech on religion, he called on the Archbishop to lead a revival of Bible values in Britain rather than focus on politics. He said he was content for Dr Williams to make political statements, but warned him he should not be surprised if the politicians hit back.

The Archbishop has repeatedly spoken out about the Coalition’s austerity programme, accusing the Government of peddling ‘radical policies for which no one voted’ –– despite polls showing the public supports the cuts.


The BBC’s Sorry Journalism

Tibor R. Machan

The BBC recently published the following in a report about the Republican primary contest in Iowa: “Correspondents say a Ron Paul victory in Iowa would be a major embarrassment to the Republican party as many of his views are seen as too libertarian and isolationist. Mr. Paul would order a $1 trillion (£641bn) spending cut, eliminating a number of government agencies, including the Department of Education. He also proposes returning the dollar to a gold standard and cutting all foreign aid, including to Israel….”

“At a recent campaign stop in Iowa a breast cancer survivor began crying after he told her insurance companies should not have to cover those who are already sick, Reuters news agency reports….”

This passage is worth some attention if only because those of us who have sympathies toward Representative Paul’s libertarian politics should not duck out when opponents target him for criticism, be it fair or not. Let me start with the last bit, the treatment of a crying breast cancer survivor as a kind of “gotcha” device versus Paul. (And incidentally, who are those correspondents who say that Paul’s “victory would be a major embarrassment to the Republican party”? Let’s have some names her, some attributions, by BBC!)

Now we all have hopes and wishes that people will be helpful to and supportive of us, especially when we suffer from maladies or hazardous conditions we had no role in bringing about. Casualties of acts of nature do often deserve our sympathy and even help, unless they have been negligent in taking precautionary measures, such as saving up for health insurance. Even in cases when one has been negligent, often others overlook this and tend to be considerate beyond the call of duty, as it were.

Representative Paul and other libertarians are often first in line with offering private support to such people. The citizens of the US are often first in lending a hand to those who have been hit with natural disasters, like a tsunami or earthquake, and the essence of generosity is precisely that, offering private support and aid to those in need.

What Paul and libertarians in general object to is the coerced support given to those in need by governments are expropriate resources from the citizenry, take a sizable chunk of it for administrative expenses, and distribute the funds according to the lights of the politicians and bureaucrats. This kind of forcible distribution of others’ money is what libertarians are against as a matter of principle and Ron Paul is no exception. This does not at all make him or libertarians callous, heartless, cruel or anything of the kind, however much many claim this about them, ones to whom it seems to come very naturally to confiscate other people’s resources and do with it as they think they should. (I explain this in some detail in my book, Generosity, Virtue in Civil Society [1998].)

As to the cuts supported by Ron Paul, I would urge those who are going to give the matter some thought to consider, once again, that these cuts are an effort to eliminate or at least reduce the forcible taking by some people of the resources that belong to others and to which they have no right whatever. All charitable, helpful acts must be voluntary otherwise they have no moral merit whatsoever. Yes, there are some spurious arguments claiming that out good behavior may, indeed must, be imposed upon us by wiser and more virtuous people than we are but it is just a ruse. No one can make other people moral except by example!

This also applied to foreign aid, be it to Israel or Mongolia. People abroad aren’t entitled to the property of Americans or anyone else who has not voluntarily given it to them. Israel is no exception!

Unfortunately this line of thinking is rarely if every presented to readers in an accurate way so they could consider it without bias. Instead journalists have a dogmatic commitment to the coercion involved in government support for the needy, failing to even mention that kind of thinking summarized above and making it appear that those who do share it are monsters.

Lost of people also mistakenly identify the coercive taking of people resources with Robin Hoodism but in fact Robin Hood took back from the tax takers what they forcibly took for the those whom they victimized. The proper approach to seeing people in need is to mount a serious, voluntary effort to secure support for them, starting with one’s own, not to advocate taking from them what belongs to them and what only they have the rightful authority to give away.

Now in a messy world it is very difficult to be principled and trying to be usually brings on the charge of being an ideologue, a blind adherent to simplistic ideas. But in fact it shows integrity, nothing less! And it is time that politicians show some of it because without integrity the game is up anyway–trust, honesty, responsibility and all such virtue go out the window, never mind simple, honest generosity.


Political correctness defied: Danish hotel to keep illegal women-only floor

A Copenhagen hotel will continue reserving a whole floor for women, despite a recent ruling that doing so is discriminatory and illegal, the hotel director said last week..

Last May, the Bella Sky Hotel in central Copenhagen opened a floor dubbed the Bella Donna with 20 specially decorated rooms for women, and no men allowed.

"The only man who can access this floor will be a fireman in the case of fire," hotel chief Anders Dueland said.

"The rooms are scented and there are flowers. The bathrooms have spacious showers, lots of mirrors and large hair-dryers," he said, adding that the concept so far had been a huge success.

But on November 11, the Danish Gender Equality Board found in favour of a man who had filed a complaint against the hotel, ruling that the initiative was illegal.

Since men are not allowed access to all the rooms, you would have to "presume that there is a difference in treatment based on sex" at the hotel, the board said in its ruling.

Susanne Fischer, an attorney with the board, said that the Bella Sky Hotel would not face "financial sanctions at the moment, because the board does not have the authority to sanction."

Nonetheless, the hotel has been ordered to lift the ban on male access to the Bella Donna floor, and if it fails to do so, the plaintiff could take the case to civil court and demand damages, Fischer said.

"We decide for ourselves who gets to stay at our hotel," Dueland insisted. "We have 814 other rooms, and there are 20 reserved for women. That means there are 794 rooms for everyone," he said.

"In Denmark, there are running races reserved for women, there are bicycle races reserved for women, there are pools where the changing rooms are just for women or just for men. There are toilets just for women," he said, adding: "Is that discrimination? I just don't understand the (board) ruling."



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, GUN WATCH, 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 Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

British government to end compensation for criminals injured in prison

Convicted criminals will be banned from claiming compensation for their injuries under plans to be unveiled next month. Justice Secretary Ken Clarke will announce plans to ensure the money goes to victims of crime rather than criminals.

Every year criminals claim around £5million from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. It has given rise to controversial claims in which burglars have demanded money for injuries sustained when escaping the scene of the crime.

Thousands is also paid out every year to criminals who sustain injuries in prison as a result of feuds and drug-fuelled violence.

Soham murderer Ian Huntley is trying to claim £15,000 from CICA as a result of injuries sustained in prison from having his throat slit – in addition to a much higher sum in civil damages.

In total, 340 inmates made successful claims for injuries resulting in payouts and costs of £3.1million last year. More than 3,000 prisoners made claims. Official figures show that three prisoners got payouts of more than £100,000 while one inmate received £500,000. Another £2million was claimed by convicted criminals who are not jailed.

Most of the payouts for jailbirds are for injuries caused by trips, falls or slips as well as accidents while playing sport.

Ministers decided to step in because the Criminal Injuries Fund is chronically short of cash. Almost 50,000 victims of violent crime have been kept waiting for compensation worth in excess of £600million because the compensation authority has run out of funds. They include the children of murder victims and others who need the money to cover medical bills and compensate them for their disabilities and lost wages. Some are owed up to £500,000 after being left crippled by vicious thugs.

When the changes are introduced, inmates will still be able to sue prison authorities for damages or negligence if they are attacked. But they will no longer be allowed to claim money from the compensation authority.

A senior source close to Mr Clarke told the Mail: ‘It is ridiculous that we are continuing to spend so much money on the injuries sustained by convicted criminals when so many victims of crime are still waiting for funds.

‘There is around £5million a year paid out to convicted criminals and we intend to bring that to an end. That will allow us to save around £20million during the lifetime of this Parliament.’

The plans will also help cut the legal aid budget, which is being trimmed under coalition austerity measures. Hundreds of criminals use legal aid each year to claim compensation for their injuries. The legal aid bill for convicts has doubled in two years to £21million – although that sum also covers those demanding release from jail and softer punishments.

The crackdown on compensation payments was originally due to be unveiled in December, but senior government sources say it will now come in January.

Government sources described the current system as ‘a shambles’ and said they inherited a compensation authority from Labour which was overspending by £50million a year.

The plans will be published as part of a review of the organisation, which was previously criticised for huge delays in paying the victims of the July 7 terror attacks in 2005.

Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘It is an outrage and a scandal that so much taxpayers’ money is being wasted on compensating criminals, who most people would think lost the right to make these claims.’

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘CICA receives a budget at the beginning of the year. As the scheme is demand-led the amounts due to victims in any one year can exceed the available budget for any year.’


Britain 'will defy meddling Europe over votes for prisoners'

Ministers are preparing to defy Europe over its insistence that Britain gives prisoners the right to vote. The Foreign Office has drawn up a blueprint to reform the European Court of Human Rights, aiming to win back power for national governments.

Britain has garnered Switzerland’s support in its campaign for changes to ‘address growing public and political concern’ – and is looking for further allies. If ministers cannot get enough support, they would consider simply ignoring the ruling on enfranchising all prison inmates.

The Government’s stance could inflame tensions within the Coalition, as the Euro-friendly Lib Dems are likely to have concerns. But the move has been welcomed by Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers.

Dominic Raab, a member of the parliamentary joint committee on human rights, said: ‘There is a growing consensus that Strasbourg’s meddling has gone too far and that Parliament should stand up for our democratic prerogatives.’

He added: ‘It is welcome to see the UK using its chairmanship of the Council of Europe to build international consensus on Strasbourg reform. ‘It is vital to ensure both that the ECHR does not collapse under the weight of its backlog, and the judges focus on serious human rights abuses, rather than tinkering with finer points of law in mature democracies like Britain.’

The UK will hold the chairmanship of the 47-member Council of Europe until May, and hopes it will be able to use its position to push through reforms. It has formed an alliance with Switzerland, where voters recently backed proposals by their government to deport foreign criminals.

A joint memo from the Foreign Office and Switzerland said the European Convention on Human Rights was in danger of falling into disrepute because of the huge backlog of 160,000 cases and the meddling of the court’s Strasbourg-based judges.

The document, published in the Sunday Times, warns: ‘Urgent action is needed to avoid further damage to the reputation and effectiveness of the convention system.’ It says the court must ‘address growing public and political concern’ about the way it functions and the extent to which it interferes with issues ‘that do not need to be dealt with at the European level’.

It says European judges should stop considering ‘hopeless cases’ thrown out by national courts. ‘The circumstances in which the European Court of Human Rights should need to reconsider the case and substitute its own view for that of the national court should be relatively limited.’

It also calls on the judges to adopt a broader ‘hands-off’ approach, saying: ‘There is no reason why this approach should be limited to asylum and immigration matters.’

The blueprint has now been submitted to an inter-governmental committee of the Council of Europe.

In February, MPs voted to continue to deny prisoners the right to vote – in defiance of the ECHR.

Last night a Ministry of Justice source said: ‘We are holding a summit in the spring during our chair of the Council of Europe to push forward this agenda.

‘The UK wants the court to focus on fundamental values and leave to the member states issues that have already been properly considered by national parliaments and courts, like prisoner voting.’


Soviet Union’s Fatal Flaw Is being Repeated in the USA

Even today, almost exactly 20 years after it happened, Westerners asked to explain the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union tend to serve up theories that flatter preconceived ideological biases. Old-school leftists contend the Soviets simply perverted the noble ideals of socialism. More modernist progressives cluck their tongues at the Soviet Union’s parasitic, cynical, ruling class that enriched itself at the common person’s expense. Dedicated market capitalists point to communism having made entrepreneurship a crime. Civil libertarians make much of the Soviet government’s denial of freedom. And so on.

All these theories can contribute something to the debate, but none of them really tells the full story of the Soviet Union’s collapse. While it can’t explain everything, one theory that flatters neither Left nor Right seems to offer the best way of thinking about the Soviet collapse: The biggest reason the communist empire fell was centralization.

More than anything else, the Soviet Union of the Khrushchev-Brezhnev era strove for central control. Gosplan in Moscow made the major decisions, and nearly every field of human endeavor was organized for the administrative convenience of these central planners. A single corporation owned every airplane, from jumbo jets to crop dusters. One massive plant manufactured almost every civilian automobile. A government ministry even told restaurants what recipes to use.

In the decade before its collapse, the Soviet Union had the world’s largest bank, the biggest newspaper, and the largest hotel. And it didn’t stop there. Despite paying lip service to the preservation of local customs (peasant dance festivals were big), Moscow tried to make everyone in the vast multinational empire learn Russian and adhere to the same Marxist,/materialist worldview.

Convenient as it was for those in charge, this absolute insistence on central control proved disastrously inefficient. While planners with slide-rules and hulking mainframe computers might determine, in theory, that one big auto plant would have lower production costs than a variety of small ones, even a small slip-up (say, a shortage of screws) could put the massive plant down for the count.

Even worse than its obvious inefficiencies, rigid centralization squelched human creativity: Good ideas were worth nothing unless one had the political connections to make them happen. Going off to start a business, write a play, or solve a social problem was forbidden. Under the thumb of aging technocrats who liked military parades and classical music, the nation stagnated, declined, and collapsed.

This state of affairs carries some pretty obvious lessons for those who want to further solidify Washington, DC’s role as the chief arbiter of all things in the national economy: Centralization of economic authority is not only inefficient but, by reducing the number of people in authority, actually tends to increase the likelihood of the genuine catastrophic failures they seek to avoid.

There’s also plenty to take heed of regarding government promotion of business: Bigness does not equate with virtue. Mega-retailers, farmers, trade associations, and corporate tycoons aren’t intrinsically any more--or less--virtuous than urban small businesses, union workers, or single mothers living in public housing. And ideologues on both sides of the political spectrum need to remember that efforts to enforce ideological conformity are inconsistent with the diversity that characterizes a free society.

No single theory, of course, can fully explain why the Soviet Union collapsed so suddenly, but a look at its deeply centralized nature surely explains a great deal--and sends an important warning.


Australia: Foster couple's adoption bid on hold over claims dad hit boy with wooden spoon

The child of a feral couple almost certainly needs a whack at times

A COUPLE has been stopped from adopting two children because of claims they smacked them and once hit one of them with a wooden spoon. The 11-year-old boy and his eight-year-old sister considered the couple who had fostered them for four years to be their parents and called them Mum and Dad, Acting Justice William Windeyer told the NSW Supreme Court.

The children's birth father was in jail on sex offences and their mother, who has another three children, all in care, acknowledged she could not look after them.

The judge said the foster parents were devoted to the children and were "very suitable" to adopt them. However, Justice Windeyer said he was not satisfied there was no risk to the children and he had to take into account the possibility the boy had been hit with a wooden spoon.

The judge postponed a decision on adoption until the end of next year and said, if it was established there was smacking and the use of a wooden spoon, then the children could be removed from the couple.

The judge said the boy had behavioural, physical and mental problems. During an interview with a clinical psychologist the boy said his foster dad hit him with a wooden spoon and it "hurt".

The man denied hitting the boy with a spoon but said he had once banged a wooden spoon on the kitchen bench to get the boy's attention when he was waving a knife around.

The man admitted twice smacking the boy "gently" - once when the boy had a "massive meltdown" and grabbed him by the testicles and a second time when the boy hit him in the ribs.

The judge said he had some sympathy for the man. "It seems impossible where someone is in danger of injury to go for a walk to calm down. After all, the three actions did get a result and no one was harmed," the judge said.



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, GUN WATCH, 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 Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Queen reminds us of the power of family

The Queen's Speech focuses on the families that support us in times of crisis. A reflection on her Christmas Day message

When Her Majesty the Queen chose to focus her Christmas message on the importance of family, she was unaware that her own closest relation would be taken from her side. As it was, there was a special poignancy – for those watching on television – to the images of husband and wife on screen, given that Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh have been separated by illness at this least appropriate time of year.

Studying that broadcast, it would be hard to think of a better illustration of how dedicated a servant the Duke remains to his wife and Sovereign, even in his 90th year. Elsewhere on these pages, Philip Eade sets out the many ways in which he has strengthened and supported Her Majesty over the years, greatly to the benefit of his adopted nation. As the Duke recovers from his operation, both he and his wife will be able to draw similar strength from the family around them, this year enlarged with the marriage of two of their grandchildren. Indeed, it was appropriate that this was the very theme of Her Majesty’s Christmas message: the way that family, and the support of those we love, enables us to cope with times of hardship, and how such trials often draw out “the most and best” of the human spirit.

Her Majesty was not just talking about our immediate families, however. As she reminded us, “family” can define more than simply those related to us by blood. She cited the example of the Commonwealth that she has done so much to hold together – “a family of 53 nations, all with a common bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and goals”. Similarly, her definition of hardship was a broad one, encompassing not just the natural disasters that struck Queensland in Australia and Christchurch in New Zealand, but also being separated from loved ones serving overseas, or the more mundane pressures of austerity.

It is, of course, a cliché of the festive season to talk about the importance of family and community, and of being supported by those we love. But it is a cliché for a reason. Our families, our friends, our communities – and yes, our faith – are what sustain us in difficult times, and make life about more than simply the accumulation of wealth (or, in times such as these, the protection of what wealth we have).

This was a theme taken up in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas sermon, too. Next year is the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the temptation will be to concentrate above all on the ways in which it has shaped our language. Yet as Dr Rowan Williams argued, the book also matters because it is of common prayer, offering a shared experience and shared devotion. Our society, the Archbishop suggested, all too often lacks such anchors: as a result, “bonds have been broken [and] trust abused and lost”, making space for the misbehaviour both of “mindless” urban rioters and irresponsible fiscal speculators.

In difficult times, with the future all too uncertain, it can be tempting to harden our hearts as we tighten our wallets. Yet if we lose our connection to those around us, we become – as Dr Williams put it – merely “atoms spinning apart in the dark”. And as the Queen reminded us yesterday, “finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas”. Jesus himself, she pointed out, was born into a world “full of fear”.

Over the next 12 months, Britain will witness a series of truly grand occasions. Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee promises to be a marvellous celebration of a monarch who has served her people with dignity and dedication for so long. The Olympics will bring the world to London and many other parts of Britain. Yet of equal importance to such national spectacles are the humbler moments of familial or communal pleasure. Just as the Duke of Edinburgh will be aided in his recovery by having his family around him, so are the rest of us supported by those we care for. If we can hold on to that sentiment, it might make the new year happier for us all.


Hunting ban? Tally-ho!

This is the seventh Boxing Day since the ban took effect, the sport has never been more popular

Hunting ban? What hunting ban? Today, more than a quarter of a million people are expected to turn out at some 300 hunts, on what is traditionally the biggest day of the hunting calendar. Even though this is the seventh Boxing Day since the ban took effect, the sport has never been more popular.

For supporters of hunting, this presents a difficulty. Ever since the Labour government pushed the ban on to the Statute Book, using the Parliament Act to overcome the objections of the House of Lords, there has been a campaign to reverse the decision. The Coalition Agreement promised a free vote in Parliament, though the addition of the words “when time allows” was a convenient get-out clause.

The Hunting Act is a bad law, not least because it is almost impossible to uphold. Last year, 36 individuals were convicted under its provisions; yet only one of those individuals was associated with a registered hunt. Yet, while bad laws should generally be repealed, the House of Commons – as we report today – would be unlikely to do so, even if ministers were inclined to hold a vote. In any case, any legislation to overturn the ban would reignite a fractious debate, at a time when Parliament has serious economic matters to consider.

What we see at work today, therefore, is a classic piece of British pragmatism. The Act is wrong, does not work and should be scrapped. But an uneasy compromise has been achieved that allows many thousands of people to carry on hunting. The time will come when a sensible Parliament will reverse one of the most illiberal and pernicious laws of recent times. Until that day arrives, tally-ho!


The Anglican priest who thought Stalin was a saint

BOOK REVIEW: Charles Moore reviews 'The Red Dean' by John Butler (Scala)

As Canterbury Cathedral this week marks the anniversary of the death of its most famous “turbulent priest”, Thomas Becket, it is a good moment to study the life of its second-most famous one. Hewlett Johnson became the Dean of Canterbury in 1931, when he was already getting on for 60, and clung on to the post, despite numerous attempts to get him out, until 1964.

Over those 33 years, Johnson devoted the bulk of his astonishing energy to proving that Soviet Communism, especially as practised by Stalin, was heaven on earth: “While we’re waiting for God, Russia is doing it.” In his bestseller The Socialist Sixth of the World, which was published not long after Stalin’s most extensive programme of mass murder, he wrote: “Nothing strikes the visitor to the Soviet Union more forcibly than the complete absence of fear.”

No Communist outrage could put Johnson off his stride. He supported the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. In the face of all evidence, he praised the Soviets for their toleration of religion, excitedly reporting, after a private audience with Stalin, that the great man favoured freedom of conscience. He always refused to condemn Stalin. Neither would he condemn the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

His methods, too, were sometimes unscrupulous. He repeatedly accepted free trips from VOKS, the Soviet cultural front organisation which suborned Western writers and intellectuals, never questioning its itineraries or facts. When he wrote his books, he copied out the economic statistics that VOKS sent him, without inquiry or even comprehension. The uncritical tribute he published on Stalin’s death was in large part plagiarised, without acknowledgment, from an existing piece of Soviet propaganda. The British intelligence services may well have been right to consider him an “agent of influence”.

Johnson did well from his views. In 1951, he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize, for which he received £10,000 (roughly £230,000 in today’s money). The sales of his books were made enormous by the print runs which Stalin decreed for them. His stupendous vanity was gratified by meeting the dictators (including Mao, Fidel Castro and Rakosi in Hungary). He became a world celebrity, and regarded his main book as “dynamite, the most powerful war weapon, that starts factories working”.

He was also, arguably, a hypocrite. Although certainly not personally luxurious (he liked nothing better than rolling in the snow in the Deanery garden rather than wallowing in a hot bath), he was pretty rich and employed several servants. He came from a prosperous Northern industrial family (Johnson’s Wireworks) and his first wife was richer still. When she died, she left him Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite furniture, silver, jewellery, fine carpets, Chinese and Japanese sculptures, a Broadwood grand, tapestries, paintings, glassware etc. By 1952, he owned 11 houses and garages, and plenty of shares, including some in Lonrho.

In 1937, when the pupils at the King’s School were making too much noise for his taste, he grabbed some of the school’s land for his garden to keep them at a distance. Criticised by the Archdeacon, he told him sharply that he should not be “worrying over small matters when so great things were at stake in the world”. He was off to the Soviet Union, he said, because “I ought to use all my spare time for bigger things” – without surrendering his horticultural conquest.

During the war, it distressed Johnson that the servants were getting uppity. He was angry when his handyman got a bigger boiled egg for breakfast than he. Writing to his second wife – who, in wartime exile in Wales, was having trouble with her maid – he advised her: “Let her see that you are a lady and if she cannot rise to the privilege of comradeship then the older relationship of mistress and maid must continue… It is moral training. Russia has had to do this.”

What makes this book so interesting, however, is that the author wants us to see the good in Johnson. While never concealing or excusing his politics, John Butler draws on personal archives never before seen to paint an attractive picture of the private man – vigorous (his second wife was 32 when he married her at the age of 64), affectionate to his children (he first became a father when he was 66), brave in staying in Canterbury all through the war. He was popular with the people, though not the Chapter, of Canterbury. With his domed pate, long white hair, tall, imposing figure and old-fashioned decanal gaiters, he was a “character”. He worked relentlessly and preached often and well. In an odd way, he kept alight the beacon of the Anglican world at a time of great trial.

I am glad that Mr Butler has approached his task in this way, because it makes the book much fresher than a work of character assassination. But its effect is to point up how extraordinary it was that a free country like ours could excuse people who defended mass murderers so long as they were from the Left. If Johnson had spoken of Hitler as he did of Stalin, no one would have received him in polite society.

For his unusual views, Johnson suffered nothing worse than a few cross letters from the Archbishop and semi-successful attempts to dislodge him from various Canterbury positions (“Ominously, the governors began to plot Johnson’s removal as Chairman of the Governing Body”). By contrast, the victims of the man he worshipped died in their tens of millions. His speeches and writings helped legitimise this. Johnson was told by Raul Castro (who, replacing brother Fidel, rules Cuba to this day) that people believed his pro-Communist writing because he was a priest. That is a terrible thought.


State Department 'Panders' to Islamists on Free Speech

The Obama administration is drawing fire for yielding what critics see as a huge propaganda victory to Islamist regimes seeking to curb American speech deemed "offensive" to Muslims.

The State Department hosted a three-day, closed-door meeting last week with representatives of the Saudi Arabia-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on measures to fight religious "intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization."

In her closing remarks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton portrayed the conference as a sign that Washington and the OIC are working together to protect religious freedom around the world.

"We have to get past the idea that we can suppress religious minorities, that we can restrict speech, that we are smart enough that we can substitute our judgment for God's and determine who is or is not blaspheming," Clinton said. "I think if we do our work right, in years to come, people will look back and say this was a great step forward on behalf of both (sic) freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and our common humanity."

But according to the Hudson institute's Nina Shea (who attended portions of the conference as an observer), the event was actually a step backward for religious liberty. The meeting seemed to be an exercise in "moral equivalency and pandering to Sunni tyrants in the Middle East," she said.

"The general theme seemed to be that the U.S. has problems just like Saudi Arabia with religious tolerance," she added. "There was a total absence of perspective on all counts."

Pointing to familiar events such the Muhammad cartoon violence, Quran burnings and Muslim objections to the film "Fitna," OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu argued that his organization regarded bigotry as a primarily Western phenomenon. He wrote that "no one has the right to insult another person for their beliefs or to incite hatred and prejudice," and that "freedom of expression has to be exercised with responsibility."

Zamir Akram, Pakistan's permanent representative of the OIC before the U.N. Human Rights Council was more emphatic. He claimed that Resolution 16/18, which expressed concern about "negative profiling" and religious "stereotyping," was driven by Western discrimination against Muslims. Akram also questioned whether Muslims engaged in discrimination, and said Muslims would not compromise on permitting "anything against the Quran, anything against the Prophet."

Given these comments – and Saudi educational materials that encourage the spread of Islam through jihad and demonize Jews, Christians and polytheists – Shea believes U.S. officials are "naïve" to think there will be reciprocity from the OIC when it comes to combating discrimination.

Despite Saudi Arabia's abysmal record of persecuting non-Muslims, the Kingdom received a note of dubious praise from the United Nations General Assembly, which on Monday passed a resolution condemning religious intolerance. According to Shea, the UNGA resolution – passed by consensus with U.S. support – singled out for praise a single program: A Saudi-built "religious dialogue" center in Vienna, Austria.

Given Saudi Arabia's relentless persecution of non-Muslims, the praise is "Orwellian," Shea told the IPT. "They don't dare establish such a program on their own territory."

OIC member states spearheading the anti-blasphemy campaign include Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – all of which jail or execute "blasphemers." In nations like Egypt and Iraq, Christians are attacked and their churches torched while Muslim-dominated governments are unwilling or unable to protect them.

"In these countries, you have 'cleansing' tolerated by the authorities," Shea noted. "Religious cleansing [of Christians] is underway right now in Egypt and Iraq. It's been completed in Saudi Arabia. Jews have been cleansed from the Sunni Muslim world."

By any measure, Muslims and other religious minorities in the United States face no dangers comparable to religious minorities in the Muslim Arab world. Indeed, like the Bush administration preceding it, the Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to court American Muslims and portray their situation in a very favorable light.

Clinton's Dec. 14 remarks included a rebuke to Islamists who seek to silence people of other faiths. "But is our religion so weak that statements of disapproval will cause us to lose our faiths?" Clinton asked. She added that there is nothing wrong with "hav[ing] good debates with others."

But Shea emphasizes that the behavior of OIC participants like Saudi Arabia gives no indication that they are interested in dialogue with minorities in their countries. She said that at the conference, participants largely ignored the vast differences between the United States and OIC member nations in protecting religious minorities.

One legal official (State Department confidentiality rules barred observers from identifying him or his country) gave a "one-sided depiction of American bigotry against religious minorities, including Muslims" in his opening keynote address, Shea said, telling representatives of some of the world's most repressive regimes that America can learn from them about protecting religious tolerance.

But the official never bothered to explain that, when compared with other countries, America has an extraordinary record of "upholding individual freedoms of speech and religion," Shea told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "The tolerance of the American people is misrepresented by omission."

Pointing to mounting reports of atrocities and intimidation against Middle East Christians and mass slaughter by the Islamist regime in Khartoum, Shea didn't mince words in characterizing the attitudes of the American conference participants toward their OIC counterparts.

"It's the equivalent of saying to Hitler: 'Well, you have a real problem with the way you treat minorities and we have a problem with limiting the rights of Aryans here.'"



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, GUN WATCH, 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 Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.