Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fury as 'Liberal' leader attacks journalists  for exposing sex scandal he and his party covered up

Nick Clegg launched an extraordinary attack on the media yesterday for exposing the Lord Rennard scandal. The Deputy Prime Minister accused journalists investigating a cover-up of being ‘self-appointed detectives’.

His ill-judged remarks shocked Tory and Labour MPs, who said he should focus on getting to the truth.

And Alison Smith, a former Liberal Democrat activist who went public with groping claims against Lord Rennard last week, said Mr Clegg was wrong to attack a ‘free press regarded by most as important in a democracy’.

In another twist, the Mail has learnt that senior Lib Dems were attempting to silence whistleblowers only this week.

On Monday, Lord Stoneham, who was the party’s director of operations at the height of the claims against Lord Rennard, made an ‘aggressive’ telephone call to a former party activist who claimed she saw the peer molesting a young woman a decade ago.

He was apparently furious she had contacted this newspaper to complain that her allegations had been swept under the carpet.

On another black day for the Lib Dems:

*   A former party frontbencher said she sounded the alarm about Lord Rennard directly with Mr Clegg;

*    David Cameron told him he must ‘get to the bottom’ of the allegations;

*    Lord Rennard broke his silence to insist he was innocent and claim he had never been confronted with any complaints;

*   A Lib Dem councillor claimed she had been molested and knew of nine other victims referred to as ‘Rennard’s red hot babes’;

*    Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb was drawn into the affair by an alleged victim;

*   Party officials met  detectives who have been called in to assess whether criminal acts may have taken place.

The affair started when former Lib Dem activists went public with claims of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard, who retired as the party’s chief executive in 2009 – ostensibly on health grounds.

After initially denying he knew about the claims until shortly before three women made allegations on Channel 4 News, Mr Clegg admitted he had asked his then chief of staff Danny Alexander to probe ‘non-specific concerns’ about Lord Rennard in 2008.

It has since emerged that Mr Clegg’s office failed to act on specific and detailed allegations of misconduct by the peer made in 2010.

Yesterday Mr Clegg, speaking outside his south-west London home, called for detectives who are now reviewing the claims to be allowed to do their job.

He said: ‘I understand there are many people who appear to want to act as self-appointed detectives trying to piece together events that happened many years ago.

'But the only way that we are going to get to the bottom of the truth, the only way we are going to ensure that the women whose allegations were broadcast on television last week are properly listened to, the only way were are going to establish exactly what happened and who knew what and when, is by allowing the two investigations that I established immediately after the Channel 4 broadcast to do their job and, indeed, to allow the police, whom we have now approached, to do their job as well.

'And in the meantime I cannot – and my party cannot – provide a running commentary on every shred of speculation about events which happened many years ago.’

His intervention drew a stinging response from Miss Smith, who wrote on Twitter: ‘Clegg slams “self-appointed detectives”, otherwise known as the free press. Regarded by most as important in a democracy.’

She added: ‘They covered up a massive scandal, and now they don’t want people asking questions.’

She also dismissed the idea that the allegations had been timed to damage the party leadership ahead of a crucial by-election in Eastleigh, which will take place tomorrow.

Toward the end of last year, she and some of the other alleged victims of Lord Rennard’s unwanted advances agreed to go public with their story, and told the party at the end of last month that they had done so.

Therese Coffey, a Tory MP and member of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said: ‘It is only through the power of the free press and TV that these allegations have come to light. Instead of trying to divert attention by blaming journalists, Nick Clegg should be focusing on getting to the unvarnished truth.’

Conor Burns, another Tory MP, said: ‘Only someone with the genius of Nick Clegg could have a sex scandal that doesn’t involve sex and turn it into a leadership crisis.

Mr Clegg would have to answer fewer questions from the press if he put out a statement that he could stick to about what he knew and when.’

Labour MP John Mann, who wrote to police asking them to investigate, claimed Mr Clegg treated the Rennard accusations as an issue of ‘political management’.

‘The real issue is why didn’t Clegg and the Liberals do the appropriate thing in dealing with this as serious allegation, rather than as political management,’ he said.

Mr Clegg’s aides insisted he had not been attacking broadcasters in his remarks but rather Conservative-supporting newspapers he believes are revelling in the scandal.


'Homosexuality is a ticking timebomb for the Catholic Church'

You forbid men from having wives and children so you get men who are not interested in that

An openly gay former Dominican friar insisted today that homosexuality is the ‘ticking time bomb in the Catholic Church’ and that homosexual men are ‘massively over-represented’ within the Church.

Mark Dowd, who is now a journalist, said research for his 2001 Channel 4 documentary Queer and Catholic suggested that at least half of people attracted into seminaries in the priesthood are gay.

His comments came as the former leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, said the scandal-hit Catholic Church must undergo renewal and reform.

Mr Dowd told CNN: ‘When you have this culture of secrecy and guilt and repression, you have conditions which foster the potential for blackmail and for manipulation.

‘This is a very unhealthy stage for the church, because basically when you have secrecy, you have lies - and when you have lies, people often are put in terrible pressures of being compromised.’

Meanwhile, the Cardinal said the successor to Benedict XVI would need to be able to tackle reform of the Roman Curia, the Vatican departments which govern the 1.2billion-strong global church.

Last weekend Italian newspapers published claims of homosexuality and blackmail within the Church, with one allegation centering around a secret ‘gay cabal’ of priests, reported CNN.

But veteran Vatican journalist Marco Politi said this idea was ‘rubbish’, adding: ‘Here in the Vatican, there are monsignors who have love affairs, with women and with men. But they hide it.’

Mr Dowd added: ‘I've got my own experience of being in religious life myself. And I can tell you that gay men are massively, massively overrepresented in Catholic life. There's nothing wrong with that.

‘The problem is that a lot of them are told that they are intrinsically unhealthy according to church teaching. And that's not a very appropriate state of affairs if we're talking about psychosexual health and emotional maturity.’

'I've got my own experience of being in religious life myself. And I can tell you that gay men are massively, massively overrepresented in Catholic life'



Free speech means we should all have a say about homosexuality

A tolerant country is also one that does not try to shut down debate on controversial issues

Last weekend, my wife and I went to a musical staged by an amateur company for which our youngest son performs. In truth, without that family connection, the show – called Zanna, Don’t! – is not one that we would have normally booked to see. It is set in an alternative world where homosexuality is the natural order of things and heterosexuals are discriminated against. But if this sounds like heavy-handed gay rights propaganda, it was nothing of the sort: the songs were tuneful, the lyrics thoughtful and the dance routines terrific. It was a highly enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

With what I assume is mock irony, the writers describe the musical as a fairy tale and its theme is the oldest of them all: falling in love. When a man and a woman break the taboo against different-sex relationships, they are shunned by the rest of society. You get the point. This is precisely the sort of bigotry that gay people have had to put up with for centuries.

In my lifetime, homosexuality has gone from being illegal to the acme of cool. But something else has happened, too. Everyone is now required to accept this state of affairs whether they like it or not; and if they don’t they are certainly not allowed to say so. It is the flip-side of the point the musical was seeking to make: anyone who questions the officially acceptable view is howled down. Occasionally, they are arrested and threatened with trial for expressing what is essentially an opinion, albeit one that it is no longer fashionable to possess.

Now, you might think it is right to muzzle such people because, in reality, they just don’t like gays and are hiding their disapproval behind a spurious religiosity. In some cases that may be true, but it is not the issue here: this is about free speech. Just as gays are entitled to extol their own sexual identity, so people who take another view, on whatever grounds, should be allowed to say so, shouldn’t they?

This question will tomorrow be tested in the High Court following controversy over an advertising campaign on London transport last year. In the run-up to the mayoral elections, the gay rights group Stonewall took space on the sides of London buses to run the slogan: “Some people are gay. Get over it.” A Christian ministry called Core Issues Trust (CIT) decided to pay for its own campaign with a poster that read “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!” The aim was to advertise the ministry’s contention that it was possible to lose homosexual inclinations and that therapy was available for those who felt they might not be gay after all.

That is clearly a controversial statement. Yet people who have lived as heterosexuals and repressed their homosexuality are praised when they “come out”. Is the alternative, however unlikely, not possible? And even if it isn’t, why can’t you say that it might be? None the less, the CIT poster was banned by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, which is why the matter is going before the courts this week. Dr Mike Davidson, a director of the trust, who describes himself as “ex-homosexual”, says he has been denied the freedom to express his views on the legitimacy of therapy for those dealing with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction. He certainly has a case: if Stonewall can have their say, then why can’t his organisation?

This is by no means an isolated affair. Official disapproval, even the criminalisation, of opinions that a few decades ago were mainstream attitudes poses a significant threat to free speech in this country. After all, who is to decide what is the “correct” view to hold? In this case it was Mr Johnson, who called the CIT poster “clearly offensive”. He added: “London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance.” However, this tolerance does not, it would appear, extend to free speech. Once you start to shut people up for expressing opinions that are not officially approved then you are on a very slippery slope. Transport for London might have taken the view that the Christian poster was offensive, but the same could be said of the Stonewall campaign.

A few years ago, there was another bus‑based spat, this one between atheists and believers over whether God exists. Both sides were allowed their say, though the humanist poster, “There’s probably no God”, left open the possibility that there might be, just in case. Imagine if someone – Boris – had taken the decision that only the atheist poster could run, on the grounds that the scientific evidence of a deity could not be produced. There would have been justifiable outrage.

There is an argument that the CIT poster served to reinforce prejudice against homosexuals by implying they can be “cured”. But, as Dr Davidson said on the Today programme on Monday, people who say they no longer want to live as gays are being accused of “internalised homophobia” when they are merely choosing their own sexual identity. Isn’t that what the gay rights movement was all about?

We are in danger of replacing one brand of narrow-mindedness with another. Increasingly, the courts are being dragged into disputes between people who hold different opinions in what is really an attempt to close down debate on particular subjects. This is the very antithesis of free speech and unless there is an attempt to stir up hatred and violence, the fact that some people may dislike or object to what others say should not be a matter for the law, or for official censorship.


Black British judge caught in a stupid  lie

Britain's top black female judge is being investigated by police for allegedly lying about her involvement in leaking the Chris Huhne speeding points story to the press, a court heard today.

Constance Briscoe, a friend of Vicky Pryce, was arrested after telling police she had not been in contact with the media about the story, when it later appeared that she had, Pryce's retrial heard today.

Pryce, 60, denies perverting the course of justice, claiming Huhne coerced her into taking three points for him in 2003.

Last week a jury failed to reach a verdict in Pryce's trial, prompting a retrial at Southwark Crown Court which started yesterday.

The court has heard Pryce, helped by Briscoe, told journalists about the story to get revenge on Huhne after he left her for PR adviser Carina Trimingham in June 2010.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC today read jurors a statement from Detective Inspector Martin Passmore explaining why certain people had not been called as witnesses in the case.

'Ms Briscoe has provided statements to the police in this case but during the investigation it became apparent that she may have lied about her involvement with the press and that she denied having any contact with the Mail on Sunday or any other media organisation in relation to this story,' his statement said.

'Ms Pryce has not been arrested or interviewed in relation to that allegation. For this reason Ms Briscoe has been arrested and is currently under investigation by the police.

'Ms Briscoe could therefore no longer be relied upon as a witness of truth and on October 2, 2012 the Crown Prosecution Service took the decision not to call Ms Briscoe to give evidence in the case.'

Yesterday Mr Edis told the court Ms Briscoe was a friend and neighbour of Pryce.

'She was a neighbour of Vicky Pryce in those days and I think she had also had a difficulty in her marriage and they appear to have got closer to each other,' he said.

'The two of them appear to have cooked up a plan to go and see the press about Huhne and taking points. They started it together by approaching a man called Andrew Alderson.'

Mr Alderson was a freelance journalist working to provide the story to the Mail on Sunday, the court heard.

Mr Edis said Pryce and Ms Briscoe told Mr Alderson that Huhne had passed speeding points to constituency aide Jo White.
Vicky Pryce arriving in court today
Chris Huhne

The court heard Pryce (left), helped by Briscoe, told journalists about the story to get revenge on Huhne (right) after he left her for PR adviser Carina Trimingham in June 2010

'Vicky Pryce and Constance Briscoe went to see Alderson and the story they were giving him was it was Jo White who worked for Huhne in his constituency in Eastleigh,' he said.

'The story they were giving the papers was Jo White took points for Huhne when he had nine points.

'Well, of course, that was a complete lie because the person who took points for Huhne when he had nine points was her (Pryce).'

The jury was told about emails between Ms Briscoe and Mr Alderson, and Mail on Sunday news editor David Dillon.

One email from Ms Briscoe to Mr Dillon on December 30, 2010, explained that the 'relevant person' had been 'bullied and pressurised' into taking Huhne's points.

It said: 'Finally, you will appreciate that I have no particular interest in this story save that I have been asked to act as an intermediary on behalf of the relevant person.'

Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott - who published the story in May 2011 after Pryce confessed to her in March that year - yesterday told the court that although she knew the Mail on Sunday was aware of the story, Pryce had not told her that Ms Briscoe was acting as an intermediary for her with the rival paper.

She said she was not aware the barrister had any dealings with the Mail on Sunday, but knew she was a close friend of Pryce.

In his statement, Det Insp Passmore said neither Mr Alderson nor Mr Dillon would be called as witnesses in Pryce's trial.

'Mr Dillon and Mr Alderson have both declined to provide a statement in this case,' he said, adding that their 'journalistic material' was protected by law.

'As far as I am aware there is no basis in law for the police to compel Mr Dillon and Mr Alderson to provide a statement or to enter court to give evidence in this case.'

Former energy minister Chris Huhne pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and resigned as MP for Eastleigh at the start of the first trial and will be sentenced once this trial is over.



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 POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

House of Lords  dilutes Press plan which ‘threatens free speech’

Controversial plans to force newspapers to seek approval from a new regulator before printing contentious stories were watered down by peers last night.

Tabled by Labour peer Lord Puttnam this month, the proposals provoked an outcry by human rights campaigners, who warned they would have a chilling effect on free speech.

Supporters of the amendment of the Defamation Bill included some Tory and Liberal Democrat rebels, as well as Labour and Crossbench peers.

They said they wanted to use it to put pressure on ministers to bring forward plans to implement Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals for Press regulation.

But Lord Fowler, a former journalist and Tory Cabinet minister, who had backed the plans, said he now saw they went too far.

He said the Press ‘do have a genuine point’ in warning the proposal would harm free speech.

The peer said the plans were ‘anathema’ to  journalists as they raised the chance of stories being suppressed by the powerful.

‘In any story of any controversy, there will always be people out there who want to stop the story, or at the very least take the guts out of it,’ added Lord Fowler.

Peers agreed to remove the clause without a vote. But Lord Fowler said he still  supported the main thrust of Lord Puttnam’s amendment.

This would introduce Leveson-style arbitration for members of the public wronged by the Press and potentially ruinous damages for papers which refused to sign up.

But Justice Minister Lord McNally said yesterday’s change made an ‘unacceptable position’ only ‘marginally better’. He confirmed that ministers still viewed the Puttnam amendment as ‘unacceptable’.

The Bill, which contains vital reforms to libel laws, is now effectively in limbo, pending the outcome of cross-party talks on implementing the Leveson proposals for a new media regulator.

Lord McNally said a draft royal charter has been published showing how a ‘recognition body’ might be constituted to underpin a ‘tough system of self regulation’.

Tory sources have made it clear that David Cameron would rather abandon the Bill than allow Lord Puttnam’s plans to become law.


More insane British "justice"

Rapist with HIV who sparked nationwide manhunt after going on the run walks free from court because of his ill health

A convicted rapist with HIV who sparked a nationwide manhunt after going on the run has been spared jail - because of his ill health.

As a registered sex offender drifter Alan Clune, 32, was required to tell police where he lived after he was released from jail.

He went on the run after moving out of a house in Lancashire he shared with his partner without telling police.

Senior officers said he posed a risk to members of the public and he was at large for 10 days before being found 300 miles from home in London.

It emerged Clune, a former Big Issue seller, had repeatedly ignored a sex offender order demanding he tell police of his home address.

He had originally been jailed for four years for the rape an 18-year old heterosexual man whilst knowing he was HIV positive and had Hepatitis B.

At Burnley Crown Court, Clune admitted breaching the notification requirements of the sex offenders' register but was given a two year suspended prison term after his lawyer told how his client was undergoing dialysis and had skin cancer.

Passing sentence Judge Beverley Lunt said she was imposing a suspended sentence only because of Clune's health, but warned if he failed to comply with the order again, he would be locked up for a total of four years.

Judge Lunt warned him: 'It's an absolute certainty. Start obeying the rules. The trouble with you is if you go off the rails, you go off spectacularly.'

Clune who became a drug addict at 13 learned he contracted HIV in July 2002. The following September he raped his 18 year old victim following a drinking session in Swansea.

The teenager who had been visiting the Welsh city to see his girlfriend had to endure 'three months of terror' before doctors could tell him he had not contracted the disease.

In December 2002 Clune was ordered to sign on the Sex Offender register for life but after his release from jail flouted the order three times in the space of two years.

He was given a suspended jail term in December 2006 then in November 2007 was jailed for five months before being given a further three months in July 2008 for breaching the terms of the order.

He disappeared again on May 11 last year after quitting his home in Haslingden, near Rossendale.

The alarm was raised when police had gone to Clune's home in relation to a completely unrelated matter and found that he was no longer living there.

Michael Scholes, prosecuting, said Clune registered at a Salvation Army drop-in centre in the West End of London on May 16, saying he was homeless and had been sleeping rough.

On May 21, police turned up to arrest Clune but he slipped out of the door and ran off. He was detained in a nearby Apple store.

Lawyers for Clune later said his actions were 'not a precursor' to any sexual offence. He said he would 'sofa surf' from time to time when he got into difficulties.

In mitigation defence lawyer Bob Sastry said his client's disappearance was 'not necessarily premeditated.' He had been having difficulties with his then-partner and the relationship had broken down.

The barrister continued : 'He must acknowledge, particularly when he was staying at the Salvation Army, there was no difficulty in telling police where he was. By that stage, he was worried about going to prison.'


Dorset town scraps 'uncool' traditional carnival queen

A Dorset town has become the latest to ditch its annual "uncool" carnival queen procession through the streets, in a move that will end a tradition dating back more than 80 years.

Despite being synonymous with British culture as fish and chips and Morris dancers, Verwood has become the latest victim of a growing modern trend that believes the ceremony is outdated.

Organisers today announced that they would bring down the curtain on the carnival queen for this year’s summer parade after 84 years captivating locals.

They have also scrapped floats this year after fewer organisations were prepared to enter, citing high insurance costs and health and safety fears.

Instead, there will be a short walking procession through the town, which has a population of about 14,000, while any wheeled entries must be non-motorised.

Officials admitted entry numbers have dwindled in recent years and women have become increasingly unwilling to participate.

"We always have lots of potential princesses – 25 to 30 girls enter each year,” Steve Saville, one of the organisers, said today.  "But for older teenagers and young women, I'm afraid it's not cool to be a queen these days.  "It's not a beauty contest – queens have been chosen for their personalities and what they have done. But it's just not cool."

It is in stark contrast from the town’s first parade in 1929, in which dozens of excited young ladies entered desperate to wear the crown.

New committee members are now being sought to join the band of volunteers, mostly from the town's Rotary club, who have attempted to keep interest alive for the past decade.

Last year Devizes in Wiltshire announced it too was ending the tradition, first launched in the market town in 1933, where a local lovely was chosen each year to ride on a decorated float at the head of the summertime procession through the streets.

A decision to scrap the traditional pageant in Weymouth, Dorset in 2009, provoked such an outcry that the event was eventually reinstated.

Verwood’s queen-less carnival is due to take place in late June.


Not just a blob:   Brain scans reveal babies born THREE MONTHS early can recognise human speech - and even distinguish between male and female voices

Babies born up to three months premature can recognise different syllables in human speech, say scientists.

A study showed similarities in the way the brain processes language in the new-borns and adults - including specific neurological reactions to changes from the 'ba' to 'ga' sound and to a male to female voices.

Professor Fabrice Wallois, of Picardie University in Amiens, France, said the findings suggest that early in the development of the brain it begins to decipher distinct sounds or 'phonemes'.
The study showed similarities in the way the brain processes language in the new-borns and adults - including specific neurological reactions to changes from the

The study showed similarities in the way the brain processes language in the new-borns and adults - including specific neurological reactions to changes from the "ba" to "ga" sound and to a male to female voices


Using bedside functional optical imaging, Fabrice Wallois and colleagues scanned 12 sleeping 28-32-week gestation age pre-term infants.

This is the earliest age at which cortical responses to external stimuli can be recorded.

He said as early as three months before birth a baby's brain establishes neural functions that help decipher human speech.

At birth children can discriminate some syllables and recognise human speech but how these immature brain cells process it remains unclear.

Using powerful non-invasive scanners Prof Wallois and colleagues analysed 12 sleeping premature infants born after 28 to 32 weeks while playing voice recordings.

This is the earliest age for neuronal responses to external stimuli and Prof Wallois found the premature brain can perceive differences in syllables.

In addition although the tests produced responses in the right frontal region of the brain - the first part of the brain to form - syllabic changes also sparked responses in the left hemisphere.

This suggests certain linguistic brain areas exhibit a sophisticated degree of organisation as early as three months prior to full term.

Prof Wallois said: 'We observed several points of similarity with the adult linguistic network.
The research gives a new insight into the way mothers communicate with their babies - and how language skills develop

The research gives a new insight into the way mothers communicate with their babies - and how language skills develop

'First, whereas syllables elicited larger right than left responses, the posterior temporal region escaped this general pattern, showing faster and more sustained responses over the left than over the right hemisphere.

'Second, discrimination responses to a change of phoneme (ba vs. ga) and a change of human voice (male vs. female) were already present and involved inferior frontal areas, even in the youngest infants.

'Third, whereas both types of changes elicited responses in the right frontal region, the left frontal region only reacted to a change of phoneme.

'These results demonstrate a sophisticated organisation of areas at the very onset of cortical circuitry - three months before term.

'They emphasise the influence of innate factors on regions involved in linguistic processing and social communication in humans.'

The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



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 POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Does this broomstick go with my prison stripes?

In its wisdom - and yes, I am being ironic - the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a ruling Tuesday that revives a California inmate lawsuit to force the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to hire a paid, full-time Wiccan chaplain. Oddly, the three-judge panel found that the complaint "did not contain sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory under the First Amendment." Nonetheless, the court overturned a federal judge's 2011 dismissal of the lawsuit.

It's enough to make you wonder if Samantha twitched her nose and cast a spell on the robed wonders. Or, mayhap, the jurists are wizards who found no solid legal case but still chose to conjure up a trial reset just for the fun of it. It's not as if the public has to pay for a new trial. Judicial rulings, they're like magic.

How many Bathilda Bagshots are there in California prisons? In their complaint, inmates Shawna Hartmann and Caren Hill claim that Wicca has more adherents in the Central California Women's Facility than Catholicism, Islam or Judaism.

A 2007 Corrections survey found 183 Wiccan inmates - compared with 42,666 Protestant, 28,884 Muslim, 23,160 Catholic, 8,296 Native American and 2,678 Jewish inmates. Those are the big five religions for which the department hires paid, full-time chaplains. A survey five years earlier found 598 Wiccans, which suggests witchcraft could be melting in the California prison community.

Wiccan Rev. Patrick McCollum, who has served as the prison's unpaid volunteer chaplain, told me the department skewed its survey because it "did not want to facilitate nor allow the Wiccans to practice at all."

Why? "Because they thought that they were evil." And: "They had a lot of misconceptions."

You can put me on the record as a Wicca skeptic. When I read the complaint that Wiccans aren't treated the same as adherents to mainstream religions, I figure that's what you get when you join what for some is a do-it-yourself theology. It's like atheists suing because they aren't welcome in church.

For his part, McCollum is quite serious about Wicca.

I wish the Ninth Circuit were as serious. Federal jurists complain about clogged courts. They should look at the mirror, mirror on the wall. They've created their own curse.

Inmate Hartmann first filed this suit in 2008. She since has been released from prison. The complaint is so flimsy that her attorneys actually argued that it was wrong for the judge to dismiss the case because their complaint was "unduly long or poorly written."

Hill is serving a 29-year sentence for possession of a controlled substance for sale. According to court documents, she is a repeat offender with felonies and misdemeanors dating back to 1976.

Criminal Justice Legal Foundation President Michael Rushford observed that he has seen this kind of "there are raisins in the tapioca pudding" inmate nuisance claims before. It's a game life-sentence criminals play "to amuse themselves. They play this game because stupid courts let them get away with it."

"Do you do spells?" I asked McCollum. "Yes," he answered, "a spell is a prayer." He offered up an example: "Great mother whose love encircles the earth, please let this reporter print the truth, and let her be blessed for doing so."

If I turn into a frog over the weekend, I take back this column. Until then, I'm just a chump who pays taxes so the Ninth Circuit can pull rabbits out of hats.


The gaystapo and persecution of Christians

I was recently subpoenaed as a witness in a case making its way through federal court involving a gay bar here in Chicago that’s been accused of harassing a Christian employee…which is a shocking display of hypocrisy, if you think about it, because the “Ministry of Truth” that is our national media constantly berates you with talking points that claim Christians are forever the ones victimizing gays…and no indication is given to the public that in reality it’s the gays who are the victimizers and not necessarily the victims in a lot of cases.

I’ve written about this before, while coining the term “Gaystapo” to refer to militant gays who serve as goon squads for the Left…and who are specifically charged with accusing Christians of all manner of hatred and bigotry (while simultaneously being the ones who actually rev up hatred and bigotry themselves against Christians at just about any gay-related public event held in cities like Chicago).

Well, I’m openly gay and can tell you that I’ve seen, firsthand, Christian men harassed and persecuted in the very prominent Chicago bar currently a Defendant in a major discrimination suit. I witnessed  atheist or agnostic gays deliberately targeting gay Christians for harassment as “traitors” because of their faith…and I am looking forward to the day in the near future where I can take the witness stand in federal court and put on record everything I’ve seen self-styled “leaders of the gay community” do to men in Chicago who are both gay and Christian (but who refuse to denounce Christ or turn their backs on their families because the “gay community leaders” tell them that’s what they need to do).

Honestly, this case is one of the most explosive I’ve ever encountered and has the potential to completely obliterate the Left’s ability to ever use gays as a weapon against Christians in the future…because it exposes the reality that whenever the Left accuses other people of doing something evil, it’s because subgroups of the Left are actually doing those exact same things to someone else.

This case will expose the Gaystapo for the evil it does to Christians…and it will also show the self-styled “gay community leaders” to be the real hatemongers at work in our society today.

There’s a lot more to come on this in the months ahead as the case moves through discovery and approaches trial…so be sure to stay tuned because I intend to tell you everything I am allowed to publicly reveal about the most shameless act of hypocrisy the “gay community” of Chicago has ever committed in its effort to destroy “the enemies of the gay community”.


Furious anti-Christian bigotry at CBS Sports

By Steve Deace

This column by Gregg Doyel, a national columnist at CBS, is just the latest example of the brave new world that is coming for Christians in an American culture that is devolving right before our very eyes. Religious liberty, which is what led those first (Christian) pilgrims to settle here and found what later became these United States of America in the first place, is under open assault.  Just recently we’ve seen:

*    A Christian baker in Oregon facing potential criminal prosecution for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

*   Hobby Lobby facing seven-figure fines from the federal government because it refuses to provide abortifacients to its employees.

 *   Chick-fil-a under attack for believing the Bible.

 *   Talented Mormon writer Orson Scott Card facing a boycott because he believes in marriage.

 *   The media’s failure to cover the first domestic terrorism conviction in the history of Washington, D.C.. His name is Floyd Corkin –  he’s a gay rights activist – and he attempted a mass shooting at the national headquarters of the Family Research Council.

And there’s plenty more where that came from, and unless we reverse the current course we’re on plenty more – and worse – are on the way, too.

But that’s not what has Doyel’s dander up. Oh, no. Its Tim Tebow agreeing to speak at the 10,000-member church of Robert Jeffress, whom Doyel says “does the work of the Lord sort of like Westboro Baptist does the work of the Lord.”

Right away you can see this is a smear campaign by Doyel, who leads off with the bullying tactic of linking Jeffress with the notorious Westboro Baptist. So what are Jeffress’ sins according to Doyle?

Doyel writes that Jeffress has said, “It’s a fact that [AIDS is] a gay disease so there’s a reasonable reason to exclude gays from the military.”

There are really two separate questions here, one involving whether AIDS primarily infects homosexuals, and whether homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the military. For example, plenty of people who aren’t opposed to mainstreaming homosexuality, like Senator John McCain, have opposed allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military for reasons that have nothing to do with AIDS such as unit cohesion.

Regarding AIDS, in May of 2012 the Centers for Disease Control – hardly a right-wing organization – reported that “gay,  bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) represent approximately 2% of the US population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV.” The organization says men having sex with men account for 61% of all new HIV infections in the U.S. and 79% of all new infections among men. Translation: if you’re a guy and you only have sex with your wife, and she only has sex with you, there’s a better chance you’ll be struck by lightning then get HIV according to the CDC’s own data. Furthermore, over half of the 784,701 living with HIV in the U.S. are homosexual men, and white homosexual men contract HIV at roughly 10 times the rate as white heterosexual women, again according to the CDC.

This is all data that Doyel could’ve looked up for himself if he was truly interested in understanding Jeffress’ remarks and being a professional. But ready, fire, aim draws hits to your website I suppose.

Next, Doyel dips into theology, saying that Jeffress’ church preaches that “Jews and homosexuals are going to Hell.” Again, this is a bullying tactic. Doyel cherry-picks two sympathetic people groups here, but that’s not an accurate representation of Jeffress’ church. On its own website it says, “Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who, by His own blood, obtained eternal redemption for the believer. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.”

That faith statement on salvation is shared by at least 95% of Christendom throughout the religion’s 2,000-year history, as well as clear teaching in the Bible (John 14:6 is one example)—which you’ll notice Doyel never quotes in his column.

For Doyel’s characterizations of the beliefs of Jeffress’ church to be true would require several fantastical, dare I say intolerant, things to be true. First, Doyel is essentially saying is the Gospel itself, which was born of a Jew (Jesus) and initially spread by his disciples (all Jews) hates Jews.

Billy Graham, who has been one of America’s most respected persons every year for six decades, built a lifelong ministry on the faith statement on the website of Jeffress’ church that Doyel is condemning. So apparently Billy Graham is loony tunes, too. Heck, Doyel even managed to offend Jesus Christ himself, who claims many times in the New Testament there is no salvation apart from him. While claiming to stand for tolerance, Doyel elevates himself above God. What humility!

Doyel is mad that Jeffress’ says Islam “promotes pedophilia.” Except he leaves out the part that in some parts of Iran a girl can get married as young as nine with parental permission, because that’s supposedly the age of Mohammed’s child bride Aisha when he consummated the marriage.

Doyel also says that Jeffress is a bad guy because he has disparaging remarks about Catholicism (which I don’t share) and Mormonism. Again, these issues appear to be too complicated for Doyel, so he would’ve been better off not touching them. You simply cannot briefly touch on theological debates that are hundreds of years old and have centuries of context behind them without coming across as ignorant, unprofessional, or both.

Doyel also never mentions that on the church’s calendar there are outreach events for those in mourning, the unemployed, single moms, and for those that “speak very little to no English.” Yet this is the church pastored by a man that Doyel describes as “monstrous.”

Doyel concludes his screed by saying he “despises Jeffress” so he “despises Tebow now.” Did he ever attempt to talk to Jeffress or Tebow? Is it “tolerant” to “despise” people you’ve never met? Is that what the diversity policy at CBS Sports teaches?

The article doesn’t say, but given the homework it’s obvious Doyel didn’t do before writing his column he comes across as rather intolerant, which defines as “not tolerating or respecting others beliefs as in political or religious matters.”

I’d say that pretty much sums up Doyle’s piece, wouldn’t you?


Australian Labor Party has lost the plot, and the narrative

Waleed Aly says the ALP stands for nothing, which is pretty right.  A party that stood up for the worker would reject all the Greenie restrictions that keep the workers poor -- but we see no sign of that.  The trouble is that the ALP is now more the teachers' party than the workers' party

If you're inclined to take a long-term view of politics, the hand-wringing on whether Julia Gillard should stay or go is really just so much white noise.

Labor is in crisis, but not principally for the reasons that occupy the commentariat.

It's not about a bitterly divided caucus, or political miscalculations such as the ham-fisted Nova Peris saga. It's not even simply about policy missteps such as the creation of an impotent mining tax.

Labor's problems are not nearly so managerial and technocratic. They are much, much bigger than that.

Labor's problem is ideological. It doesn't really mean anything any more, and probably hasn't since Paul Keating lost power in 1996. Sure, Labor has had its moments - most notably in its campaign against WorkChoices, which jolted its ideological memory and gave it a momentary reason to exist.

But this was no ideological revival. It was reactive: a political opportunity well taken rather than a world view reborn.

Only John Howard's pro-business, anti-union zeal, unencumbered by any resistance in the Senate, made this possible. After WorkChoices, much as before it, what then?

This isn't an optional, esoteric extra. Governments ultimately thrive on narrative. Voters are not merely electing a suite of set policies. They are electing a party that will respond to future, unforeseen policy questions. They therefore need to know what you're about. That's what a clear consistent story tells them.

A party without a narrative is reduced to seeking your support as a lesser evil. Hence Labor's focus on Tony Abbott.

Every successful government can be summarised in a phrase or two. Bob Hawke: a new, deregulated, globalised economy. Keating inherited that story, then added Asia, a growing economic power in our backyard we should embrace by shedding our British skin. Howard was about nationalism, security and capital's triumph over labour. Everything - asylum seeker policy, counterterrorism, foreign affairs, even unsolicited social commentary about minority groups - was tailored to fit the story.

Exactly what story has Labor told us since 2007? It began with something about "Australian working families", but that too was a relic of the WorkChoices campaign. After that, it has been mostly a blancmange of conflicting messages. Perhaps it started when Kevin Rudd wanted to be "tough but humane" on asylum seekers. It took Gillard only a matter of days as Prime Minister to continue the incoherence, declaring both that the number of boat people arriving in Australia was much smaller than many imagined, before swiftly going on to reassure those worried about invading hordes that their concerns were legitimate, and that they're "certainly [not] racist". We learn nothing from this about how Labor sees asylum seekers. We learn only that it's trying to please everyone.

The problem persists even in Labor-friendly policy areas. Take education, where the Rudd government announced a bold new focus on literacy and numeracy, much as Howard might have. More recently, it commissioned the Gonski review, but tied its hands on the question of private school funding so the panel couldn't even consider cutting it. Then it pledged a response it is yet to detail or fund.

Indeed, its only real response to date has been a bill it hailed as the most important of last year, but which had nothing in it at all. Explicitly. It has a section specifically saying the bill creates no rights or obligations on anyone - especially the government. To paraphrase, "section 10: this legislation does not exist".

Even Labor's most significant reform, the carbon tax, merely symbolises the party's ideological malaise. The government's heftiest achievement isn't even its own policy. Indeed, it was so infamously promised not to be its policy.

Remember the citizens' assembly? That was Gillard's pledge before the last election: a random gathering of ordinary people who would somehow reach a consensus on pricing carbon. That's a process, not a policy. It's the kind of thing you do when you want to announce something but you're not prepared to commit to a compelling vision of your own.

As the opposition hammers it on Labor's broken pledge to deliver a surplus this financial year, the government seems to have found some coherence. Confronted with falling corporate profit (and therefore falling tax revenue), it had a choice: either keep finding cuts that would make lots of people unemployed and deflate the economy, or prioritise jobs and growth. It's a nice line. It sounds like a Labor line. But it follows years of saying the opposite; of elevating the surplus to some inviolable standard of good economic management; of saying the main game was giving the Reserve Bank "room to cut interest rates". And this in the face of the ever-lengthening queue of economists advising to the contrary.

In short, Labor had bought wholly into the Coalition's narrative for no discernible reason. It conceded the philosophical debate, then lost the political fight. So now, when it has finally found a Labor story to tell, it sounds convenient and insincere. Labor has become a liberal party, so it isn't even convincing when it sounds like itself.

That's not about incompetent leadership; it is the flipside of the Hawke/Keating legacy. Once Labor embraced a deregulated, liberal economy, the political landscape was forever changed, leaving a diabolical question for subsequent Labor leaders: what exactly is the point of Labor politics? The compromise has been to talk about Labor's "reforming tradition", but reform is an act, not an ideology. WorkChoices was a reform, too.

Labor has been chasing its base ever since. Often it watched helplessly as workers became small business owners and turned into Howard's socially conservative battlers. Labor cannot offer them industrial protection, and desperately doesn't want to offend their cultural sensibilities, which is why it says things like "tough but humane".

The result is that Labor cannot even compete on social and cultural politics. Hence the flight to the Greens, the party Gillard so venomously dismissed this week as a "party of protest". To which the most devastating reply is surely: "Fine. But what are you?"



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 POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


Monday, February 25, 2013

Obsessive  hate from the British Left

John O’Farrell’s best-selling book, Things Can Only Get Better, an account of his life as a Labour activist during 18 years of Conservative rule, is required bedtime reading for the Left.
O’Farrell, a ‘comedian’ who apparently wrote jokes for Gordon Brown (no, I can’t remember any either), explains in the memoir why he wasn’t cut out to be an MP. ‘I would always be in trouble for saying the wrong thing,’ he writes.

We now know how true this candid prediction was. In the book, named after the cloying pop song that served as the Labour Party theme tune during the 1997 election campaign, O’Farrell proudly writes that he wanted Argentina to win the Falklands War, in which 255 British serviceman died, because he believed that would ensure Lady Thatcher was voted out of Downing Street.

He has been publicly endorsed by party leader Ed Miliband, who joined him on the campaign trail a week ago. Miliband, grinning inanely like a poor man’s Mr Bean, described O’Farrell as ‘a breath of fresh air for this by-election and a breath of fresh air for politics’.

O’Farrell’s campaign was already faltering after it emerged last week that in the same book he had written about the IRA bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Tory conference in 1984.

‘I felt a surge of excitement at the nearness of Margaret Thatcher’s demise, and disappointment such a chance had been missed,’ he wrote.

Just in case you didn’t fully grasp the full meaning of that sickening comment, what O’Farrell said was he regretted that the country’s greatest prime minister of the last 40 years was not blown to pieces by terrorists.

O’Farrell sheepishly offered a half-apology for that remark this week —  but, astonishingly, the Labour party made no attempt to distance itself from him. Voters in Eastleigh have also had Polly Toynbee, The Guardian newspaper’s high priestess of feminism, knocking on their doors to canvass for O’Farrell: seemingly oblivious to the fact he said he wished that Britain’s first woman Prime Minister had been murdered.

So much for the sisterhood!

When challenged about his views on the Brighton bomb, O’Farrell said: ‘A terrible thought came into my head and I immediately castigated myself for it.

‘I was honest because I said how I felt for a split second at the time.’  Hardly the most gracious of apologies. Indeed, not actually an apology at all.

Also, his semi-remorse was utterly disingenuous in its implication that his feeling was simply a momentary lapse that happened more than a decade ago. Because the truth is that O’Farrell went on to poke fun at Lady Thatcher’s brush with death in another book he wrote only three years ago.

In An Utterly Exasperated History Of Modern Britain, a supposedly comedic take on recent British history, O’Farrell returned to the ruins of the Grand Hotel in a section headlined: ‘Apart from that, Mrs Thatcher, how was your stay?’

He wrote: ‘It was the closest anyone had come to assassinating a Prime Minister in modern times and a major embarrassment for the security services.

‘Who knows what will be revealed when the official papers are released 30 years after the Brighton bomb. One bit of correspondence from the Grand Hotel has already been removed.

‘“Dear Mrs Thatcher, thank you for your letter and under the circumstances we accept that your request for a refund is a reasonable one. However, after the search of your bomb-damaged room we were still unable to locate two towels and a hotel ashtray and wonder if by chance you might have accidentally packed . . .”.’

The sick joke underlines 50-year-old O’Farrell’s reflexive loathing for the Tories and his insatiable desire to shock.

He writes: ‘On May 8, 1945, a misleadingly positive piece of government spin was sold to the British people.  They were told that they had won the Second World War.

‘The government dared to tell them after six years of crippling conflict, the destruction of homes, factories, the loss of the merchant shipping fleet, and the gold reserves, that Great Britain was somehow one of the winners.’

In An Utterly Exasperated History Of Modern Britain, O’Farrell — who is credited with the idea of making the Spitting Image puppet of the Tory Prime Minister John Major grey (to match the Left’s view of his dour character) — he shamelessly exploits the bizarre death in 1994 of the Tory MP Stephen Milligan so as to try to embarrass Mr Major.

Milligan’s body was found naked except for a pair of stockings and suspenders. He had a bin-liner over his head and electrical flex wrapped around his neck.

O’Farrell, without a hint of compassion for the 46-year-old’s family and friends, writes: ‘One Tory MP was found dead in his London flat, hanging from a noose of electrical flex, dressed in nothing but stockings and suspenders with an orange in his mouth and a plastic bin-liner over his head.

‘It was hard for John Major to say, “Well, we’ve all done it, haven’t we?. I mean, who can honestly say that at some time or another they haven’t masturbated while hanging by a home-made noose, sucking on amyl nitrate while wearing ladies’ lingerie. I know I have!”’

O’Farrell may now have cause to regret ridiculing Milligan, who happens to have been the popular MP for Eastleigh, the very seat O’Farrell is now contesting.

Incidentally, it won’t help his cause at all that he has arrogantly told voters that even if elected, he won’t bother to get a home in the constituency — but will commute from London.

O’Farrell’s writings also direct poisonous bile at the Royal Family, mocking the bulimia of Princess Diana and comparing the ‘contrived’ public reaction to her death in 1997 to the fervour on display at a Nazi rally.

In his Exasperated History, he writes: ‘Perhaps somewhere in a parallel universe there is another 1990s Britain where the death of the Princess of Wales was mentioned in passing as an insignificant news event, like the death of a former sitcom star or the closing of a famous London boutique.

‘The news was unimportant in the general scheme of things . . . but was probably worth just mentioning as it might be of trivial nostalgic interest for its own sake.’

Instead, however, ‘the sudden death of Diana was a massive news event, but only because of the way she had been built up over the previous years as one of the lead characters in the national soap opera’.

He writes that ‘the nation embarked on upon an utterly surreal week of very public mourning ..... It was a nationwide Nuremberg rally of contrived sentiment and displacement grief’.

He adds, sarcastically: ‘But what was a great comfort to all of us in this dark hour was the high quality of the souvenirs produced as a tribute to the life of the so-called “Queen of Hearts”.

‘Diana porcelain dolls that featured some of her most memorable dresses, hand-painted and individually numbered by the traditional royal potters of Taiwan.

‘Commemorative mugs, featuring that unmistakable coy smile. A children’s Diana doll which allowed you, by pulling a string on her back, to relive those favourite catchphrases: “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” and, “I’d like to be a Queen in people’s hearts”.

‘The Princess of Wales Memorial plate for that tiny half piece of lettuce that could be puked up later.’

Yet still O’Farrell — who stood as the Labour candidate for Maidenhead in the 2001 General Election and was trounced by Theresa May — is feted by the Labour leadership, with Harriet Harman, the deputy leader, also joining his campaign.

Lord Tebbit, whose wife Margaret was among those injured in the attack on the Grand Hotel which left her paralysed from the neck down, characteristically cuts to the heart of the issue.

‘The question is not just whether any rational or decent Labour voter in Eastleigh will vote for this creature,’ he says.  ‘It’s a test for the Labour leader. Does he endorse O’Farrell and his disappointment that the attempt against Margaret Thatcher failed?

‘Or will he have the decency and courage to repudiate him?’

We now know the answer to that and it tells us all we need to know about Ed Miliband as well as his candidate in next week’s by-election.

More here

Conservatives go to war on 'bias’ at the BBC

A bitter battle is breaking out between senior Cabinet ministers and the BBC, with claims that the corporation is “biased” and “too close to Labour”.

Senior Conservatives frustrated with the broadcaster include Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, and Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary.

Grant Shapps, the party chairman, has also complained about coverage of the Coalition’s housing policy.

Ministers are angry that the BBC habitually describes reduced spending as “cuts” rather than “savings” for the taxpayer.

As a result, the Department for Work and Pensions has made more than 20 formal complaints to the BBC over the past year, with accusations of “bias” and “inaccuracies”.

Aides say coverage of welfare reforms often feature only the plight of people who will suffer most from the changes, while measures to soften the blow often go unreported.

Over the past few months, Mr Duncan Smith has been particularly angered by the reporting of the housing benefit reforms referred to as “the bedroom tax” by Labour and the BBC.

The changes will mean reduced payments for anyone living in council or housing association properties that have more bedrooms than they are judged to need.

“You could look at the BBC’s TV news coverage [of this policy] and think this was a change that would apply only to disabled people,” one government source said.

“We have allocated £155 million for local authorities to help soften the blow of the measure, but this never features in the BBC’s news coverage. How is it possible not to think that is biased?”

Details of the increasingly fractious relationship come just days after David Cameron criticised the BBC for behaving “badly” and “stupidly” in its coverage of next week’s Eastleigh by-election.

The Prime Minister berated the broadcaster for thinking its coverage was the “most important thing in this by-election” when the Tory candidate declined to attend one of its hustings events.

However, the touch paper was lit by the appointment of James Purnell, the former Labour culture secretary, to the BBC’s board. He is to be paid £295,000 a year as director of strategy.

“This gives the impression that there is a swing door policy between Labour and the BBC,” said one ministerial aide, adding that the appointment had “lit the touch paper” on a range of grievances.

The director of strategy post has been created by Lord Hall, the director-general in waiting who joins the BBC in April and who hand-picked Mr Purnell for the job, which was never advertised.

The BBC said the new director-general “did not want to waste time with a long and costly recruitment process” for the role. A similar post at a commercial broadcaster would pay more, it added.

However, a senior ministerial adviser pointed out that Lord Hall was appointed by Labour to lead the Royal Opera House in 2001.

At that time, Mr Purnell was working in Downing Street under Tony Blair, but there is no suggestion that he had a hand in Lord Hall’s appointment.

“It is beyond a joke,” the source said of the decision. “It all looks far too cosy.”

John Whittingdale, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Culture Committee, said he would ask Lord Hall about the appointment when he is next before the committee.

Mr Whittingdale will meet fellow committee members tomorrow to see if there is an appetite to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr Purnell’s job.

Philip Davies, a Conservative MP on the committee, described the former Labour MP’s selection as “totally unacceptable” and “very provocative”, adding: “It is not as if the BBC is not already over-balanced with Left-leaning people.

“If Lord Hall thinks the answer to the BBC’s problems is picking this former Labour minister for such a senior role it shows he does not have a good grasp of what is really going wrong at the corporation.”

A further complaint has come from Mr Shapps about a report on BBC1’s News at 10 investigating the Coalition’s “new homes bonus”, a grant paid to councils that build more homes.

Downing Street also complained late last year about the conduct of Evan Davis, the presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme, when interviewing George Osborne.  He repeatedly talked over the Chancellor and was accused of “shouting down” Mr Osborne by Tory MPs.

A BBC spokesman said: “Our coverage of government policy is approached in the same independent and impartial way as our coverage of any story.”

The BBC also said an individual’s personal views did not impact on their ability to carry out their work in an impartial manner and there were strict guidelines which must be observed at all times.


RSPCA wasted 'tens of thousands' of taxpayers' money in latest case against a hunt

The RSPCA has been accused of wasting tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money after its latest case involving a hunt collapsed.

The charity had accused Keith Watson, his partner Tanya Norlander and his daughter Hannah Watson, 18, of interfering with a badger sett while assisting the Cheshire Hunt in February last year.

Within days, the family were subject to a police raid and taken individually to a police station for hour-long interviews. For a year they lived under “extreme stress” while the case came to court.  Miss Watson, now 19, was “unable to sleep” or study for her A-levels.

Almost a year later the case collapsed when the RSPCA admitted at Crewe Magistrates’ Court there was not enough evidence and the prosecution withdrew the case.  The cost of defence, paid for by the hunt and estimated to be around £10,000, will be paid by the taxpayer.

Stephen Welford, solicitor for the Watsons, said it will have cost “tens of thousands more” to the taxpayer to pay for the court and judge.  He said the RSPCA, that is funded by donations, will have spent around £30,000 on the case.

Any private individual can bring a private prosecution, and the state will pay if it collapses, but Mr Welford said charities should be more responsible about bringing cases that may fail at the taxpayer’s expense.  “It was an ill-informed decision to bring the prosecution,” he said.

The Charities Commission is already questioning the RSPCA’s use of its own funds to bring prosecutions after a judge criticised the charity for spending £326,000 prosecuting David Cameron’s local hunt the Heythrop.

Tim Bonner, Director of Campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, said the RSPCA is ruining lives and wasting money in their "vindictive" campaign against hunts.

He said the RSPCA have two more ongoing cases connected to hunts in the North West and Wiltshire, one also involves interfering with a badger sett.

“It is simply disgraceful that the RSPCA is using the criminal justice system to pursue a vindictive campaign against the hunting community. The Watson family have suffered more than a year of stress over a prosecution so unjustified that it fell apart within minutes of the trial starting.

“There is no way on earth that the police and Crown Prosecution Service would have prosecuted on such flawed and weak evidence, but the RSPCA pursued Mr Watson and his family simply because they were part of the Cheshire Hunt.

“This case only reinforces the need for proper scrutiny of a charity which is using money donated to protect animal welfare to pursue a political, animal rights campaign.”

Mr Watson said he regularly assisted the hunt by legally killing foxes at the landowner’s request. Usually this is done by chasing the fox out of the earth into a net with a single dog. The animal is then shot with a “humane” pistol.

On February 16th last year, he said he used a terrier to try to flush a fox out of an earth.  No animal was harmed but a few days later his farm was raided, buildings searched and firearms seized.

His family was taken to a police station individually to be interviewed.

Mr Watson said activists had “hidden behind bushes” to film activity at the fox’s earth.

It was claimed it was a badger’s sett but he insisted it was not being used by badgers.

The farmer said he and his family were targeted for doing nothing wrong in an effort to bring down the hunt.

“The RSPCA are not interested in animal welfare, they are just going after the hunting community. They do not have to pay the bills, it is the taxpayer.”

Mr Watson lost his firearms licence for the year and was unable to control pests on the farm.

He said his family was targeted in order to get to the hunting community.

“It is a nightmare when you know you are not guilty and you have done nothing wrong but you are being picked on to make an example of.”

Hannah Watson, who is now 19, said she suffered sleepless nights and was unable to study for her A-levels.  “I feel my family was targeted,” she said. “It was intimidating and very scary.”

The RSPCA insisted there was sufficient evidence for "instituting proceedings for an alleged offence of interfering with a badger sett", supported by independent expert evidence, as well as video footage.

However on the morning of the trial it became clear for the first time that the prosecution’s expert now had reservations as to whether the sett had been “interfered with” as is legally understood.

"As soon as the RSPCA became aware of this, it decided to offer no evidence and the case was dismissed. This was a responsible decision taken on the day in light of new circumstances that could not have been anticipated," said a spokesman.

The charity pointed out that the case was reviewed against the Code for Crown Prosecutors and at all stages leading up to the trial, it had been considered appropriate to prosecute.

"The RSPCA believes that if it is presented with evidence of alleged offences concerning animal cruelty they should be properly investigated and prosecuted where appropriate.

"It is extremely rare that RSPCA cases conclude like this. We prosecute roughly 1 per cent of the incidents we are asked to investigate and have a success rate of around 98 per cent," the spokesman added.


The Church Doesn't Need a Revolution

 Kathryn Lopez

The pope has renounced the papal throne. Long live the progressive pope! Such are the rallying cries from establishment voices wanting to see the Catholic Church loosen up now that Pope Benedict XVI has decided to step down. But maybe people should listen to the Church's actual views.

Mary Hasson from the Ethics and Public Policy Center has been doing some unique work looking into what Catholic women know and want from their Church. It's scandalous and yet not entirely surprising that she found only 13 percent of Catholic women who occasionally attend Mass accept Church teaching on contraception.

It's not a shock given that the average Catholic Mass goer is not exactly being taught the theology and even practicality of the Catholic teaching on sexual morality. Catholics all too often see Church teaching as a litany of "No"s when, in fact, it is all about "Yes." Yes to human dignity and happiness. Yes to the respect for one another that comes from truly believing you are made in the image and likeness of God.

"On the one hand, the number is small, no question," Hasson acknowledges. "That 13 percent includes not only weekly churchgoers but also women who attend less regularly, perhaps a few times a year. However, if we look only at women who attend Mass weekly, the percentage accepting the Church's teaching on contraception goes up, doubling (to 27 percent) among young women ages 18-34. That's a sign of hope -- in spite of decades of dissenting theologians, silence from the parish pulpit and distorted cultural messages about sex, these women have heard the Church's teaching and embraced it. These women form a solid core of faithful Catholics who can attest to the personal benefits of following the Church's teaching on sexuality and family planning."

And despite the current conversation about women, contraception and religious liberty that's overtaken the government's federal health-care push, the media coverage has been such that most Americans still don't quite know what all the fuss is about. Some Catholic women have a similar relationship to Church teachings on contraception: 37 percent, in Hasson's findings, were unsure about the specifics.

"The 37 percent seems to confirm the stories that abound of Catholic women who went to Mass every week for years and to confession regularly, but never heard that contraception is wrong. Similarly, how many Catholics have gone through (extensive marriage prep in the Church) by never heard word one about the Church's teaching on sexuality or family planning," she said. "Or perhaps (they) heard some general teachings, and then, with a wink, were told to follow their consciences, with no further guidance about forming their consciences."

A cover story in glossy New York magazine recently dared to question the good of the birth-control pill based on the damage it had wrought on women's lives and bodies. The one institution that proposes a radically different way might just have something to offer the world -- if it only taught it and lived it.

Pope Benedict has been a teacher, first and foremost, reintroducing a proposal that Christ himself offered. Men and women living in service for love of God are good to have around. Enough with the campaign for less Catholicism in the Catholic Church. How about a welcome mat for a good and faithful shepherd who, with confidence and humility, speaks with clarity about the teachings of the Catholic Church, "proposing the good news of Jesus Christ to a disenchanted world," as George Weigel puts it in his book "Evangelical Catholicism."

The disenchanted are everywhere, even in the pews. And they want to be fed, they want to be engaged, they want to be transformed. They don't want more of the same misery omnipresent in the secular world. The world doesn't need a Gospel of misery but of hope. The Church has it, and we should expect the next pope to teach on, infused with a generous and contagious spirit of engagement.



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 POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


Sunday, February 24, 2013

‘I Don’t Debate With Israelis!’: British Leftist Politician Storms Out of Debate After Realizing His Opponent Is From Israel‏

Hypocrite Galloway pictured hugging former IDF officer (that's right, Uri Geller was wounded in action as an IDF paratrooper during the Six-Day War)

At an Oxford University event, British parliamentary member George Galloway shocked attendees when he abruptly stormed out of the room after finding out that his opponent was an Israeli. After realizing the man’s nationality, the politician immediately jumped out of his seat, announced that he had been misled and told those in attendance that he doesn’t debate with citizens of the Jewish state.

“I don’t debate with Israelis. I’ve been misled. Sorry,” he said, with the audience responding in shock.

Next, he got up, grabbed his coat and headed for the door. But before walking out, he again affirmed his stance, saying, “I don’t recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis.”

Galloway had already been speaking for approximately 10 minutes about his view that “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank” when he realized that his opponent is Jewish, the Daily Mail reports.

The incident unfolded as Eylon Aslan-Levy, a third-year student, was responding to the politician’s statements from the podium. When Aslan-Levy used the word “we” to in his description of Israel, Galloway interrupted him and asked if he’s of Jewish decent.

“You said ‘we.’ Are you an Israeli?,” the politician asked.  The student answered affirmatively — and that’s when the situation took its shocking turn.

While many derided his comments, Galloway shared some supporters’ tweets — messages that accused Israel of apartheid and of occupying others’ lands.


How press freedom is now a “very extreme view” in Britain

A UK video journalist tells spiked why he is fighting orders to hand over protest footage to the police

Where there is a protest in the UK, it’s a safe bet that Jason Parkinson will be there on the frontline filming it. From the G20 protests in 2009, to the recent Anonymous masked street protests, Parkinson’s carefully edited footage features in a range of publications and gives a short, sharp insight into what it’s like in the heat of demonstrations.

It seems, however, that such insights are too short and sharp for the police, who have demanded that Parkinson hand over all his footage of an English Defence League march and United Against Fascism (UAF) counter-demonstration he filmed in Bolton in 2010 to help them with an unspecified investigation they are carrying out. Parkinson, rightly, has refused, and this week appeared in court to fight a production order the Greater Manchester Police have applied for under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. ‘They claim my footage may or may not be of relevance to their investigation’, Parkinson told spiked. ‘I was not told what they were investigating.’

His reasons for refusing are both principled and pragmatic. As Parkinson explains: ‘Journalists are not evidence gatherers for the police.’ But he also recognises that, ‘if we are seen to be handing over footage to the authorities we will be viewed as just that and our safety covering such situations in the future we be jeopardised’.

Parkinson’s concerns are understandable. Should the police begin to make a habit of demanding footage from journalists at protests, any idea of journalistic independence will disappear. In spite of the intention of the journalist, the footage could be used to spot troublemakers, or even just to make a list of people who had attended. The video-journalists’ lens ceases to be neutral, and becomes instead a means through which the state can spy upon protesters. Should this become known, any trust between journalist and protesters would be lost, and hostile situations are bound to arise. Parkinson is right to fear for the future of his profession - and is equally right to fight the case.

This is not the first time the police have attempted to co-opt journalists’ material in such a way, and neither is it the first time demands have been made of Parkinson. As Parkinson explains, ‘production orders were becoming routine procedure in 2010, as opposed to being issued as the last resort, which is how they are supposed to be implemented’. It sounds like the police were beginning to use footage shot by journalists as part of a trawling exercise, rather than to investigate a particular serious crime.

As Parkinson has observed previously, this appears to have coincided with a decline in the once-prominent police ‘forward intelligence’ teams who, in the early 2000s, would zealously film everyone attending protests. Relationships between journalists and police improved. ‘It was almost as if they wanted us there’, Parkinson told . Starting notably with the student protests at Millbank in 2010, ‘[at] every public-order incident since then, one news outlet or another has had the proverbial knock at the door’.

This reached a head in 2011, when Essex police requested footage from all journalists and broadcasters who filmed the eviction of the Dale Farm travellers’ site over a two-day period. As Parkinson told spiked: ‘It was clear from the start this was not about proving any specific incidents of criminality, it was about seizing all material for intelligence purposes against protestors.’ To Parkinson, this amounted to ‘the biggest assault on press freedom and independence we had seen for many years’. Despite the evident amount of time and energy it would take, there was, he says, ‘no choice but to fight it’.

Over an eight-month period Parkinson, with the backing of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), fought the production order despite repeated chastisement from lawmakers. The prosecuting counsel at Chelmsford Crown Court accused him of having a ‘very extreme view’ for insisting that journalists should be able to report free from state interference. To his credit, however, Parkinson stuck to his guns and won a resounding victory in the Court of Appeal in May 2012, when the production order was overturned.

For a time following that, police requests from journalists slowed, with the latest order served on Parkinson from Greater Manchester Police being the first he had heard of since he won the case. Should the police win the case, the floodgates could once again open for the police to make a wealth of demands from journalists.

In an ideal world, Parkinson says, ‘the police would respect press freedom and leave our material alone… [But] at the very least, the police need to follow and implement the law correctly and to the letter, not just use the law as they wish’.

At a time when the Leveson Inquiry looks set to bring about state regulation of journalism - legally enforced or through royal charter - attempts by the police to casually commandeer journalists’ research and footage play a dangerous role in further eroding press freedom. Through the simple act of attempting to undertake their profession, the role of the journalist becomes warped. Instead of simply attempting to report observations or facts, journalists would be forced to become ancillaries of the state. Little could do more to erode faith in journalistic integrity.

Far from being ‘extreme’ in arguing that the state should respect press freedom and leave journalists’ material alone, Parkinson is making an argument that anyone who believes in democratic society should support. Just as the state should have no influence over the content of what a journalist writes, so it should be kept well away from ordering journalists to hand over material.


British proposals to penalise the press 'are against the law and would have chilling effect on free speech'

A key plank of Lord Justice Leveson’s plans for Press regulation breaches European human rights laws, leading barristers have warned.

The joint opinion by three QCs concludes the judge’s proposal to punish newspapers that refuse to join a new Press regulator with exemplary damages would violate Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of expression.

Lord Pannick, Desmond Browne and Antony White found that the proposals would have a ‘chilling effect’ on free speech which was ‘obvious and unjustifiable’.

The breach is so ‘striking’ ministers would be unable to sign off legislation that incorporates the proposal as being compatible with human rights laws, the QCs say.

Lord Justice Leveson recommended the threat of exemplary damages as a way of providing an incentive for newspapers to voluntarily come within the remit of the new regulator.

The proposal is included in a draft Bill published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and is taken even further in controversial plans for an arbitration system that have recently been inserted into the Defamation Bill by the Labour peer Lord Puttnam.

The new opinion, which was commissioned by the newspaper industry, warns the proposals are ‘objectionable in principle due to their arbitrary extension of what is widely regarded as an anomalous feature of English law’.

It also said the proposals single out a particular category of defendant rather than a particular kind of conduct.

‘To punish the Press for what others may do without punishment is inconsistent with the special importance that domestic and Strasbourg jurisprudence attach to freedom of the Press,’ the lawyers said.

Their opinion was challenged by Hugh Tomlinson QC, chairman of the Hacked Off campaign, who said it was ‘misconceived’.

The revelation came as ministers brace themselves for a showdown with peers over the Puttnam amendment to the Defamation Bill.

The amendment introduces a Leveson-style arbitration backed by law. But, in a further controversial step, it also threatens ruinous damages against papers that fail to get prior approval for publishing contentious stories.

The eminent QC Lord Lester, architect of the Defamation Bill which is designed to reform Britain’s notorious libel laws, said the Puttnam proposals would curb the Press in a way ‘never seen in any democratic country’.

Downing Street has made it clear that the Prime Minister will not allow the Puttnam proposal to become law, even if it means the entire Defamation Bill has to be scrapped to prevent it.


Australia: Senate inquiry rejects 'offends and insults' law

A Senate inquiry has rejected the Federal Government's plans to prohibit conduct that offends or insults, saying the move could limit freedom of expression.

The inquiry has been considering a draft bill that wraps together five existing human rights and anti-discrimination laws.

The aim of the bill is to provide a clearer definition of what behaviour is considered unacceptable and how people can make complaints.

The draft includes a clause stating that unfavourable treatment of another person includes conduct that offends, insults or intimidates.

The Coalition and legal groups have raised concerns that would curtail freedom of speech.

Media organisations including the ABC, Fairfax and News Limited also argued against the clause, saying many media organisations publish or broadcast material that some members of the public will find offensive at times, ranging from satirical programming to political commentary.

Last month, former attorney-general Nicola Roxon acknowledged the concern and made the clause optional rather than mandatory.

But the Senate inquiry, which received more than 3,000 submissions, has recommended the clause be removed altogether.

The inquiry says the clause may have unintended consequences, including making it illegal to offend someone.

The Federal Government is not making any promises about agreeing to any of the recommendations.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says there is a lot in the report for the Government to consider.

"Public views, which are going to help the Government identify whether its intention of consolidating these important laws," he said.

"But it's an extensive report. It will require close consideration and a full response will be made shortly."

But shadow attorney-general George Brandis says the draft legislation is so flawed it cannot be fixed.

"It creates a scheme in which Government would be much more intrusive, much more invasive, effectively establish itself as an arbiter for community standards in a way we don't think is the role of the state at all," he 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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here