Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Britain tries to gag judges

Resorting to censorship is a kneejerk for Leftist officials: It's their first response to criticism:

"Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, is trying to prevent coroners from being highly criticical of the Ministry of Defence over the deaths of British troops killed in action. In a highly unusual move, Mr Browne began legal moves yesterday to prevent coroners from using language prejudicial to the MoD when issuing verdicts on the deaths of troops who die on active service.

Lawyers for Mr Browne went to the High Court to challenge comments made by a coroner in Oxfordshire after an inquest of a Territorial Army soldier in Iraq. Private Jason Smith, 32, died of heatstroke in 2003.

Andrew Walker, the assistant deputy coroner of Oxfordshire, recorded at his inquest in November 2006 that Private Smith’s death was caused “by a serious failure to recognise and take appropriate steps to address the difficulty that he had in adjusting to the climate”.


Must not criticize government failures? Whither democracy?

British "equality" law could bar white men from jobs

White men could be legally blocked from getting jobs under new anti-discrimination laws being considered by Labour. Employers would be able to give jobs to women or ethnic minority candidates in preference to other applicants, under the plans unveiled by equalities minister Harriet Harman. If two candidates were equally qualified for a position, employers would be able to reject the white person or the man in favour of a black person or a woman. But the plans are due to be criticised by business leaders and last night, even equalities campaigners expressed doubt.

Miss Harman - known as Harriet Harperson for her politically correct views - wants to look at how to bring U.S.-style "positive action" to Britain, saying it is vital to ensure the workforce more accurately reflects the demographic make-up of the population. [Why?] She says too many women and people from ethnic minorities are being held back because they cannot break through the "glass ceiling".

The new laws would only come into play where two equally qualified candidates had applied for the same post, allowing the employer to tip the balance in favour of minority candidates. Businesses would not be compelled to favour the female or black candidate but the law would be changed to ensure they could not be sued for turning down a white man. The proposals would also allow universities to select more female students in male-dominated subjects such as science.

But equal rights campaigners said the new rules would have a limited effect, and that action should be targeted on equal pay. Katherine Rake of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns on equal pay, said: "How you would really hold that up in a court of law is not clear and, if it isn't, employers may be reluctant to use it. "You are probably talking about a handful of cases." The present law says employers are allowed to say they welcome applications from minority candidates, and they are allowed to promote jobs to specific groups.

Theresa May, Conservative spokesperson for women, said: "One of the real problems facing women today is the gender pay gap. "If Harriet Harman really wants to help women in the work place she should strengthen the existing laws on equal pay. We have recently put forward proposals to do just that and our proposals would have a real impact on women's lives."

A spokesman for Harriet Harman said: "This is under discussion but no decisions have yet been made." The changes would be included in the new equalities Bill, which will also give new rights to mothers to breast-feed in public. Golf clubs would have to give female players equal access. Miss Harman also wants to force companies to conduct "pay audits", reviewing staff salaries to ensure they are not underpaying women.

But she is facing opposition from within the Cabinet on this from ministers who are worried about antagonising business yet further. Last year Miss Harman called for all-black shortlists in constituencies with high ethnic-minority populations. She said that unless action was taken, it would take decades for the make-up of the Commons to accurately reflect the make-up of British society. But the plan immediately came under attack from ethnic minority MPs on the Labour backbenchers - saying black people should be selected on merit.


Compared with British and French affairs, the Spitzer mess is a bit of a disappointment

By the inimitable Theodore Dalrymple. A bit lighthearted (in an understated British way) for this blog but there is no harm in a bit of fun

Men of exceptional ambition or ability, it is often said, are more highly sexed than others, though perhaps it is just that their sex lives are more closely examined than those of others. Can there really be a man living, after all, who would relish the idea that every detail of his sex life, past and present, would be revealed to the public and those whom he loves?

But if, as Henry Kissinger once said, power is the most powerful aphrodisiac, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's extracurricular sexual activities seem pathetic and furtive, almost adolescent, rather than deeply wicked. Resorting to prostitutes is sex without the trouble, uncertainty or potential humiliation attendant on attempted seduction. In other words, it's a crude shortcut preferred by those who are uncertain of their allures unaided by financial inducements. It is pornography elevated -- or descending -- to the level of practice.

We in Britain are certainly familiar with political scandals of a sexual nature. In 1994, for instance, a Tory member of Parliament, the brother of a clergyman, was found hanged dressed only in women's underwear. This is the kind of thing that we expect of our politicians in Britain.

It used to be that scandals involving the Labor Party mainly concerned financial irregularities and those involving the Conservative Party were predominantly sexual. Labor politicians, being socialists who detested the rich, were avid for money, however ill-gotten. Conservatives, being moralists who lamented the passing of the old order of personal restraint, were deeply attracted to sexual vice. Now that the two parties are virtually indistinguishable, from a policy perspective, they are each financially corrupt and sexually incontinent. I suppose a Hegelian would call this a dialectical synthesis that overcame contradictions.

While he was home secretary from 2001 to 2004, David Blunkett, a blind Labor politician, was discovered not only to have had an affair with, but an illegitimate child by, the U.S.-born publisher of the famous conservative anti-Labor magazine the Spectator. From the public reaction, at least as expressed in the media, one might have supposed that Britain was peopled by a mixture of anchorites in the Syrian desert, subsisting on honey and locusts, and vestal virgins -- who would commit suicide rather than indulge in sexual intercourse -- rather than a country in which 42% of births are out of wedlock, and in which sexual promiscuity is now the rule rather than the exception. Outrage, nevertheless, was unconfined. A public that demanded, as a matter of inalienable right, complete sexual freedom for itself demanded Victorian levels of propriety from its political leaders. Blunkett resigned in late 2004.

The fact that sexual scandal has spread to the Labor Party does not mean that we have given up on the expectation that the Conservative Party will titillate us. It just means that the bar of public notice has been raised a few notches. We demand the equivalent of the Fosbury Flop of sexual perversion (if one is permitted to use that term at all in these days of universal tolerance). Thus, a Conservative member of Parliament was found dead in the course of his practice of autoerotic asphyxia -- hanging yourself to achieve heightened sexual excitement brought about by decreasing oxygen to the brain, while looking at erotic pictures or having erotic fantasies. An article describing 117 such cases was recently published by the British Journal of Psychiatry.

It is generally agreed that they order these things better in France. The French are more mature about sex, though they are terrible hypocrites about money. I remember having lunch with a French author who was writing a comparative study of serial killers in France and Anglo-Saxonia. English speakers, it seems, murder serially for sex, or rather some version of it, and the French murder for money or even for furniture (one has only to remember Landru and Dr. Petiot). Which is better or morally preferable? Well, to be honest, Je ne sais pas.

The French expect their politicians to have colorful, though discreet, sex lives. No one found it at all shocking that Francois Mitterrand maintained two households, complete with an illegitimate daughter, throughout his presidency. More significant, perhaps, was that no one either found his past Petainism, or his then-current protection of high-level Petainists, shocking. French and Anglo-Saxon forms of hypocrisy are very different.

What the French find objectionable in the antics of their current president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is not their moral impropriety but their vulgarity. No sooner was he divorced (for the second time) than he was seen cavorting on an Egyptian beach with his glamorous new love, Carla Bruni, with whom he exchanged very expensive presents. The fact that Bruni, now his third wife, is very rich does not mollify the French in the slightest. Sarkozy has behaved not like a mature man but like an adolescent.

The 15-year-old daughter of a French friend explained what was wrong with him. Someone in a crowd refused to shake Sarkozy's hand and called him a fool. He replied in kind, insulting him. By contrast, when someone in a similar situation had shouted "Fool!" at Jacques Chirac when he was president, Chirac shook his hand and said, "And me, I'm Chirac." Now that, according to the 15-year-old, was class, and everything may be forgiven such a man, including, no doubt, sexual peccadilloes.

Of course, Spitzer's downfall is particularly delightful to the generality of mankind because of his almost terminal self-righteousness. It is the gulf between what he has preached and what he has practiced that so appeals to the rest of us, who know our feet are of clay. Spitzer is the Jim Bakker of public prosecution.

I wish I could say that I felt sorry for Spitzer, but I don't. His statement that "I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself" makes him sound like the disgraced member of a politburo indulging in self-criticism before being sent into exile in Siberia or Kazakhstan. On the other hand, I don't want to be too hard on him, just in case someone investigates me one day. The fact is that I too have failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself.


"Racist" for British puppet to allude to the past

We read:

"A popular children's TV puppet show starring Basil Brush has been accused of racially abusing gypsies.

British police have launched an investigation into claims that an episode of the Basil Brush Show that screened on the BBC was racially offensive because it showed a gypsy woman trying to sell the puppet fox wooden pegs and a bunch of heather.

"This sort of thing happens quite regularly and we are fed up with making complaints about stereotypical comments about us in words that we find racist or offensive," Joseph Jones, vice-chairman of the Southern England Romany Gipsy and Irish Traveller Network, told the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

"Travellers have historically sold heather and pegs, but they don't do it anymore for a living.


I guess that all allusions to the past are suspect, then. Leftists would like that. History is a major inconvenience for them.

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