Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hopeful news from Britain

Centre/Left leader: "Tell us the laws that you want scrapped". The liberals (centre/Left) and Conservatives (centre/Right) seem to be agreed on reducing the authoritarianism put in place by the previous far-Left Labour government. The fact that the Liberals are making the running with Conservative support should ensure easy passage of the new measures. The end of the politically correct madhouse that has been Britain in recent years may be in sight

The most radical redistribution of power from the state to the people for 200 years is to be made by the new coalition Government, Nick Clegg is to claim. The public will be asked what laws they want ripped up, in far-reaching reforms designed to put back “faith in politics”, the Deputy Prime Minister will say.

The reordering of power will sweep away Labour legislation and new criminal offences deemed to have eroded personal freedom.

It will involve the end of the controversial ID cards scheme, the scrapping of universal DNA databases – in which the records of thousands of innocent people have been stored – and restrictions placed on internet records. The use of CCTV cameras will also be reviewed.

Dubbed the “Great Reform Act”, the measures will close down the ContactPoint children’s database. Set up by Labour last year, it includes detailed information on all 11 million youngsters under 18. In addition, schools will not be able to take a child’s fingerprint without parental permission.

In an attempt to protect freedom of speech, ministers will review libel laws, while limits on peaceful protest will be removed.

Mr Clegg said the Government wanted to establish “a fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge”.

In a speech in London he will say: “This Government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This Government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair.”

He will describe the plans as “the biggest shake-up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes”.

Mr Clegg has been the most vocal of the three main party leaders arguing for political reform since The Daily Telegraph exposed the expenses scandal a year ago. Today, he can put in train the measures which, he claims, will deliver “a power revolution”.

He will say that reform will not simply mean “a few new rules for MPs [or] the odd gesture or gimmick to make you feel a bit more involved”.

Mr Clegg will announce that he wants to hear about which laws should be scrapped to roll back the state encroachment into people’s lives. “As we tear through the statute book, we’ll do something no government ever has: We will ask you which laws you think should go. “Because thousands of criminal offences were created under the previous government. Taking people’s freedom away didn’t make our streets safe.

“Obsessive law-making simply makes criminals out of ordinary people. So, we’ll get rid of the unnecessary laws – and once they’re gone, they won’t come back. “We will introduce a mechanism to block pointless new criminal offences.”

The measures to repeal so-called surveillance state laws will be included in next week’s Queen’s Speech.

Under the coalition agreement, Mr Clegg and David Cameron said they would end “the storage of internet and email regulations and email records without good reason”. This is likely to mean the end of plans for the Government and the security services to intercept and keep emails and text messages.

The £224 million ContactPoint database can be accessed by 300,000 people working in health, education, social care and youth justice – leading to fears it could be exploited or fall into the wrong hands.

Mr Clegg will add: “It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide. It has to stop “This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state. That values debate, that is unafraid of dissent.”



The Restoration

by Paul Greenberg

"When you come back to England from any foreign country," George Orwell wrote at the height of the Blitz in 1940, "you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air."

He knew that feeling well. Not long before, he'd come back to England from Spain one step ahead of the comrades he'd joined to fight Franco. And who had turned on him when he held on to some flinty idea of English freedom. It was not just the relief of escape George Orwell was expressing, but the exhilaration of coming home. Not just to a country but a whole way of life and web of unspoken custom. Now that it was menaced, he appreciated it. As you do when you look back and see your family from the perspective of time -- as if you were seeing them all for the first time, and are enveloped by cascades of feeling.

Any Southerner who's been away for any length of time will know that feeling -- the wave of warmth on hearing that familiar accent, driving down those same country roads, having that sensation of breathing a different air. It is the air of your country, your childhood. ("Hey porter! Hey porter!/ Would you tell me the time?/ How much longer will it be till we cross/ that Mason Dixon Line? ... Tell that engineer I said thanks a lot,/ and I didn't mind the fare./ I'm gonna set my feet on Southern soil/ and breathe that Southern air." --Johnny Cash, "Hey Porter")

Some countries are more than countries, some places more than places but a whole world, some people more than people but your people. As we inquire of someone we've just met in these Southern latitudes, who are your people? Or ask after a family we know: "How're your people?"

When those people, this place, this hearth and home, are suddenly threatened, we will rally to save it. Fiercely. But when the old ways are only slowly, gradually eroded, we may scarcely notice, let alone miss them. Till one day we awaken with a start and realize what has happened, as voters in Britain may have done last week:

"That England, that was wont to conquer others,/ Hath made a shameful conquest of itself." (Shakespeare's "Richard II" tends to prove ever more relevant as history proceeds from decadence to decadence.) And at that moment of realization, people vow: Enough. No more. And begin the work of Restoration .

Orwell's senses had been heightened by his country's moment of truth that would become its Finest Hour. "Yes," he wrote in "England Your England," "there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes. It has a flavor of its own. Moreover it is continuous, it stretches into the future and the past, there is something in it that persists, as in a living creature. What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person."

Much the same realization seemed to strike the British electorate in last week's general election. After long years of murky, mediocre politics, it had had enough. It looked about at what decades of slow sink into the glamorous "new" England had wrought. It saw what Tony Blair's fashionable Third Way and Gordon Brown's muddling through to nowhere, and all the rest of that Twiggy rot had really amounted to, and awoke with a spasm.

The election results were more a defeat for Labor -- its worst in maybe 80 years -- than a victory for the Conservatives and their new limited partner, the Lib Dems. At last the Tories are back, but whether they are Tories or just a mild imitation thereof remains to be seen. (Some of us will always miss Lady Thatcher.) The voters themselves may not have known what they wanted instead of this continued entropy, but they knew bloody well what they didn't want: more of the same.

To quote one observer, Gerard Baker in the Wall Street Journal: "You don't have to be a political scientist to realize that this historic election result marked something much more than the usual seductive appeal of the Time for a Change message. In fact it has been known for a while now that what is going on in the old country is not just some spasm of reaction to bad economic data, but the flowering of a deep-rooted popular disgust with the entire political class." Sound familiar?

Britain's voters seemed to realize that the bankrupt fiscal policies they were reacting against are but the superficial symptom of a deeper, moral profligacy. They were sick of Labor, the Inland Revenue, and all the rest of that bosh. It's hard to avoid the impression that what the voters in this turning point of an election really wanted was their country back. And its way of life. The way it once stood on its own "against the envy of less happier lands--/ This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England." --"Richard II," again.

If there is any simple way to sum up what that older England stood for, it may have been nothing more (and nothing less) than a sense of limits. The understanding, without its needing to be said, that a modest self-reliance, not just in finances but in simple unadvertised moral strength, is preferable to all the self-promotion and self-gratification in the world. And that it cannot be achieved by forever borrowing from a future continuously diminished by the present's insatiable wants.

It's as if a small but cherished realm, one far greater than its island boundaries in its influence and example, language and law and literature, had awakened one morning and vowed: Enough. No more. And realized it was time to begin the slow, hard work of Restoration.

Yes, it does sound familiar.




Elena Kagan's Supreme Court Nomination is Stalling: "By now the White House must realize that its selection of U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be the next associate justice of the United States Supreme Court could be going better. Kagan, the former dean of the prestigious Harvard Law School, has spent the past week introducing herself to members of the U.S. Senate, but has yet to see the American people embrace her nomination--which may be an early indication that her hopes for confirmation may be headed to the rocks."

Turncoat routed: "One year after switching parties, Democrat Arlen Specter was defeated Tuesday in the Pennsylvania primary, ending his 30-year Senate career in a resounding blow to the political status quo. … Specter lost a narrow race to Rep. Joe Sestak. Despite having the backing of President Obama, Specter was laboring under perhaps the heaviest burden of any candidate running Tuesday, having to defend not just his long tenure in Washington but his admittedly self-interested switch last year from the Republican to the Democratic Party.” [Good riddance!]

If you like the healthcare you have, you can’t keep it: "That is because the new law places caps on how much insurance companies can spend on expenses. Beginning next year, insurers will be allowed to spend no more than 20 percent of what they take in in premiums on running plans sold to small employers and individuals; and, they will be allowed to spend no more than 15 percent of what they take in on plans sold to large employers. These new regulations will have the greatest impact on those who purchase their insurance directly rather than receiving through an employer.”

Cash for doctors: "On a wall inside Dr. Brian Forrest’s medical office in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina, is something you won’t find in most doctors’ offices, a price list: Office visit $49 … Wrist splint $41 … Pap-smear $51. Those are the prices patients pay for the services, and they pay on the spot. Forrest doesn’t take insurance. If he did, the prices would be far higher and not nearly as transparent. He says listing prices up front is about trying to do business in a straightforward way, ‘like a Jiffy Lube.’ Forrest’s practice, Access Healthcare, was born out of his frustration with the bureaucratic system run by major health care providers and insurance companies"

The Clean Water Act vs. clean water: "Under anything resembling principles of justice, people ought to be held responsible for the damage they cause, not for the problems that remain after they try to repair damage caused by somebody else, now long gone. But the basic problem with the Clean Water Act, like all statist environmental regulations, is that it isn’t about standards of justice; it’s about compliance with regulatory standards, and from the standpoint of an environmental regulator the important thing is (1) that government has to be able to single out somebody or some group to pigeonhole as the People In Charge of the site; and (2) whoever gets tagged as ‘taking charge’ of the site, therefore, gets put on the hook for meeting the predetermined standards, or for facing the predetermined penalties, no matter what the facts of the particular case and no matter the fact that they didn’t do anything to cause the existing damage.”

Oh, you mean THOSE quotas: "Officers were instructed to arrest people for ‘blocking the sidewalk,’ for not possessing ID (even while just feet from their homes), even for no reason at all (cops were told to ‘articulate’ a charge at a later time). The cops were told to make arrests even if they knew they’d be voiding the charge at the end of their shifts. As a sergeant implores in one recording, ‘Again, it’s all about the numbers.’ About those numbers: While only about one tenth of 1 percent of the stops yielded a gun (at present it’s nearly impossible to legally carry a gun in New York), the practice has helped drive up the city’s marijuana arrests from 4,000 in 1997 to 40,000 in 2007. Marijuana for personal use was actually decriminalized in New York during that period. But you still can’t display your pot in public. So the police simply stop people, trick them into emptying their pockets, and then arrest them for displaying marijuana in public.”

Homosexuality still a huge health risk: "We need to re-ring the alarm about HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics showing significant disparities between rates of HIV and syphilis infection among men who have sex with men and the rest of the US population. Men who have sex with men are 44 times more likely to contract HIV than other men and 40 times more likely to contract HIV than women. They are 46 times more likely to contract syphilis than other men and 71 times more likely than women."

Racing to save Shorebank, spawn of CRA: "ShoreBank has, since the 1970s, been exhibit A in the U.S. version of a new economic project based in the belief that a bank can serve what would be termed a ‘double bottom line’ — operate profitably while self-consciously pursuing a social goal of serving lower-income households in so-called ‘underserved neighborhoods.’ Yet until Goldman, along with Bank of America, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, came forward as white knights potentially carrying a $125 million capital infusion, this noble institution was, after years of struggle, about to fail, according to the FDIC. In a world of common sense about how a business actually operates and what’s actually best for the poor, that would put an end to an illusion. Instead, a ShoreBank rescue makes clear just how strong are the forces emanating from government to continue the failed experiment that has come to influence the financial system broadly.”

Yes, there is a Hollywood blacklist — and I’m on it: "Why does any of this matter, almost two decades later? Why is a story of a free-lance TV writer with only one produced script even worth bothering about? It matters to me, because I haven’t sold a script to television or to a movie production company since 1985, and I know it has nothing to do with my not being a good enough writer. It matters still more to me because I’m still trying to get my movie scripts produced and my already-produced movie distributed, and I’m still running into brick walls. It matters to writers and producers who, like me, are out of the business because the people doing the hiring don’t like our politics. It matters to you because you don’t know what you’re missing, and if you don’t like the political spin of the stories you see in network TV and studio movies, testimony like mine gives you the reason.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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