Thursday, May 18, 2017
Trump: 'In America We Don't Worship Government, We Worship God'
In his commencement speech at Liberty University on Saturday, President Donald Trump urged the graduates to take "the road less traveled" -- a reference to the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken -- and stressed that America was founded by "true believers," people of faith, and added that "in America we don't worship government, we worship God."
“Remember this, nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy," said Trump. "Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right — and they know what is right, but they don't have the courage or the guts or the stamina to take it and to do it. It's called the road less traveled."
Further on in the speech, he said, "America has always been the land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers."
"When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, they prayed," said Trump. "When the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked our Creator four times, because in America we don't worship government, we worship God."
Trump continued, “That is why our elected officials put their hands on the Bible and say, 'So help me God,' as they take the oath of office. It is why our currency proudly declares, 'In God we trust.' And it's why we proudly proclaim that we are one nation under God every time we say the pledge of allegiance."
Stephen Fry and the new blasphemy laws
The UK and Irish authorities are now required to indulge people’s hurt feelings
I love a good blasphemy trial. Unfortunately they’re about as common these days as red squirrels or UKIP councillors. Imagine my delight, therefore, when police in Ireland decided to launch an investigation into Stephen Fry for remarks he made about the almighty deity during an televised interview for RTÉ in early 2015. During the course of the programme Fry expressed the view that if God exists he must be ‘utterly, utterly evil’, ‘totally selfish’, and ‘quite clearly a maniac’. ‘Why’, Fry asked, ‘should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?’.
That the Christian God is ‘capricious’ and ‘mean-minded’ has some Biblical justification. In the Second Book of Samuel, we are told that God killed the Israelite Uzzah for accidentally touching the Ark of the Covenant after a pesky ox stumbled and knocked him aside. In the Second Book of Kings, we see God unleashing two wild bears to mutilate fatally 42 children for the crime of mocking a bald man. Given this track record, I’m surprised that Fry wasn’t struck down then and there on national television. If nothing else, this does at least prove that God has developed a greater degree of restraint.
Many prominent humanists and atheists have been quick to vent their indignation on social media, but the likelihood of a case like this making it to court is infinitesimal. The Irish authorities have now made clear they won’t be pursuing Fry, and it’s easy to see why. The case would be over in five minutes. All Fry’s defence would have to establish is that we no longer live in a society which should be subject to medieval canon law. A copy of this year’s calendar ought to do the trick.
Even so, a trial would be a wonderful thing. Not solely because of its inherent entertainment value – imagine the Gardaí having to prove in court that a) God exists, and b) that he’s mightily pissed off – but also because it would be a means by which Section 36 of the 2009 Defamation Act could be contested and, with any luck, repealed. The act was introduced by justice minister Dermot Ahern, and includes an amendment concerning ‘publication or utterance of blasphemous matter’, which stipulates that anyone found guilty will be ‘liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €25,000’.
As Roy Greenslade has pointed out, Ireland is the only developed Western nation to have created new blasphemy laws since the beginning of the 21st century. In the UK, blasphemy was technically illegal until 2008, although prosecutions were scarce in the preceding decades. With a few notable exceptions – such as Mary Whitehouse’s private prosecution against Denis Lemon, editor of Gay News, for publishing a poem which eroticised the body of the crucified Jesus – accusations of blasphemy have rarely led to convictions.
Yet there are many who would be in favour of the reintroduction of such laws in this country. When the Olympic gymnast Louis Smith was filmed making jokes about Islam, he was subjected to a barrage of criticism in the media and was banned for two months by British Gymnastics. Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadan Foundation, called for Smith to apologise unreservedly. ‘Our faith is not to be mocked’, said Shafiq, momentarily forgetting that he lives in a secular society which values freedom of expression. Perhaps worst of all, Smith was interrogated about his behaviour by Janet Street-Porter on ITV’s Loose Women, an ordeal that no sentient being should ever be compelled to endure.
Had Smith made his anti-Islamic jokes in Ireland, he could now be facing the prospect of a criminal probe. That said, few believe that the Irish authorities would ever be foolish enough to enact this bizarrely archaic law. I have a suspicion that the anonymous individual who reported Fry to the police only did so in order to demonstrate the preposterousness of having such a law on the statute books in the first place. The complainant made assurances that he was not personally offended, that he ‘believed that the comments made by Fry on RTÉ were criminal blasphemy’ and that he was merely doing his ‘civic duty’. The man is clearly either bored, mad, or trying to make a point.
The complaint itself should not worry us. Of far greater significance is the fact that the police feel compelled to take complaints like this seriously. One would expect them to point out that a citizen’s private sensibilities are no concern for the state, and that even unpleasant people may exercise their right to say unpleasant things. In any case, the police surely have more pressing matters to attend to. They’re called crimes.
It is telling that the police specifically asked the complainant whether or not he felt ‘offended’ by Fry’s views. This has been a sinister development in recent years, with police in both Ireland and the UK deeming personal offence to be the chief criterion when it comes to determining what constitutes criminal speech. A fortnight ago, Katie Hopkins was yet again reported for committing a ‘hate crime’ for one of her obnoxious comments. The police are obliged to take action because of their own official guidelines, in which it is made explicit that subjective feeling is the determining factor. Hate crime is defined by ‘the perception of the victim’, and this perception should under no circumstances be challenged. According to the guidelines, ‘evidence of hostility is not required for an incident or crime to be recorded as a hate crime or hate incident’. After all, why should an impartial investigative body be concerning itself with empirical facts?
These guidelines illustrate the inherent danger of concept creep, through which a rash tweet by a provocateur like Hopkins can be casually conflated with instances of violent physical assault. It is precisely this culture of offence that informed the call to investigate Stephen Fry’s remarks. The Irish Defamation Act makes it clear that a blasphemous offence is defined by whether or not it has caused ‘outrage’. When legal standards become so nebulous and subjective, it is hardly surprising that some will regard Fry’s opinions as criminal.
It is a staggering form of entitlement to suppose that one can prance through life without ever having one’s most deeply held beliefs challenged or mocked. Yet it is now official protocol for police services in both the UK and Ireland to indulge anyone who claims to be offended. That this has become the accepted norm should trouble us far more than anything Stephen Fry has ever said. When the state seeks to curtail its citizens’ freedom to speak their minds we should all be vigilant. God can look after himself.
The rise and fall of the AfD
The success of the Alternative für Deutschland will fade’, said German chancellor Angela Merkel in March 2016. A year later, her prediction appears prescient. On Sunday, Germany’s anti-immigrant party won just 5.9 per cent of the vote in a regional election in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. A few weeks earlier, it barely made the five per cent threshold in Saarland, another federal state. This is bad news for the AfD, which sent shockwaves through the country at regional elections last year, winning over 20 per cent in one region. These more recent results have been seen as a barometer of public opinion four months ahead of the national elections. They follow recent opinion polls that have also suggested the party is slumping in popularity. But is the far right in Germany finished, as some have tentatively claimed?
This is the wrong question to ask. The truth is that the German far right has not been surging in support in recent years. The AfD drew its support mainly from disgruntled former CDU, SPD or Die Linke voters (the conservative, labour and left parties respectively). Only a part of the AfD’s base came from a far right background: its shortlived success was a result of the failure of the more established parties to address the concerns of many people.
Now, the AfD leadership has certainly pandered to the far right. In January, for example, Björn Höcke, the speaker of the party in the state of Thuringia, caused outrage with his comments about the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. He said Germany was the only country in the world to build a monument of shame in the heart of its capital city, and that Germany should finally stop atoning for its past. But this led the AfD’s poll ratings to fall. While the party appealed to voters on issues such as immigration and the Euro, voters don’t want to be associated with this revisionist rhetoric.
Former AfD leader Frauke Petry, who has also pandered to the far right at times, recently tried to expel Höcke. She argued, from a tactical point of view, that the AfD’s image was being compromised by the provocations of a few of its members. Petry failed and stepped down as leader, becoming the latest person to lose the power struggle within the party, which has always tried to balance the interests of its right-wing faction with the need to appear open and respectable.
This struggle led the AfD to elect, at its congress in Cologne, two joint leaders to replace Petry: one is Alexander Gauland, a 76-year-old right-wing hack and supporter of Höcke; the other is Alice Weidel, a 38-year-old lesbian and former Goldman Sachs investment banker. While Gauland is there to appease the right-wing camp, Weidel’s role is to signal virtue.
Whether this two-fold strategy will work and bring the party back to its former heights is far from clear. The election programme, adopted at the Cologne congress, shows that the AfD is still far from a forward-looking force. It talks about encouraging Germans (but not immigrants) to have more children. It demands a compulsory abortion registry with punishments for anyone who fails to register. It also wants to ban headscarves in public institutions and calls for ‘negative immigration’ (based on a rising number of deportations). All this sounds chillingly authoritarian.
The immigration issue is losing its urgency in Germany, and the tide of refugees coming over has ebbed. The only thing the AfD remains potent on is the Euro. It wants to take Germany out of the Eurozone, while all other parties support ongoing membership. But it is unclear whether this will be enough to shore up its support among voters.
But even if the AfD is on the wane, the political class is doing nothing to address the problems which led to its rise in the first place. The main reason the AfD rose to prominence is because it was the only party willing to speak to concerns about immigration and the Euro. And when the AfD began attracting voters, all the mainstream parties could do was talk about defeating the far right. Rather than having a real debate about the issues the party raises, there have been a string of anti-AfD protests.
Thus, thousands of police in riot gear were required to protect the AfD’s party congress. Debates at universities involving AfD speakers have been disrupted and called off. In some cases, the protests got so out of hand that AfD speakers required police escorts. In Schleswig-Holstein, where the latest elections took place, an alliance of trade unionists, SPD politicians and members of the Green Party got together to prevent the AfD from holding its election rally.
There is a lot to dislike about the AfD, but at least it talks about politics. Many of its critics would rather stifle debate. At one of the anti-AfD rallies, Hannelore Kraft, the SPD minister president of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, gave a speech, saying: ‘Here are thousands of upright democrats who are making a clear statement: we want our country to stay as it is – colourful, open and tolerant.’ But what’s so tolerant about preventing an opposition party from holding a congress? And does the SPD not have anything more to say to the country than it should ‘stay as it is’?
Rather than taking on the AfD politically, the other parties are engaging in their own illiberal tactics. It’s a shallow spectacle presented as a valiant fight against fascism. In Schleswig-Holstein, only 65 per cent of voters took part in the recent local elections. This makes non-voters the strongest group in the region. That’s a much bigger worry than the theatrics of a fringe right-wing party.
The dedicated NHS doctor they tried to gag then destroy
Vicious defenders of socialized medicine. They don't want people to know how bad it is
Chris Day had an unblemished record as a junior doctor. Respected by his senior colleagues, he was used to working hard in often difficult circumstances, regularly putting in long night shifts in the intensive care unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, South East London. It took him away from his wife Melissa, a nurse, and their two young children.
But such was his commitment that Chris, 32, believed it was a small price to pay to follow his dream of becoming a consultant in A&E medicine.
So when, during yet another night shift, Chris made a telephone call to report to the duty manager that he believed overnight staffing levels were unsafe, and that patients with life-threatening conditions may be left ‘dangerously’ at risk, he simply believed he had discharged his duty as a responsible doctor.
During his time on the unit, two ICU patients had died at night, in circumstances formally recorded by Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust as serious untoward incidents – meaning the deaths were unexpected or preventable.
Yet unbelievably, that polite phone call left his career in tatters and sparked a two-year legal battle which is estimated to have cost the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds in public funds.
Rather than support his claim, NHS agencies accused him of having ‘personal and professional conduct issues’, removed his right to continue training and used the full weight of the law against him – destroying his promising career.
But in a landmark legal victory last week, the Court of Appeal ruled that Chris is finally allowed to bring his case to an employment tribunal. Not only that, the decision granted all of the country’s 54,000 junior doctors reassurance that they too are protected by whistleblowing laws and should not be victimised for exposing NHS failings.
Yet the win has come at a huge personal cost. ‘This has robbed us, as a family,’ says Chris, speaking for the first time since the ruling. ‘In the time it has taken to change British law for everyone else, in a case which will hopefully improve patient safety by allowing junior doctors to come forward with concerns, my family has paid the price.
‘This has never been about my conduct and my competence – it’s about an understaffed ICU,’ he explains. ‘Yet I’ve stood here for nearly three years arguing the basic point that a junior doctor should be able to openly raise concerns about safety. I think most patients would agree with that principle. Yes, let’s celebrate that victory. But what really scares me is that I won’t be able to clear my name.’
Chris should be well on his way to a full-time consultant post by now. Instead, he has found himself working locum shifts at under-staffed A&E departments after failing to secure more permanent work.
He is also banned from appearing at a junior BMA conference taking place this weekend which focuses, ironically, on safeguarding the future of the NHS. ‘I’m losing my skills,’ he admits. ‘I could never work in an ICU now. I’ve gone backwards in my career. It feels as if the NHS doesn’t want people like me. Junior doctors have been let down by some very powerful people.’
Chris brought his concerns before an employment tribunal in February 2015. However, the case was thrown out when HEE successfully argued that whistleblowing laws did not apply to them.
But in fighting the treatment he received Chris had inadvertently exposed an even greater scandal: that no junior doctor was protected by whistleblowing laws. Perhaps even more troubling, the Government was effectively content for that to be the case. It was an outcome which raised concerns over the safety of all NHS patients.
Then in August 2015 an appeal was granted after a judge determined there was a ‘lacuna’ – a gap – in the whistleblowing laws for junior doctors.
At one point, four law firms for NHS agencies – including solicitors for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – were involved.
Chris says: ‘It became like a pathetic family feud. Ironically, this came weeks after Sir Robert Francis published his report on whistleblowing in the NHS, which found staff were deterred from speaking up and faced serious consequences for doing so.
‘Instead of defending themselves on the facts of my case, they used taxpayer money to essentially argue me and every other junior doctor out of statutory whistleblowing protection. How is that an effective use of public money if it makes the NHS less safe?’
So what began with a bid to resurrect his career turned into a mammoth legal battle. With a young family to support, Chris turned to crowdfunding, raising more than £140,000 from thousands of donors – including junior doctors – to fund a legal challenge, first in the Employment Appeals Tribunal, which failed, and then in the Court of Appeal. The case was also supported by the charity Public Concern At Work.
In February 2016, two days before one hearing, Chris claims HEE threatened his team with a costs application order for £24,084.50.
‘Imagine the effect that would have had on a young family’s financial security. They did it to try to get us to back down.’
But it was not a deterrent. On May 5, judges ruled the HEE’s arguments against junior doctors having whistleblowing protection were ‘legally flawed’ and concluded HEE could be considered an employer. It means his case in the employment tribunal can finally be heard in the next few weeks.
Chris’s lawyer, Tim Johnson, from Tim Johnson Law, said: ‘The impact on Chris and his family shouldn’t be underestimated. He has had to work incredibly hard to achieve this result. What I hear from junior doctors is that many of them see Chris as fighting the management of the health service on their behalf – better than other institutions such as the BMA.’
Today he still wants to work for the NHS but he is not optimistic about the future. His cynicism seems well-grounded. No doctor sacked after exposing NHS failings has ever been given their job back at the same level, and many find themselves ‘blacklisted’ even after being cleared by tribunals.
Thanks to Chris, the Trust has now increased the number of doctors on ICU to national standards. It has also accepted he did, in fact, make a ‘protected disclosure’ – in other words, he blew the whistle in a way that was protected by law. In a further statement, it said it ‘could not comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing’.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.