Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Britains family courts and the children's lives they have destroyed

More than 15 years after the Orkneys child abuse scandal broke, it's clear that little has been learnt. This week, the Times newspaper is running a series of articles about the family courts. They operate in secrecy and with little transparency. Where there have been a miscarriages of justice, families have had little in the way of legal recourse. In some cases, parents have lost their children permanently even after being proven innocent as their children have been too well integrated with their foster parents.

Take the time to read these articles:
  1. Times editorial on how the family courts allow miscarriages of justice without the possibility of redress.
  2. Daniel Finkelstein on how evidence can be fabricated, and how the authorities will justify it.
And there are a series of articles by Camilla Cavendish on the family courts:
  1. Family justice: The secret state that steals our children
  2. Family courts: The hidden untouchables
  3. Family justice: Your word against theirs
It's very clear that there are individuals within social services and in the child protection agencies who have their own agenda. Some are anti-family, and will push for children to be adopted even even after their parents have been found to be innocent. And there is little that can be done to prevent this. The social workers acting against parents have their identities protected. Parents are denied the right to face their accuser.

Social services are no different to the police (except that they regard their cause as more noble). If they regard someone as guilty, they will fabricate evidence if they have to in order to get suspects convicted. This happened in Orkney and is happening now.

The reason we have safeguards in our legal system is to prevent innocent people being convicted. Those very same safeguards should apply to our family courts as much as any other court. The argument frequently made by social services, the NSPCC and others is that children are vulnerable so these safeguards shouldn't apply. This is a spurious argument. A child's life is destroyed by a broken family every bit as much as it is by physical or sexual abuse.

Christopher Hitchens, a truly independent thinker

It's so rare to find truly independent thinkers. Conservatives have their holy cows as do liberals. I'm generalising here, but the conservatives who have dominated US politics for the last eight years have been generally pro war, pro torture, pro religion and anti immigration.

Britain's political and intellectual elite by contrast have been anti war, anti torture, anti religion and pro immigration. And it goes without saying that they regard George W Bush is the embodiment of evil.

So how refreshing it is to read Christopher Hitchens, someone who doesn't feel bound by "group think" and who is his own person. He is a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq, but strongly against torture (so much so that he chose to experience it himself). He is anti-theistic, and has no time for conservative bigots like the late Jesse Helms. He was even a plaintiff in an ACLU lawsuit against the Bush administration. A textbook liberal no? But then again, he has also been fiercely critical of the Clinton administration, and is no fan of Obama either.

He is generally regarded as a conservative because he is admired more by conservatives than by liberals. I think that conservatives can live with his contradictions more than liberals can, which tells you something about liberals and their supposed open-mindedness.

There is an excellent critique of Christopher Hitchens in the National Post.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Time for Obama to make another U-turn....this time on Iraq

It's interesting to contrast the two presidential candidates:

McCain has consistently supported free trade, demanded that America get tough with Iran and promoted the surge in Iraq long before it became popular. Obama by contrast has been consistently against all three. Or so we thought.....

Early this year, it was revealed that Obama's NAFTA bashing was nothing but hot air.

In June, he told AIPAC that he would do "everything" -- "and I mean everything" to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

And in the light of Al-Qaeda's rout in Iraq we should soon be expecting another U-turn.

Obama is certainly the candidate of change....changed policies that is. Amongst Europeans, Obama has been regarded as something of a New Messiah, somebody who would expiate the sins of the Bush years. In the light of his increasingly hawkish politics, I wonder what they think of him now.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Rumours of America's demise have been greatly exaggarated

Lately, it has been fashionable amongst newspaper columnists to contrast China's rise with America's decline. What with the credit crunch followed shortly after by sky high oil prices, the assumption goes that gas guzzling, debt burdened America will be brought to it's knees, whilst a leaner fitter China will overtake it become the world's new economic superpower.

But the oil crisis that's affecting America is just as likely to affect China, only more so. America has a growing service sector that is less affected by oil. It also has a remarkable ability to adjust to change. So as Americans feel the pain of high oil prices, they will make adjustments to their lifestyle such as telecommuting and shopping online instead of driving to the mall. They will also increase their use of renewable resources. China by contrast is a country heavily dependent on low oil prices in order to transport its goods cheaply across continents. If the cost of shipping goods to the West continues to rise, it won't be long till the manufacturing jobs that went to the far East come back to the West.

My money is on India. With its young energetic workforce and a strong emphasis on the service sector, it's in a perfect position to take advantage of globalisation without by stung by the disadvantage of the long distances between between Asia and the West. It also happens to be a democracy, something that has been overlooked by many in the America and Europe.

All those who predict China's inexorable rise should cast their mind back to the 1980s when Japan was the World's rising star. 20 years after its "bubble" economy burst, the Japanese are still waiting for their economy to recover. And moreover, they are facing a population timebomb as an ever shrinking workforce is having to support an ever growing army of elderly people. China of course is facing exactly the same problem. I wouldn't write America off quite yet.