POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH: ARCHIVE
The creeping dictatorship of the Left...
The Blogspot version of "PC Watch" is HERE and "Dissecting Leftism" is HERE. The Blogroll; John Ray's Home Page; Email John Ray here. Other sites viewable in China: Greenie Watch, Dissecting Leftism. (Click "Refresh" on your browser if background colour is missing). See here for the archives of this site.
31 August, 2005
PROBLEMS AT "TONGUE-TIED"
The site for Tongue-Tied has been down (unavailable) for a lot of the last 24 hours so I am putting up below the posts that you would be reading there if the site were available. Apparently the site that hosts Tongue Tied also hosts a lot of other conservative blogs so often comes under attack from Leftist hackers who manage to shut it down from time to time. So bookmark this site as an alternative for when that happens.
"Grandma" and "Grandpa"
I thought readers might like to know that I have had heaps of emails from people who are PROUD to be called "Grandma" and "Grandpa"!
I any case, how people address one-another within the family is surely a personal matter that busybodies should keep their noses out of.
If people want their family to address them in some particular way, I am sure they would be capable of letting that be known. But getting your family to do what you want them to do is another matter entirely of course!
"Mullah" and "sheik" now incorrect?
It seems so. A bank went into a frenzy when one of their senior experts used those terms. Excerpt:
"Mr. Rubin is chief economist for the World Markets division of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Every month he issues a research report on world trends that is aimed at the bank's sophisticated investing clients. Monthly Indicators, as it's called, is distributed to a few thousand select readers, and is posted on the bank's website.... The offending passage appeared last April 5, in a report predicting that oil prices would keep rising: "The first two oil shocks were transitory, as political events encouraged oil producers to seize full sovereignty over their resources and temporarily restrict supply," Mr. Rubin wrote. "This time around there won't be any tap that some appeased mullah or sheik can suddenly turn back on."
A few days later, the bank received a letter from CAIR-CAN. The organization keeps a close watch on the media, as well as on government agencies, businesses, universities and other institutions, for signs of bias against Muslims. It says it received several calls complaining about the passage in Monthly Indicators. "We are gravely concerned that Mr. Rubin is promoting stereotyp-ing of Muslims and Arabs in a CIBC publication," executive director Riad Saloojee wrote in a letter to the bank. "We request that Mr. Rubin and CIBC World Markets issue a letter of apology and undergo sensitization training regarding Muslims and Arabs."
I guess the correct phrase would have been something like: "some rightfully offended Muslim gentleman" instead of "some appeased mullah or sheik". A pity that a lot of rulers over that way do seem to be mullahs or sheiks, though. And if everybody is not bending over backwards to appease them, then I for one don't have a clue what appeasement would look like. And the bank concerned seems to be a prime example of such appeasement. Anybody with guts would have defended their employee as telling the plain truth.
Confederate Memories Expose Sham Tolerance
Leftists never cease to preach the wonders of tolerance and diversity. But it is all a sham. They want uniformity, not diversity. Just listen to how much tolerance was extended to the diversity shown in the household described below:
""Mizzerable", in Texas, invited two African-Americans over for a dinner party. "On a tour of my home, I thought nothing of taking them to my study/library upstairs. Along with many other things, I have displayed on my wall three flags - the U.S. flag, the Texas flag and the Confederate flag. My medic friend gasped and asked why I had a rebel flag. I replied that it was a part of my heritage and I was proud of that. The pained look on her face reminded me of someone who had been fatally wounded. To her credit, she let me explain that I had two Confederate officers (in my family) who had died fighting for what they believed in. "I don't believe that the reason for the Civil War was primarily slavery. I have researched my genealogy and can find no evidence they had slaves of any race. Never mind all that - my friend was offended and said she guessed she didn't really know me at all. I was deeply wounded, but did my best to understand. They left in a huff"
I am not criticizing the particular blacks above who got offended. They were just reacting the way their liberal mentors have encouraged them to react -- seeing "racism" under every bush (or Bush!). But if their liberal mentors had REALLY been teaching tolerance, such a huge historical issue as the North/South war would have been the first issue they would have turned to as an area in which to preach that tolerance, understanding and forgiveness should be practiced and old antagonisms buried or forgiven.
And forgive an ignorant Australian if I have got it all wrong but when I read the original documents (e.g. here), it seems to me that while slavery was an undoubted element in the North/South dispute, Lincoln always stressed that the war was fought to save "the Union". And slaves are not mentioned once in the Gettysburg address. Whether we think half a million dead Americans were a worthwhile price to pay for preserving and extending the power of the U.S. Federal government is an issue for Americans, not for me. I would however think that the view that the price was too high might at least be treated with respect, rather than intolerance.
In thinking about that price it may be worth reflecting that Australia managed to free its slaves (convicts) and create a lasting Federation without a drop of blood being shed. Two of my ancestors were among the convicts concerned. So my ancestors came to my country chained up in the holds of sailing ships. Hey! Where are my reparations?
Tough image for sporting team now incorrect
Once upon a time it was considered manly to be tough and not the sort of guy anybody would dare to push around. Such male virtues are now condemned, however, as we see in the excerpt below:
"A poster intended to promote a suburban high school football team has landed the "Battlin' Bulldogs" in the doghouse.Players posed with knives, sledge-hammers and axes. It was meant to intimidate opponents but angered some parents instead. Although the poster may have been laughed at decades ago, recent incidents of school violence have forced the team to punt the poster.In Batavia, there are high school traditions, such as the annual corn boil and the football team's rough and tumble calendar photo.In the past, the Bulldogs have been pictured with a tank and "a big snow plow - plowing the competition," said Quarterback Ben Braunsky.This year's poster features the Bulldogs' offensive and defensive lines wielding a sledgehammer, a crow bar and a couple of knives. Some say this poster - the team's 21st - has crossed the line".
If they had been holding bunches of pansies, however, that would have been fine. Feminine good. Masculine bad.
Megafauna extinctions: Clarification
In my recent post under the heading: "Another "insensitive" book about American Indians", I referred in passing to the American Indians (Yes. I know they were really East Asians, not Indians, but I am NOT going to use the current politically correct term) and the usual view that it was Indian hunting which caused America's prehistoric large animals ("megafauna") to become extinct. I was NOT of course referring to the Bison, which survived the arrival of the Indians but went close to extinction because of white hunters, not Indians.
What exactly happened during prehistory will of course always be a matter of some dispute. If Fox News was not there to record it, how can we be sure what went on! But the latest scientific paper I know of on the subject is in The Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. I reproduce below the summary from it:
" After centuries of debate, paleontologists are converging towards the conclusion that human overkill caused the massive extinction of large mammals in the late Pleistocene. This paper revisits the question of megafauna extinction by incorporating economic behavior into the debate. We allow for endogenous human population growth, and labor allocation decisions involving activities such as wildlife harvesting and (proto) agriculture. We find that the role of agriculture in deciding the fate of megafauna was small. In contrast, the presence of ordinary small animals that have been overlooked in previous non-economic extinction models is likely to have been much more important.
There are however other theories such as this one
No more comments on this particular issue please (I have had heaps already) as it would take us too far off the track of what this blog is about
There is a fuller extract from the scientific paper summarized above on my Greenie Watch site.
AMERICAN WARTIME HEROISM BAD
America is always WRONG, you silly-billy!
The Great Raid is in theaters now, though it may not be for long unless movie-going America quickly realizes that there is a wonderful and inspiring film in its midst, one that celebrates courage, sacrifice and endurance, and which unabashedly proclaims that hope (plus superior firepower and tactical surprise) can conquer all. It is a movie which deserves a vast and appreciative audience.
It is 1945, and Douglas MacArthur has returned to the Philippines. More than 500 American survivors of the Bataan Death March languish at the Cabanatuan prison camp, and the Japanese plan to exterminate them, rather than allow them to survive and bear witness to Japanese war crimes. The men of America's untested 6th Army Ranger Battalion set out to save these prisoners. This exceptional movie tells the stories of the warriors who went to save the captives, the prisoners who endured unspeakable cruelty, and the Filipino resistance that came to the aid of both.
As with Saving Private Ryan, audiences have been lingering at the end of the film. There is spontaneous applause. And there are tears. The generation that fought to liberate the Philippines is passing away, but those who survive and the best of their children and grandchildren are appreciating the movie. The Great Raid has received favorable reviews from esteemed and honest critics such as Michael Medved and Roger Ebert.
But the bulk of the high-brow reviewers have rejected the movie. The New York Times's Stephen Holden represented the caucus of the dismissive when he wrote that "it is not the actors' fault that their characters fail to establish any emotional connection; they aren't given the words for the task." Holden damned the film as "a tedious World War II epic that slogs across the screen like a forced march in quicksand," and slammed it for "its scenes of torture and murder [which] unapologetically revive the uncomfortable stereotype of the Japanese soldier as a sadistic, slant-eyed fiend."
Holden isn't reviewing a movie; he's defending his own politics, as he's done before. In an October 2003 review of the documentary Fog of War about former Kennedy/Johnson administration Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Holden rebuked McNamara for serving during World War II under Gen. Curtis LeMay, thus being "part of the team that made the decision to firebomb 67 Japanese cities, killing large numbers of civilians. In Tokyo alone, more than 100,000 civilians died one night in March 1945." It is not difficult to conclude that any war movie that celebrates American resolve while neglecting to savage American hubris and American cruelty is going to fare very poorly at Mr. Holden's hands. This is the political agenda that The Great Raid is up against, and it is not limited to the New York Times and Stephen Holden. To praise The Great Raid is to praise America, and that's too much to ask of many film critics, especially in this era of the global war against terror.
CALIFORNIA FOOD LOGIC
A common ingredient in food is bad -- but only in potatoes (the real target is McDonalds, KFC etc of course)
FAST-FOOD chains including McDonald's, Burger King and KFC are to be sued by the state of California for not warning consumers about a potentially cancer-causing agent produced when potatoes are deep fried.
The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the world and could result in health warnings on French fries, or at least on the walls of restaurants. It says that nine defendants, including H J Heinz, which makes Ore-Ida frozen chips; Procter & Gamble, which makes Pringles crisps; and Kettle Foods, creator of Kettle chips, are violating California's Proposition 65, which requires warnings when consumers are exposed to known carcinogens. "I am not telling people to stop eating potato chips and French fries," said Bill Lockyer, the California Attorney-General. "But I and all consumers should have the information we need to make informed decisions about the food we eat."
The agent is acrylamide, traces of which can also be found in breakfast cereals, breads, olives, asparagus, coffee and even prune juice. Mr Lockyer is seeking labelling only of potato products.
It was discovered in 2002 that potatoes cooked at high temperatures contained low levels of acrylamide. Some scientists have discounted its potential toxicity, but tests are being done by the Food and Drug Administration. A consumer group began lobbying California in June to take action. At the time Frito-Lay issued a statement saying that its food safety standards were "very stringent". Procter & Gamble said that researchers were still investigating issues raised by the 2002 study.
Note: Read my other political correctness posts for today on Tongue-Tied
30 August, 2005
MORE ON THE NEW INTOLERANT "TOLERANCE": "You must only tolerate what you're TOLD to tolerate!"
Commentary on "THE LONG TRUCE: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit" by A.J. Conyers
The old virtues have all but disappeared. But there is one "virtue" that has risen to the top of the charts. There is one word that is heard constantly and incessantly: "tolerance". We are to tolerate everyone and everything. All points of view and all lifestyles are to be tolerated. Yet, as this revealing study makes clear, the modern notion of tolerance is far removed from what it traditionally has always meant. The recent concept of tolerance is a perversion of its former self, being the polar opposite to its original meaning.
Today we have managed to turn tolerance into a virtue or a doctrine. It used to be a practice or a habit. It used to be based on the way we treated one another. Today it is a an "ism" promoted by the state for its own ends. It used to be seen as a means to an end. Today it is treated as an end in itself. In the past, you tolerated someone, treated them with respect, even though you might violently disagree with their beliefs or their lifestyle. Today, to tolerate someone means you must also embrace their philosophy, their worldview, their lifestyle. That is a big difference. In this historical and philosophical inquiry, Conyers examines how the concept of tolerance has changed over the last few centuries.
He suggests that its redefinition emerged at the same time as the modern nation state arose. He argues that there is a connection between the rise of the centralisation of power in the modern state, and this redefinition of tolerance. The modern idea of tolerance first arose in the 17th century. Conyers argues that two parallel developments, the rise of the nation state and emergence of the isolated individual, served as a backdrop to the changing concept of tolerance.
As mediating institutions like the church and family began to wane, increasingly isolated and fragmented individuals had to be kept in check by growing state bureaucracies. Indeed, a pressing question for thinkers of this time was, how could a mass of individuals be controlled, when former social glues like religion and community were in decline?
Natural groups like the family and other associations are easily contained. But unnatural groups, like the organised state, need other means to achieve social harmony and conflict resolution. How can individuals live together in peace when natural groupings break down? The state, in order to reduce threats to its centralisation and control, had produced a concept of toleration which minimised absolutes, sought to water down religious and moral conviction, and promoted a fuzzy egalitarianism. Thus questions of ultimate meaning are settled, not by religion or morality, but by the state. The state maintains power by subsuming to itself powers formerly held by family, religion and the church.
Mediating structures between the individual and the state were seen as threats, and the philosophical understanding of tolerance changed to accommodate the centralizing powers of the state. That is why those who today argue that family does not mean any-and-all types of relationships, or those who proclaim that the Christian message is exclusive and absolutely true, are seen as such a threat by the state and its supporters. A watered-down religion, and an amorphous definition of family, are acceptable in today's climate, but an insistence on truth and absolutes is not. Thus relativism rules.
Conyers looks at how modern thinkers such as Hobbes and Locke altered our understanding of tolerance, to make it serve the interests of the rising state powers. He argues that we need to return to the earlier, Christian understanding of tolerance. That understanding was based on humility, not indifference.
Indeed, the modern attempt to disavow absolutes and certainty has made matters worse, not better. Our times are characterised by doubt, fear and distrust. The old verities and certainties have been jettisoned for a hodge-podge of multiculturalism, relativism and apathy. The modern promoters of secularism and tolerance may have won in the halls of power and influence (academia, the media, etc.), but the common person looks for something more sure. A notion of tolerance that waters down all convictions, that squashes dissent, and preaches relativism, is not going to satisfy.
The modern doctrine of toleration promotes isolation, but the practice of real toleration pushes us gently to community. Thus we need to reclaim the lost tradition of real tolerance. The modern hijacking of the concept has served the interests of those seeking economic and political power, but has not been a panacea to the struggling masses.
Australia before multiculturalism was a kind place, not a racist hell
Few Australians know that one of the "intellectual architects of multiculturalism", Jerzy Zubrzycki, said in 1996 that "the clumsy, pompous, polysyllabic noun - `multiculturalism' - adopted from the Canadians and incorrectly (my emphasis) associated in the public mind with the ethnic groups, has outlived its purpose". He said that politicians and self-serving ethnic leaders had made the policy "a metaphor for the entrenchment of minorities. We need another term to describe Australia's national goal as a country that has been immensely successful in integrating a wide number of ethnic communities into the Australian mosaic".
Indeed we do. One of the more bitter slanders that Australians have had to endure under governments which have caved in to the multicultural bigots is that they were, and are, racist and intolerant. It is the received wisdom among those too young to know any better, and those who have swallowed the propaganda of the multicultural revisionists, that Australians were a racist and intolerant people who were only educated out of such sentiments by the introduction of multiculturalism under the Whitlam government. It is a monstrous and insulting lie.
The Whitlam Government was elected in 1972 and the massive post-WW2 migration started in the late 1940s. So what was it like for Australians and for migrants in that more than twenty-year period before the word `multiculturalism' was ever heard of?
When the migrants first arrived, most of them couldn't speak a word of English. It's true that their arrival caused some suspicion and resentment among Australians, particularly working class men. For a start, the migrants looked very different to the Australians who were predominantly of Anglo-Celtic descent. In the main, the migrants had impossible names. The Australian men would have been brain-dead not to have had concerns. Were these strange-looking and sounding people peaceful? Were Australian men's jobs under threat? How did they know?
But as people lived together - with no government interference let alone bureaucratic bullying - the Australian tradition of the fair go ensured tolerance. The migrants belonged to the same demographic group as my parents - mostly married couples with a few young children. They were battlers. My mother would not have been alone when she said to her husband: "The poor buggers, Tom, how would you like to be in their shoes?"
Yes, the Golden Rule that abides in the human heart beats the hell out of the Office of Multicultural Affairs any day as far as establishing good relationships between people goes. Pre-Vatican II Catholicism also helped, as many of the Poles and other Baltic state migrants were Catholics. As the Latin mass was universal, there was a connection between the migrants and the local Catholics.
During those days, there were mean-spirited acts of resentment, and there were acts of great kindness. My Hungarian mother-in-law said she was humiliated by a butcher in Parkes for her poor English. In the same town, a local farmer - a total stranger - kindly paid the difference when a Polish woman was embarrassed by not having enough money for the grocery items she had selected.
Australians didn't know it then, but most Europeans celebrate Christmas on the eve rather than the day. In their first or second Christmas in Australia, our Polish neighbours insisted my parents celebrate with them. They offered vodka and such European delicacies as rollmops (pickled fish) - which my parents had never experienced. Describing the rollmops, my mother later told a sister-in-law, "Cripes, Norma, it looked like bloody snake!"
On another occasion, another migrant neighbour invited my mother and another Australian woman to her house to celebrate the birth of her Australian-born son. (While I'm sure it is not documented being very politically incorrect, many migrant couples deliberately had "one more [child] for Australia" - an act of gratitude and faith in the future). Again spirits were offered - alcohol seemed to make up for language deficiencies - and to this day my mother cannot remember how she got home. That woman's husband worked on Warragamba Dam, and he took our family on a tour of it while it was under construction, leading us through tunnels deep inside the walls.
My mother minded her Polish migrant neighbours' toddler while she worked. The migrant woman was grateful that her child was learning English with my mother, and the two women were hugely amused when my brother, the same age as little Hendryk, started speaking Polish! My parents also helped their migrant neighbours with income tax and other official forms. At school the Old Australian children, greatly outnumbered by the migrants, helped New Australian children learn English.
In this way, with simple goodwill and kindness, people coped, day by day.
But these days it's de rigueur to document the hardships, intolerance and misery that migrants endured at the hand of the callous, racist Australians. So it's very interesting indeed to read a first-hand account, as opposed to the sociological deconstructions of the migration experience by tertiary twits who weren't even there.
For example, in the year of the 50th anniversary of the Bonegilla migrant camp, Sir Arvi Parbo, who arrived in Australia as a penniless 23 year old, described the camp as: "Sheer unadulterated luxury. Here in the middle of the Australian bush, was a camp that embodied all the things I craved. Food. Shelter. Warmth. Clothing. Peace. The very basics of life that people were still struggling for across Europe were available here. Nothing in abundance, mind you, just enough for everybody in sufficient quantity to get your way again. "I went from being a mine worker to owning several myself. The journey went from a quarry to the chief executive's office in 25 years. Australia let me do that and, outside America in the late 19th century, few nations on earth have ever done the same thing for humanity." ....
Multiculturalism is on the nose. The un-euphonious, un-English word itself stinks, and though it might once have had a good meaning, it's now lost all credibility. What it has come to mean is the opposite to the traditional Australian tradition of the fair go. It's time for Australians of all backgrounds to ditch multiculturalism and revert to the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated; walk a mile in another man's shoes.
If fifty years ago, blue-collar workers and Australians of the lowest social class managed to do that unaided by government, surely their social superiors might rise to the occasion and emulate them?
More -- much more -- here
29 August, 2005
REALISM INCORRECT IN BRITAIN
Or am I misinformed when I hear that British jails too are full of blacks?
Insurance firm Lifestyle Services Group has been ordered to withdraw a leaflet featuring four black men in a police identity parade after Plymouth and District Racial Equality Council complained that it implied that black men are criminals.
The firm was promoting its identity theft insurance, which aims to protect victims of stolen or forged identity documents such as a passport or driving licence. The leaflet showed four black men in a parade with one of the men shorter than the others and a frightened look on his face. The text read: "Sometimes you might wish someone had stolen your identity." The advertisers said it had distributed three versions of the leaflet promoting its service to mobile phone insurance customers of its sister company.
Lifestyle Services Group said it had not meant to offend anyone and reassured the Advertising Standards Authority that the remaining leaflets had been destroyed. The ASA concluded that by featuring black models, the mailing was was seen to reinforce a stereotype that black men are criminals
FAT CORRECTNESS IS COSTLY (AS WELL AS BEING ARROGANT)
Washington: "Junk" food ban hits schools in wallet
"This fall, Ballard High School students will pay twice as much -- $50 -- for activity cards. Dances at Chief Sealth High School will cost more. And Rainier Beach High School may not have a yearbook. Call it the Coke effect. After a Seattle School Board decision last year to ban sales of soft drinks and junk food, school administrators are facing the loss of tens of thousands of dollars. That money went to each school's Associated Student Body (ASB) fund to help pay for travel to athletic games and a host of other student activities. School-district officials recently learned that the estate of an anonymous donor will help shore up some of the programs, though by how much is unclear. Meanwhile, the district has begun encouraging new fund-raising efforts over the long term."
28 August, 2005
THE UNMENTIONABLE EAST OF GERMANY
Germany needs a serious public discussion about the east's many unsolved problems. Fifteen years after unification, the old east is as sunk as ever in economic and social depression. Crime statistics bear Schonbohm out. Around the same time that Hilschenz allegedly killed the last of her babies in Brieskow-Finkenheerd, another mother in the town left her two infants to die of thirst-unnoticed by the neighbors. In nearby Cottbus, police last year arrested a mother who'd chopped up her 6-year-old and stored him in the freezer-and for three years no one asked why he was missing. Christian Pfeiffer, a professor of criminology who's spent years studying the east-west crime divide, says infants are up to six times more likely to be killed by their parents in the ex-communist east. Other categories of violent crime that are sharply more prevalent in the east include random killings of foreigners, he says, which are three times more common per capita, even though there are far fewer foreigners in the east. According to Federal Criminal Bureau figures, 60 percent of east German cities are considered high-crime areas, versus only 15 percent in the west.
The question, of course, is why. But as happens so often in German public and political discourse, the problem itself is no longer the problem, but rather how one talks about it. Not talking about it, or debating it only indirectly for reasons of political correctness, leaves the problem to fester and grow. In east Germany, this atmosphere of political correctness mingles with the country's age-old instinct of labeling anyone who criticizes the group as a Nestbeschmutzer-one who sullies one's own nest, says Anetta Kahane, founder of the Antonio Amadeo Foundation in Berlin, which battles xenophobic violence. "East Germans will punish any political party they feel is criticizing easterners."]
The result is an "eastern taboo zone," says Stefanie Wahl of the Bonn Institute for the Economy and Society. In the new P.C., east Germans are victims, suffering the dislocations of transitioning from communism to capitalism. They thus cannot be directly criticized, especially by westerners. Beyond that, Kahane says, many easterners have eased into the rosy myth that communism was full of warmth and solidarity compared with the cold, competitive west. "That's not how I experienced communism at all," says Kahane, also an easterner. "But east Germans are going to defend that myth tooth and nail against anyone who tells them it was different."
And so debate is frozen. Just as it took west Germans decades to break the taboos inherent in their (much shorter) totalitarian past, perhaps it will be up to future generations of easterners to deal with the social and psychological legacy of a half century's dictatorship.
SILENCING OF FREE SPEECH IN NEW ZEALAND TOO
Since Labour has come to power we have seen the fostering of a climate where any questioning of the secular left orthodoxy on sexuality, family issues and issues surrounding freedom of expression has not been tolerated. Any person who raises genuine theological objections to these things has been marginalised, ostracised, character assassinated, threatened with the deprivation of their property through legal mechanisms such as the Human Rights Act, ridiculed through state television, diagnosed with a psychological illness, etc. Some have been threatened with violence, been assaulted and had their property vandalised.
No one dares use derogatory terminology of the gay rights movement today, being accused of homophobia has become worse that being accused of racism, but our politicians and media call Christian criticism of the gay rights movement, "fundamentalist extremism," "intolerant," "bigoted" without any thought for the hypocrisy or any consideration that disagreement and criticism are a valid and important part of a free society.
The fostering of New Zealand's culture of religious intolerance has not come about by accident. It has been deliberately created as you can see by Labour's record on passing social engineering legislation, proposed hate speech laws and Helen Clark's comments on Christian opposition to the Civil Unions Bill in Express last year: "It is a very small minority point of view and I think, through continuing to set the tone of tolerance, acceptance and diversity, you just have to further marginalise such people. Hopefully one day nobody will think that way."
Make no mistake our government wants the freedoms and civil liberties of religious minorities silenced. The irony and hypocrisy are plain. For most Christians, the basic rights and liberties that human beings have are theologically grounded. In fact, the Western political tradition itself draws on religious traditions to provide a foundation for claims of equality and liberty. What ACT has done is to recognise that for many if not most Christians, an attack on those things is an attack on their very worldview.
Let us not be naive. ACT is a political party and wants to gain political support wherever it can, be it in the churches or elsewhere. However, for a secular political party to have noticed what is happening to Christians, for them to risk the fallout of breaking politically correct taboos and speaking up for us this close to the election demonstrates principles. It demonstrates the ability to recognise the rights of all people to think for themselves, to adhere to whatever non-violent religion they choose and to hold and express their views freely - not just the politically correct ones.
ACT are not a Christian party, yet they have the ability to see what has happened to the religious community and, more concerning, what will happen to us if Labour are re-elected. They are willing to speak against it and stand with us. At the very least they deserve our consideration this election as a party that will not coalesce with Labour and whose principles allow Christians to have religious freedom whether their MP's agree with their religious convictions or not. Other parties could learn something here.
Source. Note: I have a few comments about the above story on Tongue-Tied
27 August, 2005
GIRLS CAN'T DO ANYTHING
The feminist message of "empowering" women tends to blind them to their biological limits. Fortunately, there is now some attempt to combat that crazy message
Primary school students would be taught to start their families before they reach their mid-30s, under a radical plan being considered for Queensland schools. Fertility specialists are pushing the campaign after being confronted by widespread ignorance among middle-aged couples about the dangers of late pregnancies. Family Planning Queensland supports the proposal and Education Queensland wants to meet with IVF specialists to talk about it. Professor Gab Kovacs, medical director with Melbourne-based Monash IVF Fertility, is convinced the "cold, hard facts" need to be presented to primary school students. "It's important teachers tell girls that their fertility will decline with age," he said.
The campaign follows recent public meetings in southeast Queensland where specialists warned that the latest research showed 15 per cent of Australian couples encounter infertility. The research also shows the chance of miscarriage increased from 20 to 50 per cent by age 40 along with a greater risk of Downs syndrome. "We are the ones who are seeing the downside of couples saying, 'We didn't know. Why didn't people tell me my fertility would drop?' " Prof Kovacs said.
Gold Coast obstetrician Dr Brian Mullins, who works with Monash IVF, wants to hold sessions with Queensland students and teachers after delivering a blunt message about fertility to Melbourne students earlier this year. "I told them fertility is a changing thing, that there's a gradual change and by the age of 35 it's becoming more difficult," Dr Mullins said. "The feedback was very positive, especially the girls."
Family Planning Queensland director of education services Cecelia Gore said she supported the proposal. She said students were already taught about the declining fertility rate but the message was "not as blunt" as that proposed by the specialists. "All these things are best addressed as part of a comprehensive sexuality program rather than a one-off information session," she said.
Planned Parenthood Affiliate Quietly Removes Cartoon Advocating Violence Against Pro-lifers
Christian and pro-life groups say attack is supported by tax dollars
Pro-life groups are up in arms about a Planned Parenthood cartoon that shows an abstinence educator being drowned in a trash can, pro-life picketers being shot at and blown up, a pro-life senator being boiled in oil, and another pro-life picketer being decapitated by a flying condom. The video was produced by Planned Parenthood Golden Gate in San Francisco. "It is a promotion of violence against Christians and against pro-lifers," says Jim Sedlak, executive director of American Life League's Stopp International, which exists solely to oppose Planned Parenthood. "They call on pro-lifers to tame down our rhetoric because it incites violence, and then they not only produce this video but they put it on the front page of their website," said Sedlak, whose organization was among the first to respond to the video. The link to the video was taken off the Planned Parenthood Golden Gate website Tuesday, though the url still works."
Other pro-life groups are also upset by the cartoon. "NARAL is doing ads blasting John Roberts and accusing him of promoting violence in abortion clinics, which he has not," says Pia de Solenni, director of life and women's issues at Family Research Council. "And at the same time you have Planned Parenthood clearly promoting violence against anyone that thinks differently than they do. The irony is just striking." The video's propaganda is also simply wrong, de Solenni says. "When [the main character] is talking with the senator, she says family planning will reduce social costs in the long run. And the fact is, the more we spend on family planning and the more that we've supported abortion in various forms, the more social costs have actually gone up," she says. "These do have an effect on our society and we're continuing to pay the cost."
The rise in abortion after Roe v. Wade coincides with the rise in child abuse, de Solenni says. "I think the link is pretty evident. If you devalue human life in the womb, why should it be protected at any other stage, if you won't protect it when it's most innocent and most vulnerable? De Solenni says the campaign may be subsidized by the government. "Why is Planned Parenthood receiving so much federal funding when this is the type of stuff they're promoting?" According to Planned Parenthood Golden Gate's 2004 report, it receives 53 percent of its revenue from government fees and contracts. "How does this really fulfill their objectives of providing health, which is presumably what the federal government is giving them money for?" de Solenni says. "All the federal funding is doing is giving them the ability to use private donations to do this type of smear campaign."
Planned Parenthood Golden Gate did not respond to requests for interviews, and a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said it knew nothing about the video.
I am at the moment guest-blogging on Tongue-Tied -- while Scott Norvell is on vacation. I am still posting here but am not putting up exactly the same stuff on both blogs -- so for the moment you will have to log on to both blogs to read of the latest politically correct idiocies.
26 August, 2005
I was interviewed earlier today on a Canadian (Calgary) radio station, which very kindly gave this blog a good plug. So if you have found your way here as a result of that interview, Welcome!
Although I blog from Australia, my focus is international so you will find heaps here about the USA, the UK and Canada, as well as Australia.
WHERE WILL IT END?
A good comment from Gordon Sawyer
Every now and then I think the politically correct characters in academia have lost their cotton pickin' minds, no matter how many PhD's they've got. The National Collegiate Athletic Association came out the other day with an edict that will ban any team carrying a native American name (that refers to American Indians for those of you who aren't up to date on politically correct speak) ,..bans them from hosting any NCAA post season tournaments or championship events. Actually, they went further than that. Listen to this: mascots or nicknames deemed to be "hostile or abusive" cannot be used on athletic uniforms or other clothing at any NCAA tournament after the first of February 2006.
If this is the same politically correct crowd that is rewriting history, you can count on it: this will not stop with just the "Seminoles" or other Indian names. Next they will declare Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets to be either hostile or abusive, or both. Can't you just hear Lewis Grizzard if he were still alive: "Hey, prof. What do we call them now; the ag school weenies and the trade school propellerheads?" Will the Gamecocks of South Carolina be changed to the settin' hens? Will the Volunteers be morphed into the draft dodgers? And if Arkansas tames its wild razorbacks, will it have to give up sooey as its favorite yell?
On second thought, maybe the politically correct gang is on to something. This new ruling should easily eliminate the "Fighting Irish" from football bowl games, and certainly the Duke Blue Devils would be banned from basketball tournaments.
An interesting comment from Economist's Apprentice
Paul Krugman thinks that the government should do something about obesity. He draws a comparison to how much good the government has done by reducing smoking. Given that a hunger for fat and sugar is part of people's physiological makeup, it is likely that any strong attempt to reduce excessive eating would amount to a human rights abuse. For people with particularly strong hunger, being overweight is completely rational. There is a tradeoff between quality of life and longevity.
However, people have self-control problems, which raises the question "how much would people weigh, if they could commit to a certain lifestyle in advance?" If tomorrow the typical American was being shipwrecked on an island, would he want the boat full of broccoli or potato chips? It is difficult to know if there is too much obesity in America, because introspection doesn't give much guidance for what would be best for other people.
I think the way people treat their cats shed light on this. People love their cats. They have almost complete control over what their cats eat. If they think that it is best for the cat to go hungry between meals to live longer lives, they can easily impose this regime. My guess is that people make the decisions for their cats that they would make for themselves if they didn't have any self-control problems. Given the number of fat cats I've seen, the government shouldn't leave it up to Paul Krugman to decide how much people should weigh.
CBS BLOCKS THE TRUTH ABOUT ISLAM
"Too many people might be emotionally affected by the subject matter. … It’s too controversial to be aired at this time.” So said a statement from CBS/Infinity Radio, declining to run a series of paid commercial announcements. What were these emotionally affecting and controversial spots advertising? Vivisection of puppies? The North American Man/Boy Love Association?
No, the rejected ads were to announce a conference, “The Radical Islamist Threat to World Peace and National Security,” sponsored by the People’s Truth Forum. I will be participating in this symposium on September 21 in Connecticut, along with Harvey Kushner, author of Holy War on the Home Front; Brigitte Gabriel, a former anchor for world news in the Middle East; and Laura Mansfield, a counter-terror analyst.
What is so frightening to CBS? I cannot speak for the other participants, but at the conference I intend to challenge media bias head-on by exploding the common politically correct notions that American injustice and economic inequalities are the real cause of terrorism, not any imperative derived from Islamic theology. I will show how jihad violence – in the words of terrorists themselves including Osama bin Laden – gains its impetus from core elements of Islamic theology mandating warfare against unbelievers, and call upon sincere moderate Muslims to confront and repudiate these elements of Islam. From what I know of the other speakers, I seriously doubt that they intend to sugar-coat matters or toe the line of politically correct orthodoxy. And the ads, in a quiet but unmistakable way, make that clear.
Why is this too much for CBS? The rejected ads touted the conference as revealing the motivation behind the madness of the 9/11 attacks and announced the speakers. The fact that CBS/Infinity Radio would find this in itself too controversial and emotion-arousing for the American people is just one sign of the abysmal state of public discourse about Islamic terrorism today. The forces of political correctness as well as prominent American Islamic advocacy groups seem to be doing all they can to make sure that the American people are not exposed to any serious investigation of the genuine root causes of Islamic terrorism – such as I have undertaken in my new book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).
Even speaking the truth about Islam is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s stifling politically correct atmosphere. After successfully getting radio talk show host Michael Graham suspended for his remarks about Islam, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) directed its ire toward Geoff Metcalf, Graham’s replacement. Metcalf annoyed CAIR by telling his listeners that the Qur’an allows Muslims to lie to unbelievers. Yet even as it complained about Metcalf’s statement, CAIR’s press release attacking Metcalf doesn’t say that what Metcalf said was false. Why not? Because it’s true.
Religious deception of unbelievers is indeed taught by the Qur’an itself: “Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers. If any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah; except by way of precaution, that ye may guard yourselves from them” (Qur’an 3:28). In other words, don’t make friends with unbelievers except to “guard yourselves from them”: pretend to be their friends so that you can strengthen yourself against them. The distinguished Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that this verse teaches that if “believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers,” they may “show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly.” The Qur’an also warns Muslims that those who forsake Islam will be consigned to Hell — except those forced to do so, but who remain true Muslims inwardly (Qur’an 16:106). In other words, those who lie.
If CBS and CAIR get their way, the American people will be denied the ability to act in their interests of their own self-preservation – by being not allowed to investigate and discuss the roots of Islamic violence and terrorism. And that in turn will lead only to our increased vulnerability to new terror attacks, more virulent than any we have seen up to now. Is that what they want?"
I am at the moment guest-blogging on Tongue-Tied -- while Scott Norvell is on vacation. I am still posting here but am not putting up exactly the same stuff on both blogs -- so for the moment you will have to log on to both blogs to read of the latest politically correct idiocies.
25 August, 2005
I am at the moment guest-blogging on Tongue-Tied -- while Scott Norvell is on vacation. I am still posting here but not perhaps quite as much as usual. I am not so far putting up the same stuff on "Tongue-Tied" and here so for the moment you will have to log on to both blogs to read of the latest politically correct idiocies.
THE NEW PURITANISM IN BRITAIN
That the maximum boat-speed on a famous Cumbrian lake has now been set at a stately 10 miles per hour may not seem like a throbbing issue in itself. And, probably, many living in metropolitan UK would instinctively conclude that such a restriction would be better for the environment, safety, peace and quiet, and so on. The fact that the Cumbria Tourist Board and local hoteliers are claiming that the new speed limit is having a ruinous effect on holiday trade has hardly made front-page news. Even if it did, one wonders whether the chattering classes would notice - or care enough to change their view.
At the Future Foundation, we are ready to lay enormous symbolic significance on to the battle of Lake Windermere. The marketing services community is slowly realising that a new culture of regulation and restraint is busily corroding consumer access to so many markets. Individuals too are facing inhibitions to modes of consumption that only a few years ago would have seemed ordinary, harmless, unquestionably fun. It is getting harder and harder to sell certain things, especially in markets with an indulgence dimension, and ever trickier to procure them.
This 'assault on pleasure' takes two interactive forms.
Firstly, public authorities - from the Lake District National Park Authority upwards - are, often driven by the best of motives, introducing more formal regulation into more aspects of our lives. The Scottish Executive is to ban smoking in public places. A health authority in Norfolk has banned a famous fast-food chain from giving free vouchers to hospitalised families. A school in Shropshire has banned pupils from bringing birthday cakes on to the premises. As you look around at common-or-garden politics today, it's not hard to find the itch-to-prohibit being noisily scratched by important people everywhere.
Secondly, there is a new strain of moral opprobrium spreading through the body social. We all have an ever-swelling inventory of things we feel we ought not to do - both because lobbies or pressure groups suggest they damage the common good and because our friends might like us less if they knew we did them. Green campaigners tell us to question whether we really ought to take long-haul flights. Health campaigners invite us not to give sweets to one another. Safety campaigners insist we drive at much lower speeds. There is a censor at every corner.
It is hard to deny that a new Puritanism is abroad. A national study run by the Future Foundation in 2005 has found that nearly half the country now thinks that the government should ban chocolate-vending machines in schools and hospitals. Around 40 per cent of us now agree that jeeps and four-wheel drive cars should not be allowed into city centres. Perhaps most eerie, is the finding that 30 per cent of us now endorse the proposition that a pregnant woman found smoking in a public place should be given a caution by a police officer.
To some, all this will seem like progress, evidence of a society with the maturity to discipline excess and to contain indulgence of all kinds. And it is not easy for anyone to argue that the environment can take care of itself or that children do not need better food or that speed is danger-free. Majorities of common-sense support can naturally form in favour of many of the new restrictions and restraints.
But it is the apparently tentacular reach of modern regulation and the sheer unchecked energy behind it that should give us pause. In five years' time, will giving sweets to children be tugging the same moral tripwires as smacking does today? Will all office Christmas parties, by diktat, be shandy-only? Will tourists for Petra or Machu Picchu be booed as they arrive at Heathrow to board their flights? Will your Friday night Bacardi Breezer come with a Department of Health beer-mat decorated with a drawing of a diseased liver? Will a new law ban angling because fish might be able to feel pain? The evidence of the past few years hardly suggests we are holding hyperbolic thoughts here.
We are not arguing that the future will bring no perfectly sensible changes to attitude and behaviour. But that might be more by luck than detached judgement. For we live today in something of a quiet chaos of political power and practical authority. In a time drained of ideological struggling where the macro-economy is well run by steady-as-she-goes technocrats, policy-makers of all kinds are in a constant search for something valuable to do. At the same time, single-issue lobbies press their claims with a moral superiority which the media - awash with disdain for the doings of the conventional political class - are generally happy to endorse. It seems arrogant to reject the principled case mounted by nutrition campaigners, anti-alcohol groups, GMO protestors and road safety lobbies. Policy-makers thus fall in line.
This universe of one-issue agit-prop has one abiding, perhaps under-noticed feature. And that is what we might call insatiable incrementalism. As restraints on behaviour are ever more formalised in the name of the common good, so lobbies have a habit of not disappearing. Indeed, even though the world, by their lights, may have been measurably improved by the success of a particular campaign, their politically monotone clamour can remain as loud as ever.
The Office of National Statistics might well tell us that between 1998 and 2004 there was 'little change in the proportions of men and women exceeding the daily benchmarks' for alcohol consumption. The World Health Organisation might well add that alcohol consumption in the UK is running at less per capita/per annum than in France, Germany or Spain and that we have less cirrhosis here than in any of those countries. But you would hardly get this impression from the websites of alcohol-anxiety movements. Alcohol abuse is a social evil, and temperate drinking should be encouraged. But can the lobby groups really cope with the possibility that things are not actually getting any worse and may even be getting a little better? Under what conceivable conditions will any such lobby simply declare their war over, pack up and go home?
The 'assault on pleasure' seems to be rooted in a myth of decline. Life is not as good as before. Social problems are multiplying and intensifying. Too much individualism and free choice - and certainly too much consumerism - are depleting our stock of spiritual resources...and so on. Versions of these pessimisms are to be found in much of the learned commentary that is offered about life in Britain now. In Richard Layard's recent Happiness - Lessons from a New Science, the distinguished economist tells us that 'despite all the efforts of governments, teachers, doctors and businessmen, human happiness has not improved' - the fault variously of competitive individualism, too much divorce, too much TV, too much secularism, and something called the 'hedonic treadmill'. Such statements are taken as superior wisdom, and they reinforce attempts to regulate, restrict and restrain.
Any one of us can reach a dispassionate view as to whether a speed limit on Lake Windermere is a good thing or a bad thing. And many good instincts are at work in all the debates we have about nutrition and drinking and smoking and hunting with dogs and global warming and children's wellbeing. But maybe we can feel too that regulatory impulses are spreading into too many crannies of our lives; that there is too much randomness and incoherence in the way certain behaviours are being stopped or discouraged; that there is in the air the unmistakeable pungency of puritanical bossiness.
A quarter of us now agree that only a limited number should be allowed to visit the Lake District each year. Just how and where and when will this overheating culture of inhibition come to a sensible close?
The Only Permissible Kind Of Hate Speech: America Bashing
The left has long made a crusade of suppressing what it likes to call "hate speech." That is any language that leftist intellectuals find to be racist, sexist or biased in any way. Unfortunately, there is one kind of hate speech that the left not tolerates but embraces, supports and promotes: speech that encourages hatred of America.
Anti-American hate speech is heard and seen everywhere these days; at peace rallies, college graduation ceremonies, the Academy Awards, college classrooms, in big budget movies, in best selling novels and non-fiction books. Major celebrities who get tainted by even a hint of racism or anti-Semitism become pariahs. Yet major celebrities who bash America, who call Americans evil and predators or such nonsense escape that kind of wrath.
In the last two months we've seen a big-budget movie, the X-Men sequel, X-2: X-Men United, aimed at youth, that portrays the U.S. military as Nazis, a distinguished author and journalist calling Americans predators in a graduation speech, and Disney bankrolling a documentary by film maker Michael Moore that blames America for the September 11th atrocity. This sort of nonsense is tolerated and celebrated in modern America.
Just imagine the reaction if a big-budget movie promoted the idea of the world Jewish conspiracy, a distinguished author and journalist talked of the racial inferiority of black people at a college graduation, or a distinguished film maker wanted to make a documentary that proved all homosexuals are child molesters. Such bigoted expressions of opinion would never be tolerated. The claims made would be false and harm innocent people.
Yet the same people are willing to tolerate and even promote anti-American hate speech: vicious attacks on America and American life that add up to nothing but shallow and shrill propaganda. Yes, as Americans we have a duty to respect the opinions of others. However, it is the duty of all thinking people to denounce genuine hate speech in whatever form it takes and whomever it targets.
It is time that the left started applying their own standards to the torrent of vicious anti-American hate speech pouring out of our news and entertainment media and academia. Perhaps then people will believe that their campaign against hate speech is genuine
24 August, 2005
For the next couple of weeks I will be blogging on Tongue-Tied -- while Scott Norvell is on vacation. I have a few posts already up. I will still be posting here but not perhaps quite as much as usual. I don't plan to put up the same stuff on "Tongue-Tied" and here so for the next couple of weeks you will have to log on to both blogs to read of the latest politically correct idiocies.
Ex-homosexual threatened with death
San Diego 'gay' activists call for 'suppression,' 'elimination' of Christians
A homosexual activist website in San Diego has published a threatening message directed specifically at a prominent ex-homosexual and more generally against other Christians activists. Hillquest, a homosexual-oriented business promotion company, published the anonymous threat against James Hartline, who produces an email newsletter circulated through the Christian community in San Diego, and others like him. The message was signed only by "A Concerned Community Member."
"Now is the time to come together, to reconcile our differences that we all tout and to once again march under the same banner," said the message. "The moment was never riper for the San Diego (LGBT) community to push for the elimination and suppression of the James Hartline's (sic) of the world. We currently have an openly lesbian (interim) mayor of San Diego and an openly gay mayor of Chula Vista; PEOPLE....WE are in POWER! WE are IN CHARGE!"
Hartline characterized the publication of such a letter as "one of the most shocking examples of just how hateful and venomous are the attitudes of gays and lesbians towards Christians who are standing up for traditional family values."
The Hillquest website is operated by Ann Garwood and Nancy Moors. It is not the first time the site has targeted Christian activist Hartline. The website includes a "James Hartline Watch" page to monitor the activities of the private citizen. Mike Hampson, a member of the group "Scouting For All," also makes a veiled threat against Hartline on the site - albeit, calling for lawsuits to be filed.
"It's time to take care of the source of our problem, James Hartline," writes Hampson. He called for suits to be filed against him for using the Internet to harass "the LGBT community."
Hartline, meanwhile, is asking San Diegans and others to pressure law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, to investigate the threats. "Publishing death threats on Hillquest is a prosecutable offense," he says.
"HEALTHY EATING" IS A GOSPEL THAT IS NOT REALITY-BASED
Lifestyle changes don't lengthen life
It appears to be all about science. After five days of WHO-think on health prevention at the Bangkok Global Conference on Health Promotion, it would be easy to conclude that science is the foundation for everything that the World Health Organization (WHO) does on health promotion. Wherever you look there are references to the scientific basis of health promotion and how everything that is done by WHO's health promoters meets the standards of modern medicine by being "evidence-based". But the scientific basis of WHO's health promotion is about as genuine and as sturdy as a Potemkin village. It makes impressive copy in all of WHO's conference press releases and it adds a veneer of respectability to the more controversial and dangerous of WHO's plans, but in reality it has little to do with real science or with medicine that is based on the evidence of best practices. That's because genuine science is fundamentally at odds with health promotion. Or to put it slightly differently, just as health promotion is a menace to the health of the developing world so it is a menace to real science. There are two reasons for this.
The first of these is that health promotion accepts if not encourages the manipulation and misrepresentation of scientific findings about the connection between health and lifestyle. Health promotion claims that by massive interventions by the public health community and the government into the "lifestyles" of ordinary people, the major diseases of the old in affluent societies can be prevented. As Gina Kolata, writing in the NY Times (April 17, 2005) observed. "The promises are everywhere. Sure, you smoked. But you can erase all those years of abusing your lungs if you just throw away the cigarettes. Eating a lot of junk food? Change your diet, lose even 5 or 10 pounds and rid yourself of those extra risks of heart disease and diabetes." But is this in fact true? Is there a scientific basis for the basic claim of health promotion that, for example, the two leading causes of death -- cancer and heart disease -- are the products of unhealthy lifestyles and that changing these lifestyles can prevent these diseases? Or are the promises of lifestyle change based on nothing more than hype?
The answer, which many will find surprising, is that after over fifty years of international data there is not good scientific support for the claim that lifestyle changes prevent diseases or increase longevity. Take, for example, one of the most extensive and publicized efforts in health promotion of all time, the Mr Fit (Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial) which was specifically designed to establish the truth of health promotion by showing that heart disease and cancer could be reduced through reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking. After sixteen years of study, the intervention groups, which had received extensive assistance with exercise, changing diet and smoking cessation, had results which were not significantly better than the group that had received none of these "health promotion" interventions. Indeed, the intervention group, despite lower rates of smoking, actually had higher rates of lung cancer. What MR Fit showed was precisely how lifestyle interventions failed to reduce mortality from multifactoral diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Nor was Mr Fit a scientific fluke. Consider the Framingham study. Begun in 1950 as a longitudinal investigation of the causes of cardiovascular disease, some 5,209 men and women aged 30-59 were followed for 30 years on the assumption that those who were thinnest would have significantly lower risks for heart disease. But in 1979 when three of the study's lead researchers published their data it was found that for men the highest risk -- that is the worst life expectancy -- was for the thinnest men; men who were 25-40% fatter than the ideal weight were living the longest. For women, mortality was elevated only for the very thin and the very fat. The recent Centers for Disease Control study on obesity and mortality produced similar results.
The reason for this lack of scientific support for lifestyle changes is to be found in the nature of the diseases about which we are speaking, and the fact that we know so little about them and how they might be connected with some particular aspect of how we live our lives. Both heart disease and cancer are multifactoral diseases, generally of old age, diseases that have multiple causes. For example, heart disease alone has over 300 risk factors that can be linked to lifestyle in thousands of possible combinations, while the etiology of cancer remains a mystery. To assume then that we can confidently tell people what life-style modifications can "prevent" cancer or heart disease is something much closer to propaganda than careful science. As Dr. Barnett Kramer of the National Institutes of Health told Kolata, people believe that if they change their lifestyle they can eliminate the damage and cheat disease because of the health promotion messages from the public health community and the government. "It is easy to overestimate based on the strength of the messages. But we're not as confident as the messages state."
At its very core, health promotion is a menace to legitimate science since it is prepared to fudge, force or fix whatever science says in order that it might serve the ends of promoting health. If you think this is too extreme a description of how health promotion views its relationship to science simply listen to Marc Lalonde, a former Canadian Minister of Health and founder of the health promotion movement, speaking about the relationship of health promotion and science. ".[T]he spirit of enquiry and scepticism, and particularly the Scientific Method. are a problem in health promotion." It's somewhat worrisome that the world's primary health organization, WHO, has embraced a health strategy for which science is a problem.
Health promotion is a menace to science in that it attempts fraudulently to use science to shut down debate about its demands for lifestyle change by claiming that its position is purely scientific and not open to any challenge on the basis of personal values or choice. Consider, for instance, the typical argument frequently advanced by WHO's health promoters against eating fast foods. The health promoter will claim that it is a scientific fact that if you stop eating fast foods you will live longer. (This is likely not true, but let's suppose it is.) Therefore you should stop eating fast foods. But this argument only works if another premise, a distinctly non-scientific premise is added, namely, IF you value living longer more than you value eating fast foods, then you should stop eating fast foods.
As soon as this premise is added the phony scientific character of health promotion is exposed for what it is -- a semantic trick that hides the value-laden and unscientific nature of the undertaking. Although it could be true that one could live longer if one eats less fast foods, it is not science that tells me that I ought to value living longer more than eating fast foods. In other words at its heart health promotion is completely unscientific: unscientific in the sense that its prescriptions are not backed by science and unscientific in the sense that they rest on the moral, not scientific premise that longevity is the prime moral virtue. This does not mean that the health promoter's injunctions about fast foods are unworthy of attention, though they probably are. It rather shows that they are not the pronouncements of science so much as someone's views about a particular way of living. This means that they must be justified like every other bit of moral philosophy about the good life through careful argument, not by spurious claims of scientific authority and the force of law.
At best then, the scientific foundations of health promotion extend only to its claims about the connection of disease and lifestyles, and these foundations, as we have seen, are highly dubious. When those in favour of getting the State involved in the lifestyle intervention business begin to speak about what to do about these claims, they cease to speak as exalted scientists and become simply moralists. And this has enormous implications for public policy that is founded on health promotion. When, for example, the health promoters at Bangkok tell us that we must all be thin, even if this involves the coercive powers of the state to "promote health", they must tell us -- and this they never do -- why a life of, say, 70 years packed full of the self-chosen pleasures of fast foods and chocolate is in some sense inferior to a life of 72.5 years without these pleasures.
This does not mean that 70 years crammed with fast foods and chocolate is necessarily better than 72.5 abstemious years. But it does suggest is that these are not scientifically mandated choices that the proponents of health promotion can make for the rest of us under the guise of "scientific decision-making" or "evidence-based medicine", so much as individual choices about the kinds of thing that we value and the sorts of life we want. Genuine science both understands and respects this. The "science" that drives WHO's Bangkok health promotion agenda does not, and because it does not it is a menace to us all.
23 August, 2005
For the next couple of weeks I will be blogging on Tongue-Tied -- while Scott Norvell is on vacation. I have a few posts already up. I will still be posting here but not perhaps as much as usual. I don't plan to put up the same stuff on "Tongue-Tied" and here so for the next couple of weeks you will have to log on to both blogs to read of the latest politically correct idiocies.
Warning from Australia: don't legislate against hate
An Australian Muslim says that Victoria's laws against incitement to religious hatred have sown division, and undermined freedom of speech, thought and conscience:
The attempt, for the third time, to pass laws outlawing incitement to religious hatred in the UK has, once again, drawn applause from the usual quarters. It has been welcomed by some on the left who seem to view society as so irredeemably racist that only the state can protect people from each other; and it has the support of Muslims who see the law as a weapon to wield against the miasma of Islamophobia.
However, as is often the case with government attempts at social engineering, the results will not be as expected. Indeed, if the Australian experience is any guide, these laws will undermine the very freedoms they seek to protect, and bring division to the community they seek to unite.
As an Australian Muslim who supported the introduction of such laws, I now live with their unfortunate consequences. Like his Blairite counterparts, the premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks, introduced the legislation amid promises of a new era of 'tolerance'. Two years later, it's a strange kind of tolerance when Muslims are suing Christians, witches are suing the Salvation Army, acolytes of Aleister Crowley are suing child psychologists, and faith communities are playing an obscene game of 'gotcha'.
At the heart of such laws lies the fallacious idea that the state can regulate human emotions. Hatred, we are assured, can be struck from the hearts of men with the stroke of a legislator's pen. If people can only be prevented from saying hateful things, then hatred will just dissipate. This is, of course, pure fantasy. Governments might criminalise the public expression of hateful ideas, but they cannot ban the ideas themselves.
In fact, ideas draw strength from attempts to silence them. When the state criminalises hateful ideas, it gives them legitimacy. And when religious communities sue their critics, preferring the force of the law over the force of argument, it bolsters the view that the criticisms were valid.
The only way to deal with extremism is to confront and expose the ideas that underpin it. This can only be achieved if those ideas can be expressed, and then exposed, in the public domain.
The law's advocates frequently link hateful speech to hateful conduct; implying that unless laws are passed, violence against minorities will escalate. However, most people who hate something do not graduate to violence. And were they to make the quantum leap from disliking Muslims to wanting to hurt them, then there already exist ample laws to prevent both the incitement to commit crimes, and the actual crimes themselves.
One can understand why these laws are so attractive to minorities. Nobody likes to hear nasty things said about them or their faith, but the Australian experience shows that laws of this kind cause more problems than they fix. Not least of all to the very religious groups they purport to protect.
The first major case under the Victorian legislation was brought by the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) against Catch the Fire Ministries (CTFM), a small evangelical organisation. CTFM had held a seminar in which some nasty things were said about Islam and its adherents. Some Muslims were in attendance, at the suggestion of an employee of the Equal Opportunity Commission of Victoria (the government body that polices the legislation). Understandably, they were outraged by what was said. The ICV then initiated legal action on their behalf.
For an obscure organisation with a controversial message it must have seemed too good to be true. Suddenly, CTFM had an international stage and were on the cusp of martyrdom. The ideas that had so offended the Muslims were being aired and discussed on radio, television and in print. Their audience had grown exponentially as had their importance to the public debate. Indeed, so far reaching was the interest in the case that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs took the extraordinary step of requesting updates from the judge, so as to allow Australia's embassy in Washington to respond to correspondence from concerned American Christians. The case had transformed a couple of evangelicals into suburban Joan of Arcs being burnt on the pyre of political correctness.
The effects of the suit were felt across the community. Small teams of Christians, armed with notepads and tape recorders, began attending Islamic lectures, recording possible transgressions that might be used as evidence in the case. Islamic bookstores were mined for nuggets of intolerance. True to its promise, the law had brought Christians and Muslims together like never before.
The court case dragged on for months as the judge listened to complex theological evidence tendered by both sides. Arguments flew back and forth about the nuances of Arabic grammar, the interpretation of various verses of the Koran, the requisite qualifications for Islamic scholarship, and the relative legitimacy of different schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Nobody, it seemed, noticed the inappropriateness of a secular court, more accustomed to matters of trade practices disputes and parking fines, presiding over a case centering on contentious theological arguments.
The judge ruled in favour of the Islamic Council, finding, among other things, that the Christian pastors had mocked Islam and not discussed the religion in 'good faith'. The remedy was to order the two ministers to apologise by way of a court-defined statement on their website, the ministry newsletter, and by taking out four large advertisements in Victoria's two daily newspapers. It wasn't enough that they apologise to the individuals they offended or even the Muslim community, but rather they had to apologise to the entire society. In addition, they were ordered never to utter or publish the offending comments in public again in any Australian state or on the internet.
They refused to comply, insisting they would rather go to jail.
Recent media reports place the legal costs for this Pyrrhic victory at over $1million. With CTFM having filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, this expense will only mount. As will the emotions.
While the UK considers the passage of such laws, Australian states cannot drop the issue fast enough. After observing the Victorian experience, then Labor Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, promised to fight their introduction in his state. Speaking before parliament, Carr warned: 'The Victorian experience spells out how anti-religious vilification can be misused.. [These] laws can undermine the very freedom they seek to protect - freedom of thought, conscience and belief.'
He has a point. If public speech is constrained to only that which doesn't offend, then it interferes with the religious freedoms of all citizens. While the secular proponents of this law envision some sort of syncretic utopia, it is a strange religion indeed that proclaims its truth without decrying the falsehood of other faiths. For the true believer, there is nothing outside his faith except misguidance. The right to offend is therefore as intrinsic to religion as the right to evangelise.
Unlike race, a man can change his religion. It is, after all, simply a collection of deeply-held ideas about the world and how one conducts one's affairs. As a matter of choice, not nature, it does not deserve or require the same legal protections as race or gender. If our claim to pluralism means anything, it must mean a willingness to allow all ideologies - however strange or repulsive - to compete in the free market of ideas. The defective idea will be quickly rejected, with only ideas of substance remaining competitive.
Religion is an abstract concept. This causes issues in a secular state that cannot hold an opinion as to the spiritual legitimacy of a faith. A witch, for example, is therefore entitled to the same protection from vilification as a Christian or Jew. In fact, it is not inconceivable that, with a few constitutional adjustments, even the British National Party in the UK might morph into a 'religion' of sorts, thereby entitled to protection under the religious hatred law.
It's an ambiguity that hasn't been lost on everyone. Convicted paedophile Robin Fletcher, currently serving time in a Victorian prison for drugging, raping and forcing into prostitution two 15-year-old girls, used the legislation to drag both the Salvation Army and the prison authorities to court. By supposedly linking witchcraft with 'Satanism' during an introductory course on Christianity, the Army was alleged to have violated Fletcher's right to protection from religious hatred. The judge hearing the case ultimately dismissed it, but pointed out in his closing statements that the law needed reform so as to reduce its use in vexatious and frivolous lawsuits.
Catholics might soon sue those citizens of Sussex, England, who retain the tradition of burning an effigy of the Pope on Guy Fawkes' Day. Anyone who sings 'Remember, Remember' is certainly fair game, particularly if they sing it to completion ('Burn his body from his head, Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead, Hip hip hoorah!'). And for Scientologists, angry at mocking media coverage of Tom Cruise's recent antics, the law might give critics of the 'Church' the 'auditing' they deserve. With hundreds of thousands of registered adherents to the Jedi religion around the world, could a bad review of the latest Star Wars film be construed as inciting religious hatred? The opportunities for state-enforced tolerance are limited only by one's imagination and sense of pettiness.
Religious hatred laws are also a useful tool for cults wishing to stifle debate or hinder exposure. In Australia, followers of Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis have already initiated a lawsuit against a prominent child psychologist. Dr Reina Michaelson, a former Australian of the Year, had the temerity to quote from the group's own Book of Law as evidence linking the group with the ritual abuse of children. Currently overseas working with victims of the Asian tsunami, she must now return to Australia to defend herself in the courts.
However, there is one case that captures the sheer ridiculousness of laws against religious hatred. Enter Ms Oliva Watts: former policeman, transsexual naturopath, and witch. In March 2003, Ms Watts decided to run for local government in the City of Casey, a community distinguished by its proliferation of Pentecostal churches. The possibility of a transsexual witch entering local government in this most Christian of communities provoked a fierce reaction. A day of prayer was called to protect the city, and councillor Rob Wilson issued a press release suggesting that a witch in the council might be a 'concern' for some residents of the area.
Understandably, Watts was offended. And to whom do disgruntled transsexual naturopath-witches turn for justice? The Equal Opportunity Commission, of course. It wasn't long before Ms Watts had Wilson hauled before the courts on charges of inciting hatred against witches.
At a time when everyone has a group to protect their 'identity rights', witches are no exception. So into the fray stepped the Pagan Awareness Network (PAN). Fuelled by a $400 donation from the Witches Voice in America ('NeoPagan News/Networking on the net since 1997'), PAN ran a fierce campaign: sending fire-and-brimstone letters to both the premier and attorney general of Victoria; rallying witches across the world; and publishing pamphlets rebuking the councillor for his wiccaphobia. Watts joined the Wiccan PR blitz. 'I have never in my life done any offensive piece of magic, a curse, a hex', she assured the Age newspaper. 'It would be inconsistent with my beliefs.'
As the trouble brewed, the attorney general moved quickly to clarify his government's position. 'We [the government] govern for all Victorians - and that includes witches, magicians and sorcerers', he declared.
Faced with the indefatigable forces of PAN and growing legal fees, councillor Wilson conceded defeat, entering an out-of-court settlement. As part of that, he was required to offer a public mea culpa, 'for any hurt felt by Ms Watts'.
By this time, Wilson had already accumulated a legal bill of $130,000 for the 14-month battle, and, adding insult to injury, the City of Casey faced an increase in its 2005 insurance premium as a result of the litigation. It would all make a great joke, were it not now illegal to tell it.
The age of intolerant tolerance
The meaning of tolerance has mutated in recent years
If the slogan of the Second World War 60 years ago was 'Victory', the slogan of the war on terror in Britain today appears to be 'Tolerance'.
Almost before the last bomb had exploded in London on 7 July, government ministers, opposition leaders, London's mayor, police chiefs and anybody else who could get the media's attention were all emphasising the need for tolerance in our society. In the weeks since then, the demand for tolerance towards all communities and faiths, especially Islam, has become a mantra repeated on all sides. If you did not know better, you might think that the bomb attacks of 7 and 21 July were aimed at mosques rather than trains and buses.
Tolerance might sound like a worthy aim. Normally, I like to imagine myself as tolerant as the next angry middle-aged libertarian Marxist. But this is something different. Some of us are finding it increasingly hard to tolerate the way that appeals to British tolerance are being used to justify intolerant censorship and repression.
The pattern goes like this. Tony Blair says that we have to meet the extremist threat by 'championing our values of freedom, tolerance and respect for others'. Then his ministers announce new plans to criminalise 'indirect incitement' of terrorism, along with tougher proposals to outlaw 'incitement to religious hatred'.
The government must have a different dictionary than I do. Mine defines tolerance as 'broad-mindedness' or 'permitting free expression of views one does not share'. In the Whitehall Newspeak edition, however, tolerance appears to mean the opposite. In order to defend our tolerant society we apparently have to ban views that most people do not share. Welcome to the age of intolerant tolerance.
A law against indirect incitement will do nothing to prevent an outrage such as the London bombings. There are already more than enough laws against plotting to blow up people on the Underground. No, committing the offence of 'indirect incitement' sounds more like what used to be called expressing an offensive opinion. The Lord Chancellor says it could mean 'attacking the values of the West'. The Home Office police minister says it could mean declaring that a suicide bombing was 'marvellous'. Others claim it would lead to the prosecution of Muslim clerics who have said that the London bombings were the fault of British people who voted to re-elect Blair. The government's latest proposals for the post-bombings crackdown, outlined on 5 August, included a list of 'unacceptable behaviour' that could be prosecuted, including such vague offences as 'engaging in extremism'.
Many people might well find the opinions expressed by radical Islamic clerics outlandish, fatuous and hateful. But are we now so afraid of words that we need to outlaw them, as if talking about a suicide bomb was the same as detonating one? As Lord Justice Sedley put it a few years ago, when throwing out a case against a ranting fundamentalist Christian preacher, 'Freedom to speak only inoffensively is not worth having'. Those 'values of the West' must be pretty fragile today if they can be seriously threatened by the ranting of a few crank preachers. And elevating the importance of these infantile fantasists seems guaranteed to put them on the fast track to martyrdom among disaffected Muslim youth.
The proposed law against incitement to religious hatred is another bad example of intolerant tolerance. In order to 'champion our values of freedom and tolerance', it seems, we can no longer tolerate people having the freedom to ridicule or offend Islam or other religions. Yet surely that is one of the hard-won liberties of our genuinely tolerant, secular society.
The meaning of tolerance has mutated in recent years. First, it became a central plank of the official doctrine of multiculturalism. As examined elsewhere on spiked, the celebration of multiculturalism and 'diversity' has served as a substitute for any more coherent worldview within the British elite (see The price of multiculturalism, by Michael Fitzpatrick). That is why, when they try (and generally fail) to define what British values might mean today, politicians will invariably emphasise the importance of tolerance. In this context, it always ends up sounding as if they are saying, 'Our central value is that we tolerate the values of others'.
More recently, however, and especially since the bombings of 7 July, it has become clear that this emphasis on tolerance is more than a vacuous retreat into non-judgementalism. It is also a threat. In order to maintain the fragile status quo in our fragmented society, the authorities are telling us not to rock the boat. Their idea of tolerance thus involves suppressing opinions or ideas that might cause offence or controversy. This is the doctrine of what we might call illiberal liberalism, summed up by the trite phrase 'I can tolerate anything except intolerance'. Or as New Labour's Welsh secretary Peter Hain put it after the bombings, 'We will not tolerate people abusing Muslims' (with 'abuse' now being so widely defined as to mean anything you don't like). The message to all of us is 'Be tolerant - or else!'
The authorities are trying to use the doctrine of intolerant tolerance to keep the lid on things and hide the empty hole at the heart of the debate about British values. But in the end it can only make matters worse. Forcing problems underground is not the same thing as doing something about them. Indeed, this approach is far more likely to intensify a sense of grievance on all sides: among Muslims who might feel that the continual calls for tolerance and condemnations of 'Islamophobia' confirm their special victim status in society; and among white people who might feel aggrieved at being lectured and policed as if they were a mob of bigots straining at the leash to burn down a mosque or beat up a Muslim.
In fact most people in Britain today are more tolerant than ever before, and there has been very little serious conflict between ethnic or religious communities since 7 July. But if anything seems likely to stir things up, it is the state's enforcement of the etiquette of intolerant tolerance.
What we need instead is more genuine tolerance. This is not an appeal for anybody to go soft in the debate about terrorism or anything else. We need to tolerate the 'free expression of views one does not share', in order that we can sort out the truth in the open, instead of trying to bury difficult issues beneath a pile of bans. Let everybody freely express their views - and let us all have the freedom ruthlessly to question, criticise and interrogate everything that is said, about everything from religion to race, from suicide bombings to British values. Now more than ever we need freedom of speech for a frank and 'broad-minded' debate about the sort of society we live in and where it is heading (see Defend free speech - now more than ever, by Mick Hume). Instead, the doctrine of intolerant tolerance aims to stop anybody pointing out the embarrassing fact that the emperor of multicultural Britain has no clothes.
Now the government has even told UK universities, which surely ought to be the last bastions of broad-mindedness, to worry less about protecting freedom of speech and more about countering extreme views. 'Think for yourselves, and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too', Voltaire wrote in his Essay on Tolerance. Those in academia might like to take a look, before it gets condemned as intolerable.
22 August, 2005
THE INCORRECTNESS OF "MATE"
The story about a ban on Parliament house security guards and other staff in Canberra, Australia, using the word "Mate" as a form of address seems to have been picked up around the world. Outside Australia, however, very few people understood what it was all about. It goes back to the fact that the British-origin population of Australia mostly originated from the English regions and the English working class. And in such circles -- particularly among working-class Londoners ("Cockneys") -- it is normal to address someone as "Mate" if you don't know his name. I remember when I was in London, if I bought a downmarket newspaper such as the "Sun" from the newspaper vendor, he would say "Ta, Mate" when I gave him the money. If however I bought a more upmarket newspaper such as the "Times", he would say "Ta, Guv" when I gave him the money. So a custom that is class-based in England is universally respected in Australia, though still to a degree class-based. Australians these days are mostly bourgeois but working-class traditions are now national traditions. So an attempt to impose more formal manners on anybody was bound to meet with widespread condemnatioin -- which it did. One of the news stories about the matter is reproduced below:
"A ban by Australia's Parliament House on the term "mate," a popular colloquialism and symbol of egalitarianism, has been overturned following a barrage of protest. Security guards at Parliament House in Canberra had been directed Thursday to refer to people as sir and ma'am. The ban was imposed after the head of a government department complained about being called mate, local media reported. But a parliamentary circular issued Friday removed the directive warning staff not to use "mate" when dealing with the public or members of parliament, instead suggesting they use their judgment on when a more formal approach is required.
Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke said the attempted ban was "pomposity gone mad," while current Prime Minister John Howard described the ban as "absurd and impractical." "There are circumstances where a more formal address is appropriate," Howard told Australian radio. "But in the same conversation you might start off calling somebody you have just met sir or madam but as you become more familiar ... you might end up saying mate."
The move also prompted a flood of calls to talkback radio around the country and was slammed by Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper as "ludicrous" because it took Australia back to the days of the class system.
OFFICIAL BRITISH BIGOTS BAN ANY MENTION OF RELIGION ON THEIR PREMISES
A couple were banned from playing the Robbie Williams hit "ANGELS" at their civil wedding - in case it offended non-Christians. Howard Monks, 47, and Julie Sagar-Doyle, 36, wanted the star's 1997 song played as they took their vows, because it is "their tune".
But just 15 minutes before the ceremony, politically correct bureaucrats barred the tune by Robbie, as it contains the word heaven - giving it "religious connotations". Instead the pair had to settle for Shania Twain's From This Moment when they wed at Dukinfield registry office, Greater Manchester. Printer Howard, of Hadfield, Derbys, blasted: "It's ridiculous to say this would upset ethnic minorities. It's just a pop song. Robbie's hardly some religious bigot. The General Register Office said it is now reviewing the content of civil marriages.
The incorrectness of "Dixie": "To hear some newcomers to Hanover County, Virginia, tell it, 'Dixie' is a five-letter four-letter word. They want to change the county's annual Civil War commemoration from 'Dixie Days' to something else, to avoid, among other things, offending Yankees who have moved into the county. Dixie cups are probably OK, concedes one county official, but not 'Dixie' -- that reminds everyone of, well, the South. Jamelle Wilson, a member of an advisory panel reviewing the annual event, told a public gathering earlier this month that 'Dixie Days' is 'problematic' and that calling a Civil War commemoration by that name 'tends to represent the past.' If 'Dixie' remains, the county schools shouldn't promote or endorse it, she said. But a war, so far fairly civil, is brewing."
21 August, 2005
HOORAY! CUSTOMERS REJECT "CORRECT" FOOD
Most of what's "good for you" today will be "bad for you" in ten year's time anyway. The only things that are ALWAYS said to be "good for you" are things you don't like!
The national restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday added a low-fat Blueberry D'Lite yogurt parfait to its menu more than a year ago to capitalize on the apparent growing appetite among consumers for healthful fare. The parfait joined more than 40 better-for-you offerings, along with listings of calorie and fat contents for everything on the menu. French fry portions were trimmed. Heavy advertising touted the chain's Smart Eating program. But diners didn't bite. So Ruby Tuesday has eliminated the Blueberry D'Lite, along with several other healthful dishes ditched after a lengthy period of slumping sales at the chain. Calorie and fat information was dropped except on the healthful items that survived and were moved to the back of the menu.
Now the chain is aggressively promoting its biggest burgers, and in the last three months, burger sales are up 3 to 4 percent. It has also restored its larger portions of french fries and pasta. Like many restaurant chains in the past two years, Ruby Tuesday has discovered that while customers say they want more nutritious choices, they rarely order them. As a result, fast food and casual dining chains -- which together account for three out of four U.S. restaurant visits -- are slowly going back to what they do best: indulging Americans' taste for high-calorie, high-fat fare. "The gap between what [diners] say and what they do is just huge," said Denny Post, chief concept officer for Burger King. "Therein lies the challenge for business, because there is simply not enough behavior shift to build a business around."
Chains are not axing the healthful offerings altogether, because they serve a small niche market. But most companies are scaling back their promotion of good-for-you products, moving them to less prominent menu locations and, in some cases, cutting back on the number of more healthful choices. "The first Ruby Tuesday opened in 1972. In those days, the number one item people ordered when they went out was a hamburger and french fries," said Richard Johnson, the chain's senior vice president. "Today, the number one items people order when they go out are a hamburger, french fries and chicken tenders."
Food researchers say people are slowly changing their eating habits, but mostly when they eat at home. In consumer surveys conducted by market-research firm Technomic Inc. of Chicago, "a clear majority said that they're less concerned and do not follow what they believe are good dietary habits when they're eating away from home," said company president Ron Paul. While consumers who eat in fast-food restaurants are, in fact, more interested in nutritious fare than they used to be, "it's still less important than just about anything else," said Bob Sandelman, president of consumer research firm Sandelman & Associates. The "availability of healthy and nutritious food" ranks 10th on a list of 12 dining attributes tracked by the firm, behind other desires such as speed and order accuracy.
Dan McDonald of Fredericksburg, a 30-year-old father of two, is concerned about the 30 pounds he has gained in the past five years, and he's trying to eat better at home. He and his wife are more mindful of nutrition when they feed their children, too. But when McDonald is running around Washington as a computer systems engineer, he eats fast food four times a week on his short lunch breaks -- typically a cheeseburger, fries and a soda. "Usually if I'm going to get fast food, I'm going to get what I want, whether they have healthy options or not on the menu," he said, sitting at a window seat of a Burger King on K Street downtown. "My problem is I need to stay out of fast food places."
Experts in eating behavior say restaurant chains face several hurdles in pushing their more nutritious menu items. The biggest one is that people don't like to sacrifice at all on taste for the sake of eating something nutritious. Another is the higher prices that these items often carry, especially freshly prepared dishes such as salads and fruit. And finally, there is the lack of immediate gratification: When a customer orders something with a better nutritional profile, the benefit of that choice may or may not be noticed sometime in the future.
"You're not going to know if 'healthy' is going to be good for you until 40 years from now, when you're on your deathbed," said Harry Balzer, vice president of consulting firm NPD Group, which closely tracks people's eating habits. "The only thing you get immediately is time and money -- did I save time or did I save money."
NAUGHTY MICHAEL BUERK!
One of Britain's best-known broadcasters strikes out at favouritism towards women. He subsequently had to back down, of course
Newsreader Michael Buerk has said "almost all the big jobs in broadcasting are held by women" who "decide what we see and hear". The former Nine O'Clock News presenter told the Radio Times: "Life is lived in accordance with women's rules" and men are now merely "sperm donors". Buerk added that the "shift in the balance of power between the sexes" had gone too far. "The result is men are becoming more like women," he said. He cited Tim Henman and David Beckham as examples.
His views are to be screened in a new channel Five series Don't Get Me Started! which gives some of the UK's leading opinion-formers a chance to sound off on the issues they feel most strongly about. He said while making the programme he "came across what I considered a very personal example of the changes that have taken place". "Almost all the big jobs in broadcasting were held by women - the controllers of BBC One television and Radio 4 for example. These are the people who decide what we see and hear", he said.
Former BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey has left the BBC, and has been replaced by a man, Peter Fincham, while Mark Damazer is now the BBC Radio 4 controller, replacing Helen Boaden who is now head of BBC News. The BBC declined to comment on Buerk's assertions.
Buerk added that it was time for society to admit there was a problem. "Look at the changes in the workplace. There is no manufacturing industry any more; there are no mines; few vital jobs require physical strength," he added. "What we have now are lots of jobs that require people skills and multi-tasking - which women are a lot better at."
While Buerk admitted a lot of the changes were for the better, he questioned whether things had gone too far. "Products are made for women, cars are made for women - because they control what is being bought," he said. "Some people might argue that this is a case of the pendulum swinging over the woman's side for a change, and eventually it will find a happy medium."
He added he felt men were being given a lesser role in society. "All they are is sperm donors, and most women aren't going to want an unemployable sperm donor loafing around and making the house look untidy."
THE BIGOTRY OF THE LEFT: THEY CANNOT THINK ANY OTHER WAY
Ed Feser reviews "Identity in Democracy", by Amy Gutmann
Modern liberalism has a paradoxical tendency to promote both excessive individualism in the realm of private behavior and a stifling conformity of thought and action in the public sphere. This reflects its concern to harmonize its favored conceptions of liberty and equality. The liberal wants everyone to be as free as possible to pursue his own values and interests unimpeded by either law or social convention, but takes this to entail a regime of antidiscrimination measures that in many cases effectively prohibit even private organizations from favoring certain patterns of thought and behavior over others, lest some individual find himself disadvantaged by virtue of his adherence to an unpopular manner of thinking or acting.
Liberals are, accordingly, criticized both for promoting too much freedom and for allowing too little. In particular, they are accused of attempting to impose, in the name of equal freedom for all ways of life in modern democratic societies, a radical egalitarianism that effectively allows no one to disapprove of anyone else's way of life. But since almost any way of thinking and acting with any substantial content involves disagreement with some other ways of thinking and acting, this requires that the only point of view that can be allowed to flourish in a polity informed by the liberal-egalitarian ethos is the liberal-egalitarian ethos itself. Modern liberalism thus seems to its critics to be an incoherent mess, and to entail in practice the negation of liberty and equality as those terms are understood by everyone but liberals themselves.
Amy Gutmann's book is the latest attempt by a liberal political theorist to square this circle. It fails miserably. Gutmann wants to show that liberals are not the atomistic individualists they are accused of being, that liberalism is fully compatible with a recognition that individuals flourish best in the context of private associations, churches, and other "identity groups" defined by common aims and values. She wants to show also that liberals respect the rights of such groups to run their affairs as they please. Nor, in her view, are these mere ad hoc concessions to forestall some common objections; rather, they are entailed by the fundamental liberal commitment to freedom of association. But Gutmann, like all modern liberals, would add considerable qualifications to her endorsement of the right of free association, and also to her acknowledgement of the value of identity groups. Predictably, these qualifications completely undermine her claim to understand seriously the need for, and to respect the rights of, such groups.
The trouble begins as soon as Gutmann explains what she means by "identity groups" and why she thinks them valuable. Such groups can on her usage of the term be defined by "gender, race, class, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability . . . sexual orientation . . . age, and ideology." The NAACP and KKK count as identity groups in her view, as do even those groups defined by such epithets as "geek, jock, bimbo, and hottie." One begins to suspect that wherever two or three are gathered together, even if they're just waiting for the bus, Gutmann is ready to classify them as an identity group. Part of the problem with this is its methodological sloppiness. A classification that lumps together Hasidic Jews, Stonewall rioters, and the cast of Saved by the Bell as instances of the same type of social category is hardly a model of analytical precision.
But the deeper problem with Gutmann's conception of identity groups is how crassly and unreflectively it front-loads liberal individualism into her analysis. As some of the examples given illustrate, to a very great extent Gutmann sees membership in an identity group as a matter of personal preference, and as having value only to the extent that a member happens to regard it as having value and only so long as he can continue identification with the group on his own terms. Identity groups are means by which people "express themselves" and they provide a "context for individual freedom of choice." The common criticism of liberalism to the effect that it refuses to recognize that an individual might have obligations - including obligations to his kin, country, and religious community - that he did not choose, cannot voluntarily escape from, and that partially constitute his identity, is simply ignored. A thin and individualistic conception of group identity is substituted for the richer conceptions defended by liberalism's conservative and communitarian critics, so that the liberal can quietly change the subject while seeming not to.
In line with this, Gutmann holds that "group identities are best conceived as multiple and fluid," that "free people have multiple and alterable identities." However important group identity is, it must never be allowed to stifle individual freedom of choice, as the liberal conceives of it, and the individual must be allowed to mix and match his group affiliations as he sees fit. Here the liberal mania for antidiscrimination measures of all sorts enters the analysis. If feminists demand that women be allowed to participate in Orthodox Jewish life or Pueblo Indian cultural life in ways that conflict with the traditional Orthodox or Pueblo self-understanding, or if gays insist on membership in the Boy Scouts despite the Scouts' long-standing ban on admitting homosexuals, then government has a right, indeed an obligation, to force these groups to comply. That some members of these groups might be "offended" by such forced compliance cannot trump the demands of "democratic justice," "rights," and "civic equality."
It never seems to occur to Gutmann that there are conceptions of democracy, justice, rights, and civic equality other than her own liberal conception, and that this is precisely why the beliefs and practices of various religious and cultural groups are so often at odds with those preferred by liberals. For her there is only the liberal's high-minded concern with such moral ideals on one hand and the grubby and unreasonable prejudices of certain religious and cultural traditionalists on the other. If the liberal is to allow those holding such prejudices to carry on unmolested, this can be only for prudential reasons or out of respect for the abstract principle that even the most odious views must be tolerated in a free society, so long as those holding them don't violate the "rights" of others by refusing them membership in their groups. The possibility that the views and practices in question might not be mere prejudices at all, but rather reflect conceptions of justice and rights every bit as rationally defensible as the liberal's own, is never considered. Here Gutmann is a loyal disciple of John Rawls, who held that liberalism is neutral between all the "reasonable comprehensive doctrines" existing within a pluralistic democratic society, where a doctrine counts as "reasonable" just when (surprise!) it incorporates a willingness to submit to the liberal conception of justice.
Thus does Gutmann argue that for government even to allow the Boy Scouts to meet on public property would be for it unjustifiably to promote a "symbol of [the] inferiority" of homosexuals, while neglecting to mention that for government to refuse to grant such a privilege to the Boy Scouts precisely because of their attitude toward homosexuality would also promote a "symbol of inferiority" - the inferiority of the Boy Scouts themselves - insofar as it effectively sends the message that the only reason one could possibly disapprove of homosexuality is irrational prejudice. All points of view are equal, in Gutmann's view, but some are less equal than others.
Gutmann does not make clear how far she thinks the antidiscrimination measures she advocates ought to be extended to religious organizations. She does insist, though, that a group allow its members to be "educated" about alternatives to it, that "respect for culture cannot mean deference to whatever the established authorities of that culture deem right," and that religious groups "should not . . . be treated with special consideration." So should we conclude that the Catholic Church, say, ought to be forced to ordain women and that Catholic schools should be forced to teach children that there are alternative paths to salvation, regardless of what 2,000 years of popes have taught?
If we fear we know already how a frank and consistent liberal would have to respond, that is because liberals seem to have become exactly what they claim most to despise: a narrow-minded tribe of bigots, merely one "identity group" alongside others eager to impose their own idiosyncratic and highly contestable scruples on everyone else. Why the rest of us ought to regard such liberal tribalism as any better than the other kinds is a question to which Gutmann gives no answer.
20 August, 2005
HEY! MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT AFTER ALL!
Who'd have thought it?
It has taken years for them to smash through the glass ceiling. But just as women executives had finally swept away their label as novelties in the boardroom, a report has suggested they are not up to the job. In fact, investing in stock market-listed companies run by women or with female executive directors is a 'surefire recipe for underperformance', according to Shares magazine. It found that among the UK's top 250 listed middlesized companies, the 24 with at least one female executive director increased share values by 'only' 22% over the past 12 months - compared with an average of 27%. If all the companies run by women were excluded, the performance of the remaining 226 improves to 28% - a deficit of 6%. The impact, according to the report, is a 'huge' shortfall of 30% over five years compared to companies run exclusively by men.
Women deemed to have presided over an unsatisfactory performance include WH Smith chief executive Kate Swann - who helped increase the company's value by 22% over the past year - and Rose Bravo, chief executive of Burberry where shares rose 13%. One of the reasons given for women's poor performance is that they 'cannot make tough decisions'. Female finance directors are also described as 'more easily persuaded or bullied into going along with harebrained schemes' by other executives. And families are a distraction as 'most women want a family and it is incredibly hard combining a busy work schedule with a family life'.
The worst performer among the female-friendly firms was Avis Europe, which saw 37% wiped off share values over the past 12 months. Shares in GCap Media, the UK's largest commercial radio company, plummeted 30% in the same period. However, oil and gas speculators Venture Production, which has a female financial director, saw share prices rocket 124%. And several other companies with female executives saw increases of more than 40% - including the London Stock Exchange, headed by chief executive Clara Furse, and Aga Foodservice, which produces cookers and refrigerators.
The magazine's claims angered some of Britain's most powerful female executives and MPs last night. Nicola Horlick, dubbed 'Superwoman' for juggling her job as managing director of Morgan Grenfell Investment Management with bringing up five children, dismissed them as 'complete nonsense'. 'You can't take the share prices of a company and attribute it to one woman executive. It is wholly coincidental,' she said.
Tory family spokesman Theresa May, a former City high-flier, called the findings 'codswallop'. 'Having a man in charge doesn't necessarily lead to success,' she said. 'When given the opportunities, women have proved they can be successful. What they don't need is this kind of ridiculous stereotyping.'
But the magazine's editor, Polly Fergusson, defended the report. 'There are some fantastic senior women executives out there,' she said. 'But our research shows companies with women in high positions do not perform as well on the stock market. Investors can make up their own minds.'
Tourism is changing, and not for the better. Not so long ago, package tourism was regarded simply as a welcome respite from the rigors and proscriptions of everyday life. Today, the tremendous growth of opportunities to travel and enjoy the environment - the beach, warm climates, snow-covered mountains - is regarded by the critics as a threat to the environment, to indigenous cultures, and to the traveller's own sense of self.
In contrast with mass tourism, the New Moral Tourism is justified less in terms of the desires of the consumer and more from the perspective of its perceived benign influence on the natural world and on the culture of the host. But what is this 'tourism with a mission', and what does it mean for holidaymakers and the countries they visit?
Modern tourism could be said to have emerged with modern industrial society in the nineteenth century. Industrialisation spawned both the means to travel - initially the railways - and created a growing market amongst the new industrial and professional classes, and amongst the working class, the masses, too. Thomas Cook pioneered leisure travel amongst the middle and working classes in this century. He and his son, John Mason Cook (whose initials JMC are now a brand of Thomas Cook tour operations), took an increasingly broad spectrum of the population to ever more distant destinations. Over the past 150 years, the achievement of the industry has been nothing less than the democratisation of leisure travel, from the few deemed worthy, and wealthy enough to partake, to an everyday activity for the majority in developed societies.
The growth of the tourism industry has been driven by economic development. Greater affluence has opened up the possibility to travel for leisure to greater numbers of people. Technical progress - notably the car and air travel - has consistently enabled greater speed, comfort and scope for leisure travellers. Whereas even as recently as forty years ago back-to-back charters were a new innovation, initially confusing to hoteliers and customers, today they are the staple of the big tour operators. The UK's 'big four', Thomas Cook, Airtours, First Choice and Thomsons (now part of TUI, the first European wide package holiday brand, owned by German conglomerate Pressaug) dominate a market that takes annually some thirty five million British tourists abroad for their holidays.
By supplying en masse, such companies have lowered the real cost of holidays, and alongside growing incomes, this has contributed to what Vladimir Raitz, founder of Horizon holidays (the first post-war package holiday company to develop charter flight-based packages) refers to as the package holiday revolution. This growth has been mirrored worldwide, with today some 700 million travelling internationally per year for no other reason than leisure. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be some 1.6 billion international tourists.
Tourism has become big business - by some measures the biggest. It directly employs 74 million people directly, with tourism related activities estimated to provide some 200 million jobs. It provides the largest source of export earnings for countries as diverse as Spain and Barbados. By 2020 it is predicted that tourism expenditure will top US$ 2 trillion, or US$ 5 billion per day. The industry's contribution to global wealth, measured from Gross National Products, is estimated to be four per cent directly and 11 per cent including indirect effects (1). It has also enjoyed consistent growth in recent decades, decades in which some countries have experienced relative decline in some of their traditional industries.
In economic terms, then, Mass Tourism seems self-evidently important. However, it is increasingly discussed less as an economic phenomenon linked to the creation of jobs and investment, or indeed simply as enjoyment, adventure and innocent fun. Rather tourism has increasingly become discussed as a cultural and environmental phenomenon, and more often than not as fraught and destructive.
This is manifested in a constant denigration of mass package tourism and mass package tourists amongst those for whom such things are deemed unethical. For some, post-war tourism is like Frankenstein's (or perhaps Thomas Cook's) monster, having seemingly run out of control, with dire consequences. The association of tourism with innocence, fun and adventure, have been challenged by a mood of pessimism and a sense that moral regulation of pleasure seeking is necessary in order to preserve environmental and cultural diversity.
The moralisation of tourism involves two mutually reinforcing notions. Mass Tourism is deemed to have wrought damage to the environment and to the cultures exposed to it, and hence new types of tourism are proposed that are deemed benign to the environment and benevolent towards other cultures. This ethical tourism is deemed to be better for tourists, too - more enlightening, encouraging respect for other ways of life and a critical reflection on the tourist's own developed society.
There are a plethora of terms that academics and those in the industry have applied to this more moral tourism such as ethical tourism, alternative tourism, ecotourism and responsible tourism. Perhaps the term that covers them all, and helps to identify what is distinctive about them taken together, is that coined by industry specialist Ahluwalia Poon - 'New Tourism'.......
More -- much more -- here
19 August, 2005
DIVERSITY OF THOUGHT INCORRECT -- ONLY LEFTIST THOUGHT ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY PERMITTED
The Broward County School Board plans to suspend its Diversity Committee after a few members made inflammatory comments about gays. "I think we're all in agreement about that," Board Chairwoman Stephanie Kraft said Tuesday. Members of the gay community had approached the board once again with demands to disband the watchdog group.
The 19-member Diversity Committee came under fire this summer over its treatment of the Anti-Defamation League's We Are Family video, which features Barney, Kermit the Frog and other children's characters singing about their friends. While discussing the video, committee member and radio host Steve Kane said he worried it could be used to promote a pro-gay agenda and introduce children to homosexuality. He resigned last week.
While applauding Kane's departure, Katy Peterson, a minister at the Metropolitan Community Church in Palm Beach Gardens and a supporter of gay rights, said there are other anti-gay committee members who "take the School Board's thoughtfully crafted and progressive diversity policy and use it for toilet paper." She wants them to leave as well.
Kraft said the School Board would hold a special meeting after a workshop Tuesday to decide the Diversity Committee's fate. It will hold another meeting in September. Until then, most board members said, the committee should not meet again. "I don't want this committee to meet until we have a workshop," Board member Maureen Dinnen said during the meeting. "I'm tired of this board being branded as bigots. I am not a bigot."
It's possible, however, that the board won't be able to suspend the committee. School Board lawyers warned that the Diversity Committee was created several years ago as part of a settlement of a discrimination lawsuit, and it might be impossible to simply tell members to stop working. Diversity Committee chairman Bill Rettinger said suspending the committee also would be a practical mistake. Rettinger, who plans to quit in November, said committee members are in the middle of an upcoming report on whether the district provides equal facilities to minority and non-minority children. He said removing members could force the committee to start over again. "The board might not even get next year's report," he said.
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS MOTIVATED BY DESTRUCTIVE URGES
Some excerpts from an article by evolutionary psychologist John P. Smith
Today’s revolutionaries are hell-bent on transforming as many family women as they can into solitary women. This is why, in a modern republic, a woman can have children outside of marriage and, with the help of her government, see those youngsters grow up whole. But the chance of this actually happening vis-à-vis her married sisters is only somewhat better than for a lioness living without a male in her life. Yet, television programming and the daily newspapers continue to glorify sex outside of marriage. Sex without a husband, they tell our young women in so many words, is liberating. They are rarely, if ever, told how destructive such a lifestyle is – for the woman, for her children, and for society.
Revolutionaries come in active and passive styles, much like the would-be killers of the father-in-the-sky. Active revolutionaries are the ones who shoot guns and throw hand grenades. They’re not a big problem in most republics – yet. Passive revolutionaries, who work covertly, are a huge problem and reprogram the minds of their fellow citizens to unwittingly take part in their own destruction.
Whether a revolutionary is active or passive, he should be thought of as a destroyer. He aims to destroy your world, either through violence or through subterfuge. The citizens who oppose him, wishing as they do to maintain the society in which they find themselves, should be thought of as preservers. Destroyers – always first with the catch phrases – traditionally described preservers as “authoritarian” and themselves as “revolutionary”.
Unfortunately, there is this destructive element in every society, even those in which the element has been muted as a result of either social pressure or governmental threat. As we have seen, it is in the nature of mankind to rebel against authority. And to rebel against authority is, in most instances, to destroy society.
The destructive elements, whether active or passive, invariably go on to cast themselves not just as revolutionaries but also as liberators. Liberty-Equality-Fraternity was the rallying cry of the French Revolutionists, who actively destroyed French society as it existed at the time. Similarly, “freedom fighter” has become the handle of today’s active destroyers around the world, whether in Cuba before Castro or in Vietnam before Ho Chi Minh. In crying out for freedom, they gain sympathy and support from ordinary citizens who, like people everywhere, rarely feel quite free enough.
The passive destroyers covertly undermining the Western republics have a tremendous advantage over the preservers of these nations. They know full well that the average citizen is a rebel at heart, and they take full advantage of this fact by constantly appealing to his (and her) rebellious side.
When a man and woman get hitched, society always plays a role, unlike wolves or gibbons or swans. Governments everywhere realize (theoretically, at least) that their citizens are motivated not to play by the rules, which is why there are state marriage licenses, as well as state prisons. The marriage license works to prevent bigamy and thereby ensure the rearing of the next generation as best a society can ensure such an outcome.
The two families involved in the marriage, as well as the couple themselves, similarly realize that human beings are motivated not to play by the rules – especially when it comes to sex – which, in the specific case of marriage, means cheating, deserting and/or divorcing. Large weddings and receptions are attempts to ensure that these eventualities will not come to pass. Even at a small wedding, the bride and groom each swear in public to stick it out faithfully for the rest of their lives – for worse, for poorer, or in sickness.
Those same wedding vows also include ‘for better, for richer, and in health’, but these three phrases are included just for the sake of poetic balance. No one is expected to break a wedding vow because the other person has become better or richer, or remains healthy. But everyone knows that a spouse who becomes diminished, as it were, makes breaking the other party’s wedding vows that much more attractive to someone already inclined by nature to act in ways contrary to the survival of society.
Weddings, receptions, and marriage licenses notwithstanding, psychologists and other systematic destroyers of modern societies never tire of assuring us that we human beings do not have to play by pre-ordained rules in order for our species to survive, the way the lower animals have to. We humans, gratuitously placed at the top of the food chain through the miracle of evolution, are in a position to establish our own rules for survival.
Psychology has come to call this kind of thinking moral relativism. In other words, a given behavior is right or wrong depending on the circumstances. Moreover, it often devolves to the person himself to makes this determination, except where the intelligentsia has already ruled on the matter, as in the cases of abortion, school bussing, and fathers’ rights.
The principal protagonist for moral relativism was HRH Ashley Montagu, cultural anthropologist and immigrant gadfly. Lordly Montagu did his pontificating from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where he was paid in American tax dollars to destroy the society that had taken him in and then supported him. [On a personal note, the journal Science was good enough to publish this writer’s letter exposing charlatan Montagu back in 1964.]
Destroyers, it must be noted, do not want anarchy. Abject destruction of the host society has rarely been the goal of revolutionaries. What they seek, rather, is to be in charge of a reconstructed society that they are presently bent on destroying in its current form. This desire of theirs is perfectly consistent with the need for independence . Feeling controlled from time to time, human beings often attempt to rid themselves of this annoying feeling by rising to the top of the group in which they find themselves. [Others seek a feeling of independence through creative endeavors, curing the ill, and so forth.]
The students who took over universities during the Vietnam War certainly did not want to destroy those institutions. After all, they were there for the purpose of obtaining degrees, and a destroyed university would not be in a position to oblige them. No, they took over universities to take over universities – that is to say, to see those institutions run the way they wanted them run. The ultimate goal of any society's destroyers is to rebuild the society they destroy, with themselves or their proxies in charge. The "liberal" politician who votes to raise your taxes intends to benefit from that tax increase. He will become more powerful as you become less powerful.
Besides having the ability to choose the most seductive terminology and then blabbing it from the rooftops ad nauseam, today’s destroyers, as opposed to some earlier revolutionaries, appeal to our base nature. They realize that deep down, most of us want free sex even more than we want lower taxes. They also realize that to interfere with a society’s sexual functioning is to destroy it without a shot being fired, whether it’s a society of humans or a society of gibbons.
One reason why destroyers are so attuned to the base nature of human beings is that they themselves usually are debased – certainly the passive destroyers working with pen and microphone rather than gun and grenade. While they pose as sophisticated, learned saviors of the oppressed, you don’t have to scratch them very hard to find rot.
Destroyers are also – as one might expect – much more subject to the need for ultimate independence, than are preservers. A compelling interest in pornography is only a symptom of this deeper and much more significant character flaw. They are only a small step from sociopaths. Destroyers know enough to appeal to our angelic side, as well as to our prurient interests. They show us photographs of gassed Kurds and starving Ethiopians and tsunami-ravaged Indonesians. These pictures tug at our heartstrings. The destroyers' real intention, though, is not to help those unfortunates but to make us as interested in the plight of foreigners as in the plight of our fellow citizens, thereby reducing our nationalism.
In addition to his attacks on society via the constant weakening of the family, the modern destroyer works without letup to flood society with strangers. While he sings the siren song of sexual license, he also waters down the gene pool. How can we deny entry to refugees? Let us share our good fortune with the less fortunate. Why pay top dollar to our homegrown gardeners, when you can hire them from across the border for half as much? Americans won’t do that kind of work. [Not for coolie wages, they won’t.]
The pseudo-science of orthodox psychology, which lacks even the ability to explain why the chicken crossed the road, is concurrently intent on obscuring the reality of all group differences, even the differences between men and women. Such differences, they maintain, are illusory and simply the temporary results of differing environmental factors, such as education, religion, nutrition, and climate. Give the world a constant environment, they preach, and see how we turn out to all be the same under the skin. Their brochure, “Racism and Psychology”, begins with a denial of race: “Racism is based on prejudice toward so-called racial groups.” Now, how can there be racism unless there are races? Yet, just a few lines later, we read: “It is the biases of individual Whites (who are reluctant to rent apartments or sell houses or loan money to African Americans) that lead to individual acts of discrimination.” The medical profession, by comparison, has accepted the clear reality of race and racial differences. Physicians are beginning to prescribe medication on the basis of race.
A naturally formed society, as opposed to one that was formed by mandate (as sometimes happens after a war, for instance), contains people who are genetically similar. Examples abound throughout the world, and always have. The citizens in these societies have similar personalities, a similar appearance, and the same worldview. Attempts by intellectuals to deny this fundamental reality, whether with respect to one particular society or to human societies in general, simply constitute one more effort from their seemingly bottomless arsenal of destructive weaponry.
Some naturally formed societies nevertheless take measures antithetical to their own survival. Such a measure occurred in the American Colonies when, on the basis of pure greed, many wealthy colonists, listening to their need for ultimate independence, bought human beings captured from another society, and then continued to enslave them within their own borders. The inevitable result, of course, has been a clash of peoples that leaves a fault line running through American society that constantly threatens our destruction, the passive revolutionaries among us notwithstanding.
The psychological establishment in America is a leader in efforts to exacerbate this fault line. Rather than accept the handicap under which America must labor as a result of her early brutality, these self-appointed experts on human relations deny the reality of this handicap just as they deny the reality of physical handicaps, insisting against all evidence to the contrary that the small and the weak be hired by fire and police departments and that the dull and disturbed receive unlimited time when taking employment and school-admission tests.
18 August, 2005
RAPE IS OK IF "BLACK" LAW SAYS IT IS?
That the customs of Australia's native blacks are given some respect is reasonable but if that can excuse brutal rape of a young girl then someone has lost the plot. Does the law not protect black females? Sounds very much like gross racism
That white and black law does not always sit well together was again highlighted last week when the Northern Territory’s newish Supreme Court Chief Justice, Brian Martin, convened a bush court session in Yarralin, close to the NT-WA border, to sentence an Aboriginal elder who can only be known as GJ. GJ, 55, had forcefully taken “his” 14-year-old promised child bride and had sex with her, against her will. Martin held the bush session in an attempt to show Aborigines due respect to their culture while gently explaining that white law must sometimes overrule black law.
The question is whether Martin, in handing down a very light sentence to GJ, himself succumbed to the charisma of Aboriginal culture and in doing so set aside the rights of a child who should enjoy the protection of the overriding (white) law. In paying respect to Aboriginal law and culture, Martin appeared to regard Aboriginal law as static. He failed to consider that some Aborigines – in this case, the girl – might not like or want Aboriginal law and would prefer to move on. Martin conceded this was “an extremely difficult case”, because GJ fully believed he was entitled to take the child as his (second) wife. So much so that the child’s own grandmother insisted the child formalise the promised marriage – which meant having sex with GJ.
It was June 18, 2004, in school holidays. The girl was in Year 9 and had a boyfriend her own age. Word spread about the community that the boy and girl had stayed together that night and, perhaps, had sex. This appeared to give rise to an urgency among the involved elders to fast-track and consummate the girl’s promised marriage. The girl’s grandmother told her she had to go with a person she barely knew and considered to be “an old man”.
The girl’s grandmother and GJ went and found the girl the next morning. The grandmother took the girl outside of the house where she was staying; GJ struck the girl hard over the shoulders and back with a pair of boomerangs.
It was decreed the child would be taken to GJ’s outstation. The child did not want to go and pleaded with the grandmother that she not be sent away with GJ. “Rather than help the child,” said Martin, “the grandmother packed personal belongings for her, including her school bag, and insisted that the child go with you (GJ). The child was forced to get into your car, where she sat with your first wife and two other persons. The child was crying and shaking.”
That evening, at the outstation, GJ dragged the child by the leg and into a bedroom. GJ’s wife and children went to another room. “The child kicked and screamed and resisted you,” said Martin. “You lay her on a bed in the room and asked her for sexual intercourse. She told you that she was only 14 years old. You hit her on the back. You then lay next to the child and remained there throughout the night. No act of sexual intercourse occurred.”
The following night GJ took her back to the room. “You then pushed the child onto the mattress,” said Martin. “The child was lying on her stomach. She told the police that you had a boomerang in your hand and that you were threatening her with it. “While the child was laying on her stomach you had anal intercourse with her. During intercourse the child was frightened and crying. She was in pain. You injured the child. You caused a deep laceration at the edge of her anus. The child was later seen by a doctor and the examination also revealed painful areas over the child's body.....
Somehow, in all of this, the rights of the modern child have been pushed aside in favour of older men who wish to continue their traditions. There must be sympathy for these old fellas, caught in a tribal timewarp. But is a man such as GJ really so ignorant as the judge supposes? He’s ridden horses and been in stock camp; he knows his way around. And he presumably likes the idea of having sex with a young girl. He’s not having sex as part of some onerous duty to keep his tribe going; otherwise he would have had “normal” sexual intercourse.
The judge appeared to treat GJ – not the 14-year-old girl – as the child. Martin told him there was “a reasonable possibility that your fundamental beliefs, based on your traditional laws, prevailed in your thinking and prevented you from realising that the child was not consenting. In these circumstances I have no choice but to sentence you on that basis. I must sentence you for unlawful sexual intercourse. I am not sentencing you for the crime of rape.”
The judge did not factor in the anal sex. He sentenced GJ to two years but then set about reducing the sentence in real terms: “Mr GJ, I have a great deal of sympathy for you and the difficulties attached to transition from traditional Aboriginal culture and laws as you understood them to be, to obeying the Northern Territory law. Under the circumstances, however, I have reached the conclusion that a sentence to the rising of the court would be inadequate. The shortest period I can see fit to impose is that you serve one month.”
What message has really been sent to the Aboriginal population? Is it that you can have sex, anal sex, with a child bride, do it violently and cop a month? Some might think a month in the can is well worth such a fleeting "pleasure".
THE CORRECTNESS OF WELSH
Discrimination in favour of Welsh-speakers is rampant
Scarcely a word of English was uttered last week in Faenol, a grand estate that hosted the Eisteddfod, a sort of nationalistic arts festival for Wales. Nor is English the local language of choice. In this region, Welsh takes precedence on road signs--and the English words are often illegible, thanks to the patriotic application of spray paint. In the county of Gwynedd as a whole, 70% of people can speak Welsh. Walk into a shop here, and the conversation is likely to begin: "Ga i helpu?"
Given the nearness of England, an infamous linguistic coloniser, the mere survival of such an ancient language is remarkable. Odder still, Welsh is holding steady. Between 1991 and 2001, the share of the population who claimed to be able to speak the language actually went up from 19% to 21%--the first increase in over a century. And the proportion of Welsh-speakers is likely to increase further, since teenagers are much more likely to be able to speak the language than their parents.
That ought to be a source of pride in a country where identity is closely tied to the ancestral tongue. While Scottish nationalists demand political independence, the Welsh just want everyone to speak the lingo. Since 1993, public agencies have been obliged to provide a bilingual service, even in areas where few people understand Welsh. Court cases can be heard entirely in the language, if the plaintiff or the defendant chooses. Midwives even encourage new parents to speak the tongue to their babies. Yet Welsh-language campaigners are in a dismal mood. Aran Jones of Cymuned (Community) believes the language is in a much worse state than national statistics suggest.
In the hilly north and west of Wales, where the native language is strongest, the Welsh-speaking population is being diluted by migration (which Mr Jones calls "colonisation") from England. Children may be familiar with Welsh, but only in the sense that English schoolchildren are familiar with French--as an academic discipline, not as a natural tongue. Welsh is, indeed, slowly dying in the heartlands. Between 1991 and 2001, Welsh speakers declined in number in the five mostly rural counties where they had been most common. As a rule of thumb, say linguists, a minority language will die out if it is spoken by fewer than 70% of the population. Ominously, the number of wards where that density was achieved fell from 87 to 58 during the 1990s.
Nationalists are divided over what to do. The extreme 1960s and 1970s response, which consisted of blowing up pipelines and burning holiday cottages owned by Anglophones, is out of style. The Welsh Language Society, a pressure group that has seen many of its demands incorporated into law, wants restrictions on house-building in Welsh-speaking areas and a language act that would require businesses to deal with customers in their preferred language. One of its members went on hunger strike during the Eisteddfod, just to show it was serious. Cymuned believes still more drastic measures are needed. It wants independence for the Welsh-speaking heartlands.
The battle for the heartlands is bound to end in defeat. But Welsh is growing in places where it was virtually unknown a few decades ago. In Cardiff, where the signs are bilingual (but, significantly, English takes precedence over Welsh), the proportion of people who can speak the language has increased from 5.8% to 10.9% in the past two decades. More than a tenth of the population of Wales lives in the city. Welsh is also growing rapidly in the former industrial and coalmining area of south Wales known as the Valleys. That may partly be because these are the ugliest bits of Wales, so English settlers tend to steer clear of them. But the main reason is probably the growth of Welsh schooling since the 1960s. There are now 448 primary schools and 54 secondary schools that teach mostly or entirely in Welsh, many of them in the south-east. They tend to be good schools, so many middle-class parents who do not speak Welsh patronise them. As a result, says Colin Williams, a Cardiff University linguist, the schoolroom is replacing the home as the main pillar of the language.
And pupils pick up more than Welsh. Because the demanding parents who send their children to Welsh-language schools tend to have demanding children, the schools are nurturing a new generation of articulate nationalists. Another reason for the growth of Welsh has to do with the job market. Many of the best paid, most stable and most interesting jobs in Wales demand knowledge of the language--or are thought to demand it, which is just as important. Thanks to the language laws, the country's swollen public sector is hungry for bilinguals; so are the burgeoning government-supported Welsh media. According to the 2001 census, 20% of people employed by culture, media or sporting outfits could speak, read and write Welsh, compared with just over 13% of all people aged 16-74. That, in turn, encourages politicians and other public figures to learn the language. Lisa Francis, a Conservative member of the Welsh Assembly, says she has given more interviews in Welsh than in her native tongue. All but two of her ten colleagues speak Welsh or are learning it.
Welsh-speakers tend to be middle managers or small-business owners. They are less likely to be found in the highest ranks of business and the professions, but they are also much less likely to be unemployed than monoglot English speakers. High demand means that they earn more, too. A recent study by Andrew Henley of Swansea University found that, after controlling for residence and education, Welsh speakers earned 6-8% more than the competition. Another study, for the Welsh Assembly, estimated the earnings premium at more than 10%. There is a message here for other linguistic nationalists, from the Quebecois to the Basques. Forget bombings and hunger strikes: to ensure the survival of a language, create a closed shop.
17 August, 2005
BRITAIN: RACIST COMMISSION FOR RACIAL EQUALITY
Just 76 of the 204 staff [37.3%] of the Commission for Racial Equality [CRE] are revealed to be `White' in the latest annual report of the œ20million quango. This continues a history of their gross under-representation in the organisation. For over ten years the CRE has failed to adopt `targets' to make itself representative of the broad population it serves, remaining determinedly institutionally racist. 77 of its staff are `Black or Black British', 30 `Asian or Asian British', while only one of its staff is recorded as of `Mixed background'.
The CRE's race and gender record keeping is also unacceptable. Despite its obsessive monitoring the latest annual report does not account for the racial identity of nine [4.4%] of its staff whose sex and grade is however known. It is nonetheless a substantial improvement on its 2001 annual report, which without any explanation failed to account for the race, sex or grade of 39 [18.3%] of its then 213 staff.
Liberty and Law director Gerald Hartup stated: "We should have the right to expect that our equal opportunities bodies are competent and practice what they preach. Parliament now needs to look critically at their activities and provide them with appropriate direction. Recommendations and investigations by the CRE cannot be taken seriously until it starts to put its own house in order"
The CRE has revealed that there is "under representation from certain ethnic groups" within its staff but will not voluntarily answer the straightforward question: which ethnic groups and by how much. Such an answer would provide a helpful guide to London employers about the racial profile they should aim for and would enable the CRE to be judged in the same way as the bodies that it investigates.
The CRE revealed minimal information to Liberty and Law Journal [LLJ] when asked on 25 July a straightforward question: The 2003 [Annual] Report also reveals "under-representation from certain ethnic groups" in employment at the CRE. Which are these under-represented groups? How under-represented are each of these groups according to CRE employment figures on which the conclusion of under-representation was reached? Your reply should allow me to see what the shortfall in numbers of each of these ethnic groups is and what their proportion of the total workforce should be.
The answer, which was came on 12 August was evasive. It said: The CRE uses Census 2001 - ethnicity and religion in England and Wales as well as the regional breakdowns to assess representation by ethnic group in our workforce. This information is available on the ONS website for you to compare with the CRE staffing numbers, which includes a breakdown by ethnicity, made available in our annual reports. LLJ is now forced to use the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act to uncover this basic information that the CRE will not otherwise provide.
EVEN THE NYT NOW SEES THAT MULTICULTURALISM HAS FAILED
Even if they produced no other positive result, the attacks on the London Underground have compelled Europeans of all faiths to think with new urgency about the Continent's Muslim minority. Such a reckoning was long overdue.... What Europeans are waking up to is a difficult truth: the immigrants who perform the Continent's menial jobs, and, as is often forgotten, began coming to Europe in the 1950's because European governments and businesses encouraged their mass migration, are profoundly alienated from European society for reasons that have little to do with the Middle East and everything to do with Europe. This alienation is cultural, historical and above all religious, as much if not more than it is political. Immigrants who were drawn to Europe because of the Continent's economic success are in rebellion against the cultural, social and even psychological sources of that success....
Tony Blair just proposed new laws allowing the deportation of radical mullahs and the shutting of mosques and other sites associated with Islamic extremism. But given the sheer size of the Muslim population in England and throughout the rest of Europe, the security services are always going to be playing catch-up....
The multicultural fantasy in Europe -- its eclipse can be seen most poignantly in Holland, that most self-definedly liberal of all European countries -- was that, in due course, assuming that the proper resources were committed and benevolence deployed, Islamic and other immigrants would eventually become liberals. As it's said, they would come to ''accept'' the values of their new countries. It was never clear how this vision was supposed to coexist with multiculturalism's other main assumption, which was that group identity should be maintained. But by now that question is largely academic: the European vision of multiculturalism, in all its simultaneous good will and self-congratulation, is no longer sustainable. And most Europeans know it. What they don't know is what to do next....
Figuring out how to prevent Europe's multicultural reality from becoming a war of all against all is the challenge that confronts the Continent. It makes all of Europe's other problems, from the economy to the euro to the sclerosis of social democracy, seem trivial by comparison. Unfortunately, unlike those challenges, this one is existential and urgent and has no obvious answer.
The case for assimilation
By distinguished Australian, John Stone
Since London's July 7 bombings, the federal Government has been under pressure to address Australia's rapidly growing Muslim problem. But it clearly still wants to avoid the real issues: the need to abandon outright our official multiculturalism policies and the need to sharply reduce, to the point of virtually halting, further inflow of people whose culture (Islam) is such that there can be no realistic hope of them ever integrating into Australian society.
Recently on this page (July 22), I proposed six measures to begin addressing those issues. Even as that went to press, further London bomb attacks were attempted. A retired senior ASIO officer (backed by the Federal Police Commissioner) now says ASIO knows of about 60 Muslims resident here who have received training in terrorist activities such as bomb-making.
Before I am accused of stirring up race hatred, the multiculturalism industry's invariable response when it lacks reasoned arguments, consider some figures. On July 22 I mentioned "roughly 330,000 Muslims in Australia today". That was based on the 282,000 self-declared Muslims in the 2001 census (81,000 more than in 1996). But the census religious affiliation question is optional; 1,835,000 people did not answer it in 2001. So 330,000 clearly understates the reality.
A YouGov poll among Britain's Muslims immediately after the July 7 bombings (London's The Daily Telegraph, July 23) found 6 per cent believed them fully justified. A further 24 per cent, while not condoning the bombings, expressed sympathy with the feelings and motives of their perpetrators. Some 32 per cent believe "Western society is decadent and immoral" and "Muslims should seek to bring it to an end".
If we (complacently) assume that Britain's Muslim problem is three times as bad as ours, then "only" 2 per cent of our Muslims would find London-type bombings here fully justified. Even on that understated 330,000 figure, that means 6600 murder-approving Australian Muslims. Likewise, another 8 per cent (26,400) will feel sympathy with the feelings and motives of those who, one day, will commit such atrocities here. On the same assumptions, more than 10 per cent (35,200) believe that Muslims should seek to bring our society to an end.
How do our multiculturalism apologists ignore such figuring? Even if they feel their own, typically comfortable lives aren't in much danger, don't they care about other Australians (for example, those using public transport) likely to be killed or maimed when calamity strikes? Don't they have children, or grandchildren, who will live in an increasingly Muslim-influenced Australia?
Here then are some more measures to help deal with the problem. First, cut back hard on giving welfare benefits to immigrants (genuine refugees excepted). The most powerful inducement to Muslim (and other) immigration into Britain has been the sheer munificence, for those involved, of social security benefits they receive. Anyway, why should Australian taxpayers foot such bills for those who, having chosen to live among us, then batten upon us?
Second, debar funds from any country that denies genuine religious freedom coming to Australian religious institutions. Saudi Arabia, whose oil moneys have funded fundamentalist Islamic mosques, schools and media outlets throughout the world, is the obvious example.
Third, the Australian Defence Force should be ordered to put more resources (and be given the necessary extra funding) into sealing our wide-open back door across Torres Strait from Papua New Guinea (the route taken, incidentally, by Peter Qasim seven years ago).
Fourth, government spokespeople, federal and tate, must stop bowing to political correctness and start calling ethnically based crime by its real name. The Sydney Morning Herald editorialists tut-tutting about such truth-telling should read their own Natasha Wallace's chilling report (SMH, July 22) on the horrific series of 2002 Ashfield gang rapes by four brothers of Pakistani origin.
Fifth, state governments (whose jurisdiction it is) should follow the Italian Government's recent lead and forbid the public wearing of identity-concealing garments such as the burka or the chador, which not only exclude Muslim women from society but can also cover bomb belts. If that were to deter Muslims from coming here, or induce some existing Muslim residents to go home, both results could be borne with equanimity.
Finally, make the 2006 census religious affiliation question compulsory. In short, we must fundamentally rethink our immigration policies and our official policies of multiculturalism (that is, non-assimilation). Our future immigration policy should focus on whether those concerned are capable of assimilating into an Australian culture shaped by, and part of, a Judeo-Christian Western civilisation.
Our outstandingly successful wave of postwar immigration clearly passed that test. Equally clearly, Muslim immigrants more recently have not. Australians generally, I believe, have had enough of this. If the Government won't deal with it, they will soon have had enough of it, too.
16 August, 2005
Green ribbons gimmick no substitute for catching hate criminals
Civil rights group Liberty and Law has condemned the decision by Nottinghamshire police chief Steve Green to ask his officers to wear green ribbons, the traditional colour of Islam, in his bid to show solidarity with Muslims suffering harassment after the London bomb attacks.
Director Gerald Hartup stated: "The chief constable has let his heart rule his head. His vocation may very well be as a pressure group organiser but his profession is still that of a police officer. He has no business pressurising his officers to make political statements. He should concentrate instead on catching hate crime perpetrators not grandstanding. We would expect ACPO to join with our political representatives in urging him to drop this ill thought out politically correct and counterproductive gimmick."
In the Chief Constable's press release he claims that wearing the ribbons is a way of showing "that not everyone is prejudiced or bigoted".
Mr Hartup added: "Police officers and the public will not appreciate his lack of confidence in the organisation he leads. Serving officers should not expect to have to wear badges and ribbons to prove to the public and to Mr Green that they are absolutely committed to protecting everyone from evil-doers."
Following the Chief constable's misguided initiative there will obviously now be two categories of police officer in Nottinghamshire: those who put on the green ribbons and those who do not. What consequences flow from this? Police officers who fail to wear the ribbons may now be thought by sections of the Muslim community to be at the very least unsympathetic to the problems they face and unprepared to make a simple gesture of sympathy and support. If such officers are a substantial number it may even be claimed as illustrating the racism of the police service. How long before a ribbon count and ribbon targets? Police officers may be asked in the street why they are not wearing the ribbon. Their response will be either to say it is a personal matter inviting the conclusion that they are off hand or to engage in what would be a political discussion in which they would need to express their political opposition to such initiatives. Has the Chief constable even considered this?
Not to wear the green ribbon will indicate at the very least a lack of support for the Chief Constable's initiative and even judgment. This may reasonably be expected to put unacceptable pressure on officers, especially senior officers, to toe the line. Will their careers be blighted by their independence?
Wearing of the ribbons by Nottinghamshire police may damage race relations in another way. They may easily be misunderstood as the politically correct favouring of Muslims compared to non-Muslims when dealing with claims of inter- community crime engendering the very backlash he is so clumsily seeking to oppose.
THE BRILLIANT SUCCESS OF CANADIAN MULTICULTURALISM
From Mark Steyn
There's an abandoned town in Labrador called Davis Inlet. An Innu community – that is, natives, of the Mushuau people, if you're big on who's who in the Great White North. About a decade ago Canadians switched on their televisions and were confronted by shocking images of the town's populace passing the day snorting drugs, glue, petrol and pretty much anything else to hand.
So, as any impeccably progressive soft-Lefties would, Her Majesty's Government in Ottawa decided to build the Mushuau a new town a few miles inland – state of the art, money no object, new homes, new heating systems, new schoolhouse, new computers, plus new more culturally respectful town name (Natuashish). Total cost to Canadian taxpayers: $152 million, which works out to about $217,142.85 for each of the town's men, women and children . . .
And the upshot of Canadian taxpayers' generosity? Two years after the new town opened, the former Mushuau chief and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police both agreed that there were more drugs, alcoholism and gas sniffing than ever before. Also higher suicide rates.
Gas sniffing is not a traditional native activity. Before the first European settlers came, the Mushuau did not roam the tundra hunting for Toyota Corollas to siphon the tanks of. That's a particularly perverse form of cultural co-mingling, but one in which compassionate white liberals seem determined to keep the natives mired. The Government showers native communities with money; there's no economic downside to sniffing petrol all day; and as everyone in Natuashish is driving around in brand-new pick-ups on roads that go nowhere you might as well use that full tank of gas for something.
The net result of 40 years of a caring policy intended to maintain communities in their traditional culture is that Canadian natives now have tuberculosis, diabetes, heart disease and brain damage at levels accelerating further and further away from those in society at large, not to mention lower life-expectancy, higher infant mortality and endemic suicide.
Canadian natives, as the most comprehensively wrecked minority on the continent, are a microcosm of everything that's wrong with multiculturalism. The premise of multiculturalism is that all cultures are equally valid, but of course that's bunk: some cultures are better, some are worse, some are successes, some are failures.
A very incorrect account of why there are so few women in the boardroom
The "glass ceiling myth
On average, women are rated as slightly better managers than men. Also, women better understand the female consumer's mindset. That's important because women make most purchases. So why are only 11% of Fortune-500 senior executives women? The standard answer is "glass ceiling," a term that evokes the image of a cabal of top male executives scheming to preserve an old boy's club. While vestiges of old-boy hiring may remain, most top executives at Fortune 500 companies are too worried about the bottom line to let any clubby cravings affect who they hire as senior executives.
The primary reason for the 11% figure is that men, on average, are willing to devote more time to their career. And time it takes. A study conducted by The Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs, found that the average CEO works 58 hours per week. Fortune 500 CEOs likely work even more. Unlike in typical media portrayals, few male senior executives spend much time hang-gliding. In the real world, here's how it more often plays out, as reported to me by my many clients who are male senior executives. Their exercise is more likely to be on a treadmill while doing professional reading. If he's married, when wife urges him to do more of the domestic chores and parenting, he is likely to say something like, "I want to rise to the top and you want me to, too. I like my work and you like our lifestyle. That requires lots of evenings and weekends. I spend as much time with the family as I can."
Most women make different choices. The October 10, 2004 lead story on 60 Minutes and the September 2003 New York Times Magazine story documented that a majority even of Ivy- and Stanford-educated female alumni did not work full time. Harvard Business School reports that only 38% of its female MBA graduates, during their childbearing years, work full-time.
Dr. Warren Farrell, author of the forthcoming book, Why Men Earn More (Amacom, 2005) found that a key reason men earn more than women is number-of-hours worked. In addition to providing abundant statistics, he interviewed a number of successful senior executive women. Each one stated that crucial to their success was their willingness to work longer than most women are. For example, When I interviewed Lillian Vernon, (of Lillian Vernon Corporation), she said, "Many people who dream about their own businesses and don't have one, are not prepared to work that hard-to think about their job while they're getting dressed, showering, waiting for somebody- to think of every minute as an opportunity."
Theresa Metty, senior VP at Motorola agreed, "Successful people don't see after-hour `demands' as demands, but as opportunities. The opportunity to surprise, invent, create."
All this doesn't surprise me. Having been career coach to 2,000 professional clients, 2/3 female, I know that more women than men prioritize work/life balance, wanting more time for family, home, friends, and recreation. In the privacy of my office, many capable, highly educated women who, in public, may mouth politically correct mantras decrying the dearth of women in the boardroom, admit that what they'd really like is to work part-time if at all, and only on a pleasant job, so they can have ample time for home, family, friends, etc. Far fewer women than men are willing to work 58+ hours a week and to take work home or do extensive after-work professional development activities during evenings and weekends.
Steven Rhoades, author of the new book, Taking Sex Differences Seriously, cites study after study indicating that the main reason most women want ample family time is their biological drive to have children and be the primary family caregiver. Feminist activists argue that is social conditioning by "the male hegemony." But if that were true, then why do women take on most family caregiving in every society from Iceland to New Guinea, in every era from ancient times to today, and in all political contexts from communist to capitalist? Women's desire to prioritize family caregiving is mainly biological predisposition, not cultural brainwashing.
Some women argue that it's men's fault that women don't spend more time at work. For example, Career Journal senior correspondent Perri Capell wrote, "If more women had men at home doing for them what women traditionally do for men, they might be able to stay at the office longer."
Fact is, many women don't do it for men. They do it for themselves. On average, it is women, more than men, who want to have children. So it is unfair of them to insist that the men share heavily in the child rearing. It is the woman, on average, who cares more about having lots of time with children (And the data doesn't support the importance of that--after controlling for socioeconomic status, quantity of time matters little. Quality of time does). Even many wealthy women, who could afford and have access to high-quality child care, choose to forego that so they can be with their children. If quantity of family time matters more to women, it is unfair for them to impose that value on their husbands.
And regarding domestic chores, most men aren't as concerned about a tastefully decorated and sparkling clean home. On average, women care more about this. It is unfair for women to force men to spend time on what the woman wants. If a man were to insist that a woman devote equal time to the things he cares about--for example, financial and tax issues, that fix-it/build-it project, or playing basketball, most people would think that unfair, selfish. Yet when women do it, we're expected to consider it reasonable.
I predict that if women--before they got married--informed their career-minded future husbands that they insist he fully share domestic and child-rearing responsibilities and that they don't expect to earn much money, many men would decide it isn't worth getting married. So, most women withhold those demands until afterwards.
A 2004 study by Catalyst, a women's advocacy organization, found that women aspire to senior executive positions at the same rate as men. But a woman (or a man) can't have it both ways. If she wants a moderate workweek, for the reasons I will outline below, she cannot fair-mindedly aspire to the boardroom.
Corporations, governments, and non-profits need plenty of good 20 to 40 hour-a-week workers, but not in the top spots. Here's why.
Imagine you were the CEO of a company and were considering two employees for a senior position. Candidate A had-over her or his 20-year career--worked 50 to 60 hours a week, and in spare time, made great efforts to keep upgrading skills. Meanwhile, Candidate B worked 40 hours a week, and in spare time, focused on family, home, friends, and recreation, and had taken years off to raise children-thereby losing professional contacts and currency with the latest information and technology. You'd almost certainly hire Candidate A. Fact is, more men than women are like Candidate A. That, and not a sexist glass ceiling, is the main reason why women represent only 11% of senior executives in Fortune 500 companies.
But let's say that you, the CEO, did what feminist activists advocate: install a family-friendly workplace that prioritizes work-life balance, and hired many women who had worked only 40 hours a week and taken years off to raise children. You might hire lots of people like Candidate B. If so, your company would likely go out of business.
Here's why. Your competitors would hire lots of Candidate A's. That would result not only in those senior executives--the company's more important people--being more productive, but their supervisees too. Dedicated, passionate leadership is infectious.
A company with such committed employees is an exciting, passion-filled place. The argument that working more than 40 hours a week is ineffective and leads to burnout is not true. What leads to burnout is meaningless or too difficult work in a passionless workplace, not additional hours of meaningful, doable work in a passionate environment. Some of the most alive people I know work long hours. The argument that working more than 40 hours a week leads to burnout is unsupported by sound research. Such rhetoric is a shoot-from-the-hip pitch that feminist advocates use to sell work-life balance to employers. We all know how being around dedicated people makes us more energized, not less.
A workplace with long, hard-working passionate people results in the company's products being better or more cost-effective, which makes thousands of people--the customers--happier. Aren't you grateful when your home, TV, car, etc., is wonderful, reliable, and didn't cost too much? Creating excellent products, in turn, causes a company's profits to grow, which allows the company to invest in more innovation, provides money to the thousands of shareholders who entrusted their savings to the company, and increases the sense of pride and passion among the company's employees.
Meanwhile, your employees, mostly Candidate Bs, zealots for work-life balance, in the short-run, will appreciate being able to leave work earlier than workers at your competitors' companies. When, in the middle of a brainstorming meeting, someone says, "Sorry, I have a parent-teacher conference. I have to leave," and you say, "Fine," everyone will smile at how family-friendly their workplace is. But inside, those with passion about their work will feel that passion just slightly diminished. Each such event-for example, every time an employee takes advantage of the Family Leave Act-- diminishes your workplace's passion just a little more. A number of your employees, who had taken years off to raise a family, are less up-to-date and lack current professional contacts. In the intermediate term, your employees will be working for a company in decline because their competitors, filled with more passionate, dedicated, more knowledgeable, better connected employees, are producing a better product. And in the long-term, such companies are far more likely to go out of business, leaving your boardroom with 0 percent women and 0 percent men.
The media's headline message is, "Hire more women and make the workplaces more family-friendly. Stop demanding that executives work 50 to 60 hours a week. Be more like France that mandates a 35-hour average workweek." The media is far less eager to trumpet the fact that despite France having a better educated population and 35-hour work week, its unemployment rate is more than twice the US rate and there's talk of changing the law. Advocating "family-friendly, work-life balance" workplaces will likely create different headlines a few years from now: "More jobs offshored to India. "More companies open new facilities in China." "Unemployment soars."
For the reasons stated at the outset, if I were a CEO, I would certainly want to hire women in senior positions, but only those with a proven track record of having put in long hours at work and in professional development, and who could be counted on to continue doing so. Those are the same criteria I would use to evaluate male candidates. Women, if you want to be considered for the boardroom, it doesn't cut it to say you're working smart so you needn't work long hours. There are plenty of men competing for those slots who work both long and smart. You can't have it both ways: either plan on working long and smart or accept a lower-level job in exchange for work/life balance.
There would be plenty of room in my company for women and men who want to work a moderate workweek, but not at the top. I don't care whether my executives have a y chromosome, but I want their priority not to be work-life balance, but rather, helping my company to ethically develop the best products in the world.
15 August, 2005
INCORRECT TO CALL OSAMA A BAD GUY?
A Punch and Judy man has been banned from using Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden puppets in his Kent seaside show. Thanet council told Brent Witts to take the characters out of his routine at Viking Bay, Broadstairs, after complaints from members of the public. "It was topical - it was a bit of fun, but someone did not care for that," said Mr Witts who cast Saddam and Bin Laden as the show's bogeymen. Council officials said they received complaints from concerned parents.
"We responded to those complaints by asking the puppeteer to remove the puppets," the council said in a statement. A spokeswoman said she was unable to say how many complaints were received.
Mr Witts said he put Saddam in the show as the villain who stole Mr Punch's sausages. Osama Bin Laden was cast as the devil. "The devil would come up and say, 'Am I the devil, or do I look a little like Osama Bin Laden?," he said. Mr Punch dispatched the baddies in time-honoured fashion by bashing them with his stick and Mr Witts said most of the audience enjoyed the joke.
Punch and Judy has traditionally poked fun at contemporary figures. "They used to have Mussolini in the show - they had Hitler in the show - that is the secret of Punch and Judy, it is topical," said Mr Witts. "The first thing the old Punch and Judy men did when they went to a new town was go to the pub and listen to the local gossip. "Say the mayor was being accused of having a rendezvous with a lady, Judy would kiss Punch and say, 'You are as passionate as mayor so-and-so'."
But Mr Witts said he was keen to get along with the council, which owns his pitch, and got rid of the characters when asked. "They asked me very nicely and I obliged them. "They work very hard to keep Broadstairs alive - they want the tourists to come and we want the tourists to come."
The "trans fat" panic is aiming at the wrong target
Trans fats. The term sends shudders down the spine. The fats show up in the worst foods - pies, doughnuts, cookies, chips. Some consumer groups call for them to be banned altogether. And on Wednesday, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the New York City health commissioner, comparing trans fats to toxic substances like asbestos or lead, asked restaurants to stop serving foods that contained them. New York City "deserves a medal," said Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that has warned against trans fats. "The evidence really indicates that there is nothing worse," he added. "Switching to butter, palm oil, anything else would be an improvement."
That, however, is not exactly the view of most scientists who have examined the data. The National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the Food and Drug Administration have all come to the same conclusion: Trans fats are on a par with saturated fats, like butter or lard. Both increase cholesterol levels and most people would be better off if they ate less of all of them. Period. "I call it the panic du jour," said Dr. David Kritchevsky of the trans fat fears. Dr. Kritchevsky is a dietary fat and cholesterol researcher at the Wistar Institute, an independent nonprofit research center in Philadelphia. Trans fat, he added, "is an easy whipping boy."
It is also an unsurprising one, said Paul Rozin, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies people's psychological relationships with the food they eat. While trans fat occurs naturally in foods like milk and meats, most trans fat in processed foods was created by chemically altering oils like corn oil, turning them into fats that add texture and stability. That means most trans fat is artificial, which causes many people to recoil. "Food is one of the areas where people think to leave it alone is better," Professor Rozin says.
For heart disease researchers, however, the question is not whether a food is natural but whether eating it increases the risk of heart attacks. They agree that trans fat raises levels of LDL cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease. But, they said, it makes no sense to focus on it to the exclusion of saturated fat, since Americans eat four times as much saturated fat as trans fat. "What's Public Enemy No. 1 with respect to cholesterol raising?" asked Dr. James Cleeman, coordinator of the National Cholesterol Education Program of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. "From a dietary standpoint, it's saturated fat."
That message is also in the dietary guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, which reads: "Population-based studies of American diets show that intake of saturated fat is more excessive than intake of trans fat or cholesterol. Therefore it is most important for Americans to decrease their intake of saturated fat." That may be, say trans fat's critics, but trans fat also slightly lowers levels of HDL, the so-called good cholesterol.
True, said Dr. Scott Grundy, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, but "we don't know if that's harmful or not." In fact, Dr. Grundy said, low fat diets also reduce levels of HDL, and they lower it much more than trans fat. "I think the dietary reduction of HDL is kind of in limbo," he said. "We don't know what it means and I wouldn't overplay it."
Some studies of populations have shown what appear to be weak associations between consumption of trans fat and increased risk of heart disease, independent of the amount of saturated fat in the diet. But Dr. Grundy and others said the association is not strong enough to serve as the basis for a public recommendation. As for New York restaurants, Dr. Cleeman advised them not to substitute saturated fat for trans fat. "That's not a help," he said.
Zero tolerance makes zero sense: "Imagine for a moment that you're a parent with a teenage son. He doesn't drink, but you know his friends do. You're also not naive. You've read the government's statistics: 47 percent of high school students tell researchers they've had a drink of alcohol in the previous 30 days. Thirty percent have had at least five drinks in a row in the past month. Thirteen percent admitted to having driven in the previous month after drinking alcohol. So, what do you do with regard to your son's social life? Many parents have decided to take a realist's approach. They're throwing parties for their kids and their friends. They serve alcohol at these parties, but they also collect car keys to make sure no one drives home until the next morning. Their logic makes sense: The kids are going to drink; it's better that they do it in a controlled, supervised environment. That's exactly what a Rhode Island couple did in 2004. When they learned that their son planned to celebrate the prom with a booze bash at a beach 40 miles away, William and Patricia Anderson instead threw a supervised party for him and his friends at their home. They served alcohol, but William Anderson stationed himself at the party's entrance and collected keys from every teen who showed. No one who came to the party could leave until the next morning. For this the Andersons found themselves arrested and charged with supplying alcohol to minors."
14 August, 2005
MORE CRAZINESS OVER RAPE
In the crazy world of PC, real rapists can get a slap on the wrist and consensual sex gets branded as rape
In Vermont, Sandra Beth Geisel would not be a rape suspect. Sex there between an adult and a 16-year-old is not a crime. But in New York State, the former teacher faces four years' jail if convicted of third-degree rape for having sex with a Christian Brothers Academy student. The revelation that Geisel, the estranged wife of a prominent local banker, allegedly had sex with at least four teenage students shines a light on a controversial area of law and social norms. Rape laws presume teenagers under a certain age - which varies from state to state - cannot offer informed consent.
In New York, people younger than 17 are victims of rape if they have sex with someone older than 21, regardless of whether it is forced or desired. Prosecutors say such encounters are inherently traumatic and likely to cause long-term harm. But interviews with experts, research on adult-teen sex and the Geisel case itself complicate that analysis, raising questions about the appropriateness of the very words at the heart of the case: rape, abuse, trauma, victim.
A US Department of Education report last year estimated 10 per cent of students were victims of what is called sexual abuse, which includes everything from suggestive remarks or leering glances to forced sex. It is not clear how often the perpetrators of such misconduct are women.
An Albany lawyer, Paul DerOhannesian, has more than 20 years' experience as a prosecutor, defence lawyer, consultant and textbook author on sex crimes. The public and media are too quick to sympathise with women who commit sex crimes, he said. "Many of the same dynamics are at work, regardless as to whether it is a male or female," he said. "Usually, it's individuals using a position of power to charm a child, providing a child with what they most want, attention or affection." Mr DerOhannesian said that young victims of sexual crimes still face psychological problems when they grow up. "Contacting them 10 to 15 years later, I've been struck by the intense betrayal they feel - shame and guilt," he said. "Both men and women."
Yet this anecdotal evidence is not supported by the most rigorous examination of the impacts of sex with adults on children and teens, a review of 59 studies published in 1998 in the journal Psychological Bulletin. The study found that victims of child sexual abuse, a term that includes consensual and forced sex of children and teens, tend to recover more quickly and have fewer long-term problems than is popularly believed. This is especially true when the victims are male: 37 per cent of boys characterised their experiences as positive even at the time they occurred. Fewer than one in 10 said their lives had been hurt when interviewed years later. The most harmful abuse, researchers found, typically takes place within the family and is accompanied by physical violence.
The type of sex crimes that are the least likely to lead to trauma, the study found, are precisely those that appear to have occurred in the Geisel case: the victims were boys, the encounters were not apparently forced, and the adult was not a relative.
Some authors and researchers say society should rethink how it deals with relationships between adults and teens. In her 2002 book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, Judith Levine argues sexual activity is not necessarily harmful to teens, even if it is with adults. Levine argues the criminal justice system is not the best place to deal with relationships between teens and adults. "Oftentimes, more trauma is caused by the legal prosecution and the media attention than the sexual experience itself," she said. Levine suggests the US instead adopt a child welfare model used by some European nations. Social workers and therapists determine whether such relationships are abusive, coercive or not wanted by the teenagers before prosecuting, rather than defining all such encounters as rape solely because of age difference. "It recognises that minors can have a chosen sex life, but it also recognises that they are vulnerable to sex exploitation," Levine said. "It seeks to protect them from harm."
THE INIMITABLE MIKE ADAMS HAS ANOTHER GO AT THE FEMALE CHAUVINIST SOWS:
Dear ASU Women's Center (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Hello ladies. I am writing to initiate negotiations for a legal settlement that I think will be in the best interests of ASU feminists. When I saw your website, I felt immediately sexually harassed as I read the following quotes:
"A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." - Gloria Steinem
"Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult." - Charlotte Whitton
"Sure God created man before woman. But then you always make a rough draft before the final masterpiece." - Anonymous
"If women are supposed to be less rational and more emotional at the beginning of our menstrual cycle when the female hormone is at its lowest level, then why isn't it logical to say that, in those few days, women behave the most like the way men behave all month long?" - Gloria Steinem
"Can you imagine a world without men? No crime and lots of happy fat women." - Nicole Hollander
"A man's got to do what a man's got to do. A woman must do what he can't." - Rhonda Hansoms
"Behind every successful man is a surprised woman." -Maryon Pearson
According to the examples of sexual harassment listed on the ASU website, you have clearly sexually harassed me and, in fact, every other man who has logged on to the Women's Center website. For example, ASU claims that "telling racist, sexist, homophobic jokes that demean people because of their protected class membership" is sexual harassment.
The only way that your website's feminist quotes cannot be considered harassment is by excluding men as a "protected class." However, the ASU website also says that sexual harassment can take the form of simply "stating that people of one sex are inferior to people of the other sex or can't perform their jobs as well as a result of their sex; labeling people and jobs due to sex or other protected class membership." The word "or" may be your biggest problem.
As you can clearly see, this is an open and shut case. You are all - according to your own examples - guilty of sexual harassment. And I am obviously a victim. Of course, I now want what all victims want. In other words, I want a lot of your money.
So, please, make sure that you send a check to the mailing address posted at the bottom of my website (www.DrAdams.org). And make sure that the amount is at least six digits. Otherwise, we may have to go to court and risk a lot of nasty media exposure.
13 August, 2005
NYC: MORE OFFICIAL FOOD FASCISM
About four centuries ago, England's greatest Queen -- Elizabeth I -- asked that great bureaucrat and religious tyrant, King Philip II of Spain: "Why cannot Your Majesty let your subjects go to the Devil in their own way?" She would find much cause to ask the same question today. Freedom of choice is forever under attack from arrogant "do-gooders" who would make all our decisions for us if we let them. I might mention that when I go shopping I deliberately look for groceries that are NOT "Lite", "Low" or all the rest of that BS -- on the grounds that the normal stuff generally tastes better.
The New York City health department urged all city restaurants yesterday to stop serving food containing trans fats, chemically modified ingredients that health officials say significantly increase the risk of heart disease and should not be part of any healthy diet. The request, the first of its kind by any large American city, is the latest salvo in the battle against trans fats, components of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which three decades ago were promoted as a healthy alternative to saturated fats like butter.
Today, most scientists and nutrition experts agree that trans fat is America's most dangerous fat and recommend the use of alternatives like olive and sunflower oils. "To help combat heart disease, the No. 1 killer in New York City, we are asking restaurants to voluntarily make an oil change and remove artificial trans fat from their kitchens," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city's health commissioner, who compared trans fats to asbestos and lead as public health threats. "We are also urging food suppliers to provide products that are trans-fat free."
It is far from clear how many restaurants will heed the call of Dr. Frieden, one of the city's most activist public health commissioners in a generation. A survey by the department's food inspectors found that from 30 to 60 percent of the city's 20,000 restaurants use partially hydrogenated oil in food preparation, meaning that thousands of cooks and chefs might need to change their cooking and purchasing habits to meet the request. Trans fats are particularly prominent in baked goods, frying oils, and breading, and can be hard to replace without raising costs or changing the taste of familiar foods like cookies and French fries.
While the health department will not seek to ban the ingredient outright, it has begun an educational campaign among restaurateurs, their suppliers and the public denouncing trans fats. In a letter sent to all food suppliers in the city last week, Dr. Frieden wrote: "Consumers want healthier choices when eating out. Our campaign will increase consumer demand for meals without trans fat."....
Denmark imposed a ban in 2003 on all processed foods containing more than 2 percent of trans fat for every 100 grams of fat. Canada is considering a similar ban. Government agencies in the United States have been less interventionist, largely relying on the industry to police itself. Outside of New York, the only effort of note was a campaign in Tiburon, a small town in Marin County, Calif., that led to 18 local restaurants ending the use of trans fats....
Among the alternatives available to replace partially hydrogenated oil, Dr. Angell said, are many common monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils like olive, peanut, sunflower and cottonseed oils. McDonald's and a few other fast food companies have pledged to use healthier alternatives to partially hydrogenated oils but have faltered in finding a solution that is both cost effective and that does not significantly alter the taste of their foods.
The city was careful to solicit the endorsement of the Restaurant Association before announcing its campaign, as well as the American Heart Association. However, many restaurant owners, workers and patrons interviewed yesterday greeted the city's campaign with some skepticism. The reaction of Karen Quam, a waitress at the Bridgeview Diner in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, was typical. "Labeling is as far as you want to go," she said. "You don't want to be telling people what to eat."
And if anybody thinks that current medical pronouncements are a sure guide to what people should be forced to do, just read this little excerpt from some recent medical history:
"Of course, medicine has also had many experiences that resemble the eugenics fiasco. For example, we recently went through the premature ventricular contraction (PVC) debacle. As a resident and a cardiology fellow, I was taught by master clinicians and clinical investigators that patients who had PVCs following a myocardial infarction were at increased risk for sudden death. Moreover, I was instructed that such patients should be treated with antiarrhythmic drugs such as quinidine in order to eradicate the PVCs. Although some retrospective analyses questioned whether quinidine therapy really saved lives, most practicing cardiologists accepted the "PVC hypothesis" and treated patients liberally with antiarrhythmic agents. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the National Institutes of Health sponsored a large, multicentered, randomized and double-blind trial, the Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial (CAST) in order to test whether PVC suppression really benefited patients with ventricular ectopy following a myocardial infarction. To everyone's surprise, PVC suppression with antiarrhythmic drugs actually was associated with a higher rate of sudden death or cardiac arrest than occurred in the placebo group. The publication of this trial led to a dramatic decrease in the use of antiarrhythmic drugs. The PVC hypothesis had been disproved!
The experience with the CAST trial is not unique. Many other examples of medical "common knowledge," so-called pearls, taught for decades and even generations, have been shown to be false. For example, each of the following pearls taught to me as a student or house officer has now been shown to be untrue: Don't give nitrates to patients with acute myocardial infarction; don't use beta blockers in patients with heart failure; tight control of glucose in diabetic patients is not beneficial; peptic ulcer disease is the result of stress; ST segment elevation myocardial infarction is always transmural in nature, and so on".
The Modern-day Red Indian Scare
I have deferred blogging on this issue because the whole thing is so wrongheraded that it was difficult to know where to start in saying anything about it. The use of "Indian" names by sporting teams clearly implies admiration of the strength, determination and bravery of the Indians concerned, so how can it be in any way demeaning to American Indians? Sporting teams don't call themselves "The Powderpuffs", "The Poofters" or "The Weaklings" do they? They want to convey by the name they use how admirable and formidable they are. So such names are in fact a great and generous tribute to the heroism and strength that America's native people showed in defence of their original way of life. How the sick minds of the Left can see it any other way continues to be beyond me. The article below from the Wall St Journal, however, covers a lot of the issues
European intellectuals have long complained of excessive moralism in American foreign policy, politics and attitudes toward sex--the lingering effect, as they see it, of our Puritan heritage. But if they want to spot the real Puritans among us, they should read our sports pages.
Last week, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced that it would ban the use of Native American team names and mascots in all NCAA-sponsored postseason tournaments. If a team turns up wearing uniforms with words like "Indians," "Braves" or similar nicknames the association deems "hostile and abusive," that team will be shown the locker-room door. Surely I was not the only reader who noticed that this edict came out of the NCAA's headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Already, one university president, T.K. Weatherall of Florida State, one of 18 colleges and universities on the Association's blacklist, is threatening to take legal action--and I hope he does. Florida State's athletic teams are called the Seminoles, and the university says it has permission from that tribe in Florida to use that name. Not good enough, counters Charlotte Westerhaus, the NCAA's new vice president for "diversity and inclusion." "Other Seminole tribes," she claims, "are not supportive."
One might suppose that any organization with an Office of Diversity and Inclusion would welcome mascots and team names reflecting the Native Americans among us. But no, the NCAA is on a moral mission--the less sensitive might call it a warpath--to pressure colleges and universities to adopt its standards for iconic correctness. Cheered on by moralizing sportswriters like George Vecsey of the New York Times, Jon Saraceno of the USA Today and the entire sports department of the Portland Oregonian, which will not print "hostile" nicknames of teams (e.g., it calls the Washington Redskins "the football team from Washington"), several member schools have already caved in.
Stanford was the first major university to drop Indians as its athletic moniker; that was 30 years ago, when group identities and sensitivities were the most inflamed. Stanford's teams are now the Cardinal, presumably for the color of their jerseys. But who can tell?--it may have hidden ecclesiastical connotations. Marquette changed from Warriors to Golden Eagles, despite continuing complaints from alumni who find it as difficult as I do to imagine why the Warrior image would offend any Native American. After all, their forefathers weren't wimps.
Perhaps the most craven decision was that of St. John's University, which changed from the Red Men to the Red Storm. In both its former and current names, "Red" referred to the color of the St. John's uniforms--not to Native Americans, of which there are very few in Queens, N.Y. The change is reminiscent of a decision by Cincinnati's pro baseball team, which changed its name from Reds to Redlegs during the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s.
Interestingly, the NCAA has made an exception for the Braves of the University of North Carolina-Pembroke because the school has a tradition of enrolling Native American students. Maybe this will clear the way for Dartmouth's Big Green to restore its Indian mascot and team name, Indians, which the school dropped in 1969. After all, Dartmouth was founded by Eleazar Wheelock, a Puritan minister, for the purpose of providing "Christianization, instruction and education" for "Youth of the Indian Tribes of this Land. . .and also of English Youth and any others." The college still offers a major in Native American Studies and since 1970 has graduated some 500 American Indians.
The NCAA, thank God, has no control over pro sports teams and their chosen totems. But among sportswriters there are voices that echo the same faux moralizing by demanding name changes from the Atlanta Braves, Golden State Warriors, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks and Cleveland Indians. In a typical column, Mr. Saraceno recently lamented the abject failure of "activists" to get Cleveland's baseball team to drop its logo, Chief Wahoo, which, he opined, "is probably the most outrageous, blatant symbol of racism in sports today."
I don't know where Mr. Saraceno was in the early '60s, when racism wore a human face. I was a civil-rights reporter in Nebraska then and remember visiting American Indian reservations where I saw kids wearing caps festooned with the Milwaukee Braves' logo and--yes--with Chief Wahoo. In 2002, Sports Illustrated published a survey of American Indians living on and off reservations. More than eight in 10 approved the use of Indian names and mascots for college and pro teams; a slight majority even approved of the clearly questionable "Redskins."
Moralistic sportswriters need to distinguish between Native American activists and paternalistic surrogates. In Cleveland, for example Mr. Saraceno's unnamed activists are primarily officials of the United Church of Christ, an ultra-liberal Protestant denomination that moved its national headquarters there from New York in 1990 and immediately began a campaign against the Indians and Chief Wahoo. As it happens, the church is the denominational descendent of the old New England Puritans, now committed to diversity and inclusion. I was raised in Cleveland, and these interlopers don't seem to know or care that the baseball team took its current name in 1915 to honor popular outfielder Louis Sockalexis, a Penobscot Indian from Maine who batted .313 lifetime. His teammates called him "Chief."
As a matter of policy, the NCAA now encourages schools to imitate the University of Iowa, which won't allow its Hawkeyes to compete against nonconference schools that "use Native American nicknames, imagery or mascots," although "Iowa," itself, is a tribal name. Where does that leave the University of Illinois--a school in the same athletic conference, the Big 10--whose teams are called the Fighting Illini and whose gridiron mascot is Chief Illiniwek? Illiniwek--the word signifies "man"--was the name of an Indian confederation that the French called Illinois. If "the Fighting Illini" is "hostile and antagonistic" in the eyes of the NCAA, must the university, too, change its name? And the state as well? What about North and South Dakota? Or community colleges in Miami, Cheyenne, Pueblo and Peoria--Indian names all--not to mention a city named Sioux? Where do embedded history and folkloric iconography end and negative stereotyping begin?
Here's a suggestion: If the NCAA and other latter-day Puritans are concerned about social prejudice, they ought to investigate Notre Dame. Surely the name for its athletic teams, the Fighting Irish, is a slur on all Irish-Americans. The label derives from anti-Catholic nativists who reviled the poor and mostly uneducated Irish immigrants who came to these shores in the mid-19th century--a drunken, brawling breed, it was said, who espoused the wrong religion. When the fabled Four Horsemen played football for Notre Dame, the team was called the Ramblers. In 1927, the university officially adopted the Fighting Irish, thereby transforming a pejorative nickname into something to cheer about.
If there are Native Americans who feel that Indians or Warriors or Braves is somehow demeaning, they might reflect on the Notre Dame experience. And if the NCAA really cares about diversity and inclusion, it ought to establish an office of Indian Affairs to help Native American athletes with collegiate aspirations. Meanwhile, all paleface Puritan surrogates, beginning with the NCAA, should butt out.
12 August, 2005
Is rape becoming politically correct?
In California it seems to be. What sort of sentence would expect someone who participated in a gang rape to receive? In Australia recently some gang rapists got 55 years -- much to public acclaim. In California last Tuesday, another gang rapist got only "time served" -- two months in jail. Political corredctness is always trying to reverse customary values but surely this is beyond the pale. Because the guy was aged only 15 at the time of the offence, we are not allowed to know his name but the case was reported in the Sacramento Bee of Wednesday just past. One hopes there will be an appeal against such a derisory verdict.
The only extenuating circumstances appear to be that the guy held the girl down while others did the actual intercourse and that his mother has died recently. It seems that anything will do to excuse rape in California. Excerpt:
"A 15-year-old boy who witnessed his mother's slaying five weeks ago was sentenced Tuesday in Sacramento Juvenile Court for his role in last year's gang rape of a 13-year-old girl. "It is your duty to monitor your son," Sacramento Superior Court Judge Kenneth G. Peterson told the boy's father, who assumed custody of his son after the slaying. The boy was sentenced to time served. He has spent two months behind bars in juvenile hall and seven months of home detention on electronic monitoring. He faced three years at the California Youth Authority.
The teen was convicted of vandalism, grand theft and false imprisonment arising from the Oct. 28 gang rape. Although the boy was present during the assault, and at one time prevented the girl's escape, the judge said the teenager had no "legal duty" to stop the others from gang raping the girl".
AN AMAZING DEFEAT FOR POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
But it's not quite over yet
On the 27th July 2005 history was made in Britain. For the first time in modern history the Race Relations Acts were held to cover the racial rights of White people who are members of the British National Party. This now means that any organisations or companies that discriminate against a member of the British National Party are guilty of anti-white racism. This includes the Police and the Government.
In the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Embankment, London before the President of the Appeals Tribunals in Britain Mr.Justice Burton the case of Arthur Redfearn v Serco was heard and history was made.
After suffering the debacle of an incompetent preliminary tribunal who initially ruled against him, Mr.Redfearn took his case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal. Arthur, a sitting councillor for the BNP and a driver for disabled children who is disabled himself, was sacked from his job by minions of the organisation Serco who employ 25,000 people across the country, under the duplicitous pretext of ' Health and Safety ', as far-left thugs linked to the Trade Union Council and Unison trade union, had threatened to throw bricks at his van as he was driving the children to work.
The Serco company then dismissed him from his employment. This set a very dangerous precedent. If this ruling had been allowed to stand it would have allowed companies with a white work force to dismiss ethnic minority people from employment if members of that white work force had threatened to cause violence at work or attack the property of the company itself if they did not dismiss the ethnic minority employees. White employers who did not want to employ ethnic minority people could then dismiss from employment ethnic minority employees from their companies on the grounds of Health and Safety and thereby bypass thirty years of the Race Relations Acts. This ruling could have been used by Muslim employers forced by law to hire white people to sack all white employees on the grounds that other Muslim employees had threatened to attack them. White employers could have said that a threat to them or their company justified sacking all black and Asian workers from the company.....
The decision of this tribunal was that the initial tribunal were incompetent in their deliberation of the case, that the case must go before a new tribunal who are competent to hear it, and that the legal rules and reasoning within the Appeal Tribunal decision must be adhered to by the new tribunal....
11 August, 2005
A VERY INCORRECT COMMENT ON THE WAR WITH THE ISLAMISTS
The lady who wrote this letter is Pam Foster of Pamela Foster and Associates in Atlanta. She's been in business since 1980 doing interior design and home planning. She recently wrote a letter to a family member serving in Iraq.
"Are we fighting a war on terror or aren't we? Was it or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on September 11, 2001? Were people from all over the world, mostly Americans, not brutally murdered that day, in downtown Manhattan, across the Potomac from our nation's capitol and in a field in Pennsylvania? Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a horrible, burning or crushing death that day, or didn't they?
And I'm supposed to care that a copy of the Koran was "desecrated" when an overworked American soldier kicked it or got it wet? Well, I don't. I don't care at all.
I'll start caring when Osama bin Laden turns himself in and repents for incinerating all those innocent people on 9/11.
I'll care about the Koran when the fanatics in the Middle East start caring about the Holy Bible, the mere possession of which is a crime in Saudi Arabia.
I'll care when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi tells the world he is sorry for hacking off Nick Berg's head while Berg screamed through his gurgling, slashed throat.
I'll care when the cowardly so-called "insurgents" in Iraq come out and fight like men instead of disrespecting their own religion by hiding in mosques.
I'll care when the mindless zealots who blow themselves up in search of nirvana care about the innocent children within range of their suicide bombs.
I'll care when the American media stops pretending that their First Amendment liberties are somehow derived from international law instead of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights.
I'll care when Clinton-appointed judges stop ordering my government to release photos of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, which are sure to set off the Islamic extremists just as Newsweek's lies did a few weeks ago.
In the meantime, when I hear a story about a brave marine roughing up an Iraqi terrorist to obtain information, know this: I don't care.
When I see a fuzzy photo of a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners who have been humiliated in what amounts to a college hazing incident, rest assured that I don't care.
When I see a wounded terrorist get shot in the head when he is told not to move because he might be booby-trapped, you can take it to the bank that I don't care.
When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran and a prayer mat, and fed "special" food that is paid for by my tax dollars, is complaining that his holy book is being "mishandled," you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts that I don't care.
And oh, by the way, I've noticed that sometimes it's spelled "Koran" and other times "Quran." Well, Jimmy Crack Corn and -- you guessed it -- I don't care!" -
"SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY" PIRATES
"Social responsibility" is now a movement, designed and defined to promote narrow political agendas, silence critics, tarnish corporate reputations, give companies leverage against competitors, and make up for power lost at ballot boxes or in union halls. Liberal foundations like Heinz, Pew and Soros help bankroll the movement - and labor bosses use pension funds for campaigns that don't always serve their members' best interests.
A number of companies actively promote CSR and "sustainable development." Others have capitulated to pressure groups like Rainforest Action Network, to buy "peace for our time" and garner fleeting accolades for acceding to activists' ethical precepts. The real danger, though, is that CSR's "ethical beacon" is actually more like the bonfires pirates once lit along Ireland's coast, to lure unsuspecting ships onto the rocks, where they would be plundered and destroyed. The verdict is still out on the movement's long-term effects on corporate ethics and viability, but its suspect moralizing has been amply demonstrated.
Campaign ExxonMobil employed street theater, shareholder resolutions, kangaroo courts and myriad accusations, in an attempt to force the oil giant to recant its skepticism about global warming and its continued investments in petroleum, rather than "ethical" and "responsible" technologies like solar power that impact vast acreage to produce expensive, unreliable energy. Proponents included ethical icons like the Anarchist Black Cross, Natural Resources Defense Council, Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies Ralph Nader's USPIRG, Monkeywrench Collective, Father Michael Crosby and UPROAR.
Next, the Foundation for National Progress and its Mother Jones tabloid pilloried the company for supporting public policy think tanks that dare to question catastrophic global climate change theories or point out that there is no scientific consensus on the issue. Exxon donated a total of $5 million to 18 such institutes, including several for which this author works part time. (The Congress of Racial Equality, for example, received $40,000 in 2003 - less than 2% of its annual budget.) By contrast, liberal foundations gave $23 million to just 11 major global warming advocacy groups in 2002.
The latest assault, ExxposeExxon.com, was launched recently by moveon.org, NRDC, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, the Pew Foundation's National Environmental Trust and others. They're upset that ExxonMobil still doubts cataclysmic global warming theories, supports development of huge potential oil reserves in Alaska, and continues to focus on its core business: petroleum.
ExxonMobil amply serves the needs of its customers, shareholders and employees. It invested $1 billion in renewable energy two decades ago, before doing so was fashionable. Its energy efficiency and pollution reduction programs have had "a greenhouse gas equivalent to removing over 1 million cars from the road" since 1999, according to company sources. It pours tens of millions of dollars annually into habitat preservation, malaria control, climate research, minority education and numerous other programs. By any fair benchmark, that's solid corporate social responsibility. But not by the skewed ethics of political activists, who seek to dominate the political arena, stifle debate, and control personal and societal choices on transportation, housing, heating, air conditioning, medicine and manufacturing.
Over the past century, changes in these sectors have been mind-numbing: from horses to automobiles and jet airplanes, from telegraphs to televisions and computers, from wood and coal furnaces to natural gas and nuclear, from typewriters to laptops and Blackberries, from bone saws to heart transplants. Every advance brings new efficiencies and requires new energy and mineral resources. Few would hazard a guess as to where our talents for innovation (mankind's ultimate resource) might take us next. But radical activists claim this progress is not "sustainable," that it violates the "precautionary principle." They routinely ignore the very ethical precepts that ExxposeExxon.com claims its coalition members revere: "protecting habitats," safeguarding consumers from "rising gasoline prices," and fostering "a more healthy and just world,"
The coalition and its allies demand that wind power replace petroleum, even though a single 555-mW gas-fired power plant (20 acres) generates more electricity annually than all 13,000 of California's wind turbines (106,000 acres). They battle wintertime drilling on Alaska's frozen North Slope and drilling anytime in US coastal waters and western states - preferring to see forests of 300-foot-tall wind turbines ruining scenic vistas and killing birds and bats by the tens of thousands. Their antipathy toward pipelines, refineries and LNG ports further helps create artificial shortages and drive energy prices skyward.
By obstructing hydroelectric, fossil fuel and nuclear power development in Third World nations, they keep 2 billion people permanently deprived of electricity - and of the safe food and water, quality medical care, good schools, economic productivity and other benefits that abundant, reliable, affordable electricity brings. US$1,500 will buy photovoltaic panels, batteries and regulators sufficient to power a small television, mini-refrigerator and dozen 20-Watt light bulbs, says Uganda-born Connie Miranda. However, such systems are beyond the reach of most African families, whose total annual income is a few thousand dollars - and they cannot possibly electrify modern hospitals, offices or manufacturing centers.
The radicals' even more strident opposition to biotechnology and pesticides helps perpetuate the rampant malnutrition and disease that these modern marvels could help prevent - saving millions of lives every year in developing countries.
The ExxposeExxon coalition's perverse ethics might in some way foster "a more healthy and just world" for them - but only at a huge cost to billions of the Earth's poorest people. That's why, as a former Sierra Club member, I agree with Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore: "the environmental movement has lost its objectivity, morality and humanity."
Perhaps the day will come when Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Barbra Streisand, Leonardo DeCaprio, Al Gore, Cameron Diaz, Ted Turner and their compatriots will "go native" and actually live, for even a week, in the squalid "indigenous" conditions they extol and perpetuate: live in Africans' mud huts, drink their contaminated water, breathe smoke from their wood and dung fires, endure their swarms of tsetse flies and mosquitoes, with no bug repellant - and walk 40 miles to the nearest clinic when they inevitably start convulsing and vomiting with malaria, in hope that a nurse can treat them with medicines that actually work. Until then, they are simply in no position to lecture ExxonMobil or anyone else about ethics or social responsibility
10 August, 2005
Cultures Aren't Equal
Anyone who has been keeping up with British opinion since the July 7 bombings will have noticed that "multiculturalism" is under sharp attack. Multiculturalism preaches that we should allow and encourage immigrants and their children to maintain and celebrate their own culture apart from the national culture. Society should be not a melting pot but, in the phrase of former New York Mayor David Dinkins, "a gorgeous mosaic." That mosaic, of course, looks less gorgeous as people surveyed the work of the British-born-and-raised bombers.
In the past, Tony Blair has spoken favorably about multiculturalism. But on July 7, he struck a different note. "It is important, however, that the terrorists realize our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause the death and destruction of innocent people and impose their extremism on the world." Sadly, the muticulturalist policies of Blair's Labor government and its Conservative predecessors gave refuge to preachers of Islamist hate in what some have called "Londonistan."
Even before the bombings that prompted second thoughts, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality said, "We need to assert that there is a core of Britishness," and the home secretary introduced English language tests for citizenship. Now, the Blair government has moved to expel Muslim clerics who preach hatred and terrorism, and the left-wing Guardian fired a writer who was a member of Hizb Ut Tahrir, a radical group that advocates a "clash of civilization" and urges Muslims to kill Jews.
Writers in other tolerant countries have been noticing the blowback from multiculturalism. The Dutch novelist Leon de Winter wrote that as traditional Calvinist discipline frayed and Muslim immigrants rejected Dutch tolerance, "the delicate mechanism of Holland's traditional tolerant society gradually lost its balance."
In The Age of Melbourne, Australia, Pamela Bone wrote, "Perhaps it is time to say, you are welcome, but this is the way it is here." The Age's Tony Parkinson quoted the French writer Jean Francois Revel's Cold War comment, "A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself." Tolerating intolerance, goodhearted people are beginning to see, does not necessarily produce tolerance in turn.
The conservative Telegraph of London ran a series of articles on extolling Britishness and placed on its website the contributions, positive as well as a few negative, of dozens of citizens. The nonagenarian W.F. Deedes, a journalist since the 1930s, perhaps summed it up best: "The reputation we have in distant lands, I have learned in my travels, is higher than we give ourselves. They admire us for our social stability, our parliamentary and diplomatic experience, for fair play, for tolerance, for a willingness to help lame dogs over stiles, as well as for some of the qualities Shakespeare sang about in his plays."
When I was in Britain for the election in May, I was surprised to hear nothing from Tony Blair (or other politicians) about Britain's positive contributions to the world. Now, they are being heard. Multiculturalism is based on the lie that all cultures are morally equal. In practice, that soon degenerates to: All cultures are morally equal, except ours, which is worse. But all cultures are not equal in respecting representative government, guaranteed liberties and the rule of law. And those things arose not simultaneously and in all cultures, but in certain specific times and places -- mostly in Britain and America, but also in various parts of Europe.
In America, as in Britain, multiculturalism has become the fashion in large swathes of our society. So the Founding Fathers are presented only as slaveholders, World War II is limited to the internment of Japanese-Americans and the bombing of Hiroshima. Slavery is identified with America, though it has existed in every society and the antislavery movement arose first among English-speaking evangelical Christians. But most Americans know there is something special about our cultural heritage. While Harvard and Brown are replacing scholars of the founding period with those studying other things, book-buyers are snapping up first-rate histories of the Founders by David McCullough, Joseph Ellis and Ron Chernow. Mutilculturalist intellectuals do not think our kind of society is worth defending. But millions here and increasing numbers in Britain and other countries know better.
Another Obesity Study Confirms: Risks Overstated
Food cops, trial lawyers, and pharmaceutical interests looking to write their own prescription for fat profits have hitched their wagons to obesity hype. But new research has again debunked the linchpin of unwarranted obesity panic -- the since-dismissed claim that excess weight leads to 400,000 deaths each year.
An article in this month's issue of the journal Gerontologist validates a key finding of the recent, and widely reported, study finding deaths caused by excess weight were overstated by 15-fold. Like that study, the Gerontologist report found that older people with a high Body Mass Index have essentially no greater mortality risk. The announcement accompanying the Gerontologist study noted:
This research supports recent assertions by the Centers for Disease Control that prior estimates of obesity's effects on mortality may have been over-estimated, since most studies of obesity do not account for its lesser effects on death rates at old age.
The Gerontologist study itself found for older individuals:
Obese men were 8.6 percentage points less likely to die than nonobese men ... while obese women were 3.5 percentage points less likely to die than non-obese women.
9 August, 2005
THE POINT OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS NOT TO HELP ANYBODY BUT TO PUFF UP THE LEFTIST
For Leftists, all evil is mass evil -- "systemic," "institutional" evil -- against which only they stand. Just look at how over these past decades American racism has contracted in practice (largely because of the revolt against government-imposed segregation) but exploded in Leftist theory. The "rape culture" has also become a "racist society." It's gone from bigotry being the province of an Archie Bunker to this being a nation of Archie Bunkers -- and worse. Contemporary America is routinely described by such figures as Julianne Malveaux ("two hundred million white racists"), Joe Faegin ("every major aspect of life [here] is shaped ... by racist realities"), and Maulana Karenga ("increasing racism and continuing commitment to white supremacy") in terms honestly applicable only to apartheid or Nazism. But it's a progression not without its own logic: The greater the evil of the social masses, the greater the good of the socialist elite.
And how to make that evil greater but by making it absolute, i.e., manifested in every possible alternative? Consider this in relation to one of the Left's more asinine projects: Is the purpose of "politically correct" Newspeak to construct a language free from bias? An intriguing answer can be found in the example of feminist "thealogian" Mary Daly. Using a sometimes-specific term in a universal sense (e.g., "the pseudo-generic 'man'") will earn an accusation of sexism, while using only universal terms (e.g., "human") will draw an accusation of deliberately trying "to avoid confronting the specific problems of sexism." No matter what language a person uses, the Left reserves the right to condemn it for bias -- and to damn him as evil.
(And to exempt itself from any standard. After all, if not to "gender angle" the tragedy of violence, why speak of only a "rape culture"? What about other acts of violence against women -- robbery, assault, murder? Has it anything to do with the fact that these, too obviously, are also crimes against males?)
Even the economic inequality of the market substantiates the moral superiority of the Left, since the latter is the singular good that will vanquish the evil of the former. "Greed," like rape and racism, is judged yet another evil spreading throughout society. And the greater the evil of the social masses, the greater the need for the good of the socialist elite. "What you need," reveals Catharine MacKinnon, "is people who see through literature [!] like Andrea Dworkin, who see through law like me, to see through art and create the uncompromised women's visual vocabulary." While the Left condemns the free market for a division of labor based on ability and the alleged concoction of "false needs," its own politics centers on the dire need of the endarkened masses for axiological experts.
It is precisely the mechanics of this moral elitism that produces a superstructure of political elitism, the coercive rule of self-appointed experts, which is what every socialist government to date has been. What the Left has always condemned "capitalism" for most profoundly is its legal egalitarianism, its "formal equality" -- that is, its granting of political equality to moral unequals. In such a society, a Catharine MacKinnon has no more power than anyone else to censor others. Would-be Lenins and Maos and Castros are reduced to the Man on the Street. Each citizen controls his own property, and no cete of socialists is authorized to redistribute that wealth according to any scheme.
From Liberty Corner
A common complaint from the Left about the Right (especially the religious of the Right) is that the Right seeks to impose its moral values on everyone. I don't know about that, but I do know that the Left -- with help from the Center -- has been imposing its moral values on everyone since the 1930s. Among the moral values revealed by the Left's political successes and present agenda are these:
* Murder is wrong, except when it is committed against the unborn, the newborn, and other defenseless persons.
* It is better to allow innocent persons to be victimized than to execute dangerous criminals or put them away for good.
* Theft is wrong, except when it is committed by the state in the name of "compassion" (i.e., taking from the productive and giving to the unproductive) or for any "public purpose."
* Discrimination is wrong, except when it is committed against white males (soon to be white, heterosexual males).
* Two wrongs don't make a right, except when the aforementioned discrimination is committed in the name of rectifying "injustices" by discriminating against white (heterosexual) males who had no hand in the "injustices."
* People should be free to live their own lives, except that they shouldn't be able to smoke in "public" places (i.e., privately owned businesses), decide with whom they will do business, decide how to run their own businesses, send their children to schools of their own choosing (unless they pay extra for the privilege), and on and on, into the night.
* War is wrong -- even though it saved Europe from Hitler -- and large defense budgets are wasteful and provocative -- even though they brought an end to the Cold War.
* Free speech is a paramount value, except when it comes to politics, business, and non-Leftish opinions on campus.
* I've got mine, now we can impoverish those who don't have theirs, in the name of environmentalism.
The question for the floor is this: How on earth can the Left and its fellow travelers claim to be offended by the Right's putative insistence on imposing its morality on everyone else? The Left's moral obtuseness is of a kind with its refusal to admit "liberal bias" in the media.
8 August, 2005
BAD NEWS FOR THE FOOD FASCISTS
The UK government's annual survey of our eating and drinking habits has got alarm bells ringing. Apparently we're eating worse and boozing more. But another look at the statistics reveals many reasons to be cheerful. Family Food in 2003-04 is the product of expenditure diaries kept for two weeks by nearly 17,000 people in 7,000 homes selected as a representative sample of British households. The diaries record what every person in each house over seven years of age spends on food and drink.
Coverage of the report has been less than positive. 'Fears over food and drink habits', reported BBC News, noting that sales of alcohol to be consumed in the home have risen nine per cent in a year, while sales of fruit and vegetables appear to have fallen slightly.
'People are choosing microwaveable and ready-meals because they want something easy', said Ursula Arens of the British Dietetic Association, warning that 'these do not have the nutritional content of fresh fruit and veg'. Professor Tim Lang, head of food policy at City University, told The Times (London): 'This is very depressing. The government wants to tackle obesity but at this rate of improvement, large numbers of the population are going to die prematurely.'
But just because the population has failed to meet government targets on what we should eat does not mean we are eating badly. For example, the report notes that the number of calories consumed in the home continues to fall. In 1974, average calorie intake was 2,534 per day. By 2003-04, it was 2,077. Even taking into account the increase in food eaten outside the home, the report suggests that average calorie consumption has fallen significantly. At the very least, the assumption that we are eating a lot more than we used to needs to be questioned.
Nor is it true that we are eating crap. The report provides a breakdown of the nutrients consumed. With the exception of a couple of minerals (magnesium and potassium), the average person is more than meeting his or her daily requirements for protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. This is true not only for the population as a whole but even for the poorest fifth of society.
The quantities of fruit and vegetables being bought have risen. The average weight of fruit and veg, excluding potatoes, per person per week has risen from 1,868 grams in 1974 to 2,269 grams in 2003-04. Moreover, the kinds of fruit and veg we consume have changed as the variety available has expanded, along with the periods of the year when they are available. In 1974, 'squash' would have been a diluted fruit drink, not a vegetable - and 'kiwis' were New Zealanders, not fruit.
The main victim of this increasing variety in our diets has been the humble and much-maligned potato. According to the report's figures, potato sales seem to have fallen by 38 per cent since 1974, although this has been matched by a rise in processed potato products.
As for the rise in alcohol consumption, it's worth noting that it is the wealthiest sections of society who are spending the most. Far from suggesting an unhealthy dependence on alcohol, this indicates that a more affluent society is enjoying more wine with their meals, or keeping a few cans of beer in the fridge. It's hardly Sodom and Gomorrah.
The government's attempts to get us to change our ways have been an abject failure. The 'Five-A-Day' campaign, even with the helpful support of food producers and retailers, has made little difference to our fruit and veg consumption - but it has convinced many healthy people that their otherwise satisfactory diets are killing them. The result has not been behaviour change but fatalism, a belief that eating and drinking what we like might cause us harm.
The irony is that the campaign is unnecessary. Quite apart from the fact that life expectancies continue to rise, it is clear from Family Food that we are eating and drinking better already - not because of the exhortations of ministers and health professionals, but because we have a bit more money in our pockets and a more interesting selection of things to spend it on.
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS BORES THE YOUTH
Even this far-Leftist can see that
The hinge point in the evolution of the campus left to its risible status today is the tight embrace of identity politics and political correctness in the mid-'80s. The transformation of the left into a mouthpiece for every sort of cultural grievance, whether legitimate or not, had two major consequences: It wedded the left to university administrations, rendering hollow its claims to be an antiauthority movement, and it precipitated the establishment of "speech codes" and similar abominations that constricted free expression. Could the original advocates of speech codes have foreseen the right's embrace and utilization of the principle of limited speech that they legitimated?
From that point on, it was only a matter of time before the left lost the imaginative empathy of the largest number of students. To call this a tactical error would be to miss the point; it was a severe moral error, a betrayal of the free-speech movement and the related causes that motivated the radicalization of students in the first place... .The student right has positioned itself as a representative of insurgency and rebellion. Its alchemy of substantively reactionary politics and an outwardly counter-institutional mode of expression might seem hard to pull off, but keep in mind that the left's more-or-less conscious abandonment of the mantle of antiauthoritarianism coincided neatly and unfortunately with the reframing of the right as a populist movement. The populist repackaging of the Republican Party was the work of a small, exceedingly well-organized conservative bloc that seized the argumentative ground that the left had conceded by virtue of its Pyrrhic victories in the fights over political correctness... .
A YOUNG CASUALTY OF AMERICA'S LITIGATION FRENZY
Sometimes an early start can help, but it doesn't always make the first part of the road toward success any less bumpy. Ben Bustard, 17, found that out this week when he tried his hand at selling homemade toys at the Bangor State Fair. The budding entrepreneur from Bucksport came up with the $100 he initially was told he needed for $1 million worth of liability insurance, but he shut his booth down Tuesday after the projected cost rose to several thousand dollars. "It's frustrating because it's a product that I know sells really well," Bustard said Tuesday afternoon. Bustard was selling Marshmallow Shooters, a type of blowgun made from PVC pipe that shoots small marshmallows, similar to the way a cork flies out of the end of a popgun.
He said that last Friday, the first day of the fair, he made about $700 by selling 70 of the toys for $9.95 apiece. Fair officials initially let Bustard sell the homemade items while he was waiting for insurance approval. After failing to get insurance through a rider on the city's policy, and then finding out his business could not be insured through his parents' homeowner policy, Bustard was faced with either paying a $5,000 premium for his own policy or having to close his booth. He chose the cheaper option. "As a high school kid, I can't afford a $5,000 premium," he said.
Mike Dyer, director of the city-owned Bass Park, where the fair is held, said Tuesday that the shooters were not on the city's "do not insure" list, so he sent it to the city's insurer for approval. The insurer, however, determined that a rider for Ben's business on the city's policy was not acceptable. "It's the ultimate business lesson," Dyer said of the experience.
According to Bustard's father, Ken Bustard, the insurance cost was aggravated by the type of device his son was selling. Benjamin came across the shooter design on the Internet and, after building one, decided it would be a popular thing to sell, the father said. "The challenge is that it is not an established product," Ken Bustard said. "The insurance thing made the whole thing impractical." Benjamin bought the PVC piping in bulk, went through the necessary licensing paperwork, and invested $2,000 in making 500 of the toys, according to his father. He hoped to gross $5,000 over the nine days of the fair. "He would have done well," Ken said. "He would have averaged 100 or so [sales] a day."
Benjamin said that "99 percent" of the response to his product was positive. After shutting his booth down Tuesday, he took a shooter with him when he visited a friend at a local hospital, where again the device proved to be a hit. "Now I have nurses asking to buy some," he said. The young businessman plans to do more research on insurance companies to see if he can find one with a cheaper premium. He also plans to sell his remaining inventory by word-of-mouth and maybe at other upcoming fairs. "It was difficult [to shut the booth down]," Ken Bustard said. "People really liked it."
7 August, 2005
Note: I often post here articles that defend freedom of expression for Christian viewpoints. Yet I am an atheist. You see I really DO believe in free speech and the desirability of diversity in thought, unlike the hypocrites of the Left who believe in the same freedom of speech that Stalin believed in: "Freedom to agree with me"
LEFTIST INTOLERANCE OF DIVERSITY ON DISPLAY AGAIN
The events described below are an example of how to the Left only "correct" attitudes and opinions are permitted. All expression of other views must be censored and stamped out
Vandals trashed a controversial church display. More than a thousand white crosses protest abortion in front of the Ascension Lutheran Church in Waterloo. But some didn't take the message lightly. Quietly...more than 1,500 white crosses stand in front of Ascension Lutheran Xhurch. But the message is loud and clear. Pastor Tom Jahr says, "It's not a statement against anyone, it's a statement telling a story of the babies we'll never get to see."
Each cross represents five babies who died from abortion each day in the U.S. Busy University Avenue is close by. The pastor thought it was the perfect place for a powerful protest. All the crosses were set up by 10:00 Friday morning. By noon, every single one was knocked down. "We can't figure out exactly why. Somebody just came out and started kicking," Pastor Jahr says. At least 300 were taken down. Their signs were knocked over too. All that was left...a note. "Says this is private property, you can't set up on private property, please remove immediately," Jahr says. He says he's frustrated because it is church property and he's not breaking any laws. He says the crosses are part of a traveling display sponsored by "Lutherans For Life."
Jahr never expected to be targeted by vandals. "Some decidedly are uncomfortable even with anybody taking a stand against abortion. Like we're taking away their rights or something." He says he will not call the police. Church members will just put the crosses back up. "I know it's a hot button issue. It's one our society is struggling with. If we turn to God's word, it simply says this is life."
The crosses will be on display at Ascension Lutheran Church in Waterloo until next Thursday. Volunteers will put the fallen crosses back up Saturday morning
Christianity faces secular antagonism -- or is it fear?
Sometimes, the world seems a little crazier than usual. It's clearly one of those times. For example, a high school brass band in Columbia in the US has been told it can no longer practise Christmas tunes that mention Jesus, even though the songs are all instrumentals. Meanwhile in Tennessee, primary school children have been banned from reading Bibles during recess after a complaint from atheist parents. And, in Milwaukee, a man has been sacked from his Chamber of Commerce job for wearing a cross on his lapel that could "offend" non-believers. In England, a local council ordered the removal of a wooden cross from a crematorium chapel for fear of offending non-Christians. And hospitals in England and Canada moved to remove Gideon's Bibles from patients' bedside tables to "control infection" and also because "the patients might not all be Christian". Meanwhile, Students in Scotland voted to ban the Bible from the halls of residence at Stirling University because they thought the book's presence might bother followers of other religions.
Of course, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists in Western nations seem less offended by such things than politically correct secularists. In the name of respecting all religions, a new form of secular hostility against Christianity has emerged. Speaking at a conference on religious intolerance this month in Spain, the head of a Vatican delegation called on Europe to halt spiralling anti-Christian discrimination. Archbishop Antonio Canizares said: "This must be combated with the same determination with which we combat anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims."
Christians have found some unexpected allies in their fight against discrimination. One of the more powerful is the US-based Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, led by Jewish author Don Feder. Members span the spectrum from orthodox to secular Judaism, but are united in their determination to support "our beleaguered brothers and sisters in the Christian community". Feder recently said: "What I consider an epidemic of anti-Christian bigotry and persecution is something that has concerned me for a long time. Particularly pernicious is the idea that it's legitimate to base your politics on anything except religion," he said. "You can say that my politics are based on the views of Karl Marx or Ayn Rand or Jane Fonda and that's OK, but as soon as you say your world view is based on the Bible, that's considered an illegitimate basis for embracing certain political views."
A number of orthodox Jews felt compelled to attend a recent demonstration in downtown Los Angeles to protest the removal of a small Christian cross on the county's seal. "Jews have rarely appealed to the Christian community in vain when we needed help with issues important to us, such as supporting Soviet Jewish immigration or fighting domestic anti-Semitism, " one demonstrator, author Judy Gruen, said. "Those of us who came to the demonstration just wanted to return the favour".
Hostility towards Christians is often aided by public ignorance. Surveys show that many people don't trust Christian leaders. But why should they? They've been reading the Da Vinci Code fiction and marvelling at its "historical insights". They're happier to swallow a half-baked Renaissance religious conspiracy theory than to examine the grand possibilities. They cannot imagine a Second Coming that would not be cut down to size by the TV evening news. John Lennon once predicted that "Christianity will go". Many still believe that.
You have to wonder then why so many secularists are upset by the presence of Bibles. No one is forcing people to read them. Perhaps because, as Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy said, Christianity, with its doctrine of humility, of forgiveness, of love, is incompatible with the state, with its haughtiness, its violence, its punishment and its wars.
And why does the name of Christ offend so many? Maybe because it is a most powerful name. The earliest followers of Jesus have turned the world upside down because their hearts had been turned right side up. French emperor Napoleon said: "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."
Freedom of speech takes a fall in Australia
By Michael Duffy. Duffy is referring to a Professor (Andrew Fraser) in an Australian university (Macquarie) who wrote a letter to a newspaper that was critical of immigration from China and Africa. The professor has now been forbidden to teach. For additional background see Chris Brand
The Andrew Fraser affair is not the first time an attempt has been made to stop discussion of race and IQ at Macquarie University. It also happened when I was a student there in 1977. The British psychologist Hans Eysenck was visiting Australia to talk about the subject, and had already had a lecture stopped by demonstrators at Sydney University. At Macquarie the university administration, to its credit, made sure the talk went ahead. That was in the days when its security guards were used to protect free speech, not suppress it.
We often hear that tolerance is a - perhaps the - central Australian value. But its meaning tends to shift depending on the issue at stake. Recall the slogan "All animals are equal" in Animal Farm. In the closing pages of George Orwell's book, this receives the qualification "but some animals are more equal than others". Likewise with tolerance, some views seem to be more tolerable than others.
Intellectuals have generally been tolerant of extreme views on the left. At Macquarie I studied a course called Marxism, run by people who appeared to believe in it. At least one was a member of the Communist Party of Australia, dedicated to the overthrow of our social system by force. This situation was public knowledge, by no means unique to Macquarie. It was deeply offensive to the many Australians who'd suffered at the hands of communist regimes, but it was generally tolerated on the grounds of free speech.....
Many of those who've commented on this affair have said or assumed that Fraser's views have no intellectual credibility. But is this right? In 1994 in America the book The Bell Curve appeared. Authors Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray argued, like Fraser, that Asians have higher IQs than white people, while black people have lower ones. The book became a controversial bestseller in the United States and led to enormous public debate. Many experts, including Howard Gardner and Stephen Jay Gould, disagreed with the book. But many others supported its views or acknowledged they were based on reputable research. According to Wikipedia, these included 52 professors who signed a letter to The Wall Street Journal, and a taskforce of the American Psychological Association. It's interesting that America, where race is a big issue, was able to have this debate, while Australia cannot.
Many years after Eysenck's visit to Macquarie I met him, and asked why he was so drawn to controversial research. He said it was intellectually productive because it forced him to reconsider basic assumptions, in this case the nature of IQ testing, the extent to which any IQ differences are the result of nature or nurture, and whether anything could be done to narrow gaps between average racial IQs if these were found. (At that stage he was looking at the role of nutrition.) He added that as opponents can't know the consequences of research or of the discussion of its findings, their opposition might actually hurt the people they're trying to protect. Hence any moral argument for the suppression of debate needs to be questioned in its own terms and in relation to academic independence.
Fraser says Tim Sprague, Macquarie's director of human resources, told him last week that the university was a business that needed to attract foreign students. This is certainly true: 31 per cent of all its students, and according to Fraser more than half the full-time ones, are fee-paying. (The university did not respond to my query for the exact full-time figure.) Fraser says Sprague told him his comments on immigration were interfering with the university's capacity to attract these students, most of whom are Asian.
Macquarie's vice-chancellor, Di Yerbury has denied that Sprague had said this and said, "our earnings from international education have not been part of our thinking on this matter". Nor was there any wish "to stifle debate on campus". She also said that if Fraser had agreed to resign, as the university wanted, this would have given him "even more opportunity, not less" to exercise his right to free speech. And they say the art of satire is dead!
6 August, 2005
A FAINT GLIMMER OF SENSE IN THE MARIBEL CUEVAS DISGRACE
It's the twisted California police who should have been disciplined for a grossly inappropriate reaction to a little girl defending herself against a gang
An 11-year-old girl who threw a rock at a boy during a water balloon fight escaped jail time on a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge after lawyers worked out a deal in the emotionally charged case. Maribel Cuevas was ordered Wednesday to meet with her young victim and talk about the fight under the deal - reached on the same day the girl was to stand trial in juvenile court. She did not have to plead guilty, and the charges will be dismissed if she stays in school and keeps out of trouble.
Maribel spent five days in juvenile hall and a month under house arrest after throwing a 2-pound rock at 8-year-old Elijah Vang, cutting his forehead after he pelted her with a water balloon in April. The gash required Elijah to receive stitches.
Police responded with three cars while a helicopter hovered overhead, and said they arrested Maribel for resisting arrest and scratching an officer's arm. Police described the rock as "jagged" and measuring 5.5 inches by 3.75 inches. Top brass on the force defended the response, but others took up Maribel's cause, saying it was no way to treat a childish crime. Supporters gathered outside the court, chanting "Free Maribel," and singing "We Shall Overcome."
As she awaited her hearing, the girl dressed in pink sweat pants, a white sweat shirt and pink flip-flops was handed a bouquet of flowers. Maribel's father, Martin Cuevas, said after the proceeding that his daughter was not a criminal and had acted in self-defense. "I think everything will be fine," Martin Cuevas said in Spanish. "This way she'll be able to stay with my wife and me and go to school normally." As part of the agreement, the two children, with their parents present, will talk about what happened. The girl's lawyer said his main goal was to prevent her from pleading guilty to a crime. "They did not require any admission of wrongdoing, and once that obstacle was removed, the case was settled appropriately," said defense lawyer Richard Beshwate Jr.
Elijah's family, which has since moved away, declined to press charges, but were prepared to testify for the prosecution. Chief Deputy District Attorney Michelle Griggs said her office decided to proceed without a trial because of the girl's age and because the Vang family wanted the matter resolved so they can return to their neighborhood "in a way that is safe so all these children can coexist together."
Kimberly Nystrom-Geist, a court commissioner who presided over the hearing, said the order requiring Maribel and Elijah to talk about what happened "would be the most appropriate resolution to this matter. It allows Maribel to go back to the neighborhood and make amends." Fresno's mayor and police chief have said Maribel's case was handled appropriately, and that assault with a deadly weapon was the proper charge for an act that might have had deadly consequences. In a statement issued shortly after The Associated Press published a story about the case, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer defended his department's decision to arrest the girl and seek a felony charge in the Juvenile Delinquency Division of Fresno County Superior Court.
In an interview Wednesday, Dyer stood by the actions of his officers. "It has always been our intention to ensure that the right thing is done. The right thing is not always the popular thing," he said, adding the department has nearly completed its internal review. "If we truly love our children we need to hold them accountable," he said. [Sanctimonious rubbish!]
WHITES ONLY NOT ALLOWED TO BE PROUD?
"If you are looking for more evidence that the United States government is biased against white people, you can add their decision in my trademark case. In February, 2004, I applied for a trademark on the words "White Pride Country Wide." I did it as an exercise against political correctness. I intentionally did not choose "white power," "white supremacy" or "the white race" because of the negative connotations of those terms. Trademarks can be denied to offensive phrases.
When I later searched United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) records, I found that "Black Power," "Black Supremacy," and "La Raza" (Spanish for "The Race") had all been approved by the USPTO and been found not to be offensive. The USPTO had also approved and registered "The Black Panther Party" and "Burn, Baby, Burn," the party's slogan. The Black Panthers had assassinated white police officers but neither term was found to be offensive or immoral. To me, "white pride" was a non-offensive, positive term, or at least I thought so.
On December 23, 2004, I received my Christmas present from the USPTO. In an Office Action prepared by Barbara Rutland, it denied my trademark, ruling that the "white pride" part of my request was "offensive," "immoral," and "scandalous." Here are her very words:
"Section 2(a) Refusal
"Registration is refused because the proposed mark consists of or comprises immoral or scandalous matter. Trademark Act Section 2(a) U.S.C. 1052(a); TMEP 1203.01. According to the attached evidence from a Lexis/Nexis database and a search of the Internet using the search engine www.google.com, the "WHITE PRIDE" element of the proposed mark is considered offensive and therefore scandalous."
On January 1, 2005, I decided to appeal the USPTO decision, but not before doing some research. I found that that the following "pride" terms have all been registered as trademarks by the U.S Government: "African Pride," "African Man Pride," "Asian Pride," "Bahama Pride," "Black Pride," "Brazilian Pride," "China-Pride," "Chippewa Pride," "Choctaw Pride," "Colombian Pride," "Cuban Pride," "Dakota Pride," "Dominican Pride," "El Salvador Pride," "Ecuador Pride," "Gay Pride Apparel," "Guyanese Pride," "Havana Pride," "Honduran Pride," "Indian Pride," "Jamaica's Pride," "Jewish Pride," "Kwanzaa Pride," "Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride," "Mayan Pride," "Mexican Pride," "Native Pride!," "Nicaraguan Pride," "Orgullo Hispano" (Hispanic Pride), "Orgoglio" (Hispanic-'Great Pride' (supremacy?)), "Qisqueya Pride" (Dominican Republic Pride), "Rainbow Pride Coach," "Red Pride," "San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride," "Spanish Pride," and "West Indian Pride."
The factual evidence for my appeal was overwhelming, or at least I thought so. It seemed as though the federal government wanted everybody to have pride, except white people. It seemed to be a clear case of discrimination.
USPTO denies appeal
In February 2005, the USPTO issued their "FINAL OFFICE ACTION." It was again prepared by Barbara Rutland. The USPTO upheld its original denial, explaining: ". prior decisions and actions of other trademark examining attorneys in registering different marks are without evidentiary value (emphasis added) and are not binding upon the Office."
In plain English, the USPTO was saying that their own records cannot be used against it. Imagine a taxpayer being audited by the IRS. Could he sit back and say, "Go ahead, audit me, but you can't use my records against me"? I lost my $1,300 non-refundable trademark application fee.
ACLU denies assistance and adds insult
My next step was to seek outside help from the Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). I sent a brief letter to the ACLU-MN summarizing my case and asking if they were interested. They initially said they were willing to review the case, so I sent them pages of documentation. I thought I might have a chance since the ACLU prides itself on defending the rights of the little guy. I am white, male, heterosexual, married, employed, native born, English speaking, Christian-valued, have no criminal record, and am a retired law enforcement officer. I could be the perfect "token" case outside their mainstream clientele, or at least I thought so.
In March 2005, the ACLU not only turned my case down but took the opportunity to slam white people and Christians. Renee Hamilton, legal assistant for the ACLU-MN, wrote: "Thus, when the PTO examined Moritz's mark, their rejection of his mark was reasonable given that such a slogan has just but one meaning i.e. superiority of what he term (sic) `the white race' over all other races and their brand of Christianity over the other religions."
The ACLU was fully aware of all the other "pride" trademarks I had listed in my documents. If a "pride" trademark had been turned down for any group of people, other than whites, the ACLU would be in court screaming "Discrimination by the United States Government!"
Center for Individual Rights (CIR) provides assistance
My next step was to seek help from the Center for Individual Rights. They are the conservative response to the ACLU. They are political opposites but much smaller than the ACLU. I corresponded with the CIR through mail, email, and telephone conversations. In June 2005, the CIR politely and professionally declined my request for help, but because of monetary, not ideological considerations.
The CIR did help by putting my case on the Federalist website, a conservative site where attorneys can take pro bono cases. As of August 2005, I had not received any responses"
5 August, 2005
RELIGIOUS VILIFICATION CLAIM DISMISSED
The Australian State of Victoria seems to be unique so far in having laws that forbid religious vilification. Britain however seems to be on the brink of following suit. In 2004 a prosecution of two Christian pastors under the Victorian law held that even quoting the Koran was vilification of Muslims! The idea of Islam as a self-condemning religion is certainly an interesting one but nonetheless seems an extraordinary basis for punishing non-Muslims. That case, however, is still to go to appeal. See here for a full discussion of it. In the meantime, another case under the same laws has been decided which gives some confidence that sanity has not entirely vanished from the legal system. A "Wiccan" had claimed that the teaching of Christianity vilified him. His case has just been summarily dismissed by the senior judge of the same tribunal that convicted the Christian pastors. Below is an excerpt from a media report of the latest case
"A senior Victorian judge has called for changes to the state's contentious religious vilification laws. Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal president Stuart Morris's comments came as he dismissed as preposterous a lawsuit launched by a convicted sex offender and self-proclaimed witch. Prisoner Robin Fletcher claimed the Salvation Army's Alpha Christianity course, offered in jails, discriminated against him on the ground of his Wiccan religion. Fletcher is serving a 10-year sentence for drugging, enslaving, sexually assaulting and prostituting two 15-year-old girls.
Justice Morris yesterday summarily dismissed Fletcher's claims against the Salvation Army, Corrections Victoria and course distributors CMC Australasia, saying they were "nowhere near the mark" of religious vilification. He called for the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act -- under which Fletcher filed his claim -- to be amended to limit people's right to launch a lawsuit. "I recommend that consideration be given to the amendment of the Act to require a person seeking to pursue a claim before the tribunal to obtain the leave of the tribunal before the proceeding is initiated," Mr Morris said. "The question as to whether leave should be given should be decided on the papers."
Source of the media report is here. The full text of the decision is here (PDF). There is a more extensive examination of the legal implications of the latest decision here
NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTARIANS DOING THEIR BEST TO GET THE SUBWAY BOMBED
There is a new legal challenge to the city’s effort to prevent terrorist attacks. A group is now suing over searches of subway riders.The suit is being filed on behalf of four subway riders. Two of them had their bags searched in late July and two others who chose not to have the search. One of them thought that police would harass him because of the political materials he carried inside of his bag.
The suit is demanding that the random searches be stopped immediately. “Its our view that this search policy is illegal. It violates the constitutional right to privacy, that people don’t have the right to search people if they haven’t done anything to arouse suspicion,” said Donna Lieberman of the NYCLU.
The lawsuit is expected to be filed in Manhattan’s federal district court this morning and does not directly accuse the police of intentional discrimination in the two-weeks of searches. However, it does claim the searches violate the Constitution in two ways, the fourth amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures and the 14th amendments guarantee of equal protection under the law.
A good comment: "We're terrorized by political correctness in U.S. In response to the recent terrorist bombings in London, New York Police Chief Ray Kelly has announced that security on the subway system will be increased to include the random searching of bags and backpacks. He bent over backwards to explain that there would be "no racial profiling,'' but rather, a numerical system like checking 1 out of 5 or 10 persons with such bags. If, heaven forbid, Manhattan was irradiated for the next 1,000 years, I'm sure it will be of comfort to the former residents that the terrorists who slipped through the security were young Arab males, but they were numbers 7 and 8 in the screening process and, thus, were not checked. This is as silly and dangerous as Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's pronouncement after 9/11 that a young Arab male would garner no more suspicion from airport security than a 75-year-old grandma.When political correctness really does kill us, who will the liberals blame? George Bush, of course".
4 August, 2005
Multicultural Britain is not working, says Tory chief
Faint glimmerings of intelligence from Britain's political class
Muslims must start integrating into mainstream British society, says David Davis, the shadow home secretary and front-runner to take over the Conservative leadership. Writing in The Daily Telegraph today, Mr Davis signalled a significant shift away from the policy of multi-culturalism, which allows people of different faiths and cultures to settle without expecting them to integrate. Often, the authorities have seemed more concerned with encouraging distinctive identities rather than promoting the common values of nationhood," Mr Davis writes.
His call for a rethink of the approach to immigrant communities came as Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, sought to reassure British Muslims that they were not being deliberately targeted by the Government's anti-terrorism powers. After meeting Muslim leaders in Oldham, Miss Blears said the use of stop and search powers by police had to be "intelligence-led" and carried out in a non-discriminatory way. "The counter-terrorism powers are not targeting any community in particular, but are targeting terrorists," she said. Her remarks represented a retreat from her earlier support for Ian Johnston, the Chief Constable of British Transport Police, who said young Asian men should be targeted and police should not waste time "searching old, white ladies".
Miss Blears received a mixed reception at the start of a tour of Asian communities. Riaz Ahmad, an Oldham Labour councillor, said he was glad there was no intention to "demonise" the Muslim community. But Zahid Maqbool, the editor of a magazine for Asian youths, said not enough attention was being paid to the views of young Muslims.
Mr Davis's call for an end to multiculturalism is an indication of a fundamental rethink under way within the political parties and government over relations with the Muslim community after last month's suicide bomb attacks in London. Although Tony Blair has rejected calls to restrict the growth of separate Muslim faith schools, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, whose Blackburn constituency contains a large Asian community, said Muslim religious teachers and Islamic schools could be licensed.
Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, said few politicians yet appreciated the sense of anger and alienation felt by many Muslims in Britain. He said the London suicide bombings were "totally explicable" because of the deep sense of anger over the Iraq war, a wider despair about the Islamic world and what Muslims saw as a "decadent" western society. However, Miss Blears said there could be no justification "for people blowing themselves up and murdering hundreds of other people".
Mr Davis argues today that questions must be asked about how the "perverted values" of the suicide bomber were allowed to take root. He says Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, was right to call multiculturalism outdated. "We should learn lessons from abroad, for example from the United States, where pride in the nation's values is much more prevalent among minorities than here," he says. "Above all, we must speak openly of what we expect of those who settle here - and of ourselves. "Let us be clear. Non-Muslims have obligations to their Muslim fellow citizens - to strive for equal opportunities for all, to accept the mainstream version of Islam as a part of society and to reject the vile racism of the BNP and its like. "But Muslims in turn have obligations: not simply to condemn terror, as one Labour MP put it, but to confront it." He praised the Government's response to the London bombings and promised Tory support for tougher laws to catch and convict those preparing terrorist acts or inciting extremism. Mr Davis calls for the establishment of a new border control police force to secure Britain's "porous" borders.
The process of granting British citizenship should be reviewed. It is "totally unacceptable" that one of the alleged bombers was given a British passport despite having a long record of bad conduct, including time in jail. Mr Davis repeats the Tory call to review the Human Rights Act.
THE BLOOMBERG IDIOCY: WHEN CORRECTNESS BECOMES VERY DANGEROUS
The fact is that political correctness could easily become the death of us all because of stupid politicians. The latest idiocy comes from New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg who recently told WABC Radio host John Gambling during an interview, "I think if we've learned anything, it is you can't predict what a terrorist looks like." Yeah, right. And you can't predict that someone's a gang member by the colors they wear, right Mayor? Incredible.
He went on to say that the terrorists come "in all sizes and shapes and forms" and that profiling Middle Eastern men wouldn't be "fair". Not fair? What about everyone else that is at risk from this demographic? Now of course I'm not suggesting that all young men of Middle Eastern extraction are terrorists - the vast majority are not, but the fact remains that in today's world, virtually all terrorist acts are committed by that very group.
Down here in the South, we have an old fishing adage that says simply, but eloquently, that you go fishing where the fish are biting. Put another way, going anywhere else is a waste of time if you want to catch fish. The same is true with apprehending and preventing terrorists - it makes no sense whatsoever to spend time searching little old blue haired ladies when they're not the ones flying airplanes into buildings, setting off explosives on subways and the like.
I recall a recent trip taken by myself, my wife and my mother-in-law during which we were pulled out of line at the airport by security and were all summarily patted down and forced to remove our shoes. I even had to undo my belt so they could examine the buckle (a standard one, not some big knocker like those worn by bikers - mine wouldn't have hidden a toothpick, much less a knife). All of us are white, by the way - and my mother-in-law is over 60 and walks with a cane due to knee and back surgeries. While we were being inspected, at least two-dozen Middle Eastern types walked straight through without being pulled. I guess that would be Bloomberg's idea of being "fair" - sure couldn't risk offending those Middle East folks now, could we?
What astounds me is the complete lack of logic in all of this. If it were middle-aged white men who were committing the majority of terrorist acts, I would understand and indeed, expect to be profiled. Profiling is the only effective approach of trying to make us all safer and makes perfect sense when you're trying to solve or prevent a crime.
Politicians like Michael Bloomberg need to learn that while fishing where the fish aren't biting is a harmless waste of time, taking that approach on a matter as grave as terrorism is both foolhardy and suicidal.
3 August, 2005
THE POPE SEES CANADIAN REPRESSION FOR WHAT IT IS
In the conclusion of Cardinal Ratzinger's lecture, now Pope Benedict XVI, delivered on April 1st, the eve of John Paul II's death, the then Cardinal strongly denounced the European Enlightenment culture and its increasing dogmatism against religion, Christianity and freedom. The Cardinal expressed his belief that the reasons given by the architects of the EU Constitution for excluding God from the document-that the mention of God or recognition of the Christian roots of the continent might offend those of other religions-doesn't hold up under scrutiny.
"The affirmation that the mention of the Christian roots of Europe injures the sentiments of many non-Christians who are in Europe, is not very convincing, given that it relates, first of all, to an historical fact that no one can seriously deny.It is not the mention of God that offends those who belong to other religions, but rather the attempt to build the human community absolutely without God," said the Cardinal.
Instead, Ratzinger continued, it is obvious that the exclusion of religion from the public sphere is rather the result of the imposition of Enlightenment dogma, which dogma falsely professes the ideals of freedom and tolerance. Indeed, one of the inevitable consequences of what Ratzinger called the `Culture of Rights', as divorced from its Judeo-Christian roots, is that "the concept of discrimination is ever more extended, and so the prohibition of discrimination can be increasingly transformed into a limitation of the freedom of opinion."
"Very soon," said the Cardinal in a chilling prophesy that is already coming to fulfillment in many Western nations, including Canada, "it will not be possible to state that homosexuality, as the Catholic Church teaches, is an objective disorder in the structuring of human existence."
According to Ratzinger it is "obvious that the ill-defined or undefined concept of freedom, which is at the base of this culture, inevitably entails contradictions.A confused ideology of freedom leads to dogmatism, which is showing itself increasingly hostile to freedom."
Ratzinger concluded by expressing his strong doubt that the Enlightenment culture will ever provide a common cause for men. "We have to ask ourselves," says the Cardinal, "if it is really complete in itself, to the degree that it has no need of a root outside itself." The implied answer, of course, is no, the Enlightenment culture without the firm foundation of Europe's roots in Christianity can only devolve into a pseudo and dogmatic religion, ultimately restrictive of freedom.
Britain's female chauvinist sows: A civil rights group has criticised the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) for failing to include information about the sex or race of its staff in its 2004-5 annual report. Last year’s annual report revealed that male representation at the EOC last year had fallen to a new low of 16.4% of its staff of 152, but the EOC was unable to provide any up-to-date figures this year. The commission said the figures are in the public domain. It is not known at present whether failure to publish these figures in its annual report puts the EOC in breach of the Race Relations Act or the Sex Discrimination Act. The EOC describes itself as “the leading agency set up to tackle sex discrimination” and that “it is committed to challenging discrimination in all its forms and at all levels of society". But Gerald Hartup, director at civil rights group Liberty and Law, contested the view, claiming that the EOC has refused to commit itself to a target to overcome the “institutional sexism that has characterised it since its inception”. “How can business and HR professionals take seriously a body whose own arrangements put it at the bottom of the equal opportunities league?” he said. “The EOC, unfortunately, illustrates perfectly the problem it purports to solve.”
2 August, 2005
In the previous essay, I mentioned the school-prayer dispute down in Louisiana. The Tangipahoa Parish school board, as well as some other people like a principal and a teacher, may face contempt-of-court charges if the local ACLU has its way. A federal district court issued a consent decree forbidding various types of prayers in the Tangipahoa public schools, and the ACLU has claimed that there have been numerous violations of this order. The alleged prayer outlaws include a teacher (Pamela Sullivan) who not only prayed in class but ran illicit Bible studies outside of class; and a principal (George Covington) who permitted a student to give a prayer at a school event. The ACLU wanted the judge to bring contempt proceedings against the prayer outlaws, including possible "criminal contempt" proceedings. Another teacher, Arda Johnson, was accused of sponsoring a prayer and then covering up her role in the prayer....
Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, the Louisiana prayer case has some new developments. Responding to the ACLU's claims of contempt, the school board told the court of the results of an investigation it conducted into alleged instances of contempt of court, including the alleged prayer and Bible-study incidents. Mrs. Johnson, said the Board, had not intended to violate the consent decree. Mrs. Sullivan was violating school policy but was not violating the consent decree, which arose out of a dispute over prayers at sporting events, not prayers and Bible study in the classroom. Mr. Covington has allegedly been reminded of his duties under the consent decree. Principal Covington hadn't sponsored the prayer at the school event (an awards banquet). A student with the appropriate nickname of "Rebel" had told Covington that he ("Rebel") would say a prayer, and Covington let him do it. That didn't make Covington responsible for the prayer, which was the act of an individual student.
In its response, dated June 28, the Louisiana ACLU ripped into the Board for allegedly whitewashing the wrongdoers. Mrs. Johnson, it said, had violated the consent decree "in a clandestine manner" with the cooperation of some school board members. Mrs. Sullivan had violated the consent decree, which was broad enough to apply to her Bible study group, not just to sporting events.
As to Principal Covington, the ACLU seems to acknowledge, at least for argument purposes, that the student nicknamed "Rebel," acting true to his name, who took the initiative in giving his prayer. "Rebel" just decided to say an invocation, told Covington he was going to give one, and then gave it. Responding to this, the ACLU takes on the unaccustomed role of an old codger criticizing school authorities for not taking a harder line on those punk schoolkids: "According to the Board, `Robert E. Bel, III ["Rebel"], ... informed Principal Covington that he would give the invocation.' If that is how it occurred, one is compelled to ask: who is running the school - Mr. Covington, the principal, or Rebel, the student?" Principal Covington should have laid down the law and ordered Rebel not to pray.
To properly deal with the alleged contemnors, the ACLU wants the court to impose "a serious civil fine, sufficient to get both the contemnors' and Board's attention."
By calling a fine "civil," the ACLU and the courts think they can pretend they're not engaged in a criminal prosecution, and therefore the right to a jury trial doesn't apply. But the same consideration applies here as in the case of imprisonment. If a fine is suspended on condition that the defendant behave in a certain way, how is that difficult from a judge in a criminal proceeding imposing a suspended sentence?
Turning to Principal Covington's case, we have here a great illustration of the value that a jury trial would have for people charged with contempt. If Covington had a jury to whom he could argue his case, he could innocently declare, "what would you have wanted my client to do - *censor* a student? Violate a student's freedom of speech? Impose a prior restraint? Why, such a thing would be contrary to the principles of students' rights, a subject on which the ACLU itself has published an entire book! Such an argument might have a great appeal to unsophisticated jurors, who may have the simplistic idea that "student free speech" isn't a monopoly of long-haired stoners who want to use swear words, as the ACLU seems to believe, but is also the prerogative of young men and women who wish to engage in public prayer.
THE LOSING BATTLE WITH ISLAM THAT MUST NOT BE MENTIONED
So far, anyway. The article below is from two months ago but the recent London bombings tend to vindicate it
When David Selbourne flew into America recently, he had good reason to feel he had arrived in the land of the free. His new book, The Losing Battle with Islam, was featured at New York's Book Expo, the US publishing industry's trade fair last week, after it failed to find a British publisher. One glance at the title and it is easy to see why. The Losing Battle With Islam is a blistering critique of the West's response to Muslim militancy. Publishers in London were far too "pusillanimous" and "PC" to take it on, says Selbourne indignantly. But in America, a nation with greater "intellectual vigour", Prometheus Books stepped into the breach and it will be published in September.
The manuscript has already been circulating in intellectual circles in "samizdat" form and it may yet find a British publisher now the Americans are leading the way. But the big brush-off is a prime example of Selbourne's thesis that westerners are displaying a misplaced and muddle-headed sensitivity to Muslim feelings that is not always reciprocated.
I caught up with him in Washington, where he was meeting think-tankers, policy makers and opinion-formers. "It's a relief to talk to people who are engaged in this matter," he sighed. "This is the front line of what matters in the world." He feels the non-Muslim world is ignoring at its peril the challenge posed by a resurgent Islam.
Controversy comes naturally to Selbourne, a veteran of ideological and cultural wars. He used to teach at Ruskin College, Oxford, the trade union college, and was assumed to be a man of the left until he began writing about the breakdown of civil society and morality in essays and books such as The Principle of Duty.
He is wary of libertarianism and the cult of the individual and considers Milton Friedman, apostle of the free market, to be the "evil genius of our age". With such views, he was always going to be at odds with the Thatcherite right. Yet his arguments against loosening the bonds of family and community led him to be labelled a reactionary sell-out by the post-Sixties left.
Selbourne's holiday home in Italy became his refuge and, eventually, his permanent base: "I needed a cordon sanitaire between me and the seething world of competitive English intellectuals." From there he remains engaged in the war of ideas in the English-speaking world, eagerly scanning British and American newspapers and magazines on the internet and fighting every ideological battle as if the barbarians were at his gate. "I consider myself to be highly progressive," he says with a touch of indignation and weariness. "I consider it highly progressive to be against fascism and there are elements of Islamic society which are fascist. People are cowed, and it has to be resisted."
In Italy last week, in an attack on free speech, the veteran polemicist Oriana Fallaci, author of the bestselling The Rage and the Pride, a diatribe against the West's alleged cultural surrender to Islamists, was ordered by a judge to face trial on charges of defaming Islam, a sign of the ferocity of the ideological warfare now under way.
With his white beard and gentle voice, Selbourne has the mild manner of a don. He considers himself to be a dispassionate, highly sensible voice of reason but he also has the intellectual force of a flame-thrower. In his new book he scorns some Muslims for "taking liberties" with Britain - supporting attacks on the West by Islamists while expecting that their own "civic and other entitlements will be met in full".
But much of his criticism is reserved for the West, which is only too eager to flagellate itself for its alleged shortcomings while rushing to understand its opponents' point of view (the Newsweek imbroglio over the alleged desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay detention base, a story it later withdrew, is just the latest example). Even in America, "the political class has lost confidence in itself", he complains.
The American imperium, Selbourne argues, "is in a state of confusion". Its time will pass, just as Rome, Byzantium and the British Empire fell away. The West is losing the battle against Islam for the "same reason the British lost the American colonies. They had insufficient forces, their counsels were divided, and they underestimated their opponents".
Selbourne dates the reawakening of the Islamic world to the Suez crisis and the outbreak of Arab nationalism in the 1950s. He has been studying the phenomenon and building up an archive of material stretching back for decades. In the 1980s he travelled to Afghanistan - then the training ground for Islamic militancy-- and a decade later visited Kosovo, where he saw that the viciousness of Serbian racism had met its match in the spiritual confidence of Muslims.
When some British Muslim leaders backed Ayatollah Khomeini's chilling fatwa against Salman Rushdie and an Islamic conference in Bradford endorsed Iraq's call for a "holy war against western forces" in 1990, Selbourne sensed that these were not one-off aberrations but signs of a profound cultural shift.
More -- much more -- here
1 August, 2005
METHODISTS PUT HOMOSEXUALITY AHEAD OF THE BIBLE
A pastor who denied church membership to a homosexual has been banished from the pulpit and denied his salary for one year by the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, despite the admission he acted on his conscience and his action could be defended "in theory" from the Methodist Book of Discipline. Rev. Edward Johnson, former pastor of South Hill United Methodist Church for the past six years, will appeal his suspension to the denomination's highest court in Houston in late October. The action leading to the pastor's "involuntary leave of absence" was initiated by Rev. W. Anthony Layman, retired district superintendent for Johnson's region in rural Southside Virginia, following Johnson's December refusal to allow a homosexual man to join his congregation.
Layman told United Methodist News Service he and other conference officials "did all we could do to help [Johnson] see the inconsistency of his stance in his ministry" before filing a complaint against him in April. "I was trying to show him the church was open to receiving [the member]," Layman said. "He, in turn, relied on his interpretation of the scriptures." Layman's complaint to a denominational board resulted in a recommended one-year suspension for Johnson. The Virginia Conference approved the recommendation for punishment on June 13 by a 418-114 vote, with eight abstentions. "For me, this was the last recourse," Layman said. "Johnson had two opportunities to receive the person into membership himself or allow the associate pastor to do it. He would do neither. It was this act of insubordination that put him on notice." "Our Social Creed says that we as a church would not ordain homosexuals, but they have the right to be received in membership," Layman said. "The church supports homosexuals as part of the congregation and as persons of definite worth. "Johnson has deep beliefs around this issue," Layman said. "He is a man of integrity who is living out his conscience."
The Methodist Book of Discipline directs congregations that membership cannot be denied to anyone based on "race, nationality, economic condition or status." According to Carole Vaughn, director of communications for the Virginia Conference, Johnson could "in theory" use his own judgment in deciding whether "status" applied to homosexuals.
During the June disciplinary session, Bishop Charlene Kammerer was questioned as to whether it was lawful for a pastor to "receive into the membership of a local United Methodist church anyone who is able to receive the vow, affirm the vow and promises to fulfill the vow, and who, at the same time, acknowledges and impenitently practices homosexual relations?" She did not answer the question directly, but, according to the minutes, said the bishop and superintendents were charged with giving guidance, as they had done in Rev. Johnson's case. Kammerer also was asked if the language in the Book of Discipline gave "Johnson the right and responsibility to exercise responsible pastoral judgment in determining who may be received into church membership of a local church." According to the minutes of the meeting, Kammerer ruled "negative in this case."
By suspending Johnson, noted Vaughn, the church's leaders were vetoing the pastor's decision. "In a layperson's terms, it would be sort of like being temporarily suspended," she said. Gary Creamer, a member of Johnson's South Hill church, is standing behind his former pastor and says many other members are as well. "I feel Rev. Johnson was holding to biblical principle in denying membership to that individual," Creamer told VaNCNews. "I feel extremely sad and grieved. I feel a terrible injustice was done." Creamer said the homosexual man at the center of the dispute had been attending the church for some time and sang in the choir. "This person was never discouraged from coming to church. That would be un-Christian. However, actual membership would be another story," he said. "The church is not upholding the biblical principles outlined in Leviticus, 2 Timothy and Corinthians about homosexuality and the sins thereof," he added. "I cannot see how you can take Holy Communion and openly practice that lifestyle. The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. Now everybody sins, but we like to think that everybody who is a member of the United Methodist Church is attempting to repent of their sins. Openly practicing homosexuality is not an attempt to repent of sins, in my opinion."
The decision to suspend Johnson was done without taking the local congregation into account, said Creamer. "I just feel like the congregation as a whole was ignored," he said. "I don't think anyone had any idea of the gravity of what was going on." Bishop Kammerer confirmed Creamer's complaint the congregation was excluded, saying clergy matters are not subject to local congregations' input. "He is accountable to the annual conference as a clergy member. He is not subject to any one local church," she said. "As Rev. Johnson's bishop, I wish he and his family well and pray for healing in the life of the congregation in South Hill." Johnson could, Kammerer says, be reinstated as a United Methodist pastor in good standing if he fulfills recommendations from the conference's board of ordained ministry.
MORE FAT FOLLIES
By Radley Balko
I have a confession. Though I cover obesity issues as a journalist, it turns out that I myself am obese. Really. At six feet, 222 pounds, the federal government says I'm obese. Now, I could certainly lose a few pounds. But I'm hardly unhealthy. My blood pressure and heart rate are great. My cholesterol is a bit above average, but still well within the "healthy" range. I put in over an hour at the gym a couple of days ago, and plan to head there again upon completing this column. Here's a picture. Judge for yourself.
I'm not alone. According to the federal government, about half the National Basketball Association is obese. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt are obese. Scrawny Johnny Depp is "overweight." Even the president, whose White House doctor recently pronounced him to be in top physical condition, is "overweight" by government standards.
You're probably fat, too. The average woman is 5 foot 3 inches tall. By the time she hits 141 pounds, the government says she is officially "overweight." At 170, she's "obese." The average man of 5 feet, 10 inches hits "overweight" at 174 pounds. By 209 pounds, he's "obese." Something is wrong here. When people like Cruise, world-class athletes and a fit president are being told by the government that they need to lose weight, perhaps there's something wrong with our metric.
And indeed there is. The government's method of telling us whether or not we're overweight is the Body Mass Index. It's a crude system that even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concedes on its Web site shouldn't be used by itself to determine individual health. It doesn't account for age, gender or ethnicity, and it doesn't distinguish between muscle tissue and fat. That's why the people whom the government says we should strive to look like are actually unhealthy by the government's own standards. Or to put it another way, if we all followed the government's advice and joined a gym, we'd probably make the obesity and overweight statistics worse, not better.
So when the government, the media, or nutrition activists make bold pronouncements about how two-thirds of America is overweight or obese, it might help to keep in mind that this is the standard they're using. And it gets worse.
Before 1997, present-day Radley Balko wouldn't be obese. He'd be a bit "overweight" (which sounds about right). But in 1997, the government redefined what it means to be both obese and overweight. It lowered the bar. Twenty-nine million Americans went to bed at normal weight and magically woke up overweight the next morning. None of them gained a pound.
Suddenly, the government said, these people were at risk for a host of ailments and illnesses they weren't at risk for the night before. When you hear about how many of us are overweight or obese now as compared to the early 1990s, keep in mind that a large number of us became overweight not by snacking on corn chips, but by government fiat.
Since 1990, the government has also been telling us that 300,000 people die each year due to obesity. A few years ago, they revised that figure upward, to 400,000. That number is everywhere. Time and again we were told that obesity was soon to overtake smoking as the number one cause of preventable death in America. A Lexis search for the terms "obesity" and "400,000" turns up thousands of media hits.
But last April, a study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health urged by critics of the obesity hysteria confirmed what less hysterical health researchers had suspected all along. The 400,000 figure was wrong. And not by a little bit. The actual figure is closer to 100,000. And guess what? According to recent research, people who are slightly "overweight" are actually healthier than those who are normal weight. When you factor in the number of lives saved by being modestly overweight, the number of people who die due to obesity drops to around 25,000.
The CDC has been reluctant to embrace the new study's figure. That might have something to do with the fact that the CDC's director, Julie Gerberding, was co-author of the 400,000 study. In fact, a subsequent internal investigation revealed that the CDC may have actually known that the original study was flawed! It seems the study was published over objections from peer-reviewers due to internal politics. In other words, because the boss wrote the study.
When we see a study on the health effects of smoking that was funded by Philip Morris, we rightly read it with some skepticism. The numbers may still be right, but we're more cautious about verifying their accuracy. But when we see alarmist data from the federal government, we always seem to take it at face value. If the government says everyone's getting fat, everyone must be getting fat. If the government says obesity is killing us, obesity must be killing us. We assume the government always has our best interests at heart.
The truth is, government public health agencies are plagued by the same biases and politicking as privately funded groups. Federal agencies charged with securing the "public health" have an interest in making "public health" prospects appear pretty dim. If they can establish that the public health is at risk, there's more reason for them to get a bump from Congress come budget time. This isn't to say all government health researchers are corrupt. But these studies aren't published in a vacuum. The Gerberding saga alone is proof of that.
Lawmakers then use these studies to formulate public policy. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a nutrition activist or Congressman cite the "400,000" figure just before calling for some kind of immediate government intervention. Usually, those laws are aimed at limiting the kinds of choices we're allowed to make as consumers. Make no mistake, these fallacious studies have immediate, real-world consequences for you and me. Perhaps it's time we applied some accountability to government agencies and their leaders who abuse science and statistics. It's certainly time our lawmakers stopped biting on every alarmist health study without a hint of suspicion or skepticism