The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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31 August, 2006


Even a casual reading of the news pages these days serves up a larger than usual number of comments and assertions so silly or stupid that even those who make them have to know that they are silly or stupid. Granted, we seldom expect straight talk from statesmen and politicians, but wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we could get answers to the following questions ?

If Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora is correct that the unintentional loss of lives due to Israeli air strikes constitutes crimes against humanity, how do we categorize Hezbollah's intentional killing of Israeli civilians with its rocket attacks upon Israeli cities ?

If John Kerry truly believes that Joe Lieberman's refusal to support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq is a Republican position, hasn't he concisely explained why no Democrat, including Kerry, has won 50 percent of the popular vote for the presidency over the past 30 years ?

If George W. Bush's use of the term "Islamic fascists" in the aftermath of the Heathrow terrorist scare spreads hate and represents a slur against all those Muslims who aren't fascists, as some Muslim activists claim, don't we need to urgently revise our history books to remove all references to German and Italian fascists ? Or are such terms only politically correct, thus acceptable, when directed against Europeans ?

If even discussing the propensity of Muslim extremists for terrorism and violence represents hate speech, how do we engage in reasoned discourse with the goal of identifying and removing the sources of such Muslim violence and terrorism ? Or are we to somehow pretend that those who have committed so much of the terrorism against us in recent years, including on 9 / 11, are actually Christians, Buddhists and Hindus in disguise ?

If using military force in response to terrorism is counterproductive, as many liberals (and conservatives like George W. Will ) now argue, doesn't that leave only the law enforcement approach that we pursued before 9 / 11 as an alternative ? And how, precisely, is that an improvement ?

If Iran and Syria are acknowledged sponsors of terrorism directed at Americans and American interests, how can such behavior constitute anything other than acts of war by any reasonable reading of international law ?

If Hezbollah is truly the resistance, what, exactly, were they resisting in all those years after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon ?

If Islam is so obviously a religion of peace, why do so many of its clerics preach jihad and hatred, and why do they have no counterparts of any kind in the clergy of other religions ? Or is it intolerant and bigoted to merely ask such questions?

If all religions are, by definition, peaceful, then why have there been so many bloody religious wars over the centuries ? Or do we use the "religion of peace" moniker only because it is politically incorrect to do otherwise, regardless of the facts ?

If Hezbollah won't disarm and leave southern Lebanon in accord with the cease-fire agreement, why should Israel be required to withdraw its forces ? And does anyone other than Kofi Annan really believe that the Lebanese Army has either the ability or will to disarm Hezbollah and police the area ?

If most everyone in Hollywood is anti-Bush and opposed to the war in Iraq, why are Hollywood figures always being praised as courageous when they express such sentiments ? Wouldn't courage in such a context consist of doing exactly the opposite, of being pro-war and saying nice things about the current administration ?

If Fidel Castro is as beloved by the Cuban people as news reports suggested on the occasion of his recent illness, why has he never put that popularity to a test in a free and fair election ?

If Islam has been hijacked by extremists, then why did so-called mainstream Muslims let that hijacking take place, and what are they doing about it ? Or have they simply been too busy blaming the problems of the Islamic world on America and tiny Israel to look into the mirror ?

If Democrats truly believe that Americans will embrace their "withdraw now" position on Iraq, why do they attempt to disguise that position by referring to it as a redeployment of forces ? Perhaps because it sounds better than "cut and run" ?



The British love of revealing biographies is under threat because of a legal case about a Canadian folk singer determined to keep the public from finding out what lay under the linoleum in her Irish cottage. The ramifications could also affect "kiss-and-tell" stories in print and on television, and could give stars the power to veto photographs taken in public.

Publishers and media organisation are now mounting a legal battle against the "backdoor" assault on freedom of expression. Loreena McKennitt, whose albums including The Book of Secrets and The Mask and Mirror have sold 13m copies worldwide, went to the High Court in London to stop a former friend from publishing a book about her. While the details of the case are not judged to be important, it was what Mr Justice Eady said in his judgment that has exercised legal minds. They fear that the most trivial or anodyne details about a celebrity's life, even ones that are known to the public, could now be hidden under the guise of protecting privacy.

Times Newspapers (publishers of The Sunday Times), other newspaper groups, the Press Association, the BBC, BSkyB and a number of magazine publishers will go to the Court of Appeal on September 4 to seek permission to intervene in the case. They also fear public figures such as politicians and celebrities will use the case in an attempt to muzzle information that has already been made public. One media lawyer said: "It would be like trying to make someone a virgin again."

Literary and other public figures who have fought to block unauthorised biographies include JK Rowling, Bono, Mary Archer and Sir John Mortimer. Eady awarded McKennitt 5,000 pounds damages and an injunction preventing Niema Ash from Hampstead, northwest London, publishing specific passages in her book Travels With Loreena McKennitt: My Life as a Friend. These included such mundane matters as what was under the lino of the house in Ireland, how many bunk beds were put up when visitors came to stay and what happened when McKennitt was aroused from sleep.

But his judgment went much further. For the first time a British court drew on a 2004 ruling at the European Court of Human Rights that said photographs of Princess Caroline of Monaco shopping in a public place or in a swimming costume at a beach club breached her right to privacy. The judge claimed there was a "significant shift" taking place between, on the one hand, the right of freedom of expression and the corresponding interest of the public to receive information and, on the other hand, "the legitimate expectation of citizens to have their private lives protected".

He said information about an affair between two people could be protected even if one of them decided to reveal it to the public; incorrect information could breach someone's right to privacy; and the fact that something was already in the public domain did not always mean it could be published again.

Ash has lodged an appeal and the media organisations are seeking to join in the action when it is heard later this year. McKennitt has said in an interview: "Privacy is integral to people's emotional and psychological wellbeing. It doesn't matter if you are a so-called public figure."

Media lawyers say the case has wider ramifications than the long-running one brought against a tabloid newspaper by Naomi Campbell, the supermodel. She won 3,500 pounds damages from the Daily Mirror after it revealed her fight against drug addiction. The Court of Appeal overturned the award but the House of Lords then allowed the model's appeal against that judgment, saying the newspaper had gone too far in detailing her medical treatment.

Under the Eady judgment, celebrities will be able to sue for breach of privacy over the slightest affront to their feeling of self-importance. They will not have to prove that something is untrue, but just that raising it has invaded their privacy.

A spokesman for the solicitors Farrer & Co said: "This judge has clearly recognised the development of privacy cases in Europe. This judgment will be much quoted in future `kiss-and-tell' actions."


Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Bill Targeting People of Faith

Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 1441 (Kuehl-D) into law today. SB 1441 would require all businesses and organizations receiving funding from the state to condone homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality or lose state funding. There is no exception for faith-based organizations or business owners with sincerely held religious convictions.

"This isn't even a veiled attempt at subtly advancing the radical homosexual agenda," stated Karen England, Executive Director of Capitol Resource Institute. "SB 1441 is an outright, blatant assault on religious freedom in California."

This legislation will prevent parochial schools, such as private, Christian, Catholic, Mormon, and many other religious universities, from receiving student financial assistance if they also maintain a student code of conduct preventing behavior deemed immoral by their religious beliefs. By withholding state funding from schools, students' educational opportunities will be severely limited. And limiting educational opportunities will result in a less diverse, less educated citizenry.

"As a citizen of California and a religious person, I am terribly disappointed in Governor Schwarzenegger," stated Meredith Turney, Legislative Liaison for Capitol Resource Institute. "It is bad public policy to add to the list of protected classes a sexual behavior. Equating sexual preference with the immutable characteristics of age, national origin or race will result in other variable behaviors being added to the list of invariable classes rightfully protected."

Forcing private education institutions to accept students engaged in behavior offensive to the school's moral code is a serious infringement of the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

"This bill is yet another attempt to prevent citizens with moral and religious principles from expressing their beliefs and educating their children according to those beliefs," continued England. "On behalf of California families, private schools and other private organization, I express our outrage at this attack on our freedom. Unfortunately for California families, there are several other radical homosexual bills heading towards the Governor's desk."


30 August, 2006


Even after his shins were bruised from kicking, his scalp bloodied from getting slammed against a door and his neck splotched with fingerprint-shaped bruises, Patrick Letellier heard from friends that the injuries inflicted by his lover were nothing more than rough "sex play." Back then, there were no shelters for battered men. And police were often not inclined to get involved in household disputes involving same-sex couples.

"I got really good at hiding things and wore long pants and long-sleeve shirts," said Letellier, a 43-year-old journalist San Francisco. Nearly 20 years later, as gays and lesbians have achieved greater recognition, so too has the darker side of same-sex relationships. After years of fighting what one service provider called an "invisible epidemic," lawmakers and government agencies are taking steps to abandon the assumption that spousal abuse does not occur in couples who share the same gender.

The California Legislature is considering a law requiring gays and lesbians who register as domestic partners to pay $23 toward domestic violence programs specifically aimed at same-sex couples. If it passes as expected, the measure would be the first of its kind in the nation. The proposed fee mirrors a similar surcharge on California marriage licenses that funds battered women's shelters and other domestic violence services. The measure also would require the state to train law enforcement and social service agencies on gay domestic violence, and to make sure that gay representatives are included on committees that dispense domestic violence grants.

In New York state, where same-sex couples do not have domestic partner or civil union status, advocates are pushing a bill to dedicate money for domestic violence programs that serve a gay clientele. They also want to win same-sex couples access to family courts that are accustomed to dealing with domestic disputes, which would make it easier for battered gays to obtain restraining orders against their abusers, said Clarence Patton, acting executive director of the New York-based National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

In the absence of government mandates, a growing network of nonprofit agencies that specialize in same-sex domestic violence has sprung up in cities like Boston, Columbus, Ohio, Houston, Kansas City and Tucson, Ariz. Meanwhile, many police departments have started training officers to know how to respond to gay or lesbian victims.

A 2003 survey by Patton's organization of 10 U.S. cities and Toronto reported 6,523 cases of same-sex domestic violence, including six homicides. That was a 13 percent increase from the year before, but the number is assumed to represent a fraction of the true number of incidents. Like many victims, it took years for Letellier to summon the courage to recognize himself as a victim of domestic violence. "It's not supposed to happen to men - or it doesn't happen to men - is still the thinking about it," he said.

Matthew Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said tales like Letellier's show that police and government officials are not alone in their tendency to minimize or misunderstand domestic violence when it occurs in gay relationships. Since many gay men and lesbians already feel not accepted by society, seeking help for a problem they may be doubly ashamed of is especially difficult, he said. "There is enormous stigma attached to all domestic violence, but if you are a gay man and want to talk about it with friends, they will say, 'Why didn't you hit him back?' or 'How come you can't protect yourself?" Foreman said. "And since women are perceived to always be the victim of domestic violence in heterosexual situations, there is a stereotype of, 'How could two women be living in a domestic violence situation?'"

Susan Holt, who runs the domestic violence program at The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center said the program serves 400 clients a month, including batterers and their victims. Yet Holt still feels she's fighting "an invisible epidemic," noting that Los Angeles County has 150 abuse prevention programs geared toward heterosexuals, compared to a handful designed for gay men and lesbians nationwide. She recalled an abused client who had to attend a court-ordered batterer's intervention program because he was physically bigger than his partner and therefore assumed to be the aggressor. Because there was not a program for gay men near where he lived, the client went to a program for straight men and tried to pretend his partner was a woman. After the truth came out, he was followed out of the meeting and beaten by two other group members.

After coming to terms with his own experience and writing a book on gay domestic violence, Letellier said he was gratified to see California officials taking the problem seriously. He has counseled other survivors, men and women, gay and straight, and been impressed to find how much they have in common. "Domestic violence, on some level, is so amazingly unoriginal," he said. "It's so the same everywhere, so painfully the same."



The liberal legal establishment has been condemned by the Director of Public Prosecutions for its patronising attitude towards the public and victims of crime. Ken Macdonald, QC, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, said that elitist attitudes had helped to break the bond of trust between the public and the criminal justice system. In an extraordinary warning, he said that the country would enter dangerous territory if the public felt that justice was not being delivered by the courts.

Mr Macdonald also called for a move away from the position held by many lawyers that only the defendants' rights matter. Greater emphasis should be given to the rights of victims and witnesses, he said. "Few sounds are less attractive than well-educated lawyers patronising vulnerable victims of crime with inflexible platitudes."

The speech has been made public as new figures show that while 80 per cent of people think that the justice system is fair to the accused, only 36 per cent are confident that it meets the needs of victims. It also comes after a series of high-profile killings by criminals released from jail on parole.

Mr Macdonald said that in some cases the victims of crime had been treated as "pariahs" by the system and witnesses were handled in an appalling manner. The DPP added: "The perception that no one looks out for them and that it's only defendants whose rights are taken seriously is not wildly wrong." He said that there had to be fairness for both victims of crime and suspects: "The view that only defendants' rights matter, still quite commonly held by many criminal lawyers, appears to me to be a fundamentalist position that we should move away from. "My own view is that liberal commentators need to start by acknowledging that the public have a point. The service given to victims and witnesses has traditionally been appalling."

The speech is Mr Macdonald's most controversial since he became director three years ago. Made in May at a seminar organised by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, and passed to The Times, it will provide useful ammunition for the Government, which announced plans to rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of the law-abiding majority last month.

Mr Macdonald said that the old-fashioned idea that thecriminal justice system sits above the public and consists of principles and practices beyond popular influence or argument was "elitist and obscurantist".

David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, had seen the need for a democratic element to criminal justice which, while not slipping into "vigilanteeism, serves to temper an increasingly dangerous disconnect between our people as a whole and the traditional judicial and practitioner establishment", Mr Macdonald said. He added: "If people, including victims, feel they cannot secure justice through the courts, we are entering dangerous territory".

The speech, which was given to an audience of lawyers and criminologists, will provoke anger among many lawyers, particularly those representing suspects, and it will raise suspicions that Mr Macdonald wishes to water down traditional legal safeguards for defendants. But in it he insisted that the principles of jury trial, presumption of innocence, a right to appeal and full disclosure of the state's case were all non-negotiable.

Last night Richard Garside, acting director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said: "It is important that we make a distinction between a legal system treating people with respect and a defendant whose guilt has still to be proved."

John Cooper, a leading criminal law barrister, said: "The fundamental of a trial in the criminal justice system is the analysis of facts and evidence to decide if the prosecution have proved their case. "It is not, and never should be, an arena where victims primarily undertake a cathartic exercise for the allegation that is tested at the trial."



The Director of Public Prosecutions has given warning that the legal system will stray into "dangerous territory" if people feel justice cannot be achieved through the courts. However, the widespread perception is that the law and the legal profession have already lost the confidence of victims and the general public.

The British Crime Survey 2005-06 reflects this view: 80 per cent of respondents thought the system was fair to the accused, but only 36 per cent were confident that it met the needs of victims. The widely held opinion is that criminals receive soft sentences, paedophiles are pitied, foreign terrorists are given vast sums in legal aid and illegal immigrants who commit crimes are never deported. Ordinary people who stand up for themselves and their families are either punished or become victims. Perhaps worst of all, the rights of such victims are ignored.

Last month a judge was heavily criticised after sentencing a paedophile, who had repeatedly sexually assaulted an 18-month-old baby boy, to four years in jail. Judge Simon Hammond, sitting at Leicester Crown Court, said that Christopher Downes, 24, needed help for his "undoubted problems". Michele Elliott, of the charity Kidscape, said: "There is something wrong when a man could admit to sexually abusing an 18-month-old baby regularly and be out of prison in two years."

The concern of campaigners is outstripped by the anger of the families of victims. Last month the family of Natalie Glasgow described as laughable the sentence imposed on Mark Hambleton, an electrician whose van hit and killed the 17-year-old girl as she walked home from a party. Hambleton was given a 100-hour community service order and banned from driving for a year. The dead girl's father, Paul, said: "The law says it doesn't matter whether you hit a teenage girl or a lamppost in terms of the charge of failing to report an accident. That can't be right. It must be changed."

The apparent downgrading of victims' rights, compared with those of the defendant, also causes anger. The defence of Kamel Bourgass, the Algerian terrorist trained by al-Qaeda who is serving life for murder and conspiring to make ricin toxins, cost the public purse 996,934 pounds in legal aid. The family of DC Stephen Oake, who was stabbed to death by Bourgass in 2003, received only 13,000 pounds from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

Judges reply that the legislative straitjacket is the cause of many of the current problems. The case of Craig Sweeney attracted huge attention. Sweeney was jailed for life by Cardiff Crown Court for abducting and indecently assaulting a three-year-old girl but Judge John Griffith Williams cut his minimum tariff in recognition of his guilty plea. It meant that Sweeney could be considered for parole in five years.

As The Times reported last month, John Reid, the Home Secretary, said that this was unduly lenient. Vera Baird, QC, the Constitutional Affairs Minister, had to apologise after saying that the judge was wrong. The judiciary rallied round the judge, saying he had followed the law to the letter.

Both Victim Support and Nacro, the crime reduction charity, say that perceived soft sentencing and the treatment of victims are separate issues. Paul Cavadino, chief executive of Nacro, said: "The sentencing in this country is harsher than most other Western Europe countries. And we have the highest prison population in Western Europe, both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of the population. "I don't accept that you can measure how supportive a criminal justice system is to victims by the sentences given out. "It is not in the interests of victims to pass sentences that don't reduce future offences."

A spokesman for Victim Support said: "Victims want a system whereby we deal with criminals properly and we give out punishments that are an effective deterrent. Our experience is that even if victims are happy with the result in court, the happiness is short-lived because their lives have still been altered."

Liz Jones said that she lost her faith in the criminal justice system when a teenager who smashed her cheekbone avoided a jail sentence last month. Dexter Hungwa, 16, attacked Ms Jones, a headmistress, because she had asked him to shut a door. Ms Jones, 51, said: "At first I was frightened because I thought he could turn up at any time. The experience was horrendous but when I found out that he had been given a referral order, I was really, really angry."


Australia: Politically correct Play School exploits kids

It's no exaggeration to say that generations of Australian children and young parents have grown up with the ABC's Play School. Whether it was Big Ted, Little Ted, Noni or Benita, Lorraine, John or Don, viewers of all ages found some character they could identify with over the 40 years of its existence. But the harmless happy-family content has fallen victim to the nauseating politically-correct agenda that drives so much of the ABC's news and current affairs programming on radio and television.

ABC Children's Television head Claire Henderson says Play School owes its success to the fact "we respect the child, we respect the audience. We don't patronise, we don't exploit them, we don't preach to them, we don't talk down to them. We will always have the nursery rhymes and things children know and love, but the program will always be a program for today."

Except it isn't. The show does patronise kids, it does exploit them, it does preach to them, it does talk down to them and it doesn't have the nursery rhymes the children know and love, it has bowdlerised humbug that the ABC's in-house ideologists know and love. Take Play School's recent treatment of the classic nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep, for example, as rendered by Christine Anu and an associate, which began:

"Ba Ba Woolly Sheep/Have you any wool?
Yes, O, Yes, O/Three bags full. One for the jumper/And one for the socks," etc, etc.

You get the drift. Black sheep are out, as probably are diminutive people of the male gender, but the reader who sent this in was so bemused by the attempt to scour any possibly offensive material from the nursery rhyme that she didn't pay attention to the rest of the verses. But if black sheep have been magically erased, it seems likely that words such as "master", "dame" and "sir" have also been banned for fear of upsetting the sensitivities of the ABC's young audience.

This sort of hamfisted attempt to induce culturally anodyne thinking into the minds of youngsters would be laughable were it not of a piece with the efforts of the trade union movement and the ALP to ensure that organised Labor's messages, too, are pushed upon malleable young minds. Having exposed Labor's "real life" cases campaign against the Howard Government's industrial reforms as bogus, The Daily Telegraph can also reveal that the union movement is asking teachers to assist it in wooing school students to its cause with a campaign based on xenophobia and outdated class war materials.

Just as parents should pay more heed to Play School's rewriting of the classics of nursery, it would also pay them to monitor the "factsheets", "case studies" and other resources provided for teachers on Labornet's UnionTeach website. With union membership rapidly eroding, the diehards are trying to staunch the flow and save their jobs by pandering to youthful insecurities with scenarios designed to create fear and insecurity. In a "case study" of "globalisation, redundancy and Australian workers", for example, "Ben", a network administrator in his 50s who has been in the telecommunications industry for the past 20 years is advised by a new manager that all jobs in his team's field are to be declared vacant and staff must reapply for their positions. At the same time there is also an announcement that about "300 jobs in the company are going to be performed from India". The discussion points suggested for the lesson include "What are the advantages and disadvantages of union membership in a call centre?" and "How could the union assist in dealing with workplace conflict?"

Suggested activities include calling the ACTU for a call centre charter on workplace rights and responsibilities, designing a brochure promoting the role and benefits of a union in a call centre, developing a pamphlet or poster showing how to contact call centre unions, and watching a video titled Working it Out: ACTU. In the proposed group activity, the teacher role-plays with the students as the call-centre employer and changes the conditions of work by setting time-limits or quotas on simple tasks, "students complete tasks and teacher pressures them. Conflict is created."

There are laws designed to protect the young and impressionable from perverted adults who target them for sexual abuse. This campaign and the pap served up by the ABC's Play School would suggest that there should be laws protecting them from adults who want to rape them intellectually. The new workplace reforms contain specific protections for young workers, in addition to those which cover employees generally, and concerned parents can contact the Office of the Employment Advocate.

The ALP's media arm, the ABC, is well-known for its ducking and weaving whenever its core ideologies are challenged, from its recent biased Behind the News program on Hezbollah's attacks on Israel, to its four-year refusal to admit that the Palestinian groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah are terrorist organisations. ALP or ABC, it doesn't matter. The exploitation of young people is rife with misinformation, disinformation and blatant untruths and propagandising being foisted on unsuspecting minds. The young must be able to learn without having their minds mortgaged to politically-correct causes by their teachers and agenda-driven institutions.


29 August, 2006


Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Inc. is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for racial discrimination in a workplace, an EEOC official said on Friday. EEOC filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the cruise line (NCL) in a Honolulu federal court representing seven or more Muslim employees of Middle Eastern descent who had worked aboard the Pride of Aloha in July 2004.

Anna Park, an attorney at EEOC in Los Angeles, said the workers were fired because they were deemed a security risk. She said the EEOC had investigated the matter in the past two years, and the suit was filed because it could not reach a resolution with NCL. EEOC is the plaintiff in the case representing the seven people, but more ex-employees may come forward, Park said. "We are in the discovery phase of the law suit right now. NCL has not been served the papers yet," she said.

NCL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Star Cruises Ltd. SCL, publicly listed in Hong Kong, is a core member of the Genting Group and 36.1 percent owned by Resorts World, which is, in turn, 57.7 percent owned by Genting Berhad. Susan Robison, a spokeswoman for NCL, said in an e-mailed statement on Friday that the cruise company was proud of its employment practices and record, and that it did not discriminate in hiring. "Our employees come from a very broad range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, which provides a wonderful diversity among our staff," Robison said.

She said the firings were probationary period dismissals, and NCL was confident that when the facts and circumstances surrounding them came out at trial, its actions would be judged to have been completely proper. NCL operates 12 cruise ships, which represents about 9 percent of the overall cruise capacity in North America in terms of berths.


Muslim fear of femininity surfaces in Australia

A Melbourne Muslim girl condemned by Islamic leaders for entering a beauty pageant has defied protests to be shortlisted for the Victorian final. Ayten Ahmet, 16, advanced to the top 26 of Miss Teen Australia yesterday despite an outcry from Victoria's senior Muslims. The Year 11 student said she entered the pageant to fulfil her modelling ambition, and was surprised by the objections. Parents Salih and Sarah Ahmet said their daughter was a typical teenager, and her faith was irrelevant to the contest.

Miss Ahmet, from Craigieburn, beat hundreds of hopefuls at an open casting session at Federation Square. A spokesman for Melbourne cleric Sheik Mohammed Omran last week branded the competition, which involves swimsuit parades, as a "slur on Islam". And Victorian Islamic leader Yasser Soliman said the contest did not conform with the teachings of the Koran.

Ms Ahmet, who plans to combine modelling with an accounting degree, said the criticism was disappointing and unnecessary. "I thought it would be good experience and an opportunity to have a bit of fun," she said. "The cameras are something I love."

Sherene Hassan, executive committee member of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said Sheik Omran's comments were unfair. "He is entitled to his opinion, but people should be aware he does not represent the mainstream Muslim community," she said. Ms Hassan said she felt beauty contests were exploitative, but she supported Ms Ahmet's right to make her own choice. Ms Hassan said she never judged women by the clothes they wore.

Mr Ahmet said the family respected their religion, but his daughter was entitled to participate. "We are not flying any flags, we are Australians first and foremost," Mr Ahmet said. "We live in a democracy, we respect the religion as well, and they are good kids and come from a good upbringing."

Two girls from next month's Victorian final will go on to the national final. The winner will represent us at Miss Teen World. Miss Teen Australia Victorian manager Carley Downward said she was surprised by the uproar.



A Charlottetown city councillor says he was disappointed to be told last week he couldn't throw candy from a float in last Friday's Gold Cup Parade because it was too dangerous. This was the first time Coun. Bruce Garrity could recall being asked to participate in the parade. He bought $8 worth of penny candy to throw into the crowd along the route. "It sure is taking the fun out of it," said Garrity. "I can remember parades in the past where we had our little kids when they were small, and somebody would throw the little gum at them or wrapped candy, and the kids always got a thrill at this."

Bans on throwing items from floats in parades are becoming more common across North America. Sibyl Cutcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Gold Cup Parade committee, told CBC News that anyone who applies to put a float in the parade is told nothing can be tossed into the crowd. Cutcliffe said the potential for injury is just too great. The major concern is children might dart out in front of floats to grab candy that ends up on the streets. Cutcliffe doesn't think the rule spoils the fun. "I think that the interest in the parade is in what's going by, not in what's coming out to them," she said. Cutcliffe said parade marshals are instructed to keep an eye out for would-be candy-tossers and tell them to put the goodies back in their pockets.

Garrity would like parade organizers to find alternative ways to distribute candy to the crowd. "The bottom line is we'll be more cautious. Maybe when we stop for the parade when there's bottlenecks, maybe we can do it then," he said. "Jump off the float and give some away. There's ways of doing these things."



Is it hate speech to quote what the Koran says? The State of Victoria seems to think it is

It is impossible to vilify Islam without also vilifying Muslims, because the two are indistinguishable, the Victorian Court of Appeal was told yesterday. "If one vilifies Islam, one is by necessary consequence vilifying people who hold that religious belief," Brind Woinarski, QC, told the court. Mr Woinarski was appearing for the Islamic Council of Victoria in the appeal by Christian group Catch the Fire Ministries and pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot against a finding under Victoria's religious hatred law that they vilified Muslims in 2002. The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act defines vilification as inciting hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against a person or class of persons.

Cameron Macaulay, for the pastors, argued that the act explicitly confined the prohibition to vilifying persons, not the religion - otherwise it could operate as a law against blasphemy. Instead, it recognised one could hate the idea without hating the person.

Justice Geoffrey Nettle asked Mr Woinarski: "There must be intellectually a distinction between the ideas and those who hold them?" "We don't agree with that," Mr Woinarski said. "But in this case it's an irrelevant distinction, because Muslims and Islam were mishmashed up together." Justice Nettle: "Are you saying it's impossible to incite hatred against a religion without also inciting hatred against people who hold it?" Mr Woinarski: "Yes."

Mr Macaulay said orders by Judge Michael Higgins against the pastors to take out a newspaper advertisement apologising and not to repeat certain teachings were too wide, and beyond his powers under the act. He said it was surprising that the pastors could hold the beliefs but not express them. "They are restrained by law from suggesting or implying a number of things about what in their view the Koran teaches: that it preaches violence and killing, that women are of little value, that the God of Islam, Allah, is not merciful, that there is a practice of 'silent jihad' for spreading Islam, or that the Koran says Allah will remit the sins of martyrs. "Contentious or otherwise, these are opinions about Islam's doctrines and teaching. Statements of this kind are likely to offend and insult Muslims but their feelings are not relevant under the act." Mr Macaulay said the act burdened free speech, contravened international treaties Australia had signed and breached the Australian constitution.

The act, amended in May, has been controversial. Opponents rallied against it outside Parliament earlier this month, and some Christians vowed to make it an issue at the state election. This case has been monitored by Christian and Muslim groups overseas, and at one point Judge Higgins had to assure the Foreign Affairs Department he was not considering jailing the pastors after a flood of emails from America.


28 August, 2006


They are picky about who they will marry, tend to have flings, put off having children to the point of infertility, keep dirty homes and are miserable to boot. So why marry a career woman? The argument that working women make lousy wives was given a new lease of life last week by Forbes, a top American business magazine, prompting a slew of furious protests from women readers. One typical response was that the article was "blood-boilingly misogynistic".

Written by Michael Noer, a senior editor with Forbes.com, it began: "Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career." He went on: "While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it."

Noer's article was a particularly brutal and highly selective way of summarising recent research, which has revived the long-tarnished concept of the "happy housewife". To many readers it was infuriating that a respected magazine that features female leaders of industry and finance on its covers could publish such "retro-nonsense". Michelle Peluso, chief executive of Travelocity, America's fifth largest travel agency, said: "This article feels like one that would have been behind the times were it published in 1950, never mind 2006."

Gloria Steinem, the pioneering feminist who famously worked as a bunny girl to expose sexism in the 1960s, rallied anew to the cause in Salon.com, where she praised Forbes sarcastically for "saving many women the trouble of dealing with men who can't tolerate equal partnerships, take care of their own health, clean up after themselves or have the sexual confidence to survive". The glamorous Steinem, however, did not marry until she was 66 and does not have children.

Struggles over issues such as childlessness and fertility, the "mommy wars" between stay-at-home mothers and working women and the alleged misery of wives who try to juggle home and career have become publishing staples, squarely aimed at the women's market. In the tabloids the topic is equally hotly debated. If celebrity magazines are to be believed, the marriage of Hollywood stars Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt foundered partly over Aniston's desire to pursue a film career before babies. Meanwhile, Britney Spears's marriage to the dancer Kevin Federline is under scrutiny because she wears the trousers.

So had Noer provoked a tidal wave of anger by telling a few home truths? And was his chief crime the fact that a man was saying it? It did not help his cause that Noer had previously earned his credentials as a male chauvinist pig with an article on the "economics of prostitution" in which he posed the question, "Wife or Whore? The choice is that simple". Under pressure from staff and readers, Forbes showed a distinct lack of confidence in Noer's latest thesis, which was entitled Don't Marry a Career Woman, by removing the juiciest bits from its website.

A section headlined In Pictures, Nine Reasons to Steer Clear - which included the warning "She is more likely to cheat on you" accompanied by a photograph of a scantily clad woman lying across a man's lap - was speedily replaced with a riposte by Elizabeth Corcoran, a Forbes executive, wife and mother-of-two. It was headlined: Don't Marry a Lazy Man. Gone too was a photo and caption for the claim that "she'll be unhappy if she makes more than you", taken from a report by two sociology professors, What's Love Got to Do with It, published this year in the journal Social Forces. Noer failed to mention that other research suggested "increases in married women's income may indirectly lower the risk of divorce by increasing women's marital happiness".

The much-pilloried Noer has been forbidden by Forbes to give interviews. Yet some of his most controversial assertions, including "You are much less likely to have kids", had already been made by women. Noer cites research by Sylvia Hewlett in her much-discussed book Baby Hunger, which claims that only 51% of high-achieving women earning more than $100,000 a year have had children by the age of 40. He might equally have referred to the bestselling book The Bitch in The House, edited by Cathi Hanauer - a collection of essays by career women who write of their rage at dealing with the kids, cleaning up after working husbands and coping with do-nothing men.

There is also To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Your Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for the New Yorker magazine, which Virago is bringing out in Britain next month. In her book Flanagan compares the so-called epidemic of sexless marriages today with the "repressed and much pitied 1950s wives" who were "apparently getting a lot more action". "Nowadays, American parents of a certain social class seem squeaky clean, high-achieving, flush with cash, relatively exhausted, obsessed with their children, and somehow - how to pinpoint this? - undersexed," she writes.

Inevitably much of the debate comes down to personal experience. Molly Jong-Fast, a 27-year-old writer, surprised her friends by getting married in white three years ago and giving birth to a son. "My experience with stay-at-home moms is that they are more depressed, more lonely, more obsessed with their kids, more unhealthy, more likely to be left by their husbands and more likely to be divorced," Jong-Fast said. "They are dependent on their husbands for money, and that power balance is the kiss of death. I have my own life and it makes me more desirable to my husband."

As Noer has found, when men join in the conversation they sound horribly sexist. Yet with women now making up 48% of the American workforce, men are going to have to live with career women, like it or not. [Point missed there: Not all working women are career women]



Last week’s appointment of Caroline Flint as Britain’s first “minister for fitness”, charged with combating the alarming rise in obesity, is just the latest of the middle class’s perennial — and doomed — attempts to reform the lower orders. Political correctness forbids Flint from admitting her campaign is primarily aimed at the underclass, but the statistics for London tell their own story: the lowest rates are in posh Kensington and Chelsea, while downmarket Barking and Dagenham show the highest.

Throughout its 600-year history, the middle class has looked askance at the underclass: the great unwashed, hooligans and now hoodies. Sherlock Holmes always carried a revolver “east of Aldgate” — and the inhabitants of our dingier streets and estates have ever brought forth admonitions from the nanny state.

More recently, Jack Straw promised that new Labour would purge the streets of “aggressive begging, of winos, addicts and squeegee merchants” so that the “law-abiding citizen” could walk abroad undisturbed.

Middle-class to the tips of his toes, Tony Blair believes access to education will convert underclass youth into biddable, ambitious and hard-working citizens. But we have been here before; a middle-class visitor to the Oxford Industrial school in 1879 was comforted by the sight of children from “the dregs of the population” undergoing instruction that would halt their slide into “the criminal and dangerous classes”.

United by its dread of the underclass, the middle class has always disagreed about the reasons for its existence, and how it might be tamed and admitted into civilised society. But the underclass has manfully resisted attempt at reform: Victorian licensing laws and legislation outlawing bull-baiting and cock-fighting were seen as “them” telling “us” what not to do.

At every stage of its existence, including today, the middle class has been united in believing that reasoned and well-informed debate offers the best solution for all human problems. Its flattering image of itself has always been as industrious, prudent, self- disciplined and sometimes godly. When the 1832 Reform Act gave the middle class political dominance, it projected itself as the “intelligence” of the nation and the banner-bearer of progress.

Arrogant perhaps, but this description was accurate insofar as the middle classes have always been brain workers. An Elizabethan social analyst defined the middle orders as those who lived solely through the exercise of their wits. They practised law and medicine, managed estates, were schoolmasters, creative artists, merchants, shopkeepers and financiers. The industrial revolution provided new jobs for what, from about 1800, was called the middle class.

In 1900 it was calculated that the middle classes comprised a tenth of the population; by 2000 it was nearly two-thirds. A form of classlessness now exists, although what it means is that we live in a society that frowns on the idea of judging individuals simply because of their birth, education or possessions.

But egalitarianism is a recent phenomenon. For most of our history, class differences and deference have been taken for granted and religiously observed. Until the 19th century the middle classes existed within a hierarchical order, positioned between the landed aristocracy and gentry on one hand and the broad base of artisans and manual labourers on the other.

This tripartite society represented God’s will and it was accepted that those in the uppermost strata possessed a superior wisdom which entitled them to guide and discipline their inferiors. But as it began to expand, the middle class accumulated power. Its magistrates enforced laws framed to control the underclass and its excesses. The astringents of the statute books were supplemented by the gentler therapies of charity and persuasion.

This urge to rescue and reform runs like a thread through the history of the middle classes. It was nannyism before its time and, like its modern counterpart, it rested on the premise that the middle class knew what was best for everyone.

A medieval cleric deplored the habitual drunkenness of the poor, their addiction to “idle plays and japes” and, most alarming of all, their “sturdiness against men of higher estate”. In 1717 a Cumbrian tenant farmer invited his landlord’s steward to “kiss my arse” when taken to task in court. It’s reminiscent of the Wiltshire “chavette” who recently swore at a magistrate and boasted of her vices.

Defiance was understandable, given that middle-class programmes for the regeneration of the poor always rested on that Cromwellian axiom: “what is for their good and not what pleaseth them”.

However, it was not unknown for the middle class to kick over the traces — just usually well hidden. In RS Surtees’s Handley Cross (1843) a formal dinner for foxhunters and hare coursers ends in a drunken fight that spills onto the streets.

Victorian Britain is often — wrongly — cited as a golden age of civil tranquillity when the laws of God and the Queen were universally respected and obeyed. But at the beginning of the Queen’s reign, a public hanging at Devizes was marked by “disgraceful and indecent behaviour” and “beastly drunkenness and debauchery”.

At its end, hooligans including “pistol gangs” of teenagers rampaged through the inner-London suburbs, scaring the middle classes and prompting editorials about the nation’s terminal moral decline.

The Victorian middle classes may have civilised industrial, urban Britain with street lights, sewers, museums, art galleries and public baths, but they never curbed the violent instincts of the underclass. Hooligans were followed by teddy boys, mods and rockers, skinheads and hoodies. We have been here before, although it may be no comfort for today’s middle class to know that their experience and fears of street crime and abuse were shared by their ancestors.

Modern correctives may ultimately become redundant if future miscreants can be identified at birth. Spotted in their cradles, they will receive treatment and grow into responsible and maybe huggable members of society.

The brave new world of the bar-coded baby is at hand — the government is considering a plan to track the progress of every child born in Britain — and, its architects hope, it will be one where the middle classes will finally enjoy that peace of mind which has eluded them for so long.

Yet perhaps some humility is now required and we should concede that human nature cannot be changed completely, either by compulsion, lectures about diet or even the scientific monitoring of toddlers. But such an admission would have been and perhaps still is unthinkable to a class which has inherited its predecessors’ assumption that the world would be a better place if everyone behaved and thought as they did.


Conservatives were right after all (as usual)

Quick, somebody buy a wreath. Last week marked the passing of multiculturalism as official government doctrine. No longer will opponents of this corrosive and divisive creed be silenced simply by the massed Pavlovian ovine accusation: "Racist!" Better still, the very people who foisted multiculturalism upon the country are the ones who have decided that it has now outlived its usefulness - that is, the political left.

It is amazing how a few by-election shocks and some madmen with explosive backpacks can concentrate the mind. At any rate, British citizens, black and white, can move onwards together - towards a sunlit upland of monoculturalism, or maybe zeroculturalism, whatever takes your fancy....

It has all been a long time coming. Some 22 years ago Ray Honeyford, the previously obscure headmaster of Drummond middle school in Bradford, suggested, in the low-circulation right-wing periodical The Salisbury Review, that his Asian pupils should really be better integrated into British society. They should learn English, for a start, and a bit of British history and a sense of what the country is about; further, Asian (Muslim) girls should be allowed to learn to swim despite the objections of their parents (who did not like them stripping down even in front of each other). Muslim kids should be treated like every other pupil, in other words.

For these mild contentions, Honeyford was investigated by the government, vilified as a racist by the press, ridiculed every day by leftie demonstrators outside his office and was eventually hounded from his job. He has not worked since. Perhaps it will be a consolation to him, as he sits idly in his neat, small, semi-detached house in Bury, Lancashire, that he has now been comprehensively outflanked on the far right by a whole bunch of Labour politicians, including at least one minister, and indeed the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality. Then again, perhaps it won't.

It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of this shift. To give you an example of the lunacy that prevailed back in Honeyford's time: then, the Commission for Racial Equality was happy to instruct Britain's journalists that Chinese people were henceforth to be described as "black" because that, objectively, was their subjective political experience at the hands of the oppressive white hegemony.

I don't suppose they asked the Chinese if they minded this appellation or derogation - the question would not even have occurred. By definition, people who were "not-white" - from Beijing to Barbados - were banded together in their oppression and implacable opposition to the prevailing white culture and thus united in their political aspirations. People from Baluchistan, Tobago and Bangladesh were defined solely by their lack of whiteness. This was, when you think about it, a quintessentially racist assumption, as well as being authoritarian and - as the writer Kenan Malik puts it - "anti-human".

We are not born with a gene that insists we become Muslim or Christian or Rastafarian. We are born, all of us, with a tabula rasa; we are not defined by the nationality or religion or cultural assumptions of our parents. But that was the mindset which, at that time, prevailed.

This is how far we have come in the past year or so. When an ICM poll of Britain's Muslims in February this year revealed that some 40% (that is, about 800,000 people) wished to see Islamic law introduced in parts of Britain, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality responded by saying that they should therefore pack their bags and clear off. Sir Trevor Phillips's exact words were these: "If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else."

My guess is this: if such a statement had been made by a member of the Tory party's Monday Club in 1984 - or, for that matter, 1994 - he would have been excoriated and quite probably would have been kicked out of the party. "If you don't like it here then go somewhere else" was once considered the apogee of "racism".

More here

27 August, 2006


Ruth Kelly broke with decades of Labour support for multiculturalism as she admitted the Government's failure to impose a single British identity could have led to communities living in 'isolation'. The Communities Secretary became the first Cabinet minister to question the idea that different faiths and races should not be forced to integrate but should be allowed to maintain their own culture. In an extraordinary volte face, she appeared to concede that Government policies had contributed to communities drifting into segregation. 'In our attempt to avoid imposing a single British identity and culture, have we ended up with some communities living in isolation of each other, with no common bonds between them?' she said.

In a keynote speech launching a new commission on community cohesion, Miss Kelly said: 'We have moved from a period of near uniform consensus on the value of multiculturalism, to one where we can encourage that debate by questioning whether it is encouraging separateness.'

Tony Blair and other senior Labour ministers have repeatedly underlined their commitment to multiculturalism and its doctrines over their nine years in power, insisting it allows different communities to promote their own cultures while co-existing happily. But Miss Kelly conceded that its central planks were now being challenged by a series of Britain's leading ethnic minority figures. Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, and most recently, BBC newsreader George Alagiah have expressed serious doubts.

Miss Kelly called for a 'new, honest debate' about the dangers of segregation. She signalled a series of possible policy rethinks about the way different cultures and religions are treated in Britain. She suggested wider teaching of English to immigrants as a way of encouraging them to integrate better into British communities. And she said young children from segregated communities should be made to mix with other cultures. Miss Kelly proposed 'twinning' schools with different ethnic and faith profiles and student exchanges between them.

In West Yorkshire, Spring Grove, a majority Asian primary school in urban Huddersfield is already twinned with Netherhong, a majority white primary school in the rural Holmfirth Valley. Pupils aged between six and ten are matched with pupils with similar interests and encouraged to correspond and interact. The policy is reminiscent of an experiment in the 1970s which involved transporting Asian children from Bradford's city centre to schools on the outskirts.

In 1975, the Race Relations Board decided that 'bussing' ethnic minority children into white communities contravened the Race Relations Act. The board argued it was being done on the basis of racial or ethnic identity rather than educational need.

Miss Kelly said the question was more urgent because patterns of immigration into Britain were far 'more complex' today than they were when the Empire Windrush arrived in 1948, carrying 492 Jamaicans who wanted to start a new life here. 'Our new residents are not the Windrush generation,' she said. 'They are more diverse, coming from countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, from South Africa to Somalia.'

Miss Kelly admitted global tensions were increasingly reflected on the streets of Britain's communities as a result. 'New migrants fell the fierce loyalties developed in war-torn parts of Europe. Muslims feel the reverberations from the Middle East,' she said.

She said some white Britons 'do not feel comfortable with change'. 'They see the shops and restaurants in their town centres changing. They see their neighbourhoods becoming more diverse,' she said. 'Detached from the benefits of those changes, they begin to believe the stories about ethnic minorities getting special treatment, and to develop a resentment, a sense of grievance.'

Miss Kelly adopted former Tory leader Michael Howard's slogan from last year's election campaign, insisting it was 'not racist' to have concerns about immigration and asylum. 'We must not be censored by political correctness and we can't tiptoe around the issues,' she said. 'For example, it's clear that we need a controlled, well-managed system of immigration that has clear rules and integrity to counter exploitation from the far right.' She said Government policies would not be based on special treatment for minority ethnic faith communities. 'That would only exacerbate division rather than help build cohesion,' she said. 'And as a society, we should have the confidence to say "no" to certain suggestions from particular ethnic groups but, at the same time, to make sure everyone can be treated equally, there are some programmes that will need to treat groups differently.' Miss Kelly said the new commission, charged with improving community cohesion and tackle extremism, would be more than another 'talking shop'.

But critics pointed out that a series of official reports dating back to 2001 had warned of dangerous segregation between communities. And the idea of a cohesion commission was first floated by the Government last July in the wake of the London bombings. For the Tories, shadow immigration minister Damian Green said: 'Previous Government initiatives have proved to be more about grabbing a day's headlines than working on the roots of the problem. This time, it must make a proper long-term commitment to solving the problems. 'There is a huge and vital challenge to be met in helping Britain's new communities integrate fully with the mainstream values of British society.'



By Jeff Jacoby

The safest airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel's national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked. So when US aviation intensified its focus on security after 9/11, it seemed a good bet that the experience of travelers in American airports would increasingly come to resemble that of travelers flying out of Tel Aviv.

But in telling ways, the two experiences remain notably different. For example, passengers in the United States are required to take off their shoes for X-ray screening, while passengers at Ben Gurion are spared that indignity. On the other hand, major American airports generally offer the convenience of curbside check-in, while in Israel baggage and traveler stay together until the security check is completed. Screeners at American airports don't usually engage in conversation with passengers, unless you count as conversation their endlessly repeated instructions about emptying pockets and taking laptops out of briefcases. At Ben Gurion, security officials make a point of engaging in dialogue with almost everyone who's catching a plane.

There is a reason for these differences. Nearly five years after Sept. 11, 2001, US airport security remains obstinately focused on intercepting bad *things* -- guns, knives, explosives. It is a reactive policy, aimed at preventing the last terrorist plot from being repeated. The 9/11 hijackers used box cutters as weapons, so sharp metal objects were barred from carry-on luggage. Would-be suicide terrorist Richard Reid tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe, so now everyone's footwear is screened for tampering. Earlier this month British authorities foiled a plan to blow up airliners with liquid explosives; as a result, toothpaste, eye drops, and cologne have become air-travel contraband.

Of course the Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don't hijack planes, terrorists do -- and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad *people.* To a much greater degree than in the United States, security at El Al and Ben Gurion depends on intelligence and intuition -- what Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Ben Gurion, calls the "human factor" that technology alone can never replace.

Israeli airport security, much of it invisible to the untrained eye, begins before passengers even enter the terminal. Officials constantly monitor behavior, alert to clues that may hint at danger: bulky clothing, say, or a nervous manner. Profilers -- yes, that's what they're called -- make a point of interviewing travelers, sometimes at length. They probe, as one profiling supervisor recently explained to CBS, for "anything out of the ordinary, anything that does not fit." Their questions can seem odd or intrusive, especially if your only previous experience with an airport interrogation was being asked whether you packed your bags yourself.

Unlike in US airports, where passengers go through security after checking in for their flights and submitting their luggage, security at Ben Gurion comes first. Only when the profiler is satisfied that a passenger poses no risk is he or she allowed to proceed to the check-in counter. By that point, there is no need to make him remove his shoes, or to confiscate his bottle of water.

Gradually, airport security in the United States is inching its way toward screening people, rather than just their belongings. At a handful of airports, security officers are now being trained to notice facial expressions, body language, and speech patterns, which can hint at a traveler's hostile intent or fear of being caught.

But because federal policy still bans ethnic or religious profiling, US passengers continue to be singled out for special scrutiny mostly on a random basis. Countless hours have been spent patting down elderly women in wheelchairs, toddlers with pacifiers, even former US vice presidents -- time that could have been used instead to concentrate on passengers with a greater likelihood of being terrorists.

No sensible person imagines that ethnic or religious profiling alone can stop every terrorist plot. But it is illogical and potentially suicidal not to take account of the fact that so far every suicide-terrorist plotting to take down an American plane has been a radical Muslim man. It is not racism or bigotry to argue that the prevention of Islamist terrorism necessitates a heightened focus on Muslim travelers, just as it is not racism or bigotry when police trying to prevent a Mafia killing pay closer attention to Italians.

Of course most Muslims are not violent jihadis, but all violent jihadis are Muslim. "This nation," President Bush has said, "is at war with Islamic fascists." How much longer will we tolerate an aviation security system that pretends, for reasons of political correctness, not to know that?

26 August, 2006


But say something derogatory about homosexuals or Muslims and they will be on your doorstep in no time

A father has been shot dead in front of his fiancee and young son by a gang of young men after being terrorised for months. Peter Woodhams, 22, staggered to his front door in Canning Town, East London, after being shot in the chest and collapsed onto the ground. His fiancee, Jane Bowden, 23, who rushed out with their three-year-old son, Sam, to see what was happening, claimed that the same gang had stabbed Mr Woodhams in the neck in January, narrowly missing his jugular vein. She said that she gave the names and addresses of his alleged attackers to the police but no-one had been arrested and officers had not even taken a statement from her.

Speaking about the fatal attack she said that Mr Woodhams had come home from a trip to the shops on Monday and had said that there had been some trouble before going back out. When she heard shooting she ran out with her son in her arms. "Peter turned to me and walked a few steps. I could see blood on his clothes," she said. "Then he just collapsed into some bushes and I started screaming. He managed to drag himself up and walk over to the front door and then fell on to his front. He had been shot in the chest and a bullet had gone through his hand where he had tried to protect himself. Peter was still conscious and talking to me. He kept saying that he couldn't breathe, he was panicking."

Mr Woodhams, a television satellite engineer, had been to the local shops in his car where there is believed to have been an altercation with some youths. Ms Bowden told the Evening Standard how Mr Woodhams had been held down and stabbed in the neck several times at the beginning of the year after he confronted them for throwing a stone at his car. "They wrestled him to the ground and one said, `Hold him down'. Three held him while one slashed his face and stabbed him in the neck. They knew what they were doing - they tried to kill him. "I phoned the police every day for five weeks and they never even came to take a statement from me."

She said that since then the gang of youths, believed to be aged between 14 and 18, had mounted a campaign of intimidation against them. "They knew they had stabbed Peter and got away with it. They thought they were untouchable. He was traumatised by it, but he was determined not to let them win. He wanted to stand up to them and protect me and Sam - that's the way he was." Shopkeepers and residents in the area said that the gang terrorised everyone and regularly stole from cars and shops.

A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said that "a full review" would take place into the initial stabbing inquiry to make sure the "correct police procedure" was followed. She said that at the time a full statement was taken from the victim and officers were given a list of names and addresses of possible suspects but no arrests had been made in connection with the stabbing.

The spokeswoman said: "Following the tragic murder of Peter Woodhams, officers from the Specialist Crime Directorate were made aware of a serious stabbing incident involving the victim in January 2006. Officers from the SCD have been liaising with the senior officers from Newham borough to establish the outcome of this incident; as a result a full review is currently being conducted to ensure correct standards of police procedure were initially taken." A 14-year-old has been arrested in connection with the murder.


Teen car safety runs into political correctness

When I turned 18, my father gave me the keys to our old family car, a dark red 1985 Buick Riviera. It was big, slow to accelerate, and drove like an army tank. My friends got a good laugh seeing me cruising around in the Riv'. Dad knew it was risky to let me drive as a teenager, but he must have figured my risk would be reduced in such a huge car. Now Consumer Reports says he was wrong. In a June 9 CNNMoney article, Consumer Reports spokesman Robert Gentile recommends that parents purchase small or midsize cars for teenagers. Large cars, in his opinion, are too bulky for teenagers. In Mr. Gentile's words, "they are generally more difficult to handle."

Consumer Reports is, for many people, the top source for objective car-buying advice. But Mr. Gentile's recommendation is simply wrong. As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) points out in its brochure, "Buying a Safer Car," "the first crashworthiness attributes to consider are vehicle size and weight. Small, light vehicles generally offer less protection than larger, heavier ones. There's less structure to absorb the energy of the crash, so deaths and injuries are more likely to occur. This is true in both single- and multiple-vehicle crashes." IIHS data shows that the smallest cars have a death rate that's more than twice as great as that of the largest cars.

Mr. Gentile claims that small cars are more maneuverable, and he implies that this makes up for their reduced crashworthiness. If that's true, then it should be reflected in the IIHS data, which is based on the road experience of millions of drivers. It isn't. In fact, as long ago as 1972 the claim of small car maneuverability was debunked in a Ralph Nader Study Group book, "Small on Safety: the Designed-in Dangers of the Volkswagen": "Small size is supposed to have one compensating advantage: according to a prevailing myth, cars like the Beetle are less likely to become involved in accidents, because they are more maneuverable than large cars. This myth is not supported by the facts."

Could it be that teenagers form a special subgroup for which maneuverability is more important than it is for anyone else? The IIHS experts don't think so. "We don't recommend small cars for teens," said spokesman Russ Rader in a phone interview. "Small cars are inherently less protective in crashes than large vehicles because of their size and weight." Rather, says Mr. Rader, consider getting your teen a mid- to large-size newer car that has earned good crash-test ratings. As he told parents in a 2001 interview for Bankrate.com, "Surround them with as much car as you can afford. Since teens have a tendency to speed, you want a well-engineered car with crumple and crush space." IIHS senior vice president for research Susan Fergusson took the same view in a 2004 interview. Commenting on the small, old hand-me-down cars that teens often end up driving, she stated, "These vehicles typically provide inferior crash protection. Yet they're being driven by the youngest drivers, who are the most crash prone."

In the words of Phil Berardelli, author of "Safe Young Drivers," "parents should think big. Resist the thought that a smaller car will be easier for a teen to handle and give him more maneuverability to avoid an accident." Of course, size and weight aren't the only safety considerations. Design and equipment can make huge differences as well, and features such as seatbelts, air bags and electronic stability control can be lifesavers.

So what's behind Consumer Reports' attitude? Is it being swayed by the political incorrectness of large cars? If that's true, it's a darn shame. We can all make our own decisions about a car's political correctness, but judging safety and reliability requires expertise of the sort that we expect to find at Consumer Reports. When I find time to travel home to Texas, I still drive the old `85 Buick. Sometimes I'll see old friends. They'll laugh, and ask one more time how the old Riv' is handling the road. I doubt my father was worried about being politically correct when he gave it me. No matter. I was safe, and that was his top priority. I wish I could say the same about Consumer Reports.


Shameful inaction: Children must be rescued from wicked parental neglect

And to hell with the politically correct social-worker doctrine that children must stay with their parents

The tragic death of 11-month-old Wade Michael Scale in Western Australia is another sad reminder that not all parents have the best interests of their children at heart. Equally shocking, but not unexpected, is the state Government's response, to hide the full extent of its own incompetence.

Baby Wade was found drowned in a bathtub with the adult prescription sedative diazepam in his blood. West Australian Coroner Alastair Hope could not tell if the drug-addicted parents had given Wade the drug to keep him quiet. But the Coroner heard enough to criticise state welfare for failing to offer protection in light of repeated warnings of parental neglect from the child's grandmother.

Wade's death appears to be the tip of a nightmarish iceberg. But we do not known how big because the West Australian Government has suppressed details of an investigation into other children who died while being monitored by the Department of Community Development. Wade's case has echo's of the death of a three-year-old boy in NSW who was raped and then electrocuted by a pedophile his mother had met at a train station. In that case, complaints of abuse by the boy, and his six-year-old sister, were ignored. As were repeated warnings of neglect despite the mother's documented history of handing her children to predators.

This issue clearly haunts all state governments. In Queensland, after campaigning in the 2004 state election to fix its appalling record on child welfare, the Government admitted that 4544 of the 11,896 child abuse reports received last year had not been passed on for investigation. In NSW, dozens of children, many known to be at high risk, die each year because authorities are too willing to accept promises by mothers that things will improve.

In Western Australia, the evidence is that wicked acts have thrived on inaction. A common theme remains the wrong-headed policy of keeping children with their natural parents at any cost. The rights of the parent must give way to the safety of the child and state governments must be accountable for the terrible things that happen because of their inaction. Public exposure is the first, necessary, step.


25 August, 2006

Don't Marry Career Women

A MOST incorrect article below -- even more so because it is heavily research-based. It produced such outrage that it was rapidly taken down from it original source

Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career. Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women--even those with a "feminist" outlook--are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.

Not a happy conclusion, especially given that many men, particularly successful men, are attracted to women with similar goals and aspirations. And why not? After all, your typical career girl is well-educated, ambitious, informed and engaged. All seemingly good things, right? Sure.at least until you get married. Then, to put it bluntly, the more successful she is the more likely she is to grow dissatisfied with you. Sound familiar?

Many factors contribute to a stable marriage, including the marital status of your spouse's parents (folks with divorced parents are significantly more likely to get divorced themselves), age at first marriage, race, religious beliefs and socio-economic status. And, of course, many working women are indeed happily and fruitfully married--it's just that they are less likely to be so than non-working women. And that, statistically speaking, is the rub.

To be clear, we're not talking about a high-school dropout minding a cash register. For our purposes, a "career girl" has a university-level (or higher) education, works more than 35 hours a week outside the home and makes more than $30,000 a year. If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill ( American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier ( Institute for Social Research).

Why? Well, despite the fact that the link between work, women and divorce rates is complex and controversial, much of the reasoning is based on a lot of economic theory and a bit of common sense. In classic economics, a marriage is, at least in part, an exercise in labor specialization. Traditionally men have tended to do "market" or paid work outside the home and women have tended to do "non-market" or household work, including raising children. All of the work must get done by somebody, and this pairing, regardless of who is in the home and who is outside the home, accomplishes that goal. Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker argued that when the labor specialization in a marriage decreases--if, for example, both spouses have careers--the overall value of the marriage is lower for both partners because less of the total needed work is getting done, making life harder for both partners and divorce more likely. And, indeed, empirical studies have concluded just that.

In 2004, John H. Johnson examined data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and concluded that gender has a significant influence on the relationship between work hours and increases in the probability of divorce. Women's work hours consistently increase divorce, whereas increases in men's work hours often have no statistical effect. "I also find that the incidence in divorce is far higher in couples where both spouses are working than in couples where only one spouse is employed," Johnson says. A few other studies, which have focused on employment (as opposed to working hours) have concluded that working outside the home actually increases marital stability, at least when the marriage is a happy one. But even in these studies, wives' employment does correlate positively to divorce rates, when the marriage is of "low marital quality."

The other reason a career can hurt a marriage will be obvious to anyone who has seen their mate run off with a co-worker: When your spouse works outside the home, chances increase they'll meet someone they like more than you. "The work environment provides a host of potential partners," researcher Adrian J. Blow reported in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, "and individuals frequently find themselves spending a great deal of time with these individuals."

There's more: According to a wide-ranging review of the published literature, highly educated people are more likely to have had extra-marital sex (those with graduate degrees are 1.75 more likely to have cheated than those with high school diplomas.) Additionally, individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat.

And if the cheating leads to divorce, you're really in trouble. Divorce has been positively correlated with higher rates of alcoholism, clinical depression and suicide. Other studies have associated divorce with increased rates of cancer, stroke, and sexually-transmitted disease. Plus divorce is financially devastating. According to one recent study on "Marriage and Divorce's Impact on Wealth," published in The Journal of Sociology, divorced people see their overall net worth drop an average of 77%.

So why not just stay single? Because, academically speaking, a solid marriage has a host of benefits beyond just individual "happiness." There are broader social and health implications as well. According to a 2004 paper entitled "What Do Social Scientists Know About the Benefits of Marriage?" marriage is positively associated with "better outcomes for children under most circumstances," higher earnings for adult men, and "being married and being in a satisfying marriage are positively associated with health and negatively associated with mortality." In other words, a good marriage is associated with a higher income, a longer, healthier life and better-adjusted kids.

A word of caution, though: As with any social scientific study, it's important not to confuse correlation with causation. In other words, just because married folks are healthier than single people, it doesn't mean that marriage is causing the health gains. It could just be that healthier people are more likely to be married.


Long service awards are 'ageist'

Council bosses in Norfolk are planning to axe long service awards for staff - in case they are accused of being ageist. New laws that come into force in October will make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds of how old or young they are. Bosses at Broadland Council say they are "reviewing" their policy of handing out awards to employees, in case they breach the rules.

According to The Sun an insider said: "The council officers are terrified of contravening the new legislation. "Officially they are saying the axing of long service awards is just one of a number of options being considered. But the word here is that they've already taken the decision."

Stuart Beadle is leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, which serves the Norfolk Broads and out-lying areas of Norwich. He said: "I think we ought to have a bit of common sense. If people have served councils or business for a very long time it should be recognised."

Local Age Concern worker Luis Santos added: "This is totally outrageous - absolute madness. If a person is 60 or 70 and going to get an accolade they wouldn't see it as being branded old. "It is very good for people when their contribution and achievements are recognised." A council spokeswoman said: "We are looking at all processes in terms of age, gender and race."


Long jail sentence for would-be Muslim terrorist in Australia

The 20-year jail sentence imposed on Faheem Khalid Lodhi sends important signals to all sorts of Australians. For a start, it is a welcome wake-up call for those who refuse to accept we are all on the front line in the war on terror. Lodhi planned an attack on the electricity grid, to wreak havoc on a country that he professed to call home.

His conviction also sends a clear message that individuals in our midst with murder on their minds cannot use the legal system as a shelter from the consequences of planning or committing evil acts. Certainly, self-confessed al-Qa'ida footsoldier "Jihad" Jack Thomas was acquitted of terror offences last week because of police errors in the way he was interviewed. But Lodhi is now convicted, and sentenced to two decades in prison.

The job of the police and the courts is to justly protect us from the mad and the bad. And this sentence shows how it can be done according to law. Lodhi's imprisonment may not deter the most adamant of the enemies of all Australians from taking his place. But some may consider his fate and think again before they plot against us. Lodhi will rot in prison for 20 years, knowing that Australians of all and no faiths despise him for what he planned. Their contempt is a message he deserves to hear loudly and often and for many, many years.

There is also a message for other Australians in Lodhi's conviction and sentence. Despite years of mass murders by Islamic terrorists all over the world, there are still some who say the war on terror is a political contrivance designed to frighten us all. They should consider the judgment of Justice Anthony Whealy in sentencing Lodhi when he warned that even though the plan was amateurish and ill-conceived, it could have caused death and damage.

It is an essential argument. From Bali to London, mass murderers have demonstrated it does not take any special ability to kill innocent people and to shatter the social cohesion and trust that democracies depend on. "Australia has, to this time, not been a country where fundamentalist and extreme views have exposed our citizens to death and destruction within the sanctuary of our shores. One has only to think of the consequences on the national psyche of a tragedy such as the Port Arthur massacre to realise how a major terrorist bombing would impact on the security, the stability and wellbeing of the citizens of this country," Justice Whealy said.

Nor was Lodhi acting to address any grievance that could ever be addressed in a democracy. As Justice Whealy put it: "The extremist views, which he must in truth be taken to have espoused, are not representative of the true nature of his Islamic religion. Rather, they are a distortion of it." In his duplicity and his intent, Faheem Lodhi is our enemy. His conviction will not end the danger of attack, but in removing the risk from a bad man, and reminding us all of the dangers we face, it is a victory in the war on terror we needed.


24 August, 2006


When the chairman of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales reveals that the number of youngsters being sent to court each year has risen by up to 40,000 over the past decade, two conclusions must be drawn. First, the chronic overcrowding in young offender institutions, announced by the YJB last week, should have been foreseen long ago. Secondly, the system designed to identify "at risk" teenagers and keep them out of trouble is not working.

The problem is partly procedural. The official response to most youthful antisocial (but not criminal) behaviour used to be a police caution, with no limit to the number of cautions an individual could amass. That patently inadequate system has been replaced with a highly prescriptive one. Young repeat offenders, however trivial their offences, receive an official reprimand, then a final warning, then a summons to a magistrate's court.

It is no surprise that magistrates are swamped with cases that they do not believe merit their attention. But how to handle them if not via the courts is a question with, literally, life and death implications. It emerged yesterday that Danny Preddie, who was convicted this month of the manslaughter in 2000 of Damilola Taylor, was routinely able to flout curfew orders at his care home in South London because he, and the other teenagers living there, knew staff were banned from using force to stop them leaving.

This does not constitute an argument for a general return to the lash. Rather, as Professor Rod Morgan, chairman of the YJB, tells The Times today, staff in schools and care homes need far greater latitude to sanction their charges as they see fit. Police and the courts should be a last resort.

Freedom from box-ticking will help teachers and carers only if they know what to do with it, however. Professor Morgan is also, rightly, concerned that many who confront violent and disruptive youngsters on a daily basis have lost the confidence to insist on decent behaviour for its own sake. When instilling basic discipline does not come naturally, specialist training has been shown to help. This is true not only in care homes, but also in the most important, most neglected institution in the youth justice debate - the family. Even though parenting is a less instinctive skill than many would-be parents think, the unwritten taboo on "teaching" parenting is only now being broken. When help is offered, however, especially to young, single parents of children at risk of sliding into truancy and crime, it is often gratefully received.

In schools, as in single-parent families, a shortage of suitable male role models may be fuelling delinquency. Professor Morgan calls this issue "tricky". For him, it may be. But policymakers must grapple with it. Vital lessons in acceptable behaviour are being missed by children who then graduate to "criminality". This is a failure of parenting and education, but also of an inflexible youth justice system. The Government's role should not be to micromanage the adults involved, but to empower them to be adults


Hunt saboteurs revealed in their true colours

It could have been a scene from a film set in a future in which law and order has broken down, and Britain is ravaged by marauding gangs. This week, a group of anglers were set on by a posse of 30 masked hunt saboteurs, who emerged from the woods next to a Lancashire lake armed with baseball bats. The "sabs" assaulted and threatened several anglers, including women: a 36-year-old nurse had her expensive rod smashed and was told that, if she did not get out of the way, she would end up in the lake. She described the gang, accurately, as cowards, and intends to return to the lake - at Bank House Fly Fishery near Lancaster - as soon as possible.

How did this grotesque incident come about? The saboteurs had apparently been thwarted in their plan to disrupt a grouse shoot, so picked an easier target. But can these activists seriously expect that their campaign will lead to the banning of an activity in which about three million Britons take part?

The Government has no plans to ban this most unassuming and democratic of field sports, pursued by so many of its natural supporters: indeed, its social engineers are currently trying to thrust rods into the hands of women and ethnic minorities, spending the revenue from fishing licences on - among other things - teaching Muslim women to fish. (The idea that adults should be chivvied into healthy leisure activities, like recalcitrant schoolboys being pushed on to a rugby field in the middle of winter, is dear to New Labour's heart.)

Perhaps the "sabs" are too stupid to have worked out that this is a battle they will not win: after all, they might reason, their guerilla warfare against foxhunting paid off in the end. Then again, perhaps they do not much care. Many of the young people who attached themselves to hunt saboteur gangs in the 1980s and 1990s were misguided idealists (who, after a couple of early morning outings, quickly lost interest).

But there was also another element present in the movement, made up of fanatics and thugs who modelled themselves on Northern Irish paramilitaries (hence the balaclavas and baseball bats). At the time, we suspected that these people were not motivated by distress at the death of foxes, but were instead class warriors of a particularly intolerant variety. The attack on angling - a sport with a strong working-class base - strips away even that ideological fig leaf.

The outrage at Bank House Fly Fishery shows the hard-core "sabs" in their true colours. Like the masked "animal rights" activists who terrorise scientists and their families, these thugs are sociopaths: not animal-lovers, but people-haters.


More on those pesky Maori genetics

Previous post here on 12th.

There is within our species a genetic strain that could possibly be a significant factor in objectively evaluating some of the more dysfunctional aspects of our collective nature.

In 2002, Cognitive Neuroscience researchers at the University of London identified a gene on the X chromosome that was associated with genetic susceptibility for the anti-social personality disorder. This gene codes for the neurotransmitter-metabolizing enzyme Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA).

While males have only one copy of this chromosome, women have two and are therefore much more likely to have at least one copy of the protective gene, this may help explain why severe anti-social behaviour is more common among men than women. The study has also shown that environmental or social factors activate the gene.

Evidence is also emerging of biological differences in a distinct group who systematically manipulate others. They have on average 24% more white matter in their prefrontal cortex and 14% less grey matter than the general population (White matter enables quick, complex thinking, while grey matter mediates inhibitions).

Approximately 3% of European men and 1% of European women have some form of antisocial personality disorder, recent New Zealand genetic epidemiology research indicates an incidence of around 30% for European males and up to 60% for Maori men.

So we have a statistical bell-curve, with the Korea, China and Japan at one end of the scale, and the most isolated frontier of Western culture at the other.

In evaluating cultures, a judgemental perspective has always been something of a precarious minefield. Perhaps the only acceptable criterion has been how a culture treats its marginalised. To that might also be added what a culture does not wish to know about itself. It's therefore unlikely that, within the near future, appropriate research in the fields of Cultural Anthropolgy and Sociology, will originate in New Zealand. Academic opportunity lurks...

More here

23 August, 2006


Declaring that airport screeners shouldn't be hampered by "political correctness," House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King has endorsed requiring people of "Middle Eastern and South Asian" descent to undergo additional security checks because of their ethnicity and religion. Discussing the recent revelation of an alleged plot in England to blow up U.S.-bound airliners, the Seaford Republican said yesterday that, "if the threat is coming from a particular group, I can understand why it would make sense to single them out for further questioning." King, who has said that all Muslims aren't terrorists but that all recent terrorists are Muslim, favors an ethnic and religious profiling scheme that would include foreign and American-born travelers. "I would give the investigators and screeners a lot of discretion as to where it ends," he said.

Despite King's endorsement of such a process, it is a technique that has been widely dismissed as a legitimate law enforcement tool. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, a childhood friend of King's whom the congressman calls one of the nation's leading counter-terrorism officials, has previously called racial profiling "nuts" and "ineffective," and eliminated the practice when he oversaw the U.S. Customs Service.

The U.S. Justice Department issued a policy three years ago banning racial profiling and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said yesterday that he doesn't favor the practice. "I think that, you know, taking action against someone solely because of their race and solely because of their religion I think is problematic," Gonzales said.

Bob Levy, senior fellow in constitutional studies with the Washington-based Cato Institute, a conservative-libertarian think tank, said racial profiling gradually came into disfavor among law enforcement officials because "they discovered that this kind of profiling was very rarely effective in ferreting out useful information." He said targeting people based on a range of criteria is a more operative and constitutionally legitimate tool to stop wrongdoers than relying on a blanket profile. "Simply to profile all Muslims with nothing more than that, I think, would be considered a constitutional problem," Levy said. "Besides, if you are using a profile it doesn't follow that a profile is always effective."

Besides being ineffective, profiling ostracizes a community that could be essential in helping to combat terrorism, said Ahmed Younis of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "In many ways, it is allowing the terrorists what they want, which is the betrayal of our constitutional principles and the disenfranchisement of the communities that we need the most in the war against extremism and terrorism," he said. "American Muslims are on the front lines in the war on terrorism and Mr. King's approach deprives America of her strongest weapon



Ministers are putting pressure on the Scottish Football Association to penalise Scotland's top football clubs if they do not form women's teams. The Scottish executive has reacted to suggestions that important teams are "living in the dark ages" by calling for the development of the women's game to be a condition of the club being licensed by the game's ruling body.

Films such as Bend it Like Beckham, which starred Keira Knightley and ER's Parminder Nagra, have helped to make the sport one of the fastest growing in the country, with 4,000 registered players in youth and senior teams. The Scotland women's squad has risen to 17th in Europe and 29th in the world, but only a handful of clubs, including Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, provide support for the game. Julie Fleeting, the Scotland women's captain, played professional football in the USA women's league before joining Arsenal because there was little scope in Scotland.

Ministers say Scotland's male-dominated senior clubs must support moves to create teams for women or face disciplinary action. Sanctions could include a ban on clubs taking part in European competitions or a refusal to issue grants to the clubs. Their intervention follows a warning earlier this month from a top women's football official, who accused SPL clubs of "living in the dark ages". Maureen McGonigle, the executive administrator of Scottish Women's Football (SWF), said moves to get the top clubs in Scotland to form female teams, mirroring successful efforts south of the border, had so far failed. "A bomb needs to be put under these archaic men. There are clubs who have empty seats week in and week out and they have to start encouraging women to be there," she said recently. "How do you do that? You can start a women's team and show that you are not living in the dark ages . . . There are mothers, daughters, sisters who want to play football."

In England, clubs including Chelsea, Everton and Fulham, have established women's sides which compete in FA-backed league and cup competition. Patricia Ferguson, minister for culture, sport and tourism, claims senior Scottish clubs have a crucial role in promoting wider access and involvement for women. Asked whether the SFA should force clubs to integrate girls' and women's soccer into their community football and player development structures, she said: "Yes. We would also wish to have as soon as practicable a demonstrable commitment to women and girls' football as a condition in the performance club grant scheme". Ferguson wants the requirement added to a list of conditions clubs must abide by under the SFA licensing system.

Making a commitment to women's football mandatory is expected to be resisted by some clubs whose resources for the game are already stretched. Bill Aitken, a Scottish Tory MSP, branded the idea "ridiculous". He said: "I would encourage football clubs to form women football teams and support women's football generally. But this is totally over the top and it appears that Scotland is rapidly becoming a country where compulsion replaces encouragement."


Christianity becomes much more correct if it leads to policies Leftists like

A comment on some recent events in the Australian Federal parliament

When Bruce Baird declared that he could not support a Liberal Party bill for the first time in a 19-year parliamentary career, he did so for religious reasons. The Sydney Liberal MP and former NSW Liberal frontbencher could not get out of his head the experience of visiting those in detention centres across Australia and the recurring Christian rejoinder: "These are your brothers, these are your sisters."

An openly religious and caring Christian, Baird did not abstain from voting on the Coalition's bill to excise the Australian mainland from asylum-seekers arriving by boat because he was a member of the Liberal Left; he never joined the Left faction in all his years in the NSW Parliament. No, he did so because his conscience, informed by his Christian beliefs and experience, directed him. "Whether or not we use a Christian analogy, certainly we know that we are encouraged to look at the weak and vulnerable as a starting point. While we build our riches as a nation, the danger for us is that, in this process of collecting a glittering prize of materialism, we lose our soul," Baird told parliament. "We have had conscience votes on RU486 and other things. This is a conscience vote."

Other Coalition and Labor MPs cited religious beliefs and support of the churches for refugees, particularly those seeking to come to Australia from Indonesia's West Papua. Labor's Peter Garrett declared his own Christian position and his colleague Duncan Kerr praised the role of the Catholic Church in helping Papuans. Crucially, in the Senate, the Nationals' Barnaby Joyce and Family First's Steve Fielding cited Christian compassion for not being able to support the bill. Because Liberal senator Judith Troeth had decided to vote against the bill, the opposition of Joyce and Fielding meant John Howard had to kill the bill.

In opposing the bill, Joyce used the Christian image of the holy family: Mary, Jesus and Joseph, fleeing the persecution of Herod and being turned away from modern Australia. Fielding's party represents family values and has strong support from church groups of all descriptions, including many evangelical churches. When the bill was pulled, the Coalition rebels and Fielding were praised for their courage, for acting on conscience, for the quality of their decisions and standing up to bullying.

This is a lovely, warm tale, a positive example of a victory of conscience, principle and parliamentary strength triumphing over the executive and party bullies. But there's something missing, something that is illogical and contrary to the prevailing political mood and a golden thread that joins this act of conscience with others on a range of moral issues: Where are the attacks on all these people for acting on religious beliefs? Where is Australian Greens senator Kerry Nettle's sectarian T-shirt mocking Joyce's Catholicism and urging him to keep his "rosaries off our refugees"? Why isn't Australian Democrats leader Lyn Allison deploring Fielding's links with "Hillsongy types"? Was this not a conspiracy between the churches and proselytisers of the US Bible Belt and our home-grown bible bashers?

It seems that it's OK to have God in politics as long as he's on the so-called progressive side. It's fine for Greens leader Bob Brown to campaign for Tibet and the Dalai Lama and against China's persecution of the spiritual movement Falun Gong, but not to start parliamentary business with the Lord's Prayer. It's fine for Catholic nuns to help refugees on the run or for Catholic justice groups to help West Papuans, but it's not OK for them to attempt to influence politicians on abortion or embryonic stem cell research. A bishop's remarks against industrial relations laws are used widely, but bishops who speak out against abortion are decried as men in dresses who should keep their hands off women's ovaries.

The Catholic Church, Uniting Church and evangelical groups that support resettling refugees using religious ties are praised, yet Family First is accused of belonging to the neo-conservative religious Right with its roots in the US, and of threatening democracy. Baird confirmed to The Australian this week that he'd received no criticism from other MPs and senators about his religious stand on the refugee bill, not even from those who bitterly attack and campaign against his harmless organisational role in a multi-faith parliamentary prayer breakfast. "You're right," he said. "They tolerate it when you are being nice to them."

But when Nationals' Senate leader Ron Boswell mounts an anti-abortion campaign or warns against accepting the Lockhart recommendations for creating human-animal hybrid embryos for research, he's dismissed as a Catholic scaremonger. Allison argues Tony Abbott should not be Health Minister because he's a Catholic, and the Democrats have criticised Howard and Peter Costello for addressing the Hillsong church.

Allison has gone further in her anti-religious crusade, establishing a God and Government website aimed at fighting the "undue influence" of religion in politics. Setting aside Allison's lack of irony in not recognising that the MPs who have taken a stand on moral grounds against the abortifacient RU486 and allowing embryonic stem cell research have lost parliamentary votes in recent years, she allows her conspiracy theories to fabricate arguments.

Earlier this week I contacted her office about a claim on the God and Government website that the Prime Minister said "immigrants who don't share Christian values should leave" Australia. Allison stood by her claims but, after two days and an angry demand from Howard in parliament that the Democrats change their website, she relented. Allison told The Australian she was sure Howard had said it and had gone further, demanding, at the height of a terrorism scare, that immigrants who didn't support Christian values should be removed from the country. Then she said Costello, "who had addressed Hillsong", had said it.

She admitted later neither had said it and that it appeared she'd made it up. She had indeed. The Democrats' confused campaign to rightly maintain a separation of church and state is being misdirected against the equal right of individuals to hold religious beliefs and use them in exercising their parliamentary duty.

After all, it is inarguable that those MPs representing religions and voting on conscience represent millions more Australians than do the dead men and women walking of the Democrats, a husk of a party reduced to an asterisk in political terms, which aggressively attacks opponents on deep moral issues on the grounds of their religion. The right to express a religious view in politics without harassment depends on which way you vote. It seems that God in politics is OK as long as he's on your side.


22 August, 2006

Crucifix banned in Australian school

A Christian teenager has been banned from wearing a crucifix by her school. Jamie Derman, 17, told News Ltd newspapers she was stunned when told to remove her crucifix or she could be suspended. A Sunbury Downs Secondary College student, Ms Derman's cross is outlawed as part of the multicultural college's new rules on jewellery and dress. But churches have criticised the ban, saying it discouraged students' religious aspirations.

Ms Derman said she felt discriminated against. "I am angry, confused and upset," she said. "I honestly believe I should be allowed to acknowledge (my Christianity). Being told to take it off hurts. It cuts really deep." The cross had sentimental value because her baptism gifts were missing, Ms Derman said. "I can't understand why it is not all right for me to wear a cross," she said. "I honestly felt like crying."

Her father, Gordon, said the ban was the equivalent of ordering a female Muslim student to take off a religious head dress. "Nobody should take offence to anybody wearing a religious sign," Mr Derman said. "She has a right to wear it. I believe it is discriminatory. If we had a Muslim girl come wearing a headscarf, nobody would say `boo' about it."

A reasonable demonstration of one's faith was something Australians should rejoice in, said Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne auxiliary bishop Christopher Prouse. "People's religious aspirations need to be respected," Bishop Prouse said.

Sunbury Downs principal Brett Moore said teachers had enforced the new dress code. "It is not my decision, it is the policy," he said. "Necklaces should not be visible."



London is returning to an era of neighbourliness and low crime in which people are happy to leave their front doors open, according to the country's most senior policeman. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said the work of community-based Safer Neighbourhood Teams was making people feel as safe as they did 25 years ago.

He cited a recent visit to Haringey, North London, where he met two officers who had "adopted" a 19-storey tower block. "How long is it since police patrolled the corridors of a tower block?" Sir Ian asked. "It's as if, when the slums they replaced were flattened, the police stopped patrolling. People are opening their doors, leaving their doors open now, or leaving them unlocked, certainly, in a way they haven't done for 25 years."

In an interview with the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, published today, Sir Ian likened the leaders of the neighbourhood police teams to "the sheriff" keeping the peace on his patch. But the gaffe-prone commissioner's claims appear to be contradicted by local crime figures and his own force's crime prevention advice. In the year to July, Haringey police dealt with 2,834 burglaries of people's homes (54 per week) and 6,399 incidents of violence against the person. Crime in the borough, which includes the Broadwater Farm estate where a police officer died in rioting in 1985, is falling but there were still 33,138 incidents in the past year.

Far from telling people to leave their doors open, the Metropolitan Police website carries a wealth of information on how to make your front door more secure. The commissioner's comments provoked some surprise in Haringey, where his most recent visit, in July, was to inspect the work of a robbery squad. Local officers said they did not know which tower block Sir Ian was referring to. Damian Hockney, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said that the commissioner's remarks were "truly extraordinary".

Neil Williams, Liberal Democrat leader on Haringey council, was also surprised by Sir Ian's remarks. "Community policing has brought enormous benefits in making people safer and encouraging them to report crime. But we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water, people still need to take sensible precautions with their home security and I'm sure the police officers in that area would say that, too."

Sir Ian, who is on holiday, has kept a relatively low profile in recent months after widespread criticism. He said recently that reports of his demise were premature.

Sir Ian's record:

February 2005
With street crime rising, Sir Ian Blair announces crackdown on dinner-party drug scene

Declares Met "gold standard" for anti-terrorism hours before 7/7 bombings. Later says shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes directly linked to anti-terrorist operation

Accused of politicising police in lobbying MPs for anti-terrorism Bill

January 2006
Forced to apologise after saying he could not understand why the Soham murders were such a big story

Apologises again after admitting taping phone call to the Attorney-General, and five other calls, without consent

Another apology for Forest Gate anti-terror raid in which man was shot, no evidence of terrorism found


Some grassroots comments on Sir Ian's thoughts below:

The doors of Ermine House were firmly closed yesterday. Some of the flats had metal gates in front of them, others had cloth over the front door window to prevent prying. Lilian Heseltine, 69, has lived in the tower block in Tottenham, North London, for 30 years. "No way would I leave the door open, and I have never seen police patrolling inside the building," she said. "I'm not really happy here, but home is what you make of it and it is better than it was. I don't want to move."

The picture was similar at Stellar House, farther down the high road. A bored guard sat in reception monitoring his closed-circuit television screens and an entry phone had been installed to exclude non-residents. But it does not work, according to Sarah Elgar, 21. "You can get in if you don't live here," she said. "I see people smoking crack in the corridors and on the stairs. "I would never leave my door unlocked. Nobody that I know of does. The police don't patrol the building. The only time you see them they run past looking for someone. I was born in this area and the crime has got worse."

Laura Barrett, 38, a nurse whose motorbike was stolen recently, laughed at the suggestion that she would leave her door open or unlocked. "No way," she said.



At least their blatant hatred of Christians is being investigated

A criminal investigation has been started by Scotland Yard into an advertisement from the Gay Police Association (GPA) that blamed religion for a 74 per cent increase in homophobic crime. The Times has learnt that the inquiry into the advertisement, which was carried in The Independent, was ordered by the unit set up to counter hate crimes such as homophobia.

The advertisement depicted a Bible beside a pool of blood under the heading "In the name of the Father". It appeared in the newspaper's diversity supplement to coincide with the Europride event in London. It stated: "In the last 12 months the Gay Police Association has recorded a 74 per cent increase in homophobic incidents, where the sole or primary motivating factor was the religious belief of the perpetrator."

Scotland Yard has rejected the 74 per cent figure, which it said did not reflect its statistics. Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell, who leads the domestic violence and hate crime unit, disclosed the investigation in a letter to Ann Widdecombe, the Conservative MP. He wrote: "The original advertisement has been recorded as a religiously aggravated hate crime incident following a crime allegation by a member of the public. "This crime is now the subject of a proportionate effective and objective criminal investigation. The police senior investigating officer is in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service. Any decision to prosecute is the sole decision of the CPS."

The unit has referred the advertisement to the Directorate of Professional Standards at the Metropolitan Police. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has also been consulted.

Miss Widdecombe, a Christian who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1993, was angered by the advertisement. "It seems a deliberate attempt to stir up hate against Christians," she said. By using that famous line of worship, In The Name of the Father, the association is effectively alleging that Christians are solely responsible for hate crime. "The implication of this advertisement is that Christians stir up assault and abuse against homosexuals. "This is not true, as Christians are specifically taught not to hate; not just to refrain from acts or expressions of hatred, but not to give in to hate itself. "Imagine the outcry if the Koran rather than the Bible had been featured. Yet the teaching of both faiths is against homosexual acts. Why single out Christianity?"

Bernard McEldowney, the deputy chairman of the association, which is an independent body, said: "We wanted to focus on what we regard as a problem of faith-based homophobia, not just Christianity. "But when most people think about religion they think of the Bible which is why we agreed to illustrate the advert pictorially with a Bible. "In hindsight maybe we should not have used the Bible but we wanted to highlight serious homophobic incidents on the grounds and justification of religious belief." He said that they took out the advertisement in protest at the failure of the police service and its associated organisations to respond adequately to the problem. "We have highlighted a real problem by taking out the advertisement," he said.

The rise of 74 per cent was calculated by comparing the number of incidents reported to the association in 2004 that were either exclusively or primarily faith-based with those reported in 2005. The number of calls it received last year was about 250. "They were all serious," he added.


21 August, 2006

Tiptoeing around the obvious in airline screening

In the aftermath of 9/11, Congress rushed to mandate that 100% of checked airline baggage in the U.S. be screened for explosives. But the recently foiled plot to bring down 10 U.S.-bound airliners highlights what has remained a major concern in international aviation security: bombs carried into the cabin by passengers themselves.

The initial response this past week has been to sharply curtail the size and number of allowable carry-on items. But the inconvenience from keeping things like laptops and overnight bags out of the cabin is great enough that it could deter air travel and do long-term economic harm. Subjecting all of what used to pass for normal carry-on baggage to exhaustive searches has a similar effect, assuming it is even practical in the long run.

All of which means a return to any kind of normalcy in travel is going to require that airport security do a better job of separating high-risk passengers from unlikely threats. However, the fact that we may have come within a whisker of losing 3,000 lives over the Atlantic still isn't preventing political correctness from getting in the way of smarter security.

In Britain, a report in the Times of London this week that ethnic and religious background may become one allowable factor in screening decisions touched off preposterous cries that it would make a crime of "flying while Asian." Here in the U.S., Bush Administration officials seem afraid to even discuss the topic, despite the fact that President Bush himself has said that the threat comes primarily from "Islamic" terrorists.

So U.S. policy remains much the same as the one instituted after 9/11 by former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who refused to consider the use of religious or ethnic background as even minor factors in screening decisions. The result--with which all air travelers are well familiar--is a policy of random searches that focuses scarce screening resources as much on 8-year-old girls as on 22-year-old men with Pakistani passports. Mr. Mineta's department also undermined another important layer of security--the discretion of air crews themselves--by harassing a number of major carriers on civil-rights grounds after suspicious passengers were removed from flights.

Mr. Mineta is gone now. But on Fox News Sunday last week Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff defended this policy of random searches on grounds that "if we become too focused on a particular profile, we're likely to be dropping our guard precisely where the terrorists are going to be acting next." Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley made the same case to us this week. So did House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman John Mica of Florida.

We think they're attacking a straw man. Nobody is suggesting using ethnicity and religion as the only--or even the primary--factors in profiling possible terrorists. But it also makes no sense to take zero account of the fact that every suicide attack against U.S. aviation to date has been perpetrated by men of Muslim origin. While al Qaeda is no doubt seeking recruits who don't obviously display such characteristics, that doesn't mean we should ignore the likeliest candidates.

Mr. Hawley has improved things at TSA. His move last year to scrap the nail-clipper ban so that screeners could focus on real threats like bombs was welcome and important. So too has been the initiative to have more airport-security personnel paying attention to passengers who exhibit suspicious behavior. This is a technique that has worked for the Israelis.

On the other hand, Mr. Hawley goes too far when he asserts that "behavior will give you away regardless of what you look like." That's what cops like to say about lie detectors, too, but liars sometimes fool them. Worse, Mr. Hawley hides behind the screen of political correctness himself when he says that taking background into account would be somehow contrary to "American" and "Constitutional" values.

The law on this is settled, and in the other direction. On multiple occasions the federal courts have upheld programs that treat groups differently when a "compelling" public interest can be identified: affirmative action, minority set-asides, composition of Congressional districts, and the all-male draft have all met that legal test. Yet the same people who would allocate jobs, federal contracts and college admissions by race or ethnicity object to using them merely as one factor in deciding whom to inconvenience for a few minutes at an airline checkpoint. Surely aviation security is a far more compelling public interest than the allocation of federal set-asides.

For those who put civil liberties above all else, even the TSA's behavior observation technique is too much. In 2004 the ACLU sued the Massachusetts Port Authority and the Massachusetts state police after one of its employees was identified by a similar program in Boston, with a spokesman claiming there was "a significant prospect this security method is going to be applied in a discriminatory manner." Amid this sort of demagoguery, we can see why the Bush Administration would want to dodge a profiling debate.

But someone needs to explain that one point of a smarter profiling program is to forestall what would be far more onerous racial screening if terrorists succeed again. At stake here is also the future of public support for adequate antiterror measures. If Americans conclude that their inconvenience has less to do with terrorism than it does with political correctness, the Administration will find that it has that much less support for the overall war on terror.


Australian safety survey kills feminist distortions

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Personal Safety Survey has finally emerged and along with its appearance, the statistical myths of feminist's victimhood and women's class oppression - particularly those relating to claims of epidemic violence against women - have immediately vaporised. Their silence is deafening.

The survey reveals a picture of what any rational person should have assumed about life simply by observation of the world around them and their day to day existence in it. The survey reveals what most people should have known or should have suspected about the facts of social violence - it is men rather than women who have the most to fear regarding their personal safety. It further reveals that the perpetrators of violence, in all their ugly forms and diversity, are not just men, and that the domain of perpetrators includes a significant percentage of women.

There are few surprises in this survey other than it seems to have been conducted with appropriate propriety. A refreshing breath of fresh air given the lies and spin of so many preceding studies and surveys conducted on this subject. But before delving into some its facts and figures, there are a couple of points that should be clarified about the survey itself.

As surveys go, it seems to have been done responsibly. It has encompassed a sizeable sample of the population - 16,300 adults in total, about 0.1% of the Australian adult population - so its findings could be seen to be a reasonable reflection of what's really going on in Australia today. That's excellent. However, for some peculiar reason, over twice as many women were surveyed than men - 11,800 women compared to only 4,500 men.

Why? Aren't men's experiences of personal safety as valid as those of women? Did they expect that women's experiences of violence would be more valid, diverse or significant? Or was it simply a matter of funding as is implied in the survey's notes? Whatever the reason for it, and there is no fair or justifiable stance that could possibly be taken for this glaring discrepancy, the question remains, why were men relegated to being less than second class respondents?

Who will provide an answer? No one, you can bet, and you can go figure it for yourself, but perhaps we can hope this imbalance will be addressed in any further surveys where the sex of the respondents is relevant.

For now though, when digesting the results, it must be realised that the men's data should be seen to be less accurate than that of the women. In fact, in some cases, reflected in the ABS tables, the data for men is so shabby that annotations have been made indicating that the data are of dubious reliability. Given the importance and far reaching social implications of this survey, this exclusion of men's experiences is a travesty of their rights as taxpayers and citizens of the nation. Especially as it turns out that men are singly the most severely effected members of society where personal safety and violence are concerned.

This treatment of men is a clear statement by the John Howard Liberal government that they see Australian men as being second rate and less than half as important as the women of the nation. Yet, in the Liberal's defense, it must be argued that they are the first government in Australia to include men in such a survey - previous Labor governments simply didn't care about the safety of men and only ever conducted safety surveys for women. That development in itself is at least some consolation for Australian men and is a positive step forward.

The other glaring concern about the production of this ABS survey was the sexist exclusion of men as interviewers. 100% of the interviews were conducted by women. The survey does point out that male interviewers were available upon request for those respondents who may have been so inclined, however, it reports that all those interviewed accommodated the default female interviewers. It is therefore important to realise that the 100% use of female interviewers could possibly have led to an underreporting of spousal and partner violence of men by females due to personal embarrassment in front of women interviewers.

Despite these sexist anomalies however - in a national survey of this significance, one could have at least expected squeaky-clean adherence to equal-sex political correctness - the survey reveals for the first time much important information about personal safety and the victims and perpetrators of personal violence. A subject, which has long been obscured by the murky fog of feminist advocacy.

This survey has revealed some very important truths about social violence and has exposed feminist lies. The following statements, derived directly from the ABS survey, are just our initial findings and a fuller investigation by readers of the finer detail is encouraged. Unfortunately, the ABS has presented its findings in a way that may not be readily interpreted by men's rights advocates in the form they are used to seeing them, therefore we have represented them, expressed in a way with which our readers will be more familiar.

Our statements below compare the freshly published data to the often colloquially quoted rhetorical statistics of feminist propaganda and remember this, these are official Australian government research figures and not some trumped up biased university faculty's data or those of some politically biased independent non government organisation. Facts - the ABS survey has revealed that -

* Men are more than twice as likely as women to be the victims of violence and are being physically or sexually assaulted or threatened at the rate of up to 2 incidents per second

* Women are not the victims of family (domestic) violence as often as the quoted 1 in 4, nor even 1 in 8, nor even 1 in 10, but actually 1 in 100

* Women are not being raped every 26 seconds, nor even every 90 seconds, as feminists frequently claim, but are in fact experiencing sexual assault - not necessarily rape - including both reported and all unreported incidents, at a rate of less than 1 per 5 minutes. This is a rate 91% less than that which feminists have previously claimed

* The ratio of female to male family (domestic) violence victims in a home is not 99:1, nor 9:1, nor even 5:1, but is actually closer to 2:1

These statements above are all calculated from the ABS survey data without corruption. They are the figures. Of course there will be some deviation from the survey compared to real life figures, just as in all studies (read the fine print of the survey) but, remember, the data for women is more than twice as likely to be accurate as it is for men and the data for men may have been tainted by the use of default female interviewers, some of whom may even have been staunch feminists, possibly resulting in underreporting of men's experience of family violence as victims.


20 August, 2006

Why we're hemispheres apart

Are men's and women's brains really different? A new book reignites the debate by arguing that they are

What's the difference between the male and female brain? Ah, if only we had a dollar for every one-liner that has been spawned by that little poser. An entire industry of books, films, key fobs and stand-up comedians owes its existence to the rich seam of humour that can be mined from the disparity between the sexes. Why is psychoanalysis quicker for men than for women?

Because when it's time to go back to childhood, he's already there. Why does a man have a hole in his penis? So the air can get to his brain. What's the main difference between women and men? Women can use sex to get what they want; men can't because sex is what they want. Ha, ha, ha.

But when science asks the same question, we seem to lose our sense of humour. Experts who point to biological differences in the male and female brain as a way of explaining behaviour are seen by some as shattering taboos and reinforcing stereotypes. To some, to look for differences is to look for ways to discriminate against women. Louann Brizendine, an American neuropsychiatrist, knows that she will take some flak when her new book, The Female Brain, is published later this month. In Newsweek, she describes the book as a "kind of owner's manual for women" and in it discusses what she believes are the biological reasons that girls gravitate to dolls and boys gravitate to trucks, and which hormones drive teenage girls to become obsessed with shopping and sending mobile phone text messages. "I know it's not politically correct to say this but I've been torn for years between my politics and what science is telling us," Brizendine says. "I believe that women actually perceive the world differently from men. If women attend to those differences, they can make better decisions about how to manage their lives."

Brizendine, who works at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute in San Francisco, says recent advances in neuroimaging and neuroendocrinology have provided new insights into how women and men use their brains differently. Women, she says, have 11per cent more neurones in the area of the brain devoted to emotion and memory. Different levels of oestrogen, cortisol and dopamine mean that a woman becomes more stressed by emotional conflict than does a man; relatively minor worries can trigger hormones that plunge her into fear of catastrophe while this reaction can be provoked in men only by physical danger.

Put more colloquially, this means women are more prone to hysteria than men, which will not go down well in some quarters. However, the findings fly in the face of some recent studies that claim there are negligible physical differences between men's and women's brains and that it is nurture, not nature, that is responsible for the difference in our behaviour. Janet Hyde, a leading psychologist, who has examined decades of studies about sex difference, says that "there is no gender difference phenomena to explain" and books such as Brizendine's "are bad for my blood pressure". No one would dispute that men and women behave in different ways; the question is why? Are we biologically wired that way or is it due to social conditioning? There is no question that men have larger brains. The male brain weighs about 1.25kg while the female's weighs, on average, 100g less. This doesn't make men cleverer: men generally are bigger than women so it follows that their brains will be too.

There is, though, much evidence that we use our brains differently. Women's brains, for instance, have a thicker corpus callosum, the cable of nerves that channels communication between the brain's two hemispheres. Women tend to use both hemispheres for language tasks, which may be why girls learn to talk earlier than boys. The right hemisphere plays a dominant role in the male brain and it is this side that we use to navigate the world and perform spatial tasks, hence all those hilarious jokes about men being better at reading maps and parking cars.

Brizendine is by no means the first to cause controversy in this area. Two academics - Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, and Paul Irwing, senior lecturer in organisational psychology at the University of Manchester - caused a mini-furore last year when they asserted that not only did men have bigger brains but they also had higher IQs - by about five points - than women. There were, they said, three men to each woman with an IQ above 130 and 5.5 men for each woman with an IQ above 145. "These different proportions of men and women with high IQ scores are clearly worth speaking of and may go some way to explaining the greater numbers of men achieving distinctions of various kinds for which a high IQ is required, such as chess grandmasters, Fields medallists for mathematics, Nobel prize- winners and the like," Irwing said.

But Melissa Hines, professor of psychology at City University in London and author of Brain Gender, says any test of intelligence is subjective: some favour men, others favour women. "It depends on what test you use. If you were using academic achievement, for instance, girls do better in school, so what does that tell us?" she says. "You cannot say that one test is more important than another."

Of Brizendine's book, she says that some of the links the author appears to make have not yet been established and that dwelling on differences for their own sake can be distracting. "What people do is read that there are sex differences in the brain - and that is accurate - and use it to indicate that all our stereotyping of males and females are biologically innate," she says. The point is that "the brain is changeable; it changes all the time". Experience influences our brain and it adapts. The goal of the research, Hines says, should not be obsessing about what is different about our brains but to understand how the system works. So if you wanted to change something - say, make women better at maths - you would have more idea how to go about it.

Steve Jones, a geneticist and author of Y: The Descent of Men, has said that there is absolutely no consensus about this science. "That doesn't mean that there are no differences between the brains of the sexes, but we should take care not to exaggerate them," he says.

Sandra Witelson, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience who established that Albert Einstein's brain was of average size but uniquely structured, believes that sex shapes the anatomy of male and female brains in separate but equal ways, beginning at birth. When she examined numerous brains, she found that in the female brain the neurones in the cortex were more densely packed. This may explain, she says, why women can demonstrate the same levels of intelligence as men despite having smaller brains. "What is astonishing to me is that it is so obvious that there are sex differences in the brain and these are likely to be translated into some cognitive differences, because the brain helps us to think and feel and move and act. Yet there is a large segment of the population that wants to pretend this is not true."

Some experts, however, believe the physical differences in the brain may not be there at birth but are gradually sculpted. This is because social conditioning begins from the first day of life, when the brain produces neurones at the rate of 500,000 a minute. According to experience, neurones and synapses are ruthlessly pruned, a process that continues throughout adolescence. In other words, though something in the brain appears to be biological, it may have come to be that way because of how the body has experienced the world.

Simon Baron-Cohen, professor in the departments of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Cambridge and an expert in autism, firmly believes that the female brain is hard-wired for empathy and the male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems. Indeed, he has advanced the theory that autism is the "extreme male brain", not good at understanding other people but very good at systemising. He does not claim that all men have male-type brains and all women have female-type brains, just that, on average, more men have systemising brains and more women have empathising brains.

Baron-Cohen spent five years writing his book The Essential Difference because he felt it was too politically sensitive to complete any earlier. "I would like to believe that, deep down, men's and women's minds do not differ in essence. That would be a very satisfying truth," he says. "Some people say that even looking for sex differences reveals a sexist mind that is looking for ways to perpetuate the historical inequities women have suffered. Fortunately there are now growing numbers of people, feminists included, who recognise that asking such questions need not lead to the perpetuation of sexual inequalities. In fact, the opposite can be true. It is by acquiring and using knowledge responsibly that sexism can be eliminated."

As Witelson says, it is women who bear children, so it may be that women generally don't get the same pleasure as men from focusing exclusively on their career. "It may be that the way the female brain is wired - and maybe through the evolutionary development of Homo sapiens - that there is a pleasure and a reinforcement that one gets when one is caretaking. This may be something that is more developed, on average, in women than in men."

British psychologist Jack Boyle says that "on a behavioural level, it is a matter of common sense that men and women have major similarities and also major differences. Take sexual abuse. In the thousands of cases that occur, the vast majority of abusers are male. There is overwhelming evidence that men and women behave differently." He adds that for outstanding achievement in, say, the arts and business, men also tend to go to the extremes. "You don't tend to find too many female Richard Bransons or Rupert Murdochs," he says. "Is it because they are wired differently or because of their conditioning?"

One favourite observation of comedians is that while men will use the names of roads and routes to direct someone somewhere, women will use shops. But there may be some neurological grounding for the joke. Apparently the single biggest alleged gap in brain difference is in spatial ability: men are better at mentally rotating an object, a skill related to navigation and maths. The theory is that, centuries ago, men were the hunters who wandered in search of prey and so had to use geometric cues such as distance and direction to navigate in unknown territory. Because women stayed close to home taking care of children, they had less need for such spatial skills and could rely, instead, on familiar landmarks to find their way.

Brizendine, meanwhile, hopes that her book will help to make talk of women and hormones less of a taboo subject. She has developed what she calls a female-centred strain of psychiatry focusing on the interplay between women's brain chemistry, mental health and hard-wiring, and she believes that the next generation will not assume that brain difference implies brain inferiority. "Doctors will help women to better manage the subtle pressures and emotional nuances in their lives," she says. Whether the corny jokes about men not being able to see dirt and women wanting to discuss their relationships at 2am will also die out is another matter.

Which reminds me. How many men does it take to replace a toilet roll? Answer: we don't know because it's never happened.


Prominent Australian do-gooder becomes further unglued

The pretensions of righteousness hide a fraud and a liar

Former judge Marcus Einfeld obtained a PhD degree from a university that has been debunked in the US Congress as a "diploma mill". Pacific Western University, which awarded one of the two doctorates claimed by Mr Einfeld, was investigated by the USGovernment Accountability Office and named in Congress in 2004 for handing out doctorates for the flat fee of $US2595 ($3413). The other doctorate is from the Century University in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is not accredited with the relevant American legal bodies. University of Sydney law dean Ron McCallum said he had never heard of the two universities, but said doctorates issued by degree mills "are not worth the paper they are written on".

Mr Einfeld, a former Federal Court judge, is facing a fraud squad investigation into evidence he gave to a Sydney magistrates court last week that allowed him to avoid a $77 speeding fine. He told the Downing Centre Local Court that at the time of the offence in January, he had lent his car to professor Teresa Brennan, who had been visiting from Florida. It later emerged that Brennan, an Australian-born academic, had died in 2003.

He will be interviewed by fraud squad detectives next week. The NSW Police State Crime Command has been called in to investigate whether he gave false evidence in the case. "Detectives attached to Strike Force Chanter have spoken with the retired judge's lawyers and now expect to interview him during the week commencing Monday, August 21," a NSW Police statement said yesterday.

In correspondence with the court, Mr Einfeld, who retired as a judge in 2001, styles himself as"The Hon Justice Marcus R.Einfeld AO QC PhD". The accountability office told US Congress that Pacific Western University sold its PhD degrees for $US2595 ($3390). It offered academic credit for "life experience" and did not require any classroom instruction, the office said. Pacific Western University, which is based in San Diego, is not accredited by the American Bar Association or the Association of American Law Schools. Century University, where Mr Einfeld says he holds a doctorate of law, is also unaccredited with the ABA or the AALS. ABA accreditation is granted to law schools only after inspections and assessments of factors including staff-student ratios, academic research and law libraries, according to the chairman of the Council of Australian Law Deans, Michael Coper.

When Mr Einfeld was invited yesterday to discuss his recent troubles, he said: "You have got to be joking. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."

More here

19 August, 2006

At 40, is NOW what it set out to be then?

Earlier this month, amid relatively little media fanfare, the National Organization for Women celebrated its 40th anniversary. This date comes in an era when women's issues have receded from the political spotlight, eclipsed by more urgent issues such as terrorism and the war in Iraq, and when the question has become: Is NOW's feminism still relevant?

We have (excuse the cliche) come a long way since 1966, when the women's organization was launched by a few determined feminists including Betty Friedan, the recently deceased author of "The Feminine Mystique." Back then, work outside the home was still seen, for women, mostly as something to do before you got married; discrimination against women in the workplace was widespread and widely accepted; and women at high levels of politics were unusual and were often subject to blatantly sexist ridicule.

NOW's 1966 statement of purpose declared: "The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof... NOW is dedicated to the proposition that women first and foremost are human beings, who... must have the chance to develop their fullest human potential." Today, this proposition would seem unremarkable even to most Americans who eschew the "feminist" label, and society has made tremendous strides toward achieving NOW's goals.

But is NOW, 40 years later, still committed to its proclaimed ideals? The feminists of 1966 were interested in justice for all, not simply more benefits for women. Among other things, they were highly critical of the notion that breadwinning should be the man's sole or primary burden and that a married woman should be automatically entitled to financial support from her husband during marriage or after divorce. In more recent times, however, NOW and its state chapters have tended in almost knee-jerk fashion to side with women in the debates over divorce, often advocating higher and more long-term spousal support.

While paying lip service to the idea of equal parenting, NOW has steadfastly opposed efforts to broaden the rights of divorced fathers. With the exception of a few chapters, it has staunchly opposed such proposals as joint custody and mediation instead of litigation. Ten years ago, NOW issued an "Action Alert against fathers' rights," which accused divorced men who seek a role in their children's lives of abusing power "in the same fashion as do batterers." The top resolution adopted at its 1999 national conference was another call to arms against the fathers' rights movement, asserting that "women lose custody of their children, despite being good mothers, despite a lack of involvement of the father with the children, and regardless of a history of being the primary caregiver." (This has undoubtedly happened in some cases, but to this day it is still far more frequently fathers who experience such injustice.)

NOW depicts the fathers' rights movement as driven by "patriarchal ideology." Yet some fathers' rights activists are themselves dedicated feminists-including Karen DeCrow, an attorney who was the president of NOW from 1974 to 1977.

NOW's failed commitment to true equality is evident in a number of other areas. Its 1966 statement of purpose rightly lamented the lack of equal educational opportunities for girls and young women, noting the declining proportion of young women in higher and professional education and the lack of attention given female high school dropouts. Today, it's mostly boys and young men who are on the short end of educational inequality-as high school and college dropouts and the "missing persons" on college campuses. Yet NOW has nothing to say on this issue.

While NOW has done important work in spearheading legislation to combat domestic violence and aid victims, it has also helped perpetuate a gender-biased, one-sided view of the problem in which men are virtually always the abusers and women virtually always the victims-despite abundant research suggesting a far more complex picture.

NOW's 1966 statement declared that women must seek equality "not in pleas for special privilege, nor in enmity toward men, who are also victims of the current half-equality between the sexes-but in an active, self-respecting partnership with men." Sadly, many of the organization's policies and practices have betrayed this principle. Feminism is still needed in 2006, at a time when social conservatism is on the rise and when many conservative women's groups that claim to offer an alternative to the women's movement promote retrograde and limiting notions of gender roles. But what's needed is a call for equality, not special privilege or enmity toward men. NOW's feminism is not its foremothers' feminism, and that's too bad.


The Hussies of Capitol Hill

Feminists opposed women being "sex objects" but their attack on conventional standards has encouraged exploitation of sex, not stopped it -- the usual Leftist unintended consequences. Maybe there was some point in those old fuddy-duddy standards?

There they go again, MissBehaving. Girls are flocking to work as interns on Capitol Hill, dressed like little whores. Why? The usual reason: to get men to notice and hire them. But, wait, aren't today's girls serious about being respected for their brains? Yeah, right. As the story from ABC News indicates (see below), these girls, whom ABC calls "skinterns," shamelessly admit the objectives of being scantily clad.

"When it comes to style, most of the 535 members of Congress wear conservative suits that reflect the power on Capitol Hill. For some of their fresh-faced interns, however, skimpy tank tops, jeans, short skirts and flip-flops are the "underdressed" norm. "In what I'm wearing, you can see a lot of skin, and I've seen a lot of girls walk around maybe not buttoned up," said Erica Matson, a congressional intern. "These girls wear tight pants, too, and they think maybe they're not pushing the limit, but they are."

With hopes of one day entering the political work force, as many as 20,000 interns begin that summer climb on Capitol Hill. Many will arrive at the most-popular address - the White House - with their tongues wagging. "These kids all come out, and they're still wearing tank tops and flip-flops, and that's where the action is," said Alex Pareene, editor of Wonkette.com, a political Web site. The site sponsors a "Hotties on the Hill" contest, highlighting the sexiest interns on Capitol Hill. "The easiest way to stand out is to not dress conservatively, and maybe if you can get noticed, you might get a full-time position," Pareene said.

The intern "skin" debate, however, isn't limited to the nation's capital. "Gen Y - or millenials, as they are often called - don't have the same sense of respect for hierarchy or authority as older generations do," said Tory Johnson, founder and CEO of Women for Hire. "What is often happening in that case is, we are leaving an impression of young and sexy instead of young, smart, sophisticated and savvy."

Nicole Williams coaches young women entering the work force, and says while some interns are calculating, others are just clueless about real-world business attire. "This isn't a frat party. This isn't about who's the hottest chick out there. You are working for someone," Williams said.

Not all interns are on the same fashion page about what's hot and what's not. "We're here with some very important people," said congressional intern Billy Williams. "This is a privilege to be working here." Still, some interns say looking hot is their ticket to a better job. "You've got the summer to prove `I can work here' or `I can't work here,' so to get noticed, why not?" Matson said.

We all remember what happened to Monica Lewinsky, who just wanted to be noticed.

Apparently, when push comes to shove (pun intended), females choose body over brains to get ahead. It's been eight years since the Monica Lewinsky scandal - just enough time for America's amnesia to set in - so, I guess we can forgive these girls their ignorance. After all, ignorance, temporary insanity, and bipolar disorder are their top excuses for everything, right?

The good-old double standard reigns supreme. There are EEOC and VAWA laws in place to protect women from uncomfortable working environments and unwanted advances. Yet, there are no laws proscribing women from taunting the hell out of men, are there? Of course not: lawmakers always overprotect and indulge women, regardless of their REAL behaviors and double standards.

Once again, the silence from the National Organization of Women (NOW) about Hussies on the Hill is deafening. Why? Because NOW - and feminism - is all about trashing men, not about holding women accountable for their actions. And, you also notice that no male members of Congress are publicly castigating these young hussies . because they never criticize women, for fear of losing the female vote.

How much longer do you guys want to continue tolerating this nonsense? How much longer do you women want to continue diminishing yourselves?


18 August, 2006

PC Defined

(A fantasy by Paul Prete [wolfgang99@bellsouth.net])

In California a food company institutes a new PC policy; no hugging or touching of any kind. Reason; if you hug someone & another person sees the hug and doesn't get one. The hug-less person could sue for discrimination.

Very few individuals are privy to the inner machinations of "Political Correctness" some consider an enigma. Supreme directives on restrictions on "Freedom of Speech" come directly from "The Politically Correct Council of Nine." This clandestine council meets in an underground vessel of indeterminate size and origin two miles below the surface of the earth near the desert community of Yucca Flats, New Mexico.

The council sends envoys to insane asylums in search of three of the most deranged inmates on the planet. Once chosen this "Troika" is summoned to council chambers where "The Benevolent Guild of Elders" runs through an exhausting series of words taken directly from an "Oxford English dictionary."

The Troika's mission is daunting and considered by many an almost impossible premise to wrap your mind around. It is a quest that can only end..in a finite equation upon the scope and future usage of the English language. These ambassadors are implored to define what's offensive, concerning words whose usage...could impinge upon the sensibilities of two or more individuals that are known to frequent health food stores. (Commonly known as Hyper-Anal Sentient Beings) or (The Organic League of Chronic Whiners.)

Due to a genetic abnormality at birth "The Organic League of Chronic Whiners are in every sense of the word..........born dead to passion, spontaneity and sense of humor. This group adorns itself in 15th Century Bolivian peasant attire, donning tiny baskets strapped to their heads while chanting "I am a vegetarian; therefore I live in a vegetative state." (It is not known why they do this; there has been supposition to suggest that the baskets may ward against demons from entering the cranial cavity; and hence creating havoc from within.)

These primitives utilize the ancient ways (Alchemy) to unearth the secrets of human flight with potions. In a ritual known as "Unborn Feathers" many will coat their bodies in candle wax and herbs in a desperate attempt to grow wings. Subsequently a vast majority suffer catastrophic injures whilst they attempt the symbolic "Flight of the Wrens" off of barns and a variety of perches in their unrelenting quest to soar the heavens.

These individuals appear to thrive in "child like endeavors" such as stringing colorful beads onto pieces of string, weaving baskets and anything related to crystals. The organic league/Hyper Anal; find solace in beating on the skins of animals.

The Innermost Workings of Political Correctness:

"The Politically Correct Council of Nine" issues a decree summoning the members to the "Great Hall." The enormity of the task awaiting the three members of the Troika cannot be understated. The audience is seated in close proximity to the Troika as "The Reading of The Words" begins.

The Troika (strapped to chairs) can instantaneously spot words that can have.."Complicated nuanced implications"..and will repeat said words aloud; evoking wailing and shrieking from members of the audience. (Many faint upon hearing the now Politically Incorrect.revolting words of the unenlightened.") Once a series of words are chosen they are rendered verboten and stricken from the English language; never to see the light of day again.

The tension in the chambers can be unbearable as thousands assemble during the summer solstice to gaze upon the turbulent, gut-wrenching ritual known as "Expulsion" in which page after page of an "Oxford Dictionary" is violently torn from its bindings....shredded and then cast into a funeral pyre. In a finale known as "Revulsion" goat blood is poured onto a Gutenberg press which is pounded into submission with Ball-pein hammers.

At the end of the ceremony the general assembly is permanently silenced with leather restraints (modified dog muzzles) for the remainder of their natural born lives. This is to ensure that no verbal transgressions ever take place within the general population estimated in to over one hundred and fifty million strong. All communications hereafter are accomplished by scribbling on minute scraps of parchment.

On occasion members of "The Triad of Instability" as they are fondly known...go off into a delusional rant that can last for days on end. During the impending chaos, hemp bindings are utilized to prevent fingers or tongues from beings severed. The painful ritual of waiting for the rant to subside is the closest thing to a religious experience the guild will ever visit.

Recently a series of mass suicides resulted from a devastating decision by the Troika to have the phrase "I Love You" stricken from the annals of human recorded history. The words are now considered "Politically Incorrect."

In a stunning unprecedented move members of "The Hyper-Anal/ Sentient Beings. brought a plethora of depositions to argue their case in front of the "Supreme Ruling Body" in the covenant. "The Politically Correct Council of Nine." Seven months passed before the Council responded to the petition. They finally issued a rambling edict that encompassed the basic tenets on Politically Correctness ...suppression of Free Speech and or any speech or thoughts (Orwellian thought crimes) that may be construed as having an independent thought process. For those "Who have the Audacity to Think for Themselves."

The Council of Nine's interpretation of the Troika decision is as Follows:

"The words.."I Love You"... if spoken in a crowd to another single individual are exclusionary by nature..and may cause profound emotional upheaval for those within earshot who may be forced to relive painful relationships gone astray in the past."

Those who break the covenants of the council of nine by misspeaking (removing said restraints) are subject to "Mind Washing" and or shunning by the guild community and blessed with the burden of a "Scarlet Letter" of contrition emblazoned with the words...."To Think is to Sin" for the rest of their natural lives. (In rare cases where mind washing isn't effective the vocal cords are surgically removed)

Rather than break the covenants..three hundred and forty seven thousand guild members committed suicide in Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New England, California and Asheville, North Carolina.

A Recurring Nightmare....I have had for the past 2 months.

I'm in downtown Asheville, N.C (I reside in the area) but the town is strangely different and has the look and feel of Berlin in the late 1930's. I notice numerous shops dripping in blood with a red letter J painted across the facades. On the ground are what appear to be severed arms used as paintbrushes.

As I travel on foot up to the center of town everyone I come across has duct tape over their mouths including me. I finally reach the city plaza where the library is ablaze as.....thousands of Hippies are Burning Books. I push my way through the crowd; reach into a smoldering blaze and retrieve a charred remnant..only to realize it's what's left of a history book.

I remove the tape and ask the crowd "Why are we burning history books." The throng rushes towards me slapping another piece over my mouth..as a giant Shrink-Wrap Machine rolls me into a cocoon..and deposits me onto the side of a very tall building. I'm now thirty stories up dangling in the air. The last thing I remember is looking out over the skyline expecting to see thousands of cocoon's...to my shock and dismay..........I am the only one.

("Patterning your life around other's opinions is nothing more than slavery." Lawana Blackwell)


Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to see Adolf Hitler, Walter Winchell observed in 1938, "because you can't lick a man's boots over the phone." Why did Mike Wallace fly to Tehran? Wallace's bio at the CBS website lauds his "no-holds-barred interviewing technique," but there was little evidence of that on Sunday, when "60 Minutes" aired his interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of the virulent Iranian theocracy that is the world's most active sponsor of jihadist terror.

Time and again Wallace let Ahmadinejad brush him off with inanities and lies he would have pounced on had they been uttered by a business executive or an American politician. When Wallace asked, for example, why Iranian Revolutionary Guards are helping terrorists in Iraq kill US soldiers, Ahmadinejad's non-reply was that the Americans shouldn't be in Iraq, since it is "a civilized nation with a long history of civilization." When Wallace didn't press for an answer to his question, Ahmadinejad flung it back at him. "According to international laws," he said, Iraqi security is the responsibility of "the occupation" -- that is, the US military. "Why are *they* not providing security?" Flummoxed, perhaps, by such Alice-in-Wonderland logic, Wallace dropped the subject.

And that, more or less, was the story of the interview. Wallace would pose a question, Ahmadinejad would swat it away with a preposterous retort, and Wallace would move on to something else. Asked about the thousands of artillery rockets provided to Hezbollah by Iran, Ahmadinejad sneered: "Are you the representative of the Zionist regime or a journalist?" Confronted with Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, he declared that President Bush and his supporters want to monopolize energy resources and "line their own pockets." You're a bigot who despises "the Zionists," Wallace challenged him. Not at all, said the man who wants Israel wiped off the map, I merely despise "heinous action."

For some reason, Wallace neglected to ask Ahmadinejad about Iran's brutal treatment of political dissidents. Or about the scores of anti-government demonstrations that have taken place across the country. Or about the 18-year trail of false reports Iran filed to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Or about allegations by former American diplomats that Ahmadinejad took part in the 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran. Or about the ballistic missiles flaunted in Iranian military parades with banners reading "Death to America" and "We will trample America under our feet."

Fawning over despots is something of an old habit with Wallace. His "60 Minutes" whitewash of the late Syrian tyrant Hafez Assad in 1975 so pleased the Damascus regime that years later the Syrian embassy in Washington was still distributing transcripts of the program. In 1990, as the Soviet Union was coming unraveled, Wallace assured his viewers that many Soviets "look back almost longingly to the era of brutal order under Stalin." Writing in Commentary the following year, David Bar-Illan described an obsequious Wallace interview with Yasser Arafat: "Had he treated American ... politicians this way, he would have been drummed out of the profession."

No danger of that. Wallace told the Boston Globe last December that if he could go one-on-one with Bush, he would ask him how someone so "incurious" could be suited for the presidency and whether his election "has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up." A pity, Wallace must think, that America's president isn't more like Iran's -- that "rather attractive man," as he gushed about the world's leading Holocaust denier last week, "very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way ... infinitely more rational than I had expected him to be."

More here

Australian blacks get private property rights

To the fury of Leftists

Three decades of watertight Aboriginal land rights ended in the Federal Senate yesterday in a revolution expected to impact on Queensland indigenous communities. Northern Territory Aborigines will now be permitted to "sell" off entire townships on 99-year leases after the overhaul of the historic NT Aboriginal Land Rights Act introduced by former prime minister Gough Whitlam. The new regime is designed to kick start an enterprise culture in Aboriginal communities and may pave the way for the Queensland Government to introduce similar measures.

But James Ensor from global community aid organisation Oxfam has described the legislation as "deeply unpleasant". And the Federal Opposition said it displayed a fundamental lack of respect for Aborigines and their property rights.

Queensland Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Mickel said he wanted to look at the new federal laws more closely before commenting. However, both Mr Mickel and Premier Peter Beattie supported Aboriginal activist Noel Pearson's calls for more private land ownership among Aborigines as the path to economic empowerment.

The laws, still subject to minor amendment, allow NT Aborigines to lease parcels of land to an NT Government entity which in turn can sub-lease the land to others. Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough says the laws are voluntary. But critics fear land grabs by developers and bribery by governments who could demand a lease in exchange for essential services.

Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation fear a precedent has been set for states to follow. "The real difference between these laws and the laws of the past 30 years is that NT Aborigines do not support them," a spokesman said. Labor's Indigenous Affairs spokesman Chris Evans said the Government had displayed a fundamental lack of respect for traditional land owners.


17 August, 2006

Who's happiest: Denmark or Vanuatu?

When two different countries can top two different happiness surveys in the same month, you know there’s something dodgy about happy stats. They are more propaganda for various politically correct viewpoints than anything else

Imagine there were competing systems for awarding points to teams in a football league. According to the first system, one set of teams was in the top 10, while judging by the other system, a completely different set of teams was at the top. Observers would probably conclude that at least one and possibly both systems were flawed.

Yet no one seems to be drawing such a conclusion from the recent publication of two sets of global happiness league tables (reproduced at the bottom of this article). In the World Map of Happiness, compiled by Adrian White at the University of Leicester, the top 10 are mainly European countries with Denmark first, followed by Switzerland and then Austria. In the Happy Planet Index, compiled by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in association with Friends of the Earth, the top country is Vanuatu (an island nation in the Pacific), but the list is dominated by smaller Latin American countries.

Wealthy countries do much better in the World Map of Happiness than in the Happy Planet Index. America is ranked 23 in the World Map of Happiness but 150 in the Happy Planet Index, while Britain is 41 in the first and 108 in the second. Healthcare and education also help countries rank highly in the World Map of Happiness. On the other hand, Colombia, a country which has suffered a 40-year civil war, somehow makes it to number two on the NEF ranking.

Despite the vast differences between the two tables, apparently measuring the same thing, the contradiction does not seem to have attracted much comment (3). The publication of both sets of league tables in July has generally been reported uncritically. Journalists seem to take it as given that the league tables provide meaningful information for their readers.

Before unpicking this puzzle it is important to point out there is nothing inherently wrong with measuring subjective perceptions of happiness. If individuals in one country are on average happier than in another country, or if happiness varies over time in the same country, it is worth investigating. But it is important to recognise that such perceptions should be the starting point rather than the end point of a study. All sorts of factors, including social and cultural ones, can influence what people say about their levels of happiness. The job of the researcher into such data is to try to work out why people say what they do.

The first and most astonishing fact about the two happiness league tables is that neither are measures of happiness. Although they are promoted as being rankings of happiness, a glance at the small print shows that subjective wellbeing is only a component of what they measure. Both are based on various combinations of self-reported happiness combined with a variety of other indicators. In fact, the University of Leicester Study uses data from the NEF, which in turn compiled the Happy Planet Index.

Full information on how the World Map of Happiness is calculated is not provided on the Leicester University website, although it says: ‘The projection, which is to be published in a psychology journal this September, will be presented at a conference later in the year.’ In addition to self-reported happiness, it seems to include access to schooling, life expectancy and GDP per head as part of the calculation.

In contrast, the NEF gives a rough idea of how its index is calculated:

The HPI incorporates three separate indicators: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy. The statistical calculations that underlie the HPI are quite complex. However, conceptually, it is straightforward and intuitive:

HPI = Life satisfaction x Life expectancy
Ecological Footprint

Out of these indicators life expectancy and life satisfaction are fairly straightforward. Life expectancy is clearly easy to quantify and it is an important objective measure of wellbeing. Life satisfaction is a subjective measure of happiness and, as already argued, is worth knowing. However, whether it is meaningful to combine the two in a single measure is open to question. One is an objective measure of wellbeing while the other is subjective. In addition, there are many other objective measures of wellbeing that could be used in addition to life expectancy.

The most problematic measure, however, is that of the ‘ecological footprint’. The NEF says: ‘The ecological footprint measures how much land area is required to sustain a given population at present levels of consumption, technological development and resource efficiency, and is expressed in global-average hectares.’(7) Even assuming for a moment that this concept is useful, it is hard to see what it has to do with happiness. It is quite conceivable that people living in countries with a large ecological footprint could be happy even if it was the case that their lifestyles were unsustainable.

As it happens, the notion of an ecological footprint is a dubious one. It is usually presented as a fixed measure but, as the definition suggests, greater technological development can completely change the measure. The amount of area needed to sustain a given population at one level of technology can be completely different from that at a higher level of technological development. Better technology, as well as greater resource efficiency, means a smaller area of land can sustain a given population. Yet the discussion of the ecological footprint typically includes meaningless statements such as ‘humans are using more resources than are available on the planet’

In the context of happiness rankings, to include the ecological footprint inevitably means that countries with high levels of consumption will be downgraded. So this assumption alone means there is an in-built bias against the developed countries in the NEF’s Happy Planet Index. Therefore, middle-income nations – where individuals have a reasonable life expectancy but consumption is still relatively low – do best. In contrast, the University of Leicester Study seems to award positive points for countries with a high GDP per head, so developed countries do well in that ranking.

This shows that world happiness rankings reveal more about the prejudices of their compilers than they do about the inhabitants of different nations. This is most clear in the NEF Happy Planet Index, which, through the use of the ecological footprint, has that bias against developed nations. The conclusions that it draws – including the need for humans to restrict their consumption – are built into the assumptions of the index. It is a circular argument.

What ‘happiness’ means in this context is the happiness of the index compilers rather than that of the world’s inhabitants. As environmentalists, the NEF’s preference is for a world in which humans restrict their consumption. The implication is that it would prefer Americans or Britons to reduce their consumption levels to that of people in Colombia or Costa Rica. Therefore, it has constructed an index which reflects the qualities it sees as desirable.

Statistics can be a valuable aid to understanding society. If they are properly used they can help point to areas that demand further investigation by researchers. But those who use statistics should never forget they need to be handled with skill and care. They would do well to remember the old maxim of computer programmers: garbage in, garbage out.


Wimmin at War

It is 25 years since the Greenham Common protests began. Sarah Baxter was there, but now asks why feminist ideals have become twisted into support for groups like Hezbollah

When Ann Pettitt, the mother of two young children, and her friends set off in August 25 years ago on a 120-mile trek from Cardiff to the little known American air base at Greenham Common in Berkshire, they gave themselves the ambitious name of “Women for Life on Earth”. Their numbers were tiny but the stakes, they felt, were dauntingly high.

The cold war world was bristling with Soviet and American nuclear weapons, posing the threat of mutual assured destruction (Mad). In a dramatic escalation of the arms race between the superpowers, shiny new cruise missiles were due to be delivered to Greenham, placing Britain’s green and pleasant land in the bull’s eye for targeting by the Soviet Union.

The modest peace march was largely ignored by the media, so on arrival at the base the women decided to borrow the eye-catching tactics of the suffragette movement. They chained themselves to the gates of Greenham and dared the police to remove them. Sympathisers began to turn up bearing makeshift tents, clothing and pots and pans. Many came and went but others stayed. Thus was the women’s peace camp born a quarter of a century ago this month and a new chapter in the history of feminism opened.

“I was motivated by fear and terror,” Pettitt recalled last week. “I was the mother of a two-year-old and a four-year-old and weapons of mass destruction were the ultimate denial of the fact that I’d created life. There was such brinkmanship, I really thought that nuclear weapons might be used.”

Mercifully, they weren’t. President Ronald Reagan once blurted out in front of a live microphone that the bombing of Russia was going to begin in 15 minutes, but it was nothing more than a tasteless joke. In hindsight Reagan’s hardline negotiating stance helped to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. By the end of the 1980s the Berlin Wall was down and the velvet revolutions in eastern Europe were under way.

The peace movement lost a foe in Reagan but has gone on to find new friends in today’s Stop the War movement. Women pushing their children in buggies bearing the familiar symbol of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament marched last weekend alongside banners proclaiming “We are all Hezbollah now” and Muslim extremists chanting “Oh Jew, the army of Muhammad will return.”

For Linda Grant, the novelist, who says that “feminism” is the one “ism” she has not given up on, it was a shocking sight: “What you’re seeing is an alliance of what used to be the far left with various Muslim groups and that poses real problems. Saturday’s march was not a peace march in the way that the Ban the Bomb marches were. Seeing young and old white women holding Hezbollah placards showed that it’s a very different anti-war movement to Greenham. Part of it feels the wrong side is winning.”

As a supporter of the peace movement in the 1980s, I could never have imagined that many of the same crowd I hung out with then would today be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with militantly anti-feminist Islamic fundamentalist groups, whose views on women make western patriarchy look like a Greenham peace picnic. Nor would I have predicted that today’s feminists would be so indulgent towards Iran, a theocratic nation where it is an act of resistance to show an inch or two of female hair beneath the veil and whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not joking about his murderous intentions towards Israel and the Jews.

On the defining issue of our times, the rise of Islamic extremism, what is left of the sisterhood has almost nothing to say. Instead of “I am woman, hear me roar”, there is a loud silence, punctuated only by remonstrations against Tony Blair and George Bush — “the world’s number one terrorist” as the marchers would have it.

Women are perfectly entitled to oppose the war in Iraq or to feel that Israel is brutally overreacting to Hezbollah’s provocation. But where is the parallel, equally vital debate about how to combat Islamic fundamentalism? And why don’t more peace-loving feminists regard it as a threat? Kira Cochrane, 29, is the new editor of The Guardian women’s page, the bible of the Greenham years, where so many women writers made their names by staking out positions on the peace movement. She has noticed that today’s feminists are inclined to keep quiet about the march of radical Islam. “There’s a great fear of tackling the subject because of cultural relativism. People are scared of being called racist,” Cochrane observes.

Whatever the merits of unilateral nuclear disarmament, women were a lot braver a quarter of a century ago. Pettitt remembers how “we tried to crash the top table at Greenham. You had to be rude to interrupt because you’re never going to be invited to speak”.

I had just left university in the early 1980s when I got swept up in the peace movement. My Saturday afternoons were often spent marching from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square and on the day when cruise missiles arrived in Britain, I rushed to a protest outside the Houses of Parliament, was arrested by the police, dragged into a black maria van and shoved overnight into a south London police cell. It was nothing compared to what the women of Greenham Common endured, but I felt like a heroine when the next day my male boss at Penguin Books, where I worked as a junior copywriter, paid my fine.

I was a bit sniffy about the all-women’s peace camp because I was partial to men and disliked much of the mumbo-jumbo surrounding it. In her forthcoming memoir, Walking to Greenham (published by Honno), Pettitt writes about the “delightful irony” of liberated women using “emblems of conformist democracy” such as knitting needles and wool to protest against war, but I used to see the ghastly spider webs and children’s mittens tied to the razor wire on the perimeter fence and shudder.

Nevertheless, I attended several “embrace the base” demonstrations in support of the women who had put the issue of nuclear disarmament so defiantly on the map. I went on to get a job at Virago, the feminist publisher, and marvelled at the way the “peace wimmin” had energised the brand new field of women’s studies, sparking lively debates on the virtues and vices of separatism from men and the extent to which nuclear weapons were “boys’ toys” (a tricky one in the age of Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman prime minister).

Later, as a journalist, I broke into the base with a group of Greenham women, stood somewhat pointlessly on top of the silos where the cruise missiles were stored and went on to become friends with one of the peace campers, who had been abused as a child and had found comfort in the new “family” she had made living in the rough and ready “benders” constructed of branches and plastic sheeting.


Four decades of loss: The reality of the Wave Hill walkout does not pass muster

Leftist fantasies about a real-life disaster

The story of how Northern Territory Aboriginal stockmen were robbed of their future by well-meaning but misguided thinking is an abject lesson that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. As Nicolas Rothwell has reported in The Australian, 40 years after the watershed walkout by black stockmen at Wave Hill - who were demanding equal pay for blacks and whites - the first glimmer of economic self-improvement is only now apparent. There is no guarantee it will succeed and it in no way compensates for four decades of loss.

In the end, the walkout served only to help incubate living conditions among indigenous communities that are a national scandal and an international embarrassment. As explored in the book Distance, Drought and Dispossession, by horse-breaker-turned PhD Glen McLaren, the plight of the Territory's Aboriginal stockmen was sealed by impatience and a fatal miscalculation. Impatience because the walkout followed an arbitration commission ruling in favour of a sliding pay scale over time, with the best black stockmen paid well for their labour. And miscalculation because the equal-pay campaign ignored the fact that in addition to paying wages, the pastoralists were also providing for large extended families, effectively providing an economic lifeline through which an association with traditional lands could be preserved.

After walking out, Aboriginal stockmen were effectively left out in the cold. The commonwealth, through welfare, was forced to pick up the financial burden and, without work, the remote communities spiralled into the tragic circumstances brought about by too much time and too little money or productive opportunity. These are the stark realities not readily acknowledged in urban celebration of the land rights struggle, epitomised by former prime minister Gough Whitlam's symbolic 1975 pouring of soil into hands of Vincent Lingiari, the man who led the walkout.

It is the same sentiment in which Lingiari is immortalised in the pop ballad From Little Things Big Things Grow, by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly. But symbolic gestures and catchy tunes have never been enough. There is still no evidence of the "big things" that are supposed to have grown from the walkout. The Daguragu cattle property set up for the strikers has been deserted for 15 years. The delivery of land rights was never dependent on the walkout. And instead of self-determination, a succession of well-meaning but misguided government policy has left the former stockmen and their children stranded.

That a small number is now showing an interest in joining the cattle industry is cause for optimism. So too are belated efforts to kick-start a viable indigenous cattle industry. But as the land rights warriors of the 1970s meet to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the walkout, they should acknowledge the unnecessary loss suffered to satisfy the stubborn idealism of others.


16 August 2006

Passport photograph of girl's bare shoulders rejected 'as it may offend'

But British officialdom is now backpedalling

A five-year-old girl's passport application was rejected because her photograph showed her bare shoulders. Hannah Edwards's mother, Jane, was told that the exposed skin might be considered offensive in a Muslim country. The photograph was taken at a photo-booth at a local post office for a family trip to the south of France. Because of the way the camera was set up, the picture came out showing Hannah's shoulders.

The family had it signed and presented it at a post office with the completed form but were told that it would not be accepted by the Passport Office. A woman behind the counter informed them that she was aware of at least two other cases where applications had been rejected because a person's shoulders were not covered.

Mrs Edwards, a Sheffield GP, said: "I was incensed. I went back home and checked the form. Nowhere did it say anything about covering up shoulders. If it had, I would have done so, but it all seems so unnecessary. "This is quite ridiculous, I followed the instructions on the passport form to the letter and it was still rejected. It is just officialdom pandering to political correctness. "It is a total over-reaction. How can the shoulders of a five-year-old girl offend anyone? It's not as if anything else was showing, the dress she wore was sleeveless, but it has a high neck."

Hannah had her first passport when she was three months old. Her mother and her father, Martin, realised that it was due to expire during their holiday later this month and decided to renew it advance. They aimed to complete the application on Saturday, the same day that Hannah was to be Sheffield Wednesday football team's mascot at Hillsborough stadium. Mrs Edwards was also on call from her surgery. After the rejection at the post office, Mrs Edwards spent two hours taking Hannah for new pictures, filling in a new form and finding the necessary "responsible citizens" to endorse the photos. "The people who had signed the original application were not available," Mrs Edwards said. "I had to chase around and eventually found a neighbour who was a teacher to sign the pictures. "The Passport Office should set this sort of thing out in its forms if it is going to be so pedantic."

A spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service said it was not its policy to reject applications with bare shoulders. "The guidance set out on the application form doesn't include it, this picture should have been absolutely fine," she said. "If people follow those rules there should be no problem. "The Post Office obviously has its rules and we can't comment on that. We are aware of a case in the past where an error was made involving similar circumstances, although I don't know the exact details. Staff should be aware of the rules."

A Post Office spokesman said: "Our offices have a Passport Office template which says what the photograph should and shouldn't be. "Bare shoulders don't come into that at all. We can't see any instruction to that effect so all we can do is apologise to Mrs Edwards. It was clearly a mistake made by the clerk at the post office. "It is the first time we have heard of such a rejection and we will take it up with that particular office. "We do around three million passport applications a year. It is one of our most popular services and it is normally extremely effective. "We have a much lower rejection rate compared to applications submitted directly to the Passport Office."



Christians sure get plenty of it. Why not Muslims?

The truth is that it is now too dangerous for religion to be given the special status it has always had. When large numbers of people, some of them living among us, want to kill us and our innocent children (surely "innocent children" is a tautology) for no other reason than that we do not believe in their God, we can no longer afford to tiptoe around religious sensitivities. It is time to get rid of the taboo that says religious beliefs have to be quarantined from criticism. It is time to hold some religious beliefs up to ridicule.

God may or may not exist; I don't presume to know. But I am fairly certain that a god does not exist who wants everyone killed who does not believe in a certain book; or a god who takes an obsessive interest in what women wear; or a god who cares about whether we eat pork rather than lamb (though if I were god I'd be pretty annoyed at human beings eating any other animals); or a god who wants little bits of babies' genitals cut off.

The holy books on which Jews, Christians and Muslims rely were written at a time when ideas about human rights and the scope of scientific knowledge were very different from today. We are expected to respect religious texts that contain invitations to genocide, rape and slavery. We are supposed to respect all religions when the central tenet of every religion is that its holy book is the right one and all others are in error or at best incomplete. Unbelievers are those who declare, "God is the Messiah, the son of Mary," says the Koran. "Believers, do not make friends with any but your own people." We are supposed to respect beliefs that if they were held by one person, rather than millions of people, the person holding them would be judged insane. Catholics are enjoined to believe that during the mass a piece of wafer is transformed not into a symbol of the body of Christ, but into the actual body of Christ.

Millions of people also once believed that witches cause crops to fail, or that thunder is the noise made by the gods fighting. They stopped believing in such things either because scientific knowledge proved them wrong, or because they discovered that sensible and reasonable people found the beliefs ridiculous.

In Victoria, politicians are tying themselves in knots over whether to support or reject the state's racial and religious tolerance laws. Once I would have written in support of these laws; but as we have been reminded yet again in recent days, the world has changed. Millions of kindly Christians may be able to ignore the nasty bits in their holy books but, though most Muslims are not extremists, too many are unable to ignore what's in theirs.

Yes, let's have laws against racial vilification, because people don't have a choice about their race and in any case racial slurs are based on assumptions that are unfair and scientifically wrong. But unless we accept there is no such thing as free will, religious belief is a matter of choice.

As the existence of God cannot be proved or disproved, it is no more moral to believe than not to believe. The best hope for a less religious and thus safer world is for religion - all religion - to be open to rational and stringent examination and criticism, and yes, to ridicule. Newspapers would be doing the world a favour if, as the "thought for the day", instead of printing the nice passages out of the holy books, they printed the most absurd and abhorrent texts, so that they can be seen as the dangerous nonsense they are.

Don't blame the unbelievers for the end of tolerance. Blame the religious ideology that persuades young men that by strapping explosives to their bodies and killing as many infidels as possible, they are assured of glory in paradise, surrounded by dark-eyed virgins. That's where the wickedness lies.


Missing Men Give Lie To Fatuous Careerism

By Denise Noe

When I was growing up, there were a pair of female radio talk show hosts named Miki and Teddi who were liberals and doctrinaire feminists. One of them stated their opinions about women and the work force: "We think every woman should have a career just as every man should have a career." They also believed that financially depending on someone else, like a husband, was "absolutely degrading."

Part of the problem with this formulation is that every man does NOT have a "career." Many men have JOBS. They work as store clerks, factory laborers, garbage collectors, telemarketers, coal miners, janitors, waiters, and the like. Some of them experience their work as sheer drudgery.

There was a strong tendency in the early days of the 1970s feminist movement to glorify paid work and downgrade housewifery. To be fair, Gloria Steinem called being a housewife "a dignified and important job." However, the attitude espoused by talk show hosts Miki and Teddi was often prominent.

Arianna Huffington pointed out that the tendency to glamorize careers came from what she called women's liberationists' "lop-sided view of the world" because of the work many of them did. They were often academics, journalists, and artists. Their work was creative and intellectually stimulating - which could not be said for much of the work done by both women and men. As Huffington wryly noted, "There's nothing glamorous about being a file clerk, even at Ms. magazine."

Women often work at jobs that are tedious and dispiriting; men often work at jobs that are tedious, dispiriting, and physically dangerous. What's more, SOME men don't even have jobs! The labor market can be brutal, firing employees as well as downsizing and laying them off. Some men are unable to get and keep jobs due to personality and physical problems. Some men get burned so badly by the precariousness of the labor market that they become wary of it.

More men are falling into this latter category. Louis Uchitelle and David Leonhardt wrote an article called "Men Not Working, And Not Wanting Just Any Job" focusing on men who are neither working for pay nor actively seeking employment. According to their piece, "About 13 percent of American men" in the 30-55 year old age group are not working or looking for work, "up from 5 percent in the late 1960s."

Rarely are they men who simply decided work was hard and chucked it. They are also unlikely to be drawn from the ranks of academics, journalists, and artists. Often they are blue-collar workers who put in many solid years of working only to find the rug pulled out from under them when their companies downsized. Some were white-collar workers who also found themselves downsized out of a paycheck.

They may be stuck with bitter memories of labor market uncertainty. Alan Beggerow was, "Laid off as a steelworker at 48," then briefly taught math at a community college. When that stint ended, he could not find a job he considered appropriate. He will not accept any job because of bad experiences when he worked in a warehouse. He was frustrated and humiliated by "the frequent furloughs, the uncertainty whether he would be recalled, the mandatory overtime and 50-hour weeks often imposed when he did return."

Like most men missing from the labor market, Beggerow has not become a househusband although unlike most, he is married. Roughly 60% of men out of the labor market are not wed, possibly because few women wish to support men. While Miki and Teddi thought it "absolutely degrading" to depend financially on a spouse, the truth is that this is a special privilege and still largely a women's privilege.

Beggerow sleeps more than he used to, about nine hours or more, and spends much of his time reading biographies, practicing his piano, and writing. He hopes that the latter may pay off someday and an obliging publisher bring him back into the paid labor market. In the meantime, he and his wife scrape by on his wife's disability (she was injured in a car crash), his pension money, and their savings.

It is not a good life and those who say that Beggerow and others like him ought to just take any job they can get may have a point. However, today's men missing from the labor market give the lie to the false promises of careerism. Paid work by people of either sex is often anything but fulfilling and may be frustratingly insecure.


15 August, 2006

Human rights fears 'block security'

Measures which could help security at airports are already available, but not widely implemented because of human rights concerns, it has been claimed. Flight International magazine operations and safety editor David Learmount said low dose x-ray machines could scan passengers for secreted items, even those hidden in body cavities.

But Mr Learmount said the reason they were not used was because of civil liberties' worries about the violation of privacy: "The technological advances are out there, but they are not being used. There may well have to be law changes and attitude changes and those are not easy to bring about." He added: "People have frequently tried to carry drugs in body cavities, so why not components of explosives?"

He cited procedures at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, which changed after two female suicide bombers hid their explosives under voluminous Muslim dress, boarded separate planes and detonated blasts moments apart in mid-air in August 2004. "Domodedovo has since evolved a policy whereby if Muslim women will not be wanded or hand searched, they have to stand in an x-ray machine. It is a low dose x-ray machine. "I went and stood in it, and they told me how many years I had been smoking, how many years ago I gave up, they could see every filling in my head ... If I had tried doing anything with secreting a bag of explosive material in plastic, material in a body cavity, that would have been totally visible. Why do we not do this? Human rights."

He said there were various forms of such systems, with others giving a low dose of radiation, but not using x-rays. He cited another "quite clever" system, which can "see" through layers of soft material, its makers said, using incidental millimetre-wave radiation reflected off the human body. Mr Learmount said the technology had been tested on random volunteers at British airports but, in indicating problems, pointed to the high profile case of singer Diana Ross, who was arrested, but later freed without charge after an altercation with a security guard who had frisked her at Heathrow Airport in 1999.


"Vilification" confusion in the Australian State of Victoria

In multicultural Victoria, it's quite a feat to infuriate the Jewish and Muslim communities at the same time. Yet that is precisely what Liberal leader Ted Baillieu has done this week with his jumbled stance on racial vilification laws. He managed to find himself wedged on the issue even though the laws were passed five years ago and last amended more than three months ago.

The catalyst for his woes was a rally outside parliament led by firebrand Christian cleric Danny Nalliah, who was found to have vilified Muslims after his church dubbed them demons. liars and terrorists. On the eve of the rally, Baillieu reportedly decided to drop his predecessor Robert Doyle's opposition to the laws.

The problem was, Liberal justice spokesman Andrew McIntosh was scheduled to address the rally of evangelical Christians, who had been worked into a lather by Nalliah's fiery rhetoric. At the rally, Mclntosh was heckled over his party's new stance; before long, he declared, the Liberals would "repeal and rewrite" the relevant act. His comments, although short on specifics, satisfied the 400 or so people on parliament's steps, sparked concerns within the Muslim and Jewish communities.

In a rare example of unity, Jewish and Muslim leaders told The Australian this week they shared deep concerns about any move to repeal protections against religious vilification. Both communities rushed out statements condemning the Liberals' apparent backflip.

Baillieu's problem is that once again he has tried to walk both sides of the street in a bid to please sectional interest groups. It suits the Liberals to oppose the laws in the outer suburbs, where evangelical churches are gaining popularity. But the Liberals are also anxious to court the Jewish community to secure the seat of Caulfield - held by Baillieu ally and health spokeswoman Helen Shardey - as well as some much-needed campaign donations from Jewish business leaders.

The Jewish and Muslim communities regard the laws as a vital bulwark against racial and religious hate attacks, while the evangelists believe they stifle free speech. So, Baillieu found himself sucked into a battle over an issue that was only a small blip on the political radar. After some tortuous internal wrangling over the issue, Baillieu's stance appears to be that the laws have flaws and the Liberals will alter them in government, but he refuses to say which sections he will scrap.

However, doubts persist. The Australian asked Jewish and Muslim leaders, as well as one of Baillieu's MPs, whether they were clear on what the Liberal position was. All said no, although the community leaders were clear in their view that Baillieu's support for the laws appears to be wavering.

If the issue has cast fresh doubts on Baillieu's judgment, it has also thrown new light on the judgment of federal Treasurer Peter Costello, who has lent his support to Nalliah, even though the preacher has been found guilty of vilification and believes Muslims are taking over Australia. Nalliah, fellow preacher Daniel Scot and the Catch the Fire Ministries were found to have breached the racial vilification laws in 2004 after Muslims were labelled as demons, liars and terrorists at a seminar and in several publications. They are appealing the ruling.

In a letter dated August 7 that was read out at the rally, Costello tells Nalliah: "I applaud your effort to repeal the offensive parts of this act." It's perfectly acceptable for the Treasurer to share Nalliah's belief that the laws stifle free speech, but he has failed to distance himself from Nalliah and Catch the Fire's more controversial beliefs.

The above article appeared in "The Australian" newspaper on 12 August, 2006


By Ruben Navarrette

A few years ago, my friend Juan Williams told me that he thought we had something in common -- namely, how those who represent our communities, or claim to represent them, view us with suspicion and resentment. In interviews with Hispanic members of Congress, the National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News commentator said he had detected that some of them were uneasy about me, and much of what I write. He said it reminded him of how the members of the Congressional Black Caucus felt about him.

Now many African American members of Congress -- along with local and state officials, academics, the civil rights establishment -- will trust him even less. That's because my friend has written a provocative and immensely important book that challenges a lot of what they're selling to the masses. Titled "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America -- And What We Can Do About It," the book is a good read. But it's also a good deed. And you can bet it won't go unpunished.

You see, it ain't easy being Juan Williams. As a panelist on "Fox News Sunday," my friend comes across as a common-sense liberal dueling with conservatives who spend all their time in a right-wing bubble. But put him around those individuals whom we in the media generously refer to as "black leaders," and suddenly Williams is a common-sense conservative dueling with liberals who are trapped in a left-wing bubble.

As you can guess from the title of his book, Williams has had a bellyful of African Americans acting as their own worst enemy. He's tired of their not having good leadership and instead settling for professional grievance brokers -- the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, etc. -- who "misinform, mismanage and miseducate [the African American community] by refusing to articulate established truths about what it takes to get ahead: strong families, education and hard work," and who do all this for their own financial and political benefit because keeping people weak is a way to keep them dependent on their "leaders." Can I get an amen?

Convinced that many of the problems that African Americans face today can be solved by African Americans, Williams doesn't think the answer is to embrace victimhood, blame all your troubles on racism and wait for white America to bail out black America in what he calls the "blacks-as-beggars" approach. And he's particularly incensed that you don't have more African American leaders getting in the faces of African American youths and telling them that -- in order to be a success -- you have to stay in school, study hard, speak proper English, stay away from crack and stop defining what it means to be authentically black as someone who is acting like a thug and "dressing like a convict." Can I get another amen?

This should sound familiar. Williams draws much of his inspiration from the now-infamous speech delivered by comedian Bill Cosby on May 17, 2004, to a few thousand members of the African American elite who gathered in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Instead of basking in how far African Americans have come in the past half-century, Cosby lobbed grenades. He talked about dropout rates, out-of-wedlock births, drug abuse, high rates of incarceration and other forms of self-defeating behavior that plague the African American community, and how no one seemed to be doing anything about it. Cosby was criticized -- not because what he said wasn't true, but because he aired dirty laundry and said publicly things that many African Americans talk about only behind closed doors.

Now Williams has done the same thing. And besides diagnosing the illness, he has offered a prescription. "It's so simple," he told me. "It's all about education. You've got to say to young people who are thinking of dropping out of school: 'Don't do it. It's a death sentence.' After you graduate, take any job you can find and work hard. You can move up from there." It's a solid message, not just for African Americans, but also for all Americans. And the African American community owes the messenger a debt of gratitude for having the courage to spread it.


14 August, 2006

"Londonistan" does not work

Few can have failed to shudder at the thought of a plot to blow up nine passenger planes and the intended mass murder of thousands of innocent people over the Atlantic. Whatever the outcome of the police investigation into a conspiracy that seems to have been stopped just in time, we should praise the alertness of Britain’s often criticised and overstretched intelligence services. Peter Clarke, deputy assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, says at least three other serious plots by home-grown terrorists have been disrupted since last year’s July 7 attacks on the London Underground. The danger seems ever present.

It is now self-evident that there is an enemy within Britain who wants to destroy our way of life. Most of this relatively small group of fanatics are British-born Muslims who have been educated here and brought up within our tolerant democracy. Those looking for the outward signs that identify them as full of hatred would be hard-pressed to find them. Many seem all too ordinary, perhaps enthusiastic about football and cricket and living “normal” westernised existences in neat terraced houses. They work, study or run small businesses. Most show little indication that they have signed up to the distorted ideology of radical Islam, with its millennial ideology of bringing destruction to the corrupt West. As “sleepers”, they are perfect.

Why is Britain such a breeding ground for these young men, for that is what most of them are? Much can be ascribed to timidity on behalf of the authorities, wedded as they are to a multiculturalism that isolates many young men in ghettos and a reluctance to espouse British values through our schools and institutions. That appeasement was epitomised by the sanctuary offered to extremist Islamic groups in Britain — “Londonistan” — in the pathetic hope that it might offer some form of immunity from violence. The United States, with its intolerant attitude to those preaching hate, has been far more successful in integrating its Muslim citizens, offering them the ideals of patriotism and progress. Even France, which has a bigger Muslim population than Britain and has had its share of troubles with disaffected youth, has not seen the scale of Islamist treachery that we are experiencing here. MI5 believes up to 400,000 people in Britain are sympathetic to violent “jihad” around the world and that as many as 1,200 are involved in terrorist networks.

These extremists are drawn both from our educated classes and the Muslim underclass. The first alienated group seems susceptible to radical recruiters on university campuses, the latter to firebrands they meet in mosques or in prison. There they are fed the lines that the West is evil and corrupt. They are urged to look at a culture of binge drinking, reckless hedonism, moral laxity and materialism. They see little of the advantages to our society of freedom of choice, of religion, of individualism and of equality. Nor is it good enough to claim that extremism is fostered by poverty. Although Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are struggling to do as well as some other second or third-generation immigrant groups, many of the recruits are from relatively privileged backgrounds. It is more a matter of a battle for minds rather than pockets. Add to this the internet, the finishing school of global terror, and a legal system that appears to be inflexible about deporting foreign jihadists, and you have the ingredients for an explosive clash of cultures.

When an undercover reporter from The Sunday Times visited Beeston in Nottinghamshire, where three of the July 7 bombers came from, he found either a denial that they had been involved or, perhaps more alarmingly, respect for them as Muslim martyrs. It is this potent mix of self- delusion — witness all the absurd theories about 9/11 and 7/7 — and a sneaking admiration for jihad even among seemingly sensible Muslims.

The great challenge for Britain is how to stop this and minimise the future risks. Nobody should underestimate the scale of the problem or the time needed. We already have a generation of disaffected Muslims who see any excuse, whether it is war in Iraq, Afghanistan or Lebanon, as a reason for killing their fellow citizens. The government has commissioned studies on combatting the problem, so far with little tangible impact. Tony Blair has been wooing Muslim leaders, too often the radicals rather than the moderates, although this policy seems to lie in shreds as they moan about wars in the Middle East inflaming Islamic youth. They are perfectly entitled to be angry about these conflicts, but that anger should be expressed through the democratic processes of demonstrations and elections.

That is not to say that the government is not right to try to win over Muslim opinion. If terror is to be defeated, you have first to drain the swamp. Muslims have to be persuaded that we are on the same side, that there is no witch-hunt against Islam and that the wars involving British troops are about stopping Islamists and the corruption of their religion. This means Muslims being alert to extremists in their ranks and being prepared to identify them to the police. It means Muslims becoming intolerant of radical mullahs and hounding them out of their mosques. Equally the authorities have a responsibility to crack down on extremists in universities and in prisons, to close internet sites and bookshops that spread hatred and violence, and to take all reasonable measures to protect their citizens.

At times this may seem unjust. Muslims who visit Pakistan will have to be more closely scrutinised and it may seem that they are being systematically targeted. But Muslims will have to understand that it is their co-religionists who are bent on bombing trains and planes and that requires extraordinary measures. A mature Muslim response will be to co-operate and help to eradicate extremists in their midst. It requires the vast majority of Muslims to believe that their future is tied to Britain, a country in which their religion can be respected and freely practised. If the radicals succeed, it will foster only hatred and intolerance.

This low-level war is going to take a huge effort of will and courage. It is going to mean applying what may seem illiberal measures in order to save lives. In return, the state must exercise massive restraint and not abuse that responsibility. But the real key is for Muslims to realise that their future lies here and to embrace British values and reject violent Islamist theology. The country may indeed be in its greatest danger since the second world war, as John Reid, the home secretary, said last week. But as Britain prevailed then, so it will again.


A hairy moment for free speech

Tommy Sheridan’s libel win over the News of the World was no ‘victory’ for the working class. It was a victory for an archaic law over open debate.

On Friday last week, by a majority of 7-4, a jury of six men and five women found in favour of Tommy Sheridan, former Scottish Socialist Party leader and MSP, in his defamation action against News Group Newspapers, publisher of the News of the World. Sheridan sued the tabloid for printing articles in 2004 and 2005 claiming he was an adulterer, had visited Cupids swingers’ club in Manchester, and had taken part in orgies. He was awarded £200,000 in damages.

Celebrating his victory outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Sheridan said: ‘I have over the last five weeks taken on one of the biggest organisations on the planet…. What today’s verdict proves is that working-class people, when they listen to the arguments, can identify the truth from the muck.’

But there has been no shortage of muck thrown by Sheridan himself – during and after the trial. He accused the News of the World’s 18 witnesses of perjury and branded the 11 members of the SSP who spoke against him in court as ‘scabs’. Apparently, they’ve been orchestrating a witch-hunt against Sheridan in order to bring about his political downfall.

These are the same 11 members of the SSP who refused to hand over to the court the minutes of the meeting where Sheridan allegedly admitted he had attended a swingers’ club but said he would deny it publicly because the News of the World would never be able to prove it. It was only after a former comrade and friend of Sheridan’s, Alan McCombes, was jailed for contempt that the minutes were produced.

McCombes has since issued a statement, with the backing of the SSP national executive, likening Sheridan to Jeffrey Archer and claiming he would bring down the SSP.

As commentator Magnus Linklater reminds us in an article in Scotland on Sunday, Scottish hero Robert Louis Stevenson thought there was nothing uglier than a court of law: ‘Hither come envy, malice, and all uncharitableness to wrestle it out in public tourney.’ To add insult to injury, some members of the SSP are apparently considering legal action against Sheridan over comments he made following his victory. Also, MSP Carolyn Leckie says that those whose reputations had been tarnished would welcome perjury charges as a chance to clear their names. Lothian and Borders Police yesterday confirmed they are considering whether to launch a perjury investigation.

It is hard to see who the winners are in this sorry state of affairs. Sheridan has won £200,000 in damages, subject to appeal, but whether suing has in any way helped to restore his reputation (let’s not forget that he told the court he is a hairy ape and offered to disrobe ‘if my lord will allow me’) remains to be seen.

Some members of the jury may not have been impressed with the News of the World’s defence, but then again the tabloid newspapers’ practice of ‘chequebook journalism’ rarely elicits much sympathy from members of the public today. The fact that Sheridan won the case, despite 18 witnesses testifying against him, indicates how low the media have sunk in the eyes of the public.

Sheridan is not the only famous permatanned Scottish socialist to use the UK’s libel laws in recent years. In December 2004 George Galloway, ex-Labour MP, and now an MP for the anti-war, anti-Blair party RESPECT, successfully won his libel battle against the Daily Telegraph. The paper published allegations that Galloway was in the secret pay of Saddam Hussein. After the ruling, Galloway declared: ‘I am glad and somewhat humbled to discover that there is at least one corner of the English field which remains uncorrupted and independent, and that corner is in this courtroom.’

Galloway’s uncorrupted and independent ‘corner of the English field’ has won London the reputation as the libel capital of the world. The capital is often dubbed ‘a town called Sue’. Everybody knows that the UK libel courts are used by chancers, from around the world, to launder their reputation.

Court 13 – where Galloway’s case was heard - is the place where in July 1987 the now disgraced peer Jeffrey Archer won his £500,000 libel damages from the Daily Star over allegations that he had had sex with a prostitute. Later convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice, Archer was forced to pay the money back to the Star. It was also in Court 13 that high drama and farce were played out between Harrod’s owner Mohamed al-Fayed and former Tory MP Neil Hamilton - described during the proceedings as the meeting of a ‘habitual liar’ and a ‘politician on the make’.

Galloway and Sheridan have unfortunately given the UK’s anachronistic libel law - a law that grew out of a dissatisfaction with the old aristocratic ways of dealing with defamation through duels - a new lease of life. (The Scottish libel law is based in large part on England’s libel law, though with some minor differences.)

They, of course, see things differently, depicting themselves as brave working-class heroes fighting against the mighty media empire. Sheridan even accused the News of the World of endangering his unborn baby’s life with its lies. But it is far from brave to sue newspapers for libel. As claimants, the odds are clearly stacked in their favour, whether or not what was said about them was true - which is why the vast majority of claimants win their libel cases.

Under libel law, claimants do not need to prove that what was said about them was untrue (although Sheridan’s wife, Gail, did her bit to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the jury by pointing out that none of the women who allegedly had affairs with Sheridan referred to his unusually hairy body). Rather, in libel law the assumption is that the defamatory statement is false, and the burden falls on the defendant to prove it is true. This reversal of the burden of proof – with the defendant pretty much guilty until he proves his innocence – is almost unique to UK libel law.

Libel laws are censorious and have a chilling effect on the whole of the media. The law does not only affect those journalists, broadcasters, editors and publishers who are faced with libel writs. If authors, editors or publishers have the smallest inkling that the truth of a proposition cannot be proven in court (even when made in good faith), the knowledge that they will have a less than a one-in-five chance of success in a libel trial means the story is most likely to be dropped.

Newspapers should have the right to publish abusive articles about politicians and celebrities, who, after all, are at the centre of public life, and who have recourse, more than anybody else, publicly to dispute unfair allegations made against them.

Some may argue that a law curtailing the freedom to publish titillating revelations about the allegedly sordid sex lives of politicians is not much of a threat to free speech. Of course, it would not be much of a loss to society if the claims about what went on between Sheridan and various women - including in Cupid’s - were never published. But as long as society is preoccupied with celebrities, whose private lives are – most often willingly – continually paraded before our eyes, we will have a media constantly searching for ever more salacious stories.

The way to deal with the dire state of public debate today is to fight for more speech and debate, not less. That means scrapping the UK’s censorious libel laws, for a start. Sheridan and Galloway’s cases are a further nail in the coffin of press freedom.


Truganini replica removed

The National Museum of Australia has denied bowing to political correctness in withdrawing a bust of Aborigine Truganini from an international exhibition. A wooden bust of Truganini, once claimed to have been the last "full-blood" Tasmanian Aborigine, was to be part of a visiting show displaying beads from across the Commonwealth. The bust would have been used to display a shell necklace.

Museum public affairs director Dennis Grant said the bust had been removed from the exhibition, which began in Canberra yesterday, partly because of fear it would cause offence. "People said Truganini was the last Tasmanian Aborigine - that's insulting to Tasmanian Aborigines because what does that make them?" [It makes them half-castes -- which is what they are, though even that is overstating it. Most so-called Tasmanian Aborigines today have only a tiny amount of Aboriginal ancestry] Mr Grant said. "That's where we are coming from."

Tasmanian Aborigines believe the memory of Truganini, who died in 1876, has been misused by non-indigenous Australians to create and perpetuate the myth their people died out on the island. Mr Grant said it was also decided that the bust of Truganini, who remains arguably Tasmania's most well-known woman, was out of place being used as a mannequin to display beads.

The legal director of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Michael Mansell [who has blond hair and blue eyes], said local Aborigines would be outraged to learn the work was included in the show. He said no museum should contemplate using the bust, crafted by Queensland sculptor John Vink in 1990 and modelled on a work by 19th-century artist Benjamin Law displayed in Hobart. Mr Mansell said the replica should be destroyed, as Truganini's death had been falsely but potently used as evidence of the end of Aborigines in Tasmania.


13 August, 2006

Hummer humbug

Global warming poses a new threat to childhood fun

Political correctness again threatens the innocence of childhood. The latest stupidity, eagerly seized on by The Sydney Morning Herald, is a US campaign against that mainstay of evil multinational exploitation, McDonalds. The crime? Giving away plastic models of "monstrous" gas-guzzling Hummer four-wheel-drives with every Happy Meal. Some just don't get it, laments the SMH. What about global warming? Don't they know there's an oil shock? Goodness me, these things only get 4.7km to the litre. To make matters worse, with enough visits to American restaurants, children can collect eight Hummers in various colours, including two versions of the H1, which costs $125 to fill at the pump. The real ones, not the toys.

Brendan Bell, of the environmental lobby group Sierra Club, says the Hummer's engine has not been redesigned since the 1950s. What the next generation needs, he says, is better technology to cut the dependence on oil and curb global warming. In their cars, yes. Not in their toys. Plastic toy bicycles and tofu burgers - now that would solve the energy crisis. Taken to its logical conclusion, such thinking spells the end for Thomas the Tank Engine, that old-technology polluter. Thomas and his rickety friends are clearly not the models for the environmental naysayers. And what about toy space rockets? How much fuel do they use? Better to give a toy wind farm and a stuffed parrot, perhaps. Compounding McDonald's offence, in the eyes of the New York Times and SMH, is that the toys are sexist, to boot. Girls are not offered a Hummer but given a Polly Pocket fashion doll. Childhood is just not that simple. It's why parents who draw the line at toy guns usually end up getting shot with a stick. Evidence of tomorrow's mass murderer? No.

The anti-Hummer campaign is simply the other extreme to the religious angst over Harry Potter and his passion for witchcraft, no matter that he's been the best thing for childhood literacy in years. It's time to lighten up. The prospect of handing over hard-earned cash at the petrol bowser is all anyone needs to make an informed choice on a motor vehicle, no matter what their childhood fantasies. The fear the world will speed faster to its end because "McDonald's made me do it" with their plastic Hummers is too absurd for words.


Not-so-positive discrimination

The UK government’s plan to monitor the number of black and Asian people employed by private companies is an affront to meritocracy, universalism and genuine equality.

The UK government is considering denying multimillion-pound contracts to companies that fail to employ enough black and Asian workers, it emerged this week. The Department of Work and Pensions confirmed that three pilot schemes have been approved which will see companies questioned on their workforce diversity before the government decides on the winning bid.

As in race-torn America in the Sixties and Seventies, the idea of ‘affirmative action’ – or positive discrimination – is being put forward as social policy. At a time when culture always appears to be the solution to New Labour’s bugbear, ‘social exclusion’, it’s rather surprising to see economic issues being raised at all. It is all the more surprising when there aren’t any campaigns from ethnic minorities demanding preferential treatment for jobs in Britain.

The idea to monitor companies seeking big government contracts was first proposed by an organisation called the Ethnic Minority Advisory Group (Emag). As an indication of how unrepresentative these ‘governmental advisers’ appear to be, Emag was only launched last month. Already their recommendations for ‘affirmative measures’ – to bring black and minority ethnic employment rates in line with the national population rate - have been backed all the way by powerful sections of the state and government, such as Jobcentre Plus, the Identity and Passport Agency and the Department for Education and Skills.

Under these plans, firms could be asked to provide figures showing the numbers of black and Asian employees on their payroll. This would then be compared with the proportion of people living in a surrounding area. But how feasible are such initiatives? The idea of job quotas based on physical appearance, rather than on skills and experience, goes against how the labour market operates. For example, is it possible to ensure that ‘correct’ percentages of ethnic minorities in a company correlates with allocation of job roles? Would particular sectors that have higher percentages of black and Asian employees, such as the London Underground or the postal service, be replacing them with, say, Chinese or Polish workers? Will Premiership football teams be forced to sign Asian footballers in order to fit in with the national rate of employment elsewhere?

There is no doubt that some companies in the UK discriminate against job applicants on racial grounds. But it’s also true to say that PR-savvy companies, such as, say, the Halifax building society, will promote their ‘multicultural’ workforce as a selling point, a signifier that a staid company isn’t quite as conservative or behind-the-times as you thought. Besides, when there are clear cases of racial or sexual discrimination, there is already existing legislation in place to deal with it. So apart from introducing even more bureaucratic red tape for private companies, what will these proposals actually achieve?

First of all, the ‘affirmative action’ proposals are less about tackling racial discrimination per se than they are a mechanism to bring the private sector within government control. This doesn’t mean a return to state-owned or state-run industries as such; rather the interference will attempt to bring public sector etiquette and codes of conduct into the private sector. As pointed out previously on spiked, the atomised character of British society compels the political class to use bureaucratic mechanisms to compensate for the weakening of social ties and social institutions. In the past, the existence of active trade unions provided mediating links between Whitehall and the world of work. Now, at a time when even union officials don’t have much connection with workplaces, the political class feels its sense of isolation even more acutely – especially in relation to the private sector.

In this context, official ‘anti-racism’ and ‘diversity’ quotas provide the political justification for strong-armed points of connection at every level in British society. As racism is now the equivalent of original sin, no individual, no institution and certainly no private company can afford to be tarred with the racist brush. In an insightful episode of The Office, employees who wanted to put David Brent on the back foot implied he was racist due to the lack of black and Asian faces at Wernham Hogg. In the real world, it seems the government wants to do the same with private companies. So while hardboiled businesspeople may publicly baulk at the government’s race quotas, the pressures to conform will undoubtedly give way.

Even without the contemporary use of ‘affirmative action’, such measures have always been bad news – particularly for racial minorities. During anti-racist struggles in Britain in the Seventies and Eighties, it was equality rather than ‘special treatment’ that campaigners fought for. To accept notions of ‘positive discrimination’ was to accept that blacks and Asians didn’t really have the aptitude to hold down skilled jobs and thus needed the patronage of white do-gooders. In America, no matter how many black lawyers and doctors could be recruited, such policies only reinforced ideas of innate superiority and inferiority through the backdoor. The American comedian Larry David played on this duality in Curb Your Enthusiasm, when he jested that he didn’t trust a black doctor’s opinion because of ‘the whole affirmative action thing’. David was making a joke, but the serious point was that affirmative action enforces rather than overcomes notions of unequal racial abilities.

In today’s climate, though, it’s a different matter. While there is no longer an old racial hierarchy to maintain, the promotion of affirmative action will inevitably exacerbate all kinds of tensions and divisions in British society. It will arouse suspicions that black and Asian workers are only employed to ‘keep the quotas up’, while any such mutterings will be used by officials as examples of ‘racism in Britain’s workforce’, and thus used to justify even more diversity-training days. So while affirmative action creates new divisions and nurtures new grievances, it also invites officialdom to act as benign referees between the potentially warring factions.

Affirmative action is problematic on a bigger scale, too. It systematically attacks a key tenet of modernity: universalism. Whereas in tradition-based societies individuals were judged on particularistic criteria, such as family background and family networks, the expansion of a social division of labour meant that only a universal standard could effectively allocate employment roles and positions. For the French sociologist Emile Durkheim, such a meritocratic system was a sign of modernity’s historically progressive character. Of course, the maintenance of class privilege and racial discrimination called into question such claims of equality and meritocracy. Nevertheless the solution was always to argue for consistent universal treatment - for equality, not difference.

Forcing private contractors to monitor ethnic quotas will be an affront to meritocracy, universalism and, above all, genuine equality. Far from affirmative action being one of those ‘well-meaning but misguided’ attempts at racial integration, in this instance it will not only fuel tensions and foster divisions, but also legitimise even more official control of workplaces every inch of the way.



San Francisco's exotic dancers descended on City Hall on Friday to protest new regulations being considered by the city's Entertainment Commission that could ban private booths and rooms in adult clubs.

At a standing-room only, occasionally tense hearing, dancers took to the podium to tell the commission's Legislative Committee how the proposed legislation could hurt their livelihood and make working conditions worse for performers. "It's my opportunity to be in a safe place," said Karina Stewart, a dancer at Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre. "A private room allows me to share a personal moment with another human being. It is special to me that I can be a beautiful diversion to these people."

Another dancer, who identified herself as Dylan, said she enjoyed safe working conditions at the city's Hustler Club and warned commissioners that closing down private rooms in the clubs would drive women to perform at unsafe locations. "Please do not move this legislation forward," she said. "If you take away our private rooms, you are taking our money away. You will be forcing women to do dances in private homes and hotel rooms. More women will be on the street, and more women will be sexually abused."

A 19-year-old dancer named Sophie said she had not felt unsafe working for four months in the industry in San Francisco. "Through dancing, I've been able to pay my own tuition and my own rent," she said. "I feel like it has opened more opportunities for me."

The legislation being opposed by dancers was drafted by the city's Commission on the Status of Women after it received reports from some dancers of illicit sex in some clubs and of some club owners illegally demanding that performers pay stage fees to work in the clubs. Among the provisions of the 35-page ordinance are a requirement that the city's 18 strip clubs obtain operating permits through the Entertainment Commission and remove private rooms and booths no later than six months after the law takes effect. "We view this issue as a human-rights issue," said Emily Murase, director of the Commission on the Status of Women, a watchdog group that promotes the equality of women in San Francisco. "Our intent is not to shut down clubs. We want to make them safe. We recognize this is a legitimate form of employment that is lucrative and flexible for women."

Appearing at the hearing with the dancers, was former District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who was representing his client, the Mitchell Brothers Theater. "What they're trying to do is create another bureaucracy here, a huge one, to become overseers of the adult entertainment businesses," Hallinan said. The committee took no action on the legislation Friday, planning to resume consideration at meeting on Aug. 18. If it is approved by the Entertainment Commission, the legislation still would have to be taken up by the Board of Supervisors before it could become law.


12 August, 2006


New Zealand's indigenous Maori population reacted angrily on Wednesday to a researcher's findings that Maori have a high representation of a gene linked to aggression, as the nation faces a domestic violence crisis. Rod Lea told a genetics conference in Australia that Maori men were twice as likely as European men to carry monoamine oxidase, describing it as a "striking over-representation" of what has been described as the warrior gene.

Media reports of Lea's findings outraged Maori leaders who said they only reinforced "Once Were Warriors" cultural stereotypes, a reference to a harrowing 1994 movie about domestic violence in poor Maori families. "I've been asked by reporters whether this gene is the reason why we're a violent race, why we feature so highly in criminality rates, that we're predisposed toward aggression," Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said in a statement. "Once were gardeners, once were astronomers, once were philosophers, once were lovers," she said.

Lea, a genetic epidemiologist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research in the New Zealand capital, Wellington, said the gene had also been linked to such risk-taking behavior as smoking and gambling. "I believe this gene has an influence on behavior of humans in general, but I also believe that the influence is rather small," Lea told New Zealand's National Radio on Wednesday. "We have to be clear that behavioral traits such as susceptibility to addiction, aggressive behavior, risk taking, all those sort of things, are extremely complex and they are due to numerous factors including non-genetic environmental factors like upbringing and other lifestyle factors," he said.

Maori lawmaker Hone Harawira said he had been hearing similar descriptions for decades about New Zealand's indigenous people, who make up about eight percent of the 4.1 million population. "I've stopped listening to all that sort of carry on," Harawira said.

New Zealand's domestic violence problem, described by a government report as endemic and shameful, was highlighted by the deaths of three-month old Maori twins in Auckland, the nation's largest city, in June. Chris and Cru Kahui had both suffered severe head injuries but their Maori family has refused to cooperate with police. Prime Minister Helen Clark described the Kahui twins' family as a "'Once Were Warriors' type family". A UNICEF report last month found that between 18,000 and 35,000 children are exposed to domestic violence each year. The problem is so common that most New Zealanders know a child who has witnessed violence at home, it said. Government figures show that Maori children under five years old are being admitted to hospital with "intentional injury" at twice the rate of other ethnic groups.

Source. There is a report of similar research in the USA here. There is a scholarly article on the research concerned here. I have previously posted some excerpts from the scholarly article here.

Tolerance: Unraveling a befuddled concept

A book review of "The Truth About Tolerance"

Especially in a pluralistic society like the United States, tolerance of others and their quirks is essential for even a modicum of social harmony, and it's a personal virtue as well. But in America today the concept of tolerance, especially in those precincts most affected by political correctness like academia and the media, the concept has become rather confused – sometimes to the point of encouraging intolerance in the name of tolerance.

Brad Stetson, who lectures at Azusa Pacific and Chapman, and Joseph Conti, who lectures at Cal State Fullerton, perform a distinct service as they try to unravel the concept, which has received surprisingly little serious academic attention. They write from a Christian perspective, which makes them piquantly aware of the legerdemain often employed to use the accusation of intolerance to discredit not just Christianity but anybody who entertains the notion that right and wrong are something other than mere subjective preferences.

As an example of the muddled thinking common in this country, the authors quote one academic who defines tolerance as "the elevation of all values and beliefs to a position worthy of equal respect." From this relativistic perspective it is easy to see how those they describe as liberal secularists (I stick to the probably hopeless course of resisting the hijacking of the fine old term "liberal," preferring "statist," "socialist" or "leftist") can characterize anybody who believes that homosexuality or abortion is actually wrong as "narrow-minded," "mean-spirited" or – shudder! – intolerant, and therefore to be dismissed without serious consideration.

Taken to an extreme, combined with the encouragement of various people to feel victimized and offended at the slightest slight, this counterfeit version of tolerance can dismiss any criticism, or even serious discussion, of a belief system as "intolerant" and therefore short-circuit serious inquiry. Far from promoting the social harmony genuine tolerance facilitates, it breeds resentment and inhibits honest discussion.

Stetson and Conti point out however, that "Tolerance, rightly understood, is a patience toward a practice or opinion one disapproves of." The Philosophical Encyclopedia defines tolerance as "a policy of patient forbearance in the presence of something which is disliked or disapproved of." So the very concept of tolerance implies not a relativistic "anything is true if you think it's true" but a firm concept of what is true or untrue, worthy of approval or disapproval. To be genuinely tolerant starts not with indifference toward ultimate truths but with firm conviction combined with a determination to treat those with different convictions with respect and civility.

The authors trace the development of the concept of tolerance from the ancient Greeks through early Christianity, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and modern times. They close with 10 principles to help us think about the proper role of tolerance, of which the quotation above is the first. The second is that tolerance has limits, that to watch a rape without interfering or objecting, for example, or to be indifferent to racism, is not tolerance but moral cowardice.

Stetson and Conti not only skewer the secularists, they have gentle admonitions for their co-religionists. Christianity properly understood, they argue, entails tolerance, a humble respect for the opinions (and shared humanity) of others, and rejection of coercive tactics. The book's shortcomings are few and its strengths are many. It will help readers to think intelligently and responsibly about one of the keys to a peaceful and civil society.


11 August, 2006


The usual heavy bias in favour of wrongdoers

After months of being taunted by a gang of yobs, grandmother Diane Bond finally stood up to them when she was abused while walking her pet dog. During a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse, the frail 64-year-old prodded the teenager ringleader gently in the stomach when he urged her to "Hit me, if you dare". Moments later, the 5ft 1ins pensioner found herself flat on her back and nursing a broken arm after the 15-year-old boy, who was 7 inches taller, pushed her to the ground. But to add insult to injury, police officers arrested her for assaulting a child after his mother moaned he had been attacked.

Now Mrs Bond must report to a police station 30 miles from her home in Llandrindod Wells, Powys, Wales, at the end of the month to find out if she will be charged. Last night the retired lab technician spoke of her distress. "I am in shock and very, very teary," she said. "I have never been in any trouble before. I just want to enjoy my evenings walking my dog in peace. I am being treated like a criminal because a gang of yobs have nothing better to do than pick on an old lady."

Residents of her quiet street have complained to the police and council for several months about youths causing anti-social behaviour. In the latest letter to Powys County Council in June, residents said they had suffered an "endless stream" of damage to property and cars, intimidation, vandalism, noise and rubbish being hurled into gardens by up to 30 youths aged 11 to 17. Signed by 35 fed-up people, it added: "Collectively, we are sick and tired of the situation and our frustration is now close to boiling over."

Things finally came to a head when Mrs Bond, who has two children and five grandchildren, took her terrier Hettie for a walk on parkland near her home. She said a group of about 20 teenagers were loitering on the grass. Three others were standing on a path, deliberately blocking her way. "As I approached they started shouting abuse at me," she said. "They were taunting me and crowding round me and I was quite frightened because they are big kids. "After a while one of them, whose name is Billy, spread his arms out wide to show his stomach, and said, Come on, old lady, hit me, if you dare." "I gave him three prods, almost like playful punches, not hard at all, and next thing I knew I was lying on the ground and I had broken my arm. One youth said I had been pushed. "I went back home, shaking and crying."

Soon after, two police officers knocked on Mrs Bond's door and arrested her on suspicion of assaulting a minor. "It seemed the lad had told his mum what had happened and she had immediately lodged a complaint of assault," she said. Mrs Bond, who lives alone, was cautioned and interviewed for nearly three hours by police officers before she was released on bail at about 1.30am. She has now made a counter-allegation to the police of assault against the youth. But she added: "This sends out the message that if you stand up for yourself, if you try to take action to stop anti-social behaviour, you are likely to end up being arrested."

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Tony Blair said communities had to stand up to yobs in the fight against nuisance behaviour. Mrs Bond's neighbour Steve Simmons, who co-ordinates the Nelson Street - An End To Anti-Social Behaviour campaign group, said: "Diane is a reasonable law-abiding citizen and she has been treated like a criminal for standing up to yobs when the authorities would not. "It is bewildering. The Government says communities should look after themselves and take a stance against anti-social behaviour. But when we do try to take action, what is the first thing that happens? The blame is put on us."

In May, grandmother Brenda Robinson, 66, of Bournemouth, spent a night in a police cell after being arrested for alleged assault when she gave a rowdy youth a "clip round the ear". She acted after being abused, pushed and threatened with a plank of wood. Roger Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said: "I would have expected the police to have acted slightly more proportionately than arresting Mrs Bond over this. "It must have been a frightening situation for an elderly lady to be confronted by a gang of yobs, especially in an area with a history of anti-social behaviour, without the police compounding the problem."

Chief Inspector Steve Hughson, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: "We are aware of the problems in Nelson Street and associated anti-social behaviour. "Recent patrols in the area by the neighbourhood policing team have greatly reduced incidents of crime and anti social behaviour, to the extent that positive comments have been received by local residents. Therefore patrols will continue." The force declined to comment on Mrs Bond's arrest.



The other day, this article in the Christian Science Monitor caught my eye. Entitled, NOW at 40: What's left to do? The subhead on the article was: Feminists rocked the 1970s and '80s, profoundly changing US society. Today's challenges are more subtle, but still urgent.

Looking back, (for those of us old enough to remember) there was a time during the so-called "second wave" of the 1960s when it seemed feminism was about equality. In the original NOW statement of purpose, it included language that alluded to women freeing themselves from society's lack of respect by taking charge in their lives and advancing themselves through their own efforts. For a brief period of time, there were feminists promoting ideals of self-reliance and responsibility, but that time was over almost before it began. The radical extremists took over and today's feminism is more about hating men, and propagating a constant state of outrage about their version of equality, the definition of which keeps changing.

Unlike the "first wave," which achieved its goal of getting the right to vote, and then simply faded away, it would appear this second wave isn't willing to recognize their work is done, and it's time to go on to something else. That's because their work isn't done. Certainly, equality in most things has been achieved, but that isn't what the new breed of feminists are looking to change.

If you look back at the history of the women's movement, you find that behind the concept of votes for women, which many people believe was the entirety of the 19th and early 20th century feminist activism, are the ideas of Marx and Engels and the philosophy of eugenics as advanced by British feminist Frances Swiney. These were new and attractive ideas of the time. First-wave feminists were quite open about their hopes for communism and an androgynous society achieved by eliminating men through a variety of means. They sought also to eliminate marriage and the family. Many of those same people also doubted the intelligence and abilities of ordinary women.

It doesn't take much digging, but if you look carefully at the attitudes expressed by today's feminists through their writings, the social programs they've established, and the laws they've enacted, you find that almost nothing has changed since Victorian times. You won't find many beliefs that are more retrogressive than feminism. It's as if, despite a century of advancements in culture, science and politics, feminism remained suspended in time under some sort of impervious bubble.

The differences between today's feminists and those of Victoria's day are that deceit has become part of the package, and their tactics have changed. The bigotry expressed in feminist thought was once considered acceptable, but today's society would not tolerate those ideas. The communism that was once a Utopian ideal has proven to be unsuccessful, with a tendency to mutate into a state of totalitarianism. There is a clear need to keep recognition of actual feminist goals to a minimum.

While the early feminists damaged property and engaged in overt violence to get their point across, today's feminists mostly use behind-the-scenes threats and intimidation, in addition to public accusations of wrongdoing against anyone who disagrees with them. Their attacks on heretics are no less vicious for being non-physical. They have destroyed lives and careers, and created an atmosphere where few are willing to challenge even the most preposterous notions expressed by feminists.

Feminists will go to great lengths to try and maintain the fiction that they're working for equality, and probably aren't entirely unhappy with their public profile suggesting perhaps they're just an eccentric bunch of complainers, safely ignored. If you read the whole article at CSM, you find almost nothing of substance was said by the NOW figurehead. Her remarks included the usual self-congratulatory feminist party line, along with the same erroneous statement about their membership they've been using for the past five years, at least. The reader may wonder why it is that an important milestone event such as a 40th anniversary would only attract 800 participants, but shrug and go on to something else.

Many believe that the abortion issue is the only thing feminists still care about, but the fact is that feminists and their extremist ideals are firmly entrenched in many aspects of modern life. They have been allowed to further their political principles, their anti-male, anti-family agendas, and their basic disrespect for women under the guise of "equality." They've made a lot of noise, and convinced enough lawmakers (and enough women) they had answers to difficult social problems, that they've been given what they wanted; often in hopes they'd just shut up and go away. The legacy of feminism is a quite different scenario than they would have the public believe. Let's take a look at their true accomplishments:

a.. Because of programs established on the basis of feminist attitudes, it is now virtually impossible for anyone, male or female, to find practical, realistic help for relationships where domestic violence is a problem.

b.. Divorce has become a battleground, rather than the "solution" it is often touted to be. Families, and especially children, have been reduced to a monetary value, with their emotional needs almost universally ignored. The opinions of legions of court-appointed personnel take precedence in this situation.

c.. Child protective services seem bent on imposing state control on families, rather than addressing their problems in a way than could have positive results. It is difficult if not impossible to quantify the value of a family in concrete terms, and the attempt to do so has destroyed too many families needlessly, while leaving some children in danger.

d.. Education at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate school, has become feminized to a degree that forces boys and men into a situation of having strikes against them before they even begin. Expected to conform to unrealistic and uncomfortable standards of behavior, boys in the lower levels are often drugged into compliance. Men in higher education are at constant risk of violating unknown and illusory standards that vary widely and are imposed by individual women, based on their personal opinions. Girls schooled in feminist doctrine are never allowed to develop emotional maturity.

e.. Feminist-imposed laws regarding sports programs have removed or restricted support from men's programs while forcing sports on uninterested women.

f.. In the workplace, the constant threat of lawsuits based on perceived sexual harassment or discrimination has damaged employee/employer relationships and inserted a degree of mistrust and suspicion that ultimately has a negative effect on productivity.

g.. The "Battered Woman Syndrome" was initially devised to justify premeditated murder when committed by a woman, and is now also used as a defense against lesser charges such as DUI. This same syndrome was used to explain the need for imposition of "no-drop" laws that prevent women from dropping assault charges. In this usage of the syndrome, women are presumed to be under the thrall of evil men, and therefore cannot do anything to cause them harm. Apparently we're not supposed to notice the two situations are diametrically opposed.

These are just a few of the most noticeable examples of the changes in society wrought by feminism. These changes have resulted in several organized movements against the feminist's programs, and these may increase as the radical leftist political agenda behind their programs and the damage they cause becomes better recognized.

If these leftist activists are allowed to continue unchallenged, we can look for future laws making it harder to arrest or jail women for any crime. Proposed under the guise of "protecting" women from domestic violence, these laws will only erode women's rights to take responsibility for their actions or make decisions regarding their families. Some women in situations of domestic violence may find themselves forced by law to leave their homes and take up residence in women's shelters for a defined length of time, despite the fact these shelters provide little more than divorce assistance.

Children and the elderly will also be adversely affected, as the "all males are abusers, all females are victims" philosophy takes hold in child and elder abuse programs, which previously have operated under more realistic principles.

Feminism has a rich tradition of myth-making and storytelling, so it should come as no surprise that they would apply this creativity to justifying and rationalizing their actions and beliefs. They have told an appealing story of a benevolent movement for women's rights, which entirely obscures the ugly reality. NOW is simply a convenient faOade. It allows the public to believe in a feeble, irrelevant organization while the real activists pursue their ambitions of power and control.


10 August, 2006


A civil rights group accused the police department of bullying photographers and filmmakers by detaining them and threatening them with arrest unless they destroyed their images or showed them to officers. The New York Civil Liberties Union made the claim Monday in a rewrite of a lawsuit brought earlier this year against the city on behalf of an award-winning filmmaker from India who was blocked from videotaping near a famous midtown Manhattan building.

The lawsuit, in U.S. District Court, was filed in January after filmmaker Rakesh Sharma said he felt humiliated when he was detained in May 2005 by police who saw him use a handheld video camera near the MetLife building, which sits atop an underpass near Grand Central Terminal. He was shooting footage for a Sept. 11-related documentary.

Police have told the NYCLU that reports about photographers are the most common complaint called into their terrorism hot line, NYCLU associate legal director Chris Dunn said. "While investigations may be appropriate in certain cases, people cannot be arrested for taking pictures, and police officers cannot coerce them into destroying images," Dunn said.

The expanded lawsuit says many other photographers and filmmakers have been treated by police the way Sharma was. The city had not seen the rewritten lawsuit but would review it thoroughly, city attorney Susan Scharfstein said. In court papers, the city has said it is entitled to government immunity from liability because its employees acted reasonably and did not violate the Constitution.

The lawsuit alleges the city has no policies, procedures or training for investigating complaints about photographers. It seeks to force the city to establish reasonable policies and to properly train officers to protect First Amendment rights. It also seeks compensatory damages for Sharma, who was taping background footage for a documentary examining changes in the lives of ordinary people such as taxi drivers after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Indian censors banned his awarding-winning 2003 documentary, "Final Solution," saying it might trigger unrest. It shows the 2002 religious rioting in the Western state of Gujarat, which killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. The NYCLU lawsuit says Sharma's documentaries rely on candid footage of people, places and events. It describes him as a law-abiding resident of Mumbai, India, who had never been arrested or detained before his New York experience.



State Sen. Sheila Kuehl has given up her hotly contested campaign to force changes in California school curriculum to reflect the contributions of gays and lesbians. Faced with a certain veto by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kuehl unveiled amendments Monday to Senate Bill 1437 that delete any requirement to alter curriculum. "I'm very disappointed that the governor twisted our arms on this," the Santa Monica Democrat said of the amendments, which she said eliminated 90 percent of her bill. Kuehl said she did not talk personally with Schwarzenegger, but that his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, made the governor's opposition perfectly clear.

Supporters of SB 1437 had hoped that publicizing the contributions of gays and lesbians would give pride to homosexual students and promote tolerance among heterosexual peers. "It would have raised everybody's consciousness," said Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat who -- along with Kuehl and a handful of other legislators -- is openly gay. Though the new SB 1437 will not mandate curriculum changes, Kuehl said it could be more acceptable to Schwarzenegger and still represent a "small step forward" in gay rights.

Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman, said the Republican governor had not read Kuehl's amendments and has made no decision on supporting them. Kuehl's changes to SB 1437 were approved Monday by the Assembly, 56-2, with 21 legislators not casting ballots. SB 1437 now will be reprinted to reflect the changes, then returned to the Assembly for a vote on the bill's merits. The bill passed the Senate in May on a party-line vote, 22-15, with Republicans opposed. The new SB 1437 leaves intact provisions to prohibit instruction or any school activity that "reflects adversely" upon anyone because of their sexual orientation. Kuehl's bill also would ban the adoption of textbooks or other instructional materials that place gays and lesbians in a negative light. Under SB 1437, schoolteachers could not inform their students, for example, that homosexuality is immoral or wrong.

The bill applies to public school teachers, not those on privately funded campuses. Violations of SB 1437 could be reported to the state Department of Education for possible reprisals.....

More here


Monica Attard says bias is more about the views of the complainers. Not so fast, sister. Not all opinions are equally valid, writes Andrew Bolt.

They can change the hosts of ABC's Media Watch, but they can't change its taxpayer-funded agenda. The show is now hosted by Monica Attard, who follows five Leftist predecessors, and on Monday it did what it always does in our war on Islamist terror. That's right: it ignored or excused a savage media bias that makes the West seem the real villain in this war. Here are examples of that bias from just the past fortnight -- not one of which Media Watch mentioned:

A REUTERS photographer has been sacked for doctoring pictures (one run by the ABC) to make Israeli attacks on Lebanon seem worse than they were.

HARROWING pictures from Qana, bombed by Israel, seem now to have been staged for the newspapers, with the corpse of a dead girl being paraded by several men at several locations.

THE Age gave over part of its opinion page for a piece by a spokesman for the Hezbollah terror group.

CHANNEL 9 reported from a tour of Beirut bomb sites, which a CNN reporter said was a "heavily orchestrated Hezbollah media event" -- and made the very points about civilian casualties Hezbollah wanted made.

But the rankest example of this bias came from Sunday Age columnist Terry Lane. Two Sundays ago Lane wrote he'd seen video evidence of a former "US Army Ranger", Jesse Macbeth, who had "served in Iraq for 16 months" like someone "who joined the SS" and had "orders" to "do whatever it takes in the field to make them (civilians) fear you". Macbeth had said he'd gone into basements during raids to "make sure everything was dead": "Whether they were women or children . . . we had to finish them off." But a quick check on Google confirmed that this anti-war porn was, of course, a hoax. Explained a mortified Lane: "I fell for it because I wanted to believe it." And of course he did. Lane is a Marxist with such loathing for America and its allies that during the Iraq war he wrote: "I want the army of my country, which is engaged in an act of gross immorality, to be defeated".

How deeply this loathing affects his judgment still. By last Sunday, Lane's apology had morphed into this bizarre defiance: "The Macbeth fraud is plausible because it fits the facts." Really? Which facts could possibly fit this tale of SS-style US death squads with orders to shoot civilians? Said Lane: "In the place of Macbeth's lies about shooting survivors in basement bomb shelters, I should have quoted from the BBC report in March: Recent figures from the campaign group, Iraq Body Count, put the minimum number of civilians killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion three years ago at between 33,710 and 37,832."

Oops. You did it again, Terry. In fact, Iraq Body Count in no way says what you imply -- that mass-murdering US troops, just like Jesse Macbeth, have killed 37,000 Iraqi civilians. Look at the IBC's website to see its own description of how those people (and not only civilians) died. You'll find pages of accounts like these: "street sweepers (killed by) roadside bomb", building laborers killed by "suicide minibus bomb", a Baghdad University security chief shot dead, worshippers at the Al-Qubaisi mosque killed by a bomb and even a "sheep seller killed by booby-trapped head of girl".

Terry, are you so hate-blinded that you can't even see that the overwhelming majority of these deaths are caused not by US troops, but the terrorists they fight? US soldiers have orders not to kill civilians, but save them. We couldn't get a better example of how bias messes with a journalist's grasp of the facts -- one that helps us understand so much of the coverage of this war. Yet Media Watch ignored Lane and -- typically -- tried instead to defend the bias of the ABC's children's program Behind the News.

BTN had tried to "explain" the fighting in Lebanon to children like this: "When Israel was created in 1948 many Palestinians were forced from their land and some went to southern Lebanon. This led to the formation of groups like Hezbollah . . . Hezbollah has been fighting with Israel to reclaim lost land and to remove foreign troops from Lebanon."

Attard on Media Watch at least conceded this report contained "mistakes" which were "profound". For a start, Hezbollah is Lebanese, not Palestinian, and was formed in the 1980s, not the 1940s. But she then smacked the ABC for saying these "mistakes" meant BTN "failed to meet the requirements of balance and impartiality". What was bias anyway, Attard seemed to ask. And she got several commentators to give conflicting views on the bias of BTN, as if all their views were equally valid. She concluded: "Complaints of bias often say more about the views of the complainer than the media". So no bias at BTN then. Just "mistakes". Like Lane's?

But not so fast, sister. First, not all opinions are equally valid. And certainly not the views you sought. You see, to prove the BTN report could also be seen as biased against Hezbollah, Attard put on Keysar Trad -- but didn't tell viewers things about him that might make them doubt his judgment. Attard didn't say Trad was the former spokesman of the pro-Hezbollah Mufti of Australia, the extremist Sheik Taj Al-Din Al-Hilaly. She also failed to say he had been a translator for the pro-Osama bin Laden and pro-jihadist Nida'ul Islam magazine, where he wrote: "The criminal dregs of white society colonised this country . . . and the descendants of these criminal dregs tell us that they are better than us." If viewers knew that, would they think Trad's view of "balance" was . . . balanced?

But is Attard's view any better? If she criticises any reporting on Islamist extremism it is to attack those who at least ask hard questions -- and to defend those trying to dodge them. It's bad enough that Media Watch long ago stopped being -- or never was -- an impartial judge of media sins. But far worse is that it now serves as an apologist not just for bad journalism, but for the toxic ideologies such journalism defends with its shameless "mistakes".


9 August, 2006


But hatred of GWB is OK of course. John Leo is in good form below

Remember when the city of Berkeley, Calif., declared itself a "nuclear-free zone"? Cynics snickered, but the plain fact is that no nuclear weapon has gone off in the city since that day. So the policy seems to be working. Many communities, mostly left-leaning university towns, have declared themselves nuclear-free. Churches too. The Unitarian Universalist Association is a nuclear-free zone. These moves led to a broad "zone" movement, which is dedicated to the idea that communities can get rid of hate, violence, drunkenness, bullying and nuclear fears, mostly by emphatically declaring these evils to be gone from their areas. Some towns have official panels that oversee efforts to remain nuclear-free.

Several cities, including Seattle and Missoula, Mt., have banished intense negative feelings (or at least kept them on the outskirts of town) by designating themselves as "hate-free zones." "Hate has no place in our hearts or in our neighborhoods," a Seattle document says. Nobody wants to come out in favor of hate, but in the old days, you were free to detest anyone at all (Michael Moore, say, or Ann Coulter), as long as you didn't infringe his or her rights. Authorities thought their job was to monitor illegal harm, not feelings. Now they let us know which emotions are OK to have. Children are routinely urged to announce, "I am a hate-free zone."

A major blow to the anti-hate movement came in very liberal Santa Cruz, Calif. An initiative to name the city a hate-free zone lost at the polls, possibly because, as one commentator said, residents didn't want Santa Cruz to be laughed at as another Berkeley. So the city, though an official nuclear-free zone, is not officially free of hate.

One frontier in zone thinking is the drive to establish ridicule-free zones, a spin-off from the anti-bullying and anti-hate campaigns. Relentless ridicule does indeed wreak damage among the young, but there is something creepy about treating all joshing and teasing as ominous steps toward another Columbine massacre. So we get grim cut-the-joking, no-teasing programs that overlook the fact that coping with occasional negative remarks and arguments is a normal part of childhood. "Teaching a repertoire of alternative, more skillful behaviors is important," said one ridicule-free missionary who apparently was never young. One earnest program includes a "Don't laugh at me" project in which children sing victim songs ("I'm a little boy with glasses/The one they call a geek/Don't laugh at me/Don't call me names/Don't get your pleasure from my pain").

Many colleges now offer special dormitory zones for "the substance-free lifestyle." This means that 99 percent of the campus is a "substance-rich lifestyle zone" where illegal drugs and underage drinking are permitted. Students must fill out application forms to escape "substance-rich" living, i.e., pot, crack, coke, ecstasy, speed and booze.

There is a problem, of course, with the word "substances." Since the whole world is made up of substances, can dorm residents maintain their footing on a "substance-free floor"? Can colleges truly offer a substance-free education? (Never mind. We know the answer to that.)

Many universities play the zone game to inhibit free speech. They announce one or two small "free-speech zones," thus establishing almost all of the campus as a place where speeches, rallies and protests are forbidden. Reminded of the First Amendment by suits and threats to sue, many offending universities have backed down and opened their entire campuses for student expression.

Zone people seem to be everywhere these days. Some churches set aside a few pews as aroma-free zones for believers who use no perfume, cologne or other scents. In the United Kingdom, GM-free zones ban genetically modified food.

Amnesty International once talked about "torture-free zones." Many public schools have "safe zones," on the dubious proposition that student hostility to homosexuals is so widespread that gays can feel safe only in rooms marked with pink triangles.

Pittsburgh, in an effort to prevent harassment outside abortion clinics, set up a "no-speech" zone nears clinic entrances. It's a violation to say anything at all within 15 feet of a doorway or within 8 feet of anyone standing 100 feet or less from any entrance. Zone politics trumps the First Amendment.

What will social historians of the future say about zone thinking? Probably that it is a highly therapized form of moral posturing and a strange attempt to cope with problems and alleged problems by walling off tiny areas. Obsessing over teasing and name-calling, for example, instead of addressing the bigger problem of building character in a troubled culture. More zone-free politics, please.



Last weekend some friends suggested going to a music-festival, Summer Sundae, put on by the American ice-cream makers, Ben and Jerry, at Clapham Common in London. ...

For starters, since when did ice-cream sellers, or for that matter a fruit drinks company such as Innocent, become involved in nominally `rock'n'roll' events? Isn't that supposed to be the job of flat and rubbish lager brands? On one level, of course, Summer Sundae and Innocent's Fruitstock - which takes place this coming weekend - aren't meant to impress the likes of Lemmy, Tommy Lee or Tommy Saxondale. On another level, though, they do play on hippie countercultural `vibes' and thus make vague claims to some form of `radicalism'. But in today's context, all that really means is not being McDonald's.

As a shrewd and cynical marketing ploy, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield understand this all too well. That is why in America and Europe they are seen to actively push ethical concerns regarding the environment or the arms trade: it's a way of saying, `hey, we're the good guys'. What could be a better approach to business? So last Saturday, Mr Greenfield made a speech informing us that Ben and Jerry are doing their bit to tackle global warming. An exasperated friend of mine quickly retorted: `Why on Earth would an ice cream company be against warmer weather?' Good point. But it is precisely such displays of `selflessness' that are taken as good coin - both figuratively and literally. Which is why so many other ethical capitalists are getting in on the act, too.

During a stroll around Summer Sundae it was notable that every food and drink stall was organic, wholesome or `real' (as if other food is somehow illusionary). What they all had in common was an earnest but transparent attempt to look like small-cottage industries rather than subsidiaries of multinational companies. In reality, Ben and Jerry's was taken over by the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giants Unilever six years ago - hardly the type of company to make ice-cream in someone's small kitchen.

In the Guardian, Jacques Peretti called this process `kooky capitalism', wherein huge companies simply brand themselves as `ethical, people-orientated cottage businesses rather than faceless behemoths driven by profit'. Peretti is right to note that this is often accompanied by faux-naive slogans and childlike scrawl over delivery vans and other company symbols. Even when `kooky capitalists' don't go as Innocent or Ocado, subtler brand designs still appear to be modelled on children's alphabet books - all blaring primary colours and bold Arial fonts.

In the past, parental responsibility, rather than how much ale you could handle, was the true measure of adulthood. Today it seems that having children is an excuse to join them in the safety playpen, away from the bullyboys of greedy multinationals and the gormless masses. Summer Sundae, with its notably high fences and high security, appeared like a gated community for ethical Peter Pans....

At Summer Sundae, the ethical and infantile collided in a queasy way. World Wildlife Fund volunteers, for instance, dressed up as pandas, held hands round the common and fundraised with all the pushy hustling skills of a two-day old kitten. Then again, given the inflated prices of the `real' food and drink on offer, not many of the revelers appeared charitably inclined. For sure, the burgers were a cut above standard festival fare, but not that much better than, say, Burger King's finest. So what, exactly, do you get for your cash at events like these? For ethical liberals it has two important selling points: a) it shows you're a concerned, planet-saving citizen, and b) you can avoid paunchy blokes in Arsenal football tops.

More here

8 August, 2006


Wacky old Canada again

A human rights board is hearing the case of a Halifax man who claims he's being discriminated against on religious and ethnic grounds because his condo board told him to remove his satellite dish. The hearing into Ahmed Assal's case began Tuesday in Halifax.

Assal, a condo owner in Clayton Park, is a Muslim originally from Egypt. Through his satellite dish, he gets 18 channels of religious and cultural programming in Arabic. Without it, he says his children could not get the programs essential to their education. "I have a family, I have children, and the serious matter is that it is for culture, religion, language," he told reporters after the hearing.

Assal acknowledges he knew about the condominium board's bylaw that prohibits satellite dishes before he bought the condo. But he says other rules regarding pets and tree planting are not enforced. So if the board makes exceptions for other condo owners, Assal argued, why shouldn't it do the same for him?

The managers says they do not give preferential treatment. The ban is in place because satellite dishes spoil the look of the buildings and can cause structural damage, they say. Manager Don Buck said it is possible to make an exception to a bylaw if the request is made in writing, but he said Assal never did this.

Assal says he was told over the phone the board might allow the dish as long as it wasn't installed on a roof or a fence. He decided to put it up on a tree in a common area.

The human rights hearing is scheduled to continue for another two days. Once the testimony is complete, board chair Royden Trainor will decide if Assal was discriminated against and what penalties, if any, should be levied against Halifax Condominium Corporation No. 4.


Picture of gun incorrect in Britain

Luxury shoemaker Jeffery-West Shoes has had an advertising campaign banned by watchdogs for irresponsibly glamorising the use of guns. The firm, which has stores in locations including Piccadilly and the City of London, ran an ad in fashion magazine Ology depicting a woman dressed in a fur coat at the wheel of a car with a gun and a pair of men's boots on the seat next to her. The Advertising Standards Authority received a complaint that the use of the gun was offensive and also questioned whether the ad glamorised the use of guns.

Jeffery-West said the ad was an old promotional shot it had used in-store to promote its footwear, but added that it had no plans to use the ad again and apologised for any offence caused. Gazette Media Company, owner of Ology magazine, said that the image supplied was heavily Americanised with the car and the woman implying a gangster's moll and was clearly fictional and slightly surreal. It also believed the image was appropriate for the product and said the image had been used before and was on Jeffrey-West's website.

The ASA said that the image went beyond being surreal and implied a fashionable lifestyle. Furthermore, the watchdog said that the gun was not related to the product and appeared solely as a glamorous fashion accessory and promoted a lifestyle that condoned violence



And the First Amendment gives them the right to practice their religion

Thousands of religious refugees mass in the streets of Sacramento to shout "Shame!" Their targets, with their own history of persecution still fresh and raw, retort: "Go back to Russia!" How did it come to this? In the last few months, the growing conflict between Sacramento's Slavic Christians and its politically savvy gay community has erupted on campuses, at school board hearings, and on the grounds of the Capitol. Russian-speaking hecklers lined the march of this year's gay pride parade downtown. At least 15 Slavic students were suspended in April for wearing shirts proclaiming, "Homosexuality is sin." This spring, Slavic Christians packed board meetings in three local school districts to make their position clear: Being gay is not OK.

Gays are starting to respond in kind. A dozen staged a counterprotest in July, demonstrating outside the region's largest evangelical Slavic church during Sunday morning services. Gays say the Slavic protesters have hit them with signs, spit on them and displayed a menacing lack of civility. Gay leaders have met with local police and press to say they're worried about violence, and now they're forming a "Q Crew" -- a new political activism group -- to tell the public their fears. "They're more and more brazen with their signs and their numbers," said Tina Reynolds, a lesbian activist and owner of a gallery in downtown Sacramento. "It's much more in our face, and I'm beginning to feel like something's going to happen."

Beyond the surface animosity, this is a collision of two powerful forces: a deeply held religious conviction and the determined march of homosexuals toward equal rights. The region's large Russian-speaking Christian community, usually shy of publicity, is stepping into the public eye, saying they have to save California from a dangerous moral decline. Gay leaders worry that these protests will erode their community's political progress and spoil the security they have come to feel in Sacramento.

Free speech or hate speech?

The evangelical Slavs, refugees who fled religious persecution in the former Soviet Union, are finally hitting their stride in the land of the free. They came for the freedom to worship. Now they say they're exercising the freedom of speech to spread a fundamental belief: Homosexuality is a sin and a choice. "We have tasted the power of democracy -- now we go and protest," said George Neverov, a Baptist who emigrated from Uzbekistan in 1991 and lives in Carmichael. The father of three young daughters, he is a vocal opponent of any endorsement of homosexuality in the public schools. "Am I against tolerance?" said Neverov, 33. "God forbid, no. But my whole belief system is based on the Bible. I say homosexuality is a sin. Why are you offended by that?"

Gay activists contend that this sentiment, when aggressively expressed in public protests, is nothing less than hate speech. The demonstrations seem suffused with a frightening rage, they say. "At their protests, it's all about God, burning in hell and sodomy," said Darrick Lawson, president of Sacramento's Stonewall Democratic Club, a gay political organization. "They want to use their rights and freedoms to suppress another community. It goes against the reasons they moved here. The Bible never taught this kind of hatred."

Lawson, himself the son of an evangelical pastor, spent nearly three years in therapy trying to overcome his own homosexuality before accepting it. "We have no problem with them saying this in their churches," Lawson said. "Do I want to ban them from Gay Pride? No. I don't. In no way do I want to infringe upon the right they came here for. But they need to consider our safety and play by the rules."

These refugees say they understand rules. They fled from an officially atheistic society where the rules discriminated against the religious. People of faith sometimes were imprisoned, their children wrenched from them, their careers stalled. Some harbor memories of a grandfather executed, a grandmother who died in jail. Community leaders estimate 100,000 Russian-speaking residents live in the Sacramento region, about a third of them evangelical Christians. Mostly Ukrainian Baptists or Pentecostals, many came here in recent decades believing the United States was a Christian nation -- a place where their literal interpretation of the Bible would be the rule. Instead, they landed in freewheeling California and encountered a culture of widespread divorce, premarital sex, and -- almost unheard of in their home countries -- open homosexuality.

Political clout downplayed

Even more offensive to them is the increasingly strong push by gay leaders to bring acceptance of homosexuality into public life and public schools. State Sen. Sheila Kuehl, the Legislature's first openly lesbian member, has spent her political career fighting for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. She has little patience for the anti-gay feelings of these immigrants. "This kind of aggressive homophobia is nothing new," said the senator, a Democrat from Santa Monica. "This is just one in a long line of communities who have become convinced that they have a moral obligation to discriminate."

One of Kuehl's bills, Senate Bill 1437, has aroused special consternation among the Slavic Christians. As drafted, the bill would require the public school curriculum to note the contributions of gays and lesbians to society. Conservative Christian groups across the state -- as well as several mainstream newspapers and the governor -- have criticized the bill. But Sacramento's Slavs are its most visible opponents. On June 12, whole families showed up at the Capitol to demonstrate against SB 1437 and other pro-gay bills. One little girl held up a sign that said "Homosexuals Do Not Touch My Kids." A young boy waved a hand-painted message: "I'm NOT learning about gay people."

Kuehl downplays the Slavs' political clout, saying they are puppets of the right who are not taken seriously by the Legislature. But one of her staunchest opponents, conservative lobbyist Randy Thomasson, gives them a lot more credit. "When it comes to parental rights and family values, Russia may just save California," said Thomasson, president of the Sacramento-based Campaign for Children and Families. Thomasson notes that the Slavs are fast becoming citizens, registering to vote and learning how to make themselves heard. He credits them for playing a major role in gaining Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's pledge to veto SB 1437. ...

In an interview, Khakimov explained what their faith means to this community. "Religion is our life, it's not just words," he said through a translator. He said he believes the Bible is absolutely, literally true. "Our people suffered for their Bible teaching -- they were put in jail just for following the Bible," the pastor said.

As for gays, he cites from memory several Bible verses he says declare homosexuality to be a sin, but adds: "First of all, we don't hate them. We pray for them. They are also people. They are sinners and they need help. This is like any other sin." His community has rallied against gay issues, he said, because gay advocates are making political inroads. If Christians don't defend their beliefs, he said, God will rain down wrath as he did on Sodom.....

More here

7 August, 2006

Discarding the truth for political correctness

There have always been liars, but until recent years liars were rare among scientists and scholars. The only agenda scientists and scholars had was truth. They didn't always succeed in finding truth, but it was their goal.

In recent years, we have seen the advent of a new breed of scientist and scholar to whom ideological or political agendas are more important than truth. Hoping to close two national forests, government scientists planted evidence that the forests were inhabited by an endangered species of lynx.

The scientists' dishonesty undermined a three-year study and confirmed suspicions that some government scientists fake studies in order to control environmental policy. Only highly politicized scientists would behave in ways that endanger the authority of science.

Scholars, too, have become enamored with causes that are more important to them than truth. According to news reports, Emory University historian Michael Bellesiles apparently believes so strongly in gun control that he invented a history for the purpose of undermining the Constitution's Second Amendment, the right of citizens to own guns.

Bellesiles' politically correct book, "Arming America," was awarded the Bancroft Prize, a prestigious award for historians. But scholars examining the work say that Bellesides' conclusions are based on made-up and nonexistent sources.

Bellesides argues that gun ownership was so rare among early Americans, even on the frontiers, that no one would have cared enough about the right to give it constitutional protection. He claims to have studied many wills and to have found scant evidence of guns being bequeathed to heirs.

When skeptical scholars checked his sources, they found he claimed to have studied wills of people in colonial Rhode Island known to have died without wills. He also claims to have studied probate records in San Francisco for the years 1849-59. However, the city's librarians say no such records exist. They were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

The appearance on the scene of scientists and scholars who betray the public's trust in their integrity in order to advance ideological agendas is frightening. It means that the enculturation of scientists and scholars is failing in the graduate schools where they are trained.

When the canons of scholarly objectivity become widely abandoned, truth ceases to guide decisions. Public policy outcomes and court cases depend on which side has the best propaganda and can more effectively demonize or vilify the other party. Education becomes the propaganda of the group that controls the schools.

Indeed, education is already being pried loose from any relation to truth. Marxists denied the existence of any truth by claiming that "truth" was nothing but the expression of class interests - a claim that allowed Marxists to ignore facts that undermined their arguments.

Class Marxism has given way to Cultural Marxism, which claims truth is just an expression of race interest, gender interest and sexual orientation. According to these multiculturalists, there is a different "truth" for men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, blacks and whites, able-bodied and disabled.

All these "truths" are claimed to be equally valid. Therefore, there is no valid basis for defending American culture from an influx of Third World cultures. Anyone who complains about the transformation of America into a tower of Babel is dismissed as racist or xenophobic.

Cultural Marxism has achieved a dominant position in American education. Consequently, there is a breakdown in enculturation. An appreciation of Western civilization is not being passed on even to native-born whites attending the best universities.

Before our very eyes, history is being transformed into politically correct fantasy. Everyone knows the photograph of the three white firemen who raised an American flag on Sept. 11 on the rubble of the World Trade Center. A 19-foot bronze statue of the photo has been commissioned for the site - only first the race of the firefighters had to be changed.

A statue true to fact is "insensitive" and "divisive." A clay model shows one white, one black and one Hispanic.

Firefighters are complaining that a historical event has been turned into a politically correct event. Carlo Casoria, who lost his firefighter son in the rubble, said: "They're rewriting history in order to achieve political correctness." The multicultural reply is: "The artistic expression of diversity should supersede any concern over factual correctness."

Multicultural diversity has made such a hash of truth that the U.S. cannot truthfully represent in a public monument the defiant response, burned in every American's memory, to al-Qaida's successful attack on the World Trade Center.

Is the next step to put us in re-education camps and erase our memories? Or is that what the universities are doing?



Firemen are blazing mad after bosses banned them from sliding down poles - on safety grounds. Brave crews risk their lives fighting fires - but experts have ruled they could be in danger when using the pole to answer 999 calls.

Firefighters could suffer repetitive stress injuries, bad backs, sprained ankles and even chaffing to their hands and thighs, health and safety bosses claimed. Now a new œ2.4million station has been built MINUS the traditional pole, forcing firemen to run down stairs instead.

Designers of the building in Greenbank, Plymouth, say they are following safety guidelines. But crews are furious. Station officer Ken Mulville said: "In 30 years in the brigade, I've seen one or two accidents on poles compared to tens of accidents with people on stairs. It takes about a second and a half to slide down a pole as opposed to 15 or 20 seconds to run down two flights of stairs. "Seconds could be critical when responding to a 999 call."

Plymouth's Fire Brigades Union spokesman Trevor French said: "Firemen are more likely to get hurt tripping down the stairs then sliding down a pole." One firefighter at Greenbank said: "It's crazy - they pay you to plunge into burning buildings but won't risk you on a pole."

But Bernard Hughes, chairman of Devon Fire and Rescue Authority, said: "There have been a number of injuries to firefighters on poles. "A risk assessment was taken and the decision has been made not to put poles in." He denied the risk to the public would be increased by using the stairs. He said: "It's only a matter of seconds. That is not important when you consider we have a response time of 20 minutes to some emergencies."

Devon's chief fire officer Paul Young said: "The evidence is there has been no increase in response times as a consequence of not having a traditional pole. "The design of each station is determined by a host of issues. This does not mean there will never be poles at fire stations."

John Midgley, of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: "This is a completely disproportionate response. If they were so concerned, they should have built the station on one level."


Another photo ban

Grandmother Suzanne Hansford has blasted 'politically correct' authorities after she was banned from taking photos of her granddaughter in a paddling pool. Mrs Hansford was prevented from taking pictures of four-year-old Amber as she took her first dip in a pool. As she pressed the button, a park attendant on Southampton Common, Hants, told Mrs Hansford she could not take snaps of the family day out because of council regulations. Southampton City Council insists no photos are taken at its pools and leisure facilities due to fears paedophiles might obtain illicit snaps of young children.

Upset Mrs Hansford, who lives in the city and works at a print company, said: "Are we now to be denied having photographic memories of our children and grandchildren? "I was so annoyed. "There are thousands of law-abiding people out there, just trying to enjoy the summer and take happy family pictures. "Why should we be penalised for the degenerates in our society?" The 52 year old, who had enjoyed the day out with her daughter-in-law Chrissie, argued the regulations should not apply to people who are obviously mothers and grandmothers.

Southampton City Council, which runs the pool, said exceptions could only be made for groups, such as Brownies or Cubs. And even then an application has to be made in writing to the council and parental permission sought from each child to be photographed. Paul Shearman, Southampton City Council's outdoor sports manager, said: "Health and safety is paramount in making each customer experience a positive one when visiting our pool. "As a preventative safety and comfort measure we do run a policy of restricting the use of cameras, including camera phones. "We would ask for understanding of this policy but do appreciate and accept that this may disappoint a minority of customers."

A week ago New Forest District Council chiefs ordered a father in Pennington, Hants, to remove an inflated paddling pool on health and safety grounds. Richard Cole was told by the council that someone walking through the communal courtyard in front of the flats could trip over the pool and fall into the water. New Forest District Council said: "Inflatable swimming pools are not suitable for any council-owned communal areas on health and safety grounds."

Parents have previously been prevented from taking photographs of their children in an attempt to stop pictures ending up in the hands of paedophiles. A Church minister was furious when he was banned from taking a photograph of his 16-year-old son playing in a school orchestra because of an anti-paedophile rule in 2001. The Rev Richard Burkitt, 51, claimed staff at a Scottish theatre stopped him taking a snap of his youngest son Frank for the family album. Eden Court Theatre defended its decision, insisting he was halted for 'child protection' reasons.

A year later parents of children performing in a nativity play at Sundon Lower School near Luton were banned from taking photos or videos of the performance. The headmistress wrote to parents after governors decided images of the youngsters could be inappropriately used on the Internet. Then last year an influential parents' group called on heads to ban cameras and video equipment from school events unless all families have given prior consent for their children to be filmed. The National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations believed the move could help prevent images of children reaching paedophiles.


6 August, 2006

Political correctness causes child abuse

Below is a comment emailed to me by a British psychiatrist

Today a report was released upon the incidence of child abuse in Britain by people with beliefs about witchcraft. The series of evil crimes against children have been committed by mostly African immigrants who believe in witchcraft. Their excuses for torturing and killing children have been that the children have been possessed. The report states that the authorities would have been much more robust in investigating and preventing the abuse had the children been white. This is because they have shied away from confronting the perpertrators of the abuse for fear of being accused of racism or culturally insensitivity.

This perfectly highlights the perversity of political correctness. It is intended to prevent the abuse of authority and persecution of the weak. Its very consequence is that the weakest of all- children of African immigrants and children sent by their African parents to live with minders have not been protected by the authorities against their perverted and evil attackers. Here are the lessons:

- child abuse is wrong, no matter who does it, with whatever excuse.

- The undermining of truth and authority by the PC people has caused child abuse. They must be punished for this.

- the authorities have a duty to protect everyone and to investigate every allegation and to punish every wrongdoer irrespective of their demographics

- truth does exist: witchcraft and belief in it is evil, wrong and leads to wicked acts. It is primitive. mediaeval, superstitious, evil nonsense. It should not be illegal but it should be vigorously argued against and not excused by PC appeasers.

- Authority can be used for good, neutral or evil purposes. It is NOT intrinsically wrong. Authority is necessary for civilisation and for good to triumph over evil. Where GOOD authority surrenders, it creates a vacuum filled by evil authority. Deluded Marxist-PC people will never understand this.

- tolerating perverted beliefs and perverted behaviour by people because of their cultural or racial origins is wrong and racist.

- Politically correct witchhunts enable people who believe in witches to abuse children

I wish we could import a cannibalistic tribe which believed in eating politically correct people and Marxists. That would do the trick. The PC Marxists could "live" by their values.


Public masturbation used to be associated with sad old men wearing dirty raincoats. Now it is no longer seen as a sordid exhibition, but rather as an exercise in raising awareness about safe sex. So hold on to your hats - the public masturbation exhibition is coming to London on 5 August! We are all invited to `come for good causes' by the organisers of Europe's very first `Masturbate-a-Thon' event.

Masturbation is about to be rebranded as the ultimate expression of responsible sexual behaviour. Get rid of your dirty raincoat: exhibitionism has been given a clean bill of health by sexologists, sex educationalists and the media. With great fanfare, this weekend's public display of narcissism - ostensibly performed to raise money for charity - will be promoted as an act of civic virtue. Willing masturbators will gather at a converted photographic studio in Clerkenwell, London, on Saturday, to pleasure themselves for the cameras and a charitable cause. Predictably, Channel 4, whose commitment to the highest standard of public service broadcasting is well known, has enthusiastically embraced this opportunity to transmit yet another of its `brave', `pioneering', `agenda-setting' and `taboo-breaking' reality shows: it will be filming and televising the Masturbate-a-Thon. Since Channel 4 has courageously invested its reputation in this venture, it is guaranteed to be conducted in the best possible taste. Which is why, according to the organisers, `fully clothed people will not be allowed into rooms set aside for masturbation'.

The organisers of this spectacle claim the objective is to encourage people to `explore safe sex' and `talk about masturbation and lift the taboos that still surround the subject by coming to a public place and coming in a public place'. I have always suspected that sexologists love to talk `dirty' - that is why they attach such significance to `vagina monologues' and talking about wanking. They claim that openly discussing masturbation is an important part of an overall enlightened sexual etiquette. According to a leaflet produced by the Family Planning Association, Masturbation - Support Notes, talking about it `encourages safe and non-judgmental environments in which people can explore their sexuality'.

This weekend's event should provide suitably wholesome entertainment, if the literature promoting it is anything to go by. The Masturbate-a-Thon crew clearly enjoys a laugh, never missing an opportunity to crack a crude double entendre and continually using the word `come' in different, apparently witty ways. `Who can come?' ask the organisers, before pointedly imploring: `So come on.don't be shy.' Why? Because `you can come for good causes'. This is playground humour, and it sounds forced and more than a little vulgar. The organisers of this initiative have turned otherwise unexceptional words - exhilaration, pleasure, relaxation, liberation - into salacious and crude terms.

But there are rules. The event sponsors, who clearly buy in to today's health-obsessed ideology, forbid participants from doing drugs, drinking alcohol or smoking. Though you can bring your own toys, you are asked not to `share them or to offer them to anyone else after you', since `this constitutes a clear risk to others'. And no cheating! There will be monitors on hand - sort of - to clock the duration of your contribution and count your orgasms. With a hint of self-parody, participants are warned that `monitors shall carry a clipboard to keep notes on time and consistency of self-pleasuring'.

And while taking pleasure in yourself, you are obliged to take pleasure in diversity, too. Apparently anyone demonstrating `prejudice, disrespect and intolerance of other people' will be asked to leave straight after the critical moment has been reached. This is clearly an inclusive event fully committed to the ethos of diversity. You'll be pleased to know that `people of both genders and sexual orientations' will masturbate in this inclusive performance.

Masturbation and the new moralism

Pornographers frequently flatter themselves by labelling their work as `erotic art'. Now, with the Masturbate-a-Thon, narcissistic voyeurism is represented as an exercise in public service; a low-life show for Peeping Toms masquerades as a public health initiative. The Masturbate-a-Thon aims to `raise awareness of, and dispel the shame and taboos that persist around, this most commonplace, natural and safe form of sexual activity'. Are we supposed to believe that the public is totally unfamiliar with the practice of masturbation?

The idea that talking about masturbation is a powerful taboo is a self-serving myth peddled by solo-sex crusaders who never resist the temptation to discuss their obsession. As any school child will confirm, masturbation is hardly a taboo topic. There is a veritable industry devoted to praising its virtues and `raising awareness' about it. In case you're desperate for information, you can consult Martha Cornag's The Big Book of Masturbation, which addresses `the myths and questions that have plagued society for centuries', according to its publisher. Cornag also respects diversity and `presents masturbation from a variety of perspectives'. If you are feeling a tiny bit unsure about the experience, then flick through Edward L Rowan's The Joy of Self-Pleasuring: Why Feel Guilty About Feeling Good? Then there is Walter O Bocking's Masturbation As a Means of Achieving Sexual Health or Betty Dodson's Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving, both of which claim to do a bit of taboo-busting.

Some old-fashioned critics of Saturday's voyeuristic event may view it as a sign of our unhealthy hedonistic culture. But the advocacy of masturbation today has little to do with a hedonistic desire to validate sexual pleasure. Rather, the solo-sex crusade can be profoundly puritanical and moralistic. The moral entrepreneurs who dreamt up Masturbate-a-Thon promote a dogma that regards passion itself as a disease. Old-fashioned moralists told people to `just say no' and left it at that. Their target was promiscuity, homosexuality and extramarital sex. Today's sex education establishment is far more prescriptive. It demands that we `say no' to all passionate relationships that carry risks and consequences. The new lobby of moralists are not just wary of sex but of all forms of passionate relations. Yes they talk about pleasure, but according to their ideology it must be an experience that is robbed of passionate emotions.

The two most highly stigmatised words in the lexicon of the sex education lobby are `risk' and `consequence'. They are not simply concerned with the risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease, but also with the risk of emotional pain that invariably accompanies relationships. Traditional moralists sought to discourage people from having pre-marital affairs; today's sex education lobby hopes to divest sex from passion. Why? Because when you have passionate sex, anything can happen. You might forget to take your pill; you might get too emotionally involved with your partner.

Marie Stopes International, one of the sponsors of Masturbate-a Thon, warns that `in our work all over the world, every day we see the consequences of fertile orgasms'. The denigration of the experience of a fertile orgasm expresses a profound sense of unease with human passion, particularly when it has life-creating consequences. Here, traditional prudishness is displaced by a far more lifeless dread of acting on spontaneous desire....

More here


By Mick Hume

The verdict is expected today in the Tommy Sheridan defamation trial, in which the MSP and former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party is suing the News of the World over allegations of extramarital sex, orgies and swinging parties. But the verdict on Britain's libel laws should have been clear long ago. They are the most atrocious, unjust pieces of legislation on our statute books -- a title won in the face of some stiff competition. Nobody in his right mind, or who is still mad enough to believe in freedom of speech, should surely ever sue under these laws. Indeed, a society that considers itself free should abolish them.

English libel law commits crimes against natural justice (Scotland's defamation laws are not much different). Forget the presumption of innocence; libel law presumes that the defendant has published lies and demands that he prove the contrary. The claimant has to prove nothing and can simply assert that his reputation has been damaged -- in Scotland the claimant must show some damage, not necessarily financial. The vast majority of cases brought to court end in the claimant' s favour. Most never get that far, because nervous publications settle beforehand, while the spectre of defamation law has a chilling effect on what gets published in the first place. No wonder "libel tourists" from Britney Spears to Russian businessmen sue foreign publications in UK courts.

And what of the winners? Last week Paul McKenna, the TV hypnotist, won a libel case against the Daily Mirror, which had described his PhD as "bogus" in a long-forgotten article. Mr McKenna said that the trial had made him "a laughing stock". The judge ruled in his favour, but concluded that it would have been fair comment to say that Mr McKenna had received his qualification from an "obscure, degrees-by-post establishment", and that " hypnotherapy was not a suitable subject for a PhD". What a triumph!

Mr Sheridan's defamation case has turned into a media circus of colourful accusations and denials, during which he has wept, sacked his lawyers, paraded his personal life and offered to parade his hirsute body before the world, admitted being "a source of ridicule" and effectively accused 18 witnesses of lying. It has certainly altered the staid reputation of the SSP. What impact suing has on Mr Sheridan's reputation remains to be seen.

A few years ago, I was sued for libel. The case left Living Marxism, the independent left-wing magazine that I edited, facing closure, and me facing a million-pound bill for costs and damages. I said on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice that the only thing the trial had proved beyond reasonable doubt was that the libel laws were a menace to free speech and a disgrace to democracy. Then, libel law was considered a rich man's charter. Now, however, the rise of "no win, no fee" lawyers has "democratised" censorship and opened the doors of the defamation courts to others. Fashionable though it is to bash American tyranny, it is worth recalling that many of these high-profile cases would never come to trial there because the law makes it hard for public figures to sue. In 1997, a US court refused to enforce a judgment made in London, on the ground that UK libel law was "repugnant" to the principle of free speech. A good word, repugnant. And that was long before any discussion of Mr Sheridan's body hair.


5 August, 2006

`World Opinion' is Worthless

If you are ever morally confused about a major world issue, here is a rule that is almost never violated: Whenever you hear that "world opinion" holds a view, assume it is morally wrong. And here is a related rule if your religious or national or ethnic group ever suffers horrific persecution: "World opinion" will never do a thing for you. Never.

"World opinion" has little or nothing to say about the world's greatest evils and regularly condemns those who fight evil. The history of "world opinion" regarding the greatest mass murders and cruelties on the planet is one of relentless apathy.

Ask the 1.5 million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks;

or the 6 million Ukrainians slaughtered by Stalin;

or the tens of millions of other Soviet citizens killed by Stalin's Soviet Union;

or the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their helpers throughout Europe;

or the 60 million Chinese butchered by Mao;

or the 2 million Cambodians murdered by Pol Pot;

or the millions killed and enslaved in Sudan;

or the Tutsis murdered in Rwanda's genocide;

or the millions starved to death and enslaved in North Korea;

or the million Tibetans killed by the Chinese;

or the million-plus Afghans put to death by Brezhnev's Soviet Union.

Ask any of these poor souls, or the hundreds of millions of others slaughtered, tortured, raped and enslaved in the last 100 years, if "world opinion" did anything for them.

On the other hand, we learn that "world opinion" is quite exercised over Israel's unintentional killing of a few hundred Lebanese civilians behind whom hides Hezbollah - a terror group that intentionally sends missiles at Israeli cities and whose announced goals are the annihilation of Israel and the Islamicization of Lebanon. And, of course, "world opinion" was just livid at American abuses of some Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. In fact, "world opinion" is constantly upset with America and Israel, two of the most decent countries on earth, yet silent about the world's cruelest countries.

Why is this? Here are four reasons: First, television news.

It is difficult to overstate the damage done to the world by television news. Even when not driven by political bias - an exceedingly rare occurrence globally - television news presents a thoroughly distorted picture of the world. Because it is almost entirely dependent upon pictures, TV news is only capable of showing human suffering in, or caused by, free countries. So even if the BBC or CNN were interested in showing the suffering of millions of Sudanese blacks or North Koreans - and they are not interested in so doing - they cannot do it because reporters cannot visit Sudan or North Korea and video freely. Likewise, China's decimation and annexation of Tibet, one of the world's oldest ongoing civilizations, never made it to television.

Second, "world opinion" is shaped by the same lack of courage that shapes most individual human beings' behavior. This is another aspect of the problem of the distorted way news is presented. It takes courage to report the evil of evil regimes; it takes no courage to report on the flaws of decent societies. Reporters who went into Afghanistan without the Soviet Union's permission were killed. Reporters would risk their lives to get critical stories out of Tibet, North Korea and other areas where vicious regimes rule. But to report on America's bad deeds in Iraq (not to mention at home) or Israel's is relatively effortless, and you surely won't get killed. Indeed, you may well win a Pulitzer Prize.

Third, "world opinion" bends toward power. To cite the Israel example, "world opinion" far more fears alienating the largest producers of oil and 1 billion Muslims than it fears alienating tiny Israel and the world's 13 million Jews. And not only because of oil and numbers. When you offend Muslims, you risk getting a fatwa, having your editorial offices burned down or receiving death threats. Jews don't burn down their critics' offices, issue fatwas or send death threats, let alone act on such threats.

Fourth, those who don't fight evil condemn those who do. "World opinion" doesn't confront real evils, but it has a particular animus toward those who do - most notably today America and Israel. The moment one recognizes "world opinion" for what it is - a statement of moral cowardice, one is longer enthralled by the term. That "world opinion" at this moment allegedly loathes America and Israel is a badge of honor to be worn proudly by those countries. It is when "world opinion" and its news media start liking you that you should wonder if you've lost your way.



Kai Ma's recent AlterNet article "The Difference Between a Womb and a Wallet" applauds a U.S. District Court judge's quick, contemptuous dismissal of Matthew Dubay's "Roe v. Wade for Men" lawsuit. Dubay sought to wipe out the child support payments he is obligated to make to an ex-girlfriend who, he says, used a fallacious claim of infertility to deceive him into getting her pregnant.

In opposing "choice for men," Ma asserts that a "woman's decision to terminate a pregnancy is not the equivalent of a man's choice to financially opt out of fatherhood." She cites the pain and discomfort of pregnancy, and the way motherhood "may limit our mobility or careers."

These problems are very real; however, so are the problems created when men are saddled with child support obligations. According to Men's Health magazine, 100,000 men each year are jailed for alleged nonpayment of child support. Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement data reveal that 70 percent of those behind on payments earn poverty level wages. The "Most Wanted Deadbeat Dad" lists put out by most states are used both for police actions and to hunt and shame "deadbeats" through newspaper ads and publicity campaigns. These lists are largely comprised of uneducated African-American and Latino men with occupation descriptions like "laborer," "maintenance man" and "roofer."

Ma dismisses the burden of child support as being "a few hundred dollars a month." However, in California, a noncustodial father of two earning a modest $3,800 a month in net income pays $1,300 a month in child support. The money -- almost $300,000 over 18 years -- is tax-free to the custodial mother. One can reasonably debate whether this sum is appropriate or excessive. One cannot reasonably dismiss it as being insignificant. Ma portrays children as a mother's albatross, forgetting that parenting is also the greatest joy a person can experience in life. Yes, in single mother homes, the mother bears the burden of most of the childrearing, but the mothers also experience the lion's share of the joys and benefits of having children. Noncustodial fathers are not so fortunate -- they're usually permitted only a few days a month to spend with their kids. Once mom finds a new man, they're often pushed out entirely in favor of the child's "new dad."

Ma condemns men who "lie, deceive, break their promises, or pull a 180 . who agree to marry but don't," and laments that "millions of women" have been "trapped into single motherhood for life with, often, next to no recourse." Yet according to a randomized study of 46,000 divorce cases published in the American Law and Economics Review, two-thirds of all divorces involving couples with children are initiated by mothers, not fathers, and in only 6 percent of cases did the women claim to be divorcing cruel or abusive husbands.

The out-of-wedlock birth rate in the United States hovers around 33 percent -- given the wide variety of contraceptive and reproductive choices women enjoy, this can hardly be blamed primarily on men. Yes, in some of these cases the mother and father shared a relationship that the mother (and the father) may have expected would become a marriage. Yet these relationships fail for many reasons besides male perfidy. These include: youth, economic pressure and the lack of living wage jobs (how many couples fight over money?), and the mothers' post-partum depression and mood-swings. It's doubtful that many men really wake up in the morning and say to themselves, "My child loves me and needs me, my girlfriend loves me and needs me -- I'm outta here."

Ma says men "shouldn't be able to choose to abandon that child in the lurch." Yet 1.5 million American women legally walk away from motherhood every year through adoption, abortion or abandonment. In over 40 states mothers can completely opt out of motherhood by returning unwanted babies to the hospital shortly after birth. If men like Dubay are deadbeats and deserters, what are these women?

Whenever a child is born outside of the context of a loving, two-parent family, there are no good solutions. Ma overstates her case, but she is correct that "Choice for Men" is a flawed solution. However, the current regime, which provides women with a variety of choices and men with none, is also flawed.

Matthew Dubay's conduct is not particularly admirable, and he's certainly not a candidate for father of the year; however, he does have a point. Over the past four decades, women's advocates have successfully made the case that it is wrong to force a pregnancy on an unwilling mother. Despite the backlash against Dubay, hopefully his lawsuit will result in a greater societal awareness that it is also wrong to force a pregnancy on an unwilling father



The article below by humorous British Conservative writer George Walden may well have some explanatory value. It is an update of an old theme. Note the concluding comment.

Anyone who thinks of American foreign policy in the Middle East as cussed, overzealous, hot-headed and hypocritical will be unconsoled to learn that this was the kind of thing people were saying about Puritanism and its adherents some four hundred years ago. Like so much else in modern America, its actions abroad should be viewed through the prism of the country’s root religion, Puritanism.

To understand its continued centrality, imagine an America with no Mayflower and no New England. The national temperament would be less earnest, less moralistic, gentler. There would be fewer people in jail, and no executions. There might also be fewer Republican presidents and Bible literalists, and because a non-Puritan America would be less mesmerised by sex and introspection, less pornography and fewer psychiatrists’ couches.

An improvement on the America we have got, you may say. But the country might also have been less energetic, less enterprising, less rigorously democratic, less uncompromisingly freedom-loving. A poorer, milder America would be less able to do good as well as harm in the world. More reluctant to become engaged in Vietnam, it might also have been less tenacious in its pursuit of the Cold War generally. It would certainly not have been in Iraq, but that would be small comfort to its French or British critics, because a softer, non-Puritan America might well have resulted in a Europe submerged by Hitler, Stalin, or both.

But America is what it is, a country that is still 60 per cent Protestant. This could be a handy guide to its behaviour, except that Puritan doctrine was notoriously contradictory. All you can be sure of is its tendency to fly to extremes. “Its theory had been discipline,” R. H. Tawney wrote, “its practical result was liberty,” and listening to the maledictions of right-wing evangelists on the La-La-land lifestyle you hear echoes of the same tensions. Whether the subject is sex, business or foreign policy, never have the conflicts within America’s warring soul been more apparent than today.

Nowhere are the paradoxes of the Puritan conscience more flagrant, or more entertaining, than in the sexual sphere. That Hugh Hefner had a Puritan upbringing and that Alfred Kinsey’s father was a preacher explains a lot. Now absolute sexual freedoms are demanded in the same self-righteous spirit as the Puritans insisted on absolute repression, and the determination to dispense with the inhibitions of the past has begun to assume the earnestness and intolerance characteristic of the Puritan originators of their problems. “Self-realisation” (a very Puritan concept) can be energising, or it can be a pretext for promiscuity, sexual egotism, exhibitionism and self-indulgence.

In New England, illicit sex was repressed, but in business the sky was the limit, in many senses. For Puritans commerce was a holy pursuit, a way of busying themselves in the world in the hope of showing themselves as members of the elect who would be saved, rather than as damned from birth (“losers” in modern parlance). The characteristics of pious business folk have changed little over time. Now they are frequently church-going pillars of the community earning their salvation through media companies that specialise in sexually risqué but financially rewarding products or a dot-com enterprise selling God knows what.

Abstemious in their own lives, they take brief working holidays in Mexico or Montego Bay, where their conversation is laced with laments about the drinking, drug taking and sexual improvidence of the young and the poor. To minimise contact with “losers” they live in gated communities, send their children to private schools and bequeath them just enough to provide a headstart for becoming upstanding self-made men, in the image of their fathers.

Scepticism about Puritan sanctification of commerce began in the 17th century and continues today. America has been called “the country where the Cross is only a plus sign”, and that American employers have taken to praying with their staff, or that Ken Lay, former chairman of Enron, rediscovered God before he died, somehow does little to remove doubts.

In foreign policy, too, the New England retrovirus remains active. Like the Puritan whose economic self-seeking and psychic self-immersion were always in danger of divorcing him from the more altruistic aspects of the creed, America has long oscillated unnervingly between isolation and engagement with the world. For a people who believed that most of it was inhabited by the Antichrist there were reasons to stay aloof. Many countries still appear to America as backward nations whose souls it makes intermittent attempts to save, but that often turn out to be beyond redemption.

Proclaiming itself a beacon of hope has rarely inhibited a pugnacious foreign policy, it will be objected, but then America cannot win. If it behaves like the French and puts self-interest cynically to the fore it is damned for selfishness. And when its actions are genuinely altruistic, it is accused of buying the world’s favours. If there is one thing America is accused of more frequently than imperialist interference, it is of not interfering enough.

America’s Puritan origins do much to explain why it is the maddening and exhilarating, ancient and modern, progressive and conservative, sophisticated and simplistic, creative and destructive country it is. It explains why it finds itself in the throes of religious revival when secularism is advancing across Europe. At exactly the moment when their Puritan habits of thought are in crisis Americans are being enjoined to return to their religious roots. A case not only of the cure being worse than the disease, but of the cure reviving the malady.

But that is how America is. In dealing with it, as with anywhere else, we must take account of its national temperament. Above all we should remember that, as Alain Minc, the French historian put it, anti-Americanism is the internationalism of imbeciles.


4 August, 2006


In perverted Canada, a guy with his penis cut off is regarded as all woman and is allowed to compete as a woman in sports, despite the advantage his male physique gives him. And no-one is allowed to criticize that in any way

A cryptic, ill-timed podium protest in Whistler that mocked transgendered mountain biker Michelle Dumaresq will likely cost Maple Ridge downhiller Danika Schroeter a spot at the world championships in New Zealand in late August. Schroeter's racing licence was suspended for three months on Monday by the Canadian Cycling Association after a review of the podium ceremony at the national mountain bike downhill championships in Whistler on July 22.

Dumaresq, who lives in Vancouver, was born a man but underwent a sex change operation in the mid-1990s. The 36-year-old won her third Canadian title in a time of three minutes, 37.85 seconds, just a second ahead of Schroeter. During the awards ceremony, Schroeter, apparently at the insistence of her boyfriend, took off her racing jersey and donned a white sponsor's T-shirt on which he had written the words "100% Pure Woman Champ 2006" in block letters. It provoked some catcalls from a few people in the crowd.

The CCA said Schroeter's actions violated code of conduct provisions against insulting other riders or harming the reputation or questioning the honour of those riders. Schroeter has until Aug. 11 to appeal the suspension. The CCA has promised to rule by Aug. 14 if she appeals, but her supporters doubt she will be permitted to compete in New Zealand Aug. 26-27.

Reached by cellphone while driving to Vancouver from Whistler on Monday night, Schroeter said "I really want to talk about it, but I just can't right now. I want to speak to a few people before I make any public comments."

The incident spawned a flurry of passionate e-mails on cycling website forums, rehashing the debate over the appropriateness of the broad-shouldered, six-foot-one, 180-pound Dumaresq competing with other females. Even though Dumaresq competes with full sanctioning from the CCA and the International Cycling Union, many female downhillers, including Schroeter, have chafed at her status. They have argued that despite her 30-pound weight loss after estrogen and progesterone treatments she still has a physical edge in a sport that involves speeding down steep dirt hills, often at speeds of more than 60 km/h.

More here


The complaints seem to add up to no more than accusations of too-visible policing!

While Jackson Mayor Frank Melton patrolled the capital city as part of the National Night Out, about 50 people gathered Tuesday for what meeting organizers declared was a "call to action" to protect civil liberties in Jackson. "Rights are being violated daily by the mayor and the police, and that is something we have to take notice of," said Mississippi American Civil Liberties Union board president Sheila Bedi. "These crime-fighting tactics don't work. They don't make us safer." The meeting, hosted by the ACLU, centered on the crimefighting strategies of the first-term mayor and what rights people have under the Constitution to protect them against illegal searches.

For his part, Melton said criticism from the ACLU and the Jackson chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was "off-base" and counterproductive for a city beset with violent crime. "We have 26 people that have been killed here in Jackson this year," Melton said. "We have 300,000 killed across America every year, 81 people a day. The majority of them are African American. It's time to do something different, and I want to know what the ACLU wants to do besides criticize. Besides that, to hell with them." The federal government estimates the number of murders in the United States at slightly more than 16,000 a year, with African Americans making up about 47 percent of victims.

Since taking office a little more than a year ago, Melton has engaged in a campaign directed at reducing crime in the city. Melton regularly takes part in police patrols, cruising the streets in the Jackson Police Department's Mobile Command Unit, which he keeps parked in the driveway of his north Jackson home. Along with alleged violations of civil rights, event organizers accused the mayor and Jackson police of racially profiling citizens. Derrick Johnson, who campaigned against Melton last year, said the fact Melton is black may be clouding the issue for some people. "I can't imagine what this room would look like if the mayor's name was Kane Ditto," he said, referring to the former mayor, who is white. "What is taking place in this city is a travesty. ... And the silence is deafening." The Mississippi ACLU said it has received five formal complaints of civil rights violations regarding Melton from city residents.

Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes, a vocal supporter of Melton, attended the meeting at the request of organizers. Stokes said he believes there needs to be dialog between the city and the civil rights community. "Both sides have valid points," he said. "What we need is a meeting of the minds. Let's get both sides together." Nathan Coe, a 22-year-old Jackson State University student, attended the meeting but said he saw points on both sides. "It's a thin line when you are playing with civil liberties," he said. But Jackson's crime problem must be addressed, he said.

Jackson resident Michael Burns, who also attended the meeting, said his family has been the victim of overly aggressive tactics by Jackson police. In June, six police officers showed up at his mother's Midtown home in response to an argument between his 15-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old family friend over breakfast cereal, he said. Burns said the disagreement was not violent or criminal, but police so upset his mother that she had to be taken to the hospital. Burns said his family was targeted because of where they live.

King Downing, the ACLU's national racial profiling coordinator, said the mayor's habit of stopping cars and searching people violates their civil rights, even though those people give their consent. The mayor is not a police officer. "Each person who was stopped without consent had a right to say no, but if you speak to those people it becomes clear that they did not know they had a right to say no," Downing said. Downing encouraged residents to "strongly assert their rights." Along with the civil rights groups, Melton's high-profile tactics have raised the hackles of officials such as Hinds County District Attorney Faye Peterson and 2nd District Rep. Bennie Thompson.

But Melton said he is staying within the law and refuted claims that he is guilty of racial profiling. "We don't create the crimes. We go where the crimes happen," he said. "It's black-on-black (crime). It's time to tell the truth, and it's time to deal with it. I'm not going to play games with them. These are people who look like me who are being killed every day. It's time to put our foot down and do what we have to do." As for the meeting, Melton warned the organization not to interfere with police business. "I hope they don't obstruct justice and give people the false information, because if they do, then we will be focusing on them, and we'll come after them," he said. "I'm sick of these organizations that are not dealing with the issues."



By Jeff Jacoby

At an event in North Carolina to mark Black History Month last February, Julian Bond, the chairman of the NAACP, unleashed a blistering attack on the Bush administration and the Republican Party. Among other discourtesies, he compared President George W. Bush's judicial appointees to the Taliban and described former Attorney General John Ashcroft, not for the first time, as "J. Edgar Ashcroft."

"The Republican Party," Bond was reported as saying, "would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side." (According to other reports, Bond said that the GOP's "idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side-by-side.")

Such partisan bigotry from the chairman of a supposedly nonpartisan organization makes it easy to understand why for five years Bush refused to attend the NAACP's annual conventions. More of a mystery is why he changed his mind this year -- and why, rather than attempt to refute Bond's venomous caricature of his party, he seemed to accept it.

"I understand that many African-Americans distrust my political party," Bush said (to shouts of "Yes!" and applause from the audience, according to the White House transcript). "I consider it a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African-American community. For too long my party wrote off the African-American vote, and many African-Americans wrote off the Republican Party."

Republicans often take this rueful tone when talking about their party in the context of race. Democrats, who routinely get 85 percent or more of the black vote, never do. But the Republican rue isn't justified by the facts. Neither is the willingness of black voters to be taken for granted by Democrats.

Look around. Black candidates are serious contenders for governor in three states this year, and two of them -- Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania and Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio -- are Republicans. The third, Democrat Deval Patrick, is running in Massachusetts, a quintessentially blue state that has managed to elect only one African-American to statewide office in its entire history: former US Senator Edward Brooke -- a Republican.

Bush may have given short shrift to the NAACP for several years, but from his first day in office he has surrounded himself with a record number of senior black policy makers. Among them have been the nation's first black secretary of state, Colin Powell -- and its second, Condoleezza Rice.

Of course the Republican Party's record on race is not without its blemishes. For example, at a 100th birthday party for Strom Thurmond in 2002, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi praised the former Dixiecrat's segregationist 1948 campaign for president. Republicans were scandalized and forced Lott to resign as Senate majority leader.

Democrats, by contrast, have never moved to purge Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a former Kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan who wrote in 1947 that he would never agree to fight "with a Negro by my side" and would "rather . . . die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels." Byrd filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and is the only senator to have voted against both of the black justices named to the Supreme Court -- the liberal Thurgood Marshall and the conservative Clarence Thomas. While Byrd has said his racism is a thing of the past, that didn't stop him from using the N-word twice in an interview on national TV in 2001. Remarkably, none of this has harmed Byrd's standing within the Democratic Party, nor the party's standing among black voters.

Bond may not share Republican principles or legislative priorities, but for him to cast the GOP as the party of fascism and racism is beyond surreal. After all, it was the Democratic Party that vehemently defended slavery, the Democratic Party that supported the Dred Scott decision, and the Democratic Party that opposed the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution. It was Democrats who founded the Ku Klux Klan, Democrats who repeatedly blocked anti-lynching bills, and Democrats who enacted Jim Crow segregation across the South.

Everyone knows that it was a 19th-century Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation. But how many know that it was a 20th-century Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, who segregated the federal government, appointed unabashed racists to his Cabinet, and endorsed "The Birth of a Nation," D.W. Griffith's celluloid celebration of the Klan?

Eventually -- happily -- the Democratic Party outgrew Wilson's racism. By 1964 a majority of congressional Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act -- as did an even larger majority of congressional Republicans. Today's Democratic Party is nothing like the racist stronghold it used to be; anyone who claimed otherwise would be trafficking in foul demagoguery. That is just what Bond traffics in when he speaks with equal foulness about today's Republican Party. The NAACP is better than that, and perhaps Bush should have said so.

3 August, 2006


While real criminals run riot

To the 12-year-old friends planning to build themselves a den, the cherry tree seemed an inviting source of material. But the afternoon adventure turned into a frightening ordeal for Sam Cannon, Amy Higgins and Katy Smith after they climbed into the 20ft tree - then found themselves hauled into a police station and locked in cells for up to two hours. Their shoes were removed and mugshots, DNA samples and mouth swabs were taken.

Officers told the children they had been seen damaging the tree which is in a wooded area of public land near their homes. Questioned by police, the scared friends admitted they had broken some loose branches because they had wanted to build a tree house, but said they did not realise what they had done was wrong. Officers considered charging the children with criminal damage but eventually decided a reprimand - the equivalent of a caution for juveniles - was sufficient. Although the reprimand does not amount to court action and the children do not have a criminal record, their details will be kept on file for up to five years.

The parents of the children, who all live in Halesowen, West Midlands, say they are angry with police for treating their children as hardened criminals and accused officers of over-reacting. The three, who have never been in trouble with the police before, were described as well-behaved and placid by their parents. Amy's mother, Jacqueline, said her daughter was left so traumatised by the police action last month she refused to sleep in her bed for a week. Miss Higgins, 37, an office manager, added: 'Amy was scared bucketloads to be locked up in a cell knowing murderers and rapists have been sat in the same cells. The police action was completely unbalanced. These were children playing in a tree. 'The information taken by the police will be held on record for five years and Amy is worried it could affect her going to college or university.'

Sam's father, Nicholas, 52, said: 'The children did not deserve to be treated in the way they were. A simple ticking-off by officers would have been sufficient. 'The children didn't realise they were doing anything wrong, they didn't deliberately set out to damage the tree. 'Sam's eyes were swollen and red when they let him out of the cell as he had been crying. He is a placid child and has never been in trouble before. 'When I got the phone call from the police to say Sam was in custody I thought he'd done something-like steal something from a shop. I couldn't believe it when he said all he had done was break some loose branches off a tree. 'To detain them, DNA them and treat them that way was simply cruel and an over-reaction by the police. Generations of children have played in that tree and my son and his friends won't be the first to have thought of building a tree den.' Mr Cannon, who said Sam had difficulty sleeping shortly after the incident, has written to the police to complain about the action taken.

Superintendent Stuart Johnson, operations manager at Halesowen police station, said: 'I support the actions of my officers who responded to complaints from the public about "kids destroying" an ornamental cherry tree by stripping every branch from it, in an area where there have been reports of anti-social behaviour. 'A boy and two girls were arrested and received a police reprimand for their behaviour. 'West Midlands Police deals robustly with anti-social behaviour. By targeting what may seem relatively low-level crime we aim to prevent it developing into more serious matters.'

Rod Morgan, chairman of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, said the police action appeared to be unnecessary. 'It's my opinion that too many children are being criminalised for behaviour that could be dealt with informally by ticking them off and speaking to their parents.'



By Jeff Jacoby

"It's touching that you're so concerned about the military in Iraq," a reader in Wyoming e-mails in response to one of my columns on the war. "But I have a suspicion you're a phony. So tell me, what's your combat record? Ever serve?"

You can expect a fair amount of that from the antiwar crowd if, like me, you support the war but have never seen combat yourself. That makes you a "chicken hawk" -- one of those, as Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, defending John Kerry from his critics, put it during the 2004 presidential campaign, who "shriek like a hawk, but have the backbone of a chicken." Kerry himself liked to play that card. "I'd like to know what it is Republicans who didn't serve in Vietnam have against those of us who did," he would sniff, casting himself as the victim of unmanly hypocrites who never wore the uniform, yet had the gall to criticize him, a decorated veteran, for his stance on the war.

"Chicken hawk" isn't an argument. It is a slur -- and a dishonest and incoherent slur at that. It is dishonest because those who invoke it don't really mean what they imply -- that only those with combat experience have the moral authority or the necessary understanding to advocate military force. After all, US foreign policy would likely be more hawkish, not less, if decisions about war and peace were left up to those who have been in the armed forces. Soldiers and ex-soldiers tend to be politically conservative, hard-nosed about national security, and confident that American arms make the world safer and freer. On the question of Iraq -- stay-the-course or bring-the-troops-home? -- I would be willing to trust their judgment. Would Cindy Sheehan and Howard Dean?

The cry of "chicken hawk" is dishonest for another reason: It is never aimed at those who oppose military action. But there is no difference, in terms of the background and judgment required, between deciding to go to war and deciding not to. If only those who served in uniform during wartime have the moral standing and experience to back a war, then only they have the moral standing and experience to oppose a war. Those who mock the views of "chicken hawks" ought to be just as dismissive of "chicken doves."

In any case, the whole premise of the "chicken hawk" attack -- that military experience is a prerequisite for making sound pronouncements on foreign policy -- is illogical and ahistorical. "There is no evidence that generals as a class make wiser national security policymakers than civilians," notes Eliot A. Cohen, a leading scholar of military and strategic affairs at Johns Hopkins University. "George C. Marshall, our greatest soldier-statesman after George Washington, opposed shipping arms to Britain in 1940. His boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, with nary a day in uniform, thought otherwise. Whose judgment looks better?"

Some combat veterans display great sagacity when it comes to matters of state and strategy. Some display none at all. General George B. McLellan had a distinguished military career, eventually rising to general in chief of the Union armies; Abraham Lincoln served but a few weeks in a militia unit that saw no action. Who proved more farsighted during the terrible years of the Civil War -- the military man who was hypercautious about sending men into battle, or the "chicken hawk" president who pressed aggressively for military action that he himself had never experienced?

The founders of the American republic were unambiguous in rejecting any hint of military supremacy. Under the Constitution, military leaders take their orders from civilian leaders, who are subject in turn to the judgment of ordinary voters. Those who wear the uniform in wartime are entitled to their countrymen's esteem and lasting gratitude. But for well over two centuries, Americans have insisted that when it comes to the debating and shaping of security and defense policy, soldiers and veterans get no more of a say than anyone else.

You don't need medical training to express an opinion on health care legislation. You don't have to be a police officer to comment on matters of law and order. You don't have to be a parent or a teacher or a graduate to be heard on the educational controversies of the day. You don't have to be a journalist to comment on this or any other column.

And whether you have fought for your country or never had that honor, you have the right every citizen has to weigh in on questions of war and peace. Those who cackle "Chicken hawk!" are not making an argument. They are merely trying to stifle one, and deserve to be ignored.

Huck Finn and the Nuremberg Rally

Some of the most frightening images from Nazi Germany can be seen in Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, the cinematic record of the 1934 week-long party rally held in Nuremberg . In scene after scene, the metronomic synchronization of marching feet, arms angling upward in Nazi salutes, and thunderous "Sieg Heils" document the transformation of 200,000 individual hearts and minds into an ant heap or termite mound - a vast, unified collective whose submission to a diseased racialist nationalism led to history's most gruesome crimes.

We would do well to remember these images of collective evil, particularly given the fashionable complaints about "rootless individualism" that continue to dominate much of our cultural conversation, from sociology to art. This indictment of individualism holds that modern, free-market, technologically sophisticated, liberal democratic societies have reduced people to insignificant "atoms" bereft of the traditional, nurturing, humane ties of "organic" communities. Certainly, Nazi ideology played on this theme, constructing a mythic Germanic Volk unified by mystic racial solidarity. This unity, the Nazis said, was threatened by the cold, fragmenting forces of modernity as embodied in the rootless Jew, who had mastered the economic mechanisms that eroded the nationalist spirit and fraternal bonds of the people.

Yet this complaint is inspired as well by communist ideology. Throughout the twentieth century, Marxian cultural criticism exploited the sort of Romantic dissatisfactions with modernity expressed as early as 1802 in the Preface to Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads. No matter that the next two centuries saw remarkable improvements in material existence wrought by capitalism and science, and saw individual freedom extended to millions by liberal democracy, these modern cultural critics exaggerated and dramatized the social costs of such benefits. They contrasted life in industrialized capitalist societies with a mythic golden age of pre-capitalist communal life in which the "alienation" fostered by capitalism didn't exist and the individual was nurtured in a warm collective cocoon. Indeed, according to Marx and his followers, this communal paradise also lies at the end of history: once private property is abolished, capitalism and the state have withered away, and people are once again united into an organic, mutually supportive whole, the needs and desires of the individual will be identical with those of the community.

So pervasive are these critical analyses that they have become received ideas found throughout social commentary and popular culture alike. In 1995, Robert Putnam made a splash with his "bowling alone" essay, which was expanded into a bestselling book of the same name. His thesis is that "the bonds of our communities have withered, and we are right to fear that this transformation has very real costs." Contrasted with the Golden Age of the PTAs, bowling leagues, and the Rotary Clubs, contemporary middle-class Americans, trapped in their isolating suburbs, are cut off from each other - mere atoms bearing the whole weight of life and meaning on their own narrow shoulders. A similar thesis dominated the 1999 movie American Beauty, which won five Oscars, though its banal anti-bourgeois prejudices were stale 150 years ago when Gustave Flaubert explored them in Madame Bovary.

It is hard to judge the accuracy of Putnam's generalizations, based as they are on notoriously unreliable polling data and raw statistics on organization membership. And given that such complaints are as old as the poetry of Wordsworth and the novels of Flaubert, it is even more imperative that we view them with suspicion. When Putnam's essay first came out, I had two children in grade school, and I remember thinking that my problem wasn't a lack of "community" but too damned much of it. I was spending seemingly endless amounts of time with school, sports, and church, and with the committees of tiresome busybodies that typically dominate these activities.

In their zeal to strain out the gnat of individualism's flaws, the idealizers of lost community swallow any number of communitarian camels. They forget the deadening conformity and petty tyranny that frequently characterize so-called "organic" communities, typically based on castes and classes that subordinate individuals to the group. Few of our modern "communitarians" really want to return to a world of invidious gossip, invasive surveillance, and oppressive conformity - a world without privacy, personal liberty, or opportunities to escape the restrictions of one's community and the dead hand of unexamined traditions and pointless customs.

For Americans particularly, the individualism that so frets the communitarian idealizers is central to the American character. Of course, groups such as the Puritans are also important for American history and identity. But increasingly, over the last two centuries, the unique individual who pursues his own vision of the good life and his identity has defined the American character. That's why the cowboy, that icon of individualism par excellence, occupies such an important place in our national mythology.

But long before the invention of the cowboy in the late nineteenth century, American literature was filled with characters who embodied this essential attribute of Americanism. Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumppo is an early embodiment of the American individualist who finds on the frontier the freedom and autonomy that are stifled by the dull routines of the village and town. But this theme is perhaps best embodied in Mark Twain's Huck Finn, that outcast from respectable community who relies on his own energy and personal values to seek meaning in his life. Indeed, through his friendship with the runaway slave Jim, Huck ultimately challenges antebellum Southern society over one of its most fundamental beliefs: the superiority of the white race and the justice of slavery.

Along the way, of course, Huck has to resist the well-meaning but stifling forces of conformity. These are embodied most memorably in the Widder Douglas, who keeps trying to "sivilize" Huck - which is to say, restrict his individualism and autonomy and make both conform to the mediocre norms of the larger community. Huck succeeds in escaping the Widder's efforts, finally "lighting out for the territories," the frontier to the west where the individual has the space to pursue his own vision of the good, free from the herd that seeks to compromise his autonomy.

Huck thus is one of the great embodiments of American individualism, that force of innovation, creativity, freedom, and progress that accounts for the spectacular success of American civilization. Yet like much of the American character, this individualism has been demonized of late by no end of Widder Douglases. They wish to tame the energies of individual freedom in order to fit people into some larger vision of communal good, some utopia of perfect equality and justice, always to be challenged by the quirky, unique individual.

Hence the ideology of "communitarianism," which gains traction by obsessing over the trade-offs and costs that necessarily follow when each person possesses his own freedom and autonomy. Yet these costs are more than outweighed by the benefits resulting from freeing the imaginations and minds of millions from the stultifying shackles of group norms and herd mentalities.

And whatever these costs, they are as nothing compared to the mountains of corpses created by the various ideologies that dissolve the individual and personal responsibility in the aims and needs of the collective. After all, you'd never get 200,000 Huck Finns to goose-step and "Sieg Heil" with the mindless, robotic fervor of those Germans in Triumph of the Will.


2 August, 2006

British Judge Dismisses Bid for Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage

A British judge on Monday dismissed a bid by two female professors to have their same-sex wedding in Canada recognized as a marriage in Britain. Judge Mark Potter, head of Britain's High Court Family Division, dismissed the claim by Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger that in defining their relationship as a civil partnership - rather than a marriage - Britain had violated their human rights.

Granting their request would risk undermining the time-honored institution of marriage, he said. "To accord a same-sex relationship the title and status of marriage would be to fly in the face of the (European) Convention (on Human Rights) as well as to fail to recognize physical reality," Potter wrote in his ruling. Potter said there was a "long-standing definition and acceptance" that the term marriage referred to a relationship between a man and a woman, primarily designed for producing and rearing children.

Wilkinson, 49, and Kitzinger, 52, wed in Vancouver, British Columbia, after the province ushered in laws allowing same-sex marriages in 2003, but said the judge on Monday had effectively stripped away the legitimacy of their union. "We are deeply disappointed by the judgment, not just for ourselves but for other gay couples and families," Wilkinson said after walking from the courtroom hand in hand with her partner. "It perpetuates discrimination and it sends out the message that lesbian and gay marriages are inferior." [Since they cannot produce children, they are]

Potter said he believed people across Europe would acknowledge the importance of upholding a traditional concept of marriage. "The belief that this form of relationship is the one which best encourages stability in a well-regulated society is not a disreputable or outmoded notion based upon ideas of exclusivity, marginalization, disapproval or discrimination against homosexuals," Potter said.

Wilkinson and Kitzinger were told by Potter they have the right to challenge the ruling at Britain's Court of Appeal. But Kitzinger said their life savings have been exhausted by the court's decision that they must pay the government's legal costs of 25,000 pounds (US$46,590; euro36,500). "We are hopeful we will be able to appeal but need help to fund the cost, which will likely be the same amount again," Kitzinger told The Associated Press. "Though we're disappointed, we are sure there will be a day - within our lifetimes - when there will be equality for same-sex marriage. This judgment will not stand the test of time."

Joanne Sawyer, a legal officer with civil liberties group Liberty, who represented the couple, said she also believed the ruling would in future be seen as out-of-step with contemporary values. The Netherlands, Canada, Belgium and Spain have legalized same-sex marriage, while several other European countries have laws similar to Britain -where same-sex couples have the right to form legally binding civil partnerships, entitling them to most of the same tax and pension rights as married couples. In the United States, only the state of Massachusetts allows gay marriage, while Vermont and Connecticut permit civil unions.



UK prime minister Tony Blair delivered a much-trailed public lecture this week on the future of `public health'. Actually, it was really a speech about the relationship between the state and society. Blair told his audience in Nottingham: `For a hundred years or more the defining division in politics, in Britain and elsewhere, was about the role of the state. Essentially, progressives believed in its ability to improve society; conservatives feared its interference stifled personal liberty. The division became caricatured as between those who favoured a "big" state and those who favoured a "minimalist" one.. Underlying the formation of New Labour was really an attempt to consign such a division to the past.'

The immediate reaction of many was to condemn creeping privatisation of public services. As an editorial in the Guardian put it: `If the strategy is replacing state services with private facilities, ministers must explain the practical justification as they see it. If they are silent, or have no robust case, they will pay the political price.' The lack of faith in public bodies to run public services is striking. While privatisation is usually promoted as a cost-saving measure, in reality the government happily pays more for the private sector to run services in many instances. However, all that was only one small part of Blair's speech. What underlies his vision (for want of a better word) is the feeling that society is running increasingly out of control, and that new ways must be found to control the organisations and people within it.

Blair's measures have come about as a result of the decline of the myriad institutions that used to glue society together, most notably the church, the monarchy, political parties, trade unions and the family. While these various institutions had competing interests in many respects, the existence of a relatively small number of bodies that could exercise influence over the mass of the population meant that governments always knew who to talk to, which loyalties to appeal to, and how to get things done. Now, even though the status quo is less threatened than at any time in well over a century, governments feel they have less control over society than before - and to some extent, they're right.

It is no coincidence that the subject of Blair's speech was public health, even though he was really talking about the state and society. That is because the provision of health - and the exercise of influence through health messages - has become central to the reformulation of the state's relationship to society and the individual. Blair said he will increase both choice and responsibility for individuals: `A state that sees its role as empowering the individual, not trying to make their choices for them, can only work on the basis of a different relationship between citizen and state. Government can't be the only one with the responsibility if it's not the only one with the power. The responsibility must be shared and the individual helped, but with an obligation also to help themselves.'

Bizarrely, even as he claims to be bringing the `nanny state' to an end, it's quite clear that Blair believes government should formulate what is good for us - and then, whether by persuasion or heavy-handed legislation, get us to do it. So on climate change, he said: `Government can give people the information, legislate and regulate to encourage sustainable living, help business to function in a more environmentally responsible way, work with other nations to develop the right international framework. But it can't "do it" by itself. "Doing it" will depend on the decisions and choices of millions of individuals and companies. Our task is to empower them to make the right ones.'

This is a good deal more authoritarian than Blair would have us believe. Couched in the language of empowerment, in practice it means forcing through unpopular rules and regulations on recycling; banning smoking in public places; giving mothers the third degree if they can't or won't breastfeed; demanding that overweight people eat the right foods and do sufficient exercise; and various other measures through which the authorities will actually micro-manage our lives.

In the process, every aspect of daily life is instrumentalised, from getting our kids to play in order to meet an exercise target to the neighbourhood project that gets turned into a social inclusion exercise. Ask anyone who has ever tried to apply for funding from a local authority or a quango and they will give you chapter and verse on the ways in which your activity is transformed into a means for the authorities to meet various social, health or political targets.

It isn't just individuals who should worry. Businesses are increasingly buried under a mountain of regulation, which shows that while the government has little faith in the public sector it is equally keen to keep the private sector on a tight leash, too. Blair wants to encourage greater participation by business in health initiatives, but if business doesn't play ball, legislation will follow.

Blair argues that these interventions are no big deal. After all, he asks, didn't people complain when governments decided to intervene to clean up big cities in the nineteenth century? `The role for government was clear. This required collective action. It meant property rights needed to be disregarded and land compulsorily purchased, both big issues for a laissez-faire time.' But the comparison is a false one. Cleaning up a river, or building a sewage network, is beyond the capabilities of any individual and requires an organising body - which has become part of the state's remit. Telling me how to live my life and to balance the (small, if any) risk of an early death versus the pleasure of a few vices is not the job of government.

What we need is not an `enabling' government, if we're only enabled to do what the authorities want. As Mick Hume has argued before on spiked, we need the power to make real choices, even if they're the `wrong' choices (see The more they talk about `choice', the less we get, by Mick Hume). New Labour has launched numerous attacks on our freedoms, both big and small. Now Blair says he wants government to be even `tougher, more active in setting standards and enforcing them'. The rest of us need to make a choice of our own: are we prepared to allow our lives to be run by others, or do we want the freedom to decide for ourselves how to live?



Post lifted from Stop the ACLU

I am in no way racist. I will not be prejudiced as to what this guy's motivations were. For all I know they could have been racially motivated or pure. That isn't the point. The point is the ACLU's double standard. They say that ALL speech should be defended no matter how offensive it is. This was an exception to their rule obviously.

Frizzen Sparks has a post up that is sure to spark debate. I advise everyone to read this carefully and not jump to any premature conclusions before making up their mind on it. This is the kind of thing that many civil libertarians become divided on with the ACLU. The ACLU proudly claim that they will defend all speech, no matter how offensive it is, and regardless of whether they agree or disagree with it. As we know, they defend the speech of NAMBLA to plan out how to rape little boys. They say they don't agree with their speech, but that they should have the right to speak this perverted and sickening kind of speech. They have defended Fred Phelp's hate cult to go to military funerals with signs that say "God hates Gays" and "Thank God For Dead Soldiers." This kind of speech makes many of us very angry and offended, but the ACLU defends these particular forms of hate speech.

It really makes no sense to me why the ACLU would have refused this especially on the grounds in which they did. After all, they are always bragging about how they defended Nazis to march through Jewish neighborhoods.

Here is a little background on what we are talking about.

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."

Frizzen Sparks has a lot more information on this. Make sure to follow this link to read about how the man appealed this, and a lot of great commentary. I don't know why the guy took this as far as he did. Whether this was an important issue for him, or if he was just trying to make a point I am not sure. However, the fact remains that whether you agree with him or not on the issue, shouldn't he have the same rights as any? If the blacks can have "Black Pride" why can't someone express "White Pride"? I'm really not interested in an answer to that question. I'm sure we could split hairs all day on that one. What I am interested in is why the ACLU of all organizations refused to help this guy.

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."

Frizzen Sparks:

I find it especially interesting that one of the ACLU's reasons for turning down the case was "superiority of their brand of Christianity over the other religions". I fail to see where religion enters into the phrase "White pride country wide". I guess you have to be working for an organization dedicated to pushing christianity out of public life to "get it" or something.

Yeah, I don't get it either. I'm sure the politically correct can see nothing in this man's motivation other than racism, but even if it was that was his motivation even I would expect the ACLU to defend it. One thing is for sure. Political correctness in this country has gotten out of control. If we are truly going to have equal rights in this country then lets have equal rights. Frizzen Sparks expresses the degree that political correctness on these kinds of issues have gotten to when they say, "Even "conservative" legal groups won't touch this with a ten foot pole."

1 August, 2006


They no longer hope for preferment. They are not required to bite their tongue or grovel. And since the person putting this blog up is a retired man aged 63, it must be true!

Britain, we are endlessly reminded, has an ageing population. More of us are reaching old age and living longer when we get there. This "greying of the nation" has provoked much gloomy, not to say doomy, talk. Older people are seen as a burden, placing huge demands on crushed carers and on public services to which they no longer contribute taxes.

The gerontophobes fail to see that most older people spend the greater part of their enormously extended old age in excellent health -- partly because they are getting better medical care. We are not, however, facing limitless demand for their care: the average spending on health and social services for the very old has fallen because they are in better health. What is more, old age is at least as much in the eye of the beholder as it is a matter of years and it is the law, custom, or prejudice, not infirmity, that limits the productivity of many older people.

It is time now to move the discussion on; for elders may have a rather more important job to do than simply avoiding being a drain on the public purse. John Grimley Evans, Emeritus Professor of Geratology at University of Oxford, has argued that, far from being "a social incubus, the new caste of older people freed from the tangling nets of employment and patronage could be the grey guardians of all our freedoms". As the nets of employment and patronage become more densely woven, we need these grey guardians more than ever.

The assaults on our freedoms over the past decade in particular have come from many directions. They go beyond the legislation that, in the name of fighting terror, has turned public buildings into fortresses and placed us all under surveillance from DNA registers, CCTV cameras and databases. More insidious has been the ensnaring of those who might once have defended freedoms in a liana of bureaucracy, ever-closer regulation and patronage that depends on being on-message. The terror of being found politically incorrect, off-message, or simply unfashionable, now makes self-censorship so natural that it is hardly noticed.

Traditionally, the challenge to the power of the authorities and "the tyranny of the majority" in democracies has come from professionals, from academics and intellectuals, from the media, and from the young. These countervailing forces have all been seriously weakened.

The great sociologist Emile Durkheim saw the authority of the professions as central to limiting the untrammelled power of the State. It is doubtful whether, disempowered by successive governments, they can any longer do this. Doctors, for example, are increasingly shift workers directed by puppet managers who are in turn manipulated from Whitehall. Their advancement is increasingly closely linked to keeping their mouths shut, working with rather than questioning increasingly frantic " reforms" and meeting targets however damaging the consequences for patient care.

Teachers are equally broken-spirited and we look in vain to academics for a coherent critique of the threats to our freedom. After a very dark period in which humanist intellectuals took pride in denying that there was such a thing as truth, in spreading indiscriminate paranoia and in publishing work that used opacity to simulate profundity, they have now moved on. Unfortunately, the discipline of the Research Assessment Exercise, embraced by universities in which the shots are called by managers rather than teachers, has ensured that academics in humanities departments concentrate on overproducing "high impact" publications that are read by very few -- not even their closest colleagues.

With some honourable exceptions, the media, by giving equal prominence to the serious and the trivial, and often lacking proportion and perspective, have weakened greatly their ability to document and challenge the erosion of personal freedoms by an increasingly corrupt, intrusive and centralised State. A misplaced egalitarianism, that gives equal hearing to the well-informed and to the angry ignorant, along with a hostility to professionals and experts -- usually called "so-called experts" -- also serves the purposes of power-hungry governments.

As for youth -- well of course we can look to them for a clear-eyed excoriation of the status quo. Unfortunately, this is often evidence-free and experience-free. Besides, the dissidence of the young is mixed up with other things: rebellions against parents, attracting partners and sorting out who and what one is.

Where, then, are we to look for the guardians of freedom? This is where the growing cadre of healthy elderly people may be increasingly important. They no longer hope for promotion or preferment. They are not required to bite their tongue or grovel. They have no targets to deliver on, no need to devote themselves to the futile productivity of academe, no asinine mission statements to write or respond to. They are at liberty to think and to say what they like. They can therefore shout out what those who have families to feed and careers to promote -- and so must remain on-message at all costs -- would not dare mutter in their sleep.

Because they have nothing to lose by speaking the truth; because they may be better able to bear the stigma that results when one casts timidity and calculation to the winds, they are (to use the jargon) a "precious resource" that we can ill afford to overlook.

Elderly mavericks, by the way, should not be expected to squander themselves on the kind of futile, unthreatening rebellious gestures such as "wearing the colour purple" that Jenny Joseph envisaged in her over-anthologised poem.

This is not an argument for a cognitive gerontocracy but a call for this new and growing generation of rentiers to take up the battle to defend the freedoms they have enjoyed but which, if present trends are unopposed, their grandchildren may not.


Scouts will fight for use of building

The mayor says the local council must change its policy on gays, pay market rent, or vacate. Sounds like it is a bluff, though. The council may lose federal funds over it

The Boy Scouts of America will fight to stay in the city-owned building they have occupied since 1928, saying the City of Philadelphia has no right to force them to change their policy barring gay members. "The scouts intend to stand up for their constitutional rights," said Robert Bork Jr., a spokesman for the national organization, which has a youth membership of about 2.9 million. "The policy [against gays] is not going anywhere," Bork added.

Late last week, Mayor Street called for the local Cradle of Liberty Council to denounce the national policy, pay fair-market-value rent, or vacate the stately building it occupies at 22d and Winter Streets, near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Yesterday, the Fairmount Park Commission - which owns the property - voted to back the city's decision.

While the national organization indicated it would challenge the decision, the local council said it was still weighing its legal options. The Cradle of Liberty Council serves 87,000 members in Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware Counties and is the third-largest in the country. The council met with City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. and other city officials in 2005 and agreed to adopt an antidiscrimination policy in compliance with the City Charter, according to a letter Diaz wrote to the council at the time. Jeff Jubelirer, a Cradle of Liberty Council spokesman, said he thought the two sides had an agreement. The council posted a nondiscrimination policy on its Web site but did not mention gays. "As the most diverse youth serving organization in our service area, we are committed to this mission and we oppose any form of unlawful discrimination," the statement reads.

The problem with the statement, Diaz said yesterday, is that it is not clear. He said unlawful discrimination was open to interpretation. The Supreme Court had ruled that the scouts could lawfully discriminate. On Thursday, Diaz wrote another letter to the Cradle of Liberty Council. This one outlined the city's demands: change the policy, pay rent, or get out. "What has happened between June 2005 and July 2006 to change what was an agreement?" Jubelirer asked. "They blindsided us." ....

Wolfson said he believed there were scout leaders who wanted to go against the policy but felt they had no choice. "I'm certainly willing to believe that the leaders in Philadelphia may not want to discriminate," he said. "But they have no authority to stop discriminating."

That point was reaffirmed by Bork, the scouts' national spokesman. "Every scout council follows national policies," he said. Bork said Philadelphia rents space to more than 75 community organizations with $1 leases, including 14 other youth organizations and several religious groups. Bork said the city does not try to tell those organizations to change their policies.

Street spokesman Joe Grace said last night that he was unable to confirm the figures. The city is in jeopardy of losing federal funding if it evicts the Boy Scouts, Bork said. The federal Support Our Scouts Act of 2005 allows the Department of Housing and Urban Development to deny funds to any state or local government that discriminates against or denies Boy Scouts access to facilities equal to those provided to other groups. The city received more than $62 million in HUD funds last year. "The city has put these funds at risk," Bork said, "as a result of its discriminatory action against Boy Scouts."

More here

Australian kids and parents resisting food fascism

Students are getting pizzas and Big Macs delivered to their schools after turning up their noses at healthy new canteen food. Some schools are offering students raffle prizes to get them to eat nutritious lunches, and other canteens are in danger of closing. Some parents are also defying the move to rid canteens of junk food by dropping off "treats" to their children.

Schools across the state have been introducing healthier menus after concerns over childhood obesity. Salads, sushi, sandwiches and fruit are replacing pies, chips, hot dogs and doughnuts. The State Government has announced it will ban soft drink from schools and is also looking at restricting the sale of lollies and chips. But parents, teachers and unions say there have been some challenges in the transition from junk food to more wholesome alternatives. Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said she knew of some "entrepreneurial" students who were ordering pizzas and having them delivered outside the school gate. "Students themselves have buying power," she said. Ms McHardy said many had part-time jobs and disposable income.

Ms McHardy said that while most parents did the right thing, some working parents dropped off food to get around canteen menus. "Some parents believe a delivered hot lunch to school from the local McDonald's or KFC is OK, too," she said. Ms McHardy said it was up to parents, students and schools to work together to get kids eating healthy canteen food.

Australian Education Union state branch president Mary Bluett said many canteens were struggling financially with the change. She said the "double whammy" of healthier food's higher production costs and some children's reluctance to buy it was having an impact. "Some are doubtful their canteens will survive," she said, "because kids will bring food from home rather than buy it from the canteen." Ms Bluett said many schools relied on canteen revenue to pay for activities and amenities. She called on the State Government to subsidise healthy eating. "It would be good if the Government would be prepared to cover the gap for a short period of time," she said.

Victorian Principals Association president Fred Ackerman said some transitional support would help schools introduce healthy food. But a spokesman for Education Minister Lynne Kosky said the Bracks Government already supported initiatives to encourage healthy eating habits in schools.

Box Forest Secondary College in Glenroy is one school that offers students prizes in a raffle as a way of tempting them to eat healthy food. Canteen manager Sheryle Hind said students got a raffle ticket every time they bought a nutritious item from the menu and their names went into the draw to win a donated DVD player. She said the initiative was going well.