The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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31 December, 2005


"I AM WOMAN," she sang, "hear me roar." And so, with infectious exuberance, we did: "I am strong, I am invincible, I am wo-maaaan!" Heady, healthy days; by the time Helen Reddy's anthem became the singalong of the early 1970s, we already had the contraceptive pill, we had legal abortion and the youngest among us, at least, had choices far fitter and fatter than those of our mothers. We reclaimed the night, we grew shaggy armpits, we had a blast. In 1975, Parliament finally caught up with the prevailing mood and so, 30 years ago today, the Sex Discrimination Act was passed and the Equal Pay Act came into force: a decent crack was ours for the taking and woe betide he who would deny us.

As things turned out, however, it wasn't to be a he who dimmed the lights; it was a she. Moan all you will about glass ceilings and the still tenacious grip, in some quarters, of Neanderthal man; the terrible truth is that while it was women who fought for - and won - a historical advance for their sex, it was also women, thereafter, who blew it. The overwhelming achievement of these three decades of feminism and its worker bees in the "women's movement" has been to turn our triumph on its head. What was once about women's strengths is now about their weaknesses; where once we celebrated what women can do, we are asked, now, only to make allowances for what they cannot.

The purpose of the new law was to ensure what might loosely be called fair play; it beggars belief, looking back, that its proponents ever expected to see it invoked in so many cases that are, frankly, pathetic. Scarcely a week passes without some female high-flyer running to a tribunal with tales of men being beastly; in one memorable case this year a woman used in evidence the fact that her male colleagues often went to the pub without her. You might think that equality involves an equal chance of being disliked - she called it sex discrimination. (And prevailed.)

Being excessively liked, mind, causes as much grief: vast sums are paid to those propositioned by a sexually uppity colleague, as compensation for the gal being so traumatised that she is forced to retire and spend more time with her stress counsellor. Women in the Armed Forces seem especially attracted to this milch cow, with 2,400 of them last year complaining of harassment - in other words, the very women expected to produce superhuman effort under enemy fire cannot, apparently, be expected to produce a robust rebuttal of a smutty overture.

So here we are: victims all. Can't help ourselves. And proud of it. You will remember Sara Thornton, who stabbed her husband to death as he lay boozed into coma. She was entirely free to leave him, but given that he'd kicked her in the self-esteem she couldn't be expected to do that. And when the usual women's groups fought to have her released in 1995, she emerged from prison gates, clenched fists aloft, to applause fit for a heroine.

You won't, however, remember "Ann" - even if you did read the story I wrote about her in the same year. She was tied to a brute by lack of money, education, hope, opportunity and, oh yes, three small children. Nevertheless, on the day she determined that she had taken her very last fist, she bundled up her children and left, for ever, to and with nothing. An astoundingly brave move, from my kind of heroine - but, regrettably, only 20 years after the Sex Discrimination Act, a heroism of already unfashionable hue. Nobody even asks now, another ten years on, why a battered woman doesn't up sticks. Or stand up for herself: research suggests an average of 35 beatings before the first call to the police. I am strong, I am invincible?

Of course, we are never allowed to forget that it's hard to be strong when cussed by oestrogen. Where once the menstrual cycle was discreetly left to euphemistic allusions in intimate company, now it demands exemptions fit for war wounds as premenstrual tension has become an excuse for all peculiarities of behaviour. I recently heard an ambitious woman, who doubtless prides herself on being thoroughly modern, boldly blame her temporary ineptitude, to a male superior, upon her " time of the month"; in other words, "I'm as good as the men, gissa job . . . even though, by the way, I shall be howling at the moon one week in four."

Still, if our hormonally challenged flesh is weak, it is as nothing compared with our minds. This season's heated debate, for example, has concerned whether a woman's consent to sexual intercourse is valid if she is drunk. Feministas are adamant that it is not, arguing that a man who "takes advantage" of a woman rendered compliant by a few pints of snakebite is a fully-fledged rapist; again, their argument weakens us.

Allowing for the tautological assumption that "date rape" takes place on a date, and allowing therefore that both parties probably enjoyed several sherries before engaging in sex, what this means is that a man may be held responsible for his inebriated actions - but a woman need not be. A curious equality, is it not, that disallows an equal right to make our own mistakes?

The undermining of essentially female stoicism does, admittedly, benefit some: workers in equal ops quangos and viragos of agitprops, for instance, are bound to regard the naturally independent strengths of women with the same horror that a tenured environmentalist sniffs clean air. But those who follow their self-interested lead really must be daft as brushes. The evolution of the "can't cope, won't cope" philosophy has done most of us no favours at all - and it was not to make helpless wusses of ourselves that, 30 years ago, we grouped and moved, and marched and sang


The Christmas Kerfuffle

An unusual San Francisco Jewish viewpoint

Upon leaving a San Francisco shop last week, I wished the clerk a cheery "Merry Christmas," only to be met with a surly "Happy Holidays" in return. With that simple exchange, our positions at opposite ends of the political spectrum were revealed. The celebration of Christmas has indeed been overshadowed by politics in recent years, to the point where every greeting is pregnant with meaning. And even non-Christians are swept up in the Christmas kerfuffle.

As a member of the Jewish faith, I've never once felt intimidated, bothered or offended by Christmas. In fact, I grew up celebrating Christmas and still do to this day. Not the religious aspects, but rather the festive trappings of the holiday. I also light the menorah candles each year to mark Hanukkah. While this might earn me the disapproval of traditionalists on both sides of the fence, I confess it simply to illustrate that one holiday need not endanger another. Yet the political battle over Christmas rages on. Conservatives are upset over what has been dubbed the "war on Christmas," while liberals accuse them of overreacting to what is essentially a non-event. But who's right?

Skeptics of the "war on Christmas" narrative often point out that the trappings of Christmas are everywhere. The commercialization of Christmas has led to an onslaught of retail madness in recent years; the evidence is all around us. But the religious underpinnings of Christmas (the birth of Jesus Christ), not to mention the actual name of the holiday itself, are at risk of disappearing from the public sphere. All across the country, city halls, chain stores, and public squares are erecting "holiday trees" in lieu of Christmas trees. Nativity scenes are being banned in town squares, public buildings and even some malls. The singing of Christmas carols such as "Silent Night" in public schools and caroling in public parks and public housing are becoming rarities. Court cases brought by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have taken the clause that never appeared in the constitution to ridiculous levels -- and chipping away at Christmas is just one of the results.

The retail world has been the focus of much anti-Christmas activity. While profiting from the holiday, many stores seem to feel that specifying Christmas threatens the "inclusiveness" to which they seem to be pledged. A trip to Macy's, Nordstrom, Sears or just about any other department store these days will almost always result in the ubiquitous "Happy Holidays" greeting from employees as you pass through the door. Target in particular has taken a lot of heat for allegedly eliminating the word "Christmas" from its stores. Although they deny this policy, a brief look around any Target store will prove otherwise. Whether it's the advertising, the store decorations or the favored greetings of employees, "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" has obviously overtaken Christmas. An online petition, signed by over 500,000 shoppers, produced a promise from Target to add more Christmas to the mix as the 25th approaches, but the result remains to be seen.

Even President Bush, the supposed leader of a new Christian theocracy (to hear some on the left tell it), seems to have succumbed to the forces of political correctness. The White House recently sent out its Christmas card. But as has been the custom since the Clinton presidency, it was instead a "holiday card." There was nary a mention of the word "Christmas." The bland holiday card angered many of Bush's supporters, while doing nothing to lessen the president's reputation among liberals as some sort of new pope. So one has to wonder why the White House promulgated a form of self-censorship with little or no reward involved. That Bush is the first president to honor Hanukkah and Ramadan at the White House certainly need not preclude mention of Christmas in the White House holiday card.

The excuse given by the White House for honoring this precedent is that one must be sensitive to the other holidays occurring at the same time of year -- Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and for the few pagans out there, Winter Solstice. But they really have nothing to do with the discussion. The federal holiday that the country is celebrating on the 25th of December is Christmas, period. With the exception of Hanukkah this year, which coincidentally begins on the 25th, that particular date does not belong to any other holiday. So what's wrong with acting accordingly?

Why is it that Christmas is the only holiday that must be downplayed so that other religions feel more "included"? We don't insist on calling the Muslim holiday of Ramadan by any other name, nor do we impose such restrictions on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. In all fairness, we would have to label all religious and cultural occasions "holidays," not just Christmas. I wonder how long it would take for members of other religions to express their outrage? Yet when Christians fight back, as they are now with a concerted campaign to stem the anti-Christmas tide, they are ridiculed or vilified by their opponents.

This double standard when it comes to Christians can be seen in many spheres. A friend was shopping recently in one of those cute little neighborhood stores San Francisco prides itself on when she noticed that the man ringing her up was wearing a T-shirt that read, "So Many Rightwing Christians, So Few Lions." No doubt this was intended to be humorous, but the message has serious implications. Simply substitute the words "Jews," "blacks" or "gays" and the outrage would be immediate. But when it comes to Christians, such offensive rhetoric is somehow acceptable. There's even a term for it -- Christianophobia.

Often, the reason given by those who espouse this bigotry is that Christians themselves spew hatred toward other groups. But mostly what's being referred to is disapproval, not hatred. Criticism of another's lifestyle is not equivalent to hating someone or acting violently on hatred. While there will always be the few extremists, the majority of Christians espouse a peaceful approach to their fellow human beings. It would be nice if that fact were acknowledged now and then.

So what's at the heart of this campaign to erase Christmas? I argue that it's the creeping multiculturalism that has taken hold of our nation. Instead of a melting pot, we have a system whereby Christianity, the majority religion, is being subordinated to all the others in the interest of "equality." Accordingly, Christmas has to be diminished so that no feels left out. But this sort of excessive pandering to "diversity" is becoming ludicrous. Have we become a nation of insecure adherents to psychobabble? Does the mere presence of Christmas really threaten non-Christians?

During such times, I'm reminded of my mother's childhood in Australia and her experiences being the sole Jewish child in what was essentially a Christian school. Far from feeling left out, she simply accepted the situation at face value. Jewish traditions were kept alive both at home and in a thriving Jewish community, so they didn't need to be shared by the entire school for her to feel secure. She was never insulted or put upon for being Jewish -- that's just how it was. The point is, simply being a member of a minority group is not tantamount to being oppressed. Perhaps we should remember that lesson when thinking about the Christmas kerfuffle. And the next time someone wishes you a "Happy Holidays," wish them a hearty "Merry Christmas" in return.


30 December, 2005

Intolerance The Result Of Political Correctness

It's hard to imagine how something intended to create greater sensitivity and understanding among us all has actually accomplished exactly the opposite; the creation of complete intolerance. Like a piece of badly crafted legislation, the social movement of Political Correctness (PC for short) is having so many negative consequences that it is now to the point of absurdity. Yet anyone with half a brain could have (and should have) seen it coming.

It's been going on for a couple of decades now, though it reached a tipping point in the last few years. It began as a truly noble goal; to eliminate Polish jokes, and black jokes, and retard jokes, and religious freak jokes and atheist jokes and jokes about every other group that has had the misfortune of being predictable enough to be stereotyped (regardless of whether the shoe fit).

Then it moved onto racial and ethnic slurs, condemning us for saying anything offensive, (deserved or not) within earshot of the victim of our saying the word (though out of earshot seemed to be okay for a while, but no more). Bear in mind, this is only for those outside the stereotype. Those within the group can call each other whatever they want, no matter how degrading, as long as they sufficiently fit the stereotype. One man's offensive word is another man's welcome. No wonder we started to get confused about what's right and wrong in the social department.

Then, of course, religion got into the picture. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, there was a time when anyone could practice just about anything, call it religion and be left alone. It was called tolerance. As long as people weren't hurt and laws weren't badly or habitually broken, it was tolerated. After all, we began as a country because others were intolerant to us and our religious beliefs. It's why we moved here from England, risking life and limb on a rickety ship across the North Atlantic. Tolerance has always been a true part of our culture, and even though we may not always have demonstrated it to the best of our abilities as a nation, we have always believed it was something we should strive for. Until now.

Now, it seems, we've gotten to the point where intolerance is the accepted practice. The PC measure for sticking your nose into someone else's business has evolved from imminent and harmful physical danger to the innocent, to the possible, perhaps, maybe fear of hurting someone's feelings, or making them "uncomfortable". What a bunch of woosies!

We should have seen it coming. Now that it's here, however, and we can all agree it's not fun or funny, we have to figure out a way to get the pendulum to swing back again. Maybe we should just all go back to telling Polish jokes. Now THOSE were funny.


Noted U.S. Psychologists Condemn Homosexual Activist Influence on APA

Senior members of the psychological community delivered a scathing condemnation of the American Psychological Association (APA), at the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) conference last month. Dr. Nicolas Cummings, Ph.D, a former president of the APA, said pro-homosexual social activist influence has undermined the scientific legitimacy of psychological research within the organization. Dr. Cummings charged that research by the APA is now limited to projects where "they know what the outcome is going to be.only research with predictably favorable outcomes is permissible."

Cummings expressed his concern over the APA's backing for legalized gay marriage, which was recommended by the APA in 2004 because it would "promote mental health," among members of the gay community. That decision, said Cummings, was based upon vague research which indicated "loving relationships are healthy'' in a general sense. "That was one of the worst resolutions, " Cummings said. " When we speak in the name of psychology we are to speak only from facts and clinical expertise." Otherwise "very soon the public will see us as a discredited organization-just another opinionated voice shouting and shouting."

Dr. Rogers Wright, Ph.D, co-author with Cummings of their newly released book Destructive Trends in Mental Health, criticized the APA for failing to live up to the organization's long-held ideal of openness to diversity. The organization deliberately avoided issuing a response to the book and, at first, forbade its member-publications from reviewing it. "So much for diversity and open-mindedness," said Wright.

Psychiatrist Jeffrey Satinover, M.D., spoke at length on the ethical misuse of scientific literature in recent legal cases that have laid the foundation for major changes in family-law policy. Satinover accused mental-health associations of allowing gay activists to distort research in order to support their own social and political agendas, on a scale he finds "appalling beyond imagination." Among the methods used to falsely support the gay agenda, he identified researchers who used their own work as references, who used active members of pro-paedophilia groups as sources, and who ignored current conflicting research in favor of obsolete, discredited work.

Dr. Dean Byrd, Ph. D, Chairman of NARTH's Scientific Advisory Committee, read from a letter he sent to the APA, criticizing the organization for exercising a double standard toward individuals who express a desire to return to heterosexuality: "Though not all of the patients that NARTH members treat are religious, many are. Is it not a blatant disregard for their religious values and an affront to real diversity to marginalize these individuals by failing to acknowledge their right to choose how they will adapt sexually?

APA's continuous message of respect for diversity rings hollow if it does not represent different worldviews.either you support client autonomy or you do not; either you support client self-determination or you do not; either your actions reflect diversity, or they do not."


29 December, 2005

Western Muslims' Racist Rape Spree

In Australia, Norway, Sweden and other Western nations, there is a distinct race-based crime in motion being ignored by the diversity police: Islamic men are raping Western women for ethnic reasons. We know this because the rapists have openly declared their sectarian motivations. When a number of teenage Australian girls were subjected to hours of sexual degradation during a spate of gang rapes in Sydney that occurred between 1998 and 2002, the perpetrators of these assaults framed their rationale in ethnic terms. The young victims were informed that they were "sluts" and "Aussie pigs" while they were being hunted down and abused.

In Australia's New South Wales Supreme Court in December 2005, a visiting Pakistani rapist testified that his victims had no right to say no, because they were not wearing a headscarf. And earlier this year Australians were outraged when Lebanese Sheik Faiz Mohammed gave a lecture in Sydney where he informed his audience that rape victims had no one to blame but themselves. Women, he said, who wore skimpy clothing, invited men to rape them.

A few months earlier, in Copenhagen, Islamic mufti and scholar, Shahid Mehdi created uproar when -- like his peer in Australia -- he stated that women who did not wear a headscarf were asking to be raped. And with haunting synchronicity in 2004, the London Telegraph reported that visiting Egyptian scholar Sheik Yusaf al-Qaradawi claimed female rape victims should be punished if they were dressed immodestly when they were raped. He added, "For her to be absolved from guilt, a raped woman must have shown good conduct."

In Norway and Sweden, journalist Fjordman warns of a rape epidemic. Police Inspector Gunnar Larsen stated that the steady increase of rape-cases and the link to ethnicity are clear, unmistakable trends. Two out of three persecutions for rape in Oslo are immigrants with a non-Western background and 80 percent of the victims are Norwegian women. In Sweden, according to translator for Jihad Watch, Ali Dashti, "Gang rapes, usually involving Muslim immigrant males and native Swedish girls, have become commonplace." A few weeks ago she said, "Five Kurds brutally raped a 13-year-old Swedish girl."

In France, Samira Bellil broke her silence -- after enduring years of repeated gang rapes in one of the Muslim populated public housing projects -- and wrote a book, In the hell of the tournantes, that shocked France. Describing how gang rape is rampant in the banlieues, she explained to Time that, "any neighborhood girl who smokes, uses makeup or wears attractive clothes is a whore."

Unfortunately, Western women are not the only victims in this epidemic. In Indonesia, in 1998, human rights groups documented the testimony of over 100 Chinese women who were gang raped during the riots that preceded the fall of President Suharto. Many of them were told: "You must be raped, because you are Chinese and non-Muslim."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that in April 2005, a 9-year-old Pakistani girl was raped, beaten with a cricket bat, hanged upside down from the ceiling, had spoonfuls of chillies poured into her mouth, and repeatedly bashed while handcuffed. Her Muslim neighbours told her they were taking revenge for the American bombing of Iraqi children and informed her they were doing it because she was an "infidel and a Christian."

In Sudan -- where Arab Muslims slaughter black Muslim and Christian Sudanese in an ongoing genocide -- former Sudanese slave and now a human rights' activist Simon Deng says he witnessed girls and women being raped and that the Arab regime of Khartoum sends its soldiers to the field to rape and murder. In other reports, women who are captured by government forces are asked; "Are you Christian or Muslim?" and those who answer Christian, are gang raped before having their breasts cut off.

This phenomenon of Islamic sexual violence against women should be treated as the urgent, violent, repressive epidemic it is. Instead, journalists, academics, and politicians ignore it, rationalize it, or ostracize those who dare discuss it.....

In Australia, Lebanese Christians have assimilated and become a respected part of our community. The Premier of Victoria is a Lebanese Christian as is the Governor Of New South Wales. However, Lebanese Muslims have encountered serious problems because of their refusal to accept our right to live our way of life. Nothing so clearly demonstrates that it is not an issue of race -- but of culture.

Much more here


As an ex-Navy man, the Duke of Edinburgh is one for plain-speaking:

During a state visit to China in 1986, he famously told a group of British students: "If you stay here much longer, you'll be all slitty-eyed!"

In 2001 he told a 13-year-old schoolboy he was 'too fat' to become an astronaut.

More recently he joked that the answer to London's traffic congestion was to 'ban tourists'.

Speaking to a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland: "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?"

To an Australian Aborigine during a visit in March 2002: "Still throwing spears?"

On cuisine in 1966: "British women can't cook."

During the 1981 recession: "Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed."

Sharing a joke with a blind, wheelchair-bound girl with a guide-dog: "Do you know they have eating dogs for the anorexic now?"

Commenting on modern stress counselling for servicemen in 1995: "We didn't have counsellors rushing around every time somebody let off a gun, asking 'Are you all right? Are you sure you don't have a ghastly problem?' "

Responding to calls for a firearm ban after the Dunblane shooting: "If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?"

Referring to an old-fashioned fusebox in a factory near Edinburgh in 1999: "It looks as if it was put in by an Indian."

Referring to a Cambridge University car park attendant who failed to recognise him in 1997: "Bloody silly fool!"

Talking to young deaf people in Cardiff about the school's steel band: "Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf."

During a 1984 visit to Kenya, he's presented with a small gift from a native woman: "You are a woman, aren't you?"

Accepting a conservation award in Thailand in 1991: "Your country is one of the most notorious centres of trading in endangered species in the world."

When asked to stroke a Koala bear in Australia in 1992: "Oh no, I might catch some ghastly disease."

Speaking to a Briton in Budapest in 1993: "You can't have been here long, you haven't got a pot belly!"

Speaking to an islander in the Cayman Islands in 1994: "Aren't most of you descended from pirates?"

Speaking to a student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea: "You managed not to get eaten then?"

At a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting: "If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it."

Pointing at 14-year-old Shahin Ullah during a visit to a London youth club: "He looks as if he is on drugs!"


28 December, 2005


More criminals are returning to a life of crime within months of serving jail or community sentences than at any time since Labour came to power, figures released quietly yesterday show. More than 60 per cent of young male thugs and muggers are convicted of another offence within two years of ending their sentence. Three quarters of young male burglars and thieves also reoffend, according to the Home Office figures placed unannounced on its departmental website.

A massive 90 per cent of offenders on the drug treatment and testing order, designed to tackle the link between drug use and prolific offending, go on to commit more crimes. The programme costs the Government 53 million pounds annually. There is also a high dropout rate by offenders given the orders, which were introduced across England and Wales five years ago.

The figures are a severe blow to the Government, which is attempting to end the "revolving-door" syndrome, in which offenders are constantly in and out of jail. The data were released less than a week after Damien Hanson was convicted of the murder of the City financier John Monckton only three months after being released early from a twelve-year prison term. Elliot White, the second killer of Mr Monckton, was on a drug treatment and testing order at the time of the offence.

The figures show that 58.5 per cent of adult offenders released from jail in the first quarter of 2002 or starting a community sentence at the same time were convicted of a further crime within two years. When Labour came to power the figure was 53.1 per cent and in 2000 it was 57.6 per cent. The number of criminals who committed further offences within two years of leaving jail was even higher. It rose three percentage points to 67 per cent last year and reoffending by those on community sentences increased fractionally to 53 per cent.

When Labour came to power the reoffending rate for prisoners within two years of being released was 58 per cent. More than a third of criminals reoffended within six months of ending their sentence and almost 50 per cent within a year.

Statisticians in the Home Office insisted that the figures meant that there had been an improvement because the actual number of new crimes was 0.2 per cent below their predictions. The explanation is scant comfort for the Home Office, which is already facing a semi-independent inquiry into reoffending by the two men convicted of killing Mr Monckton.

A Home Office spokesman admitted last night that performance had slipped and that the figures were disappointing. Baroness Scotland of Asthal, QC, a Home Office minister of state, said: "We accept that these statistics are less positive than we had hoped. However, they still show that the reconviction rate for adults is less than had originally been predicted." She added: "Reducing reoffending is one of the core priorities of this Government and is at the heart of the reforms that led to the creation of the National Offender Management Service. Since 2001, we have made significant investments in the correctional servi-ces and have done more than ever before to address the underlying factors that lie at the root of reoffending....."

More here

Intolerant Britain again: Christians accused of homophobia

A retired couple were accused of being homophobic after they sent a letter to their local council objecting to what they saw as its pro-gay stance. Joe Roberts 73, and his wife Helen, 68, of Fleetwood, Lancashire, wrote to Wyre Borough Council complaining at their bid to promote awareness of gay issues. The devout Christians said the council was "pandering" to minority groups and said they felt discriminated against. Police questioned the couple but decided no crime had been committed.

The pair had questioned the council's bid to improve equality, part of which would see gay lifestyle magazines distributed around staff areas. Mr Roberts had asked if the council would display Christian leaflets, and was told all applications would be considered, but nothing that would offend minority groups would be approved.

He said in his letter: "If gay people made the decision not to think gay, they would not act gay. "Whatever they are giving their attention to will eventually mould them into its image."

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: "As a matter of routine, a police officer attended an address in Fleetwood to make further inquiries and to establish whether any crime had been or was likely to be committed. "As a result of those inquiries, words of suitable advice were given and we will not be taking any further action. "Hate crime is a very serious matter and all allegations must be investigated thoroughly."

A council spokeswoman added: "We received a telephone call and letter from Mr and Mrs Roberts. "Some of the wording in the letter was clearly inappropriate and so it was decided to consult the police on suitable action."



A German prison chief has banned inmates from having Christmas trees this year. However, this is not because he is trying to be a modern day Scrooge, intent on preventing any sort of festive cheer, but rather on the grounds that the trees could be used to smuggle drugs into the prison. For Guyanese growing accustomed to stories of cocaine in lumber, it is not such a farfetched tale.

A county council in England recently banned the display of posters promoting Christmas services in a public library for fear of offending other religions. It however transpired that the same library had hosted a party to celebrate Eid just a few days earlier. The party had been organised by the grandly titled multicultural services librarian, a Muslim, but the council is predominantly Christian. Naturally, the double standard has elicited outrage, not so much at the attempt to be sensitive to the religious beliefs of others, but at the notion of bending over backwards to accommodate a non-protesting minority at the expense of the majority.

But the council was being consistent. Two years ago, it had ruled that a local church could not publicise its Christmas services on a community notice board for the very same reason. The Anglican religion may be the established faith of the United Kingdom, but for the council it is just another "religious preference group."

Another council has similarly announced that festive lighting does not "fit with the council's core values of equality and diversity" because Christmas focuses exclusively on the Christian faith. That would be a bit like telling our Hindu community that it can't light up for Diwali. But why should any council or other official body wish to embark on this slippery slope?

And surely it is taking political correctness too far when, according to surveys in the UK, as many as two-thirds of employers have put a stop to Christmas trees and other decorations in the office over fears that they will offend people from minority faiths.

In the current climate of Islamist fanaticism and the threat of home grown terrorist action by alienated British Muslims, UK officialdom is understandably very keen to avoid offending its Muslim citizens. Also, the UK increasingly sees itself as a genuinely multicultural and multi-faith nation. Some years ago, in recognition of the changing face of the country, Prince Charles famously said that on ascending to the throne and succeeding his mother as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, he would rather be "defender of faiths" than "defender of the faith."

So why can all faiths not co-exist happily in the UK with equal opportunities to celebrate openly? To most Guyanese accustomed to multiple religious public holidays and feast days, it would seem absurd to suppress visible displays of celebration. Indeed, we would probably agree that all citizens should have the right to observe their respective religious festivals in public, within reason, and not feel harried, hassled or persecuted in any way.

Without getting into the larger debate about the fact that Christianity lies at the heart of British culture, as has just been asserted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and his predecessor in what appears to be a co-ordinated defence of the place of Christianity in society and an attack on "silly bureaucrats", political correctness and profit-driven consumerism, suffice to say that common sense in the application of rules and laws and the observance of religious traditions should prevail.

Of course, it is another matter altogether in America, where some fear that the true spirit of Christmas is in danger of disappearing altogether with the banning of the use of the word "Christmas" in store promotions and retail advertising, following hard on the heels of the use of salutations such as "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings", and the lighting of "holiday" trees in public sites, to be replaced by one long shopping season.

These more developed countries could perhaps learn something from countries like ours, where we treat our major religions equitably and accommodate minor ones too. Christmas, Diwali, Eid and so on are all worthy of equal respect and celebration and this adherence to a multi-faith society represents the best of our evolution as a nation.

Of course, many of us are only too happy to have a party even if its origins lie in another faith and this might arguably be more cause than effect when examining our record of religious tolerance. Nor must it be forgotten that Christmas in Guyana, as in the Western world, has become increasingly secular and commercialised, much to the chagrin of serious Christians.

But the Christmas season at least releases much of the tension built up over the year, and we can still catch glimpses of the true Guyanese spirit amidst the festive cheer of Christmas, whether we be Christian, Hindu, Muslim or whatever. It should be a season of peace, love and giving, though the unabated violence and murders do threaten to cast a pall over our festivities.


27 December, 2005

Christmas is Racist

Below is a provocative post lifted from Majority Rights. I should perhaps point out that the writer shares the view of racism that is now usual among social scientists: That racism is normal and natural

People get emotional about the public display of the Nativity Scene. Maybe the real reason it is so emotionally charged is not that it is sectarian but racist.

7000 years ago the largest free standing structures in the world were the longhouses of the LBK culture of the Danube basin. This was temporally and spatially in close proximity to the Black Sea flood, which may have caused the Indoeuropean dispersion.

During winter, families lived in these longhouse structures with their cattle for mutual warmth. Children born during the winter months would literally have been born in a barn because there was no distinction between the barn and the house.

The cattle would have been an essential part of the scene providing, as they did, milk for the entire family convtering precious food calories in the form of grasses otherwise not consumable by humans, into a human consumable form. This gave rise to the genetic adaptation for lactose tolerance which rarely occurs outside of regions population by those descended from north Western Europe but predominates within those areas.

Strong feelings toward ancestral scenes-scenes so ancient and vital that they resulted in genetic adaptation-is racist. This is why the scene and song where "cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes" is so emotive for us all. Christmas is racist.


The jail preparing to give a London bomb suspect slap-up grub over Christmas was compared to a country club last night - by one of its guards. He spoke amid growing anger at plans to pamper inmates with a range of delicious dishes. Bosses at Category A Woodhill Prison will even give gifts of o2 worth of phone card credits to cons. A prison officer working there said: "We couldn't believe it when we saw the prisoners' menu. It's supposed to be a Category A nick, not a country club."

As it was learned the lags were to get the treats, it was revealed some NHS workers have had their Christmas Day meals AXED. Scrooge hospital chiefs said they could not afford the usual annual blow-out.

Meanwhile Woodhill - dubbed Britain's Alcatraz - will be serving roast turkey with all the trimmings and traditional pud soaked in brandy sauce. Inmates will also be able to choose a veggie option of chestnut, apple and cranberry grill. Muslims, including July 21 London bomb plot suspect Hussein Osman, 27, can opt for a halal meal of roast beef. Dinner later in the day will include baked gammon, chicken fillets, mini vegetable savouries with a tossed salad and coleslaw. There is also a desert of Christmas cake and chocolate eclairs. There are equally lavish meals promised for Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Woodhill, which has housed Soham killer Ian Huntley and armed robber Charles Bronson, contains terror suspects, murderers and other violent cons. The lock-up, near Milton Keynes, Bucks, has around 750 inmates. Norman Brennan, of the Victims of Crime Trust, said of the meals: "This reads like something from a country club menu." But a Prison Service spokesman said: "Prisoners are fed on just o1.43 a day and the food is not sumptuous."

The hospital workers who had their traditional free meal scrapped work at North Devon District Hospital, Barnstaple. Bosses said they could not spend o2,000 on the 180 staff - despite having a o60million annual budget. One nurse said: "This does nothing for morale."



Projection, denial, you name it. Leftists use all the Freudian defence mechanisms

There has been a backlash by some conservative pundits and commentators against the trend to eliminate Christmas from the holiday lexicon. Their campaign is having an effect as people - who realized there was this trend to eliminate Christmas yet thought that they were being too dogmatic or fanatical - now realize it is those who want to eliminate Christmas who are the fanatics.

The campaign to eliminate religion from public life is not new. It is a doctrine that has been propagated by the liberal bien pensants for years. They use the pretext that America is a secular nation, as such, one cannot - and should not - mention Christmas in the public square.

This campaign, initially, was limited to ensuring government entities prevent the free exercise of religion. It has now expanded to include nongovernmental organizations and private industry.

However, there is now a backlash against the backlash. Liberal pundits and commentators denied there was a campaign against the expression of Christmas or religion. Some qualified it, the Philadelphia Inquirer for one, by claiming that only a few "fringe" organizations were complaining.

Who is correct? Are conservatives legitimately concerned about a real threat to the free exercise of religion? Are the liberal deniers correct by saying that conservatives are being irrational alarmists?

Let's go to the videotape - as they say. These are just some examples of the attempt to bowdlerize Christmas from public and private arenas:

* A woman complained to McDonald's restaurants' corporate office about a sign at a Raleigh, NC McDonald's that says: "Merry Christmas, Jesus is the Reason for the Season." The woman was quoted by the website of WRAL-TV, Raleigh NC as saying: "I care because I'm Jewish, and the reason for the season is upsetting to me,..It offends me because it specifically talks about Jesus, Merry Christmas. It doesn't give credit to anyone else.". The woman requested that the sign be changed to the politically correct Happy Holidays. The response from McDonald's HQ was the owner has the right to do what she wants with the sign.

* The Samona family of Novi, Michigan, was threatened with fines from their development's management company if they did not remove a nativity scene from their front lawn.

* New York City public school system's written policy permits students to display the Jewish menorah and Islamic star and crescent in school, but specifically prohibits students from displaying Christian nativity scenes.

* Maplewood Public School District, New Jersey banned all religious music, including instrumentals, from public schools in the district.[4]

* a New Jersey elementary school, a class trip to see a Broadway performance of the Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" was canceled owing to the threat of a lawsuit

* Plano, Texas, school parents were prohibited from using red and green plates and napkins - they could bring only white decorations for "winter" parties.

* Palm Beach Florida schools warned teachers not to allow any Christmas decorations to be displayed.

* In a Texas classroom, children were told to draw a tracing of their foot, and then put a message on the drawing. One little girl wrote "Jesus Loves Me" on hers. The kid's teacher ripped the tracing off the board. "Don't you ever do this again," she said. The little girl burst into tears. When her outraged father called the school, nervous officials told the child to make another tracing. She did so-but this time, instead of scrawling "Jesus Loves Me," she drew a tiny cross that was so small it was almost invisible

Apparently, none of these incidents constitute a threat to the "free exercise " clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, as far as liberals are concerned. It does not, because liberals think the aforementioned incidents to be perfectly normal and satisfactory behavior.

Religion seems to be a threat to the state according to the statists. This shows how far they have progressed. They used to think religion was the "opiate of the people."

For my own part, I would welcome more education about different religions in public schools. I would welcome more acknowledgements of religious holidays. It is impossible to teach human history and science without including religion. Yet, public schools seem to make a concerted effort to do so.

This is a problem for several reasons - prohibiting the free exercise of religion is only one of them. By excluding the mentioning of religion in general or specifically discriminating against Christianity, public and private organizations are making Americans even more culturally ignorant than we already are.

There is no question this happens when schools prohibit religious expression. Most of the world's people are religious. How can they not teach about religion? How can schools in good conscience not mention Christmas?

Denying Christmas exists by staging concerts at Christmas time and calling them "Winter Festivals" is to deny reality. Denying reality makes the educational experience unrealistic. Making the educational experience unrealistic is not educational at all.

Those liberals who want to deny that the bowdlerization of religion from American is not occurring are being "parochial." They are either ignorant of what is occurring around them or they are being disingenuous.

The aforementioned examples perfectly illustrate that there is no room at the inn for "Christmas." The only room at the inn is for "Holiday"


26 December, 2005


This traditional Christmas Eve in the City of Angels might offend someone:

It's a traditional Christmas Eve here, not Winter Eve, not Holiday Eve. The Grinch who is trying to steal Christmas has not yet discovered this city.

In the lane where I live, some shops have decorations and signs with the actual words "Merry Christmas". There are no signs saying "Happy Kwanza", or "Happy Hanukah", or "Happy Winter Season". Some people might feel offended.

This afternoon, as I walked into the building where I live, the doorman greeted me with a hearty, "Merry Christmas, Sir". He did not greet me with some bland alternative.

Tonight in the lobby of the building, a choir of school girls came to sing Christmas carols. They sang the traditional ones, including "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Silent Night, Holy Night". All the words followed the original lyrics.

And all of the school girls in this choir have similar skin color. There was no forced attempt to achieve a quota of racial mixing.

The choir director for these 8-12 year-old girls is a middle-age man. This man is not a sexual predator; he's their music teacher.

Santa Claus came along, too: a robust, jolly man with a hearty laugh and a huge bag of gifts for the children here. The children here are all rich kids -- this is an expensive part of town. Santa and the kids were having a lot of fun. Nobody was fretting over some "disadvantaged", poor kids on the other side of town.

And Santa was a white man - Caucasian - just like the traditional Santa used to be. And he had a pillow under his red costume to ensure he looked traditionally obese. In some places, obesity is against all the regulations.

After the caroling, I walked to a nearby restaurant for their Christmas Eve dinner. Not a Winter dinner, not a holiday dinner; the sign indeed said, "Christmas Eve Dinner". Dinner was roast turkey and roast pork with sausage stuffing: real meat, not some healthy, low-fat, or vegetarian substitute. And for desert, traditional plum pudding with hard sauce: Real hard sauce, the kind the soaks into your arteries and refuses to leave. Hard sauce hasn't been banned here, yet.

At the next table, a young couple had just finished their meal. They were enjoying an after-dinner cigarette.. Yes, in the year 2005, they were smoking inside a restaurant. And nobody else seemed to care. Can you believe it?

Feeling quite satisfied, I strolled back home in the early evening. Along the way I was greeted with the occasional "Merry Christmas to you". Not everybody was friendly - this is not Disneyland, after all - but I did see many smiles.

Ah, yes, Christmas is here, in the traditional way. No grinches lurking around, trying to enforce diversity, multi-culturalism, food regulations, anti-obesity campaigns, or no-smoking regulations. Nobody standing over your every move to make sure it won't offend somebody else.

And as I walked back along the lane, I couldn't help noticing the dozens of smiling, giggling, prostitutes. They looked so adorable in their little, red, Santa hats and their short, short, skirts.


Yes, prostitutes, wearing little, red, Santa hats and short skirts, getting ready for their normal, Saturday night's work. Prostitutes have been a tradition around this part of the world since long before the birth of Christ. Nobody here seems too offended by that tradition either.

This year I am enjoying Christmas in the city of Bangkok, Thailand; a city whose name -- in the local language -- means, "City of Angels". Seems a fitting name for a place where men still have the freedom to enjoy Christmas as they wish.

Peter in Bangkok (Email: petermeyersohn@yahoo.com.au )

The above email reminds me of my previous posts about the enthusiasm for Christmas in China and Malaysia -- and also of this:

"Hundreds of young men decked with tinsel wander outside Senegal's mosques, hawking plastic Christmas trees. Women pray to Allah on a sidewalk where an inflatable Santa Claus happens to be hanging.

Senegal may be 95 percent Muslim, but it certainly knows it's Christmas. In fact, for this nation of 12 million it's a national holiday.

Blame it on globalization, which has turned the West's yuletide icons into a worldwide commodity. Or the Internet, or Hollywood, or the availability of travel that allows new generations of Senegalese to sample Christmas at close quarters. But mainly, Senegalese revel in the trappings of Christmas because they can and want to.

Muslims recognize Jesus Christ as a prophet, but don't generally celebrate the date of his birth. Many Muslim societies discourage Christmas hoopla. But Senegalese say they have a long history of tolerance and coexistence with Christians, so why not share Christmas?"

It is only the hate-everything Western Left who are intolerant of Christmas


(From Deroy Murdock)

The idea that Christmas is offensive offends me.

I say this not as a Bible-waving Religious Right-winger, but as a socially relaxed libertarian whose last wisps of faith evaporated in college while studying the Holocaust. (I never could wedge the phrases "loving God" and "gas chamber" into the same sentence.) Even as a non-believer, I resent the relentless drive to convert Christmas into "Holiday" and pretend that all those beautifully decorated trees are really Hanukkah bushes, Kwanzaa shrubs, or Solstice topiaries.

The Orwellian impulse to hammer Christmas into the generic "Holiday" is mainly a project of far-left, militant secularists as well as corporate marketers whose courage can be measured in thimbles. Fearful that "Merry Christmas" might make someone "uncomfortable," they instead antagonize the 95 percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas, according to a Fox News poll.

Some have gone further, with acts that are insensitive, offensive, or simply stupid.

* The White House this month mailed 1.4 million cards wishing recipients a "Happy Holiday Season." This is not the first such generic card design, but in today's atmosphere, it made many Bush supporters grind their molars.

* In Manhasset, N.Y., Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman upbraided a Catholic priest who appeared at a Dec. 2 Christmas festival. "We're here to celebrate the holiday tree lighting," Kaiman said after Father Nick Zientarski offered a blessing. "This is not the place for a religious ceremony." Kaiman apologized after he unleashed a maelstrom.

* Centennial, Colo.'s Heritage Elementary School banned cookies shaped like Christmas symbols, candy canes bearing religious messages, and teacher and student references to seasonal gatherings as "Christmas" parties.

* A Memphis, Tenn., public library allowed a Nativity scene _ provided Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were excluded. (Manger, yes. Messiah, no.) Attorneys persuaded the library to reverse this decision.

* Much as "Uncle Joe" erased his enemies from photos of VIPs taken atop Lenin's Tomb, Stalinists at Ridgeway Elementary School in Dodgeville, Wis., airbrushed the lyrics to "Silent Night." Children in its "Winter Program" instead sang these bastardized words: "Cold in the night, no one in sight/winter winds whirl and bite/How I wish I were happy and warm/safe with my family, out of the storm."

"Silent Night" is neither a paean to Christianity's darkest hours, such as the Spanish Inquisition, nor a blood-soaked depiction of Christian Muslim-killing during the Crusades. Either might terrify first-graders. Instead, it features some of music's gentlest lyrics: "Silent night, holy night/All is calm, all is bright/Round yon virgin mother and Child/Holy Infant, so tender and mild/Sleep in heavenly peace/Sleep in heavenly peace."

How jarring. This leveling campaign is also tactically idiotic. Many of those undermining Christmas happen to oppose the teaching of intelligent design, favor gay marriage, and support physician-assisted suicide. These are all weighty matters on today's public agenda. If "progressives" want to be taken seriously on these issues between January and November, it would be smart not to spend December pettily tormenting those who usually disagree with them.

Americans who busy themselves bleaching Christmas into "Holiday" are the same folks who otherwise preach tolerance and celebrate diversity. Well, how about tolerating those of us, Christians and otherwise, who advance diversity by observing Christmas, just as other Americans mark Hanukkah and assorted occasions this season? "Holiday" does not recognize these separate practices; it swirls them in a conformist blender. The meaningless puree that emerges satisfies no one. Christmas is a cultural expression as well as a religious one. It should be preserved as such.

For me, and surely others, "Silent Night," Saint Nick, and Christmas cards (not "Holiday" cards), conjure up fond memories of drinking egg nog with relatives at grandma's house, wrapping gifts with my mom and cousins, waking up at dawn to see what Santa Claus brought me and my sisters, and assembling train sets and Hot Wheels race tracks with Daddy. By laundering Christmas right out of December, the "Holiday" police condemn these formative experiences as evil. Shame on them.

If the radical secularizers have the courage of their rigid convictions, they will lobby Congress to repeal Christmas as a federal holiday. Then we all can go to work every Dec. 25. I wonder if that would make anyone "uncomfortable."

Enough is enough. Get off our backs. Merry Christmas!

25 December, 2005

Don't mention the C-word: The word 'Christmas' is conspicuous by its absence in NYC

"Here in New York City, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. There are all the trappings: the trees, the lights, the tinsel. The radio plays Jingle Bell Rock, Santa is in his Grotto, and 10 mail-order catalogues, identical to the ones that arrived yesterday and the day before, arrive to remind us just how long it's possible to procrastinate and still get the goods on time. And yet, this year is different...there is something off about it.

The most obvious difference is the disappearance of the word 'Christmas'. I'm not talking about simply substituting 'Happy Holidays' or 'Season's Greetings' for 'Merry Christmas' on cards. It's almost as if the word never existed. Watch the TV commercials during an afternoon of American football, and 'Christmas' is conspicuous by its absence. Santa is there, the reindeer, the Christmas trees, but there's nary a 'Merry Christmas', just 'Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy Holidays'.

Christmas parties are 'Festive Holiday Gatherings' and even Christmas decorations have a strangely half-hearted feel. Witness the rising popularity of the snowman. These roly-poly men are everywhere, just bland enough to please most of the people most of the time. Stick a sprig of holly on a snowman and he's vaguely Christmassy. In a multicoloured scarf he's just an inoffensive ball of precipitation - supernatural, yes, but in a woolly, wintery sort of way.

Shopping for gifts, it's virtually impossible to find the C-word in advertising or displays. Visit any of the big-box retailers - Target, Walmart, K-Mart - and you will see few references to Christmas. 106.7 Lite FM, New York's soft rock radio station, is playing 'non-stop holiday music'. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is now simply referred to as 'THE TREE'. It looks a lot like a Christmas tree, it's popularly called 'the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree', but no one wants to go on the record saying that.

Personally, I'm not so shy. I love Christmas. Not enough to set up one of those year-round Christmas boutiques but more than enough to start humming Silver Bells in early November. Yet even I have wavered this year. Being an atheist, I have never sent cards with a picture of the baby Jesus or wise men or stars, but this year I find myself wondering who among the people I know might be offended by something as overtly Christmassy as Santa Claus and reindeer. In the dark night of my soul, I chose snowmen.

Of course, I'm not the first person to comment on the absence of Christmas at Christmas time. Conservative Christians are very sensitive to the rise of 'The Holidays'. In October, John Gibson, a commentator for Fox News, published a book called The War Against Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. He argues that liberals, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in particular, are at the forefront of a campaign against Christmas as part of a broader anti-Christian movement. He cites examples from across the country: a float featuring a nativity scene banned from Denver's Christmas parade; in Washington state a mother is prevented from serving her child's class a cake decorated with the words 'Happy Birthday Jesus'; in Maplewood, New Jersey, a class trip to see a performance of Dickens' A Christmas Carol is cancelled and performances of Christmas music prohibited.

For Gibson and others it seems there is a secularist conspiracy. Look more closely, however, and something different is going on. For one thing, the bans aren't always aimed at overtly religious symbols. They include Christmas trees, saying 'Merry Christmas', and decorations in red and green. More tellingly, they seem to be defensive responses to the threat of criticism rather than a premeditated effort. In most cases, school administrators and local bureaucrats have acted on the basis of a single complaint, or more commonly just in case someone might be offended.

These bans are unique and unprecedented. They far exceed any of the existing prohibitions on what can be displayed on public property without violating the American separation of church and state. Even the Supreme Court, the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution's first amendment separation of church and state, takes a softer line on Christmas. It has no problem with 'secular' Christmas displays featuring elements like reindeer or candy canes and even allows the display of religious imagery because it is representative of the origins of the holiday. The bans don't so much seek to take the Christ out of Christmas as to take the 'Christmas' out of the Christmas holiday entirely.

Why is American society so ambivalent about this Christmas? To put things in perspective, Christmas has been under attack for a while; it has been targeted for years by moralists and killjoys. We have been told how it is grossly commercialised, too materialistic and too unhealthy. We have been told how it puts us at risk of depression, strains our families and our pocket books. It is a testament to the enduring appeal of Christmas that no one has yet tried to ban it for health reasons.

The current assault on Christmas has its root in the politics of diversity. Over the past decade, diversity has become part of the lexicon of American culture and business. Every corporation espouses its commitment to achieving it. Diversity consulting has become a burgeoning industry, offering services in organisational development, human resources management, education, training , legal and 'crises management'. What is offensive or inappropriate is judged, not on the basis of actual complaints, but on the basis of standards set by diversity experts.

An article by Simma Liberman, co-author of the book Putting Diversity to Work: How to Successfully Lead a Diverse Workforce, is typical: 'Guess who's not celebrating Christmas this year? Millions of people in the United States. That's right. Tens of millions of Americans don't celebrate Christmas religiously, either as followers of non-Christian religions (Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews) or as individuals with no religious affiliation.. It used to be that being inclusive meant sending out politically correct "Happy Holidays" greeting cards and changing Christmas office parties to "holiday parties". Today, inclusiveness and diversity is about more than just changing labels and titles.'

To employers, Liberman suggests making the holiday party general with decorations that are not specific to any religion, or holding a New Year's party instead. To individuals, she advises plugging the word 'holiday' into Google and reading about other traditions and adding holidays like Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Ramadan and Diwali to calendars and PDAs to increase awareness of them.

The assumption is that celebrating Christmas inevitably excludes and possibly offends vast numbers of people. This seems unlikely. In the US many people, Christians, atheists and even a fair number of Jews, celebrate Christmas and up until recently most people were fairly relaxed about it. What's changed is that the politics of diversity is now so ubiquitous, we are simply no longer able to take any cultural event at face value...

More here


News from Nice in France

An extreme-right French group has found a way to distribute Christmas cheer only to a chosen few by offering homeless people free hot soup containing pork, which observant Jews and Muslims do not eat. The soup kitchen, set up at the harbour of this Riviera town, draws about as many protesters as poor people. Police stand guard between it and a Catholic charity group distributing vegetable soup outside their church.

Dominique Lescure, head of the small ultra-nationalist group distributing the soup, disputed charges by angry protesters on Wednesday evening that what he called his "patriots' soup" was meant to exclude Jews and Muslims. "I don't see why I should not be able to put pork, which has always played a major role in my country's cuisine, into a traditional soup that I want to distribute, admittedly, to my compatriots and European homeless people," he argued. "I'm not excluding anyone," he shouted in a heated exchange with a handful of jeering protesters. "We're tired of being treated like little Nazis. If a Muslim comes, I'll serve him, but the real poor these days are our people."

Standing nearby under bright Christmas lighting, a city official said he could do nothing about the controversial soup kitchen. "Serving soup with pork is not a crime," said deputy mayor Noel Ayraud.

The nationalist far-right is a strong fringe group in France, where its supporters feel under threat from Europe, globalisation and the country's five-million-strong Muslim community, the largest Islamic majority in Europe.... When he launched his soup kitchen in early December, Lescure said in a statement he wanted to help "our least fortunate blood brothers ... in this hour when the black tide of demographic submersion and free-market impoverisation is rising."

More here

24 December, 2005


Pity if you're the child concerned though. Political correctness is very strange indeed in deciding to whom it extends its special favours

An [Australian] Aborigine's jail term has been lifted on appeal to 18 months for having sex with his 14-year-old promised wife. The case has flamed debate about the role of customary Aboriginal law in the wider Australian legal system, as the traditional Aboriginal man believed his actions were allowed under tribal law. The man - who speaks English as his fourth language and lives in the remote NT outback - also did not know his actions were illegal under NT laws. The Northern Territory Court of Appeal today found the 55-year-old's earlier sentence was "manifestly inadequate".

The court had heard the girl was promised to the man - who cannot be named for legal reasons - when she was just four. He became angry after she struck up a friendship with a young man in June last year, during her school holidays. Believing the girl had a sexual relationship with the boy, the man beat her with a boomerang at the outback Aboriginal community, south-west of Katherine. He later took her to his remote outstation - where he lived with his wife and young children - threatened her with a boomerang and had anal sex with her. The child later told police: "I told that old man I'm too young for sex, but he didn't listen".

The man believed that intercourse with the girl was acceptable because she had been promised to him and had turned 14, the court heard. In August, the man pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated assault and a charge of carnal knowledge. At the time Chief Justice Brian Martin imposed a total two-year sentence, but suspended it after one month.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the leniency of the sentence, and the Court of Appeal today imposed a total sentence of three years and 11 months, suspended after 18 months. In handing down the court's ruling, Justice Dean Mildren issued a stern warning that violence would not be tolerated by the courts. "The courts view very seriously and will not tolerate violence by Aboriginal men upon Aboriginal women or children, whether that violence is tolerated by Aboriginal law or not," Justice Mildren said. He said it was important Aboriginal people know sexual intercourse with a child under 16 was a serious offence. "The fact that the child has been promised in marriage according to Aboriginal customary law does not excuse such offending," he said. However, he said it was important to remember the man was not charged with rape.

Justice Mildren said the law had stopped short of making promised marriages illegal. "(But) such marriages cannot be consummated until the promised wife has turned 16," he said. "Plainly the purpose of (the law)... is to give Aboriginal girls some freedom of choice as to whether or not they want to enter into such a marriage, and to thereby empower them to pursue ... employment opportunities or further education rather than be pushed into pregnancy or traditional domesticity prematurely."



It shows what liars Western Leftists are when they say that Christmas "offends" Muslims. Christmas is probably better celebrated in Malaysian shopping malls than in some American ones

With just seven days to go before Christmas, Malaysians of all races are beginning to soak up the festivity spirit, especially at shopping malls. Take, for example, the scene at Mid Valley Megamall yesterday. Armed with camera phones and digital cameras, Malaysians and tourists gathered around the glittery silver and white Christmas decorations there to take snapshots with their friends and family.

Crystal balls and feathers decked white tree branches while gold lights hung down from the ceiling. Large Christmas trees were adorned with silver balls and "angels wings" with Christmas carols in the air.

Property consultant James Ng said his boys, aged seven and five, were so excited that they ran towards the decorations and wanted to get on the stage. "The decorations are beautiful. It's nice just to leave problems aside, and enjoy the moment and Christmas spirit with the family," he said. Pakistani tourist Kehkashan Awan said it was heartening to see people spend time together as a family while Norashikin Abdul Ghani took photographs with her husband and four-month-old daughter.

Children also had the opportunity to take pictures with Santa for RM10 during the "Santa Meet-and-Greet" session ending on Dec 25 with proceeds going to charity.


23 December, 2005

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

What's the real difference between wishing someone a "Merry Christmas" or instead, saying "Happy Holidays?" Both are said in kindness, meant to wish someone well during the same time of year. It seems that the two should be interchangable, that they both essentially mean the same thing. Therefore, when someone takes offense to being wished a "Merry Christmas", it seems like no big deal to just substitute "Happy Holidays" and be done with it. It may seem like no big deal, but it is.

A Very Big Deal.

Christmas is not just any old holiday. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, and the teachings of good will and kindness towards one another that Christ brought to this world. We celebrate his birth not only to honor Him, but to remind ourselves of how we strive to live our lives of faith.

The majority of Americans belong to a religion or faith that believes in the teachings of Jesus. Why is the majority being asked to hide their faith for the so called 'comfort' of a minority? Our country is based on majority rule. While it would be unreasonable to force all to be the religion of the majority, it is equally unreasonable to ask the majority to deny their faith because a select few are uncomfortable. Yet, this is exactly what is happening.

We deny our children the right to celebrate Christmas in their public schools. They are not allowed to sing Christmas carols, decorate Christmas trees or even hand out candy canes with religious sentiments. In fact, some of our children have been punished, suspended or chastized for doing so. What message does this send to our children? It implies that there is something wrong with expressing faith in Jesus. It subtly pulls them away from their faith, while at the same time promoting other minority faiths as being somehow 'better' or more acceptable. Our children are damaged by these ridiculous practices, and it is time to put an end to the persecution of Christianity in our public schools. Christianity is the predominant faith of our country, it should not be treated as it it was deviant or radical or even subversive. Yet, it is. Small wonder that our society is moving farther away from religion and losing touch with the discipline and moral code that religious practice offers.

It is also interesting to note that many non-christians celebrate Christmas. Has any Christian ever come out and condemned anyone for participating in the holiday without believing in Christ? Has any Christian group ever come out and denied a religious presentation in a public school by another religious group? Of course not. It is only Christianity which is repeatedly shunned from school celebrations. The liberal agenda is hard at work, making sure Jesus stays out of his own holiday.

The fact is that the teachings of Christ are the basis for our legal system and government. Thou shalt not kill, ( murder) covet thy neighbor's wife, (adultery) lie, steal, bear false witness, etc all come from the ten commandments. As a member of our society, we buy into these beliefs as true and sound. Therefore, we have a reason to celebrate Christmas even if we aren't Christian, as we are celebrating the fundamental cornerstones of our society.

What we lose when we generalize the Christmas season with the ambiguous "Happy Holidays" is the connection between Christ and Christmas. That is exactly what the liberals want us to do. They want to level the playing field and keep the minority in rule, instead of the rightful majority. Liberalism is socialism, and if you look at socialism or socialist countries you will find that they often do not allow religion. They don't want anything to compete with the influence of the government over its people. "Happy Holidays" is the first step in eradicating the most prominent religion from our society.

What can we do about this? We can remember to stand proud in our faith, and not allow ourselves to be browbeaten by the minority liberal agenda. We can set a place for Christ at our Christmas table, and make sure that our holiday is centered around the teachings of Jesus. We can take the time to renew our faith, and build upon the strength that our faith provides for us. We can greet one another with a boisterous "Merry Christmas!" and know we mean just that.


Public kissing still allowed in Queensland, Australia

Queensland's corruption watchdog has thrown out a sexual harassment complaint made against the state's top cop over a kiss on the cheek. The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) today confirmed it was no longer investigating the complaint, which was made by the wife of a police inspector disciplined for sexual misconduct. The woman alleged Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson sexually harassed her when he greeted her with a kiss on the cheek at a Police Youth Club function last month. A CMC spokeswoman said the body had assessed the complaint, which was received on November 7. But she said it was not intending to take the matter further. "It doesn't raise a suspicion of official misconduct and police misconduct," she said.

Premier Peter Beattie today defended his police commissioner as a decent man and described the complaint as "silly". "I think it's just a nonsense," he said. "A peck on the cheek for many people is not an unreasonable thing." Mr Beattie said he was regularly kissed on the cheek - and kissed others on the cheek in his role as a public figure - and did not regard it as sexual harassment. "I went to a function last night at one of our major corporate bodies and I must have kissed or been kissed by 10 or 15 .... women at the function," he said. And he urged Queenslanders not to be overly sensitive about such affectionate greetings.

"I have a lot of faith in Bob Atkinson and I think he's a very decent man, and I think we have to be a bit careful about not being too politically correct and too sensitive about these things," he said. "If that's the case, quite a lot of people could be charged with sexual harassment."


22 December, 2005


Troops are massed on the ground floor of a nondescript, green-glassed building that's become ground zero for an annual campaign to defend Christmas. The "soldiers" lined up for the fight are 832 lawyers ready to charge any municipality or public school that dares excise the mention or observance of the world's most widely celebrated holiday. A framed poster near the entrance asks: "Have you ever experienced discrimination because you are a Christian?" It hints at the philosophical bent of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian legal group based here.

The phones are busy in Scottsdale. The first week of December alone brought in 159 calls from around the country for legal advice on everything from protecting creches at city hall to what to do when a school in Wisconsin changes the first line of "Silent Night" to "Cold in the night, no one in sight."

The ADF is not alone. The Rev. Jerry Falwell recently started a "Friend or Foe Christmas campaign," offering the free services of 700 lawyers with the Liberty Counsel of Orlando, Fla., ready to file suit over any holiday infringements.

Earlier this month, the newly formed Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation held a press conference calling on American Jews to defend Christians' right to say "Merry Christmas" and to celebrate openly the birth of Jesus Christ. "Christmas is disappearing," Don Feder, the group's president, says. "It's disappearing from our culture at an alarming rate, disappearing from stores, disappearing from schools and disappearing from the public square."

The ADF says it's been aware of the trend since its founding 12 years ago by 30 Christian organizations. Two Minnesota cases were what drew the attention of Joseph Infranco, the ADF's senior vice president. One involved two girls who were suspended in 1999 from a middle school in Rochester for wearing red-and-green scarves and saying "Merry Christmas" in a school video. The other case involved Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul, which in 2001 banned red poinsettias for being a religious symbol. "We looked at each other one day and said, 'It's a sad, sad day in America when you have to retain an attorney to say Merry Christmas,' " Mr. Infranco says.

What's helped the ADF grow from $400,000 in gross revenues in 1993 to $17 million today is its annual "Christmas project," which enlists lawyers around the country to take up cases where Christmas is under attack. But first these lawyers had to be trained. "There's a litigious component to our culture wars," says Jeffery Ventrella, an ADF vice president. "You can't just have a good-hearted lawyer. You have to be a good-hearted, skilled lawyer."

In 1997, the ADF began its "national litigation academies." In weeklong sessions, legal experts coach attorneys on the concepts of religious freedom, parental rights, the First Amendment and equal access. The ADF pays all expenses. According to its 2004 tax return, the group spent $4.8 million training 80 law students and 120 attorneys last year. The 832 lawyers who have attended the academies agree to donate 450 hours, which at $175 an hour clocks out at $65 million worth of pro-bono time.

In 2003, the ADF took on a dozen Christmas-related cases. Officials at the organization said they were amazed to see that, in many cases, all that was needed was a "demand letter" to school or municipal officials. "Half the battle is showing up," Mr. Ventrella says. "You have to saddle up and show up or you lose. We're winning 75 percent of the cases we're showing up at. And if you set a precedent, it's the gift that keeps on giving."

In 2004, the ADF sent more than 6,700 letters to school districts and cities, informing local officials that the U.S. Constitution does not forbid public celebrations of Christmas. Christmas carols may be sung in school; it's constitutional to refer to the December break as a "Christmas holiday"; the right of teachers and students to say "Merry Christmas" is protected by the First Amendment. The ADF also assures local officials that the religious origins of Christmas may be studied in school and that students may express religious viewpoints in clothing, reading materials and school assignments.

Other advice: Schools may display religious symbols if there's an educational reason for doing so. Cities may sponsor religious displays on public property if there is a secular purpose, such as celebrating a holiday or depicting its origins. "When you take a creche out of a public square that's been there 80 [to] 90 years, you send the message there's something wrong with that display," Mr. Infranco says. "And by removing that display, you change the culture. For instance, how many public school districts still call the Christmas holiday its 'Christmas break?' Almost nowhere."

Reaction to the ADF was swift, he adds. "It was amazing the extent of hostility by organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union or Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who were the tail wagging the dog," he says. "We knew that 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, and they were being held hostage by these extremist groups."

Americans United spokesman Rob Boston calls the ADF "a powerful group." "I think the ADF is interested in moving this country toward an officially Christian state by knocking down the wall of separation between church and state," he says. Within nearly 17,000 school districts in the United States, "a handful of incidents a year does now show a systemwide bias against Christianity," he says. "It does show some people in the school system do not understand the law."

This year, the ADF sent out letters to more than 10,000 school districts and hundreds of cities across the country, warning them to not curtail legal Christmas observances. Its Web site, www.saychristmas.org, posts legal victories to date. "We hope citizens will take the holiday back," Mr. Infranco says. "They can go to city hall and say, 'We had a creche here five years ago. What happened to it? We want it back.' "



Panic: 'MP calls for ban on artificial sweetener', reports the Guardian on fears related to the sweetener aspartame, more widely known as NutraSweet. Liberal Democrat MP Roger Williams, a member of the parliamentary select committee on food and the environment, said in a Commons debate that there was 'compelling and reliable evidence for this carcinogenic substance to be banned from the UK food and drinks market altogether'. Williams referred in particular to a study announced earlier this year from the European Ramazzini Foundation, which found statistically significant increases in leukaemia and lymphomas in rats fed a diet with the sweetener added.

Don't panic: While there have been long-standing suggestions that aspartame is carcinogenic, the sweetener has been the subject of numerous reviews that have drawn the conclusion that it is not a health risk.

On the face of it, aspartame seems an unlikely cause of cancer. As it is digested, the sweetener is broken down into simpler by-products, two amino acids plus methanol, which are already found in the diet in other foods. If aspartame is carcinogenic, then so are many normal foods. For example, tomato juice contains six times as much methanol as the equivalent volume of aspartame-sweetened soft drink. The quantities of aspartame consumed on average, about 2-3mg per kilogram of body weight per day, are well below the 40 mg/kg per day specified as safe by the European Union (EU).

The European Ramazzini Foundation study does suggest that aspartame is a health risk. Rats bred to spontaneously develop cancers developed more cancers while consuming aspartame than those that did not. For example, rats given the equivalent of 100 times the safe dose of aspartame were roughly twice as likely to develop lymphomas and leukaemias as those given no aspartame. There were also effects seen at lower doses.

However, such a study on a rather peculiar breed of animal cannot be a reliable guide to the effect of aspartame on humans. In passing, it is worth noting that there have been suggestions in the past that aspartame could increase the risk of brain tumours - but no significant increased risk of brain tumours was found in this study.

Before these results were widely publicised, it would have been better for them to be reviewed in the light of previous research, especially human epidemological studies, to make a balanced assessment of risk. Given the ubiquity of aspartame in all sorts of foods, any significant increased risk of cancer in humans would surely have shown up by now. One of the largest manufacturers of aspartame, Ajinomoto, has criticised the Ramazzini study as 'not consistent with the extensive body of scientific research which already exists on aspartame'.

The irony is that this is another example of competing panics. Aspartame has become popular at a time when many people are trying to lose weight, often for health reasons inspired by the hysteria around obesity. On the other hand, it is now suggested that aspartame may be carcinogenic. So, we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. Sweet.


21 December, 2005

Christmas in Suzhou

(Post lifted from China Hand, an Australian expatriate teaching in China)

The politically correct brigade in Australia and elsewhere, and the (minority) Muslim/Jewish bandwagon riders might like to note that here in China where Christians are a tiny minority, Christmas is publicly celebrated with more enthusiasm than in Oz. My college, Suzhou HKU SPACE Global College, which is a Malaysian-HK-local university joint venture is decked out with Christmas decoration and the lift lobby plastered with notices of Christmas parties.

Department stores everywhere in Suzhou are decorated and Christmas carols blare from every speaker. Restaurants and bars are covered in fake holly and Santa faces. I haven't seen a Santa Claus in the flesh yet but he can't be far away.

Our school, which has Christians amongst its leaders, has organized a Christmas Eve dinner. One of my colleagues did demure when it was suggested, saying "I can't go, I'm a Buddhist!". I heard he was one of the first to confirm his attendance.

Since the 1980's local Chinese friends - some known for their hard line against the Open Door policy - have been sending me Christmas cards. Sure it might be just Western Chic, but it is rather touching to an old Scrooge like me!

It seems China leads Australia in multiculturalism and tolerance!

Multicultural Christmas waning in Australia?

Sydney Mayor Clover Moore learned her lesson. Last year, Ms Moore decided to put a limit on Christmas decorations around the city, allegedly out of sensitivity to multiculturalism. She was on the receiving end of a highly non-festive barrage of criticism, including from John Howard, who branded her decision "political correctness from central casting". This year, you can hardly move in Sydney for trees, fairy-lights and Santas. But Ms Moore is not the only pollie who finds it convenient to cosy up to the fat guy in the red suit. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has called for the Christian symbolism to be put back into Christmas, including in schools, and Mr Howard was back on his favourite silly-season turf yesterday, calling for department stores to bring back nativity scenes.

It's all fairly shameless posturing, but it has a point: Christmas is Christmas, which is not quite the same thing as the "holiday season". And what Christmas means to Christians -- who still number over half the Australian population -- is the celebration of the birth of their Saviour. The real point about the effort to drain Christmas of religious content, supposedly in the name of multiculturalism, is that it does not originate from any religious or ethnic minority. Like "critical literacy", the sanitised Christmas seems largely the creation of social engineers and education bureaucrats. When this same debate surfaced last year, Waleed Aly from the Islamic Council of Victoria said it all in The Australian: banishing the Christianity in Christmas, he wrote, is not multiculturalism at all -- "it is anti-culturalism". All faiths are welcome here, but the Christian story, and the values it reflects, have a special and immutable place in our tradition.



England's most zealous policeman has been told to stop feeling quite so many collars because he is scaring the suspects off. PC Diederik Coetzee, who holds the national record for the number of arrests in a year, has been ordered not to make any more in a particular street in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, despite its reputation as a haunt of drug dealers. Managers of the Sherwood Street day centre and YMCA hostel complained that PC Coetzee was nicking too many of their "vulnerable" young clients and frightening away the needy who sought refuge from a life on the streets.

While the average officer manages only 9.5 arrests a year, PC Coetzee has already smashed the existing record of 305 held by a Northumbria police dog handler and has received an official commendation. He had set himself a target of 380 by the end of this month, an aim which will now be more difficult to achieve. "Everyone has a lot of respect for PC Coetzee, but there is no point in having a centre like this if the very people it is meant to help stay away," a source at the day centre said.

Chief Inspector John Eyre said: "PC Coetzee is an enthusiastic, tenacious and pro-active police officer. Recently his work, including arresting people who have failed to appear in court, has led to concerns from managers at Sherwood Street day centre that his actions may deter vulnerable members of the community from using the service." Chief Inspector Eyre added: "In a spirit of co-operation with the day centre, police have come to an agreement that extra care and consideration will be taken as to where any such arrests take place."

Known locally as Robocop, PC Coetzee, 48, a married father of two, came to Britain from South Africa eight years ago after 24 years as a police explosives expert and dog handler in Johannesburg. Two years ago, the area was among the 30 most deprived areas in England and Wales. The latest crime figures show 26 violent attacks per 1,000 head of population compared with a national average of 16.5; 10 house burglaries against an average of 6.4; 7 vehicle thefts against an average of 4.5 and 17 thefts from vehicles compared with 10.

When he joined Nottinghamshire Constabulary five years ago he set about cleaning up the Ladybrook estate on his mountasin bike, unlike his bulletproof vest and firearms days in Johannesburg. Speaking recently after his commendation PC Coetzee said: "I've got to know the criminals and they all know me. They don't even try to run from me any more, because they know I'll catch up with them." At the time Inspector Samantha Wilson, his area commander, said he was an outstanding officer who had made a significant contribution. Now she has had to tell him to ease off.

Down at Mansfield nick yesterday the talk was of little else. "It's ridiculous," a source said. "He's officially the best copper in Britain but he's been told to stop arresting people in an area where drug dealers and burglars are known to hang about. His trouble is he's too good at what he does." The same cannot be said for Nottinghamshire Constabulary, which two years ago was named the second-worst performer among the 43 forces in England and Wales.


20 December, 2005

No ham for Christmas: Muslim menu for West Australia hospital

No tolerance shown for Australian majority customs -- like ham at Christmas dinner

A WA hospital has scrubbed baked ham from its Christmas menu, fearing Muslim patients could be offended. It has also overhauled its entire menu so that all meals are now halal - containing only meat and other food prepared according to Muslim customs.

But Port Hedland Regional Hospital staff and many non-Muslim patients are outraged, saying it is a case of political correctness gone mad. Kitchen staff are so angry that they have organised a petition demanding ham be put back on the Christmas menu. Other WA hospitals are also introducing halal dining, though the Health Department says Port Hedland is the only one to convert its entire menu to suit Muslims.

Hospital directors decided to axe the traditional festive season baked ham because of the high percentage of Muslim patients. Eating pork or ham is forbidden under Muslim custom. Until now, Muslims were asked to supply their own food if they did not want to eat hospital fare. The hospital's nursing director, Judy Davis, said though ham was not on the menu, Christian patients would not miss out on festive cheer. "We'll still make Christmas special - we've got prawns and all sorts of other special treats," she said.

But one long-time Port Hedland hospital worker told The Sunday Times the menu change was "unAustralian". "It's going to be a boring old Christmas lunch for the patients," he said. "After all, what's Christmas without a ham, or Sunday morning without bacon and eggs? "The management of the hospital are unable to stand up to a minority and keep our Australian way of life intact. They are bowing to the pressure of a select few." He warned that the only politically correct fare would soon be "a bowl of rice and a cup of tea". "No wonder the true-blue Australians are getting angry," he said. "Now all we need is for someone of the Hindu faith to jump up and down and we'll have no beef. "Before we know it, if you're sick in Port Hedland, you will have to be happy with a diet of boiled rice and a cup of tea."

A Health Department spokeswoman said the menu change was about meeting the needs of the Islamic community. She denied it meant sacrificing Christian traditions. "Port Hedland has one of the largest Muslim communities outside the capital cities of Australia, and has done so for many years," the spokeswoman said. "Changes to the menu meant pork and ham were no longer offered to patients. "However, other meat and alternatives are available." She said no patients had complained, but the Health Department was aware that staff at Port Hedland were unhappy.

"We are aware that staff would like ham for Christmas lunch, and this will be provided by the hospital," the spokeswoman said. "The majority of hospitals try to take into account the different patient mix when deciding on their menu, and offer several choices."


Big Brother is Watching Out For You

A post about the near future lifted from Peg Kaplan

You're on vacation for the Christmas winter holidays. Strolling over to the local Barnes and Noble, you decide to pick up a hot, semi-trashy novel to enjoy by the fire. But alas; when you get to B & N, you can't find anything like that in the store. A friendly employee explains. "Oh, of course we used to carry those kinds of books. But, since the government passed the "Reading for your Mind" legislation, we're not allowed to carry anything other than Fine Literature and Non-Fiction. May I interest you in a copy of Macbeth? Or perhaps A Practical Guide to Vertebrate Mechanics?"

She continues on. "Actually, we feel fortunate that we're still allowed to carry any fiction at all. The Reading Committee for Your Health was contemplating barring anything that wasn't non-fiction. At the last minute, however, they decided to make exemptions for Shakespeare, Chaucer and the like. Can I help you find some 18th century literature? Or perhaps a nice book on string theory?" A bit in shock, you politely decline. No Good Girls Don't at B&N? Wow.

OK. Instead, you decide to go out for a pleasant dinner. Being the holidays and all, you elect to treat yourself to your favorite cuisine at Chez Trendy. They have a seafood dish in cream sauce that's to die for..... Uh oh. Apparently the Act for Better Eating has utterly destroyed the menu at Chez Trendy! No more snails swimming in butter, no delectably marbled meats, no alfredo anything. Other than fresh fruit, desserts have been eliminated. "Can I interest you in some steamed cauliflower and broiled turkey burgers?" inquires the attentive waiter. After checking the miniscule selection on Chez's menu, you ultimately decide upon the Baked Chicken Breast with Boiled Mashed Carrots. "I'd like a little extra butter for my carrots, too," you tell your waiter.

He blanches. "Butter?!?" he asks in a hushed but shocked tone of voice? Oh, sir. We aren't allowed to carry butter any longer in the restaurant. The Act for Better Eating only allows one tablespoon of canola oil per diner... Perhaps you'd like a side of low fat cottage cheese instead. That's still available - for those who are no more than 20% above the ideal body mass index." Now they're assessing your body mass when you go out for dinner? That's about it. You storm out of Chez Trendy, and decide to pick up a juicy cheeseburger at the local fast food greasy spoon. As you drive by, however, you see a sign out in front: "Closed. This establishment found to be Unsafe by Order of the Act for Better Eating."

Everywhere you go, it's the same. You wanted to splurge and get a glitzy piece of jewelry, but the Enforced Savings Regulations make it a felony to spend more than .5% of your annual income on precious jewels. The next morning, you and the family were going to go skiing, but that sport has been deemed a Highly Dangerous Activity and is now illegal.

Perhaps the worst blow was the warning you receive in your mailbox. "Warning. It has come to the attention of the FBM (Federal Body Monitoring) that you have not been exercising appropriately as of late. Please make certain that you complete at least 5.7 hours of exercise each week, fill out the details of same in this 16 page disclosure, and fax to us at 555.3812. Failure to do so can result in heavy fines, or even arrest."

Now, life in these United States isn't quite at this stage yet. And, if freedom loving citizens have their way, it won't ever get close. Sometimes, however, even the most sensible of people embrace the notion that government should tell us how to live - in our own best interests, of course.

Here in MN, Hennepin County just rolled back a ban on smoking. Actually, that's not quite accurate; smoking is still banned in restaurants, but relaxed for bars meeting certain criteria. The upshot? The smoking police are up in arms.

And we've all heard the stories about communities considering banning soft drinks for kids, advertising for fast food, or the inability to get a rare burger when you want it.

Now, don't get me wrong. I actually enjoy the fruits of smoking bans, I believe in eating healthy and exercising (at least, most of the time) - and I'm a strong proponent of living within your means and saving. I also think that loads of what we read, see and hear today is trash, and we'd all be better off if we improved our cultural fare. Yet I am also a strong believer that society is best served when everyone gets to decide for themselves how to live their own life. Who's to say what books are truly worth our while? If an individual chooses to be overweight and relish what they think is good food - who are we to stop them? Even though exercise is clearly beneficial for all - should we be forced into doing it?

Whenever people have choice, some percentage of people will get it woefully wrong. Still, the mere fact that we have that choice will force people to learn about their options, gain skills, and adapt to making wise choices. Otherwise - survival of the fittest will be the law that teaches them - and they won't like the lesson.

19 December, 2005

Australian Prime Minister's call to save Christmas

I am enormously pleased to hear this good sense from my Prime Minister. He speaks for me. I hope other national leaders emulate him:

Prime Minister John Howard has called for religion to be put back into Christmas. In an impassioned plea to the nation, Mr Howard said Australians should stop downplaying the importance of Christianity at Christmas time for fear of offending other faiths or non-religious people. "You don't demonstrate tolerance towards minorities by apologising for your own heritage," the Prime Minister told The Sunday Mail last weekend, speaking before the Sydney race riots. Mr Howard said he had "contempt" for arguments that the religious aspect of the festive season should be toned down through the removal or banning of Christmas trees and symbols, nativity scenes and concerts. It was not a sign of tolerance to "bland out" such things, he said.

Mr Howard won backing from Queensland Islamic leaders, who said there were more constructive things to do than "pick on someone else's religion". The Prime Minister's support for a return to the traditional Christmas comes amid wide debate over the festive season. Last week, The Sunday Mail revealed a Queensland school principal had apologised to parents for using the word "Christmas" too many times in school newsletters, in a case described as political correctness gone mad. The parents, who do not celebrate Christmas, complained they were discriminated against by frequent references to it.

Mr Howard said he had been particularly saddened by the removal of Christmas trees and nativity scenes from public places. "I hope some department stores would have the courage to bring back nativity scenes," he said. "When I was a kid, you'd go in and see the Christmas tree and Santa Claus, but there'd also be some nativity scenes in department stores. "They seem to have disappeared in recent years and you have this sort of 'oh, we don't want to offend anybody'. "Actually, you're offending a lot of people who think it's a great pity they've disappeared."

Mr Howard said he did not believe the majority of the Muslim and Jewish community resented the emphasis on Christmas. "They respect the fact that it's a Christian day," he said. "You don't win tolerant brownie points by pretending to be something that you're not. I just think it's silly and it's patronising towards minorities and it's offensive to our cultural history."

Islamic Council of Queensland president Abdul Jabal said: "We don't celebrate Christmas but we support others doing so. It's a time of peace and sharing." He agreed it was not necessary to downplay religious occasions to promote tolerance. Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane John Bathersby backed the PM's call. "We are a Christian country," he said. "If minorities are to integrate, they need something to integrate into. I don't think there is any intolerance in saying, 'This is who we are'." He said the significance of religion had been suppressed. "In part because of multiculturalism, we have drawn back too far and thought we cannot mention the fact that we are a Christian country. It's influenced our whole sense of freedom." A spokesman for Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane Philip Aspinall, said: "Dr Aspinall believes tolerance and acknowledgement of cultures is important but that ought not to detract from the celebration of Christmas." Brisbane Assemblies of God Northside Christian Church senior pastor John Lewis, who ran as a Family First Senate candidate at the last election, backed the PM "100 per cent". He said his main concern was commercialisation. "It's not just about parties and holidays and giving gifts. We don't want to lose those things but we do want to see more emphasis on the true meaning."


Cliff Richard criticises climate of political correctness

Pop star Sir Cliff Richard has criticised the climate of ''political correctness'', saying it irritated him ''like mad''. The 65-year-old singer said ''in the political climate, this whole political correctness thing bugs me like mad. I was so upset when they said they were going to call the lights in London winter lights.'' ''I'm saying 'hello, I've got friends who are Asian, I wish them Happy Diwali, they wish me Happy Christmas'. In fact they enjoy Christmas. And when I've been there and there's Diwali going on I've enjoyed that too to be honest with you,'' Richard added. ''I'm not so sure why they're so upset about the sensitivity of other religions who actually don't mind that we celebrate Christmas,'' the singer said.

In an interview on Sky, he said ''even in schools now I keep reading about how Christianity isn't necessarily taught anymore. I'm thinking: 'Wait a minute. If I went to live in another country and it had a different faith and philosophy and I joined in there ... If I was a kid and went to school I would have to learn what they learn as well'.''


San Francisco: Cops Gone Wild scandal subsides: "A funny thing happened over the weekend to the big 'Cops Gone Wild' video scandal in San Francisco -- it started getting very quiet. Apparently, Mayor Gavin Newsom and his handlers realized that while the videos were bad, they didn't quite prove -- at least in the public's mind -- Newsom's charge that they were evidence of a 'deep-seated' culture of sexism, racism and homophobia running through the department. By Sunday, the message was going out that Newsom -- having made his point and formed a 'blue-ribbon' commission to look into the department's culture -- was now ready to get as many of the 24 suspended cops back to work in the Bayview Station as possible, as soon as possible."

18 December, 2005

THE DISGUSTING "Parent of the Fatherland" LEGAL DOCTRINE

In November a federal appeals court rejected a challenge by parents to a school-district survey of elementary-school students that contained privacy-invading, sexually explicit questions. The Palmdale School District in Los Angeles County had conducted the survey of children 7 to 10 years old. Their parents were told they could opt out, but they were left in the dark about the content. According to the notice parents received, the survey aimed to "establish a community baseline measure of children's exposure to early trauma (for example, violence)" and to "identify internal behaviors such as anxiety and depression and external behaviors such as aggression and verbal abuse." It turned out that of the 79 questions asked, ten related to the children's thoughts about sexual matters.

Several parents were outraged, and when their complaint to the school district was dismissed, they went into federal court, claiming the school had violated their right "to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex" (Fields v. Palmdale School District ). The district and appeals courts sided with the school district. It was not known if the parents would appeal to the Supreme Court. (The school district has stopped doing the survey.)

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion is instructive for gauging the relationship between individual and state in modern America. Unfortunately, the ruling leaves little room for optimism.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt rejected the parents' plea on essentially two grounds: that once parents choose a school for their children, they have no right to micromanage it, and that under the parens patriae doctrine ("parent of the fatherland"), the government may look after the mental health of children. Both arguments are pernicious.

The first is deceptively so. On first glance it is reasonable to hold that once parents choose a school, they have no right to dictate what goes on in the classroom. They have no such right with a private school. Why should they have it with a government school? The judge's sleight-of-hand consists in ignoring that parents do not freely choose their children's schools. Yes, they may opt for private schools or homeschooling over the government alternative, but they must pay taxes no matter what they choose. Moreover, in the 1920s the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the states' power to regulate private schools comprehensively.

If a private school conducted a sex survey without fully informing their parents, the matter could be handled contractually. As a last resort, parents could pull their children out and cut the school off financially. They can't do that with the government schools. Thus the system is rigged in favor of the state.

Judge Reinhardt further defended the school district by holding, "[T]he questioning can also be justified on the basis of an alternative state interest-namely, parens patriae. .. . . [T]he School District's interest in the mental health of its students falls well within the state's authority as parens patriae. As such, the School District may legitimately play a role in the care and nurture of children entrusted to them for schooling."

The parens patriae doctrine is left over from the age of absolute monarchy, when the king, believed to be a descendant of Adam, was regarded as the father of his subjects. The famous exponent of that idea, Sir Robert Filmer, wrote in Patriarcha or the Natural Power of Kings, (1680), "It may seem absurd to maintain that kings now are the fathers of their people, since experience shows the contrary. It is true, all kings be not the natural parents of their subjects, yet they all either are, or are to be reputed, the next heirs to those first progenitors who were at first the natural parents of the whole people, and in their right succeed to the exercise of supreme jurisdiction; and such heirs are not only lords of their own children, but also of their brethren, and all others that were subject to their fathers."

Parens patriae is one of those assertions by the state that is assumed to be binding, but that no one consented to. Considering that the government regards itself as the ultimate landlord, we shouldn't be surprised that it also sees itself as the ultimate parent. The American Revolution was indeed incomplete.



Christmas is a wonderful, joyous day. For Christians it is uniquely important. It is the day that Christ the Lord was born. Many others who do not share our faith still rejoice in its message of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. The beauty of this day is so powerful that more than 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas.

So it's hard to understand why the word "Christmas" is being abandoned. Are people so ashamed of this holy day that they don't want the word "Christmas" spoken in public - not in shopping malls or offices or classrooms, not on television or radio? It's even hard to find the word "Christmas" in advertisements for Christmas presents. Quietly, gradually but steadily, the word "Christmas" is disappearing from public view and is being replaced by something called the "Holiday Season," with "Happy Holidays" taking the place of "Merry Christmas."

Does anyone really believe Christmas is just one in a list of winter holidays? Of course not. We still say "Happy Thanksgiving," "Happy Hanukah" and "Happy New Year." Yet where has "Merry Christmas" gone? All of us, including the promoters of the "Holiday Season," know quite well that this is the Christmas season. We all know that on December 25, the stores close, hundreds of millions of people go to church, more than any other time of year; and families exchange presents, come together for a festive meal, and wish each other a "Merry Christmas."

So why are we subjected to this elaborate and silly Holiday Season charade, and who is behind it? No one, it seems. In fact, when we complain about an anti-Christmas campaign, we are told there is no such thing. We're imagining it. The "Holiday Season" just sort of. replaced Christmas. When that argument collapses of its own weight, we are told that other religious groups are offended by Christmas. But that's not true. People of other faiths are not campaigning to stop us from talking about or celebrating Christmas. They are not afraid of Christmas. In fact, as people of faith, they respect Christmas, just as Christians respect their holy days and traditions.

So, who is ashamed of the word "Christmas," and what are they ashamed of? A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger? Or maybe angels singing, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men?"

The vast majority of Americans find Christmas a time of joy, peace, and hope. Even many who do not share the Christian belief that Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the world admire Him as a great moral teacher. Unfortunately, many people perceive Christmas as being offensive to others. And thanks to "political correctness" in this country, it is seen as the ultimate sin to offend anyone. Since when in a country where we cherish our First Amendment right to freedom of speech is it offensive to wish each other "Merry Christmas?" By the way, the First Amendment guarantees a freedom of religion as well.

In reality, there is a small group of people who want to impose their ideas of "political correctness" on the rest of us. They do this by trying to drive religious beliefs underground. Their message is as clear as it is outrageous: You can believe whatever you wish, as long as you do it in the privacy of your own homes or inside your churches - just don't dare do it in public.

No thanks. We'll keep on decorating our Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, wishing "Merry Christmas," and rejoicing at the words "Fear not: for, behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." "MERRY CHRISTMAS!"


Truth Forbidden in Australia

Australia's largest city, Sydney, has been suffering a long time from the aggressive and criminal behaviour of young Muslim men who are the children of Arabs who were allowed into Australia as refugees during the civil war in Lebanon. And the politicized police have been made to treat the offenders concerned with kid gloves. Last weekend, young Anglo Australians got sick of police inaction and held a rally to deal with the Muslims themselves. Under the influence of the hot weather and much beer, however, the rally turned into a huge riot that the police could barely restrain.

The riot did however wake the authorities up to the fact that they were going to have to deal with the Muslim problem themselves and, under the pretext of restraining "racism" among Anglo-Australians, new laws have been rushed through that enable better police control of aggressive gatherings. And since the Muslims move in large packs, that was needed. We will see this weekend what happens as a result. I have been monitoring the ethnic incidents daily on my Australian Politics blog.

As I mentioned, the authorities in Sydney blame everybody but the Muslims (sound familiar?) and various media figures have been caught in that net. Note the following quote about popular Sydney radio announcer Brian Wilshire :

"The career of veteran 2GB announcer Brian Wilshire is in limbo after he called Lebanese-Australians "inbreds" and questioned their intelligence on air. Wilshire, 61, was yesterday pulled off air and made to apologise for comments he made on Thursday night. Discussing Middle Eastern boys involved in violence he said: "Many of them have parents who are first cousins, whose parents were first cousins ... The result of this is inbreeding."


What he said is of course the simple truth. Marrying cousins is normal in Arab countries and the average Arab IQ is much lower than the normal Western IQ. You can see here that the average IQ in Lebanon is 86. If you want to encourage the speaking of truth to power, Wilshire can probably be reached here: surfreport@mrpc.net

17 December, 2005

The Pentagon Breaks the Islam Taboo

Washington's policy-makers have been careful in the war on terror to distinguish between Islam and the terrorists. The distinction has rankled conservatives who see scarce difference. A little-noticed speech by President Bush in October gave them some hope. In a major rhetorical shift, he described the enemy as "Islamic radicals" and not just "terrorists," although he still denies that radicalism has anything to do with their religion.

Now for the first time, a key Pentagon intelligence agency involved in homeland security is delving into Islam's holy texts to answer whether Islam is being radicalized by the terrorists or is already radical. Military brass want a better understanding of what's motivating the insurgents in Iraq and the terrorists around the globe, including those inside America who may be preparing to strike domestic military bases. The enemy appears indefatigable, even more active now than before 9/11.

Are the terrorists really driven by self-serving politics and personal demons? Or are they driven by religion? And if it's religion, are they following a manual of war contained in their scripture? Answers are hard to come by. Four years into the war on terror, U.S. intelligence officials tell me there are no baseline studies of the Muslim prophet Muhammad or his ideological or military doctrine found at either the CIA or Defense Intelligence Agency, or even the war colleges.

But that is slowly starting to change as the Pentagon develops a new strategy to deal with the threat from Islamic terrorists through its little-known intelligence agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity or CIFA, which staffs hundreds of investigators and analysts to help coordinate Pentagon security efforts at home and abroad. CIFA also supports Northern Command in Colorado, which was established after 9/11 to help military forces react to terrorist threats in the continental United States.

Dealing with the threat on a tactical and operational level through counterstrikes and capture has proven only marginally successful. Now military leaders want to combat it from a strategic standpoint, using informational warfare, among other things. A critical part of that strategy involves studying Islam, including the Quran and the hadiths, or traditions of Muhammad.

"Today we are confronted with a stateless threat that does not have at the strategic level targetable entities: no capitals, no economic base, no military formations or installations," states a new Pentagon briefing paper I've obtained. "Yet political Islam wages an ideological battle against the non-Islamic world at the tactical, operational and strategic level. The West's response is focused at the tactical and operation level, leaving the strategic level -- Islam -- unaddressed."

So far the conclusions of intelligence analysts assigned to the project, who include both private contractors and career military officials, contradict the commonly held notion that Islam is a peaceful religion hijacked or distorted by terrorists. They've found that the terrorists for the most part are following a war-fighting doctrine articulated through Muhammad in the Quran, elaborated on in the hadiths, codified in Islamic or sharia law, and reinforced by recent interpretations or fatwahs....

More here

City May Require Transvestite Bathrooms

For most, it's a choice of the men's room or the women's. A Brazilian city is trying to give an option to those who don't fit easily into either category. A bill passed by the Nova Iguacu city council on Tuesday would require night clubs, shopping malls, movie theaters and large restaurants to provide a third type of bathroom for transvestites. Mayor Lindberg Farias will decide whether to make it a law. "A lot of lawmakers didn't want to deal with this issue, but it's a serious problem in society," said city Councilman Carlos Eduardo Moreira. "It's a way to put an end to prejudice."

Moreira, a 32-year-old policeman on leave from the force, said he got the idea when dozens of transvestites showed up for a local samba show. "It was a real problem. The women didn't feel comfortable having them in the ladies' room, and the men didn't want them in their bathroom either," said Moreira, who is married and the father of two children. "I'm not doing this for my own benefit." He said the "alternative bathrooms" could also be used by men or women who didn't mind sharing space with transvestites.

Moreira said there are nearly 28,000 transvestites in Nova Iguacu, a poor city of about 800,000 on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Moreira said many transvestites are reluctant to go out because there's no bathroom for them. And he denied that the cost of building a third bathroom would be a big problem for restaurant or club owners. "It requires an initial investment, but after that, the establishment will end up making more money because it will have a larger public. And transvestites like to spend," he said.

The issue has divided gay groups; some feared it could segregate gays, while others said it recognized a problem within the gay community. "At first we were against the law, but after some discussion we decided we had to support it because it addresses a real problem for a segment of the gay community," said Eugenio Ibiapino dos Santos, a founder of the Pink Triangle Association, a gay group in Nova Iguacu. "We see it as a way to open a discussion about civil rights." Brazil is generally more tolerant of homosexuality than other Latin American countries, but discrimination still exists.


16 December, 2005


(By Democrat Congressman Martin Frost)

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on a case challenging the legality of the Solomon amendment -- the action by Congress to withdraw federal funding from any college or university that bans military recruiters from its campus. A number of law schools from around the country had challenged the Solomon amendment on the basis that the schools have a constitutional right to ban military recruiters because of their disagreement with the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy involving gays. Under the policy, anyone who admits to being gay is not permitted to serve in the military.

During my 26 years in Congress, I voted for the Solomon amendment and believe it should be upheld by the Supreme Court. My record in favor of rights for gays and lesbians was consistent as a member of Congress. I was a co-sponsor of ENDA, the legislation outlawing discrimination against gays in employment and housing, and I voted against the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. So why do I support the Solomon amendment?

First, and foremost, we need the best and brightest minds in the military, particularly in JAG (the legal branch). We need military lawyers who will question guidelines permitting torture of prisoners that are inconsistent with the Geneva Accords or that are likely to embarrass our government. Also, our military needs cultural as well as ethnic diversity. No one is seriously proposing bringing back the draft, but one of the good things about the military draft was that it served as a great societal leveler. To the extent that any system can, it assured that our military was composed of people from all income levels and all backgrounds. We need the sons and daughters of the privileged just as we need the sons and daughters of middle income America serving our country. A truly diverse military gives everyone in our country a personal stake in decisions made by our civilian and military leaders.

Additionally, there is a degree of a double standard in the current debate. Where were the law schools at our universities and colleges when the military practiced segregation of the races (something finally ended by President Truman)? Did our law schools ban military recruiters as a matter of principle when our military was segregated? Did they ban recruiters when women could only be nurses or serve in separate outfits like the WACS and the WAVES rather than competing with men in most branches as they do today?

And finally, there is somewhat of an air of unreality surrounding this entire debate. Law School students are adults (most in their mid-twenties or older) and are entitled to hear both sides of an issue. Schools that disagree with the military’s policy can provide information to their students about the military’s position on gay rights and can urge them not to join the military until the policy is changed. They can post signs on campus, communicate with the students by email or permit peaceful protesters to hand out anti-military literature. Let the students decide for themselves whether the military’s position on gays is sufficient reason not to volunteer.

I personally believe the current military policy on service by gays is unrealistic and wrong-headed, particularly as we have great difficulty meeting recruiting quotas. Many of our NATO allies have a different policy for their own military. But my personal views are irrelevant when it comes to the decision by a young person as to whether he or she should volunteer for military service. Major universities and colleges receive millions of dollars in federal research grants. It’s not too much to ask that, as a condition to continuing to receive this assistance from the government, that they permit the military to come on to their campuses and make their case. No one is forcing our young people to serve, but they should at least have the option of considering military service as a career choice.


Helicopter pilots the world over fly in fear of the dreaded Jesus Nut. A part on all rotor-powered craft, the Jesus Nut is so critical that, if it were ever to pop off while in flight, the helicopter would dive faster than a ripped parachute. These days, IT officials at Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.-and all big government contractors, for that matter-have a new version of the Jesus Nut to worry about. It's Section 508 of the 1998 Federal Rehabilitation Act. Passed into law Dec. 21, Section 508 requires all IT used by federal employees-including Web pages posted by federal agencies and their contractors such as Bell, in Ft. Worth, Texas- be accessible to disabled individuals. That means, for example, that blind users must be able to access both text and nontext elements of government and contractor Web sites. It even requires that office equipment, such as fax machines and photocopiers, be accessible to disabled individuals. Contractors that don't comply by June stand to lose their slice of the federal government's $42 billion fiscal year 2001 IT budget.

One of the first broad federal mandates of Web site accessibility for the disabled, Section 508 is forcing government agencies and contractors alike to make major investments in Web site redesign. Total Section 508 compliance spending, government estimates indicate, will end up being $100 million. Some 11,000 contractors will be affected, about 65 percent of them small businesses. Some government contractors and federal agencies are being forced to replace entire sites from the ground up to achieve compliance, a pretty painful introduction to accessibility issues, experts say. And, they add, there is a lesson even for enterprises not directly affected by Section 508: Build disabled accessibility into your site now to avoid big disruptions and expenses later.....

Costs be damned: When bell helicopter first approached the project of becoming Section 508-compliant in mid-2000, it found that, like many contractors and federal agencies, it had its work cut out for it. Indeed, less than 50 percent of its 80,000 Web pages were accessible. But whether to tackle the work of retagging and reorganizing the metadata on its pages to make it accessible to the disabled was never even a question for Bell officials.

The company sells more than $500 million worth of helicopters and other hybrid fixed-movablewinged aircraft yearly-a "fairly substantial chunk" of which comes from federal customers such as the military, according to John Wood, a Buchanan Associates Inc. consultant who's serving as Bell's managing consultant for e-business. Jeopardizing that business by failing to comply with Section 508 was not an option for Bell.

But complying wasn't inexpensive or easy. Part of the problem, Wood, in Ft. Worth, pointed out, is that different Bell Web pages had different levels of disabled access built in, depending on who developed them. At Bell, as at many companies, Internet pages are the accumulation of the long-term work of a myriad of company developers-many of whom, despite educational efforts by accessibility champions such as the World Wide Web Consortium, remain ignorant about the simple procedures a developer can take at the design stage to integrate accessibility into a Web site. "A lot of times, developers, they're fairly tunnel-vision toward disabled folks using the Web," Wood said. "A lot of folks don't even know there are devices out there for the blind to read Web pages."

That design-stage ignorance is coming back to haunt contractors like Bell, which must now clean up for Section 508 compliance. Between Wood and a few colleagues, Bell Helicopter has had about two-and-a-half full-time workers tweaking code since the middle of last year. Wood said the work should be wrapped up by summer. The work entails changing all media references to include Alt tags-popup windows that describe nontext elements of a Web page-as well as adding metadata on each page to improve search engine capabilities for the disabled and nondisabled.

More here

15 December, 2005


Third-grade students at Chavez Elementary School in Madison rang bells for the Salvation Army the past couple of years, but because a parent complained about it this year, the kids won't be doing so this holiday season. Principal Howard Fried said the school administration didn't stop teachers from making the field trip in the past, but the complaint changed the way of thinking by school officials and the district headquarters clamped down. "When the objection was raised, the administration downtown told us, in no uncertain terms, not to allow it," Fried said.

Hundreds of students from throughout Dane County join the "red kettle brigade" and help ring bells to raise funds for the Salvation Army at Christmas time, with many student groups volunteering as part of their commitment to community service. The third-grade class at Chavez was going to take a field trip to ring bells but the parent objected to public school children helping a "religious-based" charity.

Madison Metropolitan School District spokesman Ken Syke said School Board policy is very clear on keeping church and school separate. "Contributions by students to the community are very valuable, but we have to keep that separation," Syke said.

Ruth Ann Schoer, development director for the Salvation Army, told The Capital Times many schools throughout Dane County, both public and private, including Madison Metropolitan School District students, ring bells every holiday season to help the organization in its fundraising drive. "Hundreds of students ring for us," Schoer said. "Historically, every year, we have many student groups help us out." Schoer said student councils, including one at Madison La Follette High School, use bell ringing as their community service project.

The third-graders from Chavez, on the city's far southwest side, weren't signed up individually to volunteer as bell ringers, since their teacher put her name down as the volunteer and the kids would do the bell ringing. Fried said Chavez students just finished their annual food drive, collecting over 3,500 items. "Last year we collected the most of any elementary school in Madison," he said. "It's a real nice tradition this time of year."

So is bell ringing, but not for the third-graders at Chavez this year. "The teachers are coming to grips with the disappointment of not being able to do it," Fried said.

Schoer said bell ringing is something that's very easy for kids to do, and they get a big kick out of doing it, especially when people fold up dollar bills to put into the red kettles. "It's pretty exciting to a little kid when someone puts a $1 bill in, and when it's a $10 bill, they feel it's the best thing in the world," she said. Schoer said it's disappointing that people believe the Salvation Army, founded by a Methodist minister in England in 1865, is simply a religious organization. "All of the money we raise goes to feed, shelter and clothe people," she said. "It doesn't go to promote religion."

More here


Comment from Mark Steyn

All over the United Kingdom, right now, real crimes are being committed: mobiles are being nicked, front doors are being kicked in, bollards are being lobbed through bus shelters - just to name some of the lighter activities that add so much to the gaiety of the nation. None of these is a "priority crime", as you'll know if you've ever endured the bureaucratic time-waster of reporting a burglary.

So what is a "priority crime"? Well, the other day, the author Lynette Burrows went on a BBC Five Live show to talk about the government's new "civil partnerships" and expressed her opinion - politely, no intemperate words - that the adoption of children by homosexuals was "a risk". The following day, Fulham police contacted her to discuss the "homophobic incident".

A Scotland Yard spokesperson told the Telegraph's Sally Pook that it's "standard policy" for "community safety units" to investigate "homophobic, racist and domestic incidents" because these are all "priority crimes" - even though, in the case of Mrs Burrows, there is (to be boringly legalistic about these things) no crime, as even the zealots of the Yard concede. "It is all about reassuring the community," said the very p.c. Plod to the Telegraph. "All parties have been spoken to by the police. No allegation of crime has been made. A report has been taken but is now closed."

So no crime was committed. Yet Mrs Burrows was "investigated" and a report about the "incident" and her involvement in it is now on a government computer somewhere. Oh, to be sure, the vicious homophobe wasn't dragged off to re-education camp - or more likely, given budgetary constraints, an overcrowded women's prison to be tossed in a cell with a predatory bull-dyke who could teach her the error of her homophobic ways.

But, on balance, that has the merit of at least being more obviously outrageous than the weaselly "community reassurance" approach of the Met. As it is, Lynette Burrows has been investigated by police merely for expressing an opinion. Which is the sort of thing we used to associate with police states. Indeed, it's the defining act of a police state: the arbitrary criminalisation of dissent from state orthodoxy.

Mrs Burrows writes on "children's rights and the family", so I don't know whether she's a member of PEN or the other authors' groups. But it seems unlikely the Hampstead big guns who lined up to defend Salman Rushdie a decade and a half ago will be eager to stage any rallies this time round. But, if the principle is freedom of expression, what's the difference between his apostasy (as the Ayatollah saw it) and Mrs Burrows's apostasy (as Scotland Yard sees it)? ....

The trouble is the British police are a lazy lot and, if it's a choice between acting against intimidating thugs who've made the shopping centre a no-go area or investigating the non-crime of a BBC radio interview, they'll take the latter.....

Hollywood stars are forever complaining about the "crushing of dissent" in Bush's America, by which they mean Tim Robbins having a photo-op at the Baseball Hall of Fame cancelled because he's become an anti-war bore. But, thanks to the First Amendment, he can say anything he likes without the forces of the state coming round to grill him. It's in Britain and Europe where dissent is being crushed. Following the murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, film directors and museum curators and all the other "brave" "transgressive" artists usually so eager to "challenge" society are voting for self-censorship: "I don't want a knife in my chest," explained Albert Ter Heerdt, announcing his decision to "postpone" a sequel to his hit multicultural comedy Shouf Shouf Habibi!

But who needs to knife him when across Europe the authorities are so eager to criminalise him? No society with an eye to long-term survival should make opinion a subversive activity. Here's a thought: we should be able to discuss homosexuality, Islam and pretty much everything else in the same carefree way Guardian columnists damn Bush's America as "neo-fascist".

14 December, 2005


Teachers throughout the country have been warned to protect nervous young pupils from a terrifying character who could give them nightmares. He is described as having twinkling eyes, a fluffy white beard and red outfit, probably tucked into wellies. He has also been known to utter the expression: Ho, ho, ho. Step forward Father Christmas and latest target of the Nanny State.

Official advice to school staff is that Santa, far from being a friendly figure loved by all children, is in fact frightening. When he pays a visit to the classroom, sack full of presents, highly-strung youngsters should be placed near an exit in case they need to flee in panic. Teachers are also urged to take care when using atmospheric lighting or taking trips to the pantomime as these too can alarm pupils. And they are advised not to arrange competitive Christmas games with winners and losers to avoid upsetting pupils and leaving them feeling they have "underperformed".

In a further assault on festive traditions, it is claimed that youngsters should be discouraged from sending Christmas cards to each other, because they are wasteful and environmentally unfriendly. And for the same reason, if they decide to send presents, they should use old newspaper and wool to pack them instead of wrapping paper and sticky tape.

The advice was posted on the Government's Teachernet website, which receives thousands of hits every month and contains guidance for staff on issues ranging from pay and training opportunities to classroom discipline. Critics described it as the "worst piece of political correctness this year" and accused the Education Department of trying to rob Christmas of its magic....

The advice is understood to have been produced by teachers but approved by Department for Education and Skills officials for inclusion on the website. A spokesman said the suggestions had now been withdrawn. "We fully support the traditional British Christmas. This is not Government policy and was not produced by the department as the disclaimer on the site makes clear."

More here

Britain: The elites, masses and racism

The aftermath of Anthony Walker's murder shows that it's working-class whites who are now seen as the scum of the earth.

'Racism? It's endemic here', read the Observer's headlines about Huyton, the Liverpool district where the killers of the young black man Anthony Walker lived. The report says that the district is a 'white ghetto' and points out that only a small percentage of non-whites live in the area. The implication is that ethnic minorities are vulnerable to further racist attacks from Huyton-dwelling whites.

Liverpool certainly has a history of violent crime, but are people violent racists? It seems that this community as a whole is damned for who they are rather than for anything they have done. Such prejudices would not be applied to any other section in British society. What is it about the white working-class that creates such comprehensive dismissal? At a time when state institutions blather on about 'inclusion', why is the white working-class not welcome?

The aftermath of the horrific murder of Anthony Walker in July 2005 has a number of notable features. Firstly, as Mick Hume has pointed out, the murder case has legitimised the police as a tolerant 'anti-racist' force (see One murder doesn't make a racist society). Secondly, the reaction from some whites in Liverpool suggests that working-class people are beginning to see themselves as a problem.

What has been ignored since the trial is how thousands of white people turned out to a public memorial service in July. And judging by those interviewed, there was more going on here than the grief culture displayed at occasions such as George Best's funeral. Instead, there was a need to be seen as publicly condemning the brutal murder of a black teenager. Some Liverpudlians were aware that they were being singled out as problematic by the media. As one middle-aged woman put it, 'this tragedy will be used to smear a whole community'. Judging by the recasting of Huyton as a 'white ghetto', she was right.

What's also notable is how the media downplay other examples of 'hate crime'. The murder of a white student by three Pakistani men, for instance, didn't generate this kind of media hand-wringing. There are no articles, for instance, writing off east London as a 'Bengali Ghetto'. This is often explained in terms of the need to be 'sensitive' on racial issues. In reality it's a mealy-mouthed way of suggesting that media coverage on such incidents could set the white proles off into a racist frenzy. If examples of white racist thuggery put the white working-class in the dock, the downplaying of crimes that don't fit the script do so too. Which begs the question: why is this section of British society singled out as special head cases?

The political defeat of the working class continues to have a corrosive and dangerous impact. Its lack of political clout means that it can be labelled, and regulated, as the elites see fit. It's a process that has been underway for well over a decade, but has accelerated considerably under New Labour. Whether it is food and drink consumption, smoking, child rearing or multicultural etiquette, working-class people are often presented as a strange and alien breed in need of state supervision and correction. Given the elite's tenuous connections with the masses, why would they want to potentially alienate a substantial section of society even further? Yet as the Anthony Walker case shows, New Labour is successfully forcing the white working-class to prove that they are responsible and legitimate citizens.

The outcome is that some ordinary people are internalising the idea that they are indeed a problem - and in need of professional help. In an interview on Radio 4 during summer 2005, two young working-class mothers said that they supported parenting classes on the basis they 'want to prove we're fit mothers'. While during the Jamie Oliver school dinners' farrago, many a working-class mother gritted teeth in support of the joys of organic spinach.

Misanthropic introspection creates clients for the therapeutic state. Thus there is no contradiction between targeting the masses as problematic and seeking new points of connection. This is why New Labour's cultural engineering policies have been so successful. It galvanises New Labour's middle-class constituency against council estate 'chavs', while it forces the masses to conform to New Labour's idea of respectability.

In many ways pressuring the masses to be 'respectable' is nothing new. For much of the twentieth century, elite notions of national and racial superiority were a mechanism to bind people to the British state. The representatives of the working class - members of the Labour Party - were only recognised if they signed up to 'respectable' British nationalism. From this perspective, old-fashioned British racism and the new elites 'anti-racism' are merely flipsides of the same conformist coin. Social critics should be as questioning of the latter as of the former.

The manipulation of the grim murder of Anthony Walker reveals how successful the elites have become in establishing new spheres of legitimacy. Whereas the police can now portray themselves as being on the side of 'good', the white working-class have to consciously show they're not 'bad'. It's not old-fashioned racism that's endemic in Huyton or elsewhere, but the expanding influence of the therapeutic state.


13 December, 2005


President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura - both committed Christians - sent out Christmas cards this year to 1.4 million of their closest friends, without mentioning Christmas. Instead, they wished everyone a happy "holiday season". And there is nary a religious metaphor to be drawn from the illustration featured on the card's cover - unless, of course, there's something about the Bushes' two Scottish terriers and their cat braving the snow in front of the White House that we haven't been told about. Welcome to the silly season in the US, where even a president with proud evangelical credentials blinks in the face of political correctness.

More than 80 per cent of Americans, when polled, say they are Christians. And as they approach December 25, Americans adorn their homes and front lawns with glittering Christmas and religious kitsch. Dozens of reindeers and Santas, impressive lighting displays and elaborate nativity scenes are de rigueur. There was a press tour last week with the first lady at the White House to check out the Christmas tree and the preparations for the thousands of meals the White House will serve to guests over the festive break. But the bizarre thing is, the word Christmas is hardly mentioned. It's all in the abstract. For all the commercialism and festive goodwill, the words Merry Christmas are barely uttered....

Mrs Bush's press secretary, Susan Whitson, explained the card was secular - as it had been in previous years - because it was sent to people of all faiths. But its nod to religious and political correctness riles Mr Bush's conservative base. "I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it," Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative website WorldNetDaily.com told the Washington Post this week. He said the President "claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn't act like one".

The Bush Christmas card is just part of a broader debate here about the Happy Holiday phenomenon. The pendulum on religious correctness - if that's what it is - has swung so far that even the Christmas tree outside Congress in Washington was called a "holiday tree". This year, Dennis Hastert, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, made big news because he declared the tree would instead be called a Christmas tree. The spectacular tree was lit yesterday.

More here

Liberals who want you to be liberal are moral, but Christians who want you to be Christian are bigots

By Dennis Prager

Americans constantly hear and read about the dangers emanating from the religious right. But what about the dangers from the religious left? Ever hear about those dangers? In fact, do you ever hear about a religious left at all? Probably not. My Google search of "religious right" yielded 3,890,000 items. A search of "religious left" yielded 276,000. And that search included right-wing websites. My quick survey of a "mainstream," i.e. liberal, news medium revealed an even more lopsided result: New York Times' articles since 1981 mentioned the "religious right" 1,689 times and gave only 29 mentions to the "religious left."

As far as the news media are concerned, there is no religious left, only the religious right and "mainstream" denominations - and, of course, the religious right is regularly described as bigoted, narrow-minded and intolerant, not to mention a threat to the separation of church and state.

Yet, within Christianity and Judaism, the left is very much alive, and in Judaism it is dominant. This leftism was made apparent last month in Houston at the biennial convention of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest of Judaism's denominations.

Let's begin with religious intrusion into politics. This is probably the least defensible charge thrown at the religious right. First, religious individuals and groups have as much right to attempt to influence society and state as secular individuals and groups do. Second, the religious left is at least as active in attempting to influence governmental policies as the religious right. Perhaps more so.

Take, for example, the Reform convention's resolution opposing the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court (even before hearings have begun). I am unaware of any Orthodox Jewish convention having passed a resolution against the nomination of secular or liberal judges to the Supreme Court.

A second example was the convention's resolution calling for "full voting rights" for the citizens of the District of Columbia. Now, why exactly is that not religious intrusion into politics? And how is that different than when Southern Baptists passed a resolution calling on the United States to keep marriage defined as between a man and a woman?

Such intellectual inconsistencies continued in the keynote address by the head of Reform Jewry, Rabbi Eric Yoffie. The rabbi reserved a portion of his address for an attack on the "religious right," whose leaders, he said, believe that "unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text, you cannot be a moral person."

As I do not believe Rabbi Yoffie knowingly told a lie, I can only assume that he did not mean what he said. His statement is false. I've never heard of a single mainstream conservative, fundamentalist or right-wing Christian who has said or even hinted at this. It is true that the Christian right largely believes that one must believe in Jesus Christ in order to attain salvation. But "saved" is hardly the same as "moral." Christian leaders acknowledge that there are moral non-Christians.

What we have here is left-wing projection: It is the left that believes that if you do not adhere to its values and politics, you cannot be a moral person. Howard Dean recently said that Democrats care if children go to bed hungry at night and Republicans don't.

Rabbi Yoffie also said that "we need beware of the zealots who want to make their religion the religion of everyone else." But isn't that exactly what liberals wish to do - make everyone liberal? Why, pray tell, are liberals who want everyone to be liberal considered moral and moderate, but Christians who want everyone to be Christian considered "zealots" and "bigots"?

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Jewish religious left's convention was how clearly it revealed the supremacy of leftist concerns over Jewish ones. History will record that a month after the Islamic Republic of Iran called for the annihilation of the Jewish state, 5,000 Reform Jews passed resolutions calling for District of Columbia voting rights and "workers' rights" but none about a call for what would amount to another Holocaust or about Islamic anti-Semitism generally, the greatest eruption of Jew-hatred since Nazism. History will likewise also note that two years after the United States made war on a bloodthirsty tyrant who paid the families of murderers of Jews $25,000 each, Reform Judaism passed a resolution condemning that war.

As an active member for 15 years of a Reform synagogue that I love, I can only take this as another sign that the movement has been taken over by people whom one rarely hears about - the religious left.

12 December, 2005

Principal apologises for saying 'Christmas'

This matter was front-page news in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 11th. and was seen as an outrage. Even Leftist politicians were critical of the apology. Isolated malcontents got far more attention than they deserved

A school principal has apologised for overusing the word "Christmas" in a controversy branded political correctness gone crazy. Queensland's Yeppoon State School head Laurelle Allen wrote the apology after a family claimed she had discriminated against them by using "Christmas" too many times in school newsletters. Paul and Melanie Jowsey, whose children Charles, 10, and Harrison, 8, attend the central Queensland school, do not celebrate Christmas and oppose the "historical dominance of Christianity" in Australia. They complained that Ms Allen used "Christmas" at least 10 times in three newsletters over a week and had subjected them to "direct and indirect discrimination" by treating those who embrace Christianity more favourably.

But stunned community and church leaders, teachers, parents and family groups insisted that Ms Allen need not have apologised. Australian Family Association state president Alistair Barros said: "This is just staggering. It is political correctness gone crazy. Christmas is something which is part of our heritage." Premier Peter Beattie said school principals should be free to discuss Christmas at will. "Christmas is important as a celebration and Christians should be able to celebrate the festivities as Christmas," he said. Local state MP Paul Hoolihan threw his support behind Ms Allen, labelling the case political correctness "gone lunatic". "She has nothing to apologise for," said Mr Hoolihan, Labor member for Keppel. Brisbane Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby agreed it was a case of political correctness gone mad and there was no need for the principal to apologise. "Christmas is part of our tradition and the whole country accepts the fact that we have the Christmas season," he said. "It should not offend anyone if we call it that and I can't understand why a person would be offended." Queensland Teachers' Union president Steve Ryan also backed Ms Allen, saying the Jowsey family had not been discriminated against. The school's Parents and Citizens Association chairman Yme Dwarshuis said the principal's Christmas comments were made "in good faith" and she need not have apologised.

The controversy erupted on November 30, when the Jowseys sent a letter to Ms Allen complaining about her use of the word "Christmas" in several newsletters sent to parents. The family took offence at phrases such as "Christmas concert" and "Christmas disco", and the principal's greeting: "I would like to take this opportunity to wish all families a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe Christmas holiday period." The Jowseys demanded Ms Allen respond to their complaint within 14 days.

In a letter to Mr Jowsey, Ms Allen replied: "I firstly must apologise for offending you and your family. "You are right in that there are many references to Christmas and the Christmas season in the recent newsletters. "On reflection, I should have referred to the holiday season rather than the Christmas season."

Mr Jowsey defended his actions, saying religious celebrations had no place in state schools. "I'm not being a Scrooge," he said. "The celebration of religious events has no place in state schools. Forcing the observance of such on young children is a dinosaur. "We've had enough and you don't have a right to push it down everybody's throats."

Ms Allen confirmed she sent the apology to the Jowseys, but would not comment further.



To popular acclaim

This year, Rosalie Harreld's curiosity got the best of her. Each December, she watched the line of cars backed up on Cirby Way, waiting to enter the Roseville Seventh-day Adventist Church's annual drive-through Nativity scenes. The suburban vans and cars would proceed slowly up a steep driveway to reach the hilltop church to view its Christmas display. On opening night Thursday - while the sets were being lit and the actors took their places - Harreld's car was first in line to see the live display. And she was overwhelmed. Instead of a single manger Nativity scene, Harreld and her daughter saw nine elaborate displays.

Besides the traditional stable scene, with Joseph and Mary tending to the just-born baby Jesus, the scenes began with the Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah's birth and ended with Christ's Second Coming. Other displays included Joseph and Mary looking for shelter in Bethlehem, the angel Gabriel informing Mary that she would bear God's son, and the arrival of the shepherds after Christ's birth. Nativity scenes have been a staple of Christmas, dating back to the 13th century when St. Francis of Assisi was believed to have built the first one in 1223. The drive-through Nativity in Roseville, in its seventh year, attracts thousands. "We want to get the message about God's love out to the community," said George Holz, the church elder in charge of organizing the event. "This is our largest program. We have more contact with the community through this event than any other." It is open to the public tonight and Sunday, from 7 to 10:30 p.m.

Last year, more than 2,000 people saw the production, and organizers expect an even bigger turnout this year if the weather stays clear. A free CD describes each scene in detail, and tells the driver when to proceed to the next scene along the church's long, circular driveway. It takes about 10 minutes to view the scenes. More than 150 people and months of planning go into mounting the effort each year, which features detailed sets, smoke machines, 32 actors and even live donkeys, sheep and a llama. Actors use hand warmers to ward off the December chill and switch shifts every half-hour in a carefully choreographed operation involving walkie-talkies and darkened lights, so the illusion isn't ruined for viewers. "It's packed every year, and we never could get in," said Harreld, as she and 6-year-old daughter Macie waited in their car. "So this year, we came early, because I wanted my daughter to see it, too." If they can get the Christmas message from the warm comfort of their own car, so much the better, church officials reason.

On opening night, numerous Josephs, Marys, shepherds and soldiers milled about, waiting for their shift or drinking hot cider to warm up between shifts. Angels straightened their wings and wise men carefully placed crowns on their heads, putting the finishing touches on their professionally made costumes. Most of the actors return year after year, and grow attached to the characters they play, Holz said. Imelda Arruda of Sacramento is playing an angel for the fifth straight year. She is one of eight heralding the Second Coming of Christ, who is played by her husband, Gordon.

The angels hold up their trumpets and pose in a vivid tableaux for each car. Some passengers clap in appreciation before they drive into the night, giving the actors brief respite to rest their tired arms before the next car comes through. "It's an experience," said Imelda Arruda, as she rested between shifts. "We want to remind people that there's more to the season than Santa and reindeer."

Bill Marshall and his wife, Robyn, of Citrus Heights discerned that message as they drove into the scene Friday evening. "It's about helping others and enjoying family," Marshall said under the sparkle of the lights. "It's all about giving hope to other people. ... If we all do our part, we can make it happen." Adding a more personal note, Marshall, who underwent a kidney transplant several years ago, said: "In my life, every day is Christmas."

Verdell Garbi of Rocklin played trumpet for Thursday night's performance and was back Friday to enjoy the experience for herself. "The birth and Second Coming are the whole reason we are on Earth," she marveled after taking in the splendor.


11 December, 2005


Today - 9 December 2005 - the Routemaster will run its last regular service. Transport for London is running 'heritage services' on two central London routes for the time being, but otherwise the buses will only service sightseeing tours or nostalgic wedding parties. In place of the Routemaster, Londoners will have to use bland, boxy but more modern double deckers, or the new and still unloved 'bendy buses' - long, articulated single deckers.

But this isn't just about what goes up and down London's busy streets. While there is a rich vein of geekiness and sentimentality running through much of the discussion, there are also important issues about the attitude of our leaders to the views and needs of the people they rule.

There are many who will mourn the passing of the Routemaster. There's even been an unsuccessful campaign to save them. For their defenders, Routemasters are a classic piece of design, uniquely suited to London's needs. The open step at the back means people can hop on and off easily between stops - ideal when buses are often crawling along in traffic. Having a conductor on-board means fares can be collected while the bus is moving, again saving time. There isn't much room to stand, but that's because nearly all the available space is occupied by the things passengers want above all - seats. And because they spend less time stopping, and are relatively small and manoevurable, they are less disruptive to other vehicles, too.

The man behind the decision to scrap Routemasters, London mayor Ken Livingstone, used ardently to defend them - which, given that his political career has been spent defining himself as a professional Londoner, is no big surprise. 'Only some ghastly dehumanised moron would want to get rid of the Routemaster', he said in 2001.

The problem with Routemasters is that they are out of keeping with a risk-averse, access-for-all world. All that jumping on and off moving vehicles is now deemed to be too dangerous, despite the convenience and the low rate of accidents; and all buses will have to be wheelchair-accessible by law from 2017. Livingstone has simply decided to make the break sooner rather than later.

Routemasters do not appear particularly expensive to run. Refitting existing buses is cheaper than buying new ones; being relatively small and now fitted with modern engines, they are actually more fuel-efficient than modern double deckers; and although they require two people to operate them, the presence of a conductor means that fare avoidance is much reduced.

The new 'bendy-bus' seems to have plenty of disadvantages. They are more difficult to manoevure, their length means they frequently block junctions, and they take up more of the road. They also have far fewer seats. The idea is to make wheelchair access easier, and to pack the passengers in at peak times, but trying to get a wheelchair on to a packed bus seems a hopeless task in any event.

While bendy-buses are more wheelchair-friendly (getting a wheelchair on a Routemaster would require a team of volunteers even if there were somewhere for the wheelchair to go), they are less helpful for others who can get on-board under their own steam but could really do with a seat. With fewer seats in each bus, the onus will be on the elderly and infirm to ask someone else to stand up.

In short: the Routemasters remain popular with able-bodied people and their replacements seem to have few advantages. But we shouldn't get too misty-eyed about the existing Routemasters, either. Custom-built for central London's narrow streets, they are also cramped when busy (people have got bigger in the past 50 years). What we need is a Routemaster for the twenty-first century. Why not keep the best parts of the design - the open back step and the conductor - but put them into a modern body with wider seats? With a conductor on-board, there's someone who not only collects fares but who can help people on and off, too. If wheelchair access is a problem, surely a design can be devised to enable it while maintaining the advantages of easy access for the able-bodied?

The production of the Routemaster and the introduction of the bendy-bus represent a comparative case-study in changing attitudes to The People. The Routemasters were the product of a two-year consultation between designers and end-users that allowed the integration of many useful design changes. The bendy-buses were imposed from above, with risible consultation.

This is not to suggest that the provision of buses should be the touchstone of democracy - but it does express an attitude that those in authority know best. From this view, bus users can't be expected to make a balanced judgement about risk vs convenience, or able-bodied access vs disabled access. The knowledge built on the experience of using buses was instead replaced by the tick-box planning of a small clique.

Many critics of the new policy see this as the power of lobby-groups - in this case, the disability rights groups - having an overweening influence on right-on politicians. But since when have the disabled suddenly become so powerful? In reality, it is a consequence of the politics of identity and victimhood. When the authorities redefine people according to arbitrary characteristics like having a disability, even groups with quite different interests (blind, elderly, wheelchair-users) can be forced to act as a single mass quite against many of their individual interests.

The power of this can be seen in the reaction of the trade unions. Despite the loss of thousands of conductors' jobs, the unions did not oppose the changes; the need to support disabled access was an overriding concern. A powerful demonstration of the demise of left and right is that the only 'interest group' these formerly left-wing politicians and union leaders can't be seen to be defending is 'the workers'.

It's only an old-fashioned type of bus. But the death of the Routemaster illustrates in microcosm the creeping way in which the replacement of a democratic impulse with the narrow and disconnected concerns of a powerful minority make our lives worse, bit by bit.


AP Censors Illegal Aliens Crimes

ALIPAC (Americans for Legal Immigration) reports that the North Carolina Associated Press is censoring stories related to crimes committed by illegal aliens. William Gheen, President of ALIPAC, writes: "Citizens in the Charlotte area and western part of the state know about the Scott and Tina Gardner tragedy and the Associated Press did not pick up the story and tell the rest of the state."

Gheen further writes: "This probably happened for two reasons. One, Scott Gardner and his family were mauled in the Eastern part of the state and they lived in another area of the state. Two, Scott Gardner was well known in his community as a church leader, teacher, and coach." The Gardner story includes illegal Mexican alien Ramiro Gallegos who, while driving intoxicated, hit the Gardner's vehicle; killing Scott Gardner, placing his wife Tina in critical condition and coma and injuring the two Gardner children.

A 20 July Charlotte Observer article reported that Gallegos had accrued 5 DWI offences, prior to killing Gardner and was still driving on the streets of North Carolina. He was convicted of DWI in 2002 and received probation. After his third DWI conviction in 2004, NC Judge Tom Aldridge ordered Gallegos to 2 years in prison but, suspended the sentence to only 30 days in jail with those to be served on weekends. Aldridge also gave Gallegos probation.

In another illegal alien DWI incident, Marin Gomez hit the vehicle driven by Amy Hope Milligan, placing her in a coma. Yet another DWI killing occurred while illegal alien Jorge Hernandez was driving at over 100 mph and proceeding the wrong way on a highway. In a head on collision, Hernandez hit the car being driven by 18 year old Min Chang killing her instantly.

Gheen advises: "If our borders were secured and state and local police enforced immigration law as 81% of Americans in a Zogby poll say they should, these North Carolinians would most likely be alive and well today!"


10 December, 2005


It's not exactly the Island of Misfit Toys, but in a back room at the Julius Rosso Nursery & Garden Center in Georgetown sit numerous victims of the cultural war over Christmas trees. "Here are some angels with trumpets," said Bobbi Rosso, sifting through Christmas ornaments stowed in boxes.

Also forgotten in the back room at Rosso's nursery: boxes of snowman ornaments. Those ornaments, though, are victims of fashion. The tastes of Rosso's customers have turned from kitsch to the glamorous luxurious gold balls and crystal icicle ornaments.

The angel issue confounds Rosso. "Look at these -- how can anyone object to these?" she said, pulling a plump cherubic face from yet another box. "I'm not for all this controversy about Christmas. I'm Italian and Irish Roman Catholic. I believe in the birth of Christ," she said. "To me, it's tantamount to taking the birthday out of cake. Or to take the baseball out of ... er ... bat."

Last Wednesday, Rosso and four of her helpers including Helen Schafer went to the Plaza 600 office building at Sixth Avenue and Stewart Street. The Vance Corp., which manages the building, hadn't specifically asked that there be no angels. There were golden grapes, golden acorns and white lights on the 12-foot artificial tree. "No angels here," Rosso said from atop a stepladder.

More here


The huge anti-smoking establishment remains mostly ineffective at getting young people to avoid smoking and getting current smokers to quit. Much work remains. The question is, though: How much work?

Less than a decade ago, we would have been thrilled if Big Tobacco acknowledged that smoking was dangerous and addictive or gave in to demands to be more honest about the wide range of negative health consequences of smoking. If only they ran ads telling people that there are no safe cigarettes and that the safest thing to do is to quit, we fantasized.

But they are doing all this now -- and the question staring the anti-smoking community in the face is: Short of banning cigarettes, what is your endgame? Where do we go from here? Sure, there are major and important skirmishes to be fought, but at this point haven't we gotten a great deal of what we've been asking for from Big Tobacco? What other major steps could we ask for in a free society?

If there is no clear goal, defined by urgent public health imperatives, what is it that continues to drive the anti-smoking movement? The truth is that ideology and politics have become dominant; public health has taken a back seat. Misguided campaigns undermine the original and necessary goals of the movement, putting the credibility of the underlying mission at risk.

Similar Zealotry Among the Food Police

And now we see the phenomenon of redoubled effort without a clear aim happening again, in the food wars.

Obesity is a real public health threat in this country. However, some activists have chosen to blame fast food restaurants for poor choices made by too many Americans -- as if Burger King and McDonald's going out of business today would mean obese Americans easily getting back into shape and eating healthy, balanced diets. To plaintiffs' lawyers, fast food has become the next Big Tobacco. Lawsuits against Big Food are everywhere. And activist groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest have been demanding more nutrition information, right on the menu boards. To their credit, McDonald's is now rolling out plans to put such information right on the wrapper -- so you can't miss it. But are the food police happy? No, as Dr. Elizabeth Whelan points out in her op-ed in today's Washington Times.

There is a lesson to be learned here, whether from the tobacco control community's addiction to a game without an endgame or the food police's insatiable hunger for more government intervention in the private sector. When your objectives are met, you should ask whether it's time to refocus your efforts -- or whether you are being driven ever forward by some more cynical motivation: a non-public-health agenda, driven by an underlying anticapitalist ideology.

Sometimes, the public health arena is a good venue for that ideology, which can help rein in bad actors. But when a public health mission has been accomplished and activists keep on fighting big bad evil industry, the activists reveal themselves as rabble-rousers, abusing the public's good will toward the public health community.



Christmas. There are two main definitions in the Encarta World Dictionary that define the holiday. The first definition identifies Christmas as the annual holiday celebrated by Christians on Dec. 25 that honors the birth of Jesus Christ. The other definition takes the religion out of it and describes Christmas as a secular holiday where friends and families come together to exchange gifts.

Around this time last year, Plano ISD used the latter definition of Christmas. This action stemmed from an incident where a student attempted to distribute candy cane-shaped pens during a Christmas party. The district would not allow that, and several families filed a federal lawsuit, saying Plano schools practiced religious censorship and impeded on the children's right to free speech. Since then, however, PISD was ordered by a judge to allow children to hand out items with religious references as long as the items did not cause a disruption.

Now here is an issue. The world we live in continues to grow smaller and smaller with the technology that has been created, so all people are forced to become more accepting and tolerant of views different from their own. If people look around their neighborhood, work areas or schools, they will see that they have American neighbors, Arab neighbors, Asian neighbors and European neighbors. Those friends, co-workers or classmates could be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist, or they could have no religious affiliation at all.

Nevertheless, when December comes around, everyone is given a Christmas break. Well, actually ... PISD is so caught up in political correctness that Christmas break no longer goes by that name, but by "winter break" instead. It doesn't matter whether students or faculty members are Christian; the holiday break shows no bias. However, I am sure there are people out there who disagree with the whole notion of the holiday. (Yet not one of them complains when they are given the break. Go figure.)

Taking Christ out of Christmas is like taking chocolate chips out of chocolate chip cookies. What PISD attempted to do was not justified. To me, it is appalling that a school district in such a progressive country and city tries to censor a holiday that has been celebrated since Christ's death. As I mentioned before, PISD had become so adamant about being politically correct so as to not offend any religion that it has offended the very religion that this whole country was founded upon.

And if one would like to literally translate the meaning of Christmas, here is the breakdown. The word can be broken down into two parts: "Christ" - a Greek word for the man whom the entire holiday is celebrated for, and "-mas" - a suffix that comes from the ancient Greek word "mass," which is regularly performed in both Catholic and Protestant churches. So technically, there is no way that anyone can change the definition of Christmas to make it a more secular holiday.


9 December, 2005

'Celebrating diversity' makes a virtue out of a vacuum, says Brendan O'Neill

(Review of The Poverty of Multiculturalism, by Patrick West, Civitas, 2005).

There was only one thing more shocking during the recent French riots than the sight of masked youths bashing up their own banlieues. It was even more shocking than Chirac and his cronies' swift vacation of the political stage, stupefied by the rage of the rioters and reduced to praying for the rain in the hope that it might dampen the spirits of les jeunes.

The most shocking thing was the crowing of liberal commentators in Britain. Almost in unison they attacked the French policy of assimilation. They didn't say the French had made a dog's dinner of assimilating immigrants and their offspring - an argument I would sympathise with - but rather attacked the idea of assimilation itself: that apparently quaint Gallic notion that all men should be citizens in the eyes of the state, regardless of what religious or cultural practices they pursue in private.

Such an ideal is nonsense, the liberals cried. Far better to be like us Brits and positively celebrate difference, and allow the state to measure people not only by their allegiance but by their beliefs, identity, skin tone and, what the hell, sexual preferences, shoe size and number of piercings. Sections of British society seem so in thrall to multiculturalism that they can publicly, and without shame, ridicule the progressive ideal of separating our public life from our private lives - which surely is one of the most basic gains of Enlightenment thought.

Clearly, these multiculturalists have not read The Poverty of Multiculturalism, Patrick West's trenchant new book. Or perhaps, as David Twiston Davies suggested in these pages last week, they have read it but are choosing to keep schtum about it (a bit like Chirac's eerie silence when the banlieues burst into flames.

West shows that multiculturalism has not given rise to a happy-clappy society, but to a starkly divided one. The authorities' insistence that we "celebrate difference" has caused communities to fragment along sectarian and racial lines. "State-sponsored multiculturalism has set different British communities against each other," writes West, witheringly describing multiculturalism as "apartheid by stealth".

One of the most valuable things about West's work is that he traces the historic origins of multiculturalism. Too often critiques of the M-word blame it all on those barmy, corduroy-clad social workers of the 70s and 80s who neglected the needs of the wider community in favour of trumpeting the achievements of black lesbians in wheelchairs, etc.

West shows that multiculturalism has its seed in a cultural relativism going back 200 years, to those Romantics who countered the Enlightened views of Voltaire and Diderot by championing uniqueness, emotional introspection and difference. "The Romantics believed that human beings were principally constituted by culture, and even caged by it," says West, and "from their seed has sprouted the weed of Hard Multiculturalism".

He argues that such relativism has moved to centre stage as Western society has lost faith "in its capacity to use reason and science to make our world a better place". In its wake comes a celebration of intuition and superstition (witness Cherie Blair's penchant for wearing crystals to ward off the evils of computers and telephones) and a renewed focus on what makes us different rather than what makes us the same.

Multiculturalism has filled the gap left by the demise of Western self-confidence. Indeed, it can be seen as making a virtue out of a vacuum in contemporary Britain. Having lost faith in the old values of the Enlightenment, society now celebrates the very fact that it has no values and is unable to judge what is good and proper and just. So, a profound uncertainty about values is renamed "respect for diversity"; and our doubt about universalism is sexed-up and repackaged as multiculturalism.

This is no mere academic crisis. According to West, the elevation of multiculturalism to state policy - the defining state policy, indeed - has a real impact on the ground. The wonders of difference are preached in virtually every school and are name-checked in every government policy proposal; local authorities allocate resources on the basis of community identity.

This top-down sectarianism has resulted in "different ethnic groups now living isolated, parallel lives, in a climate of mutual suspicion and antagonism", says West - and, as we saw in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford in 2001, such antagonism can occasionally turn violent.

The liberal crowers should bear this in mind: where the riots in France demonstrated the failure of assimilation, those in northern England showed the success of multicultural policies in instilling a sense of "difference".



(By Richard Koenigsberg -- Article emailed from Ideologies of War)

The delusion of "masculine aggression" lies at the heart of our inability to comprehend the truth of warfare. In the speech made by Hitler when he declared war on September 1, 1939, he asked every German to be prepared to do what he was prepared to do: to be ready to "lay down his life for his people and for his country."

I asked members of the IDEOLOGIES OF WAR LISTSERV to tell me what they thought Hitler meant by this statement. Sue McPherson replied by saying that Hitler was saying that--in order to be a man--citizens must "fight the battle and lay down their lives." In the next sentence, however, she wrote about "masculine domination." Laying down one's life is the opposite of masculine domination. Laying down one's life is the ultimate act of abject submission.

Whenever one approaches the truth of warfare--an activity revolving around masochism, self-destruction and sacrifice--talk about masculinity emerges. We know what has happened in the Twentieth Century: tens-of-million of men were killed and mutilated as a result of the activity or institution of warfare. Yet we continue to pretend that war is the result of masculinity or aggressiveness; as if an expression of exuberance or vitality.

Were the soldiers who landed on the beach at Normandy there because they wanted to express their aggressive instinct? How about Americans who attacked Iwo Jima; or Japanese Kamikaze pilots? Do American soldiers go off to Iraq because they see an opportunity to express their aggressive drive? The more reasonable hypothesis in each case is that soldiers fight because they are compelled to do so, or feel that it is their patriotic duty.

PJB introduced an evolutionary psychological approach to warfare on the listserv, stating that to be aggressive was "highly adaptive in our history" (the history of the human species). However, having articulated an abstract theory, the truth slipped out. He observed that "we send to butchery the best element of our societies, i. e. our young men and women." The idea that war represents an occasion when we butcher the best elements of our society contradicts the hypothesis that war reflects adaptive aggression.

Eduardo Marquis also jumped on the masculinity bandwagon when he declared that "Testosterone increases both sex activity and aggressiveness, so there's a biological connection in both." However, again the truth slipped out when he noted that young males in war become "meat for cannons." The fantasy of war Eduardo put forth--that war represents a vigorous activity expressing male testosterone--cannot overcome his knowledge of what he knows: the reality that young men in war are used as cannon-fodder.

Hitler possessed a deep understanding of the Western ideology of warfare; did not shy away from looking at what it is. Hitler understood that in waging war he was asking his own people to lay down their lives. He felt justified in doing so because he believed that any man who loves his people "proves it solely by the sacrifices which he is prepared to make for it." National Socialist ideology was based on the proposition that everyone should act with a "boundless and all embracing love for the people" and if necessary "die for it."

Hitler glorified the death of the German soldier in battle. In MEIN KAMPF, Hitler wrote that in 1914 his young volunteer regiment received its baptism of fire. With "Fatherland love in our heart and songs on our lips," Hitler said, "Our young regiment had gone into the battle as to a dance. The most precious blood there sacrificed itself joyfully."

Hitler tells us that in July 1917, his regiment set foot for the second time on the "ground that was sacred to all of us." The ground was sacred because in it the "best comrades slumbered still almost children, who had run to their death with gleaming eyes for the one true fatherland." Hitler and his fellow soldiers stood in respectful emotion at this shrine of "loyalty and obedience to the death."

Hitler fought in the First World War and personally witnessed the death of thousands of soldiers. He understood that war revolved around the slaughter of young men. However, by virtue of his fanatic patriotism, he did not condemn the slaughter. Hitler conceived of war as the occasion upon which soldiers could sacrifice their lives for Germany. By so doing, they expressed their love for and loyalty to their nation. The soldier in war was required to practice "obedience unto death."

The battle of Verdun in 1916 is a good example of warfare as a form of mass slaughter, with more than 650,000 French and German soldiers killed in a series of encounters that changed nothing. For their initial attack, the Germans brought up 2.5 million shells. By June, the artillery had grown to about 2000 guns and it was calculated that in just over four months of battle 24 million shells had been pumped into this dedicated stretch of ground, an average of 100 shells per minute.

Imagine the pathetic plight of the soldier in the face of this massive barrage, confined within a narrow space that glowed like an oven for miles because of the constant artillery bombing. "Fighting" consisted, essentially, of trying to shield one's body in order to survive the incessant shelling. A French Lieutenant noted that before attacking his men were either "drunk, howling out patriotic airs, or weeping with emotion or despair." One had the temerity to remark within earshot of the company commander: "Baa, baa, I am the sheep on the way to the slaughterhouse."

Indeed, the posture of the soldier in the First World War was that of a sheep going to slaughter--a posture of abject passivity, the very opposite of masculine aggression--as he struggled to survive in the face of an overwhelming barrage of murderous technology. Soldiers were expected to obey their officers and do their duty without shirking--to offer no resistance when they were ordered to put their bodies onto the battlefield to face mutilation and death. "Masculinity" amounted to the soldier's willingness to offer himself to his nation as a sacrificial victim.


Judging from today's headlines, you'd think most of America is pudgy, couch-ridden, and on the verge of some catastrophic illness. Our poor eating habits and slothful lifestyle have served as grist for many an in-depth report, multi-part series, and conference like the Time-ABC News "Obesity Summit" held last summer. For years, the government and media have told us we're in the midst of an "obesity crisis," and that our excess weight unnecessarily kills some 400,000 of us every year.

Here's the good news you don't often hear: Last year, life expectancy in America reached an all-time high. Death rates among all age groups have been in decline for decades. That's true across all races and both sexes. In fact, the life expectancy gap between black and white is narrowing, even though African-Americans are fattening at a greater clip than white Americans. The two diseases most linked to obesity -- heart disease and cancer -- are in rapid decline. Deaths from each have been steadily dropping since the early 1990s. In fact, deaths from nine of the ten types of cancer most associated with obesity are down over the last 15 years, not up. Deaths from heart disease have declined in every state in the nation. Deaths from stroke are down, too. The biggest increases in mortality are coming from diseases that inevitably set in at old age, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

In short, we are healthier than we've ever been. Granted, much of this good news is attributable to advances in medical technology. But so what? If the fattening of America is really the health threat it's made out to be -- Surgeon General Richard Carmona recently said it's a bigger threat than terrorism -- after thirty years of putting on weight, we should at least be seeing the front end of this coming calamity. It simply isn't happening.

More here

8 December, 2005

I have just put up a couple of political correctness posts on Tongue Tied but, meanwhile, back at the ranch:


A school today defended its decision to exclude a pupil after she refused to take off her crucifix necklace. Sam Morris, 16, was told to remove her cross and chain on Thursday by deputy head teacher Howard Jones at Sinfin Community School in Derby. When the year-11 student refused she was told not to return until today and without the item of jewellery. The 1,070-student comprehensive has a strict policy which bans most jewellery being worn.

Items can be worn out of view or if they are part of religious beliefs, such as the Kara, a bracelet worn by Sikh males. But the policy has been described as "unfair" by Sam's mother, Debra Saunders.

Sinfin Community School deputy head teacher Howard Jones said her daughter's one-day exclusion had been a "last resort" after a 30-minute conversation failed to persuade her to take it off. He said: "There was a long period of persuasion with her and she was given time. It was only at the end of that that I reluctantly had to exclude her for a day. "I met with her mother today and readmitted her daughter." Mr Jones said the strict jewellery policy, which bans large earrings or items worn on the outside of clothing - was to avoid accidents and to remove temptation from thieves. However, Sikh male pupils are allowed to wear the Kara, one of five physical symbols worn by followers of the faith.

Mr Jones said: "As a Christian I don't have to wear a crucifix but Sikhs don't have that option and we have to be understanding. We live in a multi-faith society."

Mrs Saunders, of Thackeray Street, Sinfin, told the Derby Evening Telegraph: "Sam has worn this necklace for more than three years and it is of great sentimental value to her. "No-one has told her to take it off before and she doesn't want to. "She thinks it is very unfair when other people are allowed to wear religious symbols and it just ends up creating a divide between the pupils when everyone is told they should be living in unity."



A war of words has broken out between soccer club bosses after a fan unfurled a St Georges flag with the words "Born in England Live in England Die in England ." Brentford manager Martin Allen said he felt the words on the flag were racially offensive. He spoke out after his side's FA cup match against Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park . Two weeks ago the same flag was flown when Oldham played Brentford in a league match at Griffin Park and police ordered it be taken down. The flag has now been banned from the ground while an investigation takes place.

Mr Allen explained the London club has a number of black players in the squad who took great offence at the message. He said: "Sadly, very sadly, that flag has racist undertones and we made a complaint about it then. "Although it was removed it came back out again near the end of the game and nothing was done about it. "It made it a difficult afternoon. "If we see it again at our ground I will find the person responsible and burn it in front of him. "There is no room for it in society or in football."

Following its reappearance in Oldham he complained to club officials who promised to look into the situation. But Oldham manager Ronnie Moore, said: "How can that be racist? Maybe if it was being flown at a match in Wales or Scotland it could be considered racist but I can't see how that it is racist here - I don't know what he's going on about. "We have foreign and black players on our team and none of them said anything or complained to me."

A spokesman from the Commission for Racial Equality, said: "Flying the St Georges flag is not viewed as racist, but racism in football and racist comments directed against players and fans should not be tolerated."


Fur incorrectness waning: "Last Christmas, Kathleen Kelly, a stylish blond Washington financial analyst, finally treated herself to a longed-for luxury: a floor-length mink coat with fox trim. 'I wanted a fur for a long time,' she says. I'm 32. I bought it as a present to myself and I love it. I wear it with jeans. It's fun. Miss Kelly says she adores the mink and wears it with pride. She has not been the target of anti-fur activists, who have been known to verbally abuse fur wearers and even toss red paint on high-priced pelts. 'It's nobody's business,' Miss Kelly says. What would she say to a protester? 'I'd say it's my choice. We live in America.' People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has mounted a long public campaign against fur wearers. Some women have been cowed by their tactics -- but not Miss Kelly. 'The minks are raised on a farm. That's what they're for.' Fur industry officials say Miss Kelly is not alone. Younger women now account for more than half of the industry's U.S. sales."

7 December, 2005


Recently, an atheist student organization at The University of Texas at San Antonio set up a “Smut for Smut” booth allowing students to exchange their religious scriptures (mostly the Holy Bible) for pornography. Unsurprisingly, they got the idea from another group at The University of Texas at Austin.

If the “Smut for Smut” exchanges begin to spread across the country, many readers will undoubtedly ask why such displays aren’t banned by campus speech codes due to possibly “offensive,” “disrespectful,” or “demeaning” content. Of course, the answer to that question is simple:

Campus speech codes were not designed to preserve our Judeo-Christian heritage through an equal application of rules. They were designed to destroy it through a selective application of rules. And that is why we observe that a) atheist students are free to call the Word of God “smut” and “pornography” in between campus showings of hard-core porn films, while b) religious students are prevented from using offensive terms like “Christmas.”

It almost gets depressing when you look at schools like Auburn University – a school that is preparing for the lighting of a Holiday Tree, instead of the lighting of a Christmas Tree – a term deemed too offensive and “under-inclusive” in the postmodern era of higher education. And this kind of thing is happening at Auburn, not merely at schools like Brown and Harvard.

More here


As an Irish-born writer who lives in both France and the United Kingdom, I believe that the British approach to race relations has been disastrous, fostering disunity, tension, and ethnic strife on a much greater scale than anything that has occurred in France. While cars have been torched in large numbers in French cities, Britain has experienced murderous terrorist outrages committed by Muslim men who were born and bred in England. Thankfully, there was only one fatality in the French disturbances. In the London bombings in July, 52 people were killed and over 700 injured.

Nor has Britain been free of serious race riots. Just before the trouble began in Paris, there were several nights of street fighting between Asian and African-Caribbean gangs in Birmingham, England's second largest city. Two people were killed. And this incident followed years of racial unrest in decaying industrial towns in the north of England, such as Burnley and Bradford, where there are large, radicalized Muslim populations, though the level of disorder is always downplayed by the political establishment and media, anxious not to undermine carefully manufactured images of multiethnic harmony.

In truth, Britain is now a deeply divided land, where suspicion, intolerance, and aggression cast their shadow over urban areas. Only the other day, the government revealed that, in the last twelve months, the number of prosecutions for racial hate crimes had risen by 30 percent. In a courageous recent speech, Trevor Phillips, a black broadcaster who now serves as the chairman of Britain's Commission for Racial Equality, warned that the country is "sleepwalking towards segregation," with society ever more fragmented by ethnicity and religion. Using remarkably frank language, Phillips added that parts of some cities will soon be "black holes into which no one goes without fear."

This sorry situation has been created by a deliberate act of public policy. For the last three decades, in response to waves of mass immigration, the civic institutions of Britain have eagerly implemented the ideology of multiculturalism. Instead of promoting a cohesive British identity, they have encouraged immigrant communities to cling to the customs, traditions, and language of their countries of origin. The emphasis is on upholding ethnic and cultural differences rather than achieving assimilation. This is in stark contrast to France, which has taken a color-blind approach to immigration, with newcomers expected to adapt to the culture of the host nation. The recently imposed ban on Muslim girls' wearing the hijab or headscarf in schools is a classic example of the French model.

Britain has moved in exactly the opposite direction. Soon after the French hijab ban was implemented, a British Muslim teenager brought a successful legal action to win the right to wear in school full Islamic dress from head to toe. She was represented in her court case by Cherie Blair, the barrister wife of the prime minister. And Mrs. Blair's action was typical of the spirit of the Labour-led British ruling class, which has elevated dogmatic multiculturalism into a principle of governance.

Racial segregation is woven into the fabric of British public services. Indeed, under the latest race relations legislation, all public authorities have a statutory duty to promote cultural diversity. So inner city local councils and hospitals in urban areas now print all their public documentation in ethnic minority languages, including Kosovan, Hindi, Greek, Swahili, and Turkish, while many provide extensive interpreting services. One doctor who works in east London told me of her outrage at being sent to take a course in Bengali so she could communicate more effectively with her patients.

Bilingualism is common in urban schools, given that almost 12 percent of children have a first language other than English. London is now the most linguistically diverse city in the world, with more than 300 languages spoken by pupils, ranging from Punjabi and Nigerian Yoruba to Polish and Tamil. In addition, the government now provides funds to Muslims to set up their own schools, in which there is a predominantly Islamic ethos, imams are involved in teaching, and Arabic is learned for the study of the Koran. At present there are just five such Muslim state schools, but the government has announced plans to take the number to 150, a move that smacks of appeasement towards Islamic separatism. The police have also been infected with this spirit. In recruitment in London, there is an open bias towards applicants who speak "a community language." And in the Midlands city of Nottingham, the July bombings prompted the chief constable to order his officers to wear green ribbons "to show their solidarity with the Muslim community."

Thanks to multiculturalism, the provision of public housing, the arts, broadcasting, and community grants is now divided on racial lines. The BBC, the main state broadcaster, has its own Asian network providing news and features inside the U.K. in Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, and Gujarati. There are now more than 140 housing associations in England catering to ethnic minorities; one of them, the Aashyana in Bristol, provides special apartments for Muslims with the toilets facing away from Mecca. More than 10 percent of the bodies funded by the Arts Council, such as theaters and dance companies, describe themselves as black or Asian organizations. "British culture is not a single entity. We should rightly speak of British cultures," says the Arts Council.

Yet the diversity enthusiasts want to celebrate every culture but their own. In the self-flagellating climate of modern Britain, the nation's traditions are increasingly regarded as reactionary and prejudiced. Britishness has "systematic, largely unspoken racial connotations," declared the government's Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. The commission's report, published in 2000, described the United Kingdom as "a community of communities" and called for British history to be "revised, rethought or jettisoned." The official mood of self-loathing, epitomized by the terror of giving offense to any ethnic group, has become even more pervasive in the last five years. In one typical instance, the English inspector of prisons stated that wardens should not wear badges or tie pins with the red cross of St. George, England's national flag, because this could be "misinterpreted as a racist symbol."

Another extreme episode that was much discussed in the media five years ago illustrates how multiculturalism can undermine the management of social services. At Haringey Council in north London in February 2000, an 8-year-old child from Ivory Coast, Victoria Climbie, died after suffering a catalogue of cruelty, beatings, and neglect by her great-aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao, who claimed that Victoria was possessed by the devil. Social workers and the police, alerted repeatedly to Victoria's plight, were reluctant to intervene because they did not want to appear culturally insensitive to Kouao's beliefs or methods of discipline. Indeed, the prevailing mood in the Haringey social work office was one of perverted antiracism, where the woefully incompetent casework manager, Carole Baptiste, held meetings in the dark to discuss African witchcraft and spent much of her time talking about oppression of black women. "It is hard to say how mad it was," recalled one black social worker. "There were some black staff members who would not speak to white people. Aggressive racial politics permeated the office."

The English patriot and maverick socialist George Orwell wrote in 1941, "England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their nationality. In left-wing circles, it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution." More than 60 years later, multiculturalism has provided the ideal vehicle for the left, which now predominates in civic Britain, to exercise its destructive influence. The neurotic official obsession with the politics of racial identity has destroyed any shared sense of national belonging. As the Asian writer Kenan Malik has put it, "The problem is not that ethnic minorities are alienated from a concept of Britishness but that there is today no source of Britishness from which anyone--black or white--can draw inspiration."

Britain is fast replacing nationhood with a hierarchy of victimhood, with different ethnic groups living in conflict, each trumpeting its own sense of grievance. Age-old liberties, like freedom of speech, are disappearing; a play in Birmingham was recently closed down because a mob of Sikhs threatened to destroy the theater, claiming to be offended by the content of the production. Meanwhile, the endless British accommodation of Islamic extremism, in the name of racial tolerance, has allowed terrorism to flourish in our midst. According to one recent survey, 13 percent of British Muslims support home-grown terrorism, a terrifying thought given that there are 1.6 million Muslims in Britain.

Multiculturalism is not the road that France should go down. Bomb-scarred Britain proves that integration is not achieved by exacerbating racial division and institutional self-hatred.



Post lifted from Getting Elected

There is much talk these days about the frontal attack on Christmas in all forms. The wild eyed libs led by the ACLU have intimidated cities and towns to rename "Christmas" trees as "Holiday" trees, school boards to replace "Christmas" Carols with "Holiday" songs like Frosty The Snowman, and stores to replace advertising and even greetings to their customers from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays".

My wife and I are fighting back. We are not going to buy presents this year from stores who have shucked Christmas. We even made a recent decision to buy a new washer based on store loyalty to "Christmas".

But then I got thinking. If the Christmas naysayers have their way and blot out Christmas from the public square, they will surely turn elsewhere in their crusade against God. Like the dog chasing it's own tail, the anti-Christmas grinches may turn on the word "Holiday" itself.

Just consider this. Where does the word come from and what does it mean? I found the following explanation of the origination of the word "Holiday" at Reference.com. Holiday is: "...Based on the English words holy and day, holidays originally represented special days of the Christian Church calendar." (emphasis added)

Surely the ACLU will eventually figure this out and an attack on the "Holiday Tree" and everything else "Holiday" will start with the same gusto as the attack on "Christmas". "Holiday", i.e. Holy Day, will have to go. Special Tree? Special Song? Happy Special Days?

6 December, 2005

Bosses Ban Decorations

Almost three-quarters of British businesses are reported to have banned Christmas decorations in case they offend people of different religions. The trend is blamed on an increase in political correctness, as companies go out of their way not to offend minorities. Employment law firm Peninsula said it had surveyed more than 2,000 employers and found many were "succumbing" to political correctness.

About 70% of bosses questioned said they would not allow Christmas trees or decorations to be displayed in offices over the festive season. A spokesman said: "The workplace is now the latest in an increasing number of places affected by the wave of political correctness being imposed on festive traditions. "To ease fears of offending other faiths and excluding minorities, firms are increasingly banning Christmas decorations and traditions from the workplace."



A former Covenant Christian Academy student who was expelled for kissing another girl filed suit Friday against the school. Jessica Bradley, who now resides in Pennsylvania, was expelled in April 2005 for kissing one Covenant student at an off-campus sleepover and having a relationship with another female student. She and her father, Ron, are suing the school for $1 million, alleging invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract.

Principal Emmaline McKinnon disciplined Bradley for allegedly violating the school's code of conduct by having "an inappropriate relationship with another student," according to the discipline record. Bradley denied that her actions violated school rules.

Covenant's student handbook says any behavior "either on campus or away which indicates that a student has disregard for the spirit of the school standards would be sufficient reason to ask for him/her to withdraw from Covenant Christian Academy." David Clark, the Lawrenceville attorney representing the family, criticized the code of conduct for being unclear as to what constitutes inappropriate sexual behavior. "It's too vague and it's unfair to the students because they don't know what they can do to get themselves expelled," Clark said.

According to the claim, four days after the sleepover, school officials pulled Bradley out of class. After more than two hours of questioning her and four other students about her sexual relationships, McKinnon expelled Bradley. Bradley's family is suing the school for breach of contract because the school failed to educate her for the rest of the school year, despite her father paying $4,625 in annual tuition and fees. McKinnon had told Ron Bradley that his daughter could complete her year from home. She enrolled in Grayson High School for the last 18 days of the school year, where her GPA slipped from a 3.5 to a 3.0, according to court documents.

Bradley is also suing for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. These counts allege that Covenant officials pried into her sex life, spread word about it by questioning other students and led to rumors circulating around the school.

A similar lawsuit filed in Southern California involves a lesbian student at a public high school who was suspended for hugging her girlfriend on campus. Since this case involves a Christian high school, different standards apply. "There are no constitutional issues about civil rights because this school is not publicly funded," Clark said.

The lawsuit seeks a tuition refund for Bradley's family, and "not less than" $1 million in general damages. They are also requesting an injunction to prohibit Covenant from applying its discipline policy regarding "sexual immorality" to other students.

Source. See La Shawn for a good comment.


Recent empowerment pop has been informed by the tomboyish rage of Pink and Avril Lavigne, the tough life experiences of Mary J Blige and the self-righteous soul of Alicia Keys. Today, though, it means only one thing: Don’t Cha, by the Pussycat Dolls.

This four-minute, hip-hop-influenced pop song has saturated the airwaves since spring, and was No 1 for almost all of September. With the refrain, “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?/ Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?”, the listener untutored in Pussycat Doll ideology might look at the barely clad Dolls doing their raunchy dance routine and think Don’t Cha is about a woman telling a man: “I know you fancy me more than you do your girlfriend. Who wouldn’t prefer me to a boring, clingy girlfriend? I ’d happily share you with her, but she wouldn’t like it.”

One singularly, aggressively, unsisterly, catchy pop song. Right? Wrong, according to the founder of the Dolls, the choreographer Robin Antin: Don’t Cha is not the gorgeous, glossy Pussycat Dolls sneering at the lumpen female proletariat. “It is an anthem for all confident girls,” she says. “I want to help women really accept themselves. I will never give up on putting my message out there for girls and for women.”

And the message is? “Inside every woman is a Pussycat Doll, which makes you feel sexy and empowered. You wake up every day and put on a little bit of gloss, mascara, a little blush, and look cute. It’s about looking after your body, being healthy, eating the best, drinking a lot of water and taking care of your hair. It’s about using the Pussycat Doll mentality in your everyday life and being inspired by the best a woman can be. It’s a religion.”

More here

I put up a few posts on Tongue Tied over the weekend that people reading here might be interested in.

5 December, 2005

Australia: Jewish-Muslim alliance against Christmas!

A leading Islamic body says the use of the term "Christmas" is politically incorrect because it excludes too many people in multicultural Australia. The Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations wants a community debate to find an alternative - suggesting the word "festive" as a possible replacement.

And a Queensland Jewish leader has called for an end to the "automatic imposition" of Christmas on the community, saying the season has been reduced to a "shopping festival".

The attacks have outraged Christian churches, family groups and civic leaders. Even other Muslim groups have slammed the call. Islamic Council of Queensland president Abdul Jalal said Muslims have "no right" to question what Christians called their religious festival. Premier Peter Beattie said Christmas was an important celebration that should "stay put". He said: "Christians should be able to celebrate the festivities as Christmas." Brisbane Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall said Christmas should continue to be celebrated as a "very important" date on the Christian calendar. Queensland Churches Together - representing 11 denominations including Catholic, Anglican and Uniting churches - described the name-change proposal as "absurd". And Family Council of Queensland president Alan Baker described the plans as "impertinent and intolerant". He said: "No one is suggesting that other religions change the name of their celebrations, such as Ramadan for Muslims or Hanukkah for Jews."

Queensland local councils scoffed at suggestions they shun Christmas. Townsville Mayor Tony Mooney said: "Christmas is not politically incorrect and there is only a small group in the population that believe it is - and they're nuts." Caboolture Shire Council Mayor Joy Leishman said the call to rename Christmas was ridiculous.

But the Islamic-relations forum director, Kuranda Seyit, told The Sunday Mail it was time for Australia to fall in line with places such as the UK, where councils have renamed Christmas "Winterval" and replaced references to Christmas on signage with the words "Festive" and "Winter". "Australia is now so diverse and there are so many cultures and festivities, we need to acknowledge the need to be inclusive of our identity." He expected his plan would insult some people, but urged a "step-by-step" approach. "A word like Festive is a good word but the community should make an effort to come up with an alternative to Christmas. Schools will take a leading role in terms of political correctness. The younger generation will grow up and say 'it's not fair'."

Queensland's Jewish Board of Deputies president David Paratz said the extent of Christmas celebrations and partying had got out of hand - as had the commercialism surrounding the festival. Christmas was considered just a "shopping festival" by many people, he said. "It can't be assumed everyone is a Christian. People should not be faced with the automatic imposition of Christmas."



The Sun today slaps a CRIMBO on an infants’ school for banning Christmas cards. Kids have been in tears after being told the festive greetings are a waste of paper. And irate parents say staff are acting like Scrooges. So our latest asbo-style Crimbo, which stands for Christmas Must Be Observed and is issued to festive killjoys, goes to Bournville Community Infants School in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

Staff removed the pupils’ post box and got each class to make one bigcard to sign. Kids can only exchange cards in their own time as the school believes the practice clashes with its recycling drive.

Joanna Price, 35, whose son, Jake, five, is a pupil, said: “The school is behaving like Scrooge. It’s all very bah humbug.” Another parent said: “My child came home in tears.”

Acting head Janice Taylor, said: “Staff decided to support the recycling consortium in protecting the environment. It is important to instill recycling principles in children so they grow up to be environmentally aware.”



A spate of recent books and articles have concluded that modern societies are not getting any happier, and have offered public policy pronouncements to make us happier. Added to the weight of self-help books promising personal fulfilment, and the popular demand for therapeutic and pharmaceutical cures for misery, it is clear that concern for happiness is at the heart of contemporary culture.

This has been picked up in the political arena. Richard Layard, author of Happiness: Lessons from a New Science is said to be UK prime minister Tony Blair's new favourite guru. He argues that a society's success should be measured not by conventional indicators such as economic growth and employment, but according to the degree of happiness that is promoted, or unhappiness that is alleviated.

On the face of it the pursuit of happiness is reasonable and sensible. Happiness is, after all, better than its alternative. But hedonism - the single-minded pursuit of happiness - has generally been despised; and the simplest way to ensure a 'happy' state of mind is to keep everyone on mind-altering drugs, which is not being advocated by anyone. However, the free pursuit of happiness as we see fit isn't being advocated either. Rather, the writers on happiness think that they have particular insights into what makes people happy, and they tell us that the things that make us happy are not necessarily the things that we pursue.

In other words, they want us to like different things, because the ends that we choose for ourselves apparently do not make us happy.

Usually people have tried to shape other people's preferences directly. Religious, ethical and political systems have all made demands on their members to restrain or re-direct their desires in specific ways. But the pursuit of happiness for its own sake means re-directing people's desires simply because people are held to be unable to choose for themselves the ends that will make them happiest. There is something tyrannical in this desire to lighten the load of life by trying to shape the end goals that we might want to pursue.

Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer give a clue to the attention paid to happiness: 'Everybody wants to be happy. There is probably no other goal in life that commands such a high degree of consensus.' And Richard Layard echoes this: 'We desperately need a concept of the common good. I can think of no nobler goal than to pursue the greatest happiness of all - each person counting.'

These quotations reveal that it is the universality that appeals - we all want to be happy, so ideas for achieving happiness are bound to have a wide audience. But it is a universality of the lowest possible denominator, and it requires wrenching the idea of happiness from its historical and cultural context, and reducing it to a generic 'feel-good' factor.

The interest in happiness is in marked contrast to the more censorious vein that also flourishes today. Our culture is marked by an odd coalition of puritanical censoriousness and ideological hedonism. On one hand, puritans demand that we live healthily and forego guilty pleasures. Air travel is castigated for its environmental impact. Drugs, which directly trigger happiness in users, provoke ire. On the other hand, prophets of happiness espouse self-indulgence with an abandon that would have embarrassed earlier generations. Self-esteem is promoted in schools. Businesses have policies to alleviate the stresses and pressures once accepted as normal.

Much more here

4 December, 2005


A primary school head was blasted by angry parents yesterday as she banned pupils from TALKING about Christmas. Sue Lines ordered kids not to mention the festive season before December 7 — in case they get too excited and it affects their schoolwork.

One mum at Piper’s Vale school, in Ipswich, Suffolk, said: “The head is behaving like Scrooge. How can she possibly stop kids talking about Christmas?”

Mrs Lines insisted: “If they get excited and talk about it in school, we just remind them we have got work to do.”


U.K.: Hindu mayor dumps carols

A Hindu mayor scrapped a carol service to have a more "inclusive" multi-cultural celebration instead. Bhikhu Patel - who is on the Preston and West Lancashire Racial Equality Council - sparked accusations of political correctness with the move.

Tory councillor Ken Hudson said: "His idea of multi-culturalism is all to do with Hindu dancers and nothing Christian. "The point about supporting ethnic communities is that they have also got to support the Christians and live in harmony together. What passes for ''political correctness' is systematic cultural repression and subversion by any other name..."



There are girl brains, then there are boy brains. But there's not one generic human brain, no matter what hand-wringing feminists may insist in their quest for sexual equality. Some stark new clinical evidence shows that men and women are just not the same upstairs. "The comedians are right. The science proves it. A man's brain and a woman's brain really do work differently," a research team from the University of Alberta in Canada announced yesterday.

After analyzing magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) of 23 men and 10 women, the team found that the sexes use different areas of the brain even when working on exactly the same task. "The larger implications of this work is that we may increasingly find out that there are differences in the 'hard wiring' of male and female brains," said study author Dr. Peter Silverstone, a psychiatrist.

Though Dr. Silverstone hopes that these revelations will lead to more innovative ways to treat depression and other mental illnesses, these findings might one day explain certain persistent behaviors that make for a more lively existence. Why do men, for example, refuse to ask for directions while women are busy peering at maps and landmarks during the same automobile journey? Why do women cry and men sleep through a sappy movie? Could it be that old hard-wiring?

During the Canadian study, volunteers were given memory, language, spatial and coordination tests while their brains were monitored through the MRIs. The patterns revealed that men and women clearly met the challenges differently. "The results jumped out at us," said Emily Bell, one of the researchers. "Sometimes males and females would perform the same tasks and show different brain activation. And sometimes they would perform different tasks and show the same brain activation."

Similar research also reinforces differences in the brains of men and women. Psychiatrists at the Stanford University School of Medicine announced Nov. 7 that the sexes have different senses of humor as well. Using MRIs to monitor the brains of 10 men and 10 women as they scanned the newspaper cartoons, researchers found "sex-specific differences in the brain's response to humor." Men want and expect a good punch line. But women have a greater appreciation for language and fewer expectations, but if the punch line delivers, they have a greater sense of "reward," the psychiatrists found.

The sexes also differ in the intelligence department. "Human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior," said psychologist Richard Haier of the University of California at Irvine upon releasing his study of male and female brains in January. Again using MRIs, he found that men have more than six times the amount of gray matter -- which controls information processing -- in their brains as women do. But females have 10 times the amount of white matter, which controls networking abilities. The findings "may help explain why men excel in tasks requiring more local processing (like mathematics) while women tend to excel at integrating and assimilating information ... such as required for language," the study found.

There's some reassuring common ground, though. A study of almost 700 adults released yesterday by Cornell University found that men and women are happier with each other, rather than alone. And the stronger the relationship's commitment, the greater the happiness and sense of well-being of the partners, the analysis found. "Being married is associated with higher self-esteem, greater life satisfaction, greater happiness and less distress, whereas people who are not in stable romantic relationships tend to report lower self-esteem, less life satisfaction, less happiness and more distress," sociologist Claire Kamp Dushsaid yesterday.


3 December, 2005

PBS's negative picture of fathers

Child custody battles are always wrenching, particularly when there are allegations of abuse. For years fathers' rights groups have complained that men face a pervasive bias in family courts, while many feminists have countercharged that the real bias is against women. The latest round of this debate is being waged over a documentary, ''Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories," which has been airing on Public Broadcasting Service affiliates in the past month. The film's point is simple: Children in America are routinely ripped from their mothers and given to fathers who are batterers or molesters. The women's claims of abuse are not believed by the courts and are even held against them when mothers are suspected of manufacturing false charges as a divorce strategy.

To fathers' groups, ''Breaking the Silence" is blatant antidad propaganda. In a campaign led by the Boston-based Fathers and Families, PBS has been bombarded with thousands of calls and letters. It is now conducting a 30-day review of the research used in the film.

Film producer Dominique Lasseur told me he was shocked by the backlash. ''I have nothing against fathers," says Lasseur, a father of two, ''but I have outrage about children being given to abusers."

There is no question that our legal system fails children all too often. But the PBS documentary presents a skewed and sensationalist picture. Thus, Joan Meier, a George Washington University law professor and one of the film's main experts, asserts that ''75 percent of contested custody cases have a history of domestic violence" and that about two-thirds of fathers ''accused or adjudicated of battering" win sole or joint custody of their children.

The website of the film's producers, Tatge/Lasseur productions, lists two sources for these claims: a study of 39 abused women involved in custody litigation in Massachusetts, and the 1990 report of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Gender Bias Study Committee which states that fathers who actively seek custody obtain primary or joint physical custody over 70 percent of the time. But the 70 percent figure was not limited to domestic violence cases. It is also highly misleading, since it doesn't separate custody disputes from cases in which the father gets custody by mutual consent. In contested custody cases, mothers are two to four times more likely to prevail.

''Breaking the Silence" seems to suggest that abusers who get custody of their children are virtually always male. In response to criticism, the filmmakers say on their site that since ''women are five to eight times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner," to feature one male victim of abuse alongside five women would have ''overstated the problems of men."

The accuracy of their figures is questionable: the federally funded National Violence against Women Survey suggests that over a third of domestic violence victims are male. That aside, doesn't featuring zero abusive mothers significantly understate that problem?

Lasseur told me that if he had encountered cases in which an abusive mother was awarded custody of the children, he would have reported on them. I asked about the claim on a battered men's advocacy site that a man named Tom Gallen had approached him with exactly such a case. Lasseur conceded that Gallen had a well-documented story but explained that, relying on his ''instinct as a producer," he felt that Gallen wouldn't be the right person to use.

It's difficult to assess the credibility of the stories actually used in the film, since their presentation is deliberately one-sided. (Lasseur told me that women's allegations of abuse are often ''dismissed because it's he said/she said," and that he didn't want to recreate that dynamic.) In at least one case, involving a 16-year-old identified as ''Amina," there are serious questions about the film's accuracy. Official documents supplied by the girl's father, Scott Loeliger, and posted at www.glennsacks.com, show that there were fairly serious child abuse allegations against ''Amina's" mother. Moreover, the only spousal abuse mentioned in these documents is violence toward the father by the mother. The documents also reveal a messy, complicated case in which most evaluators concluded that both parents were behaving ''abominably." ''Breaking the Silence" simplifies this into a straightforward story of a villainous man and a noble, victimized woman, and does so in the service of a film whose overall effect is to vilify fathers.

The filmmakers contend that their only concern was the well-being of children. Yet, if the film contributes to a climate in which fathers who seek custody are tagged as suspected abusers, it could endanger children as well. PBS should rectify this bias by presenting programs with a different point of view.


Some politically incorrect thoughts about the Mongolians

(Post lifted from Banagor)

I am willing to bet money that most people had no idea that Mongolia supported us in the war on terror. But yesterday, a lot of people found out that they did. And if anyone read the Washington Post yesterday, they may just have learned why, in one of the nicest and best written pieces I have ever read, written by the Prime Minister of Mongolia, Mr. Elbegdorj Tsakhia.

Mongolia’s experiment with democracy is far from finished, but perhaps there are already lessons for others in what we have accomplished. There is no reason or excuse why economic and political reforms cannot go hand in hand. The concept that democracy is a Western value is a fallacy. It is a universal value inherited by each and every person in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America.

How we share those values abroad is as important as institutionalizing them here at home. Mongolians are standing shoulder to shoulder with their U.S. and coalition colleagues to create free societies and fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. The recent bombings in Jordan and attacks in Iraq are a warning that defeating terrorism will take international cooperation and dedication.

Mongolians are justifiably proud of the country we are building. Many within Asia can find examples in our economic and political successes as well as learning from our failures.

Now, I know that many RFSP out there will no doubt say that we are “bribing” them, or some other such nonsense. But then, that’s why they qualify as RFSP. I admire the Mongols, and I’m glad that they are on our side. It isn’t, however, the first time. They were our allies against the Islamic insanity in the world during the Middle Ages as well. I rather like the fact that they are fighting with us again. I know that they are still hated in the Middle East for sacking all the cities back then, and I know it only enrages the Islamic Idiots to have Mongols fighting them yet again, but so what? You live with what you make of the world, and they sure as hell have made one huge mess.

I sort of regard the Mongols as our Klingons. The Klingons were obviously modeled on them from the start, and I’m glad to have them in our little Federation when fighting the Borg. That’s probably far too trekkie a comment for most people, but it still holds true to me. Heck, I say we conquer the whole region and give it to Mongolia as a gift. They really deserve to have it again. When they ran it last time, everything was nice and quiet, the silk trade route was open, and nobody made any trouble. They used to have the balls to police the place the way it was meant to be policed, and generally let people run their own affairs as long as long as they didn’t create trouble. So let’s get the Arab world a democracy, but let’s really defeat them mentally by putting their old enemy in charge - and I don’t say this facetiously at all. I treat the entire Arab world as the enemy because, well, they are. They say they are, they preach that they are, and most importantly, they act on the presumption that they are.

As Sharon once wrote, they need to learn the psychology of defeat. Having the Mongols on our side, proud and noble warriors, is one step towards that goal. I realize that this is completely politically incorrect, but what do I care? It’s the truth. All hail the Khan of all Khans, and let his spirit live on forever. Arkhi and Kumis all around, and wide sky and open plain to them for their efforts!

2 December, 2005

You Must Be Healthy: For British health officials, liberty doesn't count

(From Theodore Dalrymple)

The place of liberty among political desiderata is a matter of philosophical dispute. No doubt, we must occasionally curtail liberty in pursuit of other ends; but I nevertheless find alarming the creeping authoritarianism of the medical journals, which seldom recognize liberty as an end worthy of the slightest consideration in the making of public policy.

The British government is proposing to ban smoking in all pubs that serve food but not in those that don't. You might think this a sensible compromise, allowing for separate public places for smokers and non-smokers. But a recent paper in the British Medical Journal attacks the proposals, on the grounds that they might well increase the differential in the life expectancy between the rich and poor, which has stubbornly refused to yield to 60 years (so far) of profound social engineering.

The reason the proposals, if implemented, might increase the differential is that there are more pubs that don't serve food in poor areas than in rich, so the poor would be subjected to more passive smoking in pubs than the rich. The authors therefore propose a total rather than a partial ban of smoking in pubs. For them, a widening of the differential would be undesirable, even when everyone's life expectancy was rising.

Now clearly there exist threats to public health so severe that we must curtail liberty to meet them, as with quarantines. Whether passive smoking is such a threat that it justifies such curtailment is a matter of opinion and not yet susceptible to definitive answer supported by a knockdown argument. But the authors of the article in the British Medical Journal do not even recognize the need to justify their proposal to curtail liberty, because they do not value liberty.

Perhaps it is only natural that considerations of public health should seem all-important to public health doctors (the authors), such that anything that will lengthen the public's life span appears to them justified without further argument. But I still find it disturbing that they should be unaware of other desirable ends other than health and a prolonged life span that is equal between all social classes. Monomania is never good.

Besides, in practice not every activity that threatens the public health leads to a call by public health doctors for prohibition. The British Medical Journal once published a news item stating that 17 million sports injuries occurred in Britain every year-17 million! They ranged from the trivial to the fatal, of course; but no public health doctor called for the prohibition of sport to protect human life and to avoid the waste of medical resources on what were essentially self-inflicted injuries.

This is because they regard sport as morally good, while smoking is the nearest people can come these days to sin. I hasten to add that I have no shares in tobacco companies, and I abhor tobacco smoke.


It's discriminatory, not "inclusive"

When a commotion erupted over the fact that the 48-foot white spruce installed on the Boston Common -- an annual gift from the people of Nova Scotia -- is identified on Boston's official website as a "holiday tree," the city's commissioner of parks and recreation sided firmly with the critics. "This is a Christmas tree," Antonia Pollak declared. "It's definitely a Christmas tree."

At least that's what she told the Boston press. According to CBC News, on the other hand, she took a rather different line with the Canadian press: "A lot of people celebrate various religious holidays but also enjoy the lights, and we're trying to be inclusive."

Meanwhile, Pollak's boss said he intends to call it a Christmas tree, no matter what it says on the City Hall website. "I didn't write the website," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told the Boston Herald. "If I had, it would have said Christmas tree." He must not write the mayor's weekly column, either. The current one is about the lighting of Christmas trees all over Boston -- yet not once does the word "Christmas" modify the word "tree."

And so it begins again -- the annual effort to neuter Christmas, to insist in the name of "inclusiveness" and "sensitivity" that a Christian holiday celebrated by something like 90 percent of Americans not be called by its proper name or referred to in religious terms. We all know the drill by now. Instead of "Merry Christmas," store clerks wish you a "happy holiday." Schools close for winter break. Your office throws a holiday party.

Sometimes the secularizing impulse goes to laughable extremes, as when the elementary school play is titled "How the Grinch Stole the Holidays" or when red poinsettias (but not white ones) are banned from city hall. Sometimes it springs from clanging ignorance, as with the New York City policy that prohibited the display of Christian nativity scenes on public school grounds, while expressly allowing such "secular holiday symbol decorations" as Jewish menorahs and the Muslim star and crescent. And some of it is fueled by anti-Christian bigotry or sheer misanthropic bile.

But mostly, I think, this attempt to fade Christmas into a nondenominational winter holiday stems from a twisted notion of courtesy -- from the idea that tolerance and respect for minorities require intolerance and disrespect for the majority....

"We're trying to be inclusive," says the Boston parks commissioner, explaining why the white spruce that was sent from Nova Scotia under a giant banner reading "Merry Christmas, Boston" became a "holiday tree" on her department's website. But suppressing the language, symbols, or customs of Christians in a predominantly Christian society is not inclusive. It's insulting.

It's discriminatory, too. Hanukkah menorahs are never referred to as "holiday lamps" -- not even the giant menorahs erected in Boston Common and many other public venues each year by Chabad, the Hasidic Jewish outreach movement. No one worries that calling the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by its name -- or even celebrating it officially, as the White House does with an annual "iftaar" dinner -- might be insensitive to non-Muslims. In this tolerant and open-hearted nation, religious minorities are not expected to keep their beliefs out of sight or to squelch their traditions lest someone, somewhere, take offense. Surely the religious majority shouldn't be expected to either.

More here

Fast food tells all: Washington Times by Elizabeth M. Whelan "McDonald's has decided it's time to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the caloric content and nutritional value of the burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and other delectables they serve at 13,000 establishments around the country. Starting next spring, the leading fast-food chain will print in clear, basic language and symbols the fat, calorie, carbohydrate, and sodium count -- right on the wrapper. This is both a good move for consumers (it will help them make informed food choices) and for McDonald's (by protecting the company from legal charges of withholding information from consumers, causing them unwittingly to get fat). The new full-disclosure policy could be seen as successful industry 'self-regulation' -- where progress is made without the heavy hand of government regulatory involvement. But instead of extending wholehearted congratulations to the Mcfolks in Oakbrook, Ill., the regular suspects -- specifically, the Center for Science in the Public Interest 'food police' -- complain that McDonald's has not gone far enough."

1 December, 2005

Britain's most PC job ever

Health chiefs have sparked controversy by planning to create a post of "learning disabilities tsar" - who MUST have learning disabilities.

Angry campaigners last night branded it a politically correct "gimmick" and warned it will be a waste of taxpayers' money. And they accused the Government of having "more tsars than Imperial Russia".

The successful applicant will help the National Director for Learning Disabilities, Rob Greig, to "understand the problems" faced by those living with such disabilities. The post has yet to be filled and Whitehall bosses refuse to reveal what the salary will be. But previous tsars - like drugs supremo Keith Hellawell - got more than 100,000 pounds a year.

Learning difficulties range from dyslexia - problems understanding words and reading - to severe autism, where a sufferer has difficulty making sense of the world around them and needs constant care. Yesterday the National Campaign Against Political Correctness said the tsar's wage would be better spent on real services. It argued that ministers could have asked for advice from learning disability groups and should have used the cash on teachers and care workers. A spokesman for the NCAPC said: "It seems to be a pointless appointment and a waste of taxpayers' money. "Surely the money should be spent on front-line services rather than these politically correct gimmicks. It seems that we have more tsars than Imperial Russia."

Bosses are not advertising the job and are instead hunting for candidates from within the learning handicapped community.

More here

British school bans its pupils from using the C-word

And it is not the c-word you might think

Christmas frenzy arrives earlier every year, with tinsel appearing in shop windows in September and Slade playing in supermarkets long before the clocks go back. But for one headmistress it has become a matter of principle to shield her pupils from the full force of the hype. Sue Lines has won praise from parents for keeping Christmas off the syllabus at Piper's Vale primary school in Ipswich until December 7. Her success, coupled with the John Lewis Partnership's decision to move its Christmas range into its stores two weeks later than usual, suggests that the tide may at last be turning. The retail giant held its festive produce back until a relatively modest October 3 this year and last year because of customer demand.

But for Mrs Lines, Christmas does not begin until December. She has banned pupils from mentioning Christmas in lessons until after Advent to stop them getting overexcited. She said: "You can't ban children from talking about Christmas on their way in but they don't talk about it in school. If they bring it up in lessons they are reminded that they have got work to do." Mrs Lines said that she had always preferred to concentrate Christmas activities into the last two weeks of term and to emphasise "the real meaning of Christmas". "Many of our families already have their Christmas trees up. But we are here to teach. That's what a school is for. Our children won't miss out on anything." The school's Christmas tree will not go up until December 7, when there will also be a postbox for children to send Christmas cards to each other.

The school, which has just over 300 pupils aged from 3 to 11, will be staging several events including a carol service in the local church, a coffee morning and Christmas sale for parents, a nativity play by younger pupils and performances by older children. However, Mrs Lines believes that schools can insulate children against some of the frenzied build-up to December 25. "It is like celebrating fireworks night in August. If we started now, the children would be as high as kites by Christmas Day."

Paul Keeble who has two children Sophie, seven, and Daniel, four, at the school, said: "I think the school is right because Christmas starts too early these days." But one mother, who asked not to be named, said: "The head is behaving like Scrooge. The Christmas lights have been up in Ipswich town centre for ten days and it is only natural that all the youngsters are getting excited." For other pupils Christmas has started. Ken Lunn, head of Morland Primary School said: "We start rehearsing Christmas carols and getting ready for it from the middle of November. "After all, it only comes once a year. We go all out to make the most of it!"



The idea of a new generation of hands-on fathers who change their children's nappies before going to work has been exposed as a myth. Fathers in their thirties would like to spend more time with their children and be more involved in their upbringing, but most are working longer hours and sharing less in their children's lives, according to a study by London University's Institute of Education.

Although 46 per cent of fathers born in 1958 claimed to share the responsibility of looking after their children, just 39 per cent born in 1970 can make the same claim. And working-class men born in 1958 were far more likely (56 per cent) to be involved in childcare than those from the professional classes (40 per cent).

Instead of narrowing, this class differential has widened, with 60 per cent of working-class fathers born in 1970 now claiming to play an equal part in their children's upbringing, compared with just 39 per cent of fathers in senior management. In 1965, as many as six in ten fathers said they played an equal role. Professor Shirley Dex, who analysed data for the study, said: "If you look at the distances people are travelling to work and the long-hours culture it's more understandable. Men are working longer as they climb the professional ladder, but the pressure from the unions means hours are shorter than they were at the lower end."

British fathers work the most hours in Europe, averaging 46.9 a week compared with 35.5 in France. Almost 40 per cent work more than 48 hours.

However aspirations have changed. Middle-class fathers in their 30s are now more "likely to express egalitarian views", even if most are not yet ready to sacrifice their careers