The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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Postmodernism is fundamentally frivolous. Postmodernists routinely condemn racism and intolerance as wrong but then say that there is no such thing as right and wrong. They are clearly not being serious. Either they do not really believe in moral nihilism or they believe that racism cannot be condemned!

Postmodernism is in fact just a tantrum. Post-Soviet reality in particular suits Leftists so badly that their response is to deny that reality exists. That they can be so dishonest, however, simply shows how psychopathic they are.


31 December, 2007

A dishonourable list (1)

A brief but biting editorial from "The Times" below about the annual British honours list (knighthoods etc.) just announced. I must say that an awful lot of nonentities have been gonged this year: Pop singers, actors, TV presenters, a rag-trader, a BBC apparatchik etc. Being already popular or being brown-skinned seem to have been major qualifiers. A more comprehensive commentary here

There are few more predictable annual rituals than the new year honours list. There are always a few well merited awards, valuable when they are given to people away from the public eye who would never dream of such recognition for the good work they do. But the list tends to be dominated by a mix of worthies and entertainers who ought to be content with the honour of banking large sums of money for their work. The latest list is little better. In the context of the refusal to honour those who put their lives at risk to save the lives of others on 7/7, it looks insulting.

Gordon Brown is in danger of promising much and delivering little. The prime minister made a song and dance about honouring members of the public who show bravery during terrorist attacks. As he put it in July: "It is right that we look at how our honours system can recognise those in our emergency services and members of the public who showed such bravery and heroism in the face of the recent terrorist attacks." That turns out to have been hot air. In reality, as we report, the Cabinet Office has actually turned down such nominations as undeserving.

Awards have indeed been made for behaviour on 7/7 - but to civil servants sitting at their desks co-ordinating the work of others. Heroes such as Tim Coulson, a teacher who smashed his way into a bombed Tube carriage, gave first aid, had a man die in his arms and was so badly affected by his experience that he has had to retire early, have been snubbed. Not one member of the public has been rewarded for bravery. Mr Coulson's wife was told by the Cabinet Office that "honours are awarded to people for meritorious service over a sustained period and not specifically for saving someone's life" - an explanation which contradicts the citation to the bureaucrats honoured for their co-ordination role on 7/7.

There have long been calls for the honours system to be reformed. Now the shame of these snubs to the brave brings dishonour to the establishment that bestows them.


A dishonourable list (2)

Rod Liddle offers a lighter version of the points made in the editorial above

Another year goes by and no bloody official recognition. Slave my guts out every week alerting people to the fact that Bono, Patricia Hewitt, Sting, the Milibands, Ruth Kelly, all doctors and most of the Conservative party are agents of Satan, all for no thanks. Not that one does it in expectation of ennoblement, of course. One does it, without fear or favour, for the good of the country. And for money, obviously.

But then you read the new year's honours list and discover, halfway down, that George Alagiah and Hanif Kureishi have both been bunged some Establishment bauble, and the rancour begins to build. Kureishi's got a CBE - for what? I mean, I have nothing against the chap. He's quite a good writer, in much the same way as Jimmy Carr is quite a good comedian and Bas Savage, of Brighton, is quite a good footballer. In truth, the three of them inhabit that vague, shadowy area where "quite good" merges imperceptibly with "actually, not very good at all".

Martin Amis, Iain Banks and, strange to say, JG Ballard have never been honoured - some people might argue that they have performed a greater service to literature over the years than Kureishi. Some people might even remember the name of a book one of them has written, which gives them the distinct edge over Hanif.

And then George Alagiah, recipient of an OBE - what's he done, exactly? Read the bloody news from an Autocue. Again, I have nothing against George, who seems a likeable chap. But his is an occupation that requires nothing in the way of skill, tenacity, intellectual ability or fortitude. All you have to do is sit there, read what's been written for you by some marginally postpubescent PC BBC monkey and try not to belch or snigger. A pig's bladder on a stick could read the news. Probably. You begin to wonder what honours are for.

Why, for example, has a person called Jazzie B been handed an OBE? Because he was the driving force of Soul II Soul, a mediocre Brit R&B band a decade or so back? Hell, is that all it takes? I could form a mediocre Brit R&B band tomorrow and so, I suspect, could you. If Jazzie B can get an OBE then surely So Solid Crew deserve knighthoods.

And then there's Kylie Minogue, who gets an OBE for shoving her arse in our faces whenever the opportunity arises, or for having successfully recovered from cancer, or for having taken part in an episode of The Vicar of Dibley. Gordon Brown recently published a book about what can be achieved by individuals who struggle against overwhelming odds to inspire and transform their communities. It was quite an uplifting book in a way. It's just that I never knew it was written with Kylie Minogue in mind, still less Hanif Kureishi. Are those the people he meant?


How The News Is Made

By Barry Rubin

Ring, ring, goes the telephone. And of course I answer it. The voice on the other end says that he is "Joseph" of Reuters. I get many calls from journalists and wire services but never has someone I don't know introduced himself by first name only. Since he has an obvious Arabic accent it is quite clear that he thinks I am either so biased as to care what his family name is or so stupid not to guess why he isn't giving it. So the effect is to achieve the exact opposite of what he wants. It puts me on my guard.

Next he tells me that he is doing a story on how Israel is strangling the Palestinian economy. In such circumstances, I have taken to arguing back with correspondents. By framing the story that way, I explain, Reuters is building in a bias. After all, the story should be: What's wrong with the Palestinian economy, how to fix it, and will the massive infusion of aid--$7.4 billion just promised for three years by mostly Western donors--help?

Aren't wire services, and the media in general, supposed to be somewhat balanced? They ask an open question, collect viewpoints, and let the reader conclude what the factors are, or at least wait until they have gathered some evidence. This is supposed to be especially true of wire services, which supply newspapers and other media with the basic facts on which they can build their own stories. What is going on here, then, is not reporting but propaganda.

Clearly unnerved, he promises to quote me accurately. And he does keep that promise fully, sort of. But the outcome is quite predictable. And here is the dramatic headline that went out in the resulting story: "Analysis-Aid can't save Palestinian economy in Israeli grip." No doubt is to be left that it is Israel's fault that the Palestinian economy is in shambles. And so pervasive is this evil that even the whole world cannot save them. So after that $7.4 billion is all gone with no result everyone will know who to blame, right?

Before continuing let's note the problem with this analysis on two levels. First, Israeli closures and control on movement are the result of Palestinian terrorist attacks, coupled with the unwillingness and inability of the two Palestinian governments (Palestinian Authority-Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip) to stop them. No attacks; no closures. And this is absolutely clear. If attacks were to stop, so would Israeli restrictions. But if Israel removed all roadblocks and closures, the attacks would continue. This makes obvious the principal, fundamental cause of the problem and what needs to change in order to fix it. In other words: if Palestinian terrorism stops, Israeli restrictive measures will end and the Palestinian economy has a chance to develop.

But if Israeli restrictive measures end, Palestinian terrorism would continue and thus the Palestinian economy would not develop because Israel would put back on the restrictions eventually and also, of course, no one will invest in the middle of a war. Is that clear and logical? Obviously, not for Western leaders and much of the news media.

Second, even if all Israeli action were to disappear, the Palestinian economy would still be in trouble. There are a number of reasons for this which are all well-known and were vividly seen in the 1990s, at a time when there was massive aid and a low level of Israeli security operations. These factors include: huge corruption which siphons off money; the lack of a clear legal framework for investment and commerce; the incompetence of the Palestinian regime; internal anarchy and violence by gangs with political cover; and an ongoing war against Israel.

Naturally, if you pump $7.8 billion over three years into a society of under 1.5 million people on the West Bank--around $1,600 a year for every individual person there--it is going to have a positive economic effect. Since current Palestinian per capita income is $1,200 a year it would more than double it. In 1992, the figure was around $2,000. This represents, for all practical purposes, an increase of 400 percent over the aid being supplied two years ago. But most of the money is merely budget support for the Palestinian Authority, meaning it will pay salaries for the bloated government bureaucracy. At the end of that time the funds will be gone with no effect.

Yet the December 20, 2007, story by Reuters and two similar articles by the Associated Press (for my detailed analysis of the latter see here) simply omit all this information and put all the blame for problems on Israel.

In this case, though, slanting is not enough, however, and the Reuters report must stoop to outright dishonesty. It states:

"The $7.4 billion pledged exceeds the sum [Palestinian Prime Minister Salam]] Fayyad had asked for in his three-year economic plan, but is less than the $8.4 billion that the World Bank reckons Israeli curbs on movement have cost Palestinians in lost income over the past five years."

This is a lie and clearly a deliberate one. In fact, the World Bank annual reports are entitled "Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis." They make the very simple point that the intifada--an armed Palestinian war on Israel--leads to closures and thus the combination brings on a crisis. The reports are quite careful in pointing out all the factors that led to the Palestinian economic decline. They do not say the losses were strictly due to Israeli curbs on movement. On the contrary, the 2003 report for example, written at the height of the violence, says the closures and movement restrictions are pretty insignificant. (see it here). This specific example of dishonesty matters because the approach we see here--predetermining the story, ignoring most of the factors involved, blaming Israel--sets a pattern for a whole raft-full of stories:

* Why is there no peace? Israel doesn't give enough concessions. Often there is no mention of Palestinian hardline positions, behavior in not keeping commitment, terrorism as a key element in the failure to achieve peace. Most important of all, there is endless talk about what Israel can or should give for peace but far less about what the Palestinians must give: end of conflict, full recognition of Israel, return of refugees to a Palestinian state, a real end to incitement and terrorism.

* Why is there suffering in Gaza? Israel's restrictions. Far less mention of Hamas hard line, openly genocidal stance, constant aid to terrorist attacks and rocket firing, refusal to meet even minimal international requirements.

* Why are Palestinians, to quote the Reuters story, "Deprived of dignity"? No mention of a corrupt government and gangs of gunmen who couldn't care less about their well-being, and a strategy that starts unwinnable wars. It's all Israel's fault.

It is bad enough that this kind of coverage is shaping the way that many in the West see the Middle East. What is really horrible is that these articles are being deliberately written to do so.


What stupid paternity laws do

INFERTILE couples desperate to have children are facing agonising waits for donated sperm. The Royal Hospital for Women has had no new sperm donors for more than 12 months. Reproductive specialists say attracting enough men to satisfy demand has always been difficult, and waiting lists are longer because of the growing number of childhood cancer survivors rendered infertile by treatment. The dwindling stocks are also sought by single women and same-sex couples.

The director of the hospital's department of reproductive medicine, Stephen Steigrad, said at least 20 men who had undergone aggressive cancer treatments requested donor insemination for their partners every year. Without new donors, the service would have to be stopped within six months. The Centre for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Sydney Children's Hospital at Randwick says one in 900 Australians aged between 16 and 45 has survived childhood cancer.

Changes to NSW legislation this month requiring donors to register their names on a mandatory central register had turned potential donors off, said Professor Michael Chapman, from IVF Australia, which has a waiting list of two years. The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill guarantees children access to their father's name, date of birth, education and medical information once they turn 18. It may also require details of the donor's partner and other children to be listed. "Previously men could donate knowing there was no way they were going to get a knock on their door," Professor Chapman said. "Now men are less likely to donate."

Dr Anne Clark, from Fertility First Hurstville, said the sperm shortage would be compounded by the new laws, which legislate that one man's sperm can go to only five families, down from 10.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


30 December, 2007

Stupid British rules say homes must be safe for robbers

A woman who suffered a break-in robbery in which she lost some valuable antiques worth "thousands" has been told she could face a significant liability if she beefs up her home's security, and a returning robber would be injured. "If I have got to live behind locked doors for the rest of my life, I hope the rest of my life isn't very long," the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Rugby, England, Advertiser. "But why would I want my house safe for these people? It's crazy," she said.

The woman had antiques and personal items worth "thousands" stolen from her home during her absence to attend to the needs of her brother, suffering with cancer. The invaders smashed through a security gate and broke windows in order to get inside, police reports said.

During their investigation, Rugby police provided her with a crime-fighting booklet that discusses home security. But she told the Advertiser when she asked about putting in a new security fence and upgrading its capabilities, she was told the laws on liability meant she risked a police investigation herself if any trespassers hurt themselves climbing it. She had wanted to add barbed wire to the fence in order to reduce the ease with which the robbers apparently gained access to her home.

But the Warwickshire Police "Operation Impact" booklet, which gives victims information on crime-fighting, suggested she could risk a prosecution herself if someone would be hurt. "I respect that if the postman or the gas man calls, they don't expect to hurt himself. But I was speechless - you couldn't make it up. I think these laws show we have gone soft in the head," she told the newspaper.


A feminist who believes that some values are better than others!

She will become a conservative yet!

'We are just protecting women's rights to take their clothes off," was the Irish budget airline Ryanair's response when it came under fire this month for a charity calendar that showcased its female employees, bikini babe-style.

The right to pose for photographs in skimpy clothes probably wasn't what Mary Wollstonecraft had in mind when she wrote A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman back in 1792, but for all its seemingly unintended humour, the statement is difficult to argue with.

Ryanair might have been looking to achieve more through the calendar than simply supporting the desire of some of its staff to disrobe, but few would argue that they shouldn't be allowed to produce it. As the airline's spokeswoman pointed out, none of the women who posed for the calendar were forced. It was their choice to do so.

Choice. There are few words in the English language that validate a course of action quite so seamlessly. To attack someone's choices is to attack their very person, to suggest that you know better than they do. For women especially, the word represents freedom and independence - and for good reason. Historically speaking, the feminist movement's most significant wins have been about giving women choices about their lives: from deciding who runs the country they live in, to financial independence, to being able to decide when and even if to have children.

Choice equals power, and that means that with the right linguistic packaging, almost anything - no matter how controversial - can be presented as empowering. Take cosmetic surgery, transformed from a curtsy to unattainable beauty standards into a procedure that empowers those who undertake it to look their best. Or Sex And The City's Charlotte, who defended her decision to quit her job to try to have a baby by arguing: "The women's movement is supposed to be about choice. And if I choose to quit my job, that is my choice." As Charlotte and many others like her would have it, any choice a woman makes is a positive, politically empowering one - so long as it is hers.

If feminism has allowed its sisters to choose to become lawyers, never marry and keep their grooming au naturel, why should they not equally be permitted to wear high heels, bake muffins or pose for swimsuit calendars - or as many women do, pick a little from column A and a little from column B? If that is what they choose to do, how are their choices any less valid, even any less feminist, than any other woman's?

This kind of relativism isn't entirely negative. It keeps the question of what defines feminism open to be redefined by the people it's supposed to represent, and it doesn't assume that the same set of solutions will work for every woman simply because of her sex. But it also ignores the important reality that not all choices are positive or empowering - either for the person making them, or for society as a whole. Nor are all choices that women make "feminist" simply by virtue of the fact that they were made by women.

No one makes decisions in a vacuum, and our choices are shaped as much by the behaviour we see rewarded - by our friends, family, colleagues, the media - as they are by our own desires. Even before that, they are limited by government policy, our financial means, our individual strengths and weaknesses. So it's not surprising that, in a society in which women are valued largely for their appearances, many women would choose to trade at least partly on the way they look. Or that when women are paid less than and occupy leadership positions in far smaller numbers than men, women are the sex more likely to cut back on work to give priority to family life.

Equally, it is important to acknowledge that our choices have impacts beyond ourselves. Choice may be sacred, but it's not a values-free zone. One arena in which we have begun to recognise this is consumption: we know that flying contributes to global warming, that our water resources are limited, that buying clothing produced by sweatshop labour is unethical.

Similarly, the choices we make elsewhere in our lives - how to present ourselves, how to conduct our relationships, how to balance work and life - have social and political implications. Our choices determine which behaviours are normalised and rewarded as much as they reflect the status quo. The decisions individual women make have implications for the status of women as a group. And some decisions will have more broadly positive effects than others.

This doesn't mean that women should be denied the right to determine how they run their own lives, or that only certain ways of living qualify as "feminist" or "empowering" - what does qualify will and should remain permanently up for discussion. But it does mean that our right to choose comes with certain responsibilities, and one of these is that we are prepared to defend our decisions in a manner that goes beyond "well, it's my life, and it's my choice". Yes, we should be free to make the decisions we believe will make us happiest, but in doing so we need to keep our eyes open to the values that underlie them, and recognise that our choices have impacts beyond us as individuals.


Affirmative action may be on ballots

A campaign is underway to ban affirmative action in five states already embroiled in debates over illegal immigration. Efforts are proceeding in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma to put initiatives on November ballots that would end programs to increase minority and female participation in government and education. The push is led by Ward Connerly, a California management consultant who successfully ran similar campaigns in California, Washington and Michigan. It is part of Connerly's effort to ban race- and gender-based policies nationwide.

The initiatives will add to the racially charged atmosphere in state elections, says Michael Kanner, a political science professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. All five states have had big increases in their Hispanic population since 2000, leading to racial tensions and debates over illegal immigration.

Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma have passed the nation's toughest laws against illegal immigration. Among their provisions, they penalize employers of undocumented workers. In Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt is pushing for tougher immigration laws and enforcement. In Nebraska, towns with large food processing companies that employ Hispanic immigrants have been targeted by federal immigration raids.

"It's about race in both issues," Kanner says. "Affirmative action, by its nature, is associated with minorities. In Colorado, for example, the dominant minorities are Hispanic, so it is inevitable that the two will be tied together."

Connerly, founder of the American Civil Rights Institute, a group working to end affirmative action, says, "We will deliberately try to stay away from the issue of illegal immigration. It's a tangential issue that we cannot control." He says, "It's a simple principle we are promoting: equal treatment for all Americans." Connerly says he believes in affirmative action if it is based on socioeconomic conditions, not gender or race.

His campaign is in its first stage in Colorado, Arizona and Nebraska, gathering signatures to qualify to be on the ballot. It has turned in signatures in Oklahoma, but is stalled in Missouri in a court dispute over language. Connerly's language says the state shall not discriminate or grant preferences based on race, sex or ethnicity. The language substituted by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan goes further and says the initiative would end programs that provide equal opportunities for women and minorities.

Brenda Jones, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, says Connerly's language misleads voters. "They are co-opting the language of Martin Luther King," she says.


"Anti-discrimination" nonsense

A campaigner shows up the absurdity of the law

A crusader for justice has come to Colorado. He has traveled around the country fighting discrimination, tirelessly combating prejudice and unfair treatment. Already, his efforts have paid off in Minnesota and the EU is listening to his calls for justice. This man is Steve Horner, and he's here to end Ladies Night.

Mr. Horner moved to Colorado a year ago and quickly took issue with Proof Nightclub's "Ladies Night" promotion. Ladies Night is a common bar special where women's cover charges are waived or their drinks are discounted. The goal of the promotion is to attract more women and, by doing so, attract more men as well. Mr. Horner argued that only waiving cover charges for women was gender discrimination, and that he shouldn't be charged more for simply being a man.

Mr. Horner took his complaint all the way to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and on June 25 commission members decided that Ladies Night is indeed an illegal practice in Colorado. To justify its decision, the Commission cited a State Statute that prohibits a place of public accommodation from "denying an individual equal enjoyment of goods" based on their sex.

To enforce this decision, the Commission has been granted somewhat less than far-reaching powers. They can request that any employees who were wrongly fired as a result of Ladies Night be rehired, and they've been given the power to post notices that Ladies Night is illegal.

Moreover, they've even been allowed to request that the nightclub also post notices. Soon, we may live in a world where men who want to enjoy a drink in a place where they have the chance of meeting women are forced to read a sign first. It is a grim vision, indeed.

This is, evidently, the world Steve Horner wants. It's the world he's been working to build for fifteen years. Horner successfully pressed the state of Minnesota in 1992 to end Ladies Night. He also was convicted of harassing a state official who didn't pursue his claim against Hooters for declining him employment as a waitress.

As absurd as his mission might appear to many of us, he seems to have a legal precedent for his actions. Though he often has to badger officials and pay his court filing fee out of pocket, the State usually sides in Horner's favor. People from both ends of the political spectrum feel that this cannot possibly be right. Clearly, something needs to be done. One possible solution is to change the way our nightclubs operate. Utah, for instance, requires all bars to allow entry only to members, or guests of members. Though nightclubs are privately-owned businesses, they are considered public establishments. By changing nightclubs from public establishments to private ones, businesses can dodge the bullet. The problem here is that it puts a serious damper on bar owners, who are small business owners like anyone else. Utah's laws were written specifically to discourage drinking, Colorado does not necessarily share this goal.

Another answer is to change our laws. We could rewrite our discrimination policies to include a de minimis defense, whereby trivial infractions like Ladies Night are still illegal, but not punishable. Most people would agree that an infrequent five-dollar price differential against men is not a wholesale example of discrimination. The problem with this solution is that it still requires bars to defend themselves in court, even if they will never pay a fine. Rational individuals wouldn't take a bar to court in a case they know they would lose, but still there are irrational men like Steve Horner who routinely pay a $47 filing fee to contest a $5 cover charge. The underlying problem with both of these solutions is that they don't address the real issue at hand: our freedom.

Freedom is a big issue to trot out over a debate on Ladies Night, but it is exactly what could be at stake here. A bar, which is a private business, should be free to charge any price they want for drinks and entry. We, as consumers, are free to avoid that bar if we think they're charging too much for the goods and services they provide. This is the method by which successful businesses succeed and by which bad businesses fail. Introducing government restrictions in the form of a control over promotions and bar specials, like Ladies Night, can only harm this process. That means closing good bars, or keeping otherwise unpopular bars in business.

This control could eventually extend farther than just Ladies Night, too. Many businesses have specials that single out a specific group. Senior Citizen discounts, Military discounts, Student discounts, Kids Eat Free nights, and myriad other promotions that many of us enjoy could hang in the balance of this decision. All of these promotions benefit some small group, and in doing so benefit the business as a whole. Many of these are businesses we all enjoy using, and their success means better prices and services for all of us. Hindering the way they do business over trivial matters like Ladies Night might help guys like Steve Horner save a few bucks, but it could cost the rest of us far more than that.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


29 December, 2007

Justice System Gone Awry - Busting Children

Have we gone nuts? A ten year old child brings a steak knife to school in Ocala. She's caught cutting her meat at lunch, and then arrested as though she was a serial killer on the loose. Perhaps a sharp knife was inappropriate on school grounds, which is a good reason to confiscate, teach her a lesson, admonish her parents and send her on her way. But why whack the fifth grader with a formal arrest as though she had committed a crime? That'll give a growing kid a warm and secure feeling about the law.

A first grader in Avon Park, Florida, lost control and acted out in class, kicking and scratching. That's bad. She obviously has a problem. Teachers called the cops, who came and handcuffed her for restraint. Okay, I can even live with that. Then child - a six-year-old - was brought to police headquarters and charged with a felony and two misdemeanors. Huh? When did common sense lose it's foothold in America? Years ago, we'd read stories like this in communist China.

Moses Lake, Washington, 2006. Seven juveniles were taken into custody and arrested for vandalism and theft. Two of these were five and six years of age. The others were closer to twelve. Whatever happened to laws about contributing to the delinquency of minors? Locking up five year-old children as criminals? There must be another way to handle these kinds of situations.

December, 2006, a twelve year-old boy in South Carolina was arrested by police for petty larceny for - get this - opening his Christmas present without authorization. When his mother learned that he had opened the $85 Nintendo game without her permission, she called the cops to teach him a lesson, and the cops made the bust. Honest. Read for yourself. Click here: Boy Arrested

September, 2006, Pleasant Grove, Utah. A teenage prankster streaked naked across a stage during a school play. There are children in the audience. He's pretty stupid. He needs punishment. He got it. The kid is facing criminal charges for which he will likely be required to register as a sex offender for life. His name, address and photograph will be available on the Internet as warnings to citizens that this boy is a predator and to protect your kids. He'll be unable to find jobs. He'll be the instant suspect in unsolved sex crimes. A lifetime of retribution, for a silly stunt that has nothing to do with sexually offending anyone.

Honor student and football player, Genarlow Wilson was seventeen years old when he received consensual oral sex from a fifteen year-old girl in Georgia in 2005. Uh.that's an every day event by the thousands in all fifty states. But, the laws in Georgia mandated a ten-year sentence for the (ahem) sex offense with a minor child. Genarlow was ultimately released by a compassionate judge after serving two years in prison. Still, he must register as a dangerous sex offender for life.

I think we're using a sledge hammer to kill the bug. Serious crimes certainly need to be addressed by the criminal justice system, but we've gone over the top with the tough-on-crime mantra.

I'm sure glad I retired when I did. I served in an era when judgement and common sense prevailed, when a cop had the option to send a DUI driver home in a taxi cab, or kick kids in the ass for raising hell at a party, send lover's lane sexpots off to motel rooms and scare the hell out of truants and other youngsters who dabbled in pot. I had the latitude to make humane decisions about minor indiscretions, always aware of how an arrest would affect the rest of a kid's life. I feel comfortable that I, and many of my colleagues, saved some young people from entering the oppressive walls of the justice system as criminals when it wasn't in the best interest of justice.

Sure, I know all about the law, and my job was merely to enforce. I did that. I made over two thousand arrests in my career. But I also made a few unarrests for which I am proud, for I know in those few instances, I precluded a lifetime of obstacles and stigma for the undeserving because I decided to give the "offenders" a pass.

When it comes to showing small kids the strong arm of the law, there's another way, besides jails and handcuffs. It's called, education treatment, compassion and guidance. When a system can label people for life as sex offenders, when they are not, then something needs to be fixed. In today's world, the hands of police officers are tied, they dare not make decisions. It's all spelled out. Break the law, pay the price. Even if the price is a million dollars for a stick of bubble gum. They better not come for my grandson while he's still in diapers, even if he does throw a tantrum.


Another attack on individual responsibility

Back in 1971 the late Harvard behaviorist psychologist B. F. Skinner published his popular best seller, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York, Knopf). The book followed several more technical works by Skinner arguing that the belief that human beings have free will and are morally responsible is all wrong, a pre-scientific prejudice that needs to be discarded and replaced with a technology of behavior.

This work prompted me to write my first book, The Pseudo-Science of B. F. Skinner (Arlington House, 1973), in which I disputed Skinner's claim to have come up with scientific reasons for rejecting free will and moral responsibility. I argued that he was actually subscribing to a certain school of philosophy that advanced the views he championed. His conclusions about free will and morality were not based on scientific findings at all.

It is now over 30 years since Skinner's work appeared and behaviorism is no longer all the rage in the discipline of psychology. But the basic goal of discrediting free will and moral--including legal or criminal--responsibility is still very much on the agenda of some folks. Only the school of psychology that is supposed to be undermining the belief in human freedom and morality is no longer behaviorism. Now it is some people's version of neuroscience.

The basic contention put forth by some of the champions of this new scientific approach to understanding human behavior is that our actions aren't really ours at all. And, very interestingly, the idea has enormous financial support from no less than the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It has contributed $10 million to do research on the issues involved, with the work carried out at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Now I say that this money will go to do research but it looks very much like some of those involved do not think much research is needed because they write as if they had already reached their conclusions. As an article on the website of the project tells it,

"The U.S. legal system incorporates assumptions about behavior that, in some cases, are centuries old and based on common sense and culture. For example, it tends to assume that people make deliberate choices and that those choices determine what they do. However, recent breakthroughs in neuroscience research indicate that such choices may sometimes be based upon electrical impulses and neuron activity that are not a part of conscious behavior. These actions can include not only criminal activity, but also decisions made by police, prosecutors, and jurors to arrest, prosecute, convict, or mandate treatment."

In other words, as some of these scientists would have it, we are back to Skinner, although in slightly modified terms. As the new technologists of human behavior see the matter, it is not operant conditioning that drives human behavior but impersonal electrical firings in our brains. Human beings do not make conscious decisions, they do not deliberate but are being driven by "electrical impulses." (I wouldn't put much stock in the qualification "sometimes" since anyone familiar with the work of some of the enthusiasts behind these ideas can tell that theirs is actually a sweeping pronouncement about all human behavior!)

A column isn't the place to attempt to rebut these ideas, merely to call attention to the eagerness with which some are promulgating them and to the enormous investment in the attempt to make them influential. But one thing can be said so as to put a bit of a break on all this enthusiasm about denying the efficacy of human conscious thought in directing human conduct. The British psychologist D. Bannister put the matter very poignantly over 30 years ago: "... the psychologist cannot present a picture of man which patently contradicts his behavior in presenting that picture."

The point is that the champions of the relevant kind of neuroscience and its alleged findings are themselves making decisions, deliberating, and consciously deciding about what to do, day in and day out, including when they decide to make various claims about the implications of their work for the legal system they wish to discredit and take steps to convince the rest of us of how outmoded our thinking and institutions are. They cannot have it both ways--deny that people make decisions but then proceed to make all sorts of significant decisions themselves!

The plain fact is that there is something basic, undeniable about the role of our minds in our conduct, even in conduct that aims to discredit the human mind itself.


Entitlement Mentality

If you forgot to get a Christmas present for Charlie Rangel, don't worry. The congressman picked one out for himself, and he's sending you the bill: $2 million for a shiny new Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College. The New York Democrat's Monument to Me was one of about 9,000 earmarks in the omnibus spending bill Congress approved before going on vacation. Most represented a more subtle form of self-aggrandizement, aimed at maintaining power and prestige by currying favor with voters.

According to Citizens Against Government Waste, the total cost of the 11,000 or so earmarks in the omnibus bill and an earlier defense bill is about $14 billion, which is not much in the context of a $2.8 trillion federal budget. But the same tendency that explains the persistence of earmarks -- the habit of staying popular by pretending your constituents can get something for nothing -- also explains the failure to address the federal government's increasingly dire fiscal predicament.

The root of that predicament is not earmarks, which represent less than 1 percent of federal spending. Nor is it the war in Iraq, which at $100 billion or so a year accounts for less than 4 percent. So-called entitlement programs are the reason "America faces escalating deficit levels and debt burdens that could swamp our ship of state," as Comptroller General David Walker put it in a recent speech. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid account for 40 percent of federal spending and are expected to consume 51 percent in a decade.

Right now, Social Security makes the federal fiscal picture look better than it really is since the program generates a surplus that masks the true size of the deficit. In fiscal year 2007, for example, the official budget deficit was $163 billion; excluding the Social Security surplus, it was more than twice as high.

Since the government spends the surplus on other programs, the Social Security "trust fund" consists entirely of federal bonds, and those IOUs will come due soon. The oldest baby boomers become eligible for early retirement in 2008. They will start drawing Medicare benefits in three years.

The result, said Walker, will be a "tsunami of spending" that "will never recede." Under current law, the estimated gap between the benefits retirees have been promised and revenue to fund them is $53 trillion, of which $34 trillion is due to Medicare.

Nearly one-quarter of that long-term Medicare deficit, $8 trillion, is attributable to the prescription-drug benefit championed by President Bush and approved by a Republican-controlled Congress. "Incredibly," Walker noted, "this number was not disclosed or discussed until after the Congress had voted on the bill and the president had signed it into law." He said the bill's passage "arguably represents government 'truth' and 'transparency' at its worst."

Although it was presented as a solution to the dilemma of senior citizens forced to choose between eating and taking their medicine, the drug benefit is not means-tested. Like Social Security and Medicare generally, it transfers wealth from young workers to retirees who are often financially better off, buying the votes of older Americans with their grandchildren's money.

Not that the Democrats, who criticized the drug benefit as insufficiently generous, are any better. If you believe a Democratic president would be more fiscally responsible than Bush, have a look at the campaign ad that presents "Universal Health Care," "Alternative Energy," "Middle Class Tax Breaks" and "Universal Pre-K" as Christmas gifts lovingly wrapped by a beneficent Hillary Clinton. Unlike Charlie Rangel, at least Clinton wants to buy gifts for us, but she's still using our money. "Our government has made a whole lot of promises that, in the long run, it cannot possibly keep without huge tax increases," Walker noted. Yet Clinton is making even more promises, and she proposes to do it all while cutting taxes. I think I prefer Rangel's grandiosity. It's a lot cheaper.


Some correct but very subversive ideas below

Economics examples crop up in the most interesting places. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I ran smack into an application of the Law of Comparative Advantage that was so pure and simple that I can't resist the opportunity to share.

After flying up to visit family for the weekend, I accompanied my sister to work on Thanksgiving morning, in order to hang out with her some and pitch in. "Pitch in" is precise, because I wound up with a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow. My sister works as stallion manager in a stable. (A really nice stable. This place is cleaner than my house, although such a statement could be considered damning with faint praise.) "I'll clean the stalls," my sister said. "You can bed them down."

Well, this was good news all around. I don't at all mind the smell of stables, but it's undeniably more difficult to clean stalls than to bed them down. Cleaning consists of removing the (heavy) soiled straw bedding while keeping the still-reasonably fresh bedding for another day's use. Bedding down just requires lugging a fresh bale of (relatively light) clean straw bedding into the cleared stall, spreading the nearly clean straw left from the previous day, and then breaking up and scattering the fresh bale.

Very simple - but as with any sort of labor, there are little tricks and ways of conserving motion and effort that are not easy to explain but that accumulate with experience. Many of these economies of effort aren't even known to the worker; they develop as a sort of optimized "body memory" in response to muscle aches and the need to get work done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I've done my share of stable work "back in the day," but nothing even approaching the years my sister has put in under all sorts of conditions with all sorts of equipment. My sister even generously complimented me on knowing enough to "whack" the opened bale of straw with the fork to loosen it before I began spreading it around the stall. I'm not a complete newbie to stable work, after all. However, I'm sure I was wasting considerable effort - and time! - because of my relative inexperience and forgotten "body memory" of the necessary motions.

I think it's probably reasonable to say that in the process of cleaning and bedding, the workload is split about 70% into cleaning and 30% into bedding (my sister may be inclined to offer a correction to that estimate, but it seems about right to my less-experienced eye and pitchfork arm). I knew that 70/30 was probably the best split we could work and still finish at or around the same time, given my relative inexperience, general out-of-shapeness, and, frankly, my holiday mood. But even so, after the first stall, I asked my sister if it might not be more efficient and fair if we both cleaned and bedded stalls - meaning, of course, that she do around two-thirds of both cleaning and bedding, and I do around one-third.

Taking much less time to think it out than I am taking to write it out, my sister replied, "Thanks, but it'll go faster if I stick to doing the cleaning and you to the bedding."

And that jogged loose a memory of Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage. I remembered having an early economics mentor point out that, although Ricardo was thinking of international trade, the principle of the law made just as much sense when applied to the division of two tasks between two individuals, one of whom is better at both tasks. And that was clearly the situation in this case! As long as my sister was even better at stall cleaning than at stall bedding, then the job would get done much more quickly if she stuck to the cleaning and I to the bedding. Since cleaning is more difficult to pick up than bedding, not only was she sure to be better than me at both tasks, but she was very likely to be even better at the more difficult task, since she had been doing both for so long. My effort - willing but awkward - was best put to use in the task that was easiest for my sister, so that she could concentrate on doing a superior job at the task that was hardest for both of us.

To flesh out the insight with some numbers for illustrative purposes, suppose my sister was three times as good at me at cleaning stalls and just twice as good as me at bedding them. I hope these numbers are unrealistic (I can't be that bad!) but they do make for easier math. If it takes her five minutes to clean a stall and three minutes to bed one down, it would take me fifteen to clean and six to bed. So to finish two stalls with each of us working at both cleaning and bedding one stall, we'd take her 5+3 minutes and add my 15+6 minutes, which would give us a total of 29 minutes of labor - although, since we were working together, the total time to finish both stalls would only be 21 minutes, the last 13 of which would be filled by my sister nagging me to hurry up and finish so we could go for coffee.

If we do the same two stalls with her cleaning both and me bedding both, it would take her 5+5 added to my 6+6, which would let us get the job done in a total of 22 minutes of labor, or 12 minutes of time, allowing her only two minutes to relax while watching me finish the last bit of straw pitching. Assuming that the goal for both of us was to get the stalls completed in the least amount of time (and you can believe me when I say it was), then we both benefited from my sticking to what I was least bad at: bedding down stalls. But the best and most fascinating part of this is that it is the weaker and less experienced partner in the joint venture who stood to gain the most from this specialization and division of labor.

Well, who am I to argue with efficiency? I settled into the sneeze-inducing job of breaking open and spreading bales of straw around with a pleasure at knowing that my contribution to the joint effort was maximized by the rational division of tasks. Of course I was so tickled at running across Ricardo in such a seemingly unlikely spot that I spent - one might say wasted - several minutes enthusing on the subject rather than actually getting any work accomplished. The idea that it's the relatively weak and the unskilled who benefit most from specialization and the division of labor is so foreign to an American-public-school education that, even as I write this, I have to think it all out again as if it were the first time I encountered the idea.

If you are unskilled, there is no doubt that cultivating one or more skills that are (or will be) in demand will better your position. But even without particular skills, each individual has something of value to trade with - and the fewer specialized skills he has, the greater proportional benefit he will see from a mature marketplace with a high degree of specialization and division of labor. The mere existence of specialists will make his willingness to do unspecialized labor valuable to them. This is exactly why the unskilled laborers of America are likely to have pickup trucks and widescreen TVs.

There's a sort of built-in progressivism to the division of labor that, although it benefits all and almost always will benefit specialists by an absolutely greater amount, provides a greater proportional benefit to those who are relatively unskilled or weak. Again, this notion is so profoundly the opposite of the accepted economic tales of "robber barons" and Dickensian factory owners that, even while writing it, I find it startling.

The idea of the division of labor isn't so much about the skilled and the wealthy exploiting the labor of the unskilled and the poor as it is about the benefits of cooperation to everyone. That those who bring better skills or more experience to the cooperation do absolutely better is no surprise, but the fact that those who bring relatively less in the way of skills and experience to the market gain a proportionately greater amount is big and exciting news to a world steeped in the weak tea of socialist labor theory.

Real civilization is built on a foundation not of exploitation but of cooperation. And those with the most to gain from civilization and the cooperation it is built upon are the weak and the unskilled. Chain together my clumsy pitchforking, my sister's skilled farm management, her boss's business acumen, and his clients' professional success, with their employees' skilled and unskilled labor alike and you start to see the only real "safety net" the working world will ever know: the vast and amazing web of transactions and interdependencies of the marketplace, where even the weakest and least skilled have something of value to contribute.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


28 December, 2007

Anger over plan to broadcast Muslim call to prayer on loudspeaker in Oxford

Muslim plans to broadcast a loudspeaker call to prayer from a city centre mosque have been attacked by local residents who say it would turn the area into a "Muslim ghetto". Dozens of people packed out a council meeting to express their concerns over the plans for a two-minute long call to prayer to be issued three times a day, saying that it could drown out the traditional sound of church bells. But a spokesman for the Central Mosque said that Muslim's also have the right to summon worshippers.

Dr Mark Huckster, who lives in Stanton Road and works at East Oxford hospice Helen House, told the Oxford Mail: "The proposal to issue a prayer call is very un-neighbourly, especially in a crowded urban space such as Oxford. "I have lived in the Middle East and a prayer call has a very different feel to church bells and I personally found the noise extremely unpleasant, rather disturbing and very alien to the western mindset." He added: "If an evangelical Christian preacher proposed issuing sermons three times a day at full volume there would be an outcry. "There could be a sense of ghettoisation of East Oxford. Cowley Road would have a Muslim flavour and could become a Muslim ghetto which is contrary to what we want in a multicultural society."


Deaf demand right to designer deaf children

This is the logical outcome of "All cultures are equal"

DEAF parents should be allowed to screen their embryos so they can pick a deaf child over one that has all its senses intact, according to the chief executive of the Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (RNID). Jackie Ballard, a former Liberal Democrat MP, says that although the vast majority of deaf parents would want a child who has normal hearing, a small minority of couples would prefer to create a child who is effectively disabled, to fit in better with the family lifestyle. Ballard's stance is likely to be welcomed by other deaf organisations, including the British Deaf Association (BDA), which is campaigning to amend government legislation to allow the creation of babies with disabilities.

A clause in the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, which is passing through the House of Lords, would make it illegal for parents undergoing embryo screening to choose an embryo with an abnormality if healthy embryos exist. In America a deaf couple deliberately created a baby with hearing difficulties by choosing a sperm donor with generations of deafness in his family. This would be impossible under the bill in its present form in the UK. Disability charities say this makes the proposed legislation discriminatory, because it gives parents the right to create "designer babies" free from genetic conditions while banning couples from deliberately creating a baby with a disability.

The prospect of selecting "deaf embryos" is likely to be seized on by campaigners against genetic screening who will argue that this is an inevitable outcome of allowing "designer babies". Doctors are opposed to creating deaf babies. Professor Gedis Grudzinskas, medical director of the Bridge Centre, a clinic in London that screens embyros, said: "This would be an abuse of medical technology. Deafness is not the normal state, it is a disability. To deliberately create a deaf embryo would be contrary to the ethos of our society."

Ballard, who previously ran into controversy as director-general of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) where she pushed through extensive job cuts, said in an interview with The Sunday Times: "Most parents would choose to have a hearing embryo, but for those few parents who do not, we think they should be allowed to exercise that choice and we would support them in that decision. "There are a number of deaf forums where there are discussions about this. There are a small minority of activists who say that there is a cultural identity in being born deaf and that we should not destroy that cultural identity by preventing children from being born deaf." Ballard added: "We would like to retain, as far as possible, parental choice, but it has to be in conjunction with a clinician so that people know exactly what they are choosing."

Next month a coalition of disability organisations will launch a campaign to amend the bill to make it possible for parents to choose the embryos that carry a genetic abnormality. Francis Murphy, chairman of the BDA, said: "If choice of embryos for implantation is to be given to citizens in general, and if hearing and other people are allowed to choose embryos that will be `like them', sharing the same characteristics, language and culture, then we believe that deaf people should have the same right." Murphy added that the BDA believes it is very unlikely that it would become common for deaf parents to deliberately create deaf children.

To create a "designer baby" using preimplantation genetic diagnosis, couples need to go through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) even if they could conceive naturally. The embryos created are then genetically screened and normally only the healthy ones are implanted in the mother's womb. This weekend the RNID played down Ballard's comments by pointing out that the charity does not advocate deliberately creating deaf babies. A spokesman said: "While the RNID believes in the individual's right to choose, we would not actively encourage the selection of deaf embryos over hearing ones for implantation when both are available."


More on the Canadian attack on Mark Steyn

Conservative Canadian pundit Mark Steyn has made a name for himself in recent years as a Cassandra about the supposed threat posed by Islam to the liberal democracies of the West. Making the case most clearly in his witty, if doom-mongering, book America Alone, Steyn argues that Europeans are slipping into irrelevance courtesy of their doddering welfare states and their anemic birthrates -- that Belgium, France and Holland are poised to join the Muslim world courtesy of fast-breeding immigrants who retain a closer kinship to the cultures of the countries they left than to the values of their new homes. In response, Steyn has drawn charges of sloppy argument and even overt racism.

But, until now, the broadsides fired at the controversial writer have been rhetorical in nature -- they haven't actually carried legal consequences. That's changed now that Canadian authorities are investigating Steyn for supposed "hate speech" -- a forbidden form of expression in the frozen North -- over an excerpt from his book published in Macleans magazine.

Yep, that's right -- a writer may be penalized by the government for penning officially disfavored ideas. In Canada.

Many Americans have the idea that Canada is a lot like the U.S., but a tad more nanny-statish. In a lot of ways that's true, but it understates some important differences. In particular, Canadians are much more vulnerable than Americans to the whims of government officials when it comes to protections for individual rights. As eroded as the U.S. Bill of Rights may be, it starts from the premise that individual rights precede government, and that government may not legitimately violate or change those rights. Practical application is another matter, but the original premise still has some force.

By contrast, Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms is written as a model of slippery legalese, and seems rooted in the idea that the rights and freedoms it protects are gifts from the government. Notoriously, it includes a clause that allows federal or provincial legislators to ignore the charter by simply stating their intent to do so.

33. (1) Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter.

In usual practice, this difference may mean little. Canadians sometimes exercise a little more liberty than Americans on issues like marijuana use, for instance. But the idea that liberty is something that's parceled out by politicians tends to result in predictable results when those politicians come under pressure by people upset by somebody else's exercise of their rights. Specifically, that means that voicing politically incorrect opinions can trigger complaints that send bureaucrats chasing after politically incorrect opinions with hefty legal flyswatters.

Not too long ago, the Canadian Human Rights Commission actually issued a cease-and-desist order against a Canadian woman for posting homophobic Bible verses on American Websites. So Mark Steyn faces real potential consequences over the opinions he voiced in a book that hit the New York Times bestseller list.

Steyn may be right about the demise of liberal democracies in the West. But the killing may be suicide rather than murder.


A freedom to shout about

YOU get a better class of political protester at Oxford University. Last week, when students broke into an Oxford Union debate to protest at the presence of the British National Party leader and a notorious Holocaust denier, one of the intruders commandeered a piano and shouted a question to the packed hall: "Wagner, perhaps?"

Free speech. A noble idea. But the debate about it in Britain today isn't really about free speech at all. It has become a Trojan Horse for a different debate entirely - one about religion and race. By deciding what's permissible to say in public, we are defining how tolerant a society we are prepared to be. In practical terms, this means how tolerant we are of religious and racial intolerance.

For the majority of us, liberal by instinct and live-and-let-live by inclination, this throws up some uncomfortable conflicts. On one hand we have to decide what leeway to allow extremists to spout race hate. On the other we have to judge when to curb the hateful preachings of religious fundamentalists, both Christian and Muslim.

Last week in Oxford, Nick Griffin of the BNP and the disgraced historian David Irving were faced with protesters who seemed to be split into three camps, each with its own distinctive take on the right of free speech.

The first, echoed by a number of eminent commentators in the past week, goes something like this: Yes, these men have the right to free speech; but they are not entitled to make their loathsome case on such hallowed ground as the Oxford Union, which has played host to great historical figures including Mahatma Gandhi, Bobby Kennedy and Mother Teresa.

What tosh. If the Oxford University is indeed the apex of intellect it professes to be, then where better to forensically dismantle some bampot fascist ideas and show them up as historically illiterate, morally indefensible and politically naive?

The second group's viewpoint is slightly different: yes, we have a right to free speech in this country, but that only applies if your views are nice and cuddly and liberal, like ours. Otherwise, we will shut you up. If you want to preach racial intolerance then we will deny you a platform, we will deny you a debate and we will try to drown you out by shouting very loudly.

More tosh. By refusing to engage in debate with the extreme right - or any group that plays to base fears - all we do is nurture and sustain them. It's not good enough to say we're not going to dignify their views by responding to them. We must meet them head-on, always giving trust to reason and the power of argument. Anything else is a counsel of despair.

Of course, the right to free speech is never an absolute. There are laws in place to ensure that if BNP statements stray into incitement to racial hatred they become a criminal offence. But within the bounds of what is legal, free speech should mean exactly that. Even if it means the freedom to be racist, misogynistic, homophobic or any other intolerant social trait.

There was a third group at Oxford too, and their reasoning could be summed up like this: whether or not you have the right to free speech is irrelevant - you're a fascist bastard and I'm going to try my best to give you a good kicking. I admit in my student days in the early 1980s - the era of Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League - I may have had some sympathy with this view. These days I hope I'm more reasonable.

A useful rule of thumb is this: your fundamental right to free speech will only be curbed when it infringes on the fundamental rights of others. And there's an important distinction to be made here. There is no fundamental right to have your religious beliefs protected from criticism. Just because you claim your views are sanctioned by God does not provide you with any additional protection, or justification for that matter. This is what psychologists call a 'category error'.

At the moment, the novelist Martin Amis is being accused of being a racist because of his sustained criticism of extremist Islamism. His critics' reasoning appears to be that because most followers of Islam are non-white, Amis's views are therefore racist. At the risk of repeating myself: utter tosh.

Amis is exercising his right to free speech in the precise area where it is most needed - in seeking clarity in a debate about religion and race that is too often a fug of lazy assumptions and unexamined prejudices. His criticism is not of a race or a religion but of an ideology. He refuses to take the craven and cowardly position that we must accept other cultures and other traditions entirely on their own terms, without any reference to our own morality and values.

There's a phrase we're all familiar with, for which we can thank Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Here and now, in Britain in 2007, this notion feels a bit antique. Today we are far more likely to say: "I disapprove of what you say, so I will accuse you of racism/religious intolerance/political incorrectness until you shut up."

It's time we rediscovered the spirit of Voltaire's original sentiment and applied it anew to the troubled age in which we live. Free speech, after all, has a price.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


27 December, 2007

Jeremy Clarkson on Christmas correctness

If you are a frizzy-headed, saggily breasted, left-threaded lunatic, Christmas is not a time for giving or receiving. It's not quality time for the family. Nor is it a time to worship the baby Jesus, because of course that's not multicultural or Winterval enough.

Christmas for these people is mostly a time of industrial-strength guilt. All year they feel guilty for being paid and comfortable but at Christmas they can really turn up the heat in the sauna of shame. They are guilty about the carbon vapour trail left by their cranberry sauce as it came over from America. They are guilty about the sheer volume of presents they bought for Tarquin. They are guilty about having central heating and a well-toned tummy, and teeth.

And so, to assuage the guilt, many have been buying charity Christmas presents for random families in Africa. All you do is make a donation to Oxfam and it will send a gift down the chimney of some mud hut in Mozambique. You may think this is all jolly noble, and I'd have to agree if the presents were iPods or Manchester United football shirts or something the average African villager might actually want.

But unfortunately we are talking about a bunch of fair-trade lunatics so what they've actually been buying is goats. Hundreds of them. Oxfam says this is a brilliant idea, and ActionAid even posts a quote from Elias Nadeba Silva, a farmer, who was given one last year. "I have great plans for my field," he said, "and my family is very grateful for ActionAid's help . . .

"But next year, no more goats, Okay? I'd prefer a copy of Mothership by Led Zeppelin."

Other popular choices from well-meaning idealists in the media-fuelled parts of eastern London include cans of worms, piles of dung, catering packs of condoms and the materials for making toilets. Who wants that for Christmas? "Daddy, Daddy. Santa's been!! He's been!!!! And he's brought me . . . an Armitage Shanks Accolade back-to-wall bog, which combines classical elegance with a contemporary style."

I can only begin to imagine the look of desperation on the little lad's face. That crushing, all-enveloping sense of overwhelming disappointment. Someone in faraway England has gone to all the bother of buying him a Christmas present. It's probably the only one he'll get. And it's a bloody bog.

Think about it. We're told that we should never buy our wives or girlfriends anything with a plug, because this is bound to be something they need, rather than want. And exactly the same thing holds true the world over. No child anywhere wants a lavatory for Christmas. You need a lavatory. You want teddies and footballs and BMX bicycles. And AK47s. It is hard, honestly, to think of a more useless, patronising and stupid present than a toilet. Not even a gift-wrapped copy of the worst book ever written - Versailles: The View from Sweden - comes close.


Rabbi Blecher says Christmas is fine

It's hard to imagine a cozier holiday scene than the whole family gathered together to trim the tree. But for 2.5 million Americans in Jewish-Christian households, this is a scenario fraught with tension. As the rabbi of a congregation that is more than half interfaith couples, I have learned that the holiday season is an especially difficult time. More often than not, the gentile partner grew up with Christmas cheer in the home, but the Jewish partner learned to view traditions such as Christmas carols and holiday wreaths as "un-Jewish."

Many Jews who are married to Christians feel tremendous guilt about simple rituals such as picking out the perfect spruce tree because it recalls what may have been one of the most difficult decisions of their lives: marrying outside the faith. That's because American Jews have been fed a steady diet of fearful sermons about the imminent destruction of our ancient people - not through genocidal anti-Semitism, but through slow annihilation from assimilation and intermarriage. It may sound silly, but many Jews in interfaith couples feel that sending out red-and-green cards to their neighbors and friends in December is a kind of betrayal. However thoroughly Americanized, the people I counsel can't quite forgive themselves for not living like a character out of "Fiddler on the Roof."

When my congregants come to me with questions about presents under the tree and leaving cookies for Santa, I tell them that they should enjoy the Christmas spirit. There's no reason to feel guilty about a little mistletoe. And more important, there's no reason to feel guilty about having married a non-Jew. Fear of intermarriage rests on two great myths of American Judaism: that Judaism is disappearing and that intermarriage poses a grave threat to the continuing life of the religion. These false notions, almost universally believed by American Jews and seemingly impervious to mounting contrary evidence, have long and impressive pedigrees.

In the century since prominent Rabbi Solomon Schechter's anti-assimilation warning that "traditional Judaism will not survive another generation in this country," the American Jewish population has grown from 1 million to approximately 6 million. Jewish summer camps, schools, charities and Web sites form a network of institutions that has no equal in Jewish history. In recent years, the myth of the disappearing Jew can be traced in large measure to a single, well-publicized study recording 5.2 million Jews in America, down from 5.8 million. But many other counts disagree.

The American Jewish Yearbook, which has been keeping track of the number of Jews in America since 1902, reports the population is now 6.4 million. A recently released study from Brandeis University found as many as 7.5 million Jews in the United States.

Conventional wisdom mainly blames intermarriage for the mythical decline in the American Jewish population. Yet one-third of Jewish-gentile couples raise their children exclusively as Jews. Of course, almost all fully Jewish couples raise their children as Jews, but it's important to remember that Jewish couples produce, on average, 1.9 children - below the replacement rate. Even if every Jew married another Jew, there would be no population boom. Meanwhile, two Jews who each marry non-Jews will collectively produce an average of more than four children. Even the pessimistic National Jewish Population Survey acknowledged that the vast majority of these kids grow up with either an exclusively Jewish identity or a dual Jewish-gentile identity.

The math of intermarriage should give rise to optimism, not overblown comparisons with the Holocaust. Intermarriage is as old as the Jewish people. Moses married the daughter of a Midianite priest. Even the insular Jewish communities of Eastern Europe were not immune. American Judaism must move forward from viewing intermarriage as a threat. Marrying the person whom you love, whatever his or her faith, is no betrayal. And celebrating this season of joy with that person is no transgression.


Must Police Be Representative? Whom Do They Represent?

Post below lifted from Discriminations. See the original for links

I recently discussed "economic apartheid" in Phildadelphia and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's "diversity" hiring that "overrepresented" some groups and "underrepresented" others. Now comes, thanks to reader Hube, more hiring "representation" malarkey from Pennsylvania. Mark Faziollah, Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer, writes with evident alarm that "Pa. Troopers Ranks Getting Less Diverse." Blacks, who make up 10% of Pennsylvania's population, are now down to 5% of the state police. Horrors. The article presents no evidence, or even forthright accusations, that the state police has been discriminatory in its hiring practices. On the contrary,
State Police Commander Jeffrey Miller said his department was committed to reversing the trend with aggressive recruiting of black and Latino officers. "Our numbers look as bad as they possibly could look," Miller acknowledged.... Miller, who took over the agency in January 2003, said he was committed to diversity, but said he had been unable to recruit enough minorities to compensate for large numbers of retirements. "I have prioritized the recruitment of minorities," he said in an interview last week. "Everyone in the law-enforcement system is having trouble."
Apparently the only way to produce an acceptable "diversity" is through outright quotas.
In 1973, when the state police ranks were virtually all white, a Philadelphia civil-rights lawyer filed a lawsuit alleging the agency had discriminatory hiring practices. To settle that suit, the state police agreed to strict minority hiring quotas to correct the racial imbalance. Starting in June 1974, Miller said, the agency began hiring one minority cadet for every white one. The proportion of minorities steadily increased, reaching 9.2 percent of the force by 1983. From 1983 to 1993, the department hired one minority cadet for every two who were white.

Minority representation continued to go up, peaking at more than 12 percent in 1997, about equal to the state's nonwhite population. With that goal reached, the trend almost immediately started to reverse. There were no minority hires in 1997, state police records show. In 1998, four hires were minorities and 158 were white.

In February 1999, the federal judge overseeing the case ended the court monitoring. The department promised to work hard on recruiting to make sure black and other minority representation in the hiring pool was adequate. It didn't work. The state police "didn't really know how to do it," Miller said. "You have a lot of people in business competing for the same applicants."
Ah, so one of the main reasons the state police has become less diverse is that other businesses are "competing for the same applicants." Well, this sounds like a huge problem that the legislature should address, and apparently some legislators agree:
... members of Pennsylvania's legislative black caucus reacted angrily to the fall-off in the agency's minority ranks, saying they were never informed there was a problem. "A reduction like this is completely unacceptable," said State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.). "It isn't right." Legislators vowed to push for change. "It's gone largely unnoticed. It cries out for a remedy," said Rep. James Roebuck (D., Phila.).
Rep. Roebuck, on the evidence of this article, didn't say precisely what the "It" is that cries out for a remedy, but by all means I think he should consider some sort of sanctions on firms who hire employees who also applied to the state police, or could have applied to the state police, and he may want to consider similar sanctions for blacks who would have made good state troopers but who decided to pursue careers elsewhere. Meanwhile, awaiting the results of such legislative action, what can the state police do to increase its "diversity" and representativeness? First, they could follow the example of the FBI and some other police agencies:
To widen the hiring pool, the FBI and some big-city departments have relaxed standards on past drug use for recruits. Miller said the Pennsylvania State Police had not done so. Asked whether that was under consideration, he said only that there were arguments for and against loosening those rules.
But wait; there's more! Hiring cops with a history of drugs is not all that can be done to increase the representativeness of the state police. Deputy Commissioner John R. Brown, "an African American lieutenant colonel" who is responsible for recruiting, said "We've come up with a bunch of new ideas." And indeed they have. Here's a doozy:
To find Latino applicants, Brown said, he may send recruiters to Puerto Rico as other departments have done.
Such a move would go a long way toward making the Pennsylvania State Police more representative ... of Puerto Rico. On the theory, obviously the reigning theory in the Pa. state police, that "number" and "appearance" are all that matter, why not send recruiters to Africa to scoop up some black applicants? After all, if the Ivies can do that to beef up their numbers, why not the police?

The West should speak up about Muslim misogyny

RECENTLY a gang-rape victim in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to jail and 200 lashes for being found in the company of a man who was not a close family member. The Saudi King has now pardoned her, but we should express concern that the justice system allowed her to be charged for this "crime" in the first place.

We should also express concern that, in 2002, 13 Saudi schoolgirls perished in a fire after the religious police prevented them from leaving the building because they were "dressed inappropriately". And we should express concern that in countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria unmarried women who become pregnant, even by rape, are flogged or sentenced to death by stoning.

We do express concern. We gasp in astonishment at the news, we increase our donations to Amnesty International, we say a silent prayer of thanks that we were born in a country where we are respected as individuals, and we hope that something changes. Nothing changes, though, and if people are expecting feminism to evolve in these nations as it did in liberal democracies they are kidding themselves. Burning burkas and girl power bumper stickers will never be on the horizon while legal systems continue to be based on ancient religious principles and the diplomatic response of the West to the oppression of women overseas remains so pathetically weak.

In response to the Saudi rape victim's sentence, US President George W. Bush's spokesperson expressed "astonishment" but refused to explicitly condemn the decision. Australian diplomats indicated that they would "raise concerns" in discussions with their Saudi counterparts, but that would be the limit of our action.

A call for action from our Government to protect the rights of women overseas is not one that lacks a realist perspective. We may be held hostage by our dependence on oil, by the strategic importance of these nations and by the understandable belief that national sovereignty is essential to maintaining some degree of international peace. But just because we are not necessarily able to force regime change, threaten military action or impose economic sanctions does not mean we should stifle our outrage. Surely there is something left to pull out of the diplomatic grab bag.

When nations behave in a way that so clearly violates individual human rights, and is an affront to the values of our own nation, we can and should do more than "raise concerns". Western governments could explicitly condemn the nation's actions, impose diplomatic sanctions by restricting the travel of government members, or threaten expulsion from international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation. We could even draw on an old favourite from apartheid days and further undermine the nation's prestige by preventing them from taking part in international sporting events and major conferences.

Clearly there is more that can be done, so why do we so often settle for toothless expressions of concern? Is it because we fear fundamentalist reprisals? Just about everything we do or say adds fuel to the fundamentalist fire, so we might as well speak honestly. Or is it because we fear being perceived as culturally imperialist Accusations of cultural relativism abound when we criticise the actions of other countries and cultures. "Just because it is different does not mean it is wrong", they say. What about when it really is wrong?

There is no doubt that Islam comes in for a lot of criticism, which is often unfair when so many people happily abide by both Islamic teachings and the democratic principles of their home countries. The two are certainly not mutually exclusive. The criticism is also unfair when we consider that Islam is not the only religion that can be accused of oppressing women. The Catholic Church maintains a stance on birth control that restricts women's choices to an end far more detrimental than a compulsory headscarf, and many Christian-based religions have antiquated expectations of the rights and roles of women.

The problem is not the religion itself. The problem occurs when ancient and outdated religious principles alone are upheld as the most important aspect of a justice system. Secularism is not a panacea to the problems of the clash between religious beliefs and liberal democracy but it does acknowledge the importance of maintaining a distinction between "God's" rules for believers and society's rules for everyone. Condemnations and diplomatic punishment may fail to make a substantive and immediate difference, but that does not mean we should simply do nothing.

Respect for other nations and the cultural and religious beliefs of individuals is important, but the violent oppression of women is not a cultural peculiarity. It is an insult to our own values, an injustice against innocent victims and it is not a culture that we should respect.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


26 December, 2007

Gross black racism

Post below lifted from Discriminations. See the original for links

An Associated Press article from the Boston Herald reports:
The state's first black governor says he's far outpacing his predecessor when it comes to hiring minorities into government management jobs, which he says is an important step in making the Statehouse feel like the people's house....

One way to remove the barriers, he said, is by hiring from a wider pool of candidates. Patrick cites as one of his first-year achievements hiring a "historically diverse" cabinet and leadership team.

Twenty-seven percent of hires in the governor's office are people of color and 52 percent are women, the Democratic governor said..... Massachusetts is about 86 percent white, 8 percent Hispanic, and 7 percent black, with some crossover because of people reporting mixed race, according to 2005 Census figures.
So, in his first year the proportion of minorities among Gov. Patrick's new hires was nearly twice as high as their proportion of Massachusetts's population. Well, no one ever said that "diverse" hiring was incompatible with racially and ethnically unrepresentative hiring.

Surprise (Not)! Preferences Produce Animosity

Post below lifted from Discriminations. See the original for links

"Relations among African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans are fraught with tension and negative stereotypes," the Washington Post reported recently, referring to the results of a new poll by New America Media (HatTip to Ed Chin).

The Post, following the lead of New America Media, tried hard to put a positive gloss on the glum news, adding "... but the three groups share core values and a desire to get along better." The article was pretty mum about what those "core values" might be, and I found the evidence for the "desire to get along" less than overwhelming: "...more than 85 percent of responders said they should put aside their differences and work together to help their communities." In other words, a full 15% of the black, Asian, and Hispanic respondents had no "desire to get along" at all.

Clearly the poll's major finding, however, as summarized on the New America Media site linked above, is the distrust, dislike, and friction among the three groups surveyed:
The poll found that friction between ethnic and racial groups, which at times has erupted into highly-publicized incidents around the country, is clearly rooted in the mistrust that the groups harbor towards each other, as well as the sentiment that other groups are mistreating them or are detrimental to their own future. For instance, 44% of Hispanics and 47% of Asians are "generally afraid of African Americans because they are responsible for most of the crime." Meanwhile, 46% of Hispanics and 52% of African Americans believe "most Asian business owners do not treat them with respect." And half of African Americans feel threatened by Latin American immigrants because "they are taking jobs, housing and political power away from the Black community."

As dramatic as these findings are, however, in many respects they are what the Clintons always refer to as "old news" whenever some new evidence of scandal or misdeed comes to light. As long ago as 1975, at the dawn of the era of preferences, Nathan Glazer presciently predicted what would happen as a result of the government dispensing favors based on race and ethnicity. As I quoted him here, racial and ethnic preferences predictably lead to
a real Balkanization, in which group after group struggles for the benefits of special treatment.... The demand for special treatment will lead to animus against other groups that already have it, by those who think they should have it and don't.... The rising emphasis on group difference which government is called upon to correct might mean the destruction of any hope for the larger fraternity of all Americans.
In that post I continued:
that was Nathan Glazer, in AFFIRMATIVE DISCRIMINATION (Basic Books, 1975), and if anything he underestimated the divisiveness of bestowing governmental favors on the basis of race and ethnicity. Now that liberals have abandoned the formerly core value holding that every individual is entitled to be treated without regard to race, creed, or color in favor of multiculturalism and group rights, the very idea of "the larger fraternity of all Americans" is regarded by many as nothing more than right-wing cant.
Glazer wrote in 1975; my post above is from 2002. Two years later I returned to that same point, and Glazer again, here in a post on "Preferences and Group Conflict":
On Saturday the New York Times ran a long, interesting article about increasing tensions betweent the black and Hispanic communities. The high, or low, point for me was the following quote from Keith Murphy, host of a radio talk show in Milwaukee with a mostly black audience:
"It's still a matter of distrust," he said. "It's a feeling among African-Americans that Latinos are coming in and getting the jobs and are getting preferential treatment."
I've never heard Keith Murphy's program, and so I don't know whether he thinks preferences based on race or ethnicity are bad in principle or bad only when they go to Hispanics. His comment, however, exemplifies one of the most corrosive (as well as one of the most predictable) effects of preferences: their unerring ability to turn group against group in a mad scramble for the scraps of favoritism. Nathan Glazer, back in 1975....
Of course the recognition that racial discrimination and playing racial favorites is corrosive of American unity did not begin with Nathan Glazer in 1975. In what remains perhaps the most persuasive and eloquent statement of that view, Gunnar Myrdal wrote in his classic AN AMERICAN DILEMMA in 1944 (if that link doesn't work, just go to http://books.google.com and search for it) that
It is difficult to avoid the judgment that this "American Creed" is the cement in the structure of this great and disparate nation. [From p. 3, found by searching "American Creed" on the Google book page cited above]
And from p. 52:
The split of the nation into a dominant "American" group and a larger number of minority groups means that American civilization is permeated by animosities and prejudices attached to ethnic origin or what is popularly recognized as the "race" of a person. These animosities or prejudices are commonly advanced in defense of various discriminations which tend to keep the minority groups in a disadvantaged economic and social status. They are contrary to the American Creed, which is emphatic in denouncing differences made on account of "race, creed or color." ....
I wonder what Myrdal would say if he could see us now, when our society's attitude shapers and opinion leaders in the major media, academia, the corporate world, and virtually (actually?) the entire leadership ranks of one of our two great political parties are equally "emphatic" in their rejection of "The American Creed," having abandoned it in favor of their faddish infatuation with racial and ethnic "difference" ... and differential treatment of "groups" (they no longer seem to see individuals) based on race and ethnicity. Shame on them.


By Jeff Jacoby

The "girl from Qatif" won a reprieve last week. On Dec. 17, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah pardoned the young woman, who was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison after she pressed charges against seven men who had raped her and a male acquaintance in 2006. Two weeks earlier, Sudan's president extended a similar reprieve to Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher convicted of insulting Islam because her 7-year-old students named a teddy bear Muhammad. Gibbons had been sentenced to prison, but government-organized street demonstrators were loudly demanding her execution.

In January, Nazanin Fatehi was released from an Iranian jail after a death sentence against her was revoked. She had originally been convicted of murder for fatally stabbing a man when he and two others attempted to rape her and her niece in a park. (Had she yielded to the rapists, she could have been flogged or stoned for engaging in nonmarital sex.)

The sparing of these women was very welcome news, of course, and it was not coincidental that each case had triggered an international furor. But for every "girl from Qatif" or Nazanin who is saved, there are far too many other Muslim girls and women for whom deliverance never comes. No international furor saved Aqsa Parvez, a Toronto teenager, whose father was charged on Dec. 11 with strangling her to death because she refused to wear a hijab. "She just wanted to look like everyone else," one of Aqsa's friends told the National Post, "and I guess her dad had a problem with that."

No reprieve came for Banaz Mahmod, either. She was 20, a Kurdish immigrant to Britain, whose father and uncle had her killed last year after she left an abusive arranged marriage and fell in love with a man not from the family's village in Kurdistan. Banaz was choked to death with a bootlace, stuffed into a suitcase, and buried in a garden 70 miles away. More than 25 such "honor killings" have been confirmed in Britain's Muslim community in recent years. Many more are suspected.

There has been no storm of outrage about the intimidation and murder in Basra, Iraq, of women who wear Western-style clothing. Iraqi police say that more than 40 women have been killed so far this year by Islamists; the bodies are often left in garbage dumps with notes accusing the victims of "un-Islamic behavior."

By Western standards, the subjugation of women by Muslim fanatics, and the sometimes pathological Islamist obsession with female sexuality, are unthinkable. Time and again they lead to shocking acts of violence and depravity:
In Pakistan, a tribal council ordered a woman to be gang-raped as punishment for her brother's supposed liaison with a woman from another tribe.

In San Francisco, a young Muslim woman was shot dead after she uncovered her hair and put on makeup in order to be a maid of honor at a friend's wedding.

In Tehran, a father beheaded his 7-year-old daughter because he suspected that she had been raped; he said he acted "to defend my honor, fame, and dignity."

In Saudi Arabia, the Islamic police prevented schoolgirls from leaving a burning building because they were not wearing headscarves and abayas; 15 of the girls died in the inferno.

The president of Cairo's Al-Azhar University, a renowned center of Islamic learning, described the proper method of wife-beating in a television interview: "It's not really beating," Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb explained on Egyptian television. "It's more like punching."
When the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in 1996, the repression of women was among their first priorities. They issued a decree forbidding women to leave their homes, with the result that work and schooling for women came to a halt, destroying the country's healthcare system, civil service, and elementary education. "Forty percent of the doctors, half of the government workers, and seven out of 10 teachers were women," Lawrence Wright observed in *The Looming Tower,* his Pulitzer Prize-winning history of Al Qaeda. "Under the Taliban, many of them would become beggars."

Women are not the only victims of this rampant misogyny. Mohammed Halim, a 46-year-old Afghan schoolteacher, was dragged from his family and horribly murdered last year -- disemboweled and then dismembered -- for defying orders to stop educating girls.

All these are only examples -- the tip of a dreadful iceberg that will never be demolished until Muslims by the millions rise up against it. As for the rest of us, we too have an obligation to raise our voices. It took a worldwide outcry to spare the "girl from Qatif" and Nazanin. But there are countless others like them, and our silence may seal their fate.

Official censorship breeds mistrust of officialdom

In 2003, the local council in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire refused to show an A4 poster for a Christmas carol service in the local library, because it might constitute a political or religious message. The same year, the Red Cross banned nativity decorations from its British shops because it stated that an alignment to a particular religion could `compromise our ability to work in conflict situations around the world'. In 2006, a survey of 428 firms in Manchester found that 77 per cent of employers said they were banning decorations because they were worried about offending other faiths (2). In all these cases, the ban was about preventing possible harm, rather than responding to actual complaints.

It is stories like these that create suspicion that things are being heavily regulated. Of course, in reality, people in authority today rarely have the luxury to monitor everything they encounter. Most decisions are made defensively and in a knee-jerk fashion, rather than according to some sinister conspiracy plan. But the end result is a surge in urban myths which feed upon existing reality.

While the stories I have mentioned so far (and there are many more) were all reported in reputable papers, there are also plenty of emails circulating from `unofficial sources'. These are less reliable, but they feed our suspicion that this is `what you don't hear from those in charge'. The other day I received an email about how Royal Mail staff have been told only to offer their Christmas stamps (showing religious images of angels and the Madonna and Child) to those who asked explicitly for them over the counter. While a quick scan of the Royal Mail website shows that these stamps do indeed exist, there is probably no other way to test this story than to walk into a post office and see what happens.

The point about rumours is that they feed off a broader suspicion and distrust of `official sources'. We don't have to experience things firsthand to believe them. When I was conducting interviews with residents in the town of Oldham in the north-west of England last year, I kept hearing a claim that the council had banned the St George's flag (the flag of England). I casually asked various council staff about it but none of them could tell me for certain whether it had actually happened or not. One of them suggested that it might have been for `health-and-safety reasons'. Another guessed it might have been out of sensitivity to local ethnic groups and concerns about the presence in the area of the far-right British National Party (BNP). When I asked local people about it - Asian and white - many felt that this sort of decision was `typical' of the council. Crucially, it was not important whether the flag was actually banned or not, but that it was seen as entirely believable.

Official anti-racism has made cultural symbols and language so politicised that the public is bound to think that festivals, flags and images are being `managed' on their behalf. In March 2002, Oldham council publicised its decision to fly the Union Jack flag from the Civic Centre, as a way to reclaim it as a symbol from the extreme right. It also stated it would fly the Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi flags for the duration of official visits from those countries. The authorities were paying attention to cultural images and using them to engineer attitudes.

The corollary to that, of course, is that language and images are not only promoted but also banned if they are seen to be a threat to community relations. We believe that official sources aren't telling us the truth because, ultimately, we feel that they don't trust us to make our own minds up about what see and hear.

In the 2001 local elections in Oldham, when the BNP gained its strongest electoral result in the UK in over a decade, the council censored all political parties from speaking on election night in order to prevent the BNP from talking to the electorate. In September 2001, the home secretary banned all public marches in Oldham for two months on grounds of `safety'. Likewise, Ted Cantle, in his report into the 2001 riots in the north-west, pointed out that there were complaints from the public about the police's over-zealous restrictions on political marches in the town against racism, and festivals to celebrate cultural diversity. Returning to the town in 2006, Cantle noted that despite all the diversity training and race equality guidelines, people in Oldham `wanted to ask questions around faith and culture, but were afraid to do so because it might be thought "politically incorrect"' (3).

In such a climate, where people are not expressing their views openly, rumours surge. In a 2001 US-based study, Fine and Turner argue that race rumours emerge as an expression of angst and suspicion when more public channels are censored or closed to certain opinions: `What happens when we dare not speak these beliefs? What happens when we deny - to ourselves and to others - that we hold them because we have come to accept that they are morally illegitimate? We believe that two responses are common. First, we become ashamed; we withdraw from dialogue. Second, following from this, we become too willing to accept claims of "actual happenings" that support these hidden beliefs.' (4)

The most recent high-profile example of a race rumour in Britain was in Lozells, Birmingham in 2006, when local Asian and black youths clashed on the streets. The riot was triggered by a story of a black girl having been gangraped by a group of Asian men. While the allegation lacked substance, and no witnesses or victim ever officially came forward, the story gained a life of its own on the airwaves of local community radio stations, like Hot FM and Sting FM, whose djs called for large-scale protests.

These unofficial channels picked up on local suspicions that the authorities always treated one group better than another and some people always got their way - a feeling probably compounded by the competitive dynamic of local community politics and the stress on difference in official local policies. Likewise, in his study of south-east London, the sociologist Roger Hewitt described how the media demonisation of white residents in the area following the murder of the young black youth Stephen Lawrence led to a `white backlash'. He describes how racism was `tucked away' amongst the politically powerless white working classes, who could not publicly object to the way in which they were being depicted. Suspicion grew through neighbourhood talk, rumour, narrative and counter-narrative. The authorities' tactics to silence these views by `scary and oblique references' to the BNP ended up reinforcing the sense of shame people felt, and further driving these views underground without proper scrutiny.

All of this suggests that the backlash against `political correctness gone mad' is not simply about a surge in racism or bigotry amongst the public against other groups (although it certainly doesn't help community relations in places like Lozells). There is also another factor at work here: a large number of people quite rightly resent the feeling that they are being `managed'. We indulge in the collective rolling of the eyeballs at political correctness gone mad because it allows us to momentarily express our irritation with officious policies. Perhaps next year, when junior officials think about how not to cause offence, they would be wise to think a bit more carefully about not insulting the public first.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


25 December, 2007

Santa Von Clausewitz

Carl Von Clausewitz is often quoted as saying, "War is the continuation of politics by other means". I am not nearly so frequently quoted as saying, "The war on Christmas is the continuation of political correctness by a bunch of meanies".

Of course, I probably haven't been cited much for that since I just came up with it. Perhaps it will take off and help me procure a spot in Bartlett's. That will have to wait as I focus on the very real attacks on Christmas and Santa. I offer the following stories pulled from recent events. I call them, `The four reindeer of the apocalypse': "Your Santa is so fat...."

That he has to lose weight. At least if he wants to keep his job in Great Britain. Fearing that an overweight icon could serve as a poor role model for kids, a shopping center in Greenhithe, Kent has set up Santa boot camp to whip the corpulent Claus into a lean mean gift giving machine. They're worried that idolizing a portly man with presents will encourage kids to become fat themselves. They had no concern however that the children would don red clothing, grow beards and hang out with dwarves.

I'm surprised that they didn't toss in reduced carbon emissions since a thin Santa would need fewer reindeer to pull his sleigh, thereby staving off global warming. If the North Pole melts, Santa is homeless. The kids win, Santa wins, we all win.

"Who you calling a ho?" Apparently, all women within earshot of Kris Kringle's trademark laugh. Santa's in Sydney, Australia have been told to replace the ho, ho, ho with ha, ha, ha because the former could frighten children and be construed as a derogatory term meaning prostitute. Why ha, ha, ha is less scary is never explained, nor the fact that `ho' is not even a slang term in Australia.

There's nothing worse than not knowing you've been offended. I suppose while we're at it we may as well ban the seven dwarves from singing, "Heigh Ho" (Two dwarf references in one post. No small feat). Also, Cab Calloway's "Hi-De-Ho", Don Ho, Tally Ho, Ho-Hum, Land Ho, Westward Ho, Gung Ho and the play Okla-ho-ma. Ho my goodness. "Why don't you just tell me what you want from a safe distance?"

Our travels take us to Switzerland where Santas are banned from having kids sit on their lap for fear that the one with the beard is one that is weird. As in a pedophile. Evidently, Santa may be a sick freak that uses his position of power to convince good boys and girls to be bad.

Do they really believe that a pedophile would seek out a job as Santa and then abuse children in front of hundreds of people while the child's parents take photos for posterity? It is bothersome that a man seeking to bring joy to kids is presumed guilty of lying in wait to molest.

But this is nothing new. British Airways won't let anyone under 16 years of age sit next to an adult male stranger, even if there is a woman on the other side. The assumption is, all men are abusers. Following this reasoning, no gay couples should be allowed to adopt and Big Brothers needs to be disbanded. And it's best to submit your Christmas list by email. Just in case.

"A little change will do you good". As in a change of clothes. Our trip around the world has brought us to the Steiner School in Brighton in the UK, where Santa has been stripped of his traditional red suit in favor of a more palatable green one. Why you may ask? Because the red suit just might make the kiddies think of Coca-Cola which is a symbol of commercialism, and that is no way to raise little Marxists.

The children will be told a moral tale in lieu of the traditional Christmas tale, lest a non-religious person be offended. Instead of opening presents, they will crack open fake rocks that will reveal crystals. Fun stuff. When I was a kid, you feared getting coal in your stocking. Now you have to be happy with rocks.

So, Santa is a gluttonous, misogynistic, pedophile who has sold out to corporate interests. He also must hate the poor since he brings them fewer gifts, completely overlooks Jewish children and gives charcoal to the naughty. But thankfully, the do-gooders in this world have come to the rescue. When you go to the mall this year, Santa will be the green suit clad skinny man over in the corner saying ha, ha, ha.

Then again, that could be the carpet salesman.


Meet the new Eco-nezer Scrooges

In the name of scrimping and saving the planet, miserabilism about Xmas has gone mainstream and taken the moral high ground this year

Christmas is coming, and so are all the by-now-traditional attacks on the seasonal binge of spending, eating, drinking and general consuming. But this time it's different, thanks to the way that environmentalism has now become the default language of public debate. In the name of saving the planet, Christmas miserabilism has gone mainstream and taken the moral high ground this year.

It is a few years ago now since I started writing about the rising fashion for bashing Christmas, not as a religious festival but as a secular knees-up. Back then, however, the miserabilists tended to be on the margins. Their influence has gradually grown as they have taken on the cloak of environmentalism. Now many of the reports about the alleged risks that our `carbon-guzzling Christmas' poses to the environment come from major institutions, and they are always guaranteed to capture headlines.

There have always been grinches and grouses and stingy whingers who hate Christmas because of the expense, the waste and the fun that it generates. These people used to be called mean. Today they proudly call themselves green. And while Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge was a marginal figure of public scorn, those whom we might dub the new Eco-nezers are top of the tree this Christmas.

So instead of simply telling us about the virtues of scrimping and saving, the Christmas miserabilists now lecture us about scrimping and saving the planet. Their cry has been taken up in high places, in a democratic society where we know we can choose any shade of politics we like, just so long as it's green. In recent weeks the annual chorus of Christmas carols has seemed in danger of being drowned out by a cacophony of warnings about the need to buy less, eat and drink less, recycle more and turn more things off, along with long lists of worthy advice about how to `enjoy' a green and ethical holiday. All together now, to the tune of Merry Little Christmas: `Have yourself a very little Christmas now.'

Things have reached the point where the anti-Christmas list of indulgences about which we are supposed to feel guilty has now been extended to include the crime of eating cranberry sauce. According to reports of serious research conducted by sane scientists at the proper University of Manchester, investigating `the carbon footprint of turkey and trimmings', that traditional Christmas dinner sauce is `a major offender in terms of carbon dioxide emissions'. How long can it be before somebody calls upon the authorities to ban the foreign cranberry?

You, like me, might have ignorantly assumed that all Christmas trees were, by nature, green. But on closer study of the eco-advice this Christmas, I discover that the only truly `green' trees turn out to be either live ones which we `dedicate' as a gift to somebody but leave growing in the wild, or Christmas trees made out of recycled and reusable cardboard. As for giving actual presents, the advice is to avoid all of those techno-gadgets and games whose manufacturers have, according to the seasonal message from Greenpeace, `failed to reduce the toxic burden of their products', and instead give our children `sustainable' or better yet homemade presents, preferably wrapped in newspaper to reduce waste. Oh, and apparently some green advice columnists believe that the priceless gift of Al Gore's fun global warming diatribe, An Inconvenient Truth, would make `an ideal stocking filler' on Christmas morning.

Whatever the truth about the complexities of climate change, none of this simplistic sermonising about the need to cut our seasonal consumption will make any difference. Break down the scary `carbon-guzzling Christmas' headlines into family-sized bites, and the figures become so marginal as to be meaningless. Last Christmas, for example, the Local Government Association issued a loud warning about the CO2 produced by excess energy-burning at Christmas, supported by statistics which actually revealed that burning 200 old-style Christmas lights eight hours a day for an entire month would waste electricity worth all of. 2.40 pounds.

As for the headline attack on cranberry sauce as a `major offender' in carbon crime statistics, on closer inspection it appears that this humble berry was singled out for media attention in that research because it was almost the only ingredient of a typical UK Christmas dinner that they found clocking up the dreaded `food miles' by being imported in large quantities. It turned out that everything else, from the roast potatoes to even the turkey, already tends to be locally grown according to the green mantra (although obviously turkey farming is still treated as a cross between being a concentration camp guard and a child-poisoner in some quarters).

They may have dressed up their prejudices in the fashionable sackcloth of environmentalism, but it seems that what really motivates many of the new Green meanies is the same old snobbish contempt for the gift-wrapping, turkey-stuffing, fun-loving masses. One major report by a trendy green `think-and-do tank' openly sneers at the `frenzy of mass consumption' at Christmas time by plebs who will `sit in collective numbness in front of the telly', no doubt emitting CO2 from every orifice. It demands that families should stage their own panto instead, and perhaps give each other a gift of `green gym' membership, which `combines getting fit with action to improve the outdoor environment'. Now that sounds like my idea of fun.

The guilt-tripping of the masses over their Christmas excesses has also intensified as environmentalism has taken centre stage. Twenty years ago, Band Aid-style charitable appeals told us to remember to give to the less fortunate - the starving of Africa and the poor of the Third World - while we were enjoying our seasonal fun. `Do they know it's Christmas?' and all that. Today, however, green guilt-trippers go much further, insisting that we should not just give to charity but effectively give up celebrating at Christmas, since it is our fun that is to blame for the suffering of the poor in the first place. As one blogger has it, `Our twinkling Christmas lights are contributing to the deaths of people in places we have probably never heard of and will never see'. He goes on to dismiss any suggestion that he might be a party-pooper as `climate change denial in seasonal wrappings'. Climate change `denial' (seen as like Holocaust denial, only worse) and wasteful wrapping paper! What less ethical Christmas cocktail could there possibly be?

Before his conversion by the spirits, Dickens' Scrooge avowed that `every idiot' who celebrated Christmas `should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart'. Today's Eco-nezers might only add that the pudding should contain no imported berries or be boiled using fossil fuels, that the holly must be organic, and the body buried for tree compost. And they would be assured of a prime slot in the national media to do so.

A final fresh aspect to the green meanies' assault on Christmas bingeing has emerged with news of the global `credit crunch' in the financial markets, and the widely-expressed fears that everything from mortgages to credit cards may be harder for many people to obtain in the near future. There has been an underlying tone of barely-disguised `I-told-you-so!' glee in some of the discussion of these problems, as penny-pinching pundits come close to revelling in the prospect of discomfort for the `mass consumers' whom they so despise. Where Scrooge merely wanted to keep as much money as possible for himself, the Eco-nezers want to deny the pleasures of consuming to all.

And again, this miserabilism is justified in ethical talk about the need to tighten our belts for the good of the planet and the future - a sentiment now endorsed from the top down. As Gordon Brown warned just before becoming UK prime minister six months ago, under his regime people would have to `watch the carbon as well as the pennies'.

Discussion of a `war on Christmas' often focuses on the phoney war over the status of the Christian religion and its symbols (see Christmas is banned! Or is it?, by Munira Mirza). But the other `war on Christmas' that infuriates an old atheistic libertarian Marxist like me is the mean green attack on it as a secular celebration of the human spirit and of our society's material advance. For the miserabilist tendency on the left today, the seasonal message seems to have become `Don't eat, drink or be merry, or tomorrow the planet dies'.

The problem this reflects is rather bigger than simple Christmas party-pooping, though that is objectionable enough. The green meanies' war on Christmas captures the backward, anti-human, horizon-lowering, behaviour-policing spirit of the age. The big moralistic sermon we are being force-fed is no longer about how Jesus was born on Christmas day to save us. It is about how we need to save the planet from our sins, by restraining our passions and progress. And that is absolutely nothing to celebrate.


Santa putting children's information at risk, warn experts

Santa Claus could be breaking privacy laws in his collection and use of data about British children, experts have warned. Yuletide cheer-bringer Claus could be putting the personal data of millions of children at risk.

Data protection laws lay down strict conditions for the use of personal data and there is no evidence that Claus has an adequate compliance programme in place. Children across Britain who write letters to Claus with a list of gift requests are not told for how long that data is kept, or if it will be used for other purposes such as marketing by third parties. The Data Protection Act stipulates that data should not be kept for longer than necessary, which would mean 25 December, though Claus may argue that he needs to keep the letters for six years to use in any gift-related lawsuits.

"There is a stream of questions Santa has yet to answer," said William Malcolm, a data protection specialist at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. "Is this information used for anything other than present giving? Information passes out of the EU, so does Santa check the letters for unambiguous, specific and informed consent to this overseas transfer?"

OUT-LAW's attempts to put the questions to Claus were hindered by the lack of an office chimney. Eventually, the questions were put up a domestic chimney but no response was received by time of publication.

The Data Protection Act says that you must inform someone when you are collecting data about them, and tell them what the purpose of collection is. "What about the naughty/nice database?" said Malcolm. "Are children given notice that behavioural data is being collected about them throughout the year? And does it qualify as covert monitoring, which would breach Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights?"

People can make a subject access request of databases holding their personal information, but the database operator has 40 days in which to respond. Children are now too late, therefore, to find out before Christmas if they are on the naughty or nice section of the system.


The new atheists

In describing their atheism as illiberal, I do not mean to imply that the new atheists are closet totalitarians. On the contrary, all of them understand themselves to be contributing to the defense of freedom against its most potent enemies, at home and abroad. Yet the fact remains that the atheism of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens is a brutally intolerant, proselytizing faith, out to rack up conversions. Consider, for example, the sloppiness displayed by all of the authors in discussing their political aims. Do they seek to defend the secular politics favored by the American Constitutional framers? Or do they have the much more radical goal of producing a secular society--a society in which the American people, as a whole and individually, have abandoned religion? The former is a liberal goal, the latter an illiberal one; and it is inexcusable that each book leaves readers guessing which objective its author favors.

Not that there aren't clues. Harris, for instance, seeks nothing less than to "demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity." To this end, he would have public schools "announce the death of God" to their students- -a development that would mark the end of the government's theological neutrality and inaugurate a time of outright antagonism toward the religious beliefs of citizens. Anticipating, moreover, that religious liberals might balk at such tactics, Harris asserts that "the religious moderate is nothing more than a failed fundamentalist" whose attachment to tolerance convinces too many in our society to restrain themselves from loudly proclaiming that "the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish." A similar ire fuels Dennett's and Dawkins's hatred of religious education, as well as Hitchens's wildly excessive denunciations of Mother Teresa. (Hitchens's charges, first lodged in his book The Missionary Position, are repeated in God is Not Great.) Convinced that, as Hitchens puts it in his subtitle, religion poisons everything, today's atheists feel perfectly justified in dispensing with such moral luxuries as tolerance and civility.

Indeed, the tone of today's atheist tracts is so unremittingly hostile that one wonders if their authors really mean it when they express the hope, as Dawkins does in a representative passage, that "religious readers who open [The God Delusion] will be atheists when they put it down." Exactly how will such conversions be accomplished? Rather than seeking common ground with believers as a prelude to posing skeptical questions, today's atheists prefer to skip right to the refutation. They view the patient back and forth of dialogue--the way of Socrates--as a waste of time.

It is with this enmity, this furious certainty, that our ideological atheists lapse most fully into illiberalism. Politically speaking, liberalism takes no position on theological questions. One can be a liberal and a believer (as were Martin Luther King Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr, and countless others in the American past and present) or a liberal and an unbeliever (as were Hook, Richard Rorty, and a significantly smaller number of Americans over the years). This is in part because liberalism is a philosophy of government, not a philosophy of man--or God. But it is also because modern liberalism derives, at its deepest level, from ancient liberalism--from the classical virtue of liberality, which meant generosity and openness. To be liberal in the classical sense is to accept intellectual variety--and the social complexity that goes with it--as the ineradicable condition of a free society.

It is to accept, in other words, that, although I may settle the question of God to my personal satisfaction, it is highly unlikely that all of my fellow citizens will settle it in the same way--that differences in life experience, social class, intelligence, and the capacity for introspection will invariably prevent a free community from reaching unanimity about the fundamental mysteries of human existence, including God. Liberal atheists accept this situation; ideological atheists do not. That, in the end, is what separates the atheism of Socrates from the atheism of the French Revolution.

Why does it matter that a handful of writers who refuse to accept this basic human reality have recently sold a lot of books? On one level, it obviously doesn't matter very much. The United States remains a very religious nation. While there are small communities of atheists, agnostics, and skeptics in every state, and substantial ones in a few--Washington state leads the country with 25 percent of its residents claiming to worship no God; North Dakota comes in last with 3 percent--there aren't nearly enough unbelievers to leave a significant mark on the nation's culture or politics as a whole.

Still, the rise of the new atheists is cause for concern--not among the targets of their anger, who can rest secure in the knowledge that the ranks of the religious will, here in America, dwarf the ranks of atheists for the foreseeable future; but rather among those for whom the defense of secular liberalism is a high political priority. Of course, many of these secular liberals are probably the same people who propelled Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens onto the best-seller lists by purchasing their books en masse--people who are worried about the dual threats to secular politics posed by militant Islam and the American religious right. These people are correct to be nervous about the future of secular liberalism, to perceive that it needs passionate, eloquent defenders. The problem is that the rhetoric of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens will undermine liberalism, not bolster it: Far from shoring up the secular political tradition, their arguments are likely to produce a country poised precariously between opposite forms of illiberalism.

The last thing America needs is a war of attrition between two mutually exclusive, absolute systems of belief. Yet this is precisely what the new atheists appear to crave. The task for the rest of us--committed to neither dogmatic faith nor dogmatic doubt--is to make certain that combatants on both sides of the theological divide fail to get their destructive way. And thereby to ensure that liberalism prevails.

More here

NYC: The incorrectness of cats

Across the city, delis and bodegas are a familiar and vital part of the streetscape, modest places where customers can pick up necessities, a container of milk, a can of soup, a loaf of bread. Amid the goods found in the stores, there is one thing that many owners and employees say they cannot do without: their cats. And it goes beyond cuddly companionship. These cats are workers, tireless and enthusiastic hunters of unwanted vermin, and they typically do a far better job than exterminators and poisons. When a bodega cat is on the prowl, workers say, rats and mice vanish.

That is the case at a narrow corner store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where a gray long-haired tabby named Halloween goes on regular patrols when she is not lounging on a plaid bed tucked behind dusty rows of Schweppes ginger ale and empty cardboard boxes. “In the morning she is lazy, it is her nap time,” said Urszula Jawor, 49, the deli’s manager, a Polish immigrant who smiled with motherly pride at Halloween, adding that the cat was named for the day she wandered in off the street and claimed the Bedford Avenue store as her home. “But in the afternoon she is busy,” Ms. Jawor said. “She spends hours stalking the mice and the rats.”

To store owners, the services of cats are indispensable in a city where the rodent problem is serious enough to be documented in a still popular two-minute video clip on YouTube from late February (youtube.com/watch?v=su0U37w2tws) of rats running amok in a KFC/Taco Bell in Greenwich Village. Store-dwelling cats are so common that there is a Web site, workingclasscats.com, dedicated to telling their tales. But as efficient as the cats may be, their presence in stores can lead to legal trouble. The city’s health code and state law forbid animals in places where food or beverages are sold for human consumption. Fines range from $300 for a first offense to $2,000 or higher for subsequent offenses. “Any animal around food presents a food contamination threat,” said Robert M. Corrigan, a rodentologist and research scientist for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “And so that means anything from animal pieces and parts to hair and excrement could end up in food, and that alone, of course, is a violation of the health code.”

Mr. Corrigan did concede that some studies have shown that the smell of cats in an enclosed area will keep mice away. But he does not endorse cats as a form of pest control because, he explained, the bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and nematodes carried by rats may infect humans by secondary transfer through a cat. Still, many store owners keep cats despite the law, mainly because other options have failed and the fine for rodent feces is also $300. “It’s hard for bodega owners because they’re not supposed to have a cat, but they’re also not supposed to have rats,” said Jose Fernández, the president of the Bodega Association of the United States.

Luis Martinez, 42, has managed his brother’s grocery in East New York, Brooklyn, for two years. At first, despite weekly visits from an exterminator, the store’s inventory was ravaged constantly by nibbling vermin. “Every night I had to put the bread in the freezer,” he said, pointing at shelves filled with bread and hamburger buns. “I was losing too much inventory. The chips and the Lipton soups all had holes in them.” Then, last winter, a friend brought Mr. Martinez a marmalade kitten in need of a home. Mr. Martinez, who was skeptical of how one slinky kitten could fend off an army of hungry rats, set up a litter box in the back of the store, put down an old fleece jacket and named the kitten Junior. Within two weeks, Mr. Martinez said, “a miracle.” “Before you’d see giant rats running in off the streets into the store, but since Junior, no more,” he said.

Junior sometimes brings Mr. Martinez mouse carcasses as gifts, which he said bothers him less than the smell that permeates his store when the exterminator’s victims die and rot under a freezer. In October, a health inspector fined Mr. Martinez $300 and warned him that if Junior was still there by the time of the next inspection he would be fined $2,000. “He wants me to get rid of the cat, but the rats will take over if I do,” Mr. Martinez said. “I need the cat, and the cat needs a home.”

Because stores do not get advance notification of an inspection, Mr. Martinez is trying to keep Junior in his office as much as possible. Many bodega owners reason that a cat is less of a health threat than an army of nibbling rats. “If cats live in homes and apartments where people have food, a cat shouldn’t be a threat in a store if it’s well maintained,” Mr. Fernández said.

Some animal rescue groups, like the Spay and Neuter Intervention Project, support the legalization and regulation of store cats so that owners would be required to provide basic veterinary care and to spay or neuter their animals.

At a corner store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Andre Duran, one of the owners, said he had kept a cat for six years and had never been fined. “That’s Oreo,” he said, as he lifted a tiny black cat with white paws into his arms and carried her like a football. “No one’s ever complained about cat hair in their sandwiches, and if she weren’t here, you bet there’d be bigger problems than hair.” As a line formed at Mr. Duran’s cash register and he excused himself to take orders, Oreo’s ears perked up and she slunk away toward the back of the store. She was, perhaps, in pursuit of something.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


24 December, 2007

Encroaching regulation in Britain

Canada has Mark Steyn, America has Ann Coulter -- writers who use comedic exaggeration as a powerful way of making serious points. Their British equivalent is Jeremy Clarkson. A sample below:

WHILE away last week, someone came in the night and put up a couple of hand-made road signs on the grass verge outside my house. They advertise a new website that encourages road users to report fellow citizens for dangerous or antisocial driving. I think it may be called www.interferingzealot.com. The idea is simple. If you are annoyed by someone's driving, you simply post the numberplate and a brief description of the crime in the hope the offender will log on and be so ashamed he or she will turn over a new leaf and become a vicar.

For example, a chap with the username StephenHarrison, who has made 157 posts so far, quotes the numberplate of a car that, he claims, positioned itself in the left/straight-on lane, then turned right at the roundabout in Birmingham city centre on July 9. And Kev627 tells us that in Hampshire, a man driving a Ford Fiesta indicated about 100m before the exit prior to the one he used to leave the A342.

I'm surprised to find someone in Glasgow didn't tell members that he had seen two Muslim men drive right over the pavement and into the terminal at the city's airport in a burning Jeep Cherokee.

Sadly, I don't know if I appear because I don't know my numberplate. But I do know that we are talking about the dullest site in the entire web, and also the most terrifying.

The problem is that we now have so many laws in Britain and so few police officers to enforce them all, that the slack is being taken up by an army of bitter and twisted busybodies in beige clothes and upper lips puckered so badly by rage they look like one of Mr Kipling's cakes. Think about it. When we were growing up it was illegal to murder someone, and er ... that's it. Now it is illegal to eat an apple while driving or use a mobile phone. It is illegal to smoke a cigarette in a bus shelter or use more than two dogs to kill a fox.

To enforce all these new laws is a police force of 140,000, most of whom do four days a week of ladder training and one day a week arresting doctors for attempting to explode. To get around the problem, the British Government has introduced new tiers of policing, such as speed cameras and Highways Agency teams on motorways in chequerboard 4x4s, which look like police vehicles and have "traffic officer" emblazoned in the back window, but their main job is to clear up the mess after an accident. Which means, technically, they are Wombles.

Then you have community support officers, who have few powers and are really nothing more than neighbourhood-watch wardens in hi-viz jackets. If they see a Brazilian fox eating an apple in a bus shelter they must call for a proper police officer, who can't get there because it's night time and the station is shut, or because he hasn't had any fox training or because he's otherwise engaged on the top deck of a bus arresting a doctor for having a backpack full of baking powder and hair gel.

The fact is the British Government is churning out the laws and the only way they can be enforced is if ordinary people start shopping their fellow citizens. How long will it be before we will confide only in our oldest friends, and then only in a whisper, in case an agent of the state is listening? Today we are being reported for indicating a bit too early in our Ford Fiesta. Tomorrow, when they get around to making climate change scepticism a crime, and they will, the equivalent of StephenHarrison and Kev627 will shop you for leaving your TV on stand-by.

It all flies in the face of what I learned at school: you never shop anyone to the teachers. And it's all the wrong way around. Instead of setting up websites where people are exposed for breaking laws that shouldn't exist, I suggest we set one up that reveals the names and addresses of those who call for such laws to be imposed in the first place. I even have a name for such a thing: www.shop-a-dingleberry.com.

In the meantime, though, I must thank the people who put up the signs outside my house. On these chilly summer evenings they came in very handy. As firewood.


The Ultimate Vindication of Joe McCarthy

Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy died 50 years ago. For a half century, elite establishmentarians-echoed (to some extent led) by the media-have moved heaven and earth to make certain succeeding generations swallowed their portrait of him as villainous.

Finally, America has the most thorough scholarly examination of his career in Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight against America's Enemies. This volume results from years of painstaking research by M. Stanton Evans-longtime journalist and author. Unsnarling the errors, distortions and deliberate falsehoods that have been spread regarding McCarthy's stormy five-year expos, of Soviet agents is nothing less than a full-time job.

Why is it necessary to set the record straight on so-called "McCarthyism" at this point? First and foremost, we have a mainstream media which go along with or are cowed by the "political correctness" police. Attempts to deal with today's deadly threat are met in many media quarters with charges of "Islamophobia." One radio talk-show host was driven off the air in Washington because he dared to lean on the Islamic community to speak out more clearly against suicide bombings and terrorist attacks.

Many in the "prestige" media seem quite comfortable with an airport security system that-for fear of arousing the ire of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)-will wand an 85-year-old grandmother from Keokuk, Iowa and let an angry young male from Saudi Arabia zip through. And this despite an attack on our own soil-something that had not happened in McCarthy's time.

Senator McCarthy violated all the "political correctness" taboos of his day-long before that Orwellian term was invented. In that era, "political correctness" meant that almost anyone nailed as a Communist traitor was the victim of a "witch hunt."

Much of the mainstream media sympathized with Alger Hiss-even after that Soviet agent had gone to prison for lying about his treason. The late Newsweek correspondent Ralph de Toledano found that many of his colleagues stopped speaking to him after he blew the whistle on Hiss. Just days after Hiss's imprisonment, Joe McCarthy charged that the Hiss case was not an isolated scandal and that the State Department routinely hired and covered up the records of Communists and their friends....

The Facts

Media errors on McCarthy abound, even on such basics as which body of Congress of which he was a member. Evans identifies the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post as having carried articles mentioning "Senator Joe McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee. [HUAC]" One, McCarthy was a senator, never a member of the House. No senator can be a member of a House committee, let alone chairman of it. Two, if writers for the "prestige" media don't know that Congress is a bicameral legislature, how can we expect them to understand much else, including the difference between 205 and 57? Even the popular TV show "Touched by an Angel" in 1997 ran an episode imputing the Hollywood "blacklist" of Communist actors (portrayed as innocents) to HUAC which-it was implied-was run by Joe McCarthy.

The New York Times (the "newspaper of record") ran an obituary on an 88-year old professor named Oscar Shaftel who had refused to answer questions about Communist connections by "the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee headed by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy." The reality: That panel was headed by Senator William Jenner, not by McCarthy whose Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations had nothing to do with Shaftel.

After Evans persisted for six weeks (to no avail) in demanding that the Times do a correction, he went to AIM founder Reed Irvine, who wrote directly to the Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Sr. That did the trick. The correction finally appeared on a Labor Day Friday next to a correction on the identification of birds in Brooklyn.

It would be hard to find a more savage anti-McCarthy journalist than the gossip-mongering sensationalist Drew Pearson. No single member of the media of that time was more hell-bent on ruining lives of good Americans and smearing the reputations of those getting in his way.

On the floor of the Senate, McCarthy cited a Civil Service Commission security memo and sworn testimony of an ex-communist identifying David Karr-a legman for Pearson-as a Red agent, Communist Party member, a former reporter for the Communist Party's Daily Worker, and a writer for the Communist-front publication Fight. McCarthy said Karr's Red background manifested itself in Pearson's columns, which directed much of their venom at the senator.

A howl of protest went up from Senator Clinton Anderson (D-N.M.) and others that an "upstanding newsman" had been besmirched by McCarthy. But in more recent times, the release of decoded "Venona" Soviet documents revealed Karr as "a competent KGB source" and "a prominent Western financier," the latter because of what Evans calls "his linkage to the bizarre Moscow front man Armand Hammer."

But Pearson's choice of "ultra-left" legmen did not stop there. Blacklisted by History recounts the notoriously-infiltrated World War II agency-the Office of War Information (OWI). Among its employees, Evans reports, was Julia Bazer, who took the Fifth Amendment when asked if she were a Communist Party member. Bazer was the sister of Pearson reporter Andrew Older. Mr. Older had been identified by undercover operative Mary Markward as a Communist agent. His wife also had been so identified.

The most focused media smear on Senator McCarthy was Edward R. Murrow's totally distorted profile of the Wisconsin senator on his televised "See it Now" broadcast (See Aim Report "Looney Clooney Smears Senator McCarthy" - January-A, 2006). Murrow's attack on McCarthy included a film clip wherein Democrats on McCarthy's committee-in McCarthy's absence-poured sympathy on Annie Lee Moss. This despite the fact that Moss had been identified by undercover operative Markward as a member of the Communist Party of the District of Columbia. The FBI had become concerned that Moss had suddenly been shifted to the position of code clerk for the Army Signal Corps. McCarthy's not illogical question: Why would an Army cafeteria worker-a Communist-with no known background in this highly sensitive work be offered that job seemingly out of the blue? This came to McCarthy's attention when his panel was probing the remnants of the (Julius and Ethel) Rosenberg spy ring at Ft. Monmouth, where lax security procedures remained after the Rosenbergs were executed.

Evans notes that neither in the 2005 George Clooney film "Good Night and Good Luck," nor in the original 1954 Ed Murrow presentation is any evidence cited to indicate that Mrs. Moss was an innocent victim. In Murrow's case, the failure to tell the whole story might have been more excusable since many facts in the case were not publicly known then, "though had Murrow and Co. been the crack journalists they professed to be, they could have dug out the facts" from hearing transcripts. "In the case of the Clooney film, there is no excuse whatever, as the truth about the case is fully available to anyone who bothers to review the SACB [Subversive Activities Control Board] reports and archives of [the FBI]," writes the author. Clooney even admits he knew Annie Lee Moss was a Communist. The issue, he insists, was that "she has a right to face her accuser."

"If Clooney was indeed aware of the copious evidence on the case, as he should have been in presuming to inform the world about it, he certainly disguised this knowledge in his movie," Evans retorts. Evans' intrepid shoe-leather sleuthing unearthed an FBI report showing that days before the Senate hearing shown in the Murrow/Clooney shows, the Bureau had fully briefed the Democrats on McCarthy's committee that Annie Lee Moss was in fact a Communist. Yet these same committee Democrats sympathized with her at McCarthy's expense. Evans says by then, committee Democrats were aiding the Eisenhower administration's effort to bring down Senator McCarthy. Eisenhower was surrounded by elitists and Wall-Streeters who played on the generals' concern that the Monmouth probe would give the Army a bad name.

Much more here

A new threat to free speech

The comments below are from a worried Leftist but would seem to have potential applicability across the political spectrum

Under media radar, the Democrat-sponsored "Prevention of Violent Radicalism and Homegrown Terrorism" bill (H.R. 1955) passed the House at the end of October by a vote of 404 (including the entire Minnesota delegation) to 6. The bill was tagged as noncontroversial by the House leadership and is pending before the Senate. For those senators and citizens who remember history, the bill should be controversial, indeed.

Promoted as a relatively innocuous public safety measure, the bill directs money to the Department of Homeland Security for research on homegrown terrorist-Americans in our midst. While this may seem to make sense, the way the bill describes the "hidden enemy," and the powers inherent in the 10-member investigative commission it establishes, should raise concerns among Americans who remember history, no matter what their political leanings.

According to the bill, "homegrown terrorists" can be anyone who "... intimidate(s) or coerce(s) the United States government, the civilian population ... or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social belief," a definition broad enough to include Americans who organize mass marches on Washington to "coerce" changes in government policy.

The bill defines "violent radicals" as Americans who "...promot(e) extremist belief system(s) for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious or social change..." - in other words, Americans who have not yet done anything illegal but who, commissioners believe, have thoughts that might lead to violence.

The bill does not target all thoughts (belief systems) that might result in violence, but only thoughts leading to "... force or violence ... to promote political, religious or social beliefs," which is exactly the kind of violence that might result whenever people gather to demonstrate for or against important issues, such as the Iraq war or abortion.

For at least 18 months this "Homegrown-Terrorism and Extremist Belief Commission" will be required to hold congressional hearings around the country, to uncover Americans with "political, religious or social" concerns who commissioners think might be "extreme" and/or potentially violent, whether any of these Americans has committed a crime or not. Virtually any politically, socially or religiously active person or group could be targeted by the commission to find out who is, and who is not, one of the "hidden enemy" among us.

Witnesses who refuse to testify can expect to be held in "contempt of Congress," as former members of the Bush administration like Harriet Myers have learned recently, and jailed. Witnesses who do testify but say things that commissioners or their staff think are not true can be charged with perjury, or lying to a federal official, as "Scooter" Libby found out. Either way, noncooperative witnesses can face up to a 10-year sentence.

Members of suspect political, religious and social groups, or Americans who might even know people the commission suspects - which certainly will include nonmainstream political parties, certain public advocacy groups, some churches and many mosques - can expect the "commissioners" will want to know ... "are you now, or have you ever been ... associated with extremists, violent radicals or homegrown terrorists?"

For those who do remember history, this should sound uncomfortably familiar. These are the kinds of questions Americans were compelled to answer when testifying before another "legislative commission" during the anti-communist McCarthy-era witch-hunts.

In 1938, the House set up the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to find the dangerous Americans among us, which provided the model for Sen. Joe McCarthy's ideological purges based on accusation and innuendo. But HUAC lasted long after McCarthy passed from the scene, and it was busily investigating anti-Vietnam War and civil rights activists when it was disbanded as part of post-Watergate reforms in 1975.

During its 40-year life, HUAC was used by Richard Nixon to catapult himself into national prominence in the Alger Hiss case. Noncooperative HUAC witnesses like the "Hollywood 10" were jailed for contempt of Congress. Others were blacklisted from employment, including Arthur Miller, Paul Robeson, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, Clifford Odets, Pete Seeger, Richard Wright and many others. In Minnesota, the brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer (the "father" of the atomic bomb) lost his faculty job at the U for failing to "come clean" before HUAC.

HUAC-inspired "terror," that one's ideas or political associations would come under HUAC scrutiny, swept the country. And, once targeted, witnesses knew there was no escape except to accuse one's friends and colleagues, and many did. The careers of thousands of Americans were ruined.

Is it possible that the members of Congress have forgotten or don't know their own history? If this "Son of HUAC" becomes law, any political, religious or social activist is fair game for HUAC-like congressional hearings. And, we can expect that any person or group preparing to do anything other than watch TV during the upcoming Republican Convention in St. Paul will be hearing from the commission ... and will have to be prepared to answer the famous question ... "are you now, or have you ever been...?" And also be prepared to face jail for refusing to answer, or for getting the answer "wrong."


Politically correct swimming pools in Melbourne, Australia

Political correctness has made a splash at swimming pools - instructors have been told not to touch their students. Several swimming teachers have told the Sunday Herald Sun of the edict that came after parents complained their children's personal space had been invaded. One instructor from Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre said: "It's ridiculous. How can you teach someone to swim without occasionally touching them?"

"Sue" did not want to be identified for fear of losing her job. "I used to enjoy teaching swimming classes, but now I'm not so sure. Some of the magic has gone out of it," she said. Another teacher, "Mark", said: "The bottom line is that the parents are paying for these lessons and if they want their kids to learn to swim they need to let us hold and guide them occasionally."

A spokesman for Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre confirmed a complaint had been received from a parent and had been acted upon by staff at the centre. Mr Sahil Bhasin, operations manager at Melbourne City Baths, said it was ridiculously impractical to try to teach a child to swim without physical contact. "You're asking for a drowning if you try this," Mr Bhasin said. [The neurotic parent should have been told that they were unable to help her kid in the circumstances]



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


23 December, 2007

BA caught in a downward spiral of correctness

They started off being very correct by allowing hijabs and turbans. That made their attempts to ban crosses unsustainable. Now they get to the situation below. If they accomodate this guy -- as they probably will -- they will then have to allow their Muslim employees to break for prayer several times a day. If they had originally had the guts to insist on one rule for all, they would have been better off. But all they are good for these days is losing luggage so they may end up going broke anyway

A Jewish man has claimed that British Airways banned him from taking Saturdays off to observe the Sabbath. Daniel Rosenthal, a customer service agent at Heathrow, refused to work after BA told him that he could no longer have the day off.

The London Beth Din, the court of the Chief Rabbi, sent Mr Rosenthal a letter, which read: "We find it extraordinary that your employers are not prepared to respect your wish to continue observing our religion." Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said that he was "very sad" about the situation.

A BA spokesman said: "If he chooses to stay in this job he will sometimes have to work on Saturdays. But in the meantime we have offered to sit down with him again and find another job." Last year BA was forced to back down after suspending a Christian airport worker for wearing a cross in breach of its uniform policy.



By Jeff Jacoby

When Governor Jon Corzine signed legislation repealing New Jersey's death penalty on Monday, there were quite a few people for whom he had good words. In the course of what The New York Times called "an extended and often passionate speech," Corzine praised the members of the Death Penalty Study Commission who had recommended the repeal. He saluted the "courageous leadership" of the state legislators who had voted for it, mentioning eight of them by name. He thanked New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, an activist group, for having "put pressure on those of us in public service to stand up and do the right thing." He proclaimed himself "eternally grateful" to other anti-death-penalty organizations, especially the New Jersey Catholic Conference and the ACLU. He acknowledged "the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty." He noted politely that there are "good people" who support capital punishment and opposed the bill. He even quoted Martin Luther King Jr.

But there were some people Corzine forgot to mention. The governor forgot Kristin Huggins. She was the 22-year-old graphic artist kidnapped in 1992 by Ambrose Harris, who stuffed her into the trunk of her car, let her out in order to rape her, and then shot her twice -- once in the back of her head, once point-blank in the face. The governor forgot Irene Schnaps, a 37-year-old widow butchered by Nathaniel Harvey in 1985. After breaking into her apartment and robbing her, he killed her with 15 blows to the head, using a "hammer-like" weapon with such violence that he fractured her skull, broke her jaw, and knocked out her teeth. The governor forgot Megan Kanka, who was just 7 years old when she was murdered by a neighbor, Jesse Timmendequas. A convicted sex offender, Timmendequas lured Megan into his house by offering to show her a puppy. Then he raped her, smashed her into a dresser, wrapped plastic bags around her head, and strangled her with a belt.

Indeed, the governor forgot to mention *any* of the victims murdered by the men on New Jersey's death row. He signed an order reducing the killers' sentences to life in prison, and assured his audience "that these individuals will never again walk free in our society." But he spoke not a word about any of the men, women, and children who will never again walk at all -- or smile, or dream, or breathe -- because their lives were brutally taken from them by the murderers the new law spares.

That's the way it so often is with death-penalty opponents like Corzine: In their zeal to keep the guilty alive, they forget the innocents who have died. Their conscience is outraged by the death penalty, but only when it is lawfully applied to convicted murderers after due process of law. The far more common "death penalty" -- the one imposed unlawfully on so many murder victims, often with wanton cruelty -- doesn't disturb their conscience nearly so much. Nor do their consciences seem overly troubled by the additional lives lost when capital punishment is eliminated.

A widening sheaf of studies (some by scholars who personally oppose the death penalty) have found that each time a murderer is executed, between 3 and 18 additional homicides are deterred. To mention just one of these studies, University of Houston professors Dale Cloninger and Roberto Marchesini studied the effect of the death-penalty moratorium declared by Illinois Governor George Ryan in 2000, and Ryan's subsequent commutation of every death-row inmate's sentence. Result: an estimated 150 additional murders in Illinois over the subsequent 48 months.

New Jersey hasn't executed anyone since 1963, so the new law may be largely symbolic. But there is nothing symbolic about all the blood shed since the death penalty was abandoned 44 years ago. In 1963, there were 181 homicides in the Garden State. By 1970, the annual death toll had topped 400, and by 1980, it was over 500. The number has fluctuated, but state officials calculated in 2002 that on average, a murder was committed in New Jersey every 25 hours and 41 minutes.

While the murder rate since 2000 has declined modestly across the country, it has "jumped 44 percent in Jersey, up from 3.4 murders per 100,000 people to 4.9," writes Steven Malanga of the Manhattan Institute. "Jersey's increase in murders has been the sixth-highest in the country." That may explain why 53 percent of the state's residents opposed the death-penalty repeal, according to a new Quinnipiac poll, while 78 percent favored retaining it for "the most violent cases." Perhaps they grasp the truth that eludes the politicians in Trenton: When the death penalty is unavailable, more innocent victims die.

WaPo Columnist Compares Christians to KKK, Says They Love 'Torture'

After catching Harold Meyerson's latest Washington Post hatemongering against religion in general, Christians in particular, and Republicans especially, all I could say was just WOW! This thing is nearly unhinged and if you took the word Christian out and replaced it with any of the favored, protected minorities that the MSM guards like mother hens, it would be indistinguishable from the kind of pure bigotry that would result in Meyerson's utter ostracizing should it have been written about those protected classes. Calling Republicans/Christians torturers, abusers of immigrants, members of the KKK, bigots and even mean, Meyerson skipped only the Nazi and Hitler references making one wonder if his hatred for Christians isn't fully sated after all in this piece and if there is more seething bile that he decided it was better not to air?

There is absolutely no substance to Meyerson's piece at all. It is filled with lies, mischaracterizations, blatant spin and name calling. In fact, it is nothing but a 12 paragraph excuse to call Christians names, so I won't waste time trying to refute his garbage as it is so bigoted and full of lies that it defies reply -- that and it would take far more time than I'm willing to give it. But, here is a list of all the names he calls Christians and Republicans and just some of his outrageously off-base "analysis" in this piece of trash

* As Christians across the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, it's a fitting moment to contemplate the mountain of moral, and mortal, hypocrisy that is our Christianized Republican Party.

* Rather, it's the gap between the teachings of the Gospels and the preachings of the Gospel's Own Party that has widened past the point of absurdity, even as the ostensible Christianization of the party proceeds apace.

* Likewise his (George Bush's) support of torture, which he highlighted again this month when he threatened to veto House-passed legislation that would explicitly ban waterboarding.

* It's not just Bush whose catechism is a merry mix of torture and piety.

* But it's on their policies concerning immigrants where Republicans -- candidates and voters alike -- really run afoul of biblical writ. Not on immigration as such but on the treatment of immigrants who are already here.

* Yet the distinctive cry coming from the Republican base this year isn't simply to control the flow of immigrants across our borders but to punish the undocumented immigrants already here

*The push to persecute the immigrants already among us comes distinctly, though by no means entirely, from the same Republican right that protests its Christian faith at every turn.

* We've seen this kind of Christianity before in America... At its height in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan

* But nativist bigotry is strongest in the Old Time Religion precincts of the Republican Party

* The most depressing thing about the Republican presidential race is that the party's rank and file require their candidates to grow meaner with each passing week.

* And now, inconveniently, inconsiderately, comes Christmas, a holiday that couldn't be better calibrated to expose the Republicans' rank, fetid hypocrisy.

See what I mean? There is no "debate" here, nothing to say in reply to this hater because there isn't a single sentient point made by Meyerson. His just let lose a stream of hate that is as baseless and lacking of real proof as any a bigot ever devised against his most hated segment of humanity. In the final analysis, Meyerson complains about the right's "hypocrisy" yet so revels in his own that it makes your head spin. After all, as he complains that the right is so overly concerned about religion in politics, he wants it utterly eliminated from the public sphere, then he complains that the right isn't "tolerant" enough. Yet, he so pummels Christians and religion showing he is just as intolerant in the opposite direction as those he claims to hate so much.

Like I said, reading Meyerson's piece boggles the mind. It really has to be read in its entirety to be believed. This kind of hatred would never be allowed by a newspaper should it have been leveled against Jews, blacks or gays, et al. This is the kind of stuff you'd see from the presses of dictators and tyrants' in their efforts to discredit their enemies. This is a China's or a Chavez' style, not that of a level headed democrat. All you can say is just WOW!


Australia: Prohibition for blacks?

Once condemned as "racist" by Leftists, it is a Leftist government that wants to bring alcohol prohibition back. Up until the 1970s prohibition was a policy of long standing -- based on the readily observable difficulties that Australian Aborigines have with alcohol. But Leftists were wiser than all that of course. I myself believe that totally equal treatment of blacks and whites (including abandonment of all "affirmative action" programs) is the only way forward for blacks but it is amusing to see a clear example of how our "compassionate" Leftists really do not have a clue

PROMINENT indigenous leader Noel Pearson says Queensland's Alcohol Management Plans have failed because of poor management by the State Government. Mr Pearson has backed Premier Anna Bligh's call to consider prohibition after she this week acknowledged the AMPs had failed. Mr Pearson said "taking grog off the black fella" would make communities and leaders responsible for their own actions, with AMPs initially succeeding and then failing only because of poor management. The Government had failed to address demand reduction strategies like addict treatment centres and loopholes exploited by sly-groggers.

"The other part of the solution is Aboriginal people and leaders facing up to problems in the community and, to date, we have not done that," Mr Pearson said. "In Hope Vale, bootleggers have been using back roads to dodge police, and young ones have written F- - - Off on signs warning of alcohol restrictions. We can't have the law being mocked like that."

Mr Pearson did not see prohibition as an unfair law imposed by whites on blacks. "White fellas don't live with 800 relatives in the same township. Black fellas in these communities have got hundreds of relatives living around them, and when you add grog into a kinship system, it becomes a very ugly, dangerous thing."

But evidence detailed in Alcohol Management Review reports obtained by The Courier-Mail shows banning alcohol is unlikely to work, with drinkers prepared to go to extreme lengths to get their liquor of choice. One review states young men in five communities are endangering their lives by going on "grog runs" to Thursday Island and returning drunk at night in boats overloaded with liquor. On Mornington Island residents are brewing alcohol in unsanitised bins and charging up to $50 for a two-litre bottle. In Napranum residents are carting banned liquor across crocodile-infested areas.

The town is one of seven communities which connect an increase in petrol sniffing among children with introduced alcohol restrictions. A spokeswoman for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Partnerships Minister Lindy Nelson-Carr said the Government had taken many initiatives to bolster the effectiveness of AMPs in indigenous communities. She cited the introduction of a night patrol on Mornington Island. But a community spokesman said the patrol was infrequent.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


22 December, 2007

Secular Europe or Religious America?

By Dennis Prager

Last week, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote a column titled "Secular Europe's Merits," in which he explained why he prefers the secularism of Europe to the religiosity of America.

To his credit (other New York Times columnists do not generally agree to debate anything they write -- Paul Krugman, for example, has refused to discuss his new book on liberalism with me), Cohen agreed to come on my show, and proved to be a charming guest. A distinguished foreign correspondent for Reuters and the International Herald Tribune, Cohen nevertheless betrayed what I believe is endemic to those who favor Europe's secularism to America's religiosity -- emotion rather than reason. Here are some of the points from his opinion piece followed by my responses.

Cohen: "The Continent has paid a heavy price in blood for religious fervor and decided some time ago, as a French king put it, that 'Paris is well worth a Mass.'"

There is no doubt that Western Europe abandoned religion and opted for secularism largely because of the blood spilled in religious wars, just as it abandoned nationalism because of all the blood it spilled in the name of nationalism during World War I. However, Cohen and others who argue for a secular society ignore the even heavier price in blood Europe has paid for secular fervor. Secular fervor, i.e., communism and Nazism, slaughtered, tortured and enslaved more people in 50 years than all Europe's religious wars did in the course of centuries.

This point is so obvious, and so devastating to the pro-secularists, that you wonder how they deal with it. But having debated secularists for decades, I predicted Cohen's response virtually word for word on my radio show the day before I spoke with him. He labeled communism and Nazism "religions."

This response completely avoids the issue. Communism and Nazism were indeed religion-like in their hold on people, but they were completely secular movements and doctrines. Moreover, communism was violently anti-religious, and Nazism affirmed pre-Christian -- what we tend to call "pagan" -- values and beliefs. In fact, the emergence of communism and Nazism in an increasingly secular Europe is one of the most powerful arguments for the need for Judeo-Christian religions. Europe's two secular totalitarian systems perfectly illustrate what G.K. Chesterton predicted a hundred years ago: "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything."

Cohen: "The U.S. culture wars have produced . . . 'the injection of religion into politics in a very overt way.'"

Cohen gives no examples, and though this charge is constantly repeated by many on the left, I have yet to figure out what exactly these critics mean. Do they mean, for example, that those who deem abortion immoral and wish to ban it (except to save the mother's life or in the cases of incest or rape) have injected religion into politics? If so, why is this objectionable?

What are those who derive their values from religion supposed to do -- stay out of the political process? Are only those who derive their values from secular sources or their own hearts allowed to attempt to influence the political process? It seems that this is precisely what Cohen and other secularists argue. But they are not even consistent here. I recall no secularist who protested that those, like the Rev. Martin Luther King, who used religion to fight for black equality "injected religion into politics in a very overt way."

The leftist argument against religious Americans' "injection of religion into politics" is merely its way of trying to keep only the secular and religious left in the political arena -- and the religious right, primarily evangelical Christians, out.

Cohen: "Much too overt for Europeans, whose alarm at George W. Bush's presidency has been fed by his allusions to divine guidance -- 'the hand of a just and faithful God' in shaping events, or his trust in 'the ways of Providence.'"

Cohen and his fellow Europeans sound paranoid here. President Bush has invoked God less than most presidents in American history, and the examples Cohen offers are thoroughly innocuous.

Cohen: "Such beliefs seem to remove decision-making from the realm of the rational at the very moment when the West's enemy acts in the name of fanatical theocracy."

At least in my lifetime, it is the secular left that has embraced far more irrationality than the religious right. It was people on the secular left, not anyone on the religious right, who found Marxism, one of the most irrational doctrines in history, rational. It was only on the secular left that people morally equated the United States and the Soviet Union. It was secular leftists, not religious Jews or Christians, who believed the irrational nonsense that men and women were basically the same.

It is overwhelmingly among the secular (and religious) left that people have bought into the myriad irrational hysterias of my lifetime -- without zero population growth humanity will begin to starve, huge mortality rates in America from heterosexual AIDS, mass death caused by secondhand smoke, and now destruction of the planet by man-induced global warming. It is extremely revealing that with regard to global warming scenarios of man-induced doom, the world's most powerful religious figure, Pope Benedict XVI, has just warned against accepting political dogma in the guise of science. We'll see who turns out to be more rational on this issue -- the secular left or the religious right. I bet everything on the religious.

There is no question but that most religious people have irrational religious views. However, as I wrote in my last column, theology and values are not the same. I am convinced that the human being is programmed to believe in the non-rational. The healthy religious confine their irrationality to their theologies and are quite rational on social issues. On the other hand, vast numbers of secular people in the West have done the very opposite -- rejected irrational religiosity and affirmed irrational social beliefs.


Anti-Americanism is just jealousy of American power and influence

How can America improve its image abroad? Answers to this question are being bandied by all of the presidential hopefuls. John McCain promises to "immediately close Guantanamo Bay." Ron Paul and Barack Obama both say they would withdraw American troops from Iraq. Implicit is the notion that George W Bush has tarnished America's reputation in the world, and that reversing some of his more contentious policies will make the United States popular again. If only it were that simple.

Although polls do indeed show that President Bush has brought anti-Americanism to the surface in many parts of the world, the roots of enmity toward America reach far deeper than one man and his policies. The problem of anti-Americanism will not go away just because Americans elect a new president. Contrary to much of today's conventional wisdom, anti-Americanism is not a recent phenomenon. In Europe, for example, anti-Americanism is as old as the United States itself. In fact, anti-Americanism is so established on the Old Continent that there are now as many different brands of anti-Americanism as there are European countries.

Take Spain, for example, where anti-Americanism goes back to the Spanish-American War, which in 1898 drove the final nail into the coffin of the Spanish empire and ended its colonial exploitation of Cuba. Many Spaniards also resent America's support for General Francisco Franco (1892-1975), who in his day was popular with the Americans because of his strong anti-Communist credentials.

In Germany, anti-Americanism is an exercise in moral relativism. Germans desperately want their country to be perceived as a "normal" country, and its elites are using anti-Americanism as a political tool to absolve themselves and their parents of the crimes of World War II. They routinely equate the US invasion of Iraq with the Holocaust, for example, as a psychological ruse to make themselves feel better about their sordid past.

In France, anti-Americanism is an inferiority complex masquerading as a superiority complex. France is the birthplace of anti-Americanism (the first act of which has been traced to a French lawyer in the late 1700s), and bashing the United States is an inexpensive way to indulge France's fantasies of past greatness and splendor.

As political realists like Thucydides (c 460-395 BC) might have predicted, anti-Americanism is also a visceral reaction against the current distribution of global power. America commands a level of economic, military and cultural influence that leaves many around the world envious, resentful and even angry and afraid. Indeed, most purveyors of anti-Americanism will continue to bash America until the United States is balanced or replaced (by those same anti-Americans, of course) as the dominant actor on the global stage.

In Europe, for example, where self-referential elites are pathologically obsessed with their perceived need to "counter-balance" the United States, anti-Americanism is now the dominant ideology of public life. In fact, it is no coincidence that the spectacular rise in anti-Americanism in Europe has come at precisely the same time that the European Union, which often struggles to speak with one voice, has been trying to make its political weight felt both at home and abroad.

In their quest to transform Europe into a superpower capable of challenging the United States, European elites are using anti-Americanism to forge a new pan-European identity. This artificial post-modern European "citizenship", which demands allegiance to a faceless bureaucratic superstate based in Brussels instead of to the traditional nation-state, is being set up in opposition to the United States. To be "European" means (nothing more and nothing less than) to not be an American.

Because European anti-Americanism has much more to do with European identity politics than with genuine opposition to American foreign policy, European elites do not really want the United States to change. Without the intellectual crutch of anti-Americanism, the new "Europe" would lose its raison d'etre. Anti-Americanism also drives Europe's fixation with its diplomatic and economic "soft power" alternative as the elixir for the world's problems. Europeans despise America's military "hard power" because it magnifies the preponderance of US power and influence on the world stage, thereby exposing the fiction behind Europe's superpower pretensions.

Europeans know they will never achieve hard power parity with America, so they want to change the rules of the international game to make soft power the only acceptable superpower standard. Toward this end, European elites seek to de-legitimize one of the main pillars of American influence by making it prohibitively costly in the realm of international public opinion for the United States to use its military power in the future. By ensconcing a system of international law based around the United Nations, they hope to constrain American exercise of power. For Europeans, multilateralism is about neutering American hard power, not about solving international problems. It is, as the clich‚ goes, about Lilliputians tying down Gulliver.

Many American foreign policy mavens refuse to recognize this. In fact, they often over-idolize European soft power, largely because they share the European belief that a multilateral world order is the proper antidote to global anti-Americanism.

Case in point is a new report on "smart power" recently released by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The document proffers policy advice based on the fiction that the blame for anti-Americanism lies entirely with the United States. It calls on the next president to fix the problem of anti-Americanism by pursuing a neo-liberal norm-based internationalist foreign policy; it argues, predictably, that America can restore its standing in the world by working through the United Nations and by signing the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court.

But the report says not a word about the gratuitous anti-American bigotry of Europe's "sophisticated" elites. Nor does it acknowledge that most European purveyors of anti-Americanism are far more opposed to what America is than to what America does. It is not primarily US foreign policy they seek to change: What Europeans (and many of their American converts) want is a wholesale re-creation of America in the post-modern European pacifist image.

To earn the approbation of Europe's sanctimonious elites, the next American president would (for starters) have to relinquish all use of military force, surrender US sovereignty to the United Nations, adopt a socialist economic model, abolish the death penalty, accept an Iranian nuclear bomb, abandon US support for Israel, appease the Islamic world in a high-minded "Alliance of Civilizations"... and so on.

Anti-Americanism is (at least for the foreseeable future) a zero-sum game because the main purveyors of anti-Americanism are in denial about the dangers facing the world today. They believe the United States is the problem and that their vision for a post-modern socialist multicultural utopia is the answer. Never mind that most Europeans do not have enough faith in their own model to want to pass it on to the next generation.

This is the dilemma America faces: If it wants to be popular abroad, it will have to pay in terms of reduced security. And if it determines to protect the American way of life from global threats, then it will have to pay in terms of reduced popularity abroad. But if America loses out against the existential threats posed by global terrorism and fundamentalist Islam, then the issue of America's international image will be moot. Better, therefore, if the next president focuses on keeping America strong and secure, rather than on pleasing those who will never like the United States, even if its foreign policy changes.

Better, also, for the next president to focus on wielding American power wisely, because doing so will earn the United States (grudging) respect, which in the game of unstable relationships that characterizes modern statecraft, is far more important than love.


Rewritten history risks the future of democracy

In October, the Spanish parliament passed a law of historical memory that banned rallies and memorials celebrating dictator Francisco Franco. His Falangist regime will be officially denounced and its victims honoured. There are plausible reasons for enacting such a law. Many people killed by the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War lie forgotten in mass graves. There is still a certain degree of nostalgia on the far Right for Franco's dictatorship. People gathered at his tomb earlier this year chanted: "We won the civil war", while denouncing socialists and foreigners, especially Muslims.

Reason enough, one may think, for Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to use the law to exorcise the demons of dictatorship for the sake of democracy's good health. But legislation is a blunt instrument for dealing with history. While historical discussion won't be out of bounds in Spain, banning ceremonies celebrating bygone days may be going a step too far. The desire to control past and present is, of course, a common feature of dictatorships. This can be done through false propaganda, distorting the truth or suppressing the facts. Anyone in China who mentions what happened at Tiananmen Square (and many other places) in June 1989 will soon find himself in the less than tender embrace of the State Security Police. Indeed, much of what happened under Mao Zedong remains taboo.

Sometimes the wounds of the past are so fresh that even democratic governments deliberately impose silence to foster unity. When Charles de Gaulle revived the French Republic after World War II, he ignored the history of Vichy France and Nazi collaboration by pretending that all French citizens had been good republican patriots. More truthful accounts, such as Marcel Ophuls's magisterial documentary The Sorrow and the Pity (1969), were, to say the least, unwelcome. Ophuls's film was not shown on French state television until 1981. After Franco's death in 1975, Spain, too, treated its recent history with remarkable discretion. But memory won't be denied.

A new generation in France, born after the war, broke the public silence with a torrent of books and films on French connivance in the Holocaust, as well as the collaborationist Vichy regime, sometimes in an almost inquisitorial spirit. French historian Henri Russo dubbed this new attitude the Vichy Syndrome.

Spain seems to be going through a similar process. Children of Franco's victims are making up for their parents' silence. Suddenly the civil war is everywhere, in books, television shows, movies, academic seminars and now in the legislature.

This is not only a European phenomenon. Nor is it a sign of creeping authoritarianism. On the contrary, it often comes with more democracy. When South Korea was ruled by military strongmen, Korean collaboration with Japanese colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century was not discussed, partly because some of those strongmen, notably Park Chung-hee, had been collaborators.

Now, under President Roh Moo-hyun, a new truth and reconciliation law has not only stimulated a thorough airing of historical grievances but also has led to a hunt for past collaborators. Lists have been drawn up of people who played a significant role in the Japanese colonial regime, ranging from university professors to police chiefs, and extend even to their children, reflecting the Confucian belief that families are responsible for the behaviour of their individual members. That many family members, including Park's daughter, Geun-hye, support the conservative opposition party is surely no coincidence.

Opening up the past to public scrutiny is part of maintaining an open society. But when governments do so, history can easily become a weapon to be used against political opponents and thus be as damaging as banning historical inquiries. This is a good reason for leaving historical debates to writers, journalists, filmmakers and historians.

Government intervention is justified only in a limited sense. Many countries enact legislation to stop people from inciting others to commit violent acts, though some go further. For example, Nazi ideology and symbols are banned in Germany and Austria, and Holocaust denial is a crime in 13 countries, including France, Poland and Belgium. Last year, the French parliament introduced a bill to proscribe denial of the Armenian genocide, too.

But even if extreme caution is sometimes understandable, it may not be wise, as a matter of general principle, to ban abhorrent or simply cranky views of the past. Banning certain opinions, no matter how perverse, has the effect of elevating their proponents into dissidents. Last month, British writer David Irving, who was jailed in Austria for Holocaust denial, had the bizarre distinction of defending free speech in a debate at the Oxford Union.

While the Spanish Civil War was not on par with the Holocaust, even bitter history leaves room for interpretation. Truth can be found only if people are free to pursue it. Many brave people have risked or lost their lives in defence of this freedom. It is right for a democracy to repudiate a dictatorship, and the new Spanish law is cautiously drafted, but it is better to leave people free to express even unsavoury political sympathies, for legal bans don't foster free thinking, they impede them.


What Part of Catholic Do You Not Understand?

Someone needs to ask the US bishops conference (USCCB) movie reviewer, Harry Forbes what part of the concept “Catholic” he does not understand. Mr. Forbes gave a glowing review to the film, The Golden Compass, and put all American Catholic bishops on record as supporting the work of an atheist! Subsequently, New Line Cinema attempted to do a full-scale promotion of the movie using diocesan newspapers claiming that the bishops’ movie office had declared the film to be “entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching.” Just to set the record straight: this movie has been condemned or criticized by at least one Cardinal, several Archbishops and Bishops in the US and the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. In fact, the latter called it “the most anti-Christmas film possible,” referring of course to its deliberate release during the Advent season. Wisely, the USCCB removed Mr. Forbes’ positive review of the movie from their website as soon as the controversy started.

Mr. Forbes is entitled to his own opinion on any matter, but he is not entitled to give his own opinions in the name of our bishops. The bishops deserve better—Mr. Forbes deserves to be fired.

This matter goes deeper than just one incident. We can rightly tolerate honest mistakes and errors of judgment when they happen. We are all human, and we would all like that same tolerance directed toward us for our mistakes. What is less tolerable and cause for appropriate action is a pattern of malfeasance. Mr. Forbes has a track record of shaming our bishops with his upbeat reviews of films that do not remotely reflect the values of any Christian let alone the bishops.

In 2005, Harry Forbes gave such a positive review to the homosexual promotional film, Brokeback Mountain, that the bishops had to withdraw the shameless review and replace it with another. Still stinging from the priest scandals of 2002 and beyond, the review was not only morally wrong, it was imprudent, ill-timed and embarrassing. In his original review of the two homosexual lovers and their infantile problems, Forbes soft pedals the gross man-on-man sex scenes and ends by saying that the bishops’ rating of the film indicates that “some adults” may have problems with the moral content of the movie. That’s like saying that “some wives” may object to their husbands having affairs with other women.

Forbes’ track record does not stop there. It has recently come to light that in 2005 he issued another glowing review for a salacious homosexual movie called Rent based on a Broadway production of the same name. LifeSiteNews has recently documented the offensive commentary which was posted on the Catholic News Service website; suffice it to say that the bishops should not have to be on record as supporting that one either.

What we are expecting is standard practice in the business world: namely, that those who present their company’s (or church’s) views to the public represent the views of their employers faithfully. If they make a mistake they can be forgiven and the damage repaired; but if they misrepresent their bosses consistently and on fundamental matters, they should be fired to defend the very integrity of those who they speak for in public. Simple as that!



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


21 December, 2007

Savage vs. CAIR: The battle over free speech

By Cinnamon Stillwell

Conservative talk radio show host Michael Savage is no stranger to courting controversy. Savage is known for his blunt commentary which at times goes beyond the realm of the politically incorrect into the confrontational. It is a style Savage describes as "psychological nudity" and the opening to his show warns overly-sensitive listeners as much. But, in the process, Savage touches on some fundamental truths that hit home with his fans, while simultaneously motivating his opponents. Whether they love him or hate him, 8 million listeners tune into "The Savage Nation" each week. The fact that the show originates in left-leaning San Francisco only adds to its entertainment appeal.

Savage's controversial commentary tends to elicit a censorious response. It wasn't long ago that Savage's remarks on illegal immigrants drew the ire of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, which, it seems, is always on the lookout for avenues of politically-correct behavior control. Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval introduced a resolution twice this year condemning Savage for "hate speech," a meaningless yet ominous gesture which disregards the concept of free speech. The resolution failed the first time around thanks to the lone dissent of the now-ousted Supervisor Ed Jew, who, in contrast to Sandoval's identity-politics-steeped perspective, stuck with upholding the First Amendment. But in October, the resolution passed, providing a menacing example of government interference, albeit symbolically, in the free speech rights of its citizenry.

Economic punishment is another weapon in the hands of those opposed to Savage's provocative methodology and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is the latest to jump on the boycott bandwagon. CAIR is a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization that touts itself as "America's largest Islamic civil liberties group." As such, CAIR expressed concern over a number of statements made by Savage on his Oct. 29 program that the group felt were anti-Muslim in nature. In response, CAIR, along with the newly formed Hate Hurts America Community and Interfaith Coalition, has attempted to mount a boycott aimed at advertisers on Savage's show. According to a Dec. 3 CAIR press release, a growing list of companies, including AutoZone, Citrix, TrustedID, JC Penney, OfficeMax, Wal-Mart, and AT&T, have joined the boycott.

But rather than taking CAIR's boycott lying down, Savage is fighting back, in court. Represented by his lawyer, Daniel A. Horowitz, Savage is suing CAIR primarily for copyright infringement. According to the text of the lawsuit, which is posted at Savage's Web site, CAIR "misappropriated" his work by posting the four-minute segment in question at its Web site and including it in outreach and fundraising efforts. Taking it a step further, the lawsuit accuses CAIR of misrepresenting itself as a "civil rights organization" and of "advocating a specific political agenda that is directly opposed to the existence of a free society." While the copyright infringement charges against CAIR may or may not pan out, the broader implications could end up holding the most weight.

Savage is certainly not the first to call CAIR's political motivations into question. CAIR is the leading Islamic lobby group in the nation and the organization is accorded a great deal of legitimacy by the mainstream media, the Bush administration and other politicians, academia, civil rights activists, and even military and federal agencies that have employed the group's assistance for "sensitivity" and "cultural training." Nonetheless, questions surrounding CAIR's philosophical underpinnings, foreign funding, and political goals continue to haunt the group's footsteps.

Federal prosecutors named CAIR, along with the Islamic Society of North America and the North America Islamic Trust, an unindicted co-conspirator in the recent case involving the now-defunct Muslim charity the Holy Land Foundation and its alleged financial ties to the Palestinian terrorist group turned terrorist government Hamas. Also coming to light via the Dallas trial was a 1991 memo put out by the Egyptian Islamist organization the Muslim Brotherhood citing a strategy to subvert the West using mainstream Islamic front groups such as CAIR. As Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher put it:

The HLF trial is exposing for the first time how the international Muslim Brotherhood - whose Palestinian division is Hamas - operates as a self-conscious revolutionary vanguard in the United States. The court documents indicate that many leading Muslim-American organizations - including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim American Society - are an integral part of the Brotherhood's efforts to wage jihad against America by nonviolent means.

Indeed, in a 1993 interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, CAIR's communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, let slip that: "I wouldn't want to create the impression that I wouldn't like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future ... But I'm not going to do anything violent to promote that. I'm going to do it through education."

In light of the mistrial declared in the Holy Land Foundation case, which some concluded was due to a prosecution insufficiently prepared for the rigors of explaining terrorist financing and charges of intimidation among members of the jury, CAIR is trying to have the "unindicted co-conspirator" label retracted. It has solicited the assistance of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., to that end. But even without the revelations brought to light by the Holy Land Foundation trial, a body of evidence exists to suggest that CAIR is not the benign organization it presents itself as.

Three CAIR officials have been convicted on federal terrorism charges since Sept. 11, 2001, and, according to World Net Daily, "at least 11 other CAIR officials have been caught up in terror investigations." Others have documented CAIR's objectionable associations, including its founding by former officials of the Islamic Association of Palestine, which has been described by the FBI counter-terrorism unit as a "a front organization for Hamas." It's to the point where, as WND puts it, "Congressional leaders say they are warning lawmakers and other Washington officials to disassociate from the group due to its growing terror ties."

This may explain why California Sen. Barbara Boxer rescinded an award last year that was bestowed upon Basim Elkarra, the executive director of CAIR-Sacramento. As she put it at the time, "To praise (CAIR) because they haven't been indicted is like somebody saying, 'I'm not a crook.'" Similarly, New York Sen. Charles Schumer, in a statement from the Sept. 2003 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security noted that "we know (CAIR) has ties to terrorism ... intimate links with Hamas" and Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin called CAIR "unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect." Rep. Bill Shuster R-Penn., concluded that "Time and again (CAIR) has shown itself to be nothing more than an apologist for groups bent on the destruction of Israel and Islamic domination over the West." With the exception of the latter, all of these politicians are Democrats, demonstrating that criticism of CAIR is no right-wing conspiracy. Nor is it, as has been claimed by CAIR officials on many occasions, a campaign by the so-called Israel Lobby.

The list of abhorrent statements made by CAIR officials, not to mention unethical tactics, ties to terrorism and Saudi funding, is so long that criticism can no longer be avoided by deflecting blame. Savage's lawsuit details a number of instances in which CAIR officials publicly supported terrorism, acted as apologists for or distorted facts around terrorist acts, and admitted to an Islamist agenda to dominate America.

If experience is any indication, Savage's lawsuit may very well end up being settled out of court, as its unlikely CAIR will wish to call attention to these unsavory details. Such was the case when CAIR tried to sue Andrew Whitehead, the founder of the organization Anti-CAIR, in 2005 for libel. The lawsuit was based on objections to statements posted at the Anti-CAIR Web site, including Whitehead's labeling CAIR a "terrorist supporting front organization." But after Whitehead's lawyer responded with a series of discovery requests and documents that, had they become part of a trial, almost certainly would have exposed CAIR's shady background, the organization agreed to settle out of court. To this day, Whitehead has made no changes to the Anti-CAIR Web site, which may indicate that none of the libel charges made by CAIR could be substantiated.

At the time the case was settled, some predicted that CAIR's litigiousness would taper off, but the group seems simply to have shifted tactics. Now, mounting boycotts or pressuring employers to drop political commentators whom they label "anti-Muslim" are CAIR's preferred routes.

And Savage is not the first target. In 2005, talk show host Michael Graham found himself the object of one of CAIR's pressure campaigns and ended up losing his job as a result, an outcome that was praised by CAIR officials. Conservative columnist and author Cal Thomas too was targeted by CAIR earlier this year for comments he made on Washington, D.C., radio station WTOP, but his employers, hit with a barrage of supportive e-mails from the public, stood by him.

Even prime-time fiction is not immune to CAIR's meddling. The television show "24" earned CAIR's disapproval after the introduction of an Islamic terrorist sleeper cell to the story line of the fourth season. CAIR immediately scheduled a meeting with Fox executives in Los Angeles, which resulted in "24" star Kiefer Sutherland delivering a midseason disclaimer reassuring viewers that not all Muslims were terrorists. As I noted in a column on the subject, the show itself makes this point obvious and the fact that it counts Muslims among its fans would seem to indicate as much. But where CAIR rears its head, others tend to cave lest they be labeled with the broad brush of "Islamophobia."

A favored CAIR tactic is to push the specter of anti-Muslim hate crimes, as if to imply that the United States is a hostile environment for Muslims. The overriding narrative holds that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were the catalyst for a wave of unfounded hostility towards Islam. Never mind the fact that it is not anti-Muslim hate crimes that have been on the rise since Sept. 11 but rather anti-Jewish hate crimes, the United States is still the most religiously and ethnically tolerant nation in the world. This may perhaps explain why, as compared to other parts of the West, Muslims are thriving in America. But one would never know this to listen to CAIR's dire reports.

Among the supposed anti-Muslim hate crimes sweeping the nation are death threats, a claim that has a habit of popping up whenever criticism is directed toward high-profile Muslim groups or individuals. It seems awfully coincidental that, following the announcement of Savage's lawsuit, the FBI began investigating a death threat claim brought by Basim Elkarra, director of CAIR's Sacramento chapter, which he insists resulted from the public feud. Strangely enough, Elkarra also reported a death threat after Sen. Boxer, as mentioned above, rescinded his award. While the basis for Elkarra's current claim remains to be seen, such threats are in fact a hazard of public life and aren't necessarily the doing of one's political opponents. The truth of the matter is that those who dare to critique Islam - Muslims and ex-Muslims among them - are themselves most at risk of death threats in the current political and religious climate.

Time will tell whether or not the rest of Savage's advertisers fall prey to CAIR's intimidation tactics, but something tells me his aggressive lawsuit will have an impact. Whatever happens, it's high time that CAIR's mantle of respectability be put to the test. The war on terrorism has many fronts, the bulk of them ideological in nature. Giving up our rights to free speech in order to avoid causing offense would be a clear victory for America's enemies. The question is, is CAIR among them?


Canada's kangaroo courts

Trivial and unsubstantiated complaints to the country's various human rights commissions have become so commonplace they're barely even noticed anymore. But it would be unwise to dismiss these as mere instances of "political correctness run amuck." There are those among us who would dearly love to further restrict our right to free speech and they've found a powerful ally in our human rights commissions.

Originally set up to hear cases of discrimination with regards to housing, employment and accessing services, these commissions have become little more than support groups for those who would censor and deny any speech they disagree with. It's ironic that they're referred to as "human rights" commissions when, in fact, they have become the champions of groups who insist others are not entitled to differing opinions, voices or expressions. By slowly shrinking and curtailing free speech, they are legitimizing those constituencies in society who have no appetite for views other than their own.

In their most recent acts of contrition, the federal and B.C. human rights commissions have agreed to hear a complaint filed by four students from Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School. They're accusing Maclean's magazine of subjecting Canadian Muslims to hatred and Islamophobia for reproducing excerpts from Mark Steyn's, America Alone, in a 2006 article.

Steyn's book sold very well and was one of the most talked about releases ever written by a Canadian. It so impressed me that I adopted it for a third-year course dealing with multiculturalism and conflict. Numerous students, including at least one Muslim, expressed their delight at being assigned something so fresh and thought-provoking as required reading.

If some people don't like the book that's their right. And if they want to submit a frivolous complaint to a human rights commission, that's their right too. Sadly, for many people, complaining and grieving is all they have. But there is absolutely no excuse for human rights commissions to validate these malicious exercises in censorship. They are not bound by legislation or precedent to entertain every yahoo that comes whining and crying about an article or book that hurt their feelings. These type of people thrive on being offended. They live for those moments where they can play the victim role amidst an imaginary culture of intolerance. It's their narcotic.

These complaints are not about addressing hate speech. There is a Criminal Code section that deals with hate crime. But prosecuting under that statute requires some burden of proof and is governed by the presumption of innocence and due process. None of these are considerations at human rights commission hearings. This is precisely the reason such complaints are made to these kangaroo courts rather than the RCMP.

Launching these types of investigations is aimed at chilling journalists and threatening media outlets with costly legal bills and negative public attention. They are about silencing dissenting voices and censoring the media's ability to report from a broad range of perspectives. Human rights commissions have no business being complicit in such dangerous and anti-democratic thuggery.


Canada's Supreme Court Rules in Internal Religious Matter - Jewish Divorce

This may not be as bad as it sounds. The court probably saw itself as simply enforcing a contract

The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a man to pay damages for failing to provide his former wife with a Jewish writ of divorce, or ghet, a purely religious matter with no connection to Canada's civil law. According to a report from Brian Lilley of CFRB radio news, the ruling may have an impact on other religious groups in Canada.

The case has been pending since a Montreal woman petitioned the Supreme Court in 2006 to uphold a lower court decision awarding her damages after her ex-husband refused to provide her with the ghet. Stephanie Bruker and Jason Marcovitz were married in 1969 and when they divorced in 1980, part of the legal settlement included a promise by Marcovitz that he would provide a ghet.

Lilley quotes Peter Vere, a Catholic canon lawyer, who pointed to the danger of secular courts involving themselves in the internal matters of religious groups. Vere warned that "this decision could impose itself on the conscience of the individual or fine an individual for something they hold in good conscience. It is never a good thing when the courts try and legislate creed."

Vere cited cases in which Catholics contend in ecclesiastical courts over annulments and others in which religious freedom plays a part in conversions. Under some interpretations of Muslim Sharia Law, a person who leaves Islam for another religion is liable to the severest penalties.

The dissenting opinion was penned by Justice Marie Deschamps who wrote, "In addition, the assessment of damages would require the court to implement a rule of religious law that is not within its jurisdiction and that violates the secular law it is constitutionally responsible for applying."

LifeSiteNews.com reported in 2006 that the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that although the pre-nuptial agreement that included the promise of the ghet had been signed, the federal Divorce Act does not give courts jurisdiction to force anyone to issue any purely religious decree. Bruker had sued Marcovitz successfully in the lower courts, being awarded $47,500 plus interest going back to 1995.

Bruker's lawyer, Alan Stein, said in 2006, when the Supreme Court agreed to hear his wife's request to uphold the lower court's ruling, that the Court's ruling will have far-reaching consequences for all Canadians, because it will affect the validity of any agreement of a religious or moral nature.


More moral equivalency from CNN's Amanpour

Post below lifted from Infidels are cool. See the original for links

I'm watching Christian Amanpour CNN special outlining the Christian fundamentalist "threat" to America. I just get sick to my stomach watching this. She has gone through a full hour of outlining how the "fundamental Christian Right" is the number one threat to America. Ummm, hello? Islam? She spends an ENTIRE segment on the few abortion clinic murders making it seem like it's this huge problem that we must deal with. She makes the "Christian right" look like some extreme movement that is just out of line and very typical of the biased CNN reporter. She also interviews Jimmy Carter and lauds the fact that he's a "moderate" Baptist but doesn't mention the fact that he's anti-Israel and legitimizes Islamic terrorism.

I also can't help but notice the ridiculous "doom and gloom" music throughout the show sending another underlining message that America must be in trouble if Judeo-christian values rule America. She calls Christians leaders who want to turn over Roe v Wade "Scare Mongers" trying to shove "Christianity down the mainstreams throat".

The true moral equivalence of "God's warriors" is so distorted, any person who doesn't follow religion or politics is sure to believe the lies and distorted biased nature of this show. She once again, fails to acknowledge the true threats of Islam the entire world faces. She still honestly believes that Christianity is just as dangerous as Islam. Give me a fricken break. The nerve of this woman just drives me insane.


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


20 December, 2007

In Defense Of "Happy Holidays"

An interesting point below:

Having read and heard several times today the usual complaint about the greeting "Happy Holidays," I feel compelled to offer a defense. It was not originally intended to devalue Christmas and its meaning to Christians. The phrase was made popular by Irving Berlin's original 1942 song, used in the film Holiday Inn. There was no mention of Jewish, Islamic, or synthetic African holidays. The song to "merry bells" and was clearly intended to refer to the holiday season between Christmas Eve and New Year's. The phrase was used for many years by Americans and Canadians to refer to this holiday season, sometimes extending all the way through the 12 days of Christmas to Epiphany.

Only comparatively recently have some seculars sought to expropriate the term. Fie on them, but the phrase is a fine and useful one, particularly when visiting with friends or family on, say, Dec. 27.

Happy Holidays to you!


When is a mosque not a mosque?

When it is funded by US taxpayers, of course. After all, the 1st amendment does not mention "separation of MOSQUE and State", does it?

A Minnesota community college has "a Muslim place of worship" featuring "a schedule for Islam's five daily prayers," according to a local newspaper columnist who visited the campus. Tax-supported Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minn., also has a "sign requesting that shoes be removed" and a barrier that divides men's and women's "prayer spaces," writes Katherine Kersten of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

College officials denied it was anything more than a "meditation" room available for "all faiths." The description of the facility, however, led one faculty member to tell Kersten the room is "unprecedented" and "goes beyond religious toleration." "For all practical purposes, this meditation room is essentially a Muslim prayer room," said Chuck Chalberg of Normandale's history faculty.

WND has reported on "accommodations" for Muslims in public institutions, such as schools and airports, and the outrage triggered by the expenditure of public funds on a religion-specific facility. At Normandale, Kersten reported, an "arrow informed worshippers of the direction of Mecca, and literature urged women to cover their faces." She reported college officials converted a racquetball court into a "meditation" room during remodeling of some school facilities, which held another "meditation" room for students' use. Her description continues:
A row of chest-high barriers splits the room into sex-segregated sections. In the smaller, enclosed area for women sits a pile of shawls and head-coverings. Literature titled "Hijaab [covering] and Modesty" was prominently placed there, instructing women on proper Islamic behavior. They should cover their faces and stay at home, it said, and their speech should not "be such that it is heard." "Enter into Islaam completely and accept all the rulings of Islaam," the tract read in part. "It should not be that you accept what entertains your desires and leave what opposes your desires; this is from the manners of the Jews."

"[T]he Jews and the Christians" are described as "the enemies of Allaah's religion." The document adds: "Remember that you will never succeed while you follow these people."

A poster on the room's door advertised a local lecture on "marriage from an Islamic perspective," with "useful tips for marital harmony from the Prophet's ... life." Other fliers invited students to join the Normandale Islamic Forum, or participate in Ramadan celebrations. One thing was missing from the meditation room: evidence of any faith but Islam. No Bible, no crucifix, no Torah.
Normandale President Joe Opatz did not take a reporter's call with questions, instead deferring to college spokesman Geoff Jones, who said the article is "not accurate." Jones said the school is open to "diversity in terms of beliefs, values and cultural backgrounds." The room, he said, was "created for use by any person for meditation purposes." Jones confirmed it does have a partition that partially divides the room "that is something that was placed there." But he denied there are any brochures, information or religious symbols or representations in the room. "When I visited the room . there were no postings other than announcing it was a meditation room," Jones said. "We've always sought to have persons of all cultures and backgrounds welcome here. As such we have student clubs and speakers from the community . that promote the dialogue and the discourse," he said. "As a public institution, we have a responsibility to allow freedom of speech and freedom of religion. This is America," said Jones. But he also confirmed there is no set schedule for the various groups to use the room. "It's just been the ebb and flow [of meetings]," he said.

Opatz, on his website welcome to the school, called Normandale the "crown jewel" of the community college system. He suggested the "clubs, student government, recreational sports and other organizations" provide "a winning combination for a lasting success." The school website lists the Baha'I Club, Campus Crusade for Christ, College Democrats, Dental Hygiene, Ethiopian Student Union, Gay & Straight Student Alliance, Latter-day Saint Student Association, Muslim Student Association, Oromo Student Union, Somali Student Association and other special interest groups active on campus.

Ralph Anderson, dean of student affairs, told Kersten the college not only prepared the room but also posted signs at the room's entrance asking students to remove their shoes, which is a Muslim custom. Anderson called it, "basically a courtesy to Muslim students." He also told her the room is divided by sex, because "Muslim students prefer that. ." Anderson refused to respond to questions about such segregation in a public facility. "I don't want to comment on that," he said.

Chad Lunaas, a former student at the school, told Kersten he frequently on Fridays would discover that "every sink and toilet stall had someone washing his feet." He said he was intimidated by Muslims who "seemed to be in charge." The student also said Muslims took over the meditation room. "They made people who are not of the Muslim religion feel very uncomfortable, especially if they were female," he said.

Comments on Kersten's column blog were vehement. "Each and every time this topic comes up I see my former Liberal friends compromising their principles of 'Separation of Church and State' by supporting the open display of religion in public places when it concerns any religion other the Christianity," said on. "Again, if you are against the public display of religion you are against ALL public displays of religion, PERIOD."

Another poster asked, "Why is a publicly funded instituion (sic) providing any accomodation (sic) for any religion on its campus? If you want religious accommodation (sic), go to a private educational institution that will accomodate (sic) this religion."

WND also has reported on a decision by officials at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., to appoint a practicing Hindu to head the college's religion department.

The issue of Muslim accommodations in public facilities such as airports already has attracted attention in Indianapolis, Phoenix and several other locations.

In a letter to Indianapolis officials, Rev. Jerry Hillenberg of Hope Baptist Church asked for a meeting over plans being developed by the airport authority to install footbaths on the airport property. "I still desire to speak personally with you about this issue. It cannot go unchallenged and unattended to," he wrote. "It remains a concern of the public at large, and certainly is a concern of this pastor and our congregation. "All of the input that we have received from the citizens of this city, county, surrounding counties, across the country, and around the world; has run 10 to one against the installation of these religious implements," he said. "Most realize that public property, owned by the taxpayers, cannot be used by Christians for religious displays or implements of their religiosity. Then, the question amongst them becomes: Why can it be used for Muslims?"


Croatia shows what is possible in reducing abortion

WITHOUT changing the permissive laws inherited from Communist times

Croatia has experienced a very dramatic drop in the abortion rate from 1989 when the nation's 51,289 abortions were nearly equal to the number of live births. The latest statistics, from 2005, indicate there were 4,563 abortions - a drop of nearly 90% since 1989. Significantly the law on abortion has not changed.

The main reason for the change of hearts and minds on abortion in the country has been the strength of the leadership of the Catholic hierarchy according to pro-life activists and others familiar with Croatia.

Dr. Antun Lisec the director of Human Life International in Croatia attests that his many successes in saving the lives of unborn children in the country comes thanks to the superb support and cooperation of Catholic bishops and priests in the nation which is over 80% Catholic.

Canadian Catholic novelist and painter Michael D. O'Brien, who won the Croatian national Buvina award for achievement in faith and culture, has travelled to Croatia three times in order to do research for his latest novel just released by Ignatius Press.

During his trips O'Brien had frequent contact with the nation's Catholic hierarchy and told LifeSiteNews.com that their success in fighting the culture of death is not surprising given their outstanding courage. "The culture of death in its many forms has assaulted that nation relentlessly, has crucified that church relentlessly," said O'Brien. "They have maintained a dynamic orthodoxy in their seminaries, in their clergy, in their religious orders. There is no vocation crisis in Croatia. And they are united totally with the Holy Father." "The fruits of this are more than evident," continued O'Brien. "They are a sign for the West."

O'Brien observed: "When you have been bombed, when you have been imprisoned, when you have seen your own lay people and priests tortured and exterminated you do not let yourself be intimidated by the subtle nuances of dissident theologians. The corrupt moral theology, so dominant in Western Europe and the Americas has little or no influence." "The people have tasted death in many forms and they recognize it when it comes in theological disguises," concluded O'Brien.


Islam and the future

by Nonie Darwish

Nonie Darwish was born in Egypt, where her father was a senior military officer and a close associate of President Nasser. For his activities in fomenting Palestinian terrorism, her father was assassinated by the Israelis in 1956.

Later, she moved to the United States, where she became a Christian and wrote the bestseller, Now They Call Me Infidel (2006). She says her mission is to "promote reconciliation, acceptance and understanding" between Israelis and Arabs.

This is an extract from an address she gave in October to a hostile left-wing audience at the University of California (Berkeley).

As an American woman of Muslim Arab origin, I cherish the freedoms America has given me, a right all too scarce in the Middle East where speaking for human rights, women's rights, democracy and even peace with Israel, is a taboo with serious consequences.

In America, I learned that no ideology or religion is beyond questioning. Ideologies that don't answer the hard questions will face intellectual bankruptcy. I would like to stress that this is not a discussion about the good and peace-loving Muslims, but about an ideology of violence and hatred that has brought oppression, unrest, violence and terror to the Middle East and has now spread to the rest of the world.


Radicals have made the slightest criticism, critical thinking and free inquiry an insult to Islam. Arab feminists, reformers and intellectuals are intimidated, threatened or killed. Even the late Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was stabbed in Cairo in 1994 by a radical Muslim who claimed he insulted Islam. That is why we all must welcome open discussion.

I'd like to start with my background. I was born and raised as a Muslim in Cairo, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip, a time when President Nasser was committed to unifying the Arab world and destroying Israel. In the 1950s, my father headed the Egyptian military intelligence in Gaza and started the Fedayeen, which means "armed resistance and self-sacrifice". They made cross-border attacks into Israel and caused death, damage and destruction. There were assassination attempts on my father in response to the terror.

One night Israel sent commandos to our heavily guarded home, but my father was not home. All the Israeli soldiers found were us, women and children. The Israeli soldiers left us unharmed.

I attended Gaza elementary schools. It is there that we learned hatred, vengeance and retaliation; peace was never an option, but a sign of defeat and weakness. Jews were portrayed as less than human. I was told, "Don't take candy or fruit from a stranger; it could be a Jew trying to poison you." They filled our ears with fear of Jews; that made hatred come easy and terrorism acceptable, even honourable.

After two years of intense Fedayeen operations, my father was killed in the first targeted assassination in Gaza in 1956. I was eight years old. My siblings and I were asked by top government officials, "Which one of you will avenge your father's blood by killing Jews?" I felt very uncomfortable with the question. We were speechless.

After my father's death, my mother had to face life alone with five children in a culture that gave respect only to families headed by a man. In the '50s few women drove cars, and my mother was criticised and called names for buying a car to take us to school. Arab women are expected to sacrifice their family by giving up their husbands and sons to martyrdom, but are given little respect to live their lives with freedom and dignity.

I lived for 30 years in oppressive dictatorships and police states. I witnessed honour killing of girls (our maid), oppression of women and female genital-mutilation. We regularly heard the cursing of non-Muslims from the pulpits of mosques. As a young woman, I visited a Christian friend in Cairo during the Friday prayers, and we both heard the verbal attacks on Christians and Jews from the loudspeakers. We heard, "May God destroy the infidels and the Jews, the enemies of God. We are not to befriend them or make treaties with them." We also heard the worshipers respond, "Amen". I heard "cursing prayers" all my life from the pulpits of mosques - and, believe it or not, if you grow up with cursing prayers, it can feel and sound normal. My Christian friend looked scared, and I was ashamed. That was when I first realised that something was very wrong in the way my religion was taught and practised.

I moved to the US in 1978. In my first visit to a mosque in America, we were told not to assimilate in America, and that Islam is here to become the dominant religion. I was told to cover up in Islamic clothes; but how could I do that when I had never worn Islamic clothes in Egypt? Women in Egypt until the 1980s did not wear Islamic clothes.

In August 2001, I visited my birthplace, Cairo, Egypt, and was stunned to see how radical Islam had taken over. The level of anger and hate speech was alarming. I saw extreme poverty, pollution, hazardous material and garbage along the Nile. There was high unemployment, inflation and widespread corruption. But when I read Arab media, all I saw was Israel and America-bashing. Citizens were unaware of Muslim-against-Muslim atrocities in Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, etc. The Arab media have failed to defend the human rights of ordinary Arab citizens. They have no understanding of their role in defending the interest of the public; this mentality was created from an Islamo-fascist environment that rejects change. The Western media was also under-reporting the threat.

I was happy to return to the US on the evening of September 10, 2001. The next morning I saw the second airplane hit the twin towers, I knew jihad had come to America. Muhammad Attah [leader of the September 11 hijackers] was from Cairo, the same city I came from. I called several friends in Cairo. They were all in denial and said, "How dare you say that Arabs did this? Don't you know this is a Jewish conspiracy?" These were not radicals, but ordinary Egyptians who otherwise are very nice people. I hung up the phone and felt alone and disconnected from my culture of origin.

Global war

The global war we are fighting against Islamo-fascism and jihad is not just about bombs and hijacked planes; it's also about tyranny and oppression of women. Oppression of women and support of terror are two facets of the same fundamentalist mentality. Islamic law - Sharia - that terrorists are fighting to impose upon the world, would create a global state of gender apartheid.

Under criminal Sharia, punishment could be flogging, stoning, beheading and amputation of limbs - cruel and unusual punishment by Western and humane standards. Leaving Islam is punishable by death. If the state fails to kill an apostate, his death is guaranteed at the hands of a street mob. That makes Islam more than a religion; it is a one-party state, and also an elaborate legal system, called Sharia, that can put you to death if you leave Islam. [Even] the majority of Muslim countries don't practise criminal Sharia because they cannot stomach it.

I have lived under family Sharia for 30 years of my life. This is practised in all Muslim countries. It allows only men the right to an easy divorce, and to have up to four wives. It allows wife-beating. A woman can receive only half the inheritance to which a man is entitled, and her testimony in court is only half valid. She is respected only when she shields her body, face and even her identity. As many as 75 per cent of women in Pakistani prisons are behind bars for the crime of having been raped. Sharia codified into permanent law a 7th-century Arabian Peninsula tribal culture for every Muslim in any culture for ever.

Under Sharia, the Muslim Khalifa or Amir, meaning leader, is exempt from being punished under Sharia. Islamic Sharia law is a dictator's dream handed to him by Allah. On Arab television, I once saw a Muslim preacher telling little children that lying is not allowed except under three conditions:

1) Lying to non-Muslims when it is in the best interest of Islam.

2) Lying to Muslims if it will end conflict between them.

3) Lying to one's wife to improve the relationship.

Lying thus has become an obligation in international relationships, Muslim relationships and family relationships. Any wonder why Muslims were silent after 9/11? Those who expose the lying game are considered traitors. By allowing lying, Muslims have created a culture unable to distinguish between lies and truth; truth has become a convoluted game of saving face for the best interests of Islam.


The Times of London reported that Muslim students in Britain are being taught to despise non-Muslims as "filth". The Arabic word for this is "Nagas". That is why many Arabs believe that the existence of non-Muslims on Muslim land is a desecration or occupation. US soldiers, at the request of Saudi Arabia, sacrificed their lives to protect it from Saddam. Under normal conditions that could have been met with appreciation, but instead, the Arab street reaction was "How dare the infidels desecrate Muslim land!"

That is why America's defence of the Muslims against the Serbs, the Afghani Muslims against the Soviet Union, feeding the Somali Muslims starved by their own leadership, all did not get the US any credit in the Muslim world; just the opposite. The more America tries to help stabilise the region, the more it is despised. Arab-Muslims do not want to be rescued by infidels. This is a proud culture that is easily shamed by feelings of dependency on non-Muslims. That is how the West is perceived.

Western feminists must embrace a single standard for both the West and Muslim society. Feminists and everyone else concerned with human freedom must support Muslim dissidents, both male and female, who are risking their lives in a battle for women's rights under Islam. I ask for the support of the American left. You should be our natural allies because we are the reformers and defenders of freedoms in the Middle East.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


19 December, 2007

Things You Are Not Allowed to Say

The good thing about living in the modern era is that we have freedom of speech and dissent is celebrated as the highest form of patriotism. So when a Nobel laureate like James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, opines that maybe the reason that Africa is such a mess is because of intelligence you can imagine the reaction. Said Watson, as reported by the London Times:

The 79-year-old geneticist said he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really."

Anybody reading that -- even a rock-ribbed conservative -- will experience a cringe of embarrassment. The more sensitive types, those fully accredited as "non-racists," will likely feel more. They will feel the need to anathematize Dr. Watson, strip him of his public appointments, and deny him access to the public square.

All this embarrassment and anger is odd because the west proudly advertises itself as a culture of reason, where ideas rule, completely different from benighted Islam where a teacher can get a jail sentence for allowing the children in her charge to give a teddy-bear the name "Mohammed" (the just and merciful). And yet dear old James Watson HAS been stripped of all his public appointments and sent off to ponder the error of his ways. So what's going on?

Back in the eighteenth century during the Enlightenment, French philosophes prophesied a new age of reason. But there was a problem. Everyone except themselves was prejudiced and superstitious. That wasn't surprising. People went to church and listened to the priest. And the few French who were lucky enough to get an education went to schools run by the Jesuits.

The Marquis de Condorcet knew what to do. He submitted a plan to the French Legislative Assembly in 1792 that called for universal state education to educate the people out of their prejudice and superstition. The system should, of course, be free of political control. Condorcet envisioned the teachers from these schools lecturing to the people on Sundays, expounding on the principles and rules of ethics and explaining the nation's laws. Unfortunately there has never been a political activist who wasn't eager to bend the government's school system into preaching their passionately-held beliefs. Andrew J. Coulson makes the definitive point in Market Education.

Since its inception, U.S. public schooling has been a battle zone, as left-wing and right-wing activists have sought to wrest control of the system and bend it to their will.

In the nineteenth century the public schools were used to push the Protestant Bible on the Irish Catholics. In the twentieth century they were used to push liberal political correctness on Protestant fundamentalists. These activists understand that reason has nothing to do with it. They want to enforce their shaming code upon the benighted masses and they are not afraid to use government power to do it. We really shouldn't be surprised about this. John Derbyshire of National Review reminds us that we humans are much more group-oriented than rational. We know there are certain things we are not allowed to say or to think. In his view it probably takes an antisocial loner like James Watson to do good science and ask antisocial questions about intelligence.

Jim Watson, though world-famous for what he did, fits the pattern. Talk to anyone who knows him and expressions like "difficult," "prickly," and "loose cannon" soon turn up.

When it comes to Nobel-quality science, go-along conformists need not apply. Of course, the Nobel Peace Prize is another matter.

Conservatives, as you would expect, own the reasonable approach to all this. We believe that people should be careful about sweeping claims of reason. Every society needs its prejudices, its shaming code, and its taboos. When liberals demand absolute free speech and freedom from shame, they end up smuggling prejudice and taboo in the back door. But conservatives are all in favor of reason when applied in a practical, gradualist way to the advance of science, the development of law, and the reform of government.

That is why we believe, as a practical matter, that after 150 years of government education it would be a good idea to discuss some serious education reform. If nothing else, it might reduce the conflict over our schools. But our liberal friends say that people who want to relax government control of education "don't care about kids."

And we believe that after 70 years of Social Security in which life expectancy at birth has climbed about 10 years it is time to discuss reform. But our liberal friends say that people who want to privatize Social Security want to throw granny into the street. It's good to know that our lefty friends insist that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Otherwise people could easily get the impression that liberals believe that free speech is only for people who think the right thoughts.


The Anarchist Cookbook of the nursery?

An entertaining illustration of the difference between Brits and Americans is on view with reactions to a book entitled, Forbidden Lego: Build the Models Your Parents Warned You Against. Fox News reports the book promises

"You'll learn to create working models that LEGO would never endorse," the book's page on the publisher's Web site promises. "Try your hand at a toy gun that shoots LEGO plates, a candy catapult, a high voltage LEGO vehicle, a continuous-fire ping-pong ball launcher, and other useless but incredibly fun inventions."

It seems the Brits regard the book as a shocking and threatening development:

"Lego is set to turn slightly more sinister with the launch of an unofficial book that teaches children how to make weapons out of the iconic plastic bricks," warned London's Evening Standard. The Daily Telegraph dubbed the tome "the Anarchist Cookbook of the nursery"

I'm sorry, but this is just silly. I never did get the Daisy air rifle I craved, just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, but my friends and I survived slingshots and other home made weaponry without turning into sociopaths. Boys like to propel objects over distances. It's part of being a boy.

Americans seem to be handling the book in stride, and it is selling well. If I were nine years old or so, the book would be on my wish list.

Update: Cliff Thier points out that strange language of the Evening Standard: "Lego is set to turn slightly more sinister..." More sinister? Meaning Lego already is sinister? Apparently so.


Black Activists Renew Condemnation of Local Ohio NAACP Chapter for Interference in School Play

Members of the Project 21 black leadership network have renewed criticism of the Butler County (Ohio) chapter of the NAACP and its executive director over the group's new call for federal intervention into a local school district. The NAACP is protesting a student presentation of the Agatha Christie play "And Then There Were None."

Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie says the local NAACP chapter chairman, Gary Hines, deceived him when Hines told Massie that he is not trying to intimidate Lakota administrators or its school board. Hines repeatedly insisted to Massie that he was not attempting to have the play canceled. Massie considers Hines' request for federal intervention a contradiction of this assertion. "Mr. Hines' actions support my previous contention that he has little interest for anything but furthering his own petulant and peevish agenda," said Massie.

A threatened protest by Hines in November led Lakota Local Schools in Liberty Township, Ohio to cancel the play at Lakota East High School. Administrators switched to a revised script with an alternative title and rescheduled the play for December 13 and 14. Hines complains that school officials will not meet with him about the play, and has contacted the U.S. Department of Justice to request a taxpayer-funded federal mediator.

Hines, a longtime critic of the school district, claimed the school play - which originally was being produced under the title "Ten Little Indians" - is about "genocide." Hines claimed the school district revealed racial insensitivity by allowing the play to be performed because the title of the original 1939 British novel on which the play is based used the "n-word," and its cover featured black figures drawn with offensive characteristics. That version of the novel did not appear in the United States. Plays and movies based upon the novel in the United States never carried the offensive graphic or title.

"And Then There Were None" is a murder-mystery about a group of people being stalked by a killer on an isolated island. There are no black or Indian characters. The title refers to a nursery rhyme used by the killer.

"In the adult world, people do not have to talk to someone just because that person demands it. Only someone with a perverted sense of importance or a bully would not understand that," said Massie. "While I was fully aware that Mr. Hines was less than forthcoming in our private conversation, I am deeply disappointed in his lack of honesty."


The essence of Orwellianism: A comment from Britain, home of Orwell's "Ingsoc"

Liberty and the state: It isn't the spycams that make Britain Orwellian - it is New Labour's taste for intervening in our lives

Many claim that we live in Orwellian times. There are spycams on every street corner. The war on terrorism increasingly looks like a "war without end". The government uses the politics of fear to keep us in our place. It seems that Eric Blair's nightmare has become the stuff of Tony Blair's (and now Gordon Brown's) New Britain.

Yet many overlook the real Orwellian strain in contemporary society. It is not the CCTV cameras or bulging databases that make Britain Orwellian - rather, it is New Labour's taste for intruding into our personal lives. The most terrifying thing about the dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four was the Party's management of people's relationships with each other, and its attempts to replace the human emotions of spontaneity and passion with conformity to a soulless etiquette. Something similar is happening in Britain 2007 - yet this very real Orwellian outburst is ignored by those who bang the drum for liberty.

Orwell depicted a world in which personal relationships were smashed apart and reconstituted as relationships between the individual and the state. "We have cut the links between child and parent, between man and man, and between man and woman," boasts torturer O'Brain: "No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer."

New Labour is instituting a similar tyranny of distrust. Its Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 - a Stalinist piece of legislation that requires the 10 million adults who work with children to undergo criminal records checks - transforms what were once relaxed relationships between groups and individuals into relationships managed and monitored by the state. Even the dad who coaches a kids' soccer team on Sunday mornings, or a mum who organises school runs in her 4x4, will have to regularly submit to a background check by the suspicious state.

In treating every adult who comes into contact with kids as a potential deviant, the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act implicitly educates young people to regard adults with caution. As the Mayor of Oxford, Jim Campbell, said of the Act: "We are in danger of creating a generation of children who are encouraged to look at people who want to help them with suspicion." We have cut the links between child and adult.

New Labour tramples on the sacred terrain of family life, too. It uses parenting orders and compulsory parenting classes to "re-educate" feckless mums and dads. And it has set up a National Parenting Academy (a Ministry of Parenting), in order to, as the Home Office puts it, "nip antisocial behaviour in the bud". In short, the government must play in loco parentis to the nation's children, by developing what it calls a "parenting workforce", because real parents cannot be trusted to turn out well-behaved, model citizens - or "child heroes", as conformist brattish children are described in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In the discussion about "fetal ASBOs" - the government's attempt to determine which unborn children will become criminals in the future - we see Orwellianism run riot: here, ideas of pre-crime meet the state's desire to police even fetuses. Even Orwell's Party waited until people were born before it put them on the conformism treadmill. New Labour has cut the most intimate link of all: that between mother and fetus.

Orwell's Party had an intense suspicion of spontaneous, emotional relationships. The Party's aim was "not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control", but to eradicate the "sex instinct" altogether. New Labour fears the sex instinct, too. Its safe sex campaigns - which long ago crossed the line from polite advice into moralistic hectoring - seem designed to dampen lust. In the Department of Health's latest disgusting TV ads, young men and women are shown in the throes of passion wearing Y-fronts and knickers that say "chlamydia" or "gonorrhoea" on them. The message is clear: sex is dirty and dangerous. Think twice; wear protection; practice caution; do not give in to your sex instinct.

New Labour's plethora of legislation on "personal harassment" and "stalking", now so broadly defined as to be meaningless, brings passionate relationships under the watchful eye of the state. And the unstoppable rise of codes of conduct in workplaces and colleges, which dictate what we can say to each other and even what tone of voice we should use, has killed off flirting and sexual banter.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Party turned children into instruments of government policy. Indeed, "it was almost normal for people over 30 to be frightened of their own children". New Labour is moving towards recruiting child spies, too. Last year it introduced the first speaking CCTV cameras, and launched a competition in schools to find "socially conscious" children to provide the hectoring voices on the day the cams were launched. The Respect Taskforce (the Ministry of Respect) said this was about "encouraging children to use their pester power in a positive way". A government report has proposed urging schoolkids to educate their parents about eco-living, in order to bring about a "cultural shift" in the attitudes of the population.

In Orwell's dystopia, the Party implores everyone to keep fit. Winston Smith always wakes to a "grim" reality: he has to "join in compulsory exercises following the instructions given by a woman from the telescreen". New Labour is likewise obsessed with telling us to exercise, what to eat, whether we should smoke or drink. Government bodies also regulate our behaviour through the issue of climate change; they enforce compulsory recycling and cajole us into living meek, austere lives. Indeed, if there's one "war without end" that is used to justify rationing, restraint and repression today, it is not the war against terrorism but the war against global warming. The government, supported by an army of slavish greens, evokes images of future doom in order to lower our expectations and keep us in our place.

The spying technology was not the scariest part of Orwell's nightmare vision. Rather it was the Party's hostility towards emotion and desire, and its interventions into every corner of people's private thoughts and personal lives, that marked it out as terrifyingly new and tyrannical. And so today, we might do better to focus less on New Labour's hi-tech spying, or even its anti-terror legislation, and more on its deep distrust of private life and loving relationships. "They can't get inside you," Julia tells Winston Smith when they start their illicit (non-safe sex) love affair. Let us stop New Labour from getting inside us, too.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


18 December, 2007


Even the New Testament was almost wholly written by Jews (with the apparent exception of Luke's writings). And there are few moral teachings in the New Testament that are not also in the Torah. So the past hostility between Christians and Jews is quite absurd and very sad. Sanity has however broken out. Most Christians who take the Bible seriously do these days support Israel and oppose antisemitism.

And some Jews too are now recognizing the community of interest between Jewry and Christendom. Below are three essays from three Jewish writers that express a wholehearted appreciation of the world that Christianity has created. It is easy for me to express appreciation of Christianity -- even though I am an atheist -- as I still have the warmest memories of my Christian youth and a head full of scriptural quotations. But the journey that Jewish writers have to make to come to a similar appreciation is a longer and therefore more impressive one.

A Plea for "Merry Christmas"

By Yaacov Ben Moshe

I am a Jew. I grew up in an observant Jewish home in which we greeted Christmas with a mixture of fascination, respect and irritation. Jackie Mason once said, "I don't understand something about Christmas; maybe you can explain this to me? Why is it that this time of year you Christian people bring all of the trees inside the house and take all the lights and put then outside". I have always loved that line. It captured my general feeling of bemusement about the whole Christmas celebration. I didn't get it....

I've grownup, though, and I've grown into a new perspective on this whole matter question and, today, when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, I have a new response. It's really simple-

I stop what I am doing
I thank them very sincerely
I wish them a Merry Christmas in return.

Here's why: I have come to see quite clearly that even if there are politically correct, multi-cultural, morally relativistic, post modern progressive busybodies who would like us to believe that our Christian friends' and Neighbors' spontaneous Christmas wishes are somehow injurious to us and our culture, they are nothing of the kind. A sincere "Merry Christmas is better for you than the blandest, most guarded "Happy Holidays"

You see, the U.S. was founded by Christians. Not just any Christians. The early colonists were both devout and independent. They were fervent Protestants whose purpose in coming here was to leave the Kings, Priests, state religions and archaic laws of the old world behind. They came here to build a country where every man could read scripture for himself and be his own priest, where he could be free to elect political leadership that he could follow gladly. Ultimately, that enterprise gave rise to the constitution and form of government we have today. At two hundred years old it is still the one in the entire world that best honors the individual and guarantees his rights.

It was these fiercely independent Protestants who set the tone for the nation in which we now live. It is important to remember that they were deeply religious people. When Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and the rest decided that there would be no Official Religion in this country they were aiming for Freedom of Religion not Freedom from Religion. They meant the freedom to practice your religion after the dictates of your conscience .

This is why America has become the destination of choice for any one wishing to escape repression or lack of opportunity elsewhere in the world. That's why Jews have gravitated here for two hundred years. But we are in danger of forgetting how this all works and I think this whole Merry Christmas thing is a symptom of that amnesia.

Fortunately, though, Jews do have a collective memory of stories if we just listen to them. My grand father told me stories about life in turn-of-the(last)-century Eastern Europe so I know what he escaped by coming here (not to mention that he was not in Zhitomir, his home town, thirty years later when the Waffen SS slaughtered thirty six thousand Jews there in one day!). I also have a friend who came here from Leningrad in the Seventies. He has told me many stories. Just few months ago, I worked with a client named Miriam who told me how she grew up in newly-born Israel after her family was expelled from Morocco in 1948. Each of these stories and so many others just like them have convinced me that The United States of America, as conceived by her Protestant founders, has been a miracle and a blessing to the entire human race. It has been especially important to the Jewish people.

We Jews are barely over one percent of the population here. We (a lot of us anyway) take pride in our contribution and participation to America's dynamism. We point with satisfaction to the fact that the founding fathers of this country were inspired and informed by our holy book which they called The Old Testament. Many of them read it in the original Hebrew, something few of us modern Jews can do.

But why do I need to explain this? Why don't we all understand the centrality of the Protestant ethic to the goodness of America? Partly, it's because of a lack in the educational program. But it's also because our media, whose responsibility it should be to make us aware of the important events and issues. But the media is often found to be doing just the opposite.

In the media, America is assailed daily for her imperfections; and if not assailed, then damned by the faintest of praise. The media's emphasizes the imperfections instead of the achievements- the discords not the harmony. Hasn't America (and her allies) banished the Taliban to isolated caves and mud huts in remotest Waziristan? Didn't we free Afghan women to live more normal lives without the threat of torture, rape and summary execution for the crime of being female? Can't, now, Afghans to grow beards to their own liking, listen to music, laugh in public send their daughters to school and have simple human dignity? Oh, well, yes, the press will whine, but there is still poverty, the occasional bombing and we never caught Osama bin Laden. Well then, have we also not saved thousands of Kurds, and non Baathist Muslims in Iraq from the depredations of Saddam and his two evil sons- people who raped and murdered fifteen year-old girls and put their political enemies (alive and feet-first) into industrial shredding machines just to hear them scream? Perhaps, but our press prefers to talk about a few incompetent American soldiers (who were punished for their stupidity) deriding and humiliating their Iraqi captives at Abu Ghraib and equating that with the horrors of Saddam.

I am one Jew who is all for the kind of spirit and strength of character that gets expressed at this time of year by wishing each other "Merry Christmas". I'll certainly take it over Allah HuAkbar. Give me Peace on Earth" and "Good Will Toward Men" over "Eternal Jihad" and "Dhimmi Status for Infidels" anytime.

If we do anything this holiday season, we need to loosen up and get a perspective on this "Merry Christmas" thing. It is not the people who say "Merry Christmas" and mean it that we need to be discouraging in America at this time. It is the people who find something wrong and suspect in the energy, enthusiasm and good-will that animates that "Merry Christmas" that we need to discourage....

By saying "Merry Christmas" in public we are not agreeing that Jesus was the son of God, we are just acknowledging that some very good people believe it. When we say it, that does not constitute accepting Jesus as our personal savior; it does show his followers that we see them as fellow countrymen, friends and brothers-in-arms in the defense of the highest ideals of our civil society. What is the problem with that?



By Jeff Jacoby

On the seventh night of Hanukkah in 1944, my father was in Auschwitz. He had been deported with his parents and four of his five siblings to the Nazi extermination camp eight months earlier; by Hanukkah, only my father was still alive. That year, he kindled no Hanukkah lights. In Auschwitz, where anything and everything was punishable by death, any Jew caught practicing his religion could expect to be sent to the gas chambers, or shot on the spot.

Like other Jewish holidays, Hanukkah was often chosen deliberately by the Nazis as an occasion for murdering Jews. In *Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust,* the historian Yaffa Eliach recounts one such slaughter: "The men selected were marched outside. SS men with rubber truncheons and iron prods awaited them. They kicked, beat, and tortured the innocent victims. When the tortured body no longer responded, the revolver was used. . . . The brutal massacre continued outside of the barracks until sundown. When the [Nazis] departed, they left behind heaps of hundreds of tortured and twisted bodies."

On the seventh night of Hanukkah in 2007, I was in the White House. President and Mrs. Bush have made it an annual tradition to host a Hanukkah celebration in addition to the customary White House Christmas parties, and my wife and I were honored to receive an invitation to this year's reception. It was in every way a beautiful and festive event. It was also an unmistakably Jewish one, from the lavish buffet dinner prepared in a meticulously "koshered" White House kitchen, to the Hebrew songs performed by the Zamir Chorale, to the several hundred guests drawn from every segment of the American Jewish community. There was even a spontaneous worship service in the Green Room, where at one point about two dozen guests assembled for Ma'ariv, the Jewish evening prayers. All this in a White House richly decorated for Christmas and occupied by a president who is devoutly Christian. It is hard to imagine a more compelling illustration of the American culture of religious tolerance and freedom.

Earlier in the evening there had been a menorah lighting in the Grand Foyer of the White House. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of Jews who fought long ago to preserve their religious identity in the face of an oppressive government determined to erase it, and President Bush spoke of the ongoing struggle for religious liberty today. "As we light the Hanukkah candles this year," he said, "we pray for those who still live under the shadow of tyranny."

He described his private meeting earlier in the day with a small group of Jewish immigrants to the United States. "Many of these men and women fled from religious oppression in countries like Iran and Syria and the Soviet Union," Bush said. Among those in attendance was Baghdad-born Ruth Pearl, who was 15 when her family -- like so many other Jewish families in the Arab world -- was forced to flee from Iraq. She and her husband Judea, the parents of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, had come to the White House with their family menorah, which Daniel's great-grandfather Chayim had taken with him when he escaped Poland for Palestine in 1924. Daniel was murdered in 2002 by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan; his only crime, observed Bush, "was being a Jewish American -- something Daniel Pearl would never deny."

Auschwitz, Baghdad, Poland, Pakistan: In so many places, across so many generations, to be Jewish has meant to be oppressed, excluded, terrorized. More than most people, Jews know what it means to be a hated and persecuted minority. And more than most, therefore, they have reason to be profoundly grateful for the United States and its blessings. America is what the Jewish sages called "malchut shel chesed" -- a benevolent and generous nation. In the long history of the Jews, America has been a safe harbor virtually without parallel. Nowhere in all their wanderings have the Jews known such freedom, peace, and prosperity.

So I strolled about the White House last week, gazing at the portraits of past presidents and first ladies and listening to the Marine Band play "I Have A Little Dreidel." By the light of the White House menorah, I thought about my father, and about the unimaginable distance from the hell he knew in 1944 to this place of joy and warmth where I found myself in 2007. I was overcome with a feeling of gratitude so intense that for a moment I was too choked up to speak. To be an American and a Jew is truly to be doubly blessed.

The massive assault on Judeo-Christian values

This could be the last generation of Western civilisation if we discard our religious roots, warns Mark Braham from Australia

Post World War II, tens - hundreds? - of thousands of Europeans and UK residents headed for what they believed would ensure a better future for their children and/or grandchildren in countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa

These countries benefited from the influx of these migrants, a high proportion of them possessing tertiary education, technical skills or professional qualifications. One former European I met, when asked why he had chosen to migrate to Australia, replied, "I wanted to get as far away from Europe as possible, and I had never heard of New Zealand."

By far the most sought-after immigrant countries were, and remain, the English-speaking democracies. All, of course, were inhabited by populations which had developed their own unique culture, but what they shared was a democratic system of government and loyalty to traditional Judeo-Christian values.

The latter have been steadily watered down and undermined over the past 50-60 years. The increasing migration from Europe is adding to its cultural problems - under threat from an increasing and multiplying Muslim minority, who not only reject traditional European values, but democracy itself.

The irony is that the leaders of the massive assault on Judeo-Christian values - atheist intellectuals, journalists, media scriptwriters, academics - would be the first to be liquidated under an Islamic government.

We face a far greater danger from proselytising atheists than we ever did from communism. In the English-speaking democracies, the anti-communists included a powerful establishment and strong church leaders with loyal congregations. Post-World War I, there had been a lowering of standards, but the churches had largely retained their strength; hypocrisy was rampant, such was the homage vice paid to virtue.

Post-World War II, the 'sixties marked the beginning of the major onslaught on established standards of morality, soon to be accompanied by the atheistic assault on the sexual and marital standards of Judeo-Christian civilisation.

The churches were divided worldwide, even by such a fundamental issue as heterosexual marriage and the stability of family life, so basic an issue it preceded Sinai and is one of the Seven Universal Laws given by G-d to Noah and applies to all mankind.

The Seven Noahide Laws prohibit: (1) idolatry, (2) blasphemy and cursing the name of G-d, (3) murder, (4) robbery and theft, (5) immorality and forbidden sexual relations, (6) cruelty to animals, and require: (7) the establishment of a justice system and courts of law to enforce the other six laws.

The threat to our civilisation was recently highlighted by the revelations of Mark Mullins, English barrister and London chairman of the Christian Lawyers Fellowship (see his article, "Christian freedoms under attack", News Weekly, October 13, 2007). Such has been the attack on Christian freedoms in the United Kingdom - evidence of the weakness of organised religion, by which I mean God-fearing people who are possessed of vision and can see where we are headed - that this could be the last generation of Western civilisation.

Christians vilified

In his 1998 book, America's Real War, Rabbi Daniel Lapin heads a chapter, "The Curious Rise of Anti-Christianism". He writes: "If the term 'Anti-Semitism' is to retain any intellectual and moral integrity, we must also today admit to the term 'Anti-Christianism'.

"Attacking freedom of belief: Prominent in assault against traditional Judeo-Christian values, I am sorry to say, were a number of Jewish organisations. In fact, it was the ferocity and unfairness of the attacks that brought me, and many others, into the fray.

"One famous battle in this cultural tug-of-war came in 1994 with the publication of two volumes that I consider biased and bigoted. The Political Activity of the Religious Right in the 1990s: A Critical Analysis, published by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), harshly criticised religious Christians because they, among other things, 'adamantly oppose social acceptance of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle'. Whether one thinks homosexuality is right or wrong, the AJC was attacking the right of Christians to freedom of belief.

"Since those beliefs are based on the Bible in which I too believe, I felt I could not remain silent while the AJC suggested that Judaism somehow supported the acceptance of homosexuality. For over three thousand years Jewish tradition and Jewish law have been unambiguous about homosexuality; now an organisation with the word 'Jewish' in its title was vilifying Christians for taking the authentic Jewish position on homosexuality. I felt I had emigrated to Alice's Wonderland, where logic and rationality were completely turned around.

"I reminded Americans that, although many Jews (whose real faith is secular humanism) support the homosexual agenda, this tells us as much about Judaism as the entertainer Madonna tells us about the Roman Catholic faith.

"The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) similarly published a book filled with unfair and untrue defamation of religious conservatives. It contained such unrestrained invective as, 'The religious Right brings to the debate over moral and social issues a rhetoric of fear, suspicion and even hatred.' As a rabbi and a Jew, I was embarrassed at the tone of both these books. Had any Christian association published anything comparable about the Jewish community, cries of anti-Semitism would have rung out far and wide - and been justified.

"I found myself unable to ignore the above diatribes, so the organisation I head, Toward Tradition, published a repudiation of the sentiments in a large paid advertisement in the New York Times that was signed by fifty prominent Jewish conservatives and called for Jewish conservatives to band together.

"The response was overwhelming. Letters poured in from Conservative and Reform Jews all over the country who, because of their traditional values, had been made to feel unwelcome in their synagogues and local Jewish establishments. Many Orthodox Jews contacted us with gratitude for telling America that the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League did not represent them.

"Several Reform rabbis wrote to pledge support while asking to remain anonymous for fear of being fired were their conservative political leanings to be known." (Rabbi Daniel Lapin, America's Real War, Oregon, US: Multnomah Publishers, 1998).

Fearing for the future

I write this article in the middle of the run-up to the Australian federal election on November 24. I fear for the future, not only of the country of my adoption, but Western civilisation, which means democracy. I am of course aware that, to put it crudely, democracy means "might is right"; but it has worked for centuries in the English-speaking world because the British and those of British stock, or who had adopted British culture, shared what John Howard refers to as our "core values" and what we know better as Judeo-Christian values; but in a secular age, under siege from atheist intellectuals, today's counterpart of the communist traitors of the 1930's, even historical accuracy must be covered up as prime ministers are forced to find phrases which are politically correct.

Let me illustrate my concern about the future of democracy with two stories, both close to home. First the good news: my doctor for over 30 years, is a religious and erudite Orthodox Jew. He bulk-bills pensioners, makes home visits and is on call for genuine emergencies at nights and weekends.

He attends daily services in synagogue early morning and evening, every day. When he is leading the congregation in prayer he leaves his mobile phone with me to take calls and ask patients to call back in, say, half an hour.

His son, who is equally religious and even more learned, is an undergraduate at the University of NSW. In order to say his afternoon prayers he finds a quiet corner in the university grounds; one day, a Muslim undergraduate, bent on the same mission, laid his prayer mat next to him and said his prayers. They have since struck up a close friendship. This could only happen in a democracy.

My second story is about my local member of parliament, Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal member for Wentworth and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, a man I have long admired. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The product of a state school, who went on to become a Rhodes scholar, lawyer, journalist and finance expert, he has been widely spoken of as prime ministerial material.

Wentworth has two significant minority groups - Jewish and gay; either could decide the outcome in what has become a marginal seat since the map was redrawn. As I am the oldest surviving member of the South Head Synagogue in Rose Bay, founded by my late father in 1948 (it is today one of the two major synagogues in the eastern suburbs of Sydney), I have a good idea how the Jewish community will vote. The chief rabbi of South Head, Rabbi Benzion Milecki OAM, a native of Melbourne, is a distinguished scholar with an international reputation among his peers. He has the courage of his convictions, is an accomplished writer and powerful speaker.

The Labor candidate for Wentworth, George Newhouse, is the former mayor of Waverley; he is also a Jew.

Because Turnbull has proved so competent in his job, is so respected for his background, education and engaging personality, he has certainly retained, and probably increased, the traditional Jewish Liberal vote in Wentworth. The days are long past since highly respected local Jewish parliamentarians of the calibre of Syd Einfeld and Abe Landa personally carried an important Jewish Labor following. There is certainly an awareness among Jews of the threat to Western civilisation from the liberal-left, and, despite Kevin Rudd's Christian roots and obvious distance from the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic ravings of one or two Labor figures, Jews have a high regard for John Howard and Alexander Downer.

Scorn poured on PM

Newhouse did not endear himself to the Jewish community when he brought in a speaker at the Waverley new citizens' ceremony who poured scorn on the Prime Minister's call to Australians to pray for rain. Rabbi Milecki spoke from his pulpit, wrote and published on the internet, his contempt for a speaker who could scoff at the PM's appeal.

He said: "Firstly, I would like to emphasise how lucky we are to have a Prime Minister, who is not only a great supporter of Israel and Jewish causes, but who is also not afraid to profess his belief in G-d and to urge others to do so. While belief in G-d cannot replace political competence, it most certainly enhances it.

"There will of course be those who will criticise any involvement of religion in the political process. Yet we would do well to bear in mind that, while we all want freedom of religion, and the ability to believe in any way we choose, freedom of religion does not equate with freedom from religion. I therefore applaud the Prime Minister for making his request at this critical time."

This important message recalls an event that helps to balance the leftist black armband version of Australian history, and reminds us that the bulk of our major foundations of hospitals, aged homes, soup kitchens, missions to the poor . were brought into being by the churches, that is by religious people who, in contrast to atheistic intellectuals, put their money where their mouth was.

Samuel Cohen, a 19th-century member and auditor of the Jewish Philanthropic Society, was member for the NSW Legislative Assembly for Morpeth in the Hunter Valley. There was to be a general election in 1860 and an important issue was the Robertson Land Bill. John Robertson wanted to introduce a policy of "No settlement before surveying of land".

Cohen was in favour of the bill, but its second reading was to be debated on a Friday night, the Jewish Sabbath. His speech in the House was reported: "I will not take part in proceedings on my Sabbath. I believe the electors, as fathers of families, would rather not place a man in the House than see him degrade himself by showing that he had no respect for his religion.

"I believe I am addressing an enlightened community, divested of prejudices against a man's religion. I credit them with understanding that I would not lie on my bed comfortably and think that in the eyes of my own child I was a degraded being.

"The majority religion here expends thousands of pounds to propagate among the heathens the principles of religion and its belief in one true God . Some may sacrifice their religion to further their interest, but I am not one of those, and if my position depends on a sacrifice of my religious belief, I would decline your votes.

"If the carrying of the Land Bill depends on my vote on the Sabbath, I will not be recording it. Since I have been in New South Wales, I have protected your Sabbath, and I will protect my own, even if you do not help me! I will protect my Sabbath against a mountain of strength. If I were engaging a servant, and he asked for time off for, say, Christmas, would I say to him, 'If you leave your work for those days I will dismiss you'? And would the electors take that position with me and dismiss me from their service because I respected my Sabbaths? Is that kind? Is that generous? Is that just?"


At this point there were interjections of "Religion forever!" On the opposite side of the House was another Jew, the member for Orange, Saul Samuel, who was one of the strongest voices in opposition to the Bill. He rose to say that he too could not attend on Friday night, hence the absence of both Cohen and himself would not affect the voting. (Louise Rosenberg, Of Folktales and Jewish Folk in Australian History, Melbourne: Printworthy, 2004).

Let us once again hear from genuinely religious members in the parliaments. In Jewish law, should a duck appear to have a physical defect it is tested by placing it in a stream of running water. If it swims against the current, it is kosher.


Nutty bureaucratic Britain again

Woman 'cured' by prayer can't get benefits stopped because government computer doesn't recognise miracles

When June Clarke walked again after six years in a wheelchair, the committed Christian put it down to the power of prayer. But when she shared the good news with benefits officials, they refused to stop her incapacity allowance - telling her their computer "didn't have a button for miracles". With the Government pledging to crack down on "sicknote Britain", it seems remarkable the 56-year-old received more than œ3,500 she did not even want.

Mrs Clarke, from Plymouth, slipped on a wet floor at her workplace in 2000. She badly damaged her hip, pelvis and spine and had to give up work and draw incapacity benefits as her symptoms worsened. Her husband Stuart, 58, a pastor at Hooe Baptist Church, said that he prayed every day after the accident that God would "bring my wife back". The prayer seemed to be answered when his wife attended a Christian conference in January last year. Within hours, Mrs Clarke was able to fold away her wheelchair and stop taking painkillers.

When she realised she was permanently cured four months later, she contacted the Government's Industrial Injury Department to put a stop to her benefits. But the department continued to give her œ600 a month - and she ended up being paid œ3,600 in incapacity benefits for a period when she was in perfect health.

"After I got healed in January 2006 I went to the doctor to check it out with him," she said yesterday. "He said wait six months. "But after four months I felt uncomfortable taking benefits when I didn't need them. I contacted the offices to ask to come off the benefits." But officials told her that the system was unable to recognise an apparently miraculous recovery. Mrs Clarke had been awarded an allowance for life and the computer wasn't programmed to allow the payments to end until her death. "They said: 'We haven't got a button to push that says miracle'."

She then saw a government doctor, who was baffled about her recovery but declared her fully fit. The allowance was stopped and Mrs Clarke has since been able to repay the money by working as a carer. Mr Clarke said that he found the couple's battle with the benefits system amusing, if frustrating. "We would have loved to have used the money for a good cause," he said. "But it wasn't ours to spend. It can't be often that a government department gets a complaint about unwanted cash."

A spokesman from the Department for Work and Pensions said: "Each case is treated individually. When a customer contacts us to say they no longer require or need to claim benefits we ask for a letter of confirmation for security reasons."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


17 December, 2007

Canada again: Christian activist 'banned for life' from criticizing homosexuality

A lifetime ban on public criticism of homosexuality was upheld against a Catholic activist in Canada by his province's superior court. Bill Whatcott was fined 17,500 Canadian dollars by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission in a complaint by four homosexuals who charged he "injured" their "feelings" and "self respect" in pamphlets denouncing the "gay lifestyle" as immoral and dangerous, Lifesite News reported. Saskatchewan's Court of Queens Bench, which hears criminal and civil cases, upheld a 2006 decision Tuesday by the provincial Human Rights Commission.

"This fine is for telling the truth [that] homosexual sodomites can change their behavior and be set free from their sin and depravity through the forgiveness of sins and shed blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Whatcott said. A licensed practical nurse, Whatcott regularly campaigns against the political movement that is rapidly advancing homosexual rights in the Canadian legal system, LifeSiteNews said. "Shame on the Saskatchewan Court of Queens Bench for pandering to homosexual activism and ignoring the truth," he said.

The provincial Human Rights Commission noted Whatcott was "ordered to discontinue distributing any materials that promote hatred against people because of their sexual orientation." The tribunal held that "preventing the distribution of such materials was a reasonable limit on Whatcott's right to freedom of religion and expression as guaranteed by Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Whatcott says his pamphlets used "verbatim" a text from a classified personal advertisement in a local homosexual publication that said, "Man seeking boys . age not so relevant."

LifeSiteNews noted Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren criticized the tribunals as "kangaroo courts" and "star chambers" with "quasi-legal powers that should be offensive to the citizens of any free country ... in which the defendant's right to due process is withdrawn." A petition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper is being circulated calling for abolishment, or at least curtailment, of the powers of the commissions.

Last month, a Canadian political party leader's posting of a WND article on homosexuality brought him before the country's Human Rights Commission to face accusations he was motivated by "hate and defamation." Ron Gray of the Christian Heritage Party said he was told directly by an employee of the Human Rights Commission that the Canadian Human Rights Act, under which he is being accused, is "about censorship." Two of the three complaints filed by Edmonton man Rob Wells relate to the posting of an April 2002 WND story titled "Report: Pedophilia more common among 'gays.'" The third complaint against Gray is for several commentaries he wrote and distributed to party members. One, titled "Sitcom prophet," compared the current climate of debate about homosexuality in Canada to the "Cone of Silence" in the 1960s-era television comedy "Get Smart."


Blackness becomes meaningless

In the politics of race, black and white isn't so black-and-white anymore. Rather than a matter of skin tone and pigmentation, race has become a question of blackness and whiteness -- a calculation of attitude, experience and cultural identity.

Our first hint that the race card had found a new game was when Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton "our first black president." "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas."

At the risk of contradicting Morrison, but for the sax, those are white-trash tropes. Toss in a banjo and you've got Deliverance.

Nevertheless, Morrison's title stuck and Clinton subsequently was hailed as "First Black President" at the 2001 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Awards Dinner. But if Clinton was the first black president, what would Barack Obama be?

As a matter of DNA, Obama is obviously blacker than Clinton, despite being a very-distant cousin of Dick Cheney. But, born to a white mother and a Kenyan father -- raised in Hawaii and Indonesia -- Obama doesn't quite fit the profile of black-in-America.

It didn't help when civil rights leader and former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young said recently that Bill Clinton is "every bit as black as Barack." Joking, he added, "He's probably gone with more black women than Barack." ... When Bill Clinton can be considered black, but questions are raised about Obama's or Bill Cosby's blackness, the term has become redefined to mean something other than skin pigment and DNA.

The redefinition is part of the corruption of the civil rights movement. Rush Limbaugh has renamed the NAACP the NAALCP because the group only supports liberal blacks. The term "down with the struggle" is used to define those who support the liberal agenda and the victimhood tropes of the old leadership. It has become a shakedown scheme that plays on white guilt rather than an organization that is trying to lift up blacks. Where is the effort of the NAACP to save the black family? Where is their effort to support school choice?


Are Values Universal?

Only when Leftists say so, apparently

A frequent claim by erudite people is that the values on which America was founded--individual rights, rule of law, due process--are obsolete. They have been superseded by more recent ways of seeing things, of understanding people and their world. This point is made especially concerning America's roughly free enterprise, capitalist economic system. Some refer to them as "voodoo economics," suggesting that they are old fashioned, outmoded, in need of being discarded by now. The right to private property, a basic principle the American Founders referred to in their writings and the framers included in the Fifth Amendment, is also dismissed along these lines, sometimes by very prominent thinkers in prestigious academic institutions.

At other times the point is pressed that although some of the ideas or principles of the American Founders had merit, they were in serious need of being updated, improved upon--so, for example, whereas the Founders believed in the right to life and liberty, Franklin D. Roosevelt wisely updated these with his idea of Four Freedoms, including the freedom to obtain support from others whether or not they wish to provide it--the entitlement doctrine that's become the basis of the welfare state--which unambiguously overrules the right to liberty.

Yet, all the while some of the very same people who urge upon us this view also offer fierce criticism of early practices, laws, and customs. They will condemn slavery and the subjugation of women unhesitatingly and not accept the idea of, well, those were okay back then but not now. Favoring the upper classes, for example, is condemned, as is keeping the poor in their wretched conditions. Torture, which was routine in the Middle Ages, often comes in for chiding, never mind that back then it was widely accepted, as was corporeal punishment, child labor, and similar practices widely disapproved of.

Is it possible to have it both ways? Are some principles universal, so we can invoke them to judge the conduct of people in any age, while others are not, so that while back then it was OK to act that way but now it isn't? If so, how do we tell the difference?

To put it differently, when is invoking the idea that is was a different era and thus OK to do some things we now know to be wrong merely an excuse? How can we avoid cherry picking the conduct we want to disapprove of in any and all eras versus the conduct we are going to condemn only for certain times and places?

The idea is not merely academic by any means. It is of considerable practical importance. There are many people who claim that various ideas and ideals advocated should not be applied to certain countries, such as Cuba, North Korea, or Venezuela. They are different places and thus what is proper in the West or the U.S.A. may not be proper there at all. Yes, freedom of speech is a good idea here in America, some will say, but in the Venezuela being ruled by Hugo Chavez it is inapplicable. How women are treated in Iran is fine there but not here.

Examples can be heaped upon examples of such cultural, ethical, and political relativism which is proclaimed side by side some very earnest absolutism. Democracy is good for every society--or is it? But if it is, does that also mean that driving on the right side of the road is the right way or can that vary from country to country--or continent to continent?

Most of us confront these issues only in our college philosophy or ethics courses and once that's done, we rarely give the matter much thought. Yet it is really the very stuff of international diplomacy, of globalization, of how the World Court should decide cases and so forth. Maybe the issue is directly relevant even to how we deal with our next door neighbors. Should we judge their conduct as we judge our own? Do our principles of decency, justice, and such reach beyond our front doors? And if so, why not farther away, to the other side of the globe?

I am only raising the matter here because despite the abstract nature of the concern, it will certainly come up in our lives, including in the coming presidential elections. Is mandatory universal health care something right for us in America, in Canada, anywhere, or quite wrong however much other countries experiment with it? Should social security become voluntary, as it has in certain countries? Should religion be central our political system as it is in various places around the globe, or should we stick to separation of church and state and maybe even advocate it for others?

Now and then it bears reflecting on these matters; so however troubling it may be, it is worth admitting that the issue is actually quite central to human life anywhere.


The End of a Debate

What happens when an unexpected development suddenly makes it no longer necessary for adherents of a certain ideology to engage in conflict? The recent discovery that gives scientists the ability to turn skin cells into cells that share identical properties with Embryonic Stem Cells qualifies as such a development. Up to this point, many from the left had comfortably seized control of the high moral ground on this issue. With aid from the media, and the assurance by the scientific community of the vestigial healing powers of Embryonic Stem Cells, they piously condemned the supposedly callous ignorance of those who objected to their demand to expedite legislation requiring that federal tax dollars be used to fund Embryonic Stem Cell Research (E.S.C.R.). For these so-called "progressives", the fact that human embryos needed to be harvested and killed in the process did not pose the least moral quandary. Instead, it was favorably cast as a supremely justifiable means towards an unimpeachably noble end. History will deal with them accordingly.

Were it not for this timely discovery -- ever so politely escorted by the media into the moribund registry of superfluous news stories that do not help advance the progressive agenda -- E.S.C.R. would have continued to be enshrined by liberals. The same myopic zeal has -- to name a few other examples -- extolled the dignity of every woman's "reproductive right decision", mandated the moral acquiescence of sexual deviance, defended the unfettered license for physicians to "mercifully" kill their patients, proclaimed the end of the Global Warming debates, applauded the prepotency of the State over religion, and denounced the military interference of empire-driven U.S. presidents with murderous and oppressive regimes.

Ideally, this new development should provide advocates of unrestricted E.S.C.R. -- mostly liberals by definition -- a rare opportunity to exercise some measure of humility on that, and other controversial issues to which they have chosen to bind themselves. But more importantly, it should give them pause to reflect upon the fundamental principles which spur them to wage war against their opponents on such issues in the first place.

The fact that the majority of the causes alluded to earlier are fundamentally premised on life-negating principles should be reason enough for liberals to at least consider a nonpartisan audit of their objectives. A sober appraisal of the latter would most certainly awaken a sense of how profoundly misguided they are. Not that I am intentionally omitting the fact that the conservative ideology is far from perfect. Both ideologies inevitably tend toward coveting supremacy amongst other competing worldviews vying for relevancy in the public square. It behooves adherents of both ideologies not to shy away from periodically re-examining their long held convictions in this our changing times.

But convictions rooted in nonnegotiable principles - by virtue of the fact that they transcend mere fashionable moral trends - should remain unchanged. In so far as such principles are missing from the liberal ideology, the conservative ideology - all its imperfections notwithstanding - stands unrivaled. This disparity is often illustrated by the fact that Conservatives are typically chided for being unfaithful to their core principles, whereas Liberals are indicted by the social decay that ensues as a result of strict adherence to theirs.

Today's liberals suffer from a marring decrepitude, manifesting itself in what their forebears would quickly denounce as the rather illiberal ethos of guiltless autonomy, speech codification, thought surveillance, and retroactive gender and ethnic bigotry. Mere cosmetic attempts at re-inventing themselves by changing their brand name, or taking stock of the aggregate moral decay from decades of civic prerogative will not likely solve their predicament.

I hope that this recent scientific milestone may help them realize that it is high time they revisit some (if not most) of their ideological stances, and decide how much farther they will stray from the once cherished liberal tradition. But they continue to engage in the dispensation of newly invented rights for a few citizen groups fortunate enough to find shelter under their exclusive canopy of "victims", rather than valuing the fundamental dignity and freedoms of all persons, religious and secular, healthy and infirm, born and in utero. Here's to hoping it will give them pause. But don't hold your breath.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


16 December, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Solstice

Post below lifted from No Pasaran . See the original for links. Immediately below is the soft-porn actress chosen by the BBC to portray the Blessed Virgin.

Trapped in Beeb-istan: the Provisional Wing of the PC left has finally found a way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Former Brookside babe Jennifer Ellison is to star in a new BBC adaptation of the Nativity story. The new show will be broadcast live on BBC Three on December 16th and will see Ellison playing the part of a pregnant Mary who is fighting to stop her asylum-seeker boyfriend Joseph from being deported.

Further, the Ho Ho Hosebag will be sexing-up the dumbing-down of the greatest story ever told:

Jennifer Ellison will don a silver catsuit to play an angel in the BBC's new adaptation of the Nativity story.

I suppose the point they're making really is that there is no reason to become a citizen since the only notion they now have of what a citizenship is feeling perpetually guilty about your very being. That's sure to bring the brain-trust knocking on their doors, and that forgiveness and salvation are available with a Scheisster and paperwork sent to the Home Office.

This is the same BBC that refers to any other nations newcomers as immigrants, but otherwise as "migrants" only when referring to a foreigner in the UK, legally there or not, seeking citizenship or not.


When the controversy over the cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten depicting the Prophet Muhammad erupted early in 2006, a leading article in the Guardian of London suggested that John Stuart Mill was a "better guide" to the issues involved than Voltaire. What exactly does the father of modern liberalism have to tell us about insult, offense, and the limits of free speech?

In considering what circumstances could justify limits on expression, Mill offered what has become a basic standard in liberal societies, known as the Harm Principle, according to which the "only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Now, for Mill, actions are harmful which directly violate the rights of a person (rights being understood by him to be certain "immunities" enjoyed by persons against the power of rulers). And if we grant that definition of harm, then very few limits on freedom of expression are going to be justified, since very few expressive acts could plausibly be said to cause harm to the rights of others.

This is not to say, however, that no expressive act (a piece of speech, say, or a cartoon) could cause harm. Mill takes the example of speech about corn dealers. It is reasonable, he says, to declare, in print, that corn dealers starve the poor, but it is not permissible to make the same claim before an angry mob gathered outside a corn dealer's home. In the latter case, the speech is an incitement to "some mischievous act" and places the rights, and indeed the life, of the corn dealer in danger.

Some critics, including some of those who wrote about the Danish cartoons affair, think this definition of harm is too restrictive. They argue that in addition to the Harm Principle, we need something such as what the philosopher Joel Feinberg calls an Offense Principle. But, as Jerome Neu points out in "Sticks and Stones: The Philosophy of Insults" (Oxford University Press, 304 pages, $29.95), it not clear where we would find the "Aristotelian mean" that would tell us just how sensitive to insult we can reasonably be. In any case, it would be very hard to apply such a principle, since some people take offense simply because they are oversensitive, or because they harbor unjustified prejudices.

It is sometimes said that justice requires that we defer to the interpretation that vulnerable minorities give of the speech acts and gestures directed at them. The problem with this, according to Mr. Neu, is that "feeling insulted is not an infallible guide to being insulted"; it is not obvious that we can trust the vulnerable always to get the interpretation right. What are we to do, for instance, with people whose beliefs make them peculiarly susceptible to insult or offense? Mr. Neu's rich and luminously written book is, among other things, an attempt to answer such questions.

A distinctive feature of insult, then, is that it is more often felt than intended to be given (and of course intention matters; especially, one might say, in cases such as that of the cartoons). Borrowing the terminology of the English philosopher J.L. Austin, Mr. Neu makes the very interesting suggestion that this has a good deal to do with the language of insult. Unlike promising or censuring, for example, there is no "distinctive performative verb for insulting"; that is, we don't say, "I insult you," whereas we do say, "I promise to you" or "I censure you." This means that insults are often ambiguous: One can be insulted without taking offense (the insult can, as Austin puts it, "misfire"), just as one can take offense where none is intended. There are also significant implications here for restrictions on hate speech confined to profane or vulgar language. There can be "politely worded insults," after all, but to prohibit these as well would be to risk "stifling all controversial discourse." It is one thing to claim that words are also deeds and can do harm, and quite another confidently to specify the words that wound.

Mr. Neu's skepticism about hate speech legislation, speech codes, and blasphemy laws is grounded in a very Millian understanding of what is involved in upholding freedom of speech. We should, he argues, see certain kinds of discomfort, offended feelings, and so on as being among the unavoidable costs of free thought, inquiry, and argument. The Muslim protesters who besieged the office of the editor of Jyllands-Posten were entitled to his respect, but not his "submission." Failing to recognize that these are not the same threatens to make free expression itself the "victim."


Ethnicity matters

I see no indication that ethnicity is irrelevant in the USA. On the contrary, I see indications that the importance of ethnic rivalries is growing within the US along with mass immigration from non-Western countries. The reason why this haven't had serious repercussions yet is because the white majority clings to the idea that ethnicity doesn't matter. But as the white majority grows smaller and eventually disappears, these ethnic rivalries could potentially grow a lot worse as there would no longer be a stable majority group in the country.

The USA, and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, were founded as modern states by people of European origins. European Americans made up almost 90% of the population in the USA until a few decades ago. I don't know about a single example where a country has totally changed its majority population, and where the people who originally shaped the country's institutions have been rendered a minority, and where this hasn't resulted in a huge change in that country's culture.

If the present immigration to the USA continues, the culture will change profoundly, and a few decades from now the USA will no longer be a Western country. Alternatively, the United States as a unified country could collapse. I've mentioned that option before. It's perhaps not the most likely scenario, but it is one that Americans should take seriously. If the USA should, for some reason, not survive this century in its present shape, it will be because ethnicity does matter after all:
US minorities don't trust each other

The three main minorities in the United States - blacks, Hispanics and Asians - have little trust for each other and hold prejudiced views about Americans of different ethnic origins to their own, a poll showed Wednesday. "This extraordinary poll reveals some unflattering realities that exist in America today," said Sandy Close, head of new America Media (NAM) which sponsored the poll together with ethnic media groups.

Forty-four percent of Hispanics and 47 percent of Asians are "afraid of African-Americans because they are responsible for most of the crime," the survey of 1,105 adults drawn from the three ethnic groups showed.

More than half of black Americans polled and 46 percent of Hispanics said Asian business owners do not treat them with respect. And half of African-Americans said Latin American immigrants "are taking jobs, housing and political power away from the black community."

Hispanics and Asians, whose populations are made up mainly of immigrants, were positive about the American dream, saying that those who work hard in the United States reap the rewards of their toil.

In contrast, more than 60 percent of African-Americans dismissed the American dream as not working for them.

All three ethnic groups viewed white Americans in a more favorable light than they did members of another minority. Sixty-one percent of Hispanics, 54 percent of Asians and 47 percent of African-Americans said they would rather do business with whites than members of the other two groups.

"The poll reaffirms that while race relations between ethnic groups and whites grab the headlines, there are also serious racial problems between minority groups in America," said Sergio Bendixen, an expert on Hispanic and multilingual polling. "Blacks feel they are left out of the American Dream and are being displaced by newcomers, and each group buys into the negative stereotypes about the other two," he said.

The three minority groups did agree that the United States would be a better place if blacks, Asians and Hispanics held more authoritative positions at universities, in business, media and government. They also said they believe racial tensions in the United States will ease over the next 10 years.


Conservative British Muslim tells some home truths

The Conservative peer who helped negotiate the release of the primary school teacher jailed in Sudan for allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Mohamed attacked her fellow British Muslims today for their "victim culture". Baroness Warsi, a Conservative spokeswoman on community cohesion, also criticised Labour for its "patronage politics" and for having encouraged the "divisive concept" of multiculturalism.

Lady Warsi, 36, born to Pakistani parents in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, is the youngest member of the House of Lords. She came to public notice earlier this month when she was asked by Lord Ahmed, a Labour peer, to accompany him to Sudan to mediate the release of Gillian Gibbons, who had been jailed for insulting Islam.

The situation in Sudan had been extraordinary and "thankfully" could never happen in the UK, Lady Warsi told a race relations conference in London this morning. "And yet it had echoes of situations we do get in Britain," she added, describing how cultural misunderstandings had exacerbated a local problem, which had then been taken up by religious and political leaders "busting for a fight". "These three factors - local disputes, cultural misunderstandings and hardliners stirring up trouble - these are very familiar to us in Britain," she said.

It was entirely possible to respect religious doctrine while living within a democracy, Lady Warsi said. To do so successfully, it was crucial to make the distinction between religious faith and cultural practice. "This distinction is vital because there is a growing tendency among some people to describe what are really social expectations - and often pretty dubious ones - as religious requirements.

"...British Muslims have the foremost responsibility here," she added. "As long as the Muslim community remains in a victim culture, a siege mentality, they allow others to control the debate.

"When it comes to Islam, the majority of Muslims understand the difference between culture and religion. It's not for others to tell Muslims what is and isn't Islam. It's for the community, and in that I include myself, to expound the truth about our faith - not let others interpret it for us. It is for us to be the change - not let others impose it on us."

Lady Warsi, who is thought to be the first British Muslim to serve in either the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet, pointed out that she gone to Sudan with a Labour peer and had been proud to be part of a bipartisan effort where party differences did not matter. "But this is not to say that there are no differences between the parties when it comes to cohesion at home," she added.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


15 December, 2007

Celebrating diversity (continued)

The glorious mosaic strikes again. From Canada.com:

A Mississauga, Ont. man will be formally charged on Tuesday with murder in connection with the death of his 16-year-old daughter. The girl, Aqsa Parvez, was in critical condition on Monday after being strangled, apparently after a dispute with her family over her refusal to wear the hijab, the Islamic headscarf worn by some Muslim women. However Peel Regional Police said Tuesday the girl died late Monday night.
The Toronto Star is full of sympathy - for the hijab:
...members of the community - particularly young Muslim women - say the tension can exist both ways. Ausma Khan, the editor-in-chief of Toronto-based Muslim Girl magazine, said research into the readership of her publication shows that the decision to wear the hijab - the traditional Muslim headscarf - is almost always a choice the girl makes on her own.

"We have also heard from other girls saying that they don't know if they want to wear it and that they're unsure and that there is community or family pressure to wear it," she said, but stressed that type of response was in the minority.

Maryam Rana, 20, a student at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, said she has been wearing the hijab since she was in Grade 3 and was not very receptive to it at first. [....]
Does anyone else remember the ladies on The View, including Whoopi Goldberg, solemnly informing us, after Sudanese mobs demanded the execution of the British schoolteacher, that everyone calls us the "ugly Americans" because we don't take the trouble to learn about and respect the cultures of countries overseas.

If the Toronto Star is going to talk about "going both ways", how about immigrants respecting the ways of the country to which they have moved? This is far from the first time such an incident has occurred on our continent.


Nine Democrats vote no on House resolution marking Christmas

And all but one voted yes on the Ramadan resolution in October, as did nine other Democrats who voted "present" on this one. (Barbara Lee missed the earlier vote.) The boss blogged this much earlier but after knocking Tanc for voting "present" on the Ramadan resolution - which no House member voted against, do note - I'd be remiss if I didn't flag this at HA. Any explanations here other than simple bigotry? If so, Steve King says he'd love to hear them, as would I. The left sometimes seem to have it in its mind that the Establishment Clause contains some sort of equal protection component that makes it okay to endorse minority religions, however symbolically, while scrupulously resisting the faith of the majority lest it burst into theocracy. No such doctrine, boys. The most principled guy in all of this is Mike Pence, who voted "present" on both, followed by those who voted yes to both, followed in turn by those who voted "present" on one but yes on the other (a group which includes Steve King), followed at last by our nine Democratic friends here, the only members in all the bunch who clearly preferred one religion to another.

And yes, of course, the atheist who thinks Bush gets his rocks off by blowing the heads off Iraqi kids is among the nine hypocrites. What a filthy little fraud.

Tanc, who had business elsewhere today and missed the vote, defended his "present" vote on the Ramadan resolution thusly: "This resolution is an example of the degree to which political correctness has captured the political and media elite in this country. I am not opposed to commending any religion for their faith. The problem is that any attempt to do so for Jews or Christians is immediately condemned as `breaching' the non-existent line between Church and State by the same elite." Exit question: In light of today's landslide, will he be voting yes on the Ramadan resolution next year?


NAACP pushes racial hoaxes

Last May, firefighters at a Baltimore, Md., fire station came under scrutiny for displaying a deer with an afro wig, gold tooth, gold chain and a cigarette hanging from its mouth. Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, went ballistic, charging, "There is now and has been a culture of racism and white supremacy within the Baltimore City Fire Department."

As it turns out, it was a black fireman who dressed up the critter. Cheatham refused to apologize for his accusations of fire department racism, maintaining "there is now and has been a culture of racism and white supremacy within the Baltimore City Fire Department."

On Nov. 21, a hangman's noose was found at the fire station with a note, "We can't hang the cheaters, but we can hang the failures. No EMT-1, NO JOB." The noose and note turned up on the heels of an investigation into allegations of cheating on the test that emergency medical technicians must take for certification. Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, a black, in a written statement said, "I am outraged by this deplorable act of hatred and intimidation. Threats and racial attacks are unacceptable anywhere, especially in a firehouse." Doc Cheatham said, "We're going to demand that this be handled as a hate crime. This thing really needs to end here in Baltimore city." The incident prompted a federal investigation.

Last week, Donald Maynard, a black firefighter-paramedic, confessed to having placed the noose, note and drawing depicting a lynching on a bunk in the firehouse. City officials said Maynard was recently suspended, prior to his confession, from the department Friday for failing to meet requirements for advanced life-saving training. A spokesman for Mayor Dixon said there would be no criminal charges filed.

In response to Maynard's confession, NAACP President Cheatham still blamed white racism, saying, "It really saddens us to hear that evidently things have reached a stage that even an African-American does an injustice to himself and his own people as a result of a negative culture in that department."

Doc Cheatham is a poster boy for demonstrating a much larger problem, namely that the once proud and useful NAACP has outlived that usefulness and has in some instances become an impediment to black progress. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black liberal-to-moderate Washington-based think-tank, reported that 88 percent of blacks favored educational choice plans. A Gallup Poll found 72 percent of blacks support school choice. The NAACP, acting as handmaidens for the teachers' unions, is solidly against school vouchers. A Gallup Poll shows 44 percent of blacks are for the death penalty and 49 percent against it, but the NAACP is solidly against it.

The major problems confronting a large segment of the black community have little or nothing to do with racism -- problems such as unprecedented illegitimacy, family breakdown, fraudulent education, crime and rampant social pathology. If white people became angels tomorrow, it would do nothing to solve problems that can only be solved by blacks....

The "down with the struggle" civil rights movement has become at best a joke. It works against the interests of blacks on education and is doing nothing about the catastrophic breakdown of the black family. Some of its members even lash out at Bill Cosby who is trying to do something about the problem. His new book, Come On People, goes to the heart of the problem.



As of last April, the late Edward Said's "Orientalism," originally published in 1978, was no. 2 on the best-seller list in Cairo. No. 1was a book arguing that Saddam Hussein hadn't really been executed - all cell phone video evidence to the contrary, the writer argued, was a fabrication of the CIA.

Ibn Warraq, a scholar of Islam and the author of the recently released "Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism," pointed out this macabre fact to me over the phone as a sign of what went wrong with postcolonial studies - the academic field more or less founded by Said, which, in an effort to examine the relationship of conqueror to conquered, placed a dime-store psychology of empire at the center of every discussion of "East meets West." Not only did the British and French colonize and expropriate the East, according to Said, their imperial prejudice clouded their understanding of those they conquered. More than that, they "invented" an entire sham epistemology, Said and his followers contend, with which every Western observer has since approached the East and used to his advantage in further colonizing and expropriating it. Said's legacy, however, accomplished exactly what anyone professing sympathy with the Islamic world should have wished to avoid, Mr. Warraq believes. That is, in defending the virtue of traditional cultures, it gave that world a high-minded rationalization for a persisting status quo of medievalism and intellectual poverty throughout the Middle East.

"'Orientalism,'" Mr. Warraq writes, "taught an entire generation of Arabs the art of self-pity . encouraged the Islamic fundamentalist generation of the 1980s, and bludgeoned into silence any criticism of Islam." Though it's Mr. Warraq's plaint that the book "stopped dead the research of eminent Islamologists who felt their findings might offend Muslims' sensibilities," it is not merely an abstract charge, but personally felt. "Ibn Warraq" is an Arabic pseudonym, meaning "son of a stationer, book-seller, paper-seller," which this Indian-born writer assumed after witnessing the critical reception Islamists gave Salman Rushdie, all the while claiming themselves as victims.

Said, Mr. Warraq argues, contributed to the Islamic ideology of victimization, practically inviting offense by writing, "every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric." This sentence is repeated multiple times throughout "Defending the West," which otherwise might have been titled "Not In My Name." Applying the cool, thin steel of Occam to these and other follies of logic and critical analysis, Mr. Warraq asks, "If Orientalists have produced a false picture of the Orient, Orientals, Islam, Arabs, and Arabic society. then how could this false or pseudo-knowledge have helped European imperialists to dominate three-quarters of the globe?"

As with all theories that attempt to explain everything and end up explaining little, Said's suffers from the added vice of being dangerous. "I delivered a paper at the American Enterprise Institute two weeks ago on Robert Conquest," Mr. Warraq said. "I talked about Foucault. He made a complete ass of himself and he refused to retract anything he said when he endorsed the revolution in Iran. He was very much pro-Khomeini. When secularists wrote to him, he dismissed them as inauthentic because they were too Westernized!"

Mr. Warraq's esteem for Conquest, the premier truth teller of Stalinism, comports neatly with his defense of what he terms the three pillars of Western thought: rationalism, self-criticism, and universalism. By Orientalism's lights, these are mere masquerades for prejudice, hubris, and condescension - ironically, the very faults Mr. Warraq ascribes to Said and his epigones, particularly when it comes to such an urgent question as Kurdish autonomy in Iraq. "Anybody who wants to modernize must be a stooge of the imperialists," Mr. Warraq said, paraphrasing their worldview. "Anyone who thinks rationally is suspect. Foucault once said, '[Iranians] have a different regime of truth than ours.' This is cultural relativism gone berserk. If anything is 'Orientalist' in the pejorative sense, it is that."

In "Defending the West," Mr. Warraq catalogs Said's many solecisms and howlers - mistaking "scatological" for "eschatological," assuming the great Hungarian Orientalist Ignaz Goldhizer to be German, ignorantly assigning territories to the British and French imperiums that really belonged to the Ottoman one. But his real aim is more ambitious still: to create a "parallel work . made up of extracts from Western writers, scholars and travelers who were attracted by various aspects of non-European cultures, which they praised and contrasted favorably with their own decadence, bigotry, intolerance and bellicosity." In this, Mr. Warraq excels like a latter-day Voltaire, compiling an exhaustive and painstakingly researched "Encyclopedie" of the many humanist European surveyors of the East. In a series of illuminating pen portraits, he shows that the West very often exalted the "rest."

Mr. Warraq starts with the color-blind, cosmopolitan Greeks. The ancient inhabitants of the island of Chios thought Zeus was black. Herodotus was an unabashed philobarbaros. Aeschylus rendered Darius tragically and sympathetically for the theater, and Alexander the Great, who intermarried and encouraged the practice among his soldiery, had the Persian king's actual corpse wrapped in his own cloak as a gesture of respect for a vanquished opponent. The Greco-Bactrians of Eurasia believed they came to India with the descendants of Dionysus. Even the Dark Ages allow rarely glimpsed shafts of light. Isidore of Seville (560-636) "introduced Aristotle to his countrymen before the Arabs," whom Adelard of Bath, in the 12th century, credited with having the best critical faculties of any race of man. In the Renaissance, the Muslim philosophers Averroes and Avicenna were read compulsively in Padua and Bologna, not least of all by Pico della Mirandola.

Antiquity had the basic philosophical underpinnings right, Mr. Warraq writes, but the Enlightenment broadened man's scope and gave him a secular, scientific basis for the study of natural law. Indeed, as a proud atheist, the author of "Why I Am Not a Muslim," and an anthologist of several books devoted to Muslim apostasy and exegesis of the Koran, Mr. Warraq would happily color himself an "Enlightenment fundamentalist," to borrow Timothy Garton Ash and Ian Buruma's shared animadversion on Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Mr. Buruma had problems with Said's methodology and is cited approvingly in "Defending the West," so I was curious to hear what Mr. Warraq thought of his treatment of the Somali dissident. "[Buruma] wrote a disgraceful book full of an incredible number of errors blaming the victim for bringing it all on herself."

And what about Tariq Ramadan, the "moderate" Islamic philosopher, son of the Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, who is Buruma's preferred dragoman for liberal Europe? Mr. Warraq debated him in London last month on the question of the superiority of Western values. "When [Ramadan] gives interviews in English, he's incredibly evasive. He's not the kind of guy I'd buy a secondhand car from. If you ask him, 'Do you think lapidation for adultery should be banned?,' he never says 'yes' categorically. He says things such as, 'At this moment, it is not applicable' or 'it is not advisable.' Always this prevarication."

Mr. Warraq's beef with Said, however, is more a matter of reductionism than prevarication: that "Orientalism" misses two crucial points about human nature in its discussion of relations between East and West. The first is that even the worst offenders aren't always motivated by bigotry or grand imperial designs. The second is that the institutions they erect are often more significant and enduring than their venality and greed.

Mr. Warraq praises the British of the 18th and 19th centuries for their role shepherding India's cultural renewal - not to mention in combating the corruption of British colonialism. Edmund Burke led the moral and legislative charge against Warren Hastings, the notorious head of the East India Company. James Prinsep, a secretary of the celebrated Asiatic Society of Bengal, drained the malarial swamps of Calcutta, restored the collapsing mosque of Aurangzeb stone by stone, and discovered that once-indecipherable rock inscriptions were made by the Mughal emperor Asoka Maurya. Mr. Warraq relies on several modern Indian historians, such as A.L. Basham and Nirad Chaudhuri, to emphasize the great esteem in which British Orientalists are still held - men such as Henry Thomas Colebrooke, who agitated for the end of the East India Company's monopoly and composed a systematic study of Sanskrit and Hindu law as well as the only authoritative analysis of the Veda; Sir William Jones, the "father of Indian history" and one of the early discoverers of the Indo-European linguistic nexus (he thought Sanskrit "more exquisitely refined" than Latin or Greek), and William Carey, the "father of Bengali prose," who single-handedly restored a lost literature.

Mr. Warraq is no admirer of the "clash of civilizations" thesis, and - as if to prove his own point about self-criticism - he says he absorbed a lot of the negative feedback on "Why I Am Not a Muslim." This is why, in the current volume, he employs a useful tripartite distinction of Islam borrowed, he says, from Bernard Lewis: Islam One is the Koran, Islam Two is the hadith, or oral tradition relating to the words and deeds of the prophet, and Islam Three is Muslim civilization, which is as variegated as it is large. One and two, Mr. Warraq says, are incompatible with democracy and human rights. As for three, "many Muslim feminists try to re-interpret or ignore Koranic passages in order to improve the lives of all Muslim women. Only time will tell if such strategies will work." Mr. Warraq tells me: "We're not going to eradicate Islam from the face of the earth, and I have no wish for it to be. Islam Three is going to require a lot of sociological and empirical research. One has to be careful when we talk about Islam, one has to be more specific." This is a courtesy Said botched, or simply failed to accord, in his examination of the West.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


14 December, 2007

Cultural Relativism - The Next Generation

At the end of November, John Tierney - a writer never afraid to "put it out there" (as the kids say) - issued a provocative question in his blog at the New York Times site:
Should African women be allowed to engage in the practice sometimes called female circumcision? Are critics of this practice, who call it female genital mutilation, justified in trying to outlaw it, or are they guilty of ignorance and cultural imperialism?
Tierney was raising the curtain on a session to be held at the then-upcoming annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association: As the organizers of the AAA panel note:
The panel includes for the first time, the critical "third wave" or multicultural feminist perspectives of circumcised African women scholars Wairimu Njambi, a Kenyan, and Fuambai Ahmadu, a Sierra Leonean. Both women hail from cultures where female and male initiation rituals are the norm and have written about their largely positive and contextualized experiences, creating an emergent discursive space for a hitherto "muted group" in global debates about FGC [female genital cutting].

Dr. Ahmadu, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago, was raised in America and then went back to Sierra Leone as an adult to undergo the procedure along with fellow members of the Kono ethnic group. She has argued that the critics of the procedure exaggerate the medical dangers, misunderstand the effect on sexual pleasure, and mistakenly view the removal of parts of the clitoris as a practice that oppresses women. She has lamented that her Westernized "feminist sisters insist on denying us this critical aspect of becoming a woman in accordance with our unique and powerful cultural heritage."

Tierney's post raised a ruckus, as you would expect. So the following week he returned to the subject. This time, he gave over much of his blogpost to a University of Chicago cultural anthropologist named Richard Shweder, whose short essay began:
"Female genital mutilation" is an invidious and essentially debate-subverting label. The preemptive use of that expression is just as invidious as starting a conversation about a women's right to choose by describing abortion as the "murder of innocent life." Pro-choice advocates rightly object to the presumptive disparagement implied by that label; many African women similarly object to naming a practice which they describe in local terms as "the celebration" or the "purification" or the "cleansing" or the "beautification" as "the mutilation". Notably in most ethnic groups where female genital surgeries are customary, male genital surgeries are customary as well and are named with the same terms.

Charles calls for a dispassionate factual examination of the risks and consequences of female genital surgeries. Fact checking has not been the strong suit of anti-"FGM" advocacy groups or of the American press. Indeed, the press in general has served as an effective outlet for the advocacy groups and has kept itself innocent of available sources of information that run counter to the received horror arousing story-line about barbaric or ignorant or victimized Africans who maim, murder, and disfigure their daughters and deprive them of a capacity to experience sexual pleasure. With rare exceptions, the only African women who have been given a direct voice and allowed to speak for themselves in our media are those who oppose the practice.
Shweder takes here to astounding new lengths what has become a foundational principle of American academia: never, ever, ever say anything negative about any practice by any non-western people, no matter how cruel, repulsive, or unjust. And it has drawn a withering retort from another anthropologist, an Australian academic named Roger Sandall, author of The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism and Other Essays, forwarded to me with the author's consent:
Shweder's overall strategy is to use ambiguous medical reports about the health consequences of Female Genital Mutilation to undermine human rights. In Shweder's world culture rules. Whether or not an actual statistical majority of men and women favor a traditional practice, Shwederian anthropology attributes to "culture" a metaphysical solidaristic authority that owes individuals nothing, and is an implacable force to which everyone must submit.

The Medical Argument

Shweder's invariable practice is to play down morbidity figures, minimise or deny their statistical significance, and to suppress any references they contain to victim's rights.

Some of the challengeable matters in the cited research are of a quite elementary kind. I notice that on page 223 of the essay "What About Female Genital Mutilation?" (referred to hereunder as WAFGM?), he refers respectfully to a Sudan Demographic and Health Survey of 1989-90 involving 3,805 women.

But what credit do Sudanese government reports on this subject possess? Shweder tells us that "When asked whether they favored continuation of the practice, 90 percent of circumcised women said they favored its continuation." No doubt they did. Most village women would be unlikely to say anything else, especially to government health officials. To say the opposite would identify them as cultural renegades and cruelly condemn them to the status of outcasts in their own communities. The entire circumstances of the interrogation need to be clarified. Who asked the questions? When and where? In what environment or setting? Were they asked in private? Were young women and girls questioned in the presence of older women? Etc.

Nor is Shweder's medical argument without contradictions. He places great confidence in the results of questionnaires in which African women (presumably mainly Islamic) freely respond on intimate matters to questions asked by complete strangers. Yet only a few lines into the opening section of WAFGM? he admits that "In general, these women keep their secrets secret. They have not been inclined to expose the most intimate parts of their bodies to public examination." In general, yes. But when it comes to the medical reports Shweder favors then another rule seems to apply. In these he assumes that reliable evidence is presented by women who have happily, willingly, and truthfully bared their most secret secrets to the world.

The Social and Philosophical Argument

The rest of what I have to say concerns the mixture of guile, deliberately sown confusion, and hypocrisy implicit in Shweder's philosophical position. For example, WAFGM? begins by challenging "all liberal, free-thinking people who value democratic pluralism and the toleration of differences" to take a sympathetic view of FGM. He returns to this in his Conclusion, citing a statement by the "legal scholar Lawrence Sager" regarding America's "robust tradition of constitutional liberty-including the rights of speech and belief."

Are Americans in favor of liberal "free-thinking" and the "rights of speech and belief" enshrined in their "robust tradition of constitutional liberty"? Of course they are! But in both cases that is not actually what is being defended, either by Schweder or Sager. In fact, it is the "right" of cultural collectivities to forcefully command, discipline, and punish deviant individuals within their political and legal grasp who try to exercise individual rights of speech, belief, and conduct-when dissenting individual belief and conduct opposes their clan or tribe. What Shweder is proposing is a denial of the very rights the US constitution seeks to uphold. He couldn't care less about "free-thinking" or "the toleration of differences" within cultures, where indeed the most totalitarian rules, controls, and punishment sometimes apply. In Shweder's characteristically anthropological view of the social order, individuals do not have rights: only cultural collectivities do; and they do and should exercise their quasi-divine collective authority by punishing dissenters.

At the top of page 223 of WAFGM? Shweder tells us that "Notably, most African women do not think about circumcision in human rights terms or as a human rights violation. Women who endorse female circumcision argue that it is an important part of their cultural heritage or their religion." And that's all that matters to Shweder: as noted above, "culture rules"-and forget about human rights. Today, systems of justice in various Middle Eastern states ordain the public decapitation of offenders; yesterday, in West African kingdoms 150 years ago, war and slavery were ubiquitous; in Ancient Mexico under the Aztecs whole hecatombs of sacrificial victims were slaughtered. In each place these demonstrably ugly and dispensable procedures and practices have been "an important part of their cultural heritage or religion", and it is hard to see on what basis Shweder would have them proscribed. Indeed, to interfere in any way would be, according to him, a form of "cultural imperialism". One may be confident that he would describe the Spanish suppression of Aztec sacrificial rites as an inexcusable intervention by arrogant "cultural imperialists".

"Female genital mutilation", he tells us in a recent web-posting, "is an invidious and essentially debate-subverting label. While nobody wants to see debate subverted, it is worth pausing a moment to consider Shweder's own preferred usages, and the typical tricks he gets up to. Wherever possible his terminology is designed to suppress the issue of consent; evade seriously discussing medical consequences (these are flippantly dismissed as "statistically insignificant"); excuse, defend, and glamorize the inexcusable; and ignore the question of patient's rights. Quoting Corinne Kratz he writes of "genital modification". Elsewhere he refers to "physical modification" and "female genital surgeries."

Surgery? Is that really what it is? "Surgery" in the West implies standards of hygiene, medical qualifications, expertise, and whatever antiseptic precautions and anaesthesia is appropriate in order to ensure the patient's health and wellbeing. Unless I'm mistaken, the majority of operations performed in traditional contexts throughout Africa take place using instruments such as razor blades, in the hands of elders, without benefit of either antiseptic or anaesthetic of any kind. To speak of "surgery" is willfully misleading, a false and tendentious gloss on a hideous practice.

Pace Shweder, and whether or not he feels uncomfortable with it, the formal definition of the procedure as "female genital mutilation" is an accurate, technical and universal medical description. It is-as all scientific terms should be-"supra-cultural". Shweder's own preferred term, used more or less consistently in his writing, is "genital alteration". Is this an improvement on "genital mutilation"? I wonder. When a woman takes a dress to a dress-maker for "alterations" she, acting as the agent of her own desires, asks for some inanimate material to be cut. It would sound more than a little odd for her to take her daughter to the dress-maker to have "alterations" made to the hapless child's genitalia, without the unresisting victim's permission, simply to satisfy the mother's conservative belief that this highly animate piece of human material will look better after it has been shaped and cut. Though providing the woman claimed that this practice was "an important part of her cultural heritage and religion" Shweder would no doubt find everything in order-culturally speaking of course.

Reader Mark A. Tarnowski comments:
I spent years coaching women's gymnastics. Worked with thousands of young women and girls from all around the globe. I can read a kid as well as anyone.

On TV some years ago - maybe on Frontline - I saw a young girl get circumcised. She was about 11-years-old and as soon as the cutting began she started screaming horrifically. Afterwards, she had the look of fear in her eyes you'd expect from someone who had just been violently gang-raped by her entire extended family. I'd be very surprised if any of the pro-mutilators have ever had the requisite honesty to show a film - any film - of this barbaric procedure.

British nativity Scene Modified to Make Political Point

A British charity is giving the traditional nativity scene a political twist this year by dividing it with a wall symbolizing Israel's controversial security barrier. The Amos Trust, a Christian group that works with needy communities around the world, is selling what it calls a nativity set with a difference -- one where "the wise men won't get to the stable." Organizers say the purpose of the sets -- made by Palestinian carpenters with olive wood from Bethlehem -- is to draw attention to the security measures put in place by the Israeli government.

The network of walls and fences being built between Israeli and Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of the West Bank runs along the perimeter of Bethlehem, dividing it from nearby Jerusalem. Travel in and out of the town is heavily restricted.

The nativity scenes are available in a small version, for around $30, and a larger set -- "perfect for a church" -- goes for around $115. The wall in the larger version is detachable, the Amos Trust says, to allow for the possibility the situation may change in the future. Garth Hewitt, director of the Amos Trust, said Wednesday his group wants to use the wooden sets to make people aware of what is happening, including how the Christian population of Bethlehem is rapidly shrinking. "We're worried about the entire community there," he said. "They're trapped behind the wall there. It's like a medieval siege."

Hewitt, an Anglican "honorary canon" and singer-songwriter, said proceeds from the sets will go directly to the Bethlehem tradesmen who have been economically hurt by the loss of outside visitors and tourists. "In the old days, there would have been loads of pilgrims and they would have been able to raise money that way," he said. So far, the group has sold around 100 of the smaller sets and about 50 of the larger ones.

Critics of Israel frequently blame the Israeli government for the exodus of Christian Arabs from the PA areas. Some scholars attribute the shrinking Christian population to harassment and intimidation by Islamists, however.

Two pro-Israel Christian groups criticized the nativity sets. "We are saddened by attempts to make one-sided political capital out of the Bethlehem story," Geoffrey Smith, director of the U.K. branch of Christian Friends of Israel, said Wednesday. "Nobody wants a security barrier but so long as terrorists continue to threaten the lives of Jews and of Arabs in Israel, the people there have to defend themselves in ways that will stop the bombers." He said more than 2,000 lives have been saved by the security barrier in the last five years.

Pamela Thomas, national director of the British branch of Bridges for Peace, agreed. "The wall is there to protect people from the suicide bombers that were coming in," she said. Although far from common in Britain, nativity scenes occasionally have proved controversial in recent years. Last year, the Israeli government protested after a Catholic Church in England replaced its usual nativity pageant with a 24-foot-high polystyrene replica of the security barrier. Visitors reportedly were shown protest signs and what the parish priest called "stark photographs" of the situation in Bethlehem.

This year, the BBC has come under fire from some religious groups for a modernized version of the nativity story, which the public broadcaster will screen in a live show in Liverpool on December 16. Mary and Joseph will be depicted as asylum seekers swept up during a crackdown on immigration, with the cast singing hits from the Beatles and other famous local pop bands. Despite the complaints, Anglican Bishop of Liverpool James Jones supports the program, saying that it will cause the Christmas story to "echo through the streets of Liverpool."


Australia: Girl gang-rape warnings ignored by Left-indoctrinated social workers

You would have to be a Leftist moron to put the welfare of criminal black men ahead of the welfare of brutally-treated little black girls. Those, however, appear to be the sick priorities of political correctness

THE family of a 10-year-old gang-rape victim have revealed they had warned child safety authorities she would be attacked if taken out of a Cairns foster home and returned to their remote Aboriginal community of Aurukun.

Amid a continuing public outcry over the Queensland Department of Child Safety's failure to protect the girl and a Queensland District Court judge's controversial decision not to jail her attackers, her family has told of a community in crisis and "a little girl who has had the light turned off on her life". They expressed outrage at the sentence the nine males received, and claim some of the offenders had first raped the girl when she was seven. "She should never have been allowed to come back from foster care while those boys were still here. We told that to welfare. (Some of) those boys had raped her in the past," the girl's mother said.

In October, judge Sarah Bradley decided not to record convictions against six teenage attackers and gave three others, aged 17, 18 and 26, suspended sentences over the rape. The sentences will be appealed and dozens of other sex abuse cases from the cape reviewed after the lenient sentences in the gang-rape case were revealed. The prosecutor in the case, Steve Carter - who described the rape as "a form of childish experimentation" of which the victim was a willing participant - has also been stood down pending an internal investigation.

The girl's aunt said she was deeply offended by Mr Carter's claim that the victim had consented to the rape, and said suggestions underage sex was a fact of life in cape communities was abhorrent. "That's not right. It's not traditional to have sex without parents' consent. Something is not right. She is a little girl who has had the light turned off on her life," she said. Her uncle, the family patriarch, said sexual assaults, family violence and drugs had become so bad in the community he would support a Northern Territory-style intervention. "The violence happens all the time. Something needs to be done, we shouldn't have to live like this," he said.

Cape York Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson last night described the case as "just the tip of the iceberg" of dysfunction in indigenous communities. Mr Pearson blasted the notion that indigenous children taken into care and placed with non-indigenous foster carers were "another Stolen Generation" - as social workers in the Aurukun case believed. He said that where children's welfare was under threat, the placement should be "one of safety, whether it is whitefellas or blackfellas". "Those child protection practices that have sought to place Aboriginal children exclusively with Aboriginal carers have resulted in a great deal of harm for the individual children under care," Mr Pearson said.

"This is a case of children in urgent need of protection. As long as Aboriginal society is so dysfunctional that we have to take children into care and protection, we should never hear people bleat about some Stolen Generation. "Today children on communities are living in dysfunctional situations where their welfare is under threat. There should be no hesitation in taking them out of those threatening circumstances and placing them with carers - whitefellas or blackfellas."

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has vowed to take radical action and work with federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin if the review of sex abuse cases finds systemic problems. "What's not clear until we look at all of these cases is, is it a systemic issue where the standard of justice is somehow different or lower in these communities?" Ms Bligh said. "Or is this a one-off aberration from one particular officer?"

The girl's family speak to her once a week by satellite link because she is housed in a secret location in north Queensland. "She sleeps with the light on. She gets jumpy when they get new case workers," her uncle said.

The uncle said no authority had contacted the family since the story was reported. He first heard about it on the radio, and he welcomed the opportunity to speak to the media. Authorities had neglected to inform the family the case was being heard in October in a courthouse less than 100 metres from the victim's former home.


Australia: Child victims of political correctness

Jenny Macklin had better get out her red pen: there's a lot more to say sorry for than the actions of social workers more than 40 years ago. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs hailed the 10th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report on Tuesday with the news that she was busy formulating a national apology, "from the heart", for the stolen generation. While she's at it, she should start formulating an apology to all those children murdered, raped and abused in the past decade as a direct result of the report, which, in the name of cultural correctness, has put so many obstacles in the way of removing indigenous children from unsafe homes.

Take, for instance, the case of the 10-year-old girl gang-raped in Aurukun, in remote Cape York, last year. In a decision that made headlines around the world, from The New York Times to Al-Jazeera, the Cairns District Court Judge Sarah Bradley allowed all nine attackers to walk free because the girl "probably agreed to have sex with all of you". She released six teenage males with no conviction and gave three older males, aged 17, 18 and 26, suspended sentences. She did, however, give them a stern talking to: "It is a very shameful matter and I hope that all of you realise that you must not have sex with young girls."

It was not the first time the little girl - described by a former foster carer as "just a skinny 10-year-old . not even developed"- had been raped. Reportedly "mildly intellectually impaired", having been born with foetal alcohol syndrome to an alcoholic mother, she had been gang-raped by five juveniles at the age of seven in 2002 in her hometown of Aurukun. According to The Australian newspaper, the girl was then moved between foster placements before going to a non-indigenous family in Cairns in July 2005, who ensured she went to school and received counselling.

But she stayed only nine months before being removed by social workers from the Orwellian-sounding Child Safety Department, which believed that placing an indigenous child in a white foster home was creating a new stolen generation. The girl was sent back last April to Aurukun, where she had contracted syphilis and gonorrhoea, and within a month was raped again.

The moral compass of so many authority figures in this tragic story is so out of whack with universal community standards, you wonder if they are in the grip of a sort of group delusion, in which theoretical compassion is more real than people's suffering. Only the much-maligned local police, according to Queensland's Premier, Anna Bligh, "took the matter very seriously", pursuing the charges and making sure they went to court. But there, those on the comfortable side of the bench let down the victim.

Even the prosecutor in the case, Steve Carter, who might be expected to be the girl's advocate, produced no victim impact statement, despite being asked by Bradley. Yet he offered all sorts of mitigation for the perpetrators, requesting they not receive custodial sentences. He told the court on October 24 that the attackers were "very naughty" but had just been indulging "in a form of childish experimentation [which was] consensual . in a general sense", despite the fact one of the attackers was 25 at the time. Carter gave an intriguing insight when he told the judge: " It'd be arrogant of me to stand here and start seeking [harsher sentences]." He has been stood down this week pending an appeal and a Queensland Government investigation into the case.

Bradley, too, has come under fire this week, with calls she be removed from the bench. But you can hardly blame even her, as she, too, is a model product of her culturally correct times. As recently as January this year, she gave an insight into her thinking in a speech in Perth at a judges' conference titled "Using Indigenous Justice Initiatives In Sentencing". Indigenous offenders should be treated differently, in a more "culturally appropriate" way, she said, because of their "gross over-representation in the criminal justice system". Just 2 per cent of the population, they comprised more than 22 per cent of the prison population.

She said "legislative and informal initiatives" were needed in sentencing so that "penalties can be more creative, meaningful and appropriate". She is singing from the sentimental songbook of the progressive left so perfectly it is no wonder the 1976 law graduate has been the golden girl of the Queensland Government's affirmative action program for women lawyers. The aim of lenient or "creative" penalties is to reduce incarceration rates of indigenous men, as recommended by the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. But as one Cape York worker said yesterday: "You've got this spiral of dysfunction in these communities - of course the rate of imprisonment is going to increase."

To choose not to enforce the law in such dysfunctional communities only renders them even more dangerous for their most vulnerable members: children and women. Suspending the state's laws when dealing with Aboriginal offenders is what the Melbourne University academic Marcia Langton describes as the "ultimate race-hate practice", which rewards "serial rapists and murderers".

It is the behaviour of such people which prompted the former federal government's Northern Territory intervention, an attempt to stem the epidemic of child sexual abuse. There are encouraging reports trickling out of early successes, with school attendance rates up and violence down. To his credit, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has vowed to keep the intervention going, for a year at least. But there are signals of the watering down of key aspects - such as reinstating the scrapped permit system, which had so much to do with maintaining secrecy around child abuse.

Even this week, when asked about the case of the little Aurukun rape victim, Macklin indicated she is a prisoner of culturally correct thinking when she claimed at the 10th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report that there was no connection with child protection policies today.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


13 December, 2007

Pushing Victimhood On Minorities Makes Their Self Doubt A Barrier To Minority Leaders

Democrat pollster Peter Hart did some work on a focus group of Democrat supporters and learned a harsh lesson about the politics of victimhood and racism. If you push people to believe they can never get ahead in America due to their race, they will never have the confidence to get ahead - and therefore can never be relied on to support their own candidates!

When Hart pushed the group during a two-hour conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of the two candidates, a different picture emerged. Obama, they worried, can’t win the nomination; voters aren’t ready for an African-American president (a point expressed most directly by the two black women participants), and he may not be sufficiently experienced.

The country is more than ready for a black leader - it will just have to come from the middle-right of the political spectrum to get elected. For too many on the conservative side liberalism is too dangerous a mindset (note the core belief of defeatism and the need for government to help out) to elect despite any racial factors. But a conservative of any kind can be elected easily.

The lesson is clear. Promote the idea your base cannot do it on their own and they will fold every time it is time for them to stand up. Because that is what the PR has been drilling into them for their entire life.


Hypocrisy in portrayal of U.S. in Arab press

Two recent incidents in or near the Middle East have highlighted a noxious bit of hypocrisy for anyone to see. Next time you hear Arab leaders complain about the portrayal of Islam in America, think twice before you sympathize. Consider that unfortunate British teacher in Sudan who mistakenly agreed with her students' suggestion to name the class teddy bear Mohammed. Last month, a court sentenced her to 15 days in jail for offending Islam. Reacting to international outrage, Sudan's dictator-president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, pardoned her – but not before hundreds of Sudanese called for her execution before a firing squad.

A few months earlier, Sheik Ahmad Bahr, a Hamas leader who was speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council at the time, gave a sermon in a Khartoum mosque in which he called for the annihilation of both Americans and Jews. "Oh Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters," he preached. "Oh Allah, count their numbers and kill them all – down to the very last one. America and Israel will be annihilated." Sudan broadcast his sermon on national television. But did the Sudanese offer even a murmur of complaint about that? No.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is quite upset about Western outrage over the court order to flog a 20-year-old Saudi woman who was gang raped last year. She was sentenced to 90 lashes, but when her lawyer appealed her conviction, the judge more than doubled the sentence, to 200 lashes. The White House called this "outrageous," and Canada described the woman's treatment as "barbaric." In response, Saudi officials are painting themselves as the victims, saying the West has no right to criticize Saudi law. "What is outraging about this case is that it is being used against the Saudi government and people," Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, complained early this month.

Many Americans, meanwhile, would likely consider the vile cartoons in the Saudi press depicting Americans, and Jews, as rapacious killers as "outraging." One, titled "September 11th," in the Saudi paper al-Yawm, showed an Hasidic Jew, the look of a crazed killer on his face, milking cow's teats hanging from the bottom of each digit in the number 11. Vicious anti-American and anti-Semitic cartoons are a staple of the Arab press. Often they show American soldiers, or Jews, drinking Arab blood or planning an Arab "holocaust." Quite often they depict Jewish control over America. Arab cartoonists drew with a special zeal, paradoxically, in the months after the publication of the Mohammed cartoons in a Danish newspaper two years ago. Riots erupted throughout the Islamic world in reaction to cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammed unfavorably.

"We are angry – very, very, very angry," a Palestinian legislator, Jamila al-Shanty, said at the time. "No one can say a bad word about our prophet." That same month, a cartoon in Ash-Sharq, a Qatari paper, showed a western cartoonist drawing an Arab peacefully at prayer, then in the next panel bowing before a toilet bowl labeled "zionism." Behind it stood a leering devil holding a menorah and a star of David.

Academics and Middle East analysts have been debating this obvious hypocrisy for years. And it turns out, on close examination, to be a manifestation of Arab government control. Anti-Semitism has been rife in Arab countries for generations. More recently, anti-Americanism has taken root, driven in large part by American support for Israel – and the Iraq war. Most every Arab country, except Lebanon and Iraq, is ruled by a king, president or other unelected dictator. Given the widespread poverty, inequality and lack of economic development in many Arab states, the leaders learned quickly that the best way to subdue a restive population was to focus the people's ire elsewhere.

The most obvious target was Israel and its mistreatment of the Palestinians. Most every Arab leader professes to be so concerned about the Palestinians that settling the problem remains the government's key objective. Rhetorically, it comes up in every context, while practically, little is actually done — except to whip up popular anger at home. The newspapers that publish these nauseating cartoons are generally state organs whose editors know precisely what their leaders want to see. If they falter, the leaders tell them.



That's what the Child Welfare authorities said, what the prosecutor said and what the judge said. And Andrew Bolt has part of the explanation why. Details below

Child safety failed raped girl

QUEENSLAND'S Child Safety Department knew that a 10-year-old girl had been gang-raped but did not report it to police, despite the girl also contracting a sexually transmitted disease from the encounter. The child - who had been living in a Cairns foster home before the department decided to return her to Aurukun, in Cape York - has been diagnosed as "mildly intellectually impaired" and suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome, having been born to an alcohol-dependent mother.

The Australian yesterday revealed nine males who pleaded guilty to gang-raping the girl had escaped a prison term, with sentencing judge Sarah Bradley saying the child victim "probably agreed" to have sex with them.

An eight-month investigation was conducted into the April 2006 multiple rape and submitted to the Department of Child Safety, resulting in one senior officer being sacked and two others suspended for 12 months on full pay - a situation that still exists.

A senior departmental official yesterday told The Australian that the child involved was sexually abused at age seven and, as a safety measure, was put with various foster families, eventually ending up in 2005 with a non-indigenous family in Cairns. But she was returned nine months later to Aurukun, where she was gang-raped by the nine males.

"These non-indigenous people were fantastic - ensuring she went to school, and the father actually took a year off his work to personally supervise this girl," he said. "But two new social workers were appointed to the north and they expressed the view, which was repeated many times to the investigating committee, that putting an indigenous child with white foster parents was another stolen generation.

"They convinced the department with this rubbish and the girl was taken from Cairns to Aurukun - back to where she was being abused previously and where she had contracted syphilis as a little child - and she was unsupervised, with the result that she was constantly raped.

"The report sets out how every step of the way the Child Safety Department did everything wrong, and all because they weretold that a safe, white environment was `another stolen generation'."

A report of the rape in The Australian yesterday sparked an immediate response, with Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine announcing he would lodge an appeal against the sentencing of the nine attackers.

But Mr Shine admitted the appeal would be hampered by the fact the prosecutor in the case, Steve Carter, did not recommend jail. Mr Carter yesterday refused to speak to The Australian about the sentences, referring questions to the DPP's office in Brisbane.

The Queensland Government also ordered a review of every sentence handed down in every sexual assault case in Cape York communities in the past two years. Premier Anna Bligh said the purpose of the review was to examine whether the sentence in the Aurukun rape case was part of "system-wide" problems in the Cape....

The official report produced following the eight-month investigation states that a senior Child Safety officer was told on May 11 last year that the child had gonorrhea. It was revealed after the girl attended the Aurukun medical clinic on May 5 last year asking for a pregnancy test and condoms.

That information was immediately relayed to Child Safety, but the senior Child Safety officer did not pass the information on to police in line with her statutory obligations, and when questioned about it said she had spent several weeks making inquiries if gonorrhea was contractable through means other than sexual transmission. The investigating committee also reported that the Child Safety officers took no remedial action when the girl threatened to commit suicide.

The committee's findings of failures by the Child Safety Department included possible non-reporting of other criminal offences against children to police, other possible early returns of indigenous children to their communities without sufficient prior consideration, and failure to record a suicide risk alert regarding the raped child's threat to suicide and whether this is indicative of a broader problem.

The report's findings also highlighted a loss of departmental documents including the child's Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) file and other SCAN files; a lack of knowledge by staff of what diseases constitute sexually transmitted diseases; and a lack of knowledge by staff of what may constitute a criminal offence on a child.

The committee also found the child had first contracted syphilis in April 2002 when she was aged seven and was raped by five juveniles in Aurukun, receiving severe genital injuries....


Girl gang-rape prosecutor stood down

QUEENSLAND Crown prosecutor Steve Carter was stood down last night after court transcripts revealed he had described the males who gang-raped a 10-year-old girl in a remote Aboriginal community as "naughty" and not deserving of a jail sentence. Mr Carter told Queensland District Court judge Sarah Bradley - well-known in Aboriginal communities for her efforts to keep people out of jail - that the rape in the Cape York community of Aurukun was "a form of childish experimentation" and the victim a willing participant.

Judge Bradley's decision not to impose jail terms, revealed by The Australian on Monday, will be appealed by Attorney-General Kerry Shine, while the Queensland Government will review other sexual abuse cases and work with the federal Government on possible child-protection reforms.

Mr Shine last night confirmed that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare SC, had informed him Mr Carter had been stood down pending an investigation into his handling of the case. Transcripts of the sentencing on October 24 reveal that Mr Carter described the gang rape - in which the girl contracted a sexually transmitted disease - as "consensual sex", saying: "To the extent I can't say it was consensual in the legal sense, but in the general sense, the non-legal sense, yes, it was."

Mr Carter suggested a non-custodial sentence for all the accused, including the three aged 17, 18 and 26. In his brief submission on sentencing to Judge Bradley, Mr Carter said the Crown would not be asking any more than "for some form of supervisory order, form of probation, or some similar order to that". He added that there was no victim impact material that could be considered by the court.

"My submission in relation to this particular offence (rape) is the same that I make in relation to children of that age - of similar or the same age - is to quote, well, they're very naughty for doing what they're doing but it's really, in this case, it was a form of childish experimentation rather than one child being prevailed upon by another," Mr Carter told the court. "Although she was very young, she knew what was going on and she had agreed to meet the children at this particular place and it was all by arrangement, so for that purpose."

Later in the proceedings Mr Carter said he had been given instructions in relation to the sentencing and that none of the penalties he had been instructed to seek involved a custodial penalty, and he specifically asked that if the adults were sentenced to prison that the terms be fully suspended.


Gang rape appeal to be heard 'swiftly'

AN APPEAL against a decision not to impose prison sentences on nine males who raped a 10-year-old girl will be handled swiftly and fairly, Queensland's chief justice says. Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul De Jersey said the matter was likely to be brought before Queensland's Court of Appeal on January 30 and any decision would be made according to the law, not emotions. "This case at the appeal level will be dealt with dispassionately, in accordance with due process, and as expeditiously as may be," he told reporters in Brisbane.

"I can give an absolute assurance that this process will be taken forward in accordance with law, which is the time honoured charter of the courts, which has served the community for so long, so well." ....

Judge Bradley's decision not to impose jail terms, revealed by The Australian on Monday, will be appealed by Attorney-General Kerry Shine, while the Queensland Government will review other sexual abuse cases and work with the federal Government on possible child-protection reforms.


Pack-raped girl sacrificed to the "stolen generations" myth

By Andrew Bolt

Another week, another proof that that the "stolen generations" myth is devastating black children: A senior departmental official yesterday told The Australian that the child involved was sexually abused at age seven and, as a safety measure, was put with various foster families, eventually ending up in 2005 with a non-indigenous family in Cairns. But she was returned nine months later to Aurukun, where she was gang-raped by the nine males.

"These non-indigenous people were fantastic - ensuring she went to school, and the father actually took a year off his work to personally supervise this girl," he said. "But two new social workers were appointed to the north and they expressed the view, which was repeated many times to the investigating committee, that putting an indigenous child with white foster parents was another stolen generation..."

This is the girl who was pack raped at 10, with a judge letting her nine rapists - one a 26-year-old - walk free because the girl, she said, had consented.

As I've shown again and again, the propagandists behind the "stolen generations" myth have blood on their hands. Oh, just so that you know what this girl's wicked white foster carers had saved her from:

The committee also found the child had first contracted syphilis in April 2002 when she was aged seven and was raped by five juveniles in Aurukun, receiving severe genital injuries.


Anger reader Rob Hill protests in comments below that there is no comparison between this case and the "stolen generations". My response:

You are utterly wrong. A direct parallel should show you why. I asked Professor Robert Manne to name me just 10 of the 25,000 children he claims were stolen for racist reasons, not welfare ones. In his second attempt he named two girls - Topsy and Dolly.

I looked up those cases and found they were girls little different to this girl who has been raped at Aurukun. Topsy was brought in for protection by a station owner because she was just 12, fatherless, a half-caste in a black tribe - and already had syphilis. Dolly was about 13, but was already seven months pregnant and penniless, working for nothing on a station, when she was rescued.

These are cases that Manne himself handpicked as clear proof of the "stolen generations". Your accusations are false.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


12 December, 2007


By Barry Rubin

My favorite sentence of the week is this one: "Asking for record $5.8 billion in aid through 2010, Palestinians promise fiscal reform." Karen Laub wrote on this subject for the AP, December 5, 2007. The request came from "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas" to double projected aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

What is funny about that opening sentence is that the PA has received so much money before and squandered it. Reform promises have been made and broken for more than 13 years. It is hard to remember the PA has existed that long with so little positive achievement. If Palestinians have such a bad economy it is not due to the "occupation" or to Israel but to their own leaders' greed, incompetence, failure to end violence, inability to present an attractive investment climate, and unwillingness to impose stability on their own lands.

So how does an AP story deal with the unintentional humor of the idea that pouring more money into the PA will lead to any diplomatic progress or that this regime will make better use of the funds? Remember that to a very large extent the United States and European governments are basing their whole Middle East policy on this mistaken idea. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has turned this into a second career.

This is such an extremely important story that it is worth examining in detail. According to the PA's own plan: "Seventy percent of the aid is to go for budget support, including $120 million a month to pay wages for the bloated public sector, and 30 percent is to be spent on development projects."

The article at least uses the word "bloated." Budget support is not development aid but simply pays the bill for those unable or unwilling to pay for themselves. But the article does not tell readers this nor that the public sector's "bloated" nature is due to corruption, patronage for buying political support, and a hugely disproportionate military/police apparatus. Staying on a war footing with Israel is the main factor in the PA's employment pattern. These security agencies are certainly not used to stop terrorism against Israelis and they certainly proved ineffective with Hamas. Individual police have often been involved in attacks. In large part, then, the aid would subsidize the Palestinian battle against Israel.

There is also another point here not mentioned in the article. The PA collects fees but has never instituted a comprehensive tax system. It has acted as if it is the job of foreigners, which mostly means the West, to pay its bills. This is not psychologically healthy nor does it encourage politically responsible action. Economic leverage certainly has not been used to press the PA toward peace, much less to nudge it toward fighting terrorism or ending incitement to anti-Israel violence.

The article, then, certainly does not blame the Palestinians' economic problems on themselves. While it does not bash Israel, the responsibility is put mainly on Israel, if only because PA officials are allowed to make statements to that effect without contradiction. Thus, Palestinian Planning Minister Samir Abdullah says he is aiming for a balanced budget within six years, the story continues--and this is not a direct quote from him--"perhaps even sooner if Israel moves quickly to lift crippling restrictions on trade and travel." How about these alternative phrases:

* perhaps even sooner if the PA wages a war on corruption.

* perhaps even sooner if the PA tries to round up terrorists and elements that keep life unstable and extorts money from its own citizen on the guise of being patriotic organization.

* perhaps even sooner if the PA really makes compromises so as to reach a peace agreement with Israel.

* And so on.

Instead, the article continues, "However, the Palestinians are submitting a steep aid request at a time of considerable `donor fatigue.'" But why are the donors getting tired of giving money. According to Laub: "Since the mid-1990s, the international community, led by Europe, has sent billions of dollars to the Palestinian territories to support peace efforts, but gains were largely wiped out in Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Critics also charge that large sums were siphoned off by corrupt officials in previous regimes."

This is simply not honest. Do the donors say that they are happy to give money but "gains" were wiped out because of the fighting? No, they say: why should we give money when it is just stolen or misused. It isn't just critics charging corruption, as if they are a few loudmouths talking off the top of their head. Could AP find anyone to deny this charge? How about writing: Everybody says that corrupt officials have stolen a very high percentage of the aid. Is this really a point that is controversial? One on which there are two sides?

In addition, gains--and there weren't many gains--weren't just wiped out in Israeli-Palestinian fighting as if some uncontrollable war broke out and swept over the countryside. The problem was that Yasir Arafat and his colleagues decided to launch a five-year-long war on Israel (whether or not Arafat planned it in advance or initiated it, he certainly kept it going and made it his strategy). That conflict, which brought absolutely no gain to the Palestinians, destroyed their infrastructure.

But the icing on the cake is the phrase "previous regimes" being responsible for corruption as if the current leadership has nothing to do with it. The current prime minister, a professional economist, may not be corrupt but the PA regime today is a continuation of all the ones before. Personnel have not changed very much. Who licensed AP to give a full pardon to all those PA officials who have been stealing for years and are still in office?

Basically, then, the rules of the game seem to be like this: Israel can be blamed but the Palestinians cannot be blamed. Nor are donors accorded common sense for refusing to throw their money down a pit which ultimately ends in the personal bank accounts of PA officials. After all, the article claims: "The international community's decision to impose sanctions after the militant Islamic group Hamas' parliamentary election victory in 2006 caused further economic decline, as money was shifted from development projects to welfare payments."

Consider the ultimate mendacity of that statement. Of course, the sanctions caused further economic decline but guess what:

* The Palestinians elected Hamas, after all.

* If Hamas behaves in an extremist and terrorist way than it was not the international community's decision to impose sanctions but rather Hamas's decision to follow radical policies that caused further economic decline.

* It is a fantasy to think that the money used to go to "development projects" but now had to go to "welfare payments." It always--and this includes budgetary subsidies--went for welfare payments.

* But here's the worst point of all. The money was cut off before not after the Hamas victory. More than two months earlier the Europeans stopped the aid because of PA corruption. It was the PA, not Hamas, which turned off the donors. This is a matter of public record.

* And finally, there is an interesting question that the article does not really explore. After all, why does the PA need twice as much money when it is governing only about half as many people? The Gaza Strip, after all, is under Hamas.

The article does point out: "It's not clear to what extent Gaza would benefit from foreign aid. The three-year plan only commits to providing humanitarian assistance and basic services until Gaza's borders reopen , presumably once Hamas is no longer in power there. "Under the current arrangement, Abbas' government pays the salaries of 31,000 civil servants in Gaza who do not cooperate with Hamas, and covers Gaza's utility bills."

Nevertheless, the article does not explicitly point out that the PA is basically asking for an increase in the already high--among the highest per capita foreign aid in history--aid donations by a factor of what amounts to 400 percent for the West Bank.

The rest of the article is comprised of the PA's fantasies, which it is allowed to present without contradiction, about its glorious three-year plan. Yet in this material Israel is blamed--again without any balance--for all the PA's economic problems not once but three times: "We are determined to bring an end to internal chaos and poverty, and the (Israeli) occupation that continues to aggravate this situation," the report said. "We are determined to reverse the impact of decades of conflict and 'de-development.'" "Economic growth will be closely linked to a lifting of West Bank barriers and trade restrictions, the report said. Israel imposed the restrictions, starting in 2000, to try to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants. "However, if the occupation regime remains at the status quo, the economic outlook is poor," the report said, adding that such a scenario would lead Abbas' government "to the point of institutional and fiscal collapse."

In short, Israel is blamed four times and Western donors twice for the bad Palestinian economic situation. The Palestinian side is not attributed any responsibility whatsoever. There are thus three problems with this article as with so much press coverage of Middle East issues:

* It is neither fair nor balanced.

* It increases the readers' misunderstanding rather than understanding of the issues.

* It sabotages attempts to fix problems since if the PA and Palestinians are divested of any responsibility they, and those trying to help the situation, can hardly find solutions since no one focuses on what is really wrong.


Conventional (Un)Wisdom

There is no better place to look for the Conventional Wisdom, which more often than not is both unwise and wrong, than the editorial pages of the mainstream media, and the editorials there are usually at their most conventional (which is to say, most unwise and most wrong) when they are written by members of the papers' editorial boards. A good example is this editorial, "M.J. Andersen: A place for affirmative action," in today's Providence Journal, just sent to me by a reader. M.J. Andersen is a member of the ProJo's editorial board who commits this sort of stuff with some frequency. It begins:

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION was conceived as an exact approach to an inexact problem. How, in a nation dedicated to equal opportunity, were we to chip away at racial discrimination? In its evolving guises, affirmative action would be a methodical attempt to ensure that minorities had a fair shot, and over time, would enter all strata of society. The question that always hovered, though, was "how long?" When could race-conscious policies be abandoned? What state of affairs was going to be good enough?

"How long?" I'm tempted myself to ask. "How long, O Lord, must we put up with this sort of sanctimonious, uninformed moralizing?" Whatever can be said about affirmative action - and, as you all know better than most, much has been said about it, and, as you will not be surprised to hear here, there's much still to say - one of the few things that can't possibly be said about it is that it is an "exact approach" to anything. Nor for that matter is the version of it championed by Andersen et. al. (which is the opposite of the version that was created by two presidential executive orders that I've quoted many times [such as here and here]) an "inexact problem." The problem to which Andersen et.al believe affirmative action the solution is quite exact: not enough minorities where Andersen et. al. think they should be. Their's is a true hue and cry: they object to what they regard as a mismatch between the hue of people in various institutions or settings and the collective hue of America as a whole, and so they cry for racial preferences as a correction.

Typical of this view is a recent comment of Jon Butler, Dean of the Graduate School at Yale (HatTip to Ed Chin), who said

"Virtually everybody has a serious commitment to trying to make graduate schools more like America. We would like for our graduate school to look much like the population with whom we live."

Who knew that graduate education has so much to do with what people look like.

Andersen's piece is also typical in its use of euphemism. Its argument is that "race conscious policies" were necessary "to ensure that minorities had a fair shot," but in practice "affirmative action" requires much more than "race conscious policies." Think about it: a person or institution can be acutely "race conscious," design policies based on that consciousness, and still refuses to countenance anything that smacks of racial preference. "Affirmative action," for the Andersens, requires giving preferences based on race. As such, it does not seek to promote "a fair shot" at success. "Fair shot" is a pretty good stand in for "non-discriminatory equal opportunity," but that's the opposite of what "affirmative action" in its current guise seems to promote.

The best answer to Andersen's question of "how long" we must continue placing the government's thumb on the racial scale was given by Chief Justice Roberts in his opinion in the Seattle/Louisville school case: "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Sticking with the euphemism Andersen relies on the Bok & Bowen paen to affirmative action (devastatingly criticized here) to laud the "race sensitive" admissions policies of elite schools. One of the defenses of those policies offered is that race preferences (the operational arm of race "sensitivity") did not "displace significant numbers of whites or Asians." Significant to whom, and how many (if I can modify Andersen's "how long?") is significant? How much racial discrimination is too much?

Unable to escape beating around the bush, Andersen almost gets one thing right: "Americans are uncomfortable emphasizing race." It's not that "emphasizing" race makes many Americans "uncomfortable," but rather that benefitting some and burdening others because of it makes many of us angry, sad, and disgusted, and disappointed that so many people in positions of respect and responsibility are so far removed from profoundly principled popular opinion on this subject.


Netherlands Government Pledges 2.5 m. Euros to Crack Down on Religious Dissent from "Gay Rights"

Dutch citizens who "follow a more orthodox religious lifestyle" to be targeted

The Netherlands has led the world in the introduction of the homosexual political movement. Now it is going to be leading the way to cracking down on dissent from the officially "tolerant" position on homosexuality, particularly among those Dutch citizens who "follow a more orthodox religious lifestyle". The coalition government has agreed to earmark 2.5 million euros from 2008 to 2011 to promote homosexuality as normal in social areas. The government said that the money will be spent on programmes specifically targeting young Muslims in schools, sport clubs or neighbourhood associations.

Ronald Plasterk, minister of education admitted that Dutch homosexuals enjoy the same rights as everyone else, "socially the acceptance is not automatic among certain ethnic minorities or people who follow a more orthodox religious lifestyle." The Netherlands was the first country in the world to institute same-sex "marriage" and allow homosexual partners to adopt children.

The policy will extend, in as-yet undisclosed programmes, to Dutch foreign aid donations. Development Cooperation Minister Bert Koenders told Parliament, "The Netherlands will promote equal rights for gays as much as possible. We will not avoid awkward discussions about this." The government told its ambassadors to developing countries to increase pressure on those nations to decriminalize homosexuality.

But it is not merely "religiously orthodox" people who retain at least subconscious objections to public displays of homosexuality. Gay activist Frank van Dalen, president of the Dutch national homosexual lobbyists, Federation of Dutch Associations for Integration of Homosexuality, (COC), complained that a recent poll showed that 48 per cent of the population is shocked by two men kissing and the number goes up to 75 per cent of recent immigrants.

Dutch homosexual activists are powerful at the European Union where pressure is mounting on Poland to adopt the Charter of Fundamental Rights that is seen as a crucial instrument in installing the full programme of gay activism. The EU gay activist group ILGA-Europe praised the increase of pressure to normalize homosexuality by the EU Commission on candidate countries such as Turkey and Serbia.

An ILGA-Europe spokesman said the group "appreciates" such efforts and praised the "clearly positive development in the progress reports as the human rights of LGBT people are explicitly mentioned in a larger number of the eight reports than last year."


One feminist thinks Christians have got a point

If the radical religious zealots of the world needed any confirmation that the West is going to hell in a handbasket, the suburban dance school concert would do the trick. Gyrating bodies, thrusting breasts and pelvises, sultry stares - and all from dancers still eligible for child concession cards.

I am not a prudish person. I would describe myself as broadminded. As an academic, it goes with the territory. As a mother, I'm relaxed. My primary school-aged daughters wear mini-skirts and watch The Family Guy. However, I viewed half of my daughter's end-of-year dance concert (I could only stomach half) with increasing horror. It is hard to know which is more disturbing: innocent eight-year-olds thrusting their non-existent and barely covered breasts at the audience or inexperienced 16-year-olds thrusting their ample, barely covered bosoms. There was not a jazz routine in the show that did not feature repeated hip-grinding, bum-slapping and pelvic thrusts. Lots of the little girls mouth the words to the songs as they dance. It really helps the pole-dancing atmosphere when they are singing:

"They want my treasure so they get their pleasures from my photo,

You can see me, you can't squeeze me,

I ain't easy, I ain't sleazy,

I got reasons why I tease 'em,

Boys just come and go like seasons."

The dance moves wouldn't be so confronting if the girls' bodies were covered, but many of the routines featured midriffs, leaving torsos completely exposed. Again, it is hard to know what is worse; the skinny little eight-year-olds looking vulnerable or the teenagers who are frankly too old to be gyrating that much of their uncovered bodies in a hall full of strange men. For the girls who are a bit plump, the midriff is plain humiliating.

Maybe I am being too analytical but I particularly hate the habit of costuming through cliches in porn. Last year we had "nurses" in white PVC mini-dresses up to their bottoms. This year it was airline hostesses in mini-dresses (or were they just shirts?). As one of my friends asked, "What's next? French maids?"

I wonder what the dance teachers are thinking or if they think about these things at all. If they do not, they need to. I don't care how important flexibility is in dancing, it is never acceptable to make children wobble on stage, holding one ankle to their ear. It should be obvious that even clothed, there are some parts of a child's body that should not be displayed in public. Exactly the same degree of flexibility can be demonstrated by doing the splits with your underwear on the floor. And that's the point: it is possible to show creativity and skill in dance without being blatantly sexual. Human beings have been doing it for centuries.

The NSW Schools Spectacular, which my daughter also performed in that weekend, is a perfect example. Hundreds of children and teenagers dancing and there was not a single slutty costume or movement in sight. And it was truly spectacular. (The highlights will be rebroadcast on ABC2 on December 19.)

There is no doubt that dancing can be sexual. Bellydancing, some Latin dancing, pole dancing, video-clip dancing, are all sensual or sexual. However, like all sexual activities, these dance styles are appropriate for consenting adults, not children. If Shakira wants to shake her barely covered booty for the world, that's great. She's being paid to do so and she is 30. She's old enough to have sex and dance however she wants.

None of the children dancing in suburban dance concerts is old enough to be having sex, thus making them dance in sexual ways is at best thoughtless and at worst exploitative.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


11 December, 2007

Get a life over Rent-a-Wife

The decision of a Belgian court to ban an ironic advertising campaign on the grounds of sexism reveals a patronising view of men and women

Welcome to Belgium, where the drive for `sexual equality' is now getting beyond a joke. A government-run equality institution has forced a DVD rental company to stop an amusing advertising campaign on the grounds that it is sexist. But the patronising view of women endorsed by this decision, and the chilling effect the ruling will have on other advertisers, is far more offensive than the highly ironic campaign.

The advertising campaign in question was launched in early 2007 by the Belgian DVD rental company DVDPost, and consisted mainly of the website Rent-a-Wife where one could supposedly rent `women' as one can rent DVDs. To illustrate the powerful search engine and sheer variety of the DVD rental service, customers could search from 9,500 `wives' by hair colour, measurements, age, eye colour and ethnicity. Visitors to the website were also allowed to swap `wives' and exchange them at any time. A short clip (see below) illustrated how the rental service worked: the customer wraps the `woman' he no longer needs and puts her in a box, the postman arrives to deliver the new `woman' and picks up the box containing the `used' one, and all this at the simple click of a button! In short, the website illustrated - by means of this catchy and rather funny un-PC example - how the DVD rental company worked and the advantages to be obtained by signing up for the service. Pretty clever, huh?

But the Belgian Institute for the Equality of Women and Men (IEWM) was not amused. A federal government institution, established in December 2002, the IEWM's broad responsibility is `ensuring and promoting equal opportunities for women and men and to combat any form of discrimination and inequality based on gender'. To this end, the Institute is authorised, among other things, to handle complaints on the basis of the discrimination legislation and to take people to court if and when it sees fit.

So the IEWM decided to have it out with Rent-a-Wife which they accused of being `discriminatory' and `sexist' and demanded that the website be taken offline. When the companies involved failed to comply with this demand, the IEWM sued them and won the case. The companies were also fined and ordered to publish the verdict on the once-hilarious website, where it can still be found. The DVD rental company also had to pay for the IEWM's victorious press conference. But was this website ad really so bad and sexually discriminatory? And why did the court rule that it should be banned on the grounds of harassment and incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence?

According to the IEWM, the advertising campaign was discriminatory since `women are depicted as mere merchandise, that can easily be exchanged, with men as their users' and that the `use of such stereotypes, that might be considered as sexist, goes against the discrimination legislation'. They claimed that the company behind the adverts was guilty of sexual harassment and incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence. Surprisingly, the court went along with this point of view. Concerning harassment, the judge considered the website and its movie, as well as the dissemination given to it by the defendants, to constitute `a scenario of which no-one in their right senses can gainsay that it. satisfies this provision impeccably'.

The court also found the defendants guilty of incitement, agreeing with the IEWM that: `the entire discourse of the website' treats women as `merchandise, as a sexual object', which is `moreover emphasised by the exchangeability'. The judge also added an argument of his own. He quoted a `famous movie actor' from the US, who once was `presented with the question: "Can one laugh at everything?"' According to the judge, this actor answered `in a wise yet nuanced fashion: "Yes, but not in front of just anyone."' This too led the judge to conclude that the prohibition of incitement was breached `since the campaign involved was aimed at just anyone'.

Leaving aside the fact that anecdotes about American actors aren't generally considered sources of law, there are several other issues arising here with the way in which the incitement provision is applied. The Belgian Constitutional Court has stipulated a number of criteria for attributing incitement, with the most important of these being `special intent' - in other words, aside from the fact that the content of words and expressions must in fact incite or provoke hatred and discrimination, it must also be demonstrated that such was the defendant's malicious intention. Nowhere does this ruling attempt to demonstrate anything of the sort though, and it is thus unconstitutional. Moreover, even on the level of mere content it does not demonstrate that the campaign actively incites anything other than renting DVDs.

On the question of harassment, the relevant provision, based on European anti-discrimination law, was initially designed for the workplace. In Belgium, the prohibition of harassment has been broadened to cover the entire scope of the Anti-Discrimination Act: and it is therefore also applicable to the domain of goods and services, as in this case. However, the law requires that the action or behaviour entails an infraction of the dignity of one or more concrete persons, not just an abstract group such as women in general. In other words, it's not intended to cover this kind of (alleged) `group defamation'. It only covers social situations in which someone is the direct object of harassment or intimidation, and that is not the case here at all. In other words, the ruling is legally indefensible as well as being ridiculous.

The verdict also fails to offer any clear criteria as to what is and what is not permissible. Judging from this case, it looks like just about anything un-PC could pass for harassment and incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence. In which case, why not ban a whole lot of other Belgian commercials too? Why not start with the classic `Les Hommes Savent Pourquoi!' (`Men Know Why!)' ad for a major beer brand? And what to do with: `It's Prohibited For Women to Drive a Hyron'? What to think of the information campaign that was recently launched by the regulatory body of the advertising world, the Jury for Ethical Commercial Practices (JEP)? The JEP asks: `Why Can't Women Put On Mascara With Their Mouths Closed?' accompanied by the image of a sexy women who is indeed donning her mascara with a suggestively open mouth. And what about the ad for the touring male stripshow, the Chippendales? `Feel the Heat!' it says, next to a larger-than-life photo of a `six pack' - with significant `insight' into the genital area.

The above examples all appear to be just as `guilty' of `sexual discrimination' as Rent-a-Wife. Ironically, the IEWM's patronising view of women - so vulnerable that they would feel harassed and discriminated against by a funny commercial - is much more offensive a view of women's intelligence than the jokey packing'n'posting antics depicted in the Rent-a-Wife commercial. Moreover, since the Rent-a-Wife ruling says nothing about the way in which we can decide what is and what is not allowed, this sort of verdict tends to result in a high degree of uncertainty about the meaning of the law and has a chilling effect on all kinds of legitimate forms of expression.

The Institute's campaigns don't end here. They're now bent on banning a commercial for the traditional Belgian beer, Kasteelbier, because it depicts: `stereotypical gender roles'. In this rather anodyne commercial (see below), a middle-aged man sporting an oversized Bismarckian moustache, relaxing near the fireplace in his dressing gown, exclaims: `Wife, I don't know what it is, but something's missing.' Instantaneously, his ever-smiling, sexy, young and obviously psychic wife appears with a glass of beer on a tray, and seductively says: `Your Kasteelbier, of course!' `Dazzit!', responds the man, visibly pleased by so much womanly understanding. Clearly overjoyed, he drowns his moustache in his refreshing beer, while the voiceover closes: `Kasteelbier, pleasure at home.'

Pleasure? The IEWM begged to differ: `Such a commercial of barely half a minute where the old, traditional, stereotypical gender roles are portrayed, nullifies our sensitivisation campaigns. We are looking into ways to tackle such ads. If we receive an official complaint, we shall undertake further steps.' The IEWM has officially placed a `Wanted' sign on this ad: all the Institute needs now is a complaint to act. No longer satisfied with battling `sexist' advertising campaigns, the IEWM's new mission is to challenge `stereotypical gender roles' through advertising regulations! This is no longer a `slippery slope': we've slid all the way down the slope, and the water's rising well above our heads.

Not only does banning a commercial do nothing to change male and female roles in society, but these sort of cases have also been shown to erode public support for anti-discrimination legislation in general. A study commissioned by the UK Equal Opportunities Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission), the closest British equivalent of the IEWM, demonstrated that the public at large is very dismissive of equality claims that are perceived as trivial or overly politically correct - and rightly so. It's hard to think of better illustrations of this than than the Rent-a-Wife and Kasteelbier cases. The report in question, entitled Talking Equality, concluded that cases that are experienced as insufficiently serious have a significant adverse impact on the public basis for the legal struggle against discrimination in general. It is no coincidence that opponents of discrimination legislation have specialised in consciously advancing all kinds of petty and futile cases.

Worse still, both the complaints and the ruling seem to deem people as unwitting idiots, unable to tell the difference between genuine oppression and a funny website commercial. Throughout the Rent-a-Wife trial, the IEWM seriously questioned the capacity of people to grasp the fact that the website was in fact an ironic DVD commercial: `That this commercial wishes to prompt people to rent DVDs online is not clear initially and the alleged ironic nature of the site will therefore escape many people', they said. Hilariously, the director of the IEWM added, with great concern: `It appears to really be about renting women.' This line of reasoning is also clear in the ruling: the `contested commercial' was, according to the judge, liable to mislead the public `for the reason that the offer consists in female companions. while in reality it concerns renting DVDs.' That famous, fictional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, would surely be proud of such analytic insight.

The court's ruling suggests that Belgian citizens are basically in need of state protection from horrible advertising campaigns that either mislead them into thinking they were getting a brand new wife or reinforce their horrible preconceptions about gender roles! If the outlandish idea of renting women did not by itself give away the joke, the numerous plays on words, typically referring to video and DVD (`done watching?'; `no late fees'; etc.), would have. If all else failed, the explicit reference to the fact that the site concerned a commercial campaign - `ceci est une publicit‚' - should have made it clear even to a child. All this does not mean that ads such as Rent-a-Wife are tasteful. Maybe it's time for Kasteelbier to join everyone else in the twenty-first century rather than trading on tired stereotypes. But these matters should not be the stuff of court rulings.


Britain: How a Sensitivity Stasi is eroding artistic freedom

Citywide bans on the `wrong' kind of music; poets put under house arrest; plays pulled lest they stir up violence. what's going on in modern Britain?

Imagine a country where city officials could take it upon themselves to ban art exhibitions, pieces of music and other performances that might, in their view, provoke violence. Where a pub, club or gallery could be threatened with having its licence revoked, and effectively be forced to close down, if it played music or displayed art that has been blacklisted by officialdom. Imagine a country where a young woman could be put under house arrest for, amongst other things, writing poetry judged to be `dangerous'. Imagine a country where the strictures on what you can and cannot say are so stifling that arts institutions censor themselves, sometimes withdrawing potentially inflammatory plays or exhibitions in order to keep sweet with the powers-that-be.

Surely no one would put up with such a regime? Even in Eastern Europe in the dark days of Stalinism, individuals protested against dictators who sought to control art and curtail artistic freedom. Yet all of the things listed above are happening right now, here in Britain, and people are putting up with it.

Today it is reported that Brighton and Hove in southern England might soon become the first city in Britain to prohibit art that `incites racist, homophobic or sectarian violence'. Ostensibly, Brighton council's target is `murder music': Jamaican dancehall and rap songs that have anti-gay lyrics. If the council's proposals are ratified next week, then any venue that plays `murder music' will have its licence revoked.

Decreeing that a certain kind of art is inflammatory, and therefore must be censored, is the start of a very slippery slope. Indeed, the London Evening Standard reports that the music of mainstream artists such as 50 Cent and Eminem, which is considered by some to be homophobic, could also fall foul of Brighton's new licensing regime and find itself banned. The Times (London) reports that Brave New Brighton plans to censor any kind of art that incites `hatred' against minorities, including art exhibitions and plays. Maybe the council should start by outlawing performances of The Merchant of Venice, which some people consider to be anti-Semitic. Or by restricting access to TS Eliot's The Wasteland. Surely every copy of that long poem should be purged from Brighton's bookshops and libraries lest it stir up feelings of hatred towards Jews in the hearts of its readers?

Dee Simson, chairman of Brighton council's licensing committee, says: `I'm a firm believer in freedom of speech but I'm against the incitement of hatred against minorities.' In truth, Brighton's new licensing policy is a spectacular assault on artistic freedom. Yes, the short-term consequence might only be that Jamaican dancehall is banned - but the longer-term implications of Brighton's meddling in the arts are chilling indeed. In interfering in the world of art, music and performance, Brighton officials, like little Stalinites, are sending out a clear message about what is `acceptable art' and what is `unacceptable art'. In threatening venues with closure if they display art or play music that incites hatred against minorities, Brighton is sending a message to artists themselves: `There are certain areas of life you must not touch upon, and certain things you must not express.' Any musician or artist who wants to play or be displayed in Brighton might in future have to purge his or her work of anything that could be interpreted as promoting hatred.

Indeed, in arguing that `hatred' in art is a terrible thing, Brighton officials are even decreeing what kind of emotions artists can express in their work and induce in their viewers or listeners. Much of the greatest art evokes feelings of fear, anxiety and, yes, hatred. Think of Edvard Munch's The Scream, or even Alan Sillitoe's popular short story The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner in which the lead character says all the `coppers, governors, posh whores, army officers and members of parliament' should be put against a wall and shot dead. That certainly evoked feelings of violent anger in my 14-year-old self when I first read it. Aren't `posh whores' (aristocrats) a minority these days? Should they be protected from expressions of hatred in art? If Brighton and Hove had its way, perhaps all art would first be submitted to a focus group wired up to brain sensors to ensure that it only evoked feelings of moist joy and happiness rather than anger or spite.

Brighton is doing so much more than simply messing about with its licensing laws: it is using its power to define what is socially responsible art, and to circumscribe the artistic imagination itself. The gay-friendly city on the coast, with its hippy-chick shops, cool cafes and cannabis dens, is frequently described as Britain's most open and bohemian city. Yet one could now argue that artistic freedom no longer exists in Brighton. If the authorities control what music is played and what art is displayed in the city, through a system that amounts to licensing law blackmail, then Brighton is no longer a free city.

Also today, Samina Malik, or the `lyrical terrorist' as she described herself, was given a nine-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 100 hours of community service. Malik has been under house arrest at her home in London for the past month. Her crime? She was found guilty of possessing material that might prove useful to a terrorist. That material included her own awful poetry. One of her poems praised Osama bin Laden and another said `Kafirs your time will come soon, and no one will save you from your doom'. Malik was found not guilty of the more serious crime of possessing material with the intention of committing an act of terrorism, and she was not even accused of inciting terrorism. She merely had in her possession pro-jihad poetry, some of it scrawled on the back of till receipts from the WH Smith's store in Heathrow where she worked, and various jihadist documents downloaded from the web. These included The Al-Qaeda Manual, which I once also downloaded - for research purposes, I swear, your honour.

Malik is no TS Eliot, or even Pam Ayres. Her poems were childish and crude; she says she wrote them to be `cool'. Yet her arrest and conviction for downloading written material and for writing dodgy poems is an assault on freedom of thought. Malik has effectively been convicted of a thought crime; she has been punished by the law for what she thought and wrote rather than for anything she did. It took Malik herself, who is clearly not the brightest nail in the nail-bomb, to point out to her judge: `To partake in something and to write about something are two different things.' When someone can be convicted for writing dodgy or dangerous poetry, then the realm of free imagination is itself curtailed: everyone's ability to explore and discuss ideas that are controversial, extreme or just plain absurd is circumscribed.

In the serious art world, self-censorship is rife. At a time when the government has outlawed religious hatred, and when the authorities make wild exaggerations about the problem of `Islamophobia', arts establishments are increasingly editing or withdrawing anything that might be judged irreligious or anti-Muslim. A report by the New Culture Forum listed recent instances of religious-conscious self-censorship in the art world: the identity of terrorists in an episode of the hospital drama Casualty was changed from Islamists to animal rights extremists after pressure from BBC chiefs; a play called Up On Roof, due to be performed by the Hull Truck Theatre Company, was rewritten after the Danish cartoon controversy - its Muslim character was changed to a Rastafarian; the Barbican in London cut out sections of its production of Tamburlaine the Great for fear of offending Muslims; the Royal Court Theatre, also in London, cancelled a reading of an adaptation of Aristophanes' Lysistrata which was set in a Muslim heaven.

The decisive factor behind such self-censorship is not any hard evidence that mass Muslim outrage is brimming under the surface of British society, but rather caution and cowardice on the part of the art world. Only tiny handfuls of Muslims protested over the Danish cartoons and the Pope's supposedly Islamophobic speech; probably even smaller numbers would bother to kick up a stink over a performance of Lysistrata at the Royal Court. Yet arts institutions are sensing that certain things are unsayable and unacceptable today. In our censorious climate, where the government outlaws expressions of `religious hatred' and city councils ban art that `incites hatred', artists and arts practitioners are starting to self-censor anything that might potentially be construed as disrespectful or hateful. In The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's brilliant film set in East Germany in 1984, a Stasi officer lives in the attic of a playwright's apartment and spies on him and his liberal artistic friends. Such an intrusion is not necessary in contemporary Britain; instead, arts institutions have a `Stasi of the mind', a censorious official in their brains telling them to err on the side of caution and ditch anything that might cause a fuss.

Artistic freedom is under assault in Britain. Thankfully, we don't have a Stasi here; but we do have a kind of Sensitivity Stasi - local and government officials who see it as their job to protect fragile sections of the public from offensive, outrageous or hateful art. Authoritarian governments have always interfered in the work of artists. They have always been suspicious of that `Kingdom of Freedom' where individuals have experimented and taken risks in their creation of works of art, free - well, almost - from the demands of the market and the strictures of contemporary morality. Such an arena is an anathema to nervous governments, who prefer to keep everything under their watchful eye and influence. Anybody who values freedom should defend the realm of art and thought from such state interference. As Leon Trotsky and Andre Breton argued in their manifesto for art published in the 1930s, in art there should be `no authority, no restriction, not the slightest trace of compulsion'.


Big loss for false rape accuser

It's starting to happen and none too soon. Considering the dire consequences if an innocent man were convicted -- as has happened -- a prison sentence for false accusers would be more appropriate

LORD of the Dance star Michael Flatley has won more than $10 million in damages from an American stripper who claimed he raped her. The judgment was a long-fought victory for the 49-year-old multimillionaire father-of-one, who filed the lawsuit against his accuser and her lawyer almost five years ago.

The woman, 35-year-old Tyna Marie Robertson, had claimed in her original action that Flatley raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2002. Flatley, however, insisted that sex between the couple, which he did not deny had occurred on two occasions, had been entirely consensual.

It was after their second encounter that Robertson went to the police in Las Vegas to make allegations of sexual assault, in an attempt to extort millions from him and destroy his reputation. Although she lost her case in September this year, the dancer had to wait until Friday to learn the size of the sum he would be awarded by the California Supreme Court.

"Ms Robertson tried to extort money from me by spreading lies and the court sent a message that it will not tolerate these schemes," Flatley said.


Australia: No prison for statutory rape??

It pays to be black in this day and age. The idea that a 10-year-old girl is capable of informed consent to sex is thoroughly rejected by the law but that is apparently for whites only. Below is a pic of the stupid female judge concerned

NINE men who pleaded guilty last month to gang-raping a 10-year-old girl at the Aurukun Aboriginal community on Cape York have escaped a prison term, with the sentencing judge saying the child victim "probably agreed" to have sex with them. Cairns-based District Court judge Sarah Bradley ordered that the six teenage juveniles not even have a conviction recorded for the 2005 offence, and that they be placed on a 12-month probation order, The Australian newspaper reported this morning.

Queensland's attorney-general is meeting with the state's prosecutions boss to consider the possibility of lodging an appeal against the sentence. The appeal period has lapsed, however it has been reported that the state could apply for an extension.

Judge Bradley sentenced three men over the age of consent of 16 - aged 17, 18 and 26 - to six months' imprisonment, with the sentence suspended for 12 months. Judge Bradley said from her Cairns home yesterday that she considered the sentences "appropriate" in the case because they were the penalties asked for by the Crown prosecutor. "I am not in a position to comment and I refer you to my sentencing remarks," Judge Bradley told The Australian.

Family supporters of the child victim warned that violence and murders could follow the judge's decision not to jail any of the offenders, and they questioned what message the ruling sent to the community. When sentencing seven co-accused on October 24 at Aurukun, Judge Bradley noted: "The girl involved was not forced and she probably agreed to have sex with all of you."

The four juveniles are aged 14 to 16 years. They and the adults come from some of the most prominent and powerful Aboriginal families on Cape York. Two more juveniles pleaded guilty on November 6 to raping the child, and were also given probation with no convictions recorded. The child victim, now aged 12, does not enjoy the elevated family status of her attackers, and has had to be removed from Aurukun and put with foster parents.

News of the non-custodial sentences has added to the violent hatreds that exist in Aurukun between families and tribes and which have played a part in recent brawls involving dozens of assailants, many armed with sticks and spears.

Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine said last night he had called for an urgent meeting this morning with state Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare, who, it is understood, was not told of the submissions made by her prosecutor for non-custodial sentences for the rapists. Mr Shine said he needed to receive a clear picture of the circumstances surrounding the sentencing, including the prosecutor's submissions. "I have been made aware of this tragic event this afternoon and have had an opportunity to read the sentencing remarks," Mr Shine said. "I'm truly horrified by the circumstances of these offences. The circumstances of this case have not previously been brought to my attention, and nor has there been any communication with my office with regard to an appeal. "Rape, particularly of a 10-year-old girl, by numerous offenders, is to my mind horrific in the extreme. "It therefore appears to me that what I consider to be a particularly lenient sentence needs explanation."

One of the adult rapists is on the Australian National Child Offence Register following a conviction on March 29 last year for unlawful carnal knowledge of a female child - an offence committed after he was charged with the rape of the 10-year-old girl. Judge Bradley said the man was the oldest and should have known a lot better. "You cannot have sex with anyone under 16," she said. "However, as I said before, I am not treating anyone any differently in terms of being a ringleader, and in your case, again, I will impose a sentence of imprisonment but it will be wholly suspended so you do not go to jail today. "But if you get into more trouble in the next year, you could end up in jail." The man had been arrested on August 7, 2006, and the judge said the 14 days he spent in custody awaiting his sentence was to count as "imprisonment already served".

When sentencing the juveniles, Justice Bradley said: "All of you have pleaded guilty to having sex with a 10-year-old girl and (one of the juveniles) has pleaded guilty to having sex with another young girl as well. "All of you have to understand that you cannot have sex with a girl under 16. "If you do, you are breaking the law, and if you are found out, then you will be brought to court and could end up in jail. "I accept that the girl involved, with respect to all of these matters, was not forced, and that she probably agreed to have sex with all of you. "But you were taking advantage of a 10-year-old girl and she needs to be protected, and the girls generally in this community need to be protected. "This is a very serious matter. It is a very shameful matter and I hope that all of you realise that you must not have sex with young girls. "Anyone under 16 is too young. Some of you are still children yourselves. Others of you are adults but I am treating you all equally in terms of the behaviour. "I am not treating any of you as the ringleader or anything like that."

She asked each prisoner to stand up and said she hoped they would realise it was wrong to have sex with young girls. Justice Bradley then offered them probation and when each agreed to accept that, she said she would not record a conviction. To one of the juveniles, she said: "You are still a child. You have pleaded guilty to one offence of rape. "You have been in a lot of trouble in the past, though, and you still have some community service to do. "You have not been doing that well. I am prepared to offer you probation but you have got to stick with the rules of probation." The juvenile agreed and was then placed on 12 months' probation, with no conviction recorded.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


10 December, 2007

Drowning in risk aversion

Children are being turned away from swimming pools in Scotland because bureaucrats think they know better than parents how to keep kids safe

James had been taking his children swimming for a while when one day he was stopped at the entrance of the Gorbals Leisure Centre in Glasgow. ‘I’m sorry, could I ask how old your children are?’ the attendant asked. It turned out that, like many council swimming pools across Scotland, the Gorbals Centre had introduced a new policy: each child aged four and under must be accompanied by an adult. This meant that for parents like James, who took turns with his wife to take their four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter swimming, the pool is out of bounds. The new rule was ‘in the interest of the safety of your children’, the attendant informed him.

Lizzie, who helps run a lone parents group in North Lanarkshire, similarly found to her disbelief and anger that when she and seven other parents turned up at their local swimming pool with nine children (that’s a ratio of eight adults to nine children), they too were turned away. A colleague who lives in Edinburgh with her husband and three small children, all aged under four, has found that they cannot go swimming as a family – due to the one-to-one ratio required at her local pool for under fours. So her husband is forced to do a shuttle run – taking one child at a time, while she stays at home waiting to hand over child number two, and so on.

In effect, this means that single parents who have more than one young child, busy parents like James who try and take their children swimming by themselves, or indeed parents of more than two children under the age of eight, can forget about going swimming in many of the pools in Scotland. This both discriminates against single parents and restricts many other parents and children from using council services. It also treats parents with contempt; the policy insinuates that they are irresponsible and are putting their children at risk, and it overrides parents’ say in their own children’s safety.

As James argues: ‘If I think it’s okay to take my kids swimming, that is surely my choice. I would never put my children at risk. I was so annoyed when this happened that I demanded to know if the pool manager loves my children more than I do! Because the suggestion is that I am putting my children in danger and in a sense my kids need to be protected from my negligence! It’s patronising and stupid.’

These safety first policies have been developed by the Institute of Sport and Leisure Management (ISRM) and incorporated into a growing number of council leisure services. The general suggested ratio is one adult to two children under four – but in many of the new all-purpose leisure pools that include areas with flumes, a stricter one-to-one ratio has been adopted. Interestingly, in comparison, private gyms with swimming pools appear to have no such policies and rely on the common sense of their members and staff.

Safety must clearly be a concern for those running these services, but, in fact, the new bureaucratic ratios being followed today have little to do with genuine safety issues. The statistics on the number of deaths in swimming pools is not that clear. However, figures in the parliamentary record Hansard show around two deaths of children under 17 each year for the last 10 years. How many of these fatalities were young children who were swimming with their parents is unclear.

However, surely children who are taken swimming by their parents are the least likely to be at risk of drowning – especially those under four years old. They will be supervised pretty much all the time, from the moment they enter the pool to the time parents are drying them, wiping their nose and helping pull their pants up. These children, many of them toddlers who can barely walk, will probably be the safest people in the pool, with their armbands, rubber rings and constant adult supervision. And yet they are being turned away in their droves from half-empty pools with yawning lifeguards because our safety obsessed society has adopted a rubber stamp that says correct ratio on it.

The fact that parents and children are being turned away from the newly built leisure centres in their communities is a cause for concern in and of itself. But child safety appears to swamp all other considerations and turn those providing these services into insurance clerks rather than providers of public services. Only a few weeks ago, Tom Mullarkey, the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) argued that overzealous bureaucrats were undermining legitimate health and safety concerns due to a loss of common sense. His idea that Britain should be made as ‘safe as necessary, not as safe as possible’ should be heeded by Scottish councils. Instead, as Helene Guldberg notes elsewhere on spiked, a risk-averse attitude not only prevents parents from using facilities but deprives children of valuable experiences, too (see A playground tumble can do you good).

Today, in contrast to Mullarkey’s comments, council leisure centres are adopting a ‘safe as possible’ approach. Parents are patronised and treated robotically, as if they represent a threat to their own children; staff become box-ticking ratio bureaucrats rather than people who take genuine responsibility for thinking about how to run a swimming pool in the interest of the public.

The question of child safety in swimming pools and of how many children an adult takes swimming should be something that is negotiated by experienced professionals and parents themselves. Only by preventing the over-bureaucratised approach to child safety can we encourage a more sensible and public-spirited approach and get more children swimming


Resisting the smear of a "tainted legacy"

A nation with no pride in its past will feel little confidence in its future. If citizens look upon the origins of their society with guilt and confusion, they'll find scant reason to identify with its fate or to repair its shortcomings. The current notion that America's undeniable power and privilege rest upon shameful foundations poisons our public discourse, embitters the national mood, and paralyzes all efforts for constructive change. We worry over anti-Americanism abroad, but echo its primary charges here at home. While all objective indications identify the residents of the United States as among the most fortunate human beings on the planet, much of the public refuses to acknowledge our blessings because, according the widespread acceptance of politically correct America-bashing lies, we don't deserve them.

Those who embrace the idea that the USA came into being through vicious genocide against native populations, built its economy through the unique oppression of African slaves, facilitated corporate exploitation of immigrant masses, and damaged countless other nations with its imperialist policies, will naturally assume that we're paying the price for these crimes and abuses - viewing an allegedly dark present as the inevitable product of a purportedly dark past. Negative assumptions about our guilty forebears allow contemporary Americans to wallow in self-pity without accepting blame of any sort for our much-discussed sorry state. In a typical aside, New York Times book reviewer William Grimes laments that American "success.came at a price..for the descendents of the colonists, who have inherited a tainted legacy."

This `tainted legacy,' this endlessly analyzed burden of embarrassment and apology, has brought a bittersweet or even decidedly sour flavor to great national celebrations that formerly featured joy and jingoism. For Thanksgiving, 2007, the Seattle City Schools sent out a letter signed by the district's "Director of Equity, Race & Learning Support" and addressed to all faculty and staff warning that for many students, Turkey Day represented "a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land..As currently celebrated in this country, `Thanksgiving' is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal.."

Columbus Day provokes similar controversy on a yearly basis, with angry demonstrations against the unwelcome encroachments of white interlopers in the pristine New World paradise they polluted with their disease-ridden, gold-hungry presence. Our previous observance of the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln has given way to the anodyne and insipid "Presidents Day," in which we're supposed to commemorate all inhabitants of the White House - the incompetent as well as the inspiring, the scoundrels along with the secular saints. We've added a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr., but while sanctifying the memory of a great and courageous advocate of brotherhood we inevitably use the occasion to recall, yet again, our ugly history of racism. That same history now factors into the Fourth of July, with pointed reminders that some of the most prominent figures in the struggle for Independence (Jefferson, Washington, Patrick Henry) owned slaves. Meanwhile, when it comes to the sparklers, cherry bombs, and other fireworks that comprise the festival's most hallowed tradition, many (if not most) of today's celebrants secure such ordnance at Indian reservations - another ironic connection with the most painful elements of the nation's past.

Even Memorial Day and Veterans Day have lost some of their flag-waving, patriotic fervor and taken on a distinctly mournful, even skeptical edge. We now make a point of recalling dubious as well as heroic wars, and taking note of those members of the military who sacrificed and served in our most controversial recent conflicts. The Vietnam Memorial in the nation's capital has not only become an improbably popular tourist attraction, but now serves as a major focus for both national holidays honoring the armed forces -an association that takes the mood a great distance from the parades, picnics, brass bands and flapping banners of prior generations.

In fact, the Vietnam experience and the associated dislocations of the `60's and `70's helped to dissolve the patriotic consensus that had endured for two centuries, and promoted poisonous lies about the national character. The United States waged deeply controversial wars long before the conflict in South East Asia, but in all previous cases a sweeping, one-sided victory (as in the War with Mexico) or at least a concluding, climactic battle that gave the illusion of overall triumph (as the Battle of New Orleans provided a stirring coda for the otherwise frustrating War of 1812), allowed divisions to evaporate and wounds to heal. Losing a war, however, does nothing to solve the punishing disputes surrounding it and to some extent the brutal Communist conquest of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos insured that the arguments about the war would resound through succeeding generations. U.S. failure gave credibility, if not confirmation, to those anti-war protestors who had decried our "imperialist" foreign policy, and chose to identify their nation as "Amerika" - the Germanic spelling meant to echo the Nazis, while the inserted "k" recalled our homegrown "KKK." Once you've associated your native soil with genocidal fascists and white supremacist thugs, it's tough to return to singing the praises of the land of the free and the home of the brave - even after ultimate victory in the Cold War, a new period of American hegemony, and the evanescent surge of unity and defensive pride following the terror attacks of 9/11.

By that time the tribalism of the `60's had become a more or less permanent feature of our national life with identity politics and jostling interest groups taking the place of any homogenizing notion of Americanism. African-Americans, feminists, Latinos, gays, Asians, the disabled, hippies, Native Americans - each aggrieved segment of society demanded justice and redress, competing for recognition as the most victimized and gypped. The competitive victimhood encouraged even privileged people to affiliate with some marginalized cohort or synthetically assembled "community," and to shun any assimilation into the bland American middle.

With all the suffering subgroups clamoring so colorfully for recognition and sympathy, the once respected mainstream looked suddenly, simultaneously, guilty and boring. "Black is Beautiful" and "Never Trust Anyone Over Thirty" became trendy slogans, while any suggestions that "White is Beautiful" or demands to "Respect Your Elders" drew only derision and hostility. The old national motto, "E Pluribus Unum" - out of many, one - sounded intolerant, disrespectful of difference and diversity, as the ideal of a melting pot gave way to a "gorgeous multicultural mosaic." The concept of an overarching, unifying, non-ironic definition of American identity looked less and less plausible.

In 1904, Broadway giant George M. Cohan proudly and tunefully identified himself as -

"..a Yankee Doodle Dandy
A Yankee Doodle do or die.
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam
Born on the Fourth of July."

Eighty years later, Ron Kovic appropriated the phrase "Born on the Fourth of July" for the bestselling memoir and movie about his shattering experience as a paralyzed, abused, deeply disillusioned Vietnam vet. With the Oliver Stone film's release in 1989, everyone who encountered the title received it with a snicker or smirk, understanding Cohan's high-stepping glorification of flag and homeland as an embarrassing relic of insular and ignorant nationalism.

In a strange sense, this same isolation and exceptionalism fed the most fashionable of the anti-American lies: the public remained so unsophisticated about all the other palpably imperfect nations of the world that the USA's shortcomings and failures looked singular, unprecedented. Histories of mass murder, backwardness and barbarity hardly diminish the fierce pride of other nationalities. Oscar winning director Ang Lee recently noted the overwhelming importance of unquestioning patriotism to all those who claim Chinese identity: "Chinese patriotism is not supposed to be negotiable. To us that's a black-and-white thing. You sacrifice yourself - how can you let China down?" Politicians and pundits in the People's Republic hardly agonize about thousands of years of conquest and colonialism over "lesser" peoples at the edges of the Middle Kingdom.

Similarly, European states with vastly more destructive and savage histories than the United States feel no need for apologies, hand-wringing or wrenching self-criticism. Guy Sorman, author of 20 books on French politics and public affairs, commented in the Wall Street Journal (December 4, 2007) about the themes in government schools in France: "The very content of education is discriminatory. The history of colonization is taught as if it were a glorious feature of French history. In Senegal, on his first official visit to Africa, Mr. Sarkozy regretted the violence of colonization but insisted on the good intentions of the French colonizers, out there to bring civilization to the `African man' who had `not entered history.'"

Compared to other world powers, America deserves guilt less but struggles with it more. Our French cousins celebrate Bastille Day with abandon, joy and unapologetic pride, despite the ugly stains on the Tricolor. For Mexicans and for Mexican immigrants in the United States, Cinco de Mayo doesn't provide an occasion for brooding meditation on the pain and disappointment and injustice that's always characterized our turbulent neighbor to the south. Ironically, the one national holiday observed in America with the most unalloyed elation and pugnacious pleasure is St. Patrick's Day, which seldom, even in the most boozy stupor, gives rise to remorse over the failings and foibles of the children of Eire.

Some might explain this American penchant for harsh self-criticism as a product of our higher ideals and more lofty aspirations. Through most of its long, tortured history, no one ever really expected Russia to serve as a "light to the nations" or a "shining city on a hill." The United States, on the other hand, has long expected to remake the world in our image, and often succeeded in that endeavor. The fact that we have attempted more shouldn't obscure the fact that we've also achieved more, and stumbled less other nations with significant roles in world affairs. In baseball, even the most fearsome (and well-paid) power hitters will strike out occasionally, or hit into double plays. It's inevitable to feel special frustration when All Stars fail to deliver, but these high expectations shouldn't focus attention on failures alone, and obscure all the home-runs and solid hits delivered the rest of the time. The soaring ambitions of the United States didn't lead to humanity- crushing disasters, but instead helped to inspire more success for more people - Americans as well as others-than logic or experience would have deemed possible.

Acceptance of the bitter lies about America undermines the ongoing aspiration that alone can power the United States in its continued role as the mighty engine of human betterment. Without shared gratitude for the innumerable advantages that hard work and history provided to the present generation, we will suffer the insecurity, unease and self-hate associated with undeserved good fortune.

An American Indian academic and musician named David A. Yeagley (an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation) tells a sobering story about one of his students at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City. A "tall and pretty" girl with amber hair and brown eyes, she spoke out in a class discussion about patriotism. "Look, Dr. Yeagley," she declared, "I don't see anything about my culture to be proud of. It's all nothing. My race is just nothing." "Look at your culture," she continued. "Look at American Indian tradition. Now I think that's really great. You have something to be proud of. My culture is nothing."

Concerning this unforgettable interchange, Professor Yeagley observed: "The Cheyenne people have a saying: A nation is never conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. "Who had conquered Rachel's people? What had led her to disrespect them? Why did she behave like a woman of a defeated tribe? "They say that a warrior is measured by the strength of his enemies. As an Indian, I am proud of the fact that it took the mightiest nation on earth to defeat me. "But I don't feel so proud when I listen to Rachel. It gives me no solace to see the white man self-destruct. If Rachel's people are `nothing,' what does that say about mine?"

And what does it say about each of us if we see ourselves as heirs to "nothing" - to only a tainted legacy and a heritage of shame? To accept and recycle prevalent slanders about our country shows neither courage nor sophistication, while promoting impotence, self-pity and paralysis. An accurate appreciation of the past remains altogether indispensable to the survival of communal connection, individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


Christmas is cool, says British equality boss

BRITAIN’S equality chief has attacked “politically correct” critics of traditional Christmas festivities for undermining diversity in society. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has condemned attempts to “brush Christmas under the carpet” for fear of offending other religions.

Citing cases such as schools scrapping nativity plays, he says that being oversensitive to minority views can lead to pointless embarrassment. “[This can] lead us down ludicrous paths; paths populated with winter festivals instead of Christmas celebrations; anodyne messages of ‘seasons greetings’ and pointless embarrassment over biblical nativity scenes.” Phillips’ critique will be seen as significant because he heads the quango set up by the government to protect the interests of the minorities whom the “PC” lobby claim are being marginalised at Christmas.

In a speech tomorrow he will warn that measures to downplay Christmas to avoid offence are more likely to “put the ‘silly’ into the silly season, much to the delight of tabloid hacks . . . looking for yet another example of political correctness gone mad”. In a reference to Muslim, Hindu and Jewish festivals, he adds: “The logic is baffling: to welcome Eid and Diwali and Hanukkah in celebration of our glorious diversity, whilst brushing Christmas under the carpet as an embarrassing episode in our mono-cultural past.” Phillips will say that it is unclear who is being offended by Christmas. “Let’s stop being daft . . . it’s fine to celebrate Christmas,” he states.

His remarks, due to be made at a conference in London on racial equality, add to the debate about the role of Christmas in multi-ethnic Britain. Last month a report from Labour’s favourite think tank said Britain should continue to celebrate Christmas only if similar recognition was given to major religious festivals from other faiths. “Public organisations should mark other religious festivals too,” the Institute for Public Policy Research said. It also said, however, that “it would be very hard to expunge [Christmas] from our national life”.

Examples of the erosion of the traditional Christmas festival are becoming increasingly easy to find. Last year Tower Hamlets council in east London banned decorations at JobCentres. Cards wish “holiday greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas”. One school even banned Mary being called the Virgin Mary. A commission spokesman said: “[Phillips] is saying it’s all very silly - people are worried about offending other religions when those religions are happy about a Christian Christmas.”


Australia: Muslim Turk beauty defies critics

THE Muslim teenager who generated a wave of controversy by entering last year's Miss Teen Australia beauty contest has made this year's finals. Then aged 16, Melbourne schoolgirl Ayten Ahmet was condemned by Muslim leaders when she entered last year's competition, with Melbourne cleric Sheik Mohammed Omran branding participation by Muslim girls as "a slur on Islam".

However, this year reactions had been more low key for Ayten, who was one of 12 Miss Teen Australia finalists at the Gold Coast's WhiteWater World yesterday. "It hasn't really been a big deal this year," she said. "At the time last year I said it (religion) wasn't really relevant to me entering the competition."

Being the centre of a raging debate on Muslim values was difficult for the teenager, but it did not dissuade her from entering again. "My family has been very supportive," she said. "It was made into a big issue by some people last year but I didn't see it as anything wrong."

Former Gold Coast Islamic Society president Naseem Abdul said Ayten was free to make her own decisions about entering modelling or beauty competitions. "It is her life," he said. "She is an individual, she can decide for herself if she wants to do that sort of thing, it doesn't affect or offend me in any way."

The winner of this year's pageant was due to be crowned last night.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


9 December, 2007

Is Being Saved By A "Diverse" Fireman Important?

Post below lifted from Discriminations. See the original for links

Last May the Justice Department sued New York City because its fire department was not suitably "diverse." The city replied that by the time of the suit the exam given to applicants had already changed. As the New York Post reports in this editorial, "no kidding." The latest test-takers were given questions such as:

"As a rookie firefighter, you are responsible for cleaning the kitchen. At the beginning of your shift, you find the kitchen area is a mess. And there is a bowl of chili spilled on the floor from the firefighters from the previous shift. The reason the kitchen was left in such a mess is due to the previous crew having gone out on a call to a fire during their dinner, and they are still actively fighting the fire. "Do you:

"1) Clean the mess up.

"2) Clean the mess up, but complain to anyone who will listen.

"3) Refuse to clean the mess up.

"4) Clean everything except the spilled chili.

"5) Wait for everyone from the previous shift to return, yell at them that they should have cleaned up the mess."
Candidates who took the exam were asked this question, and after each possible answer, instructed to put an "a" through "e" desirability rating - where "a" is "highly desirable" and "e" is "highly undesirable." Eighty-eight of the exam's 195 questions accepted multiple answers as correct. Five questions accepted three answers. Another accepted every answer.

Mayor Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nick Scoppetta recently announced that 38% of those who passed the test this year are minorities, nearly three times the rate of those who passed the 2002 test. Given questions such as the one quoted above, I'm not sure how much progress this represents.

Joe McCarthy Freedom Fighter

As Evans found combing through Senate records, FBI files, State Department reports and the Venona transcripts that our government made of cables sent by the Soviet Union to its agents, Sen. McCarthy's suspicions were more than warranted.

A couple of years ago, I debated a professor from American University named John Doolittle who, prompted by me, admitted that Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, R-Wisconsin (1909-1957), may have exposed some real communists working in the federal government. "But I saw the Edward R. Murrow broadcasts," Dr. Doolittle added. "He was a bad man."

Veteran journalist M. Stanton Evans, who has studied more of the government files from that era than Dr. Doolittle or his peers, or for that matter, Edward R. Murrow himself, have ever seen, reaches a different verdict. "Measured by the total record of his cases and political battles, McCarthy, whatever his faults, was a good man and true-better and truer by far than the tag teams of cover-up artists and backstage plotters who connived unceasingly to destroy him," Evans writes in his masterful book on the senator's life and times. "The truth he served, moreover, was of the greatest import-the exposure of people who meant to do us grievous harm, and of long standing indifference toward this menace by many at high official levels." "In so doing, he summoned the nation to a firm-willed resistance to the Communist challenge, both abroad and on the home front." Full disclosure: I am listed in the acknowledgements of the book.

Although perhaps not a cast of thousands, McCarthy's suspects easily numbered more than a hundred. As Evans found combing through Senate records, FBI files, State Department reports and the Venona transcripts that our government made of cables sent by the Soviet Union to its agents, Sen. McCarthy's suspicions were more than warranted. Moreover, many of these agents were in key policymaking posts and some remained there even as Sen. McCarthy was in the process of investigating them. Their subsequent exodus from the government that resulted from McCarthy's attentions gave them victim status but what of the actual victims of the policies that they put in place?

As Evans shows in Blacklisted By History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies, Taiwan and South Korea might owe their freedom to the brawling Irishman from Appleton, Wisconsin. Four weeks before Sen. McCarthy made his famed Wheeling, West Virginia speech in 1950, President Harry Truman's Secretary of State gave a lecture of his own at the National Press Club.

Senator McCarthy, of course, talked about security risks in the federal government focusing hard and heavy on the Far East Division at State while Dean Acheson wrote off Formosa and South Korea as beyond the sphere of American interests. Ultimately, the former revelation derailed the latter policy. For one thing, the United States entered the Korean War. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, more lethal plotting was derailed, Evans pointed out on The Right Hour with Paul Weyrich.

The "Old China Hands" whose suspect connections McCarthy exposed had already done their best to insure that communist rebel leader Mao Tse Tung bested Chinese leader Chiang Kai Shek on the mainland. Their enabling of the greatest mass murderer in 20th Century history was apparently not enough for the striped pants boys. The professional diplomats concocted schemes to overthrow Chiang in his Formosa retreat, as seen in now declassified documents Evans obtained. McCarthy suspect John Paton Davies helped plan this scheme. Nonetheless, other officials at State including future diplomat-in-chief Dean Rusk, showed great enthusiasm for it.

"Though this wasn't an assassination plot, per se, the likelihood that such a scheme would lead to the death of Chaing and those loyal to him was implicit and in keeping with the record of military risings elsewhere," Evans writes in Blacklisted By History. "(In which respect the obvious parallel would be the murder of South Vietnam's Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother, after a virtually identical U. S.-supported coup in November 1963 when Rusk was Secretary of State.)"

"They started on me with Diem, you remember," President Lyndon Baines Johnson told Sen. Eugene McCarthy, D-Minn., recalling the words of the coup's advocates. "`He was corrupt and he ought to be killed,'" President Johnson remembered hearing when he was second in command to JFK. "So we killed him," LBJ recalled in that phone call to the Minnesota solon. "We all got together and got a goddamn bunch of thugs and assassinated him," World Net Daily reported the Texan saying. "Now, we've really had no political stability [in South Vietnam] since then," LBJ said on the tape of the phone call that WND obtained and quoted from.

The implication boggles the mind. Might South Vietnam be free today if the motley collection of liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans who people Blacklisted By History not undercut Sen. Joseph McCarthy?


Freedom to believe

Post below lifted from Jammie Wearer. See the original for links

I have to agree with the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who suggests that "freedom to believe" is under threat in Britain because of Islamic hostility to conversion. Consider the example of a British imam's daughter who is now living in fear of her life under police protection after she received death threats from her family for converting to Christianity.

The young woman, aged 32, whose father is a Muslim imam in the north of England, has moved house 45 times to escape detection by her family since she became a Christian 15 years ago. Hannah, who uses a pseudonym to hide her identity, told The Times how she became a Christian after she ran away from home at 16 to escape an arranged marriage. The threats against her became more serious a month ago, prompting police to offer her protection in case of an attempt on her life.

Islam will not countenance any form of dissent. Those who choose of their own free will to leave Islam may well also leave this Earth prematurely if the more ardent advocates of the ROP get their hands on such "apostates". The reality is that Islam appears unable to adapt to the 21st century standards of tolerance and the treatment meted out to this lady is a disgrace.


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


8 December, 2007

Sperm donor ordered to pay lesbian couple

A British firefighter who donated his sperm so a lesbian couple could have two babies is being forced to pay thousands of pounds in child support. Andy Bathie, 37, initially agreed to help Sharon and Terri Arnold after being assured he would not have to be involved in the upbringing of their young boy and girl or have any financial responsibility towards them. But the British government's Child Support Agency has begun docking his pay to force him to contribute to the children's upbringing because the lesbian couple have split up.

Mr Bathie has launched unprecedented court action in an attempt to ensure he cannot be recognised as a legal parent to the children. "These women wanted to be parents and take on all the responsibilities that brings," he told the Evening Standard newspaper. "I would never have agreed to this unless they had been living as a committed family. "And now I can't afford to have children with my own wife - it's crippling me financially."


Why we stay mute on Islamic sex apartheid

US Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton last week urged President George W. Bush to call on King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to drop all charges against a 19-year-old Saudi woman who had been gang-raped at knifepoint, then sentenced to 200 lashes after she ostensibly confessed to adultery. "As president I will once again make human rights an American priority around the world," Clinton said. The US State Department had earlier described the sentence as astonishing, while declining to call for the flogging to be stopped. Saudi Arabia is, after all, an ally in the troublesome Middle East.

An international outcry has persuaded the Saudi Justice Ministry to review the sentence. It's rare for such cases to attract such attention, and the only reason this one did was the bravery of the young woman and her lawyer in going public about the case. Good on Clinton. Good on the 35 German female lawyers who wrote an open letter to the Saudi king calling for the sentence to be dropped. Good on those participants at last week's Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, who put pressure on the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, until he announced a review of the case.

I would like to be able to say, good on the thousands of Western feminists who rallied across the world for the cause, except that they didn't. I would like to be able to say, good on Australia's own famous feminist, Germaine Greer, who spoke out passionately in defence of the young woman during a visit to Melbourne last week, except that she didn't.

I must be fair to Greer. The human rights of Saudi rape victims were not the subject of her Melbourne address last week. She was here to give the opening night lecture on a conference on Jane Austen and her topic was the relevance of Austen to the young women of today. I must also confess I was the spoiler of the evening, who during question time asked Greer if she saw any parallels between the concept of family honour in Austen's Pride and Prejudice and the concept of family honour in Middle Eastern societies today. I then asked why it was that Western feminists seemed so reluctant to speak out against things such as honour killings.

Greer: "It's very tricky. I am constantly being asked to go to Darfur to interview rape victims. I can talk to rape victims here. Why should I go to Darfur to talk to rapevictims?"

Questioner (me): "Because it's so much worse there."

Greer: "Who says it is?"

Questioner: "I do, because I've been there."

Greer: "Well, it is just very tricky to try to change another culture. We let down the victims of rape here. We haven't got it right in our own courts. What good would it do for me to go over there and try to tell them what to do? I am just part of decadent Western culture and they think we're all going to hell fast and maybe we are all going to hell fast. "But we do care. We do oppose these things. We are all wearing white ribbons this week, aren't we? A lot of good that will do." This to thunderous applause. She was speaking to an audience of English teachers, nearly all women.

I can hardly blame Greer for her impatience. Just because 40 years ago she wrote a book, does that mean she has to carry the flag for oppressed women for the rest of her life? Who could blame her if at this stage of her life she would prefer to discuss English literature? I certainly don't blame her for not wanting to go to Darfur.

Yet actor Mia Farrow, who is only a few years younger than Greer, has been to Darfur several times. She goes there because she knows that to listen to the stories of the victims of this ongoing genocide validates their suffering and because, unlike Greer, she is willing to use her celebrity status to raise awareness of the human rights abuses of other women and men.

Yes, some of the points Greer made are valid. If, in writing The Female Eunuch all those years ago, Greer was setting out to change a culture, rather than just expressing her anger at it, it was her own culture she was trying to change. Yes, it is "very tricky' to try to change another culture. Does that mean we should not try to?

Behind Greer's enthusiastically received comments is the dreary cultural relativism that pervades the thinking of so many of those once described as on the Left. We are no better than they are. We should not impose our values on them. We can criticise only our own. The problem with this mindset is that, with all its faults, Western culture is clearly, objectively, better. Unlike the women I met in the refugee camps on the Chad-Sudan border, who cannot leave the camps to get firewood without the fear of being raped, I could, after the Austen conference, walk home in the twilight through safe streets. No, we don't have it right here on rape yet by a long way, but we don't require four male witnesses to prove a rape, we don't sentence rape victims to a flogging, we don't put adulterers to death.

Muslim feminist groups such as Women Living Under Muslim Laws are raising their voices against the misogyny of sharia laws but, with some honourable exceptions, there is no rallying by Western liberals against the gender apartheid under which women in large parts of the Islamic world live, as there was against racial apartheid in South Africa.

Is it the fear that by speaking out they will become targets of Islamist threats too? I don't believe so. More likely it is, as Andrew Anthony described it in his recent book The Fallout, the new phenomenon of "Islamophobiaphobia": the great fear of being seen to be critical of Islam, of being seen to be racist, as if race had anything to do with it.

At its kindest, it is a fear of kicking the underdog. But there is a terrible confusion about who the underdog is. The underdogs are not the oil-rich sheiks, imposing their cruel laws on women. They are not even the upper-class women of Saudi Arabia (why should we fight for the right to drive a car when we have chauffers to take us everywhere?) The true victims, even in the most victimised countries, are poor women. Odd that so many old feminists think racism is worse than sexism.


Apologies All Around

Today's tendency to make amends for the crimes of history raises the question: where do we stop?

Imagine that you attend a dinner party where you get roaring drunk, insult all the guests, break your hostess's Tiffany lamp, throw up all over the bathroom, make crude sexual advances toward the family's teenage daughter (or son, depending), and, in backing out of the driveway, run over a bougainvillea and the cat. Imagine further that, sincerely contrite, you write a heartfelt apology - for breaking the lamp. Imagine further still that it's not you who pens the letter of apology, but, say, your great-grandchild; and not to your original hosts, long dead, but to their great-grandchildren, but still only for having broken the lamp.

Fifty years ago, New American Library published the Mentor Philosophers series, each with a title beginning The Age of . . . Belief, Ideology, Reason, and so on; the 20th-century selections bore the title The Age of Analysis. Had the series continued to the end of that century and into this, the volume should no doubt be The Age of Apology. Our postmodern ethos seems to hold that if anything can be proved to have happened, then surely someone needs to apologize for it.

We live amid a veritable tsunami of apology. The Catholic Church, which, of course, has much to apologize for, has, of late, offered mea culpas to Galileo, the Jews, the gypsies, Jan Hus, whom it burned at the stake in 1415, even to Constantinople (now Istanbul) for its sacking 800 years ago by the knights of the Fourth Crusade, an event for which the late John Paul II expressed "deep regret." No wonder that a group in England, claiming descent from the medieval Knights Templars, is asking the Vatican to apologize for the violent suppression of the order and for torturing to death its Grand Master Jacques de Molay in 1314, an apology timed to commemorate the 700th anniversary of that fell deed. In America, the National Council of Churches apologized to Native Americans for Europeans' discovering their continent and appropriating their land (but did not return any church's specific holdings to any specific tribe). The United Church of Canada followed suit, officially apologizing to Canada's native peoples for wrongs inflicted by the church; the native peoples, however, officially rejected the apology.

The current lieutenant governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, personally presented the leaders of the Mormon church with a copy of his state legislature's House Resolution 793, expressing "official regret" for the 1844 murder of Joseph Smith and the expulsion of his followers, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The language asking for "pardon and forgiveness" was toned down when certain lawmakers protested that they could not ask for forgiveness for acts that they had not personally committed - a retrograde notion, apparently, of individual responsibility. Tony Blair, as British prime minister, apologized to the Irish for his nation's insensitivity to the plight of the victims of the Potato Famine in the 1840s. A hundred years after the event, the U.S. Congress offered a formal apology to the Hawaiians for the overthrow of their monarchy in 1893. The French parlement unanimously adopted a law stating that "the trans-Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trade, perpetuated from the 15th century against Africans, Amerindians, Malagasies and Indians, constitutes a crime against humanity": the centuries of slavery before the 15th and the slavery of other peoples do not, apparently, constitute such a crime, at least in France.

In 2005 the U.S. Senate formally apologized for something that it had not done: make lynching a federal crime. Such a record of inaction, claimed one of the resolution's sponsors, constituted a "stain on the United States Senate." True enough, no doubt, but one of how many? Imagine if the United States or any other government began apologizing not only for sins of commission but for those of omission: an infinite regress of culpability.

My favorite apology so far, however, appeared in a brief Reuters account. "Villagers of the tiny settlement of Nubutautau [Fiji] wept as they apologized to the descendants of a British missionary killed and eaten by their ancestors 136 years ago," the news agency reported. "The villagers and the relatives of the missionary, the Rev. Thomas Baker, were taking part in a complex ritual intended to lift a curse the locals say has caused an extended run of bad luck." A cow was slaughtered and kisses given to the 11 relatives of the missionary by the village chief, Ratu Filimoni Nawawabalavu, "a descendant of the chief who cooked the missionary." No word on whether the curse lifted.

I would never denigrate any civilized response of anyone for harm he may have done or misbehavior he may have engaged in. But apologies offered by people to their contemporaries for actions taken long before any of them were born strike me as vacuous and more than a little exhibitionistic. The events and practices eliciting apology are, in varying degrees, horrific, of course, but history is filled with others equally horrifying. Why should the pope apologize for the sacking of Constantinople but not for, say, the massacre of all the inhabitants of Jerusalem - Muslims, Jews, and even Eastern Christians - in 1009, when the city fell to the forces of the First Crusade?

If the pope apologizes for the treatment of Galileo, what of the much crueler fate of Giordano Bruno or Cecco d'Ascoli, encyclopedist, scientist, and poet, burned at the stake in Florence in 1327, the fire fueled with the pages of his own books? Why should the French parlement stop with declaring post-15th-century slavery "a crime against humanity" but leave un-indicted the slavery that built the pyramids and the Parthenon and most of the other great edifices of antiquity? Or the slavery that supplied the manpower that propelled papal galleys around the Mediterranean throughout the Middle Ages and several centuries thereafter?

Are not the million or more Europeans and Americans who, in the 17th and 18th centuries, were kidnapped and enslaved by the Barbary States of North Africa due an apology, too - from, say, Muammar al-Qaddafi or the king of Morocco? If the U.S. Congress starts apologizing to the Hawaiians for a treacherous regime change, what of the endless string of broken treaties with the Seminoles and the Cherokees and . . . well, with almost any tribe that managed to survive long enough for there to be a U.S. Congress to betray it? History, that is, offers so much to apologize for that the question is not where to start but where to stop. We could save time, energy, and the risk of invidious specificity by just apologizing for history itself....

Another recent news item, this from Agence France-Presse, dateline Cairo: "A court ordered 96 tenant farmers to pay back rent for the years 1923 to 1936 after finding for the landlord in a 69-year-old suit that lawyers said marked a new record even for Egypt's slow-moving justice system." The judgment, for $64, went against the farmers, all now dead, who had withheld payment in a rent strike, but "the court ruled that the law still required the original tenants' grandchildren to pay. An appeal remains possible."

This case could serve as an admonitory reminder of the wisdom of declaring a statute of limitations on historical crimes and misdemeanors, of limiting liability to the actual perpetrators, of not visiting the sins (or the back rents) of the fathers on the children and the children's children, down through the ages. Of course those who are literal victims of historical events deserve an official apology and a good deal more. For instance, from World War II: the Nisei interned in this country after Pearl Harbor; the slave laborers in Germany under the Nazis; and the so-called comfort women, perhaps as many as 200,000, mostly Korean, forced into prostitution by the Japanese. The interned Japanese Americans were, in fact, financially compensated: $20,000 for each of 82,250 claimants, for a total of $1.65 billion.

And some 56 years after the fall of the Third Reich, German businesses that had used slave labor then - 6,000 companies, including DaimlerChrysler, Bayer, Bertelsmann, Deutsche Bank - agreed to pay half of $4.5 billion in compensation, the other half footed by the government. Payments range from $2,000 to $7,000 per individual, depending on the duration and condition of their servitude. These attempts at reparation may seem too little and too late, since many of the victims are dead, and less than altruistically motivated; but they do represent actions by the (more or less) responsible parties to indemnify the specific individuals harmed, not gestural feints toward now-empty victim categories. (The Japanese have delayed any payments to the comfort women; one suspects they count on all of the women dying before they get around to it.)

Our mania for apology stems from a radical sort of "presentism": the belief, in practice, if not fully articulated, that the actions and actors of the past should be evaluated, and usually condemned, by present-day standards. In our relativistic age in which advanced opinion notoriously eschews universals and absolutes, the criteria obtaining at the moment in Cambridge and Chapel Hill, Ann Arbor and Palo Alto, Austin and Madison seem to have more than contingent status. The criteria appear perilously close to absolutes, the sort of absolutes obeisance to which allows moderately competent graduate students in sociology or culture studies to relish their moral superiority to almost any denizen of the benighted pre-Foucault past. One has only to listen to the incredulous-to-hostile laughter that, at academic conferences, greets the opinions of, say, Henry Adams or Thomas Carlyle on the mental capacities of women, or of Hegel or Hume on Africans, commonplace a century or two ago, to understand how relative our relativism really is.

Presentism wants not only to judge the past by the criteria of the present, but, in a complete failure of historical imagination, can't conceive of the criteria of the future being radically different from today's. A coercive dystopian future (as in the Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, where women are re-relegated to the home and doctors who once performed abortions are hanged) can be imagined, for it's really the projection of the Old Testament past into a third Bush-Cheney term. Such images of the future tend, in fact, to be atavistic.

But can we imagine something unprecedented shaping our future? If the PETA imperative, for example, were to become our dominant ethos by, say, 2107, at which time no law-abiding soul would ingest animal parts or products or wear their skins and would recoil in horror at the thought that his ancestors had, what sort of apologies for history would then be forthcoming? To all the leashed canines run around in circles for the pleasure of dog lovers at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show or the thoroughbreds in the Kentucky Derby? To all the rats martyred in labs, victims of "science" - or, worse yet, "beauty"? To every pig rendered pork chops, to every mink become a coat? Will the roster of great villains of the past expand to include Colonel Sanders, Oscar Mayer, and Manolo Blahnik? Will dogcatchers become the 22nd century's version of the Gestapo, our zoos its gulag, remembered with shame? The Hartford Courant has abjectly apologized for publishing ads in the 18th and 19th centuries for the sale of slaves; in the next century will they apologize for having run ads for puppies for sale? ......

I do not, of course, disparage serious study of history, depressing as that often proves, nor do I deny the legitimacy of passing moral judgments on the past. The view that many of the actions that constitute history are evil does not mitigate the evil of any particular action, just as the plea of the politician on the take that "everyone does it" constitutes no defense in a court of law. A single cruel act in a vast sea of cruelty remains a cruel act. To say, then, that apologies for history are always pointless and usually fatuous does not mean that we should not remain keenly aware of the abuses of the past, particularly if this awareness can help prevent their recurrence..... But, please. No more apologies.

More here


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


7 December, 2007

Sudanese teddy saga lays bare Islamic inferiority complex

By Waleed Aly

That the British teacher Gillian Gibbons required a presidential pardon to avoid 15 days' imprisonment in Sudan for blasphemy over the naming of a teddy bear surely represents the high watermark of absurdity in relations between the Muslim and Western worlds. Even Samuel Huntington, as he theorised of an impending clash of civilisations late last century, could not have foreseen an odyssey so surreal.

The story begins normally enough. Gibbons introduced her seven-year-old students to a teddy bear they would each take home throughout the year, in the manner of a class pet. Asked to name it, the children chose "Muhammad". Gibbons wrote to parents to inform them of the activity. Of course, none objected. Then one day, the police came to call, arresting Gibbons for "insulting religion".

At this point, flabbergasting mysteries abound. Why would the alleged blasphemy be Gibbons's when it was the children who chose the name? And perhaps more fundamentally, what is so offensive about a teddy bear named Muhammad? Certainly, it is the name of the greatest prophet in the Islamic tradition, but it is also the most popular name in the world, and a very common one in Sudan. Indeed, one of Gibbons's students says the bear was named after him.

There is no evidence the children intended the teddy bear to be some prophetic representation, and even in the bizarre event that it was, it is scarcely the most offensive representation one could imagine. This is not remotely akin to the Danish cartoons. Perhaps if the name had been chosen for a pig .

Nonetheless, after Gibbons's imprisonment last week, protesters shrieked that it was not enough. They insisted, with unfathomable idiocy, that she be put to death. Some even specified that it should be by firing squad. "No tolerance - execution," they chanted as they turned the arrest into a matter of geopolitics: "Shame, shame on the UK."

And here, it seems, is the key to this unmitigated farce. Had Gibbons been Sudanese, or just non-Western, there would be no controversy here. Indeed Muslims have not generally been averse to naming their toys (and their children) with the names of prophets. For years, the Islamic Society in Britain sold a soft toy named "Adam the Prayer Bear", while in the US, a Muslim multimedia organisation continues to produce children's videos starring a Muppet-like character also named "Adam" - the name of Islam's first prophet. This saga ultimately has nothing to do with teddy bears, and everything to do with anti-Western sentiment - a fact most nakedly revealed by the collective response of senior Sudanese clerics, who branded Gibbons's conduct "a calculated action and another ring in the circles of plotting against Islam".

This discourse is deeply implausible, especially when you consider Gibbons's love for the Sudanese people and long-term desire to assist with their education. This kind of response discloses a siege mentality; one that must position the Muslim world as the victim in a global - but particularly Western - conspiracy against it. As a corollary, the West must have a singularly oppressive role in the conspiratorial imagination. It exists to repress Muslims, and makes its policy decisions only to undermine Islam, as though the West has no independent interests of its own.

There is arrogance in this assumption that the humiliation of Muslims must be the central goal of others, but more deeply it is the expression of an inferiority complex. Such stifling paranoia is not a trait of the confident, but of the humiliated. The result is a disposition that is avid for scandal, a seemingly incurable desperation to be offended, and to pin the blame on Western civilisation. By responding violently to such offence, the humiliated feel a sense of faux-empowerment. They rehabilitate their status by lashing out.

Accordingly, the evidence on which they do so is usually flimsy. During the Danish cartoons furore, protesters in Pakistan burnt effigies of George Bush and set fire to a KFC as they denounced the "American cartoons". Just over a year ago, we witnessed pseudo-clerics calling for the Pope to be killed for daring to suggest Islam is inherently violent - indicating that they had utterly failed to grasp his meaning.

It is, of course, the tiniest of minorities that engage in this sort of behaviour. Many Muslim groups have condemned each of these outbursts, just as they called for Gibbons's release. Even Muslim Facebook groups formed in her cause. But the problem for the Muslim world is that this splinter faction is so loud it is defining the Muslim public image.

Ultimately, it is Muslims who have the most to lose. Perpetual victimhood, though an emotional balm, is disempowering and self-fulfilling. By clinging to it, and even imagining ourselves victims when we are not, we are ultimately victimising ourselves.


Monkey Business

In a case now pending in a federal court in Brooklyn, Mamie Manneh of Staten Island stands accused of having brought smoked bushmeat - known colloquially as monkey meat - into the United States without proper permits, in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Ms. Manneh's defense is that in her religion the eating of bushmeat has both a cultural and a spiritual significance. In an affidavit, 17 of her co-religionists declared, "We eat bushmeat for our souls." Manneh's lawyer, Jan Rostal, has analogized the African-based practice to the consumption at a Passover seder of foods like bitter herbs "that might have some reference to the Exodus." In a motion to dismiss, Rostal said that the case, while apparently novel, "represents the sort of clash of cultural and religious values inherent in the melting pot that is America."

No, it doesn't. It represents a more fundamental clash: between the imperatives of religion and the rule of law. The question raised by the case is whether the fact of a religious belief is sufficient to exempt the believer from the application of generally applicable laws - laws (like driving on the right-hand side of the road) that apply to every citizen no matter what his or her religious, ethical or moral convictions. Is religious belief a special case, so special that the devout practitioner gets a pass?

John Locke posed that question in "A Letter Concerning Toleration" (1689), and his analysis of it remains relevant today. Locke asks if it is lawful for Meliboeus (a name borrowed from pastoral poetry) to slaughter a calf and offer it as a sacrifice at a religious meeting. It depends, he says, on whether slaughtering a calf in order to put food on his family's table is lawful. If it is, then killing the calf for ritual purposes is perfectly allowable, for "what may be spent on a feast may be spent on a sacrifice."

But the logic also holds in the opposite direction. Suppose, Locke imagines, a disease had destroyed a large number of cattle and the government decreed that no more could be slaughtered. The prohibition would surely extend to religious rituals, not as a specific target of state action, but as a practice swept up in the wake of a general law.

That law, Locke observes, would not be "made about a religious matter, but about a political matter." It would be true that some people would no longer be able to engage in behavior they considered central to their religious life, but because that would not be the result aimed at - the good of the commonwealth would be the concern - the government could not be accused of contriving to harm religion, even if that were an unintended consequence of its action.

Nor would it be wise to exempt persons of certain beliefs from the general prohibition; for that would amount to bending the law to the preferences and desires of particular citizens, and once you begin to do that there is no logical place to stop and the rule of law would be destroyed.

The upshot of Locke's argument is that religious practices flourish only at the sufferance of the state. In theory you have the right to worship in the manner dictated by your faith, but should an aspect of that worship run up against a duly enacted regulation, the regulation, provided it is neutral in intention, trumps the demands of worship. This same line of reasoning can be found in religion clause cases stretching from Reynolds v. United States (1878) to Employment Division v. Smith (1990). (There is an alternative tradition of "accommodating" religion in cases like Sherbert v. Verner and Wisconsin v. Yoder.) ....

Much more here

More crazy "Human Rights"

Britain breached the human rights of a murderer and his wife by refusing them access to IVF treatment, the European Court ruled yesterday. Kirk Dickson, 35, and his wife Lorraine now have the right to start a family even though he is serving a life sentence. The couple, who met via a pen pal network while Mrs Dickson was also in prison, were determined to have a baby but Dickson's earliest release date from a minimum 15-year sentence is 2009, when Mrs Dickson, of Beverley, East Yorkshire, will be 51.

The Dicksons, who married in 2001, argued that artificial insemination was their only chance to have a child of their own and that a Home Office decision to deny them access to treatment breached their human rights. They had launched a legal battle in October 2001, but David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, rejected their claim. The Dicksons took their fight to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where, in April 2006, they lost again.

However, the court's Grand Chamber overturned that ruling yesterday, voting 12 to 5 in favour of allowing the couple access to the treatment and awarding them 5,000 euros in damages and 21,000 in costs. The couple's lawyer, Elkan Abrahamson, said last night that they were both elated at the decision. However, it would make little difference because Dickson was now in an open prison and allowed home leave.


Baby Boomers owe America's young people an apology

By Dennis Prager

We live in the age of group apologies. I would like to add one. The baby boomer generation needs to apologize to America, especially its young generation, for many sins. Here is a partial list:

First and perhaps foremost, we apologize for robbing many of you of a childhood. We baby boomers were allowed perhaps the most innocent childhoods known to history. We grew up without material want, in one of the most decent places in world history, with media that preserved our sexual and other innocence, in schools that generally taught us well, and we were allowed childhood play from boy-girl play to rough and tumble boy-boy play to monkey bars and ringalievio. Our generation has deprived you of all these things. And while we were aware of the threat of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, few of us believed that we were threatened with death anywhere near the amount we have scared you about death from secondhand smoke, global warming and heterosexual AIDS, to mention just a few of the exaggerated death scares we have inflicted on you.

Our generation came up with two truly foolish slogans that also ended up robbing you of childhood. One was, "Never trust anyone over 30." Our infantile attitude toward adult authority has inflicted great harm on you. Because of it, many baby boomers decided not to become adults, and this has had disastrous consequences in your lives. It deprived you of one of the greatest needs in your life - adults. That in turn deprived you of something as important as love - parental and other adult authority. With little parental authority, you were left with little personal security, few guardrails and a diminished sense of order in life. And we transferred this denial of authority to virtually all authority figures, from teachers to police.

The other slogan whose awful consequences we baby boomers bequeathed to you was, "Make love, not war." Our parents had liberated the world from immeasurably cruel and murderous regimes in Germany and Japan - solely thanks to waging war. But instead of concluding that war could do great moral good, we sang ourselves silly with such inane lyrics as "Give peace a chance," as if that deals in any way with the world's most monstrous evils. So we taught you to make love and not war. And we succeeded. We made you anti-war and almost completely sexualized your lives. We told you that having sex was terrific or at least to be expected, even in early teens, and that your only concerns should be avoiding sexually transmitted diseases and getting pregnant. And if you did get pregnant, we made sure that you could extinguish the life you were carrying as effortlessly and guiltlessly as possible.

We started teaching you about sexuality and homosexuality in early grade school and we taught you how to put condoms on bananas. It is true that we did not grow up learning about these things at such young ages - certainly our schools never taught us about these things - but we chalked that up to the preposterous, if not reactionary, values of the 1950s and early 1960s. We had contempt for our parents believing that "Father Knows Best" and "Leave It to Beaver" and "Superman" - with the show's motto of "truth, justice, and the American way" - were good things for young people to be exposed to. So we replaced these shows with MTV's mind-numbing parade of three-second images and sex-drenched shows for teenagers. Sorry.

We also made you weak. We did everything possible to ensure that you suffered no pain. Sometimes we changed game scores if a team was winning by too large a margin; we abolished dodgeball lest anyone suffer early removal from the game; and we gave trophies to all of you who played on baseball teams, no matter how awfully you or your team played so that none of you missed getting a trophy while members of another team did. Much of this was thanks to the self-esteem-without-having-to-earn-it movement, which in our generation's almost infinite lack of wisdom we inflicted upon you. Sorry for that, too.

We also apologize for coming close to ruining so many of your schools and universities. Despite the unprecedented sums of money we had America spend on education, most of you got an education quite inferior to the one we got at a fraction of the cost. But we thought of our teachers as fools (they were, after all, over 30) who just concentrated on reading, writing and arithmetic (and history, music and art). We were sure we knew better and we therefore concentrated on sexual issues, and teaching you about peace, global warming and the horrors of smoking. The fact that few high school graduates can identify Mozart, let alone were ever exposed to his music, is far less significant to many baby boomers than your knowledge of the alleged perils of secondhand smoke. Most of you cannot identify Stalin either, and we are sorry for that, too. But, hey, we did make sure you saw Al Gore's film.

And a real apology to those of you hooked on drugs. While your choice to do drugs is your responsibility, it was our generation that romanticized them and made them cool. "Mind expanding" we called them. But it turns out that they don't expand minds, they destroy them. Sorry.

And, young women, we apologize especially to you. Many of us baby boomers bought into the feminist idea that getting married and making a family with a man were far less fulfilling than career success and that marriage itself is "sexist" and "patriarchal." So, to those of you women who have career success and didn't get married, we sincerely apologize. Turns out that most careers aren't as fulfilling as we promised.

So we really blew it, and what's really amazing is that few of us have changed our minds. Most people get wiser as they get older. But not those of us baby boomers who still believe these things. Of course, many of us never bought into these awful ideas that have so hurt you and our country, and some of us have grown up. But many of us still talk, think, dress and curse the same as we did in the '60s and '70s. And we're still fighting what we consider the real Axis of Evil: American racism, sexism and imperialism. But for those of us who know the damage baby boomers as a whole did to you, a heartfelt apology.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


6 December, 2007

Scouts hit deadline for 'pay-up-or-move' ultimatum

A deadline is looming today for officials with the Cradle of Liberty Boy Scouts organization in Philadelphia either to agree to a rent hike of $199,999 a year for their headquarters building or move. Neither officials with the Cradle of Liberty chapter nor the national headquarters for Boy Scouts of America immediately returned WND's calls requesting comment. The dilemma was created when several members of the city hierarchy in Philadelphia, reportedly including an open homosexual, ordered the council to abandon the national group's ban on openly homosexual members and leaders or the city would renege on a decades-old agreement.

For almost 80 years, since 1928, the Scouts have used the building for their headquarters under a lease, but that is set to expire and officials now are demanding $200,000 a year for rent, up from the previous rate of $1. "If they want to accept the national policies of the Boy Scout organization they have to be able to pay for it," Philadelphia City Councilman Jack Kelly told Fox News. A letter from Diaz set the deadline today for the Scouts to sign a new lease at the new rate or face eviction by the city.

John Braxton, a member of the Cradle of Liberty council and a retired judge, said the organization simply cannot afford the steep rent increase. The organization serves about 64,000 youth in the region, officials said. "It's disappointing, and it's certainly a threat," Jeff Jubelirer, a spokesman for the council, said recently. He said the additional money would have to be taken from programs for youth, which could cost the organization 30 new Cub Scout chapters.

Council officials have said they were unable to renounce the national organization's long-established policy of not allowing participation by atheists or open homosexuals. That policy was affirmed as legal and legitimate in a 2000 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But city officials allege that is discrimination and said they wouldn't rent taxpayer-owned property for a dollar a year to such people.

In a column, Robert Knight of the Culture and Media Institute of the Media Research Center said the Philadelphia decision is unfair. Knight, in his critique of a Washington Post report on the dispute, noted the Scouts "built the building with their own money and then gave it to the city in 1928." He also noted the Scouts' lease was "in perpetuity," but the city simply decided to renege. "The Scouts bar openly homosexual scoutmasters and members for moral reasons and for the sake of protecting young boys from possible harm, not because they are motivated by bigotry or prejudice," he wrote. "The Post article read as if the Scouts have no rational reason for wanting to determine whether prospective leaders or members are attracted sexually to males."

Local Scout officials had tried to institute a statement that "prejudice, intolerance and unlawful discrimination in any form are unacceptable within the ranks of Cradle of Liberty," but national scouting officials required adherence to the ban on homosexuals, they said.

"If I do not receive an executed lease, signed by the Boy Scouts, to remain as tenants paying a fair market rent, we will begin looking for alternative tenants that can take over the property June 1, 2008," Diaz said.

The Scouts' own guidelines, published on their website, note the organization was founded "on the premise of teaching boys moral and ethical values through an outdoor program that challenges them and teaches them respect for nature, one another, and themselves."

"The BSA respects the rights of people and groups who hold values that differ from those encompassed in the Scout Oath and Law, and the BSA makes no effort to deny the rights of those whose views differ to hold their attitudes or opinions," the group continued. "Scouts come from all walks of life and are exposed to diversity in Scouting that they may not otherwise experience. The Boy Scouts of America aims to allow youth to live and learn as children and enjoy Scouting without immersing them in the politics of the day.

"We hope that our supporters will continue to value the Boy Scouts of America's respect for diversity and the positive impact Scouting has on young people's lives. We realize that not every individual nor organization subscribes to the same beliefs that the BSA does, but we hope that all Americans can be as respectful of our beliefs as we are of theirs and support the overall good Scouting does in American communities," the group said.

In order to protect children, other rules also have been imposed, including, "One-on-one contact between adults and youth members is not permitted," and, "When camping, no youth is permitted to sleep in the tent of an adult other than his own parent or guardian."

WND recently reported citizens outraged by the city's ultimatum crashed the e-mail system of the Philadelphia mayor's office. About 150,000 Boy Scout-related e-mails were removed from the city's e-mail system, reported the Bulletin newspaper of Philadelphia. "We were deluged," said Terry Phillis, chief information officer for Mayor John Street. "We pulled the messages off so they wouldn't take the system down. It had to be done to protect system integrity." City officials in San Francisco and Boston have made similar decisions to displace the Scouts because of the group's behavior code.

Such disputes virtually never arose until homosexual organizations challenged the Scouts' policy, but lost at the U.S. Supreme Court level in that 2000 ruling. Then activist groups turned their sights on property arrangements such as in Philadelphia, where the Scouts have been using the donated property for years.

Former WND columnist Hans Zeiger, who wrote a book about the Scouts and their battles, "Get Off My Honor: The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America," said the Boy Scouts since 1911 have been reaching out to the disabled, racial and ethnic minorities, Native Americans and inner city children with the lessons of right and wrong.

"When it comes to a Scout troop, sexual orientation is an issue that goes beyond differences in skin color or economic status. It affects such matters as tenting arrangements and the development of pre-teenage masculinity in a close-knit group of boys and men," he wrote. "So here's what I say to the radical Left in the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed . Take away the funding. Seize the 75-year-old headquarters building. The Scouts can survive without it," he wrote at the time.

WND also reported earlier this year a Scouts victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit dismissed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the Defense Department from allowing the Scouts to hold its National Jamboree every four years at Fort A.P. Hill in Fredericksburg, Va.



I would have thought that Islam was "aggressively fierce" too

Germany could be asked to ban the U.S.-based Church of Scientology under a Hamburg security official's proposal that contends the group violates human rights. Hamburg's secretary of the interior, Udo Nagel, plans to seek a nationwide ban of Scientology at this week's meeting of top German security officials, spokeswoman Ulrike Sweden said Monday.

The German government considers Scientology a commercial enterprise that takes advantage of vulnerable people. During the summer, it initially refused to allow the producers of a movie starring Scientology member Tom Cruise as Germany's most famous anti-Hitler plotter to film at the site where the hero was executed, although it did not expressly state Scientology as its reason.

If all 16 states agree to the proposal to ban Scientology, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble would be asked to initiate proceedings against it, Sweden said, confirming a report by Focus magazine. The report quotes Nagel saying that Scientology pursues "anti- constitutional goals in an aggressively fierce" manner that run counter to human rights and dignity.

A spokeswoman for Scientology, Sabine Weber, called Nagel's proposal "more than incomprehensible" and pointed out that the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Scientology when Russia denied its application to register as a religious community.

The United States has said that Germany discriminates against some religious groups, including Scientology, that Germany does not recognize as a religion.


British discrimination case thrown out

A Pakistan-born engineer who claimed he was racially discriminated against by a company because of his name has lost his case. Qamar Mohammed Malik told an employment tribunal that construction company Amec Group Ltd's Treforest branch ignored a CV sent under his own name. But when the 49-year-old, of Cardiff, sent a fake CV using a Welsh name he was granted an interview, he said.

Amec, which had denied the claim, welcomed the tribunal's decision. Mr Malik said he was "disappointed" with the ruling, which was announced on Monday. He added: "I have to accept the ruling and move on but I hope some lessons have been learned. "I was not looking for compensation. I just wanted to make a point and stop discrimination happening. "I have four children and I don't want them to experience it when they get older and start looking for a career."

He told the Cardiff hearing last month that he first applied for a job in November 2006, e-mailing his CV to Amec's office manager in Treforest, near Pontypridd. When he was told there were no vacancies, Mr Malik composed a similar CV with inferior qualifications, using the name Rhyddir Aled Lloyd-Hilbert. The fictional man had fewer O-levels than Mr Malik and was slightly older. Mr Malik claimed Amec responded "positively" to the fictional CV of Mr Lloyd-Hilbert, who was told he could earn up to 33,000 pounds with the firm.

Speaking during the tribunal, he said he decided to send a fictitious CV using a Welsh-sounding name because the rejection by Amec had been at "severe odds" with advice he was previously given by the company. He added: "It smacked of the racism that I used to experience in the early 1980s."

But Mike Hartwell, catchment manager for the construction arm of Amec at the time, told the tribunal the fictitious CV had also been rejected for the site engineer role Mr Malik originally applied for. He said Mr Lloyd-Hilbert was contacted regarding a quality inspector role because he indicated he was planning to move to Wales, whereas Mr Malik had a Reading address on his CV.

The tribunal panel ruled unanimously that his "claim of race discrimination is not well founded and is dismissed." An Amec spokesman said: "We welcome the unanimous decision made by the Cardiff employment tribunal, which fully recognises that we did not racially discriminate against Mr Malik. "We are a major international company, employing many thousands of people around the world, and select people solely on their suitability for the particular job. "Our code of business conduct, which all of our people are required to follow, makes it clear that discrimination on racial or other prohibited grounds is not tolerated under any circumstances."


A right not to be offended?

The right not to be offended is now the most sacred right in the world. The right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement, all are as nothing compared with the universal right to freedom from offense. It's surely only a matter of time before "sensitivity training" is matched by equally rigorous "inoffensiveness training" courses. A musician friend of mine once took a gig at an elevator-music session, and, after an hour or two of playing insipid orchestral arrangements of "Moon River" and "Windmills of Your Mind," some of the lads' attention would start to wander, and they'd toot their horns a little too boisterously. The conductor would stop and admonish them to bland things down a bit. In a world in which everyone is ready to take offense, it's hard to keep the mood Muzak evenly modulated.

For example, when I said the right not to be offended is now the most "sacred" right in the world, I certainly didn't mean to offend persons of a nontheistic persuasion. In Hanover, N.H., home to Dartmouth College, an atheist and an agnostic known only as "Jan and Pat Doe" (which is which is hard to say) are suing because their three schoolchildren are forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Well, OK, they're not forced to say it. The pledge is voluntary. You're allowed to sit down, or, more discreetly, stand silently, which is what the taciturn Yankee menfolk who think it's uncool to sing do during the hymns at my local church. But that's not enough for "the Does." Because the pledge mentions God, their children are forced, as it were, not to say it. And, as "Mr. and Mrs. Doe" put it in their complaint, having to opt out of participation in a voluntary act exposes their children to potential "peer pressure" from the other students. U.S. courts have not traditionally been sympathetic to this argument. The ACLU and other litigious types might more profitably explore the line that the Pledge of Allegiance is deeply offensive to millions of illegal aliens in the public school system forced to pledge allegiance to the flag of a country they're not citizens or even legally admitted tourists of.

Let us now cross from the New Hampshire school system to the Sudanese school system. Or as The Associated Press headline put it: "Thousands In Sudan Call For British Teddy Bear Teacher's Execution."

Last week, Gillian Gibbons, a British schoolteacher working in Khartoum, one of the crumbiest basket-case dumps on the planet - whoops, I mean one of the most lively and vibrant strands in the rich tapestry of our multicultural world - anyway, Mrs. Gibbons was sentenced last week to 15 days in jail because she was guilty of, er, allowing a teddy bear to be named "Mohammed." She wasn't so foolish as to name the teddy Mohammed herself. But, in an ill-advised Sudanese foray into democracy, she'd let her grade-school students vote on what name they wanted to give the classroom teddy, and being good Muslims they voted for their favorite name: Mohammed.

Big mistake. There's apparently a whole section in the Quran about how, if you name cuddly toys after the Prophet you have to be decapitated. Well, actually there isn't. But why let theological pedantry deprive you of the opportunity to stick it to the infidel? Mrs. Gibbons is regarded as lucky to get 15 days in jail, when the court could have imposed six months and 40 lashes. But even that wouldn't have been good enough for the mob in Khartoum. The protesters shouted "No tolerance. Execution" and "Kill her. Kill her by firing squad" and "Shame, shame to the U.K." - which persists in sending out imperialist schoolmarms to impose idolatrous teddy bears on the youth of Sudan.

Whether or not the British are best placed to defend Mrs. Gibbons is itself questionable after a U.K. court decision last week: Following an altercation with another driver, Michael Forsythe was given a suspended sentence of 10 weeks in jail for "racially aggravated disorderly behavior" for calling Lorna Steele an "English bitch." "Racially aggravated"? Indeed. Ms. Steele is not English, but Welsh.

Still, at exactly the time Gillian Gibbons caught the eye of the Sudanese authorities, a 19-year-old Saudi woman was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail. Her crime? She'd been abducted and gang-raped by seven men. Originally, she'd been sentenced to 90 lashes, but her lawyer had appealed and so the court increased it to 200 and jail time. Anybody on the streets in Sudan or anywhere else in the Muslim world who wants to protest that?

East is east, and west is west, and in both we take offense at anything: Santas saying "Ho ho ho," teddy bears called Mohammed. And yet the difference is very telling: The now-annual Santa lawsuits in the "war on Christmas" and the determination to abolish even such anodyne expressions of faith as the Pledge of Allegiance are assaults on the very possibility of a common culture. By contrast, the teddy bear rubbish is a crude demonstration of cultural muscle intended to cow and intimidate. When east meets west, when offended Muslims find themselves operating in Western nations, they discover that both techniques are useful: Some march in the streets, Khartoum-style, calling for the pope to be beheaded, others use the mechanisms of the West's litigious, perpetual grievance culture to harass opponents into silence.

Perhaps somewhere in Sydney there's a woman who's genuinely offended by hearing Santa say "ho ho ho" just as those New Hampshire atheists claim to be genuinely offended by the Pledge of Allegiance. But their complaints are frivolous and decadent, and more determined groups are using the patterns they've established to shut down debate on things we should be talking about. The ability to give and take offense is what separates free societies from Sudan.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


5 December, 2007

Georgia Police Impound Anti-Abortion Billboard Truck, Jail Driver

Bob Roethlisberger was arrested and jailed over Thanksgiving weekend in a northern suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, on the charge of "Disorderly Conduct" for driving Operation Rescue's Truth Truck bearing signs with photos of aborted babies. The Truth Truck was impounded.

Gwinnett County Police Department officers arrested Roethlisberger Saturday after telling him that signage on the Truth Truck was "vulgar and obscene." According to Operation Rescue, officers ransacked the back of the Truth Truck without a warrant and ordered Roethlisberger to change or remove the signs. When he refused, he was arrested and incarcerated for three days before being released on $1,000 bond.

The Truth Truck was released from impound late Monday, however both the signs and the mounting hardware on the truck were damaged. The damage occurred says the pro-life group when police forcibly ripped the signs off the sides of the truck. Monetary damage to the property is estimated to be in the thousands of dollars.

"It is obvious that these police officers, under the direction of Major Thomas Bardugon, engaged in a serious incident of unconstitutional content-based discrimination and illegal distruction of property," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "Bob fully cooperated with officers, but refused to compromise on his message, which is unequivocally protected by the First Amendment. The officers misused their authority to punish Bob for expressing a viewpoint that ran counter to theirs. The arrest was nothing less than an egregious abuse of power."

Newman says he discussed the matter with Major Bardugon who refused to drop the charges and threatened to arrest Newman if he drove the Truth Truck through Bardugon's jurisdiction.

The Truth Truck was in Georgia because of a recently introduced Human Life Amendment that is scheduled to be considered by the State Legislature in January. The Truth Truck's mission was to help draw the attention of Georgians to the reality that abortion brutally takes an innocent human life, and emphasize the need to ban the grisly procedure.

Operation Rescue manages a fleet of Truth Trucks that have traveled tens of thousands of miles from coast to coast over the past seven years. The right to display those images has been upheld in courts across the nation. Operation Rescue suggests that the courts have also ruled that obscenity laws do not apply to aborted baby images.

"We intend to vigorously fight these unjust charges, and will seek a remedy for our property loss," said Newman. "We cannot allow the illegal use of police authority to bully us into silence, when such silence could cost innocent human lives."


Britain: Health and safety 'ruins' holiday staff parties

The office Christmas party is dying out because of fears that workers could sue over other employees' drunken antics and a prevailing "Scrooge" mentality. A third of companies will not hold a staff party this year, according to a survey. This is twice as many as in 2002. Of those that do hold a seasonal get-together, four in 10 do not plan to make any financial contribution. Employers in the West Midlands were the least generous, with fewer than half funding a Christmas bash.

It seems the dwindling number of parties is accompanied by an increasing indifference to them among staff. A Chartered Management Institute (CMI) survey of more than 500 managers found that more than half believe the atmosphere at end-of-year celebrations is "forced". A fifth feel Christmas celebrations are "a chore" and one in three claims there is too much "political correctness".

More than four in 10 think they would be better if partners were invited. Almost the same number say the party season has become too long. While 52 per cent of those surveyed said Christmas parties improved the working environment, only three in 10 organisations actively promote a relaxed atmosphere as Dec 25 approaches. Despite their misgivings, more than half of managers give gifts to colleagues and 45 per cent send Christmas cards.

Jo Causon, the CMI director of marketing and corporate affairs, said: "The idea that individuals and employers don't allow themselves to unwind at Christmas is extremely disappointing, especially in the light of evidence suggesting that taking time out enables you to recharge your batteries. "However, it is good to see that people are saying 'thank you' and are prepared to make an effort to recognise hard work."

Some managers blamed new discrimination legislation and the compensation culture for the lack of Christmas spirit. Employers can now be held liable if they fail to protect staff from harassment or discrimination, including on the grounds of religious belief. Companies are also advised to think about whether they have the correct insurance, and to provide transport home as they could be held liable if an employee who is drunk at the firm's expense has a car accident.

Elizabeth Weston, from Merrill Lynch, was given 1 million pounds in an out-of-court settlement after she claimed that a colleague made remarks about her breasts and sex life at a Christmas party. The bank did not admit liability.


Teddy Bears, Parked Cars and Moral Equivalence

Post below lifted from Powerline. See the original for links

The Washington Post online has a religion section called On Faith, which features liberal commentary on various issues relating to religion and public life. Today's column, "Sudan and Saudi Arabia: Who Speaks for Islam?," is by John Esposito and John Voll, both of Georgetown. It begins with one of those sentences where the second clause takes away what the first clause asserted:
In a world in which Islamophobes blur the distinction between the barbaric acts of Muslim extremists and terrorists and the religion of Islam, two recent legal decisions in Sudan and Saudi Arabia will reinforce accusations that Islam is an intolerant religion.
So...does that mean that the "Islamophobes" were right after all? Evidently not. But the facts are grim:
After years of civil war and bloodshed and having failed to effectively respond to what some describe as genocide in Darfur, Sudan's government and judiciary have captured global attention with an outrageous verdict of guilt for a British school teacher for allegedly insulting Islam.

In a case in which it is clear that Gillian Gibbons did not intend to malign the Prophet Muhammad and that the children in her class had chosen the name Muhammad for their class teddy-bear, some might still question why she was not more culturally sensitive to a potential backlash. That said, school officials or the courts could have asked her to apologize for an inadvertent "mistake" in judgment. But instead, Gibbons who had made the decision and sacrifice to teach in Sudan, was found guilty of `insulting religion,' a victim to a court's distorted notion of Islamic law and justice.

The Sudanese case came on the heels of a recent decision by a Saudi Arabian court that sentenced a 19-year-old rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in prison. Instead of being appalled at the rape, the gang rape of a woman, a Justice Ministry statement is reported to have declared that the woman invited the sexual attack by seven men because she was in a parked car with a man who was not a relative.
While they are properly outraged by these miscarriages of justice, the authors predictably conclude with claims of moral equivalence, first between Muslim extremists and the "Far Right:"
At a time when Islam is under siege from Muslim extremists and extremists from the Far Right in Europe and America, the judiciaries of Sudan and Saudi Arabia have managed to reinforce the vilification of Islam and used Islamic law as a weapon rather than a yardstick for justice.
I understand how Islam is "under siege" by Muslim extremists; they blow people up. But who are the "Far Right extremists" who also are besieging Islam, and how, exactly, is this "siege" taking place? In the absence of any explanation, one wonders whether in the authors' view, criticism of radical Islam is somehow on a par with mass murder. They conclude with the familiar assertion of the moral equivalence of religions; in particular, of the varieties of religious "injustice and intolerance":
All our futures depend upon an ability to agree upon a global ethic, based upon mutual understanding and respect, that transcends our religious and cultural differences. Whatever our differences, there can never be an acceptable excuse for injustice and intolerance in the name of our religions.
As though Christians, Hindus, Buddhists or Jews were imprisoning people over teddy bears' names, or flogging women for the "crime" of being raped! The fact is that most of the Islamic world is backward economically, politically and culturally. To ignore this backwardness, and the extent to which a kind of madness, by no means limited to a handful of mass murderers, has taken root within many Islamic societies, is a willful blindness that serves no one's interest.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn weighs in here. He has also done some checking on the Georgetown professors who authored the Post piece, and notes here that Professor Esposito is one of the academics who recently signed an "open letter" that was reported in an Arabic newspaper under the headline "Christian leaders ask for Muslim forgiveness":
[W]e want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the "war on terror") many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbours. Before we "shake your hand" in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.
Esposito is no "Christian leader" and has no standing to apologize to anyone on behalf of Christianity. (It's not material to the present point, but when can we look forward to receiving an apology by Muslim "leaders" for their various invasions of Europe?) One could dismiss these people as complete goofballs, except that they are employed by a respected university and publish their drivel in the Washington Post.

Homosexual marriage still barred in Australia

Incoming Attorney-General Robert McClelland has said that the Labor party is unlikely to block a re-developed proposal to introduce same-sex civil unions in the Australian Capital Territory. The news comes as Attorney-General for the ACT Simon Corbell is planning to submit an amended civil partnerships bill, which would give same-sex couples legal recognition.

In an interview published in the Herald on Friday, Mr McClelland reemphasized that Labor would not be giving full marriage rights to same-sex couples, but would support couples having the same legal rights as de facto heterosexual couples. "I will have a look at what Simon Corbell is proposing and get some advice on it," Mr McClelland said. "We would be prepared to look at it with good faith rather than with the intention of obstructing it. The Labor Party has already resolved not to agree to gay marriage but we are given to examining appropriate forms of registration of de facto relationships, including same-sex de facto relationships."

Previous attempts to introduce same-sex civil union partnerships in the ACT were overturned by the Howard government.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


4 December, 2007

Insane Britain again: Grandmother who has brushed doorstep for 62 years told by council she could face court

Grandmother Betty Davies has swept the street clean outside her house for the past 62 years without so much as raising an eyebrow. The 88-year-old widow prides herself on keeping her front doorstep and pavement pristine. But after one of her daily tidy-ups, a council worker knocked on the door of her home in Splott, Cardiff, to warn her she could be taken to court. Mrs Davies was told she could be breaking litter laws and might be fined for brushing the leaves into the roadway.

Neighbours in the quiet terraced street immediately rushed to defend her and dubbed the warning "political correctness gone mad". The uproar forced council chiefs to climb down and assure residents they would not be fined for sweeping leaves into the road.

Mrs Davies, a retired school cook who has lived on her own since her husband Bryn died 20 years ago, was incredulous at how she had been treated. The grandmother of 13, who also has three great-grandchildren, said: "I was just doing what I've been doing for more than 60 years, keeping my front door neat and tidy. "I'm always afraid of people tripping over the pile up of leaves so I was sweeping them into the gutter in the road. "After I had spent a few minutes with my broom I had gone back into the house when there was a knock on the door. "It was a council worker in a fluorescent jacket who I had seen earlier clearing up on the other side of the street. "He said: 'Do you realise you could be fined for doing that'."

The pensionser said she had given the council worker a "piece of her mind" and told him "I've been doing that for 60-odd years, young man". She added: "I just couldn't believe it - it's the first time I've been given a telling-off for sweeping my front door clean. "I have always done it - it was the way my generation were brought up. "You would think they would spend their time chasing litterbugs and vandals rather than people who really care about their homes and the streets they live in."

The 88-year-old is regarded by her neighbours as one of the most houseproud women in Wilson Street, Splott, which is where singer Shirley Bassey grew up. Until just a couple of years ago she used to scrub the front doorstep and pavement on hands and knees but has had to give that up because of her age. Neighbour Sharon John, 32, said: "Betty is always jolly, very fit and healthy and gives a lot to the community. "To warn her about litter was completely uncalled for and council workers like this should just get a life."

Another neighbour, Mary Merchant, 59, said: "This is the same as children banned from playing hopscotch in the street - it's political correctness gone mad. "These street cleaners pick up pieces of rubbish with their ridiculous clippers instead of using proper brushes."

A Cardiff council spokesman said: "We apologise for the comments made to Mrs Davies. "We want to assure people we won't fine them for sweeping leaves onto the road from the front of their home."


Arizona craziness: Has your kitchen passed a health inspection?

For more than two decades, Earlene McDonald and her neighborhood friends have baked cookies to raise dough for their central Phoenix neighborhood. They cooked thousands of rum balls, rows of gingerbread and loads of other Christmas treats to sell to the crowds at the annual holiday home tour in the F.Q. Story Historic District. And, until this year, they did it all in the comfortable, familiar settings of their own kitchens.

The tradition changed after a visit last year by a Maricopa County health inspector who said she would snatch up the cookies because they weren't prepared in a kitchen approved by the county.

So, instead of mixing and measuring in their own homes, they gathered one night this week to bake away inside the gigantic kitchen of a professional catering company. "Last year, (an inspector) was going to have us throw them away, and I about had a heart attack," said McDonald, 68, who is in charge of the neighborhood cookie operation. "This is a tradition. All our neighbors love it."

At the peak of holiday cooking season, as Valley residents enjoy tamales, cookies, breads and cakes, county Department of Environmental Services officials want to raise public awareness about bake-sale guidelines. The guidelines have been on the books for decades and are meant to prevent contamination and food-borne illnesses such as hepatitis. The rules call for all food that is sold or given away to be prepared and packaged in a central location, such as restaurants or school cafeterias, that are regulated and inspected by county health inspectors. More neighborhood groups, such as the residents of F.Q. Story, are borrowing or renting kitchens to comply with the rules.

But for years, many neighborhood, school and civic groups have flown under the health-code radar, officials said, partly because they're unaware of the rules. Also, it's tough for health inspectors to keep track of the many fund-raisers that pop up in neighborhoods throughout the year....

The F.Q. Story crew didn't want to be put out of business this year. So on Tuesday night, a dozen women baked away at Personal Touch Catering in east Phoenix. Personal Touch allowed them to use the ovens for free. For hours, they scooped, rolled and baked dozens of types of dough onto baking trays. Wearing aprons and oven mitts, they made cappuccino chocolate-chip, sugar, chocolate-mint and peanut-butter cookies. They expect to sell the cookies for 25 cents to $1 apiece and expect to raise about $1,000. They'll use the money to help pay for streetlights.

"I was shocked about what happened last year because the holidays are regarding home cooking," said Sherie Jacobs, scooping up sugar-cookie dough. "It's so much more of a hassle this way. We had to package stuff, put stuff in containers, bring it down here. "If you're doing it in your own home, you can do it on your own schedule. It's fun to get together, but it's not what I'd call ideal."


Writer's speech 'too Christian' for carol service

The Royal Commonwealth Society is at the centre of an embarrassing row after it barred a well-known Roman Catholic commentator from attacking intolerance towards Christians at its annual carol service

Cristina Odone, the former deputy editor of the New Statesman, was to be one of the "celebrity readers" at the service in St Martin in the Fields church in central London next month, which is attended by diplomats and politicians.

But she has pulled out of the event, accusing the society of demonstrating exactly the kind of intolerance she had planned to criticise. "I am incandescent," she said. "I was told that the words I had written were not appropriate because the congregation would include people of little or no faith who presumably would be upset. Even more insultingly, I was asked instead to read a passage from Bertrand Russell, a militant atheist."

Ms Odone was invited three months ago to take part in the service alongside George Alagiah, the broadcaster, Gareth Thomas, the Government minister, and Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth Secretary General. As an experienced writer and broadcaster on religion, she was asked to write a short piece on the theme of "opportunities for all" that could be "political and controversial".

She developed the theme of secular intolerance towards believers of all faiths, from the British Airways worker suspended for wearing a cross to the Muslim schoolgirl banned from wearing the veil. "When it comes to expressing their faith, this country's believers have found that opportunities are blocked," Ms Odone wrote. "Whether it is the boss at work or the head at school, the local authority or the chattering classes, people of faith know that their worldview is under siege, and their allegiances under suspicion.

"To parade this allegiance by wearing a cross, a cap or a veil is red rag to the secularist bull. What little opportunity believers have to bear witness to their faith is being quashed. If you are black or gay or female, your plea for equal opportunity is met with respect, and your campaign is applauded by supporters. But not if you are a believer. In a culture increasingly hostile to God and his followers, expressions of faith have become taboo. The only opportunity we have is for silence."

Stuart Mole, the director-general of the society, an educational charity that promotes the Commonwealth and whose patron is the Queen, told her the script was not acceptable. He said it did not fit in with the overall theme of the readings, adding: "We also need to be mindful of the congregation, which will probably include quite a few drawn by the occasion and by the carols but who do not hold a deep (or even a shallow) faith."

Yesterday Ms Odone said: "I think there is a tremendous move to down play this country's Christian heritage, to silence, ridicule and marginalise religious belief. "They have shown precisely the kind of intolerance and disapproval of Christianity that I am talking about."

Mr Mole said he was "deeply sorry" Ms Odone felt unable to participate in the service but the tone of her script was too polemical for a "multi-faith" carol service. [Will the "carols" be restricted to Frosty the Snowman and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer too?]


"The Black KKK"

Post below lifted from Brutally Honest. See the original for links

Jason Whitlock, a black columnist writing for The Kansas City Star, is doing what will piss off the modern day civil rights movement. He's provocatively telling the truth:
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column originally appeared Wednesday, two days before Friday's arrests of four men in the shooting death of Sean Taylor.

There's a reason I call them the Black KKK. The pain, the fear and the destruction are all the same. Someone who loved Sean Taylor is crying right now. The life they knew has been destroyed, an 18-month-old baby lost her father, and, if you're a black man living in America, you've been reminded once again that your life is in constant jeopardy of violent death.

The Black KKK claimed another victim, a high-profile professional football player with a checkered past this time. No, we don't know for certain the circumstances surrounding Taylor's death. I could very well be proven wrong for engaging in this sort of aggressive speculation. But it's no different than if you saw a fat man fall to the ground clutching his chest. You'd assume a heart attack, and you'd know, no matter the cause, the man needed to lose weight.

Well, when shots are fired and a black man hits the pavement, there's every statistical reason to believe another black man pulled the trigger. That's not some negative, unfair stereotype. It's a reality we've been living with, tolerating and rationalizing for far too long.

When the traditional, white KKK lynched, terrorized and intimidated black folks at a slower rate than its modern-day dark-skinned replacement, at least we had the good sense to be outraged and in no mood to contemplate rationalizations or be fooled by distractions.

Our new millennium strategy is to pray the Black KKK goes away or ignores us. How's that working? About as well as the attempt to shift attention away from this uniquely African-American crisis by focusing on an "injustice" the white media allegedly perpetrated against Sean Taylor.

Within hours of his death, there was a story circulating that members of the black press were complaining that news outlets were disrespecting Taylor's victimhood by reporting on his troubled past. No disrespect to Taylor, but he controlled the way he would be remembered by the way he lived. His immature, undisciplined behavior with his employer, his run-ins with law enforcement, which included allegedly threatening a man with a loaded gun, and the fact a vehicle he owned was once sprayed with bullets are all pertinent details when you've been murdered.

Marcellus Wiley, a former NFL player, made the radio circuit Wednesday, singing the tune that athletes are targets. That was his explanation for the murders of Taylor and Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams and the armed robberies of NBA players Antoine Walker and Eddy Curry.

Really? Let's cut through the bull(manure) and deal with reality. Black men are targets of black men. Period. Go check the coroner's office and talk with a police detective. These bullets aren't checking W-2s.

Rather than whine about white folks' insensitivity or reserve a special place of sorrow for rich athletes, we'd be better served mustering the kind of outrage and courage it took in the 1950s and 1960s to stop the white KKK from hanging black men from trees. But we don't want to deal with ourselves. We take great joy in prescribing medicine to cure the hate in other people's hearts. Meanwhile, our self-hatred, on full display for the world to see, remains untreated, undiagnosed and unrepentant.

Our self-hatred has been set to music and reinforced by a pervasive culture that promotes a crab-in-barrel mentality. You're damn straight I blame hip hop for playing a role in the genocide of American black men. When your leading causes of death and dysfunction are murder, ignorance and incarceration, there's no reason to give a free pass to a culture that celebrates murder, ignorance and incarceration.

Of course there are other catalysts, but until we recapture the minds of black youth, convince them that it's not OK to "super man dat ho" and end any and every dispute by "cocking on your bitch," nothing will change. Does a Soulja Boy want an education?
There's more where that came from. Read it all. And understand the risks that Mr. Whitlock is taking here. A black man bucking the Al Sharpton/Jesse Jackson wing of the Civil Rights movement, a wing hell-bent not on stopping the troubles that ail young black America but on fomenting, for self gain, more problems. God bless Jason Whitlock. God protect him. God nurture his voice and allow it to spread. For the sake of young black men across the country.


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


3 December, 2007

Showdown at Sex Gap: Women's intrinsic math and science aptitude divides scientists

There are many more women than men at universities these days and these lulus are still talking of a "bias" against women? Evidence is obviously the least of their interests. Article below by Bruce Bower

Here's a good way to inflame the tempers of all those within earshot. Do as former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers did in 2005 and suggest that the relatively low number of high-achieving women in mathematics and science partly reflects a lack of an inherent aptitude for such pursuits. Summers lost his job in the campuswide tumult that followed his remarks. But in the ambiguous world of research on sex differences and their influence on math and science abilities, Summers' saga prompted new attempts to clarify what scientists know and how their data apply to education and test taking.

At an Oct. 1 meeting at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C., scientists tried to hash out why females lag behind males in math and science achievement. Participants focused considerable attention on a recent extensive review that found a place for sex-related biological disparities in explaining such achievement differences as well as on an earlier report that dismissed biology as a factor. The latter report was issued in 2006 by the 18-member Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, convened by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). "It is not lack of talent," the committee concluded, "but unintentional biases and outmoded institutional structures that are hindering the access and advancement of women" in technical fields.

Controversy greeted the NAS report, notes psychologist Susan M. Barnett of the University of Cambridge, England. Some researchers suggested that committee members held their own biases against acknowledging any sex-related biological differences in math and science aptitude. Enter a consensus statement, published in the August Psychological Science in the Public Interest, written by six researchers with varying takes on the reasons for sex differences. They conclude that "early experience, biological factors, educational policy, and cultural context affect the number of women and men who pursue advanced study in science and math" and that "these effects add and interact in complex ways."

Psychologist Diane F. Halpern of Claremont (Calif.) McKenna College directed work on the consensus statement. She also spoke about sex differences to the NAS committee during its deliberations. "Can we increase the number of women who enter careers in science and math? Yes," Halpern asserts. "Is there evidence of a sex-related biological component to success in science and math? Yes."

What difference? At the AEI sessions, two psychologists challenged the assumption that biology in any way undermines women's math and science proficiency. Psychologist Rosalind C. Barnett of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., noted that several research reviews-including analyses conducted by Janet S. Hyde of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a contributor to the consensus statement-find no or minimal sex differences in math and science aptitude. Although more males than females earn extremely high scores on standardized math tests, such scores predict surprisingly little about who will succeed in math and science careers, Barnett says. Among college-educated men with math, science, or engineering jobs, less than one-third scored 650 or better out of 800 on the math portion of the SAT.

Men's monopoly on high-level math and science achievements derives largely from unfair social and institutional advantages, the Brandeis psychologist says. For the past several hundred years, social forces have limited women's access to education and employment in the sciences, Barnett argues. Now, women receive the same education as men do but struggle against academic undercurrents of bias, she says.

One study, cited in the NAS report, evaluated peer-reviewers' ratings of applications for postdoctoral fellowships in Sweden. Researchers found that a woman had to be twice as productive as a man in publishing research and in other areas of scientific achievement in order to be judged equally competent.

Productivity aside, boys and girls possess the same three mental systems at the core of mathematical and scientific reasoning, according to Harvard University psychologist Elizabeth Spelke, a member of the NAS committee. "Evidence to date does not favor the hypothesis of a male advantage in intrinsic aptitude for math and science," Spelke says. From infancy on, in her view, all typically developing children rely on one mental system that represents and reasons about objects, another that represents and reasons about numbers, and a third that does the same for geometric relations. For instance, preschool-age boys and girls are equally adept at tracking items moving among distracting objects on a computer screen. Moreover, infants of both sexes recognize approximate quantities of items.

Spelke and her coworkers have also tested 6- to 10-year-olds in the United States and in a remote Amazonian population for the ability to recognize relationships among simple visual forms and basic geometric concepts, such as distance and angle. Overall, boys and girls performed comparably well on more than 40 geometric problems, Spelke says. Boys displayed superiority only on a mental-rotation problem, which requires a skill often incorrectly portrayed as the ultimate indicator of spatial ability, she argues.


Neuroscientist Richard J. Haier of the University of California, Irvine got plenty of flak 20 years ago when he talked about possible intelligence-related brain differences between men and women. Now he gets a friendlier reception from people who attend his public lectures, even if such work still makes many academics uneasy. "The NAS committee prematurely dismissed biological research on sex differences," Haier says. "The new consensus statement waffles a bit on the biological research as well." Men and women display comparable general-intelligence levels, on a measure derived from IQ scores. Yet the brain may foster intelligence differently in the two sexes, Haier suggests.

In the April Behavioral and Brain Sciences, he and Rex E. Jung of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque reviewed 37 brain scan investigations of intelligence published to date. They concluded that parts of the parietal and frontal cortex, in concert with a few other neural regions, form a network that orchestrates individual differences in intelligence and reasoning. Studies suggest that this network critically supports men's intellect, including mathematical reasoning, Haier says. The same brain network modestly contributes to how well women do on various achievement tests.

Two large investigations conducted by separate teams indicate that girls call on a more distributed network of neural areas during reasoning tasks than boys do. The new consensus statement suggests that male brains often rely on enhanced communication within each hemisphere, as indicated by measurements of large numbers of neural connections on each side of the brain in men. In contrast, female brains may specialize in communication across hemispheres, the consensus statement proposes, with extra assistance from language-related areas.

Neural clues coincide with what researchers know about the development of math and science expertise among mathematically talented youth. Researchers have tracked the accomplishments of more than 5,000 individuals from junior high school to middle age. As 12- to 13-year-olds, about 500 scored 700 or more on the SAT math test or 630 or more on the SAT verbal test, placing them within the top 1 percent of test takers. More boys than girls received the highest math scores, although this gap has narrowed over the past decade to about four boys for every girl.

A larger proportion of mathematically talented males than females entered math and science careers, according to psychologist and study director Camilla P. Benbow of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. However, mathematically talented girls displayed a broader range of verbal strengths than boys did and often achieved advanced degrees in areas that required all of their skills, such as law, medicine, and the social sciences. "Men choose more object-oriented jobs and women choose more people-oriented jobs, but so what?" remarks psychologist David Geary of the University of Missouri-Columbia. "Men and women report no differences in life satisfaction."

Neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen of the University of Cambridge in England suspects that sex differences involved in intelligence and social interest emerge early in life, possibly as a result of fetal exposure to varying levels of the sex hormone testosterone. In several studies conducted since 2002, his team has found that high testosterone concentrations-identified in amniotic fluid during pregnancy-predict a youngster's tendency to avoid eye contact and to display a limited vocabulary at age 18 months as well as to show oral-communication difficulties at age 4. These children typically show special interest in analyzing rule-based systems, involving computers, cars, and mathematics, for example. By age 8, they find it difficult to take another person's perspective and to react appropriately in social situations. Boys display elevated testosterone concentrations more often than girls do, although some girls show this pattern as well, Baron-Cohen says. He theorizes that autism develops in extreme cases of fetal-testosterone overload and often fosters mathematical talent, despite its other drawbacks.

Certain patterns of sex differences indicate that evolution sculpted male and female intellectual capacities along different lines, asserts Geary. For instance, in a 2005 study, school-age boys scored better on tests of spatial rotation and map reading than girls did, but only if the boys lived in middle- or upper-income families. Low-income children exhibited no such sex differences. In other words, Geary says, males showed a special sensitivity to poverty that eliminated their superiority on spatial tasks. This fits with the hypothesis that, by taking charge of long-distance journeys, big-game hunting, and warfare during the Stone Age, males evolved an affinity for spatial tasks. Early deprivation affects the brain in ways that undermine males' evolved spatial aptitude, Geary proposes. Still, the consensus statement, to which Geary contributed, notes that scientists sharply disagree about whether evolutionary forces lie behind the sex gap.


In 1995, psychologists Claude Steele of Stanford University and Joshua Aronson of New York University administered an achievement test to college students. One set of students was told that the test measured intelligence, whereas another group was told that the test was simply a research tool. Each group contained both black and white students. Whites performed much better than blacks when taking a purported intelligence test, but the racial groups scored comparably well when they regarded the same test more neutrally. Steele and Aronson attributed this result to what they called stereotype threat, a sense of discomfort and distraction arising from subtle reminders of a group's negative reputation in a situation. For example, anxiety about having read that blacks do poorly on IQ tests might have interfered with black students' performance on the "intelligence test."

Numerous laboratory studies have implicated stereotype threat as a drain on the intellectual abilities and test proficiency of women as well as blacks. At the AEI meeting, Aronson described a study in which female college students performed especially poorly compared to male students on a spatial rotation test after having been asked to indicate their sex. However, much of the sex-related disparity disappeared when male and female test-takers were first reminded that they all attended an elite college. "Cultural ideas about group differences can exacerbate or lessen those differences," Aronson says. "Intervention can boost performance and nurture intelligence so that biology need not mean destiny."

However, stereotype-threat research draws fire for saying little about real-world, high-stakes testing situations. "The claims routinely made on behalf of stereotype threat are vastly exaggerated," says neurologist and law professor Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She uses social science research to examine public-policy issues.

Stereotype-threat studies often begin by statistically adjusting for the unequal prior test scores of men and women or of blacks and whites. Performance is then contrasted between groups either exposed to or protected from stereotype threat. Psychologist Paul R. Sackett of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and his coworkers argue that this approach indicates only that, absent stereotype threat, men and women, or blacks and whites, would display the same achievement gaps as they did before the experiment. Moreover, stereotype-threat studies have not examined male and female samples that reflect the sex gap in math performance observed in the general population. As a result, it's impossible to estimate whether stereotype threat accounts for 90 percent of that gap, 5 percent of it, or some other proportion, Wax says.

Psychologist Lawrence J. Stricker of the Education Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., doubts that stereotype threat sways scores on actual achievement tests. In a 2004 study, Stricker and a colleague collected information on race and sex either before or after 1,652 high school students took an advanced-placement test in calculus. The researchers did the same for 1,341 incoming community college students taking a battery of placement tests. Stereotype threat, in the form of being reminded of one's race and sex before the test, did not lower women's calculus or math scores. Neither did it lower black students' overall scores on the two tests.

However, a reanalysis of Stricker's data using a looser statistical standard of success found that stereotype threat indeed lowered women's calculus scores. Psychologists Kelly Danaher and Christian S. Crandall, both of the University of Kansas in Lawrence, estimate that 5.9 percent more women and 4.7 percent fewer men would receive passing scores if they indicated their sex after taking the test rather than before. This "simple, small, and inexpensive change" would boost the number of U.S. women receiving advanced-placement calculus credit by more than 4,700 annually, Crandall says. Stricker calls that conclusion "sensational but unwarranted." Crandall's projection is unreliable because the original advanced-placement sample was not chosen to represent the sex gap among all test takers, he says.

However this dispute shakes out, the rampant sexism that math- and science-oriented women struggled against in past decades shows signs of decay. As one young woman who recently earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and pharmacology put it at the AEI meeting, "Most of my professors didn't look up from their podium long enough to realize that I was a woman, much less care. When I would fail an exam, I wouldn't say, 'Gosh, I wish my brain was more predisposed to science.' It was 'I really should have studied a hell of a lot harder than I did.'"

Science News Online, Week of Nov. 24, 2007; Vol. 172, No. 21


Dutch lawmaker planning film criticizing the Quran

A Dutch conservative lawmaker said Wednesday he is making a film to highlight what he describes as "fascist" passages in the Quran, his latest high profile criticism of Islam. The interior and justice ministers said they were concerned, but believed they had no authority to prevent the lawmaker, Geert Wilders, from screening his film. Wilders plans to depict parts of the Quran he says are used as inspiration "by bad people to do bad things." Less than 10 minutes long, the film is expected to air in late January. It will show "the intolerant and fascist character of the Quran," said Wilders, whose anti-Islam campaign helped his Freedom Party win nine seats in parliament in last year's election.

In the past, Wilders has said that half the Quran should be torn up and compared it with Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf." He has claimed the Netherlands is being swamped by a "tsunami" of Islamic immigrants. Immigrants from Muslim countries number about 1 million of the country's 16 million people.

Wilders' planned broadcast is reminiscent of the film "Submission" - a fictional study of abused Muslim women with scenes of near-naked women with Quranic texts engraved on their flesh. "Submission" director Theo van Gogh was shot and had his throat slit by a Muslim extremist on an Amsterdam street in 2004. Prominent Muslim critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who wrote the screenplay, was threatened in a note left on Van Gogh's body. She now lives under round-the-clock protection in the United States.

Justice Ministry spokesman Wim van der Weegen said the government is "taking measures" before the broadcast of Wilders' film. He declined to elaborate. "Based on the discussion, the ministers have expressed concern," Van der Weegen said. "But at the same time (they) have said that Mr. Wilders has freedom of expression."

Wilders said he is not afraid of reprisals if his film angers Muslims. "I have lived with 24-hour protection for three years," he said. "I will make the film and see what reaction it creates." Dutch Muslim leaders did not immediately return calls seeking comment.



`Why make a big deal about free speech?' a student asked me after one of my lectures recently. Such a cynical attitude towards the principle of free speech is common today. An army of self-selected censors is currently demanding: `How dare the Oxford Union invite Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, and the anti-Semitic historian David Irving to participate in one of its debates?' The fevered response to tonight's debate on free speech and extremism at the Oxford Union highlights the exhaustion of a genuine democratic commitment to freedom of expression. If there is one powerful argument in favour of holding the debate, it is as a way of countering this illiberal outlook.

There was a time when those who called themselves radical or progressive marched and struggled for the realisation of the right to freedom of speech. These days, so-called progressives are far more likely to demonstrate against the right of people that they don't like to speak openly. They demand the censorship of public expressions of extremist views. Mainstream public figures and officials embrace the role of the censor, and proclaim that freedom of speech is not an `absolute right'. In an era that finds it difficult to uphold any absolutes - absolute truth, absolute good - the devaluation of speech from an absolute freedom to a conditional one fits in well with the prevailing `common sense'. However, once a right ceases to be an `absolute', it becomes a negotiable commodity. Devaluing the freedom of speech so that it becomes a relative right (in other words, a privilege) simply means upholding the right to speak of those whom we like, and censoring the views of people we find obnoxious or offensive.

The censorious response to the Oxford Union debate comes at a time when attacks on freedom of speech are being widely institutionalised. In recent years, numerous laws have been introduced to punish various forms of speech as `incitement to religious hatred', `glorifying terrorism' or `expressing homophobic views'. The New Labour government is set to launch a new crusade against the expression of extremist views on university campuses. Such illiberal attitudes are not confined to Labour. Julian Lewis, the Tory shadow defence secretary, sought to capture the limelight with his very public resignation from the Oxford Union over the Irving/Griffin debate. Of course, Lewis informed us, he is not against free speech - well, he is not absolutely against it. `I think there are people who are confusing this with an issue of free speech', he said. In fact, there is no confusion here; this is a free speech issue.

The moral rehabilitation of censorship

Censorship, of course, has a long history. In Roman times, two magistrates, or `censors', were charged not only with counting the population but also with supervising public morals. Although in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries censorship was frequently driven by a political imperative, its aim remained essentially to police moral behaviour. Twenty-first censorship continues this tradition. Yet today, censorship is not simply pursued by the state or religious authorities; advocacy groups, educators, media organisations and professionals are also actively engaged in rhetorical crusades to ban certain words and/or to promote their own favoured view of the world.

In modern times there has never been an era such as ours, where language is so carefully regulated and policed by both public and private institutions. The main reason for this development is the ascendancy of the belief that words can hurt people far more than we previously suspected, and that people have a right to be protected from harmful words. It is a sign of the times that, today, acts of censorship are not seen for what they really are: the coercive regulation of everyday communication and the repression and stigmatisation of certain ideas. Instead, they tend to be looked upon as enlightened attempts to prevent people from being offended or as a sensible way of minimising conflict.

Words are frequently depicted as weapons that can traumatise and psychologically damage their targets. As a result, the right to free speech often competes with the right not to be offended. From this standpoint, censorship is perceived, not as a form of authoritarian intrusion, but as an enlightened measure designed to protect the vulnerable from pain. The idea that language offends is not new, of course. But the notion that because offensive speech can have a damaging impact on people it must be closely regulated signals an important departure from the past. This new view of speech is based on a radical redefinition of human subjectivity. It assumes that people lack the intellectual resources to deal with competing ideas. And a public that apparently lacks independence of thought or moral autonomy must be protected from making the wrong choices in the marketplace of ideas. At a time when ideas are seen as being potentially dangerous, their suppression can be represented as an act of public service.

The desire to protect individuals from painful words is underwritten by a powerful new cultural script. This means that, today, there is only a very feeble cultural affirmation for freedom of speech. Indeed, one often gets the impression that academics and public figures are more interested in criticising the ideal of free speech than they are in upholding it. Many thinkers seem unperturbed by the role of the state in policing speech. Thus the original impetus behind the demand for free speech - which was based on a fear of the power of the state to censor and persecute people for their beliefs and words - is dismissed as an historical footnote. Those who are concerned about state intervention into public debate are looked upon as having an old-fashioned and irrelevant obsession.

Perversely, some so-called progressive thinkers and activists go so far as to associate free speech with elite privilege. Freedom of speech is seen as something that protects the status of the powerful and negates the views or feelings of the oppressed and the vulnerable. This radical reinterpretation of the role of free speech is paralleled by a fundamental redefinition of what constitutes the problem: for today's critics of free speech, the locus of the problem is not the state but the domain of interpersonal relations. They focus their concern on individual forms of speech that wound those without power. This individualisation of the role of speech overlooks the institutional and cultural influences on public debate, as protecting the individual from psychological pain is seen as being logically prior to upholding the right to free speech. From this twisted worldview, state censorship actually has a positive role to play. Through enforcing laws that apparently protect people from hate and hurt, state censorship comes to be looked upon as championing the powerless.

Critics of the Oxford Union debate argue that the presence of racist speakers offends minority students and could lead to violence. However, history shows that certain ideas will always offend someone. There is no serious form of public speech that hurts absolutely no one. And as the American Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked, `every idea is an incitement'. Those of us who believe in the formidable power of human intelligence need to remember these words, and dismiss the idea that free speech is not an absolute right as a very bad idea.


Another absurd piece of paranoia from the British Left

British Leftists hate America and Israel so much because America and Israel are both success-stories -- but the Left would look pathetic if they admitted that so they have to come out with some other cock-and-bull claim

Apartheid against Christians is practiced to various degrees -- sometimes to a severe degree -- by Arab states in the Middle East but the British Left says that it is Israel that is the apartheid state. America saved British independence twice in two world wars but the heading on the article below was "We fret over Europe, but the real threat to sovereignty has long been the US"

One knows something is important when the powers that be choose not to acknowledge it in public. Since 1945, Britain has been subject to at least three invasions. Two of these invasions have been massively discussed, and are widely viewed as having challenged and complicated understandings of what it means to be British. The empire came home, in that migrants from former overseas colonies settled here in large numbers, as they never had before the war; and Britain joined what is now the European Union, and became subject to interventions of different kinds emanating from Brussels.

The third post-1945 invasion was just as momentous, yet official and media silence about it is usually deafening. Since 1947, there have been US military bases in the UK: something that would have been unthinkable before 1939.

Schoolchildren in the United States are still taught that London's decision to keep 10,000 troops in the colonies after 1763 was one of the precipitants of the American revolution. Yet, according to the available statistics, over 10,500 US military personnel were stationed in the UK as late as 2005, a higher total than in any other European state, barring Germany and Italy, both defeated in the second world war. In all, well over 1.3 million US personnel have been stationed here since 1950, without - so far as I know - any consultation of the electorate.

It is not the exact number of these troops, however, but what they represent that is significant - namely London's postwar position of considerable clientage to Washington in terms of foreign policy and much else.

To refer to these subjects is to invite accusations of anti-Americanism. But I am not anti-American. I have worked in the US for 20 years. My point is not American power, but rather the double standard that characterises so much British political discourse. Sections of the media and members of both major parties have been all too eager to bang the autonomy drum when it comes to Europe. But there is a marked unwillingness to analyse the challenges to British independence from US influence; and those touching on the subject are swiftly denounced.

The usual rationalisation for this double standard is that the EU threatens Britain's internal way of life, while its relationship with the US does not. This is palpably absurd. Even leaving aside its military bases, America's influence on the domestic ordering of British life has been enormous, though sometimes unrecognised. The central place of deposit for Britain's historic archives at Kew, for instance, used to be called the Public Record Office, but is now re-named the National Archives. Why? Presumably because this is what the US styles its central place of archival deposit in Washington.

More here


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


2 December, 2007

Sssh, all ye faithful! British cop stops school carol singers because 'they are too loud'

No doubt it was intolerance of anything Christian behind this

First the shopping centre security guard stepped in. Then it was the turn of a police officer. But it wasn't drunken youths or shoplifters who required their attention. It was a group of enthusiastic carol singers from a local primary school. The children, aged between six and 11, were told they were singing too loudly.

Parents and many of the shoppers who had enjoyed the carols were astonished by the intervention. "They were a small group singing to raise money and they were singing beautifully," their headmaster Ian Jones yesterday. "After a bit a security guard came over and said we had only meant to be singing for one hour and could we please stop. "I just said 'No', because I knew we were allowed to sing between 11am and 3pm. He said he had complaints from tenants that we were too loud. "I just asked how he proposed to stop children singing. In the end he said we would have to stop or he would call the police."

The 29 pupils from Ysgol San Sior school, aged between six and 11, had permission to sing at the Victoria Centre in Llandudno, North Wales, last Saturday to raise funds for the school. "I couldn't believe what they were saying," added Mr Jones. "Some of the parents were incredulous. A member of the public came over and said she thought the singing was fantastic."

Then a Police Community Support Officer arrived and shortly afterwards Mr Jones decided he and his pupils should pack up. Organiser Debbie Ankers, whose nine-year-old daughter was singing, said: "To begin with, I thought it was a joke - it was just ridiculous. "They were asking us to leave but we couldn't just leave when we had children there with parents coming later to pick them up."

Sue Nash, manager of the Victoria Centre, admitted last night that security staff should not have intervened. "It was quite loud apparently, and we have had problems with acoustics in the centre whenever we have had live music here," she said. "It was a misunderstanding but it has all been sorted now. Mistakes do happen." The pupils will be allowed to return to perform their carols at the centre this weekend - and will not be required to sing quietly.


Discrimination against heterosexuals

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air have announced a new program that will charge heterosexuals 10 percent extra for their air travel to specific locations during the Christmas season. The company actually offers the 10 percent as a discount but only if the purchaser obtains the ticket through a "gay" page of the company's website, a location not typically patronized by families seeking travel arrangements, according to an Idaho activist who was distressed by the offering. Bryan Fischer, of the Idaho Values Alliance, told WND the company boasts of its "nondiscrimination" policies, but, "here they are blatantly discriminating against heterosexuals in their pricing structure."

Word of the discount came through an airline employee, who needed to remain anonymous because of concerns over retaliation. The employee reported the company had sent e-mails out announcing the "very soft launch" of the new promotion. "They are giving preferences to male passengers who want to wear dresses on the planes, and giving them preference over married couples," Fischer said, noting families typically buy more tickets than individuals or pairs traveling together. "It just doesn't seem like it's smart business for them to stick their thumb in the eye of the main passengers," he told WND. He said he had called the company's reservations number and the clerk was unaware of the program and it didn't come up on the general list of discounts available to reservations agents, but he did verify that the "gay" page discount was valid - but only by going through the "gay" page.

"The only way you could take advantage of this is to self-identify as a homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Otherwise you're out of luck," Fischer told WND. The actual program, he noted, doesn't demand a person be homosexual, but is set up so that only those deliberately looking for "gay" travel options would find it.

A spokeswoman for the airline, Amanda Bielawski, returned WND's call requesting a comment, but didn't answer questions, noting that she didn't know about the program. Then she quizzed WND on who had given the news organization information on the program. The airline also at some point after WND inquired changed the headline on the page from "Gay Travel" to "New York City on Sale" but it still appeared to be available only through a direct "gay travel" web page, and couldn't be located through the airline's general reservations web site. It wasn't listed on the page that was supposed to reference "promo/all_deals". The promotion appeared only under a page citing "gaytravel/LGBT-NYC-Sale."

Fischer said he'd been told by sources the corporation viewed the homosexual community as a "gigantic profitable segment of the market." The company earlier had an offer to travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, under its "gay" discount, and currently is offering discounted "holiday" travel. "Lucky travelers who immediately switch their sexual orientation from heterosexual to anything else can qualify for a special 10 percent discount for holiday travel to New York City," noted Fischer. "All they have to do, according to Alaska, is enter a special discount code "when you purchase your tickets at [the "gay" web page].

"Alaska is basically imposing a 10 percent surcharge for these destinations on travelers who are sexually normal. It's certainly odd to see such blatant discrimination against heterosexuals from a company that claims to be all about equal treatment for everyone," Fischer said. "It's always a mistake for a company to establish policies that normalize homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism, but to add insult to injury by penalizing straights in the process is inexcusable," he said.

The airline's special page also promotes flights to events such as the "5th Los Angeles LGBT People of Color Film Festival," and the "8th International Conference of Gay and Lesbian Tourism."


Racist Democrats

They are incapable of judging people on their individual merits. Group membership is all they care about. Post below lifted from Taranto. See the original for links

An appalled reader calls our attention to the front page of yesterday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, shown nearby--specifically, to that headline in the middle of the page that reads "Should I Vote for OBAMA Because of My RACE? . . . or Vote for [MRS.] CLINTON Because of My GENDER?" The online version doesn't use that headline, but it makes clear that the AJC isn't the first to ask the question:
The dozen or so Spelman College women had come together in a basement classroom, after hours, to hash over a choice unimaginable just a few generations back. Fliers posted across campus summed up the thrust of their conversation: "Should you vote for Barack Obama because of your race, or should you vote for Hillary Clinton because you are a woman?"...

Desiree Pedescleaux, associate professor of political science at Spelman, said the majority of black women in Atlanta will vote for Obama because of their strong identification with race. She says some black women may support Clinton because of deep admiration or because they view her as the Democratic candidate most likely to succeed. But on an emotional level, Pedescleaux argues, race will trump gender. "When an African-American woman walks into a room, what do most people see first?" she asked. "They see race. They see her as black before she is a woman."
This article perpetuates a stereotype of black women as prejudiced on the basis of race or sex, and as making political judgments based on these traits rather than on more important ones such as ability, character and policy positions. Would someone care to explain to us why this stereotype is not an invidious one?

Australia: Attacks on Jews reach a record high

It's all those German immigrants, of course

ATTACKS on the Jewish community are at a high, following 638 reports covering assault, vandalism, intimidation and harassment in the year to the end of September. This is twice the previous annual average and 8 per cent higher than the previous record year, 2002.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry meeting in Melbourne this week heard that the attacks mainly occurred in Sydney and Melbourne, the home of the country's largest Jewish communities. "In other cities, you are not going to have large groups of people walking to and from synagogues on the weekend," said former council member Jeremy Jones, who compiled the annual audit. It was not clear what caused the jump in reporting, he said.

Mr Jones has been monitoring anti-Semitic actions and formally reporting them to the council since 1989. In one case this year in Melbourne, an orthodox Jewish man was verbally abused and punched in the face while walking to his synagogue. In another, a Jewish school student was physically assaulted on a public bus in Sydney. Graffiti in inner Melbourne included "F..k Jews", while "Die Juden" and "We hate Jews" were discovered at a Sydney primary school.

Although the rate of abusive phone calls, email and mail was relatively low, there was a disturbing trend towards the use of new communications platforms. "Online communities, Facebook and Youtube in particular, have been the venues of crude and intense anti-Jewish prejudice being expressed openly and unashamedly," Mr Jones said. There was no reason to believe Australians in general thought of Jewish people negatively, Mr Jones said.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


1 December, 2007

Take That, You Little Cracker!

Post below lifted from Taranto. See the original for links

Here's an appalling press release from the University of Texas:
Challenging the idea that racism education could be harmful to students, a new study from The University of Texas at Austin found the results of learning about historical racism are primarily positive. The study appears in the November/December issue of the journal Child Development.

Psychologists Rebecca Bigler and Julie Milligan Hughes found white children who received history lessons about discrimination against famous African Americans had significantly more positive attitudes toward African Americans than those who received lessons with no mention of racism. African-American children who learned about racism did not differ in their racial attitudes from those who heard lessons that omitted the racism information, the study showed...

Both white and black children who learned about racism were more likely to value racial fairness and to express greater satisfaction with the lesson. White children whose lessons included information on discrimination showed more defensiveness, had more racial guilt (if they were older than 7) and were less likely to accept stereotypical views about African Americans.
Breaking down stereotypes is all well and good, but what kind of sicko thinks it's "positive" to make 7-year-olds feel guilty about the color of their skin?

Cross-dressing day sparks school exodus

Parents pull students from district, citing conflicts with biblical rules

A public school's "gender-bender" cross-dressing event, where boys were supposed to dress as girls and girls as boys, has prompted at least dozens, perhaps hundreds, of students to flee the tax-supported institutions in Iowa. Many of the parents apparently are members of the Christ Apostolic Temple in Des Moines, which teaches a biblically based doctrine of rejecting the world's values. "Christ Apostolic Temple Inc. Fellowship ... is a Bible-based organization that believes one must 'come out from among them and be ye separate.' (2 Cor. 6:14-17)," the organization's website says.

That apparently includes cross-dressing, an event which has found sponsorship in other arenas from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which has promoted a school lesson plan for teaching boys and girls to cross-dress.

State officials in Des Moines confirmed to WND that at least 80 children whose parents were alarmed by the "Gender-Bender Day" during homecoming week at the city's East High School have moved their children from the various districts in the area into homeschooling plans. Several parents told WND that the number could be in the hundreds.


Barb Heki is a board member for the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, and was ecstatic about the parental response. "I'm just praising God there is a church with so many families that would take a biblical stand and decide that we're not going to put our children under anti-Christian indoctrination any longer. That's refreshing and encouraging," she told WND.

A mother whose children were taken out of the public schools because of the cross-dressing promotion didn't want to be identified, but told WND she knows of probably 200 families who filled out state-required paperwork to withdraw their children from public schools. "What it is is we're following the Bible," she told WND. "There was a situation that took place, which was the gender bender day. Our children were to participate in the cross-dressing. When they refused they were told they would get a bad grade..." "The situation came out, and everybody was disgusted," she said. "Well, we're not doing it. All we did was pulled our kids out. Nothing more to be said or done."

Officials with Christ Apostolic Temple, which describes itself as an apostolic holiness fellowship, couldn't be reached for comment. But parents who talked to WND said it was a move of parents, nothing mandated or organized by the church.

An advertisement in the Des Moines newspaper said the event was part of the theme days for the school's homecoming events. "Tuesday, dress in clothing of the opposite sex for Gender Bender Day," were the instructions. Other days were "Movie Theme Day," and "Spirit Day." Phil Roeder, a spokesman for the Des Moines schools, told WND that the event was nothing unusual. "There were a couple of calls at the office at the school from parents that were concerned," he told WND. But he said the district itself had not seen any unusual activity regarding homeschooling. "Let's just say the numbers you are hearing are greatly exaggerated," Roeder told WND. "Events like this at a high school are part of homecoming week activities and certainly are not mandated events. They're voluntary activities that the students put on. "Now if the parents had any indication that their students were coerced or bullied then that's another matter. They've not brought that to my knowledge," he said.

State officials said the list of 80 students they had reviewed included students from virtually all grades and dozens of schools in several districts, making it unlikely a single district would have a large number of students affected... State law in Iowa also provides parents a tax credit for some costs of students attending "accredited" schools, but does not allow homeschooling parents the same benefit.

State Education Department officials said they had provided information to the church members about their rights and responsibilities should they choose to start a private school, or pursue homeschooling options. "Let us see what the word of God says about the matter." wrote the parent blogger. "Deut. 22:5. The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God."

The Pacific Justice Institute reports that in a prior school year, a California school dealt with the same issue. Officials at Adams Middle School in the Bay Area had announced a "gender switch" day. "The mother of a seventh-grade student . was alarmed when she heard that on the last day of the school's 'Spirit Week,' students were being encouraged to dress like the opposite sex. Perhaps even more disturbingly, parents were given virtually no advance notice from the school and found out about the event after flyers were posted throughout the campus," PJI reported. "The parent contacted Pacific Justice Institute on Monday, which advised her on enlisting other parents' support and communicating with the school. PJI also began laying the groundwork to hold the school accountable. In a 180-degree turnaround, the flyers posted about the gender switch day had disappeared by Tuesday morning, and the school confirmed the event had been canceled."

The principal, Adam Clark, had said he wanted to encourage students to be "free thinkers," but the "overall message wasn't coming across clear." "We commend the parents in this school who said, 'Enough is enough' and challenged the administration to re-think its position," Brad Dacus, president of PJI, said at the time. "No student should be made to feel uncomfortable at school simply because he doesn't want to cross-dress."


We've been robbed of our Englishness

Says Jeremy Clarkson

As the nation settled down on Wednesday night to watch England play Croatia, I sensed an air of optimism in the land. A feeling that all would be well. I mean hey, England were holding their own against Brazil when Croatia didn't even exist as a nation state. So what chance would these swarthy-looking Yugo-ruffians have? They were minnows in a tank of sharks. They weren't going to be beaten. They were going to be eaten.

Hmmm. I'm afraid I knew we were going to lose moments before the match began. I looked at our players mumbling their way through the national anthem and realised they didn't really care about playing for England. Because they don't really know what England is. And truth be told, neither do I.

When I was their age it was crystal clear. Newspapers would report: "Fog in the Channel: Europe cut off." Peter Ustinov would arrive at JFK airport and, having studied the signs saying "US citizens" and "Aliens", he'd ask a security guard where the British should go. We were separate, different, better.

We had hardback dark blue passports with a personal message from the Queen on the inside cover "requiring" that foreign border guards allow the bearer to do whatever he or she pleased without let or hindrance. Slap one of those down on a Frenchman's desk and the crack of invitation grade cardboard would have the greasy little oik sitting up straight; that's for sure.

We had saved the world from tyranny so often we'd lost count; we'd brought decency, truth and cricket to every continent and every coral pinprick. We'd sailed iron steamships into America when they were still using coracles. We were defined by our brilliance, our superiority, our technical know-how.

Today, things are rather different. Mention the war and you'll be told by an outreach counsellor that we must empathise with the Germans, who are coming to terms with their mistakes of the past. "And you know, children, it was actually the British who invented concentration camps . . ."

Empire? When I was at school, teachers spoke with pride about how a little island in the north Atlantic turned a quarter of the world pink, but now all teachers talk about is the slave trade and how we must hang our heads in shame.

Right. So we must forgive Germany for invading Poland. But I must beat myself to death every night because my great-great-great-grandad moved some chap from a hellhole in Ghana to Barbados. In fact I can't even say we're British any more because then all of Scotland would rush over the border, pour porridge down my trousers and push a thistle up my bottom.

I believe people need to feel like they're part of a gang, part of a tribe. And I also believe we need to feel pride in our gang. But all we ever hear now is that we in England have nothing to be proud about. In a world of righteousness we are the child molesters and rapists. Our soldiers were murderers. Our empire builders were thieves. Our class system was ridiculous and our industrial revolution set in motion a chain of events that, eventually, will kill every polar bear in the Arctic.

And it gets so much worse. Because if you say you are a patriot, men with beards and sandals will come round to your house in the night and daub BNP slogans on your front door. This is the only country in the world where the national flag is deemed offensive. Small wonder the England players were disinclined to sing the national anthem with any gusto. It's in English and that's offensive too. Unless it's simultaneously translated into Urdu, for the deaf.

Then there's our national character. In the past, boys were told in school assembly that their mothers had died and were expected to get over it in a nice game of rugby. Crying only happened abroad. Not any more. We were ordered to weep like Americans when Diana died, and no local news report is complete today without some fat oik sobbing because his house has fallen over. I sometimes get the impression Kate McCann is being hounded precisely because she has a stiff upper lip.

Every day we read obituaries about men who pressed on with the attack on a German machinegun nest even though their arms and legs had been blown off. Today disabled people get a statue in Trafalgar Square just because they got pregnant. Tomorrow all the obituaries will be for those who saved others from certain death by insisting they wear high visibility jackets. Cowardice is the new bravery.

As for that wounded soldier seen recently sporting a T-shirt that said: "I went to Afghanistan and all I got was this crappy false leg," I call that typically English. But not any more. It's appalling. A slight on disabled people. And you shouldn't have been in Afghanistan in the first place, you baby killer.

Do you see? We can't be proud of our past because it's all bad, we can't use British humour because it's offensive and we can't use understatement to deal with a crisis because the army of state-sponsored counsellors say we've got to sob uncontrollably at every small thing.

I want to end with a question. It's addressed to all the equal opportunity, human rights, diet carbon, back room, bleeding heart liberals who advise the government: "I am English. Why is that a good thing?" I bet they don't have an answer. And until they can come up with one, chances are we'll never win at football again.


British farms kiss goodbye to stiles and gates to allow wheelchair access

Stiles and kissing gates are the latest aspects of country life to fall victim to political correctness. They have been a familiar feature of the landscape for centuries, but local authorities now believe that installing them along footpaths and rights of way is a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This law requires public services to make "reasonable adjustments" to allow disabled access.

A number of councils have identified stiles and kissing gates as obstructions for people with mobility problems or with visual impairments. Some want stiles banned and kissing gates replaced by larger ones that allow wheelchair access. The move is also part of the Government's attempt to encourage more people to visit the countryside and to learn more about farms and the provenance of food.

Some parish councils are concerned about the look of new gates and about losing long-established stiles over fences, walls and hedgerows. Farmers are questioning why they should pay for new access points when some are used just three or four times a year.

Suffolk County Council is looking at replacement gates that will allow wheelchair access but keep livestock secure. Guy McGregor, the Conservative council member responsible for roads and transport, said: "We have an obligation to provide access to footpaths for everyone. The problem is that many kissing gates are virtually impossible to use if you are in a wheelchair. Stiles are no use for people in wheelchairs and are just as difficult for parents with children in buggies.There are landowners who are not interested in any access at all and so where there are rights of way it is down to the council to pay and install gates. The larger kissing gates cost 250 pounds and there are hundreds that need replacement throughout the county. Yet our transport grant has been cut by 1.5 million pounds this year."

John Collen, a cattle farmer and chairman of the National Farmers' Union in Suffolk, is concerned about the risk of animals escaping. "Kissing gates do a splendid job keeping livestock secure and allowing public access. It is difficult to see what alternatives there could be," he said.

He added: "A lot of footpaths crossing fields are unsuitable for wheelchairs. Are we going to see paths across fields hard-surfaced so they can be used by wheelchairs at any time?" The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that it did not expect all gates to be replaced overnight. It said: "Where a kissing gate or stile is an historic feature there is no reason why it could not be left in place alongside a structure that is easier to use for those with mobility problems."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.