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31 January, 2007
"Hurray! We're Capitulating!"
The prevailing feeling among Muslims is that they are being abused by the West. What should we do about it? We might as well surrender. After all, we're already on our way says Broder. The excerpts below are from Henryk M. Broder's German book "Hurra, Wir Kapitulieren," ("Hurray! We're Capitulating").
Ten years ago, in the spring of 1996, the world still seemed more or less okay. The towers of the World Trade Center dominated the Manhattan skyline, the American president had an affair with an intern, the Helmut Kohl era was coming to an end in Germany, and intellectuals killed time by debating over whether Francis Fukuyama was right in claiming that we have reached the "end of history" and whether capitalism had truly triumphed or socialism had merely lost the first round. In those days few were aware of the fine distinction between Islam and Islamism.
One had to look very closely to recognize the first signs of a brewing crisis. In Berlin, the Rote GrĀtze theater group was performing an enlightening piece called "Who Said Anything About Love?" To advertise the play, posters depicting a young man and a young woman, naked and full of innocence, were handed out in schools.
The schools had no qualms about displaying the posters, until a school official from Berlin's Tiergarten district requested a permit from the city's education authority. The agency turned down the request, arguing that the poster could hurt "the feelings of non-Christian pupils." The education authority was acting preventively and with what amounted to exaggerated concern for a cultural minority that had yet to be integrated into permissive German society. No Muslim pupils had complained about hurt feelings, nor had their parents expressed concerns about immoral harassment.
That was 10 years ago. Today everything has changed, except the resolve not to hurt the feelings of Muslims. The issue today no longer revolves around a group of Berlin pupils with an "immigration background," but around 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide -- many of whom are thin-skinned and unpredictable. At issue is freedom of opinion, one of the central tenets of the Enlightenment and democracy. And whether respect, consideration and tolerance are the right approach to dealing with cultures that, for their part, behave without respect, consideration or tolerance when it comes to anything they view as decadent, provocative and unworthy -- from women in short skirts to cartoons they deem provocative without even having seen them.....
A year ago on Feb. 3, 2006, a "Day of Anger" was proclaimed. Across the Muslim world, the Muhammad cartoons were the focus of Friday prayers. Millions of Muslims who couldn't even locate Denmark on a map demonstrated against these insults to the Prophet, incited by their imams. The embassies of Denmark and Norway were set on fire in Damascus, the Danish embassy was torched in Beirut, firebombs were hurled at the Danish consulate in Tehran, and Danish and Norwegian flags were burned in Nigeria and Algeria.
In the past, an attack on an embassy would have been reason enough to go to war. But this time the affected countries did their utmost to "de-escalate." The victims were repentant and begged the perpetrators for forgiveness. Indeed, the West was intent on not doing anything that could possibly give offense and cause these fanatical Muslims to become even angrier.
Objectively speaking, the cartoon controversy was a tempest in a teacup. But subjectively it was a show of strength and, in the context of the "clash of civilizations," a dress rehearsal for the real thing. The Muslims demonstrated how quickly and effectively they can mobilize the masses, and the free West showed that it has nothing to counter the offensive -- nothing but fear, cowardice and an overriding concern about the balance of trade. Now the Islamists know that they are dealing with a paper tiger whose roar is nothing but a tape recording.
As different as the West's reactions to the Muslim protests were, what they had in common were origins in feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. Critical souls who only yesterday agreed with Marx that religion is the opium of the masses suddenly insisted that religious sensibilities must be taken into account, especially when accompanied by violence. The representatives of open societies reacted like the inhabitants of an island about to be hit by a hurricane. Powerless against the forces of nature, they stocked up on supplies, nailed doors and windows shut and hoped that the storm would soon pass. Of course, whereas such a reaction may be an appropriate response to natural disasters, such a lack of resistance merely encourages fundamentalists. It completely justifies their view of the West as weak, decadent and completely unwilling to defend itself. Those who react to kidnappings and beheadings, to massacres of people of other faiths, and to eruptions of collective hysteria with a call for "cultural dialogue" don't deserve any better.
"The West should desist from engaging in all provocations that produce feelings of debasement and humiliation," says psychoanalyst Horst-Eberhard Richter. "We should show greater respect for the cultural identity of Muslim countries. ... For Muslims, it is important to be recognized and respected as equals." In Richter's view, what the Muslims need is "a partnership of equals."
But Richter neglects to describe what this partnership might look like. Does achieving such equality mean that we should set up separate sections for women on buses, as is the custom in Saudi Arabia? Should the marrying age for girls be reduced to 12, as is the case in Iran? And should death by stoning be our punishment for adultery, as Shariah law demands? What else could the West do to show its respect for the cultural identity of Islamic countries? Would it be sufficient to allow Horst-Eberhard Richter to decide whether, for example, a wet T-shirt contest in a German city rises to a level of criminal provocation that could cause the Muslim faithful in Hyderabad to feel debased and humiliated?
The discussion over which provocations WE should put an end to so that THEY do not feel upset inexorably leads to the realm of the absurd. Should devout Jews be entitled to demand that non-Jews give up pork? And should they have the power to impose sanctions if their demands are not met? Can a Hindu in India run amok because the Dutch do not view cows as sacred beings? Those who believe Muslims have the right to be outraged by the Danes failing to abide by an Islamic prohibition -- especially when it's not even clear that such a prohibition even exists -- must answer such questions clearly in the affirmative. Even illiterates must then be allowed to ransack bookstores; in a world in which anyone is entitled to feel offended and humiliated, anyone can also choose which provocations he is unwilling to accept.
The comments made by German pastor Burkhard Mueller on Feb. 11, 2005 on "Wort zum Sonntag," a weekly Christian program aired on the ARD public television network, demonstrate just how far we are willing to go when it comes to denying reality. "Islam is a great religion," Mueller said, only minutes after the previous news program had shown scenes of burning flags, devastated embassies and holy warriors yelling "death to the infidels!" Where does it come from, this determination to disregard the facts or conveniently distort them so that they cloud our perception of reality?
It comes from fear. Fear may be a poor counselor, but when it comes to educating the masses, there is no more effective tool. Mao famously said: "Strike one to educate one hundred" -- an axiom that helped him solidify his power. It is not respect for other cultures which influences behavior, but rather the awareness of just how fanatic and ruthless our adversaries are. The wilder and more brutal they appear to be, the more likely they are to attract attention and gain respect. Whether venturing into unfamiliar territory means taking a walk in a different neighborhood or visiting a foreign culture, our natural tendency is to avoid conflict.
"Nowadays acts of terrorism are not committed for their own sake, but in the name of an ideology one could call Nazi-Islamism," Romanian-American author Norman Manea told the German daily Die Welt in March 2004. The only difference, in Manea's view, is "that this ideology invokes a religion, whereas the Nazis were mythical without being religious." Manea believes that what he calls a "World War III" has already begun. "The Europeans are putting off the recognition -- as they did in the 1930s -- of the tremendous tragedy that awaits them and that has, in fact, already arrived."
This sounds like an extreme exaggeration, conjuring up visions of a Day of Judgment, of an Apocalypse Now! Of course, in 1938 hardly anyone could have imagined where the policy of appeasing the Nazis would lead. History does not repeat itself, and yet there are parallels that do not bode well. The willingness to submit to self-deception is as widespread today as it was in the years leading up to World War II.
The Europeans' wishful thinking stems from their need to avoid conflicts, coupled with a strong survival instinct. They may perceive reality, but they do so selectively. The Berlin office of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War has published a paper describing the consequences of an American nuclear strike against Iran. According to its scenario, more than 2 million people would die within the first 48 hours, and another million would suffer serious injuries. Ten million would be exposed to high levels of radiation. But one question the paper neither poses nor answers is this: What would be the consequential damage of an Iranian nuclear attack once the country is capable of producing and using a nuclear bomb?
No one wants to address this question, and for good reason: No one knows how to prevent an Iranian nuclear attack, or even how to influence the Iranians' policies. In contrast, there is a very small but real possibility that public pressure can be used to influence the American government to move in one direction or another. The proponents of peace whose protests are directed against America's plans to attack Iran and not against the mullahs' nuclear policies are well aware of this difference. They are not blind in one eye, as they are often accused of being, but instead have a clear view of everything that is happening. And they are as delighted as children discovering a surprise. "Peace Signals from Tehran," the Berliner Zeitung wrote ecstatically in early July, when Iran did not for once flatly reject one of the European Union's many proposed compromises, but instead declared that it would "give it serious consideration."
For those facing a hopeless situation and powerless to change it, self-deception offers at least some succor.
Another option is "change through ingratiation." Oskar Lafontaine, a one-time chairman of the Social Democratic Party and German chancellor candidate, sees "commonalities between leftist policies and the Islamic religion." In an interview with Neues Deutschland, he says: "Islam depends on community, which places it in opposition to extreme individualism, which threatens to fail in the West. The second similarity is that the devout Muslim is required to share his wealth with others. The leftist also wants to see the strong help the weak. Finally, the prohibition of interest still plays a role in Islam, much as it once did in Christianity. At a time when entire economies are plunging into crisis because their expectations of returns on investment have become totally absurd, there is a basis for a dialogue to be conducted between the left and the Islamic world."
Lafontaine called upon the West to exercise self-criticism ("We must constantly ask ourselves through which eyes the Muslims see us") and expressed sympathy for the "indignation" of Muslims. According to Lafontaine, "people in Muslim countries have experienced many indignities, one of the most recent being the Iraq war. What we are seeing here is resource imperialism."
In examining similarities between Islam and the European left, though, Lafontaine ignored an important point: how long he would survive without his beloved Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc if a union between leftist politics and the Islamic religion truly came about. His dialogue with the Muslim world would have to be conducted while sipping fruit juice and mineral water. "If you can't beat them, join them!"
All the events of last spring are only a foretaste of something much bigger, something still unnamed. And when it ends, those who have managed to escape will ask themselves: Why didn't we see the handwriting on the wall when there was still time? If Muslim protests against a few harmless cartoons can cause the free world to capitulate in the face of violence, how will this free world react to something that is truly relevant? It is already difficult enough to see that Israel is not merely battling a few militants, but is facing a serious threat to its very existence from Iran. All too often it is ignored that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already taken the first step by calling for "a world without Zionism" -- a call that pro-Israel Europeans only managed to condemn with a mild, "unacceptable." How would they react if Iran were in a position to back up its threats with nuclear weapons?
In 1972, more than three decades ago, Danish lawyer and part-time politician Mogens Glistrup had an idea that brought him instant fame. To save taxes, he proposed that the Danish army be disbanded and an answering machine be set up in the defense ministry that would play the following message: "We capitulate!" Not only would it save money, Glistrup argued, but it would also save lives in an emergency. On the strength of this "program," Glistrup's Progress Party managed to become the second-most powerful political party in the Danish parliament in the 1973 elections. Glistrup had the right idea, but he was a number of years premature. Now would be the right time to set up his answering machine.
Multiculturalism 'drives young Muslims to shun British values'
The doctrine of multi-culturalism has alienated an entire generation of young Muslims and made them increasingly radical, a report has found. In stark contrast with their parents, growing numbers sympathise with extreme teachings of Islam, with almost four in ten wanting to live under Sharia law in Britain. The study identifies significant support for wearing the veil in public, Islamic schools and even punishment by death for Muslims who convert to another religion. Most alarmingly, 13 per cent of young Muslims said they "admired" organisations such as Al Qaeda which are prepared to "fight the West".
The poll exposes a fracture between the attitudes of Muslims aged 16 to 24, most of whom were born in Britain, and those of their parentsí generation, who are more likely to have been immigrants. A report published alongside the poll, commissioned by the Right-wing think tank Policy Exchange and carried out by Populus, said the doctrine of multi-culturalism was at least partly responsible.
A series of Labour ministers have broken recently with the idea that different communities should not be forced to integrate but should be allowed to maintain their own culture and identities. Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, and Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, have also expressed serious doubts about multi-culturalism.
Academic Munira Mirza, lead author of the report, said: "The emergence of a strong Muslim identity in Britain is, in part, a result of multi-cultural policies implemented since the 1980s which have emphasised difference at the expense of shared national identity and divided people along ethnic, religious and cultural lines."
The poll of 1,000 Muslims, weighted to represent the population across the UK, found that a growing minority of youngsters felt they had less in common with non-Muslims than their parents did. While only 17 per cent of over-55s said they would prefer to live under Sharia law, that increased to 37 per cent of those aged 16 to 24. Sharia law, which is practised in large parts of the Middle East, specifies stonings and amputations as routine punishments for crimes. It also acts as a religious code for living, covering dietary laws and dress codes. Religious police are responsible for bringing suspects before special courts.
The poll found that just 19 per cent of Muslims over 55 would prefer to send their children to Islamic state schools. That increased to 37 per cent of those aged 16 to 24. If a Muslim converts to another religion, 36 per cent of 16-to-24-year-olds thought this should be punished by death, compared with 19 per cent of 55s and over. According to the poll, 74 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 prefer Muslim women to wear the veil, compared with only 28 per cent of over 55s.
The report by Miss Mirza, British-born daughter of Pakistani immigrants, concludes that some Muslim groups have exaggerated the problems of "Islamophobic" sentiment among non-Muslim Britons, which has fuelled a sense of victimhood. The vast majority of Muslims Ė 84 per cent Ė believed they had been treated fairly in British society. And just over a quarter Ė 28 per cent Ė believed that authorities in Britain had gone "over the top" in trying not to offend Muslims.
The Government has been accused of failing to tackle the so-called "preachers of hate". No one has convicted under legislation introduced to deal with such figures. One radical cleric, Abu Hamza, was allowed to encourage extremism for years before finally being prosecuted Ė but under separate laws and only under threat of him being extradited to the U.S.
Muslim Labour MP Shahid Malik said the poll findings were disturbing. "There are evil voices out there and this poll shows some of them are definitely having an impact. "People are still turning a blind eye and hoping it will all go away. It cannot and it will not of its own accord. "Of course the Government has a role, but with the Muslim community itself more has to be done to acknowledge that this challenge exists. "For years, I have argued that the British National Party is a white phenomenon which it is up to the white community to address. Well, extremism exists in the name of Islam and thatís something the Muslim community has to take leadership on. "Itís my view that the mainstream, umbrella Muslim organisations have not risen to the challenge and donít accept the depth of the problem thatís facing them." Mr Malik said one legal change which could help address radicalisation was to make committees of faith leaders who run mosques legally responsible for inflammatory statements made on their premises.
Baroness Uddin, the only female Muslim peer, said the poll did not reflect her experiences of the views of most members of the community. But she said many young Muslims who had been born in the UK did have completely different attitudes to their parents and grandparents, who migrated into this country from overseas. "Whereas we said, 'This isnít our home, we have to fit in, we have to contribute', young people do have a sense that this is now their home and they are prepared to say what they donít like about it. "They have asserted their identity and gone deeper into their religion. It would have been unheard of for someone like me, as a 16-year-old, to have complained about England. "But now, when young people go through difficulties in terms of job opportunities and education, they do make their opinions known." Baroness Uddin said she agreed with the "majority view" that British foreign policy had also aggravated Muslim grievances.
The Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood, said: "Our young people have been allowed to fall into the hands of fringe organisations who are getting at them at universities, schools, colleges and mosques. They are being manipulated. "Itís difficult for the Government to prescribe a way forward for the Muslim community. I donít think it can do that. "Itís up to the mainstream, national Muslim organisations, who frankly have failed."
BRITISH CONSERVATIVE LEADER FINALLY SPEAKS UP ABOUT MUSLIMS
Muslims seeking to live under Islamic law are as extreme as supporters of the British National Party, according to David Cameron. Making his first foray into the highly sensitive issue of Islam and multiculturalism, the Conservative leader said that Muslims who want Sharia, or Islamic religious law, are the ďmirror imageĒ of the neo-Nazi BNP, wanting to divide the country into ďusĒ and ďthemĒ. He made the claim as an opinion poll from Policy Exchange, Mr Cameronís favourite think-tank, suggested that 40 per cent of young Muslims want Sharia in Britain.
In a hard-hitting speech, Mr Cameron said that uncontrolled immigration and the failed ďdoctrine of multiculturalismĒ was threatening national unity. He claimed that the terrorist ideology of radical Islam was ďone of the great threats of our ageĒ, and said that public money spent translating documents should be spent instead on teaching people English.
The speech on Britishness, made from a church in Birmingham near the scene of recent race riots between blacks and Asians, was welcomed by Tory rightwingers who had complained that he had been too soft on the issue. However, Mr Cameron balanced his robust defence of British values by calling for greater support for Muslims ó in particular women ó to improve their opportunities in education and work. Today he will publish the partyís interim report on national security, which will propose measures to tackle Muslim alienation and underachievement. Most controversially it suggests that the Government should require immigrants to learn English before they are allowed to move to Britain.
In an uncompromising attack on Islamic radicals, Mr Cameron said: ďThose who seek a Sharia state, or special treatment and a separate law for British Muslims are, in many ways, the mirror image of the BNP. They also want to divide people into Ďusí and Ďthem.í And they seek out grievances to exploit.Ē
Sharia covers topics including marriage (allowing a man to have four wives, and stoning to death for adultery), criminal justice (hand amputation for theft) and religious affairs (death penalty for leaving Islam).
Inayat Banglawala, the spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said that Muslims had an emotional attachment to Sharia, just as Christians did to the Ten Commandments, but said it was scaremongering to suggest that they wanted to introduce it. ďThe idea of 3 per cent of the population imposing Sharia on the rest is nonsense. It is unfair to compare a real threat [the BNP] with fringe [Islamic] groups that no one takes seriously,Ē he said.
Mr Cameron promised to tackle what he said were the five barriers to social cohesion in the UK: extremist ideology, multiculturalism, excessive immigration, poverty and poor education. He attacked multiculturalism, saying that although it sounded good, it ďhas come to mean an approach that focuses on what divides us rather than what brings us togetherĒ. He blamed multiculturalism for public housing being allocated along ethnic lines, for police allowing Muslim protesters publicly to incite violence, and for the growth in translation in public documents, which he said reduced the incentive to learn English. He said that uncontrolled immigration was also threatening national unity, declaring that ďit puts pressure on housing, on public services, and helps to create division, fear and resentment ó among British people from all ethnic backgroundsĒ.
The report published today, from the Conservativeís national security policy review group, says that Muslims in Britain are held back by their traditional views on marriage and womenís education.
30 January, 2007
BRITAIN: DANGEROUS MUSLIM MEDICAL ADVICE
A Muslim doctors' leader has provoked an outcry by urging British Muslims not to vaccinate their children against diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella because it is "un-Islamic". Dr Abdul Majid Katme, head of the Islamic Medical Association, is telling Muslims that almost all vaccines contain products derived from animal and human tissue, which make them "haram", or unlawful for Muslims to take. Islam permits only the consumption of halal products, where the animal has had its throat cut and bled to death while God's name is invoked. Islam also forbids the eating of any pig meat, which Katme says is another reason why vaccines should be avoided, as some contain or have been made using pork-based gelatine.
His warning has been criticised by the Department of Health and the British Medical Association, who said Katme risked increasing infections ranging from flu and measles to polio and diphtheria in Muslim communities.
Katme, a psychiatrist who has worked in the National Health Service for 15 years, wields influence as the head of one of only two national Islamic medical organisations as well as being a member of the Muslim Council of Britain. Moderate Muslims are concerned at the potential impact because other Islamic doctors will have to confirm vaccines are derived from animal and human products. There is already evidence of lower than average vaccination rates in Muslim areas, reducing the prospect of the "herd immunity" needed to curb infectious diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella.
Katme's appeal reflects a global movement by some hardline Islamic leaders who are telling followers torefuse vaccines from the West. In Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India, Muslims have refused to be immunised against polio after being told that the vaccines contain products that the West has deliberately added to make the recipients infertile.
Katme said he was bringing the message to Britain after analysing the products used for the manufacture of the vaccines. He claimed that Muslims must allow their children to develop their own immune system naturally rather than rely on vaccines. He argued that leading "Islamically healthy lives" would be enough to ward off illnesses and diseases. "You see, God created us perfect and with a very strong defence system. If you breast-feed your child for two years - as the Koran says - and you eat Koranic food like olives and black seed, and you do ablution each time you pray, then you will have a strong defence system," he said. "Many vaccines, especially those given to children, are full of haram substances - human parts, gelatine from pork, alcohol, animal/monkey parts, all coming from the West who do not have knowledge of halal or haram. It is forbidden in Islam to have any of these haram substances in our bodies." Katme singled out vaccines such as MMR as ones to avoid, despite doctors saying that they are essential to keep a baby healthy. Others included those for diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis and meningitis.
Dr Shuja Shafi, a spokesman for the health and medical committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "In terms of ingredients in vaccines, there are so many things that are probably haram, but in the absence of an alternative we are allowed to take it for the sake of our health."
Christian Chaplain Dismissed; Muslim Chaplain Promoted
Chaplain Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt has been court-martialed and dismissed from the U.S. Navy. His crime? Praying in Jesus' name in uniform outside a chapel. You read it right. After 15 1/2 years of exemplary service, Lt. Klingenschmitt is being drummed out of the Navy. Understand that Klingenschmitt has a meritorious military record. He graduated from the Air Force Academy and spent 11 years as an Air Force missile officer. He was promoted to the rank of Major and was offered a job at the Pentagon at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. However, Klingenschmitt wanted to be a chaplain. As such, he willingly took a demotion in order to serve in the U.S. Navy as a chaplain at the rank of Lieutenant.
Chaplain Klingenschmitt served in the Persian Gulf. While there, he and his men won 6 awards, including Best in the Navy, for outstanding Community Service. But now this fine Christian man is being discharged. He is losing his career (not to mention a million-dollar pension) for the "crime" of praying in Jesus' name. I recently interviewed Chaplain Klingenschmitt on my radio program and invite readers to listen to that interview at http://www.chuckbaldwinlive.com/Interview_Klingenschmitt.html
Now, compare what the Navy has done to Lt. Klingenschmitt to this report from World Net Daily. "[T]he Pentagon recently promoted a Wahhabi-trained Muslim chaplain who catered to al-Qaida detainees at Guantanamo and fought to establish the first Mosque in Marine Corps history." According to WND, "Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England personally promoted Navy chaplain Abuhena Mohammed Saifulislam from lieutenant to lieutenant commander. Saifulislam also received a Joint Service Commendation Medal at the Pentagon ceremony held on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Pentagon officials say the ceremony was unprecedented. 'It's unusual for a deputy secretary to personally promote an officer of that rank,' said one official who wished to go unnamed. 'No one has known of such a high-level dignitary doing that.'"
Furthermore, the WND report stated, "England also earlier this year personally dedicated a new Islamic center at Marine headquarters in Quantico, Va., on the advice of Saifulislam . . ." Now get this: "The Muslim chaplain, who is stationed at Quantico, recited verses from the Quran in Arabic and English at the summer dedication ceremony, which included representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, several leaders of which have been convicted on terrorism-related charges."
Yet, it gets worse. According to the WND report, "Saifulislam, which is Arabic for 'Sword of Islam,' received his religious training at a radical Islamic school raided by federal agents after 9/11." Terror expert Paul Sperry said, "The Pentagon is giving him a permanent, taxpayer-supported platform from which to convert grunts to Islam." He also said, "With the Quantico mosque, the Pentagon is facilitating the study of the holy text the enemy uses, heretically or not, as their manual of warfare."
This kind of idiocy is what happens when presidents and their subordinates become consumed with political correctness. Logic, common sense, character, and appreciation for truth are thrown out the window. And good men such as Lt. Klingenschmitt must bear the brunt of it all. Readers should know that since Chaplain Klingenschmitt's dismissal, public outcry convinced the Pentagon to reverse its policy of punishing chaplains who pray in Jesus' name. Unfortunately, the decision is not being grandfathered back to Klingenschmitt's case, and he is still being drummed out of the Navy.
If you listen to my interview with Lt. Klingenschmitt, you will immediately be aware that this is a good man, a fine Christian patriot who is being unjustly punished. He is not bitter. However, seeking to be reinstated, he has hired The Rutherford Institute to represent him in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy. I urge my fellow Americans to pray that God will vindicate the good chaplain and that he will be restored to his former position and rank. You might want to let your congressman know of this injustice, as well. I wonder how many more Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitts and Judge Roy Moores will have to be sacrificed before America comes to its senses?
Time to evict official anti-racism
The row over Britain's Celebrity Big Brother shows that hysterically witch-hunting 'racists' is a new British sport
Jade Goody may have been evicted from the Celebrity Big Brother house on Friday, yet the bizarre controversy surrounding her rows with Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty continues to rumble on and reverberate. And the acres of handwringing commentary in the tabloids and broadsheets suggest that Ms Goody is not the only one who is firing-off ill-judged opinions.
Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, waded in on Sunday with demands that Channel 4 be overseen by supernanny-in-waiting, Tessa Jowell. In his eyes the refusal of Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson to describe the Goody/Shetty fallout as `racist' should be a sackable offence. Elsewhere, the granddaddy of race monitoring, London mayor Ken Livingstone, sought to slap Channel 4's wrists. And according to Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley, apparently the Big Brother freakshow is all New Labour's fault anyway - or at least Tony Blair's, whom she accuses of nurturing a public culture as cruel as any that existed under Thatcher.
It is a measure of the disrepair of political and public life that so many public figures, including Blair and the PM-in-waiting Gordon Brown, feel compelled to comment on Celebrity Big Brother. As Brendan O'Neill has pointed out, the speed with which commentators (over)reacted to Goody and her sidekicks' outbursts reveals their own blinkered prejudices about the white working class as a whole (1). Pundits have gleefully pounced on this incident as insurmountable `proof' that nasty racial prejudice is alive and kicking among the great unwashed.
In fact, the most striking thing about Celebrity Big Brother is that it simultaneously tells us very little about British society and an awful lot about brass-necked opinion makers. It is clear to anyone with eyes and ears that race no longer has the same corrosive impact it once had in British society. Indeed, many of my students who have Indian backgrounds say that Goody's clanking comments are hardly representative of their experience of living in Britain in the twenty-first century. They can shrug off the Goody v Shetty row precisely because race doesn't impinge on their lives. However, high-minded pundits cannot shrug off the idea that Big Brother exerts great `influence' on all the `couch potatoes' out there. Germaine Greer thinks the masses who watch the programme were probably cheering on Goody's taunts, seeing Shetty as just another `Paki bird'. Leaving aside the risible `monkey say/monkey do' implications here, it's worth questioning whether Big Brother is as popular or influential as pundits claim.
Prior to this year's race controversy, viewing figures were down to a paltry 1.4 million, before climbing to a still unremarkable four million. Even at the height of the non-celebrity Big Brother `mania' during the summer months, viewing figures hover around the seven million mark. If soap operas or flagship dramas like Prime Suspect pulled in those kind of viewing figures, they would be deemed as failures and possibly dropped. So why is Big Brother seen as `required viewing' for the mass of the population, when, in fact, relatively speaking not that many people watch it?
The truth is that Big Brother's core audience is teenage girls, students, and fashionistas/style journalists who can't let go of irony. It is this (largely) youthful audience that makes BB appealing to advertisers, as well as celebrity magazines and tabloids and broadsheets seeking a new generation of readers. For older generations of working people, Big Brother is largely irrelevant and a somewhat bizarre spectacle. Ironically enough, it is because Big Brother is a media rather than social phenomenon that all kinds of outlandish claims can be projected on to it. And in the Goody v Shetty debacle, reams of half-baked rubbish have been spouted about the `Vicky Pollards' who supposedly populate both the show and its audience.
The response to this year's Celebrity Big Brother shows how forceful official anti-racism has become as a conforming mechanism. Whether it is through televised autopsies or wankathons, Channel 4 has long courted rather prurient `controversy'. But engineering racial and cultural tensions has been a step `too far' for even staunch supporters of this increasingly idiotic channel. It seems Channel 4 can dabble with any taboo it likes, apart from the new orthodoxies surrounding race. There is a baying hysteria in contemporary `anti-racism'. As Goody herself said after the eviction: `I've never been so terrified in all my life.'
Far from striking a blow for racial equality and freedom, official and tyrannical anti-racism nurtures fresh divisions and fosters a culture of unfreedom. This was reflected by one anti-racist group's statement that `private utterances should be viewed in the same light as public ones' - that is, what people say behind closed doors, or presumably even think in their own minds, should be subject to rules and regulations in the same way that public speech too often is. The reaction to the Goody/Shetty farce has popularised such a dangerous and nonsensical idea, with its blurred distinction between a private argument between two people (filmed and aired, of course) and the wild claims made about what this reveals about our public culture.
The commentary on Goody/Shetty has become a vehicle for expressing a broader anti-human sentiment. If some pundits are sceptical that Goody is consciously `racist', nearly all agree that she is a `bully'. For Jackie Ashley, it is bullying rather than overt racism that is the single defining characteristic of contemporary British society. So much so that even `Jade-the-bully is then vigorously bullied and abused by the same newspapers that so recently found her funny' (2). In this light, Celebrity Big Brother is portrayed as a reflection on how rotten the (unregulated) human subject really is. Apparently if you put humans together the essential desire to dominate `the other' will always win through. And for many, racism naturally follows bullying as the primeval urge lurking within us all. Celebrity Big Brother popularises the idea that, in the words of actor/director Gary Oldman, `we all need therapy'.
For many pundits, the problem with Goody is that because of her `poor breeding', she is apparently more pathologically prone to hateful outbursts than others. Goody's blubbering, confessional interviews with both Davina McCall and the News of the World shows how quickly she has internalised the therapeutic mode.
The furore over Goody's crass behaviour towards Shetty has been a heaven-sent opportunity for half-witted commentators to obsess over an imaginary underclass. In truth, the tantrums inside the CBB house say nothing about what's happening in multi-racial Britain, though the furore reveals much about the nasty prejudices of certain commentators. If the Goody/Shetty incident reveals anything about the state of Britain, it is that official anti-racism has become an hysterical and authoritarian force. Far from fretting about Goody and Co's infantile behaviour, isn't it time we put that up for eviction instead?
French socialist party expels 'racist'
The French Socialist Party has voted to expel a senior member for saying there are too many black players in the national football team. A panel decided remarks by Georges Freche, head of Languedoc-Roussillon south-east regional government, were incompatible with Socialist values. After a public outcry Mr Freche, 68, had offered to withdraw from the party. The party's presidential candidate, Segolene Royal, publicly rejected his comments and called for his expulsion.
Mr Freche has indicated he has no intention of quitting his posts. On Thursday, a court fined Mr Freche 15,000 euros ($19,000) for describing Algerians who fought on France's side in the Algerian war of independence as sub-human.
29 January, 2007
French Muslim jailed for attacking gynaecologist
A French Muslim who attacked a male gynaecologist for examining his wife just after she had given birth, saying it was against Islam, has been jailed for six months by a Paris court. Fouad ben Moussa burst into the delivery room at a Paris hospital last November and shoved, slapped and insulted Dr Jean-Francois Oury as he examined the woman after a complicated birth, the prosecution said in court on Wednesday. Police had to intervene to remove him.
Ben Moussa, a 23-year-old lorry driver, apologised for the attack and said he had requested a female doctor. French state hospitals comply with such requests when staffing permits but say patients must accept treatment from the doctors on duty. "This is a public and secular place," prosecution lawyer Georges Holleaux said of the state hospital where the attack occurred. "This is not the place where one can invoke religion to get different treatment."
French media have reported cases in recent years of Muslim men barring male doctors from treating their wives, sometimes resorting to violence, but legal cases against them are rare. France's five million Muslims make up eight per cent of the French population, Europe's largest Islamic minority.
British police refuse to chase 'helmetless' bike thieves
A mother has spoken of her fury after police refused to chase her sons' stolen motorbikes - because the thieves weren't wearing helmets. Pauline Nolan, of Droylsden, Greater Manchester, claims traffic officers told her they could not pursue the pair in case they fell off and sued the police force. She says her sons Bradley, 11, and Ashley, 18, are devastated. They usually spend every weekend travelling to motocross competitions up and down the country, but are now stuck at home.
Mrs Nolan, 44, was on her way home from work at 1.45pm when the thieves raced past her at 60mph on her son's bikes. "I recognised them immediately, but they were gone in a flash," she said. "I arrived home to find the garage door had been forced open. "They had drilled through the locks and cut the chains. They had even pushed our Corsa out of the way to steal Ashley's bike, which was purposefully blocked in.
"I can't believe they had the cheek to do it in broad daylight. I was minutes away from catching them red-handed. I called the police and someone arrived to take a statement." She says the police officer then told her that the bikes had been spotted in Beswick, Manchester. She said: "I thought 'we've got them', until he sheepishly added they couldn't give chase because they weren't wearing helmets. I was speechless. How pathetic is that? "I've never heard such a stupid law. It seems everything is weighed in favour of criminals nowadays."
Inspector Martin O'Connor, of the road policing unit, said: "In situations like this officers need to carefully consider the safety of all road users before deciding whether or not to begin a pursuit. "This means taking into consideration the time of day, weather, traffic conditions, the nature of the original offence and then make a risk assessment based on all these circumstances. "In this case a decision was made that it would not have been safe to pursue the bikes."
Mrs Nolan has put up a cash reward for the bikes' return - an orange and black KTM 250 and a black and green Kawasaki 65 with distinctive "Monster Energy" graphics. She said: "My kids live for motocross. We can't afford 7,000 pounds to replace them. The 11-year-old said he's going to sell his toys and his X-Box to save up for a new one. It's heartbreaking."
Democrats Want `Fairness' Doctrine To Stifle Conservative Broadcasters
Now that they control both the House and Senate, radical liberal legislators are going after freedom of speech under the guise of providing "fairness" on the airwaves. The so-called "Fairness Doctrine" was a federal regulation enforced by the FCC between 1949 through 1987 when the Reagan Administration dropped it. The doctrine required broadcasters to present both sides of a controversial issue - but the result was that many TV and radio networks avoided airing controversial subjects for fear of heavy fines or of being forced to provide free air time to opposing viewpoints.
Cliff Kincaid with Accuracy in Media says the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine would force conservative media outlets to hand over time to liberals. "Make no bones about it, they want to force the conservative media to hand over air time to liberals. When federal bureaucrats dictate the content of radio and TV shows, it's muzzling to tell them what to say and how to say it."
Kincaid notes there are plenty of media outlets for liberals. "Liberals used to dominate the media, and they are irritated there are competing voices, so now they want to reign in the conservative media using the federal government. There is no prohibition against liberal talk radio. Liberals tried talk radio and it was not successful in the market place."
Representative Maurice Hichey (D-NY) is sponsoring the "Media Ownership Reform Act," which will reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. Leftist Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) plans on holding hearings on the media and the Fairness Doctrine.
Hichey admitted that his objective is to force conservative talk show hosts to be forced to air opposing liberal viewpoints. At a Free Press National Media Reform Conference held in Memphis, Tennessee earlier this month, Hichey told the audience: "If Rush shoots off his mouth, he must give equal access to our side. The American public will begin to get both sides or all sides of an issue. That is basic - fundamental to a democracy."
One of Hichey's aides told "The Raw Story" that Hichey is concerned about a corporate "fascist" takeover of the airwaves. Hichey also claims that talk radio is dominated by "right wing, even neo-fascist" hosts. He plans on punishing them with his legislation.
Cliff Kincaid reports that the National Media Reform Conference attended by Hichey in Memphis was also attended by members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the Communist Party, USA - all consumed with the idea that fascist corporations are taking over the airwaves. The Revolutionary Communist Party is aligned with North Korea.
Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) plans on introducing a Senate version of Hichey's liberal censorship bill.
"With literally hundreds of news outlets on TV, radio, and on the Internet," said TVC Chairman Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, "it is ridiculous to claim that alternative viewpoints do not get a fair hearing in the media. Much of the `mainstream media' has a liberal bias. There are literally thousands of liberal web sites; thousands of left-leaning newspapers and hundreds of leftist journalism schools. The liberal viewpoint has no problem being expressed. It is just that most clear-thinking Americans reject their views."
Hichey, Sanders and Kucinich are all members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of 70 Representatives and Senators who favor socialism as an economic system.
28 January, 2007
TOP 11 REASONS YOU SHOULD FIGHT HATE LAWS
Unless we resist now, a thought crimes bureaucracy like those regulating Australia, Canada and Europe will soon rule America. In these nations, federal hate laws have destroyed citizens' rights to free speech. The Anti-Defamation League may reintroduce a federal hate law-the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act -in Congress as early as this week. Punishment of politically incorrect bias is the ultimate goal of this legislation. Democrats support hate laws and their control of Congress means almost certain passage-unless enough Americans protest and back ADL down from even submitting this bill.
A national hate law would shatter Americans' First Amendment rights, which are now sadly unique among Western democracies. We would lose our precious freedom to express politically incorrect ideas, moral judgments, or whatever personal convictions the reigning thought police deem "hateful."
Think this can't happen in America? Think again. Hostile work environment law and campus speech bans already severely curtail free expression in American workplaces and universities. A US federal hate law would follow the examples of Europe, Canada, and Australia where Christian pastors have been indicted simply for quoting politically incorrect Scripture in their sermons. Iceland's Orwellian hate law, for example, promises two years' jail if you verbally "insult" a person on the basis of their nationality, skin color, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
If a federal hate law were passed, free expression across the political spectrum would be threatened. What would happen to blasphemous art like Piss Christ or South Park, to Ann Coulter or Al Franken, to Christians protesting sodomy or homosexuals attacking the Bible? Every American, from left-leaning feminists to red state Republicans, should protest "anti-hate" legislation. If Rosie O'Donnell were an Icelander, she could have been prosecuted for verbal "assault" for her recent statement that radical Christianity is as dangerous as radical Islam. Political activists in nations with hate laws have already been indicted for criticizing Islam, Zionism, and homosexuality. Hate laws threaten your freedom to speak your mind, no matter what's on it. Here are some of the most powerful, bipartisan reasons to fight this legislation.
1. Speech bans are a political weapon used by those in power to silence their opponents and politically unpopular minorities.
Hate laws empower the government to enforce the orthodoxy of whoever happens to be in charge. The government can define which biases or "hatreds" are unacceptable and which are okay. For instance, hate laws in our PC age allow women to derogate men but would silence men from legitimate (though possibly hurtful) speech like a discussion of biological gender differences.
In 2004 Swedish feminist Joanna Rytel wrote a hate-filled screed published in a major daily. Her article describes white men as arrogant, sex-obsessed and exploitative, explaining that Rytel just wants to "puke" on them. Stockholm authorities refused to indict Rytel under their hate law, saying it was passed to protect ethnic minorities, not white Swedes. This is one example of speech bans' uneven enforcement; they are used to punish certain kinds of hate and allow others. Because almost every exercise of free speech offends someone, government officials would end up enforcing speech bans on the basis of their own bias. Speech bans simply can't be evenhanded unless everyone is shut up altogether.
In the real world, speech can and does wound. That's a cost of life. We naturally resent painful realities like economic competition, unfair comments, and hard work. But in each case, the cures we've tried were far worse than the sickness. Speech bans might censor some hurtful speech but would empower government to silence minorities and strip the intellectual marketplace of legitimate and needed expression-the kind that creates positive, social change precisely because it is minority and challenges the sins of the group.
2. Hate speech bans don't work.
Genuine racism and false hatreds exist in this world. Bans on hate speech, however, won't solve the problem. If you only break off a tick's body, its head will burrow deep beneath the skin. The only effective response to bad ideas is the truth. We should combat falsehoods with more and freer discussion, not less.
3. Hate laws aren't necessary.
ADL claims an epidemic of hate sweeps America that can only be fought with stiffened penalties for bias-driven crimes. Yet the FBI's 2005 Uniform Crime Report shows alleged hate crimes form a tiny 1/15 of 1 percent of all crime in America. Law enforcers' time would be far better spent fighting the 99.85 percent of crime that's happening every minute across our nation rather than getting entangled in discerning and testifying against the perceived motivations of a tiny minority of criminals.
Hate laws would require vast government bureaucracies, complicate law enforcement, and distract police and prosecutors from dealing with actual physical crimes. Government and law enforcement should focus on criminal acts, not words or motivations, in a nation where someone is murdered every 22 minutes, raped every 5, robbed every 49 seconds and burgled every 10 seconds. Discerning and prosecuting criminal motivations would only be a good plan if law enforcers had God's omniscience and time to waste. Ours have neither.
4. Hate speech bans are unconstitutional.
Because the First Amendment underwrites our most precious civil liberty, the US Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled against speech bans. In 1972 the Court declared, "[A]bove all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its contents." (Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92)
Some forms of speech are restricted; these include threats and "fighting words" that incite "an immediate breach of peace." But these restrictions are (and must remain) extremely narrow and content-neutral-the government is not allowed to censor speech based on the viewpoint it expresses but only on whether it constitutes an immediate threat. Hate laws, however, would punish the viewpoints expressed in speech, in violation of the Constitution.
International use of ADL-designed hate laws shows that the first kinds of speech to be sanctioned are extreme right, white nationalist speech and Holocaust reductionism. The average person is slow to defend such speech. But hate laws quickly broaden to punish forms of expression the average citizen would never dream of stifling. Sweden's 2002 modified hate law, for example, explicitly exposes Christian sermons to prosecution!
All forms of controversial political and religious speech are potentially vulnerable to prosecution under hate laws. This contradicts Supreme Court Justice Holmes Jr. who said in 1929, "[I]f there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment [loyal defense] than any other, it is the principle of free thought-not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate."
5. Speech bans will be used against the very minorities they were meant to protect.
Speech bans silence some to protect the feelings of others. But when the government has power to silence expression that power can be wielded against the very people who once enjoyed its protection. Liberals, the champions of unrestrained speech in the 1960s, now vote as a bloc in Congress to support speech restrictions. Yet already in countries such as Canada, England and Australia, leftist critics of Islam have become the victims of hate laws, indicted for religious "hate speech."
Leftist artists Rowan Atkinson and Salman Rushdie realize hate laws don't just threaten white nationalists like David Duke but liberals as well- they recently fought for revision of Britain's hate law because it could be used to outlaw art that blasphemes or criticizes religion. Atkinson and Rushdie are just a few of hate laws' leftist critics who know that persons of all political persuasions have a stake in defeating this legislation.
6. Speech bans chill legitimate and valuable speech.
Under the threat of possible indictment, many people will refrain from discussing controversial but important ideas. Speech bans are often broad and vague, leaving citizens unsure what might get them hauled into court. This is what has happened in American workplaces, where hostile work environment law has left many employees unsure what they can say. Many Americans avoid all controversial speech and voluntarily refrain from exercising First Amendment rights at work. Hate laws would extend this dangerous minefield to the national political scene.
Legal philosopher Edmond Cahn points out that speech bans would leave our bookshelves empty. "[T]he officials could begin by prosecuting anyone who distributes the Christian gospels, because they contain many defamatory statements not only about Jews but also about Christians.Then the officials could ban Greek literature for calling the rest of the world "barbarians." Roman authors could be suppressed because when they were not defaming the Gallic and Teutonic tribes, they were disparaging the Italians.Then there is Shakespeare, who openly affronts the French, the Welsh, the Danes." (Beyond the Burning Cross, E. Cleary, Random House, 1994)
7. Speech bans greatly reduce the possibility of healthy, democratic change.
Criminalizing speech that expresses "hate" or "bias" would require us to outlaw history's most valuable speech, especially the political and religious speech that threatens social stasis and ignites progress. Aggressive speech is often the only tool available to political, social, or religious minorities whose access to government lobbying and mass media is limited. Those agitating for social change often need to use inflammatory and even "hateful" language to startle the public into hearing their message. Socrates compared himself to a horsefly biting the lazy flanks of his republic. We should certainly know enough by now to prefer the annoyance of stinging speech (even when we don't see its value) to a tyrannical majority that plods, unchallenged, toward slavery.
Americans are so used to our mudslinging, no-holds-barred political discourse that we find it hard to envision the way freedom of speech could disappear. But the freedom we enjoy is extremely rare in history, and quickly lost. Free expression for intellectuals is the first thing to go when tyrants rise to power; the history of oppressive regimes makes it clear that freedom of political speech is a delicate exception and the overarching tendency is for majorities or elites to get power and silence all opposition.
8. The government's interest in reducing violent crime does not outweigh our interest in preserving civil liberty.
Hate law advocates including the ADL argue that hateful speech incites violence, and appeal to the government's interest in reducing violent crime. But it would be unfair to ban, for instance, white racist speech or Christian sermons against homosexuality without also banning the plethora of other speech that might incite crime. Gangsta rap and videogames would be open to censure; we would also have to ban pornography, especially sadomasochistic porn, which certainly inspires violence against women.
Yet bans against these kinds of speech have been repeatedly declared unconstitutional. The government has an interest in lowering violent crime of all stripes but has always found the value of the First Amendment to be greater. It's unjust to argue that a few kinds of speech must be banned because they possibly incite violence (e.g., criticism of Jewish actions or homosexuality) yet permit huge categories of speech (violent sexual entertainment) that do the same. This would happen, however, under hate laws' unequal and partial enforcement. The ADL is not truly driven by the desire to reduce violent crime but rather to enforce a social and political orthodoxy.
Instead of passing a hate law that would shatter the First Amendment and impossibly complicate law enforcement, people concerned with hate-driven crimes should focus on improving our existing justice system and making sure hard crimes don't go unpunished.
9. Speech bans are offensively paternalistic.
They presume we can't think for ourselves, reject racist or hateful ideas for ourselves, or deal with the hurt caused by others' free expression. Are we such children that we need the government to cover our ears? Speech bans especially condescend toward the minorities they portray as helpless victims whose feelings must be sheltered from ideas they can't combat in a free intellectual market.
10. Speech bans permit government to do something an individual could not morally do.
Frederic Bastiat's classic treatise on The Law says government exists only to prevent injustice by defending our basic rights to person, liberty, and property. Government does not exist to guarantee our economic outcomes, redistribute our wealth, or protect our psyches. Speech bans would empower government to silence individuals by force. This is immoral whether it's one person silencing another person or the government silencing a fringe group of dissenters. Human fallibility requires at least enough humility to allow others to question, challenge, and dissent from our ideas. John Stuart Mill explains, "If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
11. Speech bans deny self-determination and individual freedom by criminalizing self-expression.
By censoring speech, hate laws censor thought and restrict our access to ideas. This is the essence of mind control. They deny the personal growth that comes from sharing ideas-including hateful, prejudiced, or false ideas-and having them challenged in a free intellectual marketplace.
Hate law speech bans have been repeatedly declared unconstitutional and would rend the very foundation of our freedom and democracy. Far from combating hate, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act is actually the most hateful and enslaving legislation to ever reach Congress; it would invade states' rights in law enforcement, enabling a hate crimes bureaucracy to police our thoughts and expression. Government could censor by force all speech that dissents from the reigning orthodoxy. Every American must speak up now in defense of the freedom for which our forefathers gave their very lives.
Act now! Contact your elected officials (both Democrats and Republicans) and demand they vote against any and all "anti-hate" legislation. Visit www.truthtellers.org for a powerful and easy-to-mail brochure that will astonish any political or religious leader or broadcaster who reads it. Our website presents a plan of action that has defeated the federal hate bill before and will work again. Together, we can make sure a hate crimes gestapo never takes over America. Make your voice heard today or it will be silenced tomorrow.
WEINBERG ON DAWKINS
Steven Weinberg is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Texas. He is a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics and the US National Medal of Science. Although he also is an atheist, he faults Dawkins for treating Islam and Christianity as alike. Excerpt below:
Given the battering that traditional religion has taken from the theory of evolution, it is fitting that the most energetic, eloquent and uncompromising modern adversaries of religion are biologists who helped us to understand evolution: first Francis Crick, and now Richard Dawkins. In The God Delusion, Dawkins caps a series of his books on biology and religion with a swingeing attack on every aspect of religion - not just traditional religion, but also the vaguer modern assortment of pieties that often appropriates its name. In the unkindest cut of all, Dawkins even argues that the persistence of belief in God is itself an outcome of natural selection - acting perhaps on our genes, as argued by Dean Hamer in The God Gene, but more certainly on our "memes", the bundles of cultural beliefs and attitudes that in a Darwinian though non-biological way tend to be passed on from generation to generation. It is not that the meme helps the believer or the believer's genes to survive; it is the meme itself that by its nature tends to survive.
For instance, the persistence of belief in a particular religion is naturally aided if that religion teaches that God punishes disbelief. Such a religion tends to survive if the threatened punishment is sufficiently awful. In contrast, a religion would have trouble keeping converts in line if it taught that infidels are subject after death to only a brief spell of mild discomfort, after which they join the faithful in eternal bliss. So it is natural that in traditional Christianity and Islam, disbelief became the ultimate crime, and Hell the ultimate torture chamber. No wonder the mathematician Paul Erdos always referred to God as the Supreme Fascist. Dawkins's book focuses on Christianity and Islam, which traditionally emphasize the importance of belief, rather than on religions like Judaism, Hinduism or Shinto, which are tied to specific ethnic groups, and tend to stress observance more than faith....
Where I think Dawkins goes wrong is that, like Henry V after Agincourt, he does not seem to realize the extent to which his side has won. Setting aside the rise of Islam in Europe, the decline of serious Christian belief among Europeans is so widely advertised that Dawkins turns to the United States for most of his examples of unregenerate religious belief. He attributes the greater regard for religion in the US to the fact that Americans have never had an established Church, an idea he may have picked up from Tocqueville. But although most Americans may be sure of the value of religion, as far as I can tell they are not very certain about the truth of what their own religion teaches. According to a recent article in the New York Times, American evangelists are in despair over a poll that showed that only 4 per cent of American teenagers will be "Bible-believing Christians" as adults. The spread of religious toleration provides evidence of the weakening of religious certitude. Most Christian groups have historically taught that there is no salvation without faith in Christ. If you are really sure that anyone without such faith is doomed to an eternity of Hell, then propagating that faith and suppressing disbelief would logically be the most important thing in the world - far more important than any merely secular virtues like religious toleration. Yet religious toleration is rampant in America. No one who publicly expressed disrespect for any particular religion could be elected to a major office.
Even though American atheists might have trouble winning elections, Americans are fairly tolerant of us unbelievers. My many good friends in Texas who are professed Christians do not even try to convert me. This might be taken as evidence that they don't really mind if I spend eternity in Hell, but I prefer to think (and Baptists and Presbyterians have admitted it to me) that they are not all that certain about Hell and Heaven. I have often heard the remark (once from an American priest) that it is not so important what one believes; the important thing is how we treat each other. Of course, I applaud this sentiment, but imagine trying to explain "not important what one believes" to Luther or Calvin or St Paul. Remarks like this show a massive retreat of Christianity from the ground it once occupied, a retreat that can be attributed to no new revelation, but only to a loss of certitude.
Much of the weakening of religious certitude in the Christian West can be laid at the door of science; even people whose religion might incline them to hostility to the pretensions of science generally understand that they have to rely on science rather than religion to get things done. But this has not happened to anything like the same extent in the world of Islam. One finds in Islamic countries not only religious opposition to specific scientific theories, as occasionally in the West, but a widespread religious hostility to science itself. My late friend, the distinguished Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, tried to convince the rulers of the oil-rich states of the Persian Gulf to invest in scientific education and research, but he found that though they were enthusiastic about technology, they felt that pure science presented too great a challenge to faith. In 1981, the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt called for an end to scientific education. In the areas of science I know best, though there are talented scientists of Muslim origin working productively in the West, for forty years I have not seen a single paper by a physicist or astronomer working in a Muslim country that was worth reading. This is despite the fact that in the ninth century, when science barely existed in Europe, the greatest centre of scientific research in the world was the House of Wisdom in Baghdad.
Alas, Islam turned against science in the twelfth century. The most influential figure was the philosopher Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali, who argued in The Incoherence of the Philosophers against the very idea of laws of nature, on the ground that any such laws would put God's hands in chains. According to al-Ghazzali, a piece of cotton placed in a flame does not darken and smoulder because of the heat, but because God wants it to darken and smoulder. After al-Ghazzali, there was no more science worth mentioning in Islamic countries.
The consequences are hideous. Whatever one thinks of the Muslims who blow themselves up in crowded cities in Europe or Israel or fly planes into buildings in the US, who could dispute that the certainty of their faith had something to do with it? George W. Bush and many others would have us believe that terrorism is a distortion of Islam, and that Islam is a religion of peace. Of course, it is good policy to say this, but statements about what "Islam is" make little sense. Islam, like all other religions, was created by people, and there are potentially as many different versions of Islam as there are people who profess to be Muslims. (The same remarks apply to Eagleton's highly personal account of what Christianity "is".) I don't know on what ground one can say that a peaceable well-intentioned person like Abdus Salam was any more a true Muslim than the murderous holy warriors of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, the clerics throughout the world of Islam who incite hatred and violence, and those Muslims who demonstrate against supposed insults to their faith, but not against the atrocities committed in its name. (Incidentally, Abdus Salam regarded himself as a devout Muslim, but he belonged to a sect that most Muslims consider heretical, and for years was not allowed to return to Pakistan.) Dawkins treats Islam as just another deplorable religion, but there is a difference. The difference lies in the extent to which religious certitude lingers in the Islamic world, and in the harm it does. Richard Dawkins's even-handedness is well-intentioned, but it is misplaced. I share his lack of respect for all religions, but in our times it is folly to disrespect them all equally.
Britain: Libertarian traffic management coming?
Traffic lights, road signs and white lines would be removed from many high streets across the country under Conservative proposals to improve safety and reduce congestion by giving drivers and pedestrians equal status. Road humps, chicanes and other physical measures designed to reduce the speed of vehicles would be removed and the question of who had priority would be left open deliberately, making drivers more cautious.
The Conservatives are planning to publish a "green paper" on roads this year which will borrow heavily from so-called shared-space schemes in the Netherlands, where pedestrians, cyclists and cars are encouraged to mingle. Kerbs in several Dutch towns have been removed and the boundaries between the pavement and road blurred deliberately to prevent people from assuming they have right of way. Traffic lights have been uprooted and drivers must negotiate their way across junctions, forcing them to slow down and establish eye contact with pedestrians.
In the town of Drachten, the removal of traffic lights at one major junction has resulted in accidents falling from thirty-six in the four years before the scheme was introduced to two in the next two years. The average time for each vehicle to cross the junction fell from 50 seconds to 30 seconds, despite a rise in the volume of traffic.
Owen Paterson, the Shadow Transport Minister, visited Drachten and other Dutch towns. He told The Times: "There are some great ideas here which I would like to see in Britain. It's the opposite of the 1960s ethos of separating cars and pedestrians. By removing road signs and traffic lights and changing the appearance of the road, you avoid the impression that areas are designated just for cars. "The idea is to create space where there is mild anxiety among everyone so they all behave cautiously. No one thunders along at 30mph on a high street thinking that they have priority." Mr Paterson said that putting up more speed limit signs and painting more lines on the road had failed to make streets safer. "Instead of the State laying down the rules, we need to give responsibility back to road users. It's about creating an environment where it just doesn't feel right to drive faster than 20mph."
Some aspects of the shared space approach have already been adopted on London streets that have high numbers of pedestrians. At Seven Dials in Covent Garden, the road surface has been altered to give it the appearance of a pedestrian area and kerbs have been lowered to encourage people to wander across the street. In Kensington High Street, almost 600 metres of railings have been removed to allow pedestrians to cross where they want. The results have discredited the belief that railings prevent accidents: in the two years after they were removed, pedestrian casualties declined three times faster than the London average. Traffic engineers believe that drivers are now keeping a sharper eye out for pedestrians because they know that they may cross at any point.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is planning to introduce shared space ideas to Sloane Square next year. The aim is to encourage pedestrians to make greater use of the square, which is currently marooned by busy roads. A similar scheme is being planned for Exhibition Road.The idea of removing traffic lights was supported in a report published last month by the Institute of Economic Affairs.
Martin Cassini, the report's author, said: "Removing lights removes barriers to traffic flow and improves behaviour. If you observe a junction where the lights are out of action, there is rarely congestion. People approach slowly, wave each other on and filter in turn. Lights and other controls hamper instead of harness human nature, causing untold delay and harm."
27 January, 2007
Muslims defend Catholic stance in homosexal adoption row
THAT should trump everyone else
The Muslim Council of Britain has backed the leaders of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in the adoption row. The intervention adds to the pressure on the Government to create an exemption for religious adoption societies under the new Sexual Orientation Regulations. This week the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York entered the debate with a strong statement of support for the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor, who wrote to every member of the Cabinet warning that Catholic agencies could not accept a law that would force them to place children with gay couples.
Catholic leaders have given warning that the churchs seven adoption agencies, which placed 227 children last year, cannot breach Vatican guidelines against allowing gay couples to adopt, and would have no alternative but to close.
The Muslim Council said that it backed the churches principled stand. Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, the Secretary-General, said: The right to practise ones faith or the freedom to have no belief is a cornerstone of our society, as is the right of all to live free from unfair discrimination and harassment.
Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam. The Sexual Orientation Regulations as we understand them do not promote homosexuality but would provide protection against discrimination and harassment on account of sexual orientation. As Muslims, we are obliged to uphold the moral standards and codes of conduct dictated by our faith.
He said that the refusal to permit an exemption was inconsistent with previous antidiscrimination legislation. He added that the regulations should take full account of our multifaith, multicultural, multiethnic society and make accommodation to accord with differing beliefs and values.
Catholic leaders in Scotland have raised the stakes in the row by warning senior Cabinet ministers from Scotland that they will campaign against Labour candidates in the Scottish elections in May over the issue.Source
Archbishop Mario Conti, the vice-president of the Bishops Conference in Glasgow, wrote to Gordon Brown, the Chan-cellor, John Reid, the Home Secretary, Alistair Darling, the Trade Secretary, Douglas Alexander, the Transport and Scottish Secretary, and Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, and repeated his warning to the Prime Minister that disallowing Catholic agencies to discriminate will be a betrayal.
The BBC's cultural Marxism will trigger an American-style backlash
Intolerant and consumed by political correctness, the corporation is waging an Orwellian campaign against British values
How often do you hear, on the Today programme or Newsnight, contemptuous references to the tabloid or popular press as if it was some disembodied monster rather than the very embodiment of the views of the great majority of the British people?
Fair enough. The tabloid press - and it's getting confusing here, because the Times and the Independent are, of course, tabloids now, and the Mail has more quality readers than most of the so-called quality papers put together - is big enough to look after itself. Except I don't think it is fair, because this ignores the ever-burgeoning influence of the most powerful media organisation in the world: the hugely subsidised BBC. And it's my contention that the BBC monolith is distorting Britain's media market, crushing journalistic pluralism and imposing a monoculture that is inimical to healthy democratic debate.
Now before the liberal commentators reach for their vitriol - and, my goodness, how they demonise anyone who disagrees with them - let me say that I would die in a ditch defending the BBC as a great civilising force. Indeed I for one would pay the licence fee just for Radio 4. But the corporation is simply too big. For instance, it employs more journalists and their support staff -3,500 - and spends more on them - ú500m - than do all the national daily newspapers put together.
Where there was once just a handful of channels, the BBC now has an awesome stranglehold on the airwaves, reaching into every home every hour of the day - adding ever more channels and even considering launching over 60 local TV news stations across the UK. No wonder Britain's hard-pressed provincial press complains it can't compete, our ailing commercial radio sector is furious that the market is rigged against it, our nascent internet firms rage that they're not competing on a level playing field, and ITN, aided and abetted by some pretty incompetent management, is reeling on the ropes.
But it's not the BBC's ubiquity, so much greater than Fleet Street's, that is worrying, but its power to impose - under the figleaf of impartiality - its own worldview. Forget the fact that the BBC has, until recently, been institutionally anti-Tory. The sorry fact is that there is not a single Labour scandal - Ecclestone, Mittal, Mandelson and the Hindujas, Cheriegate, Tessa Jowell, and Prescott and Anshutz - on which the BBC has shown the slightest journalistic alacrity.
No, what really disturbs me is that the BBC is, in every corpuscle of its corporate body, against the values of conservatism, with a small "c", which, I would argue, just happens to be the values held by millions of Britons. Thus it exercises a kind of "cultural Marxism" in which it tries to undermine that conservative society by turning all its values on their heads.
Of course, there is the odd dissenting voice, but by and large BBC journalism starts from the premise of leftwing ideology: it is hostile to conservatism and the traditional right, Britain's past and British values, America, Ulster unionism, Euroscepticism, capitalism and big business, the countryside, Christianity and family values. Conversely, it is sympathetic to Labour, European federalism, the state and state spending, mass immigration, minority rights, multiculturalism, alternative lifestyles, abortion, and progressiveness in the education and the justice systems.
Now you may sympathise with all or some of these views. I may even sympathise with some of them. But what on earth gives the BBC the right to assume they are the only values of any merit?
Over Europe, for instance, the BBC has always treated anyone who doesn't share its federalism - which just happens to be the great majority of the British population - as if they were demented xenophobes. In very telling words, the ex-cabinet secretary Lord Wilson blamed the BBC's "institutional mindset" over Europe on a "homogenous professional recruitment base" and "a dislike for conservative ideas".
Again, until recently, anyone who questioned, however gently, multiculturalism or mass immigration was treated like a piece of dirt - effectively enabling the BBC to all but close down debate on the biggest demographic change to this island in its history.
Above all, the BBC is statist. To its functionaries, insulated from the vulgar demands of the real world, there is no problem great or small - and this is one of the factors in Britain's soaring victim culture - that cannot be blamed on a lack of state spending, and any politician daring to argue that taxes should be cut is accused of "lurching to the right".
Thus BBC journalism is presented through a leftwing prism that affects everything - the choice of stories, the way they are angled, the choice of interviewees and, most pertinently, the way those interviewees are treated. The BBC's journalists, protected from real competition, believe that only their worldview constitutes moderate, sensible and decent opinion. Any dissenting views - particularly those held by popular papers - are therefore considered, by definition, to be extreme and morally beyond the pale.
But then, the BBC is consumed by the kind of political correctness that is actually patronisingly contemptuous of what it describes as ordinary people. Having started as an admirable philosophy of tolerance, that political correctness has become an intolerant creed, enabling a self-appointed elite to impose its minority values on the great majority. Anything popular is dismissed as being populist - which is sneering shorthand for being of the lowest possible taste.
The right to disagree was axiomatic to classical liberalism, but the BBC's political correctness is, in fact, an ideology of rigid self-righteousness in which those who do not conform are ignored, silenced, or vilified as sexist, racist, fascist or judgmental. Thus, with this assault on reason, are whole areas of legitimate debate - in education, health, race relations and law and order - shut down, and the corporation, which glories in being open-minded, has become a closed-thought system operating a kind of Orwellian Newspeak.
This is perverting political discourse and disenfranchising countless millions who don't subscribe to the BBC's worldview; one of the reasons, I would suggest, for the current apathy over politics.
How instructive to compare all this with what is happening in America. There, the liberal smugness of a terminally worthy, monopolistic press has, together with deregulation, triggered both the explosive growth of rightwing radio broadcasting that now dominates the airwaves and the extraordinary rise of Murdoch's rightwing Fox TV News service. Democracy needs a healthy tension between left and right, and nature abhors a vacuum. If the BBC continues skewing the political debate, there will be a backlash and I predict that what has happened in America will eventually take place in Britain.
Now, there's been much talk recently of the need for more civic journalism in Britain, the very thing the BBC prides itself on. But let's pose this question: what if a civic BBC finds itself dealing with an administration that does not behave in a civic way? An administration that manipulates news organisations and the news agenda, that packs ministry press offices with its supporters, that chooses good days to bury bad news, that favours news bodies that give it positive coverage and penalises those who don't, that fabricates health and education figures, and concocts dodgy dossiers - an administration that, in Campbell and Mandelson, thought nothing of engaging in systematic falsehood.
Is the BBC's civic journalism - too often credulously trusting, lacking scepticism, rarely proactive in the sense of breaking stories itself - up to dealing with a political class that too often set out to dissemble and to deceive? The bitter irony, of course, is that when, for once, the BBC was proactive in its journalism and did stand up to the Labour party by breaking a genuine story, the corporation and its craven governors all but imploded under pressure from a rabid Campbell.
And what is interesting is that this contrasted with the ruthless support for the Iraq war that Rupert Murdoch imposed on his papers and their equally ruthless suppression of any criticism of the invasion whether it involved the attorney general's malfeasance, virtually ignored in the Times, or Dr Kelly, all but hung drawn and quartered by the Sun.
Indeed, I would suggest that the intimacy and power-brokering between these two papers and No 10, and the question of whether Mr Blair would have got away with his falsehoods and misjudgments over Iraq - indeed, whether Britain would have gone to war at all - without the support of the Murdoch empire, is a brilliant doctoral thesis for some future media studies student.
Yes, the BBC is, in many ways, a wonderful organisation. But the fact remains that it depends for its licence fee on the British population as a whole, yet only reflects the views of a tiny metropolitan minority. If it continues with this abuse of trust, then the British people will withdraw their consent and the corporation will fall into discredit. And that would be a very great pity.
RUSSIA EXPELLING FOREIGN LABOUR
Thousands of migrant workers from the Caucasus, Central Asia and China are leaving Russia as the government institutes tough new measures aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. Campaigners against illegal immigration are welcoming the measures, saying low-paid migrants were distorting the job market and taking work from Russian citizens. But critics say the moves are ill-advised because they will drive up retail prices and create a labor shortage that could hurt Russia's booming economy.
About 12 million people, mostly citizens of impoverished ex-Soviet republics who do not require a visa to enter the country, are currently working illegally in Russia, according to analysts. The new rules set the quota for legal foreign workers at 6 million, while at same time imposing fines of up to $30,000 on companies that employ foreigners illegally. Also, as of this month, only 40 percent of workers in Russia's retail markets are allowed to be foreigners, and none should be by April 1.
Foreign workers have traditionally dominated in Russia's retail markets, with people from Azerbaijan, for example, selling fruits and vegetables, and Chinese selling cheap manufactured goods. Illegal migrants, mostly from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, are also heavily employed as laborers in the construction industry. 'We aren't wanted anymore, so I guess we'll be going home,' said Artak, an Armenian who sells cigarettes and alcohol at a kiosk in central Moscow. 'I'll be surprised if they can find a Russian who is willing do this work all day for what they pay me.'
With illegal migrants difficult to track, it's not clear exactly how many are leaving Russia. But Russian police have been out in force to enforce the new laws, and signs are that few are taking the risk of staying. Many stalls at food markets across Moscow are empty as vendors leave the country. Some markets have closed altogether, while others have posted signs looking for vendors with Russian citizenship. Russian television has shown images of empty markets in the Far East, where Chinese stallholders have fled across the border.
A Russian union organizer who works with illegal migrants in the construction industry said companies are throwing thousands of workers off job sites in fear of being prosecuted. 'You used to be able to get off the plane and immediately find work. Now everyone wants to get back on planes to go home,' said the organizer, who did not want his name used because he worries that he'll be targeted by authorities.
The new measures appear to be a response to a surge in ethnic nationalism and opposition to immigration that has occasionally erupted in violence. In August, a bomb tore through Moscow's Cherkizovsky market, killing 13 persons, mostly illegal workers from Central Asia. Racist attacks have grown dramatically, with at least 53 persons killed last year in racially motivated assaults, according to the human rights group Sova. Last fall, President Vladimir Putin denounced 'ethnic gangs' that control Russia's markets and called for regulation to protect 'the native Russian population.'
Alexander Belov, the head of the influential Movement Against Illegal Immigration, welcomed the new rules as 'a step in the right direction.' But he said Russia needs to go further and impose full visa requirements on 'people from poor countries who take jobs from Russians and give nothing back to our society.'
Russia's population is shrinking by 750,000 people a year and has fallen below 142 million due to low birth rates and high mortality rates, especially among working-age men. There are fears the new measures could lead to an economic slowdown if foreign workers cannot be replaced. 'Most of the migrants working in Russia are doing jobs Russian citizens don't want,' said Svetlana Gannushkina, the head of the Migration and Law Network, which assists immigrants. She said the measures are little more than a populist move ahead of elections to the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, later this year.
This could backfire, she added, because the crackdown may also drive up costs in retail markets, hurting Russia's poor. The average Russian earns only about $5,000 a year, and low-income Russians do most of their shopping in retail markets. 'This is going to damage not only migrant workers but also all the people who won't be able to afford to pay more for fruits, vegetables and meat,' she said.
The government appears to be hedging its bets promising that prices will not rise and that the April 1 deadline for foreigners to be banned from markets could be extended. 'The laws are aimed at regulating the normal functioning of markets and not at reducing the quantity of goods traded,' Economic Development Minister German Gref said in televised comments. 'If we see any threat, the time limit can be extended by a government decision.'
26 January, 2007
Muslim whining in India too
Apparently Indian-style exercise for schoolchildren can be unislamic!
A mass yoga exercise for five million children in India, aimed at kick-starting a health drive, has provoked calls for Muslims to boycott schools today. The central state of Madhya Pradesh wants all children to take part in the Surya Namaskar, which in Sanskrit means "sun salutation". Elaborate preparations have been made for the performance of the 12-posture exercise and the Pranayama, the yogic breathing technique espoused by Swami Ramdev. In the absence of the yoga guru, who is holding a camp in Bangkok, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, will lead the session.
His commands will be broadcast at 9am from the city of Bhopal across the state on radio and television. Every child aged 11 and above has been invited to participate and every state minister ordered to attend. "We have a firm belief that Surya Namaskar is good for health and we want to teach it to everyone who is interested," Ajay Vishnoi, the health minister, said. "Five million children will be doing this."
The event has angered India's 150 million-strong Muslim community, which fears further marginalisation by the majority Hindu population. Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalists. The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board appealed to the state governor to intervene, while the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, one of India's leading Islamic organisations, sought a high court injunction against an "unconstitutional" event. Both approaches having failed, Muslim leaders advised parents to avoid "an embarrassing situation" by not sending their children to school. "India is a secular country, and we don't think it is right on the part of the Government to hurt our religious sentiments by favouring a practice of the majority community," Shamshuddin Ahmed, a member of the Muslim law board, said. "Our religion does not preach reverence to the Sun. It teaches to pay obeisance to the maker of the Sun, Allah."
The controversy is the second in four months involving the promotion of Hindu nationalism in state schools. There was outrage in September after all educational institutions were instructed to sing Vande Mataram, the national song, to mark its centenary. Muslim leaders protested that the song, which translates as Mother, I Bow to Thee, was also against their principle of bowing before no one but Allah. The Government ruled that it was optional to sing the song - a rallying cry for Indians fighting British rule - but the BJP condemned the objections as unpatriotic.
Similarly, it is emphasised that the Surya Namaskar is not compulsory. "No one is forcing people to join in," Mr Vishnoi said. "It is for whoever wants to. It is nothing to do with religion. It is a health function." Swami Ramdev plans a yoga training and research centre in the state. The guru, who has broadcast daily on his TV channel since 2002, is said to have a $50 million empire.
The Surya Namaskar is said to strengthen the body, improve circulation and regulate breathing. Benefits include stronger abdominal muscles, reduced anxiety, improved memory, hair loss prevention and a less prominent Adam's apple. Pregnant women and hernia sufferers are advised not to do it
HOMOSEXUAL ADOPTION UNDER PRESSURE IN BRITAIN
The Church of England put pressure on the Prime Minister last night over the gay adoptions row with a letter giving warning that "rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation". The Archbishops of Canterbury and York declared on the side of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster after Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor wrote to every member of the Cabinet stating that the Catholic Church could not accept a law forcing its adoption agencies to accept gay couples.
The intervention by Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu in a letter seen by The Times places unprecedented pressure on Tony Blair. If he accedes to the demands, he will face accusations from the gay rights lobby and many within his own Government of being a "Vatican puppet". If he stands by the gay lobby, he risks alienating hundreds of thousands of Catholic Labour voters.
It is thought that Mr Blair, an Anglican whose wife is a Catholic and who has long been known to be sympathetic to the Church himself, favours a compromise. However, most other Cabinet ministers are taking a much harder line and believe that compromise is impossible. If the Church is allowed to opt out, they argue, it would undermine the fundemental position of law.
In their letter, Dr Williams and Dr Sentamu highlight the danger of the row escalating to the point where some might question the ability of people with a strong faith to be in government. They say: "It would be deeply regrettable if in seeking, quite properly, better to defend the rights of a particular group not to be discriminated against, a climate were to be created in which, for example, some feel free to argue that members of the Government are not fit to hold public office on the grounds of their faith affiliation."
They give warning that the argument over the Sexual Orientation Regulations has reached damaging proportions and that "much could be lost". They say: "Many in the voluntary sector are dedicated to public service because of the dictates of their conscience. In legislating to protect and promote the rights of particular groups the Government is faced with the delicate but important challenge of not thereby creating the conditions within which others feel their rights to have been ignored or sacrificed, or in which the dictates of personal conscience are put at risk. "The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning." They draw a comparison with doctors working for the NHS, who are entitled to opt out of performing abortions if it goes against their conscience. They said: "It is vitally important that the interests of vulnerable children are not relegated to suit any political interest. And that conditions are not inadvertently created which make the claims of conscience an obstacle to, rather than the inspiration for, the invaluable public service rendered by parts of the voluntary sector."
Their letter came as Mr Blair signalled his support for Catholic adoption agencies to opt out of gay rights laws despite accusations of blackmail by bishops threatening their closure. Downing Street said Mr Blair had taken charge of the search for a compromise amid a stand-off between the Catholic Church and supporters of gay rights over a new law to curb discrimination. But supporters of the new regulations insisted there was no scope for a middle way without breaching the principles of equality law.
Children used as experiment, says British magistrate
A magistrate who says that he was forced to resign because he did not feel able to place children in care with same-sex couples said yesterday that the children were being used as guinea-pigs in a social experiment. Andrew McClintock, 62, a member of the Christian People's Alliance council, has served as a magistrate in the family courts in Sheffield for 15 years, ruling on whether children in troubled families needed to be placed in care.
But he has argued that the new civil partnership law could mean him sanctioning the removal of a child from its natural family to be placed in the care of a gay couple. Mr McClintock, a father of four, resigned from his position because he said that this would contravene both his personal religious beliefs and his duty as a magistrate to put the child's welfare first.
He is taking action against the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which runs the country's magistrates' courts, under the Employment Equality Regulations 2003, arguing that he is being discriminated against on religious grounds. He wants reinstatement. Mr McClintock was supported by protesters handing out leaflets on the first of what is expected to be a three-day employment tribunal.
He told the tribunal in Sheffield that children assigned to same-sex couples risked being teased in the playground about having two daddies or mummies. He said: "It is incompatible with the welfare of the child, who is becoming a guinea-pig in a social science experiment." He is claiming that his dignity had been violated after being told that he must sit on such cases despite his conviction that children should be brought up by heterosexual couples. There were precedents for his position of conscience and he should be accommodated, he argued.
Nation at risk from tyranny of tolerance
AUSTRALIA'S long-term difficulty in dealing with the now politically defunct noun "multiculturalism" is not unique to this country. It is not even unique to this time. In London earlier this week a newspaper columnist dug out some old quotes from Winston Churchill in 1938, then merely another politician but a man whose time was about to come. They were dark days as Churchill watched the tyranny of Nazi Germany spread across Europe and, as the Nazis pushed their violent, intolerant ideology on the world, the British Government simply looked on. Stunned mullets.
They were seemingly unwilling - or unable - to deal with the problem. "I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf," Churchill observed. He was never short of a quotable line, was ol' Winston. But he also warned that "if a moral catastrophe should overtake" Britain, future historians would sit back and be baffled as to how a great nation allowed itself to be destroyed so easily. Well, folks, who's to say it isn't happening again?
How many of you noticed that those Christmas cards you have no doubt recycled by now actually said Happy Holidays, and not the religiously correct Merry Christmas? Were the Christmas lights down in your neighbourhood this year? It wasn't so long ago that Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore thought it was a good idea to cancel Christmas decorations in the city so - and how many times are we hearing this? - as not to offend Muslims. Just this week concert promoter Ken West tried to ban the Australian flag because he believed it would invoke racial violence. Aside from showing common sense was officially dead and buried, West did a pretty good job of indicating the spirit of rock 'n' roll is in the early stages of rigor mortis as well.
Australia is not unique in its troubles, though. In England last week a woman graduating with her Metropolitan Police class refused to shake the Police Commissioner's hand because it was against her Muslim faith to shake hands with any man not her husband or a close relative. What did the commissioner do? Privately, they say, he was outraged at the lack of what we Westerners call manners. But he agreed, so as "not to cause a scene". For any right-minded person, though, shouldn't the immediate thought have been: If she cannot touch men, then how is she supposed to arrest them? The commissioner should have stripped her of her badge there and then. These are all examples of this politically correct pandering to other religions gone completely wrong. They are occurring at the disintegration of our own culture. Sure, this woman was entitled to her religious beliefs but when it comes to policing, the greater welfare of the community should have been put before her interests.
Sadly it wasn't, which is symptomatic of the problem in England, in Australia, and throughout the Western world. In a bid to stay modern, be fair and accept every man as equal, countries opened their borders to differing religions, races and persuasions when, according to the rhetoric, we should all have then joined in a group hug. It hasn't quite worked out that way. Hardline fundamental Muslims have moved in, happy to accept the freedoms and benefits of our culture - whenever it suited - while around the world their kill tally continues to rise. They sell their hate-mongering DVDs in western Sydney and then we excuse them because we are a "tolerant" society.
Well, it says here that tolerance these days is just cowardice dressed in a palatable mask. The true meaning has been lost in this dog's breakfast of political correctness. By pandering to religious sensibilities in such a manner Australia is just weakening its own culture and going down the path of ruin. Australia is a wonderful country and deserves protecting. It should not be allowed to be overrun by fundamentalists preying on our weakness to show "tolerance".
The small light of hope this week was Prime Minister John Howard's decision to reflect the feelings of the majority of this country by changing the multiculturalism portfolio to a citizenship portfolio. While it is hard to ignore the change could simply be an election stunt from Honest John cashing in on the wider feelings of the electorate, the hope is it is more a case of astute politics. With no more astute politician in Canberra, he gets the early benefit of the doubt.
Australia needs to be protected not just from the fundamentalists but from ourselves - from the dimwits all too willing to give this country away in the name of tolerance. For a long while Churchill was a lone voice in his opposition to Hitler, even becoming virtually banned from the BBC for being too anti-German. He was proven right only when it was almost too late.
25 January, 2007
HOMOSEXUALS BLAME OTHERS FOR THEIR DRUG MISUSE
It's always somebody else's fault these days
An AIDS organization sued Pfizer Inc. on Monday over ads the group says encourage use of Viagra as a party drug. The nonprofit group said such recreational use furthers the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The suit, filed in Los Angeles by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, calls Pfizer's ads for the impotence drug false and misleading. The suit echoes allegations made in an ad campaign announced by the group last month.
The nonprofit group alleges the marketing of Viagra has fostered an increase in the spread of STDs. Studies have found the drug is used - illegally - in conjunction with crystal methamphetamine to form a party drug "cocktail." While crystal meth can heighten sexual desire, it also can impair the ability to have an erection, said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "In order to satisfy that heightened desire, you have to take Viagra," Weinstein told reporters.
Pfizer denied it promotes the recreational use of its blockbuster drug. In 2005, Pfizer had $860 million in U.S. Viagra sales, according to IMS Health Inc. The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks to halt the New York company from running ads like those that have promoted the drug's use on New Year's Eve and Super Bowl Sunday, said Tom Myers, the AIDS group's legal counsel. The ads, which included taglines like "Be this Sunday's MVP" encourage recreational use, the group alleges.
The suit also seeks to force Pfizer to undertake a public information campaign on the dangers of misusing and abusing the prescription drug. Furthermore, it seeks an unspecified amount to cover an increase in treatment costs borne by the nonprofit group, which runs free treatment clinics.
Pfizer said it and a company foundation already support AIDS prevention efforts, including a three-year, $6 million project undertaken in 2003 in nine southern states.
The advertisements in question featured younger-looking men than did earlier Viagra ads that used retired Sen. Bob Dole, then in his 70s, as a pitchman. Myers said the newer ads imply the drug is meant to enhance the sexual experience and not to treat a medical condition.
A Pfizer official warned against confusing age with the degree of impotence. "The age of the personality that's always seen in promotional materials doesn't necessarily depict severity," said Dr. Ivan Levinson, senior medical director for Pfizer Urology and Sexual Health.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation also wants the Food and Drug Administration to step up its oversight of Viagra ads. An FDA spokeswoman didn't immediately return a message left seeking comment. In 2004, the FDA warned Pfizer that some television ads for Viagra made it clear the drug was for sex, but failed to note it was to treat impotence. The ads also failed to provide information on its major side effects, according to the letter. Filing of the suit came as Pfizer announced it would cut 10,000 jobs in seeking to trim its annual costs by $2 billion.
British Catholics refuse to accept homosexual adoption law
The Roman Catholic Church squared up for a political battle with the Government yesterday as it warned the Cabinet that it could not accept a law forcing it to embrace adoption by gay couples. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor, the Archbishop of Westminster, took the unusual step of writing to every Cabinet member saying that he would have serious difficulty with such a move.
Catholic teaching about family life meant that its adoption agencies would not be able to recruit and consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents, he added. We believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the Government to insist that, if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the Church and their own consciences, the Archbishop told them.
Such a strongly worded intervention by the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales will further stoke a row within the Government over new discrimination regulations. The Times has been told that Tony Blair sided with the Catholic Church and expressed fears that its adoption agencies would close unless he allowed an exemption when Angela Eagle, a Labour MP, tackled him over the issue at the parliamentary committee of Labour backbenchers last week.
The Sexual Orientation Regulations have aroused opposition among some evangelical Christian leaders because of fears that Christian hotel owners could be open to prosecution if they refused to let homosexual couples have a room.
But a spokesman said that the new regulations would not affect the existing policy of Anglican adoption charities, where couples and individuals are assessed according to their suitability and to the needs of the child.
In its response to the government consultation, the Church said that it was crucial to ensure that churches and other faith communities were able to manifest their convictions and doctrines without fear of prosecution. That means that the regulations need to strike a careful balance, as in other anti-discrimination legislation, between potentially competing rights, it added.
Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, who is responsible for the regulations as the Minister for Equality Policy, is said by colleagues to have been ready to propose an exemption that would allow Catholic agencies to continue as they are.
But her stance has provoked a revolt by other ministers and Labour backbenchers, who say that an exemption would allow discrimination against homosexuals.
Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, said: I suspect the bishops are hopelessly out of step with ordinary Catholics on this. Surely all that counts is the best interests of the child.
The row has echoes of the last big intervention into politics by the Roman Catholic Church, when it began a lobbying campaign that forced the Government to abandon plans last autumn to require new faith schools to accept a quarter of their admissions from children of other religions.
This time the church is threatening to close 12 Catholic adoption and fostering agencies unless they win an exemption.Source
How feminists tried to destroy the family
Erin Pizzey, founder of the battered wives' refuge, on how militant feminists - with the collusion of Labour's leading women - hijacked her cause and used it to try to demonise all men
During 1970, I was a young housewife with a husband, two children, two dogs and a cat. We lived in Hammersmith, West London, and I didn't see much of my husband because he worked for TV's Nationwide. I was lonely and isolated, and longed for something other than the usual cooking, cleaning and housework to enter my life.
By the early Seventies, a new movement for women - demanding equality and rights - began to make headlines in the daily newspapers. Among the jargon, I read the words "solidarity" and "support". I passionately believed that women would no longer find themselves isolated from each other, and in the future could unite to change our society for the better. Within a few days I had the address of a local group in Chiswick, and I was on my way to join the Women's Liberation Movement. I was asked to pay 3 pounds and ten shillings as a joining fee, told to call other women "sisters" and that our meetings were to be called "collectives".
My fascination with this new movement lasted only a few months. At the huge "collectives", I heard shrill women preaching hatred of the family. They said the family was not a safe place for women and children. I was horrified at their virulence and violent tendencies. I stood on the same platforms trying to reason with the leading lights of this new organisation. I ended up being thrown out by the movement. My crime was to warn some of the women working in the Women's Liberation Movement office off Shaftesbury Avenue that if it persisted in cooperating with a plan to bomb Biba, a fashionable clothes shop in Kensington, I would call the police. Biba was bombed because the women's movement thought it was a capitalist enterprise devoted to sexualising women's bodies.
I decided that I was wasting my time trying to influence what, to my mind, was a Marxist/ feminist movement touting for money from gullible women like myself. By that time, I'd met a small group of women in my area who agreed with me. We persuaded Hounslow council to give us a tiny house in Belmont Terrace in Chiswick. We had two rooms upstairs, two rooms downstairs, a kitchen and an outside lavatory. We installed a telephone and typewriter, and we were in business. Every day after dropping my children at school, I went to our little house, which we called the Women's Aid. Soon women from all over Chiswick were coming to ask for help. At last we had somewhere women could meet each other and bring their children. My long, lonely days were over.
But then something happened that made me understand that our role was going to be more than just a forum where women could exchange ideas. One day, a lady came in to see us. She took off her jersey, and we saw that she was bruised and swollen across her breasts and back. Her husband had taken a chair leg to her. She looked at me and said: "No one will help me." For a moment I was somersaulted back in time. I was six years old, standing in front of a teacher at school. My legs were striped and bleeding from a whipping I had received from an ironing cord. "My mother did this to me last night," I said. "No wonder," replied the teacher. "'You're a dreadful child." No one would help me then and nobody would ever imagine that my beautiful, rich mother - who was married to a diplomat - could be a violent abuser. Until that moment 35 years later, I had buried my past and assumed that because we had social workers, probation officers, doctors, hospitals and solicitors, victims of violence had enough help.
I quickly discovered, as battered women with their children poured into the house, that whatever was going on behind other people's front doors was seen as nobody else's business. If someone was beaten up on the street, it was a criminal offence; the same beating behind a closed door was called "a domestic"' and the police had no rights or power to interfere. The shocking fact for me was that there had been a deafening silence on the subject of domestic violence. All the social agencies knew about domestic violence, but nobody talked about it. I searched for literature to help me understand this epidemic, but there was nothing to read except a few articles on child abuse in medical journals.
So in 1974 I decided to write Scream Quietly Or The Neighbours Will Hear, the first book in the world on domestic violence. I revealed that women and children were being abused in their own homes and they couldn't escape because the law wouldn't protect them. If a husband claimed he would have his wife back, she couldn't claim any money from the Department of Health and Social Security, and social services could only offer to take the children into care.
Meanwhile, our little house was packed with women fleeing their violent partners - sometimes as many as 56 mothers and children in four rooms. All had terrible stories, but I recognised almost immediately that not all the women were innocent. Some were as violent as the men, and violent towards their children. The social workers involved with these women told me I was wasting my time because the women would only return to their partners. I was determined to try to break the chain of violence. But as the local newspaper picked up the story of our house, I grew worried about a very different threat.
I knew that the radical feminist movement was running out of national support because more sensible women had shunned their anti-male, anti-family agenda. Not only were they looking for a cause, they also wanted money. In 1974, the women living in my refuge organised a meeting in our local church hall to encourage other groups to open refuges across the country. We were astonished and frightened that many of the radical lesbian and feminist activists that I had seen in the collectives attended. They began to vote themselves into a national movement across the country. After a stormy argument, I left the hall with my abused mothers - and what I had most feared happened.
In a matter of months, the feminist movement hijacked the domestic violence movement, not just in Britain, but internationally. Our grant was given to them and they had a legitimate reason to hate and blame all men. They came out with sweeping statements which were as biased as they were ignorant. "All women are innocent victims of men's violence," they declared. They opened most of the refuges in the country and banned men from working in them or sitting on their governing committees. Women with alcohol or drug problems were refused admittance, as were boys over 12 years old. Refuges that let men work there were refused affiliation.
Our group in Chiswick worked with as many refuges as we could. Good, caring women still work in refuges across the country, but many women working in the feminist refuges, about 350, admit they are failing women who most need them.
With the first donation we received in 1972, we employed a male playgroup leader because we felt our children needed the experience of good, gentle men. We devised a treatment programme for women who recognised that they, too, were violent and dysfunctional. And we concentrated on children hurt by violence and sexual abuse. Yet the feminist refuges continued to create training programmes that described only male violence against women. Slowly, the police and other organisations were brainwashed into ignoring the research that was proving men could also be victims.
Despite attacks in the Press from feminist journalists and threatening anonymous telephone calls, I continued to argue that violence was a learned pattern of behaviour from early childhood. When, in the mid-Eighties, I published Prone To Violence, about my work with violence-prone women and their children, I was picketed by hundreds of women from feminist refuges, holding placards which read: "All men are bastards" and "All men are rapists". Because of violent threats, I had to have a police escort around the country.
It was bad enough that this relatively small group of women was influencing social workers and police. But I became aware of a far more insidious development in the form of public policy-making by powerful women, which was creating a poisonous attitude towards men. In 1990, Harriet Harman (who became a Cabinet minister), Anna Coote (who became an adviser to Labour's Minister for Women) and Patricia Hewitt (yes, she's in the Labour Cabinet, too!) expressed their beliefs in a social policy paper called The Family Way. It said: "It cannot be assumed that men are bound to be an asset to family life, or that the presence of fathers in families is necessarily a means to social harmony and cohesion." It was a staggering attack on men and their role in modern life.
Hewitt, in a book by Geoff Dench called Transforming Men published in 1995, said: "But if we want fathers to play a full role in their children's lives, then we need to bring men into the playgroups and nurseries and the schools. And here, of course, we hit the immediate difficulty of whether we can trust men with children." In 1998, however, the Home Office published a historic study which stipulated that men as well as women could be victims of domestic violence. With that report in my hand, I tried to reason with Joan Ruddock, who was then Minister for Women. The figures for battered men were "minuscule" she insisted and she continued to refer to men only as "perpetrators".
For nearly four decades, these pernicious attitudes towards family life, fathers and boys have permeated the thinking of our society to such an extent that male teachers and carers are now afraid to touch or cuddle children. Men can be accused of violence towards their partners and sexual abuse without evidence. Courts discriminate against fathers and refuse to allow them access to their children on the whims of vicious partners.
Of course, there are dangerous men who manipulate the court systems and social services to persecute their partners and children. But by blaming all men, we have diluted the focus on this minority of men and pushed aside the many men who would be willing to work with women towards solutions.
I believe that the feminist movement envisaged a new Utopia that depended upon destroying family life. In the new century, so their credo ran, the family unit will consist of only women and their children. Fathers are dispensable. And all that was yoked - unforgivably - to the debate about domestic violence. To my mind, it has never been a gender issue - those exposed to violence in early childhood often grow up to repeat what they have learned, regardless of whether they are girls or boys. I look back with sadness to my young self and my vision that there could be places where people - men, women and children who have suffered physical and sexual abuse - could find help, and if they were violent could be given a second chance to learn to live peacefully.
I believe that vision was hijacked by vengeful women who have ghetto-ised the refuge movement and used it to persecute men. Surely the time has come to challenge this evil ideology and insist that men take their rightful place in the refuge movement. We need an inclusive movement that offers support to everyone that needs it. As for me - I will always continue to work with anyone who needs my help or can help others - and yes, that includes men
More than 30 years after the Whitlam government introduced Australians to multiculturalism, the term has been officially discarded by the Immigration Department. Prime Minister John Howard used yesterday's reshuffle to excise the word from Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. The department will now be known as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in one of Mr Howard's more powerful gestures about the way we now view arrivals.
The PM denied his decision to dump the term was an attack on the concept. He said he believed "citizenship" adequately reflected the desires of the Australian people about the path of a newly arrived immigrant. "I don't think the term (multiculturalism) is defunct," he said. "I think the desired progression is for an immigrant to become an Australian. Simple as that."
Mr Howard said a vibrant immigration process was essentially about bringing newcomers into the fold. "I think the title of the new department expresses the desires and the aspirations (of the people) and that is that the people who come to this country become Australians," Mr Howard said.
Former [Leftist] immigration minister Al Grassby [above] gave Australia multiculturalism under the Whitlam government in the early 1970s. The word encapsulated a new approach to immigration, allowing individual cultures to flourish beside one another rather than forcing conformity to the accepted norm. Australian historian Professor Geoffrey Blainey began writing about the difficulties he saw engendered by the concept in the 1980s.
The Opposition said the new branding would not change the nature of the department. Labor's Immigration spokesman, Tony Burke, said the new minister, Kevin Andrews, would continue to do Mr Howard's bidding. "The real limitation on getting a fresh start is the policies that (former minister) Amanda Vanstone was pursuing were always the policies that John Howard wanted," Mr Burke said. "And if Kevin Andrews has shown anything with his record in the past, it's that he's willing to follow the precise scheme laid down by the Prime Minister."
24 January, 2007
Muslim dickless Tracy shuns handshake with British police chief
Scotland Yard is at the centre of a new dispute over religious customs clashing with professional duties after a Muslim woman police cadet refused to shake hands with Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
The incident happened at a recent graduation ceremony where Sir Ian was inspecting a passing-out parade of 200 new recruits.
The woman, who has not been named, told officers just before the ceremony began that her strict Muslim beliefs meant that she could not exchange the traditional congratulatory handshake with the commissioner.
She also refused to be photograped with Sir Ian, reportedly claiming that she did not want the image to be used for propaganda purposes as the Yard endeavours to recruit more female Muslim officers. Sir Ian was said to be incensed when told of the womans refusal.
Training officers told the commissioner that they had reluctantly agreed with her request as they did not want to cancel or disrupt the ceremony at the Yards sports and conference centre at Thames Ditton, Surrey, last month. The parade was attended by hundreds of family and friends of recruits who had completed their 18-week basic training. One senior police source said: This had never happened before and there are serious issues at stake. There is an inquiry into the matter.
The woman took part in the parade wearing a hijab, explaining that her faith dictates that she must not take shake hands with or kiss a man other than her father and close relative. She assured training staff that her religious code would not prevent her arresting a man.The woman is understood to have begun patrol duties in West London as part of her two-year probation period while superiors assess her suitability for the job.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: This request was only granted by members of training staff out of a desire to minimise any disruption to others enjoyment, and to ensure the smooth running of what is one of the most important events in an officers career. The commissioner did question the validity of this request, and the matter is being looked into.
The officer maintains that she puts the requirements of being a police officer above her personal beliefs and only exercises the latter when she has choice to do so.
The Yard has allowed women officers to wear an adaptation of the hijab as part of their uniform since 2001. Commanders have been trying to recruit more Muslims but there are still only 300 among the Mets 35,000 officers. Fewer than 20 are women.
The Yard faced controversy last year when a Muslim officer was excused from guarding the Israeli Embassy at the height of the conflict in Lebanon. PC Alexander Omar Basha was moved to other duties after claiming that he was afraid his Lebanese relatives could be targeted if he were seen on TV.
Tahir Butt, spokesman for the Association of Muslim Police, supported the womans behaviour. The actions demonstrate strength of character, challenge social norms and educate others as to the diverse practices of communities of London, he said.
Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that the public should not be alarmed by the officers beliefs.
He said: If she is called to a male victim who has been shot, the laws go out of the window. Muslim law will say, Forget everything, save this life.Source
MARRIAGE DYING OUT?
Not so fast says Jeff Jacoby
Did you know that a majority of American women now live without husbands? I didn't either, but last week the New York Times announced it on Page 1: "51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse."
Taken at face value, that's a pretty disquieting statistic. If society is to flourish and perpetuate itself, it must uphold marriage as a social ideal -- it must raise boys and girls in a culture that encourages them to eventually marry a partner of the opposite sex, make stable and loving homes together, and have children who will one day form successful marriages of their own. The news that most American women now live without husbands suggests that society's "ideal" is dwindling to a minority taste.
"At one end of the age spectrum, women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners more often and for longer periods," reporter Sam Roberts notes. "At the other end, women are living longer as widows and, after a divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage, sometimes delighting in their newfound freedom."
That delight is voiced by nearly every woman quoted in the story. "The benefits were completely unforeseen for me," says a 59-year-old divorcee, "the free time, the amount of time I get to spend with friends, the time I have alone, which I value tremendously, the flexibility in terms of work, travel, and cultural events." Such are the joys of non marriage, another woman exults, that "every day is like a present."
Roberts quotes William Frey of the Brookings Institution, who describes this apparently happy husbandless majority as "a clear tipping point, reflecting the culmination of post-1960 trends associated with greater independence and more flexible lifestyles for women." Well, maybe. Or maybe not. For when you try to pin down the numbers, Roberts's startling finding turns out to depend on some awfully strained definitions.
"Women," for example, isn't the word most of us would use to describe high school sophomores. Yet the Times includes girls as young as 15 in its analysis. Not surprisingly, girls who in many cases aren't old enough to have a driver's license are unlikely to have husbands. According to the Census Bureau's 2005 American Community survey, 97 percent of females between 15 and 19 have never been married. Incorporating nearly 10 million teenagers in the ranks of marriage-aged American "women" may be a good way to pad the number of those without husbands, but it doesn't make that number any more enlightening.
Actually, Census data show that even *with* the 15- to 19-year-olds, a majority of American females -- 51 percent -- are "now married." So how does the Times reach a contrary conclusion? By excluding from the category of women with husbands the "relatively small number of cases" -- in fact, it's more than 2 million -- in which "husbands are working out of town, are in the military, or are institutionalized." That startling Page 1 headline is true, in other words, only if the wives of US troops at war are deemed not to have husbands.
Marriage in America is undoubtedly less robust than it was 50 years ago. But it is not yet a candidate for the endangered-species list, let alone the ash heap. The Census Bureau reported last spring that by the time they are 30 to 34, a large majority of American men and women -- 72 percent -- have been married. Among Americans 65 and older, fully 96 percent have been married. Yes, the divorce rate is high -- 17.7 per 1,000 marriages -- and many couples live together without getting married. But marriage remains a key institution in American life.
Marriage advocates often grumble that everything is getting worse, writes scholar David Blankenhorn in his forthcoming book, *The Future of Marriage,* but it's time to acknowledge that some things are getting better: Divorce rates are declining modestly. Teen pregnancy rates are dramatically lower. Rates of reported marital happiness, after a long slide, appear to be rising. And a substantial majority of American children, 67 percent, are being raised by married parents.
By even wider margins, young Americans look forward to being married. The University of Michigan's annual "Monitoring the Future" survey finds that 70 percent of 12th-grade boys and 82 percent of 12th-grade girls describe having a good marriage and family life as "extremely important" to them. Even higher percentages say that they expect to marry.
The '60s, the sexual revolution, no-fault divorce, the rise of single motherhood -- there is no question that marriage has been through the wringer. Americans have good reason to be, as Blankenhorn writes, "in the midst of what might be called a marriage moment -- a time of unusual, perhaps unprecedented, national preoccupation with the status and future of marriage." Yet for all the buffeting our most important social institution has taken, it remains a social ideal: Boys and girls still aspire to become husbands and wives.
Australia to teach Muslims moderation
Young Muslims will be taught Australian-friendly Islam under a Federal Government plan to stop them falling prey to extremists. An approved Islamic curriculum will be rolled out by a consortium of universities, including Griffith University in Brisbane, to counter the teachings of Muslim firebrands who preach intolerance and hate.
The establishment of the $8 million national centre of excellence for Islamic studies comes amid outrage over comments by leading Australian Muslim clerics Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali and Sheik Feiz Mohammed. Sheik Hilali was universally condemned last year for comparing immodestly dressed women to uncovered meat that attracted cats. He has since threatened to run against NSW Premier Morris Iemma in the electorate of Lakemba in Sydney's southwest.
Sydney-born Sheik Feiz, who is now living in Lebanon, is being investigated by federal police for producing videos labelling Jews pigs and calling on young Muslims to die for Allah.
The proposed course will be open to anyone interested in Islam, including religious and community leaders. And while welcomed by the Muslim community, there is concern it could become a breeding ground for Islamic extremists. Yasmin Khan, a member of the Prime Minister's Muslim Reference Group, yesterday said proper background checks would be needed to make sure it was not hijacked by radicals. "I would hate to think that was a remote possibility," she said. "But you have to be prepared. There are complaints about university courses having a left-wing or right-wing viewpoint all the time."
Ms Khan said the course would look at Islam with a western perspective. "I don't know the exact mechanics of it, but it will be an opportunity to provide guidance in Islamic religion," she said. At the moment, anyone seeking advanced knowledge and understanding of Islam has to travel to the Middle East. The Australian-based Islamic classes will be held on campus at Griffith, the University of Melbourne and University of Western Sydney, as well as eventually via distance education. The initiative is part of the Federal Government's action plan to build on social cohesion, harmony and security.
A spokesman for Sheik Hilali said Muslims were tired of getting picked on. "We need to make sure that we are taken seriously . . . getting them to stop picking on us every time there's an issue but also in terms of acknowledging that there are strong (Muslim) candidates who are capable of serving this nation in the political arena," he said.
Instinctive Leftist bias at Australia's national broadcaster
Long-time ABC journalist Maxine McKew's decision to help Labor win the next federal election hardly enhances the national broadcaster's reputation as fair and balanced
Some truths are so self-evident that they are hardly worth debating. Yet one of these - that a certain bias shapes news and current affairs coverage at the ABC - still provokes outrage at the Ultimo/Southbank staff cafeterias. The bias, to be sure, is not deliberate; it's not as though Aunty's journalists sit around in dark corners and plan how they will slant their program in favour of their friends and causes. But there is little doubt that, notwithstanding their denials, most reporters and producers at the public broadcaster naturally dress a little to the Left.
Of course, there is a lot to like about the ABC. Its websites and the service provided by regional radio and News Radio are outstanding. Many journalists there - especially those who have no time for the union's "Vietcong-style industrial tactics" - are intelligent, extremely well-informed individuals who are almost always on the pace with breaking news. At a time when political and current affairs programs are being dumbed down on commercial television, it is heartening to know that at least one network takes ideas and public affairs seriously. On balance, the taxpayer is better off with the ABC than without it.
But when it comes to the quality of the news and current affairs programs, our public broadcaster could be so much better if a certain bias did not cloud so many stories. Sure, ABC TV and radio journalists insist they keep their political opinions to themselves and merely produce objective and truthful inquiry. But, like everyone else involved in the political process, ABC journalists also have strong views about pretty much everything, no matter how neatly they put such baggage aside on air. (Just ask Sydney and Canberra news readers Juanita Phillips and Virginia Haussegger, who pen opinion columns for The Bulletin and The Canberra Times respectively). When recently challenged about the corporation's Left flavour by a listener, ABC radio's Virginia Trioli (a former opinion columnist with The Age) told her Sydney audience that she no longer voted at elections: that's how she maintains her objectivity. It is a nice idea, but personal opinions don't start and stop at the ballot box.
ABC journalists, like journalists in general, may say that they never allow their opinions to shape their reporting. They may even see themselves as perfect arbiters of ultimate truth. But this is a pretension beyond human capacity. Sometimes, a journalist's personal views cloud their news reports, their choice of topics and their analysis. Again, it's not deliberate; it just happens.
Which brings us to the news that former ABC stalwart Maxine McKew will help Kevin Rudd and the ALP beat John Howard and the Coalition in this year's federal election. McKew, who was an ABC journalist for more than 30 years until she quit the national broadcaster last month, will now be a special adviser on strategy to the Labor Party.
She is hardly alone; at one time or another many ABC journalists have worked for the Labor party (think of Barrie Cassidy, Kerry O'Brien, Mark Bannerman, Alan Carpenter, Claire Martin, Mary Delahunty and Bob Carr, among others). In contrast, how many prominent ABC journalists have worked for the conservative side of politics in recent decades?
Now, McKew, like the aforementioned Labor-oriented journalists, will say in good faith that she never consciously went out of her way to favour the ALP and criticise the Liberals on air. After all, as Bob Hawke and Paul Keating will attest, ABC journalists often offend Labor as well as Coalition governments.
This is true. But this misses the point about real bias: it comes not so much from what party the journalists attack; it comes from how they see the world. A left-wing conspiracy is not necessary at the taxpayer-funded behemoth, because (most) ABC journalists quite spontaneously think alike. Former BBC staffer Robin Aitken once said he could not raise a cricket team of conservatives among staff at the British public broadcaster. Could an indoor cricket team be raised at the other Aunty? Not when so many ABC workers are creatures of a culture that is divorced from the thoughts and attitudes of mainstream Australia.
How else to account for the fact that ABC presenters often identify conservatives as such but not those on the other side of the ideological spectrum? Thus, according to Lateline's Tony Jones, the right-wing Mark Steyn is a "conservative polemicist", whereas the left-wing journalist Robert Fisk is "one of the most experienced observers of the Middle East". No left-wing labels are necessary. Perhaps conservatives need to be identified because in the world-view that prevails at the ABC, they are outside the mainstream.
How else to account for the fact that the one ABC show that challenges the prevailing orthodoxy is called Counterpoint: Michael Duffy's Radio National program, which airs conservative voices and ideas?
And then there's the ABC's Insiders. Although a conservative commentator is accommodated on the program every Sunday morning, he (either Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman or Gerard Henderson) is always outnumbered by two other more liberal counterparts and sometimes host Barrie Cassidy. The token conservative's input, moreover, is often regarded by the panelists not as a contentious contribution to the debate, but as a flat earther's fit of extremist nonsense. Incidentally, during its 15 years of existence, Media Watch has never been hosted or produced by anyone in the centre, let alone right-of-centre. Why?
All of this might also explain why certain stories that would appeal to a conservative audience are played down. For instance, during the week of Ronald Reagan's death in June 2004, Lateline virtually ignored the Republican president's life and times. No stories, no features, no debate. Nothing. Yet several months earlier Jones went weak at the knees remembering John F. Kennedy 40 years after the liberal leader's death. Instead of affording similar treatment to a conservative leader - much less having a debate about Reagan's place in history - Jones focused on tributes flooding in for another American legend who died that week (musician Ray Charles) and he browbeat Alexander Downer on the topic of Australia's (as it turns out) non-role in the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq.
Now, more honest friends of the ABC insist that we need Aunty to "balance" the so-called shock jocks on commercial radio and the right-wing columnists at News Limited newspapers. So, the argument goes, what difference does it make that ABC journalists are lefties? But those who hate talkback programs or The Australian's opinion page can take solace in the fact that they aren't subsidising Alan Jones or Janet Albrechtsen; taxpayers who subsidise the ABC to the extent of more than $800 million a year don't enjoy that peace of mind. Besides, the need for balance is there in the ABC Charter; it is the legislative quid pro quo for public funding.
Of course, there is nothing wrong in Left-liberal voices being heard on the ABC. It's just that there should also be a place for conservative, more contrarian, voices: and these should not be put on air with some sort of health warning. At the very least, there should also be a place for the silent majority: that is, a good percentage of the population to whom the ABC purportedly answers.
23 January, 2007
A BRITISH ELITIST VERSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
A "right" to pretty dresses paid for by others?
Cherie Blair accused Britain's top civil servant of violating her human rights as he tried to rein in her fondness for freebies, it was claimed yesterday. She left the Cabinet Secretary `gobsmacked' by claiming she was entitled to cut-price designer clothes under the Human Rights Act. And she repeatedly argued with officials over claims that she tried to exploit her position to make money.
The allegations detail several clashes between Mrs Blair and Sir Richard Wilson and Sir Andrew Turnbull, who ran the Civil Service between 1998 and 2005. Sir Richard faced repeated demands for money to spend on the refurbishment of Downing Street from Mrs Blair during his tenure as Cabinet Secretary from 1998 to 2002. On one occasion she allegedly told guests being given a tour of No 10 by the now Lord Wilson: `Look at the state of the carpets he makes us live with!'
He reportedly told his guests later: `She's always trying it on. She needs to understand the public purse cannot be used for these things unless it is justified.' Her relations with Sir Richard's successor Sir Andrew, who retired as Cabinet Secretary in 2005, were soured by her fondness for discounts on clothes, some of which were negotiated by her former lifestyle guru Carole Caplin.
Among the clothes Mrs Blair is said to have acquired was a ú10,000 red and gold brocade dress by Lindka Cierach which she wore to an awards ceremony in October 2003 and again at a dinner in Nigeria the following month.
When Sir Andrew criticised her over the discounts, she reportedly told him he was infringing her rights `under Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights on an individual's right to do as they like with their own property'. A friend told The Mail on Sunday that Sir Andrew, now Lord Turnbull, had been `gobsmacked and outraged' by her response. A Downing Street spokesman said: `Most of this is simply untrue and the rest is widely exaggerated tittle-tattle.'
BOOK REVIEW: "The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11" by Dinesh D'Souza
Review from TVC
Whenever Muslims charge that the war on terror is really a war against Islam, Americans hasten to assure them they are wrong. Yet as Dinesh D'Souza argues in this powerful and timely polemic, these Muslim critics of America are right--there really is a war against Islam. Only this war is not being waged by Christian conservatives bent on a moral crusade to impose democracy abroad, as many liberals maintain, but by the American cultural left, which has for years been vigorously exporting its domestic war against religion and traditional morality to the rest of the world.
By the "cultural left" D'Souza does not mean all liberals or even all Democrats, but the militant secularists, feminists and gay activists who make up the left wing of the Democratic party, along with their allies in Hollywood, the academy, the antiwar movement, and the human rights establishment. D'Souza contends that the cultural left is responsible for 9/11 in two ways: by fostering a decadent and depraved American culture that angers and repulses other societies--especially traditional and religious ones; and by promoting, at home and abroad, an anti-American attitude that blames America for all the problems of the world.
Why did 9/11 occur? D'Souza traces the roots to the Khomeini revolution, the first regime to target America as the Great Satan. He documents the role of the Carter administration and its left-wing allies in displacing the Shah and consolidating Khomeini's rule. D'Souza also shows that after the Cold War the radical Muslims were fighting to overthrow their local governments, what they termed the "near enemy." But then Bin Laden and others got the idea that perhaps the United States-the "far enemy"-was even more vulnerable than the near enemy. Starting in the mid-1990s, Islamic radicals tested their theory of American weakness by launching a series of strikes against American targets, such as the Khobar Tower facility in Saudi Arabia, the two U.S. embassies in Africa, and the U.S.S. Cole. During this period the Clinton administration was focused on its own political and cultural agenda: integrating homosexuals into the military, promoting ethnic diversity in the CIA, and discrediting special prosecutor Ken Starr. Clinton's response to Bin Laden was feeble and ineffective. This inaction confirmed Bin Laden in his conviction that America was cowardly and weak, and that's when he decided to launch the 9/11 attacks.
D'Souza shows that Islamic anti-Americanism is not merely a reaction to U.S. foreign policy but is also rooted in a revulsion against what Muslims perceive to be the atheism and moral depravity of American popular culture. "They don't hate us for our freedom," D'Souza writes, "They hate us for how we use our freedom." Muslims and other traditional people around the world allege that American values are being imposed on their societies, and these values undermine religious belief, weaken the traditional family, and corrupt the innocence of children. Muslim fears are largely justified, but it is not "America" that is doing this to them, it is the cultural left. What traditional societies consider repulsive and immoral, the cultural left considers progressive and liberating.
Taking issue with those on the right who speak of a "clash of civilizations," D'Souza argues that the war on terror is really a war for the hearts and minds of traditional Muslims-and traditional peoples everywhere. The only way to win the struggle with radical Islam is to convince traditional Muslims that America is on their side. To prove this the U.S. must allow Muslim countries to defend Muslim interests and live according to their own moral precepts. Moreover, America's leaders must contest the notion that liberal depravity equals American depravity. If America were to proclaim itself a Judeo-Christian society and stand up for the principles of traditional morality worldwide, this would greatly weaken the threat posed by radical Islam. We are accustomed to thinking of the war on terror and the culture war as two distinct and separate struggles. D'Souza shows that they are really one and the same. Conservatives must recognize that the left is now allied with the Islamic radicals in a combined effort to defeat Bush's war on terror. So Bush and the right are fighting not only a war against radical Islam, but also a political "war against the war" in America. A whole new strategy is needed to fight both wars. "In order to defeat the Islamic radicals abroad," D'Souza writes, "we must defeat the enemy at home."
CONSERVATIVE MAINSTREAM MUSLIMS MAY BE POTENTIAL ALLIES AGAINST THE RADICALS
Dinesh D'Souza looks left and sees the Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11
Dinesh D’Souza attempts to invigorate and refocus the American reaction to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. In The Enemy at Home, D’Souza argues that “the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector, and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. As he was about to launch his book tour, D’Souza took some questions from National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Is the mess in Iraq the fault of Michael Moore?
Dinesh D’Souza: No, of course not. But if America loses the Iraq war we are less likely to lose it over there in Baghdad and more likely to lose it over here in the corridors of Congress. Michael Moore’s radical ideology - the insurgents are the Minutemen, they are the freedom fighters, and they will prevail! - has now come to center stage, where it is guiding the actions of the Democratic leadership. Look how the so-called centrist Democrats are caving in one by one to the Left. A huge enemy at home has emerged that seems determined to stop Bush’s war on terror, not because they like Bin Laden or Saddam, but because they hate and fear Bush more. It is Bush and his conservative allies, not Bin Laden and his radical allies, who threaten the Left’s most cherished values. And now suddenly the Democrats, as a group, find it in their interest to inflict a horrendous foreign-policy defeat on Bush and thus ensure that they walk into the White House in 2008.
Lopez: This weekend, a reviewer in the Washington Post summed up your new book as arguing “Falwell was onto something.” Is that a fair nutshell assessment?
D’Souza: Falwell’s point after 9/11 was that God was punishing America of its sins. My point is entirely secular: Why did the guys who did it, do it? Surely five years after 9/11, it’s reasonable to ask this question. And both the Right and the Left have been operating under illusions. The radical Muslims are against modernity and science and democracy. The radical Muslims are upset because of colonialism and the Crusades. It’s all nonsense. That’s not what the leading thinkers of radical Islam say. And Bin Laden’s own views are quite different. In his Letter to America, issued shortly after 9/11, he said that America is the fount of global atheism and it is imposing its morally depraved values on the world. So Muslims must rise up in defensive jihad against America because their religion and their values are under attack. This aspect of Bin Laden’s critique has been totally ignored, and it’s one that resonates with a lot of traditional Muslims and traditional people around the world. A second point is that unlike Falwell I don’t think “America” is to blame. Muslims in Indonesia and Egypt and Pakistan don’t see “America,” they see the face of American popular culture that is projected by our television and movies and music. They see the dimension of America that in their view corrupts the innocence of children, and undermines the family, and promotes homosexuality as a normal way of life. In fact, this is the America of the cultural Left. What the Left considers “liberating,” much of the world considers a scandalous assault on modesty and decency.
Lopez: Why shouldn’t I be offended by the suggestion that because I oppose abortion and gay marriage, I can easily ally myself with the mullahs in Iran? They would also kill a woman for fornication - I may be pro-abstinence but I stop way before sharia law!
D’Souza: Nobody’s asking you to ally with the radical mullahs in Iran. I’d like to see them all deposed. Our concern should be with the traditional Muslims, who are the majority in the Muslim world. These people are also religious and socially conservative, and they are our natural allies. In fact, since the cultural Left in America is de facto allied with the radical Muslims, we as conservatives have no choice but to ally with the traditional Muslims. We cannot win the war on terror without them. No matter how many Islamic radicals we kill, it’s no use if twice as many traditional Muslims join them. Now building bridges to this group doesn’t mean changing our way of life, and if we are conservative there is nothing that needs to be changed. Our values are quite similar to those of traditional Muslims. There’s no point chasing after “liberals” who believe in secularism and feminism and homosexual rights. Such people are quite rare and they have no constituency in any Muslim country. The traditional Muslims are our best bet. Besides, they’re not asking us to live like them. They’re asking us not to attack their religion, which conservatives do with depressing regularity. They’re asking us not to force secularism and separation of church and state on their society, another foolish cause to which some conservatives subscribe. And they would feel a lot better about America if they could see the “other” America, which is say, Red America, the America they don’t see on television, where people go to work and look after their families and subscribe to traditional values and go to church. Bush should project more of this America to the rest of the world, especially to the traditional cultures of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Lopez: What’s the “indignation gap”?
D’Souza: The indignation gap refers to the vastly different temperature with which leftists and their allies attack the Islamic radicals compared to their attacks on Bush. They usually say, “Granted Bin Laden is not a very nice guy” or “True, the man wishes us no good,” but then they proceed to attack Bush and the conservatives with unrestrained vitriol. Actually look at the Left’s uncontrolled fury toward my book. These people are going absolutely nuts. They have never said anything remotely this harsh about the Islamic radicals. That’s because I am attacking the Left’s values at home, and exposing a link between the Left and the Islamic radicals that is the great unspoken secret of American politics. Basically the Islamic radicals supply the terror and the Left uses the terror to demoralize the American people and urge them to pull American troops out of Iraq and the Middle East. So on the one hand the Left dislikes the values of the Islamic radicals, and on the other the Left needs the Islamic radicals to fulfill its core mission in America, which is to wipe out the Right and send us back to the margins of American politics.
Lopez: Could someone come away from your book think you’re more indignant toward Ted Kennedy than Osama bin Laden?
D’Souza: No. Certainly I prefer a tipsy incoherent Irishman to a Muslim mass murderer.
Lopez: You don’t like “war on terror” and “war on Islamic fascism” doesn’t sound right to your ear either. So what is it? Surely not a war against liberalism.
D’Souza: “War on terror” is a misnomer. It would be like calling America’s involvement in World War II a “war on kamikazism.” Terrorism, like kamikazism, is a tactic. And “Islamofascist” and “new Bolshevist” are misleading because those were Western ideologies with a largely atheist agenda. That’s why we used the term “godless Communism.” It’s understandable that we would take categories from the last war and project them onto our new enemy, but this is the classic error of ethnocentrism. What we face now is something very different, a war against Islamic radicalism. It’s a new kind of enemy with its own agenda and a critique of America that we certainly haven’t heard from the Nazis and the Communists.
Lopez: On Islam: It has been argued that the Koran itself is violent. That moderate Muslims, in fact, have to distance themselves from more than Osama bin Laden. Is it possible that you are part of the not-understanding-the-threat-we-face problem by suggesting that line of examination be shut down?
D’Souza: I’m not urging that any line of inquiry be “shut down.” I’m saying it’s foolish to blame Islam when Islam has been around for 1,300 years and Islamic terrorism has been a problem for the past 25 years. So is it even reasonable to blame Mohammad or the Koran? I realize that you can fish out this passage or that passage and make it sound like the Muslims want to convert or kill everybody. But that would be like taking passages out of the Old Testament to make Moses sound like Hitler. Besides, you have to look at what the Islamic empires actually did. There were Christians and Jews who lived under the various Muslim dynasties, from the Abbasid to the Ottoman. In fact, Jews were much safer in the Ottoman empire than in just about any of the Christian kingdoms, such as that of Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain. The Mughals ruled northern India for 200 years. They could have forcibly converted the Hindus or killed all of them. But they did no such thing. So we have to be careful about simply describing a religion of one billion people as “violent.” This would be tactically imprudent even if it were true, but it is not true, so why repeat a canard that has the terrible effect of driving the traditional Muslims into the radical camp?
Lopez: Dinesh, you write that “American conservatives should join the Muslims and others in condemning the global moral degeneracy that is produced by liberal values.” Um, what would that coalition look like? Ahmadinejad and Pat Robertson? That’s not exactly a ticket anyone but David Duke will run to rally behind.
D’Souza: Already there have been working relationships between traditional Christians and traditional Muslims in the United Nations and some other international forums to block liberal efforts to declare abortion as a right under international law. In fact the U.N. Charter lists no such right, but this is part of the liberal campaign of cultural imperialism that is trying to force the values of the Western Left on the rest of the world. Planned Parenthood is distributing condoms to teenage girls on every continent. Leftist groups are suing to overturn restrictive abortion laws in South America. The Left is trying to force Turkey to liberalize its laws on homosexuality as a condition of joining the European Union. So here are opportunities for people who differ on theology but agree on morality to form an international coalition to block these bogus “rights” from being imposed on cultures that do not want them. I emphasize that I am not contesting any of the rights of classical liberalism. But this is a new liberalism that is trying to smuggle its own political preferences and call them “rights.” Come to think of it, hasn’t the Left been doing that here in this country for several decades now? Here are home we have to fight these bogus “rights” ourselves, but abroad we have the entire traditional world as an ally. Why wouldn’t we want that? This has nothing to do with putting Pat Robertson and Ahmadinejad together, and everything to do with forming coalitions among mainstream groups across international boundaries.
Lopez: Why would you write a book like this? Isn’t it bound to be incendiary? Do we really need more of that?
D’Souza: The debate over the war on terror has gotten predictable and tired. Same old stuff that isn’t producing any results, at least not for us. Consider this. Our best conservatives have been trying for several years now to convince the Left that the Islamic radicals are the most illiberal people in the world. Really, we say, Osama bin Laden doesn’t like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank. Having demonstrated this, we are then frustrated that the liberals don’t “get it” and climb aboard our bandwagon. But news flash: The liberals already know that the Islamic radicals don’t like them. They have made a tactical decision to ally with the radicals abroad to defeat the conservatives at home. No surprise that our great strategy has so far failed to produce a single convert. Isn’t it time to think freshly about all this?
Lopez: What’s the one constructive point you hope people can manage to take from your book?
D’Souza: Bush is fighting two wars, one against the enemy abroad and the other against the enemy at home. There is no way to win the second war without winning the first war. The book spells out why this is critical and how it can be done.
Lopez: What are the odds Bill Maher (who you, of course, have some post-9/11 history with) has you on about this book?
D’Souza: Hey, I’d love to go one-on-one with Bill, who is a very sick man but also witty and smart. I think he’s one of the few guys on the cultural Left who has the guts to actually debate these issues. That’s more than I can say about some of these academic reviewers who are very muscular when they are launching attacks from their offices, but they never want to debate you, and on the rare occasions when this does happen, it’s like one hand clapping.
22 January, 2007
Britain: Muslim store worker refuses smoker cigs
A SMOKER was refused cigarettes at a Cambridge store because the Muslim shop assistant said it was against her religion to sell tobacco.
A 31-year-old woman, who asked not to be identified, was shocked when she attempted to buy a pack of 20 cigarettes at the WH Smith store in Market Street and was turned down. She said: "I asked for a pack of 20 Lambert & Butler and the woman behind the desk asked me if they were cigarettes. "When I said they were she told me that it was against her religion to sell them - I couldn't believe my ears.
"I rang up the manager to complain and he said the shop assistant has to ask someone else to serve them for her if a customer wants tobacco. "If she had just said, I can't serve you, then that would have been fair enough, but the thing that really annoyed me was the way she gave me a lecture as well. "She started saying she doesn't agree with smoking, that it kills you - I was really gob-smacked."
When contacted by the News, the store's assistant manager, who refused to give her name, said: "It is true that Muslims can't sell cigarettes - I used to be Jehovah's Witness and I wouldn't on religious grounds either." She said the customer should have realised the shop assistant was a Muslim, and would not sell her tobacco, because she was "sitting there in her full robes".
Asked why the store had someone who would not sell tobacco working behind the till, she said: "It is against the law to discriminate against people on religious grounds".
However, a leading Muslim denied the claim it was against Islam to sell tobacco, and said he had Muslim friends who smoke. Asim Mumtaz, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Cambridge, said: "I don't think there is any basis for refusing to sell cigarettes. "Islam, like most religions, is against anything that injures health or the body, but there is no ban on cigarettes or on smoking. "The holy Koran is quite specific about intoxicants, alcohol and other drugs which cause a person to lose control are forbidden, but cigarettes are not forbidden so I am surprised by this."
Source. (H/T Iain Dale)
Tragedy of the truthful immigrant
Compare and contrast, as exam papers used to say, the cases of Mark Coleman and Roberto Malasi. Both are young men from Africa who wish to live permanently in this country, but there the similarity stops. Otherwise they are as different as one could possibly imagine. One young man is law-abiding, willing to work if allowed to do so and has never claimed benefits. The other has led the sort of hellish and destructive life in Britain that makes people fear not only for themselves but for wider society. He has robbed and shot one young woman to death and stabbed and killed another. Guess which man is to be deported immediately and which will be staying.
Each of their stories is bad enough in itself; in conjunction, as they were last week, they are scandalous. On Thursday it emerged that Coleman has been told by the Home Office that he must return immediately to his native Zimbabwe. His applications to extend his visa, and later for asylum, have failed and if he does not go at once his removal may be "enforced".
One could normally count on Home Office incompetence to spare him this fate, but Coleman's problem is that by abiding by the law and reporting to a police station every two weeks and generally making his whereabouts known to the authorities, he has made things easy for them. He has not disappeared into the undergrowth. As usual no virtuous deed goes unpunished. Obeying the rules has made him easy to find. Unless someone intervenes he will be sent back to the hellhole that is Zimbabwe, where he no longer has any work or any family; they have all fled the Mugabe terror.
What makes this case particularly absurd is that Coleman is British, by any standards except those of the Home Office regulations. Although he was born in independent Zimbabwe, his father was born there while it was still the British colony of Southern Rhodesia and his mother was born in India; his father's father was a British subject. His paternal great-grandfather was a British army surgeon, as was his maternal great-grandfather.
His mother's family has been English since 1160 and her father served in the British Army and worked as a prisoner of war on the notorious bridge over the River Kwai. It is hard to imagine anyone more British in spirit and in fact, yet, because of a technicality, Coleman cannot have a British passport, cannot stay here and will soon be shipped back. Not only does he have some historical claim on this country, he also has a compassionate claim; nobody can possibly imagine that a white man, whose family has fled, can live or work safely in Zimbabwe, in that nightmare of mayhem, anti-white racism and confiscation.
Rules are rules, admittedly, and hard cases make bad rules as well as bad law. But there is something sickening about the double standards with which this man is having the rules applied to him. We all know something of countless cases of immigrants and asylum seekers who flout the rules and break the law; they are literally countless, because the Home Office simply cannot count them. On Monday Sir David Normington, the senior civil servant at the Home Office, disclosed to MPs that one in five (30 out of 160) sets of figures covering crime, immigration and prisons is not, in a ghastly establishment euphemism, "up to scratch", which is to say not fit for purpose.
In this depressing context consider the case of Roberto Malasi, the robber and convicted murderer. He and his family came to Britain in 1995, seeking asylum from Angola, and in 1999 they were given indefinite leave to remain here. Now 18, when he was 16 he shot dead a woman holding a baby at a christening, while robbing the guests with his younger brother; he escaped, went on the run boasting about this killing and soon afterwards stabbed to death a girl he thought had "dissed" him.
Before these crimes he was in and out of care, got little or no education and lived what police call a chaotic life. He will be sentenced for the killings next month and faces a long time in prison. He does not, however, seem to face deportation, much to the resentment of his victims' families, also recent arrivals from Africa. His lawyers are likely to argue that Malasi would be subject to persecution as a notorious murderer if he were sent back to Angola. On past form they are quite likely to succeed where Coleman failed - even though it is his crime that would supposedly endanger Malasi.
When I called to check some facts, the Home Office would not comment on either case. I am not sure why - these cases are surely in the public interest - but we do know that the Home Office finds it difficult to keep "up to scratch" with checking things, which is why it has so little idea of how many illegal immigrants or returned criminals or escaped convicts are in our midst. However, it was happy to explain that people such as Malasi who have been granted indefinite leave to remain can have that leave revoked if the home secretary does not feel that their remaining is conducive to the public good. In so far as there can be any certainties in life, it seems certain to me that Malasi's presence here is not conducive to the public good.
Comparing and contrasting these two cases, and considering the home secretary's wide discretion in such matters, not to mention the Home Office's ability to "lose" people (which might be put diplomatically to good use in Coleman's case), it's clear that one man should be thrown out and one should be allowed to stay. And if, as I suspect, the wrong man gets thrown out, one will be able to conclude only that the Home Office is not merely incompetent, but also institutionally unjust.
There is a way out for Coleman: he could pretend to be gay and, as Zimbabwe is notorious for persecuting homosexuals, he would have an excellent case for asylum. I am sure he could find a gay friend to help him go through this charade. However, that would involve lying; a corrupt result of a degenerate system. It will be quite legal if Coleman goes and Malasi stays, but the comparison highlights the blindness and chaos of our immigration law and our immigration system and the muddled, guilt-ridden attitudes that underpin them
DARE WE MENTION "MATERNAL INSTINCT"?
BABY dolls given to schoolgirls in a scheme to dissuade them from becoming teenage mothers have, in some cases, increased their desire to have children, according to a report in a leading medical journal. The "virtual infant simulators", which cost 1,000 pounds to run in the government funded programme, are dolls programmed to behave like real babies. They cry, need to be fed regularly and have their nappies changed. It had been hoped that the dolls' demands would persuade girls to postpone parenthood. Hundreds of the dolls have been purchased across Britain in an attempt to reduce record levels of teenage pregnancy, despite a lack of evidence that they make any difference.
Now an article in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care has warned that in some cases the dolls actually encourage girls to become pregnant. The attention that the girls receive from others while looking after the dolls makes motherhood seem appealing.
It was written by Nicole Chavaudra, the healthcare worker at Rotherham primary care trust responsible for delivering the teen pregnancy strategy, and says: "There is no evidence that using electronic simulator babies decreases under18 conceptions or changes sexual behaviour." She adds: "For many young people at particular risk of becoming teenage parents, the attention received while caring for the doll reinforces the desire for parenthood."
Chavaudra suggests that the dolls are not a good use of taxpayers' money. Each doll costs about 350 pounds, but the cost of bottles, nappies, baby carriers and clothing pushes up the price to about 1,000.
The dolls give a computer read-out on how well their "mothers" look after them and are available in variants born with foetal alcohol syndrome or addicted to drugs.
Chavaudra concludes that teenagers can be persuaded to delay having children through education programmes without the novelty of the dolls. She said: "The use of an expensive electronic simulator does not demonstrate the emotional elements associated with a human baby and pregnancy."
Chavaudra's concerns are backed up in a report by the government's teenage pregnancy unit. The study, "Baby Think it Over" Electric Simulators: Are they Effective?, concludes: "There is little research evidence to support their use as a tool to encourage contraceptive use or prevent teenage pregnancy."
The government spends 40 million pounds a year on its teenage pregnancy strategy, centrally coordinated by a specialist unit. Critics point out that since the unit was set up in 1999, the number of abortions and sexually transmitted diseases in the under18s has increased. Teenage pregnancies have fallen only modestly over the period, by 11%, and the government is set to miss its target of halving the teenage pregnancy rate by 2010.
Dr Trevor Stammers, lecturer in healthcare ethics at St Mary's University College, London, said: "Raising the school leaving age to 18 will do more to reduce teenage pregnancy rates than any initiative." Tim Loughton, the Tory shadow children's minister, added: "The government's attempts to throw a lot of money at high-profile gimmicks have clearly not worked."
21 January, 2007
California seeks to ban spanking
Spank your child, go to jail? California would become the first state to explicitly ban spanking for children younger than 4 under legislation to be introduced next week. Slapping, smacking, whacking or kicking also would be outlawed. Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, a Mountain View Democrat who is crafting the measure, said corporal punishment victimizes helpless children and contributes to a society "addicted to violence." "The only thing a child learns by being beaten is that it's OK to beat or dominate children or animals that are smaller," she said. [Without offering any proof for that baseless assertion, of course] "To my mind, there's no amount of physical force that's appropriate on a child 3 years old or younger," Lieber said.
Critics blasted Lieber's proposal Thursday as silly and excessive, or "nanny government" that would step on parents' toes and force judges to decide whether a swat was a spank, a nudge, a push or a "love tap." Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia, called the measure "absolutely outrageous." "What do doctors do when a child is born?" Maze said, laughing. "They spank the child."
Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, said he doesn't condone abusive practices but that a little swat, judiciously applied, should be left to parents' discretion. "If I was talking in church, I'd get thumped in the head with a prayer book once in a while," Gaines said. "It worked."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken no position on the measure, press secretary Aaron McLear said. In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Schwarzenegger, who said that he and his wife "never" spank their four children, hinted that he has concerns about how the bill could be enforced. "Is it that when you see someone spank a kid, you go and say, 'Can I see the birth certificate of the kid?' " But Schwarzenegger also said that he understands the desire to "get rid of the physical, the brutal behavior that some parents have."
Critics noted that abusing a child, though not a simple swat, already is illegal and must be reported by doctors, social workers and others. Lieber said her measure would make spanking a misdemeanor, subject to a maximum one-year jail term and $1,000 fine. But Thomas Nazario, a University of San Francisco Law School professor who has helped develop the bill, said the goal is to change behavior -- not incarcerate parents or remove children from homes. "My guess is that people would get a citation," Nazario said. "They might go to court and, as a result of that citation, have to take a parenting class." There also is a possibility that criminal sanctions will be dropped, meaning the bill simply would serve notice that parents no longer could inflict pain on their children, he said. Nazario, a specialist in civil and children's rights, said California law currently permits spanking by parents unless the degree of force is excessive or not age-appropriate. Usually, the state doesn't intervene unless a parent "uses a closed fist, or creates a welt, or black-and-blue mark, breaks the skin or uses an (instrument) on the child," he said.
Lieber's anti-spanking proposal, for children under 4, targets youngsters who are "absolutely defenseless" and "can't really talk to anyone else about what's going on in their lives, Nazario said. "They don't understand the connection between their conduct and the spanking," he said. Teachers and child care workers already are banned from spanking, Lieber said. "If a teacher can control 30-plus students by using voice control only, then a parent can do that in the home," she said.
Lieber said passage of her bill could prompt a supermarket shopper, for example, to approach a fellow shopper who is spanking a child and warn, "That's against the law in California." But Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness said such confrontations can be risky. "I don't think that would necessarily be in the best interest of any of the parties," he said. McGinness said that an anti-spanking law, if passed as a misdemeanor, could be enforced only by citizen's arrest or by a peace officer who witnessed the corporal punishment.
Critics said a spanking prohibition could spark a torrent of calls to overloaded law-enforcement and child protective agencies, but Lieber disagreed, saying problems didn't occur when corporal punishment was banned in schools.
Child behavior experts are divided on spanking as punishment. For many years, the conventional wisdom in the early-childhood education community was that child spanking is unacceptable in all circumstances, said Kimberly Gordon Biddle, an associate professor of child development at California State University, Sacramento. But during the past 10 years, research has indicated that a "light tap," accompanied by an explanation, can be effective in cases where toddlers are endangering themselves or others, she said. Personally, she said, "I just think there are so many other alternatives out there that you don't need it."
Pedestrians contacted randomly Thursday in downtown Sacramento had mixed feelings. "I'd say leave it to the parents," said Lupe De Leon, 63, of Tulare. LaQuetta Copeland, 62, of Wilton said she likes the idea of protecting children but can envision a situation where a youngster is behaving dangerously and parents respond with a quick swat out of "fright or fear." "I'd hate to see them in trouble," she said.
Hate beyond reason
A comment on the Muslim mind from Australia
Another day, another outrageous series of comments by an Australian sheik. Sydney-born Sheik Feiz Mohamed calls Jews pigs and urges Muslim children to find fulfillment as jihad martyrs. Though the group with which he is associated commands the patronage of hundreds of young people, we are assured that his extremist views appeal only to a tiny minority.
Let's be quite clear. The overwhelming majority of Australian Muslims clearly do not support this kind of extremism. They should not have to bear the burden of the bad name that such comments create. However, it is entirely reasonable to ask just what proportion of Muslims do hold views similar to the sheik's, or which might otherwise be seen as genuinely extremist. The US Middle East scholar, Daniel Pipes, argued in a book a few years ago that about 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the world's Muslim population held radically extreme views, including support for jihad.
In a fascinating piece in this week's Financial Times, Turkey's foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, often seen as one of the most Islamist-inclined foreign ministers Turkey has had, called on the peoples of his region to recognise that their most serious problems were home grown. He wanted them to stop blaming outsiders and get on with the business of reforming their own societies. He said it had been impossible for a mainstream to develop and wrote: "We now find that only extreme voices from the region are being heard, misrepresenting their cultures and societies ..."
Turkey is a successful society and a functioning democracy. Gul's contribution is forthright, brave and praiseworthy. And yet here is a question. Do the extremists really represent a tiny fringe or is there some much bigger mainstream part of Middle East society that supports extremism? More particularly, is there an element inherent to Islam itself that lends support to extremism?
It is right to treat religion with respect. Islam has produced magnificent cultural artifacts, much profound human culture and a generally good moral code. It contains great spiritual depth and associated intellectual discipline. But given how much violence and extremism are generated in the name of Islam it is now just not satisfactory to dismiss all this as merely a perversion of Islam.
Perhaps two elements make it more liable to extremist misappropriation than other religions. First is its high militant content. Second is the failure to distinguish between the political and the religious order. Most religions contain an injunction to improve the world, but Islam, in the view of many of its followers, requires a strictly and directly Islamic world, in which civil matters are ruled by explicitly Islamic precepts and institutions.
It is difficult to get a guide to Islamic public opinion anywhere. One of the best is a joint Asia-Europe Institute and University of Malaya survey of Malay Muslim opinion in Malaysia. I have referred to this survey before, but not previously given its results in any detail. It was exhaustive in its methodology. About 65 per cent of Malaysia's population is Muslim, and only Malay Muslims were surveyed. Malaysia is a moderate and generally tolerant country. It does not persecute its religious minorities, and it has developed successfully economically so that it can just about be considered a middle-class society. Certainly it is vastly more successful and wealthy than it was 20 years ago. If there's a Muslim population anywhere that should feel happy and content it is in Malaysia. Successful, increasingly rich, Islam afforded a special status in the constitution, Malays given substantial financial, educational, housing and other preferences, persecuted by no one, they should be among the least paranoid people in the Muslim world. If they are, then that is disturbing, for the results of the poll are unsettling to say the least. Here are highlights:
* 73 per cent of Malays, if they could choose only one identity, would choose Muslim first, only 14 per cent would choose Malaysian while 13 per cent would choose Malay. So Islam trumps citizenship, which only just edges out ethnicity.
* 77 per cent believe Malaysians should be allowed to choose their own religion but this is contradicted by a massive 98 per cent believing that Malaysian Muslims should not be allowed to change their religion. Freedom of religion means you don't have to convert to Islam, but if you are a Muslim you should have no right under the law to change your religion under any circumstances. This belief is very widespread throughout the Muslim world.
* 73 per cent said their parents had had the greatest influence on their development as Muslims, an encouraging sign of the strength of indigenous Malay traditions as opposed to contemporary Middle East influences.
* 49 per cent thought the Malaysian Government sufficiently Islamic, but almost as many, 47 per cent, thought it was not sufficiently Islamic.
* 77 per cent do not want Malaysia to become an Islamic state like Iran, but 18 per cent do want Malaysia to become an Islamic state like Iran.
* 57 per cent say Islam and politics should be separate but a substantial 40 per cent say they should be mixed.
* 57 per cent do not want strict hudud laws (stoning for adultery, and so on) implemented in Malaysia but 32 per cent do want hudud laws.
* 60 per cent say non-Muslims should not be subject to hudud laws but nearly a third, 28 per cent, actually want hudud laws to apply to non-Muslims. Similarly, some 31 per cent want sharia (Islamic law) to replace the Malaysian constitution.
* 77 per cent, a staggering figure, believe that Malaysia's existing sharia laws (which govern family matters for Muslims) are not strict enough.
* 76 per cent believe men and women in Islam have equal rights.
* 57 per cent believe wives could disobey husbands to work, but 47 per cent say if the husband forbids work, the wife should obey.
* 97 per cent, encouragingly, believe it is acceptable to live alongside non-Muslims and 79 per cent believe Malays should learn about other religions.
* 62 per cent believe suicide bombings are wrong but a disturbing 12 per cent (the exact mid-point of Pipes's estimated range) support it.
* 1 per cent like the US, 45 per cent dislike it and 39 per cent hate the US.
* 3 per cent like Europe, 38 per cent dislike it and 19 per cent hate Europe.
* 4 per cent like Australia, 37 per cent dislike it and 18 per cent hate Australia.
Overall, these results are staggering. They show a substantial residual moderation, but a degree of genuine intolerance among even the majority and authentic extremism among a substantial minority. It's hard to believe Islamic opinion is not substantially more extreme in the Middle East. The task of reforming the extremism in Islamic cultures remains vast.
20 January, 2007
The latest British insanity
New safety rule for firefighters: stay off that ladder
Firefighters on Humberside have been told by their employers that it is dangerous for them to go up ladders. Given that going up ladders to rescue people from blazing buildings is what firefighters do for a living, the news has been greeted with more than a spark of incredulity by the individuals who man the fire service for Hull and its surrounding area.
But it is not sending up extending ladders on the back of fire engines to deal with towering infernos that is causing concern. It is climbing mere stepladders to install smoke alarms in peoples homes, a popular prevention measure offered free by the Humberside Fire and Rescue Service. The brigade is reviewing its stepladder policy after local officials of the Fire Brigades Union pointed out that a firefighter on a stepladder not much more than 6ft from the floor may be contravening the Health and Safety Executive Work at Height Regulations 2005. Fire officials are considering whether to insist that crews who install alarms should work on a platform rather a ladder. Glenn Ramsden, a spokesman, said: The fire service, just like any other organisation, is not exempt from health and safety legislation.
Sean Starbuck, regional chairman of the FBU, said: The use of stepladders to fit smoke alarms contravenes working-at-height regulations, which were introduced by the Government. We have raised the issue and the Health and Safety Executive has agreed that a review is needed.
One firefighter, who asked not to be named, said: Is it me, or is this an example of health and safety gone mad? Another said: Where will this end? Will we still be able to carry a rescued person down a ladder, or enter a burning building, without the HSE on our back? The HSE regulations, introduced two years ago, state that employers must select the most suitable equipment for working at height and ensure that protection measures are in place.
Humberside firefighters have installed about 15,000 smoke alarms in private homes over the past year and the brigade emphasised yesterday that its service would continue. No decision has been taken yet on the safest way for its staff to reach peoples ceilings.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says that about 40,000 people a year end up in hospital after ladder-related accidents. A spokeswoman added: If used correctly, ladders are still a much safer way of working at height than standing on household items. No figures are available for the number of firefighters who have been injured in falls from stepladders.
Nation must get precedence over ethnicity
A comment on the problems of multiculturalism from an Australian conservative Senator:
It looked really good on paper. Immigrants would be encouraged to retain their distinct cultural identities on condition that they subscribed to the tenets of Westminster democracy. But since September 11, multiculturalism has been taking a beating at home and abroad. In Britain the emergence of home-grown Islamic terrorism has caused a serious re-evaluation of that policy.
The British Government for many years adopted a hands-off multicultural policy that allowed Muslim extremism to flourish throughout England without impediment. Until his arrest in 2004, Abu Hamza al-Masri openly preached holy war against the West from the pulpit of north London's Finsbury Park Mosque. And this official attitude of anything goes facilitated an influx of fugitive jihadis into Britain that caused its capital city to become known in intelligence circles as Londonistan.
At Finsbury Park, Scotland Yard was astonished to find a clear links between word and deed. In addition to thousands of jihadi propaganda videos, police found a cache of weapons and forged passports in the mosque basement. The BBC reported that intelligence agencies believed al-Masri and his acolytes were "linked to dozens of terrorist plots around Europe and beyond".
Over here it was all supposed to be different. The Australian brand of multiculturalism intended to maintain a fine balance between sectarian rights and mainstream responsibilities. Minority groups would be free to follow their creeds as long as they did not contravene the values of democracy. And in the event of such a conflict, the tenets of Australian multiculturalism mandated that individual rights, gender equality and religious freedom would always reign supreme. However, in practice this principle has gradually been eroded by the sordid abrasives of political correctness and calculation. Case in point: Islamic firebrand cleric Taj Din al-Hilali, who once again made the news by claiming on Egyptian television that by rights Australia should be a Muslim country.
But because ALP heavies thought that Hilali could deliver votes in Sydney's southwest, they pressured the Department of Immigration and Multicultural And Indigenous Affairs to overlook his history of incitement to racial hatred. Needless to say, Hilali got his permanent residency and citizenship. And Osama bin Laden groupie Mohammed Omran has suffered no repercussions for selling jihadi literature at his Melbourne bookstore or teaching that 9/11 was a US conspiracy against Islam.
Such policy mishaps, foreign and domestic, have inflicted a major haemorrhage on popular support for Australian multiculturalism. There is a wide public sense that this policy is losing the battle for Muslim hearts and minds to the siren song of radicalism and resentment. And the sight of establishment Islamic leaders last year convening in Canberra to petition the Prime Minister on behalf of Hezbollah only served to reinforce that belief.
It is said that in politics perception is reality. And the key to the clarity of any political program is the words that are used to describe it. And herein lies the problem. At its core, the word multiculturalism implicitly elevates ethnic tribalism over national commonality. The term makes express reference to factionalism without specific mention of the unifying factors that are supposed to be the pride of this policy. It sends the message that diversity is an end in itself, rather than merely a means to the end of a better Australia.
Having never read the fine print of government policy statements, most Australians base their outlook on the impression created by the nomenclature of the program. And this ambiguity between what the word multiculturalism purports to mean and what it really does signify is a recipe for confusion and disharmony. Similarly unsatisfactory are the amorphous references to the rule of law that feature in government policy statements on multiculturalism. The real question facing Western democracies is not rule of law but, rather, which law is to rule.
In several European nations, Muslim leaders have begun to press for the application of sharia law to their communities. And because sharia constitutes a distinct legal code, there is nothing in the strict definition of Australian multiculturalism that would preclude such a demand in Brunswick or Lakemba. In fact, that is precisely what the radical Muslim Hizb ut-Tahrir movement is doing when it calls for a Taliban-style Islamic caliphate in Australia.
But I categorically reject such moral relativism. I make no apologies for my belief that one wife is better than four, or that the amputation of limbs for petty theft is pure barbarism. Australian democracy is the direct ideological descendant of the English common law system, and I contend that Westminsterism is ethically superior to Wahabism.
At times ideas can have real-world consequences. And the conceptual shortcomings that mar the core of Australian multiculturalism have spawned hesitancy and confusion in its application. In the popular mind, this policy has bungled one of the pre-eminent social challenges of our era: the rise of radical Islam in our midst. If there is any chance of salvaging the positive elements of this program, then it must be comprehensively repackaged and rebranded.
We must set aside the terminology of multiculturalism that has been compromised by fecklessness and ineptitude. And in its stead we should adopt a national compact whose title explicitly emphasises the primacy of national obligations over separatist privileges. An Australian Compact would achieve this end by clarifying the standards of behaviour that are mandated by our democratic polity. Rather than nebulous generalities, the compact should employ specific language that will establish detailed behavioural expectations as well as penalties for their violation. Properly conceived, an Australian Compact will constitute an important tool in our effort to avoid the sort of inter-ethnic strife that is now engulfing parts of Europe. It is the cultural imperative of our time.
19 January, 2007
Sick Britain's crazy police priorities
This is a country where even a rapist can get off with a police "caution"
A man who called a police surgeon a "f***ing Paki" was advised yesterday by a judge: "Next time call him a fat bastard and don't say anything about his colour." The judge gave the unusual advice after describing the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute the man for a racially aggravated offence as "a nonsense".
Matthew Stiddard had been taken into custody by police officers who mistook him for a suspect in another case. After two hours in a cell he demanded to see a doctor, complaining that his back hurt. But when Dr Imraan Jhetam arrived, Stiddart refused to be seen by him. Exeter Crown Court heard that Stiddart, 36, swore and told him: "I want an English doctor, not a f***ing Paki."
Stiddart had opted for the case to be heard at Crown court, where he admitted a charge of racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress. Judge Paul Darlow told the court that the case should never have been brought and suggested that Dr Jhetam should have let the insults "roll off his back".
The judge said: "I wonder what this is doing in the Crown Court. This was a single sentence to a man who should not have taken it so seriously. He is a man of some considerable standing in society and I cannot see that it caused him any distress or hurt.
"It should not have caused a problem in this case. "To charge it in the first place rather than, say, let it go by with a caution strikes me as rather odd. We let people hit each other and break into people's homes and they are not charged."
Ann Reddrop, for the prosecution, said: "When there is a burglary and it is in the public interest there will be a prosecution. This was a police surgeon and he is entitled to the same protection as anyone else."
Judge Darlow replied: "So next time call him a fat bastard and don't say anything about his colour. When we have an overstretched police force and an overstretched CPS one wonders why we are sitting here with long faces dealing with one sentence."
The judge said last night that his comments were "not intended to make light of racist remarks". He said: "Any reading of what was actually said in court would make it clear that the potential seriousness of what occurred was that a police surgeon was threatened with violence and non-racial abuse to the extent that he decided he needed to leave the cell to which he had been called. This amounted to an assault, but this was not the offence charged. "A gratuitous single piece of racist abuse was uttered as the surgeon left. This was the charge on which the full weight of the law had been brought to bear. My comments were not intended to make light of racist remarks.
A quivering bottom lip can be worth millions
A gay lawyer at one of Americas most prestigious law firms has created a stir within New Yorks legal community after suing his firm for discrimination. Aaron Charney, 28, a corporate associate at Sullivan & Cromwell, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan yesterday accusing the firm of systematically discriminating against him because of his sexual orientation.
The lawsuit, which demands unspecified damages, claims Mr Charney was subject to "lewd and illegal conduct" at work. It gives several examples to support his claim including an incident where Mr Charney alleges that a senior partner threw a file at his feet before instructing him to "bend over and pick it up Im sure you like that."
Elsewhere in the 48-page complaint, Mr Charney alleges that he was accused of conducting an "unnatural" relationship with another male employee after the two regularly ate lunch together.
Sullivan & Cromwell, renowned for its huge roster of corporate clients, immediately hit back at the claim, distributing an internal e-mail from its chairman, Rodgin Cohen, saying the firm "categorically denies Mr Charneys allegations". Mr Cohen said that the firm investigated Mr Charneys complaint when it was first raised last year, together with a "multimillion-dollar" demand for compensation, but rejected both. He said the firm was "widely recognised as welcoming to all persons without regard to sexual orientation".
Mr Cohens assertions were supported by David Braff, managing partner of Sullivan & Cromwells litigation practice, who told The New York Times: "I have been openly gay since I arrived at this firm in 1984. Theres absolutely no atmosphere of hostility toward gay people here."
Mr Charney, who is still employed at Sullivan & Cromwell, said in an interview with the Above The Law blog that he was "doing what I can to shine light on a serious problem. I'm trying to be brave and stand up for what's right."
He said he had spoken to several lawyers who had advised settling the matter privately but insisted on filing a formal and therefore public lawsuit because he "wanted it to be handled in a way that drew attention to the issue."
New Yorks army of legal bloggers have, so far, avoided taking a stance on the issue but their readers have shown no such restraint. Responses to news of the lawsuit on Above The Law and The Wall Street Journal law blog varied from encouragement to contempt.
Mr Charney, who has recently set up his own website, has been branded an "opportunist" acting out of a selfish desire for "money and publicity".
But other, mostly anonymous comments, expressed sympathy for Mr Charney and his case suggesting that Sullivan & Cromwell partners considered themselves "above the law".
The case has attracted so much attention in New York because as well as addressing the emotive issue of sexual equality on Wall Street, it is extremely unusual. A handful of secretaries and other support staff have sued major law firms for discrimination but it is virtually unheard of for junior lawyers to attempt similar claims because of the effect they are perceived to have on their future employment prospects.
Also unusual - and reinforcing rumours that Mr Charney is a determined self-publicist - is the news that he will be representing himself in the case, prompting a Wall Street Journal reader to remind others of the well-known legal adage that: "A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client."Source
Post lifted from Stefan Karlsson in Sweden
One defining characteristic of feminism and feminists is their contradictions. Indeed, their actual beliefs contradict the word feminism, which presumably would mean enhancing the feminine. But feminists abhor distinctly feminine women and want them to become more like men. Not that they're pro-masculine, as they characterise men as oppressors and want men to become more like women. Feminism should instead be re-named to androgynism, as they want no differences to exist between the sexes. As feminism is the established word, I will continue to use it, but really, androgynism would be a more correct word.
I've already covered one example of the contradictions of feminists, when the editorial page of Swedish leftist news paper Aftonbladet, featured articles celebrating the silly "gay pride" parades in Stockholm this summer side by side with articles rooting for Hamas and Hezbollah, movements which favor death penalty for homosexuality.
In the latest week, more feminist contradictions have appeared. Swedish communist feminist Tora Breitholtz said in the context of discussing abortion that "that women taking the right of deciding about their own bodies is more provocative than you think". Indeed it is, for Breitholtz herself vehemently opposes it in other contexts, such as prostitution which she thinks should be illegal. If women have the right of deciding over their bodies, that also means the right to sell sex. But Breitholtz only favors when she thinks it means less "patriarchial oppression".
Similarly, U.S. feminist Senator Barbara Boxer from California attacked U.S. State Secretary Condoleeza Rice for being childless. But as Rush Limbaugh points out, this of course completely contradicts the feminist view that motherhood means subjugation and oppression of women. Feminists should therefore view Rice as a role model for not having children. Boxer's perceived need to use a "Chewbacca Defence" argument against Rice made her forget feminist ideology. Which is rather curious as there is no need to resort to the "Chewbacca Defence" when arguing against Bush's Iraq policy, as there are many valid arguments that could be used.
Feminists, it seems, view logical coherence as "patriarchial plot".
18 January, 2007
How Australia confronts militant Islam
A nation's blunt refusal to back down to terror
Australians are sometimes accused of being direct, even blunt. But this way of going about things seems to have worked well enough when dealing with the threat of radical Islamism Down Under. Its approach is worthy of close examination not least in Britain. And what has been accomplished so far, though controversial, has been done with a high degree of bipartisan co-operation.
Like other predominantly Anglo-Celtic nations, Australia is a tolerant and accepting society in spite of what some members of the domestic left intelligentsia and the civil liberties lobby proclaim. While not without racial tensions, Australia has a relatively low level of ethnically motivated crime and a relatively high level of inter-marriage between the numerous ethnic groups. The country has not fought a war of independence or a civil war and has not been in imminent danger of invasion even though Japan briefly considered doing so in 1942. Al-Qaedas act of war against the United States on September 11, 2001, was the first major attack to take place on American soil. Similarly, Jamaah Islamiyahs bombs, which exploded at the Bali tourist resort in Indonesia on October 12, 2002, brought civilian Australians into the front line. Some 20 Australians were murdered on 9/11. The Australian death toll at Bali was 88 a horrendous toll for a population that is about a third that of Britain.
Australias Prime Minister, John Howard, happened to be in Washington on 9/11. Australia immediately committed special forces to the war against the Taleban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, which was under way when Mr Howards Liberal-National Party conservative coalition defeated Labor, led by Kim Beazley, at the election in November 2001. Labor supported Australias commitment in Afghanistan but opposed Mr Howards decision to commit Australia to the coalition of the willing in Iraq (in support of the US and Britain) in 2003.
Despite their differences on Iraq, the major parties have been more or less united on the need for a tough-minded approach to national security. Mr Beazley generally supported Mr Howard's anti-terrorism legislation and his position has been followed by Kevin Rudd, who took over as Opposition leader last December.
While the political conservatives dominate Australian national politics at the moment, the social democrats are in office in the six states and two territories that comprise the federation. By and large, the Labor Premiers, who control the police forces, have backed Mr Howard on national security. This amounts to strong bipartisan support since about 80 per cent of Australians vote for either the conservatives or social democrats.
Since 9/11 and particularly since the Bali bombing the debate on national security in Australia has been frank. Australia is an immigrant nation and Muslims have been part of the immigrant experience for more than a century. Muslims from Afghanistan, Turkey and South-East Asia, among other places, have settled in well and made a significant contribution to Australian society. Yet, as in other Western democracies, there is a radical Islamist presence in Australia that has been growing in recent years and that owes its allegiance to Wahhabism and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The composition of the Australian Muslim population is significantly different from that of Britain. Radical Muslims or their parents or grandparents have come mostly from Lebanon or North Africa, with some from the sub-continent. In addition there are a few home-grown converts to the cause the best known of whom are David Hicks, who is held at Guantanamo Bay, and Jack Thomas.
The evidence indicates that all radical Islamists in Australia were either born there or entered the country on valid visas. Asylum seekers, who arrived unlawfully, have not comprised a potential threat to national security.
It so happens that the approach advocated for Britain by Martin Bright in his important Policy Exchange pamphlet When Progressives Treat With Reactionaries is consistent with what has occurred Down Under over the past five years. Put briefly, the Australian system takes Islamist ideology seriously. It does not deal with radical Islamists. It confronts extremists views, rather than seeking to co-opt pragmatic radicals who happen not to be in favour of the use of violence in the here and now for purely tactical reasons. After the bombings of 7/7 in London, Tony Blair declared correctly that the rules of the game had changed. In Australia the rules changed dramatically some time earlier. A few recent examples illustrate the point.
After the shock of 7/7 Mr Howard established a Muslim Community Reference Group and said that no radicals would be invited to join. When Sheikh Taj Aldin al-Hilali (the Mufti of Australia) ventured into Holocaust denial, Andrew Robb (the Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism) let it be known that he would not be reappointed to the group. Last February Peter Costello (Mr Howards deputy) publicly declared that, if the radical Muslim cleric Abdul Nasser Ben Brika really wanted to live under Sharia law, he might choose voluntary deportation to Iran. The next month the Prime Minister told Reuters TV that Australia could not ignore that there is a small section of the Islamic population which identifies with some of the more extremist views associated with support of terrorism. In New South Wales the former Labor Premier, Bob Carr, and his successor, Morris Iemma, have made similar candid statements where necessary.
There remains a significant terror threat in Australia with some convictions for terrorist-related offences and a number of Muslim men in Sydney and Melbourne awaiting trial on serious charges. However, the tough line on security seems to have worked well and there have been no terrorist attacks.
The Howard Government has let it be known that radical Islamism is also a threat to the overwhelming majority of the Muslim community and reminded its leaders of their responsibilities to resolve potential problems in their own self-interest. This approach has strengthened the position of moderate Muslims.
Meanwhile, the conservatives, with the support of social democrats, have advanced the cause of citizenship tests as a means of emphasising that all who choose to live in Australia are expected to sign-on to our democratic values. Moreover, imams have been advised to preach in English. There is little backing in Australia for the extremist right-wing view that Muslim immigration should be banned. But there is bipartisan support for tackling the real threat posed by radical Islamism in a direct, even blunt, manner.Source
NORFOLK POLICE LET OFF VANDALS BECAUSE THEY'RE FOREIGN
A local cop foolishly told the truth. He was later reprimanded for it
Two criminals caught on CCTV vandalising cars were not prosecuted because police said they were unemployed foreigners and to bring them to justice would cost too much. One victim received a letter from Norfolk police saying the pair would not be prosecuted because they were both foreign nationals with no jobs and no income and the case was `not in the public interest to pursue due to the expenses incurred in having a trial'. The disclosure was greeted as a further example of police forces' excessive pandering to criminals.
This weekend Derbyshire police were criticised for refusing to release pictures of two escaped murderers because to do so might have infringed their human rights. The latest case involved the vandalism of at least five cars in Norwich. Two men, aged 19 and 29, were arrested on suspicion of damaging cars but a Norfolk police spokeswoman said that after `careful consideration of all the evidence' it was decided to deal with the offenders by way of a police caution.
Barry Ferguson, 29, one of the victims of the vandals, who are in the country legally, said he was dismayed by the decision. `Even though these people were caught in the act they are getting away with wanton vandalism,' he said. `I can't believe the police have spent all this money on CCTV and then have not bothered to charge them. `There would be outrage if a British person got away with this but it is being justified in this instance because these people are foreign with no income. What is the point of having CCTV if these crimes are ignored?'
The police spokeswoman said: `Any decision is tested against the attorney-general's guidelines. It has absolutely nothing to do with their ethnicity or level of income. `This caution, whilst not a conviction, is added to their police record and can be cited in court should they reoffend. The victims, if they wish to do so, can pursue compensation through the civil courts.'
Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: `It is only right and proper that anyone who carries out any type of crime should face the courts. Being jobless, foreign or anything else is no excuse for letting people off. `The long and the short of it is that we are making excuses for not dealing with those who commit crime.'
MORE CLERICS PREACHING HOLY WAR IN UK MOSQUES
Britain's Channel Four is to air a documentary today that shows clerics at a number of leading British mosques exhorting followers to prepare for jihad, to hit girls for not wearing the hijab, and to follow Islamic law over UK law, The Observer reports.
The documentary, Undercover Mosques, Dispatches, contains video footage secretly filmed in British mosques over a period of 12 months. At the Sparkbrook mosque, run by the UK Islamic Mission (UKIM), an organisation that maintains 45 mosques in Britain, a preacher is captured on film praising the Taliban. In response to the news that a British Muslim solider was killed fighting the Taliban, the speaker declares: `The hero of Islam is the one who separated his head from his shoulders.' Another speaker says Muslims cannot accept the rule of non-Muslims. `You cannot accept the rule of the kaffir,' Dr Ijaz Mian tells a meeting held within the mosque. `We have to rule ourselves and we have to rule the others.'
When contacted by The Observer, UKIM said: `We are a nationwide organisation and hold different programmes in our mosques. We are very concerned about this. We have instructed all our branches not to allow any more speakers with radical or fundamentalist views.'
Elsewhere the documentary records the huge popularity of DVDs and Internet broadcasts produced by extremist preachers. At the Islamic bookstore at Regent's Park Mosque in central London, DVDs of a preacher called Sheikh Yasin are sold. In one DVD, Yasin accuses missionaries from the World Health Organisation and Christian groups of putting the AIDS virus in the medicine of African people.
Inside the Green Lane mosque in Birmingham, a preacher is recorded saying: `Allah has created the woman deficient.' A satellite broadcast from the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, beamed into the Green Lane mosque suggests that Muslim children should be hit if they don't pray: `When he is seven, tell him to go and pray, and start hitting them when they are 10.'
Another preacher is heard saying that if a girl `doesn't wear hijab, we hit her'. Another preacher says: `The time is fast approaching where the tables are going to turn and the Muslims are going to be in the position of being uppermost in strength and, when that happens, people won't get killed - unjustly.'
17 January, 2007
MUHAMMED ALI: SILK PURSE OR SOW'S EAR?
The tributes that have been issued to greet Muhammad Ali's 65th birthday on Wednesday provide further confirmation of how the legacy of the former heavyweight champion has been appropriated by the conservative establishment. His life is eulogised as that of a peace-loving, all-American hero. Few even allude to his subversive role in radicalising a generation of blacks and denouncing the war in Vietnam....
Every nation fights for the way its heroes are remembered, but in the case of Ali it has been a knockout blow for the conservative elite, something that is rendered more poignant because Ali, quivering under the affliction of Parkinson's disease, is in no fit state to have a say in the matter. In the eyes of a new generation, he is a Gandhi-esque caricature: non-controversial, utterly non-threatening and devoid of the contradictions that symbolised the deep divisions in postwar American consciousness. The suspicion that Ali's handlers have conspired in this anti-historical process is confirmed by the hagiographic Muhammad Ali Center in Kentucky, a temple inscribed with simpering platitudes and pacificatory iconography.
It is difficult to imagine that any youth who happened to strut in from the ghettos of downtown Louisville would leave with any authentic sense of the provocative role that Ali played in the ructions of the Civil Rights movement, or the polemical way he asserted his opposition to Vietnam: "No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger." But even more disturbingly, the youth would walk away oblivious to the shocking fact that the cause to which Ali gave his puff has failed in many of its most basic objectives.
The 2000 census was unequivocal, recording the enduring concentration of poverty, drug abuse and criminality among black Americans. Is it any wonder that liberal intellectuals discern the rancid whiff of tokenism in the accolades that continue to rain down on the former champion?
Of course, many of Ali's acolytes will be pleased that in the rush to sanitise him in the eyes of white America, some of the hypocritical aspects of his character have been glossed over. There is little mention of the fact that he proclaimed white people were "blue-eyed devils" while not only enjoying friendships with whites but also employing many in his vast entourage. Or that he evangelised about the value of liberty while courting some of the world's most sadistic dictators, including Idi Amin, Ferdinand Marcos and President Mobutu.
Many will argue that Ali was misled by his devotion to the Nation of Islam, the black religious sect headed by Elijah Muhammad, but this hardly excuses the tendency to omit all reference to its implications. Although the Nation's theology was crudely apocalyptic - it believed white people were congenitally unjust, having been bred in a malign historical experiment, and that blacks will be rescued from Judgment Day by a wheel-shaped spaceship - it was its policies on social housing and family values that captivated Ali and other disaffected blacks.
But even here there was hypocrisy. Ali followed the example of Elijah Muhammad in moralising about the virtues of sexual abstinence while living a life of rampant promiscuity. This was never better illustrated than at the Thrilla in Manila in 1975, when Ali caused a diplomatic incident at a presidential reception by introducing Veronica Porsche, his girlfriend, as his wife. Belinda Ali, who had put up with the boxer's philandering for years, flew to the Philippines for an explosive confrontation. They divorced two years later....
FREE SPEECH FOR THE ARTS!
Or where will it end?
An antifascist demonstration has been organised for today's performance of Giselle by English National Ballet principal Simone Clarke - her first since being "outed" as a member of the far-right British National Party. Members of the Unite Against Fascism Coalition will demonstrate at London's Covent Garden today in protest against the "BNP Ballerina's" presence in the show: Arts Council funded English National Ballet has refused to comment on Ms Clarke's political views, which emerged after a Guardian journalist revealed parts of the BNP's membership lists. Clarke claims to support a tough line on immigration and told a newspaper that she joined the party on the urging of her boyfriend, who is Cuban-Chinese.
EURSOC holds no brief for Ms Clarke or her party, though we believe it is her right to join whatever political group she likes. The BNP is certainly far right and racist, (though Ms Clarke may not be the latter if judged on her personal relationships).
But barracking a ballet performance because you disagree with the political views of one of the dancers? We are constantly informed that Israel's "occupation" of Palestinian territory is "racist" and "far right". Will people who claim to support Israel be next? Ulster Unionists, too, enjoy little support among left-leaning groups - will they too be targeted as undesirables, if Clarke is ejected from her position? What about supporters of the war in Iraq or conservative Americans in general?
In any case, where would the arts be without dotty political views? Prominent members of the Redgrave acting dynasty were known for their sympathy for communism; Nobel prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter has dedicated much of his recent career to a particularly infantile form of anti-American rhetoric. He was last spotted kissing the behind of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez - a man who shuts down media organisations which dare to disagree with him.
Film-maker Ken Loach gets UK lottery funding to make anti-British, pro-Irish republican movies. Poet Tom Paulin has called for some Israeli settlers to be shot - as far as we can tell, Simone Clarke has not advocated violence in pursuit of her views. Writer John Berger indulges an affection for masked "militants" in Latin America and called for an absurd and creepy "artists" boycott of Israel.
Surely the arts are about free expression, including the right to emit views that in any other public arena would have you certified. Clarke isn't even expressing her views on the stage - indeed, her affiliation was known to no-one until the Guardian's reporter found her name on the BNP's membership list
MORE LESSONS FROM THE "BNP BALLERINA" AFFAIR
One of the strangest things about political activists is that they so rarely understand freedom, the very thing they think they are fighting for. Everyone in this country, even a sugar plum fairy, is entitled to freedom of thought and of speech under the law, but there are countless high-minded activists who do not think so. So it was that a group of Unite Against Fascism activists fetched up at the Coliseum in London on Friday afternoon to demonstrate against the fascist fairy, the ďBNP ballerinaĒ Simone Clarke.
She is an exceptional dancer who finds herself at the middle of an even more exceptional political drama. Having danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker over the Christmas season, she was soon afterwards exposed as a member of the British National party. On Friday she appeared on stage for the first time since the revelation of her political views in the role of Giselle, only to be booed and hissed by UAF agitators outside the theatre and even inside from the stalls.
ďThe principal ballerina is a BNP member,Ē they cried, before they were removed. ďNo fascism in the arts.Ē Clarke bravely danced on, however, like a real trouper, smiling throughout; I suppose ballerinas are used to smiling through pain. She was supported in her ordeal, whether she knew it or not, by a bizarre group of champions ó 25 members of the BNP, including some of its top brass, and not perhaps your average balletomanes.
How I wish I had been there. All this might be serious in its way, but it is a delicious absurdity too. For one thing the English National Ballet has dancers from 19 countries, some of whom must presumably be immigrants, and possibly dark of skin; I would love to have seen the BNP neo-balletomanesí faces as they watched these migrant swans leaping about in swathes of floating net and little wings, not to mention several men in pastel tights. How wonderful to think of the skinhead BNP top team supporting all this.
What the UAF activists are trying to achieve is to get Clarke sacked. The English National Ballet has resisted very properly; it has refused to comment on its principal dancerís opinions, saying her views do not represent the ENBís views, which in any case does not express any political view. The ENB is in a difficult position though, because it receives 6 million pounds of public money each year from the Arts Council, and this can and will be used by activists to put pressure on the company to distance itself from Clarke. Bectu, the broadcasting workersí union, is making this demand and Lee Jasper, the race relations adviser to the mayor of London, joined this lamentable demonstration, saying: ďThe protests will continue . . . English National Ballet have got a real fight on their hands.Ē
This is a strange story in every way. Despite her fear of mass immigration, Clarke has an immigrant boyfriend of Chinese-Cuban descent, also a dancer; there is a hint of inconsistency here surely, and the BNP certainly finds it a touch embarrassing. And then the protesters in the street, who say that ethnic English peopleís fear of immigration is nothing but irrational racism, rather undermined their own case by shouting ďWe are Muslim, black and Jew, there are many more of us than youĒ ó by this threat confirming that a fear of mass immigration is not merely irrational racism. Brilliant.
All these big bold men lined up against a single rather underweight woman; it is not an edifying spectacle. If only they had the intellectual modesty that she has shown. Explaining to a newspaper that sheíd been drawn to the BNP by watching the news and by their manifesto, she said: ďI am not too proud to say that a lot of it went over my head, but some of the things they mentioned were things I think about all the time, mainly mass immigration, crime and increased taxes.Ē The world might be a better place if more people were not too proud to admit that things are complex and difficult to understand.
It is clearly too difficult for Fridayís activists to understand that free speech is indivisible. Perhaps they have forgotten the McCarthy era in America, when performing artists, particularly in Hollywood, were outed, sacked and ruined for their pro-communist views (real or alleged). That was entirely wrong, I hardly need say. But there are plenty of people, including me, who think that pro-Trotsky, pro-Stalin, pro-Mao communism, and all kinds of views expressed by people in the arts to this day, are hateful and despicable, and, I think, a great deal worse than the BNP.
That has never prompted real lovers of freedom to try to silence them; real lovers of freedom accept that to repress one hated view is as bad as repressing its opposite. It will only strengthen the hated view; by contrast the openness of freedom will weaken it, if it is wrong, as the heroic JS Mill so eloquently argued.
Besides, why should anyone take the political views of artists seriously? I know that everyone does these days, and pop stars such as Bono are called upon to pontificate on matters of global concern. But the fact that they are famous and talented does not mean that their views are worth paying attention to (rather as the BNP ballerinaís views are of no interest).
There is no law of nature according to which artists must of their nature be rational, sensible and well judging; rather the reverse tends to be true, because the arts have to do with risk, danger, experiment, originality and inconsistency. They are born out of anger, resentment, joy, contrariness and wildness, with the result that few artists have ever been balanced and well-informed political or moral philosophers.
In fact if artists were judged on their views, theatres and galleries and bookshops would be almost empty. If sensible people had tried to bring down artists of bad and daft political views we would have had no Vanessa Redgrave and no Harold Pinter. Should we ban Brecht from the stage because of his support for the odious East German regime? Come off it. People who loathe their views may love their talents. It is high time that liberals, luvvies and political activists started either to defend free speech, or stopped pretending to.
A good comment from a reader of the above:
"I was in the audience for this performance and I didn't see any BNP 'skinheads' at all, if the BNP were there and I'm they were then they blended perfectly into a respectable audience. The only 'skinhead thugs' I saw were of the left-wing 'UAF' variety - so brave they arrived in a screaming mob to bully a tiny ballerina. Strange people for Tory David Cameron to ally himself with? Seems like the BNP are one of the most moderate groups around these days. Seems like the extremists are in power or even in opposition....."
16 January, 2007
British Race watchdog forces ethnic prize to admit white writers
A literary prize for writers from ethnic minorities has been forced to include entrants of all colours after complaints that it discriminated against white writers. Arts Council England and Penguin UK had to rewrite the rules a year after introducing the Decibel Penguin Prize, a short-story competition for British writers of Asian, African or Caribbean origin.
The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) decided that the prize could breach Section 29 of the Race Relations Act. Had the rules not been changed, the watchdog could have begun legal proceedings against the organisers.
The Decibel Penguin Prize was set up to encourage diversity - even though Andrea Levy, who won the Whitbread with Small Island, and Zadie Smith, who shot to fame with her first novel, White Teeth, are among bestselling ethnic-minority writers who relied on talent rather than positive discrimination. Diran Adebayo, an acclaimed British writer of Nigerian parentage, argued recently that the quality of a book mattered more than whether its author happened to be black or Asian.
Julien Crighton, a businessman from Nottingham who lodged a complaint about the prize with the CRE, told The Times that it had seemed that Penguin "were being politically correct for the sake of being politically correct. Even though the intentions might be good, it doesn't accomplish anything - particularly with public money being involved. If my children grew up to be writers they wouldn't be part of it."
Arts Council England has now confirmed that skin colour will not be a factor in future. For the second year of the contest, the focus will be "personal stories of immigrants to the UK". That way, a spokesman said, "the spirit" of the original prize can be retained.
Although the CRE said that the case was closed, the Arts Council spokesman seemed less sure. Acknowledging its acceptance of the CRE's comments and that the rules had been changed, he said: "We understand that this is an area of the law which is open to interpretation and we are in ongoing discussions with the CRE." He added: "We did check the situation beforehand. We believed we were acting lawfully, but they got in touch with us."
In recent years the funding body has undertaken various initiatives intended to ensure that the arts reflect society's diversity. It sees the Decibel prize as part of that work. The ten winners' submissions appear in a Penguin anthology. Penguin and David Lammy, the Culture Minister and the prize's patron, who is black, declined to comment. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "We fully support initiatives to stimulate as wide a range of creative work as possible, from as wide a community as possible."
THE DECAY OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE IN LEFT-DOMINATED BRITAIN
By Theodore Dalrymple
The English used to pride themselves on their fairness: what wasnt fair wasnt cricket. Maybe other people didnt take them at their own estimate, but it is now beyond dispute that substantial numbers of Britons are completely without any sense of fairness or justice. For them, the law is merely one of the instruments with which they wage the perpetual war of each against all. The police and the criminal justice system well know this aspect of modern English life and have even managed to turn it to their advantage.
For an example, look at a recent case in which I was due to give evidence as a doctor: Mr A assaulted Mr B, who hitherto was his best friend, or should I say mate. (I have seen many a nose broken by a best mate.) Both were, as usual, under the influence of alcohol and other mind, or at least behaviour -altering, substances. Mr B was bloodily injured and called the police.
By the time they arrived, Mr A had left the scene. The police took a statement from Mr B, and then, about a week later, arrested Mr A. Because of what is known in the trade as previous, or sometimes as form, the magistrates remanded Mr A into custody.
On the day of the trial Mr B did not turn up to give evidence unlike me. There was a vague rumour that he wanted to withdraw his complaint. The trial was adjourned for two weeks, but on the second occasion Mr B still did not turn up again unlike me and unlike a different legal team for both the prosecution and defence. The question arose whether he should be summonsed. In the meantime Mr A escaped from custody. A week later he was rearrested and tried for his escape.
Meanwhile, the original charges will not go ahead because Mr B has made it clear that he will not testify. Whether Mr A has successfully intimidated Mr B, or whether Mr B has thought better of it, and does not wish to be known on his housing estate as a grass, cannot be known.
The result of the expenditure of thousands, probably scores of thousands, on this case readers might be relieved to know that very little of it ended up in my pocket is as follows: if Mr A were guilty of the assault he would have got away with it, bar the slap on the wrist he received for escaping from custody; if he were innocent, he would have felt aggrieved at yet another injustice committed against him, which reinforced his casus belli against the whole of society.
Would Mr B be charged with wasting police time, I enquired naively? Oh no, I was told by lawyers on several sides of this case, we dont do things like that. Anyway, what was I worrying about: as a barrister once said to console me when I complained of having waited three days in court without having given my evidence: The meters still ticking.
Cases such as the one I have outlined are very common. All my doctor and lawyer friends are familiar with them. Their prevalence is part of the dialectical relationship between the degeneration of the public service, which is now a vast trough from which a large class of educated people feed, and the appalling behaviour of the public that makes the expansion of the public service necessary, or at least justifies it, in the first place. As a 16th-century German bishop put it, the poor are a gold mine.
Lack of integrity and straightforwardness have a corrosive effect on the entire population. The police are now institutionally devious, if I may coin a phrase. A recent book by a PC Copperfield, called Wasting Police Time, tells us how the police improve their abominably low clear-up rates by various scams, for example charging both parties to a neighbourly scuffle with a crime, and getting both parties to make statements against the other on the promise that no charges will be brought.
Hey presto, two crimes have been solved for the price of one incident, to which almost certainly the police should not have been called in the first place. As to the burglary across the road, the householder will be lucky to receive any attention from the police other than a crime number.
Surely the imperative for high clear-up rates, and the tendency of a part of the population to use the police for purely temporary and personal ends, could be solved by increasing the number of prosecutions for wasting police time, at least until the habit of wasting police time itself became less widespread.
In the meantime, comrades (to quote the late Josef Stalin in another context), life is getting ever better, ever merrier: at least for the apparatchiks and nomenklatura of that vast organism that is spreading faster than killer bugs in the hospitals under its jurisdiction, the public administration of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Source
Judge's book fans flames of culture war
Yet another skirmish in the Culture War erupted last Tuesday when a much-anticipated book went on sale: "The Tyranny of Tolerance" by Missouri Circuit Court Judge Robert H. Dierker. The book's theme is captured by its subtitle, "A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault."
Even prior to publication, however, the book prompted calls for Dierker's sanction or removal from the bench. What is going on, and what is likely to be the result? The bare facts follow.
As a personal matter, Dierker is an advocate of what could be described as right-wing values. Professionally, he is a judge with 20 years experience who was re-elected last month by approximately 70 percent of the vote. In a recent Missouri Bar survey, 90 percent of lawyers said Dierker should be retained. In short, his job performance is generally well rated. "The Tyranny of Tolerance" expresses Dierker's experience-based belief that liberals are imposing an ideological agenda through the court system. By interpreting the law in a radical manner, they are essentially rewriting it without going through the legislature or the process of a vote.
The book's first chapter was circulated In advance to legal professionals for their comments. Entitled "The Cloud Cuckooland of Radical Feminism," the chapter blasts "femifascists" for their role in destroying the traditional role of the courts: to enforce the law without bias. State Senator Joan Bray, among others, took exception. "I probably meet his definition of femifascist," she said. Last month, Bray filed a complaint about Dierker with the State's Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline, which has the power to issue a public reprimand and to remove a judge from office.
Bray accused Dierker of violating "Judicial Canon 2.03 Canon B" by using his office for personal gain. She wrote, "Judge Dierker stands to receive monetary gain from the prestige of his office when the book is marketed and touted as the words of a sitting judge thus enhancing its marketability." With that one accusation, Bray provided enough controversy to ensure the book's marketability. Dierker is keeping the flames alive through a series of radio and TV interviews this week. What is likely to occur as a result?
Dierker is unlikely to be removed or even seriously sanctioned even though his critics have some ground to stand on. Their strongest point is that Dierker tends to mix his personal views with his judicial opinions and that makes for biased rulings. In short, they believe he is not capable of impartially adjudicating a wide range of cases including sexual harassment ones. They point to an order Dierker issued in a 1999 sexual harassment case. The order's opening paragraph stated, "From Anita Hill to Monica Lewinsky, the cry of 'sexual harassment' has been selectively raised to advance certain groups' political agendas under the guise of promoting equal opportunity in the workplace, or under the banner of 'equality' in academe."
I agree with Dierker that feminism has devastated the legal system but, even with such agreement, I am acutely uncomfortable with this purely political statement within a legal document. It is wrong for liberal judges to use the bench to pontificate; it is equally wrong for conservatives. When called to task for the language, Dierker wrote, "Samuel Johnson advised that, before publishing anything, you should read through your work, and strike out your favorite phrases. It is sound advice for lawyers and judges."
Nevertheless, the order in question moved from stating personal opinion to offering a reasoned consideration of the points of law. Moreover, my research has not uncovered a single case in which Dierker was reversed due to bias. Dierker's great flaw is his tendency to state personal opinion before moving on to the business of law. Does a strong personal opinion make a judge incapable of rendering an unbiased judgment? Absolutely not.
Ideally, a judge is an intelligent, aware human being who is conversant with law, social issues and how to weigh evidence.O f course such people will reach conclusions on issues that define the society around them, issues like abortion, the death penalty, and sexual harassment. It is absurd to demand that judges be moral and political blank slates; it amounts to a demand that they be unintelligent, unaware or incapable of reaching a conclusion.
Lack of bias requires one thing only: when on the bench, the law must take priority over personal opinion. When on the bench, Dierker should learn to keep his mouth shut except on issues of law. Elsewhere, he has the same First Amendment right to express his opinion as anyone else. From a selfish point of view, however, I wish Dierker had not published. His book makes advocacy more difficult for writers like me who agree with him but prefer to reason rather than to rage. Dierker makes some solid points but they will be lost in the circus that passes for political discussion these days. It is a circus Dierker has invited. As Bill McClellan, a commentator for the St. Louis Dispatch observes, "Thoughtful, biting criticism from the right went out with 'God and Man at Yale'. William F. Buckley has given way to Ann Coulter." The left is just as down-and-dirty. 2007 deserves a better opening.
15 January, 2007
MORE SLAVERY NONSENSE
"Look how big-hearted I am" is the real message
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are to lead thousands of "pilgrims" carrying a giant cross through London to repent for the Church of England's complicity in the slave trade. Moments of quiet reflection will punctuate the procession as African drummers beat a sombre lament. The march will culminate in a symbolic "release from the past", possibly in the form of a replica slave auction notice being torn up or shackles being removed from the cross. The "walk of witness" on March 24 coincides with the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. It is the latest stage in the church's repentance since February last year, when the General Synod voted to apologise for its involvement in slavery.
Displays of remorse have been spearheaded by politicians. Just two months ago Tony Blair expressed his "deep sorrow" for Britain's role in the transatlantic slave trade, although he stopped short of a full apology. John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, is leading the national commemorations. Organisations including English Heritage and the National Trust have joined in, expressing regret that some of the properties they own were built with slave money.
According to draft plans, churches across Britain are being encouraged to bus up to 8,000 parishioners to London for the "act of public witness". Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who grew up in Uganda and has described how his forebears were among those enslaved, hope the event will signal the "beginning of a healing process".
This weekend one of the march's organisers denied the church was indulging in "hand-wringing" and compared the slave trade to the Holocaust. "We are still living with the legacy of slavery," said Rose Hudson-Wilkin, chairwoman of the church's Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns. "Black people are saying, `Hey, we had our own Holocaust, too. We had millions killed and we want this acknowledged'."
Critics, however, believe that laying all the blame for slavery on Europeans is misleading. Arabs traded slaves from a much earlier date, while African kings and merchants were responsible for capturing their kinsmen and selling them to traders in exchange for goods and firearms. ....
The climax of the service is likely to be the symbolic "release from the past", followed by a "song of freedom". Worshippers will be asked to sign a petition calling on the government to take action against modern-day slavery, such as sex trafficking from eastern Europe. Last year's synod was told how the church's missionary arm, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Foreign Parts, owned the Codrington plantation in Barbados where slaves had the word "society" branded on their chests.
Casual sex is a con: women just aren't like men
Former groupie Dawn Eden explains how she realised morality made more sense for women than free love
The Sixties generation thought everything should be free. But only a few decades later the hippies were selling water at rock festivals for $5 a bottle. But for me the price of free love was even higher. I sacrificed what should have been the best years of my life for the black lie of free love. All the sex I ever had and I had more than my fair share far from bringing me the lasting relationship I sought, only made marriage a more distant prospect.
And I am not alone. Count me among the dissatisfied daughters of the sexual revolution, a new counterculture of women who are realising that casual sex is a con and are choosing to remain chaste instead.
I am 37, and like millions of other girls, was born into a world which encouraged young women to explore their sexuality. It was almost presented to us as a feminist act. In the 1960s the future Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown famously asked: Can a woman have sex like a man? Yes, she answered because like a man, [a woman] is a sexual creature. Her insight launched a million 100 new sex tricks features in womens magazines. And then that sex-loving feminist icon Germaine Greer enthused that groupies are important because they demystify sex; they accept it as physical, and they arent possessive about their conquests.
As a historian of pop music and daughter of the sexual revolution I embraced Greers call to (mens) arms. My job was to write the sleeve notes to 1960s pop CDs and I gained a reputation for having an encyclopedic knowledge base, interviewing the original artists and recording personnel. It was all a joy for me, as I was obsessed with the sounds of the era. I would have paid just to meet artists such as Petula Clark, Del Shannon, Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson, Alan Price, and the Hollies and instead I was getting paid to tell their stories. I became the top woman in my (overwhelmingly male) profession. The opportunities for shenanigans were endless.
Rock journalism had an extra bonus for me because I was deeply attracted to musicians all kinds, though drummers, unused to being appreciated for their minds, were easy marks. While I was unaware of Greers injunction to make love freely, I read the supergroupie memoir, Im With the Band by Pamela Des Barres, envying her ability to drink in everything that was desirable about rockers their good looks, wit, creativity and fame without seeming to lose any part of herself in her (extraordinarily numerous) dalliances with them.
I tried to emulate her and I suppose to a large extent succeeded. In some ways, the touring rock musician was my ideal sexual partner. By bedding them I could enjoy a temporary sort of fairy-tale bond; knowing it was bound to be fleeting as we would both move on meant that I never had to confront my own vulnerability about properly making a connection with someone. I could establish a transient intimacy and never have to deal with the real thing and the real rejection that might entail.
Of course the rejection would come as the latest lover moved on to the next town and the next woman but somehow, being able to see it coming made me feel more in control. I was choosing, I thought, the lesser pain.
But in all that casual sex, there was one moment I learnt to dread more than any other. I dreaded it not out of fear that the sex would be bad, but out of fear that it would be good. If the sex was good, then, even if I knew in my heart that the relationship wouldnt work, I would still feel as though the act had bonded me with my sex partner in a deeper way than we had been bonded before. Its in the nature of sex to awaken deep emotions within us, emotions that are unwelcome when one is trying to keep it light.
On such nights the worst moment was when it was all over. Suddenly I was jarred back to earth. Then Id lie back and feel bereft. He would still be there, and if I was really lucky, hed lie down next to me. Yet, I couldnt help feeling like the spell had been broken. We could nuzzle or giggle or we could fall asleep in each others arms but I knew it was play acting and so did he. We werent really intimate it had just been a game. The circus had left town.
Whatever Greer and her ilk might say Ive tried their philosophy that a woman can shag like a man and it doesnt work. Were not built like that. Women are built for bonding. We are vessels and we seek to be filled. For that reason, however much we try and convince ourselves that it isnt so, sex will always leave us feeling empty unless we are certain that we are loved, that the act is part of a bigger picture that we are loved for our whole selves not just our bodies.
It took me a long time to realise this. My earliest attitudes about sex were shaped from what I saw in the lives of my older sister and my mother especially my mother, a free spirit who was desperately trying to make up missing out on the hippie era.
My parents split up when I was five; a few years later Dad moved across the country, so I was raised by my mother. While my schoolmates mothers were teaching them how to bake cookies, mine was letting her goateed boyfriend teach me, aged eight, the complex mechanics behind his water bong for smoking pot. (He thoughtfully stopped short of letting me take a drag on the weed.) My father held traditional values, but he didnt want to seem prudish and was clearly uncomfortable setting down rules for a daughter he rarely saw. He almost never talked to me about sex. It was simply understood that I would have sex when I was ready whether married or not.
I learnt from my sister and my mother that a woman can be intelligent and beautiful and yet have a difficult time meeting a responsible, gentlemanly man who wishes to be married for life. This was the 1970s and early 1980s, the age of the Sensitive New Age Guy or aptly named snag. My mother attracted them because she was new age herself, doing kundalini yoga and attending lectures by various gurus. The snags treated her with what passed for respect in that world but they never gave much of themselves and didnt appreciate Mom in the way I did I wondered if there were any men capable of valuing inner beauty. In both her search for a husband and her quest for a fulfilling spirituality, Mom was, in my eyes, fuelled by a longing to fill the empty space.
As I hit my teens, I felt the vacuum too and longed for male companionship. But I was determined not to get hurt the way I had seen my mother hurt. Having premarital sex seemed like a surefire way to get burnt. So I decided early on that I would not have sex until . . . marriage? That would be great. However, I didnt think I could wait until then. Instead, I resolved that I would wait to have sex until I was really in love whatever that meant.
That all may sound simple enough but, growing up, I had little concept of the meaning of sex and marriage. I thought sex was something one did for recreation and also if one wanted to have a baby. (Well, I was on the right track with that last one.) Marriage, I believed, meant that one had a societal sanction to have sex with a particular person. Sex was better when one was in love, I imagined. Married people should have sex only with each other because well, because it wasnt nice to cheat, plus cheating could lead to divorce, which I knew meant lots of pain.
As a teenager with no moral foundation for my resolution to save my virginity for Mr Right other than a fear of being hurt by Mr Wrong I felt free to push the envelope. No, more than free. I became one of those mythical virgins who does everything but. The name Lewinsky was not yet a verb, but if it were, I imagine men would often have whispered it to one another behind my back.
When, at age 23, I finally got tired of waiting and officially lost my virginity to a man I didnt love, it was a big deal to me at the time, but in retrospect it wasnt really so significant. True, my dalliances became less complicated. When I did everything but, I used to dread having to explain why I didnt want to go all the way; once I started having sex, that was no longer necessary.
But in a wider sense, losing my virginity, far from being the demarcation between past and future, was just a blip on the continuum of my sexual degradation. The decline had begun when I first sought sexual pleasure for its own sake.
Our culture both in the media via programmes such as Sex and the City and in everyday interactions relentlessly puts forth the idea that lust is a way station on the road to love. It isnt. It left me with a brittle facade incapable of real intimacy. Occasionally a man would tell me I appeared hard, which surprised me as I thought I was so vulnerable. In truth, underneath my attempts to appear bubbly, I was hard it was the only way I could cope with what I was doing to my self and my body.
The misguided, hedonistic philosophy which urges young women into this kind of behaviour harms both men and women; but it is particularly damaging to women, as it pressures them to subvert their deepest emotional desires. The champions of the sexual revolution are cynical. They know in their tin hearts that casual sex doesnt make women happy. Thats why they feel the need continually to promote it.
These days I live a very different kind of life. I still touch base with old musician pals now and again, but Im more likely to hang out with members of church choirs. I am chaste. My decision to resist casual sex was, once again, influenced by my mother though not in the way she initially hoped.
Although she was Jewish, she gave up her new age beliefs for Christianity when I was a teenager. I myself had no such plans at the time. For one thing, I didnt have faith. I had grown up up in a liberal, Reform Jewish household; but, after being a bat mitzvah at 13, I fell into agnosticism and it seemed like nothing could pull me out.
As far as I could see, Christians were a dull, faceless mass who ruled the world. My mission in life, as I saw it, was to be different; creative, liberal, rebellious. Then one day in December 1995, I was doing a phone interview with Ben Eshbach, leader of a Los Angeles rock band called the Sugarplastic, and asked him what he was reading. His answer was The Man Who Was Thursday by G K Chesterton. I picked it up out of curiosity and was captivated. Soon I was picking up everything by Chesterton that I could get my hands on, starting with his book Orthodoxy, his attempt to explain why he believed in the Christian faith.
That was the first time it struck me that there was something exciting about Christianity. I kept reading Chesterton even as I continued my dissipated lifestyle, and then one night in October 1999 I had a hypnagogic experience the sort in which youre not sure if you are asleep or awake. I heard a womans voice saying: Some things are not meant to be known. Some things are meant to be understood. I got on my knees and prayed and eventually entered the Catholic church.
One night last year I had dinner with a male friend, a charming English journalist I would have dated if he shared my faith (he didnt) and if he were interested in getting married (ditto). He peppered me with questions about chastity, even going so far as to suggest that maybe, given that Id been looking for so long, I might not find the man I was looking for.
Thats not true, I responded. My chances are better now than theyve ever been, because before I was chaste, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. Its only now that Im truly ready for marriage and have a clear vision of the kind of man I want. I may be 37, I concluded, but in husband-seeking years, Im only 22.Source
A War on Political Correctness Needed
Many of the things that seem to be going wrong for America today can be traced to an excess of political correctness -- if, indeed, that's not a redundant phrase. When tempered by confidence in one's self and culture, the desire not to offend others comes out as simple politeness. But when it gets out of control, as it does among Liberals, it becomes a need to prevent oneself from giving any possible hint of offense, combined with a desire to "make up" for any self-perceived racial or cultural advantage one may have, at any cost. Such desires can cause great harm to a person or a culture -- or even kill them.
It's political correctness that's causing us the most harm in the War on Terror, especially in Iraq. How can we win a war in which we're determined not to offend anyone, even the enemy? Political correctness caused us to treat Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr as an equal, back when his group of Iran-backed thugs was small enough to take out of the picture, if we'd had the political will. Now, he's a major player -- and a major problem.
In so many cases, our troops are not allowed to return fire when attacked from mosques, nor even from homes without a careful -- and often deadly -- investigation. Every action they take is dissected in detail, second-guessed by the "mainstream" media and those who seem to actually crave failure... and even used to prosecute them for doing their jobs.
In Guantanamo Bay and other places, political correctness prevents us from interrogating captured enemy fighters. Instead, our troops feed them "culturally sensitive" meals and put on gloves before handling their Qur'ans -- giving in to their psychotic conviction that we are "unclean" and need to be converted or wiped out. The gloves are an ironic symbol of the delicate manner in which our soldiers are forced to treat the enemy both on and off the battlefield.
Political correctness prevents us from demanding that Iran and Syria stop shoveling funds, weapons and "foreign fighters" across their borders into Iraq as fast as they can move it all. In our zeal to treat international criminals like statesmen and elected leaders, we cripple ourselves. The leaders of Iran, in addition to supporting terrorists and insurgents in Iraq, are openly working on nuclear weapons and have declared their intention to wipe Israel off the map. Iranian clerics regularly call for the destruction of America, to the cheering of crowds. According to MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute):
"Responding to the sermons, frenzied crowds of Iranians chant, 'Death to America,' 'Death to England,' and 'Death to Israel,' with the occasional 'Death to Saddam.' Other popular chants include 'America will be annihilated,' 'Islam will be victorious,' 'Woe to the enemy if Khamenei commands me to wage jihad,' and countless other curses against the West.
"The sermons focus on threats against the 'Great Satan,' America, and the 'Little Satan,' Israel, and their coming collapse. Other themes are attacks on President Bush, praise for jihad and martyrdom, Iraq, and support for Iran's nuclear program."
What's our politically-correct response to hordes of Iranians screaming for our annihilation? We wonder how we've offended them, and how we can gain their love and trust. No wonder the jihadists are so certain of victory. We seem to have no confidence in our own culture, when people around the world want to join it so badly that in some cases, they risk death just to get here.
Perhaps the gold standard of cultural confidence was set by General Sir Charles Napier, the commander-in-chief of India under British rule. When locals complained about his banning suttee, the practice of burning widows alive on their husband's funeral pyre, Napier is said to have responded, "You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours." As a result, suttee is no longer practiced in India, and the country is much better for its absence.
Even in our own homeland, we have lost our cultural confidence. Political correctness is burying everything that made America the superpower we are today. Some of our greatest strengths have always been our sense of individualism, our spirit of capitalism, our belief in the rule of law, our patriotism and our freedom of (not from!) religious belief. The aggressive secular Socialism pushed by the Left is stifling all those things.
Nanny-state government entitlements sap our self-reliance. Punitive, progressive tax rates destroy our reasons for engaging in capitalistic enterprises. Those who want to secure our borders and stop criminal trespassers are demonised as "bigots" and "racists," as though criminals have a distinct ethnicity. Americans who believe that the purpose of American foreign policy is to promote American interests are derided as "flag-waving mindless patriots" and "nationalists." As John Wayne said in 1972, however, "Sure I wave the American flag. Do you know of a better flag to wave?"
Worst of all, militant secularism is taking a toll on our religious freedom. In what other country would a majority of 82% -- the percentage of Americans who subscribe to one form of Christianity or another, according to a recent Baylor University study -- deliberately act like the minority?
In one recent example of political correctness gone mad, the Olympic skater Sasha Cohen was "stunned" when a city official accompanied by police ordered a high school choir to stop singing "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" on her behalf. They feared that the old song (the lyrics of which reportedly date back to the 15th century) might offend her, because it mentions Christmas and she is half Jewish. No one even bothered to ask Cohen whether she was offended... which she wasn't, as she celebrates Christmas and was currently participating in a "Christmas tree lighting tour" around the country. The grim and scowling spirit of political correctness dictated that she might be offended, therefore the music was offensive and had to be stopped. Let me point out that if you're offended by the mere mention of a religious holiday in public, especially concerning a holiday celebrated by 96% of the people in this country, perhaps you ought to start looking for a country that suits you better.
We're afraid to make any judgments at all, lest someone's feelings be hurt. We spend so much time asking, "Who are we to judge?" that we actually forget who we are. At home, we need to remember that we are the country all others envy, and so many people want so desperately to reach that the sheer number of illegal immigrants actually poses a problem. What other country in the world can make that claim? We need to recover our cultural confidence before we no longer have a culture.
In Iraq and the larger War on Terror, we need to stop tiptoeing around and actually fight our enemies. You might say that we can't win the War on Terror until we start fighting the War on Political Correctness.
14 January, 2007
THE LATEST QUOTA ABSURDITY -- FROM THE U.K.
As anyone in urgent need of a plumber will testify, Polish immigration has some obvious benefits ó a fact that hasnít passed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The force formerly known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been inundated by applications from young Poles desperate to become officers. And the wave of hopeful candidates brings with it interesting implications for a service required to recruit half of its new officers from a reluctant Roman Catholic community.
Nearly 1,000 of the Provinceís burgeoning Polish community have responded to a police recruitment drive ó and they are nearly all Catholics. Poles accounted for 12 per cent of the 7,749 applicants, which could provide a lifeline for a force that has struggled to attract Catholic recruits.
The move, however, will not be popular in Poland. A report by the Polish police force that was leaked yesterday complained of a shortfall in Poland of up to 16,000 officers because of the vast numbers flocking to Britain and Ireland.
Under the policing reforms, the PSNI must recruit Catholics and non-Catholics equally, a restriction strongly disliked by Unionists because it leads to the rejection of able and willing Protestant candidates. But a combination of Republican intimidation and the lingering suspicion among Catholics that the PSNI remains a Protestant police force has ensured that its make-up is still disproportionately Protestant. Only 21 per cent of its officers are Catholic.
The PSNI advertised in Polish publications north and south of the border to encourage more of the estimated 30,000 Poles in Northern Ireland into their ranks. A further 150,000 live south of the border, where the Irish police are training Polish recruits. The charm offensive was not the PSNIís first overture to the Poles. Late last year the PSNI announced that it was to host a police officer on secondment to improve relations with the Eastern European community, which has suffered a marked increase in hate attacks. A spokeswoman for the PSNI told The Times that Poles could count towards the quota of Catholics. She said: ďWhen anybody applies for a post it is up to them to say what religion they are ó Protestant, Catholic or other. If they put themselves down as Catholic they will fall within the 50-50 recruitment policy.Ē She said that the force was delighted with the response from the Polish community.
Critics are already citing the loophole as proof that 50-50 recruitment does not work. Ian Paisley Jr, son of the DUP leader and member of the Policing Board, said: ďIt highlights how ridiculous the whole policy is. You should not recruit on a religious basis.Ē He added that if Polish applicants refused to specify what religion they were they would be classified as ďnon-CatholicsĒ and could deprive a Protestant recruit of a place.
Alex Atwood, the SDLPís policing spokesman, admitted that it was not the perfect tool but said it was getting results. ďThere are always going to be hard cases that may or may not be deemed unfair, but 50-50 has worked very well to redress the balance.Ē With a salary of 22,000 pounds a recruit in the PSNI can expect to earn almost four times more than his counterpart in the Polish police.
Meet the liberated college woman. You may pity her. "Unprotected" is a hard slap at the sexual free-for-all that prevails on American campuses and throughout American life. The author, revealed since publication as Dr. Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist at the student health service at UCLA, was hesitant to put her name on this book. The orthodoxy within the academic world is a strict one, and those who transgress often pay with their jobs. Let's hope for her sake, but particularly for her patients' well being, that she is not punished for her heterodox views.
What does Dr. Grossman believe that is so dangerous to admit? Well, start with ordinary sex. She believes that casual, promiscuous sex is tough on many women. They are hard-wired to bond with those they have sex with (the hormone oxytocin is implicated), and she sees countless female students reporting stress, eating disorders and even depression for reasons they cannot understand. After all, the world sells them on the notion that sex is pure recreation, that the "hook-up" culture is natural and even empowering to women, and that love and sex are two completely different things.
She describes a 19-year-old, "Heather," who is depressed. She has a "friend with benefits," but only with the help of psychotherapy is she able to acknowledge that the relationship is causing her pain. She'd like to do things with him, like see movies or go out for dinner, but he is interested only in sex. Dr. Grossman helps Heather to see that her needs are being neglected.
Another student, "Olivia," is devastated after her first serious boyfriend breaks up with her. Her grades suffer, she weeps constantly and suffers a relapse of an eating disorder, making herself vomit up to six times a day. "'Why, doctor,' she asked, why do they tell you how to protect your body -- from herpes and pregnancy -- but they don't tell you what it does to your heart?'"
And that may be the least of it. Health service physicians and nurses at UCLA and other colleges actually cheerlead for promiscuity. The author points to goaskalice.com, a question and answer service of the Columbia University Health Education Program. A man who was considering a menage a trois was told, after a few advisories about discussing the matter with his wife, "As far as where to find a third, often personal ads are placed in local alternative newspapers for people seeking different types of sexual encounters. And, don't forget to think about people you know as possibilities. . . . Have fun and BE SAFE!" The site also offers tips on how to clean a cat-o'-nine-tails between uses and advice on drinking urine. At the University of Missouri, "external water sports" is described as one form of "safer sex." (Hint: It has nothing to do with swimming pools.)
"Stacey" is paying a heavy price. An athlete and vegetarian who avoided preservatives, sodas and nicotine, and prided herself on discipline and a low body mass index, Stacey showed up at the health service after repeatedly cutting her forearms. Dr. Grossman reports that such self-injurious behavior is epidemic on campuses.
Stacey, it seems, had been diagnosed with HPV, a sexually transmitted disease. And while college health brochures and women's magazines suggest that the virus is no big deal, that's rubbish. In some cases it can lead to cancer. In every case it requires time-consuming and emotionally draining tests. And 43 percent of college women get it. Stacey's strain can lead to cancer, so she must be tested every six months for the rest of her life. Chlamydia, which is difficult to detect and cure, can cause infertility. Each year, 3 million women are treated for it. An unknown number never get treatment.
American campuses are, for the most part, laboratories of liberalism. You want an abortion? No problem. But if you grieve afterward, your pain is ignored or delegitimized. Dr. Grossman does not contest that most women may be emotionally fine after undergoing an abortion, but notes that a significant minority, perhaps 20 percent, do suffer depression and other symptoms afterward. Yet the politically correct position is to deny this medical reality.
No effort is spared to teach young people about the dangers of smoking, saturated fat, "unsafe sex" and even osteoporosis. But no one tells young women that if they want to be mothers they would do well to plan their careers around the unavoidable biological fact of declining fertility after age 35. The establishment encourages the fiction that women can expect to remain fertile well into their 40s. It's sad that this book is so necessary, but all the more welcome for that. Buy it for yourself, for your sons, but especially for your daughters.
Secular fundamentalists are the new totalitarians
Militant secularists like Richard Dawkins are taking their revenge on believers for their refusal to stay in the closet. A comment from Britain
There's an aspiring totalitarianism in Britain which is brilliantly disguised. It's disguised because the would-be dictators - and there are many of them - all pretend to be more tolerant than thou. They hide alongside the anti-racists, the anti-homophobes and anti-sexists. But what they are really against is something very different. They - call them secular fundamentalists - are anti-God, and what they really want is the eradication of religion, and all believers, from the face of the earth.
In recent years these unpleasant people have had a strategy of exploiting Britain's innate politeness. They realised that for a decade overly sensitive souls (normally called the PC brigade) had bent over backwards to avoid giving offence. Trying not to give offence was, despite the excesses, a noble courtesy.
But the fundamentalists saw an opening. Because we live in a multiconfessional society, they fostered the falsehood that wearing a crucifix or a veil or a turban was deeply offensive to other faiths. They pretended to be protecting religious sensibilities as a pretext to strip us of all religious expressions. In 2006 Jack Straw and BA fell into the fundamentalists' trap.
But Britons are actually laissez-faire about such things. And so the fundamentalists deployed an opposite tactic. Instead of pretending to protect religious sensibilities, they went on the offensive and sought to give offence. The subsequent reactions to the play Behzti in Birmingham, to Jerry Springer the Opera and to the Danish cartoons were wheeled out as examples of why religious groups are unable to live with our cherished freedom and tolerance.
In recent years the nastier side of this totalitarianism has become blatantly apparent. It emerged with the hijab issue in France. With the hijab ban in French schools, a state was banishing religion not only from its corridors, but also from its citizens.
It was an assertion that after centuries of the naked public square (denuded of religion referents) the public now too had to go naked. The former had been true tolerance, something exceptional and laudable. It allowed everyone to bring their own cosmic testimony to the square. But this new form of "tolerance" changed things. From everyone being welcome, it had become everyone but.
There's a background to all this. Since 2001, lazy intellectuals have been allowed to get away with repeating the nonsense that terrorism and war are the consequences of belief in God. Believers are ridiculed for being, in contrast to the stupendously brainy atheists, very dim. Listen to Richard Dawkins' comment on Nadia Eweida (the BA employee who refused to take off her cross): "she had one of the most stupid faces I've ever seen." Nice.
There's also the fact that we live in a cultural milieu dominated by postmodernism. Broadly speaking, it attempts to deconstruct power and its narratives. It tries to rescue the marginalised. A noble intent, but because it doesn't believe in truth, anything goes. The tyranny of orthodoxy has been replaced by the tyranny of relativism. You're supposed to believe in nothing, and hence nihilists and atheists are suddenly rather chic. Postmodernism has taken tolerance to the extremes, where extremists thrive. It's a dangerous form of appeasement.
The greatest appeasers, however, have been the believers. Until recently many hid their religion in the closet. They conceded that it was something private. Until a few years ago religion was similar to soft drugs: a blind eye was turned to private use but woe betide you if you were caught dealing. Only recently have believers realised that religion is certainly personal, but it can never be private.
The reasons for that "outing" of believers are complex. But what is certain is that wise agnostics pleaded with believers to take a public lead again, because the point about believers is that they are obeying (and disobeying) all sorts of commandments that the state doesn't see or understand. Because they are able to differentiate sin from crime, they have a moral register more nuanced than most. Even a wise atheist (and I've met a few of them in church, as they desperately try to get their kids into the local C of E school) knows that believers can deal with social anarchy much better than the state ever can.
That is why these fundamentalists are so in evidence. They're not only needled by their own hypocrisy; they are also furious that believers have broken the old pact to stay out of public debate. Witness, for example, Mary Riddell's astonishing sentence in the Observer last month (try replacing "religion" with "homosexuality" to get the point): "secularists do not wish to harm religion or deny its great cultural influence. They simply want it to know its place." In other words: get back in the closet.
Christians feel particularly aggrieved because we believe that Jesus invented secularism. Jesus's teachings desacralised the state: no authority, not even Caesar's, was comparable to God's. As Nick Spencer writes in Doing God, "the secular was Christianity's gift to the world, denoting a public space in which authorities should be respected, but could be legitimately challenged and could never accord to themselves absolute or ultimate significance". Christianity, far from creating an absolutist state, initiated dissent from state absolutism.
And so for centuries a combination of British agnosticism and pragmatism meant that believers were judged not by the causes of their belief, but by its consequences. Everyone could taste the fruits, even those who couldn't believe in a sustaining, invisible root. These new militants, however, believe themselves to be the only arbiters of taste; they want to eradicate the root and cause. They will dictate what you can wear and what you can say. That, after all, is what totalitarians do.
13 January, 2007
The Fascists are Coming, The Fascists are Coming
Post lifted from The American Thinker
The American left never, under any circumstances, engages in anything that can be called McCarthyite tactics. They leave that to the far right, unbalanced, vicious, and desperate. The left, on the side of reason, decency, and fair play, has never had any need for that kind of thing.So I guess we'll have to call it something else.Last Sunday, The New York Times featured a review of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, in which author Chris Hedges makes the argument that millions of Americans are about to fall on their fellow citizens and punish them in the name of a righteous Lord. This is the latest of a series of such volumes - also mentioned is Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. We could add as well the recent "militant atheist" volumes by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, which are intended to serve the same readership for the same purpose.While reviewer Rick Perlstein doesn't particularly approve of the book in question, he does buy into the thesis. "Of course there are Christian fascists in America", he insists, followed by several anecdotes that demonstrate no such thing."...they want dominion - for the Lord to make an America where other values are impossible to hold", he concludes.And that, in a nutshell, is the latest left-wing horror story. The fascists are coming. They're waving crucifixes this time.Though you'd never guess to look at the accepted histories, this is all of a piece with previous left-liberal behavior. It seems that no sooner does a Democratic administration step into office (these frenzies usually, though not always, occur just after a new administration takes over) than its supporters start looking around for an easy victory. It's as if they have no confidence in their power unless they can show it off in the most blatant manner conceivable. This is a pattern that holds true for the past fifty years and beyond. While the GOP may have Tailgunner Joe to live down, the Dems appear to be suffering from an ingrained, unshakable pathology.In his excellent (though oddly overlooked) study of American anticommunism, Not Without Honor, Richard Gid Powers recounts a 1944 incident in which the Roosevelt administration, apropos of nothing, prosecuted a number of individuals who had been involved in antiwar activities before Pearl Harbor. The case mingled - probably deliberately - Christian pacifists, America Firsters, Nazi sympathizers, and members of the German Bund (though, curiously enough, no communists, undoubtedly the most effective antiwar force during the prewar period). The charges varied, but in total amounted to something very close to treason. The press breathlessly promoted the whole affair as the uncovering of an American "fifth column", prepared to turn the country over to the tender mercies of the SS as soon as word arrived from the Führerbunker.The case was so badly handled that the defendants themselves began to jeer the government lawyers before the first day was out. No actual evidence was presented, and at last the judge halted proceedings, blistered prosecution hides with a lecture on due process and constitutional rights, and dismissed the case. While it's unknown who the actual instigator was, the case has the fingerprints of Harry Hopkins, with his almost naked admiration for Stalin's methods including show trials, all over it. The story is aching for a complete historical investigation.Fast-forwarding through the decade of the McCarthyite ordeal, we reach the early 1960s. You'd think that, having gotten back into office at last with JFK, America's liberals would have been eager, after years of quivering in terror before one unshaven Irishman, to show how clean their own hands were. Instead, beginning in 1961, we got a media-driven frenzy involving "right- wing extremists" who, goaded by such sinister figures as William F. Buckley, were forming "paramilitary cells" to bring the iron boot down on the New Frontier. Along with such old reliables as the John Birch Society, the country was presented with the California Rangers and the Minutemen (our current volunteer border patrol is neither as original nor publicity-savvy as they need to be).The leader of this last ourfit, Robert DePugh, gave interviews boasting about the "tens of thousands" of members he was training out in the hills, while flourishing a glass vial which he claimed contained enough nerve gas to "wipe out the state of California".Nothing came of it, of course. It turned out that DePugh's private army consisted of himself, his family, and a few neighbors. He was arrested late in the 60s for bank robbery. A wave of politically-motivated killings began right around the same time, but they were carried out by left wing groups like the Black Panthers and the Weathermen, so they don't count.(A number of publications also accompanied the paramilitary terror, in this case a series of bestselling potboilers and high-budget films featuring crazed right-wing figures including Seven Days in May and Dr. Strangelove.)If the "paramilitary" hysteria rings a bell, it's because the same routine was repeated with more fanfare and less success in the early 1990s. This, of course, involved the militia movement, which despite the best efforts of the legacy media -- at that point just beginning its slide into long- term collapse -- never amounted to much more than a few out-of-shape middle-aged men playing war games in the woods. The Buckley of this movement, according to no less an authority than Bill Clinton, was the savage demagogue Rush Limbaugh, along with his picked horde of radio talk-show hosts. There was some effort to tie in the movement with the Oklahoma City bombing carried out by Timothy McVeigh. But, McVeigh, a rabid atheist with numerous unexplained connections to overseas terrorists, was a poor fit with domestic hyperpatriots. The story was effectively dropped after Newt Gingrich unveiled his revolution in 1994. With a real uprising occurring, the media had its hands full.Which brings us to the new millennium, and the old story. Whether or not there is anything to these rogue Christian allegations I have no idea - though I think, with my connections, I'd have heard something. It's easily possible for the Times to be printing rumors or worse. They've done it before (as a recent overdue correction column makes evident -- chalk up another one to the Blogosphere). Whatever the case, we can be sure that "Christian fascists" are about as much a threat as DePugh's Minutemen or the militias.Which does not mean that these campaigns can do no harm. The paramilitaries scare segued directly into the brutal and uncalled-for humiliation of Barry Goldwater, one of the most upstanding men ever to set foot in the U.S. Senate, during the 1964 presidential election. The militias uproar helped undercut the Gingrich revolution, leaving the Congress in the hands of the hustlers and time-servers who threw away GOP control last November. Whatever the truth of these stories, we can be certain that somebody, somewhere, is working on a way to take advantage of them.
FINLAND STARTS REPATRIATING ASYLUM SEEKERS
The Directorate of Immigration says that it will start repatriating asylum-seekers to Afghanistan and possibly to Iraq. The policy change is likely to mean that dozens - and possibly even hundreds - of asylum seekers will be denied temporary residence permits and will have to leave Finland. Finland has not returned anyone to Afghanistan or Iraq for years, because officials have considered such repatriations to be technically impossible, owing to a lack of reliable flight connections to the countries in question, for instance.
Finland has granted one-year temporary residence permits to Afghan and Iraqi asylum-applicants, who were not seen to be in need of asylum protection, but whose repatriation was not considered technically feasible. The police gave the Directorate of Immigration two statements late last year, according to which repatriation to the Afghan capital Kabul and to the Arbil area in the Kurdish region in the north of Iraq has now become technically possible.
The Directorate of Immigration has already changed its policy line concerning Afghanistan, and has given five Afghan asylum-seekers a negative decision. The decisions can still be appealed. `Afghan applicants will probably not be granted temporary residence permits, if conditions in their country stay as they are', says Esko Repo, head of the Directorate's asylum unit. Repo estimates that Finland might turn back 60 - 70 Afghan applicants this year, if the numbers of applicants develop as anticipated.
Afghans who are in Finland on temporary residence permits could also face expulsion if they have not established other reasons to remain in Finland. Last year 104 Afghan citizens were given one-year residence permits in the January-November period. In 2005 the figure was 66. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees places a number of restrictions on repatriations to Afghanistan, but is not completely opposed to sending people back to that country.
Repo says that decisions made by the Directorate of Immigration are based on very fresh information, as an investigator from the Directorate visited Afghanistan in the autumn on a fact-finding tour. `However, one must keep in mind that it is never possible to know what might happen in the future. The situation in Somalia shows how quickly things can change', Repo points out. Repatriation to Afghanistan is not exceptional on a global scale. In the European Union, at least Denmark, Germany, Austria and the UK have already done so. However, Sweden currently does not send people back to Afghanistan.
Repo also believes that it is possible that Finland will start sending people back to the Kurdish region in Northern Iraq. The UNHCR says that under certain circumstances, repatriations to southern or central areas of Iraq would be possible, but Finland is not doing so now. The Directorate of Immigration would have repatriated 77 Iraqi asylum seekers in January-November last year, if the police had been able to implement the decisions. Instead, they were given temporary residence permits. The Directorate of Immigration will decide in the coming months if it plans to start repatriations this year. `It is too early to say anything certain because of the fate of Saddam Hussein, as well as other events. We are following the situation to the very end before drawing conclusions', Repo promises. Sweden and Norway have already returned people to Iraq. Finnish police say that those repatriations have proceeded without any great problems.
There is no ‘paradox of prosperity’
So what if material progress doesn't always make us happy? It's still a good thing, and here's why.
Contemporary critics of consumerism and popular prosperity are obsessed with what they see as a paradox. A central theme of their arguments is that economic growth does not make people happier. In their view, the pursuit of mass affluence is at best futile and is probably responsible for making humanity miserable. Often the growth sceptics argue that the pursuit of material goods is akin to a disease: they say the developed world is suffering from ‘affluenza’ or ‘luxury fever’ (1). Typically they conclude we should not attempt to become richer and often they argue for the pursuit of alternative social goals such as mental well-being.
But there is reason to question whether breaking the connection between prosperity and happiness is the killer blow that the critics assume. The growth sceptics seem to ignore the possibility that greater affluence could be immensely beneficial even if it does not necessarily make people happier. Nor do they understand that the propensity for human beings to be unhappy with their lot could have a good side. The striving for a better life is an important motor force of progress. The arguments the happiness pundits advance to show that prosperity does not lead to enhanced well-being are also dubious. And the policies they often propose to make people happier tend to be authoritarian.
The idea that there is a paradox inherent in the drive for affluence is one of the key arguments for contemporary sceptics on economic growth. Many of the most influential books on the topic even have the word in their titles (2). There is Gregg Easterbrook’s The Progress Paradox (Random House 2003), David Myers’s The American Paradox (Yale 2000) and Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice (Ecco 2004). Even those who do not use the word ‘paradox’ in the title often embrace the concept. Frequently it is referred to as ‘Easterlin’s paradox’ after Richard Easterlin, a professor of economics at the University of Southern California. He first drew attention to the lack of a clear relationship between happiness and affluence as far back as 1974 (3).
Richard Layard, an adviser to New Labour and a professor at the London School of economics, uses it as a central concept in Happiness: Lessons from a New Science (Allen Lane 2005). The opening paragraph states that: ‘There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. Most people want more income and strive for it. Yet as Western societies have got richer, their people have become no happier. (4)’
Although there are variations on the theme, the way Layard puts it is the most common form of the argument. Based on opinion poll data in many developed countries over half a century, the conclusion is that affluence does not make people happier. Once people have the necessities of life they do not appear to become more contented as a result of rising average incomes. In any given society the rich are, on average, happier than the poor. But the trend in individual happiness is more-or-less flat once society passes a threshold of perhaps $20,000 (£10,000) per person a year (5).
For many of the happiness gurus such evidence is decisive. As Michael Savage has previously pointed out on spiked it is difficult for anyone to present themselves as being against happiness (6). From the sceptics’ perspective only an unadulterated misery-guts could reject the happiness agenda.
Before examining how the happiness advocates explain this paradox it is important to remember that humanity is immensely better off thanks to growing prosperity. The sceptics tend to downplay or even ignore this crucial point. Whatever our subjective feelings, the rise of mass affluence in the developed world has had huge objective benefits. Such gains are also starting to spread to the developing world as it, too, becomes wealthier. Prosperity gives us the resources to live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives.
Fortunately a new book by Indur Goklany, an American economist, examines the data in great detail. Its title clearly sums up the argument: The Improving State of the World: Why we’re Living Longer, Healthier More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet (Cato 2007). Goklany’s book takes a similar line to The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge 2001) by Bjørn Lomborg, a Danish statistician, which infuriated environmentalists when it was first published (7).
There is an immense amount of detail in Goklany’s book but some of the key statistics are worth reiterating:
- Life expectancy, which for much of human history was 20-30 years, increased from a worldwide average of 31 in 1900 to 66.8 in 2003. For the high income countries it has reached 78.5 years.
- Infant mortality (death of infants before the age of one per 1,000 live births) was typically over 200 before industrialisation. That is over a fifth of babies died before reaching their first birthday. The worldwide average has fallen from 156.9 in the early 1950s to 56.8 in 2003. In the developed world the average is 7.1.
- Improving health. The onset of chronic diseases is typically happening several years later than in the past. For example, white males aged 60-64 in America are two-and-a-half times more likely to be free of chronic disease than their counterparts a century ago.
- Air quality. Despite the common prejudice that economic development leads to air pollution the evidence in the developed world overwhelmingly suggests that air quality is improving. For example, the traditional pollutants have declined in America for several decades.
The fact that the trend is improving does not mean that everything is perfect. There are many instances, particularly in the developing world, where things could be far better. But to the extent there are still problems they constitute an argument for more development rather than less. If the developing world could reach the current living standards of the developed world, that would be a start. Billions of people would be much better off.
Nor is it true that the developed world has reached the stage where it can no longer benefit from increasing prosperity. For example, there is considerable angst about a ‘demographic timebomb’ in which the working age population can no longer support an increasingly large ageing population. But as long as society continues to become richer there is no reason why it cannot support a larger number of dependents (8). To the extent that climate change is a problem the solution is also more development rather than less. Economic growth combined with technological development should provide the means for humanity to have greater control over the environment.
However, although defending the objective benefits of prosperity is a vital task, it is not enough to defeat the sceptics. Some will even recognise the gains associated with affluence while still arguing that it makes people miserable. Gregg Easterbrook, an American journalist and author, is one of the most prominent writers to take such a line. The sub-title of The Progress Paradox, his book on the subject, tell the story: ‘How life gets better while people feel worse’. Easterbrook argues strongly that affluence has brought enormous benefits while at the same time pointing to widespread misery in American society.
Although there are many variations of the argument, the sceptics’ explanation of the paradox most often hinges on inequality. Although they do not generally put it so baldly, they essentially argue that it is futile to pursue absolute increases in prosperity because relative inequalities will always exist. From such a perspective, to strive for greater prosperity can only make people more miserable as society will remain unequal. The most common solution they put forward is to use taxation to curb the consumption of the wealthy.
The sceptics’ argument on inequality takes two main forms. The first is that there are certain ‘positional goods’ that are inherently scarce for social rather than physical reasons (9). For instance, in principle there need not be any shortage of land for growing food because farmland can be made more productive. An area of land that once fed, say, 10 people could, with improved agricultural techniques, feed 100. But a plot of land used as a pleasure garden for one family cannot be divided up between ever-growing numbers of people (10). Similarly, someone who owns a Rembrandt often does so at least partly because of its scarcity value. It cannot be divided among more than one owner.
A parallel example is that places at top universities are inherently limited. Only a certain number of people can get into Harvard or Oxford. It may be one person rather than another who is successful but overall the number of such coveted places is limited. Competition for such places is a zero-sum game with some people winning and others losing but no overall benefit to society. A similar principle is also applied to top jobs and in many other areas (11).
The other main variation of the argument is that people judge their well-being by their relative position in society (12). Those at the top tend to be happier while those lower down are generally more miserable. The conclusion drawn from this observation is that everyone should stop striving for more. Even if the acquisition of more material goods gives us a temporary boost it does not lead to lasting happiness. We may initially be delighted if we acquire a new BMW or a plasma screen television but we soon end up adapting to our new standard of living. The cycle then continues with a drive to acquire ever more ridiculous material goods. Humanity, in this view, is engaged in a pointless ‘rat race’, or, to change the metaphor, walking a ‘hedonic treadmill’, which can only make everyone more miserable. Human well-being is therefore undermined by affluence.
Although the arguments on inequality may sound convincing, they are open to question. Even if some things are inherently scarce it does not follow that they are not worth pursuing. Competition to get into a top university, for instance, may help raise the standards of all high school students. In addition, the increase in resources that is associated with economic growth could help increase the standards of all universities. Even if inequalities persist there can be gains from competition and from greater resources.
Neither are the arguments on pleasure gardens or Rembrandts as clear-cut as the sceptics assume. The creation of new products or the public provision of existing ones can both help to solve the problem. One piece of land may be owned by a particular family but, in principle, it would be possible to raise the quality of all inhabited land. Land that one day is part of a slum or farmland could be converted into an area of outstanding beauty. Alternatively, parkland could be created so it can be enjoyed by more than one family. Similarly Rembrandts could be put in a museum or new works of arts could be created for people to enjoy.
As for the poor comparing their living standards against the rich, the practice is entirely rational. Since the wealthy tend to have more possessions, better technology and higher quality healthcare their lifestyles give an inkling of what can be achieved. The typical pattern is for the wealthy to be the first to adopt new types of material goods. No doubt the first people to own cars, computers, mobile phones and virtually every other type of good were generally rich rather than poor. As a result the rest of society could clearly see what was potentially possible.
Coveting what the rich have should not be dismissed as unhealthy envy. On the contrary, the fact people are dissatisfied with their lot can be seen as a healthy motive for change. Humanity has historically progressed by constantly trying to improve its position. As a result people are better off than ever before. In this sense unhappiness should be welcomed. It is a sign of ambition and a drive to progress rather than one of inherent misery. In contrast, the essentially conservative message of the happiness gurus is that people should be happy with their lot.
From here it should be clear that there is no paradox of prosperity. The rise of mass affluence is an incredibly positive development. It has bolstered the quality of people’s lives enormously. But there never was any guarantee that such progress would bring happiness. One of the most positive qualities of human beings is that they often want more than they have got. They typically want the lives of their children and grandchildren to be better than their own. The growth sceptics would have us stay where we are or even retreat to living a life of lower living standards.
If popular prosperity is such a positive development it begs the question of why it is so widely questioned by the sceptics. I have already discussed the key factors in a previous essay on spiked on growth scepticism (13). However, some of the main points bear re-examination.
One of the most important is the decline in the rate of economic growth in the developed world. The idea that growth should be a key national priority was only prevalent from the late 1940s to the late 1960s (14). Before that the emphasis was on ensuring economic stability following the experience of the great depression of the 1930s and the Second World War. From the 1970s onwards the benefits of affluence were increasingly called into question as economic growth began to slow. During the 1950s and 1960s the steady rise in living standards had bolstered the legitimacy of both the American and British states. But as growth faltered in the 1970s, and unemployment surged, it became harder for the economy to deliver such benefits consistently.
Another factor was the defeat of the left and the demise of 1960s radicalism. As the left was defeated from the 1970s onwards it became increasingly susceptible to anti-growth and environmentalist ideas. In addition, the 1960s counter-culture increasingly took on an anti-consumerist and ecological outlook. The forces that, in the past, could be expected to fight for popular affluence became increasingly sceptical about economic growth.
These developments were bolstered from the 1980s onwards by a new set of factors. The end of the Cold War strengthened the idea that there is no alternative to the market. Progress was widely discredited as an idea. Striving to realise the human potential was increasingly seen as creating problems rather than being a worthwhile goal.
In addition, society has become increasingly anxious about risk-taking. Social atomisation and the breakdown of traditional institutions have created an intense risk aversion (15). There is a growing fear of the potential dangers that the future holds.
These last two factors are important as they also help explain a growing fear of the future. What the growth sceptics identify as a lack of happiness can, at least in part, be more accurately described as social pessimism. There is no longer a sense that the future can be better than the present. On the contrary, potentially positive developments, such as technological or scientific advance, are routinely viewed with foreboding. Under such circumstances, it is no wonder that survey data sometimes appears to indicate that people feel miserable. The happiness pundits themselves have taken on the idea that, at least in material terms, the future cannot be better than the present.
The fact that the sceptics are wrong on the supposed paradox of affluence should not be dismissed as simply an academic error. On the contrary, their views and the policies they often advocate have at least two sets of dangerous consequences.
First, society as a whole, and the poor in particular, suffer as a result of assaults on prosperity. Although such attacks may be pitched as criticisms of the rich it is the mass of society that benefits most from rising wealth (16). The wealthy already largely enjoy the advantages of living an affluent lifestyle. In contrast, the rest of us still have a lot to gain from living in a more prosperous society.
Second, the pursuit of happiness as a social goal – as opposed to being a personal matter – opens the way to authoritarian policies. It is a short jump to conclude that if we are not happy then the government must somehow ‘correct’ our thinking. The authorities increasingly takes on a therapeutic role where its sees it sees it as necessary to manage people’s emotions. Regulating individual behaviour becomes one of the central missions of government (17)
So not only is there no ‘paradox of prosperity’ but pursuing happiness as a social goal is also likely to make us worse off. It downplays the economic growth that could hugely enhance people’s lives while inviting the authorities to regulate our emotional affairs. It should be up to individuals to decide if they want to pursue happiness as one of their personal goals. For society, the goal of greater economic growth, leading to an increase in popular prosperity, is a worthy one to follow.
12 January, 2007
UK: Clerics urge Muslims to ignore British law
Post lifted from Jihad Watch
Tony Blair and other British authorities have endlessly dinned into our ears the proposition that the vast majority of British mosques were completely loyal to the British state. The evidence for this has always been sketchy, but the penalties high for questioning it: anyone who has done so has been ostracised by the mainstream as a "racist," a "bigot," an "Islamophobe." But here are some of Blair's chickens coming home to roost: one organization he has praised is caught out by the undercover reporters here. And this is from The Guardian, which doesn't hesitate to allow itself to be used as a platform by dupes, dhimmis and fellow travelers like Karen Armstrong and Brian Whitaker.
"Revealed: preachers' messages of hate: Muslim worshippers are being urged by radical clerics to ignore British law," by Jamie Doward in The Guardian, with thanks to all who sent this in:
An undercover investigation has revealed disturbing evidence of Islamic extremism at a number of Britain's leading mosques and Muslim institutions, including an organisation praised by the Prime Minister.
Secret video footage reveals Muslim preachers exhorting followers to prepare for jihad, to hit girls for not wearing the hijab, and to create a 'state within a state'. Many of the preachers are linked to the Wahhabi strain of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia, which funds a number of Britain's leading Islamic institutions.
A forthcoming Channel 4 Dispatches programme paints an alarming picture of how preachers in some of Britain's most moderate mosques are urging followers to reject British laws in favour of those of Islam. Leaders of the mosques have expressed concern at the preachers' activities, saying they were unaware such views were being disseminated.
At the Sparkbrook mosque, run by UK Islamic Mission (UKIM), an organisation that maintains 45 mosques in Britain and which Tony Blair has said 'is extremely valued by the government for its multi-faith and multicultural activities', a preacher is captured on film praising the Taliban. In response to the news that a British Muslim solider was killed fighting the Taliban, the speaker declares: 'The hero of Islam is the one who separated his head from his shoulders.'
Another speaker says Muslims cannot accept the rule of non-Muslims. 'You cannot accept the rule of the kaffir [non-Muslim],' a preacher, Dr Ijaz Mian, tells a meeting held within the mosque. 'We have to rule ourselves and we have to rule the others.'
Read it all.
GUILTY Until Proven Innocent
Post lifted from La Shawn
Reade Seligmann, one of the Duke lacrosse players indicted for “raping” a stripper, is going through what countless others have gone through. Falsely accused of a heinous crime, he’s had to face the possibility of prison, see the disappointment and worry in his family’s faces, and endure negative media attention, all because an egomaniac race-baited his way against a brick wall.
Seligmann didn’t rape, assault, or kidnap the stripper-accuser, and he has the paper trail to prove it. But for almost a year he’s lived under the curse of a rogue prosecutor intent on making an example of him.
Seligmann now awaited a call from the prosecutor that would tell him if he was one of the players she’d singled out. He felt certain he would be cleared. The call came. Reade, 20, was being indicted for first-degree rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. He had a strong alibi-cell-phone records would show he was busy calling his girlfriend at the time the alleged crime was taking place-but the D.A. declined to hear it. As he heard the news, Reade looked at his dad. It was the first time he’d ever seen his father cry. Then it hit him: how was he going to tell his mom? Kathy Seligmann was home in New Jersey with her three other boys. He dialed her number. “Mom,” he said, “she picked me.”
Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans are learning a hard lesson. Actions have consequences. For future reference, I advise them to avoid the kind of women who strip and slut themselves out for a living. They will be exonerated because Mike Nifong does not have a case against them. He’ll succumb, eventually, to professional pressure to drop the case and resign from office. Until then, the families must remain confident that justice will prevail.
Mainstream media (MSM) have turned against Mike Nifong. It’s funny how they “reported” his version of events as though it were gospel in the beginning. Never have I seen left-leaning journalists parroting a district attorney and cops the way they’ve done in this case. They weren’t simply reporting facts. They wanted to believe three white men gang-raped a black woman. Compared to how they covered the “Duke rape,” MSM virtually ignore black-on-white rapes and intraracial crimes in general. Deathly dull.
Who among them could resist incessantly reporting on and editorializing about an “oppressed” black woman being brutalized by “rich” white men? Nifong played the race card to the hilt, even going so far as to speak at the black college the stripper-accuser attended. One pea-brained black student said the men should be prosecuted whether they committed the crime or not. “It would be justice for things that happened in the past.”
For those who cover the crime beat in the Durham area, it must have been like striking gold: a black victim stripping for a living “to feed her kids,” loud, rude, and drunk white athletes, race and class divisions, town-and-gown issues.
But it couldn’t last because Nifong doesn’t have a case; he never had a case. At first he was confident that the woman was raped, saying, “There won’t be any arrests before next week. I have decided not to make arrests until DNA evidence is back.” Nifong intended to arrest lacrosse players all along, so he pulled a CYA maneuver before the results came back. Even if there were no match, he said, it wouldn’t necessarily exonerate anyone. “The attackers could have used condoms or might not have been team members.” (Source)
The problem is that the stripper-accuser said no condoms were used, and Nifong knew or should have known what his own witness told doctors and nurses. But as I said, he intended to arrest and indict someone who attended that party, and we’ll probably never know why he risked his career and his freedom to do it.
Once that first round of DNA tests came back negative, those who branded the men guilty waited for Nifong’s assurances that a gang-rape indeed happened at the party. They were bolstered by the second round, which was “inconclusive.” It turns out that David Evans’s DNA was found on top of one of the stripper-accuser’s fake fingernails (retrieved from the bathroom trashcan), not underneath, where you’d expect to find it if she had been fighting off an attacker. Considering that Evans lived in the house and used the bathroom, Nifong’s new “evidence” was just as weak as his character.
By this time, people who still wanted to believe Nifong had a case assumed that he had “something up his sleeve,” a smoking gun he’d dramatically reveal. But in real life, it doesn’t work that way. Prosecutors are required to turn over evidence in a timely manner, and if Nifong had anything dramatic at that point — helpful or harmful to the defense — he was obligated to reveal it.
But we all know he didn’t have anything against the lacrosse players, not one shred of evidence linking them to any gang-rape. Determined to find some kind of DNA match between his lying witness and the men he indicted, Nifong sent the DNA to Brian Meehan’s laboratory for more stringent testing. Nifong was gonged again. No match between the players and the stripper-accuser.
But there was a match between several men and the stripper-accuser, and Nifong withheld this information from the defense. Under cross examination, Meehan confessed: Nifong and I agreed not to report it.
That’s when the leftist national media woke up from its man-bites-dog trance. Nifong had no choice but to drop the rape charge. The Washington Post went on record: It’s time to drop all charges. The Los Angeles: Ditto. [Update: Yesterday, the Ashville Citizen-Times apologized for its biased coverage.]
Nifong’s colleagues filed charges against him and asked him to recuse himself from the case. Still shameless, he’s holding on. After his swearing-in last week, he had the nerve to say this: “I don’t feel that I’m part of the problem. I feel that I have assisted in revealing the problem. Durham has some healing to do. And I need to be part of that healing process, and I need to have something to do with how we move forward.” (Source)
What does one say about such a man? Nifong obviously is the problem. Armed with the sharp edge of race and class division and his own issues with Duke University and lacrosse players, Nifong sliced through innocent lives and re-opened wounds of existing racial tensions. He appealed to the depraved part of the human heart that wants to see others fall, whether guilty or not, out of envy, jealousy, resentment, and anger.
The consequences of Mike Nifong’s abuse of power will reverberate throughout Durham for years to come. And the people who voted the scoundrel back in office will deserve every bit of the fallout when he’s finally forced to resign in disgrace.
SIMPLETON POLITICS RETURN
By Jeff Jacoby
The 110th Congress convened under new management last week, and in the House of Representatives, the rush was one. Led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrats got ready to plow through an ambitious pile of legislation in their first 100 hours. Among the items on their punch list: increasing the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, expanding publicly funded embryonic stem cell research, cutting the interest rate on student loans, and imposing price controls on Medicare prescription drugs.
A more liberal policy agenda isn't all that will be moving into the spotlight. There will be a heightened focus on liberal *arguments* as well -- which means we'll be hearing more about good intentions and less about good results. Political discourse will dwell even more than it already does on "fairness" and "compassion" and "unmet needs" -- and even less on factual evidence and the historical record.
The minimum-wage issue illustrates the pattern well. Proponents of this quintessentially liberal prescription emphasize the difficulties faced by those trying to make a living and support a family while working a minimum-wage job. They point out how inflation has eroded the value of the wage. They contrast the soaring paychecks of CEOs at the top of the economic ladder with the pittance earned by those at the bottom. They frame the question as one of decency and sympathy: Don't you want to help the working poor? Don't they deserve a raise too?
"In the last nine years, Congress has voted itself seven pay increases," says Senator Edward M. Kennedy. "If a pay raise is important enough for members of Congress, then it is essential for the lowest-paid workers in this country."
Opponents, by contrast, point to data and economics. They note, for example, that most minimum-wage workers are neither poor nor family breadwinners, but singles in their teens or early 20s, often students working part-time while living with Mom and Dad. They argue that while a minimum-wage increase helps some people, it hurts others: If the cost of employing low-skill workers goes up, fewer low-skill workers will be employed. They invoke history, which shows that jobs are destroyed by minimum-wage hikes.
"The enactment of the first federal minimum wage law in 1933," writes economist Thomas Sowell, "raised the average wage rate in the Southern textile industry by 70 percent -- and half a million blacks nationwide lost their jobs."
What is true of the minimum-wage debate is true of so many others. Affirmative action, sex education, energy policy, family law, criminal procedure -- on issue after issue, people on the left are more likely to stress virtuous motives, while those on the right accentuate real-world outcomes.
Should income-tax rates be cut? Liberals say no, repelled by the apparent selfishness of enriching the well-to-do, when it is the poor who need more money. Conservatives say yes, knowing that tax relief spurs economic growth from which everyone benefits. Is bilingual education desirable? Yes, argues the left, concerned about the self-esteem of non-English-speaking children. No, insists the right, recognizing that children master English more quickly when they aren't shunted off into linguistic ghettos. Time and again, the pattern is clear: Liberals are galvanized by idealistic motives; conservatives find reality more persuasive.
This helps explain why the left is so often infatuated with the idea of its own benevolence -- and why liberals are so quick to accuse their opponents of being not just wrong, but wicked. Asked about political bias in the news media, UPI's veteran reported Helen Thomas once replied: "A liberal bias? I don't know what a liberal bias is. Do you mean we care about the poor, the sick, and the maimed? Do we care whether people are being shot every day on the streets of America? If that's liberal, so be it. I think it's everything that's good in life -- that we do care." Of course, if liberals are good people who care -- why, that must mean that nonliberals are bad people who don't care. Just ask Thomas:
"You have rolled back health and safety and environmental measures," she scolded President Bush at a press conference in 2001. "This has been widely interpreted as a payback time to your corporate donors. Are they more important than the American people's health and safety?" Those convinced that their own motives are pure are more likely to assume that their opponents' motives are tainted.
Obviously these are only generalizations. Republicans are not always immune to the self-justifying halo of a policy's noble goals. Democrats are not always blind to outcomes. Just look, some might say, at the Republican-led war in Iraq. And there are certainly cynics in both camps who are more interested in power and self-aggrandizement than anything else.
But as a broad rule, intentions are the currency of the left, while results matter most to the right. That is why Bill Clinton made a point of feeling our pain, while Ronald Reagan insisted that facts were stubborn things.
11 January, 2007
HOW SAD FOR THE FEMINISTS: SLIM WAISTS ARE ALWAYS "IN"
If only they could be "socially constructed"!
Fashions in female beauty come and go, but the desirability of a slim waist remains a constant, a study suggests. Rosebud lips and milky complexions have had their day as ideals of beauty, while the high cheekbones prized in women today were considered ugly in the Victorian era. Plumpness was a sought- after attribute in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the slimmer figure has taken over. Discernible waists, however, are the one feature of the female form that has always been in demand, according to academics who analysed references to beauty in literature. Waistlines, they said, were an easily recognised sign of fertility and health, and men evolved to associate narrowness with desirability.
Fertility is indicated because a narrow waist is linked to higher oestrogen levels. After puberty, a girl's waist narrows in proportion to her hips as oestrogen levels rise, and then expands as the hormone concentration decreases with age. Obesity is linked to lower oestrogen levels and an increased risk of disease.
The researchers assessed the constants of female beauty by analysing references in 345,000 works of fiction, prose and drama, mostly from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Most of the literature was British and American, but a small selection of Indian and Chinese romantic and erotic poetry from the 1st to the 6th centuries was also analysed.
Waists were by far the most admired of eight physical features, followed by breasts, legs, thighs and plumpness. Hips, buttocks and slimness were the least mentioned, said the study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Breasts were regarded as the feature most connected with romance, or perhaps eroticism, but there was a lack of unanimity about what shape they should take. Some said small, others big and still more defined them as best rounded.
The researchers said: "References to beautiful women abound throughout human history and across cultures. "Ancient Greek epics, Persian and Chinese poetry, Indian classics, mythology and even popular or folk stories glorify feminine beauty . . . our study suggests that, in spite of variation in the description of beauty, the marker of health and fertility - a small waist - has always been an invariant symbol of feminine beauty." Devandra Singh, of the University of Texas at Austin, led the study.
BRITISH CHURCHES VERSUS HOMOSEXUALS
If they get Muslims to speak up too they could win this one.
Church groups are to challenge in court gay rights legislation that would make it illegal for hotels to turn away guests because of their sexuality. Christian organisations say that the regulations interfere with religious belief and are seeking a judicial review of the regulations in Northern Ireland, where they took effect this month, before similar moves planned for the rest of the United Kingdom.
An attempt to scrap the regulations in Northern Ireland failed in the Lords last night by 199 to 68, a majority of 131. Critics of the regulations say that they will force guest houses, schools, churches, nursing homes, printers, adoption agencies and even wedding photographers to compromise on moral objections to homosexuality or face being sued. But Stonewall, the gay rights group, accused religious groups of creating a false picture by citing examples that would not arise or could not lead to legal action.
The application for a judicial review is due to be heard in March at the High Court in Belfast. It has the potential to embarrass the Government, which is split over the introduction of legislation in England, Wales and Scotland.
Ruth Kelly, the Cabinet minister responsible for equality legislation, is an active Roman Catholic. She has infuriated colleagues by delaying the regulations, ostensibly because of the volume of responses to a consultation launched in March last year. She now has just three months to publish her department's formal response, release the regulations in draft form and secure the approval from the Commons and Lords in time for their planned introduction on April 6. The already tight timetable could be thrown into doubt if the court hearing in Belfast finds procedural flaws in the process followed in Northern Ireland and triggers similar legal moves to challenge Ms Kelly's regulations.
Among the most sensitive areas is accommodation, where operators of larger guest-houses, hotels or boarding houses could be sued for discrimination if they turn away a gay couple saying that their presence might offend other guests, or if they refuse them a room with a double bed.
The Northern Ireland regulations offer an exemption to people who take in lodgers in their own homes and to small guesthouses that double as the proprietor's home, but other forms of accommodation fall firmly within their scope. There have been a number of cases of discrimination against gay couples in tourist accommodation, boarding houses or hotels, usually in rural areas, according to Keith Etherington, a solicitor and member of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers' Association. "This is where the law will bite: in the services industry, the small hotels where couples have turned up and the hotelier has not realised it was two men, or two women, and they have been turned away. If that continues, then the couple will now have a right of action against the hotel."
The regulations for Northern Ireland are particularly controversial as they introduce an additional concept of harassment caused by conduct that might create "an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment". Ministers have said that this addition is due to the special circumstances of Northern Ireland, where equality legislation has a different process due to the sectarian tensions in the Province, and they have pledged that the regulations for the rest of Britain will deal solely with discrimination and not harassment.
Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, said that most of the examples cited by critics were implausible or inaccurate. The regulations also had an exemption for doctrinal religious belief, he said. "It has been slightly frustrating as we have had over the past few weeks people getting exercised over things who almost appear not to have read these regulations," Mr Summerskill added. Other supporters of the laws, including the Trades Union Congress, urged ministers not to give ground.
HOMOSEXUALS VERSUS FREEDOM OF RELIGION
An editorial from "The Times" below
When a Christian hotel owner refuses a bed to a gay couple on the basis that sodomy is a sin, it is difficult not to feel that prejudice is simply masquerading as conscience. For a commercial enterprise to put up a sign saying "no gays" should be as unthinkable as one saying "no blacks". That is an indication of just how far the majority view has shifted in the past 20 years.
The question is how quickly the law should move in formalising this change in our culture. The Government's sexual orientation regulations (Sors), the subject of heated debate in the Lords yesterday, are designed to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals and transsexuals - in Northern Ireland and eventually, it is assumed, throughout Britain. Rarely have Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups been so stridently united as they were yesterday, in arguing that the law has already gone far enough. They fear that further attempts to appease a gay minority will disciminate against religious ones.
It is still part of the faith of some Christians, Muslims and Jews that homosexuality is a sinful practice. It is natural that some followers will regard that belief as practical guidance for living. But in claiming that worshippers will be cast "back into slavery" by new gay rights, some black church leaders have gone too far. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham has accused the Government of an "aggressive reshaping of our moral framework". But the desire to stamp out discrimination reflects a new moral framework that society has been fashioning gradually over decades.
Religious beliefs should be respected. But it does not follow that those who hold them should always be free to discriminate. Sacred texts cannot be rewritten, but they can be reinterpreted. Reformist leaders of all faiths are working hard to build a cultural tolerance inside their institutions that reflects that in the outside society.
The real danger is that excessive regulation, or vague wording, could make their task more difficult. It should be no more acceptable to refuse a product to a homosexual than it should be to mock people because of their religion. But the Sors apply widely, into education as well as goods, facilities and services. Education could prove particularly tricky. While the actual employment of teachers is subject to separate provisions, from which faith schools are exempt, questions will inevitably arise about the extent to which teaching itself might be termed discriminatory. Pupils must be informed of how different religions view homosexuality. But what about the teacher who believes that marriage is good, abortion and homosexuality bad? Will it be lawful to express that personal view?
Another question is whether the regulations could spell the end of state funding for charitable organisations. Lord Mackay of Clashfern believes that an adoption agency could refuse services to same-sex couples under these regulations, but could not receive public money. This potential dilemma deserves more thought from politicians who have encouraged faith groups to provide more charity.
The law has played a vital role in securing equal rights for homosexuals, and indeed in helping to change perceptions dramatically. The Government deserves much credit for this. But these new regulations are too vague. The question now is how best to encourage those few who still practise discrimination to love their neighbours, of whatever orientation.
The BNP Ballerina
A cautious comment below from the Daily Mail
Giselle is perhaps the most romantic of the classical ballets and always among the most popular. It is a tale shot through with passion and fear as the heroine, a naive peasant girl, is first seduced and then betrayed by a fairytale prince. So when gifted lead dancer Simone Clarke takes the title role in the English National Ballet production at the London Coliseum next week, all eyes will naturally be on her. But she will not be under the spotlight for her bewitching elegance and poise alone. No, the audience have a startling extra reason to focus their attention on Simone - because just days ago she was named as the BNP Ballerina.
The dancer's membership of the British National Party was exposed by a Guardian reporter who had gone undercover to join this unpleasant organisation and it came as a nasty surprise all round. The BNP is certainly repellent, with its knee-jerk hatred of foreigners and history of organised thuggery, and there is something in the juxtaposition of dance pumps and bovver boots that many will find impossible to comprehend, particularly in the liberal world of the arts. But Simone's explanation for why she decided to join the party last year - given here for the first time - cannot be simply brushed aside as a foolish error, let alone ignored.
The reason is summed up in one word: Immigration. It has, she told the undercover journalist who exposed her, "really got out of hand' - and today she maintains the BNP" are the only ones to take a stand' on the issue that she believes troubles the majority of voters, even though such views have led to her being branded a racist and a fascist. "Using the word immigration is now a greater crime than cold-blooded murder," she claims.
But her story has wider implications. When one of the country's principal ballerinas, a 36-year-old woman who spent much of her recent working life as the Sugar Plum Fairy, decides to join the British neo-fascists, there is an argument that something has gone badly wrong with democratic British politics. On the eve of two more accessions to the EU - Romania and Bulgaria - she serves as an alarming, if graceful, reminder of the danger the far Right now poses in a country increasingly disillusioned with the political centre ground.
Naturally, the disclosure has been hugely controversial but Simone has, since the news broke, refused to make any public comment on her views, retreating instead to the West London home she shares with her partner and co-dancer Yat-Sen Chang - who, extraordinarily, is a Cuban immigrant whose father is Chinese. But in her only interview about her political beliefs, she refuses to back down or apologise for her views, despite the torrent of criticism they have attracted. Simone insists there is no contradiction in her choice of a foreign partner or in her decision to work with one of the most ethnically diverse ballet troupes in the world. And she says that, for her, the issue is disarmingly simple: mainstream politicians are failing to tackle the issues that worry people most, while the BNP is promising firm action.
By her account at least, she was by no means brainwashed - in fact it was her foreign-born partner who spurred her to sign up. "I joined about 18 months ago," she says. "Yat and I were watching the television. As usual I was moaning about something that I had seen on the news and he just said, "Well, stop moaning and do something about it." "I didn't really know anything about the BNP but they had come up in conversation a few times because they had just won some local council seats. "We went on to the computer and we looked them up and I read their manifesto. I'm not too proud to say that a lot of it went over my head but some of the things they mentioned were the things I think about all the time, mainly mass immigration, crime and increased taxes. Those three issues were enough to make me join so I paid my 25 pounds there and then. "I think the BNP are honest. They're not trying to dress up what they want, which is change on these issues."
Simone is certainly honest. More to the point, she is increasingly typical of the albeit tiny band of seemingly respectable, middle-class voters that the reshaped, carefully 'branded' BNP is anxious to woo. The tatooed skinheads who once dominated the party are nowhere to be seen, in public at least. Instead it is led by a savvy Cambridge graduate in a suit. That leader, Nick Griffin, advocates the repatriation of Muslims, denies the Holocaust and believes that black footballers who represent the national team cannot be classed as English.
Yet crime and immigration are real and understandable fears, and they provide a fertile recruiting ground for the BNP that extends well beyond the traditional ranks of the deprived and disaffected. By focusing, instead, on the politics of Middle England, Griffin has managed to win 55 council seats in England. According to a recent ICM poll the BNP could attract seven per cent of the UK's total vote in a General Election. The veneer of respectability might be paper-thin but it is enough to attract people like Simone.
She was born in Leeds, where her father Alfred was a maths teacher and her mother Janet a secretary. The family grew up in a small semi-detached house on the outskirts of the city, where Simone attended the local Catholic school before moving, at the age of ten, to the Royal Ballet School. She won one of just 23 places at its academy, White Lodge in Richmond, West London, from a total of 4,500 entrants. With her coal-black eyes and raven hair, Simone is a world away from the BNP supporter of old with his shaven head and tattooed knuckles. She is proud of her Yorkshire roots and visits Leeds often to see her four-year-old daughter, Olivia, who lives there with her grandparents while Simone and Yat are away on tour.
Leeds is a traditional recruiting ground for the BNP, yet Simone's views were formed from her years in London. Her father has never been a BNP supporter yet he, too, has now become so disillusioned with the alternatives that he is considering joining the party as well. Simone, who is bright if politically naive, does not view the BNP as a racist organisation, even though it would seem directly opposed to her relationship with Yat - who, as a foreigner, is even banned from joining. In fact, she does not see her views as extreme in any way, arguing that she is no more than a normal person with normal views and a limited appetite for political argument.
"I'd never been a member of any party before, although I'd voted Conservative a couple of times,' she explains. "I'm not a particularly political person but I read the manifesto and I took it on face value. Sometimes it feels as though the BNP are the only ones willing to take a stand. "I have been labelled a racist and a fascist because I have a view on immigration - and I mean mass immigration - but isn't that something that a lot of people worry about? "As with all parties, you can't agree on all things. You have to take the good bits and ignore the bad bits and that goes for any party. When I think about it I wonder, "Well, who's going to look after people like me?" People who work hard, who like to celebrate Christmas; people who are law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes - more and more of them - but feel that no one is speaking for them."
She gets little encouragement from the news. Although Labour claims that asylum applications have been cut by 68 per cent since 2002, figures from the Migration Watch lobby group suggest that in total, immigrants are arriving in Britain at the rate of one a minute. No one pretends that immigration is in any way under control. And, despite Britain's jails being full to bursting, the same is true of crime, which blights the lives of rich and poor alike.
So perhaps it is no wonder that, despite the get-tough rhetoric of both Labour and the Conservative Opposition, even the most impeccably respectable are starting to think about alternatives, even if only a tiny minority choose the BNP. "I consider myself normal," says Simone with just a hint of a Yorkshire accent. "I just got sick of seeing what goes on in the world, of how much unfairness there is in the system. "I suppose I first started becoming aware about ten years ago. I remember seeing a story about someone who had been driving a car illegally. I don't know where he was from but he had no licence and he ran over and killed a little girl. He was fined 65 pounds. If I don't pay my TV licence I can get fined 1,000 pounds, yet he can take a girl's life and get fined 65. "I don't know why it's OK to be shot for your mobile phone and the thief be given a few months in prison but I'm not allowed to say, 'I don't agree with that'."
Simone met Yat seven years ago when she left the Royal Ballet to join the rival English National Ballet. If the contradictions in the relationship seem obvious to most, to her they are invisible. "We are a happy family. I think it's really silly when people make a big thing about me being with Yat as well as being a member of the BNP,' she says, arguing that she has no problem with foreigners who come here and work hard - such as her colleagues in the ENB, where only one other principal dancer is British. "It's not about removing foreigners. It's about border controls. Because of terrorism we do have to know who's coming and going. For the people with jobs it is possible to do that. We know where they are because they pay their taxes and are fully paid-up members of society. "The other problem I have is that Britain isn't really very big. And it's an island. I really cannot see the logic of allowing so many people in."
But for all her defiance, she remains a reluctant mouthpiece. "My life has changed,' she admits. "Everything will be different now. I will be known as the BNP Ballerina. I think that will stick with me for life. I'd rather it wasn't like that but I don't regret anything. I will stay a member. "I am angry because I don't think it should be public knowledge who someone votes for. People are easily offended by political views, whatever the persuasion, and for that reason I think it should stay private. "As far as I'm concerned my conscience is clear. As for the journalist who spent months snooping around, he'd find more dirt under his fingernails than he'd ever find on me. "I've never been clearer in my head that I'm moving in the right direction and at the right time. I've had nearly 300 emails supporting me from all over the UK and from as far away as Australia, America and New Zealand. Out of those just three were horrible, calling me racist."
She also says she has had little reaction from her ballet colleagues. "In the end nobody really said anything at work,' she says. "I think it's because there are a lot of foreign dancers who have probably never even heard of the BNP." But if Simone is angry to be dragged on to this sort of public stage, and if the main political parties are alarmed at the growing reach of the far Right, the reaction to the exposure in the Welshpool headquarters of the BNP is likely to be rather different. Here, quiet satisfaction is more probable - quiet, because that is how the 'troops' have been instructed to behave in Nick Griffin's alarmingly disciplined march on Middle Britain.
The BNP must be delighted to see its manifesto of hatred endorsed by the sort of upright individual who would once have turned away on principle, especially when the individual in question is young, female and on pointe. So when the curtain comes down at the Coliseum next week and the departing members of the audience hurry out into the cold night air, they should perhaps remember this: that if the marvellous Giselle they applauded to the roof is in any way typical of the thousands in the auditorium, and that if the fear of crime and immigration continues to follow its predicted course, it will be a rather bright 2007 for Nick Griffin and his cohorts.
10 January, 2007
MEDIA LIBERALS STILL LOVE SADDAM
I didn't support the Iraq war and I oppose the death penalty - but the nonstop outrage and criticism of the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein is puzzling. Somehow, most of our nation's newspapers and magazines overlooked the core of this story: An evil dictator was brought to justice - the people he tortured, murdered and oppressed turned around and put him on trial, then carried out the sentence. How often does this happen in our world? Pretty much never.
Yet The New York Times (in news and opinion pages alike) has relentlessly criticized nearly every aspect of the process, only paying lip service Saddam's heinous crimes. USA Today's editorial board criticized the trial and execution and then assessed the whole episode as basically inconsequential. (Tell that to the millions of Iraqis who suffered under Saddam). Oddly, most of the complaints ignored the many problems with the death penalty. Instead, critics were consumed by how unfairly Saddam was allegedly treated. Particularly distressing to this crowd was the "taunting" of the Butcher of Baghdad. Huh?
True, the trial and the execution were disorderly. And much of the trial's disorder was thanks to Saddam's narcissistic outbursts and the kidnapping and murders of witnesses and lawyers. Let's give Iraq's nascent democracy, which is struggling in the middle of a war, at least a little credit for managing to even hold a trial of their former dictator. To expect its justice system to function as ours at this point is wildly unreasonable.
Critics complained that there was a "rush to justice." Saddam was captured three years ago and went through two trials. That's a rush? And he was guilty. Nobody denies this. They didn't need to go any slower to find that out.
Saddam showed zero remorse, asking "Where is the crime, where is the crime?" during his trial for the death of 148 Shiites - where he was faced with testimony of survivors recounting the torture of parents in front of their children. He showed no emotion as witnesses told of Iraqi guards forcing live bodies through a mincing machine. Nor during testimony about a pregnant woman who had her legs tied together when she went into labor, forcing a slow and torturous death for her and her baby.
Other critics fretted that Saddam's Sunni supporters, who thrived as a privileged elite under his sadistic rule, were displeased with Saddam's treatment. That's a bit like complaining that many Serbs opposed the war-crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic.
The criticism that took the cake came from the usually reasonable Brian Lehrer at WNYC, who posed this question to his listeners: "If pardoning Richard Nixon was good for the nation's healing, then how could executing Saddam be good for Iraq?"
Well, gee: Saddam is responsible for the torture and deaths of millions. Nixon ordered a break-in and wiretapped phones, then tried to cover it up. The differences in the magnitude of the crimes seem painfully obvious.
But Lehrer's question came closest to revealing the unspoken view of virtually all the liberal critics: They don't really believe that Saddam was uniquely evil. That became even more clear when he asked if Saddam didn't deserve to be treated with more dignity. Bizarre. Most opponents of the death penalty - myself included - think it's inherently undignified. Are we suddenly supposed to think that having the executioners show respect would make it dignified?
And, again - opposition to the death penalty aside - why are we talking about the dignity due a brutal dictator? Instead, shouldn't we be delighting at least a little at the thought of Kim Jong-il or Robert Mugabe sleeping a little less soundly - knowing that the unthinkable could someday happen to them, that they too could be called to account for their crimes against humanity? That should be a prospect that liberal thought leaders - who one would think might stand up for the oppressed, not the oppressor - should embrace.
OK TO BE MAD IN NEW JERSEY?
New Jersey is to consider cutting the word "idiot" from its constitution so that people with some mental disabilities won't be barred from voting. State Senate President Richard Codey has introduced a bill to remove language designed more than 150 years ago to prevent people suffering from mental illness or handicap from voting in national, state or local elections.
He wants to eliminate a section that says "no idiot or insane person should enjoy the right of suffrage" and substitute a reference to "a person who has been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting".
Senator Codey, a Democrat who was previously acting governor of New Jersey, said in a statement the term "idiot" was outdated, vague, offensive to many and might be subject to misinterpretation. He said individuals with cognitive or emotional disabilities might be capable of making decisions in a voting booth, and those people should not be discriminated against. "This is another big step toward removing the stigma of mental illness," he said.
The proposed changes will be included in a constitutional amendment which voters will be asked to approve in a statewide ballot in November. It must first be cleared by the state legislature.
All the young prudes
Sanctimonious, censorious, snobbish and anti-progress: why has radical youth protest gone off the rails? A comment from Britain
There was a time when youth (or "yoof", in patronising Janet Street-Porter speak) were considered the most free-thinking and radical section of society. With their penchant for kicking against the pricks - their parents, the authorities, and other assorted guardians of received wisdom and outdated morality - young activists developed a reputation for being mad, bad and at least a little bit dangerous. Not any more. Today's "radical" youth protesters are deeply conservative and censorious, wishing to hold society back, shut down debate and keep the uppity oiks in their place. In 2007, beware these young authoritarians, who make even our miserabilist leaders look positively progressive by comparison.
It is reported that the Evangelical Christian Union at Exeter University is taking legal action after being suspended from the student guild and banned from using student facilities. Why was it outlawed? Because the guild decided in its infinite wisdom that the Christian Union was intolerant (of gay people, for example) and thus cannot be tolerated - deeply ironic, I know. It's yet another student-led attack on freedom of speech, assembly and belief, which are becoming all too frequent on petty censorious campuses across the UK - which these days seem more influenced by Mary Whitehouse and her blue-rinsed followers than Che Guevara or any of the other beret-wearing icons of old.
Sanctimonious intolerance of "offensive" viewpoints is rampant among British student officials. Student unions frequently respond to controversy and offensiveness by reaching for the blue felt tip pen. In recent years the Sussex University students' union banned the Daily Mail for being "bigoted" (again with the irony), leading one Sussex student to complain that the union was "treating us like babies and it's offensive". The union at Sheffield University famously, or infamously, banned the playing of Eminem records at student dos because the rapper's use of words such as "fags" breaks the union's anti-homophobia policies. At the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) in London, the union has banned Israeli embassy representatives from speaking because part of its union policy states that Zionism is racism, and racists should "not be given a platform". University is where boys become men and girls become women, free to think and act for themselves; yet unions insist on mollycoddling them like big overgrown babies in order to protect them from anything deemed remotely offensive.
Far from being a site of free thinking and free exchange of ideas, the university campus has become a laboratory for new forms of censorship and conformism. Indeed, student censoriousness sometimes leaks out into society at large. The government's religious hatred legislation - a serious and flagrant attack on the hard-won democratic right of our secular society to criticise and ridicule superstitious nonsense - can be seen as the logical consequence of a decade or more of student experimentation with censorship of words or images that cause "cultural offence" to certain groups. There's a similar trend in America, where free speech activist Wendy Kaminer has written of "the distressing number of young authoritarians" on US campuses. "Self-righteous intolerance of dissent remains distressingly common among supposedly progressive students on liberal campuses," says Kaminer, and the same is true here.
Outside of these clampdown-campuses, "young radicals" front campaigns that are more concerned with turning back the clock than pushing society forward and realising humanity's potential. One of today's most celebrated youthful campaign groups is Plane Stupid (you said it) which campaigns to "ground the plane". It wants big fat taxes to make flying more expensive; that is, less affordable for the mass of the population who only waste their time going on garish and drunken holidays to Spain and eastern Europe anyway. The erstwhile leader of Plane Stupid, Joss Garman, a 21-year-old student at censorious SOAS, says: "Our ability to live on the earth is at stake, and for what? So people can have a stag do in Prague."
Oh, that's right, global warming is being single-handedly caused by people like my brother, who recently spent three days and nights living it up on cheap beer (via a cheap flight) on a stag night in Prague. Never mind the fact that a recent study by The Economist found that aviation's contribution "to total man-made emissions worldwide is around 3%"; and that even in the world of transportation flying isn't the biggest carbon polluter (in America, for example, all forms of transportation contribute 27.4% of emissions; flying on its own causes 3.2% of emissions). No, these brave radical protesters would far rather target those cheap people who take cheap flights to cheap destinations that satisfy their cheap desires, rather than grapple with real questions about how we can satisfy people's needs and desires while also making the world a pleasant place to live in.
Flying is one of the most miraculous inventions of the past hundred years: it has broadened humanity's horizons and allowed us to explore the world and meet and get to know all sorts of peoples and cultures. Today's youth protesters want to put a stop to all that, and they even throw some anti-masses snobbery into the political pot for good measure. Nice.
Other youthful protesters demonise and protest against mass electricity production, another marvel of the modern age that has helped to make life more comfortable and enjoyable for vast swathes of humanity. Last year's demos against the Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire were led by what one contributor to my website spiked labelled "radicals for austerity": people who want to switch off the lights and go back to simpler times (a political demand that is "simple" in both senses of the word).
Some radical youngsters throw their weight into protesting for animal rights and against vivisection, which is one of the most anti-humanist streaks in contemporary politics. Their radical animalism elevates the interests of monkeys over men, and depicts humans - especially of the science-studying variety - as wicked and evil. Animal rights activism sums up everything that is wrong with radical protest today, where youthful activists actively campaign against humans and human interests rather than in defence of progress and equality for people everywhere.
Of course, it isn't entirely the yoofs' fault: they have grown up in a society that seems increasingly illiberal and pessimistic, and perhaps unsurprisingly that is reflected in their (anti) political campaigning. And I remain optimistic about the new generation: hundreds of young people protested in Oxford to defend the building of an animal experimentation lab, and lots of ordinary students continue to react against patronising student union bans.
Tens of thousands of young people continue to explore the world (even if it is just Prague) in the face of ridicule from their better-off counterparts from leafier suburbs. In 2007, we should support such youthful expressions of ambition, experimentation and open-mindedness. Today, young people who want to kick against the pricks would do well to start by challenging the student censors and "plain stupid" anti-progressives who are all around them.
9 January, 2007
THE BIG PROBLEM OF LIVING AMONG "DIVERSITY" -- DISTRUST
A comment from a reader on the Putnam research findings
It's fascinating to note that prominent left liberal sociologist, Harvard's Robert Putnam has recently 'discovered' and empirically documented that one consequence of the development of multicultural / multi-ethnic communities is a general decline in any civic trust. He has found that the more diverse a community is the greater the distrust ...even in authorities who may be drawn from one's own ethnic group. These results will certainly be controversial and presumably subject to more testing in coming years. But for now they seem to represent a poke in the eye for the arch-multiculturalists. See here, here and here
In general the most popular explanation for the decline of civic trust, an issue of concern to left liberal pundits, is to hypothesise an enormous hidden reserve of redneck racism bubbling below in the general population . Articles of this kind are a dime a dozen, see for example here . This nostrum thrives despite substantial survey information that racially intolerant attitudes have substantially declined in recent decades (see for example here) . Most pundits seem oblivious to this contradiction.
Their favourite alternative explanation ("neoliberalism") provides no refuge either. They blame civic distrust on the ultra-mild public sector downsizing policies pursued by both centre-right and centre-left governments in English-speaking countries in recent decades. Somehow the apparently worse problems with race relations in France, a western nation that has not adopted 'neoliberal' economic policies, have escaped their attention.
Putnam apparently sat on his results for some time until he could come up with a politically acceptable left liberal interpretation. His view is that we all need to weave, presumably to be conjured up by government social engineering, a brand new national and cultural identity. Considering the wonderful successes of the bolshevik state in creating a new soviet man you would think a Harvard sociologist would know better.
Of course he didn't really need to bother. Sociobiologists, unlike sociologists, have for some time speculated that societies, like immigrant-built Los Angeles, where the probability of even remote kinship between neighbours is low, will tend to develop atomistic or narrowly individualistic values versus the more politically fashionable communitarianism. Putnam has now, despite himself, provided extra ammunition for this politically incorrect school.
An example of the "extended kinship critique" of multiculturalism is provided in the following passage from now deceased biologist Garrett Hardin. Hardin was a politically incorrect environmentalist who, unlike the vast majority of "greens", actually took their much advertised ecological catastrophe scenarios seriously. Hardin's heresy was then to advocate the logical but unpalatable policy responses, i.e foreign aid cuts, tight immigration restrictions, and (more controversially) a significantly reduced priority for refugee settlement (especially economic and environmental as distinct from political refugees). In short he argued that policies based on 'conspicuous humanitarianism' and 'conspicuous compassion' for foreigners were counter-survival strategies that could no longer be afforded. This made him persona non grata amongst left liberal greens who preached the end of the world but were unable to bring themselves to practice the kind of survival ethics such a situation demanded. A Hardin quote:
"Living on a Lifeboat" vividly illustrates the fact that immigration has turned the West into a precarious human commons. Because of its prosperity and social order, the West is a magnet attracting those who cannot create such conditions for themselves. Although we already pay a high price for immigration in crime, taxes, welfare, and destruction of our culture, our children and grandchildren will pay a higher price still: "To be generous with one's own possessions is one thing; to be generous with posterity's is quite another.
Rejection of the commons is still valid and necessary if we are to save at least some parts of the world from environmental ruin. Is it not desirable that at least some of the grandchildren of people now living should have a decent place in which to live?"
To carry Professor Hardin's argument a vital step further, consider the fact that each lifeboat is not filled with an arbitrary collection of strangers. It is, instead, largely filled with family members, related to each other as an outgrowth of the processes that created today's ethnically-based nation-states. Liberalism's acolytes demand that we throw our own children overboard to make room for the strangers in the water. And yet familial ties are a fundamental part of our character, a heritage of every man, woman, and child on earth, regardless of race or ethnicity. Loyalty to kin has a biological basis, a relationship first hinted by Darwin and later elaborated by a generation of sociobiologists, led by W. D. Hamilton.
The key is kinship altruism, the tendency of all animals, not just humans, to make sacrifices for their kin, the most obvious examples of which are the sacrifices parents make for their children. Kinship altruism also explains why conscience exists today. Conscience-based moral behavior arose as a consequence of altruism within family groups. Conscience has endured because, until recently, Western homelands were relatively homogeneous - constituting, in effect, large extended families of distant cousins. (A recent genetic study reveals that all Europeans descended from a single breeding group of 10 to 50 females.) For thousands of years, no non-kin competed for altruism's benefits. Extension of altruism's benefits to the flood of non-Western immigrants disadvantages Western peoples and their over-active consciences. Demonizing the inborn tendency of related people to exhibit loyalty to their own kind is not moral behavior, it is an assault on the very core of human existence. Just as nature bids a mother to care more for her own child than those of strangers, so must we each concern ourselves with the well-being of our kinsmen more so than that of immigrants from lands not our own.
The original reports of Putnam's findings are here and here.
French Judge: Don't Let Them Eat Pork Soup
Accomodating Muslims in all things now compulsory in France
A top French judge ruled that an extreme-right group cannot serve pork soup to the needy, saying the charitable handouts aim to discriminate against Muslims and Jews who don't eat pork because of their faith. Judge Christian Vigouroux of the Council of State, the country's highest administrative body, said late Friday that such giveaways by the far-right group Solidarity of the French threaten public order. His ruling approved a decision by Paris police to refuse permits to the group on the grounds that such handouts could spark angry reactions.
France is home to more than 5 million Muslims and some 600,000 Jews. Both Islam and Judaism prohibit eating pork, and Vigouroux said the group had shown "a clearly discriminatory goal" with its charity.
Solidarity of the French was just one of several far-fight groups that began distributing pork soup across France over the last four years. Critics contend the giveaway of pork soup is a far-right ploy to draw support for their efforts to defend against perceived threats to European culture.
Far-right groups defend the soup as nothing more than an age-old staple of the rural heartland from which all the French, at least in the national imagination, are said to spring. "Pork-fat soup is traditionally the soup of the poor because it provides complete nourishment," said Bruno Le Griel, a lawyer for the group. Le Griel argued that no needy Jew or Muslim was forced to consume the pork soup. But the judge said the group's Web site indicated it was a policy to refuse dessert to anyone who did not eat some soup first.
POOR BLACKS NOT HELPED BY A CODE OF SILENCE
The black American middle class is under attack. And what is their sin? The fire is coming from black academics who argue that any middle-class black person calling on the black poor to take advantage of opportunities to get out of poverty is really ashamed of poor black people. And the charges can get personal. Critics are saying that black people such as Bill Cosby are caught up in a self-hating frenzy as they try to distance themselves from their poor brothers and sisters.
For middle class black people, the charges range from "You forget where you came from" to "You are blaming the victim." But these attacks target far more than the black middle class. White people who call attention to the obvious are attacked as insensitive, if not racist. Anyone speaking to self-defeating behavior among the black poor - such as dropping out of high school at exorbitant rates, drug use, criminal behavior, high numbers of children born out of wedlock and parents abandoning their children - is open to these charges. This is the case even if a black adult dares to object to a black teenager screaming curse words and hate-filled rap on a crowded train.
William Cobb, a Spelman College history professor, has written that anyone correcting that offensive behavior is more concerned with what white people think about them. That fits with the general criticism, from another African-American professor, Michael E. Dyson, of the University of Pennsylvania. He has written that the black middle class unfairly "rain down fire and brimstone upon poor blacks for their deviance and pathology."
Unfortunate code of silence
In a new book "Enough," I write about the 25 percent of black America locked in poverty and the shocking picture of dysfunction evident in a 70 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate among black Americans; a 50 percent high school dropout rate and a disheartening 40 percent of America's prisoners being black.
Instead of addressing these problems head-on in the black community, there has been a long, chilling silence because few black leaders want to be targeted by critics who charge them with being elitist or excusing the historic damage done by white racism.
Black intellectuals, such as Cobb and Dyson, are enforcing that code of silence. They are also defending the sad status quo among poor black people. Added to the recipe is the intellectual defense of hip-hop - with music, videos and films - that excuses failure and even celebrates destructive, criminal "Gangsta" behavior such as violence, stealing to get 'bling-bling' and abusive treatment of women.
Much of the rationalization for this self-defeating behavior among too many of the black poor is that high crime rates, high dropout rates and abusive relationships afflict all urban populations. The evidence is that Irish and Italian immigrants had problems when they arrived on American shores and brought high rates of crime and high dropout rates to the cities.
The flaw in that argument is that the population of poor black Americans we are discussing did not just land in Atlanta, Birmingham or Washington. Black Americans today are born into a world exceeding what most immigrants left behind.
It is a false analogy to make 21st century black Americans the equal of early 20th century immigrants. How many times can you be an immigrant? Even among today's immigrants with black skin - people from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean - the level of educational attainment and income is outpacing black Americans. If the issue is racism, how is it that black newcomers are doing so well?
The story of black Americans is as old as this nation. It is an inspiring struggle for equal rights in the face of slavery, through the Civil War, and then against laws that had the government enforce racial segregation. The prize for this movement for racial justice has always been equal right to compete in schools, in jobs, in the military, at the voting booth and at the swimming pool. The quest has always been about leveling the playing field and giving black people a chance to show their genius.
Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: All of these leaders gave their lives to open the doors of equal opportunity in the American mainstream for black Americans. Their success has created the largest, most affluent and politically powerful black population in world history. Racism persists in America, complete with stereotypes, mistrust and discrimination. But it is nothing comparable to the exclusion and violence that limited past generations of blacks. Most black Americans, as they fight to move up economically and put their children in position to succeed, reject any victim mentality. They appreciate that greater opportunities exist for this generation than for any of our predecessors.
Words of encouragement
Yet there is this hard fact - a persistent 25 percent poverty rate among black people today. Sadly, statistics show it is often identified with the same group of people, the same families, from generation to generation. It is the exact opposite of compassion to lie to people about the source of many of their problems when it is clear that they are often hurting themselves.
A recent article in The New York Times reported that child psychologists have found that by age 3, the average child of a middle-class professional has heard 500,000 words of encouragement and 80,000 words of discouragement. Among children in welfare families, the numbers were turned on their heads with 75,000 words of encouragement and 200,000 words of discouragement. Middle-class parents, the researchers found, also spoke to their children about the value of education. They regularly discuss with children family rules, current events and how to negotiate difficult situations and people.
These are middle-class values that benefit people, black or white. To encourage the black poor to adopt these values is not evidence of self-hate but offering good news about how people can help themselves and their children to succeed. It is good news to know that if you stay in school and at least graduate from high school, then stay in the job market and don't have a child until you are in your 20s and married, you have little chance of being poor.
It is right - not self-hating - to tell an obnoxious kid cursing on the train to stop it because he is not only obnoxious but displaying behavior that will hurt his chances in life.
Instead of condescending to the poor by rationalizing bad behavior, the academics should offer themselves and their success as evidence of what black people can do with discipline and hard work, despite racism. The academics who prefer to disparage the black middle class when it offers guidance and inspiration are not hurting the black middle class - they are hurting the black poor.
A whitewash of black crime and racism
The Australian situation
The most disturbing element in the murder of 17-year-old Andrew Farrugia in Griffith during the early hours of 2007 was the inevitability that someone like Farrugia was going to be killed by members of the feral underclass that exists in many rural towns with large Aboriginal populations. Andrew Farrugia died for one reason only. He was white. This is the defining reality of his murder. It is the most important single fact in this tragedy. Whatever the outcome of any trial, there are ample witnesses who have told police that this not only appeared to be an unprovoked attack but a case of black on white violence.
After Farrugia had been beaten senseless, one of the youths who had attacked him allegedly turned to onlookers and boasted: "This is how we roll in this town." Who exactly is "we"? Right from the start, the police and media reports of this crime smelled of censorship. It took just two phone calls to Griffith to discover what was being left out: the perpetrators were young Aborigines who had been cruising for a brawl, and it was a common occurrence.
This was nowhere to be found in news reports for days. Finally, after two accused appeared in court charged with killing Farrugia, a paragraph was inserted into the bottom of one news story, not in this newspaper, that the two 15-year-olds arrested "had strong ties to the local Aboriginal community". Thus, their lawyers argued, they should be allowed bail. Bail was refused because it also emerged during this court appearance that one of the accused had a criminal record.
The long initial silence about this case raises several wider issues. Go to the news section of the NSW Police website and you will find an informational G-string: it provides the bare minimum. For example, another murder took place over the weekend when Sione Matevesi, 22, who had a job and a stable life, was stabbed and murdered early on Saturday by a group of drunks. Who are the police looking for? This is the information provided by the NSW Police website: "Police are looking for a group of men described as wearing dark clothing."
Oh, that is extremely useful. The NSW Police Media Unit is a paradigm of drip-feed information, a policy that comes down from the top. It is part of a much broader and more serious problem, the whitewashing of the official depiction of the realities of criminal life in Australia.
This begins with the piccaninny complex that dominates the welfare bureaucracy, education system, court system, university system and the ABC. The piccaninny complex is one of the reasons we've thrown a generation of young Aborigines into the gutter, including a generation of zombies - the living dead in rural and remote Australia of petrol-sniffing children, disproportionately under the primary care of drunks. As one of Australia's most prominent anthropologists, Peter Sutton, wrote in Anthropological Forum back in 2001: "The contrast between the progressive public rhetoric about empowerment and self-determination and the raw evidence of a disastrous failure in major aspects of Australian Aboriginal affairs policy since the early 1970s is frightening."
Nothing has changed. We've known for years there is endemic child abuse within many remote and rural Aboriginal communities, yet had the absurdity of the "shock revelation" last year that child abuse is rampant in many Aboriginal communities. This was fully seven years after publication of the Robertson report into domestic violence in indigenous communities in Queensland, chaired by Boni Robertson, an Aboriginal academic. The report found:
"Violence is now overt; murders, bashings and rapes, including sexual violence against children, have reached epidemic proportions. "A majority of the informants believed that the rise of violence in Aboriginal communities can be attributed to the so-called 'Aboriginal industry' in which both indigenous and non-indigenous agencies have failed in many ways to deliver critical services. "The taskforce believes the number of violent offences is much higher than the officially recorded data. Taskforce researchers heard many stories about crimes that women did not report for fear of reprisals from the perpetrator, his kinfolk or the justice system. "The harsh reality is that many families are now trapped in environments where deviance and atrocities have become accepted as normal behaviour and as such form an integral part of the children's socialisation."
For years, white ideological activists and Aboriginal racists within the welfare system have been accessories to domestic crime and rampant child abuse. They have actively covered up the problem, rationalising and protecting perpetrators, and perjured themselves in court.
Soon after the Robertson report was released, Dr Stephanie Jarrett told a symposium into domestic violence in Aboriginal communities: "Lawyers use cultural rights to reduce penalties for domestic violence. "Cultural rights carry the risk of placing Aboriginal victims of domestic violence outside the scope of state intervention," she said. "Where does this leave Aboriginal women? Domestic violence is the major source of Australia's internal refugees." Jarrett's PhD thesis was based on a study of a culture of violence inside one Aboriginal community, part of a much wider pathology of violence which immemorially predated the arrival of Europeans.
Our society has to start treating Aborigines as human beings, not mendicants and piccaninnies who either exist within a feudal communal land system our legal system has invented for them, and/or in a culture of excuse, welfarism, denialism and double standards that guarantees both economic stagnation and cultural (as distinct from racial) extinction. All accompanied by a deadly silence.
Andrew Farrugia was killed by racists. The time for whitewashing, blame-shifting and rationalising racism in any form is over.
8 January, 2007
MORE "HUMAN RIGHTS" NONSENSE IN BRITAIN
I suspect that the police are actually satirizing do-gooder laws that they disagree with
Pictures of two murderers on the run from jail were released last night after the Lord Chancellor criticised a police force for suggesting that the Human Rights Act prevented their publication.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton, QC, dismissed the suggestions by Derbyshire police as "absolute nonsense" and demanded an explanation of their refusal to release the pictures. "When you are dealing with two convicted murderers, both of whom have absconded, it is utterly obvious that there is no public interest arising out of the Human Rights Act which prevents publication," Lord Falconer said.
The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) also said yesterday that the photos should be published if the men were considered a danger to the public. It said that the Human Rights Act explicitly allowed police to print "wanted" pictures if it was in the public interest.
The row plunged the Government into controversy over its Human Rights Act. Lord Falconer intervened after Derbyshire Constabulary decided not to release pictures of Jason Croft and Michael Nixon, both 28, who absconded from Sudbury open prison in November. Croft, also known as Jason Fox, from Salford, and Nixon, of Blackley, Manchester, were near the end of life sentences for murder and had been given day release and allowed home visits. Croft was given a life sentence in 1996 after stabbing a youth in the chest as he lay unconscious in a street in Moston, Manchester. Nixon was also jailed for life in 1996 after he dropped a concrete block on a teenager's head in the Newton Heath area of the city.
Derbyshire police said that a number of factors had been considered in reaching the decision, including the possibility that publication breached the prisoners' human rights. The force also insists that the two men pose a minimal risk to the public as they had been assessed as low risk before the Prison Service transferred them from a closed to an open prison.
As the Derbyshire force continued its stance, the Greater Manchester force released the images last night. A spokesman for the DCA said: "Nothing in the Human Rights Act prevents publishing the photograph of an escaped criminal if he presents a danger to the public. On the contrary, the Act explicitly allows public authorities to limit an individual's right to privacy in the interests of public safety or for the prevention of crime. It is merely common sense, as well as the law, that the right to personal privacy can be restricted to facilitate the identification and capture of an escaped criminal, particularly in cases where there is a danger to the public."
The Information Commissioner's Office, the department responsible for access to, and the protection of, information, also said that data protection rules cannot be used as a reason not to release the images. Neither of the two escapers is thought to be still in Derbyshire.
A police spokesman said: "When making a decision to release any photograph, police forces must take into account numerous factors, including the public interest test, whether there is a strong local policing purpose and, of course, the Human Rights and Data Protection Acts. "Photographs of named people that are in police possession are classed as data and their release is restricted by law.
"Association of Chief Police Officers guidance states that releasing a `wanted' photograph of a named person should only happen in exceptional circumstances where officers believe that the named suspect may be a danger to the public." Acpo said that it did not have specific guidance in a case such as this. Croft has been missing since October 31 and Nixon since he failed to appear at roll call on November 2.
THE NEW CONGRESS: FOOD FOR THE ANTISEMITES
Notes from the first day of the most Jewish Congress ever: It was an exhausting day of celebration for the party (you know which party), the Jewish activists, the new members. Forty-three Jewish legislators in Congress, but who's counting?
First thought: Wow, so many Jews in Congress. A record number: 43. That's huge. No wonder people are so excited about it. Second thought: Isn't it too much? Just 2 percent of the population and 13 senators out of 100? Two percent of the population and 30 congressmen? Aren't they going to draw the attention of all the anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, Walt and Mersheimers of the world? Maybe a lower profile would have been preferable? Third thought: Is worrying the Jewish way of celebrating or what? As they used to say - start worrying, details to follow.
Six new Jewish lawmakers, all Democrats, were sworn in today on Capitol Hill. They come from different places and from different backgrounds. Some represent areas heavily populated by Jews, some areas with a negligible number of Jews. Will they thrive? Will they survive? Today they seem mostly happy to be there.
Did we mention all the new members are Democrats? Twenty-nine out of 30 Jewish members of the House are Democrats, nine out of 13 Jewish senators are Democrats, two are independents caucusing with the Democrats and two are Republicans. Those who attended the National Jewish Democratic Council reception, House majority leader Steny Hoyer included, will not forget this. If you had any doubt, most Jews are also still Democrats (not that anyone had any doubts).
Nancy Pelosi became the first woman speaker of the House, but that's not the most remarkable thing about her (if you ask NJDC). She is the first speaker to have Jewish grandchildren. That's history.
And speaking of women, new congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is the "first Jewish woman from Arizona" to be elected to the House. She is also, well, how should I put it? It's always nice to be reminded again that not all Jewish legislators are older, balding, mustachioed men (did I just make an anti-Semitic remark?).
ATTEMPT TO DRAGOON SWEDISH SCHOOLKIDS INTO POLITICAL DEMONSTRATION
Principals at five Karlskrona schools backed down on Friday from earlier calls for pupils to demonstrate against the politics of the Sweden Democrats. On Thursday one of the principals in question, Marina Eriksson from Sunnadalskolan, sent out a statement to local media that five schools in the southern town had agreed to protest "against the Sweden Democrats' politics".
On several previous occasions pupils from schools in Karlskrona have been invited to participate in an annual torchlight procession in memory of victims of the Holocaust. This year Eriksson claimed that several schools had agreed to widen the scope of the event to include criticism of the Sweden Democrats, the far right party that gained 10 percent of the local vote in September general elections.
But another of the school heads, Gunilla Ekelof from Wamoskolan, contends that there was no consultation among the principals of the five school regarding a protest action. "I can't imagine demonstrating against democratic decisions," she said.
On Friday morning Marina Eriksson distanced herself from her original statement. "It is a manifestation against violence and xenophobia, and for equal human rights. It is not a manifestation in which we reject the Sweden Democrats' politics," Eriksson told news agency TT.
The principal of Sunnadalskolan would not comment on Thursday's statement comparing the politics of the Sweden Democrats to Nazism.
MUSLIMS NOT BEING PANDERED TO FOR ONCE
Officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport are proposing stiffer penalties - including suspension of an airport taxi license - to Muslim cab drivers who refuse service to passengers toting alcohol or service dogs. Officials on Wednesday asked the Metropolitan Airport Commission for permission to hold public hearings on a proposal that would suspend the airport licenses of cab drivers who refuse service for reasons other than safety concerns. The penalties would also apply to drivers who refuse a fare because a trip is too short. Drivers would have their airport licenses suspended 30 days for the first offense and revoked for two years after the second offense, according to the proposal. "Our expectation is that if you're going to be driving a taxi at the airport, you need to provide service to anybody who wants it," commission spokesman Patrick Hogan said.
The commission is expected to vote Jan. 16 on the request for public hearings. Airports Commissioner Bert McKasy said the issue raised by Muslim cab drivers who say that carrying alcohol or dogs, including those that help people with disabilities, violates religious beliefs is "unfortunate." "I think it's pretty much the consensus of the commissioners and the staff that we have to provide good service to the public, and that's pretty much the bottom line," McKasy said.
Each month, about 100 people are denied cab service at the airport. Airport officials say that in recent months, the problem of service refusals for religious reasons has grown. About three-quarters of the 900 taxi drivers at the airport are Somali, many of them Muslim.
Hogan said the goal is to have a new policy in place by May 11, when airport taxi licenses come up for annual renewal. "We want the drivers to know about the policy in advance, so that if they don't think they can work under these conditions, they have the option of not renewing their license," Hogan said.
Last year, the airports commission received a fatwa, or religious edict, from the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society. The fatwa said "Islamic jurisprudence" prohibits taxi drivers from carrying passengers with alcohol, "because it involves cooperating in sin according to Islam."
Eva Buzek, a flight attendant and Minneapolis resident, said she was recently refused service by five taxi drivers when she was carrying wine as she returned from a trip to France. "In my book, when you choose to come to a different country, you make some choices," said Buzek, a native of Poland. "I never expected everything to be the same way as in my homeland, and I adjusted. I never dreamed of imposing my beliefs on somebody else."
But Hassan Mohamud, imam at Al-Taqwa Mosque of St. Paul and director of the Islamic Law Institute at the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, one of the largest Islamic organizations in the state, said asking Muslims to transport alcohol "is a violation of their faith. Muslims do not consume, carry, sell or buy alcohol, and Islam also considers the saliva of dogs to be unclean, he said. Mohamud said he would ask airport officials to reconsider.
But many Somali taxi drivers don't have a problem transporting passengers with alcohol and are worried about a backlash, said Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center. Jamal said he supports the tougher penalties. "We tell the taxi drivers, if you don't want to do this, change your job," he said. "You are living in a country where alcohol is not viewed the way it is in your country."
7 January, 2007
A doctor of Palestinian origin in Blekinge in Sweden refused to treat an American-for the sole reason that she was an American and because he disliked America's Middle East policies. But the most remarkable thing about this story is not that a Palestinian discriminated on the basis of nationality in obvious violation of the antidiscrimation rules that doctors have to follow. The most remarkable thing was what the Swedish media wrote about it:
Nothing, nothing at all. Complete media black out. Browsing through the web pages of the 4 biggest news papers in Sweden ( Aftonbladet, Expressen, Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet) and the news page of Swedish state radio, I found absolutely nothing about this story. Private Swedish TV-channel TV4 reports about it briefly, but fails to mention the relevant fact that the doctor was of Palestinian origin and did it because he disliked American foreign policy.
The only ones reporting about the incident and all the relevant aspects are, apart from the above link, a few members ( see for example here where I first saw the story ) of the Swedish "right-wing" blogosphere and the American TV-channel Fox News.
While I've always considered the Swedish media to have a pro-Palestinian bias, this was shocking even to me. We can be very sure, that had some Swedish doctor refused to treat a Palestinian because he objected to suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israelis, it would have made frontpage news. Thanks to the Internet though, news are not as easily supressed as in the past by the "mainstream" media.
Free to Say What?
Post lifted from Gates of Vienna
We have freedom of speech in this country, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
We're free to say anything we like, with notable exceptions carved out after 220 years of jurisprudence - direct incitement to violence and shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater.
And we are about to add another exception: "hate speech". A generation of college students has come to maturity under a regime in which free speech most emphatically does not include the right to say anything that might be construed as hateful towards minorities, women, gays, disabled people, animals, trees, etc.
These students are in the revolutionary vanguard of the softened-up, so that by the time Congress slips through a law that actually criminalizes "hate speech", the constant repetition of the mantra "hate speech is not free speech" will have taken its toll. Everybody will already be used to the idea, will accept it as a given, and, after the required Supreme Court decision, the new, leaner version of the First Amendment will become the law of the land.
If you think I'm being paranoid or overreacting, then you haven't seen Rep. John Conyers' proposed kid-gloves-for-the-Koran resolution, H. Res. 288 (the full text is here):Resolved, That the House of Representatives -
1. condemns bigotry, acts of violence, and intolerance against any religious group, including our friends, neighbors, and citizens of the Islamic faith; 2. declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith, should be protected; 3. recognizes that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, as any other holy book of any religion, should be treated with dignity and respect; and 4. calls upon local, State, and Federal authorities to work to prevent bias-motivated crimes and acts against all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith.
This is pernicious on so many levels that it's hard to know where to start. It asserts that one person's right to be respected overrides another person's right to speak freely. It singles out a single religion, Islam, for special treatment. It accords the holy book of the Muslims more respect than is owed the flag of the United States.
This is a CAIR-sponsored Trojan horse, ready to be rolled through the gates into the First Amendment. And its sponsor is about to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When I defend the right to free speech, what am I defending?
The Founders weren't thinking about the right to print gay porn. When they crafted the First Amendment, they most emphatically intended to protect political speech. A lot of what passed for political speech in those days was insulting, libelous, vicious, and mendacious, but the framers of the Constitution were determined to leave it unrestrained.
But what about today? What words are so dangerous, so foul, so beyond the pale, that the force of law is required to protect them?
- - - - - - - - - -
The example I am about to give is so offensive that I will be in hot water for posting it here, even though I don't subscribe to it myself, even though I find its appalling and repugnant, even though I would not willingly share the room with someone who uttered it. The amount of trouble I bring down upon myself will illustrate my point.
I'm displaying it here as an image, so as not to be indexed for the obnoxious phrase by the search engines:
This is what the First Amendment protects.
In what follows I will refer to this sentiment and the people who hold it as "IHN".
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The cry of "Racism!" is what the modern politician or public figure will go to any length to avoid. Just ask George Allen - the well-timed appearance in the media of an Al Sharpton-related moment will kill a political career.
There are many young people - the future Baron tells me stories about them from his college - who consider complete license to be their natural right. They will entertain arguments for and against infanticide without blinking. They presumably consider sex with animals to be just another lifestyle choice, as long as no animal was harmed in the making of one's pleasure.
But racism - that's another matter. There oughta be a law!
From their point of view, IHN has no right to his opinion.
How did we get to this point? It was a slippery slope downhill from liberty to where we are now, with some notable landmarks on the way:
1. The civil rights movement.
By statute, one could no longer discriminate on the basis of race. This was a good idea that has since been extended to ludicrous levels in order to serve illiberal purposes.
2. The definition of discrimination.
To the definition of "discrimination" was added, "speech or actions that tend to exclude a person on the basis of his or her race."
3. The evidence for exclusion.
That a person of a protected group feels excluded became prima facie evidence that he or she has been excluded, and is therefore a victim of discrimination.
4. The feelings of protected minorities.
Feeling unwelcome or offended became the same as feeling excluded, so that feeling offended is equivalent to being discriminated against.
Thus has the "hate speech" camel crept under the tent and taken up residence. You don't have to subscribe to IHN to violate the hate speech codes; all you have to do is offend some member of a protected group. At that point the grievance mill starts gearing up to grind exceedingly fine, and you'll be lucky if your only consequence is to undergo twenty or thirty hours of "diversity training".
But where do CAIR and Conyers come in? How did they manage to piggyback on the hate speech craze?
The trick was to add a #5 to the above list:
5. Muslims are the equivalent of a racial minority.
Even though Muslims come in as many races as other human beings, even though Christians, Jews, and Hindus have no such protections, Islam has claimed for itself the same status as blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, etc. It's a shrewd move, one that has been patiently and painstakingly crafted over the last ten or fifteen years by CAIR and similar organizations.
It's probably too late to stop this process. Soon it will become effectively illegal to say what is said in this blog and others like it. National Review and City Journal will be in the line of fire for what they print. Books by Robert Spencer will have to be published offshore and smuggled into the country.
Perhaps I'm exaggerating. But John Conyers is about to become a very powerful man in the Democrat-controlled Congress, and he's made it very clear for whom he is working.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Then there are "hate crimes" and "bias crimes". If you rob a bank because the branch manager is Lithuanian, and you hate Lithuanians, then that's a hate crime, and you'll get a couple of extra years tacked onto your sentence.
Does that make sense? Which is worse, to blow away the Senegalese convenience store clerk because he's black, or because you want the $100 in the cash register, or just for kicks? Of those three, which is murder most foul?
If you do it for kicks, just to watch him die, you get twenty-five-to-life. If you do it because you're IHN, you get thirty-to-life.
Don't make no sense.
Why do we need to restrain IHN? What could he do that requires speech laws to guard against?
He could get a gun and shoot every black person in sight. No, wait; that's already illegal.
He could torch the car of his next-door neighbor from Somalia. No, we've got laws that cover that.
He could scream racial epithets at every swarthy person he passes on the street. But even that is already covered by existing laws against disorderly conduct, public nuisances, stalking, and so on.
The ugly truth is that "hate speech" rules are a cynical way to cow political opponents and intimidate those who don't fall in with the party line. However, you'll notice that these rules are very selectively enforced - no particular consequence ever seems to fall on those who scream, "Death to the Jews!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
There are trends at work in the West today that are far worse than racism. Racism - if I may utter such a dangerous heresy - doesn't necessarily do any damage to a particular society.
Take Japan, for example, which is the most ethnically homogeneous country on the planet. I don't know if the Japanese are racists, but even if they are, it won't do their country any measurable harm. They can make fun of the big-eyed people all they want, print mocking cartoons of them in their newspapers, and their civil society can still flourish and their democratic institutions can still function effectively.
Racism is more pernicious in a multi-ethnic country like our own, and it is well to be mindful of that fact.
But other much more dangerous trends rage unchecked through our society. Some of them are even actively promoted by the ālite guardians of culture. Nihilism, ethical relativism, sexual promiscuity, flagrant hedonism, and the enforced removal of religion from the public square - all of these are far more harmful than racism, and their damage is far more lasting.
But, just as I defend the right of IHN to utter his egregious words, I defend those who espouse, promote, and publicize all the other dangerous idiocies that float around in our culture.
Congress shall make no law. abridging the freedom of speech.
What part of Congress shall make no law is unclear?
The First Amendment guards all of us. It brooks no exceptions.
Australia: A Federal attempt to reduce the tragedy of abortions
"Jawboning" -- High profile argument
Tony Abbott attributes Australia's high abortion rate to women whose lives are under control but view childbirth as a "terrible inconvenience". The Health Minister said cultural changes were prompting more women to abort pregnancies and called for greater soul-searching by those considering terminations.
"Once upon a time, women who found themselves pregnant were culturally conditioned to have the baby and have it adopted out," he said. "These days, there is very different cultural conditioning. "This is particularly the case for women who have got their whole lives ahead of them or women who have got things nicely under management - a baby, or an extra baby, is a terrible inconvenience."
Mr Abbott was backed by a survey that showed 20-something women in stable relationships were most likely to have unwanted pregnancies. In an interview with the Herald Sun, Mr Abbott said the national abortion rate - estimates put it at 84,000 a year - was too high. The Government's new 24-hour pregnancy counselling hotline was the best way to help women make informed decisions about pregnancy. A devout Catholic and abortion critic, Mr Abbott also offered qualified support for contraception. He defended the role his Christian faith played in his political life: he always separated his job and his religion.
His comments followed a storm over the appointment of a Catholic welfare agency to help develop the hotline. Centacare will help develop guidelines for the service, enraging pro-choice activists. But Mr Abbott said counselling was aimed at supporting women, not influencing them. "The whole point of this is to try to ensure that, whatever decision a woman makes, it really is her decision and not something that has been forced on her by social conditioning," he said.
He did not want to remove women's right to abortions. "Absolutely not - I think every abortion is a tragedy, in a sense, but I am not going to be judgmental about people who decide to have an abortion," he said. "In the end, it's a matter for the individual facing those circumstances to decide." Mr Abbott believed contraception had its place but offered limited elaboration. "I think there are ideals of behaviour which people should strive for," he said. "If, for whatever reason, those ideals are not going to be met, people should be prudent, so to speak." His views on abortion and other subjects were not part of a personal religious crusade. "I have never done anything because I feel that religion mandates it," he said.
A national study released late last year found 56 per cent of women with an unplanned pregnancy kept the baby. Almost 30 per cent had an abortion, 13 per cent miscarried and 2 per cent offered the baby for adoption. Women aged 25-29 were the most likely to become pregnant accidentally, followed by women aged 30-34. Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggest there were 84,218 abortions in Australia in 2003, or one for every three live births that year. But it is difficult to calculate because raw Medicare figures can also include miscarriages.
6 January, 2007
Experts Discover Men And Women Are Different!
When it was revealed that scientific studies published in the new book "The Female Brain" demonstrate that women talk more than men, many of us responded with a collective shrug. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex -- whether romantic, familial or friendly -- knows that women talk more than men. A lot more. "The Female Brain" indicates that not only do women talk three times as much as men, but they also get a chemical rush in their brains from hearing their own voices. This may explain why women describe "feeling better" after talking about problems or issues in their lives, beyond the mere relief of getting it off their chest.
But what is most fascinating about the book is the background of its author. A neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the head of a female mood and hormone clinic in San Francisco, Dr. Louann Brizendine is also a self-described feminist. In putting forward the results of clinical work and scientific analysis, Brizendine was forced to concede that everything she had been taught about gender was wrong. That is, men and women really are different. As she put it, "I know it is not politically correct to say this but I've been torn for years between my politics and what science is telling us. I believe women actually perceive the world differently from men."
None of this will come as a surprise to those already attuned to the politically incorrect reality of gender differentiation, but for those indoctrinated in the feminist school of gender uniformity, Brizendine's words are heresy. While correctly focusing on egalitarianism between the sexes, the post-1960s feminist movement has all too often confused gender equality with gender sameness. Consequently, at a time when college students can graduate with degrees in Gender Studies, there seems to be a marked lack of acknowledgment about the differences between men and women.
The attempts by the burgeoning transgender movement to prove that gender itself is meaningless add to the confusion. Rather than a fixed notion, they see gender as something fluid. This works well to the advantage of those who do feel, whether for medical or psychological reasons, that they inhabit some gender nether zone. The problem is, with the exception of cases of physically hermaphroditic children, one's sex is biologically determined at birth. Granted, we all have feminine and masculine traits and there are always exceptions to the rule. But any parent who has given dolls to little boys only to see their heads torn off or fire trucks to little girls only to see the vehicles tucked into bed at night knows that gender uniformity can't be enforced. These differences come naturally.
Gender variance exists even among same-sex couples. It's not uncommon to see one partner taking on a more feminine role and the other a more masculine one. Whether it be "butch-femme" lesbian couples or a "bear" with a "nelly" on the male side of the equation, male and female roles often come into play. It seems that even when gender differences are not a factor, human beings find a way to adopt them.
The entertainment industry is big on pushing the gender envelope. Whether consciously or not, the progenitors of pop culture help to perpetuate a kind of gender role reversal. Women have become tough and controlling, while men are seen as weak and indecisive.
Since the influence of martial arts films on U.S. markets began, audiences have been treated to countless film and television scenes of petite lasses duking it out with big bruisers. The TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was a case in point. But at least Buffy's bad-guy butt-kicking was explained through her having supernatural powers. It has now become far more commonplace to see mere mortal female characters punching people in the face on a moment's notice, beating up or overpowering men and taking the romantic or sexual lead. Far from empowering women in reality, these fantasy scenarios put forward unrealistic expectations and a false sense of security.
The gravity-defying female fighters of the "Charlie's Angels" films, the demure Southern belle Daisy Duke whose high heel ends up lodged in a man's throat in "The Dukes of Hazzard," the cold, cruel Taser-wielding blonde on the TV show "Smith" and the perennially bed-hopping Samantha character in "Sex and the City" are all examples of this trend. Even Hermione, the smart young heroine of the "Harry Potter" film series, slugs the annoying Malfoy in the face in the third installment. In other words, the leading lady has become the leading man, and a not terribly charming one at that.
In contrast, too many of today's leading men -- if they can be called that -- are content to let women take the reins. TV shows are populated with male characters -- usually police officers or detectives -- who stand meekly by as their much more confident and assured female counterparts (who often happen to be their bosses) lead them by the hand. An episode from the first season of "Heroes" featured one such male character, with superpowers no less. Still, he was content to tag along in the rear as his aggressive female partner charged into a violent suspect's home instead of calling for backup. The fact that she and other such female characters typically weigh only 90 pounds and have more intimidating hairdos than they do physical prowess seems to make little difference.
When male characters do exhibit masculine traits on TV, they are often made to look like fools in the process. Sitcoms such as "According to Jim" and "King of Queens" -- featuring overweight, average-looking husbands married to gorgeous, skinny wives -- are a prime culprit. The man is usually portrayed as a complete schlub who couldn't find his ear from his elbow without the guidance of his far intellectually superior wife.
The emergence of metrosexuality, or straight men exhibiting the traits of gay men, can be blamed in part for the decline of masculinity. All around San Francisco, one can see evidence of the trend. From men getting manicures, pedicures and waxings to wearing outfits that are just a touch too matching to fawning over small fluffy dogs, the metros appear to be taking over. And TV shows such as "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" are not helping. While no one can deny that many straight men need assistance in the fashion department, it has traditionally been a woman's role to provide it. But now we have gay men doing the honors and, if you ask me, overdoing it. Even a makeover must acknowledge the reality of male clothing and toiletry habits. The stylish fellows on "Queer Eye" may school allegedly clueless straight men in the joys of astringent and pink ties, but any woman knows those items will be dispensed with at the first opportunity.
While gay men are welcome to be as in touch with their feminine side as they like, straight men would do well to ignore it. For what woman would want a man who cannot go a week without buying beauty products, let alone guard hearth and home? Those who acknowledge the reality of gender differences know this instinctively, while those who pretend they are meaningless are affronted when one dares speak the truth. But most women, on a biological and often conscious level, are looking for a provider and protector in a man, among other things. Yet the metrosexual revolution would have us believe that women are yearning for nothing more in a man than another girlfriend.
Another disturbing offshoot of this trend is the public preponderance of men hugging, telling other men they "love" them and crying on a moment's notice. Anyone who has witnessed the unseemly weeping of certain male politicians in recent years (former President George Bush and Ohio Sen. George Voinovich come to mind) knows that men crying in public is not a good thing. Whatever happened to the strong silent type? The male movie stars of yesteryear provided some good examples. Men with the quiet strength of Gary Cooper, the warmth and humility of Jimmy Stewart or the laconic toughness of Robert Mitchum were the real deal. Hold the tears.
But there are some it seems who would like to do away with the notion of masculinity altogether. Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas, wrote as much in an October column, "Men Being Men Is a Bad Deal: Guys Should Evolve Beyond Masculinity." Jensen's column provoked an avalanche of laughter and scorn on talk radio and the blogosphere. Not only did Jensen come across as, well, a wimp, but his demonizing of manhood missed the mark. In equating masculinity with all things violent, Jensen underestimates his own sex. For masculinity is not only about being a warrior. The manly virtues include character, confidence, honor, inner strength, pride, responsibility, loyalty, generosity, industry and dignity. To eliminate masculinity would be to eliminate the positive along with the negative. Similarly, the natural and instinctive traits that constitute womanhood need not be exclusive of adaptations to modern life. Women should not have to apologize for their femininity, just as men should not have to apologize for their masculinity.
As a society, we would do better to accept our differences instead of turning men and women into bland imitations of each other. For it is the very dissimilarities between the genders that make them complementary -- the veritable yin and yang. Not only do we balance each other out, in the best of circumstances, but learning to adapt to our more challenging variations strengthens us as human beings. And it certainly makes life a lot more interesting. Vive la difference!
Do Iraqis Have Free Will? Not according to liberals
By Theodore Dalrymple
A headline in the British liberal newspaper, the Guardian, caught my eye recently: IRAQIS CAN'T BE BLAMED FOR THE CHAOS UNLEASHED BY INVASION. The writer was that newspaper's veteran foreign correspondent, Jonathan Steele (another immortal headline to one of his articles, in May 2002, read: NEW YORK IS STARTING TO FEEL LIKE BREZHNEV'S MOSCOW).
Let us grant, for argument's sake, the article's premise: that American policy in Iraq has been naive, rash, foolish, precipitate, and culpable. Yet still it would not follow that "Iraqis can't be blamed" and so forth, unless one also believed what not even the severest critics of the Bush administration have alleged-that the American army, or other agents of the American government, have desired, planned, and even executed the ongoing terrorist attacks in Baghdad.
The only other explanation of the non-culpability of Iraqis would be that they were not really full members of the human race-in other words, that they did not reflect upon their circumstances and act upon their reflections in the way that the fully responsible and therefore potentially culpable Americans do.
The headline makes clear that double standards are about to apply, double standards that are not flattering to the Iraqis' capacity for independent action, despite the evident wish of the author to display as conspicuously as possible his sympathy with them by means of exculpating them. Forgive them, he invites all men of goodwill, for they know not what they do.
Like hell, they don't. Not even the most ardent, anthropomorphic dog-lover credits his pet with a fully developed moral sense, and he therefore regards its misdemeanors with an indulgence that he would not extend to a ten-year-old child. The author regards Iraqis as if they were in the same moral category as pets: for can one really say that people who travel to a different part of the city to explode bombs, resulting in scores of deaths of people chosen merely because they are (most of them) of a different religious confession, do not appreciate what they are doing, any more than a dog appreciates what it does when it knocks over a precious porcelain vase?
Is there anything in the American invasion, however deeply ill judged you might consider it, that makes these bombings as inescapable as the weather, and that therefore renders those who carry them out wholly blameless? Is not a prerequisite for these bombings that those who carry them out consciously decide to do so? And if it is not wicked to kill people in this fashion, it is difficult to know what is wicked. Not the Iraqis, but some of the Iraqis-presumably a small minority-can take blame to a very considerable extent for the chaos in Iraq.
Dare I say it: the inability to take seriously the culpability of men and women who, as a matter of policy or tactics, kill large numbers of passers-by and bystanders is a hangover of the late Victorian imperial sensibility, which viewed much of the world's population as intellectual and moral minors. Special pleading of the kind encapsulated in the headline is not a manifestation of broadmindedness or generosity but of deep-seated arrogance.
CASTRO'S TRUE LEGACY IS A TRAIL OF BLOOD
By Jeff Jacoby
It was on New Year's Day in 1959 that Fidel Castro's guerrillas toppled Fulgencio Batista, and a week later that Castro entered Havana and launched what has become the world's longest-lived dictatorship. This week thus marks the 48th anniversary of Castro's revolution -- and the last one he will celebrate, if the persistent rumors that he is dying prove to be true. Which makes this a good time to ask: What will be said about Castro after his death?
For decades, journalists and celebrities have showered Cuba's despot with praise, extolling his virtues so extravagantly at times that if sycophancy were an Olympic sport, they would have walked off with the gold. Norman Mailer, for example, proclaimed him "the first and greatest hero to appear in the world since the Second World War." Oliver Stone has called him "one of the earth's wisest people, one of the people we should consult."
The cheerleaders have been just as enthusiastic in describing Castro's record in Cuba. "A beacon of success for much of Latin America and the Third World," gushed Giselle Fernandez of CBS. "For Castro," Barbara Walters declared, "freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on earth." Covering Cuba's one-party election in 1998, CNN's Lucia Newman grandly described "a system President Castro boasts is the most democratic and cleanest in the world."
During a 1995 visit to New York, writes Humberto Fontova in *Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant*, a blistering 2005 expose of Castro and his regime, Cuba's maximum leader "plunged into Manhattan's social swirl, hobnobbing with dozens of glitterati, pundits, and power brokers." From the invitation to dine at the Rockefeller family's Westchester County estate to being literally kissed and hugged by Diane Sawyer, Castro was drenched with flattery and adoration at every turn.
When Castro dies, some of his obituarists will no doubt continue this pattern of fawning hero-worship. But others, more concerned with accuracy than with apologetics, will squarely face the facts of Castro's reign. Facts such as these:
* Castro came to power with American support.
The United States welcomed Castro's ouster of Batista and was one of the first nations to recognize the new government in 1959. Many Americans supported Castro, including former president Harry Truman. "He seems to want to do the right thing for the Cuban people," Truman said, "and we ought to extend our sympathy and help him to do what is right for them." It was not until January 1961 that President Eisenhower -- reacting to what he called "a long series of harassments, baseless accusations, and vilification" -- broke diplomatic ties with Havana. By that point Castro had nationalized all US businesses in Cuba and confiscated American properties worth nearly $2 billion.
Well before he came to power, Castro regarded the United States as an enemy. In a 1957 letter -- displayed in Havana's Museo de la Revolucion, Fontova observes -- the future ruler wrote to a friend: "War against the United States is my true destiny. When this war's over, I'll start that much bigger and wider war."
* Castro transformed Cuba into a totalitarian hellhole.
Freedom House gives Cuba its lowest possible rating for civil liberties and political rights, placing it with Burma, North Korea, and Sudan as one of the world's most repressive regimes. Hundreds of political prisoners are behind bars in Cuba today. Among them, writes Carlos Alberto Montaner in the current issue of Foreign Policy, are "48 young people [imprisoned] for collecting signatures for a referendum, 23 journalists for writing articles about the regime, and 18 librarians for loaning forbidden books." Political prisoners can be beaten, starved, denied medical care, locked in solitary confinement, and forced into slave labor. Castro long ago eliminated freedom of religion, due process of law, and the right to leave the country. He also wiped out Cuba's once-flourishing free press. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Cuba is one of the world's leading jailers of journalists, second only to China in the number of reporters behind bars.
* Castro stole Cuba's wealth.
While Cubans grew progressively poorer under communism, Castro exploited them to become one of the world's richest people. Foreign companies doing business in Cuba must pay a significant sum for each worker they hire -- but most of the money goes to Castro's regime, while the workers receive only a pittance. Castro also controls Cuba's state-owned companies, whose profits account for much of his wealth. Castro insists that his personal net worth is zero, but in 2006 Forbes magazine estimates the amount to be $900 million.
* Castro shed far more blood than the dictator he replaced.
According to the Cuba Archive, which is meticulously documenting the deaths of each person killed by Cuba's rulers since 1952, Batista was responsible for killing approximately 3,000 people. Castro's toll has been far higher. So far the archive has documented more than 8,000 specific victims of the Castro regime -- including 5,775 firing squad executions, 1,231 extrajudicial assassinations, and 984 deaths in prison. When fully documented, the body count is expected to reach 17,000 -- not counting the tens of thousands of Cubans who lost their lives at sea while fleeing Castro's Caribbean nightmare. "Condemn me, it doesn't matter," Castro said long ago. "History will absolve me." But Castro's ultimate day of judgment draws near, and history is not likely to be so kind.
5 January, 2007
50 pound fine for British boy who fed seagull
A schoolboy has been given a 50 pound littering fine - for feeding half a chip to a seagull. Jack Double, 14, was handed the on-the-spot fixed penalty by two council litter enforcement officers.
He said: 'I was walking along with a bag of chips on my lunch break when I bit into one and found it was really hard. 'The other half was green so I just threw it to a seagull.'
Jack refused to give his name to the officers but they followed him back to Chantry High School in Ipswich where staff identified him.
His mother Mandy has written to Ipswich Council to appeal against the fine, describing it as ridiculous. Three weeks earlier Jack was awarded a certificate by an enforcement officer in the same area, commending him for putting his rubbish in a bin.
THE MYTH OF PALESTINE
Whether it changes or not, and whether or not the nationalists succeed in their determined drive for independence and sovereignty, no one can argue against the authenticity of a Scottish national identity. The history of the Scots goes back some 10,000 years and they established a vigorous, powerful, independent kingdom that played a prominent role in European affairs for nearly 400 years (from the victory of Robert the Bruce in the Battle of Banockburn in 1314, to the Union with England in 1707). The Scots have produced world-famous poets and musicians and economists and theologians and research scientists and monarchs, with folk music and distinctive styles of dress that are recognized around the world.
Compare the rich history and unique culture of the Scottish people with another contemporary nationalistic movement that hopes to create an independent state in 2007, or very shortly thereafter: the Palestinians. In fact, even the briefest examination of the contrast between Scottish and Palestinian nationalism highlights the fraudulence in current claims (honored by enlightened souls like Jimmy Carter, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and even the America-hating Scot, George Galloway) that Palestinians mean to "restore their ancient homeland."
What ancient homeland, exactly? Scottish monarchs like Mary, Queen of Scots and Macbeth have been celebrated in story and poetry and song around the world. Palestinian nationalists can hardly point to comparably famous "Kings of Palestine" for one obvious reason: no Kingdom of Palestine ever existed, other than the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judea, or the short-lived, Christian Crusader kingdom based in Jerusalem. From the time that Kingdom fell to the great Kurdish leader Saladin in 1187 (less than 100 years after its founding) no independent governmental entity existed in the area of Israel and the Palestinian territories until the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. For that reason, history records no kings or princes of Palestine, nor even governors and viceroys, who were associated with a nationality identified as "Palestinian."
And what about other famous Palestinians through the millennia-the architects and scientists and writers and spiritual leaders? Among proud Scots, the world has recognized the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, Adam Smith, John Knox, David Hume, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, James Watt, Alexander Fleming, Andrew Carnegie and many, many more. If even the most devoted supporters of Palestinian nationalism were asked to identify a famous representative of that nationality who had gained notoriety prior, say, to 1950, who could they name? If a people who claim that their origins stretch back into "the mists of time" can't identify a single famous figure as one of their own - no, not one -- what does it say about the authenticity of their historic nationality?
The absence of any notable figures in the arts and sciences, religion or politics, who were known to history as "Palestinian" isn't just a reflection of the fact that the Arab villages like Al Quds (Jerusalem), Hebron and Yaffo represented under-populated, destitute backwaters in the larger (and culturally dynamic) Arab world. It's also an indication that the people who grew up in those dusty settlements in the ancient Holy Land of the Bible never identified themselves as "Palestinian." They were content to see themselves as Arabs, part of larger Islamic empires like those of the Caliphate, the Mamluks, and the Ottoman Sultanate. The ethnic identity "Palestinian" didn't exist - and the term "Southern Syrians" continued to characterize the inhabitants of the Holy Land up through the early twentieth century.
In terms of identifying famous (or notorious) Palestinians through the long march of recorded time, the one name that inevitably emerges is the late Yasser Arafat-despite the fact that he was born and raised in Egypt and educated in Kuwait, and his "Palestinian roots" have always looked questionable. Serious challenges as to his origins also surround the late Edward Said, an Arab-American scholar who spent nearly all his life in New York City but chose to identify as a Palestinian.
But both of these famous figures achieved their notoriety, and sought to label themselves as "Palestinian" after the deliberate creation of the synthetic Palestinian identity, confirmed with the official launch of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1965. Prior to that time, the leaders of the populous, local Arab communities in Gaza and the West Bank (which had been annexed by Egypt and Jordan, respectively, in 1949) made few demands of their Arab overlords for a separate state to express their distinctive national aspirations. The insistence on an independent Palestinian Arab state (offered explicitly as part of the UN Partition in 1947, but peremptorily turned down by all Arab leaders) only became a fixation on the world scene after Israel's victory in 1967 gave the Jewish State control of the Arab communities in the West Bank and Gaza.
During the first Arab-Israeli war, even as hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees fled from their homes to escape the raging conflict, these "Palestinians" hardly viewed an independent state and an expression of local nationalism as a necessary element in solving their problems. In the summer of 1948, after Israel's declaration of Independence, the UN dispatched the Swedish nobleman Count Folke Bernadotte to the region to try to negotiate a truce. During his visit, he wrote in his diary: "The Palestinian Arabs had at the present no will of their own. Neither have they ever developed any specifically Palestinian nationalism. The demand for a separate Arab state in Palestine is consequently relatively weak. It would seem as though in existing circumstances most of the Palestinian Arabs would be quite content to be incorporated in Transjordan."
These incontrovertible facts about the fraudulent nature of Palestinian nationalism help to explain its frenzied and fanatical characteristics. Ambrose Bierce defined a fanatic as "one who, when unsure of his argument, redoubles his intensity." With no distinctive history to fuel their pride, no great achievements or figures from the past who connect with their group or to lend dignity to their claims, today's self-defined "Palestinians" rely on crazed extremism - suicide bombing, training children to slaughter, and an utter refusal to compromise -as a means to forge their identity.
By contrast, the modern Scottish nationalists have never resorted to murderous violence or extreme demands of any kind in their drive for independence. In a sense, their peaceful determination to re-establish their own state reflects the secure, organic, authentic nature of their national identity. On the other hand, the Palestinian predilection for bloodshed and self-destruction stems from the flimsy, dishonest basis of their claims to nationhood.
"Convict Quotas" Coming to DC?
Post lifted from Amy Ridenour
Not a joke. DC employers may soon be required to hire ex-cons. From Legal Times (subscription required), December 11:Ex-convicts would be protected from employment, housing, and educational discrimination as the newest protected class in the D.C. Human Rights Act under a bill the D.C. Council unanimously approved on first reading last week.Making criminals a protected class. Oh, that's rich. Now DC employers will be vulnerable to lawsuits for not hiring ex-cons. Some interest group (taxpayer-subsidized, most likely) will figure out what percentage of the DC population has ever been convicted of anything, and any employer who doesn't have at least that percentage of ex-cons on his workforce will be vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits. De facto "convict quotas." The lawyers get thirty percent.
Anyone who thinks I am kidding, think again. Members of other "protected classes" bring suits on that basis, and a certain class of trial lawyer (the technical name is 'bottom dweller') is always looking for new reasons to bring lawsuits. If this bill passes and remains in force, "convict quota" lawsuits would not be immediate, but they are probably inevitable.
It gets worse: In an effort to avoid convict quota lawsuits, employers will seek out convicts. Hoping to stay safe and alive themselves -- not to mention avoid lawsuits that may occur should the ex-cons they hire commit crimes while on their clock -- employers will bid hard against one another for the non-violent ex-offenders. Small businesses; businesses just starting up and businesses without much ready cash will be forced to meet their quotas by hiring the folks who come cheapest -- the people who were convicted of violent or otherwise especially loathsome crimes.
Fortunately, day care and elderly care centers are big-margin businesses, so they'll probably be able to afford to bid for the embezzlers and check-bouncers. (Not.)
I wonder which sort of ex-offender will apply for jobs at security firms. Burglars?
At a certain point, it could become profitable for would-be employees to become convicted for a little crime -- something that results in probation, maybe; nothing too inconvenient -- in order to get oneself "protected class" status.
One of the sick jokes about D.C. is how much money former Congressmen can make when they sign up with lobbying firms. The joke is about to get sicker: Ex-lawmakers with criminal records now may even get more.
From a Legal Times (subscription required) October 30 article by Brendan Smith, we learn the unsurprising name of the sponsor of this unanimously-adopted legislation, and more. I recommend the entire article, which has more detail than copyright law permits me to reprint, but here are excerpts:D.C. Council member Marion Barry's record of public service spans five decades, yet many people still remember him for that grainy FBI surveillance video showing him inhaling from a crack-cocaine pipe in the Vista Hotel in 1990...Yes, a scarlet letter. One a person pinned on him or herself.
...Barry is now pushing a bill that would add rehabilitated ex-offenders to the already-expansive list of classes protected from employment discrimination under the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977...
...Five states ban discrimination against ex-offenders by both public and private employers under certain circumstances. But Kenneth Saunders, director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights, says he doesn't know of any state that has added ex-offenders as a protected class under human rights law....
...Barry says many employers, including the D.C. government, discriminate against ex-offenders, in part because some businesses are "myopic in their thinking."
"The way the American justice system is supposed to work is, you've served your time, you've paid your debt to society, and that should be it," he says. "This is a new day in the nation's capital. We're not going to have discrimination of any kind. If you do discriminate, you're going to pay for it..."
...The D.C. Chamber of Commerce, which represents about 2,000 members, has some concerns about creating a human rights class for ex-offenders, but the chamber has not lobbied for or against the bill, says spokesman Chris Knudson...
...Jamie Fellner, U.S. program director of Human Rights Watch, says she supports adding ex-offenders as a protected civil rights class, but Human Rights Watch has not endorsed that position because "it hasn't come up."
"As a practical matter, many people today with criminal records face the same kind of off-the-cuff discrimination that people have faced because of race or sex," she says. "It shadows your life. It's like wearing the brand A on your chest, the scarlet letter..."
AN ACT OF MORAL HYGIENE
By Jeff Jacoby
"The execution of Saddam, a human-rights monster, turned his unspeakable record upside down." So we are informed by Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch, which issued a statement calling the monster's hanging "a significant step away from respect for human rights and the rule of law in Iraq."
You may not agree with that -- you may be one of those squares who think the death of a mass murderer makes the world a better place -- but Tim Hames does. A columnist for the Times of London, Hames declared himself over the weekend with "those who find the notion of this execution offensive." He recognizes that "the evidence of Saddam's atrocities is overwhelming," but, like Dicker, he is sure that the government that hanged the dictator did something as evil to Saddam Hussein as anything Saddam did to his innumerable victims. "Mainstream middle-class sentiment in Europe," Hames tells us, "now regards the death penalty as being as ethically tainted as the crimes that produced that sentence."
*As ethically tainted.* Got that? The quick and painless death meted out to the Butcher of Baghdad after a reasonably transparent trial is morally equivalent to the horrific brutalities that earned him his nickname.
The chronicling of those brutalities will go on for years, but here is a reminder -- one minuscule fragment of Saddam's record, plucked almost at random from Kanan Makiya's 1993 book about Iraq and the Arab world, *Cruelty and Silence*:
"Children who would not give their parents' names to soldiers" -- this was in 1991, during Saddam's suppression of the Shi'ite uprising -- "were doused with gasoline and set on fire. Some were tied to moving tanks to discourage sniper fire from the rebels. Security forces also burned entire families in their houses when they would not give or did not know the location of the head of the household. . . . Some rebels, it has been alleged, were forced to drink gasoline before being shot. It appears that instead of crumpling into an undramatic lifeless heap, the victim explodes and burns like a torch for a short while. "
If "mainstream middle-class sentiment in Europe" equates burning children alive with hanging the man responsible for burning them, then mainstream middle-class sentiment in Europe, to quote Mr. Bumble, "is a ass -- a idiot."
And so you might conclude from the headlines and the official European reactions to Saddam's death. "The EU condemns the crimes committed by Saddam and also the death penalty," said the spokeswoman for Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign-affairs chief. "Europe condemns death penalty," announced the German paper Deutsche Welle. The British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, let it be known that "the British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else . . . regardless of the individual or the crime." Dutch and Belgian officials called the execution "barbaric." The Vatican declared it "tragic."
With opposition to capital punishment so firmly entrenched in Europe's worldview, it came as no surprise to learn that US officials tried in vain to convince the UN, the European Union, and a host of countries to assist with the tribunal that judged Saddam. "They all refused," the Boston Globe reported last week, "because they opposed the tribunal's use of the death penalty."
But what if Europeans don't oppose the use of the death penalty? When the German magazine Stern commissioned a poll on whether Saddam should be executed, it found 50 percent of Germans in favor and only 39 percent opposed. A poll conducted last month for Le Monde found that most Americans (82 percent) favored hanging Saddam -- as did most Spaniards (51 percent), most Germans (53 percent), most French (58 percent), and most Britons (69 percent).
In fact, once you get past the leftist elites who run the media and staff the foreign ministries, other industrialized nations may not be nearly as implacable in opposing the death penalty as we're commonly told. "Polls show that Europeans and Canadians crave executions almost as much as their American counterparts do," wrote Joshua Micah Marshall in The New Republic in 2000. "It's just that their politicians don't listen to them."
In Canada, for example, support for reinstating the death penalty ran between 60 percent and 70 percent. Two-thirds to three-quarters of Brits, about half of Italians, and even 49 percent of Swedes (according to a 1997 poll) felt the same way. "There is barely a country in Europe," Marshall concluded, "where the death penalty was abolished in response to public opinion rather than in spite of it." "Mainstream middle-class sentiment" abroad, it turns out, may not be such an ass after all. When normal men and women in Europe look at Saddam's hanging, they, like us, see an act of moral hygiene. If their politicians and journalists see something different -- well, what else is new?
4 January, 2007
French court says pork soup not racist
Amazing: It's not actually compulsory to pander to Muslims in France!
A French court has ruled that an organisation with far-right links can continue offering pork soup to the homeless, rejecting police complaints that the food distribution was racist. Police banned the soup kitchen last month, arguing that the handouts discriminated against Jews and Muslims who do not eat pork on religious grounds.
The administrative court said the distribution was "clearly discriminatory", but could not be stopped because the organisers offered to feed anyone who asked for help.
The mayor of Paris condemned the ruling and urged the police to appeal the ruling. "Faced by this initiative which stinks of xenophobia, I want once again to express city hall's desire to fight all forms of discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism," mayor Bertrand Delanoe said in a statement.
The food handouts are organised by a nationalist group called Solidarity of the French (SDF). It says its "pig soup", which uses pork fat for stock, is country fare much loved by French traditionalists. "No-one has ever been able to prove that anyone has been refused soup or clothes on the grounds of their religion or race," SDF lawyer Frederic Pichon told France Info radio after Tuesday's court decision.
VEILED MUSLIM THIEVES A PROBLEM
Women wearing the burqa and other face-concealing veils could be banned from jewelry stores in a west Indian city after a spate of thefts involving burqa-clad customers, jewelers said on Thursday. More than a dozen thefts have occurred in jewelry shops in Pune in Maharashtra state in the past two months, with at least three cases of women wearing burqas spotted by surveillance cameras as they stole gold ornaments. "Police could not find any clue about the women's identity because their faces were covered," Fatehchand Ranka, head of the Maharashtra Jewelers' Association, told Reuters.
Pune's jewelers, who deny targeting any religion, say they have written to the authorities asking for permission to stop serving customers who refuse to show their faces to surveillance cameras from January 1. But the move has angered a section of India's Muslim community which says the attempt to profile customers on the basis of their attire is an attack on their freedom of religion. "It's up to a Muslim woman to decide if she wants to shop in a burqa," said Naseem Siddique, head of Maharashtra's minority communities panel. "Next they will say they will not allow a Sikh in a turban because he could be hiding a pistol under it."
But a council of powerful Islamic clerics said the jewelers had a right to defend their business. "They are sustaining losses. Moreover, they have said it is not about burqas alone but veils of all sorts," said Maulana Zaheer Abbas Rizvi, secretary of the All-India Ulama Council. Veils are used not only by millions of Muslim women but also women from other communities in Hindu-majority India.
More on the Persecution of the BNP
by Sean Gabb
One of my duties as Director of the Libertarian Alliance is to defend the right to free expression of people whose views I do not share. I do not perform this duty as often or as effectively as I might wish. But I begin the new year with another of my comments on the persecution of the British National Party.
Just before last Christmas, a journalist called Ian Cobain published a series of articles in The Guardian newspaper, revealing how he had joined the BNP and been made its Central London Organiser. In this capacity, he got hold of the Party's membership list. His articles were essentially a listing of names of middle class members. Further news reports in the same newspaper and in others detailed the actual and suggested persecution of these members.
The most widely discussed member has been Simone Clarke, a leading dancer at the English National Ballet. She was quoted by Mr Cobain as saying that immigration "has really got out of hand". The ENB is a body funded by the taxpayers, and it has a duty under the Race Relations Act 2000 to "promote good race relations". The funding body, Arts Council England, insists that funded "organisations have to make sure that they promote cultural diversity as a clear and central part of all their work".
Not surprisingly, there have been calls for her to be sacked. Lee Jasper, Equalities Director for the Mayor of London and Chairman of the National Assembly Against Racism, said:
The ENB must seriously consider whether having such a vociferous member of an avowedly racist party in such a prominent role is compatible with the ethics of its organisation. I seriously doubt that it is and that should lead to her position being immediately reviewed. I think she should be sacked.
He called on funders and David Lammy, the Arts Minister, to intervene. Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said people had a right to their private political views but added:
This will taint the ENB in the eyes of many minority communities. Questions need to be asked about how someone in that position can be allowed to abuse that position to promote the BNP."
I could move to my analysis of the agenda behind Mr Cobain's articles. But I cannot resist a brief digression on Mr Bunglawala. He is treated in the coverage of this story as if he were a political moderate, righteously shocked at the "political extremism" of the BNP. In fact, his own opinions appear quite as alarming as anything alleged against the BNP. Take his statement that people have a right to their private political views. That may be the case in some benevolent oriental despotism. In England, it has long been accepted that we have a right to express our political views in public. Such, at least, has always been my understanding.
Turning to his comments on the ENB, it is worth asking what possible further taint he thinks the organisation can receive through its association with Miss Clarke. He appears to believe that western classical music is a sinful indulgence, and that listening to it is inconsistent with Islam. He makes a point of rejecting the more purist Islamic position, that
Listening to music and singing is a sin and cause for the sickening and weakening of the heart. The majority of the scholars of the Salaf are unanimous that listening to music and singing and using musical instruments is Haram (prohibited).
He says instead that:
We accept music but would frown on disco-going, or concerts where alcohol is served or where there is unrestricted mixing of the sexes. That would be opposed by Islamic scholars.
But where is the difference? While in Bratislava last month, I attended a performance of La Traviata. The plot centres on the relationship between an unmarried man and a high class prostitute. There was shameless mingling of the sexes in the audience. There was alcohol served in the intervals. During Act 2, Scene 2, the ballerinas showed their legs most immodestly and contorted their bodies in ways that might have given Mr Bungawala a seizure.
He says he accepts music. Has he ever seen The Rite of Spring? Is he aware of the double orgasm portrayed in the Overture to Don Giovanni? Does he know the score of Tristan und Isolde? Would he recommend Moslems to attend any of these works? So long as she refrains from lecturing the audience between pirouettes, does it add to the infamy of a performance if Miss Clarke holds opinions of which he disapproves?
But enough of Mr Bunglawala. I turn to the main agenda. We have in this country a ruling class committed to political, economic and social globalisation. While some parts of this are consistent with libertarianism, others are not. Much of the consequent association of peoples takes place in a market systematically rigged by taxes and regulations. Much is nakedly coerced through equal opportunity laws and censorship. But whatever libertarians might think of what is going on, large and increasing numbers of people dislike it all.
Since both main political parties are agreed, opponents have a choice between not voting at all and voting for one of the smaller parties. Many are voting for the BNP. There is a chance that many who do not vote will also vote BNP once it can prove that it is a credible political force. Therefore, the BNP must be destroyed.
The gentler forms of destruction involve lies. Undoubtedly, the BNP grew out of a national socialist movement. But it does not appear now to be a national socialist organisation. So far as I can tell from its website, the BNP believes in a mixed economy welfare state, with some regard for traditional civil liberties. It also believes that the alleged benefits of this should be largely reserved for English-speaking white people. This is not something that I find particularly attractive. Nor however is it the same as wanting a totalitarian police state plus gas chambers.
Since lying about the BNP does not work very well in the age of the Internet, the gentler forms of destruction are being supplemented by stronger. Its leader has just been acquitted after a trial for speech crimes that did not exist when I was a boy. Its known members are losing their jobs in public bodies up and down the country. It has trouble getting its material printed. Banks are being persuaded to close its accounts. The legal machinery is in place to deny it access to the ballot in elections.
Mr Cobain's articles must be seen as part of this attempted destruction of a political party. Let it become known that middle class supporters will be named and have their careers destroyed, and party membership will not proceed far beyond the working classes. Let it be made effectively impossible for any middle class person to stand as a BNP candidate, and the only candidates will be criminals and fools, who can then be held up as a reason not to vote BNP.
Much of this would be happening if there were a Conservative Government. But the intensity of the persecution faced by the BNP is peculiar to Labour. There has been a strain of antinomianism in our politics since 1997 not seen in centuries. From Tony Blair down, the Ministers believe passionately that they can and therefore must turn England into some kind of multicultural love feast. Their vision of a transformed England is not very clear. But, as with an impressionist painting, vagueness of detail is compensated by vividness of colour.
These people cannot imagine that anyone of good will could fail to believe as they do. Therefore, all opposition is evil, and may rightly be put down without regard for traditional norms of right and justice and common decency. See, as an example of this, how Peter Hain defends as a Minister police state measures that he used to condemn when used by the South African Government. To the Saints of New Labour, all things are lawful. It helps that most of these people used to be Marxists. They no longer seem to believe in the positive doctrines of Marxism, but they retain its assumption that the traditional norms are mere "bourgeois legality".
We can, therefore, look forward to much more of this. Sooner or later, our ruling class will shut down all electoral dissent. The only possible opposition will then be on the streets.
Now, I am able to say this from a position of safety. Neither I nor the Libertarian Alliance expect to suffer in any measurable degree from this shutting down of debate. We live in a potemkin democracy, where only limited diversity of opinion is tolerated. But even so, there must be some opposition.
I am fortunate enough to find myself in the licensed opposition. I face no official discrimination that I can see. I am allowed to work in state universities. I am allowed regular appearances in the media. I am not obviously under surveillance. This may be because our ruling class does not regard libertarians as much of a threat. It may be because someone outside the ruling class has to be tolerated, for the sake of keeping up the pretence of liberal democracy. Whatever the reason, we do not operate under any of the disadvantages that the real dissidents of the BNP must take as facts of life.
This imposes a duty on me and my friends to speak up in defence of the dissidents. Unlike the other "rights" organisations, we believe in freedom of speech with no exceptions. We do not enquire into the substance of a person's views before defending his right to express them. We denounce the persecution of the BNP. Though I do not expect them to pay any attention, I call on Liberty and the Conservative Party to do likewise.
3 January, 2007
ANOTHER EMPTY-HEADED FRENCH "PHILOSOPHER"
A review by Frank Campbell of "American Vertigo: On the Road From Newport to Guantanamo" By Bernard-Henri Levy
I couldn't put this book down. I wanted to, desperately. But reviewers must do their duty. I'd picked it up with some enthusiasm. Bernard-Henri Levy, the French celebrity philosopher, is a household set of initials at home if not well-known abroad. A self-proclaimed atheist and "non- totalitarian" leftist, he appealed to me instantly. So did the project, no matter that every decade or so a Frenchman tries to interpret the US.
The idea was simple. The Atlantic Monthly sponsored a year-long road tour of the US in "the footsteps of Tocqueville". In 1831, aged 25, Alexis de Tocqueville toured the country, producing the seminal Democracy in America, still a revered text in the US. Alas BHL, as he's known in France, is no Tocqueville. Instead of insightful political sociology, we get the raucous rave of a conceited cockerel.
Repetitive, prolix and declamatory, he peppers every observation with endless questions like a hyperactive child. Sentences are often 10 or 20 lines long, each covered with a pox of commas. Just following the chaotic narrative is exhausting. "Are we nearly there yet?" I whined. I lay back and thought of Churchill. Levy is an opacity wrapped in an ego inside a Lincoln convertible.
But BHL knew he could cut through the cocoon and unravel the American enigma. A continent of 300 million, fissured by regions and groups, cultures and races? No problem. "I have my own radar. I have my personal instrument panel on which ... the signs that indicate the best and the worst begin to flash." Why, then, was my bullsh*t detector going off the scale?
His flashes of inspiration include the following: America is obese; LA has no centre; the prisons are awful; health insurance is a worry; the country is segregated into exclusive groups; guns are out of control and so is Creationism; malls are temples of hyperconsumption; churches are like the banks and banks are like churches; there are too many historical theme parks; and he loves Savannah to bits. Cliche after cliche. Which wouldn't matter if he had a new take on it all. Each brief random topic or encounter is a signal for a crescendo of rhetorical silliness. On Los Angeles: "An unintelligible city is a city whose historicity is nothing more than an eternal atonement. And a posthistorical city is a city, I fear, about which one can predict, with some certainty, that it will die."
Forget the earthquake: LA is doomed because it lacks a "historical neighbourhood". Not as doomed as the Kennedvs though. The Kennedys are "the brothers in fate of Oedipus. Achilles, Theseus, Narcissus. Prometheus. They are the tragic 'lining of a nation that thought it could do without tragedy. They are America's Greeks." No mention of Onassis, the god of yachts.
BHL found New Orleans memorable: 21 times in three pages he tells us "I'll remember ..." He's going to remember the jazz, the slowness, the languid tropic air, A Streetcar Named Desire, the exotic mixture of people, the ghostly swamps, the interesting fact that it's below sea level: just about everything listed in the motel brochure. American Vertigo may sound like an anti- American diatribe. Not at all. Levy has his cake and eats every crumb.
The "dumb, silent, infantile southerner" isn't so bad after all, BHL assures us, just as we fearfully crossed Dixie off our itinerary. His magic pudding device works every time. "Unsavory anti-Americanism" is a curse he, BHL, has devoted years to eliminating. How wrong Europeans are to belittle this optimistic, courageous, dynamic country. It has faults, yes, but what country hasn't?
Pure sophistry. On the one hand the message is that America is fat, paranoid, greedy and brutal. On the other hand, maybe it isn't really. Well, which is it? Cornered by his own contradictions, our logician escapes to the next topic with a wave of his favourite word: paradox. "This magnificent, mad country, laboratory of the best and worst, greedy and modest ... puritan and outrageous" and so on.
By simply opposing stereotypes and failing to reconcile or reject them, Levy wastes everyone's time. Finally, with surpassing fatuity, he summarises American society: "A strong bond holds America together, but a minimal one. An attachment of great force, but not fiercely resolute. A place of high - extremely high - symbolic tension, but a neutral one, a nearly empty one." It had to happen. Poof! The supple logician M. Levy disappears up his own conclusion.
So what was it all in aid of, this chauffeured drive around the US? (BHL can't drive.) What use were the "vigilant assistants"? Dropping in on a few celebrities and functionaries, rarely talking to ordinary people and never listening to anyone, Levy checked out the predictable tourist attractions (Mt Rushmore, Randolph Hearst's castle), peeped into a brothel, visited Las Vegas and the Mall of America, and sampled the Amish. Perhaps typical America was just too dull to examine. Maybe Main Street and suburbia were short on paradox. Or was it all just a marketing exercise, turning a national treasure into an international treasure, literally and figuratively?
BHL, he of the exposed chest and bouffant hairdo, could in theory be the darling of the US chattering classes. He's French (don't worry, we're all surrender monkeys now), gorgeous to matrons (a decade ago he'd have a Gauloise stuck to his lower lip, but even logicians have to move with the times), and he lavishes praise on the US while castigating fat and other bad guys.
Well, The New York Times was having none of it. It sooled that retailer of small-town hokey, Garrison "the Grocer" Keillor, on to the French poseur. Keillor, bard of the flyovers, chainsawed him until only the roof of his hairdo was left. They found the poor chap's severed paradox later, a block away. Enraged, BHL's mate Christopher Hitchens threw his scotch over the Grocer (so you knew he was serious). Where will it all end? Is this evidence of intelligent design? Does it matter? Am I starting to sound like BHL?
The above article appeared in "The Australian" on December 30, 2006
Out of the shadows, the Big Love women who want the right to share a husband
Mormon wives are coming forward for the first time to defend their plural marriages and help to root out the abuse of young girls
Dressed in her sharp pinstripe suit, her dark brown hair elegantly coiffed, Vicky looks every inch the archetypal young working woman after a day at the office. But there are things she does not talk about at work. Things such as the house she grew up in with her 39 brothers and sisters. Things such as the 21 children, six of them her own, who run around the house she lives in now. Things such as the two other sisterwives, one of them her blood sister, with whom she she shares her husband, taking turns to spend the night with him in strict rotation. Its not a thing we generally publicise, she says shyly.
Now, however, Vicky is going public, although she declines to use her last name. As high-profile cases of child sex abuse among secretive cults unsettle and anger the larger polygamist community, women like Vicky are stepping forward to lobby in defence of a womans right to be a plural wife without fear of prosecution. We live good and decent lives, she said.
Going public on polygamy has long been a risky business in Utah, where an estimated 40,000 polygamists live below the legal radar. For the past 50 years Utah has had a strict dont ask, dont tell policy towards the practice, a felony punishable by up to five years in jail. The policy was prompted by a raid in 1953 on a polygamist community that ended with hundreds of children taken into care and parents jailed, causing a public relations disaster.
Some groups retreated into compounds. Those living among the wider community kept their mouths shut and their heads down. Parents avoided taking their children to the dentist or doctor, fearing the discovery of their secret. Children were warned not to bring friends home from school if they were allowed to go.
Murmurs persisted of dark acts among some of the many splinter groups of Mormon fundamentalists, the umbrella term for those who broke away from the main Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints over the practice 100 years ago.
Then in 2003, in a direct challenge to prosecutors, Tom Green, a polygamist, began appearing on television shows to argue his right to his five wives.
Id never really thought about prosecuting polygamy, said Mark Shurtleff, a mainstream Mormon who had been elected Utah attorney general the year before. But its a felony and hes out there flaunting it. Investigators discovered worse: Mr Greens youngest bride was only 13 and had borne him a child proof of a sexual relationship. Mr Green was charged with child rape and polygamy.
The case opened up a Pandoras box for Mr Shurtleff. Emboldened, escapees from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the closed cult led by Warren Jeffs, came to tell their stories. The stories were horrendous, he said. Carolyn Jessop, who escaped with her eight children, told him of forced child marriages, the abuse of young boys and girls and threats to slit their throats if they left.
Heres what I had to decide, Mr Shurtleff explains. We had to do something. How are we supposed to prosecute all the polygamists, 20,000 people? It cant be done. So we decided Well go after child rape, child sexual assault. Well make it about that, not religion.
A warrant was issued for Mr Jeffss arrest on charges of aiding child rape instead of polygamy. He went on the run but was recaptured in August. The shocking testimony of a former child bride at a hearing earlier this month convinced a judge to send Mr Jeffs to trial. The hearing is set to begin in April. The stories of Mr Jeffss church horrified many other polygamists who regarded his actions as an abuse of Gods law. To them polygamy is a religious duty that they must undertake to reach the highest level of heaven.
Anne Wilde, the widow of a high-profile polygamist, decided it was time to save the reputation of the community as a whole. She began collecting the oral histories of plural wives to publish in a book and created a website for her organisation, Principle Voices. She launched a pro-polygamy magazine, Mormon Focus, and recruited Vicky to pose with her two sisterwives and their babies for the inaugural cover, taking lessons from same-sex marriage advocates to argue their right to an alternative lifestyle.It was also easier for me because I was no longer a plural wife, Ms Wilde explains. For those others, it was a brave thing to do.Source
Poll: 85pc of Australians support English test for migrants
Public support for a citizenship test that requires a basic grasp of English has risen since the proposal was unveiled three months ago, with four out of five Australians now backing the plan. The Australian can reveal that the ability to read safety signs in the workplace will be the standard of English required to pass the language component of the Howard Government's citizenship test.
Under a proposal put forward by the Government, migrants who have lived in Australia for four years can apply for citizenship, but must sit a test on "basic aspects" of Australian society, including an English language component. Prospective citizens must also agree to defend Australia "should the need arise".
A Newspoll survey, conducted exclusively for The Australian on December 15-17, shows more than four out of five people - or 85 per cent of respondents - agree that English should be a requirement for migrants who want to become citizens. The result is an increase on the 77 per cent of Newspoll respondents who backed such a test in September, shortly after Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs Andrew Robb released a discussion paper on the issue. The support for making knowledge of the English language a requirement of citizenship was strongest outside the capital cities, where 90 per cent of respondents agreed. Older respondents were marginally more supportive, with 86 per cent of respondents older than 50 backing the plan, compared with 82per cent aged 18 to 34. Support for the proposal was strongest among Coalition voters, at 93 per cent, compared with 79per cent of Labor voters. Overall, only one in eight respondents, or 12 per cent, were against the proposal. Almost two-thirds of respondents - or 64 per cent - were strongly in favour of the proposal.
Mr Robb welcomed the Newspoll figures yesterday. He said setting the test's standard of English at a level where candidates could read safety signs at work was reasonable. Opposition citizenship spokesman Tony Burke said Labor supported the standard adopted for the test. He said he was not concerned by the lower level of support for the English requirement among Labor voters. "Seventy-nine per cent is still an overwhelming majority," Mr Burke said. "The Australian community knows how important speaking English is to successful integration."
But the proposal has many opponents, including former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser and former governor-general William Deane. Their criticisms include concerns the test could exclude migrants who would make a contribution and that it stigmatises ethnic and religious groups. John Howard will move to formalise the proposal this year, but faces party opposition
A reader writes:
"I know that your information came from mainstream media, but one item keeps getting mentioned in news sources that is patently untrue: "For the past 50 years Utah has had a strict 'don't ask, don't tell' policy towards the practice, a felony punishable by up to five years in jail."
While polygamy is illegal, these so-called "fundamentalists" can't be prosecuted for violating the law against polygamy because they haven't violated it. In order for the state to prosecute someone for "polygamy" they have to demonstrate that the person has entered into more than one legal marriage. These people only legally marry one individual -- their extra "wives" are people they cohabit with but aren't married to. If the government starts prosecuting these people for living together, it wouldn't pass a constitutional challenge because they're not the only people living together without the benefit of marriage. Selective enforcement of laws against fornication and adultery would simply target one sector of the population on religious grounds.
That's why Utah prosecutes these people for welfare fraud and child sexual abuse. The laws can be consistently applied to all of the population. Interestingly, when the US government tried to eradicate Mormon polygamy, they faced the same problem. They weren't willing to acknowledge plural marriages legally, so they enacted legislation for "unlawful cohabitation." The statutes were written so that if a man had sex with someone other than his wife, he could only be prosecuted if he counted her as a wife. He could evade prosecution if he was willing to consider his plural wives as mistresses or prostitutes, but not wives. That's how the US congress got around prosecuting Mormons while at the same time establishing a prostitution district within view of the US Capitol building. They weren't opposed to extra-marital sex, just extra-sexual marriage".
Australia: An ostrich policy towards refugees
Cabinet documents from 1976 reveal then prime minister Malcolm Fraser ignored warnings about accepting Lebanese Muslim refugees deemed unlikely to have the qualities required for successful integration.
He was not the only PM to ignore such warnings. Paul Keating went against the advice of immigration minister Chris Hurford and over-ruled warnings from intelligence agencies to accommodate a request for permanent status for the controversial Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly.
According to the Cabinet documents released yesterday, the Fraser cabinet was told that many of the Lebanese Muslim refugees were unskilled, illiterate and of questionable character. Those shortcomings are still reflected by a number of members of the community which has gathered around Hilaly at the Lakemba mosque and are highlighted by the statistics on employment and welfare and in the crime rates.
History has shown Fraser, who stood by as Indonesia consumed East Timor, to have been a rather hollow man.... Faced with the reality that the temporary relaxation of immigration standards opened the doors to a number of undesirables, he told The Australian he rejected such a conclusion and disingenuously blamed more recent governments for alienating modern Muslim youth by failing to help them integrate.
It might seem a no-brainer to suggest that Australia should only accept refugees willing to make an effort to integrate - that is surely what was needed then, and now. Most refugees are more than grateful to the nations which offer them shelter. For whatever reason, significant numbers of Lebanese Muslims feel they are entitled not to join the wider community while accepting the hospitality of those whose taxes funded their flights to safety. Prime Minister John Howard has recognised the problem, saying: "I do think there is this particular complication because there is a fragment which is utterly antagonistic to our kind of society and that is a difficulty."
However, in response to direct pleas from the UN High Commission for Refugees, Australia is now receiving members of another group who are showing a reluctance to integrate - from war-torn Somalia and the Sudan. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph last Friday, Mr Howard acknowledged that things were "hard" for African refugees because "the cultural differences are great". That's all well and good and, while most refugees acknowledge that they have some responsibilities and obligations to the nations which provide them with asylum, Australians have also learnt from tragic experience that there are some who don't feel any obligation to respect the culture and traditions of their hosts.
There is also an unhealthy fifth column in academia and legal circles which argues against Australian customs in favour of cultural statements antagonistic to our Anglo-European heritage. Thus we have seen it argued in our courts that young Muslim men are culturally averse to the equality of women. More recently, West Australian magistrate Colin Roberts was faced with an 18-year-old Sudanese man who police allegedly caught lighting fires. It was suggested to the magistrate that the alleged offender may be suffering a mental condition and he was remanded in custody.
Rightly so. But the previous week, The Australian reported that young African refugees may have become habituated to violence because of their experiences at home, and might find it difficult to accept that carrying weapons is unacceptable in Australia. True, but as we have seen from the violence wreaked by members of a minority within the Lebanese Muslim community, we have imported such problems in the past. What are we doing to ensure that we are not importing similar problems for the future? We should not have to wait another 30 years to set this matter right.
2 January, 2007
Britain: Row over ethnic minority only swimming sessions for women and children
Discrimination and segregation is good if the government does it but bad if YOU do it! One council seems determined to generate votes for the British National Party
A council has been fiercely criticised for holding ethnic-minority only swimming sessions. Wolverhampton City Council employs special life-guards and instructors for the sessions, which are open to the city's black and Asian residents only. It claims the weekly periods are for women and children with "religious or cultural issues which would otherwise prevent them from taking part."
But furious pool-users say they amount to racial segregation and claim they are being prevented from using the pool - simply because they may be white. The hour-long, Thursday evening sessions at Wolverhampton's Central Baths replace an aqua-aerobics session that was previously open to all.
They are financially supported by Kellogg's Swim Active programme, which has funded the installation of special blinds around the pool, designed to protect swimmers' privacy. The special sessions started in November and run every Thursday evening. It is not known exactly how many people take part.
Yesterday, swimmer Leslie Waugh, from Walsall, said: "It's wrong. The council bangs on about integration but then does something like this. The women even have their own instructor and lifeguard brought in for the sessions and the regular workers have to leave." Local councillor Malcolm Gwinnett said: "It's one thing to have an all-women session, that's fine. But it should be all women of whatever religion, not just one religion, which leaves everyone else out in the cold."
Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell said: "This seems to be exactly the sort of thing that creates division and resentment rather than bringing people together. "I'd like to know what the logic behind this is. It sounds like a pretty bad idea to me and just the sort of thing that councils should not be doing."
A Wolverhampton City Council spokesman said complaints about the scheme had been received by reception staff at the baths. She said: "It is one of the most ambitious schemes in the country and aims to tackle childhood obesity, engage the city's ethnic minority communities and work with children who fear water. "An initial trial of eight weeks is providing an opportunity for women and children from ethnic minorities, who may not otherwise participate for cultural and religious reasons."
The Wolverhampton ethnic-minority swim sessions come after leisure centre in Croydon, South London, opened its pool to Muslims only for two hours every week. Thornton Heath Leisure Centre insist that men wear shorts which hide the navel and extend below the knee. Women wear a swimming costume that covers their body from the neck down to the ankle. There are separate sessions for men and women. In common with the Wolverhampton plan, the sessions were condemned by local people for encouraging segregation.
SHEEP HAVE A "RIGHT" TO BE HOMOSEXUAL???
Scientists are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of "gay" sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans. The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes. It raises the prospect that pregnant women could one day be offered a treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual. Experts say that, in theory, the "straightening" procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch.
The research, at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has caused an outcry. Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned. Navratilova defended the "right" of sheep to be gay. She said: "How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?" She said gay men and lesbians would be "deeply offended" by the social implications of the tests.
But the researchers argue that the work is valid, shedding light on the "broad question" of what determines sexual orientation. They insist the work is not aimed at "curing" homosexuality. Approximately one ram in 10 prefers to mount other rams rather than mate with ewes, reducing its value to a farmer. Initially, the publicly funded project aimed to improve the productivity of herds. The scientists have been able to pinpoint the mechanisms influencing the desires of "male-oriented" rams by studying their brains. The animals' skulls are cut open and electronic sensors are attached to their brains. By varying the hormone levels, mainly by injecting hormones into the brain, they have had "considerable success" in altering the rams' sexuality, with some previously gay animals becoming attracted to ewes.
Professor Charles Roselli, the Health and Science University biologist leading the research, defended the project. He said: "In general, sexuality has been under-studied because of political concerns. People don't want science looking into what determines sexuality. "It's a touchy issue. In fact, several studies have shown that people who believe homosexuality is biologically based are less homophobic than people who think that this orientation is acquired."
The research is being peer-reviewed by a panel of scientists in America, demonstrating that it is being taken seriously by the academic community. Potentially, the techniques could one day be adapted for human use, with doctors perhaps being able to offer parents pre-natal tests to determine the likely sexuality of offspring or a hormonal treatment to change the orientation of a child. Roselli has said he would be "uncomfortable" about parents choosing sexuality, but argues that it is up to policy makers to legislate on questions of ethics.
Among Evangelicals eager for the accolades of the elite, one popular refrain invoked to show just how tolerant certain leaders can be is that 11 am Sunday is the most segregated hour in America, bemoaning the fact that most Christians prefer to worship with members of their own ethnicity even if they do not harbor blatant ill will or hostility to their fellow coreligionists of different backgrounds. Upon closer examination, one will see that it is a condemnation few ashamed of being White are reluctant to level at minorities as well.
Despite the fact that many denominations do not have the demographic ratios those so obsessed with race to prove to the world that they are not obsessed with race clamor for, a number of them do have memberships consisting of a variety of ethnic groups. But instead of capitalizing on this situation by not harping on racial differences and allowing believers to find their own dynamic equality, those running these religious associations as their own private ecclesiastical syndicates refuse to let sleeping denominations lie and hope to accrue power for themselves by playing the same racial spoils game popular in more liberal circles.
Commemorating the birth of the Lord of all mankind and the Savior of believers from every nation, tribe, and tongue, one would think that all Christians could celebrate Christmas without reference to color. However, even this cherished festival is degenerating into a front for radical social engineering.
On December 2, 2006, the Mid-Atlantic District of the Church Of The Nazarene held an African American Christmas Dinner. To those conditioned into embracing such directives from their handlers without question, such an affair might not seem all that out of the ordinary. But unless chitterlings and collard greens are going to be the main course on the menu, does an African American Christmas differ all that appreciably from the Christmas of any other American group?
As to whether or not a denomination should be hosting such a function, we should ask ourselves would it be appropriate to convene a "Caucasian" or more precisely, a "European American Christmas Dinner"? If the prospect of such an event leaves you a bit squeamish (as it probably should), then why do we put up with or, shall we say, tolerate such extravaganzas when they are convened for groups more favored by the ruling clique?
In James 2, the believer is warned against showing favoritism and in I Corinthians 11, the church is admonished regarding these matters in reference to the Lord's Supper and meals eaten in His name. If this command applies to something that may be earned such as wealth, how much more so in pertaining to a characteristic the individual has absolutely no control over.
1 January, 2007
YET MORE HOMOSEXUAL-WORSHIP IN BRITAIN
Schools that fail to show enthusiasm in rooting out prejudice against homosexuals should be reported to the police by pupils and parents, a Home Office report recommended yesterday. It called for parents and children to identify schools that ignore "homophobic" language in the playground and teachers who produce "homophobic" lessons. And it called for head teachers to bring lessons about "homophobia" on to school timetables and to involve their pupils in gay "awareness weeks".
The advice from Home Secretary John Reid's officials comes at a time of deep concern among churches that new gay rights laws due next spring will bar traditional teaching on sexual morality in schools and force them instead to include gay rights dogma in lessons.
The paper on "homophobic hate crime" is aimed at guiding police forces, local authorities, social services and schools among other public bodies. It defined homophobia - a word invented by gay lobby groups to apply to their critics - as "resentment, or fear, of gay and lesbian people" which "can be just a passive dislike of gay people". The report asked police and other groups to consider whether homophobia is happening in schools and in lessons. It said: "Schools can be a little concerned about a negative impact on their reputation, that it would be perceived as a school which has problems rather than one which deals with them positively."
Urging that school incidents be reported to a "hate crime co-ordinator", the report said: "It would be dangerous to assume that homophobic incidents to not occur in a particular school as victims and witnesses might be too worried or frightened to bring the abuse to greater attention." It called for reporting systems to "allow pupils and parents to make referrals direct if they feel the school is not taking the issue seriously."
The report added: "The seriousness of using homophobic language is not fully appreciated in schools. "Whilst it is probably made clear to pupils that the use of racist language is unacceptable, the same is not true for use of homophobic language. "However, constant use of such language and homophobic crimes and incidents will have an effect on pupils' ability to learn, or willingness to stay on in schools."
The Home Office advice also said that "it should be possible to find times working within each year group's timetable to slot in work on citizenship and homophobia". Home Office minister Tony McNulty said: "Any form of crime motivated by prejudice or hate is unacceptable. "People who commit homophobic crime need to know their prejudices and actions will be tackled." He added: "We know that hate crime can get worse if it goes unchallenged. That is why gay people need to feel they can come forward to the police."
The report also contained an endorsement from Lancashire Assistant Chief Constable Michaal Cunningham, who said: "The implementation of this guidance will assist in bringing offenders to justice and making individuals and communities feel safer." Last week Mr Cunningham's force paid 50,000 pounds in legal costs and damages to an elderly couple, Joe and Helen Roberts, who were questioned in their home by two of its officers after they complained to the local councils about its gay rights policies and asked for a right of reply for their traditional Christian beliefs. Lancashire police have brought in guidance warning officers to avoid being influenced by political groups because of the case.
Colin Hart of the Christian Institute think tank that backed the Roberts said yesterday: "There is an element of desperation about this advice. "No-one wants to see any kind of bullying in schools. But this is not about bullying of pupils who others think are homosexual. It is about punishing schools unless they try to stop pupils using "gay" as a perjorative word."
Gay lobby groups are deeply upset about the use of "homophobic" language in schools, partly because of the common use by teenagers of the word 'gay' as an insult regardless of the perceived sexual orientation of the individual they are insulting. The Home Office guidance also said that gay lobby groups could set up "third party reporting centres" to pass to police details of "homophobic" incidents which gay individuals themselves have been too scared to report to police. Police should then record the names and details of individuals passed on by gay lobby groups, it said.
BITCHY BOSSES WORSE THAN "MALE CHAUVINISTS"
Forget "jobs for the boys". Women bosses are significantly more likely than men to discriminate against female employees, research has suggested.
The study found that when presented with applications for promotion, women were more likely than men to assess the female candidate as less qualified than the male one.
They were also prone to mark down women's prospects for promotion and to assess them as more controlling than men in their management style.
The findings, based on experiments carried out among more than 700 people, suggest that the "queen bee syndrome" of female rivalry in the workplace may sometimes be as important as sexism in holding back women's careers. "Female and older participants showed more prejudice against the (idea of a) female leader than did male and younger participants," said Rocio Garcia-Retamero, a psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and lead author of the report.
Garcia-Retamaro said the findings showed that many people adopted a stereotypical view that leadership was a masculine notion. "(This) leads to a bias against a female candidate's promotion to a leadership post," she said.
Nicola Horlick, the City financier nicknamed "Superwoman" for combining a demanding job with a large family, said some women looked on other women as a threat and preferred to surround themselves with men. "It is called the `queen bee syndrome'," she said. "I have seen women in managerial positions discriminating against other women, possibly because they like to be the only female manager or woman in the workplace."
Recent cases that have illustrated this problem include that of Helen Green, 36, a Deutsche Bank employee from London. In August she was awarded nearly 800,000 pounds in damages after two years of bullying by four female colleagues that eventually led to a nervous breakdown.
The research, carried out by Garcia-Retamaro and her colleague Ester Lopez-Zafra, has just been published in the journal Sex Roles. They used 705 participants living in southern Spain to evaluate the credentials of a male and female employee of a make-believe corporation who were proposed for promotion to a managerial position as a production supervisor. After reading a description of the role and company, the participants were told to read each potential leader's CV and imagine their characteristics and likely success by evaluating them on several issues related to the job. This included looking at the likelihood that the candidate would receive an increase in salary, whether they had the right skills and if they would win the acceptance of colleagues. They also assessed how likely they might be to receive promotion and were asked to take into account stereotypical traits of men and women such as sensitivity or aggression.
The study says: "Female participants had a stronger tendency than male participants to view the female candidates as less qualified than the male candidate . . . they also thought that the female candidate would fare worse in the future in her job than the male candidate." It adds: "Female participants predicted that the male candidate would show a more laissez-faire leadership style than the female candidate would."
Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society which campaigns for sexual equality, said stereotyping was more important than female rivalry in holding back women's careers: "Stereotypes about what is an appropriate role for women are still very strong in people's minds and there is still a cultural barrier to women making it into senior positions."
Australian P.M.: Women 'moved on' from feminism
John Howard believes young Australian women have entered a post-feminist era and "moved on" from the need to measure their lives by success in a career. Discussing the rise in births triggered in part by the Coalition's baby-bonus scheme, the Prime Minister told The Sunday Telegraph he thought young women had "a greater awareness now of the disadvantage of postponing having children too long".
Mr Howard said they realised that if child-bearing was left too late, it produced "complications". "Fortunately, I think today's younger women are more in the post-feminist period, where they don't measure their independence and freedom by the number of years they remain full-time in the workforce without having children," he said. "I think they've moved on from that sort of demonstration phase. "I don't mean demonstrations in the streets and so on, but in the sense that they thought: 'I'll be letting the sisterhood down if I don't stay in the workforce until I'm a certain age.' "I think they're more confident and everything."
Mr Howard would not indicate whether his thoughts were influenced by his daughter Melanie - who is in her early 30s and was married in September, 2003 - and whether she might be expecting a child. He said it was not a matter on which he would comment.
"I think what I would claim in relation to such things is that we support choice, and that we don't measure women's achievements and women's rights by the number of full-time female participants in the workforce."
Mr Howard said that when most Australian families decided to have children, they wanted to be in a situation where "in the very early years, in the very early stages, somebody - usually the mother - is at home caring for the child full-time". Then they would go back into the workforce, usually part-time. He said the most common family grouping was what he called "the one and a half to one and a quarter", where there was a full-time breadwinner and the other partner worked part-time.
"Some of them return to full-time work, but the norm is not two people in the full-time workforce from the time a child is born. "That is not the norm, and I think you have to have policies that accommodate all of those choices. "In the last figures I saw, about 27 per cent were one and a halfs, 18 or 19 per cent were two full-timers and about 22 per cent were on single incomes. "When you add the first group and the third together, its more than double the other one."
Mr Howard said all choices had to be accommodated. He believed Coalition policies did that, without trying to tell people how to organise their lives.
Adi Levy, 26, who has a 15-month-old son, Jacob, said starting a family younger had many advantages. "I love being a young mum. I have so much more energy and patience than I would have if I was 10 years older," Ms Levy said. "Provided you're ready for it and you're financially stable, it's a good idea to start young; it's fun. "My aim is to have three children before I reach 30, but we'll see how we go."
Australia's fertility rate is at its highest level since 1995. Women aged 30 to 34 continue to have the highest fertility rate of all women (117.5 babies per 1000 women in 2005) - the highest for this age group since 1964. This reflects the continuing trend of delaying motherhood. Fertility rates of teenagers and women aged 20 to 24 continue to decline, although teenage fertility has increased in some states and territories. The median age of mothers giving birth in 2005 was 30.7 years, 3.4 years older than mothers in 1985.