POLITICAL CORRECTNESS ARCHIVE
The creeping dictatorship of the Left...
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31 July, 2006
Fish lover's anger ends eel event
Purse-lipped Britain again: You must "respect" a dead fish?
Can it really be disrespectful to swing a dead 20lb fish at a group of men to raise money for lifeboats? Somebody in Lyme Regis, Dorset, thought so and their complaint has now put an end to the 40-year tradition of "conger cuddling" in the town. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has deemed that using a dead conger eel to try to knock down some of its members is "inappropriate". The event, traditionally held in Cobb Square in Lifeboat Week, is no more. The eel has been replaced with a mooring buoy.
"Conger cuddling", which attracts up to 3,000 people every year, is not dissimilar from a game of skittles only it is on a larger scale. Nine humans prepared to do battle with a huge, slippery eel replace the skittles. Andrew Kaye, from the RNLI, said: "The whole idea was to raise money for the lifeboat. It has been very successful over the last 40 years. "I think we raised 26,000 pounds last year during Lifeboat Week and it has been rising year on year. "An email was sent to the RNLI - we understand someone was upset and thought we were being disrespectful."
The buoy, which has replaced the offending sea creature, had its first outing on Friday. "It was not quite the same," explained Mr Kaye. "We are thinking of having a plastic eel made. "We think it is a shame because its a local tradition and everybody looks forward to it - local children come down with water bombs and people throw buckets of water from the windows overlooking the square. "Its a wet affair and its great fun."
Retired publican, Richard Fox introduced the people of Lyme Regis to conger cuddling in the early 1970s. After the 66-year-old joined the RNLI, he was asked to organise events for Lifeboat Week. He modelled conger cuddling on mangle dangling with flower pots, a sport played by farmhands in Somerset. Mr Fox said: "I cannot see how it can be cruel to a fish that has been dead for two months. "The whole argument is pointless. "If it were a salmon bought from a supermarket would there be any complaints? "The public loved it for 40 years and everyone has a hilarious time. "I think its all absolute rubbish."
Primal comfort of having a real man to do the job
By Caroline Overington
I was as round as a planet when I was pregnant. "Look at you," a neighbour said when she saw me standing on the veranda, feet wide apart. "You're huge." "Yes," I said, "but I am carrying twins." "Are you?" said the neighbour, delighted. "You should go down to No.44. She's expecting twins, too." A few days later, I waddled down there. Another girl, as round as me, opened thedoor. "Twins?" she said. "Twins," I agreed. We bonded over a cup of tea, the saucers balanced on the mountains under our chins.
I asked her: "How does your husband feel about it?" And that's when she confided: in the seven months since she'd become pregnant, they'd broken up. "But how will you cope?" I said. "Oh, it's OK," she said. "I'm with somebody else now. I'm with the builder." My neighbour had fallen in love with the guy who'd come to put on the extension, who had built the rooms for the babies she was carrying.
I was speechless. It was the first time I'd ever heard of anybody: a) cutting and running when pregnant; b) especially with twins; and c) shacking up with the builder. Six years later, there's an epidemic under way. The New York Times last week published a story headlined, "The allure of the tool belt", and it was all about the wives - not necessarily pregnant but very definitely frustrated - who had run off with the guy who came to fix the leaky bathroom taps or replace the kitchen benchtops. The reporter concluded that women liked builders because: a) they can do stuff around the house; and b) their husbands generally can't. "Once a lightbulb broke and the glass part was still in its socket," one woman said. "I didn't know how to get it out and I asked my husband and he said, 'I don't do light bulbs. Go hire somebody."'
Builders also listen to women, perhaps in a way their husbands do not. A carpenter who'd had his share of attention from wives told the Times: "Say you have a woman who's a baker. You're setting up special counter tops. You're going over what's involved in making them." The conversation can swiftly move to what kind of home and home life a woman wants, the nooks and crannies she'd like to create for the sewing machine and the children's homework: in other words, the things that are important to her. The carpenter added that in 75 per cent of projects where he dealt mostly with the wife, he could detect an element of "sexual desperation".
But perhaps it's not quite that. Perhaps it's a simple yearning for an old-fashioned type of guy. A friend in Manhattan - she sent me the story about the wives running off with builders - is married to a locksmith. He has many fine qualities but she particularly likes his heavily laden, cream-coloured toolbelt (which he doesn't always take off at night). Beyond the aesthetics, she says it's a fine thing to have somebody around the house to change the locks and secure the windows.
My husband is a bit like that: he's a guy with a toolshed and a hammer drill. He put up a tree house for the children, he also tore out the old fireplace. When the lights blow out, he knows where to find the fuse box. It is a primal comfort to me. But, if best-selling American writer Caitlin Flanagan is correct (and on the subject of domestic politics she often is), too many modern husbands are too frightened to let out the lion inside - and an epidemic of sexless marriages is the result. "Pity the poor married man hoping to get a bit of comfort from the wife at day's end," she writes in her new book, To Hell With All That. "He must somehow seduce a woman who is economically independent of him, bone-tired, philosophically disinclined to have sex unless she is jolly well in the mood, numbingly familiar with his every sexual manoeuvre and still doing a slow burn over his failure to wipe down the counter tops."
Flanagan says men should be encouraged to be their blokey selves. They should assert themselves in the household, just as builders do on the job site: as confident, responsible and strong, able to lead when life's calamaties roll in, and keep their family sheltered and secure. In case they're no longer sure how to do that, there are groups out there to help them. This weekend, Christian City Church at Oxford Falls in Sydney's north is hosting a "Real Men" conference for thousands of blokes who want to be strong husbands and fathers. Anecdotally, I hear women are sending their menfolk along in the hope of giving them a push towards a more masculine style. Because really, it's a bit tragic that there are all these desperate housewives out there hitting on the builder.
You may think, well, maybe it's just an American thing, bought about by television shows such as Desperate Housewives. But my brother, who is a father of two and a roof tiler in Queensland, says that, through the years, about four in 10 married women have answered the door for him wearing only their underwear. "And what do you do?" I asked. "I run a mile," he said. "All I want is to lay the tiles."
Restroom humour in Australian beach resort incorrect
Toilet humour is alive and well in the Whitsundays but not everyone is laughing. A mural in the men's section of a new toilet block on the Airlie Beach foreshore has divided opinion in the tourist town. The mural depicts four young women above the urinal - an office type peering over her spectacles, a Jennifer Aniston lookalike stretching a tape measure, a blonde taking a photo with her mobile phone and another so bored she's blowing bubbles.
Some residents including the local newspaper editor are up in arms at the cheeky artwork. Airlie Beach local PR consultant, Tom Coull, who with newspaper editor Linda Brady has railed against the images, described them as "cheesy, tacky, not original and definitely sexist" and worried about explaining the images to his young son. Another resident. Lesley Campbell, reckons the murals are "disgusting, unnecessary and extremely suggestive" and gave a negative reflection of the town, even suggesting they encourage rape and sexual assault.
But most see the funny side and reckon it's a great idea. Fish D'Vine restaurant's Kevin Collins said many of his customers commented favourably. "They think it's cute, light-hearted. They haven't been offended at all," he said. "People have taken pictures with a mobile phone and they've been sent around the world in emails. "There can't be too many toilets that give this sort of publicity to a town," Mr Collins said....
Whitsunday Shire Council's corporate and community services executive manager Royden James said public feedback had been overwhelmingly positive, with only one negative response from the community. "If anything, most criticism has been that there is nothing similar in the women's toilets," he said in a statement.
The excerpt above is from an article that appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on July 30, 2006. There is an earlier report on the same subject here
30 July, 2006
Now in Australia, a "professional" woman aims to get rich by whining
Big law and accounting firms must be having lots of doubts about hiring women now that there have been so many cases of this kind in Britain and the USA
When Christina Rich confronted her PricewaterhouseCoopers boss Stuart Edwards about his alleged workplace sexism and discrimination, he offered this solution: "I just want to give you a big hug to make it better. We just need to go out for dinner with a bottle of wine to nut out the issues and a way forward."
The accounting multinational's defence of a $10 million sex discrimination case makes these admissions and also reveals Mr Edwards thought it was acceptable to adopt the habit of kissing the highest-paid female partner in the firm. Mr Edwards believed that since Ms Rich had shared with him matters of a personal nature, they had enjoyed a "friendly, open and good-humoured relationship". Therefore, greeting her with a kiss was not out of context, documents filed in the Federal Court this week show.
After Ms Rich objected to the kissing and was also allegedly subjected to sexism, harassment and discrimination from a number of senior partners at the firm, she requested a mediator to resolve the matters. Mr Edwards's solution to go out to dinner was his way of working through the issues in "an informal and non-confrontational manner", the response says.
In the nation's biggest workplace sexism claim, Ms Rich says she suffered discrimination, bullying and victimisation and her progress through the organisation was hampered. In its response, PwC confirms a substantial number of the incidents but does not accept that Ms Rich was adversely affected.
Melbourne-based Mr Edwards was the head of the transfer pricing division and Ms Rich, who worked from Sydney, was paid about $1 million a year for her advice in the area, saving clients of the calibre of American Express tens of millions of dollars by moving global profit from one tax jurisdiction to another.
The accounting giant denies that Mr Edwards told Ms Rich that she received a positive performance review because chief executive Tony Harrington "fancies her". It admits that partner and board member Tim Cox asked Ms Rich, when watching a corporate video showing a woman sunbaking topless: "Christina, is that you sunbathing on the beach?" PwC says that comment, too, was made in the context of a "friendly and good-humoured relationship".
In justifying Mr Edwards's comments to her that she was emotional, scatty and high-maintenance, the response says these were "matters of opinion which were reasonably held". The firm also claims Mr Edwards's comment to Ms Rich that the pregnancy of another employee was affecting her work did not cause offence to the other woman.
PwC says Ms Rich was unco-operative in mediation from March 2004 and - after making a complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission - she was placed on restricted duties in August, her pay cut and her access to clients prevented. "The applicant expressed on a number of occasions her lack of faith and confidence in the firm or its ability to address her concerns," the response says. "She was operating under intense stress and required real relief from the pressures which she faced" and had "indicated that she was unwilling or unable to operate as a partner of the firm. "In those circumstances the imposition and confirmation of access restrictions in good faith by management and the board respectively was reasonable and in the best interests of the firm"
Senior partners and board members at all times "acted in good faith" and "took all reasonable steps" to reach agreement.
The above article appeared in "The Australian" newspaper on 29 July, 2006
DECEPTIVE ENGLISH LANGUAGE BILL
Earlier this year, there was much fanfare surrounding the U.S. Senate's attempts to promote the English language as part of its immigration bill pushed through the Senate by Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.) and others. Substantial media attention -- on television, in newspaper stories, and on many editorial pages -- was devoted to what seemed like a major legislative step toward underscoring the importance of our nation's immigrants learning and speaking English. But, in the end, it was all for naught. Rather than a step forward for those who see the English language as essential for assimilation into American society, the Reid-Kennedy bill instead took a step back.
Two English language amendments were adopted during the Senate debate -- and uncertainty ruled the day, both then and now. The first amendment adopted would have made English the national language and required those applying for citizenship to be proficient in English and learn American history. However, shortly after, another much weaker amendment followed. It deemed English a "common and unifying language" and -- incredibly -- reaffirmed President Clinton's Executive Order 13166, which guaranteed immigrants' rights to demand that the federal government communicate with them in any language they choose . and at the taxpayers' expense. For an amendment which allegedly was offered to promote English, the fact that it also reaffirmed this controversial executive order is troubling, to say the least.
Even now, months after the Senate votes, questions remain about which amendment takes precedence over the other and, more importantly, whether this was a missed opportunity to stress the importance of the English language in the ongoing immigration debate. What this matter needs is a serious and broad examination -- and sooner rather than later.
Today, a key subcommittee of the House Education and the Workforce Committee will begin that serious examination. The panel will gather input from a diverse panel of witnesses, who will discuss varying perspectives on the need to make English the official language. In the wake of the Senate's actions on English -- not to mention its adoption of the troubling language to reaffirm the Clinton executive order -- this hearing will be the first step toward sorting out this web of confusion.
Several weeks ago, in announcing the new series of hearings on border security and immigration enforcement, House Republican leaders made clear that the final bill we send to President Bush will reflect five core principles. One of them states that Republicans believe the success of our country depends upon newcomers assimilating into American society by learning English. This principle is not new to the Education & the Workforce Committee. That's because it's also a core principle of the most sweeping law within our panel's jurisdiction -- the No Child Left Behind Act -- as well.
Regardless of your views on No Child Left Behind, the fact remains that a key aspect of it is its focus on Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students. It shines a spotlight to ensure LEP students are excelling in school and making adequate progress in math and reading, and taxpayers commit hundreds of millions of dollars to this effort each year. In stark contrast to the spirit of the Clinton executive order, No Child Left Behind insists that LEP students communicate in and learn English. It's that simple.
No Child Left Behind is straightforward about the importance of the English language, and any border security bill we send to President Bush should be as well. That is why the Education and the Workforce Committee is the perfect venue for a serious discussion about how best to ensure that those coming to America legally learn English and assimilate into our society. In short, we'll fulfill our responsibility where the Reid-Kennedy supporters didn't
The pathetic English attitude to personal responsibility
Everything must be somebody elses's responsibility
A few days ago a young man just a yard away from me on the pavement suddenly lashed out and kicked a shop window, breaking it and cutting his toe on the glass. It would have been bizarre not to comment. "That was really stupid," I said. "Why on earth did you do it?" "They won't let me in," he answered, adding pathetically, "I've hurt my foot." I took it upon myself to lecture him for a minute or two about the consequences of certain actions. I'd like to think he won't be kicking in any more windows. But he's probably just learnt not to do it in flip-flops.
I find myself dangerously messianic on the issue of personal responsibility at the moment. As readers of my column in the Saturday Magazine will know, because I've been boring on about it for weeks, I recently had a motorbike accident. I was riding around a dirt track, got cocky, went over a jump far too fast and fell off, breaking my collarbone and a few ribs. The reason I am inflicting this misfortune on a whole new audience is because I have been amazed by the number of people who, commiserations dealt with, ask how much I'll be getting by way of compensation.
Compensation from whom? I say. (No other rider or vehicle was involved.) From the owners of the track, they reply. But why should they give me money for something that was my own stupid fault? I say. So then these people suggest that The Times (I was riding the motorbike in order to write about the experience; that part worked out rather well) should stump up some cash. That'd be nice, I reply, but again, there wasn't a News Corp bigshot on the pillion, ordering me to rip the throttle open at precisely the wrong moment. The mistake, I repeat, was mine alone. At this my interlocutor gives me a sympathetic, head-cocked-to-one-side funny look, as if I'm being weirdly masochistic.
Well, what about Kawasaki then, they suggest, surely they owe you something? Oh come on, I say, voice rising, that'd be like suing Toyota or GMC every time you dented your bumper. Well, quite, they say, looking smug. But, I shout, it was my own fault! Just as when I got knocked off my bicycle, that was my fault too, I'd illegally undertaken a lorry and gone into the driver's blind spot. And when I almost fell out of a tree in the spring, that would have been my fault too, had I not grabbed another branch in time, because I'd climbed too high in inadequate footwear on a windy day. It wasn't the tree's fault, or the owner of the tree's fault, or the wind's fault, or the maker of my trainers' fault. It was mine.
What's more, I say heatedly, not only would it be simply mistaken for me to go around blaming someone else for these incidents, and greedy to try to profit from them, it would also be a negation of me as an individual. Say I hadn't crashed on that motocross jump. Say I'd come back safely to earth like Evel Knievel on one of his better days, wouldn't that have meant I'd negotiated a tricky situation? And thus felt able to congratulate myself? Not by the logic of these hair-trigger litigants, no. If you can never take individual responsibility for doing something badly, neither can you take it for doing something well.
And then I get really steamed up, and say I'm not 7 years old, I'm almost 42, and the definition of being an adult is taking responsibility for your own actions, and not always to blame other people, or corporations, governments, "They", The System and History with a capital H. Oh Robert, these people then say, letting the ball roll away and charging instead into the man, you really have got very right-wing in your old age haven't you? And I reply, no I haven't, I'm actually moving closer to a classically anarchist position.
That shuts them up, giving me the chance to add, slightly pompously perhaps, that it is sad that at the very moment free will is becoming a reality for many of us, or at least for those of us living in Western democracies, the prevailing left-wing orthodoxy has become to condemn those who accept the consequences of that freedom.
It's peculiar, the right-wing accusation. I can tell people imagine it to be their final, unanswerable, bone-shattering argument. I've been hearing it a lot recently. First I came out in favour of selection by ability in education. Then I did a piece arguing patriotism was a healthy human emotion. And now I've fallen off a motorbike and assumed responsibility for something that was, in fact, my responsibility. And this, it turns out, is sufficient to condemn you as a 21st-century Genghis Khan.
29 July, 2006
English Language a Critical Factor in Assimilation, Witnesses Tell House Subcommittee
Witnesses testifying before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Education Reform today promoted the English language as a key factor in legal immigrants' ability to assimilate into American society, while questioning an executive order signed by former President Clinton that provided immigrants the ability to communicate with the federal government in any language they choose - and at taxpayer expense. The executive order was reaffirmed by immigration legislation backed by the U.S. Senate in May. The hearing is one in a series being held by the Education & the Workforce Committee and its subcommittees on illegal immigration and its impact on American students and workers.
"The issue of making English the official language of the United States has long been controversial," said Subcommittee Chairman Mike Castle (R-DE). "The last time this committee and the Congress discussed the issue by itself was in the 104th Congress. Now, due to the steady growth of new immigrant populations within U.S. borders, whose primary language is other than English, the discussion and issues of language diversity have once again brought attention to this public policy debate."
The hearing took a broad look at varying perspectives on making English the official language, with witnesses offering testimony on both sides of the issue. Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) raised concerns about provisions of recently-passed Senate immigration legislation that may serve to undermine, rather than promote, the English language.
The first amendment adopted by the Senate would have made English the national language and required those applying for citizenship to be proficient in English and learn American history. However, another amendment followed, deeming English a "common and unifying language" and reaffirming President Clinton's Executive Order 13166, which guaranteed immigrants' rights to communicate with the federal government in any language they choose, at taxpayer expense. "Because of these dueling Senate amendments, uncertainty ruled the day - both then and now," noted McKeon. "I'm pleased our Committee has been able to start taking steps toward sorting this out, because the issue is too important to leave open to interpretation and ongoing questions."
Mauro Mujica, Chairman of the Board of U.S. English, Inc., echoed McKeon's concerns in his testimony to the subcommittee, focusing specifically on the Senate bill's reaffirmation of the Clinton executive order. "In a country whose residents speak 322 languages, multilingual government must be the exception, not the rule," noted Mujica. "Unfortunately, instead of promoting English learning, government agencies increasingly seek to cater to immigrants in as many languages as possible. The result is that I - a 42 year resident of the United States - can walk into virtually any government office and demand services in my native language, and I'll receive them, no questions asked."
Paul McKinley, an Iowa state senator, and supporter of an Iowa law making English the official language, detailed for the Committee the reaction to and reasons behind that legislation. "When [the English as the official language bill] was debated, some predicted dire consequences," said McKinley. "However, their predictions did not materialize. Their main objection was that making English our official language would somehow be seen as not welcoming legal immigrants. This is absolutely false. The best way to welcome legal immigrants and help them through their naturalization process is to help them learn English. Common language is the glue that binds a society and an economy. Without English, they are strangers. With English, they are able to communicate, join the community, and work their way up the economic ladder."
The subcommittee also heard from Art Ellison, the Administrator of the Bureau of Adult Education for the New Hampshire Department of Education. He described for the subcommittee the importance of English literacy skills to success both in school and at work. "If America is to remain competitive, attention must be given to the English literacy skills of our nation's immigrants and the skills of native-born adults in the workforce today," Ellison. "We must ensure that each and every member of the workforce has skills they need to succeed in today's highly technological workforce. In short, English literacy is critical to obtaining and maintaining jobs and creating opportunities for advanced education and training in order to qualify for jobs with family-sustaining incomes. For the family to support their children's learning, maintain their health, manage their finances, and provide a supportive structure for the family, English literacy skills are critical."
Today's hearing marked the second in an Education & the Workforce series of hearings on immigration issues impacting American workers and students. The next hearing - on illegal immigration and employment verification enforcement - will be held by the Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee next Monday in Plano, Texas.
Australia: Homosexual propaganda masquerading as news
Once upon a time, a person could buy a newspaper and be fairly confident that the news covered therein was more or less reliable, factual and impartially presented. That certainly is no longer the case, especially for certain newspapers. Consider the case of one Australian broadsheet, the Melbourne Age. This paper is right up there with a few other contenders for Australia's most left-wing, politically correct and biased paper in the country. There are many examples of this bias and agenda-pushing. Just one will suffice.
The Age is notoriously pro-homosexual, with almost daily pro-homosexual reporting and opinion. Of course, with many homosexual activists on staff, this is not surprising. Consider one example of this totally lopsided and prejudiced news coverage and reporting. The Australian Capital Territory decided on May 11 to legalise same-sex unions, which was tantamount to legalising same-sex marriage. This was in spite of the fact that the Federal Government had reaffirmed, through legislation passed by both houses of parliament in August 2004, that marriage in Australia can only be between a man and a woman.
This year, on June 6, the Howard Government signalled its intention to override the ACT legislation - and with good reason. The ACT law was just a sneaky attempt to bring in same-sex marriage, even though the Australian Parliament, and the overwhelming majority of Australians, stated that marriage is a heterosexual affair. (On June 15, the Howard Government motion was passed, and the ACT law was struck down).
Consider how the Age covered this story over the following two weeks. I have clipped every article, opinion piece and letter on the subject from June 7 to June 18. (It was a good thing I monitored only 12 days' worth - there was so much to clip, I was beginning to get sore hands!). Take, for example, the articles run on the story. Altogether, 16 different "news" articles were written on this topic during this 12-day period. That is well over one a day. Talk about a beat-up. Talk about going overboard on a story. One would have thought there were other news items of merit worth covering during this period.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. In every one of the articles, there was such an obvious one-sided agenda being pushed that there was little or no difference between these supposed news item and the paper's editorials. I simply lost count of the number of homosexual and lesbian activists quoted in these pieces. And how many pro-family voices were heard? Not one. Is this news reporting or propaganda? There was one very short piece on how religious leaders felt about Howard's decision; so a few quick - and token - references were made to those from the other side of the debate, but that was it. Aside from that, these 16 articles were one mass promotion of the homosexual agenda. But it does not end there.
There were also three full opinion pieces on the subject. I guess, in an effort to pretend that there was some balance taking place, one of the three pieces did argue the "no-case" against same-sex marriage. But that is just 33 per cent. When weighed against all the articles, letters and other items in favour of same-sex marriage, it made up barely a fraction of the space devoted to the issue. In typical Age fashion, the very next day the letters' editor featured not one, but three letters attacking the no-case article, with not one letter supporting it.
Each of these opinion pieces, editorials and articles could in turn be analysed at length. They are great examples of sloppy thinking, poor reasoning, question-begging, special-pleading, red herrings and moral obfuscation. But those evaluations must await another article. But wait, there's still more. There were no fewer than four major human interest pieces as well (scattered among the 16 news items). These featured homosexual and lesbian couples given free rein to state their case at length.
Of course, no heterosexual was allowed to feature as a personal story. And there were plenty of full-colour photos of happy, smiling, hugging homosexual and lesbian couples. Of course, putting an emotive human face on the story always beats having to deal with the facts and the real heart of the issue. Just paint an emotional story using people who represent your cause, and you do not have to deal with hard things like truth, logic, facts or evidence.
One lesbian couple got to tell their story not once, but twice (June 9, 14). Both times the couple's story was adorned with large colour photos. They got to speak at length of how terrible it was that their relationship could not be recognised as a marriage. It featured all the emotive rhetoric about their love being denied, and so on. After wading though article after article like this, I really began to believe that I was reading articles from the homosexual press. The Age pieces were absolutely identical to anything found there.
Moreover, a Saturday Age Insight section featured a front-page story (which spilled over onto page 2), with numerous photos and large splashes of colour, complete with a rainbow. Paragraph after paragraph of quotes from homosexuals were featured therein. Again, not one pro-family voice. Not one dissenting position, except for a few references to Prime Minister Howard or Attorney-General Ruddock.
There was of course the mandatory large editorial, shedding tears over this being a "matter of human rights". In it, the editorial writers said, among other things, that the Howard Government had chosen to "politicise the issue". Sorry, but it was the homosexual lobby that long ago decided to make a political issue of this. The Howard Government has simply responded to this attempt at social engineering by stating what most Australians know to be true: marriage is not whatever you make it to be. It is something that for millennia has meant one thing, and we are not about to let a group of noisy activists redefine it out of existence.
Oh yes, one last thing. The Age also ran a cartoon on the subject, by Leunig. It was a masterful example of propaganda at its best. Using colour, photos and text, it effectively implied that heterosexuals were torturers, murderers and militants, and it is time we let peaceful homosexuals have rights to marriage and children.
Thus this was one giant tsunami of pro-gay propaganda. Like a tidal wave, every day the reader was inundated with one pro-homosexual assault after another. This simply was one of the most blatant and disgusting cases of media bias and agenda-pushing that I have encountered in the mainstream press. Somehow, however, I do not expect that ABC's Media Watch will cover the story.
Australian Feds take away the "obesity" rattle of the State health ministers
John Howard has described efforts by the nation's health ministers to restrict junk-food advertising on TV as a waste of time, saying it is an issue for media authorities, not health departments. In a letter presented to a health ministers meeting in Brisbane, the Prime Minister wrote: "Given ... the fact that regulation of media advertising is an Australian government responsibility, I see little value in continued consideration of this issue in the Australian Health Ministers' Council forum."
The letter, delivered by federal Health Minister Tony Abbott, has infuriated his state counterparts, who have been campaigning for junk-food advertising restrictions for the past 12 months. "We are not going to back down to the Prime Minister's bullying," Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said. "I do not believe it is open for John Howard to unilaterally dictate the ministerial health conference. "The fact that we now have a PM who is prepared to shut down debate on health is frankly unacceptable."
State and territory ministers agreed yesterday to establish a working party to review marketing and advertising practices with the industry, while looking at existing regulatory codes.
28 July, 2006
Britain's Equal Opportunites Commission celebrate thirty years of discriminating against men
They fight discrimination by practicing it!
Institutional gender discrimination is alive and kicking at Britain’s Equal opportunities Commission [EOC] .The annual report of the government funded 10 million pound quango reveals that male staff has been reduced to just 18.2% after an unfortunate blip the previous year when 19% was reached. EOC could surely win the prize for the most successful homophobic major employer in the country. It would certainly be hard to beat over the last thirty years.
Glamorous and charismatic EOC chair Jenny Watson could also boast how her organisation had frustrated an attempt to prevent Avon and Somerset and Gloucestershire Police Services operating recruitment scams to arbitrarily exclude almost 300 men in favour of women. They were able to exploit their statutory powers to ensure these sexually discriminatory recruitment processes were successfully completed before making a pointless judgment on 26 June that they were unlawful, accepting a promise from the guilty authorities that they would not employ those particular tricks again. The cheats were allowed to walk off with their gains with no penalty.
Gerald Hartup director of civil libeties group Liberty and Law said: “ There is a lesson to be learnt. Rules are for little people. Why did I expect the EOC to act after informing them about discrimination so blatant that everyone knew it was a scam? Citizens clearly need to understand that for proper governance there is a requirement for double standards and to operate within the new system. Only in this way will they not be alienated from it. The EOC is the model to follow.”
Liberty and Law in November 2005 also reported the Metropolitan Police Service to the EOC over another version of institutional gender discrimination against men. It is confident however that the EOC is capable and determined to meticulously research the programme with the help of the Met with the result that no conclusion of any help to discriminated against men is arrived at.
Mr Hartup stated: “It will be another triumph for modern democratic management. The crude enforcement of the rule of law has proved to be unsatisfactory to progressives who require and can now utilize discretion to control the mob, the schmucks with their childish obsession with “objective justice". But we shmucks will still be shmucks.”
"CHILD SUPPORT" IN BRITAIN
The Child Support Agency has proved the most spectacular failure in public administration of the past 15 years. Its vital statistics are staggeringly awful: it has identified but failed to collect 3.5 billion pounds in maintenance; new cases remain unopened for a year, thanks to a backlog of 330,000 unprocessed claims; only half of absent parents have made the correct payment; a quarter have made none at all. Its demoralised staff take an average 15.6 days off a year, more than any other section of the Department for Work and Pensions, itself the sick man of Whitehall.
Brickbats for the CSA are thrown happily by politicians who forget too easily that the agency was introduced in 1993 to widespread acclaim. The idea of calculating and collecting payments from "deadbeat dads" who ignored parental responsibilities after divorce or separation was sound. It replaced often arbitrary and unfair court decisions. Unlike the courts, the new agency could trace absent parents.
In practice, though, it has been little short of lamentable. It was never going to be easy to insert the State into a bitter family row, but there were mistakes in conception. Giving a single agency the powers to investigate, adjudicate and enforce was asking too much. Another founding flaw was to regard the CSA as a money-saver. For every pound a lone parent received in maintenance, the State would deduct a pound of benefits. That required all lone parents on benefit to register with the CSA even if they could have reached an amicable financial settlement. Their numbers helped to swamp the system. Last year the enforcement unit spent 12 million to collect 8 million pounds.
The early regime made strategic errors. It was unprepared for the extent of non-compliance and unsure how to respond. It did so by tending to ignore the hard cases while hounding to the financial brink many of those doing their best to pay up. Incompetence was soon endemic. About 35,000 people have received compensation as a result of maladministration. A fifth of demands are inaccurate; a third of phone calls are unanswered.
The thrust of John Hutton's statement was sadly inevitable. Much of the uncollected money will be written off, threatening to leave many lone mothers in limbo. His detailed response will wait until an autumn White Paper, although the outline is clear: a pared-down agency with tougher powers to chase the hardest cases. The threat to a foot-dragging father of a curfew or of losing his passport is more likely to get results than the current sanction of seizing a driving licence, a largely self-defeating measure given that many fathers need to drive to work to fund their maintenance payments, and one that was used only half a dozen times.
Any new agency will fail unless it learns the lessons of the CSA. They include the need for a competent and well-motivated workforce, a computer system that works and supreme leadership, preferably from the private sector. The Australian example shows that success is not impossible. Giving couples more of a chance to sort out their own affairs makes excellent sense. But the principle of making absent fathers pay remains sound. The task is greater now than ever; there are 700,000 more single parents than in 1993. Unless the Government is realistic, deserving children will again be victims of misplaced idealism.
Australia: Political opportunism drives mania about incorrect food
Federal and state politicians debating a serious health concern this week could find themselves in decidedly unhealthy disagreement. Regrettably, obesity has become a political issue. The ever-present danger is that ends can be claimed to justify means, however unreasonable, unwarranted and undemocratic. Today, a group of state health ministers will seek restrictions on children's TV advertising of products judged overly high in fat, salt or sugar. The federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, is expected to counter that it isn't a proper response to a problem of personal and parental responsibility.
Following Abbott's announcement last week of a ministerial taskforce on obesity, the health ministers' conference is attracting international attention, not so much in anticipation of a pointer to social policy as in assessing Australia's contribution to the politicisation of fat people.
Australian advertisers have lobbied against such an outcome since the earliest recognition of worrisome obesity trends. They have consistently - and persistently - sought to be part of a politically neutral response to something they see as not of their making, but as a whole-of-community problem requiring an all-of-community solution. Action to date, including new rules for advertising to children and a $10 million healthy lifestyle advertising campaign, will be extended this week with the tabling of a code of conduct for all food and beverages marketing communications. It's a big call but the advertising, marketing and media sectors want to be seen as the responsible contributors to the community they believe themselves to be.
But a minority of members of that community - within government bureaucracies as well as without - have persuaded some politicians that food and beverage manufacturers and marketers, together with their evil allies in the advertising and media sectors, are conspiring to kill off the very consumers who are their reasons for being. That the argument does not make a lot of sense has not dissuaded the deluded any more than their knowledge of Quebec, where a 25-year ban on advertising to children has resulted in no appreciable difference in obesity rates from other Canadian provinces. In fact, the children of Quebec have experienced a greater weight gain in the past decade than their provincial neighbours.
It's a fair comment that many claiming to be campaigning in the cause of childhood obesity have lost sight of the health objective, and have become focused on some sort of political victory over television commercials. In truth, there is as much research excusing advertising as a factor in obesity as there is accusing it. The response of one group of academic researchers linked to the anti-advertising lobby has been to simply assume a link, and build a case for advertising restrictions from there.
As complex as it is as a health problem, obesity may simply be an unforeseen consequence of the lifestyle change brought about by a world war that created a norm of two-income families, new drives for technological advancement and individual affluence, less need for physical activity and more demand for processed, packaged and convenience foods. But arguing whether Adolf Hitler is more or less to blame than John Logie Baird or Alexander Graham Bell will not do any more to reverse obesity trends over the next generation than considering it as a political rather than a health priority.
27 July, 2006
A question of manliness
A comment from Britain
There is, apparently, a resurgence of manliness in America. Superman has returned to the big screen and unshaven, testosterone-charged film stars such as Colin Farrell no longer look socially marginalised. The A To Z Of Manliness, a compendium of tips on such matters as how to punch properly, is number two on the New York Times bestseller list, while a rash of academic books on the importance of real men have added fuel to the fire. The Boston Globe recently summed up the phenomenon: "We're in the middle of a Menaissance."
Years of feminism, which insists on the absolute interchangeability of the traditional roles of man and woman, are giving way to a reassertion of the male attribute of machismo, it is claimed. The metrosexual, that urbanised, sensitive, emotionally and physically androgynous model of 21st-century manhood, is dead.
What is manliness?
All hail the modern caveman. But wait a minute. Before we even ask what kind of man modern women really want, how exactly are we defining manliness? My dictionary lists "courage, valour and energy" as key characteristics of the manly man. But by that measure, my wife, who has gone through the horror of childbirth and who runs a family of six, is more of a man than me. Nor can we equate Superman with Colin Farrell as fellow icons of the new American manliness. Superman is discreet about his gifts, he is modest, he wears a suit when not saving the world (when he opts for the kiss curl and tights). Mr Farrell is an indiscreet wildman. Manliness should not be confused with machismo. I will give you an example.
Years ago, I was on the family ranch in Argentina with my uncle, leaning on a fence, the other side of which stood a huge Brahman bull. The bull was in a tetchy mood because his testicles were dragging along the floor and had become infected. My uncle, with a twinkle in his eye, handed a spray can of disinfectant to his foreman, a strutting, mustachioed gaucho, and asked him to apply it to the infected area. A look of horror flitted across the foreman's eyes, but then he thrust out his chin, squared his shoulders and, before my uncle could stop him, jumped the fence and sprayed the bull before walking away nonchalantly.
"Que macho (what a man)," I exclaimed. "That wasn't macho," said my uncle. "That was stupid. A real man would have told me to f*** off." Machismo gets you stabbed in bars "for looking at my bird", or flattened by the 10: 15 to Euston during a drunken game of chicken with your mates. Manliness is not braggadocio. It is stoicism, self-respect, decisiveness, assertiveness. Of course, advocates of the Menaissance may argue that we shouldn't be too concerned about what kind of a man women want these days. Isn't that, they would say, the way we arrived at simpering metrosexuals desperate to please their other halves?
And yet it's instructive to consider that a woman's understanding of manliness tends to be very different from a man's. My wife and daughter are fixated by the American drama Lost, in which a group of people stranded on a remote island after a plane crash battle to stay alive against sinister forces. They frequently confer on which male characters are the sexiest, and in doing so make the perfect distinction between machismo and manliness. The men they say they would fall in love with are not the washboard-stomached firebrands, but rather the ones most able to protect them and provide for them in those inhospitable surroundings.
These characters are possessed of a calm stoicism, and a desire to look after the weakest first. This judgment by my wife and daughter does not indicate fluffy submissiveness, but cool pragmatism. Their heroes are not to be found blubbing on a football pitch like half the England team, or taking part in the orchestrated grieving that has become an integral part of British national life.
It is the atavistic desire to provide for those you love that forms the basic building block of manliness. It has existed since the physically stronger sex travelled the plains in search of meat for the family and it continued until the rise of feminism in the 1960s, a movement which would have us believe that men and women are biological and emotional clean slates, each possessed of identical and interchangeable faculties when it comes to work, life and family. This is the lunacy that allows women fighter pilots to get aloft even though a man is more effective in combat because his stronger frame better protects him from G-forces. It is the feminist orthodoxy that renders my wife faintly embarrassed when she owns up to being a housewife. It is the notion that children do not need fathers.
'Feminists bearing pitchforks'
Up and down America, feminists bearing torches and pitchforks are on the trail of Harvey Mansfield, a Yale University professor whose book, Manliness, laments: "We are in the process of making the English language gender neutral, and 'manliness', the quality of one gender, or rather of one sex, seems to describe the essence of the enemy we are attacking, the evil we are eradicating." He continues: "Feminism needs to come to terms with manliness. I think women are confused about what they want men to be and that leads to male confusion."
Mansfield believes there are stark differences between the sexes, and that they should be celebrated. If those manly attributes are hard to pin down, most women tend to know them when they see them. A straw poll of the wives and mothers in my small Kent community offered up the following characteristics. A real man is chivalrous and emotionally robust and mature. He is modest, does not wear his heart on his sleeve, and is dutiful to wife or lover, and to family. A real man provides for and protects those he loves. All those attributes that allowed men to drag down mammoths for their families and communities in prehistoric times - aggression, competitiveness, decisiveness - still survive and govern the most basic aspects of sexual attraction, marriage and child rearing. This does not make a man superior, but underpins the fact that men and women complement each other, bringing unique gifts to the business of ensuring the survival of the species. It was the caveman who went about the rather unsophisticated business of killing the mammoth and dragging it home, but it was the cavewoman who turned it into food and clothes.
Feminism, as Prof Mansfield suggests, has sought to eradicate one vital side of this equation. The result is a confused hotchpotch of duties and responsibilities, and the emergence of what has been untidily dubbed the metrosexual male - tieless, depilated, sarong-clad and permanently engaged in the exhausting business of anticipating feminine disgruntlement. So what hopes for a Menaissance in this country? Although I have serious doubts about America's ability to distinguish between manliness and machismo, it is still a far more manly place than Britain.
Just look at our cultural icons. We worship the cry-baby Beckham, hairless, smothered in costly unguents, neurotically self-aware. We hang on to every syllable uttered by the mindless, spoiled and usually gay men in the Big Brother house. The Yanks have Superman, Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Here, the Tory leader makes sage pronouncements on the evils of chocolate oranges and four-wheel-drive vehicles, not to mention the respect and deference due to hooded youths as they happy-slap their way across Britain.
And there are greater cultural differences which mean that the so-called Menaissance may be a long time coming to these shores. First, while America is still a Christian country, Britain is post-Christian. As the historian Michael Burleigh has said, the Anglican Church is little more than an 'echo chamber' for the latest purely secular moral, political and social trends. In the Christian tradition, the man has a set of immutable duties towards wife and family that cannot be overlooked, and these duties rest on the ethics of personal responsibility, morality and, overriding all this, a responsibility to provide for the family. How dramatically those duties have been eroded.
Secondly, in Britain we have lived for more than 50 years under the umbrella of an all-powerful welfare state. This is a good thing in that it protects the weakest, but bad in that our taxation and redistributive structures have served to stamp out that key element of manliness - self-betterment and provision for those you are responsible for. Why bother working? Why bother marrying and remaining faithful to wife and family if a single mother on benefits garners more than a low-paid married couple with one child, both of whom work?
In meritocratic America, where welfare is harder to get, self-betterment is a constituent part of staying fed and housed. Men cannot afford to be feckless. If they don't help themselves, no one will. And America, it must be remembered, is a country which still venerates male icons: heroes such as Jim Bowie are loved because the nation's history is force-fed to the young in schools.
Here, the devaluation of our history curriculum and the rejection of our imperial past, which still forms a deep part of the national psyche, have left our young men with no sense of heroes and heroism. And yet there are occasional green shoots pushing through the surface in the battle to reassert manliness in Britain. Much has been made of the best-selling tome The Dangerous Book For Boys, which in its introduction says that "in this age of video games and mobile phones there must still be a place for knots, tree houses and stories of incredible courage". The book seeks to allow fathers and sons to enjoy enterprises such as the building of go-karts. I remember the authors being quizzed on Radio 4 by Mariella Frostrup, who, it soon became apparent, was somewhat hostile to the notion that the activities described should be the sole preserve of males.
The authors Conn and Hal Iggulden were sent into paroxisms of denial that their book was in any way sexist. I remember thinking that if you write a book about manly things, you should be ready to defend it in a manly way. Their response should have been: "Boys and girls are different, Mariella. Get over it." Instead they were borne under by the sheer weight of BBC political correctness. What a pair of wets. The sad thing is that Mariella represents the consensus. A while ago, a young lad came to play with one of my sons. They spent the whole day in pitched battles with toy guns. When his parents arrived to take him home, their faces dropped. They told us they did not allow him to play with guns, and marched him off for a dinner of nut cutlets and yoghurt. Poor little fellow.
The feminist lobby, which has achieved much for women over the past 40 years, must take its foot off the accelerator. It is established beyond doubt that men and women are equal in all fields ranging from human dignity to employment rights, but this must not be allowed to evolve into the idea that men and women are the same. Men must learn to reclaim manliness, not in the machismo mould of previous generations, but in a modern incarnation that will serve as an anchor in the shifting sands of today's gender politics.
Anything to distract themselves from their crime problem. So much easier to push law-abiding people around
If you're a cell phone-using, goose liver-eating, cigarette-smoking, fast food-loving person, Chicago might not be your kind of town. In this city that once winked at Prohibition, members of the City Council are trying to crack down on things they deem unhealthy, immoral or just plain annoying. A proposal that would restrict fast-food chains from cooking with artery-clogging trans fat oils got a public airing last week, and in the past year alone aldermen have banned smoking in nearly all public places and the use of cell phones while driving.
In April, Chicago became the first U.S. city to outlaw the sale of foie gras, a goose liver delicacy that is decried by animal-rights activists because it is created by force-feeding birds to fatten up their livers. Critics, including the mayor, wonder if the City Council has suddenly deemed itself the behavior police. "We have children getting killed by gang leaders and dope dealers," an angry Mayor Richard M. Daley said earlier this year. "We have real issues here in this city. And we're dealing with foie gras? Let's get some priorities."
Aldermen say they are addressing real problems and protecting their constituents. And they deny the proposals are diverting their attention from major issues like a city budget crunch. "The fact that there may be greater wrongs to address doesn't mean we cannot also address what we might also view as lesser wrongs," said Alderman Joe Moore, who led the effort to ban foie gras.
Some observers say aldermen who used to do what Daley wanted them to do are feeling emboldened because Daley has been weakened by a City Hall scandal that has snared some of his top aides. Others wonder if the proposals have more to do with a changing city, one that is no longer home to steel mills and stockyards. "This is the legislation of refinement," said Perry Duis, a University of Illinois-Chicago historian who has written extensively on Chicago. "This is a city of Starbucks rather than the steel mill."
Alderman Burton Natarus, who has sponsored a host of noise ordinances aimed at turning down the volume on street musicians, construction workers, boom boxes and motorcycles, agreed with those who argue the council is sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. "I think we are trying to control people's behavior too much," said Natarus, who regrets voting for the foie gras ban. "We are trying to itty-bitty regulate every facet of somebody's life."
The latest target is trans fat, found in some oils used to fry chicken, fries and other foods. A proposed ordinance would limit the use of such oils by fast-food chains in the city. Like the foie gras ban, the proposal earned the mayor's scorn. "Is the City Council going to plan our menus?" he asked.
When the trans fat idea first came up, the Chicago Sun-Times weighed in with an editorial facetiously referring to the council's "special Committee to rid Chicago of Everything That is Bad for Us," and wondering if it was "only a matter of time before they propose ordinances against certain cell phone ring-tones, secondhand barbecue smoke and bug zappers." More than a few Chicagoans say they don't need the City Council looking over their shoulders at lunch time. "I'm a big boy," Kerry Dunaway said as he ate fried chicken recently. "I can take care of myself."
Public broadcaster bias in Australia
Excerpts from a recent talk by Senator Santoro
Recent weeks have seen terrorists yet again unleash their work of destruction. In Mumbai, as in London a year ago, indiscriminate slaughter has proven the terrorists' weapon of choice. And in the Middle East, Hezbollah and Hamas - evil twins born of, and sustained by, the same evil parents - have provoked violence, knowing full well the cost their naked aggression would impose not only on innocent Israelis but also on many tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians and Lebanese alike.
Faced with these outrages, it is not enough for us to shake our heads and hope that the world will set itself right. Rather, we must protect and assert the values that underpin our Australian society: values in which there can be no place for terrorism's supporters and fellow-travellers. To that end, we must affirm our commitment to those throughout the world who are on the front line of the fight against terrorism - a commitment which is not merely intellectual and emotional, but also practical: that is, we must contribute as fully as we can, to ensure that terrorism, and the vile threat it poses, is defeated and ultimately destroyed. The Howard Government's commitment to fighting terrorism has been and remains steadfast. Absolutely steadfast....
In an open, democratic society such as Australia's, the media plays a central role in shaping our understanding of the world. It is mainly through the media that we are informed; and it is from the media that we get many of the images and analyses that help determine the way we see the world. It is because the media is so important that we provide large-scale financial support to the ABC and SBS - so that the community will have access to the impartial information it needs and deserves. It is a clear indication of the on-going government support for the ABC that public broadcasting received a substantial funding increase in this year's triennial budget allocation.
I want to state clearly here tonight my belief that both the ABC and SBS in so many ways provide a valuable service to Australian public life. Australia would be a poorer place without so many aspects of the services provided by the ABC and SBS. However, the public broadcasters lets themselves down regularly by failing to apply the same rigour to the task of self-critique that they would claim to apply to the task of representing the truth to their audience. The ABC, for example, has a charter requirement to cater to all Australians. But if it was truly capable of honest self-assessment, the ABC would be more willing to recognise, acknowledge and correct the deep-seated and institutionalised bias that is manifested in its recent reportage of both domestic and international affairs. Some very recent examples I can quote here tonight are staggering.
Merely a week ago, Fran Kelly, the presenter of ABC Radio National's Breakfast program, chose to interview Robert Fisk on the events in the Middle East. Mr Fisk, she said, is a much praised and award winning journalist. And indeed he is - for he has received praise from no less a judge of character than Osama bin Laden himself, who, in a videotaped message on the eve of the 2004 presidential election in the U.S., commended Fisk by name for his incisive and "neutral" reporting. Did Ms Kelly disclose any of this? Obviously not.
As an aside at this point, I would like to quote the same Mr Fisk from an opinion column in The Canberra Times last week. In it, he quotes - without challenge or question - terrorist leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah claiming that in its rocket attacks on Israel "Hezbollah originally wished to confine all casualties to the military". Fisk then goes on to criticise the - quote - "cruelty of Israel's response" - unquote - to those unprovoked and deadly attacks. It's no wonder that he attracts rave reviews from Osama bin Laden!
To take another example, let's consider for a minute SBS's coverage of the conflict in the Middle East on its flagship 6-30 PM news for Sunday July 16th. Israel's military actions in Lebanon were described as variously "murderous", "illegal" and "contrary to the laws of war". As for what Hezbollah had done, and its disastrous consequences for the people of Lebanon, the report SBS chose to air - and I emphasize the word chose - cutely said this: that Hezbollah "had some little explaining to do".
The Prime Minister John Howard decisively attempted to stop the rot on the AM program on July 14th when he was asked, and I quote: "Has Israel gone too far?" Mr Howard asked the reporter why the question must always be couched in terms of what Israel has done wrong and whether it should be condemned. He was, of course, appalled by the loss of life on both sides of the conflict. But - and to quote again - the Prime Minister said "the assumption that it was started by Israel in this particular instance is wrong".
That the Prime Minister should feel the need to highlight to a reporter the skewed nature of the question he was being asked is indicative of a deeply-ingrained culture - a reflex anti-Semitism - in parts of the media. Such questions betray a belief that Israel is always at fault and has no right to defend itself in any way against attacks from terrorists such as Hezbollah. To say that this is outrageous, and a disgrace, is an understatement.
What makes bias so dangerous, and also so difficult to control, is that it is not only what is said, but rather what is not said, that can be profoundly misleading. Take the reporting - again on the ABC's AM program - of the statement by Mr Chirac that Israel's response to the invasion of its territory and the kidnapping of its soldiers was "disproportionate". Now, how often did you hear Tony Eastely note that this was the same Mr Chirac who merely a few months earlier, had said that were France subjected to a terrorist attack, he would not rule out retaliating through a nuclear attack? The simple answer: not once.
Nor did Mr Eastely make the same point when Mr Putin criticised Israel's response to the kidnapping of its soldiers as "disproportionate" and called on Israel to negotiate with terrorists. Surely, one might have expected our national broadcaster to ask how consistent this was with Russia's own behaviour in Chechnya - but no, yet again, the ABC chose the convenient course of silence.
Equally, how often have you heard the terms "indiscriminate", "illegal", "contrary to international law" and "disproportionate" applied by the ABC and SBS not to Israel, but to Hezbollah's and Hamas' practice of shelling civilian towns in Israel? The answer: not once!
And when the ABC and SBS interviewed Lebanese Government Ministers, who merely washed their hands of Hezbollah's actions, did you hear the interviewer ask how Hezbollah has been allowed to build up its arsenal in Southern Lebanon? No, of course you didn't - because they wouldn't even have thought to put the question, much less to fearlessly pursue the point. Similarly, how balanced is it for the SBS to selectively run commentary from the BBC - commentary which is systematically and aggressively hostile to Israel - rather than say, also running the stories aired on US channels?
Another form of bias is sympathetic language. To give just one example, the ABC refers to Kassam Rockets fired at Israel by Palestinian terrorists as "home made rockets." This has the effect of makings the Palestinians seem like the underdogs, battling away against the might of the Israeli military with home made weapons. In truth - as you all know - Israel is a small country with a small population, virtually surrounded by hostile and in some cases increasingly fanatical countries. The terrorists it faces are well-organised, aggressive and persistently violent. They are financed and armed by Syria and Iran, which are countries far larger than Israel. They cynically exploit the Western media's desire to convey graphic images of casualties by locating themselves in civilian areas, ensuring that women and children will be among the worst victims of the conflicts they ignite and promote. They are hardly the home-made Dad's Army the media language would suggest and would want us all here in Australia to believe.
The decisions to portray events in this way smack of deliberate, thought through, deception. They are what biased journalists do when they want to hide from claims of bias, while still slanting the way the news is presented. A few token interviews, ritualistically presented, with Israeli spokesmen or commentators, or others more sympathetic to Israel's predicament, only make this deceitful purpose all the clearer.
Blatant bias about Israel is nothing new. But the scope of the problems is far broader. When terrorists targeted the London underground, time and again our public broadcasters' reports linked the terrorists' murderous actions to the Britain's participation in the Iraq war - suggesting, if not stating, that the ultimate fault lay not with the murderers but with the Blair government. The further, important, inference was that - just as Blair had brought the wrath of the terrorists onto London - so the Howard Government was exposing Australians to unacceptable risks: risks that, according to many ABC commentators, had already eventuated in the Bali bombings.
Given that, one might have expected the ABC and SBS to at least comment on the fact that India could hardly be claimed to have any role in Iraq - a war it had actively opposed. Rather, here was further proof, if more proof was needed, of terrorism's indiscriminate character. But far from it: no such thought was expressed....
I believe a media which fails to distinguish between good and evil, and which equates `balance' with studied relativism, fails its constituency: if we are not willing to call terrorism evil, then we have lost any sense of truth.
If some journalists on the ABC and SBS are frankly sympathetic to Hamas and Hezbollah, or even on balance believe they have the stronger case, why don't they have the courage to say so, rather than hiding behind a pretence of moral relativism? The cause of truth is not well served when those who have so much power to shape perceptions refuse to disclose, and be held accountable for, the perspective they take.
26 July, 2006
BUREAUCRATIC CORRECTNESS IS SOMETHING ELSE AGAIN (1)
What would be insanity elsewhere is fine in a bureaucracy
Caught in an 11-mile traffic jam during the hottest July day on record sweltering motorists could only assume there had been an accident. It was only, several hours later, as they finally approached the trouble spot, that they discovered there was no crash. Instead, council officers had chosen the day that temperatures touched a record-breaking 97.7f (36.5c) to hold a traffic census. And even when asked by police to call it off, they refused.
Yesterday furious drivers slammed Essex County Council, who carried out the roadside interviews on a busy main road during morning and evening rush hour.... Council workers began the census, which was being carried out on behalf of the Thames Gateway Project, at 7am on Wednesday - a day forecasters had predicted would see record-breaking temperatures - and carried it on till 6pm. They based themselves at a roundabout in Laindon, Essex, on the busy A127 to ask drivers questions about their journey to work. As rush hour got underway, queues soon began to build up, eventually stretching back 11 miles to Leigh on Sea. Some drivers were stuck in tailbacks in the blistering heat for over two hours.....
Essex police received over one hundreds complaints about the exercise and asked council bosses to call it off but they refused. Police spokeswoman Heather Turner said: "All traffic surveys should be proportionate and reasonable and any long tailbacks in these conditions would not be acceptable to us".
Yesterday Rodney Bass, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation said: "The information being gathered will help us develop transportation plans for the future aimed at making journeys across south Essex easier". But he added: "We fully acknowledge that the roadside interviews resulted in major delays to drivers. "A number of incidents did exacerbate the situation, including accidents on the M11 and M25. "In such circumstances we accept that common sense should have prevailed and we should have acted accordingly. "We are now in discussion with Essex Police on what lessons can be leant from this and how to manage such circumstances more effectively in the future. We unreservedly apologise to motorists for any inconvenience caused."
BUREAUCRATIC CORRECTNESS IS SOMETHING ELSE AGAIN (2)
What would be insanity elsewhere is fine in a bureaucracy
The Home Office briefly believed it owned all the money in the UK, World, and presumably the rest of the galaxy, a report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee has shown. The report on the department's accounts for 2004 to 2005 details a financial shambles at the department. The summary of the report unsurprisingly adds that one factor behind the fiasco were problems with its new accounting system.
It details one exchange at a Public Accounts Committee hearing where Richard Bacon MP dissed the department for submitting a paper which suggested its gross transactions were 26,527,108,436,994 pounds. OK, lets just round it up to 27 trillion. Bacon helpfully pointed out that this was not just 2,000 times the department's 2004-2005 expenditure, but one and a half times the GDP of the entire planet.
Of course, this was just a slip of the key, former Home Office mandarin Sir John Gieve explained to the incredulous Bacon. It was changed, Gieve continued, but it was "given as an illustration of the problems that we had" managing its accounts. Whitehall's version of "spot the deliberate mistake" then.
The report notes that the Comptroller and Auditor General's examination [of Home Office accounts] was severely limited because the Home Office had not maintained proper books and records which would have enabled it to disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the Department.
Well, that's what the report says. We think it's entirely likely the department spent the lot on tea, paper clips, training away days, and that old favourite "sweeteners" to induce IT services companies to bid for a chunk of the public purse. Gieve is now deputy governor of the Bank of England
Yet another stupid photo ban
Prime Minister John Howard has described a move to ban cameras from a popular Melbourne tourist precinct amid terrorism fears as "over the top". Southgate management has erected "no camera" signs around the Yarra River retail and dining centre after security guards tried to force tourists to delete photos taken of "obscure" parts of buildings. The police were called when they refused.
Mr Howard said he did not think the terrorist threat in Australia warranted such a move. "I think that is over the top," Mr Howard told ABC Radio. "Everybody's got a camera now. Does that mean a mobile phone camera? "I don't think the terrorist threat in this country warrants that. I really don't. "I don't know who did this and I don't wish to offend them, and I'm sure they mean well, but I do think that is going too far."
Southgate property manager Kathy Barrance said there had been a couple of incidents of tourists taking photos of obscure things. "It was just the facades of buildings, things that would be of no interest to put in a photo album," Ms Barrance said. The new signs banning cameras state that "Southgate thanks you for not taking photos within the complex unless approved by management". Ms Barrance said anyone found taking unauthorised photographs would be told to stop by roaming security guards. "It's policy around Southgate for security to ask people not to photograph," she said. Exceptions will be made for photos of such things as the Ophelia sculpture at the main entrance. "On the (Yarra) promenade, it's fine, or if it's of Ophelia," Ms Barrance said.
Asked if the restrictions were designed to deter terrorists from conducting reconnaissance, Ms Barrance said, "Yes, that type of thing." Victoria Police told the Herald Sun it was unlikely any police officers would order the removal of images from a camera under such circumstances. "I've checked with our privacy people and they said there's no law against taking photos," a spokeswoman said.
Southgate workers were stunned at the restrictions. "I think it's stupid," Oras Charcoal Souvlaki Bar employee John Tsarpalas said. "There's got to be better ways than that." One shop owner who did not wish to be named, questioned whether there were any vital targets in the complex. ''It's a bit much. I know they are trying to protect us, but it's just a food court," she said.
25 July, 2006
INCORRECT FOR BRITISH BANDSMEN TO HEAR THEIR OWN MUSIC!
Army bagpipers are to wear earplugs because of fears that the military might be sued by soldiers who claim that their hearing has been damaged by excessive noise. Pipers are also to be banned from practising for more than 24 minutes a day outside, and 15 minutes indoors.
The pipes are famous for terrifying the enemy, but new army guidelines, based on a study carried out by the Army Medical Directorate Environmental Health Team, say that pipers should wear earplugs to protect themselves from hearing loss. The guidelines also apply to drummers.
Piping experts and military veterans have criticised the rules as typical of the health and safety culture of today's "cotton wool Army". However, a spokeswoman for the Army in Scotland said the new rules showed that it was serious about protecting soldiers.
The Armed Forces lost their traditional exemption from health and safety legislation in 2000, although that does not apply when the forces are on active service.
MEN LOSING OUT IN JAPAN
Smacking her lips, Yukari Suzuki, a young housewife, descends the steps of the Men-ya Sora noodle house in Kanda. She has enjoyed some of the finest ramen in Tokyo and, even more delicious, the knowledge that her gourmet lunch was a privilege of gender. For the Men-ya Sora, like a growing number of Japanese shops, restaurants, cinemas and services, has turned "women only" - welcoming to its upstairs dining room the free-spending fairer sex, but turning away its supposedly more uncouth counterpart.
What started as a desperate measure to protect women from gropers on trains has blossomed into a fully fledged movement. Single-sex places have become a lifestyle choice for many women and a source of outrage for men. Once women-only carriages became standard on many Japan Railways services and the Tokyo Metro, other businesses quickly followed. Spas and gyms were among the first to pick up the trend, with restaurants, comic-book cafes and convenience stores joining the no-men-allowed movement. Hotels, apartment blocks and pachinko gambling parlours are experimenting, and restaurants that do not exclude men have taken to giving free desserts to women.
The "women only" trend flies in the face of a massive government effort to put Japanese men and women closer together. Facing tumbling birth rates and a potential demographic crisis, the Government has tried to promote marriage matchmakers and encouraged companies to give staff time off for dating. "If men want not to be discriminated against, they should have better manners," Ms Suzuki said. "They sit so they take up lots of space, read newspapers wide open, leaf through pornography in public and some are really arrogant, too."
Takashi Naito, the male owner of Men-Ya Sora, said: "I wanted to have as many repeat customers as possible and I noticed that female diners often asked me to give them a table away from men who were drunk and noisy."
The emergence of single-sex restaurants has created an unprecedented storm of fury on 2Channel, Japan's biggest internet chat room, where the majority of comments denounce the trend as unnecessary and discriminatory. Establishments such as the Men-Ya Sora are described as O-oku, the old word for the living quarters of royal concubines.
Academics believe that the trend will hurt society. Asaho Mizushima, a Professor of Law at Waseda University, says the rot set in with single-sex railway carriages, which implied that women needed protection from men in general, rather than from a few criminals. "Women's cars may work as a psychological shelter to women who fear groping, but it doesn't decrease gropers," he wrote on his website. "But one clear result is that men are rejected from particular carriages just because they are men."
24 July, 2006
BRITISH COP IN "CATCH 22" SITUATION HOUNDED BY ANIMAL PROTECTION ORGANIZATION
The RSPCA has been accused of harassing a police officer after he killed an injured cat with a spade. A prosecution estimated to have cost a total of 50,000 pounds lasted two years before failing in the High Court. The Police Federation says Pc Jonathon Bell had been "to hell and back" but the RSPCA says the case was in the public interest. The charity pursues around 1,000 cases a year and that is likely to increase under the new Animal Welfare Bill.
In April 2004, Pc Bell was called out to an estate in Stoke-on-Trent following reports of youths throwing stones at passing cars. While there local residents called his attention to a cat which had been run over. The 36-year-old officer sought advice from his control room and colleagues including a police handler. He was told that by law there was no statutory duty for the police to call out a vet and that the RSPCA could not be contacted at that time of night.
He borrowed a spade and with three to four blows killed the cat. His actions on that night unleashed what his supporters say has been a legal and personal nightmare for the officer who eventually was forced to take a month off because of stress. The RSPCA says it took legal action following complaints from witnesses to the killing.
The officer was acquitted at a two-day court hearing last September. District Judge Graham Richards said Pc Bell had been forced to make a decision in difficult circumstances. "You did what you honestly thought best," said Judge Richards, "You walk out of here without a stain on your character." But the animal charity made an appeal to the High Court which recently threw out the case. The final judgement came two years after the cat was killed.
"He thought he was doing his duty as a policeman in a difficult situation and he had to make a judgement call and he's been made to pay for it," Mark Judson, chairman of the Staffordshire Police Federation told Radio 5 Live. He said Pc Bell was too traumatised by the long-running case to comment but that he felt "harassed" by the RSPCA, especially after the charity took the case to the High Court. "They wouldn't let it go even when the decision had gone against them."
An independent expert witness called to give evidence in the trial said the officer had been in a no-win situation. "The cat had been squashed to within an inch thick at its lower half," said veterinary surgeon Colin Vogel. "He did the kindest thing which was to put it out of its misery whereas if he'd just walked away leaving it injured he could have just as easily faced a charge of animal cruelty."
The estimated 50,000 pound total cost of the case, which includes 12,000 spent by the RSPCA on its own legal costs, will lead to accusations that it has wasted large amounts of voluntary donations and public money.
The RSPCA has defended its role in the trial of Pc Bell as well as the 1,000 prosecutions it brings every year. "In the end, the High Court refused the society's application for a judicial review. However, the RSPCA is pleased that Staffordshire Constabulary have since reviewed their procedures with regard to injured animals."
Kiss goodbye to innocence
The insane, PC paranoia about "inappropriate" touching of children has gathered such momentum that last week a 58-year-old vicar called Alan Barrett resigned from the board of governors of William MacGregor primary school in Staffordshire because he'd given a 10-year-old girl a lone peck on the forehead during the course of publicly congratulating her for improving at maths. Barrett, who is married and has three grown-up children, was threatened with charges of common assault after the incident, following a complaint from the child's mother. He was also subjected to an informal investigation by his diocese.
The police and the social services eventually concluded that Barrett had no case to answer. The diocese found his behaviour had been "inappropriate in today's climate" but did not warrant any disciplinary action. Barrett nevertheless resigned as chairman of governors at the school, following advice from his archdeacon. "I have discussed the issues with my archdeacon and agreed that one cannot be too careful," said Barrett. "Giving a child a kiss of congratulations is inappropriate in this day and age."
The child's mother, meanwhile, declared herself "disappointed" with the decision that Barrett had no case to answer. "I'd like him to be removed from his position," she said.
I find this whole story incredible - or rather, I would if variants on it weren't so depressingly commonplace. A friend was watching her daughter's end-of-term play last week and was surprised to be told, by a contrite-seeming head, that parents weren't allowed to take photographs of the performance - not because children might be distracted by flashing lights, but because, though it wasn't spelt out as concisely as this, any paedophiles sitting in the audience might use said photographs for sinister purposes.
I know of schools where distressed young children have to be comforted verbally and at a distance, because giving them a hug might unleash a whole series of complaints and investigations. I know schools that won't apply sunblock on children whose parents may have forgotten to do so in the morning, because skin-to-skin contact is verboten. Some schools won't even apply a plaster to a grazed knee, for the same reasons. At nurseries and kindergartens, nappy-changing is a potential minefield, which is why many now insist that children are potty-trained before they can be admitted.
All touching, it appears, has become "inappropriate". Blanket rules apply, and there is no differentiation between a lovely hug and a grotesque grope. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to imagine that people who choose to teach young children do so because they like them, not because they want to have sex with them.
If you like children, being physically demonstrative is second nature - a pat on the head here, a hug there, taking a sad child onto one's lap to read him or her a story. Why ban it, or create a moral climate in schools and nurseries that is so morally unhealthy and fearful that teachers are stopped from offering comfort, and children are brought up in the kind of environment where innocent physical contact with adults is somehow seen as dubious from the start? What kind of warped lesson does that teach them?
What is especially unpleasant about all of this is that it is so foully dirty-minded. A sane society does not equate a noble profession such as teaching with paedophilia. We all understand adults have a moral responsibility towards children in their care, and we painstakingly educate our children to be wary of strangers.
I personally think that even this has got completely out of control, and that even very young children are taught to be paranoid about perfectly benign adults waving at them in the park. Because the point, surely, is that the vast majority of people are kind, not predatory. Why reward them for their kindness by making them feel like "inappropriate" freaks?
As a child, I was told never to accept sweeties or lifts from strange men in cars, and to get away from any adult that made me feel uncomfortable. I was told this, if I remember correctly, at least once but no more than three times during my childhood. It was plenty. Also, what with one thing and another, I went to a dozen or so schools. Some were nicer than others, but I can honestly say there was no question, ever, of any teacher behaving in an inappropriate way. Even at one school, where we had quite a tactile games mistress who liked supervising showers and (unbelievably) had the authority to perform "knicker checks", ie, to ask for physical proof that we were wearing our regulation school underwear. Today, she'd probably be disgraced and banned from teaching forever, and we'd all be offered counselling because we were victims of "abuse". At the time, she merely struck us as peculiar and mildly annoying. Which is all she was.
And if the moral climate had been as it is now during my upbringing, there wouldn't be a single boys' public school or Oxbridge college left standing. Can you imagine? Fagging? "Artistic" young masters encouraging people to read Oscar Wilde? Winsome dons with their little coteries of boys? But none of this did anybody any harm. It broadened the mind - at a time when, frankly, a lot of the minds in question needed broadening - and conveyed to us that there are all sorts of people in the world with whom coexistence is possible.
One last point: where children have been victims of abuse, the idea that nobody is allowed to touch them ever again seems to me very odd. Surely it would make more sense to teach such children there is such a thing as "good" and safe touching as well as "bad" touching - instead of banning touching altogether?
Are these poor children never to be given a comforting hug again? Do we really want them to believe that all adults are toxic and filled with evil intentions? Apparently so. Worse, we want all children to believe that adults are intrinsically harmful. Who'd be a teacher, in these dementedly puritanical and paranoid times?
23 July, 2006
MULTICULTURALISM PERSUADES A NON-VICTIM GROUP THAT THEY ARE VICTIMS
Hindus in the UK feel that not enough effort is being made to include them in anti-racist initiatives, says a report from the Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB). `Hindu communities should be supported in playing a fuller role in society through improved capacity for leadership, community engagement and better understanding of Hindu beliefs, cultures and perspectives', said the report. Already, the findings from interviewing some 800 Hindus in the UK have been welcomed by government officials and professional multiculturalists.
The secretary of state for communities, Ruth Kelly, who launched the report earlier this week, believes it raises `important issues' between Hindu communities and the government. Elsewhere, Dr Robert Berkeley of the Runnymede Trust, which supported the survey, believes that `recognition' for Hindus will `offer a view of faith-based communities which gives a different perspective'. Whatever happened to finding points of commonality in divided Britain? Aren't we supposed to be moving away from all this?
The HFB's report does provide useful insights into the machinations of multiculturalism. For example, even though the HFB found that `the UK's 500,000 Hindus were generally well-integrated into British society', both it and the government want to invent `issues' where there doesn't appear to be any. After all, if Hindus appear `well-integrated' in the UK, how come Ruth Kelly believes `all of us, including central government and public services, have a role to play in helping Britain move towards an inclusive society'?
It seems such reports are less about tackling genuine social grievances than encouraging petty ones. Apparently, what Hindus objected to was being described as `Asian' instead of `Hindu' or `Indian'. No matter what the government's prejudices are, this is hardly a sign of being under siege from a hostile, wider community. The Hindus interviewed for the report are probably rehearsing lines from the official multicultural script. Indeed, for over 20 years minority groups in the UK have been encouraged to define themselves exclusively along religious or cultural lines. Take, for example, Bradford in the early Eighties.
Back then there were frequent conflicts between Asian youth, racist organisations and the police. Faced with such growing militancy among Asian youth, Bradford council drew up a 12-point race relations plan that declared that every section of the `multiracial, multicultural city' had `an equal right to maintain its own identity, culture, language, religion and customs'. As part of its multicultural agenda, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus were encouraged to express their distinct identities. The consequence was to exacerbate divisions from wider society and create them within Asian communities, too. Such a retrograde dynamic was localised to particular racial flashpoints. Today, more or less every ethnic group is encouraged to seek out slices of cultural `recognition'. But what exactly is this based on?
A popular misconception of multiculturalism is that it promotes `understanding' of other people's cultures and thus creates social harmony. Yet the process of absorbing and adopting different cultural expressions has long been a feature of human existence. It's not something we need instructions for from well-appointed academics. Besides, what official multiculturalism seeks to engineer is `recognition' of suffering rather than any meaningful cultural engagement. It is fundamentally about recognition that someone's ethnic genealogy has suffered persecution in the past or been excluded from centres of power, or both.
Not surprisingly, the consequence has been an explosion of groups competing in a hierarchy of suffering and exclusion. This doesn't just include representatives of Muslims and Jewish organisations; anyone with a Welsh, Scottish or Irish-Catholic heritage can claim victim status, too. Hindus are simply the latest group - but they probably won't be the last - to be encouraged to play the victim card.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it becomes a rather different matter when ethnic minorities assert economic rather than cultural demands. By the phoney remit of multiculturalism, last year's strike involving Gate Gourmet workers at Heathrow airport should have been seen as a model of diversity and inclusion. After all, the strikers involved were predominately from Sikh and Hindu backgrounds, and there were many women on the picket lines, too. Yet there were no congratulations from New Labour ministers, no leader articles in the press marvelling at multicultural trade unionism. In fact they were mostly discussed in the same terms as other striking workers - as an irritation.
Yet as inspiring as the strike was for some of us, I'm not suggesting that `Hindus-and-Sikhs, unite-and-fight' will demolish multiculturalism and its attendant divisions. What the strike did reveal, however, was just how infantile and infantilising demands for `cultural recognition' really are. In the course of this action to defend jobs and wages, multicultural blather on appreciating cultural vales and practises became irrelevant - for both the Hindu workers and the government that was irritated by their actions. That is because, whereas multiculturalism sees people as privatised individuals nurturing private grievances, making public demands on society means acting as subjects and citizens.
The HFB's survey doesn't reveal any genuine grievances affecting Hindus in the UK. Instead, it simply shows how official multiculturalism encourages competing demands for cultural recognition. And rather than combating any banal prejudices and divisions in society, such reports are designed to entrench and inflame them every step of the way. For all the post-7/7 discussions on creating a united Britain, the divisiveness of multiculturalism is clearly here to stay. It seems that encouraging ethnic groups to act as citizens is one `important issue' that Ruth Kelly won't be looking into.
MORE ON THE INCORRECTNESS OF BABY FORMULA
The Merchants of Death in Christopher Buckley's novel "Thank You for Smoking" are spokesmen for the most vilified industries in Washington: alcohol, tobacco and firearms. A lobbyist for baby formula may have to join them in a sequel. Proponents of breast-feeding, emboldened by studies that trumpet human milk's superiority to its supermarket substitutes, are abandoning platitudes like "Breast Is Best" in favor of aggressive campaigns designed to portray formula feeding as not merely inferior but dangerous.
A startling television ad in a government breast-feeding campaign likened feeding an infant formula to being thrown from a mechanical bull while heavily pregnant. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin has proposed mandatory warning labels for formula cans. Breast-feeding advocates are pushing legislation to stop hospitals from giving free formula to new mothers. A new book calls formula feeding "deviant behavior" that should occur only as an "emergency nutrition intervention to prevent starvation and death." "There's not so much talk now about the benefits of breast-feeding," says Katy Lebbing of La Leche League International, "but the risks of not breast-feeding."
Formula, its critics say, makes children sicker, fatter and dumber. Its inability to match the antibodies of breast milk is implicated in a range of maladies, including ear infections and diabetes. It is not yet the new cigarette; few suggest that formula actually kills babies, except in rare cases when powdered formula is mixed with tainted water, for example.
But formula, once seen as the perfectly engineered health food, has become the TV dinner of infant feeding: seductively easy, nutritionally challenged and oh-so-1950s. And the campaign against it has made strange cribfellows: liberals who demand accommodation in the workplace and open-shirt nursing in the public square and conservatives who believe that young children are best cared for in their homes by mothers free to nurse on demand. Pity the bewildered new mother who wants to nurse but can't because of physical problems or her job. She is offered an astonishing array of high-tech, vitamin-rich formula but lives in a nation that exhorts choice and free will except in the baby-food aisle.
The resurgence of breast-feeding follows a buildup of research confirming benefits to mother and child that formula manufacturers have been unable to duplicate. It also closely parallels the rise of La Leche, an organization formed in 1956 by seven Chicago-area women who wanted a network of nursing mothers to support one another in what was then considered radical behavior. At that time, less than 29% of mothers were nursing their week-old infants. The percentage would eventually dip to 25% in 1971 before climbing to 70% today.
La Leche, which promotes breast-feeding through meetings and telephone support, originally appealed to "young hippies," says spokeswoman Mary Lofton. "There had been this love affair with technology, thinking if something was made in a lab, it was better. But when the back-to-nature movement came along, we were there." And, Mrs. Lofton maintains, "all of the ideas we promoted--to breast-feed right after delivery, to do it frequently . . . these were revolutionary ideas at the time, but every single one of those things is accepted pediatric practice today."
La Leche's influence is such that when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a breast-feeding campaign in June 2004, La Leche trained the counselors who answered the government's hotlines. The goal of that continuing campaign is to get 75% of American mothers to breast-feed initially and 50% to breast-feed exclusively for at least six months. Using the catch phrase "babies are born to be breast-fed," the campaign distributes ads for television, radio and the print media. The mechanical-bull ad drew some complaints but was effective, claims Christina Pearson, an HHS spokeswoman.
While one government agency is promoting breast-feeding, however, another is handing out formula. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, gives states grants to provide free formula, food and breast-feeding support to low-income women. Nearly half of all infants in the U.S. are enrolled, and 54% of infant formula in the U.S. is distributed through WIC. Since the late 1980s, states have negotiated contracts with formula manufacturers, who returned rebates to the states totaling $1.64 billion in 2004, the last year for which statistics are available. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29% of WIC recipients are breast-feeding at six months, compared with 46% of women who are eligible for WIC but don't receive the aid and 47% of ineligible women.
The result, says James Akre, the author of "The Problem With Breastfeeding" (a new book that takes issue with some of the popular aversion to breast-feeding) is that, by handing out more formula than breast pumps, the government is encouraging "deviant behavior" and "billions of dollars are going to provide poor children with food based on an alien food source"--the alien being a cow. Mr. Akre, a resident of Geneva, Switzerland, and a retired official of the World Health Organization, believes that, as in the case of seatbelts and tobacco, a society's attitude toward breast-feeding can change in a generation. "It's not women who breast-feed, after all. It's cultures and societies as a whole," he says.
Until the late 1800s, women had little choice but to breast-feed. The only question was whether the child's mother would do it or someone else--a paid wet nurse or a slave. Every culture tried substitutes (sugared water or cow's or goat's milk early on, evaporated milk and Karo syrup more recently), but experimentation sometimes killed babies. Swiss pharmacist Henri Nestl‚ produced the first formula in the 1860s, saving the life of an orphaned baby and launching an $8 billion world-wide market in which Nestle is still the leader.
The marketing of baby formula is tricky for manufacturers, which must admit on their labels that breast-milk is superior. To compensate, they rely heavily on coupons and formula samples offered through hospitals. New mothers typically leave American hospitals with a gift bag supplied by a formula manufacturer. Breast-feeding advocates want to end the practice.
Earlier this year, Massachusetts enacted the first ban on the gift bags, but it was killed by Gov. Mitt Romney, who cited the need for choice. The debate over breast-feeding simmers with political tension because it encapsulates the larger question of personal freedom versus social good. In likening formula to current public-health pariahs, breast-feeding advocates hope to send formula down a similar dark path.
The Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition announced plans for a nationwide "Ban the Bags" campaign at the International Lactation Consultant Association meeting in Philadelphia last week. Dr. Melissa Bartick, the coalition's chairwoman, has promised that formula marketing in hospitals won't last. She adds: "We'd never tolerate the thought of hospitals giving out coupons for Big Macs on the cardiac unit." So baby formula is not yet the new cigarette. But it's already the new Big Mac.
22 July, 2006
THE CORRECTNESS OF AIDS
Are there benefits to cultivating the idea that you have AIDS? Cassey Weierbach thought so, correctly, and allegedly defrauded the state of Pennsylvania of $66,000. In addition to medical benefits, Weierbach's fake AIDS status inspired do-gooders to pay her rent, wash her clothes, and buy her groceries. It gave her a degree of celebrity. It allowed her to make an income on the lecture-circuit, partly through a group called Hope's Voice. "All I've ever wanted was to educate people about an illness that I live with every day," Weierbach told HIV Plus magazine. "I'm at the end of the disease, and I want to use the time I have left to put all I have into this project." She did that by speaking at colleges, high schools, and churches. The executive director of Hope's Voice cut ties with her when one night at a bar, during a speaking tour, Weierbach, supposedly in the final stages of full-blown AIDS, rose from her wheelchair, began dancing, and pounded shots.
But it was a local pastor who "outed" Weierbach as an HIV-negative individual. Reverend Lois Randolph, after leading efforts to help Weierbach, suspected that she was perfectly healthy, physically at least. She persuaded Weierbach to take an HIV test, and it came back negative. Weierbach denies she is HIV negative, and claims that her life as a lesbian caused a hateful preacher to destroy her life. ''It seems like she is going to make my life living hell,'' Weierbach told Allentown's Morning Call newspaper of Reverend Randolph. ''Do you hate me so much because I'm gay that you are willing to destroy my life?''
While it's easy to jump to the conclusion that the overall story supports the idea that AIDS no longer bears a stigma, a part of Weierbach's imaginative yarn, at least, undermines that notion. Weierbach claims she contracted the disease by being raped as a child. In other words, she didn't get the disease through behavior that parts of the population find objectionable. She became an AIDS victim through innocence--as a child, as a rape victim.
It's this part of the story that, psychologically speaking, is more intriguing, and perhaps more insulting to the groups traditionally afflicted with HIV. Weierbach felt comfortable claiming HIV status, but, for whatever reason, didn't concoct a more believable story about contraction, i.e., through drug use or chosen sexual activity. She said she was not only raped, but raped as a child. Naturally, this absolves her of the stigma of the disease even in the eyes of those most liable to stigmatize AIDS. Or, perhaps this con-woman knew, from observing the sympathy poured upon Ryan White, Mary Fisher, and others who had contracted the disease from means other than sex or intravenious drugs, what AIDS victims the public fawns over most. Since Weierbach still denies her clean bill of health, it's not likely that these answers will be forthcoming. Even if they were, deconstructing the motives behind those answers, rather than accepting the answers at face value, might be the unsatisfying result.
We know that Miss Weierbach claimed that she had AIDS when she didn't. We don't know why she claimed that she contracted the disease through a fantastic set of circumstances, when more readily believable explanations existed within her real life's behavior.
But why AIDS? Why not heart disease, multiple sclerosis, or some other horrible disease? Do they not pay, in terms of sympathy and dollars, the way AIDS does? Is there no lecture-circuit cash for, say, victims of cancer? Won't the government pay for the health care of all carriers of fatal illness? Cassey Weierbach knows the answers to these questions better than most.
HIV isn't what it used to be. It doesn't develop into AIDS and kill so quickly, and it no longer elicits such an awful stigma. Freddie Mercury, Eazy E, Liberace, and Rock Hudson saw no benefit in declaring their AIDS status to the world. But, unlike most other diseases, which inspire privacy in the afflicted, there is today a cottage industry of professional AIDS victims. That the disease is preventable, and can make life lonely among those in whom the disease is no longer preventable, makes such activity quite honorable and necessary. But, like everything, there's another side to things, another side where making a buck off such a horrible disease--a horrible disease that has an exalted status among diseases--stikes many as off-putting and unseemly. AIDS isn't just a death sentence any more. For Cassey Weierbach, AIDS is a living--and a lucrative one at that.
DOWN WITH ALL BREAKFAST CEREALS!
Or so food-faddist logic would say. Report from Britain below:
Many popular breakfast cereals contain as much salt and sugar as a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar, according to new research. There is even one brand with as much fat as in a packet of thick pork sausages. Parents will be shocked by the latest findings from the consumer organisation Which? as most believe a bowl of cereal is a healthy start to their children's day.
Despite claims by manufacturers that they have cut down on salt and sugar in cereals the watchdog scrutinised 275 brands and found that an overwhelming majority, some 76 per cent, had high levels of sugar, a fifth had high levels of salt and seven per cent contained saturated fat. The probe also found that of the 52 cereals marketed specifically for children some 88 per cent were high in sugar, 13 per cent high in salt and 10 per cent high in saturated fat.
The three overall worst offenders for children were Quaker Oatso Simple Kids (any flavour), Kellogg's Coco Pops Straws and Mornflake Pecan and Maple Crisp. These get red alerts for sugar and saturated fat. Kellogg's Coco Pop Straws contained the same amount of sugar as a two finger Kit Kat which has 34g sugar per 100g.
Which? is now calling on manufacturers to do more to reduce levels of these nutrients particularly in products appealing to children. It is also pressing firms to adopt the red, amber and green labels on front of packs so that shoppers find it easier to pick out the healthier products.
So far Tesco and leading manufacturers Nestle, PepsiCo, Kraft, Kellogg and Danone, have refused to endorse these red junk food labels on food advocated by the Food Standards Agency and instead prefer a complicated system of guidance daily amounts on packs.
Researchers at Which? worked out the colour coded alerts that should be included on front of pack traffic light labels for each product. The five worst offenders for sugar contained 10 or more teaspoons per 100g and three are aimed at children - Asda Golden Puffs, Sainsbury's Golden Puffs and Kellogg's Ricicles. The other two are Morrissons Golden Puffs and Tesco Golden Honey Puffs. A teaspoon of sugar is equivalent of 4gs sugar. Four of the five products contained more sugar per 100g than a Toffee Crisp which has 47.9g sugar. The highest were the Asda and Morrissons Golden Puffs with 55g sugar per 100g. Another nine cereals contained more than four teaspoons of sugar per suggested portion of which several were mueslis where the sugar came from dried fruit. Only 13 per cent of all products would have scored a green light label for sugar content.
MEN NO LONGER QUITE SO INCORRECT IN AUSTRALIA
Last Monday, the usual gathering of dog-walkers were wandering the cliff-side park near Sydney's Clovelly beach. But the peaceful early morning scene was disturbed by the arrival of policemen who explained they were looking for a man with a baby. As they peered over the cliff face to the rocks far below, they were joined by the police helicopter, hovering along the rugged coast line. A desperate man with a two-month-old son. Yet another tragedy in the making, with a father pushed to the edge by fear our family law system would rob him of his child.
This baby and his father are still alive, but so often we've seen these situations end in disaster. Yet, never before, has a father had a better chance of fair treatment. In the past few weeks a revolution has taken place in the family-law system, designed to improve the lives of divorced children by letting dads remain part of their lives.
Sadly, the man responsible for this family-law revolution didn't live to see it. John Perrin didn't look like a powerful man. At first glance, John Howard's social issues adviser seemed plucked straight from the set of Yes, Prime Minister. With grey suit, thinning hair, glasses and a trim moustache, this formal, mild-mannered man was the very model of the silent bureaucrat. But Perrin, who died in late May at 53 from cancer, was a mighty influential political operator, who changed the social map of Australia. This month, some of his most important reforms were set in motion.
Perrin was long determined to fix our family law system, a system which he knew to be a festering sore of discontent in the community. Inquiry after inquiry had shown that there was bias against fathers in both the Family Court and the Child Support system. For years, Perrin talked and listened -- prodding the experts for new ideas. A plan for a revamp of the system gradually emerged.
This month would have been a great one for Perrin. The first Family Relationship Centres have opened their doors. These are key to the new system, which is all about trying to keep children's matters away from the adversarial system of lawyers and courts. The aim of the FRCs is to revolutionise the way parents care for children after divorce. This should see the fortnightly dad model thrown out the window and replaced by a range of alternatives that evolve and adapt as children grow older or family arrangements change.
There are also new laws which talk about children's right to know both their parents -- new language that pushes the notion of equal time, or at least "substantial and significant time", a very big shift from the fortnightly access pattern that has dominated in the past. Plus, the new laws stress that children benefit when parenting issues are decided outside the courts. The whole system is set up now to try to make sure this happens, with the FRCs offering child-centred mediation to help parents sort out parenting arrangements that are in their children's interests. Some will need only a few sessions, but warring couples will be referred to the high intensity Children's Contact Programs, which deal with highly conflicted couples who have often spent years fighting through the court.
Those who do end up in court will be also greeted by a new system, the Children's Cases Program, where judges talk directly to the parents and help them focus on their children's needs. And finally, there are changes to the Child Support system, designed to help fathers afford to care for their children. This remarkable package is only part of Perrin's legacy, but quite a tribute to an extraordinary man.
21 July, 2006
THE INCORRECTNESS OF PEANUTS
But hey wait! That shafts vegetarians!
And it is no accident that in Wellington beats the heart of political correctness in New Zealand. Its inner suburbs are white, middle-class, university educated and their income and status protects them from daily experience of society's detritus or riff-raff. Unlike, say, the provinces. But it had not been possible -until now - to identify the epicentre, the ground zero of PC-dom in Wellington. Until last week.
That's when Wadestown Primary School banned peanut butter sandwiches from its precincts because someone, somewhere, sometime might just have a nut allergy. And - omigod -die. For the same reason, they've also banned Nutella sandwiches, hazel nuts, cashew nuts, muesli bars and anything that has ever been near a nut product in a dairy, supermarket or mum's pantry. In other words: No nuts.
Now this may be simply due to the fact that there are already too many on their board of trustees and in the staff room. Probably. When questioned as to why the favourite spreads of Kiwi kids should be exorcised, Wadestown school explained that a child had died from anaphylactic shock after exposure to a peanut.
Really? Where? Australia. How old was this child? Fourteen. And the circumstances? A teenage boy -at secondary school - who had a severe nut allergy was challenged to eat one by a few of his mates. He was stupid enough to do so - the culinary equivalent of crunching into a cyanide pill.
On that basis, Wadestown Primary School enforced its ban. Incredibly, the parents have accepted such ridiculousness. Despite there being no recorded death, in more than 25 years, of a child dying in New Zealand of anaphylactic shock from a peanut allergy. Even the main allergy lobby group in this country is opposed to the ban.
Yes, but what happens to those children who accept and venerate the nut as part of their culture? Say, vegetarians? Having enforced the ban, the Wadestown staff and trustees could not be seen to be backing down. On the other hand -and despite good medical evidence - vegetarians are people too. And oppressed people - primarily due to not shaving their legs, eschewing deodorants and bathing in their own urine.
But like the good teachers' college graduates that they are, Wadestown found a solution. They would isolate the nut-crunchers to a "safe" area of the school. The peanut purveyors would receive a form of supervised community care. Although the aim would still be to wean them from their insensitivity and immaturity.
MORE NONSENSE FROM NEW ZEALAND
Father told to stop filming son on pool slide -- but at least they later backed down
An Auckland father of three is outraged that he and his wife were told to stop filming their 1-year-old son going down a slide by attendants at a Mt Albert swimming pool. Alistair Hayward contacted the Herald yesterday in response to an article about a mother in Canterbury who was dressing her 16-month-old by the side of a pool when an attendant told her child nudity was banned. He said the incident happened at the Philips Aquatic Centre in March last year. "I got my wife to videotape my 1-year-old son going down the slide for the first time, while I held his hand, and two lifeguards rushed up to us to tell us we weren't allowed to videotape him." Asked why, they told Mr Hayward it related to "privacy issues". He said one of the lifeguards then told him he hated telling people they weren't allowed to film their kids.
Mr Hayward said there were no signs at the pool banning video cameras. "To make things even more pathetic, they had security cameras all over the place. Surely if they were concerned over privacy issues, security cameras would be in breach of that too." Mr Hayward said it was political correctness gone mad. "I could understand their policy if there was a dirty old man filming random kids ... but I was holding my son's hand, my wife was filming us and our other two kids were nearby ... It shouldn't have raised an eyebrow. "I've now missed the opportunity to film my son going down a slide for the first time."
My Hayward said the pool had apologised for the incident and sent him free passes. Centre manager Paul Kite said the two lifeguards, who were later spoken to by management, had taken the pool's policy too far. "We do have a policy that if you want to film or take pictures you are meant to [seek] permission. However, that rule is flexible." He said Mr Hayward should have been allowed to continue filming his son that day. "It was inappropriate that they were approached and they should have been allowed to continue." He said the aquatic centre, in the grounds of Mt Albert Grammar School, did not have an issue with parents dressing their young children near the pools.
SOME SANITY FINALLY DAWNING IN CRIME-LOVING BRITAIN?
John Reid will announce today plans to ensure that violent offenders, rapists and paedophiles spend longer in jail. The Home Secretary wants to end the present system under which offenders given discretionary life sentences for crimes less than murder, and those given indeterminate sentences for public protection, are not considered for parole automatically at the halfway stage of the minimum term laid down by the judge. Mr Reid wants judges to be given much greater discretion in sentencing so that they can order that certain offenders must serve longer than the halfway point of the minimum term — the tariff — before being considered for release by the Parole Board.
Under the plan, to be announced by the Home Secretary this afternoon, rigid guidelines under which judges must give a sentence discount of one third for a guilty plea are to be scrapped. Mr Reid wants the judges to have much greater discretion in giving discounts for early pleas. He is acting after the public outcry in the case of Craig Sweeney, the paedophile from South Wales who received the discount despite being caught with the child.
The Home Secretary’s proposals to rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of the law-abiding majority will also include plans to insist that all Parole Board decisions on release are unanimous and the creation of a dangerous offenders protection order for prisoners freed from jail but about whom there remain concerns that they may harm the public.
20 July, 2006
NO TOLERANCE FOR HETEROSEXUAL VALUES IN THE UNHINGED KINGDOM
Ten Glasgow firefighters are facing disciplinary action for refusing to take part in a PR exercise at a gay pride march in the city. The men, who are based at Cowcaddens fire station, had been asked to distribute fire safety literature at the event last month. They were reported by their superior officers for disobeying orders.
Unions and Strathclyde Fire and Rescue have both declined to comment until an internal investigation is completed. The firefighters are said to have taken their stance on moral grounds.
Scottish National Party MSP Fergus Ewing said it was "unbelievable" that they were now facing disciplinary proceedings. He said firefighters were entitled to their private views and questioned whether handing out leaflets at such an event had become one of their core duties.
March organisers said firefighters were public servants who could not be seen to discriminate. Thousands of people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community took part in the Pride Scotia Glasgow march on 24 June
New Zealand: Mother in hot water at public pool over child nudity ban
Amanda Crozier was dressing her 16-month-old daughter at the side of a public swimming pool when an attendant approached and told her there was a ban on child nudity. "You're kidding me, aren't you?" the mother of four replied. No, they were not. She was handed a notice that explained the policy was designed to "minimise the risks".
So began a national debate yesterday. Managers of the pool at the Kaiapoi Aquatic Centre near Christchurch said some swimmers were offended by child nudity and they were also worried about the risk of paedophiles photographing naked children.
"It's not very often I get cross, but I got terribly cross about that," Mrs Crozier said. "It's a shame it has got to that degree really. They tell us they are looking after us, but really they are not because they are making it more difficult for us." She said the two family changing-rooms at the centre were busy when she opted to change Ophelia at the poolside, and it also allowed her to keep an eye on her other young children who were swimming.
The aquatic centre management is standing by its policy, which is also in use at other facilities nationwide. Manager Ann Bergman said the policy was introduced after complaints from pool users offended by child nudity, but also in response to concerns about lurking paedophiles or people photographing naked children. "That's today's changing society. We can no longer do what we [did] in yesteryear. It's not just in pools, it is life in general. We have to change with the times," Mrs Bergman said.
National Party family affairs spokeswoman Judith Collins called the centre's stance "PC nonsense". "These [centre management] are saying to this poor young mother that she should feel she is doing something dreadful in changing her daughter. They need to get a life. "How do they think babies are born? Do they think they come all dressed? Maybe they think there are paedophiles lurking around delivery rooms. People need to start thinking about what exactly they are saying here. Do they allow people to see each other undressed in the changing-rooms?"
Former Children's Commissioner Roger McClay said he found it hard to believe that anyone could be offended by a 16-month-old child being dressed at a poolside. If there was a risk to the child, then the pool staff would be better off keeping paedophiles out. "We can't go overboard with being so politically correct that it negates normal parenting behaviour that has been accepted through generations." Plunket clinical adviser Marg Bigsby was reluctant to comment on the issue without seeing the full facts, but said: "It seems unusual that attention would be drawn to a 16-month-old child being changed in public."
Mrs Crozier said she had no desire to return to the Kaiapoi centre with her children unless things changed. "If they were to reconsider the whole policy that would please me a great deal."
Community Leisure Management, which operates 12 swimming centres from Whangarei to Nelson - including Mt Albert's Philips Aquatic Centre - has a policy of encouraging people to use family changing rooms rather than undressing children in public. If a young child was changing in public view, "common sense needs to prevail", said general manager Craig Carter. "You don't want it to become commonplace with people changing by the pool. You have to draw a line in the sand somewhere." .....
And yes, some of these preschoolers at Newmarket's Olympic Pool yesterday were getting changed by the pool with their mother's help.... Manager John Nixon said the Olympic Pool did not have a policy against parents changing their children near the pool. "We are a family-friendly pool and it's up to the parents to make the decision. "Unless there were other circumstances surrounding what happened, I would say it's political correctness gone mad. Maybe if it was a 16-year-old getting changed it would be different, but not a 16-month-old. It's an overreaction."
Mother of all battles a bit rich in its bias
Women facing the choice between staying at home to care for their youngsters and going to work are not being helped by the present debate on child-rearing that is being led by the privileged, reports Deborah Hope
When my younger son was hospitalised at a tender age, a tense discussion took place at his bedside. In what I can recall only with excruciating guilt, I debated with my husband who would remain at his side and who would return to the office. I left a forlorn pair in the isolation ward and drove off to finish a speech. It was just one of thousands of situations in the past 20 years that have left me feeling torn and compromised between my dual roles as a professional and a mother.
When she wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, Betty Friedan described the frustrations and limitations of full-time motherhood as the "problem that has no name", keeping women from fulfilling their capacity. The book launched the women's liberation movement and saw the march of mothers into the work force. But Friedan didn't warn us that in the brave new era, mothers would be exchanging one kind of angst for another. A constant topic of conversation among women with young children, the new angst is born of the sense that motherhood has become a battleground between career and hearth, over working too many hours or too few.
Forty years after Friedan's work became a bestseller, the mummy wars -- the catfight, as one author labels it -- between hostile camps of working and at-home mothers who think they know what's best for other women and their offspring is proving fertile ground for a new publishing bonanza. Law professor Linda Hirshman's essay in The American Prospect set the battle lines last November when she claimed that women who downed briefcases after they had children were letting down the sisterhood. Hirshman says decades of feminist polemic have barely dented the belief that women are responsible for child-rearing and homemaking.
Appalled by the increasing ranks of affluent, tertiary-educated women who opt out of the work force in the US, she drew fire from mummies when she declared "an educated, competent adult's place is in the office", that women should have only one child to make it easier to stay in work and questioned why elite law and business schools should offer degrees to women who did not plan to use them. Hirshman was beaten to the battlefield by Judith Warner's book Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, and by a collection of essays about domestic rage called The Bitch in the House. Now two more authors have joined the fracas.
Leslie Morgan Steiner, an advertising executive at The Washington Post, has weighed in with Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families. The Ivy Leaguer prefaces her book with the admission she sometimes hates stay-at-home mums. "How can some mums stay home?" she demands, and "Why is it that others, like me, so clearly cannot?" To help negotiate this fractured terrain, she asked 26 mothers, most of them writers and well off, to pen essays on what drives their decisions about paid work.
The obvious flaw in her quest is that for millions of women the decision on whether to work is one not of choice but necessity, to keep food on the table, pay fuel bills and keep a roof over their families' heads. Such women, notes Sandra Tsing Loh in a scathing review in The Atlantic Monthly, include single-mother waitresses, hotel maids, factory workers, supermarket cashiers, manicurists, bank and postal clerks, data processors, receptionists, shop assistants and the nannies who look after the children of the wealthy. Loh labels as "afflufemza" the elite's tendency to "recast problems of affluence as struggles of feminism".
Caitlin Flanagan's To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife is a collection of her articles about life on the home front originally published in The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. If derision has greeted Steiner's Mommy Wars from some quarters, the equivalent of a missile attack has exploded over Flanagan's offering. "What few will admit, because it is painful," writes Flanagan about choosing whether to work or stay home, "is that whatever decision a woman makes, she will have lost something of incalculable value. "In the end, what did they, my boys, gain from those 1000 days they spent with me before school took them into the larger world? All they gained was an immersion in the most powerful force on earth: mother love."
Flanagan's prescription for every upper-middle-class woe, from sexless marriages and overscheduled children to maternal anxiety, is a return to an idealised vision of 1950s domesticity: "A world as remote as Camelot: a world of good meals turned out in orderly fashion, of fevers cooled without a single frantic call to the pediatrician, of clothes mended and repaired and pressed back into useful service rather than discarded to the rag heap."
Hypocrisy! accuse her critics. Hardly a domestic diva, Flanagan's own "at home" lifestyle is as a writer supported by a cast of characters including a personal organiser, nanny, gardener and housekeeper. She is a stranger to the kitchen and admits that in 16 years of marriage she has never ironed her husband's shirts or sewed a popped button.
For Steiner's mummies, work is a lifestyle choice revolving around identity. For the most part they are journalists, sitcom writers, editors, media executives and novelists, and a more selfish, hysterical bunch would be hard to find. Their worst moments are at cocktail parties, book launches or dinner parties where those taking time off from their highly paid labours to care for babies are humiliated by the crushing question, "What do you do?", and the silence that follows the answer: "I'm a stay-at-home mum."
Mommy Wars will resonate with its target market, privileged women such as Steiner for whom fulfilment, not filling stomachs, is the game. The volume's cover blurb promises "an astonishingly intimate portrait of motherhood today", but it bears no resemblance to my experience of rearing children. Take Dawn Drzal, a former editor with Viking Books and now a freelance journalist based in Manhattan who, according to Steiner, became a stay-at-home mother soon after the birth of her only child. Drzal came home from hospital with a baby nurse and her version of playing at being a stay-at-home mum was with the assistance of a nanny six hours a day. "Every day at noon I would pack up the babysitter with tiny cartons of soy milk and cinnamon graham crackers ... Then I would go food shopping, setting out for a distant organic market or ethnic enclave to hunt down new prepared foods or a particular exotic ingredient for his meals.
"When the babysitter left at six, she would deposit him in his highchair, freshly bathed, and he would happily watch me sauteeing onions or marinating tofu or cooking his favourite dinner, red lentils with garlic, onions and ginger. I had proved no one on earth could take care of him as well as I could," Drzal says, in one sentence wiping out her daily help.
Another of Steiner's self-obsessed essayists, sitcom writer Terri Minsky, spends much of her time in Los Angeles, leaving her husband and children behind in New York. Minsky says she stayed home at first, wanting her children to feel they'd "hit the mummy mother lode". Before you know it she's flying to Los Angeles for months at a time, farewelled by kids screaming, "You said you wouldn't go back! I hate you! I hope you never come back!" "So why did I? I could say it was because I had to if I intended to remain a television writer, live in New York City and send my children to private school. But it was mostly because I want to do this. I need to do this. This is who I am and it's taken a lot of therapy not to apologise for that," Minsky declares.
The elite world view of Steiner and co is expressed through their obsession with clothes. Stay-at-home mums wear stretch pants, rubber clogs and T-shirts; working mums wear Armani success suits or black cocktail frocks with expensive designer accessories and groomed hair. Most mothers living outside this self-centred elite are poorly served by the literature being produced on the subject. In Australia, where three-quarters of women use flexible work hours or permanent part-time work -- as I did -- to help them care for children under 12, women are apparently asserting their priorities. The market is wide open for a book on the real story of working women and how they rear their children.
19 July, 2006
The vagueness of "Tolerance"
The vehement, sometimes acrimonious debates that accompanied the drafting of the Vatican II declaration on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, yielded an exceptionally precise and carefully worded document. Noteworthy in the 5,700-word declaration is the absence of even a single reference to religious "tolerance" or "toleration." The choice of religious "freedom" or "liberty" as the proper category for discussion and the exclusion of "tolerance" flies in the face of the societal trend to deal with church-state issues in terms of religious tolerance.
As one notable example, along with the 40th anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae, 2005 also marked the tenth anniversary of the United Nations' "Year for Tolerance." Back in early 1995, Federico Mayor, director-general of UNESCO, made the following remarks in New York:
Fighting intolerance takes both state action and individual responsibility. Governments must adhere to the international standards for human rights, must ban and punish hate crimes and discrimination against all vulnerable groups, must ensure equal access to justice and equal opportunity for all. Individuals must become tolerance teachers within their own families and communities. We must get to know our neighbors and the cultures and the religions that surround us in order to achieve an appreciation for diversity. Education for tolerance is the best investment we can make in our own future security.
If the umbrella of tolerance necessarily covers hate-crime legislation and "appreciation for diversity," with everything that has come to signify, these remarks may well give pause. In modern discourse tolerance is never just tolerance; and even if it were, it would hardly present the best category for describing attitudes toward religion. Rather, we would do well to heed the wisdom of the council fathers regarding the true meaning of religious freedom.
Why Tolerance Isn't Enough
Religion is a good to be embraced and defended-not an evil to be put up with. No one speaks of tolerating chocolate pudding or a spring walk in the park. By speaking of religious "tolerance," we make religion an unfortunate fact to be borne-like noisy neighbors and crowded buses-not a blessing to be celebrated.
Our modern ideas of religious tolerance sprang from the European Enlightenment. A central tenet of this movement was the notion of progress, understood as the overcoming of the ignorance of superstition and religion to usher in the age of reason and science. In the words of Voltaire, "Philosophy, the sister of religion, has disarmed the hands that superstition had so long stained with blood; and the human mind, awakening from its intoxication, is amazed at the excesses into which fanaticism had led it."
Since religion was the primary cause of conflict and war, the argument went, peace could only be achieved through a lessening of people's passion for religion and commitment to specific doctrines. As Voltaire wrote in his Treatise on Toleration, "The less we have of dogma, the less dispute; the less we have of dispute, the less misery." Toward this stated end, many mechanisms were put into play, among them the selection of proper words to modify people's views on religion.
The language of tolerance was first proposed to describe the attitude that confessional states, such as Anglican England and Catholic France, should adopt toward Christians of other persuasions (though no mention was made of tolerance for non-Christian faiths). The assumption was that the state had recognized a certain confession as "true" and put up with other practices and beliefs as a concession to those in error. This led, however, to the employment of tolerance language toward religion. The philosophes would downplay or even ridicule religion in the firm belief that it would soon disappear altogether. Thus, separation of church and state becomes separation of public life and religious belief. Religion was excluded from public conversation and relegated strictly to the intimacy of home and chapel. Religious tolerance is a myth, but a myth imposed by an anti-religious intellectual elite.
This "tolerant" mentality is especially problematic when applied in non-confessional countries-such as the United States-where an attitude of tolerance is not that of the state religion toward unsanctioned creeds, but of a non-confessional secular state toward religion itself. Language of religious toleration of Christianity in Saudi Arabia would be a marked improvement over present conditions, and consistent with a confessional Muslim state's belief that Christianity is a false religion. In a non-confessional state, such language is more pernicious.
Dignitatis Humanae, on the contrary, taught that religion is a human good to be promoted, not an evil to be tolerated. While government should not presume to command religious acts, it should "take account of the religious life of the citizenry and show it favor." Religious practice forms part of the common good of society and should be encouraged rather than marginalized.
Tolerance Versus Toleration
Along with the conceptual error of tolerating the good of religion, the meaning of tolerance itself has evolved still further. The United Nations' Declaration of Principles on Tolerance states outright that tolerance is a virtue and defines it as "respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human."
This definition mirrors that of the American Heritage College Dictionary, which states that tolerance is "a fair and permissive attitude toward those whose race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry. A fair and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own."
If tolerance is a virtue, it is a decidedly modern one. It appears in none of the classical treatments of the virtues: not in Plato, not in Seneca, not even in Aristotle's extensive list of the virtues of the good citizen in his Nichomachean Ethics. Indulgence of evil, in the absence of an overriding reason for doing so, has never been considered virtuous. Even today, indiscriminate tolerance would not be allowed. A public official tolerant of child abuse or tax evasion would hardly be considered a virtuous official.
The closer one examines tolerance and tries to apply it across the board, the more obvious it becomes that it's simply insufficient as a principle to govern society. Even if it were possible to achieve total tolerance, it would be exceedingly undesirable and counterproductive to do so. In his play Saint Joan, George Bernard Shaw wrote, "We may prate of toleration as we will; but society must always draw a line somewhere between allowable conduct and insanity or crime."
Moreover, as a virtue, tolerance seems to have distanced itself so far from its etymological roots as to have become another word altogether. Thus the virtue of "tolerance" no longer implies the act of "toleration," but rather a general attitude of permissiveness and openness to diversity. A tolerant person will not tolerate all things, but only those things considered tolerable by the reigning cultural milieu. Tolerance therefore now has two radically incompatible meanings that create space for serious misunderstandings and abuse.
Tolerance and intolerance have no objective referent, but rather can be applied arbitrarily. Thus the accusation of intolerance has become a weapon against those whose standards for tolerance differ from one's own, and our criteria for tolerance depend on our subjective convictions or prejudices. Thus Voltaire was able to defend the actions of the Roman Empire in persecuting Christians and blamed the Christians themselves for their martyrdom because they failed to keep their religion to themselves. He avers that the death of Christians was a consequence of their own intolerance toward Rome, and not the other way around. Such sophistry is part and parcel of many of today's debates on tolerance, and flows from the ambivalence of the term.
The affair grows even muddier when the "acceptance of diversity," present in modern definitions of tolerance, is thrown into the mix. The UN Declaration of Principles on Tolerance incorporates a prior statement from the UN Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, which states: "All individuals and groups have the right to be different." Taken at face value, that is a ridiculous claim. Suicide bombing is "different," as are genocide and sadomasochism. To say that one person has a right to be bad, simply because another happens to be good, is the ludicrous logic of diversity entitlement.
The sloppiness of these definitions is unworthy of the lawyers who drafted them and cannot but lead to the suspicion that such ambiguity is intentional. This vagueness allows tolerance to be applied selectively-to race, sexual orientation, or religious conviction-while other areas-such as smoking, recycling, or animal experimentation-stand safely outside the purview of mandatory diversity.
Of course, this double standard is hardly new. John Locke himself, in the midst of his impassioned appeal for religious toleration, notes that toleration does not extend to Catholics, Muslims, or atheists. "To worship one's God in a Catholic rite in a Protestant country," he writes, "amounts to constructive subversion." In the end, the question for everyone necessarily becomes not, "Shall I be tolerant or intolerant?" but rather, "What shall I tolerate and what shall I not tolerate?"
AN AMUSING BIT OF BRITISH FOOT-SHOOTING
A council has sparked outrage after allegedly ordering a school to make sure a teacher who stood as a candidate for the British National Party only teaches white pupils. Teachers claim Clive Jones has been kept away from ethnic minority children once his ties with the far-right group became known. Union leaders have written to Derby City Council accusing it of playing into the hands of the party which has been widely condemned for its extremist views. The father-of-three teaches science to troubled teenagers at a 165-pupil unit for youngsters expelled from local schools. Around 10 per cent are black or Asian. But his teacher colleagues at Derby City Pupil Referral Unit were horrified when he stood as a BNP candidate in a council by-election last month. Local officials from the NASUWT union expressed concerns to the council that his support for the party views raised questions about his suitability to teach. The union claims Mr Jones was shortly afterwards told to take a different class - with only white children.
NASUWT general secretary, Chris Keates, said: "The information we received, and it is from an extremely reliable source, was that as a result of the contact with the council he was moved to teach a group that had only got white pupils. "Derby City Council deny that was the case, but after my letter had been received he was moved to his original class. The action to move him to a white-only class was completely the wrong response as it feeds prejudice and bigotry and plays into the philosophy of that organisation."
Mr Jones, of Tutbury, Burton-on-Trent, scraped 291 votes in a by-election for East Staffordshire Borough Council on June 29. Labour held the seat after its candidate polled 581. There is no legal barrier to a member of any political party becoming a teacher.
In a letter to the council voicing concerns about his candidacy, Mrs Keates said: "I am advised that when this matter was drawn to the attention of the local authority the response was apparently to move the teacher concerned to teaching only white pupils. "If this information is correct then I must raise the most serious concerns of the NASUWT about the response of the local authority to this matter which would appear to serve only to provide the opportunity for the person concerned to promote prejudice and bigotry and does nothing to protect pupils from exposure to the vile agenda of this organisation". Mrs Keates said the council should instead be exploring possible legal challenges to the teacher's continued employment. She revealed the union itself was taking legal advice on whether members can vote on whether to refuse to work with Mr Jones. She has also written to Education Secretary Alan Johnson demanding tougher curbs on BNP members working in schools. She said: "This teacher has made public his affiliations and support for the objects and aims of the BNP clear. Those who subscribe to a racist and fascist agenda have no place in the teaching profession."
The council - which has denied moving Mr Jones to a white only class - said he was conducting his duties "appropriately". "As Mr Jones's employer, the council must take account of the fact that the BNP is a registered political party," said Councillor Sara Bolton. "The council's current view is that there are no grounds for taking any action against Mr Jones."
A BNP spokesman said: "If that was the decision, it wasn't his decision and it was a lot of rubbish. No BNP member who is a teacher would behave inappropriately towards a pupil."
Australia: Tribal law 'no excuse for sex abuse'
Amazing that political correctness makes it necessary to assert that
Customary law will no longer be used as an excuse for sexual abuse and violence in indigenous communities under an agreement struck at yesterday's talks. John Howard and state leaders rejected an attempt by ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope to scuttle a statement on customary law on the grounds that it sent the wrong message on reconciliation. The push sparked a withering response from Peter Beattie during private talks, with the Queensland premier rolling his eyes at the suggestion and later urging the leaders to "stop the nonsense" on the issue.
Premiers have also signed off on a proposal to establish a joint intelligence taskforce to fight violence and child abuse under the supervision of the Australian Crime Commission. Truancy will be targeted under an agreement to collect and publish school attendance rates of indigenous children. The agreement follows the announcement of a $130million package to tackle law and order, reached at a recent inter-governmental summit on violence and child abuse.
COAG yesterday agreed to a statement that "no customary law or cultural practice excuses, justifies, authorises, requires or lessens the seriousness of violence or sexual abuse". The statement said: "All jurisdictions agree that their laws will reflect this, if necessary by future amendment."
However, Mr Stanhope rejected claims that customary law was being abused. "It is very important in the context of advancing reconciliation and issues in relation to indigenous disadvantage that we not seek to identify aspects of Aboriginal culture and customary law as incidences, or sources of some of the behaviours," he said. "It is important that we separate the causes of indigenous disadvantage from issues such as customary law, cultural background. The ACT has a particular position in relation to the role and place in sentencing courts to take account of issues such as cultural background."
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Beattie said it was clear states and territories needed to act. "Of course they do. I mean, there's too much abuse," he said. "We've got to stop all the nonsense that goes on about it. We don't have a problem with customary law in Queensland. Frankly, you know there are enough indigenous leaders who are taking a stand on this and we want to support them."
NSW Premier Morris Iemma also supported moves to address violence in indigenous communities. "I support the statement that we made about violence and abuse," Mr Iemma said.
However, Nothern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin said the positive contribution made by many Aboriginal people should not be forgotten. "Yes, it happens. But can I also say that one of the things that Aboriginal Territorians have said to me over the last few months is why can't Australia also recognise the incredible things that are being done, the people whose commitment is everyday for change," she said. "There are thousands of Aboriginal Australians who are really working hard for that change."
Law Council president Tim Bugg said statistics did not support claims that indigenous offenders were treated more leniently than other offenders.
18 July, 2006
AMAZING BRITISH AGE DISCRIMINATION LAWS
Employers will still hire those who "fit in" but just won't be able to mention that age was a factor -- thus wasting the time of many older (or younger) job applicants
Thousands of companies could be heading for expensive and embarrassing legal action when new age discrimination laws come into force in October, according to two studies. A survey of 18,000 employees has discovered that almost half believe that it is acceptable to discriminate on grounds of age when it comes to hiring staff or setting salaries. They were presented with six scenarios that would break the new law, and between a third and a half of respondents said that all six were a normal part of office life.
A third of people thought that it was fine to pay someone more if they were older, regardless of experience, and more than a third said that it was perfectly acceptable to turn down a job applicant if their age did not suit the company's image. An even higher proportion (40 per cent) said that it was fair to hire staff on the grounds of age so that they would fit into a team.
The attitudes are a serious concern for employers. Under the law, line managers and employees, as well as employers, are liable to charges of age discrimination and their behaviour can be cited at a tribunal. That leaves companies vulnerable to huge payouts if their staff breach the legislation, as there will be no cap on compensation.
Rachel Krys, head of communications at the Employers Forum on Age, which commissioned the research, said that companies needed to wake up to their new responsibilities. "There is clearly a long way to go before age discrimination is on a par with race and sex discrimination," she said. "Employers are just starting to realise that it is not enough to have the right policies in place if their managers and staff do not recognise age discrimination when they see it." In the US, cases involving age discrimination are increasing at a faster rate than any other form of claim.
The law, which comes into effect on October 1, will sweep away decades of tradition, especially in recruitment, by banning terms such as "bright young graduate" or "experience required" from job advertisments because they could be an attempt to screen out old or young candidates. Ageist jokes will also be prohibited and job application forms may no longer request a date of birth.
From October 1 it will be unlawful to: Ask a job applicant for a date of birth; Place job adverts in niche magazines; Use hidden messages in adverts such as 'energetic'; Get rid of staff on a last-in, first-out basis; Allow older staff to 'coast' into retirement
The rarely acknowledged downside of changing from biologically normal sex-roles
Relationship terrorism is an increasingly ugly and destructive phenomenon between strong Alpha females and less driven, more laid-back, gamma guys. At first, it is easy to see the attraction between these disparate types. The taut, controlled, go-getting female finds a charming, flexible chap who seems to be everything she is not: relaxed, nurturing and fun. So far, so promising. He can help her uncoil and bring romance and much-needed tenderness into her brittle life, while she can provide a lifestyle which is initially thrilling for its full-throttle dynamism.
This was certainly the case between me and my ex, who, at seven years younger than me, was, when I met him, settled in a corporate job in Somerset, coasting along but never going to reach for the fiscal stars. He seemed such a world apart from me and my competitive, high-octane friends that at first being with him felt like taking a holiday from myself. It was a blessed relief.
The rot sets in when the haze of love burns off and lurking resentment on both sides surges to the surface. My ex became irate that the full beam of my focus was on my career, while I was frustrated that he expected me to change when I had never claimed to be the stay-at-home, earth-mother type. We both wanted support and emotional attention that the other seemed unable to give.
In a situation like this, the woman wants her man to pull his weight - mainly financially - and, in a typically direct fashion, lets him know it. He, however, feels emasculated by her capricious demands and seeks to undermine her in an effort to flex his masculine muscle.
In our only post-mortem on our failed relationship this spring, four months after he left, I said to my ex: 'You pulled the trigger on this relationship.' And he shot back: 'But you loaded the gun.' At the time I found his suggestion ludicrous. Sure, I was tense, stressed and distracted, but wasn't I working harder than him to bring home more bacon and look after our child? However, thinking about this article has changed my perspective. Relationship terrorism is not, as some glossy women's magazines have suggested, exclusively a male preserve. Both partners are equally guilty of colluding in a power struggle which, unless they seek to redress the balance, will destroy any chances of a fulfilling, lasting union.
Statistics bear this out: the number of women entering the workplace has increased by a third since 1975, and in 2005 one third of all managers in business were women. At the same time, 40 per cent of all marriages end in divorce. Clearly, it's difficult to deny the two sets of figures are in some way connected. Relationship psychologist Dr Pam Spurr, author of Sex, Guys And Chocolate, says: 'I've come across this phenomenon many times and with more women in high-powered positions, power struggles like this are ever more common. 'Hard-hitting, driven women are attracted to slightly gentler, more laid-back men because in their subconscious they know they need more of that to get balance in their lives.' But if opposites initially attract, over time they cause friction because what was first appealing becomes irritating to women and we end up thinking: 'I want a real man around, not a laid-back wimp.'
I have witnessed the lacerating cycles in which the man feels demeaned, so he thinks: 'Right, I'll demean her.' He feels bad about himself because he knows her friends and her peer group think he's a loser compared with her, so he lashes out....
So what is the impact on Alpha women who provoke such attacks from their partners? Do they slog it out or do such messy break-ups cause them to reassess their lives? Interestingly, Alison has married again and has given up her high-powered career to enable her second husband to be the main bread winner. She is qualifying as an astrologer, while her husband works in marketing. 'He feels more empowered and it is better emotionally for our relationship,' Alison says.
As I rehash my own failed relationship, the question I ask myself is: why didn't I go for an Alpha male in the first place? Psychologist Dr Robert Holden, author of Success Intelligence, says that often Alpha women do not go for their Alpha match because, for them, what appears on the outside to be emotional strength masks a fragility they have not come to terms with.
I would agree that, personally, I was too needy in emotional terms and so thought an Alpha male would not have time for me. 'The big failure of Alpha women is that they starve themselves of attention and nurturing so they don't know what they want,' explains Dr Holden. 'If they are not careful, they end up choosing a feminine, caring man to take up the slack. 'This works in the honeymoon period but afterwards the problem is that each is trying to change each other rather than enjoy each other's differences. 'The woman says: "My role as Alpha female is to whip you into shape and make you more of a man." 'And he says: "I'm scared of how confident you are, so my role is to show you that you're not that confident emotionally, so that in the end you will stay with me because you need me."'
The answer to successful relationships would appear to be the need for greater self-awareness and emotional honesty. 'These relationships can work if an Alpha woman can find her softer side and the gamma man she has chosen can find a stronger side without being emasculated,' says Dr Pam Spurr. 'What I've found about many Alpha women is that in reality they do want a really powerful man in their lives, but perhaps they think it's horribly old-fashioned to admit the fact. 'They think: "I'm tired of being in this role of money maker," but they don't dare own up to themselves or their peer group that actually they want a man who earns more - that takes them back three decades in the workplace. 'The element of the Alpha woman's character most deeply hidden is that secretly she longs to be taken care of.'
It may be an insult to feminism to admit it but, battle-weary and scarred by relationship terrorism, I more and more begin to agree. How wonderful it would be to be loved and supported. Can a woman have a successful career and a successful relationship? Increasingly, I fear the answer is 'No'.
SOME FACTS THAT FOOD FASCISTS IGNORE
Many fruit drinks contain more sugar and calories than Coca-Cola, experts have found. Popular drinks are packed with hidden sugar and kilojoules, an investigation by The Sunday Mail found. And compared with freshly prepared fruit and vegetables they contain less fibre and fewer nutrients.
Dietician Kate Diprima said many people were not aware of the high kilojoule count in fruit drinks. "Many consumers choosing these are watching their weight and therefore will be surprised that the calories are comparable to cordial and soft drink," she said. Ms Diprima was asked by The Sunday Mail to analyse seven popular drinks, including a "blueberry blast"-flavoured Boost juice, Ribena blackcurrant fruit drink, Pop Tops orange drink, V8 Fruit & Veg Juice, Berri Juice It Up (pineapple, mango, banana and spirulina) and a McDonald's chocolate thick shake. "All the drinks analysed were incredibly sweet and concentrated, which only encourages a very sweet tooth," she said.
Coke was found to contain the fewest calories and the McDonald's chocolate shake the most. The orange-flavoured Pop Top, popular for children's lunch boxes, was not so popular with Ms Diprima. "It has no health benefits at all -- only five per cent juice or 12.5ml of orange juice. The only positive over the cola is that it is caffeine-free, therefore non-addictive," she said. "Poppers and pop-top juices should be limited to party foods, not lunchboxes."
Ribena, which is billed as containing real fruit juice and free of artificial sweeteners, contains 14.1g of sugar per 100ml. This makes it more sugary than cola. Coca-Cola, which is criticised for its lack of nutritional value, contains 10.6g of sugar per 100ml or 39.8g per can. The Boost blueberry blast fruit smoothie contains a whopping 72 calories per 100ml, or 468 calories in a regular serve -- quarter of an adult's recommended daily intake.
Diprima warned sugary drinks could cause bowel irritations, weight gain and dehydration. Derek Lewis, of the Australian Dental Association, said the drinks could also lead to dental problems. "You end up with either decay from the sugar in the drink or this erosion problem from the acid in the drink. In combination, high sugar and high acid is devastating," he said. "The profession is concerned about dental erosion, we call it the silent epidemic, particularly here in southeast Queensland, where acidic drinks, including citrus juices, dissolve teeth over time.
Dr Lewis advised parents to limit children's consumption of juice or fruit drinks. "It really doesn't matter what the source of the acid or the sugar is, whether it's a natural product or an artificial soft drink, they still have the same effect."
Queensland University of Technology Institute of Health and Biomedical researcher, Susan Ash, said the "high density" drinks could lead to child obesity. "The children can be getting quite significant amounts of unnecessary energy from the drinks," she said. "You only need to be consuming a small amount above your energy needs for your weight to go up." Ms Ash said the sugar from soft drink was metabolised the same way as sugar from juice. "It terms of weight control, it doesn't matter what the type of sugar, it's still going to give you that same amount of energy when it's broken down in the body," she said. "People don't go to a tap or bubbler any more to get a drink. "It has to be somehow processed into a flavoured beverage -- and it's hard to get a drink less than 600ml."
17 July, 2006
Excerpts from Roger Scruton
Now I do not doubt that there is such a thing as racism, that it has been immensely destructive and that our governments are right to look for methods to prevent its expression. Racially motivated crime carries an added penalty in English law, and incitement to racial violence is regarded as a serious offence. However, the adoption of such provisions should not blind us to the many double standards that haunt discussion of this issue.
First, the double standard over `racism': a charge constantly levelled against innocent members of the indigenous majority, and almost never levelled against guilty members of immigrant minorities. This is not a European phenomenon only. On the contrary, there is a kind of collective guilt-feeling that imbues all discussions of racial difference in the West today. I recently had cause to study an academic article in the journal of the American Psychological Association, setting forth its official policy regarding multiculturalism and the treatment of minorities. And I was stunned to come across the following sentence: `All whites are racist, whether or not knowingly'. There you have it, endorsed by a prestigious academic and professional body: all whites are racist, whether or not knowingly.That, to my mind, is a racist remark of the lowest kind, one that attributes to people of a certain skin-colour an enormous moral fault, and one which they can do nothing to overcome, since they possess it unknowingly. And the sentence is indicative of a widespread approach to racial and cultural relations in the modern world. Racism is defined as a disease of the indigenous majority, from which incoming minorities are genetically immune, even when they bring with them the visceral anti-semitism that prevails in much of the Arab world, or the Malaysian hatred of the ethnic Chinese. Why is our political ,lite so keen to charge their own people with racism, and to turn a blind eye to the racism of immigrants? The answer is to be found in another double standard, encapsulated in the charge so frequently associated with that of racism - the charge of xenophobia.
I do not doubt that there is such a thing as xenophobia, though it is a very different thing from racism. Etymologically the term means fear of (and therefore aversion towards) the foreigner. Its very use implies a distinction between the one who belongs and the one who doesn't, and in inviting us to jettison our xenophobia politicians are inviting us to extend a welcome to people other than ourselves - a welcome predicated on a recognition of their otherness. Now it is easy for an educated member of the liberal ,lite to discard his xenophobia: for the most part his contacts with foreigners help him to amplify his power, extend his knowledge and polish his social expertise. But it is not so easy for an uneducated worker to share this attitude, when the incoming foreigner takes away his job, brings strange customs and an army of dependents into the neighbourhood, and finally surrounds him with the excluding sights and sounds of a ghetto.
Again, however, there is a double standard that affects the description. Members of our liberal ,lite may be immune to xenophobia, but there is an equal fault which they exhibit in abundance, which is the repudiation of, and aversion to, home. Each country exhibits this vice in its own domestic version. Nobody brought up in post-war England can fail to be aware of the educated derision that has been directed at our national loyalty by those whose freedom to criticize would have been extinguished years ago, had the English not been prepared to die for their country. The loyalty that people need in their daily lives, and which they affirm in their unconsidered and spontaneous social actions, is now habitually ridiculed or even demonized by the dominant media and the education system. National history is taught as a tale of shame and degradation. The art, literature and religion of our nation have been more or less excised from the curriculum, and folkways, local traditions and national ceremonies are routinely rubbished.
This repudiation of the national idea is the result of a peculiar frame of mind that has arisen throughout the Western world since the Second World War, and which is particularly prevalent among the intellectual and political elites. No adequate word exists for this attitude, though its symptoms are instantly recognized: namely, the disposition, in any conflict, to side with `them' against `us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably `ours'. I call the attitude oikophobia - the aversion to home - by way of emphasizing its deep relation to xenophobia, of which it is the mirror image. Oikophobia is a stage through which the adolescent mind normally passes. But it is a stage in which intellectuals tend to become arrested. As George Orwell pointed out, intellectuals on the Left are especially prone to it, and this has often made them willing agents of foreign powers. The Cambridge spies - educated people who penetrated our foreign service during the war and betrayed our Eastern European allies to Stalin - offer a telling illustration of what oikophobia has meant for my country and for the Western alliance. And it is interesting to note that a recent BBC `docudrama' constructed around the Cambridge spies neither examined the realities of their treason nor addressed the suffering of the millions of their East European victims, but merely endorsed the oikophobia that had caused them to act as they did.
Nor is oikophobia a specifically English, still less specifically British tendency. When Sartre and Foucault draw their picture of the `bourgeois' mentality, the mentality of the Other in his Otherness, they are describing the ordinary decent Frenchman, and expressing their contempt for his national culture. A chronic form of oikophobia has spread through the American universities, in the guise of political correctness, and loudly surfaced in the aftermath of September 11th, to pour scorn on the culture that allegedly provoked the attacks, and to side by implication with the terrorists. And oikophobia can be everywhere read in the attacks levelled against the Vlaams Belang.
The domination of our national Parliaments and the EU machinery by oikophobes is partly responsible for the acceptance of subsidised immigration, and for the attacks on customs and institutions associated with traditional and native forms of life. The oikophobe repudiates national loyalties and defines his goals and ideals against the nation, promoting transnational institutions over national governments, accepting and endorsing laws that are imposed from on high by the EU or the UN, and defining his political vision in terms of cosmopolitan values that have been purified of all reference to the particular attachments of a real historical community. The oikophobe is, in his own eyes, a defender of enlightened universalism against local chauvinism. And it is the rise of oikophobia that has led to the growing crisis of legitimacy in the nation states of Europe. For we are seeing a massive expansion of the legislative burden on the people of Europe, and a relentless assault on the only loyalties that would enable them voluntarily to bear it. The explosive effect of this has already been felt in Holland and France, and of course it is now being felt in Belgium too.
But there is a third double standard that can be perceived in the official policies of the EU when it comes to nationality. Where national sentiments pose a threat to the centralisation of power, the European machine is determined to extinguish them. Such is the case when it comes to Flemish nationalism, which threatens the very heart of the machine. Where, however, national sentiments serve to break down rival centres of power, the European machine gladly endorses them. It has dealt with my country as though Britain were a wholly artificial creation like Belgium, has encouraged Scottish and Welsh nationalism, and imposed on us an official map in which Scotland and Wales exists, but England is not mentioned, being merely the arbitrary sum of four independent `regions' by which it is to be eventually replaced. Britain won the war, and established thereby its immovable place in our affections, a place that it cannot yield to a power-hungry bureaucracy situated in a once occupied country. The only way to destroy Britain, therefore, is to emphasize the rival loyalties that will blow it apart and at the same time destroy its center which is England.
It is in the light of these double standards that the charge of `racism and xenophobia' should be assessed. It is a charge almost invariably levelled at members of the indigenous communities of Europe, and in particular against those at the bottom of the social scale, for whom mass immigration is a cost that they have not been schooled (and through no fault of their own) to bear. It is levelled too at political parties that attempt to represent those people, and who promise them some relief from a problem that no other party seems willing to address. Those who level the charge are almost invariably in the grip of oikophobia. Their sense of belonging is fragile or non-existent. They look on the old forms of European community, and in particular on the old national identities that shaped our continent, with barely concealed distaste. And by focussing on their cosmopolitan visions of politics, they are able to turn a blind eye to the fact that European states contain a growing number of people who have neither national loyalty nor the Enlightenment ideals that have stemmed from it. It is in this way, therefore, that we should explain the charge of `racism and xenophobia': it issues from the bad conscience of a liberal ,lite living in denial.
VIOLENT NEWS MUST BE BANNED!
No-one has quite said that yet but it is only a small step away, given the report below
Watching repeated screenings of terrorist attacks on television alters the structure of the brain and increases the viewer's risk of suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, research suggests. Joan Anzia, a professor of psychiatry, told the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists that footage such as from the attacks of September 11, 2001, played into the hands of terrorists by increasing stress impact on the brain.
Professor Anzia, of Northwestern University in Chicago, said that people who repeatedly watched footage of the attack in the days after had a higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Research showed that prolonged stress caused an increase in the size of the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes the basic emotions of fear, anger and anxiety. "TV companies that screen disaster footage to boost ratings should examine their consciences, as they are causing harm to their audiences," Professor Anzia said.
The conference, being held in Glasgow, heard that this increased sense of fear and anxiety was one of the main targets of terrorists. Psychiatric research of the attacks on New York has shown that people who watched the coverage most incessantly, even if they were thousands of miles away, were often as likely to be as traumatised as those who were actually there.
Other research has found that the closer a person lives geographically to the location of a disaster, the higher the chances of developing the disorder. One study even suggested that almost half the population of the United States had experienced at least one symptom of the disorder in the week after 9/11.
SCRAP BRITAIN'S LIBEL LAWS
This week, on the same day that the defamation trial of the Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan began at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Irish justice minister Michael McDowell announced reforms to Ireland's defamation laws, which, it is believed, will have far-reaching implications for British newspapers. But the libel laws, whether in Ireland or Britain, do not need further tinkering. They need to be scrapped.
Sheridan, former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of the News of the World, and demanding 200,000 pounds in damages, over claims made by the paper in November 2004 that Sheridan had committed adultery, was a `swinger', and had participated in orgies. With his wife by his side, Sheridan stated: `We're taking on a big organisation that tells lies regularly. But we're confident we'll beat them in court.' Sheridan might fancy himself as a David facing up to a Goliath, but it is not particularly brave to sue newspapers. As a claimant - or plaintiff, as they used to be called - the odds are clearly stacked in your favour, whether or not what was said about you was true.
Indeed, Irish justice minister McDowell announced his proposals to reform Ireland's libel laws following a number of `bluff-type libel cases'. That is where claimants knew the allegations made about them were true but still managed to extract an apology and damages from the publisher because they knew the publisher was unlikely to be able to prove the veracity of the allegation in court.
So under the new proposals in Ireland, anyone who sues a newspaper will have to swear a verifiable affidavit that they know the content of the newspaper article in question to be untrue. But how much of a disincentive will this really be for those who know they are likely to get away with laundering their reputation through the libel courts? If a claimant is confident that the defendant will not be able to prove the veracity of the allegation, does it really matter to them that they have sworn an affidavit? It seems to me that Ireland's proposed reforms follow in the footsteps of Britain's many failed attempts to make the libel laws more egalitarian and less censorious.
Journalist Dominic Ponsford, writing in the UK Press Gazette, argues that: `Back in the 1980s, the London libel courts were likened to the most exclusive casino in the world, where only the very rich could afford the huge legal bills necessary to take on newspapers in the High Court'. The risks were high - with notoriously prohibitive legal costs - but so were the rewards. Take the case of the now disgraced peer Jeffrey Archer, who won 500,000 pounds in libel damages from the Daily Star, over allegations that he had sex with a prostitute. (He was forced to pay back the 500,000 pounds, with interest, in 2002 after his perjury conviction.)
However, in 1999, with the introduction of Conditional Fee Arrangements (CFAs), the kind of no-win, no-fee rules for lawyers that were pioneered in personal injury cases became a possibility in libel cases too. These no-win, no-fee arrangements have been welcomed by many for levelling out the playing field in libel. But setting aside the arguments I have made previously on spiked - that financial assistance can never make a fundamentally unjust and undemocratic law just and democratic - the CFAs have, in some ways, made matters worse.
Newspapers are raising concerns about the `ransom factor' - that is, being held to ransom by individuals who, whether or not they are likely to win in court, will land the paper with hefty legal bills. No-win, no-fee libel claimants are unlikely to be able to afford the defendant's legal bills should they lose. So publishers have ended up paying costs amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds to their own lawyers over stories that were found not to be libellous. Also, the stakes are higher for newspapers sued by individuals under CFAs, as lawyers are allowed to double their normal fees if they win their case since they get nothing if they lose - hence, there is an added incentive for publishers to settle early rather than to test the case in court.
Another ruling that was seen by many as a victory for press freedom was the House of Lords' decision in the case brought by the former Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Albert Reynolds against Times Newspapers Limited in the Nineties. The Lords ruled that newspapers that have made defamatory statements - even if they are untrue - should be protected if the information published is so important that the interest in publishing it outweighs safeguarding a person's reputation. `The press discharges vital functions as a bloodhound as well as a watchdog', the Lords ruled. `The court should be slow to conclude that a publication was not in the public interest and, therefore, the public had no right to know, especially when the information is in the field of political discussion. Any lingering doubts should be resolved in favour of publication.'
But, as spiked has argued over the Reynolds ruling, England still has a long way to go to catch up with the law as it exists in most other Western countries. In England, libel law rests on the assumption that claimants have an `unblemished record', and claimants only need to show that the words complained of are capable of lowering their standing in the estimation of `right-thinking members of the public'.
Those who sue do not need to prove that their reputation has been damaged, nor do they have to prove that the words complained of are untrue. The assumption is that the defamatory statement is false, with the burden falling on the defendant to prove it is true. This reversal of the burden of proof - with the defendant pretty much guilty until he proves his innocence - is almost unique to English libel law. The defendant does not only have to defend the literal meaning of what has been said, but also possible interpretations. So arguing that a particular defamatory meaning was not intended will not hold up as a defence in court. Claimants can - and often do - succeed in attributing defamatory meanings to statements that the defendant never intended as defamatory.
It is no wonder that London has become the libel tourism hotspot of the world. There have been numerous cases in which claimants have gone out of their way to bring actions in London, even when the alleged defamatory statement was made in a publication based in another country but which has a tiny circulation in the UK. Last year Roman Polanski, the Polish film director now living in France, and facing a statutory rape charge in the USA, won 50,000 pounds in damages from Vanity Fair, an American magazine, by suing it in the High Court in London.
Recent reports suggest that Belfast may soon challenge London as the libel capital of the world. Some US celebrities - including Britney Spears, who is suing the Florida-based National Enquirer - are reportedly looking to take libel action in Belfast's courts. Belfast, with similar libel laws to England, offers the prospect of higher payouts and lower costs.
Whether Belfast or London, American celebrities sue in the UK because their case would never go to court in their homeland. The landmark ruling in New York Times v Sullivan in 1964 created a `public figure defence', making it extremely difficult for public individuals to sue for libel in the US. To succeed in a libel case, claimants would need to show that not only were the allegations untrue but that they were made maliciously or with reckless disregard to the truth.
The US Supreme Court observed that in free debate erroneous statements are inevitable and must be protected - otherwise free expression would not have the `breathing space' it needs, and media self-censorship would become the norm. The fear of not being able to prove the truth of the published words in court - and the recognition of the expense and resources required to do so - would limit public debate, the Court argued.
In 1997, the US Maryland State Appeals Court refused to recognise an English libel ruling, arguing that the principles of English libel law failed to measure up to basic human rights standards and were `repugnant' to the First Amendment ideal of free speech.
16 July, 2006
Sofa Tax Would Be Good for the Children, Says Health Group
Flanked by poster-sized images of Fat Albert and Babe Ruth, the American Mendacity Association (AMA) today launched a new initiative for a federal tax on sofas and lounge chairs.
Following its proposal for a tax on sodas sweetened with corn syrup (the "crack cocaine" of sweeteners), the organization's board vowed to do more to "protect our children from the ravages of relaxation."
A new study sponsored by the AMA finds that 384 percent of all children are obese by age five, and most experts agree that -- just behind plentiful food and the division of labor -- the third most dangerous contributor to this epidemic is comfortable seating. According to the study, whereas 100 years ago there was only one lounge chair or sofa for every three households, thanks to technology and productivity there are now four forms of inexpensive, comfortable seating per house. This, says Harriet Hydra, president of the AMA Division of Pleasure Elimination, creates a deadly atmosphere that "inspires children to sit or lay back, and turn all those extra calories to fat."
"We all pay when people relax," said Hydra, citing "negative externalities" imposed on other citizens. Wellness providers, she said, see higher instances of obesity, diabetes, nail-biting, and insanity in children who sit or recline for longer than three hours a month on comfortable sofas. "The epidemic of obesity places a strain on our public health-care system, and hence on all of us. With a 1-cent-per-second tax on sofa sitting, we could not only change peoples' behavior, we could also generate up to $1.5 billion a year, money that could be used wisely by many of my physician friends who are ready to start up new 'sofa counseling' clinics," Hydra said.
Given the respect afforded the AMA and wellness providers in general, such a bill would stand a good chance of passing the U.S. House and Senate. Max Quartlepleen, head of the watchdog group American Scientists Who Are Extremely Concerned, added, "We're extremely concerned. We're here to fight Big Sofa."
Asked by a reporter why the negative externalities of socialized medicine should be forced on free individuals against their wills, thus opening the door to higher costs, price caps on medical services, and more government regulation of private affairs, habits, and living conditions, Quartlepleen replied: "I don't know which lobby group sent you here, whether it was Serta, Sealy, or Stearns and Foster, but buddy, we don't need loudmouths like you at public forums in America. So why don't you just take your sleep-number attitude and get outta here?!"
After the news conference Hydra was asked if she saw any impediments to passage of the AMA proposal. "Well, common sense is a problem," she said. "But we're working on that in association with the National Education Association. We could also stand to curtail the power of free thinkers and those who follow the U.S. Constitution. A lot has been done in those areas, but we're not out of the woods yet."
When asked what the AMA would do if its proposal did not become law, Hydra said that the organization has an alternate plan. "If we can't get a tax to protect our kids and wallets from this deadly scourge, we will work for better regulation of sofas, and health initiatives such as time shockers and spring spikes, to get people on their feet at regular intervals," she said. Many congressmen have openly expressed support for such measures.
As he was led away by authorities, the reporter who had disrupted the conference asked Hydra what she was going to do about things like books, music, films, and conversation, since they all tend to inspire periods of sedentary, fat-building inactivity. "We're working on that," she said.
Source (Satire, of course)
THE FREEDOMS LOST
Some Americans are under the mistaken assumption that they "own" their freedom. While it's certainly true that their unalienable rights are theirs, both personally and collectively, the freedom that ensures they can exercise those rights was really bought and paid for by others. And the truth is that, even if they've paid some of the purchase price themselves, it's still not theirs to do with as they will.
As far back as the 13th Century, men fought for freedom; the Magna Charta enshrined the notion that their freedom was theirs and that the government had no right to interfere. In the late 1700's, a group of revolutionaries fought against the unreasoning curbs on freedom by a King and won. Referencing the Magna Charta, they fashioned a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that belongs to no man because it's effectively owned by all of them.
Over the course of the years, Americans have fought and died for freedom. But the reality of it is that they weren't so much fighting for themselves as they were for themselves and their posterity. Freedom, like some other things, is only momentarily meaningful if it's not passed on. So it's perfectly legitimate to suggest that the freedom you and I enjoy today (such as it is) is freedom we're only using until we can pass it on to the next generation.
When our generation was charged with the administration of our country, we were able to speak freely (with a very few notable and thankfully momentary exceptions). Today, political correctness has already resulted in provisions for the deterrence and punishment of "hate speech," and misplaced (and frankly misnamed) patriotism threatens political speech ranging from association to flag burning (certainly you're aware of the FBI monitoring of various anti-war groups and of the Senate's push to amend the Constitution itself to outlaw flag desecration).
When our generation was handed the reins of the country, we were able to order guns via mail orders. But because of the actions of one irresponsible man (conspiracy theories aside for the moment), the assassination of John F. Kennedy (followed by those of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.) put a stop to the freedom of the rest of the population from being able to buy firearms so simply. Boys (and often girls too) looked forward to receiving their first guns, and when they did, they were taught safety and responsibility that ensured they'd enjoy target practice and hunting; today, such recent all American traditions are looked upon as "redneck" at best, and oftentimes viewed as just plain wrong.
When our generation was given the care of American liberties, searches required warrants. But because of the federal government's unbending "war on drugs," various warrantless searches (more commonly called "sobriety checkpoints") are common; because of the federal government's claims of defense in the "war on terror," our e-mails, phone calls, Internet habits, and banking transactions have been monitored, sorted, data-mined, and who knows what else.
When our generation took over from the generation before us, our justice system relied on the crucial proviso that we were innocent 'til proven guilty. Today, the merest accusation of child abuse or drug use is enough that those so accused are often forced to prove their innocence before the courts will set them free - and even then, most find their reputations irredeemably damaged among their neighbors and associates. In the past, men and women were arrested on charges, and held on charges, and tried on charges, and then jailed or released; today, men are even now being held without any charges at all.
When our generation took hold of powers of government, privacy had been ruled a basic right by courts which determined our bedrooms were sacrosanct and our medical privacy inviolate. Today, privacy is assailed at every street corner by ubiquitous cameras in the name of "safety," and in every home with the "war on terror's" arsenal that permits searches and worse without cause, or even the knowledge of the person being searched that a search has been conducted. Data theft is rampant largely because data collection is rampant; medical privacy is virtually non-existent thanks to federal regulations which claim to protect privacy but which in realty offer broad-based exceptions to rules that were previously just fine as they were
"HATE SPEECH" AGAINST FAT PEOPLE?
Try saying about homosexuals half the things that are said with impunity about fat people. For starters, try having schools running programs designed to prevent people from becoming homosexuals. Uproar!
There's a war going on against fat people. From the fashion industry to Hollywood, supermarket aisles to doctor's offices, fat people are the new pariahs. Excuse me, you're probably thinking. Did you say write that certain word? Don't you mean "weight-challenged"? "Gravitationally pulled"? "Amply adiposal"? No I don't. I mean fat. Isn't it all just another round in the same old battle that thin people like to fight against people of ample girth? We of us who are overweight versus anorexic skeletons? The Paris Hiltons of the world versus the sumo wrestlers? In an age of bulimic movie-star role models, by comparison even thin people are fat. Yes I write the politically incorrect word "fat" because I know of what I speak and have earned the right to.
I've always had a tendency to gain weight and put on pounds. From being relegated to the Fatty Brigade in Army Basic Training to torturing myself with dozens of ridiculous and in the end ineffective diet scams over the years (grapefruit, cabbage soup, chocolate, water anyone?) I suddenly did a very bold thing: I gave up. Bring on the pounds. I don't care anymore. It may not look good and it may be damaging to our health, but isn't it just a personal decision each of us have to make? So I've been there and done that repeatedly and can speak from experience.
Who are these people who don't like it because we all look like we just emerged from the all-you-can-eat buffet and are contemplating going back for sixes and sevens. They're as rabid as PETA people with their paint cans and holier-than-thou attitude: "The war against wearing fur has begun. We will attack anywhere, anytime."
First of all, they're telling us through articles in the media that fat people are not really happier than thin people. The cultural stereotype of the jolly fat person is more a figment of the imagination than reality. We're laughing on the outside and crying on the inside because we're fat and fat leads to depression and other mood disorders. And I say pish. They're just trying to scare us. Go watch a John Candy movie or Laurel and Hardy (at least Oliver). They're a laugh riot. And quite frankly I've known a lot more skinny people in my life who were alcoholics than fat people, and few drunks are a barrel of laughs.
Second point they liked to make in their front on the war against fat people is to call in the Big Guns and try to shame us through political correctness. "Experts," they like to point out, are now debating whether children should be diagnosed as "obese," fearing the negative connotations. Is it OK to tell parents their children, not to mention themselves, are fat? This is pushing PC way too far. Then you'll have to decide when "fat" is not fat but merely "overweight" or "obese." How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
Who decides who's fat anyway? Doctors, I guess, and our peers. These are hard enough times for fat people what with anorexic celebrities and medical scare tactics, so why rub it in? Let's face it. Fat is fat. Call it what it is. Get over it. And if it bothers you so much, lose it.
15 July, 2006
"BALANCE" IN CLASSICAL MUSIC
How can there be a male/female "balance" when all the great composers are men? I am a Bach/Mozart man myself but all the other highly esteemed composers are men too. And they are highly esteemed because they are the composers whom most people enjoy listening to. People won't pay to listen to music unless they enjoy it.
If you go to a classical concert, the organizers almost always pop in a "modern" piece somewhere to "educate" you but they never make it the last piece on the program because they know that many in the audience would start walking out at that point if they did.... and "modern" music written by women is no different. Let them put it last on the program if they want to get in touch with reality. But they know the reality well enough.
Not all modern composers are hopeless but needles in the haystack like Philip Glass (another male) are both exceedingly rare and in no need of promoting. Glass's music speaks for itself and who cares what program it is on when you can buy it all on CD? Click here to hear some typically mesmeric Glass
In A remarkable gaffe, the BBC Proms season that opens tonight features not a single piece of music composed or conducted by a woman. For the first time in at least 20 years, men will have written and will direct all 270 pieces at the 73 evening concerts. The absence of women composers or conductors has caused consternation, even in the male-dominated world of classical music. "I'm hoping this is a statistical accident, to be handsomely corrected next year," said Judith Weir, a leading British composer whose operas have been staged at Covent Garden.
Defending the all-male line-up of composers and conductors this summer, Nicholas Kenyon, the controller of the BBC Proms, said: "We achieve balance over several seasons, not every season."
This gender imbalance also extends to the choice of instrumental soloists for the 112-year old concerts at the Albert Hall. There are twenty male pianists, but only two females. And overall, male instrumental soloists outnumber women by a ratio of five to one. "There are women writing brilliant and highly individual music," said Jude Kelly, the artistic director of the South Bank Centre in London. "Perhaps they won't need the Proms, but the Proms might need them."
"I would hate to be included in the Proms as a token woman," said Sally Beamish, a composer whose work is heavily featured in this year's Cheltenham Music Festival. "But young composers should see that composition is something that women do, and from that point of view [their omission] is a pity."
FATHERS NO LONGER NEEDED IN THE UNHINGED KINGDOM
Single women and lesbians will have the right to seek fertility treatment after the most radical shake-up of Britain's embryology laws for 16 years. A child's need for a father will no longer have to be considered by clinics before they provide IVF or sperm donation services, under proposals announced yesterday by Caroline Flint, Public Health Minister. However, doctors will still be obliged to consider the welfare of any children who might be born, and the "need for a father" may be replaced by the "need for a family".
The review of the 1990 Fertilisation and Embryology Act, considered widely to be out of date, will also formally ban parents from choosing the sex of their child for non-medical reasons. It will include a set of broad principles outlining when it is acceptable to screen embryos for genetic diseases. The reforms are expected to be set out in a White Paper by the end of the year.
The 1990 Act states that clinics cannot provide treatment to infertile patients "unless account has been taken of the welfare of any child who might be born as a result . . . including the need of that child for a father". Some clinics interpret this as a ban on treating single women and lesbians; some accept such women provided that there is an uncle, grandfather or family friend who will act as a paternal figure. Gay and lesbian groups and infertility support charities regard the rule as discriminatory and anachronistic. Dame Suzi Leather, chairwoman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, has attacked it as a "nonsense". Some lawyers consider the rule illegal under human rights legislation, and it is out of step with the Government's Equality Bill, which will outlaw the refusal to provide services on grounds of sexual orientation.
Ms Flint said that the Government accepted the case for reform. "We are minded to retain a duty in terms of the welfare of the child, but we are thinking that there is less of a case for retaining the law in reference to a father," she told the Commons Science and Technology Committee. "What's important is looking at the family environment. There's less of a need for the reference to the father in that circumstance. That's not to say that fathers are not important. What's important is that the children are going to be, as far as we know, part of a loving home." Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat member of the committee, who has led the campaign to change the law, said: "I'm pleased that after 16 years of licensed discrimination against solo mothers and lesbian couples there are signs that it will come to an end. Susan Crane, a former board member of the lesbian and gay group Pink Parents, said: "It's not before time that they have recognised the changing nature of families and the validity of many different kinds of families. The requirement was an anachronism that was judgmental and insulting."
Campaigners for traditional values, however, said that the move would undermine the importance of fatherhood. Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: "This is exactly what we expected - politically correct gender politics gone mad with inherent contradictions and the rights of women trumping everything else, including the welfare of the child. "Fathers will be written out of the Act on one hand, but no gender discrimination is allowed when it comes to sex selection of embryos. I think the world will ridicule most of these recommendations, as will the majority of people in the United Kingdom, especially the attack on the role of fatherhood."
The Science and Technology Committee recommended last year that sex selection be allowed for "family balancing", where a couple already had boys or girls and wanted a child of the opposite sex. Dr Harris said: "The State should be giving good reasons before restricting the reproductive choice of adult citizens."
From Dennis Prager
I was recently shown a videotape of people reacting to radio talk shows. Organized by a firm that specializes in analyzing radio talk shows, the members of the listening panel were carefully chosen to represent all major listening groups within American society. But I quickly noticed something odd - I saw no blacks among the selected listeners. I asked why. And the response was stunning.
Blacks had always been included, I was told, but no more. Not because the firm was not interested in black listeners - on the contrary, blacks are an important part of the radio audience. They were not invited to give their opinion about various radio shows because in its previous experience, the company had discovered that almost no whites would publicly differ with the opinions of the blacks on the panel. Therefore, once a black listener spoke, whites stopped saying what they really thought, if what they thought differed from what a black had said.
I believed that this was the reason - not some racist animosity toward blacks - since such companies are paid to give accurate reports on audience reactions to radio programs, and clearly their results would be skewed without input from black listeners. But I still needed to test this thesis. Do most whites really not publicly say what they believe, if what they believe differs from what a black believes - even when the subject has absolutely nothing to do with race (i.e., reactions to a radio talk show discussing other subjects)?
So I posed to this question to my radio audience, and, sure enough, whites from around the country called in to say that they are afraid to differ with blacks lest they be labeled racist.
I could not imagine anything more detrimental toward abolishing racism and to enhancing black progress in America than such an attitude. But apparently it is the norm in American life to so fear being called a racist that individuals as well as institutions react to blacks as they would to children - humoring them rather than taking them seriously.
This is another terrible legacy of the dominant liberal attitudes vis a vis America's blacks. For the liberal worlds of academia and media, as for the Democratic Party, blacks are not seen as individuals, the way members of virtually other minority and majority groups are. In the liberal mind, blacks are an oppressed group - the ultimate oppressed group in America - and there is little more about black Americans that one needs to know.
Therefore, in a mind-numbing non sequitur, blacks are not be judged, talked to, talked about or hired as other human beings are. I write "non sequitur" because even if one were to agree that blacks are an, or even the, oppressed minority, why would that obviate the need to judge, talk to, talk about or hire black human beings differently than anyone else? It would seem that anyone with equal respect for blacks would judge and talk to them just as they would all other people. But high schools and universities, newspapers and television, the Democratic Party and other liberal institutions have made it very difficult to do so.
Anyone who argues that standards should be identical for blacks - in hiring and in college acceptance, for example - is likely to be labeled a racist. And if the person making that argument is himself black, he becomes a member of the group liberals most hate, black conservatives - "traitors" to fellow blacks.
This also explains why, if one differs with a black, one is not perceived as merely disagreeing with him, but as "dissing" him. That is what started the liberal hatred of former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers. After asking Harvard Professor Cornel West to engage in more scholarship and less rap music making and politicking (West was a major figure in the Al Sharpton campaign for president), Professor West announced that President Summers had shown him "disrespect." Even a Harvard president doesn't tell a black professor what to do.
After dismissing Cornel West's books as "almost completely worthless," the New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier was attacked in ways that made it clear that one should simply not attack a black professor's literary output as one would a white professor's.
Every time liberals force universities to lower standards for black applicants, and every time liberal activists force civil service exams to be rewritten so that more blacks can pass those exams, another person learns not to treat blacks and their ideas as he would anyone else's.
That is why most whites won't differ publicly with most blacks. And that is why liberals and Democrats will have to answer to history for the harm they have done to at least two generations of black Americans.
Thank Heaven for moral violence
From Dennis Prager
Let us make war on the phrase "violence doesn't solve anything." It is a lie, and anyone who utters it cannot be taken morally seriously. Take, for example, the American use of violence against the Taliban. Thanks to it, Afghani women may get an education, attend public events without a male escort, and otherwise ascend above their prior status as captive animals.
Thanks to American violence in Afghanistan, Islamic terror has started to decline in prestige among many Muslims who had previously romanticized it. Though many Muslims still glorify Muslims who blow themselves up in order to murder Jews and Americans, the glamour of terror is dwindling. In Pakistan, for example, there are almost no Osama T-shirts on sale, and no more demonstrations on his behalf. Even more significantly, a handful of Muslims and Arabs are beginning to ask what is wrong in their cultures, rather than continuing to blame America, Christianity and Israel for their lack of human rights, political democracy and economic progress. Once again, violence properly used has led to major moral gains for humanity.
You have to wonder how anyone can utter, let alone believe, something so demonstrably wrong as "violence doesn't solve anything" or "an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind," or any other pacifist platitudes. These are the moral and intellectual equivalents of "the earth is flat." In fact, it is easier to show that violence solves many evils than it is to show that the earth is round. It was violence that destroyed Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Only violence. Not talk. Not negotiations. Not good will. It is violence used by police that stops violent criminals from murdering or otherwise hurting innocent people. There are many innocent men and women alive today solely because some policeman used violence to save their lives. It was violence that ended slavery in America. Had violence not been used against the Confederacy, the United States would have been cut in half, and millions of black men and women would have remained slaves.
The list of moral good achieved by violence is endless. How, then, can anyone possibly say something as demonstrably false as "violence doesn't solve anything"? The answer is difficult to arrive at. Given how obviously moral much violence has been, one is tempted to respond by asking how people can believe any absurdity -- whether it is that Elvis Presley is still living, or that race determines a person's behavior, or that 72 women in heaven await mass murderers.
Vast numbers of people believe what they want to believe or what they have been brainwashed to believe, not what is true or good. For vast numbers of people, it is simply dogma that all violence is wrong. It is a position arrived at with little thought but with a plethora of naive passion. It is also often the position of the morally confused. People who believe in moral relativism, who therefore cannot ever determine which side in a conflict is morally right, understandably feel incapable of determining when violence may be moral. Those who say violence never solves anything have confused themselves in other ways as well. They have elevated peace above goodness. Therefore, in these people's views, it is better for evil to prevail than to use violence to end that evil -- since the very use of violence renders the user of it evil.
For those people whose moral compasses are intact, the issue is as clear as where North and South are. There is immoral violence and there is moral violence. That is why it is so morally wrong and so pedagogically foolish to prohibit young boys from watching any violence or from playing violent games like "Cops and Robbers." Just as with sex and ambition and all other instincts, what must be taught about violence is when it is right to use it. For if we never engage in moral violence, it is as certain as anything in life can be that immoral violence will rule the world.
14 July, 2006
POLITICALLY CORRECT CHURCHES LOSE OUT
The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA, in which several parishes and even a few dioceses are opting out of the church, isn't simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It also is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.
Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church. Instead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.
It is not entirely coincidental that at about the same time that Episcopalians, at their general convention in Columbus, Ohio, were thumbing their noses at a directive from the worldwide Anglican Communion that they "repent" of confirming the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire three years ago, the Presbyterian Church USA, at its general assembly in Birmingham, Ala., was turning itself into the laughingstock of the blogosphere by tacitly approving alternative designations for the supposedly sexist Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Among the suggested names were "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer and Friend." Moved by the spirit of the Presbyterian revisionists, Beliefnet blogger Rod Dreher held a "Name That Trinity" contest. Entries included "Rock, Scissors and Paper" and "Larry, Curly and Moe."
Following the Episcopalian lead, the Presbyterians also voted to give local congregations the freedom to ordain openly cohabiting gay and lesbian ministers and endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana. (The latter may be a good idea, but it is hard to see how it falls under the theological purview of a Christian denomination.) The Presbyterian Church USA is famous for its 1993 conference, cosponsored with the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other mainline churches, in which participants "reimagined" God as "Our Maker Sophia" and held a feminist-inspired "milk and honey" ritual designed to replace traditional bread-and-wine Communion.
As if to one-up the Presbyterians in jettisoning age-old elements of Christian belief, the Episcopalians at Columbus overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord. When a Christian church cannot bring itself to endorse a bedrock Christian theological statement repeatedly found in the New Testament, it is not a serious Christian church. It's a Church of What's Happening Now, conferring a feel-good imprimatur on whatever the liberal elements of secular society deem permissible or politically correct.
You want to have gay sex? Be a female bishop? Change God's name to Sophia? Go ahead. The just-elected Episcopal presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a one-woman combination of all these things, having voted for Robinson, blessed same-sex couples in her Nevada diocese, prayed to a female Jesus at the Columbus convention and invited former Newark, N.J., bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ's divinity, to address her priests.
When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members. It is hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainline churches - Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the like - accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it's more like 12% (17 million out of 135 million). Some of the precipitous decline is due to lower birthrates among the generally blue-state mainliners, but it also is clear that millions of mainline adherents (and especially their children) have simply walked out of the pews never to return. According to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, in 1965, there were 3.4 million Episcopalians; now, there are 2.3 million. The number of Presbyterians fell from 4.3 million in 1965 to 2.5 million today. Compare that with 16 million members reported by the Southern Baptists.
When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church.
It doesn't help matters that the mainline churches were pioneers in ordaining women to the clergy, to the point that 25% of all Episcopal priests these days are female, as are 29% of all Presbyterian pastors, according to the two churches. A causal connection between a critical mass of female clergy and a mass exodus from the churches, especially among men, would be difficult to establish, but is it entirely a coincidence? Sociologist Rodney Stark ("The Rise of Christianity") and historian Philip Jenkins ("The Next Christendom") contend that the more demands, ethical and doctrinal, that a faith places upon its adherents, the deeper the adherents' commitment to that faith. Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which preach biblical morality, have no trouble saying that Jesus is Lord, and they generally eschew women's ordination. The churches are growing robustly, both in the United States and around the world.
Despite the fact that median Sunday attendance at Episcopal churches is 80 worshipers, the Episcopal Church, as a whole, is financially equipped to carry on for some time, thanks to its inventory of vintage real estate and huge endowments left over from the days (no more!) when it was the Republican Party at prayer. Furthermore, it has offset some of its demographic losses by attracting disaffected liberal Catholics and gays and lesbians. The less endowed Presbyterian Church USA is in deeper trouble. Just before its general assembly in Birmingham, it announced that it would eliminate 75 jobs to meet a $9.15-million budget cut at its headquarters, the third such round of job cuts in four years. The Episcopalians have smells, bells, needlework cushions and colorfully garbed, Catholic-looking bishops as draws, but who, under the present circumstances, wants to become a Presbyterian?
Still, it must be galling to Episcopal liberals that many of the parishes and dioceses (including that of San Joaquin, Calif.) that want to pull out of the Episcopal Church USA are growing instead of shrinking, have live people in the pews who pay for the upkeep of their churches and don't have to rely on dead rich people. The 21-year-old Christ Church Episcopal in Plano, Texas, for example, is one of the largest Episcopal churches in the country. Its 2,200 worshipers on any given Sunday are about equal to the number of active Episcopalians in Jefferts Schori's entire Nevada diocese.
It's no surprise that Christ Church, like the other dissident parishes, preaches a very conservative theology. Its break from the national church came after Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Communion, proposed a two-tier membership in which the Episcopal Church USA and other churches that decline to adhere to traditional biblical standards would have "associate" status in the communion. The dissidents hope to retain full communication with Canterbury by establishing oversight by non-U.S. Anglican bishops.
As for the rest of the Episcopalians, the phrase "deck chairs on the Titanic" comes to mind. A number of liberal Episcopal websites are devoted these days to dissing Peter Akinola, outspoken primate of the Anglican diocese of Nigeria, who, like the vast majority of the world's 77 million Anglicans reported by the Anglican Communion, believes that "homosexual practice" is "incompatible with Scripture" (those words are from the communion's 1998 resolution at the Lambeth conference of bishops). Akinola might have the numbers on his side, but he is now the Voldemort - no, make that the Karl Rove - of the U.S. Episcopal world. Other liberals fume over a feeble last-minute resolution in Columbus calling for "restraint" in consecrating bishops whose lifestyle might offend "the wider church" - a resolution immediately ignored when a second openly cohabitating gay man was nominated for bishop of Newark.
So this is the liberal Christianity that was supposed to be the Christianity of the future: disarray, schism, rapidly falling numbers of adherents, a collapse of Christology and national meetings that rival those of the Modern Language Assn. for their potential for cheap laughs. And they keep telling the Catholic Church that it had better get with the liberal program - ordain women, bless gay unions and so forth - or die. Sure.
Rebellion against homosexual clergy among Australian Methodists
The Uniting Church of Australia is facing rebellion by conservative factions angry over the church's failure to ban homosexuals from the ministry. The Uniting Church's 11th National Assembly, which finished in Brisbane on Tuesday ruled a congregation would not be forced to accept a minister living in a homosexual relationship. Equally, any congregation willing to accept such a minister would have its decision respected.
About 100 ministers and leaders in the church - mostly from the conservative Evangelical Members of the Uniting Church and Reforming Alliance groups - met in Brisbane yesterday to discuss their concerns over the issue.
The Assembly resolved 173 to 48 in a formal vote to affirm the church's unity in Jesus Christ but acknowledged a variety of theological perspectives and biblical understandings over sexuality. Uniting Church president Gregor Henderson said he was deeply concerned over the meeting and urged those unhappy with the decision to consider the "bigger picture". "We are very keen not to lose one member of the Uniting Church over this decision but I do recognise that some people in their own consciences may feel that they can't stay with us," Mr Henderson told ABC Radio. [Which is a polite Methodist way of saying: "Good riddance to fundamentalist Neanderthals"]
Americans read food labels, then eat what they want, poll finds
And so they should
Oh, the irony. A nation full of overweight people is also full of label readers. Nearly 80 percent of Americans insist they check the labels on food at the grocery store. They scan the little charts like careful dieters, looking for no-nos such as fat and calories and sugars. Yet even when the label practically screams, "Don't do it!" people drop the package into the cart anyway. At least that is what 44 percent of people admitted in a recent AP-Ipsos poll.
So attentive, yet so overweight. Two-thirds of people in the United States weigh too much. Why, then, don't labels make a difference? Why do people bother with them at all? "I don't know, force of habit. I want to see what I'm getting myself into," says Loren Cook, 39, of Marysville, Washington. "It doesn't make my buying decisions for me. It's mostly a curiosity factor." He adds: "It's got to taste good. Otherwise, there's no point."
The survey of 1,003 adults, conducted May 30 to June 1, found:
* Women check labels more frequently than men, 65 percent versus 51 percent. Women also place more importance on nutrition content, 82 percent to 64 percent.
* Married men are more likely to check labels than unmarried men, by 76 percent to 65 percent.
* Younger people are more likely to look at calories on food labels. In the poll, 39 percent of people between age 18 and 29 said they look at calories first. Even so, 60 percent of younger people were more likely to buy foods that are bad for them even after they checked the label. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Are these avid label-readers really telling the truth? People do exaggerate, said Robert Blendon, professor at Harvard's School of Public Health. They tell pollsters they go to church and vote more often than they really do, he said. He does believe most people do look at labels. They just do not use labels to lose weight, he said. Instead, diabetics use it to avoid sugars, or people with high blood pressure steer clear of sodium. "It's not being used as part of a total diet to really lower their weight," Blendon said.
To help people lose weight, Blendon said, labels should state the number of calories in an entire package. Instead, labels list calories per serving, leaving shoppers to do the math. Consider ice cream. A pint might list 260 calories in a serving. Scarf down the whole container, and that is four servings, 1,040 calories, half the calories probably needed in a single day.
The current food label became standard in 1994. Since then, the number of overweight people in the U.S. has risen from 56 percent to 66 percent, [LOL] according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Consider another trend: People eat more of their meals at restaurants, where they often cannot find nutrition labels. A recent government report says people consume one-third of their calories away from home. "We can't assume that better packaged food labels are going to solve our problem," said Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition at Tufts University.
The federal report said restaurants should promote healthy choices and offer more of them. It also gave an explanation for the lack of nutrition information at restaurants -- the cost, which can run from $11,500 to $46,000 to analyze all the offerings on a menu. The government is considering changes to packaged food labels to make them easier to understand. Tammy Fultz, 45, thinks labels are plenty good now. She checks whenever she shops for groceries and avoids artery-clogging trans fat. "But none of that really matters," said Fultz, who lives in Independence, Kentucky. "In the end, you still eat way more than you should and exercise way less than you should."
Australia's most Leftist State government opposes Federal citizenship requirements
Victoria is on a collision course with the Federal Government over a proposed compulsory citizenship test, which would test migrants' English skills and knowledge of Australian values. Andrew Robb, the parliamentary secretary to the Immigration Minister, has pledged to have a "serious look" at introducing a compulsory citizenship test. He said in April it was essential new citizens learned English and made a commitment to "common values" in order to integrate into "our Australian family".
But state Multicultural Affairs Minister John Pandazopoulos is expected to voice the Victorian Government's "complete opposition" to a compulsory test at a meeting with Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone and state and territory ministers in New Zealand tomorrow. The Age believes Mr Pandazopoulos will raise concerns that a compulsory test would create a discriminatory, two-tiered system in Australia, where those who did not speak fluent English were seen as less worthy of being an Australian citizen than those born here. Mr Pandazopoulos will stress to the Ministerial Council on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in Wellington tomorrow that Australia is a multicultural society and the ability to speak fluent English should not predicate citizenship. He is likely to point out that not all migrants who come to Australia are young and educated, and many refugees can barely read and write in their own language.
The Age believes the Victorian Government has expressed concerns that many countries that have tried to introduce citizenship tests have had problems. The German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg sparked national controversy early this year when it introduced a citizenship test that included questions about a person's view on homosexuality, forced marriage and women's rights. It was branded the "Muslim Test". Critics claimed it was aimed at the state's large Turkish community.
The meeting, to be attended by Senator Vanstone, the multicultural affairs ministers in each state and territory and several New Zealand ministers, will also discuss ways to stamp out religious extremism. A multimillion-dollar national action plan is likely to include the establishment of an Institute of Islamic Studies within a prominent Australian University, programs to encourage Muslim youths to play mainstream sports and a jobs scheme for unemployed Muslims.
Earlier this year Mr Robb said one of the ways of preventing fanaticism getting a toehold was to aim employment programs at young Muslims. "Fifty per cent of the 300,000 Muslims in Australia are 24 years and younger and there are big pockets of unemployment, and that leads to frustration and anger and aimlessness," he said at the time. "We have to have a prime focus on getting young Muslims educated and ready for jobs and into real jobs, good jobs."
But The Age believes the Victorian Government is opposed to any strategy that targets one religion. It is expected to argue that singling out Muslims only serves to perpetuate the myth that Muslims are the only people responsible for extremism. The Victorian Government will also call for a national review of the use by police of ethnic descriptions such as "of Middle Eastern appearance".
July 13, 2006
ILLEGAL DISCRIMINATION BY BRITISH POLICE NOT PROSECUTED
The Commission for Racial Equality’s Legal Affairs Committee will decide tomorrow whether or not to take action against two police services who this year operated a sex and colour bar recruitment policy.
Avon and Somerset and Gloucestershire Police Services excluded a total of almost three hundred white male applicants from consideration for employment in a successful bid to favour minority ethnic and female candidates.
The method used according to civil liberties group Liberty and Law was to interrogate the Equal Opportunities page of each candidate’s application to determine their race although this page claimed that under no circumstances would it be used as any part of the recruitment process but for monitoring purposes only.
Avon and Somerset then randomly deselected 186 white male candidates to reduce their numbers. Gloucestershire assessed all applications before splitting candidates into two sections. All women and minority ethnic candidates who were successful in the paper stage were allowed to go through to the final selection stage but only the top performing white males were allowed through. 109 white males were unfairly rejected under this system.
When the police action was leaked Liberty and Law reported the race discrimination to the CRE and asked them to request the two services to freeze their recruitment processes pending its own assessment of their legality. The CRE declined to do this and as their investigations took about four months in both cases this facilitated the racially and sexually discriminatory recruitment to be successfully completed in both services.
Liberty and Law director Gerald Hartup commented: “These are almost certainly the biggest racially discriminatory recruitment operations that the CRE has investigated but it has failed dismally to protect the people affected by this public sector scam. All competent lawyers were unanimous about the illegality of the two services’ secretive schemes but by their reluctance1 to act and their decision not to intervene and to procrastinate in coming to a conclusion the CRE has brought the Race Relations Act into disrepute. Legal action against the two police authorities is now the least that they can do in order to regain some credibility.”
Liberty and Law also reported the actions of the two police services to the Equal Opportunities Commission. These investigations, according to Liberty and Law were carried out at an even slower pace. The EOC finally wrote to both police authorities on 26 June stating that their actions were not in compliance with the Sex Discrimination Act to which Avon and Somerset have today [11 July] responded with the statement required of them by the EOC. The EOC awaits a similar response from Gloucestershire Constabulary. The EOC claims that no further action is required in either case.
Mr Hartup commented: “This is another triumph for the EOC. They believe the police broke the law. They are the body responsible for enforcing this law but using their discretion the police are allowed to get away with this blatant discrimination. It is a result for our untouchable politically correct establishment.”
THE ELITE DISLIKE OF PATRIOTISM
In the new film "Superman Returns," the Man of Steel no longer stands for "truth, justice and the American way." Now he's dedicated, according to the movie's promotional materials, to "truth, justice and all that is good." Though, in the movie, the phrase gets edited down by Daily Planet Editor Perry White to "truth, justice and all that stuff." Typical editorial arrogance, if you ask me!
Although conservative talk radio has surely gone overboard in bashing the film, the movie does represent something of a retreat from Superman's traditional patriotism. "The world has changed. The world is a different place," the movie's co-writer, Dan Harris, told the Hollywood Reporter. "The truth is, he's an alien. He was sent from another planet ... and he is here for everybody. He's an international superhero." And in the movie, Superman's traditional backdrop of the American flag is replaced by the whole world.
Of course, it's good business to make Superman much less American because moviegoers are so much less American, too. A pushy, all-powerful, self-proclaimed superhero who stands for the "American way" might turn off, say, Pakistani audiences.
Still, we live in a cosmopolitan time. The word "cosmopolitan" - coined by the Greek philosopher Diogenes, who explained that he wasn't a citizen of any nation or city but a citizen of the world - means more than the ability to name various foreign cheeses. It is an outlook that sees national boundaries and geographic loyalties as quaint and even backward.
Although conservatives (rightly) celebrate economic one-worldism when it comes to trade and the like, liberals have fetishized cultural and political cosmopolitanism. The impulse to create a "parliament of man, the federation of the world," in Alfred Tennyson's words, informs every debate about the United Nations, global warming or human rights. For many liberals, globalization means empowering the transnational elites who get together at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, or the Clinton Global Initiative to eat fusion cuisine while discussing the political fusion of the planet. Sen. John F. Kerry is a poster boy for this crowd. He actually thought telling U.S. voters that "foreign leaders" really wanted him to beat President Bush would help his cause.
Few institutions are more cosmopolitan than the American media. Top journalists are on the best panels at Davos and see themselves as servants to the world. After 9/11, members of the media had a huge internal debate about whether it was an ethical breach to pin tiny American flags to their lapels. American journalists once proudly wore U.S. military uniforms, but in 2001, many concluded that, yes, wearing an American flag was simply too jingoistic. For the media, this is an issue in which economic interests and values coincide.
Many news outlets use the same excuse as the makers of "Superman Returns": We are competing in a global marketplace, and so we can't seem too "American." Hence, CNN bans the word "foreigners," and Reuters refuses to use the word "terrorist" and gives al-Qaida and other such groups so many benefits of the doubt - so as not to offend Middle Eastern readers and Harvard faculty - that critics have dubbed it "Al Reuters."
One institution that has hopped aboard the cosmopolitan bandwagon is the Supreme Court, particularly the more liberal slice of it. Long before the Hamdan decision came down, the court was embroiled in various controversies about its increasingly cosmopolitan jurisprudence. When she was still on the bench, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor predicted that justices "will find ourselves looking more frequently to the decisions of other constitutional courts" because globalization is creating "one world." Justice Stephen Breyer has defended his reading of Zimbabwean law to better understand the U.S. Constitution. Justices David Souter, John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy concur that international opinion in general, and the decisions of foreign judges in particular, may influence how the court should view our laws and Constitution. To do otherwise, warns Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, would be to follow a "Lone Ranger" approach.
There are plenty of good-faith arguments on both sides of the Hamdan decision, which invalidated the Bush administration's policy at Guantanamo Bay. But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the ruling holding that the U.S. must be bound by Article 3 of the Geneva Convention - even when dealing with terrorists who are not signatories to the convention - stems from a certain cosmopolitan embarrassment over U.S. unilateralism. Working outside the Geneva Convention - even when legal - is apparently wrong because that's the "Lone Ranger" approach.
Of course, Superman has always changed with the times. During the New Deal era, he was a "champion of the oppressed." What is disturbing is that "the American way" now seems to have become code for arrogant unilateralism that falls somewhere outside truth, justice and all that is good.
The attempt to ban the words "Mum" and "Dad" in Australia: Media complicity
by Bill Muehlenberg
It had to come to this eventually. Yes, mothers and fathers are now taboo. At least, calling someone your mum or dad is verboten. Nix. Not allowed. Out of bounds.
Schools are being urged by a taxpayer-funded booklet never to allow children to be so insensitive and bigoted again: they are not to call their parents mum or dad. "Parent", yes, or "guardian" - but not those intolerant and prejudiced terms, "mummy" and "daddy". You see, we don't want to offend any homosexuals or lesbians out there. That would be terrible, wouldn't it?
Lesbian activist Vicki Harding has written a book for teachers entitled, Learn To Include. This teachers' manual also urges schools to put up posters of homosexuals and lesbians, and also not to use gender-specific toys. Children as young as five are also urged to act out homosexual scenarios.
The teachers' manual is meant for students from Prep to Level 3, and is already in use in dozens of Victorian schools. But not content to stop there, Victoria's Department of Education and Training has invited Ms Harding to promote the manual to principals and teachers. She will address a taxpayer-funded conference in Melbourne in July.
Let's get real about diversity
The aim of all this, we are toldd, is to get children to respect diversity. Oh, thanks. Now I get it. Yes, we certainly want little Johnny and little Sarah to know all about the real world out there, and to learn that everyone must be accepted for who they are, no questions asked.
So that means we should also bring in drug addicts to our schools, and let them share their stories with the littlies. Surely, they too are representative of the real world. Certainly, there must be some toddlers out there with a heroin-addicted mum or a pot-head pop. We must teach all the students that these parents exist, and they must be treated with the utmost respect.
The diverse world in which we live also includes criminals locked up in prison. Maybe we should bring in a few prisoners, and let them tell the little three-year-olds that we need to respect the diversity that is in their world as well. Who knows? The little kiddies may one day find themselves in prison, so what a wonderful experience to get them ready for the real world, and to teach them the very valuable lesson of embracing diversity in its fullest.
Of course, many of the toddlers in our schools have parents who smoke as well. We certainly do not want them to feel left out. We really do want to be tolerant and inclusive. Maybe we can invite the big tobacco companies in, and let them teach the kids the meaning of respect for those who choose the nicotine lifestyle.
Yes, it all does make very good sense. It is indeed a very diverse and multifaceted world out there. We dare not keep our little tykes in the dark about all sorts of lifestyle choices. So bring on the arsonists, racists, polluters and sexists. After all, they really do help to make our world so wonderfully diverse. We dare not be exclusive of anyone or any lifestyle.
Of course, the above passage is meant to highlight the fact that some ideas are just plain stupid and deserve to be treated as such. Obviously, all people deserve respect, but that does not mean that any and every alternative lifestyle must be crammed down the throats of toddlers. While people can and do choose their lifestyles, these lifestyles should not be force-fed upon our hapless children.
This incredible story first broke in the Sunday Herald Sun (June 4) and the next day Channel 7's Today Tonight also ran the story. The short segment on Channel 7 was introduced by Naomi Robson as possibly another example of PC going overboard. But the actual story itself was much less critical. Indeed, Vicki Harding seemed to get at least four chances to speak, while a conservative talking head (myself) was given just two.
Strange, but when I was introduced, I was called "deeply religious" and part of the Australian Family Association. They got it wrong on the latter, as I twice told them I was secretary of the Family Council of Victoria. And why the religious bit? What was the need for that? I do not recall Ms Harding being introduced with the words, "a deeply irreligious" person.
So it seems that Seven was intent on making me look like the bad guy, and wanted to pin me down with some religious tag, even though I said nothing religious throughout the interview, and was speaking on behalf of the FCV. But if you can be pegged as religious, that means your views can simply be discounted. You are just some religious nut.
But if that is the case, then so too are the vast majority of Australians - just another example of the secular media doing a hatchet job on religion.
The story was less than balanced in other ways. Parents at a Melbourne primary school were also interviewed, and asked their opinion on the ban proposal. In the story it was said that the parents were divided on the issue. Thus one parent was shown to be in favour of the ban, along with one parent opposed to it.
Yet, when the reporter spoke to me (having just come from the school), she told me that the majority of parents were clearly against the idea. Amazing what a little bit of television editing can do to change a story.
July 12, 2006
THE UNHINGED KINGDOM AGAIN
As I point out at some length elsewhere, people's degree of happiness is largely static -- it rapidly reverts to its accustomed level after even extreme highs and lows. But -- in shades of Huxley's "Brave New World" -- the British government wants to teach schoolkids how to be happy! The Brits now even have a "happiness tsar". Report below:
Lessons in happiness are to be introduced for 11-year-olds in state schools to combat a huge rise in depression, self-harm and anti-social behaviour among young people. Special behavioural techniques imported from the US will be used from September next year in an attempt to make children more resilient in the face of the pressures of 21st century living.
Professor Martin Seligman, from the University of Pennsylvania, one of the most influential psychologists of his generation, has been drafted in to train British teachers so that they can deliver classes to nearly 2000 secondary school pupils. Lessons using cognitive behavioural therapy techniques will include role play designed to help children build up their self-esteem, challenge negative ways of thinking and express their thoughts clearly. Trials have shown that the techniques can boost class performance and exam results.
They will also be shown breathing exercises to keep them calm when their parents are arguing and avoid blaming themselves for situations that are beyond their control. The anti-depression classes, due to be introduced in South Tyneside, Manchester and one rural location, have been approved by Lord Layard, the Government's "happiness" tsar.
The Department for Education is expected to evaluate the programme. If it proves as successful as it has been in the US, happiness classes could become part of the regular school timetable. The move comes as experts warn that record numbers of young people are on the verge of mental breakdown as a result of family break-up, exam pressures and growing inability to cope with the pressures of modern life.
Figures show that at least 10 per cent - three children in every average-sized class of 30 in the country - are experiencing symptoms of severe depression, including suicidal thoughts, prolonged bouts of despair and the urge to cry on a daily basis. Twenty-five years ago the average age people fell ill with depression was 30. Today this has fallen dramatically with 14 the age at which mental illness first strikes.
David Cameron, the Conservative leader, will highlight the need for professionals to pay attention to the emotional development of young people in an attempt to turn them away from offending. In a speech to the Police Foundation, he will say that children are not "feral" and instead need "love" to restore their health and happiness. Wellington College in Berkshire this year became the first private school to pioneer positive-thinking teaching for 13-year-olds. But this initiative is the first time such a comprehensive programme, which can also be used by parents, has been used in the state sector.
Seligman is certainly a respected psychologist and no doubt does some good but the long-term effects of his methods in the general population are unlikely to be more than marginal. And, as Sean Gabb comments, schools that cannot teach reading and basic arithmetic are unlikely to be able to teach happiness. I reproduce some of Sean's article on the subject below:
It is not the function of government to tell people how to be happy. It is not within the ability of governments to teach us these things. If governments wish us to be happy, the most they can and ought to do is create the conditions in which we can most effectively make ourselves happy.
Indeed, I go further. The most a government can and ought to do is remove the conditions it has created that prevent us from making ourselves happy in the manners of our choice. It should cut taxes and government spending. It should abolish the regulations it has made on our activities. It should provide a framework of laws within which our rights to life, liberty and property are effectively protected.
Beyond that, governments should go no further. We are all different as individuals. Only we as individuals can know what is likely to make us happy. Only we can pursue our own individual happiness. Any government that believes itself to know better than we do ourselves how to make us happy is guilty of a most presumptuous arrogance. Any government that tries to put its belief into action is by definition tyrannical. Its means must entail a searching inquisition into our thoughts and a close control over our actions.
The truth is that this proposed change to the National Curriculum has far less to do with developing children as autonomous individuals than with brainwashing them into obedient sheep as adults. These lessons in happiness will inevitably turn into propaganda sessions in which children will be lectured into a celebration of the moral sewer than our masters have made of modern England. They will be told that our enlarged, activist state is a good thing. They will be told that the denigration of our history and customs is a release from the dead hand of the past. They will be told that anyone who doubts that the highly taxed and regulated multicultural police state in which we live in the best of all possible worlds, and that anyone who disagrees is either mad or evil.
It does seem that modern children are less happy than Mr Huet and I contrived to be in the 1970s. That seems to have less to do with transient misfortunes in their home lives than the utter chaos to which this Labour Government - not forgetting its Conservative predecessors - has reduced the country.
We live in a country where strangers and criminals have more rights than we have; where our votes, once we reach the age of majority, are worthless to change our rulers, or even hold them to account; and where our lifestyle choices are constrained as they never were in the past. Children have not the same perspective on these changes as have we who are now in middle age. They have not the same narrative in their heads of how a free constitution has been perverted into a recipe for despotism. But they perceive enough to be unhappy. And this unhappiness is manifested in behaviour damaging to others and destructive of their own future well-being.
MOCKING THE RULES IN MASSACHUSETTS
By Jeff Jacoby
When the Massachusetts Legislature meets in joint session as a constitutional convention this week, the most notable item on its agenda will be a proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage. A record-breaking 170,000 state residents have signed petitions to put such an amendment on the state ballot. But the Massachusetts Constitution mandates a detour: The measure must first win the support of at least 50 lawmakers in two consecutive legislative terms. Only then can it be submitted to the people. If the amendment gets past every hurdle, it will reach the ballot in November 2008.
It is a deliberately long and cumbersome process, meant to keep the Constitution from being altered recklessly, and to provide time for an amendment's pros and cons to be fully aired. To draft an amendment that passes legal muster, to collect tens of thousands of signatures, to haul reams of petitions to and from hundreds of town halls in every corner of the state, to raise funds, to debate and defend the proposed change -- it takes an incredible amount of work and dedication to get an amendment to the ballot. Citizens who accomplish it demonstrate an admirable faith in the democratic system. That doesn't entitle them to win, of course. But it does entitle them to be treated fairly. If the petitioners have to play by the rules, the Legislature does, too.
And what the rules say about the marriage amendment is that the Legislature must put it to a vote. The Massachusetts Constitution could not be clearer on the point. Article 48, which establishes the right of initiative and referendum, specifies that when amendments proposed by initiative petition come before the Legislature, a roll call is mandatory. They "*shall be voted upon*" as written, the Constitution directs (unless amended by a three-fourths supermajority). Moreover, the Legislature is permitted to take action on them "*only* by call of the yeas and nays." (Italics added)
Lawmakers are not given a choice in the matter. The Constitution requires them to vote. If it didn't, initiatives opposed by the legislative leadership could always be aborted by simply refusing to bring them up for a vote. Instead of operating as a check and balance on the Legislature, Article 48 would then be a toothless sham.
But for weeks now, same-sex marriage advocates have been telegraphing their intention to kill the marriage amendment through just such an unconstitutional ploy. "Every possible option is on the table," says the head of MassEquality, a powerful coalition opposed to the amendment. Among the tactics being discussed: adjourning the joint session before the amendment is brought up, or arranging for enough legislators to stay away in order to prevent a quorum.
Some members brag openly about their plans to flout the Constitution. "Legislators won't be hiding in Oklahoma," House majority leader John Rogers told Bay Windows, a leading gay newspaper. "In fact, they'll be standing right in front of the State House steps, probably singing freedom songs and hugging one another in plain sight, not cowering." And by the way, Rogers added -- whether from ignorance or fraudulence isn't clear -- "that is perfectly acceptable as constitutional behavior."
Those intoxicated with their own moral superiority often find it easy to believe that it is "perfectly acceptable" to make a mockery of the rules that ensure fairness for those they look down upon. Homosexual marriage is widely supported by Massachusetts elites; few of them are likely to lose much sleep if the proposed amendment is derailed by an illegal parliamentary maneuver. In a newspaper ad appearing this week, 165 Massachusetts business executives and civic leaders endorse same-sex marriage and urge the Legislature to reject any amendment "that would take away rights." But the ad says nothing about the right of 170,000 Massachusets citizens to have their petition put to a vote on Beacon Hill. "I think we have had enough of this debate," says Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick, siding with those who favor procedural tricks to cheat the amendment's supporters out of a vote. "The basic question here is whether people come before their government as equals." His position, in other words, is that scores of thousands of petitioners must be treated as second-class citizens in order to ensure that people aren't treated as second-class citizens.
Same-sex marriage supporters dominate the Massachusetts power structure; if they are hell-bent on denying voters a chance to be heard on the issue, they can probably get away with it. The result, however, will not be a fairer, more liberal Massachusetts. It will be one that is even more unfair and illiberal -- a place where citizens who play by the rules get treated with contempt, and where democracy is more dysfunctional than ever.
11 July, 2006
MUST NOT MENTION THE ARMY
Parents and teachers are complaining that the latest issue of a popular magazine for preteens amounts to little more than an early recruitment pitch for the Army. Cobblestone magazine, which is put out by Carus Publishing in Peterborough, is aimed at children ages 9-14 and is distributed nationwide to schools and libraries. Its latest issue features a cover photo of a soldier in Iraq clutching a machine gun and articles on what it's like to go through boot camp, a rundown of the Army's "awesome arsenal" and a detailed description of Army career opportunities.
Most controversial has been a set of classroom guides that accompany the magazine, which suggest teachers invite a soldier, Army recruiter or veteran to speak to their classes and ask students whether they might want to join the Army someday. One of the teaching guides - written by Mary Lawson, a teacher in Saint Cloud., Fla. - suggests having students write essays pretending they are going to join the Army: "Have them decide which career they feel they would qualify for and write a paper to persuade a recruiter why that should be the career."
"Some of the teachers were like, 'Holy cow, look at this,'" said Francis Lunney, a sixth-grade English teacher in Hudson, Mass., who quickly called the publishing company to complain. He told The Boston Globe that the guides looked exactly like the official recruiting material distributed at high schools. The dozen or so similar complaints come at a time when the military, struggling to meet recruitment goals, has become more aggressive in trying to attract young people. But Cobblestone's editors insist the idea for the special issue was theirs alone, though they received permission to use Army photos.
Managing editor Lou Waryncia said the magazine did not intend to recruit for the Army but will consider future issues in light of the criticism, which has been greater than for any previous issue. Though previous issues have dealt with the Civil War and other military conflicts, the recent one is somewhat of a departure in that the Army was a focus by itself. "We planned to do this well over two years ago," he said. "It just happened to come out at a time when the country's feelings are in a certain place" about the war in Iraq.
Virginia Schumacher, a retired teacher and manager at the History Center in Ithaca, N.Y., wrote one of the classroom guides. She defended the magazine, saying joining the military is a career option for any child. "That doesn't suggest that they should or should not," she said. "In that magazine, I felt they gave a wonderful portrayal of jobs that are not what everyone thinks of when they think of the Army. It was not meant to offend anyone."
Cobblestone, which has a paid circulation of 30,000, is one of a family of award-winning children's magazines published by Carus. It was started by two teachers in 1979 to promote reading and history and grew into six magazines that cover American history, geography, world cultures, world history, science and space, general studies and reading.
THE INCORRECTNESS OF SPEED
It's another summer weekend, when millions of families pack up the minivan or SUV and hit the road. So this is also an apt moment to trumpet some good, and underreported, news: Driving on the highways is safer today than ever before. In 2005, according to new data from the National Highway Safety Administration, the rate of injuries per mile traveled was lower than at any time since the Interstate Highway System was built 50 years ago. The fatality rate was the second lowest ever, just a tick higher than in 2004.
As a public policy matter, this steady decline is a vindication of the repeal of the 55 miles per hour federal speed limit law in 1995. That 1974 federal speed limit was arguably the most disobeyed and despised law since Prohibition. "Double nickel," as it was often called, was first adopted to save gasoline during the Arab oil embargo, though later the justification became saving lives. But to Westerners with open spaces and low traffic density, the law became a symbol of the heavy hand of the federal nanny state. To top it off, Congress would deny states their own federal highway construction dollars if they failed to comply.
In repealing the law, the newly minted Republican majority in Congress declared that states were free to impose their own limits. Many states immediately took up this nod to federalism by raising their limits to 70 or 75 mph. Texas just raised its speed limit again on rural highways to 80.
This may seem non-controversial now, but at the time the debate was shrill and filled with predictions of doom. Ralph Nader claimed that "history will never forgive Congress for this assault on the sanctity of human life." Judith Stone, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, predicted to Katie Couric on NBC's "Today Show" that there would be "6,400 added highway fatalities a year and millions of more injuries." Federico Pena, the Clinton Administration's Secretary of Transportation, declared: "Allowing speed limits to rise above 55 simply means that more Americans will die and be injured on our highways."
We now have 10 years of evidence proving that the only "assault" was on the sanctity of the truth. The nearby table shows that the death, injury and crash rates have fallen sharply since 1995. Per mile traveled, there were about 5,000 fewer deaths and almost one million fewer injuries in 2005 than in the mid-1990s. This is all the more remarkable given that a dozen years ago Americans lacked today's distraction of driving while also talking on their cell phones.
Of the 31 states that have raised their speed limits to more than 70 mph, 29 saw a decline in the death and injury rate and only two--the Dakotas--have seen fatalities increase. Two studies, by the National Motorists Association and by the Cato Institute, have compared crash data in states that raised their speed limits with those that didn't and found no increase in deaths in the higher speed states.
Jim Baxter, president of the National Motorists Association, says that by the early 1990s "compliance with the 55 mph law was only about 5%--in other words, about 95% of drivers were exceeding the speed limit." Now motorists can coast at these faster speeds without being on the constant lookout for radar guns, speed traps and state troopers. Americans have also arrived at their destinations sooner, worth an estimated $30 billion a year in time saved, according to the Cato study.
The tragedy is that 43,000 Americans still die on the roads every year, or about 15 times the number of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq. Car accidents remain a leading cause of death among teenagers in particular. The Interstate Highway System is nonetheless one of the greatest public works programs in American history, and the two-thirds decline in road deaths per mile traveled since the mid-1950s has been a spectacular achievement. Tough drunk driving laws, better road technology, and such improving auto safety features as power steering and brakes are all proven life savers.
We are often told, by nanny-state advocates, that such public goods as safety require a loss of liberty. In the case of speed limits and traffic deaths, that just isn't so.
CANDYFLOSS BRITISH LETTER CARRIERS
A tiny coastal community is no longer receiving post after Royal Mail judged as too dangerous a footpath that postmen have walked along to reach it since Victorian times. For more than 100 years a postman has walked the 1r mile track to a cluster of crofts on the beautiful Ardmore peninsula on the northwest tip of Scotland. But Royal Mail said yesterday that it had cancelled the service after a postman slipped and fell on a grassy slope, leading it to view the route as an "unreasonable" risk to the health and safety of its workers.
Since late Victorian times, postmen have made their way, apparently without mishap, along the path above Loch a'Chadh-Fi, just south of Rhiconich, on the Ardmore peninsula in Sutherland, one of the most isolated corners of Britain. The journey, which takes about 30 minutes each way, includes heather-clad hills, lush woodland and a section of waterfall, and is safely navigated most days by a local mother and her two young children, aged 5 and 3.
But a spokeswoman for Royal Mail said that the path was "fundamentally dangerous", while because there was no mobile telephone reception for much of the route it meant that "if an accident happened, the postman or woman concerned may not be discovered for many hours". She added: "This route . . . would not only put the health, but the lives, of Royal Mail staff at risk. It is unreasonable to expect Royal Mail staff to take such risks."
Local residents on the peninsula, led by John Ridgway, a former paratrooper who was part of the first two-man team to row the North Atlantic 40 years ago and founded an adventure school in Ardmore, have vowed to take their case all the way to Europe after losing an appeal to Postcomm, the independent regulator. Mr Ridgway, who has lived in the area for 42 years, said: "What is being done now is for purely financial reasons. If the Royal Mail gets away with it at Ardmore, where will it be next?" He added: "I am 68. If I get a hospital appointment and it doesn't reach me through the post, I go to the back of a six-month queue. Well, blow that." He dismissed Royal Mail's concerns as "wishy-washy, ineffectual, ridiculous, paper-shuffling nonsense", and claimed that there had been no serious injury to the relief postman who slipped and fell on March 15 last year.
He said: "We have asked Royal Mail for proof of these injuries. He turned up at our house under a minute after falling over, chatted to my daughter for a while and then walked back. Within two days he was out with the mountain rescue." A spokeswoman for Royal Mail said: "As far as I'm aware, the injured postman was concussed after falling on a 45-degree slope, but I can't get that confirmed, I'm afraid."
Postcomm said that, given the "unacceptable risks associated with delivering to the Ardmore residents' homes, to a box at the bottom of the waterfall, or to any point on the path beyond the part which is prone to becoming icy", it agreed with the decision to make the addresses "a long-term exception from the daily delivery obligation". Residents are now having their mail delivered to a car park on the road near the start of the track, and have to walk to collect it themselves.
John Thurso, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said that he believed the postman who fell had been denied the "high-quality mountain boots" issued to those normally delivering to the area. A mountaineering adviser asked to assess the path concluded: "This is a well-maintained footpath. It would be classified as an `easy walk' on a national footpath grading system."
Mr Thurso said that the decision to cancel the service was proof that the postal service was under threat in rural communities. He said: "Health and safety obliges employers to take reasonable steps to ascertain risk and then minimise the risk. It does not require the removal of risk. Is it more dangerous for a postman to walk along a path than a scaffolder to erect scaffolding?"
10 July, 2006
Bias! Bigotry! Racism! Color Prejudice!
It seems that "black is beautiful" is no longer politically correct -- if ever it really was. Click this link and you will be taken to the subscription page of an African news service. And you will find there a big picture of an attractive young woman -- the usual sort of thing used to make some product look attractive. And, of course, as one would expect in the circumstances, the young woman is of African descent.
But there's a lot of cream in the coffee. The woman has NO identifiably African features at all. I at first took her for an Italian, she is so light-skinned and European in features. So if even the managers of a black site think that black is not beautiful, may anybody else say likewise? I guess not.
Feminists win, minority loses
Amusing when correctnesses collide
A television commercial using the haka to advertise a new Fiat car has gone to air in Italy, despite New Zealand diplomats telling its producers it is culturally insensitive to Maori people. The ad - created by the Turin office of international advertising agency Leo Burnett - features black-clad women performing Ka Mate, the haka made world-famous by the All Blacks. It is meant to be performed by men.
The women are filmed in a city street beside a black model Fiat Idea, mimicking Ka Mate's words and actions. A crowd noise is played in the background - replicating the atmosphere of a New Zealand Rugby Test. As one of the women drives off in the car, the ad ends with a boy sitting in the back poking out his tongue.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman Brad Tattersfield said diplomats had asked the advertising company to use a Maori group instead or a haka composed for women. "However, the advertising company indicated they were proceeding despite this advice," he said.
The Freedom to Ridicule Religion -- and Deny the Holocaust
By Peter Singer
Freedom of speech is important, and it must include the freedom to say what everyone else believes to be false, and even what many people take to be offensive. Religion remains a major obstacle to basic reforms that reduce unnecessary suffering. Think of issues like contraception, abortion, the status of women in society, the use of embryos for medical research, physician-assisted suicide, attitudes towards homosexuality, and the treatment of animals. In each case, somewhere in the world, religious beliefs have been a barrier to changes that would make the world more sustainable, freer, and more humane.
So, we must preserve our freedom to deny the existence of God and to criticize the teachings of Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, and Buddha, as reported in texts that billions of people regard as sacred. Since it is sometimes necessary to use a little humor to prick the membrane of sanctimonious piety that frequently surrounds religious teachings, freedom of expression must include the freedom to ridicule as well.
Yet, the outcome of the publication of the Danish cartoons ridiculing Muhammad was a tragedy. More than a hundred people died in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria, and other Islamic countries during the ensuing protests and riots. In hindsight, it would have been wiser not to publish the cartoons. The benefits were not worth the costs. But that judgment is, as I say, made with the benefit of hindsight, and it is not intended as a criticism of the actual decisions taken by the editors who published them and could not reasonably be expected to foresee the consequences.
To restrict freedom of expression because we fear such consequences would not be the right response. It would only provide an incentive for those who do not want to see their views criticized to engage in violent protests in future. Instead, we should forcefully defend the right of newspaper editors to publish such cartoons, if they choose to do so, and hope that respect for freedom of expression will eventually spread to countries where it does not yet exist.
Unfortunately, even while the protests about the cartoons were still underway, a new problem about convincing Muslims of the genuineness of our respect for freedom of expression has arisen because of Austria's conviction and imprisonment of David Irving for denying the existence of the Holocaust. We cannot consistently hold that it should be a criminal offense to deny the existence of the Holocaust and that cartoonists have a right to mock religious figures. David Irving should be freed.
Before you accuse me of failing to understand the sensitivities of victims of the Holocaust or the nature of Austrian anti-Semitism, I should tell you that I am the son of Austrian Jews. My parents escaped Austria in time, but my grandparents did not. All four of my grandparents were deported to ghettos in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Two of them were sent to Lodz, in Poland, and then probably murdered with carbon monoxide at the extermination camp at Chelmno. Another one fell ill and died in the overcrowded and underfed ghetto at Theresienstadt. My maternal grandmother was the only survivor.
So, I have no sympathy for David Irving's absurd denial of the Holocaust-which, in his trial, he said was a mistake. I support efforts to prevent any return to Nazism in Austria or anywhere else. But how is the cause of truth served by prohibiting Holocaust denial? If there are still people crazy enough to deny that the Holocaust occurred, will they be persuaded by imprisoning some who express that view? On the contrary, they will be more likely to think that views people are being imprisoned for expressing cannot be refuted by evidence and argument alone.
In the aftermath of World War II, when the Austrian republic was struggling to establish itself as a democracy, it was reasonable, as a temporary emergency measure, for Austrian democrats to suppress Nazi ideas and propaganda. But that danger is long past. Austria is a democracy and a member of the European Union. Despite the occasional resurgence of anti-immigrant and even racist views-an occurrence that is, lamentably, not limited to former Nazi nations-there is no longer a serious threat of any return to Nazism in Austria. Austria should repeal its law against Holocaust denial. Other European nations with similar laws-for example, Germany, France, Italy, and Poland-should do the same, while maintaining or strengthening their efforts to inform their citizens about the reality of the Holocaust and why the racist ideology that led to it should be rejected.
Laws against incitement to racial, religious, or ethnic hatred, in circumstances where that incitement is intended to, or can reasonably be foreseen to, lead to violence or other criminal acts, are different, and are compatible with the freedom to express any views at all. In the current climate in Western nations, the suspicion of a particular hostility towards Islam, rather than other religions, is well justified. Only when David Irving has been freed will it be possible for Europeans to turn to the Islamic protesters and say: "We apply the principle of freedom of expression evenhandedly, whether it offends Muslims, Christians, Jews, or anyone else."
CRIME-LOVING BRITAIN AGAIN
Encouraging crime by discouraging real policing are priorities in Labour-run Britain
When John Fox saw a long, dark object hurtling towards his windscreen, he took immediate evasive action, closing his eyes, ducking below the steering wheel and swerving his car fiercely to the right to avoid being struck. What the missile was, he had no idea, but he knew it had been flung by one of a group of three hooded youths he had spotted lurking on the pavement as he drove sedately past. What he did know was that, as a senior policeman, even an off-duty one, he was determined to take a stand against such yobbish behaviour. "I thought it was a bottle and was going to shatter the windscreen," he said.
"It hit the car and made a loud bang." When I regained control of the car, I was shaken but not angry. And I resolved to go back and give the youths a sound telling-off and point out how dangerous they had been." I reversed back, got out of the car and one of the youths came towards me with flailing arms and swearing. At first I thought all three were boys. But I grabbed the hooded top and then saw it was a girl. I just said, 'You stupid, stupid little girl. Do you realise how dangerous that was?' Then I climbed back into my car and drove home." John's drive through the quiet Southampton suburb of Woolston at 9.30 that night in May last year had otherwise been unexceptional.
But his decision to remonstrate with the teenagers - two girls, aged 14 and 15, and one boy - on an evening when he was off duty led to two charges of assault, months of torment and humiliation and drove him to abandon his police career.
John had risen to the rank of Detective Superintendent who headed a specialist investigations unit of 150 officers for Hampshire Police, with a remit that included child abuse. In his impeccable 30-year career, he built up a respected expertise in child protection that earned him a seat on the inquiry that investigated the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie at the hands of her abusive carers and he had been a member of various Home Office committees. But the girls he challenged that night claimed he had throttled them - and even though their complaint was last week revealed in court as a pack of lies, it led to Hampshire police losing a dedicated and hardworking officer.
Magistrates at Chichester took only 25 minutes to decide he was not guilty of assault. They found "glaring inconsistencies" in the girls' reports and ruled that because of the teenagers' history of disruptive and aggressive behaviour, and contradictions in their stories, they were "not credible witnesses". But the fact that such a flawed case was brought highlights growing concerns among police officers that the Crown Prosecution Service wants all allegations against police officers, no matter how flimsy, settled by a court.
John was told that a letter from the Sussex CPS, which brought the prosecution, to Hampshire police suggested the complaint should go to court because he held a senior position of responsibility. But Sarah Jane Gallagher, chief crown prosecutor for Sussex, has denied this motive, saying: "I absolutely refute any suggestion that we carried out this prosecution because Mr Fox was a senior police officer." Nevertheless, the law has made it easier than ever to complain about the police.
No longer must a complaint be filed to a police station by the person involved. Instead any family member, or witness, can table a complaint via a solicitor or other services, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux. It was the mothers of the girls involved in the incident with John Fox who complained to Hampshire Police. Why the girls, who cannot be named for legal reasons, ever told their parents remains unknown, though John believes they were frightened he would report their actions -especially as his car suffered a puncture during the incident.....
Stephen Price, chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, said: "You can't fault the idea of having an investigation when there is a complaint about a police officer. But there is a feeling that the CPS wants to have the facts put before a court when a complaint involves a police officer as opposed to an ordinary member of the public. "The effect on everyday policing can be that where officers would once have been robust they may be more tentative and even end up being assaulted or injured themselves because they fear more vigorous action would prompt a complaint."
One of John Fox's former colleagues, who did not want to be named, said: "John was trying to stop anti-social behaviour on the streets, which is the scourge of modern society. What sort of message does this give to the public and more importantly, off-duty police officers who want to try to protect the public?" Another added: "John's fantastic career has been ruined by this crazy decision."
In court, the girls and the prosecution lawyer told a very different story from what really happened. One of the girls said John had throttled her and claimed she could not breathe for about 30 seconds. Their lawyer said they had thrown "a twig" into the road - when, in fact, it was a hefty stick. "The girls stuck rigidly to their stories," John said. "But then they contradicted themselves. Their testimonies did not match, and under cross-examination they were forced to admit their previous evidence that they had never been in trouble at school was untrue."
After two days John was cleared, with the chairman of the bench Dennis Leonard saying: "We find the evidence of the teenage prosecution witnesses to be contradictory and not credible. And there are glaring inconsistencies in their accounts." But despite being cleared, the court case destroyed John's life. He said: "The past 14 months have been the worst of my life. I stayed awake mulling over events, losing sleep. I kept thinking that if I'd been driving past five minutes earlier or five minutes later, it would never have happened. "I tried to stay positive. I didn't just sit there with my head in my hands. When I learned they were prosecuting I went to America and lectured for a couple of months on child protection. I wrote a chapter for a book on infant death investigations that is coming out next year. "But throughout everything, this was like a cloud hanging over me....
"And while everyone knows my name and the charges made against me, these girls remain cloaked in anonymity." John has now made a formal complaint to the Director of Public Prosecutions about Sussex CPS's decision to go to court. He said: "I have no problem with the CPS and have worked well with them in the past. And police officers should not be immune from prosecution. But neither should the Crown Prosecution Service be above any examination of their decisions....
"I used to feel proud and confident doing my job, and you see police in New York feeling like that today. But in Britain there is an atmosphere of fear now among the police, as if they don't feel they are being supported within the system. I haven't lost my faith in the British justice system - it came good in the end. But it has destroyed my faith in the CPS."
9 July, 2006
Reggae stars banned after breaking gay hate pledge
(Report from "The Independent")
For a handful of Jamaican reggae stars accused of fomenting homophobia with their violently anti-gay lyrics, they were supposed to be the songs they would never sing again. But a 14-year war of words between gay rights groups and Jamaican "dancehall" performers has erupted once again after campaigners said several artists had reneged on an agreement last year to stop using - and justifying - their gay bashing songs. Concerts by two singers - Buju Banton and Beenie Man - were this week cancelled in Brighton and Bournemouth after complaints from gay rights groups.
Banton, whose 1992 song Boom Bye Bye brought the issue of dancehall homophobia to light by calling for "batty boys" or gay men to be shot in the head, set on fire or have acid poured over them, had been due to perform last night at a club in Brighton's gay district. But the club, Concorde 2, said it was cancelling the concert after being told by the local authority that it risked losing its licence on the grounds that the performance could endanger public safety. In a statement, the club said: "[We] believe that the concert would not have caused a threat to community welfare. Concorde 2 would like to remain a free thinking live music venue, which caters for all areas of the community."
Brighton and Hove Council confirmed it had approached Concorde 2 with a warning that its licence could be revoked. Sussex Police said that it supported the cancellation.
Outrage!, the gay rights group, said it will be seeking to stop performances in Britain by three Jamaican musicians, including Banton and Beenie Man, after compiling evidence that they were still singing songs with anti-gay lyrics. Pressure groups, whose international boycott against homophobic singers resulted in concerts worth 5 million pounds being cancelled in 2004, have dubbed the songs "murder music".
The concert by Beenie Man, whose song Han Up Deh calls for lesbians to be hung, had been booked for the Bournemouth International Centre on 29 July. But the town's council confirmed yesterday that it had rejected the booking. The renewed conflict comes despite a verbal agreement last February. The record companies had pledged not to re-release any existing offensive material or publish new homophobic songs. They agreed to put pressure on the stars to ensure they would not perform the tunes at concerts, or justify them.
But Outrage! said yesterday that Banton has since performed Boom Bye Bye in Jamaica and that Beenie Man and another artist, Bounty Killer, had made anti-gay statements at a festival in Jamaica last April. In an interview with BBC Radio One Xtra three months ago, Banton said he was entitled to his views.
Peter Tatchell, founder of Outrage!, said: "Since I am sure no one would host a singer who called for the lynching of black people, we expect the authorities to take a similar stance against singers who call for the shooting or burning of gay people."
The promoters and record companies representing the three performers declined to comment. But industry sources said Beenie Man and Banton were continuing to make regular appearances around Britain. Both men are due to perform in east London this weekend.
Buju Banton - Boom Bye Bye
"Anytime Buju Banton come batty boy get up and run ah gunshot in ah head man... Boom, bye bye, in a batty boy head" ("Anytime Buju Banton comes along gays get and up and run. A bullet in the head... Bang, bye, bye, in the gay man's head.")
Beenie Man - Han Up Deh
"Hang chi chi gal wid a long piece of rope" ("Hang lesbians with a long piece of rope")
Bounty Killer - Another Level
"Poop man fi drown an dat a yawd man philosophy" ("Queers must be drowned and that's a yardie man [Jamaican] philosophy.")
For a comment on the above news item, see Tongue Tied
PRO-ABORTION BRITAIN IMPRISONS ABORTION CRITIC
In England, you can have an abortion for just about any reason. But one thing you evidently can't do is talk about what abortion is - or at least show the bloody truth through images.
A 74-year-old man named Edward Atkinson recently spent four weeks in prison for sending an executive at Norfolk's Queen Elizabeth Hospital "very upsetting" images and literature (and they were) in an effort, Atkinson said, "to educate" her about the abortion procedures done at her facility. On the same day Atkinson was sentenced, a wheelchair-bound woman was convicted for sending similar pictures to pharmacies that stock the "morning-after pill."
Now, it's worth mentioning that I'm often the first person to cringe and discourage my fellow abortion opponents from marching with graphic images of dead children - what Mr. Atkinson did, but in his case via the British postal service. Those pictures were, indeed, very upsetting. No one wants to have to look at pictures of death and destruction - and on an issue that's already about as acidic and painful as political issues get, we might all get further with a little less vinegar. But whatever my own rhetorical preferences might be - and whatever your position on abortion is - it's a scandal that a man would be jailed for such an act of free speech. But sending offensive material through the mail is a crime in Merry Old England and so a judge deemed this old man's mail criminal. You don't have to think that abortion is an evil that we need to eradicate to think that that is an outrage.
And even if had he asked me, I would have advised Atkinson to approach matters - and the hospital official - differently. But I do know about the undeniable power of images. Anyone who is pregnant right now or has been pregnant in recent years knows, in an intimate way, the visual power of the miracle of life seen through "windows on the womb." And although I've made my general hesitance to opt for the show end of show-and-tell known when it comes to abortion, I would never want to see that option eliminated.
Take the partial-birth-abortion debate back home in the United States as one example why. Images here help. There's been much media dismissal of the description I just used - "partial-birth abortion." But the National Right to Life Committee has a crystal-clear diagram on its website, and once you see it, you realize that "partial-birth abortion" really is the perfect wording for this barbaric procedure. (Unless you want to use the word "infanticide," as one late prominent pro-choice Democratic senator did not so long ago; I certainly won't discourage you.) Not only should a citizen be free to show such disturbing images - that illustrate a legal procedure offensive to our very humanity - used wisely, those images can be a public service.
That's why the United Kingdom's treatment of Mr. Atkinson has been so reprehensible. And it gets even worse. In writing - not spur of the moment - an official of Queen Elizabeth Hospital informed him that the hospital would no longer treat him for problems that are not life-threatening, "and as such you have been removed from our replacement hip waiting list." As a British taxpayer, Mr. Atkinson deserves better than that.
A judge told Atkinson that "it is clear that you intended to shock and I am certain your purpose was to cause distress and anxiety." Well, I for one am shocked, distressed, and anxious - not just because abortion is legal there, and here across the pond, but because of this apparent governmentally enforced conspiracy of silence. The Atkinson files reveal a real case of aborting free speech. Abortion defenders may not agree on the underlying issue - but can't we all muster outrage over attempts to avoid discussing the details of the issue?
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS HURTS AUSTRALIAN BLACKS
An editorial from "The Australian" newspaper
Anyone who doubts that the road to hell is paved with good intentions has not spent enough time in Australia's remote Aboriginal communities. Policy after well-intentioned policy put forth by the country's progressives has forced Aborigines into remote, economically unviable communities with nothing to sustain them but sit-down money and grog. Worse, they have allowed a minority of criminals within those communities to turn them into Hobbesian nightmares where life is nasty, brutish and, on average, 21 years shorter than that enjoyed by white Australians. In short, Australia's progressives have been literally killing Aborigines with kindness.
This is seen in the damning reports that show a fear of incarcerating Aboriginal criminals, stemming from a misplaced respect for customary law and the royal commission into deaths in custody, routinely unleashes monsters of the worst sort to prey on the weakest members of their communities. According to the National Indigenous Council and other Aboriginal leaders, the legal system's "softly-softly" approach on indigenous crime has let sexual and other predators back into their communities to continue to prey on women, children and even infants.
Last August, The Australian reported the horrifying case of the 14-year-old "promised bride" who was kidnapped and raped by a 55-year-old elder, who initially received just a month behind bars for the crime. On ABC's Lateline last week, Melbourne University professor Marcia Langton said that in the Northern Territory, men who kill their wives and girlfriends routinely receive sentences as light as 18 months in prison per death. Yet the customary-law defence makes a mockery of the Australian legal system, which should apply equally to everyone across the land. And a proper analysis of the royal commission report reveals that Aboriginal men were not dying in custody at a higher rate than the general prison population, even though Aborigines were, and remain, over-represented in the system. Justice is denied to Australia's indigenous population thanks to an insidious soft racism that would rather romanticise Aboriginal culture and force its members to live in Rousseauian fantasy in remote bush communities, rather than be full participants in the life of the nation.
There is no question but that the 1967 referendum, which effectively ended constitutional discrimination against Aborigines, was an unqualified good for the nation. In the weeks leading up to the vote, The Australian repeatedly urged citizens to vote in favour of the referendum and called for its "unanimous approval", saying "if it is not carried the nation should be ashamed of itself". Yet in properly, if belatedly, granting indigenous Australians full citizenship and rights as Australians, little thought was given to what would happen next.
Equal pay laws had the unintended consequence of causing thousands of indigenous Australians who had been living with their families on cattle stations or other agricultural businesses to lose their jobs and their connection to working communities. As politically incorrect and, to borrow a word from Tony Abbott, paternalistic as it sounds today, this relationship sometimes led to indigenous children being sent to boarding schools by wealthy graziers. There is also evidence that many pastoralists sought to provide a decent living for their Aboriginal drovers and their families.
Even though by today's standards the removal of Aboriginal children into white homes looks like an exercise in eugenics, some Aboriginal lawyers were produced in the process. Maroochy Barambah, the first Aboriginal to professionally sing opera on an Australian stage, received her training living with a white family in Melbourne. Today, the fear of the term "stolen generation" ties the hands of politicians and officials and leaves indigenous children in circumstances in which no other Australian child would be allowed to languish. It has taken the courage of Noel Pearson to raise the possibility that some remote Aboriginal children should be educated in city boarding schools.
Any solution to the crisis gripping the Aboriginal community must respect the original ethic of the 1967 referendum. At the same time, Aborigines must not be told that their historical experience can be waved before authorities as, quite literally, a get out of jail free card. Nor is this about race or culture. Any group of people forced to live in the middle of nowhere - disconnected from the wider world save for weekly welfare payments and alcohol deliveries and largely insulated from the criminal consequences of bad behaviour - will develop a "Big Man" culture, if only to put a stop to the even worse scenario of internecine gang warfare.
It is absolutely understandable that the Freedom Bus and other 1960s-era Aboriginal rights movements were concerned with rights above all else. These had been cruelly denied to Aborigines for too long. But the 1967 referendum, as well as the necessary and well-intentioned reports into deaths in custody and the "stolen generation" did not help Aboriginal communities take up the responsibilities that went along with those rights.
Today, Aborigines are many times more likely to die or be hurt at the hands of a fellow Aborigine than by anybody else, while in dysfunctional communities across the central deserts and northern Australia virtually every single resident is on the dole. Just as 40 years ago Aborigines and their allies in white society fought for indigenous rights, today the fight is to get Aborigines off the dole, away from the grog and into responsible workaday lives. It is a battle every bit as worthy as those fought in the 1960s and, for many Aborigines, even more critical.
AUSTRALIA: FOOD TYRANNY COMES TO LITTLE KIDS
Exercise will be compulsory in every New South Wales daycare centre and junk food will be phased out under a NSW Health Department plan to fight childhood obesity. Regulation foods and fitness programs will be rolled out across every childcare centre and pre-school under new guidelines recommended by a government working party. The authors of the government-commissioned report also recommended junk foods such as chocolate, chips, soft drinks and biscuits be eliminated.
The recommendations follow revelations overweight toddlers are being sent to dieticians while babies are sucking from soft drink bottles. The NSW report investigating obesity levels in two to five-year-olds is the biggest study of its kind in the country. It found eating habits in young children were setting them on an path to obesity. The Weight of Opinion survey is a three-part report commissioned by the State Government to investigate ways of tackling the obesity crisis in early childhood.
In the 10-year period from 1985 to 1995 the level of obesity among Australian children more than doubled - and tripled in all age groups and for both sexes. "The period from two to five is such a critical time in children development and you can really set good eating habits," report author Deanna Pagnini said. There are currently no guidelines on physical activity for young children across the country and childcare and preschools set their own rules on what foods are allowed. A government working party is now determining how much physical activity young children need and the kinds of healthy foods that are acceptable.
Co-author, obesity expert Dr Michael Booth, said drastic measures were needed: "You go to the beach and see tiny kids with soft drink in their bottles - that is the most extreme but I've seen it. It sends a shiver up the spine." Professor Booth said children as young as two needed to be educated about healthy foods. "The earlier you start the better. You even want to start before two because at the age they develop a taste for a wide variety of foods. Many kids refuse to eat vegetables because they have never developed the taste," he said.
The Weight of Opinion report detailed alarming incidents, including an event with a toddler who had weight issues and had to be referred to a dietician. "We sent her off to see a local doctor, the doctor referred her to a dietitian, and this child was about three," the report said.
The early childhood findings are the first part of the three part report which will also look at general practitioners as well as school teachers and parents, to be released over the next six months. The toddler section - released to The Saturday Daily Telegraph - said young children in formal care were a "captive audience that can be targeted with specific foods and required daily exercise. "(Efforts) need to concentrate on ... changing the structural, economic, cultural and environmental factors that make it difficult to eat healthy foods and get adequate amounts of physical activity," the report read.
Food Watch nutritionist Catherine Saxelby said it was tempting for time-poor parents to give their children pre-packaged foods. "It is quicker, self-wrapped and you know the child will eat it." Ms Saxelby said modern mums and dads found it tough to battle the avalanche of snack food marketing directed at children. "We want them to love us so we buy them things they love. Generations ago if you were a fussy eater you went to bed without any supper," she said.
8 July, 2006
Christians not welcome -- in BRITAIN!
Britain's biggest fun park has sparked a race row - with a MUSLIMS-ONLY day. Up to 28,000 are expected at Alton Towers on September 17 when there will be no music, booze or gambling. Instead there will be prayer areas, Muslim stalls and all food served will be HALAL.
Organisers Islamic Leisure have billed it the First National Muslim Fun Day and tickets can only be bought through their website. Non-Muslims phoning the Staffordshire park have been refused tickets. One, George Hughes, 19, who rang up for 15 tickets for a pal's birthday, said: "I couldn't believe it. "It's the only day we can go, yet I can't because I'm not Muslim. Can you imagine all the fuss if there was a Christians-only day?"
George, of Crayford, Kent, added: "My Muslim friends think it's outrageous. "What's the world coming to when people are being banned from flying the St George's flag yet this sort of day is allowed? If it must be held, then why not on a weekday rather than a busy weekend?"
The event is widely promoted on the internet and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee declared it "exclusively for our brothers and sisters". But some Muslims have condemned the idea. One university student on a Muslim website forum said: "It's hardly encouraging integration." Another said: "What next . . . an all Muslims shopping day out in the Trafford Centre in Manchester?"
Abid Hussan of Islamic Leisure insisted the day was open to all faiths, although Islamic laws would apply. He added: "There will be no smoking, no alcohol and halal food only. "We're trying to get Muslims to go to this day because they wouldn't normally go somewhere like Alton Towers. We're trying to integrate Muslims into the wider community. People can come down and see the way we live. It will be a peaceful family environment."
Alton Towers said any organisation could hire the park for a day. A spokeswoman said "We make no distinction regarding sexuality, religious, ethnic or lifestyle choices." She confirmed tickets for the day were now available only through Islamic Leisure. And Alton Towers would promote the fact that the day had been booked. She added: "As a general rule, there will be no admission on the day to guests who have not booked through the organisation in advance."
City agrees: 'gay' school is open to all
The city and a conservative legal group have settled a lawsuit in which the city was accused of violating laws against segregation by establishing a public high school for gay, bisexual and transgender students. The city and a group calling itself the Liberty Counsel reached the settlement a week ago, agreeing that the Harvey Milk High School was open to students of any sexual orientation, said Kate O'Brien Ahlers of the city's Law Department. "The city is pleased that the litigation involving Harvey Milk High School has been resolved," city lawyer Emily Sweet said in a statement released by Ahlers. "Harvey Milk High School has always been open to all students and the terms of the stipulation are designed to ensure that all Department of Education staff and students are aware of the nondiscrimination policy," the statement said.
The Liberty Counsel and Democratic State Sen. Ruben Diaz of the Bronx filed the lawsuit in August 2003 after the city announced a month earlier that the high school would be a publicly funded school for "gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning" youth. The Liberty Counsel's lawsuit challenged the legality of funding a "gay" high school with tax dollars. In a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the group said keeping heterosexual students out of the school would violate laws that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The school was an expansion of a two-room program that began in 1984 and formerly had been managed and financed by the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a gay-rights youth advocacy group.
The Liberty Counsel released a statement yesterday saying that the settlement requires school officials to acknowledge in materials that they cannot discriminate against straight students [That should hamper them!] and to make sure staffers follow nondiscrimination rules. Neither Diaz nor a spokesman for Liberty Counsel could be reached for comment.
Alleged Homosexual Girls Expelled From Christian School Can Sue
So much for freedom of religion
July 6, 2006 - In a case that has serious religious freedom implications, the California Supreme Court has ruled that two girls alleged to be lesbians can sue a private Christian school over being expelled. The case involves California Lutheran School and its explusion of two girls in 2005 over improper sexual behaviors. The Court, however, ruled that the girls can sue the school for being expelled-even though their conduct violated the religious standards of the school.
The girls are demanding to be readmitted to the school, unspecified damages and a demand that the school admit homosexual students. This would violate the religious beliefs of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which operates the school.
The school claimed that it was exempt from California's anti-discrimination laws because of its religious nature. This latest decision from the California Supreme Court is a direct threat to religious institutions and education.
7 July, 2006
PAPER PLANES BANNED IN THE UNHINGED KINGDOM
Pupils have been banned from throwing paper planes to one another - in case they get injured. Staff at a primary school have instead set up special targets in the playground for the children to aim at. The edict follows claims by teachers that a few of the school's pupils, aged between three and 11, had been 'over-zealous' in launching the missiles. The headteacher argued the ban was 'a sensible' measure - but parents of some of the 230 pupils reacted with disbelief.
Coming in the wake of high-profile bans around the country on traditional playground games such as tag and conkers, they fear aversion to risk is denying their children the learning experience they enjoyed. One father of a seven-year-old boy said: 'I've heard it all now. We made paper planes and our parents did the same and I never heard of anyone getting hurt. 'It's taking the health-and-safety measures to absurd lengths. Heaven knows what they will think to ban next.'
Staff at Bishops Down Primary School in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, introduced the ban earlier this month after two pupils were seen aiming their paper planes at other children. The youngsters are still allowed to make the darts but are being supervised to ensure they only launch them at the targets. Headteacher Emma Savage said staff were particularly concerned about eye injuries. 'These planes can have sharp edges and have the potential to damage a young person's eyes,' she said. 'We have stopped pupils from aiming them at other children's eyes, which would seem like a reasonable thing to do. 'But they can still make and throw planes as much as they want because we have a safe area with targets in the playground. 'The measure was taken because some of the children were getting a bit over-zealous.' Mrs Savage claimed no one had complained about the ban....
It is the latest in a string of playground safety clampdowns. Staff at Broomley First School in Stocksfield, Northumberland, ordered children to stop playing tag because it was 'too rough'. Many schools have banned conkers forcing pupils to wear goggles while playing - because they fear they could be used as 'offensive weapons'. And a Gloucestershire village had to remove swings because they faced the sun and there was concern users could be blinded. A survey of 500 youngsters by The Children's Society charity found the majority believe playgrounds are boring. Forty-five per cent said they had been stopped from playing with water and a third from climbing trees.
A special issue of Time magazine celebrates the historic career of Theodore Roosevelt and the implications of his presidency for the development of American society. In the phony familiarity of our times, where you call people by their first names when you have never even met them, the cover story in this issue is titled "Teddy."
Theodore Roosevelt was indeed a landmark figure in the development of American politics and government, but in a very different sense from the way he is portrayed in Time magazine. In fact, the way that Theodore Roosevelt has been celebrated by many in the media and among the intelligentsia tells us more about them than about the first President Roosevelt. It also tells us something about what has gone wrong with American society.
Aside from questions of flamboyant style and rhetoric, what did Theodore Roosevelt actually accomplish that would justify putting him on Mount Rushmore, alongside Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln? According to Time magazine, TR believed that "government had the right to moderate the excesses of free enterprise." Just what were these excesses? According to Time, "poverty, child labor, dreadful factory conditions." All these things were attributed to the growth of industrial capitalism -- without the slightest evidence that any of them was better before the growth of industrial capitalism. Nothing is easier than to imagine some ideal past or future society or to imagine that the net result of government intervention is bound to be a plus.
Theodore Roosevelt's own ideas went no deeper than Time magazine's today or of much of the intelligentsia in the years in between. Maybe that is why TR has been lionized. Both his thinking and his lack of thinking was so much like that of later "progressives." Among the things that have endeared TR to later generations of "progressives" has been "the breakup of monopolies" cited by Time magazine. Just what specifically caused particular companies to be called "monopolies"? What specifically did they do? Who specifically did the "robber barons" actually rob? Such questions remain as unanswered today as in Theodore Roosevelt's time. Indeed, they remain unasked among many of the intelligentsia and in the media.
Monopolies are much harder to find in the real world than in the world of political rhetoric. Monopolies raise prices but, in the big industries supposedly dominated by monopolies -- oil, steel, railroads -- prices were falling for years before Theodore Roosevelt entered the White House and started saving the country from "monopoly." The average price of steel rails fell from $68 to $32 before TR became president. Standard Oil, the most hated of the "monopolies," had in fact innumerable competitors and its oil prices were not only lower than those of most of its competitors, but was also falling over the years. It was much the same story in other industries called "monopolies."
The anti-trust laws which Theodore Roosevelt so fiercely applied did not protect consumers from high prices. They protected high-cost producers from being driven out of business by lower cost producers. That has largely remained true in the many years since TR was president. The long list of low-price businesses targeted by anti-trust laws range from Sears department stores and the A&P grocery chain in the 20th century to Microsoft today, prosecuted not for raising the price of Windows but for including new features without raising prices. Much of the rhetoric of anti-trust remains the opposite of the reality.
Jim Powell's soon to be published book, "Bully Boy," goes in detail into the specifics of President Theodore Roosevelt's many crusades and their often disastrous consequences. But who cares about consequences these days? TR was a "progressive" and denounced "malefactors of great wealth." What more could the intelligentsia and the media want?
FOOD FREAKS LOSE A ROUND
A proposed ban on a popular kids' food backfires
Jonathan Durkee has two words for state Senator Jarrett Barrios : Thank you. Durkee is treasurer of the Lynn company that produces Marshmallow Fluff, which Barrios targeted last month when he tried to ban the Fluffernutter sandwich from school lunches .
But Barrios did not realize how much of a New England icon sweet marshmallow spread slathered over white bread and twinned with peanut butter was. The bill to ban it drew legions of protective Fluffernutter patriots to arms. In a profile-in-courage counterattack, a state representative even proposed making the Fluffernutter the official sandwich of Massachusetts. The Fluffernutter Wars were on.
``Nightline" chimed in, along with Regis and Kelly and The Los Angeles Times. Red-state Americans who never heard of Fluff began to wonder what it was, and displaced New Englanders around the country started licking their lips with a Pavlovian reflex forged in childhood. Fluffernutter: Home. Eat. Happy. Good. Then the inevitable. Internet orders sent to the mother ship in Lynn skyrocketed 800 percent from 10 to 80 cases a day -- and not just from expatriate Bostonians. Curious Fluffernutter first-timers like James Harmon of Nashville dialed in. ``I read a couple articles and saw a story on CNN," he wrote in an e-mail. ``So I had to try [it]."
Durkee said it was too early to tell if the bump would carry through to the holiday season, when sales typically peak. In Lynn, fingers remained crossed. A thank-you letter to Barrios? Not yet in the mail
6 July, 2006
THE INCORRECTNESS OF COKE
At the Coca-Cola Company's annual meeting of shareholders on April 19, CEO Neville Isdell announced positive first-quarter results and then solicited comments from the audience on the election of directors. The first response came from Ray Rogers, a longtime labor activist - but Rogers had no intention of talking about the makeup of Coke's board. Instead, he delivered a two-minute tirade on corporate perfidy: "The World of Coca-Cola [is] a world full of lies, deception, immorality, corruption, and widespread labor, human-rights, and environmental abuses."
If the words sounded rehearsed, it wasn't merely because Rogers had prepared his statement in advance: He has uttered this line, with its reference to the Coke memorabilia museum in Atlanta, on many occasions. His favorite venues are colleges and universities, where an anti-Coke movement has grown among left-wing activists for several years. They accuse the company of murdering union leaders in Colombia, causing water shortages in India, and violating worker rights in Indonesia and Turkey. Because of the efforts of Rogers and his allies, more than a dozen schools have terminated contracts with the soda maker or expelled its vending machines from cafeterias and dormitories. Activists frequently refer to Coke as "the new Nike" - a reference to a student-led anti-sweatshop movement that went after the shoemaker in the 1990s for the allegedly sorry state of its foreign factories. Right now, the campaign to stop "Killer Coke" is perhaps the trendiest protest movement on campus.
It hasn't affected Coke's bottom line, according to Isdell. But company officials have responded aggressively: They've created a website (CokeFacts.org) to rebut various allegations; bought a domain name (KillerCoke.com) that directs potential critics to their website; and sent teams of representatives to campuses that have considered cutting ties. They're clearly worried about the effects of a long-term smear campaign orchestrated by radicals determined to beat the Real Thing. The company is doing what it can to persuade open-minded students that slogans are no substitute for facts, but there's no shortage of closed minds. "Some people won't ever be satisfied because for them this is ideological," says Isdell. "Their goal is actually anti-capitalist."
Coca-Cola is of course a potent symbol of American capitalism. From its humble origins in a Georgia pharmacy in the 1880s, Coke has become a global drink of choice. The company estimates that its products are consumed 1.3 billion times per day. BusinessWeek magazine rates it the most valuable brand in the world.
Perhaps inevitably, Coke has become an appealing target for America-haters everywhere. As U.S. economic influence spread after the Second World War, Communists in France and elsewhere derided "Coca-Colonization." Just a few years ago, in the Wahhabi equivalent of playing Led Zeppelin records backwards and listening for satanic mutterings, some Muslims argued that the mirror image of Coca-Cola's familiar script delivered an anti-Islamic message in Arabic. Since then, French entrepreneur Tawfik Mathlouthi has introduced Mecca Cola, a Coke competitor with a red-and-white label. He says his goal is to fight "America's imperialism and Zionism by providing a substitute for American goods." At first, Mecca Cola was stocked only in small ethnic stores in a few European countries, but now it can be found on supermarket shelves across the continent, as well as in the Middle East. A portion of the proceeds are earmarked for the Palestinians.
Rogers says he became involved in this latest anti-Coke crusade nearly four years ago, when members of a Colombian union, Sinaltrainal, came to his office in New York with stories about the murders of labor leaders by right-wing paramilitaries. "I wasn't looking to get into this fight," he says. But the Colombians definitely were looking for him: Rogers has a reputation as an innovative activist who cut his teeth in the 1970s during a celebrated labor struggle against the textile manufacturer J. P. Stevens (an incident that later became the subject of the movie Norma Rae, for which Sally Field won an Oscar). Since those glory days, however, Rogers has become a radioactive figure among established unionists, especially because of his involvement in a botched strike against Hormel in the 1980s. But he is still occasionally sought out by labor interests seeking to advance causes by unconventional means. He runs a shoestring operation, which was perfect for the Colombians, who couldn't afford to pay him anything.
"I was moved by their story," says Rogers. "So I started an investigation of Coke." This "investigation," he admits, did not include any site visits: "I've never been to Colombia, but I'd love to get there." Nor did it involve a single contact with the Coca-Cola Company itself; Rogers didn't actually sit down with a Coke employee until last spring when he agreed to a meeting at Coke's request. "When I get involved in a campaign, I don't seek out corporate executives," he explains. "I represent people."
The people he ostensibly represents - those Colombians - say that right-wing paramilitaries killed eight union members between 1989 and 2002 and that these deaths were coordinated with Coke officials who were trying to weaken the unions at local bottling plants. These charges aren't even close to proven. Two judicial inquiries in Colombia found no evidence to support them. In 2003, a federal judge dismissed Coke as a defendant in a frivolous case filed by the International Labor Rights Fund. The IUF, the labor organization that represents more Coke workers than any other union in the world, has condemned the anti-Coke movement: "The boycott call is based on unsubstantiated allegations and empty political slogans. This call for a boycott will damage, rather than strengthen, the credibility of all those seeking to secure union rights for all employees in the Coca-Cola system." Rogers bristles at the mention of IUF: "From the start, it's been a thorn in my side."
It's also impossible to ignore the fact that Colombia has suffered from a prolonged civil war, in which both left-wing and right-wing groups have killed thousands of Colombians. That some of these deaths would touch union members who work at Coke facilities, where the unionization rate is considerably higher than it is elsewhere in the country, should not come as a shock. Even so, Sinaltrainal leaders have said that the families of the slain workers ought to receive payments equal to the salary of Coke's CEO. Rogers, for his part, notes that Coca-Cola paid nearly $200 million a few years ago to settle a class-action lawsuit based on racial discrimination. "They can afford this," he says.
Taking on a huge company such as Coke presents an enormous challenge - but Rogers's strategy doesn't call for a broad-based consumer boycott that would certainly flop. Instead, he seeks to achieve a series of small campus-level victories that generate unwelcome publicity for a brand-sensitive company as well as a sense of momentum for college students who are looking for a fashionable cause. "One of the reasons Rogers can attract students is because he can make them feel like they're participating in something by not doing anything at all," says Jarol Manheim, a political scientist at George Washington University who studies anti-corporate movements. "All they have to do is quit drinking Coke." Social responsibility has never been easier, especially with Pepsi available as an alternative.
To start the campaign, Rogers cherry-picked small schools such as Lake Forest College in Illinois and Bard College in New York. Last year, however, he scored a bigger victory when Rutgers ended an exclusive contract with Coke. By the end of 2005, both New York University and the University of Michigan had banned Coke. At Michigan, the administration demanded that Coke prove its innocence by cooperating in an independent investigation of the activists' key claims. Rogers was on a roll.
The irony is that by thinking globally and acting locally, these Coke bans can punish American unionists. Because Coke is bottled close to where it's sold all over the planet, a decision by the University of Michigan to halt Coke sales exerts precisely no pressure on bottlers in Colombia - but it does threaten union jobs in the Detroit area. "We fill those machines in Ann Arbor, so this hurts us and we don't have anything to do with what's going on in Colombia," says Richard Gremaud of Teamsters Local 337. Does Rogers care about these American workers? "In any kind of solidarity, there is pain," he replies. Gremaud feels differently: "If he was losing his job, he wouldn't say that."
The good news for these Teamsters is that the University of Michigan's administration rescinded its ban in April: Coke agreed to an independent investigation by the International Labor Organization, a branch of the United Nations. A report is expected this fall. Although the investigation hasn't even started, Rogers is already condemning it on the grounds that Ed Potter, a high-level Coke official, is a member of the U.S. delegation to the ILO. "There are 640 people who have a final vote in the ILO conference's legislative process," says Potter. "I have one of them, and I won't have anything to do with this investigation. To suggest that there's any undue influence is preposterous."
But it's an allegation Rogers needs to have ready, because an exoneration of Coke by the ILO would deliver a solid blow to his efforts. Rogers, in fact, has had to deal with a handful of recent setbacks. In Britain, the National Union of Students, a large purchasing co-op, voted to continue its relationship with Coke. And in the United States, there may be an emerging pro-Coke counter-movement: When a debate over Coke reached Michigan State University in East Lansing earlier this year, students affiliated with Young Americans for Freedom passed out fliers in support of the company.
In the end, the anti-Coke movement may fizzle like a can of pop that's been open too long. There's even a chance it will end almost exactly the same way the Coke shareholders meeting did in April: with Ray Rogers standing in the back of the room, shouting about how he hadn't been allowed to speak, even though he had.
MORE ON THE CORRECTNESS OF BREAST-FEEDING
The New York Times shocked women last week with an astonishing article in its "Science Times section" titled, "Breast-feed or Else." While laying claim to a balanced approach by describing as "controversial" a public health campaign that compares the failure to breast feed as equivalent to smoking while pregnant," the paper, nevertheless, ended up producing an extremely biased article. In claiming positive outcomes to breast feeding that are unjustified by scientific studies, the Times effectively told parents that giving their babies formula is tantamount to letting them smoke.
But the costs of nursing are substantial: the reduced time for work due to the need to pump, nurse, eat and sleep has a huge economic and social impact on women and their families. Nursing can also lead to depression or other unhealthy emotional states. It can be painful, and there are sometimes medical reasons why nursing is not recommended. Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infections can be transmitted by breast milk and can cause considerable problems in newborn babies - and sometimes lead to life-threatening illnesses. Drug addicts obviously should not nurse; but even smokers and drinkers ought to consider the impact (and quantity) of their use on their babies.
And for some women the milk simply isn't there despite conscientious efforts. This can lead to either health problems for the baby who isn't getting enough calories, or paying $4-$10 per ounce for donated milk (if it's available). For a five-month old baby downing about 30 ounces a day, that's one pretty little college fund gone in human milk.
For these reasons, many scientists have investigated the purported benefits of human breast milk for infants (largely ignoring the mother in their calculations), and the results are mixed. Only in a narrow segment of the population is nursing actually a bad idea, but the real question is how good is good? Can we quantify the extra benefit? Is nursing really so much better than formula that we can make a similar comparison to the risk of smoking and not smoking?
In affirming this comparison, the Times extensively quoted Dr. Lawrence Gartner, chairman of the breast-feeding section of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Gartner claimed that breast-feeding protects "against acute infectious diseases - including meningitis, upper and lower respiratory infections, pneumonia, bowel infections, diarrhea and ear infections." The Times added that the AAP claims "Some studies also suggest that breast-fed babies are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome and serious chronic diseases later in life, including asthma, diabetes, leukemia and some forms of lymphoma."
In the AAP primary scientific position statement (hosted on the front page of their breastfeeding page), the organization states "Extensive research using improved epidemiologic methods and modern laboratory techniques documents diverse and compelling advantages for infants, mothers, families, and society from breastfeeding and use of human milk for infant feeding. These advantages include health, nutritional, immunologic, developmental, psychologic, social, economic, and environmental benefits."
We decided to take a closer look at these claims than the Times did; the real story is both surprising and reassuring. We start with the scariest question first: Will babies die if they are not nursed? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding leads to a 21 percent decrease in the death rate of babies in an age range over one month and under one-year old. But turn to the AAP's source. The scientific study used to support this claim found that babies who are nursed are less likely to die. of injuries! While it may be hard to explain away that data, it is hard to believe that the AAP is recommending that exhausted, tired, guilt-ridden, and otherwise strung out mothers nurse because otherwise, their child might end up falling off a table.
There is, in this paper, a weak association between nursing and a reduced risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But the association is not statistically significant (the 95 percent confidence interval is .67-1.05). And since there is no obvious mechanism for this either, we are left wondering whether this is because breast milk (possibly in a bottle) helps reduce the risk, or whether it's the physical attention obtained by being nursed frequently during the night, or whether it's that nursing babies are sleeping with their parent more. If it's the latter, for example, then we should advocate co-sleeping rather than nursing. Finding this kind of poor science behind a huge AAP campaign to promote breast milk and nursing over formula got us wondering. What other wives tales are out there?
Let's be honest: if the only adverse consequence of not nursing is that babies get a few more colds, we could leave the decision making to the parents. The real question is whether there are dangerous or potentially long-term damaging illnesses (such as ear infections that lead to hearing loss) for babies who aren't nursed versus babies who are. And how long (or how much) should a baby be nursed in order to keep his or her risk down?
One of the big problems in trying to assess this question is that not all nursing is equal. There are mothers who nurse exclusively, mothers who use expressed breast milk (delivered in bottles), mothers who freeze milk, or use pasteurized (donated) milk, or use some breast milk and some formula, and a combination of all of the above. Then there are the babies, some of whom are premature, or have low birth weight, or have other health issues that could make nursing harder; there are some babies who are nursed until they are four-years old, and others who nurse until they are six-weeks old.
Finally, we must add a complicating factor that it's virtually impossible to carry out the gold standard of research on this issue - a case-controlled study in which mothers are randomly assigned whether to nurse or not. Our observational power may also be limited; at least in principle, because women (and families) who nurse are not the same as those who don't, making any comparison of the outcomes extremely difficult.
But even if we accept these difficulties and try to assess the literature, the picture is not as clear as that painted by the AAP. We found several incidents, like the death-by-injury statistic, which suggested the organization was exaggerating the findings in the literature. Many of the papers referenced were done in the 1980s, when medical care, daycare, and social contexts were significantly different from those today. Perhaps more importantly, studies done in the 1980s did not control for all the factors (such as whether the parents smoke) that we now know have an important impact on infant health. Other studies - especially more recent papers - simply didn't find what AAP claimed they did.
Criminals are to blame, not society: Increased welfare payments will do nothing to prevent crime
An editorial from "The Australian"
The human condition is such that, whether out of malice, opportunity, desperation or passion, some people will break the law in even the most functional and prosperous societies. But no matter the motivation, in a civilised society criminals are isolated from the rest of the population to protect the innocent, punish the guilty and deter their imitators. Which is why NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery's comments this past weekend seem so bizarre. Speaking to a conference of the NSW Teachers Federation, he said increased sentences, additional police and mandatory sentences do nothing to prevent crime. Instead, he called for society to spend more to sure people get good education, receive decent healthcare and have decent places to live.
These are all honourable goals. But in Australia and overseas, decades of expensive left-wing social engineering projects of the sort Mr Cowdery advocates have proved abject failures when it comes to preventing crime. "Assist(ing) those juggling the competing demands of work and family life" may be a noble goal, but it will not cut the number of criminals, as Mr Cowdery claims. Mr Cowdery seems to forget crime is broadly on the decline in NSW - the murder rate is at its lowest in 20 years - and that the incarceration of baddies on his watch is a large part of the reason for this. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics research shows that locking up convicted burglars prevents 45,000 burglaries a year. The data also suggests that doubling sentences would prevent another 14,000 such crimes annually. Mr Cowdery's welfare-based approach to crime prevention has been rightly derided as naive and unworkable. Criminologist Paul Wilson of Bond University summed it up, telling The Australian there was "no evidence" to support Mr Cowdery's claims.
Here the experience of New York City, once considered ungovernable and lawless, provides a useful case study. When Rudy Giuliani was sworn in as mayor of New York in 1994, he embraced the "broken windows" doctrine of policing. What were once considered petty crimes and not worth cop time - fare evasion and public urination - were cracked down on. This sent the message to criminals that bigger crimes would not be tolerated either, and re-energised the morale of a city whose previous mayor had gone so far as to let looters rampage unchecked during the Crown Heights riots of 1991, which took the life of Melburnian rabbinical student Yankel Rosenbaum. Mayor Giuliani's policies were controversial, but they worked spectacularly. In 1990, the city had a record 2,245 homicides. In 2004, there were just 571 - a level not seen since 1963. Under Mr Giuliani, overall crime fell 57 per cent and the city enjoyed a remarkable civic renaissance.
This is not the only time Mr Cowdery has raised eyebrows. In the wake of the Cronulla riots and subsequent revenge attacks, he complained about local politicians who called rioters "grubs" - although he has not refrained from calling the media and politicians "bottom feeders". And he has been a repeated critic of state elections, which he says turn into little more than "law-and-order auctions". These are strange positions for a Director of Public Prosecutions to take. And they bolster the case of NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam that Mr Cowdery's position should not be a lifetime appointment, but rather held for a seven-year term. Mr Cowdery, who complains that outsiders should leave "experts" such as himself to handle criminal justice matters, should do the same when it comes to health, education and housing.
5 July, 2006
Ninth Circuit Decides: The Mt. Soledad Cross Will Come Down
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to stay Federal District Judge Gordon Thompson's order to remove the Mt. Soledad Cross pending an appeal. Thus, the City of San Diego must remove the Cross by August 1, 2006, or face fines of $5,000 per day thereafter. In its decision, however, the Ninth Circuit scheduled oral arguments on the matter for the week of October 16, 2006, weeks after the Cross is to be removed. The 43- foot Cross was erected in 1954 and currently is the centerpiece of a national memorial honoring American veterans of all wars.
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been fighting to save the Cross since 2004 when it received information that the private memorial association operating the memorial site and the City were about to agree to settle the case, which had been on going for 15 years, by removing the Cross.
Richard Thompson, the Law Center's President and Chief Counsel, commented on the recent order: "It is an outrage and insult not only to Christians, but people of all faiths, that this memorial site to our veterans and fallen war heroes would be desecrated by removal of a universally recognized symbol of sacrifice just because one atheist was upset about it. We will continue our legal fight to save the cross. A quick answer to the current legal challenge would be for the federal government to step in and take the land under its power of eminent domain. So far they have remained silent."
Continued Thompson, "The Cross and memorial honors those Americans of all faiths who have given their lives to preserve our religious freedom; we are now called upon to do whatever it takes to prevent the courts from destroying the Cross that symbolizes our religious heritage and their sacrifice."
Rob Muise, a Law Center trial counsel who has authored many of the pleadings in this case, indicated that further legal action will be taken to preserve the cross and memorial. Said Muise, "Friends, comrades, and family members of thousands of our fallen veterans have chosen the Mt. Soledad memorial as a place to honor and remember their fallen heroes. As a former Marine officer and veteran of the first Persian Gulf War, I am sickened by the thought of the pain that these court decisions must be causing for these grieving families. Our veterans deserve better than this."
In December 2004, as a result of legal research and urgings by the Thomas More Law Center, Congress and the President designated the Mt. Soledad Cross, the land on which it stands, and the granite memorial walls surrounding it a national veterans memorial. The congressional action authorized the Department of the Interior to accept a donation of the property. The Secretary of the Interior would administer the Memorial as a unit of the National Park System, giving the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association the right of continued maintenance of the Cross and surrounding granite memorial walls and plaques.
However, despite widespread support, the San Diego City Council declined to make the donation. As a result, a religiously diverse, grass roots organization, "San Diegans for the Mt Soledad War Memorial," headed by Jewish businessman Philip Thalheimer, obtained more than 100,000 signatures on petitions, calling on the council to reverse its decision. In response, the City Council opted to place the question authorizing the transfer as Proposition A on the July 2005 special election ballot.
Plaintiff Paulson's attorney filed a second lawsuit, this time in state court, seeking to stop the vote. Despite the fact that the ballot proposal passed by an astonishing 76% of the vote, State Court Judge Patricia Cowett ruled that Proposition A violated the California constitution. Her order is being appealed as well.
A reply to a racial extremist
People like the Rev. Wayne Robinson do a disservice to all Americans by blaming white America for the sins of blacks. By doing so, he excuses the actions of those who have found it easier to blame others than to accept their own responsibility for bad behavior. That behavior - not racism - has resulted in the failure of black society today.
Out-of-wedlock births are condemning future generations to lives that will never reach their full potential, yet we celebrate the hip-hop and rap artists who glamorize that lifestyle. The few whites who dare to speak out against this destructive behavior are instantly silenced by the threat of the new scarlet letter "R." Even well-respected blacks who dare to criticize their own are threatened with ostracism and negative labels.
White Americans ended slavery, and hundreds of thousands of whites died in that cause. I do not hear their ancestors calling for reparations from the government. In the interim, many decent and responsible blacks have assimilated into our culture, and for a while, integration seemed to be succeeding, but then diversity and the cult of victimization was born. Whites as well as blacks are taught to ridicule the history of our country, because it is primarily a history of white accomplishments. It is being rewritten to marginalize the white race and elevate the black.
Rather than focusing on the real reasons for the decline of society today, Robinson and others like him prefer to distract our attention with inflammatory rhetoric and liberal cliches.
Brainwashed by the media and intimidated by the demagogues, whites are being taught to believe that their own race is evil. The anti-white climate in America is so oppressive that today only one group is forbidden to express pride in its heritage - whites. To do so is to be labeled a racist and morally inferior.
Robinson says, "Young black men still struggle with the aftereffects of our nation's 250 years of slavery." This attitude is the sword that extremists such as Robinson and his ilk continually hold over our heads, and it has effectively stifled honest discourse about race in this country.
It is time for black America to throw away the crutch of victimization, to tell people like Wayne Robinson that they don't have a clue, and to demand accountability from those in their community who are responsible for destructive behavior and the consequences it brings.
I was raised to believe that if I studied hard, respected authority, and like a man, accepted responsibility for my actions, I was entitled to enjoy the privileges afforded to every American citizen. Yes, every American citizen is entitled, but first you must earn those privileges.
It is clear that Robinson is an extremist who will say anything, no matter how pernicious and false; in order to promote his agenda. He disguises his anti-white rhetoric in the garb of a man of the cloth, but he is a cretin with a collar, and a man of hate, not of God. The accusations he makes in his article are belied by the fact that this country, which so many long to call home, was founded and made great by a race and a culture he and others are intent on destroying. What sort of country do you think America will be when that day arrives?
A dangerous politically correct bureaucrat
Australia's Cowardly Cowdery has always been the criminal's friend
One of the top law-enforcement officials in NSW has been denounced by police and criminologists for proposing to fight crime by spending less on policing and more on welfare and education.
Criminologist Paul Wilson of Bond University said yesterday there was no evidence anywhere in the world that the scheme outlined by NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery would work. He rejected Mr Cowdery's assertion that social and education programs were the only way in which crime could be deterred in advance. "There is no evidence from anywhere it makes any difference," Professor Wilson said.
Mr Cowdery had called for a reallocation of resources in the fight against crime, speaking at a weekend conference of the NSW Teachers Federation. He argued that the Neighbourhood Watch scheme did not reduce crime, nor did police visits to schools in which officers explained the consequences of drug use. Mr Cowdery's weekend comments are not the first time he has attacked proponents of tough law-and-order policies.
Two years ago, he accused the Carr government of indifference towards people getting a fair trial, saying it was more interested in police numbers and full jails. In February, he accused Bob Carr's replacement as Premier, Morris Iemma, of undermining public confidence in the judicial system by making statements that could jeopardise the fairness of trials over the Cronulla riots. But Mr Iemma, who had referred to the rioters as "grubs", refused to withdraw his description, saying there was "barely a person in NSW" who would disagree with his comment.
The man brought in to tackle crime problems in the Queensland city of Ipswich more than a decade ago, security consultant Stacey Kirmos, also said Mr Cowdery was on the wrong track. He said his proposal focused on long-term issues when there was a clear need to address immediate crime problems. Two years ago, Ipswich city officials said the overall crime rate had fallen by 78 per cent from its peak.
Professor Wilson said he agreed with Mr Cowdery's analysis of the crime problem "but I don't think his solution follows from his analysis at all". There was considerable evidence that crime rates would fall if "the opportunities for crime" were reduced by adopting the same crime-busting tactics as former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Professor Wilson said. Under Mr Giuliani, overall crime rates in New York fell by 57 per cent and murders were reduced by 65 per cent. And while Mr Giuliani's tactics were sometimes described as a get-tough campaign, Professor Wilson said they really amounted to smarter, more focused policing. "Australia is not going to change from a criminal justice approach to crime to a welfare approach to crime," Professor Wilson said. "The US spent millions on a war on poverty during the Kennedy era. It made no difference to crime rates whatsoever. It was a big flop." He said massive education programs aimed at reducing crime rates "don't seem to work". "They might be good for other reasons but as a crime prevention strategy they seem to have no effect."
Professor Wilson said a better way of reducing crime rates would be to focus on hot spots, try to reduce opportunities for crime as much as possible and make more effective use of police. Increased police numbers were part of the solution "if they are employed effectively in areas where they are needed". NSW Police Association vice-president Scott Weber said the value of increased police numbers and zero tolerance had been demonstrated in New York. Police Federation of Australia chief executive Mark Burgess said fewer police on the streets would lead to more crime.
4 July, 2006
UK outrage as "Big Brother" government keeps an eye on kids
British Government plans for the surveillance of all children, including information on whether they eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, have been condemned as a Big Brother system. Experts say it is the biggest state intrusion into the role of parents in history. Changes are being introduced after the death of a girl from abuse. They include a database tracking all 12 million children in England and Wales from birth. The Government expects the program to be operating within two years.
But critics say the electronic files will undermine family privacy and destroy the confidentiality of medical, social work and legal records. Doctors, schools and the police will have to alert the database to a wide range of "concerns". Two warning flags on a child's record could start an investigation. There will also be a system of targets and performance indicators for children's development. Children's services have been told to work together to make sure targets are met.
Child-care academics, practitioners and policy experts attending a conference at the London School of Economics will express concern about how the system will work. Dr Eileen Munro, an expert on child protection, said that if a child caused concern by failing to make progress towards state targets, detailed information would be gathered. That would include subjective judgements such as "is the parent providing a positive role model?", as well as sensitive information such as a parent's mental health. "They include consuming five portions of fruit and veg a day, which I am baffled how they will measure," she said. "The country is moving from the traditional 'parents are free to bring children up as they think best as long as they are not abusive or neglectful' to a more coercive 'parents must bring children up to conform to the state's views of what is best'."
The Children Act 2004 gave the Government the powers to create the database. The potential for investigations by social services or the police into thousands of children and their families for "innocuous" reasons has alarmed many experts. "When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, is it necessary to keep building bigger haystacks?" said Jonathan Bamford, the assistant commissioner at the Information Commissioner's office. Keeping check on 12 million children, when the justification for the database was that 3 million or 4 million were in some way "at risk", was "not proportionate", he said.
"Assimilation", then and now
A review by Peter Coleman of "The Education of Dr Joe" By Joseph N. Santamaria that appeared in "The Australian" on 24 June, 2006
When I was a child in Melbourne in the 1930s, some kindly uncle gave me a store-bought uniform of either Emperor Haile Selassie or Mussolini, I forget which. It was the time of the Abyssinian war and the uniform in which I strutted around the house became the occasion of angry family rows. Some backed the emperor, others the Duce.
I remember the passions better than the arguments. But I do recall there was zero prejudice against Italians, even among those who opposed Mussolini. You met them in fruit shops or at the markets. If you were Catholic, you played with them at the parish school or worshipped with them at church. They were hardworking, decent citizens. Australians welcomed them to the football teams, tennis clubs, Saturday night dances, at work and in due course university. (Archbishop Daniel Mannix helped with scholarships.)
That was before assimilation became a dirty word: in those days it meant befriending immigrants. But about 30 years ago it was redefined to mean conformity, intolerance, even racism. Multiculturalism became the new slogan. Immigrants are no longer expected to become Australian but to smile with some derision at Australian history and the old quasi-totalitarian days of assimilation.
Joseph Santamaria's cheerful memoir, The Education of Dr Joe, shows the humbug at the heart of many multiculturalist dogmas. He was born in Melbourne more than 5O years ago, the son of Aeolian immigrants (and the brother of B.A. [Bob] Santamaria), and he grew up in Brunswick.
No hostility to Italians soured his childhood. There was no talk about multiculturalism or ethnic ghettos. (When one boy called him Darkie at school, a Protestant boy threatened the offender with that great Melbourne punishment, a blood nose. Young Joe played Australian football and cricket in the back yard. He caught a horsedrawn bus. The family boasted a chookhouse. During World War Il, his brother served in the army in New Guinea. As a medical student, Joe Santamaria helped produce penicillin at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. (He later served in the surgical team in Vietnam.) He recalls without bitterness the wartime internment of Italians suspected of fascism.
At the same time, the Santamarias enjoyed a rich Italian or Aeolian life, from cards at the Cavour Club to feast days in Richmond and religious festivals in Sunbury, not to mention the joys of belting out the songs of Naples, eating provolone cheese or cooking chicken livers. Friends dropped into his father's shop and sat around for hours. Others made wine in the bath according to the ancient Aeolian recipe. He lived and prospered in two communities, mainstream Australia and the Aeolian diaspora. That was what assimilation meant.
There is an elegiac note in these memoirs. The old easygoing way of life is almost gone, as with the horse-drawn bus and the chookhouse. But Dr Joe has more stories to tell. He notes in passing his "Italian reawakening ... a kind of shift into reverse gear". That, he says, is a story for another day. The sooner, the better.
Note: "Aeolian" refers to the historic Aeolian islands, roughly equidistant between Italy and Sicily
3 July, 2006
Just Say "No!" When Jesse Jackson Comes Calling
Judicial Watch has released a report that details the shakedown tactics that have been used by Jesse Jackson and his Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition against some of the biggest companies in the world. Jackson's current target is oil giant British Petroleum. Using one of his almost patented malapropisms, Jackson has informed BP that "We don't want charity, we want parity," as he mouthed a laundry list of what the oil company needs to do in order to get the "Reverend" to go away.
This isn't the first time Jackson has gone after a big business, typically claiming poor minority hiring practices by the business until the "offending" company caves in and comes up with cash for some of PUSH's pet projects.
His first shakedown of a corporation was directed at brewing giant Anheuser-Busch in 1982. Jackson, whose command of facts and figures often seems to change as the situation demands, claimed at the time that African-Americans were spending about $800 million yearly on AB products, yet only one of the brewery's distributors was black-owned. He also claimed that blacks made up somewhere between 15 to 20 percent of AB's customers.
Compare these charges from 24 years ago with those recently made by Jackson against BP. He claims that while British Petroleum gets 30 percent of the money African-Americans spend on gas, BP has few minorities in executive positions and few African-American distributors. In addition, fewer than 20 of its 13,000 retail stations in the United States are owned by blacks, adds Jackson, with nothing to substantiate any of these claims.
Now let's compare the facts in both situations.
AB at the time, actually had two African-American vice-presidents on their board, had established a $5 million fund to help finance additional minority ownership of its distributorships, and had set in place in 1969 a minority hiring practice that encompassed eighteen-percent of its 14,000 employees.
BP was a $10,000 sponsor of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition's 35th annual conference. In addition, about 20 percent of its independent BP and ARCO dealers come from minority groups, and two members of the company's board of directors are African-American.
Anyone see a pattern here? It's an old playbook that Jackson's is still using, but some companies are finally closing the door when Jackson tries to come in, hat in hand.
Hopefully, BP will ignore Jackson, as has the New York Stock Exchange since 2003 when it severed its relationship with Jackson's "Wall Street Project," a collective shakedown of some of America's biggest corporate names. That still leaves, however, too many businesses that continue to pander to Jackson, including Citigroup, Coca Cola, AOL Time Warner, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, AT&T, Ford Motor Company, Enron, WorldCom, General Motors, IBM, Kodak, Boeing, Merrill Lynch and the DaimlerChrysler Corporate Fund.
It's time for shareholders to tell these publicly-owned businesses to just say "No!" to this "civil rights" carpetbagger or take their dollars elsewhere.
THE INCORRECTNESS OF TRAMPOLINES
Bouncing in the back yard has long been a favourite pastime for Queensland children but new research shows that trampolining is one of the most dangerous activities for those aged six and under. In Queensland, about 1500 children visit hospital emergency departments with trampoline-related injuries each year, most with a broken bone from falling off the equipment. The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit found that 93 per cent of trampoline accidents happened at home and 20 per cent were admitted to hospital.
Christopher Mobbs, an emergency medicine specialist at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital and co-author of the study, said that of trampoline injuries in children aged under 15, 48 per cent were in children under six. "The big outcome from this study is that children under the age of six are the most commonly injured and that was nearly half of all injuries we saw in that age group in this study," Dr Mobbs said. "Children under the age of six shouldn't be allowed to use trampolines because of the increased risk of injury to that age group." The study was done on children presenting at Sydney Children's Hospital in 2004 and last year, during which time 152 trampoline injuries were recorded.
Olympic trampoline silver medallist Ji Wallace, from Logan south of Brisbane, admitted it was just luck that prevented him being injured when he used to play on the family trampoline when he was a child. He said parents needed to be more aware of the seriousness of trampoline injuries and be in the back yard when children were using the trampoline. "It's just like a swimming pool - you don't throw the kids in the pool and say, 'there you go, see you later'," Mr Wallace said.
Dr Mobbs said one of the major recommendations to come out of the study was the need for proper and constant adult supervision for children old enough to safely use a trampoline.....
National Trampoline Sports Management chairman Chuck Smith said there were many benefits to trampolining, including aerobic exercise and learning acrobatic skills. "Children learn how to move, how to control themselves in the air and they learn how to have fun doing what they can't do on the ground - it's a bit like being weightless or being in space," Mr Smith said...
2 July, 2006
Pediatric Group Speakers Encourage Homosexual Activism And Sex Changes For Children
Radical homosexuals and advocates of sex change operations presented their views to pediatricians at the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Francisco from April 29-May 3, 2006.
Dr. Daniel E. Byrne, Ph.D. presented an eyewitness account of his experience at this convention for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).
One of the presentations was "Pediatricians as Advocates," and was a call for pediatricians to oppose traditional marriage and efforts to pass a marriage protection amendment to the Constitution.
A second presentation, "Gender-Variant Youth - The Role of the Pediatrician," was presented by Irene N. Sills, MD and Arlene Istar Lev, who identified herself as a "lesbian currently in a same-sex, opposite-gender relationship."
Sills and Lev claimed that children who believe they are the opposite sex should be encouraged to have sex change operations and family members should be taught that this is normal.
Read TVC's report, "A Gender Identity Disorder Goes Mainstream" to learn more about the transgender activist movement and its attempts to redefine what it means to be male and female. Also, read "Surgical Sex" by Dr. Paul McHugh on the madness of surgery to ostensibly change a person from one sex to another.
The Vatican is worried its opposition to abortion, embryonic stem cell research and gay marriage could one day land it before an international court of justice, a senior Vatican official said in an interview published Wednesday. Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, who heads the Pontifical Council for the Family, reiterated traditional Roman Catholic Church positions and criticized some European countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands and France, for giving legal recognition to civil unions. "We worry especially that, with current laws, speaking in defense of life and the rights of families is becoming in some societies sort of a crime against the state," Lopez Trujillo told the Catholic news magazine Famiglia Cristiana for its issue scheduled to hit the stands Thursday.
The remarks were posted online on Wednesday. "The church is at risk of being brought before some international court if the debate becomes any tenser, if the more radical requests get heard," the cardinal said, speaking ahead of the Roman Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain from July 1-9.
Lopez Trujillo did not comment further about any legal problems the Vatican could face, but his words touched upon a concern among religious organizations everywhere: the right of religious freedom versus countries' anti-discrimination laws.
Chai Feldblum of Georgetown University's Law Center said the chances of the church being punished for stating its beliefs were slim to none, at least in the United States, though its stances could lead to Catholic organizations losing state funding. "I cannot fathom a religious organization being punished for speaking its belief against abortion or gay marriage," said Feldblum, a veteran gay rights advocate. "What is illuminating is not the reality of the legal penalties they face, but an acknowledgment that public morality is shifting under their feet," Feldblum said.
In recent years, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada legalized same-sex marriage, while Britain and several other European nations now give such couples the right to form partnerships that entitle them to most of the same tax and pension rights as married couples - laws the church is firmly against.
In the interview, Lopez Trujillo reiterated that according to church rules, women who have abortions, the doctors and nurses who help them and the father, if he is going along with it, are excommunicated. The same goes for embryonic stem cell research. "It's the same thing. Destroying the embryo is equivalent to abortion," Lopez Trujillo said. e also criticized what he described as a movement to impose new human rights. "It's happening for abortion, which is a crime, and instead it's becoming a right," the cardinal said.
He also compared gay marriage to "absolute emptiness," saying the only possible couple is made up of a man and a woman. Earlier this month, the Pontifical Council for the Family issued a 57-page document in which it said that the traditional family has never been so threatened as in today's world. It also lashed out against contraception, abortion, in vitro fertilization and same-sex marriage. The Vatican's document did not break any new ground, but marked the first sweeping comment on the issues during Pope Benedict XVI's papacy.
1 July, 2006
Women's breasts incorrect?
Los Angeles' Animal Services Department severed its ties Tuesday to a charity bikini contest thrown by Hooters, a restaurant chain known for its scantily clad wait staff, after some City Hall officials questioned the propriety of the event. Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks apologized to those who took offense at the fund-raiser, known as "Hooters for Neuters," and said it was supposed to raise money for a vital cause. "At the heart of it is the desire on the part of a legitimate business in the community -- a number of legitimate businesses in the community -- wanting to help save the lives of animals," he said. "And we're an organization that is desperately looking for that kind of funding."
City Controller Laura Chick said she is sympathetic to the agency's need to raise money to promote spaying and neutering but the event crosses the line. "One of my priorities as an elected leader is empowering women, and I see a bikini contest as promoting women as sexual objects and that is not something I want my city government connected with in any way," Chick said. "I applaud the people involved for their wanting to promote the worthy cause of spaying and neutering. That is great for them to do that, but it needs to be a separate endeavor on their part that has nothing to do with us."
Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who represents the Harbor Area, agreed. "I thought it was completely inappropriate," she said. "There's no connection between bikinis and animal services -- I think there are different ways for them to raise money."
The money from the July 13 event would have gone to the agency's Big Fix program, which includes a number of spay and neuter initiatives all aimed at reducing the population of animals who must be euthanized. The agency has six new spay and neuter clinics in the works, said Boks, who took the helm of the agency in January. Hooters approached Animal Services about the event last month, Boks said. While the agency was to have been the beneficiary of the fund-raiser, and its logo appeared on ads, he stressed that the city was not sponsoring the event. With hundreds of locations across the country and abroad -- and, at one point, its own airline -- Hooters has become a well-known and at times controversial brand. It has balanced charges of sexism and resulting legal troubles with an aggressive charitable side, raising millions of dollars for U.S. nonprofits.
The "Hooters for Neuters" event at the Highlands Hollywood theater boasted co-sponsors including 24 Hour Fitness, Han Vodka and musical acts. Tickets ranged from $10 to $20. Before the agency pulled out of the event, a prominent plug for the fund-raiser on the Animal Services Web page was modified Tuesday to remove references to the bikini contest or the name "Hooters for Neuters." It still included a link to a sanitized flier for the event that featured a T-shirt-wearing dog in place of a bikini model.
THE UNHINGED KINGDOM DISCOVERS A NEW WAY TO ENCOURAGE CRIME
Police refused to chase a thief who had stolen a moped because the youth was not wearing a helmet, the victim said yesterday. Max Foster, 18, said officers told him they feared being sued if the thief fell off the moped and injured himself. The thief escaped on the 1,200 pound moped, which was only insured third party. Mr Foster, of Coleford, Somerset, uses his Gilera 180cc to commute to work in Bath.
He was staying at a friend's house in Bath on Tuesday night when he was woken at 1.45am by the sound of his machine being ridden outside. He saw three youths taking it in turns to ride without helmets, and he dialled 999. Two officers from a police response unit arrived shortly after the trio sped away, but Mr Foster said they told him they could not go after them. "They said they weren't allowed to follow the yobs because they were not wearing helmets and it was too dangerous," said Mr Foster. "They told me the force could be sued if the riders fell off mid-chase and hurt themselves. "This softly-softly approach is totally ridiculous. It gives thieves a perfect way to exploit the law and steal as many bikes as they want without getting arrested."
Avon and Somerset police said that aborting a pursuit because the rider was not wearing a helmet was one of the "options available" to officers when "members of the public or the riders themselves could be put in danger". "With regard to the incident on Tuesday, a decision was made to actively search for the stolen moped and inquiries to trace the offenders are still ongoing."
The Association of Chief Police Officers said: "There is no blanket ban on calling off chases where a rider has no helmet, however most forces will adopt similar stances." Sharon Ball, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Bath, said: "There is a terrible bike theft problem in this area, and this crazy approach means the issue will just get worse."
Mark Twain a "Racist"
Post lifted from Liberty & Power blog
Readers of Liberty and Power will recall the disturbing antics of Glenn Singleton, a self-described diversity expert. Singleton typically gets six figures for his services from school districts, such as Cherry Creek, Colorado and Chapel Hill, North Carolina and (courtesy of a blowback from a conservative campaign led by Michelle Malkin) from Bellevue Community College.
Singleton describes his thought reform sessions as “Courageous Conversations.” The reality of what goes on has little, if anything, to do with either courage or genuine conversation. The main talent of Singleton and his associates is to find creative ways to humiliate and degrade others. Much like Communist thugs during the Cultural Revolution in China, their standard operating procedure is to have hapless educators and staff line up with individual signs, each showing numerical scores of their alleged unconscious racism.
I shudder to think that they might also have to listen to Singleton's theories on American literature. Haven't they suffered enough? He has the following to say, for example, about Mark Twain, Huck Finn, and Jim: "I remember sitting back in middle school and saying to myself, 'I don't think Twain is a satirist, I think he's a racist. I don't think Huck and Jim are having this great relationship. I can't really understand why Jim keeps talking to Huck. I would think if I just got out of this period of slavery-with no freedom-I wouldn't want to spend all my time on a raft with a white boy answering questions.'"