The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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31 March, 2006


A Leftist church (probably with a minute membership) was ostensibly trying to advertise itself but did so only by misrepresenting the great majority of Christian churches. No follower of Christ rejects anyone from Christian services -- any more than Christ rejected lost sheep -- but some churches will endeavour to point the way to more biblical standards of behaviour. Deceptive advertising is rightly banned and this ad was grossly deceptive and defamatory

The nation's major television networks have rejected an ad that shows a gay couple and others being banished from a church, saying it violates their rules against controversial or religious advertising. The 30-second commercial for the United Church of Christ will begin airing on cable networks and Spanish-language stations next week. The ad, called "Ejector," shows a gay couple, a single mother, a disabled man and others flying out of their pews as a wrinkled hand pushes a red button. Text on the screen reads, "God doesn't reject people. Neither do we," and a voiceover says, "The United Church of Christ. No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here."

The church tried to run a similar ad in December 2004 in which bouncers outside a church stopped gay couples, racial minorities and others from entering. The networks also rejected that ad. The decision by CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox to decline the latest advertisement shows the networks have a narrow view of acceptable images of gays and lesbians, church leader Ron Buford said Monday. "They are saying, 'You can entertain on 'Will & Grace' and 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,' but when it comes to showing you as whole people with the church, that is going to far," Buford said.

CBS spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs said the network has "a long-standing and well-documented policy of not accepting advocacy advertising." Kathy Kelly-Brown, a spokeswoman for NBC, said the ad "violates our long-standing policy against airing commercials that deal with issues of public controversy." Representatives for ABC and Fox were not available for comment, but Buford said both networks had told the church they have policies barring religious advertising. Buford said CBS executives had told him the subject would be considered advocacy advertising until the inclusion of gays and lesbians is common at churches in the United States. But Jacobs challenged that statement. "That supposed exchange is simply fictitious," she said.

Starting April 3, the ad will run for three weeks on CNN, USA, TNT, BET and eight other cable networks, along with three Spanish-language stations. The church spent $1.5 million on the ads, which will run through the Easter season. The church filed a complaint against CBS and NBC affiliates in Miami after the networks rejected the first ad in 2004. That complaint is still pending.



A controversial bill to give divorced couples equal time with their kids has stirred up a battle between custodial and non-custodial ex-spouses. The state Assembly Committee for Children and Families will vote on the shared parenting bill on Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, D-Long Beach, requires "statutory presumption of joint custody" so both parents have a chance to raise their kids. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Finance Committee Chairman Owen Johnson, R-Babylon.

The legislation proposed for New York, if passed, would require judges to award joint custody unless there was an obvious reason why they should not, such as domestic violence. The party seeking sole custody would then have to prove why the other parent is unfit for joint custody.

Momentum is building, oddly, two months after a report released by a Matrimonial Commission appointed for a year to study the state's divorce laws said "no presumptions regarding the awarding of custody, whatsoever, should be created by legislation, case law or otherwise." Fathers' rights advocates are working hard to get the bill passed. They say children love and need both parents, but men are most often left with visitation of about four days a month.

Mothers' groups say shared parenting would be devastating and dangerous, particularly for victims of domestic violence and their children. Such changes would decrease child support payments and lead to more acrimony, they believe. "Theoretically, it sounds like a great idea," said Lisa Frisch, executive director of The Legal Project, an arm of the Capital District Women's Bar Association. "In the best of all worlds, it would be great if people could work things out, instead of being a presumption by the court," Frisch said. "But this is a tremendous burden."

The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence also opposes changes they say would tear children from the world they know best. The coalition's position statement elaborates. "Research shows that joint custody ordered without the agreement of both parents is not in the best interest of the child. Where one or both parents object to joint custody, court ordered shared custody arrangements result in high degrees of parental conflict."

But John Joel, whose children were allowed to move to Rochester after a custody battle, supports the measure. On Tuesday, Joel, the Albany County coordinator of Fathers and Families NY, personally delivered copies of a position paper urging Assembly members to support the bill. "I firmly believe that if Shared Parenting were in effect in New York state, my daughters would have never been allowed to move," Joel said. He said he sees the girls twice a month for less than 48 hours, six or more of which he spends driving half of the 400-mile distance. His ex-wife meets him halfway. "I was never given a chance to be a dad," Joel said. "No one should have to go through what my daughters and I did. That's why I want to see the law changed to give families a chance."

The first joint custody statute was passed in 1973 in Indiana and gained momentum in 1980 when California joined in. New York is one of 13 states without it.

More than a quarter of U.S. children, nearly 17 million, do not live with their father, said Glenn Sacks, a Los Angeles-based radio talk show host, columnist and commentator. Sacks has taken an interest in the state Assembly bill, and says his broadcasts prompted more than 5,000 people to deluge lawmakers with e-mails, faxes and letters, urging passage. "The bill would protect the loving bonds children share with both parents by establishing joint custody as the preferred parenting arrangement after divorce," he said.

Frisch disagreed. "The parent who's provided a home for the child should be the presumptive custodial parent," she said. "We have people who can't have a relationship with each other. It's not safe."

Concerns about protecting female victims of domestic violence during the divorce process are legitimate, Sacks conceded. But the Assembly bill's presumption of joint custody only applies to fit parents, he said: "Abused women would receive sole custody." A 4-year study by Harvard University of 517 families found that 10- to 18-year-olds whose parents shared custody did better emotionally and academically than those in sole custody arrangements, he said. A survey by the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage also says that joint custody helps reduce conflict between divorced spouses, he said.

While unable to comment specifically on the proposed legislation, Albany County Family Court Judge Gerard Maney said custody cases are decided case by case because much goes into determining what is in the best interest of a family. The fitness of parents, quality of the home environment and children's wishes, if considered of age, are key, he said. Also important: length of current custodial arrangements, effect of possible changes and whether siblings would be separated. "Arguments on both sides are interesting because this is a nebulous area," he said. "There is no cookie-cutter approach; one side doesn't fit all, because ... we live in changing times."

Family Court judges often use alternative dispute resolution with parents who are willing to sit down and communicate. In the meanwhile? "We'll have to see what the Legislature does, in their wisdom," Maney said.


30 March, 2006

Activist turned down as lawyer

The idea that the law and lawyers are beyond criticism is laughable

An outspoken men's activist and critic of New Zealand's legal system has been told he is not a fit and proper person to be a lawyer. But Peter Zohrab, acting president of New Zealand Equality Education Foundation, says he will not let matters rest there. "I just intend to keep at it and see how long it takes," he said of his quest to become a lawyer. Mr Zohrab could bypass the law society approval process that blackballed him and apply to the High Court for admission to the Bar.

He said he spent more than two years gaining his law degree because he believed men could not find lawyers who understood a man's point of view. He wanted to begin as a family law specialist and then expand into other areas where men's rights were an issue, such as criminal and employment law.

Mr Zohrab says Wellington District Law Society raised issues of "balance and judgment" against him. He believes a big part of the problem is his involvement in the men's rights movement. He was told the society took into account his web pages containing "intemperate" comments, including about governor-general and former High Court judge Dame Silvia Cartwright. Mr Zohrab had written an open letter to Dame Silvia last year, titled Resign, you incompetent, sexist, racist bitch! His website also included a copy of his complaint to the United Nations human rights committee, that the body for training New Zealand judges, the Institute of Judicial Studies, indoctrinated judges against men. The website quoted him as saying: "The law is not an ass – the law is a sexist bitch!"

Mr Zohrab would not discuss his background but his website said he was 56, born in Moscow, and had been a secondary school teacher. He holds a New Zealand Bachelor of Arts and a BA from an English university. He said he passed all his law papers and completed the practical training necessary to be a lawyer. The next step toward beginning his legal career was being admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court. But he has become snagged on the normally routine stamp of approval from the district law society. The society asks for three references, a certificate of suitability from the student's law school, and asks lawyers and other law societies to comment on the candidates for admission. The society objected to one of his references so he supplied a fourth. The dean of the law school refused a certificate, and he was told unnamed lawyers said he had spoken strongly and abusively in some unspecified circumstances.

The society's endorsement of a graduate as a fit and proper person is not obligatory and Mr Zohrab can apply to the High Court to admit him. He questioned whether a law society council was an appropriate body to assess fitness to be a lawyer. From the number of lawyers convicted of offences it was obvious the process did not prevent unsuitable people becoming lawyers, he said. Wellington District Law Society executive director David Clarke said fewer than 10 people had been refused the society's approval in the past decade. More than 300 lawyers are admitted in Wellington each year.

Source. If you want to send emails in support of Mr Zohrab's application, this site has the details you need.


I have often excerpted the writings of Frank Furedi on this blog so I thought the biographical note below might be of some interest

As a Trotskyist in the heady atmosphere of late 1970s London, Frank Furedi founded the Revolutionary Communist Party, a splinter party of the extreme Left. Three decades later the articulate, ubiquitous University of Kent sociologist, prolific author and serial stirrer is better known as a darling of the Right who has got up the collective nose of everyone from environmentalists, animal rights activists, regulators, the cultural elite, educators, parents and politicians.

Furedi's radical stance of questioning received wisdom - from the ban on human cloning to blaming human behaviour for global warming and what he calls the empty celebration of multicultural touchstones such as diversity - has won him numerous enemies on Britain's Left. George Monbiot, the prominent left-wing author and columnist for London's The Guardian newspaper, has dubbed Furedi the godfather of what he claims is a secretive, cult-like organisation with a far Right, corporatist agenda and, according to the sociologist, has tried to have him sacked from his academic post.

On the eve of a speaking tour to Australia, where he is a star attraction at Brisbane's Ideas Festival, a Queensland Government-backed talkfest, Furedi denies he can be described as "a person of the Right", telling Inquirer: "I haven't really changed but the world has changed a lot."

Suspicion of the state is the unifying theme of his work. But while many of the ideas he extols in his books and articles point to a strong streak of libertarianism, Furedi rebuffs suggestions he can be characterised in this way, preferring the label humanist. "There are different kinds of libertarianism," he says. "There are libertarians who are obsessed with the free market and think that's the high point of civilisation. I would see myself as a libertarian who sees the importance of liberty and tolerance and genuine liberalism, not the way it is understood today. I actually think that as a humanist I would have been on the Left side of virtually every major controversy of the past 300 years."

According to Furedi, the ideals of the Enlightenment, "daring to know and a powerful humanist vision", are the inspiration behind his belief in human potential to solve problems, from the millennium bug to global warming and the root of his dismay at what he sees as cultural pessimism, suspicion of science and technology and misanthropy. His is the key name behind the Manifesto Club, a new online forum set up, its website says, to tackle the cultural pessimism "gripping Western societies ... despite the significant achievements of the past two centuries". Certain to raise eyebrows is the club's second principle: support for "experimentation in all its forms - scientific, social and personal".

Born in Budapest in 1947, a little more than a year after his mother returned from a concentration camp, Furedi spent his childhood in the Hungarian capital. His father and older sister were embroiled in the country's 1956 revolt. When it was defeated the family fled to Austria, ending up in Montreal, where Furedi discovered left-wing politics as a student at McGill University. Even in those days, Furedi says, he was regarded with suspicion by fellow travellers and sometimes accused of being "a lackey to fascists" for his insistence right-wing opponents be given a voice in campus debates.

According to Furedi, he often finds himself in rows with right-wingers. "They think the free market will solve all of our problems," he says. "No.1, there has never been a free market. No.2, it is not going to solve all of our problems. I also happen to think that governments have an important role to play in providing certain services."

No matter what his politics, Furedi's appeal lies in his ability to diagnose and articulate the West's malaise. His arguments against the dumbing down of education in Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone and regarding the dangers of over-cautious child-rearing in Paranoid Parenting ring as acutely in the Australian context as in Britain or the US. In his latest book, Politics of Fear, he argues that the disorientation and disenchantment of people with the traditional Left-Right political divide has created a vacuum that has been filled by "negative politics" and fear-mongering on the part of politicians and what he calls "fear entrepreneurs". "What you were left with by the end of the 1980s was a fairly narrow, managerial rhetoric that had very little substance to it," he says. "In that situation governments and political parties find it very difficult to project a positive view of the future and feel much more comfortable with warning us about the dangers ahead." They include terrorism, childhood obesity, avian flu, climate change and genetic modification.

Furedi does not argue that we fear more than in the past but that we fear very differently and that it has left people feeling helpless and risk averse. "In previous times when we feared it often brought us together, like in the Blitz in London," he says. "Fears were very specific things you could do something about. The fears we have today are mediated through CNN. They might be things we hear about going on in Vietnam or Turkey or god knows where and we see their impact on the imagination, but these are fears we can do little about. Usually you can flee when you fear something or fight it. But these things are simply suffered."

Furedi says the result of faceless, generalised fear can be seen in diminished human relationships, in paranoid parenting and in the delayed adolescence evident among young adults. When it comes to identity, another red-hot theme in Australia, Furedi is impatient to bypass hurrah words such as diversity to get down to the "real values we sign up to, not the bullshit ones like diversity, but the real ones that tell us what is right and wrong".


Food nuttiness to be restrained by the Feds

"The House voted Wednesday to strip many warnings from food labels, potentially affecting alerts about arsenic in bottled water, lead in candy and allergy-causing sulfites, among others. Pushed by food companies seeking uniform labels across state lines, the bill would prevent states from adding food warnings that go beyond federal law. States could petition the Food and Drug Administration to add extra warnings, under the bill. Lawmakers approved the bill on a 283-139 vote. Supporters expect a Senate version of the bill to be introduced soon.

“This bill is going to overturn 200 state laws that protect our food supply,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. “Why are we doing that? What’s wrong with our system of federalism?” The bill’s supporters argue that consumers deserve the same warnings on supermarket shelves across the country. The bill would allow a state to seek a nationwide warning from FDA. “We ought to do it in all 50 states,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. “Chicken grown in Louisiana is going to end up on a plate in Michigan.” Rogers mentioned a warning his own state about allergy-causing sulfites: “If they’re bad for Michigan citizens, I think they’re bad in all of the other 49 states,” he said.

Nationwide, as many as 200 state laws or regulations could be affected, according to the Congressional Budget Office. They include warnings about lead and alcohol in candy, arsenic in bottled water and many others. The government would spend at least $100 million to answer petitions for tougher state rules, according to CBO.

Opponents of the bill scored one victory Wednesday: State warnings about mercury in fish would remain. Lawmakers amended the bill to let states keep those warnings. That amendment, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., passed on a 253-168 vote. About a dozen states have safety and labeling rules for fish. In California, white signs with “WARNING” in red letters tells grocery shoppers about high mercury levels in certain fish. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., displayed the placard during debate Wednesday on the House floor. Eshoo noted the bill’s supporters have personal ties to food industry lobbyists. “This is not about consumers. This is about special interests,” she said.

California is a primary target of the legislation. There, the voter-passed Proposition 65 requires companies to warn the public of potentially dangerous toxins in food. California has filed lawsuits seeking an array of warnings, including the mercury content of canned tuna and the presence of lead in Mexican candy.

Of particular concern to the industry is acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer that forms in starchy food cooked at high temperatures, such as french fries and potato chips. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has sued to force Burger King Holdings Inc., PepsiCo Inc.’s Frito Lay brand, McDonald’s Corp., Wendy’s International Inc. and other companies to warn consumers that acrylamide is present. There is widespread opposition among state officials. Attorneys general in 39 states are opposed, as are the National Conference of State Legislature and the associations of state food and drug officials and state agriculture departments.


29 March, 2006


There was no evidence of racism in the police concerned so the British authorities have decided that there must have been "unwitting" racism -- i.e. racism that the police officers concerned did not themselves know they harboured. So now you can be condemnned not only for thought-crimes but even for thoughts you did NOT have!

"Four police officers were guilty of the "most serious neglect of duty" over the death of ex-paratrooper Christopher Alder in 1998, a watchdog has ruled. Mr Alder, 37, who was black, choked to death at a Hull police station. The police watchdog said the officers had been guilty of "unwitting racism". Humberside Chief Constable Tim Hollis apologised following the Independent Police Complaints Commission's report. But Humberside Police Federation said the officers "strongly dispute" it. Mr Alder's sister said those responsible had still not been held to account, and is calling for a public inquiry.

Five officers were cleared of manslaughter and misconduct in 2002 regarding the death of Mr Alder. Of the five, one was involved to a lesser extent than the other four in the events surrounding Mr Alder's death, the IPCC report said. Mr Alder, a father-of-two and a Falklands veteran, was injured during a scuffle outside a Hull city centre hotel and taken to Hull Royal Infirmary for treatment. He was later arrested for an alleged breach of the peace and taken to Queens Gardens police station. Half an hour later he choked to death on his own blood and vomit as he lay on the floor of the police station, without moving, for 11 minutes with his trousers round his ankles. CCTV footage showed officers laughing and joking as Mr Alder lay dying. It was more than 10 minutes before officers realised the seriousness of the situation and went to his aid.

In a 400-page report published on Monday, Independent Police Complaints Commission chairman Nick Hardwick described the behaviour of the officers present at the time as "disgraceful". The four officers criticised were Pc Matthew Barr, Pc Neil Blakey, Pc Nigel Dawson and Sergeant John Dunn. A fifth officer, Acting Police Sergeant Mark Ellerington, was also involved but to a lesser extent than the others, the report said. In 2004 it emerged that all but Pc Blakey had since retired on medical grounds.

Mr Hardwick said: "I believe the failure of the police officers concerned to assist Mr Alder effectively on the night he died were largely due to assumptions they made about him based on negative racial stereotypes. "I cannot say for certain that Mr Alder would have been treated more appropriately had he been white - but I do believe the fact he was black stacked the odds more heavily against him." Mr Hardwick said that although there were "serious failings" by the four police officers, they did not assault Mr Alder and that it could not be said "with certainty" they had caused his death. But their "neglect" undoubtedly did deny him the chance of life, he said.

Humberside Police Federation spokesman John Savage said the officers denied they had neglected their duties or acted in a racist manner, "unwitting or otherwise". The officers were cleared of manslaughter and misconduct by a crown court in 2002 and cleared of misconduct at an independent disciplinary tribunal in June 2003, he said. No concerns had been raised about racism in those cases and the men found it "very surprising that the IPCC has sought to do so now", he added.

Chief Constable Tim Hollis, who was not with the force at the time of Mr Alder's death, said: "The time is...right for me publicly to apologise to Christopher Alder's family for our failure to treat Christopher with sufficient compassion and to the desired standard that night. "The failure of the officers to explain to the IPCC their actions, including noises recorded on the video before and after Christopher's arrival in the custody suite, appears to have contributed to the IPCC view regarding unwitting racism.""



Too often I am asked by reporters to discuss "the religious right". My answer is always the same, "when your paper reports about the "religious Left", I will talk about the "religious right". The liberal media always talks about Falwell and Robertson, but never note THE REV Jesse Jackson or THE REV. Al Sharpton about their radical agendas. Or how about that radical Rev. Barry Lynn of "Americans United" or some such organization that claims to be religious, but demeans believers!

It is time for honesty in reporting and the media. No wonder few trust or respect the Times (LA, NY, Contra Costa, etc.). Left and Right understand that many stories in the media are biased. They have a problem keeping opinions on the opinion page, and just getting the story in the news section. Below is an article from the North County (San Diego) Times--like the other "Times", they have a real problem with straight reporting.

I spoke with Ron Nehring, chairman of the San Diego County Central Committee (and Vice Chair of the California Republican Party) about this article and thought you would like his take on it. I strongly suggest you use his approach and challenge the media when you see stories that are blatantly propaganda stories instead of straight news stories. Ron noted for me the following:

1. For instance, have the newspaper ever used the term "ultraliberal" referring to anyone or anything? In fact, the only uses of the term "ultraliberal" I can find through several searches of newspapers around the State is on the opinion or letters to the editor pages, never in the news pages. Is this because only conservatives can be "ultra" (extreme), but liberals never are? This would be an interesting thought the next time a story is written about the San Francisco Board of Supervisors or SF mayor.

2. The story suggests that the County Board of Education was an "ultraconservative" board at some point. It was stated as though it is a fact, although clearly even if it were true, it would be opinion.

3. The article refers to Nehring's own high school board as "highly controversial." That appears to be another characterization of fact based on (someone else's) opinion. By contrast, why is Susan Hartley"s consistent opposition to Governor Schwarzenegger"s reform agenda not considered "controversial" for a Republican elected official in a Republican district? Why was her appointment of Democrat Sharon Jones to a Republican seat represented by Republican Ernie Dronenburg not considered "controversial"? That was NOT in the story.

4. Although Gary Felien is a very pleasant, typical Republican guy with support from such mainstream Republican colleagues as Senator Morrow, the story manages to associate his name with "highly controversial" "ultraconservative" "extremists" and to paint his positions on issues based almost solely on the actions of others.

Oceanside investor declares candidacy for county education seat

Gary Felien, an Oceanside investor who sits on the San Diego Republican Party Central Committee, has filed papers seeking a seat on the nonpartisan San Diego County Board of Education. Felien's last-minute filing on March 10 for the June 6 election has some local educators, including opponent Susan Hartley, concerned that area Republicans may be seeking a return to the politics of the ultraconservative board of the mid-1990s. Both Felien and Hartley are Republicans. Hartley described herself Monday as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.

Felien said Monday he's nowhere near as conservative as Susan Fey or Jim Kelly, two county school board members who made headlines in 1996 by leading the successful fight against accepting more than $50 million in federal and state education money, saying there were too many federal strings attached.

Hartley said she believes Felien's decision to seek a spot on the board is part of a bigger political picture. "His candidate statement includes endorsements from the extremist faction that tried to control the county board in the past," Hartley said, referring to an endorsement from Kelly, the former board member and a former Baptist minister, past county board president and now president of the highly controversial Grossmont Union High School District.

Felien confirmed Monday that he has been endorsed by Kelly, and that he also has been endorsed by state Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, a vocal opponent of illegal immigration, and Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Vista. Felien said he decided to run during conversations with other Republican Party central committee members. Felien said he and others believe Hartley does not represent the political views of voters in the Fifth District, an area that covers parts of Pala, Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton and stretches south from Oceanside to north coastal San Diego.

In April the San Diego Republican Party will take up the curious question of which if either of the two Republicans ---- Felien or Hartley ----- to endorse, according to Ron Nehring, chairman of the San Diego Republican Party. Nehring also serves on the Grossmont school board with Kelly. "I believe it's all orchestrated," Hartley said, saying she can't understand why the party would challenge one of its own Republicans on the board.

Felien cited Hartley's opposition to all four failed propositions touted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last fall as an example of her leftward leanings. All four propositions failed statewide but passed in San Diego, Felien noted.

Hartley said she submitted a resolution opposing Proposition 76 ---- the so-called "Live Within Our Means" legislation, that would have restructured the way California funds schools. That was the only official action she took on any of the propositions, she said, "It's completely within our purview to take a stand on (Prop. 76) ---- in fact, it's our obligation," Hartley said. "If it has to do with the financial health of the schools, I believe it's our duty."

Felien said he works out of his Oceanside home as an investor after having worked 21 years as a corporate accountant and analyst. He said he believes he's qualified to help guide the county board of education and its $300 million budget. Felien said he wants to increase opportunities for students to learn basic household finance. Too many teenagers and young adults do not know how to balance a checkbook, calculate compound interest or critically assess pitches for car loans, he said. Citing his son's recent experience at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Oceanside with a program called "Future Cities," Felien said he wants to help spread similar proven programs around the county that help students learn business, science and math. Felien, citing recent stories in the North County Times, said he wants to examine how districts calculate graduation and dropout rates. He said he supports more vocational opportunities for students who do not want to go to college and advocates closer cooperation with local businesses, adding that schools should focus on teaching specific skills identified by employers.

Get the picture--use something that others did years ago, claim it was "controversial", hence you are bad today! This is McCarthyism in the media. It is time that conservatives refuse to accept bad and obviously misleading reporting to stand. We need to write letters to the editor, meet with the editor and make clear, using talk radio and the Internet, that it is no longer acceptable for media to use character assassination against conservatives. The time has come for all of us to respond to this sort of reporting, not allow it to stand.


28 March, 2006


The following news item appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on March, 26, 2006

A murderer in a maxlntum-security prison has lodged a sexual discrimination complaint because only male inmates are held in the high-security units. Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Commission forced the Department of Corrective Services to have a conciliation conference with life prisoner Russell James Williams.

Williams, who gunned down his former lover in a central Queensland hotel in 1996 and tried to escape from prison last year, says it is discrimination that only males are held in a maximum security unit.

A compulsory conciliation conference on March 16 failed to resolve his complaint and Williams now could take his case to the Queensland AntiDiscrimination Tribunal, forcing the department to defend its prison management policy.

Queensland has no maximum-security orders or units for female prisoners. Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence said yesterday no females had needed one. "Prisoners are put into maximum-security units because they are the worst in the prison system and that's why these units are so tough," Ms Spence said. They were designed for prisoners such as Williams, serial rapist Ray Garland, and murderer and prison escapee Jason Nixon, she said.

The maximum-security unit at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre at Wacol in Brisbane holds up to 18 men considered violent, dangerous or at risk of escape. The units, where prisoners are locked up for 22 hours a day, were introduced after the violent 1997 escape from Sir David Longland prison at Wacol, led by Postcard Bandit Brenden Abbott. The prison is closed for redevelopment.

Williams, 39, was moved into Arthur Gorrie's maximum security in June last year after he used a smuggled mobile phone to plot a foiled helicopter escape from Lotus Glen prison, near Cairns. In 2003, he married a Cairns woman he had known when she was teenager. At the time, Tara Williams said her husband had spent too long as a medium-security prisoner and deserved to be moved to Lotus Glen.

Williams, who wants to be moved to an open prison, complained that Corrective Services had discriminated against him and all males held in maximum security. He has complained males spend more time in high-security prisons and take longer to progress to open-security than females.

But Ms Spence said Williams would stay in maximum security until authorities assessed his risk level had declined. She said she was surprised by the commission calling the department to conciliation over the issue, when it had a firm basis in legislation.

In 1997 Williams was jailed for life after he was found guilty of the execution-style shooting murder of his de facto Jo-Ann Leigh Brown, 27, the mother of his son, then two. On Easter Thursday night in 1996 Williams walked into the crowded public bar of the Railway Hotel at Calliope, West of Gladstone, and fired two shots at Ms Brown. He then waved his pump-action shotgun around the room and said: "Anyone else want it?" After a five-day police hunt, Williams surrendered in Brisbane.

Men-only fishing cabin challenged

Bunking in with your fishing mates for two bucks a night and no women allowed. But what may be a dream come true for some men could be under threat at a New Zealand lake after a woman attempted to reserve an anglers' club cabin for some weekend fly fishing. "We tried to book for a group of us, men and women, but were told, sorry, it's in the rule books, men only," the unnamed woman told the Dominion Post newspaper. "We all just thought that's absolutely ridiculous." A gender discrimination complaint was made to New Zealand's Human Rights Commission, which is investigating.

But the Wairoa Anglers Club, which owns the cabin by Lake Waikaremoana in the North Island's east, is not backing down. Club secretary Esther Foster says rather than being discriminatory, the rule aims to protect women. The cabin has five bunks in one room and can be shared by anglers. "It's so that you're not having young girls in with old men. It's a politically correct type of thing," Foster told the paper. "It wasn't to be sexist, it was just that the men wanted their privacy."

The club has a neighbouring cabin for families where single men are not allowed. It's booked out every weekend of the year. The charge for club members and their guests is $NZ2 ($1.72) a night. Club president Keith Pegram said the men-only cabin should be kept as a traditional fisherman's hut. If women were let in, it would become "cheap family accommodation", he said. The club may vote on the issue. "We'll try not to let anybody railroad us on this. I think it's a decision for the members to make," Mr Pegram said.


27 March, 2006

Chief of the Fat Police: Bill Clinton’s new role

On Fat Tuesday, repentant sinner Bill Clinton declared war on cheeseburgers, fried oysters, fudge, and other tools of the devil. Identified by the Associated Press as “a reformed overeater,” Bill, looking quite ghostly when compared with the robust figure he cut in his glory days, warned the National Governors Association that America has “a huge cultural problem and unless we change it our children may grow up to be the first generation with shorter life spans than we had.”

The problem, according to Clinton, is that Americans are serious chowhounds whose love of grub is a major threat not only to themselves, but to the national economy. According to the Associated Press, Clinton noted that if the U.S. could reduce health spending — now 16 percent of GDP — to 11 percent (in line with what other countries spend), the savings would be $700 billion. But it won’t be easy. “No matter what else you say, no matter what different studies show, you’ve got to consume less and burn more,” Clinton said. “To do that you’ve got to change the culture.” The governors, many of whom support anti-fat school programs, responded with thunderous applause.

It is clear to some of us that this drastic turnaround in Clinton’s viewpoint is the result of post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by that ill-advised investigation of his romantic life, capped by impeachment. Back in the day, he preferred a little plumpness: Monica, let us recall, was only a few corpuscles shy of being renamed Lulu. Now he’s become yet another leading American who believes it’s his duty to tell us what we should and should not be eating.

Clinton’s warning was no doubt welcomed by the health authorities, especially in light of a recent study indicating that eating less fat late in life does not lower the risk of cancer and heart disease in women. That $415 million investigation “showed no difference in the rate of breast cancer, colon cancer, and heart disease among those who ate lower-fat diets and those who didn’t,” according to a press account. This wasn’t what researchers were hoping for. “These results do not suggest that people have carte blanche to eat fatty foods without health problems,” snipped Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and co-author of the study. “The results, of course, are somewhat disappointing.”

Yet we should take Clinton’s transformation seriously, especially the part about changing the culture. Whenever an American icon says “change the culture,” it’s time to fix bayonets.

The message Bill and his ilk hope to pound into the public consciousness is that every time we order French fries we do damage not only to ourselves, but to the nation’s economy and our children’s future. This same argument holds that we commit sin against the earth by driving cars and running weed eaters, etc., etc. Each individual act is measured against the common good — and is generally found wanting. Only dangerous sex is exempt from this wide-ranging scowl.

This is a major turnaround. To our ancestors the current state of culinary affairs would represent paradise. To be able to walk into a Kroger and purchase, at very reasonable prices, French wine, Swiss chocolates, cow tongues and filets, éclairs, massive bags of ginger snaps, rivers of honey and thick crème, butter and pretty much whatever else the taste buds crave — that could hardly be imagined.



Though it is sure to cause a bit of teeth-grinding among those who try to accuse me of being a racist, the person I quote most on my blogs is in fact an American black man -- Thomas Sowell. So I thought that the biographical note below might be of interest

Thomas Sowell's excuse for limiting interviews to an hour is that it helps him "avoid stress." But one suspects the real reason is that he has better uses for his time than to humor nettlesome journalists. In any case, it's hard to question the time-management preferences of a man who's published nearly 30 books, while also producing academic articles, long-form magazine essays and a seldom-dull newspaper column for more than two decades. Not bad for an orphan from Jim Crow North Carolina who never finished high school and didn't earn a college degree until he was 28.

Mr. Sowell's unorthodox views on racial matters have made him our foremost "black conservative," but the modifier sells him way short. He is one of the country's leading social commentators--without qualification. And his scholarship is not only voluminous but wide-ranging, covering everything from education and law to political philosophy, migration and the history of ideas. His primary discipline, however, is economics, specifically the history of economic thought, the subject in which he earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1968 under Milton Friedman and George Stigler. It is the subject he taught at Cornell, UCLA, Amherst, Brandeis and elsewhere during an academic career in the 1960s and '70s. And it is the subject of his most recent book, "On Classical Economics," which Yale has just published.

Mr. Sowell, who will turn 76 this year but looks 20 years younger, sat for an interview on a cool, drizzly morning at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, his perch since 1980, and where he is--appropriately--the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow. He describes his latest tome as "partly an old book and partly a new book." It combines four somewhat revised essays on microeconomics, macroeconomics, methodology and social philosophy from his 1974 publication, "Classical Economics Reconsidered," with four new essays, on Mill, Marx, Sismondi and economic history.

Asked why classical economics--and economists like Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Mill and Marx--continues to deserve attention, Mr. Sowell replies that "if classical economics is relevant, than Mill and Marx are relevant. Why is classical economics relevant? I guess it's relevant because there are people who study it, and if they're going to talk about it they ought to know what they're talking about, which is a requirement sometimes overlooked."

Free-market economics, a legacy of the classical school, is thought of as an old conservative doctrine. But Mr. Sowell explains that it was in fact one of the most revolutionary concepts to emerge in the history of ideas. Moreover, "the thinking of the classical economist was not only a radical break from landmark intellectual figures like Plato and Machiavelli but also from mainstream thinking to this day." The notion of a self-equilibrating system--the market economy--meant a reduced role for intellectuals and politicians, he says. "And even today many still haven't accepted that their superior wisdom might be superfluous, if not damaging."

Mr. Sowell may be an unabashed free-market adherent, but he's proud to say that Professor Sowell left his personal views out of the classroom. In his 2000 memoir, "A Personal Odyssey," he relates an episode in which some students approached him after taking his graduate seminar on Marxian theory. They expressed appreciation for the course but added, "We still don't know what your opinion is on Marxism." He took it as an unintended compliment.

"My job was to teach them economics, not teach them what I happen to believe," says Mr. Sowell, who adds that efforts by some today to counterbalance the prevailing liberalism in academia with more right-wing instructors is not only an exercise in futility but a disservice to students. "Even if you succeed in propagandizing the students while they're students, it doesn't tell you much [about how they'll turn out]. I suspect that over half [of the conservatives at the Hoover Institution] were on the left in their 20s. More important, though, let's assume for the sake of argument that, whatever you're propagandizing them with on the left or right, every conclusion you teach them is correct. It's only a matter of time before all those conclusions are obsolete because entirely different issues are going to arise over the lifetimes of these students. And so, if you haven't taught them how to weigh one argument against another, you haven't taught them anything."

This lifelong passion for economics has been much on display in recent years--"On Classical Economics" was preceded by "Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy" (2000) and "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One" (2003), both of which were written for the general public. And it's worth noting the extent to which Mr. Sowell's background in the dismal science also informs his better-known works on ethnicity, race and culture. Other black conservative scholars have their strengths, to be sure. Shelby Steele writes like a dream and favors an existential approach to racial matters. John McWhorter's prose is as hip as it is provocative.

But Mr. Sowell's forte has always been rigorous analysis and adherence to facts, however stubborn and wherever they lead. And the facts led him on a writing tear in the '70s and '80s. Some titles, like "Race and Economics" (1975), "Markets and Minorities" (1981) and "The Economics and Politics of Race" (1983), betray his technical background. But Mr. Sowell's other influential books of this period--"Black Education: Myths and Tragedies" (1972), "Ethnic America" (1981), "Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?" (1984)--are no less distinguished by the dispassionate empiricism he brings to such emotionally charged topics. In these tomes and elsewhere, Mr. Sowell's research questions the basic assumptions behind popular public policies aimed at minorities.

And in the process, he's made mincemeat of the sloppy methodology and flaccid arguments put forward by mainstream civil right leaders and their liberal sympathizers. He has shown, empirically, that affirmative action does not benefit poor blacks. He has shown, empirically, that political clout is not a prerequisite for ethnic economic advancement. And most importantly, he has exposed the harmful fallacy of using racial and gender discrimination as an all-purpose explanation for statistical group disparities.

Asked why many of these failed ideas, and the black leaders who promote them, don't seem to lose credibility, Mr. Sowell responds that the phenomenon is hardly limited to the realm of race. "You could take it beyond the black leadership," he says. "Has [John Kenneth] Galbraith lost any credibility? I remember 'The New Industrial State'"--the 1967 book in which Mr. Galbraith famously argued that large corporations were immune to marketplace forces--"but since then, Eastern Airlines has gone out of business. The Graflex Corporation has gone out of business. Similarly with all kinds of big businesses. This hasn't made the slightest dent in Galbraith's reputation. We have Paul Ehrlich, who has told us there would be mass starvation in the world in the '80s, and now we find our two biggest problems are obesity and how to get rid of agricultural surpluses." Mr. Sowell's conclusion is a cynical one. "I have a book called 'The Vision of the Anointed,' and there's a chapter in there called 'The Irrelevance of Evidence.'"

The idea to apply economic concepts to racial issues came, says Mr. Sowell, from the late Benjamin Rogge, who taught economics at Wabash College in Indiana. "I was at Cornell, and Ben Rogge came on campus to give a talk called 'The Welfare State Against the Negro.' I happened to be out of town, so when I got back I wrote him a letter that said I heard you gave this talk and that you're going to write a book on the same theme. I said it's really amazing that no one's thought of this before because there's so much material out there. At this point [in the late '60s] I had no thought that I would ever touch it myself."

The two became friends over the years and "it occurred to Ben that he was never going to write that book. And so Ben Rogge took his manuscript and simply handed it to me and said do with it whatever you can. I was flabbergasted. I don't think I ever used anything directly from his manuscript. But the fundamental idea the you could apply economics to racial issues--that was the inspiration."

Similarly, Mr. Sowell says his interest in "international perspectives"--most notably demonstrated in his lengthy trilogy on cultural history published in the 1990s--initially came from reading Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan's 1963 classic study, "Beyond the Melting Pot." "It was really the first book I read about different ethnic groups. There were many different patterns. And more than anything else, each group had its own pattern.

"The left likes to portray a group as sort of a creature of surrounding society. But that's not true. For example, back during the immigrant era, you had neighborhoods on the Lower East Side [of Manhattan] where Jews and Italians arrived at virtually identical times. Lived in the same neighborhoods. Kids sat side by side in the same schools. But totally different outcomes. Now, if you look back at the history of the Jews and the history of the Italians you can see why that would be. In the early 19th century, Russian officials report that even the poorest Jews find some way to get some books in their home, even though they're living in a society where over 90% of the people are illiterate.

"Conversely, in southern Italy, which is where most Italian-Americans originated, when they put in compulsory school-attendance laws, there were riots. There were schoolhouses burning down. So now you take these two kids and sit them side by side in a school. If you believe that environment means the immediate surroundings, they're in the same environment. But if you believe environment includes this cultural pattern that goes back centuries before they were born, then no, they're not in the same environment. They don't come into that school building with the same mindset. And they don't get the same results."

It somehow seems an imposition to press Mr. Sowell on his next project, though he graciously allows that a collection of correspondence, as well as a book on intellectuals, is in the works. As the interview clock winds down, however, he returns briefly to the topic of race. He laments the fact that more public intellectuals aren't applying economic analyses to racial policies, even while he understands the hesitation.

"I think it would be great if someone would sit down and take a sort of systematic textbook approach to it," says Mr. Sowell. "[George Mason University economist] Walter Williams has written a couple of very good books, but unfortunately they were not well promoted. Guys like Gary Becker have other fish to fry, and they're writing for a different audience. Besides Walter and me, I don't know who else out there would write it. And heaven knows it's not the golden pathway to instant popularity."


Lawyer wants Jesus off school wall: "An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer has asked a West Virginia high school to remove a picture of Jesus Christ that has hung at the school for 40 years. Harold Sklar, who works for the FBI, told the Charleston Daily Mail he first took up the issue 10 years ago. Two weeks ago, he finally decided to go over the heads of Bridgeport school administrators and take the matter to the Harrison County school board. "I have absolute respect for anyone who looks at the painting for comfort," Sklar said. "This is just a pure constitutional issue." The picture has been on display at Bridgeport High School since the school was built, mostly hanging in a hallway outside the principal's office. School officials, who say they have more important things to think about, said they have been getting a lot of calls in support of the picture".

26 March, 2006


The organizers of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative are backing a proposed amendment to the Michigan state constitution that would outlaw "affirmative action" by the State government and local governments within the State. It will be voted on in the November 7, 2006 election. Connerly's letter below is sourced from here -- which see for extended commentary on the MCRI

The Honorable Jennifer M. Granholm
Office of Governor
State of Michigan
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, MI 48909

Dear Governor Granholm:

In your March 9, 2005 Guest Column, "Affirmative action ban would hurt state's future," you took great liberties in making reference to me and my motives for supporting and promoting the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). At the end of your piece, you extended an open invitation for readers to write to you. Because I saw no exception that would prohibit me from accepting that invitation, I am doing so accordingly.

At the outset, let me address my status as an "outsider." Governor, I was born in Leesville, Louisiana, a fact which makes me an American citizen by birth. How is it that you, being Canadian by birth, have a greater entitlement to the privileges and benefits of American citizenship than I? Among those benefits and privileges is the right to have opinions and the right to express those opinions about matters - big and small - that affect all Americans. Michigan is not an island in some foreign country. It is one of the American states to which my tax dollars flow and where my passport of "civil rights" is presumed to be valid. If your defense of racial and gender preferences is on such solid ground, why is it necessary to hearken back to the days of Jim Crow segregationists who complained about those "outsiders" who asserted their right to urge our nation to fulfill the promise of equal treatment to all Americans, regardless of race, color, or national ancestry?

What is it about individuals such as you and Congressman John Dingell, who has also taken me to task for exercising my right as an American to express opposition to race preferences in Michigan, that causes you to be so intolerant and insecure about your convictions that you resort to such intellectual isolationism when it comes to an issue such as race? On the one hand, you talk boldly about the "global economy," but then you retreat into your state's rights cocoon when it comes to matters such as civil rights.

You assert that had I been from Michigan, I would know that "diversity is part and parcel in our economic strength." Are you kidding? Or, are you simply attempting to distract the people of your state, for political reasons, by making me a bogey man? California is one of the most "diverse" places on the planet. The California economy is vibrant and booming. And, I hasten to add, California is a state that has outlawed preferential treatment on the basis of race, gender and ethnicity. Michigan, on the other hand, is regarded by many as one of the preference capitals of the nation. How is your economy? How many jobs are you losing day-by-day? To what "economic strength" are you making reference? Are you really expecting your residents to believe that by ending preferential treatment on the basis of race, gender and ethnicity, your state's economy will worsen even more? If so, such an assertion defies logic.

It is amusing that you call the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative "deceptively named." Have you ever read the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Do you consider the principle of equal treatment "without regard to race, color or ethnicity," contained in that Act, to be such a deception that the Congress erred in naming it the "Civil Rights Act?" Has it escaped your attention that the principle contained in MCRI is identical to that contained in the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

Your column, which seems to attempt to summon the better nature of your electorate by appealing to the importance of "diversity," is inconsistent in one major respect. You say that if I knew your people better I would understand that you appreciate the value of "teamwork and unity." You point to the great pride that the people of Michigan can take in their "steady advance of freedom and equality." All of this is true. Why, then, do you presume that these same good people are closet bigots who are just waiting for the opportunity to discriminate against women and "minorities?" Why do you lack confidence in their capacity to treat others the way they wish to be treated - with fairness and dignity?

If you oppose "quotas," as you say you do, how can you support their functional equivalent and the method by which quotas are obtained - "preferential treatment?" Like so many others who express their opposition to "quotas," your opposition rings hollow when you seek to have it both ways: oppose quotas but support preferential treatment of women and others based on skin color and ethnic background.

I was born in the Deep South, at a time when racial discrimination was rampant. I know first-hand the meaning of the term "racial discrimination." I doubt that you can say the same. Your knowledge about discrimination was probably gleaned from history books. In days of my youth, as a brown-skinned man, I rarely heard the term, "diversity." But, I sure as hell heard and experienced "discrimination." And, I can tell you that the pursuit of diversity should never be an excuse for our government to sanction or practice discrimination based on an individual's race, color, gender, ethnicity or national ancestry. That principle should be guaranteed to Jennifer Gratz, a white woman, equally as it is guaranteed to me, a black man. One should not have to be an "outsider from California" to convince you of the importance of the fundamental principle of equal treatment before the law without regard to the color of a person's skin. This principle is deeply etched in the character of most Americans. Had you been born in America, perhaps you would have a better appreciation of this fact.

Finally, let me address two astounding claims that you make about the effects of MCRI. First, you claim that MCRI would "eliminate programs that are encouraging female and minority students to pursue "these (scientists and engineers) critical careers." MCRI would do no such thing. It would prohibit you from giving them "preferential treatment." It certainly would not prohibit you from "encouraging" them to pursue careers in these fields. Also, let me state the obvious: since you are currently able to grant preferential treatment based on gender, why aren't there more women in these fields now? Could there be other factors that have nothing to do with the issue of "affirmative action?"

Have you noticed that at elite institutions of higher education, such as Harvard, UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan and others, where race and gender preferences are taken most seriously, the number of "affirmative action" beneficiaries who graduate with degrees in science and engineering is no greater than at other institutions? It is not rocket science to realize that this phenomenon has nothing to do with the ability to promote "diversity." This argument is a fig leaf for other objectives. If women can be governors and among the highest paid university presidents in the land, without any "preferential treatment," why should we believe they need "affirmative action" to become scientists or engineers?

Second, you acknowledge the need to "eliminate the achievement gap in education in Michigan," but you claim that MCRI "would end programs that help minority students achieve the high standards we are setting in our schools."

Governor, this would be laughable were it not so tragic. It is clear that you have little knowledge about what accounts for this achievement gap. Moreover, if this gap exists in a paradigm that promotes preferential treatment, but is widening instead of closing, pray tell how the elimination of preferences will worsen the situation. Frankly, as a "minority," I consider it demeaning and insulting that you believe "minority" students can only meet high standards by the benefice of preferential treatment. Had you lived through the period of my youth and been subjected to the conditions of racial oppression, as I was, you would know about the strength of spirit of black people and their ability to achieve without preferences, as long as they were not held back by discrimination based on the color of their skin.

If you seriously want to help "minority students" - and I certainly believe you do - then you will lead the way in giving them greater freedom to attend a school of their choice. You will lead the effort to eliminate "legacy" admissions so that all students will have an equal chance, regardless of whether their ancestors attended the university or not. You will make it possible for the daughter of a union worker, whose parents did not attend UM, to have the same chance as the son of a big automaker executive, whose dad had the privilege of graduating from UM and who donates large sums to preserve a preference for his children and grandchildren. You would lend your support to the growing national movement in favor of socioeconomic "affirmative action" instead of race-based "affirmative action." Help those who need it, not those who happened to be born with the right color of the day.

Should you care to further this discussion and to become enlightened about the facts of this controversy instead of relying on the sound-bites of those aligned with you, I am at your service. Certainly, even an "outside activist from California," whose tax dollars end up in the coffers of Michigan, might have something to offer on a subject that seems to be of such interest to you.

Ward Connerly

Liberals All For Tolerance & Understanding So Long As You Agree With Them

Comment by Frederick Meekins

Many contemporary liberals have taken it upon themselves to advocate tolerance and understanding as the highest social values. Such self-professed ambassadors of magnanimity usually extend these principles to everyone except those they disagree with. Each year, my columns addressing the attacks upon the Christmas holiday elicit a number of emotional responses. My essay expounding the attempts by environmentalists to stifle enjoyment of the Advent season prompted a number of ultrapluralists to expose their true colors. One such critic began, "This article...was too full of name calling, stereotypes, and mean spiritedness. It is very opinionated and one sided. Rang of the all too familiar `Rush Limbaugh' lets bash everyone who is not like us."

While it is an honor in the content of the column in question to be compared to Rush Limbaugh, I ask you is not the offended pluralist the one engaged in "name calling, stereotypes, and mean spiritedness"? Of course, my column was "very opinionated and one sided". It's suppose to be one sided; that's why it's called an "opinion piece". There is no "Fairness Doctrine" that applies to commentaries and editorials. If someone wants to consider what the other side has to say and has way too much time on their hands, one is perfectly free to consult the National Wildlife article I originally referenced.

Interestingly, this insistence upon objectivity is usually only imposed upon conservative thinkers and ideologues. I don't remember the National Wildlife or Carroll County Times articles clarifying that holiday over-consumption was merely the opinion of a few disgruntled academics and activists with other scientists feeling differently about the matter. Furthermore, who is a scientist to say something is too much or not enough since it is not the place of science to make such value judgments? When they do, they veer off into the realm of philosophy. Nor do I remember an evenhanded approach being taken by this professed disciple of evenhandedness.

The criticism does not stop here and proceeds on in a similar vein. The comment continues in its haughty progressivist tone, "It lacked any reference to the obligation commanded to be good stewards, it offered no options or alternatives."

Firstly, there is no provision attached to the First Amendment saying one has to sit there with your mouth shut unless you have a solution to the problem you feel the need to speak out against. Sometimes the best solution to a problem that really isn't much of a problem is not to apply any solution at all. Some things just really aren't any of the government's business. Americans have been celebrating Christmas for quite a while now. Why all of a sudden do we need the government and tenured professors telling us how to celebrate it?

There is far more waste going on in society (often in government) than whether or not I buy a present someone really doesn't need apart from the pleasure I will derive seeing the joy I will bring into the life of the loved one I decide to give the gift to. Furthermore, who is to decide whether or not I need that extra present --- Barbara Streisand or Arianna Huffington as they live on their palatial estates and ride around in limousines? Claiming this is a matter of Christian stewardship is stretching that concept in some areas and misapplying it in others. The Apocalypse won't result if I use a little too much wrapping paper or have an extra slice of pumpkin pie. There is no reason to be wound that tight.

If someone is going to get all worked up into a twitter that Christmas as commonly celebrated is a misuse of resources worthy of widespread social intervention, shouldn't they be spending the most valuable commodity they'll ever possess --- namely their time --- in a manner far better than responding to online blogs? To paraphrase a classic adage, those who can, write blogs; those who can't, post comments.

Better yet, if every decision we make is to be characterized by the utmost sobriety of Christian stewardship and responsibility, should those that feel this way even have the Internet at all? Wouldn't that $20 a month be better spent elsewhere if we are going to get all jacked out of shape that someone bought at extra DVD this Christmas instead of sending a check to some televangelist so he can buy another gilded throne for his set or more pink hair dye for his wife?

The criticism continues, "it [the original column] offered no options or alternatives." Other than people minding their own business as to how others spend their money at Christmas time, what other alternatives are there?" I am not the one calling people to change the way they live their lives in terms of this issue to make Al Gore happy or whatever else it is an emotional Popsicle like him happens to feel.

Back in the days before we were conditioned into thinking government, academia, or the media knew how to run our lives better than we do and when people went to church to hear about their individual relationship with God and not about the imperatives of submitting to the glories of the community, people use to make decisions like how they'd celebrate Christmas on their own. Seems the communitarians are as thrifty with backbones as they are about allowing people to enjoy themselves without Big Brother staring over their shoulders.

This effusively sensitive ascetic concludes by exhibiting a bit of an elitist streak by saying of the commentary, "Too-done too many times and there wasn't any new voice in the piece." In other words, if someone at a pay-grade above yours has already said something similar to what's on your mind, you'd better keep your mouth shut.

Frankly though, isn't everything said since ancient times simply variations on a theme? Alfred North Whitehead said all of Western thought is but a footnote to Plato and the Bible puts it as there is nothing new under the sun. Since that's the case, if liberals really cared all that much about the various forms of pollution including that of unneeded noise, shouldn't they cease their yammering as well?

Winston Churchill is credited with saying the following: under 30 and conservative, you have no heart; over 30 and liberal, you have no head. The worldview espoused by liberals is so devoid of logic and commonsense that they themselves refuse to adhere to the rigors and demands which they expect those of us of inferior intellectual caliber to themselves to abide by.

25 March, 2006

San Francisco City Government Calls Catholics 'Hateful, Discriminatory, Insulting, Ignorant'

In their desperation to justify their difference from normal society and claim some virtue, the disgruntled weirdos who congregate in San Francisco practically worship homosexuals -- so anybody who disapproves of homosexuals is insulting their religion -- and they react very much as Muslims did to the cartoons

In one of the most startling attacks on the Catholic Church coming from a governmental body in the United States in half a century, the governing body of the city of San Francisco - the Board of Supervisors - voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a non-binding resolution blasting the Catholic Church for its opposition to homosexual adoption.

While many city's residents agree with the Church's stand against homosexual adoption, the resolution stated "It is an insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great city's existing and established customs and traditions, such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need."

The city supervisors levelled an ad hominem attack on former San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, who has been appointed to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), one of the most senior posts in the Church. " Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear,'' the resolution stated.

The supervisors also demonstrated their childishness as they attempted another dig at the Cardinal by indicating in the resolution that the CDF was once known as the Office of the Inquisition. "That the Board of Supervisors urges Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican (formerly known as Holy Office of the Inquisition), to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households," reads the resolution.

The resolution attacked the teaching of the Catholic Church that homosexual adoption does "violence" to children since they would be placed in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. The resolution blasted the teaching as "hateful and discriminatory rhetoric (that) is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors.''

Demonstrating their own profound ignorance, at least in terms of biological realities, the supervisors contend, "Same-sex couples are just as qualified to be parents as are heterosexual couples."

Concluding, the board urged current San Francisco "Archbishop Neiderauer and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to defy all discriminatory directives of Cardinal Levada."



The Easter Bunny has been sent packing at St. Paul City Hall. A toy rabbit, pastel-colored eggs and a sign with the words "Happy Easter" were removed from the lobby of the City Council offices, because of concerns they might offend non-Christians. A council secretary had put up the decorations. They were not bought with city money. St. Paul's human rights director, Tyrone Terrill, asked that the decorations be removed, saying they could be offensive to non-Christians. But City Council member Dave Thune says removing the decorations went too far, and he wonders why they can't celebrate spring with "bunnies and fake grass."



Texas has begun sending undercover agents into bars to arrest drinkers for being drunk, a spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said on Wednesday. The first sting operation was conducted recently in a Dallas suburb where agents infiltrated 36 bars and arrested 30 people for public intoxication, said the commission's Carolyn Beck. Being in a bar does not exempt one from the state laws against public drunkenness, Beck said. The goal, she said, was to detain drunks before they leave a bar and go do something dangerous like drive a car.

"We feel that the only way we're going to get at the drunk driving problem and the problem of people hurting each other while drunk is by crackdowns like this," she said. "There are a lot of dangerous and stupid things people do when they're intoxicated, other than get behind the wheel of a car," Beck said. "People walk out into traffic and get run over, people jump off of balconies trying to reach a swimming pool and miss." She said the sting operations would continue throughout the state.


24 March, 2006

Free Speech Quagmire

The supposed hallowed hallmark of free societies, free speech, has been sorely tested these past few weeks. First there were the Mohammed cartoons - originally published in a Danish newspaper - which have infuriated Islam and sparked world-wide riots and demonstrations. Then there was the guilty verdict handed down to David Irving, the British historian who is internationally vilified for his revisionist views on the Holocaust. And looked at together they present a confused and contradictory message.

For the most part, Europe has defended the publication of the cartoons and upheld the concept of free speech. And others, the world over, have rallied to the call, even republishing the cartoons as a matter of "principle." However, Europe is far more reluctant to grant David Irving a similar right. He has been sentenced to three years in jail for a speech and interview he gave in Austria in 1989. Under Austria's strict "Holocaust Denial" laws, Irving's statement that, "there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz", has cost him his freedom. This raises important questions about what free speech actually is, and if it should ever be limited.

Defenders of free speech come in all shapes and sizes, and in fact, it's hard to find anyone who is outright against it--with qualifications, of course! Take the cartoon case. Here is a situation where a revered religious figure is made fun of or denigrated in some way. Revered, that is, by those of the Islamic faith. This type of thing is not new - as any stand-up comedian will tell you. Poking fun at, and ridiculing people is their stock in trade.

To put it into our own cultural context, consider some tasteless cartoons about Jesus, and take your own response "temperature." Of course, how you would feel about such cartoons would depend on what you believed about Jesus. If you were a Christian, you'd probably be offended. And if you weren't, you probably wouldn't care. However, one's response to such an event is a different issue - and to be evaluated accordingly.

Just because Muslims were offended by the cartoons (something which I'm sure religious people can understand) doesn't mean they can go out and start burning buildings and generally causing havoc. In fact, such a response only serves to undermine their own moral status, as people whose sensibilities need to be considered at all.

So we have the "considerate" compromiser, who says he defends free speech, but that it needs to be considered in the context of the situation, that sometimes good taste or plain politeness should deter one from exercising free speech. I call this the voluntary-code-of-conduct approach, which is fine, as in this case any curtailment of free speech is self-imposed, not imposed by others. ow, certainly, a private individual - say, at a party - may deem it not in good taste to express his personal opinion about the host, to all those present. This would undermine the unwritten rules of social etiquette and good behaviour. However, in the case of a newspaper cartoonist, stand-up comic, or even an historian, a different set of parameters come into play.

Take David Irving's case. He has been found guilty of uttering words which other people disagree with - and to which they take offence. His statement that people weren't gassed at Auschwitz or that less than six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis, raises the ire of many of those who lived through the war, and in particular Jews themselves. However, if you transpose his case to another situation, it becomes absurd. David Irving is often branded a "Holocaust Denier," someone who denies the official Holocaust story. But let's imagine he was a "God Denier" - someone who denies the existence of God.

No doubt millions would be offended by his assertion - especially if he were to give public speeches on the subject and be widely published. However, do you really think he would be put in jail for such an utterance? Maybe in the Dark Ages - but not today, not in our post-religious world. And yet, the situations are very similar. In both cases he would be denying something that is hallowed ground to millions of people. He would be offending them by his assertion. So, deny the Holocaust - go to jail. Deny the existence of God - go free.

Denying the "official story" is often dangerous, of course. Consider Galileo, whose assertion that the earth moved around the sun got him brought before the Church authorities. Here was a man who, via the scientific method, had come to the conclusion that the earth orbits the sun, not the other way around. However, this truth was unacceptable to the established religious order. They weren't interested in facts, but only in the official story, which they saw as fundamental to their faith - and their power.

If we were to bring his particular story into the present age, we might compare it with someone who questions the Theory of Evolution - or its obverse, the Intelligent Design Theory. Can you imagine anyone being jailed for saying that evolution did not happen? Of course not. But I guess no one would be offended by that, as it is not a religious dogma!

The importance of free speech, in such situations, is that it is a necessary part of free enquiry. Science could not advance if all knowledge was "given" and incapable of being questioned. A scientist MUST have free speech or all scientific enquiry would come to a grinding halt.

History is no different. If we want to understand ourselves, then a rigourous appraisal of historical events is essential. So are we now to jail those who don't agree with official history? The issue is not whether a "David Irving" is right or wrong, but whether he has the right to question the historical record.

The issue of free speech covers a lot more ground than just cartoons and historical research, of course. It covers everything. Take censorship. Censorship is the opposite of free speech. In most western countries, this is limited to restricting what you and I can see on TV, watch at the movies - and perhaps even buy at the bookstore. Most people support such restrictions on free speech - on the grounds that people need protecting from themselves.

But few people consider the implications of censorship - and its potential to spread like a cancer throughout society. Censorship is undertaken by government-appointed bodies - usually made up of selected individuals (presumably chosen for their impeccable morals and good character!). It's their job to view all suspect films, books an so on, and to pass judgment as to whether they are suitable for general consumption.

Now I don't have a problem with a "ratings board" - some sort of organisation that posts ratings on such things. This can be a useful service to those who want to avoid certain films or books. So if they say a particular film is recommended for those 18 years old or over, or that it has graphic violence and sex in it, or too many "F" words, then it can be useful information. However, a censor's job is different. It is to decide (like God) what can and cannot be consumed by the public. Interestingly enough, most people never ask the obvious question, "Who decided this person is qualified to watch films that I cannot watch?"

We in the West feel smug in our "free speech zone," when we look at a place like China where they are always censoring the news. We cry "foul" and feel superior. But the reality is that censorship is censorship. Whether it's some democratically elected body deciding what you can and cannot see at the movies, or some unelected body deciding what you can or cannot read in the newspapers - it's all a violation of free speech. It's a violation of someone's right to free expression - and the concurrent right of those who choose to listen to or view such expression.

The fact is that ALL states enforce censorship. And even more so during times of war - as now, with the "war on terror." War, it appears, grants the state extraordinary powers to suppress the truth, and worse, to issue false propaganda. So much for free speech. So, we in the West are not "squeaky clean" when it comes to the issue of free speech - which explains why everybody is so confused about what it is, and whether it's worth defending.

The "currency" of free speech has also been devalued over recent years, with the gradual erosion of rights in this regard. Now we find that free speech is fine - as long as you don't use it to offend anyone, like uttering stereotypical opinions about gays, lesbians, Hispanics, feminists, right or left-wingers, the unemployed, solo mothers, fat people, macho males, Asians, and other assorted targets. Then, of course, there's the Orwellian- sounding war on "hate speech" - whatever that is. So we're left with a sort of emasculated free speech - free speech in name only. Free speech for wimps.

Which brings me to the point of this essay: Do you have the right to utter, draw, write, record or otherwise make public your own personal opinions? And do you have the right to have access to such opinions of others? And my answer is yes. For if this right is curtailed, then it is just the beginning of a slippery slope to full censorship. Once you accept the principle of "limited" free speech, then it's only a matter of time before the limits become more and more onerous, until one day you wake up and the limits are total.

Sure, with free speech you end up with more peeved, offended and disgruntled people. But that is the price we must be prepared to pay in order to have a free society. It's like the friction between freedom and security. If you want total security, then you are asking for total government (in the misguided belief that the state can actually offer such security). If you want freedom, then you are placing a higher value on freedom than security and are prepared to take responsibility for the security side of the issue.

It's the same with freedom of speech. If you value it, then you won't want to place limits on it. On the other hand, if you prefer a "safe" social environment, with no insults, no offensive utterances, and no questioning of the official line - then total censorship, i.e. total government, is the obvious destination. And if you don't like that possibility, then free speech must be more than just empty words. It must be a matter of principle.



Some call the people behind the Washington-D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest busybodies, but I call them wannabe tyrants. Let's look at their agenda, which seeks greater control over our lives. Last year, CSPI filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration to reduce the amount of salt in packaged foods. They also called for the FDA to mandate warning labels on non-diet soft drinks that consumption increases the risk of obesity, tooth decay and osteoporosis. Earlier this year, CSPI announced its intent to sue Viacom Inc. and Kellogg Company for marketing junk food to children.

CSPI has long called for excise taxes on fatty foods, cars and TV sets. Their justification is that obesity adds to Medicare and Medicaid health costs. They want some of the tax revenue used to fund exercise facilities and government fitness campaigns.

There's no end to CSPI's consumer-control agenda. They say, "Caffeine is the only drug that is widely added to the food supply." Therefore, they've called for caffeine warning labels. To deal with teenage and adult overconsumption of alcohol, they've called for doubling the tax on beer. According to them, "The last thing the world needs is more drinkers, even moderate ones."

To fight obesity among young people, CSPI calls for a fast-food advertising ban on TV programs seen by children. CSPI's director, Michael Jacobson, said, "We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses, [and] meat," adding that "CSPI is proud about finding something wrong with practically everything."

I'm guessing that most Americans, except politicians, find this control agenda offensive. Politicians might not find it offensive because controlling lives is their stock in trade, plus there's the promise of the higher revenues from food taxes. Most Americans who might find the CSPI agenda offensive are not motivated by principle. It's a matter of whose ox is being gored.

You say, "What do you mean, Williams?" CSPI tyrants are following almost to the letter the template created by the nation's anti-smoking zealots. Their fellow traveler, New York University professor Marion Nestle, says that the food industry "can't behave like cigarette companies. ... Yet there's a lot of people who benefit from people being fat and sick, and the whole setup is designed to make people eat more. So the response to the food industry should be very similar to what happened with the tobacco companies." ...

I'd be interested to know just how many Americans would like to see done to our food industry what was done to the tobacco industry: massive multibillion-dollar lawsuits against food companies, massive suits against restaurants that serve too large a serving, and confiscatory taxes levied on foods and snacks deemed non-nutritious.

Consumers will pay for all of this in the form of higher food prices and fewer choices. There's also the possibility that food zealots in some cities, emboldened by the success of the anti-smoking zealots in Calabasas, who are concerned about smokers passing on bad habits to our youth, might call for an ordinance banning public appearance of obese people so as not to pass bad eating habits on to our children.

More here

23 March, 2006


Since our blood has about the same saltiness as seawater, the claim that our bodies cannot handle salt safely is absurd. We are in fact very good at it. Salt has been implicated in raised blood pressure but if that were really a concern, a much more constructive approach would be to add potassium (which lowers blood pressure) to food rather than removing salt. Both are natural food components. Also see the research report following the article immediately below -- a report which shows that a low salt diet is actually BAD for you. So it is really a puritanical desire to reduce people's pleasures that motivates the anti-salt brigade. They only look at evidence that suits them

Britain's food watchdog was accused last night of endangering the lives of 15,000 people a year after backing down on strict guidelines designed to limit the amount of salt in food. Health campaigners were furious at the decision by the Food Standards Agency to publish revised targets to cut salt in 85 types of food products by 2010. In many cases the agency raised levels after feedback from companies which claimed that they were unable to cut salt in certain products for technical or safety reasons.

Increases in permitted levels recommended by the agency included: Raising the salt allowed in crisps such as Quavers and Skips from 1.4g to 3.4g per 100g; Ketchup up from 1.8g to 2.4g; Savoury biscuits up from 1.3g to 2.2g.

The agency said that it still hoped to cut the overall intake of salt per person per day from 10g to 6g within four years. But medical experts said that the new targets meant this would not be met, especially as the targets cannot be imposed on the food industry. If salt intake were cut to 6g per day, it would prevent 70,000 heart attacks and strokes a year, of which 35,000 are fatal. If intake fell only to 8g a day, 15,000 people would die unnecessarily.

"Products like Quavers and Wotsits are still going to be allowed to contain more salt than in seawater," Professor Graham MacGregor, head of cardio-vascular medicine at St George's Hospital, in Tooting, southwest London, said. "If by 2010 we only get salt consumption down to 8g a day then that will result in another 30,000 strokes and heart attacks and some 15,000 will be fatal. The new targets reflect the naked power of the food industry that is just not interested in the health of the people it feeds."

The National Heart Forum also expressed concern about "laggards" in the food industry who were failing to tackle salt reduction. Paul Lincoln, its chief executive, said that the firms resisting change should be "named and shamed". He pointed the finger at manufacturers of children's foods such as crisps, pizzas, bread, processed cheese and biscuits for making slowest progress in reducing salt. "The problem is these targets are voluntary," he said. "Some companies have demonstrated that it is possible to make significant and rapid reductions. However, without the threat of any sanctions or penalties some sectors are clearly unwilling to press ahead with healthy reformulations."

Malcolm Kane, an independent food safety consultant, said: "The new targets reveal a food industry still defending the use of excess salt in processed foods based upon weak arguments referring to technical reasons or food safety which are largely irrelevant to contemporary food processing conditions."

The FSA said that its targets were realistic. The agency also said it was pleased with the efforts made by manufacturers and supermarkets to cut salt. Salt in bread was already down by 30 per cent, in breakfast cereals reduced by 33 per cent, and down a third in Kraft cheese spreads and snacks. Manufacturers were also committed to reducing salt in soups and sauces by 30 per cent.

However, some campaigners believe that the agency is running scared of the food industry after a recent rift over the need for red warning labels on junk food. Only Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Asda have endorsed "traffic light" alerts that will show levels of salt, sugar, fat and saturated fat. Gill Fine, the agency's director of consumer choice, said: "We believe that the salt levels set out represent a realistic rate of reduction which will have a real impact on consumers' intakes."

She said that the targets would be reviewed in 2008 to ensure people were on track to achieve a 6g maximum daily intake of salt by 2010. The targets mean that Stilton cheese has been granted a reprieve. The FSA had originally wanted to cut its salt content from 2.5g per 100g to 1.9g.

Cheesemakers argued that salt reduction could threaten the viability of the 33 million pound a year industry which employs at least 500 people.


Salt OK for health

Salt gets a shake in a large study, reinforcing previous research which questions the value of a low salt diet - and suggests it might even be harmful. I know. One day they’re telling you one thing and the next the opposite. The trouble is that with salt, doctors and dieticians have assumed because a low salt intake may help blood pressure, that it saves lives.

A 13 year follow up of 7000 people has found that in most groups, the lower the salt intake, the higher the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke - independent of other lifestyle factors. The study wasn’t a trial; it observed people’s health rather than tested a proposition, so had potential problems. But the authors say that applies to almost all the studies which supposedly justify reducing salt and that none, they claim, show that a low salt diet saves lives.

The reason for the possible risk is that a low salt diet may increase artery damaging hormones. So while it’s not carte blanche for salt, it’s probably okay to enjoy the taste of food again.

For reference see: Cohen HW et al. Sodium intake and mortality in the NHANESII follow-up study. American Journal of Medicine 2006;119:275.e7-275.e14


There is a further comment on the scandalous ignoring of science by the anti-salt fanatics here

22 March, 2006

Born Again Feminism for the 21st Century

March is Women's History Month, with a focus on the past raising questions about the future. Gender or left-wing feminism has defined the mainstream movement for decades, but can it carry feminism into the 21st century and away from the accusation of irrelevancy? 2006 is a fine year in which to ask that question. It is far enough into the new century for gender feminists to have provided a rough answer if one is coming. I believe the answer has arrived.

On a personal level, you may not care. You may be fed up with decades-long arguments that all seem to run in an endless loop toward the same conclusion: Women as a class are oppressed by men as a class through the institutions of society such as the free market and the family. On a political level, however, you should pay attention. Those same tiresome arguments have dramatically reshaped the institutions with which you and your children live every day.

For example, in 1980, the term "sexual harassment" was virtually unknown. Today, it is a legal reality that every campus and workplace confronts. If gender feminism successfully recreates itself, then your day-to-day life may continue to reflect its vision, not yours. Linda R. Hirshman, co-author of the book Hard Bargains: The Politics of Sex, offers a glimpse of that vision. She recently published an article titled "Homeward Bound" in the liberal magazine American Prospect (12/20/05). "Home" does not refer to the hearth. Quite the opposite. Home is the ideological starting point to which Hirshman believes feminism must return in order to become effective. The much discussed article is a clear snapshot of gender feminism's present dilemma over irrelevancy and the need for redefinition.

Hirshman bluntly acknowledges the failure of feminism by pointing to one phenomenon. Many educated women are rejecting successful careers to become mothers and embrace the domesticity that Betty Friedan compared to animal life and a Nazi concentration camp in her 1953 bestseller The Feminine Mystique. How did this happen? In a word, choice is to blame: "[L]iberal feminists abandoned the judgmental starting point.in favor of offering women 'choices'. The choice talk spilled over from.'abortion', and it provided an irresistible solution to feminists trying to duck the mommy wars. A woman could work, stay home, have 10 children or one, marry or stay single. It all counted as 'feminist' as long as she chose it."

Hirshman dismisses what she calls "choice feminism." Instead, she argues for a return to "a judgmental starting point" by which incorrect choices are to be shunned, choices like the traditional role of wife and mother. Hirshman writes, "Now the glass ceiling begins at home. Although it is harder to shatter a ceiling that is also the roof over your head, there is no other choice."

The 20th century gender war was fought largely in the workplace and on campuses; the 21st century's battleground is the traditional family. According to Hirshman, failure to deconstruct that one institution is the explanation for feminism's failures elsewhere.

I profoundly disagree with Hirshman's conclusions and many of her particulars. For example, I don't believe all of women's choices have been sanctioned as 'feminist'; sex work is a counter-example.

I also don't believe feminism ever ceased being judgmental. Nevertheless, the article is a fascinating glimpse into gender feminism's struggle to reinvent itself. The broad themes of this reinvention are: a rejection of the 'c-word' (choice) as the standard of feminism; the substitution of correct choices as feminism's touchstone; a renewed focus on deconstructing the traditional family; and, a reaching backward into "the golden age" of feminism in order to understand and correct mistakes.

As the reinvention occurs, the gender feminist approach to specific issues will inevitably shift as well. Without a crystal ball and with recognition that feminism is not a monolith, the following are some of the changes (or not) in approach that I expect to see: On abortion. The words choice and pro-choice will be de-emphasized. Instead, stress will be placed on weighing the rights and health of the woman against those of the unborn with the clear message that the woman takes precedence.

On sexual harassment. The argument will not change because it has proven successful but the approach will be broadened to include male victims, especially boys. For example, the latest survey from the American Association of University Women on school and campus harassment reports on male victims. I believe the shift is largely strategic. It is no longer possible to ignore male victims of harassment. Thus, the championing of boys will be co-opted and recast within gender feminism's established framework of sexual harassment.

On domestic violence. The argument will not change and the approach will not be broadened significantly. In gender feminist theory, domestic violence is key to establishing that traditional marriage is a dangerous place for women. "Staying the course" is not only an ideological matter, it is also strategic. To the extent male victims are acknowledged, the focus will be on gay male victims. A lot of funding is on the line.

What do I think is the real feminist line for the 21st century? Your peaceful choices are yours alone and no one else's business. Be a housewife, love your children without a time schedule.or dive into a 24/7 job that you get on merit. Live your own dream. Be your own woman. And, yes, that makes me a "choice feminist."


The War on Big Soda

"Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that drinking soda can be hazardous to your health."

Look for that warning label on bottles and cans of Coke, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper and even Hawaiian Punch in stores near you in the not too distant future ... that is, if the Health Nannies and the Trial Lawyers get their way. An Associated Press story this week reports that nutrition "experts" are "escalating the fight" against obesity, and they appear to be changing their focus from fast-food to soft drinks. "In reports to be published in science journals this week, two groups of researchers hope to add evidence to the theory that soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks don't just go hand-in-hand with obesity, but actually cause it," the AP reports. "Not that these drinks are the only cause, but that they are one cause, perhaps the leading cause."

And once "science" takes that leap, the AP predicts the results could be "higher taxes on soda, restrictions on how and where it is sold -- maybe even a surgeon general's warning on labels." As Barry Popkin, a "scientist" at the University of North Carolina boasted, "We've done it with cigarettes."

Yes, they did. And many of us fought the three-headed hydra of government bureaucrats, trial lawyers and junk scientists in their war against Big Tobacco. The bottom line for our side was simply that no one was pointing a gun at anyone's head and MAKING them smoke cigarettes -- just as no one is MAKING anyone drink sodas today. But that didn't matter to a lot of fair-weathered conservatives who willingly joined the War on Tobacco simply because they didn't like cigarettes. Freedom and responsibility? Fuggetaboutit. Let's just get rid of Joe Camel, right?

Well, we tried to warn you people. And I'm not hesitant in the least to say, "I told you so." You allowed the hydra to get its nose under the tent. And now, flush with cash and success in "getting" Big Tobacco, they're coming for your Yoo-Hoo and your Pepsi. Serves you right. Of course, some of you will STILL blow off this encroachment on freedom as nonsense. The government would never crack down on Gatorade the way it did Marlboros, right?

Wrong. They're already doing it. In legislatures and local governments across the country, a quiet but growing movement is already well underway to ban soda machines in schools. After all, what self-respecting social engineering project would dare move forward without a "for the kids" component, right? In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who should know better -- signed two bills last fall banning vending machine sales of sodas, chocolate bars, crackers, chips, candy and other "junk" foods. The bills' sponsor, Democrat/Socialist state Sen. Martha Escutia, justifies her Big Brother bill thusly: "The benefits of having kids in class who are not on a sugar high, who are going to be able to concentrate and learn better - that's just as important as the obesity aspect."

Yes, dear reader, you read that right. The War on Soda is actually an effort to help kids learn better! Forget about hiring competent teachers, paying them more, raising standards, dumping No Child Left Behind, getting back to basics, breaking up the government monopoly on education, providing school choice and kicking the teachers union out of the classroom. No, all we really need to do to raise student performance is kick the Coke machine out of the school cafeteria. Good grief.

The California bans take effect in July 2007, and let me tell what's going to happen. Kids will continue to drink their favorite beverages. They'll continue to eat Snickers and Ding-Dongs. And if they can't purchase them on campus, they'll purchase them off campus. In addition, a black market in Fritos and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups will pop up under the gymnasium stands, as young entrepreneurs recognize the new demand and fill it from their back-packs. Psssst. Wanna buy a Twix?

Eventually, the Dudley Do-Gooders such as Sen. Escutia and Gov. Schwarzenegger are going to pursue legislation to crack down on the Twinkie black market, banning not just the vending machines on campus, but penalizing mere possession, thus equating snacks with the likes of marijuana, which is already sold on campuses and the use of which only fuels an even greater demand for potato chips and donuts. Hmm. I guess marijuana IS a gateway drug after all.

Eventually, our kids are going to be sent to the principal's office or suspended for getting caught sneaking a Hershey's bar between classes. Somehow I don't think this is what the Founders had in mind when they promoted the need for an educated populace in order to maintain our liberty. But does anyone care any longer?


21 March, 2006


SEVENTY per cent of mothers of obese or overweight children do not consider them overweight, new research shows. The author of a study outlined in the Medical Journal of Australia published today says the findings back the view that parents see their children's health through rose-coloured glasses and inadvertently lay the foundations for future problems. The MJA editorial also comments on the issue, warning of ample evidence that consuming soft drinks is linked to the problem despite claims to the contrary by the soft drink industry.

The new research found that while 19 per cent of children were overweight or obese, only 5 per cent of mothers worried about their children's weight and 70 per cent of obese children's mothers thought their children's weight was similar to that of their peers. Researchers at Melbourne's Murdoch Children's Research Institute reached their conclusions after examining 341 four-year-olds and their mothers. Study leader Michele Campbell said nearly all mothers believed their children were as active as, or more active than, other children of the same age.

Dr Campbell said obesity among Australian children had doubled in the past 15 years. Despite "massive and sustained publicity" about this growing problem, the study showed public awareness of a problem did not necessarily translate into individual concern, and effective measures might "rely on acknowledgment of a child's weight problem as a first step for change", she said.


Of course the mothers of fat children don't think their kids are abnormal -- because most of the mothers themselves are fat! It may be sad to say but most of the mothers these days are fat. THAT is why there is an "epidemic" of obesity. It is genetically inherited. Slim women very often think they are too good to have children, so fewer slim children are born


Like all socialism, socialist coffee is good only for its own chosen elite. But it's a cheap ego-boost for the parlour pinks

Fair Trade certification, intended to raise the living standards of coffee farmers in Nicaragua and elsewhere, has grown into a complex bureaucracy and an industry in itself. Starbucks, the longtime Enemy No. 1 of the Fair Trade crusaders, agreed to purchase a limited amount of Fair Trade certified coffee days before a planned protest in 2000. The company bought 10 million pounds in 2005. In 2003 Dunkin’ Donuts agreed to make all of its espresso drinks certified. Nestle, one of the biggest coffee companies on Earth, launched a Fair Trade line in October 2005; the same month, McDonald’s agreed to test Fair Trade in 658 outlets. High-end specialty coffees are the fastest growing sector of the industry, and Fair Trade is the fastest growing specialty coffee; demand for it has ballooned by around 70 percent annually for the last five years.

You’d think this confluence of social responsibility and double lattes, good business practices and lefty politics, would make Katzeff a happy man. But he and a growing number of roasters say the Fair Trade movement has lost its way. The movement has always aroused suspicion on the right, where free traders object to its price floors and anti-globalization rhetoric. Yet critics from the left are more vocal and more angry by half; they point to unhappy farmers, duped consumers, an entrenched Fair Trade bureaucracy, and a grassroots campaign gone corporate.

The Fair Trade label was born in the Netherlands in 1989 under the brand name Max Havelaar, taken from the title of a 19th-century novel about oppressed Javanese coffee plantation workers. When the company came to the U.S. a decade later, the American branch billed itself TransFair USA. TransFair’s stated goal is simple: to ensure that farmers get a decent price for their beans, and to let consumers know it. By cutting out predatory middlemen and selling a clear conscience at a premium, coffee idealists hoped to achieve humanitarian goals by capitalist means.

TransFair USA certifies Fair Trade products and audits the chain of custody from producer to finished product... The organization charges between $2,000 and $4,000 to check out a cooperative, plus annual recertification fees and a small percentage of the price of each pound of coffee. The benefits, for those that pass muster, are not insignificant: a guaranteed price floor of $1.26 a pound to Fair Trade retailers—more than double the going rate for beans globally—and a stable price in a famously volatile market.

The Fair Trade apparatus is intended to mitigate a system that seemed especially cruel just as the movement was gaining steam. Until 1989 the price of coffee was relatively stable, held in place by an international agreement that imposed both import and export quotas. That year, as the Cold War ended and stability in producing countries was less of a priority in consuming ones, the pact—known as the International Coffee Agreement—dissolved completely. When supply and demand kicked in, new producers from Vietnam to Papua New Guinea were free to try their hand at the coffee game, drastically redrawing the java map. The resulting glut sent prices spiraling downward. By autumn 1992 coffee cost 50 cents a pound—a level, according to Fair Trade marketer Global Exchange, that’s comparable to prices in the 1930s.

Counterintuitively, as prices were plunging for coffee farmers, middle-class Americans were learning to pay double or triple what they once had for a single cup of joe. The major coffee companies—Sara Lee, Kraft, Procter & Gamble, and Nestle—were paying less than they had for years, and the quality of their products, connoisseurs complained, was getting progressively worse. Around the same time, specialty companies such as Green Mountain started buying high-quality beans and pitching coffee as a luxury good rather than a commodity. A “specialty revolution”—the Starbucksification of America, driven by latte-toting yuppies—spawned a massive market for pricey brewed java. By 1998 Starbucks could plan on opening a store a day, and the satirical newspaper The Onion ran a story headlined “New Starbucks Opens in Rest Room of Existing Starbucks.”

As they grew in numbers and influence, it was the small, quality-obsessed specialty roasters who absorbed and perpetuated the Fair Trade ethos, thus distancing themselves from the big four, which continued to pay rock-bottom prices for low-quality coffee. Against the backdrop of schizophrenic prices, in the face of a glaring gap between impoverished Third World farmers and affluent First World consumers, Fair Trade advocates sold a vision of socially just consumption. Men like Katzeff began to travel abroad to source beans, and the industry’s inequities started to emerge: Farmers were being squeezed by middlemen, known as coyotes, so that even the dismal profits from cheap mass-produced coffee failed to reach them. Growers lacked basic information about what their crop was worth, how to maximize production, and how to market their beans, and it was to the coyotes’ advantage to keep it that way. Fair Traders, by contrast, sought a direct relationship between coffee farmers and coffee drinkers: clean, just, transparent transactions.

Fair Trade’s pioneers sought the one best way to reform this culture of abuse, and they settled on a bucolic vision of small farms working for the collective good. The system would serve growers who formed cooperatives of small family farms. Such organizations represent only a very narrow swath of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers, but as the Fair Trade brand has grown, the eligibility requirements have not budged. The result is a marketing machine meant to spread wealth across class divides that in practice draws sharp lines between winners and losers.

Gregorio Martinez grows coffee on 30 hectares of land in Lepaera, Honduras, where he lives with his wife and four children. In 1998 Hurricane Mitch destroyed his crop, leaving him deep in debt; by 2004 he was set to lose his farm to foreclosure for lack of $800. That same year, he sent a bag of beans to the Princess Hotel in San Pedro Sula, where a U.S. nonprofit was hosting a contest known as Cup of Excellence. Martinez took top honors, attracted attention from buyers, and auctioned off his crop for $19,500. In his acceptance speech, he expressed relief that he would be able to pass his farm on to his family rather than the bank.

Martinez owns a small family farm and produces a high-quality coffee, but none of his beans carry the Fair Trade label. His farm isn’t part of a cooperative, a Fair Trade non-negotiable that disqualifies small, independent farmers, larger family farms, and for that matter any multinational that treats its workers well. “It’s like outlawing private enterprise,” says former SCAA chair Cox, who now serves as president of a coffee consulting company. “What about a medium-sized family-owned farm that’s doing great, treats their employees great? Sorry, they don’t qualify.” In Africa, many coffee farms are organized along tribal, not democratic lines. They’re not eligible either, a problem that has prompted some roasters to charge cultural imperialism....

Specialty coffee roasters have always paid above-average prices, but that hasn’t stopped activists from launching smear campaigns against high-end retailers who resist the Fair Trade model. In 2000, activist groups including Global Exchange launched an attack on Starbucks that has left the company stained with a reputation for mistreating farmers. Yet given its size, Starbucks likely has done far more than the Fair Trade movement to improve the lot of coffee growers in the 25 countries from which it purchases coffee. Starbucks buys 2.2 percent of the world’s coffee production, and its infamous growth fuels demand for high-priced specialty coffees. In 2004 it bought that coffee at an average price of $1.20 a pound, slightly below the $1.26 Fair Trade pays but more than twice the average price for beans on the global commodity market.

Among the litany of complaints roasters voice about TransFair, cost is most resented. Roasters and retailers must pay the company to be registered as legitimate purveyors of Fair Trade goods. Organic labels cost about two cents per pound of coffee; TransFair demands ten, and there are controversies about how the money is being spent....

It may have a corporate image in the coffee industry, but Fair Trade still cultivates an aura of grassroots revolution on college campuses, where hundreds of student groups have formed to hold rallies and promote the brand. This past November, Vanderbilt undergraduate Blake Richter and 20 fellow students stood outside a Tennessee Starbucks and handed out free Fair Trade coffee while explaining to passers-by their beef with the company: Only a small percentage of Starbucks’ purchases are Fair Trade Certified. The demonstration, he tells me, was a “first step” toward more equitable exchange in the area. If handing out free stuff sounds like a pretty mild protest, consider the result: “A lot of people would come by and say, ‘I appreciate what you’re saying, but I still need my latte.” Richter adds, “I think we probably increased Starbucks’ business that day.”

Richter’s experience wouldn’t surprise many specialty roasters. Since the early days of Fair Trade, many of them have argued that customer loyalty hinges on quality, not the perception of social justice. Fair Trade consumers, in other words, tend to be dabblers who are happy to pay extra for conscience-soothing coffee today, but will eventually go back to the beans they like best no matter what the social pedigree. That may be for the best: The specialty revolution, with its $4 lattes and emphasis on growing methods, has probably jacked up prices for farmers far more than the Fair Trade movement has. Starbucks buys more coffee each year than gets Fair Trade certified. When consumers become coffee snobs, prices rise, and some of that increase makes it back to growers....

The range of prices between high- and low-quality coffees is still minuscule compared to what you’ll find with a highly branded beverage like wine, but it is growing, and consumers have consistently demonstrated that they’re willing to pay more for better beans. The best hope for farmers lies with consumers demanding better coffee, not just from Starbucks but from the supermarket shelf. This may be inevitable; a generation weaned on high-quality lattes is not going to turn to instant Nescafe as it grows more affluent. But there are signs that Fair Trade, with its predilection for uniformity, is retarding, not accelerating, that process.

“Fair Trade does not incentivize quality,” explains Geoff Watts of Intelligentsia Coffee, who has spent the last nine years training coffee farmers in Africa and Central America. Fair Trade co-ops are composed of hundreds of farmers producing vastly different qualities of coffee. Often their output is blended together for sale to roasters, masking any quality improvements one farmer may have felt motivated to implement. Money then flows back to the co-op, not the individual farmer, and is distributed equally among the members. “There is no reward for the guy who works harder than his neighbor,” says Watts. Nor is there much motivation for individual farmers to learn better farming techniques, experiment with new types of coffee, or seek new markets.

The system thus breeds anonymity and mediocrity in a business that desperately needs to focus on branding and identity. Ironically, this mimics the problems brought on by multinationals: Treating coffee as a single commodity, in large undifferentiated lots, prevents any single farmer from excelling and advancing.

Much more here

20 March, 2006


The other day at work, some colleagues and I were discussing a chain restaurant known for its scantily clad waitresses. I was taken aback for a moment. "They have the best sports bar in my area," one person said. "I hear they have great Buffalo wings," said another. It was a moment of disconnect. "But how can anyone go to places like that?" I asked. "What about the objectification of women's bodies?" The what of the who?

My colleagues, many of them young enough to be my offspring, gave me puzzled, bemused looks. "This is one of those feminist things, isn't it?" someone asked. "Yes, I'm a feminist. Yes, I did consciousness raising," I said. "What's consciousness raising?" It was my turn to be startled. Hasn't everyone at least heard about consciousness raising? A quick survey of the people in my office revealed that no one, male or female, under the age of 30 had even heard of what in my day was so common we called it "CR." One colleague, smart and Harvard educated, said, "Are you talking about feminism, or are you talking about the reeducation the North Koreans did?"

I tried to explain. I felt as if I was talking about butter-churning or cloth diapers. How could I describe these little groups of women who met once a week in the 1960s and 1970s, just to talk about their lives, their assumptions, their feelings as women? In my CR group, I remember one woman announced, with some chagrin, that she had thrown out all her clothes and bought a completely new wardrobe for college. We all agreed that she might have overdone her need to please.

Did CR change my life? Yes, no doubt. But then again, nearly everything changed my life when I was young. My group met in the spring of 1976. Since I was a student living on the campus of a public college, some of the topics we discussed didn't really resonate with me. I had no spouse or boyfriend to pick up after. I couldn't contribute much about raising children or about my career choices or about putting anyone but myself first. But, still - in its essence, CR did exactly what it was intended to do - it raised my slumbering consciousness about all sorts of things: the kinds of clothes women choose to wear, how we see our bodies, what we seek in our lives, and how much we care about how others see us. It made me think about my choice of a major in elementary education, about my cheerleading days in high school, about my relationships with guys. It made me think about my obsession with dieting. I didn't become strident; I didn't turn into a man-hater, but I did open my eyes. Eventually, I dropped my major, which I had picked mainly because my mother had been a kindergarten teacher. I read authors like Susan Brownmiller and Betty Friedan. I announced that I would never have children.

Fast-forward to today. The children I swore I wouldn't have are almost full-fledged adults. I have a job I love. I'm confident in most situations. Some people would say that life is different now, that no young woman needs her consciousness raised in 2006. Except that today's "Seventeen" magazine looks a whole lot like it always did - shopping, hair, and, on a recent cover, a promo to the story, "Flirt Your Way Into His Heart."

The young women in my workplace see themselves, no doubt, as equal to the men. But when they get pregnant and have babies, guess what happens? They're still the ones who drop out of the workforce, or work part time, or, more rarely, go back to work full time but are overwhelmed with guilt. I sure don't see that same angst in men too often.

Maybe it's time for me to set up a little consciousness-raising group with the women in my office. We could talk about TV shows that emphasize bone-thin models and makeovers, about what it's like to raise children, about how we see our lives playing out. Would they show up, or would they see this as an attempt to indoctrinate them? No one in my office these days calls herself a feminist, after all. I wonder if they would support an Equal Rights Amendment.


Right Cause, Wrong Approach

Last Thursday, The National Center for Men filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Michigan on behalf of Matt Dubay. The NCM has nicknamed the suit 'Roe v. Wade for Men' because it seeks to allow men a legal right to decline the responsibilities of fatherhood to the same degree that women can currently decline motherhood through abortion: that is, absolutely. The 25-year-old Dubay wants to relinquish all legal connection to a daughter borne last year by an ex-girlfriend who had assured him she was infertile. Specifically, he doesn't want to pay $500 a month in child support.

The suit will almost certainly fail in court; NCM probably knows this. The real purpose is to stir discussion of a neglected issue: the rights of men in reproduction. That is a laudable goal but, in pursuing it, the lawsuit stumbles by presenting those rights in the worst possible light.

The lawsuit's essential message is correct: the ongoing discussion of reproduction often proceeds as though men do not exist, especially regarding abortion. The marginalization of men in abortion is somewhat natural; as a matter of blunt biology, it is a woman's body. Unless the man has entered into a contract with the woman, she has a presumptive right of self control that trumps his claim. Otherwise, the man could force her to have an abortion or to become breeding stock.

The marginalization of men cannot be similarly justified, however, once a child is born and three entirely autonomous human beings exist. At this point, in my opinion, the worst inequity toward men in our society occurs. Men are held legally responsible for their children's support even when they are denied visitation. In essence, fathers have responsibilities without rights and that is a travesty, both legally and morally. Fathers live with broken hearts; children struggle without the love and guidance of both parents.

Responsible men should have a right to be active fathers; children should know both parents. That is the single strongest argument that advocates of men's and father's rights can advance. It opens the hearts and minds of all reasonable, caring people -- male or female, pro-choice or pro-life. And, having accepted the justice of one argument, people are more likely to listen sympathetically to others.

Unfortunately the case that NCM has chosen to spotlight harms rather than advances that argument. The lawsuit conflates and confuses the role of men in abortion with that of men toward existing children. By hyping the lawsuit as 'Roe v. Wade for Men,' NCM may well have attracted media attention but it also inextricably associates the suit with the single most divisive issue in society -- abortion.

Pro-choice advocates will be immediately alienated by NCM's press release, which states, "We [NCM] will ask a United States district court judge to apply the principles of reproductive choice, as articulated in Roe vs. Wade, to men. We will ask that men be granted equal protection of the laws which safeguard the right of women to make family planning decisions after sex." Such language is far broader than necessary if NCM's goal is merely to allow men to relinquish fatherhood. Indeed, the language does not aim at the right of a man to merely remove himself from an unwanted pregnancy but the right to be involved in "family planning decisions."

On the other extreme, pro-life advocates will be immediately alienated by the specific father being championed. These advocates are motivated by a desire to protect children, which fetuses constitute for them. Matt Dubay wishes to abandon his daughter, not protect her.

Whether or not you believe men should have a right to abandonment, Dubay is not a sympathetic figure around which to rally. He is the anti-father. He is the worst possible face to put on the cause of men's rights. Dubay is a bad choice on other grounds. The NCM press release states, "Matt insists that the child's mother repeatedly assured him she could not get pregnant and, also, Matt says that she knew he did not want to have a child with her." In short, the suit argues one side of a 'he said/she said' scenario in which the man did not act to prevent conception.

Preventing an unwanted pregnancy is the obligation of every human being, male or female. To rely on chance or the word of another is to default on that obligation. Anyone who pushes past both the abortion slugfest and Dubay's unsympathetic nature may arrive at the discussion that should have been clearly enunciated by the lawsuit; legal responsibilities should have corresponding legal rights. What are those responsibilities, what are those rights? Even when these questions are clearly asked, the lawsuit's answers are counterproductive. It seeks to extend Roe v. Wade, which even pro-choice advocates recognize as 'bad' and ultimately unsustainable law. If successful, the lawsuit would create more bureaucracy and government in an area (family law) where bureaucracy is the problem. For example, 'abandonment agencies' would be needed to handle the inevitable counseling requirement, the need for parental consent by underaged fathers, the paperwork on hearings required before the real papers could be signed, and so on.

A better approach would be to repeal laws and policies that enforce responsibilities without rights. Dismantle bureaucracies and encourage private agreement on family matters, preferably before children arrive. In the absence of agreement, promote arbitration so that courts become the last option and not the first resort.

The NCM lawsuit is a bad case that would result in worse law. But, perhaps because the suit will fail, that's not what bothers me the most about it. What bothers me most: it is an insult to every alienated father who desperately seeks to be a parent to his child. Why is NCM championing the anti-father when so many men ache for nothing more than the sight of their children's faces?


We have all got a gambling problem, which is the idiots telling us to stop

By Mick Hume from Britain

My name is Mick, and I have a gambling problem. My problem is that I have hardly backed a winner during this week's Cheltenham Festival. There are many fellow-sufferers; the bookmakers reportedly pocketed 50 million pounds on Wednesday alone. Yet we will be back today, trying to pick the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

This might make us ordinary punters, quite liderallee losers. What it does not make us is a crowd of vulnerable victims and potential gambling addicts in need of professional intervention to keep us from the knacker's yard.

Yet all we hear about is the supposed boom in "problem gambling". This week's report that the Government plans to open more casinos prompted protests from worthies such as Colonel Vic Poke, of the Salvation Army, and a "Professor of Gambling Studies" (and they accuse punters of wasting time and money). Not to be outdone, the government-appointed Gambling Commission outlined its new rules to promote "social responsibility in gambling" and protect "children and the vulnerable".

Government fantasies about supercasinos sparking regional economic regeneration are ludicrous (although no more so than the schemes to "regenerate" entire cities with an art gallery and caf‚). But the lectures about "socially responsible gambling" are no better.

New Labour's approach appears to be to free up the gambling laws but regulate gamblers more tightly. The Gambling Commission's rules will require casinos and betting outlets to "take a preventative approach", bombarding innocent punters with information about "how to play responsibly and where to seek help", looking out for "at-risk behaviour" and intervening to propose counselling or self-exclusion agreements, before banning "gambling addicts".

These measures say less about how to deal with the relatively few problem gamblers than about how little the authorities think of the rest of us. We are seen as essentially helpless individuals, powerless to handle risks or to prevent ourselves sliding down the slippery slope into a pit of binge drinking, obesity and irresponsible punting. Thus gambling has now been added to the growing list of "addictions", as if it were an illness requiring the men in white coats.

The authorities that want casinos to provide clients with a "reality check" should take their own advice and stop patronising punters. Incredible as it may seem to them, we do understand the odds. Adults should be free to make their own choices, including the wrong ones.

Whatever happened to having a flutter as a bit of harmless fun, a (hopefully) cheap thrill to make your heart, well, flutter in a world that runs from risks? We might do better to consider how society could offer something more meaningful to get excited about, rather than trying to sanitise our few red-blooded pastimes.

Back at Cheltenham, meanwhile, my get-out is "when in doubt, back A. P. McCoy", the Roy Keane of racing, an Irish jump jockey so single-minded in pursuit of winners it is a wonder some educated eejit has not referred him for addiction therapy.


19 March, 2006


Diplomats stalled the hunt for the killers of six Red Caps in Iraq because they wanted to be politically correct and save the savages from the gallows. They blocked Army cops from handing Iraqi authorities vital case files that identified the culprits - so there would be no arrests.

Foreign Office bosses insisted the 18-month delay was necessary to prevent the barbaric tribesmen from facing the death penalty as that would breach THEIR human rights. A deal done behind closed doors last year means the killers can now only face life in jail. The files on them were handed over at that time.

The delay in the investigation into the massacre almost three years ago now means families may never see justice. It has given key suspects for the horrendous crime time to flee and made it far harder to secure any convictions in court as witnesses' recall of events will have diminished.

The revelation is a bombshell disappointment for the families just 24 hours after they heard at an inquest the sickening details of how their loved ones died. They last night dubbed it "yet another disgusting betrayal".

The Red Caps were murdered by a mob in the police station of hotspot town Majar al Kabir in lawless Maysan province. The victims were Sgt Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41, Cpl Russell Aston, 30, Cpl Paul Long, 24, Cpl Simon Miller, 21, Lance Cpl Benjamin Hyde, 23, and Lance Cpl Thomas Keys, 20.

The retained case files include witness statements, addresses and forensic evidence that pin the murders on seven suspects. An eighth has died since the bloody shoot-out on June 24, 2003, sources have revealed. With the handover of power to the Iraqi government in 2004, the Royal Military Police's Special Investigations Branch were forced to hand over the hunt for the killers to the Iraqi authorities.

Axed defence secretary Geoff Hoon told MPs an investigating judge would be appointed in Iraq's Central Criminal Court in Baghdad to take the probe on. But any Iraqi judge was powerless to issue arrest warrants while the evidence against the seven suspects was being kept back.

Reg Keys, father of Lance Cpl Thomas - who suffered 31 different gunshot wounds - said: "It simply beggars belief that our Government has put the rights of a bunch of bloodthirsty animals before six soldiers who gave their life for their country. "It is yet another disgusting betrayal, and I am furious."

The Foreign Office said: "This is a complex case. "The Government has to make sure we comply with human rights obligations. One of those is the death penalty."



The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has launched a Competition Commission inquiry into the UK's big four supermarkets - Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrison's. OFT believes there is evidence that these stores have erected barriers to keep out new players and that their move into convenience stores could 'distort competition and harm consumers'.

This follows years of complaints from small shopkeepers and liberal commentators who bemoan supermarket's retail dominance. This week the London Evening Standard has launched a campaign called 'Save our Small Shops'. The popularity of the big four supermarkets, which account for nearly 75 per cent of the grocery market, suggests that consumers think otherwise. Compared with local shops, supermarkets on the whole provide more variety of goods at cheaper prices. Isn't that a good, or at least useful, thing?

As contributors on spiked have noted previously, supermarkets are increasingly coming under fire from certain quarters (see Supermarkets are super, by Jennie Bristow; Supermarket sweep, by Josie Appleton). The complaints that Tesco operates in shady business deals or 'manipulates' consumers sound a bit like sour grapes from competitors, and a suspicion of mass production from environmentalists. The charge that supermarkets are motivated by the desire to generate enormous profits points to a naivety about the business world. That's how things work in capitalist societies; even fabled local traders are not driven by charitable impulses.

There is something worrying about the continuous criticism of supermarkets. It's one thing to be preoccupied with consumerist issues regarding rip-off traders and poor services; it's another thing to get angry about low prices and the efficient distribution of goods. Getting rid of hunger, and improving our choice of food, has been one of the major success stories of the modern age - and supermarkets played a role in that. To bemoan these developments doesn't reveal a principled 'stance' for anything, but a generally misanthropic outlook. It's remarkable that anyone would see shelves groaning with plentiful food as a bad thing.

The logical conclusion of the anti-supermarket lobby would be to close down dozens of Tesco and Sainsbury's stores and their attendent benefits. Indeed, a recent article on the closure of 25 McDonald's restaurants in the UK cheerily welcomed such a development for food retail in general.

Some commentators are careful not to come across as saying: 'slash jobs/raise food prices'. Any sober assessment of supermarkets would find it pretty difficult to deny the benefits of cheaper groceries and better choice, a point that the OFT has already conceded. Instead, subtler critics have devised a new line of attack, arguing that local shops can provide mechanisms for community cohesion and a shared sense of belonging. Compared with the local butcher or baker, they say, the one-stop-shop experience reduces familiar points of contact with other people. As one editorial put it: 'The key question is whether the undoubted benefits and popularity of superstores are outweighed by the grave effects they have on a way of life that, once lost, will be irretrievable.'

Such misty-eyed annotations sound a bit like the ramblings of ex-Tory prime minister, John 'Back to Basics' Major. Only in soap operas does the corner shop double up as community centre. More often, local traders are seen as penny pinchers with a line in one-upmanship snobbery. Of course, it's ridiculous to believe local shops can engineer social solidarity, as it's ridiculous to try to cajole people into shopping there. For millions who live in big cities, shopping solely at local shops would neither be practical nor particularly desirable.

Evoking community, however, provides some kind of left-wing cover for what can be reactionary ideas. In reality, 'community' is meant as a buffer against society, the 'local' against the 'global'. It also begs the question: what type of 'community' is being referred to? For well-heeled individuals in well-heeled areas, it's probably a community of organic food buyers and concerned environmentalists. Residents in Highgate village, north London, for instance, campaigned in 2002 against the opening of a Starbucks branch there. They argued it would erode their 'distinctive' 'community'. Many probably didn't want vulgar displays of mass society in their backyard.

On this level, critics of mass retail in general, and supermarkets in particular, imbue them with more strange powers and 'meaning' than most of us who shop there do. One commentator believes that declining literacy levels in the West is down to the omnipotence of supermarkets (3). Leaving aside this head-scratching hypothesis, why should the ubiquity of Tesco be a particularly debased experience? Anyone would think the proposed alternatives - independent local shops - are the equivalent of exploring art galleries and exhibitions. They're not. On the whole, shopping is a drearily practical necessity best done with as little time and effort as possible. This is why one-stop-shops win hands down - most people are not as preoccupied with shopping as some critics and commentators seem to be.

Given the popularity of supermarkets, why the need for an OFT inquiry at all? There are no mass campaigns calling for boycotts or an investigation into, say, Sainsbury's ready meals. Those who do are usually small traders seeking state compensation for their own inefficiencies. Ironically, local shopkeepers believe supermarkets yield too much unrepresentative power and influence; but in this case, surely it's the other way round? While a small number of retailers have won a chance to hold supermarkets back, millions of shoppers could potentially lose out. This might not be so surprising; maybe it is what the supermarket critics wanted all along.


Bring Back Stigma

An excellent thought from Roger Scruton

It is now orthodox to regard social stigma as a form of oppression, to be discarded on our collective quest for inner freedom. But the political philosophers and novelists of former times would have been horrified by such a view. In almost all matters that touched upon the core requirements of social order, they believed that the genial pressure of manners, morals, and customs-enforced by the various forms of disapproval, stigma, shame, and reproach-was a more powerful guarantor of civilized and lawful behavior than the laws themselves. Inner sanctions, they argued, more dependably maintain society than such external ones as policemen and courts. That is why the moralists of the eighteenth century, for example, rarely touched upon murder, theft, rape, or criminal deception; instead, they were passionately interested in the small-scale mores on which social order depends and which, properly adhered to, make such crimes unthinkable.

Stigma has evaporated in our era, and along with it much of the constant, small-scale self-regulation of the community, which depends on each individual's respect for, and fear of, other people's judgment. In consequence, the laws have expanded, both in extent and complexity, to fill the void. Yet as sanctions have been expropriated from society by the state, people feel far more free to follow their own inclinations, to disregard proprieties, and to ignore the effect of their behavior on others and on the common good. For although the law impinges far more on their lives, they experience it as an external force with no real moral authority. In addition, the law increasingly distinguishes the "public" realm, where it is the sole objective authority, from the "private" realm, where it cannot intrude, leaving the private realm less and less regulated, despite the fact that it contains most of the matters on which the future of society depends: sexual conduct, the rearing of children, honest dealing, and self-respect.

Moreover, there is no evidence that the law can really compensate for the loss of social sanctions. The law combats crime not by eliminating criminal schemes but by increasing the risk attached to them; stigma combats crime by creating people who have no criminal schemes in the first place. The steady replacement of stigma by law, therefore, is a key cause of the constant increase in the number and severity of crimes.

18 March, 2006


An article by John Burtis

Years ago, it used to take the Gestapo, the NKVD or the Kempitei and a lot of coercion, force and propaganda to insure that everybody expressed himself in the politically correct fashion. Midnight raids, informers, hero children and show trials were all trotted out to illustrate the proper path. Dissenters, Jehovah's Witnesses, deviationists, the work-shy, wreckers, cosmopolitans, defeatists, and anybody else who failed to toe the line were rounded up, leaned on and dispatched to corrective labor camps or shot out of hand for their failure to get with the program--Hitler's, Stalin's or Tojo's politically correct policy of communication.

Somewhere in the past 30 years or so, an equally perfidious set of rules governing free speech and disquisition in America--voluntarily accepted and often rigidly imposed, without any threat of force or violence--has become law, both unwritten and codified, in many of our institutions of higher learning, in much of government, in the pages of our leading newspapers, on our television screens and in our daily conversations.

These disquieting norms of political correctness now govern and invade our relations with the banking industry, our once private discussions with co-workers, the sermons of our parsons, the crank formulations of our country's history by "scholars" and their inclusion in what purport to be text books on the subject, the ongoing investigations into the names of sports' teams, the geometric growth of the industry of victimization, the unshakeable belief that all whites are inherently racist, the exclusion of specific words from daily conversation, the flowering of pseudo-intellectual idiocy like "Ebonics" and the inability to call things as one actually may see them. Opinions are to be avoided, while the accepted, oft repeated and easily learned politically correct presumptions are to be parroted from rote, like passages from Mao's little Red Book, key phrases from a Kerry speech or lines lifted from a pithy Howard Dean speech on the perils of economic Bulwarism.

These self-imposed strictures have bred a long list of enforcers--the informants, finks, nay-sayers, tut-tutters, flunkies, gadflies, bathroom barristers, stooges, liberal know-it-alls, class action lawyers, government prosecutors, and others--whose sole purpose is to hound the recalcitrant into submission and to insure the survival of our homegrown brand of political correctness. And they have become as successful as any carload of Gestapo agents, without the rubber truncheons, brass-knuckles, the accents and the camps because we are too collectively cowed to say no their outlandish demands.

Scholarship, of an acceptably politically correct nature in many universities, has degenerated into the mere omphaloskepsis of new age folderol, anti-historical and pseudo-scientific tommyrot, which is buttressed by false scholarship, phony historiography and the spurious research of other so called "experts" in a particular field of study. As a result of this transparent tomfoolery and academic rubbish, there are actual races to land mountebanks of a noted stature before other "universities" can grab them from the want ads for the trophy cases in their make-believe specialties.

So, now, we hear that Harvard has kicked out Lawrence Summers. This stunning, yet expected, turn of events is another triumph for the liberal minority and is a clear example of a small, vocal and shrewish, but still politically correct, bevy of whiners--like the old hall monitors of our childhoods who continually shushed us on the way to the bathroom--to control and shape the discourse in the hallowed vestibules of higher learning to their personal and narrow liking. That they succeeded is testament to the power of PC thought, the retreat of reason and John Locke, the failure of Mr. Summers to possess the proper Arts and Sciences corridor permit for free passage throughout his own University and the abject cowardliness of the remainder of the faculty for their shared timorousness.

And now Yale has let good old Rahmatullah Hashemi, the veritable Baghdad Bob of the Talibani netherworld of murder and mayhem, enroll at Harvard's sister, or is it brother, institution, whatever is most PC.

What'll his flouncing around in his robes and turban do to the PC crowd? Will the co-eds be empowered to dress like him? Will kids go home for the summer and lounge around the yacht club or the stables similarly attired? Will the undergrads tell the old man what the Taliban think? Will he be tapped for Skull and Bones? Will any professor worth his salt dare give him anything other than a gentle-Taliban's B? Will he be expected to maintain the same level of stellar scholarship as, oh, say John Kerry? Who can say, but I'll bet you that he'll have a blast, that he'll taste the forbidden liquor if not the fruit, do just fine and get a scholarship to boot.

The New York Times has recently announced, with all the political correctness it can muster, and with all the glib advice that it alone can dish out to the unwary and the politically limited, that of course we can live with a nuclear Iran and the happy go lucky lemmings running that particular sanitarium. It'll be just like wandering the PC halls at Harvard or sitting next to the lad from the Taliban in French class--you know, really simple stuff and they've got it all down.

All we have to do to keep the mullahs happy and their stubby little mitts off the nuclear trigger is the time tested PC way--to watch what we say, don't rock the boat, no more of that cartoon business, easy on the thoughtless gibes, keep an eye on what you eat, don't fence them in, walk very softly and tip-toe whenever possible, always let them crowd ahead of you in line, lend them whatever money they want, offer to do errands for them--hey, up to now it sounds like the dormitory sheep dealing with the football jocks. Always give them the credit they need for more uranium enrichment, never interrupt them when they're on a long anti-Semitic denunciation, never dip the bullets in bacon fat, nod in synchronization with the other PC dupes--I mean believers--when they hold the next anti-Holocaust get together, go about your business as if they don't have a nuclear bomb and an effective delivery system capable of incinerating NYC, always let them get away with the small stuff like jumping the turn-styles and shaking down their neighbors, never rat them out to the UN, and if they hit you first, fall to the ground and assume a hedge hog-like position of determined acquiescence.

Political correctness inhabits the classrooms and the corridors of the world, all right, and it's always been good for everyone. Unless, of course if you're Larry Summers or the one at the wrong end of the gun, looking down the barrel and into the faces of the guys with the PC eyes who have come for you.

Stop living "ethically", and start living

Even British Conservative leader David Cameron now wants to live a more 'ethical life'. What's going on?

'Ethical living' was once the domain of hair-shirted hippies living in north Wales; now it has been adopted by the urban glitterati. Last week Tory Party leader David Cameron announced that he was planning to add wind turbines to his posh west London home. American Express launched its ethical 'red card', which donates 1p out of every pound spent on designer brands to the cause of AIDS in Africa - a campaign endorsed by stars including the supermodel Elle MacPherson.

Ethical clothing has made its way into the high street. Topshop stocks a range of organic and fair-trade baby clothes; the ethical clothing company People Tree has lines in Selfridges. Enamore does sophisticated hemp, while American Apparel does sophisticated cotton prep-wear. Online, the choice of ethical produce is vast. So Organic offers 'funky organic baby clothes from Hug and Cut 4 Cloth to the purest toys from Keptin-Jr', while a swathe of companies offer pricey organic eyeliners and lip glosses.

Ethical holidays have gone from the mud hut in the jungle, to luxurious log cabins with designer furniture. Being carbon neutral is cool: it's practically obligatory for pop bands on tour, a trail blazed by the likes of Coldplay. Meanwhile, organic food has gone from farmers' markets to delis in west London, with organic supermarkets in the smartest parts of town.

The only criticism levelled at ethical living is that it is a sham. Some bemoan the fact that ethics is becoming just another fashion label; it's not really about helping the planet or changing your behaviour. You had to get a long-haul flight to your Brazilian eco-holiday, they point out. Fair trade isn't really that fair. Washable nappies aren't any more environmentally friendly than disposables. Ray-Bans are Ray-Bans, even if Amex did donate some of their price tag.

But this gets things the wrong way around. When ethical living is just a sham it's relatively harmless, arguably no worse than other fashion fads. It's when ethical living is taken seriously that it is a problem.

Ethical living redefines the whole point to life as cleaning up after ourselves. Every action is assessed in terms of impact - more impact, bad; less impact, good. Traditionally, ethics was about pursuing greater goals in life: fostering virtues such as friendship, honour, courage, and overcoming vices such as jealousy and vanity. Ethics was about obligations to other people, expressed in aphorisms such as 'do as you would be done by'.

Today's ethical living is merely about the self. 'My conscience is clear' is a phrase that trips off the tongue of the purveyors of the eco good life. Whatever happens to the rest of you, they say, I've done my calculations and I'm clean. Online calculators allow you to total your carbon impact, with the aim of approaching the desired karma of 'carbon neutral'. Rather than seeking to do something good in the world, you seek merely to leave the world as you found it. This is a drawn-out apology for existing.

'Do you really need that?', is the question always asked. The result is a mean-spirited survivalism in the midst of plenty. Friends of the Earth suggests that rather than give people presents, why not 'give your time - helping with decorating, gardening, or a big clear out?' (1). The Guardian's ethical living columnist Leo Hickman warns against giving flowers: 'the only truly sustainable alternative is to show your affection to loved ones in other, more imaginative ways, or to carefully source seasonal, preferably organic, flowers grown in the UK, particularly bulb flowers'. He concludes that best of all would be a 'pot plant' (2). The Green Choices website asks whether you should really be embarking on that big DIY project, or if you could make do with a 'subtle revamp'. 'Is it ethical to have children?', asked an Observer article earlier this year: 'Are parents contributing to the future of our planet - or just fuelling an unsustainable population explosion?'

Life becomes an 'ethical minefield' to pick your way through. Sources of enjoyment are seen as suspect. According to a Guardian ethical shopping guide, prawns and swordfish should be avoided, and only very specific varieties of salmon and tuna are permitted. The result is a Woody Allenish self-scrutiny, analysing the implications of every action. Hickman tried to work out acceptable ways of doing everything from skiing holidays to banking to pets - and the end result of his efforts was appropriately published in book form as A Life Stripped Bare. This is Puritanism without the promise of redemption; self-restraint is driven not by a desire for transcendence, but by the soulless calculations of the green calculator. 'Make less mess' is the prosaic motto of today's ethical living brigade.

Of course, if putting windmills and solar panels on our roofs were a cheaper and better way of generating electricity, that would be fine. Ditto recycling. But that would be a technical decision about resource allocation, it wouldn't be an individual ethic. Ethical living is promoted not because it makes rational sense, but because it offers a guide for personal behaviour.

This guide is not just impoverished; it is a cop-out. Ethical living is an excuse for not thinking about real ethics: about our goal in life, about how we treat people, or even on an everyday level about what we eat or wear. Rather than decide what you want to cook that evening, you plump for the one kind of fish that is ethically permitted. Rather than make your own decisions, you live life by the pluses and minuses of green gurus. Get a life.


17 March, 2006


Excerpt from another article from wicked Denmark

Apparently a lot of people in high places in our Democracy have a hard time understanding the simple fact that Islam as traditionally interpreted is not compatible with Democracy. In a reversal of priorities, they are defending Islam's Freedom of Oppression by referring to the Freedom of Religion. Some even manage to bring the immigration debate into play: distancing oneself from the lack of Freedom in Islam is the same as discrimination or even racism.

Why is diminished Freedom acceptable when Religion is involved? Did not the Boers of South Africa call apartheid part of their faith? The Ku Klux Klan maintain their right to lynch black people as part of their faith - are they suddenly sacrosanct? No. None can be allowed to justify violations of Human Rights by invoking `Religious Beliefs'.

Only when it comes to Islam do some get all respectful and considerate of the intolerable. Where are the wrathful demonstrations against the massive oppression of free thought in the Moslem world? Against the grotesque oppression of women? Against the ongoing human rights violations? The standards by which we judge the Islamic world are obviously lower than the standards we apply to the rest of the world. To me, this seems like some kind of reverse racism, a twisted version of Kipling's old saying about `The White Man's Burden`.

Helle Thorning Schmidt said it succinctly: Democracy comes before Religion. That is necessarily the order of things in the part of the world that fancies itself Democratic. A prerequisite for Democracy is that all men and women have their spiritual freedom and the corresponding uncensored Freedom of Speech, answerable only to the courts; it presupposes that no power is above the Democratic power of the state and that all exercise of religion takes place within this framework.

Islam has, alone among the great religions of the world, a problem with these demands. Or to be more precise: These demands are incompatible with Islam in the current official version. This is not about racism or xenophobia, nor is it about offending beliefs or ridiculing Moslems. That is not what this is about - notwithstanding that one of the Moslems' religious taboos has been broken. This is solely about Democracy and its prerequisite, Freedom of Speech.

Islam won't be democratised before it has had its reformation. There is no "Political Islam" contra a "Religious Islam", even though it would be nice to think so. Islam is an unbreakable monolith of religion and politics where the Koran is the source of all legislation, a fact which constitutions in many Moslem countries make no secret of.

Maybe a better illustration is the Islamic Republic of Iran which has democratic plebiscites to elect members of Parliament and the President, but the candidates are expressly limited to those approved by the Council of Guardians. The Mullahs must approve of each candidate in this so-called democracy. That Iran, furthermore, often publicly hangs teenagers for acts explicitly covered by the UN Human Rights Declaration only serves to illustrate that the more legislation is based on Islam, the greater is the bloody oppression of the citizens' Human Rights.

In the Moslem world, religion is always unconditionally above democracy. In spite of all Moslem countries, Saudi-Arabia excepted, having signed the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, that declaration is simply not valid within the framework of Islam. Instead special Islamic Human Rights have been drafted, which there is pressure on the UN to recognise. They've been compiled in the Cairo-declaration of 1990 and they emphasise Sharia as the framework of all Human endeavors.

Freedom of Religion is completely absent from the declaration, on the contrary it starts with these words: "All human beings form one family whose members are united by submission to God and descent from Adam". In the 25 Articles of the declaration, Shari'ah is mentioned no less than 15 times, God is mentioned 9 times and to be on the safe side, the following two closing Articles have been added:

Article 24: "All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah."

Article 25: "The Islamic Shari'ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration."

It can hardly be said clearer than that: Religion is above all else, Human Rights and Democracy included. Traditional Islam is the absolute contrast to Democracy. There is no use pretending anything else. Islam is the doctrine of the divine order on Earth, and it doesn't tolerate any aberrations. Traditional Islam sees our Democracy as a secular competitor, an infidel adversary and an enemy of the teachings of the Prophet.

Islam is like a one-way street with no exits. If one goes down that road, there is no turning back, no possibility of reforming or renouncing one's faith, no possibility of seeking other solutions and truths than those prescribed in the unchangeable and eternal laws of the Shari'ah. The system is self-perpetuating and completely closed. Islam was created by Muhammed with the intention of making it everlasting and universal.

It's with this in mind that the demand for international legislation against defamation of religions must be viewed. It should be noted that both Nyrup, Elleman, Clinton and Annan support this demand and that the demand is being reviewed by the UN bureaucracy in the form of a resolution proposed by the OIC - the most significant organisation of Islamic countries - who aim to have it included in the Human Rights Declaration. It was OIC who created the special Sharia-based Islamic Human Rights.

The Battle of Khartoon is the perfect pretext for the Islamic countries. Here we have an overt example of a violation of Moslem taboo and thus of the prophet who is worshipped with intense passion - in spite of his own ban on idolatry. The cartoons weren't the reason - this campaign was orchestrated long ago by the OIC as part of their attempt to reconstruct the Nation of Islam and the great community of the ummah. Doubters are free to check the minutes and documents available at OIC's website.

The Islamic world is not content with minding its own affairs; it wants for its religion to spread around the world and the means to do so is the demand for respect for Islam. But respect for Islam leads to submission since all criticism of Islam is the same as disrespect, which again means defaming the prophet. It's hard to understand this for a non-Moslem because we live in the free world. But ask the Moslem dissidents; they know what the price is for transgressing against heavenly laws. Or consider those who are murdered for offending the beloved prophet. Or ask Naser Khader who has around-the-clock protection by the police.

We will probably have, yet again, to establish a policy of containment against the Islamic countries to stop further spread of this anti-democracy - but we cannot limit ourselves to minding our own affairs. To give an example that has a slight touch of humor to it:

Muhammed has been depicted on the Supreme Court building in the US with a sword in one hand and the Koran in the other since the 1930?a as part of a friese about historic lawgivers. Within the last 10 years, big Islamic organisation in the US have demanded that the relief be removed several times, with no succes so far. They see it as offending and it is likely to be removed if the OIC is succesful with their resolution against defamation of religions.

As part of the same process, Islamic countries also want a ban on islamophobia as part of international law. Islamophobia is a neologism which directly translated means fear - clinical fear even - of Islam. I don't see why the Danish People's Party should have a letter of patent on this phobia; I have no problem calling myself an islamophobe and I don't see why it should be considered derogatory.

I fear that our way of life won't survive the clash with the medieval absolutism of Islam if we don't resist it and gain clarity about what our values are and what principles our democracy operates by. Let's turn around the meaning of Islamophobia and make it a positive word, on the order of "democrat", since Islam doesn't recognise and will not be brought to recognise that Democracy is above religion. Democracy should be Islamophobic because Islam has nothing good in store for Democracy. On the contrary.


By Jeff Jacoby

In psychology, "projection" occurs when someone attributes to others his own unpleasant beliefs or motivations. It is projection, for instance, when a liar assumes that everyone he deals with is dishonest, or when a man tempted by adultery accuses his spouse of planning to deceive him. Projection occurs in the public arena as well, as when supporters of racial preferences label "racist" those who believe the law should be strictly colorblind.

A fresh example of projection arrived the other day by way of a news release from the Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation's largest gay and lesbian political organizations. On March 10, Catholic Charities of Boston had announced that it was being forced to shut down its highly regarded adoption services, since it could not in good conscience comply with the government's demand that it place children for adoption with homosexual couples. Caught between the rock of Catholic teaching, which regards such adoptions as "gravely immoral," and Massachusetts regulations, which bar adoption agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, the Boston Archdiocese had hoped to obtain a waiver on religious-freedom grounds. But when legislative leaders refused to consider the request, the archdiocese was left with no option but to end a ministry it had been performing for a century.

Whereupon the Human Rights Campaign issued its news release. It was headlined "Boston Catholic Charities Puts Ugly Political Agenda Before Child Welfare," and a more perfect illustration of psychological projection would be hard to imagine. For the political agenda driving this affair is the one favored by the Human Rights Campaign and its many allies in the media and state government: the normalization of homosexual adoption. So important is that agenda to its supporters that they will allow nothing to stand in its way -- not even the well-being of children in dire need of safe and loving families. Catholic Charities excels at arranging adoptions for children in foster care, particularly those who are older or handicapped, or who bear the scars of abuse or addiction. Yet the Human Rights Campaign and its friends would rather see this invaluable work come to an end than allow Catholic Charities to decline gay adoptions.

Note well: Catholic Charities made no effort to block same-sex couples from adopting. It asked no one to endorse its belief that homosexual adoption is wrong. It wanted only to go on finding loving parents for troubled children, without having to place any of those children in homes it deemed unsuitable. Gay or lesbian couples seeking to adopt would have remained free to do so through any other agency. In at least one Massachusetts diocese, in fact, the standing Catholic Charities policy had been to refer same-sex couples to other adoption agencies.

The church's request for a conscience clause should have been unobjectionable, at least to anyone whose priority is rescuing kids from foster care. Those who spurned that request out of hand must believe that adoption is designed primarily for the benefit of adults, not children. The end of Catholic Charities' involvement in adoption may suit the Human Rights Campaign. But it can only hurt the interests of the damaged and vulnerable children for whom Catholic Charities has long been a source of hope.

Is this a sign of things to come? In the name of nondiscrimination, will more states force religious organizations to swallow their principles or go out of business? Same-sex adoption is becoming increasingly common, but it is still highly controversial. Millions of Americans would readily agree that gay and lesbian couples can make loving parents, yet insist nevertheless that kids are better off with loving parents of both sexes. That is neither a radical view nor an intolerant one, but if the kneecapping of Catholic Charities is any indication, it may soon be unsafe to express.

"As much as one may wish to live and let live," Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon wrote in 2004, during the same-sex marriage debate in Massachusetts, "the experience in other countries reveals that once these arrangements become law, there will be no live-and-let-live policy for those who differ. Gay-marriage proponents use the language of openness, tolerance, and diversity, yet one foreseeable effect of their success will be to usher in an era of intolerance and discrimination.... Every person and every religion that disagrees will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against. The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don't go along. Religious institutions will be hit with lawsuits if they refuse to compromise their principles." The ax fell on Catholic Charities just two years after those words were written. Where will it have fallen two years hence?

Pizza chain thinks outside box to get into schools: "A national fast food chain has found a way to get pizzas back into Queensland schools, despite a state government program to stop students eating junk food. The Queensland Government singles out pizzas as one of the main causes of child obesity in its Smart Choices program, aimed at curbing the sale of junk food in school tuckshops and encouraging healthy eating. But the Brisbane-based Eagle Boys pizza company has had three of its varieties - Hawaiian, chicken supreme and veggie delight - checked for nutritional value by the testing company Food and Agricultural Laboratories of Australia. Eagle Boys marketing director Greg Bowell said the testing company found the three varieties met the nutritional guidelines set by Smart Choices. "This will allow our franchises to negotiate with schools to sell these three varieties of our pizzas at their tuckshops," Mr Bowell said yesterday".

16 March, 2006


A police force that broke sex and race discrimination laws with its recruitment policy has paid an undisclosed sum to a disappointed job applicant who was rejected solely because he was a white man. Avon and Somerset police discarded nearly 200 applications from young white men after a recruitment drive last year to give greater opportunity to women and ethnic minority candidates. It claimed that white males were “over- represented” on the force. Colin Port, the Chief Constable, admitted last week that it had been unlawful for the force to select applicants solely on the grounds of race and sex.

Yesterday the force confirmed that it had reached an out-of-court settlement with a rejected candidate who had taken his case to an employment tribunal. The settlement could now open the way to claims by the other 185 who were turned down. The payment was made last week to Ralph Welsman, of Bristol. Mr Welsman’s solicitor, Jennifer Andrews, said: “We are pleased that Avon and Somerset police has admitted that they discriminated against Mr Welsman. The law is there to protect everyone from being subjected to discrimination. “There are instances where organisations want to ensure that their workforce is representative of the local community to meet the needs of the public. “If this need is justified there are ways of doing this within the law. Avon and Somerset police acted outside these legal boundaries.”

In a statement, Mr Welsman said: “I am happy that the police have admitted that they were wrong to discriminate against me on the grounds of race and sex.” Avon and Somerset police rejected suggestions that Mr Welsman had received as much as £25,000 but refused to disclose the figure.

Nearly 800 people applied for 180 vacancies at Avon and Somerset police but 186 of those from white men were rejected at the first stage on the grounds of their race and sex. White women subsequently filled 49 per cent of the 180 posts, black and ethnic- minority males 4 per cent and ethnic-minority women 1 per cent.

The Police Federation and the Commission for Racial Equality condemned the force’s employment policy. Mr Port said last week: “It was not, and has never been, our intention to discriminate against anyone who applies for a position with Avon and Somerset Constabulary. At the time we considered that this represented an untried and untested area.” The policy has since been scrapped


Verbal Sidearm

By Katrine Winkel Holm in Denmark -- making the point that it is the LEFT who are the "Islamophobes"

ISLAMOPHOBIA. A new, often used word. An effective verbal sidearm: That's Islamophobia, they say, and the attacker is checkmate, for a while at least. Maybe it's time to turn that weapon against those who use it. That is what this article intends to do.

But first: What does it really mean? Literally, it simply means fear of Islam. In my opinion there may be good reasons for such a fear. Just ask Salman Rushdie or Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But in the context in which the self-proclaimed euro-islamist Tariq Ramadan uses it, it means a clinical fear of Islam. A delusion, in other words, because the implicit contention of Mr. Ramadan is that it is not reasonable to fear Islam. Islam can easily be reconciled with Democracy and Freedom of Speech. Islam is a religion of peace, not a religion of violence. If we assume that that is true, the mystery seems to be why lately there have been so many who advocate limiting the Freedom of Speech on account of Moslems' feelings. Why do members of PEN want to make a law to protect religious minorities - Moslems - "against defamation due to their religion."

Why does EU-Commissioner Franco Frattini want to introduce a self-regulating set of rules to European media to hinder Freedom of Speech from being abused?

Why does Javier Solana state that he will do his utmost to prevent publication of further cartoons of Muhammed? Why do grey-haired law professors suddenly become advocates of strengthening the moldering blasphemy law? Why do leftist intellectuals take special care not to offend Islam, when they have so far not shown such consideration to Christianity? My guess is this: because they are afraid. Because the embassy burnings, the boycott, and the frothing curses which have hailed down upon our country have filled them with fear. Fear of Islam. They have met a steely determination - and yielded. THEY are the true Islamophobes.

Christianity, whose founder was a peaceful king of donkeys who rejected all secular power, he has not enjoyed the same respect in leftist intellectual circles. Georg Brandes said that he was filled with the most livid hatred of Christianity and since his time it has been considered good manners to criticise and scoff at holy men. As long as they were Christians. As long as they were harmless and easy to laugh at.

Now another kind of holy men have arrived in Europe, a kind that doesn't accept that their prophet is ridiculed. "All who accuse Islam of being a violent religion shall be decapitated." So said a placard at a Muhammed-demonstration in London. And in spite of the inherent humor of such a statement, the meaning of it can easily make Europeans who value their life reconsider their priorities.

Isn't it, on further reflection, better to respect than to criticise Islam? And the uncountable - in their own opinion fearless - members of the R‚publique de Lettres join in this Islamophobic childrens' logic. Their bile is, at no cost to themselves, poured upon Fogh and his coalition, whom they know have neither the will nor the opportunity to harm them. But in dealing with Islamism they walk softly indeed. They're screaming at mice and grinning at wolves.

Take, for instance, the Historian of Religion Tim Jensen, who after the embassy burnings proclaimed on the TV2/Nyhederne news programme that in the future he would be more delicate in dealing with the Quran than he had been in the past - now that he knew how offended Moslems can get. Tim Jensen is a true Islamophobe. What is more: The reactions from Jensen, Solana, Frattini and the members of the PEN club are proof in themselves that there is reason to fear Islam. Theirs IS a reaction of fear. What they are really saying is that Islam is not dangerous - if you're careful. Special consideration must be shown, special restriction must be put in place, especially respectless individuals must be silenced, because if the Europeans aren't careful, the Islamists of Europe might become dangerous.

Such a reaction to the growing Islamist threat can only be called this: Cowardly lack of civil courage. Defeatist Islamophobia. But, am I not an Islamophobe, then? If Islamophobia equals fear of totalitarian Islam, I will wear that badge proudly. But I am not so scared that I can't admit to being scared. And I am not so scared that I dare not criticise the intellectual terror of Islamism - to borrow a phrase from Fay Weldon.

When one is faced with a threat as dangerous as Islamism, there are two basic ways in which one may react. One can try to resist it and refuse to be subdued. Or one may try to accomodate it, make concessions to it in the hope of dampening its wrath and its dangerousness. The former reaction can be called the Churchillian reaction, the other the Chamberlain reaction.

Our Prime Minister has - thank God - chosen the Churchillian reaction, the Islamophobes have chosen the Chamberlain reaction. Islamist-appeasement is what is practiced in the modern environs of Brussels. It's lack of energy and fear that is the mark of the leftist intellectuals who daren't unanimously stand firm in defense of the our liberties. Islamophobia and then some, a reaction which, considering the circumstances, brings with it mortal peril.

That is why it is time to say to leftist intellectuals; Niels Barfoed, Mette Winge and Tim Jensen: Be Men, stop this defeatist Islamophobia and show will to resist the Islamist threat.

When is Free Speech Too Free?

By Jim Paine

The point has been made before, but bears frequent repeating: If radicals are proud enough of their opinions to share those opinions with a public group, why are so many radicals outraged when those opinions are broadcast to a wider audience?

The first thing to happen, for example, when 'geography teacher' Jay Bennish's anti-American rant was made public was an attack from Bennish's attorney on Sean Allen, the high school student who recorded and then publicized Bennish's 20-minute in-class diatribe. If Bennish were courageously Speaking Truth To Power, why then was he so eager to condemn the agent of that Truth's broad dissemination? And parenthetically, is anyone besides me just a tad tired of the phrase "speaking truth to power"? The phrase implies brave speech in the face of terrible retribution, but what retribution has Bennish faced? He's back teaching classes, albeit with the apparent promise to present both sides of whatever argument he's discussing (what a huge concession; I had always assumed-wrongly, it turns out-that that was the responsibility of every educator).

Ward Churchill has often made the same complaint, claiming repeatedly that he was speaking to a specific group of people (as if Truth is different to different subsets of humans-truth is truth, despite Pilot's rhetoric, Bennish's malice, or Churchill's demagoguery), or claiming that he was misquoted out of context, or simply claiming that whatever he "performs" in public is his property and cannot be re-broadcast without his permission (it's as if Elijah-or if you prefer, Cassandra-put a copyright notice on each of their prophesies to prevent unauthorized repetition; of course, in Cassandra's case, that might not have been bad advice).

Even the most unobservant observer can see that in both of these cases, with both of these demagogues, they wish to prevent the broad dissemination of their rants for the very simple reason that their reasoning as well as their conclusions, when exposed to the "critical thinking" they claim to value so highly, falls apart like the philosophical house of cards it is. It's one thing to assert that the US is the most violent nation on earth in the history of mankind to a group of tenth-graders (in Bennish's case) or a group of wannabe-anarchists (in Churchill's case); it's quite another to see that assertion published on the front pages of the nation's newspapers where it can be torn apart quite vigorously by people who aren't looking for a good grade (in the case of Bennish's students) and who aren't looking for a rationalization for their self-hatred (as in the case of Churchill's anarchists).

Educators of the Bennish/Churchill ilk should welcome the free press given to their beliefs. If their conclusions are valid, then a much larger group of people will be exposed to that truth, and they'll be that much closer to the goal of their Just Cause.

Of course, they might also be ridiculed and shunned as lying, manipulative little goebbels. But that's the risk they take in the "free exchange of ideas" they would have us believe they worship.

15 March, 2006


The Mother of All Confabulations goes back to 1986. That's when feminist Phyllis Chesler alleged in her book Mothers on Trial that divorcing fathers win child custody in 70% of cases. Never mind that the actual number of fathers winning custody was only 15%. And don't worry that Chesler's conclusion was based on a sample of 60 discontented women referred by feminist lawyers -- still, it made for a great story.

A decade later, the National Organization of Women was beginning to run out of real issues. So it set out to invent new outrages calculated to rally the faithful. In 1996 the N.O.W.-nincompoops passed a resolution that repeated Chesler's bogus 70% custody figure. Then they added a new twist, claiming that patriarchal oafs who wanted to stay involved in their children's lives after a divorce represented an "abuse of power in order to control in the same fashion as do batterers." How's that for high-decibel gender-baiting?

That claim may have succeeded in swelling the N.O.W. membership rolls, but it still needed some scientific apple-polishing. So they brought in the Wellesley Centers for Women, a group with an impeccable reputation for research integrity. Well, almost. It was the WCW, of course, that had earlier published that fraudulent fiction of female academic underachievement, How Schools Shortchange Girls. And sure enough, the Wellesley women delivered. In 2002 the WCW published "Battered Mothers Speak Out: A Human Rights Report on Domestic Violence and Child Custody in the Massachusetts Family Courts." People were ecstatic because the report vindicated everything that the N.O.W. had been saying.

Take look closer, and you see the WCW report is based on interviews with a small group of 40 Massachusetts women. Worse, the report lacks any objective proof of their allegations of rampant legal bias. Which once again proves you can reach almost any conclusion, just so long as you're allowed to hand-pick your subjects and don't ask too many hard questions. Soon, the whole M.O.M. Squad -- Joan Meier, Jay Silverman, Lundy Bancroft, and others -- was singing the Chesler catechism. Take a look at what they pass off as "research," and you'll see they all reference each other in an ever-expanding circle of self-serving citations.

Most disturbing of all is the tale of sociologist Amy Neustein. She was one of the featured speakers at the M.O.M. conference that was recently held in upstate New York. Last year Neustein wrote a piece in The Jewish Press alleging her ex-husband sexually abused their daughter Sherry. Neustein won lots of sympathy points telling people she lost the custody battle due to a "malfunctioning court system that punished me for trying to protect my daughter from abuse." But a few months later Sherry, now a graduate student in New York City, came along with a rather different account: "She would begin by telling me a sordid -- and false -- story about my father, such as a detailed account about how he had molested me or about how he had thrown me violently against a wall.. The truth, however, is that my father never sexually abused me."

And let's not forget Sadiya Alilire, the woman who was portrayed in PBS' Breaking the Silence as a heroic mom who was done wrong by the legal system -- but was later outed by court documents proving her to be a serial child abuser.

But 20 years after Phyllis Chesler made her preposterous claim, her siren call of family destruction continues to make the rounds. Worse, the Mothers Opposed to Men are on the offensive, setting up websites, attracting sympathetic media coverage, and lobbying state legislators. This time, it's not persons' money that's at stake. It's our families that need to be shored up, and our children who desperately need their fathers. Remember how the Great Society evicted fathers from their homes and turned Black families into wards of the government? That's what the M.O.M. Squad has in mind for the rest of us.


A Homophobe Comes Out: Free at Last!

A satire with a Point

I was once afraid people would find out I was "different" (know what I mean?). I am really angry at having to keep all those feelings pent up all those years. Angry at those who put me in this straitjacket, and actually even angry at myself. But I recently heard about a new theory that I have come to accept as fact: there is a gene that makes people like me, see? I know it because I feel? And I know liberals will be able to appreciate this, because there is not a shred of evidence for it, just my feelings.

In retrospect, I guess it all started at Uncle Wilber and Aust Selma's farm, the summer Mom got TB and my parents were too busy with doctors and rearranging their lives to take care of me. During my first afternoon nap, Cousin Fred opened the door and sneaked in. I squinted at him with one eye as he came over to the bed in big giant steps. A lot of quick thoughts went through my mind but the main ones were those rumors the neighbor kids had told me. It seems Fred was the barnyard casanova. At least one goat, a number of cows and even a hen had apparently succumbed to his manliness. As Fred daintily grabbed the bed covers, I remembered the mending basket that Aunt Selma had left by the bed. I reached over and grabbed a big old scissors and said "if you lay one filthy hand on me I'll cut it all off and serve it to you tomorrow as sausage and mountain oysters." He cussed me and ran out.

I knew it was wrong to be this way. Mom was a social worker and often brought home literature about how important it is to be whatever sex you wanted to be and not to pay any attention to biology,which could be easily changed by lopping it off (or lopping it on if you were born a girl), preferably at taxpayers' expense once we completed our "culture change" according to plan and became an enlightened society. I knew she worried about me and thought I might reject her kindly ways toward "those with different sexual orientations." She was right to worry. I was born a freak. And I hated myself for it.

But that was then. This is now. That's right. I was BORN to be a homophobe, I am proud of it and I am COMING OUT! Oh Lord, it feels so good to get that off my chest. Oh, no, that's not ALL I have to say on the subject, not by a longshot. You see I have a feeling deep down inside, a kind of fantastic dream, that someday, we homophobes will be able to hold our head up high and gain full societal acceptance, just like liberals and gays, in academe, in Hollywood, in the media, even in the the schools of California and Massachusetts, where we are openly scorned and made to feel ashamed of ourselves, like we should never have been born.

I can't explain the feeling of sheer exhilaration to be able to say it, at long last: Yes, Mom, yes, Dad. I AM A HOMOPHOBE! Yes, get over it, World: Homophobia is here to stay! And it is absolutely magnificent, exhilarating, liberating beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of! I not only accept myself. I adore myself. And I can't wait to live the lifestyle, give myself over completely to perversion: maybe get married in a church, have kids, read the Bible with them, homeschool them. Who knows? Oh yeah! Good morning world. You are truly beautiful!

And if you are a closet homophobe: Hey, you were born that way. It's ok to come out now and be all you can be. I invite you to stand with me, unafraid. You're in a safe place now!


A good Australian satire

The satirist is pointing out that much of what is traditionally associated with Australia's greatest national day -- Anzac day, commemorating Australia's war dead -- could be seen as "hate speech" etc. by modern politically correct standards. He also "spins" events in a mockery of the way that many Leftists (Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky etc.) do. The satire is in the form of a letter to a police chief

I have it on good authority that white supremacists/Neo-nazis/Anglo-racists are planning a mass rally on the 25th of April this year. They plan to march down the streets of every town in Australia carrying symbols of racism. This may be identified as a blue flag with a Union Jack, a large seven pointed star and a cross made up of stars, which I may add, is highly offensive to the Muslim community in our great multicultural society.

These racists call themselves "ANZACS". Every year they celebrate the racist exploits of their founders, who, 91 years ago, invaded the peaceful Muslim nation of Turkey [During World War I]. Here they fired guns on innocent Turks and killed many. Some even shouted vile racial abuse like "Johnny Turk" and "Abdul". I find this behaviour most offensive. Fortunately, all these vile racist scum have now passed on.

However, there was a new generation of Neo Nazis (codenamed ANZACS) who continued their vile racist behaviour in New Guinea [During World War II]. There were some innocent Japanese tourists on the way to Canberra from Japan. However, these evil ANZACS, again without provocation, travelled all the way to New Guinea to vilify them. Again, they shot at them with Lee Enfield .303 rifles and shouted racist abuse like "nips", "japs", "slopes" and so forth. Some poor Japanese were taken to camps in Australia, and were shot when these poor refugees tried to escape. The "ANZACS" even enslaved the indigenous population, calling them "Fuzzy Wuzzies" and making them carry injured racists and their supplies.

Then another generation of these "ANZACS" went all the way to Vietnam to harass innocent Vietnamese villagers. Again, these poor Asians were shot at by racist Australians and were called "gooks" and " slopes". I went to Vietnam recently backpacking; I even have the Tiger Beer T-shirt to prove it to everyone. They were beautiful people and I cannot see why the evil neo-nazi ANZACS were harassing them.

Even more of these racists have gone to Afghanistan and Iraq to harass and vilify peaceful Muslim villagers, egged on by the evil John Howard.

The older racist ANZACS you will find residing at nursing homes all over the country. I suggest you bash their doors down and arrest them for riot and affray. Others can be found "bowling" or "fishing". They have numerous safe houses, called RSLs' [War veterans' clubs]. These should all be shut down as they are hothouses of racism.

However, I suggest a huge police presence at these planned racist rallies on the 25 th of April this year, where all these racists will be out in the open and easy to belt with nightsticks, rounded up and arrested. My partner, Darp Hau, has offered to photograph those drinking "beer" or having "BBQs". Their homes can later be firebombed, their families harassed, their pets baited and windows smashed.

I hope that I have been of assistance in safeguarding our wonderful multicultural society and preserving the diversity of Australia, which is repsonsible for the harmony and cohesion we enjoy today.

14 March, 2006


Mum Julie Scott was called in by a school to stick a plaster on her daughter’s cut finger because teachers were BANNED from using them. Emily, nine, had nicked a tiny piece of skin with the zip of her coat pocket at playtime and the wound oozed a little blood. But her school recently binned all plasters under tough new safety rules, in case any kids were allergic to latex.

Teachers told Emily they could only wash it and dab it with a paper towel — so mum-of-two Julie, 38, was phoned to bring in a plaster and administer it. She said: “It’s absolutely beyond belief.” Her husband Kevan added: “It’s the nanny state gone mad. “If they’re worried about being sued, I’d suggest there are more people who might sue for NOT putting a plaster on a bleeding cut, than are allergic to latex.”

Emily hurt herself on Wednesday lunchtime in the playground of 323-pupil Uphill Primary School near Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. Businessman Kevan, 39, said: “She just had a little cut where the fingernail meets the skin. Would she have been taken to hospital if nobody had been at home to answer the call?”

School head David Edwards said he took a “common sense approach” to guidelines laid down by North Somerset Council. He is reviewing his policy. A council spokesman admitted: “This seems to be a misinterpretation. We might need to tidy up the guidelines a bit to avoid any confusion.”

An estimated 1.5 million of Britain’s 60 million people are allergic to latex. Sun Health Reporter Emma Morton said the allergy was rare in under-16s. She added: “The reaction is minimal — a slight red rash in most cases.” The British Association for Anaphylaxis — the medical term for a life-threatening reaction — had never heard of severe reaction to a sticking plaster.



East Asian and European cultures have long been very different, Richard Nisbett argued in his recent book "The Geography of Thought." East Asians tend to be more interdependent than the individualists of the West, which he attributed to the social constraints and central control handed down as part of the rice-farming techniques Asians have practiced for thousands of years.

A separate explanation for such long- lasting character traits may be emerging from the human genome. Humans have continued to evolve throughout prehistory and perhaps to the present day, according to a new analysis of the genome reported last week by Jonathan Pritchard, a population geneticist at the University of Chicago. So human nature may have evolved as well. If so, scientists and historians say, a fresh look at history may be in order. Evolutionary changes in the genome could help explain cultural traits that last over many generations as societies adapted to different local pressures.

Trying to explain cultural traits is, of course, a sensitive issue. The descriptions of national character common in the works of 19th-century historians were based on little more than prejudice. Together with unfounded notions of racial superiority they lent support to disastrous policies. But like phrenology, a wrong idea that held a basic truth (the brain's functions are indeed localized), the concept of national character could turn out to be not entirely baseless, at least when applied to societies shaped by specific evolutionary pressures.

In a study of East Asians, Europeans and Africans, Pritchard and his colleagues found 700 regions of the genome where genes appear to have been reshaped by natural selection in recent times. In East Asians, the average date of these selection events is 6,600 years ago. Many of the reshaped genes are involved in taste, smell or digestion, suggesting that East Asians experienced some wrenching change in diet. Since the genetic changes occurred around the time that rice farming took hold, they may mark people's adaptation to a historical event, the beginning of the Neolithic revolution as societies switched from wild to cultivated foods.

Some of the genes are active in the brain and, although their role is not known, may have affected behavior. So perhaps the brain gene changes seen by Pritchard in East Asians have some connection with the psychological traits described by Nisbett. Some geneticists believe the variations they are seeing in the human genome are so recent that they may help explain historical processes. "Since it looks like there has been significant evolutionary change over historical time, we're going to have to rewrite every history book ever written," said Gregory Cochran, a population geneticist at the University of Utah. "The distribution of genes influencing relevant psychological traits must have been different in Rome than it is today," he added. "The past is not just another country but an entirely different kind of people."

John McNeill, a historian at Georgetown University in Washington, said "it should be no surprise to anyone that human nature is not a constant" and that selective pressures have probably been stronger in the last 10,000 years than at any other epoch in human evolution. Genetic information could therefore have a lot to contribute, although only a minority of historians might make use of it, he said.

The political scientist Francis Fukuyama has distinguished between high-trust and low-trust societies, arguing that trust is a basis for prosperity. Since his 1995 book on the subject, researchers have found that oxytocin, a chemical active in the brain, increases the level of trust, at least in psychological experiments. Oxytocin levels are known to be under genetic control in other mammals. It is easy to imagine that in societies where trust pays off, generation after generation, the more trusting individuals would have more progeny and the oxytocin-promoting genes would become more common in the population. If conditions should then change, and the society be engulfed by strife and civil warfare for generations, oxytocin levels might fall as the paranoid produced more progeny.

Napoleon Chagnon for many decades studied the Yanomamo, a warlike people who live in the forests of Brazil and Venezuela. He found that men who had killed in battle had three times as many children as those who had not. Since personality is heritable, this would be a mechanism for Yanomamo nature to evolve and become fiercer than usual.

Since the agricultural revolution, humans have to a large extent created their own environment. But that does not mean the genome has ceased to evolve. The genome can respond to cultural practices as well as to any other kind of change. Northern Europeans, for instance, are known to have responded genetically to the drinking of cow's milk, a practice that began in the Funnel Beaker Culture that thrived 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. They developed lactose tolerance, the unusual ability to digest lactose in adulthood. The gene, which shows up in Pritchard's test, is almost universal among people of Holland and Sweden who live in the region of the former Funnel Beaker culture.

The most recent example of a society's possible genetic response to its circumstances is one advanced by Cochran and Henry Harpending, an anthropologist at the University of Utah. In an article last year they argued that the unusual pattern of genetic diseases found among Ashkenazi Jews (those of Central and Eastern Europe) was a response to the demands for increased intelligence imposed when Jews were largely confined to the intellectually demanding professions of money lending and tax collection. Though this period lasted only from A.D. 900 to about 1700, it was long enough, the two scientists argue, for natural selection to favor any variant gene that enhanced cognitive ability.

One theme in their argument is that the variant genes perform related roles, which is unlikely to happen by chance since mutations hit the genome randomly. A set of related mutations is often the mark of an evolutionary quick fix against some sudden threat, like malaria. But the variant genes common among the Ashkenazi do not protect against any known disease. In the Cochran and Harpending thesis, the genes were a response to the demanding social niche into which Ashkenazi Jews were forced and the nimbleness required to be useful to their unpredictable hosts.

No one has yet tested the Cochran- Harpending thesis, which remains just an interesting, though well worked out, conjecture. But one of its predictions is that the same genes should be targets of selection in any other population where there is a demand for greater cognitive skills. That demand might have well have arisen among the first settled societies where people had to deal with the quite novel concepts of surpluses, property, value and quantification. And indeed Pritchard's team detected strong selection among East Asians in the region of the gene that causes Gaucher's disease, one of the variant genes common among Ashkenazim.


Prime Minister Howard's "incorrect" Australian voters:

I am writing this sitting in a coffee shop in Narellan, a booming centre near Camden in south-western Sydney. It's in the federal seat of Macarthur, which, like most on the fringe, is held by the Liberals. I have just met some people who I think help explain why John Howard is still Prime Minister.

Harrington Park is one of the best of the new housing estates. About 2500 homes have been built in the past decade on what was once the farm of Sir Warwick Fairfax. Yakou Marcus is a businessman who came to Australia from Egypt and lived in Bosley Park, near Liverpool, for 20 years. He says Harrington Park is "a very quiet area, very good for peace. Better than Bosley Park because there aren't too many problems. In Bosley Park Chinese, Arabs, Assyrians, but here they're all special people." He likes his house so much he bought two more blocks in the suburb, one for his son and one as an investment.

Poppy and Bill Prezios and their children moved to Harrington Park from Eastlakes. Bill says their old suburb was "too busy . and it's not that friendly. Everyone keeps to themselves. There's no competition out here, everyone's equal. My brother-in-law bought at Sans Souci for $1.3 [million] but I wouldn't live there."

The couple stayed with their in-laws for two years while their house was being built. "It's not really family-oriented there," Poppy says. "The kids would go to the beach at Brighton-le-Sands to play and it was scary - a lot of violence, a lot of angry people." At Harrington Park they have many friends in their street and leave the doors open when they go visiting. For this, Poppy leaves home at 6.30am to drive to her job at Sydney University.

Frank is a retired Italian carpenter and waiter who moved from Green Valley to Harrington Park last year. "I like this area because it's more comfortable, more quiet," he says. "Around Green Valley, a lot of Arabs moved in, there was a mosque not far from me. I didn't have any trouble, but who knows in the future, because at Punchbowl you get a lot of problem people."

He says he likes Harrington Park because it has "real quality people. I'm very concerned about these things." His neighbours are Indian but "they're good, they're not the Indians with turbans on their heads . We're happy here."

These comments were provided spontaneously in response to my general questions about why these people had moved house. I know some of them will make readers wince and start to have dark thoughts about the innate racism of the Australian people. But I would disagree with such an interpretation. I believe they simply reflect the fears and experiences of ordinary, decent people, exposed to some of the pressures and uncertainties of large-scale immigration involving record numbers of people from non-European backgrounds. There is a concern about physical security, the most basic of human needs, entirely valid if you look at the relevant crime figures.

They also reflect a common way of understanding and dealing with the world through rule-of-thumb stereotypes about strangers. These people are not symbolic analysts, they do not search the internet for sophisticated theory about racism and its causes. They just want to do their jobs and make sure their children are safe when they're walking home from school. Their needs are, if you like, simple, and they want leaders who respect those needs.

They also want to feel the security of belonging to a community, which Harrington Park gives them. There's nothing elitist about this: we're talking about a normal desire to live with others who are also polite, clean and non-violent. There's a political dimension to this too: I don't know how they vote, but I suspect they want leaders who will allow them to assimilate and not keep treating them - or anyone else - as an ethnic category.

John Howard gets this. Labor doesn't.

A related thing Labor doesn't get is the implications of the prosperity of recent decades. Prosperity changes people and therefore changes politics. People look to politicians more to manage solutions than to talk up problems. Of course it's hard for Labor to be positive from Opposition. But a bigger problem is that the party was set up to represent one side in a class war that (like the union movement) hardly exists any more. Labor lacks a theory relevant to modern life, which means it lacks insight and purpose.


13 March, 2006


Oxford University served an unprecedentedly strict injunction yesterday to protect students and staff by banning animal rights activists from screaming through megaphones or taking photographs. The university wants to shield students from noise and harassment during the exam term. Its decision comes after Tony Blair held a private meeting with senior university figures, industry leaders and police to discuss the threat. No 10 confirmed that the Prime Minister recently met business leaders at Downing Street to discuss strategy on animal rights extremists.

The legal action tightens an existing injunction, which allowed a weekly demonstration against the construction of a new 20 million pound animal research laboratory, but placed no restriction on noise. Protesters regularly use horns, whistles and play tapes of dogs howling. They also photograph and video staff, students and construction workers. The High Court order was granted at a hearing behind closed doors on Monday but kept secret from activists until they arrived at the university to protest yesterday. They reacted with outrage, ripping up copies of the order but complying with its demands.

The Oxford injunction has now become one of the most restrictive served against animal rights demonstrators. But the university said it had no choice as even charitable bodies with links to Oxford were being threatened, and that recent website postings had become more threatening. David Holmes, university Registrar, said: "The working lives of many people in this university are being disrupted by the intimidating levels of loud, abusive and threatening behaviour by protesters. Being subjected to such intimidation for hours on end is deeply unpleasant and stressful." However, the university's attitude towards freedom to demonstrate is called into question by its decision to apply for an even more stringent injunction at a full hearing next month. It wants the weekly protest cut from four hours to one and the maximum number of demonstrators reduced from 50 to 12. The university claims these restrictions would be "proportionate to the wide range of threats being made against university staff and students and those associated with it".

The new order will also protect the shareholders of organisations that make donations to the university, as well as staff, students, contractors, suppliers and their families. It will remain in place until a full High Court hearing on April 3. The emergency order was served on Speak, the group campaigning against the research facility, and the veteran activists Mel Broughton, John Curtin, Robert Cogswell and Max Gastone. The papers also name Robin Webb, as a representative of the Animal Liberation Front, and Amanda Richards, the former leader of Save Newchurch Guinea Pigs. Greg and Natasha Avery, co-founders of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, are also named.

The order forbids protesters from using any "megaphone, klaxon, siren, whistle, drum, noise amplification or any other instrument or appliance to generate noise within the exclusion zone". It bans cameras or video cameras, including those on mobile phones. Lawson-Cruttenden, the law firm which brought the injunction, said: "This case is about balancing the right to protest peacefully against the right not to be harassed."


Animal research protests: what next?

The demo to defend the half-built Oxford lab was a very good start, but there are bigger beasts to slay than a handful of animal rights cranks

by Brendan O'Neill

I've been on a lot of demos in my time, but none quite like Saturday's march in Oxford from Broad Street to South Parks Road to defend the building of a biomedical research laboratory at Oxford University where experiments will be conducted on animals.

Animal rights activists have demonstrated against the lab almost every week for the past 18 months; the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a ragbag of self-deluded 'freedom fighters' for animals, even described all academics, students and other workers at Oxford as 'legitimate targets' in its 'war' on the laboratory. On Saturday, the fightback started: around 700 people, a mix of scientists, academics, Home County wives and a generous sprinkling of bright and angry students, marched on the lab shouting such memorable slogans as 'What do we want? The Oxford lab! When do we want it? Now!', and 'Animal research cures disease, Human beings over chimpanzees!' (that one made some of the Home County types a little uncomfortable). The pro-testing protest easily overshadowed the anti-testing protest (which was taking place, as usual, opposite the lab), both on the day itself and in the miles of media coverage that followed.

Pro-Test, the group behind the pro-lab demo, is the brainchild of a 16-year-old school dropout from Swindon. He got the idea for it in late January, when he and two friends visited Oxford and decided to scribble the words 'Support progress: build the Oxford lab' on a makeshift placard and parade around the city centre. Now, less than a month after these inauspicious beginnings, Pro-Test has an organising committee mainly made up of Oxford students, an efficient press officer who has got coverage everywhere from The Times to the Guardian to the BBC, and has held its first big demo at which hundreds of people made a loud and lively public stand in defence of the lab, which is more than the government or even Oxford University itself has ever done. Such speedy growth of a forward-looking protest suggests that, while it sometimes appears as if animal rights activists are making all the running on this heated issue, in fact there are lots of people out there who feel strongly about defending science and progress.

It was hard not to impressed, even carried away by the positivity of the protest. I mean, how many demos do you go on these days where a majority of the marchers are in their late teens or early 20s and whose aims are to defend 'science, reasoned debate and the welfare of mankind', no less? Not many, I'm guessing. But if this defence of science and reason is to be more than a flash in the pan (or a flash on the front pages of the papers) we need a sober analysis of both the demo itself and its wider impact on public debate. The demo may have gone against the 'cultural script' on science and progress, but sections of it embraced the cultural script on the politics of fear and even NIMBYism. And in the hands of the media the demo has become a story, not of progress vs backwardness, but of poor, put-upon students standing up to evil fanatics (the ALF etc) who apparently pose a threat to civilised values. There's a danger that this stand in defence of reason could be subsumed by some of the other unreasonable trends of our time.

It was clear from chatting and arguing with some of the protesters (there was very much an air of open debate on the demo) that even some of the hard arguments about animal research itself need to be had out and won. More than a few protesters told me they supported animal experiments but not on primates. 'It's been shown that they are like us', said one student. 'And that makes it unacceptable to cage them or conduct experiments on them'. I noticed that the little leaflet being handed out by Pro-Test - titled 'Animal research: the facts' - had a picture of a rat on it, the unpopular rodent that most people would not mind seeing with electrodes stuck in its body or pills put down its throat. When some of the protesters chanted 'Human beings over chimpanzees!' there were murmurs of counter-protest - some clearly considered it too bald a statement of human superiority over animals and were worried, in the words of one woman, that it would 'not win us much support'.

Yet the fact is that experiments on primates have been, and continue to be, very beneficial to medical and scientific progress. It is precisely because they are 'like us' biologically that experimenting on them is useful; and it is because they are not like us in terms of consciousness or self-awareness that experimenting on them is acceptable. As Helene Guldberg has argued on spiked: 'The availability of non-human models with similar neuroanatomical and biochemical properties to humans is vital in progressing our understanding of the brain and for developing new medicines to combat neurological disorders.' (See Monkeying around, by Helene Guldberg.) Experiments on primates have played an important part in the development of chemotherapy and organ transplantation, and in the current attempts to develop a vaccine against AIDS. There is only so much you can do with a rat; much medical research requires the availability of primates for experimentation.

In many ways, the primate question cuts to what ought to be the heart of this debate: the recognition that there's a fundamental moral difference between humans and animals. Human beings are conscious and aware and we are able to shape and make the world around us; animals, including primates, are none of these things. The vast majority of people accept that there are big differences between rats and humans or guinea pigs and humans (except, perhaps, one of the protesters on the anti-lab demo, who was wearing a badge that said 'Rats have rights'; how misanthropic can you get?), which means that the vast majority of people accept experiments on rats and guinea pigs. But they are a lot more unsure about allowing experiments on monkeys or apes. This is where the hard debate must take place. We should be willing to stand up and say that it is entirely moral and proper to experiment on primates in the name of medical and scientific research that benefits humanity. Those on the demo who said they didn't support experiments on primates are really not that different from the seven-year-old son of a friend of mine, who was also marching, who declared that he supported animal experimentation but not on dogs, because he likes dogs.

Some on the demo seemed to be marching, not so much for the lab and scientific progress, as against the allegedly threatening behaviour of animal rights activists. One of the chants was 'No more threats, No more fear, Animal research wanted here'; one group of people, mainly academics, changed it to: 'No more threats, No more fear, Peace and quiet wanted here.' Some of the students, too, said they were marching because they wanted a quiet life. 'I am tired of the constant disruptions from those lot', said one, motioning towards the animal rights gathering which, as far as I could tell, was not doing a very good job of being disruptive, what with its disorganised line-up and half-hearted chants.

In an article in The Sunday Times published before the demo, one Oxford student wrote: 'Too many of us have had our studies disrupted by protesters who think that anyone connected with the university is inherently evil. Only the other day friends told me that a library was closed early because of all the noise that animal rights campaigners were making outside.' (1) In a discussion board on the BBC website, a student said he was going on the protest 'not because I'm especially in favour of animal testing, simply that I detest the threats of violence and other extremist measures used by the ALF.[which has] no place in a civilised society'. Some of the protesters who were passionately in favour of animal testing told me they wanted to defend it from 'those idiots in the ALF'.

These arguments present the ALF as the biggest, baddest threat to science and progress, and suggest that at least part of the motivation behind the demo was the politics of fear and the desire to be left alone. In truth, the ALF is a tiny and pretty insignificant gang; they are nasty pieces of work, no doubt, but they are by no stretch of the imagination a threat to civilised society. SPEAK, the main animals rights group that has been protesting against the Oxford lab, and which distances itself from the ALF, is also of little consequence. Rather, these groups feed off a much broader, top-down doubt and uncertainty about animal testing today, and scientific inquiry itself; the reason they have been able to dominate, thus far, the debate about animal research is not because they are strong or powerful or especially disruptive, but because government ministers, Oxford dons and even scientists have remained silent on the issue. ALF, SPEAK and others sound loud only because everyone else has remained quiet; they are parasitical on society's own caginess about scientific endeavour and its self-loathing for human achievement; they are a symptom of a problem, not its cause.

Consider, again, the issue of primate experimentation. It is widely assumed that the reason why Cambridge University shelved, in January 2004, its plans to build a world-class primate research centre is because of the antics of animal rights activists. No doubt the activists' constant protesting and threats had an impact on those involved in the project, from the builders to the scientists, but it is much more likely to have been official dithering about the worth of primate research that put paid to the Cambridge project. The government failed publicly to support the research institution until it was too late; research on great apes (chimps, gorillas and orang-utans) was banned in 1986, under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act; and the Animals Procedure Committee, which advises the home secretary on matters relating to the Animals Act, says it has the goal of 'minimising and eventually eliminating primate use and suffering'. So presumably it was opposed to, or at least uncertain about, the building of the Cambridge facility. This is the real problem: not a handful of big-mouthed animal-lovers in anoraks, but a defensiveness about research at the heart of government and the scientific establishment itself. Such equivocation effectively gives a green light to SPEAK and others to continue shouting outside various labs about the allegedly dodgy things going on inside.

Not surprisingly, many in the media latched on to the story about students standing up to wicked fanatics in preference of the bigger story about the defence of progress against misanthropy. So since Saturday, various commentators have suddenly discovered that they, too, are in favour of animal testing (having kept a studious silence on the issue during the past two years). And they outlined their position in opposition to the actions of animal rights activists. In a nutshell: 'I am so progressive in contrast to those balaclava-wearing ALF types.' But defining your defence of progress by posturing against the ALF is little different, or better, than the way Western politicians define their defence of democracy and civilisation today by posturing against that ragbag of deluded nihilists that is al-Qaeda. It is a flimsy attachment to civilisation that needs to big up bin Laden as a great threat, and it is a flimsy belief in progress that has to point the finger at the ALF in order to appear committed and convincing. Even the very positive aspects of Saturday's demo have been transformed, by the media, into a lesson in fear and loathing, or even depicted as part of the 'war on terror' itself. This shows how progressive actions can sometimes be buried beneath the broader fearful and misanthropic outlook.

Saturday's demo was a very good start in the battle to defend scientific research against its many critics. I certainly felt invigorated by it. It struck me that the march represented an attempt by young people to define themselves as progressive and humanist in the absence of traditional political roadmaps of the left or right variety. Indeed, the left was noteable by its absence. As I argue in this week's New Statesman, where normally SWP placards cluster around the merest sneeze of public protest and left-wing newspaper sellers bicker on the sidelines of every march about whose position is most correct, Saturday's demo was a 'left-free zone'.

If anything, the old left was on the wrong side of the barricade, amid the anti-testing gathering. The difference between the two demos was striking. The anti-testing demo was made up of world-weary individuals of a certain age (many in their forties and fifties) who carried banners that spoke of cynicism and conspiracy theories about science, and humanity in general. One said: 'We live in a world of deceit: don't believe the scientists' lies.' The pro-testing demo, by contrast, felt positive and lively; it was made up mostly of young people who were pro-science and research. It was hard to resist the interpretation that the anti-testing demo provided a snapshot of the old left drowning in a sea of cynicism and moral relativism, while the pro-testing demo was something new and different, an attempt by youth in a post-political age to kick against some of the backward trends of our time.

Yet, while these new protesters may not be susceptible to the old preoccupations and prejudices of the radical left, they are, like all of us, open to being influenced by today's politics of fear and victimhood and even by some of the doubt about launching an all-out defence of animal research. This means hard arguments must be had out. As Mick Hume says, the battle over animal testing is one of the most divisive issues today, 'drawing new lines in the political and cultural sands' between those who endorse a human-centred morality and those who do not (see Animal testing: Qui vive?, by Mick Hume). Let us not let it become a clash between science students seeking a quiet life and allegedly evil terrorists, and recognise that there are bigger beasts to slay than a handful of miserabilists who turn up to Oxford every week to shout at scientists.


Sad news for food faddists: "More than 10 meals billed as 'healthy' by fast food chains are worse for you than a Big Mac. Research by the Sunday Herald Sun into the nutritional values of seven of Australia's fast food outlets has uncovered most fall short of health recommendations. Of 70 meals suggested as healthier or lighter options, only 17 made the grade according to Nutrition Australia guidelines. New franchise Sumo Salads fared best, with nine of its menu choices passing. But a further 11 fast-food meals were found to be unhealthier than a Big Mac when kilojoules, fat, sugar and salt levels were compared. They included sandwiches, baguettes, a pie and two salads. None of McDonald's Deli Choices or Salads Plus meals passed, generally due to high sugar and saturated fat levels. And none of Hungry Jack's new range of baguettes and salads passed, all being too high in salt".

12 March, 2006


Off to the Supreme Court again, I guess. In Canada, both Scouts and Scoutmasters can be as queer as they like -- so membership of the organization there is only a shadow of what it was. Not many Canadian parents want to subject their children to the risk of pedophilia, funnily enough. So all these attacks on the Scouts' rights to have their own admission criteria are really aimed at destroying the organization

In a unanimous decision against a division of the Boy Scouts, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that groups receiving government subsidies may be required to pledge compliance with anti-bias policies - including those that protect atheists and homosexuals.

The decision, handed down against the Berkeley Sea Scouts, was a blow to the national Scouting organization, which in past landmark rulings had been assured the legal right to exclude boys who are gay or don't believe in God. Thursday's ruling did not take away that right. But it allowed local governments to make bias costly - in this case, by withdrawing free berthing privileges at the Berkeley municipal marina, worth thousands of dollars a year to the Scouting group.

Some governments across the country have begun withholding a variety of subsidies from Scouting organizations for failure to adhere to local anti-bias policies. Other local governments have been sued for granting subsidies. That has generated a new round of constitutional cases, which the Scouts have been mostly losing. The California Supreme Court decision was consistent with the majority of others to date, including one by a federal district judge in a similar case that arose in San Diego.

Ruling that the Scouts' First Amendment rights were not violated, state Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote, "To require a group operating as part of an organization with an official policy of discrimination that it agree in advance not to discriminate in the use of the city's free marina berths is a reasonable and narrowly tailored step to implement the diversity and nondiscrimination provisions" of local laws.

The Berkeley Sea Scouts maintained they'd never excluded any boy on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. They declined, however, to sign a pledge that they never would, for fear of jeopardizing a low-cost maritime liability insurance policy provided by the Boy Scouts of America. "We believe that sexual orientation is a private matter, and we do not ask either adults or youths to divulge this information at any time," the local group told the city in a 1998 letter that promised in general terms to comply with the anti-bias laws. When pressed on that point during oral arguments in January, a Sea Scouts lawyer admitted to the justices: "We are bound by what the Boy Scouts tell us we have to do."

The court's opinion states that Berkeley "reasonably concluded the Sea Scouts did not and could not provide satisfactory assurances because of their required adherence to BSA's discriminatory policies."

Since Berkeley terminated free berthing for the Sea Scouts in 1998, one skipper, retired teacher Eugene Evans, has kept his vessel afloat by covering the annual berthing fee of more than $500 out of pocket. The program teaches seamanship and related skills to a diverse mix of teenagers. The Pacific Legal Foundation, which has supported the Sea Scouts' suit, says that before 1998, Evans had been covering the incidental expenses of low-income teens who otherwise could not have participated, but he hasn't been able to do so since taking on the rent. "A bunch of poor kids have had to drop out of the program," foundation lawyer Harold Johnson said Thursday, because the Sea Scouts "don't agree with the ideology at City Hall."

More here


An article from the editor of The Michigan Daily -- published by students at the University of Michigan

There's a reason why the 12 boxes on this page are blank, and I'll get to that. But first, a few words about what's been filling the boxes on the opposite page. Over the past few months, the Daily and its editors have seen intense criticism for printing several editorial cartoons that student leaders in some minority communities have found racist, demeaning or otherwise offensive.

The most controversial of these cartoons portrayed a high school classroom full of dark-skinned students and one white student. At the front of the classroom, a black teacher tells the class that they can all expect special preferences when applying to college - except for Bob, the lone white student.

Implicit in the drawing is a blunt and emotionally powerful argument against race-conscious admissions policies: that they unfairly discriminate against whites.

It's not a nuanced argument, and it's one that I happen to disagree with. But it certainly reflects a mainstream opinion, and one that about half of Michigan voters hold. As a submission to the editorial page - a forum meant for public debate of important issues from all sides - it was perfectly appropriate.

To be sure, the cartoon caused offense. It simplified the issue of racial preferences, and to some black students, it felt like an accusation that they didn't earn their way into the University.

But being offended is part of living and participating in a liberal and pluralistic society. When we're all free to express ourselves, we will all come across expression that offends our sensibilities. Besides, when a common but faulty argument appears on an editorial page, it provides the opportunity for a rebuttal - a chance to change minds.

Not everyone felt that way. Student leaders, arguing that the cartoon was "objectively racist," demanded retractions and printed apologies. Later, a committee of the University's faculty senate even argued that it was potentially illegal - that the caricature of "an institutional policy favoring diversity" could, by encouraging a "racially hostile learning environment," violate federal equal-protection laws.

In other words, if you have qualms about affirmative action, keep quiet - we know we're right, your views are offensive, and it's wrong for you to express them.

This is the sort of well-intentioned, but deeply illiberal thinking that brought us campus speech codes in the late 1980s, when a student on this campus faced a disciplinary hearing for saying he considered homosexuality a curable disease. It's the same attitude that led Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences to depose Lawrence Summers after he hypothesized - at an academic conference, of all places - that genetic differences could account for gender inequality in certain fields. The mentality that an important truth can be unquestionable, and that those who think otherwise should be punished.

It's also strikingly similar to the reasoning that has recently led Muslim extremists to riot, burn and kill in response to an act of blasphemy.

One of the pillars of liberal society is that people are free to openly believe in or criticize any religion without fear of reprisal. To understand the Danish cartoon controversy, we must realize that for the Danes and some other Europeans, this basic principle is in real peril. When the Jyllands-Posten dared a slew of cartoonists to draw the Prophet Muhammad last September, the possibility of violent retaliation by Muslim extremists was very real; a Dutch filmmaker had been killed and a Danish lecturer had been assaulted for offending radical Muslims. Recent reports indicate that all 12 cartoonists are now in hiding, fearful for their lives.

Thankfully, expressing an idea in this country will rarely put us in physical danger. But intimidation doesn't have to be violent. For the past few decades, public debate in American society, and especially academia, has suffered under what some call a "culture of offense."

Under the rules of this culture, if nearly anything offends you, you are entitled to demand it be taken back. In some countries of similar attitudes, there are laws against holding certain opinions; witness Austria, where the revisionist historian David Irving is going to prison for his lunatic view that the Jewish Holocaust didn't happen.

The First Amendment is hard to get around, though, so in America we have activists and sensitive citizens to enforce the rules. People with unpopular or unconventional opinions on religion and especially race are better off avoiding the topics in public.

In the same category are people who are prone to saying things without thinking them through. There are no thoughtless mistakes, just racist people.

The culture I'm talking about makes it nearly impossible for people to honestly debate sensitive issues in public. That's counterproductive. Since the Enlightenment, liberal Western societies have resolved disputes and questions through open discussion. If an idea - that Islam is a violent religion, that genetics might account for differences in gender equality, that affirmative action does more harm than good?- is wrong, then rational argument or science will prove it wrong. If we as a society want to discredit patently false ideas like Irving's, destroying his arguments in the open is a far better option than silencing him with prison. Sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant.

If real, open discussion doesn't happen in public and in academia, then people who hold misguided views will never be proven wrong or change their minds; most will simply shut up or seek like-minded people to share their opinions.

In many ways, this campus provides a fine example of the worst consequences of rigid multiculturalism and identity politics. Too often, what we call "dialogue" on issues like race is closer to preaching. Our education on diversity is mostly limited to reverence of multiculturalism and learning to spot stereotypes; few come away knowing how to engage those who don't agree or don't understand. Maybe that's because the University was until recently in the habit of threatening those people with suspension under its speech code. The effect of all this seems to be a campus that is shamefully self-segregated and too nervous to talk about it.

This is why progressives, especially on this campus, should realize that their goals are best served by putting the politics of offense behind them and embracing liberalism. If an idea upsets you, rather than attacking it as offensive, try to prove it wrong. It won't always be comfortable; it shouldn't be.

In the interest of free debate, the Daily will continue to print cartoons that may occasionally offend you. That's an inevitable part of being a newspaper, and a campus newspaper especially should be a place where ideas are exchanged freely. It would be much easier for us to simply pull all cartoons that are potentially offensive, but we would be doing the campus a disservice.

That's not to say the Daily or anyone else should cause offense for no reason. We chose not to reprint the Jyllands-Posten cartoons on this page because we felt the shock of the images -- whether it comes from the actual content or the symbolism they carry -- would overwhelm the message. And if I'm wrong - well, prove it.


11 March, 2006


And gets subjected to an "inquiry" as punishment

Tesco was under assault on two fronts last night for using its muscle as Britain’s biggest supermarket to buy and hoard vast amounts of land and for boycotting a scheme to encourage healthy eating. The retail giant was attacked by MPs and the Food Standards Agency after defiantly rejecting the regulator’s call yesterday to introduce “traffic light” health warnings on products. Tesco was also put on notice that it will be at the centre of an investigation by the Competition Commission into the impact of supermarket dominance on local shops and suppliers.

The Office of Fair Trading, reversing a decision made last year, said that it was likely to refer supermarkets for an inquiry that would cover claims that Tesco and the rest of the Big Four supermarkets were driving cornershops out of business. Tesco made profits of almost 2 billion pounds last year on a turnover of 34 billion pounds.

The supermarket said that it had nothing to fear from the commission, claiming that its relentless expansion was good for consumer choice. It said that it had already been through a series of investigations, including one by the commission in 2000, adding that the new inquiry was a “diversion of effort and resources”. The retailer was accused of “arrogance” for its dismissal of the competition inquiry and its boycott of a “traffic light” scheme for sugar, salt and fat accepted by other supermarkets including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Asda.

The FSA wants retailers to put the alerts on food packs to allow consumers to make informed and healthy choices. It said yesterday that ready meals, breakfast cereals, pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, sausages, pies, chicken nuggets, fish fingers, and other chicken and fish products should be the first foods with the new labels and may be on sale before the summer. Foods to be included later are biscuits, cakes, crisps, chocolate and sweets.

The FSA was scathing about the industry’s attempts to derail the “traffic light” labels. A paper circulated to its board members said: “Information as adopted by Tesco and several major manufacturers is not helpful and may be misleading.” Big-brand manufacturers Danone, Kellogg’s Kraft, Nestlé, Pepsico and Unilever are determined to join Tesco in rejecting the voluntary scheme. They have adopted their own format for labels which includes a table showing the calories, fat, salt, saturated fat and sugar in a product. They refuse to use red symbols because they believe that consumers will be turned off by the colour.

Sue Davies, principal policy adviser at Which?, the consumer organisation, also supported “traffic light” labels and described the industry alternative as “a fudge”. She said: “Can you really tell me what shopper is going to go round the supermarket making complicated calculations about the amounts of fat or salt are in each product and how that fits into their daily diet?” Steve Webb, the Lib Dem health spokesman, said: “A company the size of Tesco is in many ways as powerful as the Government. They have huge influence on our culture and what we eat. It is irresponsible for such a company to go it alone when it comes to public health. “Its attitude to competition and food labelling is symptomatic of an arrogance on the part of big supermarkets.”

The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the OFT’s decision to refer the 95 billion pound grocery market to the Competition Commission after finding that a restrictive planning system and land banks meant that consumers were “harmed”. Carol Undy, its chairwoman, said: “This inquiry is not a moment too soon. When supermarkets, convenience stores and branded petrol stations are considered together, there is little doubt that there is a dominant position being taken by the Big Four supermarkets.”

Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco group corporate and legal affairs director, said the company had nothing to fear. “The development of the UK grocery market has been good news for consumers precisely because of high levels of competition



With typical British eccentricity. The Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP is Britain's Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport

Never let it be said that Tessa let the sisters down. Ms Jowell had every reason not to go to yesterday’s wonderfully mad singsong to mark International Women’s Day. In fact, the rumour was that she had been advised not to attend because she might look stupid. But she must have realised that looking stupid was, actually, the least of her worries this week. Besides, if the suffragettes could go to jail, she could go to a singsong.

It must be said that, if God is a woman, she let the side down badly yesterday for the weather was appalling. It began to rain heavily as the few dozen female MPs gathered in front of Emmeline Pankhurst’s statue in the park next to Parliament. Soon they began to drip like wonky taps. Women used to fight for the vote, now they were fighting for an umbrella.

Tessa arrived just in time, already damp around the edges. At first I thought she had a bodyguard but then realised her snarling protector was Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong. She should retrain as a bouncer immediately.

The ceremony was halfway between a tree-planting and a Brownies singsong. But the whole thing had been organised, as one would expect, with the military precision of a church flower rota. One woman with a handsome woven basket handed out elegant red rose boutonnières. Another distributed full colour “Order of Ceremony” programmes. A few men, who were immediately given “honorary sister” status, mingled in their midst. One cradled a guitar.

Labour MP Barbara Follett jumped up, waving her bedraggled lyric sheet. The song was called The Women Are Marching On and was to be sung to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The original had been written by a woman and now Ms Follett had a confession to make. “This has been written by my sister, Ken Follett!” she cried. “And they don’t even quite scan!” The assembled parliamentary sisterhood giggled. I am not being sexist: they did giggle, and why not? They were about to serenade a statue with a feminist marching song that had been written by a man (and a trashy novelist man at that). Plus the conditions WERE laughable. We could not have been wetter if the event had been held in a swimming pool.

Babs started to sing and Tessa et al joined in. “My eyes have seen the women in the Commons and the Lords,” they warbled, the rather rudimentary chord strumming of the guitar providing vital background guidance. “They have trampled out the prejudice that was so long ignored! They have lit the torch of liberty and justice is restored! Their truth is marching on!” The second verse loomed. Remarkably, it was even worse. “Suffragettes said all were equal in a true democracy,” they sang, some actually in tune. “In the teeth of opposition they campaigned for you and me! As they died for their convictions, let us live for equity! Their truth is marching on!”

When it was over (the word hallelujah had never seemed more apt) someone shouted “ONE MORE TIME” and, incredibly, they obeyed. When Tessa left she was trailed by TV crews shouting questions at her. They were all but head-butted by the Chief Whip. As it ended, right on cue, the rain began to ease

From The Times

10 March, 2006

University Paper: Muslim Cartoons No Way but Cartoon of Jesus in Oral Sex OK

For the second time in as many weeks, a Canadian university newspaper has published cartoons offending Christianity which make the cartoons from Denmark offending Islam pale in comparison.

The University of Saskatchewan student newspaper, The Sheaf, has published a cartoon depicting Jesus performing oral sex on a pig with the caption reading, "Go on, it's ok, it's kosher if you don't swallow". The decision to publish the outrageously offensive "Capitalist Piglet" cartoon comes after the same newspaper refused to print the cartoons mocking Mohammed out of respect for Islam.

Two weeks ago, a University of Toronto newspaper published a cartoon depicting Jesus and Mohammed Smooching with a view to promoting tolerance of homosexuality (see coverage: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/feb/06022011.html"http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/feb/06022011.html )

While The Sheaf claims to be independent, university students are required to fund the publication via their tuition. With nearly 20,000 students, the paper receives approximately $120,000 from mandated student fees.

A staff member for Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO), an organization which works on campuses across the country, told LifeSiteNews.com, "it was totally distasteful and very hurtful to a lot of students." CCO's Johnny Hickey, who works full time on the University of Saskatchewan campus said, "it was especially hurtful because last week the paper published an article saying why they didn't print the cartoons from Denmark." He said that while students were "hurt, offended, and frustrated" he was nonetheless impressed that they were handling the situation without malice but with a determined effort to see justice done, demanding the resignation of the cartoonist. A local radio talk show is encouraging students to complain to the human rights commission regarding the offence.

A website has been launched to confront the paper (http://www.boycottthesheaf.blogspot.com/"http://www.boycottthesheaf.blogspot.com/ WARNING site contains photo of the cartoon), calling on those offended to contact the newspaper's advertisers and inform them of a boycott over their support of the paper which printed the offensive cartoon.

University President Peter MacKinnon, in a communication to the university campus stated, "In the February 23 edition of the Sheaf, the editors explained that they would not publish the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. It is surprising that they did not exercise similar restraint in their decision to publish 'Capitalist Piglet' in the March 2 issue of the paper. This is a cartoon that is certain to cause distress to members of our community. It has divisive shock value only and does nothing to advance the understanding or debate for which universities should be distinguished."

MacKinnon added, "The Sheaf should apologize to us all." MacKinnon was not available for comment, and so could not address students' concerns that they not be forced to fund the paper, which has often carried offensive material.

The paper's production manager, Liam Richards, told LifeSiteNews.com that the printing of the cartoon was "not an editorial decision but a mistake that resulted from a miscommunication." However, when asked if the paper would accept any further submissions to the paper from the student responsible for the sacrilegious cartoon - Jeff Macdonald - Richards said the paper was still discussing the matter.



The higher institutions of learning represent the ultimate in the furtherance of human knowledge. Our universities and learned research institutions have long enjoyed the freedom to enquire, to explore, to provoke debate and even controversy. It is only by challenging perceptions, dogma and current understanding of our world that scientific progress can be made.

These liberties which have survived many attempts over the centuries by despotic monarchs, cardinals and archbishops are once again under threat from the modern tyranny of Marxist political correctness.

One of the main vehicles for the implementation of political correctness, the Commission for Racial Equality has stepped into a row over a Leeds University lecturer who has challenged multiculturalism. This is the 21st century equivalent of challenging the medieval perception that the world is flat or the Victorian view of human origins being exactly as written in Genesis.

Dr Ellis, a lecturer in Russian literature in the department of modern languages and culture, told the "Leeds Student" campus newspaper that he was a supporter of the late Enoch Powell, who warned that uncontrolled immigration would lead to "rivers of blood". Dr Ellis also said he would support repatriation if it were done "humanely".


He further said that the British National Party was useful as "a canary" to warn the Government of views on multiculturalism, which was doomed to failure because "it is based on the lie that all people, races and cultures are equal and that no one race or culture is better than any other".

All sensible sounding material which is worthy of mature debate in a responsible academic environment, at least that is what most decent people would think. While we totally agree with Dr. Ellis's observations we suggest that those who disagree with him and us, argue the point, is that not a reasonable request?

Well apparently not in Blair's Britain! Certain views are dangerous it seems and now the Race Gestapo, the CRE, has demanded an inquiry into whether Dr. Ellis' views had "affected his assessment of students".

The powerful body said that public bodies were under a duty to promote good relations between people of different racial groups, to promote equality of opportunity between those groups and to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination.


In addition the same left wing fascist thugs who turned out of their beds to heckle and shout abuse at the decent men and women of the BNP who stood outside Leeds Crown Court during the last weeks of January in support of the Free Speech Two have threatened to picket Dr. Ellis' lectures unless the university authorities sack him. These people it seems are not prepared to debate, to inquire, to challenge in an intellectual manner which behoves privileged students in a place of learning. Only by bullying, threatening disruption and chaos can their "argument" expect to succeed.

However a spokesman for Leeds University said that "Dr Ellis has a right to his personal opinions but he does not have the right to treat students or colleagues in a prejudicial or discriminatory manner. The university has no evidence yet that this has happened."


The child obesity panic

Panic: A new report by three British official bodies has criticised the government for a lack of progress on tackling child obesity. For example, it has taken 18 months just to agree on how obesity should be measured. The report quotes statistics suggesting that the proportion of obese children has risen from 9.6 per cent in 1995 to 13.7 per cent in 2003. By 2010, the report says that the cost of treating diseases caused by obesity across the whole population - including hypertension, heart disease and type 2 diabetes - will reach o3.6billion per year. Steve Bundred, chief executive of the Audit Commission, said: 'If the trend continues, this generation will be the first for many decades that doesn't live as long as their parents.'

Don't panic: While it is true that certain diseases are more common in obese adults, the vast majority of people can still expect to live into old age whatever their body shape. If fears about obesity are overstated for adults, they are even more misplaced when it comes to children.

It is by no means certain that children who are fat will go on to be fat adults. Figures suggest about 30 per cent of obese children stay that heavy in adulthood. Telling a child that being overweight means they are effectively sick may have some impact on their waistlines but is likely to be a recipe for misery in years to come. As Dr Dee Dawson, a specialist in treating eating disorders, notes: 'We should not be getting children obsessed about what they eat, how much fat and calories there is in their food, how they look. Most of them are perfectly fit and well.'

Nor are the alternatives necessarily much better. While getting some exercise, like walking regularly, seems to be beneficial, taking a lot of exercise may have little additional benefit. Dieting is not only regularly unsuccessful, but has itself been associated with health problems. As an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine noted in 1998, 'Until we have better data about the risks of being overweight and the benefits and risks of losing weight, we should remember that the cure for obesity may be worse than the condition'.

The most controversial idea, quoted regularly, is that children of this generation will have a lower life expectancy than their parents. While not impossible, it seems highly unlikely. Firstly, it assumes that obesity is the reason that very fat people tend to die younger, rather than lack of exercise, poverty, poor quality of diet or a host of other reasons. Secondly, it suggests that this one lifestyle factor could overcome the effect of all the other medical and social developments which have provided consistent rises in life expectancy. For women, life expectancy has risen every decade for the past 16 decades, and for both sexes lifespans are rising by roughly two years every decade.

If we are really concerned about child obesity, we should stop fretting about what children eat and give them more opportunity for active, independent play. However, given our increasingly risk-averse approach towards kids, there's fat chance of that.


9 March, 2006


An interesting email from a British reader responding to the public denials of IQ differences

I live in big Birmingham, and I initiate conversations with people at bus stops, in shop queues etc, with ordinaryish people (of the right half of the bell curve, to be sure). There's the world as seen through the media and written world, and there's the world of talking personally to people, and they don't match. There's a lot more understanding and knowledge out there than may seem, because it doesnt get publicised and doesn't shout out individually either.

That's why the Soviet Union collapsed so suddenly, because what the people were saying in private was very different from what Pravda was saying. And likewise, a significant proportion of "Muslims" are just pretending to be true believers. And likewise, check any matchmaking setup, ask almost any woman, and she is looking for an "intelligent" man. Ditto employers.

PC is too utterly ridiculous, too utterly divorced from reality, to have any prospect as an enduring religion. And yet it appears to be more powerful than it is, because as with those other examples, there are incentives for parrotting the PC-party line, in contrast to strong DISincentives against speaking against it. It currently holds the purse-strings and levers of power.

But as soon as something so reality-defying becomes the orthodoxy its days are numbered. As in the Soviet Union, people aren't SAYING it is ridiculous, and yet you can rest assured that many are secretly THINKING it!

The myth of the tiny proportion: So there seem to be just a handful of people who are anywhere near a sound understanding. But surely it has ever been thus. In previous centuries there was just the odd Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin, etc. More recently there has grown up an enormous irrelevance, a huge mega-industrialised pseudo-scholarship of professional publish or perish.

Like Copernicus, genuine science has just about always been a non-professional undertaking oppresssed by institutions. The universities in UK at least are already in the process of making themselves irrelevant (companies no longer find degrees a useful criterion). They are slowly on the way out. Michel Bauwens envisages p2p, blogs etc as the new civilisational basis.

And meanwhile how few are understanders anyway? I used to think that I must be the greatest living genius (there is substantial grounds for that view!). But then I considered that approximately no-one knows about my achievements, so therefore in turn there could be thousands of equally-talented, equally-achieving others who are equally great geniuses but equally unnoticed.

The PC dominance seems to have started with an abrupt switch at 1945, reversing a fairly quick change from 19th century multiculturism. The BNP and similar parties have been rocketing from nowhere. Meanwhile the PC brigade are getting enmeshed in some pathetic tangles post-9/11. The scene could change rather rapidly again.


They were offended by claims that they seek special treatment and then proceeded to seek and get special treatment

A student's column in the Oregon State University campus newspaper has prompted protests by Muslim students, who say it is offensive to their faith. The piece headlined "The Islamic Double Standard" was written by OSU microbiology student Nathanael Blake and published in the Daily Barometer on Feb. 8. The column accused Muslims of expecting special treatment after a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. Riots over the cartoons amounted to "savagery," Blake said. "Bluntly put, we expect Muslims to behave barbarously," his column said.

On Thursday, about a dozen students - including members of Muslim and Arab student groups - held a vigil on the campus to protest both Blake's piece and the Danish cartoons. They handed out flyers that stated "While staying loyal to the main values of freedom of expression that founded this country, we also feel the need to reflect on the values of tolerance and acceptance on this campus." Among the students offended by the column was Nada Mohamed, a 20-year-old junior and the vice president of OSU's Muslim Student Association. "It was amazing to me that they (the campus newspaper) were allowed to publish this kind of stuff," she told the Corvallis Gazette-Times. "Tears were flowing out of my eyes as I was reading," she said. "I felt like somebody was ripping my heart out."

At the Daily Barometer, editors said e-mail and phone calls poured in. Senior editors have met with the Muslim Student Association. "The pain that it caused ... did not subside with time," said DD Bixby, the Barometer's editor-in-chief. "It kind of just festered." She said editors have been checking copy with Muslim students, and on Tuesday deleted one paragraph from a piece scheduled to be published the next day.

Bixby said her staffers are "all pretty much Oregon-type kids" who knew little about Islam and didn't foresee how people would respond to the column. Blake said that he expected a reaction, but, "I didn't expect it to be this prolonged or this strong."

On Feb. 14, Nada Mohamed's brother, Aly Mohamed, who heads the university's Muslim Student Association, fired back with an op-ed piece titled, "Whose double standard? A response on Islam, Muslims." "It is quite sad to see the Daily Barometer follow our less-than-civil European media outlets," Mohamed wrote. "There is a lack of distinction between orthodox Islamic values and the actions of a minority of Muslims."

On the same day, Bixby published a piece defending her columnist and the paper's decision to publish the column. "For me," she wrote, "it would be journalistically irresponsible to only print columns with which no one disagreed."


8 March, 2006


As John Leo points out below, if you are penalized for speaking ill of homosexuals etc., why not be forbidden to mock Mohammed too? You either have free speech or you do not. Europe and Canada certainly do not and it is pretty shaky in America, despite the constitution

Law professor Eugene Volokh calls it "censorship envy." Muslims in Europe want the same sort of censorship that many nations now offer to other aggrieved groups. By law, 11 European nations can punish anyone who publicly denies the Holocaust. That's why the strange British historian David Irving is going to prison. Ken Livingstone, the madcap mayor of London, was suspended for four weeks for calling a Jewish reporter a Nazi. A Swedish pastor endured a long and harrowing prosecution for a sermon criticizing homosexuality, finally beating the rap in Sweden's Supreme Court.

Much of Europe has painted itself into a corner on the censorship issue. What can Norway say to pro-censorship Muslims when it already has a hate speech law forbidding, among other things, "publicly stirring up one part of the population against another," or any utterance that "threatens, insults or subjects to hatred, persecution or contempt any person or group of persons because of their creed, race, color or national or ethnic origin ... or homosexual bent"? No insulting utterances at all? Since most strong opinions can be construed as insulting (hurting someone's feelings), no insults means no free speech.

It's not just Europe. In Canada, a teacher drew a suspension for a letter to a newspaper arguing that homosexuality is not a fixed orientation, but a condition that can be treated. He was not accused of discrimination, merely of expressing thoughts that the state defines as improper. Another Canadian newspaper was fined 4,500 Canadian dollars for printing an ad giving the citations -- but not the text -- of four biblical quotations against homosexuality. As David Bernstein writes in his book "You Can't Say That!": "It has apparently become illegal in Canada to advocate traditional Christian opposition to homosexual sex."

Many nations have set themselves up for Muslim complaints by adopting the unofficial slogan of the West's chattering classes: Multiculturalism trumps free speech. Sensitivity and equality are viewed as so important that the individual right to speak out is routinely eclipsed. Naturally enough, Muslims want to play the same victim game as other aggrieved groups. The French Council of Muslims says it is considering taking France Soir, which reprinted the Danish cartoons, to court for provocation.

In truth, Muslims have been playing the game for some time. Michel Houellebecq, a French novelist, said some derogatory things about the Quran. Muslim groups hauled him into court, but the novelist was eventually exonerated. Actress Brigitte Bardot, an animal rights activist, criticized Muslim ritual slaughter and was fined 10,000 francs for the offense. Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci wrote an angry anti-Muslim book, meant to waken the West to the gravity of the threat posed by Islam. Muslims pressed for her prosecution in France. The case was thrown out of court on a technicality in 2002, but she is scheduled to go on trial again this coming June.

In Australia, a state tribunal found two pastors guilty of vilification of Muslims. They had argued that Islam is inherently a violent religion, and that Islam plans to take over Australia. To avoid a fine of up to 7,000 Australian dollars or three months in jail, they were ordered to apologize and to promise not to repeat their remarks anywhere in Australia or over the Internet. The pastors refused to comply and are appealing to the Supreme Court. The case has become a major cause, with churches and Christian leaders fighting to overturn the law, and Muslims pushing for a broad hate-speech law.

An obvious thing to say about laws that limit speech is that we have no evidence that they work to meet their stated goal -- reducing bigotry and increasing tolerance. Banning Holocaust denial, on grounds that it is inherently anti-Semitic, has no track record of improving respect for Jews. If anything, hatred of Jews appears to be on the rise in these nations. Setting up certain groups as beyond criticism is bound to increase resentment among those not similarly favored. (Yes, we know all groups are supposed to be treated alike, but that is not the way these laws work.) In real life, the creation of protected classes sharpens intergroup tensions and leads to competition for victim status.

An even more obvious point: We are very lucky to have the First Amendment. Without it, our chattering classes would be falling all over themselves to ban speech that offends sensitive groups, just like many Eurochatterers are doing now. We know this because our campus speech codes, the models for the disastrous hate-speech laws in Europe, Canada and Australia, were the inventions of our own elites. Without a First Amendment, the distortions and suppressions of campus life would likely have gone national. No more speech codes, please. In America, we get to throw rocks at all ideologies, religious and secular, and we get to debate issues, not have them declared off limits by sensitivity-prone agents of the state.


Don't touch those kids!

New research reveals why teachers and childcare workers now avoid putting a plaster on a child's leg - even though they know the rules are ridiculous

Dr Heather Piper's research at Manchester Metropolitan University into the 'problematics of touching' is an obvious candidate for 'PC gone mad' stories. Reported cases include the teacher who avoided putting a plaster on a child's scraped leg; nursery staff calling a child's mother every time he needed to go to the toilet; a male gym teacher leaving a girl injured in the hall while he waited for a female colleague.

Piper ... has now completed a research project for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Looking at six case-study schools, Piper and her colleagues conducted interviews with teachers, parents and children on the rights and wrongs of touch. She certainly unearthed a number of mad stories. Nursery workers wearing plastic gloves for changing nappies, even though the gloves tore on the nappies' sticky tabs. A school sending a set of 'touching guidelines' to parents for consultation, including the specification that teachers wouldn't put a plaster on a child without parents' permission. Staff at one school keeping an account of every 'touching incident' ('We write down a short account and date it and put which staff were present and at what time, we then explain it to the parent and ask them to read and sign it'), more as if they were keeping police logs than teaching children.

But the research shows that it isn't mad PC henchmen behaving this way, but ordinary, well-meaning child professionals. Piper's work gets inside the mentality of today's risk culture, and captures the crazy contortions that sensible people are ending up in.

Piper tells me that the anxiety about touching children is now 'mainstream'. 'Even schools that said, "this isn't a problem, we're touchy feely" - we found that they were panicking. They were adapting their behaviour in ways of which they perhaps weren't aware.' In some cases, particular individuals might be okay to touch, but only to the exclusion of other teachers. Piper cites one headmaster who said 'I'm okay, because I have 25 years of experience, but I wouldn't trust my staff'. At another school, staff would go to matron if a child needed to be touched - if they had a bump on their head that needed checking, for example - rather than check it themselves.

The normal, everyday interactions between adults and children are being viewed as poisonous. Decent and competent child professionals end up watching each other and themselves for signs of suspicious behaviour, a situation that Piper describes as a 'perfect panopticon'.

Why is this happening? Many teachers claim that they are just following Ofsted guidelines, saying that there is an official prohibition on touch. This just isn't true, says Piper. Instead, no-touch policies are being worked out informally among staff members. Teachers have internalised a sense of mistrust and are policing themselves - something that one teacher described as an 'implanted awareness'. Individuals follow regulations to absolve themselves of suspicion - one nursery teacher admitted that changing nappies with plastic gloves wasn't practical, but 'you've got to think of yourself first'. Another said that to leave the gloves off would make a dubious 'statement'.

Teachers' notion that all this comes from officialdom reflects their lack of ownership of policies. Professionals will steer clear of touching while knowing that it is crazy. 'Often people will giggle about the things they have to do', Piper tells me, 'but they still do them'. Nobody really believes that they and their colleagues are all potential child abusers: Piper notes in her report that 'respondents "knew" that professional abuse was extremely rare'.

Some staff realise that they are poisoning their relationship with their charges, and depriving kids of the care and attention they need. One special school, with children as young as five, generally only touched when it was strictly necessary and avoided 'caring touching'. One manager at the school reflected: 'when we put them to bed, are we allowed to kiss them on the top of the head? That makes me think about what a sterile environment there is - no parental familiarity of touch - does the child's life have to be that sterile?' A primary school headteacher lamented, 'It's just a shame that society is coming round to this'; another teacher asked, 'What kind of adults are we bringing up?'.

This isn't just about touch, says Piper - it's about 'all forms of behaviour'. People are unsure about what counts as appropriate or inappropriate. She cites the example of one teacher texting a pupil to tell them that a school trip bus was about to go. 'Was this invading the pupil's privacy? My research team had a big debate about whether this was okay or not.' The question of whether this was 'inappropriate behaviour' is unrelated to the intentions of any particular teacher; the researchers weren't suggesting that this teacher was a pervert. People view a situation as if they were an outsider assuming the worst, rather than using their own awareness of context and intention.

Summerhill school provided a kind of control for the team's research. This chilled out, hippie school had apparently remained entirely immune from anxiety about touch, and members of staff treated Piper's inquiries with bemusement. 'We felt absolutely ludicrous', she says, 'because it just wasn't an issue. We felt like perverts, going around asking people who touched who and why.' While other schools became jumpy about Piper's research, asking to remain anonymous, Summerhill couldn't understand what the problem was.

Piper's comment is telling, because it captures how this touchiness about touch encourages people to assume the minds of perverts. No-touch policies imply dark desires, as if were it not for the prohibitions teachers wouldn't be able to control themselves. Every nursery worker who wears gloves is in effect admitting that there is something a bit dodgy about them. One respondent to the research noted 'a definite hesitation and suspicion of myself' - and more worryingly, 'a feeling that this implanted awareness alerts any proclivity I have towards "the taboo"; that it might awaken otherwise non-existent desires. It feels like this awareness acts like a carrier of an "infection" to abuse'. It's those who police themselves who end up feeling like perverts, rather than those who engage in unthinking and innocent touching.

Some have started to lay down clearer guidelines about 'appropriate touch', believing that this might clear up the confusion. This might mean allowing 'child-initiated touch', or consulting parents about what they believe is acceptable. But this just leads into 'endless double binds', says Piper. The report quotes a parent's tortured specification: 'I would like my child to be consulted before she is touched.. I want my child to received positive physical contact as praise, appropriate to the situation - such as ruffling hair/patting on the back - if that's okay with her.' Another nursery nurse wondered what counted as 'child-initiated touch': when they are crying?; when they are leaning on her knees?

Piper concludes that the guidelines are 'negative rather than positive, products of fear rather than a characteristic of a confident profession or workforce'. Codes give no space for context or good professional sense, and so were generally 'ignored or became unworkable', creating 'guilt at their non-compliance'. The more specific codes become, the more ridiculous they are, and the more they cast teachers under the veil of suspicion.

Instead, Piper proposes 'a return to notions of professional trust and agency' - a trust in teachers to do the right thing and decide upon the appropriate way to behave. The upshot of no-touch codes is not safe or ethical teacher-pupil relationships, but merely tortured agonising. This research calls on professionals to start judging for themselves how to relate to pupils, and to have more confidence in their judgements.



Traditional nursery rhymes are being rewritten at nursery schools to avoid causing offence to children. Instead of singing “Baa baa, black sheep” as generations of children have learnt to do, toddlers in Oxfordshire are being taught to sing “Baa baa, rainbow sheep”. The move, which critics will seize on as an example of political correctness, was made after the nurseries decided to re-evaluate their approach to equal opportunities. Stuart Chamberlain, manager of the Family Centre in Abingdon and the Sure Start centre in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, told the local Courier Journal newspaper: “We have taken the equal opportunities approach to everything we do. “This is fairly standard across nurseries. We are following stringent equal opportunities rules. No one should feel pointed out because of their race, gender or anything else.”

In keeping with the new approach, teachers at the nurseries have reportedly also changed the ending of Humpty Dumpty so as not to upset the children and dropped the seven dwarfs from the title of Snow White.

A spokesman for Ofsted, the watchdog which inspects Sure Start centres, confirmed that centres are expected to “have regard to anti-discrimination good practice” and that staff should “actively promote equality of opportunity”.

Gervase Duffield, a Conservative district councillor representing Sutton Courtenay and Appleford, denounced the ban as ridiculous. “It’s the sort of thing that people continually do nowadays — it’s become something of a curse,” he said. “Why do people waste time and money doing this sort of thing when there are far more important things to think about when it comes to educating our children?”

A mother whose daughter attends the Sure Start nursery at the Family Centre in Abingdon, who did not want to be named, said parents had been astonished by the change. “Baa Baa, Black Sheep has been one of the most well-known nursery rhymes for generations. For people to come along and fiddle with it is ridiculous. What on earth is a rainbow sheep anyway? “I’ve spoken to other parents about it and none of us has ever heard of anyone getting offended by the words ‘black sheep’.”

This is not the first time, however, that the nursery rhyme — written in 1744 satirising the taxes imposed on wool exports — has fallen foul of political correctness. In 2000 Birmingham City Council tried to ban the rhyme, after claiming that it was racist and portrayed negative stereotypes. The council rescinded the ban after black parents said it was ludicrous. Last year, a nursery school in Aberdeen caused uproar, when teachers changed the lyrics to “Baa baa, happy sheep”. Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teachers Association, said: “It’s really sad. Children for generations have loved and enjoyed nursery rhymes and it’s very sad if adult political correctness doesn’t allow them to grow up in an unbiased world.”

A DfES spokesperson said: “We don’t support this approach to the teaching of traditional nursery rhymes, but any such decision would be taken locally.”


7 March, 2006


Which means no free speech at all

The Islamic campaign against free speech continues to pick up steam. With the backing of the visiting High Representative of the European Union for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Mr. Javier Solana, and of a visiting Russian delegation, the Permanent Representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Member States convened at the OIC Headquarters in Jeddah on February 14, 2006 to approve the following five points (emphasis added):

* the adoption by the EU of necessary legislative measures through the European Parliament against Islamophobia;

* making joint efforts by the EU and the OIC to adopt UN Resolution on the lines of existing UN Resolution 60/150 (Combating defamation of religions) which should prohibit defamation of all Prophets and faiths;

* the adoption of a code of ethics for the European media;

* the adoption of an International Communication Media Order by the United Nations which should cover a definition of freedom of speech in case of religious symbols;

* the inclusion of an operative paragraph prohibiting blasphemy, defamation of religions and incitement to hatred in the text of Human Rights Council resolution presently being negotiated.

Kofi Annan is on board. Seeing no problem with using his own bully pulpit in matters such as the cartoon caricature controversy, he has endorsed the language prohibiting blasphemy or defamation of religions which the Organization of the Islamic Conference wants to add to the text of the new Human Rights Council resolution.

Somehow, Annan has convinced himself with his own doublespeak that there is no contradiction between mandating what is acceptable to say or write on a particular subject and opposing censorship of the press. That should not be a surprise, since he continues to display his own animus toward reporters who dare to ask critical questions about the United Nations while having his spokesman maintain that "the United Nations respects the right of the press to ask questions". It has gotten so bad lately that the normally pliant UN Correspondents Association sent a complaint to Annan's press spokesman about a testy exchange between the Secretary-General and one UN correspondent on February 16. The correspondents stressed to the spokesman that all journalists should have the right to have their questions answered. In true UN doublespeak fashion, Annan's spokesman denied what had really happened, saying only that the Secretary- General had been asked a question and simply chose to answer with a question of his own. http://www.un.org/News/ossg/hilites/hilites_arch_view.asp?HighID=502

It is best to judge for yourself. Here is the actual exchange on February 16 between Annan and that reporter who was the object of Annan's wrath:

Q: These rapporteurs are considered independent, they are called independent. How much do they represent you, considering that you have called to actually overhaul the mechanism which they are appointed by?

SG: Do answers to any of your questions make any difference to your paper? Next question.

Kofi cannot be permitted to paper over the broader issue of press censorship with the kind of UN doublespeak he has his spokesman spouting at the daily briefings at UN headquarters. If we were only talking about voluntary codes of responsible journalism, there would be no issue so long as reporters were truly free to decide whether or not to comply. We can agree that the publishers of the offensive cartoons were irresponsible and should have exercised better judgment. But as soon as we enter the realm of legal sanctions against unacceptable speech that are incorporated into an instrument of international law, we are talking about something else entirely. Such compulsion - no matter how attractively packaged - completely undermines the liberties of thought, belief and expression guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Justice Samuel Alito, who was just recently confirmed to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, expressed the core First Amendment value this way in an opinion that he wrote as an appellate judge dealing with the constitutionality of a `hate speech' code: "There is of course no question that non-expressive, physically harassing conduct is entirely outside the ambit of the free speech clause. But there is also no question that the free speech clause protects a wide variety of speech that listeners may consider deeply offensive, including statements that impugn another's race or national origin or that denigrate religious beliefs. When laws against harassment attempt to regulate oral or written expression on such topics, however detestable the views expressed may be, we cannot turn a blind eye to the First Amendment implication.This sort of content- or viewpoint-based restriction is ordinarily subject to the most exacting First Amendment scrutiny."

We are at the cusp of a fundamental clash of values with the escalating demands that Islamists are incrementally advancing in the international arena. We respect the beliefs of all religions - including Islam - and protect the rights of those who peacefully adhere to those beliefs. We also protect the rights of those who wish to publicly express their personal disrespect for all religious beliefs or to criticize particular ones, so long as they confine their disrespect to peacefully expressed speech. We urge responsible speech, but we do not mandate it with the force of law. We can criticize those who use their freedoms irresponsibly and decide not to buy their products or services, but we cannot criminalize speech that we disagree with if we are to remain a free society. The line for legally impermissible behavior in our society is drawn against violent actions or intimidation as a way of forcing one's point of view on others.

Most Islamic legal systems draw this line differently. They mandate respect for Islam above all other values, including particularly over the freedom of critical thought. Now they want to export their legal system on this core issue to the rest of the world along with their oil. Even the representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, who may spurn violence as the answer to settling disputes, use the fact of such violence to insist on respect for their own religion under penalty of law. However, they remain silent about the daily desecrations sanctioned by some Muslim governments and clerics against the symbols of non-Muslim "infidels".

The United Nations is being pulled inexorably toward the Islamic worldview. They appear to have the votes in the General Assembly to push forward their agenda, where many member states who pay an infinitesimal fraction that the United States pays toward the UN's annual budget regularly band together to oppose the United States at virtually every turn. And the Islamists also have the help of enablers inside the UN bureaucracy, within some European countries, and among the "politically correct" crowd --- all of whom are too craven, too cynical or too naive to resist. But resist we must in order to protect the freedoms that we have fought for, even if we have to declare our independence from the United Nations and its entangling web of `international laws.'



Male drivers who are involved in a car crash are more likely to die if they are obese, a US study suggests. The Milwaukee team says this may be due to the driver's greater momentum in a crash and because of the effect obesity has on the body's ability to recover. But the bodies of moderately overweight men appear to cushion the blow, reports the American Journal of Public Health. The authors said their findings, based on crash data involving 22,000 people, had implications for vehicle design.

The team from the Injury Research Centre of the Medical College of Wisconsin looked at information on 22,000 people from a nationwide crash data collection programme sponsored by the US Department of Transportation. The fatality rate for motor vehicle crashes was 0.87% for male drivers and 0.43% for women drivers.

The team found that male drivers who had a body mass index that was either higher than 35 or lower than 22 had a "significantly increased risk of death" compared to those with an intermediate body mass index (BMI). BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres and is a standard way of assessing whether a person is underweight, overweight or within a healthy weight range.

Lead author Professor Shankuan Zhu said: "The increased risk for death due to motor vehicle crashes associated with a high BMI may be caused by some combination of momentum effects, comorbidities (side effects) of obesity, and emergency post-operative treatment problems among the obese. "Furthermore, obesity imparts anatomical and physiological changes that may either protect or interfere with the body's response to injury."

He said the increased risk for those with a BMI lower than 25 may be because they lack some fat which could provide a cushion effect and absorb some of the energy of the crash. "It may also be because the reason they are thin is because they have some underlying disease," he added.

But there was no significant link between BMI and women drivers' risk of death, the researchers found. They suggest the reasons for gender difference in BMI and motor vehicle fatality might be due in part to the different male and female body shapes.

More here

Gender pay gap: what's it worth?

There's more to life than equal pay

The UK government's Women and Work Commission has found that the gender pay gap is worse in Britain than anywhere in Europe. Women in full-time work earn 13 per cent less than men in full-time work, based on median earnings (1). To compound this injustice, women who work part time earn 32 per cent less per hour than women who work full time and 41 per cent less per hour than men who work full time.

Prime minister Tony Blair hailed the report as a 'ground-breaking piece of work', and said that a 'massive amount of work' remains to be done to close the pay gap between men and women (2). He has appointed minister for women Tessa Jowell as a Cabinet 'champion' to produce an action plan. Meanwhile, the Commission has come up with 40 recommendations, involving everything from challenging gender stereotypes to additional regulation.

Katherine Rake, from women's equality campaign group the Fawcett Society, argues that a major problem is widespread discrimination within the workplace, while commission member John Cridland of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), counters that employers are not to blame: the problem is cultural, because the UK's education system 'completely fails' to alert schoolgirls to the fact that their choices will determine what they earn (3).

Whatever the causes of the gender pay gap, everybody seems to agree that it is a big problem that needs some kind of official resolution: through the law, through government campaigns, and through individual attitudes. But how much of a problem is the pay gap really, and do official 'solutions' work?

There seems little doubt that there remains a disparity between women's pay and that of their male counterparts. This seems to be accounted for by a continuing tendency for women to be paid less than men for doing equivalent jobs; for women's employment to be concentrated in the lower-paid, lower-skilled professions; for women to take time out of the labour market around the birth of their children; and for women with children to be more likely than men to work part-time.

From the standpoint of women whose primary goal in life is career advancement, these are sobering findings. But when they are placed in the murkier context of most women's - and men's - everyday lives, it becomes increasingly difficult to point the finger at those old bogeymen, inequality and discrimination. Because how, in that case, would we account for choice?

For all the official concern about cultural problems leading young girls to choose lower-paid careers, it is worth remembering some more general facts. Girls may well opt for arts degrees over engineering, but that's not because nobody has told them that engineers earn more than academics - it's because the 'male' professions have fallen out of favour even among men. In 'Creative Britain', where everybody wants to work in PR or TV, careers advisers can hardly be blamed if girls are even more likely than boys to follow their hearts rather than their wallets. The fact that the government has, in the past, felt driven to compensate for the national shortage in plumbers by coercing single mothers on to vocational courses shows how thinly the veneer of 'equal opportunities' is sometimes stretched to suit instrumental ends.

At school and university, young people make choices - and even if it were right for the government to want to change those choices, it is not going to do so through such initiatives as the Women and Work Commission's call for single-sex classes to teach girls computing, or government advertising to encourage 'non-stereotypical portrayals of women and men at work'. It is also worth remembering that the pay gap for young women - under 30 - is significantly smaller than that for women over 40. Figures from 2003 showed that for women aged 18 to 29, the mean pay gap ranged from three to five per cent, compared with a mean pay gap for women aged 40 to 64 of between 15 to 24 per cent. For both age groups, the pay gap was decreasing (see Women: are we equal now?, by Jennie Bristow).

This tells us two important things: that the younger generation is reaping the benefits of equality legislation, employment practice and cultural shifts in a way that the older generation could not; and that the problems regarding pay inequality kick in when women have children.

In the absence of time travel, there is nothing that can be done to improve the lot of women who began their careers 30 years ago, when life was that much less equal. On the other hand, there is a great deal that could be done to improve the career chances of women who have children today. This is not rocket science - it simply means more and cheaper childcare, with longer working hours that do not force women into a truncated working day, and an official approach to childcare that seeks to assuage parental guilt rather than increase it. This, however, seems way down the list of official priorities - if it appears at all.

Of the Women and Work Commission's million-and-one recommendations for improving equality at work, only one deals directly with the question of childcare provision - arguing the need to focus on women who work 'outside "9 to 5" hours and black and minority ethnic communities'. This is clearly perceived as far more boring than the several recommendations focusing on social engineering (manipulating girls' choices and the ambitions of women returning to work) or tightening up the regulatory framework, through reviews and equality reps and the governmental appointment of 'a ministerial champion of procurement as a means of spreading best practice in diversity and equal pay matters'.

No doubt such garbled syntax does great things for policymakers sitting on committees. Unfortunately, it does nothing at all for women, their partners or their children.

The big problem with the gender equality discussion today is the extent to which it eschews obvious, practical solutions to obvious, practical problems in favour of highly complex governmental strategies for cultural and behavioural manipulation. Policymakers are happy to bang on about childcare when it is part of a strategy to push single mothers or former housewives into work, whether these women want a paid job or not; when it comes to the simple proposition of making childcare better for those women who already use it, the interest wanes considerably. Why? Because rather than making political gestures about the choices that women and their families should make, such a strategy would amount to condoning the choices that women and their families do make - regardless of how these choices may fit into some rigid framework of equal opportunity and behavioural conformity.

Given the choice, some women with young children would (and indeed, already do) take maximum advantage of the childcare on offer in order to pursue their careers to the full while raising their families at the same time. Others choose to adapt their working ambitions, either temporarily or long-term, to spend rather more time with their kids and rather less on their career, with a consequent impact upon their pay. Some women even (shock horror) choose to stay at home full time. Who is the government to make value judgements about which of these choices is the most valid?

All women, regardless of their 'work-life balance', would benefit from having greater flexibility in the childcare domain, whether that means working until 7pm three days a week or having somewhere to leave the baby once a week while they go to the library, or out for a drink. None of them benefits from the contradictory carping that emanates from official quarters, telling them that their responsibility is to get out to work and thus reduce the pay gap, or that full-time daycare is not the ideal environment for young children, or that fathers should be changing more nappies so that mothers can familiarise themselves with the technicalities of plumbing.

When it comes to the tension between work and childcare, as in all other areas of life, women and men make what choices they can and what compromises they have to. In a society that likes to talk the talk on equality while keeping its hands clean on childcare provision, the line between choice and compromise is often less than clear - so in an ideal world, many women may not opt to leave work early to get to the nursery, or stay home for a fortnight when their child has chickenpox. But that does not mean that women or their partners are not making choices - about work, about children, and about how they want to shape their family lives.

What is blindingly obvious, however, is that pat explanations like 'discrimination' or 'gender stereotypes' don't wash when it comes to explaining why some women with young children work part-time. Reality is messier than that, and requires practical solutions, not empty political gestures.

It would be nice if the pay gap did not exist. But there is more to life than equal pay, and couples do not organise their family lives according to strict notions of fairness and equality. Furthermore, when closing the pay gap means such patronising recommendations as offering women who have never worked 'a voluntary session with a Personal Adviser at Jobcentre Plus' who can give them advice on how to dress, and creating government information campaigns showing men as parents and carers, one wonders who equality is supposed to be for these days (4). Is official equal opportunity something that benefits women, or another stick to beat us with?


6 March, 2006


Mansfield is famous for promoting his concept of manliness but his idea of it seems to reduce largely to what a psychologist would call assertiveness. Below is a report from a woman about what she could make of it. What men have traditionally admired in other men is of course a complex of traits rather than a single trait but drive, courage, determination in the face of adversity, a willingness to take risks, self-confidence and adherence to principle are also part of it. Mansfield is certainly right in calling the craven behaviour of Larry Sumers "unmanly". I would have called it "contemptible" but my own values are undoubtedly old-fashioned manly ones. And I am pleased at how well those values have served me in life

Defend yourself." That's the lesson Harvey Mansfield drew for Larry Summers the week before Harvard's president was forced to resign. Mr. Mansfield, a 73-year-old government professor and conservative elder statesman of the university, went on to suggest that Mr. Summers's capitulation to those he offended (when he said women might be biologically less inclined to succeed in the hard sciences) is not simply a craven kowtow to political correctness, but proof, also, of a character flaw. Indeed, Mr. Mansfield continued with a mischievous smile, "He has apologized so much that he looks unmanly." .....

Of all the enemies Mr. Mansfield has made, none has he more consistently provoked than feminists. It's been 20 years since he voted against the proposal for a women's studies major at Harvard (the only faculty member to do so), arguing that "it is not possible to study women except in relation to men." And he has not let up since.

"I've had a lifelong interest in women," Mr. Mansfield purrs in his smooth classical-radio-announcer voice when I ask why he decided to embark on his manliness project. Joking aside, he explains that "I always wanted to write a book on the woman question, and one reason, perhaps the main reason, I see is that we are embarked on a great experiment in our society, something very radical: to make the status of men and women equal, or, better to say, the same."

Mr. Mansfield's contention that women and men are not the same is now widely supported by social scientists. The core of his definition of manliness--"confidence in a risky situation"--is not so far from that of biologists and sociologists, who find men to be more abstract in their thinking and aggressive in their behavior than women, who are more contextual in their thinking and conciliatory in their behavior.

Science is good for confirming what "common sense" already tells us, Mr. Mansfield allows, but beyond that, he has little use for it: "Science is a particular enemy of manliness. Manliness asserts something you can't scientifically prove, namely the importance of human beings." Science simply sees people as just another part of the natural world. But what manly men assert, according to Mr. Mansfield, is that "they are important and that their party, their country, their society, their group, whatever it may be, is important." As examples, Mr. Mansfield offers Arnold Schwarzenegger (predictably, since he's no girly-man), Humphrey Bogart, Donald Rumsfeld and Margaret Thatcher--yes, women can occasionally be manly. (Both Clintons are manly in their own ways--Hillary is "formidable," while Bill is the "envy of vulgar men.")

Achilles, though, is Mr. Mansfield's model of a manly man. "He challenged his boss, Agamemnon, who had taken his girlfriend from him. He didn't so much make a complaint against him as to . . . say that what Agamemnon had done was the act of an inferior person, and that only true heroes, the men of virtue like Achilles, are fit to rule." In other words, Achilles raised the stakes and resolved to defend a cause larger than himself--the manly action par excellence.

Mr. Mansfield suggests that it is difficult to rid men of their tendency to seek out such battles. Yet he believes that the sexual revolution has been a surprisingly easy one. "Certainly," he notes, "there has been no massive resistance like the segregationists opposed to the civil-rights movement." He has been surprised by the extent to which men have adjusted to this current system, but believes the evidence that they will never do so completely is to be found all around us.

Take housework. Mr. Mansfield cites surveys that show that despite their now equal capacity to be hired for jobs outside the home, American women still do two-thirds of the housework. He argues that this is not simply a hangover from our former oppressive patriarchy. Rather, he writes, it is evidence of manliness. "Men look down on women's work . . . not because they think it is dirty or boring or insignificant, which is often true of men's work; they look down on it because it is women's work."

When it comes to the subject of housework, Mr. Mansfield has a decidedly different take from that of the late Betty Friedan. He accepts her point that keeping house in the modern era need not be a full-time job, and that boredom, or "the problem that has no name," is a natural byproduct of forcing educated women to remain in the home, even when there is not enough to keep them occupied mentally or physically. But he disapproves of her "demeaning of household work to . . . a necessary thing that you can't take any pride in." And though he doesn't accuse Friedan of doing so, Mr. Mansfield suggests that more radical feminists, like Simone de Beauvoir, built upon this notion "to demean motherhood as well."

But what does this have to do with manliness? In our conversation and in his book, Mr. Mansfield often seems to want to discuss women more than men. Ultimately, he concludes that it is OK for men and women to be treated similarly in the workplace; but in private life, "it should be recognized that men will be manly and sometimes a bit bossy . . . and that women will recognize manliness with a smile by checking it while giving it something to do or, on occasion, by urging it on."

Given what he hopes to achieve--more humoring of men by women--it may not be surprising that Mr. Mansfield writes that he wants to "convince skeptical readers--above all, educated women"--of his argument.

Such women might well wonder, as I did, what we have to gain from encouraging men to do less of the housework. But Mr. Mansfield believes that women do instinctually realize the value of respecting manliness. He offers the example of the police detective in the movie "Fargo." She performs her job "wonderfully," says Mr. Mansfield, but "she's careful to maintain the sensibilities of her husband . . ., an artist, who at the end of the movie succeeds in getting his drawing accepted for a two-cent postage stamp." "This is pitiful," he laughs, "but she makes a big thing of it."

Of course, Mr. Mansfield doesn't need to go to the movies to see how men and women behave today. He has the classroom for that. Though he thinks that his female students have become "more assertive than they used to be," he observes that "the very same women will be careful of the sensibilities of the men they wish to attract and not try to compete with them except in fun or ironically." "If not," his brow rises slightly, "I think they would have trouble getting married."

Mr. Mansfield's other observations about the dating scene at Harvard are no less provocative. At a speech to students a couple of years ago, he observed that the only "gentlemen" at Harvard were conservatives and gay men. Conservatives, he believes, realize something's been lost in the recent social revolution; and gay men "have a certain greater awareness and perspicacity than other men." (He doesn't get into the subject of homosexuality in his book, and when I press him on this, he says, "If I had, I might have said something unpleasing to homosexuals and I'm taking on enough critics as it is.")

"What you see today at Harvard and elsewhere are a lot of liberal males who are trying to make women happy by trying to treat them as if they weren't women." "And that," says the man who never misses the chance to open a door for a woman or help her put on her coat, "doesn't work very well." So why didn't he simply write a book on gentlemanliness? "Because before you're a gentleman, you have to be a man. Gentlemanliness is a refinement. It presupposes that you have a certain superiority over women, but teaches you how to exercise it. It also teaches you that women are superior in their ways."

Nine years ago, when Mr. Mansfield offered his first seminar on manliness, I barely managed to score a seat in the small classroom. So many campus feminists had crowded in that students were forced to sit on the floor. These women saw their opportunity, finally, to have it out with the conservative bogeyman.

But Mr. Mansfield got the best of them. He proceeded to talk for much of the next two hours about the ancient Greek notion of thumos, or spiritedness, an idea he believes is the precursor of modern-day manliness. The feminists were bored silly--almost none returned the following week.

Despite his statements outside the classroom, Mr. Mansfield sees his role of professor very differently from that of provocateur. His classes rarely descend into debates over current affairs. Arguments from Plato may not convince these "educated women" that he is right, but unlike Larry Summers, Mr. Mansfield has tenure.


California Supreme Court Takes Step Backward on Children's Rights

The woman is NOT always right

The California Supreme Court took a step backward on children's rights Thursday by issuing a ruling that will make it more difficult for children of divorce to retain the loving bonds they share with both parents. In Brown vs. Yana the court ruled that Anthony Yana, who was trying to prevent his then 12 year-old son from being moved from San Luis Obispo to Las Vegas, did not merit an evidentiary hearing on how the move will affect his son. The decision creates another hurdle for noncustodial parents who are trying to prevent their children from being moved out of their lives.

Though the California Supreme Court's 1996 Burgess decision only involved a 40 mile move within the same county, it has been interpreted by California lower courts as granting custodial parents a presumptive and almost unfettered right to move children out of state or, in some cases, out of the country. As a result, damaging and unnecessary moves have become common

For example, in the LaMusga move-away case decided by the California Supreme Court in 2004, the mother sought to move her two boys from the Bay Area to Ohio because she wanted to attend a law school there, even though there are eight law schools in the Bay Area. When the courts blocked this, she moved to Arizona because, she claimed, her new husband needed work. His job? Selling cars.

Part of the problem is that current policies provide strong financial incentives for moving. California has a high child support guideline, a high cost of living, and high wages. Thus custodial parents can often live better by moving to states which have a lower cost of living, because they will still collect child support awards based on California wages and support guidelines. This is a terrible injustice to noncustodial parents, who often must stay behind to work to pay child support for children who have been moved out of their lives. Case law is stacked so heavily in favor of custodial parents that they often use threats of relocation as a way to extort unrelated concessions from noncustodial parents.

The California Supreme Court addressed the problem in LaMusga, affirming custodial parents' presumptive right to move but also making it clear that courts can prevent children from being moved when it is detrimental to their interests. Among the factors deemed important were the relationship between the child and the nonmoving parent, usually the father.

Fatherlessness is tightly correlated with rates of teen drug abuse, juvenile crime, and school dropouts. Yet in Brown vs. Yana the courts allowed Cameron Yana to be taken away from his father just as his teen years were beginning, substantially increasing the likelihood that he would fall victim to these pathologies.

The trial court decided that it had not heard prima facie evidence of the move's detriment and barred an evidentiary hearing. Had Yana been allowed one, he might well have been able to block the move. In overturning the trial court's decision, the Second District Court of Appeal wrote: "Cameron's attorney told the trial court that Cameron spoke about his ties to San Luis Obispo County, his reluctance to break those ties and his desire to live with his father. The wishes expressed by `mature enough' children are one of the factors cited by LaMusga that the court should consider...More importantly, Cameron told his attorney that there are problems in his mother's home. It may well be that.if any problems exist, they are insignificant. But without an evidentiary hearing the court is simply left to speculate...the gravity.[of the] decision mandates that the parties have a full opportunity to present, and the trial court have a full opportunity to consider, the relevant evidence."

After the move the boy rebelled against his mother, at one point refusing to board a plane to go back to Las Vegas after a visit with his father. The mother, who had moved to Las Vegas because her new husband was offered a new job there, has now allowed the boy to live with his dad. Cameron told the Santa Maria Times that the new Supreme Court decision is "bad for other kids like me who don't want to move.It's hard to leave your friends. And my dad missed all but one of my football games when I lived in Las Vegas."

The underlying problem is that in California the legal presumption on relocations points in the wrong direction. If a parent wants to move a child far away, he or she should bear the burden of showing that the move is not detrimental to the child. In this way many frivolous, selfish, or vindictive moves would be restricted, while still allowing for legitimate ones, such as in cases of abuse, dire economic need or when noncustodial parents show little interest in their children.

Brown vs. Yana is not an outrageous ruling, and Yana had harmed his case with slipshod legal work and erratic behavior. The decision is, however, sadly illustrative of a common mentality in family law which places a custodial parent's convenience above a child's love for his mother and father.


LCD Rulez!

Post lifted from A Western Heart

No, it's not what you think if you thought this was going to be a paen of praise to technology. It's a minor rant about the nannying bastards who seek to control every aspect of the lives of their fellow citizens. About the way these people, in the name of "safety" or "sensitivity" or the dozens of other code-words they use succeed only in reducing us to the level of the Lowest Common Denominator of society.

Their solution to almost every problem--real or imagined--is to ban, control and regulate human behaviour. The abuse of recreational drugs must be controlled by banning the substance. (even to the point where heroin, for example, a peerless painkiller for the terminally ill can become almost impossible for a person dying in agony to obtain sufficient doses of) The excuse I've often heard for not prescribing an adequate dose of painkilling medication is that the poor bastard in pain "may become addicted". Right. Better to impose a "superior" morality than to alleviate suffering, after all.

Some people drive too fast for the conditions and their level of skill and as a result kill and maim others. The solution is better driver training and education, starting at an early age, right?

Not at all. The "solution" is to charge already over-taxed motorists huge amounts of money for travelling a mere 10 kmh over some abitrarily set speed limit. Regardless of road, weather and traffic conditions. To condemn and hector manufacturers for producing overly powerful and fast cars, as though cars themselves were capable of making the decisions that kill people. So we end up with anodyne swarms of rotten little "economical" tin cans travelling at a snail's pace in order to protect us all.

Some psycho beats his/her kids in a drunken rage? Well, the obvious answer to that is to ban smacking. As though responsible caring parents (the vast majority, whatever "child safety" advocates may suggest) aren't capable of making the judgement that a swift smack on the bum may teach a child more (and quicker) something that may keep that child safe from harm. These fools conveniently ignore the huge psychological damage that poor parenting can inflict for life--without leaving a bruise.

It's too hard, you see. Far easier to ban smacking and pat themselves on the back while they enjoy the warm self-righteous glow of the do-gooder. Most of this interference is justified on very specious grounds indeed--when in fact it's no more than the imposition of a tiny pressure group's moral judgements on the rest of us. As though they have some magical access to truths that are hidden from (or superior to) the rest of us.

Now I've just read what may be the ultimate piece of nannying drivel ever to come out of the Velvet Gulag known as New Zealand: The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an advertisement which shows a father and son sharing a swig from the same bottle of soft drink! The horror of it! A spokeswoman explains that this is because society has "moved on" and no longer regards such things as acceptable, given the risks associated with sharing saliva and meningococcal disease and yada yadayada.... Words almost fail.

Over a long, dangerous and sometimes irresponsible life this writer has developed an interest in observing the kind of creature that enjoys meddling in the lives of others. Through a mixture of loathing and fascination--like looking at dust mites through a microscope--I've learned to recognise some features common to almost all of them.

Mostly but by no means all they're female and past child-bearing age. Taking a second shot at motherhood by interfering in the lives of adults, mothering by proxy the children of others.

Secondly, they're almost exclusively lefties, obssessed with some Utopian vision of the Perfectly Safe Society. As though safety in life were the be all and end all of existence. Risk and adventure are to be minimised and if they can't be minimised then they should be simply banned. Made unrespectable. Hooligan behaviour. (eerie echoes of the Soviets there, where "hooliganism" was a serious crime against the State)

My message to these interfering, purse-lipped, disapproving, sanctimonious do-gooder nannies is only this: F*** off and leave me alone!

5 March, 2006


Hildabeest and Schumer are Profiling Muslims

It really is true that lies have short legs. One way or another, liberals always end up contradicting themselves, tacitly acknowledging that their pronouncements are more political artifice than statesmanlike artistry, more incitive than insightful. What brings this to mind is the controversial plan allowing the Dubai-based company DP World to assume managerial responsibilities at six major US seaports.....

Hear ye, hear ye! Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer are profiling Muslims. This conclusion is inescapable. After all, on what basis do they object to this plan? "Er . . . it's, it's, it's that it is a foreign company," stammer the apologists. Nay, the liberals were silent when the British company from which DP World is taking the reins oversaw the ports, and it strains credulity to claim the New York senators would have been so taken aback had the baton been handed off to a Swiss entity. Face it, they have been caught with their political-correctness down.

But this is a rare occasion when their antennae are up (Schumer anyway, as I suspect Lady Macbeth is driven by expediency). The fact of the matter is some liberals are finally demonstrating a grasp of the proper application and value of profiling. After all, implicit in their judgement is the following: virtually all the terrorists who bedevil us are Muslim, therefore, we have to assume that a Muslim company would be more likely to harbor terrorists or their sympathizers than a non-Muslim company. Note that "more likely" doesn't mean it's definite. It doesn't have to be, as most things in life are assessed based on probability. In some sports and games this is called playing the percentages.

And this is precisely the science that underpins good profiling (a.k.a. racial-profiling, which is a misnomer). The principle in question is: if a group is over-represented in a certain category of crime, it will receive scrutiny commensurate with that representation when matters concerning that crime category are involved. In other words, we will assess the probability that a given entity has criminal intent or poses a danger and act accordingly. This is the principle that justifies suspicion of DP World. It is a just principle. And Clinton and Schumer are embracing it.

How, though, do they reconcile this position with the consistent liberal opposition to the placing of greater scrutiny on Muslims at airports? Furthermore, how can they now have any credibility when criticizing others for applying this principle to other minority groups? Is this the fruits of an epiphany? Is it a spiritual and political rebirth? Am I to count you, Senators Clinton and Schumer, as my allies in the fight to finally use profiling in a way more symmetrical with good criminology than bad ideology? Ah, I wax rhetorical.

But it's a curious and delicious departure from leftist orthodoxy. Such liberals had always been monolithic and steadfast in their opposition to the profiling of any politically privileged "underprivileged" group, while uttering nary a word about the profiling of politically underprivileged "privileged" groups. It was: the profiling of whites, yes; the profiling of blacks, no. The profiling of men, yes; the profiling of Muslim men, no. But these liberals have allowed common-sense to intrude into their ideology. These demagogic chess masters have finally made the wrong move. They have exposed their king, and he has no clothes.

Needless to say, this foray into reason will prove to be nothing more than a flight of reality. Clinton and Schumer will continue to object to the equitable and proper use of profiling and cast its proponents as bigots. That's how they maintain their ill-gotten power. How will they justify it? They won't.

Liberals aren't thinkers, they're "feelers." Thus, they are not governed by absolutes but by expediency and what feels right at the moment. Profiling Muslims within the context of the port situation feels right, whereas doing so at airports doesn't. It's that simple. For this reason, a given liberal "principle," for lack of a better word (it's not quite accurate to call an ever-changing emotional preference a "principle"), is only pulled from the magician's hat when it can be placed in the service of a liberal agenda. It's the closest thing to a religious experience the Clintons and Schumers of the world will have. Their "principles" undergo a continual cycle of death and resurrection, the latter phase being animated by the desire to breathe life into deadly fallacies in need of buttressing.

What we can do is remember the day when Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer walked where liberals fear to tread. When arguing in favor of good, equitable, across-the-board profiling, we must cite that time when two of the most powerful liberals in the country said, unknowingly and in so many words, "Yeah, you traditionalists were right about that profiling stuff all along." Now, if only the senators' enlightenment were not so fleeting, for it's a beautiful thing. I think it's what alcoholics call . . . a moment of clarity.



By Peggy Noonan

America has become creepy for women who think of themselves as ladies. It has in fact become assaultive. I start with a dictionary definition, from American Heritage, not that anyone needs it because everyone knows what a lady is. It's a kind of natural knowledge. According to American Heritage, a lady is a well-mannered and considerate woman with high standards of proper behavior. You know one, the dictionary suggests, by how she's treated: "a woman, especially when spoken of or to in a polite way." Under usage, American Heritage says, "lady is normally used as a parallel to gentleman to emphasize norms expected in polite society or situations."

I would add that a lady need not be stuffy, scolding, stiff. A lady brings regard for others into the room with her; that regard is part of the dignity she carries and seeks to spread. A lady is a woman who projects the stature of life. These definitions are incomplete but serviceable--I invite better ones--but keep them in mind as I try to draw a fuller picture of what it was like to be taken aside at an airport last week for what is currently known as further screening and was generally understood 50 years ago to be second-degree sexual assault.

I was directed, shoeless, into the little pen with the black plastic swinging door. A stranger approached, a tall woman with burnt-orange hair. She looked in her 40s. She was muscular, her biceps straining against a tight Transportation Security Administration T-shirt. She carried her wand like a billy club. She began her instructions: Face your baggage. Feet in the footmarks. Arms out. Fully out. Legs apart. Apart. I'm patting you down.

It was like a 1950s women's prison movie. I got to be the girl from the streets who made a big mistake; she was the guard doing intake. "Name's Veronica, but they call me Ron. Want a smoke?" Beeps and bops, her pointer and middle fingers patting for explosives under the back of my brassiere; the wand on and over my body, more beeps, more pats. The she walked wordlessly away. I looked around, slowly put down my arms, rearranged my body. For a moment I thought I might plaintively call out, "No kiss goodbye? No, 'I'll call'?" But they might not have been amused. And actually I wasn't either.

I experienced the search not only as an invasion of privacy, which it was, but as a denial or lowering of that delicate thing, dignity. The dignity of a woman, of a lady, of a person with a right not to be manhandled or to be, or to feel, molested.

Is this quaint, this claiming of such a right? Is it impossibly old-fashioned? I think it's just basic. There aren't many middle-aged women who fly who haven't experienced something very much like what I've described. I've noticed recently that people who fly have taken to looking away when they pass someone being patted down. They do this now at LaGuardia, in line for the shuttle to Washington, where they used to stare. Now they turn away in embarrassment. They're right to be embarrassed. It is to their credit that they are.

An aside with a point: I almost always talk to the screeners and usually wind up joking with them. They often tell me wonderful things. The most moving was the security woman at LaGuardia who answered my question, "What have you learned about people since taking this job that you didn't know before?" She did an impromptu soliloquy on how Everyone Travels With the Same Things. She meant socks, toothbrush, deodorant, but as she spoke, as she elaborated, we both came to understood that she was saying something larger about. . .what's inside us, and what it is to be human, and on a journey. One screener, this past Monday, again at LaGuardia, told me that no, she had never ever found a terrorist or a terror related item in her searches. Two have told me women take the searches worse than men, and become angrier.

But then they would, for they are not only discomforted and delayed, as the men. There is also the edge of violation. Are the women who do the searches wicked, cruel? No, they're trying to make a living and go with the flow of modernity. They're doing what they've been taught. They've been led to approach things in a certain way, first by our society and then by their bosses. They're doing what they've been trained to do by modern government security experts who don't have to bother themselves with thoughts like, Is this sort of a bad thing to do to a person who is a lady? By, that is, slobs with clipboards who have also been raised in the current culture.

I spoke this week at a Catholic college. I have been speaking a lot, for me anyway, which means I have been without that primary protector of American optimism and good cheer, which is staying home. Americans take refuge in their homes. It's how they protect themselves from their culture. It helps us maintain our optimism.

At the Catholic college, a great one, we were to speak of faith and politics. This, to me, is a very big and complicated subject, and a worthy one. But quickly--I mean within 15 seconds--the talk was only of matters related to sexuality. Soon a person on the panel was yelling, "Raise your hands if you think masturbation is a sin!," and the moderator was asking if African men should use condoms, yes or no. At one point I put my head in my hands. I thought, Have we gone crazy? There are thousands of people in the audience, from children to aged nuns, and this is how we talk, this is the imagery we use, this is our only subject matter? But of course it is. It is our society's subject matter.

I was the only woman on the panel, which is no doubt part of why I experienced it as so odd, but in truth the symposium wasn't odd, not in terms of being out of line with the culture. It was odd only because it was utterly in line with it. Was the symposium the worst thing that happened to me this year? Oh no. It wasn't even the worst thing that has happened to me this week. But I did experience it as to some degree violative of my dignity as a person. An adult. A woman. A lady. And I have been experiencing a lot of things in this way for a while now. Have you?

I experience it when I see blaring television ads for birth-control devices, feminine-hygiene products, erectile-dysfunction medicines. I experience it when I'm almost strip-searched at airports. I experience it when I listen to popular music, if that's what we call it. I experience it when political figures are asked the most intimate questions about their families and pressed for personal views on sexual questions that someone somewhere decided have to be Topic A on the national agenda in America right now.

Let me tell you what I say, in my mind, after things like this--the symposium, the commercials, and so forth. I think, We are embarrassing the angels. Imagine for a moment that angels exist, that they are pure spirits of virtue and light, that they care about us and for us and are among us, unseen, in the airport security line, in the room where we watch TV, at the symposium of great minds. "Raise your hands if you think masturbation should be illegal!" "I'm Bob Dole for Viagra." "Put your feet in the foot marks, lady." We are embarrassing the angels.

Do I think this way, in these terms, because I am exceptionally virtuous? Oh no. I'm below average in virtue, and even I know it's all gotten low and rough and disturbed. Lent began yesterday, and I mean to give up a great deal, as you would too if you were me. One of the things I mean to give up is the habit of thinking it and not saying it. A lady has some rights, and this happens to be one I can assert.

"You are embarrassing the angels." This is what I intend to say for the next 40 days whenever I see someone who is hurting the culture, hurting human dignity, denying the stature of a human being. I mean to say it with belief, with an eye to instruction, but also pointedly, uncompromisingly. As a lady would. All invited to join in.


Irving and Livingstone: what liberal backlash?

The imprisonment of David Irving and suspension of Ken Livingstone are the logical extension of an illiberal political climate that some of the backlashers helped to create

These are, as we know, illiberal times, when you can hardly smoke a cigarette, celebrate a goal or hate religion/homosexuality/the Welsh/whatever without the risk of having your collar felt. Yet suddenly it seems as if everybody wants to sign up to a 'liberal backlash'.

Austria's jailing of David Irving for Holocaust denial has met with widespread opposition in Britain from many whom in normal circumstances would cross the road to avoid the fake historian. And the decision of the Standards Board for England to suspend London Mayor Ken Livingstone for a month, for bringing his office into disrepute by comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard, has been widely criticised among Livingstone's opponents as well as supporters. (The suspension has now itself been 'suspended' by a high court judge.)

What is behind this sudden outbreak of backlashes? Although they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, both Irving's imprisonment and Livingstone's suspension should certainly be opposed. spiked made that clear from the moment these issues arose, when Irving was arrested and Livingstone reported to the authorities. We do not support either Irving the far-right crank or Livingstone the left-wing opportunist, but we do have a strong and consistent commitment both to freedom of speech and democratic accountability....

Over the past week or so, however, many who previously took little or no interest in these issues suddenly began howling with outrage at the treatment of Irving and Livingstone. Confronted with these extreme examples of the ugly illiberal and anti-democratic tendencies in politics today, they recoil in horror. Yet these cases are in fact only a logical extension of the broader political climate we live under now - a climate which many of the alleged back-lashers have helped to create and institutionalise.

For example, laws and rules and codes against hate speech have mushroomed in British and European society over recent years. Governments and campaigners of different stripes have engaged in crusades to outlaw offensive and provocative words, whether spoken by far-right politicians or radical Muslim clerics. There has also been a strong lobby within New Labour to make Holocaust denial a crime in the UK, as it is elsewhere in Europe.

Yet when the Austrians put this not-in-front-of-the-children approach to debate into practise, by locking up Irving for something he said years ago, there is a general throwing up of hands and wailing of 'we didn't mean that!'. Many of Austria's critics seem to be in denial about their own anti-hate speech arguments. Would they object as loudly if the leader of the British National Party were to be found guilty of the incitement to race hate charges on which he currently faces retrial?

Mayor Livingstone, of course, has spent years demanding bans and restrictions on words which he finds offensive. Yet now he has been hoist with his own petard, punished for what he said rather than anything he did. In another sense, Livingstone's suspension can be seen as a result of the wider tendency to put personal characteristics rather than political principles at the centre of public life, and to subject democratically elected representatives to the supervision and guidance of unaccountable bodies and officials. Yet these political trends have been supported by many of those now objecting to the treatment of Livingstone.

New Labour and the liberal press made issues of 'sleaze' and personal character central to their assault on the last Conservative government, hounding Tory politicians over their tax returns rather than their taxation policies. Tony Blair subsequently based his appeal on his personal image as a 'pretty straight guy', and New Labour set up anti-sleaze bodies such as the Standards Board to police the behaviour of elected representatives.

Even Livingstone ran for London mayor on a personal ticket as an honest man of the people. His suspension can be seen as a pay-off from this 'trust me, me, me' school of politics where character matters above conviction. Thus the Standards Board ruled that the mayor's behaviour outside a party had brought not only himself but his office into disrepute - or in other words, as Livingstone's allies used to say, that the personal is political. Livingstone may complain now that it is an outrageous assault on democracy for some unelected bureaucrats to ban a mayor - as indeed it is. But his case would be stronger if he and every other Labour politician had not seemed so in thrall to unaccountable quangos, semi-state committees and unrepresentative lobby groups for years.

It is hard to launch effective opposition to bans and proscriptions when you have supported the political process that led up to them, and helped to create the illiberal climate in which they can be imposed. Worse, some of the loudest arguments used against the judgements against Irving and Livingstone reflect similar anti-democratic instincts as those they purport to criticise.

Take the widespread objection that Irving, and to a lesser extent Livingstone, will be turned into 'martyrs' by being persecuted. The assumption appears to be that there is a pan-European mob of racists waiting to rally around Irving the Holocaust-denier if he is persecuted. At another level, it is also implied that stupid Londoners will be conned into sympathising with the dreadful Livingstone if he appears to be picked on.

What many of these allegedly liberal protests reveal is a profound mistrust of the public. Just as the Austrian authorities locked up Irving for fear that his idiotic speeches might prompt a Nazi revival, so these critics want him released for fear that his imprisonment might have the same effect. And just as the sleaze police assume that they, rather than the dumb electorate, are best-placed to judge the London mayor, so some objecting to Livingstone's suspension appear worried that it will help him pull the wool over gullible voters' eyes.

In fact we should be against these illiberal measures for precisely the opposite reasons: because we do trust the people to decide for themselves what they think of an Irving or a Livingstone. Here at spiked, of course, we believe that the two should be treated very differently. Irving's crankish racism should be exposed, ignored, allowed to fade away. Livingstone's popular miserabilist politics should be rigorously argued with. Both will require a commitment to free speech and democratic debate that seems sadly lacking in public life today.

A backlash is a momentary, partial thing that changes nothing unless it leads to a questioning of the underlying political realities. Instead the recent reaction to these decisions has done little to challenge the illiberal, anti-democratic drift of our time. Even the mayor's appeal had to be left in the hands of a high court judge. It is high time we were left to judge important issues for ourselves.


4 March, 2006

Equality, Equity, Commitment and Women's Marital Quality

Some excerpts below from a research paper (PDF) by W Bradford Wilcox and Steven L. Nock. Their findings undermine modern and feminist ideas of what leads to marital happiness

Abstract: The companionate theory of marriage suggests that egalitarianism in practice and belief leads to higher marital quality for wives and higher levels of positive emotion work on the part of husbands. Our analysis of women's marital quality and men's marital emotion work provides little evidence in support of this theory. Rather, in examining women's marital quality and men's emotional investments in marriage, we find that dyadic commitment to institutional ideals about marriage and women's contentment with the division of household tasks are more critical. We also show that men's marital emotion work is a very important determinant of women's marital quality. We conclude by noting that "her" marriage is happiest when it combines elements of the new and old: that is, gender equity and normative commitment to the institution of marriage.

The last century has witnessed profound changes in the functions, character and stability of marriage. In particular, the concomitant rise in women's social and economic status, the relative decline in social and economic functions once associated with the family, and the increased cultural power of expressive individualism have all conspired to heighten the importance of the emotional life of marriage. The emotional functions and character of marriage have become particularly crucial for contemporary marital happiness and marital stability as other sources of satisfaction and/or stability - home production, childrearing, the gendered division of labor and religious authority - have migrated to other sectors or weakened (Bumpass 1990; Cherlin 2004). Sentiment is increasingly the tie that binds together contemporary marriages.

The literature on marriage suggests that the emotional character of marriage is an especially salient determinant of women's marital quality (Erickson 1993; Wilkie, Ferree and Ratcliff 1998). Women are particularly vested in the emotional quality of their marriages because they have long borne the primary emotional burdens of family life. Their stake in the emotional character of their marriages is also rooted in gendered patterns of childhood socialization that encourage female proficiency in and sensitivity towards emotional dynamics in relationships (England and Farkas 1986; Maccoby 1998; Thompson and Walker 1989). Furthermore, because other sources of marital satisfaction have declined, women should now place a premium on the emotional quality of their marriages that outweighs other potential sources of marital satisfaction. Indeed, recent evidence indicates that the emotional quality of marriage is a better predictor of divorce for wives than husbands (Nock 2001; Sayer and Bianchi 2000). For all of these reasons, the "emotion work" (Hochschild 1979: 561) that men do in marriage - and the assessments their wives make of this work - is, in all likelihood, a crucial determinant of women's marital quality.

Accordingly, using data from the second wave of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH2 [1992-1994]), this paper tests the relative importance of men's emotion work compared to a range of cultural and sociodemographic factors in determining women's marital quality. Drawing on Hochschild's work (1979, 1989), we define husbands' marital emotion work as any effort to express positive emotion to their wives, to be attentive to the dynamics of their relationship and the needs of their wives, or to set aside time for activities focused specifically on their relationship. After demonstrating the crucial import of men's marital emotion work, we then set out to determine the key determinants of men's emotion work in marriage. Specifically, we elaborate four theoretical models, which test the relative contributions that gender egalitarianism, normative commitment to marriage, gender equity and gender traditionalism make to men's marital emotion work (and women's marital quality).

A Companionate Model of Marriage

Many contemporary family scholars argue that egalitarian marriages are characterized by the kind of emotion work - affection, empathy, quality time devoted to intimacy - that makes for high-quality, stable marriages (Amato, Johnson, Booth and Rogers 2003; Blumstein and Schwartz 1983; Burgess, Locke, and Thomes 1963; England and Farkas 1986; Goldscheider and Waite 1991). What we call the companionate theory of marriage is predicated on three assumptions about the links between egalitarianism and marital emotion work.

First, spouses share similar work and family responsibilities. Such role sharing is supposed to increase the quality of emotion work in marriage by providing husbands and wives with common experiences and interests around which they can build conversations, empathetic regard, mutual understanding and the like. The companionate marriage stands in clear contrast to an older model of marriage where women specialize in expressive, private functions and men specialize in instrumental, public functions. The blurring or elimination of such gender roles, advocates of companionate marriage suggest, will result in a richer emotional life where, among other things, men do more marital emotion work.

Second, the elimination of patriarchal authority and power is seen as a key mechanism for promoting marital intimacy. Classical social theory has long noted the tensions between authority or power and intimacy (Weber 1978). The exercise of authority and power is usually associated with social distance, and marital theorists have argued that one of the reasons that men are less expressive in marriage is that they seek to protect their traditional dominance by limiting their expression of affect. Likewise, women's financial dependence on marriage has led them to cater to the emotional needs of their mates and to the emotional dynamics of the marital relationship in an effort to maintain the security of their marriages and to elevate their status within marriage. Women also have been socialized to minimize the expression of their own thoughts, desires and feelings - especially negative ones - for fear of jeopardizing their marriages (Blood and Wolfe 1960; Blumberg and Coleman 1989; Thompson and Walker 1989). By contrast, the companionate theory of marriage predicts that marriages characterized by an ethic of equal regard, as well as equal access to the labor force, will have higher levels of male emotion work and interpersonal honesty (Gottman 1994). In such marriages, women should feel like they have the power to speak their minds and men should feel a greater responsibility to shoulder their share of the emotion work associated with marriage.

Third, egalitarian-minded men are supposed to be more open to a "counterstereotypical" masculinity conducive to marital emotion work (McQuillan and Ferree 1998). Traditionally, masculinity has been defined in opposition to all things feminine - including the ready and frequent expression of emotion, affection and vulnerability, as well as attentiveness to relationship dynamics (Gilmore 1990). By contrast, men who identify with the ethos of egalitarianism should embrace a counterstereotypical masculinity, that is, "a style of manliness that is not afraid to accept influence from women, to recognize and express emotion, and to give cognitive room to the marriage relation as such." (McQuillan and Ferree 1998: 223) For all these reasons, the companionate theory of marriage would predict that egalitarian relationships are characterized by more "interpersonal closeness, trust, communication and mutuality" that generate the kinds of experiences and emotional skills that foster marital emotion work on the part of men (Goldscheider and Waite 1991: 4). Thus, the companionate model of marriage suggests the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1a: Wives in egalitarian marriages will be more satisfied with their marriages.

Hypothesis 1b: Husbands in egalitarian marriages will do more positive marital emotion work.

Given the strong hypothesized link between women's marital quality and men's marital emotion work, the companionate theory of marriage would predict - ceteris paribus - that more equal marriages are happier. Nonetheless, recent research on the link between marital equality and marital quality is mixed, with a number of studies finding that more traditional women have happier marriages (e.g., Amato and Booth 1995; Gager and Sanchez 1998; Sanchez, Wright, Wilson and Nock 2003; Wilkie et al. 1998; but see Amato et al. 2003). Of course, the lack of a clear connection between marital equality and women's marital happiness may be because other institutional and cultural factors confound the association between egalitarianism and marital happiness for women.....

Data and Methods

We analyze data drawn from the second wave of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH2 [1992-1994]), a nationally representative sample of adults age 23 and older. We use data from NSFH2 because the first wave of the survey (NSFH1 [1987-1988]) does not have as many measures of positive marital emotion work. NSFH2 re-interviewed 10,008 of NSFH1's 13,007 original respondents for a response rate of approximately 77 percent. NSFH2 also interviewed current spouses of its original respondents who were married in the second wave. Response rates averaged slightly more than 80 percent for the spouses of married respondents (Bumpass and Sweet 1995; Sweet, Bumpass and Call 1988).2 For our analyses, we rely on a subsample of 5,010 couples drawn from NSFH2. The statistics and analyses used for this study are based on weighted data, adjusted for oversamples of African-Americans and Hispanics and for attrition from NSFH1 to NSFH2.....

Discussion and Conclusion

Recent work indicates that marital quality declined over much of the past four decades, although the rate of decline seems to have leveled off in the 1990s (Glenn 1991; Rogers and Amato 1997; Popenoe and Whitehead 2004). The research to date suggests that this development may be, in part, a product of the fact that women with increasingly egalitarian gender role attitudes are married to men who have not adopted a sufficiently egalitarian approach to marriage (Amato and Booth 1995; Chafetz 1995). Insofar as we find strong support for the equity model, this study suggests that part of the decline in marital quality is indeed related to the continuing mismatch between women's attitudes and marital equality. Moreover, we saw evidence that women who are more egalitarian-minded and more upset with the division of household labor receive lower levels of positive emotion work from their husbands, perhaps because they are more likely to initiate conflict with their husbands. Thus, rising expectations among women for marital equality may also have the unintended effect of lowering investments in marital emotion work on the part of men; this, in turn, may be associated with declines in marital quality for American women.

But the findings in this study also lend support to institutional and gender accounts of this decline in marital quality. From an institutional perspective, we find that shared church attendance and normative support for the institution of marriage are associated with higher levels of women's marital happiness. Thus, declines in religious attendance over the past four decades (Steensland, Park, Regnerus, Robinson, Wilcox and Woodberry 2000), along with the liberalization of attitudes to divorce and extramarital sex (Thornton and Young-DeMarco 2001), may also account for recent shifts in marital quality insofar as they reduce the social and normative supports that foster higher investments in marriage.

From a gender perspective, our findings suggest that increased departures from a male-breadwinning/female-homemaking model may also account for declines in marital quality, insofar as men and women continue to tacitly value gendered patterns of behavior in marriage. Specifically, we find that the gendered character of marriage seems to remain sufficiently powerful as a tacit ideal among women to impact women's marital quality even apart from the effects of the continuing mismatch between female gender role attitudes and male practices. Of course, this is also indicative of the fact that we find virtually no evidence for the companionate model, since women are not happier in marriages marked by egalitarian practices and beliefs.

Our findings also speak to the role of emotion work in women's global marital quality. First, it is important to highlight our finding, judging by the dramatic increase in model fit, that men's emotion work (and women's assessments of that work) is the most crucial determinant of women's marital quality. It is more important than patterns of household labor, perceptions of housework equity, female labor force participation, childbearing, education and a host of other traditional predictors of global marital quality. This finding suggests that the functions, character, and stability of contemporary marriages are intimately tied to their emotional well-being.

We find little evidence in support of the companionate model of marriage when it comes to men's emotion work. For the most part, marriages that are more egalitarian in belief and practice are not marked by higher levels of men's positive emotion work or by women's happiness with such emotion work. Instead, we find modest evidence that wives' gender traditionalism is independently related to higher levels of men's positive emotion work in marriage. We also find evidence that homemaking wives report greater happiness with their husband's emotion work, and may be more likely to receive such work from their husbands. In other words, adherence to traditional beliefs and practices regarding gender seems to be tied not only to global marital happiness but also - surprisingly enough - to expressive patterns of marriage.

We also find evidence for the institutional model of marriage, which stresses the importance of social and normative support for marriage. Wives who share high levels of church attendance are more likely to report happiness with their husband's emotion work in marriage. Moreover, wives who share a normative commitment to marriage with their husbands are more likely to report happiness with the emotion work done by their husbands, probably because they seek to legitimate their own investment in married life. Thus, socially-conservative practices and (possibly) beliefs appear to be linked to lower expectations of marital emotion work on the part of women. But it is also possible that they are associated with more expressive marriages. In any case, women who share a commitment to the institution of marriage with their husbands express greater happiness with the expressive state of their relationship.

This study also demonstrates that women who are not happy with the fairness of the division of household labor are less satisfied with their husband's positive emotion work and less likely to receive such emotion work. We suspect that higher expectations of intimacy and equality among women, especially more egalitarian-minded women, have led them to view their husbands' emotion work more critically; we also suspect that these expectations have increased marital conflict and - in turn - dampened men's marital emotion work (Chafetz 1995; Hochschild 1989). To repeat Chafetz (1995: 78): "The typical marriage has been increasingly reconceptualized by many women as short on intimacy and equality and therefore unacceptable." Thus, the irony here is that - at least over the short term - the increased popularity of companionate ideals of marriage seems to have contributed to a decrease in the prevalence of the companionate marriage in practice....

In conclusion, our results suggest that the road to successful "new families" (Goldscheider and Waite 1991) is more circuitous and difficult than originally thought. While it is true that changes in men's behavior are required for this transformation (Goldscheider and Waite 1991), it also appears that contemporary couples could benefit from a heightened appreciation of the role that shared religious practice and normative commitments to marriage play in supporting women's marital quality and the expressive dimension of marital life. Our results also suggest that more traditional beliefs and practices regarding gender play a positive role in the quality and expressive character of many women's marriages, even apart from the dramatic shifts in gender role ideology in the last few decades. At least for many American women, this study indicates that "her" marriage is most happy when it combines elements of the new and old.

British schools to ban those incorrect fizzy drinks and chocolate

Dame Suzi Leather sounds like a harsh mistress. She is also soft in the head. If you look at the approved food, you will see that "fromage frais" gets a stamp of approval time after time. Yet that is a cheese-based yoghurt which would be EXTREMELY calorific! It's total calories that make you fat -- not where they come from

Schools will be banned from selling junk food and told to give pupils seeds and yoghurt drinks in moves to tackle child obesity. Parents will also be issued with guidelines on food high in fat and sugar which should not be included in their children's packed lunches.

Nuts, seeds and yoghurt drinks will replace crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks in tuck shops, after-school clubs and vending machines, say the draft guidelines issued yesterday by the government-appointed School Food Trust (SFT). The laws to wean children off sweets and chocolate will be among the toughest in the world and will take fizzy sugary drinks off the menu, as well as diet and sport drinks and flavoured waters.They come just days after the Audit Commission attacked the Government for its indecision and lack of leadership over the implementation of measures to curb child obesity.

Children will be allowed to have milk, yoghurt drinks, water and fruit juices as well as tea, coffee and low-calorie hot chocolate. Crisps will be banned at all times, but cakes and biscuits will be allowed at lunch and in after-school clubs. Dame Suzi Leather, chairman of the SFT, said the rules, to be introduced from September, were necessary because children were eating too much sugar, fat and salt with "little or no nutritional value".

"They [the new rules] cannot succeed if pupils are surrounded with chocolate, crisps and drinks that fill them up with sugar and fat during the school day," she said. "Anecdotal evidence suggests that when these products are removed, behaviour improves and this could also have implications for better learning." The SFT said that about a quarter of children were obese or overweight and 53 per cent of the 4-18 age group had dental decay.

The food and soft drinks industry is estimated to make 45 million pounds a year from school vending machines. Schools are believed to make 2,500 pounds a year per vending machine.

A spokesman for the Automatic Vending Association, whose machines are only in secondary schools, said: "We think educated choice would have been better than outright prohibition." Masterfoods, which supplies Mars and Snickers bars, said it was "disappointed with the SFT's simplistic approach. Banning certain foodstuffs will not work. Young people need to understand how to enjoy a balanced diet and active lifestyle."

Dame Suzi said that the SFT would also be strengthening lunchbox guidelines, and would expect schools to advise parents of what should be included in a healthy diet. The SFT guidance is out for consultation until May. The Education and Inspections Bill, which was published this week, requires governing bodies and local authorities to comply with healthy eating regulations in the provision of "all food and drink provided on the premises" of state schools. It gives ministers power to ban specific types of food and drink from schools and states that the rules will apply "to food or drink provided by contractors under arrangements made with LEAs or governing bodies


3 March, 2006

Crying Wolf: Feminist sexual-harassment hysteria

By Christina Hoff Sommers

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) issued two reports in the early Nineties that were harmfully wrong. AAUW researchers claimed to show how “our gender biased” classrooms were damaging the self-esteem of the nation’s girls and holding them back academically. That was simply not true. At the time AAUW released those studies, girls were rapidly moving ahead of boys academically. The defective but influential research of the AAUW promoted a specious “shortchanged girl” crisis that diverted the attention of educators away from the genuine needs of male students. As dozens of recent news stories report, it is boys, not girls, who are on the wrong side of the educational gender gap. Today, our colleges are nearly 57-percent female. And that gap keeps growing. Now, instead of acknowledging they were mistaken about girls being shortchanged and celebrating the remarkable success of today’s university women, the AAUW has just released another flawed and misleading study claiming to show a “chilly climate” for women on campus.

In this new study, “Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment On Campus,” the AAUW finds that nearly two thirds of American college students are victims of sexual harassment. It used Harris Interactive, a well-regarded polling company, to conduct an online survey of 2036 randomly selected college students. But then the AAUW staff took over the task of interpreting and dramatizing the responses. For starters, they defined "sexual harassment" in a way that differs markedly from the commonly accepted legal definition. The Department of Education, for example, defines sexual harassment as conduct “so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it affects a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity, or creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment.” The AAUW staff used what they characterized as their own “intentionally broad” definition. By their standard, any student surveyed who felt deeply offended by a peer’s “comments, jokes, gestures, and looks” counted as a victim. When they discovered that by their novel criteria a large majority of students qualified as harassment casualties, they might have realized that something was amiss. Instead, they described the survey as “ground-breaking,” and launched a national campus “action project.”

One finding of the study is extremely awkward for the hard-line feminists at the AAUW: Equal numbers of males and females reported having been “harassed” in the past year. Moreover, in what appear to be genuine cases of harassment, more men than women were victims. To the question: “Were you asked to do something sexual in exchange for a better grade, class notes, etc.?” eight percent of males and five percent of females said "yes."

It could not have been easy to construe such findings as evidence of a “chilly climate” for women students, but the AAUW was equal to the challenge. Its staff explains that while harassment afflicts both sexes, women are more likely to become upset. According to the AAUW press release, “Because our research shows that sexual harassment takes an especially high toll on women, we are concerned that sexual harassment may make it harder for them to get the education they need to take care of themselves and their families in the future.” Actually, the responses revealed that most women in the survey did not feel that harassment was exacting any kind of toll on their education. Though some were angered or embarrassed by a particular incident, only two percent said that they often worried about harassment.

The AAUW study did not in fact uncover an epidemic of harassment. But it did inadvertently highlight a very unpleasant and troubling feature of contemporary campus life. There is a lot of raunchiness and in-your-face sexuality everywhere a student turns. Unfortunately for the AAUW’s case, it is not possible to fix the blame for the excessive sexual exhibitionism on men alone. Many women are conspicuous contributors, particularly on “V-Day.” February 14th is now celebrated on most American campuses, not as Valentine’s Day, but as V-day (short for “Vagina Day” or for “Violence Against Women Day”). V-Day — usually organized by a small minority of ideologically driven women faculty and impressionable and confused female students — has become an annual occasion to deplore all the horrible things men do to women while at the same time celebrating the wonders of female sexual anatomy. For a two- or three-week period, campuses are festooned with close-up images of a specific female body part. Frequently there are sexually suggestive T-shirts, anatomically correct lollipops, obscene chants and sex toy workshops. If the AAUW were serious about improving the climate on campus, it could start by looking for ways to reason with the V-Day enthusiasts to discourage their antics. But that is not about to happen any time soon.

Campuses need effective policies against genuine harassment. They do not need the divisive gender politics of the AAUW spin sisters. The AAUW’s statistically challenged, chronically mistaken, and relentlessly male-averse “studies” should not be taken seriously.


Meet Mr. Insensitive ... Me

(By David M. Brown)

"How far do we go toward accommodating religious sensitivities in a pluralistic society?" - Eric Olsen, cartoon-controversy roundup

This question underscores a huge problem with respect to how the Mohammed-caricature controversy is often being cast. What I say below should not be taken as a response to anything Eric has written, but as a response to certain rationales and characterizations I see popping up again and again in this debate, and not just at blogcritics.org. What religious sensitivities are we talking about? Is it really a huge dilemma whether to accommodate the thuggishness of thugs, so long as they scrupulously tap the most politically-correct or religiously-correct mantras? Apparently the answer is yes, because in the West we seem to keep suffering this same "dilemma" over and over.

I don't quite know what a "pluralistic" society is. Is that a society with more than ten people? I want a society in which all persons who disagree with others, even vehemently, retain all their rights; and in which any person who willfully violates the rights of others to go about their peaceful business unmolested is subject to the sanctions of law. That kind of rights-respecting society is in my interest and in the interest of every other reasonable person. It would naturally engender a heterogeneity of culture and viewpoint. Pluralism thus defined is a natural effect and feature of a free society, but does not constitute the core of what makes a free society possible. In a free society, there is no pluralism about whether you can hit somebody over the head and grab his wallet. It's banned outright.

Respect. Common courtesy. Civility. Sure. Let's have them. Since when, though, do civilized persons require being threatened with death in order to exercise the virtue of civility? But being civil does not mean never uttering a disagreeable word, nor being snivelingly "sensitive" about every surly twitch and mutter of the avowed enemies of freedom and civilization. (And when is somebody going to explain how threatening to decapitate those who disagree with you exemplifies the virtues of either civility of "sensitivity"?)

True, most Muslims, it should not be necessary to stress, are not vicious killers; only a tiny minority. Also true, not all Muslims are foes of freedom of speech; what exactly the ratio of free-speech-supporting to free-speech-opposing Muslims might be I don't know. But reasonable persons of all creeds have every reason to be civil toward others in the ordinary course of the day (and even if something in their creed might be interpreted, or misinterpreted, as a blanket warrant for infidel-killing). And such persons have no reason to repress or threaten or kill others who deal with them peaceably in turn, no matter how offensive the articulated views of those others may be in fact or in imagination.

Another person's desire to gag or murder me for saying something he dislikes represents the one kind of act that cannot be accommodated in a free society, if it is to remain free. Killers may be very sensitive people. Let's grant that. But I just don't care how sensitive a killer is to criticism about his desire to smash my skull in. Nor should I. I mean, in that case, screw it. Let's offend. Especially if you're a cop who happens to be passing by at the time. Don't be so sensitive, officer. No really, shoot the guy now, cry about it later.

The MoHo-cartoon debate obliges us to choose between surrender and resistance. Do we in the West who value our lives and liberty simply hand them over to the Islamo-fascist thug-droids on a silver platter, taking pains all the while to babble furiously about how horrible the cartoons are and how "Gee, I can understand why you want to behead cartoonists and such"? Or, do we actively oppose these killers and their collaborators and the flimsy blood-soaked rationalizations with which they attempt to veil the countenance of their evil...and actively defend our own life-serving values?

At least a couple bloggers in this part of cyber-town are upset because the cartoons were reprinted by anybody, whether in support of the Danes, freedom of speech, or the truth about the connection between Islamo-fascist ideas and the ensuing Islamo-fascist murders. Never mind the Marxo-idiotic jibber-jabber about globalist-capitalist conspiracies that some of these scribblers are spouting. What it comes down to is that surrender, in their view, is the only option, if we're to be, you know, sensitive.

I'm not that sensitive. Or rather, I am sensitive. Which is to say that I'm very offended, for example, by the scum-monkey newspaper editors who have suddenly discovered vast reservoirs of hitherto untapped "sensitivity." I'm equally offended by the scum-monkey publisher of a New York paper, the New York Press, who prohibited his editors from publishing the caricatures. I'm not offended by the editors who then resigned in protest. Good for them.

If the allegedly journalistically-objective newspapers declining to publish the images that the squabble is all about had announced that their refusal has to do with fear of blowback, such a course would have been at least semi-honorable. It would have been honest, at least. It would have given their readers an important clue about the nature of what's happening.

"How far do we go toward accommodating religious sensitivities in a pluralistic society?" We go as far as we go toward accommodating any sensitivity of any kind. We protect everyone's rights, equally, to the extent humanly possible. No society protects individual rights perfectly. But each must try, lest it devolve into the kind of anti-society in which the strongest habitually stomp everybody else, with only a few stray and rapidly incarcerated or killed courageous ones ever daring to protest. Maybe some manifestations of pluralism do accommodate thugs and tyrants. Free men and women, however, do not accommodate thugs and tyrants. Not if they plan to remain free.

No, I have no great interest in delicately persuading an Islamo-thug to stop coming at me with his sword. Sure, maybe I could sensitively ask the guy to be a little more sensitive toward me in light of how I would prefer to continue living and everything. Perhaps he would then pause and reflect and say, "You know, you're right, here I am demanding sensitivity, and by gum ... I'm not being all that sensitive ... oy vey, Allah!" But the chances are low. See, the "sensitivity" game can be played into infinity. The only place where folks never rub each other the wrong way is a graveyard. Well, we will all get there soon enough. No need to rush.

2 March, 2006


The study reported below must have the feminists grinding their teeth. Fancy fathers being good even for DAUGHTERS! I myself have always said (I've said it here) that "Daddy's Girl" is one of the most beautiful human relationships so I am glad to see that the facts bear out that judgment. I have always greatly regretted that I did not have a daughter but I had a very good relationship with a beautiful little stepdaughter so I do not feel totally deprived. She is now a radiant and happily married young woman

Girls who have good relationships with their fathers tend to wait longer to have their first sexual intercourse experience, according to a new study by a University of Texas at Austin sociologist. In a study published in this month's Journal of Family Issues, Dr. Mark Regnerus reports that girls who claimed to have very low quality relationships with their fathers were nearly twice as likely to lose their virginity over the course of a year than girls who reported very high quality father-daughter relationships. No similar correlation was found between girls and their mothers, or between boys and either parent.

"This shows us that it is not enough for dads to be merely present," says Regnerus, an assistant professor of sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. "They need to be active in their daughters' lives. There are hints here that girls who have poor relationships with their dads tend to seek attention from other males at earlier ages and often this will involve a sexual relationship."

Regnerus reviewed data gathered from about 10,000 seventh through 12th grade students living in two-parent households. The data came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a study designed to analyze the causes of health-related behaviors in teenagers. While the parent-child relationship did not have a strong effect on boys, the number of an adolescent's romantic partners did affect the probability of both sexes having intercourse for the first time. "For each additional partner reported, the odds of a boy losing his virginity increase by 88 percent," notes Regnerus.

The biggest shift for girls was between those who weren't actively dating and those who had one dating partner. "For girls, it's not dating around that adds much risk, but whether they date at all," says Regnerus.

The study also showed that anticipation of guilt curbed the likelihood of both boys and girls having sex for the first time. Two other factors that delayed girls' sexual activity were religious service attendance and their mothers' education level. Girls whose mothers had college degrees were 64 percent less likely to lose their virginity compared to girls whose mothers did not. Researchers have previously studied the sexual behavior of adolescents who come from broken homes or live with stepparents, but this study is unique in that it examines teenagers whose biological parents are still together.


Attempts made to suppress politically incorrect findings

A study in New Zealand that tracked approximately 500 women from birth to 25 years of age has confirmed that young women who have abortions subsequently experience elevated rates of suicidal behaviors, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and other mental problems. Most significantly, the researchers--led by Professor David M. Fergusson, who is the director of the longitudinal Christchurch Health and Development Study--found that the higher rate of subsequent mental problems could not be explained by any pre-pregnancy differences in mental health, which had been regularly evaluated over the course of the 25- year study.

According to Fergusson, the researchers had undertaken the study anticipating that they would be able to confirm the view that any problems found after abortion would be traceable to mental health problems that had existed before the abortion. At first glance, it appeared that their data would confirm this hypothesis. The data showed that women who became pregnant before age 25 were more likely to have experienced family dysfunction and adjustment problems, were more likely to have left home at a young age, and were more likely to have entered a cohabiting relationship. However, when these and many other factors were taken into account, the findings showed that women who had abortions were still significantly more likely to experience mental health problems. Thus, the data contradicted the hypothesis that prior mental illness or other "pre-disposing" factors could explain the differences. "We know what people were like before they became pregnant," Fergusson told The New Zealand Herald. "We take into account their social background, education, ethnicity, previous mental health, exposure to sexual abuse, and a whole mass of factors."

The data persistently pointed toward the politically unwelcome conclusion that abortion may itself be the cause of subsequent mental health problems. So Fergusson presented his results to New Zealand's Abortion Supervisory Committee, which is charged with ensuring that abortions in that country are conducted in accordance with all the legal requirements. According to The New Zealand Herald, the committee told Fergusson that it would be "undesirable to publish the results in their 'unclarified' state."

Despite his own pro-choice political beliefs, Fergusson responded to the committee with a letter stating that it would be "scientifically irresponsible" to suppress the findings simply because they touched on an explosive political issue. In an interview about the findings with an Australian radio host, Fergusson stated: "I remain pro-choice. I am not religious. I am an atheist and a rationalist. The findings did surprise me, but the results appear to be very robust because they persist across a series of disorders and a series of ages. . . . Abortion is a traumatic life event; that is, it involves loss, it involves grief, it involves difficulties. And the trauma may, in fact, predispose people to having mental illness."

The research team of the Christchurch Health and Development Study is used to having its studies on health and human development accepted by the top medical journals on first submission. After all, the collection of data from birth to adulthood of 1,265 children born in Christchurch is one of the most long-running and valuable longitudinal studies in the world. But this study was the first from the experienced research team that touched on the contentious issue of abortion. Ferguson said the team "went to four journals, which is very unusual for us -- we normally get accepted the first time." Finally, the fourth journal accepted the study for publication.

Although he still holds a pro-choice view, Fergusson believes women and doctors should not blindly accept the unsupported claim that abortion is generally harmless or beneficial to women. He appears particularly upset by the false assurances of abortion's safety given by the American Psychological Association (APA). In a 2005 statement, the APA claimed that "well-designed studies" have found that "the risk of psychological harm is low." In the discussion of their results, Fergusson and his team note that the APA's position paper ignored many key studies showing evidence of abortion's harm and looked only at a selective sample of studies that have serious methodological flaws.

Fergusson told reporters that "it verges on scandalous that a surgical procedure that is performed on over one in 10 women has been so poorly researched and evaluated, given the debates about the psychological consequences of abortion." Following Fergusson's complaints about the selective and misleading nature of the 2005 APA statement, the APA removed the page from their Internet site. The statement can still be found through a web archive service, however.

The reaction to the publication of the Christchurch study is heating up the political debate in the United States. The study was introduced into the official record at the senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Also, a U.S. congressional subcommittee chaired by Representative Mark Souder (R-IN) has asked the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to report on what efforts the NIH is undertaking to confirm or refute Fergusson's findings.

The impact of the study in other countries may be even more profound. According to The New Zealand Herald, the Christchurch study may require doctors in New Zealand to certify far fewer abortions. Approximately 98 percent of abortions in New Zealand are done under a provision in the law that only allows abortion when "the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger (not being danger normally attendant upon childbirth) to the life, or to the physical or mental health, of the woman or girl."

Doctors performing abortions in Great Britain face a similar legal problem. Indeed, the requirement to justify an abortion is even higher in British law. Doctors there are only supposed to perform abortions when the risks of physical or psychological injury from allowing the pregnancy to continue are "greater than if the pregnancy was terminated."

According to researcher Dr. David Reardon, who has published more than a dozen studies investigating abortion's impact on women, Fergusson's study reinforces a growing body of literature showing that doctors in New Zealand, Britain and elsewhere face legal and ethical obligations to discourage or refuse contraindicated abortions....

Fergusson also believes that the same rules that apply to other medical treatments should apply to abortion. "If we were talking about an antibiotic or an asthma risk, and someone reported adverse reactions, people would be advocating further research to evaluate risk," he said in the New Zealand Herald. "I can see no good reason why the same rules don't apply to abortion."

More here

When Wives Cheat, It's OK (??)

According to the an article You Won't Believe How Many Wives Cheat, "The modern American or European woman is just as likely to cheat on her husband as he is to cheat on her." Excerpt:

"Those are the eyebrow-raising findings of a team of German researchers from the Hamburg-based GEWIS Institute for Social Research. Reuters reports that in a survey of 1,427 men and women between the ages of 25 and 35, fully 53 percent of women said they had been unfaithful to their partner, compared with 59 percent of men.

"Unlike most men, the reason women have affairs is primarily non-sexual. While sex is no doubt the outcome, what women are seeking when they first stray from their husbands is reassurance and understanding. In other words, they are looking for emotional intimacy...

"Some women are serial cheaters. Seventeen percent of women surveyed said they had cheated two or three times, compared with 22 percent of men. And get this: Eight percent of the women said they had cheated four or five times in the course of their marriage, but only 4 percent of men admitted to this."

Note the excuse for bad female behavior-- "the reason women have affairs is primarily non-sexual...women [seek] reassurance and understanding. In other words, they are looking for emotional intimacy..." Why is that particular need or motivation sufficient to excuse anything? All behaviour is motivated. Why is one motive better than another? In such cases, shouldn't it be the behaviour that counts rather than the motive? It is VERY easy to lie about motives. And women are NEVER motivated by sexual attaction, of course (If you believe that you would believe anything).


A good comment from a reader:

"You mentioned the use of the 'non-sexual' argument to explain female infidelity versus the explanation applied to male infidelity. It sounds very similar to the 'reasons' applied to men and women who have foreign partners: If a white Australian male has an Asian partner, or (worse) if he seeks one from overseas, it is common for him to be portrayed as a sleaze and her as a 'mail order bride'. Yet if a white Australian female has a foreign partner or is seeking one, she is seen as having an exotic affair as she is 'above' the boring fare offered at home!!

Also, it is never noted that if men are really such lotharios as they are often portrayed to be (and whether it is biologically or socially driven is irrelevant to the argument), then those men who do remain faithful must be making a bigger sacrifice and a bigger commitment to keeping their relationship than their apparently and comparatively less tempted partners. I suspect this would be a politically incorrect argument!"

1 March, 2006


Women who make the world worse (and the men who do what they say) got the best of Larry Summers

By Charlotte Allen

After years of battling with Harvard's notoriously hard-left arts-and-sciences faculty, Lawrence H. Summers has admitted defeat. He was forced out of his position as president of Harvard University despite overwhelming support from the faculty at other Harvard schools, as well as from the university's undergraduate students and alumni.

His tenure has been tumultuous, to say the least. But in the end, it was not his criticisms of divestment from Israel, nor his clash with African-American studies professor Cornel West, nor his supposedly heavy-handed involvement in Harvard’s curricular review, that cost him his job. Rather, Summers’s fatal misstep was to question feminist orthodoxies. He dared to speculate that the reason why there are so few women who are top scientists and engineers might have something to do with innate gender differences. The speculation enraged liberal professors (it made MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins feel “physically ill”), and they staged a coup d'état — well, actually, they simply clarified who exactly is in charge at Harvard.

The Washington Post editorialized that Summers's defeat might "demoralize" other outspoken academics who, like Summers, dare to challenge the reigning orthodoxies of political correctness. Apparently, even mentioning doubts (not defending them, mind you) about whether men and women are exactly identical except for a few superficial reproductive differences will not be tolerated. Are there few women Nobel laureates in physics? It must be due strictly to sex discrimination and pervasive societal misogyny. The editors of the Post need not have used the potential mood. The demoralization, and the silencing, has already set in.

Just a few weeks ago, the U.K. "Telegraph" revealed that the prestigious journal "Science" had, just before press time, decided not to publish an essay it had earlier accepted by a molecular biologist and Royal Society fellow Peter A. Lawrence. The essay made exactly the same assertions that Summers had gotten into trouble for making last year. Lawrence, a researcher at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, argued that the reason only 10 percent of the world's professional biologists are women even though women make up 60 percent of undergraduate biology majors might have something to do with, well, biology. Like the other Lawrence, this Lawrence had plenty of well-documented scientific research about male-female brain differences and differences in testing outcomes with which to back up his conclusions — research that he said his fellow scientists assiduously ignore because they don't want to run afoul of the feminist Gestapo. Fortunately, the "Public Library of Science", an online journal, picked up Lawrence’s article, which reads, in part, as follows:

you say, for example, that women are on average more understanding of others, this can be interpreted as misogyny in disguise. If you state that boys on average are much more likely than girls to become computer nerds, people may react as if you plan to ban all women from the trading rooms of merchant banks. The Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen published research on the ‘male brain’ in a specialist journal in 1997, but did not dare to talk about his ideas in public for several years....One reason for this absurd taboo is that we cannot think objectively because our minds are full of wayward beliefs and delusions — ‘ghosts’....And one of these ghosts is the dogma that all groups of people, such as men and women, are on average the same, and any genetic distinctions must not be countenanced.

“Classifying individuals in general terms, he concludes that among men, about 60% have a male brain, 20% have a balanced brain, and 20% have a female brain. Women show the inverse figures, with some 60% having a female brain. Many facts...have their roots in biology and genetics. Here are some examples. First, it is hardly necessary to point out that distinguishing between the contributions of nature and nurture to animal or human behaviour has proved difficult. However, newborn infants (less than 24 hours old) have been shown a real human face and a mobile of the same size and similar colour. On average, boys looked longer at the mobile and girls looked longer at the face....Second, such differences at birth must have developed earlier. One factor is the level of testosterone in the developing brain around three months of gestation, which is higher in males (due to the hormone being produced by the foetus itself). Many studies show that testosterone affects development and behaviour, not only in humans, but also in other mammals. Testosterone sponsors development of the male phenotype, and can influence behaviour even of animals of the same sex. For example, giving older men testosterone specifically improves their ability with those spatial tests on which males normally score higher than females.”

Lawrence pointed out that autism, for example — an almost exclusively male phenomenon — is an extreme example of a trait, possibly linked to testosterone, which fosters obsessive focus on the minutia of inanimate objects. Mild autism actually pays off in many branches of science, such as those which require classifying hundreds of thousands of species of beetles. These scientific fields tend to be male-dominated.

Lawrence’s article advised biologists to change their criteria for handing out grants and promotions to accommodate male-female differences, so that women’s superior “people” skills, which, for instance, may make them better project managers, would be rewarded along with the aggression and obsessive focus of men, which, for instance, may make them better bench scientists and salesmen. But that wasn't good enough for the editors of Science. They faulted Lawrence for not having taken the further step of suggesting ways to restructure the biology profession to ensure an equal number of men and women — presumably via gender quotas.

Naturally, among the first to complain about Lawrence's essay was Nancy Hopkins. According to the Telegraph, she accused Lawrence of “mashing together true genetic differences between men and women with old- fashioned stereotypes. In so doing, he perpetuates the very problem he is trying to address about why so few women get to the top in science.”

Too bad "Science" wasn’t so stringent in its standards when it decided to publish the phony cloned-embryo research of now-disgraced South Korean biologist Hwang Woo-Suk, along with many a cheerleading pro-cloning editorial. It all bespeaks an ominous trend — a trend that has let politics get in the way of science and has made it commonplace for militant feminists to cow, sanction, and silence those who dare to question the tenets of their ideology.


Laurie Pycroft is 16, taking a year off before his A levels to brood over his computer. He brooded well. He has a long-held interest in science, and as a small child lost a grandfather whose life had been prolonged by medical advance. Laurie lives near Oxford, and became aware of the “animal rights” campaign of intimidation against the building of a new research centre. So he decided to do something about it.

On Saturday — Glory be! — the boy’s “Pro-Test” initiative brought a large demonstration, including grateful scientists, on to the streets of Oxford with a plain message: that limited and regulated animal testing is unfortunately still necessary, and that a small number of vicious and unbalanced terrorists may not overturn the law of the land.

He is brave. Braver than the suppliers that broke off relationships with Huntingdon Life Sciences, braver than the New York Stock Exchange that was frightened to float it, braver than numerous construction companies, the Crown Prosecution Service and the whole of Cambridge University. You may say that a 16-year-old has less to lose, but he does have life: Laurie has already had threatening e-mails, one saying: “We are going to kill you, you evil, evil scumbag.” This is not a pleasant feeling, but it may be a small consolation to the Pycroft family that you don’t actually need to stick your neck out as far as Laurie in order to have these creeps threaten you. To take a minor personal example: I have never hunted, shot or fished, I have opposed the testing of cosmetics on animals, and I rant against chicken batteries and sow-crates. But the moment I opined that the hunting Bill was a spiteful waste of parliamentary time, my address turned up on a web list of “bloodsport scum” with the message: “These people are not immortal and their homes are not fireproof.”

Rhetoric, maybe: but scientists’ children have picked up letter bombs on the mat, the managing director of Huntingdon Life Sciences was clubbed with a pickaxe handle, and nobody has returned the corpse of an elderly woman dug up from her grave because her family bred guinea-pigs — even when they stopped. Ten minutes on any animal-Nazi website yields boasts of tyre-slashing, paintstripper attacks, nocturnal arson and the latest infantile tactic of sending letters to neighbours of people “connected” with animal testing, claiming that they are paedophiles.

The “connection” may be very tenuous, because all fascist movements like to spread fear widely. Concerning the Oxford research centre, they first named as legitimate targets any employees (and their relatives) of any building firm doing any work at all for the university. For a small builder in Oxford this could spell ruin. Next, the bullies sent out 100 letters to companies that donated to the university, saying that if they did it again: “You will have your offices trashed and the homes of your directors, employees and trustees attacked . . . your details will be sent over the internet to other animal rights activists.” This, they smugly claim, led to several companies withdrawing support; they add: “Any company who has not made (such) an announcement can now expect full attention from the Animal Liberation Front. It’s not going to be pretty.” Finally they announced that all students and staff of the university are targets. No doubt there will shortly be threats against Oxford Marmalade.

These people are not “activists” or even “extremists” as mealy-mouthed news bulletins like to put it. They are terrorists. Death threats and physical attack are their prime arguments. They are, in some ways, more horrifying than the Abu Hamzas who threaten all unbelievers and offer no escape: animal thugs prefer to make their threats individual, in order to cow individuals into silent compliance. Their attack is not on cruelty to animals but on free speech, free thought, freedom from fear. They assume that their limited view of what is right excuses them from giving the slightest respect to law, democracy, or common humanity. A stupid woman questioned by the BBC said that any attack was fine because: “These are like, evil people, yeah?” Nicolas Atwood, unmasked last week as the manager of a website run from Florida that passes on calls to criminal action, drivelled that “ the academics set themselves up and I agree with protest . . . I am not going to say what form the protests should take”. So Atwood’s a coward as well as a thug, is he? His website does, in fact, pass on very practical and violent incitement. The Americans, by the way, roll up their eyes, cite the First Amendment and say they can’t do anything. This from the nation that brought you Guantanamo.

Notice that I say little about animal testing itself. There is plenty of material to help you to decide: in a nutshell, my view is that there has been laudable progress since the 1970s, that welfare and pain avoidance are much improved, and that with luck future advances will make it redundant. Meanwhile, honest scientists working for human (and animal) welfare say we still need it. It is also relevant to note that if research centres get driven abroad to less scrupulous and less craven countries, more animal suffering will undoubtedly result.

But Saturday’s splendid show of faith on the streets of Oxford was as much against thuggery as it was in favour of science. Several demonstrators said that they were personally opposed to biomedical research, but even more opposed to intimidation. Saturday was a massive “How dare you!”, a blow for freedom and a blast against bigotry. We need more of these, to give our wet authorities courage to act more resolutely against those who glorify and incite this particular violence. It may be a turning point, the beginning of the end for a filthy minority who have gone beyond love of animals into love of violent power. It took a kid to show the way. Honour him.


Christians singled out, says Australian Senator: "Christians are seen as fair game when it comes to poking fun at religious icons, while Jews and Muslims are seemingly off-limits, Family First senator Steve Fielding said on Sunday. The Victorian senator has called for the Federal Government to ban an episode of US cartoon South Park titled "Bloody Mary" for its depiction of the Virgin Mary menstruating. SBS Television has decided to "defer" the airing of the controversial episode, because of the "current worldwide controversy over cartoons of religious figures". Overseas riots in reaction to newspapers publishing satirical cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed led to the death of nearly 30 people. "How come Christians are such easy targets? How come it's okay to make fun of symbols at the heart of Christianity, such as the Crucifix or the Virgin Mary, but people seem to think twice before having a go at the Star of David or the Koran?" Senator Fielding said.