POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH ARCHIVE
The creeping dictatorship of the Left...
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31 May, 2006
The "race card" gets an airing in Australia
A motel manager rents out a room to two people -- one black and one white -- but backs off when four people turn up to occupy the room. That's racism?
A Sunshine Coast motel is at the centre of a race row after being accused of refusing to allow a black couple who had booked accommodation to stay the night. Beenleigh couple Trevor Johnson and Colleen Malone, both 28, have lodged a complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission claiming the motel refused to honour their booking because of their race. The couple, who are of Aboriginal and Pacific Islander descent, claim the motel manager told them: "I don't have to put up with people like you."
Ms Malone said the experience had demoralised them and cost them their dignity in front of their friends, who they had been visiting. "I felt so small. I know it was because I was dark," Mr Johnson said. Ms Malone said she was with a white girlfriend when she went into the motel to book a room in Mr Johnson's name. The motel manager, who cannot be named, accepted a $110 deposit.
But when Ms Malone was joined by Mr Johnson and her friend's partner, the four were refused entry to the room. Mr Johnson claims the manager threatened to phone the police if they did not leave and refused to refund their deposit. "I said to her I was going to call the police, instead. They were dumbfounded when they arrived," he said. "The police advised us she wasn't going to give our money back. We advised her we were going to take her to court."
Ms Malone said they had since been offered $1000 by the manager to "go away" but they refused the money because what they really wanted was an apology. Mr Johnson said he had contacted a lawyer and intended to pursue the matter.
In a letter to the commission, the manager confirmed she had accepted a booking for the couple but claimed she had asked only "the extra people" to leave. "At no stage did I ask all to leave, and as the four chose to leave, that is the decision they made," she said.
"I did not see any reason to refund money as most nights of the year are busy with us, and particularly weekends." The manager said she and her husband had been in the industry as owners and managers for 16 years and could not have survived with "any discriminatory inclination". She said she was offended by the accusations.
The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on May 28, 2006
MSM Prefers Anti-Semite to Conservative in California Republican Primary
Trees trump Jews, apparently
If ever there was an example of just how much the Mainstream Media hates conservatives, it is their endorsement of Pete McCloskey, who is running against incumbent Richard Pombo in the 11th congressional district. Pete McCloskey, who served as a member of congress from 1967-1983, has been endorsed by several major newspapers in California. This week, the San Francisco Chronicle was the latest to join the ranks of hateful, hypocritical newsrooms around the state who would rather endorse a Holocaust denier like Pete McCloskey than endorse a conservative like Richard Pombo. Or, and there?s always this option, remain neutral and not take a position, period.
McCloskey denies that he denies the holocaust, though his protests are weak at best. In a speech delivered in Orange County?s Irvine, California at the Institute for Historical Review (more on them in a moment) in May 2000, McCloskey made reference to the "so-called Holocaust." Clearly, he wasn't trying very hard to convince anyone that he denies the holocaust: "Earlier here today I listened to speeches about the courage of men in France, Britain, Germany, and New Zealand who have spoken out against the commonly accepted concept of what occurred during the Second World War in the so-called Holocaust."
Hitler's extermination of the Jews is passed off as a mere "concept" by McCloskey in this speech. Even worse, however, is that the speech was delivered at the Institute for Historical Review, which is nothing more than an organization devoted to debunking the "myth" of the Holocaust. IHR is obsessed with proving that the book The Diary of Anne Frank is "propaganda" and "a fraud". Meanwhile, they promote books and articles sold by Noontide Press with such titles as "Gas Chambers: Truth or Lie," and "Israel's Knife in the Back Attack on America."
McCloskey, for his part, defends IHR as merely expressing their free speech rights to question history. Speaking to IRH, he proclaimed, ?I came because I respect the thesis of this organization, that thesis being that there should be a reexamination of whatever governments say, or politicians say, or political entities say.? At best, and I mean very best, McCloskey is embracing the bumper sticker idiom, Question Authority. But at worst, and this is where I believe McCloskey stands, he supports IHR because the organization is opposed to Israel, opposed to Jews and exists only to revise history of 6 million Jews and their surviving relatives.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Weisenthal Center commented on what it meant for McCloskey to appear at IHR in 2000 and give a speech where David Irving was also speaking. (If you aren't familiar with Irving, click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/irving/) "To show up at the address of the institution here in California, which by its very existence is a source of such unending pain to the victims of the Holocaust and the survivors who live in our community, and secondly, on top of it to make an appearance under the same tent as someone who's just been crowned the leading intellectual Jew hater in the world, I guess, speaks volumes," Cooper said. (Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2000)
Also speaking volumes are the endorsements McCloskey has received from the mainstream media. News of McCloskey's relationship with IHR and his views on the Holocaust, Israel and Jews isn't -- or shouldn't be -- news to any editorial board. But to the major dailies in California, having a Jew hater in DC would be better than a conservative like Richard Pombo (pictured to the right) who isn?t friendly enough to the environment. In their endorsement of McCloskey, the LA Times wrote, "Pombo's possible ethical lapses pale next to his assault on the nation's environmental protections." I suppose the logic is, it's better to hate the Jews than to hate a tree. McCloskey, after all, helped write the Endangered Species Act. Ironic, since he probably doesn't question how many species are truly endangered with the same degree of fervor he questions how many Jews died at Auschwitz.
The San Jose Mercury News refers to McCloskey's "experience and integrity". The Sacramento Bee tells us Republicans like McCloskey are "all too rare these days." And the San Francisco Chronicle says McCloskey "defines the term "straight-shooter."" Shame should be heaped on the heads of all these editorial board for making such outrageous endorsements. They are either guilty of turning a blind eye at McCloskey's anti-Semitism or of committing criminally lazy journalism. Either way, no one should carry a subscription to any of these newspapers. Nor should any Republican vote for Pete McCloskey.
BRITISH FOOD TYRANNY UNPOPULAR
Plans to ban junk food from school lunches are under threat because some local authorities are unable to find a contractor willing to provide healthier meals. New rules for school meals were published by the Government last week, limiting children to two portions of chips a week and requiring schools to offer them two portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Some local authorities, however, are struggling to find suppliers able to meet the new requirements, to be funded with an extra 220 million pounds over three years. Bracknell Forest Borough Council received no bids in a recent tendering exercise for its school meals service, while Sheffield City Council received just one.
Sallie Swann, a senior manager in Sheffield’s children’s and young people’s directorate, said: “A number of authorities have received no bids for contracts that are due to start in September.” The biggest deterrent for contractors was the uncertainty about the number of children likely to sign up for school meals, Ms Swann added. Numbers have declined by more than 10 per cent over the past 12 to 15 months, after Jamie’s School Dinners, Jamie Oliver’s television series that highlighted the poor quality of food served in schools. The Local Authority Caterers’ Association, which represents council-run and private caterers, estimates that the number of school meals served has fallen by more than 71 million in the past year. Many parents have withdrawn their children from school meals having learnt just how poor the food can be. However, some children are rejecting the new, healthier options.
The Government’s new healthy school meals targets aim to increase the number of school meals eaten by 4 per cent by March 2008, and 10 per cent by autumn 2009; but some contractors believe that they cannot run a profitable service unless the figure increases by 10 per cent by 2008. Kevin McKay, chairman of the caterers’ association, said that, with so much uncertainty and insufficient funding, caterers were reluctant to bid for school meals contracts. “Spread over three years, the Government’s extra 220 million pounds equates to an increase of just 12p per meal — that’s the equivalent of just two cherry tomatoes,” Mr McKay said. He added that the expected costs of the improved standards would push the price of a school meal from less than 1.50 pounds to 2 pounds a day. “I would question how many parents would pay this,” he said.
Tony Eccleston, director of children’s services at Bracknell Forest council, said that, although it had approached eight companies to bid for its school meals service, none had wanted to. “Companies were fearful that parents wouldn’t pay for the extra costs,” he said. Mr McKay said the situation was less clear for the 13 councils whose policy was to close school kitchens altogether.
A POLITICALLY INCORRECT PRINCE
Wwll-wishers marked the Queen's 80th birthday with outpourings of respect. The Duke of Edinburgh, by contrast, is to be faced with a book documenting 60 years of gaffes. In the absence of formal celebrations for his 85th birthday, the most public tribute may turn out to be the book Duke of Hazard: The Wit and Wisdom of Prince Philip. It gives an impression of a sharp-tongued consort, oblivious to the impact of his words as children burst into tears, foreigners fume at his apparent xenophobia and businessmen reel at his habit of speaking his mind. Many, though, admire his frankness in an age dominated by political correctness.
News of the book's publication stung his private office into a rare public defence of Prince Philip, who, until now, has appeared to care little about the effect of his pronouncements. Sir Miles Hunt-Davis, Philip's private secretary, said: "My predecessor worked here for 30 years and I have worked with the Duke of Edinburgh for 15 years. If he had been as acerbic as presented [in the book], he wouldn't have kept the staff that he has. "Even secretaries returned to his office after their families had grown up. These extracts are not indicative of the man as a whole."
Philip, born in Corfu in 1921, had a distinguished war in the Royal Navy, and the public took to him. But, from the start of his relationship with the then Princess Elizabeth, courtiers worried about his inability to keep his thoughts to himself. They appeared vindicated by his behaviour at the independence ceremony for Kenya in 1963 when he represented the Queen. Just before midnight, when the Union Jack was about to be hauled down, Philip turned to Jomo Kenyatta, the new leader, and asked: "Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Questioned afterwards in Britain, the prince revealed: "Kenyatta grinned all over his face and said, `No!'" He appears to find it irresistible to test the limits of tolerance on questions of race and disability. His comments about "slitty-eyed" Chinese, pot-bellied Hungarians and pyjama-wearing Nigerians have become notorious.
The book recounts more obscure gaffes. At a festival in Cardiff he was introduced to a group of youngsters from the British Deaf Association who were standing near a noisy Caribbean-style band. He commented: "Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf." This weekend he again put his foot in it, saying he would do "as little as possible" at the London Olympics in 2012. "Opening and closing ceremonies ought to be banned," he said. "Absolute bloody nuisances."
Philip was yesterday pursuing a favourite sport, competing in the Hopetoun horse driving trials near Edinburgh. He was driving a team of four ponies owned by the Queen at speeds of up to 30mph. The duke has won titles in the past two years and is aiming for a third - last night he was leading his class of competitors.
Over the years, Philip's wit has strayed into rudeness. When a Swedish tourist waved to Philip in his carriage and shouted proudly: "Good morning, sir, my little girl is six today!" he replied: "So what," and she burst into tears. Michael Mann, the former Dean of Windsor, who worked closely with the prince, defends Philip. "He has a very sharp mind," Mann said. "He believes that by making a quip he can draw out the other person." Dorothy Rowe, a psychologist and author, is not so charitable. She believes the quips are driven by Philip's frustration at his position as consort. "When people make hurtful statements passed off as a joke, they are getting rid of aggression, but deny responsibility for any hurt," she said. Hunt-Davis said Philip, who will be 85 on June 10, was about to plan his next six-month diary of engagements.
30 May, 2006
Another ban on the flag of England
Just occasionally, a battle of ideas takes place that is all the more remarkable for being conducted among ourselves and largely without leadership from politicians. One such is the argument about our national culture and its place in what our more obtuse and self-serving leaders call our "multicultural society".
Politicians don't like this debate. It means they must come out fighting for something that most Britons regard as good and positive, but which political elites regard (absurdly) as narrow and divisive. So it is left to the likes of the venerable rock 'n' roll star Ray Davies to warn, as he did when collecting an award last Thursday, of the dangers of forgetting, or blatantly ignoring, the fact that we have a culture of our own.
The public sector is, indeed, full of minor functionaries who see it as their job to prevent the majority culture from imposing itself, in any way, on that of a minority. Such people are revolted by the fact (for it is, I am happy to say, still such) of our national identity. This is because they regard nationalism as an entirely destructive force. On hearing the word, they can think only of the jackbooted regiments of the SS and Wehrmacht stomping down the Unter den Linden, thence to acts of violent and genocidal oppression.
I take the opposite view. Our country allows the expression of such idiotic ideas only because, 65 years ago, enough of our people had a sufficiently strong national identity to make them go to fight against the Nazi hordes.
It is quite a step from that, however, to the Birches Head High School in Stoke-on-Trent, whose headmistress is a Mrs Karen Healy. Mrs Healy, who is I am sure a dedicated teacher, this week took an absurd, oppressive and hysterical step. She banned colleagues and pupils from having England football flags and car stickers during the forthcoming World Cup finals.
Asked to defend this preposterous imposition, Mrs Healy said the St George's flag was becoming a symbol of the British National Party, and she did not want the possession of such a football flag or sticker to be construed as support by someone connected with her school for the BNP. "We can't be associated with any political party," she self-righteously added. Of course they can't: and if the school has any rose beds, I hope gardeners are uprooting them now, lest anyone construe their presence as support for the Labour Party.
Within 24 hours, after howls of protest from pupils and parents alike, Mrs Healy scrapped her decree. But why was she so foolish in the first place? For all I know, she might genuinely have believed what she said - though, if so, I would question her fitness to teach impressionable children. But her misjudgment showed a typical problem with the modern, obsessive multicultural mindset.
Long before the BNP existed, the St George's flag was my flag as an Englishman: and it was the flag of the English people who lived in Stoke-on-Trent, the rest of Staffordshire and all over our country. It symbolises our history, our culture and, above all, our Christian roots. It flies on Sundays from church towers, not as a rallying point for shaven-headed racist thugs, but as a symbol of the nation in which the established Church does its humane work.
All Mrs Healy did, in her zealous thoughtlessness, was help pass ownership of this benign symbol to extremists, bigots and bullies. She became a perpetrator of the very ill she sought to remedy. She handed a superb propaganda coup to the BNP.
I would never encourage disrespect by schoolchildren for the rules made by their teachers. However, in this case they were absolutely right to rebel. A headmistress shouldn't need to be taught a lesson, but Mrs Healy has been: that this flag belongs to all of us, and not to the BNP.
FRENCH EMPLOYERS NOT ALLOWED TO PREFER FRENCH EMPLOYEES
People everywhere tend to prefer others who are like themselves -- But that can be a risky preference nowadays
French pledges to combat racism will be put to the test this week when a judge decides whether a cosmetics company was guilty of discrimination in a recruitment campaign. The case against L'Oreal, the country's best-known manufacturer of beauty products, is the first of its kind since riots last year focused attention on discrimination against immigrant jobseekers from the suburbs. The verdict to be delivered on Thursday, which could include a hefty fine, will be seen as a measure of French resolve to tackle the problem.
Garnier, one of L'Oreal's top brands, has been accused of instructing an employment agency to hire only slim women of the "BBR type" as hostesses to hand out leaflets and samples of shampoos for a supermarket promotion campaign in 2001. "BBR" was shorthand for "Bleu Blanc Rouge" - meaning blue, white and red, the colours of the French flag. Typical of the image the company is accused of wanting to promote is that of the actress Virginie Ledoyen, a model for L'Or‚al until last year. Prosecutors have argued that "BBR" is a well-known employers' code for excluding people of Arab, African or Asian origin. The term is also used in literature of the racist, far-right National Front party, according to Samuel Thomas, of SOS-Racism, the anti-discrimination group that brought the case. "This sort of thing is ideologically objectionable and must be stopped right away," he said. "The message it gives is that the only valid sort of French people are white people."
L'Oreal has denied any discrimination. "Diversity is something that is very important at L'Or‚al and Garnier," said Laurent Dubois, a former managing director.
According to the prosecution, however, the company concluded that young, white women would be more effective than men or black people at promoting Garnier products in supermarket campaigns. "White people might be frightened to have an Arab or a black person explaining a product to them and even demonstrating it to them by trying to massage their scalp," said Thomas.
The case has turned the spotlight on one of France's most sensitive issues: the gap between the official doctrine that all French people, whatever their origin, are equal, and the reality of racism excluding youths of immigrant origin from the workplace. In the grim suburbs ringing French cities unemployment of up to 30% is not unusual and the "wrong" postcode on a job application can be enough to ensure it ends up unopened in an employer's bin.
A key piece of evidence presented in the Garnier case was a fax written by Th‚rŠse Coulange, a former employee of Districom, a communications company acting for Garnier. It spelt out Garnier's requirements for the Adecco employment agency - "18 to 22-year-olds of the BBR type". Coulange said she had used the term "BBR" to refer to people who could "express themselves correctly in French" rather than to whites. However, another Districom employee told the court Garnier refused to employ black people as promotional staff. Less than 4% of the staff eventually hired for the promotion campaign in 2001 were black. Before it received instructions, the employment agency had been offering a pool of candidates of which 40% were non-white. The law allows for a maximum fine of 30,000 pounds but whatever the outcome of the case, employers will now think twice before invoking the colours of the flag.
Queensland (Australia) kids defy "junk food" ban
This is the junk food rush -- the early-morning and lunchtime fast food fix that makes a mockery of new healthy eating laws at school canteens. As these pictures show, students are lining up before class and during their lunch breaks to feast on fatty fast foods.
Parents say the queues are getting longer as students openly rebel against the healthy menus forced on school tuckshops. ``I saw these kids walking back with bottles of Coke and hot chips. Their parents have dropped them off, giving them lunch money for the tuckshop and now they probably don't have enough to buy it because they bought junk,'' a Gold Coast mother told The Sunday Mail.
Defiant students say the State Government's ban on the sale of junk food in tuckshops will not change their eating habits. ``The attitude is `Who cares?' A lot of people will still go down to Woolies and Maccas and get their stuff there,'' a student said.
Leading nutritionist Michael Georgalli predicted more students would rebel against the Healthy Choices program as it was rolled out across the state. He warned the ban on junk foods would ``fuel the obesity epidemic'' instead of helping students adopt healthier eating habits. ``The process of restriction has been shown to encourage the uptake of the very behaviours that one is attempting to avoid in children,'' he said. Research produced for the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found restricting children's access to certain foods may ``actually promote the very behaviour its use is intended to reduce''. Mr Georgalli said the banning of junk foods at tuckshops could also lead to serious safety concerns. ``These restrictions can lead to children leaving the school grounds and crossing dangerous roads,'' he said.
Confectionery manufacturers argue the ``prohibitionist stance'' on so-called treat foods will fail. They support children having access to all foods so they learn good nutrition from making responsible choices. ``From our point of view, we believe there should be the sale of good nutritious food in canteens and that confectionery is a treat food which shouldn't be seen as a form of meal replacement,'' Confectionary Manufacturers of Australasia chief executive officer David Greenwood said. He said the move to control what food was eaten by students might work at primary schools but not at high schools. ``While this may appear to be a good idea on the surface, it is unlikely to control the eating of older students,'' Mr Greenwood said. ``High school students often have access to their own funds and can purchase foods outside of school grounds. ``Some may even purchase treat foods and then sell them to other students, depriving the canteen and the school of funds.''
The changes to tuckshop menus have also sparked reports of canteen workers resigning in protest. Staff have also been upset by the more labour-intensive preparation of food and greater spoilage required to meet the new rules. Queensland Association of School Tuckshops project officer Chris Ogden confirmed that ``early on there were some complaints''. ``If some have left, to be honest, it's probably better that they did. You're a tuckshop convenor because you care about children's health,'' Ms Ogden said. ``If you're not prepared to make the changes then maybe you're better off looking for alternate employment.''
The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on May 28, 2006
An Australian State Premier opposes homosexual indoctrination
Daycare centres should not be used to teach children about gay and lesbian relationships, says [NSW] Premier Morris Iemma. His comments come after a report claimed a Tempe childcare centre uses books that feature characters from same-sex parent families. The Learn to Include books include titles such as The Rainbow Cubby House, which is about a young girl and her two mothers who build a cubby house in their backyard with a little boy and his two fathers.
Federal MP for Sydney Tanya Plibersek is quoted on the Learn to Include website as saying: "I know that the kids who are reading these books might just start life with the wonderful gift of growing up without homophobic prejudice. That's great for those individual kids and it's wonderful for our whole community too."
But Mr Iemma said children as young as two-years-old are being inappropriately drawn into a gay rights debate. "Kids should be allowed to be kids and daycare centres should not be a battleground for gender politics. I do not personally believe it appropriate for two-year-olds to be dragged into the gay rights debate." Parents who want such issues taught to their children should do so at home, not at daycare centres, he said. "If parents feel particularly strongly about educating children on these issues there is plenty of scope for them to do so at home where they run no risk of offending other parents who may old opposing views and who may not be able to find childcare elsewhere."
Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor, David Scamell, said the Learn to Include books simply teach children about acceptance and tolerance. "Children are not being taught about sex education, but rather that some kids had two mums, some have two dads, and that's OK." "It's unfortunate that the Daily Telegraph has wanted to jump on a bandwagon to beat up a story and it is unfortunate that it's been joined by the Premier's Department this morning," Mr Scamell said. "[They] need to actually have a look at the educational material being taught at [the daycare centre] to realise that this actually quite a basic lesson ... they're quite important concepts but then they are not ones that go beyond the level of a five- or six-year-old."
A number of parents had chosen to send their children to the childcare centre because of the types of lessons that are taught there, he said. "Given where the childcare centre is, it is highly likely that a number of children would come from same-sex families. If these lessons are not taught, then those children will continue to feel as though their family is not valued or accepted." He said the the front-page of the Daily Telegraph "is probably the best reason why we actually need to have these lessons in school."
Marrickville Mayor Sam Byrne said the Premier's comments were an example of the "hysteria'' that had erupted over the use of the Learn to Include books at the council's seven day care centres. "It's not a gay rights debate. It's not sex education. It's about inclusion and about having material that reflects the diversity of our community,'' Mr Byrne said. "If the Premier, or anybody else out there, thinks that there are not families out there with two mums or there are not families out there with disabilities [or] from different backgrounds, then they are mad. They are crazy. They need to get out and get amongst the people again.''
A reader writes:
"Your blog quoted: 'Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor, David Scamell, said the Learn to Include books simply teach children about acceptance and tolerance. "Children are not being taught about sex education, but rather that some kids had two mums, some have two dads, and that's OK'.
Now what if the book was about a child whose parents smoked and the quote was : 'A Phillip Morris spokesman, said the Learn to Include books simply teach children about acceptance and tolerance. "Children are not being taught about smoking, but rather that some people smoke cigarettes, and that's OK'.
29 May, 2006
ANIMAL RIGHTS FAILURE IN CALIFORNIA
Proposed California laws to ban dogs from competitively hunting wild jackrabbits and to force zoos to expand acreage for elephants died this week in legislative committees. The two measures were among many torpedoed Thursday by legislative appropriations committees, which marked their final hurdle before reaching the Assembly and Senate floors....
Assembly Bill 2110 would have banned the sport of live field coursing in which greyhounds, whippets, salukis and other sighthounds compete in capturing and killing wild jackrabbits in rural fields. Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, proposed AB 2110 after watching TV footage of a Solano County event in which competing dogs played tug of war over a jackrabbit carcass.
Hundreds of Californians took sides on AB 2110, fueling a passionate fight that Hancock claims lawmakers were reluctant to jump into. "Frankly, I have to say the fact that it was controversial killed it," Hancock said. "There was controversy created by people who wouldn't acknowledge that (field coursing) has nothing to with traditional hunting." Hancock's bill would have banned competitions, but it would not have prohibited dogs from hunting jackrabbits outside the sport.
Lesley Brabyn, a leader in the fight against AB 2110, said live field coursers were falsely targeted as cruel or inhumane. Brabyn argued that live field coursing is expressly permitted by state law and is an important element in breeding because it allows owners to identify the most exceptional sighthounds. The sport hunts only wild jackrabbits in their natural habitat; it mirrors real-life chases by predators; and 90 percent of the jackrabbits chased by sighthounds escape unharmed, Brabyn said. "We felt listened to," she said of legislative debate over AB 2110. "It renewed my faith in the legislative process."
Separate legislation targeting zoo habitat for elephants also was derailed. Assembly Bill 3027, known as the Elephant Protection Act, would have required zoos to set aside at least five acres of usable habitat for every three elephants, plus an additional half-acre for each additional elephant. The measure by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, would have affected circuses by banning the use of steel-tipped bullhooks and chains to herd or restrain the pachyderms. "I don't think we have an inherent right to see elephants," Levine said. "If we can't give them the care and respect they deserve, if we can't afford that, then we shouldn't have the privilege of seeing them."
The American Zoo and Aquarium Association charged that the bill sets arbitrary acreage requirements for zoo elephants that are not supported by science. "We believe that these changes are another attempt by animal-rights activists to effectively ban elephants from zoos today and then ban other species, such as giraffes, lions and penguins, from zoos tomorrow," the organization said in a statement while AB 3027 was under debate.
Levine said he has given up on his elephant proposal for this year, but added, "If the zoos and circuses think I'm going to go away on this issue, they're sadly mistaken."
It is almost midnight at the Three Monkeys and the manager is worried. The most popular gay club in Moscow should be heaving by this time, Ivan Timchenko says. But the bar is almost empty, the dancefloor deserted. Barbed wire has been strung around the exterior, extra bouncers have been drafted in and the barmen have been issued with electric batons.
Russia’s homosexual community is under siege. It should have been preparing to celebrate the 13th anniversary today of the lifting of a Soviet-era legal ban on homosexual relations between men. Instead, plans to mark the occasion with the first gay parade in Russia have sparked a violent backlash from religious and nationalist groups, and the controvery is polarising the country’s fledgling gay community.
The controversy began last year when Nikolai Alekseyev, a gay rights activist, announced plans to stage a parade. “We want to give hope to gays and lesbians in the regions, who have no influence on politics,” he told The Times. “These people do not feel free, natural or normal. They think they are mistakes of nature.”
His proposal triggered a chorus of outrage from Russian Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish leaders. Talgat Tadzhuddin, the Chief Mufti, said: “If they come out on to the streets anyway, they should be flogged.” Mikhail Dudko, of the Orthodox Church, denounced the idea as the “propaganda of sin”, and one bishop likened homosexuality to leprosy. The furore spilt on to the streets this month, when angry crowds protested outside the Three Monkeys and another club that was playing host to a gay night.
Skinheads and elderly women holding icons and crosses chanted, “Death to pederasts!” and “Russia for Russians!”, and several of the clubs’ guests were attacked. Moscow city authorities have since turned down the application for the parade, saying that it could provoke riots. Inna Svyatenko, the head of the security committee of the Moscow City Duma, said: “It wasn’t long ago that homosexual relations were illegal. There is still no single generation that has grown up without this way of thinking.”
A later report:
Russian police, militant Orthodox Christians and neo-fascists broke up a first ever gay rights march in Moscow overnight, but the homosexuals said their short-lived protest as a "great victory". Activists led by 28-year-old Nikolai Alexeyev had planned to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – a symbol of the World War Two struggle against fascism, and one of Russia's most sacred places. But police closed the gates to the park where the eternal flame burns under the Kremlin walls, and a heavy scrum of women singing hymns and shaven-headed nationalists tried to charge into the gay activists as the march arrived.
"This is a great victory, an absolute victory – look at what's happening," Alexeyev said as he was dragged, bent almost double, away from the gates by two policemen. City authorities had banned the march, which they called an "outrage to society", while religious leaders from all major faiths condemned it. Interfax news agency reported police had detained around 100 people after the clashes.
Even some rival gay activists said the march risked inflaming Russia's widespread intolerance of homosexuality, and wished Alexeyev had chosen a less direct way to protest against discrimination and homophobia. Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, and although some gay clubs exist in big cities, same-sex couples almost never make a public display of their affections.
A gay German member of parliament who attended the rally, Volker Beck, was punched in the face. Mr Beck, a leader of the Greens party and a prominent gay rights leader, was shown in German TV getting hit in the face. "I was attacked," Mr Beck told German television. "It was a stone and a fist. It shows we're not safe in this country. The security forces did not protect us but instead prevented us from retreating. We were left without any protection."
The marchers, who seemed to number about 40 although an exact count was impossible in the mob, were outnumbered at least twofold by men and women carrying Russian Orthodox icons and chanting "Moscow is not Sodom". "We must stop them at this first stage, or they'll come and corrupt our children," said Kirill Bolgarin, 24, who had come to protest despite the pouring rain. His friend Andrei, 25, interrupted, and gestured at the eternal flame. "We are Russians. We are Orthodox. These soldiers died so we could live like Russians, not so these people could come here and tell us what to do," he said.
Alexeyev had invited gay activists from all across Europe to the march, the culmination of three days of events that were a first Russian attempt to hold a Gay Pride festival like those in Western cities. "We came here to lay flowers at this anti-fascist memorial, but the mayor is so terrified of us that he took the step of ordering the gates closed," said Peter Tatchell from the British gay rights group OutRage. "As soon as we arrived we were set upon by fascist gangs and police. Today is a great shame for Russia because a peaceful protest has been suppressed."
Later, when police had formed a line between the two sides, a group of skinheads – young Russian nationalists who have grown in number in recent years and have been behind a series of attacks on foreign students – rushed towards the gay activists. Their faces masked, they threw flares as they ran, but OMON riot police stopped them and dragged them to waiting buses. Passers-by on the pavement outside parliament, which is on one of the capital's main streets, looked on in disbelief. "I think it is a sexual abnormality, but if these gays want to do it, they should," said Robert Antonov, 35. "Why shouldn't they do what they like? They are people too."
Australia: Churches successfully defend religious education
She is the woman behind an emerging force in Queensland politics, with access to thousands of Christian followers throughout the state and a formidable record of bending government policy to her agenda. From an office in Springwood, Logan City, Carolyn Cormack led a campaign that in less than a month saw the State Government back down on proposed changes to religious education in schools. With access to more than 3000 churches, from mainstream to charismatic organisations, the Australian Christian Lobby's Queensland chief of staff encouraged parishioners to protest against the changes. In less than a week, more than 9000 signatures were recorded on a petition and dozens of letters were sent to local members throughout the state. Weeks later the proposals were shelved.
Mrs Cormack is loath to boast about the group's success, politely thanking Premier Peter Beattie for his "common sense". But she is determined the Christian voice will be heard at the next state election. Issues such as gay marriage and same-sex adoption would be fought vigorously by the group and they want to see Bibles near every hospital bed. For the first time, the ACL is planning to create a score card on the State Government's performance to hand out to Christian voters before the 2007 election.
Premier Peter Beattie was wise to heed the power of the religious lobby, Griffith University politics and public policy lecturer Paul Williams said. "They are not a flash-in-the-pan type force, and their impact will be more widespread than single-issue groups," Dr Williams said. He said the influence of the religious lobby could mean the difference in several seats, especially outside Brisbane.
In August, ACL will host its state conference to focus on how to make the most of the influence of the Christian vote at the next election. And when campaigning starts, the group will seek to organise forums for candidates to meet with Christians ahead of the poll. It is a move Dr Williams describes as a return to old-fashioned politics with candidates having to engage with lobby group members and explain where they stand on issues. Mrs Cormack said the group was open minded and would offer no special favours for Family First candidates.
The price of politically correct silence about Australian blacks
As the national soul-searching about the plight of remote Aboriginal Australia mounts and the curtains of censorship are pushed back, shocked voices can be heard wondering how we reached this point and what the blueprint for a constructive future may be. But one looks in vain for a precise, coherent road map from the federal Government, which has abolished the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, only to find it has no one left to blame for the disaster unfolding in central and northern Australia. This deep policy uncertainty dawns even as the consequences of decades of underfunding become more evident and the demographic explosion in remote Australia places ever sharper pressures on strained social services.
The laws and measures enacted to change the landscape have fallen short. A generation's worth of land rights in the Northern Territory has failed to revolutionise the outlying indigenous communities: little has changed in the Aboriginal ghetto townships across the scrub or desert, which remain underdeveloped and largely excluded from the national economy. Native title has proved to be a glacial triumph of legal processes, while indigenous self-determination is a fantasy of desperate contradictions.
The bitter truth is lying in the street, for those with open eyes to see and with access to remote Australia's well-guarded shadow world: many of our indigenous fellow citizens are trapped in a cycle of violence, economic dependency, ill-health, and sexual and substance abuse. Bizarre pathologies proliferate, although unheard of until now outside dark science-fiction dystopias. Attempts at genuine reform, which might endanger the present system's beneficiaries, are quickly snuffed out.
The vital key to this system has long been a culture of secrecy about the real conditions, buttressed by silences and by double standards. It is a secrecy, a strategy of euphemism, that covers the private world, the economic and the social space. These secrets are kept, and the minimising lies and evasions peddled, by white and Aborigine, by politicians and bureaucrats, by administrators and their subjects. Thus a pervasive silence is maintained by public servants and community workers, who have long since abandoned their reformist dreams and know they will be sacked at once by their Aboriginal "employers" if they speak out about any of the linked syndromes of the bush: violence, drug and grog-running, sexual abuse and predation, the failure of educational institutions, the constant, corrupting effects of welfare and haphazard work-for-the-dole schemes.
Secrecy is at also at the Aboriginal heart of dysfunctional communities: battered women and abused children do not dare to speak out; senior indigenous leaders are obliged to shield and protect their relations; mothers persuade their daughters-in-law to keep a code of silence about the sufferings that husbands inflict.
Superimposed on top of this local discretion is the elegant muffling filter of the legal system: police cannot gather evidence from victims who fear to testify, while magistrates often pass light sentences in order to spare offenders the pain of incarceration far from their land.
These different forms of silence and half-truth, which all reinforce each other, have long combined to make an accurate description of the state of things in remote Aboriginal Australia almost impossible. Hence the vital importance of the past two weeks of candour and tight media focus. This climate of truth-telling, virtually forced on the Australian political and intellectual class by the revelations of the Alice Springs crown prosecutor about infant abuse, has led to an outpouring of dark testimony that only hints at the broad, continent-wide pattern.
But there is a need for the newly precise and merciless depiction of the world of remote Australia to go further. Three critical elements in the interlock of silence have not yet been given due public attention, and progress towards a sustainable life in the Aboriginal centre and north depends on frank acknowledgment of these shaping factors.
First, there is a temptation to blame the indigenous perpetrators of violence in isolation from the enabling class of welfare and service delivery bureaucrats around them. The manifest incompetence of many of the administrators of remote Aboriginal Australia needs to be exposed and a form of proper accountability designed. Many of the more troubled communities can only attract poor-quality white staff, who could barely hold down a job in the cities.
The corrupt shopkeeper, the drug-running mechanic, the carpetbagging itinerant dress-seller: these are all stock figures in the Western Desert and the Kimberley. There is a storekeeper in the north well known for illegal kava supply in return for child sex, and there are tight family cabals of non-Aboriginal administrative staff in the centre who run communities as private empires. The case for a highly trained cadre of remote area civil servants and for volunteer specialist teams, organised on disaster relief lines, seems unassailable.
The systematic nature of the violence in many Aboriginal communities is still not grasped by outsiders, nor can the conspiracy of crushed silence and fear that accompanies it be well gauged. Shame and terror keep women, girl and boy victims from speaking out. Consider the views of one of the most respected council clerks in remote Australia, speaking this week of the tide of sex crimes in his community: "There's no control and no responsibility. It's a beautiful system designed by the Aboriginal men to protect the Aboriginal men. They've got the white people sorted out: if you even mention anything, you're fired instantly and will never get another job in the Aboriginal industry again. They will continue to get away with it until the courts get serious, and even then no one will step forward to testify; it's like a death sentence. There's no way in a million years anyone is going to go public on all this."
But one can guess at what's happening in the shadows all across the continent. In one community in the Tanami Desert, the women have now banned their sons from going out into the bush with senior men for protracted initiation camps; the reasons, dear reader, can be left to your imagination. And in a small north Kimberley community, there have been six child suicides in the past year. So grave has the problem of sexual violence become that young Kimberley women often measure the extent of their man's affection by the number of beatings they receive, and calibrate the love in their world by the bruises on their skin.
A glance around a remote community or town camp is enough to tell the tale: women sport a baffling array of bandages and splints, while the drone of the flying doctor plane, swooping in for another emergency evacuation, is a regular sound on balmy evenings in the far desert. Police detachments are the natural first counter to these concealed undercurrents of violence: but without realistic deterrence through heavy sentencing, even a police post in every community and outstation will not be enough to guarantee the safety of the remote population.
Most important, in this realm of secrets, free access is the key to truth. Many of the horrors now spread across remote Australia grew in the darkness of the permit system. There are vast swaths of Aboriginal land that go unvisited by the normal array of travelling callers, let alone by journalists; and there is a striking correlation between the levels of violence in a community and the tightness of its closure.
Without any doubt, the most bizarre and horrific corner of central Australia is the grandly named Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, a scatter of outstations and run-down communities torn apart by petrol-sniffing and overseen by a purpose-built little white capital with nice, neat homes. The South Australian Opposition spokesman for Aboriginal affairs, Mitch Williams, this week called for the APY Lands to be thrown open to the public, and at once received a strict dressing-down from the local Land Council general manager, Ken Newman: "Basically, it's private property."
Permits for press visits to this bleak world are scarcely ever forthcoming, while white staff members are forbidden from speaking freely to the media. Who, then, can lay out the weird facts of life on the lands: the plague-like curse of petrol-sniffing, the drug dealing networks, the obesity and the malnutrition, the peculiar messianic cults that sweep through like storm-season cloud-fronts?
Permits have long since been the chosen instrument of power and self-aggrandisement for the white gatekeepers of the remote world, who relish the control the system gives them. The substantial desert settlement of Yuendumu is in the grip of Warlpiri Media, an organisation that will only admit journalists into its territory if they are safely guided and their stories are check-censored before publication or broadcast. No wonder, then, that a frank appraisal of Yuendumu's endless economic and social travails has yet to appear.
Access control limits knowledge, dovetails elegantly with the culture of secret-keeping, and allows for blatant manipulation of the media. But as with all empires of unreason, the permit system is falling apart under the weight of its own illogic. This week the community of Wadeye (Port Keats), anarchic home to 3000 Aboriginal people, refused The Australian a permit on the same day it hosted "safer" media visitors to inspect damaged housing. And suddenly the truth was out: the permit system is today being used not to protect sensitive cultural sites and practices, but to manage and control the news in a crude and blatant fashion.
There is a direct link between the gang warfare tearing apart Wadeye and the lack of in-depth media coverage: this Aboriginal township has been the showpiece of a vast, failed governmental social experiment over the past three years, and that systematic failure has largely gone unreported because it suits the local council staff and their federal and territory masters to keep it under wraps, and keep out unwelcome media eyes.
New federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough will hold a high-profile national summit on indigenous community violence next month. But it is the culture of secrecy that lies behind, and underpins, the violence. The summit will be much more than a meeting of concerned officials. It will be a test of Australia's moral temper and our willingness to stop the tide of illicit violence disfiguring the remote world. Sometimes the truth is painful; its denial is worse.
28 May, 2006
THE INCORRECTNESS OF WINNING BIG
High school football coaches in Connecticut will have to be good sports this fall - or risk a suspension. The football committee of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school sports, is adopting a "score management" policy that will suspend coaches whose teams win by more than 50 points.
A rout is considered an unsportsmanlike infraction and the coach of the offending team will be disqualified from coaching the next game, said Tony Mosa, assistant executive director of the Cheshire-based conference. "We were concerned with any coach running up the game. There's no need for it," Mosa said Wednesday. "This is something that we really have been discussing for the last couple of years. There were a number of games that were played where the difference of scores were 60 points or more. It's not focused on any one particular person."
Some have dubbed it the "Jack Cochran rule," after the New London High's football coach, who logged four wins of more than 50 points last year. In New London's 60-0 rout of Tourtelotte/Ellis Tech, Cochran enraged the Tourtelotte bench by calling a timeout just before halftime. Tourtelotte's coach was arrested on breach of peace charges after police say he struck a security guard and an assistant New London coach.
Leo Facchini, New London's athletic director, called it unfair to single out his coach. Facchini said he and Cochran tried to pull in the reins during New London's 90-0 drubbing of Griswold last season by trying to get both sides and the timekeeper to agree to run a continuous clock. Some states, including Iowa, continuously run the game clock in the second half if a team has a 35-point lead. The Connecticut committee rejected a similar proposal because members thought it would unfairly cut into backups' playing time.
If a school's team stinks, maybe they shouldn't field a team! How is it the other side's fault if they do? A big loss is probably a lesson they need. And is it fair to the stronger team that they are given so little of a challenge? It is coaches fielding hopelessly weak teams who should be treated with contempt and penalized for wasting everybody's time
SHOCKING RACISM IN MISSOURI
The police allow blacks to get away with heaps because of the colour of their skin. Since blacks commit crime at roughly 9 times the white rate, the police should be stopping blacks roughly 900% more than they stop whites. In fact, it is only 42% more
The disparity gap between the number of white and black drivers who were stopped by Missouri police last year grew wider, according to a report that Attorney General Jay Nixon released today. The report, delivered to the General Assembly and Gov. Matt Blunt, tracks the demographics of more than 1.5 million police vehicle stops made by 624 agencies across the state in 2005. It shows that African-American drivers were stopped at a rate 42 percent higher than expected based solely on their proportion of the driving-age population. That number increased from 34 percent in 2004.
When compared with whites, African-American drivers were 46 percent more likely to be stopped. The 2004 report showed that African Americans were 38 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers, based solely on their proportion of the driving-age population. "The information in this report serves as an important basis for dialogue between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve," Nixon said in a release.
In the St. Louis area, several of the largest departments saw the disparity gap shrink between black and white drivers stopped. The Jefferson County Sheriff, St. Charles County Sheriff and St. Louis County Police departments were among them. St. Louis city police saw nearly no change in its statistics. Nixon noted that the overall number of vehicle stops recorded increased by 10 percent, to more than 1.5 million stops from 1.37 million from 2004. A change in the law that took effect in August 2004 requires law enforcement to report on a wider variety of stops, including investigative stops.
The 2005 report also showed that an African-American driver who was stopped was 78 percent more likely to be searched than a white driver. Statewide, Hispanic drivers were stopped at a rate about three percent less likely than their proportion of the population. Those Hispanic drivers who were stopped, however, were almost twice as likely to be searched as white drivers who were stopped.
Racial profiling can neither be proved or disproved by statistics alone, Nixon said in a statement. The statistics do not prove that police decide to stop a driver based solely on his or her race. "Missouri law enforcement should continue their constructive efforts to eliminate any perceptions that traffic stops are being made solely on the basis of race, rather than for legitimate reasons," Nixon said. State law requires every Missouri police agency to adopt a written policy regarding racial profiling, provide annual training to officers and promote the use of effective, non-combative methods for carrying out their duties in a racially and culturally diverse environment.
BRITISH GOVERNMENT DISCRIMINATION AGAINST FAT KIDS
Apparently, prejudice against fatties is OK. There is no public health basis for it -- as moderately overweight people live slightly longer
In the past, fat kids only had to worry about the playground bully. Now the politicians, the doctors and their teachers are all out to get them - and their parents. In the next few weeks children aged four and ten are all going to be lined up at school for measurements of height and weight (1). This is necessary because the government, having already set a target for reducing childhood obesity, has realised that nobody knows how many children are overweight. The plan is to repeat these measurements in 12 months' time and then to write to the parents of obese children to warn that they risk long-term health damage unless they lose weight.
Even the government's own health advisers have warned that the mass weigh-in will inevitably stigmatise overweight children and will provoke widespread anxiety and distress among both children and parents. Public health doctors are well aware that it is illegitimate to diagnose individual health risks on the basis of population statistics and that there is no scientific justification for this approach. But, having fostered the obesity panic by promoting scares about fast food and snacks, they are ill-equipped to resist the zealots now driving government policy.
The politicians are now gripped by the dogma that exhorting people to eat less and exercise more will banish obesity. One of the few things that emerges clearly from half a century of research is that this approach simply does not work. While the scale of the problem of childhood obesity remains controversial - and both its causes and consequences are uncertain - it is widely recognised that no form of intervention has been found to be effective.
The crusade against childhood obesity has become dangerously irrational. Like most of the government's most cherished initiatives, it is exempted from the requirements of evidence-based policy. It is driven by the most desperate imperative of New Labour: the need to connect, with at least that section of the electorate that has responded so impressively to the charms of the celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver. In the childhood obesity panic, the insecurities of the nation's elite are projected into our primary schools, reflecting, as American academic Paul Campos observes, a culture that is `ultimately all about fear, self-loathing and endless dissatisfaction'.
Once again this week, the tired metaphors of `epidemic' and `time-bomb' have been mobilised to raise the emotional temperature. Obesity is presented as a modern plague, as a source of contagion and risk, which therefore justifies the sort of authoritarian measures considered necessary to protect society from extreme danger. These metaphors provide new forms of expression for deep-rooted prejudices against ordinary people, particularly against poorer people, who are more likely, in most Western societies, to be overweight. As the Australian educationalists Michael Gard and Jan Wright observe, `the idea of the"obesity epidemic" appears to lock commentators into a view of people as childlike in their stupidity, short-sightedness and utter self-centredness'. To be overweight is to be regarded as being `out of control, undisciplined, deviant, dangerously unhealthy'.
The label of obesity legitimises the public monitoring of behaviour and provides a licence for ridicule and harassment. For politicians and pundits, public health advocacy groups and popular television programmes, parents are a particular focus of condescension and contempt. According to Tam Fry of the Child Growth Foundation, `parents are very ignorant about what a healthy weight is'. In truth, within wide limits, there is no such thing as a healthy (or an unhealthy) weight - a simple fact parents know much better than these self-appointed experts.
The shift in focus of the obesity panic towards children is a particularly invidious development. A younger generation is now being indoctrinated with a deeply misanthropic and neurotic attitude towards the joys of life, such as eating, drinking and playing. As Tom MacMillan of the Food Ethics Council observes, health `neither is nor ought to be [the] main criterion in rational lifestyle choices'.
Eating and drinking are modes of sensual enjoyment and social engagement, ways of expressing individual and group identity, which are impoverished by the narrow preoccupations of the health fetishists. But instead of learning the pleasures of eating and sharing a wide variety foods, children are being coerced into consuming `five-a-day' fruit and veg, even though an authoritative study confirms that this yields no significant reduction in the development of chronic disease. Playing sport for pleasure is now being reduced to taking exercise for health, despite the fact that `no link between school physical education and either the long-term health, body weight or physical activity of children has ever been established'. The crusade against child obesity is likely to produce, not healthy outcomes, but miserable children and anxious parents and epidemics of dieting and eating disorders.
Australia: 'Gay-friendly' child care slammed
Little kids being harassed over sexuality -- out of the public purse
A council-run childcare centre is teaching toddlers that gay, lesbian and "transgender" parents are normal in a bid to "challenge the perception" of young children about sexuality. The Tillman Park Children's Centre in Tempe - which receives council and government funding - has devised the gay-friendly curriculum for children aged six weeks to six years. Marrickville Mayor Sam Byrne said the centre had "successfully adopted several strategies to encompass lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex issues". These included ensuring images were reflective of "diverse families" and "actively affirming the identity of lesbian and gay families". He said the centre challenged "children's perception of what is 'normal' gender and sexual identity".
The centre uses controversial Learn to Include books, which feature Jed and his Dads and The Rainbow Cubby House. Mr Byrne applauded staff and families at the centre for "broadening the minds of our future generation". "At Marrickville we believe in offering children and families an inclusive program based on social justice," he told The Saturday Daily Telegraph. "These are reflected through an open environment where alternative perspectives, values, beliefs, lifestyles and people's identities are respected and accepted."
The Daily Telegraph last year revealed the books - produced by a non-profit program run by the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW - were funded by the Attorney-Generals Department, which provided $33,000 over two years. The Saturday Daily Telegraph can reveal the Learn to Include books are also being used in private childcare centres across the state. Child Care New South Wales president Lyn Connolly said there was no book list for centres to draw from, but in order for centres to meet "high quality" they relied on a variety of resources, including the Learn to Include books.
Marika Kontellis, whose three-year-old daughter Jasmin attends the centre, said although she was in a heterosexual relationship she had no issue with the material being taught. She said she could understand how some families might find the topics confronting or uncomfortable "but for us it is important to know that families come in different shapes and sizes and that's okay and that's good". "Every day the kids are being told that it is okay that you are black, it is okay that you are gay, it's okay that families don't all look the same," Ms Kontellis said. [I guess all families are the same then?]
National Party Leader Andrew Stoner - who last year forced former premier Bob Carr to investigate the use of the books in public schools - said yesterday he was opposed to children being "brainwashed by a political correct agenda". "It's just crazy. Children that young have no concept of these issues of sexuality," he said. "Whether it is heterosexual sex or homosexual sex, it is the choice for parents to talk about it with their children - not for an institution to start some political correct campaign."
Psychologist Lorraine Corne said yesterday it is essential the concept of gay and lesbians was introduced to young children in a proper way. "You would introduce the concept like you would introduce the concept of sex," she said. "It would be done at a level that they understand. It could be as simple as some people have a father and a mother and some people have two mothers and some have two fathers. "It would have to be put in a very simplistic way otherwise it is beyond their comprehension and it would go above their heads," Ms Corne said.
27 May, 2006
ARNIE TO VETO HOMOSEXUAL BILL
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto a bill passed by the Senate and pending in the Assembly to revise California's school curriculum to include the contributions of gays and lesbians to the state and nation, a gubernatorial spokesman said Wednesday. "The governor believes that school curriculum should include all important historical figures, regardless of orientation," said Schwarzenegger's director of communications, Adam Mendelsohn. "However, he does not support the Legislature micromanaging curriculum."
Wednesday's announcement signaled a death blow to the efforts of state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, the openly lesbian author of the measure, to obtain recognition for the contributions of gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual people to the social and historical landscape. Kuehl's bill had passed the Senate on a 22-15 vote on May 11 and was awaiting hearings in the Assembly. She expressed disbelief that Schwarzenegger, who traditionally has withheld comment on legislation until it passes the Legislature and reaches his desk, has broken with his own precedent and made up his mind on a bill that still hadn't been vetted by one house of the Legislature. "He hasn't made up his mind, I don't care what some underling might have said," Kuehl said.
Kuehl said she hasn't spoken to the Republican governor about the bill yet and that she didn't plan on trying to initiate a conversation with him until it had set sail in the Assembly. She said she intends to approach him on the subject. "I expect it to go before the (Assembly) Education Committee, perhaps then the Appropriations Committee," Kuehl said. "When it gets to the floor, I expect to talk to the governor, and I expect to get it through. For them to take a position on it, I think is precipitous. There's nothing controversial about it. The right wing has drummed up a lot of old fears. Once people understand what it really does, the response is usually OK." Schwarzenegger will come around to supporting the bill, Kuehl said, once he "understands how small a change it is."
Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families and a longtime activist who has opposed gay rights legislation, welcomed Schwarzenegger's decision. But he said he wants more out of the governor. "We're very pleased that Schwarzenegger is listening to the concerns of parents," Thomasson said. "Now the governor needs to pledge to veto the two remaining transsexual, bisexual, homosexual bills, AB 606 and AB 1056. Parents and grandparents are demanding it."
Assembly Bill 606 would ensure that school districts act to reduce harassment of students based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. Assembly Bill 1056 would offer $25,000 grants to schools to "promote tolerance and intergroup relations," according to a bill analysis. Seth Kilbourn, political director for Equality California, which advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and sponsored Senate Bill 1437, said he was surprised that the governor would indicate his opposition to the bill at such an early stage. "That is disappointing," he said. With June being Gay Pride Month, Kilbourn said he doesn't see the political benefit for the governor in shooting down the bill. "This would not be the best time for him to be doing that if he wanted to appear more friendly," Kilbourn said. "He's passed more pieces of legislation benefiting the GLBT community -- except for gay marriage -- than any other governor."
Kilbourn called SB 1437 an important and necessary bill that would help promote tolerance in classrooms. "We are not asking for anything new. It's part of the diversity as required by the state of California," Kilbourn said. "It has enormous impact on gay and lesbian students. When gay issues are talked about, gay students feel better about themselves. For non-gays, it's an opportunity to learn about an underrepresented group in society and provides a more positive perspective."
Great! "Ethnic" law to be scrapped in Australia
The Howard Government has widened its plan to remove legal recognition of Aboriginal customary law in criminal sentencing to include the cultural beliefs of all ethnic minorities. The extension of the plan beyond Aboriginal tribal law is understood to have been triggered by concerns that a law directed only at indigenous offenders could be in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act. Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock last night said no one convicted of a crime in Australia should be able to plead their cultural practices and beliefs as mitigating factors in their sentencing. "We are not a nation of tribes," he said. "There should be one law for all Australians. Our expectation is that when people come and settle in Australia they are under an obligation to accept the law and the principles that go with it."
The Government's move came after Northern Territory Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney asked Mr Ruddock last week to check if planned restrictions on Aboriginal customary law being used as a mitigating factor when sentencing violent offenders would breach the Racial Discrimination Act. Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough this week said he would put a proposal to scrap consideration of cultural law in serious crimes to state and territory governments at a national summit. He said customary law had been "used as a curtain that people are hiding behind". The minister's remarks followed a national outcry after a 55-year-old Aboriginal elder was sentenced to a month's jail for having anal sex with a 14-year-old girl promised to him as a wife.
Territory Chief Justice Brian Martin, who sentenced the man, admitted this week he had made a mistake by placing too much emphasis on the man's belief that under tribal law he had the right to teach the girl to obey him. Ms Carney urged the Government to change the Racial Discrimination Act if it considered restrictions on customary law would amount to a breach. Mr Ruddock is understood to have sought legal advice on the possibility of changing the Racial Discrimination Act, but his preference is to extend the exclusion to all minority groups in the community.
The scheme drew qualified support yesterday from Islamic civil rights leader Waleed Kadous but was condemned as impractical by the legal profession. "I don't think any member of the community should expect any special privileges because of their cultural background," said Mr Kadous, co-convenor of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advisory Network. "Speaking for the Muslim community, we understand we are not entitled to any special privileges in the courts - nor should we be," he said. Judges should always have some discretion to consider a person's circumstances "but our cultural background should have no major impact on how we are sentenced", Mr Kadous said.
However, Law Council of Australia president John North said the Government's plan was "totally impractical". "An important part of the sentencing process, apart from retribution and revenge, is to look carefully at the subjective features of each individual before the court," Mr North said. "Those characteristics may involve cultural or what can be termed customary law matters, and this has long been held by the High Court to be a proper exercise in the use of sentencing discretion. "To try and legislate across the board to remove this discretion would, in our view, prove impossible."
Mr Ruddock said Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough would be urging the states to change their sentencing laws to fall into line with the Government's plan. While he believed the plan would not cause a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act, he indicated that the commonwealth would be prepared to change federal laws - including the Racial Discrimination Act - to achieve its goal.
SCOTLAND: PRACTICAL SUGGESTION CONDEMNED AS "NAZI"
Here, as far as we want to elaborate on them, are the circumstances. In a council house in West Lothian sits an eight-month pregnant 12-year-old, probably with a cigarette in hand, waiting for the fruits of her dubious celebrity to ripen. Soon she will be Britain's youngest mother. She exists in the anonymous limbo of the transgressive child-adult; gawped at by local rubber-neckers, isolated but for the attentions of tabloid journalists and social workers.
Right now, tragically, she is probably the most famous person in Scotland. Her home, it is said, was habitually used by local junkies, who openly smoked drugs and rolled joints in front of the children. Her mother, it is claimed, is a long-term heroin addict, although her daughter denies this, with six children by three different fathers. The 12-year-old's father, said to have been a well-known drug dealer, long ago moved away. Just a few days ago, her mother gave birth to her latest half brother. The newspaper serialising the girl's own story reported her claims that she was smoking cannabis on the night last summer when she got drunk and became pregnant, aged 11, on a night out in Edinburgh.
Okay, so that's the situation. Now comes the difficult bit. What is anyone going to do about it? More to the point, what would the average member of the liberal intelligentsia, placed in charge of this dreadful scenario, do next? Here's a clue: idealistic bleating about ending poverty and raising self-esteem achieves nothing. My heart goes out to the social workers, police and Children's Panel members dealing with the case. I am glad I am not in their shoes; I'm even more glad that the majority of politicians and liberal commentators are not in them, either.
There is all the difference in the world between theorising about what to do in cases like this, and actually doing something. Pragmatism is an art little practised in debating chambers or newspaper columns (or, indeed, in social services high command), but it is the only effective method of dealing with chaotic, damaged human lives. Ask any front line social worker, daily fire-fighting domestic catastrophes, with one hand tied behind their backs by a straitjacket of regulation, theory, best practice, patients' charters, monitoring of standards and the protection of human rights.
I don't know Duncan McNeil personally, but I do know that when he stood up last week and made his controversial speech in Holyrood, about putting contraception in methadone, he spoke from the heart. Even on TV, you could see that. A former shop-steward from the Clydeside shipyards, Mr McNeil is a genuine politician who works hard for his constituents. He has never said anything as bold or controversial before; his speech clearly indicated how bad drug abuse must be in his Greenock constituency.
It was interesting to note that when Reporting Scotland asked people to respond to his speech, those who did not condemn him were those most likely to have seen how incompatible heroin and child-rearing are. The response elsewhere, from those who've never encountered a fix-seeking addict with a baby in their arms, was utterly predictable.
Poor Mr McNeil's views were condemned as eugenicist and Nazi by the chattering classes, who, themselves faced with a mother on heroin, would be as much use as a chocolate fireguard. The Liberals, the Scottish Socialists, the Tories and the SNP scurried to pile words of scorn on his suggestion. Pathetic. Stupid. Irrational. Bizarre. Illegal, they said. Mr McNeil's own Labour Party distanced itself from him.
The criticism was utterly unfair. Mr McNeil's suggestion is none of these things. Oh, it needs some refinement, certainly. But so grave is the drug-abuse situation in Scotland that the concept of enforcing birth control in some way on those unable to care for babies is now being talked about openly by pragmatic, sensible and informed people.
Jack McConnell wants social workers to remove more children from drug-abusing parents (though whether he can provide the vastly increased resources to look after them is not yet certain). Susan Deacon, the former health minister, wants drug-addicted mothers to be offered contraceptive implants at a cost of 80 pounds a time. Professor Neil McKeganey, a drugs expert from Glasgow University - whose research suggests there are 50,000 Scots children growing up exposed to drug addiction at home, and who knows of what he theorises - wants drug-abusing women to be paid to be on contraception. In 39 states in America, it is now common policy for female addicts to be paid $500 to have long-term contraceptive injections: a tiny fraction of what an unwanted child will cost taxpayers.
Is this immoral? No, it's inspired. History shows us that great social reform has always been done by people who saw need and distress and reacted accordingly. The pregnant 12-year-old in West Lothian may never know it, but in the awful nature of her celebrity may yet lie the seed for a radical new social progressiveness in Scotland, which will save unknown numbers of children from despair.
THE REAL CAUSE OF THE IMMIGRATION CRISIS
By Jeff Jacoby
Amid the din over illegal immigration, I have been thinking about two immigrants I happen to know rather well. One is a 3-year-old boy from southern Guatemala. He was brought to the United States in March 2004, one of 11,170 adopted orphans to immigrate that year. The other, who will turn 81 in August, comes from a small village in what is now Slovakia. He entered the United States in the spring of 1948, a few months before his 23d birthday.
Born an ocean and 78 years apart, on different continents and into very different cultures, these two immigrants might seem on the surface to have little in common. But as naturalized US citizens, they in fact have a great deal in common. English, to mention the most obvious example, is the primary language for both. Neither retains the customs of his native land. Both have a share in the American constitutional patrimony.
As it happens, they share more than that. The little boy from Guatemala is my younger son. The older man from Slovakia is my father. America is a richer place because my father and son are here, and no doubt most Americans -- even those now clamoring for a crackdown on illegal immigration -- would agree. Signs reading, "We love *legal* immigrants," have been on display at rallies organized to oppose amnesty for illegal aliens. Another popular sign demands: "What part of illegal don't you understand?"
To countless Americans, the difference between legal and illegal immigration is self-evident and meaningful. But is that really what distinguishes the immigrants we want from those we don't -- that the former enter the country lawfully, while the latter break the rules to get here? Are immigrants like my father and son inherently desirable merely because a lot of exasperating bureaucratic requirements were met before they came? Are the 11 million illegal immigrants living within our borders (and the several hundred thousand added to their number each year) unwelcome and problematic only because they got in the wrong way?
A foreigner who enters the United States without first running the immigration-law gantlet is not congenitally unfit to be a good American any more than someone who operates an automobile without a license is congenitally unfit to drive. Our immigration laws are maddening and Byzantine. They are heavily skewed in favor of people with family ties to US citizens -- nearly two-thirds of all legal immigrants qualify to enter the United States because they are the relatives of someone already here, and even then it can take 10 or 15 years to qualify for legal residence. If you were designing an immigration system that would admit people on the basis of whether they seemed likely to become good Americans -- patriotic, hard working, law-abiding, English-speaking -- this is hardly the system you would devise.
In so many other contexts, Americans admire self-starters and risk-takers who find ways to get around roadblocks that would defeat less inventive, determined, or gutsy individuals. Of course it is vital, especially after 9/11, to properly control the nation's borders. But there is still something to be said for the self-starters and risk-takers who look at the formidable roadblocks we place in the path of most would-be immigrants, especially those not related to a US citizen -- and make up their minds to find a way around them. In his televised remarks last week, President Bush noted that many illegal aliens "will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country." Aren't those the kind of people America should crave -- men and women willing to risk everything, including their lives, for a chance to build their own American dream?
Yes, porous borders -- and not only the one with Mexico -- are a national-security problem, one too long neglected. But the burning *immigration* problem of our time isn't that too many people are breaking the rules to get in. It is what they are finding when they get here. Instead of a national commitment to assimilation, a cynical multiculturalism -- often state-mandated -- sends the message that our culture is no better than any other, so there is no particular reason to embrace the American experience. "Bilingual" education and foreign-language ballots accelerate the loss of a common English tongue, making it easier than ever for newcomers to hunker down in linguistic ghettoes. Identity politics and affirmative action erode the national identity, encouraging immigrants to see themselves first and foremost as members of racial or ethnic groups, and only secondarily as individuals and Americans.
From the day he got off the boat from Europe, my father lived up to the code that expected immigrants to go to work, learn the language, obey the laws, and become an American. My immigrant son, I hope, will live up to it too. The melting pot, it used to be called, before political correctness intervened. That political correctness is what has caused the present crisis. The crisis won't be solved by blaming the immigrants.
26 May, 2006
Bank of America ("The Homosexual Bank") Pushes Gay Rights Agenda on Georgia Boy Scout group
A good reason to cancel your Bank of America account if you have one. Tell them that you are cancelling because you oppose discrimination against heterosexuals. They are responsive to pressure. They have stopped funding the Scouts before and then restored the funding. Post below lifted from Red State
A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind and - according to the Bank of America - discriminatory.
If you have heard of Valdosta, chances are it was because of the local high school football team's prowess at winning national championships. But today, the overbearing effects of overactive liberalism reached far into South Georgia and slapped the Boy Scouts right across the face.
At a recent Valdosta Kiwanis Club meeting, the local Boy Scouts leader, Matt Hart, was present to accept a donation from the Club. Matt gladly accepted the contribution to help the local Boy Scouts spruce up their summer camp and then he told the Kiwanis Club the Scouts were grateful for the donation because the regular donation received each year from Bank of America had been denied this year because Bank of America believes the Boy Scouts national organization discriminates against gays.
In fact, Matt, the Executive Leader of the Alapaha Area Council for the Boy Scouts, shared with the group a recent letter he received from Bank of America Charitable Foundation explaining the denial
“...Under the non-discrimination policy, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation cannot provide funding to any organization that practices discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, or veteran or disability status. The Boy Scouts' current employment and membership practices do not comply with this policy.”The letter continues:(Full letter here.)
“If the Alapaha Area Council, Boy Scouts of America has the autonomy to depart from the current discriminatory practices of the national organization, and will verify that fact in writing, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation may consider reviewing this request again.”
This is absurd. The letter sounded like it had been written by an ACLU lawyer in San Francisco. And this is the same bank that donated $150,000 to a San Francisco Community Center “to serve the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”
Andy Smith, the president of the Alapaha Council of the Boy Scouts of America responded in a letter:“I think this policy and what this policy represents is an attempt to cause a serious erosion of personal freedoms, personal rights to associate, the right of parents to know that the Boy Scouts of America does everything it possible can to be as inclusive as it can be and still carry forward the traditional and applaudable character building programs of Scouting and to see to the safety of every child whose safety is entrusted to the Boy Scouts of America.”(Full letter here.)
For nearly a Century, the Boy Scouts of America has “prepared young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law” and has made leaders out of boys through traditional values. It's unfortunate that the Boy Scouts in Valdosta end up being the victims in this game of liberal cat and mouse.
OK TO INSULT CATHOLICS
One of the co-producers of "The Da Vinci Code," John Calley, was quoted last year saying the movie was "conservatively anti-Catholic." Leaving aside the silly qualifier, ask yourself: Is there a single producer in all of Hollywood who would boast that his movie is anti-Semitic, racist or homophobic? And to top it off, ask yourself why inoffensive depictions of Muhammad are rarely shown on TV or in newspapers?
The bias against Catholicism is palpable. No other segment of society is continuously the target of vicious jokes by the likes of Penn Jillette or Bill Maher. No other segment of society is subjected to the obscene assaults like those "South Park" delivers over and over again. And no other segment of society is routinely held up to derision on college campuses.
Consider that a student newspaper at the University of Oregon recently put a depiction of a naked Jesus Christ on the cross with an erection. It also showed a graphic of a naked Christ kissing a naked man, both sporting erections. And the response from the university's president? It was so weak that state lawmakers — after receiving color copies of the offensive pictures from the Catholic League — have decided to deal with this incident themselves. All because the president of the university found it politically incorrect to morally condemn the newspaper.
It's not just Catholics who are on the receiving end of these attacks — all Christians are fair game. NBC dumped "The Book of Daniel" because there was no audience for the script, but the producers surely thought there would be one. After all, who wouldn't want to watch a show where an Episcopalian priest dabbles in drugs, the wife is a boozer, the daughter is a dope dealer, one son is gay, the other is a womanizer, the brother-in-law is a thief and the father's father is an adulterer? Just your ordinary Christian family — in the eyes of Hollywood, that is.
To understand what's driving this, consider that our culture teaches that freedom means the right to do whatever we want to do and Catholicism teaches that freedom means the right to do what we ought to do. There's a natural disharmony here, a tension so taut that something's got to give. Never mind that a libertine idea of freedom — liberty as license — is spiritually, psychologically, physiologically and socially deadly in its consequences. It's what sells. Sadly, what is attendant to this perverse interpretation of liberty is a need to lash out at any creed that preaches the virtue of restraint.
The scandal in the Catholic Church did not help matters, but the frontal assault on Catholicism antedated the revelations of 2002. No matter, the kind of hate speech that spews with regularity toward the Catholic Church can never be justified. That it occurs amid all the chatter about tolerance and respect for diversity makes it all the more repugnant.
Harry Reid & The End of Liberal Thought
By Dennis Prager
The highest-ranking Democrat in America, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, described the Senate bill making English the national language of the American people as "racist." And the New York Times editorial page labeled the bill "xenophobic." Welcome to the thoughtless world of contemporary liberalism. Beginning in the 1960s, liberalism, once the home of many deep thinkers, began to substitute feeling for thought and descended into superficiality.
One-word put-downs of opponents' ideas and motives were substituted for thoughtful rebuttal. Though liberals regard themselves as intellectual -- their views, after all, are those of nearly all university professors -- liberal thought has almost died. Instead of feeling the need to thoughtfully consider an idea, most liberal minds today work on automatic. One-word reactions to most issues are the liberal norm. This is easy to demonstrate. Here is a list of terms liberals apply to virtually every idea or action with which they differ:
And here is the list of one-word descriptions of what liberals are for:
These two lists serve contemporary liberals in at least three ways. First, they attack the motives of non-liberals and thereby morally dismiss the non-liberal person.
Second, these words make it easy to be a liberal -- essentially all one needs to do is to memorize this brief list and apply the right term to any idea or policy. That is one reason young people are more likely to be liberal -- they have not had the time or inclination to think issues through, but they know they oppose racism, imperialism and bigotry, and that they are for peace, tolerance and the environment.
Third, they make the liberal feel good about himself -- by opposing conservative ideas and policies, he is automatically opposing racism, bigotry, imperialism, etc.
Examples could fill a book. Harry Reid, as noted above, supplied a classic one. Instead of grappling with the enormously significant question of how to maintain American identity and values with tens of millions of non-Americans coming into America, the Democratic leader and others on the Left simply label attempts to keep English as a unifying language as "racist."
Another classic example of liberal non-thought was the reaction to former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers' mere question about whether the female and male brains were wired differently. Again, instead of grappling with the issue, Harvard and other liberals merely dismissed Summers as "sexist."
A third example is the use of the term "racist" to end debate about race-based affirmative action or even to describe a Capitol police officer who stops a black congresswoman who has no ID badge.
"Phobic" is the current one-word favorite among liberal dismissals of ideological opponents. It combines instant moral dismissal with instant psychological analysis. If you do not support society redefining marriage to include members of the same sex you are "homophobic" -- and further thought is unnecessary. If you articulate a concern about the moral state of Islam today, you are "Islamophobic" -- and again further thought is unnecessary. And if you seek to retain English as America's unifying language, you are not only racist, you are, as the New York Times editorial describes you, "xenophobic" and "Latinophobic," the latest phobia uncovered by the Left.
There is a steep price paid for the liberal one-wording of complex ideas -- the decline of liberal thought. But with more and more Americans graduating college and therefore taught the liberal list of one-word reactions instead of critical thinking, many liberals do not see any pressing need to think through issues. They therefore do not believe they have paid any price at all.
But American society is paying a steep price. Every car that has a bumper sticker declaring "War is not the answer" powerfully testifies to the intellectual decline of the well educated and to the devolution of "liberal thought" into an oxymoron.
25 May, 2006
CRIMINAL-FRIENDLY BRITAIN AGAIN
The "human rights" of foreign ex-prisoners on the run from police are being put before public safety. Detectives across the country are refusing to issue "wanted" posters for the missing criminals because they do not want to breach human rights laws. Forces said that the offenders had a right to privacy and might sue for defamation if their names and photographs were released.
Critics condemned the decision as "ludicrous". It comes as the Government faces mounting pressure to reform or scrap the Human Rights Act, which was blamed last week for a murder by a serial sex attacker and for a court ruling that nine asylum seekers who hijacked an aeroplane cannot be sent home to Afghanistan.
Yesterday, the Lord Chancellor acknowledged public fears that dangerous criminals were able to remain at large because of the legislation and said the Government was considering new laws. Lord Falconer said: "I think there is real concern about the way the Act is operating. The deployment of human rights is, often wrongly, leading to wrong conclusions to be made about issues of public safety. There needs to be political clarity that the Human Rights Act should have no effect on public safety issues - public safety comes first." Last week the Prime Minister's official spokesman indicated that Tony Blair was also considering amending the Act to restore public confidence.
The Conservative leader, David Cameron, has already vowed to order a review of the law if he is elected and will consider rewriting the legislation or even abolishing it.
Meanwhile, Charles Clarke has revealed that he "did not lose a minute's sleep" over the freed foreign prisoners scandal that led to him being sacked as Home Secretary. The MP told his local newspaper: "My sleeping was completely normal, fortunately I'm not worried by sleepless nights. Sleepless nights occur when there are things which are genuinely exercising your worry." In his final Commons appearance before he was sacked, Mr Clarke said that police and immigration officers were engaged in "very intensive work" to find and deport 38 serious offenders who were released from jail without being considered for deportation.
His successor, John Reid, suggested last week that the true number may be higher, but could not give a figure. Police forces pointed to human rights legislation as the reason why names and photographs cannot be issued. They also said the on-the-run former prisoners were not sought as criminals, but instead as the perpetrators of immigration offences. The Metropolitan Police said: "Anyone who is wanted on any offence has the right to privacy." Greater Manchester Police said: "We could not be sure about putting out information now without possibly defaming somebody." The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) says in its guidance to forces: "Article 8 of the Human Rights Act gives everyone the right to respect for their private and family life... and publication of photographs could be a breach of that."
According to Acpo, photographs should be released only in "exceptional circumstances", where public safety needs override the case for privacy. Last night the Conservatives condemned the decision. David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: "If true, this is a ludicrous interpretation of human rights. A criminal's right to privacy is as nothing by comparison to the public's right to safety. "Now that these individuals are on the run, their names and pictures should be in the public domain so that people are not put at even more unnecessary risk."
The Immigration Service has insisted that the decision as to whether to name the missing former prisoners is down to the police. A Home Office spokesman said: "It is an operational matter for individual police forces to decide whether to publish details or photos of the individuals concerned." Yet every force in the country has come to the same decision - to withhold the details of the former prisoners. The Met, Britain's largest force, said: "They are not criminals; it is an immigration offence. We will use all the tools in our tool box to try and find them without printing their identity - that's the last recourse." Greater Manchester Police said its fear of being sued for defamation was heightened because "this only happened two or three weeks ago and the investigations are in a very early stage".
Last week, Andrew Bridges, the Chief Inspector of Probation, concluded that worries over human rights had prevented the proper supervision of serial sex offender Anthony Rice following his release from a 16-year sentence for rape. He went on to kill Naomi Bryant.
JOURNALIST CONDEMNED FOR POLITICALLY INCORRECT VIEWS
You can be as Leftist as you like but nothing else!
In 12 years as a reporter for Tampa's ABC affiliate, Don Germaise's experience with journalism has been mostly one way: He asks the questions, others answer. But he has found himself in the middle of a controversy over an appearance on the other side of the cameras lens. An interview he granted to a member of a white separatist group has been posted on the Internet, drawing thousands of downloads from viewers and criticism for breaching standards of journalistic objectivity.
"How could somebody as experienced as I was be so naive as to talk to this kid?" [A 28-year-old is a "kid"?] said Germaise, an energetic reporter known for his aggressive hurricane coverage. "I was trying to help him out. He said he wanted to be a journalist." Germaise said he submitted to the interview after videotaping his own talk with David Daugherty, the webmaster for an Internet site operated by the Tampa unit of the National Vanguard. The group maintainsthat the media are controlled by Jews and that ethnic diversity harms America. But Daugherty recalls a more explicit bargain: If Germaise wanted an interview about the National Vanguard, he also had to let Daugherty interview him.
Daugherty, 28, posted Germaise's interview on May 9, saying Thursday there had been more than 4,300 downloads of the video, featuring the reporter's views on free speech, illegal immigration and the control his bosses at Tampa's ABC affiliate exert over his stories. The site also offers links to information about pro-white music and a glowing report on a speech by convicted Holocaust denier David Irving, now in prison in Austria.
Daugherty has asked to swap interviews with other journalists, but no one agreed until Germaise did. "You very rarely see one of these guys who is a standard foot soldier reporter (interviewed) in front of a camera," said Daugherty, who denounces most news stories about pro-white groups as "propaganda" developed by a Jewish-controlled media industry. "They're kind of a faceless people. When I posted the story, it generated a ton of traffic because everybody wanted to hear what this guy had to say." "ABC Action News Reporter Blasts Media Bosses, ADL!" the headline reads over the link to Germaise's interview. (ADL refers to the Jewish advocacy group, the Anti-Defamation League.) "Don Germaise confirms what many of us have suspected about 'mainstream' media," adds a blurb on the site.
"All these illegal immigrants are causing a huge strain on government services because they want free medical care, they want to be able to drive, they want all of these resources that are available in this great country of ours," Germaise says on the video, filmed at an Ybor City park. "Yet they're not paying taxes because they're illegal immigrants. If you're in the country illegally, you shouldn't be here."
When asked by Daugherty whether media owners influence the news process, Germaise said, "When the boss speaks, the workers listen. I have definitely had my manager say we need to do this kind of a story. Did it come from ABC, did it come from Walt Disney? Did it come from someone else? I don't know. I do know there have been times when I've been told to do a story."
The interview drew praise from visitors to the message boards at Stormfront.org, a "white pride" Web site. "I'm speechless," wrote one user, identified only as Zemi. "We need more voices like his in the MSM (mainstream media). I hope he gets to keep his job. Or will someone find a illegal immigrant to do his work?"
Germaise, who eventually developed a story on the National Vanguard for WFTS earlier this month, maintained he did not provide the interview to Daugherty in exchange for permission to interview him. However, Daugherty made the same demand of a St. Petersburg Times reporter who hoped to write about the National Vanguard unit, but editors declined. And while experts on hate groups at the Southern Poverty Law Center knew activists sometimes videotape journalists interviewing them -- as protection against misquotes -- they had not heard of someone insisting on interviewing the interviewer....
Famous locally as the "hunker down" guy for his kinetic reports from inside raging hurricanes, Germaise insisted his earnest attempts to answer Daugherty's questions were distorted by heavy editing. Now he's left wondering whether the world thinks he's a closet white separatist. "This is a guy who told me in an interview he wanted every black person in America moved to another state," Germaise said of Daugherty. "I can state unequivocally that there is nothing about this group that I like. I was naive ... to let them use my words to make it appear the way they did. I was wrong."...
Don Heider, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, said Germaise was "seriously compromised" as a result of the interview. "What comes through (this interview) is that there's some conspiracy at the station to cover the (news) in a certain way," said Heider, a former TV news reporter who watched Germaise's interview over the Internet from his office in Austin. "I'm not sure his news director would agree with that."...
U.K.: LITTLE KIDS TO BE HARASSED OVER "OBESITY"
Nobody seems to be mentioning that moderately "overweight" people live longest!
Children are to be weighed at the ages of four and ten and their parents warned if they are too fat. The school screening regime is aimed at fighting the obesity epidemic which threatens a generation of youngsters with a lifetime of ill-health. But the plan triggered angry claims that the Government is trying to dictate the size of children. Critics dismissed the weigh-in scheme as misguided, costly, bureaucratic and a dramatic extension of the 'nanny state'. They said pupils branded overweight could be stigmatised and bullied.
Under the programme, children will be weighed and measured as they start primary school and again before they leave. Parents of those judged too heavy will be sent letters warning of long-term health problems unless they lose weight. School nurses will conduct the first checks this summer and the results will be used to create a 'fat map' of the country.
Ministers are understood to be studying a trial scheme in the U.S. which uses three standard letters - one saying the pupil is within healthy limits, a second raising concerns they may be getting out of shape and a third warning that the child is obese. Details of the scheme emerged as a Parliamentary written answer revealed that one in three youngsters aged two to 15 is now overweight or obese, putting them at risk of a host of serious illnesses. Thirty-three per cent of boys and 35 per cent of girls are estimated to be too heavy. [In the opinion of the do-gooders only] ...
Parents are expected to be told how their children's weight compares with healthy youngsters of the same age and height. Public health minister Caroline Flint has insisted that it is parents who 'first and foremost influence what their children eat'. But parents' groups warned that the weigh-in letters could be ignored or deeply resented while psychiatrists warned of a surge in eating disorders among children.
Margaret Morrissey of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations said: "It appears to be more of the 'nanny state' and I don't think it's going to be terribly effective. "What we do in our own homes is our business and some parents may not react particularly well. "We all appreciate guidance on good diets but most of us think we are already doing our best to provide that. "Parents may say 'so what?'. If parents have a particular lifestyle and they prefer it, all the letters home in the world will not make a difference. "This will be extremely expensive to introduce and I do not believe it's the most efficient way of tackling obesity."
Dr Robin Arnold, of the British Medical Association's psychiatry committee, said: "It may well be justified in public health terms but one wonders what it will do to rates of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa in the future."
Sociologist Patricia Morgan said youngsters who were tubby as children often became slimmer naturally without outside interference. She said: "It used to be called puppy fat and it was accepted children would often grow out of it. "This is another piece of surveillance and another layer of bureaucracy. The risk is that people will become less likely to change things on their own initiative." ...
The Children's Commissioner, Professor Al Aynsley-Green, has expressed reservations about the scheme and nurses have warned that it could amount to an invasion of privacy. Chris Etherington, vice-chairman of the Royal College of Nursing school nurses forum, said: "The RCN is not opposed to primary school children being weighed and measured but we have concerns about how it will be done to avoid stigmatising them. "Children will pick up on the tallest, largest and smallest. Is this a positive experience for them to be going through?" ...
Politically correct Australian judge admits he was wrong
But there's still a long way to go to see justice done
Northern Territory Chief Justice Brian Martin has admitted he made a mistake in sentencing an Aboriginal elder to just one month's jail for having anal sex with a 14-year-old girl and bashing her with a boomerang, because he placed too much emphasis on Aboriginal customary law. In a case that triggered a national outcry, the judge gave weight to the 55-year-old man's belief that he was within his rights to have sex with the girl because, at the age of four, she had been promised to him as a wife. "I was wrong. I got the sentence wrong. The Court of Criminal Appeal said I was wrong. I have no problem with that," Justice Martin told The Australian yesterday.
But while he accepts his error, the Chief Justice warned against the "simplistic" view that Aboriginal offenders are hiding behind traditional law. When courts considered an Aborigine's belief in customary law they were applying a principle that was used in courts across the nation, he said. "The principle is the same. It goes back to the offender's circumstances, their background, their culture - all of those things go to their make-up and reflect on their moral culpability," Justice Martin said.
Justice Martin's defence of customary law is at odds with the views of federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, who wants to prevent it being used as a mitigating factor in sentencing indigenous offenders found guilty of violent crimes. Mr Brough said on Monday that customary law "has been used as a curtain that people are hiding behind" and it should be excluded as a factor when judges are determining sentences.
Justice Martin, a father of three daughters and a son who is on leave in South Australia, delivered his defence of customary law before he became aware of the moves to wind it back. After learning of Mr Brough's plan, Justice Martin said he had no intention of entering a political debate. Justice Martin handed down his original one-month sentence in August last year while sitting under a tree surrounded by residents of the remote community of Yarralin, 380km southwest of Katherine. The sentence for the crime of sexual intercourse with a child under 16 was increased on appeal in December to three years after the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal ruled it was "manifestly inadequate".
Mr Brough said not only was Justice Martin's decision wrong, but that the appeal judges had also failed the victim by increasing the sentence to three years suspended after 18 months. "If you think giving a man an 18-month prison sentence - that's how long he was actually to be in jail for - for raping a girl for two days at 14 years of age, then I think our society has some very serious questions to answer," he told ABC Television.
Yesterday, Mr Brough told the Coalition partyroom many indigenous communities were run like "communist" states with individuals having no property rights. But Mr Brough has been accused of bigotry and a lack of understanding by West Australian Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Dennis Eggington over his plan to scrap customary law. "Aboriginal people do not hide behind customary law," Mr Eggington said. "Whether he (Mr Brough) understands it or not, in Australia there are two sets of laws that will always apply to Aboriginal people who live according to their traditions and customs."
Justice Martin said it would be a mistake to view the Yarralin case as evidence that Aborigines were winning lighter sentences by hiding behind customary law. "What happened is that you get something like (the Yarralin case) and people start taking this very simplistic approach that they are hiding behind traditional law," he said. He said the appeal court had made it clear there were limits to the weight that could be given to customary law. "The system works. They increased the penalty and said there is a limit." He said his sentencing remarks in the Yarralin case had made it clear that when customary law was in conflict with the law of the Northern Territory "the Territory's law must prevail". "It is a balancing exercise. But if they commit a very serious crime then the weight that is given to the personal side of things decreases."
24 May, 2006
THE DEMOCRAT RACE OBSESSION AGAIN
Post lifted from Greg Strange
"This amendment is racist. I think it's directed basically to people who speak Spanish." So said Democratic Senator Harry Reid about a proposed amendment to immigration legislation that would make English the official language of the United States. It's hardly surprising that a Democrat would toss around loose charges of racism with careless abandon, but apparently the good senator forgot to read the poll numbers on this one.
According to a Zogby International poll earlier this year, 84% of Americans, 82% of Democrats and even 77% of Hispanics said that English should be the official language of government operations. So, the searing question of the day is, to what constituency was Senator Reid pandering? If you searched the country high and low you'd only be able to find a small percentage of people, mainly radical leftists, who would agree with his statement.
His charge was made during floor debate on immigration reform and caused quite a stir in the Senate chamber and gallery. Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who offered the "racist" amendment, was said to be clearly offended.
Moments later, a savvy aid passed Reid a note, who, after reading it, commenced to laying on the weasel words: "Even though I feel this amendment is unfair, I don't in any way suggest that Jim Inhofe is a racist. I don't believe that at all. I just believe that this amendment has, to some people, that connotation -- not that he's a racist, but that the amendment is."
But the senator's lame attempt to differentiate between an amendment and its creator doesn't quite wash. An amendment is just a piece of paper, an inanimate object. How can it be racist, but not the person who thought it up and proposed it?
I'd like to be able to say that Reid's "clarification" of his original statement simply involved a mistake in logic, but it's far more likely that it was instead a collosal case of disingenuousness. That he even made his original statement to begin with probably sprung from a core belief that Democrats are morally superior, Republicans are innately racist, and the natural order of things is for Democrats to chastise Republicans for their racism.
Gee, could such a belief system itself be prejudicial?
THE ABORIGINAL UPHEAVAL IN AUSTRALIA
At last the damage wrought by political correctness is in full public view. Four current articles below:
Aboriginal self-management given up as hopeless
But not for want of trying it
Aboriginal community groups would be stripped of responsibility for housing and funding would be tied to the residents' behaviour under a Howard Government plan to improve conditions in indigenous settlements. The proposal follows a departmental review of Aboriginal public housing ordered by Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, amid claims that overcrowding is contributing to violence in indigenous communities. Mr Brough wants to fund Aborginal housing through state and territory governments and encourage personal responsibility, in an attempt to end the common situation of 16 to 17 people living in three-bedroom houses, departmental sources have confirmed. In some cases, as many as 30 Aboriginal family and extended family members live in one house, causing social disharmony and poor hygiene and exacerbating violence.
Options understood to be under consideration include channelling funding through state governments rather than to Aboriginal community organisations, where staff may favour family and friends. Another option under consideration is to require indigenous housing organisations to undergo training on governance. And funding could be made conditional on fewer people living in the houses.
The government review comes as Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin highlighted "overcrowded housing" as a key contributing factor to family violence, in a letter sent to John Howard at the weekend. Ms Martin asked the Prime Minister to consider putting underlying dysfunction and lack of opportunity in Aboriginal communities on the agenda of the next Council of Australian Governments meeting. Ms Martin is so far refusing to attend a summit of state and territory leaders in the next few weeks, called by Mr Brough to tackle indigenous violence, branding it a "talkfest". But she conceded last night to meeting the federal minister this week, saying it was time to move the media debate on violence and child abuse in Aboriginal communities to focus on practical solutions. "Improving the crowded living conditions of people in town camps would go some way in addressing the unacceptable conditions that exist in some of our indigenous communities," she said.
ALP president and prominent Aborigine Warren Mundine repeated yesterday his view that Ms Martin should attend Mr Brough's summit. Speaking out against Aboriginal violence, Mr Mundine rejected as "a total load of nonsense" a defence that the sexual abuse was "customary law" or "secret men's business". Speaking on the Ten Network's Meet the Press, Mr Mundine said: "What we've got to do is what Mal said. We've got to say, 'no more, no more in regard to customary law'. "When you're talking about sexual abuse of children, you're talking about sexual abuse of women, you're talking about domestic violence. These are criminal changes and they need to be treated with that full length of the law."
Mr Mundine also rated yesterday as "not a bad idea" suggestions that the army should become involved in building infrastructure in run-down communities. And he accepted that some communities might have to consider "moving out" if they were not economically viable, although he accepted that people had a right to live where they wanted. Economic unsustainability, Mr Mundine said, meant two things: "One is you live in poverty or you move - we've got to start facing those realities."
Mr Brough's office declined to comment last night on the departmental housing review, saying the minister did not want to distract attention from "law and order and the summit". "We have no comment in relation to housing," a spokesman said.
Health experts believe poor housing conditions dramatically increase the risk of preventable illnesses, as well as making it more difficult for indigenous children to excel at school. Overcrowding causes facilities such as toilets and showers to break down, while residents living in cramped, stressful environments blame the conditions for rising tensions, including violence, among families. Some community leaders claim overcrowded housing, which are all community-owned, must be fixed before any improvements will be seen in education, health and employment. Overcrowding in the Northern Territory is widespread, with the Government estimating that more than 3500 new houses are needed to meet demand in regional areas. At Wadeye an average of 16 to 17 people live in each three-bedroom house.
Mr Brough yesterday welcomed Mr Mundine's support for the planned summit and said that the NSW Labor Government had indicated it would attend.
Strange new idea: One law for all
Aboriginal offenders would no longer be able to "hide behind" customary law to get reduced sentences for violent crimes under a proposal to crack down on rampant physical and sexual abuse in indigenous communities. Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough will put a plan to scrap consideration of cultural law as a mitigating factor in serious crimes to state and territory governments at a national summit. As it stands, when state or territory laws clash with Aboriginal law, the former always wins, but customary law can be used by defendants to moderate the severity of a sentence if the offender was genuinely acting in accordance with tribal traditions. Judges are obliged to consider the culpability of the offender in relation to the offence.
But Mr Brough wants to stamp out this practice. "As far as customary law is concerned, I don't believe it has any role ... It has been used as a curtain that people are hiding behind," he said yesterday. "There's no role to play in sentencing or diversionary type things when it comes to these serious crimes. This is regularly brought into mitigating circumstances and the courts take it into account. There's definitely too much opportunity and there are cases there to prove it and judges shouldn't have to weigh up those sort of things, it just should be excluded. "It means one group of Australians are treated unequally to everybody else."
Mr Brough's comments come after an Aboriginal elder in the Northern Territory, who claimed customary law gave him the right to bash and have anal intercourse with a 14-year-old schoolgirl promised to him as a wife, lost a High Court bid to overturn his three-year jail sentence on Friday. Mr Brough said it was an outrage that the 55-year-old man was originally sentenced to just one month's jail by Northern Territory Chief Justice Brian Martin last August, after the judge accepted that the defendant believed tribal law gave him the right to teach the girl to obey him. In December, the sentence for the crime of sexual intercourse with a child younger than 16 was increased to three years on appeal, following a public outcry. The offence carries a maximum penalty of 16 years' jail. The full bench of the High Court in Canberra refused to grant the man special leave to appeal against the three-year term imposed by the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal, which had found the sentence of one month's jail was "manifestly inadequate".
In 2003, the Territory Government passed laws that removed promised marriage as a defence against having sex with under-age children. But customary law, including promised marriage, can still be used as a mitigating factor in sentencing. Also under current proposals, West Australian courts may be forced to take into account traditional punishment, including spearings and beatings, when sentencing Aboriginal offenders. The recommendation - among 93 proposals contained in a report into Aboriginal customary law by the state's Law Reform Commission - is under consideration for inclusion in the state's criminal justice code.
Northern Territory Bar Association president Jon Tippett said Mr Brough's proposal would be racist because customary law was not a defence and non-indigenous people were able to present cultural differences as mitigating factors in appropriate cases. "Customary law is part of Aboriginal communal life. Customary law has never been a defence, never been a defence to a crime in the Northern Territory," Mr Tippett said. "Customary law has never justified offences against children. Customary law does not justify pedophilia and never has. Aboriginal men have never been able to hide behind customary law. "Customary law can mitigate the severity of a penalty if it's shown that the offender was genuinely acting in accordance with his traditions in so far as those traditions may have come into conflict with the Territory's legal system. "It's no different to anyone else in the community, in any community. We have had many people who come here from other countries. There have been cases where people have acted in accordance with kinship systems or social systems resulting in that person breaking Australian law. "It's no offence for an Aboriginal person or any other person who breaks the law to say, 'I was acting in accordance with customary law'."
Mr Tippett said a court with sufficient evidence could mitigate a sentence because the offender was less morally culpable on a breach of the law if he or she was engaging in the customary pursuits that govern that person's life.
Keith Windschuttle says that welfare has deprived indigenous men of their masculinity and the only solution is to close remote settlements with chronic unemployment and no economic prospects
Get to the root causes. That was the advice from any number of commentators after the latest revelations about Aboriginal communities. Very few, though, spelled out what they meant. When pressed, adherents of the root causes argument normally fling a familiar list of historical allegations at white Australia - invasion, dispossession, stolen children - but exonerate Aboriginal culture. Even some of the more courageous authors such as Boni Robertson, who first quantified the extent of domestic violence against Aboriginal women, played this historical card. But that interpretation clearly won't wash any more if we want to explain the recent disclosures of child sexual abuse in remote Aboriginal communities. The truth is that neither side is wholly innocent.
Traditional Aboriginal society was always harsh on women. From the First Fleet onwards, white settlers saw Aboriginal men routinely heaping blows on their women, while customary law permitted old men to marry girls at puberty. Nonetheless, there are no reports of traditional culture sanctioning the horrific behaviour described last week by Alice Springs Crown prosecutor Nanette Rogers. Only recently has anyone heard of such deplorable sexual acts against little children. Their frequency today suggests something else has gone deeply awry.
The root cause is that white Australia has deprived Aboriginal men in remote communities of their manhood. The instrument we used was social welfare: giving handouts that did not require them to work. The social policy of the past 30 years is the principal culprit. The human male is a creature biologically programmed, communally socialised and psychologically motivated to be a provider for women and children. In outback Aboriginal communities, however, that role has been usurped by the state. The social consequences of this should have been entirely predictable. No matter what their race or where they live, men who do not work have no social status, no sense of self-worth and little meaning in their lives. Others think badly of them and they think badly of themselves.
Sociological studies have long shown that in all cultures many men respond to unemployment with alcoholism and domestic violence, one problem feeding the other. The loss of manhood has direct consequences for Aboriginal boys. They have no incentive to go to school. When they reach adolescence, their most attractive and adventurous options are the subcultures of crime and substance abuse. As Robertson showed, some consume vast quantities of pornography.
Few people today are aware of how recent a phenomenon the remote communities are. Most are products of the 1980s, when the Hawke government increased spending on fringe settlements and encouraged the out-station or homeland movement, in which many Aboriginal communities withdrew from larger population centres into isolated areas, ostensibly to revive Aboriginal culture and practise self-determination.
The brainchild of the policy was Labor's long-term adviser H.C. "Nugget" Coombs, whose manifesto was the book Aboriginal Autonomy. He wanted Aborigines to have a separate economy based not on capitalist notions of industry, agriculture and mineral development, which he regarded as exploitive and environmentally degrading, but on "sustainable development, stable populations, limited-growth economies and an emphasis on small scale and self-reliance". Today, his legacy is more than 1200 remote Aboriginal communities spread across northern Australia.
But without capitalist institutions such as consumer markets and private property, both of which the homeland movement actively discouraged, sustainable development was always a pipe dream. The result is that, although more than half the land in the Northern Territory belongs to Aboriginal communities, their economic participation is abysmal. Only 15 per cent of NT Aborigines of working age are employed in real jobs and many of these are in reserved public-sector positions. Another 16 per cent are engaged in the make-work welfare scheme Community Development Employment Projects. The other 69 per cent of working-age Aborigines are unemployed or not in the labour force. This is at a time of economic boom in the NT, when the non-indigenous work-force participation rate is more than 90 per cent.
The remote Aborigines are thus loaded with twin economic burdens: they inhabit regions that have no jobs or business opportunities and the state gives them an income with no effort on their part. The only solution is to stop funding and thus close down all those settlements where unemployment is chronic and where there are no economic prospects, which is most of them.
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough does not need a talk-fest with state government leaders to tell him this. It is a decision he should take himself. He should set a timetable with enforceable deadlines. Obviously, such a choice is fraught with difficulty. No one in this country can be forcibly removed anywhere. The commonwealth has power over welfare payments but would need state and territory co-operation to provide housing and education services for a civilised relocation process. Brough could potentially entice key roles from those church and charitable bodies that recognise that a new start is necessary. Indeed, some of the latter have recently begun providing boarding school places for children from remote communities. Little would be gained by simply shifting the culture of violence from one location to another.
The Aboriginal ghettos of Redfern in Sydney and the Gordon Estate in Dubbo, NSW, are as dysfunctional as any in central Australia. Nonetheless, that Sydney and Brisbane house Aboriginal populations of 35,000 and 28,000 respectively, most of whom enjoy suburban lives indistinguishable from other Australians, shows none of this is insurmountable.
If he seriously threatens the present regime, Brough will generate resistance from those academics, Aboriginal activists and bureaucrats who created it. They will mount a propaganda campaign to argue they were right all along. Some will even revive the furphy that assimilation equals genocide. But there are enough Aborigines who have made the complete transition to modern, urban life while retaining a pride in their identity and ancestry to give the lie to that charge. Last week's revelations confirm a growing public awareness of the terrible truth among us. Most people will see the opponents of change as defending the indefensible.
Not the Third World, just Australia's first war zone
Gang violence has turned the remote indigenous community of Wadeye into a war zone. Scores of Aborigines have fled their homes and are living in squalid refugee-like camps as two rival gangs, the Evil Warriors and the Judas Priests, fight for control of the Northern Territory's largest black town. Wadeye's chief executive, Terry Bullemor, said yesterday the local council was considering evacuating about 300 people to Darwin and elders called on politicians to send in the army to help the town's five full-time police officers keep the peace. However, the only road to the town remains blocked by floods.
Even the gang leaders have voiced concern. "Somebody's going to die," said Gregory Narndu, 32, a leader of the Evil Warriors. "What can we do? That other mob attacks us with rocks, boulders, spears and anything else they can get hold of." Wadeye, formerly the Catholic mission of Port Keats, has been plagued by warring gangs for years but three months ago the violence started to increase, reaching a crisis point last week. The rioters have caused more than $450,000 worth of damage to houses and other property.
"Our cry is for help," said town elder Theodora Narndu, Mr Narndu's mother. "Seeing what's happening, my tears are never dry. I hear the screams at night . terrified women and children . It has never been like this before. Our kids are not safe." She blamed the problem on the lack of police and a lack of resources. "When there's trouble around here and I call the police to come and protect my mob they never come," she said. "Where are the resources that the politicians kept promising us?"
Almost half of Wadeye's 2500 people are under 15 and cannot speak English. Life expectancy is 20 years less than that of non-indigenous Australians and an acute housing shortage - set to worsen over the next 20 years - means an average of 20 people to a house. The camps, created in response to the recent bouts of violence, lend an air of Third World poverty to the town.
Wadeye's only doctor, Patrick Rebgetz, said the violence had put the town's 1300 children at risk and accused the territory's Health Department of trying to gag him. "Australia should be ashamed at what's happening in remote indigenous com-munities," Dr Rebgetz said. "We as Australians need to stand up with these people to reclaim their town from the groups that are trying to destroy it." He said the Health Department had told him not to speak about a six year-old rape victim.
23 May, 2006
My God! A Bible
Comment by Australian columnist, Andrew Bolt
The Howard Government says it wants another 600 spies, but it sure won't be hiring people as dumb as you. Reckon I've sold your brains short? Then sit this quick test, Sherlock, which I've drawn up using real cases from the past month. Which two of the following three things are so obviously dangerous that they've just been banned? And which one was this week declared safe for distribution?
Exhibit A: Free Bibles placed by Gideons International in the bedside cupboards of public hospitals.
Exhibit B: A jokey TV commercial in which Wogs Out of Work's George Kapiniaris complains about an Indian call centre.
Exhibit C: A book sold last year by Sydney's Islamic Bookshop that praises suicide bombing as "legitimate and praiseworthy" and says it's best to "wire up one's body, or a vehicle or a suitcase with explosives, and then to enter among a conglomeration of the enemy and to detonate".
Bang! You lose. And pick up some sensitivity training on your way out, you racist. Yes, it's the Bibles and the Indian joke that have been banned for the immense harm they might do. And it's the jihad book, Defence of the Muslim Lands, that the Australian Federal Police and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions this week said could be sold without fear of prosecution for inciting violence. They've ruled that no action will be taken against anyone who buys or sells copies of this work by al-Qaida's co-founder Sheik Abdullah Azzam, who helpfully suggests that "women and children of the unbelievers . . . could be fired upon for an expediency of war even if it is not dire necessity", as long as the aim isn't to kill them "specifically".
Cleared with it is another Islamic Bookshop offering -- The Criminal West by Egyptian migrant Omar Hassan, who claims that to be Australian is shameful, and to be of the West is to be at war with Islam. He adds that our police are rapists, our politicians try to turn Muslim boys into drug addicts, and AIDS is a virus invented by American soldiers and spread by the World Health Organisation to kill millions of Africans.
Of course, the first thing to conclude is that the sedition laws that our artists and journalists screech will have us all locked up under this fascist Howard Government are harmless if they can't be used even against a jihadist manual. Settle down, guys.
By now you'll also think this country's watchdogs are so cross-eyed they're biting exactly the wrong legs, which is just why you'd be no good at defending us in these trickily sensitive times. I mean, forget suicide bombers. Have you any idea how much havoc you'd cause if you threw a loaded joke into a crowded living room Just ask the Royal Automobile Association. It wanted to promote its local call centre for members asking about their car insurance, and filmed an ad in which Kapiniaris joked of ringing instead one of those Indian centres that now plague us. The punchline was that when he reported a car accident near his new deli, the centre operator said he was in New Delhi, too, and how about joining him for a "curry and a pappadum"? That nasty Kapiniaris then sums up: "Whatever happened to talking to a local?"
A trained sensitivity expert would instantly see how explosive this was. In fact, it was so bad that just nine months after the ad first went to air a viewer complained that it insulted India. Horrified by the suffering of this lone Indian, the Advertising Standards Board has yanked the wretched thing off the air, claiming it had "racist undertones".
But even the danger of that joke was nothing compared to the horrific damage a Gideons Bible could do if smuggled to the bedside of unsuspecting patients in hospital, just when they are at their weakest. Imagine the trauma one of our ethnic friends might feel if he or she opened the drawer and found . . . OH MY DIFFERENT GOD, a Bible. Professional pain-avoiders have averted this catastrophe by removing every single Bible from the bedsides of leading public hospitals in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, in what a Royal Melbourne spokesman, for one, claimed was in part "an infection control measure". That would be right, but the infection the hospitals had in mind seems to be not golden staph, but the new leprosy of Christianity.
As Royal Melbourne's spokesman conceded: "Because we have so many people from different religious backgrounds (the Bible) is considered inappropriate." Or as a spokesman for Brisbane's Princess Alexandra sniffed: "They may not be in keeping with the multicultural society we are in now."
Gideons International's Australian head, Trevor Monson, sadly confirms the truth: "They tell me they don't want to offend non-Christians." He'd even offered to supply hardcover Bibles, which could be easily disinfected, but was told Bibles were just too dangerous to hand out. I admit I'm so dumb that if newcomers in this largely Christian country go crazy at the mere sight of a Bible, then I figure the problem isn't the Bible but the newcomer. Has he perhaps come to the wrong country?
Call me even sillier, but when I lived and travelled in Thailand, I felt not a flicker of anger at seeing a copy of The Teaching of Buddha by my hotel bed, and I foolishly suspect that strangers who come to live here are just as tolerant. Or should be.
Indeed, the Islamic Council of Queensland's president, Abdul Jalal, protested: "It is ridiculous to think that we might be offended by seeing a Bible in a drawer. It is an example of multiculturalism gone mad." He's right, of course. It seems the real racists -- the real troublemakers -- are the multiculturalists who assume Muslims are so intolerant they can't safely be shown a Bible, or denied their own books that preach such violence. And once more we should heed the warning -- especially in Victoria, where we prosecute two Christian pastors who warn against jihad but tolerate the most radical imams who preach it. What threatens us most aren't terrorists who talk of blowing us up. It's the paid guardians of our own culture who don't think it's much worth defending -- and who insist we must be made to shut up and leave the speaking to the merchants of hate.
FOOD FASCISTS LOSE ONE
Few people will buy so-called "healthy" food
The salad days are over at McDonald's. The fast-food chain's British outlets are to undergo a "back to burgers" relaunch after years of trying to promote sales of pasta, fresh fruit and salads, under pressure to encourage healthy eating. McDonald's is introducing a giant burger - 40% bigger than a Big Mac - to be launched in time for purchase by television viewers during next month's World Cup. The "Bigger Big Mac" will be followed by more new products over the summer, which the company says will give "a twist on existing burgers".
McDonald's unveiled the healthier options three years ago in response to accusations that its high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar products were fuelling children's junk-food consumption and leading to obesity. Now, however, Steve Easterbrook, the new president of McDonald's UK, has admitted that only a small minority of customers have chosen the healthier items. The initiative attracted unwelcome publicity when it emerged that dressings and croutons on a chicken salad gave it a higher concentration of fat than a Big Mac.
Easterbrook, 38, defended the original decision to bring in healthier menus but admitted that they accounted for less than 10% of the company's sales, which have been flat in Britain since 2002. "We are a burger business," said Easterbrook. "Our traditional menu - hamburger, cheeseburger, Big Mac, quarterpounder, chicken sandwich - is front and centre of our plans. The emphasis has changed." Easterbrook is following the lead set by McDonald's in America, where fast food chains have prospered by concentrating on traditional fare. McDonald's new promotions of cheap burgers there have contributed to a 30% growth in revenue in the past two years. Also in America, Burger King, McDonald's smaller rival, has introduced products such as the 730-calorie "omelet sandwich", with 47g of fat.
Easterbrook's move will undermine attempts by the government to improve children's diets. Last Friday, Alan Johnson, the education secretary, announced that from September, school meals will be required to meet minimum nutritional standards for fat, salt and sugar content, and will no longer be able to use "re-formed" meat products.
The return by McDonald's to the "bad old ways" suggests that the self-congratulation of some campaigners may be premature. This weekend, Eric Schlosser, whose book Fast Food Nation marked the start of a backlash against burger chains when it was published five years ago, was celebrating the premiere at the Cannes film festival of a movie on his campaign to expose unethical practices in the burger industry. A spokesman for Schlosser maintained that the healthy eating message was still making headway. "We are so glad people are beginning to understand their health is at stake if they eat these things," he said.
A politically incorrect Australian whistleblower
Must not defame "noble savages" as they rape their way through life
A former flying doctor [a Christian] who has treated Aboriginal victims of sex abuse as young as five says officials have been cowed into silence, fearing accusations of racism. Lara Wieland, who worked in far north Queensland for three years, said public servants who reported abuse were themselves abused and threatened by men in positions of power. "Some of these [black] men were considered by many in the community to be perpetrators of child abuse themselves," Dr Wieland told The Weekend Australian. "Yet time and again we saw them wield the power and control in the communities and saw government departments and officials cower in fear, turning a blind eye rather than (be) accused of being a racist by these men, which was their common ploy."
Dr Wieland said she found it incongruous that those accused of sexual abuse received state-funded legal representation and were the first to be informed of the charges being dropped, before the victim and police. "I saw many dedicated police officers who wanted to fight this scourge but were frustrated at every turn (by) refusals from magistrates for DNA testing, prosecutors dropping charges with no explanation (and) cases being dropped because child witnesses wouldn't testify in court after the perpetrators threatened their families," she said. "In one child-rape case it didn't even get to court, even though I had physical evidence and the girl's words had been recorded, as had her statement to police. "The frightened little girl was unwilling to repeat it all in court after being threatened."
Dr Wieland met Prime Minister John Howard in Weipa on western Cape York in August 2003 and handed him a 10-page letter detailing cases of violence against women and children on Cape communities. "Police brought children as young as five to me for rape examination," she said. "Little happened. I felt helpless to do anything in a system that did not respond and in fact seemed to enforce a culture of secrecy. "Speaking out when I did came at a personal cost. My career options and opportunities have been curtailed. I was harassed and blacklisted by some. I lost the job I loved. "I am filled with admiration for Aboriginal women who find the courage to speak out ... (It) means risking being cut off from their families and friends, being denied opportunities within the community, risking physical retribution and death threats and, in many cases, risking their lives."
Dr Wieland, who works for indigenous health services on the Atherton Tableland in north Queensland, said alcohol was at the root of most physical and sexual abuse in the communities. She encouraged people to stop being afraid of talking about the violence "for fear it will offend someone". "Nothing is more offensive than a raped or abused child," she said.
THE SUING OF AHMED MANSOUR
By Jeff Jacoby
When Ahmed Mansour learned that a lawsuit had been filed against him by the Islamic Society of Boston, he had one urgent question: "Will they put me in jail?"
The answer was no -- in America, people don't go to prison for publicly expressing their views, or for encouraging the government to review questionable public transactions. But Mansour had good reason to worry. He had learned the hard way that Muslim reformers who speak out against Islamist fanaticism and religious dictatorship can indeed end up in prison -- or worse. It had happened to him in his native Egypt, which he fled in 2001 after receiving death threats. He was grateful that the United States had granted him asylum, enabling him to go on promoting his vision of a progressive Islam in which human rights and democratic values would be protected. But would he now have to fight in America the same kind of persecution he experienced in Egypt?
Mansour is just one of many people and organizations being sued for defamation by the Islamic Society of Boston, which accuses them all of conspiring to deny freedom of worship to Boston-area Muslims. In fact, the defendants -- who include journalists, a terrorism expert, and the founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, plus the Episcopalian lay minister and the Jewish attorney who together with Mansour formed the interfaith Citizens for Peace and Tolerance in 2004 -- appear to be guilty of nothing more than voicing concerns about the ISB's construction of a large mosque in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury. More than a few unsettling questions have been raised about the ISB and its mosque project. For example:
(*) Why did city officials provide the land for the mosque for just $175,000, when the parcel was publicly valued at $400,000? And where did that $400,000 figure come from, when the land's market value had earlier been assessed at $2 million?
(*) What is the Islamic Society's relationship to Yusef al-Qaradawi, a radical Islamist who praises suicide terrorism and endorses the killing of Americans in Iraq? For several years the ISB listed him as a trustee, though now it says that was an "administrative oversight." Was it also an oversight when a videotaped message of support from Qaradawi, who is banned from the United States, was played at an ISB fund-raiser in 2002?
(*) After it was reported that another trustee, Walid Fitaihi, had written that Jews are "murderers of the prophets" who will be punished for "oppression, murder, and rape of the worshipers of Allah," why did the ISB drag its heels for seven months before unequivocally repudiating his words?
But if anything should raise eyebrows, it is the decision of the Islamic Society to pursue Mansour for his comments about the ISB at a press conference in 2004. He had gone to pray at the ISB's current mosque in Cambridge, and described at the press conference what he had observed: "I am here to testify that this radical culture is here, inside this society," he said. He had seen "Arabic-language newsletters filled with hatred against the United States." Books and videos in the mosque's library promoted "fanatical beliefs that insult other people's religions." A religious man who prays five times daily, he stressed that he was "not against the mosque. . . . I'm against extremists."
If Mansour doesn't have the credentials to form such opinions, it would be hard to say who does. He holds three degrees from Cairo's Al-Azhar, the foremost religious university in the Islamic world, where he was appointed a professor of Muslim history in 1980. He would probably be there still if his scholarship hadn't gotten in the way. The deeper Mansour delved into the history of Islam, the clearer it became to him that the faith had been perverted into a "false doctrine of hate" -- a doctrine that has been spread across much of the Muslim world and that has fueled great cruelty and bloodshed.
His mounting opposition to Wahhabist radicalism drew the wrath of the powerful Al-Azhar sheiks, who removed him from his classroom and put him on trial in a religious court. For two years, he says, he was pressured to recant. In 1987 he was fired. Then the Egyptian government imprisoned him for two months.
Undeterred, Mansour continued to write and speak out against radical Islam. He has authored 24 books and more than 500 articles, many of them denouncing as heretical any Muslim creeds that "persecute and kill peaceful humans and violate their human rights." The real infidels, he has argued, are those who share "the traits of Osama bin Laden and his followers." Before fleeing for his life, he worked with Egypt's leading human-rights activists, promoting democratic values, funneling assistance to persecuted Christians, and advocating for the reform of religious education. And *this* is the Islamic Society of Boston's idea of an anti-Muslim conspirator? Then what, one wonders, is its idea of Islam?
22 May, 2006
Black-on-white racism is just as bad as the reverse
Says black writer RICK BADIE
"Why the silence?" A reader from Lawrenceville asked that question via e-mail. He wanted to know why I hadn't taken the brass to task for racist shenanigans in the DeKalb County Police Department. "Racism cuts both ways," he wrote. "Unless you raise just as much hell when its black-on-white discrimination, white folks become less inclined to [care] when you write about the reverse." The reader was referring to the column I wrote last week about my son, Miles. Somebody called him the n-word at school. He was off-base on one fact. I never gave a racial description of the kid who hurled the epithet. He wasn't white, though. He was Hispanic.
But I digress. On May 3, DeKalb Police Chief Louis Graham bowed out from a job he'd held for 18 months. An audio recording led to his resignation. Caught on tape was a frank conversation between the top cop and his assistant chief, R.P. Flemister. The black cops cussed up a storm. Flemister referred to someone as"that white bitch." And in a different recording released last week by police union leaders, Flemister espouses his distaste for white employees. "Have you ever thought about why I ain't promoted them nine on the list right now . because seven of them are white." Flemister retired.
On Tuesday, DeKalb Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones addressed the incident in an op-ed column. Mr. Jones said DeKalb County wouldn't tolerate discrimination, and left it at that. And that's what irks the AJC Gwinnett News reader from Lawrenceville.
He has seen this scenario play out ad infinitum, and he's tired of it. He's sick of the rules society abides by when black racism takes place as opposed to white. It's a code of conduct applied unevenly. In favor of blacks. "White people see the all-too-typical double standard - racism is winked at when it's black on white," he wrote in a series of e-mails. "White people are crucified when it is reverse."
He's right. And the practice is flat-out wrong. It hampers cross-racial dialogue, something we need badly. Imagine if the situation had been reversed,that a white DeKalb police officer's racist comments had been digitally preserved. Black activists would have had a field day. Press conferences. Inflammatory rhetoric. Televised marches and demonstrations. There would have been demands for apologies, sensitivity training and heads on a stake. White guilt would have been milked like a cow.
I suggested the reader from Lawrenceville write a letter to the editor to express what many white observers apparently think, secretly or publicly, about the mess in DeKalb. He didn't bite. "White folks screaming about black-on-white racism falls on deaf ears," he told me. "It's gotta come from other blacks." Well, I'm screaming. Hope you're listening.
Political correctness about Australian blacks slowly being defeated by reality
This week Alice Springs Crown prosecutor Nanette Rogers went public about the incidence of bashing, rape, child abuse and various other horrors in remote Aboriginal communities. Many people expressed surprise and even shock. But why? Well, there has been a growing awareness of these problems since the late 1990s, when the academic Boni Robertson and others documented a similar situation in Queensland. But for 20 years before that, it was not politically correct to speak of such things.
This was not always the case. In the later '70s, some frank articles appeared in the press that suggested a descent into horror for many Aboriginal people. But then something happened. Consider these extracts from 1977.
From January 5, an article in the Herald on Bowraville by James Cunningham: "The black men live by doing hardly anything. Their idleness, supported by social welfare, is soul-destroying and almost total."
From February 4, a report from Papunya by Jack Waterford in The Canberra Times: "There is absolutely nothing to do. Employment is a rarity . an average of about 25 children attend the primary school, perhaps 10 per cent of the school-age population."
From June 6 in The National Times, an article by Michael Davenport (the pen name of Graham Gifford, see below) from Maningrida in Arnhem Land, where he lived with his wife: "A [nine-year-old] girl had been, according to strict tribal custom, promised in marriage to a man much older than herself. One day, the husband called at her parents' home to claim his bride. With the help of his three grown-up sons, [he] grabbed the girl and made off into the bush with her. He raped her almost continuously for four days." After giving another example of the brutal treatment of a woman, Davenport commented: "The life of the tribal Aborigine is not that of a noble savage. It contains the absolute denial of all human rights. The latest scheme is to get them all back to the bush, and to tempt them there is a $10,000 grant to set up a home -- plus a lot of other gifts of one sort and another. I suppose, once they are there, nobody can see them and, regardless of what sort of life they are leading, the problem may be claimed to be solved."
From November 2, a Herald article on a House of Representatives committee's criticism that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was covering up the extent of drunkenness: "Mr Ruddock said his committee had found that alcohol was having a 'devastating' effect on Aborigines not only in the Northern Territory but also in some states . in some communities more than half the total expenditure by the community is on alcohol."
From November 14 in The National Times, Graham Gifford again from Maningrida, a settlement of 400 people: "The Australian Aborigine is being completely demoralised and converted into an idling sponger by the almost limitless handouts from the white Australians. There is little one can say about the disastrous effect of alcohol on Aborigines that is not already known, except that it is getting rapidly worse. We would have, in Maningrida, about 30 confirmed [petrol-sniffing] addicts between the ages of four and 18 . Any girl sniffer will sell herself to you for this much petrol."
There was a storm of protest about Gifford's articles. Marcia Langton, now Professor of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, but then general-secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, complained to the Press Council that Gifford's description of Aboriginal people as demoralised spongers was "the opinion of a one-eyed racist, akin to the statements from the mouths of the brutal station owners who have treated their black employees like animals".
On January 13, 1978, the Press Council wrote to Langton announcing it had been "given to understand that no publication of John Fairfax and Sons Ltd. [of which The National Times is one] in future will accept material from Mr Gifford".
For the next two decades there was little in the media about the problems of welfare dependency or violence against children and women in Aboriginal communities. Which is why white folk can be so surprised about these things today, as if they were fresh and new. Gifford, a brave, thoughtful and independent man who had fought as a tail gunner in the Battle of Britain, was forced to leave the territory and has since died.
Following Nanette Rogers's "revelations" this week, hands are being wrung, as is normal these days, and there is the usual talk of improving reporting and introducing new government programs. But maybe the time has come to acknowledge this is no longer enough. What we ought to do now, instead of the normal piece of moral theatre that will change nothing and leave everyone's jobs intact, is accept the need for solutions of a magnitude that matches the size of the problem.
The ill effects of welfare have become grudgingly accepted even by romantics since Noel Pearson gave his famous "welfare poison" speech some years ago. But few people have faced up to the implication of this insight, which is that if you take away the welfare, most of the communities have no future, and therefore should be shut down. Aboriginal people should be paid to move to the cities and assimilate. There is no other solution.
A triumph over politically correct nonsense for some Australian police
Safer for police to smile now
The NSW government and state police chief do not believe tough new police reforms will open the door to corruption or pose a risk to civil liberties. Premier Morris Iemma at today's Police Association of NSW biennial conference on the central coast announced a raft of changes to the Crimes Act and police procedures.
The Crimes Act will be amended to allow assault charges to be laid against anyone who throws an object at police, even if they do not hit their target. Police will be permitted to reach into a suspect's clothing to remove a weapon instead of asking them to produce it themselves. Procedures also will be relaxed requiring police to provide evidence of their name, place of duty and reasons for acting, as well as informing offenders that failure to comply with them may be an offence. In group situations, only one officer will now have to give such information, and they will not be required at all in "unruly and unsafe" situations where it is impractical and unsafe to do so. The government also will consider easing complaints procedures so they can be addressed at local station level.
Mr Iemma said the changes would put more police on the beat through slashing red tape and ensure greater community safety. He denied it would decrease police accountability. "What we are having under examination is a system that will streamline the complaints system," Mr Iemma told reporters. "What we want is certainly accountability and transparency but we don't want to have police tied up in minor customer service type complaints in which there are exhaustive bureaucratic committees and examinations. "It's not dragging back scrutiny."
Police Minister Carl Scully cited the example of lengthy investigation into a complaint about the conduct of a police officer, who had smiled and firmly shut an infringement book when handing down a fine. "That is a complete waste of the public's time and police officers' time," Mr Scully said. "The public want to ensure that police are unshackled as possible, provided the checks and balances remain."
Police Commissioner Ken Moroney echoed Mr Iemma's insurances that the reforms would not result in a less accountable police force. "There will be no diminution on the issue of professional standards, conduct or behaviour by any member of the NSW police," Mr Moroney said. "What we are saying is that we need to free up our officers."
Attack on religious education resisted in Australia
Education Minister Rod Welford has written to all Government MPs in a bid to quell concerns about proposed changes to the teaching of religious education in Queensland state schools. Nervous backbenchers are worried they face a backlash from some Christian churches amid claims the laws could allow humanists and extreme religious groups access to school students.
Mr Welford will also address the issue at a caucus meeting on Monday in an effort to ease concerns. But he has dismissed speculation that some Government MPs are willing to cross the floor to vote against the Bill. He rejected suggestions that cults and witchcraft would be allowed to be taught in schools once the Bill had passed. And he said parents and schools would have to approve the teaching of less popular belief systems. "Nobody has indicated to me that they would cross the floor or are even contemplating it, and in this situation it would be foolish because there will be no material change to the current arrangements in schools," Mr Welford said. "I'm aware there is still some nervousness . . . but the concerns undoubtedly stem from a misunderstanding of the legislation. "As I said in my letter, students will continue to have access to religious education, and no other programs will be allowed to be taught unless they are approved by the director-general and supported by the school community."
But Liberal leader Bob Quinn said the current system was working and should not be changed. "This Bill overturns 90 years of religious education in state schools," Mr Quinn said. "The churches and other community groups are rightly concerned about how the Government is changing this and I'm not surprised that ALP backbenchers are voicing their concerns."
Some Labor MPs, who did not want to be named, said they had been contacted by right-wing groups worried that the teaching of Christianity could be eroded in state schools. Under the current system, state school students attend religious education classes unless their parents ask the school to exempt them. This will continue under the new laws and parents will be able to nominate their actual religion. Various religious groups will be able to apply for permission to teach in schools and if their syllabus is approved by Education Queensland and requested at a school, they could hold classes provided the teachers have blue cards.
Groups such as the Hare Krishnas, Scientologists and Humanists have already expressed interest in teaching their beliefs in state schools. Capalaba MP Michael Choi said he was concerned that the criteria for approval were too flexible and could allow extremists, including cults, to gain access to schools. But he said he would express his views in the party room and not by crossing the floor of Parliament. "I am happy with 99 per cent of the Bill," Mr Choi said. "I am still thinking through a few possible solutions and the discussions are on-going. "If I am not satisfied with the final solution to a level that warrants my endorsement, I may not support it in the caucus."
21 May, 2006
Georgia Police Union: White Officers Were Kept From Promotions
A former DeKalb County Assistant Police Chief is coming under more criticism after being accused of delaying the promotions of white officers on the force. Police union officials released an audio recording Thursday purportedly containing the voice of R.P. Flemister, who is black. On the tape, Flemister is heard asking someone: "Have you ever thought about why I ain't promoted them nine on the list right now ... because seven of them are white."
This latest recording is another black eye for the troubled police department. DeKalb County Police Chief Louis Graham resigned last week after a fired officer released another audio recording of a profanity-laced conversation between Graham and Flemister. Flemister later announced his retirement.
Meanwhile, county commissioner Elaine Boyer held a news conference Thursday to criticize her fellow commissioners for issuing a weak statement about turmoil at the police department. "When a white employee or a black employee places color first it is absolutely wrong," Boyer said. "Others who are elected to lead our county must speak out to stop this. They have a moral obligation to."
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DUKE UNIVERSITY LA CROSSE PLAYERS
Their whiteness is their major crime
I submit the following pop quiz to gauge your bias as a news consumer. After reading the following characteristics, please select the college group that most likely fits the description:
The group has a 100 percent college graduation rate. Sixty percent have a 3.0 grade point average or above. During the past four years, 80 percent have made a national honor roll. Members regularly volunteer at more than a dozen community agencies, building houses for the homeless and serving in soup kitchens, while raising more money than any other group for the Katrina Relief Fund.
Answer: (a) Tri-Delta sorority at the University of North Carolina; (b) women's rowing team at Clemson University; (c) synchronized swim team at Harvard University; (d) men's lacrosse team at Duke University.
OK, I know, you're smart. You're onto this trick. Obviously, it's (d), the infamous Duke men's lacrosse team, that rowdy drunken white-boy club that rapes black women forced to strip to put themselves through college and feed their fatherless children.
But chances are good that the lacrosse team didn't spring immediately to mind in the context of high marks and community service. Instead, conventional wisdom -- thanks to media reports and Duke's own response to charges that three team members raped a woman -- is that the entire team is a collection of privileged, alcohol-abusing knuckledraggers.
The description I presented comes from a statement prepared by one of the lacrosse player's parents for a university committee appointed to study the team in the wake of the alleged incident.
That parent, Dr. Thom A. Mayer, is himself a Duke alumnus, an emergency doc as well as one of the command physicians at the Pentagon Rescue Operation, Sept. 11, 2001. Mayer introduced himself by noting that he attended Duke on a scholarship, not as a child of privilege, and that his gratitude runs deep.
Nevertheless, he compared the university's treatment of the lacrosse team to the level of horror he experienced in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
Mayer's son is not one of the three indicted on rape charges. Mayer's point, however, was that the entire team has been tarred with the same brush, despite a record of scholarship and citizenship that belies the spin familiar to anyone following the story.
Point by point, Mayer dissected the assumptions of racism, alcohol abuse and delinquency by providing facts and context.
Much has been made of the team's drinking exploits, for instance. While a university report shows that some lacrosse team players (mostly freshman and sophomores) rack up a disproportionate share (11 percent) of complaints compared to the larger student body, they're are not, as Mayer put it, "the stuff of the legend of thugs and hooligans that the press and prosecutor would have you believe." Of the 11 lacrosse player cases adjudicated by Duke's office of judicial affairs for the school year 2004-2005, for instance, five involved underage possession and four were violations of the community standard on alcohol. The other two were for "theft" for using another student's Duke card to buy food.
Most damning of the pretrial publicity that resulted in a hasty end to the lacrosse season and suspension of one of the players from school was an e-mail clearly intended as a joke, albeit a dumb one. The e-mail said that strippers would be hired, but there wouldn't be any sex. Instead they would be skinned while he pleasured himself.
Few would disagree that the e-mail was disgusting, but it was also -- in context -- a reference to the cult movie American Psycho, in which a demented Wall Street banker kills people (men and women) after toying with them in dramatic scenarios that may be dreams. Although the film is not for everyone, apparently some Duke faculty consider it important enough to include it in at least three Duke courses. Students can check it out from the Duke library.
Without knowing what happened the night of the alleged rape, Mayer's point is nevertheless well taken. Too easily we convict alleged perps in the court of public opinion when they fit our templates of good/bad. Black strippers good (because they can't help it); white athletes bad (because they're white).
The story branded as having all the elements of a great tale -- sex, race, class, privilege, as well as town-gown issues at an elite university in the South -- has everything but the truth, which also includes this:
White males -- descendant as they are of the imperialistic, colonizing, native-raping patriarchy -- are the new culturally approved targets of the lynch mob.
Thomas Sowell comments:
The worst thing said in the case involving rape charges against Duke University students was not said by either the prosecutor or the defense attorneys, or even by any of the accusers or the accused. It was said by a student at North Carolina Central University, a black institution attended by the stripper who made rape charges against Duke lacrosse players. According to Newsweek, the young man at NCCU said that he wanted to see the Duke students prosecuted, "whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past."
This is the ugly attitude that is casting a cloud over this whole case. More important, this collective guilt and collective revenge attitude has for years been poisoning race relations in this country. It has torn apart other countries around the world, from the Balkans to Sri Lanka to Rwanda. Nor is there any reason to think that the United States is exempt from such polarization.
At one time, the black civil rights leadership aimed at putting an end to racism, and especially to the perversion of the law to convict people because of their race, regardless of guilt or innocence. Today, this young man at NCCU represents the culmination of a new racist trend promoted by current black "leaders" to make group entitlements paramount, including seeking group revenge rather than individual justice in courts of law. This attitude poisoned the O.J. Simpson case and it is now polarizing reactions to the Duke University case. Racial polarization is a dangerous game, especially dangerous for minorities in the long run.
Tragically, the way the Duke case is being handled, it looks as if District Attorney Michael Nifong is pandering to these ugly feelings. Legal experts seem baffled as to why he is proceeding in the way that he is because it is hard to explain legally. It is not hard to explain politically, however. The District Attorney may well owe his recent election victory to having tapped into the kinds of racial resentments expressed by the young man at North Carolina Central University. Now Mr. Nifong is riding a tiger and cannot safely get off. His bet best may be to let this case drag on until it fizzles out, long after the media have lost interest. His extraordinary postponement of the trial for a year suggests he understands that.
In the meantime, the taxi driver who provided the first airtight alibi for one of the accused Duke lacrosse players has been picked up by the police on a flimsy, three-year-old charge, supposedly about shoplifting. He was held for five hours for questioning -- reportedly not about shoplifting, but about the Duke rape charges. Does this smell to high heaven or what?
The taxi driver himself is not accused of shoplifting. But two women who were passengers in his cab were. Since when are taxi drivers held responsible for what their passengers did before or after being in their cab? What purpose can this harassing of the taxi driver serve? His account of what happened in the Duke rape case has already been corroborated by a surveillance camera at the bank to which he took one of the lacrosse players, as well as by other time-stamped records indicating where his passenger was during the time when he was supposed to be raping a stripper.
If the prosecution cannot discredit the taxi driver's statement in a court of law, what can they gain by harassing him? One thing they can gain could be to at least stop the cabbie from going on television again to repeat what he has said before. If nothing else, the harassment can serve as a warning to anybody else who might feel like coming forward with testimony that undermines the prosecution's case. Is this America or some banana republic?
Some people in the media saw this case from day one as a matter of taking sides rather than seeking the truth. They want to be on the politically correct side -- for a black woman against white men -- and the facts be damned. If such attitudes prevail, we will indeed become a banana republic. Or worse.
A comment on the media involvement
This Duke University lacrosse story stinks to high heaven-and the New York Times coverage of it even more so. Frontier justice is what comes to mind. Here's Jill Abramson, the managing editor of the Old Bag, on the paper's future: "We believe in a journalism of verification rather than assertion." Really? If Abramson believes in a journalism of verification, what is she doing running the columns of Selena Roberts, the Times sports columnist? I first noticed this woman's rantings a couple of years ago during the Athens Olympics. Her coverage was so biased and so anti-Greek that I wrote a column in a Greek magazine explaining how American woman journalists tend to see everything through a feminist prism, and to hell with what is really taking place.
Let's take it from the top. According to contemporary liberal mores, only worthy victims are entitled to civil liberties. Unworthy victims, on the other hand, deserve nothing more than rough justice. The most recent unworthy victims, deserving of vilification, are the white members of the Duke lacrosse team, three of whom are accused of raping, beating, and insulting a black stripper they had hired for the night. That no DNA evidence has been found so far to link any of the athletes to the alleged victim means that the hunt must intensify. That one of the men the stripper identified as her assailant had already left the party when the alleged rape occurred is also of no importance. That his account is confirmed by the taxi driver who picked him up as well as by an ATM receipt does nothing to mitigate guilt. That the alleged victim's friend who was also at the party has changed her story to gain favorable treatment in a previous criminal case against her, and that she e-mailed a New York public-relations firm asking "how to spin this to my advantage" are irrelevant matters, scarcely worth considering.
Selena Roberts must not have believed her luck when the story first broke. On March 31, she spluttered, "At the intersection of entitlement and enablement, there is Duke University, virtuous on the outside, debauched on the inside. ...The paradox lives on in Duke's lacrosse team, a group of privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings." Wow! No one's been found guilty, there's been no trial, and as of today, no evidence has been unearthed except for the allegations of the accuser. And when Roberts penned these words no one had even been indicted. What ever happened to presumed innocence?
And it gets better. Only in last week's Sunday Times, the so-called public editor, the ombudsman, one Byron Calame, went to bat for his employer, whitewashing the paper for failing to report the accuser's criminal record: "Senior editors have decided it isn't `germane' to the pending sexual assault case..." They would, wouldn't they? Why spoil a great story by publishing all the news that's fit to print? Then Mr. Calame throws us a bone: "The Times didn't tell readers about [the possible impact of the political pressures on the prosecutor] until the middle of the March 31 article, which noted only that the district attorney was `in a heated race for re-election.'"
But back to Roberts. She wrote that the accuser "was raped, robbed, strangled and was the victim of a hate crime." What was it that her managing editor said about verification versus assertion? According to Roberts, it doesn't matter whether the rape allegations are true or not. The issue is the despicable male atmosphere at Duke: "Why is it so hard to gather the facts? Why is any whisper of a detail akin to snitching?" she cries. In other words, she assumes guilt and expects university officials and students to purge the guilty and start " a fresh discussion on race, gender and respect"-even if the lacrosse players didn't commit rape and didn't assault anyone, and didn't use foul threats. They as good as did, what with their being white male athletes and all.
But let's turn the thing around for the sake of race relations. What, I wonder, would the Times coverage have been like had a team of black basketball players been accused by two white trailer-park gals of the same crime? Would the Times have run 20 or more stories, as their ombudsman bragged it had, and on its front page to boot? Something tells me no way, Jose. Mind you, the Times was not alone in putting the boot in. There were so many liberal pundits who cried wolf, I have no space in this column to list them. If this turns out to be another Tawana Brawley case, pity the poor prosecutor. He gets to squander unlimited public funds destroying the careers of young men, forcing them and their relatives to spend vast sums on legal fees, driving their families into debt, and, because he's a government official, he is happily immune from civil suits for malicious prosecution and defamation. Here's my advice to young men out there: Forget lacrosse. Become prosecutors.
Male rape rife among Australian blacks
Politically correct refusal to police Aboriginal communities effectively bears fruit
Aboriginal boys are 10 times more likely to be raped than other Australian males, in a generational cycle of sexual violence that continues under a shroud of secrecy. A groundbreaking study of indigenous men's health, completed last week, has unearthed a culture of abuse against males that comes on top of the widely acknowledged crisis facing Aboriginal girls and women. The Weekend Australian can reveal the disturbing findings amid the renewed debate over the level of sexual abuse and domestic violence in Aboriginal communities.
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough this week called a summit of state, territory and community leaders after Northern Territory prosecutor Nanette Rogers detailed the horrific treatment of women and children in central Australia.
The debate has sparked a political bunfight, with Mr Brough's criticism of policing in communities prompting a threat from Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin to boycott the summit. Mr Brough now wants the states and Northern Territory to radically upgrade indigenous housing as a measure to tackle the spiralling violence.
Aboriginal men are largely blamed for the violence, but the new study shows many are also victims. The survey, of 301 indigenous men in Queensland and the Northern Territory, was conducted by way of one-on-one interviews over the past 18 months. It found 10 per cent had been raped before the age of 16 - 10 times the rate in the rest of Australia.
Aboriginal researchers, from the Queensland University of Technology, said the abuse had largely continued in secrecy, with victims saying they were too ashamed or fearful of reprisals to go to authorities. About 80 per cent of the victims told researchers they had never spoken about their suffering. The rate was even higher in the more remote communities. The survey, the first analysis of sex abuse among indigenous males in Australia, will be presented as part of a report to the International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect in Britain later this year. Interviews were conducted in communities on Cape York, near Darwin, on the Tiwi Islands and in southeast Queensland.
QUT associate professor Michael Dunne said the survey revealed that Australia's indigenous communities were defying a trend of falling abuse of boys within Western countries. "Over the past 40 years, the risk of sexual abuse of boys has been falling very substantially," he said. "This has been observed in a number of countries including Australia, Canada and the US. But our study, in which we have compared men over 40 years of age with those under 40, there is no difference in the level of abuse."
According to the survey, 33per cent of the men - aged between 18 and 74 - said they had been touched or fondled against their will, compared with the national average of 12per cent. A further 15 per cent of the indigenous men interviewed said they were victims of attempted anal sex, and 10 per cent of forced anal sex, compared with a rate of 3per cent and 1per cent, respectively, for the rest of Australia's male population. While some of the older victims claimed to have been abused by outsiders, including missionaries, most perpetrators came from within their communities.
Head researcher of the project, Mick Adams, a former chief executive of Queensland's Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, said secrecy contributed to the cycle of abuse. "It becomes a mirrored thing: if you abuse people and get away it, then you continue with it and then others learn from you," he said. "We are appalled by the abuse against women and girls but there is also men and boys being raped and sexually abused. It needs to be looked at."
20 May, 2006
A labourer was jailed for a month and put on the sex offenders register for seven years after he slapped the bottom of an off-duty policewoman. Anthony O'Neill, 22, was stunned when he was given the sentence. His relatives are furious and say the punishment is over-the-top for, what they say, was a silly joke. They say he has lost his job and been branded "a pervert".
O'Neill, pictured, ended up in trouble while he was drinking in a city centre street at 11am one day in November. He told a court he thought it would be funny to smack the woman's behind when she bent down near him. Instead, the woman officer produced a police warrant card and arrested him. O'Neill, of Goredale Avenue, Gorton, admitted sexual assault at Manchester Magistrates' Court. District Judge Paul Richardson told him: "What you did was insulting and demeaning - it was anything but funny."
As well as being put on the register, he was jailed for a month but immediately released because he had already spent five weeks in custody. After he was arrested, O'Neill admitted: "I have done it before. Some women like it, others don't." Outside court, O'Neill claimed he only admitted the sex assault charge because he wanted to be released after being held for 16 hours. He is considering an appeal. He said: "I should have been sent away because it's taught me a lesson not to smack a woman's bum. But to be put on the sex offenders register is just daft."
O'Neill's mother, Karen, said: "I think it is terrible. People will see that and wonder what on earth has he done, and think it must be very serious. Rapists and serious sex abusers get put on for that long. "He wouldn't harm anyone. Everyone can get a bit out of hand when they've had a drink." The sex offenders register was set up in 1997 and holds details of about 29,000 people convicted, cautioned or released from prison for a sexual offence against children or adults. Convicted sex offenders must register with the police within three days of their conviction or release from prison and failure to do so can result in prison. They must also inform police if they change their name or address.
THE CARTOONS REVIVED
Controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad have been reprinted in a US magazine with commentary by leading US cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who offers what he calls a "fatwa bomb meter" to rate their offensiveness. Harper's Magazine published the article by Spiegelman in its June edition available on US newsstands from today, joining only a handful of US outlets which have printed the cartoons which provoked furious protests that killed 50 people. Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper published the 12 cartoons last year. Other newspapers around the world, mainly in Europe, later reprinted the cartoons.
A number of Muslim clerics have condemned the cartoons and a small minority have called for a violent response. A fatwa is a religious edict in Islam, sometimes equated with a death threat since Iran's late ruler, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, ordered Muslims in 1989 to kill British novelist Salman Rushdie.
In an article headlined "Drawing Blood: Outrageous cartoons and the art of outrage," Spiegelman, an elder statesman of political satire famous for his New Yorker cartoons, said the cartoons needed to be seen to be understood. "As a secular Jewish cartoonist living in New York City, I start out with four strikes against me, but I really don't want any irate Muslims declaring holy war on me," Spiegelman wrote in the article.
The cartoonist described himself as "a devout coward". "It's not intended to add fuel to any fire," Spiegelman said. "I think that the tone is the tone of a secular wise-guy cartoonist rather than a scholar, but I wanted to show ... what couldn't be described," he said. He was surprised that most of his friends had not seen the cartoons. Spiegelman noted that the cartoons appear "banal and inoffensive" to secular eyes, revealing a gulf in understanding. "To my secular eyes it seems like the real insult has been things like Abu Ghraib," he said, referring to abuse of prisoners by US soldiers in Iraq.
In the article Spiegelman analyses each of the 12 cartoons for artistic merit and offensiveness, using a rating system of one to four bombs in the "fatwa bomb meter". A cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb in his turban, generally cited as the most offensive, received three bombs from Spiegelman, who described it as a "hackneyed" expression of an idea. His most offensive rating of four bombs went only to a stylised cartoon said to depict five women's head scarves in a line-drawing made up of Islamic symbols such as the crescent. He said it had "no redeeming features" and in terms of craftsmanship it "might almost be worth a fatwa". "I don't really even quite understand what it's a cartoon of, except 'We don't like Muslims'."
The article criticised all sides in the controversy. "The Jyllands-Posten - a newspaper with a history of anti-immigrant bias - seemed somewhat disingenuous when it wrapped itself in the mantle of free speech to invite cartoonists to throw pies at the face of Mohammad," Spiegelman wrote. He said many newspapers reprinted the cartoons to reinforce "their own anti-immigrant or Islamophobic biases". But he criticised US news outlets for not showing the cartoons out of what he called "political correctness that smelled of hypocrisy and fear". Drawing historical parallels with cartoonists jailed in the past, he said, "I do believe in the right to insult".
A culture of black violence that must change
How political correctness is hurting black Australian children
Cases of violence and child sexual abuse revealed to ABC's Lateline this week by the Alice Springs Crown prosecutor Nanette Rogers reveal conditions in some remote Central Australian Aboriginal communities so depraved and dysfunctional as to defy belief. Rogers described how a seven-month-old baby was taken out of her home and raped. Blood in her nappy finally alerted somebody that she was injured. She needed surgery under general anaesthetic.
A two-year-old girl left unattended while her mother was away drinking was whisked away by a man and sexually assaulted. She also required surgery. A six-year-old girl and her friends were followed to a waterhole by an 18-year-old petrol sniffer. "While she was playing in the water, he pulled her under and anally penetrated her and drowned her, probably simultaneously," Rogers said. Rogers also detailed cases in which girls of 10 and 12 were handed over as "promised wives" to old men who took them away, with the permission of their family, and sexually assaulted them.
These horrendous crimes were catalogued in a dossier Rogers produced for police. Its revelation in gory detail on Lateline has caused ripples of outrage across the country. But it is not the first time such atrocities have been revealed, tut-tutted over and then forgotten. In 1999 Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Task Force on Violence published a survey of 25 Aboriginal communities. The Aboriginal academic Boni Robertson presented graphic accounts of alcohol-induced domestic violence and child sexual abuse, including the pack rape of a three-year-old girl. "I can't remember when I didn't feel scared," one woman told the task force.
Nothing much seems to have changed since. White Australia has attempted to assuage its guilt about the awful state of many Aboriginal communities with inquiries such as the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and Sir Ronald Wilson's 1997 "stolen children" report. The resultant ostentatious hand-wringing has arguably made life worse for the most vulnerable, voiceless members of already disadvantaged communities, where the word "disadvantaged" doesn't even begin to convey the truth.
The outcry about "stolen children" led to indigenous children being more likely to be left in abusive, dysfunctional families than non-indigenous children because welfare authorities are terrified of being paternalistic and creating another "stolen generation".
The Community Services Commission described a few years ago "the current culture of 'hands off' when it comes to Aboriginal children". In 2000, the NSW Child Death Review Team noted the reluctance of authorities to intervene in Aboriginal cases of neglect or abuse: "A history of inappropriate intervention with the Aboriginal families should not lead now to an equally inappropriate lack of intervention for Aboriginal children at serious risk."
Outcry over the deaths in custody report led to more lenient sentencing and a reluctance by the "white legal system" to be seen as further victimising Aboriginal men. Nice in theory, but what about the victims? An Aboriginal elder, Margaret Kemarre, told Lateline this week that what was needed to protect children and women was less alcohol and tougher sentencing. "It is all right for the judges . sitting up there, and putting things, but they don't know how our feeling of the parents and the whole extended families have . the grief."
Nanette Rogers began working in the Northern Territory as a defence barrister but became "sick of acting for violent Aboriginal men and putting up the same old excuses when I was appearing for them", she told Lateline. She switched to prosecutions after realising "how much emphasis was placed on Aboriginal customary law in terms of placing the offender in the best light, and it really closed off the voices of Aboriginal women, their viewpoints about how customary law impacted on the offence or the offender".
Joan Kimm, a Monash University academic and author of A Fatal Conjunction: Two Laws, Two Cultures, said yesterday she agreed with Rogers "in every point which she makes about indigenous male cultural attitudes to violence towards women". In her book, Kimm analysed criminal cases dating from the 1950s and described how "indigenous men have relied on the cultural 'defence', that is, elements of traditional law and lore, to exonerate themselves and for mitigation of sentencing when charged with violent assaults on Aboriginal women". She points out the "paradox" of a justice system which "might put the rights of traditional Aboriginal culture, with its inherent violence towards Aboriginal women, above the universal human right of those very women to live free from violence".
Although "traditional society was very violent to women, it was not like the rampant violence which now occurs because that violence was once confined within a strict legalistic society. The structure of that law and that society has been devastated. Yet that customary law has been successfully pleaded as a cultural defence." Kimm says she hopes Rogers "does not receive the odium (from some non-Aborigines and some Aborigines) which I have incurred for raising this issue".
The odium has begun. Yesterday's edition of the Crikey email newsletter contained criticism of Rogers for "blaming the victim". And on the Herald's letters page yesterday, Dr David Rose from Gladesville blasted the Lateline story as sinking to "new depths of shock-jock journalism" and lambasted Rogers for having a "poor understanding of the social and historical background that produced [the crimes]." Rose objected to Lateline broadcasting "obscene, graphic details of child sexual abuse". Perhaps he would prefer that the crimes go unpunished and the victims' advocates be silenced just so his sensibilities aren't offended. Full marks to Lateline for pursuing the story so vigorously.
But why did Tony Jones feel the need to ask Rogers: "Are you worried that the information itself may be abused by tabloids and racists even, shock jocks - the sort of people who will take information like this and exploit it?" Are there really people so morally confused that they see opposition to the rape of babies as a "shock jock" phenomenon?
19 May, 2006
If I Get Hurt, Blame Father Leman
By Paul Belien, of The Brussels Journal
During the past few weeks I have been under attack from the Belgian Left and the media. In February the editor in chief of the mass circulation weekly Knack (a supposedly centrist publication) wrote a piece entitled "Paul Belien and His Pals," claiming that I was part of a neo-con conspiracy, led by Daniel Pipes (whom until then I had never met or spoken) and the Danish journalist Flemming Rose (of the Muhammad cartoons), who wanted "to anger radical but also moderate Muslims into violent action. Their [=the conspirators'] goal is to persuade public opinion in Europe and America once and for all that all Muslims are violent and dangerous, so that the `clash' [=the world war against Muslims] in Palestine, Iran and Syria can really kick off."
This goal, according to Knack, would be the real reason why The Brussels Journal reported about the Danish cartoon affair (although in our reporting we have always stressed the important role of moderate Muslims - which, if we did not believe moderate Muslims existed, we would not have done).
Today Father Johan Leman, a Catholic priest of the Order of Saint Dominic (the inquisition order) and a professor at the Catholic University of Leuven, has joined the chorus. Father Leman is the previous president of the CEOOR (Center for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism), the inquisition center of the Belgian government. In today's news broadcast on the national radio he says that the CEOOR has been negligent because it has not already started prosecutions against me.
According to Father Leman I have incited racial hatred, with the result that extremist or unbalanced people, such as Hans Van Themsche, have decided to take the law into their own hands and shoot immigrants. Father Leman blames the Belgian authorities and the CEOOR for not punishing me. In the reverend father's own logic, if his hate speech against me should lead to extremist and unbalanced people threatening or hurting ("punish") me in any way he is the culprit.
BOULDER HOTLINE DILEMMAS
There's a famous joke that goes like this: What's the difference between a Rottweiler and a Jewish mother? Eventually, the Rottweiler lets go. Now, some Jews may find that joke offensive. I don't. But if you're insulted, and you live in Boulder, you're in luck. Soon enough, you may be able to report me to the authorities.
Tuesday, the Boulder City Council will take up the matter of allocating public funding for a "hate hotline," which would give residents an opportunity to report incidents in which Boulderites use tactless language. "Our concern - and there are many - is that there is no confidentiality, no legal confidentiality," explains Judd Golden, chairman of the Boulder American Civil Liberties Union, which has not yet taken an official position on the hate-line. "So it's potentially chilling if people think they are providing this information in confidence and then that information were provided to the government or the government sought access to it. That would chill free speech."
Golden says the agenda item on the hotline is "extensive" and a "real dilemma" for the ACLU. There are some very "broad standards" laid out in the resolution. There is, for instance, the policy statement condemning the usual individual or collective acts of racism and bigotry. Great. But it also condemns those who attack "personal beliefs and values." "Well, for the ACLU, that goes over the line," Golden says. "You can't object to free speech just because someone is a Republican or a Democrat." What would happen to the bumper- sticker industry?
So, it seems that since purifying our thoughts is still beyond technology's reach, Boulder will now attempt to achieve politically correct speech codes in other ways.
The council should realize, however ugly it may be, Americans still have the constitutional right to be racist, homophobic, Jew-hating or even to make bad jokes - as anyone who's heard the one about the redneck who invented the ejection seat on the helicopter can tell you.
The most serious question, however, is will the hate-line folks forward their files to the Boulder police or City Council? "The devil's in the details," says Golden. "That's the question. There is no present indication that they intend to do anything like that in the future." Intention? Sorry, that's not good enough. But that's not even the worst part of it. You could - possibly - rationalize this if it weren't utterly useless.
Phillip Martinez beat up a 22-year-old African-American mechanical-engineering student named Andrew Sterling last year in Boulder. He was sentenced to the maximum of 16 years in prison. The jury wisely decided to drop "ethnic intimidation" charges. Would a hate-line have helped Sterling? Martinez was from Lafayette, not Boulder. He was drunk. He may not have even cared that Sterling was black.
Should everyone keep the hate-line number on their cellphone speed dial from now on? And remember, only call if your attacker uses racist or insensitive language while beating you to a pulp. After all, according to hate-law advocates, it's not genuine hate unless the perpetrator makes fun of your heritage.
Now, Coloradans don't always consider Boulder a reality-based community. But we all betray a serious lack of confidence in our system of freedoms when we take these sorts of measures. When that incomparable dope the Rev. Fred Phelps and his hate-mongering brood hit town mocking dead soldiers and gays, we handed them their biggest victory: curbing free speech through legislation to shut them up.
"These things have come up with attempts to criminalize hate speech on campus, those kinds of situations," explains Golden. "Certainly, if it just provides an opportunity to call and have a welcome voice and some kinds of soothing response to their concerns, that would be fine. Speech is good." Speech is good? Well, not always. But it should generally be free.
BRITAIN'S POLITICALLY CORRECT TOP COP IN TROUBLE
Britain's top policeman came under fresh pressure today as the leader of London's beat bobbies said they had "no confidence" in him. Speaking on behalf of London's 24,000 constables, Peter Smyth said a series of "well-publicised, embarrassing gaffes" by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair had undermined the force. Mr Smyth labelled Sir Ian's modernisation schemes "ill-considered" and said hundreds of experienced officers had been taken off the beat.
During a session at the Police Federation annual conference Mr Smyth told new Police Minister Liam Byrne: "On behalf of the 24,000 constables in London and at the request of my branch board I am telling you that we have no confidence in this commissioner." To applause from delegates, Mr Smyth added: "Can you tell us what you are going to do to restore police and public confidence in this commissioner?"
His public attack at the conference in Bournemouth is a fresh blow to beleaguered Sir Ian. The commissioner has weathered a series of controversies including the row over his secretly-taped telephone calls with ministers and what were seen as insensitive comments about the Soham murders. He is also under investigation for comments he made after the police shooting of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes last year, over which he has faced calls for his resignation. Re-igniting the long-standing opposition to civilian patrol officers by some sections of the rank and file, Mr Smyth dismissed them as appearing like "gaggles of lost shoppers".
Some police oppose the introduction of community support officers, whom they have labelled "plastic policemen" and "yellow-clad numpties", believing the money should be spent on extra police officers instead. Mr Smyth condemned Sir Ian's reorganisation of the way the Met handles telephone calls from the public. The "Metcall" system could "at best only be described as unreliable, and that's if it works at all", he said. Metcall will have taken 900 officers off the beat by the end of next year, Mr Smyth said. "Meanwhile an ever-growing army of community support officers who walk around like gaggles of lost shoppers have been recruited to take the places of these experienced officers in the streets," said Mr Smyth.
Over-hyped Da Vinci: Free debate on religion is integral to a democratic society
An editorial in "The Australian" newspaper:
Robust argument over the Christian Gospels provoked by the Hollywood version of Dan Brown's best-selling The Da Vinci Code is a sign of a healthy democracy, and calls for the film to be banned, censored or boycotted are misguided. The violent protests that erupted earlier this year after a Danish newspaper published caricatures of the prophet Mohammed underlined the crucial role of freedom of expression in liberal society. The persecution of the Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali is another reminder that free speech is a precious commodity not to be squandered. Ms Hirsi Ali has been under 24-hour police protection since she penned the script that persuaded an Islamic radical to murder film director Theo Van Gogh two years ago. She now plans to quit politics and leave her adopted home, The Netherlands, for the US.
The fact that debate over The Da Vinci Code has been carried out peacefully over the airwaves and in print says much for civilised values. And despite the fear and anger from some sections of the Catholic Church over what it sees as a challenge to the authority of the New Testament, Brown's fiction that Jesus and Mary Magdalene produced children whose lineage remains in Europe today is nothing more than a ripping yarn playing to people's love of conspiracy theories. Whether the novel's phenomenal success will be repeated with the film version remains to be seen. Early reviews suggest the book has not translated well to the screen.
A preview of Ron Howard's movie at the Cannes Film Festival reportedly drew reactions from critics ranging from tepid praise for escapist entertainment to jeering at its melodramatic style. It seems to The Australian that church leaders in Britain are making too much of a survey that found two-thirds of more than 1000 Britons who read Brown's thriller believe its far-fetched claims. Christianity has flourished for more than 2000 years and is surely sufficiently strong to withstand an assault from what is essentially an airport potboiler. Melbourne's Archbishop Denis Hart is sensible in his advice to Catholics this week that they are free to see The Da Vinci Code, but should remember its central claims are untrue.
18 May, 2006
POLITICALLY CORRECT BRITISH CONSERVATIVES TOO MUCH FOR ONE FORMER SUPPORTER
The Conservative Party leadership may have seen a temporary respite from their declining electoral support in last week's council election results, but some things remain rotten in the State of Tory HQ and today's revelation that, for the first time in that party's history, quotas based on gender and ethnicity are to be imposed on local constituency associations in preparation for the next general elections appear to have initiated talk of widespread rebellion amongst once loyal and hard working grass roots members.
Dozens of perfectly able bodied white males with decades of political experience and demonstrable loyalty have been sidelined as prospective parliamentary candidates in target wards, to make way for female and ethnic minority candidates. In many cases the names chosen are totally inappropriate for the constituency and totally lacking in experience. The introduction of quotas by Tony Blair-lite, David Cameron has shocked the party faithful.
Any organisation, whether it happens to be a global corporation, national political party, family business or community association can only survive by employing the best people for the job. Awarding appointments and providing placements based on arbitrary notions such as "to be representative of the population" mean absolutely nothing if quality of officeholder/employee is sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. The Conservative Party will have to learn this lesson the hard way -it means falling numbers of members, declining donations and more tangibly, experienced office holders; the men and women who devote many hours of their own time and who are the very fabric of the party, quitting in disgust.
David Cameron's first high profile rebellion over this issue of imposition of PC quotas was announced this evening (14th) as a Lincolnshire Councillor told the Press he was quitting the Conservative Party and switching to the BNP.
The Reverend Robert West, a founding member of the Christian Council of Britain was recently suspended by the London based Tory leadership after he attended a meeting of the local BNP.
This evening in a press release Rev. West, the elected councillor for Holbeach Town Ward on South Holland District Council stated why he was now the BNP's 55th councillor.
"I have decided to seek refuge from political correctness by applying for asylum with the British National Party - Britain's finest and most decent party - in our country's hour of need. The Conservative Party's list of candidates which deliberately exclude white male candidates in favour of women, non-white and homosexual or lesbian candidates, is discrimination of the worst kind."
Rev. West said he had been a lecturer in political philosophy and equal opportunities law and taught under franchise at the universities of Nottingham and East Anglia. He is now a supply teacher but understandably for fear of losing his job he would not reveal at which schools.
Conservative deputy chairman Eric Pickle said: "Robert West was suspended about a month ago. He made inquiries into appealing that decision. His behaviour was a matter of concern for some time and following his latest indiscretion of speaking at a BNP meeting, his appeal is unlikely to succeed."
BNP organisers in the West Midlands, Yorkshire, London and Lancashire have, for some time, been conducting discreet talks with at least a score of elected representatives currently holding a Conservative Party membership card, plus it should be noted a few from other parties. Last week's election results changed the colour of the political map in over a dozen local authorities and many Conservative Councillors who are looking very isolated, have conveyed and reinforced their sense of vulnerability to BNP organisers in their area. In many cases the slickly presented yet metropolitan and isolated Tory HQ have laid the blame of failure at the doors of those local associations; accusing some associations of "ineptitude" and criticising some Chairmen for "dragging their heels" in implementing the new changes recommended by David Cameron's new leadership team.
FRED REED ON THE GROWTH OF "MINORITIES"
It should perhaps be noted that Fred himself lives in Mexico!
From the Washington Post: "Nearly half of the nation's children under 5 are racial or ethnic minorities, and the percentage is increasing mainly because the Hispanic population is growing so rapidly, according to a census report released today." Now in newspaper parlance, "minorities" means "permanently underperforming and inassimilable minorities," which is to say blacks, Latinos and, when anybody remembers, American Indians. It very seldom means successful minorities, such as Chinese, Greeks, white men, Jews, or Anglo-Saxons.
As we look forward to a massive slewing away from the dominance of European whites in America, what may we expect? What will these huge minority populations do? It is instructive to look at what they have done so far.
Some thirteen percent of the country is now black, and thirteen percent Latino: over a quarter in all. Blacks remain intractably far below the white population academically. An astounding proportion can't read, and of those who can, few do. The gap hasn't closed, despite Head Start, integrated schools, segregated schools, more funding, welfare, black teachers, black school boards, black mayors, remedial instruction, or anything else. The gap appears on every known test of mental capacity or scholarly achievement-SATs, GREs, ACT, LSATs, MedCats, Stanford-Binet, Wechsler, Raven's matrices. Nothing makes a difference. Everything has been tried. Because of this, we got affirmative action or, as kids once said, make believe.
Further, blacks are not assimilating. Despite pushing, shoving, laws, legislation, regulation, and relentless indoctrination, the races are not melding at a rate that will produce results any time soon. The huge black necrotic regions of the cities, that whites never see, are so big and isolated as to be impervious to outside influence. If you have not spent time in police cars in such places, you cannot imagine the hopelessness and hatred that brood there. If you think that "hatred" is too hard a word, go look. I have. Whether the hatred is justified doesn't matter. It exists.
Yes, I will be called a racist for saying these things. I hope so. Today, "racist" means "one who says what everybody else knows." It is a badge of intellectual honor. Nonetheless, it remains that if I could change any of these conditions, I would. I don't enjoy seeing people in lousy circumstance. I just don't know what to do about it. Neither does anyone else.
Now, Latinos. Americans seem to think that the word denotes one kind of people, namely Mexicans, conceived as sitting torpidly under cactuses while wearing sombreros. Actually the variety of Latinos is great, from Argentines who amount to Europeans to Bolivians who are Indians. The Latinos coming into America are heavily Indian and uneducated. Mexican ophthalmologists do not swim the river. Mexicans who can make a decent living do not want to live in the United States. Thus the US gets the losers, the second-grade educations, people who on average have neither the intellect nor the urge to study. Yes, there are exceptions. But they are exceptions.
Everyone says, "But the Hispanics work hard." They do indeed, in the first generation. Many people in fields such as construction have told me that the Latinos are the backbone of their operations, that blacks don't want to work, have attitudes, show up if they feel like it and quit without warning. The Latinos work, now. Their children do terribly in school, however, drop out, and lose the desire to work. Then they join gangs.
Nice white people don't know about gangs. Maybe they think of West Side Story. I used to ride in Chicago, with the PD and with the South Side Gang Initiative, a federally funded program in the rotting satellite cities, Markham, Robbins, and Fort Ord. I saw the gangs. There were the Black Gangster Disciples, the Vice Lords, the Latin Kings, the Latin Cobras, the P Stones, the El Ruykins who came out of the old Blackstone Rangers and, earlier, Blackstone Raiders. They aren't the Jets, people. They're killers. And they loathe white America.
I once interviewed a ranking Vice Lord in the Cook Country Jail. Why, I asked, did blacks kill each other so much? "They'd rather kill whites," he answered, "but they know they'd lose." There's a lot of that. When I left Washington four years ago, Mara Salvatrucha (look on the web) was appearing in Arlington, Virginia, and now their graffiti are show up in Springfield, Virginia.
Law enforcement in America relies on having a white population that is mostly law-abiding. It has no good way of responding to large numbers of violent criminals, especially when they are backed by politically potent voting blocs. The crucial question, or a crucial question, is what proportion of the new minorities will fall into the permanent underclass? How much permanent underclass can the nation stand?
Another crucial question is this: If half the children today are of minorities, then in no more than eighteen years half the kids of college age will be. Unless they show a sudden scholarly afflatus which has not heretofore been in evidence, this means that soon the US will have to compete with China with the brains of only half the nation. This is not to mention secondary effects, such as enstupidating all schools to hide the failures of the minorities. Do you suppose that the Chinese are doing that?
Now, from the same story in the Washington Post, this: "William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, predicted that the United States will have 'a multicultural population that will probably be more tolerant, accommodating to other races and more able to succeed in a global economy.'" How heart-warming. I suggest that William H. Frey is a thoroughgoing fool, but this is common among academics.The whole touchy-feely multy-culty idea that forcing people together will make them love one another, kum bah yah, is simply wrong. Right now, there is a tremendous repressed hostility between blacks and whites, the lid being held on by federal power, tight control of the press, and rigorous political correctness. Whites, huge numbers of them, detest Latino immigrants and would love to expel them from the country. Serious friction grows between blacks and Latinos as Latinos push blacks out of regions they once controlled. We're not moving toward accommodation. We're moving toward trouble.
What will happen as the economy declines and the minorities continue growing in number? As they continue demanding through political power what they cannot obtain on their merits? As standards of living drop, and the pie isn't creamy enough to give everyone juicy freebies?
GOOD IF IT HAPPENS
The Attorney-General is leading a drive for tougher jail terms to be imposed by judges in some of the most serious sexual and violent crimes. Lord Goldsmith, QC, the Government's senior law officer, is concerned about low levels of sentencing for manslaughter and child abuse, and has asked the Sentencing Guidelines Council to review both offences.
He favours heavier sentences for manslaughter, arguing that the gap between jail terms and sentences for murder is too big. He backs draft proposals from the Law Commission for new "categories" of murder that would enable a better match between jail terms and the severity of an offence. The sentencing drive is backed by wider powers being brought into force. From tomorrow, Lord Goldsmith's power to challenge sentences will expand to include middleranking sexual offences as well as the most serious offences that he can already tackle. He is challenging in the Court of Appeal the "double-jeopardy" principle that gives criminals discounts on their rightful sentences on the ground that they have been through the sentencing process twice.
The move, which chimes with Tony Blair's attack on the failings of the criminal justice system, comes as The Times has learnt that most challenges over lenient sentences are being brought over sexual and violent offences. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that last year, of 106 cases considered by the Court of Appeal on a referral by the Attorney-General, the largest categories were for violence (23), then sexual offences (19), robbery (18) and drugs (17). Senior judges increased sentences in 63 per cent of sexual offences being challenged and in 69 per cent of violent offences, figures show.
In 2005, 389 sentences thought to be too lenient were sent in to Lord Goldsmith (by prosecutors and the public), compared with 277 in 2001. Fewer than one in three is then sent to the Court of Appeal. Of the 106 reviewed by the court, sentences were found to be "unduly lenient" in 75 per cent of cases. Jail terms were increased, however, in only 61 per cent of cases, often because of the double-jeopardy principle.
"The average length of sentence has gone up in the last eight to nine years from about 23 to 27 months. But there are pockets of concern and one of these problems is with manslaughter," Lord Goldsmith said. "One of the reasons I support the big review of homicide is that the difference between the sentence for murder and manslaughter is so great. "If you are convicted of murdering a partner or wife, the starting point is a minimum of 15 years, which is the equivalent of a 30-year sentence. "If you get convicted of manslaughter because of provocation, the sentence may be no more than seven to eight years. We really have to look at this."
The other main category about which the Attorney- General is concerned is child sex abuse. He recently lodged an appeal before a rare five-judge Court of Appeal over the jail terms imposed on two babysitters, Alan Webster and Tanya French, who repeatedly raped a 12-week baby girl. A decision is awaited.
Lord Goldsmith lodged an appeal in 2002 on the level of sentences in the case of abuse of young children. "I was concerned that some judges were not taking seriously enough the impact of abuse on young children," he said. Sentencing levels had improved but not enough. He said that he would prefer to see "higher sentences in this field".
Lord Goldsmith has brought challenges that have led to higher sentencing levels in such areas as human trafficking, street robbery and death by dangerous driving. He said that there was still a problem in cases of causing death by careless driving. "I believed there is a case for giving the courts powers to imprison in such cases," he said.
17 May, 2006
BLAIR WAKES UP TO THE PROBLEMS THAT HIS OWN LAWS HAVE CAUSED
But still seems to think that he can reform them to make them work
Tony Blair risked a fresh clash with the legal establishment yesterday when he targeted a "distant" justice system that most believed let people get away with breaking the rules. In his latest assault on the criminal justice system and human rights laws, the Prime Minister rounded on those who failed properly to supervise drug offenders and criminals who have been given community punishment.
Mr Blair reiterated his oft- repeated call for a shake-up of the criminal justice system to ensure that the security of the law-abiding is put ahead of the rights of offenders. The Prime Minister said it was time for a "profound rebalancing" of the debate on civil liberties to ensure that wrongdoers pay the penalty for breaking the rules. He was speaking after a string of high-profile cases in which prisoners released early from jail have committed murders while on licence, as well as a High Court ruling - condemned as "inexplicable" by John Reid, the Home Secretary - that nine Afghan hijackers should be allowed to stay in Britain.
His comments were dismissed by opponents as an attempt to "relaunch" the party after bruising weeks of negative headlines, internal feuding and poor election results. Lawyers also attacked the Prime Minister and said his criticism of human rights laws was a "smokescreen" to hide the Government's failure to deliver on law and order.
The Prime Minister, speaking at the start of a Labour consultative initiative, said that the criminal justice system was the public service "most distant" from what reasonable people expected. "I think what people want is a society without prejudice but with rules - rules that are fair, rules that we all play by and rules that if they are broken carry a penalty," he said. "The truth is most people believe that we don't live in such a society today."
Mr Blair signalled that, despite identifying the problems four years ago and more than 40 law and order Bills since Labour came to power, he now thinks that far-reaching reform is needed to tackle the problem. "The criminal justice system is the public service most distant from what reasonable people want. I believe we need a profound rebalancing of the civil liberties debate." Mr Blair added: "We should not have to fight continual legal battles to deport people committing serious crimes or inciting extremism. "We cannot allow violent or drug-abusing offenders to be put back out on the street again without proper supervision and, if necessary, restraint. We cannot have bail requirements, probation orders or community sentences flouted without proper penalty" In fact, drug-abusing offenders are given treatment and supervision, while offenders given community sentences are expected to be monitored by the Probation Service to ensure that they keep to the terms of the order.
Senior legal figures reacted with fury or incredulity last night to the Prime Minister's assault on the human rights laws that are a flagship statute of his own Government.
Mr Blair and Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, are considering amending the Human Rights Act to ensure that public safety takes primacy over human rights. Lawyers said that amendments would be difficult, if not impossible, and would make no difference to the way judges reached their decisions. The real problem, they said, was that officials were not doing their job properly and not applying proper procedures: the attack on the Act was a "smokescreen" that hid the failure of ministers to deliver.
BRITISH "HUMAN RIGHTS" PERVERSITY
Bentham was correct. There are no fundamental human rights. The concept, said the great utilitarian, is "nonsense on stilts". It induces tendentiousness, large legal fees, and possibly war.
Last week saw Britain engulfed in a Hallowe'en of human rights. Bishops in cassocks and counsel in wigs were flying in and out of parliament, courts and broadcasting studios like Harry Potters on broomsticks. Afghan hijackers and ranting mullahs had a human right not to be deported. A Nigerian visitor had a human right to a National Health Service heart transplant. A released killer had a human right not to have his parole terms enforced. The dying had a human right to euthanasia and the living a human right to reject a cancer-carrying embryo. As Bentham said, there are "reasons for wishing there were such things as rights", but that does not mean that such rights exist. "Hunger is not bread."
There may be rights under contract, rights tied to obligations, matrimonial rights and rights ordained by statute. There are principles of human dignity and respect that should guide such statutes. We should observe compassion in all things. As the Bible says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But you may read as many tomes on human rights as you like and (with your brain slowly fried) you will find yourself back with nonsense on stilts.
From the moment this government decided to incorporate the European convention on human rights into British law under the 1998 Human Rights Act (HRA) there were two racing certainties. One was that the government would be the main offender under the law and the other was that Tony Blair would wish he had never signed it. He has already said he may well "reform" it if it impedes his terrorism legislation.
Liam Byrne, a government minister, admitted last week that the government was seeking a new balance between its own discretion and what was implied by the act. This is despite the act being largely declamatory. It can be overridden by parliament, with judges merely declaring any new law "incompatible" with the HRA. Ministers can go on doing what they like if parliament supplies them with a majority.
The case of the Afghan hijackers is to the point. In 2000 these nine men hijacked a plane full of fellow nationals and flew it to London. They and 50 others on the plane claimed asylum and were allowed to stay since deportation would have meant certain death. This decision was bizarrely reinforced in 2003 and 2004 despite Afghanistan by then having been "liberated" by British and other forces. The hijackers have since been allowed to live rent-free on benefits in London, incurring some 20 million pounds in various costs.
Last week Mr Justice Sullivan, a High Court judge, reasserted this decision, not because it was right but because the government's refusal to fully implement it was wrong. He was scathing of three home secretaries in denying the hijackers proper asylum, including freedom to move about and earn a living. Blair in reply said that the failure to deport was "an abuse of common sense". But all the case served to do was give human rights a bad name and invite ministers to pass a new law.
Last week Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, called the act "one of the greatest achievements of this Labour government". He was commenting on what proved a tragically wrong decision by the Parole Board to weaken the terms of release of a dangerous killer who went on to commit another murder.
The board said it was nervous of judicial review if it denied his claimed "human right" to greater freedom under parole. As in many such cases, a quasi-judicial panel's professional judgment was polluted by outside pressures: a horror of media attack if it let someone out and a horror of the astronomical cost of human rights litigation if it did not do so. The panel may have been using human rights to excuse its incompetence, but such considerations should not have been an issue.
Indeed, Goldsmith's trumpeting of the HRA is hypocrisy when contrasted with his dismay at the Afghan hijack ruling, his support for military action in Iraq, his acceptance of "asymmetrical" deportation to America and his fight to stop the Diego Garcians from regaining land stolen from them by the British in 1973. To him as to the prime minister, human rights were fine for the manifesto but a pain in the neck in practice.
Penal reformers are now appealing to human rights as a generalised weapon in what should be a more specific battle against bad laws, mostly introduced by Labour home secretaries. Lawyers are exploiting the procedures of asylum boards, parole boards and employment tribunals to assert what amounts to a "human right to disagree" with any adverse decision taken by a minister or his agents.
Rights are cited against sexual harassment, personal offence, noisy neighbours, landscape views and the wheelchair navigation of a spiral staircase. It was said that the 1998 act could not fall foul of ridicule because judges would see that common sense prevailed. They have not done so. A tribunal actually bothered to hear, at public expense, a teacher claiming that a "farting chair" infringed her human right to avoid embarrassment. A silly law is an invitation to silliness.
Whether or not foreigners who break British laws should be sent home should not be a matter of human rights, any more than whether prisoners should be released on parole. Such rights will always run up against the conflicting "rights" of others to be protected from them, rights usually as interpreted in a tabloid headline or a political soundbite.
Not a week passes without the "human rights of the majority" being asserted not in defence of some personal freedom but against it. Decisions on prisoner release should turn on testing personal freedom against a threat to the wider community. That is a matter not of rights but of risks
Australian Navy said woman officer was mad
The Navy is necessarily very tough on anybody who is seen as not fitting in -- anything else would be a danger to shipboard life -- so there are endless troubles with the female recruits that are forced on it by politically correct laws
The Federal Opposition has called for a full judicial inquiry after yet more claims of bullying within the Defence Force. One of the Navy's most senior female officers last night told the 7.30 Report she had endured years of mistreatment and verbal abuse. Lieutenant Commander Robyn Fahy was the second-in-command at HMAS Stirling in Perth, Australia's largest operational navy base. But six years ago she was stood down after a Navy-appointed doctor wrongly diagnosed her as having a serious mental illness.
Although she has just been offered another position, Lieutenant Commander Fahy says she could never go back to a military workplace after what she has been through. The picture Lieutenant Commander Fahy paints of her last six years in the military is not a happy one. "At one time they threatened to crucify me and I couldn't, I suppose, conceptualise an organisation that talked about loyalty and integrity and then matched that up with the manner with which they were behaving - not just towards myself but towards my family," she said.
She told the 7.30 Report about her long battle for justice after being stood down from the military in 2000. Back then, she was wrongly diagnosed by a naval base doctor of having a serious mental illness. "And I found this to be the most frightening, I suppose, concept to deal with and it's taken me quite a lot of time to actually get over that," she said.
After five and a half years of fighting with the military, Lieutenant Commander Fahy has now been declared fully fit and has been offered a new position by the Navy. But she says she would find it impossible to go back into a military workplace after everything she has been through.
The Opposition's spokesman for Defence personnel, Senator Mark Bishop, says he does not blame her. "She was on a rapid career path to [the] top, or near top in her career in the Navy," he said. "She alleged a whole range of harassment, bullying, the most offensive behaviour - she's been set up and been through numerous court inquiries. "All of which, all of which have fully vindicated everything she said. "She would be patently foolish to go back into that environment and expect anything but the same treatment she now complains of."
Defence does not accept many of Lieutenant Commander Fahy's claims, but it says it has offered her a position suitable for someone of her rank. Defence's spokesman Colonel Andrew Nikolic said: "Defence has been working very hard to resolve what is a medical termination issue. "Late last year, following receipt of specialist reports which supported the upgrade of a medical status, Lieutenant Commander Fahy became fully employable and Navy has attempted to generate with her a mutually agreed posting plan." ....
Tom Fahy says the Navy has now offered to appoint an independent mediator to resolve the situation. "I sincerely hope that this time the chief of Navy is sincere in that offer because there have been so many opportunities for him and for even chiefs of Navy before him and other people to settle this matter," he said. "Particularly following the findings of the medical board and for some reason they just don't seem to be able to bring themselves to do it."
16 May, 2006
Destructive and unjust "anti-discrimination" agencies: White males are presumed guilty
In practice, complaints made to them become the start of an official extortion racket
Perth college manager Peter O'Brien's life was almost destroyed when a female staff member wrongly accused him of sexually harassing her with lewd behaviour in the office at Christmas parties. He lost his job, his wife attempted suicide and the cost of defending the charge was nearly $40,000.
The case highlights a boom area for lawyers as employees turn to discrimination laws for protection and retribution. Mr O'Brien was vindicated just over four years after 25-year-old Joanne Robinson first made the accusations. The Western Australian Equal Opportunity Tribunal found Ms Robirson was an unconvincing witness with a tendency to exaggerate. ..In contrast. O'Brien was by , and large a reliable witness," the tribunal ruled.
This is at odds with the approach of the state's Equal Opportunity Commission. It had accepted Ms Robinson's complaint, tried to broker a $40,000 settlement on her behalf and provided the solicitors that ran her losing case in the tribunal.
Mr O'Brien's case is one of the 5 per cent of cases that proceed to a tribunal. Employment lawyers say the vast bulk are settled at the conciliation stage and usually involve a payment to the employee to make the matter disappear, regardless of the strength or otherwise of the case.
Mr O'Brien agrees there is a pro-plaintiff bias in the state's anti-discrimination laws. Mr O'Brien revealed that the state's Equal Opportunity Commission told him that if he paid Ms Robinson $40,000 she would drop her complaint. "We have a letter from them saying that if you pay her this amount the case will stop," he said. "The whole process seemed designed around deciding how much I was going to pay her. "It was an intimidation process. It was so bad that during the process my wife attempted suicide. "I came home one night and found her unconscious on my living room floor. "The commission does not investigate. It simply accepts a claim and then you have to disprove it," Mr O'Brien said.
West Australian Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson said she was prevented by confidentiality provisions from discussing Mr O'Brien's accusations. But she said the commission investigated every complaint and had even been criticised for "over-investigating".
Last year, Mr O'Brien provided the state Government with a list of possible reforms that would ensure other managers were not subjected to the same experience. State Attorney-General Jim McGinty has defended the current arrangements, telling Mr O'Brien the Equal Opportunity Commission is required by law to help those who lodge complaints. He said many of those who complained of discrimination did not have the means to pursue their claims. "Many of the respondents to complaints of discrimination received by the commissioner are employers, large corporations and government agencies," Mr McGinty said. If the Government changed the law and required costs to be awarded against unsuccessful parties in discrimination cases, this would "significantly decrease the incentive to lodge complaints with the commissioner, particularly amongst those members of the community who are most vulnerable to acts of discrimination".
Mr O'Brien said he believed one of the factors that affected his case was that the complaint had been lodged by a single mother with a child of Aboriginal descent.
Employer groups fear that unless state governments intervene with the anti-discrimination commissions, more managers may soon be subjected to the same complaint-handling process. Some of those state anti-discrimination commissions are trying to expand their role in workplace disputes by encouraging employees to take harassment and discrimination proceedings against their employers as an alternative to unfair dismissal action.
The above article appeared in "The Australian" newspaper on 13 May, 2006
FORBIDDING THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Below is an excerpt of an article from Portland, Oregon, that I recently put up on Dissecting Leftism. And below that is a comment from a reader:
Taking the "play" out of kids' playgrounds: "Most adults can remember the carefree days of childhood, climbing trees and jumping from swings, often on schoolyard playgrounds. Climbing, swinging and sliding was once a rite of passage during recess, a time for adventure, to see how high, how far and how fast we could go as a kid. Today, kids find themselves grounded, victims of a culture of fear and injury litigation. A growing number of school districts are going so far as to ban the game of tag and are even posting signs that read 'no running on the playground.' Is there real danger on the modern playground? Safety advocates say yes and want to eliminate it. Their first target: swing sets."
"In some ways, this article scares me more than anything else...it's an indoctrination of our children from the get-go, so they can be good little obedient and HUMORLESS storm troopers. It's one thing to use modern advances in materials to make a safer playground set, but it's entirely another to take away CHILDHOOD.
We see this in other areas...at least here in the States, you can't go to an aquarium or zoo or museum of any kind, for that matter, and ever just have fun...it's all about "the environment"..and that would be ok, but the message is never lighthearted, it's always thrown in our face. I remember going to a dolphin show at a large acquarium in Baltimore...and being hit on the head with how we should worry and feel guilt for pollution and throwing anything in the water...I just wanted to watch the freakin' dolphins catch rings on their noses and do backflips!
I guess this is the hallmark of the Left (and venal lawyers). No fun. No humor. It's part of the package, to make life colorless and drab, only see the bad in things, never the good. Optimists would say, fine, let's work on finding clever ways to work on pollution, it can be done, or, we can enhance safety on a playground, sure, but the Left is engaged in an all-or-nothing attitude about everything.
No running on a playground? Might as well just lobotomize the children early, get it over with, or give them ALL drugs (enough are on them for ADD, and sometimes it's just exuberant childhood behavior that humorless and spoiled parents don't want to deal with)....
You can divide the world into Leftist and conservatives or libertarians...I would make a different designation or division. There is the 1/2 the world that loves power and bureaucracy and putting their thumbs on everyone else...these are the Humorless people...and the rest of us who want to figure out HOW TO ENJOY the world."
BLAIR ADMITS PERVERSE BRITISH "JUSTICE"
Tony Blair will make a frank admission today that Labour has failed to sort out the criminal justice system he came to power pledging to make one of his top priorities. Mr Blair, who promised in 1994 to be "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime" will say that most people do not think that Labour has made Britain safer or fairer. The Prime Minister, who promised yesterday to consider new legislation to stop offenders taking advantage of the Human Rights Act, will admit that the justice system is far from what voters want.
Speaking at the launch of Let's Talk, a Labour consultation exercise, Mr Blair is expected to say: "I believe people want a society without prejudice but with rules; rules that are fair; that we all play by; and rules that when broken carry a penalty. The truth is most people don't think we have such a society. "The problem of crime can be subject to lurid reporting or undue focus on terrible but exceptional cases. But even allowing for this, the fundamental point is valid. Despite our attempts to toughen the law and reform the criminal justice system - reform that has often uncovered problems long untouched - (the criminal justice system) is still the public service most distant from what reasonable people want."
Mr Blair's pledge to improve the Human Rights Act followed intense pressure from the Conservatives and the media after several high-profile cases including the decision to allow nine Afghan hijackers to stay in Britain. He used new proposals on human and animal rights yesterday to try to regain control of the political agenda after three torrid weeks for him and his party, during which Labour has slipped in the polls. He also sent letters to Cabinet ministers spelling out key aims, telling John Reid, the Home Secretary, that his top priority was to shape criminal justice around "targeting the offender and not just the offence . . . to enhance public protection".
Mr Blair ordered improved management of offenders after the foreign prisoners fiasco, in which more than 1,000 criminals were released when they should have been considered for deportation. Mr Reid was also told to look again at whether new legislation was needed after recent Human Rights Act rulings.....
Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, conceded that there had been too many occasions when there was evidence of something going wrong with the use of the Human Rights Act. He cited the case of the rapist Anthony Rice, who murdered a woman while on parole.
David Cameron, the Tory leader, said last week that he would repeal the Human Rights Act if it could not be improved. David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that the Government was catching up with concerns raised by the Tories since the Act was passed in 1998. He told BBC1's Sunday AM programme: "Tories are not against human rights but we think the way the Government has done it has led to disasters . . . Lord Falconer attacked me three years ago for raising these sorts of problems."
15 May, 2006
Obesity shock tactics backfire -- sometimes tragically
The usual unintended consequences of government meddling -- so medical advice is now in conflict with government advice. That Leftist governments should treat children as individuals rather than treat "children" as a lump is of course too much to ask
Shock tactics used in the war against obesity may have backfired, with reports children are being hospitalised because they are too scared to eat. A leading nutritionist has warned government scaremongering may be feeding another crisis with hundreds of children being treated for eating disorders.
Staff at the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane say they have been inundated with dozens of calls each week from worried parents of children who are refusing to eat or wrongly believe they are obese. "We have made it scary for everyone," RCH dietetics and nutrition director Judy Wilcox told The Sunday Mail. "I am worried it might be too big of an issue and people are getting a little bit too fearful. "The pleasure and joy dimension of eating is missing and kids are developing an attitude that eating is dangerous. "I have mothers ringing me up in a panic because they think their child is going to die because they won't eat vegetables. "People are bringing their children to see me because they think their child is obese and they are not. "Children are becoming too aware and becoming very, very fearful of obesity and a lot of parents are becoming fearful."
In an alarming new trend, young boys are dieting because they believe "slim is ideal". "In the past month, I have had four to five cases," she said. "We are seeing cases of osteoporosis in children as young as 12 who have dieted."
The hospital has sent letters to childcare centres warning them against confiscating food and giving only fruit and water for snacks. Schools and sporting clubs were also advised against weighing children in front of their classmates because of the potential for psychological harm. But the State Government announced at its Obesity Summit last week that it would start weighing students in schools.
The Wynnum-Manly Junior Rugby League side is already weighing players for an under 35kg representative side. Reluctant parents agreed to let their children diet to make the side for the June's city-versuscountry carnival in Charleville. The youngsters have been swapping ice cream for carrots and dumped P1ayStation sessions for 10-minute treadmill workouts.
Ms Wilcox warned the weighins were dangerous to children's mental outlook. "Everyone is well-meaning but they don't realise there are a lot of physical and psychological consequences to intervention," she said.
The State Government has announced it would send every Queensland household a selfhelp fat-fighting pack as part of a $21 million obesity plan. The Obesity Summit in Brisbane was told that 4 percent of children were severely obese and some kids aged between seven and eight weighed more than 100kg. Premier Peter Beattie said the amount of junk-food advertisements during children's television time was too high and called on the Federal Government to set limits.
The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on May 14, 2006
Bible banned in Australian hospitals
The local Muslims disagree with the ban and how a Bible in a drawer can offend someone is difficult to see. Is Christian culture the only culture to be left out of "multiculturalism?
Bibles have been banned from hospital bedsides in Queensland because health bosses fear they will offend non-Christians. The controversial move has outraged religious leaders, who have branded the decision "multiculturalism gone mad".
The Royal Brisbane and Women's and Princess Alexandra hospitals in Brisbane are among the first to stop the Gideons testaments being left in patients' bedside tables. Staff said the Bibles were no longer in keeping with the "multicultural approach to chaplaincy", while some claimed the Bibles were removed because they were a source of infection.
Gideons International, which supplies Bibles for hospitals and hotels across the world, revealed many other hospitals in Australia had banned Bibles or were planning to do so. "They tell me they don't want to offend non-Christians," Gideons' Australian executive director Trevor Monson said. "It is a terrible shame because we get lots of letters from people who say having a Bible by their hospital bed has been a great source of comfort to them during their darkest days."
Queensland Multi Faith Health Care Council deputy chairman John Chalmers, who is also in charge of hospital chaplaincies for the Catholic Church in Brisbane, said he was saddened by the ban. "This is still a predominantly Christian country but unfortunately some people think the multifaith dialogue means that we don't mention Jesus," he said. "Putting a Bible in a drawer is not a matter of imposing it on other faiths. The patient doesn't have to take it out if they don't want to. "I think it is more offensive to present a bland environment with no Bibles."
Islamic Council of Queensland president Abdul Jalal said the ban was unnecessary. "It is ridiculous to think that we might be offended by seeing a Bible in a drawer - it is an example of multiculturalism gone mad," he said. "Part of being a Muslim is that you have to be accepting of all religious texts."
Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall said: "Bibles in hospital bedsides are not forced on anyone and the many people who refer to them find comfort in doing so in times when they and their families are under great stress."
Prince Charles Hospital's Anglican chaplain John Swift said banning Bibles was "over the top" and his hospital had no plans to do so. "The practice of placing Bibles at hospital bedsides has been with us for many years and I don't think that should change now, especially when other faiths don't have a problem with it," he said. Cheryl Burns, executive director of nursing services, added: "Bibles by the beds are part of our caring and sharing philosophy and we want to look out for the patient by leaving one nearby so they can reach for it at any time of day or night."
But the Royal Brisbane and Princess Alexandra hospitals confirmed Bibles had been removed from bedsides. Royal Brisbane chaplain John Pryce-Davies said: "We used to keep Bibles in patient's lockers but multiculturalism kicked in and we had to remove them. "Now we only provide Bibles when they are requested by people and Gideons no longer have permission to deliver their Bibles. "Our policy is that when a patient leaves hospital they return the Bible to us or take it home with them - we don't want them left in the lockers. "That way, other faiths don't have to worry about finding a Bible there."
Hospital spokeswoman Tanya Lobegeier said: "If someone has a cold or anything and uses the Bible their germs could be passed on to the next person who reads it. "No one wants to go in the drawer to clean a Bible after every single person leaves." Princess Alexandra spokeswoman Kay Toshach said Bibles were available only on request. "We don't have Bibles by the bedside because of the issue of cleaning, and possibly that they may not be in keeping with the multicultural society we are in now," she said.
Another Leftist distortion of Australian history
Some official nonsense about the white settlement of Australia. I guess the "Mayflower" invaded America too
A State Government website which describes the arrival of the First Fleet in January 1788 as the day "Australia was invaded" should be removed and rewritten, Opposition Leader Peter Debnam said yesterday. Under the heading "Invasion, exploration and convicts", the National Parks website states that "the invasion would continue for many decades". "Countless thousands of Aboriginal people would die from violence, disease and poor living conditions. "Many others would lose their freedom, being forced into mission settlements and reserves."
Mr Debnam described the historical summary on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website as "political correctness gone mad". "It is so in-your-face it is provocative," he said. "It is so emphatic and holier-than-thou and it is saying to people: 'How dare anybody debate this.' "It is almost like social engineering because it is trying to force a point of view onto the community." Mr Debnam said the taxpayer-funded website was "offensive" and should be taken down. "The section on invasion is at variance with most people's view," Mr Debnam said. "It's the sort of thing that would enrage a lot of people and it is a demonstration of the arrogance of the Government's political operatives. "The Government shouldn't be ramming political correctness down everybody's throat. "I believe the site should be taken down and re-written and re-edited. It should be re-done in consultation with the community. It should be informative and not provocative," he said.
Under the "invasion" sub-heading, the site says: "Australia wasn't just 'settled' - it was invaded. The invasion lasted for a long time, and took many forms." Referring to "exploration", the website reads: "European explorers didn't 'discover' new areas for settlement by themselves. They had a lot of help from Aboriginal people."
Mr Debnam described the historical notes as "one-sided" and said that they should be rewritten to encompass other perspectives of the nation's 218-year European history.
14 May, 2006
ANIMAL RIGHTS THUGS AGAIN
A full-page ad in yesterday's New York Times slammed the New York Stock Exchange for caving to pressure from animal rights activists and blocking the listing of a controversial pharmaceutical research company.
But exactly who came up with the big bucks for the ad - which shows a man in a black ski mask below type proclaiming, "I Control Wall Street" - is a mystery. A Web site link, NYSEHostage.com calls animal rights activists "terrorists." The campaign looks like a show of support for Life Sciences Research, the New Jersey company whose stock was yanked by the Big Board on Sept. 7 only minutes before it was to be listed, amid pressure from an animal rights group.
Speculation is swirling that animal activists placed the ad themselves to draw attention to their cause. Richard Michaelson, Life Sciences' finance chief, shares that theory, noting the ad came during "World Week for Animals in Laboratories," which is spurring protests around the globe. "The first we learned of the ad was when we opened the newspaper," he told The Post. "Animal rights activists are the only ones I can fathom that might be behind this."
The group claiming it placed the ad, NYSE Hostage, purports to be "a project of individuals and businesses who were disturbed" by the NYSE's decision to abandon Life Sciences. Calls seeking comment weren't returned.
Life Sciences has been hounded by animal activists for years. Stop Huntingdon Animial Cruelty, or SHAC, which formed to target the company's U.K. division Huntingdon Life Sciences, has been particularly fierce. In March, six of the campaign's U.S.-based leaders were convicted on federal terrorism charges for using the group's Web site to incite threats and vandalism against people linked to Life Sciences.
The NYSE is believed to have bowed to intimidation tactics. NYSE spokesman Christiaan Brakman declined to comment. Life Sciences' stock has been a dog since SHAC foiled its NYSE listing. It has been forced to list on the pink sheets, where it trades at about a penny. A Life Sciences' lawyer recently sent a draft complaint to the NYSE seeking damages for breach of agreements. Michaelson said the company hopes to settle the matter out of court.
During a September 29, 2005 National Public Radio broadcast, Columbia Business School finance professor Charles Jones called the New York Stock Exchange's last-minute reversal "unprecedented." He also predicted that once the exchange took its first step down the road of terror-appeasement, "it's going to be very hard to decide where to stop on that path."
"The stakes in the war against Life Sciences," adds bio-ethicist Wesley Smith in The Weekly Standard, "are greater than the survival of one company . Today, it is medical testing. Tomorrow it could be the fast food industry, zoos, the salmon fleet. The list is potentially endless. So is the list of potential imitators. Why wouldn't antiwar radicals, having noted SHAC's success, apply tertiary targeting against businesses that contract with the Defense Department?"
Smith and Jones are right. Of the companies that make up the Fortune 50 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, more than one-third are the subjects of organized anti-business activist campaigns. There's no threat like a bottom-line threat, and now activists need only look to the NYSE for a taste of their future leverage.
Worse yet, eight of these elite corporations are themselves targets of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), the same group that has already forced the NYSE to cancel one listing. SHAC's overall list of targets (all customers and suppliers of Life Sciences Research International) is over 100 companies long. And dozens of them are publicly traded corporations.
Anti-business activism is alive, well, and as radical as ever. Animal "rights" violence and eco-terrorism are just two of the movement's many bitter flavors.
False Rape Accusations May Be More Common Than Thought
Is it the new 1-in-4 statistic? I don't mean the widely-circulated '1-in-4 women will be raped in their lifetime' but a statistic that suggests '1-in-4 accusations of rape are false.' For a long time, I have been bothered by the elusiveness of figures on the prevalence of false accusations of sexual assault. The crime of 'bearing false witness' is rarely tracked or punished, and the context in which it is usually raised is highly politicized. Politically correct feminists claim false rape accusations are rare and account for only 2 percent of all reports. Men's rights sites point to research that places the rate as high as 41 percent. These are wildly disparate figures that cannot be reconciled.
This week I stumbled over a passage in a 1996 study published by the U.S. Department of Justice: Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial. The study documents 28 cases which, "with the exception of one young man of limited mental capacity who pleaded guilty," consist of individuals who were convicted by juries and, then, later exonerated by DNA tests. At the time of release, they had each served an average of 7 years in prison.
The passage that riveted my attention was a quote from Peter Neufeld and Barry C. Scheck, prominent criminal attorneys and co-founders of the Innocence Project that seeks to release those falsely imprisoned. They stated, "Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where results could be obtained, the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing. Specifically, FBI officials report that out of roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989, about 2,000 tests have been inconclusive, about 2,000 tests have excluded the primary suspect, and about 6,000 have "matched" or included the primary suspect." The authors continued, "these percentages have remained constant for 7 years, and the National Institute of Justice's informal survey of private laboratories reveals a strikingly similar 26 percent exclusion rate."
If the foregoing results can be extrapolated, then the rate of false reports is roughly between 20 (if DNA excludes an accused) to 40 percent (if inconclusive DNA is added). The relatively low estimate of 25 to 26 percent is probably accurate, especially since it is supported by other sources. Before analyzing the competing figures, however, caveats about the one just mentioned are necessary.
First, the category of 'false accusations' does not distinguish between accusers who lie and those who are honestly mistaken. Nor does it indicate that a rape did not occur, merely that the specific accused is innocent. Thus, there is a drive by voices for reform, like the Innocence Institute, to improve eyewitness identification techniques within police departments. For example, the Innocence Institute suggests "Police should use a 'double-blind' photo identification procedure where someone other than the investigator -- who does not know who the suspect is -- constructs photo arrays with non-suspects as fillers to reduce suggestiveness."
Second, even if false accusations are as common as 1-in-4, that means 75 percent of reports are probably accurate and, so, all accusations deserve a thorough and professional investigation.
Third, the 1-in-4 figure has 'fuzzy' aspects that could influence the results. For example, Neufeld and Scheck mention only sexual assault cases that were "referred to the FBI where results could be obtained."
It is not clear what percentage of all reported assaults are represented by those cases. As well, the terms 'rape' and 'sexual assault' are often used interchangeably, especially when comparing studies, and it is not clear that they are always synonyms for each other. Nevertheless, the FBI data on excluded DNA is as close to hard statistics that I've found on the rate of false accusations of sexual assault. Where do the other figures come from and why is there reason to doubt them? Let me consider the two statistics that I have encountered most often.
"Two percent of all reports are false."
Several years ago, I tried to track down the origin of this much-cited stat. The first instance I found of the figure was in Susan Brownmiller's book on sexual assault entitled "Against Our Will" (1975). Brownmiller claimed that false accusations in New York City had dropped to 2 percent after police departments began using policewomen to interview alleged victims.
Elsewhere, the two percent figure appears without citation or with only a vague attribution to "FBI" sources. Although the figure shows up in legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act, legal scholar Michelle Anderson of Villanova University Law School reported in 2004, "no study has ever been published which sets forth an evidentiary basis for the two percent false rape complaint thesis." In short, there is no reason to credit that figure.
"Forty-one percent of all reports are false."
This claim comes from a study conducted by Eugene J. Kanin of Purdue University. Kanin examined 109 rape complaints registered in a Midwestern city from 1978 to 1987. Of these, 45 were ultimately classified by the police as "false." Also based on police records, Kanin determined that 50 percent of the rapes reported at two major universities were "false."
Although Kanin offers solid research, I would need to see more studies with different populations before accepting the figure of 50 percent as prevalent; to me, the figure seems high. But even a skeptic like me must credit a DNA exclusion rate of 20 percent that remained constant over several years when conducted by FBI labs. This is especially true when 20 percent more were found to be questionable. False accusations are not rare. They are common.
13 May, 2006
Bureaucrats target 'Cowboy Church'
Farmer opens barn for services, county slaps him with violation notice
A county in Virginia has cited a farmer there because he hosts Thursday night worship services in his barn on a 900-acre farm. According to a statement from Liberty Counsel, which is representing the man, Garland Simmons recently received a Notice of Violation from Bedford County stating that his barn cannot be used for religious services. Simmons' 900-acre piece of property apparently isn't zoned for such meetings.
"Barns in Bedford County can apparently be used for dancing to the tunes of Toby Keith or Reba, but a church service reciting the Psalms of David or praise and worship with Casting Crowns are not allowed," said Liberty Counsel's Mathew Staver. "Bedford County is wrong to prohibit religious services in a barn in the middle of a field. Bedford County should immediately reverse its decision, because it is treading on unconstitutional ground."
The religious-liberties law group has sent a demand letter to county officials on behalf of Raymond Bell, the pastor of the Cowboy Church of Virginia, the organization that has been using the barn for several months. The letter asserts that Bedford County is violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the First Amendment. It requests the county immediately rescind the Notice of Violation or face a possible federal lawsuit. According to its website, the Cowboy Church's motto is: "Where everybody is somebody and Jesus Christ is Lord."
Have any of these officious jerks ever even READ the First Amendment?
Hooray! British animal rights grave-robbers are jailed for 12 years each
Three animal rights extremists were jailed for twelve years each yesterday for waging a six-year hate campaign that included the desecration of a grandmother's grave. Jon Ablewhite, John Smith and Kerry Whitburn admitted their leading roles in intimidating and attacking the owners of Darley Oaks guinea-pig farm in Staffordshire only two weeks before they were due to stand trial. Josephine Mayo, a fourth extremist who admitted similar offences, was jailed for four years.
Judge Michael Pert, QC, said that the four offenders had disinterred the remains in the low point of a "campaign of terror" that ruined many people's lives. He said: "You kept the family on tenterhooks as to when you would return her and you used as a weapon the threat that you would do the same again. I am firmly of the view that each of you does represent a danger to society."
The sheer weight of evidence against all four was disclosed yesterday as they were sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court after admitting during a hearing last month to conspiring to blackmail the family. The three men, who all had previous convictions, were leaders of the campaign that culminated in the theft of Gladys Hammond's body. She was the mother-in-law of Christopher Hall, co-owner of the farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire, that bred guinea-pigs for medical research. Her remains were recovered last week after Smith, considered the most hardened of the four activists, disclosed their location in what proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to reduce his sentence.
Anthony Glass, QC, for the prosecution, described the campaign as prolonged and vicious. He said that Mrs Hammond's jawbone was left at the graveside. Ablewhite, 36, a teacher living in Manchester; Smith, 39, of Wolverhampton; Whitburn, 36, of Birmingham; and his girlfriend, Mayo, 38, also of Birmingham, had believed that they were untouchable, but had made numerous errors that eventually led to their arrests. Mayo was caught on closed-circuit television buying a petrol can that was used to make an explosive device left at the home of Mr Hall's daughter, Sally-Ann Hall, 28. A map book found in her car had a broken spine and opened immediately on to Miss Hall's address.
Documentation stolen in a burglary at the farm in 1999 was found in Ablewhite's home and his computer had an image of Miss Hall's home. His mobile phone contained the registration numbers of cars that had been attacked. He also sent an e-mail of personal details of family and friends of the Hall family, which described the action as an "ongoing holocaust". A manual typewriter, stencil, handwriting linked with abusive letters and photocopies of an anatomy book showing a skull with its jawbone removed, were found at Whitburn's house. Footage of the burglary in 1999 and a sheet of car registration numbers and personal details of the Halls, including birth, marriage and death certificates, were discovered at Smith's home.
Staffordshire Police made an appeal on Crimewatch in March last year. Immediately after the programme, Smith, Ablewhite and Whitburn drove to woodland near the guinea-pig farm. When stopped by police the next day, the car was found to contain a collapsible spade, headlamp, balaclava and wet camouflaged clothing linked to Ablewhite. A text message sent by Smith while the men were in the woods referred to "flies hovering, could be a while". Police now believe that they were moving the body.
Harrowing witness statements were read to the court that brought home the horror and relentlessness of the attacks. Hundreds of letters were sent to victims including the Halls' cleaner, May Hudson, threatening to dig up her recently deceased husband. Others were hoax invitations, sympathy cards or birth announcements. When Mr Hall's mother died, a card was sent saying: "One down, seven to go." Letters offered to reveal where the body was if trading stopped, but the location was not revealed even when the farm closed in January.
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Baker, who led the investigation, said: "It became clear that we were dealing with lawless people who were ruthless in their aims. Ablewhite, Whitburn and Smith were not on the fringes of the animal rights campaign. But, despite their meticulous planning, the offenders made several mistakes. They refused to go to ground following the desecration."
The police bill for protecting the farm and surrounding community and investigating the threats and attacks reached more than 3 million pounds.
In a witness statement, Mr Hall said that he had spent about 400 pounds a week on security, including electric fences, dogs and cameras. He was critical of the initial stages of the response, saying: "It became a battle to survive. Often when charges got to court people got off, or the CPS wouldn't even prosecute. It seemed we have no support from the Government when they were taking 60 per cent of the guinea-pigs we were producing. My family and I may as well have been in prison for six years. These activists are terrorists."
12 May, 2006
THE DO-GOODERS NEVER LET UP
Despite what the politician below says, there is no clear scientific evidence that censorship of violence has any net benefit. And how is he going to keep violent games away from kids while allowing adults their right to access them?
Young people shouldn't be allowed access to video games in which they commit crimes like murder and rape to gain more points, says state Rep. Roy Burrell, author of a bill that would ban the sale of such games to minors. Burrell said he knows his House Bill 421 is going to draw criticism from retailers when it is heard today in the House Criminal Justice Committee, and he expects charges that it is unconstitutional. "Sooner or later, the lights ought to come on that it is harmful for children to play these games," Burrell said. "They teach children to plot and plan murders. Sometimes kids can't separate games from reality. "It's not about video sales. It's about kids."
Jessica Elliott, director of governmental affairs for the Louisiana Retailers Association, said she believes the bill is unconstitutional, considering that several federal courts have ruled that similar laws in other states have been deemed. "Courts ruled that it's under free speech and the First Amendment like a book or work of art," she said.
Miami attorney Jack Thompson, a leading advocate against the sale of violent, pornographic, mature-rated video games to children, is scheduled to testify in favor of Burrell's bill. He said the bill is sculpted to avoid being unconstitutional by leaving it up to the courts to decide whether a game is harmful, much like the obscenity statute is drafted. "There's a lot of parental angst over the fact that these games are coming at out kids, and there must be some way to keep them away from our kids," Thompson said. He said numerous studies have found proof of harm and "there's more evidence of that than there is that smoking causes cancer."
Thompson has drafted or helped draft video game bills in Washington, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. The ones in California, Washington and Alabama were challenged in court. The important thing, he said, is to "leave it up to a jury to find that the material is harmful to minors because of sex or violence. Don't have a statute defining what is harmful."
Elliott said retailers would have a hard time determining which games would be harmful to minors without playing them, she said, and "what's violent to you might not be violent to me." She said members of her association don't sell video games that are rated "adults only" because of extreme violence and sexual scenes but they are available at some game rental establishments, on the Internet and at some stores. Many stores do carry games labeled "mature" because of language and graphic violence, but they don't have explicit sex scenes.
BRITISH HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS LEAD TO MURDER
Concerns over human rights prevented officials from properly supervising a rapist who went on to kill a mother of one while on parole, according to a highly critical report published yesterday. Anthony Rice, 48, who was “too dangerous to be released in the first place”, had made complaints that his human rights were being infringed by members of the Parole Board and police and probation officers monitoring him. An official report uncovered a catalogue of failings in the prison, probation and police services that allowed Rice to murder Naomi Bryant, 40, nine months after he was released on licence from a 16-year jail term for rape.
Andrew Bridges, the Chief Inspector of Probation, said there were “substantial deficiencies” in the way Rice was supervised by a panel of probation and other officials in Hampshire specifically set up to monitor violent and sexual offenders. Rice was sentenced to life in 1989 for rape and indecent assault, offences committed only two weeks after he had been released from an earlier prison term. He served 16 years before being released from an open prison on licence in November 2004. Months after his release he killed Ms Bryant, the mother of a 14-year-old girl.
The report is a further blow to the reputation of the Probation Service as it follows a similar highly critical inquiry that found serious failings in the London service’s supervision of Damien Hanson, who killed the financier John Monckton at his Chelsea home. Latest figures show that between March 2004 and last month, 26 people being monitored by the Probation Service were convicted of murder, 12 of attempted murder and 43 of rape. The Chief Inspector of Probation admitted that one third of offenders considered likely to be at risk of causing serious harm to the public were not being supervised adequately. Yesterday’s report found that the Parole Board had placed an “increasing focus” on Rice’s human rights rather than on protecting the public.
When he was released, the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (Mappa) was also distracted by considering Rice’s complaints that the conditions of his release were infringing his human rights. “On balance Anthony Rice should not have been released on licence in the first place and once he had been released he could and should have been better managed,” Mr Bridges said. Mr Bridges uncovered a series of failings before Rice was released and when he was supposed to be under supervision. He found no mention on his prison record of his convictions for sexual offences against children. When the Parole Board considered him for release it did not have full knowledge of his criminal behaviour, including his attacks on children.
The panel considering his release received over optimistic reports on his progress — in a similar way to the case of Hanson. In January 2001 a psychologist examined Rice’s record and concluded that there was a 72 per cent likelihood that he would be convicted of a sexual offence again within 20 years. But because he had made “significant” progress and was showing evidence of changing his “distorted” attitudes towards women, his overall risk level was judged to be “high” rather than “very high”. When Rice’s probation file was transferred from London to Hampshire in September 2004 an important part of it, which drew attention to his potential risk to female staff, was mistakenly archived.
The final form of his parole licence for release had 12 conditions, including a curfew and a ban on contacting or approaching lone women without his probation officer’s approval. But several conditions suffered from a “lack of clarity”, making them hard to enforce and breaches difficult to prove. The Mappa panel then changed some of the conditions without authority from the Parole Board. In February the panel discussed a letter from Rice’s solicitor complaining that two of the conditions contravened his human rights. The report said that though the panel refused to alter the two conditions, “again more attention was paid in the meeting to the fairness and proportionality of the restrictive interventions, rather than their effectiveness in keeping risk of harm to a minimum”.
Barrie Crook, the Chief Probation Officer for Hampshire, said: “We fully accept that more could and should have been done to manage the risks posed by Anthony Rice.” John Reid, the Home Secretary, said the Government would consider the report carefully and make improvements through legislation if necessary
11 May, 2006
NOT DEAF ENOUGH
The story below is one of the sadder outcomes of political correctness. In the "all men are equal" fairyland of PC, disabilities are denied and disabled people are told that they are as good as anyone else -- which may be true in some ethical sense but not in any other. And deaf people have taken that on board with a vengeance. They think deafness is something to be proud of and actually resent deaf people who can communicate via speech! Many of them even AIM to have deaf children!
The newly chosen president of Gallaudet University, the nation's only liberal arts college for the deaf, received a no-confidence vote from faculty Monday in a dispute that she said comes down to whether she is "deaf enough" for the job. The vote, which passed 93-43, is nonbinding. The fate of Jane K. Fernandes rests with the board of trustees, which has said it will not alter its decision to hire her.
Fernandes, who was selected by the board of trustees last week and is scheduled to take office next January, was born deaf but grew up speaking and did not learn American Sign Language until she was 23. Sign language is the preferred way of communicating at 1,900-student Gallaudet.
Dozens of students and alumni waited outside as the voting took place, and some cheered and shouted when the vote was announced. "If the board ignores the faculty, they ignore the entire university," said Anthony Mowl, a spokesman for a group opposed to Fernandes. The English major from Fishers, Ind., graduates this week.
Fernandes, 49, who declined to be interviewed after the vote, said earlier she is caught in a cultural debate. "There's a kind of perfect deaf person," said Fernandes, who described that as someone who is born deaf to deaf parents, learns ASL at home, attends deaf schools, marries a deaf person and has deaf children. "People like that will remain the core of the university."
Fernandes is married to a retired Gallaudet professor who can hear. So can the couple's two children. Some people who were deaf at birth can learn to speak through intensive speech therapy.
Fernandes was named to succeed I. King Jordan, who in 1988 became the first deaf president of Gallaudet since the school was founded by Congress in 1864. He got the job after student protesters marched to the Capitol demanding a "Deaf President Now" following the appointment of a president who could hear. Jordan, who backed Fernandes' selection, said the current protest reflects "identity politics" and a refusal to accept change. "We are squabbling about what it means to be deaf," he said.
Deaf education has been roiled in recent years by the development of cochlear implants and other technology. Some say such developments threaten sign language and other aspects of what they call deaf culture; others welcome such advances.
The demonstrators demanded that the trustees reopen the selection process, with some complaining that Jordan had undue influence over the appointment of Fernandes, currently the school's provost. Others have complained that the process was not diverse enough, since all three candidates were white, and that Fernandes is not respected on campus. Jordan said that the selection of a president is not a "popularity contest" and that this movement should not be compared to the one that swept him into office. If the board gives in, he said, it would be dangerous for the governance of the school.
Toddlers may already be racists, nurseries told
Another reason for the State to take control of children from their parents
They may still be in nappies [diapers] and playing with sand and building blocks but many toddlers are already racists, nurseries have been warned. To stop prejudice from developing while children are still three years old, staff need to ensure that different racial groups "play together right from day one", according to Herman Ouseley, the former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality.
Nursery staff should "discourage separate play" and "help children to unlearn any racist attitudes and behaviour they may have already learnt", said Lord Ouseley. "It is important to consider whether patterns of play are consistently based on racial or cultural grounds," he writes in the latest issue of the journal Race Equality Teaching. "If, for example, Muslim children nearly always play together and seldom play with other children, the question needs to be asked, 'Is there a reason for it that may relate to culture? Or apprehension? Or prejudice?'," said Lord Ouseley, the author of an influential report on the 2001 Bradford riots.
The recommendation that staff intervene to ensure that children mix goes further than current thinking and guidance, which concentrates on making sure nurseries cater to all ethnic groups.
Jane Lane, a co-author of the article and an early-years equality adviser whose publications are recommended by the Government's Sure Start scheme, said conventional wisdom that toddlers were "colour blind" was wrong. "There is a view that children do not learn their attitudes until they are about five," she said. "But people in the early years know that children at a very early age - at the age of three - are categorising people. I am not talking about white children; I am talking about all children. Many, many are racially prejudiced, for all sorts of historical reasons."
Margaret Morrissey, the spokesman for the National Confederation of Parent Teachers Associations, said, however, that children did not generally notice colour until at least the age of six and that "artificial" attempts to force the issue could be detrimental. "In all the time I have been involved in nursery education, since about 1975, I have never seen children segregating to play," she said.
CHALLENGE TO PERVASIVE PRO-HOMOSEXUAL PROPAGANDA
Citizen Action Now, known as "CAN"-a project of Alan Keyes' Declaration Alliance-has successfully presented shareholder resolutions at American Express and Bank of America challenging them on their use of the term "sexual orientation" in their employment policies, their payment of domestic partner benefits to homosexual and other unmarried employees, and their corporate support of the radical homosexual agenda.
Next week, a similar resolution will be presented at Ford Motor Company. Ford is currently being boycotted by the American Family Association and an assortment of pro- family organizations because Ford has reneged on a public commitment not to advertise in homosexual publications or give shareholder money to gay and lesbian advocacy groups.
The week following CAN's presentation to Ford, JP Morgan Chase, one of the largest banking organizations in the country, will be similarly confronted with a pro-family shareholder resolution. Every one of these companies tried hard to prevent these challenges from occurring, but in each case, Citizen Action Now was successful in steering individual shareholders through the legal maze. "This is the first time multiple companies have been targeted for their financial support and corporate policies endorsing the homosexual agenda," said Thomas Strobhar, President of Citizen Action Now. "Judging by the interest and shareholder enthusiasm these challenges have generated, it certainly won't be the last time, either."
Strobhar contends this opens an important new front in the so-called "culture wars." "Heretofore," says Strobhar, "pro-family groups concentrated on laws opposing same sex marriage. Citizen Action Now has shown we have a way of challenging in the workplace the aggressive public campaigns for support made by homosexual groups."
Instead of pro-homosexual advocacy, CAN recommends that companies institute policies that at least "do no harm" to traditional society and reflect good corporate stewardship. "Companies shouldn't ask questions about sexuality and employees shouldn't talk about what they do in the bedroom," contends Strobhar. "We don't need special rights for people who like to talk about their sexual interests while on the job." At a minimum, corporations could maintain standards not dissimilar to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that seeks to respect privacy and decency in governing the hundreds of thousands of people who defend our freedom in the United States military.
10 May, 2006
Bill to ban 'mom, dad' from texts advances
New California law would remove sex-specific terms from books, mandate pro-homosexual lessons
A bill requiring students to learn about the contributions homosexuals have made to society and that would remove sex-specific terms such as "mom" and "dad" from textbooks has passed another hurdle on the way to becoming the law of the land in California. Having already been approved by the state's Senate Judiciary Committee, SB 1437, which would mandate grades 1-12 buy books "accurately" portraying "the sexual diversity of our society," got the nod yesterday of the Senate Education Committee.
The bill also requires students hear history lessons on "the contributions of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America." "This bill is the most extreme effort thus far to transform our public schools into institutions of indoctrination that disregard all notions of the traditional family unit," said Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute. "SB 1437 seeks to eliminate all 'stereotypes' of the traditional family so that young children are brainwashed into believing that families with moms and dads are irrelevant."
SB 1437 not only affects textbooks and instructional materials for kindergarten and grades 1-12, it also affects all school-sponsored activities. "School-sponsored activities include everything from cheerleading and sports activities to the prom," said England. "Under SB 1437 school districts would likely be prohibited from having a 'prom king and queen' because that would show bias based on gender and sexual orientation." England also says the bill would likely do away with dress codes and would force the accommodation of transsexuals on girl-specific or boy-specific sports teams. England says the measure amounts to unneeded social experimentation. "SB 1437 disregards the religious and moral convictions of parents and students and will result in reverse discrimination," she said.
Sponsored by Democratic Sen. Sheila Kuehl - a lesbian actress best known for playing Zelda in "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" in the 1960s - the legislation would add "gender" (actual or perceived) and "sexual orientation" to the law that prohibits California public schools from having textbooks, teaching materials, instruction or "school-sponsored activities" that reflect adversely upon people based on characteristics like race, creed and handicap.
"We've been working since 1995 to try to improve the climate in schools for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender kids, as well as those kids who are just thought to be gay, because there is an enormous amount of harassment and discrimination at stake," Kuehl explained. "Teaching materials mostly contain negative or adverse views of us, and that's when they mention us at all." "In textbooks, it's as if there's no gay people in California at all, so forget about it," she added.
Good sense from Australia's High Court
The High Court today ruled against two severely disabled people who claimed they should not have been born. In what's been termed a case of "wrongful life," the judges foundthe pair did not have a right to mount a case for negligence against their mothers' doctors. The case was launched by two disabled people, Sydney woman Alexia Harriton, 25, and Keeden Waller, five. Ms Harriton was born deaf, blind, physically and mentally disabled and was not expected to live more than six months. She needs 24-hour care. She claimed Dr Paul Stephens negligently failed to diagnose the disease rubella early in her mother Olga's pregnancy and did not advise there was a very high risk of having a child with congenital abnormalities. Olga Harriton said that she would have terminated the pregnancy had she received proper advice.
Keeden, an IVF baby, through his parents also claimed wrongful life after inheriting the clotting disorder AT3 from his father. He was born with brain damage, suffers from cerebral palsy, has uncontrolled seizures and requires constant care. Had the Wallers known of this risk, they said they would have deferred IVF until such time that safe methods were available or terminated the pregnancy.
In the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Timothy Studdert dismissed both damages claims, holding they had no cause of action. The Court of Appeal, by majority, also dismissed each appeal. The action on behalf of Alexia and Keeden then turned to the High Court. By a six to one majority, the High Court judges today dismissed each appeal, ruling that a cause of action in negligence required each to show damage had been suffered and the doctors had a duty of care to avoid that damage. They found no legally recognisable damage - loss, deprivation or detriment caused by an alleged breach of duty - could be shown.
The judges held that comparing a life with non-existence for the purposes of proving actual damage was impossible as it could not be determined that the children's lives represented a loss, deprivation or detriment, compared with non-existence. In the lead judgment, Justice Susan Crennan said physical damage such as a broken leg was within the common experience of judges who had no difficulty assessing the claimed loss. But it was altogether more difficult when the assessment had to be made between present disability and non-existence. "There is no present field of human learning or discourse, including philosophy and theology, which would allow a person experiential access to non-existence, whether it is called pre-existence or afterlife," she said. ``There is no practical possibility of a court (or jury) ever apprehending or evaluating, or receiving proof of, the actual loss or damage as claimed by the appellant. It cannot be determined in what sense Alexia Harriton's life with disabilities represents a loss, deprivation or detriment compared with non-existence."
Justice Michael Kirby, the sole dissenting voice, said denying the existence of wrongful life actions erected an immunity around health care providers whose negligence resulted in a child, who would not otherwise have existed, being born into a life of suffering. "The law should not approve a course which would afford such an immunity and which would offer no legal deterrent to professional carelessness or even professional irresponsibility," he said.
Happiness and its discontents
The BBC's "The Happiness Formula" fails to interrogate whether happiness is an appropriate social goal
The critical flaw of the BBC's new six-part documentary on happiness was apparent from the start (1). It assumed that happiness should be the key goal for society and then set out to illustrate the contention. There is widespread agreement, at least in the developed world, that happiness is more important than wealth - but that is all the more reason, especially at the beginning of such a documentary, to question the premise.
Ancient Greece was the starting point for happiness, according to the programme. Evidently 2,500 years ago Aristotle suggested that happiness should be the ultimate goal for humanity. Unfortunately there was no exploration of what Aristotle meant by happiness or why he thought it was so important. Instead, in an annoying breathless style that characterised the whole episode, it quickly jumped from one topic to another. After Aristotle we were told that neuroscientists have reached the stage where they can measure happiness. 'And if that's right it changes everything,' said Mark Easton's voiceover. It was not made clear why.
Then there was Midge Ure - a 1980s rock singer and songwriter for those who do not remember. Evidently making loads of money with Ultravox did not make him happy and he eventually went broke. However, getting involved in Band Aid with Bob Geldof, in response to famine in Ethiopia, evidently gave meaning to his life.
Next came rats. Neuroscientists - back to them again - are busy investigating rodent happiness. It turns out that 'like them [rats that is, not neuroscientists] we're wired to seek pleasure'. There was no acknowledgement of the potential problems of drawing sweeping conclusions about human behaviour from examining rats.
This was only about half way through the 30-minute episode. The rest included nuns in Milwaukee (happy ones live longer), Lord Layard (Britain's official happiness guru), Bhutan (the Himalayan kingdom where happiness is an official national goal), an adviser to the prime minister, the presenter driving a Ferrari, and lifeboat volunteers (volunteering makes people happy). Next week, we were told, the series will look at monkeys.
Told in this way the programme may sound ridiculous, but there are serious problems with the happiness consensus. The idea that happiness should be a primary social goal is actually sinister. It ignores the fact that society has typically progressed when people feel restless and discontent. Humans did not stop when they invented the wheel. They attached it to vehicles and eventually added an internal combustion engine. Social changes too have come about when people felt unhappy with their present lot. Rats may feel pleasure as a physical sensation but they are not capable of anything comparable to human achievement.
If any of the key questions raised or alluded to in the programme were subject to serious scrutiny an alternative viewpoint might have come across. Even given the limitations of television as a medium this should be possible. Perhaps there will be more depth in later episodes, but I doubt it.
For example, the episode referred in passing to happiness being a social goal 200 years ago. Indeed it is true, as serious commentators have argued, that the pursuit of happiness was a central goal of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. But a key passage on this in the American declaration of independence of 1776, a prominent Enlightenment document, is worth examining in a little detail:
'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'
Several points should be clear from a careful reading of Thomas Jefferson's document. First, it talks about the pursuit of happiness rather than just happiness. For America's Founding Fathers the idea of the pursuit of happiness was linked to the idea of progress more generally. It was seen as part of a package - along with life and liberty among other virtues - that individuals would strive for rather than just a physical sensation. Today, in contrast, the concept of social progress is widely viewed with suspicion and sometimes outright hostility.
Second, the constitution talks about a right - rather that a duty - to pursue happiness. If individuals wanted to strive for social progress they were free to do so. In Britain today, on the other hand, happiness is an official social goal. The documentary pointed out that every local authority in England and Wales has a duty to promote wellbeing. And the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - which most people might assume is about farmers - says its 'core purpose is to improve the current and future quality of life'. Lord Layard, the happiness guru, wants to go a step further with the recruitment of 10,000 extra therapists to make Britons happy.
Another topic that should be examined in more detail is Bhutan - which is the subject of a future episode - and its official goal of Gross National Happiness (GNH). The BBC documentary stated, almost with glee, that tobacco, advertising and advertising hoardings are banned in the Himalayan kingdom. And such an august organ as the New York Times has even welcomed the use of GNH in Bhutan.
Yet an examination of some of the basic economic statistics on Bhutan portrays a different picture. It only has a life expectancy at birth of 61 for men and 64 for women compared with Britain, for example, where the respective figures are 76 and 81. Relative wealth can help raise life expectancy. Also the infant mortality rate is 70 per thousand live births (that is, seven per cent of infants die before the age of five), 19 per cent of children are malnourished and the adult literacy rate is only 47 per cent.
Despite the enormous potential for hydroelectric power in such a mountainous region 65 per cent of the population lacks electricity. Many of the population are subsistence farmers who live in small isolated communities. These indicators have generally improved in recent years - although from a terribly low base - but ironically this is the result of relatively vibrant economic growth.
Ultimately the fact that happiness levels in Britain are not increasing, despite being so much wealthier than Bhutan, is in some ways a sign of hope. For the level of discontent provides at least the potential to improve things still further. Rats may feel pleasure but only human beings have the ability to transform their environment and themselves for the better
9 May, 2006
ICE-CREAM NOW DANGEROUS
For 60 years the tinny jingle of Greensleeves that announced the arrival of the ice-cream van has been an indelible memory of childhood, but that sound may soon be removed from suburban streets. Health lobbyists have decided that ice-creams are too much of a danger to children's health.
MPs and health officials are planning a series of measures across the country that are already forcing Mr Whippy and his helpers into meltdown. Under an amendment to the Education and Inspection Bill to be put forward this week, local authorities will be given new powers to stop ice-cream vans from operating near school gates. The move comes as operators claim that they are already being forced out of business by an over-zealous health lobby.
Local authorities have in recent weeks banned ice-cream vans from using pay-and-display parking spaces and set up "ice-cream-free"exclusion zones around busy shopping streets. Newham council, in east London, informed vendors last month that it would fine van owners up to œ80 if they used pay-and-display bays. Greenwich council, in southeast London, has banned the vans from its streets altogether, while in Scotland, West Dunbartonshire council has introduced an exclusion zone around schools for vans.
Mark Gossage, the director of Ice Cream Alliance that represented 20,000 van owners in the 1960s and now has 700 members, said that many of his members can no longer make a living. "Many schools have already stopped arrangements for vans to sell to pupils," he said. "They are wiping us out."
There are about 5,000 ice-cream vans in Britain. In times gone by they would have parked at the side of most roads; but times have changed. The amendment would grant local authorities the power to ban ice-cream vans from parking near schools. One dietitian told The Times that a ban on ice-cream vans near schools would be a draconian policy that may drive children to buy even less healthy foods at nearby shops. Catherine Collins, the chief dietitian at St George's Hospital, Tooting, south London, said: "This is the kind of blanket ban that gives the health lobby a bad name. A healthy diet can factor in a sugary treat such as an ice-cream. It is the frequency of that treat that is an issue. Most choices from an ice-cream van would provide fewer calories and fat compared to a free choice from a newsagent."
Horse-drawn vans selling flavoured ices were first seen on cobbled streets in the 19th century. Motorised vans followed in the 1950s, selling hard, scooped or soft ice-cream. By the 1980s the business had become so lucrative that gangs fought over the right to sell to certain streets. In 1984 a row between Glasgow-based gangs led to the murder of six members of the Doyle family, who had run the Marchetti ice-cream company. The sector has since declined because of the availability of ice-creams from shops and garages. The few vendors left said last week they would be out of business if the amendment was passed.
John Barrowclough, whose Iced Treats van stops outside schools around Wolverhampton, said he had been forced to sell one of his two vans. because of a clampdown. "We sell a lot of ice-creams near schools," he said. "Of course no one wants to see fat kids, but most children have an ice-cream once a week, not every day." Sefer Huseyin, whose family have run Five Star Catering ice-cream vans in Camberwell, southeast London, since the 1960s, said that his vans had been banned from schools. "Telling vendors they are not allowed near schools is the wrong message," he said. "They have been going there for years and their livelihood is being taken away from them."
However, the amendment is supported by some health campaigners. Chris Waterman, the executive director of the Confederation of Education and Children's Services Managers, said ice-cream vans should be restricted. "There are millions going into healthy food in schools, yet kids are rushing to spend their money on food from mobile vans," he said. [Odd that!]
NEWS FROM THE SCHOOL VENDING MACHINE BATTLEFRONT
Don Quixote would feel at home there
Jordan Mitchell glared playfully at friend Elizabeth Sanchez as Mitchell clutched a 20-ounce bottle of Sprite Remix. "She got the last Diet Coke," Mitchell announced as Caddo Magnet High School students swarmed around them at a row of vending machines outside the school cafeteria Friday.
Mitchell and Sanchez are aware of major soda retailers' plans to eliminate sugary soft drinks from school campuses in the next three years. Mitchell shrugs at what amounts to a vending revolution. "I really don't have a problem with it," Mitchell said. "It's still a choice, and you can still drink one that you got from the gas station on the way to school in the morning."
Anna Hamiter, another friend, disagrees with the plan. "I would rather have a choice of diet or regular," Hamiter said. "It would be more like a democracy." Substitute teacher Anthony W. Fabio agrees in theory with the retailers' agreement, but his family embodies the reality of a soda-guzzling world. "We can't live without soda pop," Fabio said as he held a regular Sprite. "I sneak sodas in to my twin daughters who are students here. One daughter, Siobhan, drinks milk. The other, Kaitlin, religiously drinks soda pop, and it must not be diet. She's addicted to Dr Pepper."
The national retailers' agreement goes far beyond a 2005 state law that sought to limit high-calorie foods and beverages on school campuses. State Sen. Diana E. Bajoie, D-New Orleans, said she's pleased with the plan. Bajoie, in 2005, co-sponsored a law that limits what soda and snack venders can offer at schools. "We've had several schools that volunteered to participate," Bajoie said. "It shows we were ahead of the curve. It's going to help the children in the long-run. It's not so much the food they eat. Some children, they drink four and five sodas a day, and that's a lot of calories and carbohydrates."
The 2005 law requires that at least half of beverages on high school campuses be milk, water, juice or sports drinks, with a phase-in as existing soft drink vending contracts expire. Local principals aren't arguing healthy choices are better, but they question how the new guidelines would be phased in and if this focus on vending machines is really addressing the obesity problem.
Wednesday's announcement by the soft drink retailers brought back old feelings for Airline High Principal Kim Gaspard. Gaspard testified before a legislative committee on behalf of himself and other schools already in long contracts with beverage dealers when legislators consider the new state law in 2005. "We've not seen any (national) law yet, so it's hard to comment on how it would affect us," Gaspard said. "But I've signed a contract with Coca-Cola that has to be considered. It's hurting us in the pocketbook and it will take some time for kids to get used to buying the other products."
With changes inevitable, Coke has already made several switches in the machines at Airline, including 100 percent fruit drinks, added Gaspard. Water has become the number two seller behind Coke, with Diet Coke third. And at Broadmoor Middle School in Shreveport, some students are responding to healthier beverages. A machine that dispenses low-fat flavored milk sweetened with sugar substitutes joined the familiar soft drink machines in a hall near Broadmoor Middle School's cafeteria and gym this year. The varieties include flavors named after popular candy bars. "That Three Musketeers is da bomb," said Charles Antwine, a sixth-grader.
Cope Middle School Principal Judy Grooms believes for the most part, students will choose from what's available. Children can buy from the vending machines for 10 minutes during the lunch shift. The school gets quarterly payments that range from $250 to $300, which go toward a variety of things, including academic incentives, ink cartridges, the library and school events. Just like the income, interest in the vending machines by children has always been consistent, but not huge, which makes Grooms question if restocking beverage vending machines is the answer. "The children buying beverages are not necessarily overweight," Grooms said. "And if you went into our cafeteria, while they're trying to improve their nutritional value of their meals, they do sell extras that are not particularly healthy choices, like slushy drinks and ice cream. The school lunch program gets the money from that."
Education in choices should be more of the focus, she believes. "It's not quite the answer as much as the lifestyle in our homes and what we choose. An occasional soft drink is not bad, but a soft drink every day is not good."
Some middle schools set stricter limits on sweets and sodas. Ridgewood Middle School in Shreveport opens its soda machines after school, and then only to children who walk home. Students can buy only sports drinks and fruit drinks during the day after physical education classes. Opening soda machines only to walkers is a way to discourage bus riders from violating a rule against food and beverages on buses, said Gerald Burrow, Ridgewood principal. Ridgewood continues to offer regular soft drinks after school despite signing a new vending contract after the 2005 law was passed. The 2005 state law requires middle schools to offer only fruit juices, water and milk -- but Burrow said local Pepsi officials told him Ridgewood was exempt from the law because contract negotiations were underway before the law went into effect.
Green Oaks High School Principal Cleveland White isn't sure what will show up in his school's vending machines in the future. Green Oaks just inked a three-year contract with Coca-Cola's Shreveport bottling company. The school will receive $5,800 a year, a percentage of machine sales, free products for fundraisers and among other incentives. White worries that he'll lose extra money for football uniforms and copier supplies if students turn up their noses at diet soft drinks. "They have been an asset to the school financially, as far as our operating budget and providing scholarships and donations to athletics," White said.
McDonald's: why the parents of autistic kids are lovin' it
Ignore the food snobs - for some of us the Golden Arches are a godsend
By Dr Michael Fitzpatrick
"Elitists have always looked down at fast food, criticising how it tastes and regarding it as another tacky manifestation of American popular culture." Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, Penguin 2002.
McDonald's is the fast-food chain that Guardian readers love to hate, but for many parents of autistic children there are few more welcome signs than the double arches. We were recently sitting with our son James at McDonald's in Leighton Buzzard near where he goes to school, when we spotted another family also struggling with an autistic daughter. When James suddenly decided he wanted to go to the toilet, he started pulling down his trousers well before he reached the door. As I chased after him, I passed the mother of the autistic girl and we exchanged a smile of mutual recognition.
'Isn't McDonald's great', she said. 'It's so reassuring to know that however badly your child behaves, it probably won't be the worst that the staff have seen that day.'
It's true that the staff are one of the best things about McDonald's. Critics like Eric Schlosser, whose latest diatribe against McDonald's - Chew On This - is published this month, complains that the company exploits teenagers. I am sure that their wages are not extravagant, though I doubt whether pay and conditions are any worse than those of comparable British firms.
I cannot judge the quality of staff training, but I find that they are always cheerful and welcoming and tolerant of James' unpredictable behaviour. On one occasion when he started jumping up and down and squealing - as he does when he is excited - the manager rushed around from behind the counter. When he appeared he was carrying a party hat and a balloon.
The food at McDonald's is fast - a very attractive feature for children who have a limited tolerance for waiting, and even more attractive for their parents who have to contain their children's impatience. Small things make a big difference. For example, because the French fries are only 8mm thick (a feature of McDonald's much-derided industrialised production techniques), they lose heat quickly, thus enabling a child who has no concept of allowing food to cool before attempting to eat it to avoid burning his mouth.
James likes Chicken McNuggets (apparently made from chicken breasts!), French fries and Coke. I share his lack of enthusiasm for McDonald's burgers, which, as a fan of American cuisine, I always find a big disappointment. I find the coffee excellent, much better than those bitter-tasting free-trade varieties in trendier chains. But I'm not much impressed by the recent attempts by McDonald's to present itself as something it isn't: a health-food outfit. If I wanted carrot sticks, I would buy a carrot.
Like many health zealots, Schlosser wants a ban on advertising to children of foods high in fat and sugar. This will make no difference to James who is oblivious to advertising, and also to McDonald's promotional toys (he wouldn't even wear his Ronald McDonald party hat). However, it could be a problem for promoters of breastfeeding who also, through advertising and other means, encourage mothers to provide their babies with a substance that is rich in fat and carbohydrates, vital nutrients for growing children. The high fat/high carbohydrate food available at McDonald's is often particularly valuable for children with autism who are notoriously fastidious eaters.
For parents of children with problems of continence, one of the most important features of any public facility is the toilets - and those at McDonald's are excellent. They are well designed, with easy access, plenty of space and they are kept scrupulously clean.
Perhaps some would prefer a good old greasy spoon British caff, with filthy toilets, filthy kitchens, surly staff and grumpy customers. Others might opt for the trendy whole food restaurant, with even dirtier toilets and kitchens, even more miserable and ill-looking staff and a food snob at every table. Not for me and my family - give us McDonald's any day.
8 May, 2006
Kicking the Pepsi Can: Hard truths about soft drinks
The latest study claiming that soft drinks are the driving force behind childhood obesity has prompted the usual silly responses. The aptly named Barry Popkin, an academic at the University of North Carolina, has mused about the need for tobacco-like surgeon general’s warnings on soft-drink cans and bottles. Popkin’s idea has been endorsed by Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society. Meanwhile, the misnamed Center for Science in the Public Interest continues to threaten legal action against the food industry based on the spurious claim that food advertising to children for products such as soft drinks is deceptive.
The much-headlined new study in the journal Pediatrics, from Boston’s Children’s Hospital, is a poor piece of research. Among its many limitations is that it studied a staggeringly small number of teenagers. A mere 103 teens were divided into two groups, an intervention group and a control group. The teens in the intervention group received home deliveries of noncaloric beverages (e.g., diet soft drinks, iced teas, lemonades, and bottled water) for 25 weeks in an effort to reduce soft-drink consumption. Not surprisingly, these kids reduced their pop consumption by a massive 82 percent.
Equally surprising, but unmentioned in every media report, was the fact that there was no statistically significant difference at the end of the six months between the Body Mass Index (the standard yardstick for obesity) of the group that the noncaloric beverages and the group that continued with their regular soft-drink consumption. In other words, an 82-percent reduction in soft-drink consumption did not make the kids thinner, which makes it difficult to see how this study indicts soft drinks as a principal cause of obesity.
The Boston study is also flawed by the fact that it failed to control for, or report on, any of the other aspects of the two groups’ respective diets. We have no idea, for example, what the daily caloric intake was for any of the participants in the study. Without this information it is difficult to know, first, whether the two groups were in fact identical except for their soda pop consumption and, second, whether it was the elimination of regular soft drinks that really caused the small weight loss that was found in the most obese participants. Given that there are dozens of supposed risk factors for obesity, it is somewhat disingenuous to claim that removing one risk factor, without controlling for the others, suggests that the one removed is a cause of obesity.
What is really odd, however, about the Boston study is its simplistic assumption that there is a unique caloric effect that results from removing soft drinks from someone’s diet. Removing any source of calories — whether from soft drinks or anything else — and not replacing them will result in fewer calories and perhaps fewer pounds. Does one really need an expensive research study to confirm something so blindingly obvious?
The real problem with this study is the fact that it is contradicted by most of the published scientific literature about the connection between soft drinks and childhood obesity. For example, a recent study which looked at the supposed link between obesity and diet in 137,000 children in 34 countries found that being overweight was not associated with the intake of soft drinks. This study confirmed research from Harvard University, published in 2004, that followed the eating habits of 14,000 children for three years. It found that there was no association between snack food consumption, including soft drinks, and weight gain.
Similar evidence was found by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just last year. They reported that, “Evidence for the association between sugar-sweetened drink consumption and obesity is inconclusive…[N]ational data showed no association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and Body Mass Index.” In another study from 2005, which used data from the National Health Examination Surveys, the authors found no association between regular soft drinks and Body Mass Index, noting that regular sort drinks “accounted for less than 1 percent of the variance in Body Mass Index” among American children.
The media continues to give air time and column inches to obesity studies, especially those about soft drinks, so riddled with methodological flaws that their alarmist conclusions are worse than useless. All of which suggests that if the discussion about childhood obesity is going to be based on science, rather than science fiction, it needs to move beyond kicking the can.
Don't worry, be happy -- or else
Roll over, Adam Smith. You said that we can trust the self-interested actions of individuals to benefit others. You said that an "invisible hand" guides markets, meaning that they did not require government control. But some of your economist descendants now claim that the self-interested actions of individuals do not even benefit themselves. Instead, government should intervene to make sure that individual choice serves to promote subjective well-being.
Alan Krueger and Daniel Kahneman hail the progress that has been made in measuring subjective well-being, or happiness. They say that researchers in this field, which is on the boundary between economics and psychology, have developed reliable methods to measure how well a person is feeling. This in turn enables them to make reliable assessments of how happiness is affected by income (both in absolute terms and relative to that of others), marital status, and how people allocate time among various activities, from socializing (good) to commuting alone (bad).
How Low Is Your U-index?
It seems logical that these findings should be taken into account when formulating government policy. In their paper, Kahneman and Krueger propose a U-index, where the U stands for "unpleasant" or "undesirable." They write, "The U-index measures the proportion of time an individual spends in an unpleasant state." The U-index is like a golf score -- a low number is a good thing, and vice-versa.
It seems silly for government to evaluate policy on the basis of how it affects something like GDP or consumer spending, when there is a more precise measure of well-being available. The U-index would be a better number to use for fine-tuning policy. We can imagine how policies might evolve if, as Kahneman and Krueger suggest, the government views its goal as one of minimizing the average U-index for its citizens. Government would use laws, regulations, and monetary incentives to encourage activities that lead to pleasant states and to discourage activities that raise in the U-index. Married people have lower U-indexes (less time in an unpleasant state) than singles. Perhaps divorce laws ought to be strengthened to reflect this.
The authors report that spending time in what they delicately refer to as "intimate relations" helps to lower the U-index. Maybe the FCC needs to fine the TV networks that don't do more to promote sex. Raising children is more stressful than people expect. Government should incent couples to only have the number of children that is optimal for the U-index, which may turn out to be zero children. We may find that caring for people with severe mental or physical illness causes a lot of unpleasantness. Government would need to do something about that. Perhaps incurable people should be killed or put into separate colonies, as was once done with lepers.
The Slippery Slope
At this point, the reader may have surmised that I am not altogether sympathetic to Krueger and Kahneman. In fact, you may think that the totalitarian examples I have come up with are an unfair distortion of their work. They merely claimed to be "interested in maximizing society's welfare." Hasn't that always been the goal of economists? Indeed most economists, with the exception of the Austrian school, have seen the economist as an adviser to government. The advice of Adam Smith and David Ricardo was to promote free trade. To this day, I believe that the most reliable advice economists can give on topics such as trade, outsourcing, and immigration, is to point out the broad, long-term and often unappreciated benefits of these activities relative to their narrow, short-term and exaggerated adverse effects.
In the twentieth century, economists refined their analysis of the social benefits of markets. They proved that free markets lead to an optimal allocation of resources. This proof rests on a specific definition of "optimal allocation" and, more importantly, on perfectly competitive markets. Because some important industries clearly are not perfectly competitive, economists conceded the desirability of regulation of such industries. Then, during and after the Great Depression, economists focused on the need for government to manage the business cycle and in particular to fight unemployment. Finally, in the 1970's and later, economists discovered many types of market imperfections, notably problems related to information, that could be used to justify government intervention -- see my essay on Hayekians and Stiglitzians. My point is that -- with the exception of the Austrians -- economists have been going down a slippery slope of interventionism for a long time. Krueger and Kahneman are simply further down that slope.
The Role of Economists
Perhaps the original sin here is to think of the economist's role as that of policy advocate. The policy advocate combines the job of a technician with that of a preacher (Robin Hanson made this point to me during a discussion that we had after hearing a talk from the economist Deidre N. McCloskey). The technician predicts the consequences of a policy. The preacher argues for the policy.
With research into subjective well-being, economists are making statements about what constitutes the good life. In doing so, we are encroaching on territory once claimed by philosophers and theologians -- and, more recently, by self-help gurus. In the 70's, it was I'm OK, You're OK. Now, we are saying "I have positive net affect, you have positive net affect."
One justification for happiness research is that it is more "scientific" than the typical self-help book. The Kahneman-Krueger paper makes a strong case for the methodological rigor of their research program. Krueger is a highly-regarded Princeton professor. Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2002, an honor which no self-help author can yet claim.
Still, I have a feeling that if happiness research proceeds far enough, it will serve merely to rediscover some eternal truths. For example, this New York Times story cites work by Claudia Senik, who found that "that when people aspire to a better quality of life within the next 12 months, the attempt to reach that goal alone -- the anticipation independent of the outcome -- seems to bestow happiness in the present." Have the sages not been telling us this for centuries?
Meanwhile, it may be too early to proclaim that "science" is going to inform government policy to lead us down the path to a good life. We have had many false starts with "science" in the past. Consider "scientific socialism" or the psychological "science" of Freud or of B.F. Skinner. The "science" of subjective well-being may be another chimera.
I wonder how far Kahneman and Krueger would be willing to go to demonstrate their beliefs in the new "science." Doing research and writing papers only helps to increase their consumption opportunities, and it takes time away from social contacts. Surely, for the sake of their subjective well-being, they should stop spending time studying subjective well-being. My guess is that Kahneman and Krueger would say that they enjoy doing research. However, that only proves their point that individual preferences are untrustworthy, and that government intervention is needed. Somebody stop them, before they publish again.
7 May, 2006
The rape charge as weapon
By Cathy Young
The notorious case of alleged rape at Duke University has an explosive mix of elements: gender, race, class, and charges of sexual violence. Three members of the school's lacrosse team, privileged young white men, are accused of sexually assaulting a stripper who is African-American. The facts of the case remain murky. According to media reports, medical evidence seems to support the woman's claim of sexual assault, but no DNA match to any team members has been found, and two of the accused may have an alibi. The police report suggests that the woman was initially picked up when heavily intoxicated. The other exotic dancer who was on the scene initially disputed the alleged victim's claims but then changed her story somewhat, and apparently made inquiries about profiting from her role in the case.
In the current trial by media, charges of a rush to judgment abound. Women's advocates and many others claim that the alleged victim is being smeared as a slut by a sexist culture which holds that an ''unchaste" woman who is raped must have been ''asking for it." (Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh charmingly referred to charges that lacrosse team members had ''raped some hos.")
Meanwhile, some say that the quick assumption that the players are guilty reflects antimale prejudice. Writes columnist Kathleen Parker, ''Reaction to Duke's sad chapter is but the inevitable full flowering of the antimale seeds planted a generation ago. Thus, we need little prompting to assume that where there's a guy, there's a potential rapist."
Feminism has achieved real and important progress in the treatment of sexual assault victims. A couple of generations ago, a stripper at a party with athletes would have been viewed by many as fair game. That this is no longer the case surely makes us a more decent society. But even some people who applaud this change believe that in some cases, the pendulum has swung too far. Many feminists seem to think that in sexual assault cases the presumption of innocence should not apply. Appearing on the Fox News show ''The O'Reilly Factor," Monika Johnson-Hostler of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault declared that her role was ''to support a woman or any victim that comes forward to say that they were sexually assaulted." To O'Reilly's question, ''Even if they weren't?" Johnson-Hostler replied, ''I can't say that I've come across one that wasn't." Feminist pundits discussing this case, such as Wendy Murphy of the New England School of Law, exude an overwhelming presumption of guilt.
In some cases, activists have even protested what they believe is excessive coverage of false accusations of rape and innocently accused men. False charges do exist. FBI statistics show that about 9 percent of rape reports are ''unfounded" -- dismissed without charges being filed. This usually happens when the accuser recants or when her story is not just unsupported but contradicted by evidence. Some studies, including one by pioneering date rape researcher Eugene Kanin, put the rate of false accusations at one in four or even higher.
The results can be devastating. In 1996, Los Angeles police officer Harris Scott Mintz was accused of rape by a woman in the neighborhood he patrolled, and then by his own wife as well. At a pretrial hearing, the judge pronounced that he had no doubt about Mintz's guilt. Then, his wife admitted that she made up the charge because she was angry at her husband for getting in trouble with the law; subsequently, Mintz's attorneys uncovered evidence that the first accuser had told an ex-roommate she had concocted the rape charge in order to sue the county and that she had tried a similar hoax before. By the time the case collapsed, Mintz had spent five months in jail.
To recognize that some women wrongly accuse men of rape is not antifemale, any more than recognizing that some men rape women is antimale. Is it so unreasonable to think that a uniquely damaging charge will be used by some people as a weapon, just as others will use their muscle? Do we really believe that when women have power -- and there is power in an accusation of rape -- they are less likely to abuse it than men? As Columbia University law professor George Fletcher has written, ''It is important to defend the interests of women as victims, but not to go so far as to accord women complaining of rape a presumption of honesty and objectivity." If that's the lesson of the Duke case, then some good will have come of it after all.
FEMINISM EBBING AWAY
After years of holding America a virtual hostage, old-fashioned radical feminism appears to be just about dead. But don't take my word for it. No less a feminist authority than Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist who has never met a Bush-or Bush policy-that she's actually liked, has all but written feminism's obituary in her book, Are Men Necessary? Dowd notes that feminism "lasted for a nanosecond, but the backlash has lasted forty years."
I would take issue with that statement. Feminism has been thwarting America's growth and vitality for years-but, finally, a number of women are rejecting it for the silliness it is. Dowd writes, "It's the season of prim, stay-in-the-background First Lady Laura Bush, not assertive two-for-the-price-of-one First Lady Hillary. Where would you even lodge a feminist protest these days?"
The signs of the decay of feminism can be seen far beyond Pennsylvania Avenue. In cities across the U.S., women are chucking the corporate world and embracing Barney's world instead. They have found fulfillment where their grandmothers did-in the home, raising their children, offering love and support to their husbands. Many do not consider domestic work a drudgery-rather, they see it as a comforting alternative to the 24/7 career life.
But what has brought about this seismic shift in American life? Feminism may, in fact, be responsible. Young women have seen the fallout from feminism and, as a result, they want no part of it. Public opinion polls generally show that younger women flinch at the thought of being called "feminists." They may have been raised in the broken homes spawned by the nation's divorce culture, and they don't want their own children to suffer the fate that they did. In essence, they suffered parental loss early in their lives because their mothers were rarely home long enough to be a nurturing force. Instead of tugging on their mothers' apron strings, they were left to tug on the telephone cord that connected them to their working mothers' offices. They felt a distance from their mothers that no amount of therapy could adequately address.
In one noteworthy case, a poll commissioned by Faye Wattleton, former head of the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood, showed the generation gap which feminism caused. Wattleton asked women whether keeping abortion legal was a major concern, and they said "no." Years of Planned Parenthood's preaching about the alleged necessity of abortion-on-demand have failed to convince the younger generation, who realize that sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, and potential mates are missing because they were aborted by their misguided mothers. Younger women tend not to see abortion as a right-but rather as a profound wrong.
South Dakota's recent decision to ban virtually all abortions demonstrates that radical feminism's clarion call to kill the unborn is no longer being heeded. The U.S. Supreme Court-which has its share of pro-feminist holdovers-may still claim that abortion should be the law of the land, but elected representatives in South Dakota have proven that it doesn't have to be. Recent national public opinion polls also show quite clearly that Americans support legal abortion in only rare circumstances-in fact, most people believe it should be banned in 99 percent of all cases. Feminist icon Molly Yard, who was marching for abortion well into her golden years, must be turning over in her grave.
Young women simply don't relate to Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem, and the other "founding mothers" of the modern feminist movement. They see such women as out-of-touch, angry, and unfulfilled. They admire women who can keep a household together under trying circumstances. They may have iPods and Blackberries, but they still believe in the value of hearth and home. And they definitely believe that men are necessary.
The Food Police Go to the States
When we think about the men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to craft our Constitution, we usually picture the greatest men of their age, putting aside self interest and struggling to shape the blueprint of a nation. This is a worthy and honorable portrait and in many ways, an accurate one. But too often we forget that there were concrete events that provided the impetus for their gathering, and many related to commerce. The pre-Constitutional national government had proven completely inept when it came to managing affairs between the states, and merchants found it increasingly difficult to conduct business as a result of the myriad of often-conflicting state laws and regulations. Large states were able to impose their will on regions or even the whole country.
Today, we're starting to see a similar development in the world of food. Having failed to achieve any of their objectives at the federal level, food police groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest are turning to the states. And they're finding willing allies, especially in California, where trial lawyers and Attorney General Bill Lockyer have embraced their cause with gusto. Under a 1986 initiative called Prop 65, companies doing business in California must put warning labels on products that MIGHT contain a chemical that the state thinks COULD be a carcinogen or reproductive toxin. The fact that the chemical has been shown to be safe to humans in laboratory tests is irrelevant. So are the health benefits of the food or drink that must carry the label.
The list of "dangerous chemicals" contains more than 1,000 substances. And until recently, California assigned new chemicals to the list not by the scientific method but by lottery. Each chemical was assigned a number, which was then matched against that day's drawing in the California lottery. When a chemical's number came up, it magically became "dangerous."
Once a chemical makes it on the list, the trial lawyers take over. They can sue any company they suspect has a listed chemical in one their products. The companies almost always settle, and the trial lawyers cash big checks. The more important impact, however, is that these settlements, no matter how frivolous the complaint, force the companies to go back and reformulate their products - not just for California, but for the whole country. And if California ever forced a company to put a warning label on a product, the same warning label would have to be added to the product nationwide. Otherwise, the company would face lawsuits from trial lawyers in all fifty states.
Unfortunately, California isn't alone. The New Mexico legislature is currently considering a bill that would require warning labels for products containing aspartame, or ban it outright. Aspartame, of course, is the primary sweetener in diet soft drinks and a range of other beverages. New Mexico's campaign against aspartame comes in spite of a recent announcement from a federal panel of experts that the substance is perfectly safe. Needless to say, it also ignores consumers who enjoy diet soda and choose it as a healthier alternative to high-sugar, high-calorie drinks.
No single state should be able to impose its will on the whole country - especially California and New Mexico, states that are famously out of step. Fortunately, there's a bill before Congress to restore sanity and stop the food police and the trial lawyers in their tracks. It would do for food warning labels what's already been done for nutrition labels, agricultural products and the like - establish one clear, national standard and preempt state laws like Proposition 65. It's called the Uniformity for Food Act, and it recently passed the House. Now it's waiting for Senate action. Here's hoping they get busy. Otherwise, it won't be long before food packages have more disclaimers than drug commercials.
6 May, 2006
THE "INCORRECT" WAY TO TREAT CRIMINALS
It’s hard for me to think of a job that’s more frustrating these days than that of a local cop. Day in and day out, local police officers and sheriff’s deputies lay their lives on the line in an effort to bring criminals to justice.
However, shortly after they bring these punks to the jailhouse, the lawbreakers are out on the streets again, free to commit even more heinous crimes. It seems that many of today’s lawbreakers are nothing more than career criminals. You and I, as taxpayers, foot the bill for their care and feeding much of the time. And for that investment, what do we get? More crime, more frustration, more burned-out cops.
But Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County Arizona believes he has a better way. And for his crime-fighting efforts, he’s re-elected time and time again. What is the secret of Sheriff Joe’s success? To put it bluntly, he treats criminals like criminals. The convicts in his charge lose the precious privileges they might have at other correctional institutions.
For instance, they have no right to smoke. They have no right to read pornographic magazines. They have no write to bulk themselves up with state-of-the-art weightlifting equipment. And they have no right to see “R” movies in the cellblocks. Oh—and they have to pay for their meals—just like the rest of us do. Shocking? Maybe. But I say it’s a good shock to the system, one that just might reduce the repeat offender rate.
The sheriff’s inmates are required to work on county and city projects, providing local governments with no-cost labor. Interestingly enough, Sheriff Joe even started chain gangs for women so he would not be sued for discrimination.
Initially, he eliminated cable TV from jail, until he discovered there was a federal court order to require it. When he hooked up the cable again, he only permitted two stations: Disney and the Weather Channel. Cruel and unusual punishment? Hardly. That’s the type of punishment you’d give your seventeen-year-old for refusing to mow the lawn.
The sheriff even went so far as to purchase the Newt Gingrich lecture series, which he plays in the jails. When a reporter asked him if he had a lecture series by a Democrat, he noted that a Democratic lecture series might explain why many of the inmates where in jail in the first place.
When inmates complained after the sheriff took away their coffee (which has no nutritional value), he responded, “This isn’t the Ritz-Carlton. If you don’t like it, don’t come back.”
Convicts are human beings and they deserve to be treated with dignity. However, the fact of the matter is they have broken the law and many of them have little respect for law enforcement officers, their own grandmothers, and even themselves. Criminals do not need coddling. They need discipline. If their parents or caregivers failed to supply it when they were young, it’s up to people like Sheriff Joe to supply it in the best way he knows how.
Liberals may cringe at the sheriff’s tent city jails, but the accommodations are certainly no worse than what our brave fighting men and women face in Iraq and other hot spots around the world. Sheriff Joe issued his own fighting words when he said, “It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your damned mouths!”
We need more Sheriff Joes—jail keepers who are not afraid to run their jails like, well, jails. To make a criminal understand the severity of his actions…to make him see that only misery awaits him if he violates the law again…is actually the responsible, loving thing to do. True, it’s tough love—but sometimes that’s the only kind of love that works.
"PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT" OR PROPAGANDA?
“I am calling upon TVC supporters to contact their local CBS affiliates to ask that they refuse to air any public service announcements by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) next week during ‘As The World Turns,’” said Traditional Values Coalition Executive Director Andrea Lafferty today. “The underlying message of GLAAD’s PSA is that anyone who opposes homosexual conduct is prejudiced or intolerant. This is propaganda, not accurate information.”
Lafferty is responding to news that CBS has joined with GLAAD to place a PSA in “As The World Turns” to reinforce the message in the show about a boy who tells his parents he’s a homosexual. “GLAAD is using free advertising to push a message about homosexuality that is not true,” said Lafferty. “The homosexual condition is not in-born or unchangeable. Thousands of ex-homosexuals can attest to this fact and their testimonies are well documented by Exodus International.
GLAAD, says Lafferty is seriously misleading the American people about the nature of homosexuality and using its influence to censor what Americans read and see on TV and in movies about homosexuality. “GLAAD brags on its web site about the influence it has over Hollywood screenwriters and has even published a media guide to tell journalists how to report on homosexuality. They also tell journalists how to avoid giving a fair and balanced view of the other side on this issue. Ex-homosexual groups, psychological groups like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, and organizations like TVC are to be debunked, marginalized or ignored,” said Lafferty.
“GLAAD’s message in its PSA will be to stigmatize any person who thinks that homosexual conduct is immoral or abnormal,” said Lafferty. “The fact is that most people of faith believe that homosexuality is a sinful behavior and that it can be healed. GLAAD is telling Americans that their religious beliefs are wrong—when there is a wealth of scientific evidence that homosexual conduct is dangerous physically and emotionally to the individual.”
“The underlying anti-religious bigotry of GLAAD must be rejected by all Americans and CBS affiliates should refuse to run their inaccurate PSAs next week,” said Lafferty.
SOME "PATRIOTISM" SHOULD BE QUESTIONED
I don't think I can stomach one more wishy-washy Republican making the point that he's not questioning someone's patriotism, when in fact that person's patriotism is exactly what must be questioned. Many who claim to be patriots are not patriots at all, at least not of this country. They want another United States of America, one that doesn't exist but in the fantasies of their minds. The country of their affections is one in which:
* God is not a part
* Christians are not taken seriously
* Popular opinion is the acceptable standard of morality
* The Government's job is to provide for the needs of the people
* The wealth of the rich is to be redistributed to others
* Homosexuality and pornography are to be accepted as normal and healthy
* Citizens are not one nation under God (melting pot) but rather many nations (salad bowl) under many gods, or no god at all, different sub-cultures competing for a bigger slice of the American pie.
These characteristics do not describe the historical nature of our country, which has always found its stability in the sovereignty of God, and in His laws as we have come to understand them.
There is a socialist revolution afoot intent on replacing the America we know with one we don't know. These revolutionaries are not patriots, but rather subversives, and they must be identified as such. Most Republicans I hear demonstrate an ignorant naivet, when they presume that these liberal revolutionaries are dealing in "good faith" because they too are patriotic Americans. Hogwash! They are subversives who will lie, cheat, steal and do whatever they must for the cause of their atheistic socialist revolution. Republicans will lose elections, and America will lose its liberty, because of the ignorance and spinelessness on the part of Republicans.
This is nothing less than political warfare. Traditionalists must rise up to fight to preserve our nation and its systems and institutions against atheistic socialists who see their revolution as social progress. My heart yearns to hear a national leader proclaim, "No more Mr. Nice Guy. From now on we will fight to preserve this "One Nation Under God." Then perhaps our children may have the opportunity to defend it again in their time against this persistent enemy. When I was sworn into the Air Force many years ago I swore to protect our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The truth is we still have enemies both foreign and domestic. It's time we identified the enemy and questioned patriotism.
5 May, 2006
Big Brother Watches Britain: The rights of Englishmen make way for litres and ID cards
One of the oddest and most eerily prophetic passages in 1984 finds Winston Smith, unwisely searching for a key to the lost past, entering a sordid alehouse in a proletarian quarter. There he sees an old man, a survivor of former times, trying to order a pint of beer, once the standard English measure. The barman either does not understand him or pretends not to do so. "What in hell's name is a pint? Litre and half-litre, that's all we serve," he says.
England, likewise, has ceased to exist, and its sophisticated currency has been replaced by the standardized decimal dollars and cents of Oceania. In Brave New World, the dystopia is different in almost every way, but the drug soma is prescribed in metric grams, and England has also disappeared, this time into a globalized Fordist state, governed by ten world controllers. Mass production and advertising have brought into being the borderless, godless world dreamed of by Karl Marx, in which German and French are dead languages and Trotsky a common surname.
Both Orwell and Huxley, perhaps only half-consciously, recognized that national independence is one of the most important components of liberty and that local, particular culture was an obstacle to arbitrary power. And they were quite right. Their books were until very recently read here in Britain as enjoyable fantasies of the unthinkable. We could shiver as we read them, then put them down with a happy feeling that this was what we had avoided through the luck of our geography and the good sense of our forebears. Only some colossal, unimaginable catastrophe-Orwell talks vaguely of a nuclear surprise attack, Huxley of the Nine Years War-could connect our gentle, reasonable world with either of these howling nightmares.
Yet in the last few years there have been a number of events and developments in Britain that suggest no such cataclysm is necessary, but that James Madison was correct when he said, "There are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation."
There is now, for instance, an official campaign in Britain to use the law to abolish traditional English measures-hence the special eeriness of Orwell's alehouse prophecy. A market trader, Steve Thoburn, was filmed secretly by City Hall officials as he sold bananas to his customers in Sunderland, an industrial town in the north of England. They then prosecuted him because he had made the sale in pounds and ounces, rather than in kilograms and grams. There was no question of him giving short measure or of having done anything dishonest. His offense was to continue to use traditional measures, well-known to all his customers, rather than the global ones now preferred by authority. He was quite ready to sell his bananas in kilograms to anyone who asked. But they never did.
Mr. Thoburn was not exporting his bananas to a country that used the metric system, and bananas are not a medicine or a high-technology product whose precise mass might be crucial to a patient's health or an international space project. His prosecution was part of the forcible imposition of one culture upon another, as is usually done to conquered peoples to remind them of their subjugation or to the people of a revolutionary state who need to be told firmly that there is a new order. The case was taken all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, one of two foreign supreme courts that now outrank the highest tribunals of English law, including Parliament itself. The court, which usually concerns itself with upholding the left-wing liberties of "minorities," unsurprisingly upheld the fine levied on Mr. Thoburn. It is hard to see what the law in a free country should have had to do with such a private transaction. But in an unfree country, that is what the law is for: telling people who is in charge.
Pints of beer, currently spared from this process, will sooner or later suffer the same fate, and the words "litre and half-litre, that's all we serve" will eventually be heard in the proletarian alehouses of England. Those who thought this episode was trivial were like those who do not connect clouds with rain. For in the years that have followed, it has become clear that a deep and worrying change is taking place in the laws and police forces of England.
The difficulty lies in explaining how serious it is without falling into the language of panic. So I shall simply list some developments as dispassionately as I can. We have a Civil Contingencies Act that, once an emergency has been declared, gives the government the power to cancel existing laws, to order citizens to move or to stay where they are, in short, to act like a dictatorship. We have a succession of Terrorism Acts that give police officers enormous arbitrary authority they never had before, a power they have already begun to abuse. During a recent convention of the governing Labour Party in the seaside town of Brighton, this law was used dozens of times against people doing such dangerous things as wearing T-shirts bearing anti-government slogans. Notoriously, the police gave it as their excuse for helping to eject an elderly protestor from the convention hall after he heckled a member of the government.
Police officers in Britain have, by long tradition, sworn an oath to uphold the law and are servants of the Crown, not of the government. This means that they are legally obliged to refuse an unlawful order from a superior, technically loyal to the law but not to the state or the government of the day. Parliament has also resisted the creation of a national police force, and there has been no direct ministerial control of the police, as exists everywhere on the European continent. But late last year a new Serious and Organised Crimes Agency was created, whose officers are ordinary government servants and who are directly employed by the central state. Meanwhile, there are plans to merge the remaining local police forces into far larger units, which are only one step away from a national organization. The normal police are also being supplemented by large numbers of poorly trained Community Support Officers, as yet with limited powers of arrest, who like the grander SOCA are ordinary government servants, not sworn constables loyal to Crown and law.
While these changes proceed, the government also presses fiercely ahead with a scheme to compel all British citizens to register for identity cards. Officially, this is voluntary, but from 2008 anyone who renews a passport will be placed on the register and compelled to have his eyeballs scanned, his fingerprints taken, and his personal details compulsorily recorded-a fate hitherto reserved mainly for convicted sexual offenders and cattle. He will then, at great personal expense, be presented with an identity card for which he has not asked, though for an unspecified period the issue of the actual card will be optional. Registration will be increasingly inescapable. In a small country where most people take holidays abroad quite frequently, this will rapidly compel millions to take part in the allegedly non-compulsory scheme. Once this has happened, general compulsion and an obligation to carry this breathing license at all times will probably follow. Challenged to justify this measure, the government has claimed in turn that it will fight crime, terrorism, and identity theft. But these arguments have been repeatedly slashed to pieces in both Houses of Parliament. There is no good evidence that such cards will achieve anything of the kind and much evidence that they will increase official interference in private lives, as well as undermining the fundamental principle of free societies-that the state must justify itself to the citizenry rather than the other way round.
Meanwhile a measure passed in 1986 in a panicky attempt to curb bad behavior at soccer matches, the Public Order Act, is increasingly being used to prosecute people whose public statements are thought by police officers to be likely to cause offense to others. In several cases, objectors to homosexual equality laws have been prosecuted or threatened, in one case after a broadcaster on the BBC voiced criticisms of laws allowing homosexual couples to adopt children. Even Tony Blair has been investigated over published allegations that he was once rude about the people of Wales in an entirely private context.
Other measures include a law allowing terrorist suspects to be detained for 28 days without charge, a straightforward breach of Magna Carta. This revolting change is probably what the government always intended when it asked Parliament for a 90-day detention law. Yet Charles Clarke, the home secretary, whose cozy title conceals a would-be minister of the interior, publicly continues to press for 90 days and recently said that he preferred the continental system of justice to the Anglo-American model. No wonder. The only surprise is that he does not prefer the old Soviet system. It has been clear for years that the leaders of both our major parties find jury trial and the presumption of innocence highly inconvenient. The accused man's right to silence was dispensed with some years ago, and the protections against being tried twice on the same charge have been fatally weakened. Should you wish for more to alarm you, then anyone with access to the Web may study the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, whose jaw-crackingly dull title conceals an astonishing plan to allow government to bypass Parliament altogether and to make and change many laws at will, without even the excuse of an emergency.
Most British citizens assume that liberty grows wild in their country and needs neither cultivation nor protection, and they are unmoved by these events because they think that tyranny cannot happen here. Perhaps they are right, but if a tyranny does arise here, it will find all the weapons it needs conveniently to hand, sharpened, polished, and oiled. As our overstretched, under-equipped soldiers pursue the mirages of freedom and democracy in Iraq, real liberty and law go undefended in the nation where they first saw the light
We're Here, We're Square, Get Used to It: Why the Democratic Party is losing the housewife vote
By CAITLIN FLANAGAN
I am a 44-year-old woman who grew up in Berkeley who has never once voted for a Republican, or crossed a picket line, or failed to send in a small check when the Doctors Without Borders envelope showed up. I believe that we should not have invaded Iraq, that we should have signed the Kyoto treaty, that the Starr Report was, in part, the result of a vast right-wing conspiracy. I believe that poverty is our most pressing issue and that we should be pouring money and energy into its eradication. I believe that allowing migrant women and children to die of thirst in American deserts is a moral transgression that will stain us forever.
But despite all that, there is apparently no room for me in the Democratic Party. In fact, I have spent much of the past week on a forced march to the G.O.P. And the bayonet at my back isn't in the hands of the Republicans; the Democrats are the bullyboys. Such lions of the left as Barbara Ehrenreich, the writers at Salon and much of the Upper West Side of Manhattan have made it abundantly clear to me that I ought to start packing my bags. I'm not leaving, but sometimes I wonder: When did I sign up to be the beaten wife of the Democratic Party?
Here's why they're after me: I have made a lifestyle choice that they can't stand, and I'm not cowering in the closet because of it. I'm out, and I'm proud. I am a happy member of an exceedingly "traditional" family. I'm in charge of the house and the kids, my husband is in charge of the finances and the car maintenance, and we all go to church every Sunday. This month Little, Brown published a collection of my essays about family life called To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife. It's written in the spirit of one of my great heroes, the late housewife writer and feminist Erma Bombeck. It's not a book about social policy or alternative lifestyles or anything even vaguely political. It's a book about how much I miss my mother, who died recently, and about the struggles I have had fighting breast cancer without my mom around to help me. It's a book that pays tribute to the '50s housewife instead of ridiculing her.
As far as I can tell, every reviewer and reporter who has encountered my book has assumed that I'm a conservative Republican. At the end of an interview on a national TV network, a reporter said, "Caitlin, I can't let you go without asking you one question." Here was her question: Was it really true that I'm a Democrat? Those reporters' assumptions don't tell you anything about me, nor do they tell you much about the reporters themselves: they made an honest mistake. What it tells you a whole lot about is the Democratic Party and the face it projects to the world. It's a party that supports gay families, as I do, and has vast sympathy for many other kinds of alternative lifestyles. But we let the Republicans have complete ownership of the image of the traditional family. And that's one reason we keep losing elections.
Most of the 60 million people who voted against George W. Bush have lifestyles more like mine than the Democratic Party would like to admit. Most of us aren't the Hollywood elite or the nontraditional family. Many of us do what I do, which is go to church on Sunday, work hard and value my marriage. Again, it's not so much my party's platform that rejects the family; God help us all if Bush's brutality to the poor continues much longer. It's a small but very vocal minority, the Democratic pundits, who abhor what I represent because it doesn't fit the stereotypical image of the modern woman who has escaped from domestic prison. Fifty years ago, a stay-at-home mom who loved her husband would not automatically be assumed to be a Republican. The image of the Democratic Party that used to come to mind was of a workingman and his wife sitting at the kitchen table worrying about how they were going to pay the bills and voting for Adlai Stevenson because he was going to help them squeak by every month and maybe even afford to send their kids to college.
The Democrats made a huge tactical error a few decades ago. In the middle of doing the great work of the '60s--civil rights, women's liberation, gay inclusion--we decided to stigmatize the white male. The union dues--paying, churchgoing, beer-drinking family man got nothing but ridicule and venom from us. So he dumped us. And he took the wife and kids with him. And now here we are, living in a country with a political and economic agenda we deplore, losing election after election and wondering why. It's the contempt, stupid.
CLINTON STILL GRANDSTANDING
Bill Clinton has managed to persuade the giants of the U.S. beverage industry to agree to take an active part in the fight against childhood obesity. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Cadbury Schweppes and the American Beverage Association, the country's top drinks distributors, have opted into the program and have promised to reduce the amount of calories and sizes of some of their most popular products sold in schools.
This effectively means that for 35 million U.S. public school children in future the number of calories in school beverages will be capped at 100 except for certain milks and juices; a can of regular Coca-Cola has 140 calories.
Under the agreement, sugary and calorific drinks will no longer be available in vending machines and cafeterias, or at after-school activities held on school grounds. The restrictions will also apply to drinks schools buy from the distributors for sales at sporting events and fundraisers.
Clinton a self-confessed "fat kid" clinched the deal which was revealed at his New York-based foundation.
Since the permitted milk and fruit juices are highly calorific, nothing will be achieved
4 May, 2006
Who's afraid of the working class?
Once, the political elite of Britain was gripped by fear and loathing of workers. Now it just loathes them
Once, the political elite was gripped by fear and loathing of the working classes. Now it just loathes them. In another time, our rulers listened anxiously for the sound of proletarian boots on the march. Now they look down upon the proles as if they were something to be scraped off the bottom of their shoes.
Margaret Hodge, New Labour's employment minister, marks her white working-class constituents in Barking, east London, eight out of 10 for prejudice and stupidity, claiming that is how many of them might vote for the British National Party in the forthcoming local elections. Denis McShane, a Labour MP from Yorkshire, has sought to update the old divide between the respectable and disrespectable poor, asserting that 'the number one issue for my constituents in Rotherham is the loutish, often violent, sometimes feral behaviour of different groups in working-class communities'. Perhaps he should rename it the divide between the Chavs and the Chav-nots.
Much the same message about the ignorant, lumpen lower orders is clear in politics away from the UK. In France, for example, commentators claim that the run-up to next year's presidential election campaign is a contest between Nicolas Sarkozy and the Front National to see which can stoop the lowest to win the supposedly racist votes of the white working class.
In British popular culture, working-class people are now routinely depicted as living low lives in a yob-culture cycle of binge-drinking, obesity, violence, teenage pregnancy and all-round Chavdom. Some are vilified as the undeserving poor living on welfare benefits, others as the undeserving affluent living flash on 'easy money' and credit. It would appear that, when they are not despoiling the environment with their big, loud cars or driving twee little shops out of business with their supermarket addiction, they are embarrassing Britain abroad with their appalling table manners and football songs. It seems a wonder any of these dreadful people have the time to entertain the nation by shouting at one another about their lies and infidelities on those daytime television 'talk' shows.
Expressions of contempt for 'ordinary people' are everywhere, from self-styled "ordinary bloke" Jamie Oliver's criticisms of the eating habits of 'white trash' families, to the latest Lonely Planet travel guide's description of the ordinary English as obese people who drink too much beer and watch too much TV. Wherever do those Islamic fundamentalists who rant on about our debased British culture get their ideas from?
There is of course nothing new about the abuse of the working classes, from the days when they were known as 'the great unwashed' onwards. But there is something different happening today. In the past, the hatred of the sullen masses was motivated by genuine fear, a sense that these people posed a threat to the status quo. First 'the mob' and then, more importantly, the movement of organised labour were feared as a force capable of anything. Every time the proletariat stirred itself, in a strike or popular revolt, it sent shockwaves through the system.
Today, the capitalist order faces no such threat from the working class. The labour movement is an empty shell, traditional working-class communities lie atomised and impotent. The worst that the political class fears is that white working-class votes might cost it a few council seats to the BNP - an embarrassment, but hardly the storming of the Winter Palace. Yet working-class people and lifestyles are subject to vituperative attacks.
One striking expression of how things have changed is that New Labour figures are now in the forefront of sermonising about the politics of working-class behaviour. In the past the Labour Party - while often staffed and run by middle-class professionals - saw it as important to maintain its standing as the political representatives of the labour movement. That New Labour leaders no longer feel any such compunction reflects the disappearance of the working class as a distinctive political force with a voice of its own.
Those in authority may worry about what white people in inner cities will do on polling day, and feel afraid to pass a posse of chavs on the street. But they do not fear the working class as a collective force. That is why they feel free to caricature these people with impunity. Look at those extraordinary pictures of Prince William and his pals from the military academy at Sandhurst, all dressed up as cartoon chavs for a party. Strangely, army officer cadets didn't dress up as striking miners 'for a laugh' in the 1980s (unless perhaps those rumours of infiltration of the coalfields were true).
What drives today's expressions of loathing and contempt is not fear of any threat from the working classes, but anxiety of another variety within the political and cultural elite. It is a self-conscious feeling of insecurity about their own status and sense of purpose in society today. Striking postures against the proles is an exercise in implicit self-flattery. Those looking down are saying that, whatever doubts they might have about their own values and standing, they are better than that. Their aim is to get closer to the moral high ground by standing on those they see as chip-fattened lowlife.
In this sense the new politics of behaviour pioneered by New Labour, with its focus on the apparently uncivilised eating, drinking, smoking and living habits associated with the working class, can be understood as the new form of moral snobbery. The current association of racism with the uncivilised lumpen proletariat is particularly striking in that context. It is worth recalling that, when the politics of race first reared its ugly head in British society, long before mass immigration, it was aimed against the lower orders of white society who were said to be polluting the national and racial stock.
The flipside of this vilification is the attempt by some writers and cultural commentators to patronise the working classes, to put a tick where others put a cross. So they seek to celebrate 'chavness', or to romanticise working-class communities, trying to imbue the banalities of life with deeper meaning. This reminds me of the cult of the 'noble savage' in earlier times. Once a group like the Highland clans had been defeated, they could safely be patronised and celebrated by their 'betters'. Now that the working class has been routed as a political force, it can be patted on the head as a cultural artefact. The effect is to reduce the white working class to another group of victims, one more expression of grievance-fuelled identity politics.
Today's assault on working-class degeneracy only confirms how degenerate the political and cultural elite has become. Far removed from the realities of the life that most people lead, these political leaders cannot even comprehend that there could be good reasons why disaffected working-class voters might be prepared to vote for anybody rather than the established parties. The way that they now condemn the aspiration of millions for a better life as 'crass consumerism' or even 'environmental vandalism' shows that they live on a different planet.
There is no point trying to romanticise a workaday life, or waxing nostalgic about the good old days of class solidarity. But there is a point in taking a stand against the chav-bashers, who forcefully express the mood of misanthropy and miserabilism among the insecure class at the top of society. It appears that the elite can only justify its own position atop the heap today by looking upon others as a pile of crap. That is what I call loathsome.
NEW ZEALAND: MAORI BELIEFS TRUMP PROPERTY RIGHTS
The whole idea of private property is pretty alien to Maoris. From the names below, the offenders were Maoris or other Polynesians
A police investigation has cleared a Northland police officer of theft after he helped take hundreds of oysters from an oyster farm without permission. Police caught off-duty Kaikohe officer Senior Constable Robert Hippolite and two other men, named as Mark Apiti and Manuel Kahura, with about 600 oysters in a boat near the Waikare Inlet oyster farms last December 29. The farm's owner, Alan Brain, said he had seen the men taking the oysters and rang police, who caught the trio.
However, a police investigation has cleared the men. Theft charges were dropped early this month. Northland police boss Superintendent Viv Rickard said that after a thorough police investigation a legal opinion had been sought. "It was clear from the investigation that the people gathering the shellfish believed they were entitled to gather the oysters. The legal opinion recommended no prosecution take place," Mr Rickard said.
Bay of Islands Senior Sergeant Dan Dickison wrote to Mr Brain saying the main reason a prosecution did not proceed was because the men believed Waikare oyster farmers had given a "general mandate to the community to help themselves to the oysters due to their lack of commercial value caused by sewage contamination".
Mr Brain said he had "never given anyone a right to take oysters at any time". His oysters were still of commercial value because he could transfer them to clean water on a second oyster farm at Kerikeri and on-sell them after two months, according to Northland Health criteria. The Waikare Inlet oyster farms have been closed since 2001 due to contamination by viruses carried in human effluent.
Mr Brain was concerned at health risks to the community with "tens of thousands" of oysters being plundered from the Waikare Inlet farms - and he was concerned at the precedent set by the decision not to prosecute. He was now in a bind if he caught others taking his oysters. "I am now at an absolute loss as to how to protect my property as a law-abiding citizen. I totally rely on the justice system to protect me. It's either that or I protect myself."
Recent media coverage of levels of obesity among children in Britain continues to inflate the scale of the phenomenon by using statistical methods that are fundamentally flawed. Over the weekend, the Guardian, for example, claimed on the basis of data from the Health Survey for England (HSfE) that '26.7 per cent of girls and 24.2 per cent of boys [aged 11-15] qualified as obese'. And yes, that is what the short release from the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre said as well.
The problem is that these figures are based on the now outdated UK National BMI standards for defining obesity in children - cut-off points that have been described by leading experts in the field as 'arbitrary' and 'confusing'.
In a letter to the British Medical Journal back in October 2001, Susan Jebb and Andrew Prentice, both of the MRC Human Nutrition Research Group, said that the choice of cut-off points used to create these figures 'effectively inflates the number of overweight and obese children.. Exaggerating the absolute prevalence of obesity is ultimately unhelpful since it leads to confusing discrepancies in the transition from children to adults.'
This issue was also recognised by the authors of the government's reports on the HSfE some time ago. In the 2003 Summary of Key Findings, they noted that: 'About one in 20 boys (5.5 per cent) and about one in 15 girls (7.2 per cent) aged 2-15 were obese in 2002, according to the international classification.... In comparison with the international classification, obesity estimates derived by the National BMI percentiles classification were much higher (16.0 per cent for boys and 15.9 per cent for girls).'
Simple arithmetic shows that the National BMI standards used in the Health Survey for England reports exaggerate the prevalence of obesity in boys by nearly 200 per cent and in girls by over 100 per cent. Strangely, however, subsequent reports from the HSfE have not even mentioned the definitional problems and have simply quoted statistics based on the old national standards without any qualification. It is not surprising, therefore, that people, including journalists, get confused.
There is no excuse for presenting data in this way when even organisations such as the International Obesity Task Force, who developed the international standards in the first place, are urging everybody to stop doing so.
There is, of course, still evidence of an increasing prevalence of obesity among children whichever set of statistics one uses. But a 'real' shift from 3.9 per cent in 1995 to around 7 per cent in 2004 has very different implications from the reported 11.5 per cent to 18.5 per cent rise. The Guardian's headline 'Child obesity has doubled in a decade' was also particularly misleading and unhelpful in this context, because neither set of figures shows that.
Inflating the figures in this way does not help us to develop sensible strategies for tackling the issues. It allows people to get away with the use of terms such as 'public health time bomb' and gory predictions such as the one from Diabetes UK that 'we will soon be seeing our children growing up losing limbs and going blind'. As Jebb and Prentice concluded:
'Public health policy will best be served by a single definition of overweight and obesity in children and young people, which is consistently applied. We urge health professionals, scientists, and editors to adopt the International Obesity Task Force's proposed reference standard for obesity in children.'
Let us hope that the next reports from the Department of Health take heed of this advice.
3 May, 2006
DELIBERATELY BLIND FEMINIST COMPLAINTS
April is a beautiful month in Washington DC: blooming trees line the streets, gardens erupt with colorful tulips, and people open windows to welcome the warm air. It's a season for optimism. Unless, of course, you are a part of the liberal feminist movement. For the feminists, April is a season for complaining.
Martha Burk, President of the National Council of Women's Organizations, began the month celebrating her own spring tradition-protesting the PGA Masters' tournament in Augusta, Georgia. This year's protest was tame in comparison to her past media-hyped events. She published the obligatory op-ed and press release denouncing Augusta National Golf Club's male-only membership policy and threatening companies (like Exxon) that support the tournament. Fans cheering Phil Mickelson's victory were none the wiser.
But the real feminist complaint festival begins on Tuesday April 25th. To feminists, it's Equal Pay Day, a pseudo-holiday when National Organization for Women and National Council of Women's Organizations lament the disparity between men's and women's wages. Feminists groups claim that the first four months of the year were spent making up for last year's gap. On April 25, women have finally earned as much as men in 2005.
There's one problem with Equal Pay Day-the premise is bogus. Department of Labor data confirms that the median wage of a full-time working woman is three-quarters of that of a full-time working man, but like too many statistics, this fact ignores more than it reveals. This data doesn't account for relevant factors such as occupation, experience and educational attainment.
Feminists may not like it, but the evidence shows that women's choices-not discrimination-cause wage gap. Warren Farrell - a former board member of the National Organization for Women's New York chapter - identifies 25 decisions that individuals make when choosing jobs in his book, Why Men Earn More. Women, he finds, are much more likely to make decisions that increase their quality of life, but decrease their pay.
Most people understand that many women often take time out of the workforce to care for family members, particularly young children. Even women who work full-time log fewer hours in the office on average than full-time working men. It is common sense that a worker who remains employed continually is going to make more than someone who drops out of the workforce for several years.
Working less is just one of the decisions women make that results in less take-home pay. Women also avoid dangerous jobs (more than nine in ten occupational deaths occur among men) and jobs that place them outdoors in the elements. Women are less willing than men to move for a job or travel frequently. Dr. Farrell's book provides a roadmap for how individual women can increase their earnings, by making different choices, including working more hours in the office, assuming more risks or relocating for a job.
It's important for women to recognize these tradeoffs. Women who hear the feminists' rhetoric on Equal Pay Day may feel exploited. But before embracing the victim myth, they should consider how their choices have affected their careers. Most women will find that their decisions have been made based on many factors. Women care about financial compensation. But they also consider the number of hours in the office, whether the work is personally fulfilling, and the convenience of the workplace.
Men place a higher priority on pay than women when assessing a job. Why do feminist join men in fixating on this one aspect of work life? Why should we assume that men have the right priorities? Instead of urging women to act more like men, feminist ought to celebrate the choices that women make, including the choice to forgo income in favor of more time with family or jobs that are personally rewarding.
I'm partially to blame for the income gap. I've chosen a less-lucrative career that allows me to work from home while I care for my infant daughter. But you won't see that in the statistics: when feminists look at the data, I'm simply a full-time worker who is not making as much as she could. I'm not a victim. I'm just someone who has made choices that make the most sense for my personal situation. And unlike the feminists, I'm not complaining.
By Jeff Jacoby
In January 2005, Britain's Prince Harry attended a birthday party dressed as a Nazi. When the London Sun published a picture of the prince in his German desert uniform and swastika armband, it triggered widespread outrage and disgust. In scathing editorials, Harry was condemned as an ignorant and insensitive clod; months later, he was still apologizing for his tasteless costume. "It was a very stupid thing to do," he said in September. "I've learnt my lesson."
For a more recent example of totalitarian fashion, consider Tim Vincent, the New York correspondent for NBC's entertainment newsmagazine, "Access Hollywood." Twice in the last few weeks, Vincent has introduced stories about upcoming movies while sporting an open jacket over a bright red T-shirt -- on which, clearly outlined in gold, was a large red star and a hammer-and-sickle: the international emblems of totalitarian communism. And what was the public reaction to seeing *those* icons of cruelty and death turned into the latest yuppie style? Furor? Moral outrage? Blistering editorials? None of the above.
Nazi regalia may be strictly taboo, but communist emblems have never been trendier. Enter "hammer and sickle" into a shopping search engine, and up pop dozens of products adorned with the Marxist brand -- T-shirts and ski caps, bracelet charms and keychains, posters of Lenin and "Soviet Kremlin Stainless Steel Flasks."
The glamorization of communist imagery is widespread. On West 4th Street in Manhattan, the popular KGB Bar is known for its literary readings and Soviet propaganda posters. In Los Angeles, the La La Ling boutique sells baby clothing emblazoned with the face of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro's bloody henchman. At the House of Mao, a popular eatery in Singapore, waiters in Chinese army uniforms serve Long March Chicken, and a giant picture of Mao Zedong dominates one wall.
"A French government agency, the National Lottery, was crazy enough to use Stalin and Mao in one of its advertising campaigns," observed Stephane Courtois in his introduction to The Black Book of Communism, a scholarly survey of communist crimes. "Would anyone even dare to come up with the idea of featuring Hitler or Goebbels in its commercials?"
What explains such "communist chic?" How can people who would never dream of drinking in a pub called Gestapo cheerfully hang out at the KGB Bar? If the swastika is an undisputed symbol of unspeakable evil, can the hammer-and-sickle and other emblems of communism be anything less?
Between 1933 and 1945, Adolf Hitler's Nazis slaughtered some 21 million people, but the communist nightmare has lasted far longer and its death toll is far, far higher. Since 1917, communist regimes have sent more than 100 million victims to their graves -- and in places like North Korea, the deaths continue to this day. The historian R.J. Rummel, an expert on genocide and government mass murder, estimates that the Soviet Union alone annihilated nearly 62 million people: "Old and young, healthy and sick, men and women, even infants and the infirm, were killed in cold blood. They were not combatants in civil war or rebellions; they were not criminals. Indeed, nearly all were guilty of . . . nothing."
Yet communism rarely evokes the instinctive loathing that Nazism does. Prince Harry's swastika was way over the line, but Tim Vincent's hammer-and-sickle was kitschy and cool. Why? Several reasons suggest themselves.
One is that in the war to defeat Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union fought with the Allies. World War II eventually gave way to the long-drawn Cold War, but America's alliance with Moscow left in many minds the belief that when it counted most, the communists were on our side.
Moreover, the Nazis didn't camouflage their hatefulness. Their poisonous rhetoric made only too clear that they loathed Jews and other "subhumans" and believed an Aryan master race was destined to rule all others. By contrast, communist movements have typically masked their malice and ruthlessness with appealing talk of peace, equality, and an end to exploitation. Partly as a result, the myth persists to this day that communism is really a noble system that has never been properly implemented.
Third, the excesses of Joseph McCarthy hurt honest anticommunism. In the backlash to McCarthyism, many journalists and intellectuals came to dismiss any strong stand against communists as "Red baiting," and conscientious liberals found it increasingly difficult to take a vocal anti-Soviet stand.
But perhaps the most compelling explanation is the simplest: visibility. Ever since the end of World War II, when photographers entered the death camps and recorded what they found, the world has had indelible images of the Nazi crimes. But no army ever liberated the Soviet Gulag or halted the Maoist massacres. If there are photos or films of those atrocities, few of us have ever seen them. The victims of communism have tended to be invisible -- and suffering that isn't seen is suffering most people don't think about. "Communist chic?" The blood of 100 million victims cries out from the ground. To wear the symbols of their killers is no fashion statement, but the ultimate in bad taste.
THE INCORRECTNESS OF GAMBLING
American addiction expert Stanton Peele chastises British commentators who see gamblers as fickle victims: 'As a general rule, convincing people that they are powerless to influence events in their lives is not a good way of going about things. And telling gamblers that they are sick or diseased is likely only to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.'
Stanton Peele, the loudest critic of what he calls America's 'addiction to addiction' - where it has become the norm to see everything from compulsive shopping to biting your fingernails as diseases that require medical or psychological intervention - has come to Britain to give a talk at a conference in Bath, Somerset. He arrives at a time of great concern about gambling addiction, where numerous commentators claim that the New Labour government's support for more super casinos will cause an 'epidemic' of problem gambling and precipitate a 'public health crisis'. 'That kind of language seems based on the idea that people can't help themselves', says Peele. 'In fact they can.'
Peele has been described as a thorn in the side of America's therapy industry. In the land that has given us Oprah, phrases such as 'damaged goods', and books on chocolate, shopping and sex addiction (who can forget when the slightly slimy Hollywood star Michael Douglas confessed to being a 'recovering sex addict'?), Peele is in a minority who criticises the 'medicalisation' of personal and social problems. 'The US in particular specialises in trying to define people's problems in medical terms', he says. 'It's tempting because then you think you can come up with some treatment and solve the problem. But of course it doesn't work like that.'
One of his big worries is that defining every compulsive experience as a kind of illness ends up convincing people that there is little they can do to overcome their difficulties. 'The disease model of addiction makes everything into an accident. It says "Oh you have a gene or a certain propensity and that is why you do what you do". It discourages people from facing up to the uncomfortable truths of why they spend too much time on slot machines or have 15 drinks instead of three. It tells people there isn't much they can do to turn their life around, without a lifetime of guidance from therapists, that is.'
So people who scoff too much chocolate aren't just being greedy or comfort-eating to avoid something else - they apparently have a medical addiction triggered, according to some accounts, by the 'love chemical' phenylethylamine found in chocolate. And Michael Douglas, pre-Catherine Zeta-Jones, was not just a serial womaniser or cheat (allegedly) who could stop sleeping around if he really wanted to; he was a 'sex addict' who could not control his urges.
In Britain, all eyes are currently focused on gambling. The government has faced fierce criticism over its Gambling Bill, which will allow eight Vegas-style super-casinos to open and for 24-hour gambling in certain establishments. Reading some of the critical coverage you would think the government had implanted a disease in the population. It might be fighting the arrival of bird flu, but apparently it is encouraging the spread of 'gambling sickness'. The Daily Mail says Britain 'faces an epidemic of gambling addiction'. '[C]rime will increase, lives will be ruined and families destroyed as punters lured by the promise of big-money prizes become hooked...mesmerised', the paper says, envisioning a 28 Days Later-style Britain with slot machines rather than monkeys turning the masses into zombies.
In the Guardian this week, Polly Toynbee worried about the creation of more and more 'dead-eyed punters', and accused the government of giving a 'green light for an addiction that blights children's lives' (4). Others have explicitly discussed gambling as an illness. In 2004, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Draft Gambling Bill said that if the government went ahead with its plans then the Department of Health should be readied to deal with the inevitable 'public health' consequences. The BBC website reports that gambling is an 'illness' which some people have to 'live with every day until they die'. There is even talk - though more in America than in Britain - of a 'gambling gene' that makes some people become hooked on the slots or the horses.
'It's easy to forget that for most people gambling is a pastime, not a disease', says Peele. 'A lot of people drink alcohol and only a few of them become addicted - and quite a lot of people gamble and not too many of them become addicted. Worrying endlessly about the creation of more incurable gambling addicts because super casinos are opening is like fretting about more alcoholics every time a new bar opens on your street.'
Peele is no fan of gambling. He recognises that for some people gambling can become problem gambling, and argues that, yes, it can be compulsive and addictive. 'It is a very immediate and powerful experience that has the capability of captivating people's consciousness with detrimental effects, and that's a kind of definition of addiction', he says. He's also critical of governments which profess to be terribly worried about compulsive behaviour in the general population but who sponsor casinos because gambling has big tax benefits. He points out an irony in America. Certain state governments are starting to 'feel the financial pinch', he says, of having successfully reduced the number of smokers through bans on smoking in public places and other measures - so now they are looking to gambling as a way of making money. 'The way they see it, at least gambling doesn't cause lung cancer', he says, sceptically.
But Peele has little time for the idea that every gambler is a short step from becoming a problem gambler, and that these problem gamblers are somehow zombies on a path to self-destruction. 'I don't think experts realise how damaging it is to tell people they are weak and cannot help themselves. If you talk to alcoholics now they will say they can't overcome it, that they have to live with their "disease" forever. How useful is it to tell overweight people or gamblers that they have a disease? It is such a strange enterprise.' He notes that very often it is liberals who pursue this enterprise. 'In general I'm a political liberal', he says. 'So I'm surprised that liberals are attracted by the idea that people can't control their behaviour and need to be pitied. That is a very infantilising view.'
In fact, individuals often come through their trials and tribulations. 'People can overcome these things on their own. In the United States, the growth in gambling is highly focused on college campuses. If you're a 20-year-old student worried about your finals, and spending a lot of time on gambling websites trying to forget it all, does that mean you're a lifetime gambling addict? No. And convincing people that they are is counterproductive. In most cases, like with drinking and drugs, people mature, they develop responsibilities like work and families, and they realise that they have to desist from their bad habits. In short, they get a life.'
Indeed, at the conference 'Unhooked Thinking' in Bath tomorrow, Peele will argue that most people who develop a drinking or gambling problem are better left untreated, or certainly untreated by disease-model therapists. 'I will reveal that even in the US, where alcohol treatment is rampant, three quarters of people who were ever alcoholic do not undergo treatment - and a larger percentage of these people overcome alcoholism than those who undergo treatment. Those who are treated by something like Alcoholics Anonymous - which very explicitly tells them they have a disease - are often less able to control or moderate their alcoholic intake.'
'And when it comes to problem gamblers, too', says Peele, 'let's not tell them they're diseased or zombified. Most of them will use their own volition to get a grip'.
2 May, 2006
CRIME-LOVING BRITAIN AGAIN
Not only soft on crime but tough on crime victims!
A grandmother spent a night in a police cell after a scuffle with a group of children in which she was threatened with a piece of wood. Brenda Robinson, 66, who does volunteer work at a church in Bournemouth, said that she was given only a glass of water by police before being interviewed the next morning. She was arrested for assault after challenging the youngsters, one of whom had kicked a football against a family car.
She said she had given the boy, 11, "a clip around the ear" after he called her a "f****** bitch". Mrs Robinson was then threatened in her garden by a teenage boy carrying a lump of wood, and two 13-year-old girls, one of whom starting pushing her. She said that she pulled one of the teenage girls by the hair and threw her out of the garden. Shortly afterwards the police arrived and arrested the grandmother for assault.
Mrs Robinson, who said her daughter-in-law's partner had been killed by a gang of youths five years ago, told The Times that "the dice were loaded against law-abiding people". She said: "I have never been in any trouble before so I was just horrified when the police came. I told the officers exactly what had happened and they arrested me. I was kept in a cell all night and was just given a glass of water. It was just awful, I couldn't believe what was happening to me. "I am glad I stood up to these youths and I stand by what I did. But this sends out the message that if you stand up for yourself in this country you are likely to spent the night in the cells."
Mrs Robinson said she had been trying to protect her daughter-in-law, Angie Laundon, who had been "hysterical" when she saw the youths kicking the football at her car.Clive Wilcox, Mrs Laundon's late partner, was attacked by youths outside a convenience store in Bournemouth five years ago. He was hit by a youth and fell to the ground, striking his head on the pavement. He died in hospital the following day. His killers have never been caught.
Mrs Laundon said that the incident on April 21 had brought those memories flooding back. "I remember it as if it was yesterday. I am trying hard to get on with my life but this has made me ill. I am off work with shingles and my doctor has said it is because of the stress," she said. Mrs Robinson, who will learn this week if charges will be pressed, criticised the police treatment of her. "They make all sorts of special arrangements for youths but no arrangements for older people," she said.
BRITISH TOWN TO INDOCTRINATE FOUR-YEAR-OLDS ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY
Dudley education chiefs are planning anti-homophobic lessons for primary children as young as four amid fears of bullying in schools across the borough. The authority is concerned about the effects of all types of bullying in borough schools and is set to push through its anti-bullying policy this week. Cabinet member for lifelong learning Councillor David Vickers will make the final decision.
Dudley's Directorate of Children's Services plans to stamp out bullying with preventative measures including anti-homophobia training, anger management lessons and 'buddy' systems where pupils are befriended. A Dudley Council spokesman stressed that different age groups would be targeted with lessons aimed at their level of understanding. He said: "Many of the measures in the anti-bullying policy are already in place at borough schools but it is good practice to formalise these actions in council policy. "Pupils at both primary and secondary schools are taught equality and diversity, although curriculum activity is age relevant."
Under planned policy guidelines, schools will be required to monitor types and incidents of bullying by submitting annual summaries to education bosses. Councillor David Vickers said although bullying was no more prevalent in Dudley than in any other borough, the type of bullying needed to be questioned. He said anti-homophobic education came in various guises and lessons to teach children to respect others would be for all ages. He said: "It's something we are making sure we have covered. I do not believe we have a problem. We try and teach pupils the outcome of their actions in a softer way. In my day it was the cane."
Lifelong learning select committee chairman Councillor Susan Ridney said she had received some reports of homophobic name calling at Coseley's Christ Church Primary where she is a governor. She said: "You wonder if they actually know what they are saying. It's just a word they hear." She said she needed to reserve judgment on the policy until she knew the detailed content of the courses but welcomed the idea.
BRITISH POLICE CANNOT TAKE THE BUS
Until the bus has been "assessed". Better for him to stay at home, apparently
A police officer was stopped from using a bus to travel to his village beat because of health and safety fears. The situation began in January, when Police Community Support Officer Ian Yeomans failed to attend a parish council meeting. It emerged that he did not have his own transport, but could not use the bus until a health and safety assessment was carried out. Gloucestershire police said the problem had now been resolved.
Inspector Steve Williams said: "There were two difficulties with using a bus - the amount of equipment our officers have to carry and communication. "We obviously have a duty of care and have to assess the health and safety aspects and logistics of the situation. "These assessments have now taken place and I'm quite happy to have staff use buses and we can put in place measures to overcome communication problems."
British "Superwomen" find out what divorce feels like
High-flying career women are discovering a costly downside to their success - divorce settlements that force them to pay out huge sums to their less wealthy ex-husbands. Law firms are reporting an increasing number of cases in which men earn windfalls through divorce as women outperform their husbands in the workplace.
One London law firm, Mishcon de Reya - which handled the divorce of Diana, Princess of Wales - is currently dealing with 10 cases where the wife earns more than the husband. Sandra Davis, head of family law, said the wives were "serious players, businesswomen who are going to have to pay money to their spouses". Dawsons, another London law firm, is dealing with six divorces in which the woman is earning well into six figures. Suzanne Kingston, head of family law, said: "There's the possibility of a spousal maintenance order to the husband . . . most women don't imagine they would be liable for this, so it surprises them." The rate of change has been rapid. "Twenty years ago there were no reported cases of men obtaining money from their wives on divorce - now it is routine," said Simon Bruce, head of family law at Farrer & Co, the Queen's solicitors.
Among the high earners who have paid out to ex-husbands is Kate Winslet, the actress. A payment of about 500,000 pounds was agreed to finalise her divorce in 2001 from Jim Threapleton, her husband of three years.
For Susan Singleton, a mother of five from Pinner, Middlesex, her divorce three years ago meant handing over nearly 900,000 pounds to her ex-husband Martin after 20 years of marriage. As a lawyer, her earnings are over 200,000 pounds and dwarf those of her former husband, a teacher and organist. Singleton's divorce settlement forced her to remortgage the 1.9 million pound family home for 1.1 million, and she also pays school and university fees of 50,000 a year. "I'm in the same position as a lot of men who work very hard, earn a lot of money, and then the person they happen to have been married to gets a share of that, even though they haven't really built it up," she said. "Why should the spouse who earns less get a share of the higher-earning one's income?" Martin Singleton said: "I was urged to get more by my solicitor but settled for less so she didn't have to sell the family home. I wouldn't want to seem greedy, I only got what I was entitled to.
Financial experts predict that in coming decades more women will have to pay out former husbands, as greater numbers are promoted to top jobs. Last year the number of female millionaires in the 18-44 age bracket overtook the number of men - 47,355 compared with 37,935, according to a study by the Centre for Economics and Business research. Women will own 60% of the UK's personal wealth by 2025, up from 48% now, the researchers found.
In a divorce, women can also be required to hand over money inherited from their parents, as Barbara Dowell, a 48 year-old marketing executive from Rutland, discovered last year. Dowell, who has one child, said she inherited 500,000 in 2000, only to hand over about half of it to her husband on divorce, after 14 years together. To fund this the family home was sold for about 300,000, and she lives in a rented house and pays school fees for their son, whose residence is shared. Dowell said: "I am now funding him (the husband) through my inheritance. It makes me extremely angry." Her former husband was not available for comment.
Liz Haskell, 56, from Woodbridge, Suffolk, said she paid her ex-husband 50,000 last autumn after seven years of marriage ended. Haskell, who said she inherited her assets, said: "It was a slap in the face - I feel cheated by the system
1 May, 2006
Socialists want to protect their close relatives
Spain's governing Socialist Party is promoting a controversial parliamentary initiative to grant rights to great apes on the basis of their resemblance to humans, news reports said on Wednesday. If the initiative is approved, it would make Spain one of the first countries to officially protect the rights of apes, said a spokesperson for the animal rights association Adda.
The socialists want to prohibit the "enslaving" of gorillas, chimpanzees, orang-utangs and bonobos. Spain would thus adhere to the international Great Ape Project, granting the animals the rights to life and freedom and to not being tortured. "We are not talking about granting human rights to great apes," but about "protecting (their) habitat, avoiding their ill-treatment and their use in various circus activities," environment minister Cristina Narbona explained.
But it shows American law-enforcement as the random lottery that it is
Six illegal immigrant day laborers sued a Westchester village in federal court Thursday, claiming they were being harassed by the police to keep them from soliciting work in public places. The workers claimed that new Mamaroneck village regulations and the selective enforcement of them were infringing on their right to free speech. They said it was unconstitutional to keep them from speaking with contractors who drive by to hire manual labor for repairing and landscaping area homes. The plaintiffs all used the name John Doe because they are illegal immigrants, said John Garcia, a spokesman for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represents them.
While immigration control has become a national political issue, immigrant day laborers, most of them Hispanic, have become increasingly visible in Mamaroneck and other suburbs, clustering in the early morning in hopes of getting a day's work. Three months ago, the village, which is 23 miles north of New York City, closed a parking lot area near Columbus Park that had been designated since 2004 as a day laborer pickup spot. Mayor Philip Trifiletti, who is named as a defendant, said Thursday that the area had attracted workers from far beyond Mamaroneck and as numbers reached 200 workers a day there were incidents of fighting, drug use and harassment of women.
He called the lawsuit, which was filed in White Plains, "misinformed and misdirected," saying workers are allowed to gather and be picked up along Mamaroneck Avenue near the old site. He acknowledged that numbers are down to 40 or 50 since the old pickup site was closed. Police Chief Edward Flynn, the other named defendant, would not comment.
The plaintiffs, all residents of the village, asked the court for an injunction that would block what they consider harassment and would allow them back into the old pickup site, which was closed because the developer of a condominium across the street complained about the laborers. With the lot closed to them, the laborers moved out to the edges of the park and the sidewalks, the lawsuit says, and the village then imposed traffic laws to keep contractors from stopping there.
In affidavits, the men said police have told them they cannot even stand on street corners. "Policemen have repeatedly parked their vehicles with lights flashing next to groups of Latino men on streets and sidewalks around the park," the lawsuit says. "When the men move to another place on the street or sidewalk, the policemen have followed them, effectively chasing them from place to place." One worker claimed that after he was picked up by a contractor, police pulled over the contractor's truck and forced both men to stay in the cab for two hours.
The lawsuit noted that the village turned down an offer from Westchester County to use some county property in the village as a hiring site. The suit was filed the day after County Executive Andrew Spano, in his State of the County speech, called for "less intolerance and more understanding" toward immigrants.
OK TO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST WHITES
A federal jury has decided a Chicago Police commander did not racially discriminate against two lieutenants and a sergeant. But the jury still awarded the plaintiffs $325,000 because the city allegedly retaliated against them after they filed a racial discrimination complaint against the commander, Marienne Perry, in 2000. The verdict -- reached Monday -- provides $250,000 to Sgt. Nancy Lipman, $50,000 to Lt. Diane B. O'Sullivan and $25,000 to Sgt. Janice Roche.
In a lawsuit filed in 2001, the three plaintiffs accused Perry, who was commander of the Wentworth District, of removing white officers systematically and replacing them with black officers. Perry is African-American. Although the jury ruled against the plaintiffs on the race issue, it found the city had retaliated against Lipman, O'Sullivan and Roche after they filed a grievance against Perry on Sept. 27, 2000, for alleged racial discrimination and harassment.
The lawsuit claimed police agent Geraldo Garcia initiated false complaints against Lipman and O'Sullivan. The lawsuit also accused Perry of initiating a false complaint against O'Sullivan and Roche in retaliation for their filing the grievance against Perry. Court filings do not elaborate on why the jury ruled in favor of the city on the racial discrimination allegations and against the city on the retaliation allegations.
Perry, a 29-year department veteran, became a commander in 1999. After heading the Wentworth District, she was commander of the Calumet Area detective division. Last May, she was named commander of the Preventative Services Section. She declined to comment.
Australian Do-gooders not happy with teenagers' freedom to order what food they want
McDonald's is supersizing burgers on demand, but is refusing to advertise these high-fat options. While the fast-food giant strongly advertises its "healthy" alternatives, it is feeding customers burgers that are double, triple and even quadruple their displayed menu size. At a Melbourne store this week, a Sunday Herald Sun reporter ordered a Quarter Pounder, but with four beef patties and four slices of cheese. The McDonald's staffer simply punched the Quarter Pounder ($3.25, with 28.5g of fat) request into the counter computer, added three extra patties and cheese slices and, presto, a "Full Pounder" ($8.35, with 55.5g fat) was born. Teenagers have given new names to the supersized versions of the well-known burgers. Also, there are the "Mega Mac" and the "Quadruple Cheeseburger".
The trend to fatten up the takeaway meal, not advertised or included on menus, is "the rage" with teens. They say they are getting better value for their money. Recommended daily fat dose for an adult is 60g. A spokesman for McDonald's, which has promised to change its menu to help combat Australia's obesity crisis, said stores did not offer upsizing, but allowed customers to make "grill orders" and "variations". Deakin University nutritionist Prof Tim Crowe said: "We love to get value for money, but this is just over consumption."