The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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30 November, 2004


His crew cut shiny with hair gel, 10-year-old Cody M. King hopped aboard his school bus at Bammel Elementary School and waved a high-tech identification card across a card reader. Information about the time, location and bus he boarded was instantly recorded in a database that police and other officials can access. When he got off the bus at his north Harris County home, he scanned the card again and the computer recorded the details. He said he's glad the police know where he is. "Without the badge I kind of felt safe, and I kind of didn't," Cody said. "But now I feel safe all the time."

The card-reader system is being touted as the latest safety tool for students at Bammel Elementary in the Spring Independent School District. By tracking students, officials say they will be able to get a quicker start on finding children reported missing. "We can't keep them (completely) safe," said Spring ISD Police Chief Alan Bragg. "But if they get off at the wrong stop or don't go home after getting off the bus, we know where to start looking."

Some worry, however, that the new technology poses privacy concerns and offers a false sense of security. "Big Brother is watching you for your own good," said Katherine Albrecht, founder and director of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, a consumer privacy group. "That's the camel's nose in the tent."

Since its February debut in two of the school's buses, the tracking system has been installed and upgraded in six more. Plans are under way to expand the computer technology to all 180 buses in the 28,000-student district by the end of next year. The estimated cost for the complete system is $380,000.

District officials say none of their students has been abducted, but frantic parents have frequently called Bammel when their children didn't arrive home on time. Usually, the students got off the bus at a wrong stop or visited a friend without telling their parents. Often, parents forgot their children were scheduled for after-school club activities. The system, known as Radio Frequency Identification, has a computer chip fitted with an antenna that sends information to a reader. The technology, available for decades, has nearly limitless uses......

Robert Smith, a privacy security consultant near Boston.. said students might be safer if school buses were equipped with seat belts instead of the ID card system. "The police should not be in the business of tracking people," Smith said. Will Harrell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas, agreed. "We oppose watching citizens' movements," he said.

Police Chief Bragg said such concerns are misplaced since the police and school officials aren't continuously monitoring students. Instead, if a student is reported missing, police can access the database to determine where the child left the bus and begin searching the area as quickly as possible.

More here


If administrators of Kentucky's Boyd County school district can't find a way to force all students to attend sexual orientation and gender identity "tolerance training," the American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to take them to court - again. Ten months ago, the district settled a lawsuit with the ACLU over the right of a student group, the Gay-Straight Alliance, to meet on campus. The year-long litigation strained relations in the conservative northeast portion of the state. In addition to allowing the group to meet on campus after school, district officials agreed that all students, staff and teachers would be required to receive "tolerance training." The agreement stipulated all would attend "mandatory anti-harassment workshops," including the viewing of an hour-long "training" video covering sexual orientation and gender identity issues for middle and high school students.

But ten months on, one-third of Boyd County students have failed to see the video, and that has the ACLU threatening court action. "It sounds like the training can't possibly be done," James Esseks, litigation director for the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, tells the Louisville Courier-Journal. District figures show 105 of 730 middle school students opted out of the training video and 145 of 971 high school students did likewise. On the day scheduled for training, 324 students didn't show up for school.

The current legal snag arises from the fact the original consent decree had no provision for parents exempting their children. "The schools have great latitude in what they want to teach, including what's in training programs, and the training is now part of the school curriculum," Esseks says. "Parents don't get to say I don't want you to teach evolution or this, that or whatever else. If parents don't like it they can homeschool, they can go to a private school, they can go to a religious school."

"Where are the parental rights in this whole thing?" asks Rev. Tim York, president of the Boyd County Ministerial Alliance and head of Defenders Voice, a community group formed to contest the decree. According to the group's website, Defenders Voice "incorporated due to the need for protection of both the physical and mental health of our students and citizens." Its members place blame for their current distress squarely on the ACLU: "We have seen an onslaught of aggressive homosexual activism sweep across our country. In many cases, these activists are supported by the ACLU in their attempts. ... Defenders Voice believes that an organization like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) should not be allowed to tell parents what their children must learn."

The Alliance Defense Fund, a religious-liberties public-interest legal group, has signed on to help Defenders Voice, pledging to sue the school district unless it adopts an opt-out policy for parents this week. Alliance was formed in 1993 with the guidance of several well-known Christian conservatives, including the late Dr. Bill Bright, the late Larry Burkett, Dr. James Dobson, Dr. D. James Kennedy, and the late Marlin Maddoux. Joe Platt, a Cincinnati attorney representing Alliance, says mandatory training on tolerance for homosexuals violates the right of conscience of parents and students who believe such behavior immoral.

But school district attorney, Winter Huff, insists to the Courier-Journal the decree does not violate parental rights: "Students certainly have the right to believe in what they want to believe, but they don't have the right to act out in inappropriate ways. The point is you don't treat people disrespectfully, you don't pick on people, you don't bully them, you don't make them afraid to come to school."

Meanwhile, only one of the seven plaintiffs in the 2003 lawsuit still remain in school. Six have graduated, and the teacher-adviser for the Gay-Straight Alliance club asked to transfer to another campus. The ACLU's Esseks is now questioning whether the mandatory video meets the decree's required hour of anti-harassment training. Like one-third of the students in Boyd County schools, he has yet to view it.


29 November, 2004


Boscov's, a $1 billion department store chain based in Pennsylvania, is a 91-year-old, privately held company. It "is focused on bringing the latest styles and trends in fashion and home decor" to you. But it won't sell you a Christmas card. A reader writes: "Boscov's displays gift cards for sale throughout the store. The Christmas gift card only says "Merry", because any reference to the word "Christmas" is banned at Boscov's. However, it is side-by-side with a "HAPPY HANUKKAH" card. Please encourage all Christians to boycott Boscov's. Please help spread the word soon, as Boscov's makes the bulk of their annual profits selling the very Christmas gifts they refuse to acknowledge."


My reader clarifies what is happening: "Actually, I think you may have thought I meant "greeting card" by "gift card". What I'm talking about is the credit-card sized gift cards sold in different denominations (the modern version of gift certificates). Boscov's has these on display throughout the store. You take one to a cashier, pay for it, and the money is encoded into it. One has generic Christmas-style decorations on it with the word "MERRY". They have another with confetti-style decorations, evidently for New Year's Day. Since they refuse to use the word "Christmas" on the "MERRY" card, they evidently tried to establish some sort of symmetry with the New Year's card, so that one only says "HAPPY". However right next to both cards is the "HAPPY HANNUKAH" card. They have no problem proudly proclaiming that holiday.

Here is a link to the gift cards on their website, but please note that the website does not show all the cards. It only shows a picture of the New Year's "HAPPY" card, with a dropdown list to select the "MERRY" card. They are evidently not yet selling the Hannukah card online.


Roger Kimball asks... : "Remember the Enron scandal? My, how The New York Times went to town on that outrage. The oil-for-food scandal dwarfs Enron and involves several major figures on the international stage, beginning with Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN. It has been reported but not denounced, at least not by the Times and other organs of politically correct opinion. Why not?"

His answer...

"Some institutions -- and indeed some individuals -- enjoy a sort of plenary indulgence in the court of liberal opinion. They are by definition "saintly." The UN enjoys this semi-beatified status. So do Oxfam, the BBC, and Amnesty International. So do Kofi Annan, Princess Diana, Bob Geldof, and Bill Clinton. So, far that matter, do Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, and, ex officio, Karl Marx. If they do wrong it is only because they are endeavoring to do good. Their intentions are noble, hence their malfeasance is automatically exonerated-indeed, it is not really malfeasance at all but an excess of "idealism." Your mother probably told you that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Your mother was right. But her wisdom is too deep -- or perhaps it is not deep enough -- to impress the politically correct partisans of benevolence. "

Homosexual Students Upset Homecoming Traditions

Homecoming was obviously too good an opportunity for self-display for homosexuals to miss

Homecoming, the quintessentially American tradition featuring kings and queens wearing satin sashes and sparkly tiaras, is a tumultuous topic on campus these days. Universities and high schools across the country, driven in large part by protests from gay students, are re-examining the ritual of crowning homecoming kings and queens, titles that often reward student achievement, are sometimes merely popularity contests and occasionally come with hefty scholarships.

Many colleges and high schools began to abandon the tradition in the 1990's, replacing the king and queen with homecoming "royals" and "top 10 students." Some, including Duke University, did away with homecoming in the 1970's, when advocates for women's rights succeeded in arguing that the contests were archaic and sexist and that they promoted stereotypical sex roles.

But elsewhere, including here at the University of Washington and at some campuses in the South, students have clung to homecoming, and now a raging debate, in many ways mirroring the national debate over same-sex marriage, has begun to ripple across the nation's campuses. At Vanderbilt University in Nashville this month, a gay student who ran for homecoming queen and took his place on the court in drag at a football game caused a huge stir. In October, students at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota elected their first male homecoming queen. That student and the university administrators say they were barraged with hostile telephone calls and e-mail messages from alumni and parents. "We always get Mr. Heterosexual Vanderbilt and Ms. Heterosexual Vanderbilt to be the perfect king and queen," said Everett Moran, 21, the gay senior at Vanderbilt who ran for homecoming queen.

Mr. Moran did not win the crown, but he was elected to the homecoming court, appearing at the college football game on Nov. 6 wearing a black dress with an Empire waist and elbow-length red gloves, accentuated by the yellow sash draped over each of the 11 homecoming court students. But he made plenty of enemies in the process, with critics loudly criticizing him in the college newspaper and elsewhere. "When the gay community separates from mainstream, it's a way of disappearing into the shadows," he said. "I really just wanted to put it in everyone's face. I wanted to make alumni and students recognize that on this campus we have gay students, and as much as the administration wants to keep us in the shadows, off to the side and out of the limelight, I'm not going to stand for it."

Some high schools now hold separate gay proms. But gay students like Mr. Moran say that is not enough. They view homecoming as an opportunity to integrate gay students into a classically heterosexual ritual. It is difficult to nail down a precise number of colleges and high schools that have recently revamped their homecoming tradition to include gay candidates or simply to elect two queens, two kings, a female king or a male queen, straight or gay. But in the last five years, challenges to the tradition have arisen on at least a half dozen campuses, including Hayward High School, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where a straight girl was elected king last year; she ran for king because she did not want to compete with her best friend, who was elected queen.

At another high school, Sweetwater, in National City, Calif., a lesbian was elected homecoming queen in 2001 and wore a tuxedo to the celebration. A gay male student was elected homecoming queen at Southwest Texas State University in 1999, the same year that another young man, also gay, ran for homecoming queen at New Mexico State University, prompting that student government, after a backlash, to rule that queens must be female and kings must be male. That rule was overturned in 2002 after a female student applied to run for king. "First they focused on school prom, and now they're starting to say, 'We want to be included in homecoming,' " said Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a nonprofit advocacy group based in New York City.


28 November, 2004


The Air Force Academy's longtime football coach has agreed to remove a Christian banner from the team's locker room after school administrators announced they would do more to fight religious intolerance. Coach Fisher DeBerry agreed Friday to remove the banner, which displayed the "Competitor's Creed," including the lines "I am a Christian first and last ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

DeBerry put the banner up Wednesday to encourage the team, which has experienced one of its worst seasons in recent years, academy spokesman Lt. Col. Laurent Fox said.

A day earlier, academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa announced the school would do more religious tolerance training after some nonreligious cadets reported on a survey that they felt ostracized. Others reported hearing religious slurs or jokes.

Outgoing Air Force Secretary James Roche issued a statement Friday backing the academy's effort. "Our policy is clear. Tolerance of gender, racial, ethnic and religious diversity is required at our Air Force," Roche said.

In September, academy officials issued a memo explaining the government's e-mail policy after some staffers put biblical verses at the bottom of their e-mails. Some cadets were admonished in March for using academy e-mail accounts to encourage other people to see "The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson's movie about the crucifixion.



(He referred to homosexuals as "poofs")

Broadcaster John Laws, who has vowed to fight a formal finding that he vilified homosexuals, today dedicated a segment of his radio program to the defence of free speech. The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal found comments by Laws and his 2UE colleague Steve Price were vilification under the Act and were not reasonable, even if done in good faith.

Laws used his program to deny he was anti-gay. "It's not going to be too long before I have to apologise for everything that may offend any individual, particularly if he or she is part of a minority group," he said, as music played in the background.

The tribunal's equal opportunity division proposed ordering both hosts to apologise or retract their comments but 2UE has vowed to appeal against the decision, saying it believes the law has been applied incorrectly.



A prominent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may have overstated the number of obesity-related deaths in 2000 by as much as 20 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. An analysis of the study, which was released in March and predicted that obesity would surpass tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death, found that mathematical errors may have inflated the 2000 death toll attributed to obesity by 80,000, the Journal said. It sourced its report to CDC documents reviewed by the newspaper.

The CDC's chief of science, Dixie Snider, who is also leading the internal inquiry of the study, confirmed to the paper that the CDC will reduce the estimate of the number of deaths attributable to poor diet and lack of exercise, but he declined to say by how much, the paper said.

The study originally concluded that in 2000 there were nearly as many obesity-related deaths, at 400,000, as there were deaths related to tobacco use, at 435,000. The CDC launched an internal review of the study after researchers criticized its methodology in letters published in the journal Science. Snider told the paper the CDC would submit a correction to the Journal of the American Medical Association, which published the original study.


27 November, 2004


Even by the grisly standards of ritual killing, it was shocking. On 2 November in Amsterdam the Dutch iconoclast and film-maker Theo van Gogh was dragged from his bicycle in broad daylight and murdered. His killer, a bearded Dutch-born Islamic radical of Moroccan descent, shot him six times and, as he pleaded for his life, slit his throat through the spinal column with a butcher's knife, almost decapitating him. The assassin then impaled a five-page declaration of `holy war' into van Gogh's chest.....

At least, though, the Left in the Netherlands has seen that there is a clash between liberal democracy and cultural relativism; that some cultures are simply not compatible with Western traditions of freedom and tolerance; and that the old distinction between evil right-wingers and cuddly left-wingers no longer makes sense. It is one thing to turn a Christian church into a mosque, quite another to get radical Islam to accept liberal democracy. Outside the Netherlands, however, the Left has yet to learn these lessons.

Van Gogh himself was a child of the Left. He did not discriminate when he decided whom to offend. He had deeply upset Christian and Jewish groups, who made written complaints about him. His mistake, however, was to offend Muslim sensibilities. His ten-minute film Submission showed actresses depicting real Muslim women speaking of their experience of domestic violence, including forced marriage and rape by relatives. The women were shown nearly naked, with their skin covered with Koranic verses which endorse domestic violence, such as `And those [wives] you fear may be rebellious admonish, banish them to their couches, and beat them.' (It is because of verses like this that Ken Livingstone's mate, the homophobic, terrorist-supporting cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, endorses wife-beating.) Van Gogh made the film with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian woman who sought asylum in the Netherlands to escape a forced marriage and who is now a Liberal MP and a fierce critic of her former religion. She received death threats for denouncing Mohammed as a `pervert in the modern sense' because he married a six-year-old girl, Aisha, when he was 53.

True to his polemicist style, van Gogh said lots of objectionable things about Muslims, such as calling extremists `goatfuckers'. But that doesn't excuse the Guardian pigeonholing him as a `loudmouth racist' as a way of avoiding thinking about the complexities of the issue. He was a lifelong socialist, from a leading left-wing family. A journalist friend of his told me at his funeral: `He was left-wing, but he had his eyes open. He started seeing these dark developments in society, and surprised himself by having right-wing thoughts.' A staunch Dutch feminist who knew him told me that his work standing up for women oppressed by religion had inspired her to dedicate her life to it.

Van Gogh was a friend of Pim Fortuyn, the populist politician murdered two years ago for offences against Islam. The hate-mongering Left demonised Fortuyn as a far-right racist, but he was no such thing. On the contrary, he was a flamboyant left-wing homosexual sociology professor who firmly opposed racism and had many black followers. But he started campaigning against Muslim immigration and denounced Islam as `backwards' when homosexual teachers were sacked in the Netherlands because Muslim parents didn't want their children taught by gays. He was outraged that decades of campaigning for gay rights was going backwards, and that everyone was too frightened to speak out.

What angered them all - van Gogh, Hirsi Ali and Fortuyn - is the way the intolerant left-wing hegemony of political correctness was strangling free speech and democracy - not just causing the problems in the first place, but trying to destroy those who discuss them. At his funeral, van Gogh's mother, Anneke, lambasted the `politically correct thought-police' while his sister spoke about his `aversion to violence and crimes against democracy'.


New Labour is back to its favourite pastime: bullying the working classes

British do-gooders are tireless in their search for new ways to dictate to people

New Labour wishes to market `good health' as a desirable commodity to its feckless and stupid subject people, but government ministers are having a tough time of it. A white paper to tackle obesity is in preparation and the big idea is that food will be labelled under the traffic lights system: green means it's good for you; orange is sort of LibDem fare - neither good nor bad, sort of neutral food; and red means if you eat it you'll end up swathed in rolls of purulent blubber, unable to rise from your sofa even when Ainsley Harriot appears on the television.

I don't think this will work. I have the horrible feeling that people will make straight for the red lights, thinking, in their childish error, that the stuff will taste better. The Today programme sent a reporter to a supermarket in Newcastle and vox-popped a bunch of Geordie monkeys as they paid for their purchases. One woman described the contents of her trolley for the benefit of the Today listeners (most of whom are resident in places like Tring and Tunbridge Wells and may have had difficulty deciphering the dialect): `I've got crisps, chips, sweets and pop,' she said cheerfully.... `You see,' the woman continued, `I don't really agree with healthy eating. I don't like healthy food. I like unhealthy food.'

That's the problem. It doesn't matter how often you tell these morons; they are still regrettably possessed by this thing `free will', which no government has ever attempted to market to the electorate as a desirable commodity. Soon New Labour will have recourse to compulsion instead of mere advice. It is already planning to do this with smoking: cigarettes are to be banned from all places where food is served, which means that you won't be allowed to smoke in an estimated 90 per cent of public houses, for example. And so we will all crowd into the remaining 10 per cent and chain-smoke like laboratory beagles, until it's banned in those redoubts as well.

What New Labour needs is a popular and responsible role-model for the populace, someone to whom that dissolute Geordie woman can aspire, a paragon of virtue and healthy living who can be exploited on poster campaigns and in television public-health advertisements. The immediately obvious answer is Adolf Hitler, who retains an enormous popularity and affection among British people. As modern-day German politicians repeatedly chide us, scarcely a day goes by without Adolf being featured in some television documentary, drama or comedy series, or in newspaper articles and books. We cannot get enough of Hitler. And he was an ascetic chap, Adolf. He banned smoking throughout his delightful Berchtesgaden retreat - a revolutionary act in the 1930s - and as a committed vegetarian ate only the healthiest of foods. He did not drink alcohol and, as a bonus for New Labour, was also opposed to fox-hunting and in favour of a united Europe, of course. A nationwide poster campaign showing the Fuehrer looking very healthy and happy while his jubilant troops occupied the Saarland or routed the hapless Poles would, I'm sure, have an immediate effect upon even our dumbest citizens. How about this for a catchphrase: `Give yourself some Lebensraum on just 400 calories per day'? .....

So we have a government determined to force its old constituency, the working class, to adopt the lifestyle patterns of its new constituency, the metropolitan middle class. And it will have recourse to bullying and, when push comes to shove, compulsion to ensure it achieves the desired end.

More here

26 November, 2004


What they teach in DC public libraries:

She adjusts her glasses and holds up a book. "Now we are going to read a story about Thanksgiving. "'Twas the day before Thanksgiving, and all through the trees." the librarian begins, slowly unfurling out a story about a group of children who are taken to a farm to meet menacing farmer Mack Nuggett and his flock of happy turkeys. The children frolic with the joyful birds until they encounter an axe - and the farmer explains its meaning. A few minutes later, with the farmer distracted, the children waddle, strangely stuffed, back into their bus and are driven away.

With a significant smile at the children, the librarian continues, "The very next evening, eight families were blessed. with eight fluffy Thanksgiving turkeys as guests. They feasted on veggies with jelly and toast."

" - song!" the librarian says, standing up and wiggling her fingers. "It has movements, so you move your fingers, but I've forgotten the words so let's listen to the tape." She reaches behind her and after some difficulty we hear the sound of distant high-pitched gobbling. Then perky recorded voices pipe up: "Five fat turkeys are we - " The librarian pauses the tape, and waggles the fingers of one hand. We adults copy her actions, smiling encouragingly at the hot children. She punches the "play" button again. "We spent all night in a tree - " The librarian hits pause, and waves one finger, as if pointing to a high branch. Then, unbelievably, comes the Message, a neat little North Korean-motivational-calisthenics-cum-vegetarian touch: "When the cook came around/We couldn't be found/Five fat turkeys are we!"

"Now let's sing it all together." The librarian rewinds the tape and plays it as the children chant, "Five fat turkeys are we - "

"We have one more story for you today," the librarian says, with a glance at the clock. "It's a nice story about an old woman who finds - A turkey egg! Yes! It is large and speckled. "We'll have a nice fat turkey for Thanksgiving," the old woman promises her cat, but I am on to her game. Reading from the book in her lap, the name of which I don't catch, the librarian puts felt pictures up on a black felt board beside her by way of illustration. Up goes a picture of a cracked eggshell and an adorable turk-chick. Next we see a youthful turkey eating healthful vegetables. Then comes a large, fine, fat roaster nibbling seeds. "You sit down at the table," the old woman tells the cat in the penultimate picture, "and I'll bring in the turkey." The suspense! The pathos! Will they eat their friend? The children do not see it coming.

"I told you we'd have a nice, fat turkey for Thanksgiving!" the librarian reads triumphantly, and sticks to the felt board a picture of the cat, the turkey, and the old woman tucking companionably and non-lethally into cornbread and cranberry sauce. The end. The librarian beams around at the stupefied children. "That's my favorite kind of Thanksgiving story," she tells them. "The kind where the turkey doesn't get eaten."

More here


In a season typified by lawsuits against manger scenes, crosses and even the words "Merry Christmas," a California case is taking the "separation of church and state" one step further - dealing with whether it's unconstitutional to read the Declaration of Independence in public school. Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit Monday against the Cupertino Union School District for prohibiting a teacher from providing supplemental handouts to students about American history because the historical documents contain some references to God and religion. "Throwing aside all common sense, the district has chosen to censor men such as George Washington and documents like the Declaration of Independence," said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. "The district's actions conflict with American beliefs and are completely unconstitutional."

Patricia Vidmar, principal of the Stevens Creek School, reportedly ordered the teacher, Stephen Williams, to submit his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to her for advance approval. Aside from Williams, a Christian, no other teachers were subject to the advance-screening requirement, says the ADF. Just what documents did Williams submit that were deemed unfit for the school's students? "Excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, the diaries of George Washington and John Adams, the writings of William Penn, and various state constitutions," said the public-interest law firm representing Willliams.

"Less than 5 percent of all of Mr. Williams' supplemental handouts distributed throughout the school year contain references to God and Christianity," McCaleb said. "The district is simply attempting to cleanse all references to the Christian religion from our nation's history, and they are singling out Mr. Williams for discriminatory treatment. Their actions are unacceptable under both California and federal law."

California's Education Code does allow "references to religion or references to or the use of religious literature . when such references or uses do not constitute instruction in religious principles . and when such references or uses are incidental to or illustrative of matters properly included in the course of study."



I am actually rather in sympathy with this one. I have never understood how it is a great joke to mock women on the basis of their hair colour but deeply offensive to mock anyone on the basis of their skin colour

Blonde jokes to be banned? "Blonde jokes are set to be banned in Hungary after blonde women staged an angry protest outside parliament. The protestors handed in a petition claiming they were being discriminated against in every walk of life by bad taste blonde jokes. And spokeswoman Zsuzsa Kovacs said: 'Blondes face discrimination in the job market, in the workplace when they get a job, and even on the streets.'"

25 November, 2004


Maryland public school students are free to thank anyone they want while learning about the 17th century celebration of Thanksgiving - as long as it's not God. And that is how it should be, administrators say. Young students across the state read stories about the Pilgrims and Native Americans, simulate Mayflower voyages, hold mock feasts and learn about the famous meal that temporarily allied two very different groups. But what teachers don't mention when they describe the feast is that the Pilgrims not only thanked the Native Americans for their peaceful three-day indulgence, but repeatedly thanked God. "We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not from a religious perspective," said Charles Ridgell, St. Mary's County Public Schools curriculum and instruction director.

School administrators statewide agree, saying religion never coincides with how they teach Thanksgiving to students. Too much censorship can compromise a strong curriculum, some educators said. "Schools don't want to do anything that would influence or act against the religious preferences of their students," said Lissa Brown, Maryland State Teacher's Association assistant executive director. "But the whole subject of religious toleration is a part of our history and needs to be taught." Brown, a former social studies teacher, said she was surprised to hear schools aren't teaching about the Pilgrims' faith in God.

Teaching about a secular Thanksgiving counters the holiday's original premise as stated by George Washington in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation: "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor." Such omissions also deny the Pilgrims' religious fervor in the celebration of Thanksgiving, as related by Harry Hornblower, an archaeologist who spent years researching the history of the holiday..... But researchers like Hornblower aren't mentioned in classrooms. "We don't focus on religion, because it is not a part of our curriculum," said Sandra Grulich, Cecil County Schools' elementary school curriculum coordinator.

Opponents of censorship worry that by omitting such religious material from lesson plans, educators are compromising their students' education. "School administrators need to get a backbone," said Joel Whitehead, president and lawyer at the Rutherford Institute, a constitutional rights defense organization. "We are in real danger of throwing out cultural heritage in our country if we don't know what Thanksgiving is really about."

"In elementary school we learned that the Pilgrims came to the Indians and they all had a feast," said Emmanuel Cobington, 13, a seventh-grader at Annapolis Middle School. Emmanuel said his teachers never mentioned that the holiday was religious, but he added that he learns about different denominations in some of his classes.

Whitehead advocates for more classes like Emmanuel's and says it is harmful to students when administrators censor curriculums for fear of offending someone. "Education is inevitably going to offend someone," said Whitehead. "We need to get beyond being politically correct, or everything will be glossed over."

More here


Gays have never had it so good. Thirty-five per cent of the American public support civil unions for gay couples, including the president himself. It was gay marriage that the states rejected, not the legality of gay sex - and the marriage question wouldn't even have been up for debate a few years ago. At the same time that Bush was elected, Dallas County, Texas voted in a lesbian sheriff, hardly a sign of growing southern intolerance. And one of those worrying about a new backlash was 'Jonathan Katz, professor of gay history at Yale University', a title that speaks volumes about the status of gay issues.

There is no evidence that homophobic violence is on the rise. Yes, there has been a 20 per cent increase in incidents in London this year, but as a spokesperson for the gay community safety charity Galop told me, this 'is misleading': 'incidents fell last year, so this was only a return to the level the year before last.' The tally of 1344 incidents isn't huge for a city of seven million people, especially given the nature of many of the incidents. The Metropolitan Police takes a broad-brush definition of homophobia, as: 'any incident, which is perceived to be homophobic by the victim or any other person (that is directed to impact upon those known or perceived to be lesbians, gay men, bisexual or transgender people).'

An analysis of homophobic incidents recorded by the Met in 2001 showed that the largest proportion - some 35 per cent for men, and 50 per cent for women - involved threats rather than violence; another fifth involved criminal damage or theft. As a Galop spokesperson told me, a threat could include 'somebody shouting "dyke" in the street', or graffiti insults on a wall: 'the police are interested in hearing about all of it. Graffiti should be taken very seriously.' And there were some odd anomalies in the Metropolitan Police stats: four per cent of the perpetrators were a partner or ex-partner, and some of the attacks involved sex.

This might be explained by the fact that it seems that almost anything bad that happens to a gay person can be defined as 'homophobic'. Galop told me that it is handing on reports to the police of cases such as 'a man being robbed on a cruising ground', because this is about 'exploiting a weakness, a perception of gay men'. Another example is a man being picked up at a bar and assaulted - apparently this can be seen as homophobic because 'sex is about power'. But surely rape and theft are crimes in their own right; just because the victim is gay doesn't make it a hate crime.

While the police once raided gay clubs to arrest people, today they cruise them to encourage the reporting of homophobia....

What isn't so good is the way in which gays and lesbians have become shock troops in the campaigns of the new elite. The promotion of the issue of homophobia by everybody from the Metropolitan Police to the Tory Party, and the supposed remedy of re-education, marks the changing of the political guard. At a time when traditional institutions and values are suffering from something of an identity crisis, the gay issue is a shorthand way in which institutions can distance themselves from the past and show that they're 'with it'. Hence Tory Steven Norris' support for a gay museum in London, or the party's gay and lesbian summit for young people in March 2003. It's not so much that gays are naturally taking their place in the mainstream, as that they are being pushed on the stage by an insecure elite.....

The new elite doesn't believe in much, but 'tolerance' is one of the few things it can hold to. According to its brand of illiberal liberalism, anything goes except for pariah views about sexuality or race. The campaign against homophobia is an attempt to discipline the public (particularly the white working-class male section of the public) and re-educate them out of their ignorant ways....

More here

24 November, 2004


And they still think they can dictate to others after having been shown to be incompetent themselves!

A Church of England school has been told to drop the word "saint" from its name in case it offends other religious groups. The practice of calling schools after saints or bishops alienates people from other faiths and non-believers, say officials and councillors in Islington, north London. The row is over the name of the first Church of England secondary school to be built in the borough, which lost control of education five years ago after Ofsted found it was running some of the worst schools in the country. Islington council plans to incorporate the existing St Mary Magdalene Church of England Primary School into a new City Academy for five- to 18-year-olds.

The church, which is giving œ2 million towards building costs, has been told by the local authority - a partner in the scheme - that the name of the new school cannot be religious. James Kempton, children and young people spokesman for the council's ruling Liberal Democrat party, said a consultation had been launched because of concerns over the use of the word "saint". "We want to create a school that is open to everybody in the community, not a school that selects through the back door," he said. "We need to ensure this is a school which is appropriate for Islington in the 21st century. "Church-going is now a much less significant part of people's lives."

Parents, governors and teachers at St Mary Magdalene, however, are determined to keep the name. John Stewart, the head teacher, said: "We have been serving the community in the area since 1710 and there is no reason why we should change our name. "The name makes our Christian ethos clear to everyone and there are plenty of Church of England schools named after saints in Islington and elsewhere which take children from many other faiths or none who want the education and ethos we offer."

The council has suggested that the school be called the Islington Academy or the Barnsbury Academy. The London Diocesan Board says that if the new school is to have a new name, it should be "Magdalene Academy", which would still denote a Christian ethos. Most parents want to keep the existing name, however. Kate McMurdie, 33, said dropping it would be "ludicrous" and offend parents who took their religion seriously. Karen Hicks said that it would take away the school's identity and make it like any other.

Tom Peryer, the London Diocesan Board's director for schools, said there had been a long history of hostility towards faith schools in Islington. A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said the Jewish community would have no objection to the school being named after a Christian saint. "We live in a multi-cultural country," he said.


'Informed choice' is no choice at all

The UK government's White Paper Choosing Health makes a mockery of the word "choice"

One of the most striking things about the UK government's White Paper on Public Health, published earlier this week, is its emphasis on choice. It is mentioned twice in the title alone - Choosing Health: Making Healthier Choices Easier - and 35 times in the paper itself. UK health secretary John Reid says the paper's 'starting point' (no less) is that people should be 'free' to make 'informed choices' about their lifestyles. Brushing aside howls of nanny statism from some quarters (and accusations of Not Doing Enough from others), Reid declared: 'We believe that, in a free society, men and women ultimately have the right within the law to choose their own lifestyle, even when it may damage their own health.'

That even this latest piece of petty interventionism into our personal lives can be launched in the lingo of choice shows how degraded the c-word has become in British politics. In its quest to 'improve the nation's health', the White Paper proposes banning smoking in public places where food is prepared, restricting TV ads for junk food aimed at kids, and publishing endless advice about what kinds of food and exercise we should eat and take - yet it does all of this in the name of 'supporting' people in 'making healthy choices'. When a government can talk about bans in one breath and enabling choice in the next, you know that choice today means something other than individual self-determination.

Take the idea of informed choice, a buzzphrase of our age and the choice of choice in the White Paper. Some mistakenly believe that the 'informed' in informed choice refers simply to information, as in providing people with enough info to empower them to make real decisions. So the White Paper argues that 'people want to be able to make their own decisions about choices that impact on their health and to have credible and trustworthy information to help them do so' (3). The proposal for a traffic light system on food products - where foods with a high fat, sugar or salt content would get a red label for 'stop' and fruit and veg would get a green label for 'go' - has been hailed as a way of allowing us to make informed choices.

In fact, the informed in informed choice comes from the other OED definition of informed - not as in to 'impart information', but as in 'enlightened, educated, knowledgeable'. The informed choice is the right choice, the good choice, the healthy choice, the kind of choice made by Islington-dwellers who walk and cycle, buy fruit and veg, rarely patronise the likes of McDonald's, and spend time cooking meals at home (with fresh ingredients, of course). The distinction isn't between choices made with the help of info and choices made without, but between enlightened people who make The Informed Choice and unenlightened people who do not; between those who are knowledgeable and those who are seen as being beyond the reach of reason, easily swayed by garish TV ads for tempting 'junk food'.

Informed choices are not about choice at all; they are about pointing us dullards in the direction of salvation. As Dr Michael Fitzpatrick noted in The Tyranny of Health, today's debates about health are often thinly disguised moral judgements on lifestyle and behaviour (and especially the lifestyle and behaviour of a certain class of people). 'Once we had the seven deadly sins; now we have the four targets of health', wrote Fitzpatrick, in response to the last White Paper on Public Health. In this context, the informed choice is the path to enlightenment, and those who stray from it can expect to be reprimanded. As the White Paper says, it's all about choice, but with 'two qualifications'..the government will 'exercise special responsibility for children who are too young to make informed choices themselves', and will enforce 'special arrangements for those cases where one person's choice may cause harm or nuisance to another'.....

A leader in the Guardian raised the problem of smokers, who, it believes, are so in thrall to nasty nicotine that they cannot be left alone to make decisions, informed or otherwise. '[Reid's] emphasis on giving people the information, but letting them make an informed choice, ignores the fact that smokers are gripped by an addiction', the paper said. Jacqui McClusky of the children's charity NCH argued that poor families are unable to make informed choices because they apparently cannot afford the kind of foods that might soon have a green-for-go label stuck on them. 'The government has emphasised the importance of individual choice, but ignored the fact that those families living in poverty have little choice', she claimed.

Iain Macwhirter, columnist with the Glasgow Herald, went so far as to argue that, 'Right now, the tyranny of choice poses a far greater danger to liberty and well-being than the nanny state'. Macwhirter is gutted that the government did not demand 'legal restrictions' on advertising during children's programmes, instead proposing a voluntary code, because 'as every parent knows, it is extraordinarily difficult to combat the images transmitted daily through television and other media which implant in children's minds a profound antipathy to anything remotely healthy'. So again, choice needs to be restricted - because children are under the sway of the evil marketing of big food companies, and parents are apparently powerless to resist the resulting pester-power demands for 'happy meals' over 'healthy meals'. In short, if you're a smoker, poor, or a parent, choice is the last thing you need; far better just to be told what to do and be done with it....

More here

23 November, 2004


The Queensland Government has ordered an investigation into why a six-year-old boy was suspended from school after being accused of sexual harassment. The Year 1 student was sent home this week after he poked a female classmate on the bottom. The one-day suspension sparked outrage with parents angry at what they saw as extremely harsh punishment for the youngster. Queensland's Parents and Citizens Council said it was political correctness gone mad with school officials exhibiting a "knee-jerk reaction" out of fear the victim's parents might sue.

The boy spent Monday at home following the incident at Kimberley Park State School, in Brisbane's south, the previous Friday. After the six-year-old girl complained to a teacher, the boy confirmed he had touched her on the bottom, on the outside of her clothes. Principal Annette Murray deemed the boy's behaviour as sexually inappropriate and handed out the suspension. "Everyone has the right to feel safe at school and the only way that's going to happen is to make sure all children keep their hands and feet to themselves," Ms Murray said.

But the boy's parents - who asked not to be identified - accused the school of over-reacting. "It's just ridiculous," the boy's shocked mother said yesterday. "It's over the top. "They are implying my son is some little sex monster. He is nothing of the sort. He is just a normal little boy. "Sex and six-year-olds do not go together. He has no concept of sex . . . my son knows that you don't touch a girl's or boy's private parts." The mother said to suggest his actions had sexual connotations was mind-boggling.

The victim's mother agreed. She sent a letter to the other family on Friday saying there had been no physical or mental harm done to her daughter and the touch had been innocuous. The boy's mother said: "I have been in contact with her every day. She's fine. She said her daughter had forgotten about the matter." The family had received dozens of calls of support from the school community. They welcomed news that State Education Minister Anna Bligh had intervened in the case. "I just want my son's name cleared," his father said.

Ms Bligh said principals had a responsibility to "maintain the good order of their school" but she expressed some reservations about the boy's punishment. "While suspensions are a valid disciplinary measure, I can understand that some parents may have concerns about the value of suspending Year 1 students," she said. "Therefore, I have asked the department to examine the circumstances surrounding this case." Ms Bligh had requested the investigation report be filed with her as soon as possible.

The boy's mother said she was first told by a school official that her son had "hurt" another student. Her son was then given the telephone to explain his actions to her. "I asked him what had happened and he said, 'I don't know, I just poked her on the bum'. He said all the children had been mucking around. My son would never do anything to intentionally hurt another child." The mother was particularly angry that a school official had drawn a picture of a naked person and asked the boy to point on the diagram where he had touched the girl.

Ms Murray told the Albert and Logan News that the boy's age was irrelevant. She said the suspension gave the family an opportunity to discuss why it was not appropriate to touch girls in personal places. But P and C state president Wanda Lambert said it was inappropriate to banish a child who probably did not understand what the fuss was about. "This reflects society today . . . this over-reaction, all for the sake of political correctness," she said. "People are jumping the gun rather than investigating something properly." Ms Lambert said the school would have been better calling in both children and parents to discuss the incident before handing out the punishment. "We don't want children as young as that suspended every time they do something wrong," she said.



A lot of what is true of Dodgeball could be said of many sports

The high-energy school yard game of dodgeball is getting kicked around a New York courtroom, where questions are being raised about whether it's just too dangerous for young children to play. This week, a New York state Appellate Division panel refused to dismiss a lawsuit that claims a school wronged a 7-year-old girl who broke her elbow while playing dodgeball. State and national education officials say what makes the case unique is that the lawsuit doesn't fault the school for poor supervision - but for allowing children that young to play at all.

The new challenge comes as the game is flourishing as a trendy adult activity; the obsession was the comic focus of a movie starring Ben Stiller. But the game is also being targeted as unfair, exclusionary, and warlike for school-age youngsters. Some schools in Maine, Maryland, New York, Virginia, Texas, Massachusetts and Utah have banned dodgeball or its variations, including war ball, monster ball and kill ball. "Dodgeball is not an appropriate activity for K-12 school physical education programs," according to The National Association for Sport and Physical Education, a nonprofit professional organization of 20,000 physical education teachers, professors, coaches, athletic directors and trainers. Dodgeball provides "limited opportunities for everyone in the class, especially the slower, less agile students who need the activity the most."

New York's case began in the fall of 2001. Seven-year-old Heather Lindaman was playing a variation of dodgeball in gym class on a hardwood court. The version included several balls and no safety or protection zone to run from the thrown balls. Heather became tangled with another child and fell, breaking her elbow. Her lawyer, Philip Johnson, said the injury required surgery and there is a continuing concern her injured arm might not grow as long as her other arm because a growth plate may have been affected. The New York appellate judges upheld a lower court ruling that the school district's request for summary dismissal of the case, without trial, should be denied. They said there is an argument to be heard about whether this version of dodgeball "was particularly dangerous for younger children." The judges found some merit in the family's expert witness, Steve Bernheim, a recreational and educational safety authority. The judges wrote: "While there are no established standards of age appropriateness for dodgeball, it is recognized as a potentially dangerous activity and has been banned by several school districts in New York and elsewhere."

More here


If this underemployed and overpaid whiner went to an Islamic country, she would find out what REAL censorship of "sex and gender issues" is like

A leading US gender studies expert claims post-election political conservatism in Australia and the US could hinder academic freedom to explore important sex and gender issues, including abortion. Joan Nestle, archivist for the American lesbian "herstory" archives, will deliver a keynote address at a symposium on "Sex in History" for the History Department at the University of Melbourne.

Ms Nestle is particularly concerned that the current political climate in both Australia and the US will challenge the unfettered ability of academic researchers to explore issues about sex in history, and the way ideas about sexuality influence the present. "Work on sex and history is one of the most exciting, challenging and revelatory fields of enquiry that is available" she says. "Contrary to some beliefs it is truly a study of the dignity of all human beings".

But she says recent comments made by Australia's Cardinal Pell about pornography and abortion being signs of decadent democracy are examples of a growing threat to scholarly freedom and independence. In defence of academic exploration of these and similar topics Ms Nestle says "there are new territories every day being opened up to discussion of how sex matters in all the important functions of our society, including the health and vitality of democracy."


22 November, 2004


"Santa, tinsel and nativity scenes have been outlawed in some Melbourne kindergartens and childcare centres this Christmas. Fairytale parties and non-religious end-of-year celebrations are being pushed instead in a move branded "politically correct clap-trap" by one expert. A government-funded kindergarten association is also circulating guidelines suggesting end-of-year celebrations in place of a religious event.

Some angry parents are fighting back, saying they want a traditional Christmas. Tracey MacKenzie-George, of Taylors Hill, said she was upset to receive a letter from Orama Street Child Care Centre in Deer Park saying it would opt for a fairytale party day instead of a Christmas celebration. Mrs MacKenzie-George said she wanted her son Cooper, 2, to experience his first Christmas. "It's probably the first year Cooper is getting to know what Christmas is about," she said. "What is childhood without Christmas?"

Brimbank Pre-School Association spokeswoman Kellie O'Connell said the intention was not to cancel Christmas. "We're basically trying to be inclusive and respectful," she said. "The majority of parents understood what the centre was trying to do. It is a need we're responding to. Santa is still going to visit."

Many children at Boroondara Kindergarten in Richmond will also celebrate the end of the year rather than Christmas. Co-ordinator Denise Rundle said children would sing songs and exchange presents, but without an explicit Christmas theme. There will be no Santa and no nativity play. "The children who celebrate Christmas see it as Christmas, but we also talk about it being the end-of-the-year celebration," she said.

Free Kindergarten Association Children's Services has advised that other non-Christian festivals be given equal emphasis. But it doesn't support banning Santa in the name of cultural diversity. FKA spokeswoman Melinda Chapman said kindergartens were "encouraged to respect and reflect cultural diversity appropriate to their communities".

Child Care Association chief executive officer Frank Cusmano said any move to ban Santa was "politically correct clap-trap" ... "Taking away Santa is simply taking the issue to a loopy extreme," he said.



Remember that famous line from George Orwell's Animal Farm: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"? Mr. Orwell, here are two more examples to add to your collection:

1. On April 20 last, sports pages around the country featured a picture of the Catherine Ndereba of Kenya with upraised arms, the "winner" of the Boston Marathon. She won not by virtue of being the fastest runner, but because the female runners had started the race 29 minutes before the men. That day the Boston Globe ran an article carrying the headline, "New Rule Engenders Equal Footing." If giving women a half hour head-start is an "equal footing," then would someone please explain inequality to me?

2. Fox News ran an article in late August about American military women in Iraq. This was the lead sentence: "Today, equality of the sexes includes dying in combat." The article highlighted the statistic that 24 female soldiers had died in Iraq. As of that time, one thousand American troops had perished -- 24 female and 976 male. If we do a little math, it turns out that only 2.4% of combat deaths are female. That's equality of the sexes?

In both stories, the reporter massacred the obvious meaning of "equality." But where was the outrage? The fact that no one murmured a word of protest says something about the mental anesthesia that grips our collective awareness.... So when mainstream media outlets such as the Boston Globe and Fox News use the word "equality" to denote its exact opposite -- and nobody seems to mind -- you know that we're in trouble.

Almost sixty years ago George Orwell wrote a prescient essay titled "Politics and the English Language." Deploring the way language was being used to manipulate and deceive, Orwell wrote: "Political language.is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Who can doubt that the feminist propaganda campaign has now reached Orwellian proportions? Welcome to the world of Fem-Prop.

More here

21 November, 2004


In a compliance review at the conclusion of its recent session, the U.N. Human Rights Commission cited Poland for having "restrictive" abortion laws. The report, released Friday at the conclusion of a three-week winter session, said Poland's state party "should liberalize its legislation and practice on abortion."

A leading Polish pro-life group criticized the report as a "U.N. attack on the sovereignty of Poland." Lech Kowalewski, spokesman for the Polish Federation of Pro-life Movements, told LifeSiteNews.com he is concerned the report might influence the Polish government to adopt a pro-abortion bill under consideration.

The report, which evaluates compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reiterated the panel's "deep concern about restrictive abortion laws in Poland, which might incite women to seek unsafe, illegal abortions, with attendant risks to their life and health." The committee said it also was "concerned at the unavailability of abortion in practice even when the law permitted it, for example in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape, and by the lack of information on the use of the conscientious objection clause by medical practitioners who refused to carry out legal abortions." The committee composed of 18 U.N. human-rights specialists met with Polish officials Oct. 27 and 28.

LifeSiteNews.com notes that while the U.N. and the ICCPR do not officially promote abortion, both have been criticized for meddling in the issue.

The committee said Poland's state party "should assure the availability of contraceptives and free access to family planning services and methods. The Ministry of Education should ensure that schools include accurate and objective sexual education in their curricula."

Addressing the issue of "sexual orientation," the human rights panel stated, "The Committee is concerned that the right of sexual minorities not to be discriminated against is not fully recognised, and that discriminatory acts and attitudes against persons on the ground of sexual orientation are not adequately investigated and punished." Poland's state party, the committee said, "should provide appropriate training to law enforcement and judicial officials in order to sensitise them to the rights of sexual minorities. Discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation should be specifically prohibited in Polish law."

Polish lawmakers who back abortion hailed the U.N. report. "These regulations have to be changed but that needs serious discussion," Cezary Mizejewski, secretary of state at the Social Affairs Ministry, told Reuters. "It is good that we have [the U.N.] report and it will reopen this discussion. We cannot keep to the old view that everything is fine and just close our eyes."

More here


The Presbyterian Church of my youth did not burn candles so it looks like Protestantism has a win again!

"Air inside churches may be a bigger health risk than that beside major roads, research suggests. Church air was found to be considerably higher in carcinogenic polycyclic hydrocarbons than air beside roads travelled by 45,000 vehicles daily. It also had levels of tiny solid pollutants (PM10s) up to 20 times the European limits. The study, by Holland's Maastricht University, is published in the European Respiratory Journal. The researchers say that December, with churches lighting up candles for Christmas, could be an especially dangerous month for the lungs. It is now believed that respiratory health is increasingly at risk from so-called "indoor pollution" in the home, workplace and other enclosed spaces. The Dutch team set out to examine the air quality in churches, as they are often poorly ventilated, with candles buring all day, and frequent use of incense. Both could, in principle, be expected to have some harmful effects.

The researchers analysed the particulate matter concentration found in the air of a small chapel and a large basilica in Maastricht following lengthy use of candles or a simulated service in which incense was burned. Fine particulate matter is a major ingredient in air pollution. Consisting of solid particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less, it contains different types of toxic chemicals, including soot, metals and various carcinogenic molecules. The particles can penetrate very deep into the lungs and trigger various lung and heart conditions. The researchers found that, after nine hours of candle-burning, the church air had PM10 levels of 600 to 1000 micrograms per cubic metre - more than four times higher than before the start of the first morning mass. This represents 12 to 20 times the European allowed average concentration over 24 hours. The study also found very high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, also known to be carcinogenic".

More here

20 November, 2004


It looks like homosexual "rights" trump Islamic rights. I guess I am glad something does. It seems to me that the rights of Bible-believing Christians and Jews are also being trampled on, however

In a cross-cultural clash of family values, Muslim parents at a downtown school want the Toronto District School Board to exclude their children from discussions of same-sex families. But at a meeting last night, board officials refused to exclude Muslim students at Market Lane Public School from what the board calls "anti-homophobia education." To allow some students to be removed from those discussions would violate the rights of children of same-sex parents, board officials said. While the board has a policy to consider accommodation based on religious rights, "religious beliefs do not trump human rights," said Patricia Hayes, a rights expert with the school board.

About 150 parents packed a gym at the St. Lawrence Community Centre last night, but some Muslim parents leaving the meeting said they felt their religious beliefs were receiving less respect than homosexual families. "They showed a gay lifestyle to the kids without the knowledge of the parents," said Mohamed Yassin, a father of three. "They're willing to help gay students with support. Gay people have their rights. I have my rights." Yassin was referring to a series of videos shown by a school board social worker that depicted the feelings of children around their same-sex families and the taunts they receive at school.

Market Lane principal David Crichton said he requested a social worker review the material after school staff heard children being ridiculed at school about their same-sex parents. To let parents know in advance that the subject could come up so they can keep their children home "sends a clear message to the students in my school that may have same-sex parents," he added. All the material was age appropriate and none of the adults interviewed in the films were depicted kissing or having sexual contact, said Crichton.....

But one father said he objected to the board making the issue specifically about Muslims. "They are trying to make it a Muslim issue, but a Christian or Jew would feel the same," said Omer Amir, whose 5-year-old daughter attends the school. "Would they allow me to teach my religion at school? No they would not." This morning, Ontario's education minister urged Muslim parents to reconsider, Canadian Press reported. "Ultimately, our civil values include respect for sexual orientation," Kennedy said. "I don't think there's any harm done to parents who find their children exposed to ideas that are different than the ones they teach at home." .....

Of the 560 students at Market Lane, about 10 to 15 per cent are Muslim. Many of their families are from North Africa, said the principal. While many parents praised the school for organizing the meeting last night and Muslim parents stressed they teach their children to respect others, one man complained the board's human rights and equity policies were being delivered too late. The information should have been sent to families the first day of school and the material should be translated into other languages, he said.....



Eric Schlosser's bestselling diatribe [Fast Food Nation] against the fast food industry is a monumental self-contradiction built on inconsistencies and misleading statements reported as facts.

* Most fundamentally, Schlosser bemoans the homogenization of American culture and alleges a decline of American individualism, and then advocates a fundamental rejection of the individual freedom which allowed those traits to flourish in favor of government mandated diversity.

* Make no mistake: Schlosser's solution to the problems he alleges is an unprecedented expansion of government bureaucracy and a monumental growth of government regulation of what we choose to eat and drink.

* Schlosser even urges an outright government ban on advertising of certain kinds of food. No freedom is more fundamental than the freedom of speech, but Schlosser would gladly cast this right aside to achieve his vision of America.

* Schlosser conjures or claims a corporate conspiracy around every corner to explain every wrong that he perceives. He implies or alleges conspiracies between Disney and McDonald's, between poultry processors and meatpackers, between government and big corporations.

* Schlosser praises the spirit which led entrepreneurs to build successful companies and then spends most of his book attacking their successes.

* He also seeks to undermine their accomplishments by suggesting - in every single case - that the government significantly aided their success.

* In just one example of a number of factual errors and misleading statements, Schlosser faults fast food companies for supposedly trying to prevent hourly employees from working more than 40 hours per week in order to avoid paying overtime. Later, he praises labor unions. But he ignores the fact that unions - aiming to have companies hire more workers instead of working existing employees longer - have been the leading advocate for the 40 hour work week and current overtime regulations designed to punish employers who work employees more than 40 hours per week.


19 November, 2004

California: Gymnastics incorrect: "Some cartwheels and handstands sent an 11-year-old West Covina girl tumbling into the principal's office and booted out of school this week. Deirdre Faegre, a sixth-grader at San Jose-Edison Academy ... was suspended Tuesday when school authorities warned her for the last time to stop doing gymnastic stunts during lunchtime. ... Denise Patton, principal of San Jose-Edison Academy, said she's tried everything to keep from suspending Deirdre. ... 'Our first concern is the safety of all of our children,' she said. These gymnastics have 'created an unsafe situation for herself and others.' Another child could walk into Deirdre's path and get hit, or an open door could smack her while she's performing a stunt, she noted. ... Deirdre's father, Leland -- who has run several times as a Libertarian candidate in various elections -- said it is ridiculous a little girl is getting suspended for doing cartwheels when sports like basketball are being allowed."


"Forget the history wars. Now we have the hippopotamus war, a cultural battleground where the content of a children's book will be rewritten to suit the time's moral climate and mores of parental discipline.

A request by publisher Penguin for author Hazel Edwards to change the text of her 1979 book, There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, sparked a flurry of debate around censorship and authorial control, children's books as moral education, and whether books are documents of history whose content should remain fixed. Penguin, who is reprinting the classic, and Edwards have agreed to change the line "Daddy gave me a smack", which refers to the book's main character scribbling on her father's best book.

A reluctant Edwards at first resisted the change. She had been following the progress of a British parliamentary debate over smacking and wrote to a newspaper on the issue, regarding the push by the UK child protection lobby to have smacking banned as "political correctness in the extreme".... "This is a smack that is a consequence of an action, which is a very minor part (of the book)," Edwards says. "I think what's important is the broader issue of whether this (text) should change because historically this book has been around for 25 years and that's a very long time.""

More here

18 November, 2004


"James Bartholomew has just produced an excellent hard-hitting book called The Welfare State We're In. I went to the launch party yesterday at the United Westminster Almshouses - one of a number of buildings in Westminster created for welfare purposes, but before the inception of the Welfare State.

Bartholomew starts the book with a quiz: How many children had 5-7 years' education before state schooling came in? (95%) How many adults today are functionally illiterate? (25%) How many of London's famous teaching hospitals were created by the NHS? (None) How many cancer patients die each year because NHS treatment is inferior to other EU countries? (10,000).

He argues that social security has produced alienation and crime, unemployment, and more poverty; that means-testing has discouraged work and saving; that the high taxes required have made work less attractive. That the NHS is 'like a train crash every day'. That old people would be better off if the state pension had never been created. That the UK could have been a rich country, but the postwar welfare state killed any chance of it.

I'm not the only one who likes this splendidly robust and commonsense assault on political correctness. Nobel economist Milton Friedman says: "A splendid book... A page-turner, yet also extensively sourced. Demonstrates how attempts to achieve good intentions have led to horrible results... I congratulate Mr Bartholomew on how thoroughly he has marshalled the evidence and how effectively he has presented it.""

(Post lifted from the Adam Smith Blog)


A beauty contest at Lakehead University aroused sharp protest from campus feminists. The flap came on the heels of a similar contest at which I applauded from the audience. The contrast made me wonder: "Why are politically correct feminists so upset by beauty pageants?"

"Upset" may be too tame a word. Rage against beauty contests lies at the very roots of PC feminism. Indeed, a high-profile protest at the 1968 Miss America beauty contest is often credited with bringing the feminist movement into public awareness. It was a defining moment, with feminist protesters setting off stink bombs and singing, "Ain't she sweet; making profits off her meat."

Beauty contests have evolved since 1968. For example, the majority of judges at the Lakehead pageant were female; there was a female "co-host"; 40 percent of the tickets went to women. But PC attacks have not substantially altered. Some of the Lakehead debate revolved around the appropriateness of holding a beauty contest at the on-campus pub; that's a valid debate. But mere inappropriateness doesn't explain why feminists campaigned so vigorously to cancel the event despite the fact that the breach of contract would have resulted in a fine of $50,000 to $155,000 to be paid by the university.

The rhetoric surrounding their campaign offers a stereotypical example of feminism's stock-in-trade arguments against beauty contests, on-campus or off. In the Lakehead student newspaper, Angie Gollat of the on-campus Gender Issues Centre (GIC) lambastes the event as "sexist" and "heterosexist." It is difficult to imagine campus feminists objecting to lesbian events because they are "homosexist." But hypocrisy aside, it is not clear why a celebration of female physical beauty is sexist - that is, anti-woman - especially when all the women involved are eager to participate. In the same newspaper, unidentified students state their concerns that "the objectification of women [that is, the contest] leads to violence against women."

There are two problems with that argument. Being judged on the basis of your beauty is no more "objectification" than taking a college exam and being judged on your intellect; yet, as far as I know, every student will take exams. Moreover, absolutely no data supports a connection between beauty pageants and violence against women.

Indymedia carried the GIC's call for a protest, which read, "Concerned citezens [sic] are staging an anti-corporate demonstration," to show "that discriminatory events are not welcome on campus." The anti-corporate remark refers to the pageant's sponsor and merely reflects left-wing bias. (Tax-funded feminists are notoriously contemptuous of the free market.) And, unless a particular race or religion was barred from entry, the charge of discrimination doesn't make sense. The contest was "women only," but so are women's sports and many feminist events.

Two more substantial arguments underlie the demonization of beauty contests. One was presented in a 1991 book that caused a phenomenon upon publication: "The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women" by Naomi Wolf. Wolf hypothesizes a cause-and-effect relationship between women's liberation and society's ideal of beauty. Although women have advanced, Wolf contends that, "in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers." Why? Because of how "cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us." In short, the ideal of female beauty oppresses modern women in a manner presumably not experienced by earlier generations. Thus, feminist Jo Freeman writes of the 1968 protest, "All women were made to believe they were inferior because they couldn't measure up to Miss America beauty standards." By this analysis, beauty contestants become symbols and tools of oppression.

The analysis is deeply flawed. For one thing, society has no one standard of beauty. A cursory scan of today's "beautiful people" reveals women of all ages and ethnic groups, with no one body type or style of dress. Moreover, the beauty of one woman doesn't force another to conform. My favorite makeup is a scrubbed face and I wear no-brand blue jeans. All the women I know are intelligent enough to make such decisions for themselves.

Yet the argument that beauty contests are unfair to the average woman is common. An influential book by the philosopher John Rawls became popular in left-wing circles and lends the argument support. Rawls' book, "A Theory of Justice," contends, "no one deserves his place in the distribution of natural endowments, any more than one deserves one's initial starting place in society." To Rawls, naturally beautiful people are akin to those born rich or with perfect health; they have won "the social lottery." That is, they've benefited from random luck, which they did not earn or deserve. His theory has been used to justify the redistribution of wealth and power in society. And one way to "redistribute" natural beauty is to pathologize its display. The feminist contention that beauty contests are unfair to the average woman has a Rawlsian ring. It also sounds like envy.

More here

17 November, 2004


Should American Indians and New Zealand Maoris and Australian Aborigines be urged to preserve their traditional cultures at all cost? Should they be told that assimilation is wrong? And is it wise to leave them entirely to their own devices? The Australian example suggests that the answers are no, no, and no. The best chance of a good life for indigenes is much the same as for you and me-full fluency and literacy in English, as much math as we can handle, and a job. In the year 2000 artificially preserved indigenes are doomed....

There's a very Big Ditch between the tribal world and modernity. Until around 1970 governments in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand accepted this fact, and they saw their duty as helping indigenes to cross the Ditch. For that reason they concentrated on better health, education, and housing, and let the chips of traditional culture fall where they may. That's how western civilization dealt with its own traditions, creatively destroying those that would not change. Creative destruction is a law of historical advance.

But romantic primitivism swept progressive policies away. Planning for the future and looking forward was out. Looking backward became the only proper way to look. Transfixed by the Culture Cult, a hyperidealised vision of traditional life was adopted, and the effect on indigenes of romanticising their past has been devastating.

On the one hand they found themselves being used as pawns in political games played for high stakes. On the other hand they became the deluded victims of the extravagances of their admirers. If your traditional way of life has no alphabet, no writing, no books, and no libraries, and yet you are continually told that you have a culture which is "rich", "complex", and "sophisticated", how can you realistically see your place in the scheme of things? If all such hyperbole were true, who would need books or writing? In Australia, policies inspired by the Culture Cult have brought the illiterization of thousands of Aborigines whose grandparents could read and write.

More here

There is a report today on Education Watch about the lockstep Leftism in an American Social Work school.


As long as you don't vote for political conservatives like George Bush, of course

Two Episcopal priests who led Druidic activity will not be suspended, said a bishop, who blamed the local scandal on conservative groups out to destabilize the Episcopal Church USA. The Rev. William Melnyk and his wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, had participated only in "exploratory thinking" with Druid circles as students of pre-Christian Celtic spirituality, said Bishop Charles E. Bennison, leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.....

The couple's involvement in Druidism came to light last month after the Episcopal Church's women's ministry listed two of the couple's Druidic liturgies on its Web site for possible use in developing feminist liturgies. The church removed the liturgies, but several Christian groups and private Web sites accused the church of promoting pagan rites. The church denied it.

Last week, the Melnyks wrote letters of apology, saying they "recanted and repudiated" their Druid connection, and that their goal had been to reach out to marginal Christians. Bennison said he would send the couple written reprimands.

Erik Nelson, research associate for the institute's Episcopal Action Project, said he was surprised Bennison "would continue to defend (the two priests) when they repented and admitted it was wrong."

More here

16 November, 2004


Farmers and landowners fighting a ban on foxhunting are planning a war on electricity installations. Power companies are to be besieged with requests to remove or relocate installations as part of a new campaign of non-cooperation with the Government, its agents and utility companies. The aim is to minimise disruption to the public but to wreak havoc for the authorities, to clog government machinery and impose extra bureaucracy on officials. The Countryside Alliance has sanctioned the plan in an attempt to head off an illicit campaign of civil disobedience by hunt extremists that could bring chaos to town and city centres and motorways, and alienate public opinion.

The non-cooperation could start before the end of the week, when the future of hunting will be decided by Parliament.

The decision to target power installations follows a revolt by many farmers, on Salisbury Plain and in Yorkshire, Northumberland and Wales, who have already banned military training. More farmers have threatened similar bans. Withdrawal of access will also affect exercises for the RAF mountain rescue team, courses for the Royal Navy outdoor leadership training and SAS escape and evasion. This latest ploy will deeply irritate power companies and the Department of Trade and Industry. Applications to remove or resite pylons and posts are subject to an automatic legal process under the Electricity Act 1989. Power companies would be hit by an avalanche of paperwork and the DTI might have to appoint more engineering inspectors to preside over hearings. At present, only about six take place each year. In many cases, the power companies might win the right to keep the pylons in place but may be forced to pay out substantial compensation to landowners under the Land Compensation Act 1961. In some cases, disputes would have to be settled by a land tribunal.

About 19,000 landowners in England and Wales receive annual rental payments from power companies - known as a wayleave - on about 65,000 pylons and a further five million poles. Cash payments vary from 8 pounds for a pole to 50 for a pylon, though as much as 500 pounds a year can be paid for a pylon in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It has been known for power companies to pay six-figure sums for a pylon within 150 yards of a farmhouse or converted barn.

Derek George, 67, a retired farmer from Llangewydd, near Laleston, Bridgend, in South Wales, has two large pylons and one post on his 75-acre holding. He receives about 40 pounds a year for each pylon and 8 pounds a year for the pole. He said: "I am now prepared to tell National Grid Transco and South Wales Electricity that I no longer want these on my land. Instead I'm going to propose that they should install an underground cable." Mr George has hunted for 45 years with the Llangeinor hunt and has decided that if a hunting ban were introduced, his only retaliation would be to withdraw goodwill from the authorities....

Richard May, 60, who runs his own Forest and District beagle pack on his 160-acre farm south of Macclesfield, Cheshire, is also ready to ask for the removal of six posts and a pylon. He also thinks landowners can create further impact by refusing access by the authorities to monitor rivers and weirs. "I am not going to put those dogs down. People in the countryside are law abiding and we hope that reason will prevail in Parliament. But if it doesn't, I'll use every trick in the book to bugger up the authorities."...

English Nature could be hampered if officials had no access to count various bird and wildlife species in various parts of the country as part of the Government's international biodiversity agreement. Its research programmes could also be affected. Railway companies may be prevented from access to maintain sections of the railway bank and the Met Office could be denied access to recording stations.

More here


An e-mail from an old friend arrived Wednesday evening, on news of changes at the Justice Department. "God be praised," he wrote. "At least, I hope, we can all agree that it's good that Ashcroft is out." .... What is the liberal assumption? It is the self-declared right to set the moral parameters of political debate. Hence my friend's words, "at least" and "we." Who are the "we"? Apparently it is the community of sensible people. What is the "at least"? The lowest common denominator that unites me to my friend as persons of sense. Question: What happens if I don't subscribe to the "at least"? Answer: I cease to belong to the "we."

Of course, liberals are not the only ones who make these kinds of assumptions. In Israel, for example, the Orthodox rabbinate has the statutory right to decide who is, and who is not, a Jew. So if you are a convert to Judaism but your conversion was overseen by a Reform or Conservative rabbi, then by Orthodox lights you are not a Jew, and you are not entitled to the things that in Israel Orthodox rabbis alone can provide, like a Jewish wedding. As a result, thousands of Israeli couples must go abroad to marry. No doubt other religions enforce similar rules for in-group/out-group behavior, just as countries have rules to determine who qualifies for citizenship.

But with liberals, there is a difference. For starters, they are liberal: that is, "tolerant," "open-minded," "not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values," "having views or policies advocating individual freedom of action and expression," to mention some of the dictionary definitions. Sure, rabbis, priests and politicians earn their living by making distinctions between Us and Them. But liberals speak for all mankind: Their decencies are human decencies, not group ones, supposedly. And while human decency shouldn't connote limitless toleration for aberrant behavior, surely the liberal "at least" would be notched a couple inches below whatever level of human debasement John Ashcroft is supposed to have reached.

Yet, to paraphrase Bruce Hornsby, that's not the way it is. Not long ago, the New York Sun, a conservative broadsheet, dispatched six brave souls to traipse around Manhattan donning conspicuous Bush-Cheney campaign paraphernalia. One reporter, Roderick Boyd, encountered a woman in Union Square who "spat on the ground at his feet and proceeded to deliver a lecture on alleged Republican fascism and 'blood for oil.' " Another reporter, Maura Yates, "received a more personal greeting from a fellow pedestrian: He walked up and stuck his middle finger in her face."

What gave this story particular interest was that it was inspired by a similar stunt by Slate reporter Richard Rushfield, who spent some time in Republican and Democratic districts wearing paraphernalia of the opposing candidate. "In my Kerry-Edwards shirt," he writes, "I enter Red America certain that I am on the verge of inciting to rage a gang of angry yachtsmen. . . . Instead I encounter only shades of indifference."

That's not the way it is in Kerry Country, however, where Mr. Rushfield's experiences tend to be a bit more vivid. "Reflecting on the sting of being called 'a--------' during my trips through Blue America, I wonder: If I were truly a Bush supporter, how long would I be able to endure a life filled with epithets before I gave up on the shirt?"

Good question, Richard, and one I often ask myself. For here's something most thoughtful conservatives learn at some point in their political education: However "Red" this country may be at the ballot box, it remains for us the land of the liberal assumption, in which merely to express our opinion is to risk seeming rude. And being the conservatives we are, most of us are way too polite for that.

More here

15 November, 2004


UK "Right to Fight Back" campaign: "72 per cent of people believe that the current law, allowing householders to use only "reasonable force" against intruders, is "inadequate and ill-defined". A similar proportion, 71 per cent, say that householders should have an unqualified right to use force, if necessary deadly force, against people breaking into their homes. More than half (51 per cent) do not believe that the police can protect householders against intruders; 70 per cent believe the government could do more to reduce the risk of burglaries; and an overwhelming 81 per cent say burglars should not have any rights to to sue householders if they, the intruders, suffer any injuries during the break-in." And "All talk" Blunkett says he supports the campaign...

There is a report today on Education Watch about another case of PC oppression in an American university.


Exactly one week after the political assassination of Dutch journalist Theo Van Gogh in Holland last Tuesday, the Supreme Court in neighbouring Belgium has banned the Vlaams Blok, an anti-immigration party that happens to be the largest party in the country. Is there a connection between the Van Gogh assassination and the judicial execution of the Vlaams Blok? There sure is.

In his last column, Van Gogh had praised the Flemings, the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of Flanders, the northern half of Belgium, because they had managed to get rid of the local Antwerp Muslim leader Dyab Abu Jahjah. Van Gogh noted Jahjah's announcement in a Flemish newspaper that he is about to leave Belgium because too many Flemings vote Vlaams Blok. "The sooner I can leave, the better," Jahjah said. "Flemings are stupid idiots. One million of them voted Vlaams Blok." ....

Today, however, it is less certain that Jahjah will have to leave Belgium. Its Supreme Court, the Cour de Cassation, ruled that Jahjah's enemies in the Vlaams Blok (VB) belong to a "racist" organization. The party, consequently, has to be disbanded. This is the first time in the history of Western Europe that a court ruling has forced a democratic party to disband.

The Belgian political establishment has been pushing for this measure for years. The VB is not only an anti-immigration party but also a secessionist party, striving for the independence of Flanders, the economic powerhouse of Belgium. During the past decade, the Belgian constitution was changed and five draconian laws were voted in order to strangle the VB. This is the latest, and most serious, attack.

Flemish dissatisfaction with Belgium has gained the VB the support of one million voters in this country of only ten million inhabitants-one million of whom are foreigners. From three percent of the Flemish vote in the 1987 general elections, the VB has risen relentlessly to 24.1 percent in the regional elections last June. That won the VB 32 of the 124 seats in the Flemish regional parliament, making it the largest single party. But, ostensibly because of its position on immigration, the VB has constantly been smeared by the establishment parties as a "racist" organisation, and it has been excluded from participation in the coalitions that typically control Belgian federal, regional and municipal legislatures by the so-called "cordon sanitaire" agreement, in which all the other parties piously vowed never to form a coalition with "racists."

The VB's anti-immigration rhetoric, however, is directed exclusively at Muslim fundamentalists to whom its message is to "assimilate or return home." In Antwerp, where the party is supported by 34.9 percent of the electorate, the VB has a large backing of orthodox Jews who feel threatened by Islamic extremists like Jahjah. Filip Dewinter, the leader of the Antwerp chapter of the VB, said last March 23rd when he introduced Israeli author Avi Lipkin, a former spokesman of the Israeli army, to a VB audience, that Israel is "the vanguard of the West in a feudal Middle East." In fact, there are other reasons why the VB is shunned by Belgium's establishment parties.

"Its conservative family policies, its deeply felt ethical objections to abortion and euthanasia, its radical pursuing of the interests of Flanders, its republicanism, these are the issues voiced by no other party, these are in practice the indiscussable phantasms of the Vlaams Blok," a leading left-wing columnist wrote in the anti-VB Flemish newspaper De Standaard last January..... And last year, the Belgian Parliament voted an enhanced Anti-Discrimination Act which reversed the burden of proof. The complainant no longer needs to prove that the accused does indeed "discriminate." It is up to the accused to prove that he does not.

This April, after a prolonged judicial battle of almost four years, the CEOFR complaint led to a conviction of the VB as a "racist" organisation by a Court of Appeal in Ghent. The court cited a selection of texts provided by the CEOFR. These texts were an anthology of 16 different excerpts from publications by various local VB chapters between 1996 and 2000. Many of the texts simply quoted official statistics on crime rates and social welfare expenditure. But they were, according to the court, published with "an intention to contribute to a campaign of hatred."

One of the texts, which dealt with the position of women in fundamentalist Muslim societies, was written by a female Turkish-born VB member who had herself been raised in such an environment and had been subjected to a forced marriage. But the court said that, although the claims that were made in the story were not necessarily untrue, the VB published it "not to inform the public about the position of women in the Islamic world, but to depict the image [of non-indigenous people] as unethical and barbarian."....

The Ghent ruling, which was upheld by the Belgian Supreme Court today, means that the CEOFR can prosecute every politician, every member and every "cooperator" of the party. The verdict states explicitly: "By `belonging to' a group or society is meant that the culprit [...] is a part of the group or society [...]. It is not necessary for him to have conducted any activities within the group or society. Similarly, `cooperating,' by which is meant any form of support for the functioning of the group or society, does not imply the execution of criminal acts. The punishability of `belonging to' and `cooperating' follows from the mere knowledge that the group or society, to which one belongs or with which one cooperates, [...] commits discrimination.".....

To protect its people against prosecution, the VB leadership has today decided to disband the party. It wants to establish a new party next Sunday, but this one, too, will probably be prosecuted. The party leadership hopes, however, that it can postpone a new verdict against a new party for a number of years, allowing it to win future electoral victories, force its way into goverment and abolish Belgium. "Our voters deserve a democracy. Belgium refuses to grant them one; we will," Mr. Vanhecke said today. "We will establish a new party. This one Belgium will not be able to bury; it will bury Belgium."

More here

14 November, 2004


"Many of the statements surrounding last month's Domestic Violence Awareness drive were 'anti-knowledge': things generally believed to be true even though they are false. For example, the general assumption "women are victims, men are abusers" ignores data indicating that battered husbands comprise a significant percentage of domestic violence victims. Equally, women who do not fit the stereotype of victimhood are ignored. The fault lies with the stereotypes, not with the non-conforming victims.

The underlying ideology of domestic violence is politically-correct feminism which considers women to be oppressed by male power and the institutions of society, including traditional marriage. Accordingly, domestic violence has been subjected to a black-and-white analysis that rests upon stereotypes. From the politically correct perspective, a domestic violence victim is a woman so traumatized by violence that she has become virtually incapable of making the choice to leave. Children or financial dependence may be complicating factors. The domestic violence abuser is portrayed as a dominating man, but he is more than this. He has become a symbol of the violence presumed to lurk beneath the surface of 'everyman'. Some anti-domestic violence ad campaigns even target young boys in order to nip their violence in the bud.

For the many real world victims, the realities of domestic violence flatly contradict such stereotypes. For them, the characterizations serve as barriers to understanding and healing. I know because, for over a decade, I've struggled to make sense of my own abuse and feminist explanations made that torturous process more difficult than it had to be...."

More here:


Politicians have too much time on their hands. They should all be unpaid part-timers. They would then have less time to dream up new ways of getting attention by bothering other people

A Brazilian legislator wants to make it illegal to give pets names that are common among people. Federal congressman Reinaldo Santos da Silva proposed the law after psychologists suggested that some children may get depressed when they learn they share their first name with someone's pet, said Damarias Alves, a spokeswoman for Silva. "Names have importance," said Alves. The congressman "wants to challenge people's assumptions that it's acceptable to give animals human names," she said.

If the law is passed, pet stores and veterinary clinics would be required to display a sign noting the prohibition of human first names for pets. Brazilians who break the law would be subject to fines or community service. Alves admitted the law's chances of passage were slim but said Silva hoped the bill would call attention to his other efforts to protect animals. "He's proposed many laws to protect wildlife in Brazil, but this is the only one that has ever gotten any attention," Alves said.


13 November, 2004


"Last week professional martyr and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader found himself favored by only the bottom one percent of the electorate. Despite this loss, his ever-multiplying organizations will soldier on, including those groups dedicated to dictating our diets. Nader -- who insisted that "McDonald's double cheeseburgers [are] a weapon of mass destruction" and attacked the omnipresent Michael Moore, poking fun at the celluloid star's own cellulite -- has inspired and employed many of today's leading obesity hysterics.

When it comes to the so-called "obesity epidemic," the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is the undisputed king of hyperbolic hysteria. Founded by executive director Michael Jacobson and two other lawyers from Nader's Center for the Study of Responsive Law, CSPI infamously attacked Fettuccine Alfredo as a "heart attack on a plate," tried to scare the chopsticks out of the hands of those who enjoy Chinese food, and maintains a fatwa against countless cuisine choices. In addition to pushing fat taxes and obesity lawsuits, CSPI now says it's planning a campaign that will branch out into animal and environmental issues, with a name that should be music to Nader's ears: "Eating Green." ....

Commercial Alert is in the business of attacking business. Nader is its co-founder and the chair of its advisory board (see here and here for examples of their collective handiwork). One of Commercial Alert's flagship projects is an open letter urging "a global ban" on marketing food and beverages they don't like to children. Signers include CSPI and the Green Party of the United States, which ran Nader as its Presidential candidate in 2000.

More here:


"A TV ad showing a computer-illiterate father getting chided for trying to help his Internet-savvy daughter with her homework has aroused the anger of fatherhood activists, who are calling on Verizon to take it off the air. 'Leave her alone,' says the wife/mother in the Verizon DSL ad, ordering her befuddled husband to go wash the dog as the daughter, doing research on the computer, conveys a look of exasperation with her father. 'It's really outrageous,' said Joe Kelly, executive director of the national advocacy group Dads and Daughters. 'It's reflective of some deeply entrenched cultural attitudes -- that fathers are second-class parents, that they're not really necessary,' Mr. Kelly said. 'To operate from the assumption that dad is a dolt is harmful to fathers, harmful to children, and harmful to mothers.'"

John Bonomo, a Verizon Communications Inc. spokes-man, said yesterday the ad has been running for several months. But only a few days ago did it come to the attention of Glenn Sacks, a commentator who hosts a weekly radio show aired in Los Angeles and Seattle that is sympathetic to the fathers' rights movement.

After watching the ad, Mr. Sacks began urging listeners of "His Side" to protest to Verizon - contending that the company would not have commissioned a comparable ad with the sexes of the parents reversed.

More here

12 November, 2004


The hate-filled hearts of the Left have always been murderous -- from the French Revolution onwards. Post below lifted from Taranto

Meanwhile, over on BillMaher.com, the eponymous Web site of the HBO talk-show host, a reader called "moulty" has posted a message to the discussion board under the title "Shooting Republicans, ethical? Discuss" (quoting verbatim):

At this point in time, would it be morally defensible to apply a "final solution" to republicans? Let's face it, when Grover Norquist is doing the media rounds...when his agenda of eliminating all taxes on billionaires and letting the poor pay all taxes and carry the debt burdon, and let them scounge around in the garbage for food...builds character.....when THIS type of criminal extreme right wing "thought" is entering the mainstream...it's time for extreme action.

GW Bush and the American right wing Taliban are endangering the entire planet. If the rest of the world had a say, Bush and Cheney would be in jail. Is it now morally excusable to organize midnight raids on republican groups in the red states and "terminate" them with extreme prejudice?

Watching Bush's acceptance speech on wednesday, with the Cheney's on stage as well....who would not have liked to see a bomb go off under the stage and wipe out the whole despicable slimy lot of them? And hopefully the shrapnel would have gone to the second deck and blown Mary Matalin's head off as well. Be honest. Who would not like to see Karen Hughes run over by an 18 wheel truck? Who wouldn't like to see her carcass scattered all over highway 99?

Good thing liberals are so tolerant, open-minded and inclusive, or there's no telling what they might say or do.


Treating an adult female who voluntarily has sex with a young male as a criminal is the height of absurdity. Only the absurd belief that men and women are the same could underpin an argument that the woman concerned should be punished. Men and women are not the same in the situation described below any more than they are in many other situations. It's the woman who takes the risk in sex so it is only the informed and mature consent of the woman involved that matters. Such consent existed in this case but might not exist where a male teacher had sex with a young girl. In the case below, a realist would say that the young guy just got lucky

"A woman teacher avoided a jail term yesterday after pleading guilty to a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy. As she left the Victorian County Court, Karen Louise Ellis, a 37-year-old mother of three, said: "I got exactly what I deserved." Ellis had earlier pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual penetration with a boy under 16. Judge John Smallwood sentenced her to 22 months in jail but wholly suspended the term for three years.

The former Melbourne physical education teacher had repeated sex with the boy at her North Eltham home while her husband was away in October and November last year. The boy's mother contacted police after seeing Ellis and her son "looking like husband and wife" as they left their school in the teacher's car.

Judge Smallwood said the case against Ellis was "greatly different" to the recent case concerning high-profile tennis coach Gavin Hopper, who in August was jailed for more than two years for his affair with an underage schoolgirl in the 1980s. Indeed, the Crown had not suggested the circumstances surrounding the two cases were similar nor that any comparison should be made, he said. Hopper's relationship with his victim began when she was 14 and stretched over two years. Hopper denied the charges from the outset and at the trial, the victim was called "either a liar or mad or both". The trial judge found Hopper had shown no remorse and the victim had suffered greatly.

"Those factors do not exist in this particular situation to anything like the extent they occurred in Hopper and it's my view that in circumstances such as these comparisons are very dangerous," he said. Declaring a degree of mercy appropriate, he told Ellis: "The fallout from your criminal conduct has been enormous." She would never teach again, her reputation had been destroyed and she had been subjected to public ridicule. She was now regarded as a serious sexual offender and her name would go on the sexual offenders' register.

But a victims-of-crime lobby group said the decision not to jail Ellis was a disgrace and revealed gender bias in the justice system. The president of the Crime Victims Association, Noel McNamara, said: "It appears we have one law for one gender and one law for another gender according to the justice system. It was "pretty disgusting" there was such a disparity in two sentences handed down from the bench, and the decision sent the wrong message to victims. "I feel for the boy and his mother," he said. "She has to be concerned that it appears justice is different for her because it was a boy." The president of the Australian Council of State School Organisations, Judith Bundy, said there needed to be consistency in sentencing: "I think it will be a concern for parents," Ms Bundy said. "It's a very difficult issue and people get very emotional.""


11 November, 2004


"In Canada, even hardened convicts get golden government handshakes. Documents obtained by Sun Media reveal some federal prisoners are collecting five-figure taxpayer-funded payoffs when they hurt themselves during activities, training or work programs behind bars. Offenders are also eligible for benefits if they've suffered an "occupational disease" in jail or "aggravated" a pre-existing condition through a program.

Government records reveal dozens of claims over the past three years, including one for $52,372, another for $38,511 and several more for $25,000-plus.

Sylvain Martel, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, fumed that guards have to fight "tooth and nail" to have workers compensation board claims approved for workplace injuries or post-traumatic stress. "It's atrocious to see what we have to go through while the inmates are getting paid directly," he said."



In Massachusetts, of course

"In today's society, most everyone has a built in self-monitoring device called "political correctness." It stems from the atrocities committed upon minorities throughout history. It is like a badge of shame, a constant reminder that we owe something to those who have been less fortunate. Each and every person lives with the watchful eye in the back of his or her head, and this eye directs us towards being kind and generous towards minorities who have been wronged by white males and females. African Americans, homosexuals, Jews and Asians are some of the people we feel obligated to. But when, if ever, does this self-monitoring device hurt us? Where does one draw the line between political correctness and the other desires that pull us in the opposite direction?

As a young freshman, I was approached by a man on the street who said he liked to meet people who he thought were interesting and to go out for coffee with them. He was friendly and charming so I acquiesced. Soon enough, I began to form a friendship with him. I realized quickly that he wanted to be more than just friends, but I was trapped. The political correctness was like a cage and I couldn't break free of it. I kept telling myself I didn't want to be homophobic. I wanted to tell him off. I hated him for putting me in such an uncomfortable position and I hated him for not understanding that I was straight. He seemed to want to believe that everyone was bi-sexual, as if this simple piece of information one obtains in an anthropology course is enough to convince anyone to have homosexual sex with you.

The problem was that I wasn't sure what I owed him. And that was the only accurate word: owe. I felt the watchful eye in the back of my head. It was giving me a stern glare, and I kept thinking that I simply didn't know how to get along with a gay person. I had never had a homosexual friend before. I had hardly ever known any homosexuals in my entire life. I felt I owed him an explanation for not wanting to be around him. But what could I say? He wasn't coming onto me. He was just making me uncomfortable. And I wasn't going to turn bisexual just because some anthropology teacher said it was a basic fact of human nature. Sexuality may be something that is determined by society (or it may not be) but my sexuality had already been decided long ago.

In truth, I hated him, but my feelings seemed irrational and unjust. So I continued to hang out with him, and I felt more and more frustrated with my situation by the day. What did I owe him? A polite thanks, but no thanks? Did I owe him an explanation or should I simply have told him I was going on vacation and never spoken to him again? Would that even work? He had so many arguments against it and he was the type of person who wouldn't take no for an answer. He would evade it. He would say he was sorry that he was making me feel uncomfortable, and continue down the same path he was on. Did I owe it to my own feelings to cuss him out over the phone? Where does one draw the line, political correctness or natural impulse?

I tried political correctness at first. But just as I suspected he said he just wanted to be friends. The cage grew smaller and smaller. Finally, one night on the phone I told him I didn't like being around him and I didn't want to be friends anymore. "So you don't call me and I won't call you," I said. He told me that was fine and called me a week later to try to explain that he didn't mean any offense. This time the anger was so intense that I went with it. I told him off in the most disrespectful way possible, and like that, the relationship was over. I was left feeling so much anger I couldn't express. I felt violated, emotionally raped. But I learned something about what I owe people.

I realized I don't owe people anything. I'm not homophobic, a racist, or a sexist, and it is possible to kill that watchful eye in the back of one's head by simply affirming to oneself that one is not prejudice. Our emotions are too important to be ignored. It is imperative that one breaks free of the cage that is political correctness. That watchful eye gets us in trouble. If one treats everyone with respect, one's boundaries will invariably be violated. This is something one learns with age. But if you meet a homosexual who makes you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason, you may have to decide between your emotions and political correctness.

Choose your emotions. In today's society, all we have are our feelings and our own personal truth to make our decisions with. Everything else is a form of imprisonment. Break out of your cage and see how much better freedom feels".

10 November, 2004


All that airline security hassle is for nothing. It's just an act

Public-policy obsession with avoiding any possible charge of racism was the luxury of an age that believed that the United States faced no greater danger than the bigotry of its own people. Though such thinking should have been cast aside after 9/11, it has not been. The incoherence that existed at the origin of CAPPS I plagues anti-terrorism efforts today. In 1997, the government recognized the reality of Islamic terrorism by building some Islamic-centric features into the program while simultaneously repudiating the consequences of that reality-stricter scrutiny for Muslims. Currently, from immigration enforcement to intelligence gathering, government officials continue to compromise national security in order to avoid accusations of "racial profiling"-and in order to avoid publicly acknowledging what the 9/11 Commission finally said: that the "enemy is not just `terrorism,' [but] Islamist terrorism." This blind anti-discrimination reflex is all the more worrying since radical Islam continues to seek adherents and plan attacks in the United States.

The anti-discrimination hammer has hit the airline industry most severely-and with gruesome inappropriateness, given the realities of 9/11 and the Islamists' enduring obsession with airplanes. Department of Transportation lawyers have extracted millions in settlements from four major carriers for alleged discrimination after 9/11, and they have undermined one of the most crucial elements of air safety: a pilot's responsibility for his flight. Because the charges against the airlines were specious but successful, every pilot must worry that his good-faith effort to protect his passengers will trigger federal retaliation.

The DoT action against American Airlines was typical. In the last four months of 2001, American carried 23 million passengers and asked ten of them (.00004 percent of the total) not to board because they raised security concerns that could not be resolved in time for departure. For those ten interventions (and an 11th in 2002), DoT declared American a civil rights pariah, whose discriminatory conduct would "result in irreparable harm to the public" if not stopped.

On its face, the government's charge that American was engaged in a pattern of discriminatory conduct was absurd, given how few passenger removals occurred. But the racism allegation looks all the more unreasonable when put in the context of the government's own actions. Three times between 9/11 and the end of 2001, public officials warned of an imminent terror attack. Transportation officials urged the airlines to be especially vigilant. In such an environment, pilots would have been derelict not to resolve security questions in favor of caution.

Somehow, DoT lawyers failed to include in their complaint one further passenger whom American asked not to board in 2001. On December 22, airline personnel in Paris kept Richard Reid off a flight to Miami. The next day, French authorities insisted that he be cleared to board. During the flight, Reid tried to set off a bomb in his shoe, but a stewardess and passengers foiled him. Had he been kept from flying on both days, he too might have ended up on the government's roster of discrimination victims.

In application, the government's "but-for" test reduces to a "never-ever" rule: ethnic heritage, religion, or national origin may play no role in evaluating risk. But when the threat at issue is Islamic terrorism, it is reckless to ask officials to disregard the sole ironclad prerequisite for being an Islamic terrorist: Muslim identity. American officials may still be terrified about naming the threat, but a few Arab commentators are willing to say what the Bush administration will not: "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims," wrote Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of the influential Al Arabiya television station, after the school massacre in Beslan, Russia...

Years of government lawsuits over specious employment-discrimination claims have made the airlines gun-shy over "bias" issues. But American Airlines did contest DoT's discrimination action because so much was at stake. Federal law vests final responsibility for flight safety with the pilot. For a passel of discrimination lawyers, months after the fact, to question a pilot's good-faith judgment-made with incomplete information under great time pressure-violates a crucial principle of secure aviation. American's defense pointed out the behavioral warning signs that had led to the 11 removals. But fighting the government civil rights complex is futile; in February 2004, the airline, while vehemently denying guilt, settled the action for $1.5 million, to be spent on yet more "sensitivity training" for its employees. American's pilots were outraged. "Pilots felt: `How dare they second-guess our decision?'" says Denis Breslin, a pilots' union official. "We just shake our heads in shame: `How could the government be so wrong?'"

In addition to individual discrimination suits, the government has continued to sic "disparate impact" analysis on anti-terror measures. One of the most destructive innovations of the rights lobby, such analysis-which assigns bigotry to neutral policies if they affect different demographic groups differently-is suicidal in a war-fighting situation. It rules out every security procedure that might actually be useful in combating Muslim terrorists, since a screening device for Muslim terrorists cannot by definition have the same effect on non-Muslims.

More here

9 November, 2004


"Arkansas teachers have been told they can continue to reward students with candy, despite a state battle against childhood obesity in schools. The Pulaski County School District had told elementary school principals last month that teachers could no longer hand out candy or ice cream as rewards. But state Education Department director Ken James said no such directive has been approved by the state Board of Education. "We need to be conscious of what we are doing in terms of sugar content, but we have not dictated to schools that they cannot use those as rewards," James said. As a result, the district told teachers last week that they could resume handing out candy. The directive was based on a misunderstanding of a new law, officials said. The law requires schools to calculate the body mass index for each student and bars access to vending machines for elementary school students". (Source).


"The right to vote is precious, the politicians preach. Our democracy hangs in the balance, the pundits screech. Yes, but if we all value the sanctity of the voting process so highly, why is it that I’ve never once been asked to produce identification of any kind in the 16 years I’ve been a voter, from Ohio to California to Washington state to Maryland? And why is it that we can’t protect our elections from people who have no right to vote, no right to be here, and no right to undermine our safety or sovereignty?

While unhinged Democrats spread fear about the alleged discriminatory disenfranchisement of American citizens, they have supported the indiscriminate enfranchisement of untold numbers of foreign outlaws — including suspected al-Qaida operatives and terrorist sympathizers. Last week, the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch reported that illegal alien Nuradin Abdi — the suspected shopping mall bomb plotter from Somalia — was registered to vote in the battleground state of Ohio by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a left-wing activist group. Also on the Ohio voting rolls: convicted al-Qaida agent Iyman Faris, who planned to sabotage the Brooklyn Bridge and had entered the country fraudulently from Pakistan on a student visa. In the battleground state of Florida, indicted terror suspect Sami Al-Arian illegally cast his ballot in a Tampa referendum in 1994 while his citizenship application was pending. He claimed the unlawful vote was the result of a “misunderstanding.” State officials declined to prosecute.

You’ve heard about those satirical “10 out of 10 terrorists agree: Anybody But Bush” bumper stickers? There may be more truth to them than you think. John Fund, author of “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy,” reports that at least eight of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were eligible to vote in Virginia or Florida while they plotted to kill Americans. What’s to stop the next foreign terrorist plotter from casting a tainted ballot in the nation he has sworn to destroy? Not much. According to the Franklin County Board of Elections, the Dispatch reports, the office simply “takes a person’s word, that they’re (sic) a U.S. citizen.”

In the battleground state of Wisconsin, the story is the same for those who are responsible for registering other people to vote. Not only do we regularly do nothing to verify the citizenship of people voting, but we also shrug our shoulders at the citizenship status of election workers. I recently obtained a disturbing set of investigative reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), outlining how the city of Racine neglects to ask deputy registrar applicants for identification or proof of citizenship.

FAIR’s investigation also alleges that a deputy registrar in Racine registered two individuals — one posing as an admitted illegal alien — and reportedly advised them to lie on their forms. The report notes that the deputy registrar — working for the open borders lobbying group Voces de la Frontera — then gave the couple information on other illegal alien benefits, including employment rights and bank accounts. Law enforcement officials in Wisconsin — which has been swamped with voter fraud shenanigans — have copies of the report, affidavits from the couple who dealt with the registrar and recordings of their conversations. But no action, if any, is likely until after the election.

Democrats at the state and federal levels have aggressively courted the illegal alien swing vote. The most egregious example, of course, was the taxpayer-funded Citizenship USA program under the Clinton-Gore administration, which abandoned criminal background checks to naturalize 1.3 million immigrants (including scores of criminal alien felons) in time for the 1996 elections.

Ethnic and racial grievance groups, with backing from the likes of Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy, have forcefully opposed basic ID requirements at the polls. And they have armies of lawyers standing by to assist them. Responsible election officials who ask for proof of citizenship will be accused of “harassment” and “intimidation.” They will be accused of causing a “chilling effect” — never mind the corrosive effect of unchecked illegal alien voter fraud on the integrity of our electoral system.


8 November, 2004


From a British observer

But why, exactly, do so many of President Bush's critics despise him with such unprecedented venom? It can hardly be because he insists on Washington's right to launch wars of intervention. That has been the position of every president since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Bill Clinton did it in Kosovo, with support from not only Tony Blair but also Clare Short and John Kerry. And Mr Bush is not the first president to launch a war on a dubious pretext.

No, like much else today, the reasons seem to be more personal than political. Mr Bush has become the symbol of the one minority it is deemed respectable to hate. Everybody understands that it is no longer acceptable to be rude to racial or ethnic minorities; even Mr Bush's conservative Republicans go out of their way to avoid insulting Islam. The one group that is considered fair game, however, is the kind of 'white trash ' who can be branded ignorant racists. White trash chavs from, say, Essex are an easy target for abuse over here. White trash rednecks from backward places such as Texas are an even easier target over there.

I am not about to set up a 'libertarian Marxists for Dubya' campaign (or for John Kerry either). But the vitriol directed against Bush supporters seems to me no less trashy politics than the racist prejudice that some Republicans espoused in past elections.

The contemptuous tone of this campaign is captured by a song I keep hearing called American Idiot, by the punkish American band, Green Day: 'Don't want to be an American idiot/One nation controlled by the media/Information age of hysteria/I'm not part of a redneck agenda'. A lot of supposedly more highbrow criticism has been in the same low tone. One typical British intellectual has called on all 'intelligent, educated, civilised, cultivated, compassionate people in America' to vote against Bush - with the obvious implication that anybody voting for him must be a barbaric, brutish American idiot. Radical American commentators publish articles under headlines such as 'Clueless people love Bush' and 'Don't be brainwashed!'.

A constant complaint is that many 'clueless people' have already been brainwashed by the Bush campaign's use of scare tactics through an allegedly compliant media. Arianna Huffington, a leading anti-Bush columnist, claims that Americans are voting in a 'fog of fear', and that thanks to Mr Bush's 'unremitting fear-mongering, millions of voters are reacting not with their linear and logical left brain, but with their lizard brain and their more emotional right brain . . . It's not about left wing v right wing; it's about left brain v right brain'. Or, she might just as well have said, intelligent and logical people v emotionally idiotic lizards.

These attitudes are not only contemptuous, they are a cop-out. How much easier it is for the liberal Left to blame stupid voters and the lying media for propping up Mr Bush and the Iraq war, rather than face up to its own failure to mount a convincing case or win the argument.... Those who protest about the power of Republican fear-mongering are using scare tactics of their own, with Mr Bush cast as bogeyman along with bin Laden. Those who pour public scorn on 'American idiots' are parading the latest version of the socialism of fools. [The original "socialism of fools" -- a term coined by August Bebel -- was, of course, antisemitism]


If the present-day plot to blow Bonfire Night off the calendar continues, we may have to forget about fun with fireworks on 5 November. An old-fashioned Bonfire Night is now anathema to authorities that seem shell-shocked by the very idea of crowds of people enjoying themselves with alcohol and a little gunpowder. This year, police are enforcing new laws that ban under-18s from possessing fireworks, and anybody from letting them off in public places or after 11pm except on November 5, New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali. But it is getting harder for many grown-ups to stage a fireworks display on fireworks night, too.

My colleague Josie Appleton has just researched the issue for spiked, the website I edit. She found a sorry tale of bonfire parties cancelled because they cannot keep up with the explosion of health and safety regulations or rocketing insurance premiums. One insurer still prepared to cover fireworks displays told her that, whereas two years ago local bonfires could buy insurance for less than œ60, many councils now demand œ5 million of cover for events on their land - which means premiums of œ1365 for 1000 people. "In the past," he said "councils would have just let people get on with it".

Just let us get on with it! Such an anarchic outlook must surely be suppressed. Those who do go ahead have to comply with strict rules which mean that, at their school display tonight, my children will be banned from waving lethal sparklers about.

The few surviving traditional bonfires might soon risk prosecution under David Blunkett's laws against inciting religious hatred. During the Bonfire Night parade at Lewes in East Sussex, members of the Cliffe bonfire society still uphold the event's anti-Papist origins, flying "No Popery" banners and burning an effigy of Camillo Borghese, the Pope at the time of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Their website reminds us of forgotten verses to "Remember, remember...":

"Burn him in a tub of tar /
Burn him like a blazing star /
Burn his body from his head /
Then we'll say old Pope is dead".

This sounds like an example of religious freedom, which should include our freedom to offend all religions equally. The Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Intolerance may have other ideas.

Even the Lewes Bonfire Council is asking non-residents to stay away tonight. Sadly this is not because, as Edward and Tubs from Royston Vasey in The League of Gentlemen might say, they want "a local riot for local people", but on the grounds that standing around outdoors in November can be "an unpleasant experience", and the event will be "confusing and frightening" for children.

Why must children always be used as a stick to beat us into behaving ourselves?


7 November, 2004


But Muslims are always correct, no matter what they do

"Police in Rotterdam removed this Wednesday a commandment from the Bible, 'Thou shalt not kill', from a wall in Rotterdam-North. A 52 year old man who tried to stop the police and the cleaners, was arrested. He was given a fine.

A police-spokesman claimed Thursdag that the removal of the texts fits in the national instructions given to police-officers to be on alert on all possible signals of unrests or provocation. "On Wednesday evening we were told there was a text on a wall right next to a mosque in the Insulindestreet. There was already an attempt to cover the text with paint, that is why we ordered the text to be removed."

Artist C. Ripken painted the text over a wallpainting he made earlier of an angel that flies above the world. Below the 'Thou shalt not kill' he added the date of 02-11-2004, the date that Theo van Gogh was murdered. Out of frustration, Ripken declared Wednesday. "It is annoying I am surfing along this sewer, but when I was told by my son that The can Gogh was murdered, I had a feeling I had to do something. I painted the text. It is the first time for me that I use text."

The next day Ripken has no understanding for the way police acted. "I am scared. It grips you if a man gets arrested because he tries to stop them from taking your text away. 'Thou shalt not kill' is a neutral text to me. If it's insulting to anyone, it's beyond my comprehension.""

Original (in Dutch) here

Translation here

Confirmatory report (in English) here

More details here


Australian slang for homosexuals under attack

"Talkback king John Laws may face action over an on-air salvo at Carson Kressley's queer eye antics. Some believe it's political correctness gone too far. In some people's eyes, political correctness is having a gay old time when it comes to a radio jock expressing his feelings on the air. The tonsils behind the golden microphone - belonging to 2UE's John Laws - have laid into Carson Kressley, front man for the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy series. .... A decision from the Equal Opportunity Tribunal on exactly how offensive it is to call someone a 'poof' on-air is expected later this month."

6 November, 2004


Tuesday's murder of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who criticised Islamic practices, reminds all of a nagging truth: that more than 15 years after the Iranian Government issued a death warrant against novelist Salman Rushdie, dissenting with Muslims remains a risky business. As a Muslim reformer, I speak from experience. My book, The Trouble with Islam, has put me on the receiving end of anger, hatred and vitriol. That's because I'm asking questions from which we Muslims can no longer hide. Why, for example, are we squandering the talents of half of God's creation, women? What's with the stubborn streak of anti-Semitism in Islam today? Above all, how can even moderate Muslims view the Koran literally when it, like every holy text, abounds in contradiction and ambiguity? The trouble with Islam today is that literalism is going mainstream.

Muslims who take offence at these points often wind up reinforcing them in their responses to me. I regularly get death threats through my website. Some of my would-be assassins emphasise the virtues of martyrdom, wanting to hurl me into the flames of hell in exchange for 72 virgins. Others simply want to know what plane I'm next boarding, so they can hijack it. Somehow, I don't feel the urge to share my schedule.

A few threats have been up-close and personal. At an airport in North America, a Muslim man approached my travel companion to say, "You're luckier than your friend." When she asked him to explain, he turned his hand into the shape of a gun and pulled the trigger. "She will find out later what that means," he intoned.

But, for all of the threats, there's good news: I'm hearing more support, affection and even love from fellow Muslims than I thought possible. Two groups in particular - young Muslims and Muslim women - have flooded my website with letters of relief and thanks. Relief that somebody is saying out loud what they have only ever whispered. Gratitude that they're being given the permission to think for themselves.....

Muslims in the West are best poised to revive Islam's tradition of independent reasoning. Why in the West? Because it's here that we already enjoy the precious freedoms to think, express, challenge and be challenged all without fear of state reprisal....

I know what many young Muslims would like us to be doing: thinking critically about ourselves and not solely about Washington. Indeed, a huge motivation for having written my book came from young Muslims on US and Canadian campuses. Even before September 11, 2001, I spoke at universities about the virtues of diversity, including diversity of opinion.

After many of these speeches, young Muslims emerged from the audiences, gathered at the side of the stage, chatted excitedly among themselves, and then walked over to me. "Irshad," I would hear, "we need voices such as yours to help us open up this religion of ours because if it doesn't open up, we're leaving it." They're on the front lines in the battle for the soul of Islam. Whatever the risks to my safety, I won't turn my back on them - or on the gift of freedom bestowed by my society.

More here


Ahhh, Indian summer. All this heat has arrived in time to hunt Chinese ringneck pheasants this weekend. It might get warm but the hunting should be fun. Hmm...what I really mean is...Ahh, indigenous persons summer. All this heat has arrived in time to pursue ringneck pheasants of Asian descent this weekend. It might get warm but the harvest should be fun.

More and more, from how we refer to our pursuits and pastimes to how presidential candidates run their campaigns, the nuances of political correctness and politics in general, have crept into the sports of hunting and fishing. So much so that many refuse to call the two "sports" any more, and that the sport is for the candidates to seek out and catch as many votes as possible.

It's all in the lingo. As a child sitting on the dock in Detroit Lakes I pulled colorful bluegills out of the water as effortlessly as picking ripened fruit off a September apple tree. The fish were unhooked and dropped back in with a splash. It was just "letting them go" as I called it back then. Now it is termed "selective harvest." That is, the return of certain fish to the water to be caught again. Don't get me wrong, I am 100% in favor of selective harvest and catch and release morals. I just wonder at what point in my life did it get so technical? Slot limits, length limits, personal limits and the like have changed the shape of fishing in our country. But in reality, it is very much the same as it was on that wooden dock on Big Detroit Lake. Keep the eating fish (usually 2-4 pound northern pike in those days) and let the fun fish go back. Although the size and selection were different then, the principle was still the same: only keep what you want to eat. The words have changed, but the meaning remains the same. But sometimes, I can't help but question certain word usage.

The word "hunter" has always been, in my mind, a gender-neutral term. Men can be hunters, women can be hunters; it is that simple. However, the dominant term for a person who fishes has always been 'fisherman.' Another popular male-skewed term is "outdoorsman." As a writer, I know that the readership of this paper is split between men and women. I think it is a safe assumption that the number of readers who are non-hunters and non-fisher...people, outweigh those who are in the outdoors on a regular basis. Therefore, I feel obligated under the new regime of political correctness to say "fishermen and women" or "outdoors men and women" or at least feel bad when I refer to all people afield as "outdoorsmen."

More here

5 November, 2004


Operator: Thank you for calling Pizza Hut. May I have your national ID number?
Customer: Hi, I'd like to place an order.
Operator: I must have your NIDN first, sir.
Customer: My National ID Number, yeah, hold on, eh, it's 6102049998-45-54610.
Operator: Thank you Mr Sheehan. I see you live at 1742 Meadowland Drive, and the phone number is 494-2366. Your office number over at Lincoln Insurance is 745-2302 and your cellphone number is 031 266-2566. Email addresses are sea2fd.sea2@hotmail and sheehan@home.net. Which number are you calling from sir?
Customer: Huh? I'm at home. Where'd you get all this information?
Operator: We're wired into the HSS, sir.
Customer: The HSS, what is that?
Operator: We're wired into the Homeland Security System, sir. This will add only 15 seconds to your ordering time.
Customer: (sighs) Oh well, I'd like to order a couple of your All-Meat Special pizzas.
Operator: I don't think that's a good idea, sir.
Customer: Whaddya mean?
Operator: Sir, your medical records and commode sensors indicate that you've got very high blood pressure and extremely high cholesterol. Your National Health Care provider won't allow such an unhealthy choice.
Customer: What?!?! What do you recommend, then?
Operator: You might try our low-fat Soybean Pizza. I'm sure you'll like it.
Customer: What makes you think I'd like something like that?
Operator: Well, you checked out 'Gourmet Soybean Recipes' from your local library last week, sir. That's why I made the suggestion.
Customer: All right, all right. Give me two family-sized ones, then.
Operator: That should be plenty for you, your wife and your four kids, and your 2 dogs can finish the crusts, sir. Your total is $49.99.
Customer: Lemme give you my credit card number.
Operator: I'm sorry sir, but I'm afraid you'll have to pay in cash. Your credit card balance is over its limit.
Customer: I'll run over to the ATM and get some cash before your driver gets here.
Operator: That won't work either, sir. Your cheque account is overdrawn also.
Customer: Never mind! Just send the pizzas. I'll have the cash ready. How long will it take?
Operator: We're running a little behind, sir. It'll be about 45 minutes, sir. If you're in a hurry you might want to pick'em up while you're out getting the cash, but then, carrying pizzas on a motorcycle can be a little awkward.
Customer: Wait! How do you know I ride a scooter?
Operator: It says here you're in arrears on your car payments, so your car got repo'ed. But your Harley's paid for and you just filled the tank yesterday.
Customer: Well, I'll be a #%#^^&$%^$@#
Operator: I'd advise watching your language, sir. You've already got a July 4, 2003 conviction for swearing at a cop and another one I see here in September for contempt at your hearing for swearing at a judge. Oh yes, I see here that you just got out from a 90 day stay in the State Correctional Facility. Is this your first pizza since your return.
Customer: (speechless)
Operator: Will there be anything else, sir?
Customer: Yes, I have a coupon for a free 2 litre of Coke.
Operator: I'm sorry sir, but our ad's exclusionary clause prevents us from offering free soda to diabetics. The New Constitution prohibits this.
Thank you for calling Pizza Hut.


To admit the role of the Qur'an in the propagation of violence is simply to open one's eyes and read the statements of Osama bin Laden and other radical Muslim leaders. Is to do this "anti-Muslim"? Certainly CAIR, as shown by this AP article, thinks of all such efforts as "anti-Muslim," and the media uncritically accepts the group's contention that to discuss the roots of terror in the doctrine of jihad is to hate Muslims. But in fact, to criticize the elements of Islam that give rise to terror is not to be anti-Muslim at all; individual Muslims themselves may not accept or even know about the doctrines that Osama and others use to justify themselves.

Moreover, to ignore these elements out of fear of being anti-Muslim plays into the hands of the jihadists by foreclosing on any honest examination of why they're really doing what they're doing -- which foreclosure, of course, destroys the chance that any positive and truly effective steps can be taken to stop them.

It is not hating Muslims to ask them to remove the hate from their religion, and to accept the principles of human rights that are accepted everywhere else in the world. But will Omar Ahmad and CAIR admit this? I doubt it. Ahmad, of course, was reported as saying in 1998 that "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth."

More here

4 November, 2004


A post from John Derbyshire

"Went to a nice reception for Australian historian Keith Windschuttle. Say what? What kind of profession is that, Australian historian? They don't have much history, do they? Well, yes, actually they do, and Australian history is a canary in the coalmine for the poison gas that is bringing on Western Civ's suicidal tendencies. The first real debunking of the "noble savage" myth that I ever read was Geoff Blainey's account, in his 1976 history of the Australian aborigines, of how warlike they were. At most points in aborigine history, a young man's chances of dying a violent death at the hands of some other person were far higher than they were for Europeans in WWII. Blainey collected the numbers and did the arithmetic.

Windschuttle is of the same school as Blainey. He has done relentless detective work exposing the sloppy methods and bogus sources of other historians of his country, those determined to prove that the coming of Europeans was a horrible disaster for the local people, who had been living in arcadian harmony until the cruel, greedy white men showed up. You may have heard, for example, of the massacre of the Tasmanians, publicized by, among others, historian Robert Hughes. Never happened, says Windschuttle, after tracking down the sources.

Here is a valiant warrior against all the mumbo-jumbo of postmodernism, "cultural studies," and political correctness in the teaching of history. Give the bloke a little support: Buy his book.

Trimming Waistlines by Trimming Government

The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a study purporting to link increased soda consumption with weight gain. This comes on the heels of studies linking obesity to urban sprawl, longer commutes to work, time in front of the television, time on the Internet, not enough physical education in schools, vending machines in schools, marketing and advertising of junk food to children and countless other trends, foods, habits and (in)activities.

Unfortunately, a slew of nutrition activists and nanny-statists want to use the fact that some Americans are getting bigger to limit what all Americans can choose to eat. And so we're seeing lawsuits waged against food companies, calls for "fat taxes" on calorie-dense eatables and moves for restrictions on the advertising and marketing of junk food. Of course, sensible people oppose such measures and prefer a system where everyone is free to make his or her own decisions about diet and lifestyle, but also is required to bear the consequences of those decisions.

But there are a number of things we can do that could both facilitate an increased sense of personal responsibility and harness the power of the marketplace to encourage good decisions about diet and activity. For one thing, we could allow health insurance companies to do "medical underwriting" - charging lower insurance premiums for people who exercise regularly and follow healthy diets. That only makes sense, as those people are expected to have lower health care costs than donut-munching couch potatoes.

Standing in the way of medical underwriting are legal prohibitions against allowing insurers to assign risk in health insurance premiums the same way they do with auto and life insurance premiums. Currently, many states require insurers to charge the same premiums for any member of a group health plan, regardless of risk. Removing those barriers would encourage insurers to begin experimenting with carrot-and-stick approaches to healthy lifestyles. One company might give premium discounts for gym memberships, for example. Another might foot the bill for nutritional counseling. In short, we'd get a system where health insurers compete amongst themselves to contrive a system that best balances the health and self-interest of consumers.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said at an obesity summit last June that there are no federal restrictions on medical underwriting. His counsel's office confirmed that not only are there no federal laws against it, there are no binding court decisions or federal regulations, either. So the obstacle to this innovative approach lies at the state level.

Congress can help eliminate state laws that encourage unhealthy lifestyles by enacting legislation similar to the Health Care Choice Act, sponsored by Rep. John Shadegg. Shadegg's bill would enable the residents of any state to purchase health insurance in any other state, under the laws and regulations of the state where the insurer is incorporated. That would create a nationwide market for health insurance. Making the U.S. a "health insurance free trade zone" would allow consumers to avoid unhealthy regulation and encourage states with anachronistic health insurance regulations to deregulate or else face the risk of health insurers reincorporating elsewhere.

A nationwide market for health insurance would spur competition among insurers to attract customers. It would also spur competition among the states to attract insurers. The resulting effect on health care would be to create 51 "laboratories of democracy" where consumers would benefit from two tiers of competition.

Of course, Congress has already taken a step toward encouraging healthier lifestyles by increasing access to health savings accounts. Health savings accounts give consumers the money that their insurance companies would otherwise control; whatever the insured doesn't spend stays in his account and grows tax-free. Bringing the costs of unhealthy lifestyles closer to consumers encourages more careful attention to lifestyle choices. If a consumer knows that any money not spent on health care can be rolled over into a retirement account, he's more likely to make the kinds of lifestyle decisions that keep him in better health.

A nationwide market for health insurance would go a long way toward restricting the obesity problem to the obese, instead of subsidizing it by spreading the costs of weight gain over the entire population. Most importantly, it would harness the power of markets and competition to uncover the most effective way to encourage healthy lifestyles, and free health insurance and health care providers to provide incentives to choose those lifestyles.

It certainly won't guarantee an end to the obesity problem, but it would be preferable to policies that encourage irresponsibility and restrict choice for everyone.


3 November, 2004


"If someone breaks into your home in the middle of the night you can presume he is not there to read the gas meter. But current British law insists that he have the freedom of the premises. When, last Christmas, thousands of Radio 4's Today listeners called for legislation authorising them to protect their homes by any means necessary, the proposal was immediately denounced as a 'ludicrous, brutal, unworkable, blood-stained piece of legislation.' Until recently that 'unworkable, blood-stained' legislation was the law of the land. There was no need to retreat from your home, or from any room within it. An Englishman's home was his refuge, and, indeed, his castle. But no more. Rather than permitting people to protect themselves, the authorities' response to the recent series of brutal attacks on home-owners has been to advise people to get more locks and, in case of a break-in, retreat to a secure room.....

At the same time as government demanded sole responsibility for protecting individuals, it adopted a more lenient approach toward offenders. Sentences were sharply reduced, few offenders served more than a third or a half of their term, and fewer offenders were incarcerated. Further, they were to be protected from their victims. Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer jailed for killing one burglar and wounding another, was denied parole because he posed a danger to other burglars. "It cannot possibly be suggested," the government lawyers argued, "that members of the public cease to be so whilst committing criminal offences" adding, "society can not possibly condone their (unlawful) murder or injury".

Meanwhile, much of rural Britain is without a police presence. And the statutes meant to protect the people have been vigorously enforced against them. Among the articles people have been convicted of carrying for self defence are a sandbag, a pickaxe handle, a stone, and a drum of pepper.

This trade-off of rights for security has been disastrous for both. Crime has rocketed. A UN study in 2002 of 18 developed countries placed England and Wales at the top of the Western world's crime league. Five years after the sweeping 1998 ban on handguns, handgun crime had doubled. As was forecast at the time, the effect of outlawing handguns has been that only outlaws have handguns.

In recent years governments have even felt it necessary to prevent the public from defending themselves with imitation weapons. In 1994 an English home-owner, armed with a toy gun, managed to detain two burglars who had broken into his house while he called the police. When the officers arrived, they arrested the home-owner for using an imitation gun to threaten or intimidate. In a similar incident the following year, when an elderly woman fired a toy cap pistol to drive off a group of youths who were threatening her, she was arrested for putting someone in fear. Now the police are pressing Parliament to make imitation guns illegal.

The impact on law-abiding citizens has been stark. With no way to protect themselves, millions of Britons live in fear. Elderly people are afraid to go out and afraid to stay in. Self defence, wrote William Blackstone, the 18th-century jurist, is a "natural right that no government can deprive people of, since no government can protect the individual in his moment of need". This Government insists upon having a monopoly on the use of force, but can only impose it upon law-abiding people. By practically eliminating self defence, it has removed the greatest deterrent to crime: a people able to defend themselves

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Two Swedish girls were sent home from school by their headmaster for the crime of showing up wearing sweaters that showed some tiny Swedish flags. (flag=nationalism=racism=Nazism, according to leftist, multicultural logic). At the same time, Swedish Universities are discussing whether burkas should be allowed on campus (not hijab, Taliban-style burkas).

Swedish national radio is broadcasting an Islamic sermon - in Swedish - every morning. Some city councils have suggested major Islamic holidays should be public holidays. At the same time, one of the anti-immigration parties in Sweden has asked for UN observers to monitor the Swedish elections, as they are attacked with molotov cocktails by ultra-lefties, denied ads in major newspapers, get their voting slips stolen etc., etc. Maybe Sweden will need international monitors, just like fellow banana republics such as Zimbabwe? Swedish mosques, of course, openly incite violence and even genocide of Israelis and Jews.

Most Swedish newspapers have closed their readers’ discussion forum on the internet, after one paper was convicted of racism as a couple of anti-Muslim immigration comments were allowed on their forum. Swedes who want to discuss what is happening in their country have to visit forums in Norway or Denmark.

The legal age for marriage in Sweden is 18. However, immigrant girls (read: Muslims) have been “allowed” BY LAW to marry at the age of 15. Some would call that apartheid, but hey, everything for multiculturalism. That’s only the beginning, though. It gets worse: Swedish authorities have allowed that young immigrant girls can be sent off to their parents’ country to be married even BEFORE they are 15 years old. If they are pregnant when they return, the father will automatically earn a residency permit to Sweden (and by extension the EU) for “family reunion”. All a Muslim male has to do to get into Sweden - legally - is to have sex with a CHILD. Is that disgusting or what?

Source. (Via Media Front)

2 November, 2004


"Despite heightened awareness of what is happening in the global Church and noted improvements in some areas, such as southern Sudan and Indonesia, persecution is increasing in many countries. "In the Islamic world, generally it's getting worse," says Marshall. He cites Nigeria, Egypt and Pakistan among the countries where Islamic fundamentalism makes life extremely difficult for Christians. Last May, two Pakistani Christians died after being jailed and beaten on trumped-up charges of blasphemy. Clashes between Christians and Muslims in northern Nigeria are becoming disturbingly frequent.

Marshall sees radical Islam as the biggest threat to Christians. Communism still affects believers in several countries, particularly China, where there are upwards of 50 million unregistered Christians. But it is no longer the greatest global threat to the safety of Christians. "Communism is not a force for the future," Marshall says. "It's not inspiring zeal in people."

So far, the Canadian Church has remained virtually free of persecution. "Maybe we just don't create enough of a ripple," Penner says. However, there are worrisome incidents: when students aren't allowed to participate in Christian clubs on school property or when Christian businesses are fined for standing on principles. This was the case for Toronto printer Scott Brockie, who refused to print stationery for an organization that advocates homosexuality. "I think in Canada we're at the stage of misinformation," says Buckingham, "and in some cases starting to move into cases of discrimination."

Of greater concern to persecution watchers is the backlash that arises overseas when news of controversial North American church action reaches Muslim countries. When a practising gay man was elected as an Episcopal bishop in New Hampshire and the diocese of New Westminster in Canada voted to allow same-sex blessings, there were repercussions for Christians in other countries. An official from the Lambeth Commission of the worldwide Anglican Communion told Canadians at their general synod this summer that those decisions have had an effect on brothers and sisters elsewhere. In Pakistan, Uganda, Nigeria and Egypt, Christians "have been publicly pilloried and physically attacked, and their homes set on fire, and people physically assaulted," Canon Geoffrey Cameron told delegates.

"Sometimes Christians [overseas] are persecuted because they are perceived to be immoral," Penner explains. When Muslims hear about the liberal attitudes of North American Christians, it confirms their suspicion—rightly or wrongly—that all Christians are immoral. "We mustn't think that somehow what we do doesn't have an impact somewhere else," Penner warns.

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Defending the Right to Be Offensive

An article by Mick Hume

If anything that is written here offends you, I am afraid that I am not truly sorry and I cannot sincerely apologise for it. Because I believe in the Right to Be Offensive. Which means I do not think that Boris Johnson, Tony Blair, myself or anybody else should ever be expected to apologise for saying something that they believe to be true.

The right to be offensive is a very unfashionable concept in our otherwise rights-obsessed age, when offending somebody's feelings often seems to be considered the worst offence of all. We have come a long way from the old attitude of 'Never apologise, never explain' (variously ascribed to Wellington, Disraeli and other historical hardnoses), to the new one of demanding - and usually obtaining - apologies at the drop of a tear.

Witness the surreal spectacle of Mr Johnson, Tory MP and Editor of The Spectator, being sent north by his party leader this week to apologise, cycle-helmet-in-hand, to the people of Liverpool. Mr Johnson was supposed to do penance for his magazine's editorial about the 'mawkish sentimentality' of public reactions to the murder of the hostage Kenneth Bigley, an article which made some crass remarks about Liverpudlians in general and the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy in particular. The problem was that Mr Johnson obviously still agreed with the central thrust of the article. So he ended up having to issue a 'sincere' apology for the hurt and offence it had caused, but not for the editorial itself.

Sorry, but this is ridiculous. If your sincerest desire is to avoid hurting anybody's feelings, the answer is never to write or say anything controversial. But if we do want to express strong and sincerely held opinions, we will have to accept that some might be upset. That's life, and it's tough. Why should anybody feel obliged to apologise for what they believe, or worse, for what others feel?

The Spectator got its facts badly wrong about Hillsborough, claiming that 'more than 50' Liverpool supporters were killed in the Sheffield stadium (it was 96), and dredging up the old nonsense about 'drunken fans' being more to blame than the police. Those errors needed a correction. But it seems bizarre to demand that the editor of such a right-wing magazine should apologise, or even resign, over the fact that its sympathies lie more with the commanders of the South Yorkshire constabulary than with Scouse [Liverpool] football fans. You might as well say he should apologise for voting Tory.

More and more now, we are expected to value feelings above thought, emotions above ideas. And the one emotion which appears to count above all others is feeling offended, or that your self-esteem has been damaged. Such suffering, many assume, demands an apology, if not compensation.

Yet nobody - not even the Bigleys or the Hillsborough relatives - should be entitled to demand silence from those whose ideas hurt their feelings. If we hope to live in an open and adult society, what is more important is feeling free to say what you think. Those who would really prefer to live in a world without offensive ideas and divisive opinions should perhaps consider going off to become a Tibetan monk - or perhaps an MP in Michael Howard 's Tory party or Tony Blair's new Labour. As Mr Howard's overblown response to the storm in a Spectator teacup confirmed, the unapologetic expression of anything like a conviction or even an opinion can be considered too dangerous for our insipid politics.

Of course, upholding the right to be offensive does not mean allowing objectionable views to go unchallenged, on some spineless basis that everybody is entitled to his opinion. We must be free to go on the offensive against those whose opinions offend us - to attack, ridicule or even ignore them as we see fit. Far better to have a blazing exchange of ideas than sulkily to expect them to say sorry for not sharing or respecting your feelings.

The last thing we need now would be a society-wide equivalent of those e-mail filters that block any word which might offend anybody ('black' was the latest one I saw barred by a company's software this week). The best way to protect free speech remains through an intellectual free-for-all. I leave the last word on this to another Johnson, arguably even more famous and clever than Boris - Dr Samuel: 'Every man has the right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it.'

1 November, 2004


Some of the more honest souls on the Left are beginning to get a bit troubled by the tyranny of political correctness

"A political question: it used to be the case that the Left was traditionally weighted towards human rights and differences and the Right was more authoritarian and laying-down-the-law. In Europe, this is (just about) still the case but in the U.S. the positions seem to have been reversed. What gives? [More inside.]"

"I get the impression that in America today, the list of prohibitions ("don't smoke; don't get fat; don't opt out"; "don't let your prejudices show" etc.) is far longer on the Left that it is on the Right. Although there are still a lot of ungainly demands on the Right (in fact increasingly to do with religion, sexuality, gender and blind "patriotism"), it appears to me that, of the two sides, the Left is far more puritanical and even intolerant.

For instance, in Europe there's not only sympathy for smokers and fatties (in my own country, Portugal, admiration) but solidarity amongst the supposedly afflicted. In the U.S. it seems a majority of smokers and overweight people make a point of condemning themselves and publicly wishing they were more disciplined and therefore purer and thinner.

In terms of political philosophy, it comes down to individual freedoms and society's responsibility to include as much as they can, i.e. an old-fashioned discussion about the values (and desired extension) of utilitarianism.

My general question is: has the puritanical, prohibitive, authoritative and even dogmatic onus been slowly and subtly transferred from the Right to the Left?

P.S. I realize an extreme case - an overweight smoker who drives a SUV and votes Republican - is, in practical terms, freer in the U.S. than his or her equivalent in Europe, where he'd be taxed almost into submission. But the fact still remains that social and cultural attitudes are more agressive and antagonistic in America and that this critical atmosphere is, in essence, puritanical and moralistic, as if there were a set of guidelines of what was desirable, correct or praiseworthy.



All unguarded speech is now very dangerous. Orwell would not be surprised

Vasquez was dismissed from Channel 10 a few weeks after being accused of making inappropriate comments with a cameraman while covering the story of another alleged rape by an athlete on the campus of Philadelphia's La Salle University. A female intern who was on the news site with Vasquez and the cameraman returned to the station and complained she was offended by the crassness and insensitivity of the exchange. The cameraman was given a suspension for his part in the incident.

I am not going to defend crassness and insensitivity. I have to wonder, however, whether an instance of bad taste, no matter to what level is was carried, negates a person's value to a television station or warrants the dismissal of one of the better talents Channel 10 put on the air. Vasquez was especially likeable in his role as weekend anchor for the NBC station.

No one wants a young woman, or anyone else for that matter, to be offended. Yet it's worth asking if the fragility or sensitivity of one person should constitute grounds for interrupting the career of another. Current law and practice says it should. Vasquez is as much a victim of a trend where the slightest offense to someone turns a rhinoceros hill into K-2 or Mt. Everest. Especially when we're talking about words, as opposed to sticks and stones or other physical actions....

Maybe some perspective and a sense of humor is needed. A college intern of either gender is rarely worldly, and people younger than age 30 tend, in my experience, to see the world as much more rigid shades of right and wrong that their more jaded, more experienced elders. Maybe the right move was to calm the young woman who was offended while admitting some inappropriateness and cautioning those involved to be more professional and judicious in the future, "M*A*S*H*" humor or not. In dismissing Vasquez, I think Channel 10 over-reacted and set a bad precedent about knuckling under to political correctness, a blight the confining effects of which we must all fight to turn back.

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