The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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31 October, 2005


Fox News Channel host John Gibson interviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez

"Christmas is under attack in such a sustained and strategized manner that there is, no doubt, a war on Christmas." So writes Fox News Channel host John Gibson in his new book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. Blue state or red state, putting up a Christmas tree and not having to call it a "friendship tree" or a "giving tree" can often be quite the battle. Gibson relays some of the stories in The War on Christmas. Gibson recently sang his carols to National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez:

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Will you say “Merry Christmas” on air this year? Is that something that distinguishes Fox News from other media?

John Gibson: Fox News Channel put a "Merry Christmas" greeting on the air last year, as well as a "Happy Channukah" (though at this precise moment I'm not certain what spelling was used). I expect to see both again. As for me, I also say both depending on who it is I'm greeting, and yes, I do say the wrong thing sometimes. It happens. I trust that people understand no insult is meant if it happens to be the wrong greeting.

Lopez: You take on Aaron Brown in your introduction. Is this all a competitive anti-CNN thing?

Gibson: I wouldn't say I "take on Aaron Brown". I just pointed out what he said, and why he was wrong diminishing the importance of Christmas to a great number of Americans. As for the general anti-CNN thing, that's just the nature of competition. I want to beat them everyday, and I usually do. It's not that anybody's counting, or paying excessively close attention, but I have beaten my CNN opponent for 44 straight months.

Lopez: Isn’t it a little much to be talking about “War on Christmas?” If Islamist terrorists were targeting Christmas celebrations, okay. But Festivus doesn’t seem to rise to the level of war, does it? Do you hurt your argument by over hyping the problem?

Gibson: Do I hurt my argument by over hype in my choice of title, "The War on Christmas"? No. I think there is a general war on Christians underway in our country. You hear it in political discussions all the time when a Democrat or a liberal will decry the power of those "right wing evangelical Christians," and you hear it in the arguments about Intelligent Design, abortion, prayer in school, the Ten Commandments on courthouse walls, and frankly, a bunch of other ordinary discussions.

So in The War on Christmas I expose how that casual, accepted anti-Christian bias shows up once a year around Christmas when people in positions of petty power, such as school administrators, or municipal-hall managers, will suddenly pop up saying things like "We can't have that Christmas tree in here because it's too Christian." I had a long discussion with a city human-resources manager who said precisely that. What I find shocking is that people like that man do not hear the sound of their voices. Substitute any other religion for the word "Christian" and these very people would be up in arms with the cry of prejudice and bias, but if the bias is directed at Christians, it is perfectly acceptable.

Also, if you look at the newspapers over the last five years you find these stories popping up every Christmas season, with almost exactly the same arguments made, and almost exactly the same result each time: disaster.

I do believe the atmosphere is improving in some places, because people have recognized the downside of institutionalized hostility to religion in general and Christianity in particular. Tolerance is the tradition in this country, and tolerance should be extended to Christians during their important holiday period.

Lopez: Not to belabor, but: Isn’t some of the “Happy Holidays” stuff out there understandable, polite, appropriate? When you’re on air, you’ve got Christians, yes, but Jews and Muslims and others are also tuning in. Should they have to be hearing about a Christian holiday—in their faces as if there were something wrong with them for not celebrating it? Or are you all for dumbing down Christmas to make it a secular holiday everyone can celebrate?

Gibson: …Yes, if you are greeting someone you know to be a Jewish person you might want to give the appropriate greeting. But I've also had Jewish people say to me that they don't feel insulted when a Christian says "Merry Christmas" and even though there is no logic to wishing a non-Christian "Merry Christmas" if taken literally, I think most people get it, and understand no harm is meant and it is a greeting of simple well wishing.

This issue of non Christians being confronted with Christianity wherever they go at Christmas time seems to me to be best answered by "Well... DUH!" It's a Christian holiday and it's a big one. Eighty-four percent of the country self identifies as Christian. Ninety-six percent of the country observes or celebrates Christmas in some form, if only slightly, so what would one expect? I think Christmas does require the forbearance of non-Christians, but I don't think it should be a big issue. Once again, the American tradition is tolerance, and I see no reason why tolerance should not be extended to the majority religion and its secularized symbols.

As for the issue of dumbing-down Christmas, I'm probably the wrong guy to ask. People active in church, or actual clergy will say "yes," and will insist that a Christmas tree is not a religious symbol of Christianity the same way that a crèche is. And consequently, they continue to insist that the proper public display of a Christian religious symbol is the crèche. I would say they are right, and I urge them to continue to make that argument..."

Much more here

Three years later, courts finally get the Jewish joke

A bit of commonsense and resistance to hysteria from Britain's highest court

There's no joke like a Jewish joke. Not an anti-Jewish joke, just a knowing joke between Jews. But in our jittery nanny society, no joke is safe from the stony-faced thought police. Yesterday, in a welcome pronouncement of common sense, the law lords ruled that Harry Goldstein had meant no harm when he played a whimsical jape on his old Jewish friend Abraham Ehrlich.

Mr Goldstein has suffered for his humour. Three years ago a jury at Southwark Crown Court found him guilty of causing a public nuisance. He was sentenced to 140 hours' community punishment and ordered to pay 500 pounds compensation and 1,850 pounds prosecution costs. Mr Goldstein appealed, but the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction. Now the highest court in the land has seen the nonsense of it.

Mr Goldstein, a kosher food merchant from Manchester, owed a sum of money to Mr Ehrlich, his wholesale supplier in London. Mr Ehrlich pressed Mr Goldstein for payment. The friends, the law lords were told, had "a bantering relationship". What two Jewish traders don't? In an ancient cultural gesture, Mr Goldstein wrote out a cheque to Mr Ehrlich, but into the envelope he sprinkled a small quantity of salt.

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the senior law lord, explained yesterday: "This was done in recognition of the age of the debt, salt being commonly used to preserve kosher food, and by way of reference to the very serious anthrax scare in New York following the events of September 11, 2001, which both men had discussed on the telephone shortly before."

Mr Ehrlich never got his cheque, or salt. The envelope got as far as Wembley sorting office, London, where the salt leaked on to the hands of a worker, who suspected it of being anthrax. Panic ensued. The sorting office was evacuated for an hour, the police were called and that day's second delivery was cancelled.

At his original court hearing Mr Goldstein denied the common law offence of public nuisance. He had the backing of Mr Ehrlich, who said that he would have recognised the salt as a joke, had he received it.

Overturning the conviction yesterday, Lord Bingham said that Mr Goldstein had not intended to cause trouble. "Nor, plainly, was it a result which he knew would occur, since it would have rendered his intended joke entirely futile." Lord Bingham, sitting with Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Baroness Hale of Richmond, said that the old common law charge of public nuisance would probably be rarely used in future, as statutes now existed to deal with almost every public nuisance, be it noise, pollution, racial or religious harassment, or sending noxious substances in the post.

The law lords also allowed an appeal by Anthony Rimmington, who had been convicted of public nuisance for posting packages of racially offensive material to members of the public. Lord Bingham said that the communications were strongly racist and in some instances threatening and arguably obscene. But the offence of public nuisance involved injury to a section of the public, and did not extend to individual letters.


30 October, 2005


Comment from Neal Boortz

Florida Governor Jeb Bush is taking responsibility for relief delays that people are complaining about in the wake of Hurricane Wilma. Bush says "We (meaning the government) did not perform to where we want to be. This is our responsibility." Local officials complained that the state wasn't doing enough. Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Secretary, toured the area and asked the public for its patience.

All of this asks the question: what is the proper role of government following a natural disaster? Is it simply to restore law and order and essential services? Or is the government supposed to hold people's hand, paying for their every need and waiting on them hand and foot? This is a lesson from Katrina. More and more with each passing day Americans are being taught, and they're learning quite well we must say, to depend on government for just about everything. People who stocked up on necessities such as water, non-perishable food, batteries and other basics weren't the ones complaining. The more we depend on government the more politicians love it, and the less freedom we have. Self-sufficiency is no longer the goal for far too many Americans. Now the goal is to see how much responsibility they can turn over to the government while continuing to live the easy life.

America cannot survive this new attitude of government dependency.

Unfortunately, if the government would get out of the way after a disaster, things would go much smoother. With businesses and entrepreneurs worried about allegations of price gouging, scarce supplies and gasoline run out much sooner than they otherwise should. Immediately following a disaster, vote-hungry politicians start their warnings about price gouging. The result: artificially low prices result in shortages. Too bad. President Bush plans to tour the damage today in Florida. Expect him to be blamed for it too.

Britain: The black v Asian riots in Birmingham have roots in the politics of multiculturalism

One Asian teenager reflected on events in the Lozells area of Birmingham over the past week. It had started with a rumour about Asian men raping a Jamaican girl, and ended up with pitched battles between young British Asians and African-Caribbeans - the teenager nursed stitches in his head from a crowbar strike, and had lost teeth from a blow with knuckle-dusters.

According to the rumour, a 14-year-old Jamaican was caught stealing a wig from an Asian-run shop selling black beauty products in nearby Perry Barr. One of the shopkeepers threatened to call the police, but she pleaded with him not to ('she was an illegal immigrant, and didn't want the police to be led to her house', one black man told me). The girl agreed to have sex with the shopkeeper if he wouldn't tell the police. But then he called his friends, who came around and raped her - some say she was raped by three men, others say 13 or 19.

There is no evidence that such an attack took place. Police forensic experts have reportedly checked out the beauty parlour but found nothing. No girl has come forward, in spite of police pledges of leniency. Nobody knows her name or when the attack happened, though some claim to know her family.

The two communities are divided by the story - most local black people claim it's true, most Asians say it's a myth. But this is less about the girl, real or imagined, than about simmering economic grievances. One local black community activist told me: 'Blacks get nothing, no funding, no support. Blacks made Asians rich, we support their shops. It's a joke.' According to a 17-year-old originally from Somalia, 'The word on the street is that a war is on, and it's Asians versus blacks'. On the other side, a young Asian man claimed that blacks are 'stupid people. They go to school but don't learn anything. I don't know what they are moaning about. We did well because we worked hard'.

These kinds of sentiments fuelled the disturbances. At a rally outside the beauty parlour on Tuesday 18 October, black demonstrators carried placards reading 'Raped, violated, disrespected, how much more can our women endure?' and 'Time to unite'. Another meeting last Saturday at a local church became a flashpoint. Black youths who gathered outside the church ran through the area, smashing up Asian shops and businesses and attacking police. Young Asians came out on to the streets in retaliation. A young black man was stabbed to death in a sidestreet off Lozells Road.

Certainly, a glance down the Lozells Road shows an economic disparity between the two communities. The vast majority of the shops are run by Asians, generally British Muslims of Pakistani descent - including a substantial supermarket, a smart restaurant and two Asian clothes shops. A large new mosque is nearly finished at the west end of the road - the builders told me that the marble alone cost 600,000 pounds, and that in total the bill is well over 1 million pounds. By contrast, there are only a handful of British African-Caribbean-run shops - two takeaways, a hairdresser, and a run-down grocery store. In the past, say residents, there were more African-Caribbean- and Indian-run shops.

It's no surprise that tensions exist in a run-down inner city area such as this. This is often presented as a case of two communities hating each other, with the police standing helpless in between. In fact, the script for the conflict in Perry Barr was written at the top of New Labour's Britain. Today, different groups are encouraged to play up their victimhood and unique cultural identities, in a bid for public funds and social authority. The fireworks in Lozells demonstrate the fractious consequences.

Black campaigners were talking the language of identity politics, saying that they didn't get any 'respect' and their 'grievances haven't been understood'. '[Asians] look at Jamaican people like we are nothing', said one black woman quoted in the New Nation. Respectable community organisations have helped to broadcast the issue over the past week. Maxie Hayles, head of the Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Group, has been one of the more vocal activists: he was quoted on BBC News as saying 'There are a lot of [black] people who think that the Asian people look down on African-Caribbean people'; while the New Nation recorded his comment, 'We are not going to tolerate our women being abused. We have a zero tolerance against it'. Hayles has contributed to a number of official consultations, and in 2000 was awarded the government's 'Active Community Award'. Meanwhile, one of the websites that played a role in spreading the rumours, Blacknet UK, has connections with official bodies including the Commission for Racial Equality.....

On the other side, Asians also claim that everybody is set against them, and appeal for protection. 'The government is trying to mess Muslims up, because we are doing well', said one young man. Many blame the police for the riots. 'The government can't control West Indians', said one of the builders of the new mosque. He claimed that when black youths threw stones outside the mosque, the police stood in a line and didn't do anything. 'The government makes criminals. If a thief goes into your shop, you're asked to leave him alone. The police tell me I can't put barbed wire on my wall because a thief might scratch himself.' At a meeting between the police and the Asian community on Monday night, angry locals argued that the police should have shut down the demonstrations and stopped things getting out of hand....

More here

29 October, 2005


Are you easily offended? Does your little ego bruise easily? Do you think everyone else in America ought to give a darn about your self-esteem? Do your eyes fill with tears every time you perceive someone is being insensitive to you? Do you live under the delusional belief that you should be protected against being offended? Do you believe that anytime you are offended someone should be fired; have their life ruined or character trashed?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions you need to shut up, grow up, stop throwing your little pity parties and get a life! Frankly, you and those like you are a major part of what is wrong with America today. Your constant carping and whining are adding nothing positive to this great nation. Instead, the climate of perpetual offendedness and hypersensitivity you are creating is sapping the great spirit of rugged individualism that made America the greatest nation to ever exist in this world’s history.

Think for a moment if the Founding Fathers had been the type of wimpy whiners so many Americans are today? There would be no America would there? Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and the rest would have been so busy filing discrimination suits and attending counseling sessions that they would have never gotten around to the business of creating a new nation.

How very pathetic these maddening wimpy attitudes are! So many in America think every thing and everyone should bend, change and alter their standards and rules so as not to exclude or offend them. How else do we explain the phenomenon of those who want to join the Boy Scouts, but ONLY if the Scouts change their rules to accommodate their over inflated sense of self-importance? Look if you are an Atheist and saying the Scouts pledge bothers you, you have a choice. You can either say the pledge and not believe a word of it, or you can start your own scouting group.

Yes! Yes! Yes! You could actually stop feeling sorry for yourself, start a scouting organization, and leave the Boy Scouts alone. Oh but that is not good enough. You, the offended feel an insatiable need to force your views onto the Boy Scouts. After all, it is all about you, your ego and your little feelings isn’t it.

More here

Conservative New Zealand political head appoints political correctness "eradicator"

National has created the menacing-sounding role of "political correctness eradicator" to counter the Government's "PC" culture that it says is eroding New Zealanders' rights and freedoms. The role is the creation of party leader Don Brash, who has given Wayne Mapp, ranked number 14 in the National line-up announced yesterday, the eradication job.

Dr Mapp, who holds a PhD in international law, gave a speech in June about getting rid of the politically correct culture. This impressed Dr Brash so much he decided to create the role. In that speech Dr Mapp said political correctness ran counter to the "basic freedoms of society". "A person, an institution or a government is politically correct when they cease to represent the interests of the majority and become focused on the cares and concerns of minority sector groups."

Acting Prime Minister Michael Cullen was quick yesterday to criticise the new role, saying it was "chillingly fascist-sounding". "I think the sort of nonsense we will see from Dr Mapp on that should cause enormous amusement around the country," Dr Cullen said.

Although Dr Brash was behind the creation of the role, yesterday he appeared foggy on the details of what Dr Mapp would do and what political correctness was, instead repeatedly referring media representatives to Dr Mapp's speech for clarification.

Dr Mapp told the Herald the political correctness he was most concerned about was where it had been built into government by way of legislation or advocacy. Examples he gave were the Waitangi Tribunal, Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. He said the attempt to censor a conservative Christian video which condemned homosexuality was an example of excessive political correctness. "There are New Zealanders who want to be able to express their views on homosexuality, not just privately, but through the public media," said Dr Mapp. "The attempt to ban the video was an attempt to prevent people expressing their views, on the basis that it was hate speech." He said he would start his new role by reviewing legislation and agencies and would find and publicise occurrences of political correctness. "We are taking this seriously. We are going to do something about it, not just talk about it."


The issue of religion and political correctness

Whatever happened to allowing people to think for themselves? Our pledge of allegiance does not say one nation under Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Yahweh, Muhammad or Ricky Martin. Our pledge of allegiance says "under God." What God? That should have been up to you - God through Christ, Isaac Newton's natural order god, or no god at all, whatever takes your fancy. What's sad is that now we actually have to say things like "One nation under which you believe." How has this world become a place where any topic hurts someone's feelings and our statements have to be hundred-word politically correct treatise? Americans are becoming overly emotional and ridiculously sensitive. Instead of expressing our right to believe in anything we like, we are reduced to either openly believing in nothing or keeping what we believe to ourselves.

It is apparent our uniquely American freedom of religion is slipping through our fingertips. That ideal is now replaced by a list of grievances from those who have ever had a problem with someone else's religious beliefs. This bickering is not coming from one side- it's coming from all sides at full force and destroying the hope of ever enjoying true religious freedom. How am I free to practice my religion if I cannot bring my bible to class or bow to pray seven times throughout the day no matter where I am? How am I free if I cannot display open feelings of gratitude toward my god without being reprimanded? How am I free if I have to give an explanatory speech before I discuss evolution? The fact is that I am not free. The binding standards of American political correctness restrain us all from exercising the rights our forefathers intended us to have.

Of course, it is important to note our founding fathers were not particularly religious men and their primary focus was to prevent religious persecution. They intended for every person to have the right to practice their religion without being subject to scrutiny, ridicule or blunt force objects. As deists, they had this in mind for every person and not just one or two religious groups. What is remarkable now is that we are religiously persecuting ourselves. Soon it is going to be impossible to have any outward expressions of faith - or lack thereof - without it being punishable by law or taken down by hate. Why can Christians not study evolution when they can study Greek mythology? Can we not take the things we read and form our own opinions without the assistance of a warning sticker? Why do we have to point out the obvious - that we all have our own beliefs - in our pledge of allegiance?

The pledge of allegiance is a testimonial to what Americans have stood and fought for throughout the centuries. If you mess with the pledge, you are messing with the foundation of America and her people. It's your choice as to what you do or do not believe in. In public school, I can recall students who chose not to stand for the pledge or recite it at all on a daily basis. That was their choice. A part of American freedom is the freedom to oppose America. If you do not want to say "one nation under God," then do not say it. Please do not infringe upon the rights of those who do wish to say the pledge of allegiance in its traditional form.

Now that the pledge is altered, where do Americans go from here? How many more hurdles do we have to jump before we succeed in interfering with the relationships that God shares with the lives of all Americans? I read somewhere a statement by a man in retaliation to the removal of the 10 Commandments from the courthouses. He said, "Are we saying 'do murder, do commit adultery, do lie, do steal', etc.?" Who knows, in the next 10 years that just might be our decision.


28 October, 2005


Sounds a bit like the Holy Inquisition to me -- reaching into people's private lives. I suppose the Rev. Kieran McHugh will be bringing back the index expurgatorius next and forbidding students from reading anything that does not have the imprimatur of a bishop and the "nihil obstat" of a church censor. I hope the church hierarchy realize how much damage this sort of thing does both to the loyalty of their flock and to the image of the church in the wider world. If they do, they will pull the dictatorial McHugh into line pronto

When students post their faces, personal diaries and gossip on Web sites like Myspace.com and Xanga.com, it is not simply harmless teen fun, according to one Sussex County Catholic school principal. It's an open invitation to predators and an activity that Pope John XIII Regional High School in Sparta will no longer tolerate, the Rev. Kieran McHugh told a packed assembly of 900 high school students two weeks ago. Effective immediately, and over student complaints, the teens were told to dismantle their Myspace.com accounts or similar sites with personal profiles and blogs. Defy the order and face suspension, students were told.

While public and private schools routinely block access to noneducational Web sites on school computers, Pope John's order reaches into students' homes. The primary impetus behind the ban is to protect students, McHugh said. The Web sites, popular forums for students to blog about their lives and feelings about their teachers and schools, are fertile ground for sexual predators to gather information about children, he said.

Students, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for disciplinary action, said the majority of the student body protested the new rule. They tried to argue that they have freedom of speech and the school should not control what they do at home. "The idea of a private school regulating student activity outside of school is not unheard of and there is a long tradition in it," said Kevin Bankston, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San-Francisco-based defender of online civil liberties.

While Pope John's school handbook does not specifically forbid students from creating personal profiles on Web sites, it does prohibit students from posting anything on the Internet pertaining to the school, without the school's permission. "It's an incredible overreaction based on an unproven problem," Bankston said. "If they're concerned about safety, they could train students in what they should or shouldn't put online. Kids shouldn't be robbed of the primary communication tool of their generation." Bankston said he believes the real motivation for school officials was to suppress negative comments about the school posted by students. One student, who identified himself as a senior who was expelled, wrote that "pope john kicks you out once you think freely."



Swit the twit guides us to wisdom. Even overfeeding of ducks and geese is bad, apparently. Some people object to slaughtering calves for veal. Will that soon be banned too? What about cattle fattening? Is that bad too?

Amid comparisons to the mistreatment of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, a City Council committee agreed Tuesday to ban the sale of the liver delicacy known as foie gras in Chicago restaurants. If the full Council follows the Health Committee's lead, Chicago would join the state of California and a host of countries that have already banned the pricey appetizer. They include the United Kingdom, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Israel.

Famed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter has already stopped serving foie gras, and more than 100 other Illinois restaurants have signed similar pledges. Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who proposed the Chicago ban, estimated that "not more than a dozen" local restaurants still serve it. "It'll mean that there will be fewer restaurants serving this product and, hence, fewer ducks and geese being tortured to create this product," said Moore, who has been ridiculed in some circles for trying to ban a food that most Chicagoans have never tasted. "Chicago is in the nation's heartland. It's not known as a city that passes, without considerable thought and deliberation, ordinances of this nature. It'll encourage other legislative bodies to consider similar measures."

It was actress Loretta Swit of MASH and "Hot Lips" fame who made the prison comparison. Her voice choking with emotion, [About the sacrifices being made daily in Iraq by America's military men? Whoops! No.] Swit talked about the "torture" that geese and ducks endure while being force fed to enlarge their livers 10 times normal size. Three times a day, a steel pipe is jammed down a bird's esophagus. When the monthlong ordeal ends in slaughter, the birds can barely walk, much less breathe, experts contend.

Swit quoted Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington as saying that creating the delicacy "may not be pretty, but it pales by comparison to problems like Abu Ghraib, police brutality and racial profiling." "Are we ever going to forget the memory of that girl smiling, holding a tortured prisoner on a leash and enjoying it? . . . She grew up with the acceptance of this kind of behavior in whatever form it was, whether it was torturing a cat or a dog or seeing somebody doing it and looking the other way," Swit said. "If we look the other way -- if we say, 'It's a guinea pig. It's a mouse. Who cares? It's a kitten. Whatever,' then why are we surprised at the existence of inhumane acts directed toward each other? Violence begets violence. Brutality begets brutality. Inhumanity is a disease."

Didier Durand, chef/owner of Cyrano's Bistrot, 546 N. Wells, spoke in opposition to the ban on behalf of the Illinois Restaurant Association. He noted that foie gras is a delicacy that dates back "many hundreds of years" to the Egyptians, the Romans, Germans and French. "To take it off our menu would be destroying a time-honored culinary tradition. Every restaurant has the right to serve what they want. We welcome all palates. But we strongly contend that they are not matters to be regulated by law, but by personal choice," said Durand, who serves roughly 30 foie gras appetizers each week at a cost of $15 apiece.

Carrie Nahabedian, chef/co-owner of Naha Restaurant, 500 N. Clark, called foie gras "part of the tradition of what a chef becomes when they learn to cook. They learn the values and the ancestry." She added, "We're going down a slippery slope. If we're going to look at foie gras, then we should look at a lot of other things. Maybe it moves on to hamburger and maybe it should. We have mad cow [disease] threatening us on every shore. We have the bird flu that is of major concern. Maybe we need to look at everything."

Earlier this year, Mayor Daley ridiculed the proposed foie gras ban as a Big Brother-style government intrusion. "We're trying to tell people they can't eat certain foods. They can't buy certain foods. They can't ship certain foods in. Pretty soon, you can't drink. Do you really want government to keep telling you every day what to do?" Daley said.


Alphabet correctness: "A Turkish court fined 20 people for using the letters Q and W on placards at a Kurdish new year celebration, under a law banning characters not used in the Turkish alphabet, rights campaigners said Tuesday. The court in the southeastern city of Siirt fined each of the 20 people 100 new lira for holding up the placards, written in Kurdish, at the event last year. The letters Q and W do not exist in the Turkish alphabet, but are used in Kurdish. Under pressure from the European Union, Turkey lifted bans on teaching and broadcasting in Kurdish in 2002, but bureaucratic resistance has delayed implementing the reforms. State television and radio began limited broadcasts in Kurdish last year, but local television channels have yet to receive permission to start programs in Kurdish. The 1928 Law on the Adoption and Application of Turkish Letters changed the Turkish alphabet from the Arabic script to a modified Latin script and required all signs, advertising, newspapers and official documents to only use Turkish letters. Many shops and companies in Turkey have names, signs and advertising using the letters Q, W and X which are not used in Turkish, in apparent violation of the 1928 law, but have not been prosecuted".

27 October, 2005


"In his columns on the next conservatism, Paul Weyrich has several times referred to “cultural Marxism.” He asked me, as Free Congress Foundation’s resident historian, to write this column explaining what cultural Marxism is and where it came from. In order to understand what something is, you have to know its history.

Cultural Marxism is a branch of western Marxism, different from the Marxism-Leninism of the old Soviet Union. It is commonly known as “multiculturalism” or, less formally, Political Correctness. From its beginning, the promoters of cultural Marxism have known they could be more effective if they concealed the Marxist nature of their work, hence the use of terms such as “multiculturalism.”

Cultural Marxism began not in the 1960s but in 1919, immediately after World War I. Marxist theory had predicted that in the event of a big European war, the working class all over Europe would rise up to overthrow capitalism and create communism. But when war came in 1914, that did not happen. When it finally did happen in Russia in 1917, workers in other European countries did not support it. What had gone wrong?

Independently, two Marxist theorists, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary, came to the same answer: Western culture and the Christian religion had so blinded the working class to its true, Marxist class interest that Communism was impossible in the West until both could be destroyed. In 1919, Lukacs asked, “Who will save us from Western civilization?” That same year, when he became Deputy Commissar for Culture in the short-lived Bolshevik Bela Kun government in Hungary, one of Lukacs’s first acts was to introduce sex education into Hungary’s public schools. He knew that if he could destroy the West’s traditional sexual morals, he would have taken a giant step toward destroying Western culture itself.

In 1923, inspired in part by Lukacs, a group of German Marxists established a think tank at Frankfurt University in Germany called the Institute for Social Research. This institute, soon known simply as the Frankfurt School, would become the creator of cultural Marxism.

To translate Marxism from economic into cultural terms, the members of the Frankfurt School - - Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Wilhelm Reich, Eric Fromm and Herbert Marcuse, to name the most important - - had to contradict Marx on several points. They argued that culture was not just part of what Marx had called society’s “superstructure,” but an independent and very important variable. They also said that the working class would not lead a Marxist revolution, because it was becoming part of the middle class, the hated bourgeoisie.

Who would? In the 1950s, Marcuse answered the question: a coalition of blacks, students, feminist women and homosexuals.

Fatefully for America, when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the Frankfurt School fled - - and reestablished itself in New York City. There, it shifted its focus from destroying traditional Western culture in Germany to destroying it in the United States. To do so, it invented “Critical Theory.” What is the theory? To criticize every traditional institution, starting with the family, brutally and unremittingly, in order to bring them down. It wrote a series of “studies in prejudice,” which said that anyone who believes in traditional Western culture is prejudiced, a “racist” or “sexist” of “fascist” - - and is also mentally ill.

Most importantly, the Frankfurt School crossed Marx with Freud, taking from psychology the technique of psychological conditioning. Today, when the cultural Marxists want to do something like “normalize” homosexuality, they do not argue the point philosophically. They just beam television show after television show into every American home where the only normal-seeming white male is a homosexual (the Frankfurt School’s key people spent the war years in Hollywood).

After World War II ended, most members of the Frankfurt School went back to Germany. But Herbert Marcuse stayed in America. He took the highly abstract works of other Frankfurt School members and repackaged them in ways college students could read and understand. In his book “Eros and Civilization,” he argued that by freeing sex from any restraints, we could elevate the pleasure principle over the reality principle and create a society with no work, only play (Marcuse coined the phrase, “Make love, not war”). Marcuse also argued for what he called “liberating tolerance,” which he defined as tolerance for all ideas coming from the Left and intolerance for any ideas coming from the Right. In the 1960s, Marcuse became the chief “guru” of the New Left, and he injected the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School into the baby boom generation, to the point where it is now America’s state ideology.

The next conservatism should unmask multiculturalism and Political Correctness and tell the American people what they really are: cultural Marxism. Its goal remains what Lukacs and Gramsci set in 1919: destroying Western culture and the Christian religion.

It has already made vast strides toward that goal. But if the average American found out that Political Correctness is a form of Marxism, different from the Marxism of the Soviet Union but Marxism nonetheless, it would be in trouble. The next conservatism needs to reveal the man behind the curtain - - old Karl Marx himself".



The idea could hardly be more incorrect but it seems probable, nonetheless

In 1975, I was asked by Robert Hoffman, a publisher himself, and the son of Sylvan Hoffman, the originator of an American history in the format of a newspaper, News of the Nation, to become the Associate Editor of a new edition of the book. The first edition, published in 1953 had been a Book-of-the-Month selection, the subject of high praise in a "My Day" column by Eleanor Roosevelt, and had sold widely as a textbook as well.

The publisher, Prentice-Hall, sent me a book containing all of the politically correct grammar already in vogue by then. I cut out about a third of the old edition, added new pieces on cultural and social history, as well as bringing the book up to date, I had, beyond Bob, about a half dozen various editors at P-H, who were looking over all of the hundreds of articles I produced.

Amazingly, there were only two of my articles that caused a bit of a controversy. One detailed how after the War with Mexico, Hispanics in the southwest had been deprived of their property, and the efforts of the Justice Dept. to rectify that injustice. It was deemed too permeated with notions of Marxism and class conflict. I gave in to the majority when it became clear that they had no understanding of libertarian class theory and property rights.

The second involved Colon. The first edition carried a story entitled, "Fourteen Italian Cities Claim Columbus," which I suggested be replaced by a piece called "Was Columbus a Jew? I was especially excited by the opportunity this offered in the Teacher's Guide to introduce the teachers to some of the exciting literature that existed on this subject. Most of the editors were themselves Jews, but I was again overridden, not because my research was wrong, but because no one wanted to offend any Italian-American readers. Oh well, 2 out of maybe 400 ain't bad!

For those in doubt about the question of Columbus, I recommend, especially, Salvador de Madariaga's classic, Christopher Columbus; Being the Life of the Very Magnificent Lord, Don Cristobal Colon (1940), but, these days try Googling "Columbus+Jews" as well, along with other variations. In the turmoil of the Inquisition, Colon's family had left Spain for Genoa, but he continued to use Spanish and as a young man fought with the French against Genoa.

He began his diary at the time of the expulsion of the Jews early in 1492, and his log was later kept in the Jewish calendar. It was the Jewish bankers around Ferdinand, himself of Jewish ancestry, who financed the expedition with a motive of finding some opportunity for the Jews. Sephardics did come to the New World, and it is perhaps no accident that the Cubans were known as the Jews of the Caribbean.

My point is not to attempt to build that case here, that has been done in a number of books, but to ask, why has this information, even as controversy, not made its way into American textbooks? I am less concerned with political correctness than with correct accuracy.

More here

26 October, 2005


What a laugh! They tear down restraints and then wonder why there are none!

Feminism set out to free women from roles imposed on them by males, but a new book accuses women of building a new, self-imposed prison by acting like sex objects and tolerating sexism. In Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, New York Magazine contributing editor Ariel Levy slams both celebrities who act like porn stars, and the women and girls who want to be like them. Levy says it's absurd that stars such as heiress Paris Hilton and singers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera - who dress like "hos", fake orgasms in video clips and pose for men's magazines - have become role models. She says they exude a commercialised concept of sex that is about performing for men and has little to do with their own sexuality.

Levy says trends in everyday life, such as teens who wear skimpy clothes to school and female bosses who bully employees, make poor substitutes for true liberation. "If male chauvinist pigs were guys who treated women like pieces of meat," says Levy, "then female chauvinist pigs are women who make sex objects of other women, and of themselves, and think of this as empowerment. "If we use porn stars and strippers as our role models, if they're going to teach us about sexual liberation, I think that's misguided, because these are women whose jobs it is to fake lust. "So if we imitate them, then we're imitating an imitation of real sexual pleasure and power, and that's just too far removed from authentic personal pleasure."

Speaking by phone from her Manhattan home before this week's Australian promotional tour, Levy, 30, told The Age she wrote the book in response to seeing raunch "everywhere I looked". "As I say in the book, it was as if Britney Spears' body, the sight of her half-dressed and undulating, became so familiar to me, it was as if she and I had dated. It was becoming ridiculous. "And the Playboy bunny was suddenly everywhere. Girls were wearing it on T-shirts. When I was growing up, Hugh Hefner and that whole Playboy image was, like, a bad joke. It was something that was tacky. But all of a sudden, everyone was in love with it again. "One of my best friends from college, who'd been involved in women's groups and who was smart and probably considered herself a feminist, started getting interested in porn stars and reading books about them - she was engaging with what I call raunch culture. And as I started to talk to more and more women, I came to believe that women were a very important motor behind this trend."

In the book, Levy questions the values of a world in which porn star Jenna Jameson's recent memoir, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, stayed on the US bestseller list for six weeks; a world where elite female athletes interrupt training to appear in men's magazine FHM; and where "harem-themed" reality shows such as The Bachelor,Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire? and Outback Jack portray women "in competitions, many of which involved bikinis, to show who among them was the hottest and the hungriest". She writes that the number of US women undergoing breast augmentation soared from 32,607 a year in 1992 to 264,041 in 2004. And she points to the success of Aguilera, "who titled her 2003 album Stripped, mud-wrestled in a humping fashion in her video (for the song) Dirrty, and likes to wear assless chaps".

She added it was sad that Paris Hilton "the breathing embodiment of our current, prurient, collective fixations - blondeness, hotness, richness, anti-intellectualism" - had told Rolling Stone magazine: "My boyfriends always tell me I'm not sexual. Sexy, but not sexual." "I don't think that's a great thing for us to idolise," Levy says. "Again, it's performance over pleasure. This is a person who got famous when amateur sex tapes of her were published. It would be interesting to see what she could contribute, artistically or otherwise, to the culture. "But it's not like I think she's like the devil, going to hell. I'm sure she's a nice person; it's just that I don't think we need to be looking up to her as a heroine.".......

Levy says the saddest thing she experienced researching the book was a high-school girl who told her she and her friends competed to see who looked the "skankiest". "She asked me, ‘Was it that way when you at high school?'. "I told her, ‘In my day, you always wanted to be the prettiest and most popular, and you would have been embarrassed to look slutty'. And she looked at me and said, ‘Then how did you get the guys? Charm?' She couldn't see there was any other way to relate to the opposite sex."

More here


A psychoanalytic look at the "Rathergate" debacle

Political correctness represents hysteria, a psychological dynamic that is inconsistent with and destructive toward organization. This is shown in the case of CBS News, as illustrated by the Burkett memo debacle. News organizations can do good journalism even though they are biased, as long as they operate under the assumption that there is an external world which their reporting can get wrong. Political correctness undermines that assumption, and in fact undermines the whole idea that there is an external world. In the politically correct organization, truth refers to correspondence with a fantasy, rather than correspondence with facts in an external world. Politically correct news organizations are not in the journalism business anymore. They are in the business of political correctness, which has become an end in its own right.

From its beginnings in the university, political correctness has metastasized into every area of social relations. Even within the corporation, it has risen to unquestioned dominance over communication in the matters to which it applies. If this control were just in the area of speech, it would be a matter of little concern to organizations. However, the merest reflection indicates that it cannot control speech alone, since organizational decisions involve positions that are proposed and defended through speech. Hence control over speech through political correctness must imply control over organizational decision-making, and hence over every aspect of the organization. The implication of this is that the psychological dynamics that underlie political correctness come to be the underlying dynamics of the organization as a whole.

I have written extensively about the psychological roots of political correctness (2002, 2003, 2004) and will repeat only the rudiments here. In psychoanalytic terms, the key to the understanding of political correctness is the psychology of sex roles, which are based on primitive images of the mother and the father. In those terms, the father is seen as an obstacle to perfect fusion with the mother, which we all had, or imagine we had, in infancy, when that love was sufficient to make our lives perfect.

Now the father is not really the obstacle to that fusion, he is only the form in which it first appears. The obstacle is reality itself, which determines that we are all separate creatures, and not one with mother. Nonetheless, the father has a special relationship with external reality, precisely because he is not part of the early fusion with the mother.

In the traditional Western psychology of sex roles, his life gains its meaning by his engagement with that world. He deals with the external world as a way of gaining the love of the mother through his achievement, by transforming it so that she can simply be her loving self. In order to do this, the father must learn to deal with external reality on its own terms. He must be able to see himself as an actor among other actors, as others see him who are not emotionally connected to him, as an object rather than as a subject. This requires learning a way of seeing himself and the world that I call objective self-consciousness. Through objective self-consciousness we come to appropriate the pattern of shared terms and meanings that Lacan calls the symbolic.

By introjecting him, the children come to acquire objective self-consciousness. This enables him to pass on to the children what he has learned about the world through this process of transformation. In this way they come to acquire the idea of an external world, which is to say a world that is indifferent to them and operates according to its own terms.

Political correctness means the repudiation of the role of the father and his works. Its unconscious premise is that we could all have fusion with the mother if we could only get him out of the picture. Directly and indirectly, this outlook involves the rejection of objective self-consciousness and, along with that, the idea of objective external reality, which is rooted in it, and the symbolic, though which it is represented.

This is so for a number of reasons. For one thing, as we have seen, the cause of our separation is not really the father, but reality itself. The father only represents reality. So it is really reality that is under attack when the father is repudiated in political correctness. Second, to the extent that the father is the object of attack, as we shall see further on, the repudiation of reality is strategically invaluable. The father needs external reality so that he can engage it and transform it and in that way gain standing with the mother. Get rid of the idea of external reality and the symbolic and you deprive the father of any possibility of gaining standing.

However, students of organization will understand that the structural elements of organization are the legacy of the father. The formalized division and coordination of labor, standards of performance, and so on, require the idea that there is something outside oneself to which one must adapt. In other words they require the idea of an objective reality and the shared meaning of the symbolic, along with the attendant definitions of truth and knowledge. Undermining them would make organization impossible.

This will be a problem that may be most visible in organizations whose primary purpose is itself truth and knowledge, such as the university and the news business. I have written about its effect on the university ( 2003). The purpose of this presentation will be to explore its effect on journalism through the analysis of a recent debacle at CBS News.

In this matter, a program designed to present damaging information about President Bush's career in the Air National Guard was quickly determined to be based on memos that were obvious forgeries, and would have been known to be forgeries if proper journalistic practices had been employed. Evidently, CBS' journalistic standards had broken down and its processes had become corrupted.

Of singular importance is the fact that CBS officials, specifically anchorman and managing editor Dan Rather, clearly believed that the story was true, even though the usual journalistic bases upon which truth is established were missing. The question is, what could he have meant by truth? My contention will be that the idea of truth he was using was rooted in hysteria. It thus had a different basis than empirical verification. It was rooted in a subjective feeling of truth. But this feeling has intrapsychic roots, and is not anchored in empirical reality. Truth conceived in this way subordinates objective symbolic interaction to fantasy. I will work from this to show how this idea of truth changes the nature of knowledge in organizations and must corrode every aspect of organizational behavior and functioning.

More here

25 October, 2005


"She has had her first sexual encounter and made her first suicide attempt; she takes drugs and stays away from home for days at a time. She is 13 years old. You might think this teenager is the product of an abusive family background and a turbulent upbringing, but she is in fact a much-loved child of well-educated and considerate parents who have always given her everything. And that is her problem. She is suffering from pampered child syndrome.

But help is at hand. In The Pampered Child Syndrome published on Thursday, Maggie Mamen, a clinical psychologist from Canada, argues that well-intentioned, permissive philosophies have produced a generation of children who believe they are entitled to the same rights as adults but who are not ready to accept grown-up responsibilities.

Rather than blame the parents, however, Dr Mamen has devised a ten-point plan aimed at helping them to regain control. Her starting point and inspiration is not the psychiatrist’s couch but the boardroom table. “Parents need to think of themselves as the management team. They are the managers and the children are not. “The children are not the ones sitting around the boardroom table and that needs to be made clear. Children will learn to be managers one day, but for now they are the trainees,” Dr Mamen told The Times. Once this has been established, parents need to set out their policies. “You might start out with something like, ‘In this family, education is important and we have to respect each other’. Children like to know where they stand and setting out your policy makes it clear,” she said.

Dr Mamen uses the language of the management consultant not because she want to strip all emotion out of family life, but because the business analogy helps to inject some logic and neutrality into what are usually highly charged situations. “When you are working in an emotional situation it helps to use pragmatic words. I find that parents really like the use of the words ‘control’ and ‘manage’, especially the dads.” Dr Mamen also draws inspiration from the world of politics, encouraging parents to adopt the “Trudeau approach”. When asked in 1970 just how far he would be willing to go in eroding civil liberties with his anti-terror policies, the Canadian Prime Minister replied, “Just watch me!” “Even though we know that we cannot make anybody do anything they really don’t want to do, we should never under-estimate our own abilities, or at least our children’s belief in our own abilities,” Dr Mamen said. The trick is not to blink first.

A major theme underlying Dr Mamen’s book is that parents need to believe that they have the right to act without their children’s consent. “Children need parents to be willing to act unilaterally so that they feel safe and secure under their protection,” she said. If parents do not do this, she said, the consequence could be far more serious than the odd spoilt-brat temper tantrum but could lead to the kind of behaviour described at the opening of this piece. Or worse. “If we fail to recognise the behaviours of overly pampered children and to identify the contributing factors, this may sometimes lead to over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorders and the prescription of inappropriate and potentially dangerous treatments,” she said.

As to whether children suffering from really serious pampering can ever fully “recover”, Dr Mamet, was cautious. “You can get rid of spoilt brat behaviour most of the time. But sometimes the effects still show in adulthood. You see these people in the workplace; they feel put out to have to show up and do things that they might not really want to do,” she said.


A healthy lifestyle begins at home

And governments are actually DISCOURAGING healthy lifestyles

Federal [Australian] Health Minister Tony Abbott is right. Banning junk food advertising on children's television programs as a way of combating childhood obesity just won't work. Parents can merely switch off the TV, something which many parents seem to have forgotten, as they seem to have forgotten they are responsible for their children's diets and lifestyles. It is parents who pack children's school lunch boxes, and they don't have to load them with chips and chocolates.

According to the NSW Health Department there are 1.5 million overweight children in Australia. These figures suggest a cultural problem, not curable simply by censoring advertising. Indeed, unless we try rationing and a compulsory physical-jerks regime along North Korean lines, the Government's capacity to trim fat is relatively limited.

The problem of childhood obesity is worth keeping in perspective. Like other temporarily fashionable apocalypses (such as Paul Ehrlich's predictions that, rather than expanding like balloons, we were all going to starve to death by about 1980), the obesity epidemic does not really herald the end of the world. Although one doctor once told me our national health is collapsing, our life expectancies continue to rise. My own observations at the beach are that people look much the same as ever, but perhaps beach-goers have become atypical and I'll accept the figures that a lot of us and a lot of our children are too fat. Perhaps the fatties are not visible in the waves at Cottesloe because they're all at home hunched over PlayStations.

Anyway, the problem would be fixed if more parents used common sense and exercised the kind of ordinary responsibility for their children that was previously thought to be a normal part of being human. Some people don't credit parents with the common sense, responsibility or even free will to do this. Sydney Morning Herald columnist Adele Horin claims parents don't have "the energy, the education, the time or the means" and need "more help from government to counter the corporate culture" because it "takes energy to say no". Parents of previous generations found the energy somewhere.

Government and legislation, often turned to instinctively as the cure for child obesity, have actually been the cause of much of it, discouraging all sorts of even mild physical activity. Laws making helmets compulsory for cyclists, even on places such as Western Australia's Rottnest Island, which has few motor vehicles, have discouraged bicycling. Surveys show compulsory helmet legislation reduces cycling by about 30 per cent (while hospital admissions for bicycle accidents have actually increased). Britain leads the way here, but Australia is not far behind, and the British experience is a warning. Participation in sports and outdoor activities of all kinds is increasingly controlled and licensed.

Children at one British primary school were prohibited from making daisy chains in case they picked up germs. Another school stopped children making hanging flower baskets for the same reason. Playground pursuits such as hand stands, tag, yo-yos, tree climbing, skipping, ball games and even bicycle riding have been banned by various schools and local authorities. Cub scouts in Windsor need consent forms signed by their parents to play conkers. At one school, children who wish to throw snowballs at other children must get their targets' permission first. The Government has approved selling off hundreds of school playing fields.

No wonder there has been an epidemic of childhood obesity in Britain a few years ahead of Australia's. In October, 2001, Paul Trayhurn, the new professor of obesity biology at Liverpool University, said British people had lost the fight to control their weight and the country was facing a public health disaster from obesity. A year later the number of obese children was estimated at one in five.

Obviously fear of litigation and insurance costs are key factors. I know of at least two Australian naval cadet units that have closed down because of insurance costs, and that is probably the tip of an iceberg. Legislation might help here by making some young people's activities which involve slight elements of risk realistically insurable (by capping liability, for example).

Political correctness, which prohibits fat children from being criticised in case they lose self-esteem, has also probably not helped. British minister "Mo" Mowlam attacked the Duke of Edinburgh for telling an obese child at a space display that he would need to lose weight to become an astronaut. The solution has to be a whole-culture one which comes back to greater parental responsibility. Governments don't make culture and shouldn't try. Only parents can turn off PlayStations, computer games and TV and stop children eating junk food, and only parents can set up a culture of healthy and balanced activity for children.



Returning to Detroit from an academic conference, my head was still buzzing with what I had learned from the feminists. All of them were doing work in feminist deconstruction, and joyfully working out its implications. Following their lead, I came to see that the organized world is a text that expresses male domination. Furthermore, I understood that the male principle is domination. If that text could be deconstructed, domination itself could be overcome and the female principle -- warm, nurturant, and life-giving -- would be able to emerge.

The shuttle bus took me to long-term parking and I found my little car, waiting for me where I had left it. Without even thinking, I opened the door and began to get in. And that was when the thought hit me.

Getting into the car ... why obviously the car was a female and I, expressing a masculinity which I now understood to permeate me to my core, was about to about to enter her and use her for my own purposes in just the same way that men have used women for thousands of years.

I stepped back from her, astonished by the power of my insight. For I saw that there was a larger dimension involved than my simply entering this car at this time. Indeed, it became clear enough tome in this moment, the whole pattern of male domination over the female was present here. And this was so perhaps least of all with regard to my entering the car and forcing her to do my will. More important, I came to realize, was the fact that the car itself, while clearly female, had been interpenetrated by male desires; her beautiful feminine essence warped and degraded by the domination of the phallus.

At that point I decided that I had to deconstruct the car; not for her sake alone, nor even for the sake of all the females of which she was a part, but for myself and all males as well. Crippled and driven by our own phallic assumptions, we had been deprived of the beauty that could exist if the female principle were allowed its sway. In a small way, I saw, I could start here. I could remove the influence of male domination from this beautiful car and leave her to express her female essence in a way that she, and only she, would determine.

I began with the item that first struck my attention: the driveshaft. Driveshaft, get it? This was obviously a penis. In the trunk was a hacksaw. I took it out and began to cut through. It was hard work, and it was hot, but as I gave up my doubts and hesitancies, it was as if I had discovered a new source of energy, for the work appeared to become lighter. And, indeed, as the hacksaw bit through the last of the metal, and as the driveshaft fell away from the car, I too felt lightened, relived of a weighty burden that I had carried all my life. Now, it was plain to me, I had passed the point of no-return. I was committed by my own actions. I could not turn back......

Read the rest here

24 October, 2005

Boulder City Council to bankroll an "anti-hate" hotline

Wasn't the First Amendment crystal clear on this point? Or did I miss the part that says freedom of speech will not be abridged unless you're "a knucklehead"? This week, the Boulder City Council decided to bankroll an "anti-hate" hotline to document instances of hateful speech in hopes of helping victims of discrimination. Government collecting information on its citizens' nasty, even reprehensible, speech habits sounds perilously close to something Orwell envisioned.

Moreover, who knows what constitutes hate speech in Boulder these days? Tactless slurs against prairie dogs? How about an errant "God bless you" directed at a sneezing atheist?

In addition, the council agreed to pass a hate-crimes ordinance in the near future. It would add additional penalties for being a knucklehead and a criminal. Specifics have yet to be worked out.

I wonder. Where are my friends at the American Civil Liberties Union? "From the national office on down, the ACLU supports measured laws in response to hate crimes, ones that do not punish speech," says Judd Golden, chair of the Boulder ACLU. "Our position is you can do this, but you have a state law that accomplishes the same things, (and) you may be merely wasting resources." As Golden points out, there already are federal and Colorado statutes dealing with hate crimes - you know, as opposed to cuddly, loving crimes.

Author Thomas Sowell, who happens to be African-American, once wrote: "It took centuries of struggle and people putting their lives on the line to get rid of the idea that a crime against 'A' should be treated differently than the same crime committed against 'B."' Now, we're slowly turning our backs on the achievement made against institutional racism, creating politically correct, feel-good laws that necessitate peeking into the souls of offenders.

Bill Cohen, a well-intentioned Boulderite, former human-rights lawyer and member of the Community United Against Hate committee, recently said: "We believe we need that because the incidents of hate crimes have increased." Perhaps he's speaking from anecdotal experience, because in reality, the FBI says reported hate crimes in Colorado dropped last year to 59 from 82.

Frankly, Boulder is not the seat of diversity, with white non-Hispanics making up almost 85 percent of the population. Cohen assures me, however, that the ordinance is "not creating a new crime."

More here


From Australian columnist, Miranda Devine

Monica Trapaga, singer, entertainer, former ABC Play School presenter, mother of two and all-round nice person, has suddenly become the bete noir of the fascist food movement. Blamed for Australia's obesity "crisis", she is being abused by mothers on the streets of Glebe, chastised on her former network, scolded by parents' groups and vilified in hate mail streaming into her manager's office. All because she appears in an ad for Coco Pops, the innocuous sugary breakfast cereal that some parents' groups are treating as if it were crack cocaine.

The Parents Jury [no doubt self-appointed] issued a media release last week about the Coco Pops ad, quoting angry unnamed parents. "My opinion of Kellogg's and Monica Trapaga has taken a nosedive," says one. "I was incensed when I saw the ad with Monica and Coco Pops . . . Of course any child seeing Monica say it's good to eat Coco Pops is going to think that it is OK," says another. "I am disappointed in her [Monica] as she has achieved a lot in the entertainment of children . . . yet now she is not showing the same regard to their health," says another.

The Parents Jury was miffed Kellogg's had "blatantly" ignored its letter demanding the axing of the Coco Pops ad. A group called the Coalition on Food Advertising to Children complained to the Australian Broadcasting Authority about the "unethical" use of a popular children's TV presenter to promote a high-sugar, low-fibre cereal.

And on the ABC's Four Corners last week, Trapaga was again in the crosshairs, with reporter Ticky Fullerton asking parents: "What do you think of the ad that Monica Trapaga does for Coco Pops?" "Totally disgusted," replied Jenny, a mother. "I mean, to have such a high-profile celebrity, or anybody these days, any actors that promote and endorse these junk food products, is not only hypocritical, it goes against everything that a parent is trying to bring up their child not to do."

While Trapaga's Newtown management agency last week said she had been told by Kellogg's not to comment on the story, a friend told The Sun-Herald's TV columnist Rachel Browne the abuse was taking its toll. "It's been very hard for Monica . . . People have twisted her words to make it seem like she's a bad person. They say she is touting the nutritional benefits of Coco Pops and that's not what she says at all. She says there are added nutritional benefits so parents don't have to feel so bad about giving them to their kids." Trapaga, 39, is whippet slim despite the fact she ate Coco Pops as a child.

Strangely enough, plenty of slim people have a dark history of occasional Coco Pops, Big Mac and Coca-Cola consumption. It is easy to forget that, in moderation, as a treat rather than a substitute for daily meals, sugary low-fibre calories do no harm. There are enough truly dangerous substances in the world requiring taboos without elevating food to pariah status. Where would you stop? Today it's parents' groups targeting Coco Pops. Tomorrow vegans will demand we stop eating meat and eggs, which is all very well if you have a team of chefs turning out delicious vegetable dishes in your Paddington kitchen, as does vegan multimillionaire Brian Sherman, founder of animal rights group Voiceless. But some people are never happy unless they're banning something, and emboldened food fascists believe junk food is the new tobacco and plan to stamp it out in the same way.

Convinced there is a conspiracy between "Big Food" and the Government, Four Corners was determined to shame [conservative] Health Minister Tony Abbott into enacting a few draconian laws to prevent people getting their hands on low cuisine. To no avail. "If parents don't think Coco Pops are good for their kids there's a very simple solution," he said. "Don't buy it."

The same common sense prevailed last week when the US House of Representatives passed the so-called "cheeseburger bill" to stop people suing food companies for making them fat. The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act holds that obesity and overeating are matters of personal responsibility. If you stuff your face with fattening food and don't do any exercise, you have no one to blame but yourself when you get fat. And if parents cave in to children demanding Coco Pops for breakfast every morning, that's not the fault of television or the government. It's because they won't say "No".



He is infamous for his raging four-letter-word tirades but now Gordon Ramsay has managed to insult 50 per cent of the population without uttering a single expletive.

The television chef has provoked uproar by claiming that young British women "can't cook to save their lives". In a move likely to alienate his army of female fans, the 38-year-old Michelin-starred chef, who is currently filming a new series for Channel 4, says that Britain has produced a generation of women who can "mix a cocktail" but are incapable of doing anything else in the kitchen.

The former professional footballer said that while more and more men were making their mark in the kitchen, far too many women were surviving on a daily diet of expensive and unhealthy ready-made meals. "I have been visiting ladies' houses up and down the country with our film crew and you'd be amazed how little cooking the girls are doing," he said. "When they eat, they cheat - it's ready meals and pre-prepared meals all the way. "Seriously, there are huge numbers of young women out there who know how to mix cocktails but can't cook to save their lives, whereas men are finding their way into the kitchen in ever-growing numbers. Trust me: I am only telling you what I've discovered."

The comments might come as a shock to Ramsay's wife, Tana, who cooks for their four young children in a separate kitchen at home.

Ramsay, who has become an unlikely sex symbol through his regular television appearances, makes his scathing comments in an interview to promote his new series, The F Word, in which he cooks a three-course meal for each episode. He tells the current edition of Radio Times that he has no time for "stick-thin models who never eat" and he says that he would refuse to serve anyone in his restaurants who asked to go off menu because they were "on a stupid diet like the Atkins or GI". "They would be out of the door before they knew what was happening," he said.

More here

23 October, 2005

All's quiet on the Trafalgar front

The British Leftist elite have a horror of the v-word on the bicentennial of Nelson's battle. Last Friday October 21st was the actual bicentennial of the Trafalgar victory -- which was also the battle in which Britain lost its most brilliant and most beloved admiral. One hopes that a large part of the commemoration will be devoted to Viscount Horatio Nelson himself but I am not at all confident of it

"In the event, the bicentennial celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar have proved curiously muted. Nelson's victory over French vice-admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve and Napoleon's First Empire seems a long time ago, of course. Yet given how it laid the basis for the British Empire, the Sterling Area and thus the world's first extensive round of globalisation, Trafalgar hasn't really had the fanfare that is its historical due.

The Royal Mint has issued 5 pound crowns; the Royal Mail, six stamps. Tomorrow the Royal Family will light beacons, beginning with the Queen at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, alongside HMS Victory. In the House of Commons, however, there is silence.

Ministers do not feel good about the Empire, and they don't feel very good about victories in its name. In May 2005 Geoff Hoon, leader of the house, told the Commons that he was 'delighted' that one of the largest ships in the June international fleet review off Portsmouth would be provided by....France. In June, when Clwyd Conservative MP David Jones begged to attack New Labour's commitment to a common European defence policy, defence secretary John Reid replied that Jones had made a 'particularly churlish remark on the occasion of the two-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, when we are attempting to bring nations together'.

Maybe New Labour doesn't feel good about Britain winning any kind of victory at any time, in fact. Take 2003, the year of Gulf War Two. In April, speaking of the need to make the newly won 'peace' in Iraq worth the war that had preceded it, UK prime minister Tony Blair declared that he would succeed 'not in any spirit of elation - still less of triumphalism - but with a fixed and steady resolve that the cause was just, the victory right'. By December, Blair insisted that 'the final victory' in Iraq would that of 'the Iraqi people'.

Any victory is okay, as long as it isn't that of Old Blighty. As a result, the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich has an exhibition that celebrates 'Black Sailors in Nelson's Navy'. The Independent is on hand to explain that 1805 was the work of the third of the crew of the Victory who came from outside England, including one member from Africa, one Manxman, and three from France. Michael Portillo's BBC1 documentary Nelson's Trafalgar, shown on 22 June, paralleled Channel 4 coverage of Trafalgar in registering the contribution that women made below decks.

In all of this, 1805 is interpreted not as a victory for the British Empire, but as one for that New Labour idol, diversity. In the same way, the unbeatable rapid rates of fire mounted by British seamen are partly attributed to the onions and lemons Nelson acquired in places like Tangier, the better to fight scurvy. On British ships, it seems, the lash was bad, but the diet was wonderful...."

More here


See my tribute to Nelson on Tongue Tied


At what is being billed as the world's first finishing school for gentlemen, learning how to set the cutlery can be just as tricky as the fly fishing. But after three days in a Scottish castle, the students emerge from a minefield of etiquette knowing everything from how much to tip the gamekeeper to how to walk with a book balanced on their heads. "We have opened the floodgates of politeness around the world," said Diana Mather whose Finishing Academy has now attracted would-be candidates from as far afield as Canada, Pakistan and Japan.

"We are teaching British manners, which are the gold standard and the benchmark for the world," said Mather, a former actress and BBC presenter who truly believes the old adage "Manners Makyth Man". "Good manners are ageless, priceless and classless," said Mather who charges 650 pounds for a three-day course. "We think it is the world's first finishing school for men," she said of the academy whose first candidates ranged from a former Zimbabwean farmer out to hone his business manner to a ski instructor determined to polish his social skills.

The would-be gentlemen -- eager to boost their job prospects or just sent along by despairing mothers and girlfriends -- are given a crash course on how to cut the mustard in High Society. Table manners and cutlery terrified the nine pathfinders on the first course. "What glasses for which wine, which knife and fork -- that was what frightened them the most," Mather said. In deportment, they learned with the help of a book balanced on their heads "how to stand, sit and walk with stylishness and poise." To the relief of their nearest and dearest, they were even taught basic sewing and ironing skills as well as such manly pursuits as fly fishing and clay pigeon shooting.

Scottish reels were danced "for fun and fitness" and the networking class even taught how to offer a power handshake. "That is very important. The weak, horrible, wet fish handshake is a problem. That gives a lot away," Mather said.

The British fear their once famously polite nation is now more renowned for binge drinking and loud-mouthed, loutish behavior than for the popular image of the rolled umbrella and the stiff upper lip. "Good manners are not taught in schools or most homes. Children with no discipline are insecure," Mather complained. "Families don't eat together, children are not learning table manners or the art of conversation."

Feminism and political correctness, she argues, may have to shoulder some of the blame in an age of equality. "These days do you open a door for a woman or give up your seat? Rabid feminists may not think so but most women like to be treated like a lady. A lot of women still want a knight in shining armor," she said.



Only fear remains as a political motivator

"One symptom of the exhaustion of politics is the disorientation of the ruling elites. They seem to lack a mission or a focus. Public figures find it difficult to account for their objectives through the medium of political, moral or philosophical ideas. Their parties lack a programme, even an identity. That is why party conferences are invariably distracted by the question of 'who are we?'. Instead of addressing people about their beliefs, principles or doctrines, political parties modestly refer to an 'agenda' or a 'project'.

UK prime minister Tony Blair's 'Respect Agenda' is only the latest example of this rhetorical strategy. Increasingly, the rhetoric adopted by the political elites is deployed to obscure the fact that, not only do they not have a big idea, they also lack a small one. Take some of the Hurrah Words that trip off the tongues of public figures. Everybody is for diversity, transparency, social cohesion, inclusion, best practice, evidence-based policy, adding value and stakeholding. But what does any of it mean? Is it any surprise that some public figures feel uncomfortable about expounding their project when they are armed with such empty phraseology?

The demise of political ideology is an outcome of a profound sense of estrangement from the experience of the past. Its impact encourages a sense of defeatism about the future. Without clearly formulated alternatives, politics loses its orientation to the future. It becomes short-termist and regards the future as a no-go area for policymaking. So instead of elaborating policies that can secure a better future, governments have become obsessed with micro-managing the present.

Public figures eschew big issues, and opt for a diet of unconnected single issues. Foxhunting, school dinners, licensing laws, university top-up fees, foundation hospitals, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) or parenting orders are represented as the make-or-break questions of the twenty-first century. The flipside of the depoliticisation of public life is the tendency to focus attention on the minutiae of people's existence. But these issues, which are framed through the soulless idiom of managerialism, invariably fail to engage the imagination of the public.

Costed proposals and evidence-based policies do little to inspire or mobilise the electorate, and politicians have come to recognise that their political, ideological and moral links with the public are fragile. Managerial forms of party rhetoric and micro-politics have little purchase on an evidently disenchanted public. The ceaseless search for yet another public relations-led initiative serves to heighten Westminster's isolation from the people.

It is difficult to motivate normal human beings with a 'Respect Agenda'. People are unlikely to be inspired by a minister's undertaking to extend 'best practice' or to 'add value'. And the claim that Britain stands for diversity while the terrorists uphold evil is unlikely to engage the imagination of people who are looking for some clear purpose in life. Most people intuitively sense that the vocabulary used by public figures consists of platitudes masquerading as meaningful political idioms.

Take a key Hurrah Word: diversity. Celebrating the value of diversity is a roundabout way of saying that society has no values with a distinct purpose to celebrate. Diversity has no intrinsic political or moral meaning. It does not represent a view of the world nor provide society with a purpose or a vision of the future. Diversity merely provides a rhetorical strategy for avoiding the challenging task of outlining what society stands for by claiming that it stands for anything.

At best, the word diversity is a term of description that testifies to the unlike and the varied. The term 'diverse society' tells us that people have different origins, cultures and ways of life. It says little about what distinguishes that society and what ought to be its aspiration. It certainly offers no alternative to the jihadist, and lacks the credibility to inspire any significant section of society. The embrace of this term by otherwise intelligent political figures is evidence of a profound sense of malaise that afflicts public life.

It is the sense of political malaise that encourages many Western governments to adopt such a negative style of governance. Curbs on civil liberty are one manifestation of this trend. The other is the politicisation of fear. The politicisation of fear is inextricably linked to the inability of governments to project a sense of purpose.

Societies that are able to project a positive vision of the future do not need to employ fear as a currency in public life. Take for example former US president Franklin D Roosevelt's inaugural address in 1933. His statement that the 'only thing we have to fear is fear itself' was integral to a positive orientation to the future, which would eventually lead to the launching of the New Deal. The contrast between Roosevelt's message and the statements made by politicians today is striking. Alarmist exhortations about binge drinking and child obesity compete with the warning 'Not If - But When'.

There is now a substantial body of opinion that regards fear as a positive resource for 'raising awareness' in society. This orientation is not confined to the war on terrorism. It is worth noting that the first major speech that Blair made after returning from his summer holiday was on the need to protect the majority from the minority of irresponsible parents who refuse to control their children. Blair warned that 'people need to understand that if their kids are out of control and they are causing a nuisance to their community, there is something that is going to happen, they can't just get away with that'.

Blair's parenting orders are typical products of the kind of negative politics that contributes to the institutionalisation of fear. Like the erosion of liberties in the name of protecting people from terror, parenting orders represent an encroachment on people's democratic rights. They limit freedom of movement and threaten to force errant mothers and fathers to bring up their children in accordance with the rules set by officials. As the prime minister put it, whether they like it or not parents 'can be forced by the order to accept support and advice on how to bring discipline and rules to their child's life'.

The government appears to take the view that the British public has become more relaxed about defending its civil rights and free speech. In his September speech promoting parenting orders, Blair was upbeat on this matter. 'You know, a few years ago probably the talk about parenting orders and parenting classes.would have either seemed somewhat bizarre or dangerous', he remarked. But apparently attitudes are changing. According to Blair, while 'there are still people' who see this as 'interfering with the right of the individual', the 'law-abiding majority' is less worried about minor infringements on civil liberties.

In one sense, Blair is right. At present there is little public resistance to curbs on civil liberties as long as they are promoted as sensible commonsense policies rather than as attacks on people's freedoms. I am always surprised that the automatic vetting, by the Criminal Records Bureau, of adults who work with or who might come into contact with children has rarely been questioned. Since its introduction, more and more adults have become targets of this procedure and it is only a matter of time before a parent will need to be vetted before she drives her son's mates to their football team's match...."

Much more from Frank Furedi here

22 October, 2005


One of the most celebrated executives in the advertising industry has offered to resign after reportedly describing women creative directors as "crap" who would inevitably "wimp out and go suckle something". Neil French, whose work for clients such as Chivas Regal is often used for case studies, is expected to leave WPP after creating a storm over his views on why so few women break into the top ranks of advertising.

Mr French denies the comments attributed to him at a private dinner. But a spokeswoman for WPP, the world's second-largest advertising group, said yesterday: "Neil has offered to resign following remarks made last week in Toronto." She declined to elaborate.

Nancy Vonk, a senior WPP executive in Toronto who was present at the dinner, responded to Mr French's remarks through her website, saying that she was "still partially paralysed" by his comments. "What struck me so hard as he described a group that will inevitably wimp out and `go suckle something' after their short stint in advertising was that in his honest opinion he was voicing the inner thoughts of legions of men in the senior ranks of our business, " Ms Vonk, the co-chief creative officer of Ogilvy in Toronto, said. She added: "Neil did us the favour of voicing a widely held view, albeit an extreme version. It's an opportunity for us all - men, too - to confront something every bit as wrong and unacceptable as racism. Replace every comment Neil made about women with the word `black' and take my point."

The Singapore-based Mr French, who is nicknamed the Godfather, is said to have told the dinner: "Women don't make it to the top because they don't deserve to. They're crap."

It was unclear whether Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, had accepted Mr French's resignation. Sir Martin was unavailable for comment.

Last night Mr French told The Times: "I'm anti-racism, anti-sexism and everything else." He added: "What I did say was to be a creative director requires 100 per cent commitment. People who have babies to look after can't do that." Asked if he had any regrets about the controversial speech, he said: "Absolutely not".

He did admit to putting Sir Martin in "a terribly invidious position by people giving him an earache about this. I told him, `I'll save you the trouble, I'll resign'."



Blaming others for your own foolish deeds did not wash this time

Two men crippled in divings accident have had their appeals rejected by the [Australian] High Court on the basis that they should have been aware of the risks involved. Ernie Vairy, now 46, became a tetraplegic when he dived off a rock platform at Soldiers Beach on 24 January 1993 during an outing with his sister's family and was awarded verdict of $5.05 million. The NSW Court of appeal found for the local Wyong Council and by an excruciating 4-3 margin, Mr Vairy failed to win back his damages. The majority said the council's duty of care did not include erecting signs warning against diving and that an experienced adult could be assumed to appreciate the risks of diving into the sea from a rock platform.

Garry Mulligan, now 36, from Ireland, was in Australia on holiday with his girlfriend when he was rendered a quadriplegic while diving in Coffs Creek at Park Beach near Coffs Harbour on 24 January 1999. He sued for negligence over a lack of warning signs erected by Coffs Harbour City Council but lost at trial and in the court of appeal. In its unanimous decision, the court said it was not essential to post warning signs at Coffs Creek when the danger of diving into water of variable depth existed at most beaches and waterways.


21 October, 2005


It is a mark of the rapid decline of our security services that they no longer keep a file on Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary. Once upon a time she was under surveillance by MI5, but our secret agents have diverted their attentions to angry young Muslims and Hewitt has been left to pursue her mischief-making unwatched. This is a mistake. If MI5 won't do it, then it should devolve to the police or, failing that, the voluntary sector. In a spirit of civic duty I'll start the ball rolling.

Her former ministry, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), finally conceded last week that Hewitt had broken the Sex Discrimination Act by personally appointing a woman to the board of the South West Regional Development Agency when a man was the better candidate for the job. The people who interviewed Malcolm Hanney for the post insisted that he was "much the strongest candidate" and a "clear favourite". But Hewitt overruled their decision and appointed Christine Channon, a local councillor, instead. The interviewers had placed Channon third on their list.

Hanney sued, citing sexual discrimination, and won. The DTI now concedes that Hewitt broke the law - but its squirming in the face of this reverse has been a wonder to behold. Its spokesmen said that neither they, collectively, nor Hewitt had realised that they were in breach of the law - which is odd because the DTI is responsible for the Sex Discrimination Act.

Further, if there is a politician in the country who understands the Sex Discrimination Act, then it is Hewitt: it has been one of the many things she has agitated for almost since her emergence from the womb in a Canberra hospital 56 years ago.

Hewitt has spent her entire life agitating. When she left university she immediately started agitating on behalf of elderly people at Age Concern and then spread her wings and took on an unlimited agenda of agitation as general secretary of the National Council for Civil Liberties. Since then she has agitated at the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Commission on Social Justice. In her spare time she ran Neil Kinnock's press office, having previously been a hardline Bennite who denounced her fellow MPs for not voting for the swivel-eyed, pipe-smoking high priest of leftie agitation when he failed in his attempt to become Labour's deputy leader in 1981. Had they voted as Hewitt insisted, it is possible that we would not have a viable Labour party. Pat often gets it badly wrong. I voted for him too. I am also frequently wrong.

But has she apologised to Hanney? Has she hell. The permanent secretary at the DTI has apologised - but he didn't make the decision. My suspicion is that Hewitt didn't apologise because she isn't remotely sorry. Further, can this business about not understanding the Sex Discrimination Act be true? I suspect she would never concede that its introduction was intended to defend the corner of maltreated job applicants if they were foolish enough to be born with a penis. It was intended to be of benefit only to women. Remember, the National Council for Civil Liberties never defended the civil liberties of workers sacked for refusing to join trade unions. No way.

For Hewitt is a proponent of something with which you will all by now be familiar, that oxymoron "positive discrimination". Her commitment to this crude and often cruel instrument of nanny state social engineering has been steadfast and complete - and it still continues to this day. She has been agitating recently to extend all-women shortlists to candidates in council elections (the main opposition within the Labour party will come from black activists and agitators who fear that all-women shortlists disfavour candidates from an ethnic minority background). She recently exulted that "soon" less than a third of the British workforce would be white males under 45. She was especially delighted at the growing number of workers who were "transgendered". I haven't a clue what this means, but I suppose we should rejoice, too. If you work with transgendered colleagues, give them a pat on the back from me, please.

In fact her entire career seems to have been built on the notion that social change must be enforced on a country that is too stupid or prejudiced to embrace her ideology voluntarily - regardless of the injustice to the individual. Women refuse to enter politics not because they have better things to do but because of male oppression: "Women find the formal political environments very off-putting and I think that's understandable." Discrimination always works in one way: against the woman or against the ethnic minorities. It is not part of Hewitt's make-up to accept that there can often be another side to the argument.

The world is divided into two great hostile camps: the oppressor and the oppressed. So even when she breaks the law and with insufferable arrogance decides that one man's legitimate right to a job should be taken away from him, she is incapable of saying sorry. Because it's the law that's wrong, not Hewitt.



Twenty years ago we used to laugh at children who were the product of experimental "progressive" schools or nurseries, or indeed the product of progressive, experimental parenting - no rules, no homework, no supervised diet, no chores, no bedtime, no potty training, no hairbrush, no pleases, no thank-yous. These children - everyone knew one, but probably not two - were in the minority. Now they have become the norm.

This is partly to do with the disastrous fact that many parents today are so insecure that they strive to be their small children's "best friend", rather than their parent, failing to grasp that you can have friends coming out of your ears, but you have only one mother and father, and that the two are not interchangeable. Such parents' reluctance to lay down the law has reached epidemic proportions. They cannot say "no", because then they risk unpopularity, a fate in their eyes worse than death.

This has the direst and most tiresome consequences: you go to dinner at someone's house and their children are rampaging about until 2am, making conversation impossible (for which privilege you are paying your babysitter œ7 an hour); you take a child a present and, if you're lucky, get a grunt instead of a thank you (thank-you notes seem to have died out altogether); you have people over for Sunday lunch and have to watch their children eating with their mouths wide open, if they deign to eat at all.

I was recently interrogated by a six-year-old about the specific ingredients, and their quantities, of a lamb stew. I was apparently the only person present that day who thought this was insane.

I know someone who cooks three different suppers for her three children every night, because they all fancy different things. Try pointing out that she's a working mother, not a short-order chef, and you get a lecture about how the little darlings' happiness is paramount.

This, like so much dubious parenting, has a great deal to do with working women's guilt. I do wish someone would explain that all the good that's done by going out to work, being intellectually stimulated and earning a living is completely undone if you're going to come home and behave like a particularly weedy throwback. An imaginary throwback, at that: women in the 1950s didn't cook three separate meals, or have no set bedtime, or no rules.

But what about the rest of us? Why do adults need to be told how to behave? "Don't indulge in nude stretches or contortions in gym changing rooms", Good Housekeeping's guide helpfully tells us. "Don't kiss anyone on the lips other than your partner", or indeed "ogle other men" in front of him. The magazine has a stolid middle-class middle-aged readership: I find the idea of it needing to be told not to bend over naked in public a bit alarming. If even the nice ladies who subscribe to Good Housekeeping need this information, what on earth does that say about the rest of us? That we are a nation of tragic oiks.

Forget not knowing which fork to use: we probably need to be reminded to use cutlery in the first place. In fact when it comes to manners the rude children have won us over: we're all toddlers now, throwing tantrums in public for all we're worth. We are tired and beginning to show off, as my sisters' horrible nanny used to say before briskly dispatching them to bed.

More here

20 October, 2005


While our country focuses on the war abroad, many of our soldiers fight personal battles here at home—or more accurately, can’t fight. They are losing their families and getting little help from an administration that claims to “support the troops” while doing nothing to protect the parental rights of the fathers it sent into combat.

All the services are facing a severe drop in recruitment, and additional recruiters, stepped-up advertising, and bigger bonuses have not reversed the trend. The media points to the war itself, but the shortfall also coincides with a dramatic rise in military divorces, which the Army reports have nearly doubled since 2001. “We’ve seen nothing like this before,” says Col. Glen Bloomstrom, a chaplain who oversees family-support programs. “It indicates the amount of stress on couples, on families, as the Army conducts the global war on terrorism.” It indicates much more than stress. “There most certainly is a relationship between current recruiting problems and an increase in military divorces,” says Capt. Gene Thomas Gomulka, a retired Navy chaplain and writer on military marriage.

Muffled by feminist orthodoxy, the Army and media are not disclosing the facts behind these divorces or publicizing the threat they pose to preparedness. The important points are these: the divorces are almost all initiated by wives, the servicemen usually lose their children—which for many is their main incentive for serving their country—and finally, they often become liable to criminal prosecution for child support that is impossible for them to pay.

Laws protecting active-duty servicemen against legal actions are ignored by family courts. Deployed servicemen have virtually no protection against unilaterally initiated divorce proceedings that permanently separate them from their children without any show of wrongdoing. Child kidnapping laws likewise do not protect them from having their children relocated, even to foreign countries, while they cannot be present to defend their parental rights. When they return, they have no necessary right to see their children—and can be arrested for trying to do so—who often join the ranks of the permanently fatherless.

The Lansing State Journal recently reported on Joe McNeilly, a National Guardsman who “would still have his son if he hadn’t been deployed,” according to Maj. Dawn Dancer, public-affairs officer for the Michigan National Guard. Invoking the correct legal buzzwords, the mother and her lawyer claimed he lost custody not because of his deployment but because of his “parenting skills.” Yet his parenting skills were clearly defined in terms of his deployment. The court attested that it stripped him of custody because his wife was the “day-to-day caretaker and decision maker in the child’s life” while McNeilly was deployed. His alleged parental deficiencies also proceeded apparently from his duties as a soldier. “My client is making sure to turn off the TV when the news reports deaths in Iraq,” the mother’s lawyer said, “and (McNeilly) was engaging in behaviors that brought fear.” In other words, he was fighting a war

Even more astounding, vicariously divorced servicemen can be criminally prosecuted for child-support arrearages that are almost impossible not to accrue while they are on duty. Reservists are hit particularly hard because their child-support burdens are based on their civilian pay and do not decrease when their income decreases. Because reservists are often mobilized with little notice, few get modifications before they leave, and modifications are almost never granted anyway. They cannot get relief when they return because federal law prohibits retroactive reductions for any reason. Once arrearages reach $5,000, the soldier becomes a felon and subject to imprisonment.

More here


The Leftist British elite hate their own working class while they jealously protect Muslims

What do you reckon the reaction would be if spy aircraft tracked the movement of suspicious-looking Muslim youths, just in case these "potential terrorists" do something illegal?

Strangely, I have not heard anybody complain about the German authorities' plan to use a squadron of Awacs, Nato's military spy planes, "to follow football fans around Germany" and spot potential hooligans during next summer's World Cup. This is the latest in an extraordinary battery of measures that governments have deployed against the minor problem of fat men misbehaving at football matches. When it comes to football hooliganism, fashionable concerns about human rights fly out of the window.

Judges and opposition politicians object loudly to the Government's draconian proposal to detain terrorism suspects for weeks without charge. Nobody seems to mind when police ask the courts to issue a football banning order taking away a British citizen's passport without charge or trial. There are more than 3,000 FBOs in force, and will be many more before next summer as a joint Home Office/police chiefs body enforces a new "zero tolerance" policy on minor offences.

When two men objected that their six-year football banning orders infringed human rights laws, the courts ruled that such "very firm measures were justified to confront the various sickening ills of football violence". It seems strange that these "very firm measures" are deemed more legitimate than draconian anti-terror laws. After all, the "various sickening ills of football violence" do not include suicide bombings.

The difference is that "potential football hooligans" tend to be white working-class men. And most judges, human rights lawyers, liberal journalists and MPs tend to despise those whom they see as white trash every bit as much as the Government does. "Chav scum" are the one minority it is legitimate to give a good kicking to.

The authorities' target is not just a few violent boneheads but the whole "drinking culture" of proletarian excess that accompanies big tournaments. A "football hooliganism expert" from the Netherlands, where they put suspected hooligans under house arrest during matches, this week told BBC radio of his fears about England fans, having watched them at the World Cup qualifier against Wales in Cardiff. "They were drinking without shirts on, they don 't integrate with the local supporters, they hate some people from other countries and refer to the war, and it doesn't make a nice relaxing atmosphere." How long before shirtless drinking is made a banning offence? Although anybody who thinks that the World Cup should be played in "a nice relaxing atmosphere" does seem like a candidate for house arrest for the duration of the tournament.

The other people who seem to believe that the white working class are all braindead lager-soaked soccer hooligans who deserve all that they get are, of course, Muslim extremists. Where do they get their ideas from?



Nobody wants to be fat. Nobody wants anybody else to be fat. Politicians and medical professionals would like to see everybody un-fat. And still we get fatter. On my Marxist days, I like to think of this as a groundswell of subversive collective action - a playfully ironic protest in which we destroy consumerism by consuming so much that we cost more to keep alive than we'll ever make. The coolest thing is that even children are involved. Who said you could be too young for politics? But on other days, I have to concede that it's probably just because we eat too much by accident.

Deirdre Hutton, chairwoman of Britain's Food Standards Agency, has delineated how these accidents happen. We eat too much processed food - most at risk are teenage girls, male city workers, "people in poorer communities" (when did it become inappropriate to say "poor people"?) and the over-50s. Her first hurdle is to harry packaged-food manufacturers into making food healthier, or at least flagging up in big red letters how unhealthy it is.

Burger King told her where to stick it. (They want their customers to "take responsibility for their own health" - how sweet. It makes me feel like they really respect me. Now I fancy a Whopper Junior.) Others will be more co-operative, I feel sure, but this is a pointless battle. Processed food is sugar, salt and fat-loaded because it doesn't taste nice otherwise; it's been sitting around too long. Anyone who's tried to have some fun with a two-day-old roast potato can vouch for this. Healthy processed food will always taste like self-denial; to get people eating well without feeling hard done by, they need fresh food.

How do you achieve this? Well, "male city workers" are time-poor - to get them eating nutritious hotpots nightly, you need to supply them with some help: a wife, for instance, or - not wishing to gender-bias this - a good friend to stay at home and stew while they work. In other words, you'd need to reverse a trend of the past 50 years and bring back the doubly occupied single-income unit. That would be tricky, no?

"People in poor communities" are more straightforward - they would eat better if they had more money, thereby a) having more time for home-cooking, since they don't have to work so hard; and b) not having to shop exclusively in Iceland. How do you make the poor less poor? With redistributive taxation. How amazingly unfashionable; I feel I've just offered you a spam sandwich.

To return to teenagers, they tend to be either undereating or overeating, largely for psychological reasons. You could reverse this by outlawing cultural images in which an unattainable body shape is presented as the norm, and strengthening their sense of self so that it extended beyond sexual objectification. That sounds hard as well.

It is so far unclear why the over-50s should be eating badly, but let's imagine that the erosion of the family unit has left people isolated, and home-cooking is an activity people rarely undertake alone (one famous British TV chef once wrote a book called One is Fun!; you'd be amazed how offended people are to receive it as a gift). The answer would be to repeal all divorce laws so that people had to stay together, and somehow to reverse the trend wherein youth is idolised and older people, feeling disfranchised, eat more biscuits. It's an idea, but I don't fancy your chances.

Obesity, in the end, is a function of social progress. To blame fat-loaded food is like blaming Bill Gates for the people who email you when you'd rather they stopped in for a coffee. To try to reverse it with well-meant advice is like telling a Viking warrior to chill out about his masculinity. I say we bring back rationing. It might sound extreme, but given the alternatives, it also sounds surprisingly manageable.


19 October, 2005


Governors of schools that continue to serve junk food to children after it has been banned could be prosecuted and receive a criminal record, the Education Secretary suggested yesterday. Ruth Kelly said that when laws to ban poor-quality burgers and sausages come into force, those who do not take their duty seriously will be "open to the same sanctions as anyone else who breaks the law". Ms Kelly said she did not believe that there would be prosecutions because she was sure that schools and local authorities would want to provide healthy meals. But she said that governors would be held responsible for food standards and any breaches would be picked up by Ofsted inspectors. Ms Kelly said: "Governors will have a new duty and will be responsible for the food that is served in their schools. Ofsted is going to inspect to make sure that schools are taking this duty seriously. There will be a law in place that says they have to make these standards."

The approach was criticised as heavy handed by the Conservatives. David Cameron, the shadow education secretary, said: "It seems that Ruth Kelly is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. We support the ban on junk food and put this policy forward before the election, but this seems to go too far."

It also emerged yesterday that a new qualification for dinner ladies announced by Ms Kelly to bolster "crucial skills" does not involve any cooking or work in the kitchen. The course will take only six hours to complete and has no practical content. Drawn up by City and Guilds, the Award in Providing a Healthier School Meals Service teaches the elements that make up a balanced diet for children and the nutrient composition of different foods. It also teaches how to persuade children to choose healthier options though "marketing and merchandising". At the end of the course, dinner ladies will answer multiple choice questions to test their knowledge of nutritional guidelines. The country's 80,000 dinner ladies will be expected to go through the training. School caterers say, however, that the qualification will do little to address the problem of how to provide a healthy diet for 50p a meal or less.

In a survey by Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine, completed by a quarter of the Local Authority Caterers Association, representing about 10,000 schools, staff described the course as "college-based, vague and absent of kitchen craft". Neil Porter, the former chairman of the association, said: "It needs to be more hands-on and teach caterers how to make food more nutritious. There is too much emphasis on marketing." One respondent said: "People want knife skills, menu planning and standardised recipes across the authority." Another said: "We need to know how to prepare and cook vegetables properly, basic pastry work, vegetarian cookery and how to present food appealingly." The qualification, part of a œ280 million programme to improve school meals, was branded a gimmick by the Conservatives when it was announced.

In her speech to the Labour conference in Brighton, Ms Kelly pledged to ban junk food from school canteens and to bring in minimum nutritional standards for all school meals, including breakfast and after-school clubs, by next September. Crisps, chocolate and sugary drinks will also be banned from tuck shops and vending machines. The proposals, which will not come into force for another 12 months, follow the television chef Jamie Oliver's campaign to improve school meals.

A list of foods to be banned from school kitchens will be published this week when the School Meals Review Panel reports back. It is expected to include junk food with high levels of salt, sugar and fat. Some border-line products, such as chips, fresh cakes and baked doughnuts, are likely to escape the purge. But they may be limited to once or twice a week. Mary Creagh, the Labour MP for Wakefield who has been campaigning on school food, said she was delighted. "This is great news," she said. "At last we will have a national curriculum for children's bodies as well as a national curriculum for their minds."

Ms Creagh's Food Bill, which will be debated in Parliament next month, calls for compulsory nutrition classes for all children and for a ban on marketing and advertising junk food to children.



But cycling is OK, of course

With her year-round tan, long blonde hair and designer clothes, Sally Cameron does not look like a threat to national security. But the 34-year-old property developer has joined the ranks of Britain's most unlikely terrorist suspects after being held for hours for trespassing on a cycle path.

Ms Cameron was being hailed yesterday as Scotland's answer to Walter Wolfgang, the 82-year-old heckler manhandled out of the Labour Party conference last month. She was arrested under the Terrorism Act for walking along a cycle path in the harbour area of Dundee.

Yesterday, after receiving a letter from the Tayside procurator fiscal's office informing her that she would not be prosecuted, Ms Cameron said: "It is utterly ridiculous that such an inoffensive person as myself should be subject to such heavy-handed treatment."

She was walking from her office in Dundee to her home in the suburb of Broughty Ferry when she was arrested under new anti-terrorist legislation and held for four hours. She said: "I've been walking to work every morning for months and months to keep fit. One day, I was told by a guard on the gate that I couldn't use the route any more because it was solely a cycle path and he said, if I was caught doing it again, I'd be arrested. "The next thing I knew, the harbour master had driven up behind me with a megaphone, saying, `You're trespassing, please turn back'. It was totally ridiculous. I started laughing and kept on walking. Cyclists going past were also laughing. "But then two police cars roared up beside me and cut me off, like a scene from Starsky and Hutch, and officers told me I was being arrested under the Terrorism Act. The harbour master was waffling on and (saying that), because of September 11, I would be arrested and charged."

Ms Cameron, who said that at one stage one of the officers asked her to stop laughing, described the incident as "like a scene from the movie Erin Brockovich, with all the dock workers cheering me and telling me to give them hell". She said: "I was told that the cycle path was for cyclists only, as if walkers and not cyclists were the only ones likely to plant bombs. There are no signs anywhere saying there are to be no pedestrians. "They took me to the police station and held me for several hours before charging me and releasing me."

She said that she was particularly galled by the letter from the procurator fiscal's office, which said that she would not be prosecuted even though "the evidence is sufficient to justify bringing you before the court on this criminal charge".

Keith Berry, the harbour master at Forth Ports Dundee, said yesterday that Ms Cameron had been seen as a "security risk". Speaking about the incident, which took place in May, he said: "We contacted the police in regards to this matter because the woman was in a secure area which forbids people walking. It was seen as a security risk. We were following guidelines in requirement with the port security plan set up by the Government."



A week ago, at a reception in one of London's dowdier hotels, Maryam Namazie received a cheque and a certificate stating that she was Secularist of the Year 2005. The audience from the National Secular Society cheered, but no one else noticed. At first glance, the wider indifference wasn't surprising. Everyone is presenting everyone else with prizes these days - even journalists get them. If coverage was given to all award winners, there would be no space left in the papers for news. On top of that, secularism is still an eccentric cause. Despite the privileges of the established churches, this is one of the most irreligious countries on Earth. The bishops have power but no influence, and the notion that you need a tough-minded movement to combat religious influence still feels quaint. Like republicanism, secularism is an ideal which can enthuse the few while leaving the many cold.

The rise of the Christian right in the United States and the Islamic right everywhere, of faith schools and religious censorship is breaking down complacency. The 7 July bombings should have blown it to pieces. But the Ealing comedy caricature of a kind vicar, who may be a bit silly but remains intrinsically decent, is still most people's picture of the religious in England, not least because there is truth in it. (It's a different matter in Northern Ireland and on the west coast of Scotland, for obvious reasons.)

For all that, Maryam Namazie's obscurity remains baffling. She ought to be a liberal poster girl. Her life has been that of a feminist militant who fights the oppression of women wherever she finds it. She was born in Tehran, but had to flee with her family when the Iranian revolution brought the mullahs to power. After graduating in America, she went to work with the poor in the Sudan. When the Islamists seized control, she established an underground human rights network. Her cover was blown and she had to run once again. She's been a full-time campaigner for the rights of the Iranian diaspora, helping refugees across the world and banging on to anyone who will listen about the vileness of its treatment of women.

When an Iranian judge hanged a 16-year-old girl for having sex outside marriage - I mean literally hanged her; he put the noose round her neck himself - Namazie organised global protests. Her best rhetorical weapon is her description of the obsessiveness of theocracy. The law in Iran not only allows women to be stoned, she says, but it specifies the size of the stones to be used; they mustn't be too small in case it takes too long to kill her and the mob gets bored; but mustn't be too big either, in case she is dispatched immediately and the mob is denied the sado-sexual pleasure of seeing her suffer.

She's media-friendly and literate, not least because she runs the London-based International TV English whose programmes have a large following in the Middle East. Yet one of the most important feminists from the developing world has never been on Woman's Hour. I searched our huge cuttings database and could find only one mention of her in the national press over the past 10 years. Right-thinking, left-leaning people have backed away from Maryam Namazie because she is just as willing to tackle their tolerance of oppression as the oppressors themselves.

It was the decision of broad-minded politicians in Ottawa to allow Sharia courts in Canada which did it for her. They said if they were not established, the Muslim minority would be marginalised and to say otherwise was racism pure and simple. After years of hearing this postmodern twaddle, Namazie flipped. Why was it, she asked, that supposed liberals always give 'precedence to cultural and religious norms, however reactionary, over the human being and her rights'? Why was it that they always pretended that other cultures were sealed boxes without conflicts of their own and took 'the most reactionary segment of that community' as representative of the belief and culture of the whole.

In a ringing passage, which should be pinned to the noticeboards of every cultural studies faculty and Whitehall ministry, she declared that the problem with cultural relativism was that it endorsed the racism of low expectations. 'It promotes tolerance and respect for so-called minority opinions and beliefs, rather than respect for human beings. Human beings are worthy of the highest respect, but not all opinions and beliefs are worthy of respect and tolerance. There are some who believe in fascism, white supremacy, the inferiority of women. Must they be respected?'

Richard J Evans, professor of modern history at Cambridge, pointed out in Defence of History that if you take the relativist position to its conclusion and believe there's no such thing as truth and all cultures are equally valid, you have no weapons to fight the Holocaust denier or Ku Klux Klansmen.

Namazie is on the right side of the great intellectual struggle of our time between incompatible versions of liberalism. One follows the fine and necessary principle of tolerance, but ends up having to tolerate the oppression of women, say, or gays in foreign cultures while opposing misogyny and homophobia in its own. (Or 'liberalism for the liberals and cannibalism for the cannibals!' as philosopher Martin Hollis elegantly described the hypocrisy of the manoeuvre.) The alternative is to support universal human rights and believe that if the oppression of women is wrong, it is wrong everywhere.

The gulf between the two is unbridgeable. Although the argument is rarely put as baldly as I made it above, you can see it breaking out everywhere across the liberal-left. Trade union leaders stormed out of the anti-war movement when they discovered its leadership had nothing to say about the trade unionists who were demanding workers' rights in Iraq and being tortured and murdered by the 'insurgents' for their presumption.

Former supporters of Ken Livingstone reacted first with bewilderment and then steady contempt when he betrayed Arab liberals and embraced the Islamic religious right. The government's plans to ban the incitement of religious hatred have created an opposition which spans left and right and whose members have found they have more in common with each other than with people on 'their side'. As Namazie knows, the dispute can't stay in the background for much longer. There's an almighty smash-up coming and not before time.


18 October, 2005


But, as in Britain, it is the anti-discrimination bodies themselves that discriminate most. The comment below refers to a recent Australian court case where a group of older women failed to get jobs as stewardesses (Whoops! "Flight Attendants") with an Australian airline and sued the airline for discrimination -- successfully

Odd times, when Virgin Blue must hand a woman $5000 because its staff "unconsciously" liked someone else more. Don't daydream in Queensland, folks. Those thoughts could cost you. It was Queensland's anti-discrimination tribunal that this week ruled Virgin discriminated against eight women, aged 36 to 56, refusing to hire them as flight attendants because they thought them too old. It's not that Virgin consciously avoided hiring older hosties. Even the tribunal said that. In fact, these women were interviewed despite giving their age. But they then had to audition to show they had "Virgin flair".

Personally, I find "Virgin flair" as welcome as a drunk in the aisle seat. Those jokes and ecstatic welcomes are on the needy side of pleasing. But Virgin knows better than me -- or a tribunal -- how to run an airline. And so it made applicants do routines with Mickey Mouse ears and a feather boa. Not surprisingly, it seemed younger applicants had more Virgin Flair than did the older women, not one of whom got the job. I suspect a 50-year-old has too much self-respect to happily caper around cattle class singing goofy songs.

But this was bad. Tribunal member Douglas Savage, QC, decided the young Virgin staff running the auditions had, without thinking, identified with applicants who looked like them. Young. Fresh. As he snapped: "A fun person." Actually, hadn't they simply figured parties swing better with younger hosts? But perhaps that's not a smart argument to put in a tribunal whose sombre members aren't all in the first riot of youth.

Indeed, Savage ruled the older applicants were kept out by nothing more than unconscious prejudice, and ordered compensation. And the evidence that clinched it -- the Virgin Blue Clue -- was that only one of 750 attendants hired by Virgin at the time was over 36. But let's check out this analysis in other fields. Let's try it, for instance, on the anti-discrimination bodies. Gosh, the head and deputy head of Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Commission, and its tribunal chief, are all women. In Victoria, four of the five Equal Opportunity Commission members are women, too, and the lone male is gay. What odds, when most top lawyers are straight men?

The Virgin Blue Clue would have us think this proves discrimination. But, of course, that's false, because anti-discrimination commissars are chosen not for their gender, but expertise. And to accuse anyone of getting a job through even "unconscious discrimination" would be dangerous. The thoughts of some people, at least, are still private. And thank heavens.

(From Andrew Bolt)


Nobody ever considers that what you eat might be your own business. The Orwellian future is creeping up on us.

Rosemont High's lunchtime scene is typical of many California schools, and one that will have to change radically to conform to new state laws that restrict sales of so-called "competitive" foods and beverages - a category that takes in all the snack foods and vending machine items sold at schools outside the federally approved breakfast and lunch programs. Although the state already has in place some food sale restrictions for elementary and junior high schools, the new laws tighten the guidelines and extend them into high schools, where junk food sales are rampant.

The laws take effect incrementally, starting in 2007. One bans sales of sodas and other high-sugar drinks during school hours. The other imposes strict limits on the sugar, fat and caloric content of all foods not sold as part of a full and balanced meal. While parents can continue to send their kids to school with treats, health advocates hope the new restrictions will go a long way toward dismantling the snack food culture ingrained in public schools: PTA bake sales, Funyuns-filled vending machines, cafeteria Eskimo Pies - they all could be things of the past.

With obesity now the nation's No. 1 health concern, many schools in the region have tried to ratchet down sales of high-fat and high-calorie snacks. But given the popularity of the less nutritious fare at schools such as Rosemont - and the hefty profits the student store generates - the transition will be a hard one. California is at the forefront of a national movement to reclaim school food service programs from PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, Nabisco and other snack food brands that are popular but not necessarily nutritious. Indeed, the new laws, signed with fanfare in September by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been hailed as the nation's most sweeping. But California's experience until now, and concerns expressed by those responsible for implementing the changes, offer clues to the rocky path ahead:

* Many extracurricular programs are funded through the sales of snack food and sodas.

* As it is, schools routinely ignore or misinterpret existing state and federal regulations regarding food sales.

* State education officials have few resources to help administer and enforce food regulations.

* Students have grown accustomed to eating junk food at lunch and many dislike the cafeteria alternatives.

Rosemont's experience offers a good example of the challenges. The Rosemont student store, which opens promptly at the lunch hour, earns up to $500 per day. About 30 percent of the proceeds are funneled to various student activities, including Spirit Week and the printing of the school newspaper. The store also provides work experience for members of student government. Although the store offers some healthier snacks, such as Nutri-Grain bars, the most popular items are the least nutritious. The Ramen noodle soup, for example, has 290 calories and contains 1,190 milligrams of sodium and 12 grams of fat. The Flamin' Hot Cheetos, at 170 calories per serving, have 11 grams of fat and 250 milligrams of sodium....

Cindy Currier, Rosemont's student activities adviser and a former physical education teacher, oversees the student store. She acknowledged that many of her customers consume junk food for lunch. "It bothers me that they are not eating healthy," she said. Still, like many school officials, Currier is convinced that when the student store stops selling such items, kids will just buy them off campus, depriving the school of revenue. Currier said students will conduct research to find out what items their peers will buy and then adjust the store's offerings to comply with the new laws. But she's in no hurry to institute changes. "I don't want to see that, because our sales will go down," she said.

Rosemont Principal Rob Jones echoed the concerns. "If we don't replace that funding, all of those activities will have to be looked at: drama, speech, debate and sports clubs." .....

Phyllis Bramson-Paul, director of the Nutrition Services Division at the state Department of Education, acknowledged the compliance problems. While the department supports the new food laws, she said, the laws don't come with additional money or resources to help with implementation and enforcement. Nevertheless, she said, she is meeting with a nutrition committee appointed by the state Board of Education to address the problems.

Back at Rosemont, Deanna Mitchell, food service site supervisor, said she is torn about the upcoming changes. While she appreciates the financial boost the student store provides, she thinks restricting sales of chips and candy could improve revenue for her meal program - not to mention student health. "Maybe the kids would be hungry and look at what is available, and realize, 'Wow, that's not so bad after all,' " she said.

More here


The tension between free speech and the safety of the population is a genuine one. Charles Clarke, the home secretary, has just modified part of the Terrorism Bill which dealt with "glorifying" terrorism. Imams and others will now be prosecuted only if their remarks are seen as as inducements to further terrorist acts. Most people will have little problem with such a law. The fact that certain people, mainly radical Muslims, have abused our tolerance to incite acts of terror has rightly provoked anger.

Where there is a problem, however, is with another government assault on free speech that has no direct connection with terrorism - the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. If it becomes law, anybody who publishes or says anything "likely to be heard or seen by any person in whom it is likely to stir up racial or religious hatred" will be committing an offence that could make them liable to a seven-year prison term.

This bill has so far attracted most attention because of the efforts of comedians such as Rowan Atkinson. They have argued that it would prevent them poking even gentle fun at any religion. It also featured during the election campaign when Mr Clarke - billing himself as "Labour's home secretary" - wrote to every mosque in the country highlighting Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition to the proposals. There was a clear implication that the government was trying to secure the Muslim vote.

However, the issue goes beyond the freedom of comedians to tell jokes and it should concern us all. This misguided and unnecessary bill has already passed through the House of Commons, winning a third reading in July by 301 votes to 229. Not for the first time, the task of preserving our ancient freedoms falls to the House of Lords.

The bill, according to one lord, "is the most illiberal measure that has been brought before your lordships in the 18 years I have been privileged to serve here . . . It is also irrational in that it is neither directed at, nor will it solve, the problems that gave rise to it. What it does is reduce freedom of expression - there is no doubt about that at all". The author of those comments was Lord Peston of Mile End, one of Labour's peers.

If that does not make the government pause for thought, other objections should. Lord Lester of Herne Hill, the Liberal Democrat peer and a noted expert on free speech and human rights, points out that the powers in the bill are "sweepingly broad", they apply to words spoken in private as well as in public, and unlike most other serious offences they require no specific criminal intent. Lord Hunt of Wirral points out that similar proposals were rejected by parliament in 1936, 1965 and 1981 and that "no generation of politicians has the right to play fast and loose with our fundamental freedoms".

Most devastatingly of all, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the former lord chancellor, notes that the bill carries with it the worst of unintended consequences. It could, he argues, mean that anybody criticising radical imams for poisoning the minds of impressionable young men could find themselves subject to prosecution. The Terrorism Bill and the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill are pulling in opposite directions.

Overseeing all this in the House of Lords is Lord Falconer, Tony Blair's former flatmate. As lord chancellor he has shown a sloppy disregard for ancient traditions and freedoms. This bill will achieve nothing that cannot be done under existing laws while representing a dangerous attack on free speech. It is opposed by most religious leaders. It must be stopped


17 October, 2005


"The Guardian", Britain's major paper of the Left, has recently hired a guy with a most amusing shtick. I gather that he is an ex-Marxist and he still manages to sound like a raging Leftist while at the same time saying things that in Leftist circles can only be called "courageous". He could be seen as a conservative camouflaged as a Leftist. It is a most amusing act. The excerpt below, for instance, is actually a defence of the invasion of Iraq and an attack on censorship by the Left!. He has also recently written another article in which he says the most abusive things possible about Margaret Thatcher but which ends up concluding that she got it right on all the major issues! He sort of lulls the Left to sleep with Leftist-sounding rhetoric and then hits them when they are not looking. Certainly good for a laugh anyway. I also reproduce below the "punch" paragraph from his article about Margaret Thatcher:

"And do commentators whose default column is a reflexive squeal about Charles Clarke's attempt to set some limits to the misuse of history by terrorist apologists still fail to grasp that, in reality, it is they and their colleagues on the middle-class left who have evolved into this country's most implacably efficient censors, trampling on dissent with a ruthlessness that makes the most ossified enforcers of Sharia law look like the blithe young hippies of my uninhibited, pre-chlamydian youth? The really brilliant thing about this conspiracy of silence in the creeping caliphate of the left is: there is no conspiracy! Like Mao's supine masses, most of the media droolocracy are now so vacantly subservient that gags are redundant. They've read the Guardian letters page. They know a pro-war position won't just see you perjured by Islamofascist performers on late-night current affairs shows, but issued with one of the New Statesman's own-brand fatwas and victimised by sneering guests at private dinners.

No less than Mao, the appeaser-dominated media has abused its position to distort the minds of a whole generation. Last week I noticed that our recyling bin had, once again, been left in the street. Civilly, I asked the young binman to return it to its proper place, a service he is contractually obliged to provide. "Put it back yourself you lazy slug," he replied. To anyone who, like me, had followed the Hitchens-Galloway confrontation, his allusion was unmistakable. "This is about the war, isn't it?" I said, adding, as the door closed on his protestations: "You're a disgrace to your profession."

On that other historic disputation, it was striking that when two Britishers wanted to debate the war, they had to cross the pond. You think I exaggerate? Get real. When did you last come across a play, poem or novel which, if its message wasn't crassly anti-war, didn't ignore the subject entirely? Is it possible that no creative person, anywhere, believes there is in fact a case for a degree of indefinite chaos in Iraq, plus a heightened terrorist threat in this country, if that is the price of overthrowing its foul and degenerate dictator? If not, the emergence of a British samizdat is but a matter of time. For the lonely few prepared to speak out against the totalitarian excesses of Saddam, contemporary British experience can offer surreal echoes of his very abuses. But I'm happy if you're happy. Bring it on.

More here

The Thatcher comment:

But you'd have to be stupid, or perverse, to deny the evil old bag got a couple of things right. Anyone would, given 11 years. So, yes, the unions were sorted on her watch. And I say that as someone whose big toe has never been the same since Wapping. Ditto the cold war. There was respect for the transatlantic alliance. Caution on Europe. The economy, stupid. Council houses for sale. Shaking up the teachers. A national curriculum. League tables. Rail privatisation. De-fetishisation of the green belt. The foundations for PFI. Concern for the daytime-TV-watching classes. Full prisons. Contracting out. Rupert Murdoch.

More here


Because it produces alcohol (ethanol) believe it or not! Note the insanity I have highlighted in red. And note -- surprise, surprise -- that is only big businesses that are being targeted

That glass of garnet-colored California merlot may caress the palate and delight the nose, but state officials say wineries also create a less agreeable byproduct: smog. Now air-quality managers in California's San Joaquin Valley, where nearly two-thirds of domestic wine is produced, are cracking down. By year's end, local officials will propose the nation's first restrictions targeting pollution from winemaking. "We have regulated virtually all other significant (non-vehicle) sources, some a lot smaller than wineries," says San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District planning director Scott Nester. Winemaking pollution "is significant, and it is completely uncontrolled."

Whether the end result is jammy, tannic or crisp, the fermentation of grapes to make wine creates pure alcohol, also known as ethanol, that is vented to the air. Ethanol vapors belong to a family of so-called organic chemicals that mix with others to form smog. That might not be a problem if the valley's topography didn't trap organic chemicals and others, allowing them to fester. That leads to some of the nation's dirtiest air: Smog levels exceeded federal health limits on 109 days in 2004. "We've got to do what we can to control emissions," Nester says. That means regulating wineries, even though they create only 0.3% of the valley's emission of smog-forming organic chemicals. Cars and trucks account for 37%.

Oenophiles - wine lovers - shouldn't fear for their favorite $50 California chardonnays. For starters, other winemaking regions in the state and across the country are unlikely to follow the valley's lead, because none of them have nearly as much smog. And the new rule would exempt white wines, which yield less pollution during production than reds.

Although the valley boasts more than 100 winemaking facilities, the rule will apply only to those that churn out the equivalent of 25 million bottles or more per year. That's 18 wineries, owned by giants such as E. & J. Gallo. They make mostly bargain-priced stuff, not the type of drink that inspires high-flown prose from wine critics. "These are major production facilities ... not boutique wineries," says Wendell Lee, general counsel of the Wine Institute, a trade group for California wineries.

Some scientists say the valley is looking in the wrong place to cut smog. Ken Fugelsang, an oenologist at California State University, Fresno, said he and others found in the 1980s that winery emissions are an insignificant threat compared with auto emissions. University of California, Davis, oenologist Roger Boulton says there's no evidence that ethanol turns into smog.

More here

16 October, 2005

The immorality of 'hate crimes' legislation

"Let's be clear about one thing. When it comes to crime in America, far too many lawmakers believe not all of us were created equal. In fact, thanks to the multicultural cultists in government and the federal judiciary, some Americans, it seems, are so threatened they deserve special "victim" status and treatment.

This utterly fallible line of thought was again brought to the forefront last month in the form of yet another piece of "hate crimes" legislation - only this time it actually made some progress, thanks to the support of a Congress dominated by Republicans once morally strong enough to withstand such blatant attacks on American principles of equality.

On Sept. 14, the House voted 223-199 in favor of a bill that would give the federal government more authority to prosecute crimes committed against individuals ostensibly on the basis of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The bill's future in the Senate is uncertain, but that this issue got so much Republican support after enduring years of GOP-bashing is remarkably disappointing.

For one, Sen. George Allen, R-Va., who said he likes this bill and will vote for it, has been reduced to back-peddling from a pledge he made five years ago to pro-family groups while running for office that he would not support these kinds of proposals.....

The fact is, most hate crimes are really just "thought crimes" anyway. And as such, how can a person ever be judged fairly based on someone else's perception of his or her thoughts?"

More here


A pub that banned drinkers from wearing hooded tops has now put a block on farmers wearing their flat caps - in case it offends the hoodies. The White Hart in Uttoxeter, Staffs, a favourite with farmers, recently introduced CCTV and banned hooded tops so that troublemakers might be more easily identified. Rob Woodward, the landlord, said it was only fair to widen the ban to include all types of headgear.

About 20 farmers, who always used to visit after going to the local market, are now boycotting the pub. David Brookes, 46, who runs a dairy farm at Lower Loxley, near Uttoxeter, has been a regular for nearly 20 years and said the rule had made farmers feel like criminals. He added: "The worst that farmers do is have a few drinks and fall asleep in the corner."


Americans Prepare to Celebrate Genocidal Racist Slaver Day: Columbus' Legacy of Mindless Cruelty and Ignorance Lives On

Although UNH neatly dodges the issue by calling the holiday "Fall Break," the rest of the nation celebrates Columbus Day with no small enthusiasm. The holiday has been celebrated on various dates throughout the world, but here it will be observed on Monday.

In one second-grade classroom in Springfield, Penn., for example, Judith Bloomfield teaches one of her favorite lessons, the story of Columbus' discovery of the New World.

"Did you know Columbus is personally responsible for the oppression and misery of thousands of natives of the Caribbean?" asked the teacher. The students, all energetic young children roughly seven or eight years old, ooh and ahh in amazement. The class was similarly impressed and delighted to learn that, in addition to "Sailing the Ocean Blue" in 1492, Columbus also "Murdered By the Score" in Fourteen-Hundred Ninety-Four.

"I want to be an explorer when I grow up! Maybe there are Martians I could put into forced-labor settlements and cow with my superior technology and ruthlessness?" one student said while discussing Columbus' many merits. They made small construction-paper Taino natives and then the teacher taught them how the enterprising Columbus ordered their hands cut off if they failed to produce a certain quantity of gold on a regular basis. Giggles and laughter ensued as the students cut off the paper hands of their figures and colored the stumps with red markers. "I'm using a white crayon to draw the bone sticking out!" one innovative student said triumphantly. "I want to start a forced-labor farm someday!" said another.

In a less-American sector of the U.S., Berkeley, Calif., Columbus Day has been renamed to the unpatriotic Indigenous People's Day. These subversives, heedless of the long American tradition of honoring the explorers who committed the first pioneering acts of genocide in the New World, have been heavily criticized for their revisionism. They claim, highly erroneously, that Columbus never realized he had reached the New World.

(Just a bit of student satire, of course -- I hope so, anyway)

15 October, 2005


How nutty can you get?

Proposition 65 deserves to be renamed "the law of mythological food fears." It's the California act of 1986 which "requires businesses to provide clear and reasonable warning if their products expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity." Couched by many as the "right to know law," it has increased the number of carcinogens and reproductive toxicants subject to government regulations -- with resultant warning labels on everything -- to 367 and 179, respectively. But it's done so at the expense of regulatory relevance and sound science. Instead, it's become the vehicle used by activists to terrify us about our food -- namely "unnatural" or processed "junk" food -- by not giving consumers the full story.

This has been exemplified in California attorney general Bill Lockyer's recent lawsuit against nine manufacturers of potato chips and french fries because of the presence of the chemical, acrylamide. "All consumers should have the information we need to make informed decisions about the food we eat," said Lockyer. "Proposition 65 requires companies to tell us when we're exposed to potentially dangerous toxins in our food; the law benefits us all."

Of course, we all have the right to know what we're eating. We also have the right to balanced, sensible information based on scientific facts.

Traces of acrylamide were first detected in foods three years ago by researchers at the Swedish National Food Administration and Stockholm University. But acrylamide is not a new or growing food contaminant due to modern cooking techniques, as was recently claimed by Alise Cappel, with the Environmental Law Foundation, the California environmental group which has led the use of lawsuits against violators of Proposition 65. Researchers at the Second Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Acrylamide Workshop held in Chicago in April 2004 stated that acrylamide is formed naturally during the Maillard browning reaction, a series of reactions between proteins and carbohydrates during cooking which give golden brown, crispy crusts on breads, baked goods and fried foods, and those rich aromas and flavors to roasted foods. According to Harvard University anthropologist, Richard Wrangham, humans have been cooking for nearly two million years and it's been essential for man's survival as it makes meats and starches softer and digestible, not to mention tastier. In other words, humans have been consuming acrylamide, and the thousands of other Maillard molecules identified thus far, since the age of hunters and gatherers.

While acrylamide increases with high temperature cooking and canning, it also forms in uncooked foods and at room temperature during storage. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Total Diet Study survey has found acrylamide in forty percent of the foods we eat, with significant variations even among samples of the same foods. Clearly, labeling every food containing acrylamide would be nonsensical. The highest concentrations found thus far are in black olives, graham crackers, smoked almonds, cocoa powder, coffee, onion soup, chips, wholegrain cereals and breads, stoneground sesame and rye crackers, sweet potatoes, peanut butter, baked goods, mixed vegetables, chili, sunflower seeds and even prune juice -- all foods that can be part of a healthful diet. In fact, Barbara J. Petersen, a former FDA principal investigator and World Health Organization advisor, reported at the American Chemical Society symposium, March 28, 2004 in Anaheim, that "virtually all of the foods associated with acrylamide contribute important nutrients (calories, vitamins, minerals, proteins) to the diet." She argued that attempts to "control" acrylamide exposure will result in a negative impact on overall nutrition.

Ignoring these facts, Attorney General Lockyer and the Center for Science in the Public Interest want warning labels only on fries and chips. They cite acrylamide as "another reason to eat less greasy French fries and snack chips." But people eat more bread than fries, and thus are exposed to more acrylamide in breads. Looking at other foods common in most homes, graham crackers, for example, contain about 25% more acrylamide than potato chips and toasted wheat cereal 77% more! Singling out any food is unsound. According to David Acheson, PhD, scientist at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), there is no food that contributes the majority of exposure. "We are talking about a fairly large spectrum of food, but no single food [is] a primary culprit," he said. "The overall mean acrylamide exposure (in U.S. and international populations) is generally in the range of 0.3 to 0.5 micrograms per kilogram per day."

This brings us to two other absurdities with California's Proposition 65 that defy good science. "Any detectable amount" is considered a "significant chemical exposure," and chemicals are deemed possible human carcinogens based on studies in special cancer-prone rats. But, according to Joseph A. Levitt, director of CFSAN, existing guidelines calling acrylamide a "probable human carcinogen" are based solely on animal studies in which cancer risk was observed in rats fed the "maximum tolerated dose" of acrylamide -- an amount just below the level the rats would be poisoned to death -- at a daily dose for their entire lives starting at 500 micrograms per kilogram of body weight.

Let's translate that. According to current National Health and Nutrition Education Survey (NHANES) data, the average U.S. adult weighs more than 75 kilograms (men and women average 180.7 and 152.3 pounds, respectively), which equates to a lifetime acrylamide daily dose of 37,500 micrograms. A person would have to consume about 195 pounds of french fries, 142 pounds of graham crackers, or 5,350 one-ounce servings (333 pounds) of cheerios every day, for life, in order to approach the lowest level of risk observed in laboratory rats.

But really you could probably eat even more than that, because what Lockyer, ELF and CSPI also aren't disclosing is that there is no evidence that acrylamide actually causes cancer in humans. In fact, for years scientists have been finding a number of Maillard molecules are not only not human carcinogens, but appear to have antioxidant properties. Last year, the National Toxicology Program Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction convened an Expert Panel which reviewed nearly 125 research papers on acrylamide's reproductive and developmental effects on humans. Its report concluded: "Considering the low level of estimated human exposure to acrylamides derived from a variety of sources, the Expert Panel expressed negligible concern for adverse reproductive and developmental effects for exposures in the general population."

Since the 2002 discovery of acrylamide in fried foods, multiple international researchers have attempted unsuccessfully to find a link to human cancer. An Italian study published in the International Journal of Cancer found absolutely no correlation between consumption of fried potatoes (fries or chips) and several human cancers. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Karolinska Institute in Sweden conducted the first prospective study to evaluate the association of acrylamide and cancer. They compared the diets of 987 cancer patients and 538 healthy adults over a five-year period. Their results, published in a 2003 issue of the British Journal of Cancer found that people who ate the most acrylamide, foods containing up to 1200 micrograms, were at no greater risk for kidney, bladder and large bowel cancer than those who ate less. In fact, the risk of bowel cancer was actually 40 percent lower for the group exposed to the most acrylamide.

After three case-control studies on humans failed to find an association between dietary acrylamide and cancer risk, these same Harvard researchers led by Lorelei Mucci, ScD, went on to evaluate acrylamide intake of more than 43,000 women and tracked their health status via national health registers from 1991 to 2002. The results, reported in the March 2005 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association found no association between acrylamide consumed in foods and risk of breast cancer. Additionally, the researchers did not find any increased risk of breast cancer among participants who had greater intakes of foods known to contain acrylamide.

The fact is, there is no peer-reviewed, sound science to prove the claims made by Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI executive director, that "acrylamide is a powerful carcinogen [which] probably causes on the order of a thousand new cases of cancer per year in the United States, perhaps as many as several thousand." As Dr. Acheson said: "Human data indicating that the level of exposure poses a significant health risk I believe is currently lacking. There is a lot of work ongoing to try to fill that gap but, as far as we can determine, that direct link is not there."



Any future Swedish sperm donors will need to be a brave lot

A Swedish man who donated his sperm to a lesbian couple must pay child support for the three children he fathered, Sweden's Supreme Court ruled today. The man, now 39, donated his sperm to the couple in the early 1990s. Three sons were born during the years 1992-1996, according to Swedish news agency TT which reported the ruling.

The man told the court that he and the women had agreed that he would play no role in the boys' child rearing and that the two women would be their parents. Nonetheless, the man signed a document confirming that he was the biological father of the children. Shortly after he signed the document, the two women separated and the biological mother demanded that the man pay child support.

The man took the case to court, but lost in the district and appeals courts. The Supreme Court upheld those rulings today, saying that as the biological father he is required to pay for the children's upbringing.


14 October, 2005


The Orwellian disinformation about innate group differences is not wholly the media's fault. Many academics who are familiar with the state of knowledge are afraid to go on the record. Talking publicly can dry up research funding for senior professors and can cost assistant professors their jobs. But while the public's misconception is understandable, it is also getting in the way of clear thinking about American social policy.

Good social policy can be based on premises that have nothing to do with scientific truth. The premise that is supposed to undergird all of our social policy, the founders' assertion of an unalienable right to liberty, is not a falsifiable hypothesis. But specific policies based on premises that conflict with scientific truths about human beings tend not to work. Often they do harm.

One such premise is that the distribution of innate abilities and propensities is the same across different groups. The statistical tests for uncovering job discrimination assume that men are not innately different from women, blacks from whites, older people from younger people, homosexuals from heterosexuals, Latinos from Anglos, in ways that can legitimately affect employment decisions. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 assumes that women are no different from men in their attraction to sports. Affirmative action in all its forms assumes there are no innate differences between any of the groups it seeks to help and everyone else. The assumption of no innate differences among groups suffuses American social policy. That assumption is wrong.

When the outcomes that these policies are supposed to produce fail to occur, with one group falling short, the fault for the discrepancy has been assigned to society. It continues to be assumed that better programs, better regulations or the right court decisions can make the differences go away. That assumption is also wrong.

Hence this essay. Most of the following discussion describes reasons for believing that some group differences are intractable. I shift from "innate" to "intractable" to acknowledge how complex is the interaction of genes, their expression in behavior, and the environment. "Intractable" means that, whatever the precise partitioning of causation may be (we seldom know), policy interventions can only tweak the difference at the margins.

I will focus on two sorts of differences: between men and women and between blacks and whites. Here are three crucial points to keep in mind as we go along:

1. The differences I discuss involve means and distributions. In all cases, the variation within groups is greater than the variation between groups. On psychological and cognitive dimensions, some members of both sexes and all races fall everywhere along the range. One implication of this is that genius does not come in one color or sex, and neither does any other human ability. Another is that a few minutes of conversation with individuals you meet will tell you much more about them than their group membership does.

2. Covering both sex differences and race differences in a single nontechnical article, I have had to leave out much. I urge that readers with questions consult the fully annotated version of this essay, which includes extensive supplementary material; it is available here at Commentary's Web site.

3. The concepts of "inferiority" and "superiority" are inappropriate to group comparisons. On most specific human attributes, it is possible to specify a continuum running from "low" to "high," but the results cannot be combined into a score running from "bad" to "good." What is the best score on a continuum measuring aggressiveness? What is the relative importance of verbal skills versus, say, compassion? Of spatial skills versus industriousness? The aggregate excellences and shortcomings of human groups do not lend themselves to simple comparisons. That is why the members of just about every group can so easily conclude that they are God's chosen people. All of us use the weighting system that favors our group's strengths.....

Since we live in an age when students are likely to hear more about Marie Curie than about Albert Einstein, it is worth beginning with a statement of historical fact: Women have played a proportionally tiny part in the history of the arts and sciences. Others have found similar proportions. Even in the 20th century, women got only 2% of the Nobel Prizes in the sciences--a proportion constant for both halves of the century--and 10% of the prizes in literature. The Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics, has been given to 44 people since it originated in 1936. All have been men.

The historical reality of male dominance of the greatest achievements in science and the arts is not open to argument. The question is whether the social and legal exclusion of women is a sufficient explanation for this situation, or whether sex-specific characteristics are also at work.

Mathematics offers an entry point for thinking about the answer. Through high school, girls earn better grades in math than boys, but boys usually do better on standardized tests. The difference in means is modest, but the male advantage increases as the focus shifts from means to extremes. In a large sample of mathematically gifted youths, for example, seven times as many males as females scored in the top percentile of the SAT mathematics test. We do not have good test data on the male-female ratio at the top one-hundredth or top one-thousandth of a percentile, where first-rate mathematicians are most likely to be found, but collateral evidence suggests that the male advantage there continues to increase, perhaps exponentially.

Evolutionary biologists have some theories that feed into an explanation for the disparity. In primitive societies, men did the hunting, which often took them far from home. Males with the ability to recognize landscapes from different orientations and thereby find their way back had a survival advantage. Men who could process trajectories in three dimensions--the trajectory, say, of a spear thrown at an edible mammal--also had a survival advantage. Women did the gathering. Those who could distinguish among complex arrays of vegetation, remembering which were the poisonous plants and which the nourishing ones, also had a survival advantage. Thus the logic for explaining why men should have developed elevated three-dimensional visuospatial skills and women an elevated ability to remember objects and their relative locations--differences that show up in specialized tests today.

More here


In the lyrics of some of today's most popular country songs, the party boats are strung together like a floating trailer park, barefoot women carry babies on their hips, and country boys and redneck girls celebrate the weekend by hitting the mud hole in their 4 x 4s.

The latest people to trade in such images aren't found at snide cocktail parties on the Upper East Side. It's Nashville songwriters who are embracing these stereotypes about rural white Southerners and pushing cultural boundaries in lyrical leaps - from Gretchen Wilson's female anthem "Redneck Woman" to Jason Aldean's paean to small town life, "Hicktown." This bevy of new anthems about "Picassos with a pool stick," as John Michael Montgomery sings in "Paint the Town Redneck," pick up on a spirit of rebellion, brashness, and humor - crossing musical divides, pleasing country fans, and winning new converts as they climb the charts.

Some critics say the lyrics only serve to polarize a deeply divided culture. Songwriters and fans, however, see the lyrics as an empowering image and a longing, in difficult times, of simpler days. In some ways, these good-humored songs, flying in the face of the political correctness of the 1990s, are simply part of a trend in a country that seems to take more of its cultural and political heft from south of the Mason-Dixon line. "Like ["I Fall to Pieces" songwriter] Harlan Howard said, 'Country music is three chords and the truth.' It's just that some country music today tells the truth a little harder," says Ben Bowling, a Nashville songwriter.

As with David Allan Coe's trailblazing 1976 album, "Longhaired Redneck," today's hits combine wit, sleight of phrase, and a romanticization of crooked front porches - all tied to a word that is a reference to the sunburned necks of Southern farmers and which has come to mean, as comedian Jeff Foxworthy has said, "a glorious absence of sophistication."

But while embracing the idea of "down home" in uncertain times, and playing off a strong working-class identity, this sudden redneck relevance is also part of what author Michael Graham argued in his 2003 book, "Redneck Nation": While often looking down its nose at country brethren, urban elites are in many ways mimicking their antics. Graham writes that the most cosmopolitan show on TV, "Sex and the City," is really all about low-class adventures in high-rent neighborhoods, a kind of skyscraper trailer park.

"It's partly the Southernization of America, in that the Southern working-class version of redneck is becoming the national version, and it's good-natured, it has humor and, in some ways, it's a performance," says Charles Wilson, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at University of Mississippi in Oxford.

Nashville singer Craig Morgan, whose "Redneck Yacht Club" is No. 3 on the charts, says his fans see themselves in his songs, and that the lyrics touch on a common experience among Americans, many of whom have country roots. "You don't have to be a redneck to be a member of a redneck yacht club," says Mr. Morgan. "It's a term that in the past has been a stigma or a stereotype, but songs like this and other various songs, even though they talk about the very things that people imagine rednecks doing or being, they're realizing that a redneck is more of a lifestyle than a person or a people."

Yet the stereotypes, no matter who's dishing them out, can be hurtful, says University of Virginia senior Maggie Bowden, a big country music fan. "My family's from [the South]. That's hilarious to people, and they ask me when me and my brother are going to start dating," says Ms. Bowden, who sees her own teenage life in a small Virginia town reflected in Aldean's "Hicktown." "But I think it's when the Southern stereotypes leak into hurtful things, like in classes when we talk about what's going on in New Orleans and people say ... 'What else do you expect from the South, everybody down here is racist.' That's when it makes me wary to have anybody promote a certain image of an entire region."

The new attitude may seem popular - but for the wrong reasons, some critics say. "It runs the risk of being sort of a redneck minstrel show, taking the stereotypes, same as African-American artists used to have to do shuffling and tap dancing, to please audiences paying money," says native Alabamian Steve Persall, a film critic at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. "Part of the appeal may be, especially in urban markets, it sort of justifies what they've thought about the South."

But in this newest Nashville permutation, Southerners, as they often do, may have the last laugh. "Dolly Parton may be the ultimate example of this," says Mr. Wilson at Ole Miss. "It's an aesthetic that's in your face: big hair, short dresses, an emphasis on her physique, and she's making lots of money in the process. Like her, [today's singers] take demeaning images in Southern culture, turn it all on its head, and say, 'I'm really outsmarting you.' "


13 October, 2005


If what I'm about to say sounds racist - then tough. I'm saying it anyway. When Britain first opened its doors to people from other creeds and countries, we welcomed their diversity, we respected their religions and we valued their customs. However, when we promised to respect other religions we didn't mean religions which advocate the ritual sacrifice and torture of children. We didn't mean religions which think it's OK to beat up, burn and slash children they claim are witches. We didn't agree to parading these children in so-called Christian churches and then having some sadist preacher (who charges 50 quid a time) beating kids with sticks until they pass out in order to "exorcise" them.

And what we certainly didn't expect is this barbarism to be tolerated by our own Metropolitan Police force, which kept secret a report claiming that countless children are being trafficked here from Africa and being used as domestic sex slaves or offered up as ritual sacrifices. This report - which still hasn't been published but was leaked to the BBC - was kept hidden because it was considered racially sensitive.

RACIALLY BLOODY SENSITIVE! This report has zilch to do with racism or religion - it's about the barbaric murder and torture of children by savages. And in a civilised society there's no place for that kind of "religion" or the people who practise it. However, it would seem that in politically-correct Britain, the police top brass would rather stand by and let children be murdered than offend religious sensitivities. How dare the Met Police and their boss, that politically-correct cretin Ian Blair, keep this report secret so as not to tarnish the reputation of "multi-cultural Britain". How dare he put the fear of offending African communities above the lives of defenceless children.

Because - forget African communities - this kind of behaviour offends every decent human being in this country because we don't sacrifice kids here. We don't blame them for every ill that befalls us. We don't slit their throats or cut off their arms and legs as happened last year to a little boy known only as "Adam" whose torso was found floating in the Thames and who was believed to have been a human sacrifice.

This kind of pagan savagery has no place here. As for those so-called Christian churchgoers who hoot, holler and cheer while children are tortured in front of them in the name of God - what evil is it that possesses them? And as videos of these kids being abused in church are being sold on the street, why are they still operating? Why haven't these megalomaniac preachers been slung in jail or out of this country and why haven't the congregations whose secrecy allows this horror to continue been charged with aiding and abetting child abuse?

Earlier this month an African woman called Sita Kisanga and the 38-year-old aunt of an eight-year-old girl who was tortured were both convicted at the Old Bailey. They'd branded this little girl a witch and as punishment she was cut 43 times with knives, beaten with a shoe and blinded with chilli peppers.

This cannot be allowed to continue, and if it means putting a bomb under our so-called multi-faith society then so be it. Because kids in this country are sacrosanct, and that's non-negotiable - no matter which God you worship. And no matter how tolerant we have been in the past it must be made crystal clear to those who follow these loony religions that while we Brits are a soft touch on most things - we're not soft on child killers or abusers. There's no room here for religions which preach that a cup of human blood boosts vitality and a concoction made from brain fragments leads to power and riches. Nor will we tolerate any god which believes that blind, deaf and handicapped children are witches and must be punished.

And Africans living in this country who know about these barbaric practices have a responsibility to inform on the heathens who practise them, otherwise they're every bit as guilty. As for our police chiefs and social workers - it's time they forgot about political correctness and accusations of racism (not to mention saving their own backsides) and concentrated a bit more on the slaughter of innocents in so-called civilised, multi-cultural Britain.

(From Carole Malone)


As Brian Micklethwait explains:

The ASBO – Anti-Social Behaviour Order – is a desperately depressing feature of modern British life, for many reasons. It is depressing because, in a sense, it is so necessary. Faced with the choice of, on the one hand, having ASBOs, or on the other hand not having them, with all other related policies remaining unchanged, many would choose to have them. I might even choose that myself. I agree that something needs to be done about the bad behaviour of children these days, and am prepared to risk sounding like an irascible old geezer for saying it.

Britain's ever-fretful government certainly thinks that something should be done, and a whole new raft of government controls and restrictions to be used against problem families and their problem children are now apparently being concocted. ASBOs for children under ten are to be introduced. New powers to allow problem families to be moved to secure gated communities – a combination of housing estates and prisons by the sound of them – are to be introduced. Binge drinkers are to be "named and shamed". (Can't law courts do that? I merely ask.) And so on.

Being quite old, I can remember how "problem families" used to be dealt with. Landlords used to refuse to rent accommodation to them.

And I can remember that one of the most constantly repeated arguments in favour of publicly provided, publicly paid-for housing was that, unlike with the hideous hovels supplied by the hated old private landlords, public housing wouldn't involve people being discriminated against merely because some landlord took a dislike to them.

Now, the government is the landlord, and the government is facing the same old problem, of people who are a problem.

But the biggest problem here is that discrimination, by anybody except the government, is regarded as bad. But if discrimination means the tendency of others to judge you by your behaviour – and to be eager to sell you goods and services, to employ you, to work with you, to trade with you, to supply you with medical services, and so on – if you behave well towards them, but to shun you if you behave like a barbarian, then discrimination is good. It is, in fact, essential if civilization is to continue at all.

Britain is now ruled by people who have spent the last half a century or more busily abolishing discrimination, that is, busily disconnecting bad behaviour from what would in the natural course of things be its natural consequences. And now, they are pathetically trying to reconstruct discrimination, in a nationalized form.

And nationalized discrimination works about as well as nationalized anything else.

I too have argued that discrimination belongs only in the private sphere. See here

12 October, 2005


The notion that you can make the world a better place by making it illegal to say nasty and dangerous things has the intellectual sloppiness, the headline-seeking shallowness, the philosophical carelessness and the creepy mix of the sinister with the sanctimonious, that marks it out as absolutely characteristic of our Prime Minister's mind.

When I was about 7, urged to say my prayers before bed, I came up with what seemed a succinct and catch-all formula. "Please God," I would whisper, "make everybody be as they ought to be and do as they ought to do." By the age of 10 it had occurred to me that my prayer did not do justice to the complexities of life, and I moved on. I rather think that Tony Blair is still stuck at this stage.

But enough of Mr Blair's mind. What of his idea? This is worth discussing, even though the likelihood is that the relevant section of any terrorism Bill will be shredded by the Lords and abandoned. Then Mr Clarke can tell No 10 that he did his best but the old fuddy-duddies threw it out. The old fuddy-duddies will be right, but the fact that rationalists shelter behind a wall of ermine to defend Enlightenment values is a commentary on our times. The rules of what Mr Blair calls "the game" have not, as he suggests, changed, but muscles are being flexed in that purpose.

The easy way to fight the idea of speech-crime is to show why it will not work. No watertight legal definition will be found for the kind of terrorism whose glorification a Home Secretary might seek to criminalise. I would not myself praise Archbishop Makarios, the Stern Gang, Jomo Kenyatta or even the perpetrators of the Boston Tea Party, but who seriously suggests that it should be a crime to glorify their struggles? Researchers more ingenious than I will find youthful speeches by the likes of Charles Clarke, Jack Straw, Peter Hain and probably Tony Blair too, glorifying terrorists. So the proposed law will include powers for government to "certify" past terrorist movements who may, or may not, be "glorified".

What madness is this? Are ministers and civil servants to work through history books, ticking boxes? Are we to have (retrospectively) approved terrorists? Truly, as Paul Flynn MP has said, under new Labour "only the future is certain; the past is always changing".

Nelson Mandela, the Free French Resistance, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Abdul Nasser, the Easter Rising . . . oh, what's the point? No wonder Mr Clarke is talking about a 20-year "cut-off" point before which we should be able to praise terrorists. That takes us conveniently back to a time after he and Mr Blair left university. But what is he saying? That we should be able to praise Mandela now, but it should have been illegal to praise him them? There are a hundred struggles, a hundred leaders, some good, some bad, in which terrorism has arguably played a part. Arguably. We have to be able to have the argument. People have to be able to make the case for terrorism as an agent for change, and (arguably) change for the better in history.

A year or so ago I argued, on this page, that in a world where a giant superpower was ready to use either crushing conventional military force or the threat of nuclear annihilation against small countries, the rest of the world might as well give up tanks and fighter-planes and take refuge in combination of the greatest and the least: independent nuclear capability at the top, and a capability for bloodthirsty insurrection on the streets. Around the same time Jenny Tonge, then the Liberal Democrat spokesman, declared that if she were an impoverished Palestinian she might have reacted as Palestinian terrorists have. Either or both of these statements could plausibly be represented as "glorifying" terrorism; they were intended to invite sympathy for this method of resistance.

Because I am a Times columnist and Dr Tonge was a parliamentarian, we should have been unlikely to be prosecuted. But if less mainstream voices are to be threatened with imprisonment for saying similar things, their counsel will not be short of evidence for their defence. Were Mr Blair's idea to become law, only minutes would elapse before George Galloway tested that law by glorifying terrorism in Commons debate. If parliamentary privilege were to cover such speeches, Mr Galloway would repeat his on the streets of Bow. The effect would be wholly counter-productive. Such thoughts must haunt the Director of Public Prosecutions.

So it will not do to say, as poor Vera Baird, Mr Clarke's parliamentary private secretary (her boss being unaccountably unavailable) tried to on Newsnight on Thursday, that "surely we all know what we mean" by the type of speech being targeted. Some legal nets have to be bigger than their intended catch, and goodwill and common sense may remedy the imprecision. But here goodwill will be absent. People will be actively seeking prosecutions. This law will never work. So it will not pass. But I said above that the easy way to resist it was on practical grounds like these. Where, however, one's real objection is in principle rather than in practice, the easy way is not the most honest.

So now for the hard way. I object to creating speech-crimes even if the legislation could be tightly drafted and made to work. I object to the banning of ideas, theories or arguments. I object to the prohibition of sentiments. Difficult as the boundary is to mark or police, I see the line between thought and action as absolutely central to the rule of law in a liberal society. Good law ties hands; it does not stop mouths or minds. It is for what we do, not what we think or say, that we should expect the policeman's knock.

Of course words may lead to actions. Of course thoughts can be incendiary. Of course shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre is behaviour with direct consequences. But somewhere a line must be drawn between willing things and doing things, and how we draw that line is what defines us as believers - or not - in freedom of conscience. The Prime Minister's disregard for this most important of distinctions is deeply troubling.

In my Britain a man or woman is free to say they admire a terrorist and support his aims, but not to offer any practical support to him in his work. The difference is fuzzy and we are doomed to agonies of indecision about the marshy ground which lies between taking stands and taking part, but how we negotiate that marsh, and whether we think it matters, is what marks us out as caring about individual liberty.

I don't think Tony Blair cares. I doubt he even recognises the problem. For this he should not be forgiven, and never be trusted.

More here


Fear is fast becoming a caricature of itself. It is no longer simply an emotion or a response to the perception of threat. It has become a cultural idiom through which we signal a sense of unease about our place in the world.

Popular culture encourages an expansive, alarmist imagination through providing the public with a steady diet of fearful programmes about impending calamities - man-made and natural. Now even so-called high culture cannot resist the temptation of promoting fear: a new exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York has the theme of 'The perils of modern living'. Fear is also the theme that dominates the Eighth Contemporary Art Biennial of Lyon. Natasha Edwards writes about the 'art of fear' that haunts this important exhibition of contemporary European art.

But the more we cultivate a twenty-first century sensibility of anxiety, the more we can lose sight of the fact that fear today is very different to the experience of the past.

Throughout history human beings have had to deal with the emotion of fear. But the way we fear and what we fear changes all the time. During the past 2,000 years we mainly feared supernatural forces. In medieval times volcanic eruptions and solar eclipses were a special focus of fear since they were interpreted as symptoms of divine retribution. In Victorian times many people's fears were focused on unemployment.

Today, however, we appear to fear just about everything. One reason why we fear so much is because life is dominated by competing groups of fear entrepreneurs who promote their cause, stake their claims, or sell their products through fear. Politicians, the media, businesses, environmental organisations, public health officials and advocacy groups are continually warning us about something new to fear.

The activities of these fear entrepreneurs serves to transform our anxieties about life into tangible fears. Every major event becomes the focus for competing claims about what you need to fear.... The fierce competition between alarmist fear entrepreneurs helps consolidate a climate of intense mistrust. Is it any surprise that many African Americans believe that the Bush administration sought to save New Orleans' white districts by flooding black neighbourhoods, through deliberately engineering the levee breaks?....

It is not simply the big events like Katrina that are subjected to competing claims on the fear market. Imagine that you are a parent. For years you have been told that sunshine represents a mortal danger to your child, and that you must protect them from skin cancer by minimising their exposure to the sun. Then, this summer, a report is published that raises concerns about the rise of vitamin E deficiency among children who have been far too protected from the sun. So what do you do? The fact is that a growing range of human experience - from natural disasters to children's lives in the outdoors - is now interpreted through competing claims about fear.

More here

11 October, 2005


Ken Potts calls himself a patriot. That's what his front yard tells you too. Metal American flags are staked in the ivy beside the driveway. A red, white, and blue pinwheel spins near the front sidewalk. One flagpole flies the American flag. A second flagpole carries the banner of the Army's 101st Airborne. Even his mailbox on North 185th Street in Shoreline sports the image of the Airborne's screaming eagle.

But he says that in the last year the mailbox has been blown up twice with fireworks. The house has been egged. Paint has been thrown on the house too. The flags have been torn down and ripped up more than once. And the 101st Airborne flag has had the word "murder" and a swastika written on it with a permanent marker. "It's really difficult for me to see something like this and not feel sad," Potts told us of the vandalism that started around election day last year. Especially, he says, since the 101st led the charge in World War II to defeat Nazi Germany.

But the biggest insult to this house with a permanent Bush-Cheney placard attached to the second story and a collection of mostly Republican election signs in the side yard, is the spray paint someone left on his vinyl siding this past weekend. In two-foot tall letters on the side of his house facing Meridian someone painted "Bush Nazis." "Where do they get off calling the President of the United States a Nazi," he said.

This former soldier with three tours of Vietnam says he feels like his own freedom of speech is under attack. "When you have someone or a group of people who want to take that away from you, who probably didn't do a thing to defend them in the first place, it's really sad."

But to fight back he always puts new flags back on those front yard flagpoles. He installed a security camera that keeps watch over his front yard. And for his own political jab he put an electronic readerboard in a front window. 24 hours a day it says: "Liberalism - is a mental disorder." "I want to make sure that they know I can't be pushed around."

And he says he'll leave the spray painted "Bush Nazis" on the side of his house for a while to show people on this busy corner what tolerance "doesn't" look like. He also says he's turned the other cheek and doesn't want prosecution or revenge. He says he'd like to meet the vandal or vandals and have a friendly American debate instead. "If we want to have disagreements in this country there's ways to have disagreements and there's ways to have a dialogue. If you've got a problem with me come up and talk about it. We may not even agree but we can agree to disagree."



Burger King, Britain’s second-biggest fast food chain, has snubbed the government’s attempts to reduce levels of salt, fat and sugar in food to make it healthier. It has pulled out of a joint initiative between the food industry and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to reformulate fast foods to make them less unhealthy. The chain will instead concentrate on making its burgers and other products as “tasty” as it can — a decision that will mean no further cuts in salt, fat or sugar. Rather than promoting healthy foods, the company is considering selling the “Enormous Omelette Sandwich”, a product recently launched in America. It offers 740 calories and 4.9 grams of salt comprising two slices of cheese, two eggs, three strips of bacon and a sausage patty on a bun.

The decision is a serious threat to the consensus that has emerged after two years of talks between the food industry, the FSA and the Department of Health. Those talks recently led to 50 retailers and manufacturers, excluding Burger King, agreeing to phased cuts in the amounts of salt added to a range of processed foods including bread, ready meals, breakfast cereals and cured meats. The talks on salt were intended to pave the way towards similar voluntary reductions in levels of fat and sugar. From this weekend, however, that consensus could break down because Burger King’s competitors will fear the 700-restaurant chain could gain a competitive advantage if its products get a reputation for being tastier. Such a rift has long been predicted by groups campaigning for healthier food who say that legislation is required because the food industry will never voluntarily do anything that puts sales and profits at risk.

More than 20 of Britain’s top chefs and food writers, including Gary Rhodes and Sophie Grigson, are to send an open letter to Tony Blair this week demanding ministers do more to prevent advertising of junk food to children. Rosemary Hignett, the FSA’s head of nutrition, said: “We are aware of and very disappointed by Burger King’s decision to abandon work on salt reduction. Any U-turn on such an important measure will have a negative impact on people’s diets. ”

When the FSA began talks with the food industry in 2003, Burger King signed up to them. Since then, however, Diageo, the British owner, has sold it to a consortium of American venture capitalists. The firm is now controlled from Miami. News of Burger King’s decision coincides with the launch of a £6m media campaign by the FSA to make people aware of the need to cut salt intake. It will warn that the average daily intake of 10-12 grams of salt per person is far too high and recommend they consume no more than 6 grams a day. This level is far in excess of the 0.5 grams most people actually need but the FSA wants to set “achievable” targets. High salt intake is a concern because it causes raised blood pressure.

Burger King maintains it is up to customers to take responsibility for their food choices. Its menu includes the XL Double Whopper with cheese which provides 921 calories, nearly half the 2,000 daily calories needed by a typical woman. Burger King’s restaurants do not offer customers information on the nutritional values of its foods, but these are available on its website. This shows the same burger contains 56 grams of fat and 3.5 grams of salt. The company has recently suggested its new range of “fresh-baked baguettes” offers a healthier choice. It includes the Monterey Melt which contains 2.3 grams of salt and nearly 600 calories.

Edna Johnson, a senior executive at Burger King in Miami, said the firm had made concessions to the healthy food lobby in recent years. “In the UK we reduced the salt in our chicken bites by 50%,” she said. The company has also offered a range of salads, plus fruit options for children. However, the impact of the sales of healthier foods is slight compared with Burger King’s staple fare. Johnson confirmed that there were no plans for further cuts in salt, fat or sugar and said: “Our commitment to our guests is to provide them with choice.”

The signatories to the open letter to Blair call on him to back the Children’s Food Bill, a private member’s bill supported by more than 200 MPs. Its sponsor, Mary Creagh, Labour MP for Wakefield, said: “Parents are tired of being pestered to buy unhealthy foods because their children recognise Bart Simpson or Shrek on the packet


10 October, 2005

It had to happen: Now thongs are a health hazard

(The footwear type, also called Flip-flops in Britain, Plakkies in South Africa and Jandals in New Zealand). The following item appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on Oct., 9th, 2005

Australia's footwear icon, the thong, has been slammed as a health hazard. The summer fashion must-haves can cause long-term damage to the feet of chronic wearers, experts have warned. Thongs are so potentially damaging that the The Australian Podiatry Association has advised against constant wear.

Earlier this year, the Sunday Mail reported that thongs had became a celebrity cult item costing up to $200 a pair. But Queensland APA president Barry Matthews said the health costs associated with wearing thongs too much were a lot higher. "The concern is these people are more likely to have foot pain and more likely to develop bunions and sore toes, he said. "Thongs might also give them arch pain, pain in the ball of their foot, ankle pain, leg pain and knee pain."

Mr Matthews said he treated thong wearers every day. Much of the damage was caused because thongs were difficult to keep on. "There isn't much holding the thong on your foot so you tend to claw your toes more trying to hang on," he said. Another failing was that thongs failed give any foot support. "A shoe should bend only at the ball of the foot . . and it should have a firm heel counter which helps control where the heel and foot sit on the ground, Mr Mattthews said.

But, he said, thongs aiso had positive aspects and infrequent wearing was fine. They were good for use near swimming pools and in public showers to prevent the spread of tinea and warts.

Queensland University of Technology podiatry lecturer Alan Crawford said while thongs might be appropriate for the beach, they should not be worn around town. "There's no protection and equally no support, and the foot tends to flatten out and can become tired and strained," he said.


A new 55,000 pound post for a Corporate Social Inclusion Manager at Oxfordshire County Council has been rubbished as an exercise to "tick a Government inspector's box" by Keith Mitchell. The county council leader has admitted he does not actually know what the point of the post is and says the money could be better spent wiping out a huge predicted deficit in the council's overspending youth service -- part of the authority's community learning directorate. He added that the money on offer could be better spent employing extra youth workers.

The aim of Oxfordshire's youth service, which was rated 'very good' by Ofsted inspectors last year, is to get youngsters involved in various projects and groups. It also includes a counselling and mentoring service for troubled youngsters. However, it is forecast to overspend by more than 100,000 pounds by the end of next March and a recent report to councillors said "further staffing reductions are planned in the medium term in order to enable the serviced to balance its budget in 2005/06 and 2006/07".

An advertisement for the position in the national press read: "This is an outstanding opportunity for a highly motivated and articulate individual. You will be working at a corporate level across the whole spectrum of the council's activities, making a major contribution to policy implementation, performance monitoring and service improvement. "You will be able to maintain an effective balance between support, challenge and influence and be persuasive with senior managers, whilst maintaining their confidence. "With well-developed interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate effectively, you will be adaptable and able to work independently and as part of a team." The closing date for applications is October 14, with interviews being held the following month.

All local authorities are obliged to perform certain functions and attain performance targets set by the Government. The county council is currently ranked a 'good' authority having previously been a 'fair' council. Mr Mitchell has vowed to look into whether this particular post is a necessary function. He said: "I fear this might be a job to satisfy a Government inspector and, given that we have issues in the youth service, we could have wiped out half the deficit with this money. "Social inclusion is very important, but we could do it just as effectively with youth workers -- so I'm yet to be convinced about this position."



Just when you thought drinking had become politically correct - the sexually equalizing rise of the Cosmopolitan, female bartenders, restaurantlike lounges with bar chefs, and cocktail menus among mixed company - along comes Frank Kelly Rich to remind you that drinking is drinking after all. Mr. Rich, the editor of Modern Drunkard, a monthly magazine, puts the boozing back in booze. From Denver, a city he claims to live in because he was driving through and found a bar he liked so much he stayed (the Lions Lair), Mr. Rich and his publication, which started as a zine in 1996 and has a circulation of roughly 50,000, acknowledge the inescapable facts of drinking: excess, ecstasy, epiphany, serious lapses and imaginative leaps in accepted behavior and the moral conundrum of how something that feels so good can be so bad.

Now, at 41, Mr. Rich has put the total of his knowledge and experience into a book. "The Modern Drunkard," being published in November by Riverhead, is not a memoir but an instructional guide. It covers subjects like planning a lost weekend, circumventing an intervention and, in an extensive chapter, drinking on the job. Mr. Rich isn't kidding. Keeping his tongue in his cheek would impede the flow of alcohol. Mr. Rich is out drinking every night, or has a party at his house. On rare nights off, he has two drinks and goes to bed. "I'm trying to drink different drinks every day," he said in a telephone conversation on Tuesday. Mr. Rich's fallback is a gin and tonic with bitters, what he calls a Hemingway Code Hero because Papa drank it, as do several protagonists, whom lit-crit classes call his "code heroes." You possess honor and a death wish.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, then Reno, one of seven children, a son of a cocktail waitress and a cabdriver "with a gambling problem," as he put it, Mr. Rich joined the Army at 17, left after four years and traveled the world and its bars. "Bars are the great schools of thought," he said. Confident that he won't remember a word, Mr. Rich now carries a digital tape recorder when he goes out drinking to capture what he believes is the wisdom of the unwound tongue.

"Oh, yeah, like, every week," he said, asked if he regrets anything he has said or done, which includes fistfights (which are covered in the book). But in an age of political correctness, when "a person is more likely to be judged by what he refrained from doing than what he actually did," as Mr. Rich writes in "The Modern Drunkard," his own sense of achievement sounded reasonably secure.


9 October, 2005


British school dinners are a scandal. And no, I'm not talking about the composition of a turkey twizzler, or the tiny amount of money spent on each meal, or the frequency with which chips appear on the menu, or any of the other nuggets of information that have been listed in mind-boggling detail by the government and the media. I am talking about the scandal of a government that thinks it should turn education into one long lecture about healthy living, and assumes the authority to dictate how parents should feed their children.

The publication of the final report of the School Meals Review Panel (SMRP), set up in May 2005 by the government following a TV series by Islington's favourite semi-literate entrepreneur Jamie Oliver, should come as no surprise. The panel, chaired by Suzi Leather (who also chairs the authority responsible for regulating fertility treatment), has concluded that school dinners are every bit as bad as Jamie said, and that Something Must Be Done to sort it out.

To that end, its 59-page document demands that unhealthy vending machines be banned, along with salt-cellars on tables, and foods made from 'meat slurry'; that deep-fried foods should only be served twice a week; and that children spend more lesson times learning how to cook and visiting local farms to find out 'where some of their food is produced'. There's more, of course - the panel has even seen fit to provide an age-appropriate weekly menu, fitting for a government that is rapidly moving from politics into catering management. But the devil is not in the detail of this document. It is in the assumption underpinning it: that parents cannot be trusted when it comes to feeding their children.

For many parents, the government's sudden declaration of war on school dinners must have seemed like a welcome release. The government has spent a good few years scaring us about our children becoming caught up in the epidemic of childhood obesity that is apparently sweeping the nation. We have been issued with a rule book demanding that our families eat 'five a day' of carefully measured portions of fruit and vegetables, witnessed calls to ban advertising of so-called 'junk food' to help us stop from caving in to children pestering us to put the wrong things in our shopping trolley, and been the focus of mad-cap traffic-light schemes to 'help' those of us who don't know that crisps are high in fat to avoid them.

In the government's ill-advised war on unhealthy living, parents have been treated both as idiot victims of the food industry and careless child abusers who put our own convenience before our children's health. So when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver turned the spotlight on to school dinners, the one aspect of our children's diets for which we surely can't be blamed, we could scramble back on to the moral high ground, at least for a short while. How dare they make us feel guilty for serving fish fingers again when they're giving our children those twizzlers! It's not our fault the kids are podgy - look at what they're having to eat in school! No wonder young Jamie became too popular for his own good - he got a nation of parents out of the firing line, and put politicians and local authorities there instead.

But just as Jamie's crusade was obsessed with school dinners because of his conviction that the canteen was the only place that kids could expect some decent food, the government's School Meals Review Panel situates improvement in school dinners firmly within a context of making every member of society behave in a healthier fashion. 'What children receive at home will always be more important than what they eat at school', states the report early on. 'But the school is crucial for modelling healthier choices and schools are a vital setting.'

In other words, get the kids out of that feckless home environment where they are allowed to eat and drink anything they like, and into an institution where they can have their choices 'constructively controlled'. 'We concluded that it is by constructively controlling choice that we will widen children's food experiences', stated the panel - or as the Department for Education and Skills' (DfES) press release more succinctly put it, 'controlling children's choices to ensure that they cannot opt out of healthy food'.

This is the politics of behaviour. It has nothing to do with nutrition: as Rob Lyons has argued elsewhere on spiked, the wild assertions made by officials about the problem of child obesity and the nutritional characteristics of 'junk food' are based on very dubious science. Nor is this reform of school dinners about a humane desire to make eating at school that little bit more pleasant. It is about pushing children to think about food in a particular way, bringing about a 'healthier food culture, in which young people and adults enjoy the experience of eating healthy, nutritious food together'.

Unless anybody thinks that this business of 'controlled choice' will be limited to the canteen, the School Meals Review Panel is keen to stress that its standards should be 'applied to other food outlets within the school and reflected in school policies for food brought into school' - through 'consideration of the impact of packed lunches' and a 'review' of 'the nature of breaktime snacks brought from home'. So those naughty parents will no longer be able to 'opt out of healthy food' by squirreling a packet of crisps in their child's lunchbox. And to avoid the (obvious) consequence of banning food that children like - that they go and buy food elsewhere - schools may simply stop them from leaving the premises at lunchtime.

More here


Leftist romanticism about the primitive and the non-judgmentalism of multiculturalism are mutually contradictory but that has not stopped them from reinforcing one-another in the drive to have Australian blacks return to something like tribal living on remote areas of land specially set aside from them -- usually former "missions" or cattle stations (ranches). The result of such unrealistic thinking is described below

More than 200,000 Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have become integrated into mainstream Australian life, but during the past six months the media have exposed the extreme deprivation of another 200,000 living on welfare in remote communities, fringe settlements and urban ghettos.

Following Noel Pearson's courageous calls to end welfare dependence, increasing numbers of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in remote Australia are now demanding equal economic opportunities.

Shocking Third World conditions clearly do not stem from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ethnicity, but are the result of the set of separatist federal, state and territory policies. These separatist policies have condemned many Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders to living in isolated, uneconomic communities that deny them private land ownership and other private property rights, notably in housing, that destroy their health and that fail to provide decent education.

The ensuing welfare dependence destroys families and communities - as it does elsewhere in Australia and throughout the world. But other Australians on welfare are not isolated in apartheid-like settlements. The absence of policing and law in remote communities permits high levels of child abuse and domestic violence. Alcoholism and other substance abuse are rampant.

Small elites of "big men" monopolise the layers of separate governance created for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. They have strong vested interests against reform. The politicians who have created the remote living museums are supported by academics, state, territory and federal public servants who run the system and the non-indigenous administrators, teachers, accountants, lawyers and other consultants. They all make their living out of these conditions. Sorcery and payback thrive. The ultimate results are murders and suicides.

The commonwealth Government has taken a first step towards reforming the separate governance structures by dismantling the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. It has introduced shared responsibility agreements to mitigate communal welfare. But individual pensions cannot be reformed until girls stop being married off while they are still children and, together with boys, get a decent education so that they can get jobs. Children are almost half of the population of the remote settlements and their proportion is growing.

The West Australian, Queensland and Northern Territory education departments have demonstrably failed a generation of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders who have poorer English literacy and numeracy than their parents. The emphasis on the vernacular with postmodern failure to teach phonetics and arithmetic has resulted in gobbledygook; children are so bored they drop out of school. Remote communities need independent schools with mainstream curriculums and good teachers if the educational disasters of the past 30 years are to be corrected. At the secondary level all youngsters should be in integrated schools and the brightest should be in first-class boarding schools. The dumbing down of post-secondary education in remote areas could then cease so that they can get skilled and professional jobs.

Communal land ownership has failed. Large flows of royalties and other land rents have been stolen and wasted, leaving even well-located communities in the vicinities of tourist resorts and mines in dire poverty. Productive land development has been negligible. Whereas most Australian families have benefited from rising land values, native title legislation has denied such gains to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders....

More here


I am putting up a few posts on Tongue-Tied this the weekend that have some amusing bits in them

8 October, 2005


Did you know that in California, child molesters and rapists are a protected class? It's true. Not only are California landlords banned from using the state's Megan's Law database to decline renting their properties to sex offenders, they're not even allowed to warn other tenants that these paroled criminals are now their neighbors. If they do the first, they can be fined $25,000 for housing discrimination. But if they don't do the second, they can be sued for failing to protect tenants against a known danger.

Landlords are caught between a rock, a hard place and the California State Assembly's Public Safety Committee, which last April stalled a bill designed to fix the Catch-22. The California Apartment Association is planning a grassroots effort to revive the bill, written by Assembly member Nicole Parra (D., Bakersfield), when the legislature reconvenes in January. Ms. Parra got the California Megan's Law registry online a year ago; before that, it was only available at police stations.

The Megan's Law movement began in New Jersey in 1994, after a seven-year-old girl there was murdered by a paroled child molester who'd moved in across the street. Megan's Laws differ from state to state, but in general they require law enforcement to maintain a registry of convicted sex offenders living in the area and make this registry available to the public.

The ACLU has fought Megan's Laws in every state but never succeeded in getting one declared unconstitutional; but as a sop to those worried about vigilantism, California's version included the provision against housing discrimination. The reform measure, AB 438, would specify that sex offenders are not a protected class. It would also order that the addresses of registered sex offenders--which are often outdated--be kept current online. As it stands, renters in an apartment formerly occupied by a sex offender run the risk of becoming false suspects. Nevertheless, the ACLU opposes AB 438, and Assembly members Mervyn Dymally (D., Compton), Jackie Goldberg (D., L.A.) and committee chair Mark Leno (D., San Francisco) all voted no. For representatives serving on a public safety committee, these three seem oddly unconcerned with public safety. Mr. Dymally lately has been arguing that it's wrong to deny illegal immigrants driver's licenses, but this is probably just the latest blip in a long career of entitlement politics. Ms. Goldberg and Mr. Leno, however, seem to have a particular habit of positioning themselves against anyone trying to promote an orderly civic environment in California.

When she was on the Los Angeles City Council in the '90s, Ms. Goldberg alienated even fellow liberals by regularly siding with vagrants and bar patrons against residents. "We can thank Jackie for that," a neighbor remarked to me irritably one morning, as I walked the dog around used condoms littering the side street near a gay bar. Others complained about a major street nearby that had been taken over by people who lived in their cars and used the curbside area as an outdoor latrine. "Jackie's solution was to put in Porta-potties," recalls syndicated political columnist Jill Stewart, who's long been a thorn in Ms. Goldberg's side. "She was always big on bringing in homeless people where no one wanted them."

Mark Leno, best known as the author of California's recently vetoed gay-marriage bill, this summer criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to toughen California laws against sex offenders. Proposed new restrictions, which may be on the ballot next year, include keeping rapists and child molesters farther away from schools and parks, and requiring some to wear electronic monitoring bracelets. "It doesn't tell you what they're doing," Mr. Leno complained to the San Jose Mercury News about the tracking devices. Like many who consider worries about pedophiles overblown, Mr. Leno pointed out that most such offenses are from people the victim knows. True. Such concern would seem more sincere, however, if Mr. Leno hadn't been the only Public Safety Committee member to vote against a bill closing loopholes in the treatment of incestuous child molesters. When Gov. Schwarzenegger suggested, in a shrugging sort of way, that the Democrats opposing the toughened sex-crime laws he backs are less concerned with public safety than Republicans, Mr. Leno told the Sacramento Bee that the governor's attitude was "egregious."

Property manager Scott Monroe, on the other hand, finds the special privileges accorded to sex offenders in California's Megan's Law just as egregious. "Right now sex offenders have to keep a certain distance from schools and day-care centers, but they can share a common wall with children in an apartment building." Mr. Monroe, who owns a San Bernardino County mobile-home park where many elderly single women live, told the committee about his unnerving experience sitting across the table from a paroled rapist tenant covered with tattoos, whom other tenants had discovered through the Megan's Law Web site and wanted gone. "I couldn't do anything, but I couldn't not do anything," said Mr. Monroe. Fortunately, he didn't have to risk a lawsuit for evicting (or not evicting) the tenant--the guy accepted $250 to move out.

Mr. Monroe was one of those who testified in favor of AB 438 to the Public Safety Committee. "It was shocking," he recalls. Mr. Leno "basically said the gay community has had to fight for its rights for so long, he didn't want to put sex offenders through the same thing." Mr. Leno doesn't remember it that way. "I would not have proactively brought up the gay community and sex offenders. I'll be gracious and say there's been a misunderstanding." In any case, the gay community has long battled to persuade mainstream America to think of them as solid citizens rather than as deviants. That battle has been mostly won, and rightly so. How odd for a gay leader to sabotage that by making common cause with child molesters and rapists. Megan's Law isn't perfect. But lawmakers who reflexively fight against it (or against worthwhile fixes) aren't exactly part of the solution.


The Culture War's Battle of Lexington

On Sept. 21, David Parker was scheduled to go on trial in Lexington, Mass., for an incident that resulted from him disputing the 'right' of a local public school to introduce his then-5-year-old son to the issue of homosexuality. The Parkers wanted to control the timing and content of that discussion. His trial has been delayed.

The Parker conflict, the ferocity of community reaction, and the trial's delay constitute a microcosm within the culture war raging between conservatives, liberals and everyone in between. Even kindergarten children are not spared. Before exploring how the second Battle of Lexington typifies the larger culture war, it is useful to sketch the specific conflict. (For the record, I believe Parker is overwhelmingly in the right.)

On Jan. 17, Parker's son brought home a Diversity Bookbag from kindergarten. It included "Who's In a Family?" which depicts same-sex parents alongside others. By law, Massachusetts's schools must notify parents before discussing sexuality with children. The unnotified Parker immediately emailed the principal of Estabrook Elementary to say he didn't wish his son to be taught that same-sex families are "a morally equal alternative to other family constructs." Parker espouses tolerance: the right of others to make peaceful choices. But he rejects "diversity" defined by the demand that he validate a particular choice through approval or acceptance.

On April 27, Parker was arrested for criminal trespass when he refused to leave school property without an assurance of parental notification of lessons with sexual content in the future. He is now barred from school property, which precludes him from attending events open to other parents or being a voice on school committees.

The second Battle of Lexington illustrates several common characteristics of the culture war. They include:

The conflict is fundamental and admits no compromise. Parker believes that parents, not government, have the right to teach moral and sexual values to their children. Estabrook assumes a duty to teach the values of "diversity." The adults involved have core beliefs that conflict, and there is only one child. Short of a Solomon's Knife solution, which slices a baby in half, no compromise is possible. If the law enforces compromise, neither side will be satisfied and the fight for total victory will probably continue.

Another characteristic: agendas are attached to the dispute, drawing attention from the basic issue. Tammy Mosher from Concerned Women for America stated, "What's getting lost...is parental rights and parental notification as it pertains to education." The basic conflict is not over same-sex marriage, to which anti-Parker activists have shifted the ground. Indeed, some advocates of "diversity" claim that Parker's demand for parental rights are nothing more than an expression of hatred toward gays. The accusation illustrates another characteristic of the culture war: arguments are mixed with vicious personal attacks and, often, overwhelmed by them. Each side ascribes the worst possible motives to the other. Neither acknowledges that the "enemy" might be a decent human being who simply disagrees. Demonizing the enemy is another reason why compromise is not possible. It becomes a deal with the devil. It also stokes the emotions, making physical violence more likely.

On Sept. 6, Parker supporters rallied on the historic Lexington Battle Green. According to reports, pro-gay activists gathered in a counter demonstration. The media then arrived. The presence of media often acts as a catalyst because activists know it favors flash over substance, and tensions on the green became inflamed. Ultimately, the police were called to the scene. Finally, culture warriors are often unwilling to work out difficulties privately, preferring to involve police and the courts almost from the word "go."

There is no way to accurately judge who's right in the culture war without examining the facts. Both sides can make valid points, and who's right often shifts with the tactics they employ. Nevertheless, when I need to make a snap judgement -- one I discard upon deeper examination -- then I follow a few crude guidelines. My preliminary bias is:

* Against the first one to call the police (if no violence occurred);
* Against anyone whose income depends on the outcome;
* Against someone who attaches a broader agenda or shifts the ground of discussion;
* For anyone who argues rather than insults;
* For those calling for a private resolution.

My preliminary bias can easily dissolve in the presence of a compelling fact to the contrary. Upon examining the Parker matter, my initial impression stood. The Estabrook authorities, for whom "diversity" is part of a paycheck, called the police on Parker. School supporters portray Parker as an anti-gay bigot and attach a same-sex agenda to his basic demand for parental rights, thus shifting the ground of debate.

Meanwhile, Parker argues without insults. He was the one arrested at the school, and the one in danger of physical violence at the demonstration. Moreover, Parker's lawyer is calling for a private resolution; that is, the school should drop the restraining order, which has become a pivotal point. Estabrook refuses to negotiate.

A last word on the culture war. Most elected officials will hide from the controversy. The most plausible explanation for the delay in Parker's trial comes from Agape Press. "The district attorney...is running for State Attorney General" and he wants to hammer out a plea bargain to make the controversy go away. The resolution is unlikely. The Superintendent of Schools claims he's had no time to decide about the restraining order even though the issue has dragged on for months. For his part, Parker seems willing to go to the Supreme Court. This returns to the culture war's first characteristic: no compromise.


7 October, 2005


"Sensitivity has taken over society, and nowhere more securely than in our universities. To see what has happened, consider this small fact. Half a century ago, a liberal Harvard psychologist, Gordon W. Allport, published a book, The Nature of Prejudice, that began the social science study of stereotypes. Though of course hostile to stereotypes, he allowed they might have a kernel of truth. For example, he said, fewer Jews are drunks than Irish. A remark like that could not be made at a university today except in private to trusted friends. And if you made it, you would be testing your trust. Jews and Irish, to be sure, are not protected groups, but to speak so frankly even about them would betray a very troubling levity in your attitude toward groups that are protected.

Sensitivity is today's version of the soft despotism that Alexis de Tocqueville worried about in democracies, and it would not have surprised him that the worst of it would be found in the halls of the intellect. Only in American universities, some 300 of them, from 1987 to 1992, did the movement for sensitivity go so far as to enact semi-legal speech codes proscribing offensive speech. These codes provoked the ire of a few free speech heroes on the campuses and, more important, prompted them to mobilize opposition to the codes and to attempts by university administrators to enforce them.

One of these heroes, Donald Downs, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, has written an account of his own successful coup there, together with accounts of a comparable victory at Pennsylvania and failures at Berkeley and Columbia. He accompanies his narratives with reflections, which are those of an old-fashioned free speech liberal. At first a supporter of speech codes, Downs changed his mind when he saw them in operation. Readers get a chance to judge the virtues and defects of the free speech position in trying circumstances when many liberals abandoned it for sensitivity.

During most of the 20th century, Downs says, threats to free speech came from the right and from outside the universities. But in the late 1960s they began to come from the left, and from within. At that time, Herbert Marcuse set forth his notion of "repressive tolerance," an attack on the liberal free speech doctrine which claimed that, while pretending to tolerate free speech, liberals actually repressed it. This was because liberals frowned on radicals like Marcuse. Real dissent would have to challenge the whole of liberalism; in fact, the only true dissent is challenging liberalism. Conformist speech defending liberalism is worthless; in fact, so worthless that it can safely be repressed. No, safety demands that it be repressed, and in making a demand, safety is transformed into morality. Morality requires repressing liberalism. Downs calls this "progressive censorship," and says it is just as detrimental to free universities as traditional censorship from the right.

Thus, "repressive tolerance" has quite a punch in two words. By the late 1980s Marcuse's thinking had infused liberals and deflected many of them from liberalism into postmodernism, one feature of which is a soft therapeutic notion of sensitivity. Instead of repressing liberalism, let's make it sensitive. Between the late '60s and the late '80s feminism came on the scene and embraced sensitivity as the peaceable, womanly way to victory over liberalism

Downs's first case is Columbia, which enacted a "sexual misconduct policy" in 2000 to assuage feminist protest there. Many more rape victims were being treated at Columbia's hospital than rapists convicted in the university judicial system. Columbia's solution was to make things easier for the accuser and harder for the accused. This policy related to conduct, and was not professedly a speech code.

At Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement of the late '60s, "progressive social censorship" was applied against opponents of affirmative action (outlawed in California in 1996 by Proposition 209). A series of incidents arising over cartoons in the student newspaper, law school admissions, and protests against visiting speakers created an atmosphere of intimidation, even though it was not formalized in a speech code.

At both universities, intimidation was directed at conservatives. As one Columbia student said, "You can't be conservative. If you are, you automatically get notoriety and infamy." Conservatives were not altogether silenced, but they were made to suffer when they spoke up.

At Penn, a harassment code initiated by President Sheldon Hackney was passed in 1987, allegedly covering conduct, not speech. But harassment included stigmatizing speech, as Eden Jacobowitz, a Penn student, found out. In a famous incident in 1993, he shouted "water buffalo" at a group of black sorority women who were disturbing his study, and was then called to account and punished by the university. The conservative Penn historian Alan Kors took up Jacobowitz's cause and succeeded, after much travail, in exonerating him and getting the code abolished.

In the chapter on Wisconsin, Downs tells the story of his own exploits. In 1989, President Donna Shalala (like Hackney, later a figure in the Clinton administration) established codes for students and faculty that explicitly punished demeaning speech, later called "hate speech." The student code was abandoned two years later, but the faculty code remained until Downs, a First Amendment liberal, organized its abolition in the faculty senate in 2001. His book tells a harrowing tale featuring a few heroes like himself and Kors (plus William Van Alstyne of Duke, Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice, Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal, and civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate), a few villains such as Hackney and Shalala, their politically correct administrators, and many easily confused or intimidated faculty liberals.

Downs ends on a note of optimism, urging others to learn from what he and his friends accomplished. One can imagine his dismay at the recent spectacle at Harvard this spring, when progressive social censorship was enforced on President Lawrence Summers by the Harvard faculty. Not only was Summers's speech on why more women do not enter science rejected in substance, but his mere choice of topic and call for inquiry into the matter were declared insensitive. In a secret ballot, he was branded as lacking the confidence of Harvard's bold faculty. Summers, with his apologies for raising the issue, did not, to say the least, react as did Donald Downs. Summers is no Hackney and no Shalala; but still, he was overcome by the forces of sensitivity. Perhaps Downs would not be so hopeful if he were writing with this incident in view......

Thus, the notion of sensitivity led to less toleration rather than more. Those not tolerated were, of course, conservatives. The victims Downs tells of were not conservatives (they were mostly naive and nonpolitical) and some of his faculty and student heroes were conservatives. Conservatives were silenced not so much by speech codes as by not being hired for the faculty and not being invited to give talks or lectures on campus. Some conservative speakers were intimidated by protests; but for the most part, conservatives were simply not there and not invited. First Amendment liberals prefer the cause of the embattled and give little thought to the need for a balance of reasonable or respectable opinion in universities. To exaggerate: They will defend you only if they hate you, or if you are being persecuted. The near-total exclusion of conservatives from the faculties of America's elite universities does not alarm them. The fact that partisan debate outside the universities is freer and livelier than within may be deplorable, but it does not strike them as a free speech issue. They take for granted the willingness of citizens to speak up. They become indignant at the suppression of speech, but worry much less about speech that it never occurs to anyone to express....

This problem is more acute in universities as opposed to society in general, because universities are dedicated to the pursuit of truth. Downs notes that the difference between free speech and academic freedom is that the latter, unlike the former, relates to truth. A society can have free speech, pace the ACLU, if it does not challenge its own basic presuppositions, like those in the Declaration of Independence. But a university must, in pursuit of truth, hold those presuppositions open to inquiry. To carry out such inquiry, a university would seem to have greater need of diversity than a society. A university would not want to foreclose questions that a society might consider settled.

Conservatism is therefore closer to the mission of the university than liberalism is. Liberals, insofar as they are progressives, believe that it is possible to eliminate prejudice from society. When prejudice is gone, truth prevails, and there is no need to reconsider the errors of the past. Progress is irrevocable, and inquiry shrinks to whatever questions remain unsettled. Conservatives, believing that it is not possible to eliminate prejudice, are more tolerant than liberals; they expect society to be, and remain, a mixture of truth and untruth. Conservatives may be prejudiced themselves, or they may be just tolerant of prejudice in others. If society will always be a mixture of truth and untruth, it may be necessary to see what sort of untruth is politically compatible with truth, and what sort is not.

More here


How nice and simple crime control would be if this fairy-story were true! If it were true I guess we would have discovered it about 4,000 years ago. In the first case mentioned below, there was no control group, no double blind ratings, no test for statistical significance and no allowance for Hawthorne (placebo) effects. A total lack of interest in any real proof of anything, in other words. Faith needs no proof. The single carefully conducted study that they could find in the article below simply shows how bad prison food can be and that a really bad diet given to already disturbed people can indeed affect their behaviour. It tells us nothing about normal family life, however and nothing about any specific nutrient or source of nutrients. Would the prisoners have done equally well on a diet of Big Macs and fries, for instance? A Big Mac meal contain four of our most basic Western diet items (meat, bread, potatoes and salad) so such meals alone could have had effects as good as anything else -- totally heretical though that thought is to all good food freaks. Or are McDonalds restaurants fountainheads of violent crime? That's about the one thing they have NOT been accused of to my knowledge. The rest of the article is just propaganda relying on unproven assertion after unproven assertion.

At first glance there seems nothing special about the students at this high school in Appleton, Wisconsin. They appear calm, interact comfortably with one another, and are focused on their schoolwork. No apparent problems. And yet a couple of years ago, there was a police officer patrolling the halls at this school for developmentally challenged students. Many of the students were troublemakers, there was a lot of fighting with teachers and some of the kids carried weapons. School counsellor Greg Bretthauer remembers that when he first came to Appleton Central Alternative High School back in 1997 for a job interview: "I found the students to be rude, obnoxious and ill-mannered." He had no desire to work with them, and turned down the job.

Several years later, Bretthauer took the job after seeing that the atmosphere at the school had changed profoundly Today he describes the students as "calm and well-behaved" in a new video documentary, Impact of Fresh, Healthy Foods on Learning and Behavior. Fights and offensive behaviour are extremely rare and the police officer is no longer needed. What happened?

A glance through the halls at Appleton Central Alternative provides the answer. The vending machines have been replaced by water coolers. The lunchroom took hamburgers and French fries off the menu, making room for fresh vegetables and fruits, whole-grain bread and a salad bar. Is that all? Yes, that's all. Principal LuAnn Coenen is still surprised when she speaks of the "astonishing" changes at the school since she decided to drastically alter the offering of food and drinks eight years ago. "I don't have the vandalism. I don't have the litter. I don't have the need for high security."

It is tempting to dismiss what happened at Appleton Central Alternative as the wild fantasies of health-food and vitamin-supplement fanatics. After all, scientists have never empirically investigated the changes at the school. Healthy nutrition-especially the effects of vitamin and mineral supplements-appears to divide people into opposing camps of fervent believers, who trust the anecdotes about diets changing people's lives, and equally fervent sceptics, who dismiss these stories as hogwash......

Stephen Schoenthaler, a criminal-justice professor at California State University in Stanislaus, has been researching the relationship between food and behaviour for more than 20 years He has proven that reducing the sugar and fat intake in our daily diets leads to higher IQs and better grades in school. When Schoenthaler supervised a change in meals served at 803 schools in low-income neighbourhoods in New York City, the number of students passing final exams rose from 11 percent below the national average to five percent above. He is best known for his work in youth detention centers. One of his studies showed that the number of violations of house rules fell by 37 percent when vending machines were removed and canned food in the cafeteria was replaced by fresh alternatives. He summarizes his findings this way: "Having a bad diet right now is a better predictor of future violence than past violent behaviour."

But Schoenthaler's work is under fire. A committee from his own university has recommended suspending him for his allegedly improper research methods: Schoenthaler didn't always use a placebo as a control measure and his group of test subjects wasn't always chosen at random. This criticism doesn't refute Schoenthaler's research that nutrition has an effect on behaviour. It means most of his studies simply lack the scientific soundness needed to earn the respect of his colleagues.

Recent research that-even Schoenthaler's critics admit-was conducted flawlessly, showed similar conclusions. Bernard Gesch, physiologist at the University of Oxford, decided to test the anecdotal clues in the most thorough study so far in this field. In a prison for men between the ages of 18 and 21 in England's Buckinghamshire, 231 volunteers were divided into two groups: One was given nutrition supplements along with their meals that contained our approximate daily needs for vitamins, minerals and fatty acids; the other group got placebos. Neither the prisoners, nor the guards, nor the researchers at the prison knew who took fake supplements and who got the real thing.

The researchers then tallied the number of times the participants violated prison rules, and compared it to the same data that had been collected in the months leading up to the nutrition study. The prisoners given supplements for four consecutive months committed an average of 26 percent fewer violations compared to the preceding period. Those given placebos showed no marked change in behaviour. For serious breaches of conduct, particularly the use of violence, the number of violations decreased 37 percent for the men given nutrition supplements, while the placebo group showed no change.

The experiment was carefully constructed, ruling out the possibility that ethnic, social, psychological or other variables could affect the outcome. Prisons are popular places to conduct studies for good reason: There is a strict routine; participants sleep and exercise the same number of hours every day and eat the same things at the same time. Says John Copas, professor in statistical methodology at the University of Warwick: "This is the only trial I have ever been involved with from the social sciences which is designed properly and with a good analysis." As a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, Gesch emerges with convincing scientific proof that poor nutrition plays a role in triggering aggressive behaviour....

If these findings prove true, and they do look convincing, then we should be sounding an alarm about good nutrition. What are the long-term implications of the fact that the quality of our farmland has sharply declined in recent decades? The use of artificial fertilizer for years on end has diminished the levels of important minerals like magnesium, chromium and selenium, therefore present in much lower concentrations in our food (see box ).

The eating habits of children and young people also should be a cause for serious concern. Their diets now are rich in sugar, fats and carbohydrates, and poor in vegetables and fruit. Add to this an increasing lack of exercise among kids, and the problem becomes even worse. The World Health Organization (WHO) talks of an epidemic of overweight among children. Obesity, the official name for serious weight problems, is said to absorb up to six percent of the total health budget-a cautious estimate as all kinds of related diseases cannot be included in the exact calculation. Think of what this situation will look like when the current generation of overweight kids hits middle age.........

More -- much more -- here


A female reader has sent in a comment on the Drexler claims that I reviewed yesterday. She notes the major non-sequitur involved and points out how one could turn the tables on Drexler's argument rather powerfully:

It's a pity that the author interprets the data that shows a boy raised by an intelligent, affluent mother(s) is better off than a boy with a father who is a poor role model as showing that ANY man is superfluous in raising boys. It would be interesting to see the reaction if the roles were reversed. For example:

"Harrison asserts that the most important element in predicting how a child turns out is not the number or gender of her parents but their economic status. Since most single fathers with legal custody of their daughters are relatively affluent and highly educated, their daughters are less likely to end up in trouble -- legal, educational, or emotional -- than are those of the general population...

No sooner, however, is the reader nodding in agreement than Harrison kicks the book into high gear: not since the Middle Ages have we had such a comprehensive accounting of the treachery of women. A household with a mother in it is a place where "competition, manipulation, and guilt" are the mainstays. Women, if roused to emotion, become like "wounded snakes" -- verbally or emotionally wounding. Mothers demand too much of daughters, expect social poise and beauty, and constantly belittle them. "Not having a mother has let Henrietta off the hook," one custodial dad reports; "she is free to develop her natural intelligence instead of being focussed on her appearance all the time."

6 October, 2005


Eager to find a job after leaving jail for stalking, burglary and vandalism convictions, Richard Karelas filled out more than 30 applications that, he said, asked whether he had ever been convicted of a felony. "I would get a look from people like, 'Oh, man, a hardened criminal,' " said Karelas, 56, of Rancho Cordova. "As soon as they put a label on you, you don't have a fair chance."

Experiences such as this are driving an effort in San Francisco to eliminate the practice of requiring applicants for city jobs to disclose upfront whether they have ever been convicted in court. If successful, the San Francisco initiative would stand as a high-profile deviation from decades of tough-on-crime policies and post-9/11 security measures that, advocates say, have made it more difficult for former convicts to re-enter daily life.

But even San Francisco's human resources director says some information could be lost by eliminating the question. And San Francisco would be alone among more than a dozen California municipalities the city surveyed if it drops the requirement. "It doesn't eliminate criminal background screening altogether," Tom Ammiano, the supervisor who introduced the measure, said in explaining the city can ask about convictions during subsequent interviews. "But it's about keeping the door open. ... San Francisco has always been at the forefront." ...

San Francisco's 11 supervisors could vote on the resolution as early as mid-October, and if it passes, it would go to Mayor Gavin Newsom's desk...

Northwestern University sociologist Jeff Manza estimates 15 million ex-convicts live in the country today, nearly 7 percent of the adult population. Because minorities are disproportionately incarcerated, employers generally can't just refuse to hire anybody with a felony conviction. The exception is when an offense is job-related, such as someone with a drug felony applying to work in a pharmacy or a sex offender who targets children seeking to work in schools....

And, at a time of growing security concerns, criminal background checks are on the rise. Eighty percent of employers conducted background checks in 2003, up from 51 percent in 1996, the Society for Human Resource Management found. "There are lots of legitimate reasons employers would be concerned about hiring ex-offenders," Pager said, adding that companies also risk being sued for negligent hiring if they bring in someone who harms co-workers or customers.....

The San Francisco proposal generated a strong reaction from Harriet Salarno, head of Crime Victims United of California. "The employer needs to know if there's a violent offender or child molester," she said. "Why not ask that question? Why are we so protective of felons and not protecting innocent people?" Such reservations were not voiced in San Francisco last week when Ammiano introduced the resolution.

More here


I have already put up one review of the latest hymn to lesbianism but the review below by Caitlin Flanagan is more comprehensive

Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., is a renowned gender scholar at Cornell who has also held a prestigious post at Stanford. Raising Boys Without Men is the result of her "groundbreaking study" into "maverick moms" -- lesbians and "single mothers by choice" who are raising sons. It turns out that boys raised by women without men are actually better off than boys raised by mothers and fathers. They may fuck you up, your mum and dad, but two mums can make a "head-and-heart boy" out of you.

Drexler asserts that the most important element in predicting how a child turns out is not the number or gender of his parents but their economic status. Since most maverick moms are relatively affluent and highly educated, their sons are less likely to end up in trouble -- legal, educational, or emotional -- than are those of the general population. This essential truth trumps almost all arguments against gay and single-by-choice parenthood. What's left are religious objections and distaste for a lifestyle, and those are hardly the basis for public policy.

No sooner, however, is the reader nodding in agreement than Drexler kicks the book into high gear: not since the SCUM Manifesto have we had such a comprehensive accounting of the low-down rottenness of men. A household with a dad in it is a place where "competition, dominance, and control" are the mainstays. Men, if roused to emotion, become like "wounded rhinos" -- verbally or physically aggressive. Dads demand too much of sons, expect athletic excellence, bully them. "Not having a dad has let Henry off the hook," one lesbian mom reports; "he doesn't do well if he's pushed into things." The book is full of bad dads, from Austin Powers's crappy father (who missed a school event) to Ward Cleaver, whose crimes are beyond number. (Most feminists consider the producers of Leave It to Beaver to be Burbank's answer to Leni Riefenstahl.)

Like Gunsmoke's Miss Kitty, maverick moms affect a jaded familiarity with male behavior, but the little rascals succeed in shocking their delicate mothers time and again. One mother gives her son a toy hair dryer for Christmas and then is horrified when he pretends it's a gun instead of a styling aid. Two brothers are so full of aggro that they desperately gnaw their toast into guns and start shooting. Occasionally, male problem-solving techniques give the moms a happy surprise. One son gave a broken washing machine a hard kick (a prelude to gnawing it into a rocket launcher?) and -- shazam! -- the thing cut back on and has been working ever since. Like boys the world over, these ones tend to brood silently over baseball cards and ball games. Of course, nothing makes a woman go bananas like a man who won't talk, so the poor kids have to yak, yak, yak about their feelings or they'll never get to see the bottom of the ninth.

Drexler believes not that gender is a construct, layered on by the culture, but that differences between the sexes are genetic. This is entirely correct -- but Drexler takes the idea a step further. She believes that because masculinity arises naturally, boys don't need an actual father on the premises to shape or inform it. In her opinion, maleness is a bit like Jiffy Pop -- put the thing on the stove, give it a shake now and then to keep it from overheating, and voila: let's eat!

Raising Boys Without Men is as much a work of advocacy as objective research. As such, it's the latest entry in the ever growing field of "You go, girl!" studies. There is nothing a woman can do that is so fundamentally self-centered that it won't be met with a cackle of "You go, girl!" from a female somewhere on the planet. It's a way of transforming an essentially selfish act into one of liberation, and thereby protecting it from male criticism......

The boys in the study pine for their fathers. Drexler notes that they share a peculiarly intense fascination with father-son athletes from the world of professional sports, and that they have an outsize interest in superheroes. Those who have ongoing relationships with their "seed daddies" mourn piteously when the men fail to take a fatherly interest in them. A humane assessment of these impulses would be that boys want fathers, but when the world does not mete them out (because of either tragedy or maternal intention), good mothers can ease the pain and do what widows and abandoned women have done throughout time: raise their sons as best they can, often with great success.

But this is "You go, girl!" territory, and no quarter can be given to any fact that might suggest the women are slighting their children. None of these boys is exhibiting "father hunger," Drexler reports; it's only natural "to long for what you don't have." Not having a father is a bit like not having a skateboard -- kind of a bummer, but at least you don't have to worry about head injuries.

One could logically conclude from this report that the very worst situation for a boy would be to have two fathers raise him -- but I'm sure Drexler doesn't mean that. It's straight men she's afraid of, and it's been open season on them for such a long time that her preposterous book is unlikely to raise a ripple beyond its intended audience. Yet the book and its conclusions are not without consequence beyond the tightly circumscribed world she describes.

We are all building a culture together, and it is one with a remarkably consistent message. From the shady groves of our elite universities to the Hollywood offices of Interscope Records, a chorus of powerful voices is telling us that men don't need to stand by their women and children anymore. Male rappers delight in this notion because there is sexual power to be gained by impregnating many women. Feminists like it because it allows them to enjoy the delights of being a mother without the hassles of being a wife.

The ramifications of this new attitude are going to be grave. Belittle men's responsibilities to their families, raise boys to believe that fatherhood is not a worthy aspiration, and the people who will suffer are women and children. For the past forty years women have been insisting that they be able to enjoy the same sexual freedoms as men (You go, girl!), and to become single mothers by choice (ditto!). Surprise, surprise: men have been more than happy to comply. Someday American women may realize that the great achievement of civilization wasn't Erica Jong's zipless fuck of yesteryear. It was convincing men that they had an obligation to contain their sexual energies within marriage and to support -- economically and emotionally -- the children they created in that marriage.

More here

5 October, 2005


Christine Brody is an obstetrician practicing in San Diego. Like many physicians she worked her way through medical school and put in long hours establishing a viable practice. She is also a committed Christian, something of an occupational hazard for medical doctors in a culture as morally adrift as is ours. She works out of a small clinic with three other doctors, all of whom are champions of the old ways.

In 1999, Dr. Brody was asked to provide artificial insemination services for a lesbian. Brody refused. She told Benitez she was willing to continue overseeing her treatments, but would not perform the insemination procedure because she had a religious objection to impregnating a lesbian. Lupita Benitez found a different obstetrician to do the deed but the insemination procedure was unsuccessful.

Benitez had a child three years ago, through in vitro fertilization. She is now the proud fatherette of a 3-year-old boy. He will no doubt be a wonderfully tolerant young man, very accepting of true diversity.

The alert reader may have guessed that there is more to this story; and so there is. In 2001 Benitez filed a suit against Dr. Brody and her medical clinic. Benitez alleged that she was very upset by Dr. Brody's refusal and that she was told that no one at the clinic would do it. She was eventually referred to an out-of-plan physician, and was forced to pay an out-of-pocket expenses amounting to several thousand dollars. She pled numerous causes of action against Brody and her colleagues. In addition to alleging she was denied services on the basis of sexual orientation, she claimed breach of express and implied contract, bad faith, and infliction of emotional distress. She also accused Brody of invading her privacy by noting on her chart that she would "require donor sperm" because she "has never been with a male partner." Benitez claims that she did not want her sexual orientation noted.

Dr. Brody belongs to the California Medical Association so she should have professional support, right? Wrong. The CMA originally filed an amicus brief in support of Dr. Brody. The brief seemed to imply that physicians who act on the basis of clearly held religious beliefs are entitled to a constitutional exemption from state anti-discrimination laws. A week ago, the CMA caved in to intense pressure from homosexual rights groups and withdrew their support.

But the CMA explained! Their spokesman (oops, I should rather say their Communications Officer) said that by withdrawing support of Brody, the association wished to "dispel suggestions that it had abandoned its long-held opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation." Susan Penney (CMA attorney) told the media that "We have never taken a position on the facts of the case, but filed the brief merely to argue that the case should be decided on the basis of the legal standards that were controlling at the time the physicians acted." That is weasel talk for "we're sorry, we're sorry, we are so sorry. We will never again take any action that could possibly be interpreted as unresponsive to homosexual sensibilities.

The CMA could not stop there. What had begun as an orderly retreat turned into a full-scale running rout with the militant homosexual toughs in hot pursuit. The CMA just rolled over on its back and whimpered 'don't hit us anymore'. Communications Officer Penny sniveled "we have tried to make our position clear to the public, but it remained misunderstood." She finished by admitting that the strong-arm tactics and the misinformation campaign of homosexual militants resulted in the decision to withdraw CMA support from Dr. Brody. The case is scheduled for argument Oct. 11 in San Diego.



Ho hum! The Left never changes

Keith Shilson, president of Middlesex University Students' Union, is telling me how he became deeply embroiled in a battle over free speech that has led to him being barred from the university before term has even properly begun. Shilson had invited the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir to take part in a 'question and answer' session on campus, which he was instructed by the university to cancel. Shilson refused, and found himself suspended from duty and escorted from campus by security guards. The meeting was cancelled. Now Shilson faces a disciplinary hearing, students are organising a petition and meetings in his defence, and a new chapter in the saga of free speech on campus begins.

Shilson is a pleasant, articulate young man who is almost at the end of his studies in politics and history. With long hair, a hat and a little badge of Lenin (he wears his membership of the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) on his sleeve), he looks like a caricature of a students' union president. Then again, he also has some guts and some principles - rare qualities in the student body politic. Shilson's fight for the speaking rights of Hizb ut-Tahrir should give some hope to all those who believe universities should be about encouraging students to think rather than policing their thoughts.

But Middlesex students' union's stance on Hizb ut-Tahrir is also problematic. It does not come out of an absolute commitment to free speech: Shilson, along with many of his colleagues in the SWP, passionately supports the National Union of Students' policy of 'No Platform' for the fascist British National Party (BNP). Rather, this free speech campaign contains a strong element of opportunism. The liberal left, wrapped up in its own self-loathing, finds it increasingly difficult to criticise the opinions or actions of radical Muslim groups. In this sense, the union's stance does not represent a hard defence of free speech so much as a soft approach to politics, which seeks to accommodate all manner of opinions and actively avoids ideological confrontation.....

In reality, the SWP's vision of a secular socialist future surely shares nothing with the outlook of Islamic supremacism. Its attempt to pretend a consensus is pure opportunism. And the fact that the liberal left views the white working class, who might vote BNP and attack black or Muslim people, as a greater threat than disaffected Muslim youth, indicates the depths of its own cultural disaffection.

Above all, the fact that so many of those protesting against the ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir do not support free speech, as an absolute, inalienable right, shows their distrust of people. We are all capable of listening to wrong ideas, and coming to our own conclusions. Whether it's Hizb ut-Tahrir or the BNP or, indeed, the Stop the War coalition, we do not need politicians, university administrators or Guardian editorial boards to filter out inappropriate material - not because we're interested in what Hizb ut-Tahrir has to say, but because we know we are strong enough to hear it.

More -- much more -- here


More bunkum masquerading as science. Note the lack of evidence reported at the end of the article. The human body is very good at dealing with salt. It has to be. Why? Because our own blood contains roughly as much salt as seawater

The public has been urged to reject processed food that contains too much salt. A report, published by the Medical Research Council (MRC), claims that, despite reductions by the food industry, people are still eating too much salt. The average adult consumes 9.5g a day, but the recommended level is 6g, according to Susan Jebb, head of nutrition and health research at the MRC's centre in Cambridge.

It is hoped that the report, Why 6g?, will persuade the public and health professionals that reducing salt levels would save lives. According to the report, achieving the 6g target could cut strokes by 13 per cent and heart disease by 10 per cent nationwide. Dr Jebb, speaking with her co-authors, Professor Peter Aggett, of the University of Central Lancashire, and Paul Lincoln, chief executive of the National Heart Forum, said that there was a consensus that consuming high levels of salt was harmful.

The claim has been contested by the salt industry. But Dr Jebb said that reducing salt intake was practical and would have no harmful effects, adding that three quarters of salt came from processed food and that only 10 per cent was added during cooking or at the table and that the main responsibility lay with the food industry......

Salt sales fell from 23 million pounds in 2000 to 20 million pounds this year, according to Mintel, the research group, but rock and sea salt have increased their share of that figure. Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at St George's Hospital, London, said: "We have analysed sea and rock salt and it has more or less the same sodium chloride content as table and cooking salt. If we are to prevent heart disease and strokes, we need to get the message across that too much salt is bad for you, whatever it looks like or has on the label."

Studies have shown that lowering salt intake lowers blood pressure, making it seem likely that it would also reduce the death rate. But there has been limited research to support this. The report cites only one study, which found that the death rate increased the more salt that was eaten. But the impact was only significant in men who were overweight

More here

4 October, 2005


Another government coverup of its own negligence and incompetence, basically -- with the judge in bed with the government

A federal District Court Judge has ruled that the privacy rights of illegal aliens convicted of heinous crimes in this country are more important than the public's right to know if the government is properly enforcing a key immigration law. Amazing as the ruling itself may be, what is even more stunning is the fact that U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Richard J. Leon was affirming the Bush administration's position in the case. President Bush nominated Leon in 2001 and the Senate confirmed him in February 2002.

Leon's Sept. 27 ruling was in response to an appeal by Cox Newspapers Washington Bureau of the Justice Department's refusal to make public information and data about thousands of aliens convicted of serious crimes in virtually every state. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are required by federal law to escort these criminals out of the country as soon as they are released from jail, but a 2002 investigation by Cox found hundreds who were released from Georgia jails but not deported. Despite having been convicted of crimes like murder, rape and armed robbery, the aliens who served time in Georgia jails were simply let go, free to roam the country and possibly commit more crimes.

Cox reporters Eliot Jaspin and Julia Malone knew the federal government reimburses local and state governments for much of their expenses in jailing convicted illegal aliens, so the journalists filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Justice Department, seeking names and other information about the released criminals. Justice refused, claiming release would violate the convicted aliens' privacy rights.

Cox appealed in 2003 because Jaspin and Malone believed, based on what they found in Georgia and the amount of money spent every year by Washington reimbursing lower level governments, that there could easily be thousands of cases across the country like that of convicted pedophile Miguel Angel Gordoba, who served a four-year sentence for molesting a 2-year-old girl in Alma, Ga., then disappeared following his release.

There are also concerns that there could be sleeper-cell terrorists among those released who came here in recent years and were subsequently convicted of crimes as they awaited orders to carry out their deadly plans.

Cox argued in its appeal, according to Judge Leon, that disclosure of the information would ". help determine whether governmental agencies are effectively communicating with each other in the management of the incarceration and removal of criminal aliens," and that "the public benefit of government oversight in this instance outweighs the privacy interests ." of the convicted aliens.

Leon's response? "I disagree." He held that "these privacy interests, and the privacy intrusion associated with disclosing this information clearly outweighs the public disclosure of this information." .....

More here


Millions of women now in their twenties face lives of loneliness as they enter middle age, according to new research. One in three will not be in a marriage or have a male partner by the time they hit their mid-forties, a Government forecast said. One in five will never have married. And many will face middle and old age with neither partner nor children and family to support them.

The projections of a bleak future for many women in the Bridget Jones generation were published by the Office for National Statistics. They showed that the chances for women of living out their lives as singletons are rising fast thanks to the decline of marriage and the growing popularity of cohabitation. Unlike marriages, cohabitations tend to last for only short periods. The ONS analysis shows that one in five women approaching their 50th birthday in the early 2030s will have known only short-term informal relationships. It said that 20 per cent of women aged between 45 and 50 in 2031 will never have married and will have no partner. Another 11 per cent will have divorced and will have no new male partner. At present, only 7 per cent of women aged 45 to 50 are classed as unmarried and without partners. Overall, only 22 per cent now live on their own in their late forties. Among all women over 16, more than four out of ten will have no partner. A quarter will never have married, and nearly one in five will be divorced and have no new partner.

Independent analysts said women themselves were to blame for the growth of loneliness among the middle aged. Jill Kirby of the Tory-leaning Centre for Policy Studies think tank said: "Many people will be lonely and unhappy because they have turned their backs on marriage. "Women are increasingly the victims and they will continue to be so." She added: "Women are accepting other forms of relationship which, with the best will in the world, are not lasting. We know cohabitations do not last very long. This means there will be a generation of women who risk losing the companionship of family and the financial security marriage used to provide. "The solution to this lies with women themselves. But a lot of the onus also lies with the Government, which has contributed heavily to this trend by removing support for marriage from the tax and benefit system."

The partnership projections show that 32 per cent of men in their late forties will also be without partners in the early 2030s. But middle-aged men are more likely to find new partners than women, and, unlike women, do not face an age bar on having children. According to the forecasts, by 2031 only 40 per cent of adult women will be married - while nearly as many, 39 per cent, will never have married. At present, more than half are married and fewer than a quarter have never married.

The tendency of people to forget marriage and live alone has been reinforced by Government policy, which says that marriage is a lifestyle choice no better than any other form of relationship. Married couples no longer get benefits in the tax system - while Gordon Brown's tax credit benefits have been shown to help mothers who live apart from their partners more than couples who stay together.

ONS figures, yet to be officially published, show that there are already 1.3million couples "living apart together" - they see themselves as couples but choose to live under different roofs.



When the television drama "Desperate Housewives" hit Australian screens earlier this year, feminist Anne Summers responded in characteristic fashion by slamming suburban values and full-time motherhood. The inner-city author of The End of Equality and Damned Whores and God's Police claimed in an interview that Australian women were "terrified" of conservative politicians pushing them out of the workforce and back into the "suburban stultification" of Kingswood country.

Research reported in The Australian this week shows that Dr Summers couldn't be more wrong. Not for the first time her views demonstrate a kind of elitism that shows contempt for the values of ordinary Australians, centred as they are around family, a home in the suburbs, the barbecue and cricket in the backyard. The research, drawn from Australia's Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, reveals that when it comes to family life in 2005, Australian women want to preserve a traditional family structure, derided by Dr Summers, with a husband as the breadwinner and a wife managing the role of homemaker and nurturer of children. According to Jan van Ours, the international researcher who presented the paper, Australian women want their men in full-time jobs and are happiest when they themselves work part-time, or not at all.

The "new radicalism" is how Susan Maushart labels the return of the homemaker in her recent book What Women Want Next. It's a slap in the face for a left-wing commentariat that hasn't updated its social agenda since the 1970s, a decade when the cultural cringe was in full swing and Australians were still turning their backs on suburbia down under to prove their worth overseas. While the latte set are still bemoaning the glass ceiling and insufficient childcare places, the HILDA study establishes that for most Australian women securing high-powered jobs and long days at the office is a low priority and that they are least satisfied when they work 50 hours a week. Women don't want to work more. Rather, middle Australia wants a work-family balance that combines family time with material advancement.

Just how out of step Dr Summers is with ordinary Australians becomes even more obvious in The End of Equality when she scoffs at a "breeding creed" in Australia that defines women foremost as mothers. With this prejudice in mind, two studies that illustrate women's continuing relish for motherhood make interesting reading. One, from Monash University's Centre for Population Research and Urban Planning, shows that while the rate of marriages is declining, the number of married women aged 35-39 with at least one child has not fallen from 85 per cent in almost 20 years. The second study, from the University of Adelaide, found that while education and career are important to the upcoming generation of women, the Year 11 and 12 girls involved in the study attach a similarly high value to marriage, children and achieving a balance between home and work.

It adds up to the kind of outlook described by London School of Economics sociologist Catherine Hakim, who is credited with influencing the direction of John Howard's family policies. Professor Hakim believes that a "one size fits all" approach is unrealistic. She says a minority of women are "work-centred" or "home-centred", while most women -- up to four in five -- mix jobs and family "without giving a fixed priority to either". Strongly pro-mother, she argues passionately for far greater social and financial recognition of the contribution mothers make. Spelling out her thesis to The Australian last year, she said that if policymakers wanted to stem the current "baby strike" they would have to drastically rethink the "dominant, taken-for-granted view that you don't need to pay women anything as a kind of compensation or reward for having a baby".

The fruits of Professor Hakim's impact on Australia were clear in research published this week that found the Howard Government's family-friendly policies are in large part responsible for our fertility rate rising last year for the first time in seven years. Australian National University demographer Peter McDonald said that increases in family payments -- including the $3000 baby bonus the federal Government introduced last year -- as well as community debate about women waiting too long to have children, were among factors behind the boost in the number of babies each Australian woman is expected to have, from 1.75 in 2000 to 1.77 last year.



I put up a few posts on Tongue-Tied over the weekend that had some amusing bits in them

3 October, 2005


Earlier this month, Italy’s health minister condemned a Milan hospital for turning away a blood donor because he is gay, calling it “very serious and unacceptable,” according to news reports. But, unlike Italy, the United States Food & Drug Administration continues to impose a nationwide ban on blood donations from any men who have had sexual contact with another man since 1979.

The FDA began its ban in the early 1980s but reconsidered it in September 2000. It ultimately voted against softening the ban to allow gay and bisexual men who had not had sex with men for the last five years to donate. “Although a potential donor may practice safe sex, persons who have participated in high-risk behaviors are, as a group, still considered to be at increased risk of transmitting HIV,” the FDA Web site states, in its explanation for the ban.

An FDA spokesperson told the Blade, “The FDA definitely takes a conservative approach in working to ensure the safety of the blood supply. We’re very much aware that some of these policies eliminate some safe donors.” The U.S. is far from alone in its ban on accepting blood donations from gay men. Several developed countries have imposed a similar ban, including Canadian Blood Services, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service and England’s National Blood Service.

According to the Irish Blood Transfusion Web site acknowledges, “this policy causes considerable offense: it is clearly discriminatory against gay men. … The IBTS accepts that they are being discriminatory; we discriminate against several groups in the community insofar as we refuse to allow them to donate blood.”.....

However, in Italy, blood donors are screened based on risky behavior, such as having more than three sexual partners in the last year.

The American policies are outdated and do not reflect advances in testing, Givner and other critics have said. For instance, heterosexual women are internationally [i.e. in Africa only] one of the fastest growing groups of those infected with HIV. According to the CDC Web site, in 1992, women accounted for about 14 percent of adults and adolescents living with AIDS and by the end of 2003, they constituted 22 percent.....

Protests against the ban ebb and flow domestically and internationally. In 2000 when the FDA was reconsidering its ban several groups stepped forward to condemn the policy. Last spring, many college students protested and, in some cases, successfully kept the Red Cross off campus for its support of the ban. And, just last month, an Australian gay man filed a lawsuit against the Australian Red Cross for being turned away.

While many are insulted by the ban and consider it discriminatory, it is often viewed as a peripheral issue. Katz said that he has asked his gay male patients what they think of the ban. “They don’t find it to be the worst discrimination they’ve suffered,” he said.

More here


One of the great feminist claims is how "supportive" of one-another women are and how that makes them superior to men. It's the usual Leftist inversion of the truth, however. Nobody is better at ripping a woman to shreds than another woman -- as the article below points out:

"Forget sisterly solidarity. Once she arrives in the office, it is every woman for herself. She backbites, plots and simmers resentment against her female colleagues - simply because she is jealous of their looks. The rantings of an embittered male boss? No, simply the views of working women themselves. More than 100 spoke frankly to American author Nan Mooney about what it's like working with other women. And it's not a pretty picture.

"With a man I would have confronted him directly, but women aren't worth the risk," said an estate agent called Elena who loathed her female colleague. The retribution can be brutal. Men are competitive, but you see it coming. Women can go from saccharine sweet to downright nasty in the time it takes you to turn around. Suddenly you're bleeding, and you never even saw the knife."

Miss Mooney, 35, who lives in New York, decided to write the book after her former boss "cocked her fist, and hit me square in the shoulder". She said: "Fantasies about the workplace as a happy bastion of sisterhood are useless. Even worse, they are a lie. "Our real-life scripts don't star Cinderellas or Evil Stepmothers. Instead, they feature real people with shaky self-confidence, thwarted ambitions, buried prejudices and sexual jealousies."

Miss Mooney's book, I Can't Believe She Did That: Why Women Betray Other Women at Work, is a collection of unflattering tales of sexual jealousy and empire building. It is published in Britain next month. Miss Mooney said whenever she brought up the subject of "women-haters in the workplace", most people had a lot to say. At a conference, her question on the subject was blanked by a panel of experts. But she was mobbed afterwards by women desperate to discuss it. ...

Many women told Miss Mooney they preferred working with men because they were more straightforward. Others complained about female colleagues who flirted incessantly or ignored every other woman in the room as soon as a man arrived. "They had this seductive power over men and they used it," one said".

More here


I know it is very bad of me to keep attacking idols

Perhaps in part because of his pacifism but mainly because he is not a Christian, the Left love the Dalai Lama. I have mentioned the matter previously and I have in particular noted this 1996 statement from him:

"Of all the modern economic theories, the economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis and the equitable utilization of the means of production. It is also concerned with the fate of the working classes-that is the majority---as well as with the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and Marxism cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and it seems fair. . . I think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist".

So a more in-depth look at the history of both the Dalai Lama and Tibet generally may not go astray:

During the period of Tibet's relative autonomy in the early 20th century (ended by Mao's brutal invasion) there was a strange but now largely forgotten mutual admiration between the Nazis and the Tibetan "power elite" of the time, those who were the guardians and viceroys of the then young Dalai Lama. The Nazis had an ideological and mythological fascination with Tibet and Tibetan buddhist culture. One theory suggests that their adoption of the swastika, itself an ancient Buddhist symbol, may have been part of this strange package.

Some of the Nazi race theorists employed by Himmler imagined that the most powerful ruling clans in Tibet were descendants of the Aryans. (see here). At the same time, the Tibetan rulers were acutely aware of their dependence on Britain and British India as their (non-Chinese) gateway to the wider world. They may have been looking to Germany to decrease their resulting dependence on the British. This link discusses some of the strange aspects of this now largely forgotten chapter.

Of course the Dalai Lama and his followers are not Nazis, and his campaigns on behalf of the human rights and independence of his nation deserve our respect. However it is not hard to see that there COULD be something to the apparent "coincidence" between his veneration by 1930s-40s German National Socialists and the 1990s-2000s left-liberals. (See here for other historical similarities).

In both cases we have two distinct generations of Westerners obsessed with radically remaking the West into their idyllic imaginings of a pacified society, "free" of competition or conflict or base desires, ruled over by an enlightened elite. Both groups looked to an exotic foreign source of mystical authority, apparently more "authentic", but definitely easier for radicals to deal with, than the West's own homegrown traditions.

2 October, 2005


Just a few excerpts from here

Just wondering—what exactly was the news value of the New York Times’s huge front-page Metro-section spread yesterday: A Sex Stop on the Way Home? Subtitled Just Off a Park’s Playing Fields, Another Game Thrives, with an eye-catching cropped photo of the gut (but not the shoulders or head) of a beefy man in shorts and pink socks standing just inside his SUV’s open door, the story recounted in jaw-dropping detail the pick-up rituals of anonymous homosexual sex in a Queens parking lot. The lot adjoins athletic fields used by both youth and adult teams.....

No, the reason the Times found this story so worthy of the public’s attention was certainly the claim made by the older gay regulars that the “vast majority” of cruisers are family men drawn to the parking lot’s blandishments. One “longtime parking lot user” tells Kilgannon: “I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve had here who were wearing wedding bands, with baby seats in the car and all kinds of kids’ toys in the floor.”

This makes the parking lot even more of a “paradise” for the Times’s anti-bourgeois staff: it allows them to throw mud for the ten-millionth time on the Leave-it-to-Beaver “normalcy” (scare quotes courtesy of Timesian world-view) of the white-bread suburbs. One would have thought that the Times’s own story this summer about the new “multicultural” suburbs would have finally provided these long-suffering neighborhoods a respite from elite scorn. Alas, it was not to be. Undoubtedly chagrined by the findings in the latest nationwide sex survey that only 2 percent of men self-identify as homosexual, rather than the 10 percent trumpeted by gay activists, the Times has found a rebuttal: self-declaring heterosexual married fathers with a “suburban . . . house, a mortgage, a wife and children” perform gay sex acts with strangers in the privacy of their SUVs.

Given the amount of time Kilgannon obviously spent at the lot researching his piece, you would have thought that he could have confirmed this crush of family men seeking gay sex in Queens. But he provides no independent evidence for the claim......

One does wonder, though, who the Times thinks its (inexorably declining) readership is. Presumably, some families share the paper in the morning; some parents may encourage their children to read it to increase their involvement in current affairs. By now, many a parent has undoubtedly learned to dispose discreetly of the twice-weekly “Style” sections, unfailingly devoted to the latest gay trend. But does the Times regard its report on a parking lot Doubling as a Trysting Place for Gay Men (the headline over the jump) as suitable for family consumption? Would the Times’s editors happily pass yesterday’s Metro section to their preteen kids, along with the Cheerios? And what about the “donate your vacation papers to schools” program that the Times relentlessly promotes—would yesterday’s Metro section provide valuable reading material for a 9th, or even 12th, grade civics class?


People infected with HIV can be refused visas to Australia regardless of their circumstances, the Federal Court has ruled. A Zambian national, Misheck Kapambwe, was denied a student visa four years ago on the grounds he was HIV-positive. The student, who planned to study for his PhD in Australia, was required to undergo quarterly blood tests to monitor his infection and needed antiretroviral treatment. The cost of his prescribed antiretroviral drugs was estimated at $1188 a month and other treatment amounted to $1069.80 a year for five years.

His visa application was denied by the Immigration Department and the Migration Review Tribunal. But Judge Ray Finkelstein in the Federal Court quashed the tribunal's decision in April, resulting in an appeal to the Federal Court by the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone. The Full Bench of the Federal Court yesterday overturned Justice Finkelstein's ruling, saying that under migration regulations, the Immigration Department was not obliged to consider the circumstances of an applicant's illness but the effect of a hypothetical case.

A spokesman for Senator Vanstone said the Government did not believe taxpayers should foot the bill for foreigners infected with HIV.

But the human rights group Rights Australia described the ruling as cruel and inhumane. "[The] Federal Court decision effectively means it is impossible for short-stay visa and student visa applicants with HIV to enter Australia," said Greg Barns, a spokesman. "This is discriminatory. "Rights Australia urges Minister Vanstone to take note of the injustice caused to Mr Kapambwe and alter the regulations so the migration authorities have to consider the circumstances of each case. "As we know, HIV can manifest itself to varying degrees, and a blanket ban on people with HIV entering Australia is inhumane."


1 October, 2005


A review of Janet L. Folger's "The Criminalization of Christianity". Review by Bill Muehlenberg

This book makes for scary reading. Even if it were only half true, it would still be very scary reading. There is a war going on, and those who hold to faith and family values are subject to a relentless and focused attack.

Many of us have been aware of some of the moves to silence believers, to push activist agendas, to stifle freedom and to straightjacket the churches. But to see all this information concentrated in a book, which can be read in one sitting, makes for sobering reflection. The cumulative effect of the various assaults on faith, freedom and family, all assembled with full documentation in one volume, should challenge us all as to the very real war that is going on around us.

Many of us have been aware of the persecution of believers in countries such as China, North Korea and Sudan. It seems harder to believe that active persecution and suppression of the faith are happening in the "Christian" West. But that is indeed the case.

This book mainly documents the many attacks on faith and family occurring in North America, but the situation in Australia is quite similar. Horror story after horror story is laid out. Consider but a few examples:

Believers in Philadelphia faced felony charges and jail time for simply quoting from the Bible in public.

Two Christians (one heavily pregnant) were ordered off a bus and had to walk home in the rain because the driver said their discussion of their faith might "offend" other passengers on the bus.

A student in Nebraska was prohibited from reading his Bible silently during his free time.

A Canadian believer and print shop owner who declined to print homosexual material was found guilty of discrimination by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and fined $5,000, which went to the homosexual group. He also now has to pay off a $170,000 legal fee.

A group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State is sending people to churches to monitor sermons to see if there are any so-called church/state separation violations.

In Quebec, government officials removed a child from her Baptist family because "they might have unusual beliefs regarding child-rearing".

In a California town, $500,000 of public money was spent on constructing a statue to an Aztec god. The Aztecs, of course, were notorious for their countless child sacrifices. While this was held to be a "cultural symbol", the same council removed a nativity scene.

The search engine Google recently banned an ad on a Christian group's website because it was critical of homosexuality. It was branded by Google to be hate speech, even though the same search engine allows numerous explicit, hardcore homosexual ads.

A pro-homosexual ordinance in Madison Wisconsin resulted in this outrage: Two women advertised for a roommate. When they declined to take in a lesbian, they were forced by the Equal Opportunity Commission to attend "sensitivity training", pay the lesbian $1,500, write a formal apology, and have their housing situation "monitored" for two years. One of the women said in tears that she felt like she was living in totalitarian China instead of democratic America.

Also in Madison, 400 homosexual activists stormed a church service, shouting obscenities, urinating and defecating on the floor, and threatening worshippers.

Such examples can be multiplied at length. Every day, new anti-faith outrages are taking place, and the obvious question to ask is: "How long before Christianity is outlawed altogether?"

The author pulls no punches in declaring that the "greatest threat to our freedoms comes from the homosexual agenda". She is not alone in believing that many in the homosexual movement have as their ultimate goal the "criminalisation of Christianity".

But there are plenty of other threats to those concerned about faith and family. Radical civil libertarian groups, pro-abortion activists, and pornographers are a few more that come to mind. The author has certainly encountered these groups before, especially in her many years as a tireless pro-life campaigner.

Indeed, her first book, True to Life, describes her remarkable work on behalf of the unborn and contained a number of examples of how creative and thoughtful activities can be implemented to work for a culture of life. That same concern for proactive strategies and tactics is found here. Janet Folger offers practical help in how we can win these battles.


No doubt some people-hating Leftist teacher at work

A butter knife in a boy's book bag led to suspension at Omaha Public Schools this week. Ethan Gray is a first-grader at Ed Babe Gomez Heritage Elementary School at 17th and P streets. Gray said he didn't know the knife was in his book bag. OPS said it has a zero-tolerance policy.

Now, there's a standoff. Gray's parents say they won't send their son to school until the district backs down on its mandatory suspension, and the district said it doesn't have any plans to do that. Gray, who is 6, said he brought his book bag to school on Monday, but when he set it down, one of his family's butter knives fell out onto the cafeteria floor. A teacher walked up to question him. Gray told the teacher he wasn't sure how the knife got there. His family thinks his 4-year-old brother, Ben, put it there.

The school now plans to give the boy a one-day in-school suspension as part of its "no tolerance" weapons policy. "We're going to file suit to prevent that suspension," said the family's attorney, James Martin Davis. Gray's family said there needs to be some leeway in this case. It was an accident and they don't want an example to be made of their son. "If he ever needs the benefit of the doubt, he's not going to get it. He's going to be labeled as a kid who brought a weapon to school," said Ethan's mother, Lynette Gray.

OPS said any knife is considered a weapon. The principal has some discretion on the punishment for students in grades K through 3, as long as the weapon isn't a firearm. "It isn't like we have a hammer and treat everything like a nail. We try to redirect the behavior," said OPS's Steve Nelson.

The Gray family said redirecting behavior implies the boy brought the knife to school on purpose. "How can my son, who's still learning to tie his shoes, be responsible for a book bag that I shoved him out the door with?" Lynette Gray said.

Law enforcement was contacted in the case. OPS said the boy could have been expelled. The record will go into a confidential file along with test scores that only district employees, teachers and parents can access.



From Robbie Wade

I have a bumper sticker on my truck that says "Politically Incorrect and Proud of It." Political correctness is a form of censorship administrated and promoted for it to be socially unacceptable to state a truth.

Political correctness is a philosophy that avoids absolute truths and is based on deceit. Do not let your views and opinions be censored by some left winger's idea of what you should think and feel.

Those who promote Political Correctness do so in an attempt to influence and brainwash the masses in what they should think. If they have their own opinions, and these opinions do not agree with what is deemed to be politically correct, then they want you to feel that it must be wrong.

Do not fall for this trap. Censorship of ideas and opinions is a threat to the very bowels of American life. These same "politically correct people" wouldn't dare call a terrorist, a Nation of Islam leader, or an American-hating Arab, politically incorrect. But you, as an American, are led to believe that you are wrong for any opinions you express that are not deemed politically correct.