The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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31 October 2006


Post below from Angry Harry. His comparison with pornography law is interesting:

Muslim Cleric Causes Uproar Over Women's Clothing: Australia's most senior Muslim cleric has prompted an uproar by saying that some women are attracting sexual assault by the way they dress.

Of course, this uproar was caused by various women's groups who think that women should bear no responsibility for what they do. Well, in my view, Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali is correct in what he says - at least to some extent. Indeed, only recently, I wrote the following on my Your Emails page to a woman who seemed to think that women should be able to dress as they please without needing to take into account how others might respond.

"... if women behave stupidly, then they deserve less sympathy should something untoward happen. And if, for example, they wander about the place showing off all their bits then they should not be too surprised to find that some mentally dysfunctional male might respond to them. And the fact that women know that such unhappy events are more likely to occur if they are sexually provocative then the fact that they carry on regardless suggests that they are not very concerned about such events. That is the message that they are sending out.

As such, the law should reflect this lesser concern - this message - when deciding what level of negative impact any assault might have had, AND when deciding any punishment.

... Many women, however, seem to wish to take no responsibility for their behaviours. They seem to think that they should be able to flaunt their sexuality all over the place - in order to incite men - and then they think that they have the right to claim that they are victims when some men respond to them in a manner which is absolutely consistent with the message that they, themselves, have been sending out.

In my view, women who set out to entice men sexually bear more responsibility for sexual assaults against them than do women who do not set out to entice men sexually. And this should be reflected in the law.

... Are women such sluts that they think that they are entitled to foist their sexuality on to every passing member of the public? Are women so mind-boggling stupid that they cannot see that flagrantly enticing men sexually might bring about consequences? What makes women think that they have the right to overtly sexually stimulate men who happen to be in the vicinity whereas if men did a similar thing in response - perhaps with their hands - they could be prosecuted?

When women stick out their sexual organs uninvited into men's vision then this is not much different from men sticking out their hands uninvited for a grope. After all, in both cases they are merely trying to elicit a sexual response in the other party in the best way that they know how.

... Furthermore, we all have to accept that in order to safeguard our liberties, we have to tolerate many dysfunctional and/or unstable beings in our society, as well as those who are temporarily 'unbalanced' - for one reason or another. The alternative, in practice, is truly horrible. And, of course, some 20% of males have very low IQs. As such, I think that women are - as seems typical these days - being incredibly selfish if they believe that they are entitled to swirl up the passions of whomsoever they wish and then escape all responsibility for any negative consequences that might arise from ending up with the wrong kind of attention.

In a nutshell: People who go out of their way to provoke "an attack" are less deserving - should an attack materialise - than those who do not.

Most people would agree with this. But western women see themselves as so superior that they think they should be above such things. And they think that they should be able to provoke men - all men - as much as they like - and then take no responsibility! (And this is true not just in the area of sex. It is true in many other areas.) 'Ollocks, I say. Their own behaviour must be taken into account. And, take it from me, it soon will be!

And I stand by that view! I think I'll become a Muslim. And, while on this particular subject, I wish to make an interesting point!

Here, in the UK, we are soon going to outlaw certain types of pornography because some sex-offenders have claimed that "pornography made me do it". In other words, the government reckons that men can be 'enticed' into doing bad things by looking at pictures. Well, surely, if lofty people can accept the notion that men can be 'enticed' by pictures, then they should also accept the notion that men can be enticed by 'reality'!

And, if this is so, then women - who bring about their own reality - and who thrust it upon others - must also often be viewed as responsible for enticing men in much the same way that pornography allegedly does. So, how is it that women can escape all responsibility for enticing men, whereas pornography and pornographers cannot?

Well, of course, the answer is obvious. Women are nowadays held to be responsible for almost nothing that they do; not even for those situations in which they choose to place themselves. They are not held fully responsible when it comes to choosing to bear offspring, when it comes to their work choices, when it comes to whom they have sex with - especially when they are drunk - when it comes to child abuse, and even when it comes to murder.

And now we are simply being indoctrinated with the view that pornography can entice men to do bad things, but women, themselves, cannot. What hokum, eh? What lies!

Notice also that misleading women - especially younger women - into believing that their dress has no effect on the likelihood of being sexually-assaulted will simply lead to more women enticing more sexual assaults. In other words, more women will be hurt.

But, despite what they might say, most women do not actually care about this. So long as they can say and do as they damn well please, they do not actually care how many other women might be assaulted as a result. Indeed, nothing seems nowadays to stand in the way of women getting what they want, regardless of the cost to others.

The link between Islamists and the Left is alive and well in Australia

A group that supports suicide bombers and is being investigated by Australia's intelligence agencies meets in a Melbourne suburb. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party, a self-proclaimed anti-Semitic revolutionary Arabic group, has Victorian branch headquarters in Brunswick. And, in a state election controversy, it has been revealed that a Labor candidate in next month's poll, Khalil Eideh, has close links to the group. Syrian-Australian trucking boss Mr Eideh is running for one of Labor's safest Upper House seats.

The local incarnation of the SSNP, which recently backed Hezbollah and opposes Israel's existence, meets in a semi-industrial building in Albert St. The building facade is blank, with no signs or names on its walls or doors. But the interior has several banners and the party flag on display. On its website, the SSNP heralds "Our Martyrs" -- suicide bombers who attacked Israeli soldiers.

Australian intelligence services have confirmed they are examining possible links between the Melbourne group and the militant arm of Hezbollah. It was revealed in June that Mr Eideh had sent letters to the Syrian regime warning of Zionist threats in Melbourne, reporting on Australians and pledging "absolute loyalty" to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Documents have now emerged detailing SSNP delegates among the guests at functions organised by Mr Eideh's Islamic Alawi community group.

The SSNP has also issued a statement blaming "Zionist fingers" for June's media attacks on Mr Eideh and demanding "widespread solidarity" for him. The SSNP believes in a Great Syria nation -- incorporating Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Cyprus and Jordan. Its website repeatedly attacks Israel, stating the nation is a foreign entity and should not exist in the Middle East. Party members claim on the SSNP site that Zionist leaders encouraged the Nazis to massacre Jews during World War II to help their cause of establishing an Israeli state in the Middle East.

Weeks ago, SSNP leaders met with Hezbollah fighters, congratulating them on their "defeat" of Israel in Lebanon. Another website, salaheddine.net, linked to the SSNP site and carrying its emblem, calls for a boycott of Western products. "If you cannot buy a bullet for the resistance, then do not pay for a Jewish bullet," it states.

In the SSNP's Melbourne branch, one banner reads: "All international decisions that go against the will of the Syrian nation and its right to self-determination are false decisions". When the Sunday Herald Sun visited the Brunswick building earlier this month, three men who came to the door refused to comment on who they were.

The group's Melbourne branch president Sayed Al-Nakat on Friday defended the SSNP as a democratic, peaceful political party. Mr Al-Nakat denounced terrorism, including the September 11 attacks on the US and the Holocaust of World War II. But he defended the suicide bombers who had sacrificed themselves against Israelis, saying they were not terrorists. If a foreign force invaded Australia, he would do the same to protect his home, he said. "In Israel's idea, there's no place for us," he said. "She wants to be the boss of the Middle East." In 2004, Mr Al-Nakat was quoted in Arabic newspaper El Telegraph at a meeting: "Oh my leader, you warned us what the Zionist plot is all about and that the danger won't be contained in Palestine, but it will touch Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. It's a danger on all Syrian people".



A Jewish South African reporter has been 'banned' by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) from providing news coverage from the Middle East, after her managing director said he did not want a "white Jewish girl" covering the region, the reporter told Ynetnews. "I was a reporter and newsreader, and Snuki Zikalala was head of TV and radio news, so he was my line manager. He was not that great to work with," Paula Slier, the reporter, told Ynetnews.

In 2004, Slier went to Ramallah to cover Arafat's illness. While in the West Bank, Slier said she was informed that the SABC had "received a directive: 'No more reports from Paula.'" "I tried to find out why they were not using my work anymore, and I was told by a senior manager in SABC, which obviously I can't name, that Zikalala said they don't want a white Jewish girl reporting from Ramallah, though the implication was from the whole of the Middle East," Slier said.

After it emerged that SABC's blacklist included a range of sources, including some critical of the South African government, SABC launched an investigation of itself. "When the investigation came out, Zikalala told the inquiry: 'From the movement I come from, we support the PLO.' And then he went on to call what was happening in the Middle East a 'Jewish war,' and then he said: We know Paula, we know the position which she holds," Slier said, quoting from the investigation.

The full investigation was published by South African newspaper the Globe and Mail, though SABC had initially tried to get a court order to ban the newspaper from publishing the full report. "The thing is, in South Africa, I've been heavily criticized by the Jewish community for being pro-Palestinian. So he makes the inference that because I'm Jewish, I would automatically support what would be happening in Israel," Slier added. "In the inquiry, Zikalala said we need a reporter who is impartial," Slier said, adding: "This is problematic, the guy is head of TV and Radio News."

Slier told Ynetnews she did not feel the directive to blacklist her was anti-Semitic. "For me personally I do think there is a difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment. Many in the Jewish community in South Africa fear that if many people start spreading anti-Israel sentiment, it will cause deeper anti-Semitism. But that's not the view I have. I often find that people do have the right to criticize Israel," Slier said. "I don't have any experience of anti-Semitism at the SABC, and I worked there for quite a few years. He (Zikalala) has a particular anti-Israel view. What is worrying is that this guy now, as head of SABC, is taking his own personal view, and imposing it on the SABC," she added.

Michael Kransdorff and Steven Magid, authors of the Jewish South African blog It's Almost Supernatural , have been closely monitoring the story. They told Ynetnews that the blacklisting of Slier proved widespread suspicions held by the Jewish community of bias at the SABC. "The Jewish community and my blog in particular have for a long time criticized the SABC and considered them biased against Israel. This story confirms our suspicions," said Magid.

Speaking to Ynetnews, SABC Spokesperson Kayzer Kganyago said the comments attributed to Zikalala in the SABC's internal report have not been verified. "The report was not made public, we cannot comment about things in the report, because it was not a judicial inquiry. It was a fact-finding commission. Therefore the things said in the commission were not tested." "Some of the people who made those allegations were anonymous sources, so it would be better for us not to comment on those issues," he added.

Kganyago added that Zikalala has "responded in writing to the SABC's chief executive." "The matter is now in the chief executive's hands, and he can look into the allegations that were put in place, before deciding whether to take action," Kganyago said.


30 October, 2006


A ripe pear is soft and squishy but that's still too dangerous for the soft and squishy people in charge of one British school

The laws of gravity might never have been revealed if Isaac Newton's apple tree had suffered the same fate as that of the Sacred Heart primary school's pear tree.

It may warm the hearts of health and safety commissioners across the country, but yesterday a move to cut down the tree was condemned elsewhere as madness. Governors and the head teacher at Sacred Heart Primary School, in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire sparked a furious reaction, when they decided to chop down the tree overhanging the playground. "A risk assessment was done on the tree and it was found necessary to have it removed. The risk was mainly from falling pears," said Geoffrey Fielding, chair of the governors. "We have a duty of care to the health and safety to people on this site, particularly the children and that's the decision that we have taken."

The school said they had made the decision after witnessing parents being hit on the head by falling fruit as they waited for their children. Lizzie Summerwill, a mother, praised the tree cutters. "I think it's brilliant they cut it down because of the health and safety issues," she said. "In the summertime it was infested by wasps and the fruit stank."

But Gill Franklin, owner of Cross Lane Fruit Farm, Mapledurham, which has 400 pear trees, has never been hit on the head by the fruit in 29 years. She said removing damaged pears and picking the fruit before it became ripe would resolve the issue. "Fruit doesn't drop down for no reason. You never ripen a pear on a tree. We have gone mad on risk assessment," she said. "Environmentally the world needs more trees and the children need to eat fruit. Why didn't they pick the pears? It's a frightening thought they're not using their natural resources. They're probably buying fruit in and letting the pears go to waste."

The tree is thought to be at least 25 years old, but was not included in a tree preservation order served on the site. Adam Dawson, a tree preservation officer for South Oxfordshire District Council, said Mr. Fielding did not accept his recommendations for solving the perceived problems. He added: "On balancing up the issues, and bearing in mind the considerable number of other protected trees in the vicinity, I did not consider it expedient to dedicate resources to serving an emergency tree preservation order on this one tree."

Earlier this year the school filled in a pond claiming it was very dangerous for pupils and that the area was needed for a temporary classroom.



We need to question our system of values when children can no longer play freely at recess. An elementary school in Attleboro, Mass., recently banned children from playing tag, touch football or any other unsupervised chase game during recess. This is just one example of a trend that is showing up in many regions across the country. School officials, fearing games can be exclusionary or dangerous, concur with the principal of this elementary school in Attleboro that recess is "a time when accidents can happen."

It seems Americans are full of fear and willingness to litigate. When someone infringes upon us to our detriment, we believe we have the right to sue for recompense. Perhaps the stakes have become just that much higher. Should the bruised knee of a third grader turn out to be a bone chip that hinders her athletic performance, her foreseeable future on the soccer field could be altered henceforth. Or perhaps the underdog with little athletic prowess who stumbles at touch football is so mortified of his reputation that his parents fear it damages his social capital-a powerful asset referring to his advantage created by location in a structure of relationships. At the ripe age of eight, they are utterly concerned for him. The fear is that damaged perception of self will hinder future progress in life. The dream would vanish in child play.

Parents micromanaging children's lives want to hold someone liable for accidents on the playground, simple everyday children-at-play accidents, that may not have happened had they been present. By implementing the ban, schools acknowledge and validate extreme parental involvement that might be more in the realm of self-interest rather than best interests of the child. Parents should not be suing for normal interaction between peers in order to protect their child, but schools are now complying to these parents by passing these new rules of play. Let's not forget the still-useful good old-fashioned advice to buck up and walk proud or to express humility in injury.

School officials balk at the potential implications of play at recess and the simplest solution is certainly not the best. Can you imagine tag without touch? Or tag without being able to run after the other guy? The idea is on many fronts absurd, and this is just one example of schools that are responding to the societal impetus towards protecting the self and our children. Young children need time to run off their steam. Early childhood interactions on the playground lay the groundwork for children to invent, create and develop tactics. At the very least, mingling with peers is essential socialization that teaches behavioral boundaries. All the while, America begins to contemplate reforms of school lunch and physical education programs because of high childhood obesity rates, and school leaders cut out natural and enjoyable physical exercise. Children lose a natural privilege to run uninhibited, to have the experiences that teach them to stand up to the bully, to develop on their own in nature's way, but the adults feel better about accidents that might happen.

Instead of being institutions that foster innovation and advancement of curricula and young citizens, our schools become cesspools of fear - fear of being sued, fear of losing donors. Fear is not the mechanism by which we should raise the next generation. It is not fear that will bring better programs to our schools for healthier lunches, music, academic assistance, mentorship and so on. Is our society's litigiousness the result of an equal-access legal system that allows us to pursue justice anytime we think it's due, or is it the result of a societal mentality of every man for himself? What I do know is that allowing children exposure to tough situations will in the long run lead them to the principles of respect, self-awareness, community, competition, forgiveness and will ultimately give them the satisfaction of having endured a challenge while remaining true to themselves . Even as adults we continually relearn the lesson that sometimes we stand alone and we must be our own anchor.

Schoolchildren will feel a real loss as a result of the new rule, but the detriment to their development does not have to be significant, particularly in the cases of children whose parents will and can give them opportunities to play and socialize elsewhere. However, this does not negate that recess is a fundamental component of early childhood education. Let the kids play! Let them be children! Schools should not make children targets of fear-induced rules and regulations. Not surprisingly, in the past, letting nature take its course has brought along many a fine young person.


An antisemitic university press in Australia

An article by Michael Danby, MHR:

In July last year I learned that Louise Adler, publisher of Melbourne University Press, had commissioned Antony Loewenstein, a little-known online journalist who has his own far-left blog, to write a book about the Australian Jewish community and its attitudes to Israel. Mr Loewenstein sent me a questionnaire asking my views on various subjects.

After making some inquiries about him and reading the extreme anti- Israel views at his website, I decided not to participate in this project, knowing that my participation would give it a credibility it didn't deserve. I wrote to the Jewish News urging readers to have nothing to do with Mr Loewenstein's book.

Ever since, Mr Loewenstein has painted himself as a heroic dissident being persecuted by the "Jewish establishment" for daring to criticise Israel and the Jewish community. It is sometimes perfectly obvious what is going to be in a book before it is published. If a leading publisher commissioned Pauline Hanson to write a book about multiculturalism, or Fred Nile about the gay and Lesbian Mardi gras, no doubt all the commentators at the AbC and The Age would have plenty to say, because it would be obvious what such books would be like.

The fact is that I and many other people knew Mr Loewenstein's views on Israel and on Australian Jews long before his book appeared. This is the point that Mr rodgers and his ilk persistently fail to acknowledge so they can misrepresent criticism of Mr Loewenstein. After all, he stated them openly at his own website a year ago, where he called Israel "fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist" and "a terror state", and described the Australian Jewish community as "vitriolic, bigoted, racist and downright pathetic." He also said that "so-called Western `values' deserve to be challenged and overthrown." I give Mr Loewenstein credit for honesty - he stated his views quite openly, so everyone knew what would be in his book long before it appeared.

Of course, when the book appeared, my anticipation about its contents was proved to be correct. The book is shallow, predictable, trite and obvious, as well as riddled with factual errors. This was not my view alone. Dr Philip Mendes of Monash University, author of Jews and Australian Politics (and himself a frequent, but fair, critic of Israeli policies), said: "The majority of the text [of Mr Loewenstein's book] is overwhelmingly simplistic and one-sided. This could have been a serious and objective examination of the role of local lobby groups in influencing Australia's Middle East policies. Unfortunately, that book still waits to be written."

Dr Michael Fagenblat, of Monash University's Centre for the study of Jewish Civilisation, says: "There's nothing new or interesting here and several things that seem patently false. These remarks seem completely one-sided; they overlook the complexity and manifold responsibility that has contributed to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." (both these comments appeared in the Jewish News of 28 July) since his book came out, becoming a hero of the anti-Israel commentariat seems to have gone to Mr Loewenstein's head. Despite being lionised at writers' festivals around the county, he still complains that the "zionist lobby" is working to silence him. His attacks on Israel are growing more strident. In brisbane, debating Phillip Mendes, he said: "Israel's behaviour in the West bank and gaza are the tactics of a rogue, terror state. Enough with the Holocaust, alleged Palestinian `terror' and victimhood. Take some responsibility for the parlous state of Israel in the international community. For all of us who want a safer Middle East, today's Israel is currently the problem, not the cure."

In August I was given a chance to confront Mr Loewenstein faceto- face on AbC radio, and I must thank the Jon Faine program for setting up this debate, which was ably moderated by gerard Whately and gideon Haigh. The debate was conducted in a civil manner, but I made a point of taking Mr Loewenstein to task over a comment of his which I considered particularly offensive. speaking of the comedian sandy guttman (Austen tayshus), he said at his website: "Jews are often their own worst enemies. It might help if tayshus didn't look so much like those awful caricatures we know from the 1930s!" so Mr guttman is to be criticised because he looks too Jewish for Mr Loewenstein's sensibilities!

Mr Loewenstein is, of course, entitled to his views - ignorant, offensive and superficial though they are - but I don't apologise for my decision to launch a "preemptive strike" against his book last year. Nor do I resile from my view that a person who thinks that a Jewish state is "a fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist idea from a bygone era," and that the Australian Jewish community is "vitriolic, bigoted, racist and downright pathetic" was not a suitable person to be commissioned by a major publisher to write a book about our community and its attitudes towards Israel.

This is not MUP's first excursion into anti-Israel polemic under Louise Adler's direction. In 2005 she published Jacqueline rose's The Question of Zion, a tract so blatantly anti-Israel that even a self-professed anti-zionist reviewer, simon Louvish in The Independent, called it a work of "overriding shallowness" which showed "a lack of basic understanding" and "overreliance on certain dissident Israeli historians, and avoidance of others."

Ms Adler is, of course, free to publish as many bad books as she likes, but why do they all have to be anti-Israel bad books? Why does she lend the prestige of the MUP imprint to a one-sided rehashing of all the usual anti-Israel propaganda?


29 October, 2006

Are single mothers the "New American Family?"

Call it the backlash against the backlash. Over the past decade, Americans have increasingly understood that the divorce revolution, fatherlessness and single parent households are harming our children. Now those who view the traditional family as disadvantageous to women are firing back, defending women who choose single motherhood and depicting fathers as superfluous.

Last fall Stanford University Gender Scholar Peggy Drexler penned the highly-publicized book "Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men." This month Oxford Press released Wellesley College Women's Studies professor Rosanna Hertz's "Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women Are Choosing Parenthood Without Marriage and Creating the New American Family."

Certainly one can sympathize with those single mothers whose husbands or lovers abandoned or mistreated them, and who soldiered on in the raising of their children without the father those children should have had. However, Drexler and Hertz go well beyond this, openly advocating single motherhood as a lifestyle choice.

Drexler portrays father-absent homes - particularly "single mother by choice" and lesbian homes - as being the best environments for raising boys. Hertz interviewed 65 single mothers and concluded that "intimacy between husbands and wives [is] obsolete as the critical familial bond." Whereas a family was once defined as two parents and their children, Hertz asserts that today the "core of family life is the mother and her children." Fathers aren't necessary - "only the availability of both sets of gametes [egg and sperm] is essential." In fact, Hertz explains, "What men offer today is obsolete."

Our children would beg to differ. Studies of children of divorce confirm their powerful desire to retain strong connections to their fathers. For example, an Arizona State University study of college-age children of divorce found that the overwhelming majority believed that after a divorce "living equal amounts of time with each parent is the best arrangement for children."

Objective measures of child well-being belie Hertz's and Drexler's rose-colored image of fatherless families. The rates of the four major youth pathologies - teen pregnancy, teen drug abuse, school dropouts and juvenile crime - are tightly correlated with fatherlessness, often more so than with any other socioeconomic factor.

Hertz and Drexler reached their conclusions by studying families who had volunteered to have their lives intimately examined over a multi-year period - a self-selected sample hardly representative of the average fatherless family. Moreover, Hertz's and Drexler's research is largely subjective - they personally conducted interviews of single mothers to examine their family lives and - no surprise - found them to their liking.

To Hertz's credit, she does concede that the "wish among heterosexual women for a dad for their children remains strong." Perhaps the single mothers she interviewed understand the value of male parenting? Or maybe as these women's children grow the mothers see the positive impact male influence could have in their lives? Not according to Hertz. She explains, "It is not that they believe men provide a critical difference in perspective that women cannot supply." Instead, Hertz asserts that the single mothers she studied included some men in their children's lives as a way to "connect their children to male privilege." In fact, those who include men in their daughters' lives do so because they want "their daughters to know male privilege when they encounter it and to be prepared to combat it."

Hertz and Drexler fail to understand how powerfully children hunger for their fathers. For example, famed athlete Bo Jackson devoted the first chapter of his autobiography, "Bo Knows Bo," not to his many achievements, but instead to the father he didn't have. Jackson's angry, unhappy childhood was defined by his father hunger. He explained that when he wanted something, "I could beat on other kids and steal . [but] I couldn't steal a father. I couldn't steal a father's hug when I needed one." Jackson saw his older brother go to a penal institution, feared he would end up there as well, and longed for the discipline and strong hand a father provides.

In "Whatever Happened to Daddy's Little Girl?" award-winning journalist Jonetta Rose Barras describes her fatherless childhood as "one long, empty night." After her parents broke up, she explains: "I missed him desperately. . he made me feel loved; he made me feel wanted. . Sometimes I sat on a bench or on the curb, like a lost, homeless child. I waited for [dad] to drive through, recognize me and take me with him. On the bus, I searched each man's features; I did not want mistakenly to pass him."

Hertz and Drexler also greatly underestimate the immense benefits reaped by the children who do have fathers in their lives. MSNBC anchor Tim Russert wrote the book "Big Russ and Me" about his father in 2004, and says he soon received an "avalanche" of letters from men and women who wanted to tell him about their own dads. Russert's current best seller, "Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons," was drawn from those 60,000 letters. The letter writers remembered their fathers as strong, devoted, honorable - and central to their lives. What particularly struck Russert was the overwhelming outpouring of love from women towards their fathers.

These sentiments wouldn't surprise Nobel-Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison. When asked how she became a great writer - what books she had read and what methods she had used - she replied: "That is not why I am a great writer. I am a great writer because when I was a little girl and walked into the room where my father was sitting, his eyes would light up. That is why I am a great writer."

Men are often stereotyped as fearing commitment, and it is they who are usually blamed for the divorce revolution. However, it is mothers, not fathers, who initiate most divorces involving children. In some cases, these mothers have ample justification. In others, however, they simply don't want to make the compromises and do the hard work required in any relationship, and can't or won't recognize that their children need their fathers. In fact, according to research conducted by Joan Berlin Kelly, author of "Surviving the Break-up," 50 percent of divorced mothers claim to "see no value in the father's continued contact with his children after a divorce."

These attitudes are very destructive. At the core of Hertz's and Drexler's work is a "you go girl" belief that mothers can do it alone and always know best. Unfortunately, many women are choosing the lifestyle Hertz and Drexler extol - and it's our children who are suffering for it.



No wonder they do so much harm. Ideology clearly takes the place of commonsense on many occasions

Free speech advocates are warning the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services against supporting political litmus tests in social work schools. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said Wednesday that HHS currently requires its social workers to have degrees from programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, whose standards require evaluating students on the basis of their beliefs.

The foundation urged HHS to end its relationship with CSWE unless CSWE drops these vague and politically loaded standards, a request echoed in similar letters sent today by the National Association of Scholars and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. 'By requiring that its social workers come from CSWE-accredited schools, HHS is tacitly approving viewpoint discrimination,' FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. 'HHS should take steps to ensure that CSWE eliminates the ideological requirements it currently places on universities and students.'

CSWE maintains a set of official standards on the basis of which it decides whether or not to accredit a social work program. The standards require that CSWE-accredited programs 'integrate social and economic justice content grounded in an understanding of distributive justice, human and civil rights, and the global interconnections of oppression.' They also require that graduates of CSWE-accredited programs 'demonstrate the ability to...understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and apply strategies of advocacy and social change that advance social and economic justice.'

'`Social justice` and `economic justice` are vague and politically loaded terms that mean different things to different people, yet CSWE`s standards force schools to evaluate prospective social workers based on their commitment to these ideals,' Lukianoff said. 'It`s an invitation for schools to discriminate against students with dissenting views, as FIRE has seen happen many times before.'

Requirements of ideological conformity have led to specific incidents of viewpoint discrimination against students at institutions across the country. Washington State University (WSU) threatened an education master`s student with dismissal for expressing his opinion that white privilege and male privilege do not exist. That sentiment supposedly violated the school`s requirement that students should 'exhibit an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation and privilege in American society.' Rhode Island College`s School of Social Work required a conservative master`s student to lobby the government for 'progressive' social changes if he wanted to continue pursuing a degree in social work policy. At Le Moyne College, a student was dismissed from the graduate education program for writing a paper expressing his personal beliefs about the propriety of corporal punishment.

'HHS should decisively reject the use of political litmus tests for its social workers. People can hold a wide variety of views and still make excellent social workers,' a foundation spokeswoman said.



Prominent Labor figures Paul Keating and Leo McLeay "demanded" a ministerial colleague grant residency for Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilaly. The two party leaders were furious when in 1989 then-Immigration Minister Robert Ray refused their requests, Labor sources said yesterday. The sources said it was at least the second time they had sought to lobby on behalf of the controversial Muslim leader. The sheik has played a walk-on role in ALP affairs since he arrived here in 1982, with Mr McLeay being his strongest champion within the party. Other Labor identities, such as NSW Upper House member Eddie Obeid, had been in the forefront of attempts to get him kicked out.

Sheik Hilaly did not get permanent residency until 1990 when Gerry Hand was Immigration Minister. The sheik's case had been taken to Senator Ray in response to appeals from electorally powerful Islamic communities within Mr Keating's seat of Blaxland and Mr McLeay's seat of Grayndler. The Saturday Daily Telegraph understands there had been moves to deport the sheik in 1989 after one of his anti-Jewish outbursts. "But Keating and McLeay demanded that he be given residency," said one source. Senator Ray effectively put him on probation but was moved to Defence in 1990. Yesterday he said his decision had been made "on the basis of the file, not on the basis of politics".

In 1986, then Immigration Minister Chris Hurford had been asked to deport the sheik and was in the process of doing so when he was shifted to another port folio. He has since told The Australian he believed residency was granted by the Government "because they erroneously believed that this would have some political influence in the particular electorates at a NSW State election".

Even before that, in 1982, the sheik was causing ripples. The Arabic community newspaper El Telegraph in July of that year reported a speech by Sheik Hilaly in which he said "the flesh of Australian women is as cheap as pigs' flesh". The paper attacked his comments and soon had to have guards protect the journalist. Not long after, the El Telegraph office was badly damaged in a suspicious fire. Its owner was Mr Obeid, who spent the next 10 years trying to get the sheik deported.


28 October, 2006

Are single mothers the "New American Family?"

Call it the backlash against the backlash. Over the past decade, Americans have increasingly understood that the divorce revolution, fatherlessness and single parent households are harming our children. Now those who view the traditional family as disadvantageous to women are firing back, defending women who choose single motherhood and depicting fathers as superfluous.

Last fall Stanford University Gender Scholar Peggy Drexler penned the highly-publicized book "Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men." This month Oxford Press released Wellesley College Women's Studies professor Rosanna Hertz's "Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women Are Choosing Parenthood Without Marriage and Creating the New American Family."

Certainly one can sympathize with those single mothers whose husbands or lovers abandoned or mistreated them, and who soldiered on in the raising of their children without the father those children should have had. However, Drexler and Hertz go well beyond this, openly advocating single motherhood as a lifestyle choice.

Drexler portrays father-absent homes - particularly "single mother by choice" and lesbian homes - as being the best environments for raising boys. Hertz interviewed 65 single mothers and concluded that "intimacy between husbands and wives [is] obsolete as the critical familial bond." Whereas a family was once defined as two parents and their children, Hertz asserts that today the "core of family life is the mother and her children." Fathers aren't necessary - "only the availability of both sets of gametes [egg and sperm] is essential." In fact, Hertz explains, "What men offer today is obsolete."

Our children would beg to differ. Studies of children of divorce confirm their powerful desire to retain strong connections to their fathers. For example, an Arizona State University study of college-age children of divorce found that the overwhelming majority believed that after a divorce "living equal amounts of time with each parent is the best arrangement for children."

Objective measures of child well-being belie Hertz's and Drexler's rose-colored image of fatherless families. The rates of the four major youth pathologies - teen pregnancy, teen drug abuse, school dropouts and juvenile crime - are tightly correlated with fatherlessness, often more so than with any other socioeconomic factor.

Hertz and Drexler reached their conclusions by studying families who had volunteered to have their lives intimately examined over a multi-year period - a self-selected sample hardly representative of the average fatherless family. Moreover, Hertz's and Drexler's research is largely subjective - they personally conducted interviews of single mothers to examine their family lives and - no surprise - found them to their liking.

To Hertz's credit, she does concede that the "wish among heterosexual women for a dad for their children remains strong." Perhaps the single mothers she interviewed understand the value of male parenting? Or maybe as these women's children grow the mothers see the positive impact male influence could have in their lives? Not according to Hertz. She explains, "It is not that they believe men provide a critical difference in perspective that women cannot supply." Instead, Hertz asserts that the single mothers she studied included some men in their children's lives as a way to "connect their children to male privilege." In fact, those who include men in their daughters' lives do so because they want "their daughters to know male privilege when they encounter it and to be prepared to combat it."

Hertz and Drexler fail to understand how powerfully children hunger for their fathers. For example, famed athlete Bo Jackson devoted the first chapter of his autobiography, "Bo Knows Bo," not to his many achievements, but instead to the father he didn't have. Jackson's angry, unhappy childhood was defined by his father hunger. He explained that when he wanted something, "I could beat on other kids and steal . [but] I couldn't steal a father. I couldn't steal a father's hug when I needed one." Jackson saw his older brother go to a penal institution, feared he would end up there as well, and longed for the discipline and strong hand a father provides.

In "Whatever Happened to Daddy's Little Girl?" award-winning journalist Jonetta Rose Barras describes her fatherless childhood as "one long, empty night." After her parents broke up, she explains: "I missed him desperately. . he made me feel loved; he made me feel wanted. . Sometimes I sat on a bench or on the curb, like a lost, homeless child. I waited for [dad] to drive through, recognize me and take me with him. On the bus, I searched each man's features; I did not want mistakenly to pass him."

Hertz and Drexler also greatly underestimate the immense benefits reaped by the children who do have fathers in their lives. MSNBC anchor Tim Russert wrote the book "Big Russ and Me" about his father in 2004, and says he soon received an "avalanche" of letters from men and women who wanted to tell him about their own dads. Russert's current best seller, "Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons," was drawn from those 60,000 letters. The letter writers remembered their fathers as strong, devoted, honorable - and central to their lives. What particularly struck Russert was the overwhelming outpouring of love from women towards their fathers.

These sentiments wouldn't surprise Nobel-Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison. When asked how she became a great writer - what books she had read and what methods she had used - she replied: "That is not why I am a great writer. I am a great writer because when I was a little girl and walked into the room where my father was sitting, his eyes would light up. That is why I am a great writer."

Men are often stereotyped as fearing commitment, and it is they who are usually blamed for the divorce revolution. However, it is mothers, not fathers, who initiate most divorces involving children. In some cases, these mothers have ample justification. In others, however, they simply don't want to make the compromises and do the hard work required in any relationship, and can't or won't recognize that their children need their fathers. In fact, according to research conducted by Joan Berlin Kelly, author of "Surviving the Break-up," 50 percent of divorced mothers claim to "see no value in the father's continued contact with his children after a divorce."

These attitudes are very destructive. At the core of Hertz's and Drexler's work is a "you go girl" belief that mothers can do it alone and always know best. Unfortunately, many women are choosing the lifestyle Hertz and Drexler extol - and it's our children who are suffering for it.



No wonder they do so much harm

Free speech advocates are warning the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services against supporting political litmus tests in social work schools. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said Wednesday that HHS currently requires its social workers to have degrees from programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, whose standards require evaluating students on the basis of their beliefs.

The foundation urged HHS to end its relationship with CSWE unless CSWE drops these vague and politically loaded standards, a request echoed in similar letters sent today by the National Association of Scholars and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. 'By requiring that its social workers come from CSWE-accredited schools, HHS is tacitly approving viewpoint discrimination,' FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. 'HHS should take steps to ensure that CSWE eliminates the ideological requirements it currently places on universities and students.'

CSWE maintains a set of official standards on the basis of which it decides whether or not to accredit a social work program. The standards require that CSWE-accredited programs 'integrate social and economic justice content grounded in an understanding of distributive justice, human and civil rights, and the global interconnections of oppression.' They also require that graduates of CSWE-accredited programs 'demonstrate the ability to...understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and apply strategies of advocacy and social change that advance social and economic justice.'

'`Social justice` and `economic justice` are vague and politically loaded terms that mean different things to different people, yet CSWE`s standards force schools to evaluate prospective social workers based on their commitment to these ideals,' Lukianoff said. 'It`s an invitation for schools to discriminate against students with dissenting views, as FIRE has seen happen many times before.'

Requirements of ideological conformity have led to specific incidents of viewpoint discrimination against students at institutions across the country. Washington State University (WSU) threatened an education master`s student with dismissal for expressing his opinion that white privilege and male privilege do not exist. That sentiment supposedly violated the school`s requirement that students should 'exhibit an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation and privilege in American society.' Rhode Island College`s School of Social Work required a conservative master`s student to lobby the government for 'progressive' social changes if he wanted to continue pursuing a degree in social work policy. At Le Moyne College, a student was dismissed from the graduate education program for writing a paper expressing his personal beliefs about the propriety of corporal punishment.

'HHS should decisively reject the use of political litmus tests for its social workers. People can hold a wide variety of views and still make excellent social workers,' a foundation spokeswoman said.


28 October, 2006


A film review below:

Kate Winslet's powerful performance is already attracting frenzied Oscar speculation, but it is not the only striking aspect of Little Children. The film, which showed at The Times BFI 50th London Film Festival yesterday, is the first mainstream Hollywood movie to depict a community's victimisation of a convicted child sex offender.

Winslet, 31, said yesterday that it was "a really difficult subject" which she thought hard about before making the film. Little Children's plot centres on a passionate affair between a frustrated mother, played by Winslet, and a married man. But much of its atmosphere stems from the way that their Boston suburb responds to Ronnie, the "pervert" in their midst. It shows how parental protectiveness can escalate from dinner party gossip into vigilanteism. "This man is extremely sad," Winslet said. "Of course it's a sinister subject matter but in a way Ronnie is almost anything but sinister. As an audience you feel incredible pity for him."

The director, Todd Field, said that the character was meant to be "a living and breathing expression of the fear and anxiety and paranoia" that can corrode modern communities.

Field, whose last film, In the Bedroom, won the Satyajit Ray Award for a first feature at the festival in 2001, added that the nature of Ronnie's crime was left out of the film, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions about him. "You can condemn him or you can pardon him. He's not a villain and he's not a saint," he said. "The important thing was that, in a fable-like way, he would be a troll under the bridge. What then if the troll under the bridge had a mother? What if he could experience pain? But he is also a troll, so watch out."

Everybody involved with the film emphasises that Little Children is not "a movie about a paedophile". But its arrival marks the latest stage in the gradual erosion of the taboos surrounding the subject. This year Hard Candy detailed a 14-year-old girl's revenge on a predatory middle-aged man. Two prominent actors, Kevin Bacon and Brian Cox, have recently played paedophiles in low-profile films (The Woodsman and L.I.E. respectively), while Clint Eastwood's Mystic River in 2003 touched on the issue. Campaigners who work with child sex offenders believe that films can help to quench the hysteria around the subject and increase the possibility of rehabilitating them in society.

Helen Drewery, the manager of Circles of Support and Accountability, a government-backed volunteer organisation that works with sex offenders after their release from prison, said: "I think that there's a reluctance to see both sides of the story with child sex offenders. It is treated like witchcraft in the seventeenth century."


More Favoritism for Muslims in Britain

Police in Manchester have been told not to arrest Muslims wanted on warrants at prayer times during Ramadan. Greater Manchester Police confirmed it had asked detectives not to make planned arrests during those periods for reasons of religious sensitivity. The advice was emailed out to officers working in Moss Side, Hulme, Whalley Range, Rusholme, Fallowfield, Ardwick, Longsight, Gorton and Levenshulme. Police said it was not a blanket ban, just a "request for sensitivity". The email stressed the order did not apply to on-the-spot arrests, only the execution of arrest warrants.

The holy month of Ramadan began on 22 September and is due to end with the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr next week. The internal email was sent to staff listing the prayer times, but confusion arose and a second memo was sent clarifying it was not a total ban on arresting Muslims at these times. A GMP statement said: "The primary objective of Greater Manchester Police is to fight crime and protect people. "The month of Ramadan is an important time of the year for members of the Muslim community throughout the world. "It is important that normal, planned policing activities and operations are maintained, while ensuring that officers are professional and respectful to members of the community while going about their duties."

Liberal Democrat councillor Simon Ashley, who represents the city's Gorton South ward and leads the party on Manchester City Council, said: "This sounds odd but we would need to find out what impact rescheduling arrests had on police operations. "The police's first job is to police. "I understand they have a difficult task to do and need to do it sensitively, especially within minority communities, but that can't stop them policing serious crimes."


No arrests of Christians over Easter or Christmas/New Year too? That seems to have been overlooked

27 October, 2006


Not long ago, when a study from the left-leaning Applied Research Center charged a "deep pattern of institutional racism" in the disciplinary practices of public school districts around the country, it brought back some memories.

More than 25 years ago, when I was dean of boys at a high school in northern Queens, we received a letter from a federal agency pointing out that we had suspended black students far out of proportion to their numbers in our student population. Though it carried no explicit or even implicit threats, the letter was enough to set the alarm bells ringing in all the first-floor administrative offices.

When my supervisor, the assistant principal, showed me the letter, she merely shook her head and looked downcast. She said nothing, but her body language told me that it was probably time to mend our errant ways. And when I passed the news on to our chief security guard that the feds were on our case, he merely chuckled and said, "They're bad"--meaning our rowdy clientele, which I took as confirmation of what I still believe: that until then, I hadn't recommended suspension for anyone who didn't richly deserve it.

There never was a smoking-gun memo, or a special meeting where the word got out, and I never made a conscious decision to change my approach to punishment, but somehow we knew we had to get our numbers "right"--that is, we needed to suspend fewer minorities or haul more white folks into the dean's office for our ultimate punishment.

What this meant in practice was an unarticulated modification of our disciplinary standards. For example, obscenities directed at a teacher would mean, in cases involving minority students, a rebuke from the dean and a notation on the record or a letter home rather than a suspension. For cases in which white students had committed infractions, it meant zero tolerance. Unofficially, we began to enforce dual systems of justice. Inevitably, where the numbers ruled, some kids would wind up punished more severely than others for the same offense.

I remember one case in particular. It was near the end of the day, and the early-session kids were heading toward the exits. I stood in front of my office looking deanlike, establishing the presence of authority to ensure orderly dismissal. It didn't entirely work. The boy was a white kid, tall, with an unruly mop of blond hair. He was within 200 feet of the nearest exit and blessed freedom. But he couldn't wait. The nicotine fit was on him, and he lit a cigarette barely two yards from me. I pounced, and within 20 minutes he was suspended--for endangering himself and others.

Surely we acted within the boundaries of our authority, and, as it emerged during the suspension hearing in the principal's office, the boy was having academic problems that his father was only dimly aware of. So the whole incident might have accomplished something positive in the end.

But, of course, we might have achieved the same result and arranged a parent conference without resorting to suspension. The kid wasn't a chronic troublemaker--indeed, until now he'd been a complete stranger to the dean's office. It was a first offense. And keeping him out of school for a whole week, the maximum that state law allows, was obviously not going to help him with his grades.

During the principal's hearing, as I sat across the table from the boy and his father, I recalled a classic essay that I had often taught my senior English classes. It was by George Orwell, and it recalled an unpleasant incident during his service as a policeman in Burma. Knowing that he was doing wrong, Orwell shot an elephant to save face before a mocking crowd of natives. No one suggested that we had acted incorrectly. Kids in our charge had to learn right from wrong, we told ourselves. But, more than two decades later, I still can't escape the nagging thought that, though we had other choices, better suited for the boy's welfare, at bottom all of us just wanted to get our numbers right.


Correctness trumps honesty in relationships

How many times have you heard a woman utter the words, "I wish guys would just be honest?" or, "Why can't men say what's on their minds?" or, my personal favourite, "I'm so sick of guys playing games". You want to know why we do this stuff? It's very simple: we're like trained seals. Men do things that, over time, we've learned result in a reward. For example: beer = drunk = fun or gym = muscles = attraction from opposite sex = tooling = fun and sport = inflicting pain on others = fun. On the other hand, there's this equation: be honest with women = information used against you at a later date = never-ending misery.

Last week a New Zealand law clerk named Craig Dale learned this the hard way. "Chippa", as he's known to his mates, sent an email to a chick called Azadeh Bashari at a rival law firm laying his cards on the table. The couple had been on one unsuccessful date, so he thought he'd cut through the crap and put an ungilded offer of sex out there. You can read his email here, if you like. And you know why you're able to read it? Because Ms Bashari forwarded it to her friends, who forwarded it to their friends and now Chippa is being laughed at as a loser across the world, just for being honest ...

A journalist, Miles Erwin, who broke the story in The New Zealand Herald, put it this way: "When law clerk Craig Dale sent an email to a female lawyer suggesting a no-strings-attached fling, he probably imagined his cheeky proposal would, at worst, end up in the bin. "But yesterday he awoke to a nightmare after discovering his proposal had travelled like wildfire through New Zealand's legal profession under the heading 'Loser Alert!'."

Having read the email, I'll admit Chippa isn't the most gifted writer but he doesn't come across as a drooling moron nor as a loser. "In terms of a relationship I was never looking for anything long-term, more like 'friends with benefits'," he says in the email dated October 17. "I was being the ultimate nice guy because I thought it was what you wanted to hear, aka coffee, lunches, David Hasselhoff long walks along the beach. "I thought you were hot and was sure you'd be a rocket in the sack. At the end of the day we are both really busy and don't have time for anything else but a bit of good-hearted action."

Pretty honest, right? No game playing there. Chippa's told Ms Bashari exactly what's on his mind. Even cracked a David Hasselhoff joke. So what did Ms Bashari do? Forwarded it to a group of friends and had a bit of a chuckle at Chippa's expense. "I'm setting up a loser alert for all my single friends to avoid dating disasters with idiots like the one below," she said. Ms Bashari then urged any of her buddies who encountered "this little charmer" to "run run run" with her email rapidly doing the rounds of some of New Zealand's major firms including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Chapman Tripp and KPMG, according to the Herald. The story was subsequently picked up by Asian new services and London's Evening Standard, all laughing at a bloke for being honest. And you wonder why all men are liars.



Freedom of speech is not a celebrated cause in the West today. While all right-thinking people are concerned about state censorship in China, or the imprisoning of poets by authoritarian regimes across the world, it seems self-indulgent or even hysterical to complain about `censorship' in the liberal West. Consequently, the demand for free speech is often seen as pedantic, eccentric even, the preserve of right-wing social inadequates who like to go on about `political correctness gone mad' or occasionally left-wing social inadequates who like to announce that democracy is being overthrown by neocon conspirators.

It is true that there are relatively few legal restraints on free speech in the West. However, with new and proposed restrictions associated with the `war on terror', formal and informal injunctions against `offensive' speech, and the continuing travesty that is libel law, especially in the UK, there is little reason for complacency. Nonetheless, freedom of speech is not an issue discussed with any urgency; all too readily it is trumped by other priorities. Indeed, more striking than any of the formal restrictions on free speech is the cultural climate, in which none of these restrictions provokes more than a half-hearted whimper of dissent. Free speech is simply not held to be especially important when weighed against security or the protection of minorities from abuse, for example. For the most part, then, it is enjoyed but not valued. It is not understood as a hard-won freedom at all, but taken for granted from day to day. Bizarrely, most of us, most of the time, have free speech in reality, but not in principle, in practice but not in theory.

The justification for this diminishment of free speech is far from clear, however. While detractors often present free speech as an `airy fairy', abstract ideal that must be compromised in the face of more complicated realities, in truth it is more often the critique of free speech that is hopelessly abstract. There are no really good arguments against free speech in principle, because to argue against free speech is to argue against reason itself, to put something beyond debate. Instead, censorship is justified with reference to hypothetical and often irrational suppositions about how people might respond to things, and a general anxiety about unrestrained expression.

The weakness of the case against free speech means debates too often go from outlandish examples proving that `there is no such thing as absolute free speech' to arguments for restricting speech at the drop of a hat. In this context, those of us who want to challenge particular instances of censorship - whether it is the suppression of dissent in authoritarian regimes overseas, or the UK law against `incitement to religious hatred' - must decide whether it is worth holding to a general principle of free speech such as that argued for by JS Mill, in his seminal On Liberty, or whether it is better to argue on a case-by-case basis. Should we accept that there are indeed limits to free speech, and make the debate about where they should be placed? If not, what is the case for free speech as a principle, and how does it differ today, if at all, from that made by Mill in 1859? .......

Free speech and other values

The most common case made for censorship today is not that unregulated speech might incite violence or disorder - though this remains the ostensible rationale behind much recent British legislation limiting freedom of speech - but that it is likely to cause offence. While the moral weight behind the government's bid to outlaw incitement to religious hatred, for example, comes from the idea that `religious hate speech' might provoke violence against Muslims, there is little, if any, evidence for this - in substance the law is about protecting the feelings of those who are upset by perceived insults to their religion.

The notorious Danish Mohammed cartoons published across Europe earlier this year did not incite anti-Muslim mobs, but only outrage among Muslims themselves, just as some Sikhs in Birmingham were offended by the play Behtzi in December 2004. Following that case, Christian protests against the BBC's decision to broadcast Jerry Springer: the Opera followed the same template, emphasising personal offence at the show's depiction of Jesus, rather than the old-fashioned, quasi-political offence of blasphemy against the established religion. In all of these cases, it was suggested that, freedom of speech not being absolute, a line should be drawn at offending religious sensibilities.

It is generally taken for granted that `the line has to be drawn somewhere'. In his polemic against free speech, Stanley Fish presents this commonsense assumption in more theoretical terms, arguing that it is `originary exclusion' that gives meaning to free speech. That is, free speech is defined in the first place by the exceptions to the rule. Fish cites the poet John Milton, who believed in free speech for everyone except Roman Catholics, and by implication other superstitious and impious types who would threaten the seventeenth century English Protestant `faith and manners' on whose behalf he did champion free speech. Fish's argument is not that Milton didn't really believe in free speech, because he excluded Catholics, but that it would have rendered his particular case for free speech meaningless if he had extended it to Catholics, because what he really meant was free speech for people like him.

But it is disingenuous to ignore the substance of Milton's argument for free speech on the grounds that, having discovered its true motive, and seen that Milton himself prized that motive more than free speech itself, we can now dismiss it as merely contingent, a rhetorical tactic. Milton's fear of `Popery' wasn't just a personal peccadillo, after all. Nor was it born of some irrational religious prejudice. At that time in much of Europe, free speech was almost synonymous with the right to criticise the all-powerful Catholic church, which brutally suppressed dissent (in Milton's words, `it extirpates all religious and civil supremacies'). Thus, for Milton, censoring Catholics in Protestant Britain was not about oppressing a minority, but upholding the liberty of all. If, for Milton, liberty was a means to a religious end, the lesson of history is that ultimately it was religious passion that served liberty. (Just as the long religious wars that followed the Reformation finally gave birth to the notion of religious toleration and a battle of ideas rather than arms.)

The lesson of Milton's case is that freedom of speech sooner or later comes into conflict with other principles, often those that inspire us to talk about freedom in the first place. One response to this is to abandon free speech in favour of other priorities. Another is to recognise it as a special kind of freedom, one that must be tolerated even when it does come into conflict with more passionately held principles. This has to do with the nature of speech itself, as something that is subject to rational argument as discussed above. Free speech is the means by which all other principles, convictions and values can be rationally debated. As such, it takes on special status as an end in itself, to be honoured even when it is used in the service of particular ideas we oppose.

Accordingly, hostility to free speech reflects a disavowal of reasoned argument, a belief that certain principles or values must be protected from opposing ideas. For example, when Frank Ellis, a lecturer at Leeds University made racist comments to a student paper earlier this year, it was widely argued that this posed a threat to the university's core values. The university secretary prepared the way for disciplinary action by explaining: `The University of Leeds is a diverse and multicultural community whose staff and students are proud to support our values, which include mutual respect, diversity and equal opportunity, and collegiality.'

Ellis was then suspended and eventually took early retirement. This was generally seen as a good result. As one student said to the Observer: `Knowing that he's a lecturer and that he holds views that black people are inferior and that women can't achieve the same as men, it's disgusting and certainly not conducive to an academic environment.' Of course it could be argued an academic environment implies academic freedom, the right, responsibility even, to speak one's mind and challenge conventional wisdom: hence free speech. Nonetheless, one can see what the student meant. For the most part there is an agreeable sense of shared values and common purpose in universities, within which students and lecturers alike find encouragement and support. While there are always intellectual disagreements and even rivalries, members of a university generally show mutual respect.

This liberal conviviality is undoubtedly threatened by unbridled free speech. Not only boringly racist views like those of Ellis, but, more importantly, original ideas of any kind, when passionately held and rigorously argued, can upset the delicate balance of a university community, making students and faculty alike uncomfortable. Whether or not one agrees with this model of the university, then, is it not reasonable that a university constituted on these grounds should limit speech in order to preserve that multicultural conviviality?

In fact, to the extent that any university limits freedom of speech, it diminishes its credibility as a university. Some institutions, such as religious ones, do have core values that are beyond rational debate. Such institutions routinely suppress freedom of speech in order to preserve their authority. Similarly, authoritarian political regimes resort to censorship in order to protect their `values' from criticism. In institutions committed to reason, however, free speech is defined not by `exceptions to the rule' as Stanley Fish would have it, but as places where those exceptions-to-the-rule do not apply. If there were not a censorious culture outside universities (with or without overt censorship), the `academic' in `academic freedom' would be redundant.

No doubt it would be a good thing if nobody ever talked about free speech because nobody ever threatened it: the term would be meaningless. Unfortunately, free speech is given an abundance of meaning by repeated attempts to stifle it. In censoring the expression of unsavoury opinions, a university is not dispensing with an accidental feature in the interests of its real purposes as a university; it is relinquishing a defining characteristic of any institution committed to the pursuit of knowledge. Without the freedom to think offensive thoughts, and to express them openly, a university cannot function as a university. The `diverse and multicultural community' celebrated by the university secretary at Leeds becomes an empty shell, not distinguishing the university from any other institution.

Old-fashioned racism such as that professed by Ellis has long since been discredited intellectually, and had he tried to put forward his opinions in properly academic contexts, at departmental seminars or in scholarly journals, they would quickly have been dismissed, not as forbidden thoughts, but simply as intellectually untenable ones. More often than we acknowledge, the collective pursuit of truth works. This process is actually short-circuited by attempts to police what can and cannot be said in the university, whether or not it is said in an academic context.

It was the campaign against Ellis that drew wider attention to his racism, and in such a way that misrepresented the nature of intellectual authority. As one of Ellis' Leeds University colleagues argued, `Yes, he has the right of freedom of speech to hold such views, but I strongly believe our university is not the platform from which he should promote them.' Instead of a place where ideas are debated, argued over and ultimately accepted or dismissed, the university is presented as a `platform' that lends legitimacy to anyone lucky enough to find himself there. That Ellis' racist ideas convinced nobody in the university - that the free exchange of ideas works - is not considered important. The fact that racism is intellectually untenable is presented as something that has to be artificially imposed on university life, rather than something that can be demonstrated again and again in the course of reasoned debate.

Worse than hounding someone out of his job for his views, then, this approach means obscuring and undermining the purpose of the university itself. Stifling free speech in keeping with prevailing ideas brings the university into line with the rest of society, rather than serving the distinct purpose of the university. And paradoxically, censorship within the university is justified with the suggestion that free speech belongs somewhere else. Ellis can have `free speech' in the abstract, but not as long as he is associated with the university. In the one situation where free speech is upheld in principle, it is denied in reality.

The politics of free speech

Free speech is not only essential to the pursuit of knowledge. It is also essential to the practice of democracy. This is because the principle of free speech is a permanent challenge to the idea that some questions are beyond contention, and thus a permanent challenge to authority.

In the political sphere, free speech is a principle independent of what is being expressed. The caricature is that people only fall back on `free speech' when they can't win the argument; it is a rhetorical sleight, the last refuge of the bigot. No doubt it is true that those who invoke free speech often do so in defence of racist and other opinions that have long ago been discredited in open debate. One of the more bizarre characteristics of the free speech debate today is that it is often members of far-right organisations that have nothing but contempt for freedom, who pose as champions of free speech. But this says more about the intellectual cowardice of those who want to censor them than about the merits of free speech. True supporters of free speech uphold it even for those with whom they profoundly disagree. Free speech is not a mere rhetorical device, but a political principle in its own right.

Rather than saying, `you can't ban that - it's against free speech', where the magic word `free speech' is used to actually close down argument, one can make the case as JS Mill did that bans impoverish debate and demean our rationality. This is very different from having to argue the merits of each case in terms of the content of what is being expressed. It means that even while arguing vehemently against what is being expressed, we can nonetheless insist on people's right to express it. In fact, it is only through open debate that an argument can truly be won.

This is not to suggest that all objectionable opinions are susceptible to rational debate. Some things are not worth arguing against - Holocaust denial, loopy conspiracy theories etc - in most contexts, it is enough to acknowledge what is being said to dismiss it. Unfortunately this has become a stock response to far more serious arguments that demand a proper response, from the defence of fast food to the rejection (from either side) of a `two-state solution' for Israel-Palestine. Those who dissent against the respectable line on such issues are dismissed as cranks, and often have their motives questioned. The principle of free speech is a challenge to this unimaginative and conformist way of thinking as much as it is a challenge to old-fashioned authority. Genuinely free speech requires a climate in which people are allowed to think out loud, and not shouted down for saying the `wrong' thing.

In September of this year, the pre-eminent British science institution the Royal Society issued something akin to a Papal Bull against dissenting views on climate change, seeking to establish the current scientific consensus as beyond dispute. Nobody is being officially censored or locked up, but the intervention serves to reinforce informal limits on what it is acceptable to say in public or even in respectable company - crucially, not by dismissing errant ideas through rational argument, but simply by mobilising the weight of majority opinion. `You can't say that,' is the prevailing sentiment.

Anyone who does voice the wrong opinions is assumed to be up to no good, or simply nuts - in any case, not to be listened to. In cases like this, it is not that particular ideas are considered offensive as such, so much as that they mark people out as less respectable. Rather than bans or legal prohibition of certain ideas, a subtle or not-so-subtle taboo grows up around such issues, demarcating the decent majority (or would-be majority) from unsavoury dissenters. As JS Mill himself noted, the effect of such informal taboos can be even more restrictive in practice than official censorship.

These kinds of restrictions on free speech today are rarely justified in terms of upholding authority or maintaining the social order in some old-fashioned way, however. It is not the consequences of free speech that are feared so much as freedom itself - unfettered, unbridled, unrestrained activity, `irresponsible' opinions or arguments that jar with accepted orthodoxies. In this context, censoriousness is seen as a generally `civilising' influence rather than a check on specific dangers. Often, it is not so much particular ideas that are seen as a threat, as wild or unchecked attitudes and feelings in general.

This is true even of laws against `incitement', and even when national security is invoked. The much-debated British law against incitement to religious hatred, for example, is not a response to widespread attacks on Muslims or any other religious group. Rather, it expresses anxiety about embarrassing sentiments that might be held by some members of society, and a desire to impose a more respectable, well-mannered attitude to other people's religions. Similarly, attempts to silence Muslim clerics who support terrorism, as if terrorism were a virus spread through sermons, are based not on evidence that such clerics have inspired terror attacks, but on an almost existential panic about `the threat within'. Rather than being a credible strategy to prevent future attacks, the UK ban on `glorifying' terrorism is a desperate gesture. Willingness to sacrifice free speech is presented as a sign of hard-headed realism when in fact it is a pathetic substitute for an intellectual rebuttal of `radical Islamist' ideas. In both cases, censorship is more symbolic than instrumental, but no less pernicious for that.

In this context, to argue for free speech is to make the case for free-thinking, reasoned debate and genuine tolerance. It is also to put forward a particular understanding of how society functions and the role of individual and collective agency, which is very different from the fearful and conservative worldview that gives birth to censorship and taboos. Instead, it is a worldview that allows for the possibility that things could be very different, and that human beings could be the authors of our own destinies. Rather than seeing change as a threat and seeking to contain discord, we can talk openly about the future, exchange ideas and argue over them rather than trying to suppress those that make us uncomfortable. Freedom of speech is not merely a means to an end, then, or a rhetorical trick. It is an invitation to live a free life.

More here

26 October, 2006


But will they defend something healthy, like the Boy Scouts? No Way! Pedophiles are entitled to their views but the Scouts are not!

These are the facts: In October 1997, 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley was lured into a car in Cambridge by Charles Jaynes and Salvatore Sicari. He fought back for as long as 20 minutes before he was suffocated with a gas-soaked rag. His body was sexually molested before it was finally packed in a container and dumped into the Great Works River in Maine.

Sicari was later convicted of first-degree murder and Jaynes was convicted of second-degree murder and kidnapping. Both are in prison on life sentences, Sicari without chance of parole. Sicari and Jaynes were members of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), although Jaynes' membership check had apparently bounced.

Curley's family filed a federal wrongful death suit in 2000 against NAMBLA in Massachusetts, seeking $200 million on allegations that the organization had turned Jaynes from a timid and confused soul into an aggressive pervert. NAMBLA has since been dismissed from the case, but several of its members who were responsible for its Web site and published materials remain as ACLU clients.

Among the allegations is that Jaynes read material he obtained on NAMBLA's Web site or directly from the organization. Some of the material Jaynes read was horrible. In essence, it told readers how they could rape a child and get away with it.

The ACLU of Massachusetts is defending the case because it regards the publication of such materials, whether on a Web site or in hard copy, as a basic free-speech right regardless of how repulsive it might be. "This is a First Amendment case," said Sarah Wunsch, one of the ACLU attorneys handling the defense, in an interview Friday. "It's about NAMBLA putting out a magazine." "The organization did not commit these crimes," she said. "In this free society that we claim to be, it may mean representing people whose rights are being violated but who are not popular," she said. "This is one of those cases. People should not be ashamed of that or run away from it. It is what makes us a free society.".....

The lawyer for the Curley family, Larry Frisoli, is the Republican candidate for Massachusetts attorney general in the November elections, and his lawsuit is a key element of his campaign. "I have devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars of my time and money because I believe there should not be a national organization training its members to rape young children," he said in his acceptance speech in April at the Massachusetts Republican Party convention.

Conservative Web sites have also seized on the case. Type ACLU and NAMBLA into Google.com and it will return 96,400 hits, the first being a link to the "ACLU NAMBLA Rage Page." In a statement shortly after the Massachusetts chapter took on the case, the national ACLU in New York issued a statement defending the decision. "The lawsuit involved here, were it to succeed, would strike at the heart of freedom of speech," it says. "The case is based on a shocking murder. But the lawsuit says the crime is the responsibility not of those who committed the murder, but of someone who posted vile material on the Internet."

More here


When I was a kid, life was simpler on every level. If you did something stupid, you got hurt, and you learned not to do it again, or to try a better way. No one that I knew ever fell out of a tree or put their eye out. We had a basic survival instinct and some personal freedom, which I treasured.

I was not a free kid. I went to Catholic school, church and I washed mountains of dishes, and I mean washed them and dried them by hand. There was no such thing in our neighborhood as an automatic dishwasher. (Well, the youngest kid was automatically the dishwasher.) Barring property damage, and within certain parameters, my playtime was largely unregulated.

My Dad worked hard, but he didn't really sweat small stuff. He couldn't have cared less about the Joneses' cars or furniture. Mostly he didn't want to be bothered with "kid stuff" either, but his indifference, to me, meant freedom, and freedom is freedom. There's nothing else like it. I loved everything about it. It made me feel alive. It still does.

There's a deep down excitement mixed with bliss that only comes from going after what revs your engine (forgive me, I grew up in the shadow of the motor city). Excitement must be a little fear and some uncertainty; the challenge of not knowing for sure if you can actually do what it is you'd like to try doing, but being free to try and free to fail. Life was an internal experience, based on your knowledge and skill so far. We were learning all the time, at least when we weren't in school.

We took some calculated risks and sometimes we got hurt. When you did, you'd go home and into the bathroom to try to stop the bleeding yourself. You'd clean up your wound as well as you could with Kleenex, water and Band-aids. We didn't die. Any crying out would attract the unwanted attention of your Mother and possibly the sound of the dreaded words, "it's time to stay in anyway." If you made a big fuss about being injured, your Mom would put iodine or mercurochrome, or some other horror on your open wound and you'd be sorry and stained for days. In summer we played outdoors all day long. We made damn sure we didn't hurt ourselves bad enough for Mom to have to call Dad at work to take you to the emergency room or you were really in trouble then, and that was due to Dad's wrath, not your discomfort level. No police or emergency room personnel questioned your parents about abuse, ever.

There were no parents dragging children to structured activities run by adults. My Mother, like most, didn't even have a car. Luckily for us, adults didn't want to be bothered with children's games. Mom was busy hanging laundry outdoors. Dad mowed the lawn and painted the garage. Luckily, girls were excused from lawn mowing - you might put your eye out by a flying stone, mysteriously boomeranging back at you from underneath the power mower. It was understood that a man with an eye out could still get a woman, but a girl with an eye out, no way. She'd be a burden to her parents for life.

We didn't sit around doing nothing. We played kickball in the street. If an adult had tried to interfere to make it "fair," they would have destroyed the order emerging from chaos. It started with an idea. We picked teams ourselves, which were just about perfectly matched, making for close games, even though we all played to win.

It wasn't any sense of generosity that made the teams well matched. The two best players were captains. Not because they were superior beings, but because no one wanted them on the same team. (The word for that would have been "slaughter," which wasn't fun, and didn't happen too often.) Each side got one pick at a time, and you picked the best you could. The youngest and/or worst players got picked last, which was only an honest estimation of your value as a player in that particular sport, not a personal insult about your worth as a human being. If someone got hurt or called home in the middle of a game, perfectly suited adjustments were instantly concocted and agreed upon by all to continue the game, because it was fun. Sure, everyone would have liked an "edge," but if you got one this time, it'd go against you the next time, and that wouldn't be fun.

We knew The Rules like breathing in and out and enforced them ruthlessly. Sometimes the rules were adjusted, depending on who was available to play on any given day. Otherwise, one half of an inning could go on for longer than we had time left to play before dark. When we needed to fine-tune The Rules, the changes were articulated by older kids, but agreed to by everyone because we all knew what was fair. Our assent was not voiced, but displayed by resumption of the game. There was no use wasting precious game time on pompous formalities.

Everyone was a referee. If someone had consistently played dirty, they would have been ousted, but no one ever did. Being part of the magic of having fun and being free to try your best within agreed upon parameters was too important. We regulated ourselves based upon a mutual benefit. "The Virtue of Selfishness," as Ayn Rand put it.

Playing it safe

Life was not ideal when I was a kid. It was limited and painful in a lot of ways. It had its vice, but it had its virtue. Even though it was by default, I had unstructured time and opportunity for reflection and self-direction.

Today there are no kids playing kickball in the street. Kickball is as outdated now as the game of "kick the can" that my parent's generation played. This is only natural; times change. But the passing of pick-up games, though unnoticed, is lamentable. They've been wiped out by a silent killer, progress, and no one at the CDC is looking for a cure.....

Children are now rushed from one activity to the next, with nothing other than a vague emptiness signifying that something is missing. So often there's just an unexamined sadness in their eyes. After spending all day in government day prisons (school), they down nutritionally void, happy, dollar meals in the SUV on the way to organized activities. They may never know the thrill of working freely with others toward a common goal, it's not in their job description. They lose trust in their own dreams and organizing ability and find the thrill of creating something exciting out of nothing an odd, suspicious stranger. They learn to wait for someone else to spoon feed them ideas, to make things fair for everyone, to make Johnny play nice. No wonder so many teens are promiscuous, depressed and violent.

Eichmanns Here, Eichmanns There

When I was a kid, you didn't need a $10 pass to walk your licensed dog in the park like we do today--the one which must be noticeably displayed within two feet of said dog, on a leash no longer than six feet. In case you should try to use the dog ID to walk your other, unregulated dog that you didn't pay the $10 for, said pass bears a particular dog's description, because everyone knows you'd walk your dogs separately to save the $10 a year. And that's ten extra dollars, above and beyond the licensing fee, which is dependent upon proof of a rabies vaccination, and ten dollars more beyond that for non-neutered dogs. For your convenience, the city sends a fellow around to snoop in back yards near you to make sure all dogs are pre-approved.

Even with your licensed, vaccinated, neutered and park-passed pet, you'd better be out of the park before dusk. The government is protecting us all from those dangerous ducks in the pond that are apparently transformed into man-eaters (or dog-eaters) after dark. (If you're willing to take it up the tailpipe like this, maybe you really shouldn't be out after dark.) This isn't Central Park in Manhattan , it's a small town of under 12,000 in Michigan .

Yes, our small town has its very own police force. We even have our own bicycle patrol officer to prosecute pet rule violators who flagrantly walk dogs without passes. It seems there is no limit to how well our masters care for us.

Where I grew up, our tiny suburb had its own police force too. However, the cops never stopped us for walking down the street like they stop my kids now. We live in an affluent neighborhood well outside Detroit that has almost no crime, or didn't until this past year when the local economy went kaput. It's still what I would consider a very low crime area.

At 14, my son, who weighed probably 99 pounds at the time, went through a gothic phase-long black hair, big black pants. He had a mild case of it--no piercings or tattoos, but still apparently a very grave threat to a fearful society. It got him stopped regularly for simply walking down a neighborhood street in broad daylight. This is a town where you don't want to be caught driving while black, either, or you'll get pulled over for possessing a car which "resembles one reported stolen." I'm not making this up. It could be called, "Stepford."

One time our son made the grave mistake of trying to leave the library at 9 p.m. The librarian, a good little Eichmann, said she couldn't just let him leave, because minors aren't allowed out on the street alone at that time of night. She'd call the local cops, who would give him a free ride to the police station, where he could call his parents to come and pick him up. She called them, unlocked the door to wait out there with him and as soon as she did, he waved at her, said "see ya," and disappeared into the night. He never made the mistake of staying at the library after 8:50 again. See, children are learning all the time!

Why not just completely emasculate our sons? Why not just castrate them all at birth? We could eliminate crimes like jaywalking and rape in our lifetime before they even get started! It would save all those years of effort by low I.Q. schoolteachers to turn little boys into little girls, as Fred Reed says. Yes, little girls, all nice and conforming-like. Our sons can get a head start on becoming metrosexual. Nice is a four-letter word, isn't it? One relied upon by polite society, so that the powers that be can keep sticking it to average taxpayers to keep them towing the line and coughing up the tax revenues. In another culture it might be referred to as "bow, bitches!" which isn't at all "nice," but is at least straightforward.

My husband is one of the least confrontational people I know, but a number of times he, after hearing that our son had been patted down and questioned for walking around in the middle of the day, more than once headed for the door to do something about it. With his hand on the doorknob, he declared his intention of going down to the police station to give them a piece of his mind. After all, we'd lived here and paid high property taxes for years. These moments always ended with our son's pleas that any confrontation would make him more of a target in the future, which was only too true. Those were the only magic words that could stop my husband in his tracks. Now we just want out of the city life.

Nowadays there's a bureaucracy for everything; unimaginable a generation ago. Property taxes keep escalating to cover the benefits and pensions of all those additional paper pushers and police. Luxuries we, like many Americans, can never hope to achieve for ourselves, what with all those taxes breathing down our necks, even though the bureaucracies are all here "for our benefit!"

We can't afford any more help

Orange alert has come to small town America , and - surprise - it doesn't have brown skin. It's not the African Americans driving down from Pontiac , it's not the Mexicans coming up across the Rio Grande , it isn't the Muslims fighting back at U.S. invaders. It is our own image staring back at us in the mirror. They have found the underbelly of our vulnerability, fear of the unknown. Our ability to deal with the unknown has been educated, regulated and organized right out of us. Now we're "nice," but we're also afraid, and fearful people do stupid things, like kowtow to bullies.

The ravenous predator that is government preys upon our collective fear. They point fingers at danger, make more laws for us in the name of eliminating those dangers, putting us in jeopardy. They take our guns to keep us safe, putting us in even graver danger. They ratchet up our fears and play off of them like professional criminals. They use it to grab more money and power for themselves, even though they are truly impotent, ignorant and evil, torture-loving, feral scoundrels.

Governments raise our collective paranoia to dizzying heights by broadening danger, eliminating hope that we will ever be free of it, guaranteeing the continuation of their reign of terror. If we wait for government to somehow make us safe and free, then no, that day will never come. The Founding Fathers knew this 200 years ago and so placed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in harm's way. We must do the same, as security is an illusion and freedom is completely up to us. There's nothing else like it.


25 October, 2006

The veiled conceit of multiculturalism

A misinformed tolerance finally hits its limits in Britain

How tolerant must a free society be of those who are intolerant of the values it holds dear? This question is at the heart of a controversy that has flared up in Britain over the past fortnight concerning Muslim women who wear nikabs, burkas and other face coverings that allow little more than the eyes to be seen. Two weeks ago, former British foreign minister Jack Straw, writing in his local newspaper, criticised Muslim women who covered their faces, saying the practice maked "better, positive relations" between communities "more difficult". He added that the veil was a "visible statement of separation and of difference". And although his remarks were sensationalised, in pointing out that the multicultural emperor is wearing not too few clothes but too many Mr Straw largely won applause. Senior Labour politicians rushed to echo his concerns. Newspapers cheered the opening of debate and Tony Blair himself offered his support, calling the veil a "mark of separation". Not long afterwards, a Muslim teaching assistant in a British school was suspended for wearing a veil that allowed only her eyes to be seen, on the grounds that hiding her face hurt her communication with students. In this case as well, reaction to the school's decision has been largely positive. Many Britons are concerned that multicultural policies that have discouraged assimilation have divided their society and created what one commentator called a "voluntary apartheid". In the age of terrorism, this is a worrisome trend, especially considering that a recent survey of British Muslims suggested 100,000 of them felt the 7/7 attacks were justified and that one in five felt little or no loyalty to Britain.

The debate over the veil is not confined to Britain. It is an important one for any Western country with a sizeable community of Islamic immigrants, including Australia - though we have, happily, been far more successful at integrating Muslim newcomers than many other Western European nations and the veil is not the feature of public life here that it is there. But when women wear headcoverings that hide the face, they are committing a powerful act that has political as well as religious overtones and which sends a message that many people find threatening.

Many justifications have been offered for the veil. Speaking recently in Sydney, Munira Mirza, a young British Muslim woman, told The Australian that schoolgirls were wearing head coverings as a statement about Western oppression. On the other side of the spectrum, the veil can be worn as a mark of superiority that makes women who dress less modestly by the standards of the veil-wearer seem less moral, or as a way for men to control their wives and other women in their families. At its most dangerous, this thinking can be seen in the Sydney gang-rapes crisis, when Muslim youths felt their victims deserved their fates because of the way they dressed and behaved. It can even be used as a justification for terrorism. The philosophical basis for groups such as al-Qa'ida largely hinges on the idea that non-Muslims must convert or die to hasten the advent of an entire world under Islam, and veils are one way of indicating who is in the elect. Finally, some Muslim women claim that the veil is a liberating force, or that it is an inherent part of their cultural identity. But no matter the justification, the question remains whether a practice with its roots and justification in medieval Arabia has a place in a postmodern secular society such as Australia. Religious beliefs are by definition sacred, and as much as possible they should be a private matter. But when an individual or a community feels that their personal practices should trump widely held values while also setting themselves apart, the question arises as to whether those people would not be more comfortable in a place where such behaviour is the norm.

At its heart is the question of where tolerance should end and the old adage, "When in Rome, do as the Romans", should kick in. While tolerance is certainly a positive virtue that should be strived for, it cannot be a cultural suicide pact. A culture that is tolerant of those who are intolerant of its freedoms is ripe for destruction, and bit by bit will see all it values eroded. And radical Islam knows this. Just as an Australian wouldn't go to Saudi Arabia to wear a bikini on the beach and drink beer in the corner pub, those who see the proper role of women as subservient, anonymous and under cover should not expect a postmodern secular democracy such as Britain or Australia to accommodate these beliefs. Australians, who quite properly want their daughters, sisters, wives and mothers to be able to achieve anything, are right to feel uncomfortable about religiously mandated coverings and the limits they imply. We do not allow practices such as female genital mutilation simply because they are practiced by an immigrant "other". Disappointingly, those who have traditionally been a positive force for the liberation of women against oppression in other spheres have here largely been silent on the question of Islam's beliefs concerning half of humanity.

If it is true that the past is another country, then what confronts the West today is not so much a clash of civilisations as a clash of centuries. The jumbo jets that have enabled the mass immigration from Muslim countries to the West are, in effect, time machines that have brought millions of people from a pre-Enlightenment world - where men are the unquestioned bosses, stoning and forced amputation are punishments rather than crimes, and sectarian differences are worth dying over - to secular, liberal and postmodern democracies such as ours. Integration in such circumstances will be difficult but should not be shied away from, even if it means newcomers will have to adapt. Mainstream British politicians have done a great service by opening a debate on this subject. Government-supported ethnic essentialism ultimately leads to segregation - anathema to an immigrant nation such as ours whose success lies in the adoption of common values rather than the preservation of divisive behaviours. In the debate over values, far better that we appeal to our shared humanity rather than encourage behaviours that seek to demonstrate separateness and superiority


Attack on conservative Australian broadcaster is blatant homophobia

You can imagine the howls of outrage if a conservative columnist "outed" a prominent leftist media identity!

To speculate on lies, to peddle gossip, purely because the figure in question is a homosexual and an effective conservative one, is simple rubbish writing and muckraking, writes John Heard. Alan Jones is a homosexual. Michael Kirby is a homosexual. Sadly, both men have been targeted for vilification purely because they are attracted to their sex. In Kirby's case, it was the Left who accused the Right of homophobia following baseless allegations by Liberal senator Bill Heffernan in 2002. In Jones's case, which has come to light in a new book by the ABC's Chris Masters, the Right must accuse the Left. I know Kirby on a personal level but I've never had anything to do with Jones. It makes no difference. This situation is outrageous enough to warrant a disinterested critique.

Jones has been targeted because of a heresy dear to many on what remains of the Left. Homosexuals should not be conservatives and, if they are, they must be repressed, in denial or self-hating hypocrites. This creed, because those who profess it seem to consider it a fundamental truth, pervades public discussion of politics, religion, social justice and sport. Gay Catholics, for instance, who dare to think their Pope may know more about human flourishing than the homo-activists who act as apologists for the apparently liberated gay community must be full of hatred for themselves and those like them. There is no way, the heresy teaches, that they could be discerning individuals who are simply sick of the rot.

Similarly, gay citizens who admire John Howard, think Thatcherism did more good for the poor in Britain than many socialist ideas and are committed to free enterprise, libertarianism and social cohesion must be ingrates. How can they deny that it was Stonewall and the Left who bought their liberation from conservative social mores?

If operators on the Left had to choose a hero from the homosexuals in Australian public life, other than Kirby, who probably deserves the accolade, he would be of the John Marsden variety: brash, apparently unrepentant and lined up against the narrowness and bitterness of a life lived in the closet. And it is all nonsense. I am no fan of lies and dishonesty. A man should stand up for himself; he mustn't be afraid to list his weaknesses alongside his strengths and demand the world keep both in mind while judging him. But there is no compulsion, no sense of decency or rigour that obligates a public figure to discuss his sexuality in a particular manner or at all.

Masters's silly book reads like the worst sort of Victorian scandal sheet. One is surprised the text isn't subtitled: Exposing a Sodomite. Contra Masters, Jones's ancient arrest in London by the somewhat homophobic British police after they suspected him of public indecency does not constitute a sex scandal. Publishing details of the same, details that reveal Jones was cleared of all charges and the police were embarrassed in their ridiculous game of entrapment, while still insisting it was a sex scandal is irresponsible, if not potentially defamatory.

By making a mealy-mouthed concession - "it is not, nor should it be, a crime to be homosexual... it is not a sin to have your penis out in a public toilet", as if Masters were some sort of arbiter of what homosexuals are allowed to do - only to follow it up with a line such as, "but having easily defeated the criminal charges, Jones sought to defeat common sense as well, by asking the rest of the world to join him in his denial", Masters demonstrates the hatred, the homophobia that seethes beneath the otherwise politically correct exterior of the modern Left. Sure, they seem to like homosexuals, but only if we walk and talk, live and lie, in the manner that the Left prefers.

Am I going too far? Absolutely not and the proof is in the extracts published in the Fairfax press last weekend. Masters repeatedly suggests, at least as much as he can without leaving himself open to legal proceedings, that Jones is possibly a pedophile, thinking nothing of the damage caused to Jones or the lies that he perpetuates by linking such a high-profile discussion of homosexuality, once again, with that old canard, the predatory homosexual intent on kiddy fiddling. That he could corrupt what sounds like the earnest, chaste and otherwise successful bond between a dedicated teacher and football coach with his young male charges into the filthiest kind of homophobic slur - Jones couldn't have been motivated by anything high-minded; he must have been thinking with his penis - only reiterates the point. The Left doesn't care about homosexuals unless we vote as we are told.

The sheer arrogance of the attempt, the total lack of respect for another human being, his privacy or the plight of his brother homosexuals, is extraordinary. That The Sydney Morning Herald's David Marr - another homosexual - could go on The Insiders on the ABC and defend his involvement in this nasty business only proves the power of the deception on display. Such, at best, momentary abdications of common sense and humanity can stem only from a dissonance and the heresy: Jones is the perfect target and fair game.

How else to interpret passages that describe Jones as "resplendent in flared trousers and an orange cravat" singing a song from a "West End musical" (of all things! You can almost hear Masters sneer) before a "flabbergasted" King's School crowd? The homophobia in such passages veritably oozes. Not only is Jones fair game but he must be outed, humiliated and exposed for the dirty liar he is, the moral degenerate Masters and his mates obviously think Jones to be. It is their duty. It should be their great shame. I don't care what Jones did or didn't do in a bathroom in London all those years ago. I don't even care if he was an overbearing or demanding English teacher or football coach.

I do care if there was any wrongdoing - and Masters has no proof but repeats the rumours regardless - but an investigation would no doubt have locked up Jones. No such thing has occurred. To speculate on lies, to peddle gossip and innuendo, purely because the figure in question is a homosexual and - perhaps worse in the politics-blinded eyes of Masters, Marr and others - an effective conservative one, is simple rubbish writing and muckraking. It amounts to hate speech.

For too long, same-sex-attracted men have lived in ridiculous fear. We have been scared of blackmail. We have had to worry whether our best efforts will be interpreted in the worst possible light. We have been pursued unjustly by police and a legal system that criminalised a love that still dare not speak its name for fear of reprisals and retribution. This is just the kind of nonsense Masters and others have managed to bring once again to the pages of Australian newspapers and discuss in scandal-chasing books. The angle has changed but the methods of oppression are the same.

Anyone involved with this outing of Jones, any man who puts his name to or any paper that publishes extracts from the kind of sensationalist nonsense Masters is trying to sell, is not progressive or liberated. They are more like the ninth Marquess of Queensberry, he of the boxing rules and the "somdomite" misspelling and notorious slander case that put Oscar Wilde behind bars. He is certainly no friend to homosexuals. Even Marsden paid Cardinal George Pell and the priests of the Archdiocese of Sydney to say masses for the salvation of his apparently unrepentant soul. If they must take Marsden as a paragon, let the Left imitate him at least in that final humility and ask forgiveness for this latest expression of an old hatred.


Denying free speech

The French parliament recently passed a bill to criminalise denial of the 1915 Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turks. In Turkey it is illegal to acknowledge the genocide. The bill was accepted on the day Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Pamuk famously went on trial in January charged with `insulting Turkishness' after his comments in an interview with a Swiss newspaper that `one million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares talk about it'. Commenting on the recent bill, Pamuk said `freedom of expression is a French discovery, and this law is contrary to the culture of freedom of expression'.

French president Jacques Chirac phoned up Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologise for his government's behaviour and promised to do his best to prevent the passing of the law. He also assured Erdogan it would not influence Turkey's EU negotiations. Meanwhile, Turkish consumers launched a boycott of French goods, the French embassy in Ankara was pelted with eggs and an Armenian genocide memorial statue was stolen in France. The Turkish parliament's justice committee is now considering passing a law that would make it illegal to deny that France was responsible for a genocide during its rule over Algeria from 1830 to 1962.

Establishing historical truth by denying one side of the debate a voice and obsessing about giving people recognition for their suffering is only going to bring about absurd reactions and childish acts of revenge such as those of the past week. Both sides accuse each other of hypocrisy and undemocratic measures against certain opinions, but in this case the principle of free speech is only a straw man. The French and other EU nations who defended Pamuk against the Turkish assault on freedom of expression just a year ago have sunk to their level. While fretting about genocide denial, the only thing that is really being denied is free speech.


24 October, 2006


Academic freedom is dead at La Trobe University, but political persecution is alive and well, writes James McConvill. He is fighting back, however, using Victoria's Equal Opportunity Act

Recent evidence has come into my possession that I have been a victim of political persecution, through a concerted effort of restraint of academic freedom by senior management of La Trobe University, at least since 26 December 2005. Accordingly, on 21 October 2006 I lodged a complaint against La Trobe University, and senior officers of the University (Professors Gordon Walker and Raymond Harbridge), alleging discrimination on the basis of my political views and activities, contrary to sections 6(g) and 14 of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 1995.

There is evidence that senior management of La Trobe University have been concerned about my writings in the media which either criticise left-leaning Government officers, in particular Victorian Attorney-General Mr Rob Hulls, a member of the Bracks Labor Government, or adopt a Right-wing conservative or libertarian position- particularly if it supports Howard Government policy.

I have been ill-treated at La Trobe University, and was forced into a position where I had to resign my position of Senior Lecturer in the School of Law at La Trobe University in August 2006, with an effective date of 15 September 2006. Despite personal difficulties I was experiencing at the time, senior management of La Trobe University have acted in a cold, calculated and vindictive manner towards me.

Recent evidence of the behind-the-scenes efforts of La Trobe's senior management to censor me, particularly in relation to any comments of mine which is critical of the Left or supportive of the Right, puts together the pieces of the puzzle as to why the University's senior management acted in such a cold, calculated and vindictive manner against me, despite personal difficulties at the time. I was a threat to the institution's culture as a haven for entrenched Left-wing academics who protect only their own freedom of speech, and go out their way to bring down those whose views are different to their own.

Between December 2005 and June 2006, any writings of mine which expressed a political view, or encompassed political activity, and which departed from the Left-wing mindset of La Trobe University's senior management, were talked about behind closed doors, there were discussions to work out how to censor me, and eventually by the end of May 2006, they found a front to construct to justify their persecution: the classic poor performance. Academic freedom is, I believe, dead at La Trobe University.

In a statement provided by Professor Gordon Walker to La Trobe's lawyers, which I obtained last week, Walker concedes that the process of censorship started on or around 26 December 2005.

The statement, at paragraph 13, provides "On 26 December 2006 [sic], Dr McConvill published an article entitled, "Law of the Jungle is the Best Regulator", in The Australian newspaper. In that article, I thought he misquoted Judge Bork, an American judge. I was concerned by this and contacted Professor Harbridge, who was in Queensland at the time. We agreed we should at some stage discuss with Dr McConvill the need to take care in engaging with the media."

This in itself does not invoke the Equal Opportunity Act, but it does highlight that even two weeks after my appointment to the position of Senior Lecturer, my writing was being monitored. In the same statement, Professor Walker writes "On 11 April 2006, Professor Harbridge and I took Dr McConvill to lunch at the John Scott Meeting House. Professor Harbridge recounted some of his experiences with the media by ways of advising Dr McConvill to take care in this regard and noting that engagement with the media can be something of a double-edged sword. Professor Harbridge drew attention to the La Trobe University Code of Conduct, which requires that academics comment only on issues that are within one's field of expertise. The meeting was an informal one and Dr McConvill's blogging activities were not discussed."

I did indeed attend lunch with Professor Harbridge and Walker on 11 April 2006, but this was in response to an e-mail by Professor Harbridge to me on 3 April 2006 that he "would like to meet sometime to meet and catch upon your interests". This does not at all sound like any attempt to caution me about engaging with the media. Indeed, in a lunch which ran an hour or so, I believe probably three minutes at most was spent discussing the media. While Walker and Harbridge did talk about how there is a tall poppy syndrome in Australian academy and how some academics may not like me getting media exposure, I did not consider this to be any sort of warning to me, nor did I get the sense that the purpose of the lunch was to discuss my engagement with the media.

Indeed, to put the matter in context, what was more striking was Professor Harbridge's seemingly informal warning to Professor Walker to be careful about what he writes in an e-mail at night after the consumption of alcohol, and criticism by Walker and Harbridge about how specific academics in the Law School were "useless" and that this was reflected in the poor research gradings that had been sent to many of them and for which those academics complained about. On the limited occasions that I have had any discussions with Professor Walker, denigration of some members of his own academic staff had been a consistent theme.

Once Professor Harbridge left the lunch, I stayed and talked with Walker for about another half an hour. It was then that we talked about what research each of us were doing at the time, and Walker said that many of the law students at La Trobe were not of a very high standard, particularly when compared to Sydney Law School (where he previously taught), and that lecturing really adds nothing to a law student's education. Walker said it would be better to do things "the American way" and throw a textbook at students at the start of the semester and tell them to read it. Again, this was after Walker had consumed glasses of white wine, which I too drank one on his invitation, at what was supposedly some kind of disciplinary meeting.

What the 11 April 2006 meeting shows is just how sensitive La Trobe, and particularly Harbridge and Walker, are to any tangible evidence that they are trying to repress academic freedom, and even more egregiously censor academics who engage with the media in relation to views that may not be shared by the "soft-lefts" that continue to dominate La Trobe University, and while speaking about lofty notions of rights and freedoms to idealistic students in the lecture theatre, trample over the rights and freedoms of academics who may have different views to them on certain issues.

Censorship of me became an issue as far back as 26 December 2005, and yet it was not until 1 June 2006 that I was given a copy of the Code of Conduct, and only because by then they had derived an excuse to try and get rid of me to appease what have been described to me as the "La Trobe Loopy Left" (or "Three L mob"). In his e-mail to me of 3 April 2006, Professor Harbridge couldn't even bring himself to concede he was trying to censor me. Nothing could be in writing.

Further, even a suggestion (if it was) of being careful about engaging with the media, had to be done over pasta and wine as a smokescreen. What Harbridge and Walker were supposedly doing was raising a performance concern, so why not get me in their office and say it? They could not because the notion of academic freedom is to a University what the Hippocratic Oath is to the medical profession. Without it, the institution loses its identity and reason for existence and falls apart.

In his 3 April 2006 e-mail, Professor Harbridge states that he wanted to get to know me, that was the purpose of the lunch, yet the letter from La Trobe's lawyers reveals the hidden truth behind the lunch. At paragraph 13, the letter states, based on evidence given by Professor Harbridge, "Professor Harbridge, the Dean of the Faculty of Law and Management, read this article [an article about blogging in The Age newspaper]. He was also aware of various other articles that Dr McConvill had written in the media. Professor Harbridge contacted Professor Walker and suggested that they meet with Dr McConvill, as Professor Harbridge was concerned to alert Dr McConvill about the potential risks for academic staff for seeking media exposure."

So much for academic freedom at La Trobe University. But now for the political persecution, and unlawful discrimination pursuant to the Equal Opportunity Act. While I had published approximately 65 opinion pieces published between joining La Trobe on 12 December 2005 and 1 June 2006, out of the six articles Walker raised as a concern, four were either criticising the left-leaning Bracks Labor Government or supporting Howard Government policy or raising Right-leaning libertarian proposals on Howard Government policy (child support, child protection laws, and reviewing Aboriginal customary law in the context of sentencing).

That a Head of a Law School goes to the trouble of raising concerns about an article because it "Heavily criticised [the] Attorney- General", and then proceeds to discriminate against me, is not only unlawful, but to the legal community would be considered laughable. Is Professor Walker presiding over a Law School or a Primary School?

Professor Walker, Professor Harbridge, and La Trobe University by acquiescence, have in my view clearly engaged in discrimination on the basis of my lawful political beliefs or views. Each article is based on serious research and quite reflection, and relates to law and the regulation of individuals in the context of contemporary affairs, which is my key area of expertise (more on this below). It is genuine well-considered academic thought.

Another major article of concern, worrying Walker about "Dr McConvill's apparent desire to move back to Deakin University", outlines my qualifications for a forthcoming vacant position at Deakin University, the position of Head of the School of Law. That he has raised this article with the University's lawyers shows just how hypercritical and discriminatory senior management of La Trobe have been towards me. Academics, whether it be at Deakin or La Trobe, are forwarded e-mails by Heads of School all the time for positions of vacancy at other law schools, and are encouraged to discuss freely their desire to move to other schools, particularly if it involves a more senior position, and to use Heads of School as a referee.

Academics are also freely able to campaign for positions in local council, state parliament and federal parliament, and from my experience have done so even during work hours and using university resources.

That I am pilloried for outlining my credentials on a private blog site, which makes no reference to my affiliation with La Trobe University, is ludicrous and is a very clear example of the censorship and academic restraint that I have experienced at La Trobe. Furthermore, I believe that raising as a performance concern (with subsequent implications in terms of adverse treatment) such a blog post, constitutes unlawful discrimination based on lawful political activity in the course of employment, contrary to section 14 of the Equal Opportunity Act 1995.

This is the basis for my complaint before the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission. I await the response of the Commission in relation to this matter.

The above article was received via email from Dr. McConvill. He was until August 2006 a senior lecturer in law at La Trobe University Law School. There is another article by him on my "Of Interest" site


It was the day that a host of BBC executives and star presenters admitted what critics have been telling them for years: the BBC is dominated by trendy, Left-leaning liberals who are biased against Christianity and in favour of multiculturalism. A leaked account of an 'impartiality summit' called by BBC chairman Michael Grade, is certain to lead to a new row about the BBC and its reporting on key issues, especially concerning Muslims and the war on terror. It reveals that executives would let the Bible be thrown into a dustbin on a TV comedy show, but not the Koran, and that they would broadcast an interview with Osama Bin Laden if given the opportunity. Further, it discloses that the BBC's 'diversity tsar', wants Muslim women newsreaders to be allowed to wear veils when on air.

At the secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation is dominated by homosexuals and people from ethnic minorities, deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than Christians. One veteran BBC executive said: 'There was widespread acknowledgement that we may have gone too far in the direction of political correctness. 'Unfortunately, much of it is so deeply embedded in the BBC's culture, that it is very hard to change it.'

In one of a series of discussions, executives were asked to rule on how they would react if the controversial comedian Sacha Baron Cohen -- known for his offensive characters Ali G and Borat - was a guest on the programme Room 101. On the show, celebrities are invited to throw their pet hates into a dustbin and it was imagined that Baron Cohen chose some kosher food, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Bible and the Koran. Nearly everyone at the summit, including the show's actual producer and the BBC's head of drama, Alan Yentob, agreed they could all be thrown into the bin, except the Koran for fear of offending Muslims.

In a debate on whether the BBC should interview Osama Bin Laden if he approached them, it was decided the Al Qaeda leader would be given a platform to explain his views. And the BBC's 'diversity tsar', Mary Fitzpatrick, said women newsreaders should be able to wear whatever they wanted while on TV, including veils. Ms Fitzpatrick spoke out after criticism was raised at the summit of TV newsreader Fiona Bruce, who recently wore on air a necklace with a cross.

The full account of the meeting shows how senior BBC figures queued up to lambast their employer. Political pundit Andrew Marr said: 'The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias.'

Washington correspondent Justin Webb said that the BBC is so biased against America that deputy director general Mark Byford had secretly agreed to help him to 'correct', it in his reports. Webb added that the BBC treated America with scorn and derision and gave it 'no moral weight'.

Former BBC business editor Jeff Randall said he complained to a 'very senior news executive', about the BBC's pro-multicultural stance but was given the reply: 'The BBC is not neutral in multiculturalism: it believes in it and it promotes it.' Randall also told how he once wore Union Jack cufflinks to work but was rebuked with: 'You can't do that, that's like the National Front!' Quoting a George Orwell observation, Randall said that the BBC was full of intellectuals who 'would rather steal from a poor box than stand to attention during God Save The King'.

There was another heated debate when the summit discussed whether the BBC was too sensitive about criticising black families for failing to take responsibility for their children. Head of news Helen Boaden disclosed that a Radio 4 programme which blamed black youths at a young offenders', institution for bullying white inmates faced the axe until she stepped in.

But Ms Fitzpatrick, who has said that the BBC should not use white reporters in non-white countries, argued it had a duty to 'contextualise' why black youngsters behaved in such a way.

Andrew Marr told The Mail on Sunday last night: 'The BBC must always try to reflect Britain, which is mostly a provincial, middle-of-the-road country. Britain is not a mirror image of the BBC or the people who work for it.'


Halloween plea: Drop `psycho' holiday theme

Will there end up being NOTHING we are allowed to laugh at?

With the Halloween season under way, mental health advocates have a simple request: Scare people with ghouls and goblins. Fill your haunted house with trap doors and tombstones. But leave out the "psychiatric wards," the "insane asylums" and the bloodthirsty killers in straitjackets. Such themes, which have become as much a part of Halloween as pumpkins, reinforce negative stereotypes and a stigma that discourages people from seeking treatment, say activists who wage a yearly fight to remove the images from holiday events.

"It's our annual Halloween horror cycle," said Bob Carolla, spokesman for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. "The cases vary by size and level of offensiveness, but for some reason, this year has been worse than most." So far, word of about 10 particularly egregious attractions has reached the Arlington, Va.-based organization.

The group's protests have had some effect. The Wheaton Jaycees last week scrambled to change the theme of their haunted house from "Insanitarium" to something more generic. They retooled an "electroshock therapy" scene into an electric chair; posters and ads touting the theme were quickly pulled; apologies were issued.

Others have not been as receptive, including organizers of an asylum-theme house in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Paramount's Kings Island, a popular amusement park outside Cincinnati that is touting its "PsychoPath"--an outdoor trail of fright.

In Provo, Utah, a newspaper recently ran an impassioned editorial to "Bring Back Haunted Castle," a seasonal fixture at a state hospital that used actual patients as performers before being shut almost a decade ago. "A far more evil force cast the monsters out--political correctness," wrote the Daily Herald, noting that proceeds benefited the patients' recreation fund. Most readers who responded were in favor of resurrecting the attraction, despite a NAMI drive "to sway the vote," according to editorial page editor Donald Meyers.

Some observers attribute the connection between the scary holiday and psychiatric disorders to the popularity of the 1978 movie "Halloween," in which an escaped killer--institutionalized since childhood--goes on a violent rampage. Others say such imagery goes back centuries to medieval times. Whatever the reason, the depictions are harmful, activists say. Criticizing such themes isn't about semantics or being humor-impaired, they add, but about calling attention to a public health issue. According to a U.S. Surgeon General's report, stigma remains one of the greatest barriers to mental-health care. Next month, several groups--including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration--will launch the first national campaign to stamp out stereotypes that rarely extend to other ailments.

"It's hard to imagine a cancer patient losing her wig as a source of amusement for patrons," Carolla said. NAMI regularly sends a "Stigmabusters" alert that flags hurtful representations of brain-based disorders to 20,000 subscribers. Halloween may be the biggest nightmare for advocates, but deflecting jabs at the mentally ill requires year-round vigilance. Targets of complaints have ranged from Nestle USA (for Tangy Taffy flavors such as "Psycho Sam") to the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. (makers of a straitjacketed "Crazy for You" cub for Valentine's Day).

The headline a New Jersey newspaper put on a 2002 story about a fire in a psychiatric hospital--"Roasted Nuts"--was "particularly unfortunate," Carolla said. But it also resulted in a series on mental health topics the following year....

Despite NAMI complaints, Paramount's Kings Island is keeping PsychoPath, one of the park's most popular attractions. "We are appealing to young adults ... and it's supposed to be more fun than frightening," said company spokeswoman Maureen Kaiser. "It's not intended to make light of mental illness." In Murfreesboro, site of the Old Salem Insane Asylum, customers pay $15 to be scared by "mental patients" played by members of a local ghost-hunting club. NAMI took its concerns to a local radio show and distributed materials on depression, schizophrenia and other disorders to visitors, but the group declined to change the event. "Some people told us to calm down and lighten up," said Gracie Allen, of NAMI's Tennessee chapter. "But others said, I admire you for standing up for what you believe in."



Seeing ordinary people with lots of goodies is just insufferable to our self-declared Leftist "betters"

If the reams of scary reportage on Britain's unprecedented levels of personal debt, competitive misery and shopping addiction are anything to go by, then we have finally bought wholesale into an ugly, regressive morality tale of the helpless consumer. Over the past decade, commentators have been competing to see who can present the most alarmist research on the psychological damage, spiritual impoverishment and moral decay caused by our compulsive spending and consuming. The recent high profile campaign to cure childhood of various modern ills cited `mass marketing' as one of the big three toxins. Spendaholic Britons are apparently in the paralysing grip of a debt crisis: `Credit card lending rose by œ400m last month.. On average every man, woman and child in the UK owes at least 2,300 pounds.'

Yet pathologising our spending habits has created a demeaning, damaging vision of the human subject as a vulnerable, selfish automaton; a hopeless, amoral being. This commentary on our `sick' spending and Pavlovian response to advertising is symptomatic, not just of therapy culture, but of a deep ambivalence towards what are, in fact, some of our more healthy impulses and ambitions.

Before interrogating the political message of these distortions, it is worth challenging the hysterical tone of the debt statistics in particular. The `on average' nature of the figures cited above, for example, means they include a majority of `typical' middle-income households. Is 2,300 worth of debt so crippling to this group? Surely such a sum is comfortably covered by the average earnings of those involved? Or take Credit Action's panicked estimation that `Britain's personal debt is increasing by 1million every four minutes.' Is this so terrifying if it includes, in the main, households that take out loans for home improvements or new cars? No, but these planned investments in assets add up to the image of a rational consumer, not the impulsive, `frivolous', irresponsible one contemporary experts prefer to cast us as.

Spendaholics and the politics of behaviour

There is a long history of preaching against the corrupting potential of wealth. It began with ancient creeds, surfaced in general Christian teachings and Puritan doctrines, then re-emerged in the nineteenth century bohemian revulsion towards bourgeois, commercial `vulgarity'. What distinguishes today's anti-consumer sermons, however, is their tendency to cast `the masses' as greedy cartoon demons, and the eco-friendly, middle-class thrifties as the saints. Lifestyle `downsizers' occupy the moral high ground by virtue of their lack of desire for stuff, and their ability to declutter - materially and therefore spiritually.

The crude equation is: more stuff = sad, less stuff =happy. As Professor Andrew Oswald of Warwick University tells the BBC: `During the past 25 years, people have had material things far more, and yet it doesn't seem to have generated greater happiness.' An American book reporting from the frontline of decluttering, is soon to clutter our shelves. It describes, in anthropological terms, a couple's attempt to spend nothing for a year (other than on the absolute basics: mortgage, heat and food). Early reviews praised the lessons learnt about freedom from consumerist tyranny.

So why are we slaves to the 2006 version of the slavish consumer? Daniel Ben-Ami has argued previously on spiked that `We live in a world in which there is an unprecedented degree of cynicism about the benefits of economic growth.affluence .is typically subject to numerous caveats. Among other things it is accused of damaging the environment, leading to inequality and failing to make people happy.' The concepts of affluence and happiness are diametrically opposed today. So, imagery of consumerist hell reflects our ambivalence towards material growth generally. But what it further reflects is the new politics of behaviour.

Even if the loan sharks were banging down all our doors, why has this suddenly become anyone else's business or cause for alarm? It is precisely the private nature of disposable income and personal loans that so disturbs the lifestyle experts. It is one of the few, albeit banal, arenas left where people exercise unmediated control over their immediate material circumstances. Even then, we are not free from moral condescension regarding the eco or ethical credentials of our purchases, but it is still excess money, to do with as we see fit.

What also upsets the lifestyle experts is aspiration. One of the rhetorical cliches deployed in this debate, to reinforce a picture of humanity as despairing, vulnerable and in need of expert guidance, is the portrayal of ambition as a competitive sickness. What Alain de Botton recently called `status anxiety' not only adds to the picture of our damaged passivity, it also reduces aspirational desires and social interaction to banal, cold forms of one-upmanship.

Our lack of altruism and vicious competitive detachment from others is continually emphasized in subsequent modern studies. According to BBC News, researchers at Warwick University have discovered most people need to feel richer than their neighbours, even when they do not know them - to the point where we would cost ourselves money in order that our `imagined rivals' might be poorer. The use of `imagined rivals' increases the sense of our irrationality and diminished autonomy, as does the cash rich, time poor debate. As Professor Judith Schor tells the BBC: `Spending then has to compensate for the fact that we're losing time - we're losing control of our lives.'

What academics like Professor Andrew Oswald term the `culture' or `curse' of `comparison' is apparently the central virus of modernity, infecting every area of our lives. Britain's politics of behaviour and happiness policies turn to the minutiae of our domestic and internal lives for purpose. They address us sternly and unconvincingly on this subject, citing the main obstacle to our happiness targets as our desire for more stuff: `The pursuit of wealth stops us pursuing the things that make us happy.' We are compelled, in the eyes of the experts, to shop mindlessly in an attempt to heal our mental wounds. Describing buying in these pathological terms then subtly leads to other agendas of behaviour modification: `Instead we should be concentrating on friendships, relationships and health.'

The creation of recent concepts such as `ethical debt' reveals similar political motives. The `problem' is no longer discussed in simply economic, but social terms. As a leader in the Observer put it: `Debt to finance university education is more worthwhile than the more widespread borrowing for lifestyle accoutrements - new cars and kitchens. This consumer debt is the real.social problem.' [So wonderful to have such wise guidance]

Notions of control

The addiction cycle is obsessively applied to the shopping experience. According to the BBC News article, when we shop we don't exercise consumer choice, or indulge in harmless escapism, but experience a hunger and high: `compulsive and uncontrollable buying affected between two and five per cent of adults.' Then there is the withdrawal: `the shopping buzz does not last for long', increasing doses: `The pleasure from having extra things wears off', and finally the treatment: `one manufacturer has released an anti-depressant drug it claims can help combat the urge to spend.'

Just decades ago, in contrast, there existed a far more powerful sense of human agency and control regarding personal budgets. For instance, the poet Al Alvarez, in his autobiography of the shabby genteel Oxbridge set of the 1950's, talks of his friends' spending habits as metaphors for their character. Hopelessly generous eccentrics would fritter meager post-war inheritances on parties or daft whims. They lived blissfully on the breadline, oblivious to the causes of their eventually hand-to-mouth existence, because it was the result of such deeply ingrained traits. Equally, other mean-spirited characters manifested their repressed nature in spectacular acts of tight-fistedness. Ultimately, at this time, there was the sense that it was your innate, often charming qualities that dictated how you spent, not sinister external forces.

Instead, in our therapy culture, we are cast as victims of a spending disease, attacking us from the outside. We are passively lured by advertising, or `pushed' by opportunistic creditors. Our spending is now dictated, not by delightful individual quirks, but homogenous psychological problems that manifest themselves in ways beyond our understanding or control. These are habits that require the intervention of a psychologist or debt counsellor. Shopping has become the act of blindly and mindlessly `compensating' for past emotional traumas with the purchase `high'.....

The spiritual corruption of overspending is normally presented as afflicting working class consumer souls far more deeply than middle-class ones. `Chav' baiting is founded on a disgust of conspicuous consumption and the perceived vulgarity and psychological chaos that ensues: for example for lottery winners, or young Premiership footballers.

Working class children and their junk pushing parents, are also felt to be in greater need of protection from the pressures of perfection. Ed Mayo, head of the National Consumer Council, wrote in the Guardian recently: `Our research shows that children who have the least want the most. This "aspiration gap" is most marked in the poorest households. Poorer children tend to get more pocket money and will get crisps and snacks in their lunchboxes - but these are the children most likely to be disappointed when birthdays come around.'

Overstating the case of the pathological spender however has now moved beyond class politics and become a morality tale of the modern human condition. It's all-encompassing cultural reach is reflected in TV schedules (Spendaholics, Spend, Spend, Spend, Bank of Mum and Dad, Britain's Streets of Debt, Skint, Shiny Shiny Bright New Hole In My Heart - to name just a few), government policy and a general tone of media despair. On the whole this mood goes unchallenged.

But surely we need to remind ourselves of the immediate transformative effect of so called `stuff'? Stuff is what we are surrounded by, dressed in, dictates our levels of physical comfort, can provide us with knowledge, entertainment, aesthetic pleasure, cultural enrichment, enhanced potential for communication and social stimulation. What is so spiritually deadening or morally offensive about that?

Doing up your house, upgrading your mode of transport, treating yourself, family and friends to a good time, buying great cultural experiences and holidays, buying time-saving gadgets. These are major sources of pleasures in life. Certainly shopping cannot compete with more substantial, free sources of happiness such as friendship and love. It certainly cannot compensate for a culture lacking in political purpose or pursuits of intellectual discovery; but neither will it stain our souls or damage our psyche.

In the face of today's anti-consumerist sermons, we need to restate a case for the power of new things to transform our immediate experience and material surroundings. A variety of commentators, philosophers and experts might wish to pathologise our desires for comfort, diversion, stimulation, increased leisure-time, and our aspiration to improve our physical living conditions. But `stuff' can change our quality of life, and even has some potential to change society at large, especially in the developing world. Those interested in progress, and concerned by all this fatalistic doom-mongering about the human condition, need to defend our quite healthy materialist impulses. Here's to raising the aspirational bar for all.


23 October, 2006

U.K.: Paedophile escapes school gym ban as it would breach his human rights

A convicted paedophile is being allowed to use a gym at a school because the authorities are worried that banning him would infringe his human rights. Andrew Baldwin, 43, was convicted in 1999 of molesting three girls aged 12 and 13. Yet he is a frequent visitor to a public gym on the site of Whitecross School, a comprehensive for 11-16 year olds in Lydney in the Forest of Dean.

Outraged parents, who raised the alarm four weeks ago, claim they were told the school was afraid to ban Baldwin in case it was accused of breaching his human rights. This is despite the fact that the gym is next door to children's changing rooms. Anthony Callaghan, 40, whose 15-year-old daughter attends Whitecross school, confronted Baldwin when he first saw him at the gym - and the child abuser promptly complained to the receptionist. Mr Callaghan said: "It's so ridiculous, you couldn't make it up. The gym is for over-16s but it is right on the school premises and you have to go down the corridor and past the boys' and girls' changing room to get there. "I use it five times a week and I've been walking down the corridor with girls in their PE kits and quite often the changing room doors are left ajar. The headmaster told me it was out of his hands because the solicitors say a ban would breach this paedophile's human rights. "Well, if that's the case, what about the human rights of the pupils?"

The gym is at council-run Whitecross Leisure Centre, which is in 'joint use' with the school. The majority of public use of the facilities, including squash courts and sports hall, takes place in the evenings or at weekends. But, crucially, the 'lifestyle fitness suite' is open to the public from 9am each day. Whitecross headmaster David Gaston and Forest of Dean District Council are now talks with legal experts on how to resolve the issue, with one option stopping Baldwin attending the gym during school hours. Mr Gaston said: "The safety of students is the absolute priority of the school and any decision will take their welfare into account." A council spokesman added: "We're unable to comment because the head at Whitecross is awaiting definitive legal advice from Shire Hall."

The child protection charity Kidscape called for immediate action. Director Dr Michelle Elliott said: "This totally defies common sense. Men who have been convicted of abusing a child should not be on school premises."



It's no secret that hurling names about is as common in the political world as it is in a grammar school playground. One oft-used pejorative is "fascist," which, along with racist, sexist, homophobe and others, tends to be least understood by those who utter it most. And because these damning terms are used wantonly, more to discredit than describe, they tend to be misapplied. Then, soon, calling someone a fascist becomes akin to calling him a snake: more a vague impugnment of character than a characterization of methods and goals. Rhetoric aside, however, I've come to realize that true fascists do exist in our time. But who are they? How can they be correctly identified? To discover the answer, let's start with a trip down Bad Memory Lane.

Another word that makes the rounds these days is "Brownshirts," which, as many know, harks back to the SA, a paramilitary organization that was instrumental in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933. The Brownshirts were the adolescent Nazi Party's muscle, squelching opposition through violence and intimidation. Shout-downs and beat-downs were their stock-in-trade, making their name a metaphor for fascist intolerance and oppression.

Now for a little current events. There was a university, some speakers and an audience. The speakers had been invited to the university in the name of intellectual debate and free expression. The audience, however, would have none of it. Intolerant of the views being aired, they shouted-down the speakers and repeatedly called one of the black representatives "nigger." Then, in a final fit of hatred and rage, in quintessential Brownshirt style, they stormed the stage violently, squelching voices that would have contributed to a fruitful exchange of ideas.

But what was the university? And, more to the point, who were the speakers and the audience? Were the guests communists or advocates for illegal immigration and the audience right-wing ideologues? No, not at all. This fascistic display occurred at vaunted Columbia University, ostensibly a bastion of free expression. The speakers were with the Minuteman Project, the organization of citizen border sentinels. And the mob posing as an audience comprised those who despise such individuals: leftists. Leftists who did the Brownshirts proud.

Then, there once was a woman who traveled to the University of Arizona to give a speech. But members of the crowd didn't like what she had to say, and a couple of them attacked her, hurling pies. Now, this isn't the first time this lady has been targeted with violence, and she now travels with bodyguards. But who was this woman? Was she a member of GLAD beating the drum for the legal sanction of anti-marriage or a terrorist sympathizer criticizing US interrogation techniques? No, she was conservative pundit Ann Coulter, and her offense that night was to dare to defend the institution of marriage. And, needless to say, those who tried to silence her were her leftist foes.

And you don't have to be famous to feel the left's wrath. On more than one occasion conservative student newspapers have been burned, and even one of my editors related a story to me about being shouted down by colleagues during a previous career in academia.

Lest you think this is unusual, errant blips on the radar screen, know that this is standard practice on university campuses today. Liberals are afforded the right to speak mostly unfettered by disruptive voices, while conservatives are subjected to as much abuse as today's Brownshirts can get away with dishing out.

Getting back to the more fashion conscious fascists of yesteryear, once the Brownshirts had helped catapult the Nazis into power, the SS (sometimes called the "Blackshirts") was created. Among other functions, the SS served the regime's agenda by arresting, questioning and punishing those who expressed the politically incorrect thoughts of the day. It was effective enough so that many German people wouldn't even express dissent within earshot of their own children.

Fast-forward again, and we have the story of a 14-year-old working class girl in England named Codie Stott. Recently she said something in her classroom to which her teachers didn't exactly cotton. In fact, her words didn't find favor with the government, either, and she found herself cooling her heels in a jail cell for three and a half hours. Mind you, this wasn't for the commission of an untoward act, but for mere use of the tongue. So what was Codie's grave transgression? Did she threaten the life of the Queen? Was she a hippie advocating the replacement of tea time with a trip to an opium den? Perish the thought.

What happened was that Codie had been assigned to work on a project with a group of five Asian students, four of whom couldn't speak English. And the fifth was probably limited to the pidgin variety. After being seated with the quintet and instructed to discuss the subject matter in question, the foreigners commenced speaking amongst themselves in Urdu (don't ask), a language Codie couldn't understand, prompting her to approach the teacher and request placement elsewhere. The teacher's response was to scream, "It's racist, you're going to get done by the police." And she was. Suspected of committing a "section five racial public order offense," Codie was arrested, interrogated, photographed, fingerprinted and told to relinquish her shoelaces and jewelry and then imprisoned.

Now, do I have to tell you whose agenda visited this injustice upon the hapless Codie? Well, be assured that it's not the work of a "right-wing" boogeyman like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell or the Vatican.

Be outraged, but not surprised. Like the Brownshirt activity that the left's useful idiots engage in regularly nowadays, SS-like government suppression of free speech has become rampant in the Western world. In Canada, Ontario man Mark Harding was convicted in 1998 of a "hate-crime" for distributing pamphlets critical of Islam. Further west in Saskatchewan, countryman Hugh Owens was forced to pay damages of 1,500 Canadian dollars after taking out a newspaper advertisement in which he criticized homosexuality and cited Bible passages. In April of this year in Irlam, England, a ten-year-old boy was brought before a judge in a criminal court after calling another student a "Paki" and "Bin Laden" in the heat of a playground argument.

And don't think that we in the United States are immune from such governmental infringement upon freedom of speech. But, wait, relative to other western nations America is supposed to be a citadel of rightist zealotry, a place akin to the Death Star in Star Wars with Darth Vader at the helm. So, perhaps our fascists really are the stuff of leftist nightmares. Well, it's time for one last story.

In 2004, two opposing groups confronted each other at the Outfest National Coming Out Day street fair, a celebration of homosexuality in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Each group was committed to its cause, and while stories differ regarding who cast the first stone, words were exchanged in what became a rancorous confrontation. However, despite the fact that the most dangerous weapon wielded that day was an acid tongue, arrests were made. And, despite the fact that both groups launched verbal salvos, only one group's members were arrested. Was the persecuted group a contingent of NAMBLA or ACT-UP? Not on your life. It comprised eleven Christians who dared espouse their traditional beliefs about homosexual behavior. And the homosexual group that locked horns with them, the Pink Angels, was left unmolested by the government storm troopers.

I want you to remember these stories the next time you hear leftist sophistry about how conservatives would visit fascism upon us. We hear liberal campfire tales about how the "Christian Right" is converting us into a theocracy, but I have yet to hear about someone being arrested for denying the divinity of Jesus, immersing a crucifix in a jar of urine (smut-peddler Andres Serrano) or using the Lord's name in vain. We're warned of neocon plots to secure rightist hegemony, but I've read no news reports about thinly-veiled ACLU communists or terrorist-sympathizing members of CAIR hauled in front of tribunals. The truth is that fascism has reared its ugly head in the Western world, but that head always, always, always tilts left.

So Brownshirts do lurk among us. And, ominously, as they continue to metastasize, voices of truth become fewer and fainter. But there are Americans who fancy themselves to be liberals who cannot be counted among them, individuals who still think this is the age of their grandfather's liberalism. And for these people, I'll present some points to ponder. Doesn't it give you pause for thought that fascist methods are ever more frequently employed in our time, and that when they are it is virtually always in the service of a leftist agenda? Then, a definition of liberalism from Dictionary.com states: "favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression . . . " So I ask you, don't you think that perhaps, just maybe, there's something wrong with the soul of today's liberalism when it has become so illiberal?

As for you Brownshirts, you are the initiated. I know I can't disabuse you of your misbegotten notions. I also know that you're winning the culture war in the West, and for good reason. You're meaner, more violent and more devious than people of the light, and above nothing. And you may smell blood as you look forward to your ascendancy as masters of the Universe. So, I have an addendum to my stories . . . just for you.

After the Brownshirts (SA) in Germany had served their purpose - giving the Nazis an iron fist of tyranny with which to rule - they themselves became victims of the monster they had created. Starting on the infamous "Night of the Long Knives," June 29th-30th, the SS began arresting the leaders of the SA and, ultimately, scores of them were executed. It seems that there is no honor among fascists. Besides, the pseudo-sophisticates in the Nazi hierarchy had no use for Brownshirts, always the most boorish of thugs. Useful idiots never get respect. They just get used.


Boy Scouts suffer another court setback: "Six years after the Supreme Court ruled the Boy Scouts could ban gay leaders, the group is fighting and losing legal battles with state and local governments over its discriminatory policies. The latest setback came Monday when the high court without comment refused to take a case out of Berkeley, Calif., in which a Scout sailing group lost free use of a public marina because the Boy Scouts bar atheists and gays. The action let stand a unanimous California Supreme Court ruling that Berkeley may treat the Berkeley Sea Scouts, a branch of the Boy Scouts, differently from other nonprofit organizations because of the Scouts' membership policies."

22 October, 2006


Tag is now out during recess at Willett Elementary School in Attleboro. So is touch football and any other unsupervised "chasing" games that are deemed to pose the risk of injury as well as liability to the school. "It's a time when accidents can happen," said Principal Gaylene Heppe, in her second year at the helm of Willett. Heppe included the new rule as part of a standardized set of playground rules that were not in play upon her arrival. In doing so, she joined in a growing movement against traditional games played by young children in school gymnasiums and playgrounds. A few years ago, school administrators in the area, as well as around the country, took aim at dodgeball, saying it was an exclusionary and dangerous game. Modified versions now include softer balls and ways for children to re-enter the action.

While no district-wide policies banning contact sports at recess appear to have been put in place locally, many principals are making up new rules in an atmosphere reflecting society's increasingly cautious and litigious nature. Elementary schools in Cheyenne, Wyo. and Spokane, Wash. banned tag at recess this year. So, too, did a suburban Charleston, S.C. school, outlawing all unsupervised contact sports.

Reasons cited by school administrators largely focused on safety; kids would get too rough or run into each other, giving rise to parent complaints and threats of lawsuits. Another reason cited was that in a free-for-all activity at recess, such as tag, some children would become unsuspecting, and unwilling, participants in the game. A number of those same schools, however, allowed those activities with supervision during gym classes.

Some Willett School parents interviewed for this story said the new recess rules are misguided, especially with the serious issue of childhood obesity. Others said they work against children developing skills to negotiate rules and resolve disputes. "I think that it's unfortunate that kids' lives are micromanaged and there are social skills they'll never develop on their own," said Debbie Laferriere, who has two children at Willett. "Playing tag is just part of being a kid," she said. "Now, for children not to be able to make those decisions by themselves without interference from adults doesn't give them the opportunity to make their own choices." Games like tag give children "social skills that transfer to later in life," she said.

Parent Christine McAndrews agreed. "I think it's a little bit silly," she said, adding that she was not aware the rule was in place. "The kids love to play pick-up football games that they organize themselves. It's great for their social skills and they resolve things on their own. It's good for them." "It's part of being a kid," she said.

Willett parent Celeste D'Elia, on the other hand, backed Heppe's decision. Her son, she said, feels safer and enjoys the alternatives to throwing a football around. "I've witnessed enough near collisions" in the playground area, D'Elia said. "I support anything that makes the playground safer and helps teacher to keep track of them."

Calls to a handful of elementary schools in this area revealed that principals are dictating the rules of play at recess, but the rules differ. David Barner, principal of Thacher Elementary School in Attleboro, said there is no outright ban on tag, touch football or other such games during recess at the school. "We do have discussions at the beginning and throughout the school year about rules so that students play appropriately," he said. The physical education teacher plays a large role in instructing children on how to play games, he said.

Matthew Joseph, new principal of Hyman Fine Elementary School, also said there's no prohibition of contact sports at recess. Teachers and others, however, are trying to redirect children from physical games to those that involve teamwork. There is also an effort to get children using the new playground the PTO installed and a new field. Team games, like kickball, are encouraged, he said.

Mary Brown, principal of the Solmonese Elementary School in Norton, on the other hand, doesn't consider tag a contact sport. "We play two-hand tag on the shoulder" which is supervised, she said. "No pushing is allowed." Tag football is also allowed for third-graders, if supervised, Brown said. Of course, she noted, "you have to have someone out there young enough to run around with them."

George Gagnon, principal of Falls Elementary School in North Attleboro, said playground rules have swung a different direction since he started there four years ago. Tag, touch football, soccer, "they can play all that," he said. That wasn't the case before he arrived. Gagnon's philosophy is, "I'd rather see them running around, getting fresh air and coming back in refreshed." He feels children are "trapped" in organized sports like football, hockey and baseball. Running around outside at recess, kids make up their own games with their own rules and resolutions, Gagnon said. Accidents occur "every couple of days," he said. "But kids run and fall --- that's kids."



As long as it is Leftists who do the abusing, of course

In choosing to phrase her jab at Virginia Senator George Allen, whose mother is Jewish, with the term "Macacawitz," Democratic congressional candidate Al Weed's now former field organizer Meryl Ibis has with a single word encapsulated the difference between the Jewish minority and all others. For she reproached Allen for using an ethnic slur-by using an ethnic slur herself (indeed by innovating one). "Macacawitz" is testimony to the fact that Jews don't enjoy the same PC protections their fellow minorities do.

Perceived as part of the power structure, Jews are subconsciously considered by the Left, the media establishment and the other minorities as a privileged minority, and therefore not as vulnerable or in need of protected-class status. This is what makes Jews in fact the most vulnerable minority of all.

Perhaps this is best illustrated by a point that writer Hillel Halkin made in a 2002 Commentary article titled "The Return of Anti-Semitism" -namely that hostility toward Jews has grown in direct proportion to the number of Jews killed. In contrast, sympathy for Middle Easterners-a minority in the more traditional, visible, color-coded sense-has increased in direct proportion to the number of people they've killed. It seems, the more people that Muslims kill, the less popular Jews become. This has managed to happen because Jews are the politically incorrect minority.

When other minorities-rightly or wrongly-accuse someone of being a racist, the conditioned, immediate reaction is guilt-if only for a moment-before rationality takes over. But when Jews-rightly or wrongly-accuse someone of being an anti-Semite, the immediate reaction is eye-rolling. And at least once, I've gotten a "Yeah, so?"-eliciting from me a momentary inclination to answer, "Oh, sorry-never mind. Nothing wrong with being anti-Semitic; why some of my best friends are anti-Semites!"

If one thinks about it, what other ethnic group is blamed for genocidal murders against it? What other ethnic group's back do the other minorities not have? Indeed, what other minority do the rest of the minorities help bash? And what other minority's enemies do the media help in fabricating crimes by the said minority? What other minority has placards devoted to it at pro-terrorist rallies in Boston and San Francisco, reading Death to the [fill in minority]? Finally, what other nation has been exterminated not because of some ethnic rivalry with another nation or by some conquering force, but because of an entire, diverse continent pitching in? Then, after no nation offered this ethnic group a safe harbor, such that it had to shed even more of its blood to secure one, the world decided it wanted a recall of that agreed-upon harbor.

Jews don't inspire the Left's sympathy. We are perceived to be an essentially "white" minority, and one doesn't get a warm fuzzy feeling from sticking up for white folks-and moneyed white folks at that. Ah yes, the money. Whoever has the money has the power, right? Those rich Jews are imperturbable, above any threat. Just like rich America can solve any problem; if it's not doing so, it means its people are indifferent, greedy, or corrupt.

With money being on the minds-to the point of obsession-of working Joes, of disgruntled anti-capitalists, and of have-nots, it's the jealousies that make it more dangerous to be a member of the Jewish minority than of the have-not minorities. Even Jewish generosity to less fortunate minorities has bred contempt among the latter, the thinking being, "Boy, those Jews must really have a lot of money if they're wasting it on us. Those bastards!"

The caricature of the well-off Jew has spun off into another, increasingly oft-heard contemporary libel against Jews: that it's "risky" to contradict the "powerful" Jews: "Oh, you can't say anything against the Jews-you'll get in trouble." (Yes, God forbid you might get hit with a ton of press releases from the ADL.) These folks would find truth in the statement that in at least one way, there is more freedom of speech in the Middle East. Anyone can go over there and, without any consequences, declare publicly that Jews suck; here it's not so easy.

But Jewish "power" doesn't come from any ability, much less inclination, to threaten anyone. The notion is all the more contradictory given that, generally speaking, we're better behaved than most other minorities. And when we're offended, we mostly just whine while others kill (a distinction that the country's collective reticence during the Mohammed-cartoon controversy admitted-even if our tongues still won't).

Even on comedy stages, the new trend seems to be to casually announce "I'm not a fan of the Jew," as one Italian comic did at a recent open mic. (This declaration didn't precede or cap off any related bit; he just wanted to put that out there). The previous week another comedian had informed the audience that he didn't like Jews-but that he had a good reason: his boss is Jewish and he's an a-hole.

Is this the new "boldness?" In the current environment, people are "finally able to say what we think," as many in Europe and the Middle East have been putting it of late, particularly when expressing doubts about Holocaust numbers. Ironically, the same people whom we've heard over the years marveling at the world's silence amid the Holocaust, dismayed that the world "could have allowed" something like that to take place, are today coming to the conclusion that there can be a rational aversion to a group, and are allowing for the possibility that Jews bring the enmities on themselves, that they must have had it coming, just as they do today. And so here we are: Holocaust studies are at an all-time high at universities, as are anti-Semitic incidents, and school children go about collecting six million paper clips (or pennies, depending on the school) to get a sense of what that number looks like. What "Macacawitz" shows us is that all of these exercises will have amounted to a how-to guide.

The ironic "Macacawitz" term has reminded me of a thought I had when Mahathir Mohamad was retiring as Malaysia's prime minister in 2003 and went on about Jews controlling the world. For a moment, I actually thought: "That's kind of interesting-the anti-Jewish stuff coming from someone of the Oriental persuasion. Not something you see every day. Arabs and Europeans, yeah, but someone of Mongoloid stock? Hey, it's all about diversity! Far Easterners should get their chance too."

As George Will put it, "Celebration of tolerance is the first refuge of the intolerant."

Perhaps the biggest irony was summed up by Claremont McKenna College Professor John J. Pitney, Jr. on the Political Mavens blog: "Thanks in part to the 'macaca' episode, the Virginia Senate race remains tight. If a Republican loss there tips control of the Senate to the Democrats, then Robert Byrd will become the chamber's president pro tempore. Concern about racism would thus put a former Klansman in the line of succession to the presidency."


More photo-hatred in Australia

This should be great for the Australian tourism industry. Waverley Council controls Australia's most famous beach -- Bondi

A Sydney council has decreed the act of taking a photograph in a public place is a hazard to public safety. Waverley Council rangers have been given orders to move people on who have not sought its permission to take photographs in a public area because shoppers are "running the gauntlet". The Saturday Daily Telegraph was alerted to the draconian measures - normally associated with totalitarian dictatorships - while conducting a news poll and taking pictures of obliging shoppers in Spring St, Bondi Junction, on Thursday evening.

The ranger issued orders to leave the public area, outside the Eastgate shopping centre, after a security guard notified rangers of our survey - unrelated to the council or the shopping centre. Ranger Nikki Taylor said permission was required to take the photos because it was a "safety issue" to stop people in the street. Waverley Council's Bondi Junction manager Linda McDonald confirmed the measures, saying she believed her rangers had legal grounds to ask people to leave public areas if they were talking to members of the public without permission. "Anyone conducting any act [Even the Soviets did not go that far] on public space is obliged to apply for a permit," Ms McDonald said. "It's a policy of Waverley Council as caretakers of public space." "It's part of our policies and procedures, it basically came about by people saying 'we don't want to run the gauntlet'."

Ms McDonald said this policy was the same as "every other Sydney council". But councils contacted yesterday had not heard of the extreme policies and lambasted them as an attack on free speech. Manly Mayor Peter McDonald was stunned by the ranger's orders. "There's no way Manly Council would support that," he said. "I think that makes Waverley Council look a little silly." A Manly Council spokesman called the policies "extraordinary". "It's Waverley, not North Korea," he said.

Randwick Council said it would only give move-along directions to people disrupting the public if a complaint was made, but did not require anyone to make a formal request to use their public space.

Edwina Stratton, 35, Randwick, who was interviewed on Spring St for the poll, said she had not felt endangered or agitated when approached by The Saturday Daily Telegraph. "People asking for money is more of an imposition than people doing surveys," the mother of three said. "They have a lot more of them in that area and they haven't cracked down on them." The newly-elected mayor of Waverley,George Newhouse, could not be reached for comment.


21 October, 2006


A Labour peer yesterday named a "serial and repeated liar" whose false allegations resulted in an innocent man being jailed for a sex attack. Lord Campbell-Savours used parliamentary privilege to name the woman during a debate in the House of Lords on rape legislation. He suggested that women who make false allegations of rape should be named and prosecuted for perjury. It is believed to be the first time that the identity of a woman who claims that she has been the victim of a sexual offence has been revealed in Parliament. Women's rights groups said that they feared that the naming of the woman would further deter rape victims from reporting their ordeal.

It is a criminal offence to name anyone who complains to police that they have been the victim of a sexual offence, even if the alleged attacker is found not guilty in court. But Lord Campbell-Savours is protected from legal action for comments made in the House of Lords. Speaking in the Lords he said: "Is not the inevitable consequence of the workings of the law as currently framed that we will carry on imprisoning innocent people such as Warren Blackwell, who was falsely accused by a serial and repeated liar, (the woman's name), who has a history of making false accusations and having multiple identities? "As a result of her accusations, he spent three and a half years in prison following a shabby and inadequate police investigation and was exonerated only when the Criminal Cases Review Commission inquiry cleared him and traced her history.

"Should not mature accusers who perjure themselves in rape trials be named and prosecuted for perjury?" The official record of the Houses of Parliament, Hansard, included the woman's name in its report because it believed it was covered by parliamentary privilege. However, the Press Association later removed the woman's identity from its report of the debate after seeking legal advice, which said that she was entitled, by statute, to lifelong anonymity. Lord Cambell-Savours said last night that he was unable to comment further on the issue because he would not be covered by privilege outside Parliament.

Mr Blackwell, 36, from Daventry, Northamptonshire, spent more than three years in jail for a sex attack before his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal last month after fresh evidence suggested that his alleged victim was a liar. The Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates possible miscarriages of justice, discovered that the alleged victim had made similar accusations. The Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Blackwell's conviction was unsafe in the light of the new evidence that the complainant had made "strikingly similar allegations" about other sex attacks, had an ability to lie and a possible propensity to self-harm.

Lord Campbell-Savours' comments came after intense debate about the right to anonymity for victims of sexual offenders and those accused but not convicted. Anonymity is granted automatically to the accuser in rape cases, under the Sexual Offences Act 1976. The woman who accused Mr Blackwell can be identified only when she waives her right to anonymity or is convicted of attempting to pervert the cause of justice, proving that the sexual assault never took place.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Home Office Minister, told the Lords: "It is not inevitable that people will be falsely accused. One of the tragedies in relation to rape allegations is that very few of those who suffer this most dreadful crime have the courage to come forward at all." Ruth Hall, of Women Against Rape, said: "Women are being targeted by the criminal justice system for bringing allegations of rape. It is a new development that we have seen over the past few weeks. "There have been a number of women prosecuted for perverting the course of justice or having something added to their Criminal Records Bureau records because they have made allegations of rape. "The system is institutionally sexist. We don't believe that any assumption can be made that a woman has not been telling a truth."

At present 5.6 per cent of rape cases result in a conviction. The Government and lawyers fear that any attempt to remove anonymity would reduce significantly the number of women coming forward and prepared to go to court

Source. (We read here that the current name of the vindictive bitch is Shannon Taylor).


With just one in twenty cases of rape leading to a conviction there have been growing demands for changes to the law to make it easier bring prosecutions. However, there have also been growing numbers of cases where men have had their rape convictions overturned and prosecutions of women who have made up allegations. Last month a teenager was jailed after four men were held in police cells for 36 hours after she accused them of rape. Cinzia Sannino, then 17, only admitted her lies when police showed her footage on a mobile telephone of her performing naked lap- dancing for the men after returning home with them from a Cardiff club. The case led a spokesman for the False Allegations Support Organisation to comment: "Too many people jump on the bandwagon, aware that they can get compensation for false allegations."

Two weeks later a woman who falsely cried rape against her former husband was also convicted of perverting the course of justice. Sally Henderson, 40, a mother of two, described by the prosecution as a "wicked liar", claimed that Richard Cooke, 39, had repeatedly raped her during their year-long marriage. However, police discovered that her claims were almost identical to false allegations she had made five years earlier against a previous boyfriend, Gloucester Crown Court heard. Lifting an order preventing her identification, Recorder David Lane, QC, said: "The public has a right to know the identity of a person who makes such allegations and who seeks to use the system of justice for her own, unscrupulous ends."

A month earlier an obsessed stalker who accused her psychiatrist of rape was convicted of harassment, threats to kill and perverting justice. Maria Marchese, 45, rummaged through Jan Falkowski's dustbin for a used condom to clinch DNA evidence. The case against the consultant, of Limehouse, East London, was dropped - but his relationship with his fiancee collapsed.

There have been growing calls for men accused of rape to be granted anonymity until they are convicted. The Liberal Democrats voted last month to grant anonymity to anyone accused of rape until conviction.



By Jeff Jacoby

Did the Ottoman Turks commit genocide against the Armenians in 1915? Careful -- in some places you can be arrested if you give the wrong answer to that question. Under Article 305 of the Turkish Penal Code, for example, those who promote recognition of "the genocide of the Armenians" are subject to prosecution, while Article 301 makes the denigration of "Turkishness" a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. The Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk , winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature , is among those who have been charged under Article 301. His offense was to tell a Swiss interviewer that "30,000 Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands, and nobody but me dares to talk about it." (The charges against Pamuk were eventually dropped, but other prosecutions are ongoing.)

Yet if acknowledging the Armenian genocide is a crime in Turkey, gainsaying it could soon be a crime in France. Last week the French National Assembly voted to approve a bill under which anyone denying the 1915 genocide could be sentenced to a year's imprisonment and a 45,000-euro ($56,000) fine. That matches the penalty under French law for denying the Nazi Holocaust.

The French legislation is meant to uphold the truth -- the Armenian genocide, like the Holocaust, is a fact of history -- while the point of the Turkish law is to debase it. Both, however, are intolerable assaults on liberty. Beliefs should not be criminalized, no matter how repugnant or absurd. As I wrote when David Irving was convicted of Holocaust denial in Austria earlier this year, free societies do not throw people in prison for giving offensive speeches or spouting historical lies.

We Americans should know this better than anyone. The right to speak one's mind is supposed to be a core article of our civic faith. Yet the would-be censors are busy here, too. At Columbia University two weeks ago, a forum on immigration was to feature a speech by Jim Gilchrist of the Minutemen, a group that monitors the US-Mexico border for illegal immigrants. But moments after Gilchrist began speaking, protesters led by members of the International Socialist Organization stormed the stage, overturning tables, unfurling banners, and yelling insults. After 15 minutes of pandemonium, campus police shut down the program.

In Seattle, two teachers are suing the affluent Lakeside prep school for illegal racial discrimination and the creation of a hostile work environment. "Among the plaintiffs' complaints," reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "was Lakeside's invitation to conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza to speak as part of a distinguished lecture series." But D'Souza, a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution and a veteran of the Reagan White House, never gave the lecture: Faculty members opposed to his views howled when he was invited, and the school's headmaster, bowing to the censors, rescinded the invitation.

Asked about the campaign against him, D'Souza had said: "I am coming to speak on one day. If they think what I am saying is so awful, they have the rest of the year to refute it." But that isn't enough for the enemies of free speech. They insist not only that speakers with politically incorrect opinions be shunned, but that anyone offering them a platform be punished as well.

Then there is "Grist," an environmental webzine whose staff writer David Roberts recently proposed that global warming skeptics be put on trial like Nazi war criminals. "When we've finally gotten serious about global warming . . . we should have war crimes trials for these bastards -- some sort of climate Nuremberg," Roberts wrote. Negative publicity led him to recant, but he is far from the only one invoking the Holocaust as a way to silence global warming heretics.

Environmental writer Mark Lynas, for example, puts dissent on climate change "in a similar moral category to Holocaust denial -- except that this time the Holocaust is yet to come, and we still have time to avoid it. Those who try to ensure we don't will one day have to answer for their crimes." This totalitarian view is taking root everywhere, making skepticism on climate change taboo and subjecting anyone reckless enough to question the global-warming dogma to mockery and demonization. Former vice president Al Gore lumps "global warming deniers," some of whom are eminent scientists, with the "15 percent of the population (who) believe the moon landing was actually staged in a movie lot in Arizona" and those who "still believe the earth is flat."

The silencers are at work in the marketplace of ideas, using hook or crook to smother opinions they dislike. The lust to censor is as powerful as ever. If only liberty's defenders were equally vigilant.

Multicultural madness needs such antidotes

A twentysomething visitor from Britain brings us the message that there should be no special rules for Muslims, writes Janet Albrechtsen

IN another sign of predictable cultural capitulation, a check-in employee with British Airways is banned from wearing a small Christian cross but Muslim and Sikh employees may wear turbans and the hijab. Little wonder, then, that Munira Mirza is so refreshing. This young woman, reared as a Muslim, says it's time to scrap multiculturalism and to stop defining people as members of a minority group. Specifically, it's time for our political leaders to stop engaging with Muslims as Muslims. They are citizens; no special rules apply.

Mirza pulls few punches when exposing the West's cultural surrender. We all know the problem. Free speech in the polite West is a little clogged up these days. A Dutch film-maker, Theo van Gogh, is slain for making Submission, a movie critical of Islam. The scriptwriter, Dutch political activist Ayan Hirsi Ali, is forced to live under threat of death. Amateurish Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed unleash orchestrated madness across the globe. A nun is killed in Somalia because local Muslims don't like the Pope musing about Muslim attitudes to violence. A French teacher is hiding, under police protection, after describing Mohammed as a "merciless war leader". And so it goes on.

When it's easier to stay quiet for fear of provoking violence from some Muslims or attracting accusations of racism from Western appeasers, then the West is already living under the shadow of Islamic fascism. We're stuck with silent feminists who prefer cultural rights and the burka over women's rights and the silly noise of some on the so-called progressive side of politics marching to the tune of "We're all Hezbollah now".

Which is why, in the battle of ideas, Mirza is a much needed and perhaps most unlikely warrior. This twentysomething petite British woman who visited Australia last week says multiculturalism has caused the West's cultural timidity. She isn't talking about the simple acceptance of diversity originally sold to us as multiculturalism and embraced by Australians. Multiculturalism has gone far beyond whether to eat Thai, Indian, Italian or Chinese food.

Particularly in her native Britain, but also across large swaths of the Western world, multiculturalism has become a far bigger and more insidious concept during the past three decades. Its basic proposition is cultural relativism: that all cultures are of equal value, none can be criticised (except for the majority one), and that encouraging integration is racist.

In Mirza's Britain, this has delivered a tribalised society in which identity politics reigns supreme. In this world, victimhood is especially prized. Mirza told The Australian that multiculturalism "encourages groups to claim exclusion in order to get attention. In order to get resources, you have to prove your weakness." In a competitive multicultural marketplace, groups vie for most victimised status. This political culture disenfranchises people as individuals, rejecting that they are moral agents responsible for their own future.

At a Centre for Independent Studies lecture last Wednesday, Mirza told her audience that when she was at school in Britain a decade ago, few Muslim girls wore headscarves. Now Muslim girls, even those whose mothers don't wear the scarf, are choosing to put it on as an identifier of difference and oppression, the oppressor being the West.

Multiculturalism makes the private part of you - your religion - your most valuable public asset. And it's off bounds to criticise any part of it. Just ask Jack Straw, the leader of Britain's House of Commons, who was recently dubbed a terrorist guilty of inciting religious hatred for raising the problem of interacting with veiled Muslim women.

That powerful multicultural concoction of separateness and victimhood has left the West fractured, neutered of a confident and united identity. The consequences have been far ranging, according to Mirza. Most acutely, it has fuelled home-grown terrorism.

Young Muslim boys such as the London bombers - born, reared and educated in the West - have gone looking for meaning elsewhere because, Mirza says, "being British is so discredited in this country ... The most compelling thing about the al-Qa'ida identity is its victimhood status; it is the ultimate logic of multiculturalism, with its claim that it represents an oppressed minority."

The multicultural message has wrought other disastrous consequences documented by Mirza. Culture Vultures, a book she edited earlier this year, showcases how the arts have been subsumed by an ethnocentric emphasis that promotes wasteful projects with little artistic merit. In the workplace, multiculturalism has spawned diversity training because difference needs to be micro-managed. The premise is that without expert training in how to deal with difference, pudden-headed workers will succumb to their inherent bigoted, racist tendencies.

But, as Mirza points out, emphasising difference through diversity training ends up dividing us more. The ostensibly different ones are reminded of their difference, encouraged to treat every slight as an exhibition of racism. And the rest, their fellow workers, are left paralysed in their interactions for fear of being labelled a racist.

Australia has not yielded to the levels of multicultural madness infecting Britain and Europe, which is why Mirza's message is both a warning for Australia and a sign that perhaps the intellectual tide is turning in Britain. She says the answer is to stop the politics of tribalisation and start being unashamedly proud about the Enlightenment values that lie at the core of Western liberal democracies, values such as freedom of speech.

Where Mirza is less than convincing is in her tendency to ignore Islam as part of the problem confronting the West. When asked whether there was something about Islam that explained the rise of Islamic terrorism, she said all religions could be twisted to suit warped agendas of violence. Perhaps. But disaffected Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs are not plotting jihad: a point the Pope wished to raise in his speech at a German university before being pummelled into apologetic appeasement.

Following that fracas, Marcello Pera - who in 2004 co-wrote with the then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger a book titled Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam - told the International Herald Tribune it was legitimate for those in the West to ask if jihad is a necessary part of some interpretations of Islam. It's not a comfortable topic but it goes with the terrain of free speech. And on that score, as Mirza said at a lunch last week, "we could all do with a little more courage, frankly". Amen to that.


20 October, 2006


The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said he backed a local council which suspended a Muslim classroom assistant for refusing to remove her veil, as part of what he described as a difficult but necessary debate about how Islam integrates into the modern world. Mr Blair said on Tuesday the niqab worn by some Muslim women was "a mark of separation and that is why it makes other people from outside of the community feel uncomfortable" - words likely to anger some religious leaders.

Asked if it was possible for a woman wearing a veil to make a full contribution to British society, Mr Blair said it was "a very difficult question … no one wants to say that people don't have the right to do it. That is to take it too far. But I think we need to confront this issue about how we integrate people properly into our society. "It's a very, very sensitive issue; all I'm saying is we need to have this debate about integration. I'm not saying anyone should be forced to do anything."

Mr Blair said he could "see the reason" why Kirklees Council had suspended Aishah Azmi, a teaching assistant at Headfield Church of England junior school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. Ms Azmi has taken the council to an employment tribunal. Mr Blair said he was mindful of that, though he did not go as far as the Minister for Local Government, Phil Woolas, in calling for her to be sacked. But he said he "fully" supported Kirklees. "I simply say that I back their handling of the case. I can see the reason why they came to the decision they did," Mr Blair said.

Ms Azmi's lawyer said he was considering taking an injunction against Mr Blair to stop him saying more about the case. The Prime Minister said Ms Azmi's case, along with the decision by a senior Labour MP, Jack Straw, to ask women to remove their veils in his constituency surgeries and a row over British Airways' ban on a staff member wearing a cross, were part of a broader debate which was "happening in a very haphazard way". The debate was about the degree of integration by Muslims, and about "how Islam comes to terms with and is comfortable with the modern world", he said. The debate had begun long before ministers contributed and was going on in different forms across the developed world including the Middle East. A spokesman in Mr Blair's office said later that ministers had not engineered the debate, but nor could they shy away from it.



A virtually unnoticed piece of legislation is wending its way through Parliament right now. You might think you could not take issue with something called the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill. You might think that any legislation designed to promote child safety should be supported. You might be wrong. This new Bill will insist that every single person who could conceivably come into contact with a child, whether through work or volunteering, has to be subject to continuous criminal-record vetting.

Josie Appleton, author of The Case Against Vetting, calculates that up to a third of the adult working population will be covered, from the plumber who comes to mend a school’s leaking radiator to a parent running a football team or a 16-year-old helping schoolchildren to read. It will be an offence, subject to a fine of up to 5,000 pounds, for an employer to hire someone to work with children without being vetted, except in the context of private family arrangements.

Of course, those of us with nothing to hide will have nothing to lose. Except that the vetting is almost as bureaucratically onerous as getting a new passport. There are forms to be filled in, three pieces of identity to be proferred and, in some cases, cheques to be written. You then have to wait several weeks before you are cleared.

One new headmaster last year could not enter his own school for the first couple of weeks of term because his check had not come through. Another man — a father of three and member of the Scottish Parliament — was not allowed to lead the “walking bus” to his son’s primary school because he had not been officially cleared. We grown-ups, however public-spirited, are all now assumed guilty until proved innocent.

As a result, adults are being deterred from offering to help with children. The Girl Guides and Scouts are chronically short of volunteers: the Guides have a waiting list of 50,000, the Scouts 30,000, and some parents have resorted to signing their children up at birth. These checks will reveal not just convictions, but also offences of which people were accused but not convicted. This could wreck the lives of adults who have been falsely accused. And what about, for instance, Cherie Blair, who was investigated by the police for play-slapping a 17-year-old who made rabbit ears above her head while posing for a photograph? Will she now be banned from working with children? Or the vicar who kissed a girl on her forehead during a maths class?

One of the nicer aspects of being a child used to be the random acts of kindness offered by adults outside the family: the friendly shopkeeper who ruffled your hair and gave you a sweet; the enthusiastic PE coach who gave up time after school to help with your gymnastics and was constantly — and wholly innocently — adjusting your body position to get the moves right. These adults were generous with their time and their affection. We knew who the pervs were and took pains to avoid them.

Now all adults are deemed to be perverts unless they can prove that they are not. Most will now avoid contact with other people’s children and will refrain from touching them for fear of the action being misconstrued.

So what this Bill threatens to do is to poison the relationships between generations. Just as the ultra-feminist slogan “All men are rapists” tainted the relationship between men and women for a decade, so the assumption that all adults are potential paedophiles will imbue children with fear, parents with paranoia and other adults with excessive caution.

The new law was inspired by the Soham murders, in which Ian Huntley, a school caretaker, killed two young girls. Yet he did not even work at their school; it was his partner who did. In other words, the legislation may save no new lives. But what it will do is sour the trust between millions of children and millions of innocent adults. What a great shame.


Why men are paid more

Bettina Arndt writes:

Every few years the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases data about the gender wage gap. And every time the Labor Party announces the sky is falling in. The fact that men earn more than women is presented as proof that the country is going backward under Howard. The white picket fence is rising up to capture us all.

Everyone who participates in this farce knows full well that these wage-gap statistics are meaningless. So, what if the average woman in Australia earns $300 less per week than the average man. That statistic fails to take in account the hours worked. In fact, the average Australian Joe Blow works almost twice as many hours as the average Jenny Blow, according to data HILDA, the Household Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia survey. Since he's putting in twice as many hours, I hope Joe Blow would earn far more.

Not only does he work far longer hours, he's also far more likely to take on hazardous jobs such as mining, construction, trucking, he's more likely to be willing to move overseas, or to an undesirable location on demand and has trained for more technical jobs with less people contact. In fact, the wage gap hasn't much to do with discrimination, or conservative governments trying to keep women in their place. Differences in the way men and women behave in the workplace largely determine how much they earn.

Women are more likely to balance income with a desire for safety, fulfilment, flexibility and proximity to home. These lifestyle advantages lead to more people competing for jobs and thus lower pay. Wage gaps tend to disappear when women put in the same hours and have the same experience, training and work history as men. In Australia, similarly trained men and women under 30 show similar earnings. It is only in the older age groups that wage gaps start to widen, according to Mark Woden at the Melbourne Institute.

Yet men and women still tend not to have the same training. A London School of Economics study of more than 10,000 British graduates found the men started off earning 12 per cent more than the women. The reason? Most of the women had majored in the social sciences, while many men chose engineering, maths and computing. While more than half the women said their primary interest was a socially useful job, men were twice as likely to mention salary.

Similar patterns emerge here. Graduate women in Australia, who move into traditional male professions, often start off earning more than men. For instance, the average starting salary for female geologists in Australia is $60,000 compared to $52,000 for men. When women go into potentially high-earning careers, many end up earning far less than their male colleagues because of the way they structure their working lives. Look at female doctors. To get into medicine, these women were as ambitious and hard-working as any of their male colleagues. But a few years down the track it's a different story. Current figures show a female GP works in her paid job only 63 per cent of the hours put in by a male, although clearly many face a second shift at home.

Women are making choices. Yes, these choices are constrained by their family responsibilities. That's the reason they work those shorter hours and seek the lower paid, but more flexible work closer to home. Australian women still choose to take time out when their children are young, then return to part-time work. They miss out on financial rewards but are more content. The latest HILDA survey clearly shows women working part-time are more satisfied than full-time working women. The part-timers are far happier with their work-life balance and just as satisfied with their jobs as the full-timers. In fact, more than half the women working full-time want to work fewer hours while just over a third of the part-timers want to work more.

Yes, there are still glass ceilings, pockets of discrimination, but the major reason men earn more than women is the trade-offs women choose to make. So, the next time Anne Summers bleats about wage gaps, you'll know she's trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Wage gap talk is a con job.


19 October, 2006


Anything to upset ordinary people

Families were banned from taking photographs of their teenage sons playing football after a referee said that they were breaking child protection rules. The under-15s match was stopped three times and the teams warned that they would be deducted points if the 150 parents did not stop taking photographs or using their video cameras. The order followed widespread bans by schools and youth clubs preventing parents from recording plays and concerts, sports days and awards' presentations.

The referee of Sunday's match between Ashford Borough FC and Folkestone Invicta FC told parents that they could only photograph players if they had the written permission of every parent whose son was on the pitch. Alan Sleator, a spectator, was taking photos of his 14-year-old son Laurie during the first half of the game in Ashford, Kent, when he was upbraided by the referee. Mr Sleator, a 50-year-old PR executive, who drove 90 miles to watch the game, said: "He came charging up to me and I got a right dressing down. He said, `You can't take photographs, it's child protection.' Someone else was taking photographs and he did the same thing." The third time the referee spotted another parent brandishing a camera, during the second half, he halted the game for ten minutes.

Mr Sleator said: "He called both managers into the centre of the pitch and told them that if anyone in the crowd took any more photographs without his permission he would abandon the match and deduct points from both teams. "He instructed managers to confiscate cameras. I turned away and admitted defeat. Declaring parents who take photographs of their own kids to be criminals is hardly a great way to build the grass roots of the game." The match ended with Asford winning 3-2.

Bob Dix, chairman of Folkestone Invicta FC, said that he knew nothing about the guidelines and neither, according to parents, did football league officials attending neighbouring games on Sunday. Mr Dix said: "Most people who go to youth games are family or friends and many of them take pictures or videos. You see [David] Beckham and [Ashley] Cole's parents showing off videos of them playing when they were boys." The Football Association said that there were no rules preventing parents from taking pictures of youth matches. "We have issued guidance, not rules, that parents should try not to take individual pictures of children who are not their own and should record action shots and group shots."

Keith Masters, chief executive of the Kent Football Association, said: "There is no reason why the parents could not take photographs. I have spoken to the referee and explained this to him. He said that he was told to do this when he attended a child protection course."

The National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations said last year that headteachers should ban cameras and videos from school events unless all families have given permission for their children to be filmed.



The escape of two terror suspects under control orders is as embarrassing to the Home Office as it is bewildering to the public. The men cannot be named, though one is understood to be an Iraqi and the other a Briton of Pakistani origin. The Government has refused to say why they are dangerous, or how or when they escaped, and will not give details that could alert the public, even though officials reportedly regard the Iraqi as a serious risk. The public has not been told whether police are seeking the men, whether the Home Office is to carry out a review or what is being done to ensure effective surveillance of the other former internees in Belmarsh prison who are also subject to control orders....

Since none of the 15 suspects has been charged, the Government has insisted that they cannot be named. And it is this insistence on anonymity that has greatly confused the issue. Lawyers argue that naming the men or giving any details of them would brand them as guilty. The Government therefore did not announce that they had escaped. Breaching a control order is in itself a crime. But although they are now fugitives from justice, it will still not name them. This certainly does not make it any easier to recapture them.

The obsession with anonymity is meant to protect the suspects' human rights and to ensure that any future trial is not prejudiced. Judges insist that there should be no public discussion of this or of the charges and substance of other current terror trials - many mired in delays and legal wrangling - lest this prejudice juries. The principle is admirable; the practice is absurd. Details of the control order cases are freely available on the internet. So too is most of the information banned from publication about other terrorist suspects. Ignorance may be no excuse, but this is an excuse for ignorance.

It is a basic principle of British law that justice should be seen to be done. This has become a casualty of terrorism. The only way out, ultimately, is to admit wiretapping evidence in court and to charge terrorist suspects or deport them.


Get the inspectors out of British nurseries

Government regulation of childcare is making life difficult for parents, children and carers

What do you want from your child’s nursery? A secure, affectionate environment run by people who know and like children, or a bureaucratic hell-hole where you are kept neatly updated with your toddler’s educational progress, by a coterie of highly-qualified staff who keep the kids at arm’s length and react to a high temperature or a display of bad behaviour by picking up the phone and telling you to come and get them?

For most parents, I would imagine this is a rhetorical question. When you drop off your little children at their nursery or childminder (mine are five months old, and two-and-a-bit), you don’t want them to come home able to count to 100. You want to know that they will have fun, not just be safe; that when they fall, they will be somehow comforted; that when they misbehave, they will be somehow reprimanded; and that when they become suddenly ill – as children do – they will be given something to help them.

But for the authorities, it seems like quite a different set of criteria apply. Childcare is under increasing pressure to change its priorities, so that box-ticking and back-covering count for more than confidence and common sense. Vetted to within an inch of their lives, subjected to all manner of formal inspections, and expected to play the combined role of schoolteacher, social worker, child psychologist and hyper-efficient bureaucrat, those young women who used to be called ‘nursery nurses’, who worked with children just because they liked them and were good at the job, are burdened under a whole load of contradictory expectations. Isn’t it time someone put a stop to this nonsense?

Enter Olive Rack. On 26 September this year, magistrates cleared Mrs Rack, a nursery owner for over 20 years, after being accused by two council inspectors of assault. Her ‘crime’? She disciplined a toddler – who had just hit a baby on the head - by leading her by the arm and putting her on a ‘naughty chair’. The toddler’s mother had agreed with Rack’s actions; the inspectors did not, and Rack was consequently suspended for a year (1). Now she has been vindicated, and the case has sparked some welcome discussion about the daftness of various childcare regulations: everything from refusing to allow nurseries to dispense Calpol or cough medicine without prescription or prior written consent, to the incompatibility of concerns about touching children with the basic need to change nappies and give them a cuddle.

‘Since I opened in 1987 the red tape and regulations have grown. There are more and more rules, to the point where they are actually strangling the nurseries. It’s certainly detrimental to the children, it’s spread to their lives as well,’ Rack told the Sunday Times (2). It turns out that she first clashed with inspectors more than a decade ago, by refusing to demote one of her staff who had no formal childcare qualifications: ‘She was brilliant at her job but in the end she lost confidence because of all the nitpicking,’ says Rack.

These are good points well made; and the ‘PC gone mad’ element of childcare bureaucracy, upon which much of the commentary has focused (3), is certainly due a trouncing. But the problem goes deeper than red tape and accreditation-mania. The formalisation of childcare is steadily undermining the confidence and trust that is essential for parents, children and childcarers alike.

As an example: my children’s nursery recently underwent an Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) inspection, and it was a gruelling thing to watch. Suddenly, staff working in this lovely, warm, relaxed environment were put on edge, their spontaneous confidence dulled by the scrutiny. After dropping off my baby and toddler on day two, the inspector ‘canvassed’ me at the door. Did I know my children’s key-worker? Was I familiar with the complaints procedure? Did I think anything could be improved?

As I talked about how brilliant the nursery was, her eyes glazed over – and I suppose this was no surprise. Because there is no space in these formal procedures for indicating the positive, intangible things you really value about your children’s nursery: the easy affection and no-nonsense approach of the staff; that if they phone you to request more nappies, the first thing they tell you is that your kids are fine, so you don’t visualise them being rushed to the hospital; that ‘compress and cuddle’ is given as a treatment for a minor tumble.

Indeed, many of the things that we parents so value when leaving our little children in the care of a nursery or childminder are now increasingly seen as suspicious, and in need of further documentation and procedure. This undermines childcare staff, who do a brilliant job for little money; it threatens to have a bad impact on the children, who at that age need confidence and cuddles like nothing else; and it is an insult to us, the parents. We don’t need an Ofsted report to tell us what our children’s nursery or childminder is like – we see it day in, day out, and if we don’t like something we deal with it. When official inspectors come through the door, it is as though we are being judged too. The upshot of all this is to create an environment that is tense at best, with everybody encouraged to second-guess what they should be doing, rather than just focusing on looking after the kids.

What purpose is served by this regulation? The authorities would argue that this ever-tighter process of inspection and standard-setting is for the benefit of the parents – that it will help us to have confidence that our children are receiving ‘quality’ care. But aside from the fact that parents may not share Ofsted’s standards, in its own terms this process is flawed. ‘Good’ nurseries and childminders that pass the test are put on the defensive by the inspection process, and forced to adopt policies and procedures with which they may not agree. In other words, doing well at inspection is no protection. And those that don’t pass? They just get shut down.

According to the Sunday Times, Ofsted closed down 11 nurseries and childminders last year, and suspended a further 30. Maybe these were shabby establishments – who knows? But we should remember what we are dealing with here. Childcare for very young children is, for the most part, privately owned and privately funded by the parents. It is also very scarce: unlike the state school system from primary education onwards, where a place does exist for every child somewhere, there is no guarantee that parents wanting daycare for their pre-schoolers will be able to get it.

Daycare isn’t even publicly funded, unlike schools. This begs two questions. What business has Ofsted, the body set up to inspect publicly-funded compulsory schooling, in inspecting private nurseries anyway? And if Ofsted doesn’t like what it sees, what is going to happen to those parents who rely on the childcare they, after all, have chosen?

It happens that the bureaucratisation and ‘nitpicking’ described by Olive Rack has coincided with an increasing expectation that women go back to full-time work after their children are born. So just at the point when there is a huge demand for daycare, the authorities seem hell-bent on making it less accessible, not more.

The shame of this is that there is a clear role for the government in the provision of childcare – greater subsidies, or even state-run nurseries, so that there are more places, which are more affordable for parents, and at the same time allowing nursery nurses, those very badly-paid unsung heroes of the childcare sector, to be paid more. It’s not rocket science. It’s just common sense.


18 October, 2006

Mike Adams addresses his criminology class about "Legislating morality"

Dear Students:

First of all, I would like to thank each of you for signing up for my class this semester at UNC-Wilmington. Part of my job as your professor is to dispel certain myths you learn in your other classes, especially sociology. If you decide to question these myths in Sociology 101, your professor is likely to assign you to sensitivity training sessions.

Because our university faculty is so overwhelmingly liberal, many of these myths constitute arrogant dismissals of conservative ideas - ideas that your professors would take more seriously if they had a little more experience interacting with conservatives. Some of your professors have never met a conservative and could only spot one from a distance based largely on the conservative's physical appearance and grooming habits.

Needless to say, I can't take on all of the myths you will encounter every semester at UNC-Wilmington. In fact, each semester I design a project that focuses on just one of those myths. This semester I will focus on the myth that society "can't legislate morality."

But before I deliver my first lecture on the topic, I have decided to give you a little homework assignment. Please take the time to a) read all of the following questions, and b) write a short paragraph in response to each. I'll collect your answers before the next lecture on Monday:

During the 1990s, liberals stated that legislation designed to cut food stamps was "immoral." But most liberals also adhere to the belief that you "can't legislate morality." How can a bill be "immoral" if it can't be "moral"?

There are a number of reasons why the colonists declared independence from England. Is it fair to say that the primary reason was that the King was not legislating morally?

The First Amendment clearly prevents the federal government from establishing a national religion. Does it also forbid the federal government from establishing a national morality?

Was the 13th Amendment ban of slavery an example of Congress trying to "legislate morality"? If your answer is "yes," is that sufficient grounds to reinstate slavery?

Those who say there is no objective standard of morality base their opinion on the inability of people to act in accordance with that standard consistently. But isn't the absolute moral law more likely to be seen in people reactions, rather than their actions? Think about yourself for a moment. Sometimes you tell the truth, sometimes you don't. But, do you not react with consistent moral outrage when people lie to you?

Those who say that "you can't legislate morality" often talk about various "moral panics" and "witch hunts" over the years. This is done to suggest that morality changes over time. But, is it correct to say that the witch hunts were a product of a primitive morality? Isn't it more accurate to say that the only thing that has changed is our belief about the existence of witches and their ability to commit murder? We've always been opposed to murder, haven't we?

In the famous 1925 Scopes "monkey" trial, Clarence Darrow stated: "For God's sake, let the children have their minds kept open - close no doors to their knowledge; shut no door from them. Make a distinction between theology and science. Let them have both. Let them be taught. Let them both live." Have you ever met a 21st Century liberal who believes that both evolution and creation should be taught in schools? Or do they say "Let them have only one"?

Can you name the 1981 Arkansas case in which the ACLU (the ones who brought us the Scopes case) argued that teaching both evolution and creation is actually in violation of the First Amendment?

How many of our Founding Fathers attended seminary? (Hint: It is more than 26 and less than 28).

In 1796, an act was passed by Congress under President Washington regulating the land given to the Society of United Brethren for "propagating the gospel among the heathen." The act was later extended by President Jefferson. Do you suppose that conflicts with his supposed insistence upon a "wall of separation between church and state"?

Have you ever read the 1802 letter from which the phrase "wall of separation of church and state" was taken? Is there any truth to the assertion that the letter was written to a group of Baptists in Connecticut ensuring that their church would be protected from the government by a one way wall of protection? How did that letter produce the justification for keeping a high school girl from mentioning Jesus at her high school graduation?

Is it true that Thomas Jefferson set up the University of Virginia - using state funds - with rules including a ban on swearing and an expectation that students would "attend religious services"?

Given that Thomas Jefferson did not attend the constitutional convention, why is it that people often quote him when insisting that the "separation of church and state" is a "constitutional requirement"? Is it possible that many of these self-described liberals are unable to differentiate between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence?

How many of the states that ratified the First Amendment had official state churches?

Is there any relationship between the ACLU's love of communism and its hatred of religion?

For the answers to all of these questions, you can simply read Legislating Morality, by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. Or you can come back to class on Friday to hear me lecture on the topic of "legislating morality."


No Islamic Law in Minnesota, for Now

By Daniel Pipes

A week ago, it appeared likely that Muslim taxi drivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport would win special dispensation to avoid transporting alcohol-carrying passengers. The Metropolitan Airports Commission had proposed to give those Shar'i-minded drivers an off-colored light atop their cabs, allowing them to remain in queue while customers with bottles found other cabs.

I opposed this "two-light solution," arguing in "Don't Bring That Booze into My Taxi" that it intrudes Islamic law into a mundane transaction of American commercial life. I urged readers who share my views to write the commission to make known their views.

On October 10, a few hours after my article first appeared, the commission met and reversed itself on the two-light solution. A press release issued later that day, "Proposed Taxi Test Program Canceled at Minneapolis-St. Paul International; Other Options Will be Considered To Improve Taxi Service," explained that public response to the proposed program "has been overwhelmingly against creation of a two-tiered taxi service system."

MAC executive director Jeff Hamiel noted that, based on public response to the proposed test program the test program (which never went into effect and will not be implemented)," it is clear that its implementation could have unintended and significant negative impacts on the taxi industry as a whole." Or, in the words of MAC's press release, "Some taxi service providers have expressed fears that people opposed to the program will choose other ground transportation options rather than take any taxi from the airport."

Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan further elaborated: Since the airport began making plans for the two-light solution, "we've heard from Australia and England. It's really touched a nerve among a lot of people. The backlash, frankly, has been overwhelming. People are overwhelmingly against any kind of cultural accommodation." That backlash, Hogan said, included 400 e-mails and phone calls.

I thank my readers, including those from Australia and England, who turned out in force and were apparently decisive in stopping this small but worrisome application of Islamic law.

Hassan Mohamud, vice president of Minnesota MAS, naturally expressed his disappointment in the decision. "More than half the taxi drivers are Muslim and ignoring the sensibilities of that community at the airport I think is not fair." But other Muslims publicly dismissed the drivers' fastidiousness. Mahmoud Ayoub, an Islamic scholar at Temple University, stressed that Islam bans drinking alcohol, not carrying it. "I know many Muslims who own gas stations [where beer is sold] and sell ham sandwiches. They justify it and I think rightly so, [saying] that they have to make a living."

The Free Muslims Coalition announced it is "disgusted" by the Muslim drivers' behavior, on two grounds: First, "Most Muslims don't agree that cab drivers are prohibited from transporting alcohol. Islam merely prohibits Muslims from drinking alcohol and those drivers are seeking to impose their religious values on others." Second, "When the cab drivers chose to drive a cab they entered into an agreement to perform a public service that is essential to the economy of any city. They have no right to refuse a fare because the passenger is holding a bottle of wine or other spirits." Kamal Nawash, president of the Free Muslims Coalition, added: "These taxi cab drivers basically think they're living in their own countries where it's OK to impose your religious beliefs upon others."

The MAC press release also contains information on another interesting point. The number of incidents has dropped drastically:

At the time discussion of the issue with the taxi industry began in May, cab drivers were refusing to transport customers with alcohol from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport 77 times per month, on average. However, recent changes in federal regulations now prohibit air travelers from taking most liquids - including alcoholic beverages - in quantities larger than three ounces through security checkpoints. Since the federal liquids prohibition went into effect in August, far fewer people are noticeably carrying alcohol through airports or subsequently being refused service by taxi drivers.

In a private conversation, Patrick Hogan specified that since the August 10 thwarted terrorist plot in London, there have only been about four incidents per month. Ironically, then, British Islamists plotting a terrorist operation in London effectively solved the problem for U.S. Muslims not wanting to transport alcohol in Minnesota.

For now, taxi drivers who refuse fares so as to avoid transporting alcohol will continue, as has been the case, to forfeit their place in the airport taxi queue and must return to the back of the line, in keeping with a MAC ordinance. But the Free Muslims Coalition correctly argues that this does not suffice. Cab drivers who discriminate against passengers with bottles of alcohol, it holds, "should be banned altogether from picking up passengers at the airport" and their hack permits should be cancelled.

Exactly. Islamists need to understand that the Constitution rules in the United States, not Shari'a, and Americans will vigorously ensure that it continues to do so.



Pinocchio, Tom Sawyer and other characters have been converted to Islam in new versions of 100 classic stories on the Turkish school curriculum. "Give me some bread, for Allah's sake," Pinocchio says to Geppetto, his maker, in a book stamped with the crest of the ministry of education. "Thanks be to Allah," the puppet says later.

In The Three Musketeers, D'Artagnan is told that he cannot visit Aramis. The reason would surprise the author, Alexandre Dumas. An old woman explains: "He is surrounded by men of religion. He converted to Islam after his illness."

Tom Sawyer may always have shirked his homework, but he is more conscientious in learning his Islamic prayers. He is given a "special treat" for learning the Arabic words.

Pollyanna, seen by some as the embodiment of Christian forgiveness, says that she believes in the end of the world as predicted in the Koran.

Heidi, the Swiss orphan girl in the tale by Johanna Spyri, is told that praying to Allah will help her to relax. Several more books have been altered, including La Fontaine's fables and Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.

The clumsy insertions by Islamic publishing houses have caused controversy in Turkey, which has been a strongly secular state since the 1920s.

Other books contain insults, slang and rude rhymes which mock the president and the prime minister. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is Turkey's first Islamic premier, has called for swift action to be taken against the publishers. The education ministry has threatened to take legal action against any publisher which continues to issue such books. Huseyin Celik, the education minister, said: "If there are slang and swear words, we will sue them for using the ministry logo."



And there is no group suffering official discrimination like white middle-class males do

The vast majority of people in Britain are officially oppressed, according to a report that claims we have become a "nation of victims". The study calculates that 73 per cent of Britons are members of officially recognised "victim groups", including the disabled, women, ethnic minorities and homosexuals. Each group is given government support, including protective legislation. The report, We're (Nearly) All Victims Now, by the socially conservative think- tank Civitas, gives warning that the rise of a "victimocracy" undermines democracy because people are no longer considered equal under law.

"We have become a nation of victims," it says. "Victimhood today is a political status that is sought after because of the advantages it brings, including preferential treatment in the workplace, the possibility of using police power to silence unwelcome critics, and financial compensation. To be classified as a victim is to be given a special political status, which has no necessary connection with real hardship or oppression."

In October next year the Government is setting up the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, which merges the disability, race and equal opportunities commissions.

Many people, such as black women, are victims of so-called multiple discrimination. The report uses official figures to strip out the overlapping groups to calculate that nearly three quarters of people belong to one category or other. The biggest oppressed group is women, who constitute 51 per cent of the population and are protected by a range of legislation covering discrimination, equal pay and domestic violence. Ethnic minority men amount to 4 per cent; white disabled men 11 per cent; white male pensioners 5 per cent; and white, gay, able-bodied men, 2 per cent.

The report attacks the increasing tendency to judge crimes as more serious if they are committed against official victims - so-called hate crimes. Police have been encouraged to give priority to such cases, which the Civitas report says is undermining equality under the law. It cites the trial this year of the killers of Jody Dobrowski, a barman murdered on Clapham Common, South London, in October last year. Jailing the two men for 28 years, the judge said that the sentence would have been halved if they had not voiced any opposition to the victim's sexuality. "Is animosity to gays a worse motive than, for example, a calculated killing to silence a witness?" it asks.

It also states that claiming official victim status enables groups to silence critics, often using taking offence as a political tactic. The benefits of taking offence are so great in any debate, that it has encouraged the growth of "increasing touchiness" in Britain. However, the report gives warning that seeking victim status can harm the victims, denying them personal responsibility by always blaming others and undermining their self-respect


17 October, 2006


A British government minister joined an increasingly bitter debate about the rights of Muslim women to veil their faces, saying a teaching assistant should be fired for insisting on wearing one in school. Phil Woolas, the government's Race and Faith minister, was quoted by the Sunday Mirror newspaper as demanding that Aishah Azmi, a Muslim teaching assistant, be fired for refusing to remove her veil at work. She should be sacked. She has put herself in a position where she can't do her job," Woolas said.

Azmi has refused to remove her black veil, which leaves only her eyes visible, in front of male colleagues. She was suspended from her job, but has taken her case to an industrial tribunal, a court that handles cases on employment law, which will make a decision in the next few weeks.

Azmi, who is 24 and has two children, has insisted that she had been willing to remove her veil in class, as long as there were no adult males present. "She is denying the right of children to a full education by insisting that she wears the veil. If she is saying that she won't work with men, she is taking away the right of men to work in school," Woolas said.

The debate on the veils began earlier this month, when Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary who now serves as leader of the House of Commons, said Muslim women visiting his office should remove their veils. The opposition Conservatives also weighed in on the contentious issue, with one of the party's top officials accusing Muslim leaders of encouraging a "voluntary apartheid" that could help spawn homegrown terrorism.

David Davis, a top Conservative Party official, supported Straw for starting the debate. "What Jack touched on was the fundamental issue of whether in Britain we are developing a divided society," Davis told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper. "Whether we are inadvertently encouraging a kind of voluntary apartheid."

Prime Minister Tony Blair has praised Straw for raising the issue "in a measured and considered way," and urged Britons to engage in such discussions without "becoming hysterical."

Salman Rushdie, whose book "The Satanic Verses" once led to death threats against him by Islamic clerics, said last week that Straw "was expressing an important opinion, which is that veils suck, which they do. I think the veil is a way of taking power away from women."

Nazir Ahmed, the House of Lords' first Muslim legislator, today joined the fray by criticizing British politicians and the media for "demonizing" the country's Muslim community. In an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio, Ahmed, a moderate lawmaker of the governing Labour Party, said: "Let's be honest, there are people in our community who call themselves Muslims who have been threatening our national security. It is very unfortunate. "But the problem is that the politicians and some people in the media have used this for demonization of entire communities, which has become a very fashionable thing today."


An insightful comment from a Columbia student about the antidemocratic attitudes there:

Columbia University is a place for rich kids - rich kids who agree with each other. Sure, some come from well-to-do Hispanic families - we're not all poor Mexicans, you know - and a few are from the black upper middle-class. But at Columbia, being "from Brooklyn" means you grew up in Park Slope. This is why Columbia has problems with free speech.

But first, a clarifier: The students and non-students who caused a ruckus at the Minutemen event last week were an assortment of radicals and fringe thinkers. They weren't "typical Columbia students" in any way, shape or form. Many weren't students at all. But the radicals on campus exist and act - much as radicals anywhere - with the tacit support of the broader community. Why is Columbia a sanctuary for these people? Why was Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minutemen, forcibly silenced and not just ignored?

Call it white guilt, though in a mutated form. There are Latinos at Columbia, but most of them are like me - our Hispanic heritage is invisible to the naked eye. Very few are brown, and even fewer come from poor or even working-class households. And the fact is that most Columbia students are afraid of poor people, or at least people who look poor. They see going above 125th Street as "being adventurous."

The insularity and homogeneity of Columbia's campus makes students feel guilty when they come across New Yorkers who are visibly less privileged. In the eyes of my fellow students, poor and working-class minorities are an exotic, vulnerable species that needs the protection and support of upstanding Ivy Leaguers like ourselves . . . Except when we actually have to be around them, in which case we complain about their bad manners and uncouth behavior. ("Can you believe that greasy-looking Dominican guy just whistled at me like that? How disgusting!")

Jim Gilchrist and the Minutemen hit a nerve at Columbia, because they say the things that so many students here at Coumbia feel so guilty about thinking.

Immigration in America isn't really about race. It's about class. There were no jingoist protests during the 1980s and '90s when equally dark-skinned doctors and software engineers from India flooded the American labor market. No, we loved them. Poor people, well, that's another story. I was talking with a classmate, one of Columbia's white Latinas, last week, and she explained to me her problem with "people who have no class." She started off complaining about the anti-immigrant tone that Midwestern Democrats have displayed as of late. "I don't know if I can still be a Democrat," she said. Then she started talking about the Mexicans that had invaded her placid Queens neighborhood when she was still in high school. "They left trash all over the soccer field!" she gasped. Well, what did our burgeoning little Latina activist do? She supported the building of dozens of mounds on the field so that it would no longer be suitable for soccer. Those dirty Mexicans stopped coming around after that, she explained. Never would they mess up her neighborhood again. So much for "Si se puede," I guess.

It's easy to support poor immigrants when they're a theoretical entity and you never actually have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis. The Minuteman melee is a case in point. The insularity of the campus, much as with the upper-crust suburbs from which Columbia students largely hail, leaves a lot of young people feeling empty about their lives. It all feels so structured and sanitized and safe. Where's the gritty reality we read about in all these books? Where's the anti-war protests and civil-rights struggle of our parents' generation? Where's the grand struggle for a just cause?

Of course, having never seen much grit for most of their lives, Columbia students tend to balk at the first sight of too much reality - like going above 125th Street. On the other hand, joining a protest group is easy and safe but still "edgy" and cool. It lets students feel good about themselves and their convictions and their fight against "the man" without ever having to leave the shelter and structure of campus. "No person is illegal," read the trilingual (English, Spanish, and Arabic) banner unfurled in protest as students stormed the Minutemen's stage last week. I wonder how many of those kids know a single illegal immigrant? (Well, maybe they know the pizza-delivery guy . . .)

I, for one, believe that the people who climb mountains and trek through the badlands of south Texas and Arizona to work in this country pay homage to the dogged, never-say-die spirit of the American dream. Illegal or not, they underpin the American economy and they do jobs that other Americans are unwilling to do. They should be embraced and legalized somehow, someway.

But the principle of free speech and the free exchange of ideas is at the heart of that American dream. Under no circumstance is it OK to forcibly silence or prevent from speaking someone we don't like, even a xenophobe or demagogue. It is a sad comment on the state of the American mind, but Jim Gilchrist is an important and influential voice in contemporary American politics and he deserves to be heard by the rich, guilty white kids of Columbia University.


Islamic militants face purge in British schools and universities

Minister will order police and councils to identify hotspots of extremism

Hotspots of Islamic extremism will be identified in schools, colleges and universities under government plans to be announced today. Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, will defy growing anger from Islamic leaders by ordering police and local authorities to root out Muslim extremists.

The announcement comes after the revelation yesterday that new faith schools could be forced to offer at least a quarter of their places to pupils of other religions and non-believers.

Ms Kelly will urge representatives from 20 “key” local councils to consider if they are doing enough to tackle extremism in schools, colleges and universities, and if they have identified “hot-spot” neighbourhoods and sections of the community that could be breeding grounds for such activity.

“In major parts of Britain the new extremism we’re facing is the single biggest security issue for local communities,” she will stay. “This is not just a problem for Muslim communities. The far Right is still with us, still poisonous, still trying to create and exploit divisions.”

The Department for Education has also prepared plans to ask university staff and lecturers to inform police of Muslim and “Asian-looking” students they suspect of involvement in supporting terrorists. An 18-page document due to be sent to universities and colleges by the end of the year expresses concern over Islamic societies and students from “segregated backgrounds”.

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, is expected to suggest that opening up admissions to faith schools would help to ease racial tensions and give parents more choice. The move comes after a proposal this month by the Church of England to open up voluntarily 25 per cent of places in all its new schools to children irrespective of their religious beliefs.

The changes are likely to prove more controversial with Roman Catholics and Muslims. Critics of faith schools have long complained that they are exclusive and divide society, rather than promote cohesion. About a third, or 7,000, of all state schools in England have a religious ethos, mostly Christian. Four fifths of the top 200 secondaries are faith schools.

Mr Johnson will table an amendment to the Education and Inspections Bill when it returns to the Lords this week requiring new faith schools to reserve a quarter of their places for non-believers or children of other faiths. The change would place the initial decision about a school’s intake in the hands of the local education authority (LEA), enabling it to demand that up to a quarter of its places are open to families of different or no faiths.

“It is not a quota, per se, only obviously if there is a demand for places,” a source close to Mr Johnson said. “But if there is demand they [LEAs] will have the power to insist on up to 25 per cent of places being given up to non-faith pupils.”

Where there is opposition to the policy within the school, the Church or community, an appeal could be made to the Secretary of State who could allow the LEA to approve a faith school with fewer than 25 per cent non-faith pupils.

Shahid Malik, the Muslim Labour MP for Dewsbury, said of the move: “This is part of a strategy which says we can’t ignore segregation any longer. We have to start working to make people have a greater understanding of one another.”

Last week Lord Bruce- Lockhart, the head of the Local Government Association, suggested in The Times that state schools should introduce ethnic quotas into admissions criteria to break down the extreme segregation of pupils along cultural and religious lines.

A Tory spokesman gave Mr Johnson’s plan a guarded welcome, saying that David Cameron had made clear that he supported such initiatives, but that it should not be a matter of uniform national rules. Idris Mears, of the Association of Muslim Schools, said that imposing the proposals on minority faiths seemed to be socially unjust. “Most Muslim schools already have this provision in their regulations, but to impose it on us without increasing our numbers substantially doesn’t seem fair,” he said.

There are seven Muslim state schools in England, and five more are recommended for public funding. Tony Blair hopes to bring more of the 150 private Muslim schools into the state sector. There are two Sikh schools, 37 Jewish schools, 2,041 Catholic schools and 4,646 Church of England schools.


16 October, 2006


(Sad that it takes a Coptic Christian to stand up for the faith. The only thing a member of the Church of England would stand up for is homosexuality)

British Airways has suspended a Christian woman who wears a necklace with a crucifix to work, even though it allows Muslims and Sikhs to wear headscarves and turbans, a newspaper reported overnight. Nadia Eweida, 55, told the Daily Mail that she decided to sue her employer for religious discrimination after having been suspended without pay for three weeks. "I will not hide my belief in the Lord Jesus. British Airways permits Muslims to wear a headscarf, Sikhs to wear a turban and other faiths religious apparel," Ms Eweida said. "Only Christians are forbidden to express their faith." Ms Eweida, a British Airways employee for seven years, works at the BA check-in counter at London's Heathrow Airport.

In a statement, British Airways said: "The case is ongoing, and is still under investigation, and as such it would be inappropriate to discuss it in detail. An appeal is due to be heard next week. "British Airways does recognise that uniformed employees may wish to wear jewellery including religious symbols. Our uniform policy states that these items can be worn underneath the uniform," it said. "There is no ban. The rule applies for all jewellery and religious symbols on chains and is not specific to the Christian cross," it said. "Other religious items such as turbans, hijabs and bangles can be worn as it is not practical for staff to conceal them beneath their uniforms."

The Daily Mail said Ms Eweida, whose father is an Egyptian Coptic Christian and whose mother is English, was ordered last month by a manager at Heathrow to remove her cross or hide it beneath a company cravat. She then asked for permission to wear the chain but was refused. According to the newspaper, BA customer service manager Caroline Girling told Ms Eweida in a letter: "You have been sent home because you have failed to comply with a reasonable request. "You were asked to cover up or remove your cross and chain which you refused to do"



It is high time we debunked the myth of the ecological Aborigine, writes Australian environmentalist William J. Lines

At a rainforest symposium in Cairns in 1987, Ian Lowe, head of science policy at Griffith University, argued that "there are general principles of resource management [that hunter-gatherer] societies embody, and from which we can learn if we have the perceptiveness and the humility to do so". Lowe attempted to elaborate. "Some of these lessons," he claimed, "were spelled out over a century ago by Chief Seattle: 'The Earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know: The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the Earth. This we know: all things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."'

Fine sentiments. Except Chief Seattle never proclaimed them, nor did any other Native American. The entire speech was a concoction, written by a modern, non-Native American scriptwriter, Ted Perry, for a 1972 film about ecology and falsely attributed to Chief Seattle. Despite their counterfeit, modern provenance, Chief Seattle's words won disciples all over the world and appeared on T-shirts and posters, were reproduced in books and articles, and were frequently cited as the epitome of traditional wisdom and the true and authentic expression of the beliefs of indigenous peoples. In Australia, they provided the template for platitudes about Aborigines living in ecological balance with the environment.

Some commentators who cited Chief Seattle's phony words went further. Economist Clive Hamilton claimed that "much of the inspiration for the philosophy of environmentalism comes from the spiritual outlook of indigenous peoples such as Native Americans and Australian Aborigines". As an example, he quoted Chief Seattle and observed that "it is apparent that these words express a powerful sense of unity between ourselves and the Earth". Like the belief in the authenticity of Chief Seattle's speech, these comments rested more on projection and wishful thinking than on fact. And perhaps there was guilt.

The myth of the ecological Aborigine elevated Aborigines to positions of moral and spiritual superiority and disparaged people ofnon-Aboriginal background. They would never belong in Australia. Their ancestry rendered them incapable of acquiring a sense of connection. After a visit to Kakadu, Michael Krockenberger, Darwin Environment Centre co-ordinator and Australian Conservation Foundation councillor, observed: "In country like this, white people feel like strangers. There is also a sense of incongruity, a feeling that white people cannot easily belong. Only the Aboriginal people are truly at home." These were extraordinary claims: racist, self-scourging and, for conservationists, self-defeating. After all, conservation sought to encourage people to feel at home in Australia, not condemned forever to be outsiders. They could change and identify with the land. Otherwise, what was the point? Who else would support conservation except patriots?

Many prominent conservationists, however, declared that for non-Aborigines, connection was impossible. According to the tenets of racial thinking, non-Aborigines could never and would never feel comfortable living in Australia. If true -- if non-Aborigines were inherently incapable of attachment -- then conservation was doomed. Indeed, the subject tested people's commitment to conservation. Rock singer Peter Garrett -- who became ACF president in 1989 -- campaigned as much for land rights as for conservation. Ensnared by the myth of the ecological Aborigine, many conservationists displayed a perverse unwillingness to accept Aborigines as members of the human race. Land rights advocates couched their arguments in terms of them and us.

Individual human beings disappeared, replaced by a generalised Aborigine and a generalised white. This was fantasy, a fantasy about the other. The fact was, there is no them and no us, only benighted individual human beings, each with their own foibles, traits, infirmities and delusions. All humans share the same biology and endure the same existential anxieties generated by common flesh and blood in a common material world. All humans came out of Africa and all are indigenous to planet Earth. All are capable of alienation and of belonging. Race thinkers, however, insisted on discrimination. The 1991 Queensland land rights bill allowed Aborigines to claim land rights over all the state's national parks, or 2.7 per cent of the state. Aboriginal groups had already indicated they would seek rights over Green Island and Fitzroy Island near Cairns, Iron Range and Archer River Bend on Cape York, Mossman Gorge, Fraser Island and other parks. The Kuku Yalanji clan said it would apply to hunt cassowary and other wildlife in the Mossman Gorge and Daintree national parks.

Some conservationists applauded the legislation. Others said it was inconceivable that Aborigines should hunt rare wildlife with modern firearms in the relatively small proportion of land protected as national park. In a letter to Garrett, ACF member Harry Dick of Cooktown described the ACF's and other groups' support for the Queensland land rights bill as treachery. He said he would work to reverse the ACF policy and would resign if he failed. "No other group in the community has the right to hunt in national parks and it is just not on with Aborigines," he wrote. "The ACF leaders have gone about this with no consultation with their membership. Members are afraid to speak out because they'll be branded racists."

Not all conservationists were cowed. Bill Fisher, north Queensland director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, said the government had rushed into a land rights policy without informed consideration. Changing the protective status of national parks, he said, had "very serious potential to weaken the status for all time". Jill Thorsborne, president of the Cairns branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, backed Fisher and led a campaign to pressure the government to exempt national parks from land claims.

Judith Wright viewed this dissent with alarm. With a dogmatism deriving from her blinkered view of justice for Aborigines, she would not tolerate any questioning of the myth of the ecological Aborigine. She resigned as WPSQ patron and, in an open letter, condemned the society: "I must disassociate myself completely from any organisation opposed to land rights and I therefore have no option but to resign the patronship," she wrote. And, in a display of the race thinking -- dividing the world into them and us -- that had come to characterise her conservation advocacy, she continued: "If it hadn't been for the Aborigines' systems of management, their respect for the country, their self-control, we would never have had these areas (wilderness) to take over in the first place. They are a darned sight better at managing than we are."

By the end of the 20th century, protected areas -- national parks, wilderness, and flora and fauna sanctuaries -- formed the cornerstone of Australian conservation. The outcome of decades of defending the country's natural heritage, they were, nevertheless, limited. Island-like parks cannot meet the needs of wide-ranging species, or maintain natural disturbance regimes, or enable the dispersal and re-establishment of wildlife following events such as fires. Only a continent-wide network of core wild areas, wildlife corridors and intact lands can protect the continental-scale flows of nature. This insight had already activated conservationists in the US who, in 1991, founded the Wildlands Project.

The Wilderness Society campaigners urged a similar program for Australia. In March 1997, the society endorsed wilderness-wildlands as its new campaign framework. Yet this initiative occurred against a background of criticism of the idea of wilderness. In The Future Eaters, Tim Flannery described the concept as problematic; it kept alive the notion of terra nullius. Wilderness, he claimed, did not exist in Australia. Thereafter, attacks on wilderness escalated.

For Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton there was no such thing as wilderness, only "cultural landscapes". Furthermore, "the term wilderness was a mystification of genocide" because: "The popular definition of wilderness excludes all human interaction within allegedly pristine natural areas even though they are and have been inhabited and used by indigenous people for thousands of years. Like the legal fiction of terra nullius which imagined us out of existence ... popular culture also imagines us out of existence ... The national park is an institution of power which governs and commodifies nature and thereby culturally constructs an imagined wilderness and can be understood as a part of the colonial repertoire when (it is) understood as the further delineation, naming and categorising of terra nullius incognito. It is a further conquest."

This ill-reasoned, chaotic argument rested on a terrifying ignorance of history, language, biology and ecology. Wilderness defenders had been among the first activists in Australia to acknowledge Aboriginal presence and had never defined wilderness as a place that "excludes all human interaction". Even proponents of terra nullius did not deny the presence of humans in Australia, only their ownership of the land. Ideological inhibitions, however, prevented other conservationists from speaking up; for example, for the dugong, hunted to near extinction by what at least one euphemism-friendly environmental journalist referred to as "unregulated indigenous cultural harvesting".

Only the fearless Mary White put the matter forthrightly: "A major problem in conservation in northern Australia is the difference in the laws which govern Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal behaviour. Aborigines may burn where and when they like on land they own and lease; they can range over country held by others as well as over that which they own in the course of their hunting and foraging; they are allowed by law to kill animals which are protected, even endangered, and which non-Aboriginal Australians are prohibited from killing, and they use high-powered modern guns, not traditional methods to do so. This situation has to be addressed. It creates a divided nation and a great deal of resentment."

White's candour affronted many people. Fantasy more perfectly satisfied their multiple needs. Several impulses, for example, upheld the myth of the ecological Aborigine. Some people sought to recover habits of thought they imagined prevailed during a past era, before the disruption of the human and natural worlds by heedless agriculture, runaway industrialism, loss of faith, galloping modernity and reductionist science. Others, driven by guilt, overcompensated for past wrongs by designating Aborigines possessors of superior wisdom. Still others wanted a story about the natural life against which they could contrast the modern world and expose its ills.

By the beginning of the 21st century, this endemically patronising view of Aborigines as moral lessons for effete Europeans became an overriding, unchallenged cause for left-wing intellectuals. Furthermore, many intellectual conservationists presented their belief that indigenous people enjoyed a fundamentally different relationship to the land as the only starting point for critiquing Western society. This decree prevented conservationists from examining the multitude of critical possibilities inherent in Western culture. Conservation commentators who ignored the polemical diversity of the Western inheritance favoured a narrow and conformist outlook. Truth never penetrates unwilling minds, and commentators pursued the ecological Aborigine dogma with an infatuation that defied consistency and sense.

Scientist Mike Archer and conservation writer Bob Beale began their 2004 book Going Native with a defensive, reverential and romanticised account of Aboriginal occupancy. After fashionably dismissing the idea of wilderness, they suggest that while Aborigines walked every square metre of the continent, invested every feature with spiritual significance and managed the entire landscape intensively for at least 60,000 years until it was "just as much a human construct as it is a natural one", they had no impact, caused no extinctions and kept Australia's biota intact.

Such claims stagger belief and outrage coherence. But Archer and Beale persist. Aborigines were model conservationists and we have much to learn from their "sustainable land-management strategy". The authors did not elaborate. Instead, their main recommendation featured the economic valuing of "ecosystem services": a program dependent on premises and principles utterly foreign and contrary to Aboriginal cosmologies.

The myth of the ecological Aborigine became a dogma because conservationists failed to call one another intellectually to account, to question myth-makers and to rigorously and ruthlessly evaluate evidence. Even sceptical conservationists remained silent, either out of fear of being branded racist or because they lacked the forensic skills necessary to unpack the myth. Their silence complied with the country's general intellectual timidity. As in other areas of social inquiry, intellectuals in conservation disparaged dissent and discouraged critical oversight.

In their 1999 history of the environment movement, Queensland Greens leader Drew Hutton and fellow academic Libby Connors noted approvingly: "Many in the Australian movement welcome the lack of philosophical dispute, which they see as debilitating, consisting largely of labels and purity." Conservationists trapped in wishful thinking about the wisdom of the elders and disdainful of dissent cannot see the truth: there are no models, no templates for living sustainably on this continent or on this planet. We're on our own and must make our own way.


Australia: Anger about school's homosexuality for kids plan

Education authorities have been accused of instructing all Victorian government school teachers to "celebrate" homosexuality in the classroom. Furious family groups claimed the Department of Education and Training was "foisting" sexuality on children as young as prep. The outcry was sparked by the department's anti-homophobic bullying policy which, referring to sexuality, states: "The most important thing teachers can do is create and continually model a school environment that respects and celebrates diversity." School curriculums and teaching should be inclusive of the needs of same-sex-attracted and transgender students, the policy states.

Australian Family Association Victorian vice-president Angela Conway lashed out at an instruction to celebrate homosexuality in the classroom. Ms Conway said the policy would have the reverse effect and, by highlighting sexuality, encourage bullying. Discussion of sexuality could also confuse young children who were experiencing close childhood relationships with peers of the same sex, she said.

Australian Family Council spokesman Bill Muehlenberg said a pro-homosexual agenda was "trying to hijack the bullying programs to push a pro-homosexual policy on children. Younger kids are not worried or thinking about various sexual orientations." Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon said focusing on differences in sexuality could have a negative impact. But Education Services Minister Jacinta Allan said the instruction was part of a strategy to prevent bullying.


15 October, 2006


The big bold British police are great at harassing schoolgirls but don't ask them to do anything about real criminals. See here for one example of how utterly useless they are at catching real crooks -- even when the crooks are in effect handed to them on a platter

A teenage schoolgirl was arrested by police for racism after refusing to sit with a group of Asian students because some of them did not speak English. Codie Stott's family claim she was forced to spend three-and-a-half hours in a police cell after she was reported by her teachers. The 14-year-old - who was released without charge - said it had been a simple matter of commonsense and accused the school and police of an over-the-top reaction.

The incident happened in the same local education authority where a ten-year-old boy was prosecuted earlier this year for calling a schoolfriend racist names in the playground, a move branded by a judge "political correctness gone mad."

Codie was attending a GCSE science class at Harrop Fold High School in Worsley, Greater Manchester, when the incident happened. The teenager had not been in school the day before due to a hospital appointment and had missed the start of a project, so the teacher allocated her a group to sit with. "She said I had to sit there with five Asian pupils," said Codie yesterday. "Only one could speak English, so she had to tell that one what to do so she could explain in their language. Then she sat me with them and said 'Discuss'."

According to Codie, the five - four boys and a girl - then began talking in a language she didn't understand, thought to be Urdu, so she went to speak to the teacher. "I said 'I'm not being funny, but can I change groups because I can't understand them?' But she started shouting and screaming, saying 'It's racist, you're going to get done by the police'." Codie said she went outside to calm down where another teacher found her and, after speaking to her class teacher, put her in isolation for the rest of the day.

A complaint was made to a police officer based full-time at the school, and more than a week after the incident on September 26 she was taken to Swinton police station and placed under arrest. "They told me to take my laces out of my shoes and remove my jewellery, and I had my fingerprints and photograph taken," said Codie. "It was awful." After questioning on suspicion of committing a section five racial public order offence, her mother Nicola says she was placed in a bare cell for three-and-a-half hours then released without charge. She only returned to lessons this week and has been put in a different science class.

Yesterday Miss Stott, 37, a cleaner, said: "Codie was not being racist." "The reaction from the school and police is totally over the top and I am furious my daughter had to go through this trauma when all she was saying was common sense. " "She'd have been better off not saying anything and getting into trouble for not being able to do the work." Miss Stott, who is separated from Codie and her 18-year-old brother Ashley's father, lives with her partner Keith Seanor, a 36-year-old cable layer, in Walkden.

School insiders acknowledge that at least three of the students Codie refused to sit with had recently arrived in this country and spoke little English. But they say her comments afterwards raised further concerns, for example allegedly referring to the students as "blacks" - something she denied yesterday. The school is now investigating exactly what happened before deciding what action - if any - to take against Codie.

Headteacher Dr Antony Edkins said: "An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark by one student towards a group of Asian students new to the school and new to the country." "We aim to ensure a caring and tolerant attitude towards people and pupils of all ethnic backgrounds and will not stand for racism in any form."

Fewer than two per cent of pupils at Harrop Fold come from an ethnic minority. It had the worst GCSE results in the entire Salford LEA last year with just 15 per cent of pupils achieving five good passes including English and maths, a third of the national average. Since being placed in special measures, Ofsted inspectors say it has improved, not least as a result of Dr Edkins's "outstanding" leadership.

Salford was at the centre of a storm last April after a ten-year-old boy was hauled before a court for allegedly calling an 11-year-old mixed race pupil a 'Paki' and 'Bin Laden' in a playground argument at a primary school in Irlam. When the case came before District Judge Jonathan Finestein he said the decision to prosecute showed "how stupid the whole system is getting". But was himself fiercely attacked by teaching union leaders for "feeding a pernicious agenda" that aided the BNP. The prosecution was eventually dropped.

Last night Robert Whelan, deputy director of the Civitas think-tank, said: "It's obviously common sense that pupils who don't speak English cause problems for other pupils and for teachers." "I'm sure this sort of thing happens all the time, but it's a sad reflection on the school if they can't deal with it without involving the police." "A lot of these arrests don't result in prosecutions - they aim is to frighten us into self-censorship until we watch everything we say." Greater Manchester Police denied Codie had been kept in a cell but would not comment further.



Now it is Chicago being sued -- and the Chicago police have destroyed evidence in an attempt to protect themselves!

The criminal case against Repent America (RA) director Michael Marcavage, relating to his arrest and subsequent incarceration during Chicago's "Gay Games," has come to a screeching halt. On October 4, the prosecutor announced that neither the alleged "complaining witness," nor any of the numerous police officers identified as witnesses were willing to come to court to pursue the charges.

The case was continued from August 30 to October 4 when the prosecution advised the court that they had been unsuccessful in their attempts to reach the "complaining witness." In the interim, the prosecution was to have made special efforts to contact the alleged witness, as well as reach the police officers involved to determine how they would proceed. The prosecution, however, failed to pull together a case, resulting in the "disorderly conduct" charge lodged against Marcavage to be "stricken off the call with leave to reinstate (SOL)." The charge cannot be reinstated unless the prosecution can demonstrate "good cause."

"Obviously, as these were transparently trumped up charges and as the city could find no credible witnesses ready or able to back them up, the case was tossed on the trash heap where it belonged from the beginning. The case should never have been brought," stated Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel at the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, attorney for Marcavage. "And now that it has been thrown out, it's high time that our city be held to make a full accounting for this egregious and disgraceful suppression of fundamental First Amendment liberties on the streets of Chicago," Brejcha concluded.

Repent America filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago a week prior to Marcavage's arrest for an incident that took place on July 16, 2006. On this occasion, several RA volunteers were arrested and jailed for several hours, but not charged, for attempting to minister the Gospel on a public sidewalk near Navy Pier. The lawsuit has now been amended to include the July 22, 2006 incident. "Adding insult to injury, we found on retrieving a videotape of the events leading up to the arrest (outside Wrigley Field, just before the closing ceremonies) that after confiscating the tape the police had recorded over it to destroy this critical evidence, yielding a powerful inference that the videotape would have fully proved our client's utter innocence," said Brejcha


The Sounds of Silencing: Why do Americans on the left think only they have the right to dissent?

By Peggy Noonan

Four moments in the recent annals of free speech in America. Actually annals is too fancy a word. This all happened in the past 10 days: At Columbia University, members of the Minutemen, the group that patrols the U.S. border with Mexico and reports illegal crossings, were asked to address a forum on immigration policy. As Jim Gilchrist, the founder, spoke, angry students stormed the stage, shouting and knocking over chairs and tables. "Having wreaked havoc," said the New York Sun, they unfurled a banner in Arabic and English that said, "No one is ever illegal." The auditorium was cleared, the Minutemen silenced. Afterward a student protester told the Columbia Spectator, "I don't feel we need to apologize or anything. It was fundamentally a part of free speech. . . . The Minutemen are not a legitimate part of the debate on immigration."

On Oct. 2, on Katie Couric's "CBS Evening News," in the segment called "Free Speech," the father of a boy killed at Columbine shared his views on the deeper causes of the recent shootings in Amish country. Brian Rohrbough said violence entered our schools when we threw God out of them. "This country is in a moral freefall. For over two generations the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum. . . . We teach there are no moral absolutes, no right or wrong, and I assure you the murder of innocent children is always wrong, including abortion. Abortion has diminished the value of children." This was not exactly the usual mush.

Mr. Rohrbough was quickly informed he was not part of the legitimate debate, either. Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post: "The decision . . . to air his views prompted a storm of criticism, some of it within the ranks of CBS News." A blog critic: Grief makes people say "stupid" things, but "what made them put this man on television?" Good question. How did they neglect to silence him?

Soon after, at Madison Square Garden, Barbra Streisand, began her latest farewell tour with what friends who were there tell me was a moving, beautiful concert. She was in great form and brought the audience together in appreciation of her great ballads, which are part of the aural tapestry of our lives. And then . . . the moment. Suddenly she decided to bang away on politics. Fine, she's a Democrat, Bush is bad. But midway through the bangaway a man in the audience called out. Most could not hear him, but everyone seems to agree he at least said, "What is this, a fund-raiser?"

At this, Ms. Streisand became enraged, stormed the stage and pummeled herself. Wait, that was Columbia. Actually she became enraged and cursed the man. A friend who was there, a liberal Democrat, said what was most interesting was Ms. Streisand made a physical movement with her arms and hands--"those talon hands"--as if to say, See what I have to put up with when I attempt to educate the masses? She soon apologized, to her credit. Though apparently in the manner of a teacher who'd just kind of lost it with an unruly and ignorant student.

On "The View" a few days earlier it was Rosie O'Donnell. She was banging away on gun control. Guns are bad and should be banned. Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who plays the role of the young, attractive mom, tentatively responded. "I want to be fair," she said. Obviously there should be "restrictions," but women have a right to defend themselves, and there's "the right to bear arms" in the Constitution. Rosie accused Elizabeth of yelling. The panel, surprised, agreed that Elizabeth was not yelling. Rosie then went blank-faced with what someone must have told her along the way is legitimately felt rage.

Elizabeth was not bowing to Rosie's views. Elizabeth needed to be educated. The education commenced, Rosie gesturing broadly and Elizabeth constricting herself as if she knew physical assault were a possibility. When Rosie gets going on the Second Amendment I always think, Oh I hope she's not armed! Actually I wonder what Freud would have made of an enraged woman obsessed with gun control. Ach, classic projection. Eef she had a gun she would kill. Therefore no one must haf guns.

There's a pattern here, isn't there? It is not only about rage and resentment, and how some have come to see them as virtues, as an emblem of rightness. I feel so much, therefore my views are correct and must prevail. It is about something so obvious it is almost embarrassing to state. Free speech means hearing things you like and agree with, and it means allowing others to speak whose views you do not like or agree with. This --listening to the other person with respect and forbearance, and with an acceptance of human diversity-- is the price we pay for living in a great democracy. And it is a really low price for such a great thing.

We all know this, at least in the abstract. Why are so many forgetting it in the particular? Let us be more pointed. Students, stars, media movers, academics: They are always saying they want debate, but they don't. They want their vision imposed. They want to win. And if the win doesn't come quickly, they'll rush the stage, curse you out, attempt to intimidate. And they don't always recognize themselves to be bullying. So full of their righteousness are they that they have lost the ability to judge themselves and their manner.

And all this continues to come more from the left than the right in America. Which is, at least in terms of timing, strange. The left in America--Democrats, liberals, Bush haters, skeptics of many sorts--seems to be poised for a significant electoral victory. Do they understand that if it comes it will be not because of Columbia, Streisand, O'Donnell, et al., but in spite of them?

What is most missing from the left in America is an element of grace--of civic grace, democratic grace, the kind that assumes disagreements are part of the fabric, but we can make the fabric hold together. The Democratic Party hasn't had enough of this kind of thing since Bobby Kennedy died. What also seems missing is the courage to ask a question.

Conservatives these days are asking themselves very many questions, but I wonder if the left could tolerate asking itself even a few. Such as: Why are we producing so many adherents who defy the old liberal virtues of free and open inquiry, free and open speech? Why are we producing so many bullies? And dim dullard ones, at that.


"Noble savage" myth alive and well in Australia

Comment by Andrew Bolt

This weird love our cultural elite has for the Noble Savage can, of course, be as innocent as Rebecca Hossack's dream of being buried like an Aboriginal. Hossack, who runs a swish art gallery in London and was the first cultural attache at our High Commission, has two Aboriginal burial poles in her basement: one for herself and one for her husband. As the glossy Melbourne Magazine ooh-ahhed this month: "When she dies, Hossack says, her bones will be bleached on the roof of her London house, placed in her burial pole and sent back to Australia."

Like I say, it's innocent. No one is inconvenienced, unless Hossack's heirs get the creeps waiting for the skeleton on the roof to turn white. Or the neighbours take fright at the vultures suddenly settling on the gutters of Notting Hill, clutching looser bits of Hossack's rotting remains.

You might think other signs of this new craze for the myth of deeply spiritual savages living in some Garden of eco-Eden -- with white capitalists cast as the snake -- are just as harmless. Who cares if the ladies of Armadale decree that dot paintings by artists certified as genuinely Aboriginal and genuinely poor are a must for the well-dressed wall? At least some artists out bush will get a few honorably earned dollars out of it. And the dry-cleaners of Melbourne could only have profited from the salvation seekers who queued at a phony Aboriginal "sacred fire" at Kings Domain during the Commonwealth Games to get themselves ritually smoked.

But not all of this romanticising about the good old Stone Age is quite so cute. I'm thinking, for instance, of Tom Calma's attack on the Howard Government's Bill to stop Aboriginal wife-bashers and child-abusers from using the excuse that their barbarity was permitted by "tribal law". (The Government had in mind the 55-year-old man who was initially jailed for just one month for anally raping a 14-year-old girl, the judge accepting that under tribal law the victim was his promised bride.)

Wrote Calma, paid big to be our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner: "The problem is that this Bill does not address family violence in the indigenous communities in any meaningful way. "Rather, it will undermine attempts to solve the problem and perpetuate harmful stereotypes about Aboriginal customary law." Hmm. Does Calma seems more worried by the damage done to the image of tribal law than by the damage such laws do to a 14-year-old girl?

But he is not alone in re-imagining tribal ways to be gentler -- and greener -- than they really were and are. Many others want to forget the truth -- that even an anthropologist as sympathetic to Aboriginal causes as Professor Peter Sutton says in his essay The Politics of Suffering that "a man's right to beat his wife without interference" can be described by Aborigines as the "Blackfella way" and "high levels of interpersonal violence" have long been "sanctioned" by Aboriginal laws.

No, no, no. Our assorted earth-worshippers, snowfield socialists and freedom-fearers don't want to hear that. They prefer to hear High Priests of the primitive like . . . why, David Suzuki! Suzuki, the famed green guru and broadcaster from Canada, is in Australia yet again, this time for a month-long "farewell" tour from Byron Bay to Broome. I heard him recently at a government-sponsored conference in Ballarat as I waited my own turn to speak, and was astonished to find how crazed his hectoring had become -- yet how rapturously an audience of public servants cheered him. The capitalist world was eating up the world and was "on a suicidal path", I heard him cry. "We live in a world that is absolutely shattered." How grimly pleased the audience was to hear it.

The ways of the West were rotten, he stormed. "Conventional economics is a form of brain damage" and science was just "bulls--- to baffle". We needed no more scientific discoveries, or even research. "The last thing in the world people need is more information." (Except, of course, for the information in Suzuki's book, which he duly plugged, sold and signed.) And it was "disgusting" we lived in bigger houses than did our grandparents: "What kind of a world is this that regards this as progress?" Oh, how the audience loved it all. For the culturally privileged, this is the anti-rational, back to womb-cave, message of our times.

So what was Suzuki offering in place of the reason that has made us so rich and free? Indian ways. Aboriginal ways. Like those wise tribal folk, he said, we had to treat nature as "sacred" and live "in balance" with it. And then Suzuki, who boasts of being an honorary chief of the Cree Indians and an honorary "Mountain Man" of South Australia's Kaurna Aborigines, did a riff that borrowed from his book Wisdom of the Elders. As he says there, "The Native Mind is imbued with a deep sense of reverence for nature" and "Native wisdom . . . regards the human obligation to maintain the balance of the health of the natural world as a solemn spiritual duty". On he went, urging us to worship the earth as Noble Savages allegedly did back when humans led "more stable" lives "in a state of nature". Think Eden.

It's all as Harvard anthropologist Steven A. LeBlanc says in his fine new book, Constant Battles -- not only is the myth of the Noble Savage back in fashion, "it seems that the native people of North America, along with a few other social groups like the Australian Aborigines, have become the poster children for the 'noble savage' concept today".

But the Noble Savage is a fraud. "To think that we have lost our 'roots' or are somehow out of touch with our ancient ancestors -- and have lost the ability to live in peace and in ecological balance -- is a myth and a dangerous one", LeBlanc says. In fact, from the very first days humans emerged, they have constantly and bloodily fought for more to eat after first plundering the land they already have. Forget any of that tribal looking-after-nature stuff. LeBlanc tells of Indians hunting buffalo by driving whole herds over cliffs. He shows how other tribal hunter-gathers tore down branches from fruit trees to make huts, hunted animals to extinction and didn't care if their animal prey were males or females pregnant with next year's dinner.

The story was no different here. LeBlanc could have quoted Edward Curr, a squatter from the Murray who saw how the Bangerang hunted in the 1840s: "(T)hey never spared a young animal with a view to its growing bigger. I have often seen them, at an instance, land large quantities of fish with their nets and leave all small ones to die within a yard of the water." Indeed, LeBlanc went through 30 years of issues of Human Ecology, a top journal of anthropology, looking for evidence of tribes living in harmony with nature in the way Suzuki claims, but concluded: "There are no clear examples of conservationist behaviour in any traditional societies reported during the last three decades."

Why is he so keen to finish off the Noble Savage? Because we won't otherwise see what a great chance we've been given by our Western ways -- our science, our technology and our reason. "For the first time in history, technology and science enable us to understand Earth's ecology and our impact on it, to control population growth, and to increase the carrying capacity in ways never before imagined. The opportunity for humans to live in long-term balance with nature is within our grasp if we do it right."

THAT means using our brains -- not some fake native "wisdom" that never was -- to feed and house everyone without exhausting the land, so eliminating the greatest cause of wars. Already we are less likely to die in battle than our tribal ancestors ever were. Kill off the Noble Savage for good, and we may yet live in that peace and "balance" of which Suzuki dreams -- but with, and thanks to, the wealth he claims he spurns


14 October, 2006

Multicultural failure in Britain

An east London teenager who became a drug dealer and a knife-wielding member of a street gang lays the blame on the transformation of his neighbourhood into an ethnic minority "ghetto" where turf warfare flourishes. "I fell in with the wrong crowd," said Syed Miah, 19, who regrets his life of crime. "Before, it was mixed and you would get to know other people, but now no one meets anyone. You grow up with this mentality that `we're Bangladeshis, whites are whites and blacks are blacks'." Miah became a full-time gangster when he was expelled from school for holding a knife to his teacher's throat. He says he eventually earned up to 960 pounds a week dealing heroin before being sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Miah's account of the failure of multiculturalism encapsulates the growing debate over how ethnic minorities should be integrated into society. At last week's Conservative conference, David Cameron, the party leader, warned that in some cities "we have allowed ghettos to develop - whole neighbourhoods cut off from the rest of society". He spoke of "parallel lives", citing "communities where people from different backgrounds never meet, never talk, never go into each other's homes". There are ethnic gang fights in Manchester and Birmingham and last week they spread to Windsor, where rioting erupted around an Asian-owned dairy and nearby prayer centre.

Last weekend, Stevens Nyembo-Ya-Muteba, 40, a maths and finance student, was stabbed to death in his block of flats in Hackney, east London. It later emerged he and his wife Veronique, who came to Britain 10 years ago as refugees from the Congo, had asked the authorities to improve security on their building because they were worried about loitering youths.

Nowhere is the ethnic basis of gangs more evident than in London, where the cultural patchwork is the most complicated in Britain. According to new figures, in the borough of Brent there is an 85% chance that any two people chosen at random would belong to different ethnic groups. Bangladeshis, Somalis, Pakistanis, Afro-Caribbeans and Turks have all formed their own gangs who are as likely to fight each other as they are to attack or be attacked by white thugs.

Last year Lee Jasper, a policing adviser to Ken Livingstone, the London mayor, warned that one south London gang, the Muslim Boys, was the "most serious criminal threat" the black community had ever faced. It was accused of shooting a man, execution-style, after he refused to convert to Islam, and has been implicated in dozens of other muggings and attempted murders.

Tower Hamlets, Miah's home borough, is one of the most ethnically diverse in Britain, with whites comprising just 51% of the population. It has been portrayed in books such as Brick Lane by Monica Ali as an area where there is tension, but communities manage to coexist. However, there is now strong evidence of the extent of segregation in the area. A recent report by Bristol University found 40% of Bangladeshi children went to schools where at least 90% of the pupils were Bangladeshi, while 60% of whites attended overwhelmingly white schools. The report described education in Tower Hamlets as "highly segregated".

Abdi Hassan, a representative of the local Somali community, recently complained to the council that segregation was fuelling violence. "There are many groups here, Moroccans, Irish and Algerians, but nobody mixes with anybody," said Hassan. "Why do we have community ghettos? Why shouldn't people want to interact with each other?"

Some local gangs were set up to resist racist attacks but turned to crime. In one incident in 1994, a Pakistani was left with severe brain damage after an attack by eight white thugs on Whitechapel Road. Emdad Rahman, 39, one of his friends, said: "The whole community was enraged. I remember a lot of my peers thinking, `Right, if they're going out Paki-bashing, we basically need to go out honky-bashing now'."

Often the gangs fight over territory merely for the sake of it. One seven-year feud in the area began with a row over who would get the last doughnut at school and ended with men in their twenties beating, blinding and stabbing each other. Miah's story of growing up amid segregated gang violence suggests such divisions are now entrenched. He used to live on the Solander Gardens estate where he was a member of the 70-strong Shadwell Massive gang. He now has an antisocial behaviour order that bars him from the area after 9pm.



State schools should introduce ethnic quotas into admissions criteria to break down the extreme segregation of pupils along cultural and religious lines, the head of the Local Government Association said yesterday. In remarks that sparked an immediate debate about the state of social cohesion in Britain, Lord Bruce-Lockhart said that Britain would never achieve integration and full social cohesion while neighbouring schools were divided along ethnic lines. It was unacceptable that non-white pupils should form 90 per cent of the population of one school, when white pupils formed 90 per cent of a neighbouring school down the road.

One solution, he suggested, would be for schools in areas with high concentrations of minority ethnic groups to incorporate some kind of ethnicity quota into admissions policies. Although reluctant to specify a quota, Lord Bruce-Lockhart, the former Conservative leader of Kent County Council, said other experts had suggested that schools should offer at least 25 per cent of their places to those from other ethnic groups.

Lord Bruce-Lockhart's comments drew a mixed reaction. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, agreed that urgent action was needed but was sceptical about the use of quotas. "I'm open to discussion, but I would not have said this is the first place we need to go," he told the Commons Education Select Committee. He warned MPs that school segregation had now become a "settled pattern" in many towns, often with disastrous effects. "The information we get from the front line . . . is that (segregation) contributes to conflict among young people. Gangs form at school and the ethnicisation of gang culture is part of that," he said.

Twinning agreements between schools and summer camps where children from different backgrounds mix would be more workable, he said. Tahir Alam, education spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said that ethnic quotas had been shown to be unworkable in the US, where the problem of pupil segregation was far more extreme. "You cannot tell a parent that they cannot send their child to the school of their choice because it has met its racial quota. The right of parents to send their children to the school they want is a fundamental right in this country," he said.

Sir Dexter Hutt, executive director of the Ninestiles federation in Birmingham, who has dealt with the problem of segregated schools at first hand, said that if quotas were to be used, the level would have to be set closer to 40 than 25 per cent. Although he was sceptical about how practical quotas would be, he accepted that urgent action was needed. "Children learn by rubbing shoulders with each other and by having arguments with each other in a restrained situation like a school. A multiracial school population would be far more likely to lead to social cohesion," he said.

Lord Bruce-Lockhart accepted that such policies would be difficult to put into practice, but said the most important thing was that a debate on school segregation should take place. "Proactive admissions policies could be used to establish a better ethnic balance in schools. In towns where the totality of the minority ethnic population is 15 per cent of the whole, we should consider the use of numbers in admissions policies. "We have to get to a situation where people regard the total ethnicity of a town as being represented in schools, otherwise we are never going to be properly integrated," he told The Times. "Children start off being colour-blind and this is a wonderful thing. But if you have schools where the children are being educated in different ethnic groups you are going to lose that and you are simply not going to have integration. "If we are to have stable communities and to prevent the rise of the far Right, our job now is to put all these issues on the table and open a public debate," he said.

He added that pairing, or twinning schemes, where predominantly white schools link up with predominantly non-white schools for sports and drama activities, were another way forward. So too were federations of white and non-white schools that brought the management of the two institutions together under a single leadership.

Lord Bruce-Lockhart's comments follow new research published by Simon Burgess, Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol. Entitled Sleepwalking towards Segregation, it reports that ethnic segregation in schools is now fully entrenched in areas where the minority ethnic population is above the 8 per cent national average. In Bradford, 62 per cent of secondary schools are predominantly white, while 21 per cent are predominantly non-white. In the London borough of Tower Hamlets 47 per cent of secondary schools are described as "exclusively non-white", while 33 per cent have a white majority.


Welcome to America's new Prohibition

Sportingbet and Leisure & Gaming have received approaches for their US-facing businesses. This should have come as no surprise. In the wake of the decision by the US Government to ban online gambling transactions, the industry was adamant that, far from stopping internet gambling, the move would simply drive the business underground. As one senior executive said at the time: “The happiest person about this ban will be Don Corleone.”

By the time that President Bush signs off the ban on Friday lunchtime and it becomes law, it is a fair bet that every publicly quoted internet gambling company will have sold or closed down its US-facing operation. Those businesses that are being sold will fetch little or no money, but at least the vendors will have saved jobs and, by implication, redundancy costs.

Yet if Senator Bill Frist thought that, by forcing the Bill through, he would be protecting his fellow Tennesseans from the evils of internet gambling, yesterday’s news shows how mistaken he was. Instead of being able to play poker or have a bet on a college football game on a website owned by a public company adhering to strict standards of conduct and financial probity, his constituents will be entrusting their money to faceless private companies based in offshore locations such as the British Virgin Islands.

If the new generation of internet gambling companies refuse to pay out winnings, there is nothing that American punters will be able to do about it. More importantly, because their ownership structures will be opaque, they will have no reputations to protect and there will be nothing to prevent them preying on the young and the vulnerable — the very people that the likes of Senator Frist have cited in their lobbying ahead for the controversial Bill.

Some have suggested that the new law has been cleverly designed in that it targets the banks, credit companies and other financial institutions. It is true that American corporations will make every effort to avoid having anything to do with internet gambling transactions. But foreign banks are not all going to be so compliant. And there are computer engineers developing software that will fool a bank into thinking that a US bet has been placed on a computer located overseas.

The national prohibition of alcohol in 1920s America — the “noble experiment” — was designed to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems and improve health and hygiene in America. Instead, American thirsts were slaked and the Mob prospered.

Jim Leach, the Iowa Republican, championed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. “Religious leaders of all denominations and faiths are seeing gambling problems erode family values,” he said. Once again in America, it seems that God is helping Mammon: Mr Leach’s law promises to spawn another underground industry to serve Americans living under the new Prohibition.


"Anti-capitalist" ignoramuses

Comment from Australia by Andrew Bolt

Here's a test for those protesters - backed by churchmen, academics, Age journalists and the dad's-cash rich - who are planning next month's big Melbourne rally against capitalism. Check this picture of North Korea by night, deep in darkness. And see also, just below, the lights of South Korea blazing so warmly. Question: Which of those two Korean countries do you think decided to follow America and go capitalist?

And which do you think decided to follow advice of people just like you-yes, you in the Che Guevara T-shirt? As the satellite picture shows, bright ideas can have black consequences. Communist North Korea might be able to build a nuclear bomb, but its people are now so poor and starved that many are reportedly driven to eat the bark off trees. Here is a reminder that some ideas are so dopey that those pushing them should not be encouraged-and especially not by people who should well know how we got so rich and free. And well-lit.

So, how lucky are the protesters of the StopG20 collective, then-anti-capitalists kept afloat by fawning newspaper stories, handouts from retailers and grants from our most famous capitalist families? StopG20 is a hold-hands of radicals drawn from the usual far-Left groups, many of which helped to turn the streets outside the World Economic Forum meeting at Crown on September 11, 2000, into a battlefield on which dozens of police were hurt. They include the inevitable socialist factions, as well as student unions, the Baptist Church's Urban Seed and Friends of the Earth, and their next great idea is to try to stop next month's meeting in Melbourne of the G20 group of nations.

You see, they are furious-in that typically gentle way of the Left-that the treasurers and reserve bank governors from 19 of the world's most powerful economies, as well as the European Union, are coming here to talk about ways to make capitalism work even better.

You might wonder what exactly these mega-capitalists will be plotting, and I have a scoop for you. They plan to talk about better ways to keep you in work and make sure your own lights keep shining. And so, the meeting-chaired by Treasurer Peter Costello, will try making trade a bit easier, for instance, and the competition for energy less nasty. The United States, Japan, Britain and Germany will be at the table, of course, but also developing countries such as China, Indonesia and Mexico. Fast-growing India will be there to see what more can be done to get rich, and South Korea will turn up, too, having done just that-thanks to capitalism.

Ah, capitalism. That very word will have the neo-barbarians behind the police lines outside screaming with rage. Those StopG20 protesters won't want more capitalism of the kind that made South Koreans rich. They seem to much prefer the kind of policies that have made North Koreans starve. You think I'm being unfair? Then check the StopG20 collective's website, kindly publicised twice already by The Age, which is so helpful to the protesters (despite being propped up by ads placed by capitalists) that it has one of Urban Seeds' veteran protesters working on its G20 supplement, claims Urban Seed itself.

So what does StopG20 want? Well, here's a test. PICK which of the following two plans for running an economy is taken from North Korea's official websites and which from StopG20's. Plan A: Citizens should reject "imperialism which has state monopoly capitalism as its political and economic basis" and say no to foreign trade and private property rights. Such "neo-colonialism" is "falling into decay and ruin", anyway. So leaders should instead let citizens practise "self reliance" in collectives, which solve "all problems . . . with one's own efforts". Hey, an "all-people drive to plant fruit trees" would be nice.

Plan B: Citizens should reject "imperialism" of Western powers, with their "fat cats' wet dream" of global trade and property rights. The "colonialism" of the West's "global order" is "inherently unsustainable", anyway and "breeds militarisation, war-driven competition and police states". What's more, "capitalism has always enslaved children", who are "in danger of growing up . . . ignorant about how to grow carrots" (sic). So leaders should let citizens turn instead to "solidarity economies" and "community food gardens", where they can practise "relocalisation, self-determination and regional self-reliance".

I know, one plan actually sounds much like the other-with that same freedom-fearing desire to go back to the womb, back to the cave, back to the tribe. That same desire that Islamists and greens feel, too. Nevertheless, you might still forgive the StopG20 collective if they were just students, too young to know how schemes like their Plan B have worked in practice. But not all the protest leaders who meet in the student union offices of RMIT University (official RMIT spokesman: International Socialist leader David Glanz) have youth to excuse them. And the people helping them out with cash most surely don't. I'm thinking here of ministers of the Baptist Church, officials of the Melbourne City Council-and especially trustees of the Myer Foundation and Ian Potter Foundation.

I single out those last because one of the "non-violence workshops" for StopG20 protesters is being run by Urban Seed, a charity created by the Collins St Baptist Church and run by a long-time minister, Mark Pierson. Brent Lyons-Lee, another Baptist minister, is one of several Urban Seed members who have helped to publicise the StopG20 rally. These clerics sure don't do irony. Their group is helping to protest against capitalism, yet have taken tens of thousands of dollars in donations from foundations created by two of the state's leading capitalists-retailer Sidney Myer and stockbroker Sir Ian Potter. And they've grabbed help from the Lord Mayor's Charitable Fund, too, courtesy of cash from retailers.

Just what are the trustees of the Myer Foundation doing? Are they trying to apologise for grandad getting so rich by, er, selling stuff? Being a capitalist? I should point out that none of these donations was for-or is being spent on-the StopG20 rally. But I'm not sure people with such a contempt for capitalism need quite so much encouragement from capitalists. Shouldn't they cadge their donations from Kim Jong-il instead? Or at least Cuba? Ditto for Friends of the Earth, which is also behind StopG20. I'd have thought it had enough of a toehold in our culture, with one of its leaders an associate professor at Adelaide University, without the Myer Foundation having to help it, too.

How odd this all is. We now have undeniable proof of what the ideas of the radical Left mean when some country is cursed enough to try them-check that picture again-yet the same kind of salvation-seekers never lose their fascination for the politics that enslave. Just what will make those lights go on?


13 October, 2006


Marvellous free-speech ruling by the Law Lords:

The British media has won the freedom to publish allegations about public figures free from the threat of libel laws in a landmark House of Lords ruling. In a ground-breaking unanimous judgment yesterday, the law lords ruled in favour of a public interest defence that brings English law more into line with the freedom enjoyed by the US media. In future, journalists will be free to publish material if they act responsibly and in the public interest and they will not be at risk of libel damages even if relevant allegations later prove to be untrue.

The law lords, Britain's top judges, said that the media was entitled to publish defamatory allegations as part of its duty of neutral reporting of news, or if it believed them to be of substance and they raised matters of public interest. The ruling came in an appeal by the Wall Street Journal Europe against a High Court decision, backed by the Court of Appeal, that it should pay 40,000 pounds damages to a billionaire Saudi car dealer, Mohammed Jameel, whose family owns Harwell Motors in Oxford. The story, published in February 2002, said that bank accounts associated with a number of prominent Saudi citizens, including Mr Jameel's family and its businesses, had been monitored by Saudi authorities at the request of US authorities to ensure no money was provided intentionally or knowingly to support terrorists.

Lord Hoffman, giving the lead judgment, said that the article was a perfect example of journalism for which the public interest defence should be available. It was for judges to apply the public interest test but that publication easily passed that test, he said. Its thrust was to inform the public that the Saudis were cooperating with the US Treasury and monitoring accounts. "It was a serious contribution in measured tone to a subject of very considerable importance." It could not be proved true because the existence of covert surveillance would be impossible to prove by evidence in open court. But that did not mean it did not happen. The newspaper was entitled to report even serious defamations against individuals, so long as they "made a real contribution to the public interest element in the article".

The ruling also said that judges, with "leisure and hindsight" should not second-guess editorial decisions made in busy newsrooms. The key test was whether a media organisation or newspaper acted fairly and responsibly in gathering and publishing the information, the judges said. If the reporter and editor did so, and the information was of public importance, then the fact that it contained relevant but defamatory allegations against prominent people would not permit them to recover libel damages.

Baroness Hale of Richmond in her judgment said: "We need more such serious journalism in this country and our defamation law should encourage rather than discourage it."

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, author of Media Law, the standard textbook, who argued the case for the Journal, said: "The decision provides the media in Britain with an increased freedom to publish newsworthy stories. "This is not a licence for irresponsible journalism. It frees investigative journalism from the chilling effect of libel actions, so long as the treatment is not sensational and the editorial behaviour is responsible. "It will enable, and indeed encourage, editors to place more information into the public domain than at present. "The decision is an important step in moving freedom of speech closer to that enjoyed by the US media under the First Amendment."

Dan Tench, a media partner at Olswang, said: "The judgment has enormous significance for serious journalism. Previously, the focus of libel hearings defended on the basis of the Reynolds defence was always on the newspaper, which faced an uphill struggle to demonstrate that it had acted responsibly. "But following today's ruling, it seems that as long as a publisher can show that it was writing serious journalism that engages the genuine public interest and so deserves to be protected, the focus will shift onto the claimant, who will need to prove not only that there were serious defects in the way the article was put together but also that those defects realistically led to the article as published being unfair."

Mr Jameel issued a statement today emphasising that he had only ever been interested in clearing his name. Mr Jameel, whose 5.4 million pound gift saw the opening last week of the Victoria and Albert Museum's new gallery of Islamic Art, said: "What the Wall Street Journal wrote in February 2002 was that the bank accounts of the ALJ Group were being monitored at the request of the US authorities. "That was not true. Mr Justice Eady and the Court of Appeal ruled that I was libelled. The House of Lords ruled that I was not because it was reasonable for the Wall Street Journal Europe to print something that was false. So be it. I was only ever interested in proving that the allegations were untrue."


British firm bans 'ageist' birthday cards

Greetings cards passed around the office and signed for a colleague's birthday have been banned by a company in Bournemouth. Alan and Thomas Ltd said they stopped the card signings, as jokes or comments about someone's age could be offensive under new age discrimination laws. The firm's boss, Julian Boughton, said they had taken legal advice. Directors of the Bournemouth-based insurance brokers will instead send a card on behalf of all staff.

But speaking to BBC News, one former member of staff who did not wish to be named, said the move was "extreme". They told BBC News: "I think it's a bit draconian really, over the top and quite ridiculous. "I don't see how a jokey birthday card can be seen as discrimination or harassment. And I wonder if they actually asked the staff what they think."

The company said legal advice was sought after the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force this month. Mr Boughton, managing director, said: "Having considered the potential exposures for our employees and our business, we have taken the decision to change the practice of issuing a generically signed card for any given individual's birthday. "Instead we have decided that the company will send a card to each staff member on their birthday, signed by the directors."



Women are training themselves not to fall in love because relationships are skewed in favour of men, Fay Weldon said yesterday. The novelist and commentator told an audience at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival that women were no longer as romantic as they were a generation ago, to the detriment of their happiness.

Weldon, 75, argued that having been liberated by the Pill in the 1960s women were paying the price of trying to behave like men. "Our generation fell in love all the time," she said. "We sacrificed everything. Now women are much more practical and hard-headed. However, in the pursuit of professional, social and domestic fulfilment many women are failing to accept that, hormonally and physiologically, they are programmed to experience life differently from men," she said. "I think we need to make the most of being women as women, not aspirational men. The assumptions we all make now as to what comprises a good relationship are upside down. The differences between men and females are what we should be celebrating."

Weldon's new book What Makes Women Happy has outraged feminists because of its suggestion that women should fake orgasms to keep their men content. Commentators pilloried her for encouraging women to accept submissiveness in the most intimate area of their relationships. But Weldon believes that sex is the area where men and women come closest to making a sincere emotional connection. The pursuit of intimacy in all aspects of their lives is a false goal, she says. Better to give each other space to indulge the genders' different impulses, she says. "The more we know, the less easy we find it to get on together, I fear," she said.

Weldon's critics accuse her of losing touch with the aspirations of women, a far cry from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, when she was regarded as a high-profile feminist with novels such as The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, which celebrated women being bad. Her own life, as she recorded it in her 2002 memoir Auto Da Fay, has included a series of complicated relationships and snatched periods of joy, leading to two divorces and four children. Her first husband pimped her to a Soho nightclub because he had no interest in satisfying her sexually and she once slept with a market trader for a pair of nylons.

Happiness, her experiences have taught her, is about aspiring to virtue. Shopping, chocolate and the other "consolations" that women comfort themselves with are frivolous but valuable diversions. "Nothing makes a woman happy for more than ten minutes at a time because after that the doubts and anxieties arrive. You can't help it as a woman. It's not fair: men can be happy for the time of a football match. They have the advantage of single-tasking. Multi-tasking, which women are so proud of, is a great drawback because it limits the periods of our pure happiness. We are training ourselves out of being in love because it is so unfair. "I think for most women that intense love brings unhappiness with it. A lot of our grief comes when one's instincts are at odds with socialisation."



A very "incorrect" view below from an Israeli scholar, who says that the war started a long time ago between two civilizations - between the civilization based on the Bible and the civilization based on the Koran

There is no fundamental Islam. Fundamentalism is a word that came from the heart of the Christian religion. It means faith that goes by the word of the Bible. Fundamental Christianity, or going with the Bible, does not mean going around and killing people. There is no fundamental Islam. There is only Islam full stop. The question is how the Koran is interpreted.

All of a sudden we see that the greatest interpreters of Islam are politicians in the western world. They know better than all the speakers in the mosques, all those who deliver terrible sermons against anything that is either Christian or Jewish. These western politicians know that there is good Islam and bad Islam. They know even how to differentiate between the two, except that none of them know how to read a word of Arabic.

The Language of Islam
You see, so much is covered by politically correct language that, in fact, the truth has been lost. For example, when we speak about Islam in the west, we try to use our own language and terminology. We speak about Islam in terms of democracy and fundamentalism, in terms of parliamentarism and all kinds of terms, which we take from our own dictionary. One of my professors and one of the greatest orientalists in the world says that doing this is like a cricket reporter describing a cricket game in baseball terms. We cannot use for one culture or civilization the language of another. For Islam, you've got to use the language of Islam.

Driving Principles of Islam
Let me explain the principles that are driving the religion of Islam. Of course, every Moslem has to acknowledge the fact that there is only one God. But it's not enough to say that there is only one God. A Moslem has to acknowledge the fact that there is one God and Mohammed is his prophet. These are the fundamentals of the religion that without them, one cannot be a Moslem. But beyond that, Islam is a civilization. It is a religion that gave first and foremost a wide and unique legal system that engulfs the individual, society and nations with rules of behaviour. If you are Moslem, you have to behave according to the rules of Islam which are set down in the Koran and which are very different than the teachings of the Bible.

The Bible
Let me explain the difference. The Bible is the creation of the spirit of a nation over a very, very long period, if we talk from the point of view of the scholar, and let me remain scholarly. But there is one thing that is important in the Bible. It leads to salvation. It leads to salvation in two ways. In Judaism, it leads to national salvation - not just a nation that wants to have a state, but a nation that wants to serve God. That's the idea behind the Hebrew text of the Bible. The New Testament that took the Hebrew Bible moves us toward personal salvation. So we have got these two kinds of salvation, which, from time to time, meet each other.

But the key word is salvation. Personal salvation means that each individual is looked after by God, Himself, who leads a person through His word to salvation. This is the idea in the Bible, whether we are talking about the Old or the New Testament. All of the laws in the Bible, even to the minutest ones, are, in fact directed toward this fact of salvation.

Secondly, there is another point in the Bible, which is highly important. This is the idea that man was created in the image of God. Therefore, you don't just walk around and obliterate the image of God. Many people, of course, used Biblical rules and turned them upside down. History has seen a lot of massacres in the name of God and in the name of Jesus. But as religions, both Judaism and Christianity in their fundamentals speak about honoring the image of God and the hope of salvation. These are the two basic fundamentals.

The Essence of Islam
Now let's move to the essence of Islam. Islam was born with the idea that it should rule the world. Let's look, then, at the difference between these three religions. Judaism speaks about national salvation - namely that at the end of the story, when the world becomes a better place, Israel will be in its own land, ruled by its own king and serving God. Christianity speaks about the idea that every single person in the world can be saved from his sings, while Islam speaks about ruling the world. I can quote here in Arabic, but there is no point in quoting Arabic, so let me quote a verse in English. Allah sent Mohammed with the true religion so that it should rule over all the religions.

The idea, then, is not that the whole world would become a Moslem world at this time, but that the whole world would be subdued under the rule of Islam. When the Islamic empire was established in 634 AD, within seven years - 640 - the core of the empire was created. The rules that were taken from the Koran and from the tradition that was ascribed to the prophet Mohammed, were translated into a real legal system. Jews and Christians could live under Islam provided they paid poll tax and accepted Islamic superiority. Of course, they had to be humiliated. And Jews and Christians living under Islam are humiliated to this very day.

Mohammed Held That All the Biblical Prophets Were Moslems
Mohammed did accept the existence of all the Biblical prophets before him. However he also said that all these prophets were Moslems. Abraham was a Moslem. In fact, Adam himself was the first Moslem. Isaac and Jacob and David and Solomon and Moses and Jesus were all Moslems, and all of them had writings similar to the Koran. Therefore, world history is Islamic history because all the heroes of history were Moslems. Furthermore, Moslems accept the fact that each of these prophets brought with him some kind of a revelation. Moses, brought the Taurat, which is the Torah, and Jesus brought the Ingeel, which is the Evangelion or Gospel - namely the New Testament.

The Bible vs. the Koran
Why then is the Bible not similar to the Koran? Mohammed explains that the Jews and Christians forged their books. Had they not been changed and forged, they would have been identical to the Koran. But because Christians and Jews do have some truth, Islam concedes that they cannot be completely destroyed by war [for now]. Nevertheless, the laws a very clear - Jews and Christians have no rights whatsoever to independent existence. They can live under Islamic rule provided they keep to the rules that Islam promulgates for them.

Islamic Rule and Jihad
What happens if Jews and Christians don't want to live under the rules of Islam? Then Islam has to fight them and this fighting is called Jihad. Jihad means war against those people who don't want to accept the Islamic superior rule. That's jihad. They may be Jews; they may be Christians; they may be Polytheists. But since we don't have too many Polytheists left, at least not in the Middle East - their war is against the Jews and Christians. A few days ago, I received a pamphlet that was distributed in the world by bin Laden. He calls for jihad against America as the leader of the Christian world, not because America is the supporter of Israel, but because Americans are desecrating Arabia with their filthy feet. There are Americans in Arabia were no Christians should be. In this pamphlet there is not a single word about Israel. Only that Americans are desecrating the home of the prophet....

End of Days
It is highly important to understand how a civilization sees the end of days. In Christianity and in Judaism, we know exactly what is the vision of the end of days. In Judaism, it is going to be as in Isaiah - peace between nations, not just one nation, but between all nations. People will not have any more need for weapons and nature will be changed - a beautiful end of days and the kingdom of God on earth. Christianity goes as far as Revelation to see a day that Satan himself is obliterated. There are no more powers of evil. That's the vision.

I'm speaking now as a historian. I try to understand how Islam sees the end of days. In the end of days, Islam sees a world that is totally Moslem, completely Moslem under the rule of Islam. Complete and final victory. Christians will not exist, because according to many Islamic traditions, the Moslems who are in hell will have to be replaced by somebody and they'll be replaced by the Christians.

The Jews will no longer exist, because before the coming of the end of days, there is going to be a war against the Jews where all Jews should be killed. I'm quoting now from the heart of Islamic tradition, from the books that are read by every child in school. They Jews will all be killed. They'll be running away and they'll be hiding behind trees and rocks, and on that day Allah will give mouths to the rocks and trees and they will say, Oh Moslem come here, there is a Jew behind me, kill him. Without this, the end of days cannot come. This is a fundamental of Islam.

Is There a Possibility to End This Dance of War?
The question which we in Israel are asking ourselves is what will happen to our country? Is there a possibility to end this dance of war? The answer is, No. Not in the foreseeable future. What we can do is reach a situation where for a few years we may have relative quiet. But for Islam, the establishment of the state of Israel was a reverse of Islamic history. First, Islamic territory was taken away from Islam by Jews. You know by now that this can never be accepted, not even one meter. So everyone who thinks Tel Aviv is safe is making a grave mistake. Territory, which at one time was dominated by Islamic rule, now has become non-Moslem. Non-Moslems are independent of Islamic rule; Jews have created their own independent state. It is anathema. And (this is the worse) Israel, a non-Moslem state, is ruling over Moslems. It is unthinkable that non-Moslems should rule over Moslems.

I believe that Western civilization should hold together and support each other. Whether this will happen or not, I don't know. Israel finds itself on the front lines of this war. It needs the help of its sister civilization. It needs the help of America and Europe. It needs the help of the Christian world. One thing I am sure about, this help can be given by individual Christians who see this as the road to salvation.

More here

12 October, 2006

Harvard study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity

A bleak picture of the corrosive effects of ethnic diversity has been revealed in research by Harvard University's Robert Putnam, one of the world's most influential political scientists. His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone - from their next-door neighbour to the mayor. This is a contentious finding in the current climate of concern about the benefits of immigration. Professor Putnam told the Financial Times he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it "would have been irresponsible to publish without that".

The core message of the research was that, "in the presence of diversity, we hunker down", he said. "We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it's not just that we don't trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don't trust people who do look like us." Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, "the most diverse human habitation in human history", but his findings also held for rural South Dakota, where "diversity means inviting Swedes to a Norwegians' picnic".

When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. "They don't trust the local mayor, they don't trust the local paper, they don't trust other people and they don't trust institutions," said Prof Putnam. "The only thing there's more of is protest marches and TV watching."

British Home Office research has pointed in the same direction and Prof Putnam, now working with social scientists at Manchester University, said other European countries would be likely to have similar trends. His 2000 book, Bowling Alone, on the increasing atomisation of contemporary society, made him an academic celebrity. Though some scholars questioned how well its findings applied outside the US, policymakers were impressed and he was invited to speak at Camp David, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

Prof Putnam stressed, however, that immigration materially benefited both the "importing" and "exporting" societies, and that trends "have been socially constructed, and can be socially reconstructed". In an oblique criticism of Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, who revealed last week he prefers Muslim women not to wear a full veil, Prof Putnam said: "What we shouldn't do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us."


A minor issue with major implications

A minor issue at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) has potentially major implications for the future of Islam in the United States.

Starting about a decade ago, some Muslim taxi drivers serving the airport declared, that they would not transport passengers visibly carrying alcohol, in transparent duty-free shopping bags, for example. This stance stemmed from their understanding of the Koran's ban on alcohol. A driver named Fuad Omar explained: "This is our religion. We could be punished in the afterlife if we agree to [transport alcohol]. This is a Koran issue. This came from heaven." Another driver, Muhamed Mursal, echoed his words: "It is forbidden in Islam to carry alcohol."

The issue emerged publicly in 2000. On one occasion, 16 drivers in a row refused a passenger with bottles of alcohol. This left the passenger - who had done nothing legally wrong - feeling like a criminal. For their part, the 16 cabbies lost income. As Josh L. Dickey of the Associated Press put it, when drivers at MSP refuse a fare for any reason, "they go to the back of the line. Waaaay back. Past the terminal, down a long service road, and into a sprawling parking lot jammed with cabs in Bloomington, where drivers sit idle for hours, waiting to be called again."

To avoid this predicament, Muslim taxi drivers asked the Metropolitan Airports Commission for permission to refuse passengers carrying liquor - or even suspected of carrying liquor - without being banished to the end of the line. MAC rejected this appeal, worried that drivers might offer religion as an excuse to refuse short-distance passengers.

The number of Muslim drivers has by now increased, to the point that they reportedly make up three-quarters of MSP's 900 cabdrivers. By September 2006, Muslims turned down an estimated three fares a day based on their religious objection to alcohol, an airport spokesman, Patrick Hogan, told the Associated Press, adding that this issue has "slowly grown over the years to the point that it's become a significant customer service issue." "Travelers often feel surprised and insulted," Mr. Hogan told USA Today.

With this in mind, MAC proposed a pragmatic solution: drivers unwilling to carry alcohol could get a special color light on their car roofs, signaling their views on alcohol to taxi starters and customers alike. From the airport's point of view, this scheme offers a sensible and efficient mechanism to resolve a minor irritant, leaving no passenger insulted and no driver losing business. "Airport authorities are not in the business of interpreting sacred texts or dictating anyone's religious choices," Hogan points out. "Our goal is simply to ensure travelers at [the airport] are well served." Awaiting approval only from the airport's taxi advisory committee, the two-light proposal will likely be in operation by the end of 2006.

But on a societal level, the proposed solution has massive and worrisome implications. Namely, the two-light plan intrudes the Shari`a, or Islamic law, with state sanction, into a mundane commercial transaction in Minnesota. A government authority thus sanctions a signal as to who does or does not follow Islamic law.

What of taxi drivers beyond those at MSP? Other Muslims in Minneapolis-St. Paul and across the country could well demand the same privilege. Bus conductors might follow suit. The whole transport system could be divided between those Islamically observant and those not so. Why stop with alcohol? Muslim taxi drivers in several countries already balk at allowing seeing-eye dogs in their cars. Future demands could include not transporting women with exposed arms or hair, homosexuals, and unmarried couples. For that matter, they could ban men wearing kippas, as well as Hindus, atheists, bartenders, croupiers, astrologers, bankers, and quarterbacks.

MAC has consulted on the taxi issue with the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society, an organization the Chicago Tribune has established is devoted to turning the United States into a country run be Islamic law. The wife of a former head of the organization, for example, has explained that its goal is "to educate everyone about Islam and to follow the teachings of Islam with the hope of establishing an Islamic state."

It is precisely the innocuous nature of the two-light taxi solution that makes it so insidious - and why the Metropolitan Airports Commission should reconsider its wrong-headed decision. Readers who wish to make their views known to the MAC can write it at publicaffairs@mspmac.org.



Muslims are not doing enough to engage with Britain's otherwise thriving multicultural society, Martin Amis has said. Commenting on the recent row over Islamic veils, the author said at the Festival: "The only element that's not fitting in is Islam. Who else is not fitting in?"

Amis, who has written extensively about Islamist terrorism, and wrote a short story imagining the last days of Muhammad Atta, the 9/11 hijacker, said that home-grown terrorism was a separate problem, bound up in the allure that "death cults" have to the vulnerable young men who become suicide bombers. "In this country what's happening is that young men in late adolescence and early manhood have a period of self-hatred and disgust and thoughts of suicide," he said. "The idea you can turn this into world history is tremendously powerful. "The absolutely crucial thing is to see whether it mutates. Death cults take on a terrible momentum."

The allure of a philosophy based on the rejection of reason and embrace of death was intense but short-lived, Amis said. However, if this fused with a sense of the individual exerting an influence on history "then al-Qaedaism will mutate as we feared".

Amis, 57, returned to Britain last month after 2® years in Uruguay, where part of his wife's family lives. He said that he had been struck by how successful British society appeared when viewed through fresh eyes. "It looks like a multicultural society that's working apart from a few miserable bastards." Amis's father, Sir Kingsley, was a passionate communist who became a virulent anti-communist after the Soviet Union's crushing of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.

Amis himself is suspicious of ideologies and says he welcomes the similarity between the two main political parties in Britain. "All the big [political] battles have been won. We no longer rule a quarter of the world but we are supposed to feel relieved about that because we don't like empires, do we?" he said. "What we have now in England is an evolved market state that doesn't feel humiliated about the loss of its position at the highest table. The result seems to be an increasing concentration on surfaces, outlines and glitter without substance. "As The New Yorker said, `the Brits are now at the point where they feel Schadenfreude about themselves'."


Australian department-store chain takes legal action against feminist

David Jones has begun legal action against a feminist academic who this week accused major retailers of "sexualising" children in their advertising. Furious David Jones chief executive Mark McInnes telephoned the Canberra-based Australia Institute yesterday, demanding it remove all references to his company from a report on "corporate pedophilia". The report claimed that David Jones, Myer and high-end children's labels Fred Bare and Frangipani Rose "sexualised" children by posing them like adults, with hips tilted and lips slightly parted. David Jones threatened that unless its name was removed from the report on the institute's website within two hours, it would instruct its lawyers to take action.

"It was pure corporate bullying," said Australia Institute director Clive Hamilton. Mr McInnes confirmed that the call took place but said: "It was not bullying. It was a courtesy call, which is more than they offered us. We were protecting our reputation and our legal rights. "They have accused us of something that we regard as abhorrent. We will not be used by them to further their agenda."

The Australia Institute report, by academic Emma Rush, caused an outcry as merchants, advertisers and publishers rushed to protect their corporate images. As well as photographs of child models, Dr Rush was critical of the bralette sold by some stores; kiddie lip gloss called Wet Shine advertised in Barbie magazine; and videos shown on Video Hits with women writhing about in short shorts. Bralettes are bandeau-style bras sold to eight- and nine-year-old girls. "The stores say there is demand because girls are reaching puberty earlier, and because girls are bigger now, and they need a bra earlier," Dr Rush said. "But there is no doubt they market these bras to children."

Sydney mother Louise Greig was baffled and upset to be included in the "corporate pedophilia" report for photographing her daughter Georgina to promote her business, "tween" clothing label Frangipani Rose. Ms Greig said the report said "much more about Dr Emma Rush than it says about us". "The idea that you can look at a photograph that I've taken of my own daughter and think, that's pornography - what goes though that woman's mind?" she said. "What kind of planet does she live on, that she would think such sick thoughts?"

Ms Greig said she felt ill whenever she thought about the way Dr Rush had described her nine-year-old daughter as "leaning forward, with legs astride. Both pose and angle are reminiscent of porn shots". "The more I think about how the authors have psychoanalysed and viewed my daughter's photo in a pornographic sense makes me feel sick to the stomach," Ms Greig said. "I feel defamed and vilified but thankfully my daughter is too young and innocent to understand that she has been exploited by Emma Rush."

Dr Rush said the children in various catalogues and magazines were instructed to adopt "come-hither" expressions, with legs apart and slightly open, glossy lips. She said boys in David Jones ads "are smiling, looking like fairly natural children". But "four of the six girls" in one David Jones shoot "are pouting" or have "sultry expressions". Mr Hamilton said the institute "undertook the research into sexualisation of children in the public interest and in response to widespread concern about the issue".


11 October, 2006

Persecution of Christians Pervasive Across the Muslim World

Violence continues throughout the Muslim world in response to Pope Benedict's recent remarks about Islam. Some Christian churches in Iraq have posted letters indicating their disagreement with the Pope in an attempt to avoid attack. According to Christian Freedom International president Jim Jacobson, "as long as almost any criticism of Islam is met with violence, a serious dialogue between Christians and Muslims is impossible."

In a world driven by economic, ethnic, and religious differences, people desperately seek dialogue. It is certainly better to talk than to fight. And much can be achieved if people set aside their differences to work together for common ends. However, genuine dialogue requires confronting real problems. There is much in history about which those of both the Christian and Muslim faiths-and others as well-must regret. Injustice was committed by the use of violence by those claiming to speak for God. The victims of such injustice were many.

Today the picture is very different. By no means is the Christian church perfect-"God tells us that all men have fallen short of His glory," emphasizes Jacobson. But over the last several hundred years Christians have come to recognize that violence and force have no place in promoting the Gospel message.

Unfortunately, that is not the case in the Muslim world. That sad reality is evident from the response to the Pope's speech: the murder of a nun in Somalia, church burnings by Palestinians, attacks on churches in Iraq, and threats against Christians elsewhere. The problem of Islamic violence against non-Muslims of all faiths is not locked in history. It is today.

Equally serious is the problem of persecution and discrimination. "The bias against Christians is pervasive across the Muslim world," explains Jacobson. "Of course, some countries are freer and more tolerant than others. Nevertheless, it is virtually impossible to find a Muslim-majority nation in which Christians are not oppressed, while it is similarly hard to locate a Christian-majority state in which Muslims are victimized."

The starting point for any inter-faith dialogue must be a discussion of the willingness of Islamic governments to stop the persecution of non- Muslims. "Freedom of conscience is a prerequisite for religious faith, and it must be protected for everyone," says Jacobson.

There is much in culture and history that divides believers in God. But we also have much in common. The foundation for future religious dialogue and cooperation must be the renunciation of violence in the name of faith.


Life's ultimate short straw

By irreverent British motoring writer Jeremy Clarkson

My local petrol [gasoline] station has employed an elderly chap to run the pumps, no doubt to satisfy the recent European diktat that bars age discrimination.

Good. I’m pleased as punch that the old boy can now fill his days. However, I do wish the owners of the garage had explained to him how the computerised petrol pumps work, that the cash till is electronic, and how best to operate the chip and pin system while wearing bifocals. By the time you walk out of there with a receipt, and your Smarties, all the fuel you bought has evaporated.

In a world that worked, petrol stations would all be run by spotty young men from Poland or Pakistan. But that simple dream can now be undone by four separate pieces of legislation. Age, sex, race and disability.

This means that if British Nuclear Fuels wants a person to monitor the reactors at Sellafield, it is duty-bound to at least consider someone whose CV reveals them to be a hormonal Afghan school-leaver with a keen interest in Middle East politics, a degree in chemistry and epilepsy.

Of course at this point you’d expect me to work myself into a state of righteous indignation and say: “Idealism? Pah. It’s a lovely thing to have, but God, it’s a dangerous thing to use.”

My wife has said on many occasions that she’d like to have Jamie Lee Curtis’s body. And I agree. I’d very much like to have Jamie Lee Curtis’s body. But it cannot happen because life is not fair. Some people win the lottery. And some don’t.

If you are born to a wealthy, intelligent family, then you will go to Eton, get a brilliant education and end up, having expended almost no effort at all, in a hedge fund, wealthy and contented.

If you are born ugly and with ginger hair, to a stupid family, things are likely to be a little more difficult.

However, here’s the thing. I absolutely support legislation that forces employers to consider people from all walks of life, no matter how much they dribble, or how many times a day they need to pray.

Sure, for every idiotic Stan who wants to become Loretta and have babies, there’s a Douglas Bader who overcame the loss of his legs to get back in a Spitfire or a Michael Bolton who overcame that astonishing haircut to become a pop star. Ian Dury. Franklin D Roosevelt. David Blunkett. Admiral Nelson. History is littered with disabled people who have not just got by, but got on.

Andrew Lloyd Webber made it even though at some point in his teenage years his face melted. And every year 200,000 people have to overcome the massive problem of being born American.

So, if I were an employer and wanted a footballer, I’d get someone who was good at football and wouldn’t care where they were from, what shape they were or even if they were a horse. If I wanted a secretary, I’d get someone who could type, and wouldn’t care how long her legs were or if she had sumptuous breasts. Much.

In fact, there’s only one type of person I wouldn’t employ under any circumstances. A small man.

Smallness trumps everything. It transcends national characteristics and traits written by the stars. I’ve said before that to be born Italian and male is to win the first prize in the lottery of life, but that isn’t so if you’re the height of a normal person’s navel. It doesn’t matter if fate deals the shortarse a hand stuffed with aces, or what new laws the government imposes to smooth his way into normal human life, he simply won’t be able to achieve a state of happiness if he has to go through life banging his head on coffee tables.

If you’re small, it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich, poor, Aries, Leo or ginger, you will be consumed with a sense that people aren’t just physically looking down on you, but mentally as well. This will make you permanently angry, and equipped with a chip so deep you need to wear a tie to stop yourself falling in half. I’ve never once met a small man who is balanced. They misinterpret every kind word and treat every gesture as the opening salvo in a full-on war.

It’s true, of course, that each generation is taller than the one that went before. I recently had a look round the restored SS Great Britain and the beds on this ocean liner were not even big enough for a 21st-century child of six.

It is therefore true to say that taller people are at the cutting edge of civilisation. Those of, let’s say, 6ft 5in are bound to be the brightest and cleverest and most advanced humans the world has ever seen, and those under 5ft 5in are somewhere between the amoeba and the ape, and there’s plenty of evidence to bear this out. An American man who is 6ft 2in tall is 3% more likely to be an executive and 2% more likely to be a professional than is a man who stands 5ft 10in.

It’s often been said that Randy Newman’s song, Short People Got No Reason To Live, is actually a metaphor for the stupidity of racism. I’m not so sure.

And nor, it seems, is the EU. Because while it’s now illegal to discriminate on the grounds of age, race, sex or disability, it is perfectly legal to push small people over in supermarkets and steal their milk in the playground.



For an account of how vast is the incompetence of the modern-day British police, see here

`Police officers obviously don't understand the difference between seriousness and satire.they need a crash course in the meaning of irony and the positive reclamation of taboo images.' So says `Geoffrey Cohen' (I'll explain the quote marks around his name in a minute) of the satirical Jewish community group Jewdas, four of whose members were recently arrested in Trafalgar Square, and then stuck in a cell in Charing Cross, for the crime of handing out a `pisstake' leaflet.

It happened at the end of September, during a festival of Jewish celebration in Trafalgar Square. The four were distributing flyers advertising a party due to take place in Hackney this month. The party was called `The protocols of the elders of Hackney', a pun on that old fraudulent anti-Semitic document, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Even though their leaflet was clearly satirical, the four pranksters were arrested on suspicion of spreading anti-Semitic material. Following complaints from a handful of members of the public, the police arrested and detained the four leafleters under section 19 of the Public Order Act, which covers suspicion of distributing racially inflammatory material with intent to incite racial hatred.

Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers confiscated the `inflammable leaflets', as Jewdas now refers to them. The fact that the leaflet was produced by Jewish members of Jewdas - the self-appointed `radical voice for the alternative Jewish Diaspora' that wants to `celebrate being Jewish' - seemed to make not a blind bit of difference to those who complained of anti-Semitism or to the police who acted on those complaints. When a group of young Jews who exist in order to celebrate Jewish culture can be arrested for inciting hatred towards their own community, it shows up the ridiculous nature of today's anti-hate speech legislation and the politics of inoffensiveness. These days you can't even make a joke without having your collar felt by the cops.

Getting an interview with Jewdas is not straightforward. After sending an email to a generic address I found on their website (www.Jewdas.org), I receive a reply from a `Geoffrey Cohen', who lives in Brighton. He tells me that Jewdas is not keen on giving interviews, but they might make an exception for spiked. He promises to make some calls, but warns me that his friends in London might not be able to meet up as it's a Saturday, the Sabbath, and the next evening would be the start of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. It seems that Jewdas' subversive instincts have their limits.

He managed to persuade a friend and fellow Jewdas founder to meet me in London on Sunday afternoon. Braving an early autumn hailstorm, I make my way from south London to West Hampstead, home to large parts of what Jewdas refers to as the `Jewish establishment'. Cohen's friend turns out to be a musical composer in his twenties who also goes by the name `Geoffrey Cohen'. Apparently, all Jewdas leaders go under the same name because it `creates a mystery element', says Geoffrey Cohen No.2, and because `there are a lot of people who hate Jewdas'. The real Geoffrey Cohen is an orthodox rabbi, who I assume is not a fan, much less a member, of Jewdas.

Jewdas was founded by a group of friends who felt that the British Jewish community was becoming too conservative. Their satirical website includes slogans such as `UJS: Undermining Jewish Students', `Yes to hummus, no to Hamas' and `United Synagogue: promoting moronic Judaism since 1870'. Their `Make Melanie Smile' campaign urges supporters and readers to send emails to the conservative Daily Mail columnist, Melanie Phillips, which might help to cheer her up. `Perhaps you know of gay couples splitting up? Or single mothers having their children taken into care? Or an increase in carbon dioxide emissions? Send them all to Melanie', the site says. Why give Phillips such a hard time? `Because she's awful!' exclaims Cohen. `You really couldn't make her up. She's like a new Jew of her own.' He does give her credit, though, for at least being outspoken at a time when `most people in the Jewish community think it's better to just keep to themselves'.

Jewdas was inspired by Heeb, the satirical New York magazine and growing movement of Jewish hipsters, and it is gathering quite a following both in and beyond London. Its debut event, Punk Purim, was a packed-out party in a run-down squat adorned with posters of a joint-smoking rabbi and Che Guevara as a Chassidic Jew. It featured Jewish hip-hop, Palestinian poetry, Kabbalistic graffiti and a peepshow with Jewish girls. According to Cohen, Punk Purim `is already legendary' - and, he proudly tells me, it was condemned in the Jewish Chronicle, the mainstream newspaper of Britain's Jewish community.

Jewdas is run by a bunch of pranksters who want to wind up the older and more miserabilist members of Britain's Jewry. They also claim that there is a more serious purpose to their pranks and parties: to `bring out the message that Judaism is not a fixed thing' and to `reopen the debate on who owns Judaism and who has the right to speak for the Jewish community'. These young synagogue-goers are hardly a threat to the continuity of Jewish life in Britain - and there is certainly no call for sending the police to investigate them. So why was there such a strong reaction against Jewdas in Trafalgar Square, culminating in arrests for handing out leaflets?

`Most people in the Jewish community have a very fixed view of what identity is and they feel threatened by us', says Cohen. `Any criticism of Israel, for instance, sends them into a frenzy. We have received quite a lot of hate mail, but you know, it's all quite funny. The accusation that we are self-haters is just ridiculous. The Jewish community needs to be woken up. It is largely affluent, comfortable and unthinking - and that goes for all denominations. In relation to Israel, it takes a very right-wing stance. The community is materialistic; it has swallowed the middle-class dream.'

Listening to Cohen, I realise that Jewdas is not that different from today's environmentalist and anti-consumerist movements: their criticisms of the `establishment' - in this case the Jewish establishment - are motivated by anti-materialism and a call for more meekness, it seems, rather than by anything truly radical or earth-shattering. Cohen was reluctant to be interviewed over a latte in Starbucks, because Starbucks is `an evil chain'. Jewdas' satirical website and unconventional parties are an attempt to reconcile these fairly mainstream anti-consumerist sentiments with Jewish culture; so Jewdas is also an expression of today's politics of identity, which is equally pervasive among young Londoners, many of whom seem to seek out a particularist national, religious or cultural identity through which they might define who they are and what they want.

Cohen says Jewdas is inspired by the dynamism of Central and Eastern European Yiddish culture during the interwar years. `We're talking about radicals here, who took on the rabbinate - the Jewish establishment.' He admits, though, that Jewdas is `definitely also coming out of multicultural politics' and hopes that `those two worlds' - of earlier radical Judaism and contemporary me-centred multiculturalism - `can be bridged'. It seems unlikely to me; the former was based on taking action and changing things, while the latter is more about the politics of complaint and victimhood.

Cohen says he adheres to Derrida's idea of a radical tradition. `It's not about the polarities of either abandoning the past or returning to it. This is about choosing elements of the past and we want to challenge nationalism and materialism.' In other words, it's all a bit of a postmodern mess, but, admittedly, a very funny postmodern mess.

The `radical Jewish tradition', as Jewdas sees it, includes the work of such diverse figures as Emma Goldman, Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, Martin Buber and Amos Oz. `Political activism was not separate from their Jewishness, whatever they claim', says Cohen. Jewdas feels that British Jews have forgotten about their `radical past'. Their Punk Purim party was held in London's East End because it used to be home to Jewish immigrants, mainly from Eastern Europe, who came from that `radical tradition' that Cohen so admires. I can't help thinking it's deeply ironic that Jewdas wants to reclaim a past which their grandparents' generation worked so hard to move away from. When Jews moved from the East End and went north to the nice suburbs, they were trying to rise above slum conditions and leave poverty behind. It seems that `celebrating tradition' can cross the line into glorifying the poverty and hardship of yesteryear. Cohen himself lives in West Hampstead. `Yeah, I'm the black sheep of Jewdas', he admits. According to the website, a `true Jewdas' lives in Hackney, prefers bicycles over SUVs, and is a post-Zionist vegan with a Jew-fro.

Whether you would wish to aspire to such a Jewdas lifestyle (it's not for me), Cohen is surely right when he says `closing down debate is not the way to build a tolerant society'. He says it is important to be able to criticise religions and cultures. The right to ridicule religions and their adherents is a hard-won liberty of any secular society worth its name, and we should not sacrifice it at the altar of `protecting minorities from being offended'. Under the cover of stamping out offensiveness, the New Labour government has seriously restricted free speech, and has set about outlawing anti-religious `hate speech', the justification or glorification of terrorism, or any other words it deems to be inappropriate or distasteful. The sentiment behind such stringent restrictions is that speech is a dangerous thing, and that the public must be protected from it by the caring and gracious censor. No thanks.

So, for Cohen, would it be different if non-Jews were to satirise or ridicule the Jewish community? `Non-Jews couldn't do it the way we have', he says. `We deliberately make very specific references which demonstrate that we know the culture very well. The use of humour is also a good way of waking up the Jewish community. If we had just set up a website with serious articles, it would have been ignored.'

It is nonsensical that Jewdas should have to ask for permission from their own community to make fun of them. Those who feel uncomfortable with Jewdas' irreverence should show a bit more chutzpah, rather than running for cover under the government's absurd attempts to legislate offensiveness out of existence.


10 October, 2006

Patriotism incorrect in England

When Australian Kay Rowland was sacked from her job for sending what she thought was a patriotic email about England to colleagues she couldn't believe it. The temp [secretary] was sacked from Castrol Oil after forwarding the email, which the Pipers Way-based company and Reed Employment, deemed to be inappropriate, to five other employees. But Miss Rowland, of Oakhurst, North Swindon, doesn't think the email was offensive and says people have the right to express their own opinion.

Part of the email said: "I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Britain. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. "This idea of London being a multicultural centre for community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Britons we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle."

Miss Rowland, who has been temping at Castrol as a telebusiness operator since January, said: "I was sent the email last Thursday by an employee at the same company and I then sent it to five other employees. "Nothing was said at the time but I overheard some colleagues saying it was true. "But now I know that some of the people I sent it to complained to management."

On Monday morning Miss Rowland says that she felt something wasn't right when a representative from Reed Employment arrived at her office. She said they usually check up on their temps in the afternoon. "My team leader and the Reed lady were both in the meeting room and then I was called in," she said. "They told me some people had complained about the email and that my employment was terminated immediately. I was escorted from the building.

"I didn't think people would enjoy reading the email but I could see where this man who wrote it was coming from. I wasn't offended by it. "I thought the people who I sent it to would look at it and see this man had guts to say what a lot of people are afraid to say."

But Miss Rowland didn't think that the email would land her in such hot water. "In the meeting I was very upset. It was a very big shock and every word came behind a tear. I have been told I was sacked because of the content of the email. "They also said, not in so many words, that I'm not welcome back there." She added: "I think I've been made an example of but I don't think it's an example that should have been made." Miss Rowland, who is moving back to Australia at Christmas is now looking for work elsewhere. Sarah Reynolds, a spokeswoman for Reed Employment, said the company was unable to comment.


The French way does not work

Radical Muslims in France's housing estates are waging an undeclared "intifada" against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day. As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed "banlieue" estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin. It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armoured cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones.

The number of attacks has risen by a third in two years. Police representatives told the newspaper Le Figaro that the "taboo" of attacking officers on patrol has been broken. Instead, officers - especially those patrolling in pairs or small groups - faced attacks as soon as they tried to arrest locals. Senior officers insisted that the problem was essentially criminal in nature, with crime bosses on the estates fighting back against tough tactics.

The interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also the leading centre-Right candidate for the presidency, has sent heavily equipped units into areas with orders to regain control from drug smuggling gangs and other organised crime rings. Such aggressive raids were "disrupting the underground economy in the estates", one senior official told Le Figaro.

However, not all officers on the ground accept that essentially secular interpretation. Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the hardline Action Police trade union, has written to Mr Sarkozy warning of an "intifada" on the estates and demanding that officers be given armoured cars in the most dangerous areas. He said yesterday: "We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their 'comrades' free when they are arrested." He added: "We need armoured vehicles and water cannon. They are the only things that can disperse crowds of hundreds of people who are trying to kill police and burn their vehicles."

However, Gerard Demarcq, of the largest police unions, Alliance, dismissed talk of an "intifada" as representing the views of only a minority. Mr Demarcq said that the increased attacks on officers were proof that the policy of "retaking territory" from criminal gangs was working.

Mayors in the worst affected suburbs, which saw weeks of riots and car-burning a year ago, have expressed fears of a vicious circle, as attacks by locals lead the police to harden their tactics, further increasing resentment. As if to prove that point, there were angry reactions in the western Paris suburb of Les Mureaux following dawn raids in search of youths who attacked a police unit on Sunday. The raids led to one arrest. They followed clashes on Sunday night when scores of youths attacked seven officers who had tried to arrest a man for not wearing his seat belt while driving. That driver refused to stop, and later rammed a police car trying to block his path.

The mayor of Les Mureaux, Francois Garay, criticised aggressive police tactics that afterwards left "the people on the ground to pick up the pieces".


Below is a comment on the above received via email:

There are many "no go" areas where Police basically don't police. These areas have esssentially become concrete islands run by a strange alliance of Imans imposing Shaira law, to which only the women and married and older men are subject, and unemployed youths hypocritically victimizing those who don't comply because they know the Imans will allow it for ulterior reasons) and not complying themselves (in other words, to be exempt from Shaira expectations of piety, join a gang!).

These areas are out of sight and out of mind for most in France. Ironically, St. Denis, the tomb of French Kings, is now becoming almost a completely Muslim neighborhood.

The game of chess is a metaphor for warfare in medeval thinking, and has interesting roots in the conflict between east and west and the Crusades. But in France it looks like Islam has learned the Chinese/Japanese game of "Go."


It doesn't question the regulations of course -- and it certainly does not suggest that the exemptions help America to breathe. Excerpts below:

In recent years, many politicians and commentators have cited what they consider a nationwide "war on religion" that exposes religious organizations to hostility and discrimination. But such organizations - from mainline Presbyterian and Methodist churches to mosques to synagogues to Hindu temples - enjoy an abundance of exemptions from regulations and taxes. And the number is multiplying rapidly.....

Federal law gives religious congregations unique tools to challenge government restrictions on the way they use their land. Consequently, land-use restrictions that are a result of longstanding public demands for open space or historic preservation may be trumped by a religious ministry's construction plans, as in a current dispute in Boulder County, Colo.

"When you fly in to Denver at night, you can always pick out Boulder," said Ben Pearlman, an athletic young lawyer who grew up there. "It's the only one with big patches of darkness around it." As one of Boulder County's three governing commissioners, the soft-spoken Mr. Pearlman talks about protecting the county's spectacular beauty as if it were a sacred trust. In 1978, the county limited intensive development to already urbanized areas, buffered by large swaths of prairie and farmland. The landscape therefore now stands in stark contrast to the spreading carpet of subdivisions, office parks and malls in neighboring counties around Denver.

To Alan Ahlgrim, the mellow and mesmerizing preacher who founded Rocky Mountain Christian Church in eastern Boulder County in 1984, those encroaching subdivisions look like spiritual vineyards, full of families ready to be transformed by his church's call for them to become "blessed to be a blessing" to others. "The church has never grown fast enough to suit me," Pastor Ahlgrim said with a grin that showed he was almost, but not quite, serious.

But the church, one of more than 200 in the county, did grow fast enough in the last 22 years - from about three dozen families in 1984 to more than 2,200 people today - to burst from its original building and five subsequent expansions approved by the county. Today, its enthusiastic young congregation is once again bumping up against the walls of its 106,000-square-foot home, which sits on 55 acres in an agricultural buffer zone around the small town of Niwot. It is holding multiple services to handle the overflow congregation, but its Sunday school space is full, with some classes spilling out into hallways and temporary buildings set up in a parking lot.

The church wants to almost double the size of its facilities so it can accommodate up to 4,500 people. The church could then provide a new children's wing, more rooms for adult classes and a gymnasium with room for two basketball courts or potluck suppers for 1,000. The new wings, linked to the existing building by spacious galleries, would be surrounded by more than 1,200 landscaped parking spaces, 60 percent more than today. But the county's land-use plan and zoning rules for the agricultural buffer zone where the church stands would limit any construction on the site to a single residential building. So the church cannot build without the approval of the Boulder County commissioners. And in February, after an emotional public hearing attended by more than a thousand people, Mr. Pearlman and his two fellow commissioners said no. [The horror! People wanting to use their own land in their own way!]

"People are always trying to develop their properties to the limits of the law and sometimes beyond," Mr. Pearlman said. But the worst suburban sprawl is the consequence of "lots of little decisions that have this cumulative effect," he continued. "We're trying to resist this death by a thousand cuts, and preserve the land where we can."

Like the leaders of large, fast-growing churches across the country confronting zoning restrictions on their expansion plans, Pastor Ahlgrim is unhappy. The decision "is severely restrictive to our mission," he said. Like worshiping, teaching and gathering for fellowship, the practice of sharing with the community - in this case, allowing certain outside groups to use the church when it's available - is "vital to our mission," he continued. "When one of your core values is generosity and you are restricted from sharing what you want to share - what God has provided - we consider that to be a severe limitation." The church had no choice but to go to court, he said.

The church has sued the county under a federal land-use law enacted by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton in 2000 to protect religious organizations from capricious or discriminatory zoning restrictions by local governments. The unusual law came after a decade-long bipartisan tug-of-war between Congress and the Supreme Court. Before 1990, the court had generally held that any government restriction on religion must serve a compelling public interest in the least burdensome way - a standard known as the "strict scrutiny" test. But in one Oregon case dealing with two Native Americans' sacramental use of peyote, an illegal drug, the majority concluded that there was nothing unconstitutional about states expecting citizens to comply with valid, neutral and generally applicable laws - like those criminalizing peyote - even if compliance conflicted with religious beliefs.

This "Smith decision," Employment Division v. Smith, provoked a fierce reaction that has energized the drive for more legislative protections for religion ever since. In 1993, under pressure from a broad coalition whose members ranged from the Anti-Defamation League to the Southern Baptist Convention to the American Humanist Association, Congress adopted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which restored the "strict scrutiny" test to any federal, state or local government action affecting religious practice. A new tool had been added to the First Amendment emergency kit, although no one was quite sure how to use it.

Then the Supreme Court tugged back. In 1997, it ruled that the religious freedom act could not be applied constitutionally to the states. In reaction, 13 states have subsequently adopted similar measures of their own. But Congress thought the decision left room for it to address zoning restrictions and, separately, religious restrictions imposed on prisoners. In 2000 Congress adopted and Mr. Clinton signed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which restored the "strict scrutiny" test to local zoning decisions, making it easier for churches to challenge those decisions in court. The act also made it easier for prisoners to challenge restrictions on their religious practices.

The provisions that apply to prisoners have been upheld, but the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the land-use provisions that Rocky Mountain Christian Church is invoking in its lawsuit against Boulder County. One of the church's allies in the fight is the Justice Department's civil rights division, which is defending the law's constitutionality in cases around the country.

Defenders of the law say that some cases invoking its protections have addressed actions by local governments that seem to reflect blatant religious bias. For example, Rabbi Joseph Konikov of Orlando, Fla., successfully sued his local government under the law in 2002 after county officials repeatedly cited and fined him for holding small worship services in his suburban home, in violation of a zoning provision later found to be an unconstitutional burden on religious freedom.

"It was like Communist Russia," said Rabbi Konikov, who said his grandfather had fled the Soviet Union to escape religious oppression. He has continued to hold services in his home. "It was very satisfying to see that, at the end, our Constitution and our American values and freedoms came through for us."

Other zoning challenges, all invoking the 2000 law, have been filed by a Sikh society that wants to build a temple in a low-density residential area of Yuba City, Calif.; a Hindu congregation seeking permission to expand its temple and cultural center on a busy highway in Bridgewater, N.J.; and a Muslim organization that has been trying for years to build a mosque on land that the local government in Wayne Township, N.J., now wants to buy for open space.

Seeking a Protective Balance

Critics of the 2000 law argue that the First Amendment itself has long prohibited religious discrimination in zoning, and that such zoning decisions could have been challenged just as successfully in the courts if the law had never been passed.

When Congress considered the law, "what was actually being discussed was `How do we make sure churches don't get discriminated against,' " said Marci A. Hamilton, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in Manhattan and the author of "God vs. The Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law" (Cambridge University Press, 2005), which calls for closer scrutiny of some religious exemptions, especially those affecting land use and family law.

"Unfortunately, the answer was to give such an expansive remedy that not only are they not getting discriminated against, but they are now capable of discriminating against all other landowners," added Professor Hamilton, who is advising Boulder County in its case.

The financial stakes in the Boulder lawsuit are large.

Under the 2000 law, if the county loses, it will have to pay not only its own legal bills but also those of the church. If the church loses, it will sacrifice the money it has spent on legal, architectural and public relations fees, but it will not be required to pay the county's legal bills. And unlike the county, it could seek free legal help from various religious advocacy groups, although it has not yet done so.

While a county victory might provide other local governments with a template for defending against similar challenges, some lawyers fear that if Boulder County, with its long history of careful land-use planning and its environmentally demanding voters, cannot successfully argue that preserving open space is a "compelling public interest," few local governments could.

"Religious institutions have realized that land-use authorities are vulnerable to the threat of litigation," David Evan Hughes, the deputy county attorney, asserted in the county's court filings. Without greater clarity from the courts, he continued, the new law's reach "will expand to the point where religious institutions are effectively dictating their own land-use regulations."

Like most Boulder County residents, several church members said they cherish the open space preserved by the county's past land-use decisions. But they think the county was wrong to reject the church's proposal.

Lanny Pinchuk, a church member who formerly served on the county planning board, praised all that the county has done to preserve the environment. "But you can't keep people from coming to the religious institution of their choice," he said. "I feel that is just, well, un-American."

Church leaders and members said their current proposal was the "forever plan," the last expansion the church would make on this site.

But they all struggled to explain why it is an unconstitutional burden for them to have to turn away newcomers now when, if they continue to grow, they will inevitably have to turn away people when their "forever" building is full.

"At some point, we're going to have to say we can't accommodate any more; I mean, we're not going to have a 100-story building over there," said Gerry Witt, a founding church member who has recently put his house on the market so he and his wife, Carole, can move to a less developed area on the western slope of the Rockies.

"So is there any limit?" He thought a moment, then answered his question. "Yes," he said. "There's God's limit. When he says, `You're at your limit,' that's when we will stop."



Say something derogatory about homosexuals and you are in immediate trouble. Otherwise they're not much interested

An inquiry has been ordered after police failed to respond to five 999 calls from a primary school reporting an armed intruder. The man broke into the school brandishing a lump of wood and threatened staff by telling them 'you're dead'. School had finished for the day, but there were still children inside and frantic staff rang 999 on five occasions over a 50-minute period. Eventually the man left of his own accord, but officers never turned up to investigate.

Kent Police chief constable Michael Fuller has ordered the investigation following a complaint from headteacher Stuart Pywell, of St Stephen's Junior School in Canterbury. The drama at the school unfolded last week, when five young men were seen fighting with lumps of wood in the school grounds. At 4pm one of the men burst into the school through a back door brandishing a lump of wood and threatened staff. Mr Pywell said there were still children at an after-school club, but they were kept away from the intruder.

He said: 'He was standing in a corridor armed with a thick stick being very aggressive and abusive to everyone. He was clearly high on drugs. I told him the police had been called but he just kept threatening us, saying "you're dead". He was very agitated and had the lump of wood but, for all we knew, he could also have had a knife so we were reluctant to physcially tackle him. 'We do not expect the police to put people's lives at risk by failing in their duty to respond to situations like this. There was at least a dozen children and staff at risk yet no officer attended.' Mr Pywell said the man was escorted from the site, but suspicious men in a four-wheel drive vehicle remained outside the school gates. He said he even gave the control room his mobile number and no one 'bothered' to call him.

There have been other previous incidents, including vandalism at the school, when police failed to respond to calls, he said. A superintendent had previously apologised for police failures. 'It has got to the stage now where we have employed our own security guard at weekends.'

Deputy Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle said: 'We treat all incidents at schools seriously. We're concerned about how this matter was handled.' A police spokesman confirmed an internal inquiry into the handling of the incident has begun and said tapes of 999 calls made by the teachers will be examined. Senior officers are expected to meet with the headteacher.

Earlier this year Police Federation leaders claimed forces were struggling to cope withcalls because they were too busy 'chasing statistics' for the Government. In a scathing attack on Labour's law and order strategy, the Federation said crimes such as burglaries and car theft were being downgraded by control room staff because there were not enough officers to deal with them.

There have been a number of reported incidents in which emergency services have failed to turn out to 999 emergencies. In April police took an hour and a half to react to 999 calls about violence that led to the mob murder of two brothers. Mohammed and Hayder Ali were dragged from a van in a suburban street in London, stabbed with machetes and beaten around the head with wooden posts. In the 90 minutes before they were killed, five emergency calls was made to Scotland Yard detailing running battles and youths wandering around with weapons.

Last May John Lockley, 60, died after police and ambulance took six hours to respond to 999 calls that he was lying unconscious in the street in Stoke-on-Trent.


9 October, 2006

A roundup of 'taking offence' in Britain

It has been a bumpy ride for sensitive souls this past week. There has been so much going on that might possibly have offended them that I hardly know where to begin.

We have had a Somerset vicar offending Japanese visitors to the village of Bishops Lydeard by making feeble jokes about autumnal nips in the air; and numerous doctors offending old people by calling them “crinklies”.

We have had a Bournemouth councillor offending homosexuals by suggesting that Noah (of the Ark fame) would have been legally obliged to take in same-sex animal couples had he been operating in 2006; George Osborne offending autistic people by suggesting they have something in common with Gordon Brown; Boris Johnson offending fatties by using the word at all; Jack Straw upsetting Muslim women at his surgery by asking to see their faces; a publishing company removing all references to the “ British Isles” from its atlases for fear of offending Irish schoolchildren; and, perhaps most ridiculous of all, the Metropolitan police banning the use of the word “yob” in case it offends the hoodie-wearing classes.

With so many wounded feelings and near-misses out there it’s astonishing, really, that the entire country hasn’t ground to a halt.

But it hasn’t, has it. Apart from the usual chorus of auto-complainers, nobody seems to have turned a hair. If the crowded streets of west London are anything to go by, the human race — Muslim, gay, autistic, Japanese — seems to be chugging along together quite smoothly: occasionally, from across our reservoirs of hurt, even managing to smile at each other.

Nobody smiles much at the lawless laddies, it’s true. Thanks in part to so much police sensitive awareness training, lawless laddies seem to have been abandoned to a parallel universe of their own, where hardly anyone dares to establish eye contact with them, let alone risk hurting their feelings with a grin.

Actually, that’s not the point. Does anyone seriously believe a knife-wielding yob gives a flying fig what we call him? Of course he doesn’t. I wish he did.

It’s not just the yobs. On closer inspection it’s hard to see how any of this week’s supposed targets would have had valid cause to complain. We don’t know how many homosexuals were copied in on the Bournemouth councillor’s hated Noah’s Ark e-mail. But it strikes me as faintly preposterous to suggest that they would have been too fragile to take a joke — not against themselves, note, but against the absurdities of equal opportunity law.

It was a Tory councillor who wrote the e-mail, by the way, and a couple of Liberal Democrat councillors who chose to object to it so publicly. A case of genuinely hurt feelings or of political point-scoring? You decide.

Ditto the “row” over Osborne’s autism joke about Brown’s endogenous growth-theory tendencies. The left-leaning author Nick Hornby, who has an autistic child, was quick to cry foul. He made an uncharacteristically po-faced statement about disabilities not being funny.

Yet, oddly enough, he didn’t complain when his brother-in-law Robert Harris made a similar comment about Brown in this newspaper only a few weeks earlier. Why? Might it possibly have been because Hornby spotted an opportunity to make a dig at the Conservatives? I think so.

As for the vicar’s “nip” joke — having spent my childhood two miles from the village of Bishops Lydeard I would be astonished if a Japanese person had ever, in all its dozy history, found himself anywhere near the place, let alone paused there long enough to read the vicar’s newsletter.

As it turns out the loudest complainer, who is calling for the poor vicar to resign, is not a Japanese tourist but David Onamade, head of the Somerset racial equality council. Having made such an unholy fuss, he now finds himself on a marvellous platform from which to justify to council taxpayers his job, his salary and his pension. Perhaps that is coincidental. I’ve no doubt he would say it was.

I don’t know how much Japanese people mind being referred to as “nips”. Not much, I expect. They have a long history and a proud culture, as do we. And I don’t mind in the least being referred to as a “pom” or a “rosbif”. Do you? Does anyone? Of course there might exist, somewhere, a Japanese individual with unreasonably tender sensibilities who finds it painful to be referred to in such a way. In which case Onamade, by drawing national attention to a bad joke in a village newsheet, has succeeded in upsetting them quite unnecessarily. Shame on him. I think he should resign.

We’ve got to a point now where the Auto-Offence Brigade — most of them professional, many of whose salaries you and I are paying — have us so edgy that we dare not question anybody’s “right” to take offence at anything, regardless of truth, humour or logic. They yell so loudly and so brutishly that it’s hard for the rest of us to hear ourselves think.

When footballers "dive" - roll around the grass in paroxysms of affected agony after bumping into an opposing player in the hopes of getting him sent off - it is the diver and not the other man who gets shown the red card. I wonder if we shouldn't instigate a similar system for these blubbering offence-takers who seem to cause nothing but bad blood and who waste so much of our time.

Politicians suspected of taking offence unjustifiably should have their whip removed. Novelists should have their books boycotted. And as for that great army of publicly employed equality officers - whose original purpose must once have been not to stir up trouble but to try to smooth relations between potentially antagonistic factions - I think this country would be a more peaceful, less paranoid and more genuinely tolerant place if we got rid of the lot of them. Might save us a couple of bob [bucks], too.


Britain's streets are full of fear

By India Knight

(The first name "India" tells us that the lady writing is of upper class origin)

In the week when the word “yob” was banned by Scotland Yard because it might “alienate” teenagers and injure their tender feelings (oh boo hoo), Stevens Nyembo-Ya-Muteba, 40, was murdered by a gang of “youths” outside his flat in Hackney, east London.

Stevens, a married father of two little girls, was an émigré from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Britain, where he held down two jobs — delivering food for Tesco during the day, night portering at a restaurant in the evenings — to pay for his education. He was in the third year of a maths and finance degree at the University of Greenwich, having turned down a place at Cambridge so as to stay closer to home. A 17-year-old “youth” has been charged with his murder.

Stevens lost his life because he had had the temerity to ask the gang to keep the noise down after they broke into the communal area of the council estate where he lived. It was about 10pm. “Some of us have work in the morning,” he’d reportedly said which, as rebukes go, is both polite and mild. He was stabbed for his pains and left to bleed to death on a stairwell.

It has since emerged that Stevens and other residents had repeatedly urged the police and the council to do something about the appalling goings-on at the estate. “Prostitutes, smackheads, people having sex on the stairs,” one resident said. Another mentioned gangs of youths congregating in stairwells, taking drugs, urinating and trying to start fires. “The police and the council had been aware of it all for some time,” a relative of Stevens said last week.

I used to live in Hackney opposite two crack houses. The phone box in our road was regularly used as a (rather snug) boudoir by stoned — and not in a benign way — prostitutes. There were needles in the local park and crack-smoking paraphernalia littered the pavements. We were once woken in the night by two dozen armed police who explained that there had been a burglary and that the burglars, who had guns, had taken refuge on our roof.

I took my sons for a walk in the park a couple of days before we moved out of Hackney. It ended abruptly when we saw a young boy being cut down from a tree; he had tried to hang himself.

This in an area, by the way, which was last week described by a London newspaper as up-and-coming and made to sound rather charming and cosmopolitan, with bars and cafes open until 5am (I rather wonder who the paper thinks goes drinking at 5am. Schoolteachers? Yummy mummies? Or — here’s a thought — a feral underclass celebrating the night’s pickings?) It made no mention of the gun crime, the stabbings, the drugs or the desperate, crazed £5 whores.

What is especially depressing about this whole depressing story, which took place in a depressed area full of depressed people doing depressing things, is that I imagine Stevens himself knew a thing or two about deprivation; and that what he knew would put his assailants’ poxy little gripes to shame. Originally from Kinshasa, which is a horrible city in a grim country, I don’t expect the offer of a place at Cambridge exactly fell into his lap. “I believed in myself and got what I wanted,” he once told his college newsletter.

There are unsettling moments when I feel myself turning into a rabid old-school Tory, and this is one of them. What’s with the pathetic, weedy nonsense from Scotland Yard about hurting yobs’ feelings, when stories such as Stevens’s have, shamefully, become commonplace? Who cares about their feelings? I don’t. I couldn’t care less. I don’t care how hard their lives are: I don’t expect Stevens’s life in Kinshasa was much of a picnic either but at least he was doing his best to better himself to make a new life for his family. And I am so tired of the stupid liberal notion (held by me for decades) that gangs of hoodies are all gigantically deprived and thus need our pity, love and support, rather than our approbation. What they need, actually, is to be locked up.

Deprivation is relative: none of them is starving, all of them are clothed and all of them have access to free education. Besides, one of the yobs arrested in connection with Stevens’s murder is, if you please, the son of a social worker for Hackney council, which doesn’t quite constitute the frontline of ghettohood.

The gangs that periodically terrorise my new extremely salubrious, picture-postcard corner of north London aren’t “deprived” in any material sense that I can understand, either — not when they are wearing several hundred pounds’ worth of designer clothing. They are certainly emotionally deprived to which the only solution, short of eugenics, is first-rate education — starting with nursery and, in some cases, psychotherapy from the age of five.

That is a political point. The broader social point is that the killing in Hackney is the merest tip of a deformed, monstrous iceberg. We are all, wherever we live, at the mercy of marauding gangs of underclass yobs, intent on damage, and there seems to be little that anyone can do about it (which is why I’m sounding so cross. I’d have been less cross 10 years ago, and hardly cross at all 20 years ago, but the crossness escalates with every year that passes because the problem gets worse and nothing happens).

I was recently told by a representative from my local Safer Neighbourhood Team that its powers were somewhat limited: it could ask gangs of boys what they were doing lurking in residential areas at 2am, but since it was not legally allowed to make physical contact with them, it could not actually remove them if vocal persuasion failed.

Besides, the representative said mournfully, they’re often on bikes, which means they move too fast. As for Asbos: not terribly helpful when in some circles an Asbo is a badge of honour. I mean, really: someone’s having a laugh and it’s not you or me.

Being frightened in the street and even in our own homes — feeling scared to intervene when yobs are behaving badly for fear of one’s own safety — has become the norm in this country. We moan about it in the same way that we moan about leaves on the line or automated telephone systems: it’s just everyday life.

You have to gird your loins before opening the local newspaper, because its tally of crimes makes you come over all agoraphobic. I used to be absolutely appalled by gated communities — the super-rich making themselves safe because they can afford to. These days I grudgingly see the point. And that feels profoundly demoralising.


Major national homosexual groups, ACLU, and others opposing David Parker's civil rights lawsuit on teaching homosexuality in elementary school

Major national and state pro-homosexual groups have filed an amicus curiae brief in Massachusetts District Court opposing Lexington parent David Parker's federal civil rights lawsuit, filed earlier this year. Given the high degree of interest that these groups have shown toward the Parker incident and court case, it's expected that they will offer continued legal and financial support to stop the Parker lawsuit. On Wednesday evening in Bedford, Massachusetts, the ACLU held a "Human Relations Council"/No Place for Hate forum at which the David Parker issue was a primary topic by the presenter.

"Why are all these groups - especially the national groups - so interested in a parent's right to decide what moral issues are taught to his children by adults in elementary school, especially regarding homosexuality?" asks Brian Camenker, president of MassResistance. "This is outrageous and very frightening. They must see David Parker's case as quite a threat to their ability to push their message on children."

The legal brief attempts to make the point that the state has a legal obligation to teach homosexual issues to young children in the public schools (justified in part by the same-sex marriage ruling), and that parents do not have the right to be remove their children from those topics, or even be notified. "This really seems to expose their true agenda," added Camenker.

David Parker was arrested and jailed in Lexington, Massachusetts in April 2005, over his request - and the school's refusal - to notify him when adults discuss homosexuality or transgenderism with his 6-year-old kindergartner, despite state law which requires parental notification. The incident made national news, with even Gov. Mitt Romney agreeing with Parker.

Then in March 2006, the same school presented the book "King and King", about homosexual romance and marriage, to second graders, and again refused to grant parental notification. In April 2006, Parker and the other parents filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against school officials and the Town of Lexington over the incidents and the town's refusal to follow state law. The suit is pending trial.


Australia: Teen failed for stand on homosexuals

A 13-year-old student was failed after she refused to write an assignment on life in a gay community, because of her religious and moral beliefs. Her outraged mother, Christian groups and the State Opposition want an investigation into the treatment of the Year 9 student at Windaroo Valley State High School, south of Brisbane. "It's no wonder our kids are struggling with the basics when the Government is allowing this sort of rubbish to be taught in the classroom," Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney told The Sunday Mail yesterday.

The uproar came as Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop this week announced plans for Canberra to take control of school curriculums from the states, accusing "ideologues" of hijacking the education system.

The girl was among a class of 13 and 14-year-olds asked to imagine living as a heterosexual among a mostly homosexual colony on the moon as part of their health and physical education subject. They had to answer 10 questions, including how they felt about being in the minority and what strategies they would use to help them cope. They were also asked to discuss where ideas about homosexuality came from.

Sources said the students were told not to discuss the assignment with their parents and that it was to be kept in-class. They said many of the students were uncomfortable with the subject matter or did not understand the questions.

The 13-year-old girl instantly refused to do the assignment on religious and moral grounds. "It is against my beliefs and I am not going there," she told the teacher, who responded by failing her. After a series of discussions between the school and her mother, it was suggested the girl would be better off leaving the state education system and attending an independent school.

The girl's mother said yesterday she did not learn of the assignment until reading her daughter's report card several weeks later and discovered a first-ever fail mark for health and physical education. "I went to the school thinking there might have been a personality clash with the teacher," said the mother, who asked to be identified only as Bronwyn. She said she was shown the assignment. "When I started to read it I thought, 'Oh my God' . . . I was shocked by the content," she said. "My daughter said she didn't want to do the assignment because she did not believe in homosexuality and did not want to answer the questions. "She was being challenged, but she should not be challenged like that at her age."

Bronwyn was concerned that her daughter was not given an alternative scenario. She said the school claimed it was powerless to change the curriculum. Bronwyn said the school seemed more concerned about how parents found out about the assignment. "That's what concerns me most . . . the parents had no opportunity to even see the assignment," Bronwyn said.

Ms Bishop said the incident highlighted her concerns. "This is another example of a politically-correct agenda masquerading as curriculum," she said yesterday. "Parents need to know the content of school curriculum so they can be confident their children are receiving a high quality education that is also consistent with their values."

The State Opposition and Australian Christian Lobby demanded an investigation. Mr Seeney said Queensland needed common sense back in the classroom. "The Beattie Labor Government has created a system that tries to tell kids what to think instead of teaching them how to think," he said. "It is completely out of line for students to be graded on their moral beliefs. "It's not the job of our schools to politicise our children. It is their function to provide our kids with the basics, like reading, writing and maths."

Christian Lobby state director Peter Earle said the assignment was not about education, rather a teacher or school pushing their own agenda on young minds. "The subject matter was totally inappropriate," he said.

After being approached by The Sunday Mail, an Education Queensland spokeswoman late yesterday said the school had decided to drop the assignment from its curriculum and would work with the girl and her family to achieve a "satisfactory resolution". "The aim of the assignment was to encourage students to think about diversity, culture and belief systems," she said. "Schools can offer alternative assessment topics in consultation with parents, if the school is aware of concerns about an assignment."


8 October, 2006

British police to choose what law they enforce?

London's police chief on Thursday launched an urgent review of a decision not to post a Muslim officer at the Israeli embassy after a newspaper reported that he had been excused on moral grounds. "Having learnt of this issue I have asked for an urgent review of the situation and a full report into the circumstances," Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said in a statement. The Sun newspaper reported that Constable Alexander Omar Basha told his bosses he was unable to help guard the embassy in west London because he morally objected to Israel's 34-day war against Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Police chiefs excused Basha last week but critics said they feared it would open the floodgates for officers of any religion or belief to refuse to carry out certain duties. John O'Connor, a former Metropolitan Police flying squad commander, told the Sun: "This is the beginning of the end for British policing. "If they can allow this, surely they'll have to accept a Jewish officer not wanting to work at an Islamic national embassy? Will Catholic cops be let off working at Protestant churches? Where will it end? This decision is going to allow officers to work in a discriminating and racist way."

The police said in a separate statement that officers occasionally asked to be moved from a specific duty. "Every case is considered separately, balancing the needs of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) against those of the individual and the role which he or she is asked to perform," it said.. "Cases are kept under review. However, the needs of the MPS take precedence and the organisation reserves the right to post an officer anywhere in the MPS." Basha is attached to the force's diplomatic protection group, the Sun said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's government has been trying to improve integration among Britain's ethnic and religious communities. It launched the campaign after suicide bomb attacks by four Islamists on London's transport network in July last year killed 52 commuters.


The end of privacy as we know it

What will Tony Blair be remembered for? The post-war debacle in Iraq? Billions largely wasted on unreformed public services? Half-baked constitutional reforms that have threatened the integrity of the United Kingdom?

How about the erosion of privacy and the transformation of Britain into the most snooped-on country in the world this side of Pyongyang? We have more CCTV cameras than the rest of Europe put together. We have thousands of speed cameras linked to numberplate recognition databases. We await with trepidation the arrival of the national identity database from 2008, entry on to which will make it an offence, for the first time, not to inform the "authorities" when we move home.

Again, for the first time, our medical records, perhaps our most intimate personal information, will be available on a national data "spine", rather than kept within the confines of our GP's files. Details of children will be placed on another database, with no obvious limit to how long this information will be kept. Will a classroom transgression pop out of the system 20 years hence to scupper some job application, with the victim unaware why?

Last week, in a significant announcement issued under the guise of an innocuous-sounding "information-sharing vision statement", the Government proposed to reverse the presumptions of confidentiality under which Whitehall has, until now, conducted its relationships with businesses and individuals. Departments will be able to share personal information obtained for one purpose with other departments that might want it for an entirely different reason. In effect, they will be able to gather all this data in one place, something we were always assured would not happen.

And there is more. The Government is about to enact the controversial part of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) that it has held back for almost six years, after obtaining support for the legislation in Parliament on the grounds that it was crucial to the fight against terrorism and crime. If it was so important, why the delay? It makes it an offence not to give the police the key to an encrypted computer entry, should they request it. Failure to do so will mean a long prison sentence.

Now, I hear you say, so what? Surely all of these developments (and most have happened since Mr Blair came to power) are for our own good: to stop bad driving, track down criminals, save children from abuse, ensure prompt medical treatment, identify illegal immigrants and deter terrorists. The fact that there has been very little comment about Ripa, after such a huge fuss was made six years ago, suggests we have all become inured to such intrusions and hardly notice them - unlike visitors, who do. Relatives in London from America last week were shocked by the number of cameras everywhere and found them deeply sinister.

Have we have been bludgeoned into accepting the end of privacy? We now take it for granted that if someone refuses to hand over their data encryption key to the police, they must have something to hide. Perhaps they have, but it doesn't make it the business of the state unless it is illegal. There are plenty of people who want to keep things secret simply because they do not want others to see them.

Samuel Pepys wrote his diaries in shorthand (though the first transcribers thought they were encoded). If he were writing today on a computer, he would almost certainly have encrypted his entries, not because he was doing anything unlawful, but because he did not want his wife to find out what he had been up to with other women, nor certain notables to discover what he thought of them. They were private.

Now, on the assumption that we are all potential criminals, a new law will render such attempts at secrecy illegal. We may think we live in such a godforsaken world that, for the benefit of the majority, any concept of personal freedom as we used to understand it should no longer apply.

This is certainly the view of the Government. The Home Secretary, John Reid, said recently: "Sometimes we may have to modify some of our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms." The Government believes it has struck the right balance and is supported by those who subscribe to the "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" school of thought.

But the true criminal/terrorist/paedophile will find ways around this legislation, because that is what these people do; and those caught by it will often be unsuspecting innocents who have received an unsolicited encrypted message or have used a code in the past and forgotten the key.

I am by no means an "ultra" in these matters. There are clearly times when heightened surveillance is needed and, given the substantial threat of terrorism, this is one of them. It is also undoubtedly the case that paedophiles will try to hide their revolting photographic trade from prying eyes. But this Act is very widely drawn and can be invoked on the grounds of national security, for the purpose of preventing crime and "in the interests of the economic well-being of the UK". The scope here for misuse is clear.

There is also the concept of proportionality to be considered. Are we so embattled that we need, in Mr Reid's words, "to modify some of our own freedoms" to the point where they are almost unrecognisable from the liberties that our forefathers fought and died to preserve?

Once you accept that the government has the right to know where you are at all times, to demand that you tell its agents when you move home or to render up your private musings at its behest, then you have changed the nature of the individual's relationship to the state in a way that is totally alien to this country's historic, though ill-defined, covenant between the rulers and the ruled. If enough people say "so what?" to that, as well, then Mr Blair really has left a legacy, and it is a pernicious one.


Australia: Government social workers 'left children at serious risk'

Children and babies have potentially been placed at serious risk by Victorian child protection workers, who have been criticised for inadequately caring for up to 47 vulnerable children in just one country region. The damning findings by state Ombudsman George Brouwer follow a Department of Human Services investigation that did not identify any major case practice weaknesses by workers in the region. Mr Brouwer investigated the child protection program, believed to be in the Loddon-Mallee region, after whistleblowers told his office that many children were at increased risk because they did not have a case worker.

Regional managers were accused of failing to thoroughly investigate and intervene in cases where children were at risk, manipulating statistics to meet performance targets and failing to follow established procedures. Experienced child protection staff told Mr Brouwer they lacked confidence in the ability of managers to address their concerns about quality of service to the region.

Mr Brouwer's investigators reviewed 34 cases involving 57 children that had been reported to the department. "In 26 cases involving 47 children, the region may not have responded appropriately to children at risk," Mr Brouwer said. "I noted high numbers of unallocated cases, including high-risk infants. "A significant number of these cases were not receiving adequate intervention by child protection staff and I believe this may have left a number of children, including infants, in situations of serious risk." Mr Brouwer said the department responded quickly to the concerns identified by his investigation. He said the Government has taken "significant action" in several cases.

The department assured the Ombudsman that a "comprehensive strategy" was being implemented to strengthen the child protection program in the region. Mr Brouwer's findings were made in his annual report, which also slammed Victorian authorities for failing to remove a five-month-old baby from his abusive foster parents even though he was admitted to hospital three times with increasingly serious injuries. The boy's sister is believed to have told police she saw the foster mother try to remove the baby's teeth with a knife. The Weekend Australian believes child protection authorities were told about the abuse by health professionals and police but did not act until after his third visit to hospital.

Chris Goddard, the director of the National Research Centre for the Prevention of Child Abuse, said Mr Brouwer's findings were further evidence that state child protection services needed to be subject to independent scrutiny.


7 October, 2006

Activist Claims Pro-Homosexual Chicago Is Unfairly Prosecuting Him

A Christian activist accused of disrupting the 2006 "Gay Games" in Chicago, Illinois, insists he was arrested while lawfully expressing his pro-traditional marriage viewpoint at the pro-homosexual event. And now, he claims city officials are moving forward with the case against him - a case he feels should be dismissed.

Earlier this year, Repent America president Michael Marcavage was arrested by Chicago police as he stood on a public sidewalk, holding a sign supporting traditional marriage at the city's 2006 Gay Games. Last month, Marcavage returned to Chicago for a court hearing but learned that the complaining witness did not show up.

Instead of dropping the case, the prosecutor said the case would be pursued based on the testimony of the arresting officer. However, the Christian activist says the arresting officer who appeared at the hearing was not the one who made the arrest.

To Marcavage, it appears the city has a clear agenda. "Chicago is obviously known for its promotion of homosexuality," he says. "We already have a civil case that was filed against the city, and we have uncovered various things in doing investigations about the city, [such as] the mayor's promotion of homosexuality, of course." The Repent America president says Chicago officials have no regard for free speech as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. "The mayor and the police department were actually instructed to tell people that they needed to leave the area if they were there trying to oppose what was happening," the Christian group's leader asserts. "And they set up, I believe, what they called free-speech zones, which are obviously unconstitutional," Marcavage points out. "But these free-speech zones are, I think, what these officers were trying to enforce, to keep people away from having an opposing message to the promotion of homosexuality," he says.

In recent months, the Christian leader says he has received an increase in profane and threatening messages from so-called "tolerant" homosexuals and their supporters. And now, he believes the city is demonstrating a similar brand of tolerance for his traditional values viewpoint, and he has doubts about whether the police and other local authorities are interested in seeing that he get a fair trial. The City of Chicago is pushing forward in the case against him, Marcavage says, even though the primary witness apparently cannot be located. The next hearing in the matter is set for October 4.


Shared parenting helps women, too

Jane is a successful career woman. She has moved up rapidly in a competitive field, and is advancing her career by attending business school at night. Bob works out of their home and does most of the childcare. If Bob decides he doesn't want Jane anymore, should he be able to take her kids away and push her to the margins of their lives? The opponents of the North Dakota Shared Parenting Initiative think he should.

Under the NDSPI, unless a parent is unfit, both parents in a divorce will have joint legal and physical custody of their children. By contrast, the North Dakota Concerned Citizens for Children's Rights Committee and its allies support the current system of awarding sole custody to the children's primary caregiver-that's Bob-and oppose the NDSPI. They contend that family courts should not require custodial parents to allow noncustodial parents like Jane to spend substantial time with their children after divorce.

This is wrong-Jane's children love her. Even though she was not the children's primary caregiver during the marriage, it's very harmful to take them away from her. It's also wrong to punish Jane for pursuing a career and being her family's primary breadwinner. Yet this is exactly what sometimes happens to working mothers-and very often happens to fathers-under the current system.

According to a study conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates and quoted in TIME magazine, today over one-fifth of fathers are their kids' primary caregivers. While this is often a very beneficial arrangement for families, it leaves women increasingly vulnerable to losing custody and being pushed out of their children's lives after divorce, just as so often happens to fathers.

There's a better way than the current win/lose custody system-shared parenting. Under shared parenting, children spend substantially equal time in each parent's home. According to a meta-analysis published in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Family Psychology, children in shared custody settings have fewer behavioral and emotional problems, higher self-esteem, better family relations, and better school performance than children in sole custody arrangements.

While many women's advocates have taken a misguided stand against shared parenting, there is a significant, outspoken minority which recognizes its benefits for women. For example, feminist attorney Karen DeCrow, president of the National Organization for Women from 1974 to 1977, says: "If there is a divorce in the family, I urge a presumption of joint custody of the children.it is the best option for women. After observing women's rights and responsibilities for more than a quarter of a century of feminist activism, I conclude that shared parenting is great for women, giving time and opportunity for female parents to pursue education, training, jobs, careers, profession and leisure."

Martha Burk, the Chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations who led the effort to open the Augusta National Golf Club to women, concurs. Burk, who was named Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year in 2003, explains that shared parenting provides women with greater economic freedoms and opportunities. She calls the current child custody system "mother ownership of children" and says that under this "harmful societal norm" judges "mindlessly award [sole] custody to the mother," to the detriment of all parties.

Under the NDSPI, courts will instruct divorcing parents to develop a joint parenting plan. If the parents cannot agree on a plan, the court will facilitate one which allows both mothers and fathers to maintain a meaningful role in their children's lives. Shared parenting is advocated by a growing consensus of mental health and family law professionals. The NDSPI has gained the requisite signatures and will be on the November ballot. It is an opportunity to move North Dakota family law forward from the outdated, mom as caregiver/dad as breadwinner model towards an updated model which will benefit both children and their parents.



So many letter writers have based their arguments on how this land is made up of immigrants. Ernie Lujan for one, suggests we should tear down the Statue of Liberty because the people now in question aren't being treated the same as those who passed through Ellis Island and other ports of entry.

Maybe we should turn to our history books and point out to people like Mr. Lujan why today's American is not willing to accept this new kind of immigrant any longer.Back in 1900 when there was a rush from all areas of Europe to come to the United States, people had to get off a ship and stand in a long line in New York and be documented. Some would even get down on their hands and knees and kiss the ground.

They made a pledge to uphold the laws and support their new country in good and bad times. They made learning English a primary rule in their new American households and some even changed their names to blend in with their new home. They had waved good bye to their birth place to give their children a new life and did everything in their power to help their children assimilate into one culture. Nothing was handed to them.

No free lunches, no welfare, no labor laws to protect them. All they had were the skills and craftsmanship they had brought with them to trade for a future of prosperity. Most of their children came of age when World War II broke out. My father fought along side men whose parents had come straight over from Germany, Italy, France and Japan. None of these 1st generation Americans ever gave any thought about what country their parents had come from. They were Americans fighting Hilter, Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan. They were defending the United States of America as one people. When we liberated France, no one in those villages was looking for the French-American or the German-American or the Irish-American.

The people of France saw only Americans. And we carried one flag that represented one country. Not one of those immigrant sons would have thought about picking up another country's flag and waving it to represent who they were. It would have been a disgrace to their parents who had sacrificed so much to be here. These immigrants truly knew what it meant to be an American. They stirred the melting pot into one red, white and blue bowl.

And here we are in 2006 with a new kind of immigrant who wants the same rights and privileges. Only they want to achieve it by playing with a different set of rules, one that includes the entitlement card and a guarantee of being faithful to their mother country. I'm sorry, that's not what being an American is all about.

I believe that the immigrants who landed on Ellis Island in the early 1900's deserve better than that; for the toil, hard work and sacrifice in raising future generations to create a land that has become a beacon for those legally searching for a better life.I think they would be appalled that they are being used as an example by those waving foreign country flags.

And for that suggestion about taking down the Statue of Liberty, it happens to mean a lot to the citizens who are voting on the immigration bill. I wouldn't start talking about dismantling the United States, just yet.


Migrants told to fit in by Australian citizenship boss

New migrants and refugees should realise they will have to learn English and get a job quickly in order to fit in to Australian society, Citizenship Parliamentary Secretary Andrew Robb said last night. And Mr Robb strenuously rejected claims by fellow Victorian Liberal MP Petro Georgiou that a proposed English test would prevent thousands of migrants from becoming citizens.

He also warned that molly-coddling migrants could foster a "destructive victim mentality". "We run the risk of fostering a mentality which works against these new arrivals, and does not support them in having a successful life in Australia," he said. "We must seek to avoid at all costs giving these new Australians messages that they are disadvantaged, that they are part of the welfare class, not part of the employee or employer class."

Mr Robb said new migrants should know what is expected of them "even before people board the aircraft". "They should be told they are expected to quickly join the workforce, not rely on the welfare system," he said.

On Wednesday Mr Georgiou blasted the Government's proposed new citizenship test which proposes a test of migrants' English skills, knowledge of Australian history and values. Mr Georgiou said the proposals would undermine the most successful migration program in history and would have prevented many great new Australians from becoming citizens.

But Mr Robb said new migrants should be told from the outset that they have to achieve certain milestones including a workable level of English, a job, high retention rates in school, and regular interaction with other groups in the community through activities such as sport. He said migrants were generally highly motivated to join Australian society, but that fell when faced with the hurdles of job rejection and lack of English skills. "Motivation, enthusiasm and keenness to learn is progressively replaced by declining self-esteem and a mentality increasingly focused on holding on to benefits, rather than reaching out for the opportunities offered in Australia," Mr Robb said.

He said the suggestions that migrants and refugees should "take their time" to fit in and sort out their problems, was poor advice. "Getting a job quickly may at first be very confronting, but we all know from our life experience that getting on with life heals wounds, builds confidence and initiative, and in this case a job can be a great aid to mastering the English language," he said


6 October, 2006


(I joined the Army in the 60s -- but I had some nice girlfriends too)

Those disillusioned with our "conservative" times often look with fond nostalgia to the swinging '60s, even the near half of the population who weren't yet alive or old enough to swing. But if you listen to the wisest and most honest survivors, you will soon learn the truth about the "devil's decade". Take the searing extract from expatriate art critic Robert Hughes's new book, Things I Didn't Know, which appeared in Britain's The Sunday Times last week, detailing his late first wife Danne's toxic promiscuity and drug use, and the subsequent suicide of their only son, Danton.

Under the title "The curse of free love", the extract is as good a dissertation as any on the disastrous legacy of those times, the spoiled marriages, damaged children and ruined lives. It seems that only now, 40 years later, we can see with clear eyes the aberration of that short, destructive period of the 20th century, what sociologists call the Great Disruption, when the moral foundations of society were under attack.

Hughes, 67, rejects "the absurd 'f--k-and-you-shall-be-free' ideology that was so common in London and elsewhere at the time. I sensed then, and know with a fair degree of certainty now, that it is an illusion to suppose that sexual promiscuity helps create personal freedom."

Hughes chronicles life with Danne, a beautiful Australian artist he met at a London party of expats, after she was introduced as "the best f--- in London". He tells how she gave him a strain of the clap she probably got from Jimi Hendrix in the back of a limo, of her rejection of their baby, "a robust boy" born in 1967 whom they named Danton after the French revolutionary. "Marriage became a prison whose tyrannous jailer was Danton. If it hadn't been for him she could have just walked away. So she decided to walk away anyway and come back when she felt like it."

A Sicilian au pair looked after Danton while his mother trawled radical chic parties for lovers, finding "someone to f--- whenever she felt horny, or . . . when she was not horny. The search was the thing. She equated it with freedom. Her ruthlessness in pursuit of this reduced me to stammering misery . . . [Once] I stroked her hair to comfort her and encountered a crusty patch of some stranger's dried semen." After their marriage ended, Danne became a lesbian. She injected heroin and cocaine and became "enormously fat" before dying at 60 of a brain tumour in Australia in 2003.

But the dark side of the '60s seemed to find its full expression a year earlier in the suicide of Danton Hughes at 33, alone in the Blue Mountains eco-home of his lover of 11 years, fashion designer Jenny Kee, then 54, who was away in Byron Bay at the time.

Danton, a sweet-natured, sensitive sculptor with thick, nicotine-stained fingers, didn't leave a note, but then he didn't need to. Kee and her husband had been friends of Danne and Robert Hughes in London. She had slept with John Lennon and Richard Neville, and posed nude for the cover of the counter-culture magazine Oz. Danton also posed for the cover of Oz, at age three, with a bikie and a topless black woman.

After Danton died, Kee recalled creepily in the Women's Weekly how she had known him "when he was in his mother's tummy. I cradled him in my arms when he was born and later as his babysitter." She confessed to a "crush" on Danton when she met him next when he was 15, in Sydney on a visit with his mother. "I thought to myself, 'What a beautiful young boy'." She was four years younger than his mother.

They became lovers seven years later and Kee gushed to women's magazines about her "toy boy". "He's a fabulous lover and very sexy." Kee has now written her autobiography, or what Hughes bitchily calls her "rather illiterate memoirs". It is due out on October 2, a month before Hughes's book. Her claims that Danton had been "crushed" by his father's inability to praise him must have cut deeply; her vow to write her story may have spurred Hughes to reclaim his family history.

While the contents of Kee's book are under wraps until an extract is published in the Women's Weekly next month, it is said to reveal much about Danton and his tortured upbringing. In the interview Kee gave to the magazine a few months after Danton's suicide, their liaison was lauded as "the 11-year relationship that defied convention and transcended its artificial barriers". But that was the whole problem with the '60s. It's nothing to admire.


Emasculated England

I don't know what it is exactly, but ever since I arrived here, I've had the sinking feeling that in England, the reasoned liberalism of, say, Bentham and Mill has given way roundly to the ideology of modern-day liberalism. Sure, in some respects--in their preservation of certain customs, habits and manners--the British remain quite conservative. A walk through the financial district of the City of London reveals staid dress habits; a conversation with an elderly couple strolling through Hyde Park will touch on the ignoble lives of the members of the House of Windsor.

But when I consider the snippets of conversations heard on the streets and in the cafes, reflect on the articles in local periodicals, and view the content of television news and entertainment, another kind of society is revealed. Somewhere along the way, England seems to have rushed headlong into the world of animal rights, environmental activism, political correctness, and other liberal nostrums. I could be wrong, but barely a week into my English sojourn and I've already picked up troubling signs of widespread, left-wing nonsense in British public life. For example: Taking bus No. 10 the other day to King's Cross (where I am taking courses in journalism at a local university), I noticed a strange stone and bronze sculpture titled "Animals in War" at Brook Gate on the edge of Hyde Park. This 58-foot wide monstrosity, which cost British taxpayers 1.4 million pounds (almost US$ 2.7 million!), was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum and unveiled in November of 2004. The memorial is "a tribute to all the animals that served, suffered, and died in the wars and conflicts of the 20th century."

Don't get me wrong. I like dogs and horses as much as the next fellow. But this memorial not only seems a little silly, but it actually offends the sensibilities by implying that there is a kind of moral equivalence between human beings and animals. (Peter Singer, call your office!) Was this necessary or even appropriate? What hare-brained public official approved the disbursement of funds for this piece of political propaganda passing itself off as art? And speaking of lame public officials in England, what is one to make of David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party? Pundits praise him as the fresh new face of British conservatism. (Even the eccentric, royalist and, at times, reactionary The Spectator, came out in his support.) But since assuming leadership of the Party in December of 2005, Cameron's words and actions have not inspired much confidence among other traditionalist (read: Burkean) conservatives.

Formerly, as an MP for Witney, Cameron was as wishy-washy as you could get--giving mixed messages regarding smoking bans, the Iraq war, the environment, and gay rights. As a rising star within the Party, that was bad enough. But now, as Conservative Party leader, Cameron has made high-profile efforts to try to make his "blue party" more appealing to young people and moderate voters. Cameron's April visit to a Norwegian glacier, for example, accompanied by the World Wildlife Fund, was certainly a disappointment to traditional British conservatives who grimaced as Cameron later told the press: "Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the world," and that British voters should "vote blue but go green."

In my own academic life, there are also troubling signs. Even though I am taking classes at a business-oriented university with long ties to the City of London's financial institutions, already three of the four assigned readings for the first week have been either alarmist screeds about capitalism and globalization, or simplistic jeremiads against the role of the U.S. in foreign affairs (read: Iraq) or international environmental efforts (read: Kyoto).

And discussions in and out of class--whether with British students or fellow Americans--have also been characterized by, on the one hand, an offensively self-righteous attitude towards the U.S. in general, the G.O.P., and our current president, or, on the other hand, by angry criticism of mergers and acquisitions, derivatives, hedge funds, and practically every other innovative product that the financial markets--especially those in the U.S.--have given the world. The students furthering these arguments, I sadly remind myself, will be the financial journalists and foreign affairs editors of the future.

I will be accused of using selective examples to build an (admittedly) weak case against England's current social and political climate. Granted, these are but a few, minor examples--insufficiently analyzed--of things I have noticed while here for barely a week. But a dearth of examples does not refute my basic contention that Britain is now, well, Left.

A British sociologist taught me to collect data while walking through a city. There is data everywhere, she said--in sounds and smells, signposts, advertisements, and people's clothes. I've tried to keep this in mind this week and, based on what I've observed, I cannot escape the feeling that this country and its people have been crippled--almost without their awareness--by modern-day liberalism. Watch the BBC and count the number of off-hand remarks made by program hosts about God, the Church, British history, and even Shakespeare. Go shopping at Tesco and notice that one of the most popular teas for sale is organic, "fair-trade certified," and boasts a box covered with pictures of smiling children in developing countries.

No, this is not the England I dreamt of knowing. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the England eulogized by Roger Scruton, evoked by Anthony Daniels or criticized by Douglas Murray. I came in search of an England that was secure, strong and proud, but found one that is insecure, soft and weak; I wanted to learn of an English society that was ancient, principled and instinctively conservative, but found one that is postmodern, relativist and liberal. I suppose I will just have to look for the ghosts of England's past in the nooks and crannies, shadowy passageways, and forgotten lanes of this magnificent city.



The sadly amusing article below endeavours to show that fathers don't matter but instead constantly shows that boys desperately want a father

Seven years ago, on the eve of his 23rd birthday, Adrian Grenier, the preternaturally laid-back star of the HBO series Entourage, decided to set up a camera outside Yankee Stadium and ask passersby what a father meant to them. The assorted responses -- "a best friend," "a leader," "no clue" -- comprise the opening sequence of Grenier's first feature-length documentary, screened this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. Shot in the Dark chronicles the New York-based actor's own floundering journey to reconnect with his estranged father -- an attempt, he says, to overturn the social stigma of being raised without one. More concisely, he says in the film, with a 23-year-old's bravado, "to prove that I don't have to care."

When he was growing up in a family of two, Grenier says, people regularly assumed he was "at a loss," that without the guidance of his father -- a man he hadn't seen since the age of 5 -- his upbringing had been somehow broken. "I was setting out to prove that fatherhood is just biology," he says. "Just fluid and empty spaces." Early in Shot in the Dark -- so titled because, he figures, that's what his own conception amounted to -- he seeks to challenge that theory by consulting a psychiatrist, who suggests Grenier is repressing his hurt; a psychic, who warns him of impending heartbreak; and a Catholic priest, who insists his childhood must have been more traumatic than he realizes. (To this, he shrugs. "I had a good life," he says. "My mom was a good father.") In one scene, Grenier observes a father-and-son team engaging in manly backyard horseplay. He looks on from the sidelines with mild bewilderment and the scientific detachment of an anthropologist scrutinizing the bonding rituals of primates. Still, he's no closer to an understanding of what he's missed. For his grand finale, Grenier parachutes himself, unannounced, into his father's life to address, once and for all, why he left. After a series of fraught, airless exchanges, he draws the inevitable conclusion that his dad is human and flawed. "It wasn't about me," he says. "My parents had their issues." He seems to forgive his father easily, thus neatly proving his point that he didn't suffer without this man.

Shot in the Dark comes at a moment when the debate over whether children -- and boys, in particular -- need their fathers has become intensely polarized. On the one hand, there is the recent typhoon of alarming statistics, all of which seem to suggest that the absence of a father at home significantly increases the likelihood that a teenaged boy will abuse drugs, drop out of school, become a parent, engage in criminal activity, and wind up incarcerated. These anti-social behaviours, many experts say, prove the fact that fathers play a role that is distinct and essential in order for their sons to reach "psychological manhood." In his 2001 book Father Hunger, Harvard child psychologist James Herzog identified a blanket yearning among fatherless children that he defined as, in part, a boy's struggle to transition into manhood when he has no blueprint to work from.

On the other hand, psychologists have recently set out to challenge the idea that fatherless boys are bound to fail as men as a fallacy rooted in antiquated and idealized notions of family. Parental gender, they say, is irrelevant. Rather, all kids need is at least one parent who is a responsible, loving and steady caregiver. Overwhelmingly, though, mothers tend to fill that role. In a 1999 issue of the journal American Psychologist, Louise Silverstein and Carl Auerbach of Yeshiva University in New York published a study called "Deconstructing the Essential Father," in which they concluded -- to considerable outrage in family-values circles -- that the available data "do not support the idea that fathers make a unique and essential contribution to child development."

Earlier this year, Peggy Drexler, a Cornell University psychology professor, took this position one step further in her book Raising Boys Without Men. She asserted that, all things being equal, boys often fare better without a male influence in the home. In the course of her research, Drexler followed a cohort of mostly middle-class boys, ages 5 to 9, from mother-only families, and charted their emotional and behavioural growth compared with boys from conventional mom-and-dad families. "I wanted to find out if sons can prosper through the power of mothers alone," she says. In the end, she decided that not only were they functional, they often outshone their more traditionally reared peers. "The boys in my study were not sissies or mama's boys," she says. "Nor did they compensate for the lack of a father figure by becoming overly aggressive. They were thoughtful communicators who were caring and sensitive, but they were just as willing to engage in boyish activities like skateboarding and roughhousing." Also, she says, they were remarkably resourceful in securing male role models in their extended families and communities. "It seemed clear that their essential boyishness was hard-wired."

Fatherlessness is not inherently problematic, says Drexler. The trouble, she points out, lies in the unfortunate reality that the average single mother has to contend with socio-economic factors -- namely poverty, gender discrimination and systemic racism -- that often prevent her from providing her children with the kind of support they may need. It is these factors, says Drexler, and not the absence of a male influence at home, that are most likely to determine a child's behaviour and performance. "Parenting is not anchored to gender," she says. "Parenting is either good or deficient, not male or female."

The question is not merely academic. A cursory glance at census data indicates that, as the traditional nuclear family model continues to erode, a shocking number of children are growing up without at-home dads. In North America, more than 10 million households are headed up by single mothers (up from three million in 1970). Some now argue that, considered in a larger, historical context, fathers are perilously en route to being written out of the cultural script altogether. In his 1995 book Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem, David Blankenhorn, now considered a pioneer in the "fatherhood movement," reminds readers that, historically, fathers were the ones who claimed primary responsibility for their sons' moral and religious education. "Throughout the 18th century," he writes, "child-rearing manuals were generally addressed to fathers, not mothers." But with the physical separation of work and home, brought on by the Industrial Revolution, the domestic sphere became increasingly "feminized." "In some respects," he writes, "it has been all downhill for fathers ever since."

In response to theories like Drexler's, the fatherhood movement has devoted its energies to keeping fathers -- and men in general -- from being pushed even farther into the margins of society. "Fatherhood itself is under attack," wrote Mark Honigsbaum last month in an article for New Statesman on American boys in crisis. "Although some feminists may desire it, you cannot simply wish away patriarchy and a certain type of masculinity."

In the years since his documentary was shot, Adrian Grenier has cultivated a steady but tentative relationship with his biological father. "We're just keeping at it and getting to know each other as people and trying to get some shared experience under our belts," he says. "Do I think it's important to get to know him as a person? Honestly, I don't. But I want to. He's a good guy. That's really what it is. He wasn't my father, so now what is he? He's a guy. We don't have a lot in common. But I'm still struggling with an ideal. I still want somebody to look up to."

This sentiment may be what Herzog would classify as classic father hunger. Or it could be something else altogether. In the debate over fatherless boys, one subject less frequently discussed is the effect of being stuck with the lifelong knowledge that a parent -- and it does more often tend to be male -- decided somewhere along the road that he didn't want the job. The fact of that rejection alone, it would seem, is bound to leave a kid, regardless of circumstances, feeling a little lopsided in the world.


5 October, 2006

Maryland School Officials Threaten Seventh Grader with Disciplinary Action for Reading Bible During Lunch Time

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a civil rights lawsuit in defense of the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of a seventh grader who was ordered by Maryland middle school officials to stop reading her Bible during free time at school or face disciplinary action. Institute attorneys have asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to declare that prohibiting students from reading Bibles or other religious texts during their free time is unconstitutional.

"We live in a country that touts itself as the cradle of freedom and democracy," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "However, what kind of freedom do we really have when a young girl can't even read her Bible during lunch time without being punished for it?"

On September 14, 2006, seventh-grader Amber Mangum was approached by the Vice Principal at Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School in Prince George's County, Md., while reading a Bible in the school cafeteria during her lunch period. In keeping with school policy, students are allowed to read books or engage in interpersonal communications during non-instructional time at school, including lunch periods. Furthermore, published administrative procedure of the Prince George's County Public Schools provides that "[s]tudents may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray before tests to the same extent they may engage in comparable, non-disruptive activities."

However, as noted in the complaint filed by Rutherford Institute attorneys, the vice principal informed Amber that reading a Bible was a violation of the school's policy and warned her that she would be subject to more severe disciplinary action if she were found reading a Bible at school again. In defending Amber's right to read a Bible during non-instructional time at school, Institute attorneys have pointed out that according to the U.S. Department of Education's 2003 guidelines under the No Child Left Behind Act, students have the right to read Bibles or other religious scriptures during lunch hour, recess or other non-instructional times.

Source. (Hat Tip Stop the ACLU)

Government must tread carefully when restricting jihadi texts

Australia: Officials from the University of Melbourne and the Howard Government are on collision course over freedom of speech - or more specifically freedom of research. Two books written by a man described as the "Godfather of Jihad" have been removed from the university's library, with a third facing the same fate, and on Monday evening's Lateline Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said that those who display, hire or sell the books - which have been refused classification - could face criminal charges. Even downloading the works from the internet could be illegal, Mr Ruddock warned, potentially placing the jihadi tracts in question on the same plane as child pornography. This present dispute is only the latest in a series of controversies concerning academic research into the field of terrorism. The Australian Research Council was criticised last month for spending $24 million on what critics said was a simplistic, blame-the-West view of terrorism.

While it is perfectly legitimate to question whether taxpayers should be funding inadequate and biased research, preventing access to primary sources is another matter. And as The Australian reports today, the works in question are freely available on the internet - allowing would-be terrorists to read them, but not academics seeking to understand and prevent their behaviour. It is already illegal to incite violence, and a far-reaching legal apparatus exists to tackle racial and ethnic vilification. While the books singled out by the Government may be inflammatory, many similarly offensive titles will continue to be sold. Barring access to publications should be used only as a last resort.


7/7: a very British bombing

John Reid's speech about 'extremist bullies' warping Muslim minds misses the point. Today's radical Islamists are made by mainstream society.

In his speech to the Labour Party conference in Manchester yesterday, home secretary John Reid won rapturous applause when he said Britain would not be `browbeaten' by radical Islamist `bullies'. `If we in this [Labour] movement are going to ask the decent, silent majority of Muslim men and women to have the courage to face down the extremist bullies, then we need to have the courage and character to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them doing it', he said. This follows a speech he made in London last week, in which he called on Muslim mums and dads to `look for the tell-tale signs' that their children might be turning radical, perhaps becoming `brainwashed by fanatics'.

It is a relief that the Labour government has finally begun to face up to the reality of what is referred to as `homegrown terrorism' - that Reid's Home Office seems to be taking more responsibility for rooting out terrorism, rather than leaving it all to the Foreign Office or, worse, the Ministry of Defence. In the years following 9/11, Western leaders and ministers deluded themselves into believing that contemporary Islamist terrorism was a foreign threat. Such violence, they claimed, was the work of weirdo Arabs or Asians raised on a diet of falafel and hatred for the West in some hot and dusty backwater of the Third World.

The bombings in London, however, executed by three men from Leeds and their friend from Huddersfield, blew British politicians back to reality. The atrocity opened their eyes to the fact that this violence is very often the work of Western-born or Western-educated bright young men who speak and think like us, and who live among us. The 7/7 bombers - like the 9/11 hijackers and Madrid bombers before them - were not poverty-stricken; nor were they aliens to the West. They lived here, benefited from Western education and jobs, and indulged in Western culture. Yet still they decided to kill themselves and others in a piece of nihilistic and bloody theatre.....

Reid continually talks about `radicalisation', which he sees as a kind of polluting of young minds by sinister Islamist individuals. The documentarist Peter Taylor, who has made films for the BBC about al-Qaeda, discusses `those who seek to radicalise' - presumably also referring to imams and other Islamists who exploit doubts about the war in Iraq, and also events such as the shooting of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes by anti-terrorist police officers in Stockwell, south London, two weeks after 7/7, in order to stir up the anger of Muslim youth.

So Taylor says that, after the killing of de Menezes, `those who seek to radicalise' presented his death in such a way that Muslims would believe `there was a shoot-to-kill policy and that any young Muslim is fair game'. Continuing with this theme of the radicalisers and the radicalised, who somehow stand apart from society, Taylor argues that the British authorities must `drain the water from the pond in which the alleged fish swim': `In other words, you have to get the communities on your side, the side of the state, if the so-called terrorists are to be identified and defeated.' He creates a powerful image of a `pond', an entity separate from mainstream British society, in which there is a polluted kind of water that poisons its inhabitants.

In fact, there is little evidence that the 7/7 bombers were radicalised by an imam, an al-Qaeda bigwig or any other foreign element. The government's report into 7/7, published in May, says of the 7/7 group: `Their indoctrination appears to have taken place away from places with known links to extremism.' (My emphasis.) In other words, not in Taylor's pond, but elsewhere. The report goes on to say that, yes, the bombers would have had the opportunity to attend lectures, watch videos and read material by extremists, `but it is not known if any did to any significant extent'. Rather, the four bombers seem to have `indoctrinated' themselves `through personal contact and group bonding'. This flies in the face of Reid's recent claims about Muslim kids being `brainwashed' by others. On the question of whether `those who radicalised' the four Brits may have been al-Qaeda leaders, the government report says there is still no evidence that any of them had `links to an al-Qaeda fixer': `There is no reliable intelligence or corroborative information to support [these claims].' Moreover, there is `as yet no firm evidence to corroborate.the nature of al-Qaeda support, if there was any'. In the case of 7/7, `those who radicalise' seem to have been the four young men themselves; they were self-radicalised.

Rachel Briggs of Demos has further pursued the theme of the 7/7 bombers' separation from mainstream British society. In a recent article, she favourably quoted a contributor to a recent Demos conference who talked about the `cocktail of ingredients' that have given rise to violent anger among some British Muslims: `foreign policy, perceived or real Islamophobia, poor attainment, lack of participation and representation..' Within `certain communities', this individual said, such ingredients can come together to create terroristic anger (note again the isolation of `certain communities').

Briggs writes of the `gulf between the state and Muslim communities' and of `the sense of alienation that [can] fuel violence'. Again, we are presented with a view of a distinct part of British society, which has been neglected by politicians and officials, and where, through a combination of factors, terrorism can fester and take root. Apparently such terrorism grows away from the mainstream, often unseen by officialdom.

In fact, the most striking thing about the 7/7 bombers' self-radicalisation is that it seems to have taken place, not in a privatised world created by radical Islam or governmental neglect, but in the public sphere and in the full view of mainstream society. The government's report says the bombers were not radicalised in mosques but in gyms, including a gym funded by local government money, and during outdoor sporting activities with other groups of individuals: `Camping, canoeing, white-water rafting, paintballing and other outward bound-type activities are of particular interest because they appear common factors for the 7 July bombers and other cells disrupted previously and since.' In other words, the bombers' radicalisation seems to have occurred during engagement with others, rather than stemming from a sense of alienation while sitting at home, and in a public space rather than in a private room in a mosque or anywhere else.

As Faisal Devji, author of Landscapes of the Jihad, argues: `These men [did not] cut themselves off from British society; instead their politics and their bonding are conducted in the full glare of public scrutiny.. Most of the London bombers' acts of bonding occurred in public - not in mosques but on rafting expeditions and at [paint-ball] shooting games, in clubs and gyms. There is nothing traditionally religious, or private, about that.'

There is something very new here. In the past, small violent sects or cults tended to separate themselves from the mainstream. For example, the People's Temple cult set up a bizarre commune in Jonestown, Guyana, in the mid-Seventies, where eventually 913 of them died in a mass suicide. David Koresh's cultish Branch Davidians also removed themselves from mainstream society; 76 of their members eventually died following an assault by armed FBI men. Or think of something like Charles Manson's murderous Family group which was formed in the late 1960s. Individuals involved in these kinds of groups tended to break off links with their families, refused to engage with society's institutions, and they often set up their own communities so that members could be exposed to sect-like thinking on an hourly and daily basis. This often had the effect of transforming individuals' thought patterns and behaviour, enabling them to carry out often horrendous acts of violence. For example, the Family's self-separation from the mainstream allowed them to transform into individuals capable of murdering a heavily pregnant woman (the actress Sharon Tate) and other civilians.

The 7/7 bombers, however, remained at the heart of the mainstream, living with their families, hanging out and playing cricket with their friends, attending anti-war marches, and using public outdoor sporting activities as an opportunity to bond. This suggests, very strongly, that they are a product of mainstream British society rather than of neglect or foreign radicalisation.

Getting their ideas from the mainstream

Even the bombers' political motivation - to the extent that we know about it - was a product of mainstream and contemporary trends, rather than being some strange, exotic religious duty or something `bullied' into them.

Both the 7/7 ringleader Mohammad Sidique Khan and his close friend and fellow bomber Shehzad Tanweer made `martyr videos', in which they expressed anger with Britain's foreign policy, especially, in Tanweer's words, with its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Peter Taylor argues that foreign policy failures, or at least perceptions of failures, were key to the `radicalisation' of the 7/7 group. He writes: `I have no doubt that Iraq is the single most important motivating, radicalising factor for young Muslims who are so disposed in this country, or the USA, or elsewhere.' Others argue that Western foreign policy actually nurtures al-Qaeda; it has `greatly helped al-Qaeda to achieve its goals by causing discussion, dissent, alienation and radicalisation in multi-ethnic communities in Western Europe'. Veteran left-wing commentator John Pilger went so far as to describe 7/7 as `Blair's bombs'.

Here, again, we have an idea that 7/7 was a largely foreign enterprise. The argument is that Britain and the West's foreign policy made some Muslims feel alienated and angry and led the 7/7 bombers to take violent action. It is argued that the bombers made an essentially political response to the war in Iraq: we are told they were `radicalised' by it, in a political and active sense. This misses the point about the terrorists' claims to have been motivated by foreign policy, which again is a mainstream response rather than any kind of peculiarly Muslim anger with wars overseas. The 7/7 bombers did not make an anti-imperialist strike against British foreign policy or Western imperialism more broadly; rather they were expressing a sense of disgruntlement with British life and politics through the issue of Iraq.

This is in no way unique. In the past three years, Iraq has become the issue through which many British citizens have experienced and expressed their sense of dislocation from public and political life, as evidenced in the gathering of one million citizens to protest against the war in Hyde Park, London, in February 2003. That was not a traditional anti-imperialist demonstration but a gathering of various strata of British society, from the young to the old, workers through to the middle classes, who claimed that they were `not being listened to' by the British government and felt increasingly distant from the Blairite project. The 7/7 bombers expressed this same, mainstream sense of angst with contemporary British life, only in a more violent form. There was nothing peculiar or original about their focus on foreign policy - that is the issue through which displeasure with or cynicism about the authorities is expressed in contemporary Britain. The bombers' violent outrage can be seen as a more bloody demand that government `listen to us and take our concerns seriously'.

In other ways, too, the 7/7 bombers, as well as other alleged radical Islamists, are products very much of mainstream British ideas. According to the government's report on 7/7, Sidique Khan, for example, was a strong believer in encouraging young people to stay fit and healthy. Apparently his talks to young Muslims, usually given in a gym, focused on `clean living, staying away from crime and drugs, and the value of sport and outdoor activity'. This script could have been written by any New Labour government apparatchik, who have made healthy living and sport into key planks of their interventionist policy to shape and mould our lifestyles.

For the government, promoting good health can very often turn into berating and even punishing those who are seen as unhealthy or obese or feckless. Could it be the same for radical Islamists? A group of British Muslim men from Crawley in West Sussex is currently on trial, accused of plotting a terrorist attack on British soil. It has been alleged that they discussed blowing up a nightclub or poisoning booze at football grounds. One of them allegedly said of nightclubs: `No one can put their hands up and say they are innocent... those slags dancing around.' A witness claims the gang also talked about `poisoning football fans by contaminating beer cans and burgers'. They also allegedly discussed blowing up the Bluewater shopping centre in north-east Kent, which, thanks to some pretty degraded media coverage and political attention has become famous (or perhaps infamous) as the haunt of `chavs'.

The truth of these allegations remains to be decided by a jury. But if anybody really did plot such things, then it seems to me they were more influenced by contemporary British culture than foreign Islamism. It has become de rigueur recently, particularly in political and media circles, to slate the working classes for their binge-drinking and generally bad behaviour. Officials fret over the sight of young girls in mini-skirts falling down drunk, while TV documentaries and newspaper articles expose the apparently seedy and violent life of `football hooligans'. It is also open season on chavs. One website, for example, refers to the Bluewater shopping centre as `the most chav-infested place on the face of the Earth', overrun by `the Burberry-clad hordes'. If a group of men did talk about attacking `slags', poisoning football fans and blowing up Bluewater chavs, they could very well have been taking their cue from mainstream fear and loathing of these sections of society rather than from some Pakistani `Mr Big'.

The politics of pity and identity

What of the 7/7 bombers' belief that they could speak and act on behalf of Muslims everywhere, the ummah? John Reid bemoans the attempts of certain radical Islamists to create `no-go areas' for British officials, where only Muslims will be welcome. Surely this shows that certain radical Islamists, and the 7/7 bombers themselves, were influenced by foreign al-Qaeda-style ideas about the need to stand up and fight for Muslims around the world?

Actually, even this aspect of the 7/7 bombers' actions was shaped much more by contemporary British and Western culture than it was by foreign radicalism. In Sidique Khan and his colleagues' belief that they, as Muslims, could represent all other Muslims, we can glimpse today's undemocratic politics of identity, which defines people by their origin and even skin colour rather than by their political convictions or allegiances.

Over the past 20 years, the politics of identity has superseded the old politics of left and right, replacing traditional collectivities with sectionalised communities which each apparently have their own needs and interests. The politics of identity plays down traditional democratic forms in favour of elevating personal experience as the defining factor of political action on the world. Thus, individuals can speak for others who share their identity, even if they were never elected by them, or have never even met them. As Munira Mirza has argued on spiked: `[I]n a world where any old hack can be called a "community leader", it is hardly surprising that [Khan and Tanweer] also thought they were qualified to speak [on behalf of all Muslims]. What Khan and Tanweer's terrible action shows is the price of endless, meaningless community consultation, where some people are rewarded political power for merely being the right skin colour or religion.'

Likewise, Khan and Co's decision to act on behalf of others, rather than for their own self-interest or for a democratic community, is a very mainstream form of political action. In our post-political, identity-directed era, a great number of groups claims to act in the interests of people they actually have few or no links with, and from whom they certainly have not won any kind of democratic mandate. So NGOs and charities claim to act on behalf of the people of Africa; Greenpeace and other environmentalist campaigners say they act to protect future generations, those who are not even born yet; anti-abortion campaigners act for the unborn; campaign groups like Fathers 4 Justice, despite being tiny in terms of membership and support, claim to act for all fathers; anti-poverty campaigners increasingly focus on the issue of child poverty, speaking, apparently, for those voiceless children neglected by society and possibly even their own parents.

Each of these groups presumes to represent great numbers of people even though they have never submitted their ideas or personnel to the rigour of any kind of mass elective process. At a time when political collectivities and solidarities are in decline, we can see the emergence of a new, profoundly anti-democratic politics of pity - a politics which vicariously, and often patronisingly, campaigns for others who are apparently less able to articulate their grievances, rather than for a self- or community interest. The 7/7 bombers did precisely the same: they acted for all oppressed Muslims, without first consulting them or even trying to win support for their actions within their local communities or families. They were a product of identity politics and victim culture more than radical foreign Islamism....

The 7/7 bombers were no foreign infiltration; nor were they necessarily the product of having been neglected by the mainstream. Rather, they were the mainstream: their political thought and their style of action were shaped by contemporary British ideas and values. From their bonding in public places to their adoption of Iraq as the issue through which to express their dislocation, from their narcissistic elevation of identity to their use of the body for transcendence, their terrorist act was made here at home. It was literally homegrown terrorism. The 7/7 bombers, like other radical Islamists, were moulded by the same politics of identity and angst, and the same suspicion of modern life, that is widespread in Western societies - and which expresses itself in less violent forms in anti-capitalist protests, green movements, new religious movements and other contemporary outfits. What distinguishes radical Islamists, of course, is their use of often horrendous violence. This can be seen as a consequence of the fact that radical Islamism, unlike other contemporary identities, provides its adherents with a distinct sense of being outsiders, and with readymade, off-the-peg identities that allow them to contextualise their very Western disgruntlement as being part of some seemingly grand war between Muslims and infidels.

John Reid and others need a second reality check on homegrown terrorism. They should stop looking for explanations overseas, and explore what the 7/7 bombings and the fashion for radical Islamism reveals about Britain and the West today. 7/7 was less an attack from without than a scream of rage from within, where the thought and action of contemporary society was turned against that very society; it was less evidence of any kind of `clash of civilisations' and more the consequence of the decline and fall of Western civilisation and its move into a new era of identity, narcissism and malaise. The 7/7 atrocity was a very British bombing

More here

4 October, 2006

Feminazi Norway

Males not allowed to urinate while standing.

A local decision that schoolboys must sit on toilet seats when urinating has provoked political debate. The head of The Democrats Party, a splinter group of former Progress Party hardliners, Vidar Kleppe, is outraged that boys at Dvergsnes School in Kristiansand have to sit and pee. Kleppe accuses the school of fiddling with God's work, and wants the matter discussed at the executive committee level of the local council, newspaper Dagbladet reports. "When boys are not allowed to pee in the natural way, the way boys have done for generations, it is meddling with God's work," Kleppe told the newspaper. "It is a human right not to have to sit down like a girl," Kleppe said.

Principal Anne Lise Gjul at Dvergsnes School would not comment on Kleppe's plans to make political waves and regretted if anyone was offended by the ban on standing and passing water. Gjul told NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) that the young boys are simply not good enough at aiming, and the point was to have a pleasant toilet that could be used by both boys and girls.


"Reverse racism" attacked in one Australian jurisdiction

Murderers in the Northern Territory will find it harder to plead manslaughter under reforms designed to eliminate "reverse racism" from the justice system. As foreshadowed by The Australian last month, Attorney-General Syd Stirling yesterday announced changes to the Criminal Code following concerns about the high rate of convictions in the Territory for lesser charges instead of murder. Mr Stirling said the reforms, to be introduced in parliament this month, would remove drunkenness and any reference to cultural or ethnic backgrounds as partial defences to murder. "The amendments will ensure that those who commit murder are convicted of murder," Mr Stirling said.

The Northern Territory has the nation's highest murder rate, with the majority of homicides involving Aboriginal people, alcohol and domestic violence. In the 10 years since 1996, there have been just 12 indigenous people in the Territory convicted of murder compared with 62 for manslaughter. Over the same period, 24 people have been convicted for dangerous acts causing death and 23 for doing a dangerous act causing death while intoxicated.

But the changes were attacked by Sharon Payne, head of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, who said removing the need to prove intent represented a "return to the Middle Ages". "Under homicide rules, you really have to prove an intent to kill. The onus has to be on the Crown to prove that they (the offenders) intended to kill."

The reforms come one month after a coronial inquest in Darwin highlighted the circumstances leading up to the brutal death of Jodie Palipuaminni, a 27-year-old Aboriginal woman from the Tiwi Islands who was killed by her husband, Trenton Cunningham, in May last year. Northern Territory legal figures have questioned why Cunningham was convicted for manslaughter, not murder, since no alcohol was involved in the crime and the killer was breaching the conditions of his parole at the time. Cunningham, who had inflicted 11 years of horrific abuse on his wife before he finally killed her, was originally charged with murder but faced court for manslaughter. In August, he was sentenced in the Northern Territory Supreme Court to 11 1/2 years behind bars, with a non-parole period of 6 1/2 years.

Mr Stirling said too many offenders had previously been able to get away with lesser charges than murder. "I've always ... thought that there's been somewhat of a reverse racism-type element in law," he said. Under the reforms, the defence of diminished responsibility will be clarified, with new provisions for defence to focus on the accused's ability to understand events and determine whether their actions were right or wrong. Mr Stirling said the charge of "dangerous act" would also be abolished to ensure offenders were "appropriately charged". "Offenders will face the full arm of the law," he said.



`Fur is dead', chanted the animal rights activists as they invaded a Burberry catwalk show in Milan a couple of days ago. `Burberry: fur shame', read their placards. In the Nineties, fur was material non grata. To wear fur was to appear selfish and callous - `scum' was the word most frequently used to describe those who wore it. Supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford posed in ads for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and other famous figures said they would `rather go naked than wear fur'.

Similar protests are still around today. This week PETA launched another anti-fur advert featuring nude celebrities, including Sadie Frost, imploring people to `Turn your back on fur'. Heather Mills McCartney has not only been in the headlines for her big-money divorce from Paul, but also for her campaigning against the use of cat and dog fur in China.

However, there are signs that the tide might be turning. The International Fur Trade Federation announced $12.77 billion worth of global fur sales for 2005, a rise for the seventh consecutive year, and up from $9.1 billion in 2000. Campbell and Crawford are now back in their fur coats, and collections from names such as Prada and Louis Vuitton are dripping with a variety of pelts.

Still, many fashion houses and designers keep their lines free of fur, including Ralph Lauren, Sadie Frost, Stella McCartney, Topshop, Selfridges, Liberty of London and H&M. Those who use fur are frequently shamefaced. Burberry mumbled the following statement: `As a luxury brand there will be occasions where the use of fur will be considered important to the design and aesthetics of a product. In those instances we will continue to use fur. However, we will not use fur if there is a serious concern that the fur has been produced by the unacceptable treatment of the animals concerned.'

There is no reason to be ashamed. A fur coat is the best possible use of fur, and fashion is the best possible use of a fur coat. Anti-fur campaigners claim that we don't need to use fur. In the words of sex symbol turned animals rights campaigner, Bridget Bardot, fur is just a `superficial luxury' to satisfy our own vanity. `Designers who still use fur are heartless and shameless', said a PETA spokesperson after the Milan catwalk invasion. The fur-defending American Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, had a dead raccoon thrown in her soup while she was sitting at a restaurant table; a 2002 PETA ad featured the singer Sophie Ellis Bextor holding up a skinned fox with the slogan, `Here is the rest of your coat'. In the 1980s, ads included a woman trailing blood from her fur coat, with the line: `It takes up to 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat - but only one to wear it'.

Fur fashion gets reduced to the bloodied corpse, the manacles, the cries of pain. Looking at a beautiful coat, they see not the artful object but the slain animal. `Fur looks better on its original owners', says PETA, with the implication that on the animal fur is alive while on us it is merely dead stuff. This is exactly the opposite of the truth. Just as a butterfly is never aware of the beautiful patterns on its wings, so a mink will wear its soft coat until death without ever appreciating it. For the mink, fur is just something that it carries around in the battle to survive, like claws or teeth. By being made into a fur coat, that mink's pelt is raised into something higher, just as a tree made into a violin is raised, or a cow made into a sumptuous steak is raised. A raw material becomes part of the human world; fur isn't just on the back of an animal scratching around for food, but is instead worked on and admired as art. Indeed, it is only really by becoming a coat that a mink's life can be said to have had any purpose at all.

So-called `superficial luxury' is when our use of fur is at its highest. Fur was human beings' first clothing (`unto Adam and also to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them', says the Bible). As humans made their way out of Africa some 100,000 years ago, their naked skins could not endure the cold of Europe and northern Asia. At this stage they had not yet learned to weave and knit their own cloth, so they borrowed the fur of the animals of their region. It was fur use that allowed humans to spread throughout the world, reaching even the inhospitable wastelands of Siberia and crossing the icy Baring Straits into the Americas.

As societies developed, fur took on a richer and more symbolic significance. Fur became not just a material for survival but a mark of status and character - hence the leopard skin pelts of African chiefs, and the lion skin worn by the mythical Greek hero Hercules. In the Middle Ages there were strict rules limiting the wearing of different furs to different classes, with the richest and rarest pelts restricted to the backs of the nobility and commoners allowed only sheepskin. Fur now wasn't just used for warmth but also for decoration, with the introduction of fur trimmings for cloth garments.

Yet it was only with modernity that fur became fashion, which meant that it could be appreciated purely as a beautiful material. A designer thinks of the texture, look and feel of a fur pelt, choosing those that are most suitable for the design he or she has in mind. It's strange that the aesthetic use of nature is seen as decadent, because it actually makes the most use of different natural features and characteristics. A designer's choice between mink or bear or fox isn't made because they are cold and have to grab the nearest animal, or because they are restricted to a particular category of fur because of their status; rather it is based on reflecting on and appreciating the qualities of mink, bear and fox fur.

These qualities of genuine fur - both the shine and the soft feel - can't yet be achieved with artificial fur replacements. We've come a long way since the first fur coats of early humans. These were crude, cut out around the shape of the animal skin, with little thought to appearance. Inuits wrapped up in their furs look square: the shapes of their bodies are submerged as they battle to stay warm.

By contrast, fashion fur products are designed around the wearer, and huge amounts of effort are invested in getting the right effect. Madame Paquin, the dress designer at the head of a developing international fashion scene in the early twentieth century, made a coat in Canadian mink that used 300 skins, and took 100 hours of cutting and 1,000 hours of sewing. Fur coats were a key part of Edwardian elegance, cut to emphasise the figure of the wearer; and later, in the 1960s, designers experimented with dyeing fur crazy colours and introducing sweeping folds.

Today there are new and exciting possibilities for fur on the catwalk. As well as dyeing, and working fur into hip-hugging skirts and voluptuous cloaks, designers are also experimenting with new techniques. Some are `knitting' fur into a mesh, to create lightweight and soft shining material; others are plucking it, removing the longer outer hairs to leave only the softer shorter hairs; or sheering it; or embellishing it with crystals. To designers who say that they don't want an animal to die for their art, I say their art clearly isn't worth much. Fur shouldn't be consigned to the Stone Age: we're just finding out what it can do.


3 October, 2006

Refreshing signs of returning sanity over school sport in Scotland

Waterloo may have been won on the playing fields of Eton but the battle against apathy in modern day Scotland is being lost on our school sports pitches. Jack McConnell has condemned the trend for non-competitive sport in Scottish schools, saying children should be pitched against each other to "foster aspiration and promote a sense of achievement".

The First Minister, in an exclusive interview with Scotland on Sunday, said government inspectors would only award top marks to schools which encouraged competitive sport. In what is expected to become a manifesto commitment at the next Holyrood election, McConnell wants teachers to encourage results-driven games during PE classes and outside school hours. The move is an attempt to reverse the decline in school sports since the teachers' strike of 1985 and represents a direct attack on the growth in recent years of "potted sports" with no winners or losers, and sports days without prizes.

McConnell said: "There are far too many schools across Scotland where there is a minimum amount of competitive sport or still an aversion to competitive sport. "Whether or not a school promotes competitive sport will become one of the ways by which we measure whether a school is a good school. "I want to see us having a clear set of guidelines across Scotland, a very clear direction that we expect them to take: competitive sports days, competitive activities for youngsters both in school time and out of school time. "I would want to see the inspectorate measuring that as a key part of performance ."

In recent years some schools in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, North Lanarkshire, Fife, Aberdeen and Falkirk have had non-competitive sports days which have no individual winners and losers. The move dismayed Olympic swimming champion David Wilkie who recently claimed that political correctness and "inclusivity" in sport has fuelled a culture of defeatism north of the Border.

McConnell told Scotland on Sunday: "Competitive sport does a lot to stimulate the brain and make young people more alert, while it also gives young people something to aspire to, then keeps them working hard, hopefully giving them a sense of achievement. "It's an incredibly healthy thing. Unless we challenge youngsters at an early age then we're not going to have people competing on the athletics track or the football pitch."

McConnell, a former maths teacher, went on to blame the 1980s Conservative government for eroding the "community spirit" of school sports days, as strikes prompted many to stop sacrificing their free time to organise competitive sport.

The First Minister's intervention follows high-profile incidents where competitive sport was frowned upon. In 2002, Brian Harris, the head sports officer with Edinburgh city council, provoked criticism by suggesting that children on the losing side at a football match would be spared "psychological hurt" if the referee scored a few goals on their behalf. A year later the head teacher of an English primary school ruled that parents should be banned from school sports day because children would be "embarrassed" if they lost a race in front of them.

Fiona Hyslop, the SNP's education spokeswoman, said there was nothing wrong with backing competitive sports but "McConnell should get back to basics". She said: "The Executive, under his leadership, has failed to recruit enough PE teachers to replace those who are retiring. Nor has he delivered the two hours of PE that every pupil should receive at school."

Jamie McGrigor, the Scottish Conservatives' culture and sport spokesman, denies claims that the past Tory government was to blame. McGrigor said: "The Conservatives have always encouraged competitive sport. It has been Labour's socialist dogma of preferring dumbing down to excellence that is to blame. They see winning as elitist and the fact that some people are born to run faster than others as something to be ashamed of. I am delighted Jack McConnell wants to see far more competitive sport but he should remember that it was Labour that caused this problem in the first place."

Teachers and unions were also split on whether more competitive sport is needed. Ronnie Hamilton, principal teacher of PE at St Augustine's High School, in Edinburgh, which has 18 sports teams, including three girls' football sides, said: "I am more convinced than ever that competitive sport is a positive thing for everyone. In 39 years of teaching I cannot think of one instance where being included in healthy competition did not benefit a pupil."

However, David Eaglesham of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) dismissed the plans and accused McConnell of electioneering. He said: "League tables of which schools do the most competitive sport are exactly what we don't need. This would have to be something the First Minister negotiates with us. Teachers already devote a great deal of goodwill to assist competitive sport but goodwill is no way to operate a system that will later be assessed by government inspectors. I can't avoid thinking that there is an election coming up and that this influenced these comments."



The sad thing is that the military felt any need to be defensive about what they were doing

The Maine National Guard is facing criticism from an anti-war group about a program that sends uniformed military officers into seventh-grade classrooms around Maine. The group, Maine Veterans for Peace, says the six-week program, which discourages children at 37 schools from using drugs and often culminates in a trip to an outdoor training base, also serves as a military recruiting device. "I think it is strictly a recruiting tool," said Jack Bussell, a member of the anti-war group's board. "Military personnel have no business being in middle schools."

The Guard disputes the notion that it's planting the seeds of military service in young minds. "This is just another way to serve the citizens of the state by putting on a program that's congressionally approved and funded that helps junior-high kids make good choices," said Gen. John Libby, Maine's top military official.

The Guard's program is five years old, but at a time of increased dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and efforts to limit military recruitment in high schools, it's facing close scrutiny. Maine Veterans for Peace began making inquiries earlier this year after learning about the program from a parent in Woolwich. Though some parents have voiced complaints, officials at a few schools contacted for this article said the Guard program has been positive and free of controversy. "There's never been any concern whatsoever," said Sharon Burnell, principal of Molly Ockett Middle School in Fryeburg. "There's no recruiting going on. There's no mention of that."

The Adventure Program is just one of several drug initiatives run by the Maine National Guard, according to Lt. Cindy Pantalone, who oversees the program. During six sessions that are free to schools, students learn about making good decisions, building a team and becoming more confident, she said. "Yes, it's done in uniform," Pantalone said. "It's what we wear to work." Gen. Libby added: "Just as the DARE Program is conducted by police officers who wear police uniforms because that's who they are, our program is conducted by uniformed officers because that's who they are."

Activities listed on the Guard's Web site include wearing goggles to simulate the impairment caused by alcohol and a version of the TV game show "Jeopardy." When Army National Guard and Air National Guard members first arrive in the classroom, students often ask about why they joined the military and whether they've been to Iraq, Pantalone said. "I answer questions," she said. "The intent to join the military doesn't even come into play."

Educators generally learn about the Adventure Program through word of mouth, but the Guard approached some schools when it was looking to expand into Aroostook and Washington counties, Pantalone said. She also noted that participating schools, most of which are public, are supposed to send a letter home to parents before the program begins. She acknowledged that the Guard has learned of a few cases in which that did not happen. The program culminates with a trip - usually during the school day, but occasionally overnight - to a military-operated training base. One of the bases is in Gardiner, and the other is in western Maine near the New Hampshire border. Students climb a 10-foot wall, ride tire swings and shimmy across a rope bridge.

Mary Martin, principal of Elm Street School in Mechanic Falls, said she participated in last year's trip, which was made in cold, wet weather. "And not one kid complained," she said. "They were really into the activities. It was a beneficial day." Frank Hayward, principal of the private Chop Point School in Woolwich, said the program has been popular with students and teachers alike. "And we didn't have any ill side effects to all of this," he added. "None of our parents got concerned or anxious."

But elsewhere, some parents have raised objections. Amy Brown, whose has a son in eighth grade at Lake Region Middle School in Naples, said she learned about the National Guard program after her son already had participated. An informational session at the school failed to allay her concerns. She'd like to see the program become an optional after-school activity. "It's not active recruiting. It's sort of laying the groundwork for kids," she said. "To me, it's just an impressionable age. And it just doesn't strike me as an appropriate school activity." Lisa Savage, who until this year worked as literacy coordinator at Messalonskee Middle School in Oakland, expressed the same concern. "What you're basically trying to get is brand recognition," she said. "No one's going to buy your product unless they know your brand."

Last month, Maine Veterans for Peace expressed its objection to the program in letters to the participating Maine schools. Bussell, who wrote the letters for the anti-war group, said he feels the program's fun activities will give children a false impression of what the National Guard does. One of the questions posed in the 37 letters is whether the schools allow parents to opt out of the program. Most of the schools have not written back, Bussell said.



Political correctness had hijacked another core school subject - this time geography - lamented Education Strategies director Kevin Donnelly. Instead of teaching students about the water cycle, topography and different types of land use, creators of the Queensland curriculum believed students should deal with sentiments such as "active participation and stewardship by applying the values of democratic process, social justice, ecological and economic sustainability and peace". Geography had been captured by the cultural Left and those committed to the much-maligned outcomes-based approach to curriculum. "Geography once existed as a discrete subject and focused on teaching students about the world's physical features. As a result of outcomes-based education, however, the subject disappears to be replaced by 'place and space'."

When students in Western Australia were asked to write about sustainable development, they were given the usual doomsday scenario of global warming, acid rain and pollution from an over-reliance on fossil fuels caused by the "powerful position of large companies that produce fossil fuels and motor vehicles". Not to be outdone, the South Australian "place, space and environment" strand went one step further and suggested that middle school students in geography classes should be taught to be "critical of others, curriculum, school environments and society in general" and that they also should be involved in "decision-making, often challenging authority". Education should promote scepticism and encourage independent thought. "But the reality is the cultural Left's commitment to students being autonomous is simply code for imposing its politically correct view of the world on the classroom."


2 October, 2006


About 60 parents and children gathered at the South Elgin, Ill., home of a principal who canceled the elementary school`s annual Halloween celebration. Dressed in Halloween costumes and carrying signs with frowning ghosts and jack-o-lanterns, they chanted 'Save Halloween' as TV cameras rolled, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald reported. Jacqueline Hazen, in her first year as principal, said she canceled the Halloween celebration because some parents complained about its pagan origins. She said the school would hold a 'fall celebration' instead.

But the protesting parents said Halloween is not about religion but about letting kids enjoy childhood. They said Hazen`s decision was an example of political correctness gone awry. Hazen said a number of parents -- even parents who do not object to Halloween -- had called to thank her for establishing a more inclusive celebration. The parents said their next step was to send a petition to Hazen.



The son of Michael Howard, the former Conservative Party leader, has spoken for the first time about his distress at being turned down for ordination by the Church of England. Nick Howard, who completed a theology degree this summer, was not ordained because of his "unwillingness to listen" to other viewpoints. He told The Mail on Sunday that his strongly held evangelical beliefs on homosexuality and multifaith worship marked him out as a "troublemaker" even though they reflect official Anglican doctrine.

During his three-year training at Cranmer Hall, a theological college attached to the University of Durham, Nick discussed his concerns with tutors but found little comfort in their "blase attitudes". Fellow students, although often sympathetic to his orthodox views, did not want to incur the wrath of college authorities by speaking out. Nick, however, quietly reinforced his views by refusing to take Communion at the college's weekly Tuesday evening service. Instead he stayed in his pew, his head bowed in reflection. "An ethics tutor at the college was saying publicly that you can be in a gay sexual relationship and follow Christ," he explains. "That is incompatible with the teaching of the New Testament."

Nick was also encouraged to accord equal spiritual value to Muslim, Sikh and Hindu religions in the name of "multifaith ministry". "As a Christian, I believe that Jesus died for Sikhs and Muslims, too," he says, "so I long to share the good news with them so that they can be saved. It felt a bit awkward sitting there when everyone else was going up [for Communion] but I couldn't physically have done anything else because I can't pretend someone shares the same religion as me if, in reality, they don't." Yet, as a result of this silent declaration of belief, 30-year-old Nick now finds himself ostracised from the Anglican Church he so desperately wants to be a part of.

At the end of his final year, a panel of tutors explained that his "unwillingness to listen" would make him an unsuitable vicar. It was an extraordinary decision because Nick's view - that gay people are welcome to belong to the Church if they remain celibate - is official Anglican teaching. But many may feel that Nick's defence of the basic tenets of Christianity should be welcomed by the Church. After all, woolly-mindedness in its beliefs has seen a huge decline in congregations, while the clear dictums of Islam have contributed to its rapid growth around the globe.

Nick, a quietly spoken and gentle young man, lives in a modest studio flat above a garage in Maidenhead, Berkshire. He does not have a television because he cannot afford the licence. His car, a battered green Ford Fiesta, is rusting around the edges and a back window has been smashed by vandals. He now works for the Association of Evangelists, travelling round the country giving talks in churches, schools and universities. This evening he will speak on God and Politics at a church in Bournemouth, to tie in with the Conservative Party conference.

"In many ways, my current job is everything I've ever wanted to do - to explain the faith to people who don't know it or understand it," he says. "But I'd love to do it in the name of the Church of England. The Church needs reforming but I'd like to be involved from the inside rather than pointing fingers from the outside. "The great problem is that the Church is a mixture of people with lots of versions of the faith. If you're going to hold it together, you've got to be committed to not rocking the boat. Boat-rockers are rather unwelcome. But if I am rocking the boat, it's only because I think we may be about to capsize."

Nick's three-year postgraduate qualification, paid for by the Diocese of Oxford, would have cost about 40,000 pounds. "I knew the college wasn't happy because they gave me a warning in my second year," he says. "But I was surprised that they went that far. My only fault was wanting people to hear the Christian message as taught in the Bible. "If I'd tried to pretend we all believed the same thing when we didn't, that would go against the whole reason I want to be in Christian ministry."

The irony for Nick is that the majority of the world's 73 million Anglicans, many of whom worship in evangelical churches in Africa and South America, would agree with him. When Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans and a celibate homosexual, was chosen as the Bishop of Reading in 2003, his appointment provoked such an outcry that he stepped down. The subsequent election of a homosexual bishop by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America triggered a worldwide crisis in the Anglican Church. In October 2004, a Church commission called for a moratorium on the appointment of gay bishops and the performance of same-sex blessings. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has just backed a further resolution confirming that homosexual practice is incompatible with the Bible.

But Nick, an Eton and Oxford alumnus who gained a 2:1 in his postgraduate theology degree at Cranmer Hall, seems to have fallen foul of liberal Anglicans desperate to make their Church more palatable in the 21st Century. It is difficult not to conclude that his situation is the result of misguided political correctness. "I felt they were trying to change the message of the Bible so that it fits more happily with the culture that we live in," he says. "The college sent me to Bradford on a course entitled Ministry In A Multifaith Context. In the first session, we were told that we should be building the kingdom of God with Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus and that we would be bringing people into the mosque, temple or church as a place of worship." Nick was "horrified". For him, despite his upbringing as a Jew, Christianity is the "one true faith" and should be promoted as such.

According to one Anglican Canon: "Cranmer Hall is an evangelical foundation but it's fuzzy round the edges. They don't want to rub people up the wrong way with so-called outmoded thinking." But Anne Dyer, the warden of Cranmer Hall, insists that these criticisms are "not things that I recognise as being part of Cranmer or its programme. The decision to ordain somebody lies with the person's diocesan bishop. There are several parties that give the bishop advice and the principal of the college is one of those parties."

Nick's father still attends the St John's Wood liberal synagogue in North West London on Jewish holidays. One imagines he was taken aback when his ferociously bright 15-year-old son told him that he was converting to Christianity on the strength of one discussion group at the Eton Christian Union. But does he want to convert his own father? "I would be very keen for my family to come to faith in Christ," he says, after a long pause. "But I still consider myself a Jewish person who believes in Jesus, so I would not call it conversion. Despite this difference with my father, we do get on very well indeed. "We enjoy each other's company. We talk about politics, about football [they are both ardent Liverpool supporters] and we play chess. My family knows where I stand and that I really believe in it. "I did think hard about entering politics for a while, but politics deals with what is external to people whereas the Bible changes us from the inside. So I think preaching is more important."

The Church's history is littered with examples of the faithful taking a stand against the prevailing mindset of the time. In 1556, the Archbishop of Canterbury was sentenced to be burned at the stake by a Roman Catholic queen for his "heretical" views. His name was Thomas Cranmer. It cannot have escaped Nick's notice that Cranmer Hall, the very institution that wants to bar him from the priesthood, bears this martyr's name.


Arnie limits brainwashing of children

Legislation would have pushed pro-homosexual agenda in schools

Governor Schwarzenegger today vetoed AB 606 (Levine-D) and AB 1056 (Chu-D), the final two bill identified as the “triple threat” to California families. The governor vetoed SB 1437 (Kuehl-D) earlier this month.

AB 606 would have required the State Board of Education to increase sensitivity to so- called “discrimination.” The State Superintendent of Public Instruction would have had unlimited discretion to withhold state funds from schools that did not comply with his interpretation of the law. AB 1056 would have integrated tolerance training into history and social science curriculum and started a pilot program that forced students to learn a “new definition” of tolerance. According to this new definition, students would be forced to not only accept, but advocate homosexuality by “conveying respect” for a lifestyle that violates their religious beliefs.

“This is a victory for California families,” stated Karen England, Executive Director of Capitol Resource Institute. “Due to the public outcry over these outrageous attacks on students with moral beliefs, the governor vetoed all three. This proves that when citizens who care about protecting their religious and moral beliefs speak out, we can make a huge difference.” “The governor’s office received thousands of phone calls, e-mails, letters and faxes regarding the triple threat,” stated Meredith Turney, Capitol Resource Institute’s Legislative Liaison. “Citizen activism is extremely effective.”

“The priorities of the California legislature this session have been completely out of order,” stated Turney. “Schools should be centers of learning— learning the fundamentals of education such as reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, the legislature has focused on advancing a radical social agenda in public schools. Hopefully, next session the legislature will make educating—not indoctrinating— students a priority.”


1 October, 2006


As is usual with "anti-discrimination" laws, it ignores real differences and thus creates real problems

Laws banning age discrimination could backfire and end up damaging the job prospects of older workers, leading lawyers have warned ministers. They claim that the new rules make it significantly more costly and complex for companies to keep workers on over the age of 65 and many will choose to let them retire rather than risk legal wrangles. Age discrimination becomes illegal from tomorrow under the most sweeping reforms to employment law for 30 years. Companies will no longer be able to use terms such as “young” or “experienced” in recruitment adverts and all staff will be entitled to equal access to training and promotion.

There will still be a retirement age of 65 when most staff leave work for good, and companies will still be able to extend employment of their workers beyond that age. However, from tomorrow all staff must be treated equally, regardless of age, and the over-65s will be entitled to the same benefits, such as health cover and life insurance, as other workers. Employers are likely to face a legal minefield when they eventually want their over-65s to retire, a process that could take up to 12 months. Under the old regulations, companies could agree special terms with staff aged over 65. That typically meant an end to health insurance and a three-month notice period when either side wanted the agreement to end.

Simon Malcolm, partner at the City law firm Lawrence Graham, said that he was advising companies to let all their staff retire at 65. “Our advice is that it is almost certainly going to be easier to refuse requests from employees to work beyond 65 to avoid additional cost and complexity. Benefits such as health insurance are significantly more expensive for those over 65, but must be offered to everyone. And there is no simple way to get staff to retire once you have agreed to let them work beyond 65,” he said. More and more people want to carry on working beyond 65 and until now companies were often happy to oblige, he said. “But I think many people approaching 65 who want to carry on working to build up their pension are going to be in for a nasty surprise when they realise that their employer will not want to take the risk of keeping them on.”

Saga, which provides services for the over-50s, agrees and claims that workers as young as 50 could also suffer. This year, it planned to introduce a recruitment service for older workers, who typically find it more difficult to get jobs. Employers said that they were so worried about being sued for discriminating against young workers that they would not use it, so the plans were abandoned. “We are bringing these unintended consequences to the attention of the Government because we believe its objective of getting one million more people over 50 back into work can only be achieved by having special programmes designed to help them,” Tim Bull, marketing director of Saga, said.



Cabdriver Muhamed Mursal doesn't wear his Muslim beliefs on his sleeve, but he may soon broadcast them from a light atop his cab. Mursal and hundreds of other Muslim cabdrivers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport refuse to take customers they know are carrying alcohol. They don't search bags, but a wine box may be enough to leave a fare waiting for the next cab.

Now, they may be required to buy different colored lights to sit atop their cabs so airport workers who hook up travelers with taxis can steer alcohol-carrying fares to cabs that will take them. The proposal needs approval from the airport's taxi cab advisory committee, and airport officials hope to have the lights ready by year's end. Cabbies without the light who refuse fares will be sent to the back of line - often a three-hour wait until it's their turn again for a fare. Some drivers said they'd rather wait for another fare than risk punishment in the afterlife. ``It is forbidden in Islam to carry alcohol,'' Mursal said.

Airport spokesman Pat Hogan said the first refusals to carry alcohol began 10 years ago, but came from just a handful of drivers. Now, though, he estimates that three-quarters of the 900 airport cabdrivers are Somali, most of them Muslim. Hogan said drunken passengers haven't had trouble getting a cab, just the ones who let on that they're carrying a bottle. He said, ``It's slowly grown over the years to the point that it's become a significant customer service issue for us.'' Hogan said he hasn't heard of any other airports where it has been an issue.

Some travelers were taken aback with the idea that they might be refused a ride. ``They're really kind of imparting their religious views on the public,'' said Katie Patterson of McKinley, Texas. ``I can understand if somebody's drunk; that's a whole different issue. But to just bring in a closed container, maybe you should look for other work.''


"Modern" women have turned the men off

An Australian perspective

Australia should be mourning the passing of its hard-drinking, tough, sexist men, according to Mark Latham. "One of the saddest things in my lifetime has been the decline in Australian male culture, the loss of our larrikin language and values," the former Labor Leader writes in his new book. "Mates and good blokes have been replaced by nervous wrecks, metrosexuals and nerds."

No, Mark. You've got it all wrong. It's the women, not the men, who've changed. And if your average Aussie male has become a bit more retiring, a bit less interested in women, beer and barbecues, then it's the sheilas [women] and political correctness that are to blame.

Take, for example, the new ruling announced this week by Cricket Australia making it an offence to call an English person a "whingeing Pom" (although Pom by itself is still acceptable). It removes at a stroke what Australian men consider as their right to denigrate males of all other nationalities.

Add to that the growth of feisty, independent, well-educated and ambitious women prepared to postpone marriage and children to pursue a career and it's no wonder that your traditional Australian male feels unwanted. Some are even opting for marriages with Thai and Filipina woman, traditionally and on the surface at least, seen as more submissive. Unable to relate to the new, liberated Australian woman, such marriages have increased fourfold in the past decade. As a result, more Australian women are living alone - up 20 per cent in six years - and they now outnumber men living alone.

The combination of more available women than men, an increase in the number of gay men and shorter marriages mean that eligible men are now in short supply. Thousands of women are said to have emigrated in search of a mate. Visitors have been quick to notice the change. "Dateless and desperate," said the English writer, Kathy Gyngell, about her Australian cousins. "The fact is that they are, to a woman, single and most of them haven't had a decent relationship in years."

A sign of how the sex roles have dramatically reversed are the "ladies only" functions at which professional male strippers perform. These often become rowdy. Geoffrey Martin, a 19-year-old "bottomless waiter", was serving drinks at a ladies-only corporate party in Brisbane, wearing underpants under a long shirt, when some of the women ripped his briefs off. "When the ladies get a couple of drinks into them, they start getting stroppy," he said. "The other two waiters had their undies on, but the ladies ripped mine off me. "Normally you can get them back after a while but they have very funny ways of hiding them. They could be in a handbag or down someone's cleavage. Nothing really bad happens, it's just a lot of fun. If the sheilas can do it, why not blokes?"

Many men blame what has happened on anti-discrimination legislation as a result of women seeking equality in the workplace. The battle for parity for women at BHP in Port Kembla in 1980 proved crucial. In that year, to everyone's amazement, some women working in offices, the canteen or as cleaners applied for jobs as steelworkers. BHP rejected them but the women fought their case in court and won. Each was awarded about $30,000 compensation for lost earnings. The case became a landmark in the struggle by all women for equal opportunity and their ranks in the workforce steadily grew. By the end of the 1990s women sat on the boards of big corporations and managed motherhood at the same time.

A male director of a leading bank revealed, as an example of its liberal attitude, how a woman director had breastfed her infant throughout a board meeting and accidentally squirted milk on his tie. The 1990s also ushered in women pilots in the RAAF; two women state premiers, Victoria's Joan Kirner and West Australia's Carmen Lawrence, and the first female state governor, South Australia's Dame Roma Mitchell.

What were the effects of these changes? It is 2006 and a Friday night at a singles bar in North Sydney. The place is full of well-paid young men and women in their late 20s and early 30s. Listen to the men's chatter and you hear things that would make the traditional male cringe. "It's all too hard," sighs David Smith, a 27-year-old who has not had a relationship for three years. As far as he is concerned, the effort involved in finding out if he is compatible with a woman is just not worth it.

James Cunningham, 28, is not interested. "It's just too difficult to go up and approach a girl. There are too many risks." "All changed," says an older man who is just sightseeing. "Everything is being shaken up. No one knows where they're at. The old Aussie ideal of a lifelong marriage between a tough man and a loving, submissive woman has gone, and no one's yet worked out what to replace it with." Any suggestions, Germaine Greer?