POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH: ARCHIVE
The creeping dictatorship of the Left...
The Blogspot version of "PC Watch" is HERE and "Dissecting Leftism" is HERE. The Blogroll; John Ray's Home Page; Email John Ray here. Other sites viewable in China: Greenie Watch, Dissecting Leftism. (Click "Refresh" on your browser if background colour is missing). See here for the archives of this site.
30 September, 2005
FOOD CORRECTNESS IS A CASTLE BUILT ON SAND
And if the NYT says it, it must be so!
The diet messages are everywhere: the National Cancer Institute has an "Eat 5 to 9 a Day for Better Health" program, the numbers referring to servings of fruits and vegetables, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation has a detailed anticancer diet. Yet despite the often adamant advice, scientists say they really do not know whether dietary changes will make a difference. And there lies a quandary for today's medicine. It is turning out to be much more difficult than anyone expected to discover if diet affects cancer risk. Hypotheses abound, but convincing evidence remains elusive....
Dr. Barnett Kramer, deputy director in the office of disease prevention at the National Institutes of Health, said: "Over time, the messages on diet and cancer have been ratcheted up until they are almost co-equal with the smoking messages. I think a lot of the public is completely unaware that the strength of the message is not matched by the strength of the evidence." .....
Dr. Tim E. Byers, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, was convinced that up to 20 percent of cancers were being caused by diet and he wanted to be part of the exciting new research that would prove it. "I felt we were really on the cusp of important new discoveries about food and how the right choice of foods would improve cancer risk," Dr. Byers sad. That was 25 years ago, when the evidence was pointing to diet. For example, cross-country comparisons of cancer rates suggested a dietary influence.....
At the same time, some cancers were inexplicably becoming more common or, just as inexplicably, fading away in the United States. In 1930, for instance, stomach cancer was the second leading cause of cancer death in women and the leading cause in men. Now, Dr. Stampfer says, stomach cancer is not even listed in the American Cancer Society's 10 leading cancers. "So people think, 'What's happened in the past 70 years to make that change?' " he said. "Diet comes to mind."
The best studies are the hardest to conduct: prospective studies that that follow healthy people for years instead of looking backward and relying on memory. Even better - and harder and more expensive - are studies that randomly assign people to follow a particular diet or not. But those more difficult studies were well worth doing, researchers said. And as more studies started, scientists hoped for definitive evidence that diet affected cancer. But as the results from those studies have begun to roll in, many researchers say they are taken aback. The findings, they say, are not what they expected.
Fat in the diet, the studies found, made no difference for breast cancer. "For fat and breast cancer, almost all of the prospective studies were null," Dr. Schatzkin said. Fiber, in the form of fruits and vegetables, seemed to have a weak effect or no effect on colon cancer.
The more definitive randomized controlled trials were disappointing, too, with one exception. A study reported in May found that women with early stage breast cancer who followed a low-fat diet had a 20 percent lower risk of recurrence. Even so, the effects were just marginally statistically significant. The study's principal investigator, Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of the Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center, said it needed to be repeated before scientists would be convinced.
Nonetheless, the study contrasted sharply with those preceding it. Several involved beta carotene and antioxidant vitamins like C and E, substances that scientists thought were the protective agent in fruits and vegetables. The idea was that antioxidants could mop up free radicals in the body, which left unchecked could damage DNA, causing cancer. Beta carotene was of special interest. People who ate lots of fruits and vegetables had more beta carotene in their blood, and the more beta carotene in the blood, the lower the cancer risk.
But a four-year study that asked whether beta carotene, with or without vitamins C and E, could protect against colon polyps, from which most colon cancers start, found no effect. People who took either beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E or all three had virtually identical rates of new polyps compared to participants taking dummy pills.
Another study, of 22,000 doctors randomly assigned to take beta carotene or a placebo, looked for an effect on any and all cancers. It found nothing. Two more, involving current and former smokers, found that those taking beta carotene actually had slightly higher lung cancer rates than those taking placebos.
Studies of fiber and colon cancer were similarly disappointing.
BRITISH SOCIALISTS GETTING CRAZIER AND CRAZIER ABOUT "JUNK" FOOD
While British educational standards are going down the plughole, the British government is obsessing about what the kids eat
Ruth Kelly declared war on tuck shops yesterday as part of her campaign to expel junk food from schools. The Education Secretary said that crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks would be banned from sale in schools from September 2006. Schools will be required by law to empty vending machines of the products and remove them from tuck shops. A spokesman for Ms Kelly said that new legislation would cover “any way that food is served in schools, in tuck shops and vending machines”.
Processed burgers, sausages and other foods high in fat, salt and sugar content will also be outlawed as part of new nutritional standards for school canteens. Ms Kelly told delegates at the Labour Party conference in Brighton that it was time to act against the diet of junk food served to pupils at school. “I am absolutely clear: the scandal of junk food served every day in school canteens must end,” she said. “And because children need healthy options throughout the day, from next September no school will be able to have vending machines selling crisps, chocolates and sugary fizzy drinks.”
Head teachers’ leaders said that many parents send children to school with packed lunches containing crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks. They also said that head teachers could not change what was sold in vending machines because they were controlled by outside contractors under the Government’s Private Finance Initiative.
Ms Kelly’s spokesman said that companies would have to amend their contracts to comply with the new law. Instead of sweets and crisps, vending machines will be expected to offer items such as milk, bottled water and fresh fruit. The Education Secretary said that she would publish a report next week by the Government’s school meals review panel setting out detailed proposals for tough nutritional standards. Her announcement followed government promises to improve school dinners after a television campaign by the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver highlighted appalling standards of nutrition.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said that a ban on unhealthy food in schools would be difficult to implement. “Children eat over a thousand meals a year, but less than 200 of these are in school,” he said. Mr Dunford said that plans to make Ofsted responsible for inspecting the quality of school meals was “just silly”. Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “School leaders are heartily sick of having initiative after initiative foisted upon them. “We wholeheartedly support healthy schools programmes, but to expect schools to provide a quality meal for less than the price of the cheapest unhealthy burger does not stand up to serious scrutiny.”
BRITAIN: FOOD CORRECTNESS SCARES BEST IGNORED
Two headlines this week will have left parents in despair. First was a claim by the Soil Association that 25 per cent more pesticides were found in samples of school fruit compared with fruit bought from shops; second was news from Canadian researchers who found that children who drink bottled water rather than fluoridated tap water may be missing out on tooth protection.
It's not fair, is it? There you are thinking that you are doing the right thing and someone tells you that you've got it wrong, yet again. Why is it, for example, that your children are toting a bottle of water in their lunch boxes? Because you thought getting them to drink water would be better for them than sending them in with cartons of tooth-rotting squash. Similarly with the schools fruit programme. You thought five a day was good and now someone is telling you that school fruit is full of pesticides.
Neither of these headlines gives the whole picture. Children today have better dental health than their parents and most are likely to reach adulthood without a single cavity. Most will also keep their teeth to old age, unlike their grandparents. This spectacular improvement is due to fluoride which, in those parts of the country that do not have fluoride either added to the water or present naturally, comes mainly from toothpaste. N ot so long ago there was a scare that children were having too much fluoride from toothpaste, hence the recommendation that under-sixes use only a pea- sized amount on their brush.
Is water better than squash or cola? You bet. And providing it in a form that's accessible and pleasant (unlike the school drinking fountain) is entirely sensible.
As for fruit and veg, it's taken us the best part of a decade to get people to understand that five portions a day is the way to go. How little acquaintance children have with green stuff was shown on Jamie Oliver's School Dinners programme. Several children didn't know what an onion looked like.
All but two of the pesticide residues identified in the Soil Association report were below government maximum residue levels, which are set with a wide safety margin and also assume that a substance is consumed at breakfast, lunch, tea and supper, every day, which is clearly not the case in real life. Thus a "maximum" residue is very tiny. The benefits of eating fruit and vegetables far outweigh any possible harm from pesticides, which at these levels has yet to be proved.
So ignore the headlines, and if you can get fruit, veg and water, of any type, into your child, take three house points, a gold star and go to the top of the class immediately.
29 September, 2005
FEAR HAS BECOME CORRECT
Pity about courage, confidence, boldness, resolution, peace of mind etc
Fear is fast becoming a caricature of itself. It is no longer simply an emotion or a response to the perception of threat. It has become a cultural idiom through which we signal a sense of unease about our place in the world.
Popular culture encourages an expansive, alarmist imagination through providing the public with a steady diet of fearful programmes about impending calamities - man-made and natural. Now even so-called high culture cannot resist the temptation of promoting fear: a new exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York has the theme of 'The perils of modern living'. Fear is also the theme that dominates the Eighth Contemporary Art Biennial of Lyon. Natasha Edwards writes about the 'art of fear' that haunts this important exhibition of contemporary European art. But the more we cultivate a twenty-first century sensibility of anxiety, the more we can lose sight of the fact that fear today is very different to the experience of the past.
Throughout history human beings have had to deal with the emotion of fear. But the way we fear and what we fear changes all the time. During the past 2,000 years we mainly feared supernatural forces. In medieval times volcanic eruptions and solar eclipses were a special focus of fear since they were interpreted as symptoms of divine retribution. In Victorian times many people's fears were focused on unemployment.
Today, however, we appear to fear just about everything. One reason why we fear so much is because life is dominated by competing groups of fear entrepreneurs who promote their cause, stake their claims, or sell their products through fear. Politicians, the media, businesses, environmental organisations, public health officials and advocacy groups are continually warning us about something new to fear.
The activities of these fear entrepreneurs serves to transform our anxieties about life into tangible fears. Every major event becomes the focus for competing claims about what you need to fear. Take the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is not bad enough that we have to worry about the destructive consequence of this terrible catastrophe: according to some fear entrepreneurs, there is more to come. They claim that global warming will turn disasters like Katrina into normal events. Free-market ideologues blame 'Big Bureaucracy' for the mismanagement of the rescue operation. Critics of President George W Bush point the finger at the war in Iraq. And Bush blames local government. In the meantime, some contend that New Orleans represents God's punishment for human sin, while others suggest that the whole event is driven by a hidden conspiracy against the black race.
The fierce competition between alarmist fear entrepreneurs helps consolidate a climate of intense mistrust. Is it any surprise that many African Americans believe that the Bush administration sought to save New Orleans' white districts by flooding black neighbourhoods, through deliberately engineering the levee breaks?
The catastrophe that wreaked havoc in Louisiana was also a test of our humanity. But sadly we were encouraged to interpret the event in the worst possible terms. Most of the stories about rape, looting, gang killings and other forms of anti-social behaviour turned out to be just that - stories. But for a while we became distracted from empathising with our fellow human beings as we feared for the breakdown of civilisation.
It is not simply the big events like Katrina that are subjected to competing claims on the fear market. Imagine that you are a parent. For years you have been told that sunshine represents a mortal danger to your child, and that you must protect them from skin cancer by minimising their exposure to the sun. Then, this summer, a report is published that raises concerns about the rise of vitamin E deficiency among children who have been far too protected from the sun. So what do you do? The fact is that a growing range of human experience - from natural disasters to children's lives in the outdoors - is now interpreted through competing claims about fear.
Our misanthropic reaction to the catastrophe in New Orleans is reproduced daily in response to far more mundane events. That is why society cannot discuss a problem facing children without going into panic mode. Research shows that when viewers see an image of a child on a TV news item, they automatically anticipate a negative story. So a majority of people who were asked to give their interpretation of a photo of a man cuddling a child responded by stating that this was a picture of a paedophile instead of an act of a loving father.
More of this sad story from Frank Furedi here
MORE FOOD CORRECTNESS: BRITISH SCHOOLS BAN CHOCOLATE
As far as they can. But highly calorific milk is still OK, of course. But the really terrible thing is that companies make a PROFIT selling stuff that people want! Our nasty little enviers can't allow that!
Vending machines selling fizzy drinks, chocolates and crisps are to be banned from the country's state schools under laws to improve children's diets. Ruth Kelly, the education secretary, has decided that not only meals but also the machines will be covered by nutritional standards for school food. Junk food and sweets currently sold in the machines will have to be replaced by fruit, milk and bottled water.
Snack and drink manufacturers had hoped that vending machines would escape the crackdown, but the school meals review panel, set up by Kelly to examine nutritional standards, has decided that "healthy eating" rules must apply to all food and drink available at school. The panel says that the move will require legislation. "Unless you stop selling the highly branded sugary snacks and drinks," one panel member said, "they will always be chosen by children. You have to remove them if you're going to be serious about reforming the school meals service. "The way companies have profited from these machines at the expense of children's health - and in the light of rising obesity - has been disgraceful."
The proposal is likely to be opposed by manufacturers, with critics arguing that children unable to buy fizzy drinks and sweet snacks at school will buy them from local shops. Supporters of the policy say that schools will not lose too heavily from the change."
28 September, 2005
COMMON SENSE ABOUT TERRORISM INCORRECT
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney kicked off a rumpus this month when he observed that homeland security depends not just on protecting assets but on counterterror intelligence -- including keeping tabs on people and places when there is reason to believe they may be involved in terrorism or its incitement. "People who are in settings -- mosques, for instance -- that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror," Romney said in remarks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "Are we monitoring that? Are we wiretapping? Are we following what's going on? Are we seeing who's coming in, who's coming out? Are we eavesdropping, carrying out surveillance on those individuals that are coming from places that sponsor domestic terror?"
Well, no kidding. After 9/11, after the Madrid and London transit massacres, after everything we have learned about the radical Islamist quest to force its ideology on the West, it is hard to imagine anyone objecting to Romney's statement of the obvious. But object they did. The ACLU accused the governor of proposing "another giant stride toward a police state." The Council on American Islamic Relations, shamelessly distorting Romney's words, said it was aghast that any governor would "suggest blanket wiretapping of houses of worship." A gaggle of left-wing groups, including the Cambridge Peace Commission and the American Friends Service Committee, staged a protest outside the governor's Beacon Hill office.
But if they expected to browbeat him into an apology, they were disappointed. "This thing is just common sense," he told reporters. "Surely we have to recognize that some of this has gone on in mosques in the past . . . . There have been places of extremism where certain teachers have been identified as having been involved in . . . terrorist attacks. Let's not pretend that's not the case." Again, a statement of the obvious. But imagine the reaction if Romney had said something not so obvious. Something, say, like this:
"The most dangerous thing that is going on now in these mosques . . . is the extremists' ideology. Because they are very active, they took over the mosques; and we can say that they took over more than 80 percent of the mosques that have been established in the US. And there are more than 3,000 mosques in the US."
An American politician who uttered such thoughts would be smeared as a bigot. But it wasn't a politician who said them. It was a Muslim scholar and humanitarian, the Sufi sheik Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, speaking at a State Department forum in 1999. Kabbani was one of the first moderate Muslim leaders in the United States with the courage to publicly denounce the extremists. Unfortunately, his alarm didn't wake most Americans from their pre-9/11 slumber (though there were some who were paying attention). But what excuse can there be now for not taking seriously his warning that most US mosques are in the hands of a radical minority? As Romney says, "This thing is just common sense."
BRITISH KIDS STILL RESISTING "CORRECT" FOOD
The bit I have highlighted in red really gave me a laugh. Nice to see the dictators defeated
"Some educational establishments are famous for their alumni or their prowess on the rugby field, but if Ealdham primary school achieves a mention in the history books it will be as the place where a child threw up in his lunch on national television. In the battle to change the eating habits of the nation's schoolchildren, Ealdham is on the front line and the battle against the dreaded Turkey Twizzler has not easily been won. More than a year after Jamie Oliver powered into Greenwich, southeast London, pledging to improve the quality of school meals in the borough - and thereby creating a blueprint for revolutionising school meals nationwide - Ealdham is still struggling to persuade parents and children that the switch from chips and burgers to slow-cooked balsamic beef with mushrooms, Mexican bean wraps and salads has been a good thing.
"In the early days the children would be in tears and the parents were very angry and upset," says Sally Castle, Ealdham's head teacher. "I used to look out of my office and see them meeting their kids at the school gate with McDonald's Happy Meals." It was rapidly apparent there was going to be a huge gulf between those who would willingly adapt to Jamie's dinners - mainly the schools with a middle-class intake - and those who would not. "We're a white, working-class estate school," explains Castle. "Unlike other urban schools we don't have a great multicultural mix and this food was alien and challenging because it didn't come out of the freezer and go into the microwave."
So great was the resistance to the new food - a typical lunch might be fish in a creamy coconut sauce - that take-up of school dinners plummeted by an astonishing 24% as children switched to packed lunches, replete with sweets and bubble gum. Some children would hide from teachers in an attempt to skip lunch entirely, rather than have to eat strange food. "The attitude was, `You're not the police, you can't tell us how to feed our kids - they're coming home hungry'. People got very emotional," says Castle. "The children were going home starving hungry, so naturally the parents were upset. They just didn't want things that weren't in fried shapes. They liked the fish fingers and smiley potato faces."
To try to avert a crisis, the school had to abandon the national curriculum for a week, draft in the local MP for extra support and turn the assembly hall into a restaurant where children served their parents the new menu. Oliver threw his weight behind the attempt - even making a surprise appearance in the school pantomime, in which Snow White mused on how to cook for her dwarfs without a microwave or freezer.
At other schools the dinner revolution also caused a furore. Overworked dinner ladies who found themselves peeling carrots and potatoes rather than opening bags of frozen veg threatened to resign over working extra hours. At Kidbrooke Park primary in Greenwich, where dinner lady Nora Sands became an unlikely television star, parents pushed burgers through the school railings at lunchtime. At Thomas Tallis secondary school a fast-food van arrived at the gates and teachers watched helplessly as children raced to buy chips at lunchtime. "We tried to have it closed down on environmental grounds," says a Greenwich council spokesperson. "We tried health and safety, but unfortunately he was complying with everything and there was nothing we could do."
According to the council, Oliver's initiative - at a total cost of œ628,850 across the borough - has been a success. But if so, it appears to be a modest one - the number of children eating school meals has risen during the last year but only by 3%, far fewer than the project's organisers must have hoped for. There have been some encouraging signs, however. At Charlton Manor primary school the children appear to be enjoying the food, but its biggest fan is Tim Baker, the headmaster. "I used to have school dinners every day just to fill me up," he says. "Before, I could never finish everything on the plate, it just wasn't very nice. Now I look forward to lunch." ....
Ruth Kelly, the secretary of state for education, is to address the issue of school meals at the Labour party conference this week. She will shortly announce a new set of standards for school meals, including a ban on junk food, and is expected to raise the typical spend on each plate from 37p - which was lambasted by Oliver - to 50p a head for primary pupils and 60p for secondary schools, so that every school can follow the Greenwich example. But even in schools such as Charlton Manor it has not all been plain sailing. There was initial resistance from some parents and pupils to the new menus with one mother complaining they were "grown-up dinners".....
The question is whether other councils will be able to follow in its footsteps and overcome the entrenched reliance of modern dinner ladies on frozen processed food and chips. The signs are progress will be slow. .....
Kevin McKay, chairman of the Local Authorities Caterers Association, believes the key to bringing in change across the nation is to move slowly. "I think Jamie Oliver taught us how not to do it," he says. "It was just `bang' - here it is, eat it. There was little consultation. You've got to get everyone involved. I'm not surprised the kids and the parents were frightened." ......
Back at Ealdham, the revolution is happening - just. In the immediate aftermath of the changes, one parent sent her child to school with a lunch box containing three Mars bars, two packets of crisps and a fizzy drink. "I spoke to the mother," says Castle. "He's still eating packed lunches, but recently I saw he'd brought in a pasta salad. That's progress. "It has been a huge task. We still throw away most of the fish pie, but the sausages go down well - and they've got proper meat in them now. The real ray of hope is that the four-year-olds have accepted the new menus with far fewer problems.""
27 September, 2005
MUSLIMS HAVE A RIGHT TO PRAY BUT CHRISTIANS DON'T?
After all the ACLU attacks on Christian prayer, this is downright amazing
Muslim employees at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Norfolk have agreed not to strike pending negotiations of alleged religious discrimination by management. The meeting between both sides on Friday was productive, said Fardusa Council, a negotiator for the Muslim employees. All Muslim employees had planed to strike if a resolution was not reached, but that is being put on hold as the two sides work together, she said. The employees are alleging that they are being denied the right to pray -- something that they say was previously approved by Tyson officials, said Ahmed Hashi, a spokesman for the Muslim population in Norfolk.
Council said Tyson officials were open-minded and committed to reaching an agreement. "I've got a good feeling that we'll reach an amicable agreement," Council said. Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said the company was likewise encouraged by the meeting. "It was an opportunity for us to listen to their concerns and an opportunity for us to share our position," said Mickelson, a spokesman at the company's headquarters in Dakota Dunes, S.D.
The situation began to come to a head last Friday when 10 Muslim employees walked off of the job. Subsequently, the 10 individuals were counseled for violation of Tyson's policies and the union's labor agreement with the company. Mickelson said the same 10 deliberately walked off the job the following day and were fired as a result.
The Muslim faith requires five prayers, or "salats," during the day, one each at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. If the prayer is not completed within a specified amount of time, the prayer is then considered void. Mickelson said the Tyson plant provides a prayer room for Muslims and that plant officials consistently are trying to work with the religious leaders to accommodate prayer time. "However, because we're a manufacturing operation, we're not able to let everyone leave the production line at the same time without shutting down entire sections of our operations," Mickelson said. "Since we have more than 200 Muslims working our second shift, this has sometimes been a point of contention and misunderstanding."
Plant manager Randy Sexton agreed to take action immediately if there are reports of discrimination. Shamso Ahmed, one of the Tyson employees to walk out, said she's hopeful a decision will be reached that will benefit both sides. Said Yousuf, a member of Tyson's union, agreed. "We'd like to keep our job and keep our religion," Yousuf said.
REALISM ABOUT RACIAL AND ETHNIC DIFFERENCES COMING TO BRITAIN
By Minette Martin
"How late it is, how late. At last Trevor Phillips of the Commission for Racial Equality has dared to point out the obvious: we are sleepwalking towards segregation. The British have prided themselves on good race relations, at least in most places and particularly in London. But the truth is rather different, as the recent bombings have forced us to understand, and as the Burnley, Bradford and Oldham riots of 2001 and the Cantle report might have made us appreciate sooner. We are not as different from the United States as we like to imagine. We may be becoming more like them.
As Phillips said last week, there are walls going up around some ethnic communities, particularly those of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origins. More generally there is surprisingly little contact between different ethnic groups and maybe less now than previously. Last year the commission found that 54% of white Britons could not name a single good friend from a different race and fewer than 10% could name two.
More strikingly, young people from ethnic minorities were twice as likely to have a circle of friends exclusively from their own community. This year the figures show even less mixing. The well-worn idea that children are colour blind and will mix quite naturally at school is mistaken. Research suggests that children are slightly more segregated in the playground than at home.
Regardless of the unintended consequences of misguided housing policies, which have flung people into ghettos, it is natural for people to want to live with their own kind. At last it is beginning to be possible to admit this obvious fact without being called a racist, because it is clear that it is not only white people who like living with their own kind, whatever that might mean. Everyone tends to. White people may choose leafy ghettos in suburbs, while according to Saira Khan, the young businesswoman star of the television series The Apprentice, the “guilty secret” of her (Pakistani) community is that “so many of us live in ghettos not because we have to but because we want to”.
I don’t think there’s any guilt attached to living with people you want to live with, and a great deal to be said against forcing people to live somewhere else. Ghettos only matter when they present problems. However, when living with your own kind turns into apartheid, when it means ignorance and mistrust and resentment of other kinds of people, then it is dangerous and can even be explosive.
By now even left-liberals admit that all this has been made much worse by official multiculturalism that encouraged segregation, separate values and even separate languages. British society has become alarmingly fragmented alarmingly quickly. The question is what, if anything, should be done about it.
I passionately believe that “doing things” — at least in the sense of government and quangos and councils actively doing things — is usually a large part of the problem. Playing with Fire, a play by David Edgar that opened last week, makes exactly this point. The subject is the complex causes of some race riots much like those of 2001. In the plot heavy-handed Whitehall interference in the running of a Yorkshire council, with intrusive targets and grants and ethnic manipulation, does a lot to inflame resentment and to light the touchpaper of the riots.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that over 25 years the race relations industry has exacerbated race relations in this country. The answers to segregation, if there are any, lie not in doing things but in stopping doing things, as far as officialdom is concerned. Phillips’s proposals to tinker with school populations and university entrance are just more of the same old mistakes — almost certain to make things worse.
My modest proposals start with the suggestion that we should stop worrying about race and racism. Crude old-fashioned colour prejudice is not usually the problem any more; when it is, there are laws to protect its victims. All the anti-racist audits and outreaches and targets and ethnic bean-counting generally should stop at once, leaving public servants to get on with providing frontline colour-blind public services. Even if the hydra-like growth of initiatives to ensure perfect numbers of ethnic representation, right down to questions about ethnic parking (like one I received from my council), were practicable — and they aren’t — they are counterproductive. They make everyone hyper-sensitive about race. They inflame grievances where few exist.
It also seems entirely obvious that we should stop creating new faith schools in the state sector. Mixed schools can do something, if only a little, to bring children and parents together in a community; schools segregated by religion promote segregation and cultural apartheid. This is unfortunately more true of Muslim schools than of others. The chief inspector of schools commented in January that some Muslim schools failed to provide pupils with the tools they need to live in modern Britain. Yet Tony Blair is proposing to allow the number of state-funded Muslim schools to grow along with other religious schools. At the moment there are five, but there are about 100 private Muslim schools that the government wants to help move into the state sector. It intends to make that easier by temporarily relaxing certain standards. This is subsidising segregation. The solution is to create no more state religious schools at all.
When it comes to how people feel about each other, which is what counts, official solutions rarely work. If anything can be done, it will be from the bottom up, simply from people getting to know each other, recognising how important that is. Last week the mosque nearest to me in North Kensington, London — it is also an Islamic cultural centre — invited local people for a discussion on community cohesion, followed by lunch. The centre is close to the estate where two suspected bombers were arrested in July so more community cohesion would be welcome. We the guests found ourselves discussing all sorts of local concerns and projects and in the process getting to know some local Muslims. It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of little events like this, unexciting though they might sound. If it is not too late to make a difference, then this — slow and informal though it may be — must surely be one of the best ways forward"
MORE ON THE DALAI LAMA
I think I now understand why it is incorrect to criticize the Dalai Lama. Note this 1996 statement from him:
"Of all the modern economic theories, the economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis and the equitable utilization of the means of production. It is also concerned with the fate of the working classes-that is the majority---as well as with the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and Marxism cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and it seems fair. . . I think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist".
Sad, isn't it?
26 September, 2005
INCORRECT TO DISAGREE WITH THE DALAI LAMA
Post lifted from Red State
About six days ago, I blogged about Reverend Bryan Fischer's statement on the Dalai Lama's visit to Idaho. For a refresher here's what he said regarding the Dalai Lama's visit:
"He was very likable but I think his view of evil is simplistic. There is no dialogue that is going to stop an insane terrorist from attacking innocent people. His views on human nature are also very naive. He believes we are born good, but parents know you don't have to teach your children to be bad. They know how to do that. You have to teach them to be good. He also doesn't believe in a creator. If the colonists had been Buddhists, we wouldn't have the United States."
Now, this is his statement of honest disagreement with the Dalai Lama's views, but Joyceann Fick wrote in letters to the editor to the Statesman:
Fischer seems to think he alone has cornered the market on "acceptable" beliefs. That he would actually criticize the tenets of the Dalai Lama only proves how narrow-minded and intolerant Fischer's message really is.
He didn't say that the Dalai Lama's beliefs were unacceptable, he said they were wrong. He disputed and challenged them, he respectfully disagreed and expressed his opinion. He took the good, the bad, and as a pastor called to speak the truths of the Christian faith, he pointed out what were the problems in this message. Last I heard, debating and discussing viewpoints was an American tradition, apparently not when the Dalai Lama is here. We're to have our religious leaders pretend down is up and 2+2=5 to please the left. Next up, we have Kurt Caswell, from Lubbock, Texas who just had to join in from 2,00 miles away:
I find it astonishing that a spiritual leader would help to cultivate an atmosphere of fear and vengeance over hope and light...If Fischer would only compare his words with the words of the terrorists he wishes to kill, he'd find his world view is identical...
If the colonists had been Buddhists we would indeed have a United States (see Fischer's comments), but instead of a United States founded on acts of terrorism against the 500 Indian Nations, we'd have, perhaps, a true union of states and peoples.
Wow, now Christians who after politely sitting through a speech by the Dalai Lama and disagree with him are the equivalent of Al Queda terrorists. This is Mr Caswell's attempt to spread hope and light instead of vengeance.
Secondly, Fischer had a point. America had a very strong protestant (particularly reformed influence) in its founding. Books have been written about the role Scottish Presbytrianism played in the country's founding.
More importantly, the point he made is that the Declaration of Independence refers to a Creator and the rights, King George violated were given to us by the Creator. If you believe there's no Creator, how do you fight a Revolution based on violations of rights He gave you.
However, there were some people who had some common sense about this, among them was Stacey Boone:
According to an article in The Idaho Statesman on July 24, the Dalai Lama is believed to be "an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion." This is religion. This is a form of Buddhism. Since the state is not supposed to support one religion over another, I wonder if Gov. Kempthorne and his office will be promoting a visit and speaking engagement to Idaho's children by Billy Graham or maybe the pope.
Now our state, because of the White Supremacist problem up North for many years is always ready to show itself diverse and tolerant with things like this, but I have to question where the ACLU was. Apparently, they're warming up for their fight against Christmas trees and manger scences. I've heard garbage about Buddhism being a philosophy, but most people are going to say its a religion. The Separation of Church and State, the danger of religion in the public square can only be used against Christians.
Hurricane Katrina and Political Correctness
"If Hurricane Katrina is not America's greatest natural disaster, it's near the top of the list. There are many important lessons to be learned from it. For example: building a city below sea level was a big gamble. And building levees to withstand a category 3 hurricane instead of a category 5 hurricane was pennywise and pound-foolish.
The leftist politicos and their media allies are furiously blaming white Republican men (President Bush, Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Administration Director Michael Brown) for the enormous scope of the disaster. They are desperately trying to keep the public from focusing on the fact that a black man (New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin) and a white woman (Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco), both Democrats, actually are mostly to blame.
And another white woman who earned a large share of blame (Senator Mary Landrieu) became hysterical and actually threatened to punch President Bush: "If one person criticizes [our sheriffs], or says one more thing, including the president of the United States, he will hear from me - one more word about it after this show airs and I - I might likely have to punch him - literally," Landrieu announced on ABC's "This Week." [Note to Secret Service: Watch her carefully.]
Pointing out that an elected black man and a couple of elected women (all Democrats) failed their constituents miserably and that black man and one of the women then lost self-control during the resulting crisis is not politically correct. BUT, it's true. And it DOESN'T mean that there aren't plenty of qualified blacks and women who would have performed admirably in their place.
Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco deserve to be designated as the main culprits. And Mayor Nagin is much worse (see Ray Nagin Is NOT America's Mayor ). And quicker to blame others. After Hurricane Ivan last September, Mayor Nagin had absolutely no excuse for failing to have the Superdome ready, waiting to order mandatory evacuation (despite urging from President Bush) and failing to use the school buses and municipal buses to get people without their own vehicles out of harm's way (see AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION ). On September 1, 2005, Mayor Nagin "calmly" offered a constructive suggestion: "Governor Blanco and President Bush need to stop holding "goddamn press conferences" and "get their ass[es] on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now."
His strategy was to scream and to blame others: "I don't know whose problem it is. I don't know whether it's the governor's problem. I don't know whether it's the president's problem." (All he "knew" was that it was someone else's problem.). White Republican males are supposed to be the only scapegoats, Mr. Mayor. Didn't you get the word?
Or did you retaliate becausing Governor Blanco publicly acknowledged the embarrassing truth--that President Bush had urged a mandatory evacuation long before you ordered (but failed to really implement) New Orleans' first mandatory evacuation?
The event most of the major media disregards or downplays: Governor Blanco, standing beside Mayor Nagin, at a news conference, announced that President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation. It took until September 6, 2005 for Mayor Nagin to issue the appropriate declaration.... Better late than never!
Senator Barbara Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland, and House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi called on FEMA Director Brown to resign for not acting faster, but not Governor Blanco. Sexists! Governor Blanco declined to let the federal government take control of disaster relief efforts when she received the offer!
"Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans," the Washington Post reported. No, said the Governor, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Governor Blanco also failed to use more than a hundred school buses parked near the Superdome to transport stranded citizens who didn't have the means to obey earlier evacuation orders. And the buses were rendered useless by rising flood waters after the levees broke. Governor Blanco even dawdled over invoking a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until the day after the levees broke.
Dick Morris rightly blames not only Senator Mary "I'll punch the President" Landrieu, but also former Senator John Breaux, for leaving New Orleans so vunerable to a category 4 hurricane like Katrina: "Where was Sen. Mary Landrieu demanding aid? If this swing-state senator, whose father was a mayor of New Orleans, had made clear to her party's leadership and to the White House that her legislative course would be determined by their response to this critical need for a new levee, she could have exerted the pull needed to get the project under way. "Likewise, ex-Sen. John Breaux -- who was probably the single most influential senator during the Clinton years. In the '90s, he could have weighed in successfully and gotten the capital support his state needed. "Breaux and Landrieu have always been among the handful of swing votes in the Senate. Where were they? They have a bit of explaining to do as well."
They do indeed. But Democrats are busy trying to distract the public from their own failures while the federal government, the national guard, those New Orleans police who did not flee or fly to Las Vegas for a vacation (courtesy of Mayor Nagin) and good people across America and even abroad are dealing with a preventable crisis".
25 September, 2005
RACISM: WHY I STEER A MIDDLE WAY
People who drive down the middle of the road tend to get smashed up and I risk that frequently in my posts. For instance, when I mention such things as low average black IQ and the high rate of black criminality, Leftists shriek "racist" at me. But I also like Asians and think that they in general make highly desirable citizens. And various Rightists call me "far-Left" (or worse) because of that!
So today I want to do a single longish post to set out exactly how I see racial matters and why:
Ethnicity and group membership is one of the great preoccupations of the human race .... possibly second only to sex. It is also an almost taboo subject among modern-day white liberal Anglo-Saxons. Race is to the modern-day civilized and educated world what sex was to the Victorians -- unmentionable. In other words the strength of resistance to discussion of it is a measure of the threat to a civilized order that it is seen as posing.
Amid this fearful silence, I, of course, have always continued to call a spade a spade: Not a recipe for popularity among modern-day intellectuals! My position is really only a classical Anglo-Saxon attempt to find the golden mean between conflicting extremes. It seems to me, in short, that there ARE real differences between races and other groups but that only a few of these differences are of any importance. In other words, I reject the blind Leftist assertion that we are all the same under the skin and I also reject the view that only people like us are any good. This causes Leftists and humanists to see me as a racist and racists to see me as a Leftist pointy-head! In other words, the whole issue is such an emotive and explosive one that the middle-ground tends to be a rather lonely and uncomfortable place.
Group-sentiment is an amazingly pervasive thing. To take some examples from where I live in the State of Queensland and in Australia generally: Queenslanders all know what Queenslanders generally think of "cockroaches" (residents of the State of N.S.W.) and "Mexicans" (Southerners generally) and most know how Sydneysiders and Melbournians regard one-another but such sentiments fade into insignificance if you talk to a Launceston resident about Hobart people! Residents of the two largest towns in a quite homogeneous place like the State of Tasmania hate one-another! And non-Tasmanians would notice no differences at all between the two! So what hope is there for the Protestants and Catholics of Ulster, the Tamils and Sinhalas of Sri Lanka, the Jews and the Arabs of Israel, the Serbs and the Croats of the former Yugoslavia, the Xhosa and the Zulus of South Africa, the Sikhs and the Hindus of Panjab, the "untouchables" and the caste Hindus of India, the Southerners and the Northerners of Italy, the French and the English-speakers of Canada etc etc etc?
And to think that for the whole of my active career as a social science academic, my colleagues virtually universally believed that only maladjusted deviants were racists. I have always thought it to be crystal clear that EVERYBODY is a racist to some degree! My colleagues obviously thought that all the world was out of step and only they were in step. I did my best to disabuse them of their silly notions but there are none so blind as those who will not see.
Of course, discriminatory attitudes towards other groups such as those I have listed ARE generally nonsense. You do not have to be sick in the head to believe nonsense. If you did, most of my academic colleagues would be VERY sick in the head. In fact, of course, they are simply wishful thinkers -- like most of humanity. Wishful thinkers are not scientists, however.
To help see why discriminatory attitudes to other groups are generally nonsense, consider, for example, that Catholic and Protestant Ulstermen come out here to Australia and live side by side with no problems at all. Nor does a Launceston person who moves to Hobart or a Melbourne person who moves to Sydney thereby undergo any sort of personality change. All that is going on with discriminatory attitudes is that the old human preference for familiarity is raising its head. We like people who are like ourselves and people who have made the same decision as we about where to live (or happen to live where we live) become thereby more "like us" and are therefore preferable to others.
So I sound like a nice safe liberal in saying that do I not? Where I get into trouble with liberals, leftists etc is that I go on from there to say "But NOT ALL differences are imaginary". Most loyalty-provoking group differences are either imaginary, trivial or evanescent BUT SOME ARE NOT. As I see it, those who deny ALL intergroup differences are just as dogmatic, irrational and sweeping as the racists they claim to oppose. They are in fact accusing 99% of the human race of being totally blind and preoccupied with something that does not exist! Even I am not misanthropic enough for that! I think it is pretty clear who the blind ones are.
As I see it then, the differences between people of Northern European race are objectively (but not subjectively) mostly trivial. They have been invading and taking over one-another for so many thousands of years that the national gene pools must overlap almost totally. When they emigrate to countries like the USA and Australia, their children cannot tell one-another apart and get on as well with one-another as they do with anybody else.
But some groups ARE different and probably will remain so. The outstanding example of this is of course the negroids. Whether they are discriminated against (as in the old South Africa), discriminated in favour of (as in the USA from about the '70s on) or treated reasonably impartially (as they long were in Britain), they always as a group end up the same -- at the bottom of every heap, mired generally in criminality, violence, incompetence, drug abuse, promiscuity and poverty. And this is not peculiar to white-run countries. They are no different when they live in the African-run countries of Africa and the Caribbean. So for those who will see it, we now have mountains of evidence for the view that, as a group, negroids are always going to be a vastly problematical population with very limited potential for achievement in many spheres and a very great potential for disrupting the lives of others. Only the disagreeableness of that conclusion could blind one to the evidence for it. But THAT conclusion, it seems to me, is important.
I must emphasize here, however, that I am clearly speaking about groups and do NOT assume that what is true of the group is true of all individuals in that group. So individual blacks may be very highly civilized indeed. The person I quote most often on my blogs is an American black (Thomas Sowell). And, unlike Leftists, I don't think group problems can be solved at the group level. I think that treating people according to what they as individuals do (regardless of any group to which they may belong) is the only way to solve problems that the group as a whole may pose.
And note that what I say has nothing to do with skin-colour. Indians are just as brown as Africans but are vastly different. They tend to move towards the TOP of the heap outside their native land, and, as a group, are extremely patient, polite, hard-working, law-abiding and family-oriented. I personally like Indians very much. And Arabs are as white as many Europeans but would be in a very poor position indeed except for their oil wealth. The characteristic Arab achievements at the moment seem to be religious fanaticism, treachery and incest.
Obviously, we should all continue to treat individuals from different groups according to their individual merits but people who report that IN GENERAL they do not like members of a certain group are certainly not to my mind necessarily irrational, misled, deluded, ill-informed or ill-educated. They MAY be perfectly rational, balanced and well-informed. And anyone who doesn't want to live around negro populations is just looking after his own skin! And the phenomenon of "white flight" shows that most Americans understand that very well -- regardless of what their expressed attitudes might be.
Real ethnic differences need not of course be aversive. People would hardly travel so much if they were. The eminent French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss regards racial discrimination as DESIRABLE precisely on the grounds that it fosters diversity. I do not go that far but I do nonetheless enjoy all kinds of ethnic diversity in a way that, I suppose, makes me an ideal citizen of a multicultural society like Australia.
My personal background
I have lived my entire life in a highly multicultural society so I am acutely aware of racial and ethnic differences. I grew up in an Australian country-town that was only half Anglo. The rest were Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, Maltese, Yuogoslavs, Chinese, Sikhs, TIs (Melanesians) and Aborigines (blacks). And when with that perspective I look at my fellow Anglo-Australians I see people of admirable restraint, fortitude, good humour and moderation in all things. But that is only the majority of them. There is also a minority for whom I have no kind words.
Now I could sound like an uncomprehending elitist in saying that. Maybe I am just wiping off working class people and glorifying middle class people like myself. It is however if anything the reverse. If anything I find something like three times as much good sense in the workers as I do in the bourgeoisie. But there are problem-types in both camps. And I find that even the difficult cases among the workers are not much of a problem to me personally. Because I was born into an Australian working class family, working class thinking and conventional wisdom is an open book to me. I know all the key words and key phrases and I defer to no-one in my knowledge and enjoyment of the brilliant Australian slanguage. And I certainly did put all that to the test when I spent a couple of years as a boarding house proprietor in a "depressed" area (Ipswich) of Brisbane. I was really dealing with the hard cases there. A significant number of them in fact came to me directly from "the big house" (jail). Yet such is the power of a shared culture that I was in all cases able to handle to my satisfaction the people concerned. I always knew the right words to use. The people concerned were a considerable problem to others (and to themselves) but they were well within my capacity to handle -- though the time I threw a druggie through a closed door was approaching my limits. Words are wasted on druggies. So there is no doubt that I am as much an insider to basic Anglo-Australian culture as anyone ever will be. I am of my culture and I appreciate it and enjoy it.
But much as I am at home among my own people, I am still delighted at the sterling qualities I find in Asians. I find scarcely any problem-types among them. And I actually share my large house with Asians -- mostly South Asians. None of them are of course flawless human beings but when I think of their relaxed good humour, their intelligence and their unfailing politeness and restraint I cannot see that they are inferior to anyone or that they are anything but an asset to any environment they inhabit.
Now somebody will want to tell me that it is different in England. And it certainly is different superficially. The way just about EVERY small business in London is run by South Asians is pretty amazing (though the way English shop-assistants treat their customers makes it a lot less amazing). And when I am in England and I walk into one of those Asian shops I am greeted with the wariness and reserve that experience has taught the proprietors concerned. But I only have to exchange half a dozen words with the people concerned before all that changes. Because I genuinely like and admire Indians, that message gets through almost as fast as a bullet and it is soon smiles all round. I remember once when I was in an Indian shop in London and some old English prick was telling the Indian proprietor how great the English were and how the world owed them a living. As I walked out, I "accidentally" shouldered him hard enough to knock him over. I felt embarrassed that a fine Sikh gentleman had to put up with such crassness from the prick concerned.
And nor am I talking about immigrant Indians only. I have also lived in Bombay and I can only admire the cheerfulness, enterprise and good humour of the street-people there.
I certainly don't think that all races are equal but I also think it is absurd to say that there is something special about someone just because his skin is pink. Each case must be judged on its individual merits but it seems to me that on any non-racial scale of values the Asians average out well ahead. And we live in a century that will see that proven. Ironically, the poison that has held the Asians back so far is of Western origin -- socialism. If any people are instinctive capitalists it is the Indians and Chinese.
And the claim that Asian cultures are tribal is a grave misconception. Asian culture is a culture of reciprocity. So if you treat them well or do them a good turn you generate enormous feelings of obligation in return. So when I walk into an Indian shop where I am known and buy three samoosas for my lunch I will occasionally get a fourth one popped into the bag as a gesture of goodwill. What is problematical about a culture like that?
"Racist" as a term of abuse
As I have said, I particularly like Indians. And if we are going to use the term at all, Indians are clearly a race. I also like the Han (majority) Chinese. And almost any member of the Han will assure you that the Han are a race apart. I also admire the Japanese and regard Israel as one of the great adventures of the human spirit. So I am clearly a racist, am I not? If not, why not? Just using the word "race" is pretty close to taboo in much of the modern world. The fact that I DO use it probably keeps my blogs much more marginal than they otherwise would be.
How has that come about? It's no mystery is it? The deeds of Hitler showed the world what colossal evil can be done in the name of race and, in their usual way, the Left hopped onto that bandwagon and pushed the idea to simplistic extremes. Not only unreasonable uses of ideas about race were condemned but ALL ideas about race were condemned. So the Left absolutely shriek and go ballistic about any mention of race. Which tends to make people think that there really is something wrong with even using the term. It's rather like the woman who has bad experiences with one or two men and who then concludes that ALL men are "no good". Her response just puts a roadblock in front of her finding out WHICH men are good or bad and probably denies her much happiness that she could have. Similarly, talk about race can be good or bad. The intelligent thing is to discuss and look into the matter. Up until 1945 the whole world did just that. So all our ancestors were "racists"?
Don't get me wrong: As both a conservative and a libertarian, I think that the individual comes first and that each case (or each person) must be judged on its (his/her) individual merits. So while I like most Indians and Chinese I don't like them all. And I don't like all Jews either. Jews who hate Israel I find particularly contemptible. The United Nations charter says that each case must be judged on its individual merits and that is one of the few things about the United Nations that I agree with. That must have been the bit that the conservatives put in.
Because the Left DO judge people in terms of race. The entire Leftist mentality is group-oriented. The individual hardly exists to Leftists. Individuals are too complicated and messy. Leftists can think only in terms of vast groups of people -- such as "blacks", "Hispanics" and "Native Americans" (and "gays", "women", "the workers" etc.). So you can talk about races after all -- just as long as you don't CALL them races.
What utter stupidity! The only way to combat such stupidity is to defy it and talk about race in sensible ways and just ignore all the hypocritical Leftist shrieking. I do. For example, I make no apology for saying that people of Northwestern European origin (principally the Anglo-Celts and the Germans) are the ones who have made the modern world what it is and I am delighted to be myself of that ilk. I have pictures of my Australian pioneer ancestors on my walls and I am forever grateful to them for what they have bequeathed me.
I don't think that an ethnically homogeneous society is a particularly good thing. Yet I am at the same time as pleased as Punch about my English, Scottish and Irish ancestry and am also proud of the country that my forebears have created here in Australia. And I also think it is incontestable that Protestantism has been an overwhelming influence in creating the modern world. And having been brought up as a Presbyterian, that is easy for me to say.
What disturbs many people, as well it might, is the woes that the English and Americans now suffer as a result of past and present unselective immigration. I am in company with the vast majority of Australians in saying that only SELECTIVE immigration makes sense. And Australia practices it too. Though recent admissions of "refugees" appear to have been much less selective and have had some worrisome effects.
But I also think that the egg is thoroughly scrambled now. I can see NO way in which the "internationalization" of the U.K. and U.S. populations is going to stop. Nor will it stop in Australia. Australia's selection criteria do not include race and, as a result, we are said to have a greater percentage of our population foreign-born than any other country except Israel. There is however a huge difference in the COMPOSITION of the Australian population. Where the U.K. and U.S. have large numbers of people of African ancestry, we have large numbers of people of East Asian ancestry. The difference that makes is considerable, to put it mildly. I think Australia is very lucky indeed to have a large minority of hard-working, intelligent, enterprising, law-abiding family-oriented East Asians.
What about the loss of community? Wouldn't it be nice to live in a sort of large village where everybody is of similar ancestry? Yes and No. I must admit what a relief it is when I can go into an Australian shop or cafe and speak relaxed broad Australian with the staff there instead of having to struggle to communicate with people who know little English. But as someone who actually grew up in a large village (the Australian country town of Innisfail) I know there is a downside too. There are huge pressures towards conformity in a village and a lot of back-biting and gossip. Everyone knows everybody else's business so privacy is very restricted. And I shudder to think of the inconvenient opening hours and limited range of services (such as restaurants) that we would have without the ethnics.
So I don't think much of mono-ethnic or village-style life at all. And in a modern society we create our own communities anyway. By and large we associate with whomever we choose and if we are comfortable only with people of a similar ethnic background, then people of that background will become our community. We are no longer restricted to the community that we live geographically next-door to. We create our own communities to suit ourselves. So we in fact get the best of both worlds these days: We live in a virtual community without the limitations of an old-fashioned geographical community.
So regardless of whether the U.K. or the U.S. ever come to their senses about illegal immigration, loss of community and continuity will not occur.
The moral case against racism
On my reading of the psychological research, preference for the similar and the familiar is in general more common than not so it would be fairly hard to argue that such preferences are of themselves morally wrong when applied to one's social environment. But what does seem to me to be in principle wrong, however, is to judge individuals by their group membership. Should my brother be hanged because I commit a murder? All principles of justice as we know it (some systems of tribal justice excepted) say No. Similarly, should all Muslims be discriminated against because a minority of Muslims are dangerous religious nutcases? Again the answer has to be No. Yusuf might be a very decent man while Ali is a psychopath. And there are plenty of Yusufs. I know a few. So to treat the Yusufs like the Alis is a breach of all natural justice. Each case must be judged on its individual merits.
And that applies to Anglos too. There are plenty of dreck Anglos. And they should be treated like dreck while decent Anglos are treated as they deserve. So I make no judgement about Anglos IN GENERAL that can be applied to any individiual. The group level of analysis is interesting and may even be important but conclusions from it CANNOT justly be applied to any individual in that group. Any particular individual may be an exception to the rule.
So while I see no virtue in living in a monoracial homeland, I DO see great virtue in living in a homeland where immigrants are selected for generally desirable characteristics. And Australia is a fair example of the latter. We may have lots of immigrants here but they are generally GOOD immigrants! And some immigrant groups -- Asians mainly -- do in my view leave Anglo-Australians for dead in generally desirable characteristics -- such as low crime-rate, family-orientaion, proclivity to work hard etc. I am happy to have them around.
Mind you, I thoroughly sympathize with "white flight". As a group, Africans are undisputably BAD "minorities". White flight shows that most Americans think that and who am I to argue? What I have seen on my visits to America has certainly convinced me that a wise white person keeps as far away from groups of blacks as he can. On Hispanics as a group I reserve judgment. There clearly are lots of "good" Hispanics. I have met a few.
So I think there is no reason for seeking a monoracial homeland that can be deduced from any external fact or set of facts. You just feel the need for such an environment or you don't. I don't. I DO however feel a need to keep undesirables out of my country and the fact that both the U.S. and U.K. governments have failed to do that seems to me a tragedy of the first order. And some populations have such a high proportion of undesirables (one third of black American males are said to have spent at least some time in jail) that selective admissions of people from those populations should only be on the strictest of criteria. In other words, I think they should be judged as individuals but need to be looked at particularly carefully -- with evidence of good character and educational attainment (for example) being insisted on. At the moment, unfortunately, Australia does the opposite of that. African "refugees" are admitted with what seems very little scrutiny.
As a psychometrician, I am acutely aware of the low average IQ of Africans, Arabs and Australian Aborigines -- while at the same I stress that I am talking about averages, not individuals. As I have noted before, the person I quote most on my main blog is of African ancestry -- Thomas Sowell. As I have set out at length elsewhere, however, there are some circumstances in which we do have to make judgments about groups and I make no apologies for saying that I like my environment to be one with as low a frequency of the three groups I have mentioned as possible. I don't think it is in any way morally questionable to want to live in a safe and trouble-free environment.
I have said a fair bit about Indians above so I want to close with just a few personal anecdotes about my own experiences with East Asians:
When my son Joey was about 2 he discovered that putting things into rubbish bins was great fun. So once when we were dining in a Chinese restaurant I had used a paper napkin and screwed it up after use. Joey immediately spotted his opportunity and declared loudly "In the Wubbish". He seized the napkin and trotted towards the back of the restaurant. In their usual observant way, the Chinese staff of course saw within seconds this little blond moppet trotting towards them and by the time Joey got to the back of the restaurant, there were three Chinese staff bending over and giving Joey every attention with huge smiles on their faces. They directed Joey carefully to a bin and shepherded him gently back to us with every sign that they had had as much fun out of the episode as we did. And anybody who knows anything about the Chinese love of children will not be remotely surprised by any of that.
The second story is about the time I took a ride on the Hong Kong Metro (subway, underground railway). It was offpeak and my wife and I were the only occidentals in the carriage. A little Chinese boy came trotting down the carriage and spotted this strange white individual (me). Being just as much a tease then as I am now, I made "big eyes" at him. And of course in Chinese iconography, wide eyes are associated with demons etc. So the dear little boy ran screaming back to his parents. Again in their usual observant way, however, the Chinese in the carriage had observed what went on and saw the joke. They had a great (but of course restrained)laugh. There is nothing wrong with the Cantonese sense of humour!
And there is this Malaysian Chinese restaurant that I go to regularly. And there is one dish that I particularly like and I always order it. So when I walk in, not only am I greeted with a big smile by the receptionist, but the kitchen staff wave to me and smile at me too. And my dinner arrives with express speed. They put it on as soon as they see me.
And my next two stories are about the Japanese. Again when Joey was about 2 we took him to a local Koala sanctuary here in Australia. And the Japanese love Koalas so there were lots of them there. But when they saw this little toddler with golden-blond hair, sky-blue eyes and paper-white skin being wheeled about they were utterly entranced. I think there were as many photos of Joey taken that day as there were of the Koalas!
And finally there is the Sushi Train restaurant that I often dine at. There are Sushi train restaurants everywhere these days so I am sure readers will know what I am talking about. And my local version does seem to be staffed entirely by Japanese -- a head chef and two assistants. And the amazing thing about them is that they are utterly silent. If the restaurant were staffed by Cockneys it would be an absolute bedlam of chatter. But the Japanese are so well-organized that they need to say nothing to one another. They just silently and steadily go about their great art of producing the most wonderful fresh Japanese food. And they are totally impassive 99% of the time. I greatly value my British heritage and thoroughly appreciate British reserve. But Japanese impassivity makes British reserve look like emotional outpouring. So the head chef misses nothing but the expression on his face never changes. But guess what? They too have noticed that I am a dedicated customer so I do occasionally get a fleeting smile from the head chef when he sees me there again. And to get a smile from him is an honour indeed.
And with such experiences of these gentle, hard-working, family-oriented and utterly civilized people of Asia, how can I not respect them?
24 September, 2005
PERSONAL REPORT FROM MONTANA
The following report, headed "No Place to Get Away from Them" by "Eric in Montana" is dated 9/17/05 and is being circulated by email. As far as I can see, nobody has been game to put it online so far. But here is a slightly watered-down excerpt from it:
I live in Helena Montana. Last week I discovered that our governor decided that we needed to host 500 Katrina "evacuees" from New Orleans. I was completely amazed but soon understood what kind of ridiculous PC capitulation our government engages in ..now more than ever. I realize what having 500 New Orleans ferals in our community means. This place I knew is gone. I will never be able to feel safe in the small town again.
Helena is fairly densely populated but isn't spread out over a large area, due to mountains. One can see the whole city from a hill without turning one's head. The low income housing that has been set aside for these people is right in the middle of town next to one of only two high schools. I have seen the "diversity" my city has inherited first hand yesterday while driving to the store.
Two 20s something, gangsta-dressed, shaved-head, obvious (displaced persons) gang members, trash were waiting to cross the street in a residential area. They walked out in front of a car they could have easily waited to pass...only a few cars for many blocks. It was apparent they did this for the fun of it. One gang member wandered towards the front of the car and gestured, one hand on his crotch and one in the air, a display of simian dominance.
This gang maneuver was done to intimidate a stranger that had been forced to stop for these degenerates in a town where there has never been gangs. In all the years Ive lived in Montana I have never seen this kind of thing. I can only compare it to the mentality of someone publicly and deliberately poisoning a city's water supply and DARING anyone to say something about it.
I am sick of this scum loving, liberal political plague and so I have to ask. ..What can be done? Really? I know there is an agenda for this to occur ... So what the hell? Karate and blowguns? Old-fashioned western vigilantism? Is it even possible to find a city in America that has enough sense to arrange its infrastructure to keep gangs, welfare generations and degenerates out? You'll notice I don't describe the color of this element... don't' have to. Anyone with an IQ above 80 knows what I'm talking about.
I guess I just want to know if there is something that can be done. I am sick to my stomach watching the liberal media lies and opportunistic political parasites mooing and yowling over the race factor in the New Orleans rescue. I can't really keep up with all the accounts of racism against whites and don't have the stomach for it any more.
Ohio Health Dept. Caves to AIDS Activists
Post lifted from Interested Participant
The Ohio Department of Health (DOH) has jettisoned columnist Maggie Gallagher as the keynote speaker at the Conference on Abstinence Education scheduled for next month. According to DOH spokesman Jay Carey, the speaker's fee of $5,000 was too high.
However, after an internal DOH committee selected Gallagher to speak, the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland loudly protested because of her anti-homosexual beliefs. Consequently, Gallager's rejection is seen as the DOH bowing to political pressure from homosexual advocates. Operation Keepsake, an abstinence advocacy group serving Northeast Ohio schools, said that the Department of Health was practicing "values profiling." The claim that the decision was based on cost is being dismissed as "ludicrous." In fact, the contract review committee had approved Gallagher's proposal prior to DOH Director Dr. Nick Baird rejecting it.
I'm no expert, but $5,000 seems to be on the low end of the scale of customary celebrity speaker's fees. Furthermore, since when does a few thou here or there bother a bureaucrat? Conversely, it doesn't take an expert to peg the homosexual advocacy groups as loud, troublesome, and influential.
So, with regard to the real reason Maggie Gallagher won't be speaking at the abstinence conference, I'll agree with Operation Keepsake. In my opinion, Dr. Baird caved to political pressure and used cost as an excuse.
23 September, 2005
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS TRUMPS HEALTH AND SAFETY
A Swedish court on Wednesday convicted Volvo Cars of gender discrimination for denying a woman a job at its manufacturing plant because she was too short to work at the conveyor belt. Sweden’s Labor Court ordered Volvo to pay 40,000 kronor ($5,200) to the woman, who was not identified, saying the hiring policy constituted “indirect gender discrimination.”
Volvo’s hiring policy stated that for safety reasons, employees must be between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 5 inches to work at the conveyor belt at its car manufacturing plant outside Goteborg. The woman only measured 5 feet 3 inches, said Equal Opportunity Ombudsman Claes Borgstrom, who sued Volvo on the woman’s behalf. The court ruled that that statistically, the height requirement excluded more women than men, and should therefore be considered as gender discrimination. “The consequence (of the ruling) must be that Volvo cannot routinely continue to automatically exclude people who are shorter than 163 centimeters (5 feet 4 inches) from employment,” Borgstrom said in a statement. “Instead, they will have to make an individual judgment of the applicants’ physical conditions for the job, for example span of reach and muscle strength.”
Volvo spokesman Christer Gustafsson said the company will follow the court’s ruling and drop the height requirement. “We will have to look at what we can do to avoid job injuries without the height requirement,” Gustafsson said. He said the height requirement was adopted four years ago to prevent strain injuries. “Those who are too short or too tall will then have to reach a lot, or bend down a lot,” he said.
FEMINIST DEGRADATION OF THEMSELVES
Some feminists know that feminism does not feel right -- but resist seeing that it was all wrong in the first place
Ariel Levy attended Wesleyan University in the 1990s, and she doesn't feel the better for it. It was a place where "group sex, to say nothing of casual sex, was de rigueur." It was a place where they had "coed showers, on principle." When Ms. Levy suggested to a department head that it would be nice to have at least one course in the traditional literary canon, she was dismissed with icy contempt. Yet elsewhere on campus a professor of the humanities taught a course on pornography featuring, um, detailed textual analysis.
It was all supposed to be so liberating. But it wasn't, as Ms. Levy argues forcefully in "Female Chauvinist Pigs." It was merely the academic groundwork for what she calls "raunch culture," now so ubiquitous that we take it for granted. Young women wear shirts emblazoned with "Porn Star" across the chest. Teen stores sell "Cat in the Hat" thong underwear. Parents treat their daughters' friends to "cardio striptease" classes for birthday parties. This is liberation?
Ms. Levy is baffled. "Why," she wondered, "is laboring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering?" Why did female Olympic athletes pose for Playboy before the summer 2004 Games? Why did Katie Couric feel the need to point to her cleavage and gush "these are actually real!" when she guest-hosted "The Tonight Show" a couple of years ago?
Some sort of pervasive pressure, apparently, requires "everyone who is sexually liberated . . . to be imitating strippers and porn stars." Ms. Levy describes the perfect distillation of this impulse--a social group called CAKE that hosts steamy, hooking-up parties in New York and London. CAKE makes big bucks advertising "feminism in action"--it claims to be the place where "sexual equality and feminism finally meet"--but its events are indistinguishable from those held at the Playboy Mansion.
The surface logic of such conduct is fairly simple, notes Ms. Levy. "Women had come so far," or so the thinking went, that "we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny." If male chauvinist pigs "regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves."
Well, Ms. Levy is having none of it, and she is not the only one. Even Erica Jong seems to feel that something has gone wrong. Known for popularizing the idea that a woman may want consequence-free sex, Ms. Jong today declares: "Being able to have an orgasm with a man you don't love . . . that is not liberation." It isn't? Someone should tell this to Annie, a blue-eyed 29-year-old who admits to Ms. Levy that she "used to get so hurt" after a night of sex that didn't yield an emotional bond. Now she has gotten over it, or tried to: "I'm like a guy," she brags.
How did this happen? Why did feminism sell its soul to the sexual-liberation movement in the first place? After all, the original feminists were fighting to be taken seriously. Hugh Hefner, by contrast, said that his ideal girl "resembles a bunny . . . vivacious, jumping--sexy." There seems to be a contradiction here.....
It may be that, like Ms. Levy, a lot of feminists now regret getting in bed with Mr. Hefner. Yet if you mention the word "modesty" within 20 feet of them their heads spin around like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." This is where they get stuck. Only if feminism can embrace the more traditional ways that men and women have courted throughout the ages can it have anything practical to offer young women. To the extent that feminists dismiss as worthless anything that is perceived as "backtracking," they only help to perpetuate the "raunch culture"--even as they deplore its effects.
REAL WOMEN'S LIB
With great "incorrectness", a reader writes:
My wife said this many years ago:
"Real liberation is when your husband makes enough money that you don't have to work".
22 September, 2005
I am still putting up a lot on political correctness at Tongue-Tied in addition to what I post here. Note that posts there stay up only for one week. There is however here an archive of the posts from Sept. 5th to 10th and an archive here of posts from Sept. 11th to 17th.
FEMINISM DYING OUT
Lots of today's young women want to be mothers, not Lesbians
Cynthia Liu is precisely the kind of high achiever Yale wants: smart (1510 SAT), disciplined (4.0 grade point average), competitive (finalist in Texas oratory competition), musical (pianist), athletic (runner) and altruistic (hospital volunteer). And at the start of her sophomore year at Yale, Ms. Liu is full of ambition, planning to go to law school. So will she join the long tradition of famous Ivy League graduates? Not likely. By the time she is 30, this accomplished 19-year-old expects to be a stay-at-home mom. "My mother's always told me you can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time," Ms. Liu said matter-of-factly. "You always have to choose one over the other."
At Yale and other top colleges, women are being groomed to take their place in an ever more diverse professional elite. It is almost taken for granted that, just as they make up half the students at these institutions, they will move into leadership roles on an equal basis with their male classmates. There is just one problem with this scenario: many of these women say that is not what they want.
Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others, like Ms. Liu, say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.
Much attention has been focused on career women who leave the work force to rear children. What seems to be changing is that while many women in college two or three decades ago expected to have full-time careers, their daughters, while still in college, say they have already decided to suspend or end their careers when they have children. "At the height of the women's movement and shortly thereafter, women were much more firm in their expectation that they could somehow combine full-time work with child rearing," said Cynthia E. Russett, a professor of American history who has taught at Yale since 1967. "The women today are, in effect, turning realistic."
Dr. Russett is among more than a dozen faculty members and administrators at the most exclusive institutions who have been on campus for decades and who said in interviews that they had noticed the changing attitude. Many students say staying home is not a shocking idea among their friends. Shannon Flynn, an 18-year-old from Guilford, Conn., who is a freshman at Harvard, says many of her girlfriends do not want to work full time. "Most probably do feel like me, maybe even tending toward wanting to not work at all," said Ms. Flynn, who plans to work part time after having children, though she is torn because she has worked so hard in school. "Men really aren't put in that position," she said.
Uzezi Abugo, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania who hopes to become a lawyer, says she, too, wants to be home with her children at least until they are in school. "I've seen the difference between kids who did have their mother stay at home and kids who didn't, and it's kind of like an obvious difference when you look at it," said Ms. Abugo, whose mother, a nurse, stayed home until Ms. Abugo was in first grade.
While the changing attitudes are difficult to quantify, the shift emerges repeatedly in interviews with Ivy League students, including 138 freshman and senior females at Yale who replied to e-mail questions sent to members of two residential colleges over the last school year. The interviews found that 85 of the students, or roughly 60 percent, said that when they had children, they planned to cut back on work or stop working entirely. About half of those women said they planned to work part time, and about half wanted to stop work for at least a few years....
THE INCOMPREHENSIBILITY OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
Do they stand for anything but hatred of ordinary people? Post lifted from Reliapundit
ON THE ONE HAND, the Left gets all bent out of shape if you criticize Islam and non-democratic misogynistic Islamic nations, or argue that race, age and country of origin should be PART of a profile and that police SHOULD profile, or that there are such things as UNIVERSAL RIGHTS.
The Left argues that "we" ("we" being the hegemonic West in general, and specifically the "American Empire") have no right to interfere or intervene in other cultures and countries because values cannot be imposed; there is no such thing as "evil;" good and evil are values which are relative to each culture, and using force to change another culture is nothing more than cultural hegemony motivated by colonialism's naked greed.
That's also why the Left argues that "we" should appease the our foes, appease the "other", appease the Third World and send them umlimited amounts of Foreign Aid - with no strings attached: Because "we" are to blame for their poverty - AND - since it is their poverty which makes them mad at us and attack us, "we" should withdraw from their spheres of influence (Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Moro Islands, Kashmir, Kurdistan, Spain, Bosnia and Serbia - for starters), and just send them our money.
Yet, ON THE OTHER HAND, the Left has no qualms about accusing BusHitler, KKKarl Rove, and John AshKKKroft of every evil thing under the sun. From (a) planning 9/11 in order to have an "endless war" with which benefits their buddies in the defense contractor industry; to (b) fulfilling their long-held dream of tearing up the Bill of Rights; to (c) lying about WMD as a pretext to steal Iraq's oil.
This is simply hypocrisy. On the one hand they deny that evil exists (except as defined by each culture for itself), and on the other hand Bush - and the GOP and conservatives, and pro-lifers, and neo-cons and Zionists are absolutely EVIL!
And this gets us to what is now the GIST of Leftist hatred of evil right-wingers: ABORTION. Leftists do not believe that life begins at conception - as if some ELSE was conceived - NOT A LIFE; as if an expecting mother was not expecting anything special until the 25th week. This is irrational because all delineations EXCEPT for conception are by definition ARBITRARY. Yet the Left persists in calling pro-life people evil because the Left believes that anyone who wants pregnant women to go to term and give birth and then - if they don't want the baby - just give up the baby for adoption (rather than killing the baby while it is in the womb) are evil. To the Left, people who abort their pregnancies are doing nothing wrong at all.
To the Left, pro-lifers are evil. To the Left, neo-cons - (people who believe that every person everywhere is entitled to their universal human rights and that democracy is the only way to guarantee this, AND THAT SINCE WE ARE THE MOST POWERFUL DEMOCRACY ON EARTH WE HAVE A DUTY TO HELP LIBERATE OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS EVERYWHERE, just as FDR and JFK said) - are evil.
But, to the Left jihadists and islamofascists who openly call for genocidal war are not evil; they're just misunderstood indigenous people who are well-motivated.
Which is why the Left openly proclaims that they are more afraid of BusHitler than they are of Binladen. Which is irrational. Which is why the wise man said: "Leftism isn't just a discredited ideology, anymore; it's a mental disorder."
21 September, 2005
WHAT A BLUNDER!
"Recently an organization on this campus made a mistake and chalked “Scalp the Indians” on a sidewalk by library lawn. They, unfortunately, left out one important piece of writing, neglecting to mention how our OSU Cowboys were playing the ASU Indians. Had the chalking stated that fact, this might be a different situation altogether.
The students and faculty who walked by the chalking who were unaware of the team we were going to play were probably confused or enraged. It is obvious why this chalking is offensive. OSU has a large American Indian population. The state of Oklahoma has one of the largest populations of American Indians in the country. A portion will inevitably regard this as a blatant act of racism. Is it though?
There is an ongoing controversy in sports. Numerous teams have American Indian mascots. In Major League Baseball, we have the Cleveland Indians. We have the Washington Redskins in pro football. The Florida Seminoles are an NCAA powerhouse. My old high school’s mascot was the Indians. Arkansas State’s namesake is the Indians as well. It seems that the growing trend is to try to replace these “culturally insensitive” team names. My old high school is now the Falcons. I wonder how much longer we will be seeing Cowboys versus Indians matchups.
This all ties into the matter of the chalking because the chalking itself was not an act of racism. It was an act of school spirit. I am willing to wager that those who committed this act were unaware of the possible repercussions. They probably had no idea that an act of game day rivalry would add to a growing list of racially insensitive acts.
Is this really that big of a deal? To an extent, yes. And I can understand why an American Indian would be upset. I still think that this country has taken political correctness way too far. Our country is a large melting pot. We are all Americans. Let’s laugh together and understand that cultures poke fun at others and use euphemisms. If this is that big of a deal, why has someone not mentioned anything about Eskimo Joe? I liken him to Chief Wahoo.
We worry too much about offending others. It seems people have lost their sense of humor and understanding. If there is anything we need to learn from this, it is to just take a moment and think. Will what I am about to do anger anyone, anywhere, for any possible reason that I can think of now or in the future? Anyhow, Indians scalp Cowboys, not vice versa. I wonder if anyone at ASU wrote “Scalp the Cowboys” in an ill-thought act of school spirit".
TOUCHY WELSH POLICE
They can't catch crooks so they go to London at great expense and harass TV stars
"One of Britain's most controversial police forces spent nearly £4,000 on an inquiry into "anti-Welsh" comments made by Anne Robinson, it has emerged. Four senior officers from North Wales Police were called on to investigate the remarks made by the TV presenter on the BBC show Room 101. During the programme, which asks celebrity guests to list their pet hates, she described the Welsh as "irritating and annoying", adding provocatively: "What are they for?"
But what many shrugged off as light-hearted comments provoked anger among language activists and Welsh politicians, and the North Wales force - headed by maverick chief constable Richard Brunstrom - launched an investigation. Yesterday the full extent of the bizarre probe became clear after former Welsh Assembly member Peter Rogers obtained the facts under Freedom of Information legislation. In all, a superintendent, detective chief inspector and two detective inspectors were deployed, two of whom interviewed Greg Dyke, the then BBC director general. The cost of the investigation is put at "approximately £3,800" and at least 96 hours were spent on the case.
Last night Mr Rogers, now a Tory councillor, said he regarded the affair as "political correctness gone mad". "It's appalling that we've had to drag the information out of them this way," he said. "Twice, I put down questions in the Assembly seeking the cost but was told it wasn't available and hadn't been worked out. "It was the most stupid thing to investigate when there are real criminals who should be occupying the time of such highranking officers."
Weakest Link presenter Miss Robinson made her comments about the Welsh in 2001 on the Paul Merton-hosted show. She said: "I've never taken to them. What are they for? We can't sing like they can, we can't play rugby like they can and we can't be clever like they are." Hundreds of viewers complained to broadcasting watchdogs and the resulting furore led to the Commission for Racial Equality being consulted and a police investigation. But no action was ever taken because of "insufficient evidence". In 2002, a fresh investigation began after repeat screenings, but again no action was taken.
The Freedom of Information reply says: "North Wales Police received 12 complaints about the alleged comments. Once a complaint is received, we are duty bound to carry out an investigation."
Under Mr Brunstrom's stewardship, the force has been at the centre of a string of controversies. His hardline support for speed cameras has alienated the motoring lobby and he has come under fire for suggesting that the legalisation of all drugs may be the only way to win the war on abuse. The force has also been heavily criticised for its woeful record in catching burglars. A BBC spokesman said that Miss Robinson would not be making any comment".
"GLOBAL WARMING" IS POLITICALLY CORRECT TOO
"In the September 2, 2005 issue of Science, it was reported that a U.S. hurricane expert resigned because of the 'politicization' of the scientific process. In other words, only the 'right' results were being reported. If results didn't further those political beliefs that were prevalent, i.e. global warming, then the results were not included. This is not science. As well, a federal panel that was about to release a report on recent temperature trends suffered a setback when one of its scientists, Roger Pielke, of Colorado State University, resigned. His reason as stated was because the study failed to be inclusive and improperly eliminated the consideration of regional temperature trends. In layman terms, the study was being done to provide a politically correct conclusion and not necessarily the accurate one.
In September, 2003, the BBC ran a story about NASA's new IceSat satellite, designed to measure polar ice and sea ice elevation. With feedback from IceSat project scientists, the BBC story continued that "up to now climate scientists have had only spotty measurements of the height of the remote ice sheets." The question that one would have to ask of that comment is by what means can these scientists claim to know for sure the actual percentage that the icecaps have supposedly melted by. After all, if we only had a spotty measurement of their size up until 2003, can the claims that they have been shrinking dramatically for the last 30 years be assumed to be even remotely accurate? These claims are now suspect. It goes on to state that glaciologists do not even know whether these massive blocks of ice are expanding or shrinking. Their vast size makes accurate ground measurements impossible.
Yet another study outlines the implications of man made and natural aerosols, particularly the eruption of volcanoes. We are told that these aerosols contribute to global cooling, and the effects of some eruptions last years and can well exceed the effects of global warming in the 21st century. The author explicitly implies that natural occurences more than make up for the greenhouse effect. Why have we not heard about this study on our news stations? Is it not negative in content, therefore not newsworthy?
For 30 years, levees have helped keep the city of New Orleans dry. They were designed to withstand a category 3 storm, as the chances of getting hit head on by a larger storm were slim. Former Democrat Senator John Breaux of Louisiana said that everyone has known for a long time that they wouldn't stop a "once every hundred years" storm of this intensity. It must also be noted that New Orleans was hit by three massive hurricanes in the 1700's. When Hurricane Betsy hit Louisiana in 1965, she was one mile per hour under Category 5 strength, and was packing winds of 155 mph. The point of all this is that these storms are not caused by a man induced global warming. History plainly states the truth, and is always unbiased, unless men rewrite the history books as they have been known to do. Further, the facts plainly show that these storms have happened before, and will happen again. They are not a new phenomenon, but are part of a global cycle that has occurred before our time, and will continue to occur....
Scientific journals around the globe have been expounding on reports that glacier ice is in rapid retreat, especially on Greenland. We have seen television reports about northern native communities where the 'devastation' has started. Other reports state that the Antarctic ice sheet is now expanding, but nowhere do you hear this being reported. No one is touting the end of global warming, or at least of one scenario. This is a paragraph I found from another article , discussing what has been found in retreating ice caps. "Over the ensuing years, the glaciers ebbed and flowed, driven by vast, cyclical changes in weather that could send tongues of ice rushing downward, only to retreat a few hundred years later. The last one, known as the Little Ice Age, began around 1450 and completed its cycle around 1900." In other words, for at least the last 600 years, scientists have been aware of great shifts in the ice sheets, with some periods of growth, and others of drastic shrinkage.
Is it no longer politically correct for scientists who disagree with the alarmist rhetoric to speak out? Are they being quieted and pushed out of scientific communities like those who challenged the Papal leaders in Rome of old? Is their now a scientific inquisition happening? There is a wealth of information, theory, and actual reliable data, as well as historic evidence to refute global warming. The media, in a deliberate and organized fashion, seems intent on ignoring any such evidence.
What then is the driving force behind this powerful lobby?
Is it the need to acquire government funding? The U.S. government awarded more than $4 billion dollars in grants for the study of our climate in 2000. Is it the desire for men to make a name for themselves by pioneering a theory? Is it an industry promoting its own agenda, or perhaps a larger scheme for global wealth redistribution? While I have heard all of these ideas, the truth is I don't know what is driving all of this alarmism. I do know, however, that you cannot suppress scientific data that refutes a theory just because you have gotten behind it.
If this is the only way that a certain segment of the scientific community can continue to convince us of their cause, then we should be able to see through it. They indeed do science more harm than good. When men of high calibre start to question this theory publicly, and are then quickly silenced and ridiculed, we must start asking why. We must also look at this theory more openly.
Another very important question that we must ask is why does the media continue to report on only the most alarming information coming from the scientific community on this subject?"
20 September, 2005
The Collapse of Political Correctness after Hurricane Katrina
The lawlessness, looting, loss of civility and disintegration of civil society have all been documented day by day ad nauseam in the wake of the wake that washed over the Crescent City and transformed it into a virulent Venice of the South. What has gone grievously underreported, however, is the shocking collapse of Political Correctness that threatens to shred our civilization.
The evidence is there, scattered in sound bites and asides and sidebars, but rarely confronted and focused upon as the front-page feature that it is. It's a scandal that begs for the spotlight, and the Pulitzer Prize sits poised to plop into the lap of the first incisively insightful in-depth investigative reporter that unmasks this mean-spirited miasma. Without our Political Correctness we are a people without an ethos.
In his inevitable post-Katrina Political Correctness loud-mouthery, Jesse Jackson, who never met a race card or a reporter he wouldn't play, has decreed it "racist" to call US citizens refugees. (Only Third World tsunami survivors, apparently, are "refugees.") Immediately echoing this worldview, and seizing the opportunity to exhibit the Compassionate component of his vaunted Compassionate Conservatism, Fearless Leader Bush jumped on the New Orleans Dixieland bandwagon with, "The people we're talking about are not refugees, they are Americans." (One wonders what the Good Reverend would have opined had the shingle-sitters been 99% white. One wonders that he would have opined at all.)
But this wasn't the first clarion call to protect America's Political Correctness. First came the great flood photo flap over a pair of pictures in the press. A black person wading through water clutching foodstuff was labeled a looter, while white folks doing the same were simply "finding" food.
While one hates to be a finger-pointer, this was clearly a failure of Senior Political Correctness Editors to take charge of their news services and make the hard journalistic decisions during a disaster. Carefully constructed cutlines would have read thusly: "As yet officially PC undesignated peoples frolicking in waste deep floodwaters with snack food in tow."
But above all else came the total PC disintegration during the widely ballyhooed business that can only be called The Ballad of Jabbor Gibson. The basic facts seem to be these: Eighteen-year-old Jabbor Gibson commandeered a school bus abandoned on the streets of New Orleans, packed it with 100 of his closest strangers, and drove seven straight hours to the Houston Astrodome where authorities initially denied them access because they weren't "legally chartered" like 60 authorized buses that arrived hours later.
Web sites everywhere lionized the young Noah as a hero. Except one. In an article titled "Taking refuge in the Astrodome," KRGV NEWSCHANNEL 5 (serving Texas' southernmost tip) labeled the event as "an extreme act of looting" and branded the people on board as "renegade passengers." In the space of a mere 326 words the article managed to say "a stolen bus," "one group actually stole a bus," "the stolen bus," "I just took the bus," and "stealing the school bus."
To NEWSCHANNEL 5, the people who fled from the fluvial fiasco are neither escapees nor refugees nor citizens nor Americans (the media-baptized PC catchword seems to have evolved into a preference for "evacuees") but merely criminals, not even worthy of the ordinarily obligatory "alleged" antecedent. Why are these folks criminals and renegades instead of evacuees? Because they did not receive an official laying upon of hands by some anointed pettycrat? Because they used an abandoned school bus to save their own lives? Scores of web sites on the net had a link to a photo showing hundreds of yellow school buses lined up in long neat rows, abandoned in a New Orleans flooded lot.
Libertarians need wonder if the Official Disaster Planners, ensconced in their comfortable offices and spending millions in taxpayer money, ever made any plans for actually using those buses. Libertarians need wonder if they ever conferred with the actual people in their actual neighborhoods about using those buses. But then, does a chess master discuss strategy with his pawns?
No wonder authorities didn't want to let the wayward bus people into the Astrodome. How can authorities be "rescuers" if their damned "victims" won't sit still on their rooftops and die while awaiting their righteous rescuers?
No doubt about it. The Gibson gangsters failed the all-important PC test and became a threat to our civilized way of life. Maybe FEMA needs to dump 'em all back into the drink so they can give 'em a proper rescue. That'll teach 'em.
A "GENTLEMAN OF LEISURE" SPEAKS UP
Do real men sit about wondering what they are for? I have found that most of my male friends have fixed contracts, stop-start patterns to their work and periods of part-time employment or inactivity. We have formed a loose collective, 'the gentlemen of leisure', and occasionally two or three of us meet for some daytime activity such as seeing a film or mountain-biking. Our women have similar job patterns but we never considered involving our wives and girlfriends because their daytime leisure was already accounted for. They probably encouraged us in the first place.
I think the nickname 'gentlemen of leisure' stuck because, as blokes with spare time already involved in sporting activities, we had to adopt a historical description to express a positive image of males not working or competing. Not all of us know each other and, unsurprisingly, we don't explicitly discuss the media's idea of masculinity in crisis. I'm a husband in my forties, with kids, and my friends of a similar age and situation are supposed to be among the most vulnerable and poorly adapted....
Actually, we gentlemen largely agree with women's liberation; we don't feel threatened by women and we don't blame women for the state of the world. We get on with the struggles of life, try to adjust to the difficulties of combining modern child-rearing with work and form new associations and social arrangements to these ends.
If anything, my younger, thirtysomething single male friends are the more concerned about the redefinition of gender - in relation to womanhood. The boys have every confidence in being able to meet Ms Right's expectations (except, perhaps, for earning more than her), but they think women are confused about what they want from a man. Some see the modern girl as being shy of commitment. A young man who wants to settle down with kids can have a tough time finding a young woman with a similar immediate ambition these days.
Our whole society has emerged from the 'battle of the sexes' with the sense that strong women must keep on winning until they can command as much absolute power as men in a Sunday supplement list. Yet we have always thought men and women did things differently. A century ago, women had a clear physical disadvantage in industry. How can we possibly identify a similar psychological disadvantage in a young man today? The inability of commentators to establish a firm role to replace that of breadwinner sets up the debate as a comparison in which men can only appear by turns unfortunate or ill-equipped for modern life. Comparison of the sexes was fine when it was applied to the changing position of women in society, but it's a poor tool to use when explaining what is different or new in relation to men. We should question the assumptions made about the need for a new masculinity before we give up on men.
The most damaging thing to both men and women is to assume that men are the problem. If a different ideal of manhood is to emerge, it ought to be shaped by the experiences of men taking on the challenges of real life, rather than a cultural panic about how useless they are in a woman's world. Real men don't complain about a petticoat dictatorship; they have more important things to worry about.
19 September, 2005
ANOTHER BIT OF FEMINIST NONSENSE
The NYT book review below is a bit more sensible than the book it reviews but it is still feminist nonsense. She is appalled that lots of women try to please men. But no mention that lots of men also try to please women. And sexy women are VERY bad. That lots of normal women really enjoy normal sex and are selective about their partners seems to be ignored. Most of her data seem to come from lesbians and I am inclined to think that what we read below is essentially a lesbian viewpoint. But the basic folly of both the book and the review is to treat "women" as just one big category. That there are all sorts of women with all sorts of attitudes and behaviour is given very little weight. I am an old guy now but I still have some fairly recent memories and I can assure you that there are lots of modest and respectable women who have a ball behind a closed bedroom door with a valued male partner and regret none of it. THAT in my view is the norm, insofar as there is a norm.
"Reading "Female Chauvinist Pigs," Ariel Levy's lively polemic, gave me an epiphany of sorts. Finally, a coherent interpretation of an array of phenomena I'd puzzled over in recent years: the way Paris Hilton's leaked sex tapes seemed only to enhance her career; the horrifying popularity of vaginoplasty, a surgical procedure designed to make female genitalia more sightly; and a spate of mainstream books about stripping and other sex work, some reviewed in these pages. Levy has a theory that makes sense of all this. Our popular culture, she argues, has embraced a model of female sexuality that comes straight from pornography and strip clubs, in which the woman's job is to excite and titillate - to perform for men. According to Levy, women have bought into this by altering their bodies surgically and cosmetically, and - more insidiously - by confusing sexual power with power, so that embracing this caricaturish form of sexuality becomes, in their minds, a perverse kind of feminism.
Levy's evidence is unsettling: that a number of female Olympic athletes saw fit to pose nude for Playboy before the 2004 games in Athens, for instance, or that Crunch gyms in several American cities offer "Cardio Striptease" classes, where women work out in bras and thongs. Much of the reporting is Levy's own (she writes for New York magazine), and her forays into a "Girls Gone Wild" shoot, several parties hosted by the neo-feminist group Cake, the lesbian subculture of New York and San Francisco, and the private lives of sexually active teenagers make for smart, acerbic reading. She finds a similar geometry in all of the worlds she visits. Women are preoccupied with a "girly-girl" aesthetic originating with strippers and porn stars, but they tend to view these images from a crude, objectifying perspective that has traditionally been male. In the lesbian communities she visits, "bois," many of whom have had "top surgery" to remove their breasts, say things like, "Some of these chicks, it's like you top them once and then they're all up in your face." A female publishing executive boasts of having the largest example of male anatomy in her office. At the Cake parties, promoted by their organizers as "feminism in action," female audience members coolly assess the breast size of women simulating sex onstage.
Levy makes her most daring leap when she likens this reductive female sexuality and its correlative chauvinism to the coping strategies of two of the black characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin": Tom, who tries to fulfill his oppressors' every expectation, and George Harris, who is light-skinned enough to pass for white. In both cases, she writes, a subordinate group embraces stereotypes as a way to gain the dominant group's acceptance. A Female Chauvinist Pig deals with her femaleness by "either acting like a cartoon man - who drools over strippers . . . - or acting like a cartoon woman, who has big cartoon breasts, wears little cartoon outfits and can only express her sexuality by spinning around a pole."
Levy's argument is provocative - and persuasive - as far as it goes. But how far is that? She writes only about people and incidents that illustrate her theory; she doesn't discuss a single pop star or public figure who has escaped the reductive dichotomy of female behavior she describes. Madonna, for example, is mentioned only in passing - a damaging omission, given that she mesmerized a generation of young women by combining girly female sexiness with unmistakable sexual and real-world power. In writing about teenagers, Levy describes an alarming world in which young girls routinely lap dance for boys at school dances, perform oral sex on them without reciprocation and make out with each other in front of them, all for the ego boost of male excitement and the notoriety that follows. Levy says she spoke with 50 young people between the ages of 12 and 18, some of whom she quotes, but she doesn't explain how she arrived at this sample or how representative it is of American culture as a whole. Similarly, in the final pages she speaks at length with three sexually aggressive adult women whose descriptions of sex "sounded less than smoldering," and uses them to bolster her argument that female sexual desire is being ignored. Fair enough, but these are three people. Surely Levy must have encountered a few sexually aggressive women who did enjoy sex, but she doesn't mention them, and the anecdotal one-sidedness of her reporting hurts her argument.
Still, as a consciousness-raising call to arms, "Female Chauvinist Pigs" is clearly to the good. And it raises a question that reaches far beyond the faddish popularity of the sex industry. Levy never mentions John Berger, but at times her book strongly echoes his "Ways of Seeing." Berger wrote: "Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. . . . The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object." "Ways of Seeing" was published in 1972, and Berger's theory of female objectification hinged on women's historical lack of real-world power or independence: "Men survey women before treating them. Consequently how a woman appears to a man can determine how she will be treated." But things have changed a lot since 1972. Many women can buy their own plane tickets and pay their own rent. They can treat themselves. Why, then, do they persist in watching themselves through male eyes?"
Making public debate history
Why should the authorities have the right to shut up both Make Poverty History and the BNP? (Article from the British e-zine Spiked)
Q: What do the Make Poverty History campaign and the far-right British National Party have in common? A: Both were subject to official censure this week, for daring to express a political opinion.
Following the widespread broadcast, during the recent Live 8 jamboree, of celebrity-filled ads for Make Poverty History, UK media regulator Ofcom (the Office of Communications) has banned the campaign from any further advertising on TV and radio, on the grounds that it 'seeks to achieve important changes to the policies of the UK government and those of other Western governments'. And the Communications Act 2003 prohibits advertising 'by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature'. It's worth noting that the ban was prompted not by complaints from the public, but by nervous broadcasters approaching Ofcom for advice on whether they could show such ads.
Sadly, but entirely predictably, Make Poverty History protested against the ban, not by insisting upon its right to promote and elicit support for its views, but by denying that its aims or its ads were in any way political: 'This advertisement simply highlights the fact that a child dies every three seconds because of preventable poverty. The millions of people who are wearing a white band or taking action as part of this campaign do not see it as a narrow party political issue. They see it as the great moral issue of our time.'
It seems that Make Poverty History and its supporters subscribe to the general consensus that the worst thing anyone can be these days is explicitly political. In claiming that they represent 'the great moral issue of our time', those behind Make Poverty History seek to place themselves beyond political criticism.
This moral high ground is not available to this week's other victim of contemporary censoriousness, the widely reviled BNP. Little or no sympathy is likely to be expressed over the fact that the entire print run of the September issue of the BNP's newspaper, The Voice of Freedom, was impounded after arriving at Dover from abroad. The police seized the newspapers, after being alerted to their existence by customs officers, to check whether any public order offences had been committed. The newspapers are now to be handed back to the BNP, but sample copies will be retained by the authorities, who may still seek prosecution on the grounds that the content constitutes incitement to racial hatred.
You don't have to be sympathetic either to the bigoted rubbish put about by the BNP or to the moralistic rubbish put about by Make Poverty History, to be concerned by the official restrictions placed on these two very different institutions. When objectionable views can be suppressed on the grounds that they amount to 'incitement' (a dangerously nebulous legal category that fudges the distinction between speech and action), and when even the most popular campaigns can be suppressed because they are 'political' (even as those behind them seek to disassociate themselves from politics), then you have a depressing picture of the state of public debate today.
Public debate thrives on openness and confrontation. If groups such as the BNP harbour views that are moronic and objectionable, then let these views be published and expressed in the open - all the better to defeat and ridicule them. The current situation, where every pronouncement by a crank on the far right (or on the fringes of militant Islam, come to that) is scrutinised for 'evidence' of incitement, simply makes martyrs of those who deserve nothing more than our contempt. The BBC's 2004 undercover documentary The Secret Agent, which prompted the latest series of inquiries into the BNP's activities, did more to promote and inflate this fringe organisation than it could ever have done off its own bat.
Similarly, scrutinising advertisements and other broadcasting content for evidence of political opinion, and then treating such opinion as problematic wherever it is detected, lets the likes of Make Poverty History off the hook. Politics is treated with suspicion and cynicism these days, because it is unfashionable to be associated with self-interest or any form of vested interest. That's why Make Poverty History seeks to establish moralistic rather than 'narrow party political' credentials. But if politics is the process whereby we deliberate about the issues that face us and the future direction that society should take, then popular philanthropic endeavours deserve to be subjected to the same standard of rigorous criticism as does the BNP's bigotry.
The attempts to purge the media of political content - or rather to label political content and restrict it to its appointed slot, as though it were some sort of radioactive contaminant - help to create an ever blander public sphere, where mainstream political assumptions go unquestioned and alternative opinions struggle to make it out of the starting blocks. Ofcom has done much to promote this unhealthy combination of blandness and unaccountability, acting upon complaints about media content regardless of the number that it receives (one complaint can justify a ban), and issuing decisions that are unintentionally comical in their po-faced pedantry.
Earlier this year, for example, the BBC was rebuked by Ofcom for two consecutive editions of the children's programme Blue Peter, that between them allegedly managed to offend just about every political constituency in Northern Ireland. In one episode, a Blue Peter presenter apparently caused offence by referring to the fact that the Irish province of Ulster is represented by a red hand on its flag. Then the following week's episode caused further offence, by featuring a map of the British Isles - submitted by an eight-year-old - that was entirely covered by the Union Jack.
How did the BBC respond? According to Ofcom, 'the BBC said that Blue Peter had no political agenda and aimed to be fair and even-handed to every sector of the community', 'senior management in Children's BBC had since drawn the attention of the team to the need for greater care with such matters', and 'BBC Belfast's political editor had also briefed the team'. Ofcom was satisfied by this, declaring that 'in view of the action taken by the BBC, we consider the matter resolved' (8). Well that's all right then.
Only it isn't all right. If the BBC is compelled to apologise and take action for such bizarre overreactions to the minutiae of its children's programming, then one hesitates to contemplate the restrictions on adult political debate that exist today. Just about the only forceful opinion that is popularly entertained and encouraged in today's media - not least by the BBC - is a generalised cynicism about politics, and a general hostility towards politicians. This cynicism is routinely mistaken for robust political debate; in fact it is corrosive of political debate.
As I have argued previously on spiked, restrictions on free speech have evolved from old-fashioned censorship of specific ideas considered beyond the pale, to a broader hostility towards confident and forceful opinion (see 'Communication ethics' and the new censorship). Since those in authority lack ambitious ideas, and feel increasingly isolated from the public, they are jittery about anything that might seize the public's imagination - to the extent that they unwittingly draw attention to and promote every crackpot who has the temerity to stand on a soapbox.
New powers of censorship, wielded through bodies such as Ofcom - and through laws such as those prohibiting incitement to racial or religious hatred - combine with popular cynicism towards politics to denigrate public debate. Instead of a situation where a popular campaign is banned from advertising on the grounds that it is political, and the campaigners respond to the ban by insisting that their campaign is no such thing, we should aspire to a world where all political opinions - from those of Make Poverty History to those of the BNP - can stand or fall on their own merit in the court of public opinion.
18 September, 2005
POLITICALLY CORRECT MADNESS AT FEMA
They've never heard of urgency, for a start
[On seeing the suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, a close friend of mine contacted his local FEMA office to offer his services as a volunteer. He was told to report the following morning for an Orientation Class. All volunteers, he was told, must complete this class before being sent into the disaster area. My friend kindly provided me with a copy of the class schedule. I have reproduced the first two pages of the schedule below.]
Week One: The Volunteer as Citizen
Day 1: Diversity Awareness
The area affected by Hurricane Katrina includes a diverse population of many ethnicities, national origins, immigrations statuses, and faith traditions. In carrying out relief work, it is important that our workers and volunteers exhibit proper sensitivity to relief recipients from all backgrounds. Volunteers will undergo appropriate training, including the "privilege walk," basic Spanish-language instruction, and brief study of passages from the Q'u'r'a'n, the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammachakkappavattana Sutra, and the collected speeches of Marcus Garvey.
Day 2: Harassment Awareness
Volunteers working with FEMA employees come under the scope of federal rules on sexual harassment, as set out in relevant EEOC guidelines. These guidelines will be reviewed and discussed. All volunteers must demonstrate full awareness of sexual harassment issues, both as they apply to other aid workers and volunteers, and as affecting aid recipients. Class events will include a taped lecture by Prof. Anita Hill, class staging of a one-act drama Tailhook Torment, and the ever-popular Packwood Pinata.
Day 3: Profiling Avoidance
Few behaviors give more offense, and few are as inimical to social harmony, as profiling. In our efforts to restore the social environment in the disaster area, we must strenuously avoid all appearance of profiling. All aid recipients must be dealt with on a basis of strict equality. In this workshop, attendees will study and discuss police profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike, airport security screening procedures, and the maligh effects of stereotyping on academic performance. This day's session also includes a one-hour written test to screen volunteers for Islamophobia.
Day 4: GLBTQA Awareness
Our country has a dark record of oppression and discrimination towards orientational minorities. Because of this, we need to show particular sensitivity towards aid recipients from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, questioning, and asexual minorities. This day's session will involve group case studies led by qualified, credentialed GLBTQA-awareness trainers, including HIV-positive persons. Rubber gloves, condoms, and dental dams will be supplied.
Day 5: Liability Awareness
While the federal government and its agencies are exempt from most liability issues, volunteers who are not federal employees need to be aware of their susceptibility to lawsuits alleging nuisance, negligence, trespass, etc. Experienced courtroom professionals will address the class, and there will be a case study: "Punishing Good Deeds - The Good Samaritan as Defendant."
Week Two: The Volunteer as Custodian of the Environment
Day 1: Diversity in Nature - Protecting Endangered Species.
When conducting disaster-relief operations, we must bear in mind that the environment exists not only for humans, but for our friends in the animal and vegetable kingdoms. Wetland species are especially vulnerable.
(From National Review)
ARNIE BOWS DOWN TO THE FAT WARRIORS
It's just killjoy stuff in fact. They allow milk, which is at least as fattening
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation today to ban carbonated soda in state high schools as part of an effort to stem teenage obesity. "California is facing an obesity epidemic," said Schwarzenegger, a former Mr Olympia and longtime health advocate. "Today, we are taking some first steps in creating a healthy future for California."
He signed the legislation at the start of a daylong summit on health and obesity in the California capital Sacramento. He said that one out of three children in California, the nation's most populous state, was obese. "Obesity-related health problems cost us $US28 billion ($A36.79 billion) a year," Schwarzenegger said. "We are going to terminate obesity in California once and for all."
The new law allows milk, drinks with at least 50 per cent fruit or vegetable juice and drinking water without sweetener. It would be phased in from 2007 and take full effect in 2009. The ban, already in existence in California's elementary schools, will cost school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income.
17 September, 2005
A SAD LEGACY OF FEMINISM
An “epidemic of middle-aged pregnancy” threatens the health of mothers and babies as a growing number of women delay having children to pursue their careers. An editorial today in the British Medical Journal gives warning of the risks run by women who wait until their mid-thirties before trying for children. It refers to the growing number of cases of age-related fertility problems and other health complications. The authors, all obstetricians and gynaecologists, said that the “have it all” generation of women who go for careers first, then try for children, were defying the natural progression of their biological clocks. They said that many seemed unaware that they could miss out on motherhood altogether.
It is widely accepted that the best time for having a baby is between the ages of 20 and 35, with fertility problems increasing after 35, and dramatically so for women over 40. Once a woman in this age group is pregnant, the outcomes for mother and child are worse.
According to the Office for National Statistics, over-35s now have the fastest-growing birthrates. Women having babies in their 40s have nearly doubled in ten years. The number in their 30s is up by two thirds and now outstrips those in their 20s. High-profile examples of late motherhood include Madonna, who had her last child at 42, Liz Hurley (36), the actress Emma Thompson (40) and Cherie Blair, who gave birth to Leo in 2000 at the age of 45.
Susan Bewley, a consultant obstetrician in maternal-foetal medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, said that many career women appeared unaware that they were gambling with their ability to reproduce. Dr Bewley said that she and her colleagues were witnessing the problems of the growing number of middle-aged pregnancies first-hand. “Delaying having children is like Russian roulette,” Dr Bewley told The Times. “If you win you feel clever, but if you don’t you will regret it.”
She said that other factors, such as increasing life expectancy, less rigid attitudes to retirement and longer spent in education were giving people the false impression that everything in life could be delayed. “The problem is that women who want to be mothers are now drifting out of the normal physiological range. As the population as a whole drifts, we must stop and examine the repercussions.” Dr Bewley and her fellow authors, Melanie Davies, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at University College Hospital, London, and Professor Peter Braude, head of women’s health at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ School of Medicine, write of the many age-related problems that can hinder conception and cause ill-health for mother and child. “Most pregnancies in women older than 35 have good outcomes, but small shifts in population distribution curves affect large numbers of women. Obstetricians and gynaecologists have seen dramatic changes in two decades alongside this demographic transformation and are witnesses to the resultant tragedies.”
Problems cited include infertility, higher rates of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies, foetal and chromosomal abnormalities and the increased likelihood of a premature birth, stillbirth or neonatal death. There is also a greater risk of pregnancy diseases such as pre-eclampsia, which causes abnormally high blood pressure, during the second half of pregnancy, posing dangers to both mother and child. “If you delay having children for ten years, that is ten more years to collect up medical disorders and diagnoses, such as high blood pressure or rheumatoid arthritis,” Dr Bewley said.
The authors suggest that factors at birth, such as low birthweight, could trigger later health problems for a baby, such as diabetes. Delaying also affects partners and children of older men have an increased risk of schizophrenia and genetic disorders. The authors call on doctors to help women to achieve “biologically optimal childbearing” and question why public health agencies target teenagers but ignore the issue of later pregnancies.
THE SELF-CONTRADICTORY NATURE OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
It adds up to "I am allowed to coerce but you are not"
One reason dizzy liberals hate and fear principled freedom advocates so much is that we individualists often render value judgments -- and when the Liberal Mentality hears someone render a value judgment with which the "liberal" disagrees, the liberal wants to pretend that the value judgment is "invalid" because "there are never any absolutes" (a statement which, if true, is self-contradictory and therefore false). So, when a rational individualist renders a value judgement that a liberal doesn't like, the liberal often tries to attack ALL value judgements as invalid rather than dealing with the specific issue at hand -- and sometimes even accuses the principled individualist of wanting to "legislate morality" or somehow forcibly impose his moral judgement on him!
For example, if the rational individualist claims that using heroin and cocaine can be addictive and is bad for one's health, the liberal relativist reacts very defensively and with barely suppressed guilt symptoms, perhaps even petulantly stamping his or her foot in indignation and screeching something like "What right do you have to impose your moral judgements on me or other people! I have a right to do what I want!"
Notice that the rational individualist has in no way used force, either personal or political, to impose his views on the "liberal" or anyone else -- nor has he advocated using the force of political legislation to impose his observations about private personal behavior or anyone; but, the "liberal" -- almost always intellectually dishonest to the core -- wants to try to get away with portraying those who express moral sentiments as somehow threatening to impose their morality on others.
What the "liberal" really feels threatened by is not legislation but the idea that the morality of human behavior might not be arbitrary and subjective but based on rational principles and on absolute standards which if ignored could affect his life and happiness.
(Of course this same liberal sees nothing wrong or hypocritical with him using Big Government to impose his notions of morality on other people -- from compulsory school attendance laws, forced bussing of school children, anti-discrimination laws, Affirmative Action, compulsory seat belts, FDA restrictions on what vitamins you can take, laws against "quack" cancer cures, compulsory Social Security taxes, restrictions on using one's own land, antitrust laws, income taxes, price controls, and many other coercive interventions against peoples' freedom to engage in capitalist acts among consenting adults.)
16 September, 2005
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE RULED INVALID ON SPURIOUS GROUNDS
"A federal judge in California Wednesday ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional.
The case was brought by two families represented by Michael Newdow, an atheist whose case before the U.S. Supreme Court was thrown out because it was brought on his daughter's behalf and he did not have custody of her.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton said the words "under God" violate the right of school children to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God." According to the Associated Press, Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of Newdow in 2002.
Conservatives were quick to condemn the ruling. "Today's ruling by a federal judge who sits in the 9th Circuit is yet another assault on American principles. The Founding Fathers believed that our Creator gave us certain inalienable rights," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
"The Pledge of Allegiance simply reinforces the beliefs that led to the birth of our great nation. It is an oath of our fidelity to our country, and I am disappointed that the court chose to rule against this American treasure," Hastert added.
"This is an extraordinary and blatant display of judicial activism. Judge Lawrence Karlton relied on the activist ruling of the Ninth Circuit which was rendered inoperable by the Supreme Court's ruling on this issue last year," said Kay Daly, president of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, in a statement.
"He claims it was precedent, but as an experienced judge, he knows better. Clearly, this is a ruling by a judge who is obviously an activist who legislates from the bench to enact his own agenda," added Daly".
UTTER FEMINIST NONSENSE
I feel sorry for any son this b**** might have or have had. I myself helped raise a stepson and he himself will readily testify to the beneficial influence I had on him. He and I are still close even though he is now a young married businessman
Peggy Drexler's new book Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men contends that father-absent homes-particularly "single mother by choice" and lesbian homes-are the best environments for boys. Drexler recently told Good Morning America that boys do just fine without dads, and her "maverick moms" always seem to have a better way of handling their sons than dad would. While Raising Boys may seem like a harmless, feel-good affirmation for these mothers, it could have a damaging impact on children by affecting both the choices women make and family law.
Drexler contends that sons from fatherless families "grow up emotionally stronger," "have a wider range of interests and friendships," and "appear more at ease in situations of conflict" than boys from "traditional" (i.e., father-present) households. Her research, however, is flawed.
For one, the families she studied were those who volunteered to have their lives intimately examined over a multi-year period--a self-selected sample not representative of the average fatherless family.
Also, Drexler's research suffers from confirmatory bias. Drexler is a passionate advocate for single and lesbian mothers. She personally conducted interviews of several dozen single and lesbian mothers and their sons in order to examine their family lives and-no surprise-found them to her liking. But while Raising Boys praises father-absent households for instilling in boys many intangible, difficult-to-measure qualities, objective measures of child well-being belie Drexler's rose-colored image of fatherless families.
The rates of the four major youth pathologies-juvenile crime, teen pregnancy, teen drug abuse, and school dropouts--are tightly correlated with fatherlessness, often more so than with any other socioeconomic factor. While Drexler waxes poetic about fatherless parenting, she makes little attempt to explain why it results in bad outcomes for so many kids.
Counterposed to the fathers she says boys don't need, Drexler holds up a wide collection of males-"grandfathers, godfathers, uncles, family friends, coaches"--who, she assures us, can "provide figures for horsing around, mentoring," etc. for the boys of female-headed households. She enthuses that these boys enjoy "more male figures in their lives than boys from traditional families."
But more does not mean better, and a group of men with little stake in a boy's life are a poor substitute for a father's love and devotion to his children. Certainly many fatherless boys grow up to become fine men, but the best way for a boy to learn how to become a good husband and father is to watch his father do it. And it is telling that the first benefit Drexler cites that male figures can provide for boys is someone for "horsing around."
Raising Boys does provide encouragement for mothers whose ex-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. Drexler's call for respect for lesbian parents is commendable. And of course there are many single and lesbian mothers who can and do effectively raise boys, just as there are many "traditional" couples who can't. But children raised by a mother and a father fare much better, on average, than children raised by single mothers. As comedian Chris Rock famously noted, yes, certainly women can raise children without men, but that doesn't make it a good idea. Drexler encourages women to choose to have fatherless children, a choice which is clearly not in children's best interests.
Raising Boys also has serious implications for family law. The most damaging part of divorce for children is the way some custodial parents-usually the mother-cut the noncustodial parent out of their children's lives. While this is at times done out of legitimate concern for the children's well-being, too often it is brought about by anger or shortsightedness. Visitation is often interfered with, kept to a minimum, or denied altogether, and some divorcing mothers relocate not out of necessity but instead to remove fathers from their children's lives.
As evidenced by last year's California Supreme Court ruling in the LaMusga relocation case, family law is moving towards a greater respect for and protection of the loving bonds children of divorce share with their fathers. Drexler cites Raising Boys' potential impact on child custody cases, and her flawed research could become the underpinnings of a new trend towards pushing fathers away from their children. That's the last thing our boys (or girls) need.
15 September, 2005
BIG HOMES INCORRECT
There are 9 bedrooms in my house so I must be the Devil incarnate!
Property rights are in trouble just about everywhere. The latest trend hits an economic right Americans have traditionally taken for granted: the right to build or buy the biggest home you can afford. The L.A. City Council recently approved, on an 11-0 vote, an "anti-mansionization" ordinance prohibiting smaller homes from being torn down and replaced by larger houses in the Sunland-Tujunga area. The ordinance limits houses on 8,000-square-foot lots or less to 2,400 square feet or 40 percent of the lot size, whichever is greater. Burbank and Glendale have similar laws, and other San Fernando Valley communities such as Valley Village and Valley Glen are lobbying for such restrictions.
This all begs the question: If "activist" neighbors, politicians, and bureaucrats can place restrictions on what you can do with your property, do you really own your property? According to anti-mansionization proponents such as Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who made the motion for the ordinance, "Homes are being built larger than is necessary."
But who is Ms. Greuel to judge how large someone's home may be or what is best for the homeowner? Different people have different wants and needs, and they should be free to pursue their happiness as they see fit, provided they do not violate the rights of others in the process. No third party — government official or not — has the capacity to determine what is right for everyone else, much less dictate how everyone else must use their private property.Next, you will have to trade in your Hummer for a Mini Cooper because a nosy neighbor or heavy-handed bureaucrat thinks your vehicle is "larger than necessary."
Anti-mansionists also argue that by limiting how large one can build his own house on his own land they are, as Greuel said, "preserving the unique character of the community." But homeowners do not own all of the homes in a community. They only control the one they live in. What? You don't remember the old lady down the street with all the cats signing the deed to your house? Too bad. According to anti-mansionization activists, she has just as much right to decide what you do with your property as you do.
There is no basis on which to believe that the "character" of a community should remain unchanged in perpetuity. Housing demands are not the same as they were in the 1970s or the 1950s. Community make-ups often change drastically over time. Why should communities be rigidly "preserved" as though they were stuck in time?
This is not to say that a group of homeowners who each choose to establish and maintain a certain community character should not be free to do so. Indeed, many people join homeowners associations for just this reason. These groups may self-regulate the size, shape, and color of homes, as well as numerous other things, in order to preserve a certain community look and feel. Those not bound by such voluntary restrictions, however, should not be forced, through the power of government, to comport with the whims of an overzealous politician, bureaucrat, or neighbor.
Large-house supply is merely meeting large-house demand. The increase in housing size is a long-term trend. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the average house size more than doubled from 1950 to 1999. As interest rates rise, savings levels approach zero, personal debt skyrockets, and adjustable and interest-only home loans continue to flourish, the inevitable bursting of the housing bubble in California markets may reverse this trend, however.
At the heart of the debate is whether we should embrace individual rights or "community rights." Councilman Greig Smith offered the chilling assertion that "while we have personal rights to property, we also have community rights to property."
The problem is that individual property rights and communal rights are mutually exclusive: either you have the right to control your property or political entity does. You do not really own something if you have to put anything you do with it up to a public vote. If everyone "owns" something, no one owns it.....
Ironically, unlike prolific garden gnomes, larger houses may even increase the value of surrounding homes because they are more desirable these days. This leads to higher resale values for homeowners and higher property tax revenues (which governments normally prefer) for local governments. It thus appears that local officials are shooting themselves in the foot by denying themselves funding for needed services in order to maintain a community's stagnant character. (Note: This should not be construed as an endorsement of property taxes, merely an observation of the consequences of restricting home size under the current tax system.)
A man's home is his castle, even if he decides to build it next door to you. Individuals should be less concerned with their neighbors' lack of respect for a perceived "community character" or their tacky lawn displays and more concerned with the way government is whittling away their fundamental property rights. Remember John Locke's natural rights of life, liberty, and property, upon which the Declaration of Independence was based? That shadow looming over you is not that of the large mansion your neighbor just built, it is the shadow of government enveloping your property rights.
HOW DISAPPOINTING FOR THE OBESITY WARRIORS!
A growing chorus of planners, health officials and others has said that spread-out suburbs discourage walking and might encourage obesity. But two Oregon State University researchers have concluded there is little connection between urban sprawl and the expanding waistlines of Americans.
Professors Andrew Plantinga and Stephanie Bernell say people who are overweight and sedentary tend to gravitate toward neighborhoods with fewer opportunities for walking because it's not something they care about. "We found very little evidence that it was the physical environment causing obesity," Plantinga said. "Rather, it seemed to be more about how people choose the types of neighborhoods to live in."
The study by Plantinga, a professor of agriculture and resource economics, and Bernell, who works in the OSU department of public health, looked at the relationship between urban sprawl and neighborhood choice based on weight, measured as body mass index or BMI. It was published in the Journal of Regional Science.
The researchers found that fit people choose to live in neighborhoods that allow them to walk to work or shop and fat people pick places where they need a car. The study was adjusted to eliminate differences due to income and other factors. Plantinga said the studies don't mean mixed-use development is a bad idea. Reducing sprawl has other benefits, such as reduced traffic and fuel use, he said. "I think there are lots of really good reasons why you might want to pursue smart growth policies," Plantinga said. "But I think that we have to be careful in thinking that smart growth can deliver health benefits, as people have been suggesting. The public health benefits may in fact be very limited."
14 September, 2005
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS KILLS
Post lifted from The American Thinker
The most deadly threat faced by the United States is not killer hurricanes. It is not even the jihadists who want to harm us with the best weapons petrodollars can buy. Our worst threat comes from within, as is nearly always the case when a nation or a person accumulates extraordinary wealth and power, and is therefore able to practice folly on the grandest scale.
Michael Barone has some astonishing facts in his current US News & World Report column:
--- "A team of Indiana firefighters, volunteering to help rescue victims of Katrina, went to Atlanta, where Federal Emergency Management Agency staffers told them that their job was to hand out fliers and that their first task was to attend a multi-hour course on sexual harassment and equal employment opportunity."
--- " This is, astoundingly, standard operating procedure at FEMA. And in other parts of the federal government."
--- "Former CIA agent Robert Baer writes in his recent book how in Central Asia he asked headquarters to send someone who spoke Afghan languages, and Langley offered to send a four-member sexual harassment team instead."
Sexual harassment has now turned into a ball and chain for our military, our police, and even for the rescuers in New Orleans. Looney-tunes Political Correctness is not the only culprit in the Hurricane Katrina response, but it looks like one of the biggest.
It's been killing us for years. PC made 9/11 possible. I'm sorry, but it's true. Political Correctness made it a venal sin to raise the alarm when Mohammed Atta was identified as the likely leader of a murderous Al Qaeda cell in 1999, two years before 9/11. This was six years after the 1993 attempt to blow up the Twin Towers the first time around.
PC erected Jamie Gorelick's infamous legal Wall between the FBI, CIA and DOD, so that Mohammed Atta, identified by the Able Danger group, had to be erased from the record. You see, he was in the country legally, and the Department of Defense is not supposed to engage in domestic law enforcement. It was PC that blinded us to the hijackers who killed 3,000 innocent people four years ago.
PC kept CNN from showing the death jumpers from the burning Twin Towers, for fear of enraging the American people and making them feel angry at Muslims. But just a few days ago, Political Correctness made in necessary for CNN to get a court order allowing it to televise the bloated bodies of the children and elderly African Americans who drowned in New Orleans. To teach the American people a lesson, in living color.
PC made Hazel O'Leary prohibit color-coded security badges at the Energy Department during the Clinton years, because NOBODY should ever have a better color badge than anybody else. The Energy Department is in charge of our nuclear weapons labs, like Los Alamos, where security became a bad joke when PC took over. Hazel O'Leary should have become a laughing stock, but she is probably thriving somewhere, spreading the virus.
While the Energy Department couldn't protect our nuclear secrets because of PC, Political Correctness made it just fine to sell national security secrets to China. After all, it would be racist to discriminate against China, and they deserve missiles that work just as well as American missiles.
PC made the Clinton Administration treat Osama Bin Laden with great regard for his civil rights. So in spite of multiple offers from the Sudan, the Clintonites could never decide what to do with Osama on a platter.
PC has kept the liberal media from telling the truth about all the ills that the Left has inflicted on us with for decades, from the lies about heterosexual AIDS thirty years ago to the breakdown of the Black family under the tender mercies of the welfare state.
The problem is that lies kill, and Politically Correct lies are practically tailor-made to kill. If the voters of New Orleans had not been lied to year after year, they would have demanded that money be spent on levees. It's not that they lacked the will to live. They were just the latest victims of Politically Correct lies --- by the media, by the educrats of a disastrous school system, and yes, by all the Mayor Nagins and all the Governor Blancos, all the Clintons and the Carters. All the folks who don't think that telling the truth matters a lot.
When people have been suckered long enough, they start to think the truth-tellers are out to kill them. A lot of Black people in this country are convinced that George Bush hates Black people, and that he somehow made those levees fail. Go ask Condi Rice about that.
Bush's disregard for PC might be the biggest reason why the Left hates him so ferociously. He just doesn't believe it. Neither do most of the American people.
Hurricane Katrina will not be the last great threat in the life of this country. If disaster comes knocking at your door, just forget Political Correctness. The life you save may be your own.
MORE ON MUSLIM OBJECTIONS TO HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE
I received the following email from a reader which makes a good point:
"A Holocaust Memorial need not exclude Muslims, they did after all participate in it. The Mufti of Jerusalem, the Handschar SS Division (A Bosnian Muslim SS unit), the Skanderberg SS Division (Kosovar Albanians), and the Kama SS Division (more Bosnians). The Mufti pressured countries into refusing to take Jewish refugees, as well as stopping the National Socialists sending Jews to Mandatory Palestine. The SS units carried out numerous atrocities against Yugoslavian Jews, and Serbs."
13 September, 2005
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL INCORRECT
Any mention of Jews seems to offend Muslims. How can recognizing the sufferings of the Jewish people offend anyone?
"Advisers appointed by Tony Blair after the London bombings are proposing to scrap the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day because it is regarded as offensive to Muslims. They want to replace it with a Genocide Day that would recognise the mass murder of Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia as well as people of other faiths.
The draft proposals have been prepared by committees appointed by Blair to tackle extremism. He has promised to respond to the plans, but the threat to the Holocaust Day has provoked a fierce backlash from the Jewish community.
Holocaust Day was established by Blair in 2001 after a sustained campaign by Jewish leaders to create a lasting memorial to the 6m victims of Hitler. It is marked each year on January 27.
The Queen is patron of the charity that organises the event and the Home Office pays £500,000 a year to fund it. The committees argue that the special status of Holocaust Memorial Day fuels extremists’ sense of alienation because it “excludes” Muslims. A member of one of the committees, made up of Muslims, said it gave the impression that “western lives have more value than non-western lives”. That perception needed to be changed. “One way of doing that is if the government were to sponsor a national Genocide Memorial Day. “The very name Holocaust Memorial Day sounds too exclusive to many young Muslims. It sends out the wrong signals: that the lives of one people are to be remembered more than others. It’s a grievance that extremists are able to exploit.” The recommendation, drawn up by four committees including those dealing with imams and mosques, and Islamaphobia and policing, has the backing of Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain. He said: “The message of the Holocaust was ‘never again’, and for that message to have practical effect on the world community it has to be inclusive. We can never have double standards in terms of human life. Muslims feel hurt and excluded that their lives are not equally valuable to those lives lost in the Holocaust time.”
Ibrahim Hewitt, chairman of the charity Interpal, said: “There are 500 Palestinian towns and villages that have been wiped out over the years. That’s pretty genocidal to me.”
The committees are also set to clash with Blair on his proposal to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, the radical Islamic group. Government sources say they will argue that a ban is unjustified because the group, which is proscribed in much of the Middle East, neither advocates nor perpetrates violence in the UK.
A Home Office spokesman said it would consider the proposals for a separate Genocide Day for all faiths but emphasised that it regarded the Holocaust as a “defining tragedy in European history”. Mike Whine, a director of the British Board of Deputies, said: “Of course we will oppose this move. The whole point is to remember the darkest day of modern history...."
[I wonder if the "inclusive" Muslim authorities mentioned above are envisaging recognition of the next worst genocide after the Jewish genocide? I wonder if they are envisaging official recognition of the Armenian genocide carried out by Turkish MUSLIMS between 1915 and 1918?]
HOW THE WHEEL TURNS: ARROGANT LEFTIST CRITICISM OF WORKING MOTHERS
It used to be conservatives who were dubious about working mothers but the lady described below is the wife of one of Australia's leading Leftist intellectuals and, surprise, surprise, she wants to dictate to others about how to raise their children....
"Is it just me, or is it very upsetting when wealthy, privileged women start telling other mums - especially poorer mums - how to raise their children? That's what Anne Manne has been doing this week. Manne is a mother of two grown daughters. She has written a book titled Motherhood: How Should We Care For Our Children? The publishers have described it as "humane" and "courageous" but the words "sanctimonious" and "hypocritical" fit just as well.
Cut back to its basics, Manne's book is an attack on working mothers. The curious thing is, Manne is herself a working mother. The difference, as she sees it, is that she never put her children into a creche, not even for a single day. Actually, she did try it once and it almost made her cry. Of course, Manne didn't need to put her daughters into a creche because - despite the fact that I'm sure she'd never see herself this way - she is a woman of privilege. Her husband, Robert Manne, is a professor of politics at LaTrobe University and a political commentator. He must easily be earning more than $100,000 a year, which puts him among the top wage-earners in Australia.
In her book, Manne says that when her first baby was born, her husband was on a year's leave from his job. She does not say that this put any particular financial strain on the family, so we'll assume that it did not. Manne's mother came up "from the country" to help, so Manne was able to go back to part-time work. As time passed, she decided she wanted more help with her children. First, she looked at daycare centres in her neighbourhood but none was suitable. Manne thought the staff were insensitive. Next, she tried family day care (where one mum looks after three or four children in her own home), but that was no good either. Manne didn't like the way the toddlers tumbled towards the door every time the bell rang, shouting: "Mummy!"
So, what next? Did Manne give up looking for care and shoulder the burden of raising her children? Not a bit of it. She got a nanny. She also kept working, at least part time, as a university lecturer and a writer.
Now, all these choices seem just fine to me. Manne is obviously a loving mother, and she has done what she believes to be the right thing by her children. What I don't understand is how she could have fallen into the trap of assuming that her choices will suit everybody else. With a smugness seen only in the middle classes, Manne presumes to tell other women how to raise their children.
In her book, she argues that women who don't do exactly as she did - use a nanny, work part time - may be harming their children. In particular, she takes aim at mums who use day care, saying such places are designed to provide care and not love. It could be argued that Manne's nanny provided care and not love to her daughters, too, but apparently that's OK.
Manne worries that we are heading toward a society where children will say their first words to a stranger rather than to their parents. But how real is that scenario. According to the most recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, very few parents of very young children use formal child care and most don't use it very often. The Child Care Study carried out in 2002 says that only 7 per cent of infants under the age of one are in day care, and most of those are there for only a few hours a week. Of all children who used any type of child care, 45 per cent used it for fewer than 10 hours per week. A further 27 per cent used it for 10 to 19 hours per week. The idea that Australian women are putting their children into creche for hours on end so they can pursue their careers is not backed by any statistical data. Or, as the ABS puts it: "The use of formal care by very young children is low [and] the majority of children used relatively small amounts of child care."
Still, Manne devotes several chapters of her book to research that supposedly shows that day care is detrimental to children. Quite a few experts would disagree. Last February, the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling in Canberra presented a report that said: "Quality child care has been shown to benefit both society and the child."
Ann Sanson, a developmental psychologist at the University of Melbourne, says the weight of evidence suggests that good-quality child care does not do any harm and can be of some benefit. She notes that people like to politicise the research, which is why I like to rely on my own observations. My children go to kindergarten in Sydney. There are 18 children in their class. Looking at them, I can't tell which ones went to day care or had nannies, or were reared by stay-at-home mums. "You'll never be able to do that," says Sanson. "There are too many variables."
The most obvious one is love. Women who love their children will generally do what they think is right but, to do so, they need choices".
Above article by Caroline Overington
12 September, 2005
PUNISH PARENTS, NOT CROOKS: AMAZING PRIORITIES OF THE BRITISH LEFTIST ELITE
The following news report (originally from the "Daily Mail") appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on Sept., 11, 2005. This would have to be just about a perfect example of where Leftist sympathies lie. Both crooks and Leftists think that there is no such thing as right and wrong (at least as it applies to them) so it should be no surprise that Leftists want to protect crooks and hurt ordinary people
Parents who smack their children should face time in jail, according to recommendations made by government advisers in the UK. They say mothers and fathers who are convicted for regularly smacking children at home in front of brothers or sisters should go to prison and be treated in the same way as those who attack or abuse children.
The recommendation comes from the Sentencing Advisory Panel, which two years ago said street muggers and thugs should not be jailed unless their assaults involved weapons or caused lasting damage to their victims.
The advice on smacking, in a report ordered by former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, is intended to form the basis for instructions to judges and magistrates next year,
INCORRECTNESS ABOUT SCOTLAND
Academics who challenge received wisdom are often given a tough time. Michael Fry's history of the Scottish Highlands has been greeted with a volley of insults, the most ludicrous comparing him with David Irving, a writer who denies that the Holocaust ever happened.
Mr Fry's offence is to have tackled what is generally regarded as one of the most shameful episodes of Scottish history-the Highland clearances. The accepted view is that in the early 19th century, hard-hearted, wealthy aristocrats brutally cleared their estates of tens of thousands of farming tenants to make way for (more profitable) sheep. Many of the evicted emigrated to America; the stayers eked out a miserable subsistence from fishing and small-holding on barren coastal strips.
Mr Fry does not deny that some brutalities did occur. But, he says, they were the exception rather than the rule, otherwise the Highland population could not have risen as it did from 337,000 in 1755 to more than 400,000 in 1841. This explosion, he argues, made traditional agriculture-which was marginal at best in much of the Highlands-quite uneconomic.
A few landowners responded with evictions. But many more spent huge sums trying to build an alternative economy. Mr Fry estimates that the Countess of Sutherland spent about 100m pounds($178m) in today's money shifting tenants to coastal towns with new industries such as fishing and mining. Only when these experiments failed did emigration (much of it paid for by landowners) increase, leading to a drop in population in the late 1800s.
At the beginning of Mr Fry's period the Highlands were virtually a different nation from the Lowlands of Scotland. Behind their impenetrable mountains, language, social structure and the whole way of life were distinct. Lowland Scots regarded Highlanders with distrust as dangerous and troublesome neighbours. Curiously though, and largely as a consequence of the influence of Sir Walter Scott, both Highlanders and Lowlanders "now regard themselves as members of one nation"...
Mr Fry's version of Scottish history has led Brian Wilson, a former Labour MP, to label him a "clearance-denier". The bad name given to landowners by Mr Wilson and others is partly why Scotland leans politically further left than the rest of Britain... in his challenge to the leftist consensus, Mr Fry is shaking the foundations of the newly devolved Scottish state. That, in some eyes, is a real crime.
More here. NOTE: I have previously posted some of Mr Fry's comments in his own defence here
11 September, 2005
SOME INCORRECT BIOLOGY
Some interesting new DNA research (below) traces changes in human brain evolution to quite recent times. Certain genes that regulate brain size appear to have become common at just about the same time when human social evolution made great advances -- the beginning of civilization for instance. So we now in fact have a genetic explanation for when civilization began. But instead of welcoming such exciting new information, lots of people are playing down the results. Why? One reason is that the genetic pattern that seems to be associated with the rise of civilization is much less common among blacks. I leave it to readers to connect the rest of the dots. Note however that there has long been evidence that larger brains go with higher intelligence and that the assertion that intelligence is not mainly genetic is contradicted by around a century of research on the subject
"The human brain may still be evolving. So suggests new research that tracked changes in two genes thought to help regulate brain growth, changes that appeared well after the rise of modern humans 200,000 years ago. That the defining feature of humans - our large brains - continued to evolve as recently as 5,800 years ago, and may be doing so today, promises to surprise the average person, if not biologists. "We, including scientists, have considered ourselves as sort of the pinnacle of evolution," noted lead researcher Bruce Lahn, a University of Chicago geneticist whose studies appear in Friday's edition of the journal Science. "There's a sense we as humans have kind of peaked," agreed Greg Wray, director of Duke University's Center for Evolutionary Genomics. "A different way to look at is it's almost impossible for evolution not to happen."
Still, the findings also are controversial, because it's far from clear what effect the genetic changes had or if they arose when Lahn's "molecular clock" suggests - at roughly the same time period as some cultural achievements, including written language and the development of cities.
Lahn and colleagues examined two genes, named microcephalin and ASPM, that are connected to brain size. If those genes don't work, babies are born with severely small brains, called microcephaly. Using DNA samples from ethnically diverse populations, they identified a collection of variations in each gene that occurred with unusually high frequency. In fact, the variations were so common they couldn't be accidental mutations but instead were probably due to natural selection, where genetic changes that are favorable to a species quickly gain a foothold and begin to spread, the researchers report.
Lahn offers an analogy: Medieval monks would copy manuscripts and each copy would inevitably contain errors - accidental mutations. Years later, a ruler declares one of those copies the definitive manuscript, and a rush is on to make many copies of that version - so whatever changes from the original are in this presumed important copy become widely disseminated. Scientists attempt to date genetic changes by tracing back to such spread, using a statistical model that assumes genes have a certain mutation rate over time.
For the microcephalin gene, the variation arose about 37,000 years ago, about the time period when art, music and tool-making were emerging, Lahn said. For ASPM, the variation arose about 5,800 years ago, roughly correlating with the development of written language, spread of agriculture and development of cities, he said. "The genetic evolution of humans in the very recent past might in some ways be linked to the cultural evolution," he said.
Other scientists urge great caution in interpreting the research. That the genetic changes have anything to do with brain size or intelligence "is totally unproven and potentially dangerous territory to get into with such sketchy data," stressed Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. Aside from not knowing what the gene variants actually do, no one knows how precise the model Lahn used to date them is, Collins added.
Lahn's own calculations acknowledge that the microcephalin variant could have arisen anywhere from 14,000 to 60,000 years ago, and that the uncertainty about the ASPM variant ranged from 500 to 14,000 years ago.
Those criticisms are particularly important, Collins said, because Lahn's testing did find geographic differences in populations harboring the gene variants today. They were less common in sub-Saharan African populations, for example. That does not mean one population is smarter than another, Lahn and other scientists stressed, noting that numerous other genes are key to brain development. "There's just no correlation," said Duke's Wray, calling education and other environmental factors more important for intelligence than DNA anyway."
Source. NOTE: Steve Sailer has a huge roundup on the subject that is much more scholarly than my few comments. His permalinks suck so look for the heading John Hawks on Lahn's genes
UNBELIEVABLE: NOW STRESS IS GOOD FOR YOU!
When will the food and lifestyle dictators admit that we don't know enough yet to even SUGGEST to people what they should do, let alone dictate to them? The basic truth that a thing can be bad for you in one way but good for you in another way is regularly ignored
Women who suffer high levels of daily stress may be less likely to develop breast cancer, Danish researchers said yesterday. The findings are based on a study conducted by the National Institute of Public Health, Copenhagen, which followed 6,500 women over an 18-year period.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers said the survey suggested that high stress could reduce the likelihood of breast cancer, but they warned that stress put women at risk of illnesses such as heart disease.
At the start of the study, the women were asked to describe their stress levels which were ranked as either low, medium or high. Stress-related symptoms such as tension, nervousness, anxiety and sleeplessness were taken into account. The study also recorded whether the women had children or had entered the menopause. It did not take family history of the disease into account. By the end, 251 women had been diagnosed with breast cancer and those who reported high stress levels were found to be 40 per cent less likely to develop the disease than women who suffer low stress.
Naja Rod Nielsen, who worked on the study, said that one explanation might be that sustained high stress may affect oestrogen levels, which may influence the development of breast cancer. Mr Nielsen said: "High endogenous concentrations of oestrogen are a known risk factor for breast cancer, and impairment of oestrogen synthesis induced by chronic stress may explain a lower incidence of breast cancer in women with high stress."
Dr Sarah Rawlings, head of policy at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said that it is always hard to measure the impact of stress on breast cancer risk. She said: "This study doesn't help us to draw further conclusions."
I have recently put up a few more political correctness postings on Tongue-Tied.
10 September, 2005
IS CHRISTMAS CATCHING ON AGAIN?
I noted recently that Australia's largest city, Sydney, is restoring its Christmas lights and decorations etc. It looks like Melbourne -- Australia's second largest city -- is following suit. And they seem to be going all-out. I wonder where all the "offended" Muslims and atheists have gone? I am an atheist myself but I love Christmas and all that goes with it
"Melbourne will put the baby Christ back into Christmas this year, with council planning to resurrect a nativity scene in the city after at least six years' absence. More than $200,000 will be spent on Christmas decorations this year, including a large diorama in the City Square depicting the story of Jesus' birth in a stable and a towering Christmas tree in St Paul's Court at Federation Square.
The council had been criticised by Christians in recent years for failing to display a nativity scene, which they described as pandering to political correctness. Lord Mayor John So told The Age yesterday that the council had worked closely with the city's churches to make this year's celebrations "special for everyone, including Christians".
Cr So, who grew up as a Catholic and attends church "on special occasions, like Christmas", said he had fond memories of singing in his church choir as a boy, and was looking forward to carols in the City Square this December. Last December the Catholic Youth Ministry called a choral protest outside Town Hall, including a live nativity scene, to embarrass the council for its oversight. But the 200-strong protest was defused when Cr So joined in the singing and vowed to work with the churches in the future.
Jo Grainger, a young Catholic who helped organise the protest, yesterday welcomed the council's plan for a nativity scene. "We're just really excited because for the first time in a long time the Melbourne City Council has acknowledged that the reason for the festive season is not shopping, it's the birth of Jesus Christ," Ms Grainger said. "People will be able to take their kids into the city on hot summer nights to see the Myer windows, and then be able to go to the city square to show them what Christmas is really about."
The City of Melbourne's Christmas plans will go before its business and marketing committee next Tuesday, where it is expected to be approved. New lights and decorations will also be placed around the city, and a range of free family events and activities will be announced in coming months".
WHAT A RIDICULOUS RESPONSE TO GIVING SOME YOUNG LADS A GOOD TIME
Her only crime was doing it for free. If she had been a prostitute she would have got off with a small fine. I hope she appeals the verdict
Former Hobart high school teacher Sarah Vercoe will serve at least two years in jail for sex crimes against five teenage students. Vercoe was jailed yesterday in the Supreme Court in Hobart after pleading guilty to 14 charges involving five boys aged between 14 and 16. Outside court her sentence was condemned as too lenient by parents of the boys and child sex abuse campaigners. Vercoe, 25, was composed and showed no emotion as Justice Shan Tennent jailed her for four years with a non-parole period of two years and suspended 18 months.
The charges related to a sexual relationship she developed with a 15-year-old boy from Rose Bay High School between December last year and January and sex acts with four boys from Rose Bay High School and Sorell High School during a night in April at her home....
The April incident happened after Vercoe agreed to give four boys a lift to a party following a basketball game at Dodges Ferry. During the drive she jokingly suggested an orgy at her home at Moonah. She took the boys to her home via McDonald's and a bottle shop and initiated sexual contact with each boy before taking them back to Dodges Ferry the next day.....
The court heard at the time of the crimes Vercoe felt she was professionally ostracised from her colleagues and that her marriage was collapsing.
AND IN A SIMILAR CASE ON THE SAME DAY ANOTHER WOMAN GOT ONLY SIX MONTHS IN JAIL
Former Melbourne physical education teacher Karen Louise Ellis has failed in her bid to appeal against her jail sentence for having sex with a teenage boy. The 37-year-old teacher pleaded guilty to six charges of sexual penetration with a child under 16 after having a six-and-a-half week affair with the Year 10 student in 2003.
Ellis was originally sentenced in the Victorian County Court to 22 months jail wholly suspended for three years. In May this year the Court of Appeal upheld an appeal by the DPP and resentenced her to two years and eight months' jail with six months to be served immediately and the remainder suspended.
Today, High Court justices Michael Kirby, Ken Hayne and Ian Callinan rejected her application to appeal the sentence imposed by the Court of Appeal. "It is unlikely that the Court of Appeal gave no consideration of the discretions available to the sentencing judge," Justice Kirby said. "We are not convinced that a miscarriage of justice occurred in this case."
9 September, 2005
CHOCOLATE NOW GOOD FOR YOU: ANOTHER EXAMPLE TO SHOW THAT FOOD CORRECTNESS IS ALL B.S.
It's all B.S. because what is supposedly good and bad for you keep swapping places. There is certainly no data to justify the sort of food dictatorship many schools want to enforce
A diet recommending you eat 100g of chocolate a day and drink red wine, which will add six years to your life - is this for real? Scientists in Australia and The Netherlands have come up with a diet they claim will cut a person's risk of heart disease by 78 per cent. And the good news is, you'll want to be on it.
The diet focuses on seven foods that have been proven to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. It involves daily consumption of 150ml of red wine, which has been found to cut heart disease risk by 32 per cent. Chocaholics line up, because you have to consume 100g of dark chocolate per day, an amount the scientists calculate will reduce blood pressure.
You have to eat four meals of fish each week (each 114g), which is said to reduce your heart disease risk by 14 per cent. The diet also includes a daily total of 400g of fruit and vegetables, also proven to cut blood pressure, and 68g of almonds to cut cholesterol. You also have to consume 2.7g of garlic per day to reduce your cholesterol levels.
In a paper published in the British Medical Journal, scientists claim that if all these foods are combined in a diet they will lower the risk of heart disease by 78 per cent. The research shows men who stuck to this diet would gain an extra .6 years of life and have an extra nine years free from heart disease. Women would gain an extra 4.8 years of life and have an extra eight years without heart disease.
The proponents, including Anna Peeters from Monash University, claim the only adverse effects from the diet would be body odour from the garlic and raised mercury levels if more than the recommended amount of fish was eaten each week. But they don't calculate whether it will help you lose weight. And they warn that extra alcohol above that prescribed by the diet could reduce the effectiveness of the diet. They say you can add extra ingredients to the diet to boost its effectiveness, including olive oil, soy beans, tomatoes, oat bran, cereals, nuts, tea and chickpeas.
HOORAY! ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR THE FOOD CORRECTNESS DICTATORS
Once again it's genes that make the difference
People who don't smoke, overeat or fail their blood cholesterol tests may be at just as great a risk for heart attacks as those who do, a San Francisco Bay Area biotechnology company is finding. Celera Diagnostics of Alameda, Calif., has uncovered four genetic variations that appear to boost the likelihood of a heart attack as much as those familiar risk factors. The company is working on a test to alert patients and their doctors to the hidden dangers. Celera's Genetic Risk Score may some day help doctors head off the heart attacks that now occur in many people who had no prior symptoms of coronary disease. The weapons could range from diet and exercise to drugs.
The problematic genetic differences were discovered through sweeping scans of DNA from people who'd had unexpected heart attacks. The scans were compared with DNA from control groups free of heart disease. The work is part of the growing enterprise of molecular diagnostics -- the use of gene or protein markers to predict disease risks. The research can have a double payoff. Troublesome variations can signal bad news about individual risk, but they can also point the way toward the development of medicines. Drugs could be designed to block the cellular processes of the risky genes. "This information might not only be useful in diagnostics, but it may also explain the underlying basis of disease," said Dr. Tom White, Celera Diagnostics' chief scientific officer.
At this point, physicians can get some inkling of a patient's inherited vulnerability to heart disease or other ailments by taking a family history. But since the sequencing of the human genome and the revolution in research automation that made it possible, drug and biotechnology companies have been trying to pinpoint those genetic factors in a way that can be tested objectively. They envision a future in which people who apparently have the same disease may receive widely varied treatments depending on the molecular mechanisms behind each individual's illness.
For some patients, that future is now. A molecular test can determine which breast cancer patients could benefit from Genentech Inc.'s drug Herceptin and which should receive other treatments because Herceptin will not help them.
8 September, 2005
I am still having a bit of fun with occasional postings on Tongue-Tied.
Outraged Europeans Take Dimmer View of Diversity
"It was less than genteel, not the kind of thing a Londoner liked to admit, but Matthew Pickard couldn't help himself when drawn into a discussion about the recent bombings on the city's transit system. There is an "undertow," he said, a feeling of resentment toward ethnic communities that had long been welcomed.
"My friends, who are all educated and professionals, they're saying, 'What gives those people the right to come up from other countries and set up homes and set up families and then start bombing and maiming people?' " the 33-year-old engineering consultant said. "They just don't move in and integrate with society. They move in and take over. I just think enough's enough."
Since the July 7 attacks that killed 52 commuters, an increasing number of Britons have become worried that their nation has been too tolerant of foreigners. Enticed by generous asylum laws, jobs, welfare benefits and a commitment to racial cohesion, millions of immigrants, many from nations once part of the British empire, have found a home here. But their presence is being challenged, especially in the case of people from Muslim cultures.
The frustration and anger in Britain resonate across a continent where deadly attacks in Spain and the Netherlands over the last 18 months have tested faith in multiculturalism. From Rome to Paris to Berlin, governments are rethinking the balance between civil rights and national security, proposing tighter immigration and asylum laws and drafting tougher measures against voices of hate.
Many Europeans' suspicion of Islam underscores deeper concerns about the failure to integrate ethnic communities that are now seen as spinning away from Western influence. Nations are confronting years of troubled immigration policies that critics say have produced false portraits of social harmony. Cities such as Amsterdam, for example, cast a veneer of tranquillity over smoldering ethnic tensions. Late last year, a Muslim radical with links to a terrorist cell fatally stabbed the Dutch director Theo van Gogh on a city bike path. The killer was apparently angered by a Van Gogh film that was critical of Islam.
The integration question is growing more complex. Many poor immigrant neighborhoods are crowded with the children and grandchildren of people who arrived half a century ago. These immigrants are full-fledged European citizens, holding passports, speaking the languages their parents never mastered and benefiting from generous welfare systems.
But many of them don't feel welcome. They have sought to define their identity with a defiant brand of globalized Islam, a disturbing dynamic that allows radicals to conceal their intentions in nations they are adept at navigating. Londoners were stunned that three of the four men accused of carrying out the July 7 bombings were born and raised in Britain.
Multiculturalism "was thought to be a source of strength, but it has proved to be a source of rebellion," said Mufti Abdul Kadir Barkatulla, senior imam of the North Finchley Mosque in North London, once a place of worship for suspects in the failed July 21 copycat attack on the transit system. "Diversity has its economic and cultural strengths. But it has proven, security-wise, it is vulnerable."
No major European country has found the perfect answer to the question of integration. Britain's liberal approach urged immigrants to blend in while keeping their distinctive cultural backgrounds. This improved relations but allowed radical clerics to flourish in ethnic neighborhoods. France preferred that its immigrants mute their lineages and adopt all things French, a policy that has contributed to the anger of legions of Muslim men living in slums outside Paris. Germany opened its borders to "guest workers," most of them Turks, beginning in the 1960s. But the nation didn't intend for them to stay, creating a cultural limbo in which Germans kept their distance even as the Muslims became citizens and severed ties to their native lands.
Suspicion has widened such divides. Many apprehensive Europeans are taking the view that certain factions of Islam, including radicals seeking a worldwide religious caliphate, are at odds with multiculturalism and the principles of Western democracy.
This was reflected in a Dutch intelligence report following the Van Gogh assassination. The report's less than politically correct tone reflected the larger Dutch sentiment that the state, which supports affirmative action and funds Muslim schools and Arabic-language TV stations, has been too soft for too long.
Puritanical Islamic groups "want Muslims in the West to reject Western values and standards, propagating extreme isolation from Western society and often intolerance towards other groups in society," said the December report of the AIVD intelligence service. "They also encourage these Muslims to [covertly] develop parallel structures in society and take the law into their own hands. What they mean is that Muslims in the West should turn their backs on the non-Islamic government and instead set up their own autonomous power structures based on specific interpretation of the Sharia," or Islamic law.
Many Muslim leaders, however, say Europe has a historical prejudice toward foreigners, especially its Islamic population, which has doubled over the last decade to as much as 15 million. They argue that multiculturalism sounds eloquent but lacks credibility on a continent imbued with nationalism and skeptical of all that is not Christian and white. Germany, for example, has 3 million Muslims in a population of 82 million, but only two of the 601 members of parliament are Muslim. In its capital, Berlin, unemployment among Turks runs at about 45%.
Burhan Kesici, a leader of the Islamic Federation in Berlin, recounted a recent experience during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to illuminate Europe's cultural divide. "We were attending a conference on European integration. We couldn't pray because we didn't want to interrupt the meeting," he said. "An imam I was with said to me: 'How can we Muslims integrate any more than we have already? We didn't pray when we should have prayed. We didn't eat right after sunset, and now we're in an Italian restaurant that serves alcohol.' "
Relations had seemed less distant between cultures in Britain, or at least London. Just days before the July 7 bombings, civic leaders had lauded the capital's "unique multiculturalism" as critical to the city's winning bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The selection was a recognition, said the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, "that our capital offers the best real-world answer that humanity has to the challenge of ethnic and religious diversity."
Many Muslims appeared to agree with the assessment. "The most important popular food now is curry, not fish and chips," said Ahmed J. Versi, editor of the London-based Muslim News. In 2004, "Mohammed" jumped more than 15 places on the list of Britain's most popular names for newborn boys, ranking behind Jack, Joshua, Thomas and James.
But by then questions about multiculturalism were being raised, including in the prominent liberal magazine Prospect, which published an essay titled "Too Diverse?" Some Muslim leaders were also worried about rising extremism among Britain's 1.6 million Muslims, with mosques echoing with fiery anti-Western rhetoric. Ten extremist clerics were arrested recently and targeted for deportation under Prime Minister Tony Blair's new anti-terrorism measures.
THE "GENDER GAP"
Nothing disturbs working women more than the statistics often mentioned on Labor Day showing that they are paid only 76 cents to men's dollar for the same work. If that were the whole story, it should disturb all of us; like many men, I have two daughters and a wife in the work force.
When I was on the board of the National Organization for Women in New York City, I blamed discrimination for that gap. Then I asked myself, "If an employer has to pay a man one dollar for the same work a woman would do for 76 cents, why would anyone hire a man?"
Perhaps, I thought, male bosses undervalue women. But I discovered that in 2000, women without bosses - who own their own businesses - earned only 49 percent of male business owners. Why? When the Rochester Institute of Technology surveyed business owners with M.B.A.'s from one top business school, they found that money was the primary motivator for only 29 percent of the women, versus 76 percent of the men. Women put a premium on autonomy, flexibility (25- to 35-hour weeks and proximity to home), fulfillment and safety.
After years of research, I discovered 25 differences in the work-life choices of men and women. All 25 lead to men earning more money, but to women having better lives. High pay, as it turns out, is about tradeoffs. Men's tradeoffs include working more hours (women work more around the home); taking more dangerous, dirtier and outdoor jobs (garbage collecting, construction, trucking); relocating and traveling; and training for technical jobs with less people contact (like engineering).
Is the pay gap, then, about the different choices of men and women? Not quite. It's about parents' choices. Women who have never been married and are childless earn 117 percent of their childless male counterparts. (This comparison controls for education, hours worked and age.) Their decisions are more like married men's, and never-married men's decisions are more like women's in general (careers in arts, no weekend work, etc.). Does this imply that mothers sacrifice careers? Not really. Surveys of men and women in their 20's find that both sexes (70 percent of men, and 63 percent of women) would sacrifice pay for more family time. The next generation's discussion will be about who gets to be the primary parent.
Don't women, though, earn less than men in the same job? Yes and no. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps together all medical doctors. Men are more likely to be surgeons (versus general practitioners) and work in private practice for hours that are longer and less predictable, and for more years. In brief, the same job is not the same. Are these women's choices? When I taught at a medical school, I saw that even my first-year female students eyed specialties with fewer and more predictable hours.
But don't female executives also make less than male executives? Yes. Discrimination? Let's look. The men are more frequently executives of national and international firms with more personnel and revenues, and responsible for bottom-line sales, marketing and finances, not human resources or public relations. They have more experience, relocate and travel overseas more, and so on.
Comparing men and women with the "same jobs," then, is to compare apples and oranges. However, when all 25 choices are the same, the great news for women is that then the women make more than the men. Is there discrimination against women? Yes, like the old boys' network. And sometimes discrimination against women becomes discrimination against men: in hazardous fields, women suffer fewer hazards. For example, more than 500 marines have died in the war in Iraq. All but two were men. In other fields, men are virtually excluded - try getting hired as a male dental hygienist, nursery school teacher, cocktail waiter.
There are 80 jobs in which women earn more than men - positions like financial analyst, speech-language pathologist, radiation therapist, library worker, biological technician, motion picture projectionist. Female sales engineers make 143 percent of their male counterparts; female statisticians earn 135 percent.
I want my daughters to know that people who work 44 hours a week make, on average, more than twice the pay of someone working 34 hours a week. And that pharmacists now earn almost as much as doctors. But only by abandoning our focus on discrimination against women can we discover these opportunities for women.
7 September, 2005
FEMINISM: A PERSONAL ANECDOTE
As someone who has been married and divorced four times, I think it might reasonably be said that my appreciation of the female sex verges on insanity. So although I am critical of much in feminism, it does not at all mean that I am particularly critical of women. Feminists probably never did speak for a majority of women and posts such as this one confirm that they certainly do not do so now. Today's post on Dissecting Leftism, however, puts me on the wrong side of feminists so I think I might as well venture a bit more incorrectness. I want to tell a little story that does I think sum up my attitude to both women and feminism.
Some years ago, back in the dim Dark Ages when the internet was only in its infancy, I had a hobby business buying and selling old games computers -- Amiga 500s and Atari STs in particular. To this day I still have the special screwdriver you need to take Amigas apart and fix them. For some reason, quite a few of the computers offered for sale secondhand were owned by women. So when I answered an advertisement by someone who had such a computer for sale, a woman often answered. It took me no time at all however, to find out that in such cases ownership did not equal understanding. So I soon got into the habit of asking for the owner of the computer that was for sale if a woman answered the phone. Very often the woman answering would say brightly: "It's my computer, so I can help you". Not wanting to waste time, I would then ask: "Does it have an EGA or a VGA monitor?" To which the INVARIABLE reply was: "Just a minute. I'll get my husband".
I would not of course have dared to ask a man such a dumb question as he would have replied: "Don't be ridiculous. They all have RGB monitors". (For Atari buffs: Yes. I know all about the ST Mono monitor. I have one).
So that sums up to me a basic male/female difference: A normal woman can deal with technical matters if she has a set of standard answers drilled into her but she is at a loss if she encounters something that is outside her set of standard answers and requires real understanding of the matters concerned. It almost always takes a man to really enjoy and thus really understand technical matters. And that is a conclusion from someone who is demonstrably NOT a misogynist. Both men and women have strengths and weaknesses but the strengths and weaknesses of the two sexes differ. And anybbody who says otherwise is not in the reality-based community.
But there are of course exceptions to every rule. The computer language I program in is FORTRAN -- very definitely a boffin's language -- designed particularly for mathematical applications and now used almost exclusively in universities. And the person who taught me FORTRAN back in my student days was a woman! Her name was Gail. And when I praised Gail to a female student who also knew her, the reply was: "Yes. But you wouldn't call her clothes exactly a ball of fashion, would you?" And that, I think, tells its own story too.
AN INCORRECT AUSTRALIAN ESCAPES OFFICIAL PENALTIES
Great to see the importance of free speech acknowledged
Broadcaster John Laws [a bit like Australia's version of Rush Limbaugh] has been cleared of breaking broadcasting codes of practice by calling an openly gay television personality a "pillow biter".
But the Australian Media and Communications Authority (AMCA) found today Mr Laws' radio station 2UE in Sydney had committed a breach by not responding to complaints about the comment quickly enough.
On November 3, 2004, Mr Laws on his morning show described Carson Kressley, the star of US reality show Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, as a "pillow biter" and a "pompous little pansy prig".
In its judgement, the AMCA found that while the comments were offensive and tasteless, the licensee of 2UE did not breach clause 1.3(e) of the Commercial Radio Australia Codes of Practice. It said the comments were "unlikely to have incited or perpetuated hatred against or vilified any person or homosexual identifying people as a group, on the basis of their sexual preference". But the AMCA also found 2UE did breach the codes by not responding to the complaints within the 30 days stipulated in the codes.
"In arriving at its decision, AMCA acknowledged the sensitivity that the gay community may have to matters such as that broadcast," the judgement said. "However, ACMA also recognised that it was important for community views on such issues to be aired."
2UE has apologised for the breach and "it has reminded staff of the importance of ensuring that responses to listener complaints are dispatched promptly", the judgement said. "ACMA considers that these actions address the compliance issues raised by the investigation and will continue to monitor the licensee's compliance with this requirement," the judgement said.
Gay rights activist Gary Burns has filed another complaint with the NSW Administrative Decision Tribunal (ADT) about the comments.
FOOD CORRECTNESS: HOW OFTEN HAVE I SAID THAT WHAT IS BAD FOR YOU TODAY WILL BE GOOD FOR YOU IN TEN YEAR'S TIME?
Sometimes it doesn't even take ten years. And it is a "preservative" that is good for you! How awful!
Hot dogs to the rescue: "Could the salt that preserves hot dogs also preserve your health? Scientists at the National Institutes of Health think so. They've begun infusing sodium nitrite into volunteers in hopes that it could prove a cheap but potent treatment for sickle cell anemia, heart attacks, brain aneurysms, even an illness that suffocates babies. Those ailments have something in common: They hinge on problems with low oxygen, problems the government's research suggests nitrite can ease. Beyond repairing the reputation of this often maligned meat preservative, the work promises to rewrite scientific dogma about how blood flows, and how the body tries to protect itself when that flow is blocked. Indeed, nitrite seems to guard tissues — in the heart, the lungs, the brain — against cellular death when they become starved of oxygen".
The article goes on to say that hot dogs are still "artery-clogging" but in another 10 years time we will probably have a "Hey Presto" on that one too
6 September, 2005
SYDNEY TO BRING BACK CHRISTMAS
Let's hope Australia is not the only country where this happens
Christianity will play a more prominent role in this year's City of Sydney Christmas decorations. Lord Mayor Clover Moore has announced details of the decorations, with emphasis on a Christian message. Last year Ms Moore came under heavy criticism for Sydney's decorations and her comment that the city had more than 200 nationalities, not all Christian. But this year she is spending more than $1.5 million on Christmas cheer. "Christmas in Sydney should have an Australian theme and a Christian message," Ms Moore said. "It is a spiritual and religious festival and the real importance of the season is generating peace and goodwill and caring about everyone in our community."
There will be Christmas trees in Martin Place, and new trees in Pitt Street Mall, St Mary's Cathedral forecourt and beside St Andrew's Cathedral at Sydney Square. Banners will be hung throughout the city and new decorations will be put in Pitt Street Mall, on the Sydney Town Hall and Customs House.
The towering brickpit chimneys at Sydney Park at St Peters will be decorated and fairy lights will be strung in trees in city parks. A series of free family concerts will be held. "We have discussed Christmas based entertainment with St Mary's and St Andrew's cathedrals, to take place in St Mary's forecourt and Sydney Square respectively," Ms Moore said.
In the spirit of giving, Meals on Wheels hampers and Christmas lunches for the disadvantaged have been included in the celebrations. "David Jones is discussing with us its annual Christmas concert in Hyde Park and its storefront windows," Ms Moore said. "We are in discussion with Westfield about sponsorship of Christmas projections in Martin Place and investigating options with Myer."
Better decorations would be put in parts of southern Sydney, which reflected the City's growth since its amalgamation with South Sydney Council, Ms Moore said.
THREE INTERESTING EMAILS FROM READERS ABOUT AMERICA'S NORTH/SOUTH WAR
As I have mentioned before, I received a HEAP of comments on my observations about America's North/South war. Below are just three that I personally found particularly interesting. I am of course aware that all three touch on matters that are NOT universally agreed.
I was raised and lived all my life in the North, and I'd always been led to believe the Civil War had been fought over slavery. Then, in 1993, I moved to Texas where I learned a different view.
The primary point of contention was over states' rights and the ratio of power, if you will, between state and federal governments. It was the South's opinion that the majority of power should be retained by the states, with only a small federal government while the North preferred it the other way around. While slavery was, indeed, on the table, what was really being fought over was the right of individual states to decide for themselves whether or not to permit slavery within its borders. I only wish more people were able to learn our history from both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
As for the nearly Pavlovian response to blacks regarding the Confederate flag, the Stars and Bars, this can be blamed largely on the press. When Martin Luther King was leading civil rights protests back in the 1960s, people who didn't actually experience them cannot possibly comprehend the horrible inequities of society, particularly in the South. Since they're documented elsewhere, I won't go into them here.
The problem began when the KKK and their sympathizers started carrying on like the inbred polydactyl morons they are. While we have never had any official governmental censoring of what may or may not be said on the air (profanity excepted), it didn't take the TV and radio networks as well as newspapers to nut out that this type of dreck didn't belong in public media.
That put a chip on certain people's shoulders. People like Jesse Jackson found they could make a very comfortable living for themselves by acting as "black leaders" and ever since have seen to it that blacks are brainwashed to believe they're still being oppressed. It is virtually impossible to gainsay any of these jerks without automatically being labeled as a racist. In fact, I believe it was Jackson who said that it's not possible for blacks to be racists. Only whites were capable of that.
The latest bit of PC idiocy crammed down America's throat is that any mention at all of the Confederacy or the display of any of its icons is a hate crime, and the mainstream media go along with it, lest they be numbered among the racists.
There's one more interesting aspect to the whole thing. Even though the War Between the States ended 140 years ago, many folks haven't yet come to deal with it (sort of like the Democrats losing the last two presidential elections), and consider themselves Texans or Georgians or whatever first and Americans second. During the seven years I lived in the Dallas area, I was always regarded as the "f***in' Yankee". Of course, it didn't help any when I reminded my detractors that, to the rest of the world, they were also considered "Yanks". I was once forced to apologize for an imagined insult I had made (I stated an incorrect component had been installed in two consecutive radios, which is a fact and not an opinion). I told them "If I've said anything at which you take offense, I am sorry". However, this wasn't enough. They weren't satisfied until I replaced "you" with a long, drawn-out "y'all".
My introduction to Australia was a book called "They're a Weird Mob". Perhaps the same can be said about Americans. We really are a weird mob.
The old history books told the story more or less correctly. The highly industrialized North demanded that the South remain agricultural and buy their finished goods from the giant industrial power. It was essentially a repeat of the England versus colony situation all over again. The South had legitimate gripes over this and so decided to separate. Giant monopolies existed in the North that were often ruining producers in other regions at the same time. The South did not even have arms manufacturing and so had to get guns from France (sound familiar - as in Iraq?). The North, specifically Connecticut and one town in Massachusetts, made all the firearms for the whole country.
Economic factors were the strongest effectors of all. Water powered mills all over New England were rapidly becoming obsolete as steam took over. This enabled building factories far closer to consumers and avoiding weeks or months of boat shipment costs and delays. Connecticut was also famous for often cheating people. Our nickname, the Nutmeg State, came from a habit certain people had of making imitation nutmegs out of wood and selling them to unsuspecting people everywhere.
At the time of the Civil War, Connecticut had no forests. All usable land was either farming, pastures, or factories, cities, and roads. Western Massachusetts was and still is undeveloped land, it having no streams at all. Goods made in much of Connecticut had to be moved by wagons to rivers and then by barges to ocean ports. It was a mess - and expensive.
Slavery would have ended soon anyway. Whitney's famous cotton gin was rapidly replacing hand cleaning of cotton balls, virtually eliminating this last and most labor intensive step in producing cotton for thread to use in mills.
Among the famous company towns of Connecticut were Collinsville, Manchester, and others. these towns were as bad as the old English factory towns and later coal mining factory towns of northern Ireland. Their remains still decay slowly as the years pass.
So it was largely a desire for major improvements in local economies that caused the split and the rebellion. Most of the guns used by the North came from the Springfield Armory in Springfield, Massachusetts. This was one of only two Army armories in the whole country and was the most innovative, sad to say. Oddly enough, Connecticut was also home for many who opposed slavery and formed part of the underground 'railroad' that aided escaping slaves. Hartford was home to Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, authoress of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Frankly, the South was dependent on free labor just to make a profit from its agriculture until mechanization arrived with the gasoline engine. Steam was used to power some very large tractors and other machines but just wasn't practical for most chores, the units being far too heavy to be useful on wet land or on small plantings. The real revolution began in the 1900s and has left Connecticut a wasteland of mostly empty towns full of decaying old factory buildings, a testament to the stupidity of those who just wanted the world to stay the same.
As am American who grew up in the South I am proud of my heritage. Several of my ancestors fought in the War of Northern Aggression and I am proud of their sacrifice. It bothers me however to hear them maligned as brutal sadists fighting to keep their slaves, when the were bravely standing for States Rights. I am ashamed that my country has been bullied by the NAACP into teaching our school children that the war was about slavery.
It is the same vein of thought that will not allow a discussion of the brutality of the Indians to captured whites, but goes in depth to expose any excesses by settlers. This land may have been theirs, but with all the resources they had at their disposal they still didn't get past the Stone Age. So quite frankly I don't pity them. Life is tough, and only the strong survive. Just look at what is going on in New Orleans. The only people who are not going crazy down there are a group of Vietnamese. Now why is that? Maybe they were raised to respect authority?
NOTE: I am going to cease posting here anything more about the North/South war after this as I want this blog to concentrate mainly on present-day issues
5 September, 2005
I originally had up on Tongue-Tied a post about the situation in New Orleans that was a bit out-of-range for that blog. You can however now find an updated version of the same post on Dissecting Leftism
FAILURES OF FEMINISM
Under the heading "Victims of feminism's tinpot tyranny", the article below by Amanda Platell appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on Sept 4th., 2005
Of all the social battles of the last century - against poverty, class, racism - the battle of the sexes began with the best of intentions, yet ended with so many casualties on both sides it is difficult to see who the victors were.
One of the largest surveys into what academics call "life satisfaction" (what we mortals call "happiness") has concluded that many defining principles of the feminist manifesto brought sadness, not salvation, to millions of women. Far from liberating women, says the survey, the feminist movement has created its own sexual tyranny. And, ironically, women are the victims.
The research, by Dr Silvia Yezzini for the London School of Economics, examined the effects on women over two decades of four key tenets of the feminist movement: the introduction of the contraceptive pill, legalised abortion, liberal divorce laws and enhanced rights for women in the workplace. These were seen as a way to liberate women, give them control over their own bodies, ensure them equal rights in marriage, and secure a package of benefits at work. The research spanned 23 years in 12 European countries, tracking the "life satisfaction" of 450,000 women from 1975 to 1998.
Dr Pezzini's work paints a different picture to the high-flying designer-clad superwoman, juggling a fabulous career with an exciting marriage and gorgeous children. The pill and legalised abortion did give women social and sexual freedoms. But now children as young as 14 are on the pill, forced into sexual relationships they neither want nor understand.
We may feel in control of our bodies and we are certainly more sexually experienced, but more marriages break up now than ever before and the rate among cohabiting couples is even higher. And what about those young girls on the threshold of puberty who are coerced into having casual sex and who pay the price for their naive promiscuity with sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamvdia that can rob them of the chance of being a mother? Some liberation! This is not to say for one moment I want a return to the time when women were forced into desperate marriages because of the shame of pregnancy out of wedlock. The question is whether it has made us happy.
Dr Pezzini's research into the improvements for women in the workplace makes particularly interesting reading. "There is no life-satisfaction improvement for women in enhanced maternity rights, she says. "Instead of making women more satisfied, it has the reverse effect, as the longer the maternity leave, the less employable the woman becomes." Dr. Pezzini says maternity rights are now so onerous on businesses that employers are increasingly reluctant to take on any women of child-bearing age. Where's the liberation in that?
Even when it comes to marriage, Dr Pezzini concludes that more liberal divorce laws have certainly not made women any happier. "There is a marked decline in women's happiness from the moment easier divorces became legal," she says. "The no-fault, mutual divorces have not brought women the happiness one might have expected. "That is because, love aside, marriage is ultimately a contract between two people for mutually beneficial financial, child-rearing and support arrangements." Easy divorce changes all that, she says. In other words, quickie divorces make only for quickie marriages.
Is this really what we fought for: the right to ruin our personal lives? For what we feminists lost sight of, in our march on the barricades of prejudice, was that we never listened to the mothers who wanted to stay at home. We treated them as second-class citizens and invited society to sneer at them and their narrow horizons. Yet now it turns out that they understood a fundamental truth that escaped us a11: that to create a home, you have to spend time in it. That to enjoy your family, you have to spend time with it.
All I am advocating is an honest appraisal, not just of how far we have come, but also what we've left behind. None of us would wish a return to the days when divorce was a disgrace, nor a bad marriage a shackle for life, but we must be aware of the consequences of the changes we have wrought.
Women's liberation was driven by the most terrible inequalities. It was a social necessity but, as with all social experiments, no one could have fully foreseen the consequences. Now it is time to recognise them: Time for a bit of balance. We started off burning our bras. Maybe now we should burn our pride, admit our mistakes and try to end this tin-pot tyranny in which the greatest victims are ourselves.
IS BEER THE LAST REFUGE OF POLITICAL INCORRECTNESS?
Beer Fox Guide to Politically Incorrect Beer Titles (Excerpts):
Venom – DuClaw Brewing Company, Abingdon, Maryland, USA –American Style Pale Ale - Brilliant topaz lights dance within the glass beneath white rings of head and delicate lacing. This aggressively hopped potion is infused with the citrus, pine and floral flavors of Cascade and Columbus hops, while a muscle of malt balances the saddle.
Epidurale – Goose Island, Chicago, Illinois, USA – American Barleywine – The passion of a ruby reflects in this deep red elixir with minimal head. Rich caramel sweetness is accented with flavors of black currants, honey, orange peel and citrus in a sherry-like complexity, while the hypnotic pleasures of alcohol drift lazily around your head.
Insanity – Weyerbacher Brewing Company, Easton, Pennsylvania, USA – American Barleywine – Misty copper orange with thin, off-white head fills the nose with bourboned-oak, sweet vanilla, cherries and caramel. The tongue experiences a flavor explosion between the sweetness of cherry, accented with candied citrus peel and bourbon, and the bitter profile of grapefruit. Superb!
Slobberknocker – Capitol City Brewing Company, Downtown D.C. and Capitol Hill, District of Columbia, USA – American Barleywine – Your eyes are greeted by a nearly opaque burnt sienna body with a head of delicate eggshell that quickly dissipates to a scant ring with a web of light lacing. Pineapple and mandarin orange marmalade are enmeshed in cedar, toffee and grapefruit, with a peppery bite of alcohol and hops. Aggressive…sinful…passionate!
Opium – Coniston Brewing Company Ltd., Coniston, Cumbria, UK – English Bitter – Warm brown amber with a misty haze hails you with spicy, light hops and clean, biscuity malt. A generous basket of dried fruit seems to greet your taste buds, while chewy malts fill your mouth with unending pleasure.
Aphrodesiale – Brick House Brewing, Patchogue, New York, USA – American Pale Ale – The hazy, amber glow of a soft sunset over the ocean, topped with cask-like carbonation and white head, is the immediate eye-candy that sucks you into submission to this APA. Doughy malts of fresh-baked bread light up with a delicate wafting of alcohol.
Kwak – Brouwerij Bosteels, Buggenhout, Belgium – Belgian Strong Pale Ale – Deep ruby amber with whispers of brown around the edges and a tight creamy head puts on a display of elegance for the sense of sight. Complexity of sweet nuts and candied sugar, dressed with fruit, draws you into its caressing arms with a powerful, warming effect.
Kiltlifter – Pumphouse Brewery, Longmont, Colorado, USA – Scottish Ale – Deep amber glows from within the glass, topped by an ample white head that dissipates to a thin ring. Caramel and fruit slide past your tongue like liquid satin, leaving you in an aura of mild alcohol afterglow.
Bare Ass Blonde – DuClaw Brewing Company, Abingdon, Maryland, USA – American Blonde Ale – Light highlights of gold flicker beneath a thin white head. Light fruit blends with a straw-like maltiness, feathered with light touches of hops. Crisp and clean profile makes this a highly drinkable potion.
Ex Wife Bitter Blonde – Freeport Brewing Company, Freeport, Maine, USA – American Blonde Ale – Spectacular strawberry blonde color with a ½” layer of ocean foam. A sweet, malty nose greets you with hints of lemony citrus. Fresh bread touches the tongue, while succulent lemon and sour apricots clean the palate.
4 September, 2005
BRITAIN: BOOKS BECOMING INCORRECT
"Today more than 1.1 billion pounds is spent on libraries, but less than 10 per cent of this is spent on books. Employment costs now account for nearly two thirds of total expenditure, and the number of people employed in libraries has increased since 1995 by some 10 per cent.
Over the past 10 years, the number of books available for reference or lending has declined by 10 per cent. This decline in the quality of the book stock has had a predictable effect on the use of libraries. Lending is pretty much in free fall. If current trends continue, libraries will have no books to lend well before the middle of this century.
If libraries were any normal business, the panic button would have been pressed many years ago. If lapsed library users are asked for their views, market researchers MORI tell us they blame poor book stocks, the shabbiness of library premises, and the fact that libraries are open only at inconvenient times.
Yet it seems that cultural officials aren't that interested in books nowadays. 'Books are not everything, and book-borrowing indicators should not be used as the prime measure of how libraries contribute to local and national priorities', says Professor Mark Hepworth in his foreword to Price Waterhouse Cooper's report 'Libraries Impact Project'. Not much room for misunderstanding here: libraries are no longer just about books, they are not even mainly about books, and the performance of public libraries in the way they deal with books should not be the main way we judge their contribution to society.
Today, according to the library establishment, public libraries must deliver on a new social agenda. Libraries are called on to make contributions to the public health agenda, to the agenda for the elderly, to transforming the local environment, to creating safer and stronger communities, and to raising standards in schools. These are extremely valuable agendas, which need addressing - but not necessarily by public libraries. One might better argue that libraries can only fulfil their social obligations if they are delivering adequately on the book-based services for which they were founded.
At the same time as many librarians seem to give up on their book-based responsibilities, there are pressures on local authorities to deliver more services from fewer resources. One increasingly popular strategy is to redefine the library service and develop it as a kind of one-stop shop in the high street for council services, including a job centre, crŠche, coffee shop, and other services. These buildings can be safely rebranded as a Discovery Centre, an Idea Store, or a Cultural Centre - some meaningless synthetic label which can over time come to mean anything.
Lyn Brown from the Local Government Association argued that 'libraries are not any more just a depository of books; they have become village halls'. The Audit Commission and others responsible for setting library standards adopt a similar position. 'The fact that libraries may now be spending a much lower proportion of their total budgets on books than in the past is not necessarily a cause of concern', the commission says.
Once libraries were known as the 'universities of the street corner'. Today libraries have lost any prospect of being universities. They have sunk to the level of the urbanised village hall, where drama groups, crŠches, karaoke and slimming clubs are in the ascendant and the book is destined for the skip.
For the last couple of years, Libri, the charity for which I am a spokesman, has been campaigning to reverse the decline in public libraries with some common-sense thinking. Let's start with having libraries open when most library users can use them - ie, after work and at weekends. Today, there are just 64 libraries in the UK that are open more than 60 hours per week, which amounts to just eight-and-a-half hours a day. It would be great to have libraries where the stock of books is up-to-date, and reflected the needs and wants of the local library user.
Libri's reports have raised the public profile of the decline of libraries, but so far little concrete action has resulted. Book budgets continue to be cut. Opening hours increase painfully slowly. Book lending continues to decline. Premises continue to be shabby, unwelcoming, dispiriting places. All that is necessary for public libraries to continue their rapid slide to extinction is that library users do nothing".
AN "INCORRECT" VIEW OF AMERICA'S HISTORY IS MORE WIDESPREAD THAN YOU MIGHT THINK
During my stint as guest-blogger on Tongue-Tied, I put up a post that strayed far into politically incorrect territory as far as Leftists are concerned -- a post about the ultimately unsuccessful struggle of America's South to gain its independence from the North. I said that as far as I could see from where I sit in Australia, the war was about a lot more than slavery. What rather surprised me was the reaction. I got a HEAP of emails that agreed with me and only one that disagreed. I therefore repeat below what I originally wrote plus a follow-up comment:
Confederate Memories Expose Sham Tolerance
Leftists never cease to preach the wonders of tolerance and diversity. But it is all a sham. They want uniformity, not diversity. Just listen to how much tolerance was extended to the diversity shown in the household described below:
""Mizzerable", in Texas, invited two African-Americans over for a dinner party. "On a tour of my home, I thought nothing of taking them to my study/library upstairs. Along with many other things, I have displayed on my wall three flags - the U.S. flag, the Texas flag and the Confederate flag. My medic friend gasped and asked why I had a rebel flag. I replied that it was a part of my heritage and I was proud of that. The pained look on her face reminded me of someone who had been fatally wounded. To her credit, she let me explain that I had two Confederate officers (in my family) who had died fighting for what they believed in. "I don't believe that the reason for the Civil War was primarily slavery. I have researched my genealogy and can find no evidence they had slaves of any race. Never mind all that - my friend was offended and said she guessed she didn't really know me at all. I was deeply wounded, but did my best to understand. They left in a huff"
I am not criticizing the particular blacks above who got offended. They were just reacting the way their liberal mentors have encouraged them to react -- seeing "racism" under every bush (or Bush!). But if their liberal mentors had REALLY been teaching tolerance, such a huge historical issue as the North/South war would have been the first issue they would have turned to as an area in which to preach that tolerance, understanding and forgiveness should be practiced and old antagonisms buried or forgiven.
And forgive an ignorant Australian if I have got it all wrong but when I read the original documents (e.g. here), it seems to me that while slavery was an undoubted element in the North/South dispute, Lincoln always stressed that the war was fought to save "the Union". And slaves are not mentioned once in the Gettysburg address. Whether we think half a million dead Americans were a worthwhile price to pay for preserving and extending the power of the U.S. Federal government is an issue for Americans, not for me. I would however think that the view that the price was too high might at least be treated with respect, rather than intolerance.
In thinking about that price it may be worth reflecting that Australia managed to free its slaves (convicts) and create a lasting Federation without a drop of blood being shed. Two of my ancestors were among the convicts concerned. So my ancestors came to my country chained up in the holds of sailing ships. Hey! Where are my reparations?
I feel I should mention that I received a HEAP of emails about my comments on America's North/South war. My comment was that from my perch in faraway Australia, it looked to me like the war was about power, not slaves. Cynical old me!
Only one of the emails I received disagreed with me. The rest were supportive and some were -- Ahem! -- decidedly robust -- suggesting that Lincoln differed from Hitler only in that Lincoln was the bigger hypocrite etc., etc. A lot of people really gagged on that "malice towards none" in the Second Inaugural address. So I feel that I should post here at least one of the emails I received. The one below seems short and sharp and to the point:
"Actually, "The War for Southern Independence" was started when the Southern Territories seceded from the Union over unfair taxation policies. Slavery was not really brought into play until Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves ONLY in the Southern regions he no longer had legal control over. This was done to gain the support of blacks both free and enslaved. Lincoln was the first President to never have owned slaves, only because his family was too poor, but he was openly segregationist. If you look into the history, not the basic BS taught in public schools, the Northern states received almost all of the slave ships. Also compare the dates that the Northern States abolished slavery".
I stress that I am NO expert on American history and you could fill a whole library with books that have been written about the war so I acknowledge that any generalization about it is bound to have its problems. I do however note that EVERY other country in the world (as far as I know) freed its slaves WITHOUT a war. So that suggests to me that the American war was about a lot more than slaves.
What I think that truly sensitive people (as distinct from pseudo-sensitive Leftists) might do well always to be aware of, however, is the depth of feeling that the war still evokes among many Southerners. And that feeling is not going to go away soon. Go to Yorkshire in England and ask the typical Yorkshireman what he thinks of Lancastrians. You will get an earful. And THAT goes back to the Wars of the Roses, which ended around 500 years ago. It almost helps you to understand the Irish! (And I have got a lot of Irish in me -- of which I am proud -- so I can say that!).
3 September, 2005
Post lifted from Mark Richardson
I thought I'd share this one with you since it gave me a good laugh. In left-liberal Sweden they actually have an "Equality Minister". He has come under fire, though, because the unit he set up to implement gender equality in employment has only three men in a staff of 28. Not unreasonably he was asked by journalists "how he expected to bring equality to society if he couldn't even bring it to his own equality unit."
His excuse was that not enough competent men were coming forward to fill the positions. Which ought to have led him to consider the fact that men and women differ in their natures and will not be interested in doing exactly the same things. Which is why understanding "equality" to mean an equal number of men and women in all fields is such a grossly ill-conceived piece of social engineering.
Frankly, I'm relieved that few Swedish men want to work as state bureaucrats enforcing gender sameness on society.
A GOOD COMMENT ON POLITICAL CORRECTNESS FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH "THEODORE DALRYMPLE"
Q: You make the shrewd observation of how political correctness engenders evil because of “the violence that it does to people’s souls by forcing them to say or imply what they do not believe, but must not question.” Can you talk about this a bit?
Dalrymple: Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.
Female Chauvinist sows again: "The oldest battered women's shelter in New England, established in 1975, is setting precedent and making many feminists nervous in the process. Transition House not only launched a 'gender-neutral' search for a new executive director but also appointed a man as its interim director. Transition House explains that it simply wants to hire the best person for the job, and interviewing men doubles the chance of success. Feminists of my ilk, who judge individuals on merit rather than gender, are applauding. (Admittedly, a muttered 'it's about time!' may also be heard.) Feminists who believe that gender must be a deciding factor in who addresses domestic violence and how it should be addressed, are appalled. They view the very prospect of hiring a male director as violating the 'mission' of the shelter movement: to assist battered women and children.In short, the 'women-only feminists' believe males should be precluded from major employment and entry at shelters. Indeed, women's shelters often deny entry to male children over 12-years-old."
2 September, 2005
I am again putting up below my posts for today on Tongue-Tied -- in case that site goes down again today.
Team names: It Gets Worse
As we all know by now, for reasons best known to themselves, the NCAA have forbidden college sporting teams from using American Indian names for themselves. "We cannot go on honouring those disgusting Indians can we?" is my guess about their real thinking. The NCAA have however cried "uncle" in at least one case, where the Seminole Indians made clear that they were happy to have a team named after them. But the assault on any name that sounds too rough, tough or masculine continues. We know that the Batavia "Bulldogs" have been told they were too rough and tough but now note this excerpt about "The Spurs":
"I wonder why no one has publicly objected to the name we have given to our wonderful NBA championship basketball team. The one and only purpose of spurs is to inflict pain on a horse to make the horse start quicker or run faster. Spurs are also used to inflict pain on rodeo animals to make the broncos and steers buck more violently. Also, the sharply pointed rowels, as depicted in the Spurs logo, are prohibited under the rules and regulations of both horse racing and professional rodeo".
I think the busybodies are not going to be happy until all teams are called things like "The Pansies", "The Gladioli", "The Hollyhocks", "The Daisies" etc. But "The Roses" would probably be too thorny, however. New Zealand have a famous sporting team named "The All Blacks". I wonder how long that will last? Perhaps they will have to be renamed "The Slightly Dark".
Airforce Forbidden to Mention Religion
The excerpt below tells the story. The attack on the faith that made America continues:
"The Air Force issued new religion guidelines to its commanders yesterday that caution against promoting any particular faith - or even "the idea of religion over nonreligion" - in official communications or functions like meetings, sports events and ceremonies. The guidelines discourage public prayers at official Air Force events or meetings other than worship services, one of the most contentious issues for many commanders. But they allow for "a brief nonsectarian prayer" at special ceremonies like those honoring promotions, or in "extraordinary circumstances" like "mass casualties, preparation for imminent combat and natural disasters."
When will Americans rise up and reject this intolerance of their historic culture?
The Utter Failure of Political Correctness
This survey from England must be causing weeping and wailing and garnishing of teeth (Yes. I know it's "gnashing") in feminist and teaching circles. I suspect all the propaganda that kids get shoved down their throat these days has backfired. Excerpt:
"The survey of almost 1000 girls aged between 15 and 19, conducted by a mobile entertainment company, TheLab, found that many young women's favoured role models were men's magazine models, with C-list celebrities Abi Titmuss and Jordan ranking higher in the hero worship stakes than author J. K. Rowling, The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, and feminist Germaine Greer. Almost half the respondents listed Titmuss as a role model, while 9 per cent chose Rowling and only 4 per cent Greer. Offered a selection of occupations, 63 per cent said they would rather be a men's magazine model than a doctor, teacher or nurse. The second most popular choice was "lap dancer", at 25 per cent, with teachers trailing at 3 per cent".
I love it!
Report Cards that no Longer Mean Anything
This report is from New Zealand but it could be from lots of places. Schools now often try not to tell parents how well their kids are doing at school because it will hurt the self-esteem of those who don't do well, or some such. So end of year report cards tell parents that every kid is "satisfactory" or some such. That lazy kids need their self-esteem hurt a bit is not admitted. It has got to the point where parents have no idea what a report card means any more. But the conservatives in New Zealand have had enough. They are pledging to bring back report cards that mean something. Excerpt:
"National Party Leader Don Brash today announced that National will introduce 'Plain English Reporting' in schools so that parents know how well their children are doing in the classroom and can get help if necessary. ''Parents have the right to know if their child is reading, writing and using numbers at the expected standard or if they are falling behind. But too often they are served up with politically correct reports that give them no clear idea of their child's progress," says Dr Brash.
POLITICALLY CORRECT CUISINE
Have pity on all those innocent vegetables
We meat eaters are under attack from a number of quarters these days- vegetarian activist groups decrying our cruelty, doctors warning of health effects and burying us in an avalanche of numbers- cholesterol scores, obesity statistics, arterial plaque alerts. One of the most vociferous of the vegetarian groups is the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Here is an excerpt from their website, 'Fight for Their Rights.
Animals deserve rights, regardless of how they taste or how convenient it is to experiment on them. Like humans, animals are capable of suffering and have an interest in leading their own lives. They are not ours to use for food, clothing, experimentation, or entertainment.' But if you think that's off the wall, check out this quote from the Militant Vegetarian website, 'Join the ranks of the new underground joining forces to end world hunger by violently opposing the fascist tyranny of the meat eating population. No longer must the non meat eating sit by non violently watching the meat eating savages continue to cover the planet in a deepening layer of cow waste. 'The time of the new world order is at hand, as our leaders have told us, and we may now violently take our place as masters of the planet, while meat eaters inbreed themselves out of existence in an orgy of disease, grease and insects.'
Don't these people realize that, every day across America, tens of millions of innocent tomatoes are slashed to pieces simply to satisfy their voracious vegetarian appetites? Countless billions of blameless bean sprouts, who never had the opportunity to twine their tender tendrils to the sun, will literally be eaten alive. Guiltless green beans, potatoes, and carrots- perfectly capable of reproducing new, viable offspring- are plunged headlong into boiling water, extinguishing any hopes for their future generations. Harmless eggplants are being eviscerated and baked in ovens at high temperatures. ... I can't go on.
Because of these epicurean outrages, it has become necessary to establish the Vegetable Rights Organization (VRO). Our logo will be a tomato cringing under the shadow of a knife with a circle with a line through it. Our pledge is to continue to consume large quantities of T-bones and prime rib in order to leave little room in our bellies for veggies. Barbequed pork, smothered in sauce will become the mainstay of our diets, thus sparing as many hapless vegetables as possible. Hot dogs, sausages, meatballs, the possibilities are endless.
Of course, some certain grains and fruits, which are used in the production of beer, wine, or other spirits, will necessarily have to be excluded from VRO protection. And the watermelon will have to be reclassified as an animal by Congressional legislation. We must unite now if we can ever hope to save our little green buddies before these gluttonous vegans strip this planet bare and brown. Help stop the senseless slaughter. Join the VRO today!
Thomas Sowell: Immigration reform on list of politically correct taboos
Immigration has joined the long list of subjects on which it is taboo to talk sense in plain English. At the heart of much con fusion about immigration is the notion that we "need" immigrants — legal or illegal — to do work that Americans won't do. What we "need" depends on what it costs and what we are willing to pay. If I were a billionaire, I might "need" my own private jet. But I can remember a time when my family didn't even "need" electricity.
Leaving prices out of the picture is probably the source of more fallacies in economics than any other single misconception. At current wages for low-level jobs and current levels of welfare, there are indeed many jobs that Americans will not take. The fact that immigrants — and especially illegal immigrants — will take those jobs is the very reason the wage levels will not rise enough to attract Americans. This is not rocket science. It is elementary supply and demand. Yet we continue to hear about the "need" for immigrants to do jobs that Americans will not do — even though these are all jobs that Ameri cans have done for generations before mass illegal immigration became a way of life.
There is more to this issue than economics. The same mindless substitution of rhetoric for thinking that prevails on economic issues also prevails on other aspects of immigration. Bombings in London, Madrid and the 9/11 terrorist attacks here are all part of the high price being paid today for decades of importing human time bombs from the Arab world. That in turn has been the fruit of an unwillingness to filter out people according to the countries they come from. That squeamishness is still with us today, as shown by all the hand wringing about "profiling" Middle Eastern airline passengers. No doubt most Middle Eastern airline passengers are not carrying any weapons or any bombs — and wouldn't be, even if there were no airport security to go through. But it is also true that most of the time you will not be harmed by playing Russian roulette.
Europeans and Americans have for decades been playing Russian roulette with their loose immigration policies. The intelligentsia have told us that it would be wrong, and even racist, to set limits based on where the immigrants come from. There are thousands of Americans who might still be alive if we had banned immigration from Saudi Arabia — and perhaps that might be more important than the rhetoric of the intelligentsia.
In that rhetoric, all differences between peoples are magically transformed into mere "stereotypes" and "perceptions." This blithely ignores hard data showing, for example, that people who come here from some countries are 10 times more likely to go on welfare as people from some other countries. The media and the intelligentsia love to say that most immigrants, from whatever group, are good people. But what "most" people from a given country are like is irrelevant. If 85 percent of Group A are fine people and 95 percent of Group B are fine people, that means you are going to be importing three times as many undesirables when you let in people from Group A.
Citizen-of-the-world types are resistant to the idea of tightening our borders, and especially resistant to the idea of making a distinction between people from different countries. But the real problem is not their self-righteous fetishes but the fact that they have intimidated so many other people into silence. In the current climate of political correctness it is taboo even to mention facts that go against the rosy picture of immigrants — for example, the fact that Russia and Nigeria are always listed among the most corrupt countries on Earth, and that Russian and Nigerian immigrants in the United States have already established patterns of crime well known to law enforcement but kept from the public by the mainstream media.
Self-preservation used to be called the first law of nature. But today self-preservation has been superseded by a need to preserve the prevailing rhetoric and visions. Immigration is just one of the things we can no longer discuss rationally as a result
1 September, 2005
I am again putting up below my posts for today on Tongue-Tied -- in case that site goes down again today.
Incorrect to Mention Allergies
In Britain, Barclay's is one of the biggest banks. But they still goofed by "offending" allergy sufferers in one of their TV advertisements. Here is the story (the Brits refer to TV as "the telly"):
"A Barclay's commercial showing a man suffering a bee sting reaction was banned by telly watchdogs yesterday. Nearly 300 people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the bank ad. It showed the victim fall into a lake then get arrested by cops. But the ASA ruled it was offensive to allergy sufferers. Barclays apologised, saying the ad was meant to be "light hearted".
The only defect I can see above is a defect in a lot of people's sense of humor
"Honky-Tonk" and "Lesbian" Incorrect
Sometimes it's not even people who censor us these days. It's a machine. And the machine can be even dumber than people. (Excerpt):
"City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher's e-mail account is overrun these days with offers for cheap Viagra and low-interest loans - and he couldn't be happier. Less than a month ago, a program used by the city of Colorado Springs was blocking those seemingly pointless e-mails. But it also stopped messages about honky-tonk music shows and the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado - because "honky" and "lesbian" came up as offensive words. Heimlicher complained in June about not being able to read constituent mail that might include such words. Councilwoman Margaret Radford also complained this month, and two weeks ago the information technology division dropped the filter on Heimlicher's mail.
Bizarre British Speech Code
A British school head thinks that swearing at teachers is OK -- as long as you don't do too much of it. And look at the fearsome penalty if they DO do too much of it (Excerpt):
"A secondary school is to allow pupils to swear at teachers - as long as they don't do so more than five times in a lesson. A running tally of how many times the f-word has been used will be kept on the board. If a class goes over the limit, they will be 'spoken' to at the end of the lesson. The astonishing policy, which the school says will improve the behaviour of pupils, was condemned by parents' groups and MPs yesterday. They warned it would backfire.
THE SPURLOCK FOOD CORRECTNESS SCAM
Morgan Spurlock seems to be everywhere these days. The F/X cable channel just slotted his new series "30 Days" for a second season, and he also just inked another show on Comedy Central, on which he'll head a panel that discusses current events. Spurlock, of course, was the filmmaker behind the much-acclaimed documentary"Super Size Me," in which he ate 5,000 calories worth of McDonalds food each day for 30 days, shunned any exercise or physical activity, then blamed the Golden Arches when – surprise! – peculiar things began to happen to his body. He has also just published "Don’t Eat This Book," a book that takes direct aim at the food industry.
Spurlock seems to fancy himself a modern-day muckraker. The problem is, his various media ventures are often distorted by a complete lack of context and, at times, outright misinformation. What’s worse, few in the media have been willing to call him on it. The series "30 Days" is based on the same premise as "Super Size Me." Each episode immerses a real person into an unfamiliar environment, generally with the aim of teaching some life lesson. Like "Super Size Me," the show has its charm, though it also suffers from much of the same conceit.
Columnist Debbie Schlussel recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that she refused to participate in an episode in which a man lives for a month in a Muslim community because producers told her the outcome of the show, billed as a documentary, had been predetermined. In another episode, a mother goes on a binge drinking spree to teach her daughter the dangers of alcohol. Both the mother and the daughter have since publicly complained on Internet message boards and web sites about how instructions from producers and distortions in the editing process created caricatures of them both that were at odds with reality.
Spurlock's new book has many of the same problems. Marketed as a companion reader to "Super Size Me," "Don't Eat This Book" lambastes the food industry for deceptive marketing and bad business practices. The problem is, for someone so critical of deceptive marketing practices, Spurlock himself seems to have problems with the truth. Just a few examples:
--Spurlock writes in his book that McDonalds uses beef that has been fed the ground-up remains of other cows. But the FDA has banned this practice of feeding ruminant remnants to other ruminants since 1997. Spurlock essentially accuses McDonalds of breaking federal law for the past eight years, and provides no sources for his accusation.
--In one particularly egregious passage, Spurlock tells his readers that the FDA has linked the artificial sweetener aspartame to side effects such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and hallucinations. But Spurlock's own source for that passage -- a 1999 issue of the FDA Consumer -- lists these effects only to specifically refute them. The newsletter attributes the claims to "[w]ebsites with screaming headlines," and finds them wholly without merit.
--Spurlock writes that "a friend" told him McDonalds no longer calls its shakes "milkshakes" because they're all chemicals, and no milk. This is an urban legend. The primary ingredient in a McDonalds shake is "whole milk."
Spurlock did not respond to numerous requests to be interviewed for this column.
Of course, these are just a few examples. Much of the book rests on the same kinds of poor sourcing and shoddy research. Spurlock appears to have run with any dirt on the food industry he could find. He even dismisses the Ronald McDonald Children's Charities, which he implies are merely a ruse to get sick kids hooked on the Big Mac.
None of this is to say that McDonalds or the food industry in general are perfect corporate citizens. Nor are all of Spurlock's criticisms of them without merit. For a long time, for example, McDonalds claimed its fries were vegetarian, even as it continued to flavor them with beef tallow. Vegetarians and people with religious dietary restrictions were rightly upset. The company apologized, and paid a settlement. McDonalds also reneged on a promise to cut the trans-fats from its food. Here too, the company apologized, and paid a settlement.
"Super Size Me" was in many ways a hoax that generated false public outrage against a food company, while netting Spurlock fame and fortune. In this regard, he's not much different from Anna Ayala, the woman who falsely claimed to have found a human finger in her bowl of Wendy's chili last April in order to win a big settlement. Good police work stopped Ayala's scam, which cost Wendy's $25 million in lost sales, and may cost Ayala up to nine years in prison. Unfortunately, the media, which should be acting as Spurlock's watchdog, have yet to hold Spurlock accountable for his inaccuracies. Only a few opinion columnists and restaurant industry spokesmen have taken him on, people Spurlock dismisses in his book not by actually addressing their arguments, but by merely pointing out where they get their funding.
Ironically enough, Spurlock began his television career at MTV on a show called "I Bet You Will," in which he paid people to eat disgusting things on camera. He once paid a woman $250 to shave her head, then eat a giant ball of her own hair mixed with butter. He paid another man to eat an entire jar of mayonnaise. Still another to swallow dog feces. When asked if he felt his show was exploitive, he replied, "No way. Everybody knows what they're getting into. Everybody has a good time. If somebody walks by and doesn't enjoy it, hey, it's a free country. Just keep on walking, man."
Spurlock has apparently had an epiphany about personal responsibility and good nutrition. Today, he wants tight government controls over how food companies market their products. But a close reading of Spurlock's oeuvre thus far suggests he's no Upton Sinclair. The media should stop fawning over Spurlock, and take his future output with a healthy helping of skepticism.
THE "MYSTERY" OF WHY PEOPLE GET FAT
West Virginia's status as the third-fattest state, confirmed in a recent report from the Trust for America's Health, gives new meaning to the phrase "Mountain Mama" in John Denver's Blue Ridge paean "Country Roads." For the morbidity and mortality experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it also poses a puzzle: Why are West Virginians so fat?
I'll hazard a guess and say it's because they eat too much. But the CDC is not satisfied with layman's explanations. A few months ago, it sent a team of investigators to hunt the source of West Virginia's obesity outbreak. According to the New York Times, the CDC's "disease detectives" spent three weeks in Gilmer County and Clarksburg, asking the tough questions that needed to be asked. At local schools they demanded to know if "at least one or two appealing fruits and vegetables" were offered every day in the cafeteria, and if the administration would consider replacing regular sour cream with a low-fat version.
In local workplaces, they asked if fruit juice and bottled water were available in the vending machines and if employees could get extra time for their lunch breaks if they promised to spend it walking. They surveyed the produce and milk selections in "random grocery stores and restaurants." They looked for sidewalks and checked them for cracks.
Upon hearing about the CDC's epidemiological odyssey, Florida State University statistics professor Daniel McGee "burst out laughing," the Times reported. "My God," he said, "what a strange thing to do." Another statistician, the University of Wisconsin's David DeMets, was similarly dismissive, saying, "We get a lot of false positives from that kind of investigation," since there's no way to tell whether any given factor contributes to obesity or, if so, how much.
The CDC began by fighting malaria in the South and today is determined to eradicate obesity there. Yet the CDC is simply following the logic of its own rhetoric. Facing a nationwide "epidemic" especially pronounced in Southern states, it is looking for the vectors that transmit the "disease." Once the government understands these vectors, the CDC assumes, it can control obesity as malaria can be controlled by draining mosquito-breeding swamps, and cholera by removing pump handles from contaminated wells.
This approach would make perfect sense if micro-organisms caused obesity. But since obesity is due to certain behavior patterns, themselves subject to myriad influences, this is one case the disease detectives are unlikely to solve. That has not stopped them from rounding up the usual suspects. A study in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health, warns of fast food "clustering" near schools. "The concentration of fast-food restaurants around schools within a short walking distance for students is an important public health concern," the researchers declare, "in that it represents a deleterious influence in the food environment that may undermine public health efforts to improve nutritional behaviors in young people."
Since "public health" appears twice in a sentence that also mentions the environment, this must be serious. But what exactly are they talking about? The study found 80 percent of Chicago primary and secondary schools are within 800 meters of a fast-food outlet (about a 10-minute walk); 35 percent are only 400 meters away: "A significantly greater number of fast-food restaurants are located within a short distance from schools than would be expected if there were no spatial dependence." Though the Center for Science in the Public Interest immediately cited the study as evidence the "food industry targets children," the simplest explanation is that fast-food restaurants tend to be located in commercial areas with many potential customers. There was no sign of "clustering" around schools in noncommercial areas. In any case, the researchers present no evidence a McDonald's or Subway located near school makes students fatter.