The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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30 September, 2006

Uppity men

Let's face it, we've been snookered. They promised gender liberation, now we're becoming dependents of the Nanny State. They averred no fancy for special treatment, now we have affirmative action. They said they only wanted to give women a voice, now we've got speech codes. They claimed to be for gender equality, now boys are struggling just to keep up in school. Why has it taken so long for us to catch on?

One of the tacit rules of the New Gender Order is that the opinions of men don't count. "If white men were not complaining, it would be an indication we weren't succeeding and making the inroads that we are" was the remarkable admission once made by the most influential media mogul in the country, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr, owner and publisher of the New York Times.

Author Warren Farrell calls it the "lace curtain," the invisible hand of editorial censorship that throttles the First Amendment rights of half our nation's population. It's like we claimed to be engaged in free and open debate, all the while holding one of the parties gagged, blind-folded, and hog-tied. Or if men were allowed to speak, it was made perfectly clear that they not say anything that might force the delicate gals to resort to smelling salts - remember l'affaire of Larry Summers?

But three weeks ago something snapped. Michael Noer at Forbes.com wrote a column called "Don't Marry Career Women." It was an advice column for eligible businessmen thinking about making the plunge.

Predictably, the ladies reacted with well-rehearsed outrage, forcing Forbes to run a counterpoint by Elizabeth Corcoran, "Don't Marry a Lazy Man." [www.forbes.com/2006/08/23/Marriage-Careers-Divorce_cx_mn_land.html]

True, some of Noer's facts could be disputed. Maybe he didn't qualify his statements enough. But Noer's article struck a deep chord with hard-working men whose liberated wives had come to look askance at anything that might remotely be called housework. And it resonated with the average Joes who put in long hours on the factory line, only to come home and learn that he was a member of the male oppressor class.

This time there would be no "Button up that lip, little man!" Within hours the Internet was buzzing over Noer's apostasy as thousands of men spoke out at Forbes.com, FreeRepublic.com, and other sites. All of a sudden, full-throated debate became fashionable.

Remember this line? "I'm as mad as hell and I won't take it anymore!" That rant won Peter Finch an Oscar for his role in the movie Network. That pretty well sums up the attitude of many men and women who have become disgusted with feminist-driven, government-enforced intervention into the personal matters of private citizens. For years, women like Christina Hoff Sommers, Wendy McElroy, Cathy Young, and Phyllis Schlafly have been speaking out against government intrusion disguised as female emancipation. Now their protest is ringing through the land.

Take Doug Richardson of Detroit. He was forced to pay more than $80,000 in child support, even after paternity tests proved the child was not his. Now he's waging a one-man campaign to expose the swindle and bring the malefactors to justice.

In North Dakota, Mitch Sanderson got fed up with the raw deal that fathers were getting in divorce court. So he started up the North Dakota Shared Parenting Initiative. Then he quit his day job and combed every hamlet and town in the state to get the required 13,000 signatures to land his shared custody bill on the November ballot.

Some guys are willing to put everything on the line. Like John Murtari of Onondaga County, NY. Murtari owes more than $60,000 in child support, an amount he couldn't pay because the figure was calculated based on an income far higher than what he now earns. On July 31 he was sentenced to jail, triggering a hunger strike that caused him to lose 29 pounds in just nine days. As of this writing his situation remains precarious.

April 19, 1775, a rag-tag group of Minutemen waited in muffled silence at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Mass. Within minutes they were engulfed in a desperate fire-fight with the British regulars. Soon the smoke cleared. That shot heard `round the world marked the first battle of the American Revolutionary War. It was the first hard-fought step to freedom from government oppression. Over 230 years later, state-sponsored tyranny has re-appeared in our midst. And once again, a group of uppity men are willing to risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in the defense of justice and family.


A satire on the radical homosexual agenda:

My `orientation' is to believe in God. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but from the time I can remember, I knew I was a God-person. I didn't tell my family about my spiritual orientation because they're Christophobic and wouldn't have understood. After I became a born again Christian I knew I had to come out of my holy huddle and tell them everything. After that I left home and moved to the Bible Belt. In Jackson, Mississippi I'm free to live openly as an Evangelical.

For me, being a God-person is normal. Maybe I was born with a God gene, maybe not. It doesn't really matter to me. What does matter is that I'm free to evangelize! I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. Many "progressive Christians" (progressive is a trendy word for liberal) disagree with me on this, and that's their choice. If there's one thing liberals pride themselves on, it's being identified with "choice." Especially when it comes to choosing new and innovative interpretations of Scripture. They also choose to shut people up who disagree with them. Just ask Ann Coulter.

Lately Leftists have been carping that Christians are "absolutists" which they consider on par with being a member of the Taliban. Their rants don't bother me, though. I'm an absolutist, with a capital A, and proud of it.

And don't think this Christian is going away. I intend to push my right-wing agenda down the throats of all Americans, including liberals. If people don't like my godly agenda, oh well. I'm an American, after all. I'm a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen. I have my rights! Stand back all you Christophobes! The evangelicals are at the door and we intend to do whatever's necessary to bring our struggle against the tide of secular humanism and the cult of Darwinian evolution to light.

To achieve necessary social change Christians will insert themselves into the government, the judiciary, public education, the workplace and the media. We will assail the public with tragic stories of Christian persecution so that they will feel sorry for us. American's are such softies.

Evangelicals are sick and tired of being demonized by the media and mocked by the Hollywood elite. We will come out of our sanctuaries and put pressure on the entertainment industry to stop funneling filth into households with children. In due course the sleaze will ease. Biblical morality will be part and parcel of story lines. The family hour will be fit for families. Sure, it's a big undertaking but we're up to the task!

I know what you're thinking, "That'll be the day." But you just wait. Before you know it there will be Christian-friendly newspapers! What's more, motion pictures, television programs, commercials, music, radio, etc., will be family-friendly. Liberal actors will have to play Christian characters that are portrayed as respected members of the community, or they'll join the ranks of the unemployed. (Picture, if you will, Rosie O'Donnell playing a Christian homeschool Mom - or a NASCAR Dad!) In Hollywood Evangelicals will not only be accepted, they'll be thought of as normal and good. Mark my words. There will come a time when Christians will win coveted awards for playing decent human beings! (Note: Winning awards is not important to Christians. What's important is winning souls to Christ!)

Moreover, those who spew rhetoric like "Christianity is a crutch" and characterize all Christians as unintelligent, uneducated, dim bulbs will be looked upon as intolerant hate mongers. Everywhere they turn, Christian bashers will be exposed to, gasp! Christian pundits. The columns of Cal Thomas, Michelle Malkin, Paul Wyrich, Mike Adams, Rebecca Hagelin, Hugh Hewitt and David Limbaugh will be published in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post. Ann Coulter will write Op-Eds for the New York Times. Christian music will be piped into restaurants and shopping malls.

The word will be out that a Christian's love and devotion to Christ is not pathological as liberals like to believe; loving Jesus will be accepted as normal and natural. Hold on to your fedora, folks. Society will come to believe that there are certain people who are born moral.

Liberals can forget about their constitutional right to freedom of speech. Christian groups like the American Center for Law and Justice will work their tails off to get laws on the books that make it a hate crime to say anything derogatory about the Christian lifestyle, or to use the Lord's name in vain. Mocking Jesus Christ in any way shape or form will require a public apology-or three-and may require jail time. Madonna could get life.

A big part of the Evangelical agenda will include indoctrinating children as young as 5 years old into Judeo/Christian morality. This will be accomplished through people of faith infiltrating public schools and the institutions of "higher learning." And trust me, we will not allow liberal parents to have a say in what their kids are learning, nor will we stand for their meddling. What do liberal parents know about raising children anyway? Granted, liberal taxpayers help pay for public education. But that won't stop people of faith from implementing our conservative agenda.

Christians have been taking a lot of heat for modeling healthy love between a man and a woman. This is perfectly understandable as religious tolerance is anathema to liberals. As American citizens, Christians have every right to express our views on morality. It's our right to push our moral agenda down the throats of liberals, using any means at our disposal, whether they like it or not.

Christianophopia has no place in a society that prides itself on diversity. People with different religious beliefs, or no belief at all, should "live and let live." C'mon liberals, lighten up! You've got to get over your fear of Christians. Christianity isn't contagious. If you get close to a Christian you won't "catch it." You may get a touch of Truth, but that's about it. There's no conceivable way for anyone to become a Christian unless he or she accepts Christ. This is one area where Christians and liberals see eye to eye. Accepting Christ is a choice.


29 September, 2006

Free speech is truth's best hope

Left-wing political parties need to rediscover a sense of humour and jettison the reflexive fear of offending sacred cows. There's a certain irony, not to mention black humour, when various people and groups say "we're going to kill you for calling us violent and warlike". The irony and black humour increase an order or two of magnitude when the threat is actually carried out. This thought raises the whole question of freedom of speech and the effects of various sorts of responses to offensive, insulting, hurtful comments and communications.

Take two imaginary societies at opposite ends of the "how to respond" spectrum. In one society the offensive, insulting speech is protected. Anything short of inciting physical violence or directly causing physical harm by, say, walking into a cinema and yelling "fire" is completely protected. That means those who are on the receiving end of the distressing, insulting, offensive speech just have to bear it. They can respond in kind, of course, with speech of their own. Indeed, they can be just as offensive in their replies. But in this society the government will not silence the original speakers. Nor will it countenance a violent response. Citizens simply have to have - or quickly learn to develop - a thick skin.

And notice just how thick a skin is expected of the citizens of this first society. If neo-Nazis wish to march down the streets of a town largely inhabited by Jewish Holocaust survivors, that is allowed and protected. If anti-abortion protesters wish to indicate to women entering abortion clinics that they believe abortion is murder, and to show these young women graphic pictures of what will happen to the fetuses, they can. Indeed, if citizens of this society wish to burn their own flag in protest, and to do so in front of military veterans who have seen friends and comrades killed defending that flag, they again can. In this first society, then, freedom of speech is no hollow catchphrase or phony mantra. It comes with a price attached, one that can be quite steep at times. People will be offended, they will be insulted, they will have to listen to what they consider to be false imputations and malicious lies. In Kipling's famous phrase, they will have to "bear to hear the truth (they've) spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools".

In our other imagined society, insulting, offensive speech is simply not allowed. The government will prevent it, if necessary by throwing its perpetrators in jail for lengthy periods or by turning a blind eye to retaliatory beatings or killings of the speakers. No thick skins are needed here.

Two questions immediately arise about these two societies. First, many will wonder what the justification for the first society's forbearance might be. Why allow people to speak words and draw pictures and convey thoughts that others find deeply offensive? John Stuart Mill's answer was that truth had a better chance of emerging where virtually all speech, even words perceived to be offensive, insulting and, yes, false, was allowed.

It is not just that constraints on speech can be manipulated by those in power to protect their own privileged positions, though they clearly can be and regularly are. We all know that there is nothing handier to those in power than to forbid all criticisms of oneself. But the point is wider than that. As the great US Supreme Court judge O.W. Holmes more or less put it: "We don't really know what the true position is. Whatever it is, though, it has a better chance of emerging in the marketplace of competing ideas where everything is open to criticism, even offensive criticism." In other words, the short-term costs of forcing people to have a thick skin will carry with them long-term benefits that are huge. People will have their ideas and beliefs and prejudices exposed to potential attack from all sides. Those who can withstand such widespread attack are more likely to approximate truth.

The second question that arises from envisaging our two societies is whether real societies that more closely resemble our first imagined model do, in fact, deliver the claimed benefits. Are they more likely to achieve scientific advances, medical breakthroughs, containment of epidemics, higher levels of wealth, more responsive political leaders: in short, societies that are attractive to would-be immigrants around the world?

It seems to me that the answer to all these is an obvious and resounding "yes". The connection between upholding free speech and demanding thick skins, on the one hand, and all sorts of attendant, long-term benefits, on the other, is clear. The implications of this realisation are many and wide-ranging.

For instance, many Western governments in the past decade or so have enacted hate-speech provisions that deliver short-term benefits. But their long-term effects are much less obviously good. These all need rethinking, including here in Australia. There is also an implication as regards political correctness.

Left-wing political parties need to rediscover humour (which at present seems to me to be almost exclusively the preserve of the Right). They need to jettison the reflexive fear of offending sacred cows (could they even say that?) and impinging upon shibboleths. They need to demand thicker skins of their supporters.

Here's one final implication to finish. The power of free speech to advance long-term human wellbeing on so many fronts shows the poverty of the cultural relativist mind-set. These people simply have not read their Hume, the great 18th century Scottish sceptical philosopher and the man who demanded we distinguish between facts and values, ises and oughts.

Whether any particular culture is seen by some individual or other as good or valuable does indeed have a subjective or relative element to it. But what the effects of a culture will be in empirical terms is not in the eye of the beholder. So one culture might place a huge emphasis on education while another frowns on it and glamorises, say, lounging on the beach.

In one sense there is no right answer as to which culture is to be preferred from any individual's point of view, with his or her proclivities and tastes. But there most assuredly is a right answer as to which culture will produce more prosperity, more scientific advances, more longevity for its citizens. And those who prefer the other culture must do so in the full knowledge of what comes with that preference. The facts are not relative.



This bizarre ruckus over the words of a medieval monarch has turned into a revealing picture of the modern world. A world in which nobody, not even the leader of a major faith, is allowed to express a strong opinion without risking condemnation and demands for an apology. A world dominated by a victim mentality, in which groups with hyper-sensitive `outrage antennae' are always on the lookout for the chance to claim that they have been offended, insulted or oppressed by the words of others. And a world where striking moral poses takes precedence over serious debate, so that a minor issue of a few cartoons in a Danish newspaper or a paragraph in an obscure Papal address can be blown up into a phoney image war staged for the benefit of the global media.

The reaction of outraged Muslim groups to the Pope's remarks typifies the contemporary search for offence that can legitimise a victim identity. As has been argued elsewhere on spiked, however, this outlook is a product more of Western multicultural identity politics than of Islam (see The price of multiculturalism, by Michael Fitzpatrick).

Just as the reaction to the Danish cartoons featuring Mohammad began in the West and was broadcast to the Muslim world, so it seems a safe bet that the Pope's remarks in Germany were first picked up on somebody's outrage antenna in Europe (see Those cartoons: a caricatured argument, by Mick Hume). These protests are then exported to the Islamic world, complete with pre-edited script, where they are turned into angry demonstrations for the benefit of the media over here. Note the slogans on those protests in Palestine or Pakistan, mostly written in poor English - not the protesters' language, nor the Pope's, but that of the internet and the US/global media.

(Muslim groups are often the most militant expression of the outraged victim identity today, but it is not all one-way traffic. Thus gay and human rights groups in Britain were recently up in arms over remarks made by Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Britain, condemning homosexuality as an abomination in the eyes of Allah. This was simply a statement of the conventional Islamic attitude, yet there were immediately calls for an apology and even a prosecution. Leading British Muslims responded with a letter to The Times (London), asserting their religion's right to freedom of speech. Their one-eyed victim identity prevented them from seeing any contradiction in that, but the irony was not lost on others.)

The row over the Pope's remarks also highlights another fact of contemporary political culture. These manufactured protests by outraged marginal groups - often, as in this case, relatively small to start with - draw their strength from the uncertain, defensive reaction of those accused of using offensive words. Almost before there had been any protests, the Catholic hierarchy in England had issued a statement distancing itself from the Pope's speech. Before long the Pope himself was apologising for any offence he had caused. This all seems a long way from the historical notion of papal infallibility. The result, of course, was not only to legitimise the outrage of the protesters, but also to prompt demands for more fulsome apologies. There is no way to appease a self-styled victim's demands for redress.

The uncertain, defensive reaction of the Roman Catholic Church to Islamic protests is a result of its own crisis of authority, which has called into question many traditional Catholic stands - a retreat which some saw as symbolised by the decision to abandon the Pope's title of Patriarch of the West earlier this year. The speech that the Pope was making in Germany, apparently arguing for the compatibility of Christianity with reason and rationality, could be interpreted as another sign of the church's retreat from its anti-Enlightenment traditional ground.

The church's crisis of authority in turn is a reflection of the wider loss of confidence in Western society and culture. One symptom of this crisis on which we have often commented is the increasing fear of free speech and the moves to outlaw ideas or opinions that are deemed offensive or inflammatory.

It was striking that Oriana Fallaci, the famously provocative Italian journalist who died this week, was awaiting trial in Italy charged with vilifying a religion recognised by the state, because of her anti-Muslim rants about the war on terror. The British authorities, too, have pushed to make incitement to religious hatred a crime.

It is against this background that the Pope's use of a medieval quote about Mohammad has become politicised and blown up into a major issue on both sides. While at least one Muslim statesman sought to compare Pope Benedict to Hitler, some liberal commentators in Britain and the West worried that the Pope's words would give the green light to a wave of nascent Islamophobia, as if there were mobs waiting to launch a religious pogrom at the drop of the pontiff's hat. On the other side, some commentators rushed to defend the Pope as the champion of Western freedom and rationalism against militant Islam - not qualities many of us would normally associate with the Catholic Church or the Vatican State.

Enough of this phoney war about the meaning of a few old words quoted by a Pope. Let us take a stand for something really worth defending - freedom of speech, the right to offend, and the expression of firm beliefs.

Those of faith should be free to criticise other faiths as they see fit - just as those of us who have no religion must be free to criticise or ridicule them all. If the Pope had meant to condemn Islam, it might not have been diplomatically wise, but it would be perfectly legitimate - or even obligatory - for the leader of a worldwide Christian church. However distasteful others might find it, it should also be accepted that Muslims or Christians can express the belief that homosexuality is a sin (violence is, of course, another matter entirely).

Indeed it is far better for all of us if these things can be stated and debated out in the open. It is when people's beliefs are suppressed that they can find other outlets. Thus, the you-can't-say-that culture has not countered the growth of the fundamentalist fringe in our societies. On the contrary, it has given fringe groups legitimacy. With the Pope under fire for being a Catholic, for example, where is there left for true believers to go? To join Mel Gibson and the cranks?

And this is not just, or even primarily, about religion. The notions that strong beliefs are a problem, that free speech must be curtailed in the name of tolerance, and that causing offence is the worst offence of all, have become powerful conventions across Western society. These secular conventions have shaped the debate about Christianity and Islam, rather than the other way around. Here, the unconditional defence of free speech is even more important, as the only way for us to have the issues out, clarify differences, and argue the way ahead for our society.

Contrary to what has been suggested, freedom and civilisation are not at risk from a few over-publicised Islamic protests against the Pope. They could, however, be at risk from a culture that refuses to stand up for its own basic beliefs, such as freedom of speech and genuine tolerance - which involves tolerating (while arguing against) the expression of views you violently disagree with, not trying to silence them as `intolerant' or offensive.

Let us have less victim politics, and more expressions of political conviction. Less striking of moral postures and demands for apologies or bans, and more taking a stand for what you believe and fighting your corner. Let the Pope be a Catholic, let Mohammad be a Muslim, and let bears do their business where they will. The rest of us surely have other things to protest and argue about.


Australia: A need for INtolerance

In the Cape York town of Hopevale, where Noel Pearson grew up, there is every kind of gambling except one - cards. There is a social taboo against card gambling that lingers from the days when the Lutherans ran Hopevale mission, back when Aboriginal children like Pearson's father and grandfather were taught to read the Bible back to front and to write beautifully. "They never do card gambling at Hopevale," Pearson said on Friday. "They gamble on pokies, drink, fornicate, everything else, but there is a remnant social norm about card gambling."

Pearson, 41, the director of the Cape York Institute, likes the card gambling example because it "just illustrates the strength of social norms", the often invisible glue that creates social order and civility and protects the vulnerable. "That's why advantaged middle-class people don't have to worry about things like school attendance and school readiness," he says. By school "readiness", Pearson does not mean whether a child can recite the alphabet, tie shoelaces and cut along a straight line. He means the basic daily readiness of being fed, washed and well slept before coming to school.

Pearson aims to rebuild social norms that have disappeared over the past two generations from Cape communities. It is part of his plan to dramatically reform the way welfare is delivered, and tie it to behavioural benchmarks such as school attendance and responsible parenting. The Federal Government has contributed $3 million for a pilot project and he has just returned from a trip around Cape York to ensure the voluntary participation of the four communities of Aurukun, Hopevale, Coen and Mossman Gorge.

Pearson laments the situation in which the sacred bond of love between mother and child has been broken by substance abuse and the collapse of social norms. He openly declares he wants to reintroduce "intolerance" into his communities: intolerance of drugs, intolerance of alcohol, intolerance of sexual abuse, intolerance of domestic violence, intolerance of not sending your children to school every day.

Pearson's critics - mostly middle-class, progressive-left and social-justice romantics - say his plans to tie welfare payments to behavioural benchmarks are draconian. But they don't understand what it is like to live in a community without social norms, he says. He is determined that his welfare reform project will address the horrific abuse of indigenous children which has been reported this year with sickening regularity.

If parents are drug users, for instance, he asks why authorities hand back a child into such a known dangerous environment. He wants instead to take control of welfare payments as the tool to force irresponsible parents to clean up their act, to say: "If you don't agree to regular drug testing for two years and satisfy other benchmarks [such as school attendance] you will be on income management and you will not have the freedom of spending your money as you want." Instead, welfare payments will be managed for the parent and used to pay for rent, food, school supplies and other necessities. "It is a carrot and stick approach," Pearson says.

The welfare reform project complements the institute's work on education. Pearson outlined some of those achievements at an advisory group meeting on Friday in Cairns for the Every Child is Special project. It includes a successful pilot project at Coen primary school, in which the 15 least proficient readers were given intensive, systematic instruction in phonics for a year by specialist teachers from Macquarie University's MULTILIT (Making Up Lost Time In Literacy) program. The results, unveiled on Friday, were encouraging; the children, whose reading ability was three to four years behind the Australian average, gained an average 21.4 months in reading accuracy. The Higher Expectations program identifies the brightest primary school children and "works aggressively" to send them to elite boarding schools, Pearson says. The first candidate is at Brisbane Grammar this year, "and he's survived and done well". Another program supports indigenous students at university. This year there were 10 candidates, and next year another dozen. Pearson is proud that both programs are "completely privately funded".

Ann Creek, a Coen elder and mother of five who has been a driving force in improving literacy at Coen school, said at the meeting on Friday: "Kids absorb knowledge; they want to be part of it, they want to learn more. If given the chance they'll grasp it . We all want our kids to achieve so they can go on to further education. They want to make a name for their family, for their clan group and for their community."

Pearson's "Cape York Agenda" of economic and social development aims to build the "capabilities" of indigenous people, freeing them from the yoke of welfare passivity, empowering them with proper education so they have at least the same knowledge of Western culture and proficiency in English as their peers in the rest of Australia. He says he hopes to transform communities within a generation. But first he must re-establish social order, and that requires a "hard bottom line". "Enforcement of the Education Act, [taking control of the] family benefit payment is the draconian bottom line we think is part of the process. We have an escalation in place that means we hopefully never have to get to the bottom line. But without the bottom line there is not much hope of re-establishing social norms." And as Bernadette Denigan, the director of the Every Child is Special project, reminded the group: "The ultimate draconian bottom line is the removal of children by government and that does happen."


28 September, 2006


It's an industry where "results count" above all so if there were an edge to be gained by hiring blacks, it would have been done long ago. The fact that it has not suggests that the new black hires will be largely free riders

Why, city officials demanded, were there virtually no black staffers at New York's elite advertising agencies? The year was 1968. Agencies' executives vowed to fix the problem. They didn't. Now, under steady pressure from advocates and the threat of public embarrassment by city officials, they've renewed those promises.

Sixteen of the city's top ad agencies have agreed to recruit more minorities, especially blacks. They'll also diversify senior management and let city officials monitor them for three years. As Advertising Week 2006 festivities begin, the agreements signed with the city's Human Rights Commission offer a rare glimpse inside one of New York's core industries - and reveal that its work force doesn't look much like the nation. "This is a big deal - that advertising agencies actually signed written agreements to make these changes," said Burtch Drake, president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. "Will you see an overnight sea change? No. But over time you'll see other cultures integrated into advertising."

About 3 percent of advertising staffers nationally were black in 2005, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor data, with 1.6 percent Asian and 7.5 percent Latino. In upper management, the diversity is virtually nonexistent, data show. Under the agreements, big agencies including WPP Group PLC's Ogilvy & Mather, Publicis Groupe SA's Saatchi & Saatchi and Draft New York, part of Interpublic Group of Cos. Inc., will devote staffing and resources to finding and keeping more minority staff members. They will set up in-house diversity councils, and executives who meet the new hiring goals will be rewarded accordingly. "This strategy is deliberate - we really wanted to change things across the board," said Patricia L. Gatling, head of the human rights commission.

Spokesmen for advertising agencies have mostly declined to comment on the issue. Young & Rubicam, a unit of WPP, issued a statement saying the agency "believes that diversity is a business imperative and we are pleased to have come to an agreement with the Human Rights Commission that reinforces our diversity initiatives." Omnicom Group Inc., parent of DDB Worldwide and BBDO Worldwide, has pledged $1.25 million to diversity initiatives within the company and will help establish a new advertising curriculum at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Why did the city focus on advertising? It's hardly the only big industry that lacks racial diversity. City officials said it was time to revisit an issue first raised at their hearings in 1968. And Gatling, a former prosecuting attorney, took a tough approach.

And then there's Sanford Moore. The veteran black advertising guru, 65, for decades wrote letters, staged protests and pushed public officials to highlight the lack of diversity in advertising. Off and on for 13 years, he's also discussed it on his Sunday night talk show, "Open Lines," on WRKS-FM. His on-air name is Charles W. Etheridge III. The agreements are a result of Moore's determination, said Eugene Morris, president and CEO of E. Morris Communications, a Chicago-based agency specializing in the African-American market. "He has been a bulldog," said Morris. Moore conceded: "I'm obstinate. I've kept records on this since 1968." He added, "I call advertising the last bastion of Jim Crow."

The relationships he built through his lobbying with city public officials, including Gatling and City Councilman Larry Seabrook, prompted the Human Rights Commission to begin subpoenaing advertising agencies' staff records in 2004.

Potentially embarrassing public hearings, at which agency executives would likely have faced tough questions during the industry's annual Advertising Week, had been scheduled for Monday. They were canceled after the diversity agreements were announced earlier this month.

Seabrook will hold hearings Tuesday on a related issue: the struggles that black media have getting big clients to advertise with them. "The advertising issue isn't just about hiring, it's about doing business," Seabrook said, referring to the vast but mostly white industry of artists, writers and smaller ad agencies that subcontract with big agencies. "African Americans participate as consumers - we spend $350 billion a year in this country. But we are not getting our just due."

Earl G. "Butch" Graves Jr., CEO of Black Enterprise Magazine said that some big corporations refuse to court minority consumers, but much of the blame lies with advertising. "They must hire people from top to bottom that look like society. How can an ad agency be charged with having a worldwide assignment for marketing and have all the people in the room be white men?"

Advertising experts say it's tough to find and keep minority ad professionals. Entry-level salaries are around $30,000 a year, likely unappealing to some potential recruits, said Mary Hilton, vice president of public affairs for the American Advertising Federation. Black students often must be recruited into college advertising programs, said Jerome Williams, an advertising professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Many have never considered it because they know of no blacks in the industry.

Alicia Evans, a black advertising professional, said when she worked at a large, mainstream agency she won raves from clients. But she was never embraced by her mostly white co-workers and supervisors. "I needed to be mentored," said Evans, president of Total Image Communications a public relations agency in Westbury, N.Y. When you're black, "you're out there on your own."

Seabrook said that, since the advertising agreements have been made public, he's received calls from around the country. "People say, 'You think advertising is bad, you should come see where I work,'" he said. "The next journey is going to be Wall Street."



(The "City" is London's financial district. It is a very small part of London as a whole)

Should we be surprised that the best-run and most critically acclaimed arts centre in Britain receives not a penny from the Arts Council? Should we be astounded that, without the benefit of a single directive from the Government’s culture quango about the importance of multiculturalism, access, diversity, outreach — or any of the other new Labour buzzwords rammed down the throats of people in the arts for the past nine years — this arts centre should nevertheless be pulling in 770,000 socially diverse punters a year? And what does this say, by inference, about the stifling effect of the nanny state on less independent organisations?

These questions popped into my head last week as the Barbican Centre in London announced plans to celebrate its 25th birthday in March with 25 brilliantly devised “landmark events”, ranging from an Icelandic epic and an Islamic festival to glitzy concerts and a celebration of punk. At the same time its management unveiled the finishing touches to a £30 million transformation that has swept away the worst features of the once-derided architecture. The hopeless non-entrance, Kafkaesque corridors, baffling signs and dry-as-dust acoustics in the concert hall: all have been remedied, leaving the place looking sleek, chic, and fit for service for at least the next 50 years.

What makes this feat close to miraculous is that, only 12 years ago, the Barbican was a byword for fear, loathing and chaos. The Royal Shakespeare Company, then resident in the centre, was locked in perpetual war with the management, which was itself chronically dysfunctional. When an abrasive woman from the Milk Marketing Board was appointed to run the centre — on the grounds that if you can sell a full range of dairy products you can surely flog King Lear — the nadir was reached. Even the City of London Corporation, which built the place, seemed in despair about its future.

But in 1995 John Tusa, a former BBC mandarin with an insatiable taste for culture, was appointed managing director, and a quiet visionary called Graham Sheffield brought in as artistic director. They have wrought a renaissance. Today, the Barbican must rank as the world’s top arts centre — easily outclassing the Lincoln Centre in New York for adventurous programming and sustained quality.

Enough about Tusa and Sheffield, however. They aren’t short of cheerleaders. What interests me about the Barbican is its funding. Its £18 million subsidy comes not from the Government via its poodle, the Arts Council — with the mandatory clump of social-engineering strings attached — but from the City of London Corporation. Which, rather astonishingly, makes that local authority the third biggest funder of the arts in Britain.

I have my dozy moments, but I’m not so naive as to think that the City is coughing up such substantial dosh out of pure altruism. In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a war going on. The Square Mile, centre of the financial universe for so long, is facing competition not just from Frankfurt and Tokyo, but from an upstart on its doorstep — Canary Wharf. The battle to retain the big bank HQs and dealing-rooms is being fought on many fronts, not least the phallic rush to erect the tallest tower in town. But one vital area is “quality of life”. And the fact that the City has an arts centre that mounts 900 top-class events a year is a huge advantage.

But the City’s motives for funding the Barbican don’t really matter. What’s important is that it doesn’t interfere in how the centre is run. It appoints top arts professionals, then lets them get on with the job. It doesn’t try to micro-manage areas beyond its competence. It liberates those it finances, rather than stifling creativity with endless red tape and petty “accountability” procedures.

Well, you can see where I’m heading. The way the Barbican is run is in stark contrast not only to every other subsidised arts organisation, but to most other areas of public life in Blair’s Britain. What we have seen over the past nine years has been an unprecedented increase in the number of political diktats that attempt to regiment every facet of our existence — from health, diet and education to the law and liberty. At the root of this trend are power mania and arrogance. We are now ruled by people who not only want to control the smallest aspects of our lives, but who are vain enough to think that they know better than the experts in any field.

Of course I accept that, in a democracy, politicians must regularly scrutinise publicly-funded professions on our behalf. But it’s a question of degree. The endless, pointless meddling of recent years has simply stopped good people doing their jobs well. I see that Gordon Brown has promised more “devolved” decision-making in future. It’s hard to believe, since under his iron rule the Treasury has broken all known records for control-freakery and arrogant interference in areas that have nothing to do with the economy — a prime instance being the way that arts organisations operate. The Barbican is a shining example of the good things that can happen when politicians keep their clumsy fingers out of the pie. Let’s see more abstinence in future.


Australia: Political correctness harms abused black kids

Welfare workers are too frightened to take neglected and sexually abused indigenous children into care, carers have said. The Northern Territory News was last night told by people who work with children that NT Family and Community Services feared being accused of creating a new "stolen generation". "Black kids have to be suffering 10 times more than white kids before being taken away from their no-good parents," a source said.

Community Services Minister Delia Lawrie denied the allegation. "We don't take Stolen Generation concerns into account," she said. "And whether a child is indigenous or not doesn't come into play." [Believe that if you want to!] She said the number of Aboriginal Territory children taken into care had doubled in the past few years.

Elliott, a community on the Stuart Highway, 415km south of Katherine, was held up by concerned welfare sources as an illustration of the problem. The sources said several children in the township were believed to have been sexually abused. One girl had told nurses she had been molested by a man who still lives in the community. The girl has developed behavioural problems, nurses claimed. Many community children are also undernourished and are being fed by the school and health clinic.

The Tennant Creek FACS office has been given several notifications of suspected sexual abuse and neglect. Sources said children were being put at even greater risk by the department refusing to remove them quickly enough from bad homes. "The situation has to be extreme before FACS will step in," said the source, adding the problem had been created by the "stolen generation", the alleged removal of part-Aboriginal children from their parents last century.

Ms Lawrie said only a court could order a child being taken into care permanently.


27 September, 2006


An atheist civil rights organization on Tuesday charged that a partisan campaign ad filmed in a Tennessee Baptist church sends a "divisive" message and is "religionizing" important public policy issues. The television commercial was filmed on behalf of Democratic candidate Harold Ford, Jr. who is running against Republican Bob Corker.

"To our knowledge, this is the first time a partisan political ad has been produced using the backdrop of a church," said Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists. "It's part of a larger and disturbing trend where candidates are invoking religion in order to woo constituencies and win elections." Ms. Johnson added that by "playing the religion card," candidates like Mr. Ford were marginalizing and excluding millions of Atheists, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and other nonbelievers. Dave Silverman, communications director for American Atheists, said that Mr. Ford's ad "is more than a simple statement of personal beliefs.

It's pandering, and it raises serious questions about a candidate who does something like this would represent all of the people in his state if elected, or uphold the separation of church and state."

American Atheists is a nationwide movement which defends the civil rights of nonbelievers, works for the separation of church and state, and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.



A new cemetery is to have all its graves aligned with Mecca - making it the first council graveyard in the country to bury the dead in Islamic tradition, regardless of their religion. Headstones in the new 2.5 million pound High Wood Cemetery in Nottingham will face north-east - as Muslims believe the dead look over their shoulder towards Mecca. This is the way in which all followers of Islam in the UK are buried. But the move has upset the Church and led to complaints that the policy discriminates against the city's majority Christian population. The traditional direction of burial for Christians is facing east.

The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, the Rt Rev George Cassidy, criticised the decision. He said: "This is a sensitive issue to all people. I hope the situation will be reviewed with wide consultation and a policy introduced that takes account of the needs of all." The decision was made by Steve Dowling, Nottingham City Council's Services Director for Environment and Public Protection, after liaising with the city's multi-faith Cemeteries Consultative Committee. He said: "For people of the Muslim faith this fits in with a religious requirement, but it will also ensure a tidy appearance for the site. People can choose to be buried facing another direction but if they do not specify that, they will be buried facing north-east. The vast majority of people do not express a preference."

But Brendan Clarke-Smith, Tory councillor for Clifton North, said: "I was totally bewildered when I read about this decision. I spoke to one of the local Muslim groups in my area and they were equally surprised by what had been done. It is utterly ridiculous and I know it'll create a lot of ill feeling both in Nottingham and the country generally." The clergy and critics of the policy at the new 40-acre cemetery are supported by Raza Ul Haq, Imam at the Madni Masjid Mosque. He said: "It is part of our religion for the dead to be aligned with Mecca. It is very important. But for Christians, if they want to face somewhere else we support them."

Last night a spokesman for the Institute of Cemeteries and Crematorium Management said it was the first time he had heard of any public cemetery in Britain choosing to have all its gravestones facing north-east, in line with Muslim tradition. "It is unusual,' he said. "It would seem appropriate if there was a large population of Muslims." In Nottingham, however, Muslims make up less than five per cent of the region's 500,000 population.

Nigel Lymn Rose managing director of A.W. Lymn Funeral Directors, and a past president of the National Association of Funeral Directors, said Mr Dowling had told him of the decision when he went to High Wood for a site visit and asked whether Muslims had been taken into account. He said: "I was astonished to be told, "Oh yes, we're burying everyone so they are aligned to Mecca. It will make things easier." "It's one thing to be buried facing north-east because that is the way the cemetery lies, or the plot within it - it is quite another thing to learn that you have been buried facing that direction because it follows Islamic law."

Brian Grocock, a councillor who took part in the consultation process, said: "I don't know how this has become such a big issue. "The consultations went on for three or four years. We had people of all faiths represented at the meetings - or they certainly had the chance to attend. Nobody I know had any objections to the plan." So far at Highwood there have been just six burials - of which three were Muslim.


Citizenship test backed by the Australian people

Australians overwhelmingly support a test for citizenship that includes not only an English language test but also questions about our history and way of life. Despite fears that a proposed citizenship quiz for migrants using English would discriminate against non-English speakers, more than three-quarters of Australians agree there should be such a test. According to a Newspoll survey, taken exclusively for The Australian last weekend, 77 per cent of respondents agreed there should be a test on language, Australia and our way of life. A majority, 53 per cent, supported the idea "strongly" and only 19 per cent were against such a test.

During the past two weeks, when the proposed citizenship test and the issue of "Australian values" have dominated the political debate, the Coalition's support has improved but the ALP still holds a clear margin on two-party preferences. The Coalition's primary vote rose two percentage points to 41per cent and Labor's vote went from 41 to 42 per cent. Although Kim Beazley faced strong criticism from within his own ranks over his support for a citizenship test, the ALP has kept a 53 to 47 per cent lead over the Coalition on second preferences. The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader both supported a citizenship test that involved a quiz on Australian values.

The Government has released a discussion paper, which raises the prospect of doubling the citizenship qualifying period to four years and demanding that migrants sit a quiz that tests English language as well as a knowledge of Australian history and institutions. The Government has not put forward a draft test but Mr Howard said it would not be "a tablet from the mountain" and there would be a commonsense approach taken.

Mr Beazley has backed off from his earlier suggestion that visitors to Australia, including tourists, would have to sign a pledge on their visas upholding Australian values. After being criticised within his own party for the suggestion, Mr Beazley said any such test would apply to people intending to be "permanent residents".

The Newspoll survey found clear majority support for a detailed citizenship test in every demographic group, with the highest levels of support among the oldest voters and Coalition supporters. Nine out of 10 Coalition supporters backed the idea of a test and only 7 per cent were against. The lowest levels of support were among those aged 18-34 and Labor voters, both on 70 per cent. Regional areas showed strong support, with 80 per cent backing a citizenship test with an English component, compared with 75per cent in the capital cities.


Should childhood come with a health warning?

This week, a group of experts raised critical questions about how we mollycoddle children - but they also indulged some childish prejudices

The modern world is damaging our children, according to a group of eminent experts. More than 100 children's authors, scientists, health professionals, teachers and academics joined Sue Palmer - education consultant, broadcaster and author of Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It - in signing a letter to the London Daily Telegraph on 12 September 2006. It ran under the headline: `Have we forgotten how to bring up our children?'

Children are suffering, the experts claim, as a result of junk food, school targets and mass marketing. The modern world is not providing them with what they need to develop, apparently, which includes: `real food (as opposed to processed "junk"), real play (as opposed to sedentary, screen-based entertainment), first-hand experience of the world they live in, and regular interaction with the real-life significant adults in their lives.'

I share some of the concerns of the signatories, particularly the fact that children now have fewer and fewer opportunities to play outdoors. Children are often no longer able to play in the streets, walk or cycle to school, play in local parks, or just mess about with their friends away from the supervision of parents and teachers. And yet, many of the letter-signers' concerns seem to be shaped more by contemporary prejudices about modern living than by expert insights into what makes children tick.

Take the denunciation of junk food. As has been argued elsewhere on spiked, `there is no such thing as "junk" food. Our digestive systems do not distinguish between fish fingers and caviar.' (See Hard to swallow, by Rob Lyons.) We are bombarded with warnings about unhealthy modern diets and eating habits, yet life expectancies continue to rise - in great part due to vast improvements in most children's diets over the past 100 years.

And consider the warnings about new technologies. We are told that `since children's brains are still developing, they cannot adjust - as full-grown adults can - to the effects of ever more rapid technological and cultural change'. Most serious neuroscientists would dispute such a crass statement. Also, the idea that children find it difficult to adjust to `ever more rapid technological and cultural change' runs entirely counter to our everyday experience and to most scientific research. Numerous studies highlight the extent to which children are able to grasp and master new technologies. Indeed, many adults don't understand or use new technologies with the same ease that children do, which perhaps explains why they are so prone to seeing such technology as scary. We should be careful not to transpose our own, adult discomfort with technological and cultural changes on to children.

As former commissioning editor of spiked and freelance writer Jennie Bristow argues in an online debate sponsored by O2 to be launched on spiked next week, titled `Young People, Mobiles And Social Networking': `The fact that mobiles and the internet allow children access to "social networks" beyond the geographical boundaries of their daily lives is often seen as deeply scary, but it shouldn't take too much imagination to see that there is a positive side as well.'

It is not screen-based entertainment that is restricting children's play-space. Instead, it is adults' over-anxious desire to remove children from all risks. Adults are overly concerned with keeping children under their control and protection, and out of harm's way - which means they often end up restricting children's opportunities for `real' play. It could be argued that it is precisely because children are increasingly denied the freedom and space for experimentation and play in the `real' world that they are using the virtual world to try to gain some autonomy and independence.

The best thing experts can do for children is to argue for them to be given more freedom - not to do whatever they want, of course; they need clear boundaries set by parents. But unsupervised play isn't just some kind of childhood luxury that kids can do without. It is vital for children's healthy emotional and social development. Study after study has shown that it helps to develop children's ability to negotiate social rules and to create their own rules. Children need to learn to deal with risks and develop the capacity to assess challenges. They also need to be given the opportunity to develop resilience to life's inevitable blows. In short, taking risks in childhood goes hand-in-hand with developing new skills.

There is a danger that the experts feed into current fears for children's safety, thereby exacerbating the problem they are trying to alleviate. As Frank Furedi, spiked contributor and author of Paranoid Parenting, argued in the online magazine The First Post this week: `Despite their admirable intention, the authors of this letter may unintentionally contribute towards reinforcing a culture where every childhood experience comes with a health warning.'

The letter in the Telegraph ends with a call for a public debate `as a matter of urgency', in order to address the `complex socio-cultural problem' of an increasingly restricted childhood. Although children's lives have improved in very many ways over the decades, the signatories are right in highlighting that we do face a problem. Clearly, we need to ask some serious questions about what an increasingly structured, sanitised and relentlessly supervised world is doing to children. But it is important that we identify what the real problem is, rather than pointing the finger at easy `junk' targets and labelling children as fragile and easily damaged. So, let the debate begin.


26 September, 2006


They regularly ignore complaints about "Yobs", and Muslims can do as they please but a cat with one flea is a serious matter

Pet owner Robert Emberson was stunned as two cops swooped on his home - to seize his KITTEN. The bobbies went round after pet charity workers were tipped off that the moggy missed a routine appointment. Robert had adopted the rescue kitten named Plume.

But Cat Protection workers swooped to demand it back - and called in a police escort in case there was trouble. Horticultural student Robert, 18, accused the charity of being heavy-handed. He said: "They were so rude - barging in without warning. I was horrified." It followed an earlier visit by a Cat Protection worker who claimed to have seen a SINGLE FLEA on the cat. Robert, of Canvey Island, Essex, agreed to treat Plume. But he was waiting for his pay from his part-time job.

He said: "The flea treatment cost me a day's wages, but I paid for Plume to be vaccinated and everything. "I missed just one treatment, but they said they might take Plume away." The charity - criticised for refusing to let a man with an artificial leg adopt a cat - refused to comment. Robert was eventually allowed to keep the cat.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said: "We are frequently asked by other agencies to support them when there could be public order issues." [Fierce cat?]



Remember last year when Bob Geldof, Bono, Blair and others excitedly declared that they had liberated poor African countries from crippling international debt? In June 2005 the finance ministers of the G8 industrialised nations struck a deal worth a seemingly whopping US$72billion that cancelled the debt of 18 of the poorest countries in the world, 14 of them in Africa. Geldof described it as a `victory for millions'. At his subsequent Live 8 jamboree - where the Great and the Good of the pop world banged out tunes in the name of winning further debt relief and aid commitments from the West - Geldof declared that `all the debt must be written off'. At the G8 meeting in Gleneagles from 6 to 8 July, the big powers copperfastened their commitment to debt relief and agreed to double overseas aid commitments by 2010. `Tomorrow, 280million Africans will wake up for the first time in their lives without owing you or me a penny from the burden of debt that has crippled them and their countries for so long', Geldof said.

So how's that working out for those on the receiving end, for those who live in the poor African countries that have been liberated from debt? `It is rubbish. It stinks. This debt relief is making things worse.' DeRoy Kwesi Andrew doesn't mince his words. He is a science teacher and BA student in his twenties who lives in Accra, the capital of Ghana, one of the countries whose debt was written off. Over the past year he has been working on the film Damned by Debt Relief, a scathing critique of the economic and political straitjacket imposed on the poor countries that signed up for debt relief, produced by the youth education charity WORLDwrite and which will be premiered at the Battle of Ideas in October. `Debt relief has given us nothing, nothing', he says. `But it has taken away very much: our independence, our ability to develop, our self-respect. My message is: "Take away your debt relief. Bob Geldof, get off our backs".'

`Debt relief' is one of those buzzphrases - like `sustainable development' or `diversity' - that everyone agrees is a Good Thing. After all, who could be for unsustainable development? Who could possibly be against the cancellation of African and other countries' debts? It was always ridiculous that a country like Ghana should have been in debt to the tune of $6billion to institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Most people will think it's good that, after Gleneagles, Ghana has been awarded multilateral relief of $4.2billion, writing off a sizeable chunk of its earlier, crippling debt. Andrew says the truth is a lot less rosy. For a country like Ghana, debt relief has meant nothing in terms of increased investment or more resources, but it has meant the country being forced to submit to more stringent international regulation of its spending habits and priorities. `This is the fact about debt relief', says Andrew. `It does not deliver development and it also denies us the freedom to pursue development. Do you expect people in Ghana to jump up and down for that?'

`Debt relief has done nothing for the poor', he says. For a start, it does not mean any new money, investment or resources whatsoever. The G8 governments agreed to pay off the monies owed to the World Bank and others by the worst-hit debt-ridden nations - a total of $72billion. All of that will be deposited into the vaults of international banks, not invested into poor countries. The money will be transferred from G8 treasuries to the coffers of international banks in stages over the next 40 years. Andrew says: `You know what happened? The G8 nations helped out their friends in the international banks. They bailed them out. It was a transaction between the G8 and their banks. It was nothing to do with me, or Ghanaians, or Africans.'

Worse, while providing nothing in terms of new resources or investment, the post-G8 debt relief programme ties poor countries into a relationship of child-like dependency with international institutions. The new debt-relief initiatives allow for massive increases in Western intrusion into virtually every area of life and politics in developing nations, especially relating to development policy itself. In the 1980s and 90s, international institutions imposed notorious structural adjustment programmes on to debt-ridden Third World countries, forcing these nations to adopt austerity measures and privatisation policies in return for some debt alleviation. Such programmes were criticised by NGOs and liberals in the West. Now, however, the new debt-relief programmes celebrated by some of those same NGOs and liberals as a great breakthrough for history and humanity push conditionality even further, and make it even stricter. They tell Third World countries how to run their affairs, prioritise their investments and they insist on regular check-ups to make sure these countries are adhering to `good policy performance'.

As Kewsi Pratt Jnr, a Ghanaian editor and journalist interviewed for Andrew's film Damned by Debt Relief, argues: `What has the G8 done? The G8 has said they are going to wipe off 100 per cent of our debt. What are they saying in real terms? What they're telling us is that you owe us so much we are not going to take the money from you. You generate the money yourself, through taxation, through your productive activities and so on - don't pay it to us, keep it, but we are going to tell you how to invest that kind of money. It's incredible. No country in the West would accept that another country or another institution in a foreign land should be determining its priorities and how it spends its money. It is arrogant, insulting. It is repugnant.'

In the 1980s and 90s debt relief was a cover for monetarist economics and structural adjustment programmes. Today it comes with `pro-poor' and `poverty reduction' conditions attached; these might sound more palatable and PC than the conditions that went before, but they amount to the same thing - a situation where the West says what is best for the Third World. Indeed, today's debt-relief conditions - which are more likely to be enforced by worthy charity heads from Islington than by cocky World Bankers from New York or Chicago - are even more intrusive than yesterday's. In order to win debt repayment or relief today, Third World countries must agree to mould their political and economic life - the very lifeblood of sovereign states - around the diktats of Western governments and banks. At the meeting of the G8 finance ministers in London last June, it was decreed that `in order to make progress on social and economic development, it is essential that developing countries put in place the policies for economic growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction: sound, accountable and transparent institutions and policies; macroeconomic stability; the increased fiscal transparency essential to tackle corruption, boost private sector development, and attract investment; a credible legal framework; and the elimination of impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign.' Andrew points out that such demands are really about `surveillance' of the Third World: `They want to keep a check on everything we do, all our records, all our transactions. There is no independence here at all.' And considering that debt-relief today is based on a Performance-Based Allocation system - where countries have to demonstrate `good policy performance' in order to avoid having further monies deducted by the World Bank - these states had better toe the line, or else.

For Andrew, the worst thing about the new debt-relief programmes is that they expressly forbid developing countries from investing in the productive base of their economies - instead they must concentrate on small-scale, `pro-poor' policies that are designed to alleviate (only ever incrementally, if at all) the harsh conditions of the country's poorest people. `It says "pro-poor" and that sounds nice', says Andrew. `But for us it means we cannot decide what to do with our money and our economy, and it means we can never have real development, real factories, real industry.' As Mohammed Issah of the SEND Foundation, another interviewee in his film, argues: `If there is this condition which does not allow the government to invest resources into the production base of the economy, then we have a problem.'

It isn't really surprising that debt relief has ended up `strangling' Third World countries in this way - after all, it is the branchild of the World Bank and the IMF, and was only subsequently taken up by Third-World charities, the Make Poverty History campaign, celebs and the Live 8 lot. With the harsh-world realisation that some poor countries simply could not afford to repay their debts, in the 1990s the World Bank and IMF set about finding new ways to relate to and manage the economic affairs of these countries. Motivated by a desire both to deepen their influence on developing nations and to boost their flagging moral authority, they launched the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in 1996. In 1999, they launched the `enhanced HIPC', which eased some of the fiscal criteria of the first-phase HIPC while introducing some of today's new, stringent conditions based on the World Bank's Poverty Reduction Strategy. For all Geldof and co's claims that their concert and their march to Gleneagles `forced' debt relief on to the agenda, what really happened at the G8 meeting last year was that the debts of those countries that had signed up for and agreed to the strict conditions of the HIPC initiatives were written off. What was widely celebrated as people power forcing faceless bureaucrats to `do something' for poor Africans was in fact the final stage in a process of repackaging austerity that was kickstarted by the World Bank and the IMF themselves in the mid-1990s. Live 8 merely provided a radical-sounding soundtrack to the World Bank's agenda.

What is most refreshing about DeRoy and WORLDwrite's film is that it is packed with interviews with the kind of people we don't normally hear from - with Ghanaian journalists, academics, activists and workers, all questioning the dubious `benefits' of debt relief and expressing their desire to make Ghana a fully developed, industrialised nation. But then, why should we need to hear from these people, when Bono declared last year that, `I represent a lot of people [in Africa] who have no voice at all. They haven't asked me to represent them. It's cheeky but I hope they're glad I do.' `He doesn't represent us', says Andrew. `Neither does Geldof or Blair. My message to them is: "You are not our messiah. We don't need you."'

Andrew is most concerned about the message today's debt-relief programmes send: that full-scale industrial development must be off the agenda. `Why should we accept this blueprint from the West, this blueprint of sustainable development? We do not want sustainable development. We do not want mud huts. We want concrete houses with slate roofing. We want cars. We want everything you in the West have, and even more than that.' Andrew grew up in Yiwabra, a village in the Aowin Suaman district in the Western Region of Ghana. His parents were peasant cocoa farmers who used axes, hoes and machetes to farm the land. `You should see what it did to them', he says. `They became old, injured, tired, because they were living "sustainable" lives. What they really needed was a combine harvester. We are sick of being told we must live simply because it is our cultural heritage. If Bob Geldof wants to come and live in a mud hut and do my mother's farming, he is welcome.'

Andrew performed well at various local schools and later went to study in Accra - a city he describes as `full of high expectation, full of the colours of life, but also full of drudgery and stress', and where he now argues with people, `at every opportunity I get', for less debt relief and more development. For him, the most poisonous part of recent debt-relief and `poverty reduction' campaigning is the idea that a certain level of poverty is acceptable. `They talk about raising people's incomes from one dollar a day to two dollars a day. Who wants two dollars a day? Do you? We should not graduate poverty like this. Poverty is not acceptable in any form, anywhere. So please, leave us to develop our way out of poverty.'


"Incorrect" fez in Australia

Racism complaints have forced Transperth to withdraw taxpayer-funded ads showing a gorilla wearing a fez. The Public Transport Authority confirmed that the campaign, which cost about $7000 and depicted an ape wearing what is sometimes considered an Islamic cap, was stopped after three complaints.

"The gorilla first appeared on July 22. We did not receive any feedback from the public until this week, when three complaints were lodged," PTA spokesman David Hynes said. "The complaints said the depiction was culturally insensitive and offensive. We responded to the complaints by removing the posters immediately. "There was a 2m by 4m poster and two smaller bulkhead posters at the Esplanade Busport and three 1.3m by 1.3m posters at our InfoCentres. "We printed 5000 pamphlets . . . they have also been withdrawn." He said Transperth did not intend to offend with the ads.

The WA Ethnic Communities Council said an apology would have been more appropriate. And passers-by said removing the ads was political correctness gone mad. "They are not offensive and I think there's too much of this type of carry-on about what's culturally sensitive," said Donna, 52, a public servant. Perth florist Natasha, 30, said: "I don't think they are offensive to Muslim people because a fez doesn't have to be a Muslim hat."

ECC president Ramdas Sankaran said the fez-wearing gorilla was not the type of image that should be used in a multicultural society. "Given the current Islamaphobia around the place, it's rather unfortunate that thoughtless ads like this are floating around," he said. "(But) an explanation and an apology for the unintended consequences would have been more appropriate."

The fez, which originated in the Moroccan city of Fez and was popularised by the Ottomans in the 1800s, is often seen as Islamic, even though European soldiers have worn them. Mr Hynes said research had indicated that the fez's origins were non- religious. He said the ad graphic was part of a fantasy campaign that also had a giant squid attacking a ferry on the Swan River and a satellite that had fallen in front of a bus. "(They) are intended to highlight a key benefit of TravelEasy . . . getting up-to-the-minute online messages about unexpected changes in public transport," he said. "Putting a fez on the gorilla was intended to suggest it was an escaped circus animal. No offence was intended."


Above is a picture of some Canadian Shriners wearing fezzes -- as Shriners do. I wonder if the Shriners were offended? They are certainly not Muslims because of the fezzes. (Shriners are a colourful offshoot of the Masons devoted to hospital charities). The fez is in fact mostly associated with Egypt (hence the Shriner interest) rather than with Muslims generally. Putting a rag hat on a gorilla would have been a much clearer Muslim allusion. And the man below is no Muslim. He is the famous British comedian, Tommy Cooper, who almost always wore a fez during his shows. He would no doubt be very "incorrect" if he were still alive today

25 September, 2006

Campus buzzwords don't mean anything anymore

If you're in the habit of reading e-mails from Carol Christ [Smith College administrator], you may recall a certain one that she sent out last Thursday. Under the subject heading "Strategic Planning Round Table Discussions for Students," she listed a variety of topics which students were invited to discuss with administrators at scheduled times during the semester. These discussions will help complete "the strategic plan that will guide the college over the next decade," wrote Christ. But what exactly are they going to be about?

The titles of the round table meetings are, at best, vague. But what's worse is that they make perfect use of an aspect of liberal arts college life that we have come to despise: super-politically correct, overly-sensitive non-speak. In an attempt to neither provoke nor offend, we have adopted a specific vocabulary which has come to mean both everything and nothing.

Using words like "community," "diversity" and "conversation," members of our campus think they're being generally safe and explicit, when really they are failing to convey any information at all. Where once these words may have actually meant something, they have been overused and distorted so that the concepts that they originally signified no longer apply, and their current intent is thus achieved: perfect, inoffensive vagueness.

One round table discussion that Christ listed in her e-mail is "Strengthening Essential Student Capacities." What does that even mean? Maybe attendance at this meeting will illuminate its mysterious title. I would hope the same goes for the other round tables as well, which will be guided under the headings of "Deepening Students' Awareness and Appreciation of Other Cultures and Global Issues," "Promoting a Culture of Research, Inquiry, and Discovery" and "Encouraging Purposeful Engagement with Society's Challenges."

Sure, you can glean the general topic of these meetings from their titles, but take a good look at the words being used. What does "engagement" mean to you? Or what about "awareness," "cultures" and "capacities?" These are all words that get tossed around so often on campus that they fail to convey a specific meaning anymore. Why is it that we can no longer say what we mean? At these meetings, people will have "conversations" about "diversity" in their "community," but what will come of it? Have we become a campus of hollow talk and no action?

When we use this language, we are obscuring the point of what we are trying to convey. If we actually want to make progress with real issues that exist on this campus such as tensions about race and class, which we know are present but are too frightened to discuss, we're going to have to take our words out of the clouds and start saying what we mean. No amount of overly-sensitive language is going to solve our problems.



My family lived near Bristol when that city would have been living high on the hog from the profit of slave trafficking. Yet if we got our hands on any of that cash you have my solemn oath that none of it has trickled down the generations. So I was rather annoyed to learn last week that the government is planning to apologise on the nation's behalf for the slave trade.

A committee headed by John Prescott is considering something called "a statement of regret" to be issued solemnly on March 25 next year, the date that marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. This is not technically an apology, but is something that parents will recognise as the next best thing. It is the government looking at its feet and mumbling a few words because it knows that otherwise it will be spending the next half an hour on the naughty step.

I don't know who will be making this apology, but I would be very grateful if they would make it clear that they have no authority to speak on behalf of the White family, late of Westbury-on-Trym in Gloucestershire. Because, like many other families throughout the land, we do not appear to have actually done anything. Not only did we play no part in slavery, but when we had a moment off from ploughing fields and building dry stone walls and sucking up to the Saxe-Coburgs we might even have been swept along in our modest way by the moral outrage that gripped the country in the late 18th century.

Far from being apologetic about slavery this country has much to be proud of. The abolition campaign had government support from an early stage. It was William Pitt, the dominant figure in the politics of the day, who urged his friend William Wilberforce to push the measure through the House of Commons.

Of course, we know that any apology is not really about slavery. It is about a much more modern issue: the uneasy relationship between black people and white people that can partly be blamed on the legacy of slavery in the West Indies and America. But slavery is not entirely what would be referred to these days as a white-on-black crime.

Years ago I watched a documentary about a group of black Americans who were on holiday in Africa, touring the slave sites. Many were in tears, having just discovered what went on at this end of the operation. They had just learnt the awful truth that the main suppliers of African slaves were themselves African. It was common practice for many years for the victors in battle to enslave their opponents. Suddenly, these victors discovered that they could also make a bit of money.

Jolly good business it was, too. King Tegbesu, who ruled what is now Benin, apparently made 250,000 pounds a year from selling slaves in 1750. According to my own rough calculations, this is the modern equivalent of 25 million pounds a year. And he is not the only African who grew fat on the profits of slave trading. The word "slave" is derived from the Slavs who were shipped from central Europe across the Mediterranean to Africa. From a book called The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas, I also learn that 30,000 Christian slaves were sent to Damascus when the Moors conquered Spain in the 8th century. According to the Domesday Book there were 25,000 slaves in England in the 11th century.

So let's all enjoy a good knees-up in March. Let's have street parties and debates on Start The Week and we might even sit quietly while Prescott makes a speech about Wilberforce and Hull. But let's not pretend that the British were wholly responsible for the plight of African slaves. Slavery was a long established and widespread evil: the difference is that the British were one of the first to recognise it as evil and to do something about it.



As Muslims rage across the globe killing people for publishing cartoons and threatening religious leaders for reading the words of an historical figure, some people paradoxically seem to imagine a greater threat looms over the world. Rabbi James Rudin is one of those people. He has even invented a word to describe them: "Christocrats".

Like so many who have made a living raising strawmen to knock down, Rudin cannot see the world in which we live, but the one he wants to exist . the one that might more easily keep him flush. Like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, men who still imagine we live in the era of Jim Crow, Rabbi Rudin, Director of the Interreligious Affairs Department of the ACJ (American Jewish Committee), imagines that we still live in an era of the Inquisition and that we are about to be overtaken by these "Christocrats". Sounds ominous. But, most strawmen do, don't they?

The last time Rabbi Rudin was making the rounds he was denouncing the Movie "Passion of the Christ" as a one made solely to disparage Jews. On CNN, Rudin denounced the movie saying, "I saw the film twice. I'm very disappointed. I'm very angry. I'm disappointed because Mel Gibson could have made a thoroughly Christian `Passion' play without beating up on Jews, vilifying my religion, my people, as he's done."

Now he is out hawking a book he entitled, "The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us". This screed is a rather insidious attempt to inflame Jews and secularists against Christians exactly in an era where we all face Islamofascism, the biggest threat to civilization since WWII, and in an era where we should be coming together to face this threat.

Yet, even as one reads Rabbi Rudin's book one finds little by way of substance and almost no real solutions other than to tell Christians to just shut up. Additionally, one cannot help but get the feeling that the good Rabbi is revealing his own hatreds for everything Christian. The whole tome feels like some personal vendetta.

In a recent interview, Rudin went out of his way to preface his words with the disclaimer that he didn't mean "all Evangelicals". On Buzzflash.com, Rudin said of the average Evangelical, "I've found that the overwhelming majority of Evangelical Christians are not committed to changing the basic relationship between church and state, and between government and religion."

He also warned that his boogymen were not very numerous, but were merely "a small, but very potent group, who are driven to say it's not just Christianity, but their form of Christianity that must be the legal, mandated, dominant form." Rudin even claims that the men he fears the most, Francis A. Schaeffer, and John Rushdoony (the Rushdoony who died in 2001), are "men who are pretty much unknown to the general American public".

This book, however, makes the fib to these disclaimers of a small, unnoticed cabal of Christian toughs because he ascribes all manner of outsized actions and successes to this "small, but very potent group" and inflates their power unduly. He sees Christian boogymen under his bed, in his closet, in his Courts and in Congress all controlled by people who most Americans have never heard of. Rudin imagines that these "Christocrats" want to change the Constitution to "define exactly the kind of Christianity that is legally the mandated version" and worries that "even other Christians would become second class" citizens as a result. Worse, Rudin feels that these "Christocrats" are just as vicious as any extremist Islamist might be.

Sadly, it seems Rudin views his enemy from afar and must not know very many of them. It would be interesting, for instance, to see Rudin address the fact that a great majority of his hated Evangelicals support Israel. But it is presumed he would explain that support away as a product of the "End Times" thinking that many anti-Christians so fear. In this theory, Christians only support Israel because a strong Israel will bring about the end of the world, a silly and ridiculous claim.

Rudin's rant against Christians seems rather reminiscent of the wacko conspiracies that too many deluded people blame on Jews, doesn't it? Can you say "Elders of Zion"? Apparently, Rudin does not see the irony in his own actions.

What Rudin rails against the most is the efforts by Christians to get politically involved - a trend that started in the late 70's and early 80's. Here Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority" comes in for special conspiracy theorizing. Rudin bemoans the lost days when Christians just shut up and voted without worrying about what really went on in Washington.

"Christian conservatives' concern always was, get right with Jesus, get right with Christ, get right with God on a personal level. Yes, they voted. And they participated in elections. But they did not see political parties or political movements as a means of carrying out God's will. God alone would determine that, and voting was a citizen's duty. But the Christian conservatives didn't look to the Democratic or Republican Party to deliver theological gifts or theological concerns or provide theological answers."

So, now we see Rudin's real problem. Christians are fine if they stay uninvolved in politics. He feels they should forget about that stuff and leave it to smarter men like himself, presumably. He cries foul at the "parallel media system of television, radio, magazines, newspapers, which reflect their point of view" that Christians have created, warns against the political action groups Christians have organized, moans about the money raised and gesticulates madly over the influence that this terrible religion has over Washington. Curiously, he doesn't see any parallel with the many Jewish groups that do the very same things for his own religion, some of which he works for. And one wonders why Rabbi Rudin thinks it is that Christians were called to a greater involvement in politics in the 1980's, in the first place? It wasn't a sudden movement lead by crazed but charismatic leaders who simply misled the public into involvement, but a response to decades of an American political scene that had drifted further and further from the conservative and religious precepts that had been the mainstay of American political discourse for nearly two hundred years. It was a result of a large group of regular Americans that had had enough of the warping and tearing down of traditional Americanism. If this disgust with the extreme left in America had not existed no Jerry Falwell could have become the powerhouse he became for a short time. Falwell or no, American Christians have every right to try and stop the march to leftism that was invading their schools and their politics.

Amazingly, Rudin claims that Christians are un-American just as they became involved in the most American endeavor; political activity. He doesn't accept that Christians have the very same right to advocate for their ideas and political needs as any other group and are not doing anything differently than the very organizations that Rudin works for.

All in all, it seems more like Rudin is engaging in wishful thinking and propagating the kind of anti-Christian rhetoric he has become famous for and not truthfully reading America's Christian community. His book is a mere screed against Christians masquerading as cogent cultural and political analysis. Rudin's message is that he just wants Christians to shut up and go away and wants them to know that he feels they are not real Americans.


24 September, 2006

Brokeback Ford

There was a time when the Ford Motor Company was synonymous with family. You might remember Dad packing you and your brothers and sisters into a Ford headed for a day at the beach, the zoo, or the farm. Ford meant stability, security, and tradition.

But those days have apparently gone the way of the Edsel. Now, we have a Ford that is openly endorsing a radical homosexual agenda--an agenda which is clearly anti-family. For instance, Ford has been known to force employees to take part in so-called diversity training classes. In these classes, workers are required to accept the concept of an active homosexual lifestyle-a lifestyle which may be directly counter to their own religious and moral beliefs. It's curious that such classes should be labelled "diversity training," given the fact that they are certainly not presenting diverse ideologies. Rather, this seems to simply be another case of political correctness in high gear.

Family groups are not taking Ford's actions lightly. Rather, they are engaged in a boycott of Ford products. However, homosexual rights groups have countered by announcing their own buying marathon--a "buycott" of Ford-produced cars.

To their credit, homosexual activists have been quite vocal and active in their push for homosexual marriage. But the question remains: are ordinary American families...those families tired of having the homosexual agenda infiltrate schools, news, and entertainment...willing to take on the boycott challenge? Or would they rather remain apathetic, and watch their way of life suffer as a result?

It has been said that few companies have done more to advertise and celebrate the homosexual lifestyle than Ford. Yet, many average citizens may not know this. Interestingly enough, the Human Rights Campaign actually rewarded Ford for its efforts at promoting the homosexual lifestyle by giving it a rating of 100-percent. In addition to supporting the idea of homosexual marriage, Ford has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to homosexual organizations, according to the American Family Association, an organization that objects to making homosexual marriage legal.

In fact, Ford has gone so far as to play bridesmaid to a homosexual "commitment ceremony." This isn't a case of tolerance--this is an undisputed embrace of the homosexual way of life.

The fact is that the kindest thing society can do to assist those dealing with same-sex attraction is to support the traditional concept of marriage--the concept that the marriage bond is limited to one man, one woman. Any other definition of marriage is, in essence, a lie and runs counter to the workings of Creation.

We need to deal with individuals with same-sex attraction with compassion, understanding, and support. We do not need to change the definition of marriage in a misguided effort to make their struggles easier.

And we need to rev up our efforts to make Ford accountable to the families that helped turn the automaker into a legend of the manufacturing industry. Our children are depending upon our willingness to stand up for the sanctity of family life.



From BBC Today Programme, 21 September 2006 (8:20)

Is it the job of Britain's foremost scientific academy, The Royal Society, to hector private companies about how they spend their money? There has been criticism of the Royal Society for asking the oil company Exxon Mobile to stop giving money to groups it argues misrepresent the science of climate change.

Dr David Whitehouse is a scientist and an author. Bob Ward is from the Royal Society. He wrote the letter to Exxon Mobile. Both join me now.

Dr Whitehouse. Why do you object to the Royal Society, to Bob Ward writing to Exxon Mobile?

David Whitehouse: My problem is not with the science, my problem is not with human-induced global warming. My problem is with the nature of science and the scientific debate, about different views. Different views, contrary positions, are essential to the progress of science. They are what keep arguments strong, the defence of arguments is what keeps them robust and healthy. And if somebody comes out with bad science, somebody comes out with misrepresentation, you tackle bad science with good science. It does not matter, it is irrelevant, whether these people are right or wrong, whether it's god science or bad science. What troubles me is that the Royal Society is demanding another organisation to stop funding groups that have views different from the scientific consensus. Their views, the value of their views, will be determined by argument and not by doing a tussle around their funding, to get their money turned off because you disagree with what they're saying.

BBC: Bob Ward. Can you respond to that.

Bob Ward: I can. Let me first correct the impression that being given. I did not demand that Exxon stops funding these groups. I made an observation in a meeting I had in July that they were making statements that misrepresented the science and that they were funding groups that were similarly misrepresenting the science. They then offered themselves to stop funding these groups. But let me make a distinction here.

BBC: Can we just follow this through. You then wrote to them saying...

Bob Ward: What happened is, after I'd explained why the Royal Society felt that the statements Exxon Mobile had made in a report in February, when I explained to them that they were wrong in our opinion, they then send me a report in the summer, a new report, which repeated all of the statements which I complained about in the first place.

BBC: And the letter which the Guardian got hold of yesterday was you saying to them: 'I would be grateful if you could let me know when Exxon Mobile plans to carry out this pledge.' Which is why I used the word 'hectoring,' it's a form of hectoring.

Bob Ward: Well, I like the idea that the Royal Society should be accused of bullying the world's largest multinational oil company. All we're doing is saying to them: it is very clear what the scientific community says about climate change. Anybody can find out by going to the website of the IPCC (www.ippc.ch) . And they can see what the scientific community thinks about climate change. And then they can compare for themselves the stsatements that are being made by Exxon Mobile and by these lobby groups - who are not groups of scientists. These are lobby groups, they are not scientists. Exxon Mobile are not offering scientific evidence.

BBC: Let me bring in Dr Whitehouse. Isn't that what the Royal Society should be doing, ensuring that the right information is out there?

David Whitehouse: The Royal Society should be arguing about science, it shouldn't be delving in such politics. It is clear from this letter that the Royal Society did have concerns about the support that Exxon was giving to groups which they disagree with. They can have concerns about that but their argument should not be with the funding, or the background. It's a question of free speech. Scientists in America won the right to criticise the Bush Government when they did not agree with them about global warming. The contrary should apply here.

BBC: Bob Ward. Have you stepped over a line here?

Bob Ward: We haven't. Let me be clear. We're not trying to shut scientists up. What we're trying to do is say to the lobby groups and to the companies that they should present properly what the scientific community is saying. Now, let me just tell you. One of the organisations that is getting funding from Exxon Mobile is the so-called Centre for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. This is a statement on their website: "There is no compelling reason to believe that the rise in temperature was caused by the rise in carbon dioxide." Now, can David Whitehouse tell me which peer-reviewed scientific papers that statement is based on?

David Whitehouse: My point is not an argument about the science. The science is irrelevant in this context. You can go to your own website and read scientists talk about the uncertainties of global warming. The question is not whether these people are right or wrong. It's a question about their right to speak. When scientists and scientific organisations like yourself want to serve the cause of public policy, they do so best by following the ethics of science and not public relations and spin.

BBC: Let me just come in here. Dr Whitehouse. Isn't it the case that on this argument people would say the price is too high. And you don't have a level playing field if you have millions being pumped into bad science.

David Whitehouse: First of all. Does is matter that it is bad science? The science, whether it is bad or god, comes out in scientific argument. My problem is with distorting the playing field. Science is about free speech, science is about the exchange of information and argument. It's not about trying to find out who get money paid to somebody else because you disagree with him. We tell young scientists, the most important thing, we tell them, is to question authority. Why should I believe this because you say so?

BBC: We have very little time left. I want a final thought from you, Bob Ward. Is the Royal Society going to continue that sort of approach to prevent funding of organisations that they don't like what they're saying?

Bob Ward: The Royal Society's motto is "Nullis in Verba" - which means "where is your evidence?" (sic) If organisations make statements that are clearly at odds with what the scientific community says the evidence shows, yes, then we will challenge it. Because it does not serve the public for them to be mislead about what the scientific evidence says.

Benny Peiser comments: "Well, I'm not a classicist. But to my knowledge the Royal Society's motto is generally translated as "on the words of no one," meaning: take no theory in trust ... which is in essence the ethics of scientific scrutiny and debate David Whitehouse has been arguing for". (David Whitehouse was until recently the online science editor for the BBC)


Late last year, at the invitation of Nato, and in the company of a small band of globetrotting pundits, I travelled to Afghanistan to witness first-hand the allied operation to reconstruct the benighted country. After a day of briefings in Kabul, our friendly Nato hosts flew us by military transport to Herat, on the western border with Iran. We were due to spend a day touring a Nato post in the city and then fly back that evening to the capital. But the Danish plane that had taken us developed propeller problems and was grounded. As we cooled our heels outside the airfield , we waited for word of the aircraft that was supposed to come for us: a German C-130.

It soon became clear that the replacement plane was not coming. The reason, it turned out, was that the Germans would not fly in the dark. German aircraft are not permitted by their national rules to undertake night flights. Now to those who survived the Blitz and Barbarossa, the news that today's Luftwaffe will not fly at night in potentially hostile environments might be regarded as a welcome historical development. But when you are trying to fight a war against a ruthless band of terrorists who operate 24/7, never pausing to consider the dangers of venturing out in the dark, limiting yourself to daytime operations is a little constraining.

The Germans are not alone. Many of the European nations with forces in Afghanistan are operating under similarly ludicrous restrictions. Though their soldiers and airmen are highly capable and indeed eager to take the fight to the Taleban, their governments are desperately fearful of the public reaction should their soldiers suffer significant casualties. They don't think that their voters will stomach it. And the tragedy is, they are probably right.

I was reminded of my unscheduled night in Herat, and what it said about Europe's dwindling commitment to its own survival, by a series of disheartening developments in the past week on the political and diplomatic front. Last week we had the tragicomic spectacle of European Nato countries lining up to decline politely the request to beef up their forces in Afghanistan, many of whom are now fighting in perilously under-resourced conditions against a resurgent enemy.

Then on Monday Jacques Chirac went to New York to upend the long, delicate diplomacy designed to deny Iran nuclear weapons. He said France no longer thought the UN should impose sanctions if Iran did not end its uranium enrichment programme. Various explanations were offered by commentators for this volte-face - from the thought that France might be fearful of the economic consequences of sanctions, to the possibility that M Chirac was trying to curry favour with sanctions-opposing Russia and China, to the suggestion that Paris worries that its new peacekeeping force in Lebanon might come under fire from Hezbollah if France acted tough with its Iranian sponsors.

Whatever the proximate cause of this latest French surrender, the basic reality is that Europeans have been extremely reluctant to press Iran with sanctions all along - the same noises are coming out of Berlin now - and are content instead to acquiesce in the nightmare of a nuclear-armed Tehran.

Then, of course, we have had the predictable European outrage following the latest apparent provocation of Islamic extremists by free speech in the West - Pope Benedict XVI's remarks last week on Islam.

I actually heard a senior member of the British Government chide the Pope this week for what he described as his unhelpful comments. This minister went on to say that the Pope should keep quiet about Islamic violence because of the Crusades. It was a jaw-dropping observation. If it was meant seriously its import is that, because of violence perpetrated in the name of Christ 900 years ago, today's Church, and presumably today's European governments (who, after all, were eager participants in the Crusades) should forever hold their peace on the subject of religious fanaticism. In this view the Church's repeated apologies for the sins committed in its name apparently are not enough. The Pope has no right, even in a lengthy disquisition on the complexities of faith and reason, to say anything about the religious role in Islamic terrorism.

It is apt that Pope Benedict should have received such European opprobrium for his remarks. His election last year looked like a final attempt by the Church to revive the European spirit in the face of accelerating secularisation and cultural morbidity.

But the scale of Europe's moral crisis is larger than ever. Opposing the war in Iraq was one thing, defensible in the light of events. But opting out of a serious fight against the Taleban, sabotaging efforts to get Iran off its path towards nuclear status, pre-emptively cringing to Muslim intolerance of free speech and criticism, all suggest something quite different. They imply a slow but insistent collapse of the European will, the steady attrition of the self-preservation instinct. Its effects can be seen not only in the political field, but in other ways - the startling decline of birth rates across the continent that represent a sort of self-inflicted genocide; the refusal to confront the harsh realities of a global economy.

It may well be that history will judge that Europe's decline came at the very moment of its apparent triumph. The traumas of the first half of the 20th century have combined with the economic successes of the second half to induce a collective loss of will. Great civilisations die not in the end because of external force majeure but because internally the will to thrive is sapped.

The symptoms of this moral collapse may be far away from the affluent and still largely peaceful cities and towns of the old continent - in the mountains of Afghanistan, the diplomatic reception halls of Tehran and the angry Pope-effigy-burning streets of the Middle East. But there should be no doubt that it is closer to home where the disease has taken hold.


Australian Federal treasurer: Pope's critics 'stifling free speech'

Peter Costello has said Muslim critics of a recent speech by Pope benedict XVI have "lacked proportion" in their angry response and have tried to stifle free speech. The Treasurer, in a speech to be delivered today to a Christian lobby conference in Canberra, will also dismiss Islamic extremists' efforts to create caliphates bound by religious law, saying instead that the creation of a secular Muslim state in Turkey is a model that should be adopted by the modern Islamic world.

Earlier this month, the Pope triggered condemnation when he discussed Islam's tendency to justify violence. The Pope had quoted criticisms of the prophet Mohammed by 14th-century Byzantine Christian emperor Manuel II Paleologos.

Mr Costello says he "will not repeat the sentence because it would thoroughly detract from what I have to say". "But it was said 700 years ago," he says. "Read the speech and wonder at the reaction. In response, we are told, seven churches were set on fire on the West Bank and Gaza, and effigies of the Pope were hung and burned in Pakistan. "No doubt the fire bombers on the West Bank and the demonstrators in Pakistan would claim that their actions were incited by the 'insult' of the Pope's speech. "But one can't help thinking that there are some people who love to find an insult and have no concept of proportionality when they do so. "We are moved to think that there are other agendas here. And one of those agendas is to stifle free speech and legitimate open inquiry."

Mr Costello will tell delegates the Muslim world has an "outstanding example" of a secular state created last century in the nation of Turkey established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who commanded the Turkish victory at Gallipoli. "He should be held out as a model of leadership for the modern Islamic world," Mr Costello will say. Movements such as al Qaeda and its south-east Asian affiliate Jemaah Islamiah are engaged in a violent struggle to create Muslim caliphates, often dominated by sharia law. "They have a vision of a caliphate stretching across the Middle East toppling what they see as corrupt nation states and enforcing a more 'pure' version of Islam," Mr Costello says. "In our own region, the ambitions of Jemaah Islamiah is to create a pan-Islamic state stretching down and encompassing the southern Philippines, Malaya and Indonesia."

But Mr Costello argues the separation of church and state is good for society and should be embraced by the Muslim world. "I believe that a secular national state can be adopted by Muslim societies and, what is more, that doing so will lead to greater economic technological progress," he says. Mr Costello says Jesus Christ rejected any opportunity to seize political power, while Mohammed, who was persecuted for his religious teaching, formed an army, defeated those who had forced him out, made peace and instituted a government. The Treasurer has previously sparked controversy by condemning "mushy multiculturalism" and warning Muslim migrants who want sharia law to leave Australia


23 September, 2006

Police force admits it illegally discriminated against white men

Great when the cops break the law!

A police force that rejected 108 potential recruits because they were white men has admitted positive discrimination and agreed to pay compensation. Gloucestershire Constabulary said that it had been trying to increase diversity with its policy of selecting women and candidates from ethnic minorities. But at an employment tribunal in Bristol yesterday, the force admitted that its actions were unlawful and agreed to pay compensation to one potential recruit. Further claims from the other 107 men, who were told by the force that they had been "randomly deselected", could now follow.

Clive Tomer, chairman of the tribunal, said yesterday that Gloucestershire Constabulary had been "at the very least disingenuous and at worst misleading". He ordered that the claimant, Matt Powell, should be given 2,500 pounds for injury to feelings. The tribunal was told that Mr Powell, 30, had applied to join the force in October last year after seeing a job advertisement in a local paper. A month later, after being told that he had progressed to the second stage of the recruitment process, he left his job as an IT team leader at Filton College to concentrate on his application.

But in January he received a letter saying that he had been "randomly deselected". Despite repeated calls to the force's human resources department, he was never given an explanation for his rejection. In April the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission started an investigation. They reported that the force had unlawfully discriminated on the grounds of race and sex. The tribunal was told that two thirds of white men who applied to join the force in last year's recruitment drive had been turned down. Every ethnic minority candidate who applied had been invited to an assessment centre.

Speaking at the tribunal, Mr Powell said: "I didn't come here for the money. I just want to be heard. I firmly believe a wrong has been done here. I was, I still am, desperate to be a police officer and they have unfairly discriminated against me." Nigel Tillott, his lawyer, said: "It is now clear how far public authorities can go in positive discrimination. What they cannot do is discriminate against white males."

Gordon Ramsey, the head of human resources, apologised yesterday and said: "We were trying to advance diversity in the force and we thought at the time that this was lawful, positive action. When we found out after an independent investigation by the Commission for Racial Equality that it wasn't lawful, we accepted that."



A British cancer research specialist has been jailed for three years for waging a campaign of sabotage and vandalism against companies linked to an animal testing laboratory. To his colleagues, Joseph Harris, 26, was an outstanding doctor who had a glittering career ahead of him in his specialist field of molecular biology. But in private he became ever more tormented by the fact that his research work on pancreatic cancer was leading to drugs being tested on animals. Faced with an increasing moral dilemma and the estrangement of his girlfriend, who despised animal testing, he turned to violent activism to help ease his conscience and at the same time please her.

Between last December and January he attacked three companies contracted to Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridgeshire, causing damage valued at more than 25,000 pounds ($62,000). None was directly linked to animal testing. He glued locks, slashed tyres and put hoses through letter boxes, flooding offices. Harris is the first person to be convicted under legislation designed to tackle harassment and threats from animal rights campaigners directly linked to economic sabotage. Judge Ian Alexander said the conviction would also damage the people he had been trying to help.

"I am sorry that your conviction and the sentence I impose will seriously damage what was a very promising career," he said. "It may well be that your future inability to continue your research into gastro-intestinal cancer will be a great loss to those who suffer that disease." The judge added: "It causes me great discomfort in seeing you before the court, having thrown so much away."

The court heard that Harris found details of his victims on the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty website. All three companies have since ceased trading with Huntingdon Life Sciences. Rebecca Trowler, defending, told the court: "In that field, of course, there are experiments on animals. Inevitably, over time as his career progressed, he was coming under pressure to participate in these experiments." Harris had split up with his girlfriend, who could not accept his work and its tests on animals. Ms Trowler said: "The girlfriend had ended their relationship because of his continued work in the field of medical research because she disapproved of this activity. This put him in an increasing moral dilemma. Essentially he came to a crisis point and he took a very, very stupid decision."


"Equal opportunity" dictates who can enter a bar???

More craziness in the Australian State of Victoria

A swank city bar wants the right to keep an even mix of men and women within its walls if noisy mobs threaten to wreck its atmosphere. Comme's owner this month applied to delay entry for some patrons to stop either sex swamping his serene wine bar. Renowned Melbourne restaurateur Frank van Haandel lost his bid to be exempted from equal opportunity laws at certain times in the Alfred Place hotel's bar areas. But the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal left the path open for him to try again.

Mr Van Haandel argued that delaying entry to keep an even split of the sexes would help block big rowdy gatherings of men or women invading the venue and ruining the relaxed vibe. The push follows past rulings on gender balance affecting some other bars and nightclubs that promote the mingling of men and women. But it sparked fears of disruptive queues from local residents' group Melbourne 3000 Inc.

Mr Van Haandel, who also owns the Stokehouse, Circa and Prince of Wales Hotel, said Comme's bar suited professionals and he was keen to retain its ambience. Some patrons had complained of groups of raucous men or women encroaching on the CBD after footy and rugby league matches, the tribunal was told. His company Halifex Pty Ltd's legal bid excluded the venue's private function and dining areas.

VCAT deputy president Cate McKenzie was unconvinced that a gender balance was the best way to prevent excessive noise. But in a written ruling she left the option of re-applying open if extra material was presented. Mr Van Haandel declined to comment. The chief executive officer of Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria, Helen Szoke, said: "Comme can deal very simply with the issue of noise and inappropriate behaviour by asking people to leave." [The stupid bitch should try kicking out drunks herself. She might learn something]


22 September, 2006


How incorrect can you get?? Because the reserve powers of a constitutional Monarch are rarely used (though they have been used several times in Australia), foolish people tend to think that they do not exist or are insignificant. Thailand shows that they do exist and are significant

Thailands's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has reigned for 60 years -- more than any living monarch - has outlasted 20 prime ministers, 15 constitutions and at least as many coups. After yesterday's bloodless coup some in the streets of Bangkok seemed unfazed, sure the King would again see them through crisis. "It's just the news," said one woman, a chicken vendor in the capital. "Tomorrow everything will be back to normal. Everything is OK because we have a king."

In a sign of the monarch's influence, army chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin met with King Bhumibol immediately after declaring that he had seized power. As they tried to reassure the Thai public that their intentions were honourable, the military leaders behind the coup broadcast pictures of the King on television.

King Bhumibol has few legal powers but wields enormous influence over his people, who revere him with an almost god-like devotion that confounds outsiders accustomed to the tabloid treatment of European royals. In a culture where religion and royalty are intertwined, the 78-year-old has carefully nurtured his role as caretaker of his people and helped Thailand weather six decades of political and social upheaval. "In times of crisis, when we reach an impasse or stalemate, we look up to the King to help us find a way out," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University.

Despite carving out a position of strict neutrality in politics, he has occasionally intervened to spectacular effect to end domestic upheaval. In 1973, after riots broke out at a Bangkok university, he asked a prime minister and his henchman to leave the country in a bid to halt a rising tide of social disorder. They obeyed. In 1992, he called then-prime minister General Suchinda Kraprayoon to his palace and humiliated him on television for ordering a bloody military crackdown on demonstrations against his government. The prime minister resigned.

Most recently, on April 25, the King publicly castigated Supreme Court judges and ordered them to break a political deadlock caused by months of street protests and inconclusive elections. They nullified the elections and ordered new polls



Three young men who tried to enlist at a U.S. Army recruiting station here appeared to be first-rate military material. Two were college students, and the other was a college graduate. They had no criminal records. They were physically fit and eager to serve at a time when wars on two fronts have put a strain on U.S. troops and the need for qualified recruits is great. But the recruiter was forced to turn them away, for one reason: They are gay and unwilling to conceal it.

"Don't judge me because of my sexuality," said one of the three, Justin Hager, 20, a self-described Republican from a military family who has "a driving desire to join" the armed forces. "Judge me because of my character and drive."

As the Pentagon's search for recruits grows more urgent, gay rights groups are making the biggest push in nearly a decade to win repeal of a compromise policy, encoded in a 1993 law and dubbed "don't ask, don't tell," that bars openly gay people from serving in the military. The policy, grounded in a belief that open homosexuality is damaging to unit morale and cohesion, stipulates that gay men and lesbians must serve in silence and refrain from homosexual activity, and that recruiters and commanders may not ask them about their sexual orientation in the absence of compelling evidence that homosexual acts have occurred.

The push for repeal follows years of legal setbacks, as well as discord among gay rights groups about how, or even whether, to address the issue. Now, rather than rely on the courts, advocates are focusing on drumming up support in towns across the country, spotlighting the personal stories of gay former service members and pushing a Democratic bill in the House that would do away with the policy.

In August the gay rights group Soulforce opened a national campaign by recruiting openly gay people, like the three young men in Madison, who would have enlisted in the military if not for "don't ask, don't tell." As part of that campaign, two young people who were rejected as applicants on Tuesday at a recruitment center in Chicago returned there on Wednesday and engaged in a sit-in. They were arrested but later released without charges.

The move to change the policy faces stiff resistance from the Pentagon and Republicans in Congress, who, in a time of war during a tough election year, have no longing for another contentious debate about gay troops. The House bill, introduced last year by Representative Martin Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat, has picked up 119 supporters, but only five of them Republicans. "In the near term, it has zero chance," said Daniel Goure, a vice president at the centrist Lexington Institute. "It's hard to see how anyone would want to give potential opponents any ammunition to knock them off."

A 2004 report by the Urban Institute concluded that at least 60,000 gay people were serving in the armed forces, including the Reserves and the National Guard. But since 1993, at least 11,000 members have been discharged for being openly gay, among them 800 in highly crucial jobs, according to the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm.

For all of that, gay rights groups, gay veterans and some analysts say much has changed since the policy was adopted. A Gallup poll in 2004 found that 63 percent of respondents favored allowing gay troops to serve openly; a similar one, by the Pew Research Center this year, put the number at 60 percent; those majorities did not exist in 1993. Young people in particular now have more tolerant views about homosexuality.

In addition, 24 foreign armies, most notably those of Britain and Israel, have integrated openly gay people into their ranks with little impact on effectiveness and recruitment. In Britain, where the military was initially forced to accept gay troops by the European Court of Human Rights, gay partners are now afforded full benefits, and the Royal Navy has called on a gay rights group to help recruit gay sailors.

The new debate on "don't ask, don't tell" also coincides with multiple deployments that are being required of many U.S. troops by a military that has lowered its standards to allow more high school dropouts and some convicted criminals to enlist. Lieutenant General Daniel Christman, retired, former superintendent at West Point and onetime assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said both the British experience and the shifts in attitudes at home would cause the U.S. armed forces to change, though slowly. "It is clear that national attitudes toward this issue have evolved considerably in the last decade," said Christman, now a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "This has been led by a new generation of service members who take a more relaxed and tolerant view toward homosexuality. This does not mean that we will move to a British-like policy of 'don't ask, don't misbehave' any time soon. But I think it is inevitable that the policy will eventually change along the lines of what the British military presently practices."

On the other side of the divide, Elaine Donnelly, president of the conservative Center for Military Readiness, said permitting gay men and lesbians to serve openly would prompt recruitment rates to drop and disrupt unit cohesion, a linchpin in the decision to allow gay troops to serve only in silence. "People in the military live in conditions of little or no privacy," said Donnelly, who advocates a full ban on gay troops. "In conditions of forced intimacy, people should not have to expose themselves to other persons who are sexually attracted to them."



Judging by deeds, not words

After the July 7 attacks Tony Blair and Charles Clarke, then the Home Secretary, promised to remove extremist clerics from Britain. But more than a year later, many “preachers of hate” remain in the country with no apparent action taken against them. They include:

ANJEM CHOUDARY is the leader of al-Ghurabaa, which was formed from the remnants of al-Muhajiroun and banned along with the Saved Sect. Mr Choudary, 39, organised the protests outside the Danish Embassy against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He was arrested during the march and, in July, fined 500 pounds for failing to give police the required six days notice of the demonstration. He is being investigated in connection with last Sunday’s protests outside Westminster Cathedral over the Pope’s comments about Islam.

ABU UZAIR is a British-born civil engineering graduate and co-founder of the Saved Sect. He has repeatedly praised the September 11 hijackers as “brave warriors”. After the July 7 bombings in London he said: “The banner has been risen for jihad in the UK which means it is allowed for [suicide bombers] to attack.”

AZZAM TAMIMI, a Palestinian-born academic based in Britain, advocated martyrdom when addressing an Islamic convention in Manchester. He told the 8,000-strong audience that dying for one’s beliefs was just, adding: “Martyrs are those who stand up in defiance of George Bush and Tony Blair.” He has said that he would be prepared to be a suicide bomber in Israel.

ABU MUWAHHID is said to be a disciple of Omar Bakri Mohammad. He praised Osama bin Laden and called for all sinners to be killed in video broadcasts in July: “Capture them and besiege them and prepare an ambush from every angle.” He mocked the victims of 9/11 and called for a Muslim state in Britain with a “black flag” over Downing Street.


21 September, 2006

'Dissing' men: the new gender war

Feminism has drawn attention to and fought against stereotypical and sexist portrayals of women in mass media, but new research shows that media portrayals of gender have largely done an about face in the past decade or so. There is a new "gender war" and the main target of discrimination is no longer women, according to research - it is men.

Gender studies have claimed that mass media portrayals and images are key influences that both reflect and shape society's views of women and women's self-identity. As well as attacking obvious sexist media portrayals such as page three girls and "girlie" magazines, feminists have challenged objectification, marginalisation, trivialisation and other negative portrayals of women in movies, advertising, TV drama and other media content. Their argument that such portrayals are damaging have won support from legislators and from many media professionals including film makers, advertising producers and editors. Research shows that, while sexism against women remains, representations of women have evolved with less stereotypical portrayals and more women shown in heroic, successful, independent and sexually liberated roles such as in Buffy and the Vampire Slayer, Sex and the City and even in aggressive roles such as Kill Bill.

A 1995-96 study reported in a 2002 book, Media, Gender and Identity by media researcher David Gauntlett, found 43 per cent of major characters in TV shows were women - up from 18 per cent in 1992-93. The study reported that, on a character-by-character basis, females and males were equal in all criteria studied. Analysis of newspapers and magazines also has found portrayals of women improving - albeit there is still a way to go in some areas according to feminist scholars.

Until recently, gender theorists and media researchers have argued or assumed that media representations of men are predominantly positive, or at least unproblematic. Men have allegedly been shown in mass media as powerful, dominant, heroic, successful, respected, independent and in other positive ways conducive to men and boys maintaining a healthy self-identity and self-esteem. However, this view has come under challenge over the past few years. John Beynon, a Welsh cultural studies academic, examined how masculinity was portrayed in the British quality press including The Times, The Guardian and The Sunday Times over a three-year period from 1999-2001 and in books such as Susan Faludi's 2000 best-seller Stiffed: The Betrayal of Modern Man. Beynon concluded in his 2002 book, Masculinities and Culture, that men and masculinity were overwhelmingly presented negatively and as "something dangerous to be contained, attacked, denigrated or ridiculed, little else".

Canadian authors, Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young in a controversial 2001 book, Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture reported widespread examples of "laughing at men, looking down on men, blaming men, de-humanising men, and demonising men" in modern mass media. They concluded: ". the worldview of our society has become increasingly both gynocentric (focused on the needs and problems of women) and misandric (focused on the evils and inadequacies of men)".

The role of mass media in creating and or reflecting identity has long been debated and the findings of some studies have been questioned. Nathanson and Young admitted in their foreword that their findings were based on a small sample. Also, most analysis of media content has focused on movies, TV drama and advertising: mass media genre which are fiction and, therefore, not representative of reality and ostensibly "taken with a grain of salt" by audiences.

However, an extensive content analysis of mass media portrayals of men and male identity undertaken for a PhD completed in 2005 through the University of Western Sydney focusing on news, features, current affairs, talk shows and lifestyle media found that men are widely demonised, marginalised, trivialised and objectified in non-fiction media content that allegedly presents facts, reality and "truth". The study involved collection of all editorial content referring to or portraying men from 650 newspaper editions (450 broadsheets and 200 tabloids), 130 magazines, 125 TV news bulletins, 147 TV current affairs programs, 125 talk show episodes, and 108 TV lifestyle program episodes from 20 of the highest circulation and rating newspapers, magazines and TV programs over a six-month period. Media articles were examined using in-depth quantitative and qualitative content analysis methodology.

The research found that, by volume, 69 per cent of mass media reporting and commentary on men was unfavourable compared with just 12 per cent favourable and 19 per cent neutral or balanced. Men were predominately reported or portrayed in mass media as villains, aggressors, perverts and philanderers, with more than 75 per cent of all mass media representations of men and male identities showing men in one of these four ways. More than 80 per cent of media mentions of men, in total, were negative, compared with 18.4 per cent of mentions which showed men in a positive role.

The overwhelmingly negative reporting and portrayals of men in mass media news, current affairs, talk shows and lifestyle media was mainly in relation to violence and aggression. Violent crime, including murder, assault, armed robberies and attacks such as bashings, accounted for almost 40 per cent of all media reporting of male violence and aggression, followed by sexual abuse (20.5 per cent), general crime (18.6 per cent) and domestic violence (7.3 per cent).

Other major topics of media coverage of men were fatherhood and family, male sexuality, work and career, and men's social behaviour. In all of these categories, men were predominantly reported and portrayed mostly negatively. Fatherhood was also a prominent subject in relation to men, discussed in 361 media articles and features during the period of the study. Some media coverage positively discussed men as fathers, pointing to increasing recognition of the importance of fathers in children's lives. However, along with recognition of the importance of fathers and the depth of many men's emotional connection with their children, discussion contained an almost equal number of criticisms of men as "deadbeat dads", "commitment phobic" and as perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual abuse within families.

Despite evidence of violence and abuse committed by women, such as a National Family Violence Survey in the US which found women just as likely to commit violence against men as men are against women, and a US National Incidence of Child Abuse and Neglect report in 2000 that found "where maltreatment of children led to death, 78 per cent of the perpetrators were female", men are almost exclusively portrayed as the perpetrators of domestic violence and child abuse.

As identified by Mary Hood in a 2001 book chapter, "Developing new kinds of relationships between men and children", a "feminist construction of men as responsible for child abuse has had consequences for the relationship of non-abusive men [the vast majority] with children. A side-effect has been to cast a shadow over the interaction of all men with all children"....

The new idealised image of men presented in the media during the past three years has been the "metrosexual", a term reportedly coined by British author Mark Simpson and made popular by New York trend-spotter Marian Salzman, referring to men who are fashion-conscious and well-groomed - often to the point of becoming effeminate such as wearing make-up and waxing to remove body hair.

Recent research has shown "metrosexuals" to be mostly a fabrication of mass media - and not just advertising and TV drama. International current affairs show, 60 Minutes, devoted a major segment to "Metro Man" (August 24, 2003) and Australia's other top-rating current affairs program, A Current Affair, devoted two programs to metrosexuals (September 19, 2003 and December 2, 2003). Men's magazine Ralph (October 2003) published a quiz headed "Are you a metrosexual" in a tongue-in-cheek tone. But the underlying message was that, if a man is not a metrosexual, he is a sexist, football-loving, beer-drinking slob.

The research found that men are also objectified in women's magazines and popular media in the same ways that women were in male-orientated media for several generations, but which is now regarded as blatantly sexist and "politically incorrect". For instance, Cosmopolitan magazine's "Guy without a shirt" section features male pin-ups such as David Beckham - for example, "Want to see Becks take a free kick - naked" (October 2003). The top-rating TV program, Sex and the City has extensively portrayed men as little more than sex objects and "handbags" for women's amusement and pleasure.....

As they seek their identity and role in society, men and boys today are being plunged into a vortex of social, political and economic change; feminist philosophy that dominates thinking about gender, and mass media images and discussions that condemn traditional male attributes and masculinities and promote confusing new identities such as "metrosexuals".

To the extent that the negative views of men and masculinity in mass media reflect social attitudes, these findings have alarming implications for men and boys and for societies generally. Just as women have struggled against misogyny, men today face an increasingly misandric world that devalues and demonises them and gives them little basis for self-esteem.

Boys face education systems that inadequately cater to their needs and lack positive role models to help them grow up as healthy men. By propagating negative views of men and male identity, mass media are perpetuating them and giving them social and political traction. Widespread views on men as violent, sexually abusive, unable to be trusted with children, "deadbeat dads" and in need of "reconstruction" have the potential to and strong likelihood of shaping future policy making and political decisions. Ultimately, negative public and media discourse on men and boys could have major social and financial costs for societies in areas such as male health, rising suicide rates, and family disintegration.

In a book reporting this research released in September 2006 by Palgrave Macmillan, it is argued that the negative portrayal of men and male identity in contemporary societies is not only a matter of concern for men, but also for women. What is happening to men has an impact on women who live and work with them and who care about the health, welfare and happiness of their husbands, partners, brothers, male friends and their sons growing up and seeking their role and identity in a changing world.



In 1964 the Democratic National Committee was riding high. Lyndon Johnson had just crushed Barry Goldwater by winning 61% of the popular vote, and the Dems held a 2 to 1 edge in the Congress. Back then, the Democrats didn't need a feminist plank in their platform to woo the female vote. But in 1972 the party began its process of ritual self-immolation. That year the DNC recommended the make-up of the National Convention delegations be "in reasonable relationship" to the proportion of minorities and women in each state. That guideline quickly became a 50-50 gender quota.

Suddenly ethnic Catholics, conservative southerners, and male union workers, long the backbone of the party, were out in the cold. And the Dems found themselves sucked into the vortex of feminist-socialist agenda. The Reign of the Femocrats had begun.

If there is one person who can take credit for the Democrats' rapid descent into hysterical irrelevance, she would be Eleanor Smeal, former president of N.O.W. It was Smeal who first ballyhooed the notion of the gender voting gap, and used it to bludgeon reluctant Dems to embrace the rad-fem manifesto. While it was a matter of record that the men's and women's vote sometimes aligned differently, it was less clear which political party would become the beneficiaries of that gap.

In early 1984 Smeal guaranteed the Democrats would enjoy a 10% boost if they selected a female presidential running mate. So that July the Democrats announced Walter Mondale's right-hand gal would be Geraldine Ferraro. But four months later, only 44% of female voters voted for the Mondale-Ferraro ticket, handing Ronald Reagan a historic landslide victory. No comment from Ms. Smeal about that sure-fire 10% margin of victory.

In 1985, EMILY's List arrived on the scene, funneling millions of dollars to Democratic candidates who advocated abortion. EMILY's List would eventually help elect 61 members of Congress, 11 senators, and eight governors, all of them proponents of a death-dealing ideology. Three years later Michael Dukakis tapped lady-in-lavender Susan Estrich to head up his presidential campaign. Then Dukakis waffled on what he would do if his wife was raped and murdered. Overnight his polling numbers plummeted, and Bush Senior waltzed into the Oval Office.

In 1992 the "two-for-the-price-of one" Clintons came to power. Practically overnight, Hillary became the darling of the Democratic left and feminist ideology became the operating principle for the executive branch of the federal government. Eight years later, still determined to capitalize on the elusive gender voting gap, Al Gore had one of his Alan Alda moments and selected Donna Brazile to manage his campaign. No one seemed to mind that Brazile's columns in Ms. Magazine consistently played the gender-victim card.

And in the 2004 go-around, the Dems chose hen-pecked John Kerry, the man who admitted during one debate, "And my daughters and my wife are people who just are filled with that sense of what's right, what's wrong. They also kick me around."

What of Smeal's now-famous gender voting gap? From 1976 to 2004, the DNC managed to increase its share of the female vote by exactly one percentage point. That's right - in 1976, 50% of the ladies opted for Mr. Carter. Twenty-eight years later, John Kerry garnered 51% of the soccer-mom vote.

And what of the NASCAR dads? They abandoned the Democratic party in droves. While 50% of men voted for Carter in 1976, only 44% of the guys selected Mr. Kerry in 2004, translating into a 3.5 million vote gap favoring Mr. Bush. In the seven elections from 1980 to 2004, the once-noble Democratic party has managed to prevail in only two contests. The conclusion is clear: The gender voting gap usually operates to the benefit of the Republicans, thanks to consistently strong support from men.

The Democratic party now appears to be caught in a mental paralysis, incapable of coming up with constructive solutions to the Iraqi war, acknowledging the existence of the Social Security crisis, or reversing the break-down of the American family. The Femocrats can't even engage in honest debate that goes beyond boo-hoo stories, stale cliches, and Nazi comparisons.



Article by Sir Martin Gilbert, Winston Churchill''s official biographer and the author of ten books on the Holocaust

Aa a historian of the holocaust, I frequently receive requests from Jewish educators, seeking support for grant applications for their Holocaust programs. Almost all these applications include a sentence about how the new program will inform students that the Pope, and the Vatican, "did nothing" during the Holocaust to help Jews.

The most recent such portrayal reached me while I was writing this review. It is part of a proposal to a major Jewish philanthropic organization, and contains the sentence: "Also discusses the role of the Vatican and the rabidly anti-Semitic Pope Pius XII, who were privy to information regarding the heinous crimes being committed against the Jews, and their indifferent response."

That the Pope and the Vatican were either silent bystanders, or even active collaborators in Hitler's diabolical plan -- and "rabidly anti-Semitic," as stated above -- has become something of a truism in Jewish educational circles, and a powerful, emotional assertion made by American-Jewish writers, lecturers, and educators.

David G. Dalin, professor of history and political science at Ave Maria University, Naples, Florida -- and an ordained rabbi -- demonstrates in his recent book, The Myth of Hitler's Pope, that this is a false and distorted portrayal. He also shows its long pedigree, starting more than 40 years ago, in 1963, with Rolf Hochhuth's play The Deputy. Although that play was fiction, it was widely regarded as based on fact in its strident assertion of the moral cowardice and silence of Eugenio Pacelli, who in 1939 became Pope as Pius XII.

Since Hochhuth's play, this theme has become commonplace. John Cornwell, a Roman Catholic, in his book Hitler's Pope (1999) blamed Pius XII not only for silence, but for active collaboration with the Nazi regime. Jewish writers have understandably been shocked by the reiterated assertion of papal refusal to help Jews at their time of greatest need. Daniel Goldhagen's book A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair (2002) portrays Pius XII as part of a wider Roman Catholic anti-Semitic tradition that permeated the Church's teachings and was integral -- in Goldhagen's words -- to the very "genesis of the Holocaust."

Dalin takes issue with these critics of Pius XII. Building on earlier documented defenses of Pius XII, including Ronald J. Rychlak's detailed study Hitler, the War, and the Pope (2000), he builds a powerful case for Pius XII, suggesting that the desire of Pope John Paul II to canonize Pius need not have been offensive -- or insensitive -- to Jews, as it was widely portrayed.

THE HISTORICAL RECORD is clear. There can be no minimizing the horrors of those manifestations of Christian anti-Semitism that were a curse in the story of Nazi-dominated Europe. The Polish villagers who murdered their neighbors in Jedwabne had been churchgoers all their lives. The Roman Catholic priests who, on many documented occasions, turned their flocks against the Jews throughout Eastern Europe were ordained in the rites of Rome. The Slovak leader, Father Jozef Tiso, who asked the Germans to deport his Jews to German-occupied Poland and to slave labor -- and death -- was an ordained priest.

But, as I myself pointed out in my book The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust (2003), there was another side to this coin. In France, leaders of the Roman Catholic clergy were outspoken in their condemnation of the deportations. In Italy, churchmen across the whole spectrum of Roman Catholicism, including leading Jesuits, saved Jews from deportation.

Many hundreds of Polish priests and nuns are among more than 5,000 Catholic Poles who have been recognized by the state of Israel for their courage in saving Jews.

Where does this leave Pope Pius XII, the object of so much published hostility, and the main figure in Dalin's short but powerful book? Can Pius really merit the words of Israel's then Foreign Minister, Golda Meir (later Prime Minister of Israel), when she telegraphed to the Vatican on Pius's death in 1958: "When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the Pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace."

Those who were in charge of that Nazi terror during the war years held this same view during the war itself. After Pius XII delivered his Christmas message in December 1942, the Reich Security Main Office, the German government department in Berlin responsible for the deportation of the Jews, informed its representatives, who were in charge of encouraging local leaders to permit their Jews to be deported: "In a manner never known before, the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order.... Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice to the Jews, and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals."

This was stern condemnation by the Nazis of a man who is now condemned for the opposite failing. Yet nine months later, Pius XII was to upset the Nazis even more. After the German occupation of Rome and the northern part of Italy, when the SS determined to introduce the Final Solution in all areas of Italy under German military control, Pius and the Vatican took the lead in seeking to frustrate the deportation plan.

A MAIN OBJECT OF SS POLICY in Italy after the German occupation in 1943 was the deportation to Auschwitz of all Jews living in Rome. Margherita Marchione has told this story in Consensus and Controversy: Defending Pope Pius XII (2002). The roundup began without warning at eleven in the evening on October 15, 1943. Between then and one in the afternoon on October 16, one thousand of Rome's 6,000 Jews were arrested and taken to a deportation holding center, the Collegio Militare: their destination (although unknown at the time) was Auschwitz.

News of the start of the round-ups was brought personally to the Pope early on the morning of October 16 by an Italian Catholic princess, Enza Pignatelli Aragona Cortes, who had been alerted by a Jewish friend. Having received the princess early that morning, the Pope immediately instructed the Cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal Maglione, to protest to the German ambassador to the Vatican, Ernst von Weizsacker (a former German Deputy Foreign Minister).

Maglione did so that morning, making it clear to the ambassador that the deportation of Jews was offensive to the Pope. In urging Weizsacker "to try to save these innocent people," Maglione added: "It is sad for the Holy Father, sad beyond imagination, that here in Rome, under the very eyes of the Common Father, that so many people should suffer only because they belong to a specific race."

Following Maglione's appeal, Weizsacker gave orders for a halt to the arrests. To protect those who were thus still in their homes from a possible German reversal of the halt to the deportations, the Pope gave instructions for the Vatican to be opened to Rome's Jews, and for the convents and monasteries of Rome to provide hiding places, or provide false identification papers.

As a result of this papal initiative, in Rome a larger percentage of the Jews were saved than in any other city then under German occupation. Of the 5,715 Roman Jews listed by the Germans for deportation, 4,715 were given shelter in more than 150 Catholic institutions in the city; of these, 477 were given sanctuary within the confines of the Vatican itself.

In reporting on the Maglione-Weizsacker meeting to London two weeks later, the British ambassador noted: "Vatican intervention thus seems to have been effective in saving numbers of these unfortunate people." Of the thousand deportees of October 16, only ten survived. The remaining four-fifths of Rome's Jews were alive at liberation.

A footnote to these events: fifty-one years after Weizsacker's decisive intervention, his son Richard was the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany to visit Israel, and there to express his shame at what Germany had done to the Jews in the Nazi era.

AS THE GERMANS began deporting Jews from other parts of northern Italy, the Pope opened his summer estate at Castel Gandolfo to take in several thousand (women had their babies in the Pope's apartment) and authorized monasteries throughout the German-occupied areas of Italy to do likewise. As a result, while the Germans managed to seize and deport a further 7,000 Italian Jews to their deaths, 35,000 survived the war -- one of the highest ratios of those rescued of any country.

There was to be a further decisive papal rescue action after the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944. Under the leadership of the Pope's senior representative in Budapest, the Papal Nuncio Angelo Rotta, the diplomats of eight neutral countries represented in the Hungarian capital -- including the Swedish ambassador and his staff, prominent among them Per Anger and Raoul Wallenberg -- organized a city-wide rescue scheme.

Under Rotta's energetic lead, an "International Ghetto" was established in the northern section of the city, in which more than 40 safe houses were established, marked by the Vatican emblem, and other national emblems. Into these safe houses -- a series of tall, modern apartment buildings -- 25,000 Jews found refuge, and survived. Elsewhere in Budapest, Roman Catholic institutions hid several thousand more Jews in their cellars and attics.

The influence and authority of Pius XII was wide-ranging. In the port of Fiume, the Italian police chief, Giovanni Palatucci -- the nephew of an Italian bishop, Giuseppe Palatucci -- together with his uncle, saved 5,000 Jews from deportation during the German occupation of the port. They did so by providing the Jews with false identity papers, enabling them to gain safety in the bishop's diocese in southern Italy. For helping the Jews of Fiume, Giovanni Palatucci was arrested by the SS and sent to Dachau, where he was executed.

Pius XII took a direct part in sending money to support the Jewish refugees from Fiume. He also sent considerable sums of money to other rescuers of Jews in Italy, and to the French Capuchin monk, Father Pierre-Marie Benoit, from whose monastery in Marseille several thousand French Jews were smuggled across the borders of neutral Spain and Switzerland.

AMONG THE LEADING Roman Catholic clergymen who helped save Jews was Archbishop Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI. When the government of Israel asked him, in 1955, to accept an award for his rescue work during the Holocaust, Montini replied: "All I did was my duty. And besides I only acted upon orders from the Holy Father."

When the deportation of 80,000 Jews from Slovakia to Auschwitz began in March 1942, Pius authorized formal written protests by both the Vatican secretary of state and the papal representative in the Slovak capital, Bratislava.

When a second round of deportations began in Slovakia the following spring, Pius wrote a letter of protest to the Slovak government. Dated April 7, 1943, it was outspoken and unambiguous. "The Holy See has always entertained the firm hope," Pius wrote, that the Slovak government "would never proceed with the forcible removal of persons belonging to the Jewish race. It is, therefore, with great pain that the Holy See has learned of the continued transfers of such a nature from the territory of the republic."

That pain was "aggravated further," the Pope wrote in this same letter, since it appeared "that the Slovak Government intends to proceed with the total removal of the Jewish residents of Slovakia, not even sparing women and children. The Holy See would fail in its Divine Mandate if it did not deplore these measures, which gravely damage man in his natural right, mainly for the reason that these people belong to a certain race."

Six times the Pope appealed to the Slovak leader -- the Catholic priest Father Tiso -- to halt the deportations. After the sixth appeal, on April 7, 1943, the remaining planned deportations were halted.

On April 8, 1943, the day after his final protest to Father Tiso, Pius XII instructed the Vatican's representative in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, to take "all necessary steps" to support those Bulgarian Jews facing immediate deportation. From Istanbul, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII), a former Papal Nuncio in Bulgaria, and godfather to the king's sons, added his voice to that of Pius XII, urging the King of Bulgaria not to deport the Jews of his kingdom. Roncalli also signed transit visas for Palestine for several thousand Slovak Jewish refugees.

On learning of the plight of Jews in concentration camps in Romanian-occupied Transnistria, Angelo Roncalli contacted Pius XII, who interceded at once with the Romanian authorities, and authorized the dispatch of money to those in the camps. When, in 1957, the Israeli government sought to thank Cardinal Roncalli for his help, the Cardinal replied: "In all those painful matters I referred to the Holy See and afterwards I simply carried out the Pope's orders: first and foremost to save human lives."

Such is the historical record. It explains why Rabbi Dalin is so disturbed by the continuing assertions that Pius XII did nothing to help Jews, was an anti-Semite, and effectively acted as "Hitler's Pope."

AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF THIS BOOK is the carefully constructed background to Pius XII's attitude to the Jews, going back to his early days as a young Vatican official. Indeed, from his schooldays, Eugenio Pacelli -- as he then was -- was friends with a Jewish student, Guido Mendes, later a distinguished Roman physician. As a result of this friendship, Pacelli was the first Pope to have shared a Sabbath dinner in his youth at a Jewish home. In 1915, then aged 39, he helped draft Pope Benedict XV's powerful papal denunciation of anti-Semitism in Poland, which insisted that the Christian law to love one another "must be observed and respected in the case of the children of Israel."

In 1919, as Papal Nuncio in Munich, Pacelli defended the Church against the ferocious onslaught of Communism, then -- as in Russia two years earlier -- spearheaded by individual Jews who had long since abandoned their religious faith. But anti-Communism did not make him pro-Nazi or anti-Semitic, as his critics claim. In May 1922, Pacelli warned the Jewish politician Walter Rathenau of an assassination plot by German anti-Semites. A month later, Rathenau was murdered. In November 1923, five days after Hitler's failed attempt to seize power in Munich, Pacelli wrote critically to the Vatican about the Nazi movement, and noted with approval the public defense of Munich's Jews by the city's Catholic archbishop.

In 1933, while serving as Cardinal Secretary of State -- the Vatican's Foreign Minister -- Pacelli negotiated the "Reich Concordat" with Hitler's Germany, determined to protect German Catholics from the anti-religious policies of the new regime. Dalin makes a convincing argument in favor of the Concordat as a protective measure, stressing that it was not a moral endorsement of Nazism. Indeed, from the outset of the anti-Jewish persecutions in Germany, Pacelli opposed them.

On April 4, 1933, three days after the one-day boycott of Jewish shops, Pacelli instructed the Papal Nuncio in Berlin to warn the regime against the persecution of German Jews, asking the nuncio to become actively involved on behalf of the Jews. Four months later he twice expressed to the British ambassador to the Vatican his "disgust and abhorrence" at the Nazi regime. The ambassador reported to the Foreign Office in London -- on August 19, 1933 -- that Pacelli "deplored the action of the German Government at home" including "their persecution of Jews."

In 1936 Pacelli visited the United States. One result of his mission, Dalin notes, was that, at President Roosevelt's personal request, he prevailed upon Father Charles Coughlin, the "radio priest," to end his anti-New Deal -- and also anti-Semitic -- broadcasts. While willing to meet Roosevelt, Pacelli never met Hitler. When, in a much-heralded gesture of friendship, Hitler visited Mussolini in Rome in 1938, Pacelli deliberately absented himself from the city, together with Pope Pius XI.

While Secretary of State, Pacelli made an astonishing 55 protests against Nazi policies, including, repeatedly, the "ideology of race." In 1938 Pacelli publicly endorsed and repeated the words of Pius XI, that "it is impossible for a Christian to take part in anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is inadmissible; spiritually we are all Semites."

So outspoken were Pacelli's criticisms that Hitler's regime lobbied against him, trying to prevent his becoming the successor to Pius XI. When he did become Pope, as Pius XII, in March 1939, Nazi Germany was the only government not to send a representative to his coronation.

IMMEDIATELY UPON BECOMING POPE, Pius XII responded to Mussolini's anti-Jewish legislation by appointing several Jewish scholars who had been dismissed from the university to positions inside the Vatican. Among them was the distinguished Jewish cartographer, Roberto Almagia, a professor at the University of Rome since 1915. On the day after his dismissal, Almagia was appointed director of the geography section of the Vatican library. While working there he completed an exceptional four-volume study of the Vatican's cartographic holdings.

Another dismissed Jewish scholar, Professor Giorgio Levi della Vida, a world authority on Islam, was also given a job in the Vatican library, cataloguing the Arabic manuscripts.

In his first encyclical as Pope, Pius XII specifically rejected Nazism and expressly mentioned the Jews, noting that in the Catholic Church there is "neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision." The head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Mueller, commented that the encyclical was "directed exclusively against Germany." So outspoken was it that the Royal Air Force and the French air force dropped 88,000 copies of it over Germany.

One strong piece of evidence that Dalin produces against the concept of "Hitler's Pope" is the audience granted by Pius XII in March 1940 to the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, the only senior Nazi official to visit the Vatican during his papacy. After Ribbentrop rebuked the Pope for "siding" with the Allies, the Pope responded by reading from a long list of German atrocities and religious persecution against Christians and Jews, in Germany, and in Poland, which Germany had occupied six months earlier.

The New York Times, under the headline "JEWS' RIGHTS DEFENDED," wrote on March 14, 1940: "The Pontiff, in the burning words he spoke to Herr Ribbentrop about religious persecution, also came to the defense of the Jews in Germany and Poland."

DALIN DRAWS ATTNETION in this book to the man whom he regards as the missing personality in the story: Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, a position of influence in the Muslim world to which Hajj Amin had been appointed by the British in 1922. This senior Muslim prelate met Hitler several times during the war, called openly for the destruction of European Jewry, and intervened with Hitler to prevent rescue efforts.

Having been given an office in wartime Berlin, Hajj Amin mobilized political and military support for the Nazi regime. Traveling to German-occupied Yugoslavia, he helped raise a Muslim Waffen SS company, which turned its savage attentions against both Jews and Serbian Christians. In one of his many broadcasts from Germany to the Middle East, Hajj Amin said of the Jews: "They cannot mix with other nations but live, as parasites among the nations, suck out their blood, embezzle their property, corrupt their morals...." Hitler found the Mufti a useful tool.

In answer to Daniel Goldhagen's charge that the Roman Catholic Church remains a danger to the Jews today, Dalin writes: "It is radical Islam -- Hitler's overt ally in World War II -- not the Catholic Church, that threatens Jews today."

In his book Hitler's Pope, John Cornwell calls Pius XII the "most dangerous" cleric in modern history. Dalin feels that the Mufti is the one who deserves this title. As Dalin writes: "Hitler's mufti is truth. Hitler's pope is myth."

Professor Dalin's book is an essential contribution to our understanding of the reality of Pope Pius XII's support for Jews at their time of greatest danger. Hopefully, his account will replace the divisively harmful version of papal neglect, and even collaboration, that has held the field for far too long.


20 September, 2006


Three current articles from Australian newspapers below

A realistic Prime Minister defends his troops

Prime Minister John Howard has leapt to the defence of soldiers caught acting offensively and mishandling their weapons in Iraq, saying they were simply letting off steam. But despite his efforts to play down their behaviour, the inquiry into the shooting death of Private Jake Kovco in Baghdad earlier this year asked to view video images of the skylarking soldiers to see if they were relevant to its investigation.

The images, which were posted on the internet, have severely embarrassed an Australian Defence Force already under fire over incidents involving misbehaving troops. Defence chief Angus Houston has blasted the actions of those posing for the videos, which include images of a soldier holding a gun to the head of a man, possibly one of his comrades, wearing Arab robes. He has promised to deal seriously with the antics and Labor has called for a full inquiry.

But Mr Howard said that while he did not condone it, the behaviour was understandable given the stresses the troops were working under. "I think we have to understand that soldiers work, particularly in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they work in very stressful environments and soldiers through the ages have let off a bit of steam when they are working in stressful environments," Mr Howard said.

Counsel assisting the Kovco inquiry, Colonel Michael Griffin, has asked to see the images, which include several instances of soldiers mishandling their weapons, to see if they would help the inquiry. The inquiry has heard evidence that before he died in his room, Pte Kovco had mishandled the pistol that killed him, waving it around like a cowboy in a western movie. Although the offending videos were shot in 2003 - well before Pte Kovco's detachment arrived in Baghdad - Colonel Griffin believes they may still be relevant.


His Eminence nails the Muslims

Sydney's Catholic Archbishop has hit out at Muslims protesting over comments by the Pope, saying their reaction shows the link in Islam between religion and violence. Cardinal George Pell has also labelled the response of some Australian Muslim leaders to the issue as "unhelpful".

A wave of protest has erupted among Muslims across the globe after comments by Pope Benedict XVI, in which he quoted an obscure medieval text that criticised some teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as "evil and inhuman". The Pope has since said he is "deeply sorry" for the outrage sparked by his remarks and stressed they do not reflect his personal opinion.

But Cardinal Pell today backed Pope Benedict, saying the violent reaction to his comments on Islam and violence illustrated his fears. "The violent reactions in many parts of the Islamic world justified one of Pope Benedict's main fears," Cardinal Pell said in a statement. "They showed the link for many Islamists between religion and violence, their refusal to respond to criticism with rational arguments, but only with demonstrations, threats and actual violence. "Our major priority must be to maintain peace and harmony within the Australian community, but no lasting achievements can be grounded in fantasies and evasions."

Dr Pell said it was a "sign of hope" that no organised violence had flared in Australia following Pope Benedict's comments. But he said the responses of Australia's mufti, Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali, and of Dr Ameer Ali, of the prime minister's Muslim reference group, were "unfortunately typical and unhelpful". "It is always someone else's fault and issues touching on the nature of Islam are ignored. "Sheik Alhilali often responds to criticism by questioning the intelligence and competence of the questioner or critic," Dr Pell said. Later, on ABC Radio, he added of Sheik Alhilali: "I'm tempted to say almost never does he address the criticism of Islam but diverts the question away from it and I think resorts to evasions."

Dr Ali said yesterday Muslims in Australia were disappointed by the Pope's comments. "We expect the Pope to follow (in) the footsteps of his predecessor who had been a great builder among communities for the last so many years and not a pope of the crusades," Dr Ali said.

Dr Pell said Dr Ali had called on Pope Benedict to be more like Pope John Paul II than Pope Urban II, who called the First Crusade. "In fact the Pope's long speech was more about the weaknesses of the Western world, its irreligion and disdain for religion and he explicitly rejected linking religion and violence," Dr Pell said. "He won't be calling any crusade."

Dr Pell sought to draw a distinction between Westerners and Muslims. "Today Westerners often link genuine religious expression with peace and tolerance. "Today most Muslims identify genuine religion with submission (Islam) to the commands of the Koran. "They are proud of the spectacular military expansion across continents, especially in the decades after the Prophet's death. This is seen as a sign of God's blessing."

Dr Pell said while he was grateful for the contributions of moderate Muslims, "evil acts done falsely in the name of Islam around the world need to be addressed, not swept under the carpet". Dr Pell has repeatedly said Islam is more warlike than Christianity. In June this year he told the National Catholic Reporter in the United States: "It's difficult to find periods of tolerance in Islam."


The hate bigots are Muslims, not critics of Muslims

Twelve months ago, the states, territories and Federal Government agreed to prepare a national plan to "help all Australians work together to protect Australia from intolerance and extremism". With the help of the Prime Minister's Muslim Community Reference Group, a $35 million program was developed and, two months ago, approved. It is aimed at coming to grips with extremists and includes a proposal for a world-class institute of Islamic studies, within a faculty of a prominent Australian university, to increase non-Muslim understanding of Islam.

It is to be hoped that some non-Muslim authorities are employed and that some of the self-appointed leaders of our Muslim communities enrol and are obliged to confront the realities of those Koranic texts which Islamofascists use to justify their insane violence. One who might benefit is Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations Inc executive director Kuranda Seyit, who yesterday issued a statement calling for more Muslim migration to Australia to "improve the level of decency in our society and reinforce our treasured Australian values''. "The more Muslims the better this country is off in terms of good old fashioned decency. We should be so lucky,'' he said.

Given the outrageous and bloody responses to the Danish cartoons last February and the lethal and destructive outbreak of hysteria across the Islamic world triggered by the scholarly address on the nature of God delivered by Pope XVI last Tuesday, which has not been condemned by anyone of any significance in the Australian Muslim community, it is hard to imagine what values Seyit could possibly have in mind.

As Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Robb told a conference of Australian imams in Sydney on Saturday, there is a "world-wide struggle going on for the soul of Islam, a struggle that will be won or lost by Muslims, not non-Muslims.'' Australia's Islamic leaders blame the media (and everyone else) for the bad press Islam receives but Robb said "unfair stigmatisation of most of Australia's 360,000 Muslims is not the problem, it is a symptom of the problem. The stigmatisation is one of the consequences intended by the extremists.'' "The extremists want to take the Muslim community back to the 7th Century,'' he said - and at the weekend they did, murdering an elderly Italian nun working in an American-funded SOS hospital in Somalia and through a rash of predictable attacks on Christian churches.

A sterling representative of the "religion of tolerance'' hardline Mogadishu cleric Sheik Abubukar Hassan Malinto urged his followers to hunt down and kill "whoever offends our prophet Mohammed on the spot by the nearest Muslim".

But only the abjectly ignorant could have been offended by the Pope's thoroughly researched address, although intelligent scholarly discourse on religion is apparently as alien to Islam abroad as it appears to be here. As the attacks on the Pope show, anyone who examines Islam and the claim that it does not incite violence is invariably accused of vilifying Mohammed, religious intolerance or ridiculously, Islamophobia.

Despite radical Islam's rabid apologists, and fellow travellers in the civil liberties lobby, and among various groups of anti-Americans, anti-Israelis and anti-Semites, terrorists from organisations such as Islamic Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiah, Hamas, Hezbollah and their splinter groups, co-opt the Koran for their use. For example, the Koran invites Muslims to "wage war'' against Christians and Jews and to pray that Allah will fight against them (9:30), Christians and Jews are labelled "infidels'' and "hypocrites'' who live in Hell (66:9), those who claim Jesus is the Son of God are called "liars'' (4:171, 10:66-69), and will have "boiling water poured over the heads, melting whatever is in their bellies and skins'' (22:20). Those who disbelieve are "surely the vilest of animals in the sight of Allah'' (8:55), and polytheists are "the worst of creatures" (98:6). While many in the West encourage multi-faith dialogue, they have to overcome Koranic admonitions such as "do not take the unbelievers for friends'' (4:144). "do not be close friends with any other than your own people'' (3:117) and "when you meet unbelievers, behead them until you have made much slaughter among them'' (47:4).

No doubt some imams will quibble about these translations, but the references are from editions by reputable publishers Penguin and the King Fahd complex for the printing of the Koran in Saudi Arabia. And there are plenty more just as blood-curdling, used by imams like Saudi Sheik Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, at the al-Haraam mosque, the most important in Mecca, who preached the annihilation of Jews in his Ramadan address in December, 2002, in which he also branded Jews as "the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs''.

It goes without saying that there are many fine Muslims, like the charming Javanese woman I had coffee with last week, who are disgusted by those who use Islam to incite violence. Naturally, no disrespect is meant to such people.

To blindly cave in every time a Muslim, or anyone else, gets excited about something someone has said in the most restrained and decorous manner is to indulge in the same sort of supine, spineless attitude that prevailed at Munich in 1938. And to ignore those who preach hatred, no matter their religion, is to play Russian roulette with civilisation



It's an everyday task, teaching my children to live their faith in word and deed. There's nothing more important or beautiful in my role as their mother. There's also nothing more "American" - nothing more fundamental to the very founding of this nation - than the precious right of religious freedom.

Yet religious freedom and speech have been under vicious attack for years. The pop culture regularly flogs the practice of Christianity, making it oh-so-cool to poke fun at those whose hearts beat with faith. And we all know that Judaism has been the target of more cruel persecution than can be mentioned. But in California, it is the state legislature and the governor who have nailed religious freedom to the cross.

Specifically, all institutions, be they secular or Christian, Jewish, Muslim (or any of the other faiths that believe the practice of homosexuality is immoral), have been forbidden by the state in sharing those beliefs if they want to be treated equally with other institutions in the eyes of the government.

Passed by both state houses, and signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Aug. 28, the now infamous SB 1441, or Nondiscrimination in State Programs and Activities Act, adds "sexual orientation" to an anti-discrimination statute that governs how state funds are distributed. Experts warn that funding could be withheld if "somebody perceives that they have been discriminated against for their gender identity." Gender, defined by Penal Code, Section 422.56 (c), "includes a person's gender identity and gender-related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person's assigned sex at birth."

According to Matthew Spalding, an expert on the Constitution and the American Founding at The Heritage Foundation, the ramifications of SB 1441 are enormous. As he told me: "It was a sexual orientation law in Massachusetts that forced the Boston Catholic Charities to get out of the adoption business because it would make them offer adoptions to same-sex families, in violation of church doctrine. Such laws exist now in some 20 states. These laws - and government monies as a result - will become the legal levers by which the courts will force religious believers to accommodate their views to state policy or be marked as discriminatory and lose taxpayer support."

So if you're a California pastor trying to teach the biblical view of homosexuality, and you take any state money, you'll be looking over your shoulder. In fact, it could be worse than that, says Mona Passignano, state issues analyst for Focus on the Family Action: The law could be interpreted in such a way that your church would no longer enjoy police or fire protection if you dare speak out against homosexuality.

Or imagine you run a private Christian university in California - one that, like most schools, can hardly avoid taking some state money. What does the new law mean for you? It's a question that vexes Dr. Terry Samples, academic vice president at Life Pacific College in San Dimas, Calif. As he told Focus on the Family: "It is spelled out in our Code of Conduct that any kind of sexual aberration could face school discipline policies. While it is clear that we are to love all people and to care for all people, the Bible very clearly says that there are certain things we should be opposed to. There is no question we would refuse state funding if this were enforced upon us in such a way as to try to get us to back off our standards."

Their willingness to take a stand is commendable, but it's a choice they shouldn't have to make. Here, though, is what comes of allowing the activist homosexual community to dictate the terms of the debate in a bogus push for "tolerance." Most Americans agree that those who practice homosexuality shouldn't be discriminated against or face violence and other forms of intimidation, and there are laws on the books to protect them.

That's not what activist homosexuals are demanding, though. To them it's an "all or nothing" proposition: You either say that homosexuality and other sexual deviations are worth celebrating, or you're a bigot. Their obsession to normalize and promote their deviant behavior is placing many of our basic institutions in jeopardy. They seek to redefine marriage, to forcefully "educate" children in sexuality, and to silence those whose faith says that the practice of homosexuality, adultery, and bisexuality are harmful.

And SB 1441 is just the beginning of the agonizing death of religious freedom for California. Other anti-freedom bills are moving through the state legislature. One would allocate funds for a "Tolerance Education Pilot Program." Another would require state textbooks and curricula to "reflect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in a positive light," according to Focus on the Family. Obviously, this goes beyond the usual PC blather about the need for "tolerance" of sexually unorthodox lifestyles. Are our children doomed to an America of darkness, persecution, and the death of religious freedom?


19 September, 2006


And an even crazier police force that ignores real crime but is always ready to investigate complaints of political incorrectness

The architect of laws protecting child sports stars yesterday criticised abuse zealots after police investigated Cherie Blair's playful slap of a cheeky teenager. Celia Brackenridge, an international athlete turned academic, said that children's sporting chances were being spoiled because some were now being over-protected. "Having been one of the major advocates for a long, long time, we have got to the point where I am saying `whoah, slow down a bit' because it has got out of hand in some areas," Professor Brackenridge said. She fears that Britain's Olympic chances could be harmed by volunteers being driven from youth sport over fears of being accused of attacking or molesting children.

She spoke after six detectives were called in to investigate an incident where Mrs Blair aimed a friendly slap towards the arm of a 17-year-old boy who made rabbit ears behind her head. Professor Brackenridge's pioneering study of sexual exploitation of young athletes led to the creation in 2001 of the Child Protection in Sport Unit, run by the NSPCC with Sports Councils. The unit provided welfare services at the UK School Games in Glasgow, visited by the Prime Minister's wife earlier this month.

Miles Gandolfi, captain of the England under-17 epee fencing team, put his fingers behind Mrs Blair's head while a photograph was taken. Film shows her aiming a harmless slap at his arm and calling him a "cheeky boy" before the pair descended into giggles. After organisers consulted the unit, Strathclyde Police were asked to investigate. Miles was escorted to a side room and spent half an hour giving a statement to detectives. The police have now said no incident had taken place and the matter was closed.

Sport's burgeoning child-protection culture was already under fire from veterans such as Roy Case, chairman of the English golf union's boys' selection committee. He has said volunteers were being discouraged by guidelines saying that winning competitors should not be hugged, nor should children be driven home alone by adults.

Professor Brackenridge, the former Great Britain lacrosse captain based at Brunel University, told The Times: "People say, `We are not going to run our junior club' or `Nobody will drive the bus'. Some people given a child-protection role have become a bit officious."

Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline, sympathised with Mrs Blair but recalled: "There certainly have been well-documented cases where sporting coaches have been discovered to have been abusing children." Steve Boocock, the director of the Child Protection in Sport Unit, said: "Parents are generally very supportive." Miles, from Chelsfield, Kent, said yesterday. "I had no idea why the police wanted to speak to me. I thought it was a joke."


The Menaissance

Say goodbye to the metrosexual and say hello again to the brute - Australia is in the midst of a Menaissance. In a backlash against the feminisation of men, old-fashioned manliness has returned. Real men no longer wear pink, have pedicures and eat quiche. Nor is the manly man the guy who gets $100 haircuts, uses eye cream and waxes his chest. He is more likely to be found in hardware stores, drives a ute and has grease-stained fingernails and a strong aversion to sushi.

"For the majority of women, the death of the metrosexual is a blessing," AustraliaSCAN social analyst David Chalke said. "They were sick of having to wash their man's hair gel out of the pillowcases." Manliness is everywhere as the metrosexual is ditched for the machosexual. In film, Superman and Vince Vaughn's character in The Break-Up are both blokey pin-ups.

On television, Surfing The Menu's beer-loving surfers, Lost's scruffy hunters, McLeod's Daughters' rough cowboys, Prison Break's sweaty crims, and the boys and their toys on MythBusters all fly the manly flag.

The latest best-selling literary craze is men writing about drinking and womanising while the next big thing in music is tipped to be Philadelphia's tattooed rockers Man Man.

But a love of sport, stubble and steak is just the tip of the hairy-chested iceberg. Gender studies expert and QUT senior lecturer Dr Barbara Pini said women should not fear this new-found manliness will push them back into the kitchen. Underneath the beer-swilling brute is a man trying to find his place within the post-feminist world of sexual equality. "It's not throwing out the metrosexual entirely and it's not going back to the neanderthal - it's finding a middle ground," she said.

Brisbane events co-ordinator Kate Pegg, 22, said young women were secretly repulsed by metrosexuals. "I want a man who uses one bar of soap to wash his face, his body and his hair," she said. "I don't want some guy who tints his eyelashes."

Tool-belt-wearing Tim Treloar, 22 - who is building a house in Brisbane's Paddington with some of his mates - is a guy's guy. The Bev Jenner Constructions carpenter from Toowong never subscribed to the metrosexual movement. "Horses for courses - everyone is different, but that's not something I'm into."


Dr. Laura debates feminists on men and violence

In a recent radio broadcast and newspaper column, Dr. Laura Schlessinger addressed the 'Take Back the Night' movement that protests violence against women. She accused it of deliberately ignoring data that suggests men may be more vulnerable to violence than women. In the Santa Barbara News-Press on Aug. 27, Schlessinger wrote, "This information should, but probably won't, usher in a new approach to gender and violence." The new approach would offer male victims as much attention and compassion as female ones.

Why won't this happen? Schlessinger explained, because "the ideology, fomented by politically correct [PC] feminists, that women are an endangered class has been supported almost universally in our culture, government, and educational facilities." That PC ideology rests on the concept of women as victims and men as aggressors.

The backlash against Schlessinger was dramatic and instructive to others who consider questioning the dominant paradigm of victimhood. Through a letter in another Santa Barbara periodical, The Independent, an array of community leaders collectively denounced her. The leaders represent feminist, gay and reproductive rights organizations, many of which are tax-funded and based upon the approach to gender and violence that Schlessinger decried.

The specific data to which they objected came from the first national Personal Safety Survey (PSS, 2005) released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Aug. 10. The PSS is the first national survey by a 'Western' nation that uses the sex of a respondent to break down the degree and types of violence experienced by ordinary people. The population surveyed was massive and the results are publicly available without cost. In short, the PSS is the best snapshot we have of the dynamics of personal violence within a Western society.

The PSS is particularly important because some of its findings are surprising. Schlessinger touched on one of the surprises; although men are three times more likely than women to be the perpetrators of violence, they are twice as likely to become victims of physical violence or threats. Eleven percent of men surveyed experienced personal violence compared to 5.8 percent of women. (Schlessinger cited these statistics from an Aug. 22 FOX News column I wrote on the same subject, entitled "'Take Back the Night' for Men as Well.")

Similar data on male victimization has been presented by men's rights advocates for years now. Typically, however, PC feminists have dismissed such studies as biased and driven by an 'anti-woman agenda'. But it is difficult to dismiss the Australian government as 'anti-woman'. Australia's gender policies -- on affirmative action, domestic violence, sexual harassment, etc. -- are comparable to those of North America because it has been shaped by the same cultural influences.

Moreover, if the PSS has a gender bias, it is probably 'pro-woman'. For example, the survey used only women interviewers. Women respondents may have discussed their experiences more freely with their own sex but male respondents may have been inhibited.

Despite its significance, a remarkable silence has surrounded the PSS. Silence from PC feminists is understandable; the survey challenges their ideology and policies. For example, the fact that one in 100 women reported being victimized by family (domestic) violence in the previous year is difficult to integrate with the claim that domestic violence is epidemic. Silence in the media is less understandable until you consider the response to Schlessinger. Even prominent commentators risk their reputations when they speak out against the current approach to gender and violence.

Consider the letter of collective denunciation. It opens with a vague slap at Schlessinger's "views" on unrelated issues such as gay rights and public education. Then, the signatories state a claim. They had been giving Schlessinger the "benefit of the doubt" on her new column with the Santa Barbara News-Press "because we assumed you would undertake a rational discourse on issues relating to our community." Now, in a rival publication, they withdrew that doubt and invited the rest of the community to "add your name to the list [protesting Schlessinger] by posting a comment!" The letter briefly cites a selection of data that supports the view of women as the victims of violence. These references, at least, are on point and could be the opening of valuable discussion. Instead, they are used to close it.

Statistics have been improperly cited and debunked so often that scrutiny and skepticism are necessary when approaching data from either side of the gender divide. It is easy to criticize the letter for offering one-sided data. For example, it states that "1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before age 18" without stating that the comparable statistic for boys is one in six. But a more fundamental question is whether the statistics offered are correct. Their accuracy is presented as an unassailable conclusion but 'the battle of the stats' has been raging for over a decade now. Each side wields the latest Johns Hopkins study or cherry-picks findings from the most 'favorable' year of data offered by the Department of Justice; each position is proven and disproven over and over again.

For those who want facts without agendas, the PSS offers hope. The survey may have methodological flaws but it seems relatively unbiased. Because it is based on an anonymous general survey and not on police reports, it reduces problems such as 'unreported rapes' driving down the statistics. It includes both sexes; it is massive and comprehensive; it doesn't make policy recommendations. In short, the PSS could be the genesis of a much-needed and candid re-evaluation of gender and violence in society. But, as Schlessinger noted, this won't happen. At least, it won't happen as long as those who publicize the data are dismissed, or defamed so that others will dismiss them. The PSS should be debated. It should be debunked if grounds for doing so can be found. But it should not be buried, nor should those who raise it for discussion.


18 September, 2006


A prisoner has publicly condemned fellow inmates for their "constant bleating" about human rights. Stephen Hardy, who confesses to having spent extended periods of time at Her Majesty's pleasure, won 25 pounds for "star letter of the month" in a prisoners' newspaper with his withering attack on the petty complaints made by his fellow convicts. The letters page of Inside Time, produced by the offenders' charity, New Bridge, is a popular forum for prisoners to air their grievances, many of which hinge on human rights issues. But Hardy reminisces about the "good old days" in prisons when "you had no rights apart from a surname and a number". He points out that prison is a means of punishment and insists that prisoners should pay the price for their crimes.

He writes: "Whenever I've gone out and robbed somebody I didn't read my victims the human rights charter. It was entirely my choice and I've got to pay the price. In case prisoners are scratching their heads wondering where I'm coming from, the operative word is `responsibility'. "So far as human rights are concerned, stick 'em."

Another letter in this month's edition relates to the way in which an inmate tried to use human rights laws to stop prison officers opening letters from his lawyers. But Hardy continues: "Every prison I've been in (and it's a fair few), all I ever seem to hear is this constant bleating about `my human rights', be it due to the food being either too hot or too cold, an officer didn't refer to me as `Mr' or whatever other petty complaints yet another mundane day of incarceration can throw up. "This is now becoming far more commonplace than the other weary old chestnut, `I didn't do it'. Prisoners tend to conveniently forget why they are locked up and forget too the rights of the victims they created."

The writer, who is serving his sentence at the medium-security Albany prison in the Isle of Wight, adds: "In the `good old days' in prison you had no rights apart from a surname and a number. If the food was bad (and trust me it was) or there was some other problem about which we had no rights, then we had a riot - no paperwork, no request/complaints - just a good, old-fashioned punch-up followed on frequent occasions by a good kicking."

John Bowers, the commissioning editor at Inside Time, said: "You can't get a more contentious view than this from a prisoner. It is really the last thing you would expect coming from a prisoner. It will lead to a debate, that's for sure. "This letter will be read, it will be hotly disputed and I expect several irate letters from other prisoners saying, `What the hell is this Stephen Hardy on about?' Every prisoner who reads it will either think it's a load of old rubbish or may even think he's got a point."

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook, said: "I find it ironic that Mr Hardy is pooh-poohing human rights by writing a letter to a newspaper - something inmates can only do because they have used human rights arguments to win that right. There was a time when inmates were banned from writing about their prison conditions. "I wonder if he'll send his 25 pound prize to Victim Support?"

Hardy ends his letter by insisting: "I'll do my bird (again) and if I return to prison in the next decade perhaps we'll have plasma screen TVs, access to the internet and all manner of privileges; after all, we wouldn't want our human rights infringed by denying us access to everything we desire in order to be `treated like human beings' would we?" The newspaper also includes an article by Jonathan King, the pop impresario who served three years of a seven year sentence for sex offences, bemoaning the fact that when he arrived at Belmarsh in 2001, there was no in-cell television or electricity.


Skewed views of crime

Do higher rates of imprisonment reduce crime? Is crime a result of poverty, unemployment, and the like? Are alternatives to incarceration more effective in preventing criminals from repeating their crimes? Some people would hesitate to try to answer any of these questions before going through a lot of hard evidence and thinking it over very carefully. But many on the left can answer immediately because they know what answers are already in vogue on the left -- and the only reason others don't accept those answers is that they are behind the times or just hardhearted people who want to punish.

It is one thing to believe policy A is better than policy B. It is something very different to believe those who believe in policy A are wiser, more compassionate, and generally worthier human beings than those who believe in policy B. Turning the empirical question of the results of policy A versus the results of policy B into the more personal question of a wonderful Us versus a terrible Them makes it harder to retreat if the facts do not bear out the belief. If the choice between policy A and policy B is regarded as a badge of personal merit, either morally or intellectually, it is a devastating risk to one's sense of self to make empirical evidence the ultimate test.

Not only in the United States, but in other countries as well, the political left has held steadfastly to its assumptions and beliefs about crime for at least two centuries, not only in the absence of hard evidence but in defiance of two centuries' accumulation of evidence to the contrary, from countries around the world. Where the dominance of the left is greatest -- in the media and in academia, for example -- facts to the contrary are seldom heard.

The futility of imprisonment, for example, is a dogma on the left. It does no good to point out crime rates in both Britain and the U.S. soared during the 1960s when poverty rates were going down -- and imprisonment rates were also going down. It does no good to point out that soaring crime rates in the United States began to turn down only after the declining rate of imprisonment was halted and reversed, leading to a rising prison population much deplored by liberals. It does no good to point out Singapore's imprisonment rate is more than double that of Canada -- and its crime rate less than one-tenth the Canadian crime rate. Many in the West were appalled to discover some years ago that an American first offender in Singapore was sentenced to corporal punishment. Few of the indignant critics bothered to consider the possibility this might be a way to prevent the young man from becoming a second offender -- and perhaps saving him from a worse fate later on if he continued to disregard laws.

Self-defense against criminals is anathema to the left in both Britain and the United States. But in Britain the left has greater predominance. Britons who have caught burglars in their homes and held them at gunpoint until the police arrived have found themselves charged with a crime -- even when using only a toy gun. Given the prevailing view in the British criminal justice system that burglary is a "minor" offense and the fierce hostility to guns, even toy guns, the homeowner is far likelier than is the burglar to end up behind bars.

The left's jihad against gun ownership by law-abiding citizens has produced a flood of distorted information. The U.S. is almost invariably compared with some country with stronger gun control laws and lower murder rates. But if facts really mattered, you could just as easily compare the U.S. to countries with stronger gun control laws and higher murder rates -- Brazil and Russia, for example. You could compare the United States with countries with more widespread gun ownership -- Switzerland and Israel, for example -- and lower murder rates. But that's only if facts are regarded as more important than the dogmas of the left. Millions of crime victims pay the price of the left's illusions about crime -- and about themselves.


17 September, 2006


It has no sharp edges and contains no electrical wires. But health and safety officials have launched a crackdown on what they say is the latest dangerous item of homeware - the doormat. More commonly associated with the humble role of being somewhere for visitors to wipe their feet, council chiefs have raised the mat's status to that of 'tripping hazard'. Now they have banned the floor furnishing and ordered tenants to remove the offending items or risk having them taken away. But residents who have received the ultimatum dismissed the idea as "ludicrous".

Bristol City Council sent a letter entitled "Health and Safety Issues - Hazardous Mats" to thousands of tenants living in flats and high-rise blocks. It reads: "During a routine Health and Safety inspection of the block, it was noted that loose mats were present in hallways/corridors outside of people's flats. "These represent a 'tripping hazard' and should be removed immediately. By all means have your own mats inside your front door but please do not leave them outside, creating a risk to others. "Therefore, I am requesting that if you have a mat outside, it is removed by September 18th. Any mat remaining in the hallways/corridors after this date will be removed and subsequently disposed of."

The order has been dismissed by residents as the latest example of over-zealousness among health and safety executives. Retired gardener Roger Perry, 62, said he had no intention of giving up his door mat. He said: "This is absolutely ludicrous. The council says mats are a hazard - god only knows how. I've lived here 13 years and never heard of any accidents. "It's like Big Brother watching us. I'm keeping mine here to see what they do. It only cost a couple of quid, but if they take it, that's theft."

His neighbour, Albert Peacock, 82, said: "I'm not moving my mat for anybody - it's a non-slip mat. "I bought it for my home like everyone else and it's staying. It's our responsibility to keep the corridor outside tidy and our front doors clean. "If the council are worried about people tripping, they should concentrate on mending the pavements."

Tory councillor Mark Weston said the policy was "ridiculous" and "a total waste of time and resources". But Bristol City Council insisted doormats could pose a hazard if there was a need to evacuate a council-owned building. A spokeswoman said: "We know that asking people to remove mats is not popular, but it is important that corridors in council properties are kept clear, as they are a means of escape from fire. "Mats are a trip hazard, particularly as many properties are occupied by older people or people with disabilities. "This is not a new policy, it has been around for the last 20 years at least - but on a recent inspection we noticed some mats had crept back so we've reminded tenants to remove them."



It's all a bit rich being hectored by celebrity hypocrites. The activists who preach loudest against the so-called evils of modern democracies should be exposed. In these secular times, celebrity-styled and self-appointed moral guardians have long replaced church leaders as the average person's guide to the higher moral ground. Al Gore and his message on climate change is but the latest.

In Australia to promote his film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore was given extremely soft interviews by Kerry O'Brien on The 7.30 Report, Andrew Denton on Enough Rope and Fran Kelly on Radio National. All ABC interviewers accepted Gore's preaching without substantial query.

The problem for moral guardians is that often they take the high moral ground while simultaneously dealing in much of what they condemn. It's called double standards. And right now the world of commentary is full of them. In his film, to be released in Australia tomorrow, the former US vice-president lectures at length on the need for all of us to change our lifestyles to save the planet. We are sitting on a time bomb, he tells us, a planet heating to such an extent we have just 10 years before the apocalypse. We have a choice he says - "to bring our carbon emissions to zero". We must use renewable energy and clothes lines, drive hybrid cars and cut back on consumption.

But a zero carbon emission is not a choice Gore has personally made. He owns three homes, one of which is a 930 sq m, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville and another a 370 sq m house in Arlington, Virginia.

In spite of readily available green energy, in both Nashville and the Washington DC area, writer Peter Schweizer (USA Today, August 8) has revealed "there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy". Gore usually travels to promote his film in a private jet.

Governments and citizens around the world must heed the message that carbon emissions need to be reduced and that the earth is warming to levels that cause concern. No doubt in that. But the hype of Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and his own performances in its support have given him guru status. Surely the least a guru can do is lead by example.

The hypocrisy industry is alive and well in secular democracies. Decades of campaigns from animal rights protests to anti-war marches have offered some notable Americans not only celebrity status but even comfortable incomes. This is the lucrative humbug Schweizer exposes in "Do As I Say (Not As I Do) - Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy".

Take Michael Moore, documentary film-maker and guru of anti-Americanism and fashionable leftist causes. His hallmark characteristic is hero of the little man against the big corporations. He talks often of growing up in the working-class, wrong-side-of-the-tracks rust belt of Flint, Michigan. Flint has become a trademark for Moore - on his email address and website. In fact, Moore grew up in nearby Davison, the son of a middle-class General Motors worker who owned the family home, drove two cars and played golf after work in the afternoons. Moore has a penthouse in New York and an extensive property on Torch Lake, Michigan, made of 70-year-old Michigan red pine trees. In spite of his so-called green credentials, he was recently cited by local authorities for despoiling a wetland in an attempt to extend his private beach.

Moore's image exudes the ordinary guy, the man who can hack it rough with no interest in consuming goods. He derides the elite for their excess and need for luxury. This is the same man who couldn't drink Poland Spring when backstage and had to have a ready supply of Evian. The same man who demanded he travel the country in a private jet and a fleet of four-wheel drives for his most recent book tour.

The hypocrisy industry has caught a number off guard in the fashionable global warming pronouncements. Barbra Streisand took neighbour and photographer Wendell Wall to court after he took shots of her at a car dealership looking at four-wheel drives, a clear contradiction of her plea a few months before for Americans to get serious about reducing fuel emissions. She had him arrested, pressed charges that led to bail being upped to $1 million so that he was held for three days. When the matter came to court, Wall was recognised to have been doing nothing offensive and he sued the sheriff's department for violation of his civil liberties, which was settled out of court.

Schweizer's study of the rich and hypocritical is full of such stories - of how those who preach loudest against the so-called evils of modern democracies have the biggest skeletons in their closets. Legislators such as Democrat congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, one of the wealthiest on Capitol Hill, an anti-nuclear and environmental campaigner who owns and invests in property where environmental regulations are ignored.

Teddy Kennedy, whom Schweizer calls the king of liberal hypocrites, is fulsome in his appeals for greener choices. Yet the Kennedys, led by Ted, continue to oppose a wind project off Hyannis where they sail, even though the project is way out to sea. And as Ted preaches against oil companies, the Kennedys have invested in oil in Texas for decades, and even own the drilling rights on land that is not theirs.

Let's save the planet by all means - but let's not be fooled by those who preach loudest but do not practise what they preach.


Imams urged to correct false use of Koran

More blunt talk to Muslims from the Australian government

Australia's Islamic clerics have been urged to help correct the false use of the Koran by terrorists to justify their evil acts. The Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Robb called on some 100 Australian imams attending a government-sponsored conference to denounce the extremists' misrepresentation of Islam. "We live in a world of global terrorism where vile acts are regularly being perpetrated in the name of your faith," Mr Robb told the two-day conference which started. "Because it is your faith that is being invoked it is your problem. "You cannot wish it away or ignore it just because it has been caused by others."

The taxpayer-funded conference, which was intended for earlier this year, was initially the brainchild of the now divided Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. But organisation of the event was handed to the Muslim Community Reference Group members by Mr Robb after the AFIC failed to get it going. A number of hardcore Islamists have accepted invitations to attend.

Mr Robb urged delegates to preach to young Australian Muslims about the real meaning of the Koran. "I say to you speak up and condemn terrorism," He said. "I know many in your community are doing this .. but too many are silent."

Mr Robb also said it was essential for imams to have effective English language skills. Some 50 per cent of the 360,000 Muslims in Australia are under 25 years of age, and most were born in Australia with English as their first language, he said. "For imams to present Islam in a truly Australian context especially to second and third generations Australian Muslims, it would seem essential that imams be able to speak effective English. "The fact that I needed to have my address translated into several languages very clearly highlights my concern," Mr Robb said. The conference continues for the rest of the weekend.


16 September, 2006


The British Army was last night condemned for fuelling a fur trade which leaves baby bears orphaned. Animal rights groups criticised officials for buying the left over skin of black bears from tourist-hunters in Canada. In recent years thousands of American hunters have crossed the border to shoot bears for pleasure. The Army has then been buying the fur to use in making the famous bearskin hats.

Animal welfare groups criticised the army for demanding that the fur for Buckingham Palace guardsmen is culled in springtime when it is at its thickest. This is also the time for breeding and thousands of baby bears are left orphaned after their mother's are shot by tourist hunters. What the hunters leave behind is sold on to the British Army. A spokeswoman for Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said: "It is inexcusable. Tradition has never been a means of justifying cruelty. "The Ministry of Defence has been dragging its feet for years and this organisation which has so much money at its disposal, and can launch a missile even, can't find a replacement material for fur. These hats are not bullet-proof. They are purely ornamental."

She added: "Fur farming has been banned in the UK because people do not like it. Yet tax payers money is being used to buy these hats even though the public doesn't agree with them. "There is no kind way of skinning an animal whether it is a fox or bear. The British Army could save hundreds of bears every year." A spokesman for Tony's Cub Rescue Centre which tries to save baby bears left orphaned in British Columbia said many of the bears whose pelts are sold on die slow deaths after being inexpertly shot by tourists. He said: "We only save a very small percentage." It was also revealed that bears are enticed with meat, doughnuts and even honey in order to make them easier for paying hunters to shoot. The spokesman added: "It is like shooting fish in a barrel."

The British Army has spent 321,000 pounds in the last five years on 431 bearskin "caps" at the cost of the tax payer. Last night a spokesman for the MoD said the bear fur trade was a matter for the Canadian government. The MoD has been researching the use of fake fur for bearskin hats for nearly 20 years but has not as yet found one it considers suitable.

The standard bearskin of the British Foot Guards is 18 inches tall, weighs one and a half pounds and is made from the fur of the Canadian black bear. Some which are still in use are over 100 years old. The fur of an adult black bear is used to make one complete cap.



Even though corruption is undoubtedly the biggest single factor in keeping the third world poor

Beitain last night threw down a direct challenge to Paul Wolfowitz’s leadership of the World Bank as the Government announced that it was withholding a 50 million pound payment in protest at the conditions attached to aid for poorer countries. The decision by Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, reflects growing concern over Mr Wolfowitz’s aggressive anti-corruption campaign, which has led to the suspension of mutlimillion- dollar loans and contracts to countries such as Chad, India, Argentina, Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.

The unexpectedly robust public attack by Mr Benn, who is close to Gordon Brown, will sound alarm bells within the US Administration about relations with Britain when Tony Blair departs No. 10.

Mr Wolfowitz, who took over as President at the World Bank 15 months ago, is best known as one of the chief architects of the Iraq war during his four years as the deputy US Defence Secretary. Critics, who include a clutch of European governments and many senior members of the bank’s staff, claim that the anti-corruption campaign threatens to undermine the bank’s primary purpose of eliminating global poverty by being too ideological, arbitrary and high-handed. “In the same way that the neocons tried to impose democracy on Iraq,” said a source at the bank. “They are trying to impose their own economic and political model on Africa — without recognising the reality of the situation on the ground.”

Mr Benn said that by continuing to foist unwanted policies on developing economies, Mr Wolfowitz had reneged on his commitments to reform the conditions attached to aid programmes. Mr Benn criticised the pressure the World Bank put on poorer countries to pursue privatisations and trade liberalisation. Although he said there was nothing wrong with setting some conditions, “when it comes to economic policy choices I don’t think it’s right that we should be telling other countries what to do”. Mr Benn renewed his attack on Mr Wolfowitz last night, claiming that the World Bank had an excessively narrow focus on fighting corruption. “Our job, and the job of [the bank], is to help eliminate poverty. This means that we should not walk away from our responsibilities to poor people.”

Mr Wolfowitz, who now faces an uncomfortable press conference when he arrives for the bank’s annual meeting in Singapore today, has said that lending has risen slightly under his leadership to $23 billion. He has also said that he does not want to see an estimated 10 to 25 per cent of the money being lost to corruption. Mr Wolfowitz’s allies claim he is being unfairly caricatured by liberals at the bank, who greeted his arrival with satirical claims that he brought along an old “map of Iraq (with hundreds of red x’s denoting ‘WMDs,’ hundreds of black x’s denoting ‘Oil Well$,’ and one blue x denoting ‘decent sushi restaurant’”.

Danny Leipziger, the World Bank’s vice-president for poverty reduction and economic management, said yesterday that Mr Benn’s comments were the first he had heard of Britain’s protest. However, the Government last year registered strong objections against the World Bank’s suspension of $800 million in loans for maternal and children’s health in India because of corruption concerns. The decision, complained Britain, had been taken without proper consultation. Britain and other European countries pressed Mr Wolfowitz in April to put greater emphasis on fighting corruption by building institutions in the developing world rather than simply suspending loans.

Although Mr Brown has worked well with Mr Wolfowitz in the past, some at World Bank suspect he is behind Mr Benn’s assault. They claim that the attack helps put some distance between Mr Brown and the White House, and that it chimes with his ideological bent. “We have seen in the debate about UK public services,” a source close to Mr Wolfowitz said, “that Brown is a ‘spend first, reform later, sort of guy’.” Britain’s suspended 50million pound payment is for a special bank fund and will not affect aid programmes for which Britain is still expected to contribute 500 million next year.

More here

Australia: "Evil white man" claims debunked

Comment by William D. Rubinstein - professor of modern history at the University of Wales

Apart from offering cogent evidence of the very small number of Aborigines killed by whites in Tasmania, Keith Windschuttle's "The Fabrication of Aboriginal History" also made a number of claims of - to put it charitably - very poor research methods by established academic historians whose claims about Aboriginal deaths at the hands of white settlers were apparently unsupported by any real evidence.

Probably the most widely-discussed such claim made by Windschuttle was that concerning Professor Henry Reynolds, who is certainly among the best-known historians of Aboriginal encounters with white Australians. These claims were made previous to the publication of The Fabrication, in 2001 in The New Criterion, the American review. In his book The Other Side of the Frontier, Reynolds estimated that, between 1850 and 1900, about 10,000 Aborigines were killed by whites in the colony (now state) of Queensland. As his footnoted source for this claim, Reynolds cited a limited circulation and little-known 1978 monograph of his, Race Relations in North Queensland.

After a long search, Windschuttle managed to locate this publication. But the passage cited in Race Relations turned out not to be about Aboriginal deaths at all, but about the total number of whites killed by Aborigines.

Nowhere did it mention the figure of 10,000 Aboriginal deaths, let alone provide any evidence for this figure. It did, however, claim that Aborigines may have killed between 800 and 850 whites between 1850 and 1900. The only mention made of Aboriginal deaths at the hands of whites was in one single footnote in which Reynolds claimed that while it was impossible to do anything more than guess at the number of Aborigines killed by whites, their death rate "may have been" ten times more than that of Europeans. No evidence was provided for this claim, which was simply invented out of thin air. Even if somehow true, this does not multiply to 10,000 Aboriginal deaths, but to 8,000 - 8,500, with the extra 1500-2000 dead Aborigines being added, as it were, for good luck. Reynolds' figure quickly gained wide currency among historians of this subject, none of whom questioned the bases of his estimate.

Reynolds' claim, it should be noted, is categorically different from other well-founded estimates of deaths in demographic catastrophes, genocides, mass killings, or other slaughters of the modern world, which are firmly based in valid historical and demographical evidence. There is, for instance, not the slightest doubt that nearly 20,000 British solders died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, or that about 960,000 Jews and 100,000 others perished at the Auschwitz extermination camp, or that, chiefly because of the Famine and emigration, the population of Ireland declined from 8,175,000 in 1841 to 6,552,000 in 1851.

In contrast, Reynolds' figures are simply made up, lacking a shred of real demographic evidence or even reasoned argument to support them. With the apparently misleading footnote reference to his 1978 monograph, they also surely sail very close to the wind in terms of valid historiographical procedure. Any doctoral candidate in history who used this "evidence" in a dissertation would be asked to rewrite this passage, if not failed outright.

Shortly after the publication of Windschuttle's Fabrication, Robert Manne edited a collection of deeply hostile essays on the book, Whitewash: On Keith Windschuttle's Fabrication of Aboriginal History (Melbourne, 2003). Naturally, Reynolds contributed an essay. One might reasonably have expected Reynolds to have used this venue to refute Windschuttle's charges against his Queensland estimates, which were given wide publicity in the Australian press and which are - presumably - highly damaging to his professional reputation. What does Reynolds have to say about this matter in his essay "Terra Nullius Reborn"? Precisely nothing - not one word. Instead, the essay is an attack on Windschuttle's assertion that Tasmanian Aborigines had no notion of an attachment to the land and - in contrast to the claims of some historians - were not fighting a "guerrilla" campaign against the whites. ("Terra Nullius" is the legal doctrine, accepted in Australian law until recently, that no pre-existing Aboriginal sovereignty to Australia existed at the time of white settlement, the continent being, legally, vacant land, whose Stone Age inhabitants had no actual or legal notion of sovereignty.)

Another historian attacked by Windschuttle is Professor Lyndall Ryan formerly of the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, and now of the University of Tasmania. In her The Aboriginal Tasmanians (p. 77) Ryan claimed that:

By 1808 conflict between Aborigines and Europeans over kangaroos had so intensified that twenty Europeans and a hundred Aborigines probably lost their lives.

As with Reynolds, the references cited by Ryan simply do not show this. She cited a contemporary diary, which, on examination, mentioned only the killing of four Aborigines, two white men, and a dog. In her essay in Whitewash, Ryan countered that the real reference was in the next paragraph of her work, to another contemporary account, which claimed, of the twenty to thirty kangaroo hunters, that:

some of them have forced the Native Women, after murdering their Protectors, to live with them and have Families.

From this, Ryan "deduced" that the figure of 100 Aboriginal deaths "is not an unreasonable estimate", although it seems like a highly unreasonable one to me. [See John Dawson, Washout: On the Academic Response to the Fabrication of Aboriginal History (Sydney, 2004) - a pro-Windschuttle work - pp. 117-118.]

Windschuttle cites claim after claim of this kind, made by well-regarded academic historians, often holding senior positions. Again and again, their claims about the killings of Aborigines in Tasmania by white settlers appear either wildly exaggerated or unsupported by evidence.

The fury of the Australian left unleashed by Windschuttle's book was spearheaded by Robert Manne, professor of politics at La Trobe University in Melbourne, who edited the anti-Windschuttle collection Whitewash and has truly acted the part of Javert to Windschuttle's Jean Valjean, engaging in a long sequence of attacks on him in the press and in well-publicised public debates. A highly intelligent and very cogent writer, and one of the most visible public intellectuals in Australia, Manne is a very strange case indeed. In 1981 he edited a collection of essays entitled The New Conservatism in Australia, and was at the time regarded as probably the leading neo-conservative thinker in Australia.

On the basis of his reputation, in 1989 he was appointed editor of Quadrant, the influential neo-conservative and literary Australian monthly. Once in place, Manne discovered that he was not a conservative after all, but actually a radical, and was forced to resign as editor in 1997 following an internal revolt at the magazine.

Since then, he has produced an endless flow of newspaper articles, essays, and books attacking, from a left-wing viewpoint, the conservative government of John Howard and all of its policies, especially in Aboriginal affairs. Manne was crucially influenced, it seems, by the publicity surrounding the so-called "Stolen Generation" claims about the forcible removal of mixed-race Aboriginal children from their families between the 1900s and 1960s, which in the 1990s became one of the central topics of public debate in Australia.

Manne had shown no interest in Aboriginal affairs before this, and had certainly done no research on Aboriginal history. Windschuttle's book - and his imposing research and intellectual framework and cogency in debate, at least a match for Manne's own - acted as a red rag to a bull for Manne, who has become the leader of the anti-Windschuttle forces on the Australian academic left. It seems to me that, having listened to their televised debate over Aboriginal history and read the exchanges between them, that there is little doubt that Windschuttle has consistently and clearly gotten the better of Manne.

As one might expect, too, the academic left has used any slur or defamation in order to defeat Windschuttle, and the charge that he is the equivalent of a "Holocaust denier" was not long in coming. It was made in Manne's collection by A. Dirk Moses, in his essay "Revisionism and Denial". Any assertion that Windschuttle can be compared to a "Holocaust denier" is, in my opinion, nonsensical and defamatory. For an historian, to reduce the number of victims of mass murder or genocide, based upon new evidence - what Windschuttle has done - is not "genocide denial", but simply an attempt to produce a more accurate interpretation of the past.

Historians actually reduce the number of victims of alleged massacres, based upon new evidence, all the time. For instance, it is now clear, based on post-Glasnost evidence, that the number of victims of Stalin was much lower than the astronomical figures cited by Robert Conquest and others in the 1970s. Critics of David Irving have also completely refuted his claims about the number of alleged German victims of the Allied air raid on Dresden in early 1945. Irving claimed - in order to drum up sympathy for the Germans - that as many as 250,000 Germans perished. Richard Evans and others have shown, with persuasive evidence, that the actual figure was about 19,000. In these cases, historians are seeking accuracy about the past, which is what historians -presumably - aim at doing. This is what Keith Windschuttle is doing.

To those not on the ideological left, Windschuttle's works have already been seen as an important and imposing, but unfortunately rare, attempt to produce a conservative account of Australian history, such as has been attempted in recent years only by a handful of historians like Geoffrey Blainey and John Hirst.

Windschuttle plainly towers above his opponents like a giant among midgets, and will be remembered when they are forgotten. A month ago, he was appointed to the Board of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), a move which - together with the recent appointment of other high-profile conservatives - has turned the Australian left apoplectic. One can only hope that they are able to clean out this particular Augean Stable. Alas, no Tory Prime Minister here has ever had the nerve or intelligence to make similar appointments to the Board of the BBC, which continues to be a free-to-air version of the Guardian.

Source. Prof. Rubinstein also puts Windschuttle's conclusions into a world context here

15 September, 2006

PBS Follows Through on Commitment to Air Balanced Program

Feminist distortions finally countered: An email from Glenn Sacks:

Last October PBS aired the film "Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories" on many of its affiliates. The film portrayed fathers as batterers and child molesters who use family court machinations to wrest children away from their mothers. The film was extremely one-sided, and presented a harmful and inaccurate view of divorce and child custody cases. Moreover, the film portrayed one mother as a heroic, victimized mom, when records which we made public show that she had abused children under her care, and had lost custody for that reason.

I joined with Fathers and Families, the American Coalition for Fathers & Children, and others in a campaign to force PBS to "provide fatherhood and shared parenting advocates a meaningful opportunity to present our side of the issues." Over 10,000 of you wrote or called PBS, and both PBS's ombudsman and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's ombudsman echoed our central criticisms about the film.

In December PBS notified us that they would "commission an hour-long documentary" for the purpose of further examining the "complex and important issues" raised in the film and by our campaign. They promised the "hour-long treatment of the subject will allow ample opportunity" for those of differing views to "have their perspectives shared, challenged and debated."

Kids & Divorce: For Better or Worse, the film they commissioned in response to our campaign, aired in Boston last night, and will be airing in several dozen markets over the coming weeks. To PBS's credit, they followed through on the commitment they made last December to produce a balanced film. Moreover, PBS partially adopted the approach we suggested for the film. Earlier this year Fathers & Families wrote to Dave Iverson, the film's producer and host, and suggested that he make shared parenting the central theme of the new PBS film. We are pleased to see that Iverson took the suggestion seriously--much of Kids & Divorce concerns shared parenting.

The film made two overriding points. Much of the mainstream media (particularly left-leaning institutions, of which PBS is one) engages in divorce happy talk. However, from Kids & Divorce's opening moments the film powerfully depicts the way children suffer in divorce. Also, throughout the film it was clear that children want and need both parents, that they are very aggrieved when their parents don't get along, and that two-parent involvement is important after divorce.

The film also had its weaknesses. The film devoted much time to the ways in which conflict between parents is bad for children, but did not devote enough to why such conflicts exist. My belief is that much post-divorce conflict is because the playing field is not level, and mothers believe, often correctly, that if they push hard they can drive fathers out of their children's lives. The film focused too much on "can't we all just get along" generalities instead of on the need to protect both parents' right to have a relationship with their children.

Judicial discretion in divorce cases was defended in the film without pointing out the harm that excessive discretion can create. Shared Parenting was criticized as a "cookie cutter" or "one size fits all solution." However, Ned Holstein, president of Fathers & Families, refuted this in the film, pointing out that we already have a cookie cutter--sole custody to mom, dad gets every other weekend visitation.

Women's advocate Dr. Peter Jaffe said that Shared Parenting "coerces" women into co-parenting arrangements with their abusers. Psychologist Dr. Richard Warshak, who made several excellent points in the film, pointed out that Shared Parenting presumptions do not apply when there is domestic violence. However, nobody pointed out that the presumption of sole custody to mom coerces fathers to relinquish much of their fatherhood after a divorce.

The film also devoted much time to divorce education and collaborative law, particularly in the first half. Both of these can be good things, but their utility is limited without a level playing field.

However, I do not want to belabor the film's negatives. PBS spent a considerable amount of money on the film, and made an honest and effective effort to be balanced. The film had many positives, particularly in the second half. Some of them include:

1) The film provided a detailed and very positive depiction of a divorced couple practicing Shared Parenting, including an interview with the divorced couple's 16 year-old son and 12 year-old daughter. The boy emphasized the importance of having the love of both his parents.

2) The film made it clear that kids do not like seeing their other parent badmouthed or belittled. Three times the film quoted a young boy who thanked his mom for ceasing her badmouthing of the boy's father.

3) The film pointed out that it's important that each parent accommodate their children's desire for contact with the other parent. For example, we were told that when a child tells his or her mother that he or she misses dad, the mother's best response is a cheerful "OK, let's call him."

4) Los Angeles County Family Mediator Ernest Sanchez applauded a father who came into his court and stood up and repeatedly asserted that he was a father, "not a visitor" in his child's life. Sanchez also brought up the need to "equalize the playing field."

5) I expected a large focus on domestic violence and monster dads, and was pleasantly surprised to see that while this side was represented fairly, it was not given undue weight. In fact, Iverson said "domestic violence is a factor in only a small number of divorce cases," and this assertion was repeated later in the film.

6) In the final segments Dr. Richard Warshak was excellent, bringing home many of our movement's key points. He discussed the way custodial parents "use their extra time with their children" to turn them against or alienate them from the other parent. Warshak agreed with Jaffe that we must protect kids from domestic violence but also said we must protect them from the "emotional violence" of parental alienation. Surprisingly, Jaffe did (briefly) concede that there is too much alienating behavior by parents in divorces.

7) Underscoring the film's central message that kids need two parents, not two warring parties, one child caught in the middle of a divorce said "I don't want to vote."

8) The film showed a meeting of Fathers & Families where two dads briefly described how painful their separations from their children are. One of them is a quadriplegic who can't see his kids because of a domestic violence restraining order. Unfortunately, the filmmakers failed to point out or depict how absurd this is.

9) The film showed Ned Holstein lobbying at the Massachusetts capital and quoted him as saying that before you even get into the courtroom, you can tell which parent is going to win custody--"it's the parent wearing the skirt."

10) In the film Iowa state legislator Danny Carroll said something we hear all too rarely. Carroll never knew his father. However, he did not make the standard assumption that because dad wasn't there he must be at fault or have "abandoned" the family. Instead he explained that he didn't really know why his dad wasn't there, and speculated that if there had been a presumption for Shared Parenting when he was a child, perhaps he would have had his father in his life. He is one of the main legislative supporters of the Iowa shared parenting law, which the film discussed.

11) Our opponents often say that divorced couples can't co-parent, so it's best to give sole custody to mothers. In the film Dr. Isolina Ricci asserted that "most parents can co-parent" and emphasized the importance of co-parenting after a divorce.

12) In closing, Hofstra Law Professor Andrew Schepard accurately described the problems in divorce and family law as a "public health problem," and Warshak emphasized the need for post-divorce parenting plans which do not have a "secondary parent."

In summation, we've come a long way in a year. We never asked PBS to pull or cease airing Breaking the Silence. Instead we asserted that there is another side to these issues which merits an airing. We succeeded. Last fall on PBS dads were portrayed as evil, scheming abusers. This week dads were portrayed as an important and valued part of their children's lives. Thanks again to all who participated.


Breakfast food company Kellogg's has come under fire from animal lovers furious about a television advert showing a man riding a dog like a horse. Nearly 100 complaints have been made against the new Crunchy Nut Cornflakes advert, which shows a very small man finishing work and riding home on the back of an Irish Wolfhound. Dog lovers say the behaviour in the scene is cruel and could be copied by children.

However, no action is to be taken by the Advertising Standards Authority, which has dismissed the complaints. It says viewers would be able to spot that the scenes were computer-generated.

In the advert, the man is seen riding the dog home from work. Text at the bottom of the screen reads: "Don't try this with your dog at home." After the man arrives home, milk is poured on to a bowl of the cereal by what appears to be the dog's paw. The man is then seen sitting at his kitchen table eating it.

A spokesman for Kellogg's said the idea of their advertising campaign was to depict methods of transport that are so unfeasible they defied reality. Kellogg's said a vet was present at the shoot to ensure the well-being of the animal. It added that no one actually rode the dog.

The Advertising Standards Authority cleared the advert, providing it was shown away from programmes that children could watch.



Yesterday, three convicted animal rights extremists received prison sentences in a New Jersey courtroom ranging from four to six years. Along with their organization, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) USA, they were also ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to the company their members terrorized. A fourth SHAC member was handed a three-year sentence this morning, and two more will learn their fate next week. They were convicted in March of using a website to incite threats and harassment against employees of a medical research company that uses animals. You can rest assured that SHAC sympathizers will spin these convictions as a blow to free speech. But as we wrote today in New Jersey's Home News Tribune:

Like true terror masterminds, these six took protecting lab rats past the point of earnest debate and honest persuasion, choosing instead to orchestrate a destructive crusade. Was it terrorism? You decide. The campaign included death threats, overturned cars, bombings and front-lawn midnight protests complete with chants of "Let's burn his house to the ground" ... Real people with real families were terrified ...

Dozens of organizations in this nationwide movement want what SHAC wants: an end to medical experiments using animals ... Some are familiar. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The Humane Society of the United States. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The Animal Liberation Front. As varied as their names and tactics are, these groups all share a common goal: "Liberating" animals, regardless of the cost to humanity.

Activist of all stripes -- no matter how twisted their ideology -- are free to engage in mature dialogue and public advocacy. This is America, after all. But yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre isn't "free speech." Neither is threatening to burn the theatre to the ground.

And just as we expect responsible citizens to abide by certain rules of democratic decency, we also expect them to express remorse for their wrong-doings. Throughout the SHAC trial and sentencing, though, all six defendants have remained disturbingly unapologetic. As one federal prosecutor told The Philadelphia Inquirer:

I'm struck by the fact that we've been through three sides of the sentencing and so far we haven't heard anyone say, "I'm sorry." And there are victims here today who perhaps would like to hear them apologize.


14 September, 2006


The victim is always wrong: Young thugs terrorised this woman for two years, trampling her garden and kicking footballs against her house. She shouted at them to leave her alone. And who do you think the police charged? Her.. for swearing

A mother of two has been fined for swearing at yobs who made her life a misery. For more than two years a group of about 15 teenage thugs have hounded Donna Appleyard, 32, subjecting her to relentless abuse, threats and vandalism. But when she finally snapped over the constant intimidation and swore at one of the bullies, she was arrested and fined. And if she doesn't pay up, Donna could face a spell in prison.

She said yesterday: "I am absolutely furious that I have been made out to be the criminal when all I have ever wanted to do is live in peace and quiet." Almost every day since 2004 Donna and her neighbours in Knottingley, West Yorks, have had to endure the gang jumping fences, trampling gardens, shouting, swearing, kicking footballs against windows and hanging around their street into the night. The three-bed semi she shares with partner Colin Lamb, 34, and her kids James, 14, and Holly, 12, was such a relentless target that on March 30 she lost her temper and swore at one tormentor.

And two weeks later police called at her home saying a 13-year-old had made a complaint. She was handed an 80 pound fixed penalty notice but refused to pay and was taken to court last month - only for magistrates to up the sum to 120 pounds which Donna must now pay or face a jail term. She said: "I was at the end of my tether and admit I swore at one of them. But that's nothing compared to what my neighbours and I have suffered."

Donna claims she made countless complaints to police about the gang but nothing was done. She said: "Officers told me I'd scared children. Well, what do they think has been happening to us for the past year? I am livid. "These kids have made me, my family and my neighbours feel like prisoners in our own homes. "They are intimidating and aggressive and make our lives hell. All I did was swear at them and I am in trouble with the law. "What about everything they have done to us? I can't believe the police have arrested me and left them to run wild."

Incensed neighbours Shirley and George Wardle have offered to contribute half to Donna's fine. Shirley, 69, said: "It's deplorable. Whoever charged her wants to come and live here a while."

But Donna is so enraged by how she has been treated that she is still refusing to pay the penalty. She said: "I don't see why I should lose money when all I have done is stick up for my family. "I've been told that if I don't settle I could go to prison. But I won't pay because, in my eyes, I haven't done anything wrong."

Sgt Neil Haley, of the local neighbourhood policing team said: "We appreciate that anti-social behaviour can be frustrating. "But people should not take the law into their own hands."



Anti-Iraq war progressives can't accept the real lesson of 9/11: there's a global Islamist movement bent on the destruction of the West. The fifth anniversary of 9/11 offers a brilliant study of the progressive neurosis, commemorating an event while denying its origins, nature and cause. It has been akin to an exhausting and endless documentary on Pearl Harbor that scarcely mentions Japan, the sort of product where a professional editor would demand a rewrite.

The anniversary has become an extravaganza in Bush bashing, a reminder that President George W. Bush is the most compelling and easiest media target for a generation. His blunders in Iraq are a fundamental part of the post-9/11 story. But John Howard nailed the problem on Four Corners when he said: "It's a very strange thing to start the dialogue with Iraq rather than start the dialogue with the attack on the 11th of September."

In fact, it's not strange at all. This is the progressive mind in action. For the progressive mind the source of the problem is Bush. The real story is the Iraq war. The dynamic driving the terrorists is Bush's aggressive tactics. So where else would you start and end but Iraq?

The Western progressive mind is profoundly uncomfortable with the nature of the 9/11 attack. This is an event that invokes God, moral absolutes and cultural divides, a trinity of ideas totally anathema to Western progressives who know that God is dead, moral absolutes don't exist and multicultural diversity is utopia. The progressive mind, supreme in our media, treats 9/11 as a human interest tragedy that inspires homilies on the meaning of life. This conceals the reality: 9/11 is an epoch-changing event not because nearly 3000 died (more people have died in many other events) but because it was a transforming political, cultural and strategic event.

This is what the progressive mind cannot accept. It begins with the enemy. Yes, there was an enemy, though, of course, it offends polite company to admit this. The truth was summarised in the US 9/11 commission report (often at odds with Bush) when it said: "The enemy is not just terrorism, some generic evil. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism, especially the al-Qaeda networks, its affiliates and its ideology."

The 9/11 commission argues the challenge is more than a war on terrorism. The enemy (of which al-Qaeda is a manifestation) is a global ideological movement. The threat is millennial: "Bin Laden and Islamist terrorists mean exactly what they say: to them America is the font of all evil, the 'head of the snake', and it must be converted or destroyed."

For the progressive mind, this is hysterical or an exaggeration or both. The progressives (witness the civil liberty lobby in Australia) cling ferociously to the claim that terrorism has been around for years and nothing much different is happening now. Their entire position depends on such a fiction. The more the origins of 9/11 are documented, the more this is exposed. So, better stick with Iraq.

Consider the causes. The more the causes of 9/11 are revealed in a global ideological movement operating in the mosques and the schools and feeding off deep-seated resentment across the Muslim world towards the US, all implanted well before Bush's Iraqi venture and even before Bush entered the White House, the more difficult it is to sheet home responsibility to Bush. So, better stick with Iraq.

Consider the consequences. The more the strategic implications of 9/11 are ventilated - the fact al-Qaeda wants to acquire a nuclear capacity; that Osama bin Laden met Pakistani nuclear officials to plan further attacks; that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and bin Laden considered but decided against striking US nuclear facilities "for now"; that Harvard University's Graham Allison, after his forensic analysis, concludes that a "dirty bomb attack is overdue"; and that Bush, above all, in everything he has done, has been driven by his fear of an attack by weapons of mass destruction - the more apparent is the unprecedented danger and the more understandable is the strength of Bush's reaction. So, better stick with Iraq.

Consider the moral dimension. The more the Islamist attack against the West is depicted as a plan to kill as many innocent men, women and children as possible in a self-declared war against US power and ideology, the more the US seems wronged rather than guilty. So, better stick with Iraq.

Consider the cultural dimension. For bin Laden, the ideological fixation is against the US as a cultural and religious entity ("the worst civilisation witnessed by the history of mankind"), while for Bush the war is not against Islam but against the Islamist terror groups. This distinction, central to the meaning of 9/11, is blurred by Bush's misconceived Iraq war. So, better stick with Iraq.

In my view, the criticism mounted by US former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke about the disastrous consequences of the Iraq war is convincing. The evidence from Iraq and Afghanistan is that the jihadists are re-energised. But neither the Iraq conflict nor Bush's mistakes define or explain the larger war between the West and Islamist terrorism that is symbolised by the 9/11 attacks and will continue after a resolution in Iraq.

The West remains confused and divided about the nature of this conflict and how to respond. It is polarised between the radical conservative reaction typified by Bush and Tony Blair and the mind-set of denial typified by their progressive opponents. The West has succeeded in the mechanics of tighter security, intelligence and policing. But it has failed in the battle of ideas, the proof being the ongoing recruitment to jihadist ranks in its own societies. Bin Laden has won a dividend he never expected. This is the divide between Bush-Blair-Howard executive governments and their progressive critics, whose final denial is their refusal to admit they are part of the problem


Black crookedness finally recognized in Australia

Aboriginal land councils in NSW will be forced to seek the approval of regulators for all business and investment activities under reforms designed to bring an end to decades of cronyism and corruption. NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister Milton Orkopoulos will today announce the biggest overhaul of the NSW land rights system since 1983, when about 79,000ha of Crown land was divested to 121 local Aboriginal land councils. The combined holdings of the LALCs now amount to about 1per cent of NSW and have an estimated value of $1billion.

Mr Orkopoulos said yesterday the changes would "provide greater accountability and stamp out nepotism" by transforming land councils from small-scale community organisations into "the million-dollar corporate structures some have grown into over the past 23 years". He hopes the reforms will realise the intention of the 1983 act to provide local Aboriginal communities with permanent income to fund benefits such as superannuation and education scholarships.

Instead, profits have been squandered on dubious investments, redirected to the mates and families of council board members and staff, or siphoned off by unscrupulous developers. A number of LALCs have become embroiled in financial and bribery scandals and there are currently 12 councils under the control of administrators.

Under the reforms, councils will need the approval of their members, as well as of their regulating body, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, before selling off land or setting up businesses with the proceeds. The NSW council will also, for the first time, have full access to the financial records of related corporate entities set up by LALCs. When such entities fail, the risk will be borne by the directors, not the land council. In addition, the members of the NSW land council will be elected from six regions under a collegiate model designed to short-circuit cronyism and prevent the domination of elections by a few large Aboriginal families. The revised act will also insure that the powers and responsibilities of board members are clearly defined and made distinct from those of staff.

Last year, The Australian revealed a joint venture between the NSW land council and Macquarie Bank to develop Aboriginal land and create income streams for communities. Tim Hornibrook, head of Macquarie Indigenous Financial Services, said yesterday he was confident the reforms "would push the less reputable operators out of the market, on the commercial side". "At the moment the councils are asset rich and cash poor," he said. "You've got to look at improving their ability to transact in an open and transparent manner with commercial entities."

Murray Chapman, administrator of the NSWALC, said he hoped the changes would "drag the council network into the 21st century". "It will put land councils on a more commercial footing and make them better able to deliver services to their members," he said. "Our mob have got their fair share of crooks, like any other part of Australian society. "You'll never get rid of them, but (the reforms) will make things far more difficult for the standover men and the outright crooks," Mr Chapman said.


13 September, 2006

The mega-incorrect Wal-Mart

Lurking behind the 'populist' campaign against America's biggest retailer is elite disdain for the people who work and shop there

America's Democratic Party is divided and unsure on many issues, but its leaders have found a foe they can unite against: Wal-Mart, the discount `big box' retailer and, with 1.3million staff, the country's largest private employer. Across the US this month, Democratic president-wannabes John Edwards and Joe Biden, along with other party luminaries, have addressed rallies denouncing Wal-Mart for low wages and poor healthcare benefits. Hillary Clinton, ex-board member of the Arkansas-headquartered company, has returned a $5,000 campaign contribution as a protest against its policies. It's very unusual for politicians to attack a chain store, but the Democrats think they are on to a winner for the mid-term Congressional elections in November and into the 2008 Presidential race.

The anti-Wal-Mart movement has really taken off. The publicity campaign has been spearheaded by two union-backed campaigning groups: `Wake Up Wal-Mart', set up by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); and `Wal-Mart Watch', backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Local governments have also sprung into action: the state of Maryland passed a law in January that would require Wal-Mart to increase its spending on health benefits (which was later dismissed by a federal government judge as discriminatory, as it would apply only to Wal-Mart); and the city of Chicago approved an ordinance in July requiring `big box' stores like Wal-Mart to pay a minimum wage of $10 an hour - which is about twice the current national minimum of $5.15 - and at least $3 an hour worth of benefits by 2010. And a new anti-Wal-Mart documentary is gaining decent audiences around the country.

Democrats believe they can leverage attacks on Wal-Mart to send a wider `populist' message that they care about living standards. `Wal-Mart has become emblematic of the anxiety around the country, and the middle-class squeeze', says Evan Bayh, Democrat Senator of Indiana. Paul Krugman, economics columnist for the New York Times, writes: `If the growing movement to pressure Wal-Mart to treat its workers better is any indication, economic populism is making a comeback.'

But the anti-Wal-Mart crusade is a faux populism - as fake as the knock-offs Wal-Mart sells. It shares with other campaigns against politically incorrect retailers - such as McDonald's and Starbucks - a disdain for mass marketers and, most importantly, the masses who shop with them. But what's different, and potentially confusing, about the anti-Wal-Mart movement is that it is snobbery masquerading as a populist campaign for higher pay levels.

Campaigners say they've concentrated on Wal-Mart because the company is highly symbolic - and they're right, but not for the reasons they give. Antis claim that, as the country's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart's actions have ripple effects throughout the sector and the economy generally, and therefore it's reasonable to focus attention on this one company's lousy labour-relations record. But I would argue that the reason Wal-Mart is singled out has less to do with pay, and much more to do with the fact that Wal-Mart has become the emblem for supposedly rampant American consumerism and just about everything the liberal elites find distasteful about the middle-American, `red state' masses.

The attacks on Wal-Mart are driven by snobbery. Wal-Mart is a `low end' general merchandiser, selling a vast variety of goods at, as the company's slogan says, `always low prices'. Many well-off people routinely dismiss the chain as a distributor of tacky, cheap-quality goods, and do not want to be seen entering its doors (although some do just to buy inexpensive toiletries or groceries). Most of Wal-Mart's employees and regular customers are from the lower-income section of society. The company's roots are in the rural South and Midwest, and it is still associated with these red-state heartlands - indeed, the recent resistance has been sparked by Wal-Mart's decision to expand to the more liberal coastal areas and urban centres.

Campaigners cite that about 80 per cent of Wal-Mart's political contributions go to Republicans, and when a recent Zogby poll reported that 76 per cent of regular Wal-Mart shoppers voted for George W Bush, liberals had the evidence they needed that they had zeroed-in on the enemy. As John Zogby himself says: `You walk into a Wal-Mart and you're walking into the moral equivalent of a spiritual revival tent for born-again Christians.'

The contrast with the treatment of Target, one of Wal-Mart's key competitors, shows how the anti-Wal-Mart campaign is really more about defining social status than fighting low pay. Target sells similar stuff at discount prices, but packages everything in trendy design and markets it with playful advertisements. Slapping an Isaac Mirzahi label on its wares, along with donations to cultural causes, makes `Tar-jhay' the socially acceptable low-cost alternative for the comfortable class. Never mind that its pay levels and work practices are not that different to Wal-Mart's - Target generally gets a free pass thanks to the near-exclusive focus on redneck Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is painted as wicked and evil: typically campaigners turn its trademark smiley face into a snarl. By association, those who shop there are found guilty, too. Worst of all, for some, is that Wal-Mart's low prices encourage the masses to buy more, to indulge in the sin of greedy materialism. The company is a symbol of `mindless consumerism', says author Bob Ortega. A 6am stampede in a Florida Wal-Mart for newly-released X-Boxes in 2003 is often cited to prove how the store's shoppers are crazed zombies. Campaigners known as `Whirl-Mart' go around the store with empty carts, as a type of performance protest against the hedonists snapping up the slashed-priced goods.

Wal-Mart finds itself at the sharp end of a wider attack on mass consumption patterns. Personal shopping decisions have now become invested with greater significance, as they are now considered as indicative of one's identity (as opposed to, say, political or religious views). Items associated with the masses are considered taboo today: SUVs, McMansions, fast food. Such criticisms are the means by which to blame those who `mindlessly' buy `offensive' things. At the same time, the elite are able to buy their way out of this, through alternative, eco-friendly, ethical spending.

For instance, the environmental website Ideal Bite, self-described as `a sassier shade of green', provides shoppers with sustainable-living products, so they can `easily align their environmentally and socially conscious values with their everyday decisions'. Of course, all of this comes at a premium price. At the same time, the purveyors of the environmentally-friendly products are praised - witness how organic supermarket Whole Foods is celebrated, even though it's as fiercely anti-union as Wal-Mart.

To be fair, it's not just `latte liberals' who espouse politically-correct shopping. A consensus against mass consumption behaviour now spans erstwhile ideological divides. As journalist Rod Dreher points out, there is now a sizeable number of `crunchy conservatives' who believe that the natural home of conservation is conservatism, and, when it comes to shopping, that right-wingers should care more about values than low prices and convenience.

You would have thought that a superstore that made huge quantities of affordable goods available to the masses would be hailed as a monument to the American dream. Instead, Wal-Mart is portrayed by both left and right today as the American nightmare - a nightmare exported to the 14 countries outside the US, including Asda in the UK, where Wal-Mart has to deal with the added factor of anti-Americanism.

Another reason why the campaigners' claims should not be taken at face value is that low pay and bad conditions are clearly not the only, or most prominent, issues raised. The list of Wal-Mart's sins is long: eliminating small `mom and pop' shops, destroying downtown areas, imposing ugly architecture, squeezing suppliers, facilitating imports from China, ignoring unethical executive behaviour, and so on. The `Wake Up Wal-Mart' website's list even includes `desecrating sacred grounds' in Hawaii and Tennessee. A motley coalition of campaigners espouses these different complaints, all supposedly held together by the united aim of slaying the `Beast of Bentonville'.

This results in the anti-Wal-Mart campaign being backward in multiple ways. Take the criticism about driving out `mom and pop' shops. These fears have existed in the US since at least the 1930s, when the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company established more modern grocery stores. Mistrust of big, modern establishments has traditionally been a feature of conservatism. Right-winger Pat Buchanan attacked Wal-Mart as long ago as 1996, accusing the company of `gigantism' and devastating smaller businesses.

Wal-Mart's opponents romanticise smaller shops, yet these establishments often have limited selection, high prices and unattractive environments. Whatever you think of its labour policies, Wal-Mart certainly marks an advance over most smaller retail outlets, especially the typical inner-city bodega. And come to think of it, when were small shopkeepers known for high pay? The Chicago council's minimum wage measure excludes small businesses, as it applies to only companies with $1 billion or more in revenues - clearly, a serious campaign against low pay generally would see small business as part of the problem, rather than a key ally.

A further backward aspect to the anti-Wal-Mart protests is the way they play the nationalist card and blame Wal-Mart for importing cheap manufactures from China. Wal-Mart's search for the cheapest products, as well as its centralised buying power and hi-tech logistics, certainly facilitate such imports. However, academic claims that retail now drives manufacturing go too far. Wal-Mart brings in 3.5 per cent of China's manufactures, so it's hard to credit it for any economic boom in the People's Republic.

More here


You may have read the article by the same title, which was the forerunner to the book, and that is now in print and available via Amazon.com. Many thanks to my readers who waited patiently for the book's release. But, onward we must go with the subject of American women and the damage caused to our gender by the global culture in the making. The institution of marriage, children, and the condition our public school system and churches demands that we consider very carefully the freedom and rights given to women in this nation. Have we abused or mishandled this freedom?

American women are perhaps the luckiest women in the world. We have, however, taken for granted the fact that we were given rights in a world where rights for women is still curtailed, limited, and at times, non-existent. Many women on the planet are not free in any sense of the word. Many women are still owned entities. So, the question begs - why are American women, whose culture and males allowed them to have freedom from gender bondage, so incredibly stupid with their freedom? Let us consider a small list of shallow stupidities:

We are free to take vanity to bizarre standards and measures - those created by the beauty, health, and media industries - that mandate skeletal thinness, life-long photo-youth looks, tanning bed skin color, Botox shots in the face, fake breasts, fake fingernails, waxing, manicured eyebrows, plastic surgery of every make and measure, bleached teeth, and unending and life-long diets.

We are free to fall into the trap of the mandatory mental health industry - supporting big pharma and the New Freedom Initiative on Mental Health - by our addictions to anti-depressants to the tune of millions and millions of American women now zoning out on a daily basis with mood-altering drugs.

We are also free to become useless in our homes. We now hire maid services, landscapers, pool cleaners, painters, interior decorators, cooks, nannies, teachers and tutors, caterers, therapists, party planners, massage therapists, laundry services, etc., while losing every intuitive instinct of our female natures.

We are free to have extra-marital affairs, multiple lovers, to abort children, to disrespect and ignore the traditions of our families and religions, to use men like ATMs, to back-stab our friends and family members, and to take thousands upon thousands of family dollars for personal use in our missions to look like (and act like) teenagers.

We are free to have children with as many men as we choose, and to bankrupt multiple men with mandatory child support payments. We are then free to ignore children by paying far more attention to maid-cleaned, spotless, and magazine-cover homes, where no cooking is achieved, no family memories are created, and no shoes are allowed to be worn on the white carpets of the "new" American home. We are free to give our children computer software to keep them addictively occupied for YEARS, and then complain about their lack of social skills.

We are free to completely ignore the FACT that our children are SUFFERING with mean-spirited and incompetent mothers - children who are hungry, starved for attention, and mistreated by non-stop extracurricular sports regimens, drive-thru bags of dangerous food, teachers and public school indoctrination camps, completely ignored spiritual needs, and disrespect and contempt of their children's fathers.

Sadly, this list has become the typical "home" scenario for America's children and husbands. "Home" has become sterile because the women in American homes have lost their senses under the highly political guise of "liberation." So, another question begs - what does liberation mean to American women? Does it mean the freedom to vote? Freedom from historical gender bondage? Freedom from ownership? I don't think so. Today's American female is free to be an idiot - a shallow, self-involved, pathologically vain, completely incompetent, and angry person - angry to the tune of making the anti-depressant industry the largest profit maker, bar none, for big pharma. Stupid is what stupid does.

American children do not have happy homes. They are television and computer addicts thanks, primarily, to mothers. So sorry, but facts are facts. American children have so many video games, movies, and "equipment," that we now have to have "media rooms" to contain the sheer numbers of purchases made to very purposefully ignore our children. Then add to the mix that American women can't and don't cook. They don't know how, and furthermore, between jobs, beauty and "health" regimens, and chronic diets, today's mothers feel like crap most of the time, which translates into anger in the home. Just ask dad (or boyfriend).

My fear? I look at the history of women in other countries - nations without freedom - and our rapid march toward and beneath a new form of government - one in which freedoms are being incrementally dismantled and removed from the people. I observe state governors who are implementing reproductive legislation, as we speak, to curtail the rights of procreation, which, as we know, means the unalienable, primordial, and biological rights of women. I see men who are becoming more and more disenchanted with marriage - who fear what will happen should divorces ensue. I see the slutting up of American women in dress, demeanor, and attitude, and I see young American girls following suit. And I think of women in other nations, who have never had rights, and their treatment under nations and laws that label them as chattel, property, and for the most part, primarily vaginas and wombs. I worry about the mass, or shall we say "global" disenchantment of men with women. This history could (and has) set women back thousands and thousands of years.

Therefore, let us think candidly about freedom. Let us not continue to be foolish, cruel, stupid, lazy, shallow, and mean-spirited when it comes to the freedoms that America and her male gender allowed to transpire on our shores. We are very lucky women in this nation. To mishandle that freedom is dangerous specifically to women and children. And in today's world, we are desperately needed to be intelligent handlers of our homes and children. We need to educate our children in the home. We need to eliminate family debt and to stock and store our home pantries and family supplies. We need to reconnect to our biological and intuitive natures, and with that said, we must reconnect to our spiritual natures and needs as women. We must be ultimately careful that we do not become what we loathe.

Anger has become a base point for many American women, and I suspect that anger stems from self-loathing, guilt, and boredom. If you're running around shopping, spa-ing, working out, visiting therapists, tanning, bleaching, manicuring, and paying servants to perform all standards tasks in your homes, you are not operating as a woman and certainly not as a mother to your children.


Australia: Some religions are more equal than others

A Melbourne Catholic schoolteacher has attempted to use Victoria's racial and religious vilification laws to protest against a school history textbook's biased treatment of the Catholic Church. John Morrissey from News Weekly attended the hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)

An attempt to use Victorian law to defend the reputation of the Catholic Church from bias and caricature recently came to a dead end at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). A Melbourne Catholic schoolteacher, Bob Mears, recently complained that a Year 8 history textbook Humanities Alive 2 vilified the Catholic religion by misrepresenting the role and actions of the medieval Church. But he was told by VCAT, at a hearing on Monday, August 7, that the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 was not intended to restrict free speech, but to prevent the incitement of violence against people "among us here today" on the basis of their race or religion.

(Last year, VCAT, under the terms of the same Act, found two Christian pastors of Catch the Fires Ministries guilty of supposedly vilifying Islam by quoting from the Koran).

All of Mr Mears's complaints about inaccuracy, omission and selective use of evidence in the textbook were dismissed as of no relevance to the court and its interpretation of the Act. Although the Act mentions "severe ridicule", VCAT made it quite clear that inciting "hatred or contempt" did not - in the intention of the legislation - mean making another feel offended, nor was redress under the Act possible for anyone wishing to ventilate a concern. The complainant's matter for concern was thus consigned to what the public rationale for the Act calls "trivial comment, impolite remarks or legitimate discussion".

Humanities Alive 2 is a colourful and expensive ($51.95) publication prescribed in a great many government, Catholic and independent schools. Its historical content is superficial and the contents of its accompanying CD-Rom disk are both banal and trivial. Sweeping unsupported generalisations about the Church's oppressive behaviour over a period of perhaps 700 years are relieved by scarcely any mention of her role in sponsoring hospitals, welfare and progress, or any mention of great figures like St Francis of Assisi, beloved of all Christians.

As Mr Mears wrote in April this year, in a letter to Victorian Labor Premier Steve Bracks, the textbook violated the state's religious vilification laws by "seriously lampooning Catholic clergy and, by gross selectivity and calumnies, giving children the false impression that, in the main, medieval Catholic clergy were murderously oppressive, avaricious, licentious, corrupt and that medieval Catholics were non-thinking, uninspired and having a blind religious obedience".

Comments in the national press earlier this year have already publicised this textbook's extraordinary distortions of the Crusades, characterising them as equivalent to modern terrorism. It is also curious that Martin Luther is presented uncritically, while the Catholic Church at the time of the Protestant Reformation is smeared relentlessly. On the CD-Rom accompanying Humanities Alive 2 is a coloured illustration depicting the burning at the stake of Joan of Arc. Featured in the picture is a crucifix; but, with a sweep of a computer mouse, this symbol - sacred to Christians - is transformed into a witch's broom. Thus an officially sanctioned textbook invites Year 8 schoolchildren to desecrate a sacred icon as part of their education.

On educational grounds alone, Humanities Alive 2 fails every criterion of presenting objective history; but especially when prescribed in Catholic schools, it does nothing to strengthen the already fragile faith of young people in the religion both of their baptism and to which their schools ostensibly belong. For the wider community, the textbook regurgitates the old bigoted stereotypes about Catholicism which were common 50 years ago and which have received new impetus in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

The Victorian Government denies that its Act is "law only for racial and religious minorities", but it is reasonable to ask whether Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or any other smaller religious grouping in Australia would have had its history distorted and caricatured with impunity.

The fate of the two Christian pastors of Catch the Fires Ministries, whose audience - unlike children of compulsory school age - attended their function voluntarily, suggests that the Act has been designed to work in just this way. The legal loophole, entirely up to the interpretation of the court, lies in the words "reasonably and in good faith". But, as George Orwell expressed it in Animal Farm, "All ... are equal, but some ... are more equal than others."


12 September, 2006


British flag "lewd and offensive"!

A gulf war hero was banned from joining the police because he has a Union Jack and the words "British Army" tattooed on his arm. Proud Sgt Ivan Ivanovic was told the two-inch design could be seen as RACIST.

Ivan was stunned - as he has served Britain for 22 years, seeing action in the first Gulf War and playing peacekeeping roles in Iraq and Kosovo. The dad of two wanted to become a police community support officer when he quits the Army. But Cumbria Constabulary refused to consider him due to the tattoos. Ivan, 40, who serves with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at Catterick, North Yorks, said: "I can't see why anyone would think that the flag of the country might be seen as racist. "It's crazy. The tattoo is a few inches long and below my left shoulder - so no one would see it. "They asked about any distinguishing marks and would not send an application form because of the tattoo. It's ludicrous." Ivan fell foul of Home Office rules governing "lewd, offensive" tattoos.

But last night police BACKED DOWN and invited Ivan to reapply - after The Sun stepped in. Divorcee Ivan - half Yugoslav and half English - said: "It is fantastic news. I'm proud of my time in the forces." Police said: "We thank The Sun for bringing this to our attention."



In 1988 I attended a Christmas party thrown by a fellow graduate student - a slightly eccentric Hawaiian. He had bought us all gifts and allocated them by a lucky dip. This produced amusingly random results. I received a calendar devoted to the beauty of Hawaii, while a gay friend received one devoted to the beauty of Playboy centrefolds. As we left the party, I negotiated a trade with my friend . . . and was immediately set upon by the departmental feminist: I should be ashamed of myself! I was, but not, I suspected, for the reason the feminist would recommend. So I asked why. I learnt that images of the kind I was so keen on harm women because they create an ideal of beauty that few women can attain. By endorsing this ideal I was contributing to the unhappiness of the many women who do not conform to it. Society - including me - must change its values.

I was reminded of this lesson by a recent newspaper article about the similar suffering of men. Tracy Tylka, of Ohio State University, has discovered that, on a scale from "never" to "always", American undergraduates "often" or "usually" think of themselves as insufficiently muscular. And she offers the standard explanation and remedy. "Men see these idealised, muscular men and feel their own bodies do not measure up . . . Instead of pressuring men to be more muscular we need to accept men's bodies for what they are and instead focus on internal characteristics."

Perhaps it is because this analysis is now so familiar that its absurdity is not widely recognised. The dissatisfaction men feel about their bodies is not a consequence of society's twisted values, and it cannot be cured by reforming society. Those who think it can are making the fundamental mistake of Utopianism.

Consider another disappointment that I imagine many of you experience. Why don't you live in a vast mansion bordering on Hampstead Heath? Some will say it is the exorbitant price of such homes that explains this disappointing fact. They are mistaken. Suppose a law set the price of London mansions at zero. You still wouldn't live in one. Because reducing the price of something does not increase the quantity of it. (On the contrary, it reduces the supply.) If they were made free, there would still be only a handful of London mansions and millions of Brits wanting to live in one. Why suppose that you would be at the front of the queue for mansions?

The Utopian mistake lies in failing to take scarcity seriously. That most people do not live in mansions, or more generally do not have everything they would like, is not a consequence of "the system". It is a consequence of the real scarcity of resources. Since reality will always contain less than the sum of what everyone would like to have, disappointment is unavoidable. No reform of the system can eliminate scarcity or the dissatisfaction it causes. The only serious question is how scarce resources should be allocated.

Consider again the bodily dissatisfaction of American men. Why do they want bigger muscles? It is because muscles are one of the bases on which certain desirable scarce resources are allocated. A good physique will help you to find work as an actor or model, increase the quantity and quality of your sex partners and, ultimately, attract a more desirable spouse or win more favourable terms within the marriage (the more attractive partner tends to get the better deal).

Dr Tylka thinks we should "focus on internal qualities". But that would not solve the underlying problem of scarcity. It would not increase the number of attractive sex partners, desirable spouses or modelling jobs that are available to men. So it would not change the number who are disappointed. It would merely shift the basis of their disappointment and hence the focus of their feelings of inadequacy - perhaps from their physiques to their intelligence. Pretty soon Dr Tylka and her ilk would be complaining about the suffering caused by society's unhealthy obsession with brains.

Allocating lovers and spouses on the basis of "internal qualities" might, admittedly, provide one benefit for men. If these were internal qualities that you cannot change much in adulthood, such as intelligence, the cost of seduction would be reduced. There would be no point in going to the gym, spending money on clothes or making any other futile efforts to be more attractive. But that does not mean that beauty is, after all, a bad basis for allocating lovers. Because beautification has benefits that almost certainly outweigh its costs. Exercising and eating well are a pain, but they are also good for your health. Dr Tylka lists calorie counting among the calamitous effects of America's body obsession. In a nation of widespread obesity, that is a perverse complaint. More significant, however, are the benefits to heterosexual women and gay men. They enjoy a greater supply of potential lovers with the kinds of physiques that, however shameful it may be, most do in fact prefer.

And here we come to the other great mistake of Utopians. They take humanity no more seriously than scarcity. What are those who say we must stop caring about physical appearance seriously suggesting? How should I be stopped from finding beautiful women attractive? Fixing me would require appallingly coercive measures. As Cambodians can tell you, Utopianism is not just stupid, it is nasty.


No ban on smacking children in Australia

Two state premiers have dismissed calls for a national ban on smacking, insisting parents have the right to discipline their children responsibly. The Australian Childhood Foundation has called for a nationwide ban on smacking after it found 45 per cent of Australians believe it is reasonable to leave a mark on a child by smacking them. In a poll of 750 adults, the child welfare group found 70 per cent of people support smacking, while 10 per cent believe it is appropriate to hit a child with an implement. A report by the Australian Childhood Foundation recommends state governments change their laws allowing parents to physically punish their children.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said a smack on the bum never hurt anybody. "Everything in moderation," he told Macquarie Radio. "You don't use it as an excuse for violence and you don't hurt them. "A smack on the bum never hurt any kid, in my view."

NSW Premier Morris Iemma said he would not be changing the law because the current NSW laws provide the necessary balance between preventing child abuse and allowing parents to discipline their children. "Our laws provide that appropriate balance," Mr Iemma told reporters, "in the government having strong laws against abuse and harm, and sending a very strong message about protecting kids, and at the same time recognising the responsibility of parents and the role of parents." NSW laws ban the use of implements to discipline children and any form of physical contact to their head.

The Australian Family Association said a ban on smacking would be going too far. "We have some concerns about introducing laws which have the potential of turning parents into criminals," spokesman Damien Tudehope said. "To introduce laws which mean the government has a role to play in deciding who and who isn't a good parent, we think that's going too far."


11 September, 2006


Something has changed since the end of World War II. In the past, countries would win wars by virtue of their superior might. It would be foolish for a weak country to declare war on a stronger one because it would be quickly demolished. This is no longer true. Today, minor military powers are able to brazenly challenge world superpowers and win! What's going on?

This new situation is possible thanks to the strategy of "divide and conquer." And "divide and conquer" in turn is made possible by the "anti-bully/pro-victim" mentality that has become the guiding philosophy not only of the average person but of our social and political scientists as well: the belief that imbalances of power are wrong and need to be eliminated; that the stronger one in a power struggle is the "bully" or "the bad guy" and the weaker is the "victim" or "the good guy"; and that morality equals "protecting victims from bullies." This philosophy is going to be our downfall. There is no such thing as a social organization without imbalances of power. It is both irrational and immoral to determine that the weaker side is automatically right and the stronger is automatically wrong. Yes, bullies may be bad, but victims are worse. Bullies want power; they are not looking to kill. It's when people feel like victims that they become truly dangerous. The worst acts of violence in the world are committed by people who feel like victims. They believe that blowing up people will gain them entrance to Heaven. The masses go to war not because they believe they are bullies but because they believe they are victims. But before I continue, there is another matter that needs clarification.

Almost everyone interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict passionately favors one side over the other, and can argue endlessly why their position is the correct one. It's as though we believe if the world finally figures out who is right and who is wrong, the conflict will be over. However, the issue of who is right and who is wrong is irrelevant and will never lead to peace. Many therapists give angry couples the sage advice that "It's more important to be happy than to be right." Spouses can spend endless hours arguing with each other who is right and who is wrong, and they don't realize that the real problem is that they are fighting about who is right and who is wrong. The fighting is what destroys the relationship and both sides end up losing.

Similarly, in battles between nations, proving who is right does not create peace. We can all end up being blown to smithereens before we are finished debating who is right. So the solution to the problem has nothing to do with proving which side is "right."

What is This War Really About?

To tackle the problem World War III, we have to identify what this struggle is really about. The official view of the United States government is that it is a war between the free world and terrorism. But terrorism is not an enemy; it is only a tactic. You don't fight a war against a tactic; you fight a war against an enemy. There are those who say that it is a war between Islam and Western civilization (or democracy, really). This is a little closer to the truth, though it is not really Islam as a whole that is trying to destroy democracy, but certain groups of followers of Islam. There are those who say it is a war between democracy and "Islamo-fascism." I would say this is getting even closer to the truth. What is the truth? Get rid of the "Islamo" part, and we hit the nail on the head.

The danger to civilization is not Islam. In fact, it is dangerous to declare that we are waging a war against Islam or "Islamo-fascists" because doing so simply turns Muslims and non-Muslims against each other and fuels the fire. The real danger is not the "Islamo" but the "fascism" part. In the previous century, it was the Nazi fascist government, in partnership with the fascist government of Japan, which brought the world to war. Now it is fascist governments of certain Islamic countries that are endangering the world.

What is fascism? According to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, fascism is "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition." In other words, the State is more important than the individual. Many, or most, Islamic countries fall into this category. This is not because of Islam, but because these countries have fascist governments, ruled by individuals or small groups of individuals who maintain almost absolute control.

The Difference between Fascism and Democracy

There is a fundamental difference between democracy and fascism. In a democracy (or, perhaps more accurately, a "republic"), the leaders are supposed to represent the will of the people. In a dictatorship, the reverse holds true: the people have to represent the will of the leaders. This leads to dramatically different lives for the citizens.

Unfortunately, most citizens of democracies have no idea what's special about their form of government. Our enlightened educational systems have taught us since childhood that we should respect all people equally -- that we are all "different but equal." Unfortunately, we have come to apply this thinking to governments, too, that they are all "different but equal." This is a huge, unjustified jump in logic. It is true that as human beings, our similarities greatly outweigh our differences. However, this cannot be said about human products, and government is a human product. Of course they are not all "different but equal." A cynic may say that all governments, including that of the United States, are bad, but even so, some are much, much worse than others. And a fascist government is much, much worse for its people than a democracy. If you are not sure about this, think about the world's countries. Ask yourself if you would prefer to live in one of the fascist dictatorships or one of the democracies. It shouldn't take you long to decide.

Have you noticed that democratic countries don't go to war with each other? All wars involve at least one fascist state. Why? In a democracy, the leaders have to make the citizens happy. If they don't, the public votes them out of office. Under fascism, the reverse is true: the citizens have to make the leaders happy, or the leaders kill them! This is a difference of night and day.

If you and I are the leaders of two democracies and we have a dispute, the last thing each of us wants is to send our citizens to risk their lives and the lives of their children. If the public feels they sacrificed lives in war for nothing, they will be furious and vote us out of office. So we will always succeed in resolving our disputes before we decide on going to war.

On the other hand, if I am a dictator, I don't have to worry what my citizens think. I can send them to war against you, and they had better go or else I will have them killed! Of course I can't let them think they are shedding their blood for my own selfish needs. I can't afford to have them realize that it is really I who is their greatest enemy and the source of their misery. So I convince them that your country is their enemy and the cause of their wretchedness, so they will hate you and eagerly fight you. This is a simple task for me because there is no freedom of speech or press in my country. I control what my citizens are exposed to in the media, and if they dare to speak out against me, their lives are over.

And that is why you will find that all wars involve at least one dictatorship. The solution to world peace is, therefore, obvious: A world of democratic nations, for they will always figure out how to solve their disputes without having to resort to warfare. George W. Bush acted on this idea when he brought the United States to war against the Iraq of Saddam Hussein. He was hoping to usher in an era of democracy among the Arab countries of the Middle East. Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a colossal blunder. Bush's mistake, as you should understand by the end of this article, was that he tried to sell democracy to the wrong people. Instead of trying to impress (or force) democracy on the citizens of non-democratic countries, it would have been infinitely cheaper and more effective to empress democracy on the countries that already have it and don't appreciate it! The truth is that Bush did try to do this, but not nearly hard enough. By spending a couple of billion dollars on pro-democracy public relations, he could have saved us the hundreds of billions he now has us spending on the military.

How the Fascists are Able to Thrash the Democracies

The fascistic countries of the world are objectively very weak in comparison with the democracies. So how are they able to bring the democracies to their knees? Where does their strength come from? It comes from the strategy of "divide and conquer." .... This ... is what gives the fascist regimes their incredible power. And the most powerful weapons they have are not bombs but the media. Thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, the media is able to bring real-time battlefield events right into everyone's home. The amazing thing about the media as a weapon is that it can turn the natural order upside down by taking advantage of people's sympathy for victims.

According to the rules of nature, the way to win a fight is by winning. Today, thanks to our incredible media technology and the widespread anti-bully/pro-victim mentality, the way to win a fight is by losing! Demonstrate that your side is suffering more casualties, that you are the bigger victim, and the world takes your side and defeats the stronger side for you! Have you noticed, by the way, that in the Arab-Israeli conflict, each side is constantly trying get the world on its side by arguing that is the real victim? It's because you win the world's support by convincing it you are the victim.

This is how it's playing out in the current situation in the Middle East. Iran (along with all the countries of the region), has been stoking the fires of hatred against Jews and Americans for several decades, indoctrinating the populace with the belief that all their misery is due to the existence of Israel, the Little Satan, and her supporter, the United States, the Big Satan. Iran funds Hezbollah, which embeds itself among the citizenry in Lebanon. Then Hezbollah attacks Israel. Israel could easily demolish Hezbollah, but not without killing innocent citizens that serve as human shields for Hezbollah. According to the Geneva Conventions, Hezbollah should be held responsible for the deaths of Lebanese citizens because it is illegitimate to hide among civilians. Nevertheless, Israel takes it upon herself the impossible task of trying to fight Hezbollah without harming civilians. Images of civilian casualties are immediately and ceaselessly broadcast into the homes of the world. The citizens of the democracies don't understand that their system of government is special, and they fall into a sinister trap. Being more easily moved by scenes of bloodshed than by an abstract notion of supporting democracy, they feel outrage at Israel for being a heartless bully.

The democracies then complain that Israel is being too harsh and tell her, "Restrain yourself! You have to stop fighting so hard! You are hurting too many innocent civilians!" The United States, which has been supporting Israel in it's campaign against Hezbollah, can't for long withstand the pressure from other democracies, so it, too, starts caving in to demands for Israel to cease fire. Voila! "Divide and conquer" on an international scale. A victory for Hezbollah and Iran, courtesy of the sympathy of well-meaning democracies.

Iran and Hezbollah are currently reveling in their power. How easy it is to challenge and defeat the mighty democracies of the world! You can be certain they are feeling emboldened to ride the wave of victory. Today, Israel and America. Tomorrow, the world.

The Only Solution: United Democracies

How can we put an end to this sorry state of affairs and prevent the world from sliding into all-out war? The only way is for the democracies of the world to stand together. They must realize that this is a war not between Jews and Muslims but between fascism and democracy. It is the freedom of democracy that has led to the strength and prosperity enjoyed by democracies. Yet the democracies have foolishly partaken in a "world government" called the United Nations, in which fascist regimes are given equal status with democracies. The United Nations headquarters is currently undergoing billions of dollars in renovation. It would be more useful to spend the money to build a new organization called United Democracies. The fascists wouldn't stand a chance against the united power of the free world. In fact, we could defeat them quickly and with a minimum of bloodshed. All that the United Democracies would need to do is tell the fascist regimes, "If you are going to use your oil revenues to attack us, we will have nothing to do with you. We will no longer buy anything from you or sell you anything."

The fascist leaders aren't stupid. They know their wealth is ultimately due to the strong economies of the West. Faced with the prospect of trading their palaces for tents and their jet planes for camels, the fascist rulers would quickly give up their defiance and behave themselves. And this would be a blessing not only for the democracies of the world. The citizens of the fascist nations would also be happier and better off if their leaders would stop engaging in warfare at the expense of their own population. Yes, with a minimum expenditure of human life and resources, the democracies can defeat the fascists and usher in an age of world peace.

Do I think it will happen? No. I am not that na‹ve. Sadly, the "anti-bully/pro-victim" mentality has become too deeply rooted among the intelligentsia. When our leaders' policies are based on a victim mentality, we have no chance against the fascists. Peace will be impossible until we recognize that the "victim mentality", and not "bullies", is the major cause of misery in the world.



I have been reading Ben Stein for many years. This was originally broadcast in the Christmas season

Here at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my beating heart. I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I'm buying my dog biscuits. I still don't know. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores who they are. They don't know who Nick and Jessica are, either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they've broken up? Why are they so darned important? I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I don't care at all about Tom Cruise's baby. Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I'm a subversive? Maybe. But I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. Is this what it means to be no longer young? Hm, not so bad.

Next confession: I am a Jew and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish, and it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautifully lit-up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are — Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they're slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. I shows that we're all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me one bit that there's a manger scene on display at a key intersection at my beach house in Malibu.

If people want a creche, fine. The menorah a few hundred yards away is fine, too. I do not like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat. Or maybe I can put it another way. Where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and aren't allowed to worship God as we understand him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we used to know went to.


10 September, 2006


How long will it be before Christianity becomes illegal in Britain? This is no longer the utterly absurd and offensive question that on first blush it would appear to be. An evangelical Christian campaigner, Stephen Green was arrested and charged last weekend with using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour. So what was this behaviour? Merely trying peacefully to hand out leaflets at a gay rally in Cardiff. So what was printed on those leaflets that was so threatening, abusive or insulting that it attracted the full force of the law? Why, none other than the majestic words of the 1611 King James Bible.

The problem was that they were those bits of the Bible which forbid homosexuality. The leaflets also urged homosexuals to "turn from your sins and you will be saved". But to the secular priests of the human rights culture, the only sin is to say that homosexuality is a sin.

Admittedly, Mr Green is not everyone's cup of tea; other Christians regard him as extreme. But our society is now so upside-down that, by doing nothing more than upholding a fundamental tenet of Christianity, he was treated like a criminal. And yet at the same time, the police are still studiously refusing to act against Islamic zealots abusing British freedom to preach hatred and incitement against the West.


The Bible is the moral code that underpins our civilisation. Yet the logic of the police action against Mr Green surely leads ultimately to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible itself is "hate speech" and must be banned. This bizarre state of affairs has arisen thanks to our human rights culture which automatically champions minorities against the majority. As a result, no one can say anything disobliging about a minority without being accused of prejudice or discrimination.

The problem for Christianity is that it holds that homosexuality is wrong. This, however, it is no longer allowed to say because it treats a minority practice as sinful. So it can no longer uphold a central tenet of its own faith without being accused of prejudice. This dilemma is currently tearing apart the Church of England itself. But it is also turning our whole notion of justice on its head. Author Lynette Burrows received a warning from the Metropolitan Police merely for suggesting that gay people did not make ideal adoptive parents. The former leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, also had his collar felt by police after he said that homosexuality was harmful.

Notably, in his case the matter was swiftly dropped. If there's one thing that terrifies our PC police even more than being called homophobic, it's being called Islamophobic - even though Islamic fundamentalism poses a real threat to the human rights of gay people.

If this wasn't all so frightening, it would be hilarious. Christians, by contrast, get very different treatment. An elderly evangelical preacher, Harry Hammond, was convicted of a public order offence after he held up a poster calling for an end to homosexuality, lesbianism and immorality. Although he had been the victim of a physical attack when a crowd poured soil and water over him, he alone was prosecuted.

And Lancashire pensioners Joe and Helen Roberts were interrogated by police for 80 minutes about their 'homophobic' views after they had merely asked their local council to display Christian literature alongside gay rights leaflets in civic buildings.


Christianity is fast becoming the creed that dare not speak its name. It is being written out of the national script by ideologues seeking to hasten its disappearance. Yesterday, the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said in a radio interview that Britain was "no longer a Christian country" because people no longer went to church. Local authorities and government bodies are systematically bullying Christianity out of existence by refusing to fund Christian voluntary groups on the grounds that to be Christian means that they are not committed to 'diversity'. Thus local and central government refused to replicate the vocational training provided by the Highfields Happy Hens Centre in Derbyshire for young offenders and pupils excluded from school despite its impressive record of success, simply because it was run with a clear Christian ethos.

Norfolk council objected to the inclusion of the word 'Christian' in the constitution of Barnabas House in King's Lynn, Norfolk, which houses homeless young men. And the Housing Corporation, the major funder of Romford YMCA in Essex which looks after hundreds of needy young people, objected to the fact that only Christians were board members - which meant, it said, that the YMCA was not capable of 'diversity', even though it was open to all faiths and none. The 'diversity' agenda, in other words, is a fig-leaf for an attack on Christianity.

And to cap it all, we can no longer rely on our future monarch to hold the line, since Prince Charles has said that when he becomes King he will no longer be Defender of the Faith but "defender of faith". But Christianity is still the official religion of this country. All its institutions, its history and its culture are suffused with it; Britain would lose its identity, its values and its cohesion without it. But minority rights are now being wielded against it like a wrecking ball.

What started as a commendable desire to ban hatred of the gay minority has morphed into a hatred of the Christian majority. Behaviour which was previously considered to transgress the moral norms of the Bible has now instead become the norm - and it is biblical values that are treated as beyond the pale of acceptable behaviour. This is no accident. The sacred doctrine of human rights - which explicitly sets itself up as the religion for a godless age - is the means by which secularism is steadily attacking the Christian roots of our civilisation, on the basis that religion is inherently unenlightened, prejudiced and divisive.

Christianity has been dethroned as this country's governing creed on the basis that equality demands equal status for minority faiths and secularism. As a result, it is being marginalised as no more than a quaint cultural curiosity.


It is a process before which the Church of England has long been on its knees, going with the flow of moral and cultural collapse in accordance with the doctrine of multiculturalism - and then wondering why its churches are so empty, while those of uncompromising evangelicals such as Stephen Green are packed to the rafters. As a result, Christianity is being steadily removed from the public sphere.

Various councils have banned Christmas on the grounds that it is "too Christian" and therefore "offensive" to people of other faiths, and are replacing it with meaningless "winter festivals". This attack on Christianity is not merely something that seems straight out of Alice In Wonderland. It is not merely a threat to freedom of speech and religious expression. It is a fundamental onslaught on the national identity and bedrock values of this country - and as such will destroy those freedoms which Christianity itself first created.



By now, most of you have probably heard about the "crazy" in San Francisco who drove his black Honda SUV into 14 people, killing one. This wasn't an isolated incident last Tuesday, the unfortunates crossing at a single intersection, for instance. Twenty-nine year old Omeed Aziz Popal, just recently returned from Afghanistan, first struck and killed a man in the early afternoon before heading back out somewhat later to continue his spree. (See here)

There is no doubt that what Popal did was deliberate. One witness described hearing the Afghani scream "I'm a terrorist, I don't care" as San Francisco police led him away after his arrest. But according to a SF police spokesman, the series of attacks was not an act of terrorism, the same claim later affirmed by the department's command staff. No one has been able to answer, however, how such a conclusion could have been arrived at so quickly.

If this sounds eerily familiar, it is. Just last March, an Iranian immigrant drove an SUV into a crowd of people at the University of North Carolina, running over nine people. Despite the fact that this man boasted that "Allah gives permission in the Quran for the followers of Allah to attack those who have raged war against them..." and later sent a letter to a NC television station to reiterate his claim, Solomon Bradman, chief executive officer of the Miami-based Security Solutions International, commented that this attack didn't really look like an act of terrorism since, "he did a lousy job of it." (See here)

Maybe I didn't get the memo, but I didn't know that certain standards that had to be met - aside from the perp actually admitting his motive and his religion - in order to simply blow off an action that has all the signs of being an actual act of Islamofacist terrorism, with a lame comment. Was the benchmark somehow set on 9-11 that we have to have thousands of people die before it's actually called what it really is?

How about the attack last month by a lone gunman at the Jewish Federation Center in Seattle? I'll give you just one guess as to what the religion of this Pakistani is (HINT: Not a Quaker). Naveed Afzal Haq, whose father is the founding member of an Islamic center near Seattle, is.that's right, Muslim. Daddy's center is affiliated with Saudi-financed Wahhabist organizations, but we'll just ignore this additional bit of revealing info. The FBI has decided, instead, to call this incident a "hate crime," not an act of terrorism, adding that there was "nothing to indicate [that] he is part of a larger organization." (See here) I guess I missed the memo on this too, because apparently you must belong to a group (like a chess club?) in order to be declared a "terrorist."

Now I'm not a terrorism expert, by any means. I'd like to think that I can leave these sort of things to the experts to sort out, but there's something very unsettling when law enforcement officials and other governmental agencies who are supposed to be paying attention to all of this, connecting the dots if you will, try to instead play the "lone gunman" theory.

Daniel Pipes of the New York Sun calls these sudden acts of violence "Sudden Jihad Syndrome," a phrase he coined after Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar decided to run down people at the University of NC (See here).

Sudden Jihad Syndrome is certainly a catchy little phrase, but let me narrow it down to what it really is. Islamofacist terrorism, and the people who are supposed to be protecting us from all of this had better start acknowledging that that is indeed what it is.


Oppressive "vilification" laws in the Australian State of Victoria

Below is an excerpt from a parliamentary speech delivered 7 September 2006 by Australian Senator Mitch Fifield. He was speaking about Mr Bruce Smith (1851-1937), a committed libertarian. The section in which Senator Fifield criticises Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act (2001) has been extracted

What disturbs me even more is the restriction of freedom of speech in Victoria as a result of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001. No-one should ever condone racial vilification. It is completely unacceptable in Australian society to vilify anyone on the basis of their racial background. It was a desire to protect members of our community that prompted the bill. Anti-Semitism was particularly in the minds of the proponents and the authors of the bill, but the act has gone too far. It limits freedom of religious expression, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience in a way that is totally unacceptable in a liberal, pluralistic democracy. Religious vilification should be condemned, but the difficulties of legislating against religious vilification have become evident.

Two Christian pastors have been found guilty by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal of making fun of Muslim beliefs and practices. The crime was to quote the Koran and evoke laughter from the audience. No-one suggested that the pastors were quoting the Koran incorrectly, just that the response to quoting passages from the Koran was laughter. In Victoria today, laughter amounts to religious vilification. The core business of clerics is to advocate why they believe-to advocate their world view and why their truth is the right one. Of necessity, this means saying why you believe that another's belief system is flawed. The battle of ideas, the battle of world views and the battle of beliefs is at the heart of what makes us a pluralistic society. Pluralism is not the housing of beliefs in silos; it is the interaction of those ideas and the tolerance of those ideas. But tolerance does not mean a denial of contestability. All ideas in our society should be contestable.

But there is worse to come. A convicted Wiccan paedophile serving time in jail has used the religious vilification provisions of the legislation to pursue the Salvation Army for allegedly vilifying his Wiccan religious beliefs. The paedophile voluntarily enrolled in an alpha course-a church-run course to explain Christianity. The crime? Those conducting the course did not speak well of witches, astrologers and occultists. TheWiccan was unsuccessful in his action, but the fact that this matter could even go to a directions hearing means that the laws are fundamentally flawed. I again turn to Bob Carr for assistance. He had this to say about such laws:

As they are used in practice, religious vilification laws can undermine the very freedom they seek to protect-freedom of thought, conscience and belief.

This is yet another example of meddling legislation. The solution to the articulation of poor ideas, stupid ideas, offensive ideas, is not to gag those articulating them. The solution is to rebut them with good ideas- the sort of legitimate exchange of ideas that people like Bruce Smith spent their lives engaging in. I fear that I am giving Bob Carr too much credit, but I will give him the final word on this particular piece of legislation. He said, `Leave these matters to the commonsense of the Australian people.'

I congratulate the state Liberal leader, Ted Baillieu, and the shadow Attorney-General, Andrew Macintosh, for their stands on these issues of freedom. The Victorian opposition is committed to repealing the bill of rights and to reviewing the religious vilification provisions of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. Bruce Smith would be proud. We need to be vigilant and resolute and reject being told how to live our lives. It is always time to stand up for individual freedoms, liberty and equal opportunity. It is time to stand against these new nanny states. It is time to revive the spirit of Bruce Smith.


9 September, 2006


By Michael Novak

The fraudulence of much that currently masquerades under the name "multiculturalism" results from gross perversions of the new ethnicity. The fundamental principles of the new ethnicity, as many of us understood it, will be found below in Part IV of the 1996 edition of The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics (chapters 11-16), based upon six essays of mine written during the long debate after the first edition of that book. Multiculturalism is a profound betrayal of these principles. In the current culture wars on campus, an explicit indictment of these perversions may be useful.

(1) Anti-Americanism. Since it regards the West (at least its white males) as imperialistic, and America as the most advanced face of the West, multiculturalism expresses hostility to American traditions and institutions, while glorifying non-Western cultures, especially those inimical to America.

(2) Victimology. Multiculturalism tends to divide the world into a privileged set of victims and their alleged oppressors, through the lens of a loose and vulgar Marxism. This Marxism is cultural rather than economic.

(3) Ego-boosting. The aim of multiculturalism is to boost "self-esteem" at the expense, if necessary, of facts.

(4) Evasion. The assumption of multiculturalism is that its selected favorites cannot meet universal standards because of the evil actions of others; therefore, multiculturalism regards honest inquiry as pointless. It further pretends that its privileged groups are innocent. Having no awareness of "original sin," it is merciless toward others.

(5) Tactical Relativism. Multiculturalism pretends to be "nonjudgmental," hiding behind the myth of moral equivalence, while it is in fact based upon harsh judgments about good and evil (and the oppressed and their oppressors).

(6) Censorship. Since it regards inquiry as useless, criticism as malevolent, intellect as impotent, and reason as nothing more than a servant of power, multiculturalism protects its wishes through speech codes, the banning of books, and the shouting down of opposing voices.

(7) Groupthink. Blind to the complex relations of individuals to the communities that nurture them, multiculturalism approaches people only as members of groups and, afraid of the creativity of dissenting individuals, imposes thought control by humiliating dissidents in public, and encourages its partisans to look to each other before speaking out.

(8) Egalityranny. In the name of "equality" wrongly understood, multiculturalism focuses on groups, group outcomes, and group statistical profiles-in ways destructive of individual aspiration and achievement. Equality falsely construed (as uniformity) can scarcely be imposed upon the blooming, buzzing abundance of individual vitality-except through despotic methods.

(9) Double standards. Multiculturalism is constituted by double standards. Multiculturalism basks in the supposition that there are no universal standards by which individuals and cultures may be judged.

By contrast, the new ethnicity also recognizes that every human being is "rooted" and that each one's social history is important-but never forgets that the unlimited drive to ask questions (implanted in each of us) impels us toward the higher standards and aspirations possible to the human species as a whole, rather than to those of our particular group or culture. For the new ethnicity, it is human to be rooted; from whichever starting place destiny gives us, it is our vocation to fulfill universal standards-to give play to our capacity for universal sympathies, to our unlimited drive to ask questions, and to our unrestricted desire to know. Multiculturalism is moved by the eros of Narcissus; the new ethnicity is driven by the eros of unrestricted understanding.

To be sure, the diversity of human cultures is so great, and the nuances of difference are so many, that it is probably not possible to state a common faith (or moral code) in one set of abstract universal principles. On the other hand, so many basic elements of life are common to the human condition that there are likely to be "family resemblances" in the ways in which peoples deal with such realities as birth, growing up, falling in love, sickness, pain, striving and failure, marriage and having children, eating and drinking, betrayal, friendship, separation, death. All communication across cultures depends on such resemblances-on the analogical method-rooted in the fundamentals of human life. The search for analogies ("family resemblances") is more fruitful than the search for universal abstract statements of principle. Of many cultures, we are one species. We thirst to recognize our common humanity. The act of recognizing analogies awakens a natural desire for transcultural standards such as might express our ultimate unity.

For such reasons, the study of other cultures is endlessly fascinating. It is so even as a way of gaining self-knowledge, since in others one may also discover unknown parts of oneself. Similarly, it takes more than a lifetime to appropriate-(Latin, ad + proprius, to make one's own)-that is, to internalize the riches of one's own heritage.

For centuries, humans have suffered, and from suffering have drawn wisdom. To absorb this precious wisdom requires respectful attention to the records of the past. One learns, as well, from evils committed in the past. The past records both: sins against wisdom, and wisdom painfully acquired. Let those whose ancestors are without sin throw the first stones. Let those without sin throw the first stone at their ancestors. My father once told me that people who boast about their ancestors are like potatoes-"the only good part of them is underground." Yet he urged us all to study history avidly. He warned us not to be surprised to find that our ancestors were in some things smarter than we. (That is probably a good definition of a conservative-one who believes that his grandparents were at least as good as he.)

When and if multiculturalism embraces truth-shows genuine respect for all (including dead white males)-and ceases to be intolerant toward any but the politically correct, it may command some measure of respect. As long as its fundamental appeal is to its own moral superiority, intolerance, and coercion, it deserves to be met with contempt by those who seek to live under standards of evidence and truth.



In my series of lectures entitled "Regurgitating the Apple: How Modern Liberals 'Think'", I summarize the dominant force in today's Democratic Party's philosophy by saying that "in order to eliminate discrimination, the Modern Liberal has opted to become utterly indiscriminate."

The Modern Liberal is convinced that rational and moral thought is so contaminated by one's predispositions and prejudices that the only way to eliminate the evils of discrimination from society is to eliminate all thought. It's why the "think" in the title of my talks is in quotation marks. The reality is that Modern Liberals not only do not think, they consider thought to be an act of evil.

It is for this reason, then, that we must pretend that we do not know who is the most likely next mass murderer as we indiscriminately search the 87-year-old Norwegian great-grandmother with the same vigor as we do the 27-year-old Moslem man, newly arrived from Syria by way of Iran.

This "indiscriminateness" -- and the idea that rational and moral thought is a hate crime -- was summed up perfectly by a leader of the Democrat State Legislature as he spoke on behalf of a new bill (passed overwhelmingly by the Democrats) that would promote all forms of sexual deviance including not just homosexuality, but bi-sexuality, transvestitism and even stiality in textbooks for elementary school students throughout the state of California.

In championing this legislation Fabian Nunez, the Assembly Speaker said "The way that you correct a wrong is by outlawing. 'Cause if you don't outlaw it, then people's biases tend to take over and dominate the perspective and the point of view." In other words, rational and moral thought must be outlawed -- quite literally outlawed -- , in favor of a policy that draws no distinctions between heterosexual sex inside of marriage and cross-species sex with a horse.

The problem goes even deeper because indiscriminateness of thought does not lead to indiscriminateness of policy. Instead it sees the Modern Liberal invariably and inevitably side not only with evil over good, wrong over right and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success, but guarantees that that which is most evil, most failed and/or most wrong is that which the Modern Liberal -- the controlling power in today's Democrat party -- champions.

This is because whatever society has come to recognize as superior must be torn down and whatever society recognizes as inferior, wrong, failed or evil, must be elevated in order to reach the level of indiscriminateness. Thus the schools will work to undermine heterosexual marriage and work to bolster homosexuality, bestiality and even necrophilia since, well, how do we know the laws against necrophilia aren't just a reflection of our bigotry?

It is not a surprise, in fact it could be no other way, then, that in San Francisco -- the most Liberal city in America -- thousands of people marched down the street recently in favor of Hezbollah, the vicious terrorist organization seeking not only the destruction of the democracy of Israel, but an oppressive Caliphate the world over.

Nor is it surprising to see these same folks championing Tookie Williams, the founder of America's most vicious and murderous terror gang. Nor is it surprising that in France -- the de facto capitol of today's Democrat party -- Jews are murdered on streets named after cop killers and terrorists.

In the schools, the Democrats' policies seek to promote those students who are the most ignorant and failed (they call it a "social promotion") while attempting to remove merit as a criterion for awarding the Merit Scholarship (after all, perhaps what we think is meritorious -- such as good grades, hard work and being smart -- are only thought so because of our bigotries.

It's why the Democrats adore the United Nations, where there is utter indiscriminateness of thought, with no special rewards for good and free and democratic nations like, say, Australia, nor any special punishments for the most murderous of terror states like The Sudan. Here, too, indiscriminateness of thought does not bring about indiscriminateness of policy, but rather an incessant attack upon one of the great states of the world, Israel.

It is why the leftists push behaviors such as teenage promiscuity that lead to failure while viciously attacking such positive and constructive behaviors such as teenage abstinence. So that while the Democrats in California are promoting homosexuality and bi-sexuality and bestiality, one of the biggest Democratic Party contributors, the pro-abortion group NARAL, holds fundraisers they call "F-ck Abstinence."

Why would anyone want to "f-ck abstinence?" Because Modern Liberalism is a sick and warped philosophy that leads its adherents -- the controlling group in today's Democrat party -- to invariably and inevitably side with evil over good, wrong over right and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success.


Mark Steyn on John Howard

Steyn says that the Australian government is much less influenced by political correctness than are the U.S. and U.K. governments. He may not be aware that Australians are in general more blunt and less "proper" than most other nationalities

John Howard was quoted approvingly on a US radio show last week. Big deal, you say. He's a prime minister; what does he care if some rinky-dink talk-jockey recycles a couple of sound bites? Well, the radio host in question was Rush Limbaugh, and Rush has more listeners than there are Australians. That's to say, about 25 million or so listeners, which is more than the number of Australians in Australia and Lebanon combined.

Why would gazillions of American radio listeners appreciate a line from Howard? Because he says things that none of their own leaders ever quite say. Last week it was the stuff about Muslim immigrants needing to learn English and making sure they're cool with this equal-rights-for-women business.

The soi-disant arrogant Texas cowboy rarely shoots from the lip like that. Instead, he says things such as: "Freedom is the desire of every human heart." Look, I'm a supporter of the Bush doctrine to spread liberty throughout the Muslim world, but I support it on hard-headed grounds of national security. You only have to watch a couple of minutes of the lads in Gaza and southern Lebanon on the telly every night to realise freedom comes pretty low down on the list of their hearts' desires. So, when the US President insists on reprising the line week in week out, he begins to sound utopian, if not utterly deluded. American conservatives would appreciate a rationale less hermetically sealed from reality.

By contrast, the Prime Minister's rhetoric meets what the law used to regard as the "reasonable man" test. When Howard refers to blokes "raving on about jihad" and the way that those so inclined are "utterly antagonistic" to a free society, he's merely stating the obvious in a way that other Western leaders can't quite bring themselves to do. His words align with reality, and one can't underestimate the value of that.

The other day, on a flight from Malaga to Manchester, a bunch of holidaying Brits mutinied and demanded the removal of two suspicious "Asian" passengers in "heavy clothes" and "checking their watches". The evicted passengers appear to be blameless, but the other travellers had spent the days since the Heathrow arrests listening to British government ministers trotting out the usual hooey about how the improved security procedures would be impeccably non-discriminatory and they seem to have concluded, reasonably enough, that although the new rules may prevent your toothpaste, Diet Coke and gel-filled bra (to name three now prohibited items) from boarding, they were unlikely to stop the mad bombers getting on. In other words, the more the gulf widens between the Government's multiculti PC pap and the obvious truth, the more the state risks de-legitimising itself in the eyes of the citizenry. Tony Blair has a good pitch when he's surveying the distant horizon and the big picture and doing his Tone of Arabia routine, but he hasn't yet managed to find a line on the homegrown jihad that resonates with his electorate.

If I ran the speechwriting departments in the White House and Downing Street, Howard's bloke's-eye view would be the working template. As someone who's been citing Canberra's finest across the US long before Limbaugh and the other Aussie-come-latelys jumped in, I like to think of myself as a kind of honorary cultural attache, like Dame Edna's friend Sir Les Patterson, but with less stained trousers. I'm aware, after my trip to Australia last month, that various local lefties think I'm as nutty in this respect as Steve Irwin when he hailed Howard as "the greatest leader in the world". Perhaps it takes a croc hunter to appreciate a crock hunter: a politician with a keen eye for fashionable baloney and a willingness to wrestle it to the ground.

Still, I do think it's worth considering why, of the three doughty warriors of the Anglosphere, Howard has managed to avoid the traps that have ensnared George W. Bush and Blair. For example, while Australia has some of the sweetest republicans in the Commonwealth, the Prime Minister's cultural conservatism strikes me as well grounded: in a time of rapid international and economic change, you have to prioritise, you can't put everything up for grabs, unto the flag and the crown.

The day after the London bombings, Blair said that the terrorists would not be allowed to "change our country or our way of life". Of course not. That's his job, from accelerating European integration to his "reform" of the House of Lords. The British Prime Minister has turned the upper chamber into a house of cronies, the Islamists would like to make it a house of imams. But once you accept the idea of tearing up a thousand years of history, the rest is largely a difference of degree. After a decade of modish vandalism, Blair has abandoned a lot of his sillier novelties because he's belatedly understood the dangers that arise when your citizens start to feel unmoored from their past. Howard didn't need to learn that on the job.

One should be cautious about comparisons between any nation and even its closest allies. Australia, it was pointed out to me on my recent foray, has compulsory voting, unlike the US, where turnout is 50 per cent, give or take, and much of the experts' energy is expended in trying to figure out ways to make sure the opposition's voters stay home. In theory, Australia's system, by requiring parties to attract the votes of the allegedly less partisan centre, ought to tend towards a more moderate politics. Yet, among the governments of the main English-speaking nations, the Howard ministry is the least wishy-washily centrist: on jihad, on education, on immigration.

In the US, Republicans are meant to be the daddy party but Bush's riffs on Islam ("religion of peace") and illegal immigration ("family values don't stop at the Rio Grande") are almost all mommy talk and despised as intellectually dishonest by many conservatives.

So how does Howard, with a 100 per cent turnout and all those supposed moderates to woo, get away with the daddy talk? Australians are not ostentatiously right-wing or even terribly conservative. But it seems that when you toss the entire electorate into the voting booth, there's a big market among the not especially partisan for a party that disdains political correctness. Alexander Downer's contempt for "lowest common denominator multilateralism" isn't especially right-wing or left-wing: outside the ABC studios and universities and assorted ethnic grievance-mongers, it's an unexceptional observation.

So Australia has, if not quite publicly, suspended the absurd deference to postmodern sovereignty that characterises the UN era. By comparison with Washington, it's honest about and comfortable with a modest, qualified neo-imperialism throughout the Pacific's "arc of instability". The Americans could learn a lot from the policy as well as from the Aussies' ease with it. Obviously Australia is, in one sense, a small, distant nation and thus has a freer hand on Iraq than the US and on the wider jihad than Britain, which is in danger of turning into Somalia with chip shops. And, if I'm honest, there are certain aspects of Australian life that I find problematic, from gun laws to a still over-regulated economic environment.

But, granted those and a few other caveats, Australia's is the only Western government on top of the three big challenges facing the developed world: not just the jihad but the more basic issue of civilisational confidence (hence the history summit) and the structural weaknesses of ageing Western democracies: Peter Costello's call for "one for mum, one for dad, one for Australia" is better put than any British minister would dare (though the fecund Blair certainly leads by example).

Just as the advantage of federalism is the local experimentation it allows, so on everything from basic post-9/11 temperament to regional military interventions the present Aussie Government is a kind of useful pilot scheme for the rest of the Anglosphere. I only wish the ghastly, intellectually barren British Conservatives would learn a thing or two from it. As for my own nation, I've left Canada out of this discussion but I'm modestly encouraged by small signs of Australianisation. Our new Prime Minister was in London recently and a couple of local Tories told me how impressed they were: "Splendid chap, this new man of yours, Stephen Howard." Close enough. When a Canadian PM gets mistaken for John Howard's cousin, that's higher praise than we've had in decades.


8 September, 2006

Sacrificing truth on the altar of diversity

You're a publisher of children's textbooks, and you have a problem. Your diversity guidelines -- quotas in all but name -- require you to include pictures of disabled children in your elementary and high school texts, but it isn't easy to find such children who are willing and able to pose for a photographer. Kids confined to wheelchairs often suffer from afflictions that affect their appearance, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. How can you meet your quota of disability images if you don't have disabled models who are suitably photogenic?

Well, you can always do what Houghton Mifflin does. The well-known textbook publisher keeps a wheelchair on hand as a prop and hires able-bodied children from a modeling agency to pose in it. It keeps colorful pairs of crutches on hand, too -- in case a child model turns out to be the wrong size for the wheelchair.

Houghton Mifflin's ploy was recently described by reporter Daniel Golden in a Wall Street Journal story on the lengths to which publishers go to get images of minorities and the disabled into grade-school textbooks. A Houghton Mifflin spokesman claimed that able-bodied models are presented as handicapped only as a last resort. But according to one of the company's regular photographers, the deception is the norm. At least three-fourths of the children portrayed as disabled in Houghton Mifflin textbooks actually aren't, she told Golden. In fact, publishers have to keep track of all the models they use for such pictures, so that a child posing as disabled in one chapter isn't shown running or climbing a tree in another.

In the politically correct world of textbook publishing, faked photos of handicapped kids are just one of the ways in which truth is sacrificed on the altar of diversity. The cofounder of PhotoEdit Inc., a commercial archive that specializes in pictures of what it calls "ethnic and minority people in all walks of life," advises publishers that images of Chicanos can be passed off as American Indians from the Southwest, because they "look very similar." Similarly, Golden notes, a textbook photographer tells clients that since the "facial features" of some Asians resemble Indians from Mexico, "there are some times where you can flip-flop."

Yet pictures of authentic Hispanics who happen to have blond hair or blue eyes don't count toward the Hispanic quota "because their background would not be apparent to readers." In other words, rather than expose schoolchildren to the fact that "Hispanic" is an artificial classification that encompasses people of every color, publishers promote the fiction that all Hispanics look the same -- and that looks, not language or lineage, are the essence of Hispanic identity.

Some images are banned from textbooks because they are deemed stereotypical or offensive. For example, McGraw-Hill's guidelines specify that Asians not be portrayed wearing glasses or as intellectuals and that publishers avoid showing Mexican men in ponchos or sombreros. "One major publisher vetoed a photo of a barefoot child in an African village," Golden writes, "on the grounds that the lack of footwear reinforced the stereotype of poverty on that continent." Grinding poverty is in fact a daily reality for hundreds of millions of Africans. But when reality conflicts with political correctness, reality gets the boot.

So, on occasion, does historical perspective, as for example when a McGraw-Hill US history text devoted a profile and photograph to Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot -- but neglected even to mention Wilbur and Orville Wright. "A company spokesman," the Journal reports dryly, "said the brothers had been left out inadvertently."

It isn't only when it comes to textbooks that diversity has led to dishonesty, or even to the manipulation of photos. In 2000, the University of Wisconsin at Madison featured a group of students cheering at a football game on the cover of its admissions brochure. One of those students was Diallo Shabazz, a black senior who hadn't gone to that game. University officials, desperately wanting their new publication to reflect a diverse student body, had lifted Diallo's image from somewhere else and digitally inserted it into the football shot. "Our intentions were good," Madison's director of university publications said when the deception was exposed, "but our methods were bad."

But the "good" intentions of the diversity crusaders cannot be separated from bad methods they resort to, whether those methods involve racial quotas in admissions and hiring, the assignment of schoolchildren on the basis of color, or photographic fakery that puts healthy kids in wheelchairs. By reducing "diversity" to something as shallow and meaningless as appearance, they reinforce the most dehumanizing stereotypes of all -- those that treat people first and foremost as members of racial, ethnic, or social groups. Far from acknowledging the genuine complexity and variety of human life, the diversity dogmatists deny it. Is it any wonder that their methods so often lead to unhappy and unhealthy results?



Comment below by The Anchoress, explaining why she left the Left

I left the left because they seemed to be spinning away on a narrow-minded trajectory of groupthink and goose-stepping which precluded individual thought, dissent, debate or reason. I left the left when it became clear that I was only permitted to think one way - their way - or be marginalized and cast-off. I left the left because I couldn't stand how overpopulated it had become with reactionary purists, those quick to relentlessly punish anyone who dared step outside their noble groupthink huddle. When some of my co-ideologues began to remind me of nothing so much as Madame DeFarge, crying "guillotine! Guillotine!" against any who dared dissent, and others began to remind me of Puritan prudes anxiously readying their scarlet A's for any available Hester Prynnes, I left the left.

I never wanted to use the word "fascism" for the troubling conformity of mind and manner which was driving me from the left, because it is such an ugly word, fraught with so much dreadful recent history. But then, fascism is not really a 20th century phenomenon, is it? It is a mindset as old as sin itself, and any group of people - on the left or the right - can fall into a habit of conformity which mutates into an expectation of particulars and standards which may then be exploited. Fall out of step with "der party" and you can suddenly find your fortunes reversed. Criticize the wrong person, and you may "never work in this town again." Fascism is really not about right or left - it is about suppression of individual thought and the stomping on of singular expression. It is about stripping the humanity from the "other side," both by labeling them and by shunning them, until they will do anything to belong "somewhere."

I see it on the left in internet political forums which delete any message which does not conform to the group-hate, or when certain politicians are reckoned "beyond criticism" and go untouched and unscathed by circumstances and history. I see it on the right, too, when I watch conservatives move "beyond" real and reasonable criticism, to actively throwing their own president under a bus because he is not conforming enough to the group-think; I see it when those conservatives seem on the brink of saying to many of their co-ideologues, "just let us do the thinking here, you rubes."

The dangerous slide into fascism is something every movement needs to guard against. It can happen so easily, and so imperceptibly. First there is an idea, and people gather around it. Then some people embrace it with fervor. Then some clutch it to their breasts and pretend it fills a deep gash within them, an aching void. Zealots begin to move the idea left or right, and they always have their followers, for whom "the idea's" progression into exclusivity and regimentation seems "only natural." For them, "the idea" becomes a religion. For some, it becomes a goddess. For all too many, an idea is not merely a thought and a thing, it is a malleable, amorphous catch-all which can consume any matter, distort it and regurgitate it into something altogether different, and still call it "the idea."

Hence, a classical liberal "idea" of human rights, personal dignity, open-mindedness and respectfulness has been consumed and distorted, and it is regurgitated 40 years later into something still called "liberal," which looks nothing like the name. In fact it resembles another, very different, much less noble "idea," one which we keep trying to battle back.

Fascism exists wherever people lose sight of other people as people, and begin to think of them as "them," as "votes," as "bodies," as "numbers," as "the people who do not count," or (as Rob Reiner once declared about conservatives) as ones who "deserve to be marginalized, because they're so wrong." Fascism can be take hold in a country or a church, or even in a neighborhood. It is the curse of every race, the scourge of every creed, no matter how sincere, it is the dementor of every movement.

The irony is this: fascism can only live in a group, and it can only be defeated by the individual. In order to shrivel the first buds of fascism in our social and political institutions, we need to look inward - each of us, alone - and strike at its roots within ourselves.

Tim Robbins' "chill wind" is perhaps nothing more or less than the hollow caves of our own consciences, our egos and our graspings. In which case we would do well to recognise it. We need to put aside the notion that fascism requires a bizarre mustache, or pageantry, or pronouncements. All it ever requires, really, is any idea set too-loose and denied boundaries and accountabilities. Like a child given too much freedom for too long, who is thus unable to rein herself in, an idea never tested nor questioned nor constrained by reason, will self-destruct. And what it becomes destroys the rest.

Australia: More social-worker evil

Abused children have been left to die and the social workers couldn't give a damn

Child-protection workers in Victoria have been slammed by the Bracks Government's child death watchdog for failing to properly investigate warnings of sexual abuse, chronic neglect and family violence against up to 20 children who subsequently died. In two cases, child protection workers were told on 16 and 18 occasions respectively that children were suffering chronic neglect, but only got involved when the neglect was entrenched. In four cases, child protection workers did not investigate despite being told of the abuse in its early stages. Allegations of physical and sexual abuse involving three children were not given proper attention by authorities. Child protection workers also failed to properly investigate claims by children they were victims of family violence and prematurely closed cases after parents promised to go to support services but never did.

The damning findings - which follow strong criticism of child protection workers in other states - are made by the state Government's Child Death Review Committee, which investigated the deaths of 20 children known to the Department of Human Services. The committee published new figures showing child protection workers received 37,242 reports of alleged abuse and neglect last year. Fewer than one third - 11,346 - were investigated and just 7250 were substantiated.

Joe Tucci, chief executive of the Australian Childhood Foundation, said the report was further evidence child protection workers across Australia were out of step with community attitudes. "There is a difference ... between what the departments think child abuse is and what the community is willing to tolerate kids experiencing," he said. "The departments will tolerate much more violence towards children before they intervene ... Most professionals want the departments to act more strongly and they are not. That is at the heart of why the system keeps failing a lot of these kids."

Influential Howard Government backbencher Bill Heffernan last week demanded changes to the way the states handle such cases, accusing them of protecting abusive or neglectful parents at the expense of children.

There have been similar revelations in Western Australia of hundreds of cases of suspected child abuse being left in queues for weeks because of a shortage of child protection caseworkers. In an exclusive interview yesterday, West Australian Premier Alan Carpenter promised more money and more staff for the embattled Department for Community Development.

The Victorian committee spent 11 months investigating the deaths of 20 children from 2003 to 2005. Its report, tabled in state parliament in May, has received no media coverage. Seven of the children were found to have been chronically neglected, but child protection workers deemed some of these cases were not of sufficient concern to warrant intervention. Chronic neglect includes not being given food, clothing, shelter, education or medical care. "In four of the seven cases reviewed, early notifications of neglect were screened out of the system without investigation," the committee said. "In two cases, the families were the subject of 16 and 18 notifications respectively. By the time child protection became actively involved, the child was already experiencing developmental delay and other long-term adverse effects."

Victorian Minister for Children Sherryl Garbutt said the Government had recently made changes to child protection backed by significant funding. "Unlike other states, Victorian reforms were not sparked by crisis but by an ongoing assessment of the system based on reviews of case management practices ... and supported by the latest scientific research from Australia and overseas," she said.


7 September, 2006


Note how Noer's research-based and highly factual article is responded to with mere hostility and assertion. I think it is reasonable to say that she proves Noer right. I doubt that many men would want to marry such a bundle of aggressive hormones as she appears to be

Girls: a word of advice. Marry handsome men or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blonds or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a man with a complex. Marry a man who loves you. Who supports your decision to have children or not. Who is happy whether you work or don't. Marry a man who has the foresight to bathe the children if you're running late or to cook dinner without you having to beg from your deathbed. Marry a man who does not feel emasculated if you earn more than him. Never marry a man who uses the word "feminist'' as a term of abuse.

And, whatever you do, don't marry Michael Noer or a bloke who subscribes to his school of thinking. Noer is the American writer who caused an uproar, not only in the US, but debate on these pages last Monday for advising men not to marry a career woman. Noer, writing on forbes.com, cites at length a piece in Social Forces, a US research journal, that claims to have found that marrying a working woman dramatically increases the risk of having a difficult marriage. "Professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. Even those with a 'feminist' outlook are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner,'' Noer writes.

In recent months there has been much discussion by columnists, particularly in Britain, about why relationships between Alpha females (high-achieving and high-earning women) and Gamma males (who earn a fraction of their salary) are doomed. The consensus of many (sadly) is that the differences in earning and attitude mean they could never be happy together. Mind you, there is no definitive proof.

However, Noer - who clearly has an inferiority complex (perhaps his mother was a career woman) - is in the same camp. Mostly though, because by reading between the lines of his drivel, he simply dislikes women. He certainly hates a successful woman. Whether he's married to one or not. He wants to be the Alpha - or should that be Neanderthal: me man, me provide and you, woman, obediently breed.

But he is a snob too. Because according to him, spending 38-hours a week on your feet as a checkout chick, for instance, doesn't make you a career woman. Tell that to the young girl at Coles in Blacktown, who deep down aspires to one day be the store manager. In the eyes of Noer, to qualify as a career woman you must have a university degree, earn a minimum $39,000 (although that amount strikes me as a strangely low income) and work more than 35 weeks a year outside the family home.

There are, of course, a myriad of reasons why some relationships shouldn't work. But in 2006, to blame a woman having a career as the catalyst for failure reads more like a 1950s How to be a Good Wife guide. It's a misogynist's version of elitism: just because one in the relationship is from a lesser class it can't work. Well, just look at our very own Princess Mary, I say to you Doubting Thomases.

Unfortunately, women are still brought up with the myth of male as provider. Hollywood only reinforces this fantasy with movies such as Pretty Woman. And while men like to feel needed, I also know plenty who would marry the first woman they met if it meant they could come home to a clean house, dinner in the oven with the kids bathed and tucked up in bed. But would they crave the conversation that comes with it: "You won't believe what happened at mother's group today'', or "the supermarket ran out of disposal nappies today''? No, they'd get bored. They'd tune out and eventually they'd start "working late''.

You can argue about the pros and cons of working versus stay-at-home mums until the cows come home. One dear friend loves being at home. Another loathes it and prefers to pay someone to do the chores that bore her. But all in all, the benefit of being a woman in 2006 is that you have a choice to work or not to work _ whether narrow-minded men such as Michael Noer like it not. Marriage isn't about professional competition, but if you enter into it as though it is, you can be sure it will fail.


More revelations about the dishonest character of a prominent do-gooder and bleeding-heart

The pretensions of righteousness hide a fraud, a liar and a crook

Marcus Einfeld's presidency of Australia's human rights watchdog ended after allegedly twice claiming compensation for the same property lost on an overseas trip. Mr Einfeld asked the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to compensate him for an overcoat and several other personal items he reported he had lost during a trip to New York paid for by the commission. But before the claim, believed to be a few hundred dollars, was paid, commission officials allegedly obtained evidence that Mr Einfeld had lodged a separate compensation claim for the same items with his own insurance company.

Mr Einfeld resigned his post in 1990, shortly after the matter was brought to the attention of HREOC's four commissioners: Brian Burdekin, Irene Moss, Kevin O'Connor and Quentin Bryce. Three independent sources familiar with the incident have confirmed the commissioners were briefed on concerns about Mr Einfeld's compensation claim. "There was lots of rolling of eyes. It was a bit beyond shock," one source told The Australian yesterday.

Mr Einfeld had told commission staff that he had bought the coat during the New York trip and lost it before he returned home. He had not kept the receipt. Mr Einfeld, who was president of the commission from 1986 to 1990, issued a statement yesterday through his public relations agency CPR denying any wrongdoing. "It's the first time Mr Einfeld has heard of this," the statement said. "He is adamant he did not make such claims. He had assistance at the time from good, loyal staff. He is certain none of them would have knowingly made a false claim. "Mr Einfeld resigned from the position because he had previously agreed to see out one parliamentary term. He left on his own terms to concentrate on his Federal Court duties."

When approached for comment, former human rights commissioner Chris Sidoti said there had been many problems at the commission involving Mr Einfeld. Mr Sidoti, who now works for a UN human rights agency in Geneva, was secretary of the commission when Mr Einfeld was president. "Working with Marcus Einfeld as president of the commission involved a constant series of difficulties," Mr Sidoti told The Australian. "Fortunately the commission's processes proved sound throughout." Former commissioner Quentin Bryce, now the Queensland Governor, said she considered it inappropriate to comment on the matter.

The commission is alleged to have learned about the second compensation claim after an insurance company called to verify details concerning a claim lodged by Mr Einfeld. The insurance company, at the suggestion of a staff member at the commission, is said to have sent the commission a photocopy of the list of lost property. The list is said to have matched that which Mr Einfeld had submitted to the commission.

This incident has come to light as police are investigating testimony given by Mr Einfeld in a Sydney court that enabled him to avoid a $77 speeding fine. On January 8, Mr Einfeld told the Downing Centre Local Court he had lent his car to a woman who had since died in the US. He told the court that at the time of the offence he had lent his car to professor Teresa Brennan of Florida. After the court proceedings it emerged that Brennan had died in 2003. It has also emerged that two doctorates held by Mr Einfeld had been conferred by institutions debunked in the US Congress as diploma mills.



In one of the greatest political and economic success stories of the past decade, the number of families receiving welfare in America has fallen by 60% since claimants were told they had to seek work or ultimately lose their benefits. The result has been a revolution - not only in welfare, but also in attitudes towards poverty. Single mothers, once considered to be helplessly dependent on the state, have led the way out of welfare into work.

In 1994, 5.1m American families were on welfare. By 2004 the number had plunged to 2m. Teenage births fell from 58 per 1,000 to 41 per 1,000 during the same period, while employment rates for unmarried teenage mothers rose by two-thirds. "It's amazing," said Kay Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank championing reform. "Nobody thought there would be a 60% drop. We've seen a resilience among the poor that people didn't anticipate and it's been a very good lesson for Americans."

It was 10 years ago last week that President Bill Clinton - against the wishes of many in his own party and under intense pressure from a newly elected Republican Congress - passed into law a bill requiring people to find a job or lose their benefits after five years. Critics warned that the 1996 law would be catastrophic for single parents and their children. One Democratic senator predicted that America would look like Brazil, with "children begging for money, children begging for food, and eight and nine-year-old prostitutes". Another prominent senator said it would lead to "something approaching the Apocalypse".

The nay-sayers have been confounded. Hymowitz compares the politicians, sociologists and intellectuals of the 1990s who derided welfare reform - the "brightest and best" of their generation - to the Kremlinologists of the 1980s, who failed to foresee the collapse of the Soviet Union. The poverty rate for the children of single mothers dropped from 50% in 1996 to 42% in 2004. Far from becoming feral street children and hookers, 1.6m fewer children live in poverty today. An expanding economy played its part, particularly in the boom years of the late 1990s. But the trend survived an economic downturn in the economy in 2001; after rising briefly, the number of families on welfare continued to decline.

The most controversial element of the bill was the threat to cut off benefits after five years. In the event few families were thrown onto the scrap heap, particularly as states often stepped in to fill the gap with welfare programmes of their own. But the looming deadline helped to alter people's expectations. "It wasn't that we enforced the time limits so strictly," said Charles Murray, the theorist of the "underclass" whose ideas provided the seed-corn for reform. "What we did was we changed the rhetoric. For the first time social workers were telling their clients, `You've got to go and look for a job'."

Vivian Giddiens, a 48-year-old New Yorker, spent the best part of a decade on welfare while babysitting two young grandchildren and looking after her school-age daughter. She would occasionally find seasonal work but had learnt to live - she can barely remember how - on a government hand-out of $101 (o53.09) a fortnight, supplemented by food stamps. "By the time I got my welfare cheque, I'd have to pay off my debts. It was so frustrating," she recalled. Letters warning that she had only so many months left of benefit payments began to arrive. "At the back of my mind, I was always thinking I'd have to find a job," Giddiens said. "I was on a very low income so it wasn't a question of losing my `wants' but my `needs'."

From time to time she would turn up at job creation programmes. Most of them "didn't offer anything, didn't explain anything, I'd just be sitting there". Then she was invited to attend America Works, a private, for-profit company set up by welfare entrepreneur Peter Cove that receives government funding to find people work. "We only get paid for the outcome, not the process," said Philip Jones, 44, senior vice-president of America Works. "The incentive is there to make sure we're successful."

The company has smart Manhattan offices and a workforce of "account executives" and sales representatives, who are constantly on the prowl for job vacancies. Each jobseeker is assigned a "corporate representative" - the company's equivalent of social worker - who smooths out problems with medical care or childcare that may prevent a person from holding down a job.

More here

6 September, 2006


By Nirpal Dhaliwal

Two of the founding grandes dames of British multiculturalism got into a cat fight this week. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, has been "pandering to the right", spat Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London. Phillips's crime was to state that last weekend's Notting Hill carnival "can hardly be said to represent the everyday culture of most of London's communities". A pretty obvious statement to make as most people in London are not black. But Livingstone had a hissy fit and accused Phillips of selling out black people. "He'd had a brief sort of black power fling," said Livingstone, "dissing" Phillips's past activism, "and ever since then he's gone so far over to the other side that I expect soon he'll be joining the BNP."

It seems that Trevor ain't been "keeping it real" enough for Ken (or K Diddy as we call him on the street), so he's calling new Labour's No 1 homeboy a coconut. Maybe Trevor should get some gold teeth and grab his crotch more often. Like in America, Britain's debate on multiculturalism is becoming an empty-headed bun-fight in which race is a convenient bat to beat your opponents with. The United States has always been fraught with individuals tapping ethnic anxieties to further themselves. The Rev Al Sharpton and his jerry-curled hair became famous throughout the country as he jumped on the flimsiest bandwagons to make hysterical overstatements about race.

Britain's irony is that the person profiting most from exploiting racial tensions is not a glamorous funky demagogue but a white middle-aged nerd. But K Diddy is savvy to the way race is skilfully employed in America and has imported those techniques here. It's easy to disregard Livingstone as just another cheesy lily-white leftie associating himself with ethnic groups to prove his hipness and moral perfection. But there's a sinister consistency in his approach to minority issues. Two years ago he welcomed Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the fundamentalist Islamist, to Britain, praising him as a "powerfully progressive force for change". He canoodled with him for the cameras and compared him with the Pope, although the sheikh endorses suicide bombings, despises gay people and thinks it is acceptable for men to beat their wives. But Livingstone knows what potential there is in cultivating ethnic and religious support.

As so few people bother to vote in local and regional elections, Livingstone would love to garner the support of the hardcore element of London's Muslim community. The value of the lumpen ethnic block vote was obvious in George Galloway's victory at the last general election. The podgy ex-pugilist knew nothing about the people of Bethnal Green & Bow but ousted Oona King, a hardworking, wholly committed MP.

Galloway has rarely voted in parliament since his election and has achieved little of practical value for his constituents. But he exploited the anger over Iraq to get himself elected, although he was never going to remotely alter government policy. Similarly, Livingstone smartly antagonises the Jewish community. He argues that he's not an anti-semite, but anti-semites will warm to his snide remarks - particularly those who are hardline Islamists. He knew exactly what he was doing when he attacked David and Simon Reuben, the Jewish businessmen, saying they should "go back (to their own country) and see if they can do better". He would never dare tell black people to go back to Africa and try their luck.

In Livingstone's calculated hierarchy of bigotries, anti-semitism is a low priority: it won't lose him votes and might even gain him some. The same applies to homophobia. K Diddy would never welcome a gay rights campaigner who publicly denounced Islam as an "abominable practice" in the manner that Qaradawi condemns homosexuals.

Phillips annoyed Livingstone when he challenged his declaration that the carnival had been a "triumph of multiculturalism". As great as the event is, Phillips argued that combining diverse peoples into a cohesive society is a painstaking process that requires more than a day out in the sun shaking your booty. He touched a raw nerve when he undermined Livingstone's attempt at congratulating himself for his cool exotic tastes, saying: "We wouldn't, frankly, think of participation in a day's morris dancing or caber tossing as a valuable exercise in building a modern multicultural society." Let's face it: the carnival is as outdated and irrelevant to a lot of black people as cheese and pineapple on sticks are to most whites. Hats off to Phillips for having the guts to say it.

Livingstone clings to the myth that he is Britain's Mr Multicultural. In his view even black people can't be less than euphoric about the carnival. He makes glib associations between Phillips and the far right, while snuggling up to dark-skinned fascists himself. The mayor pats himself on the back for an occasional street party while sneakily exploiting ethnic divisions. I hope London voters will forget their differences at the next mayoral election and join forces to show this clown the door. Now that would be a real "triumph of multiculturalism".



I am 61 years old. That's old enough to have a clear memory of the Civil Rights movement. To be sure, I watched it from a distance, growing up in England. I followed it with keen interest, though, wishing it well. Racial segregation was an obvious injustice, and we had all heard lurid tales of life in the American South. Like most intelligent teenagers, I was sensitive to injustice, and wanted to see it corrected.

I can tell you a thing that has been considerably forgotten now, flushed away down the memory hole. Here's the thing. At that time, everyone who supported the Civil Rights Movement-everyone, absolutely everyone-assumed that the Movement would, if it succeeded, lead to a more harmonious society, a society in which the races mingled freely as equal citizens, a society in which race mattered to nobody but the manufacturers of cosmetics. They, we, all assumed that if the shackles of legal discrimination were removed, black Americans would swiftly distribute themselves across America's class, income, and status structure in the same proportions as their white fellow-citizens. Why should they not? Human beings form a single biological species. Given a level playing field, any group should perform as well as any other, in any kind of endeavor, shouldn't it?

What a terrible disillusioning there has been! Things did not happen in the least as we expected. True, there has been much improvement. Our nation now has a flourishing black middle class. There is now no obstacle to a capable black American, from any part of the country, rising to any level, in any sphere or profession. The casual mocking and insulting of black Americans by nonblack Americans has been shamed out of our social life.

Yet the numbers did not come out right, not at all. With black people at thirteen percent of our population, we should, if the dreams of the Civil Rights Movement had come true, find that thirteen percent of our engineers and airline pilots, thirteen percent of our storekeepers, contractors, and entrepreneurs, thirteen percent of our prisoners and unwed mothers, are black. This is not, of course, what we find; and the numerical discrepancies are not of the kind called "statistically insignificant." Not at all. Not at all.

Worse yet, and even setting aside issues of class and status, black and nonblack Americans have drifted apart, and in many respects are further from common citizenship now than they were fifty years ago. We do not, for example, watch the same TV programs and movies. The producers of a middle-class domestic comedy movie-one with someone like Meg Ryan or Tom Hanks in it-can leave black people out of the movie altogether if they feel like it, confident in the knowledge that black Americans don't watch that kind of movie anyway. Similarly, sitcoms like Cheers and Friends could field all-white casts with a clear conscience, knowing that the black audience was off somewhere else, watching some different sitcom with an all-black cast.....

Meanwhile, among nonblack Americans, a rigorous and intolerant ideology of "anti-racism" has grown up. The opinions a nonblack American has, or more precisely voices, about race are now a major in-group (I mean, among fellow nonblacks) status marker. Let me just elaborate on that a little. Modern neuroscience perceives the human brain as a modular structure, different modules performing different functions. Since humans are quintessentially social animals, much of the brain is given over to processing social information. A big part of this information concerns in-group status. We need to be constantly evaluating, and re-evaluating, the status of ourselves and others in the various groups we belong to. A mistake in this respect can be fatal-as, for example, in the case of an undersized low-status male foolishly challenging one of the group's alpha males. Evolution has a way of weeding these things out. Some neuroscientists have postulated an entire module of the brain given over to these highly important issues of in-group status evaluation. Among American nonblacks in the present age, being known to have "incorrect" opinions about race results in catastrophic loss of status. ...

So instead of the harmonious race-unconscious society every thoughtful person hoped for fifty years ago, we have this separation, or at least disjunction; and we have this major warping of the nonblack in-group status-evaluation system. (In-group status evaluation among black Americans operates quite differently-another disjunction. Broadly speaking, a black American may express any opinion at all about nonblacks without loss of in-group status.)

We also, of course, have all the hideous, rickety, noisome, rancorous apparatus of Affirmative Action, corporate shakedowns, sensitivity training, Black History Month, "discrimination" lawsuits, "profiling" protests, speech codes, dumbed-down public service exams, and the rest of it. And then there are the atrocious double standards: Karl Rove making a friendly speech at a conference of La Raza ("The Race"), when we all know that Rove would rather be torn to pieces by wild dogs than be seen in company with even a single individual known to promote, on behalf of Rove's race, what the activists of La Raza promote on behalf of theirs. It's not a pretty sight. To those dwindling few of us who can remember the hopes of the Civil Rights Movement, it is a great, a terrible, a bitter and painful disillusioning.

How have conservatives responded to this disillusioning? So far as mainstream conservatives are concerned, I don't think it is unfair to reply: with silence and cowardice.... "Conservative" is a general political designation, of course; but most people who make a point of being known as conservative are in the business of trying to sell ideas to people. They are, or aspire to be, politicians, or commentators, or writers or producers of some kind. These are hard, ill-paid, competitive lines of work, and it is not easy to rise in them. The catastrophic loss of status involved in revealing oneself to have "incorrect" opinions about race is a career-killer in these spheres, and it is not very surprising that mainstream conservatives keep their mouths shut.

The cowardice is a bit harder to excuse. Silence is merely a sin of omission. When a mainstream conservative breaks his silence on race, and opens his mouth, and extrudes words, those words conform in fairly precise particulars to what a Leftist would have said on the same occasion. If, for example, you can persuade a conservative to say anything at all about the extraordinarily high levels of crime among black Americans, he will fall back on standard boilerplate Leftist cant about "root causes" . "oppression" . "discrimination" . "racism" . "poverty" . "legacy of slavery" . "opportunity"., and so on. His conservatism has evaporated before your eyes. He has become a social engineer, a victimologist. On race, all goodthinkful people are liberals.

Perhaps that is not altogether fair. Some borderline-respectable conservatives-I am thinking here of people like Heather Mac Donald and Ward Connerly-have deviated from orthodoxy enough to give us brilliant, critical essays on topics like racial profiling or affirmative action. This is all activity at the fringes, though. No major American conservative politician-most certainly not our current "compassionately conservative" President-would touch Connerly or Mac Donald with a ten-foot pole.

I tag this mealy-mouthed approach to race among conservatives as cowardice because any given conservative could, at any time, just have kept his mouth shut. That conservatives do not always keep their mouths shut on race might just signify a lack of self-control; that, when they do open their mouths, what comes out is Leftist sociobabble, I call cowardice. Conservatives should challenge liberal orthodoxy at every turn, with a prudent respect for what Willam F. Buckley calls "the prevailing structure of taboos." If that prevailing structure dictates silence, then keep silence. Don't feed, don't nourish, liberal orthodoxy. That is cowardice. In a narrow party-political sense, it is treason.

What, actually, is that orthodoxy? What defines the meaning of those words I have been putting in scare quotes-"correct," "anti-racism," and the rest? I think a single dogma encompasses it all. For my purposes here, I shall call it the Dogma of Zero Group Differences, or DZGD.

There are three things to be said about the DZGD.

First, it is empirically false.

Second, it contradicts everything we know about the natural development of populations of living creatures.

Third, it causes discord, disorder, and hatred when let loose in a multiracial society. I would go so far as to say that it is a dangerous, poisonous, and evil doctrine.

Empirically false: The empirical falsehood of the DZGD has been so often demonstrated that only a willful stubbornness, joined with an ingrained terror of being thought insufficiently "anti-racist," could lead anyone to deny the evidence, once it has been fairly presented to him....

Why do I say that the DZGD is a dangerous and evil doctrine? It is false, to be sure; but a false doctrine need not be dangerous. If the generality of Americans came to believe that Jupiter is further away from the Sun than Neptune, they would have come to believe a falsehood; but in all probability, society would go on much as before, and only pedants would feel any distress.

Suppose you are a black American. (You might, of course, actually be a black America-no offense. If you are not, suppose you are.) Looking around, you notice all the familiar statistics of black America: the high rates of incarceration, single parenthood, and other dysfunctions. You also note that black Americans do not do very well in school (statistically speaking), do not have a fair proportion of good jobs, and so on. What is your logical deduction from all this?

If you cleave to the DZGD, as everyone from the President on down insists that you must in order to be accepted into polite society, there is only one possible conclusion you can come to: Some force is keeping black people down. Since, on the DZGD, the statistical profile of your group on all measurable abilities is just like the statistical profile of any other group, there must be some force keeping black people away from society's goods. What other force can that be, but the malice of nonblack people? Oppression! Racism! The DZGD thus generates discord and hatred. It is touted as a sine qua non of the modern civilized outlook. In fact it is a poisonous, anti-social doctrine, as well as a false one.

More here


A few days ago in the Telegraph, journalist Simon Heffer expressed the hope that someone would, "write a book on the language of the Third Way, outlining the abuse of words - and with it the abuse of truth - that this administration has either implemented or condoned." A while before, during a meeting at the company where I work, I heard someone from personnel remark that we were facing "issues around our diversity target implementation plan". It struck me that if this curious Lefty-inspired patois can be used - with a straight face - in a large modern business then the trenches in the language sector of the 'culture wars' must be all but overrun.

And there is evidence to be found in official communications not only of the changed language but also the altered priorities it attempts to mask. You can find some particularly rich hunting grounds among the well-stocked leaflet displays of Metropolitan Police stations. No one yet has formally announced that the Met doesn't 'do' ordinary crime, but each flyer makes it clear that if you are one of the large range of very modern sounding 'victim' types, then you are the priority for modern policing. See here for more of what's on offer.

Equally, almost anything from central Government or the 'education establishment' contain examples in abundance. We discover, to take an example at random, in the recent Home Office 'Respect Action Plan' that, "Key departments will work together to develop a cross-Government strategy to drive an improved service response to problem households. These departments, and their local service partners, have important roles to play in ensuring that mainstream adult and children's services respond more quickly and effectively to these families and address gaps in provision." This means something like, "we must sound like we are doing things - but not too much because they probably vote for us". Even the military have taken to expressions with rather diffuse meaning. 'Network-centric, effects-based warfare', for example, apparently means they put lap-tops in their tanks. It also probably also means that the MoD think we can be persuaded that, this way, we need less of them.

So why are our rulers and administrators resorting to this verbal equivalent of an artillery smoke barrage? The answer can be separated into the influences and motives that permeate New Labour. The influences are largely consultants, academia and the 'rights industry'. Consultants infest modern government departments and quangos in large numbers and they use the same opaque, almost self-parodic jargon that they inflict on us in the private sector. Working for a quango a few years ago, I noticed that, perhaps due to a lack of confidence, state employees often tried to mimic 'consultantese', despite their understandably hesitant grasp of its original meaning.

There is also little doubt that academia has influenced - via the cod-philosophy of 'post-modernism' - the thought habits of many of the graduates exposed to this nonsense at university. Thus New Labour pioneered the view that the electorate can be persuaded by 'narratives' rather than, say, doing anything. Disappointingly, they so far seem to have been proved right.

Finally, there is the language of race and rights activists, part of the rainbow coalition of charities, pressure groups and human-rights lawyers. Between them, these contributors have built a whole new linguistic system to communicate with each other - and us.

As for the motive, well, if you want to hide some things and advance others while relatively undetected, then what better way to do it than by using language that has slipped the moorings of any tangible meaning. And every day is now 'a good day to bury bad news'.

If we want to limit the spread of this grating, euphemistic and deeply political language in our national life, the first thing to do is recognise it for what it is. So, in the list below, I've brought together some of my favourites - a compilation of 'key learnings' if you will - and tried to describe their usage and meaning as I've encountered them. Welcome to the 'Lefty lexicon'.


5 September, 2006


A rather Orwellian proposal to give ever more power to the constantly bungling child-welfare social workers

Tough new plans to target babies and young children in problem families were unveiled by Tony Blair yesterday. He said social workers should intervene much earlier to prevent children in "dysfunctional" families turning into problem teenagers. His initiative could mean that families who refuse to co-operate would lose state benefits or have their children taken into local authority care more swiftly.

The Prime Minister said it was possible to predict problem children "prebirth" in some cases. He suggested that single mothers might be forced to accept state help before their children were born under the plans to tackle a hard core of more than one million "socially excluded" people. In his first interview since returning from his summer break, he told the BBC: "If we are not prepared to predict and intervene far more early then there are children that are going to grow up in families that we know perfectly well are completely dysfunctional, and the kids a few years down the line are going to be a menace to society and actually a threat to themselves."

Mr Blair added: "You either steer clear and say that's not for government to get into, in which case you don't deal with the problem. Or, I think we need to deal with these particular issues and we actually do intervene and we intervene at a very early stage." Denying the plan smacked of a "Big Brother" state, he admitted many people might be uneasy with the idea of intervening in family life but said there was no point "pussy-footing".

Mr Blair was confident that the work would outlast his time in Number 10. "For us as a party and a government, this is something we are passionate about, that we have developed for a number of years and will continue long after I've gone," he said.

Social exclusion has emerged as Mr Blair's "big idea" for this autumn as he tries to show his administration has not run out of steam. He will make a big speech on the issue next week and Hilary Armstrong, the Cabinet Office minister, will unveil a new government strategy the following week.

The Tories accused Mr Blair of creating a nanny state, while others stressed that the same early intervention proposals had been unveiled four years ago by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary. Oliver Letwin, the Tories' policy chief, said: "The answer is... to encourage social enterprise, the voluntary sector, community groups and to help people without trying to run their lives for them."


More on the breastmilk tyranny

Motherhood is an intensely personal experience, different for every woman, says TESS STIMSON. She hated breastfeeding and so do countless other mothers - even if the 'milk mafia' have made them too afraid to admit it

The lies about motherhood start at conception. Morning sickness is not confined to the morning, and it doesn't disappear after three months. 'Natural' childbirth is nothing of the sort; it's messy and excruciating, like trying to pull an orange out of your nostril. And breastfeeding is not wonderful and fulfilling, but painful, difficult, boring and humiliating. Nothing prepared me for the horrors of trying to suckle my first child. I'd read all the breastfeeding books; I knew that breast milk bestowed immunity on my child, and that it had been perfectly designed by nature to be easily absorbed by his immature digestive system. But it seemed no one had told my baby that. Twenty-four hours after giving birth to Henry 11 years ago, I still hadn't got him to latch onto my breast properly.

A brusque Irish nurse, called in to help, grabbed my engorged breast with her beefy hand and painfully squished it towards the baby's face like a fistful of hamburger meat. "Your baby is hungry!" she shouted. "These are not for playing with now, girl! They're for feeding your baby!" Sobbing, I tried again to put my swollen nipple to my son's rooting mouth. The nurse watched for a moment, then snorted with derision. "You fancy girls," she muttered, stalking from my private hospital room. "You know nothing about being a proper mother." Her words cut me to the quick. Clearly, if I were a proper mother breastfeeding my child would be satisfying and fulfilling, not painful and faintly repellent. I'd be producing gallons of nutritious milk, and my son would be suckling contentedly at my breast, not squirming, red-faced with frustration, because he was hungry. If I were a proper mother, I'd be happy and radiant like the (admittedly slightly bovine) women in all the breastfeeding leaflets the health visitor kept shoving at me, instead of feeling scared, angry, raw and above all trapped.

Imagine how I felt last week, then, to read that the Government now wants to encourage mothers to breast-feed as much as possible in the hope of saving the Health Service 1 million a year. New guidelines aim to raise the number of women breastfeeding their babies for the first six months by at least 50 per cent. Britain has one of the poorest records in Europe - with just 22 per cent of mothers still breastfeeding at six months. The idea is that because there is evidence that breastfeeding protects babies from infections, raising the proportion of mothers who do it to about a third would lead to big savings for the NHS because fewer babies would need hospital care.

So how is that supposed to make us feel when we - or our children - struggle to breast-feed? Total failures, bad mothers? Take your pick. I tried as hard as the next woman to make it work, but apart from anything else, I'd never realised how boring breastfeeding was. No one can give you a break so you can wash your hair or make a cup of tea. I was tethered to the sofa for hours at a time, unable to do anything but watch housewife TV. Some days I didn't have a chance to get dressed until mid-afternoon. Because I was used to being constantly busy - as a freelance writer I'd carried on working until my waters broke - my mind spun like a hamster wheel as I obsessed over all the things I could be, and should be, doing.

I adored my son, but there are only so many hours in the day you can gaze at a sleeping newborn and count his fingers and toes. And in the meantime, I still had to earn a living. But I couldn't even make a brief phone call without the baby wanting to feed from me. I felt suffocated by his neediness, as if the sea of Motherhood was closing over my head. My then-husband looked at me differently, too. I could see the confusion in his eyes, as he looked at the sullen milch-cow on the sofa, udders out, and wondered where on earth the independent journalist he'd married had gone.

I didn't blame him. How could he find me sexy? My breasts were four times their usual size, blue-veined and lumpy, and had to be hoist aloft by metres of unappetising grey elastic - I looked as if I had two barrage balloons strapped to my chest. At night, they leaked constantly; often they were so painfully engorged that a slight brush against him would have me leaping out of bed. Worst of all, I wasn't even any good at it. When my son was ten days old, he weighed nearly the same as he had at birth. The health visitor insisted I must be secretly dieting and accused me of deliberately sabotaging the quality of my son's milk for the sake of my figure. Despite my denials, she hauled me along to the health clinic, where my baby was humiliatingly weighed before I fed him, in full view of the disapproving ranks of Proper Mothers, and then again afterwards, to see exactly how much he was getting from me.

By this stage, my nipples were sore and cracked; the slightest touch was agony. Instead of bonding lovingly with my child, I couldn't help resenting this furious, squalling parasite who inflicted such pain, and then, of course, I felt hideously guilty for such unnatural, unmaternal thoughts. "You wouldn't be so sore if you latched him on properly," one mother chided, her baby feeding serenely at her breast. "The baby can tell if you're stressed," another sniffed. "It curdles the milk." "I don't think I'm producing enough," I ventured feebly. "He's always so hungry." "I hope you're not thinking of stopping!" the health visitor said, scandalised. "Breast is best, you know. You do want what's best for Baby, don't you?"

The three women glared accusingly at me, a Motherhood Mafia determined to root out heresy. Of course, I wanted what was best for my baby! Believe me, I wasn't going through all this pain and misery for my health. Through a fog of exhaustion, I somehow persevered for the next few weeks, terrified of failing as a mother at the first hurdle. It didn't get easier, as everyone said it would. I didn't find it nurturing: I hated it. I felt like a freak of nature, a cold, unnatural witch masquerading as a mother.

The trauma of breastfeeding spilled into every other aspect of my time with my child. I started to worry about everything, convinced I was doing it all wrong. At four in the morning, I'd be crouched over the baby's cradle, weeping silently, convinced that if I stopped watching him for a single moment he'd die, and it'd be all my fault. When the baby was six weeks old, my husband and I returned from London to Italy, where we were living because of his job. A few nights later, we went out for dinner at a local family-run trattoria.

As soon as I sat down, the matriarch of the family swept out of the kitchen and picked up the baby, promising to look after him until we'd finished our meal. Too weary to argue, I let her go. An hour later, she returned him - with food stains all down his baby-gro. "I gave him some pasta," she smiled. "He seemed to like it. He's a hungry baby." "But the books say not to give them solids until six months!" I cried, horrified. She shrugged. "What do books know?" she said. "They are just books. The bambino, he knows."

She knew what she was talking about. Six strapping sons in the kitchen testified to that. Desperate and at the end of my tether, I couldn't quite bring myself to feed my eight-week-old child spaghetti carbonara, but I decided to risk weaning him off breastmilk and introduced solid food. To my amazement, he thrived. My Italian paediatrician, so much more relaxed than his British counterpart, encouraged me to forget the 'rules' and just follow my child's lead. The baby was growing, putting on weight, he had bright eyes and chubby pink cheeks; what more evidence did I need that he was healthy and happy? Crucially, there was no pressure to conform to a rigid set of rules that had been pre-determined by a bunch of so-called experts as the 'right' way to bring up my child.

There was a time, not that long ago, when it was deemed healthy to swaddle a child so tightly that it couldn't move in the cradle, to ensure its limbs grew strong and straight. Fashions change, in childrearing as in anything else. My own mother fed me strictly at four-hourly intervals, and, at the health visitor's insistence, went against her instincts and ignored me if I cried in between. These days, the vogue is to feed the baby 'on demand'. Who's to say that one method is 'better' than another?

And in fact some experts now warn that the emphasis on breastfeeding has seen newborn babies being readmitted to hospital suffering from the ill-effects of dehydration as new mothers feel reluctant to switch to formula milk if breastfeeding is difficult.

I was weaned at ten days old and was eating a boiled egg for breakfast every morning by the time I was three months. Nowadays, the health police would have heart attacks (forgive the pun) at the thought of all that cholesterol. We've been told for years to sterilise thoroughly everything that comes near our babies' mouths - yet many health experts now believe that a 'peck of dirt' actually helps build up immunity to disease.

Breastfeeding may well be biologically ideal for a baby. It's certainly cheap, although it's definitely not easier than bottlefeeding, as any woman who has been forced to feed her baby in a public toilet to avoid causing 'offence' in public can testify.

But that isn't the point. What gives these pro-breastfeeding fascists - many of whom have never actually had a baby - the right to tell mothers what they should or shouldn't be doing? Motherhood is an intensely personal experience, different for every woman.

More here


Comment from Mark Steyn

Did you see that video of the two Fox journalists announcing they'd converted to Islam? The larger problem, it seems to me, is that much of the rest of the Western media have also converted to Islam, and there seems to be no way to get them to convert back to journalism.

Consider, for example, the bizarre behavior of Reuters, the once globally respected news agency now reduced to putting out laughably inept terrorist propaganda. A few days ago, it made a big hoo-ha about the Israelis intentionally firing a missile at its press vehicle and wounding its cameraman Fadel Shana. Shana was posed in an artful sprawl in a blood-spattered shirt. But it had ridden up and underneath his undershirt was spotlessly white, like a summer-stock Julius Caesar revealing the boxers under his toga. What's stunning is not that almost all Western media organizations reporting from the Middle East are reliant on local staff overwhelmingly sympathetic to one side in the conflict -- that's been known for some time -- but the amateurish level of fakery that head office is willing to go along with.

Down at the other end of the news business, meanwhile, one finds items like this snippet from the Sydney Morning Herald: "A 16-year-old girl was tailed by a car full of men before being dragged inside and assaulted in Sydney's west last night, police say . . . "The three men involved in the attack were described to police as having dark 'mullet-style' haircuts."

Three men with "mullet-style" hair, huh? Not much to go on there. Bit of a head scratcher. But, as it turned out, the indefatigable Sydney Morning Herald typist had faithfully copied out every salient detail of the police report except one. Here's the statement the coppers themselves issued: "Police are seeking three men described as being of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean appearance, with dark 'mullet-style' hair cuts."

That additional detail narrows it down a bit, wouldn't you say? The only reason I know that is because the Aussie Internet maestro Tim Blair grew curious about the epidemic of incidents committed by men of no known appearance and decided to look into it. One can understand the agonies the politically correct multicultural journalist must go through, distressed at the thought that an infelicitous phrasing might perpetuate unfortunate stereotypes of young Muslim males. But, even so, it's quite a leap to omit the most pertinent fact and leave the impression the Sydney constabulary are combing the city for mullets. The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby wrote the other day about how American children's books are "sacrificing truth on the altar of political correctness." But there seems to be quite a lot of that in the grown-up comics, too. And, as I've said before, it's never a good idea to put reality up for grabs. There may come a time when you need it.

It's striking how, for all this alleged multiculti sensitivity, we're mostly entirely insensitive to other cultures: We find it all but impossible to imagine how differently they view the world. Go back to that video in which Fox's Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig announced their conversion to Islam. The moment the men were released, the Western media and their colleagues wrote off the scene as a stunt, a cunning ruse, of no more consequence than yelling "Behind you! He's got a gun!" and then kicking your distracted kidnapper in the teeth. Indeed, a few Web sites seemed to see the Islamic conversion routine as a useful get-out-of-jail-free card.

Don't bet on it. In my forthcoming book, I devote a few pages to a thriller I read as a boy -- an old potboiler by Sherlock Holmes' creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. In 1895 Sir Arthur had taken his sick wife to Egypt for her health, and, not wishing to waste the local color, produced a slim novel called The Tragedy of the Korosko, about a party of Anglo-American-French tourists taken hostage by the Mahdists, the jihadi of the day. Much of the story finds the characters in the same predicament as Centanni and Wiig: The kidnappers are offering them a choice between Islam or death. Conan Doyle's Britons and Americans and Europeans were men and women of the modern world even then: "None of them, except perhaps Miss Adams and Mrs. Belmont, had any deep religious convictions. All of them were children of this world, and some of them disagreed with everything which that symbol upon the earth represented."

"That symbol" is the cross. Yet in the end, even as men with no religious convictions, they cannot bring themselves to submit to Islam, for they understand it to be not just a denial of Christ but in some sense a denial of themselves, too. So they stall and delay and bog down the imam in a lot of technical questions until eventually he wises up and they're condemned to death. One hundred ten years later, for the Fox journalists and the Western media who reported their release, what's the big deal? Wear robes, change your name to Khaled, go on camera and drop Allah's name hither and yon: If that's your ticket out, seize it. Everyone'll know it's just a sham.

But that's not how the al-Jazeera audience sees it. If you're a Muslim, the video is anything but meaningless. Not even the dumbest jihadist believes these infidels are suddenly true believers. Rather, it confirms the central truth Osama and the mullahs have been peddling -- that the West is weak, that there's nothing -- no core, no bedrock -- nothing it's not willing to trade. In his new book The Conservative Soul, attempting to reconcile his sexual temperament and his alleged political one, Time magazine's gay Tory Andrew Sullivan enthuses, "By letting go, we become. By giving up, we gain. And we learn how to live -- now, which is the only time that matters." That's almost a literal restatement of Faust's bargain with the devil:

"When to the moment I shall say
'Linger awhile! so fair thou art!'
Then mayst thou fetter me straightway
Then to the abyss will I depart!"

In other words, if Faust becomes so enthralled by "the moment" that he wants to live in it forever, the devil will have him for all eternity. In the Muslim world, they watch the Centanni/Wiig video and see men so in love with the present, the now, that they will do or say anything to live in the moment. And they draw their own conclusions -- that these men are easier to force into the car than that 16-year-old girl in Sydney was. It doesn't matter how "understandable" Centanni and Wiig's actions are to us, what the target audience understands is quite different: that there is nothing we're willing to die for. And, to the Islamist mind, a society with nothing to die for is already dead.

A small backdown on their support for terrorists by Australia's main public broadcaster

The ABC's style guide will scrap references to "freedom fighters" in its entry on terrorism after a Liberal senator questioned whether organisations such as al-Qa'ida and the Bali bombers could be considered freedom fighters. The revised guide, which is about to be distributed, will scrap from the entry on terrorists and extremists the phrase: "Remember, one person's 'terrorist' is usually someone else's 'freedom fighter'."

The ABC said yesterday the change was part of a routine update of its news and current affairs style guide. But proving that one person's "update" can be another's moral victory, NSW Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells seized on the move as a "step in the right direction". Senator Fierravanti-Wells asked the ABC at a Senate estimates committee in May whether the guide's reference to "freedom fighter" would remain, "given that al-Qa'ida, the Bali bombers, 7/7 (the July 7 bombers in London) could hardly be considered as freedom fighters". "What freedom are they fighting for?" she asked.

ABC stories have previously referred to "freedom fighters" such as East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao, South Africa's Constitutional Court judge Albie Sachs and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta. ABC head of news and current affairs John Cameron said yesterday the original reference was "a note of caution and education rather than instruction".


4 September, 2006


A [British] woman prison officer was yesterday awarded nearly 150,000 pounds after being made to carry out intimate "rubdown" searches of male inmates. Carol Saunders, 42, had claimed it was "degrading, distasteful and dehumanising" that she had been made to perform physical searches on male prisoners. She said they subjected her to taunts such as "Higher, miss, higher" during leg searches and "Take as long as you like," leaving her angry and embarrassed.

Yesterday, after she won a landmark claim of sexual discrimination against the Prison Service, Mrs Saunders was awarded an out-of-court settlement of 145,000 pounds.

It is the latest in a line of vast sums awarded to people who claim to have been victimised at work. Last month, former City high-flier Helen Green won a mammoth 800,000 pounds damages award from the bank where she worked after a campaign of "schoolyard" bullying by female colleagues.

Prison officers were not permitted to perform the intimate "rubdown" searches - involving touching the crotch and buttocks - on inmates of the other sex when Mrs Saunders joined the service in 1987. But five years later, after pressure from women warders who said their career prospects were being hampered, the rules were changed so female officers could search inmates of either sex.

Mrs Saunders told an employment tribunal that performing the searches where she worked at Long Lartin high security jail, near Evesham in Worcestershire, made her feel physically sick and angry. Taunts included inmates joking: "It'll be a long time before I get another woman running her hands all over my body." She added that the queue of prisoners waiting to be searched by a female officer was usually longer than that by her male colleagues.

Mrs Saunders, of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, told the hearing: "A male officer is not put through this. To have to carry out this task would not only be degrading and distasteful, it would be dehumanising."

At the start of 2004 she went on sick leave from her 25,000 pounds-a-year job claiming stress, and later that year the tribunal ruled she had suffered sexual discrimination.

The Prison Service lodged an unsuccessful appeal, and yesterday it announced an out-of-court settlement with Mrs Saunders in which she will receive 145,000 pounds.

Mrs Saunders, who has since returned to work after being transferred to Brockhill women's prison in Redditch, was not available for comment yesterday. A Prison Office spokeswoman said the rules on rubdown searches had now been changed. "Since the tribunal judgement, female prison officers are no longer compelled to carry out rubdown searches on male prisoners if they do not wish to," she said. Male prison officers have never been permitted to search female inmates in this way


No pandering to Muslims by the Australian government

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello says Australian Muslim leaders need to stand up and publicly denounce terrorism in all its forms. Mr Costello has also backed calls by Prime Minister John Howard for Islamic migrants to learn English and adopt Australian values, warning quarrels of the old country should not be brought to Australia. "I think the prime minister has a point that migrants who come to Australia are expected to speak English and endorse basic Australian values, and it's going to be a problem for future generations if they don't," Mr Costello told the Nine Network. "We have very, very successfully integrated people from all over the world in this country because we have had the attitude that when you come to Australia, whatever arguments you might have had in the old country we start again, and we start again with a common set of values and a common language."

Mr Howard caused outrage in Australia's Islamic community this week when he said Muslims needed to speak English and show respect to women. Mr Costello today said there was a minority in the Islamic community that had been radicalised and was preying upon young people with dangerous ideologies. It was important that moderate Islamic leaders speak out against the radicals and denounce terrorism in all its forms around the world, he said. "This is where we really need the Islamic leadership of this country to stand up and contend unequivocally that terrorism, no matter who it is perpetrated by, to make it clear that terrorism is never justified, under the cover of religion and to make it clear to would be converts that when you join this religion, you do not join a radical political ideology," Mr Costello said.

He said Australian Muslim leaders had to make it clear that terrorism had nothing to do with real Islam. "You have seen under the cover of a radical form of Islam, terrorism being perpetrated," Mr Costello said. "You have seen it with September the 11th, you have seen it in Bali, you have seen it with the London bombings and it is very, very important that the leadership of Australia are very clear and very precise that this is not real Islam, that terrorism is always wrong and terrorism is always to be condemned no matter what religion they seek to use as a cover."


3 September, 2006


The Governor's people are passing the word that SB 1441 is really innocuous. No one will be hurt by it. The purpose is just to stop churches and schools teaching what they believe to be biblical values. Anyway, churches and schools should not be taking government money anyway (this way it leaves more money on the table for those without values and those that hate those that do have values). SB 1441 would only stop children with religious faith from using CalGrants to get money for the education they want--instead they could just go to government schools. Churches should not be teaching moral values, or that we should have values, that just harms society. So, a church that runs a homeless shelter, gives out food or housing vouchers, with some State money, should stop these programs, since they must be harming the community since the organization in charge discusses their moral beliefs. The issue is not merely school scholarships, but allowing those that truly help the poor from providing those services. At the same time the Federal government is promoting a "Faith Initiative", California is trying to close it down. Question: does this help or hurt the poor and the community.

Who benefits if these church programs were closed? Government of course. Inefficient government, corrupt government, would then have to pick up the slack--which is part of the problem to begin with. For bureaucrats this is a win-win...for people in need, this is a disaster. In all cases, it is society that loses--but we won't have those nasty value judgements taught in churches or private schools.

This article about the Minneapolis police shows the direction that SB 1441 will take us. The "signs" on the door of government agencies--NOW, in Minnesota is "NO CHRISTIANS NEED APPLY" If you are a true, believing Christian, live your life according to Christian beliefs, you won't be able to work for government--so far, the irreligious are testing this just in Minneapolis.

The bottom line is, can the State, or other California agency use SB 1441 to tell employers what they are allowed to think, if they want to work for government. And, if SB 1441 doesn't do the job, will the Governor sign a new bill when he is re-elected (and he will be)?

Do you want government to use the power of hiring and firing, loans, grants, contracts or regulations to force people to believe in a State sanctioned Religion (that is what SB 1441 is all about, the creation of a State Mandated religion, believe in it or you are a second class citizen, a serf). Do you think it is appropriate for government to use its powers to create "sanctioned" religion belief? I thought liberals want a separation of Church and State (of course no such provision is in the Constitution)

Now you know why government needs to be limited--give it power and it will take more. Give it more money, or allow it to raise money through bonds, and it will use some of that money to get even more. Government is like a vampire, the blood it sucks to keep it alive and growing is green--your money. So, it benefits government to close down private schools, so more kids go to government schools. It grows government by closing private, church based social welfare programs--more money for government to spend, more union members, etc.

So, maybe, like a Perry Mason mystery, it is the classic misdirection, this isn't about morals, but about government growing and wrapping itself in the flag of diversity and tolerance, while harming children, the poor and those in great need.


By Any Means Necessary: A federal judge plays politics in Michigan

A decision Tuesday by a federal judge in Detroit could set the stage for a sweeping expansion of the Voting Rights Act, which would turn the federal courts into a national campaign police. At issue is a last-ditch effort by a group trying to prevent citizens from voting on an amendment to the Michigan constitution. Styled after similar campaigns in California and Washington, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative would outlaw the use of racial preferences by state agencies and universities.

Just a few weeks before the deadline for Proposal 2 to get onto the state ballot, the "Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary" (BAMN, loosely) argued that the signature gathering process used to qualify the referendum was tainted by racially targeted fraud. From the beginning, BAMN has claimed the initiative disguised an anti-black and racist agenda. But because many black individuals had signed the petition, BAMN had to show they'd been duped.

So the group launched an "investigation." They systematically called and personally visited blacks who'd signed the petition. In some cities, they had friendly talk show hosts read the names of black signers over the radio. In all cases BAMN's message was the same: How could you, a black person, sign a petition to roll back affirmative action?

BAMN's high-pressure tactics worked. Some signers and even gatherers decided they'd been deceived. In some cases they recalled being told that the petition was to "support affirmative action" and to help get their "children into college." Using pre-printed affidavits (some "signed" over the phone), BAMN collected statements from dozens of individuals and started a legal campaign to get the referendum pulled.

BAMN's claims were hardly credible. The Michigan constitution explicitly guarantees the right of citizens to put issues on the ballot, so long as they can collect signatures of registered voters equal to 10% of the last gubernatorial election. And, in accordance with state law, the language of the referendum was printed in full at the top of each signature page, so that voters had the opportunity to read it for themselves. In any case, even if state officials had struck every single signature BAMN claims came from a majority black city (124,000), there still were more than enough signers to get onto the ballot. In light of all this, the Michigan courts--as well as the secretary of state and the attorney general--rightly rebuffed BAMN's litigation.

BAMN filed a new lawsuit in federal court. Although the purpose of the Voting Rights Act is to eliminate procedures that diminish participation in elections because of race, BAMN asked the courts to rule that states must invent new procedures: Namely, they must strike black participation whenever officials have an inkling some blacks might have been confused about what they were doing.

It's hard to think of a more perverse reading of the law. Imagine if officials of Southern states had ever conducted after-the-fact telephone campaigns to make sure black voters understood what they were voting for? Or tried to filter black votes by looking into conversations they might have had in the moments before they entered the voting booth?

None of this much mattered to the federal judge assigned to the case, Arthur J. Tarnow, a Democratic appointment. He scheduled a two-day hearing last month to consider BAMN's request for a preliminary injunction, and allowed dozens of BAMN witnesses to testify in front of a gallery packed with BAMN supporters, while just outside BAMN protesters staged a noisy demonstration.

In Tuesday's ruling, Judge Tarnow concluded that the initiative sponsors and the state had been right all along: There was no legal basis for a claim under the Voting Rights Act. But Judge Tarnow was not convinced by any principled view of that act's purpose and limits. Rather, he concluded that there was no violation because initiative sponsors "targeted all Michigan voters for deception without regard to race"! In fact, Judge Tarnow gave himself the authority, even the duty, to "serve as a 'referee'" for all kinds of state political "processes"--not just elections. In that capacity, he didn't hesitate to give BAMN's political campaign a big helping hand, despite his legal ruling against it.

Without the benefit of even a short trial, Judge Tarnow made the incendiary finding that "evidence overwhelmingly favors a finding that [petition sponsors] engaged in voter fraud" and that state officials had exhibited "an almost complete institutional indifference." His Honor went on to smear the initiative's executive director, Jennifer Gratz, by gratuitously asserting that "her lack of clarity and forthrightness seems typical of the [initiative's] approach, which is best characterized by the use of deception and connivance."

BAMN correctly figures that Judge Tarnow's sweeping declaration of widespread fraud will pressure the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse his legal ruling that the Voting Rights Act doesn't reach fraud targeted against both blacks and whites. Even if the circuit doesn't reverse, BAMN no doubt hopes it will grant a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state from moving forward with the referendum while Judge Tarnow's reading of the Voting Rights Act gets sorted out.

Judge Tarnow's willingness to mount a political campaign from the bench makes clear just where BAMN's reading of the Voting Rights Act will lead. For if the federal courts get to settle this particular dispute, then, by the same logic, they would have been responsible for adjudicating, for instance, the many disputes of the 2004 elections: Swift boats, National Guard service, ad nauseam. No one should invite that prospect, least of all organizations like BAMN. But as its name implies--any means necessary--BAMN's legal strategy is oblivious to long-term consequences.


CAIR's Twisted Stand on Academic Freedom

Article by Daniel Pipes lifted from Front Page Magazine

Hark the ringing prose about academic freedom by Rima Kapitan, the volunteer attorney in CAIR's Chicago office.

Another casualty in the war against civil liberties in this country since September 2001 is the right to academic freedom. Professors and students who diverge too much from the current political and economic orthodoxy are being silenced around the country. Among the most vulnerable have been adjunct professors, foreign professors and students, and professors and students who support Palestinian national rights or who oppose U.S. foreign policy decisions. .

CAIR-Chicago is joining other organizations and individuals in an effort to defend academic freedom. . CAIR-Chicago has also initiated the creation of an academic freedom coalition called the Free Campus Coalition, which will defend the academic freedom rights of students and professors as violations occur. The coalition will comprise of civil liberties organizations, professors and students.

Freedom on universities is especially important because of the formative role that universities play in the lives of students, and because of the essential role they play in their communities. Students should be exposed to a wide range of ideas, and learn to argue against ideas with which they do not agree.

The immediate beneficiary of this high-blown rhetoric, dated August 14, 2006, is one Douglas Giles of Roosevelt University, who lost his job supposedly for just mentioning Zionism in his "World Religions" class and for allowing students to speak about Zionism. According to Giles, a student in his course asked a question about Zionism, which he answered. Then, presto, he was fired by his department chair, Susan Weininger. The disagreement is scheduled for arbitration in September. Whatever the facts in this incident, CAIR's Chicago office stands fully behind Giles.

But in Chicago's other high-profile academic-freedom case concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict, and there, CAIR is exactly on the other side, seeking to have the instructor fired.

That would be the case of Thomas Klocek, a part-time adjunct professor since 1991 at DePaul University, the largest Catholic school in the United States. At a campus fair, Klocek expressed pro-Israel views, got into an altercation with two anti-Israel groups (Students for Justice in Palestine and United Muslims Moving Ahead), and, after they registered complaints against him, was suspended by the university. CAIR not only endorsed his suspension but, as articulated by Christina Abraham, CAIR-Chicago's civil rights coordinator (and a DePaul University law student), wanted him more severely punished.

Abraham gave a video interview in June 2006 concerning Klocek's suspension, as revealed by John Ruberry, in the course of which she, speaking on behalf of CAIR explained the organization's position on Klocek. About 1/8th of the way into the video, she says: "We were very concerned with the situation and we did request that he [Klocek] be terminated." She confirmed this, later saying (about 1/6th of the way in) that CAIR-Chicago suggested to DePaul that "if the investigation were to have shown that he did make these statements that and he did act this way towards the students, yes, we did suggest that they should terminate him."

Comments: (1) CAIR's position on Klocek hardly fits the description of a group taking part in the Free Campus Coalition to defend "the academic freedom rights of students and professors as violations occur."

(2) As Ruberry points out, CAIR fancies itself a civil rights organization, but is it the normal work of a civil rights organization to recommend that a private institution fire an employee, thereby depriving him of his livelihood (not to speak of the health insurance required for his serious kidney condition)? Some might conclude that CAIR is no civil rights organization; that would certainly fit with my own perception since 1999.

(3) The inconsistency documented here is par for the CAIR course; it routinely takes ostensibly principled positions that in fact adjust to its politics. (CAIR, for example, has jointly sponsored programs with United Muslims Moving Ahead.) For other examples of this pattern, see

ú "CAIR's Inconsistent Advice on Law Enforcement." DanielPipes.org, 4 July 2004. CAIR's advice: Help the police to protect you, but stiff them when they seek your help with counterterrorism.

ú "Look Now Who's Profiling - CAIR's Staff Is." DanielPipes.org, 1 August 2003. CAIR hates profiling, except when it does so itself.

ú "Radical Islam's Hypocrisy[: The Ehrgott & Okashah Cases]." The New York Sun, 18 January 2005. CAIR comes down hard on the foes of radical Islam but pleads for an understanding of Muslims in similar circumstances.

(4) More broadly, such behavior points to the unreliable quality of CAIR's work, a theme that the reader can more fully explore at "Bibliography - My Writings on Not Trusting CAIR."

2 September, 2006

Muslims feel like victims. The West feels guilty. Is the world going mad?

"Times" columnist Gerard Baker says it takes courage for leaders to expose flaws in their society. But some are willing to do it

If all the big terrorist attacks of the past 35 years — from the Munich massacre to the July 7 London bombings last year — had been carried out by groups of white, English, middle-aged newspaper columnists, I suspect my life might have become quite intolerable in recent years. I would have had to get used to looks of fearful suspicion every time I got on a train or a bus. Whenever I checked in for a flight or sought entrance to a government building I would doubtless have been taken away for questioning.

It would, no doubt, have become very frustrating. I’d have probably taken to the streets with other white, English, middle-aged newspaper columnists (it would have been quite a big demonstration), with placards that declared “We are not all terrorists!”. Or, being prolix by profession, more likely: “Extrapolation from isolated instances of criminality to sweeping ethnic and professional characterisations is immoral!” But in the end, I’d have to accept that the suspicion was justified. That it was an inescapable fact that my ethnicity, age and profession had become associated, over a very long period, with a predilection for terrorist activities.

Racial profiling is an ugly business. Carried to extremes it can produce outrageously discriminatory outcomes, based on the false logic that all terrorists are Muslims, therefore all Muslims are potential terrorists. A reasonable person can only sympathise with those poor chaps who were thrown off a plane from Manchester last month.

We should be careful to ensure that “flying while Muslim” does not become a new offence in the criminal code. As critics have said, not only is it wrong, it is almost guaranteed to increase sympathy for the real terrorists. But those singled out for increased scrutiny must also accept that profiling is going to save us lives. In a world of limited resources and clearly identifiable threats it is entirely legitimate, indeed necessary, to subject certain individuals to greater attention than others.

To complain about unnecessary intrusions seems reasonable; to insist that profiling be carried out properly and indeed respectfully, entirely proper. But to argue, as is now common, that it is another example of harassment of and discrimination against Muslims by an increasingly aggressive and hostile State and society, is not only a bit rich. It sounds disturbing like another example of what is becoming a dangerous pathology among many Muslims — to wallow in a self-imposed and eagerly embraced status of victimhood.

This condition places the blame for every ill in their lives, in their communities, in the West and in the countries of the Middle East, on the imperialist oppression of the white man, the American and, of course, the Jew, never once stopping to consider even the possibility that their plight might be, in part at least, their own making.

Though the West is surely not blameless, either through history or today, in its treatment of Muslims, the idea that responsibility for the woes of the Islamic world these past few hundred years can be laid at somebody else’s door is escapist fantasy.

The nasty regimes of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt conveniently emphasise this victim status to divert attention from their own repression and inequality and to blame Israel. The failure of Palestinians to create an orderly and successful society is blamed on “the occupation”.

The failure of many Muslims in Europe, especially in Britain, to integrate effectively is laid at the feet of a white racist society that excludes them. The real injustices suffered by these communities become a convenient smokescreen to hide their own flaws.

This victim mentality reaches its apotheosis in the minds of a few in the hideous distortion of martyrdom. The image of the suicide bomber captures the ultimate catharsis of victimhood and at the same time the ultimate escape and liberation from it — the violent immolation of the victim on the altar of a sacred ideology. Of course this is a perversion of the very idea of sacrifice. Martyrdom is a willingness to die for one’s faith, not a willingness to take hundreds of innocents with you in the process.

Pierre Rehov, an Algerian-born French filmmaker, who produced a documentary, Suicide Killers, was asked in a TV interview this year how the world could end the madness of suicide bombings and terrorism. “Stop being politically correct and stop believing that this culture is a victim of ours,” he said.

Of course, this celebration of victimhood plays to the West’s deep sense of guilt, producing a fearful complementarity that makes today’s crisis so potent — a civilisation all too willing to accept the blame for the woes of a people all too willing to blame them.

We can stop enabling the victim mentality by overcoming our guilt complex. But then it is up to Muslims themselves to defeat it. Polls repeatedly show vast majorities of Muslims in the West, and smaller majorities in the Middle East, believe that terrorism is a perversion of Islam. But those same polls also show many Muslims agreeing with the proposition that the root cause of that terrorism is “oppression”.

It takes courage for leaders to expose the weaknesses in their own society. But there are some willing to do it. Last week their ranks were augmented from an unlikely source. No less a figure than Ghazi Hamad, the spokesman for the terrorist-supporting Hamas Government in the Palestinian Authority, wrote in an Arabic newspaper about the real causes of the mayhem in Gaza since the Israeli occupation ended last year.

“We’re always afraid to talk about our mistakes,” he said. “We’re used to blaming our mistakes on others. What is the relationship between the chaos, anarchy, lawlessness, indiscriminate murders, theft of land, family rivalries, transgression on public lands and unorganised traffic and the occupation? We are still trapped by the mentality of conspiracy theories, one that has limited our capability to think.”


"Take Back the Night" for men as well: Australian data

Every year, campuses and cities across North America hold "Take Back the Night" -- marches and rallies to protest violence against women. But surprising data suggests that men may need to reclaim 'the night' as urgently as women. On Aug. 10, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the results of its first national Personal Safety Survey (PSS, 2005). It is the only national survey by a 'Western' country that analyzes a wide range of violence on the basis of a respondent's sex. Thus, the PSS offers the best snapshot available of the comparative violence experienced by men and women in a society with laws and a culture similar to North America.

The results are remarkable. If valid, they have far-reaching implications for how issues of gender and violence should be addressed. The current approach basically views women as victims and men as aggressors. The survey's bottom line: Australian men are twice as likely as women to become victims of physical violence or of threats thereof (11 percent of men; 5.8 percent of women). For the population between eighteen and twenty-four years of age, men were almost three times as likely (31 percent of men; 12 percent of women). But men were also three times more likely than women to be the perpetrators of violence.

Violence against men most often took the form of a brute physical attack rather than a sexual assault/threat. When perpetrated by another man, the assault occurred "at licensed premises (34 percent) or in the open (35 percent), however if the perpetrator was female then 77 percent of the physical assaults occurred in the home."

In some categories of violence, such as domestic violence and sexual assault, the PSS shows women as more vulnerable than men. For example, 1.6 percent of women as opposed to 0.6 percent of men experienced either sexual violence or threats in the year preceding the survey. Overall, however, the PSS offers good news to women. One of its goals was to "expand on the 1996 Women's Safety Survey" and compare violence against women then to now. With one notable exception, violence declined; the perception of being in danger also declined. The Sydney Morning Herald reported, "A decade ago, more than 21 percent of women felt unsafe compared to just over 13 percent in 2005."

Perhaps predictably, the public reaction of Julie Bishop -- a Liberal member of the Australian House of Representatives who advises the Prime Minister on women's issues -- focused on the negative news for women: violence against older women has increased since 1996. To the extent Bishop acknowledged encouraging data such as the increased reporting of crime, she credited the Women's Safety Agenda, which is tax-funded at approximately $57.5 million U.S. Bishop promised to consider the PSS's findings at an upcoming conference of Women's Ministers' from Australia and New Zealand.

Bishop may be forced to confront changing attitudes toward gender and violence. Shortly after the PSS's release, the New Zealand Herald reported on a new study. "Where only one partner in a relationship is violent, it is more likely to be the woman, University of Otago researchers have found. Researcher Kirsten Robertson, of the university's psychology department, said the finding indicated a change of thinking was required on domestic violence."

Part of that change will come from grappling with the still widely disparate views offered by studies and surveys on how many men versus women experience domestic violence. Many of the differences may be ascribed to nothing more than the methodology employed by various researchers. Despite those differences, however, both the estimates of men as victims and women as perpetrators of domestic violence seem to be rising across the board.

A new approach to gender and violence is likely to hit a brick wall of sexual politics. Much of gender policy in Australia and North America -- e.g. affirmative action, domestic violence and sexual harassment -- is rooted in ideology, in the idea that women as a class are oppressed by men as a class. But if men are twice as likely to be threatened or attacked, then the theory of women's class oppression becomes more difficult to sustain.

Even if men are more likely to be attacked by a fellow-male than a female, that does not change the fact that they are also victims of violence. And the task of collecting quality data becomes more important because only facts stand a chance of cutting through ideology.

There is some reason to question the quality of data in the PSS. For example, its summary states "an attempt or threat to inflict physical harm is included only if a person believes it is likely to be carried out." This asks the 'victim' to ascribe intent to an aggressor and invites subjectivity. Various figures are identified with "a relative standard error of 25 percent to 50 percent" or "greater than 50 percent"; this makes them unreliable. Moreover, the math in some tables does not add up; that is, when the subcategory totals are added together, the sum total is greater than the parts. (See page 5.) Without the raw data or more methodological detail, it is not possible to tell why this occurs.

There is no reason to believe, however, that the aforementioned problems skew the data more for one sex than the other. Other aspects of the survey, however, provide reason to suspect that violence against men could be understated or glimpsed less clearly. Although the PSS surveyed 16,300 adults, it included 11,800 women and only 4,500 men; this means the data on women should be more reliable. Moreover, the PSS used only female interviewers; this may have encouraged women to open up but it could have inhibited men.

In short, the PSS is neither ideal nor definitive but it is probably the best current picture of gender and violence in Western society. Under that picture, the caption should read "violence is a human problem, not a gender one."

Politically correct feminists sought to define violence, within certain contexts, as a gender problem, because the perception of women as victims of men promoted their ideology that pitted men against women. This view of violence as a gender problem has been sustained because government supported the ideology and its conclusions with money and favorable law. As a result, a false view of the nature of violence and of the relationship between the sexes has been created. Focusing on women victims is valuable for specific purposes, like counseling female rape victims, but anyone who campaigns to prevent violence against women should vigorously applaud similar efforts directed toward men. 'Take Back The Night' is for everyone.


1 September, 2006

Shutting Down Debate

In 22 years as head of a public policy research organization, I have never before seen a more concerted effort to shut down debate on important public policy issues. That this effort is coming from the liberal end of the political spectrum, which historically has defended unfettered intellectual inquiry and free speech, is both surprising and disturbing.

During the past year, prominent conservative and libertarian writers and activists, including Doug Bandow, Peter Ferrara, Michael Fumento, Steven Milloy, Grover Norquist, and Armstrong Williams, were accused of failing to report possible financial conflicts of interest. In each case, liberal advocacy groups used sympathetic reporters to "out" their more conservative opponents. In some instances there may have been actual conflicts that should have been reported in bylines, but most of the allegations relied on guilt by association or accounts of fundraising tactics widely used by groups on both the left and the right. Several people had their careers adversely affected by the attacks.

Eric Schlosser, the anti-fast food crusader who wrote Fast Food Nation, has a new "children's book" out on the same subject, titled Chew on This. I put "children's book" in quotation marks because while this book has pictures and simplifies complicated issues, it delivers a mostly grown-up message about how evil big corporations exploit farmers, hide the harmful health effects of their products, pay their employees too little, put profits before people ... well, you know the litany.Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr wrote a review of Chew on This pointing out its flaws and chastising Schlosser for trying to change public policy by targeting kids.

A few years ago, Schlosser might have responded by answering Lehr's charges in writing or in interviews. But times have changed. Houghton Mifflin, Schlosser's publisher and one of the largest book publishers in the world, hired an outside public relations firm to investigate Heartland's history and funding and to warn editors against publishing or reporting what we might say.

Unbelievable, you say? In an interview with Bloomberg LLC, Schlosser accused Heartland of being an "Astroturf" organization and a "fake grassroots organization." (Heartland was founded by a group of small business owners 22 years ago and has 1,400 donors. What's "fake" about that?) He even claimed Heartland was "originally created with money from the tobacco industry." That statement is patently false and obviously intended to defame us. It was retracted by Bloomberg after we threatened legal action for libel.

Al Gore has been trying to shut down debate on global warming since at least 1988. More recently, in a June interview with ABC News host and fellow Clinton administration alum George Stephanopoulos, Gore said, "the debate in the scientific community is over." Actually, the debate is just starting. Most climatologists disagree with the alarmist perspective Gore presents in his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," and Gore's lies and exaggerations are getting more attention thanks to a widely circulated essay by Dr. Richard Lindzen, one of the world's most respected astrophysicists.

But Gore and his allies no longer want to argue about the facts. Global warming, Gore says, is a "moral issue." In his movie and in interviews, Gore repeatedly compares people who disagree with him to people who denied that smoking causes cancer, and he claims they are all stooges of the oil industry.

Gore's allies orchestrate daily, weekly, and monthly media events to create the appearance of a scientific consensus and an urgent need for immediate action to "stop global warming pollution." Every day we read about "new research" proving global warming is imminent, though often the research is not new or not about global warming. Once a week or so we read about politicians and sometimes business leaders calling for expensive (but largely symbolic) government programs. Gore's people are also paying an outside public relations firm, this time to place phone calls to thousands of households urging them to attend his movie. Can you imagine? Automated phone calls urging people to attend a movie?

On June 27, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona said, "The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard." Most people can be forgiven for having thought the truth lay somewhere in between: Working in a smoke-filled bar for 20 years seems likely to pose a risk to your health, but our bodies can probably tolerate occasional exposure to cigarette smoke.

Science writer Michael Fumento reminds us that secondhand smoke is a dramatically diluted substance compared to what active smokers breathe in. Spending an hour in a typical bar back in the 1970s was the equivalent of smoking only .004 cigarettes. The level of smoke contaminants in today's bars is much lower, and several orders of magnitude less than OSHA indoor air quality standards. Proof that exposure to secondhand smoke is dropping rapidly can be found in the amount of cotinine in the blood of nonsmokers. It fell 68 percent for kids and 75 percent for adults from 1988 to 1991 ... before nonsmoking sections in restaurants were the rule instead of the exception, and before the recent rush to ban smoking in public places and massive tax hikes.

I won't recite the litany of fallacies behind the secondhand smoke scare, partly because I've described them before in this space, and partly because, according to General Carmona, they no longer matter. Carmona, like Schlosser and Gore, is annoyed by critics who keep poking holes in the public health crisis that pays the mortgage on his home. Is defending smokers as important as defending modern agriculture and fossil fuels? Absolutely. What's happening to smokers and their still-legal product could happen to all of us and our favorite-but-slightly-risky products or activities. Small hypothetical health threats are being used to justify bans and tax levels that vastly exceed any reasonable computation of the costs smokers impose on the rest of society.

Name-calling and ad hominem attacks have always been used in debates over public policy, but in my memory they have never before risen to the heights to which they've been employed by today's left. They are no longer just tactics. They constitute a carefully chosen and massively funded strategy of the left: Inundate the public with the message that "the debate is over" and demonize anyone who dares to say otherwise.

The left's sudden intolerance for debate reflects the movement's intellectual bankruptcy. The American public doesn't support bigger government and higher taxes. It doesn't trust elected officials or unelected bureaucrats to "manage" the economy or tell them which schools their kids must attend. Yet these unpopular policies form the core of what liberals have to offer. No wonder they want to stop debate. They always lose.

It is critically important that we use every opportunity to explain and demonstrate that debates over the important issues of the day are not over. The moment debate ends, dogma and propaganda start, and they are poor guides to good public policy. We can't "take a vacation" from the debate and expect it to be the same as when we left it. We need to reject and disprove every claim that the debate is over, because otherwise there will be no debate when we return.

We also need to defend the free-market organizations the left is seeking to demonize. When you see a free-market group or one of its spokespersons being attacked in the press, I urge you to take a moment to write a letter, send an email, or place a phone call to the publisher or broadcaster and defend that victim. Tell them it isn't fair to attack people's motives or to make allegations about "who funds them." Such rhetoric does more to mislead than inform the audience. The left has changed the rules of engagement. We have no choice but to change our own tactics.


Injustice in paternity judgments

Child support enforcement programs are supported by all sides of the political spectrum, from women’s advocates on the left to traditionalists on the right. While this popularity is sometimes understandable, it has also allowed glaring and inexcusable abuses to fester and grow. Of these, none is more egregious than when men are forced to pay 18 years of child support for children who are not theirs, and who in many cases they’ve never even met.

In “The Innocent Third Party: Victims of Paternity Fraud,” a new article in the American Bar Association’s Family Law Quarterly, Washington DC attorney Ronald K. Henry details how this problem developed, and proposes some common sense solutions. The problem is relatively new, and stems in large part from the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, which restructured the welfare system.

The Act mandates that a mother seeking welfare benefits for her child must provide the name of the child’s father so the state can recoup its costs by securing a child support order.

According to an Urban Institute study, most of the men targeted are low-income and uneducated, and the court pleadings in these child support cases are unnecessarily complex. Many men are left confused or doubtful about the seriousness of the proceedings. Moreover, substitute service, where the court summons is often left at an erroneous last known address, is frequently used instead of personal service. When the putative father does not appear at his hearing, a default paternity judgment is entered against him.

A federal report shows that in many child support enforcement offices, half or more of the paternity judgments are entered by default. Of the 250,000 paternity judgments ordered in California each year, more than two-thirds are entered by default. Even when men obtain DNA tests clearing them of paternity, most courts rarely set aside these judgments.

The men who do receive the summonses and appear in court still face a stacked deck. Henry explains: “The paternity fraud victim is hustled through the formality, often in less than five minutes, and may not even realize what has happened until the first garnishment of his paycheck. The State’s direct financial incentive is to establish paternity regardless of actual paternity facts. In welfare cases, there is almost always only one attorney in the courtroom and that attorney is not representing the paternity target.”

State child support collection efforts are heavily subsidized by federal dollars. Therefore, Henry asserts, the federal government could greatly reduce the problem of false paternity establishments by reimbursing states only for establishments which are confirmed by DNA tests. States could purchase bulk DNA tests at a cost per unit considerably less than even one month of child support.

States should also act to reduce default judgments by improving service of process and by making the procedure more understandable for litigants, few of whom have legal representation. In default judgment cases, DNA testing should be required as soon as the child support enforcement agency locates the putative father. And states should pass laws or institute policies which allow fallacious paternity judgments to be retroactively challenged.

Because of the indifference of both the states’ child support enforcement systems and their federal funders, no firm figures exist on how many men have been mistakenly defaulted into fatherhood. Henry estimates that the number could exceed one million.

Child support debtors receive little public sympathy, at times with reason. Yet the victims of false paternity judgments aren’t men trying to evade their legitimate responsibilities, nor are they Nicholas Barthas determined to ensure that their exes will never get a penny. They are instead victims of one of the most indefensible civil rights violations in America today–an injustice which cries out for redress.


Police chases forbidden by a Leftist Australian State government (Queensland)

How soft on crime can you get?

Police have been ordered not to chase some suspected drink drivers under a trial that forbids police from using "gut feeling". The strategy, aimed at reducing dangerous high-speed chases, will also force police to abandon pursuits once they enter the trial districts of Redcliffe and Toowoomba. Under the 12-month trial from October 1, police will no longer be "justified" to chase a driver who fails to pull over for licence, vehicle or street checks; impromptu random breath tests (excluding RBT sites); suspicious or suspect behaviour "based on officer instinct alone"; and all simple offences.

The new safe driving policy, sparked after concerns raised by state coroner Michael Barnes and a report by the Crime and Misconduct Commission in 2003, has infuriated some traffic police, who believe the trial will put lives at risk. One unnamed veteran officer said once "grubs" worked out that police could not give chase they would drive straight to Toowoomba or Redcliffe. He argued many serious offenders had been arrested and charged from routine police checks sparked by gut feelings.

Although police will be able to pursue a driver "reasonably suspected" of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the policy stipulates it must be to such a degree that the "suspected impairment has or will create circumstances that pose an imminent, significant risk to public safety". The trial could go statewide if successful.

Coalition police spokesman Vaughan Johnson accused the State Government of interfering in operational police duties and putting people's lives at risk. "This is the Government playing with the lives of ordinary Queenslanders by not allowing police to be police officers," Mr Johnson said. "Instead they are being ordered to be social workers by this current Labor administration. "This shows again how politicised the police service has become and that is certainly not what the equation of police and government is all about."

A police spokesman said all officers working within the two trial districts would be required to comply with the policy. "During the trial, however, if an officer in a non-trial area is engaged in a pursuit which moves into a trial area, they must also comply with the trial policy," the spokesman said. "The main objective of this trial is to find the right balance between ensuring that laws are upheld and public safety remains paramount." In 2003, a CMC report found that traffic/driving offences were the most common reasons for pursuits. Almost all of the pursued drivers were male, at least three-quarters were under 30 years old and a substantial proportion were unlicensed and had consumed alcohol or drugs.